Our Own Deep Oceans Writing Prompts

Our Own Deep Oceans Writing Prompts

Perhaps you want to send something in for the Ocean of Possibilities Bi+ Visibility Day Zine, but you’re not sure where to start.

These prompts, which expand on our jellyfish theme, might be helpful.

If you’re having trouble getting started, I would suggest reading through these questions and prompts and picking the one that brings a thought to mind most easily. Then set a timer for 15 minutes and write. Try not to edit yourself as you go, just let the words flow! You can edit afterwards.

If you love what you’ve written, awesome! Keep going on that track.

If you don’t love it, that’s okay! Pick another question or prompt, or take another crack at the one that first drew your attention.

(Keep in mind that you do not need to stick to a jellyfish or ocean theme – this was just a fun theme I went with this year. The zine will include all kinds of writing and themes.)

Send your submissions in by midnight, September 13, 2020.

The prompts:

Jellies have been around since before the dinosaurs, and our communities have also always been around.

  • What community do you identify as belonging to, or being part of?
  • Do you know the history of that community?
  • When did you first learn that there was a community that shared your bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or otherwise non-monosexual orientation?
  • What experiences have you had in these communities?
  • Have you felt welcome in queer communities, either communities of shared orientation or other queer communities? What has contributed or stood in the way of feeling welcome in these communities?
  • Write a story about a bi+ person in history. (This could be in any genre.)

Jellies are found in every ocean, and in every part of the ocean, and our communities are also found everywhere.

  • Our bi+ communities overlap with trans communities, fat communities, Black, Brown and Indigenous communities, disabled communities, poor communities, substance using communities, sex working communities, and every other community. What overlaps exist in your bi+ experience?
  • Are there places you didn’t expect to find bi+ community, but then they were there?
  • Write a story about a bi+ person in an unexpected location, such as the moon, the bottom of the ocean, or a space station. (This could be in any genre, but my love of speculative fiction is certainly present in this prompt!)

Jellies can be hard to see because they blend in, and our communities can be hard to see, too.

  • Have you experienced a sense of invisibility, or erasure when it comes to your bi+ identity? What was the effect of this?
  • Have you experienced being seen in your bi+ identity? What did that visibility make possible?
  • What do you wish people knew about bi+ experience, that tends to get lost when we are blended into our contexts (such as the discourses that flatten us down to “spicy straight” or “gay/lesbian lite”)?
  • Where would you like to see more bi+ representation?
  • Write a story about blending in. (This could be in any genre.)
  • Write a story about not blending in. (This could also be in any genre!)

Jellies are resilient and they survive in so many different contexts, and our communities are also resilient, and survive in many different contexts.

  • What skills of survival have you learned as a bi+ person, and in bi+ communities?
  • What are some of the obstacles that you have faced?
  • What are some of the skills of resilience that you have developed as a bi+ person, and in bi+ communities?
  • What is the history of your skills of resilience and survival – where did you learn them, and who supports you in them?
  • Write about your “care toolkit” – the skills and resources you use to care for yourself and others.
  • Write a story about bi+ survival. (This could be in any genre.)

Some jellies are bioluminscent, creating their own light, and so do our communities – bi+ communities have been creating queer-inclusive spaces for generations, including Brenda Howard and the first Pride March!

  • Has there been a time when you’ve “created your own light” for yourself or others – a time when you have held out against the gloom, or when you have offered hope to someone else?
  • Has there been a time when another member of a bi+ community offered light and hope to you?
  • Who in your life, now or in the future or in the past, would you want to create light and hope for?
  • Who in your life knows that you are holding onto hope or possibility?
  • What allows you to be bioluminescent?
  • Write a story about being a light in the gloom. (This could be in any genre.)
  • Write a story about finding a light in the gloom. (This could be in any genre.)

And if the idea of finding light in the gloom appeals to you, you can use code ‘jellyfish’ from now until the end of September 2020 for 23% off An Unexpected Light, in celebration of Bi+ Visibility Day on September 23, 2020.


Bi+ Visibility Week is September 16-23!

The zine is only the first of the Bi+ Visibility Week events!

There is also a virtual video dance party on Friday Sept 18 from 8-10 pm MDT (please RSVP for details – we’re still figuring out exactly how it will work but it’s going to be super fun). RSVP at the FB event – https://www.facebook.com/events/313322403260174 or send me a message.

