GCLS Conference

joy and beth at con 2018My partner and I got married two days before conference, so the whole thing was kind of like a working honeymoon. Despite that, the Golden Crown Literary Society this year felt like a homecoming. Perhaps that sounds odd, with over 100 new people this year, but it felt intimate, loving, and welcoming.

We had a diverse crowd, different ages, different races. It was wonderful to see so many young people. The board is getting old (I mean that lovingly – I’m part of the board) and we need young, fresh minds to shake things up for us and keep us relevant.

beth readingI read from my soon to be released novel, Coming Around Again. Incidentally, my publisher had copies of the book at the conference as an early bonus and it sold out. I’m sure it had nothing to do with me promising to write naughty things in the books that people bought.

The writing academy was a shining star this year. The whole 2018 graduating class was there and they were amazing. Such a great group of talented and smart women. I was proud of them in every way. The WA also donated a free year’s tuition to the GCLS raffle and it was won by a woman who had been in the writing academy presentation, excitedly asking lots of questions. I have a feeling she is going to do great things.

The GCLS board works tirelessly to put on this event. (Okay, not tirelessly – we are all exhausted.) This is a labor of love as the board is all-volunteer. We all put so much time and effort into bringing the best conference experience to every participant. And our reward, other than the happy faces and awesome hugs, is coming back and doing it all again for next year.

I hope to see a huge crowd in Pittsburgh next year. We just keep getting better every year and I can’t wait to see how incredible the next one will be.

 

 

Karelia Stetz-Waters – Guest Post

Karelia is one of my favorite people. She is a brilliant writer, yes – but she also has that incredible ability to teach people how to be brilliant writers. (Or at least, better writers than they were before she taught them.)

I’ve learned a lot every time I have taken a workshop by Karelia and I’m excited that she agreed to guest blog on my page this month. Please take a look at her blog and check out her books. You will not be disappointed. You can find her website here. 

 

A long journey is a million baby steps.

Four Ways to a Good Character

By Karelia Stetz-Waters

My creative writing students were working on character development. They called out ideas. I wrote on the board as fast as I could. Then we stopped and looked at our work.

“These are all traits we don’t like,” one student said.

“It’s harder to write good people, isn’t it?” I said. “Think about someone good. Describe them.”

I immediately thought of Beth Burnett. If you don’t know her, hold out your virtual hand and shake hers because you won’t meet a kinder, cooler member of our community.

And that’s why I’m so honored to write a guest post for her blog.

I write romance novels. Romance novels are all about good people. Write a thriller—I’ve written a few—and you can load up on serial killers like chicken wings at the KFC buffet. And that’s fun, but good people are better. We have to love our protagonists. Then, in my opinion, every protagonist must have at least one good friend. Then you need a place that’s almost a character itself. Someplace beautiful. Someplace your readers want to go. (I nailed it with my Out in Portland series. Apparently Portland is the seventh most moved-to city in American!)

“So how do we write a good character?” another student asked.

I love teaching creative writing because the students ask the questions I want to answer.

I have four traits, that make a character good.

Good characters care. They care about something bigger than themselves. They care about justice or animals or hungry children or the mill workers who got laid off. In my upcoming romance, a closeted TV star worries about coming out, not because she cares about losing her job, but because she’s worried about all the people who have taken comfort in her show. She doesn’t want them to think that all those years were a lie.

Good characters honor their debts. I mean debts with a capital D, debts like the debts in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not enough just to care. Good characters act with compassion.

Good characters strive. It’s our responsibility to try to reach our full potential. Now some characters’ full potential is like my full potential for going to the gym—I bought a membership in January, and I still haven’t gone, but tomorrow…. As challenging as things are, good characters do everything they can do in this moment. After all, a long journey is a million baby steps.

Good characters see the world in a new way. A likable character shows us the beautiful world in a way we haven’t seen before.

And here’s the thesis, class. The most important character is you.

I hope I’m good. I know I care about you, whoever you are, reading this in your living-room or on your phone on the subway. I’m thinking about where you’re going and what you’ll face today. I’m thinking about how many good people there are in the world and how I’d like to gather you all up in my arms.

Leave a comment and tell us what makes you uniquely good.

 

***

Waters_WorththeWait_Cover

Karelia’s next novel, Worth the Wait, comes out June 19th.

