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Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Edith Hope Bishop

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

 
Edith Hope Bishop (@ehbishop)
Sirens are fabled to be seductive, often dangerous creatures who lure unsuspecting sailors to their deaths beneath the sea. While I admit to some personal delight in this characterization, the truth is that my experience with Sirens has been entirely different. Sirens has been life-giving, healing, honest, and authentic. When at Sirens I feel both safe and buoyant, lifted up by the supportive, loving, and highly intelligent people who attend. The truest connection I see between the conference and the mythological creatures is through song. Sirens are known for the power of their voices and for the undeniable allure of their being. That, I believe, is true. I hope it isn’t too sappy to say, that yes, Sirens, your voices are strong and have absolutely won my heart.

Love Song for Sirens
Seaweed girls-
Octopi-
Water demons-
Rebel swans.
All of the sea-
That deep body
New and old.
Fluid words, story song.
The long slow tide
Of time
Into what we dream
Possible.

With all my heart,
Edie

 

Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Artemis Grey

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

 
Artemis Grey (@greyartemis)
She was going to fail. That wasn’t in question. Her mother knew it, and her father, too. They had told her as much. Even her grandmother, wild in her youth, agreed with the others. They warned her away with the kindest intentions, speaking with love and protective ministrations. Writing is something almost no one succeeds in. You don’t want to waste yourself. Think of the heartache.

They were right, she knew.

For a while, she resisted. But the song of lost words, of tales long untold, began to writhe and roil beneath her skin, crawling along muscle and nesting against bone. To ignore them brought only more discomfort, an artificial tumor that she could excise if only she lanced the growth with a pen and allowed it to bleed out onto paper.

In the daylight, it was easier, amid the raucous churning of others’ lives, oblivious to the worlds rising and crumbling inside her soul. But the dark hours were long, filled with the whispers of unheard voices and the leftover pieces of unlived lives. And the twilight of dawn was the hardest of all, when she had to turn and face the rising of the sun, and put her back to all that she loved. It was the sickle moon that finally broke her chains, lancing loops of shackle with horns upturned, piercing tips all jagged truth.

And in the smallest hours of deepest night, she drew her pen, and chose to write.

 

Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Yoon Ha Lee

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

 
Yoon Ha Lee (@motomaratai)
Sirens Story Wot Needs a Title

In a tower by the sea, there lived a woman who sang to the gulls every morning. Hers was not a beautiful voice, but she knew the storm-words and the rain-words and the tide-words, and with it she enticed the boys and girls and alts of the village. They would listen to her weather-prophecies before going to sea, and their nets brought back not only fish and kelp and shrimp but shattered chains, bent coins, silks rotted partway through: the treasures of ancient pirates and tribute ships.

One evening, as the woman gazed out the window, she sang again, and this time not to the village children but to the sea’s denizens. From the depths of the moon-blurred sea came sirens, their eyes dark as pearls, their skin like deepest night, their hair tangled with the broken-off bits of coral and driftwood. They sang back to the woman, saying: Why do you stay in the tower where you cannot swim? And she said, Why do you sing when you do not fish? They conceded the point, but from then on they sang to each other every morning and evening. As for the villagers, they kept this their secret, and so it went for generations.

 

Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Nivair Gabriel

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

 
Nivair Gabriel
At my first Sirens, I experienced a keynote address the likes of which I had never before seen. Alaya Dawn Johnson blended her genius with that of Janelle Monáe in a musical journey that made me see her work in a new and richer light. Johnson shared adventures from her travels, surprises from her research, and gems of her ideas with us. The depth with which she spoke and the thoughtfulness of the audience chatter afterward felt unique and exceptional. I decided: I have to come back to this conference every year that I can, come hell or high water.

Two years later, my bookshelves have grown fuller, my circle of friends has expanded, and my writing aspirations have found new encouragement. My hope in the transformative power of literature and the specific power of women is renewed every time this community meets. “I have a book for you” is still the most exciting sentence I hear, and I hear it every year from someone I admire as soon as I meet them. I thank the Goddess that this thrilling, inspiring gathering exists!

 

Testimonials: Write about something that happened at Sirens.

Meg Belviso (@sistermagpie)
I forgot to bring a bathing suit, and really regretted it when a couple of attending authors announced an impromptu dip in the hot tub. Turns out underwear is just fine for a hot tub, though. A bunch of us sat there in the chilly night air, soaking in the warm water, and getting into a passionate discussion about the lack of good zombie romances. Sarah Rees Brennan is making a passionate demand for love stories about zombies. Why are zombies, amongst all Dark Creatures, left out of the Dark Romance trend? To make her final point, she faceplanted in the water like Ophelia. It was an inspiring moment.

 
Kate Larking (@astres)
What happens at Sirens stays at Sirens.

