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Archive for August 2016

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 8, Issue 5 (August 2016)

In this issue:

 

INVERNESS HOTEL
In 2016, Sirens’s hotel is again the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center, a Destination Hotels resort in south Denver. Everything Sirens will take place at the Inverness, from our pre-conference Sirens Studio and Sirens Supper to our programming, to our Ball of Enchantment, and to our Sunday breakfast and auction. For Sirens, the Inverness is where you want to be.

We strongly recommend making your reservations at the Inverness Hotel as soon as possible, both so that you have the best shot at reserving a room in our block and so, if you miss our block, you’ll have the best chance to get a room off the waitlist. If you are running into issues with availability making reservations online, please call the hotel at (303) 799-5800, and if you still have trouble making a reservation, please email us at (help at sirensconference.org). Check out our latest hotel post for pictures, amenities, discounted rate information, and tips on finding a roommate.

 

TICKETS
Tickets for the Sirens Shuttle and Sirens Studio are still available. The Sirens Shuttle offers discounted group transportation to and from Denver International Airport, for you and any friends or family who’d like a ride too. The Sirens Studio, features two days of workshop intensives (for readers, writers, and professionals), discussion, networking opportunities, and flexible time for you to use however you wish. If you’d like to join us for some—or all—of these, tickers can be added to a registration until registration closes on September 17. Tickets for these events are unlikely to be available at the door.

 

BRING A FRIEND!
If you’ve already registered for Sirens, check your inboxes! Last week, we sent a promotional code to all registered attendees that entitles the user to a $10 discount. It can be used only once, and your friend needs to register between now and September 17, 2016. We can’t wait to meet them!

 

SUPPORT SIRENS
At Sirens, we’re committed to keeping the cost of attendance as low as possible for all attendees. Because of that commitment, we run an unusual budget structure: the costs of presenting Sirens far exceed our registration revenue. Each year, exceptionally kind individuals, many of them on our staff, cover approximately half that gap through thousands of dollars in donations, necessary to make a space that discusses and celebrates the remarkable women of fantasy literature real.

And you can help. Please click the links for more information:

Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting organization behind Sirens, is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Therefore, all donations to Sirens are eligible for tax deduction in accordance with U.S. law.

 

ATTENDING AUTHORS
If you are a published author attending Sirens, please let us know. We’d like to make sure we have your books available in our bookstore—and if you’d like, a place for you in our author signing time. Please send an email to Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org).

 

GUEST OF HONOR INTERVIEWS
We’re interviewing our Sirens 2016 Guests of Honor about their inspirations, influences, and craft, to the role of women in fantasy literature as befits our 2016 focus on lovers and the role of love, intimacy, and sex. We can’t wait for you to meet them this October!

From our interview with Kiini Ibura Salaam on what makes a Kiini heroine: “I love people who live boldly. I think we all have parts of us that want to be free. Those are the characters that fascinate me most as well—characters who have impact, who have strong identities, who are pushing against the forces that would control them.”
 
 
 
 

From our interview with Renée Ahdieh on heroes and villains in her novels: “I tend to enjoy writing in spaces of moral grey. The world in which we live is really not as black and white as we’d like to believe it to be… Every choice—every experience—has risk and reward. And those risks/rewards are never as clear-cut as we wish they were.”

 
 
 

Our interview with our third 2016 Guest of Honor, Laurie J. Marks is coming next month, so stay tuned!

 

BOOKS AND BREAKFAST
Each year, Sirens selects a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books related to our theme—and invites attendees to bring their breakfast during the conference and have an informal conversation about those books. For 2016, we’ve kicked Books and Breakfast off early—so all of you have time to choose a couple books and read! This year, we’ve also launched a program to get these books into your hands prior to Sirens.

For extra motivation, we’re giving away copies of each Books and Breakfast book—two each month! Congratulations to @strixbrevis on Twitter for winning July’s Giveaway. Check out how you can win Joplin’s Ghost and There Once Lived a Girl… in our post here.

