Posted by JenniferP

Captain, my Captain!

I’ve looked through the archives, and while you’ve answered similar-ish questions, this one hasn’t come up before, so I’m hoping you can help! I (she/her) work as a freelance editor and am in a fairly privileged position––I have enough clients that I can afford to be somewhat choosy; I’m white and cisgender, so while I certainly object to racist content, it doesn’t actually trigger me when I come across it in the works I’m editing.

However, I’ve been running into more and more works with racist content from new clients, whether stereotyped characters, cultural appropriation, or micro-aggressions in their prose (and I’m *sure* I’m missing problems content-wise). Often times, it’s content that’s hard for me to screen for before taking the job–there’s no easy search for racism in a manuscript, unfortunately–and furthermore, I also know with my relative privilege, I’m better-placed to give feedback that these authors may at least listen to.

What I’m struggling with is these sorts of clients are taking up more and more of my time and mental energy and space. I know I need to find a better way of “screening” clients and balancing the ones who slip through the cracks with the ones I actually enjoy working with, but in the meantime, do you have any script suggestions for telling people that their writing is terribly racist? Alternatively, any scripts for “breaking up” with clients whose works are too terrible for me to work with them in good conscious? (All my contracts have break-up clauses, so that’s not a concern––it’s the giving the criticism part I need help with!)

I don’t want to condone these authors’ works, but I don’t want to be mired down in fixing unfixable content either (especially if the author isn’t inclined to listen regardless!). Since it’s a client-freelancer relationship, I feel the boundaries are different–we can work with each other at will and there’s no HR to report to–so I’m at a loss. Any help would be much appreciated!

– No, Your Book isn’t Misunderstood; It’s Racist

Hi there Not Misunderstood:


Here is my suggestion which I think will cover both “Honest Feedback For Clients” and “Fix This Right Now Or We Have To Break Up” bases. I am writing a blanket script that can be adapted, please use what is useful to you however this works best with your existing process for contracting for edits, ok?

FYI, here are my goals for the proposed script:

  • Directness is kindness. These people NEED to hear this feedback from someone, today you’re the “someone.” They hired you to help them make their book the best it can be, it can’t be the best it can be until this gets fixed, sugarcoating it or avoiding it is unhelpful.
  • Be specific about the nature and scope of the problem to the extent you can. You don’t have to include every detail, find a few particularly telling ones.
  • Make it clear that you cannot work on the project until/unless substantive changes are made. “Can’t you just clean up the text like I hired you to do?” Nope!
  • Strongly disinvite the person from arguing with you about the nature of the feedback – They can fix it or don’t, you’re not touching this again until they do.
  • Direct them somewhere that might actually solve the problem.
  • For now, grant them the fig leaf of “I’m sure this is unintentional, and confidentially between you & an editor is the right time to fix these problems!” which hopefully they will take as the giant gift that it is. For the record, I do not think most or all of the people who write and say racist stuff are doing it unintentionally, but when you are trying to persuade someone to do better, it might help them rise to the occasion if you don’t immediately shame or punish them. If they double-down, argue, counter with abuse of you or try to invoke that One Black Friend Every Racist Definitely Has But Never Actually Listens To, strip that white fragility fig leaf right off and add them to your “Nope, Never Again” list.

And here’s the recommended script, which I imagine delivering as soon as you’ve completed your initial read-through. Write your prospective/new client an email that spells out your feedback about the content, including the problematic content, and the next steps for editing the book, like so:

“Dear [Author],

I’ve completed my initial read of [Your Book] and I want to share my initial feedback and outline next steps for the editing process if we’re going to continue working together.

While some elements of the draft are very strong [mention one or two], I’ve identified some content that needs serious revision before I can commit to another round of edits.

Unfortunately, there are some examples of [common stereotypes][cultural appropriation][outdated language][misuse of dialect][racist, transphobic, homophobic, sexist, ableist tropes or attitudes, and go ahead and use these words, no ‘racially charged’ euphemisms][for fuck’s sake stop redeeming slaveholders and Nazis through the power of luuuuuuurrrrrrveeee] throughout the draft, for example:

[List out some of what you found and briefly spell out what is wrong with it, i.e. “Spirit Animal” is a term that is sacred to specific indigenous religious traditions, a white woman of Swedish descent from Minnesota categorically does not have a spirit animal.]

[OPTIONAL – I’ve tried to flag and highlight problematic passages in the text as I found them], which you can see in the attached draft which I am returning to you. I did not make edits in these passages since changes on this scale would constitute a rewrite of the material, and the issues go deep enough that in my opinion some authorial re-imagining and revision that falls outside my scope is the right fix].

Additionally, while I know enough to spot some potential problems, I am not the right kind of editor to get this where it needs to be, so I must bow out of working on this project further until substantial revisions are made. Many authors choose to work with sensitivity readers for just this reason, if you’re interested I can link you to a few resources.*

I know this was probably not the feedback you were hoping to hear, but I hope you will take this to heart: This has potential to be a wonderful book, you’ve got such strong [worldbuilding][characterization][sense of place][addictive plot][idk think of something you can sincerely compliment and throw it out there!] that I think it is well worth investing some more time in making sure that it finds the widest possible audience and doing due diligence to make sure it is not unintentionally causing harm and making you come across as [racist, homophobic, etc. etc.].