 
Casey Blair (@CaseyLBlair)
My first year at Sirens, I arrived at the welcome reception early, so early there was basically no one there. I kind of milled around slowly, trying to mimic normal human behavior and not draw attention to the fact that I had no idea what to do with myself. Eventually I set my purse down and then went to take my sweet time choosing desserts and snacks so I wouldn’t just be sitting alone at a table.

Eventually I could dither no longer, but to my happy surprise the table had become occupied in my absence. In short order I found myself in an animated conversation with another woman who also loved one of my favorite obscure anime. At some point I glanced at her name tag and realized I had been chatting with Sherwood Smith, one of the guests of honor that year.

That sort of set the tone for my experience with Sirens: arriving feeling awkward and then having awesome people totally blow my concerns out of the water. Pro or fan, we all go to Sirens because we’re passionate about women in fantasy.

A couple of years later, I was struggling with a novel that I just could not make work. I knew I needed help, and I found myself looking again at science fiction and fantasy workshop applications. I recognized enough of the names of instructors on the list for Viable Paradise that year to be daunted, but then I discovered Sherwood Smith among them. I figured, well, if Sherwood hadn’t devoured me whole as a wee convention-goer, I would probably survive a workshop she’d joined. Knowing at least one person on that board would consider my broken work seriously and respectfully was the impetus I needed to apply, and I was only confident in that assumption because of my experiences at Sirens.

 
Erynn Moss (@erynnlk)
I always volunteer to lead a hike. Last year I didn’t even look at what volunteer slots were covered and just said dibs on the hike. And then I got the reply that I wasn’t needed because our keynote speaker, Rosemary Clement-Moore, would be leading it. I recovered enough by con time to be mostly joking when I told her that she stole my thunder. She was so nice and charming about it and in the end we didn’t even go. Our group voted to skip the rain and gathered around the fireplace instead to chat and giggle with the author of Texas Gothic, who, by the way, is susceptible to chocolate.

 

Testimonials: If you’ve attended Sirens more than once, why did you decide to come back to Sirens?

Meg Belviso (@sistermagpie)
The first time I went to Sirens it was even better than I’d hoped for. As I waited at the airport for my plane home I was already looking forward to the next year, so I’d really already made my decision to return. Often when you go to a conference there are at least some parts that just get to be too much for two days straight. I found Sirens to be just the right mixture of intense and laid back. The conversations made me intensely focused and enthusiastic about the subject, but the social aspect was really laid-back and friendly. It was easy to talk to just about anybody.

 
Shveta Thakrar (@ShvetaThakrar)
In 2010, I saw Sherwood Smith talking about Sirens on LiveJournal, and my interest was piqued. A conference about women and fantasy—and the theme that year was “faeries,” a topic that always fascinated me. So I proposed a panel and went, not knowing what to expect.

Well, I got so much more than I could have dreamed. Not only was my panel a success, but I also listened to luminaries like Terri Windling, Holly Black, Ellen Kushner, and Delia Sherman share their insights, I talked and talked about books with really smart, thoughtful women, I met wonderful people who later became my good friends, and I experienced firsthand how vital it is to have a safe space where diverse voices are not only welcomed but genuinely sought out. Above all, the conference was just plain fun. My heart full, I left knowing I would be returning the next year and the next and the next.

I had found my home away from home, my conference, where my voice mattered. Where I could talk about things that make me happy and kindle the spark of passion in my heart. Where every year, I learned more and spoke more and found more kindred spirits and books to add to my never-ending to-read pile. Where I belonged.

And that’s why I’ll be returning yet again this year. I hope to see you there.

 
Erynn Moss (@erynnlk)
I am an overly enthusiastic reader and Sirens is full of fandom fairydust. Finishing a good book, I want to delve into a deeper level of appreciation of motives and characters and worlds. At Sirens, I get to do that. I’ve sat down to dinner with an author and talked about archaic language (can I drop names? Marie Brennan). I’ve discussed diversity in comic books with a writer of non-graphic novels (Nalo Hopkinson). And even though I didn’t realize it was my fantasy until it was happening, I’ve stayed up until the wee hours of the morning with amazing authors (Guadelupe Garcia McCall and Alaya Dawn Johnson!) and a couple cheeky literary agents, sipping wine, and discussing the fascinating and mysterious publishing industry.

Also, Laini Taylor was really cool and wore the horns I made for her to the Monster Ball even after I awkwardly confessed my love to her. I’m pretty sure she got that I meant it in a bookish way.

 

Testimonials: Write about a good friend that you’ve met at Sirens.

Kate Larking (@astres)
Shout out to Karen Bailey! I met Karen during the very first Sirens and we bonded over our shared squealing about Tamora Pierce and Ilona Andrews. I don’t really even remember how it happened (I’m sure I did something ridiculous and I should be happy she didn’t run in the other direction). Over the next six years, we roomed together every year with various others I’ve managed to bait into coming to Sirens. Karen even chauffeured me around her ‘hood, Portland, and dared introducing me to her mother. She has supported my love of books and writing and helped me through some life decisions of varying importance (Should I quit my job? Get an MFA? Start herding cats for life?) with the same patience and grace she offers her kindergarten students.

