All the sudden, mushrooms

All the sudden, mushrooms

The right rain comes and all the sudden, mushrooms.

A letter for our friends in the United States, following the 2020 presidential election.

From Lindsey Boyes and Tiffany Sostar

Artwork: mycelium and mushroom 2 by Lindsey Boyes

Download this letter as a PDF here, or email Tiffany to have a physical copy mailed to you. You can support more of this work at Tiffany’s Patreon.

“Mushroom Mycelium represent rebirth, rejuvenation, regeneration.”

– Paul Stamets

A small imagining, based on the metaphor of mycelium in forests. In this imagining, we are the trees.

Mycelium are fungal material, spread throughout soil and other substrates, which can fruit into mushrooms under the right circumstances. Mycelium can be tiny, or, as the Armillaria in Oregon, vast and ancient. Mycelium not only break down dead matter, they also distribute resources across ecosystems. The mycelium network within a forest can link trees across a vast distance, sharing nutrients from one part of the forest to another.

  • What is the soil in which you find yourself?
    (Your social context, your environment.)
  • Does this soil feel rich and nutrient-dense, or does it feel depleted?
    (Are you nourished and supported by your social context?)
  • Do you remember a time when you were in different soil?
    (Have you ever found yourself in a different social context?)
  • Who is in this soil with you? Who is in your forest?
    (Who is alongside you? Perhaps these are cherished companions, perhaps they are not. Forests are places of magic, and also danger, after all.)
  • What else is present in the forest?
    (Are there birds, squirrels, bears, bees, mosquitoes? What other non-tree / non-human companions are in your forest?)
  • Who are you connected to across distance?
    (What companions do you cherish and stay connected to? These may be living or not, they may know you in return or not. The mycelium network is magical because it can connect us in seemingly impossible ways.)
  • What nourishment is shared across your connection?
    (What do these connections make possible – what do they offer that you do not receive in your immediate environment?)
  • What information is shared?
    (What have you learned from these distant connections?)
  • What do the mycelium share from you, out to other parts of the network?
    (What contributions have you made, what has your existence made possible in the lives of others?)

Dear friends,

We (Lindsey and Tiffany) are writing this letter from Calgary, Alberta, in so-called Canada. From Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani) and Stoney-Nakoda (Wesley, Chiniki, Bearspaw) and Tsuut’ina land. Métis land. From the place where the Bow meets the Elbow river.

This is beautiful, breathtaking land.

We wonder about the land that you are on.

Are there trees? Rivers? Mountains?

What do you see when you look out the window, when you step out your door? What do you smell? What do you hear?

What is the landscape, and what are the plants and animals that you share space with?

What is your relationship with the land you’re on?

In an Indigenous Counselling and Trauma Work course, Cree/Métis therapist and academic Karlee Fellner taught Tiffany that the land is old enough, strong enough, wise enough to help us hold our pain, no matter how vast that pain is. As we write this letter, we are thinking about the pain that exists following the events of the last years.

The land we write this from, and the Indigenous people on this land, and every marginalized community here, is currently threatened not only by the conservative government in power in this province, but also by Canada’s ongoing commitment to extractive and exploitative relations with land and people.

We’re sharing this context because we want to be clear that we recognize as much racism, as much white supremacy, as much racial capitalism and neoliberalism here in our country, in our province, in our city, as we see happening in the US. We are not writing from a position of distance or superiority, but from a position of shared struggle against these oppressive discourses and systems. And, as white settlers, also from a position of complicity with these discourses and systems.

We planned to write this letter before the results of the 2020 presidential election came in, because we wanted to offer some care to our friends in the US. But we found ourselves, like so many other folks, slowed down by the thick mud of distraction and doomscrolling through our social media feeds. So, instead, we are writing this after Joe Biden has been named president-elect, after the wave of celebration and the deep collective sigh of relief. (We were relieved, too!)

This little document contains some of our hopes for you, and reflects some of our hopes for ourselves. It also contains some art, a little recipe, and a few reflection questions that we have found helpful for ourselves. The document comes out of our work together in the Unexpected Light speculative fiction and narrative therapy course, and we hope that this document can be a tiny invitation to imagine more just, more liberated, more possible futures.

We wonder about what kinds of futures you hope for, and how you learned to hope for them.

What are the systems and structures that you hope will change?

What do you hope will be possible once these systems change?

What are the existing forces that have the power to change these systems – what are the networks working underground to transport nourishment, encouragement, information; what are the histories of collective action, the legacies of resistance?

Do you see a place for yourself in these existing frameworks of resistance and change?

We hope that you can sink your strong roots down into the earth, and feel the mycelium surround you, supporting you and enabling you to support others.

How to Make a London Fog

To start:
2/3 mug of strong Earl Grey tea

Flavouring:
Spoonful of vanilla sugar
Splash of vanilla extract

To finish:
Warmed and frothed milk or milk alternative

London Fogs are one of Tiffany’s most cherished soothing rituals of care, both alone and with friends. This recipe was included in the Unexpected Light course, and has become one of Lindsey’s soothing rituals, too. So, we decided to share it with you, too!

What are some of your rituals of care? Who taught you these skills? Who do you share them with?

