“Management Lessons from Game of Thrones” goes to Worldcon!

I can now reveal that I’ll be presenting a paper on “Pathways to Female Leadership in Game of Thrones”, based on some of the work you can find on this blog, at ChiCon8, the 80th World SF Convention, in Chicago this September! I’ll be attending in person, so will also be turning up on various panels and roaming around promoting my new book as well.

You can read my blog series on Leadership in Game of Thrones here, and you can preorder my book on the subject.

The Lunchtime Writer Guest Post 2: Writing in the Gaps with Sara L. Uckelman

I wrote my first story age 4, typing it out on my parents’ Osborne before I could even hold a pen.  This was followed up when I was 7 or 8 by my first “novel”, Cyclesta, an epic tale of a dynasty of fish, and by age 11 I had started my sequel to The Lord of the Rings.

I always knew that I was going to be a writer.  I knew this even when I reached the end of my university years and realised I wasn’t that good.  I put aside fiction and poetry, concentrating on graduate school, research papers, and building my academic career instead.

By the time I woke up one morning in 2014 and thought, “I’m going to start writing fiction again,” I hadn’t written more than a few paragraphs of fiction in more than a decade. I’d gone from a student with an endless supply of time to a married parent of a toddler about to embark on a tenured academic position in a new country. I challenged myself to write 500 words a day – exactly – (I am motivated by arbitrary and obscure constraints) and if I missed my 500 words one day, they rolled over to the next day. Within these constraints, I gave myself perfect freedom: I would write whatever I wanted to write, without any concern about whether I should write it, or whether it was good, or whether I was allowed.

I very quickly realised that 500 words is a lot of words.  Too many words.  I woke up in the morning and was daunted rather than inspired.  Within a day or two, I reduced my challenge to 400 words a day, and that was the first important lesson that I learned: where 500 is impossible, 400 is doable.  I went on to write 400 words a day for the next two and a half months, and continued to write sporadically on that project over the next two years until I had 80,000 words.  Two years later, I extracted a short story’s worth of material from that 80k, and it resulted in my first fiction acceptance as an adult  (“The Sum of Our Memories” was published in Hannah Kate, editor, Nothing, Hic Dragones, https://www.hic-dragones.co.uk/product/nothing/).

If the first lesson I learned was immediate and obvious, the second lesson I learned from this practice I only realised I’d learned in retrospect, and that is that: writing breeds writing.  The more I wrote, the easier it was. Small, achievable goals meant I had the impetus to write every day; actually writing the words meant I wanted to write every day.

A few years into my new job, I joined a group of other academics and writers in formalising the 400 words a day challenge; each month, we bet the others in the group $20 that we could write at least 400 words a day 5 days out of every 7.  It was during this that I learned my third lesson about writing: All words are real words, all writing is good writing.  Many other people in the challenge only counted “real” writing, e.g., word intended for publication. I, on the other hand, counted everything – blog posts, referee reports, comments on student papers, things I would not otherwise have written had I not needed to reach my 400 word goal.  Because writing breeds writing, all writing is good writing. To separate out my words into those that “counted” vs. those that didn’t would only have served to say “some of the things you are writing are valueless”, when manifestly they were not, because they primed the pump. [The words for these post are going into my daily word count tracker!]

Which brings me to the title I chose in this post: Writing in the gaps. Leisure time – time to think, uninterrupted time, time when I am not exhausted – is hard to come by, when you have a partner and a child (even if she is no longer a toddler!) and a demanding job, even before you add a global pandemic into the mix.  Often, I have only a few minutes here and there, a moment when a few sentences spring into my head and I dump them down on paper.  It is in the gaps between all the other calls on my time that I am able to write, but even if it is just a few sentence here, a random Twitter poem there, all writing is good writing, and writing in the gaps means I am doing what matters most: Putting words on paper and building something out of them.

All words count.

All writing matters.

Writing breeds writing.

Write what you want, without judgement.

These are the lessons I’ve learned over the last decade or so, which give me the freedom and permission I need to write in the gaps.

Dr. Sara L. Uckelman is an associate professor of logic at Durham University. Writing in the gaps has resulted in a steady stream of published short stories, flash fic pieces, and poems over the last 5 years, including a story co-written with her (then 8yo) daughter, which resulted in the establishment of Ellipsis Imprints, a small press based in the northeast of England, which publishes SFF, poetry, anthologies, popular nonfiction, and books written for and by children.

For more about what she writes and publishes, see https://sluckelman.webspace.durham.ac.uk/fiction/ and https://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/ellipsisimprints/.  You can find her reviews of short science fiction and fantasy stories at https://sffreviews.com/.