And a panel on visibility and care on Saturday Sept 19 from 1-2:30 pm MDT. Watch for a blog post coming this weekend with full details.

And lastly, a virtual paint night on Bi+ Visibility Day, Wednesday Sept 23 from 6-8 pm MDT. Anyone can participate, and for folks in Calgary, I’m putting together craft packs with a canvas board, paint brushes, and paint. You can find details and RSVP in the FB event – https://www.facebook.com/events/1175049712880550

An Ocean of Possibilities Call for Contributors

An Ocean of Possibilities Call for Contributors

Bi Visibility Week is coming up from September 16-23 and plans are coming together!

One small project is a little zine about our queer experiences, open to contributions from anyone who identifies as somehow non-monosexual (not gay or straight, attracted to something other than a single gender). This includes bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and a whole range of other queer folks.

Since all of the Possibilities Bi Visibility Week events have a bit of a jellyfish/ocean theme going on, consider the following possible prompts for your writing:

  • Jellies have been around since before the dinosaurs, and our communities have also always been around! Not like The Bis Before Time, but, you know.
  • Jellies are found in every ocean, and in every part of the ocean, and our communities are also found everywhere!
  • Jellies can be hard to see because they blend in, and our communities can be hard to see, too!
  • Jellies are resilient and they survive in so many different contexts, and our communities are also resilient, and survive in many different contexts!
  • Some jellies are bioluminscent, creating their own light, and so do our communities – bi+ communities have been creating queer-inclusive spaces for generations, including Brenda Howard and the first Pride March!

Although I am quite excited about the vast ocean of possibilities presented by this marine theme, that doesn’t mean you need to stick to the jelly theme at all. You can write about anything related to your bi+ experience. About presence and visibility and resilience. About connections and community (blooms of jellies, schools of fish). Write a short story, a poem, an essay. Draw a picture. Make a collage. Whatever you’d like!

Anything that is about non-monosexual experience is welcome, and I am especially interested in writing with some kind of focus on visibility (and all the pieces around it – invisibility, hypervisibility, conditional visibility).

Submissions must be received by September 13, 2020.

All contributors will receive a printed copy of the zine, and the zine will be available for free download on my website, with physical copies available for purchase (to cover the costs of printing and shipping). Submissions can emailed.

If you want support in the writing, you can attend the Warm Water Write-Along on Thursday, Sept 10 from 6-7:30 pm Mountain time. Message me to RSVP!

BPD Superpowers

BPD Superpowers

BPD Superpowers: What the borderline makes possible (clickable link to PDF)

THE SUPERPOWERS
o   The Superpower of Community (and community care)
o   The Superpower of Showing Up
o   Resilience
o   Endurance
o   Dialectics as a Superpower (holding multiple true stories)
o   Empathy and Compassion
o   The Superpower of Quick Turnaround of Emotions
o   The Superpower of Being Able to Get Out of a Bad Situation
o   The Ability to ‘Chameleon’

From the document:

This document follows a conversation, facilitated by Osden Nault and Tiffany Sostar, whose goal was to center the voices of folks who identify with BPD (either diagnosed by a professional or self-claimed), and to shift the dominant narrative about Borderline Personality Disorder. This document includes quotes from participants as well as quotes from BPD folks who were not at the event itself.

This event was the result of both Osden and Tiffany noting the lack of BPD voices in the resources available about, and especially for, the BPD community. So much of what is available includes harmful stories about what kind of people have BPD, and how difficult and even dangerous it is to be in relationship with them. These stories obscure the complex lived experiences of BPD individuals who have valuable insider knowledges into how to navigate big emotions and the ongoing effects of complex trauma.

Because we live in such a complex, overwhelming, and traumatizing social context, we hope that this resource might also provide help and insight for folks who do not identify with BPD but who have experienced complex trauma or are living with overwhelming Feels.

We also hope that this resource will help folks who are facing the injustice of inaccessible mental health supports. We recognize that the BPD community faces intense stigma and is also significantly underserved by medical and mental health professionals. If you have found this resource because you haven’t found anything else, we hope that it helps. You are valid, your experiences are valid, and no matter how much you may struggle with your big feelings at times, we know that you also have skills, strategies, superpowers.


There’s so much more that we could have put into this document, and we hope to continue this work both within the BPD Superpowers group and through engagement with other folks who identify with borderline personality disorder (either through self-identification or through a formal diagnosis). Maybe there will even be a book!

For now, here’s what you’ll find in this 43-page PDF.

