Tag: inspiration

Staying Awesome Interview Series: Laura Pohl

So. It’s been a hot minute since my last interview for the Staying Awesome series, which is why I’m super happy to feature this edition’s guest today. I met this brilliant woman via Twitter after discovering the online contest she’d organized for Latinxs writers! Thankfully, she agreed to let me poke her brain for a bit (and fangirl her brilliance).

Today’s interview features the one and only Laura Pohl!

 

11813324_717587225014512_289430510304828275_n

 

What makes Laura awesome?

  • She’s Latina, so yep. I’m biased. 🙂

  • She’s a writer and a Literature grad student at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

  • She’s the creator of the Pitch América contest, where Latinx writers can pitch their manuscripts to agents seeking #ownvoices.

  • She works as a freelance beta reader for both manuscripts and query letters.

  • She’s a Slytherin like me! Yep. Biased again. 🙂

 

Okay, folks. Let’s get to know Laura a little more!

 

1) Not only are you a writer, you also offer editing and beta reading services to other writers! In what ways do you think your beta reading/editing experience informs your writing process and vice versa?

Beta reading definitely gives me a new perspective to my own work – it’s great to see how other writers do it, their process, how they craft the story. Writing can’t be done if you don’t read a lot, and sometimes reading manuscripts gives you a new insight on the process of book writing. I really do love editing and CPing, especially because you get to see a good book become a great book.

Sensitivity reading is a bit different – mostly you have to look out for aspects of representation. It’s a lot more tiring because more often than not, people write offensive things without realizing the stereotyping is harmful. Everyone is subject to this when writing about another culture, even myself. Which is why it’s so important to get sensitivity readers who can point those things for you. No one is exempt from writing harmful stereotypes, but the thing that you can do is try to fix this. It’s fascinating to do the work, and it helps me realize the mistakes I make in my own writing.

 

2) I must bow down to you for creating this month’s Pitch América contest! The contest’s website states the following: “With a focus on such a large group of people, we want to diversify and give opportunity to all Latinx writers who are looking to get published.” Can you talk about the decision to grant Latinx writers this amazing opportunity? Was it an aha! moment that hit you all of a sudden or did it develop through time?

It was a bit of an aha! moment, I admit. We had the #DVPit event created by Beth Phelan recently, which I thought was a great opportunity for shortening the gap we see for authors of color, but it was also a very wide event – it included POC, authors of color, authors of disability and LGBT. It’s great, but the feed was moving too fast and I felt like there were a lot of interesting pitches that didn’t get enough attention. LL McKinney created the WCNV contest, and I decided to follow up with #PitchAmérica. Being a Latina myself, I’m close to this project and I really want to see more representation in literature than what we have today. Latinx is also such a diverse group of people, englobing all of south and central America, with such different cultures and influences. I’d love to see more stories told by this people, and I feel like #PitchAmérica gives an extra opportunity to showcase these stories and make them shine.

 

 3) Like me, you identify as a feminist. I always love reaching out to women and girls who embrace the term, especially since it can mean different things to different people. How do you define feminism for yourself? In what ways does it shape the stories you choose to write?

I think the most important thing feminism has done for my writing is to broaden the idea that women can do anything – be heroes and villains, be good or bad. We’re so deeply stuck in the idea that women should be kind and forgiving that we often forget that in books, this doesn’t need to happen either. I can’t not write feminist heroes, women and girls who believe in the same ideals I do. For me, feminism is about intersectionality – if your feminism isn’t for everyone, for WOC, for Trans girls, for genderqueer individuals, for disabled people, then who is it for? Including everyone in my writing comes naturally because I have lived this reality my whole life, and when I write, I want to reflect the reality I live in.

A lot of times I struggled with this, especially because what we see in books is often white heterosexual cis characters, and for a long time in my life, I felt like other stories that featured huge families, LGBT characters just didn’t fit into my writing. It took me a long time until I could deconstruct my own internalized prejudices and finally write people who are more like me. Feminism helped with that – it let me know that I’m important, that my stories are important and there’s a place for them, too.

 


4) You mention in your Twitter bio that you “obsess frequently” about unlikable female characters. What are some of your absolute fave unlikable female characters? What do you think makes them unlikable? 

