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Yes, you!

WisCon 41 programming signup is open for five more days, until midnight Monday, March 13.

If you've ever wondered how to get on a panel at Wiscon, it starts here: go to, create or sign in to your account, then go to and volunteer for the panels that interest you. If you're not sure you're coming, or don't want to be on panels, it's still worthwhile to go to the programming signup page to say which panels you would like to attend, since we use that information to decide which ones to fit into the schedule.

If you're not sure whether you're going to Wiscon this year or not, remember that our Guests of Honor are Amal El-Mohtar and Kelly Sue DeConnick!

ETA Here is Amal El-Mohtar's story in's collection "Nevertheless, She Persisted":
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Packing for Wiscon. One carry-on, one laptop bag, one CPAP. No checked bag. Can fit a paperback in the CPAP bag.

For signing, I could take:

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
The Chaos, by Nalo Hopkinson
The New Moon's Arms, by Nalo Hopkinson
Liar, by Justine Larbalestier
Magic or Madness, by Justine Larbalestier

trade paperbacks:
A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar
Midnight Robber, by Nalo Hopkinson
The Salt Roads, by Nalo Hopkinson
Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson
Skin Folk, by Nalo Hopkinson
Sister Mine, by Nalo Hopkinson
Elysium, by Jennifer Marie

Probably not polite to ask an author to sign more than two books.

What to bring for the book swap? Here, the problem is that most of my books are still at my husband's house, and that's where most of the books that I am ready to part with would be. I've got a duplicate copy of Karen Joy Fowler's Sister Noon -- perfect. I've got White Horse, by Alex Adams, which I thought was terrible but maybe someone else won't. If I ever want to read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World again I know that I will always be able to find a copy. That'll do.
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The Wiscon Member Assistance Fund got a lot more requests than money this year. A donor has offered to double-match donations made between now and Saturday: for every dollar you put in, three dollars will go to someone who wants to go to Wiscon but can't afford to. Read all about it:
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Someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Susan." I said "yes" and turned around and found myself face to face with The Person at Wiscon I Don't Want To Interact With. I thought I had girded my loins for this. I was going to continue to refuse to interact with them (yes, even when you lean out of your chair at a 45-degree angle and wave your whole arm and spread hand in front of me, I cannot see you, is it not amazing) unless they forced me to, and then I would say clearly and firmly, "I still don't want to interact with you," and not care if I got judged to be a bitch.

I think if I had seen them coming, I would have been able to pull up my big-girl loin girds and do that. But they came from behind, and suddenly there we were, less than a foot apart and in conversation already.

Ten years of refusing to interact down the drain, because now they can say, "How was I supposed to know you didn't want to interact? We had a perfectly fine conversation at Wiscon 39!"

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Storytelling party did not work. A few people came, and it was quiet and pleasant, but it was not a storytelling party. I took all the food down to the lobby, where everyone was.
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I'm thinking of hosting a storytelling party at Wiscon. A mike for the teller, chairs for the listeners. Refreshments. A big piece of paper to sign up on if you want to tell a story. Is this a good idea? If you were at Wiscon, would you come? How likely would you be to tell a story?

If the storytelling part lasted three hours, and the stories averaged five minutes, plus a minute for changeover, that would be thirty people. That seems like lots?

Have you ever hosted a party at a convention? How much did you spend? How did you decide how much food and drink to have? How did you acquire, prepare, and store said food and drink if you were far from home?

I should decide soon, so there's time to get the word out so people who want to tell a story will have time to prepare one. Should I have a theme?

Any advice is welcome.
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Here are two good writeups of this panel:

This was a good panel, well-prepared and well-run, yet still frustrating in all the topics it opened up but didn't have time to explore. [personal profile] firecat wanted more analysis of the politics of what makes people more likely to be socially isolated. I wanted more brainstorming of strategies and tactics to break out of isolation. There we were, a room full of people, most of whom had experience with social isolation and attempts to break out of it. I wanted to know, what techniques have you tried? How did that work for you? How did it fail?

--Volunteering is a common suggestion. What if your social isolation is exacerbated by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Have you found a way to volunteer that works with unpredictable energy levels? What about if volunteering triggers your Imposter Syndrome? What about if you have already spent enough of your one wild and precious life among people who are only willing to tolerate you as long as you provide a service and don't ask for anything in return?

--Gaming works very well for some people as a low-stakes social activity with explicit rules and roles. What if competition gives you intolerable levels of anxiety? Are there cooperative games that work in this context?

--First Wiscon Dinner works for some people. What if you have to work around food allergies or difficulties with communication or mobility? What if you would really like to share a meal with up to four people, but more than that is kind of terrible? Have you found a way to say, I like you all, but could we split into two smaller groups?