 
Kate Tremills (@KateTremills)
I discovered the amazing trio Edith Hope Bishop, Lola Lindle, and Darian Lindle. We’ve shared some great connections over email and Facebook. And we recently met up for lunch and writer brainstorming in Bellingham, WA. I left our gathering feeling on top of the world … knowing that just over the border we had a group of Sirens sisters who shared our passions, ambitions, and wishes for the world.

 

Testimonials: Why do you think Sirens is important?

Suzanne Rogers Gruber (@srgruber)
Sirens is important to me as an opportunity to interrogate and reflect and celebrate works and genres that I love in a community of readers. It’s my time to connect with old friends and make new ones, to explore other perspectives and approaches, and to let Amy talk me into yet another pile of books from the bookstore. But the real importance of Sirens is in the ongoing evolution of a space where a community of fantasy readers can share and explore and sometimes disagree. I have listened to new publishing professionals discuss how their time at Sirens shaped them and their careers. One author told me, with tears in her eyes, that in decades of writing fantasy and attending conferences, she’d never been in a space so friendly and open to her as a woman who wrote fantasy. I remember the look of utter joy on one reader’s face when an author whose works she adored invited her to join a group for dinner. The magic of Sirens is in all of the people who come and share their complicated, passionate, and insightful ideas about women in fantasy, and who make room for others to share, too.

 
Faye Bi (@faye_bi)
First, some facts: behemoth Comic-Cons are swallowing up smaller, more local cons. Many MFA programs and English departments still scorn genre fiction. The voices of female creators and professionals continue to be silenced or worse, ridiculed. And even though it’s a “fantasy book” and there’s magic and time travel and super-special jewelery, there are still no female characters or characters of color in any position of agency.

Sirens, thus, inhabits a unique space in the word of conferences: intimate, intellectually rigorous, inclusive, and unabashedly geeky. A space where my voice is just as valued as the bestselling fantasy author, the academic with two degrees, and the reader who loves paranormal romance. A space where my voice, as a woman and an immigrant, won’t be silenced or ridiculed. Lucky people may live near friends who already discuss the portrayal of Native American culture in the werewolves of Twilight or how hauntings are inherently women’s stories. But for those who don’t, that’s why Sirens exists: to be a space of conversation, insight, and refuge.

 
Kate Larking (@astres)
Sirens is the one conference that I make sure not to miss. I’ve gone to several fantasy-centered conventions, but Sirens is the one for me. The strong sense of community brings me back again and again. I am always satisfied with the wonderful book recommendations, and divergent and accommodating conversations on all sorts of hot-button topics for women. Most of all, when I come to Sirens, I am guaranteed when to meet someone who has a completely different background from mine, has rich knowledge in areas of folklore and fantasy that I lack, and can stretch my brain to think of things I haven’t before considered. Every time I come to Sirens, I grow as a person, a reader, and a writer.

 
Kate Tremills (@KateTremills)
Sirens offers a space for us to be strong, smart, silly, and joyful. To express our most creative selves in every possible way. I was especially moved by the community at Sirens. These women look after one another, challenge each other, and scream when they see one another again after a year has passed. This conference gave me a space to share some of my most vulnerable personal stories and have them received with kindness and understanding. I have experienced few places like Sirens and no other conference like Sirens.

 

Testimonials: Why did you decide to attend Sirens the first time?

Casey Blair (@CaseyLBlair)
By my senior year of college, I had never been to a conference or convention even loosely related to science fiction and fantasy. But our college was hosting a convention for all stripes of nerds—those of us who loved anime, video games, comics, and books—and although I knew nothing about conventions, I’d gotten involved with the staff once I’d learned they had a library of science fiction and fantasy books that was totally disorganized and uncatalogued. I couldn’t let that stand, clearly; how would people find fabulous books to read?

I was researching local authors who might be able to attend our college’s convention, and I found myself on Tamora Pierce’s website, where she’d posted she would be at a conference called Sirens that fall. So I looked Sirens up and saw that it was about women, fantasy, warriors, and books; it was about thinking about all of those things academically, like they mattered and deserved deep analysis, and about being excited about them in the best way. I had no idea such a gathering that seemed like it was practically made for me could exist, and I reminded myself that if something seems too good to be true it probably is. I saw that Sirens was happening in Colorado, and I was in New York. I ran over to my housemate from Denver and asked if she knew where Vail was.

Within the week, we’d bought our registrations and our plane tickets to Colorado. I met Tamora Pierce and managed to contain my instinctive fangirl reaction long enough to invite her to our college convention, which she agreed to attend. And I learned that Sirens was not, in fact, too good to be true; it was everything I had hoped for.

 

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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