Problem Daughters Anthology: an interview with the editor

I interviewed Rivqa Rafael, one of the editors of the upcoming Problem Daughters anthology. It’s an amazing, worthy project. I hope you will find this interview both interesting and useful. Please do spread the word about this anthology.

Problem Daughters will amplify the voices of women who are sometimes excluded from mainstream feminism. It will be an anthology of beautiful, thoughtful, unconventional speculative fiction and poetry around the theme of intersectional feminism, focusing on the lives and experiences of marginalized women, such as those who are of colour, QUILTBAG, disabled, sex workers, and all intersections of these. Edited by Nicolette Barischoff, Rivqa Rafael and Djibril al-Ayad, the anthology will be published by Futurefire.net Publishing and is currently being crowdfunded.

DG: Problem Daughters. Let’s talk about the name first.  Why this title? And why “Daughters” specifically, as opposed to women, mothers, sisters etc.

RR: We put a lot of thought into our title; of course we wanted something that would make people curious about what we had to say, as well as something that accurately reflected our aims. So it’s “problem” in the sense of not being accepted by mainstream feminism, and that could be for any number of reasons. Mainstream feminism doesn’t respond well to difference; it expects all other concerns to be put on hold for the cause. Race, ethnicity, religion, ability, choice of profession (most notably sex work); these and other intersections can make feminism a less accepting space. We’re a problem to feminism; feminism is a problem for us. The anthology is both of these aspects.

“Daughters” felt like another interesting way to engage with our topic. “Women” would fit, sure, but having a different word in there makes our descriptions less repetitive, so there was a practical angle there. Not all women are, or can be mothers; the concept of a feminist “sisterhood” and the shared experience it implies is part of what we’re critiquing. But we’re all daughters, in one way or another, and responding to the past is another key element here.

DG: Why do you think this anthology is needed? Why not just standard BAME submission as many publishers tend to do these days?

RR: Anthologies can be anything from a completely open call to a most narrow, almost bizarrely specific theme, and I think this range is a great thing. I’ve written some of my best work (in my opinion) in response to calls for submission to anthologies; something about a theme can spark something I might not have considered. Problem Daughters falls somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of specificity. Hopefully, this keeps the topic broad enough that authors can play with it in interesting ways, but specific enough to be inviting to the marginalised authors we’re hoping to attract. Of course, this anthology doesn’t stand in isolation, and I hope it complements past and future diverse works.

DG: As a woman from an ethnic minority, and as a writer, this idea excites me. You see in fiction, Indian women often depicted a certain way – exotic beauties, or sari wearing domestic goddesses, or whatever. I have a problem with that. I am sure this happens to other cultures, and other voices too. So I love this idea that you’re trying to find voices that are even more ignored than “minorities” in general because let’s face it, minorities can be snobby too about inclusions and representation. My question is – how do you define these women? How do you define “feminism” in this selective context?

RR: I’m so glad it excites you! That’s definitely part of what we’re trying to address. Even just the tiresome concept that a single white woman can be a stand-in for diversity (Star Wars, again? Really?). What you say about inclusion is such an important point; this has been my almost constant experience, being at turns “not Jewish enough”, “too Jewish” or my personal favourite, “Jewish in the wrong way”.

But in terms of the anthology, we don’t want to define these women too closely; they will be marginalised in some way, and we’ve given examples, but mostly we want the reaction you’ve given – an individual interpretation, written as a story or poem. Likewise, our definition of feminism is as broad as possible; our stories might come from womanists or authors who don’t self-identify with any such movement at all. Mostly, we want to see how our potential authors choose to engage with the topic, rather than define it for them.

DG: I believe three of you are editing this anthology, Djibril al-Ayad, Nicolette Barischoff and you. Would you say your experiences in fringes, or perhaps outside of mainstream voices helps you be more sympathetic or empathetic to the voices you seek to represent?

RR: I hope so. I can only speak for myself specifically, of course, but I really hope so. I’m white, able-bodied, queer and Jewish; I have a lot of privilege, and more passing privilege now that I’m no longer religious. But I also had a very different upbringing from the average white Australian, which stands out very starkly in certain circumstances. And within that very insular community, that “not Jewish enough” I mentioned before was often at play. There’s a bitter advantage to always being an outsider, but yes, I think it does force one to develop empathy. It’s much more pronounced for people with more prominent marginalisations, but hopefully, it’s a starting point.

DG: You have created an Indigogo crowdfunding campaign to support this anthology. Tell us more about this, and how would this help the anthology, as well as usually unheard voices?

