Barking Sycamores: Breakthrough Neurodivergent Lit

[Pictured: a portion of Barking Sycamores’ Issue 14 cover.] 

This spring, Barking Sycamores approaches two major milestones. For one, the journal celebrates its fourth anniversary on April 1! Also, March marks two years since it joined the AutPress family. In that time, this literary journal centering neurodivergent voices has published 13 issues to date, with number 14 slated to roll out on March 1. We’ve released two annual anthologies, with a third coming this fall. Right now, we’d like to talk a little bit about Sycamores and each anthology.

Year One: Debuting Poetry and Artwork

Barking Sycamores said “Hello, world!” in April 2014, with one primary mission: to change the public discourse about autism by centering autistic creators and publishing their poetry and artwork. The journal later expanded to include short fiction and to welcome writers with all forms of neurodivergence. Although disability literature has a rich history, Sycamores was the first journal of its kind to focus solely on neurodivergent authors and artists.

Naturally, this focus meshed well with our mission, both with the primary imprint and NeuroQueer Books. We published the Barking Sycamores: Year One anthology in Spring 2016 and brought the journal on board, along with its founder N.I. Nicholson (who’s now the NeuroQueer Books imprint editor). This volume includes work by the Puzzlebox Collective, Thomas Park, Heather Dorn, and more than 35 other contributors.

Year Two: Expanding a Literary Mission

Barking Sycamores: Year Two continues the journal’s mission while expanding into newer literary territory. Issue 8 saw the addition of creative non-fiction, and it’s reflected in this second volume packed with first-hand neurodivergent narratives, poems, short stories, and artwork. Year Two includes work by more than 30 contributors such as Erin Human, Amy Sequenzia, Sean J. Mahoney, and Matthew Robb Brown.

The Story Behind the Name

The journal’s name was deliberately chosen to sound strange but also characterizes the American sycamore tree without its bark: symbolic of what fellow AutPress editor Nick Walker called the “intense and chaotic nature of autistic sensory and cognitive experience” in his well-known essay, “What Is Autism?”. It was also originally meant to poke fun at the idea that autistic artistic communication is a fluke, a savant ability, or meaningless gibberish.

You certainly won’t forget the journal’s name or the work from neurodivergent contributors publishing in the online journal and in the yearly anthology. If you haven’t read Sycamores, pick up Year One, Year Two, or get both volumes with the Barking Sycamores Collection available in the AutPress store.

 

Call for Submissions: Spoon Knife 4

The Basics

Autonomous Press seeks submissions of poetry, short fiction, and short memoir pieces for an upcoming anthology, Spoon Knife 4: A Neurodivergent Guide to Spacetime.

Scheduled for publication in Spring 2019, this fourth volume of the Spoon Knife Anthology series follows The Spoon Knife Anthology: Tales of Compliance, Defiance, and Resistance (Spring 2016), Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber (Spring 2017), and Spoon Knife 3: Incursions (Spring 2018).

Deadline for submissions for Spoon Knife 4 was November 30, 2018. Please stay tuned for a call for submissions for Spoon Knife 5 in 2019. Sign up for the email list for updates.

What We’re Looking For

As people, we’re drawn to both telling stories and listening to the stories of others. Navigating life can be joyous, frustrating, frightening, sorrowful, and complex. Among all these realities we usually find one truth that always remains: the unknown. And what do we do when confronted with the unknown? We might fear it, try to avoid it entirely, or charge towards it with aplomb or gusto.

Speculative fiction has long dealt with themes surrounding the unknown. Sci-fi and fantasy themes have allowed their creators to conceptualize how space and time can exist, merge, warp, or even disappear in strange and terrifying ways. How in the hell do you map a black hole? Can you really kill your own grandfather? And what happens if your past self travels forward and meets the present iteration of you? What do past, present, and future even mean?