We chose mushrooms (or, more accurately, the mycelium network!) because of the way that both hope and oppression can live underground, barely visible for such a long time, sustained by nearly invisible threads sometimes across vast distances and over unimaginable lengths of time, and then, given the right circumstances, the right rain (to quote Tiffany’s beloved Nathan), they spring up again like mushrooms.

We were thinking about how shocking the rise of fascism has been in the US and also in our own province, and yet how unsurprising, how these networks and threads have persisted. Death cap mushrooms. Indistinguishable from harmless button mushrooms when they are just sprouting.

And we were thinking about hope, too. About collective action. About the community care, the mutual aid and networks of support that sprang up in response, and that had always existed. Truffles. Precious, hidden, sustaining the roots of trees and feeding the forest, even when they are deep underground. Protecting ecosystems from drought and making the most of available nutrients in times of scarcity. (May we each be some glorious truffle-hunting animal, seeking out what is delicious and life-giving.)

What are some delicious things in your life right now?

What delights you?

What comforts you?

What brings you joy and ease?

And what are some nourishing things in your life right now?

What sustains you?

What warms you, strengthens you, fortifies you?

What brings you energy to keep working towards change?

We thought about how, in the last four years, many mushrooms have sprung up, and how some of them represent decay, rot, destruction. How the mycelium network can be so sustaining but also how it can be something other. How it can represent “ruptures in our unspoken contract of trust and care” (to quote BK Chan[1]). And also, how even decay (maybe especially decay) offers us the opportunity to take something noxious and turn it into something nourishing.

To quote Paul Stamets[2] (the real-life mycologist that the Star Trek: Discovery character is named after), “fungi are the grand recyclers of our planet, the mycomagicians… Fungi are the interface organisms between life and death.”

If we are, then, between life and death, and with choices about how to navigate this liminal space, perhaps we can learn from the fungi around us.

Have you experienced or witnessed life-affirming transformation?

What made it possible?

What supported the work of transformation

Credit must also be given to adrienne maree brown for identifying a tugging between life and death in her post on unthinkable thoughts[3], which was written specifically for movement organizers in Black and Brown organizations.

We recognize that the nourishment we find in her words was not first meant for us, and parts of it are not ours in any way. Thinking about life and death, cultural urges that sustain life or that threaten it, we must acknowledge how white supremacy, which benefits us, which makes our lives easier, makes the lives of Black and Brown and Indigenous people in both of our colonial nations so much harder to hold onto. As Claudia Rankine and Judith Butler[4] so clearly named, the scripts available to us as white people acting with whiteness lead to the death or incarceration of Black people. Access to life, to systems that support life, is not equal across social location.

And, equally true, we share adrienne maree brown’s hopes when she writes:

“i want us to want to live in this world, in this time, together.

i want us to love this planet and this species, at this time.

i want us to see ourselves as larger than just individuals randomly pinging around in a world that will never care for us.

i want us to see ourselves as a murmuration of creatures who are, as far as we know right now, unique in all the universe. each cell, each individual body, itself a unique part of this unique complexity.”

We thought about the ruptures that interrupt our togetherness and how perhaps hope can be a balm for the ruptures. We thought about hope as a collective practice (to quote Angel Yuen[5]), hope as a discipline (to quote Mariame Kaba[6]), hope as something that we can carry together.

We imagine the network that connects us to you, our friends in the United States of America, whose country has suffered such ruptures – ruptures as deep, as old as the founding of your country, so similar to the ruptures that also fragment so-called Canada. We want to connect, like mycelium. The threads and tendrils that stretch across distance, and that, given the right rain, fruit into mushrooms.

May we grow the medicinal mushrooms, the transformative mushrooms, the mushrooms that rejuvenate and regenerate. And may we also rest sometimes, knowing that this network is vast, our connections are real, and the mycelium can sustain us even in drought, and support us through transformation.

We love you, and we are stretching our roots out to you, with hope for all of us to find the way through, to do the work of decolonizing, of amending the soil, of being part of an ecosystem that is more wildly diverse, chaotic, joyful, and generative.

Lindsey and Tiffany

mushroom 2 by Lindsey Boyes

References

[1] Chan, Karen BK. (2020). In Calling in: Doing social justice with compassion. Webinar.

[2] Stamets, Paul. (2012). Fantastic Fungi: The Forbidden Fruit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDkR2HIlEbc

[3] brown, adrienne maree. (2020). Unthinkable thoughts blog post. http://adriennemareebrown.net/2020/07/17/unthinkable-thoughts-call-out-culture-in-the-age-of-covid-19/

[4] Butler, Judith and Rankine, Claudia. (2020). Visionaries Series: Claudia Rankine in Conversation with Judith Butler. https://vimeo.com/473984783

[5] Yuen, Angel. (2020). Dulwich Centre Meet the Author session.

[6] Kaba, Mariame. (2020). Hope is a discipline. https://towardfreedom.org/story/archives/activism/hope-is-a-discipline/

Download this letter as a PDF here, or email Tiffany to have a physical copy mailed to you. You can support more of this work at Tiffany’s Patreon.

November events and happenings

November events and happenings

You can find me at a bunch of public events this month. I’ve put them all together here to make it easier!


