June 2, 2012


image from mad magazineThe thing about being gracious is, as soon as you let up, everyone notices. There’s no reward for seeming snappy, even if it bites at the heels of years of diplomacy and smoothed over tensions. So at the risk of letting my slip of hostility show under my skirt, let me just say that I am not a fan of the zoological presentation of transfolk as the primary means of educating the non-trans public. I am a fan of careful conversation, principled debate, and sensitive discourse when interfacing with any marginalized community.

Many of us have heard the now-standard “Trans 101” talking points: don’t ask what surgeries we’ve had, what our former names were, or other invasive questions about our bodies you wouldn’t want to answer yourself. But there are still more questions that deflect from a helpful give-and-take between parties, or that make some of us trans people weary…

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Bumbling is Almost Here!

March 6, 2012

My memoir comes out this month after a long journey. As it’s the story of a long journey, well, I suppose I’m a little on the meta side of life here. On that note, let me extend the meta-ness to my other social network outlets, for ease of finding out what I’m up to once this book launches.

For my general press information, to contact my publicist, or to book an appearance: transplantportation.com/press

For my Goodreads author page: Goodreads.com

For my Facebook fan page: Facebook.com

For a list of my current projects and other writing: another blog page

For my Twitter feed: Twitter.com

As blog reviews are posted for Bumbling into Body Hair, I’ll post links here and around the Web. Like how squirrels leave nuts all over the ground. It’ll be just like that.

Thanks for reading!


Publishing News for Bumbling

November 6, 2011

I’m happy to say that Bumbling into Body Hair will be released in 2012, published by Booktrope out of Seattle. When I have more specific details on the where and how to purchase, and any online or real world tour dates, I’ll post them here and over at Trans/Plant/Portation. In the meantime, I’ll be editing! I sure do hope you all love this book as much as I do.

Funny Things Happen

August 17, 2010

Sometimes someone has the nerve to ask me why I wrote this memoir as a humor piece. It doesn’t seem, on the surface, that having a sex change is very humorous. It sounds arduous and rattling and painful, and certainly, it is those things. A couple of years ago I told people at a LGBT facilitator training session that every single trans person I know reached a similar emotional point: they were either going to commit suicide or start their transition. They may have come to that point from different angles, been in dissimilar positions in society, unlike ages and ethnic backgrounds, but each one of them (myself included) reached a literal breaking point, and we opted to stay alive, at least as we checked this thing out.

One trans woman told me, “I just said to myself, well try the sex change, and if you still don’t like it, you can kill yourself later.”

I could be very wrong, but I see the humor in that. And I understand the desperateness of that statement at the same time. So I wanted to bring those tensions together in this memoir, explain the hilarity of this Very Special Journey knowing that much of it is layered in other, decidedly unfunny things.

As humor writers tell it, comedy happens because readers are moved to feel superior to the object or person that is making us laugh. I have no problem being the focus of that superiority. I have broken 10 bones in my life; I have earned the title Klutz Supremo. And there was no reason to think that my transition would be any less accident-prone or gosh-darn funny. But what really drove me to put these experiences into book form was the idea that I made it through. I came out the other side. And I’m still a functioning person, as are my friends who’ve done the same. My sense of humor and my living in a better-fitting body really did the trick!

I’m happy to say that having a gender transition is really not that different from other kinds of human journeys, and at the same time, it’s wildly out there. I love those distinctions. I’m glad I know what it’s like to communicate at work as a woman and as a man, because now I know this whole Venus Mars thing is bunk. People are the same; it’s the expectations they bring to every engagement that makes for miscommunication. And that is funny.

Shoulder hair is funny, too. Even as it makes me growl with displeasure to see Brillo pads rising up out of my frame. I’d love it if other people laugh along with me, whether they intend to keep their genders or not.

The Protocol

August 12, 2010

In the act of my quick 4,000-word cut from the manuscript, I took out some things that didn’t necessarily advance the plot, but that I liked all the same. Here is a short section about men’s rest rooms that should be primer material for any person suddenly using such facilities. In the category of I Wish I’d Known This Before, this is something I wished I’d known before.

