Category Archives: my writing

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This weekend’s panel at Geek Girl Con

Cross-posted on the Washington Lawyers for the Arts website,

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a panel at Geek Girl Con on “Fanfiction: Sharing, Creating, and the Law,” put on by the Washington Lawyers for the Arts. It was a great experience! It was fun to work with the knowledgeable and friendly panelists, and I got answers to questions I’ve had for a long time. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the concept of fair use and learned a lot of legalities, but less about how I could apply them in a practical sense. Now I’m armed with a lot of knowledge and a solid sense of direction. Very helpful!

Just being at Geek Girl Con was amazing in itself. I brought my spouse and children, and we all spent some time exploring the con, dressed as characters from Doctor Who or Nancy Drew. Who knew you could find a life-sized robotic Dalek standing next to a woman in a TARDIS costume singing along to “Let it Go”? Or make a pocket-sized model of the solar system?

The panel was moderated by Allison Durazzi, Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers for the Arts, and the participants were Kristin Ann King (myself); Rachel Buker, WLA board member; and Brian Rowe, chair of the WLA Board of Directors. Our goal was present both creative and legal perspectives on creating fan fiction.

I went first and talked a little about my background. I write short stories, blog posts, and critical essays. My first book, Misfits from the Beehive State, was published last year. It’s not fanfiction — it’s a book of surreal short stories set in Utah, all about people who aimed for perfection but fell down the rabbit hole instead. I also write fanfiction, mostly for the Doctor Who fanfiction site A Teaspoon and An Open Mind. That site has tens of thousands of stories, all put out there for free by fans, mostly using a pen name. It’s a wonderful avenue for storytelling, but I do often wish I felt free to put it out under my own name. I’ve had many questions over the years about the practicality and legality of borrowing others’ work. What happens if someone thinks I’m infringing? Is it possible to know for sure whether my use of a copyrighted work is protected by law?

Rachel went next, and she covered the fundamentals of copyright, including thorough definitions of copyright and the public domain. In brief, copyright is a bundle of rights that protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. It has to be creative expression — for example, ideas and facts are not covered by copyright. Those kinds of works, works whose copyrights have expired, and certain other types of work are in the public domain. She gave links to tools for determining whether a work might be in the public domain. For a fuller explanation of these concepts, check out the PowerPoint slides from the talk .

Then we broke for a little bit of Q&A, and the audience asked thoughtful, interesting questions.

Next Brian discussed ways that people can legally use copyrighted works. Free speech is a first amendment protection, and it’s also built right into copyright law in the form of “fair use.” When courts are considering whether or not it’s fair use, they consider four factors: the purpose of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount of work used, and the effect of the use on the market of the copyrighted work. Brian covered several cases in which that the courts decided whether or not fair use applied, as well as a few cases that were settled before a decision could be handed down. He encouraged the audience to create transformative works and pointed out that every creative work is a remix of one kind or another. Star Wars, for example, borrowed heavily from other movies. Brian also provided a list of legal resources, including the Washington Lawyers for the Arts, free and low cost resources, and organizations that help defend these free speech rights, such as the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

These resources are in the slides, but they’re worth adding here as well:

We finished up with more audience questions, and once again they were thought-provoking.

I learned a lot from this panel that I can take home and use in my writing and publishing endeavors. Here are just a few of my key takeaways:

  1. The fair use clause of the copyright is extremely fuzzy and open to interpretation by the courts.
  2. If a copyright holder thinks someone is infringing on their work, it does not always go straight to court, and most cases end up being settled. There are specific steps that can be taken, such as a “cease and desist” letter or a “takedown request,” and specific right and wrong things to do in that situation.
  3. There are organizations out there that provide free and low-cost legal assistance, depending on the situation.

I also came out of this panel with a whole lot more hope for the future of fanfiction as a legal activity. Fanfiction writers always have a cloud hanging over us: we think our specific use of copyrighted material is legal, but it’s impossible to know for sure unless it goes to court.

But maybe this situation can change. Other countries treat copyright and fair use differently. For instance, in Japan, fan works has more respect, and there are more specific rules for whether or not they violate copyright.

One of the audience members asked about the possibility of having a Hugo Award for fanfiction. The idea has been kicked around, but people are a little concerned. Rachel took the question, and of course, there was no definitive answer. But she did ask whether there was a monetary prize given out, and the answer was no, just a statue. She then inquired as to what the statue was made out of, joking, “If it’s chocolate, that might be OK!”

I would be delighted to see a Hugo award for fanfiction. I would love to see a world where fanfiction can be freely shared and professionally respected.

Thanks to the WLA for the opportunity to participate on this panel!

Clarion West writeathon – I DID IT!

I set some serious goals for myself for the Clarion West writeathon – 250 words or more, 5 days a week, for six weeks. AND I DID IT!

Writing consistently is so important, so quick, and so hard. When you write every day, you wake up every morning thinking about what you’re going to write. You actually produce work. You feel good about yourself. And when people ask “Are you writing?” you don’t get that sinking feeling in the bottom of your stomach!

So I met my writeathon goals, but I need to keep this thing up.

Starting TODAY.




Writeathon Update! And an excerpt.

Week 5: Met the goal! Here are the word counts for the week:

  • Sun 7/20: 500 words
  • Mon 7/21: 294 words
  • Weds 7/23: 388 words
  • Thurs 7/24: 260 words
  • Fri 7/25: 302 words

Week’s total: 1744 words.

Also, I promised to add a 50-word excerpt for every $10 donated, and author Vonda McIntyre very kindly did! Thank you! Here is the excerpt.

