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I read the most delightful story this morning--it's called England Expects, and it came out on Everyday Fiction, a paying market for short-shorts. Less than 1,000 words about a well-loved pub patron, and it sparked a huge argument/discussion/brouhaha over creating characters who embody ethnic slurs. Go check it out. I'll wait. The comments will take longer than the story.

Photo by Howard G
Okay, so I'm not Irish.

Maybe that makes a difference, maybe it doesn't.

But I read the story as it was offered, the tale of a man who, for whatever reason, spent his money for alcohol and was well known for it, and what happened to him.

The onslaught of comments, however, troubled me, especially when it came to the point that the administrator went in and altered a previously-approved story to excise a reference some commenters took as offensive.

Are we really so fragile?

These days so much is offensive, intentionally or otherwise. There is much commentary about free speech and who's allowed to say what and whether kneeling at a football game constitutes an offense and who can gather and who can't. Is what people say in locker rooms really all right to ignore? or is it absolutely equivalent with what happens in Hollywood moguls' offices?

I understand--and agree--that lines can be crossed. Using a caricature of a Native American, i.e., appropriating cultural symbols, for a sports team? Wrong. Calling a person with diminished capacity a "retard"? Right out.

But in my opinion, especially in writing, sometimes what you see is what you get. In my WINDMILLS series  the character of Terry Johnson is a young black man from the city. He speaks in a certain way. He has been in juvie. He took the fall for a gang member to save his family.  I don't think this makes him a stereotype. Not all black people in the story are like him. He does come, as do other real people in the world, from this place, and from this place he teaches others (whites who view him as that stereotype) the truth (without having to be a magical Negro).

Same in this story. The man is, what he is. Yes, he's Irish. Yes, he drinks to excess. It's because of this fact that the story works. But I don't understand how this, or calling him an "Irish pisshead" makes every Irish person a drinker to excess. It says that THIS man is. Period.

Do we all have the right to collectively attack any piece of work because it might have offended some people and force editorial/artistic change? Should publishers second guess themselves when they get a few complaints? Can't we just take each piece and characterization for what it is?

I'd be interested in hearing thoughts. Feel free.

Come find me, Technorati!!  :)  JN2TR572GQUR

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Meadville Market House, Second Floor

A Workshop Presented by the Meadville Council on the Arts

No matter what genre you write in, good fiction comes from the basics. Multi-published and award-winning authors Babs Mountjoy and Kathy Otten, will lead this workshop, full of discussion, models, exercises and fun, too!

Sessions will include—

INTRO TO CREATIVE FICTION-WRITING - Bring a short piece to share, and we'll learn each other's writing inspirations.

DIALOGUE- We'll look not only at how to write
believable conversations, but how they enhance your story.

INCREASING CONFLICT AND TENSION IN YOUR STORY- Do you want to write a story your reader can't put down? We'll examine what conflict is and how it drives the story.

DIVERSITY IN YOUR FICTION – We’ll use exercises like those in Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward's, Writing the Other, and other sources to expand your thinking about using characters of other race/class/ethnicity in your stories.

PACKING AN EMOTIONAL PUNCH - We'll talk about ways to show how a character feels through visceral reaction and fresh description that will ramp up your reader's investment in the story.

WEAVING AN ALTERNATIVE SETTING INTO YOUR STORY- Learn how transport your readers to another era or alternate world without sounding like a text book.

Classes will be held on Tuesdays,
At the Meadville Market House
March 26th through April 30th 2013
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Non-members $65.00
For more information contact

Meadville Council on the Arts
Phone & Fax (814)336-5051

Or to reserve and mail in your payment before the limited seats are gone, send to:

Meadville Council on the Arts
P.O.Box 337
Meadville PA 16335


Yes, folks, NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. We're all getting out outlines, plot bunnies and other assorted necessaries in line before the big day.

I'm writing a romantic suspense set in the Montana forests with ecotage! And pagans! And Native Americans!  (no elves, tho....that's another series.)

So stay can check my progress at the site under my nickname babs1e....wish me luck!

It's almost time for Context 25! This is a wonderful science fiction and fantasy con in Columbus, Ohio where in additional to panels on a variety of subjects, gaming sessions and filk concerts, attendees can (for a minimal fee) take writing workshops provided by a number of multi-published writers and professors from great writing schools like Seton Hill.

This year. I'll be teaching a workshop on Saturday morning about writing diverse characters:

(Saturday, September 29th, 10am-noon)
The world is full of different ethnicities and cultural groups; unfortunately, most writers tend to only write about people like themselves. Others who want to include
This workshop will use exercises like those in Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward's Writing the Other and other sources to expand your thinking about using characters of other race/class/ethnicity in your stories. We’ll look at the power of first impression—what you glean from your first sight of someone—which may or may not truly give you their essence. Participants should bring pen and paper to work through some simple but eye-opening "What If?" questions that will show you how to expand your story's diversity. Finally, we’ll conduct an exercise designed to teach you how to convey the diverse uniqueness of your characters in subtle ways—i.e., without having Fred say, “Hi, John, this is my black friend Mike.”
The two-hour workshop costs only $20 and leaves you plenty of time the rest of the day for classes with Maria Snyder, Tim Esaias and Linnea Sinclair, as well as a multitude of panels.
The workshops are filling up, so get on over to the site and sign up!
You'll also be able to be one of the first to get a print edition hot off the press of my new book LOVE ME, KISS ME, KILL ME from Hydra Publications, which will be released at the con!
For those who are reluctant to attend conferences because you feel overwhelmed, I thoroughly recommend this one. The people are nice, the workshops intimate, and there's a very welcoming vibe. Definitely something for everyone here--you could attend the con to get your fill of gaming play and talk, or just take writing workshops the whole time, at an extremely reasonable cost. Tim Esaias of Seton Hill recently pointed out that his workshops are essential the same module he teaches at the University--but much less expensive. Don't miss it!

I've got to say, a lot of times I feel like I'm all alone on my writer's path.

Okay, most writers feel like they labor in a solitary profession, and to some extent that's true. But this is more than that.

I belong to a couple wonderful critique groups through Pennwriters, but because of where I am on my particular path, I have so many issues/problems/questions that they can't help me with, most of them having yet to be published. Other writers in Pennwriters, of course, are published and might have some advice, but they're traditionally published, so they tend to look down on the way I've chosen--indie publishers.

I'm a little fortunate, in that I'm not one of the "self-published." (see today's post from Kristen Lamb on this always-controversial subject.) I have contracts and royalty agreements for every one of my novels, with varying levels of support from the different small press publishers. And I have six novels coming out THIS YEAR. Six. It's crazy. I'm trying to write and promote all at the same time. I just finished a trip across the country for research and booksignings in person during the same period I'm running a 38-stop online blog tour. I've just turned in one contracted book for next year, I'm writing another, I have edits waiting on my book coming out in September and I have another set of edits due by November 1.

Oh, and there's the day job. And the family. And the bills, etc. Like everyone else.

Granted, I wanted to be a published writer. Now I am. I have no grounds to complain, and this isn't really a complaint at all, but just a cry of despair in mid-journey, feeling overwhelmed.

Thanks to Red Tash for this blog today, which really made me feel a little better. I am alone, but there are people out there who understand what I'm going through. You came along at just the right time, friend. :)