My father passed away last year, just short of 90 years old. He had been suffering from dementia for several years and he could no longer recognize me or remember who I was. But, even before then, we were not close. He maintained contact with me out of a kind of weird sense of obligation. When we spoke, there was an implicit understanding that I would tell him things about his grandchildren — not because he was genuinely interested in them, but because he needed to know things about them to fend off his wife who believed he should take an interest in them. At least, that was how it felt to me.

My father did not like me as a child or, especially, as a young adult. He was always clever with a quip or turn of phrase, often at the expense of other people. As a child, when he turned this form of “humor” on me, I felt compelled to do the same to him. But where he could be clever, I was merely offensive and he was often furious with me for being obnoxious and rude. Once he angrily told me to get out of the car on the side of the road miles from anywhere, driving a short distance ahead, and then stopping and angrily telling me to get back in the car.

He lamented that I was lazy and fat and a poor student. He made it clear that I did not measure up. As a teenager, I became withdrawn and antisocial. When I started smoking, he was livid and told my mother he was writing me off. My mother said she would be glad to take me. My relationship with my mother was probably what saved me: she always loved both her children unconditionally and without qualification.

As a child, I craved approval and wanted to be closer to my father, but he only accepted interaction on his terms. He was never interested in learning about or doing any of the things I wanted to do. But there were places where our interests aligned. He spent a lot of time in the field as a biologist. And, as I expressed an interest in herpetology, I could go with him into the field and — while he looked for birds — I would scour the ground for reptiles and amphibians.

When I finished my PhD and was hired for a faculty position at a prestigious university, I remember he took me aside and grudgingly admitted that I had turned out OK. I think that was the first time I ever felt like he had given me any real measure of approval.

He was pleased when I had children. As a biologist, he was very interested in the idea of children carrying forward his genes. He wasn’t actually interested in the children themselves, however. He didn’t really like children and wasn’t interested in getting to know them as people. He had always seen his own children as objects and his grandchildren were objects too. I tried to get him to spend time with his grandchildren and invited him to take them on outings. But he never did. He would say, “Well, if you need me to watch them sometime, I guess I could do that.” And I would reply, “We don’t ever need you to ‘watch’ them — but if you’d like to spend time with them or take them somewhere, that would be great.” But, as I say, he never did.

It was a surprise to me that, when my father died, many of his former colleagues and students remembered him at his funeral as an extremely attentive and devoted friend and mentor. It sounded like he maintained a network of close collegial relationships where he checked in with a vast number of people on a daily or weekly basis. It was a side of him I never would have predicted based on my own personal experiences.

So, on Father’s Day, I reflect on my “relationship” with my father. I intentionally strove to be a different kind of father. I tried to see my children as people from an early age and to not try to live my life through them. I tried to take an interest in things they liked to do and to find ways to relate to them through their interests. But I know also that I’m not a perfect father either. And so I’ve tried grant my father a certain amount of understanding by acknowledging that he was doing the best he could with what he had in terms of his native personality and the experiences he had growing up.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

At the 2024 Nebulas convention, I attended of the very last sessions, Planning Your Own Publicity Campaign presented by KC Grifant, Jaye Viner, Eva Elasigue, and Robyn Dabney. It was a great presentation but, as I said in my earlier post about the Nebulas, I didn’t feel like there was a whole lot here that was new to me. It was still nice to know that I wasn’t missing anything obvious. Since I took relatively detailed notes, I thought I’d summarize them here.

The first question for the panel related to the timeline for planning a publicity campaign. Aim to start at least a year out: establish an online presence for yourself: set up a website, start a newsletter, identify people to help and support your campaign, and make a plan. Three to six months out, you should start trying to schedule in-person events (readings, book signings, etc.) You can find a lot of resources on the internet about running a book launch and you should educate yourself. And make sure to have fun.

Another question asked what can you expect your publisher to do. The short answer, of course, is doodlysquat. In the past, trad-pub’ed authors could expect a publisher to mount a publicity campaign for you, but that’s pretty rare now. Small presses mostly don’t have the resources to do very much. They might contact some of the higher-tier trade reviews and provide ARCs, but you mostly have to do the rest. Reviews are critical. The panels suggested reaching out to book bloggers, bookstagrammers, and booktokkers and the like: familiarize yourself with their work to make sure they review stuff like yours, politely send a message with an ARC, and don’t follow-up or expect a response.

Several people talked about planning joint events with other authors, which can increase the draw for readings and signings.

