A Class on Character

Great news! I’m going to be teaching my one-day course on character development for Writespace at the end of this month!

I’ve taught it once before, and it went really, really well, and so Writespace has me teaching it again on Saturday, July 31st, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. (central time). This three-hour session (with a break) focuses on creating characters who drive their own stories in smart ways. We’ll be drawing from sophisticated craft/technique, pop culture, and literary analysis in this generative workshop, at the end of which you’ll have written a good strong start to a new story — or gained a better grasp on a story you’ve already got in progress. This class is open to all skill levels.

I’ll be teaching on Zoom, so you can take this course from anywhere with an internet connection. Last time we had people joining us from Houston, the farther US, and even Mexico! Very cool stuff.

Here’s the link to register for the course.

One last note: one thing that’s so good about Writespace courses is that they tend to be far more affordable than other organizations for the same quality or better. (Writespace offers scholarships, too.) Early bird registration lasts until July 26th.

I hope to see you there!

SONIC CHIHUAHUA Issue #2 Out This Week!

Hello, zine readers! The second issue of Sonic Chihuahua is out this week. So, subscribers and other fans: watch your mailboxes for it to arrive very soon, if you don’t actually already have it. This month’s cover is a hot-summery acid green, which makes Han very happy.

In other news, the clerk at the post office yesterday morning saw my stack of envelopes and said, “Looks like you and I are gonna get to know each other real well today.”

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can click here for more information about my zine and click here for a marvelous review of the first issue. And if you want to be included in this awesome endeavor, drop me a line in the comments and I’ll send you one. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has already expressed their support and admiration of this fun little project.  🙂  You warm the cockles of our hearts.

Happy reading!

My Newsletter Is Migrating…

Authors these days have to manage a lot of platforms. Like, a LOT. And periodically it’s a good idea to evaluate all of them to see what’s serving us well and what could maybe be improved — or maybe needs to be pruned.

I’ve been doing that this summer. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and this blog are all working out well for me. My newsletter…is an albatross. I’ve been using Mailchimp and don’t love it. The time-consuming and somewhat non-intuitive (at least for me) process of creating a newsletter means I don’t do it every month, so it’s not super-effective. Engagement there is low, unlike on this blog and the rest of my social media, where it’s much better! So I just sent out my last newsletter with Mailchimp today. (At least, the last for now. Never say never on resurrecting something in the future. But for now, don’t look for it to happen.)

Instead, I now intend to make all my announcements in detail here on the blog, though you will still see nods to them on my other social media. My hope is that everyone who was getting the newsletter will now migrate here to Sappho’s Torque. I’m also intending to devote the time and energy I would have spent working on (or fretting about) the newsletter into making this blog even better, so here’s to the best of intentions.  😉

In case you want to see that last newsletter, here you go. Just click this link to see the Authorland missive.

Onward and upward!

Monday Earworm: Harvey Danger

Is there a more iconic 90s-era one-hit wonder than “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger? It’s possible there is, but it’s not coming to mind at the moment. And the reason why? Because this song has been stuck in my head for a while now.

Recently I teased a note on here that I was working on a new project but couldn’t say anything about it yet. Well, that project has come to fruition in the last few days.

Back in the early 90s, I and a couple of my friends from high school, named Alli and Lauren, made a zine called The Sonic Chihuahua. We published it for one summer, three issues. I wish I still had them. I wrote articles and printed them out on my mom’s dot-matrix printer and then taped them onto plain paper and Xeroxed the zine on the copy machine at my family’s grocery store. I don’t remember a whole lot about the content of each issue, but I do recall that in our first or second one I wrote a review of Nirvana’s first album — not Nevermind, which was pretty hot at the time, but Bleach, which might have been a demo. I’d gotten a bootleg cassette of it and went to town with my hot take. We also had a regular column called “EAT THIS” that featured recipes. I remember Alli and Lauren made some great doodle illustrations for the margins.

But come August, I was going off to college and my friends were going back to high school, and I was getting antsy that they might get in trouble at school for doing something so edgy and underground. (That was the kind of school we went to back then.) So I wanted to stop the project because I was worried about them. They were not worried at all and didn’t want it to end, but I pulled out of the project, and it died.

I have always regretted that: my anxiety for them and my unwillingness to risk. 

Well, for the last couple-few years I’ve been thinking about The Sonic Chihuahua and wishing I’d kept up with it and wondering whether I should revive it. And to make a long story short, several things have happened in this last month that, frankly, have assembled themselves into a giant Magic-8 Ball telling me, “All signs point to Yes.”

So. Twenty-nine or so years later, Sonic Chihuahua is back, better than ever. My Friday-night decompression the last few weeks has been putting this zine together. I’m going to try and do an issue each month. It fills a creative need I have and has also catapulted me out of a..let’s call it a malaise. Maybe at some point the new Sonic Chihuahua will find its way to Alli and Lauren and I’ll be back in touch with them. That would be serendipitous, I think.

Anyway, time for this week’s earworm — which is late because today was the last day of classes and I’m preparing for final exams (and because yesterday I spent some time on zine distribution). The lyric “I wanna publish zines and rage against machines” has been stuck in my head since I first decided the zine was going to come back. And I went back and looked up the lyric and found the title and band name (which had been lost to my memory). And I really paid attention to the song this time and realized that the lyrics are actually pretty funny, mildly clever, and a refreshing change from the lowest common denominator of pop music we sometimes get with two and a half verses of mostly repetitive and mostly uninspired words.