Those are just a few thoughts, but we’re basically looking for work that examines and explores two fundamental ideas: time and space. Moreover, we want work that engages with themes of neurodivergence, queerness, and/or the intersections of neurodivergence and queerness. These might include, but are not limited to, themes such as:

  • Travel through time and space via technological methods (vortex manipulators, star ships, big blue boxes, etc.)
  • Involuntary acts of time travel through PTSD-related mental/emotional trauma
  • Deliberately journeying/revisiting through memories in one’s own timeline
  • “Slipping” through time and/or space via astral projection, quantum jumping, or other non-tech means (such as in Octavia Butler’s Kindred)
  • Outcomes and consequences of changing past events
  • Meeting one’s past/future selves

The Editors

Spoon Knife 4: A Neurodivergent Guide to Spacetime will be edited by N.I. Nicholson and Bridget Allen

N.I. Nicholson is collectively four cats in a human suit, as well as a legal and pen name under which members of the Teselecta Multiverse publish poetry, creative nonfiction, and essays. Nicholson’s work has appeared in publications such as GTK Creative Journal, Alphanumeric, and Assaracus. Editorial work includes collaborating with V.E. Maday to produce Barking Sycamores, a journal for neurodivergent literature, and bringing transformative works to print on Autonomous Press’ NeuroQueer Books imprint. Stay tuned for Nicholson’s first full length poetry collection, Time Travel in a Closet.

Programmed to be a mid twentieth century housewife with a second wave feminist veneer, B. Allen gleefully disappoints. Since the 1980’s, in venues ranging from indie weeklies to the Huffington Post, Allen has been writing highly personal stories of disability’s intersection with poverty, feminism, queer culture, and abuse. Keyword searches to find B. include: autistic, chronic illness, intersex, parenting, transgender, and queer.

Format and Length

Fiction and Memoir: We’re looking 10,000 words or less of fully-polished prose, submitted in standard manuscript format (title page with contact info, double-spaced Times New Roman 12-point font, pages numbered with either title or author’s name in the header.)

Poetry: You may submit up 5 pieces of any length and style, provided they fit the theme of this collection.

All submissions must be in a Word-compatible format (.doc, .docx, .odt).

When and How to Submit

Submissions are now closed. Join our email list to become notified when we open submissions for Spoon Knife 5 in 2020.

Authors will be notified of their acceptance or rejection during the first quarter of 2019.

Payment for accepted submissions will be 1 cent per word, to be sent by check during the second quarter of 2019.

Email all submissions to ian@autpress.com.

When submitting your work, please put in the subject line one of the following:

  • “Spoon Knife 4 Submission – Fiction”
  • “Spoon Knife 4 Submission – Memoir”
  • “Spoon Knife 4 Submission – Poetry”

Also, please include a cover letter that clearly specifies the name under which you want to be credited, along with a 3-4 sentence bio written in the third person. The name and bio should be typed exactly as you want them to appear in the book.

Need Pointers on Worldbuilding? Here’s Some Advice From N.K. Jemisin

[Featured image: The city of Gujareeh, from the cover of The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin]

Whether you’re writing a single novel or you’re constructing an expansive science fiction or fantasy epic contained in several volumes, you’re engaging in worldbuilding of some kind. Lacking a well-developed culture doesn’t just rob your weird fiction of strong settings in which it can unfold. Storytelling doesn’t just rely on plot, but also requires multidimensional characters and settings to create a self-contained universe for your narratives. We’re happy to review some sage advice about worldbuilding from award-winning author N.K. Jemisin, whom you remember we discussed in our Black sci-fi authors roundup this past November.

Immersing Readers in Your Fictional World

In a 2015 Writer’s Digest Online Workshop presentation, Jemisin addressed the common adage that only 10% of your worldbuilding should be apparent in your writing with the remaining 90% beneath the surface like an iceberg. She challenges that assertion when it comes to creating settings in your weird fiction, suggesting that it promotes the view of the “hidden” 90% as scary.

Moreover, she reveals that this “rule” can be skillfully broken and leaves us with sound advice for immersing readers into our fictional worlds. She proposes an “immersion pyramid” with three levels of absorption into your novel’s native culture:

  • High immersion, in which the world’s bizarre qualities are conveyed via context as opposed to direct explanations in the narrative
  • Moderate immersion, which includes occasional breaks for the narrator to explain aspects of the culture
  • Low immersion, in which the narrator frequently stops to explain details about your fictional world

She cautions weird fiction writers that deciding on an appropriate level of immersion can be tricky, since each person needs to strike a balance that keeps readers invested in their stories. Her own advice is to increase the level of immersion as the amount of difference between the “primary world” (the world most of us live in) and your distinctive fictional secondary world increases.