Most panelists agreed that your local indy bookstore is, after your publisher, the most important relationship to foster. They are generally supportive of genre fiction and can help you organize a launch event. Local libraries can also be effective partners.

The moderator asked how people spent money in support of their campaign. Few panelists found advertising to be very effective. It’s an artform and requires a lot of expertise to pull it off effectively. This is consistent with my experience as well. One mentioned boosting some posts at Facebook for $15. But swag was a popular thing to spend some money on: stickers, bookmarks, and other promotional materials. And events: conferences, conventions and, in particular, local comicons, which would often have an “authors alley” where you sell books and meet with fans.

One potential way to spend money is to hire publicist. Nobody on the panel had worked with one. One suggested that they tended to be outrageously expensive (e.g. a $10k monthly minimum).

They mentioned some expenses that didn’t really sound like “publicity” to me. One mentioned the importance to a cover when selling on the internet and not cheap out. Also it might be worth paying for a developmental editor to help sharpen your story. Or line editing. These are definitely important, but seem like they should be part of the publishing process. But perhaps important to remember for self-publishers.

They finally offered a few closing thoughts: Don’t try to do everything. Go for it, but remember to be happy with your book. And, finally, always be writing the next thing.

campus during the summer

For the first time, in many, many years, I’m actually free this summer.

When I began my career at the University, I was hired on a 12-month appointment to direct the Biology Computer Resource Center (BCRC). After the first year, the chairman — with some help from the dean — rewrote my job classification to put me on a 9-month appointment so that I would be able to apply for grants to supplement my salary during the summer. But, with the understanding, that I would not “vanish” during the summer and would be available to provide support to students and faculty that needed it.

In point of fact, the summer was indispensable for running the BCRC because it was then that I could update software, replace hardware, and build the server infrastructure that made running the facility possible. It was the only period when I had the uninterrupted blocks of time needed to really accomplish significant projects. And I did: setting up instructional materials and resources, engaging in curriculum design, and writing papers.

Perhaps eight years ago, I proposed to develop an online version of the writing class I teach to be taught during the summer. Most summer classes are taught only over a 6-week period. I tried the class that way but found it unsatisfactory: students can’t write enough in 6 weeks to get a full-semester’s worth of writing experience. So I taught the course over the full 13-week period spanning both summer sessions. And that worked pretty well. It was a pretty light load spread out that way, but it was still an obligation.

When the Biology Department closed the BCRC and rewrote my job description during the pandemic, I no longer had the obligation to spend my summers working on infrastructure, but I continued to teach the writing class. This year, however, I decided to stop. Mostly, I just wanted to have the time to write, but the fact that I would have had to migrate all of the teaching materials to a different LMS played no small role in my decision as well. I notified the Department back in October I wouldn’t be teaching it, so they could find someone else, if they wanted to. But nobody stepped up.

But, for the first time in nearly 30 years, I’m free of obligations during the summer. I can’t say I don’t like it, because it’s glorious. It’s not like I’m not “working” in that I’ve already written tens of thousands of words of fiction. But it’s great to be able to focus without distractions — and to let serendipity guide how I spend each day.

I’m looking forward to retirement.

For the second year, I proposed myself as a participant for the Nebulas Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) convention, but wasn’t selected. I was on the fence about attending and agonized for several days but, at the last minute, decided to register for the online track. I’m glad I did.

In point of fact, I don’t feel like I learned all that much. I attended panels about novellas and novelettes, short fiction, genres, making a collection, religion, microfiction, LGBTQIA+ characters, and book promotion. The panels were fine, but I’ve been involved in publishing and marketing my own books now for long enough that these topics are mostly familiar. Even if I didn’t learn much new, that’s useful too: determining that there isn’t something obvious that I’ve been missing.

I spent a fair amount of time networking with people via Zoom. I met a bunch of new people and reconnected with a number of people I’d met before. Being unable to socialize much due to my health circumstances, I really value the opportunity to meet with people remotely.

One person I saw was someone I had clashed with in a different, text-based, online environment. I was somewhat concerned that it would be awkward but, as has typically happened with me, when you’re dealing with people face-to-face, someone that’s happy to flame and deride you in text, will instead be nice as pie. I like to think I’m pretty much the same person regardless of context and circumstances, so I’m always surprised when other people who will slam you in writing, will turn out to be perfectly nice to your face. Weird.

I would have liked to stay up the award ceremony, especially to hang out in the Zoom session to chat with people while it was going on. But the event, running on Pacific Time, didn’t start until 11pm and I just couldn’t make myself stay up that late. So went to bed early.

