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This is my call for volunteers to help with WisCon Kids' Programs. Will you help me promote it on social media?

Help wanted

Mar. 7th, 2019 05:12 pm
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I need to write a letter for WisCon’s Communications to send out, to promote Kids’ Programs. I’ve got to ask for three things:

1. People to be on the Kids’ Programs team. This is the hard one, because basically I’m saying, This is too much work! It is too demanding, physically and emotionally, and takes up all the daytime hours, and leaves you too tired the rest of the time to enjoy any of the things you go to WisCon for, and the only reward you get is the feeling of having made WisCon a better place... that you are too tired to enjoy. Plus you get to be on ConCom, if you want. But if I can con three people into sharing the load with me, it’ll be great! We’d each be responsible for three timeslots and one quarter of the clean-up, which is a reasonable amount of work. And that reward doesn’t get smaller when you divide it up.

2. People to run one Kids’ Program activity. This is the fun part, which really is going to be great, and self-sustaining if I can just push hard enough to get it off the ground.

WisCon is full of people who have learned how to do a few cool things! Some of you would enjoy the opportunity to teach one of those things to an interested group of kids. Kids’ Programs can offer you an hour and fifteen minutes, a small group of kids (6-11 years old), an adult assistant, and whatever materials our small budget can cover. Sign up for Panel Programming, in the Kids’ Programs track, and send email to with questions or a description of what you’d like to do.

3. People to assist at one Kids’ Program activity. In this role, you have to be flexible. You might be assisting with materials for a craft activity, or building Legos or jigsaw puzzles with the kids who don’t want to do the main activity, or firmly redirecting the energies of a kid who doesn’t want to do the main activity and is trying to have a swordfight in that space instead.

Mostly you just have to be there, because the rules say that there have to be at least two adults in the room, and the second adult cannot always be me, because that is not sustainable, because I am not willing to take a plane trip and rent a hotel room and give up most of the things I enjoy about WisCon in order to make Kids’ Programs work again.

I am well enough to write this but not well enough to write it without massive quantities of self-pity. Help?
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My partner spent the government shutdown looking for a new job, and, although 1. everyone else who writes programs for government agencies was too and 2. he's 57, he found one! So we don't have to worry about the next one. But he worked for a government contractor, not the government directly, so there's no question of back pay. Those 35 days were ten percent of our annual income, evaporated.

So, I don't know whether I'll be able to go to Wiscon this year. Help me decide whether it's worth it:

Poll #21383 going to Wiscon?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 15

Are you going to Wiscon this year?

4 (26.7%)

9 (60.0%)

2 (13.3%)

Do you want to spend time with me?

9 (81.8%)

0 (0.0%)

2 (18.2%)

many iris

May. 22nd, 2018 04:34 pm
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several purple irises in bloom

I'm going to Wiscon! And I have a co-lead, so I won't have to be in the kids' room all day. However I am going to be there or on call during the daytime programming hours, and I don't know how tired I'll be in the evenings. You will definitely get to hang out with me if you sign up for my storytelling workshop!
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for [personal profile] jesse_the_k:
And so, by circuitous and unpredictable routes, we converge toward midcontinent and meet in Madison, and are at once drawn together, braided and plaited into a friendship. It is a relationship that has no formal shape, there are no rules or obligations or bonds as in marriage or the family, it is held together by neither law nor property nor blood, there is no glue in it but mutual liking. It is therefore rare.


Sep. 28th, 2017 06:02 pm
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Guest of Honor nominations for Wiscon 43 (that is, the one in 2019; the Guests of Honor at next year's Wiscon are Saladin Ahmed and Tananarive Due) are open until October 15. Blog post here:

Anyone can nominate.
Concom chooses Guests of Honor from the nominations we receive. (This is the only perq you get for being on Concom that is not available to all volunteers.)
Send your nominations to

Reading the Guests of Honor's work, discussing their work at Wiscon, and listening to their readings and speeches has always been one of the best parts of Wiscon for me, so I am grateful for your suggestions.
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We just had the first concom meeting for Wiscon 42, and I have questions:

1. I agreed conditionally to run Kids' Programming this year. The condition is that some other people run it with me. It has been run by one person for the last few years, but that was all she did during all the daytime programming hours, and I'm not willing to give up that much of my Wiscon, so I'm looking for co-leads. Are you interested in joining Wiscon's concom? Do you know anyone who might be interested? Let me know!

