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Amy Sisson
07 April 2014 @ 11:58 pm
This past weekend, Paul and I went to the Worldfest-Houston film festival to see "Sci Fi Shorts", including the short film based on Michael A. Burstein's short story "I Remember the Future".  My review of all five short films appears here:
Amy Sisson
For anyone who is a SFWA member, you may be aware that the SFWA board will be deciding soon whether to allow the Young Adult / Middle Grade closed list-serv to continue past its six months' trial period. I've been pretty vocal about my opinion that it's inappropriate to set up a sub-group within SFWA that is closed to fully qualified SFWA members because they don't meet an additional (and in my opinion arbitrary) qualification. I think it's especially inappropriate because this group is using resources that are paid for by all SFWA members' dues. To date, those resources have been extremely minor, but the group plans to request more, such as exhibitor booth fees for various trade conventions. I don't feel that this is insignificant.

It is my hope that the board will allow the group to continue on the condition that it open to all SFWA members. If they don't want to do that, I think they should disassociate the list from SFWA, and then the group can do whatever it wants.

In any case, I wanted to mention it here in case any SFWA member cares to share his or her opinion with the SFWA board before a decision is made. I e-mailed my comments to the SFWA President earlier today.
Amy Sisson
02 January 2013 @ 08:28 pm
I read 109 books in 2012, not including picture books. The reading time on the commute has definitely led to an increase, although I find it much harder in the winter months when it's dark both coming and going. The commuter buses (as opposed to city buses) are equipped with reading lights at each seat, but I find it to be an eyestrain.

In any case, here were some highlights:

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - YA mainstream

  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - fantasy

  • The Fourth Wall by Walter Jon Williams - science fiction

  • The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen - fantasy (slight)

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - science fiction

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - fantasy

  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio - YA mainstream

  • The Dog Stars by Peter Heller - science fiction (post-apoc)

  • Legion by Brandon Sanderson - science fiction

  • Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn - science fiction (included for the sheer fun factor)

  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker - science fiction (apoc)

  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan - mainstream/literary

Of the highlights, 3 were mainstream, 3 were fantasy, and 3 were science fiction. I still have to go back and figure the numbers for all 109 books.

I'm not sure why I like to keep track. Part of it is the feeling of accomplishment I get from knowing how much I've read. Part of it is that I like to look at what kinds of books I've read, to inspire myself to stretch my boundaries a little more. I take reading, as well as supporting the publishing industry, very seriously. I don't buy everything I read, but I patronize my library a lot and I still do buy a lot of print books at various venues. Books just make the world a better place.
Amy Sisson
17 November 2012 @ 03:43 pm
I told SFWA's YA/MG special interest group that I would not derail their discussion further by continuing to talk there about why they're restricting the group. They've made their decision and they don't want to re-hash it, and I understand that.

It's awkward now, though, because I've had a few responses to my original post there. To answer those responses would be to continue a discussion they don't want. To not answer allows their assumptions about me and other SFWA members to go unchallenged. So I'm going to respond here, where they don't have to be bothered by it unless they actively seek it out.

I just got a mostly polite response from a writer who said that she spends enough time teaching writing already, and just needs time to hang out with her peers. That assumes that I and other SFWA-qualified-but-not-yet-YA-published authors want to join the group because we want or expect active teaching on their part. Actually, I just wanted to read the posts, and planned to respond only if I felt I had something in particular to contribute. I certainly did not intend to ask someone to recommend me to their agent, or to tell me how to break into YA, or to tell me how to write a query letter, or to explain what YA is.

I had also gotten a snarky response from someone who has a reputation as a bit of an ass. He told me with false and sarcastic humility that even though he's published xyz amount of YA, he was satifisfied just to be there and listen to and learn from the experts, whereas I wanted to whine about why they don't consider me an equal. However, if they had let me simply listen to and learn from the experts in the first place -- in an organization for which I've already jumped through the membership hoops and for which I pay the same dues he does -- I wouldn't have had reason to post my objections to their exclusinoary policy in the first place. (In the interests of full disclosure, I repsonded to that post by saying that I had asked a question, gotten an answer, apologized for not knowing where to find the information myself, said thank you, and said I was dropping it. I did that because I thought his would be the last response to my post. But once I got another response, the more polite one from the other author, I decided that I would respond here if I felt the need.)

Ironically, the snarky author had already annoyed some of the others in the group by asking the very type of YA-101 question they wanted to avoid. It's a question I wouldn't have needed to ask because I read a whole lotta YA genre fiction.