 

AMY’s BOOK CLUB

Star-Touched Queen

Sirens co-founder Hallie Tibbetts subs for Amy this month in Amy’s Book Club! Check out her review of Roshani Chokshi's The Star-Touched Queen, on the blog and Goodreads, which she found to be a “lyrical story that incorporates Hindu myth into a romantic, lush read.”

 

READ ALONG WITH FAYE

BoySnowBird

Read along with Faye as she completes the 2016 Sirens Reading Challenge! This month she read Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird, which she loved for how it delved into the implications of racial passing if not for gender. Check out her review on the blog and Goodreads.

 

SIRENS REVIEW SQUAD

Sorcerer to the Crown

Kayla Shifrin discusses and critiques revolution, political symbols and YA heroines in Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince. Check out her full review over on the blog.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

 


Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

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Read Along with Faye: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

ShadesofMilkandHoney

Read Along with Faye is a new series of book reviews and commentary by Faye Bi on the Sirens communications staff, in which she attempts to read 25 books and complete the 2016 Sirens Reading Challenge. The series will consist mostly of required “theme” books and will post monthly. We invite you to read along and discuss! Light spoilers ahead.

Alas, this month I was planning to review Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s This Strange Way of Dying, but ran into the problem we all occasionally have after hearing about authors doing cool but quieter-buzzing things: accessibility. I will read this book for the challenge when my copy arrives in the mail. (Needless to say, if Amy were here, she would pipe in that This Strange Way of Dying will be available at the Narrate bookstore, yet another reason to come to this year’s Sirens with a full wallet and an empty suitcase.) This month, instead, I’m offering up a review of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey.

As a Jane Austen fan, Shades of Milk and Honey has been on my radar for years. I’m not quite sure why I hadn’t picked it up before now—I’d heard that maybe it was perhaps too much like Jane Austen? You wouldn’t be incorrect, fellow reader, if you thought so. The book is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a plain 28-year-old spinster who’s been left on the shelf, who potential suitors pass on in favour of her younger, more beautiful sister Melody. I won’t harp on the similarities between Shades and Austen’s novels, except to say that nearly every character in the book has an Austen analogue—the doting father, the fussy mother, the gallant gentleman, the one who can’t express his feelings but has a heart of gold, the dastardly scoundrel, and so on—coupled that with Regency manners, occasionally inconsistent period/modern spelling, and familiar plot twists like secret arrangements, duels and carriage chases.

I like to call these parallels Kowal’s homage to Austen, as it’s clear that Austen was hugely influential, and for a debut effort, I could read past them and get to the best part of the book—the magic. Picture Austen’s Regency England with magic (or as they call it in-world, “glamour”) as a ladylike art, akin to needlepoint, drawing or playing the pianoforte. Young ladies entertain company with moving illusions, like a rustle of the wind on flowers or a scene from a play. Our protagonist Jane is particularly gifted at glamour for someone with no formal training, but then she meets Mr. Vincent, a trained glamourist who has been hired to tutor Jane’s handsome new neighbour’s younger sister.

The interactions between Mr. Vincent and Jane are, perhaps, what you might expect—uppity Mr. Vincent is annoyed that Jane keeps trying to work out the mechanics of his illusions, believing that they take away from the awe of the moment, but can’t help but admire her for it either. Jane is clueless for the most part, until Mr. Vincent sends her his journals with all his glamour notes and essentially professes his love for her. But what I love most is how glamour is so fully integrated in Kowal’s vision of Regency England as piano or drawing could be; when women practice it, it’s a mere frivolity, but when men practice it’s an art—or perhaps even a career. Jane laments her lack of education—everyone coos over Mr. Vincent’s illusions but hers are lacking life, movement, and soul.

Yet, because of glamour’s association with women, it’s still not quite respectable. Mr. Vincent, which we later learn is the younger son of a quite well-to-do family (surprise!) practices glamour without his prestigious family name in order to keep it unsullied. Be it glamour or cooking, making clothes, composing music or writing books, women should just be distracting themselves until they grow into their value by getting married, because obvs.

I’m really pleased to hear that Kowal explores men vs. women’s work further in her glamour-infused Regency world in later books, as well as the relationship between Jane and Mr. Vincent, who are now two practicing glamourists. I look forward to reading more—four more books, to be exact.