As an author, I’m constantly looking for ways to get the word out about my work and to engage with readers and other authors. And one part of my strategy is social media.

Before social media, there were blogs. Long before I was a published author, I started blogging. I first start blogging using a wiki, then switched to Drupal. I maintained a blog at Esperanto-USA while I was webmaster there. Many people used blogs primarily to link to and comment on the other things they were reading.

Most people didn’t have the technical chops or resources to set up their own blogging environment, so they chose a site managed by a third party. Typically, these were offered “free” in a limited form as a kind of loss-leader supported by venture capitalists trying to make a bet on what the “next big thing” was going to be.

One of the most popular with authors was Livejournal. I wasn’t a published author in those days, but I was aware of the robust author community there. But when Livejournal was purchased by the Russian state and began to censor and persecute users, most of the writer community abandoned it.

This was around the time people began to use microblogging platforms that became what people collectively termed “social media”. The most popular with authors was probably Twitter, which I’ve written about elsewhere. As I took my first steps into the author community, it was great to have a place where the other authors were active: sharing perspectives and supporting one another. And occasionally quarreling.

I predicted that when Twitter became a Nazi bar, the community would move somewhere else. I was hopeful that they would settle on Mastodon. With Livejournal getting purchased by a repressive regime and then Twitter getting purchased by a narcissistic billionaire, I thought maybe they would have learned something. Unfortunately, it appears that the largest part of the active author community has settled at Blue Sky where they are once again suckling on the teat of venture capital.

But there is no longer a clear center. Blue Sky seems to have more of the established authors. But the largest microblogging community may well be Threads. And Facebook and Instagram are still the largest overall communities, though young people are more likely to be on Tiktok or Discord.

So it’s not at all clear which community is the best to focus on. I’m still guided by a presentation about book promotion I attended a couple of years ago that said, “Don’t pressure yourself to do it all.” I like the community at Mastodon. So that’s where I spend the most time. And I forward a few of my more announcement-like posts at Blue Sky and Facebook. And then I call it a day. Because, in the end, I would rather spend my time writing new fiction.


For Pride, I will be bringing the Water Dragon Publishing table to the Mill District Queer Artisan Market on June 23, 2024. [Update: I’ve been declined a space at the market. I’m so disappointed.] I plan to bring a rich selection of the LGBTQIA+ offerings that Water Dragon offers — featuring my own works, of course. But Water Dragon has a lot of works both about queer protagonists and by queer authors. And so many of them, I now know personally: J. Scott Coatsworth, Daniel Fliederbaum, Jay Hartlove, LA Jacob, Vanessa MacLaren-Wray, Andrea Monticue, and Ryan Southwick. Dear friends all.

I think the very time I ever sold books was at the first Queer Pop-up Market in 2022. I didn’t yet have a real table or a canopy or signage or anything. But when I look at how far I’ve come with doing the work, it’s nostalgic to look back and remember how new and exciting it all was. I did pretty well in terms of sales too: I sold perhaps a dozen copies — not bad at all for a new author with only the first two books of a series. It was my first taste of meeting readers and signing copies of my books.

A lot didn’t go perfectly well either. I didn’t have weights for the borrowed canopy, which nearly blew away. I also hadn’t learned to put velcro on the back of my book covers on my easels and they kept blowing off too. We didn’t yet have a Square chip reader, so I was trying to use the magnetic strip reader, which was fiddly and just didn’t work very well. But overall it was a gentle way to have a great learning experience.

At the time, I only had the first two novelettes of Revin’s Heart out, The Third Time’s the Charm and For the Favor of a Lady. Storm Clouds Gather was about to be released. I printed out business cards to hand out with the QR code for the landing page on the back.

It’s possible that some people who bought the first two, all that time ago, will remember and pick up the rest of the series. There were a fair number of people who did that at both Arisia and Boskone this year. One person said, “Oh, thank GOD you’re here!” which totally made my day. There’s almost nothing better than having people come specifically to look for you in the bookstore.

The Queer Pop-up Market was canceled in 2023, so I didn’t get to do it last year. But I’m glad they’re doing it again this year. I had a great time doing it the first time and I’m really looking forward to being back at the Mill District again.

After that, the next event I’m scheduled to do is Readercon July 11-14, 2024. Although they rejected me as a participant, I’m still going to attend to staff tables for Water Dragon Publishing and Small Publishing in a Big Universe Marketplace. I’ve heard that this is a particularly good event for selling books, so I’m hopeful we’ll do well there.

