Writing a book in seven weeks, part 6

27 October 2014 | No comments yet

pumpkin_cupcakes

If you need to figure out where your values truly lie, try doing a project on a deadline.

From the way I talk about running, you’d think I’d care about getting a good time at the 5k I’m running with my sister next month. However, I’ve only gone to the gym five times this October. When I’m on deadline for this book, I “don’t have time” to train.

Meanwhile, Saturday night found me tipsily poring over my Japanese textbook after hosting a Halloween party. I’ve written 5,000 words of a 10,000 word contract with one week to go, but no worries. Of course I’ve got time to hang out with friends, get drunk, and study Japanese.

I have time to watch my favorite anime as soon as it comes out, but I “don’t have time” to cook healthy dinners this week. I have time to take a walk in the park, but not to do the laundry. I’ve got time to talk on the phone with a friend for hours, but sorry, I can’t come out tonight because I’ve got a book due soon!

There’s never going to be room in your life for a book. If you’re going to prioritize one because of a contract or willpower or otherwise, you’re going to have to make room, and you might be surprised at the life obligations from which you choose to take that time. I didn’t say it’d be pretty, but it will certainly be eye opening.

It’s crunch time on this book and I think I can just make it if I work hard this week. I just have to make sure that prioritizing this project isn’t just a self-deluding way of avoiding the things I don’t want to do.

Photo of my party cupcakes via my Instagram

Otaku Links: The good news about gaming

24 October 2014 | 2 comments

lovelylittlethieves

  • Nathan Meunier, author of several fantastic guides to games journalism, just publicized his decision to no longer practice games journalism now that he is also an indie game maker. I thought his take showed the personal side of the ethical games journalism discussion.
  • Speaking of games, my Anime News Network editor Hope just launched the Kickstarter to her horror/romance visual novel, Lovely Little Thieves. Also, my friend Katriel launched her game, a survival RPG called Die Nachtblum, on Kickstarter earlier this month. So many scary games to choose from!
  • Why is it called Attack on Titan? It doesn’t take place on Saturn’s moon and, to be honest, it’s more like the Titans who are attacking. This is a lengthy and scholarly analysis of one of modern anime’s most confusing translations.

Illustration by Michelle Henderson of Pango Dango Games

My GeekGirlCon 2014 experience

22 October 2014 | 3 comments

nimona

Two weekends ago, I made my first ever trip to Seattle. I didn’t visit the Space Needle, and I still don’t really know anything about the city. I was instead consumed by GeekGirlCon, a 4,000-person event that was definitely worth the cross-country trip.

GeekGirlCon sprung out of overwhelming support for women’s experiences in fandom during a 2010 San Diego Comic-Con panel, and has been a yearly event ever since. Between gender-neutral bathrooms; an “introvert lounge” for the overstimulated; and plenty of frank discussion about harassment, sexism, and representation; it may have been the most inclusive convention I’ve ever attended.

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I love West Coast conventions because to me, an East Coast girl who has been to Otakon nearly ten times now, they can make me feel like a brand new fan. I’ve never seen any of those panels, any of the artists in Artist’s Alley, none of the dealers in the Dealer’s Room. I spent the weekend with bat wings by Idolatre in my hair, which I justified buying because although I’ve seen dozens of East Coast cat ear headbands, I’d never seen anything like this!

batwings

Most of my time was spent preparing for panels, presenting panels, or getting from one panel to another. I was on three. First came, Slash in the Mainstream, where we discussed how gay relationships are portrayed on TV today. The highlight was when an original Kirk/Spock shipper piped up about her 30+ years in slash fandom! A media studies professor was kind enough to create a Storify of the panel.

Next, I was the organizer on Fandom and the Media, in which fandom professionals discussed the way the media does and does not get fandom right. My Mac had some technical difficulties, but our room’s discussion still went overtime. On Sunday, we presented From Feels To Skills: Putting Fandom On Your Resume, and you can watch the entire panel and fill out my resume worksheet online.

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I spent my free time with my fellow panelists, amazing people from the Internet whom I rarely get a chance to meet up with in person. Passionate about reporting on fandom, geek fashion and more, Aja, Gavia, Lisa, and Versha are some of my favorite otaku journalists. Amanda is a meme librarian and Tumblr fairy who leaves a trail of stickers in her wake. Alex is an Emmy-winning writer for the YouTube series Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Cathy and Mike are fanfiction readers and writers with brilliant insights. Loraine, a professional artist who also draws fanart, brought her (amiably bewildered) dad to watch our resume panel!

Through all of this, I’d have to say the highlight was getting to see Anita Sarkeesian speak. Her panel was ostensibly about her work, but let’s be honest, these days her biggest accomplishment is continuing to be vocal while people are trying to make her disappear. I was impressed with how articulate and inscrutable her speaking style continues to be against such a backlash that I actually got tweets directed toward me simply for saying I was at her panel.

