Indivisible—except by 17

Kelley and Nicola, March 2022 — ICFA, by the pool

Thirty-four years ago today I met Kelley. So far they’ve been the best years of my life. My hope is that they just keep getting better. I certainly hope the photographs of us do! This blurry but happy snapshot was taken with someone’s phone (Jim Kelly’s?) by the pool at the International Conference For The Fantastic In The Arts in Orlando by someone else (maybe Ted Chiang?). I don’t remember—only that we’d been having a great conversation but that, as is the nature of conventions, we were all about to dash off and do something else.

If you want more photos of me and Kelley through the years, see 30 Years Ago: A Love Story In Photos.

Meanwhile, Kelley and I will be getting on with various zesty delights here at home surrounded by cats, trees, flowers, books, Champagne and the life that we’ve built—are still building—together.

May your summer be exactly what you wish it to be.

R/evolution in disability lit is accelerating

Years ago, just before I was first coming out as a cripple, I suggested that Crip Lit was in the place Queer Lit was 70 years ago: no literary awards, no trade publishers, and apart from a handful of small journals no coherent sense of community. (Worse, much of the literature being produced about disability was written by nondisabled people and perpetuating dangerous stereotypes.) But there was a lot going on under the surface, bursts here and there of activism and intercommunication. In 2016 I came up with the #CripLit hashtag, and Alice Wong and I started hosting regular Twitter chats. #CripLit did not iniate change but I believe it was part of what helped accelerate the change already underway.

The first queer literary awards (as far as I’m aware) began just over 50 years ago when in 1971 the Stonewall Awards were created. There are now many awards for queer literature—and many publishers, review journals, websites, and specialist bookstores; a whole ecosystem of Queer Lit. And these days most publishers are aware enough of homophobia to turn away fiction in which queerness signifies evil and/or the queers die tragically at the end. These days, most queer lit is produced by queer writers.

Crip lit is behind the curve. Until recently, vile ableist books like Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You (the crip equivalent of The Well of Loneliness) not only got published and become bestsellers but were also turned into hit movies (appalling and inexcusable in the twenty-first century). Even now, most novels by and about disabled people are reviewed by nondisabled critics. And as far as I’m aware, until a couple of years ago there were no major lit awards for books by disabled writers and/or about disabled characters.1 But things are changing

The first serious award for book-length literature by a disabled writer was awarded in 2021: the Barbellian Prize for a book of fiction or nonfiction by a disabled writer. It was won by Riva Lehrer for her memoir Golem Girl.

And last week the UK’s Society of Authors announced the ACDI Literary Prize for book-length fiction with disabled characters by disabled writers. So now there are two good literary awards for serious Crip lit. Not only that but we also have a smattering of speciality publishers, at least one bookstore that I know of, and a handful of literary journals. The pace of change is accelerating!

I wonder where we’ll be in five years…


1 There were and are other awards, of course, but super-specialised.

  • Disability History Association awards Outstanding Book prize—but it’s so specialised it’s mostly not relevant for most writers.
  • The Oleb Books Personal Essay Award (OBPEA) for writers with disabilities
  • Dolly Gray award which recognises “authors, illustrators, and publishers of high quality fictional and biographical children, intermediate, and young adult books that authentically portray individuals with developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, and Down syndrome.” The authors do not have to be disabled.

If you know of others, please drop a comment below or send me email.

Two interviews and a review

I’m back from a lovely week on Orcas island (if ever you get the chance to visit the Orcas Island LitFest you should) to find two new interviews and an absolutely stunning review of Spear.

Interviews

One is with Locus. It’s my third interview with the magazine and this time I was talking to Gary Wolfe and Liza Trombi while attending ICFA in Orlando. Locus interviews are interesting in that they are very deliberately left as transcriptions of an oral conversation—you get to see the subject’s mind at work. Or, in my case, skipping about. My thoughts were going a mile a minute so I sometimes didn’t finish one before launching into a tangent. This is how i work during written interviews, only in written interviews I get to go back and put things in order, add the things I dropped mid-thought, etc. So in this interview one thing I did drop mid-thought was Clarion, and what I learnt. I talk about having learnt only two things about writing at the workshop—and what those were, and who I learnt them from—and had intended to then go on to say that the main thing I did learn was what it means to be a professional writer—how the business works; how to behave with others in the industry; and ways to deal with obstacles to career success. For the record, I learnt that mostly from Tim Powers, and Kate Wilhelm and Damon Knight. I’m sorry I didn’t get that into the interview.

Some interviewees apparently edit their drafts pretty heavily (and I think if you read a few of these things you can tell who, just from the style) but I just changed a couple of sentences to make them more clear. So, well, it’s about 6,500 words of NG raw and uncut. I’m pretty sure it’s behind a paywall, but if you’re interested in SFF you really should subscribe anyway. Locus is the trade magazine for the genre.