For fifteen years, Avery Crown tried to forget her best friend Merritt Lessing. The late nights studying, the whispered confidences, and the little touches that never turned into something more. Unfortunately, her efforts have not been as successful as her TV career as the queen of home renovation. So when she runs into Merritt at their high school reunion, Avery asks for one night with the woman she’s always wanted…

Merritt spent high school pining after Avery, but never made a move—their friendship meant too much. The one time it seemed things might change, Avery chose her budding career. So Merritt did the same, throwing herself into her remodeling business. Now Avery’s back, and while Merritt still hasn’t forgiven her for walking away the first time, they can’t keep their hands off each other. But when their professional paths cross, and it seems like Avery is choosing her career once again, Merritt will have to decide if she’s willing to let go of the past and give herself a second chance with her first love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scholarship opportunity for young women writers of color

I am the Director of Education for the esteemed non-profit organization The Golden Crown Literary Society. I love being part of this group because GCLS has been instrumental in supporting so many writers and readers of lesbian fiction. (They were there for me when I published my first book, welcoming me with open arms.)

The GCLS Writing Academy is entering its fifth year and we are so pleased to be able to offer a new scholarship. The Bridge Builder Scholarship is open to young women writers of color who are interested in writing within the woman-loving-woman genre.

 

This is an amazing learning opportunity for an emerging, woman-of-color writer!

The Bridge-Builder Scholarship

This scholarship is offered to a young (18-30) woman writer of color who shows talent and drive in creating lesbian literature. The writer should be interested in working on a full-length novel or a collection of short stories.*

The chosen recipient will receive:

1) one, full tuition to the class of 2019 GCLS writing academy; and

2) individual one-on-one mentoring with a well-established writer in the genre of lesbian fiction.

In return, the candidate will:

Create a brief (one page) monthly report on that month’s lessons, their own work in progress, or GCLS promotions within their community.

Attend online classes and participate in the assignments to the best of their ability. (Not having access to a computer should not prevent the student from applying. We may be able to work around it.)

The candidate must be willing to show how they can help promote and support lesbian literature in general, and the writing academy specifically within their own communities.

Application deadline:

The candidate will submit a ten-page sample of their best work, along with an application by June 1, 2018. Candidates will be chosen by June 30th, 2018. Classes start in September of 2018, however, there will be a summer reading list assignment.

The link to the detailed Bridge Builder description is: Here

Please consider checking out the Writing Academy and share this to anyone you think might be interested.

Thanks, in advance, for helping us get the word out about this important scholarship.

2018 New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, I try to post my New Year’s resolutions – to commit to writing the things I hope to accomplish in the coming year. Last year, I think I came close to accomplishing most of what I set out to do.

This year, I resolve to be happy with my body just the way it is. I resolve to avoid dieting, to refuse to press myself into a patriarchal construct of accepted female appearance. This year, I’d like to continue to lovingly nourish my body with mostly plant-based foods, delicious teas, and perhaps a bit too much coffee. I resolve to continue to try new vegan recipes and to continue to delight in my own growth as a cook who can create delightful meals without stress.

This year I want to move my body more, stretch more, spend more time standing up from my desk. I want to dance without worrying what people are thinking about me. I want to touch my toes and stand on one foot and do a few minutes of yoga every day so my back doesn’t hurt after a long day of working.

I want to take Brutus out for more walks so, when the time comes that walks are no longer possible for him, we’ll know we made the most of the time he could enjoy the outdoors on his own four feet.

This year, I want to cherish my partner – I want to make sure she knows that I don’t take for granted how she loves and adores and desires me exactly the way I am. I want to make sure that she feels as special as she makes me feel. This year, I want to remember how hard it has been to spend so much time apart as we deal with immigration, and I want to appreciate how deeply we value the time together.  I resolve to appreciate the natural intimacy between us, and to continue to cultivate it as the years go by.

This year, I want to publish two of the three novels I wrote in 2017. I want to write one or two more. I want to win at least one short story contest. I’d like to submit to five anthologies in 2018.

I resolve to worry less about money while still working on upping my income. I’d like to get a job teaching creative writing. I want to sell more books. I resolve to not let the acquisition of things every become my focus, regardless of changes in income. This year, I promise to continue to give when I can, even when my finances are uncertain.

This year, I want to remember that it’s okay to feel lonely sometimes and that the best way to make friends is to reach out to friends. I want to encourage connections with old friends, and spend time with new. I want to send more paper letters, give away more books, spend more time video chatting with people I love, give hugs more freely.

This year, I resolve to turn over the pages of my calendar at the beginning of the month, rather than looking up at it in December and realizing it is still on May.

Finally, no matter what else happens, I resolve to remember that I deserve this.

Happy New Year, friends.

 

Dear Men

HI Guys,

You’ve let me down again. I’m not actually surprised. I’ve been trying to make peace with you for most of my life and I know how fruitless it is.

I’ve tried to tell you that I’m inviting violence every time I interact with one of you, simply because I was born in a female body. I’ve tried to explain that more women are killed in genocide worthy numbers by men. I’ve told you that almost every single woman I know has been raped or hit or grabbed or kicked or beaten. And the ones that haven’t been physically hurt have still been the victims of verbal assaults. I’ve tried to make you understand that women are under siege in this world.