Next Month: Recap Post!

 

Faye Bi works as a book publicist in New York City, and is a member of the Sirens communications team. She’s yet to read an immigrant story she hasn’t cried over, and is happiest planning nerdy parties, capping off a long run with brunch, and cycling along the East River.

 

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Book Club: Assassin’s Gambit by Amy Raby

AssassinsGambit

Each year, Sirens chair Amy Tenbrink posts monthly reviews of new-to-her books from the annual Sirens reading list. You can find all of her Sirens Book Club reviews at the Sirens Goodreads Group. We invite you to read along and discuss!

A confession: I have read a lot of romance. Not fantasy romance, mind you, but straight up historical romance. With the laced bodices and too-tight breeches and elaborate coiffures. With the heaving bosoms and the throbbing manroots and the honeyed caves. With, I am so not kidding, footnotes. (Hi, Susan Johnson!)

Why? Why, thanks for asking. Largely through a combination of not-uncommon factors. Back in the day, there wasn’t so much in the way of young adult books. So when you’d already read approximately a thousand Sweet Valley High, and Nancy Drew Files, and Baby Sitters Club (Baby Sitters Club Super Special 1 FTW!), and the bookstore doesn’t have anything else and you’ve read pretty much everything in your shoebox, small-town library, well, you read your mom’s books. So I have read a lot of romance. (Also, a lot of mysteries. So many mysteries with dead girls of mostly ill-repute. Yes, my tween reading was problematic all over the place.)

And, let’s be real, when you read a lot of romance, especially the romance being published a couple decades ago, you read a lot of misogyny, exoticism, toxic masculinity, and other bullshit. The men are manlier, the biceps are bigger, the vaginas are flowery-er, the natives are darkly beautiful, and the tears glisten on usually ivory, but sometimes pale or snow-white, cheeks. You’ve all read the books. You know.

And while we’re at it, we could chat until the cows come home about the myriad issues with the sex in these books. There is sex, of course, lots of it, the more graphic the better. But it all-too-often involves virginity worship, dubious consent, painful cherry-popping, ridiculously experienced and always-hard men, and nearly inevitably, motherhood.

But when your theme is lovers, that includes, without question, fantasy romance. So here we are: an emperor, a damaged assassin, and an empire to, depending on who you are, destroy or save. With, you know, some magic. And a great lot of oral sex.

Vitala, part of the Obsidian Circle, is a world-class assassin. She was taken from her parents at a young age, and raised for the sole purpose of killing Lucien, the emperor of Kjall. The hope is, with Lucien’s death, the empire will descend into civil war, giving her people the opportunity to regain their freedom.

In the grand tradition of overblown romance tropes, Lucien is a war mage, blessed with preternaturally fast reflexes. There are two ways to kill a war mage: bring three assassins and strike simultaneously…or kill him during orgasm. If you guessed that Vitala’s path is the latter, ding ding, you win the teddy bear!

The Obsidian Circle plays the long game, so Vitala is trained in Caturanga, which is, wait for it, a board game of battle and strategy. Vitala wins a regional tournament and, like her victorious predecessors, is invited to the palace to meet the emperor, who is a player of the game. There’s some nonsense, some drooling, sex interrupted by an assassination attempt, a rape, and (not a spoiler even a little bit), Vitala, rather than killing Lucien – or letting him die and taking the credit with her bosses – saves him. Then there’s some strategy, a lot of wandering through the land, some sex, an usurper, a siege, and a trio of girls saving the world (or at least the empire). That last part is awesome.

There are some things in this book that are, I think, well-intentioned, but that, more or less, fail in execution, and you will want to know about these things. Thing the First: Vitala has PTSD, born of her assassin training, that is inexorably tied to intercourse. Why? Dude, I don’t know, but I suspect because it provides the opportunity for that same fawning masculine over-solicitousness about sex that often applies to virgin heroines – which many, many women find romantic. Raby dedicates dozens of pages to the issue: it’s the primary source of conflict between Lucien and Vitala (even though, you know, he’s the emperor and she’s charged with killing him) and is the reason that the book has so much oral sex instead of intercourse. There’s a too-pat solution at the end of the book, and I found the whole issue too-lightly handled. (Of course, if you want to discuss the too-light treatment, we could discuss the on-page rape of Vitala that seems not to affect her at all.)