And so on.

I'm pretty sure the story I told at that panel (went to another con that was billed as small and inclusive, could not persuade anyone to share a meal with me, even when I was armed with restaurant reviews and bus schedules; on the last night of the con, I gave up and went down to the hotel restaurant. After I had been seated but before my food was served, all the other people who hadn't found a better option came down as a group, and were seated as a group, and ate as a group. Next to my table. I have often wondered whether it is possible to literally die of embarrassment) managed to convey how terrible that felt, but I don't remember whether I ever got to the point of telling that story, which was: if you ever feel that terrible, you can talk to me.

Someone in the audience at this panel (who also attended the con that was terrible for me) offered to share a meal with me when I was lonely. And then she followed up and checked in with me from time to time for the rest of the con. That felt so good. I don't know how to solve the problem of how to get enough social credit in the first place, so you can tell your story and have people respond with kindness, but if you can find someone to do mutual checking-in with, it is a great comfort.
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I want to post about my panels even though I don't remember enough to make writeups that are useful to anyone but me.

Teaching Consent had two panelists with parenting experience and two with experience in sex education, but one of the sex educators dropped out at the last minute.

Most of what I remember about this panel are the weird tangents that can be summarized as Don't Be Creepy. Don't Be Creepy is a very important part of talking to kids about sex, but it is not the only thing.

The most important thing is to teach children that they have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies by respecting their right to decide what happens to their own bodies. Really. Seriously. Even when they are very young. Even when they make bad decisions. Even when it is hard. Especially when it is hard. I think the most useful thing I did to protect my children from sexual predators was to let them see someone who loved them, and was in a position of power over them, and really really wanted them to eat their vegetables, and did the work to make the vegetables palatable, and explained how eating vegetables would make you feel better and be healthier, and still honored their decision not to eat the vegetables at this time. Because their body, their decision. Really.

I draw the line where my duty to protect overrides their autonomy between "Is their decision going to hurt them?" and "Is their decision going to harm them?" Because every time I violate their autonomy, I may keep them from getting hurt but I am also causing harm. So, I decide whether they get vaccinated (yes) but I don't decide what or how much they eat.

Teaching kids to respect other people's rights seems to me to flow naturally from respecting their rights. Do you get to cut your hair? That's your decision: it's your hair. Do you get to pull my hair? Not unless I say okay: it's my hair.

That leaves the third part of Ed Lane's anti-bullying injunction: "Don't be a perp, don't be a victim, and for God's sake, don't be a bystander." This is not as straightforward. It requires empathy. A useful tool is to talk about stories and imagine yourself into them from each person's point of view. So, I don't want you to be a victim, but I'd like you to imagine getting bullied in front of a bunch of kids who stand there staring: the bystander may be thinking "I cannot believe this is happening" or "I don't know how to stop this," but what the victim sees is a ring of people who are all letting this happen. Or, I don't want you to be a bully, but I'd like you to try to imagine what the bully is thinking. What makes you think this is okay? What could make you see that it is not okay?

As kids approach the age when they're going to put this knowledge to use, they stop wanting to talk to their parents about it. Don't try to override this. It is an important step on the road to independence. It's good to make good books available (on the shelf with all the other Books About Interesting Facts. Do not put the book on their bed. That is creepy.) It's good to tell them about and other people who want them to have good information, and want them to make good decisions, but will not freak out or take it personally if they disclose that they have made a not-so-good decision. It's good to talk to your kids about these issues as long as you don't personalize it: talk about stories you've heard from other people, news stories, movies, books. Tell them your whole truth, what you believe and why, and be willing to listen to what they think, but don't demand that they tell you: that is creepy.

Nixie attended this panel and my next one. I worried that she might be uncomfortable, but she was curious and said that she'd be fine as long as I didn't point to her to say, "Behold the proof of my excellent theories!"

(Nixie and Mungo are my proof though.)

wiscon ho!

May. 21st, 2014 05:58 pm
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This time tomorrow I will be in Madison! I am not prepared but everything will be fine! My dogs will miss me but they will be fine too!

I'm staying until Tuesday morning, because Nixie's summer internship starts Tuesday. Do you want to have a meal or hang out with me and Nixie?

Does anyone want a library discard copy of Nobody's Family Is Going to Change, Louise Fitzhugh's other novel? It's just a reading copy, and I don't even know how many more readings it will stand up to, but it is wonderful and out of print and if you love Harriet the Spy I think you will love Emma Sheridan too.
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If you signed up for programming but haven't got your assignments, maybe look in the spam: that's where gmail put mine.