A jar of fairy lights on the beach. Text reads: Shiny! a speculative writing group

Shiny! speculative writing group

November 8, 4-5:30 pm mountain time

Our offshoot group from An Unexpected Light is open to anyone who wants to join, whether they’re in the course or not. October’s event was cancelled, and I’m excited about getting back to this group because it is always so lovely to share space imagining better futures, and I think it will be particularly needed this month.

To register – https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUrd-ChqjosGtZNN4oj_-oMNiA6FKBSeat_


A galaxy and tree silhouettes

Possibilities

This month, Possibilities will have two events (this is not because I am so ambitious, but rather because I forgot I had already scheduled the paint night when I scheduled the chat event with the October participants. *facepalm*)

Everything* to do with bi+ sex

November 7, 6-7:30 pm mountain time

* “Everything” includes: representation in media and pop culture; accessing sexual health care; learning how to have bi+ sex; and asexual erasure in pop culture and social spaces; and how we’re navigating sex in the pandemic.

To register – https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIqd-ChrDgvGtGWRIvprr8fjdYeRBwrzSiq

Paint night: Galaxies

November 17, 6-8 pm mountain time

Our second paint night will be painting acrylic galaxies. I will not be providing craft packs as the default, but I will be offering to help anyone who doesn’t have access to supplies (paint in black, white, and a few bright colours for the nebulas; at least one paint brush; a sponge; and paper or canvas).

To register – https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwpc-uurD8uH9Afo_WG8lBwZklvxFBc2GNY

Succulents. Text reads: “Do not be afraid. Do not be cynical. Continue to trust in yourself and others. Continue to dream of collective liberation. – Scott Crow

Presentations and Workshops

PolyCon Canada 2020

My time isn’t confirmed yet, but I believe I’ll be doing a short (15-minute) presentation at 9 am mountain time on November 23, followed by a 45-minute chat with participants, on the topic of polyamory and speculative fiction. Planning for this talk has been fun, because polyamory has such deep roots in speculative fiction – Robert Heinlein’s influence on North American polyamory is significant! But I am way more interested in the speculative work of marginalized writers, so although obviously I’ll acknowledge Heinlein, I want to focus on works like NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth and the polyamorous representation in Sense8.

I will also be talking about An Unexpected Light at this event.

Anyway! If you want to get up early on a Monday morning to geek out with me about speculative fiction, do it! http://polycon-canada.com/


Ally Toolkit Conference 2020: Free Community Day Programming

Imagining Possible Futures: Speculative Fiction and Social Justice

November 26, 3-4 pm mountain time

I’ll be presenting a workshop on reading and writing speculative fiction as a tool for social justice, for the Calgary Queer Arts Society’s Ally Toolkit Conference. Especially for allies, reading visionary fiction (Walidah Imarisha’s term for fantastical work that makes existing power structures visible and helps us imagine pathways to more just futures), can be one way to be in solidarity with marginalized communities. That’s the angle I’ll be taking in this workshop – how to use our reading (viewing, listening, etc.) more intentionally as a tool for justice and liberation. 

Register at – https://www.allytoolkitconference.com/schedule-1/community-day-free-programming-imagining-possible-futures-speculative-fiction-and-social-justice


If any of these interest you, I’d love to see you there!

And if you’re interested in An Unexpected Light, registration is ongoing and the course is fantastic. Join us!

An Unexpected Light special offer

An Unexpected Light special offer

From now until the end of September, use code ‘jellyfish’ for 23% off the cost of An Unexpected Light in celebration of Bi+ Visibility Day on September 23.

Register here.

An Unexpected Light is an online course in speculative fiction and narrative therapy. The course is fully asynchronous, meaning you can sign up at any time, and complete the modules at your own pace. When you enroll, you’ll have immediate access to the 95 core lessons in the course, which include narrative therapy practices, curated reading selections, writing prompts and lessons, and integration and care lessons.

The six textbooks are also included in the cost of the course, and so is access to the twice-a-month video chats, the Discord server, feedback and editing for your writing, and ongoing access to new content as it is developed.

An Unexpected Light has been designed to support participants in finding possibility – finding the unexpected light together – in times that feel increasingly hopeless and overwhelming.The course is inspired by Walidah Imarisha’s definition of visionary fiction as “fantastical writing that helps us imagine new just worlds. Visionary fiction encompasses science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, alternative timelines, and more. It is fantastical literature that helps us to understand existing power dynamics, and helps us imagine paths to creating more just futures.” (From this interview, which is one of our readings.)

We read visionary fiction, talk about visionary fiction, and write visionary fiction together, while also using narrative therapy to turn a visionary eye to our own lives and stories, inspired by David Denborough’s statement that “who we are and what we do are influenced by the stories that we tell about ourselves. While we can’t always change the stories that others have out us, we can influence the stories we tell about ourselves and those we care about. And we can, with care, rework or rewrite storylines of identity.” (From Retelling the Stories of Our Lives, one of our included textbooks.)

And we link these two things, speculative/visionary fiction and narrative therapy, through the frame that Avery Alder offers, an invitation to “sincerely imagine impossible things, to develop empathy towards impossible creatures, to practice being impossible. When we learn to see ourselves in the fantastical, the impossible, the absurd – when we construct new lenses by which to understand our own power and identities – we also put forward a challenge to the world around us. We challenge the reigning paradigms about what is possible, about what power looks like and who is entitled to claim it. We challenge the notion that difference is shameful. We challenge the notion that our bodies, our lives, or our hearts are shameful.” (From Variations on Your Body, another included textbook.)