The Lunchtime Writer Part Two: How To Lunchtime Write

Welcome back to The Lunchtime Writer! In this post I’m going to expand on what I mean by Lunchtime Writing, and lay out the basics of how to do it.

As I said in the first post of this series, Lunchtime Writing doesn’t necessarily mean writing at lunchtime. What I mean by Lunchtime Writing is, writing in short, regular bursts, the sort of thing one could, potentially, do at lunchtime. Myself, I’m technically a Before Work Writer, because I tend to do my writing around eight AM before the working day begins, and you could also do it in the evenings if you’re so inclined.

The point, though, is to write a small number of words, but do it regularly. My own usual routine is to write around 500 words a day.

But the other point is to do it regularly. I write 500 words, or equivalent writing-related work (more on this in later posts), every day– workdays and weekends. Writing, for me, is like playing a musical instrument or learning a language: the key to it is to do it regularly and often, and make it part of your routine.

Which is the “secret” (not a secret) to how Lunchtime Writing works. 500 words of prose a day, every day, is 182,500 words a year. 500 words every weekday is 130,000. That’s as much, or more, as writers who binge-write a few thousand words every few days. And the best of it is, you don’t feel like you’re writing a lot, because you’re only doing it for about half an hour a day.

This is why I’d really recommend Lunchtime Writing particularly for people who are in the headspace of wanting to get serious about writing, but feeling like they can’t take the time away from work or caring. Maybe, once you get into the practice of writing, you’ll find you can write more, or you can make more space in your day for it. But if you’ve ever said “I have a good idea for a novel but I never seem to find the time…”

…then here’s how to find the time.

FitzJames and Moyo Make The BSFA Longlist!

I can’t believe it! I’m on the BSFA Award longlist *twice!* It’s for my stories “The Ghosts of Trees” (climate fiction about accepting the things you can’t change and changing the things you can) and “Things Can Only Get Better” (a FitzJames and Moyo Mystery about a surgical bot turned taxi who cracks a gambling ring) Both are available for free at the links. Members can read the full list and vote here— deadline is 21 February.

Holiday Gift: “The Egg Man” for Free!

For the holidays, I’ve uploaded my 2014 holiday-adjacent weird-fiction story “The Egg Man”, a tale of Boxing Day, madness and the Beatles first published in the seasonal anthology Sanity Clause Is Coming. Download it below, and enjoy a nice antidote to the eggnog!

Podcasting about children’s books

This week, I’m the guest on Fantasy Book Swap, the podcast hosted by literature specialist Ali Baker, where we discuss one classic children’s book, one modern children’s book, and anything else that’s relevant! Ali and I discuss Edward Eager’s Knights’ Castle, Stephanie Burgis’ The Dragon With The Chocolate Heart, and a lot of other things (like whether or not Anne is the Sansa Stark of the Famous Five). You can listen to it here, or via your favourite podcast app.

Where I am at British FantasyCon

I’m off to British FantasyCon! I’m on two panels, Representing Sexuality (Saturday 1:30 PM) and “No, Seriously, We Have Always Fought: Developing Historical Awareness in SFF” (Saturday 6 PM).

To explain the latter, it’s to discuss strategies for making people aware of older SFF works that deal with what people think of as “modern” themes, without dismissing the experiences of newer SFF readers or falling into the trap of prescribing a “canon” of literature.

Otherwise, I’ll be helping out with the Eastercon 2024/Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon Bid table intermittently throughout the event, so if you want to say hi, come round!

Phantoms for Free

Some exciting news just dropped. To celebrate becoming a monthly magazine, Shoreline of Infinity are making next issue pay-what-you-can (including free)– and it includes my story The Ghosts of Trees!

If a story about eerie supernatural happenings on a terraforming project in the Nevada Desert sounds like your thing, get your copy for whatever you want to pay at this link.

Leadership Lessons from Game Of Thrones: Index

iu-4For your convenience, here’s a handy index to the Leadership Lessons from Game of Thrones posts, in chronological order.

Introduction

Charismatic leadership: Daenarys Targaryen

Transformational leadership: Jon Snow

Transactional leadership: Tyrion Lannister

Behavioural leadership theories: Robert Baratheon

Contingency-based leadership theories: the High Sparrow

Power-based leadership theories: Sansa Stark

Traditional pathways to promotion: Robb Stark and the Baratheon brothers

Alternative pathways to promotion: Ramsay Bolton

The Battle of Winterfell, or How Not To Lead

Toxic leadership: Joffrey Baratheon and Daenarys Targaryen (again)

Gender and ethnic diversity in leadership: the Greyjoy siblings

Conclusions