RR: Our campaign can be found at http://igg.me/at/problem-daughters, and runs until 14 February. We’re running a flexible funding campaign; once we reach our halfway point of $4,500, we’ll be able to guarantee professional payment rates to our authors. Our second goal of $9,000 will allow us to publish a longer anthology, including essays and internal artwork; we very much hope that we can make this more beautiful, substantive version. If we’re funded beyond that, we have other ideas of how to make Problem Daughters even more special.

We’ve fixated on pro payment because it’s all too common for labour, particularly in the form of art or writing, to be demanded of marginalised people for little or no pay. We want to pay our authors what they deserve (or as close as we can reasonably get).

DG: For the writers interested in submitting to this anthology, what is the one advice you would give?

Don’t self-reject. If you’re not sure if your work fits the brief – submit. If you’re not sure if it’s good enough – submit. If this is your first potential submission, your first in English, your first in the genre – you get the idea. We’re a team of three experienced editors, and we want to read your story.

Rivqa Rafael is a queer Jewish writer and editor based in Sydney. She started writing speculative fiction well before earning degrees in science and writing, although they have probably helped. Her previous gig as subeditor and reviews editor for Cosmos magazine likewise fueled her imagination. Her short stories have appeared in Hear Me Roar (Ticonderoga Publications), The Never Never Land (CSFG Publishing), and Defying Doomsday (Twelfth Planet Press). In 2016, she won the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent. When she’s not working, she’s most likely child-wrangling, playing video games, or practising her Brazilian Jiujitsu moves. She can be found at rivqa.net and on Twitter as @enoughsnark.

 

Book launch: The Dark Half of the Year (you are invited!)

 

 

We need something to do during the cold, dreary winter days. What better than to read? Even more importantly, read stories that are set during specific winter days around the world, focusing on what lies in the shadows. 

The Dark Half of the Year is an anthology by North Bristol Writers. Since I used to live in Bristol at one point, apparently, I still count. That’s a good thing for me, as the anthology also includes one of my short stories, The Ancestors.

We’re having a book launch on January 28th in Bristol, and you are invited. It’s going to be fun few hours, with interviews, reading, and a panel. And of course mingling, talking about ghosts and fantasy over pints – because as it happens writers and alcohol aren’t too far apart. I don’t count, because I’m a bit strange (even for a writer), and pretty convinced that there is coffee in my blood. 

The launch event will start at 4 pm at The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer pub. You can join in the event on Facebook if you are interested in attending.

Please do spread the word. 

Look forward to see you in Bristol.

 

BristolCon 2016 – A fabulous day with fabulous people!

On Saturday 29th, I departed my house at an ungodly hour of 6:30 am to go to Bristol. The Great Western Railway terminated the train unexpectedly at Reading (under mysterious circumstances), so instead of reaching Bristol at 10:00, I eventually got there at 11:15. Putting aside the fact that I could’ve been in another country by then, it was annoying to have missed almost the whole morning programme.

So, I proceeded straight to the Break Room & Coffee, for much-needed caffeine and just starting to socialize with all the lovely people I hadn’t seen for a while. In fact, as it turned out, this particular BristolCon experience revolved very much around just mingling, which was great. 

BristolCon is one of the smaller conventions, but even so, not only I didn’t get enough time to chat to a lot of people, completely missed the others. So it’s not that small. 

But I did do things besides chatting: I was on a “Murderous Women” panel (okay, talking) about how/if GrimDark has different perception/expectations of women authors than crime or horror. On the panel with me were Anna Smith-Spark, Jonathan L. Howard (who is the Guest of Honour at BristolCon 2017 by the way), and David Gullen. 

I also attended Kevlin Henney’s flash fiction workshop, which was really great fun. Kevlin, an accomplished flash fiction author, led us through the workshop, giving us plenty of tips in 45 minutes, and we even ended up creating some stories of our own. (Though in my case, not very good ones). 

After that, Dev Agarwal and I ran the Stage Managed Fighting workshop, which was really about accurate and interesting depiction of fighting in our stories. We were pleased to have a full house. Dev supplied the information and props, led the workshop with extreme competence and his years of martial arts experience. I was the lowly but glamorous assistant and spent the workshop either being punched or punching (obviously the latter was more fun) and making faces at GR Matthews. I got told earlier that for a moment when I’d the boxing pad on, apparently I also had the “resting bitch face” which is fabulous, because looking like a mean boxer is the height of accomplishment for someone who is essentially an ever-smiling chatterbox! 