I’d developed a protocol for using the men’s room that actually did not involve wearing a hazmat suit, but I left open the possibility that I may go there at some point. Given the state of men’s mass-use rest room facilities, I thought having a process would only help me. I couldn’t hold my bladder forever.  And so when entering a men’s room, I would do the following:

Walk toward the door, put out right elbow and open door with elbow. Use elbow to check each stall, use first one that is clean, already flushed, and that appears to have toilet paper. Close stall, being careful to block the infrared beam so the toilet doesn’t think it’s time to flush all over one’s trousers. Carefully remove disposable toilet seat cover being careful not to rip it in the process. Set disposable toilet seat cover on toilet seat being careful to continue blocking infrared sensor and not to touch the actual toilet seat. Pirouette on left ball of foot such that infrared sensor is still blocked, but not fast enough that disposable toilet seat cover hovers off of the toilet seat. Drop pants and underwear, sit down gingerly and do one’s business. When finished, lean over only slightly to toilet paper dispenser being careful to continue blocking infrared sensor. Pull down toilet paper directly and not to the side so as not to break the line of toilet paper. Bundle into other hand until critical mass is achieved. Rip toilet paper at least three squares away from toilet paper roll, so as to be able to retrieve more toilet paper if needed, otherwise end of toilet paper roll will retract and glue itself to the roll, never again to be separated from the rest of the roll. This is known as the “Borg Effect.”

Clean up body parts that have done one’s business, being careful to continue blocking the infrared sensor. Carefully stand up, putting both hands under thighs in order to ensure complete separation from the disposable toilet seat cover, which is now partially wet and seeking only to cling to you as you put back on your trousers. Ensure disposable toilet seat cover is in toilet by checking over one’s shoulder and keeping one’s body aligned in an upright position so as to block the infrared sensor. Consider career as a master thief because one has now acquired quite the infrared sensor managing skill set. Move into a half-squat position so that the tops of underwear and trousers are in reach, and pull up to re-dress. Now comes the tricky part! Listen for the “sigh” of the infrared sensor as it realizes it needs to flush the toilet. Leap with both feet, forward 2.5 feet, or just before the inside of the stall door, whichever comes first, so as to avoid the sudden spray of water, toilet paper, disposable toilet seat cover, and whatever business one did in there. Open door and walk to sink counter. Run hands under infrared sensor of sink and get them wet with tepid water, use soap from whichever dispenser pretends to have some, rinse with more water from the tap, then walk to the paper dispenser and wave hands frantically in front of it, trying to get that infrared sensor to dispense paper. If no paper dispenses in 3 minutes, consider that one’s hands are now probably air-dried anyway. If paper dispenses, use paper towel to open rest room door, exit, and throw paper away in one of the 37,000 wastebaskets between this men’s room and one’s cubicle.

Stripping, Not Pole Dancing

August 10, 2010

Alas and alak, I heard from the agent who’d asked for my manuscript and she’s opted not to represent me on this project, although she did say that she’d like to see a novel when I have one ready. She also told me that memoirs are selling around 80,000 words right now, and mine is 100,000. She also mentioned, kindly, that she hoped I wouldn’t be too discouraged by this news, which I used to console myself. If she doesn’t want me to be discouraged then I should see this situation as one that still has potential, just not right now. For someone humble enough not to presume his own greatness, these are a lot of concepts about my worth as a writer to hold in one place.

More immediately, it gave me a little bit of a conundrum: should I continue working on my superhero/satire novel, or go back and get rid of 20,000 words on the memoir to make it more marketable and increase the pacing?

I couldn’t help myself in the moments after reading her email, which I admit, I read five or six times in case the words decided to reassemble themselves into an offer of representation. Then I opened up the manuscript file, and took out 4,000 of those damnable, unmarketable words. I don’t need to go on so much about men’s rest rooms, anyway, no matter how enlightening I think my insights are. (Really, they are.)

But my writing goal for this fall remains the same, rejection or no rejection. I’m working on SuperQueers, and I note that my rewrites are changing the tone a lot. I have to look out to avoid sounding like I’m derivative of Douglas Adams, and yet I want to keep it funny. There just isn’t enough funny science fiction out there. I think my other landmines are, in no particular order:

  • Making it sound like too many kinds of subgenres—a little steampunk here, a little urban fantasy there, and suddenly I’ve overmixed my paints and created dog poop brown
  • Worrying so much about marketability that I play it too safe with the writing—just writing that here makes the hair at the nape of my neck get buzzy and upset, but I’ve already been told by two professionals that it’s a great idea with mass appeal, so I need to just settle down on that
  • Getting the balance of action and character development wrong—I started this novel in 2004 for National Novel Writing Month, and worked it up as a serial, initially. So it was run, run, run, to the detriment of fleshing out the characters in the story. My second rewrite told too much of their backstory, and now I think I’ve got just the right split. I intend to keep it that way, which means I have to keep an eye on any imbalances as I rewrite. I wish stories would thump like a washing machine in distress, but they don’t.
  • Forgetting to enjoy the story I’ve created—having never worked on a project this long, I am vaguely concerned that all of it will get stale.  I let SQ sit around for years and germinate quietly in a corner of my head, and recently (read: last spring) it pushed its way to the fore again, acting much more demanding than it had previously. This is a good thing, because I’ve learned I can’t rush a story. But it’s time to get her done.

