SMASH: The Origin Story

SMASH: Tearing Down Gender Rules was born when a radioactive spider–Wait.

One day, SMASH was exposed to gamma rays–Hold on.

SMASH grew up on the planet Krypton–No.

Although SMASH used to be a Russian secret agent and assassin–Um, that’s not it.

SMASH left the island of Themyscria to fight–


Picture of LEGO Avengers. Yes, I know Wonder Woman is DC, not Marvel.

You know what? The origin story of SMASH isn’t nearly that exciting. But maybe you’d like to hear it anyway?

Late last spring I heard through a writing group that Irene Goodman–THE Irene Goodman, founder of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, did you hear me? Irene Goodman!–was looking for someone to write an approachable, snarky-yet-grounded book about the history of misogyny.

Hey! I write things. And I’ve taught gender studies for 18 years. And I know some things about misogyny. And I’m approachable. And, well, definitely snarky. Kind of funny. McSweeney’s published me, so I must be kinda funny.


A picture of Lin Manuel Miranda in a blue suit in front of a portrait of Hamilton, looking happy & proud & awesome as usual.


“I am not throwing away my shot!”

I took some deep breaths and emailed her. She emailed right back! We talked on the phone and connected well–she liked my vision and wanted to know more, even though she’d originally been looking for someone more, well, famous–a big name already.

I’m not a big name. YET. But she was intrigued by my ideas, so I wrote some sample pages and sent them to her.

Then came the real shocker. She emailed, told me she loved the pages, AND THEN asked if I’d ever considered writing middle-grade non-fiction.


No, actually…I hadn’t ever considered it.

But the more we talked, the more I saw it. And the more I wrote, the more the words poured out of me, the more the project took shape in my mind, the more I realized OF COURSE this was a middle-grade book.

SMASH shows middle-graders how to decipher culture’s messages culture about gender. We can’t fight what we don’t even name. We can’t think critically about things we assume are just “natural” and “normal.” Once we see that gender is CONSTRUCTED, then? Then we have the chance to decide which messages we believe, which we question, and which we resist. Then we have the chance to figure out how to be our best, most authentic selves.

Knowledge is empowerment.



I love this book so very much.

As I’ve been writing SMASH, I feel like I’m talking to my own kids. I’m talking to YOUR kids. I’m talking to ALL kids about things I wish I knew when I was their age. I’m talking to all kids about things they need to know–the earlier, the better.

I never want to talk down to kids–they’re capable of understanding SO MUCH MORE than adults often give them credit for. Instead, I break down complex concepts and explain them in simple terms, with clear examples.

Irene’s talking about SMASH with editors now. We’ve sent out a proposal including the first four chapters.

Next blog post? I’m gonna talk about how SMASH got its name.

Unless its name changes before then.

Which could happen, because we’ve had about seven million and three title iterations at this point.

So stay tuned!



Who Says Feminists Aren’t Funny?

I’m intense. I hold strong opinions. I have a hard time “enjoying” media without critiquing the hell out of its problematic messages. I am amused by nothing that contains sexism/racism/classism/able-ism/homophobia/any-other-isms. I care about “too many” social issues (for other people’s comfort). I may even be “too much” for some people.


But I’m funny.


McSweeney’s Internet Tendency just accepted a piece I wrote.

And if McSweeney’s isn’t funny, NOTHING is funny. Like. Because McSweeney’s IS funny, get it? Most of the pieces on McSweeney’s are absolutely hilarious and amusing and MY PIECE WILL LIVE WITH THEM.

I’m not claiming I’m up to par with “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers” or “FAQ: The ‘Snake Fight’ Portion of Your Thesis Defense” or “An Update on the Problem of Maria.” 

My piece might be the sad, neglected neighbor-child to those pieces. BUT WE WILL BE NEIGHBORS!


(And, yes, I will absolutely, definitely, without-a-doubt post the link here when it’s published, which should be in the next few weeks.)