I only got freelance moderator assignments, three topics I am qualified to moderate by virtue of having no opinions. I don't tweet! I have seen no wuxia! Also no mecha, not even Pacific Rim!

If you didn't sign up for programming, or did, but could do another, check the list of panels that still need panelists here:
You'll notice two of my three panels on that list.

I am contemplating volunteering for
Sex Education for Kids: Consent Mechanics
It can be hard to know exactly when talk to your kids about sex and what to say. Let's talk about what we've tried, how well it worked, and what lessons we've learned in the process. The Positive Consent model is different from how things were taught thirty years ago; how can we learn to model and teach it outside the 'birds-and-bees' lecture?

Social Isolation and WisCon
For many of us, WisCon can be a magical bastion of cluefulness in an expanse of oppression. Yet even at the best WisCon, we can have internalized phobias, impostor syndrome and geek self-loathing. And when we're not here, we may not have access to the social support we need. How do we support ourselves when the world doesn't do it for us?

which are topics on which I have things to say, but I may not have energy for more than three.
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As the childcare coordinator at Wiscon, I had to get parking passes for my childcare workers. I asked at the registration desk, which is where I thought we got them last year. Lenore had parking passes for people who needed to haul things in, but didn't think they would work for my workers, who needed to stay there the whole day; she suggested I ask the hotel directly.

I went to the front desk. I said that I was the childcare coordinator, and that I needed to get parking passes for my childcare workers. Front Desk said that no parking passes had been left with her to give to me. I said okay, how can I get some? Because my workers aren't guests, they don't have room keys that they could use to get out of the parking lot, but they need to park. Front Desk went and got her clipboard, flipped through it in front of me, and said again that no parking passes had been arranged. She said it with that falling intonation at the end of the sentence that means, "This subject is closed."

But it wouldn't be right for my childcare workers to have to kick back $10 a day to the hotel for the privilege of working there. I had to get them parking passes. If it came out of my pocket I could ask the treasurer for reimbursement, but either way, my workers shouldn't have to pay for parking. So I said, okay, is there anything I can do about that at this point? Who should I talk to? Front Desk said, I guess that would be Party Planning. Again with the falling intonation.

Okay, I said, who is Party Planning? How can I talk to her? Front Desk went and got a walkie-talkie, talked to someone over the walkie-talkie, then told me that she didn't have any information about parking passes for childcare providers either. I understand that no parking passes have been prearranged, I said. So I need to get them now. How do I do that?

Front Desk huffed at me and said she would get someone else to talk to me. Someone Else came -- the person at the other end of the walkie-talkie, I think -- and had me explain again who I was and what I wanted. How many do you need, she asked? Two, I answered. Oh, I can just give you those, she said.

Thinking it over afterwards, trying to figure out what I did wrong, or what I could have done righter, I realized that the problem was that I didn't have a lanyard. See, there are these special lanyards that tell the hotel that you have the power to spend Wiscon's money, so when you wear one the hotel is eager to do anything you ask. Some years I get one but this year I didn't.

In real life, being brushed off is normal for me. It's also normal, when I have been brushed off enough times for me to give up, to send my husband in with the same request and see him get compliance the first time he asks. And no, I don't think I loosened it for him. He's just wearing the lanyard.
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I hope to talk about some of the rants I delivered out loud in front of other people, but this one only happened in my shower:

Here's the description of the Choice Feminism panel:

Many people say that feminism is about providing more choices for people. There are people who, faced with this variety of choices, choose the same thing that the kyriarchy would have chosen for them. Is this problematic, or is this variety a strength of feminism?

I commented, "I'm a stay-at-home mom.[*] I have a lot of shame about that. The shaming doesn't come from feminism, and it doesn't come from women with jobs. It comes from people with jobs. It's how people with jobs feel about unemployed people. I want to ask you whether there is any admixture of contempt in how you feel about women who choose that."

Two of the panelists are my friends, and I trusted the other three not to be unkind. They weren't. An audience member, talking about her choices as a single mom, made eye contact with me to say, "I wish I had your choices." With a tiny chin-toss on the "wish".

Here's the rant:

That is one of the things that I meant when I said "contempt". You had it easy. Money for nothing. I wish I had your choices.

Which is true as far as it goes. But. I gave up things in exchange for getting a man's support during my childrearing years, things that Single Mom chose not to give up, and I'm not just talking about my sexual autonomy or my freedom to live where things would work out best for me. Our degrees of freedom of choice were different, but you don't get to say that mine were greater unless you're willing to look at the whole picture.

So, yeah, rantiest Wiscon ever. But I hope to change that.