I wish you well with making the necessary changes and I hope you’ll get back in touch when you have a revised draft. [If you don’t actually want this, don’t worry, this is like promising to be friends the second after a breakup, time will tell].

Best wishes,

[Your Sign-off]

Attachments: 1) A document with your draft with my initial highlights and comments. [OPTIONAL, obviously] 2) My invoice for X hours for work completed so far, due [DATE]”[YES, GET PAID FOR WHAT YOU DID SO FAR]

Hopefully that does the trick. People are either going to get it or they won’t, and you’ll know VERY QUICKLY which kind you are dealing with. A person who can sit with feedback like this, realize it is A GIFT meant to HELP them avoid harmful (and reputation-destroying MISTAKES) is someone you can possibly work with in the future.

*Some places you might direct authors:

Edited To Add: You mentioned looking for a new process for screening projects as they come in. I detailed one I used to use for writing screenplay coverage here that might be adaptable. I think you absolutely should spell out, in advance, some stages of how you work and lay out expectations, and one stage can absolutely be something like:

“The right author-editor collaboration requires trust and a large investment of time and energy, so part of my process is making sure that we will be the right fit. For new clients, I do an initial read where I give some initial reactions to story, characters, setting and suggest some starting points for the next round of revisions [spell exactly out what this involves, possibly incl. a basic template & time-frame]. Since this process reflects X hours of work, I charge a non-refundable fee of $$$ [this can be pretty nominal , and it’s also ok to base it on length of submission, so you’re not agreeing to read a freaking dictionary out of hand], payable at the time you submit your manuscript. Should we sign a contract for ongoing editing services, this fee is applied toward the first X hours.”

When you’re first hanging out a shingle, you want lots of clients, right? But when you’re established, you want the right clients, and it’s possible that charging a fee will also encourage people to polish their work as much as possible before investing the $.

A kind reader suggested the following additional language: “Content that reinforces racist stereotypes and oppression may be returned unedited and may be reconsidered for acceptance after significant revisions are made, entirely at the discretion of the editor” that you could include on your website and in your materials.

No comments today I have 10,000 things to do/write/do/write. Hope this helps!


Monday Links!

Apr. 22nd, 2019 04:23 pm[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

As promised, Lenée’s regular writing project has launched at, starting with a beautiful essay about ambivalence toward becoming a parent and figuring out the right choice for herself.

Did you know there is an advice column devoted to helping you find just the right poem for a given situation?

This weekend I vomited a bunch of feelings & personal opinions about the USA political situation in a “Half-Assed Activist” post at Patreon (free to read, “debate” will cost ya :-p).

This week I’m working on a Search Terms post and answering some questions about how to fight fair.

Assembling kids into a gaggle

Apr. 21st, 2019 06:50 am[personal profile] polydad
Okay, so I'm writing this story, and three of these kids have dug up the wreckage of a robot. )

Stupid Questions department

Apr. 18th, 2019 11:36 am[personal profile] polydad
A headline in my inbox proclaims "Online Pornography Age Checks To Be Mandatory in UK..."

I'm trying to come up with a reason why the United Kingdom should be interested in how old my pornography is.

Posted by JenniferP

Hi Captain Awkward!

I came out to my parents about 3 years ago, when I was still living with them before moving abroad to start my PhD. They were horrible – and it made the next 6 months of my stay a traumatizing experience, to say the least. I think you could describe my parents as controlling, and when I came out there was a lot of ‘we HATE all the career choices you’ve made, but we had the goodness to tolerate them, and now this!’ Anyway. Moved out, moved countries, got a fuckload of therapy, and started the process of healing.

I told my mother (via a text) that I was moving in with my girlfriend and she freaked out. She is “devastated”, and my father, with whom I have not had an actual conversation since my coming out (made summer visits home real fun, if you can believe it), is “furious, and wants to disown you”. I… am not sure how to cope with this? The worst part is that I have a ticket home to visit them for nearly a month, in three weeks. Captain, I’m not sure I want to visit them (for three whole weeks!) after this terrific display of parenting. At the same time, I’m pretty sure that not visiting them will be taken as this huge display of disrespect and an indication that I *want* to be estranged from them. So the options are to either stay away for my own peace of mind and be a bad daughter, possibly irrevocably so, or to grit my teeth and spend 3 weeks at home enduring silent disapproval at best and emotionally abusive confrontations at worst.

Like I said, I don’t have a relationship with my father. My mother is the one I speak to on the phone and text with. I told her “I’m sad and disappointed that you feel this way about my moving in with my girlfriend. I don’t feel safe coming back to visit you, and I don’t think you’d feel comfortable either.” She replied and the preview contains another allusion to my disappointing career (for the record, worked at a non-profit, doing a PhD now, only a failure insofar as “not earning hundreds of thousands as a corporate lawyer” is a failure) and… I haven’t seen the rest of it because I get avoidant when I’m anxious. Do you have any scripts for like… how to respond and how to navigate what may potentially be a long, torturous process of becoming (formally) (even more) estranged from my parents?