Thing the Second: Vitala is mixed race, a child born of her mother’s forced relationship with a Kjallan soldier. Little is made of Vitala’s relationship with her parents: her mother’s eventual love, her non-existent relationship with her father, her terrible relationship with her mother’s husband. But much is made of the fact that Vitala has her father’s dark hair, instead of the blond hair of everyone else in her country. As a result, Vitala is resented by both her people and her Kjallan overlords, and while Raby is attempting, I think, to make a point about people caught between cultures, it mostly just reads as the whitest of privilege for a heroine to whine about her brown hair. (Note: If you want a more sophisticated take on a heroine caught between cultures in a fantasy romance, try Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope, which features a biracial heroine.)

Thing the Third: Lucien is an amputee. Hooray, not so much for Lucien, but for everyone who wants to see people with different physical abilities in books. (Of course, sorry, Lucien, one memorable Amazon review deemed you too beta to be sexy.) Regrettably, though, you’d hardly know he’s an amputee. He has an artificial limb and a crutch, both of which function poorly, so that Vitala can give him a better, amazing leg for a wedding present. But in between, there’s a lot of horseback riding and carriage riding and sitting and, weirdly, as soon as he takes his leg off to get into bed with Vitala he has these amazing, cat-like reflexes. It reads as both too easily handled and too easily dismissed.

So should you read it? Look, do you like romance? Do you like the overblown circumstances, the largely manufactured conflict, the panting, the contrived circumstances and frankly, the contrived sex? That’s okay! Then go for it! Assassin’s Gambit has solid fantasy world-building, pretty funny dialogue, and unlike a lot of fantasy heroines, a super-competent heroine who saves the world. But if you already don’t like romance, this isn’t going to change your mind.

Have you read Assassin’s Gambit? What did you think?

Amy

 

Amy Tenbrink spends her days handling content distribution and intellectual property transactions for an entertainment company. Her nights and weekends over the last twenty years have involved managing a wide variety of events, including theatrical productions, marching band shows, sporting events, and interdisciplinary conferences. Most recently, she has organized three Harry Potter conferences (The Witching Hour, in Salem, Massachusetts; Phoenix Rising, in the French Quarter of New Orleans; and Terminus, in downtown Chicago) and six years of Sirens. Her experience includes all aspects of event planning, from logistics and marketing to legal consulting and budget management, and she holds degrees with honors from both the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and the Georgetown University Law Center. She likes nothing so much as monster girls, Weasleys, and a well-planned revolution.

 

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Books and Breakfast: August Giveaway

As Sirens veterans know, each year, Sirens selects a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books related to our theme—and invites attendees to bring their breakfast during the conference and have an informal conversation about those books. Over the years, this program has highlighted the depth and breadth of each year’s theme and given early risers both company and book talk!

For 2016, we’ve kicked Books and Breakfast off early—so all of you have time to choose a couple books and read! This year, we’ve also launched a giveaway program to get these books into your hands prior to Sirens.

 

AUGUST GIVEAWAY

For August, we’ll be giving away, to one lucky winner, two Books and Breakfast selections: Joplin’s Ghost and There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories. You can read more about the books below, but here are the rules:

To enter, you must tell us a fantasy book, written by a woman or genderqueer author, that you think everyone should read. All entries must be submitted by August 31, 2016, either by Tweeting them to @sirens_con or by emailing them to (help at sirensconference.org). Each individual may enter only once and you must currently reside in the United States in order to win. By entering, you grant Sirens the right to use your entry and to name you (by name or Twitter alias) in connection with that entry. The winner must provide their address to Sirens in order to receive the prize. This offer void where prohibited.

 

Joplin's Ghost

Joplin’s Ghost by Tananarive Due

Joplin’s Ghost is, more than anything, a genre-busting, ambitious work of tremendous scope. It’s part historical re-creation, part contemporary bildungsroman, part complex ghost story, and part heated erotica. And in a year when Sirens is going to talk about lovers, an affirmation that, yes, sexual encounters with the ghost of Scott Joplin definitely fit the bill.

