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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Olesen

Author Update: Failures, Ventures, and Accomplishments

November has been a busy month! Rather than a regular blog post this week, though I have several in progress, I thought I'd give a quick update on what's going on in my writing life.

First: NaNoWriMo

I lost! For National Novel Writing Month, where you are challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days, I only wrote a grand total of 37,214 words, with 15,748 of those words being written in the last 4 days! This was still an incredible accomplishment and, as my loving boyfriend is quick to remind me, is 37,214 words more than I had on October 31st. I am super proud of my accomplishment and if you participated in NaNoWriMo this year, you should be proud of yourself too!

The most important thing I learned from this year's NaNo is how much I can conceivably write in one day. Surprisingly, this is anywhere from 2,000-5,000 words... I am just as shocked as you. This just goes to show that you can accomplish far more than you think! Even with a full time job, if you keep your writing (or other art) time precious and make it a priority, then you can achieve incredible things. My goal now is to keep up the momentum from my 4 days of crazy end-of-Nano writing and whip out this novel as quick as I can.

To find out more about this great non-profit organization, check out their website here and consider signing up to write a novel next year, or during one of their NaNo Camps throughout the year!

Second: Freelancing

This month, I took on my first freelancing gig as an Alt-Text writer! This is an exciting and interesting series of projects where I write text for computers to read to sight-inhibited readers of college textbooks. I love that this work is fun, dynamic, and helps make the world a more accepting place for people of all abilities.

On a personal note, I have been investigating text-to-speech options for getting around my dyslexia when it comes to reading things that cannot be dramatized in an audio book. I can see how these programs can broaden intellectual pursuits to people with learning disabilities as well as sight impairment and am excited to be a part of making academia more accessible for all.

If you are dyslexic and struggling to keep up with schoolwork, see if your textbook has this text-to-speech option! It is okay to admit you are struggling and ask for help from your Disabilities Resource office on campus. I wish I would have done this when I was in college and could not keep up with the reading. Perhaps if I had, I would have learned the all material fully instead of peripherally.

Third: ICFA!

I was accepted for the second year in a row to present a paper at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, in Orlando, Florida, next March! This year, I have shifted from the Children's and Young Adult division into the general Fantasy division. This reflects my overall scholarship which straddles the divide between YA and Adult literature to always focus on elements of the fantastic.

If you are interested in learning more about what my presentation is going to be about, I have copied my accepted proposal at the bottom of this post.

Phew! That was a lot! Next week, we return to our regularly scheduled programming with a more traditional blog post. Are any of you super busy at this time of year? Any big events coming up? I'd love to hear about your accomplishments in the comments below!

Write on!


History with Magic…and the Patriarchy: An Examination of Female Empowerment in Historical Fantasies of the British Regency Era

Kameron Hurley exposes the lie of historically weak women in her award-winning essay, “‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative,” where she argues that representations of women in history disregard their might and agency. Archaeological evidence can prove that women have acted as warriors, leaders, and breadwinners throughout time, yet when authors recreate the past, their literature retains a male-centric narrative populated by powerless women. Even in historical fantasy literature, women remain trapped in a patriarchal world despite magical opportunities. By comparing three historical fantasy novels set in the Regency Era of Great Britain, I hope to uncover how and why female authors represent women in a patriarchal system, though anything could be possible after the addition of magical elements.

In the last few decades, the vision of a magical Regency has taken form in several novels based on the strict manners of the time, shaken up with an bit of magic. The most famous of these is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which depicts an epic magical resurgence where women are primarily manipulated, duped, or seduced by magic, rather than using it themselves to escape their patriarchal society. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal is another popular magical-Regency novel, where women learn the art of illusions to attract a suitable husband, but not to seize power for themselves. The intersectionality of feminine magical involvement appears in Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho,

where a young, dark-skinned woman improves her lot in life by forcing the world to acknowledge her as the most powerful sorcerer in Great Britain. A deeper examination of these novels illustrates the variety of changes a magical element can have on the power dynamic between men and women, but also the limits an author will go towards recreating a history without the patriarchy.

Perhaps female authors are so indoctrinated in the fallacy of male-centered histories that they recreate a society of strong men and weak women even in historical fantasy novels to keep the setting “historically accurate.” They may shy away from altering female roles in order to keep the setting recognizable for a misled reader, or even to critique the pervasiveness of the patriarchy, such that it would retain ultimate control over power even in a magical world. It could be that the type of magic, how it is used, and where it comes from may determine a woman’s access to it, though this authorially-manufactured inaccessibility may be a further symptom of the patriarchal-painted version of history. Historical fantasies that depict women overcoming their subjugation through magic could be fallacies in themselves because real women throughout history have not required magic to attain power, so it does them a disservice to pretend otherwise. Is there an accurate way to represent women in historical fantasy stories, or is the patriarchy so pervasive that it must exist even in a woman’s imagined creation of a magical past?

#writinglife #NaNoWriMo #ICFA #conferences

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