Cosplay Conundrum

In the spirit of embracing my geek brand, I thought I’d take a step away from writing about writing this week, and instead write about something else close to my heart: cosplay* (although since my YA is about a girl with some of the same cosplay reservations as myself, maybe I’m not actually that far from writing about writing after all…)

I’m going to start by saying that I fully believe cosplay is for everyone. I love seeing plus-size cosplays, pint-size cosplays, genderbent cosplays, hijabi cosplays, not to mention people of colour cosplaying traditionally white characters.

But when it comes to my own costumes, I’m a super perfectionist. I want to be as screen accurate as possible, even if that means ruling out a whole slew of costumes because I don’t look enough like the character.

Part of it is my own body image issues. It’s taken me a long time (looooong time), but I’m finally (mostly) comfortable with my body. However, I’m still not ready to cosplay She-Ra in her skimpy white skirt, despite her being one of my favourite characters growing up.

And then there’s my shades. I need to wear them if I want to last more than 5 minutes without a migraine. (Even if sunglass-contacts were a thing, I have trouble with contacts). In past years I’ve just worn my shades, and taken them off for photos, but the problem is most people don’t seem to know who I’m dressed as while I’m wearing them – they completely ruin the effect of the costume.

So, this year I decided to try something different. Instead of dressing as an exact replica of a character (because, let’s face it, there aren’t that many female characters with shades – except maybe for Trinity from the Matrix movies, which aren’t my favourite) I’d do a mash-up that incorporated my glasses.

Which is how I ended up dressing as a Steampunk version of Belle from the animated Beauty and the Beast movie for Ottawa Comiccon last weekend.

For in-progress shots of the construction, check out my Facebook page

It was awesome. Not only did the costume turn out just how I’d imagined it, but it was recognizable, and I got stopped and asked for photos a lot.

I think for me, and my perfectionist soul, this is the way I’m going to do cosplay from now on. (Once again, I’m not speaking for anyone else – if you want to be a screen accurate wheelchair-using Leia or a screen accurate Japanese Wonder Woman, or a screen accurate plus-size Ariel, I want to see your amazing pics!)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and start planning my Steampunk She-Ra costume.

Just Kidding.

Maybe.

 

*For those of you unfamiliar with the word, cosplay means dressing as a character from a movie, book or TV show, usually at an event like Comiccon or a movie release, etc.

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2018 Conference Recap

All right, after taking two weeks to wrap my head around the excellence of the 2018 SCBWI Canada East Conference, I’m ready to talk about it. As always, I’m not going to go into too much detail of the conference’s contents, because I feel that’s unfair to the speakers who earn money for delivering it, and the other attendees who paid money to receive it. Mostly I’ll just hit my highlights.

After dealing with sick kids all week leading up to the event, I’d been worried I wouldn’t be able to attend, but I made it (even if my stomach was rocky enough I only managed a dinner of miso soup before the first evening.)

The conference started with an evening get-together on the Friday night, which had a Glitter and Gold theme. I like the more subdued theme, because lots of people dressed up this year (unlike the Steampunk-theme year when I went full cosplay, and was the only one remotely Steampunky for the first 45 minutes of the event – not that I’m still bitter, or anything.)

I got to wear a glittery blue knit dress I’d scored for $6 (Canadian, even), and had a great time catching up with a critique partner and other writer-friends I mainly interact with online.

Saturday morning I had a session hosted by writer Catherine Austen on Revision, which focussed as much on techniques for revising as it did on finding the motivation/confidence to actually do the revisions. It served as both a lesson and a pep talk – both of which I really needed.

I also really enjoyed the session on Literary Branding by agent Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary (a Canadian-based agency that deals mostly with the U.S. Market). She told us to find a common theme in our works and to emphasize it as our literary brand.

When I mentioned to friends later that I was having trouble finding a theme in a how-to book on cake decorating, a YA about a cosplayer, and my forest-based MG Fantasy, they didn’t even hesitate before answering, “Geek. Your brand is geek.”

Can’t really argue with that one.

But I think the highlight of my conference was my one-on-one critique with editor Aubrey Poole. I have to admit, I’ve had mixed results from conference critiques, sometimes it feels like the critiquer barely skimmed the pages (I’ve had suggestions that had absolutely nothing to do with the story, and a critique on a fantasy that basically said “I don’t like fantasy books, so I can’t offer anything.”)