  • A note on this moment
  • Making space for borderline wisdom
  • Borderline Stories
  • Deconstructing the Discourse of Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Experiencing BPD by Osden Nault
  • Navigating systems
  • Getting better?
  • BPD and the Mythology of “Letting Go” by Kay Fidler
  • Borderline Communities
  • Empathy on the Borderline
  • Borderline Chameleons & Identity Flags
  • A Strategy from Narrative Therapy: Escaping from Normal
  • Support and Solidarity
  • Suggestions for Everyone
  • Suggestions for Friends
  • Suggestions for Partners
  • Suggestions for Family
  • Suggestions for Service Providers
  • Who we are
  • Art by Osden Nault

A note on this moment

Acknowledging the political climate in which we are releasing this work and the intersections of oppression and mental illness / neurodivergence.

At this moment, Black people in the USA and marginalized groups worldwide are mobilizing against white supremacist, racist, and anti-Black violent systemic oppression. We are unequivocally in support of this ongoing struggle for more just futures. In releasing this document at this time, we wish to acknowledge the compounded effects of anti-Black racism, white supremacy, colonialism, intergenerational trauma, and many more forms of violent oppression and marginalization on individual mental health and neurotypes.

An Indigenous participant has shared:

One of the first definitions of BPD I saw described it as resulting from a “genetic predisposition” and trauma. I immediately thought about my own family’s intergenerational trauma. At a point in time when we know ancestral trauma affects us to a genetic level, I wondered how the history of colonial violence plays a role in my present day neurodivergent experience.

We see the effects of violent oppression on physical and mental health, spanning generations and present today. In what Angela Davis has referred to as a “very exciting moment,” and about which she says, “I don’t know if we have ever experienced this kind of a global challenge to racism and to the consequences of slavery and colonialism,”[1] we acknowledge that there is a great deal of ongoing work and healing to be done. We release this collective document with free access and the hope that it will aid in the future and ongoing well being of oppressed individuals and communities.

With love and solidarity, The BPD Superpowers group


[1]   Angela Davis: ‘This moment holds possibilities for change we have never before experienced,’ Channel 4 News, youtube.com. 


Find earlier posts from this work:

Shiny! June speculative writing group

Shiny! June speculative writing group

Dearest magpies,

This will be another incomplete, last minute, hastily written letter. Still shiny, I would like to think, but shiny like the rainbow slick on a puddle – a brief glimmer in a storm.And wow, are we in a storm.

The Shiny! Speculative Writing Group will be meeting tomorrow, June 7, from 4-6 pm mountain time. Email me for the link.

There is never a cost to attend the Shiny! writing group, but I would like to invite any participants at tomorrow’s event to make a donation of whatever amount you feel the writing group is worth towards supporting a Black creative, or towards one of the organizations supporting protesters right now.

I recognize that this group includes a lot of folks who are living with financial precarity, made worse for the folks in Alberta by the UCP attacking AISH. If making a donation is not possible, I would invite us each to find some other way of offering support. Supporting the work of standing against anti-Blackness and police violence is so necessary. Being part of that work is so necessary.

I would also like to invite the non-Black members of this group to engage meaningfully with the work of Black writers this month. Not just the critical and necessary non-fiction writing about this current political moment, but also the writing of Black romance writers, humour writers, and, of course, speculative fiction writers. Check out the Spring book list at Well Read Black Girl for some ideas.

And some other ideas…

We are collectively witnessing a phenomenal volume of Black pain in the news, and it is so critical that we do witness this, that we see it, recognize it, understand that it is not ‘shocking’ or new. That we recognize how anti-Black and anti-Indigenous violence are two strong threads in the rope of capitalist colonialism, and that we work to fray and unravel and dismantle that rope.

But we also have to recognize, and have to actively seek out, the other stories. Black lives matter all the time, not just when they are suffering. Black joy matters. Black imagination matters. If you are invested in supporting a movement for change, I really believe that you must also be invested in seeking out more than just the trauma.

(I also want to acknowledge the sheer volume of Indigenous pain that is also present and being made visible at this time, and invite us collectively to bring the same care and intention to how we witness and respond to this. For a wide range of book recommendations that include both Black and Indigenous writers, along with many others writers of colour, try this list from Art For Ourselves – http://www.artforourselves.org/reviews/read-bipoc-a-list-of-books-by-black-indigenous-andor-people-of-color-writers )

So, you may have guessed that tomorrow’s writing group will focus on what is happening politically right now.