Here’s a chunk to whet your appetite:

“I went to Clarion because I found an old copy of F&SF in 1987 and there was an ad for the workshop in the back. This was when Clarion was in Michigan. At the same time, I was getting very restless in Hull. I was reaching that point of, ‘I don’t want to live this life anymore. I want to be warm in the morning, I want food in the fridge; I’m tired of being followed by police everywhere, and I’m done with this.’ I had been teaching a lot of martial arts, a lot of women’s self-defense, and I thought, ‘I need to go somewhere different, just for a little bit.’ I saw this advert for Clarion and thought, ‘Oh, science fiction.’ I’d been reading science fiction and thinking about it. I thought that might be cool. About a week later I heard about a women’s martial arts camp in the Netherlands and decided to apply to that too. ‘Whoever accepts me first, I’ll go there.’ It never occurred to me that neither of them would accept me — I was young, still operating in the ‘Hey, I’m amazing, someone has to’ mindset. Clarion wrote back and said, ‘Our actual application process isn’t open yet, but we’re going to put you on file and we’ll let you know.’ They let me know right in the beginning of February that year. They wanted me to go, and they gave me a scholarship. Super cool. Then, of course, I was terrified, because I’d never travelled to another continent on my own. I’d been out of the UK to the Netherlands and Greece and places like that, but always with other people. I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to be gone for seven weeks and I have no idea what it’s going to be like.’ I was frightened. But I thought, ‘If I don’t do this I will regret it for the rest of my life.’

“My instructors were Tim Powers, Lisa Goldstein, Chip Delany, Stan Robinson, and finally Kate Wilhelm & Damon Knight. I don’t think I really learned anything about writing at that workshop. Actually, I did: the one thing I learned is what Kelley and I first thought of as ‘Delany-ization,’ which is putting everything in the right order. He took a bad passage from John Brunner and made it even worse (I think — I hope so!), and gave it to us — something about going into a room in a great and silver city. I can’t remember the details. He said, ‘Rewrite this so that it makes sense.’ Basically, you have to say, ‘He got to the door, he opened the door, he went in, the room was like this, then he did this….’ You put it in the right order. Kelley and I started calling it ‘narrative grammar’, because we realized that it’s not just important to get the physical narrative right — you have to get the emotional narrative right, too. You have to get everything in the right order. You’ve got all these layers of fiction and they have to swell together and fall together. So, I learned that.

“Actually, there was one other thing. I was talking to Kate and Damon, and they said, ‘Have some wine,’ and, oof, it was just nasty wine (a gallon jug of Gallo). They showed me all the stories I had written and said, ‘Put them in order of when you actually wrote these.’ I did, and they went right down to the bottom two stories–my submission stories–peeled them off, and said, ‘These two are good. With these others, we don’t know what you’re doing. You’re messing around. You’re not talking about anything that matters. What are you frightened of?’ I’m like, ‘Right now? Not much — maybe the wine?’ They said, ‘Nah, just be brave. You’re a really good writer: be brave. That’s all we have to say. Let’s have some more wine.’ So, that was it. I learned narrative and emotional grammar and I learned to try to be brave — to do the thing that I think can’t be done, or that most people say shouldn’t be done, or that no one will publish.”

Locus, June 2022, Issue 737, Vol. 88, No. 6, p.66

Another interview I did before Spear came out was with Jenn Jordan for the Syosset Pubic Library’s Turn the Page podcast. And, yet again, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed listening, and the high information density of the finished product—which, given that it was’t edited at all—is exactly the same as the original product :)

I don’t generally listen to podcast interviews because I often find them to be tedious, rambling, fake-chirpy, low-information-density messes, so it’s been a delightful surprise to be involved in so many in a row that, well, are not like that at all. I’m prepared to admit that my notion of podcasts might be very wrong or at least outdated—but I’m curious: what’s your opinion of podcasts? Do you like them? Not? Which one/s would you recommend?

For archival purposes, here are my five most recent podcast interviews:

Reviews

When Hild came out it was reviewed all over the place—lit mags, major newspapers, blogs, pop culture journals, entertainment sites—but that was nine years ago. The publishing landscape has since changed significantly. With the exception of lead titles from major trade presses, most novel reviews today tend to be one-paragraph blurbs from trade mags (PW, Library Journal, Kirkus etc), roundups from book bloggers and YouTubers, pretty but not exactly deep reels on Instagram, the occasional TikTok, squibs on Goodreads, one or two slightly longer pieces in review journals (Los Angeles Review of Books, Chicago Review of Books etc)—with perhaps a single major newspaper. If you’re lucky. And few are likely to be deep, interesting, or revelatory.

Given that Spear is a very awkward length—longer than a novella but not quite long enough to call a novel—and a retelling, at that, my expectations were not high. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. It’s true, I have had only one major newspaper but it was the New York Times and it was positive. All the publishing trade mags were positive, too, with a couple of online bookseller journals (e.g. Shelf Awareness) being absolute raves.

I’ll list a selection of the more substantial reviews below (again for archival purposes) but for now I want to talk about a review essay of Spear on the Ploughshares blog.

The first thing that struck me about the piece was the featured image, a gorgeous painting of mountainous upland—absolutely perfect for Spear. There was no attribution on the Ploughshares site but I liked it so much I did a TinEye reverse image search—and surprisingly came up with nothing. Stylistically the painting looks old enough to be in the public domain (late 19thC British/European maybe, but perhaps early 20thC North American), but I’m reluctant to use it without knowing for sure. So if you recognise the image, or have a better idea how to search for it, please let me know. [ETA: Thanks to Anna’s comment below, I now know it’s “Landscape With Distant Mountains,” by Arthur Severn, 1899.]

The second thing was the length of the essay—about 2,000 words. The reviewer, Holly M. Wendt, really liked the book—which of course is great—but the third and best thing was that they helped me understand more clearly what I had actually written.