Does that sound exciting?

Do you want to join?!

I would love to share this space with you. <3

(You can find out more about the course at www.tiffanysostar.com/an-unexpected-light)

Linking self-care to community

Linking self-care to community

This is a lesson from the Integration and Care module in An Unexpected Light. (Each of the six themes in An Unexpected Light includes a narrative therapy module, a curated reading module, a writing module, and an integration and care module. This lesson comes from the Kinship and Community theme.)

I thought that this exercise might be helpful for those of us who are in isolation or physical distancing, because it invites us to think about the connected histories of our self-care actions. When we’re feeling alone, and floating through our houses with a sense of detachment or powerlessness, it can help us narrate the history of the small actions of care that we are relying on, and can reconnect us to small actions of care that might sustain us through this hard time.

These videos were recorded months ago, and don’t directly reference COVID19. They also both reference inviting someone over for tea – obviously this isn’t accessible to many of us right now! But video calls, phone calls, or across-the-street teas might be.

The full transcripts for the videos are included at the end of this post. If you find these videos helpful and you’d like to sign up for the next round of the course, you can find that information here. (As of March 25, there are still 15 spots available in the upcoming session of An Unexpected Light. All scholarship spaces are filled, but sliding scale is always available.)

An Unexpected Light – Actions of Care

This video introduces the idea of “actions of care” – all of the actions that we take that care for ourselves and others. This video challenges the idea that “self-care” happens in isolation, and instead locates it within a history and a community of caretaking and caregiving actions. This is part one of the lesson.

From the video:

Drinking tea is sort of a trope when we talk about self-care: “Make yourself a cup of tea”. Tea and writing is also something we think of as going together. That’s one reason why I wanted to use London Fogs as the example. 

Even if making a cup of tea is what you do for self-care while you’re writing, sometimes it can be helpful to go through a process of mapping how you learned to use tea as a self-care strategy. 

Who taught you that? 

Do you remember the first time someone sat you down with a cup of tea? 

Do you remember seeing relatives or friends or strangers looking serene in a coffee shop and thinking ‘oh, maybe I could use that skill for myself’? 

Is there a way that you can take your actions of self-care that often happen on your own and link those to your community; link them to a history and a legacy of using those skills? 

What does it mean to be tied to many other people who also use this skill? 

Is that a way that you can feel connected, and are there ways that your self-care skills and tools can actually help integrate you into your communities? 

Are there ways that you can do those together? 

Even if that just means talking about them on social media? Or texting a friend and saying ‘hey, I’m gonna have a bath. I haven’t had a bath in a while, I was thinking maybe you would want one too’. That was a really weird example; I apologize for going off the rails there, but, maybe bathtime with friends is a thing? 

But, is there a way that you can take your self-care strategies and connect them so that it’s not about you as an island; an individual isolated person having to care for yourself in a way that cuts you off from other people, that puts your needs ahead of other people’s when actually we’re all working together. Or ideally, we can all be working together. 

There are lots of things that you are doing during this time of isolation and physical distancing, both for yourself and for others.

You may be limiting your time on social media – how? why? are you connected to other community members who have taught you the value of this, or who support you in this?

You may be doing drive-past visits and chatting across a safe distance – why? whose idea was this? who is involved? how does this make you feel? what does it make possible?

You may be baking, or brushing your teeth every morning, or setting timers to keep yourself focused – how? why? where did you learn it? who does it connect you to?

Any action, no matter how small, has a history and exists in a social context. Mapping that out can be a powerful antidote to feelings of powerlessness and loneliness.


If you really enjoyed that first video, this next one expands on it to offer a deeper-dive into the narrative practice behind this idea.

An Unexpected Light – Histories of Care

Part two of the lesson introduces the narrative therapy practice that will guide you through tracing the history of your own actions of care, and putting these into a social context.

Linking actions to histories

There is a foundation of skills, dreams, and values in your history.

Although this is a bonus narrative practice, it sets the foundation for the final month in An Unexpected Light, which focuses on legacies of action. Think of this as an invitation to start thinking about your own legacies of action!

Think of a circumstance in your life that has been challenging for you; something that has required you to access self-care or coping skills. Give the problem a name. (For many of us, this problem right now might be named coronavirus, or capitalism, or isolation. If the problem you’re facing is brand new, like coronavirus, you might want to think about times in the past that have some resonance with this experience – other times you’ve felt isolation, other times of scarcity, other times when you have worried for your or your community’s health.)

The actions that we’re connecting to here do not have to be big, impressive actions. For me, it was London Fogs! They can be small things – a letter, a practice of self-care that keeps you going. The idea is to connect to the history of these actions.

The action: creating a unique outcome

As you think about this problem, has there ever been a time when you faced this problem, or a similar problem, and you responded differently than usual? Think of a time when this resulted in a unique outcome. What did you do differently?

Where were you when you took this action? 

Were there other people supporting you? If yes, who were those other people? 

What made it possible for you to respond differently in this way?

Why was it important for you to respond to the problem in this different way? What might it say about what you want for yourself and your life? 