The Ten Stages of Getting Critique on Your Novel Draft

Well, lookee here! I’ve written a novel! I have an entire draft. Now it’s time to share it with my beta slideshow_1readers and get some critique.

  1. All right, this is awesome. I’m going to send this novel to a few people and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. They’re going to love it as much as I do.
  2. OMG. What have I done? What. Have. I. Done? This novel’s not ready to be read. Did I already send it? Can I retract it?  Should I tell them to delete it? What was I possibly thinking? Maybe I should change my email address. And unfriend the beta readers on all social media. And dodge them in real life. I never have to speak to them again.
  3. Deep breaths. This will be okay. I do want their feedback. They’re going to have useful things to say. I need to calm down.
  4. OMG. Why is it taking so long for them to give me their feedback? Have they started reading it yet? Don’t they know I AM WAITING? :refresh: :refresh: :refresh:
  5. My first feedback! I can’t wait to read it.
  6. What the fuck do they know? Fucking beta readers. Do they even know how to read? Are they too stupid to understand my novel? What gives them the right to criticize me? Jerks. I hate them. Fucking beta readers.
  7. The beta readers are right. I’m hopeless. My writing is hopeless. Why did I think anyone would like this? There’s nothing worth saving. It’s all trash. This is the worst possible thing anyone could ever have written. I should delete it and never write again.
  8. Deep breaths. Okay, wait. The betas said they liked some things. And, well, maybe they have a point about that thing. And this thing. And maybe that other thing could be improved. Maybe they had some valuable comments. Maybe this writing is worth saving. Huh. And maybe I can make it even better.
  9. I did it! I’ve done revisions. I listened to other people’s comments and made changes without freaking out. This novel is stronger now than it was. I will send out the new version and see what the betas think.
  10. OMG. What have I done? What. Have. I. Done? This novel’s not ready to be read. Did I already send it? Can I retract it? Should I tell them to delete it? What was I possibly thinking?



image: pain-in-rainbows.jpg

From Dolphins to WHAT…?!

My prompts for the second round of the Short Story Challenge were action/adventure, animal rights, and delivery driver.

My brain spun round and round through cosmetic and medical testing, carriage horses, owl cafes, and landed on dolphins. After researching quite a bit about Taiji cove, I wrote a pretty serious short story about three characters (Kiyomi, Naoki, and Tom) sneaking into the cove to cut nets and free a dolphin pod. The story illustrated the horror of the Taiji dolphin slaughters and captures. It’s a cause I care a lot about. It was a kind of intense little story.

shutterstock_366792137-1024x683Okay, I thought. This has some promise.

I sent it off to some folks for beta reading. They mostly liked it.

Until one of my beta readers–okay, it was Gary, my husband–said: “You haven’t made this story your own” and “I love when you take these prompts and find some completely crazy and unexpected direction for the story. Dolphins seem kind of…obvious. A bunch of people might write about dolphins.” [Disclaimer: he said none of this verbatim, but this is what I heard. Actually, when I was paraphrasing him before, I said that he said, “Everyone will write about dolphins and there’s nothing interesting or original here and this story sucks.” He claims he didn’t say that. I guess I believe him.]

I started thinking about what I do best, which is fantasy and science fiction. Action/adventure can be SFF…. Maybe I needed to shake things up a bit. Gary said, “You have time to write something new.”

Start from scratch? When I already wrote one story for a 72 hour challenge?

Right about then, my friend John (also a writer) left me a voicemail and said, “Write to your skill set. You can blend genres and make your story SFF if you’re not feeling what you already wrote.” [Again, that’s probably not exactly what he said. I could listen to the voicemail again and quote him, but I’m too lazy.] emoji_update_2017_11_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqqvzuuqpflyliwib6ntmjwfsvwez_ven7c6bhu2jjnt8

I moped around. I sulked. I sighed in frustration. I moped some more. I was really, really, really grumpy. I had like seven million ill-formed ideas and wrote some random sentences.