When she was ten, Phoenix Smalls was nearly killed in a freak encounter with a haunted piano. Shortly thereafter, her father found her in the middle of the night, playing ragtime melodies on the piano with a skill years beyond her training. Now in her early twenties, Phoenix is an up-and-coming R&B singer, one who incorporates ragtime syncopation into her work in a way heretofore unknown in the world. As Phoenix’s story weaves around Joplin’s—both his early 1900s history and his contemporary, erotic ghostly return—Joplin’s Ghost turns into a coming-of-age tale featuring Phoenix, her dreams, and her desires.

 

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Several years ago, when Sirens focused on Tales Retold, much of the Sirens community read another work of Petrushevskaya’s: There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales. In that work, Petrushevskaya uses fairy tale motifs, often in combination with ghostly happenings, to tell stories that should be, and yet too often aren’t, important to Mother Russia: stories of kitchens, of bedrooms, of gravesites. Stories important to women and featuring women.

The next translated collection of her work, There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories, features similarly important women’s stories. This time, however, Petrushevskaya approaches her stories not through fairy tale themes, but through contemporary romance tropes. There’s little fantasy to be found in this collection, but Petrushevskaya has much to say about romance, love, sex, and regret.

 

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Sirens Review Squad: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

TheSummerPrince

The Sirens Review Squad is made up of Sirens volunteers, who submit short reviews of books (often fantasy literature by women authors) they’ve read and enjoyed. If you’re interested in sending us a review to run on the blog, please email us! Today, we welcome a review from Kayla Shifrin on Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince. 

The Teenager’s Closed Pyramid: A Review of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince

Any review of The Summer Prince would be incomplete without dwelling, in detail, on the grand city of Palmares Tres. A soaring glass pyramid, divided into tiers that re-enforce class divisions, crawling with technologies that alternately soothe and spy on its citizens – Palmares Tres is life breathed into glass, and the reader sees and hears every inch of the city as the protagonist June passes through it. Her friend and lover, the doomed Summer King Enki, can literally feel the heartbeat of their city in every cell of his nanotech-enhanced body. Still, there’s a flaw in the gorgeous world of Palmares Tres. It’s not the pyramid, it’s not the technology, and it’s not the stubborn, driven, occasionally bratty June – not exactly. The problem is that the world of The Summer Prince is a teenager’s world. I don’t mean “the story is centered on a teenager”; I mean that the narrative itself conforms to a teenager’s understanding, desire, and political perspective. There’s a subtle but important difference in YA fiction between writing a teenage protagonist and writing a teenage world.

June, like many YA heroines and all good teenagers, has figured out that her civilization is founded on complete and utter bullshit. She loves her city, but the entire pyramid is rife with lies and inequality. The adults who run it are various combinations of cruel, stupid, and cynical. Traditions and taboos are enforced out of hatred and fear – especially fear of young people, change, and anything associated with either. All societies devour their children, but Palmares Tres does so literally: the teenage Summer King is sacrificed every few years in order to maintain the dominance of a corrupt matriarchy. At the end of the story, the brilliant, transcendent Enki engineers his sacrifice so that June can be named the new Queen of Palmares Tres. Once enthroned, June rewrites the law so that no Summer King will ever have to die again.

Our new queen June proves herself to be obnoxious, judgmental, self-righteous, loving, devoted, passionate, and ambitious. She’s consumed by the desire to do the right thing but frequently makes tactical mistakes, mostly when she fails to understand other people’s feelings and motivations. In other words, she’s a perfectly realistic teenager. But teenagers, generally speaking, don’t make very good political leaders. Their diagnosis of social problems is absolutely correct – “this is all total bullshit” – but their prescribed treatment – “I should run the world” – is not a cure. An enlightened despot is still a despot. June may be sympathetic toward the people of the slums at the bottom of the pyramid, but it’s hard to imagine how a privileged eighteen-year girl could single-handedly fix an entrenched economic disaster zone. Even if she tried, it’s hard to imagine that the despised council of Aunties – who still hold significant political power in the city – wouldn’t just assassinate her as soon as they had the chance.

