Writing advice from superheroes

Sketch_SueBurke_smallJasmin Gelinck, an author currently living in the Netherlands, has begun a project, PenPower Myth Debunk. She’s asked a dozen authors (including me) questions about editing and publication.

She also commissioned artist Oscar Celestini to depict us all as superheroes. My super-me portrait vaguely resembles the current Doctor Who, and I am flying!

Here are her posts so far:

#PenPower Project 1.1: Introduction to the Heroes!

#PenPower Project: 1.2 The Villain

#PenPower Myth Debunk #1: Write Every Day

#PenPower Myth Debunk #2: I have to write FAST!

#PenPower Myth Debunk #3: Rules and Fear (How to beat your writerly worries)

#PenPower Myth Debunk #4: I MUST outline

Five suggestions for working at home

I’ve been working from home for decades, and it’s not as easy as it looks. Let me suggest five simple-sounding practices that might help if you’re having trouble with a new job requirement:

1. Maintain a regular routine for weekdays. This includes getting up at the same time every morning.

2. Develop a different routine for weekends. Otherwise your days take on a ghastly sameness.

3. Set goals for each day. Be sure to include self-care goals: take a socially-distant walk, make a nice meal or banana bread, or plan a play date with your cat.

4. Designate a specific place for work so that when your work is done, you can go “home” — that is, to a place that is not work, even if it’s just a different chair.

5. Remember that you’ve become your own boss. Try to be a good boss.

Lake Shore Drive: how it reached my neighborhood

Lake Shore Drive midmorning

I live in a high-rise apartment/condominium building here in Chicago called Park Tower, and it’s so big that it has a newsletter for its residents. For the most recent issue of TowerTalk, I contributed an article about Lake Shore Drive.

LSD has been called America’s most beautiful urban road. I can see its northernmost end from my window (see photos: morning, above; sunrise, below), built over what used to be water and sand. The story of how it got there involves the man who invented the skyscraper, Chicago’s unbridled ambition at the start of the 20th century, and the city’s long love affair with the lakefront.

Here’s a PDF of the article.

Although I don’t mention it, the road was immortalized in song: Lake Shore Drive by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah in 1971. The song was featured in the 2017 film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. See the video remix here.

Lake Shore Drive sunrise


fortress of solitude smallIt’s all cancelled: the Deep Dish reading on March 14, the Longwood Gardens Community Read on March 27 and 28, and other events I was planning to attend, from church to cocktails.

Of course, we have to do what we must to keep ourselves and others safe. We’re all in this together. I’m 64 years old, and although I feel well and have no special health problems (that I know of), people my age and older are at a higher risk. But you youngsters aren’t 100% assured of survival, so you should take care, too.

I’m not much of an introvert, as you may know, and this comes at ironic moment for me. I’ve been hunkered down for a while, working hard, staying home, trying to meet a deadline, and now that I’m on track and can go out and enjoy human contact again, suddenly I need to maintain social distance.

On the other hand, I’ve worked from home for decades, and I’m enough of an introvert to enjoy it. I can sit in my nice little home office in splendid seclusion. But soon, I won’t be alone. My husband has been ordered to work from home starting on Monday. My Fortress of Solitude is about to be invaded.

I’ll be reading from “Francine” at the Spring Deep Dish Reading March 14

Future Fiction cover artI’m joining an especially exciting lineup for the Spring Deep Dish Reading on Saturday, March 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Volumes Bookcafe, 1474 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. It’s organized by the Speculative Literature Foundation.

“Francine (Draft for the September Lecture)” is a short story by Maria Antònia Martí Escayol, a science fiction writer who lives in Barcelona, Spain. My translation of the story appears in World Science Fiction #1: Visions to Preserve the Biodiversity of the Future. This haunting tale investigates the death and posthumous life of Francine, daughter of René Descartes. It’s one of sixteen outstanding works in this anthology by some of the world’s finest authors.

The Deep Dish reading will also feature Dawn Bonanno, Steven H Silver, Evan Steuber, and Laura Kat Young. In addition, it will celebrate the release of Mary Anne Mohanraj’s new book, A Feast of Serendib: Recipes from Sri Lanka. Come and sample some delicious treats from the cookbook! I know Mary Anne, and she’s a great cook and passionate about her family’s homeland. Volumes Bookcafe also sells coffee, beer, wine, and baked goods, and Deep Dish is always a friendly event.

Since I can’t give you some of her chili-mango cashews over the internet, let me give you a taste of “Francine”:

The joy of the house was Francine. She was born in 1635, the same year in which France declared war on Spain, and Japan prohibited its merchants from traveling overseas. Her childhood took place amid the tree-lined streets and lawn-filled parks of the city, and the books and discussion circles of her home. Helena’s hospitality inspired an extensive group of intellectuals to form the Orbis de Deventer (for more information, consult historian Franklin Rudolf Ankersmit’s 2021 book by Goethe publishers).…
… A few months after her visit to the laboratory, the first symptoms of Francine’s illness, scarlet fever, made their appearance. According to the official account, the illness began on August 21st, and the girl died three weeks later on September 7th. According to Helena’s diary, the illness began in April, and the next day the girl lost her ability to speak, a little later consciousness, and she died five months later. Francine herself, in her notes from 1650, described the sensations she recalled of those initial moments:
“The warm glow of consciousness pulled me down into an insupportable interior heat. My body became a glass vial haunted by atoms teeming amid red ashes. Some atoms found a proper place inside myself and squeezed in harmoniously. Others simply remained suspended, colliding from time to time in senseless struggle. Some atoms were terrestrial, flat, and square; others aqueous, round, empty, wet, and spongy; or gaseous, long, and straight; or igneous, acute, and sharp. Their random movements traced out the destiny of my new world. A world where, for a long time, I would be merely a body without a head.”