Bad Kid

P.S. My pronouns are she/her!

P.S. Just wanted to give a heads-up that you’re almost definitely going to recommend therapy, which I know is a big part of the answer! The most recent therapist I had didn’t really work for me, and since I’m moving in 2 weeks, I might not have a huge amount of time / resources to devote to finding a new therapist.

Dear Pretty Great Kid,

I confess, I want to embroider a sampler for all of the homophobic and transphobic parents in the world. It will say “Kindly get in the fucking sea.”

How fucking dare they.

How dare they talk about “disowning” you as if “owning” you was something they get to do in the first place.

How dare they act as if there is a mold fitted with the exact specifications for “daughter” that you were supposed to climb into so you could have the inconvenient parts of yourself, the parts called “gay” and “made a slightly different career choice than they hoped for” sheared off, how dare they act as if that is the price of being loved and being part of your family.

How dare they treat their love for you like an audition that you have to pass. How dare they act like you are in danger of failing it.

How dare they respond to your good news, the news that you are in love and happy, with disapproval and threats.

Can your parents possibly, possibly, possibly be more disappointed in you, I wonder, than I am disappointed in them at this moment? (No)

What a poisonous, empty love they offer you if these are its terms.

Let’s talk about this proposed trip. I hope I’m reaching you in time to cancel it.

I think your text to your mom about the trip was perfectly stated: “I’m sad and disappointed that you feel this way about my moving in with my girlfriend. I don’t feel safe coming back to visit you, and I don’t think you’d feel comfortable either.” You were honest, clear, and specific, you shared your feelings and acknowledged hers without taking those on as your problem.

Let’s talk about your understanding of the dilemma the trip creates. You write:  “I’m pretty sure that not visiting them will be taken as this huge display of disrespect and an indication that I *want* to be estranged from them. So the options are to either stay away for my own peace of mind and be a bad daughter, possibly irrevocably so, or to grit my teeth and spend 3 weeks at home enduring silent disapproval at best and emotionally abusive confrontations at worst.”

You’re not wrong, that is exactly the dilemma that your parents are setting up for you: “Either return home as scheduled and submit to our abuse and grovel for our approval, or know that if we write you off forever we get to blame it on your latest failure to perform filial piety and tell ourselves it’s what you wanted all along.” 

You’re not wrong but also: It’s a trap. Accepting this dilemma at face value means accepting that you are at fault somehow for [checks notes] being an adult human who is happily in love with another human, pursuing graduate studies at the highest level of your chosen field, and not presenting yourself as scheduled so that your parents can download all their fears and bigotries in person instead of from a safe (distant) distance.

Listen, there’s nothing quite like flying a very long way at your own expense to visit people who think they get to be mean to you about who you are, while the knot of dread in your stomach rises until it’s a whole elaborate braided dreadloaf that fills your torso the entire trip because you know something terrible is going to happen but you don’t know exactly when or what. Will it start on the ride from the airport, when you’re trapped alone in a car and there’s plenty of time for the person to unload all their stored disappointments on you without witnesses? Or will everyone be nice for a few days and lull you into the idea that this time it’s going to be okay, maybe they are changing, maybe you can survive it, and then, SLAM, there it is, the vitriol and deep disappointment that they’ve been saving up for you all this time? Or will it wait until the last day of the visit, the way people in a long-distance romances  pick the fights they’ve been saving up all weekend to make the parting easier? Once I stood (Unless we’re in the car I’m almost always standing when it happens, the other person is seated comfortably and I’m standing there in attendance like a messenger who just ran in with important news for the King and can’t sit or leave until the Royal Decree is handed down) while a relative unloaded their saved disappointment on me only this time I spaced out completely, just looked out the window and didn’t really listen to the words (there was nothing new, I’d wager) and when asked What I Had To Say For Myself I said “Hmmmm, interesting, and you’re always wondering why I don’t visit more often” and they were sincerely and honestly shocked. And like, WOUNDED. How could I say THAT? How could I imply that how they treated me whenever I visited might have anything to do with how often I would want to visit in the future? And then I watched them, I watched them do it in real time, I watched them make me The Bad Guy in the story, the mean, ungrateful child who threatened them with estrangement when they were just trying to help me stop being such a loser. Because that’s what Love looked like to them, me standing still while they (metaphorically speaking by my 30s, at least, thanks for small favors) licked their hand and aggressively smoothed my hair down to make me more presentable for [church][representing their class and parenting aspirations to an invisible but highly critical audience][who the fuck even knows].