What were you standing for when you responded differently? Can you give a name to what you are standing for, or to what you were valuing? 

The history

Have there been other times when you’ve done something similar to this?

Have these previous actions also reflected the hopes or values that allowed you to respond differently to the problem? 

When was the first time you took an action like this?

Where did you learn that this kind of action is possible?

If you’ve never taken an action like this before, can you see other times in your life when other actions have reflected your values? (For example, your action may have reflected a value of “community” or “integrity” or “caring for others” or “creativity” – are there other times when you’ve taken actions that reflected this value?)

The witness(es)

Out of all the people you’ve known, who might be most pleased to know that you’ve stood up to the problem in this way? 

Why would they be pleased? 

What might this say about their hopes for your life? 

Are there people who also hope for the things that you hope for yourself? 

Would this person say “I knew you could do this”? 

What might they know about you that inspires their confidence that you could do what you did? 

Would this person be surprised that you did this? If yes, what might they be learning about you that they didn’t know before? What might you be learning about yourself? 

The future

What are you taking with you from this exploration of what might be a very small thing? What are you going to take into the future from this exploration of one experience of responding to a problem differently? 

If you wrote up this takeaway and posted it in a place where you’d be reminded of it, what effect might that have on your future? 

If you had a way to remind yourself that you have these skills, that there are people who know you have these skills and who support you, that there’s a foundation in your history of these skills, what might that mean for you? 

(Adapted from work by Jill Freedman and Gene Combs.)


Transcription of An Unexpected Light – Actions of Care

Okay. This is a video about care-taking and care-giving and actions of care, and how our self-care is something that’s connected to our communities and to our histories.

In this course, I’d like to really challenge some of the ideas about self-care being something that we do in isolation, as little islands; making tea for ourselves, or having a bubble bath, and this being framed as somehow contrary to community care or meaning that we need to prioritize ourselves over our communities or our histories. I’d like to think about care as something that happens within our social context; something that we learn to do together; something that we do in community even when we’re doing it on our own. 

I’m going to use London Fogs as an example *gestures towards cup of tea on the table*. London Fogs are a tea beverage. They’re one of my most important self-care tools. A London Fog is basically strong Earl Grey tea. I use vanilla sugar and vanilla extract and some kind of frothed milky beverage. You can use milk, but you can also use coconut milk or almond milk; whatever, but that’s the basic recipe. 

I learned how to make London Fogs when I was in the year between my fibromyalgia symptoms becoming debilitating and when I got the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and started figuring out how to navigate that experience of chronic, ongoing pain that occasionally and at that time frequently flared into something that kept me basically in my house and on my couch. It was quite a socially isolating experience, and I found that London Fogs were something I could do even on a high pain day. I could usually bring a chair into the kitchen and go through those steps of making tea, frothing milk with a little battery-powered handheld thing and making something that was soothing. There was a ritual around it, and it was something that people would come over and we would have a London Fog together. It gave me a sense of my ability to still have value in my community despite what was at the time a new experience of disability that I’d found really challenged my sense of who I was. 

Drinking tea is sort of a trope when we talk about self-care: “Make yourself a cup of tea”. Tea and writing is also something we think of as going together. That’s one reason why I wanted to use London Fogs as the example. 

Even if making a cup of tea is what you do for self-care while you’re writing, sometimes it can be helpful to go through a process of mapping how you learned to use tea as a self-care strategy. 

Who taught you that? 

Do you remember the first time someone sat you down with a cup of tea? 

Do you remember seeing relatives or friends or strangers looking serene in a coffee shop and thinking ‘oh, maybe I could use that skill for myself’? 

Is there a way that you can take your actions of self-care that often happen on your own and link those to your community; link them to a history and a legacy of using those skills? 

What does it mean to be tied to many other people who also use this skill? 

Is that a way that you can feel connected, and are there ways that your self-care skills and tools can actually help integrate you into your communities? 

Are there ways that you can do those together? 

Even if that just means talking about them on social media? Or texting a friend and saying ‘hey, I’m gonna have a bath. I haven’t had a bath in a while, I was thinking maybe you would want one too’. That was a really weird example; I apologize for going off the rails there, but, maybe bathtime with friends is a thing? 

But, is there a way that you can take your self-care strategies and connect them so that it’s not about you as an island; an individual isolated person having to care for yourself in a way that cuts you off from other people, that puts your needs ahead of other people’s when actually we’re all working together. Or ideally, we can all be working together. 

I don’t know if this video turned out the way I was hoping it would, but that’s what I was wanting to talk about. 


Transcription of An Unexpected Light – Histories of Care

Okay. So, let’s say you watched my earlier video about linking your self-care strategies to a history and community, and you think that sounds exciting but you don’t know how to do it. This video is a bonus narrative therapy practice for you. I’m going to walk you through the same questions that I would ask someone in a narrative therapy session, and the questions that were asked of me when I was in my Master’s program that actually helped me recognize my connection to London Fogs for being as complex and nuanced and beautiful as it is. I will also write these up in a handout for you, but I thought a video might be kind of fun. 

Think of a circumstance in your life that has been challenging for you; something that has required you to access self-care or coping skills. 

