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Archive for May 2017

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 9, Issue 6 (May 2017)

In this issue:

 

THANK YOU FOR YOUR PROPOSALS

Thank you, everyone who submitted programming proposals! We had a record-breaking number of submissions this year, and the vetting board is hard at work reviewing this year’ programming. Decisions will be emailed to submitters by June 12, as will programming scholarship awards (Con or Bust and financial hardship scholarships have already been awarded). All presenters must be registered for Sirens and paid in full by July 9, the presenter registration deadline.

 

LIMITED REGISTRATIONS REMAINING

We’re thrilled—and somewhat shocked—by the unprecedented amount of growth in registrations for Sirens this year! We have carefully examined our available space in Vail, and we can accommodate only 190 total registrations this year. We are holding registrations for everyone who proposed programming this year, regardless of whether the vetting board accepts their proposals, until July 9, after which they will be released to the public. For the full announcement and ticket updates, please visit this link.

As of May 30, we have only 9 registrations remaining! We’ll continue to post updates on registration availability on this blog, on our Twitter and on our Facebook page. Please also watch our Twitter for announcements of any individuals seeking to sell their registrations.

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

For May, Sirens co-founder Amy Tenbrink read Kelly Barnhill’s award-winning The Girl Who Drank the Moon, which she found “breathtaking: both original and reclaimed, both philosophical and whimsical, always compulsively readable.” Read her review over on the blog and on Goodreads.
 

READ ALONG WITH FAYE

Bayou Magic

For the Reading Challenge this month, Faye read Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Bayou Magic, which she loved for being so full of goodness, atmosphere and “the grandmother-granddaughter relationship that Rhodes has become known for.” Check out her full review on the blog and on Goodreads.
 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…


Interesting Links

 


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

 

Read Along with Faye: Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Bayou Magic

Read Along with Faye is back for the 2017 Sirens Reading Challenge! Each month, Sirens communications staff member Faye Bi will review and discuss a book on her journey to read the requisite 25 books to complete the challenge. Titles will consist of this year’s Sirens theme of women who work magic. Light spoilers ahead. We invite you to join us and read along!

Jewell Parker Rhodes once wrote that, despite not being from the area, “Louisiana profoundly stirs my heart, mind, and spirit.” This sums up my feeling as well, despite having only visited once—and too briefly, at that. Her Bayou Magic so strongly evokes a sense of place: the humidity and swampiness of the bayou, the aroma of Cajun spices and stews, the layers of family dynamics atop a multitude of geographies, religions and immigrant histories, the very real economic and environmental concerns of oil spills, and of course, magic.

As the youngest of four sisters, it’s ten-year-old Maddy’s turn to have a bayou summer with her Grandmere Lavalier, hours away from her family home in New Orleans. The people of the bayou have been waiting for her. Grandmere (or Queenie as she’s known) is famed for her magical abilities, and she’s picked Maddy to carry on her legacy. And it is indeed a magical summer. Rhodes sets Maddy’s journey of self-discovery against winking fireflies, menacing gators and fantastic food, and Maddy has some great interactions with the vibrant, diverse cast of locals. She and Bear, an eleven-year-old boy, become fast and adorable friends. Better yet, Maddy glimpses Mami Wata, a mermaid only she can see—which Rhodes reworked from an African diaspora folktale in a way that’s beautiful, unsettling and powerful.

It’s really hard not to love Bayou Magic. There’s just so much goodness and atmosphere, with some heartbreaking family moments (Bear and his father, for instance, keep reappearing in my mind), and is there anything better than the grandmother-granddaughter relationship that Rhodes has become known for? In the end, Maddy is a heroine easy to cheer for as she discovers her powers to save the bayou from environmental disaster. Spoiler alert: the book is set the same summer as the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

If there was one criticism, it’s that Bayou Magic is paced a little unevenly, because two-thirds through I did realize that there was a plot, and the resolution to the environmental conflict was fairly unsubtle. But it’s so easily forgivable for its wonderful themes and powerful setting. Read it, give it to your friends, and give it to your friends’ kids. Definitely read it out loud. And for black children in the United States, I’m so glad this book exists.
 