Most of the time then was spent sitting at the bar, which considering I don’t drink, just sounds weird. I had fascinating chats with a whole bunch of people, including Gaie Sebold with whom I’m thrilled to share an anthology (Fight Like A Girl, now available from all good booksellers), and her partner David Gullen (who I shared the Murderous Women panel with, and we got on brilliantly despite him covering up my name tag with his momentarily). Of course the wonderful GR Matthews and James Latimar, my online conversation buddies were a delight as usual. I also spent a long while talking to Richard Bendell, a fellow Stargate Fan, about music, religion, and a great many other things. One of my highlights was seeing a guy dressed in Stargate SG-1 uniform. Dean, you’ve inspired me to do my own cosplay. Finally! 

MEG was her amazing organised self, and I’m pleased to hear that she will be chairing BristolCon 2017, though it is sad that Jo Hall is stepping down. Jo’s been absolutely amazing running the con. On a personal level, she was the first person to take me under her wing in the SFF world and for that, she shall forever remain special. But Jo and Roz have wonderful adventures of their own planned, and I wish them both good luck. 

One of the first people I got to chat with at the con was Claire Carter, who is challenging her own artistic limits. I am sure we can expect to see great things from her as she continues to grow on her artistic path. I only managed to see Sammy HK Smith briefly, and Simeon Beresford – with whom a catch-up is certainly needed. Only managed to say hello to Cheryl Morgan, T. O. Munro, and Joel Cornah. Amanda Beecham was nice enough to bring me a cookie. Got some quality time at lunch with Dev Agarwal and Piotr Swietlik. A very brief catch-up with Dr Bob. I have no doubt I’m missing a great many people off this list, but suffice to say, that it was a wonderful event with lovely people.

Of course, this adventure didn’t end there. The next morning, I managed to have a short session again with Nick Walters (and met Belinda the bicycle), GR Matthews, and Jo Hall. I also met RB Watkinson and her husband Paul. So even the post-con morning didn’t go without making new friends. 

I’ve of course already signed up for BristolCon 2017, and am already looking forward to attending. 

 

BristolCon 2016 – come say hello!

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On October 29th, we will be gathering in Bristol once more for the annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, BristolCon. If you’ve never been, it’s a fantastic event. Unlike most convention, it is only a single day event, thus a lot of less tiring and way cheaper, but still full of lots of fun and really cool people. So if you happen to be a fantasy/sci-fi reader and in the vicinity of Bristol, check it out.

At 15:00, I will be on a panel with Anna Smith-Spark, Jonathan L. Howard and David Gullen, discussing “Murderous Women” which will hopefully be as fascinating as it sounds. We will be talking about why attitudes to what women want and what women are expected to deliver vary in different genres. Amanda Kear will be moderating us and keeping us under control. 

To then get completely out of control (kind of), at 17:00 I will be Dev Agarwal’s glamorous assistant in a “Stage Managed Fighting” workshop. We’ll give some demonstrations and look at how fight scenes can add depth to the story. 

There will, of course, be general shenanigans, cake, book launch, book buying, socialising and a quiz! Meeting up with old friends and making new ones is also all in day’s work. If you have never been to a convention before, BristolCon is a great first. If you are a regular, I look forward to seeing you. You can buy the tickets at the door, or just click on this link and buy them in advance. 

 

Fight like a girl – report from the book launch

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What happens when a whole bunch of kick-ass women get together to launch a book about kick-ass women? Supported by awesome men who appreciate kick-ass women?

Well, for one – you have a great, fun day and a great book launch which included Aikido and sword fighting demonstration, a discussion panel about Fight Like A Girl, buffet, book signing, and general mingling with a great bunch of people.

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On Saturday, April 2nd we gathered at The Hatchet Inn in Bristol, to launch an anthology that has been close to many hearts. Titled, Fight Like A Girl, it brings together science-fiction and fantasy stories featuring kick-ass female leads, written by female authors. In an industry where women are still judged only to be able to write fluff by many, this book is our platform to show otherwise. We’ve our incredible publisher Grimbold Books to thank for that. 

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Fight Like A Girl is now available from all good booksellers, in paperback and Kindle editions. So we hope you will try it out, and if you do, we would appreciate all honest reviews. 

Link to Amazon UK

Link to Amazon US

Link to Book Depository (Free Global Delivery)

 

Fight like a girl – join the anthology launch party!

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This is an open invitation to all of you for a kick-ass launch party. After all, what else can you expect from an anthology with the name as kick-ass as Fight Like A Girl?

So what is Fight Like A Girl?

It’s a fantasy/sci-fi anthology being published by Grimbold Books. The book will include stories from some of the best kick-ass females of British Science Fiction and Fantasy writing, and a short story from yours truly. 