In 2017-2018, I drafted a proposal for a Professional Improvement Fellowship at UMass Amherst. This new program offered non-tenure-system faculty, after 10 years of service, a semester of professional release to accomplish a significant academic project — not unlike sabbatical for tenure system faculty. The creation of the Professional Improvement Fellowship program was the outcome of two years of difficult negotiations during the period that I served on our faculty and librarian union’s bargaining committee. Having been in the Biology Department at UMass Amherst for nearly 20 years at that point, I was very eager to participate in this program.

Every UMass Amherst honors student needs to complete a thesis in order to graduate with honors. In the Biology Department, especially, there are too few opportunities for individually-contracted honors theses, so the Commonwealth Honors College had developed a course type where a group of 12-15 students could work with a faculty member over two semesters to write a thesis. But at that time there were no honors thesis seminars offered in the life sciences, so my proposal was to have students develop a scientific instrument to collect data about some life science question.

In addition to years of teaching Writing in Biology to juniors, and running the now-shuttered Biology Computer Research Center, I had already co-taught a one semester Maker course that tried to have students do projects like this in a single semester, but it turned out that just wasn’t enough time: students could sorta learn the technology, but often didn’t have time to actually make anything, let alone collect enough data to do anything with it. So proposing it take place over two semesters made sense to me. Plus, the Commonwealth Honors College offers research grants to students that could provide them funding to buy the necessary components.

The first year I pitched the proposal for Open Science Instrumentation and Data Collection to the Biology Department it was rejected. But with a different chair the following year, it was accepted and I was awarded a fellowship with a full release from my professional duties during Spring 2020 to develop the materials for the course. I then worked for three months in the large metal shed UMass Amherst All-Campus Makerspace using the Software Carpentry curriculum model to develop modules to set up a Raspberry Pi, use the Pi to program an Arduino via the command line, program in python, and then use python to access the General-purpose input/output (GPIO).

As it turned out, however, something else happened that spring: in March 2020, UMass Amherst closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which bluntly took a lot of the fun out of my fellowship. My mother has lived with us since our eldest was two and she was now at high risk of complications from the virus, as was I, so now instead of walking to the Makerspace, I could safely use only the office in my partially finished basement (where I’m still writing now) to work remotely. Travel to learn more about projects elsewhere was no longer possible.

A centerpiece of my proposed course was that students would be working in the All-Campus Makerspace. But with the campus still functionally closed the following fall, I decided to adapt the course to be taught remotely via Zoom. I had a relatively small number of students the first year, but it actually all worked astonishingly well. Honors students are amazing: they have brilliant ideas, are willing to work incredibly hard, and have the self-discipline to work independently.

Typically for an honors thesis, a student is adopted into a research lab, learns the approaches being used in the lab, and becomes familiar with the specific literature that underlies the research enterprise. In my course, by contrast, students came up with some idea of their own and pursued it to the best of their ability. I have always believed that the traditional university education gives students far too few opportunities to pursue their own questions. Many students who take my Junior Year Writing in Biology class, that also requires students to write a proposal and conduct a small research project, say that it is the first time they’ve done anything at UMass Amherst that wasn’t simply following directions. Juniors actually say that.

Students do come up with amazing ideas. Here are just a handful of the ones from the first semester of Open Science Instrumentation and Data Collection:
“Utilizing Background Oriented Schlieren Imaging to Slow the Spread of Respiratory Disease”
“Automated recording of daily vibroacoustic and behavioral activity in Xylocopa virginica”
“A Novel High Frame Rate Photography System for Optical Motion Tracking of Insect Flight”

Over four years, I supervised a total of 44 honors theses like these where students built a scientific instrument to collect a body of data to gain insight into some life science question. Each project lies at the intersection of life sciences (designing the question and data collection strategy), engineering (selecting a hardware platform, sensors, and wiring them together), and informatics (programming the hardware platform to receive and record the data).

One of my original design criteria for the course was that there would be no artificial deadlines; the only deadlines were external ones: for the Honors Research Grant, for the Undergraduate Research Conference in the spring they were obligated to present as a condition of their Honors Research Grant funding, and for their final portfolio itself at the end of the Spring semester. All of the other milestones and deadlines they had to establish for themselves.

