Writers, Find Your People!

Logo courtesy of GCLS.

I just got back from a writer’s conference, and boy is my hand cramped! (*rim shot*)

This was the annual GCLS convention, the first in-person in three years, so it was a frenzy of panels, master classes, meet-and-greets, plenary sessions, jigsaw puzzles, awards, and delirious terpsichore. Oh, yeah, I said terpsichore. Because I know my way around a dictionary and a thesaurus. Although there’s also a thing I learned which is called an Emotional Thesaurus. Writing!

My mind is full of memories, ideas, and to-do lists about how to elevate my craft, and we’re about to go to a museum with DINOSAURS … but let me quickly try to encapsulate all this creative energy.

GCLS Panel on “Writing Tools of the Trade,” photo by Karin Kallmaker.

GCLS: A Conference of One’s Own

This conference was Writers, readers, editors, publishers, librarians, and all manner of people who enjoy a good story. The vast majority of these folks write women-loving-women fiction. Now, that’s not my particular jam, but so what? I learned a ton!

There was a phenomenal master class on writing from memory, taught by Sheree L. Greer, worth the price of admission on its own. But I also got intelligent hints about using social media like Tik-Tok for people my age (i.e. over 25). World-building, narrative arcs, characterization: those apply to history writing, too. Tax planning for the self-employed because I might eventually sell more than two books.

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The Wild Ride of Writing Every Day

They even decorated their plates! (Bargello museum) Photo by kajmeister.

Twenty-six days, 24,483 words, 26 posts: art, music, mathematics (?!?), drama, popes, plagues, giant horse statues that don’t get built.

Looking back over the last 26 days, I see posts that I don’t even remember writing. There are at least two posts that nobody read, not because they’re bad, but sometimes these slip between the cracks. But the benefit–and curse–of the A to Z process is that you have to write every day (only four breaks) and you have to cover all the letters.

Attach Seat to Chair, remember?

The discipline to write every day is intense. Actually, let me rephrase that to distinguish this from twitzing and ingramming and all that other stuff, which I don’t do. The discipline to write at least 500, semi-lucid words, in paragraph form with complete sentences and thoughts about a topic is intense. It requires planning and forethought, determination and a sense of urgency.

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As we are well into Women’s History Month, accounts abound of wonderful women and their remarkable achievements. I’d like to go straight to the heart of the matter and point out some of the true heroines of Women’s History month: the women historians. We used to say “herstory “back in the ’70s because, often, historians claimed women didn’t do very much. Women have gotten more credit–a whole month now! So I can just use the word to refer to those who write it.

Let’s talk about history by women, who have been writing for nearly as long as the cave paintings. Which might just as likely have been done by women as men, right?

Grand Dames

In fact, the first writer in world literature was a woman. Enheduanna was a priestess in Ur in ancient Sumeria, who composed poems and temple hymns to the goddess Inanna. Not entirely history, but poetry was the way people wrote, and even stories of gods and goddesses are a kind of history.

The first woman formally recognized as a historian was in the 12th century. (There were surely others, but this is the encyclopedia answer to the question.) Princess Anna Comnena, the daughter of Byzantine emperor Alexius I, wrote a 15-volume history about her father’s reign and the era called The Alexiad. She wrote in her spare time, because she also raised four children and administered a 10,000 bed hospital and orphanage in Constantinople. While administering medicine, she became an expert on gout, a disease which pestered her father for years. After Alexius died, Anna plotted to overthrow her newly-crowned brother in favor of herself and her husband, but she lost the fight and her court position as well. Sounds like a series for Showtime to me.

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