I read this definition about unlikable female characters that I absolutely agree with – they’re women who are unapologetically themselves. They don’t pretend to like something, they don’t pretend to fit inside the rules. They go after what they want. I guess that’s what makes them unlikable because they don’t fit the expectations of what they should be – they don’t apologize for who they are and what they want. They’re not necessarily kind, or motherly or compassionate, or any of those things that are supposed to “make a woman”.

Of course, defining it is very hard. Sansa Stark can be an unlikable female character, because she’s considered weak when you compare her against her sister. Sansa doesn’t fight, she doesn’t pick up a sword. But she resists, and that’s what I love the most about her. Her resilience, how she refuses to go down. It can be a character who’s too much of an asshole, or not feminine enough, or too much of a feminist, or anything at all. What I would say is this – it’s someone who refuses to apologize for who they are, or to conform to the norms of being just average.

That said, my favorite of favorites is Amy Dunn from Gone Girl. Talk about problematic. I absolutely love the way she was written, and how insane she is. I love Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass, who’s arrogant and vain. Scarlett O’Hara is a classic, and I want to shout my love for her from rooftops. Even Katniss Everdeen, who’s considered unlikable by so many because she has break downs and thinks of herself first. Even Cersei Lannister, who I have a love/hate relationship with. I love those women who are more than the usual stereotypes, who are allowed to be selfish and vain and arrogant and ruthless.

**Bonus question: Favorite Star Wars character? 

I both hate you and love you for this question! Han Solo was my first love. Anakin Skywalker is my problematic fave. Obi-Wan is the teacher I wish I had. Luke is the light that shines in the world. Leia and Rey are the women I wish I can one day become.

Thanks so much for this interview, Amparo! I really loved answering your questions.

 

Major epic huge THANK YOU to Laura for letting me interview her! Here’s where you can find her online:

Website / Twitter / Tumblr / Pinterest / Instagram / Facebook

 

 

 

On Recharging With A #FangirlTrip

So. I love things.

I love them so much that sometimes I throw myself headfirst into loving them.

Some of the things I love are TV shows. And fan conventions of said TV shows.

Which is why I went to a fan convention for one of my favorite TV shows, ONCE UPON A TIME, this past weekend.

I met a bunch of the show’s actors, including the Evil Queen herself, the amazing Lana Parrilla.

Scan 1
we’re totally BFFs.

 

I squeed whenever I caught a glimpse of the awesome signs outside the theatre.
DSC04033

DSC04035

 

I laughed and cheered and felt inspired during the Q&A panels.

I got to hang out with great people who love the same thing I do.

Oh, and I also ate a lot of Olive Garden food. A lot.

 

DSC04009
chocolate caramel lasagna. i repeat, chocolate caramel lasagna.

 

This was supposed to be a great weekend as a geek, but it actually ended up being a great weekend as a geek and writer. The whole experience inspired me to keep working on my WIPs, to keep dreaming and hoping. And, most importantly, to live. That can sometimes get hard to do. Thankfully, I’ve totally recharged after this wonderful weekend. Now I’m going back to the daily grind (day job) while also fighting for my happiness and my art.

And yes, there are more #FangirlTrips in the near future, so more recharging is on the way! 😀

Staying Awesome Interview Series: Alice Fanchiang

It’s time for another post in my Staying Awesome Interview Series! Today I’m thrilled to feature someone I’ve long admired for her many, many talents, as well as for being one of the most passionate geeks I’ve ever known. I met her via Twitter a few years ago, and since then, we’ve been geeking out over tons of things like whoa.

Give it up for the wonderful Alice Fanchiang!

 

f69jE5iC

 

What makes Alice awesome?

  • She’s a self-described “scribbler of thoughts, plots, and sometimes stories.”

  • She’s a poet! (and a damn good one). You can check out her poem, “Actaeon,” over at Strange Horizons!

  • Over at her Instagram accounts (@akangaru & @girlontheroam), she posts gorgeous photos of her favorite reads, the places she visits on her many travels, and to-die-for clothes.

  • She’s a Ravenclaw. (!!!)

  • Her history crush is Alexander Hamilton, y’all. Come on. Automatic cool points.

 

Now let’s get to know Alice better, shall we??

 

1) Let’s talk writing. Not only are you a writer of novels, you’re also a poet! Your poem “Actaeon” has been published in Strange Horizons (I must confess that I want to scribble verses from that poem and plaster them all over my house). How would you describe your writing process for novels vs. your writing process for poetry?