In the fall semester, I led the students through the course materials I had developed about using the Raspberry Pi and Arduino while at the same time they developed their research questions and wrote proposals for an Honors Research Grant, which was typically due in October. In addition, each week I had a one-on-one consultation with every student. That allowed me to offer individual advice and guidance, plus technical (and sometimes emotional) support, and it gave each student an excuse to be accountable for staying on track. Some students chose to use every minute of the consultation to work together with me, while others just wanted to check in and then work independently.

In the spring, students built, tested, and used their devices. Once their funds were available, they submitted orders, received their components, and built a prototype. We budgeted enough money for them to test the prototype to re-engineer and build a final device. At the same time, students needed to submit an abstract and prepare a presentation for the Undergraduate Research Conference, usually far in advance of completing their data collection. And, in the end, students wrote up a Creative Portfolio to submit as their thesis document.

Students learned a lot, both about the subject and themselves. They learned the science of their question by conducting a literature review. They developed technical skills using the educational materials and exploring the hardware platforms. They learned about agile project management to manage a large, long-term project. And they got to learn about the red tape of trying to order things via a large institution.

In Spring 2024, after a year of serious health issues that required I only teach remotely, I decided to pursue a phased retirement where I would teach half-time (remotely) for two years and then retire. I proposed to continue to teach this honors thesis seminar, which is still the only life science honors thesis seminar, is very popular with the students that take it, and (I believe) a nearly unique course in the world. But the Biology Department refused: apparently the “credit” for the course accrues to the wrong college. Instead, I will continue teaching my Writing in Biology course and act as the Presiding Officer of the Faculty Senate.

I’m sad to not be able to teach this honors thesis seminar any longer, but I’m gratified that I got to teach it at all: it was an amazing experience to work with so many dedicated students and to give them license to apply their creativity to so many fascinating problems. I learned a vast amount and was never bored while I tried to ride herd on all their weird and wonderful ideas. Students told me they learned more from this experience than any other at UMass Amherst. I will never forget their passion and excitement when, after immense struggles, they finally got something to work. It was the experience of a lifetime.

On May 20, 2024, I served as the Presiding Officer of an Emergency General Faculty Meeting for UMass Amherst. More than a thousand of the faculty were split between a large room on campus and via Zoom. It was by far and away the largest meeting — let alone hybrid meeting — I had ever tried to run.

The meeting was called, following the Constitution of the Faculty Senate, in response to a petition of more than 10% of the faculty and librarians. The meeting had a single agenda item: a resolution calling for no confidence in the Chancellor. On May 7, the Chancellor had directed police to disperse students protesting the war in Gaza. During the police action, students and faculty were arrested and there were some violent clashes between the police and protesters.

The emergency meeting was organized frenetically on extremely short notice during the Commencement weekend. A handful of us on the Rules Committee exchanged hundreds of emails to nail down the agenda, try to develop a mechanism to enable faculty to vote securely, and draft a long and comprehensive set of ground rules for running the meeting.

There were a number of technical challenges. Faculty had difficulty registering, email systems rejected the ballots as spam, the audio from some of the mics was nearly inaudible via Zoom. We did the best we could to resolve the issues and, by the end of the meeting, we had things working about as well as could be reasonably expected.

The meeting went on and on. Passions were high, but most people respected the ground rules and were patient as we worked though the technical issues. We came to the final vote after four hours of discussion and consideration of an amendment to change “no confidence” to “censure”. In the end, more than 800 faculty voted and 473 voted no confidence, so the motion carried. And after four hours and fifteen minutes, I adjourned the meeting.

The vote carries only symbolic weight. The UMass System President and Board of Trustees have expressed their unwavering support of the Chancellor. Still, the resolution minimally provides notice to the Chancellor that hundreds of faculty are incredibly angry and upset. As soon as the vote was announced, he issued a statement expressing disappointment, but accepting the results and promising to work to rebuild trust.

Those of us organizing and running the meeting received many messages of appreciation and support, though not everyone was entirely satisfied. I’m satisfied, however, that we did the very best we could under the circumstances. And I think the outcome speaks for itself.

One thing I realized is that hybrid meetings work a lot better when they’re convened and run by a remote participant. People in the room tend to ignore remote participants. A remote participant is better positioned to make sure everyone gets to fully participate.

But perhaps the most important outcome was that, during the meeting, someone noticed the poster for Revin’s Heart in the background of my Zoom image and bought a copy. They emailed me to ask about order of the series, but I pointed out that the collected edition contains all of the stories — plus some side stories — so they should be all set.