Before I go any further, I want to reiterate what I’ve said before about how I wrote Spear. The original conception was as short fiction, perhaps 10,000 words. I’ve explained elsewhere (in one of those podcast interviews above, I think—maybe Intermultiversal?) that when I write short fiction my process is very different from novel-writing. Almost every stage of a novel is at least partially under my conscious control and by the time i’ve rewritten it every single part is wholly so; I understand the connections and nuances and connotations; I know what it does and why and how and what it means. Short fiction, on the other hand, is for me often a wild, intuitive rollercoaster ride through my subconscious, stemming from a nebulous image or feeling and (sometimes, if I’m lucky) a vague notion of the journey’s end, but—with zero sense of the points in between—relying wholly on my subconscious story expertise to get me there. Spear, for all its almost-novel length, functioned for me like a short story. I wrote not knowing nothing what would come out, only that it would be coherent when it was done. And it was. The first draft was essentially what you’ll find in the finished book—only with a few things added that I’d sped past in a frenzy the first time through. I deepened a conversation here, added an emotional resonance there, that kind of thing. By the time it was copyedited and proofed, after I’d written about it extensively, and after talking about it on Zoom, Skype, and via email I thought I knew almost everything there was to know. But there’s always—always!—more to learn.

For example, after talking to several critics about the change of pace in the narrative, and reading several reader comments from those who preferred the dreamlike opening, when the main character is nameless and speaks only to nature or to her unreliable-narrator of a mother, and those who preferred the real-world parts, I knew there was something there still to figure out. Then last week I was in the middle of a dinner conversation with friends when all those remarks came together in my head and I understood what I’d done—and how and why—with tenses and narrative distance and magic, with myth and the real world, and how it all pivoted around a single sentence:

Outside in the clearing her feet faltered but she walked on, through the thicket, and once on the other side she felt in her heart a snapping, like the parting of a sinew.

Spear, by Nicola Griffith (Tordotcom, 2022), p27

It’s at this point that Peretur has her name and is essentially expelled with it from the gauzy and dreamlike world of myth and magic (and present tense—or at least present participles, and narrative distance, and periphrastic prose, and ever-slippery reality) and into the real world, solid under her feet, peopled with living breathing folk. Only now, in the world of people to interact with, that she can begin to truly cohere, to begin to coalesce into her real self. I’d done all that without being consciously aware of what I was doing, but clearly my writing brains, experienced in the way of story, knew what it was about. I felt pretty pleased with myself—smug, even—and at last thoroughly convinced I knew everything there was to know about my own book.

Then I read the Ploughshares essay. Here’s the opening paragraph:

There are few pleasures quite like sinking into a novel that actually merits the adjective “spellbinding,” one in which navigation of known and unknown is so ideally balanced that everything familiar appears from an unexpected angle and everything truly new arrives as deftly as a memory recalled. Nicola Griffith’s Spear, out earlier this year, is just such a book, achieving the particular feat of refreshing the well-trod world of Arthuriana to create a waking dream that echoes most relevantly in our time.

Spear’s Exploration of the Power of Understanding,” by Holly M. Wendt, in Ploughshares blog, posted June 09 2022, accessed June 11 2022 13:30 PDT

I immediately wanted to know: What about that waking dream echoes ‘most relevantly in our time’? And why, as Wendt explains a paragraph or two further down, is it ‘precisely the magical, fantastical elements of Spear that make the novel so seamlessly relevant’ today? I read on, delighted, beginning to understand not only Spear more deeply, but as a result Hild (and therefore Hild and so also Menewood).

For me the money paragraph comes right at the end:

In the midst of so much state oppression in the USA—the proposing and passing of bills that are anti-woman, anti-trans, anti-immigrant, anti-queer, and hostile to people of color, poor people, disabled people, and the environment—the fact that Peretur’s power is rooted in understanding others’ emotional and physical experiences is a striking act of resistance. It is an act of resistance within the sphere of Arthurian mythology itself, a way to remake that space and liberate it for a larger and more inclusive community, and it is an act of resistance that moves beyond the pages of the novel. Oppression gains strength from its refusal to understand others, from its insistent primacy of self-interest. Oppression is incapable of imagining what it might be like to be someone else. Nicola Griffith’s Spear, with its sparking and immersive prose, stands, with Peretur, in defiance of such abuses of power, offering a tale that is a heady and healing draught.

Spear’s Exploration of the Power of Understanding,” by Holly M. Wendt, in Ploughshares blog, posted June 09 2022, accessed June 11 2022 13:41 PDT

But the whole thing is beautifully considered. Do read it.

After that if you want more, here’s a partial list of some other longer (750 – 2,000 words) reviews of and/or articles about Spear I’ve enjoyed:

Meanwhile, I’ll start pulling together YouTube videos of events, and more of those furry, feathered, and fluttery friends of Spear pix. Keep them coming!

Spear in New York Times and Beyond the Trope

When Hild came out I posted often about various news and updates, and pulled together pages of links to some of the best (or most interesting—not always the same thing) reviews, interviews, essays and other miscellanea. I’ve been pretty lax about that with Spear. At some point I’ll pull together some of the more interesting things—video of events, podcasts, reviews—and build a page for it.

For now, though, here are a couple of things from over the holiday weekend.

First, Spear was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review as part of the Summer Reading issue.

Reading it feels like seeing the contours of a landscape rise out of mist: Everything up close is clear, while the surroundings are softened, dimmed, but undeniably present. Peretur’s journey is a pleasure to follow, a lovely flexing of Griffith’s strengths in short form. 

Amal El-Mohtar, New York Times Book Review

And the interview I did for Beyond the Trope podcast is out.