But The Summer Prince is content to end with June ascending the throne. Revolutions, as we discussed at the last Sirens conference, aren’t easy. They aren’t easy in real life and they shouldn’t be easy in fiction. Removing a bad leader from power and replacing him/her with a good one is a start, but it doesn’t remove the entrenched inequalities that fed the system in the first place. At best, it’s a symbolic move, and symbols can’t fix societies. They can only provide focus and direction.

June is tricked into becoming queen, but the decision to remain queen – and therefore become a symbol – is entirely her own. As “the best artist in Palmares Tres”, her canvas is frequently her own body, or images of herself. Her collaborative projects with Enki culminate in her queenship, where she’s fully transformed into the living embodiment of the movement toward youth and growth and political change. Enki has a very uneasy relationship with self-as-symbol, but June blithely accepts her new role. She grieves over her dead friend, of course, but never appears to doubt she’ll transcend their social order even after Enki was crushed beneath it.

Maybe The Summer Prince, for all its focus on inequality, isn’t really opposed to the concept. Maybe hierarchies are only a problem – from June’s point of view – if the wrong symbol sits on top. The mean and bitter old lady, instead of the totally reasonable teenage girl. Maybe June’s revolution fails because it’s not really meant to succeed.

But I wanted a revolution. I wanted June’s teenage perspective to open up, dilating into the larger, messier world of adulthood. I wanted her to realize the old queen was more than just a symbol of authoritarianism and stagnation – she was a person, with thoughts and intentions. I wanted June to notice that sometimes leaders have to compromise if they plan to keep their heads. More than anything, I wanted June to grow up.

Maturity doesn’t necessarily mean cynicism or amorality. Stories don’t always have to descend into grimdark, where leadership is always diabolical or stupid and getting worse. But a coming of age story – like a revolution – is a journey. It doesn’t end in the same small place where it began, but opens up into a strange, uncertain world. All the glorious imagery of Palmares Tres, the ambiguity of its perspectives – from the heights of the ballroom looking down through a glass floor into the mists of the slum, from the slum gazing up at the unreachable, glamorous palace above – all of this would have benefited and been enriched by a more complex, maturing, evolving ending.

 

Kayla Shifrin lives in Brooklyn with her husband, a very large pile of books, and two cats who are possibly demons. She writes sometimes and reads constantly, and would read in her sleep if that were a thing, and hopes someday that will be a thing.

 

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What is something about Sirens that surprised you?

Sherwood Smith (@sherwood_smith)
I think my biggest surprise at Sirens was my discovery that there can be many points-of-view, but the atmosphere is not divisive or condemnatory. I have never had a sense that anyone’s opinion is ignored because the speaker is not cool enough, thin enough, young enough, radical enough, or whatever enough. Sirens has become more conscious of making certain that this is a safe space for a spectrum of opinions, something that many women my age have encountered seldom enough for it to be as remarkable as it is appreciated.

I love the fact that Sirens does active outreach with their scholarships in order to make the conference available to those who might not have the wherewithal to attend. I also like the fact that my registration fees make possible those scrumptious shared meals—each sparking so many interesting conversations—that in fact, cost more than the registration actually provides. Whoever does the ordering clearly loves food, and also takes a wide variety of dietary needs into consideration when ordering.

So to help keep costs down, on the last day, there is the fun of the auction, where those with discretionary funds can duke it out in bid wars over some truly remarkable items and offers. The auction is exciting, often hilarious, even if your wallet is flat!
 

Casey Blair (@CaseyLBlair)
I was surprised by how welcoming and thoughtful the community is. At Sirens people go out of their way to include newcomers and quiet or shy attendees in their meals and conversations. So many of us are introverts, but it’s rare to find a community that knows how to create spaces that aren’t overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting a professional conference to be the place where I felt most comfortable being myself and making lasting friendships.
 