This is the blurb from Grimbold Publishing:

What do you get when some of the best women writers of genre fiction come together to tell tales of female strength? A powerful collection of science fiction and fantasy ranging from space operas and near-future factional conflict to medieval warfare and urban fantasy. These are not pinup girls fighting in heels; these warriors mean business. Whether keen combatants or reluctant fighters, each and every one of these characters was born and bred to Fight Like A Girl.

Featuring stories by Roz Clarke, Kelda Crich, K T Davies, Dolly Garland, K R Green, Joanne Hall, Julia Knight, Kim Lakin-Smith, Juliet McKenna, Lou Morgan, Gaie Sebold, Sophie E Tallis, Fran Terminiello Danie Ware, Nadine West

The launch will take place on April 2 at The Hatchet Inn, Frogmore Street, Bristol from 13:00 to 17:30. There will be a buffet, fighting demonstrations (obviously), a whole bunch of geekery and fun! 

You can buy the tickets for the event through Eventbrite.

I hope you will join us, and please spread the word. 

 

Giving time and space to ideas

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Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

– Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs makes it sound so simple, but for anyone who spends most of their time doing creative work, you would know that while Jobs’ quote is accurate, the process is anything but simple. Connecting experiences and synthesizing new things often results in false starts, and roundabout routes.

I’m productivity obsessed. Usually it’s a good thing, but sometimes it’s not. When you are productivity obsessed, you measure things by the end results. It means you achieve goals. However, not everything is measurably instantly by end results. Sometimes, simply going through the process is important. 

This is particularly the case when coming up with an idea for a new novel. A novel is a huge undertaking, and even if you are not an outliner (which I am mostly not) it still requires some thought, some percolation of ideas until you are set on writing that particular story. This requires brainstorming.

Different people do it differently. If you are really really lucky, a story arrives, all set and ready with main framework. However, more often than not, it’s a small germ that grows and grows. Some people may brainstorm while running or walking. Others, like J. K. Rowling, may end up doing it on a train journey. Some people, like me, write things down to figure them out. 

I brainstorm by writing. It’s not a bad thing. But, it does mean that brainstorming session, in which I may end up writing thousands of words, may or may not be of any use. I may think about a story, write whatever comes to my mind, and decide at the end that it’s all actually rubbish. So from the productivity perspective, that’s wasted 3,000 words that I could have written for something far more useful. For something that would have resulted in a finished product.

But there is another way of looking at it, and that is creative perspective. Now, just to be clear, I don’t believe that it is productivity vs. creativity. They are not enemies, nor mutually exclusive. However, one does take priority over the other at times.

When brainstorming a new novel, without a particularly concrete idea in mind, creativity takes priority. That means that yes, there is a risk that what you end up scribbling or thinking about for hours, may not get used at all. But eventually, you will find things that become the foundation for that new novel, or indeed any new project. Even for the material that you may not end up using, it may not be wasted. Some of those ideas may be used later. But even if they are not, it is still an exercise for your brain. You have still spent time tapping into your subconscious, connecting consciously with your muse, and you have learned how to consistently keep mining for good ideas instead of accepting whatever’s on the surface. It is time and space for creativity. 

For anyone really, but particularly for writers, giving this space to idea generation is important. Without that, there is a danger of staleness, or even worse, a creative block. The process of creativity, therefore, is no less important than measurable productivity. 

What do you think? Do you struggle between choosing creativity and productivity? Or how do you manage both?

 

BristolCon 2015 – the one-day convention

BristolCon is Bristol’s leading (and only) Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. On the 27th of September, I attended it after a year’s break. It’s my “regular” convention, and it has been growing from strength to strength since it first started in 2009. One of the unusual things about BristolCon is that it is an only a one-day event. If you are at all familiar with SFF conventions, you would know that most of them are weekend-long affairs. That means a lot of time and money. BristolCon offers the con experience without the hefty price tag. Even better, it offers the intimacy of a relatively small convention, which makes it perfect for newbies.

I’ve been to BristolCon as a newbie, I have been on panels, and these days I do some minion duties (helping out on the day as per instructions of the Head Minion), but mostly, I just go to BristolCon to mingle. It’s incredible how quickly people bond, and how this once-a-year event can form lasting friendships. There are people, who I now consider my friends, whom I used to see only once a year at BristolCon. Somehow, in that limited time and space, friendships grew. The same goes for networking with writers, and other people in the industry. These relationships are built, one smile and one handshake at a time. Some will last, others will not.