There are many other open positions on concom, so if you are interested in running Wiscon but not in entertaining children, let me know and I will put you in touch with Personnel. And if you are interested in entertaining children but not in being on concom, that's useful too! You could take charge of one programming slot without any other responsibilities.

2. About Wiscon's social media presence: apart from all the outreach is happening on Twitter and Facebook. I could retweet stuff about Wiscon, but I don't have any followers. I'm not joining Facebook. Do you think Dreamwidth is still useful as a way to promote Wiscon to people who are not already interested?

3. Should I volunteer to lead a storytelling workshop at Wiscon? It would be like a writing workshop, except you would bring a story to tell. You'd get a couple chances to practice standing up in front of sympathetic strangers to tell your story, and get feedback from said strangers on your story and your delivery.

I don't know whether people will be interested in this but that is a self-solving problem: if no one is interested, they won't sign up.

I'm worried about the expectations of people who do sign up, though. Lots of things called "storytelling workshop" are actually lectures, which I'm not interested in giving, or classes, which I am not qualified to teach. Is there another word that signifies peer-to-peer critique session?

own bed

May. 30th, 2017 12:18 am
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I love home. I love my dogs.

I miss everyone I saw at Wiscon, but I am so glad to be home.

Three times this Wiscon I was in the audience when the moderator opened it up for questions and there was silence. Which persisted until I stuck my hand up and asked something weird and stupid, which I probably should have though better of, but 1. it was the best I could think of at the time and 2. it was better than nothing. And it was followed by better questions after I broke the ice. The first time was A Room Of One's Own, after the GOH readings. Maybe everyone was intimidated by Kelly Sue DeConnick? She is really funny, you guys.

Amal El-Mohtar read us a story that included the lines, if I remember correctly, "You are a Great Horned Owl. You are an apex predator. You are a terrible parent." I was surprised, because Great Horneds are notoriously very nurturing parents. They'll keep on feeding their fully-fledged adult-sized offspring until it's time to start preparing for the next clutch. Amal said, "So I should change that metaphor to something about trust fund babies?"

Amal was right that they are terrible nest-builders, though, which is one reason why we get a lot of Great Horned babies at the raptor center. If the babies are uninjured and the tree is intact, we will nail up a wicker laundry basket and return the babies, and the parents are usually still hanging around looking for babies to feed. And they'll keep using the laundry basket every year because it's the best nest they've ever had.
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We're not actually sure how Starfleet funds anything, but what are some viable, functional alternatives to capitalism that *are* well explained in SF&F? And how do societies using them interact with capitalist societies?

One of the panels I was worried about has acquired other panelists, one has not. So, even though I am just the freelance moderator, I've got to prepare thoroughly for this one. Do you have any suggestions for SF that examines alternatives to capitalism?

Do you think Iain Banks's Culture belongs in this panel, or is it so post-capitalism that doesn't make sense to call it an alternative?

Also, I have five pink and five black "Fight Fascism" stickers, from here: If you are going to Wiscon, and you would like one, call dibs here.
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The days of filling panels that need panelists are here! If you are willing to be on a panel, and confident that you're better than nothing, please go there^ and volunteer!

I always volunteer as a freelance moderator, so I always get the neediest panels, but this year is worse: two of my panels have one other panelist, which means they have exactly one person who has anything to say on the topic. I always prepare things to say, just in case, but I don't think I can prepare well enough to carry half the panel on two topics I know nothing about.
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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 Brissett

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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