Do you have a name for it? You can name it whatever you want. It might be “depression”, it might be “anxiety”, it might be “interacting with a challenging family member”, or whatever. It could be a feeling or relationship variable, or a cultural or social problem like racism, or heterosexism, or fatphobia, or ableism. Or, it could be a unique metaphor that has meaning for you. It might be, you know, “the gloom”, or “the blues”, or “the zoomies” if you have that sense of frenetic energy that becomes problematic for you. 

As you think about this challenging context, has there ever been a unique outcome? A time when whatever it is could’ve taken you over, but you managed to get the upper hand or you managed to escape from it, or you managed to shrink it down to a manageable size. Where were you when this happened? Were there other people around? If yes, who were those other people? 

So, really think in some detail about a time when that problem has been managed in a unique way. What do you think made it possible for that to happen? 

When I was asked this question, I was thinking about pain as the problem. My unique outcome was a very specific memory of inviting someone over to my house that I really cared about; that I actually had quite a significant crush on, and making that person a London Fog, and knowing in that moment, even though the pain was still present, I had an experience of feeling myself having a little bit of control and agency in my life. 

You want to make sure that the unique outcome represents a preferred experience. It is valuable to talk about times when the unique outcome has been uniquely terrible, but that’s not what we’re looking for here. We are looking for times when it’s gone unexpectedly well. And then, we want to give that some meaning. 

So, why was it important for you to respond to the problem in this different way? What might this say about what you want for yourself and your life. What does it say you stand for? Can you give a name for what you are standing for? 

For me, when I was talking about London Fogs it was important to me because I was feeling really isolated. And in that moment of making a choice to invite someone into my space and to offer to share this new skill with them, I was valuing community and connection. I was also valuing reciprocal care. I think of all those things as being connected to a really strong value of community. 

So then, once you’ve kind of mapped out this unique outcome and what it says about you, think about a past time that has something in common with that unique outcome. Were there other times when you’ve done something that reflected these hopes, values, or commitments? Describe one of those times. It might not be connected to the problem; now we’re thinking about how it connects to the skills or values or commitments that you used in responding to the problem. 

Then, you try and link that unique outcome (for me that was when I invited this person over for a London Fog and had an experience of feeling like despite the presence of the pain, I was able to act in ways that brought community into my life) to past experiences where I was also valuing community. I was able to think about the fact that I’ve been a community organizer for quite a few years before the pain showed up in the same way that it had. That means that my value of community and connection has a foundation that predates the pain in my life. Then we link that unique outcome and those skills and the foundation to significant other people in your life. 

Out of all the people you’ve known, who might be most pleased to know that you’ve stood up to the problem in this way? Who would be pleased that you are standing for whatever it is. For me that would be community. Why would he/she/they be pleased? What might this say about their hopes for your life? Are there people who also hope for the things that you hope for yourself? Would this person say “I knew you could do this”? What might they know about you that inspires their confidence that you could do what you did? 

When I was thinking about this in relation to the London Fogs, I was thinking about that, at the time I had two partners, and they had both been very confident that I would figure out what was happening. They never wavered in their support for me. And, although I don’t think either of them would’ve said: “London Fogs are gonna be the key to this unique outcome”, I know they believed in me. 

Would this person be surprised that you did this? If yes, what might they be learning about you that they didn’t know before? That can be really important, too. If you were doing something; if your skill or your foundation is something that cherished people in your life might not expect, what are they learning about you? What might you be learning about yourself? 

And then you can bring this into the future. What are you taking with you from this exploration of what might be a very small thing? Making a fancy cup of tea is quite a small thing, but it connects me to a whole history, and maybe it will connect you to a whole history as well. What are you going to take into the future from that conversation? 

And, importantly, if you wrote up this takeaway and posted it in a place where you’d be reminded of it, what effect might that have on your future? If you had a way to remind yourself that you have these skills, that there are people who know you have these skills and who support you, that there’s a foundation in your history of these skills, what might that mean for you? 

So, yeah! That comes from my Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work documentation from the Dulwich Centre. It’s adapted from work by Jill Freedman and Gene Combs, who are fantastic. I will include a link to that with this video. 

An Unexpected Light in a pandemic

An interview with Kay, a participant in the first cohort of An Unexpected Light

A few weeks ago, before COVID-19 blew up like it has, I had the opportunity to interview Kay about their experience in An Unexpected Light. This is an excerpt from that interview, focused on answering concerns that folks might have about taking the course. The transcript is below.

Although we didn’t talk about COVID-19, I want to write about something that Kay brought up, and why I think that we need to find ways to imagine possible futures right now, despite the chaos and fear and the way that this pandemic is highlighting just how precarious so many of us are.

For example, why didn’t the stock market set aside three months of savings and give up avocado toast before this? Honestly, irresponsible. (I can’t take credit for this joke, but I do love it.)

In our interview, Kay says, “I think that pretty much everyone and anyone could really benefit from it, because there is so much of a push, especially in science fiction, to imagine dystopia. And dystopia is not very hopeful, if anything it’s quite damaging in a lot of ways and it’s not inclusive and it’s not intersectional. Like, if there’s a dystopic future, chances are you know who’s gonna go first; everybody living in the margins. This [course] is kinda the flip side of that, where the margins are creating a new world and a new path through that muck and mire, around that muck and mire, over it, under it, floating above it. Like, it’s just…hope is such a beautiful thing, and it’s much more accessible than people might even realise.”