Then, I just started having fun. A story basically poured out of my brain onto the page and made me giggle quite a bit of the time. I wrote the whole thing in less than three hours.

It’s a ridiculously frothy, funny story that plays with action/adventure conventions in a SF setting. We’re talking high school ninja-girls and animals worn as jewelry and a high speed spaceship chase. Yes, it touches on animal rights, but with the lightest of light hands.

I’m submitting the second story. I have no idea how the judges will feel about such a zany, genre-blurring story.

But I can guarantee they won’t read another story like it. I probably won’t post the whole thing here, because it may have quasi-publishable legs, this wacky little story. I’m happy to share it with individuals, though. If you want to read it, just let me know! 🙂

It’ll be about five weeks before I hear if I make it to round three, so stay tuned.


On to Round Two!

My “Fifty Thousand Batmans” story got me through to round 2 of the NYC Short Story Challenge. Woot!

This round will bring a new prompt, to arrive Thursday, 3/29 at 11 pm CST. Genre, character, subject. Stories are due Sunday, 4/1 by 11 pm CST and can be no longer than 2000 words.

What genre will I get?

What crazy prompts will I write about?

Stay tuned to find out! 🙂 I’m pleased to continue with the contest and I hope my creative abilities don’t fail me now.

I should get the judges feedback on my round 1 story soon–I’d be happy to share those comments if any of you other writers-types would be interested?


Ten Stages of Writing Your Novel

  1. Wow! I have a really great idea. This idea is fantastic. This is going to be amazing. How has no one written this novel before? It’s brilliant. This will be brilliant
  2. I’m so impressed with myself. Look at all the words I’ve written! Words, words, and more words!
  3. Um. I’m not sure what happens next and how my plot gets from point A to point B. I’m gonna figure it out, though.
  4. Wow. The messy middle of this book is truly a messy middle. Um. This is a total mess. I’m not sure how I’m going to wrap it up. How can I possible get to the ending I need?
  5. Oh! That’s how it can resolve! Huh, look at that! Wow, I have a draft. I have an entire draft of the novel. I am amazing. I am a writer.
  6. Okay, time to edit. Oh. Oh, wow. Oh no. What the hell? This is complete and utter shit. This book sucks. It makes no sense. I can drive a truck through that plot hole. What is my character doing here? Why would she even do that? My prose is the most hackneyed of awful prose there ever was. Why did I write this? How could I write 70k of the most awful prose in the history of prose? I can’t fix this. I should delete it. No, I should print it out and burn it and bury the ashes. OMG. I cannot ever let anyone read this.
  7. All right, let’s think. Surely there’s salvageable stuff here. Hmm. Crap. There’s not. It’s still shit.
  8. Self, this is a first draft and not a final masterpiece. Give this a chance. Hmm. Haha, oh, look, that bit’s actually kind of funny. And, wow, did I write that? I love that paragraph. And look at that part–that doesn’t make sense, but what if I tweak it a little this way and I tweak that part a little the other way and I add this section here. Yeah. Huh. Yeah. This might work.
  9. Okay, now I’ve reworked the whole thing. I can’t believe the editing and re-writing have taken three times as long as the actual drafting. Maybe I need just one or two more run-throughs, just in case.
  10. You know what? This doesn’t suck. This actually turned out kind of almost pretty okay. I think I’m ready to get feedback from some other folks. I think they might even kind of like it. I kind of like it! I really think I do. You did a decent job on this, self.


Coming next: The Ten Stages of Getting Critique on Your Novel Draft

Old vintage typewriter

Life Is Suffering. Have a RomCom?

*If you want to skip the musings about life and suffering and just read my story, skip to the Batman picture*

I’m not sure about any of the rest of you, but I’m feeling rather glum and cranky and sad 2696250-lg-greythese days. Lots of reasons and no reasons, you know? The weather is gloomy with rain, rain, more rain, rain, hey, look, it’s raining, rain, and grey skies for good measure. The temperatures this week have been very warm, but it nonetheless feels like we’re stuck in the rut of winter hoping that days will someday lengthen. Will spring come? Will it lift our spirits when it does? Can anything lift our spirits?