 
Faye Bi works as a book publicist in New York City, and leads 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.
 

Book Club: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

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!

What do you think it is about fairy tales?

Are we taught to like them, do you think? Taught to think they’re important? Taught to think that, even with magical pumpkins and glass slippers, your window to snare your one true love is fleeting? That even if you give up your voice and spend your days walking on knives, a short-lived affair is reasonable recompense? That you might be curious, but if you’re too curious, death awaits. Fairy tales: where you really do start someone’s daughter, only to grow into someone’s wife and, if you’re lucky, someone’s mother. Except that you aren’t really lucky, are you? Because your husband will probably abandon your kids to a witch, who — in the grand tradition of powerful women everywhere — will obviously eat them.

As Sirens discussed at length in 2012, we — as women and non-binary people — spend a lot of time re-claiming our stories. Remembering that, in early versions, a gaggle of wise women saved Little Red from the wolf. Restructuring tales so that women’s power isn’t unusual or bad or based on chomping children. So that we have options other than being meekly grateful for our dowry as we’re married off to murderers. So that we have a role in life other than attempting to redeem our fathers’ failures.

Ugh. What do you think it is about fairy tales?

As I sit down to write this, I wonder: How many fairy tales do I really love? How many retellings? How many reclamations? Perhaps The Little Mermaid, in its Andersen form, where abandoning yourself for a dude you’ve only seen, only to wind up sea foam when he casts you aside for another, seems like maybe how things go. Maybe Dark Triumph, Robin LaFevers’ almost unrecognizable Beauty and the Beast, where Beauty is, by many measures, more terrifying than the beast. Definitely Mr. Fox, by Helen Oyeyemi, where a bro writer’s fed-up female muse makes him retell Bluebeard over and over and over again.

Which is, perhaps, the long way of saying that I’m a fairy-tale skeptic. To me, they feel like more of the patriarchy: something cautionary, punishing, limiting. Something that tells girls to be good, to be kind, to behave. That if you stay on the path, and out of the forbidden room, and you just give up your voice, you’ll get your familial reward.

And then, here we are: The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill’s both familiar and not-so-much fairy tale.

It must be hard to write original fairy tales, don’t you think? Something that feels both comfy and wondrous. Something that resounds with all the import that we’ve assigned to fairy tales over the years, with gravitas, with profundity. And yet something that delights. Something that takes something so very patriarchal and transforms it into something feminist, inclusive, empathetic. How Sisyphean.

And yet, Barnhill does it. The Girl Who Drank the Moon is breathtaking: both original and reclaimed, both philosophical and whimsical, always compulsively readable.

In The Girl Who Drank the Moon, the Protectorate is a Puritan-ish society. A group of men — not necessarily white, but neither clearly not-white — runs the show: they boss everyone around, skim money off the trading, and oh yes, once a year, sacrifice the youngest child in the village to a witch — a witch that the bloody jerks don’t think exists. They purportedly made her up to terrify the villagers, and they just sort of assume that a wild animal eats the baby every year.

But there is a witch. Her name is Xan, and she has no idea why these great idiots leave a baby in the woods every year, but every year, she collects the baby and delivers it to a family on the other side of the woods, feeding it starlight across the way. How lovely is that?

Until whoops, Xan accidentally feeds one baby moonlight instead of starlight, which enmagicks the baby. Xan keeps this baby, naming her Luna, and raises her as both granddaughter and nascent witch — or rather a village raises her: Xan, a friendly swamp monster, and a perfectly tiny dragon.

So much of this story is about growing up and growing older: how children see things differently, how the older generation steps aside (or doesn’t) for the younger, how much puberty sucks, how memory can trick you or fail, how time runs out. And, of course, this story is about concrete things, too: A volcano. Seven-league boots. A woman with a tiger’s heart. A boy who thinks sacrificing babies is horrible. A girl afraid of nothing. A story told all wrong.