[*]Not my preferred term but the one that the panel was using.
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I went to Pan Morigan's voice workshop again this year. She began by asking each of us to tell her something about their voice, and she began with me. Everyone else said something negative or neutral about their voice but me, I said, "I have a nice voice. People like it."

Other than being almost entirely unable to sleep, I'm having a very good Wiscon.
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So I cried at three panels this Wiscon. Personal record. Fortunately none of them were panels I was on.

The first was Pan Morigan's voice workshop. (Which anyone might cry at. Though I think I was the only one who did.) The second I already told you about. The third was "Living with Invisible Disabilities".

On the topic of deciding when/whether/how/to whom to come out about your disability, a panelist mentioned skepticism. (Yes, really, when you disclose your disability, some people will decide that you must be making it up. Sometimes they'll say so to your face. No, I don't know either, why anyone would presume that having a disability is less likely than pretending to have a disability.)

I wanted to point out that the skepticism increases exponentially when you admit to two unrelated disabilities, and ask for advice on how to deal with it. Unfortunately, thinking about framing the question made me think about unpleasant coming-out experiences made me feel anxious and embarrassed to begin with. And then, in order to improve access for people with hearing impairments, we were going to the front of the room and taking a mike instead of speaking from our seats. So I stood up in front of everybody and took the mike and suddenly couldn't speak because I was crying! Gah! But eventually I burroed through and got the question out and got good advice, namely: network. Advocate for the accommodations other people need and ask them to advocate for you. Disclose to individuals who (you trust) want not to be assholes, and point out their opportunities to be allies.

ETA: I was telling this story to [personal profile] wild_irises and she was going to give me some advice about reframing it when I got snatched away by my moderator responsibilities! Debbie, do you remember what you were going to say?
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I should have thought about this earlier, and asked you guys for feedback, or maybe I should have waited until next year. But here's what I just sent to this year's Wiscon access committee:

Problem: Panelists sometimes forget to use the mike or to move their hands away from their mouths when they talk.

The only method I, as an audience member who cannot understand what is being said, have to address this problem is to put my hand up and wait for the moderator to call on me. This solution is not available when the panel is not taking questions[*], takes some wait time even when it is available, and is an interruption to the actual discussion.

Suggestion: Print HANDS or MIKE (depending on whether the panel has mikes) on cardstock in large friendly letters. Leave them on the blue-stripe seats or at the entrance to the room. Somehow inform everyone that these are intended to be used to remind the panelists to move their HANDS or use the MIKE.

ETA: The access team thinks this is a great idea. They're going to see what they can do for this year.

[*]ETA: I know that some people can call out "mike!" even when the panelists are talking. I appreciate it when they do. But. I wish everyone could understand how painful it is for a shy person to push herself forward, when it is not her turn, to ask.
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SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): In a *Rolling Stone* interview, musician John
Mayer suggested that Tiger Woods could have avoided his terrible
troubles if he had just chosen to masturbate more. Rather than literally
acting out his obsessive sexual urges with a jillion women who weren't his
wife, why not contain them in the fantasy realm? I suggest you consider
applying this principle as you make your decisions in the coming weeks,
Scorpio -- not just in regards to your sexual life, but in other areas as well.
There may be times when you could prevent an influx of unnecessary
chaos simply by conducting a conversation in your imagination rather
than by having it with the actual person who seems to be agitating or
enthralling you.

See, almost all of my interaction with other people is already confined only to my own imagination. Except for sex: there, you can drop the "almost".

Last time I saw my husband it occurred to me that our sex life has been missing for seven years. I thought about pointing that out to him, suggesting that we have it declared dead; but then I was afraid that he would say-- he wouldn't literally say, "well, duh," but I was afraid that he would say something emotionally equivalent to "well, duh," which would enrage me, because every time I asked him about our missing sex life, every single time over the past seven years, he insisted it was pining for the fjords.

So, we didn't have that conversation.

That's my life, mostly: not having that conversation.

At Wiscon, though, I was shockingly non-self-effacing. You know what I did? Well, lots of things, of course, but the one that most purely self-satisfies me was at a Monday 10 a.m. panel where the panelists kept leaving their hands in front of their mouths while they talked. I had to think about this for a long time before I did it, but once I decided, I stuck my hand all the way up in the air and left it there. I think maybe my visible discomfort made the moderator uncomfortable also, because he sighed and looked at everyone else in the room before he called on me. But then he did call on me, and I did say, "Could I ask you all to please take your hands away from your mouths while you are talking," in a voice that was unfortunately pretty goddam shaky from feeling conspicuous plus correcting other people.

I know I don't have good judgment on the question, to speak or not to speak? I haven't had enough practice to be very good at it yet. But I would like to be more like me-at-Wiscon.


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