A local fourteen year old girl killed herself last week. My kids didn’t know her, but my daughter has a good friend who was her friend. My daughter plays in Honors band and this girl was in Honors orchestra, so their paths most likely crossed on the Honors tour or other places. The girl went to a school across town. She was bullied. I don’t know the full story–I don’t need to know the full story to feel the immediate upwelling of grief and fear and painful empathy. I didn’t know this girl, but I’ve cried for her and her family. My daughter–also fourteen–is shaken. Shaken by the glimpse of mortality so close, yet not close. Shaken by the realization that pain can be so great suicide seems like an answer. Shaken by her friend’s grief. Shaken by the extent of the world’s suffering.

Remember: Suicide is never the answer. Reach out to someone, anyone. Call the National Suicide hands-holding-a-heartPrevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Email me or call/text or tweet or FB me. Seriously. I’m here for you–even those of you I don’t know. I don’t need to know you to love you–and I do. I love you, each of you, for all that makes you you. If I don’t know you yet, I STILL love you. And I’d love to get to know you.

I’ve had two close friends struggle with suicidal ideation this winter. Thank all the gods they are both in a better place right now. I’ve had friends experience huge losses. My BFF has lived with the fear and trauma of a major family medical issue. Then, in my own family, there’s Parkinson’s. And the difficulties of middle school and all the pain of growing up.

I don’t know how to strip away the suffering that seems to be at the core of life. I guess I can’t. No one can–we just learn to love in spite of all the suffering. Stubbornly and desperately, we love.


I can’t make things better for all of you, but I decided I would post my RomCom here for everyone to read. I don’t intend to publish it, so I’m happy for it to be out here as a freebie. Maybe it will bring a smile to your face–it’s kind of cute. Maybe it will be a reprieve.

Without further ado, I bring you “Fifty Thousand Batmans,” my story written for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge on the prompts: romantic comedy, cosplay, and fashion designer.

Fifty Thousand Batmans

by Sarah E. Stevens


Tanvi: Tomorrow!61si8r5umml-_sy550_

Andrew: I know, right?

Tanvi: I hope we don’t hate each other, haha.

Andrew: LOL if we do, at least the Con ends Sunday. 

Tanvi: We won’t hate each other. I just hope…

Andrew: What?

Tanvi: I don’t know. 

Andrew: What? Tell me.

Tanvi: Like. Sunday already seems too soon.

Andrew: Haha, I know. 

Tanvi: Haha, I feel stupid. 

Andrew: Not stupid. 🙂 

Tanvi: 🙂 I gotta sleep. Lots of travel tomorrow.

Andrew: Ok. Night. Tomorrow.

Tanvi: Tomorrow.  ❤ 😀

Tanvi hit send, then stared at her phone for a minute before she silenced it. She flopped down on the bed.

After seven months of playing World of Warcraft, she’d finally meet Andrew tomorrow. They’d clicked immediately after joining the same WoW guild and seemed to have everything in common, including their love of video games, Dungeons and Dragons, board games, and superheroes. And now they’d meet up at geekdom’s largest event: GenCon. Tanvi still couldn’t believe she and her best friend Grace scraped up enough money to go. Grace used every cent of her birthday money to buy their Con badges and Tanvi committed to putting all their food on her credit card. Student loan money would hit in a few weeks, so she could pay it off. Besides, after GenCon, they’d have enough business to make money. Hopefully.


“Oh my God. This is the longest line ever. Can’t we cut if we’re cosplaying?” Grace said, gesturing down at her elven mage outfit. She tossed her long red hair—a wig—behind her shoulders to show her pointed ears. Knowing Grace, she also wanted to draw even more attention to her green, faux-leaf bikini top.

“I wish,” Tanvi said. “We need our badges, though. Line or no line.”

“Can I take your picture?” a man asked. “Great costumes.”