Don’t “Reinvent the Wheel”

Jemisin is herself a master when it comes to creating original and unique universes, but what’s notable is that she repeatedly defies the usual trope of making magical and supernatural worlds based on medieval northern Europe. Her first series of weird fiction novels, The Inheritance Trilogy, depicts a realm in which gods and mortals frequently intermingle within a collection of multicultural societies that regard race and social ranking as important. Bustle writer Charlotte Ahlin cites Gujaareh from Jemisin’s The Killing Moon as one example of a non-European fantasy world in a 2016 article, noting that it was roughly based on ancient Egypt and calling it “a complex and multi-cultural desert society.”

Jemisin also pointed to a “fear of worldbuilding” in her workshop, citing it as one possible reason why many fantasy realms tend to be based on medieval northern Europe. Writers of weird fiction set in distant-future societies may want to take a hard look at the cultures they create as well and consider building distinctive alternatives of their own, avoiding the trap of borrowing heavily from space navy-style tropes such as what’s present in Star Trek and similar works. Of course, if you’re going to borrow, you may choose to go the path of clever subversion — but that’s for another post.

Infrastructure, Environment, and Culture Support Your Story

We already know that setting is a critical component of crafting literature, but Jemisin calls attention to how your speculative fictional worlds impact your plot and characters. In her workshop, she mentions that inhabitants of your imaginary cultures will adapt to the climate, land, water, flora, and fauna present in their environments. Io9 writer Charlie Jane Anders supports Jemisin’s arguments by listing a lack of consideration about basic infrastructure and failing to account for how unusual technology or magic affects a society as just a couple of her “7 deadly sins” of worldbuilding.

Furthermore, Jemisin’s own Broken Earth novels prove these points abundantly. Stillness is wracked with daily deadly earthquakes and other destructive climate events. Without this setting, there would be no need for the series’ orogenes, the class of individuals with seemingly magical abilities who can control these forces. So the Stillness’ inhabitants fear of orogenes, thanks to their fantastic powers that can both heal and destroy, is no surprise.

AutPress Loves Weird, Wonderful Fiction

We’ve discussed some of the major points that Jemisin makes, but her full Worldbuilding 101 workshop outline is available on her own blog for your own reading. As you’re writing, don’t forget to feed your need to read. Check out the AutPress store for great suggestions like Verity Reynolds’ debut novel Nantais and Ada Hoffman’s collection, Monsters in My Mind.

 

 

Into the Wormhole: Weird Fiction to Read in 2018

How does a speculative fictional work leave its mark on you? You might read or watch it repeatedly, or reference it in your day-to-day life. If you’re a content creator, you might even find that elements from the original inspire you and influence your own creative output. Whether you’re a spectator, a creator, or both, venturing into the realm of weird fiction makes you delve into the depths of your own consciousness and emerge with treasures that coruscate like distant glittering constellations, or horrify and fascinate like the captivating void of a black hole.

That, friends, is what Autonomous Press offers in 2018. Keep reading to find out more about our new science fiction titles, some re-releases planned in the coming months, and a groundbreaking webcomic publishing weekly content.

Nantais: A Non-Compliant Space Opera

Author Verity Reynolds describes her newest novel Nantais as a space opera that’s not just a space opera. Sure, it’s full of intergalactic intrigue and action along with a cast of compelling characters. But it’s also weird fiction that does a few key things you might not expect.

You remember all those sci-fi works featuring monolithic alien civilizations with only one universal culture and language for their entire planet, right? Not to mention those human-centered narratives, heteronormativity, and diversity that isn’t really diversity? (Looking at you, ST: TOS.)

Thankfully, you won’t find any of that nonsense in Nantais.

Instead, you’ll meet the Niralans, a people with rich multifaceted cultures and intricate methods of nonverbal communication. You’ll also encounter a multiverse full of queerness, watch as protagonists deal language barriers and cultural differences, and enjoy witty satirical moments in this immersive weird fiction saga. That’s along with the rogue computer virus, space pirates, and a scramble to solve a complex mystery in deep space. All of that, packed into 231 pages.