I’ve even tried to make it personal by explaining that I’m afraid. That I’ve been a victim of your violence and that you scare me. And I’ve asked you to please listen and understand that it is our whole culture that contributes to you feeling as if you own women, that we owe you something.

I’ve tried to show you the news articles about men who kill women who say no to a date or to sex. The one where the man slammed his fist into a woman’s vagina and eviscerated her intestines. The one where the woman was beaten nearly to death, then set on fire and then managed to crawl to a road where she was found and hospitalized and lived for several days in unbearable agony until she finally died. The one where the guy asked a woman to marry him and she said no so he shot her. The one where a woman had acid thrown in her face because she said no. Male violence.

I’ve even learned to control my words, to say them in nicer ways because your feelings get hurt when I just tell the truth. So I sugarcoat my sentences. I start by saying, “I know not all men rape, but can we please talk about the ones that do?” or I say, “I know *you* care about this. So maybe you can help me understand why you’re the only one.”  Even when I sugarcoat my words, you still get upset and shout me down and yell about not all men. And you call me an angry feminist and you try to invalidate what I have to say by calling me too sensitive. I’ve learned that men are more concerned about their feelings than they are about the fact that the women in their lives are in danger every time they leave the house. (And even when they don’t.)

But now something has happened that affects you, too. We have a man in the white house who has gleefully admitted to sexually assaulting women. We have a rapist misogynist in the white house. I know that’s not enough to alarm you. But he is also threatening immigrants and people of color and the LGBT community and those on medicaid and the poor. And the things about that is that those groups include a lot of men.

And even though you have let me down repeatedly and even though I have never seen you share statistics about violence against women and even though you didn’t speak out when I was trying to get you involved in the fight against female genital mutilation and even though you didn’t answer when I asked you to talk to me about male violence and the cultures that create it, I am still going to stand with you when your group is targeted. When your group, whatever it is, is the next on the block, I am going to be there, trying to help. Because even though you have let me down and you’ve refused to help me and you are part of the biggest wave of violence against any one group in history, I believe we still have a chance to work together.

Let me know if you need some pointers on surviving a ubiquitous enemy. I have years of practice.

 

What Rape Culture Teaches Women

Women learn at any early age that we need to put up barriers to try to protect ourselves. We learn to be aware of our surroundings when we are alone. We learn to hold our keys between our fingers. We learn to look behind us. We learn to lock our car doors as soon as we get in. We learn to try to not be alone with a strange man. We learn to control the way we dress. We learn to keep our heads down and ignore the calls when men scream at us on the street. We learn to try to sit or stand in a protected position on subways and buses so as not to be grabbed. We learn to lock our bedroom doors. We learn to install safety lights. We learn to go in pairs to any place where we can be a victim, which is every place. We take self-defense classes. We buy mace. We learn to shoot. We learn to find safety in women’s spaces. We learn body language that might indicate we are in danger. We learn that when we talk about these things, we are being alarmist or hurting men’s feelings.

We learn that no matter how many of these things we learn, it won’t be enough. We are raped, assaulted, beat up, grabbed. We are kissed against our will. Our hair is pulled on the playground and we are told that boys will be boys. We learn that a man can brag about sexually assaulting women by grabbing their pussies and people will still proudly proclaim their support for him because boys will be boys. We learn that being raped is our fault, even when we try to say it isn’t, because people like Brock Turner rape women and still, the main fear is that the poor boy’s life will be ruined. Women learn that our lives do not have value. If you have been raped or assaulted or attacked, and if you are a woman, chances are, you have, please know that I, at least, know that it is not your fault. I know this because whether you were drinking or you were wearing a short skirt or you left your bedroom door unlocked or you forgot to look behind you when you stepped into the parking garage, you are not at fault. You are not at fault because this society has determined that you do not deserve to have autonomy over your own body because it was born female.

We are under siege and the war is being be perpetrated by males. Women learn that men who claim to be good men aren’t really good when they refuse to speak out against male violence. Women learn to protect each other or we learn to build walls around each other in an effort to try to protect ourselves.

Women learn and continue to learn and we grow and evolve and we develop more elaborate security measures and in the end, it all comes to shit, because we are not teaching men and boys that women’s bodies do not belong to them, that there is no such thing as a friend-zone, that rich, white boys who rape unconscious women are violent criminals who deserve to do hard time, that men who brag about grabbing women’s pussies are rapists.

We learn that your silence about these things means that we can’t trust you. This is rape culture.

You are Worth the Work

All relationships require work, don’t they? There are moments of pure joy and moments of tearful recriminations. The best relationships aren’t great because there is no conflict, but because both parties make a point of being kind to each other, to keeping open communication, setting boundaries, engaging, being passionate about and for each other.