Tanvi and Grace posed while the man took several shots. Then, Tanvi fished in her belt pouch and handed him a business card. “We design for cosplayers. We can make anything to order. Like us on Facebook and tell your friends. ”

“Okay,” he said. He shoved the card deep in the pocket of his jeans.

That’ll go right in the trash, Tanvi thought. Waste of two cents.

“Your armor looks so badass,” said Grace. She ran a finger along the edge of Tanvi’s foam gauntlet.

“They really need to teach us this at the Art Institute. There’s lots of money in cosplay.”

“That’s why we’re gonna make it big.”

Tanvi caught a glimpse of a Batman down the hall and her heart jumped. Andrew? Her pulse pounded in her ears as she stepped out of line and looked. No. Stupid. She knew his flight didn’t get in for two hours. She needed to calm down.

“Hey, I’m running to the bathroom. Be back before you move far.” Tanvi gestured to the line snaking down the hallway.

“Have fun.”

Navigating the bathroom was a pain in the neck. Tanvi took off her leg armor so she could pull down her black leggings, the whole time vowing not to drink anything else all day so she didn’t have to do this often. As she fastened the armor back over her thighs, she bumped her belt pouch and—


Phone, right in the toilet. Panicked, Tanvi plunged her hand in to grab it.

“Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew,” she chanted as she hurried to the sink, then paused in confusion. She couldn’t clean off the phone without getting it even wetter.

“Did you drop it in?” asked a teenager applying mascara in the mirror.


“Here.” The teen pulled a bottle of hand sanitizer from her purse.

“Thanks.” Tanvi gingerly squirted the sanitizer on the phone and rubbed it around with a paper towel until it evaporated. With a shrug, she deemed it disinfected. She held her breath and pushed the front button.


Dead, black screen.

She pushed the power button, then held it down.

“I heard you should put it in rice,” said the same teen.

“Good thing I brought a bag of rice to GenCon,” said Tanvi.

“Yeah, right? I love your costume. Where’d you get it?”

“I made it. Here.” She handed the teen a card and hurried back to the registration line in a panic. “Grace, I dropped my phone in the toilet and it’s dead!”

“Oh, hell no.”

“Hell yes. How am I going to text Andrew?”

“Don’t you know his number?”

“Of course not. Do you know anyone’s number?”

“My mom’s. Facebook him?”

“He doesn’t have Facebook. Thinks it’s stupid.”

“Well, he’s stupid.”



“Seriously, what am I going to do?” said Tanvi.

“He’s here as Batman, right? You’ll find all the Batmans. Batmen? People-in-Batman-costumes. GenCon’s not that big,” said Grace.

“There’s over fifty thousand people here.”

“Yeah, but there’s not fifty thousand Batmans. Batmen.”


But the next day, it seemed like there were fifty thousand Batmans and Tanvi cursed the new movie under her breath.

She stood on the second floor and scanned the crowd entering the vendor hall. She saw seven Batmen—seven—within the first three minutes. Every time Tanvi caught a glimpse of a black-garbed superhero, her stomach lurched. They all wore masks, of course, which did not help. Tanvi ruled out some by virtue of their height or girth, but that still left several possibilities.

“Andrew!” she yelled, hoping someone might look up. No one heard her above the noise of the crowd.

Tanvi headed down the escalator after a promising Batman and hurried to keep him in sight. She wended her way through the vendor stalls.

There he was. Looked about six feet tall. Not too heavy, not too thin. She pushed past a couple blocking the aisle with a double-wide stroller, ducked under the outstretched arm of someone reaching for boardgames, and slid to a stop next to her target.

“Andrew?” she said.

“What?” The man turned to look at her and she could see blue eyes through the eyeholes in his black mask. She could also see wrinkles. Definitely not a college student.

“Uh, nevermind.” She backed away. Her foot caught on the wheel of that damned stroller and she sprawled in the aisle. Her foam sword got tangled in the legs of the crowd, making several other people stumble.