The Girl Who Drinks the Moon is the sort of fairy tale I wish I’d had growing up: one where women are powerful and monsters are kind and growing up is hard and the right person saying the right thing at the right time can change the world.

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 seven 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.

 

Limited Number of 2017 Sirens Registrations Remaining

In 2009, in its inaugural year, Sirens welcomed its first attendees in Vail: nearly 100 people joined us to discuss and debate the diverse, remarkable women of fantasy literature, with a special focus on female warriors. High on a mountaintop, Tamora Pierce delivered the very first Sirens keynote address, sharing with attendees—well into the night—her very personal journey through fantasy literature.

In 2016, in its eighth year, Sirens welcomed its highest number of registrations ever: just over 100 people joined us in Denver to again discuss and debate the diverse, remarkable women of fantasy literature, this time paying particular attention to lovers and the idea that whom you choose to love—or not love—changes you and can help you change the world.

In the years in between, we have examined faeries and monsters, hauntings and rebels. We’ve had our first reunion, and welcomed hundreds of different people to Sirens, some only once and some many times. Our community, though sometimes small, is breathtakingly mighty.

 

2017 GROWTH

In 2017, nearly 150 people have already registered for Sirens! We are amazed. We are thrilled. We are, as you might expect, somewhat shocked.

Given this unprecedented growth, we must impose a registration cap on Sirens this year. We have carefully examined our available space in Vail, and we can accommodate only 190 registrations.

As of today, only 21 registrations remain available for Sirens in 2017. This number does not include registrations set aside for scholarship recipients and potential presenters. We are currently offering these 21 registrations on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

PRESENTERS

Sirens is currently holding a registration for every person who proposed programming to Sirens this year. We will hold these registrations for these potential presenters, regardless of whether the vetting board accepts their proposals, until the July 9 presenter registration deadline. On July 10, if any presenters have not registered, we will make those remaining registrations available to others on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

SCHOLARSHIPS

Sirens has already awarded its Con or Bust and financial hardship scholarships; these awards will not affect the number of registrations available. The scholarships for exemplary programming proposals will be awarded in June and, as we are already holding registrations for presenters, these awards will not affect the number of registrations available.

 

UPDATES

If we find that we have additional registrations available, we will make an announcement on this blog, on our Twitter, and on our Facebook page. Please also watch our Twitter for announcements of any individuals seeking to sell their registrations.

 

TICKETS

Our Sirens Supper is sold out for 2017. We have only two Sirens Studio tickets remaining, so if you are interested in attending the Studio, we encourage you to register as soon as possible. We continue to sell Sirens Shuttle tickets and do not yet anticipate any availability issues, but we will let you know if that changes.

 

QUESTIONS

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at (help at sirensconference.org). Thank you so much to everyone who has ever attended a Sirens—or who is registered this year for the first time—for helping build this brilliant community!

 

Sirens Meet-Up: Denver

Though nothing can replace Sirens in October, we’ve begun hosting occasional gatherings throughout the year where our staff is based or occasionally travels to—and it’s been a nice way for the Sirens community to stay in touch. We had a great time last month in New York City’s meet-up with tea and books, so we’re putting on another meet-up: Denver edition… this time with margaritas, dinner, and books! Want to join us?

As ever, we welcome all members of the Sirens community, whether you’ve never attended Sirens or you’re a veteran! Are you new and curious? Heard of us but haven’t made it to Sirens yet? Attended before and want to bring your friends this year? Just want to catch up? Come on down! Bring your book recommendations, too!

Date: Thursday, May 25, 2017
Time: 6:00–8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)
Location: La Sandia, Park Meadows Mall, 8419 Park Meadows Center Dr. in Lone Tree, Colorado

Notes: Participants must pay for their own drinks and dinner.

If you think you might join us, please RSVP to either @sirens_con on Twitter, here on Facebook, or to Faye at (faye.bi at sirensconference.org).

See you there!
 

May Fantasy New Releases

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of May book releases of fantasy by and about women. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve sold a fantasy work, read a great recently-released story, discovered a fantastic link that we missed, or if you’ve got a book or story review to share, please get in touch and leave a comment below.

 

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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