But that takes work and sometimes the work is hard. And sometimes, you have to ask yourself whether the work is worth it.

A relationship with yourself requires the same commitment. Your own self-esteem, self-love, all of that takes work. And it’s a process. Sometimes, I feel I go through months of feeling on top of the world, proud of myself and all of my accomplishments, sure that I am living the dream, looking in the mirror every day and telling myself how awesome I am…. and sometimes, I feel I’m a half a step away from losing my mind, and just getting out of bed and changing clothes feels like a gigantic step forward.

Self-love is a process. It’s not a straight line, it’s a never-ending spiral. You’ll keep  coming back to the same problems, the same issues, the same old recordings you play back in your head. The times you were abused or insulted or made to feel less than. Self-love works to dig out those old recordings, but sometimes, the tools learned through self-work really don’t erase the tapes. They simply give us a way to hit pause when they keep coming back around.

My classes aren’t about fixing you because you aren’t broken. Even if you think you are, I promise that you aren’t. My classes are about giving you the tools you need to move forward into your own self-work… they’re about teaching you that learning to love yourself isn’t a far away dream. It’s real and it’s attainable and it’s worth it. It is so worth it.

Come join me on Monday, August 8th at 8 PM EST for a six week course on self-love. We’ll address abolishing negative self-talk, overcoming fear and self-doubt, setting healthy boundaries, and so much more.

 

Email me at bethburnett70@yahoo.com for more information.

 

Whose Day Did You Ruin?

 

beth in leggings

 

My partner bought this dress/top for me right before we went on a cruise and I wore it on our special date night with a pair of black leggings and some white slip on sandals. It was perfect for a cruise and we both got a kick out of the dress, the way it fit, the way the bottom swings when I twirl, the colors in it, and the way she instinctively knew how perfect it would be for me.

 

When my friend Yvonne asked me to go to a showing of The Sound of Music tonight, I was definitely up for it. We both adore The Sound of Music and she found a group that was showing it on a big screen, complete with audience sing along and some people in costumes. It was a fun, unique event and I wanted to look cute so I picked this adorable dress. I paired it with the same black leggings from the cruise , only this time, I added a pair of funky Sketcher heels. Even put on some lip gloss and added a little shrug. I felt sassy and cute and ready to have a fun evening.

After I was dressed, but before it was time to leave, I logged on to Facebook on my phone leggings memeand I saw this meme posted by a friend. She had gotten quite a few likes on it, and several comments, including one woman who said there should be weight limits on certain kinds of clothing. Then I made the mistake of clicking on the original post and reading some of those comments. And I realized that no matter how I surround myself with super supportive friends and loved ones, no matter how much time I spend with my tribe of women who love me and think I am the sexy, beautiful goddess that I am, there are still hundreds or thousands of people out there looking at me and judging me negatively because of the size of my body. Despite all of my years of self work, and my ultra-confidence, and my happiness with my adorable outfit, I suddenly felt like nothing more than a fat woman in leggings. I was so hurt, I got a knot in my stomach and I seriously considered not even leaving the house. Because I am a self-love teacher, I want to say that I went out anyway and had an amazing time. I did. But friends, I put on a pair of jeans instead and it changed the whole feel of the outfit. And when I changed, a small part of me knew that I was hiding and acting out of fear and shame. I let someone else’s bad opinion of me form my own bad opinion of myself.

I shook it off. I had a great time with my friend and I enjoyed the sing along and I laughed and danced and watched a movie I love. Tomorrow, or the next day, or the next time I go out, I will wear my sassy outfit and I’ll feel good in it again. But for tonight, just for tonight, my heart was broken by the fact that no matter how much love I put out into the world, there are still people who think that they have a right to define how I dress. And worse, I let them. As I said, I shook it off. I shook it off because I have done so much self work and I am proud of myself and I do believe in my value and beauty and awesomeness. But there are people out there who don’t. And somewhere, someone is seeing a meme like that or other mean-spirited memes and they *aren’t* shaking it off. Someone’s day has been ruined by something like that. Someone is crying because of the weight of all of the judgment of people who haven’t yet learned that the only person they have a right to judge is themselves.

This is why I teach self love classes…. because there are people out there who judge you for one reason or another. There are people out there who, purposely or not, will ruin your day or your week or your life. And there will ALWAYS be people judging you. No matter how evolved you are and no matter how you surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, there are still always going to be haters. Self love is about learning that *you* are the one who gets to define how you feel, that *you* get to choose to love yourself, that you get to decided how to dress your body, or whether or not to wear that bikini. You get to dance or not. You get to have the pure pleasure of knowing that your body, your beautiful body has carried you this far in life, and will hopefully carry you a little further. No one else has the right to tell you what is right for your body. No one.