Monsters in My Mind, Weird Luck, and More

Before we sign off, we wanted to mention a couple of other things. We just released a spectacular collection by Ada Hoffman, Monsters in My Mind. Filled with over 40 pieces of speculative fiction and poetry, Hoffman shows readers a multiverse full of reimaged fairy tales, artificial intelligence, queerness, velociraptors, and more. Two AP partners, Nick Walker and Andrew Reichart, are the mastermind writers behind the weekly Weird Luck webcomic series illustrated by Mike Bennewitz. Speaking of which, Argawarga Press will relaunch this spring as an AP imprint. Upcoming releases include Dora Raymaker’s debut novel Hoshi and the Red City Circuit as well as an updated edition of Andrew Reichart’s Weird Luck novel, Wallflower Assassin.

More details forthcoming in a future post, but in the meantime, be sure to visit the AutPress store for more great reads.

Unsticking Your Brain: Or, Writing Poems When You Haven’t Been Writing Poems

Let’s face it. If you write poetry, your craft depends just as much on practicum as it does on ideas. When you’re lacking one or both these elements, attempting to generate a new poem can feel a little Sisyphean…or like moving through a swimming pool full of cement…or…well, pick any metaphor you like, but you get our point. Remember when we told you to ignore the well-intentioned “your first drafts are crap” advice and to temporarily send your inner critic packing? Both points are always salient when creating new material, but in this post, we’re offering a couple of tips to help you get your poetry brain unstuck.

Do You Need to Shift Gears?

You might rely on a few writing prompt sources. Maybe it’s a high-profile author’s blog, or you and your friends give each other jump-off points for writing. They’re all great resources, but what if you’re staring at your chosen prompt and no words come out? You could have one or more of these common problems going on:

  1. The pesky editor in your brain
  2. You’re legit tired, stressed out or feeling a lack of focus
  3. Your mind is stuck in “logic” mode

Neurodivergent brains all operate in unique ways, but your mental processes to create poetry might drastically differ from your fiction-crafting methods. If you’ve been focusing on short stories or a novel, it may just be a matter of “shifting” into poetic mode. Keep in mind, however, that lines between genres can easily blur. You may reread a 300-word piece you just finished and wonder whether it’s a long micro-fic or a prose poem. That’s a grey area, one in which you’ll make the final call when it comes to genres and classification.

Stop Making Sense

If you don’t write every day or you’re a professional writer generating specialized types of content, you may not be creating poetry on a daily basis. Rather than stare at a blank page and struggle, now may be the time to suspend your “logic brain” and stop making sense. Try freewriting sans prompt, letting whatever is in your mind leak out. You’ve probably heard of “stream of consciousness” writing, and yes, that’s the idea here. Also, this isn’t the time to worry about subject-verb agreement or whether your first draft even makes sense. In fact, if it doesn’t make sense at first, that could open a door to fashioning a new work you might not have otherwise created.

Don’t Forget to Read

You’ve heard the oft-repeated advice that writers need to read. Of course, we at AutPress are happy to help with some suggestions. If you love genre-blending or hopping between genres, Ada Hoffman’s Monsters in My Mind is a great addition to your collection. It’s packed with 49 pieces that include short stories, flash fiction, microfiction, poetry, and prose poems, spanning universes of speculative fiction and plunging deep into the human imagination. We’ve also got more poetry, weird fiction, and more in the AutPress store.

Frustrated by Parent-Centered Books About Autism? AutPress Is Your Solution

Autistic readers perennially find themselves encountering literature that isn’t crafted from an autistic-centered point of view. On a yearly basis, we’re continually bombarded by books about autism written by parents of autistic children that either perpetuate harmful beliefs or disrespect their children in horrifying ways, failing to recognize their rights to privacy and personal agency. “To Siri with Love” by Judith Newman is the latest offender to make the rounds, but even books by so-called “experts” and journalists, such as “In a Different Key” don’t do the topic justice. Fortunately, Autonomous Press is committed to offering solid alternatives written by autistic people.