They claim to have wanted a safe place to have their discussions, which I guess means a place they won't be badgered by their fellow SFWA members. Because of their exclusionary policy, with which a lot of people have expressed disagreement, they do feel badgered. But they don't seem to understand the irony that they created the very "badgerment" themselves.
Amy Sisson
15 November 2012 @ 10:40 am
Hmmmm, I'm having very mixed feelings about SFWA's announcement today about their new SFWA Middle Grade and Young Adult Writers group-within-the-group. Essentially, it's a list-serv for those who have published or who are about to publish (ie, have a contract) in the middle grade or YA markets. Back when this was first floated, I sent an e-mail to the SFWA President expressing my surprise, and asking if SFWA had ever had other offical groups-within-the-group that had additional membership requirements. I said I would have thought qualifying for the organization in general and a stated interest in the special topic would be enough, and that there could be authors who have not published or contracted such a work but who may have written one, for whom this group might be useful. I also said I'd like to know how and why the decision was made to limit the group. John Scalzi's response said he would take my comments to the board. I did not hear back again, although to be fair, the announcement today does include this addendum from John:

"For now, the SFWA YA/MG list is open to SFWA members whose published credits in young adult and middle grade fiction mirror the membership requirements for SFWA. This means that not all members of SFWA will be able to be part of the list. This is an experiment on our part to offer those members of SFWA with a YA/MG focus a laboratory to discuss issues and concerns specific to their field."

However, for me that does not really provide a rationale. I don't understand how, for instance, allowing a SFWA member who has written a YA book but has not yet managed to sell it (*) to participate would be counter to the goal of offering a "laboratory to discuss issues and concerns specific to [the YA/MG] field." My hypothetical SFWA member has a great deal of interest in those issues and concerns, and having been recognized as a professional, hopefully can be relied upon to behave appropriately.

The online announcement ( also states that "The primary purpose of this group is to create an integral community within SFWA that is comprised of MG and YA SFWA authors for mutual support and knowledge sharing, recognizing that MG and YA SFWA authors work in markets with demands that are different from adult SF/F/H. Secondarily, this group aims to provide information to the broader SFWA membership about MG and YA via educational outreach on the SFWA blog, the SFWA discussion forums, the SFWA Bulletin, and at SF/F conventions."

On the one hand, I don't want to go with my gut reaction because it's a gut reaction, which means I'm not entirely sure it's as rational as it can be, or that I've managed to find and examine all the angles. On the other hand, my reaction hasn't changed in the months since I first became aware of this. It feels to me that perhaps the board thinks there are fully qualified SFWA members who cannot be relied upon to keep the list-serve on-topic, or who would somehow dilute or pollute the discussion. It also feels slightly wrong that the organization is taking whatever minuscule (I know it costs next to nothing to run a list-serv) percentage of members' dues and applying it to a restricted activity in which not all members can partake. And I find the [paraphrased] concept of "it's OK, we'll share information with the rest of you occasionally" kind of condescending.

Thoughts? I really want to know what other people think. What angle am I not considering? I'm usually a fairly go-with-the-flow type person. I attend all the SFWA business meetings that I can. I don't constantly demand "what can SFWA do for me" -- I've always seen the value in this type of organization and have defended it to those who say SFWA is useless or irrelevant to them. But wow, I did not get much of a response to my concerns on this.

[* I am not this hypothetical member. I have not written a young adult or middle grade novel. And besides, I think I could qualify for this sub-group under the affiliate membership option. So my objections here are not purely selfish.]
Amy Sisson
12 July 2011 @ 11:19 am
Remember the cocker spaniel puppy? He is currently being fostered by Cocker Spaniel Rescue of East Houston, and here is an adoption page. I love the photo -- his eyes look terrific! (We had to have a minor procedure done to correct his eye "cherries.")

Since we boarded him at our vet's, he was never in our house, but I still miss him! I hope he finds his new home soon.
Amy Sisson
13 June 2011 @ 08:42 am
On Saturday, with great relief I handed off the stray cocker spaniel puppy to Cocker Spaniel Rescue of East Texas ( They were having an adoption event up in Katy (northwest of Houston) and we decided that the easiest thing to do would be for me to pick him up where we'd been boarding him at our vet's and drive him there to meet his new foster mom. The ladies of the group all crowded around to see the newcomer! You can tell they love dogs with every fiber of their being. The puppy has big paws so some of them thought he was an older dog at first, but his teeth (not to mention his personality) say "baby," about 7 months old now. If he grows into those paws, I think he'll be slightly larger than average for a cocker.