When I agreed to run a vendor booth at the Watch City Steampunk Festival for the Small Publishing in a Big Universe Marketplace, I was hopeful that several authors might also attend to help set up and sell books. It sounded like several authors had expressed interest. But, as the event approached, it became apparent I was going to be on my own. The day before, my wife took pity on me and agreed to go with me to the event to keep me company and, at least, make sure I could go to the bathroom when necessary.

Since I normally get up pretty early anyway, I had been planning to leave early the morning of the event. But my wife suggested we travel the night before and stay in a hotel so we could have a more leisurely time. She tracked down a room for us and made reservations, so — after my last class on Friday — we hopped in the car and drove to Waltham. There was a restaurant across the street from the hotel that had an outdoor patio and a good beer selection, so we had a pleasant evening.

The morning of the event, we drove to the common where the festival was getting set up and, after checking in, found a place to park where I could leave the car that wasn’t too far from where our booth was located. Waltham doesn’t allow vehicles on the common, so we had to move everything from the car about 200 yards. It took about 45 minutes to schlep everything over and then an hour to set up the tent and table, hang the banner and flags, set out the books, and get price tags on everything. But we were easily ready by the time the festival began.

The festival was well attended. There were thousands of people of all ages, many wearing steampunky costumes: top hats with goggles and fascinators; elaborate steampunky backpacks, carts, and gear; dresses with hoop skirts and bustles; and pseudo-victorian clothing. Kevin Harkins of Kevin Harkins Photography shared a gallery of imagery that includes a lot of nice pictures of people’s costumes.I wore my straw fedora with steampunky goggles and my maroon paisley smoking jacket over a t-shirt with the Water Dragon logo. A number of people commented positively on my suitable attire.

Initially, there had been a prediction of rain. In the end, the weather was cloudy but fair. It was a bit cool — not too breezy — with the sun peeking through in the afternoon. If it had been 10 degrees warmer, it would have been perfect.

I developed a pitch to welcome people to the table: “We’re Small Publishing in a Big Universe — a cooperative of independent authors and small presses that have collaborated to stock a table for you. I’m an author with Water Dragon Publishing and, since I’m here, my books are in the middle.” Then I would describe my two books and introduce the books by the other authors. Finally, I would invite them to pick up the books to learn more about them and not hesitate to ask me questions.

We sold a fair number of books. My books sold best: about half the sales were Revin’s Heart followed by Better Angels: Tour de Force and Snail’s Pace (the other fairly steampunky book). I sold two hardcovers, which kind of surprised me and made me glad I’d brought a few. I was disappointed to not be able to sell more books by the other authors. A lot of people took business cards: both SPBU’s and mine.

At the end of the festival, we had to pack everything up and schlep it back to the car. Our feet were pretty sore by this time. Once we finally had everything in the car, we drove to Dirigible Brewing, which was on the way home to have dinner and a well-earned beer.

For my wife and I, the trip was a bit nostalgic because it hearkened back to the time before I went to graduate school when we spent a year on the road together doing educational assemblies. Every morning, we drove to an elementary school unpacked and set up a portable planetarium, did shows, then packed up and headed to the next school. It was a fun time of our lives.

Several people asked if we’d be back next year and I indicated I thought we probably would. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. And it’s always nice to sell some books.

Being an author has ups and downs. It’s a constant rollercoaster. When you submit manuscripts you get acceptances and rejections. The same when you apply to present at conventions. Or apply for grants. You can torment yourself by watching the book scan sales numbers. Or Amazon ranking. Or reviews at Goodreads (and elsewhere).

When good things happen, it’s wonderful. Getting a manuscript accepted is a great feeling.

When bad things happen, you just have to grit your teeth and go on.

But sometimes you have a long run of bad luck. It can get very discouraging when everything seems to get rejected or turned down. When that happens, you question what you’re even doing. Why keep trying? Why bother? Why not just do something else.

I got to see John Hodgman perform in Northampton a few years ago. This was around the time he was promoting Vacationland. One of the themes was the ineffable quality of celebrity. People kept asking him how he became a celebrity, as if there was some secret or recipe. He said he spent a lot of time trying to figure out why *this* thing had gone viral whereas all these other things he’d been doing before or after did not. Eventually, he decided there wasn’t any difference. It was just luck or happenstance. But, even though you couldn’t predict what might lead to success, it was clear that the only way to be sure to fail was to not keep doing your art. It could only happen if you were making stuff and putting it out there.

So, even when I’m down. Even when I feel like nothing is getting traction. Even when I feel like there’s no point. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and soldiering on. And maybe — just maybe — one of the things I write will find an audience and lead to greater things. Maybe.