The Real Experts Lives Up to Its Name

Who better than autistic individuals to talk about their brand of neurodivergence? The Real Experts is an anthology about autism, with essays written by autistic folks from a wide range of backgrounds. The collection includes words of wisdom from respected activists like Kassiane Sibley and Amy Sequenzia, educators such as Nick Walker and autistic parents like Morénike Giwa Onaiwu. As one of the first wave of books released by AutPress, it’s evidence of one of our core fundamental beliefs: neurodivergent people should be the ones to craft and control the narratives of their lives.

Nantais: Autistic Space Adventures

 Author Verity Reynolds describes their debut science fiction novel Nantais as “autistic as heck,” but the real genius behind the book is that the word “autism” never appears anywhere in its text. Instead, Reynolds shows rather than tells (which one of the fundamental tenets of masterful storytelling, after all) characters “interfacing autistically with a non-autistic world,” as they put it. Want to know the best part? Besides Nantais being an action-packed space opera full of slavers, biologically-evolved assassins and the dark underbelly of a supposedly legitimate organization being exposed, it turns the typical tropes on their heads, giving us a universe in which non-autistics are the ones “suffering mind-altering self-consciousness over their own vague-meaning, innuendo-stuffing” style of communication.

Need some post-holiday reading to curl up with? With our 101-style books like The Real Experts and science fiction thrillers such as Nantais, AutPress has exactly what you’re looking for. Feed your need to read by shopping for these and our other great titles in our AutPress store.

Two Essentials for Beating Writer’s Block This Year

So you want to craft some fiction or poetry and you’ve got ideas brewing, but you’re struggling with how to get them out of the concept stage and onto the page. Maybe you blew through 50,000 words (or more) this past NaNoWriMo and you’re feeling some serious brain drain. Thankfully, we’ve got some tips to help you jump-start your creativity. If you’re contending with a wicked case of writer’s block or just need a little extra nudge, try our advice to help the ideas pour out of your head.

1. Tell Your Inner Critic to F*ck Off

There are times where you need an honest eye to review the fiction, poems or other work you’ve already generated. Married with a willingness to “kill your darlings” (yes, we know you’ve seen that phrase A LOT, but stay with us), the two can serve as a powerful combo to help you revise and refine down to your best work.

However, those aren’t the tools you need while you’re furiously trying to channel your ideas from the amphitheater of your mind to a blank screen.

Many writers strive to impeccably capture everything in that first go. In these cases, the inner critic can
“red-flag” every word choice, image or piece of dialogue in your fiction, or every line break, metaphor, simile or rhyme in your poems. The first draft ISN’T the time for perfect; it’s the time to bring your ideas into reality. You can do the other hard work of revising and rewriting later. Seriously.

2. Your First Drafts Are NOT Crap

The famous axiom that one’s first draft is always “crap” is usually attributed to Hemingway. Whoever said it probably wanted to either 1) emphasize the importance of revision or 2) drive home the point that whatever you put down first doesn’t have to be perfect.

Well, guess what? Whether it’s novel-length fiction, poetry, short stories or anything else, the very first things you write will be imperfect. But that doesn’t mean they’re crap.

Maybe you’ve had a well-meaning fellow writer parroting the idea, or a writing instructor insisting it was gospel truth. (We’d like to give that instructor a piece of our minds, but we digress.) Right now, it’s time to forget that “helpful advice.” Let your fingers fly over the keys or the page. Think of that output as simply the rough and unpolished beginnings of something beautiful, with raw potential living inside the text.

We offer this advice to help your first drafts take form in the here and now. Stay tuned for more writing tips, and don’t forget to check out the AutPress store’s latest releases like Verity Reynolds’ Nantais and Ada Hoffman’s Monsters in My Mind.

Author 101 Part 4

Author Marketing 101, Part 4: Tools for Promoting Your Book

In Part 3, we talked about the who and why of promoting your first book. In Part 4, we’re going to talk about the what and how.

No one author marketing plan fits every author or book. The audience you want to reach and how you want to engage with them, based on your own personality and preferences, are unique to each author. This means that, to make your marketing both effective and enjoyable for you, you’ll want to choose a mix of tools that you enjoy working with.

