Archive for January 2019

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 11, Issue 1 (January 2019)

This month:

Welcome back, Sirens! We have brilliant 2019 Guests of Honor to introduce you to, Sirens Studio summaries and faculty bios are up on the website (get your tickets!), we’re busy reading fantasy books.

Just a reminder: Sirens Studio is October 22–23, 2019; Sirens is October 24–27, 2019, and we’ll be at the Hilton Inverness Hotel in Denver, CO.



And let us reintroduce you to our 2019 Guests of Honor: Mishell Baker (Borderline), Ausma Zehanat Khan (The Bloodprint), Rebecca Roanhorse (Trail of Lightning), and for the first time at Sirens, a scholar, Dr. Suzanne Scott (Fake Geek Girls), and a Sirens Studio guest of honor, Roshani Chokshi (Aru Shah and the End of Time). We’ll be speaking to each of them in the coming months about their work, fantasy literature, and heroes, but get a head start reading their work here.

Register for Sirens



Pencils ready? Sirens Studio summaries are live! Here is the list of faculty with their topics for reading, writing, and career intensives:




You’ll want to nab Studio tickets soon, since we’re limiting the attendance to 70. Read the full summaries and faculty bios over on the Sirens Studio page!

Read About Sirens Studio



Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble

Amy generally reads upwards of 150 books a year, and through the monthly Sirens book club, she shares her insights, opinions, and a teeny bit of her personal reading history. This month, she was smitten with Anna Meriano’s chapter book, Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble: “Please, fantasy authors… Give me more women with big business dreams and big family dreams and big dreams that they’ll achieve through hard work and smart business and just a bit of magic.” Read her full review on the blog and on Goodreads.



In February, we’ll have information on how you can apply for Sirens scholarships, Sirens co-founder Amy Tenbrink’s thoughts on our 2019 “heroes” theme, preliminary information about Sirens’s programming (which is presented by attendees!), and more.

Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at and questions about programming to (programming at


Book Club: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

Each year, Sirens chair Amy Tenbrink posts monthly reviews of new-to-her fantasy books by women and nonbinary authors. You can find all of her Sirens Book Club reviews at the Sirens Goodreads Group. We invite you to read along and discuss!

A Dash of Trouble

So often, fantasy books—even feminist fantasy books—are about women claiming men’s power. Seizing a throne held by a man, perhaps. Cutting down a sword wielded by a man, often. Sorcery taught by a man, sometimes. Dominance stolen from a man during sex, occasionally. As if power comes only in masculine forms. As if in order to gain power, we must rob men of theirs: take their leadership, their weapons, their knowledge, their seed. As if the only path to power is the one they chose, they covet, they permit.

And that’s all fine, I suppose, though not nearly enough attention is paid to breaking down those particular patterns in fantasy works. But I frequently grow weary of those same tropes, those same plots, those same imbalances and authorities and uprisings.

Which is to say that I have a soft spot for fantasy books about traditionally feminine skills made magic. There’s something compelling about taking our foremothers’ crafts—baking, singing, knitting, and thread-spinning—and rendering them magic. It’s a ready metaphor for claiming our stories and our power, not in traditionally masculine ways, but in the traditionally feminine ways we have always used to survive: through sisterhood and secrets and a damned good loaf of bread.

(Side note: You can imagine the incandescence of my rage when these books about traditionally feminine skills made magic feature a male protagonist mastering those skills to save a damsel in distress. But that is a whole different book review or twenty.)

Anna Meriano’s A Dash of Trouble, the first book in her Love Sugar Magic series, overflows with brujería de la cocina. Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas. And from the first chapter, the book gathered me up with scents of cinnamon and cardamom and baking bread and sugary cookies—not to mention the fact that Leo’s mom is the businessperson of the family, the one working, working, working to achieve her dream of owning a larger house down the street from her Amor y Azúcar Panadería.

People, I was smitten.

Please, fantasy authors, give me more women with small businesses born of everyday magics. Give me more women who, on the page, are spectacularly resourceful in bookkeeping and customer service and magic. Give me more women with big business dreams and big family dreams and big dreams that they’ll achieve through hard work and smart business and just a bit of magic. Please, fantasy authors, please?