You don’t have to do it. You don’t have to go. If you stay home with your girlfriend and the family rift widens (the rift that is already definitely here) after that, your parents might try to sell you and the rest of your family the story that it was you who caused the rift and that you can fix it any time you want to [by climbing into the Daughter-Mold-O-Rama][by taking your medicine i.e. their verbal abuse and neglect][a series of impossible fairy-tale tasks like spinning straw into gold that are never meant to be completed, they exist only to place you into a state of permanent failure and pre-emptive apology]. Somebody who tells you that their love for you can only be found if you travel east of the sun and west of the moon isn’t planning on you making a successful quest.

If you submit to your parents’ terms, if you decide what the hell, you’ll peel off your beautiful selkie-skin and hide it under a rock or trade your voice to the Sea Witch so that you can stealthily pass for what your family defines as human for a couple of weeks — and a lot of people do submit, under threat of escalating violence, out the very real fear that being ‘disowned’ means homelessness, worrying that that “rebellion” means being ostracized from any and all family connections, or because disability, inadequate safety nets, and/or legal discrimination against queer people force a choice between abusive care-taking and no care-taking at all, or even because you still love your parents so much and you need a temporary break from being the Lost Lamb of the family and want to feel like the Prodigal One for a minute, please know: If you’re out there reading this from inside the un-safety of the Mold-O-Rama because all the other options are even less safe, I see you, friend and I need you to know that your choice to try to preserve an unfair and difficult relationship doesn’t make them right about you.

If you decide to take the trip after all, Letter Writer, please think hard about your own comfort and safety. Can you stay with Not Your Parents (siblings, friends, other relatives, a hotel)? Can you make sure you have your own local transport so you can leave situations whenever you want to? Can you cut the parent-part of the visit short and spend most of the time visiting friendlier faces? Can you recruit local “buffers” (old friends, supportive siblings, extended family, etc.) to help you be alone with your parents less than usual, possibly not at all? Do you need [noise-cancelling headphones][pharmaceutical assistance][a code word to text to a safe nearby person which means “extract me immediately”]? All I ask, as you build this logistical moat and human chain of protective kindness and the expenses and inconveniences start to total up, can you do me a favor and at least think about chucking the whole thing and running off somewhere relaxing with your wonderful girlfriend or a stack of books you’ve been meaning to read or literally a potato with googly eyes on it (the potato, unlike your parents, is guaranteed not to be mean to you).

You don’t have to go. If you go, you don’t have to accept being mistreated as a condition of belonging to your family. If they are mean to you, you get to leave. If relations deteriorate even further, you are not to blame, additionally, please know that making the other choice would not have fixed it.

As for the long run, I don’t know what your parents will do. I can’t promise you it will get better than it is right now, though I can tell you a true story about how, in my middle age, I’ve stopped standing for Why Are You So Disappointing? oral exams and I’ve mostly stopped being subjected to them. I’ve written about that long, messy process a lot here, both directly and indirectly, probably this is the best distillation of it.

As a cisgender woman whose career failures and your-body-is-the-wrong-size disappointments were stacked so deep that I never even bothered pulling out the one marked “lazy, occasional bisexuality with a hetero-romantic curse” where my family could see it,  I’m not going to pretend that my struggles have ever been on par with people navigating the kind of parental disappointment that is backed up on an institutional level by churches and governments, but I think that some of the emotional territory is at least recognizable. Here are some of the lessons I try to pass on in case they are useful to someone else navigating the possibility of family estrangement or redrawing of boundaries:

Your parents have choices about how they treat you. If they choose to lead with disappointment, criticism, bigotry, and threats, if they demand unconditional love from you but make their love conditional on your achievements and conformity to their idea of you (at the expense of the wonderful, kind, loving, thoughtful, actual, living, breathing child they are lucky enough to have had accidentally wash up in their family and were lucky enough to have the care and feeding of), that’s their mistake and their loss. You can’t “fail” at being yourself.

Estrangement is painful but it can be a great equalizer. Sometimes staying away for a good long while and severely limiting the Permanently Disappointed Parent’s access to you is the only language they understand and respond to, because it’s the one thing that reshapes the balance of power. “I can live with your disappointment if I have to, but I won’t subject myself to your mistreatment anymore.” Does “You can’t fire me, I already quit” feel childish, and selfish, and like you deeply wish you could be a bigger person than this, and all the yucky things your parents will accuse you of being if you were to say those words out loud? HELL YEAH. I mean, you’re only going against everything your family and culture have ever taught you was the Most Important Thing, Ever, what do you want, a parade? Lots of people who don’t know your life will try to tell you that you are making a mistake and that you just need to try harder. When that happens, come find me, I’ll throw you your parade, the one called “Holding onto yourself in the face of a mean family is difficult and brave work, well done.” We have glitter, and floats, and EXCELLENT costumes. ❤

It might get *better* without ever getting *fixed.* “Do you want peace or do you want justice?” is a question I often ask, when reading letters here, when navigating my own complicated situations. What is it worth it to me to excavate the past right now and receive answers for what happened there (answers that might never satisfy me because the person does not have the self-awareness or the capacity to process what really happened) vs. what is it worth to me to leave the past alone in order to have the most peaceful possible interaction in the present (Is it possible to create a history of positive interactions moving forward and push the negative ones further back?) Therapy (which I agree is useful but not something that can be implemented swiftly or is the most important thing right now, dear Letter Writer) has one of the places to sort this out, to sift through the pile of what I need vs. what I am owed vs. what can I reasonably expect vs. what can I safely live with, to grieve for the missing pieces and start to learn to show the kindness and acceptance for myself that all human beings crave and deserve.