By the time, she stood up and straightened her armor, the not-Andrew Batman had disappeared, so at least she didn’t need to explain herself. She pasted on a smile and handed out business cards to the cluster of people gawking at her.


“I’ve chased like forty-nine Batmans. Batmen. None of them Andrew,” Tanvi collapsed next to Grace on the bench.

As some people stopped to look at them, they stood up to smile, pose for more pictures, and hand out cards.

“Maybe you should give up on Andrew. Look!” Grace splayed a handful of papers.

“What is that?”

“Phone numbers. And hotel rooms. Lots of guys around here love slutty elven mages with long, red hair. You could meet someone new!”

“I want to find Andrew.”

“Did you see there’s a video game room?”

“No, where?”

Grace pointed down the hall. “I’m not sure if they have WoW. But if they do—”

“If they do, I can message him! Grace, you’re a genius.” Tanvi bounded to her feet. “Come on.”

“Okay, but I need to meet this guy Travis by the pizza truck at 5:00. If he buys me dinner, you won’t have to.”

The video game area was dark, lit mostly by large screens. Tanvi blinked until her eyes adjusted, paid for her entry with generic tickets, then headed to an area with monitors displaying WoW.

“Come on, come on,” Tanvi muttered as she logged in. As soon as the game loaded, she sent a message to Andrew.

My phone broke. Where are you? Call me at the Red Roof Inn, room 429. 

No answer, of course. He wasn’t logged in. Why would he be? But Tanvi hoped he’d think to check his WoW messages.

He would. Wouldn’t he?


Morning of day two and still no Andrew. She’d gone back to the hotel early last night, but the phone never rang. Grace stumbled in full of stories about late night Dungeons and Dragons and some guy named Zach. Tanvi didn’t know what happened to pizza-truck Travis.

The costume parade started in an hour. Perfect place to find the right Batman.

Today, they both cosplayed Overwatch. Tanvi was Tracer, wearing bright orange leggings and a futuristic aviator jacket, replete with a blue LED light.

“You’re sure he’s Batman again?” asked Grace.

“Yes, all Con. He loves Batman.”

“So must everyone else.” Grace gestured behind Tanvi.

Tanvi looked.

A veritable locust swarm of Batmans just joined the parade.

“Holy crap, there must be like a hundred of them,” Tanvi said. “Andrew’s got to be here! This must be a Batman meet-up or something.”

She darted toward the swarm and pushed into their midst. She passed by Batman after Batman, rejecting some with a glance, studying others a moment longer.

“Andrew?” she called. Many Batmen looked at her with seeming amusement.

“Looking for me?” A Batman stepped toward her and she ran toward him. She flung her arms around him and reached up to kiss his cheek.

“Andrew!” she said. “Oh my God, I thought I’d never find you.”

“Who’s Andrew?” said the Batman.

Tanvi froze in confusion.

“Hey, cute girl,” said another Batman. “I’ll be your Andrew if I get a kiss.”

“No, I’m Andrew,” a shorter Batman said.

“I’m Andrew,” said another, stepping forward.

Soon, a chorus of Caped Crusaders surrounded her, all claiming, “I am Andrew!”

Blushing furiously, she turned tail and fled through the mass of catcalling Batmans. She ran past Grace, down the corridor, and around the corner into relative peace and quiet where she collapsed in embarrassment.


After the parade fiasco, Tanvi’s heart stopped thumping at the sight of every Batman. Instead, her face flushed and she kept wondering which one she’d kissed. After several hours of fruitless Andrew-hunting, she handed over more tickets to check her WoW messages.

I thought you were ignoring me, haha. Called ur hotel this morning. Where R U? Meet me at giant Settlers of Catan sheep around 2 pm? 

“Yes!” Tanvi flung her arms up in triumph. “Grace, we gotta get to those inflatable sheep. Right away. It’s 1:55.”