It’s going to be a bit of a different session, more reflective writing than fantastical writing, though I think that reflection can also be speculative in nature. At its best, reflective writing invites us to speculate about our own preferred selves and lives, and can be incredibly future-enabling work.

My goal in writing these prompts was to find ways that we could engage as a group with what is happening culturally and politically in ways that generate and sustain hope without turning away from pain and struggle, and in ways that invite a variety of voices without appropriating stories or experiences that are not our own.

I wanted to invite us to step more meaningfully into our own story, rather than taking the too-frequent path of stepping into the story of someone who is marginalized in ways we are not. I didn’t want to set us up to “imagine what it’s like for someone facing this injustice” because, although I think it is absolutely critical that we read the first hand accounts of people who are facing hardship, and we believe them, that is different than trying to speak in their voices.

It is sometimes easier to imagine ourselves into a life that seems like it is harder than our own, easier to cast ourselves out into that other voice and experience, than to really sit with our own experience, and with the ways in which our own lives are entangled in systems of oppression and harm, the ways in which our own stories are shaped and constrained by colonialism and capitalism, the ways in which we have been invited to be complicit and the values we hold that do not align with these systems of harm. I hope that this event can help us polish off some of those shiny values.

So these prompts are meant to invite reflection on our own experience of this time, on the stories we are being told of this time, and what we can contribute at this time.

My hope is that this event tomorrow will leave participants feeling that their critical eye on the stories we’re being shared has been sharpened, and that their hope for the future and energy to take action in support of justice have been strengthened.

Here are our writing prompts for tomorrow:

What is the story of this time, right now?

This may not seem like a speculative writing prompt, but “the story” of any time is always an act of imagination. There is no single true story of any event. In this prompt, I want to invite us to consider what we are being told about the nature of this current political and cultural moment. Who is telling us this story? What is being valued in this story? Who does this story serve? Does this story align with our own experience or understanding of this time? What is the story we are telling of this time? What is the story we want to tell?

What is the story of this time, 50 years from now?

This is a more directly speculative prompt. What is the mythology of 2020 that evolves over the next half century? How do you imagine the grandchildren of this generation will speak about this time?

What is being asked of you at this time?

This is an invitation to use our speculative writing powers to imagine what we might have to offer, and what might be asked of us or needed from us at this time. What do we have to offer? What do we wish we had to offer?

If you plan to attend tomorrow, please let me know! If there are less than four confirmed attendees, I will be cancelling the event.

Warmly,Tiffany

Succulent Zine

Succulent Zine

The Succulent Zine is finally ready to share. (Click the link to download the 92-page PDF!)

This zine started with a plant metaphor. I wrote:

I love the comic about how we are basically houseplants with complicated feelings, and it got me thinking about how isolation means we need to be succulents, able to survive and thrive in conditions of scarcity and intensity, and how fear also turns out lives into deserts, and how precarity does the same.

So, I thought we could use that metaphor, and make a little zine about what gets us through, and how we get each other through.

What are our skills of survival?

What are our strategies of mutual aid and collective action and care?

How are we keeping ourselves going, and what can we teach each other?

Many of us are in communities with generations-long histories of succulent lives in deserts of ableism, transantagonism, queerphobia, colonialism, white supremacy. Oppressed and targeted communities know the way forward.

So many folks responded to this invitation, and what I imagined as a “little zine about what gets us through” is actually over 90 pages of poetry, art, essays, and narrative projects. I am incredibly thankful for these contributions, and honoured to have been able to bring them together in this work.

Each contributor took the time and energy to create something that they shared with this project. This time and energy is precious, especially right now as we all deal with scarcity, precarity, uncertainty, and rapidly changing expectations and pressures.

There is abundance in these pages. Richness despite scarcity.

Succulence.

If you would like a printed copy of the zine, please get in touch for pricing. The PDF is available at no charge, and can be shared.

Download the 92-page PDF here.

Contributors

Tiffany Sostar. Canada.
Finding Succulence and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor)
Tiffany Sostar is a narrative therapist, writer, editor, community organizer, and workshop facilitator. They collected and formatted the zine. This is their webpage! (My webpage? What even is authorial point of view in collective documents?!?!)

Brianna Sharpe. Canada.
Neverlings
Brianna Sharpe is a writer and parent. She writes beautiful, moving, well-researched articles for The Sprawl, among other places. Find her website here.