Your family is not a monolith and your parents do not have the only say in your belonging there. Do some families absolutely enable their worst members, band together against uncomfortable truths, and punish anyone, including victims of abuse, who threaten the status quo aka their extremely fragile but necessary belief that We Are All Completely Normal And Okay And Nobody (Especially Me) Did Anything Wrong Here, Why Are You Insisting On Ruining Everything By Bringing Up Ancient History (Like A Glaring History Of Sexual Abuse) Or Inconveniently Recent Nazi Leanings?  Yes. Unfortunately yes. All the fucking time. Disappointingly, yes. I’m never gonna tell people that real and depressing risks around this don’t exist, but I’m also not going say that your only path is to give up and let the worst person in your family define all the terms of it, forever, like the final boss in a video game that you have to defeat before there’s a seat for you at the holiday table.

To counter this narrative specifically, I would advise people to not let the meanest people in your family get away with the idea that they speak for everyone and that their personal disappointment in you is a matter of settled group consensus. If a family member tells you “Plus, everyone agrees with me that gay people are icky ” I’d be pretty quick to ask, “Well, who is this Everyone and can I talk to them directly about that? If that’s how they feel they can say it to my face, otherwise I’m not going to assume that everyone is as hateful and shriveled as you, how odd, why would I insult them that way.” You don’t have to follow through with a “Do you think I have the right to exist y/n” investigation with the relatives, mind you, just stop and think before you accept that someone who is acting like they hate you is a) the boss of what you are supposed to be like or b) the sole gatekeeper to where you get to belong. (“Self-appointed truth-tellers who only say mean stuff” make up a large amount of my true enemies on this planet, please shelter here in my grudge-shack a moment while we discuss how deeply awful they are.)

“‘Forever’ is a long time, Sally.” That’s a quote from Mr. Awkward’s intensely quotable Grandpa, who I never had the pleasure of meeting, who, upon hearing of a grandchild’s possibly premature engagement said something like, “Forever is a long time, Sally and I was married* to your Grandma…forever.”  (*extremely lovingly married but definitely not always smoothly married from what I gather).

When I think about how “forever is a long time,” one thing I mean is that family situations where people are considering estrangement didn’t get that way overnight and they won’t heal overnight, either. For some people there is safety and power in the idea of permanence, the words “Fuck off and die, I am done with you forever,” and the giddy freedom that comes when you decide once and for all that you’ll stop trying to engage with someone who hurts you. If that’s what you need, and you need someone to be on your side about that, again, come find me, your parade is waiting. There are some parents who do some seriously unforgivable shit to their children in this world, and nobody ever wants to acknowledge that, but nobody else had to live through what you did, either, which means nobody else is the boss of what you should be made to put up with in the name of making everyone who is not you feel okay about what parenting should be like. Hard pass.

For me, when things were strained but not unforgivably so, I got considerable safety from knowing that permanent estrangement was an option but also in knowing that I didn’t want to go there if it was humanly possible to avoid it, and that as long as I could stand it I would try to choose another way, and the best gift I could give myself and everyone in the story was “more time.” To be clear, this was my path, I ask it and expect it or advise it for nobody else, I never think anyone is obligated to keep trying or exhaust all alternatives before they give up on something that is not working. While I traveled this path, the idea of “forever being a long time” has helped me resist ultimatums, especially the whole “what if the person DIES and you never MADE PEACE” narrative the fixers of the world are so invested in you adopting (“Idk, what if someone who is mean to me does die and they never ever made the choice to knock it the fuck off, apologize, and make amends while they were alive, yeah that would be pretty sad! Here lies an asshole who never missed a chance to double down, RIP!”) but also smaller ultimatums. It’s helped some of the “Is this the hill I want to die on?” peaks shrink into manageable little bumps and provided helpful reminders that I can make decisions to keep myself safe and intact on a case-by-case, visit-by-visit, call-by-call basis, I don’t have to stay endlessly open or close all the doors right now on the basis of “forever.” It might be like this forever, it might not be, if I give people another chance to act right that’s a gift I’m giving them, if I withhold that gift temporarily to regroup, the way we got here doesn’t automatically become All My Fault.

In closing:

There is no universe where you are the disappointing one and your homophobic (& otherwise abusive) parents call the shots of what it is possible or desirable for you to be. You are good. If you doubt that, I’m here, we’re here, this community is here, we’ve got your back, we’ve got the glitter bombs and the rainbows and the fierce unstoppable dancing and the quiet (consensual, possibly telepathic) hugs and affirmations, we’ve got your parade right here, you could not possibly un-deserve the love we have for you in a million years.