Popular options include:

1. Web-Based Approaches

Every author should have a basic web presence as a part of promoting their first book, whether it’s an Amazon or Goodreads author page, a Facebook page, or a simple website bio. Curious readers are likely to look you up online, so make sure they can find you (and find how to buy your book) when they do.

Some authors, however, go much further. Regular blogging can help you build a community. Many authors love Twitter for its fast-paced, constant-conversation approach. Several authors even create their own podcasts or YouTube channels in order to connect in a more personalized fashion.

2. Meet and Greet

Before the Internet, book promotion was much more personal. Today, it still is – or it can be. If you prefer meeting people in the real world, consider:

  • Book launch parties or signing events
  • Giving readings
  • Hosting a writing workshop
  • Guest-teaching in a school or college classroom
  • Pop-up events or performance art

Think about the audience you’ve envisioned for your book when deciding when, where, and how to reach out to potential readers in person.

Added Bonus: Monetizing Your Marketing

An added bonus of either of the two approaches above: they can often be used to make money on their own, in addition to promoting your first book.

For example, blogs can be monetized through ads or product promotions, or you can encourage donations to your work through tools like Ko-Fi and Patreon. Give enough presentations on writing, and pretty soon you’ll be able to charge a fee for your presence – or at least be able to ask the venue to cover transportation and expenses.

Monetizing your promotion is part of becoming a professional author, not merely a writer. It takes time – but thinking about how to do it in the early stages can help you prepare to seize later opportunities.

Author 101 Part 3

Author Marketing 101, Part 3: Before You Create an Author Marketing Plan

Nearly anything you do to share your book with potential readers counts as “marketing.” To use your time and energy best, however, it’s good to have some kind of author marketing plan. Your plan will help you stay on task and focus your efforts where they’ll offer the biggest return.

If the words “marketing plan” make you want to quit writing altogether, don’t worry. Creating a plan isn’t as tough as it sounds, and we’ll cover what needs to go into your strategy in the next few weeks.

Today, we’re going to talk about the pre-planning stages. Before you start deciding what and how to promote your book, sit down with your writing tools of choice and answer these questions:

1. Who’s your audience?

Who will like or appreciate your book the most? What do they like to read, watch, or listen to? Your audience’s interests will guide nearly every aspect of your author marketing plan, so it pays to understand what inspires them.

Aim for a list of 3-5 broad groups or categories of people who would appreciate your book. For instance, if you’ve written some neurodivergent sci-fi, your list will include “sci-fi fans” and “neurodivergent readers,” but it might also include “fans of lgbt fiction,” “fantasy fans,” or even “young adults.”

2. What makes your book worth reading?

Write several one-sentence descriptions of your book that would make you want to read it, even if you had never heard of it before. Keep working until you have 3-5 descriptions you like.

This exercise helps you see your book from the perspective of a reader. It helps you zero in on what’s most compelling about your book and what sets it apart. And it generates ideas that can form the basis of your book blurb, author bio, or other author marketing plan elements.

3. Who are you?

Finally: What makes you, the author, worth getting to know? What are your best qualities? What do you love sharing with other people?

Many readers these days are less interested in books than they are in following authors – and many authors capitalize on this fact by building strong social media or in-person followings. Build your own strengths into your plan so that marketing becomes something you enjoy doing, not something you have to do.

Author Interview: Ada Hoffmann Discusses Monsters in My Mind and Other Projects

We sat down with Ada Hoffmann, author of Monsters in My Mind, to talk about speculative fiction, the state of the writing world, and what’s next.

AutPress: Why MONSTERS IN MY MIND? Why speculative fiction generally, and why this collection?

Ada: I grew up around speculative fiction. It’s a childhood love, and one of those things that was always there. Literary realism never felt grounded to me – it felt small, stifled. Consciously cut off from all the realms of imagination that could have been.

I’ve been publishing short speculative fiction and poetry since 2010. Short fiction is a delight to me – I probably read more of it than novels. I’ve also written a lot, and I wanted to make that writing tangible. A physical object that I could hold in my hands and give to people.