@jazzagold
It was really great to meet other writers both published and unpublished. I expected to meet lots of readers and nerds but I don’t know why I was so surprised to meet so many writers. I knew this but it’s nice to meet people who are writers as a writer. There’s definitely a chance to talk about writing but not in a weird way where you put published people on pedestals.
 

s.e. smith (@realsesmith)
This may sound silly, but I was both surprised and pleased by the level of organization my first year, and now I’m spoiled. The Sirens crew run an extremely tight ship, more so than any conference I’ve ever attended, and every year, I think “oh, so this is how you run a conference.” I always feel so well taken care of from the second I walk into the registration area to the moment we say farewell until next year, and there’s an incredible level of attention to detail, interest in hearing feedback, and focus on making sure everyone has an outstanding time. It means a lot.
 

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Five Comics Trade Collections I Can’t Wait to Read

By Sabrina Chin

I enjoy comics because they combine storytelling with arts and graphics, and I find that the combination helps your imagination as the story unfolds. Here are just few comics collections whose descriptions have caught my eye and made it on to my to-read pile.
 

Thor
1. Thor Vol. 1: The Goddess of Thunder by Jason Aaron
Thor Odinson, the God of Thunder is unable to lift his hammer, Mjolnir, as he is found to be unworthy as something dark has befallen him. However, it looks like a mysterious woman is able to lift the hammer and transform into an all-new version of the mighty Thor as the Goddess of Thunder. Who is this woman who leads the fight against the Frost Giants who invade Earth? This is also the first female Thor.

Ms Marvel
2. Ms. Marvel Vol. 1-11 (collected) by G. Willow Wilson
Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani-American from Jersey City, New Jersey, is the fourth character to take on the name Ms. Marvel. These first few issues center on her origin story as she comes to terms with her powers.

Lumberjanes
3. Lumberjanes Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson
Lumberjanes follows Mal, Ripley, Molly, April, and Jo, a group of girls spending a summer at a scout camp, and the strange creatures and supernatural phenomena they encounter there.

Steven Universe
4. Steven Universe Vol. 1 by Jeremy Sorese and Rebecca Sugar
Steven Universe is anything but normal! This first volume follows Steven as he learns how to save the day with the help of Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, and what it means it be a great friend and neighbor. Includes bike races and late night karaoke!

Gotham Academy
5. Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan
Gotham Academy is the most prestigious school in Gotham City funded by Bruce Wayne. Only the best and brightest students attend, where they study in classrooms, explore secret passages, and summon terrifying spirits. Sounds like some adventures to be had while at school!

Sabrina Chin works full time as a software developer for a telecommunications company located in the Washington, DC, area. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science and completed her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University. Sabrina has been volunteering for conferences in a technical capacity since 2003. She oversaw the creation and maintenance of the conference websites for Phoenix Rising, Terminus, and Sirens, including the registration, submission, and other back-end systems. In the little spare time found between working and volunteering, she enjoys reading a range of young adult, science fiction, fantasy, and graphic novels.
 

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I am a __________ and I love Sirens because…

Casey Blair (@CaseyLBlair)
I am a nerd, and I love Sirens because no one is restrained in their excitement about women in fantasy books. Everyone cares deeply, everyone has thoughts, and not only is every attendee thrilled to share, they’re just as delighted to listen. There’s no distinction between pro or fan, writer or reader or academic: we all want to squee, rant, and learn about books.
 

s.e. smith (@realsesmith)
I am a sh*tstarter, and I love Sirens because it’s a conference for, about, and by people who want to completely upend things, and that makes it my kind of party. Whether I’m paneling, hanging out in the lobby, eating with friends, or attending a workshop, I’m surrounded by people who are as passionate as I am about making the world a better place.
 

@jazzagold
I am a reader, and I love Sirens because I get to spend time with people who are equally as nerdy as I am about books. I also think that I’ve met people who’ve read more than I have, which makes me feel both behind the curve and also super excited, because I always know I can get a book recommendation.
 

Edith Hope Bishop (@ehbishop)
I am a writer and I love Sirens because I get to spend time with other lovers of literature, many of whom share my particular interests. At Sirens, I learn about craft, as well as the publishing industry, and I always meet fascinating and inspiring women who have stories to share.

 

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