Tanvi raced toward the exhibit hall. A bellydancer troupe performed near the entrance and she slowed down to navigate them. A group of middle schoolers dressed like the Pokemon pushed past her in a whirl of fur and color. She could see the giant Catan sheep through open doors and fought to get closer. Then she saw a guy in a Batman costume, leaning against a table nearby.

She shrieked and grabbed Grace. “Grace, that’s him! That’s him. It’s got to be. That’s Andrew.”

“Right,” Grace peeled her friend’s fingers off her upper arm. “That’s why we’re here, loser. Go talk to him!”

Now that the moment had arrived, though, Tanvi felt rooted to the spot. The Batman shifted his feet and looked up at the sheep, then at the crowds pushing through the area. Suddenly, he stood up tall and walked away.

“Where’s he going?” Tanvi said. She took two steps closer to the exhibit hall.

Andrew hurried up to a girl and tapped on her shoulder. When the girl turned around, he grabbed her in a giant hug, nearly lifting her from the ground.

“That girl’s cosplaying Mei. From Overwatch,” said Tanvi.

“Maybe he knows her?”

They watched. The girl pushed away from Andrew and said something with a sharp look on her face. He took a step backward and lifted his hands. They spoke. He shook his head.

“Grace, he thought that girl was me.”

“So what if he did?”

“He knew I was coming as Tracer. He knew. I told him.”

“Maybe he got confused. It’s been a long Con already.”

“Look at me.” Tanvi gestured at her outfit. “Mei wears a fur-trimmed, blue parka and snow boots. Do I look anything like that?”

“Tanvi, calm down and go say hi.”



Tanvi turned and walked away from the exhibit hall. She leaned against a wall, then slid down to sit with her knees hugged into her chest.

“You’re not going to go meet Andrew because he forgot what Overwatch character you are?” Grace asked.

“It’s all been a lie, Grace. Every bit of it. I don’t even know him.”

“Because he thought you were Mei instead of Tracer?”

“Because he doesn’t care enough to remember! I remember everything he’s ever said to me. Everything. Quiz me.”

“Tanvi. That’s stupid. Also? Kind of creepy.”

Tanvi covered her face with her hands. “That girl doesn’t even look like me.”

“Wow. You are ridiculous, my friend. Ridiculous.”

“Am I?”

“Uh, yeah. You are. That’s why I said it. You’ve been talking to this guy for seven months, right?”


“And this weekend is the only time you have to see him, because he lives in New Jersey. Am I still right?”


“So, get off your ass, put a big smile on your face, and go meet Andrew,” Grace said.

Tanvi sat.

A shadow paused in front of Tanvi and Grace. Both girls looked up.

“Tanvi?” Batman said. “Is that—you’re Tanvi, right?”

Tanvi scrambled to her feet. “Um. Hi.”

The Batman’s mouth curved in a huge smile and Tanvi could see his brown eyes crinkle behind the facemask. “I’m Andrew.”

“Yeah, hi.” She smiled back. “I’m Tanvi.”


They stood there looking awkwardly at each other for a moment.

“Oh, come on.” Grace stood up. “Andrew, Tanvi. Tanvi, Andrew. You’ve been looking for each other for two days. Now you’ve found each other. So, come on. Hug.”

They both looked at her. Andrew took a half step forward and paused, then Tanvi moved the rest of the way into his arms. Tanvi thought she could hear his heart racing.

“That’s more like it! Now, Andrew, Tanvi’s upset because she saw you hug that Mei-girl. Apparently you couldn’t even remember what her cosplay was.”

“You saw that?” The bottoms of Andrews cheeks—the part not hidden by his mask—reddened. “I was really nervous. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“It’s okay,” said Tanvi. And she thought maybe it was.

“It’s definitely okay, because Tanvi’s kissed like half a dozen guys today.”

“No! Like. One,” said Tanvi.

“What?” Andrew looked confused.

“Don’t worry, she thought he was you. Now, Andrew,” said Grace. “Take off that mask so we can see you.”

Tanvi smiled, then shrugged as if to agree.