Anyway. Enjoy this bit of nostalgia. (And if you want a copy of the zine, send me an email to SonicChihuahuaZine@gmail.com. I’ll mail you one.)

Monday Earworm: B.o.B. (feat. Bruno Mars)

I love this song, and every once in a while it earworms itself in my head. Now it can do that for you as well.

In other news, sorry not to have posted one last week. We had…um…some weather, and I didn’t have power. Fortunately, all those power-grid shenanigans led to your getting one more chance to sign up for my class on building stories through character, which has been rescheduled for this coming Saturday afternoon! There is still room in the class, but do sign up soon, since registration will close early Friday. You can learn more about the class and sign up for it here.

A Rescheduled Event…

OMG the weather in Texas this week. Ordinarily I would be happy as ever about it because snow is my happy place. Unfortunately, the ironically named Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) messed up bigly here, and this week has been…challenging. We (at my house) are okay, especially now. But OMG. Maybe I’ll share the harrowing tale with you later.

So I have good news and bad news.

Bad news: today’s “How Characters Drive Stories” class I’m teaching through Writespace has been postponed because of this week’s extraordinary weather events and ensuing infrastructure issues.

Good news: It has been rescheduled for next weekend! Saturday, February 27th, in the afternoon this time (1:00-4:00), so all you not-so-early risers will have another chance to take the class now.  😉

Registration should be opening back up soon (CLICK HERE FOR IT), but if you want to sign up and find this link is closed, let me know and I’ll hook you up.  🙂

In Which I Tell You, Giddily, About A Class I’m Teaching, Which You Might Be Interested In…

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be teaching a three-hour fiction writing workshop on Saturday, February 20th through Writespace in Houston. The class will be happening on Zoom, though, so anyone can do it from anywhere with an internet connection! You can expect a generative workshop aimed at developing character as a pathway to building great stories. I hope you’ll consider taking it if you like writing, or tell someone you know who might be interested. This class is open to all levels of experience.

Here’s the course description:

“Have you ever written a story that just didn’t quite connect with its readers? Or have you ever finally found its resonance only once you were already three or four drafts in? One good way to captivate your readers from the outset is to begin with compelling characters. In this generative workshop, we’ll use tools from popular culture, narrative craft, and literary analysis to kickstart (or revamp!) your story with characters that seem so real. Come see why character drives plot, no matter the genre, far more than the other way around. Be sure to bring your preferred writing utensils (journal and pen, laptop, legal pad and box of sharpened pencils, etc.), a description of your favorite character from a book or movie, and an eagerness to look at character from a variety of angles. You can expect instruction, discussion, writing time, and the opportunity to share (if you wish) what you create in this class.”

The cost for this three-hour workshop is $45 for Writespace members and $60 for non-members before February 15th; after that date the price goes up just a bit. Class is capped at 15 students, so register for it sooner rather than later! You can do that by clicking here.

And if you want to see my faculty page at Writespace, which includes an excerpt of my fiction and some real student testimonials, click here.

Please help me spread the word about this course?

Thanks so much, and have a good weekend!

2020 Blog Year in Review

Happy New Year! (May it not suck!)

As I generally do annually around this time, I’d like to present a few factoids about how things went on Sappho’s Torque this past year. I wrote 111 new posts on the blog in 2020. Many of those posts were part of ongoing series, which are always both fun for me and hugely popular among my readers.

Almost 5,000 people visited the blog this past year, and while the vast majority are in North America, we had a very strong showing from UK, too, as well as India, Germany, and Australia.

I had hoped to boost my blog subscriber count up over 1,000 this year, though I didn’t quite make that. But all the writing goals I made for 2020 were well before we knew a pandemic was going to to interrupt our lives, so I’m not going to beat myself up about all the posts I meant to write but didn’t quite get around to yet. (They’re still on the docket for the future, though, so my guess is you’ll see some of them in 2021.)

There was also the matter of my releasing a new book this fall, and that took up quite a bit more time than expected, especially what with myriad covid-related delays of one sort or another. I did, however, write about a dozen flash fiction pieces this year, which is a new form for me, and which did not appear on the blog because they are on submission elsewhere first. (Writers have to make a living, too, and this blog doesn’t pay very well at all.  😉  So those pieces are hopefully destined for paying markets. Don’t worry, when they get published, you’ll hear about it!)

I like to look over my stats to see which posts are popular among the readers here. Many of the most popular ones are series-based pieces, such as during April’s Poem-a-Day series or the various earworms I like to share. But aside from those, here is a list of popular posts I wrote that saw a fair bit of traffic. Not surprisingly, many of them are related to our current zeitgeist or other current events we experienced throughout the year. And then a few of my older essays, which are perennial favorites, made the list again. (And as always, you can see a full list of popular posts here on the blog over all its years by clicking on this page.)

A Few Thoughts on This Whole Pandemic Thing and Why I’m Actually Not, Surprisingly, Freaking Out Right Now

Relief Efforts for Beirut

2019 Romance Titles Ranked By Heat Level

Kissing Barbie

Thoughts and Slayers: The Grendel Essay

Achievement Unlocked: Camp NaNoWriMo

Action Dispels Anxiety

Apokalyptein

Later this weekend I will post my 2020 Reading Year in Review as well; I’m pleased to report that I read way more books over the past twelve months than I have before during my professional life! I look forward to telling you about them very soon.

Thank you, always, for reading Sappho’s Torque. It’s a fond little project, and it means a lot to me that people continue to read and enjoy it. I hope to bring you more literary and auditory delight here on the blog in the coming year!