Kalina Wolska-Chaney. Canada.
Little Rock and cat art.
Kalina is a young writer and artist.

Sophie Cao. China.
How a Wandering Cat Survived During the Coronavirus Outbreak and Dear World, Dear Friends.
Sophie is a narrative practitioner in mainland China, and has been involved in projects for the Dulwich Centre. Dear World, Dear Friends formed the basis of the Exchanging messages with Chinese narrative practitioners, which can be found here.

Lyn Janelle. Canada.
Cat art.
Lyn is a seamstress, artist, and crafter-of-all-sorts.

Neko. Canada.
Huohuo and Momo
Neko is a young writer and artist.

Agnieszka Wolska. Canada.
A Pandemic Correspondence with a Challenging Presence and I am Tired of Sitting and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor)
Agnieszka Wolska is a narrative therapist and parent in Calgary, Alberta. You can find her therapy work, Calm at the Centre Therapy, here.

Bryan J. McLean. Canada
[ Lights in a Dark Landscape ]
Bryan McLean is a poet, musician, writer, and artist. You can find his website here.

Anupa Mehta. India.
Toolkits For Trying Times.
Anupa Mehta is a narrative therapist and workshop facilitator in India. Her website is here.

Josiah Ditoro. Canada.
Become the Borg of Your Favourite Things
Josiah is a writer, disability justice advocate, and one of the engines behind the Calgary Wrimotaurs, Calgary’s NaNoWriMo group. You can find the Calgary NaNo site here.

Rei. Canada.
Allow Yourself to Start Again and Cheerio Upside Down
Rei is a writer, artist, and disability justice advocate in Calgary.

Lori Helfenbaum. Canada.
A Pandemic Passover Haggadah and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor)
Lori is a narrative therapist in Calgary. You can find her website here.

Nicole Marie Burton and Hugh Goldring. Canada.
Take Care: A Community Response to Covid-19.
Nicole and Hugh run Ad Astra Comix and publish smart, funny, political comics. You can find their website here.

Hugh D.A. Goldring. Canada.
Anarchism and Pandemics

Kay Fidler. Canada.
Sober in Isolation and Novel: A Pandemic Love Poem
Kay is a Metis writer and perfumer in Calgary. They are working on a graphic novel, and it’s going to be amazing!

Beatrice Aucoin. Canada.
Good Leadership in the Time of Corona
Beatrice is a writer and cat sitter in Calgary. You can find her site, Cat Mom Calgary, here.

Callan Field. Canada.
Mixed media pair
Callan is a visual artist in Calgary. Callan’s website is here.

Anisha Uppal-Sullivan. UAE.
Cat art
Anisha is an artist in the UAE.

And the narrative practitioners group! We each contributed to the conversations that formed the basis of When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing
Tiffany Sostar
Agnieszka Wolska
Lori Helfenbaum
Joel Glenn Wixson (see his website here)
Amy Druker (see her website here)
Mim Kempson (see her website here)
Sonia Hoffman
Rosie Maeder
Julia Scharinger
Marisa Barnhart
J.
L.

Shiny! February 2020

Shiny! February 2020

Dearest magpies,

This is our monthly Shiny! speculative writing group letter. Our first regular letter! I’ve been thinking about who we are as a group, and what we’re trying to do, and the obstacles that we might need to navigate.

I decided on magpies, because I love magpies.

They are inquisitive, curious, and creative. These are skills we need in this group, as we explore and investigate the complexities of the present in order to imagine more hopeful futures.

And they are forever seeking out the shiny hiding in the gutters and the trash and the deepest, thorniest thicket. We need this skill, too. The little bits of sparkle that we find together in this group will help us build nests for the future. (It is important to note that magpies aren’t actually more drawn to shiny objects more than any other bird – if you are a sparrow or an eagle or robin or a turkey vulture, you, too, are valuable and necessary and you, too, will help build the nests to hold the future.)

And magpies are brilliant and adaptable – recognizing the faces of allies and threats, using tools, adapting to hostile contexts. Magpies are one of the species that have fully adapted to urban living, and that thrive in spaces that have been fundamentally altered by human intrusion. This is another skill – to adapt, to recognize threat and to thrive despite it. (And perhaps to swoop at the heads of a threat, like Australian magpies do!)

So, my lovely magpies, let’s dive into this letter.

You’ll find the craft lesson first, then shared writing from the February session, some recommended reading, the writing prompts for March.