His new foster mom decided to call him Anthony and advised me to keep an eye on the group's web page to find out when he gets adopted. They're very optimistic because he's so young and in good shape physically now that his few minor issues have been addressed. This morning I went back to their webpage and was astounded to see how many cocker spaniels they have in their program. Some of these foster moms are keeping 9 and 10 dogs apiece.

What's really humbling is that these ladies kept thanking me for boarding Anthony for as long as we did, and paying for his medical care. Whereas I kept wanting to thank them, for accepting him into their program when they're clearly already overwhelmed with puppies and dogs needing good homes.
Amy Sisson
Hi folks! The still-unnamed cocker spaniel puppy is scheduled for his neuter surgery tomorrow, as well as a minor eye procedure to take care of the "cherries" that are common to this breed. I have been in touch with the local cocker spaniel rescue group in the greater Houston area, and they have provided helpful info and are looking into whether or not they can help us find a foster or permanent home for the little guy, but I'm a little worried on that count because I know they are overwhelmed. I'd appreciate it if folks would continue to pass the word, as I'm also a little worried at the prospect (both for him sake and ours) of boarding him indefinitely at our vet's office!

The woman from the rescue group told me some things about cocker spaniels I did not know, which potential adopters would need to be aware of:

1) the breed is prone to allergies and ear issues which can make their veterinary care most costly than the average dog

2) while some cocker spaniels are good with kids, they are generally not the best with toddlers and babies

3) they are a strong-willed breed, and require training/discipline

4) the group only allows dogs to go to homes where they will be kept indoors. That's not to say they can't spend some time in a fenced yard but they should not be primarily kept outdoors and should certainly not be sleeping outdoors

Additional considerations:

5) based on my recent visit with the puppy, he unfortunately is not yet housebroken, or he was but has regressed due to his time outside on his own

6) he will have to wear a cone collar for a week to keep him from rubbing his eyes, and cannot run or jump for 5 days due to the neuter surgery. If someone is interested but wants to wait until he is completely recovered, that's fine

7) I am willing to drive this puppy quite a distance to get him to a new home, so please pass this on to friends even if they are not local

8) All medical costs to date will be covered, and his shots are now up-to-date

9) I can e-mail pictures to anyone who is interested

Amy Sisson
This makes dog # 5 that I've picked up since we moved to Houston a little under 8 years ago. This sweet little cocker spaniel was limping across the street in heavy traffic. He is now at our vet's office (we can't keep him at home due to our cat situation) and has been assessed. The vet thinks he is about 6 months old, and likely purebred because his tail has been docked, which usually suggests a breeder was involved. The limping was due to a minor fracture on his front paw that does not require treatment other than a little pain med. He is sweet, came right when I called, is not a barker (we've not heard him bark even once yet), and has some puppy energy now that he has some food in his tummy. He was filthy, covered with fleas, and very hungry, so he appears to have been outside for a bit, but he obviously knows and loves people. He was not chipped, unfortunately.

Paul and I are happy to pay for his medical costs until he finds a home. We will be having him neutered next week. He also has "cherries" in both eyes (inflamed tear ducts, very common in cocker spaniels) that the vet will first treat with antibiotics/steroids, and then with a minor surgical procedure if necessary, which we will also cover. That's why we're holding off on the neuter until next week, because we'll know by then if the eye procedure is necessary, and the vet can do that at the same time as neutering.

No photos yet -- I never remember my camera because I'm so concerned about getting them to the vet. I'll try to find a way to get some photos posted ASAP. In the meantime, I'm putting the word out on Facebook and Livejournal, and will be looking for a cocker spaniel rescue group in Houston. But I would very much appreciate if you could spread the word! As usual, I am willing to drive this little guy where he needs to go. I'm pretty resourceful when it comes to finding ways to get animals to their new homes! :-)

A few other notes: the vet said that anyone taking in a cocker spaniel puppy should understand that it is a strong-willed breed, so he will need training/discipline or else he will think he rules the house! I think he is a good candidate for an apartment dweller due to his small size (currently 19 lbs) and lack of barking. Finally, they are running a heartworm test but said that false negatives can happen with such a young dog, which means he will need to be re-tested in the next year or so just to be safe. But it's been an extremely low year for mosquitoes because it's been so dry, and they are giving him preventative which would stop the development if he does happen to already have heartworm. Heartworm is treatable but the treatment can be pricey. If someone wants him but is leery about this, I'm sure we can work something out if he turns out positive.
Amy Sisson
19 May 2011 @ 07:52 am
Abby has found a home! Thanks to everyone who helped get the message out.