Assembling the project

Apr. 12th, 2019 03:51 pm[personal profile] polydad
So I'm back in Portland,and the robot isn't finished yet. And my phone is still in Ranier, which sucks. Brian's friend Rey *might* be bringing it down to me this afternoon. Or, maybe not. We'll find out.

The robot is only one of five pieces of this project that need to fit together. The other creative part is writing the stories of how the robot came to be and how it came to be at GearCon this summer. Part #3 is GearCon itself, which is the nominally easiest part, in that I've helped with three or four (or six?) GearCons before, and have a pretty good idea of what I need to be doing about it. Part #4 is building a relationship with the Iron Fireman Collective, which is nothing like anything either they or I have ever tried. And Part #5 is connecting this with the Cascadians, which is again completely novel.

So, Part #1 requires reattaching the robot-head to its base, finishing the arms, building the ankles and feet, making a harness for the torso piece, and putting everything together. This can only be done in Ranier, and I'm not there right now.

Part #2 requires writing and publishing at least one and preferably 3 or 4 stories, and is what I should be doing right now.

Part #3 does not require any current action.

Part #4 I will hopefully be meeting with Garrett Hour on Sunday afternoon to recruit him as pitchman for the meeting with the IFC, as I can't pitch and wear the suit at the same time.

And the best thing I can do for Part #5 right now is finish Part #2.

To work, then.

Posted by JenniferP

Hello readers! I’m excited to get back into the blogging swing next week, but first, some chitchat!

Medical News: Surgery went fine, all is well as can be though last week sucked so bad as my body tried to decide between “pain regulation” and “all other bodily functions.” I’m back to my normal routine, got a clean bill at the follow-up visit. Now we just wait for “Guillame” to shrivel and die and do more imaging in a few months.

Random Culture News: I watched a rough cut of my friends’ upcoming movie Monuments last night and it was so, so, so good. They’re still in post-production and I don’t know the expected release date, but anyone out there who thinks “I’d like to see a kindhearted Coen Brothers-y, David Lynch-y sort of comedy about love and death and mythology that is a journey through the middle parts of America and it is sometimes a musical” are gonna like this one.

Kitten News: Daniel Striped Tiger and Henrietta Pussycat will be a year old at the beginning of May so time to switch over to Cat News officially then, but we’ve got two weeks left, right?

Sleepy Cats

Henrietta (L) and Daniel(R) are cuddled together asleep.

Lenée Appreciation News: This week ends the current guest-blogging stint by Lenée aka @dopegirlfresh. It was such a gift to have her help so I could recuperate, and it was a gift in other ways, like, how interesting it was to see someone else step in and do my job and watch that process up close. We did a little Q&A to close out her time here.

CA: When you said that you wished you could take over for a week was there a specific topic or letter that made you think “I have Things To Say about that”?

L: I found myself wondering whose internet-job I’d like to do. Would I want to tweet for Fat Kid Deals? Would I be able to field customer service on Wendy’s Facebook page? The answer was a resounding no; I realized I like talking to people and decided that being Captain Awkward for a week was right up my alley.

CA: You’ve stared directly into my inbox and lived to tell the tale. I’d love to know what you thought of the experience as a whole. Were there any trends you noticed, things that surprised you?

L: I noticed that people really, really trust you with their deepest and most intense stuff. I love that you’ve been able to build such a great space for people to get support and reassurance. Nothing surprised me; perhaps because I’ve been on the internet a looooong time, there’s next to nothing that surprises me.

CA: Do you have favorite advice columns or sites? Are there advice columns you wish existed?

L: Honest answer: I only read and consistently enjoy CA. I’m an occasional reader of the Redditships Twitter account and always read screenshots from AITA on twitter as they come down my timeline.

wish there existed an advice column that focused on trans and queer people of color. (Somebody please start one)(CA: YES HARD AGREE I will help in any way I can) 

CA: We’re surrounded by tips, “life hacks”, and advice from all sides. How do you sift out the good stuff from the useless stuff from the actually harmful stuff? What do you wish  advice-givers did more of (and less of)? Why do you think people are so into the idea of advice?

L: I often consider the source of a tip. For instance, I never read stuff in Cosmo or any similar magazine. It couldn’t be any less inclusive of me or anyone I care about. I would never take advice from, like, anyone affiliated with Fox News. And I don’t believe in anything Lena Dunham says, because Lena Dunham.

L: They can read my Twitter (@dopegirlfresh) or find me on Medium (same user name). In a few weeks, I’m launching a monthly column and will happily share that link with everyone as soon as my first post goes up!

CA: I can’t wait to read your work and I cannot thank you enough for your help and support. I know you’re also a member of Club My Uterus Went Rogue, so I’m going to promote the shit out of your medical fundraiser right now. Hopefully you can come back and hang out with us soon.

It’s good to be back.



Posted by sayheylenee

Hello! Lenée aka @dopegirlfresh is still filling in for Captain Awkward (who came through surgery fine and is grateful for recuperation time). In addition to discussions of stalking, this post has mentions of past sexual assault and some abuse/trauma stuff. 