I wanted no sympathy from this stranger, so I turned away. I wanted my implant back and whole like nobody’s business. But for the first time in my life I wondered: what exactly was it putting in my head? And did I want it there?

“Leave me be,” I said.

– Kristin

When the word count quota feels like a chore . . .

I’m still at it with the Clarion West writeathon! I have lost track of exactly how many words I’ve done, but this week I wrote T, W, TH, F, and will need to write Saturday. (I’m measuring the weeks Sun through Sat.) Today, however, I felt pretty darned unmotivated. I spent yesterday sitting at Chuck E Cheese revising a paper copy of my work-in-progress, and I don’t want to write any more until I have those revisions entered. I started a flash fiction earlier this week, but I don’t want to work on that either. So, for your reading amusement, here is what happens when a writer gets stuck but has to write anyway


            “You’re getting ahead of the story,” I said to myself. “It is opening up to manifold possibilities and one story should not have quite so many. It should not be a multiverse.”

            “However,” I replied sensibly, “I have a word quote for the Clarion West writeathon. I have to get to 250 words every day, five days a week, for two more days and two more weeks. Then I will have met my goal.”

            “That’s all well and good but Phoenix and Raven just want you to stop a minute and let them catch their breaths and gather their identities. Why don’t you work on something else in the meantime?”

            I scratched my head. “Well, there is the washing machine story, but I have to admit, I’m a little stuck. Have you got any ideas for what a washing machine could do that would upset a household exactly as much as a thief stealing their stuff?”

            “Weren’t we going with a laundry avalanche, or something like that? Sort of a Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage out?”

            I made a derogatory noise at myself. “That’s been done.”

            “Well, Chrome is making a lot of noises and she could be rocking the foundation of the house. It could cause a collapse of their closet. In fact, the entire closet could fall through the floor into the basement.”

            “But that’s silly!”

            “So is the concept of a sentient washing machine. Fiction can be silly. You can do whatever you can with it.”

            “Never mind. I’ve hit 250 words already.”

            “Let’s call it a day, then.”


– Kristin

The writeathon — charging on ahead!

Two weeks into the Clarion West writeathon, and I’ve met my goal so far! Here are the daily counts:

  • Day One: 403 words
  • Day Two: 305 words
  • Day Three: 388 words
  • Day Four: 383 words
  • Day Five: 288 words
  • Day Six: 403 words
  • Day Seven: 346 words
  • Day Eight: 435 words
  • Day Nine: 480 words
  • Day Ten: 295 words

It doesn’t take long to get these words out. But it’s hard as anything! I’m always so certain that what I’m writing will never amount to much, that it will never be a story. Then, as I write, story emerges. Sentences come out of my fingers and surprise me. But self-doubt haunts me the whole way. Sure, things are happening, but there’s no way I can get to the ending! Once I do — sure, it’s a full story, but it’s bound to be no good!

So the writeathon is helping enormously. To be the writer I want to be, I have to write, and I have to do it daily and consistently. That’s the advice that’s always given to writers, and few of them actually manage it. For me it’s fear. There’s only a little bit of fear and anxiety, but it’s just enough to make me say, “Well, of course I’ll do it, but later.”

Well, with the writeathon, later is now.

– Kristin

By dotmatchbox at flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0] , via Wikimedia Commons

By dotmatchbox at flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0] , via Wikimedia Commons

How is the write-a-thon coming along?

Day One: 403 words. A nameless narrator explains how she met the mysterious Phoenix. He’s mysterious to me, too.

Day Two: 305 words. Phoenix went up in flames. I guess that was to be expected.  Also, lots of procrastinating by playing with the GIMP image distortion features.

Day Three: 388 words. Our unnamed narrator receives a message from Phoenix, from before he went up in flames.


Sponsor me for the Clarion West Writeathon!

I love to take baths. The warm water feels so good on my skin, and after I’ve cleaned myself off I sit and sit until the water goes cold. But somehow, I never want to get into the bathtub. I find the transition difficult.

In the same way, I love to write stories — but it’s hard to get started. I write on the computer downstairs in my office, but somehow, whenever I get there, I end up on Facebook. It’s a matter of training my brain to expect to get to work, of establishing a habit. And that takes a while — somewhere between 18 and 254 days, apparently.

So I’m setting a goal for myself: 250 words per week for six weeks. If I can set a habit of writing 250 words per day, and keep it, then as a writer I will be set! Sadly, I don’t take myself seriously as a taskmaster. That’s why I’m asking you, dear friends and readers, to help guilt me into writing!

How? Through the Clarion West Write-a-thon! It supports scholarships for fledgling authors taking part in a six-week intensive writing program called Clarion West. There, they learn the trade of science fiction / fantasy / speculative fiction. They learn the craft, and they make connections. Maybe five, ten years later, some book of theirs shows up on the shelves of your local bookstore, and you pick it up and stay awake all weekend reading it.

I didn’t take part in the Clarion West workshop (I got an MFA instead) but Clarion West supports me as a writer in many other ways. The Richard Hugo House now has day-long Clarion workshops, and a con called Potlatch as a small workshop called “Taste of Clarion.”

So if you sponsor me for the Clarion West Write-a-thon, you’ll be doing two great things at once – you’ll be helping guilt me into writing, and you’ll be helping train the award-winning speculative fiction authors of tomorrow. Pledge whatever you’re comfortable with — even a $5 pledge helps! For every $10 pledge, I’ll put a 50-word excerpt up on this blog.

Here’s my official write-a-thon page, with all the details! While you’re there, be sure to check out the other fabulous writers who are taking part in this write-a-thon!

P. S. Check back on my blog — I’ll be keeping a log of how many words I wrote.