Some podcasts can be weirdly trivial, but—as with X-Ray Vision and Coode Street and Intermultiversal—I really enjoyed this one. It’s fairly short, less than half an hour, and (wonder of wonders!) I’m actually pretty coherent—I even talk in whole paragraphs!—about writing Spear, how and why I sometimes write short, sometimes long, and how it all comes down to the kind of question I’m trying to answer.

And of course at some point I’ll update the blog post about Spear‘s furred, feathered, and fluttery friends and turn that into a page.

History and historicity, historiography and legend

Tapestry by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, overall design and figures
William Morris, overall design and execution
John Henry Dearle, flowers and decorative details
Scanned from Christopher Wood, Burne-Jones, Phoenix, 1997, Public Domain

Image description: Late nineteenth-century Pre-Raphaelite style tapestry of Arthur’s knights in a palette of ivory, cream, gold, peach and burnt umber, showing rich young beautiful, blonde and blue-eyed straight white people in a wood. The men are mounted and wearing medieval armour; the women wear flowing white dresses, and hold swords, spears, and shields ready to hand them adoringly to their heroes who are about to ride out on a quest.


How can you make a realistic novel set in the past feel like magic—and a book stuffed with magic and myth feel realistic? And why is that sometimes a problem for historical fiction writers?

Funny you should ask: I just wrote a whole essay about that for Historia Magazine. Go take a look. Oh, and there’s a clue in the image description…

Want me to blurb your book? Here are the conditions

Close-up of old manual typewriter with a document being typed: Terms of Service

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Image description: Close-up of old manual typewriter with a document being typed: Terms of Service


One of my tenets as a writer (and human being) is generosity. There are times I’m not sure I would have made it—by which I don’t mean Made It, Baby! but survived—without others’ generosity, of time, money, attention, or encouragement. I remember every single person who helped me, or at least I try to. I’m determined to always do my best to reach down and help lift up others.

I get asked for blurbs a lot. I have no doubt some writers get asked more often, and some less; I have no doubt others are saints and superheroes and can read and blurb twelve books a month. I can’t. For me, those asks have become overwhelming. More and more often they are carefully crafted pleas designed to tug heartstrings—specifically my heartstrings (as I say, very carefully thought out). Often, they succeed—by which I don’t mean that I agree to give a blurb but that I feel like a heartless ogre when I say no.

Not long after I signed my contract for Ammonite, I went to a bookstore event for Ursula Le Guin. After the reading, when I took up a book for her to sign, I asked her if she would be willing to blurb my novel. She closed her eyes, sighed, opened them and told me gently she would consider writing a blurb only if a) the book was a first novel b) by a woman and c) requested by an acquiring editor at a trade press. At the time I vaguely understood her need for those conditions (though mainly I was relieved I met them). Now I understand them intimately.

So now it’s time for me to list my own conditions that a writer and their book must fit before Iwill consider giving a blurb:

  • All blurb requests must come from acquiring editors at a trade press
  • And go through my agent, Stephanie Cabot at Susanna Lea Associates.
  • If you send one to me directly via email, this website’s contact form, or a DM, I will ignore it.
  • From time to time, when deep into my own work, or seriously tired, or just want a holiday, I will direct Stephanie to not forward any requests—no matter how amazing, important, or urgent—for a while.
  • You will know that being ignored or refused is not personal, because you will know that I’m not a mind reader and could not anticipate your specific request before I brought down the portcullis.
  • I will not announce when and whether I’m open or closed to blurb requests.
  • When I am open to them, I will look with greater kindness on some books than others. In no particular order, the book must be:
    • written by an early-career writer
    • and/or midlist writer making a career change
    • who is a woman or nonbinary and/or
    • trans
    • queer
    • BIPOC
    • disabled
    • a former student

Of course, even if the book does fulfill all those conditions it will also have to sound like something I might actually enjoy. I like exciting fiction—fiction in which the protagonists *do* things, memoir, nature writing, and densely-argued, well-cited nonfiction. I do not like, for example, books whose protagonists endlessly process their angst or trauma or loll about in a state of ennui. The book will also have to reach me, at least two months before cover deadline, in either .mobi format or paper or (preferably) both.

Finally, even if the book sounds interesting enough for me to want, it also has to be enjoyable and well-written for me to offer a blurb.

So if you think you and your book might fit the bill, feel free to ask.

Competition winners!

When I announced a competition for guessing the most frequently used adjectives in reviews of Spear, I knew it could get complicated. First, there were some words and/or phrased such as Queer, Recommended, and variations on old-bones-new-story and too-short-wanted-more that were essentially ubiquitous and so, to me, not really fair; I discounted from my tally. Second, English is an odd language that allows some parts of speech to behave like others, so I guessed there might be a couple of judgement calls—and in fact there were, but not nearly enough to render the results unclear. And finally, third, I’m a human being with emotions and some words stand out more than others—I dearly wanted some words more than others to win. If it were up to me, for instance, the top adjectives would have been Dazzling or Stunning, or maybe Breathtaking or Brilliant, and there again Gorgeous and Mesmerising have a lot to recommend them…

But in the end it was all easy and clear. So here, in descending order (with frequency), are the top adjectives used in Spear reviews* up to and including May 3, that is, two weeks after publication:

  • Beautiful (24)
  • Lyrical/poetic (22)
  • Magical (15)
  • Delightful (11)
  • Gorgeous (11)
  • Lovely (11)
  • Fresh (10)
  • New (10)
  • Classic/Instant classic/Canon (9)
  • Genderqueer -bent -fluid (9)
  • Brilliant (8)
  • Fantastic (7)
  • Inclusive (7)
  • Original (7)
  • Spectacular (7)
  • Wonderful/Wondrous (7)
  • Breathtaking (6)
  • Compelling (6)
  • Flowing/Fluid (6)
  • Rich (6)
  • Spellbinding/Sorcery/Enchanting (6)
  • Stunning (6)
  • Dazzling (5)
  • Epic (5)
  • Intense (5)
  • Subversive (5)
  • Amazing (4)
  • Captivating (4)
  • Concise (4)
  • Dreamy/Dreamlike (4)
  • Effortless (4)
  • Humane (4)
  • Masterpiece/Masterful (4)
  • Mesmerising/Hypnotic (4)
  • Polyamorous (4)
  • Sensual/Sensuous (4)
  • Vivid (4)

In terms of readers’ guesses, there is one clear winner: nikkiel101, who went with Beautiful x 17. So nikkiel, you will get the signed and personalised hardcover, the pin, and a digital download of the audiobook just as soon as you get me your email and mailing address (please email me via the contact form). But there was a second reader, Roberta Arnold, who came very close, guessing Beautiful x 16 in one guess and Lyrical/Poetic x 22 in another. So, Roberta, if you’ll email me with your mailing address I’ll send you a hardcover and a pin, too.

And to everyone else: Thanks for playing!


*Either in professional journals or from those in the book profession such as fellow authors offering blurbs and librarians and booksellers responding to the publisher. I did not include podcasts or YouTube videos or reader reviews on platforms such as Goodreads or Amazon or personal blogs because there were just too many.

Last chance to enter the Spear adjective competition: Clue #16

Here is Clue #16, the FINAL clue in the One Adjective to Rule Them All competition. Words from Maria Dahvana Headley. Background illustration taken from one of Spear‘s interior artworks by Rovina Cai.

Image description: Square graphic in blue-grey showing in the upper left two women by a lake and, larger, in the lower right a menacing figure approaching with a spear. Centred in white text, “A screamingly hot canon-queering epic filled with bloody battles, and world-shaking magic.” And below that, in red-orange, “Maria Dahvana Headley, author of The Mere Wife and Beowulf: A New Translation”


This is your last chance to enter. I’ll close the competition tomorrow—probably around noon Pacific time—and announce the winner/s next week.

The competition is OPEN TO ANYONE IN THE WORLD, NO PURCHASE NECESSARY! The winner gets 3 prizes in one:

For the rules, and to enter, see One Adjective to Rule Them All. Please note that this is your last chance to enter the competition.

Make sure you check the list of possible adjectives—there are now 36 that have been used more than 4 times.

Comments on this post are off because the only guesses that count are those on the original blog post or emailed directly to me.

Spear adjective competition: Clue #15

Here is the penultimate clue, Clue #15, in the One Adjective to Rule Them All competition. Words from “Cold Iron and Piercing Beauty in Spear,” from the Chicago Review of Books, by Jake Casella Brookins. The background illustration is taken from one of Spear‘s interior artworks by Rovina Cai. The final clue will be tomorrow; I’ll close the competition end-of-day Friday, and announce the winner/s next week.


The competition is OPEN TO ANYONE IN THE WORLD, NO PURCHASE NECESSARY! The winner gets 3 prizes in one:

For the rules, and to enter, see One Adjective to Rule Them All. Please note that I’ve amended the rules so you can enter once a day—refining your guesses as the clues mount up!

Make sure you check the list of possible adjectives—because it keeps growing. There are now 36 adjectives that have been used more than 4 times.

Comments on this post are off because the only guesses that count are those on the original blog post or emailed directly to me.

Spear adjective competition: Clue #14

Here is Clue #14 in the One Adjective to Rule Them All competition. Words from a starred review in Shelf Awareness by Kerry McHugh. The background illustration is taken from one of Spear‘s interior artworks by Rovina Cai Cai.

Make sure you check the list of possible adjectives—because it keeps growing (I added two just yesterday). And check out previous clues.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is shelf-awareness.jpg

Image description: Square graphic in blue-grey showing in the upper left two women by a lake and, larger, in the lower right a menacing figure approaching with a spear. Centred in white text, “An atmospheric and lyrical tale steeped in historical detail. Griffith breathes vibrant and dazzling life into a stunning new take on Arthurian legend.” And below that, in red-orange, “Kerry McHugh, Shelf Awareness”


The competition is OPEN TO ANYONE IN THE WORLD, NO PURCHASE NECESSARY! The winner gets 3 prizes in one:

For the rules, and to enter, see One Adjective to Rule Them All. Please note that I’ve amended the rules so you can enter once a day—refining your guesses as the clues mount up!

DO CHECK OUT THE UPDATED LIST OF ADJECTIVES THAT HAVE BEEN USED MORE THAN FOUR TIMES! We have a couple more words that crossed the threshold…

Comments on this post are off because the only guesses that count are those on the original blog post or emailed directly to me.

Friday 4/29, 6:00 PM, Brick & Mortar, Redmond: In-person event!

Image description: Square graphic with grey background, a headshot of a short-haired white woman next to the cover of a novel, Spear by Nicola Griffith, and text: “Brick &Mortar presents Nicola Griffith author of Spear, Friday 29th at 6:00 pm. Find out more at brickandmortarbooks.com/events“.


Friday evening I’ll be doing my final event for Spear—live and in-person!—at Brick & Mortar Books in Redmond. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll be doing a version of what I did at the Seattle Central Library on Wednesday or whether I’ll do a version of what I’m planning tonight with Kelley for Mysterious Galaxy.