I was looking forward to going to BristolCon 2015 for several reasons. For one, it was after I missed a year and almost two years since I’d moved away from Bristol (where I lived for nearly 10 years). Another reason was my friend and organiser of BristolCon, Joanne Hall’s book launch. And lastly, I just wanted to be at BristolCon, and hang out with people I hadn’t seen for a while.

It did not disappoint.

Just out of the train station, I ran into G R Matthews, an author I’d met at last year’s Fantasy Faction’s Grim Gathering. We wandered down together to Double Tree Hotel, and from then on, it was meeting and greeting. Having had a glimpse of the number of emails, meetings, and planning it takes to organise conventions (and realising, I really don’t want to do it) I have a special regard for people who do the job. It’s mostly a thankless job, and you are really only noticed if you screw up. So well done to Joanne and the rest of the committee that I didn’t see anyone shouting loudly for organisers.

I attended only three panels this year and they were all good fun. The censorship panel was way more fun than I had expected. Ian Millstead moderated it well, and the panellists – Dev Agarwal (writer, and editor for BSFA’s Focus Magazine as well as Albeido One), Joanne, Juliet E. McKenna (a fantasy writer), and Tony Cooper (a fantasy writer) offered their opinions, well-researched insights, and entertainment.

I met new people but especially got to have a bit more of a chat with people I’d only briefly met before, or seen at previous cons (or kept in touch through Facebook). I hope that next time I see them, at least some of them will remember me.

Joanne’s new book, Spark and Carousel, launched officially at BristolCon today, with disco-lights and cake and wine!

It was a successful launch and included absolutely sweet speeches by Roz Clarke (editor) and Sammy H. K. Smith (publisher). It’s so nice to see all the love shared in the community. Because SFF is a community, and the regulars who attend BristolCon are a community of their own. 

Both the Art Room and the Book Room were full of great wares. Artist, Jennie Gyllblad was resplendent in her costume!

Not really having paid much attention to book covers before (shame on me!) I was excited when Dev pointed out that the Guest of Honour, Chris Moore had designed several well-known covers, including that of The Stars My Destination. 

It was fun to catch up with people and listen in on panels, but I also learned a lot. It does not matter at what stage you are in whatever you choose to do, there are opportunities to learn. This time, as I wasn’t on any panels, I paid more attention to people who were – who does what, and how. I saw how different moderators work, and what was more effective. It’s not an easy task keeping a room full of an audience engaged, and it’s a good skill to have.

All in all, despite earlier reluctance to travel to Bristol (it’s weird going back to the place the first time after you move away), I am glad I went. It was a very good day spent with very good, interesting people. So good in fact that I already booked my next year’s ticket – and I don’t even know the date! 

 

A writer’s diary: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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4 June 1831

I wonder if I shall burn this sheet of paper like most others I have begun in the same way. To write a diary, I have thought of very often at far & near  distances of time: but how could I write a diary without throwing upon paper my thoughts, all my thoughts – the thoughts of my heart as well as of my head? – and then how could I bear to look on them after they were written? Adam made fig leaves necessary for the mind, as well as for the body. And such a mind I have! So very exacting & exclusive & eager & headlong – & strong & so very very often wrong! Well! But I will write: I must write – & the oftener wrong I know myself to be, the less wrong I shall be in one thing – the less vain I shall be!

– Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

A writer’s diary: John Steinbeck on comfortable space for writing

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12 February 1951

Lincoln’s Birthday. My first day of work in my new room. It is a very pleasant room and I have a drafting table to work on which I have always wanted – also a comfortable chair given me by Elaine. In fact I have never had it so good and so comfortable. I have known such things to happen – the perfect pointed pencil – the paper persuasive – the fantastic chair and a good light and no writing. Surely a man is most treacherous animal full of his treasured contradictions. He may not admit it but he loves his paradoxes.

Now that I have everything, we shall see whether I have anything. It is exactly that simple. Mark Twain used to write in bed – so did our greatest poet. But I wonder how often they wrote in bed – or whether they did it twice and the story took hold. Such things happen. Also I would like to know what things they wrote in bed and what things they wrote sitting up. All of this has to do with comfort in writing and what its value is. I should think that a comfortable body would let the mind go freely to its gathering. But such is the human that he might react in an opposite way. Remember my father’s story about the man who did not dare be comfortable because he went to sleep. That might be true of me too. Now I am perfectly comfortable in body. I think my house is in order. Elaine, my beloved, is taking care of all the outside details to allow me the amount of free untroubled time every day to do my work. I can’t think of anything else necessary to write except a story and the will to tell it.

– John Steinbeck