Craft Lesson

Shiny! is open to writers of all experience and confidence levels, and the reason we are not engaging in craft lessons at our in-person meetings is because, although ‘steering the craft’ (to borrow from Ursula K. Le Guin) is important, first we must be invited in. First, we gather up our words and our threads of story. First, we learn the sound and feel of our own voice. That’s what we’re doing in the in-person writing sessions. Once we have gathered a rich pile of words and stories, then we can figure out what to do with them.

Then we learn how to string those words together in ways that are most effective, and how to use our voice in ways that are most accessible to our audience. That’s what we’re hoping to do in these craft lessons.

You do not need to engage with these craft lessons in order to participate in either the in-person or the online group. They are entirely optional. However, if you do decide to engage with the craft lessons and would like to chat about them or receive feedback on your work, you can bring them to the group or email them to me. (We will eventually have a dedicated online space, most likely a Discord server, but since this is all volunteer on my end and I’ve got a bit of a learning curve to get that set up, we don’t have it yet. Bear with me!)

So, our first craft lesson!

We are starting with dialogue, since this was one of the requested topics at our launch party in January.

One of our participants shared that they have lots of character sketches and settings and narrative ideas, but they struggle with how to write dialogue between these characters.

This was a shared experience for many of us!

There are whole books written on the topic of writing dialogue (including a wealth of books on screenwriting, which offer insights that can be translated over to other forms of writing). Many of us speak all the time – to each other and to ourselves. We play over conversations in our minds, remembering or rehearsing. We listen to other people engaging in dialogue, too. We are surrounded by dialogue!

But it remains challenging to write, partly because we are so immersed in conversation throughout our days, and what we write on the page sounds off if it is exactly like what we say and hear throughout the day. Our writing needs to capture the feel of conversation, and that means that we need to learn which parts of spoken conversation need to be cut away in order to leave the core intact and convincing.

Here are a couple exercises to work with:

Practice rewriting dialogue

Record yourself having a conversation with a friend. This works best if the conversation is about something, so that you have some clear themes to work with. I suggest recording five minutes of rich conversation (which may mean setting your voice memo recording and then chatting for twenty minutes, and choosing the richest five for this exercise).

Transcribe those five minutes of conversation.

As you’re transcribing, pay attention to all of the filler in the conversation, and all the bits that could be edited out in order to make the dialogue easier to read.

Once you’ve done this, rewrite the conversation. Keep the core of it – the meaning, the flow, each person’s separate voice. Work on shaping that dialogue into something that reads smoothly but remains true to the actual conversation you had with your friend.

Dialogue or description?

(This exercise is adapted from the book Writing Dialogue by the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto.)

Put two characters in a setting where they’re stuck together. (The book recommends a car, but I’ve also found waiting room, plane ride, or ticket line settings useful.)

Write the same scene twice, once using only dialogue (what are the characters saying to each other?) and once using only description or summary (what is happening around the characters?)

Which works better?

Why?

That wasn’t the plan!

Write a two-part scene.

In the first, have your character imagining what they will say in a conversation that they’re anticipating.

In the second, write them actually having the conversation.

We’ve all had the experience of anticipating a conversation and then having that conversation actually happen, and it rarely works that it goes exactly as planned. (When it does go exactly as planned, this is its own kind of shocking!)

If your character’s conversation does not go as planned, what are the variables that push the conversation off the anticipated track? What is the result of this?

If the conversation goes exactly as planned, what is the outcome of this? How does your character feel? What are the effects on their life or the lives of those around them?

Shared Writing

One of our writing prompts was rolling three Magic & Fairytale Story Cube dice. We got a wizard, a treasure chest, and a knight. Agnieszka wrote three haikus, and has allowed me to share them here.

The Wizard
Cloaked in patient leadership,
They stand with courage
An alchemy of wisdom

The Knight (for Tiffany)
The pursuit of truth,
Through deepest sorrow of loss,
Your shining armour

Treasure Chest
Oh, the joyful abundance
Of being open
To the beauty of pleasure

Links

If we are going to, as Walidah Imarisha suggests, write “fantastical literature that helps us to understand existing power dynamics, and helps us imagine paths to creating more just futures,” then we must be actively and intentionally working to decolonize, to be actively anti-racist, to be working towards justice. And I think that if we want to write good speculative writing, in any genre, we also need a sense of hope and possibility – sometimes our efforts towards justice, especially if we are writing from a place of privilege and trying to be in solidarity, can feel stripped of playfulness and joy. I think we need to find that joy. Our selected links for this month are tied to these ideas.