It’s a mystery! But as always the real point, for me, will be sharing stories about the making of Spear, meeting you in-person, and finding out what reading gives you joy, what you hope for—or don’t like, or want more of—and signing your books. So bring questions! I love—love love love—to talk about my work!

Also, it’s Brick & Mortar’s kickoff for Independent Bookstore Weekend—so I hope you’ll turn out and support this wonderful store.

For more information, see Brick & Mortar’s event page.

See you tomorrow!

April 29, 2022 | 6:00 PM PT 
IN-PERSON EVENT
Brick & Mortar Books
7430 164th Ave NE, Suite B105 
Redmond, WA, 98052
Info/Register

Thursday 4/28, 7:00 PM, Mysterious Galaxy!

Tomorrow evening I’ll be doing my very first event for Mysterious Galaxy! I’ve always wanted to visit in person but have never had the opportunity—one day! Meanwhile, I have something special planned for you.

Tomorrow will be another first for me: a virtual event with my best and favourite person in the whole world, the woman I have dedicated every single one of my novels to: the one, the only, Kelley Eskridge!

Although this our first virtual in-conversation thing, we’ve done this in person many times. Kelley knows my work inside and out—and she knows me even better. So tomorrow you’ll be getting a seriously real, deep, and interesting conversation. Plus the usual reading from the book and audience Q&A. I really hope you can join us.

For more information, see Mysterious Galaxy’s event page. Or just go register directly.

See you tomorrow!

April 28, 2022 | 7:00 PM PT
VIRTUAL EVENT
Mysterious Galaxy
In conversation with Kelley Eskridge
Info/Register

Wednesday 4/27, 7:00 PM, Seattle Central Library: In-person event!

Image description: Square graphic with pink moiré borders top and bottom and on the left, a black and white headshot of a short-haired white woman and on the right the cover of a novel, Spear, showing an illustration of a Celtic hanging bowl bubbling in the flames and images of people curling up out of the fumes.


Tomorrow evening I’ll be doing my first live, in-person event for Spear (simultaneously live-streamed), at SPL’s Microsoft Auditorium downtown at the Central Library:

This event is being presented in person at Central Library, with the option to view the livestream from home. It is presented in partnership with Elliott Bay Book Company, and is supported by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and the Gary and Connie Kunis Foundation. Thanks to media sponsor The Seattle Times.

There will be ASL interpretation and CART transcription for this event. The event will be recorded, captioned and then posted on the Library’s YouTube channel after the event.

For this one, I won’t have an interlocutor: it will just be me and Spear and the audience. In some ways it will be a throwback to pre-pandemic days when I always did these events on my own—reading from the book, and talking about why I wrote it, what I hoped for it, what was tricky, what was a delight, followed by a Q&A, then signing books and chatting to readers. In other ways, of course—such as the live-streaming component—it will be different.

But the essentials that I love will be the same: meeting you in-person, finding out what reading gives you joy, how you’re doing, what you hope for—or don’t like, or want more of—and signing your books. So do bring questions! I love—love love love—to talk about my work!

For more information, see SPL’s event page. Or just go register directly.

See you tomorrow!

April 27, 2022 | 7:00 PT
IN PERSON EVENT
Seattle Public Library (Hosted by Elliot Bay Book Co)
Central Library, Microsoft Auditorium
1000 Fourth Ave
Seattle, WA 98104
Info/Register

Spear adjective competition: Clue #13

Here is Clue #13 in the One Adjective to Rule Them All competition. Words from a review by Andrea Rittschof in The Nameless Zine. The background illustration is taken from one of Spear‘s interior artworks by Rovina Cai.

Make sure you check the list of possible adjectives—because it keeps growing. And check out previous clues.

Image description: Square graphic in blue-grey showing a great, Celtic-style hanging bowl over the flames with smoke and steam fuming up, forming images of a woman in the woods, a fortified wall, a horse and rider, and more.. Centred in white text, “Spear is both subversive and brilliant… It is sublime, a work of art.” And below that, in red-orange, “Andrea Rittschof, The Nameless Zine”


The competition is OPEN TO ANYONE IN THE WORLD, NO PURCHASE NECESSARY! The winner gets 3 prizes in one:

For the rules, and how to enter, see One Adjective to Rule Them All. Please note that I’ve amended the rules so you can enter once a day—refining your guesses as the clues mount up!

DO CHECK OUT THE UPDATED LIST OF ADJECTIVES THAT HAVE BEEN USED MORE THAN FOUR TIMES! We have a couple more words that crossed the threshold…

Comments on this post are off because the only guesses that count are those on the original blog post or emailed directly to me.

Today: Harvard Bookstore & Third Place Books, 4 :00 PM PT/7:00 PM ET, with Alix Harrow

In just a few hours, I’ll be talking with Alix Harrow for Harvard Bookstore, cooping with Seattle’s own Third Place Books (which now has a stack of signed copies specially for those who register for this event). And, oh, do we have plans for you!

Alix and I are both fascinated by the uses and abuses of retold tales, the way cliches can be both useful and dangerous. We both have Many Thoughts on subverting national fantasies—and fantasy in general—plus what works and what doesn’t, and why. Honestly, I think we could do five of these things and still have more to say, so it’ll be a jam-packed evening, fast and furious. Especially as we’ll also be gushing about each other’s work. (If you haven’t read A Spindle Splintered, you really should.)

So do please come listen to us talk about the past and present, representation and art. Bring a friend—bring two friends! Bring questions—lots of questions! I AM SERIOUS: BRING QUESTIONS! For me, part of the point of these things is to find out what you do and don’t like, what you want to know, what you don’t much care about. This is your chance to find out what you want to know. I really do like talking about my work.