Eleven-year-old Leo is part of that family of big dreams, the youngest of five sisters—and her frustration is palpable: She’s the youngest, the one with the fewest freedoms and responsibilities, the only one who isn’t fluent in Spanish, the one who has to go to school while everyone else gets to stay home and prepare for the bakery’s Day of the Dead celebration. Even as she clings to her much-loved childhood traditions, like dressing up for Halloween, she wants so badly to be grown up, to be taken seriously, to have responsibilities equal to her older sisters, and to be part of whatever secrets her family is telling in Spanish.

So she does what any eleven-year-old protagonist full of curiosity and vexation would do: She sneaks out of school to spy on her family. Leo has more than a dash of Claudia Kincaid and Trixie Belden.

What she discovers through her spying is her family’s magia: The women of her family, including her four older sisters, are brujas: They can influence emotions, make objects appear from nowhere, and commune with the dead. And all those “lucky” cakes that Amor y Azúcar Panadería sells? Well, they really are lucky.

When Leo’s best friend Caroline has a falling out with another friend, Leo finds the perfect opportunity to prove—mostly to herself—that she’s just as smart and responsible and grown as any of her sisters. So she and Caroline start solving Caroline’s problem with spells, spells with hilarious, unintended, regrettable consequences. Spells with consequences that maybe Leo can’t fix on her own. Consequences that might cost Leo her best friend. Consequences that Leo might, gasp, not be able to hide from her mom.

A Dash of Trouble deftly navigates all those minefields of being eleven. Of still finding comfort in rituals and objects that you increasingly see as babyish. Of wanting to be given more responsibilities and more freedoms and more independence. Of just knowing that you can tackle anything, solve anything, fix anything—until you can’t. Of walking that tightrope between being a little kid and growing up, even as those who know you best don’t even notice that you’re bigger and braver and bolder than you were even last week. Of learning what responsibility really means, and what being a good friend and a good daughter really means, and what fixing your mistakes really means, even among a series of truly unfortunate events.

What I loved about this book—even more than its baking magic, even more than its panadería-jefe mom—is how active Leo is. Things don’t happen to Leo; she happens to them. She makes decisions, good and bad: She sneaks out of school, she convinces Caroline to cast spells, she fixes her own messes (with a bit of help from her dead abuela). Leo is a girl who gets shit done. And when you get to the big showdown between Leo and her mom, after her mom unravels everything that’s happened, Leo’s mom is equal parts exasperated that Leo didn’t tell her before and proud that Leo was independent enough and resourceful enough and determined enough to fix her own mistakes. Leo is more than my kind of heroine: She’s the sort of heroine that I give to my seven-year-old niece as she learns to navigate her independence and her mistakes and her power.

Amy Tenbrink spends her days handling strategic and intellectual property transactions as an executive vice president for a major media company. Her nights and weekends over the last twenty-five 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 nine 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.


New Fantasy Books: January 2019

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of January 2019 fantasy book releases by and about women and nonbinary folk. Let us know what you’re looking forward to, or any titles that we’ve missed, in the comments!

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.


RSS Feed

The news archive for Sirens is linked below as an RSS feed. If you need instructions or would like more information, please click here. If you have questions about our RSS feed, please email us at (web at

RSS Feed Button



annual programming series, attendees, auction, bookclub, book club, book friends, book list, book lists, book reviews, books, books and breakfast, bookstore, boot camp, chat, community, Community Day, compendium, deadlines, essay series, faculty, features, further reading, giveaway, guests of honor, hotel, inclusivity, interviews, meet-up, Meet the Staff, menus, narrate conferences, New Releases, newsletter, newsletters, perspective, professionals, programming, read along, recap, registration, review squad, schedule, schedules, scholarships, sirens, Sirens 2009, Sirens 2010, Sirens 2011, Sirens 2012, Sirens 2013, Sirens 2014, Sirens 2015, Sirens 2016, Sirens 2017, Sirens 2018, Sirens 2019, Sirens 2020, Sirens 2021, Sirens At Home, Sirens Shuttle, Sirens Studio, Sirens Supper, site visit, skamania, special edition, sponsorship, support, testimonials, themes, things we're excited about, travel, volunteering, website, where are they now



June, May, April, March, February, January

October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January

November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January

December, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January

December, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January

December, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March

November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January

December, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, March, February, January

December, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January

December, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January

December, November, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January

December, November, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January

December, November, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January
Meet Our Guests of Honor
About the Conference
Sirens Twitter
Present Programming
Sirens Facebook

Connect with the Sirens community

Sign up for the Sirens newsletter

Subscribe to our mailing list