With the colonial violence being enacted against Wet’suwet’en by the Canadian government, knowing what is happening and how to be in solidarity is important, even if our writing is on other topics. These big moments in our collective narrative are important for speculative writers because in these moments, possibilities for other ways to be in the future open up. So our first link is not related to writing speculative fiction, but it is related to our goal of imagining more just futures. The Wet’suwet’en Supporter Toolkit offers a wide range of ways to support, including links to further resources. As you read through this, what becomes possible in your writing? Does the history shared here, and the story of resistance and resilience, change how you might write possible futures?

Our second reading is Kate Heartfield’s article at Article Magazine, Decolonizing the Future: How a new generation of Indigenous writers is changing the face of science fiction. This is a beautiful read, full of recommendations for books and articles and to read, and clearly articulating why Indigenous science fiction is so important. One thing I love about this essay is that it makes clear that Indigenous communities have been imagining possible futures for themselves that have always stood against colonization, and have affirmed Indigenous rights. Written a couple years ago, I think that this essay is a beautiful pairing with the Supporter Toolkit – the land defenders are holding the future, and Indigenous speculative writers have been imagining that future into possibility. “The concept of “the future” only exists in the present. It can be shaped by the same colonial structures and narratives that shape the North American present, or it can affirm Indigenous land and sovereignty.”

Our third reading is for those of us who want to write, and may not be sure what stories are ours to tell, and how to tell them in respectful ways. Amal el-Mohtar offers a brilliant and comprehensive answer to the question, “How can writers represent people on the margins in their stories? How do writers know when they are being allies and when they are talking over people who could be speaking for themselves? How can I tell, as a writer, when I’m telling a story that isn’t mine to tell?” It can be found in her essay, Writing the Margins from the Centre and Other Moral Geometries.

And lastly, the joy and playfulness, and how friendship makes the future possible. Read more from Amal el-Mohtar in her story Pockets, at Uncanny Magazine. The thing I love most about this piece is how it demonstrates what friendship can mean – the care that Tessa and Nadia and Warda take with each other, the way they check in about what they each need… it’s beautiful. It reminds me of some of my own friendships, the ones that make it possible to stay in this world even when the world is hard and terrifying. The friendships are my favourite thing about this story, but I also love the pockets!

In addition to the readings, I have an announcement!

The Spring 2020 round of An Unexpected Light is open for registration! Participation is limited in this six-month online narrative therapy and speculative fiction course. Shiny! is an offshoot of the first round of this course, which has been really well-received! If you’re enjoying this group, you might enjoy the course, too.

You can find out more (including a link to download the updated syllabus) here.

Our next in-person writing session will happen on March 1, 2020, from 4-6 pm at Loft 112 in Calgary, Alberta. We’ll be writing on the following prompts (probably not all three, unless we are a very small group!) Since our craft lesson this month was dialogue, our writing prompts are loosely themed around communication.

Shiny! is explicitly a speculative writing group, but “speculative writing” can encompass a vast diversity of genres and styles. Whatever you write, keep an eye on the speculation of it. What are you imagining to be different than what is currently known of reality? And Shiny! is also an explicitly justice-focused group, hoping to write our way into more just, more liberated, more possible futures. So if the dread rises up in you and the only future stories feel dystopian, reach in for your inner magpie, wise and adaptable and possible, and find even the tiniest sparkle to grab onto. Bring that sparkle into your story.

If you will be attending the March event, you can choose whether to write on these ahead of time and then polish them at the event, or write another piece on the same prompt at the event.

If you’re following along at a distance, you can write along with these prompts and share them by email if you’d like them included in next month’s letter. To write along, set your timer for 20 minutes and write! Feel free to edit and rewrite or keep writing past the timer, but also don’t feel obligated. Sometimes it’s worthwhile just to get a little bit of writing done, even if it’s not perfect or complete.

  1. “I trust that help will come eventually if I persist in my curiosity, my investigation.” – Susan Power. Write about the help that comes to your character, and about the curiosity and investigation that made it possible.
  2. A hand-written note from another time. (Note, you can take this in many directions – a note found in a book far in the future, a note sent to the past via time travel, a note from or to an ancestor, a note never meant to be found and discovered somehow, etc.)
  3. A portal opens (or closes).

Good luck, my lovely magpies!

Warmly,

Tiffany