Register here. It’s free.

See you soon!

April 25, 2022 | 4:00 PM PT/7:00 PM ET
VIRTUAL EVENT	 
Harvard Bookstore and Third Place Books
In Conversation w/Alix E. Harrow
Platform: Zoom Webinar			
Info/Register

Spear—plus furred, finned, feathered, and fluttery friends

When Hild came out, readers began to send me pictures of their pets variously disapproving, disdaining, destroying, dozing on or delighting in the book. Before Spear came out I made a few graphics of the ARCs with various beasts—T. rex, a horse, a hedgehog, a leopard—and now, five days after publication, others are continuing that noble tradition. So far we have a beagle, a parrot, butterflies, and several cats. But there’s always room for more!

So send me a picture of your beast/s—real or creative (I have a picture somewhere of the Hild hardcover surmounted by a crocheted tardigrade)—and I’ll retweet or repost or add to this post (which I’ll turn into a page).

Happy Sunday, and happy reading to you and your furry, finned, feathered, fiendish, and fluttery friends.

Algernon, always coordinated and fashion-forward — Angelique Corthals
@readingbeagle Instagram
Solomon, who fortunately doesn’t have to choose — @yetanotherkelly Instagram
Romper Stomper, monstrously possessive
@bookish_black_hole Instagram
Stella, star of the show — Lydia Zoells
Bony, being patient
Charlie — who does not like to share his (cough) wheelchair
Marketing moggies of Tordotcom
Hedgepig, heading for safety
Kitty, like Romper Stomper, does not like to share

Spear adjective competition: Clue #12

Here is Clue #12 in the One Adjective to Rule Them All competition. Words from a review in Publishers Weekly. The background illustration is taken from one of Spear‘s interior artworks by Rovina Cai.

Image description: Square graphic in blue-grey showing a background image of someone in 6th-century armour, sitting on a stone blowing on a dandelion puffball. The seeds rise like smoke, hiding their face. Centred in white text, “Fresh, emotionally immediate, steeped in period texture…a genuine pleasure.” And below that, in red-orange, “Publishers Weekly”


The competition is OPEN TO ANYONE IN THE WORLD, NO PURCHASE NECESSARY! The winner gets 3 prizes in one:

For the rules, and how to enter, see One Adjective to Rule Them All. Please note that I’ve amended the rules so you can enter once a day—refining your guesses as the clues mount up!

DO CHECK OUT THE UPDATED LIST OF ADJECTIVES THAT HAVE BEEN USED MORE THAN FOUR TIMES! We have a couple more words that crossed the threshold…

Comments on this post are off because the only guesses that count are those on the original blog post or emailed directly to me.

Today: Women and Children First, 2:00pm PT/4:00 pm CT, with Riva Lehrer

In just a few hours: my third event for SPEAR! I’ll be talking with Riva Lehrer, artist (she made the wonderful portrait of me as a snow leopard), memoirist, and disability activist. Riva and I have done a couple of events together before. Come listen to us talk about the past and present, representation and art. So join us! Bring a friend—bring two friends! Bring questions—lots of questions! I love talking about my work.

Register here.

See you soon!

April 22, 2022 | 2:00 PM PT/4:00 PM CT
VIRTUAL EVENT	
Women and Children First (Chicago)
In Conversation w/Riva Lehrer
Platform: Crowdcast
Info/Register

Today: Books in Common, 6:30pm PT, with Nisi Shawl

In just a few hours: my second event for SPEAR! I’ll be talking with Nisi Shawl, author, editor and all around fabulous person. As Nisi says, “Need some magical mists, knock-out sword fights, and Early Medieval lesbian love affairs? Come on over!” So bring questions! Bring lots of questions! I love talking about my work.

Register here.

See you soon!

April 21, 2022 | 6:30 PM PT
VIRTUAL EVENT
Books In Common NW (Paulina Springs Books, Sisters, OR; Madison Books, Seattle, WA; and Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, MT)
In Conversation w/Nisi Shawl
Platform: Zoom Webinar
Info/Register

Spear adjective competition: Clue #11

Here is Clue #11 in the One Adjective to Rule Them All competition. Words from a review by Margaret Kingsbury in Buzzfeed. The background illustration is taken from one of Spear‘s interior artworks by Rovina Cai.

Image description: Square graphic in blue-grey showing a silhouette of a rider on a horse surrounded by wind or smoke. Centred in white text, “This immersive and inclusive retelling is breathtakingly beautiful, sharing a vision of Arthurian legend that dismisses earlier retellings in favor of nance and joy.” And below that, in red-orange, “Margaret Kingbury, Buzzfeed”


The competition is OPEN TO ANYONE IN THE WORLD, NO PURCHASE NECESSARY! The winner gets 3 prizes in one:

For the rules, and how to enter, see One Adjective to Rule Them All. Please note that I’ve amended the rules so you can enter once a day—refining your guesses as the clues mount up!

DO CHECK OUT THE UPDATED LIST OF ADJECTIVES THAT HAVE BEEN USED MORE THAN FOUR TIMES! We have a couple more words that crossed the threshold…

Comments on this post are off because the only guesses that count are those on the original blog post or emailed directly to me.

Today: Tubby and Coos, 4pm PT/ 6pm CT

In just a few hours, my first public event for SPEAR! I’ll be talking to Candice, the owner of Tubby & Coos in New Orleans, about all things Arthurian. Then I’ll read a juicy battle scene, then answer questions. So bring questions! Bring lots of questions! I love talking about my work.