When I really need a break from SQ and it’s not time for Friday Flash Fiction over at Mad Utopia, I can work on stripping down Bumbling. But not pole dancing with Bumbling. Because I really don’t have enough dexterity for that crap.

How Not to Pitch to an Agent

August 4, 2010

This is crossposted from my regular blog, trans/plant/portation.

Call me Captain Obvious, but after reading a lot—and I mean a LOT—of advice about face-to-face pitching story ideas to agents, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it when the time really came due. So much of it was contradictory, or impossible to do at once, or over the top, or not applicable. So here is my list, after taking myself to my first writer’s conference, of what not to do, as obvious as some of these items may seem. I’m not saying I did these things, but I or someone I noticed did each of the things in this list.

  1. Don’t use your pitch time or session for anything other than your finished work. They want to think you’re really into the thing you’ve written, and hello, you need to show you’re a closer and can finish a project.
  2. Don’t get so into memorizing your pitch that you’re a nervous wreck when you sit down to pitch. I’m going to put on my usability evaluator’s hat and remind folks that we humans hear differently than we read. A few interesting words are fine, but agents aren’t going to dissect your perfect language by ear. I like the notecard approach, personally. You know your project, be confident you’ll advocate for it well, and leave the memorization to the . . . memorizers.
  3. Don’t leave at the last minute to go to your pitch session. I don’t see how huffing and puffing and wiping sweat off one’s brow emits a glow of success. As I’m a classic overthinker, I also need to not give too much ramp-up time to myself, or I’ll work myself into a different kind of stress aura. Ten minutes beforehand to leave the workshop session, etc., is perfect.
  4. Don’t waste your pitch time blowing smoke up the agent’s ass. They have to endure this so often some may have mounted smoke detectors inside their underwear. Which I guess would make it hard to sit, but that’s not the point. I think there’s a middle range agents like to see—where the writer knows a bit about their client list and book selections, and can compare their work with each. But there’s no point to looking like a stalker-in-waiting. That’s just freaky.
  5. Don’t be an island unto yourself. Agents and editors and everyone in the book publishing business expects that writers are good readers—that we have knowledge of the other books in our genre of interest, that we know how to avoid duplicating other well known (or even somewhat known) plots and characters, that we want to contribute to the literature generally. Acting like we’ve been so well holed up in our literary caves that we don’t know what’s going on in the field won’t play well once the agent asks herself how we’ll market ourselves, because the answer will come back that we’ll look like asses.
  6. For email queries, don’t rush querying. I know, I finished my memoir and went straight to the “How to Query an Agent” blogs and books. It was like a hot potato in my pocket, that manuscript. Hey, I have big pockets, okay? Go back and make it tighter. Hack out sections that really don’t need to be there. Let it sit in the drawer for a while and in the meantime, go fishing, catch a movie or *gasp* read a book. When you finally sit down, after all of that, to write your query letter, spend some quality time with it. What was the point in writing the best book ever if you’re just going to send out a half-baked query? The query is the singer of the band—the bassist may be great, but very few people will get past poor singing to notice the bass.
  7. If an agent says no, leave them be and don’t hound them. One agent at the conference I attended says she receives the same query every day, starting more than a year ago. She’s never going to say yes to this person’s project. While that may be an extreme example, it’s a good reminder to respect an agent’s no. Keep refining your pitch and researching which other agents might be better advocates for your work.

I say all this in the midst of getting turned down for representation after the same agent asked for my partial manuscript, book proposal, and then full manuscript. That’s a long way to go in the process just to be rejected. It’s not easy, for sure, but I tell myself that if my project didn’t have any merit, I wouldn’t have heard back from anyone, much less the half dozen who’ve shown interest. And at least I know now that I should cut it down to about 80,000 words. It may be my baby, but heck, I’m trying to sell my baby, so who am I to complain about cutting it a little?

Okay, bad metaphor there. I do not encourage traumatizing babies, let me just point that out.

Writers, put yourselves out there. Keep pushing to be better. One of these agents, one of these days, is going to say yes.

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