But Aubrey’s critique was spot-on. Her criticisms mostly pointed out things that had been bothering me about the story (but which I really didn’t want to deal with and kind of hoped nobody would notice), and made me finally buckle down and deal with plot holes with an answer other than ***it’s MAGIC *** (insert *jazz hands* here).

Anyway, after two weeks of pondering solutions,  I’m finally about ready to jump in on what’s going to be a major revision – but one that will improve the story 100%. I can’t wait to get started.

All-in-all I came out of the conference motivated, inspired, and with a bunch of new writer-relationships. Yay!

The Difference a Decade Makes

I know I said I was going to write about the Canada East SCBWI Conference this week, but I’m still processing it, so instead I’m going to write about something I’ve noticed while reading listening to audiobooks (whatever).

For the sake of keeping up in the industry, I’ve been doing my best to pick books published in the last two years, but every so often I forget to check publication dates and an older book slips in (especially if I run out of books on hold and have to find something available immediately).

And (for contemporary novels, at least) it doesn’t take long for me to realize that the book wasn’t published recently.

Which is kind of funny. Ten years doesn’t seem like such a long time. Especially since I’m one of those people that still thinks of the 1980s when someone says “twenty years ago” and says I’m new to town when, in fact, I moved here twelve years ago. (Maybe I’m just in denial about my age.)

So you’d think I wouldn’t be quite so aware of the passage of time in books.

But I am.

Sometimes it’s the names that tip me off. Certain names, like Macy and Lacey definitely had their day, and it was a few years ago.

But the biggest tip-off tends to be technology usage. While characters from books published in the early 2000s may mention laptops, cell phones, and internet access, books published in 2018 tend to make technology more integral to the plot. (Fitting since it’s such a big part of teens lives these days.)

Recent books are much more likely to involve cyber bullying, catfishing, and YouTube stars (or wannabe YouTube stars).

Even texting, which has been around longer, has changed: book texting from a decade ago tends to involve a lot of short forms and l33t speak (I h8 u, OMG, lol, etc), while today’s texts reflect the usage of smart phones and auto complete, and let the characters text in complete sentences.

They may seem like small things, but they add up to create an atmosphere. Not that the books themselves are bad, or shouldn’t be read – I’ve really enjoyed most of them.

I just find it funny that the world might not always feel like it’s changing, until you stop and look back at how things used to be.

Or…maybe I’m just getting old.

 

April Reading Stats:

  • YA Contemporary (14)
  • YA Sci-Fi (1)
  • YA Fantasy (1)
  • DNF (1) – which I totally don’t feel guilty about this time, because it was racist and ableist.

April Total: 16

Year to Date: 53

Working Vacation

It’s been a rough week writing-wise here, between doctor’s appointments, volunteering for the school, and my sons’ birthdays, but since I’ll be technically working this weekend, I think it all balances out.

This weekend Ottawa is home to the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Canada East Conference, and I am really looking forward to attending. I missed last year’s conference in Montreal due to a combination of cost, depression, and just feeling the conference wasn’t right for me (it had two tracks: Beginner, which had things like how to format a query letter, and Advanced: which offered lessons in presenting at schools, but not a lot for an in-between writer like me).

But, this year’s conference sounds great, and I’m looking forward to seeing my Canadian writer people, many of whom I haven’t seen in two years, and to meeting new writers and editors.

But perhaps the thing I’m looking forward to the most is two nights in a hotel. Even though the conference is in my home town, I decided to splurge this year, in the hopes of getting a solid night’s sleep without the puppy or kids interrupting me. Plus, I’ll have more time to socialize with people if I don’t have to bus back to my end of town. And I don’t have to worry about anyone (kids or dog) wiping a messy face on my shirt right as I’m about to leave.

But…of course there’s a catch. One of my sons has come down with a nasty bug: fever, vomiting, and exhaustion. And I catch *everything* they bring home. So now it’s a crap shoot whether I’ll even get to go.

*sobs*

If you have any good health juju, please send it my way. Until then, I’ll be bathing in bleach, gargling with hand sanitizer, and spraying disinfectant like deodorant*.