It is so easy to tell the dystopian stories, to picture the dystopian future, to imagine the many ways this is awful and getting worse. And it is awful, and it is getting worse. But those dystopian stories do not help us move forward.

We must find a way to be present with the difficulty of this moment, without losing our ability to act on hope – not the flimsy hope of “everything will be fine!” but the robust hope of action and intention. Rebecca Solnit, in Hope in the Dark, writes, “Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”

“To hope is to give yourself to the future… to make the present inhabitable.”

We need that hope.

We need to act – to be connected to a sense of possibility, to a sense of ourselves as acting in solidarity with each other when we stay home, to a connection to the earth and our non-human relations. There is hope to be found in this time, and we must reach for it.

You don’t need to take An Unexpected Light in order to find that accessible hope.

You don’t need this course to bring that light into your life.

But I do think that many of us need the light. Whether it comes from a course or it comes from our communities or it comes from forgotten books on our own bookshelves.

I am in the process of converting some of the content in An Unexpected Light into some free lessons that I’ll be sharing on this blog, and into a ‘light’ version of the course that will be less costly and meant for folks who are in quarantine or isolation.

And in the meantime, find the unexpected light.

Find the people on the margins who are writing about possible futures.

Find the voices that are guiding us through to more justice, to more community care, to collective action.

Here are a few places to start:

  1. Kay references Vandana Singh’s essay Leaving Omelas: Science Fiction, Climate Change, and the Future. It’s one of the essays we read in the course, and it’s fantastic. In the time of this pandemic, this essay is even more relevant. Singh writes, “We are taught to unsee the connections, to look at the world in chopped up, disconnected little pieces. Our Omelas constrains our empathic imagination to small personal circles, and to short scales of time and space. Science fiction should enable us to see structures of oppression and control, to make us aware of and question the things we normally take for granted, and to expand our imaginative reach. But more often than not, science fiction simply reflects the world in the image of the overwhelming paradigm.” COVID-19 is forcing us to see the connections, and it has the potential to expand our empathetic imagination. That this essay was written in 2018, about a story written in the 1980s, should tell us that there is guidance to be found in our history. There are maps that we can follow, even in these new and terrifying times.
  2. Consider spending some time with the Destroy series – a set of special issues in Lightspeed, Fantasy, and Nightmare magazines that includes People of Colo(u)r Destroy; Queers Destroy; and Women Destroy. Start with People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy (And within that rich wealth of stories, consider starting with Darcie Little Badger’s pandemic story, Black, Their Regalia.)
  3. Another essay included in An Unexpected Light is Lewis, Arista, Pechawis and Kite’s essay Making Kin with the Machines. We are realizing how critical our machines are – our internet, our ventilators, our computers and phones. This essay brings Hawaiian, Cree, and Lakota perspectives to the idea of machines as kin, as part of our network of non-human relations.
  4. Read Brairpatch Magazine’s article, Mutual Aid for the End of the World. “There is so much latent strength in communities of disability when we rely on each other to survive with each other,” says Jim, an autistic trans man with disabilities who is mixed-race Indigenous. (Jim asked that we use only his first name, for privacy.) “Able-bodied people who have the choice to go it alone without consequence, or who have wealth and influence or access to resources that enable them to make it on their own – it’s a choice for them to do this work [of prepping], not a necessity. We rarely learn hard lessons voluntarily.”
  5. adrienne maree brown (who is, truly, the core of An Unexpected Light even though she doesn’t know it! Her work inspired this course and her writing is central to the course) shared a collection of resources in this blog post.
  6. Included in that blog post but worth it’s own point on this list, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha has created a whole google drive folder of resources, available here. Of particular note, and sources of hope: Half Assed Disabled Prepper Tips for Preparing for a Coronavirus Quarantine and Pod Mapping for Mutual Aid.
  7. Mo Willems Lunch Time Doodles on YouTube. As my beloved Nathan described it, “Mo Willems may be the Bob Ross of this moment.”
  8. And last, consider backing Hugh and Nicole’s COVID-19 comic. Their work is fantastic, and this will be an excellent resource.

Keep an eye on the blog, I’ll be sharing content from the course, as well as ideas and resources for moving through this time.

If you want to take the course, get in touch! You can also register at the Thinkific course page. (Note: all of the scholarship spaces have filled, but sliding scale is still available.)

Either way, become phototropic – turning towards the light. And if you can, become bioluminescent, creating light for others to turn toward.

As Kay says, hope is a beautiful thing, and it’s more accessible than people may realize.

Transcription:

TS: So if someone was kind of on the fence about taking An Unexpected Light, what do you think is the most important thing for someone to know about the course if they’re debating whether to take it? 

KO: Hmm. Cause like a lot of different factors can go into somebody debating whether or not like, am I a writer? Like identifying as a writer would be a big one. Like, I know that that was kind of a contributing factor and I mean, there’s no pressure on you to do that, and like, if you’re like, “am I a reader? This seems overwhelming.” Same thing goes, like there were certain parts of the course that I like just couldn’t deal with, so, I mean, I just put them off [laughs] indefinitely. 

TS: That’s fair. 