I have a lot of well-meaning friends who have urged me to join the GamerGate movement since I am a journalist and interested in geek journalism ethics. While I believe that is a conversation we will eventually need to have, I don’t think that while a section of the movement is screaming death threats at Anita is really the time. Ethical reporting is certainly something I care about, but I care more about women like Anita being able to put their opinions about video games on the Internet without people threatening to kill them.

In a lot of ways, GeekGirlCon was a huge stand against harassment in the way it gave us a safe space to talk about it openly. I was shocked to hear about some of the terrible experiences my friends have had with their online audiences. We’ve become so programmed to “not feed the trolls,” that we don’t even share this stuff with each other. But an audience member asked, and suddenly it became an ad-libbed new part of our Fandom and the Media panel, when it turned out we all had these stories that we’d never told one another. And there we were, telling stories about stalkers and Internet bullies in front of a packed crowd—and feeling good about it. It was just that kind of con.

Photos: Nimona cosplayers, artist Katie Clark wrapping up this painting for me, me obviously, and the crowd at our Slash panel. 

Writing a book in seven weeks, part 5

20 October 2014 | 2 comments

carlos_and_cecil

I really thought that writing these posts would keep me more accountable, so I wouldn’t experience exactly the sort of crunch time that is happening right now.

But things happen. Life happens. You spend three weeks emailing cosplay photographers in a quest to find the right photos. You rearrange the chapters. You email twenty or more cosplayers at least to quote them for the book, and then you postpone writing the chapters until you hear back from more, fully aware that you might never hear from them again. (Mine is not the only cosplay book to solicit their opinions this year.)

What happened happened and I’ve found myself in the tight spot of having far less than half of the book written with just three weeks to go. This week’s goals:

Finalize all photography

Communication has been slow because my publisher and I have an eight-hour time difference, plus the cosplay photographers we’re contacting are all over the world. And I have to do a lot of waiting, since I don’t always recognize the cosplay and it isn’t always ID’d on the cosplayer’s website, so I do a lot of back-and-forth “what IS this?” emails.

No matter. This is the week I’ll nail it down. I spent this weekend rifling through more photos than I can count to select the final 300 for the book. I sent it off to my publisher, who will ideally spend the week getting the rights to these photos by negotiating payment and contracts with photographers, leaving me free to forget about them. Well, at least until it’s time to write a caption for every single one.

Write now, edit later

I’ve been putting off writing chapters. First, because I didn’t think the original chapter arrangement I’d conceived (some chapters focusing on genre, others on craftsmanship) truly reflected the cosplay community as a whole. Many thanks to Anna Fischer in helping me right this!

Now that I’ve reordered the sections in a way that feels good to me (now they’re all focusing on a genre, with the final chapter on original costuming), I have two options. I can wait around until I hear back from even a majority of the cosplayers I’ve contacted, or I can start writing now and fill in the quotes later. Each chapter only needs to be 1,000 words, which every high school student knows is maybe an hour’s work at most.

Remember this is just a job

Even in our digital age, there is something magical that happens when you tell people you’re writing a print book. For writerly types, the Book is still the ultimate unattainable artifact. I mention my book coming out this year and their expressions soften a bit. Now the people I admire are starting to ask me for advice on writing proposals.

But anyone who’s been reading these weekly updates knows that this book is not a Book book, it is not my blood, sweat and tears condensed into knowledge over 100 nights, and then granted legitimacy through a book deal. Instead, it happened backwards, a result of the coffee table book cottage industry. A publisher decided that cosplay is hot right now, and then Googled the first writer they could find with cosplay reporting experience.

I have been agonizing over every topic in an attempt to give cosplayers the rich, diverse book that the community deserves. But the truth is, the ultimate cosplay book simply can’t be written in seven weeks. The best I can do is strive to showcase cosplay in a way both fans and outsiders alike can enjoy, and that’s not such a bad goal to set.

Photo by Anna Fischer, you guess the cosplay. After all, that’s the game I’ve been playing all weekend 9_9

Otaku Links: Otaku talk, revisited

17 October 2014 | 1 comment

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  • Steve of Otaku Network connected me to the previous link. (I guess you can tell how he feels about the word, too.) His latest post is about his struggle to connect with otaku in Japan about how they feel about the label.
  • I was on college radio with Naomi, a student at Pasadena City College. She interviewed me about otaku journalism and we somehow also ended up talking about hentai somehow, so check it out.
  • This has nothing to do with fandom, but everything to do with telling true stories effectively: my friend Rachael works with elderly people suffering from dementia, and her blog shares their experiences in a very humanizing way.

Photo via Gundam Guy (not my husband!) 

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