Dear Captain Awkward,

I grew up in an extremely abusive and isolated environment. Between the ages of 12-22, I never spoke to a single person outside of my immediate family. I eventually escaped and ran away, got myself into school, and am now (at 36) a highly accomplished and educated career woman with a great life and many close friends. I’ve been through years of therapy to get to this point. But I have never had a romantic relationship with a man.

To cut to the chase: I have been accused of stalking twice. When I was 22 and street homeless having just escaped, I met a gay man 15 years older than me. We hit it off right away and he invited me to come live with him temporarily. I soon moved back to my own country but we continued to communicate regularly. I thought he was my best friend and regarded him as a big brother. Two years later I found out he was telling people I was “too needy” and “a stalker” — ALL our communication had been through email, I’d not even been to his country in 18 months. And he always replied to my emails. It’s not like I was showing up unexpectedly, or bombarding him with emails when he was ignoring me. But obviously he felt otherwise.

Five years ago I started a new career in a new industry (film) and in my first job I was sexually assaulted by a famous actor and had a breakdown. I only knew one person in film back then, an older screenwriter who’d befriended and mentored me. I became very clingy with him, and would always hover around him at events (screenings, premieres, award dos) I had to attend. It wasn’t about him personally, I just felt so scared and anxious being at those events not knowing anyone else. A third party said I was being weird and stalkerish. The screenwriter never said anything and has always been kind, but was clearly disturbed by my clinginess, and noticeably distanced himself from me. (Fwiw, I recognised that my behaviour was excessive, am mortified by it, and have avoided him ever since.)

Last year I worked on a new project and became close friends with a colleague who I believed was gay. We developed a real emotional intimacy, became confidantes, and it seemed like he was actively pursuing a closeness with me (eg saying out of the blue that he really wanted to visit my house, another time I mentioned an upcoming trip to a city he occasionally works in and he immediately said, “oh please change your trip dates to May” when he’ll be there, another time I made a joke about mothering him and he immediately said “oh please yes I really need that!”) On our last day working together he told me he’s bisexual and sort of tried to kiss me. I was too flustered to respond but it made me realise my feelings are more than platonic. I would like to pursue a relationship, or at least an ongoing friendship.

Unfortunately he’s been mostly out of the country since then. We email and text very regularly, and he’s always sweet and intimate in his replies, but it’s always me initiating contact and he’s frequently slow to reply. We did organise one date but he cancelled due to a family bereavement. He’s given no indication my ‘pursuit’ is unwelcome, but it clearly it is me pursuing, and my past history is making me paranoid that I’m being stalkerish and that he’s just too polite to tell me to go away.

[Note from CA: A paragraph with some potentially identifying details have been redacted at LW’s request but there is an important element which I would sum up as up as “The way this person’s career intersects with the LW’s own work makes it hard to avoid news of this guy and very easy to give into the temptation of knowing what he’s up to at all times even when they’re not directly in contact with each other.”]

I realise you’re probably screaming, “avoid this troubled man!” but in my entire life he’s the only person I’ve ever met who I’m both attracted to, and feel completely safe with. And he’s an incredibly kind, nurturing man who already knows my history and has been so supportive and non-judgemental. I don’t care if we don’t end up in an LTR, I just want to experience sex with a man without fear, and maintain a lovely nurturing friendship and see that friendship continue to develop.

Am I being a stalker? Is my behaviour excessive? Should I continue to pursue him? Should I back off?

She/her pronouns.

Dear Reader,

Please allow me to congratulate you on surviving a truly difficult start in life and making a way for yourself. I’m glad you have a therapist, and I’m really glad you understand the need to be self reflective. Something that has made itself really clear from your email: you are resilient. It sounds like you’ve made it a point to thrive despite it all. I’m really sorry that your first job in your dream industry was a site of such trauma. It’s an awful experience to have, and I hope you’re giving yourself what you need at this time.

As far as this most recent concern about whether or not you’re a stalker:  Stalking involves a pattern of hyper-monitoring and control. You can be fixated on someone in a way that is unhealthy for you without crossing over into stalking behaviors that are bad for them. I think you’ve got some attachment issues that need addressing.  It’s not abnormal to form a bond with a person who supports you, especially after major traumas. My concern is that you may be putting all these eggs (emotional, romantic, etc) into your coworker’s basket. I also think you know that this interaction is, at the bare minimum, imbalanced. When’s the last time you spent time together? Was that time something you coordinated? From what you’ve told me here, there’s no reciprocity. Is that the kind of relationship you want? I’d like you to think about the attraction you have; his trying to kiss you one night after a lot of emoting and bonding doesn’t have to end in an LTR or even physical intimacy. You said you’d like a friendship at the very least, which seems reasonable. However, if you’re doing all the work to keep things moving, that’s not a balanced or equitable relationship. It definitely shouldn’t grow into a romantic or sexual relationship.