That is so ridiculously flattering. I don’t even know what to say! Thank you!

Confession, I’m terrible at writing novels. I have a hard time finishing anything, and that is both a mixture of procrastination and perfectionism. I am an unreformed edit-as-you-go person, which makes finishing novels very difficult because they’re long-form story-telling. So with regards to process, I will only say that I’m a pants-er (who is working on outlining) and am someone who tries very hard to keep the story moving forward because otherwise, I will be revising forever.

My poetry process, on the other hand, meshes better with my natural inclinations. Because it’s a much shorter form (at least the poems I write are), I can spend more time agonizing over individual words and lines. I can revise verses to my heart’s content and still make it to the end. The other thing is, when I write poems, I’m not usually focusing on a plot, per se. My intent is always to evoke a mood or a feeling, and I kind of let that guide the rest of the poem. Most of the time, I can’t tell you how a poem is going to end until I get there. I know, it sounds like a vague hand-wavey explanation, but it is what it is. They usually start because I have a distinct image and/or feeling in my head that I want to put on paper or a line or two come to me that I can’t stop thinking about, and it goes from there. For example, a semi-successful attempt to catch a meteor shower late one summer inspired a few lines about star-gazing and the slow tempo of summer nights, which eventually became a poem.

Sometimes, the poems are written very quickly, almost all at once. Other times, it happens over the course of a few days or weeks. Actaeon, for example, took 1.5 weeks to finish. I wrote 2 verses very quickly and continued working a few lines at a time over the next few days until I found the thread of the story and then got to the end. Then I had to give it space, revisit it, and then send it to someone else to look at.

So novel writing versus poetry writing for me is essentially discipline versus indulgence, haha. I feel like I need to exercise so much more control, thought, and planning for novel-writing, but for poetry, I kind of let myself just put lines on the page, be flowery and meandering and sometimes experimental, and see what happens.

2) Like me, you’re an unapologetic geek. You even state that your blog, Girl On The Roam, is about “embracing your geekery and having a sense of adventure.” What do you think is the most rewarding part about being a geek nowadays? On the flip side, what’s the most challenging?

I think it’s an *incredible* time to be a geek these days, partly because being a geek is kind of cool now. As such, there’s so much more being catered to our tastes – we get movies, books, clothes, toys, and the list goes on and on. Like it still kind of weirds me out that there is actual licensed Supernatural merch that you can buy in a physical store, but I remember when I got obsessed with it (I think the 2nd season had just concluded), there was nothing except fan-made stuff (and not much of that). The fandom was always there, but this was before the real rise of Tumblr and the sort of geek renaissance that is happening in the main stream. But I think really the most rewarding part about being a geek right now is the social media aspect of the internet – see, the rise of Tumblr – because it makes it so easy to find people who share your interests. It’s easier now than ever to find other geeks who aren’t afraid to say they’re geeks! For me, personally, Twitter has made it so easy to connect with fellow writers, book nerds, and geeks. I mean, we “met” through Twitter!

But the challenging aspect of being a geek now I think also has to do with its current popularity and the internet. The popularity of geek culture can make it easier to be dismissive of it, and more people want to sell you things. It’s kind of like drowning in riches. I’m not complaining, but I *am* saying that it can be easy to get burned out on something that you love or to fall out of love with it because of the burn out. The challenge when it comes to the internet is that the accessibility that makes it possible to connect with your people also opens you up to more of the uglier stuff that happens online – trolls and haters. I feel like the popularity of geek culture right now also brings out the people who will question how “true” a fan you are and who will want to make you feel unwelcome or inferior.

3) Speaking of adventure, you’re participating in an incredible series of blog posts about “nerd travel.” You’ve even Instagrammed amazing pics of you out and about sporting some spectacular clothes! Confession: I often daydream about going to places that only exist in the pages of a book. If you could road trip to any fictional location, which one would it be and why?

Hogwarts! I feel this is my immediate answer because it is magical and wonderful but generally without the really intense danger of other fictional worlds (as long as you’re not Harry Potter) and it has modern amenities that I’m unwilling to give up – like indoor plumbing and modern medicine, lol. I’m sorry to say, I’m kind of boringly practical about this stuff!