Andrew pulled off his Batman mask and shook his head. Brown floppy hair, warm eyes, brows slightly raised.

“Nice,” said Grace. “He’ll do. Right, Tanvi?”

“Out of all the fifty thousand Batmans, I think he might just do,” she said.

“Fifty thousand Batmans?” said Andrew.

“Batmen?” offered Tanvi.

“People-in-Batman-costumes,” said Grace.

“Fifty Thousand Batmans”

Some of you may remember I’ve participated in the NYC Midnight Short Story Competition for the last couple of years. Last year, I received honorable mention (18th place) out of 3,000 participants, which felt pretty damned cool.

The first round of the contest took place this past week. Writers receive a genre, a subject, and a character. We had 8 days to write a story, maximum 2,500 words.

My genre was…ready? Romantic Comedy. ACK!!!!

Well, that’s not something I’ve written before, which is the whole reason I enter this contest–I love getting pushed WAY out of my comfort zone and being forced to write a short story that I otherwise never, ever would have thought about. In past years, I’ve written Drama, Historical Fiction, Suspense, and Science Fiction (okay, I was so happy to get that last one!).

My full prompts were: Romantic Comedy – cosplay – fashion designer.

I wrote a story called “Fifty Thousand Batmans,” with the hook: Girl tries to find boy at a crowded Con.

It’s a cute story. It makes me laugh and, of course, it has a big awwwwwww moment at the end. I had a lot of fun writing it!

I won’t get feedback from the judges until the end of March, when they’ll announce who moves on to round two.

Now that the story’s submitted, I’ve gotta get back on my editing horse. I should have a workable draft of Rising Wolf done in the next few weeks…if I can stop goofing around and get to it!

I don’t plan on trying to publish “Fifty Thousand Batmans,” so perhaps after this round of the contest is judged, I will post it here for you all to read and (hopefully) enjoy.

Would you like to read it?

Thoughts on Editing


I’m reading Susan Bell’s book The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself and unearthing gems that speak to me.

First, this bit reassures me: “A writer generates anxiety as a lamp does heat.” (8)

Recently, I’ve found myself frustrated and anxious over my writing process. I write in fragments and bits, with many stops and interruptions–and that isn’t likely to change, given my other obligations. I fear the choppiness seeps into my writing and prevents me from finding the natural flow and direction of the work. Short pieces seem to fare better under these circumstances and I’ve shaped several short stories that bring me joy. But I worry how the fragmentation affects my novel-length projects.

I strive to release the anxiety. I remind myself that macro-editing can smooth and finesse the wrinkles in the worst of pieces. I will trust my editing process.

Second, I am constantly on guard against forcing my narrative in Rising Wolf, instead of allowing it to grow. I’m challenged by this novel, perhaps because I have too many set goals for it. Susan Bell discusses the necessity of releasing preconceptions. She urges us to recognize the difference between the piece we intend and the piece we must write; the distance between what we think we “should” do and what we must do.

I’ve already restarted this project once and scrapped about 30k words in the process. One tidbit from Bell: F. Scott Fitzgerald scrapped 18k words in a rewrite of The Great Gatsby–Bell uses Gatsby to source specific examples throughout her book and I’m fascinated by Fitzgerald’s writing process, not to mention his relationship with his editor. In The Artful Edit, several writers discuss the necessity of restarting works in a looping writing process where subsequent drafts retain only resonances to prior starts.

I will ask myself: Is this working? Is this working on its own terms, not according to some static “should” expectation?

Third, I think a lot about tension in my writing, but I want to re-envision tension as structure. While the two are interrelated, structure brings connotations of concrete physicality. If I drew my work, what is its shape? I’m a highly visual person. Shapes, patterns, drawings–these are things I need to incorporate into my editing process.

I’m not yet finished with The Artful Edit, but I’d recommend it to my fellow authors.

In the comments, I’d love to hear what books on editing (or writing?) you’ve found helpful.

Happy writing–and happy editing!



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