I don’t think you’re a stalker. I think you need to learn better boundaries to conserve your energy and time. I think your fixation on this guy deserves some exploration. It sounds like the isolation during your adolescence has really messed with your ability to connect with others. The people you who regarded you as needy were responding to not just your behavior, but their own shit around emotional labor. I can’t call you a stalker, though I will caution you: the bonds you build with people fresh out of trauma don’t often survive long term, and that’s okay. The same goes for people with whom you spend a night getting to know and nearly kiss. Also, I want you to know this because it tends to be a hard lesson: some people keep people around so they can feel wanted. If you can’t ever pin him down for a meaningful interaction and have to look to social media or other outlets to learn about him, that means he is not sharing himself with you. You’re kinda torturing yourself here. Learn how to focus on folks who reciprocate. That may take a while to learn, but is more than worth it.

About the Author: Lenée is a fat, Black, queer femme who lives in Philadelphia. She’s a lover of Black music, Steven Universe, true crime, and doing the electric slide whenever possible. A new plant mom, Lenée writes on occasion and usually tweets as @dopegirlfresh.



Posted by katepreach

Update: the upper floors at the Southbank Centre are all shut, we’re on floor 2 in the Clore Ballroom, at the back of the space near the big window.

There is step free access to the left as you approach the space


Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX near Waterloo station, 13th April, 12pm onwards.

Colouring in!  Please bring pens, pencils etc. and any copyright free images for yourselves or other people to colour. Or just come and chat with us!

The venue sell food in a cafe (standard sandwiches etc.), but they also don’t mind people bringing food in from outside. There are several other local places where you can buy stuff as well. The excellent food market outside has loads of different food options, which can fit most requirements, or you can also bring a packed lunch.

Meet on the fourth floor, outside the Green Bar (go up in lift 1, sadly not as musical as lift 7).

Here is the accessibility map of the Royal Festival Hall: PDF map

I have shoulder length brown hair and glasses, and I will bring my plush Cthuhlu, which looks like this: 

The venue is accessible via a lift, and has accessible toilets. Waterloo tube station has step free access on the Jubilee line but not on the Northern line.

The London Awkward group has a Facebook page, which is here: There is also a thread in the new forums for saying hello.

My email is Kate DOT Towner AT Gmail DOT com

(May meetup will be the 18th.)

*Almost* done. Perennially.

Apr. 10th, 2019 09:28 pm[personal profile] polydad
Another not-as-good-as-I-wanted-it-to-be day. I was hoping to have finished the robot; much like fusion power always seems to be twenty years in the future from any given date, finishing the robot always seems to be happening tomorrow. skittenwench helped me flesh out a character in the story, which was good.

Figured out how to cut the face, and did so; Brian mounted the lenses to a mounting-board that'll go inside the head, got a friend to scavenge gaskets for the lenses, and built some segmentata lorica shoulders. He still needs to extend the shoulders down to the wrists, I need to mount the lenses and speaker in the head and then attach the head to the neck, and we need to fabricate the ankles, cover the shoebox-feet with tinfoil, make a harness to support the torso on the wearer's shoulders and install it, and figure out the undergarments and wrists. The hands are just two pairs of channellock-type pliers; the wrists are probably just going to be shop-rags painted silver and wrapped around the pliers.

And that's it, and we're done. I may get some progress pictures from Brian's wife Crystal; if so, I'll see if I can figure out how to post 'em here.

Robot progress

Apr. 9th, 2019 07:34 pm[personal profile] polydad
At Brian's, working on robot. Not as much progress as I would have liked, but not bad. Top of head is attached to main cylinder of head, and bottom of head is cut and partially drilled. Riveting it into its final conical shape is not something I want to try while tired, so it's waiting for morning. Then the head-bottom gets mounted on the neck, and I figure out how to install the eyes and mouth and do so.

Posted by natdell

Hello NYC Awkwardeers!

What: Captain Awkward NYC meetup

When: Saturday, April 20th, 2019, 3pm onward

Where: Think Coffee, 123 4th Avenue, Manhattan

Please bring a deck of cards! If we have the right number of people, I’d love to play a big game of Nerts, which requires one deck per person. As long as the deck is almost complete, that’s fine– you don’t need all 52 cards. And if the deck has a distinct pattern on the back, that is preferable to a standard blue or red Bicycle deck! No worries if you haven’t heard of the game or don’t know the rules. It’s quite fun, and I’ll be sure to explain how it works. I’ll bring some extra decks of cards as well. Feel free to bring other games, board games, and crafts as well! Or just bring your wonderful self 🙂

We’ll meet at Think Coffee at 123 4th Avenue on Saturday, April 20th starting at 3pm. It is right by the 14th Street – Union Square Station on the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, W or R trains. The platforms for the L, N, Q, W, and R trains at this station are wheelchair accessible. The platform for the 4, 5, and 6 trains at this station is NOT wheelchair accessible. Think Coffee is on street level with an accessible bathroom.  They serve coffee, tea, soups, sandwiches and baked goods.  They have vegan options. Link:

I will be wearing an orange hat. I’ll be sure to have a sign that says Captain Awkward so you can find me. Feel free to email me with any questions or to let me know you’re coming. My email is

I’m looking forward to meeting you soon/seeing everyone who came last month!


April 2019