Though speaking of magical worlds within our world, I would love to visit the island of Thisby from Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races (so I can eat November cakes) or the magical forest Cabeswater from her Raven Cycle books. Maggie knows how to write such vivid settings; they feel so real.

Oh my god, and can we talk about V.E. Schwab’s parallel-universe Londons??? Specifically, I’d like to visit Red London because it’s so glamorous and vibrant. Plus magic. The others are scary and I don’t feel I need to visit Grey London, which is our 18th century London.

Also, though this isn’t a book-world, I feel like I’d be down to visit Star Wars’ galaxy far, far away – so long as the planet I’m visiting is not Tattooine or Jakku. Let’s go somewhere more habitable like Naboo or Coruscant maybe?

**Bonus question: which fictional character would you take along for the trip??

I can’t choose! Who would actually be useful/ look out for me on a road trip is probably the best answer to this question. I need to not pick my fictional crushes and pick like actually good trip-people. So let’s say Hermione Granger because Hermione will always know what to do and she’s a good friend. I’m also taking R2-D2 because the galaxy would’ve been doomed without R2’s consistent badassery and BB-8 because cuteness. Magic + tech, what could go wrong?

4) Could you please enlighten me on how your epic crush on Alexander Hamilton came to be??? Because yes.

I…don’t know really what to say. It began in high school AP U.S. History class, and I have kept him close to my heart since then. Obviously, the great love for him renewed itself last year when I saw Hamilton – which basically reaffirmed all the reasons I found him so compelling.

I think he caught my attention because I didn’t realize he had been *so* involved in the founding of the United States. Like most people, everything I knew about him revolved around the $10 and that one “Got Milk?” commercial about how he was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. But when we covered the Revolution up through the Critical Period of the U.S.’s early history, he kept popping up – and everywhere he was there was drama. He fought with practically every major player in the nation’s early history and had something to say about everything. My friends and I joked that Washington was like a long-suffering father trying to keep the children (Jefferson and Hamilton) from fighting all the time.

I think my friends and I joked too much about him (we had long-running inside jokes about his insistence on having a national bank), and I got attached and overly fond of this guy who I imagined to be high-strung and a little harried but who did not ever back down. (His nickname as a soldier was ‘The Little Lion.’)

Alexander Hamilton was so fascinating and endlessly amusing to me because he was kind of larger-than-life but also so very human – ridiculously talented and ambitious but also so flawed and full of contradictions. But I probably didn’t really fall for him until the summer of 2005, and I have this date because I bought the Ron Chernow Hamilton biography and started reading it while I was at a midnight release party at Borders (RIP!) for Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince. (And yes, I embarrassingly blurted this story to Lin-Manuel Miranda when I saw Hamilton at the Public. Luckily, he too is a Harry Potter fan and Sorted the Hamilton gang without prompting because he is ONE OF US! *happy tears*)

My friend and I each bought a copy of the biography, and in the weeks that followed – after we’d binge-read HP6, of course – we would call each other and giggle about the even *more* amazing facts we were learning about our favorite Founder – like how his contemporaries described him as having sparkling violet eyes and shapely legs and how he was more fluent in French than even Francophile Thomas Jefferson and that fluency made him fast and close friends with Lafayette. He was a firebrand, a flirt, a writer, an immigrant, a statesman, a soldier – so many things, and people either loved him or hated him. He was able to write in near-perfect paragraphs (give me this super power!), and he spoke for 6 hours at the Constitutional Convention and sort of misspelled “Pennsylvania” on the actual Constitution. He wrote the states names next to the signers’ signatures, and I say “sort of” because the argument is that spelling was more fluid back then, so maybe Pennsylvania was fine with just one ‘n,’ but I digress.

He and his story are just so compelling, and everyone is seeing that now thanks to LMM’s masterful musical. Obviously, so many other things make the musical the transcendent thing and cultural phenomenon that it is now, but its skeleton is Alexander Hamilton’s life story.

And let’s be real, if you look at American currency, he is definitely the hottest Founder to grace our bills – and the news just came in that the Treasury is officially keeping him on the $10. So huzzah!

I could go on because there’s a whole saga about me trying to visit his house (this sounds creepier than it should), but I think I’ll save the details of that for a blog post. 🙂

 

A ginormous thank you to Alice for letting me interview her!! Make sure you check her out online at the following links:

Blog / Twitter / Tumblr / Instagram / Snapchat: akangaru