KO: You can skip over stuff. If accessibility seems like an issue, like financially, I know I worked out a payment plan with Tiffany that worked for me, and my money, my financial situation, so that’s another really awesome option for people and that I know Tiffany’s open to. 

TS: Mhmm. 

KO: Another thing would be like, “am I gonna be graded on this?” The idea of like, learning or doing or making… I came from an art school background. I got a BFA from ACAD [now Alberta University of the Arts] and I really like the approach and style of this course because there’s no grading unless you want feedback for your writing and even then. I was just a reader and did a little bit of feedback for people and then you get the chance to read some really amazing stuff. 

TS: Yeah, as the person who got to read everything that was submitted and then only sent it out to the folks who volunteered to be readers, yeah, the writing that has been shared in the course has been fantastic. And if folks are worried that you’re not a writer, I can tell you that some of the most profoundly moving pieces have been written by people who don’t see themselves as writers and who maybe hadn’t even written speculative writing previously. Because we’re thinking about the future and hope and possibility and justice, and I don’t know, the course just, this cohort of the course has been full of brilliance. 

KO: Cohort!

TS: And that Kay’s word. Kay came up with that at the Shiny writing group. 

KO: [laughs] Everybody was jumping on it and I love it. “Cohort” is just like a really, you know? It’s just like, I love it. Everybody’s in this, you know, bumping shoulders, “Kay, what’s up?”, bumping elbows…

TS: Yeah. Trying to imagine futures together. 

KO: Exactly.

TS: Would you recommend people take the course? 

KO: Oh my God. I haven’t stopped talking about it since before I was taking the course. I think that pretty much everyone and anyone could really benefit from it, because there is so much of a push, especially in science fiction, to like, imagine dystopia. 

And dystopia is not very hopeful, if anything it’s quite damaging in a lot of ways and it’s not inclusive and it’s not intersectional. Like, if there’s a dystopic future, chances are you know who’s gonna go first; everybody living in the margins. This is like, kinda the flip side of that, where the margins are creating a new world and a new path through that muck and mire, around that muck and mire, over it, under it, floating above it. Like, it’s just…hope is such a beautiful thing, and it’s much more accessible than people might even realise. 

TS: Yeah. 

KO: And like, I never would’ve really realised that Indigenous people had already lived through the end of the world if I hadn’t been a part of this course, so. It’s weird to think about, but that’s just a history that we’re not introduced to; it’s not a perspective that you hear. It’s like, no First Nations really did live through the end of the world; their world, everything they knew. So, that’s a huge takeaway in and of itself, so. Anybody who is talking about decolonising anything should probably know that. 

TS: Yeah. And I think it really serves a colonial, capitalist narrative to imagine that the apocalypse we’re facing now is “the” apocalypse, and to ignore the fact that you know, first contact was an apocalypse and the transatlantic slave trade was an apocalypse and is an ongoing apocalypse. And the inaccessibility of care to trans folks is an apocalypse. 

KO: Yes.

TS: And ableism in our culture is an apocalypse, and each of those communities not only is surviving the apocalypse, they are figuring out how to build possible futures. 

KO: And everybody it seems like is survivance. That was one of the things.. I’m about it now; it’s not about simply survival, it’s about vibrance, it’s about…there’s levity there, there’s joy to be found there, and there’s future to be found there and so, like, it’s not just about surviving it anymore. Yeah. [Kay gives two thumbs up]

TS: Yay!

KO: [laughs] Take the course!

TS: Yes! Take the course! [laughs]

KO: I feel like I always get off track so that’s my takeaway: Do it. But only if you want to.

TS: Yeah. Yes. 

KO: No peer pressure! [laughs]

TS: Is there anything else that you wanted to say, either about your experience writing or your experience in the course that you think you’d like to have in this interview? 

KO: Hmm. Lemme think. Nothing immediately comes to mind other than the fact that I really liked the idea of, I loved that you kind of had Octavia’s Brood at the core of it because that is some stuff. Like, there is some brilliant writing in there. And the essay, is it Leaving Omelas

TS: The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. 

KO: O-mel-AS? 

TS: I think? I don’t know, actually. 

KO: Yeah, I wasn’t sure either, [laughs] but I say it both ways just to…

TS: But, you’re talking about the essay by Vandana Singh? 

KO: That was, like, one of the most.. I think that was a point of clarity when I read that, it kind of put everything in focus for me. And that was when I really stopped to think about what I was writing. So, I don’t know if it’ll ring true for other participants like that, but, it really, it’s an incredible essay. And even just the dynamism in it, and talking about like, what is it? Newtonian physics? 

TS: Yes. 

KO: And like, that being a thing. It’s just so good, everything about it. It’s an excellent essay. 

TS: It’s an excellent essay. 

KO: And, what was the quote that you say, like “writing science fiction is like, everything…”

TS: All organising is science fiction” which is a quote by adrienne marie brown.

KO: And that was something that I’d also like to leave with anybody that’s considering this course and not sure. It’s like, getting together to, online, to talk about this, emailing Tiffany your work, considering this course, like, all of it is creating possible futures and maybe bringing something into the world, so. [sings]: Science fiction! [laughs]. It’s not all just like ancient sexist Star Trek! [laughs]

TS: It’s true. It’s so much more than that. Awesome. Thank you so much. 

KO: No worries. I’m happy to be here. 

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