*(Or, you know, washing my hands every 37 seconds. Whatever.)

Random Ramblings

Will somebody please stage an intervention with Mother Nature, already?

This week we’ve had an ice storm, rain, snow, hail…and they’re saying it’s going to be 16 C (61 F for my American readers) on Monday. WTF? While we were lucky our area of town didn’t get hit by any power outages (probably because everything came down in that bad storm in the fall), the all-over-the-place weather has been doing a number on my head.

I’ve had brutal migraines pretty much every day this week, but I’m struggling through. Somehow I managed to hit 1,000 words a day on my WIP for the first three days this week, bringing my current total to 25,000 words, aka halfway to my final word count goal (woot!).

Which is good, because the next seven days are looking iffy, writing-wise. Between doctors’ appointments, cake-baking, party-prep for my sons’ birthdays, and family visiting from out of town, I’m not sure how much writing will get done.

Not to mention the slight complication of my newly-diagnosed carpal tunnel, which is making my wrist ache after too much time at the keyboard.

While my YA WIP is growing slowly, I seem to be doing a bit better with my MG Fantasy draft. I’m more than two-thirds of the way through it with my online critique group, which means I’m still on schedule to get it to Bri before the summer. (Yay!)

Well, I think that’s all for me this week. Gotta get back to work.

A Bonus of Self-Imposed Deadlines

A few weeks ago I posted about adjusting my writing goals from 2000 words a day to 700 (mainly to deal with new puppy-induced sleep deprivation).

This worked well at first, and my aim was to complete my current WIP by the end of April.

And then life happened.

I had at least one kid home sick from school for a whole month (including March Break), the dog continues to get me up overnight (though we’re down to only 2-3 nights a week), I spent more than a few days on the couch fighting off illness of my own, and now I’m scrambling to get things ready for my boys’ birthday party.

Every day I didn’t meet my word goal  my daily goal climbed a bit higher (it’s currently sitting at 1508 words/day, including weekends). And every time that happened, I got a bit more stressed out.

Until I finally realized what should have been obvious: there’s no sense stressing over an entirely arbitrary deadline. There’s absolutely no penalty if I don’t finish on time.

Yes, as a writer I should practice completing things on schedule, and yes, I need to get this book finished so I can edit it and eventually send it to my agent and get it on sub.

But…

Not at the cost of my own mental health. I was so stressed out knowing I couldn’t reach my daily word counts, that I didn’t even want to try. Now that I’m ignoring them, I’ve written over a thousand words a day for the first two days this week.

I do work better when I have a goal to aim for, though, so instead of erasing my deadline altogether, I’m simply going to adjust it, and hope I can get this draft finished by the end of May.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

DNF

As you know, I’ve been consuming a ton of YA audiobooks lately, and while I haven’t loved every one, I have finished all of them.

If I don’t like a book, I do my best to try and figure out why, to treat it as a learning experience for myself as a writer.

But this month I finally found an audiobook I just couldn’t complete.

I’m not going to name names. I work in this industry, and I don’t want it to come off like I’m trashing another author or their work, so I’m only going to talk in vague terms about the book I DNF’d (Did Not Finish).

I found the book depressing – I could anticipate the bad choices the MC was going to make, and I didn’t want to follow her down that path. The mental illness issues it dealt with were almost too real (for my taste at least), and I found myself dreading listening to the story unfold.

I’d forget my phone when it was time to take the dog out.

I’d opt for silence while cooking dinner.

can normally get through a YA Contemporary (they’re typically shorter than SFF) in a day or two. By the end of Day 4, I was just past the halfway mark.

So I bailed.

I used to think giving up on a book was a failure on my part. That it made me a quitter.

But lately I’ve come to realize life is too short for bad books.

(It’s also too short for bad desserts – but that’s another post entirely.)

After I quit, I checked the Goodreads listing for the book. It had a decent enough rating, but loads of people said they’d DNF’d around the same point as me (and many who read the whole thing wished they’d DNF’d at that point), so I definitely feel good about my decision.

Even better, the books I listened to after were so good, I burned through them, making my overall numbers for the month not bad at all.

 

March reading stats:

  • YA Contemporary (6)
  • YA Fantasy (6)
  • YA Sci-Fi (3)
  • DNF (1)

March Total: 15

Year to date: 37