I organized MONSTERS IN MY MIND around a loose theme appropriate to NeuroQueer Books – the theme of being different, monstrous, or out of place, and hoping to somehow be accepted that way. I grouped stories and poems so that they moved through different ways of engaging with that theme in a way that felt, in a very abstract sense, like its own story. A few short works I loved didn’t make the cut, not because there was anything wrong with them, but because they didn’t fit into that “story”. Maybe they’ll go into a future book!

As for the title, I don’t remember where I got it, but it happened fairly late in production. I’m not the first person to have used the phrase. If you want to assume cryptamnesia, then it probably comes from the song “Happy Hurts,” by Icon For Hire.

AutPress: What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration? What/Who else do you read or recommend?

Ada: Sometimes ideas just happen. It isn’t glamorous. “You Have to Follow the Rules” was based on a dream that my friend A. Merc Rustad had. “The Chartreuse Monster” came partly from a random number generator. “Centipede Girl” was inspired by an actual centipede that crawled on my keyboard, and “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library” was based on a list of tropes that another friend of mine liked. One of my best ways to generate ideas is by going to a classical music concert, where I’m forced to sit in a chair for two hours, listen to pleasant noises, and let my mind wander. And my go-to method for coming up with more poetry is just to binge-read any poetry at hand until my mind starts automatically arranging its thoughts into verse.

In terms of other authors who inspire me, Catherynne M. Valente’s collection “A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects” was the reason I got serious about poetry. Meda Kahn’s short story “Difference of Opinion” pushed me to be better and braver about autism representation. I would love one day to build worlds like China Miéville, develop characters like Lois McMaster Bujold, dispense careful wisdom like Rose Lemberg, build up a sense of scale like Robert Charles Wilson, quip and twist the plot like Joss Whedon on a good day, and tap into the depths of my id like Tanith Lee. Anybody wanting more of the queer and neurodivergent themes from MONSTERS IN MY MIND should check out A. Merc Rustad and Bogi Takács, among many others.

AutPress: What’s the most unexpected thing that happened while you were working on this collection (or any particular part of it)?

Ada: Once I had all the stories, putting the collection together was pretty straightforward. Though – one unexpected thing that happened while the collection came together was that I landed an agent for a novel I’d written. That was very distracting, in a good way.

[Full Disclosure: The interviewer was a beta reader for this novel, which fully deserves all the love an agent can give it.]

AutPress: Where is spec fic/dark fic/weird fiction headed? What does it need more of?

Ada: I don’t think spec fic will ever go in just one direction. It’s a big tent with a huge number of things going on.

It’s clear, though, that at least some parts of spec fic are moving towards more diversity and better representation. There’s an increased interest in diverse characters, in diverse authors, in concepts like #ownvoices – and also in the range of new ideas, not just writing about themselves, that marginalized authors bring to the table. I’m really enjoying all the recent counter-Lovecraftian fiction, for instance. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Innsmouth Free Press was doing this for years, but now it’s been joined by some higher-profile friends: Ruthanna Emrys’s “Innsmouth Legacy” series and Victor LaValle’s “The Ballad of Black Tom”, to name two.

Of course, this trend comes with pushback; you don’t need me to tell you the story of the Sad Puppies. It would be naive, especially in 2017, to say that things will clearly keep changing for the better. But we’ll see what happens.

AutPress: What are you currently working on, and what’s next?

Ada: Well, my agent is shopping my novel around, and I’m replenishing my store of short fiction and poetry. I’ve written some really daring short pieces that I’m very excited to share when they find a home. Two collaborations that I love are coming out in the next year or so – one with Jacqueline Flay in Persistent Visions, the other with A. Merc Rustad in Lightspeed. I’m also working on a collection of dinosaur poetry called “Million-Year Elegies”. That’s about 75% done, and a few early pieces from that series are already published online, if you want a teaser. Of course, I’m also still working on my PhD research, in which I teach computers to write their own poetry. My biggest challenge is finding time for all these projects and book promo, too!

Visit Ada Hoffmann online at http://www.ada-hoffmann.com. Pick up a copy of Monsters in My Mind on Amazon or via the AutPress store.