Register here.

See you soon!

April 20, 2022 | 4:00 PM PT/6:00 PM CT		
VIRTUAL EVENT
Tubby & Coos Bookstore (New Orleans, LA)
In Conversation w/Candice Huber (Store Owner)
Platform: Streamyard to Crowdcast/FB Live
Info/Register

Spear adjective competition: Clue #10

Here is Clue #10 in the One Adjective to Rule Them All competition. Words from a review by Gary Wolfe in Locus (it’s a great review!). The background illustration is taken from one of Spear‘s interior artworks by Rovina Cai.

Image description: Square graphic in blue-grey showing a figure kneeling in the shallows of a river, leaning their weight on a sword. In the upper third of the image, the figure is framed by bleak, bare trees. Beneath her, under her knee and barely visible, there is the hint of another submerged figure. Below this is the figure’s reflection in the moving water—darker and sharper and violently spattered and streaked with loose brushstrokes that cascade down the rest of the image. Centred in white text, “Mesmeriszing… A lyrical bildungsroman drenched in the natural world. A marvelously concise epic entirely Griffith’s own.” And below that, in red-orange, “Gary Wolfe, Locus”


The competition is OPEN TO ANYONE IN THE WORLD, NO PURCHASE NECESSARY! The winner gets 3 prizes in one:

For the rules, and how to enter, see One Adjective to Rule Them All. Please note that I’ve amended the rules so you can enter once a day—refining your guesses as the clues mount up!

DO CHECK OUT THE UPDATED LIST OF ADJECTIVES THAT HAVE BEEN USED MORE THAN FOUR TIMES! We have a couple more words that crossed the threshold…

Comments on this post are off because the only guesses that count are those on the original blog post or emailed directly to me.

Spear is here!!

My author copies finally arrived! And I am thrilled: Spear is a very handsome book indeed. Obviously it looks fabulous—and I’ll talk more about that in a minute—but what really struck me is how it feels in the hand. First of all, the jacket has a seriously matte, tactile feel, with a little process on my name and title—not a lot; it’s subtle, just enough to feel substantial. But what’s really lovely is the size and weight.

When I was a teen I preferred reading library hardcovers; paperbacks were okay but they felt flimsy. Over the years, though, I’ve found my preference changing to trade paperbacks and I realise it’s a size issue. Many modern hardbacks are massive and heavy, too unwieldy for comfortable reading unless you have big hands, which I don’t.1 This book is perfect! I could hold it for hours—which of course I wouldn’t need to because it’s only 184 pages long.

Given its length I worried the book might feel too thin, but look: it’s beautifully proportioned. And the spine of the jacket is very attractive. (Whenever I hold it I just want to stroke it.)

We’re always told not to judge a book by its cover but, hey, we all do. But I can tell you, this book just gets better and better the more you explore.

The front flap is nice—nothing massively special but nice:

Ditto the back, and here I’m pleased by the colour coordination: Black and white photo with black end papers; red titles to match the red title and author name on the front:

But it’s when you start to take the jacket off that you start to get a sense of the glories within:

Just look at that foil stamping—see how it glows! You can see the individual rivets on the shield. The spine is shiny, too, but I couldn’t get as good a picture of it.

Then there are the interior illustrations by Rovina Cai: five altogether: the perfect moody complement to the text.

The whole thing is just very nicely designed: exactly what a hardcover should be. I hope you enjoy reading it as much I enjoyed writing it.

Buy it anywhere books are sold. But if you want a signed, personalised hardcover, then order from Phinney Books, Third Place Books, University Books, Elliott Bay Book Company, or Brick & Mortar before tomorrow at noon. Anything after that—except if you get them signed in person—will be just a plain signature. But, as you’ve seen, the book itself is far from plain, very far…

IndieBound | Amazon.com | Bookshop.org | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Amazon.co.uk


1 This, apparently, surprises people. Perhaps because I have big shoulders and muscled arms people expect big shovel hands at the end of those arms, but, no; my hands are small.

Spear adjective competition: Clue #9

Here is Clue #9 in the One Adjective to Rule Them All competition. Words from a review in Kirkus. The background illustration is taken from one of Spear‘s interior artworks by Rovina Cai.

Image description: Square graphic in blue-grey showing a great, Celtic-style hanging bowl over the flames with smoke and steam fuming up, forming images of a woman in the woods, a fortified wall, a horse and rider, and more. Centred in white text, “Griffith mines the Matter f Britain while turning tropes upside down. A fresh, often lovely take on Arthurian legend.” And below that, in red-orange, “Kirkus”


The competition is OPEN TO ANYONE IN THE WORLD, NO PURCHASE NECESSARY! The winner gets 3 prizes in one:

For the rules, and how to enter, see One Adjective to Rule Them All. Please note that I’ve amended the rules so you can enter once a day—refining your guesses as the clues mount up!

DO CHECK OUT THE UPDATED LIST OF ADJECTIVES THAT HAVE BEEN USED MORE THAN FOUR TIMES! We have a couple more words that crossed the threshold…

Comments on this post are off because the only guesses that count are those on the original blog post or emailed directly to me.

The Legendary Tour!

Most of my events will be virtual—most (but not all!) in conversation with others. I’m doing two in-person events—both solo presentations: one in downtown Seattle at the Seattle Public Library’s Microsoft Auditorium, and one at Brick & Mortar, in Redmond. It’s been an age since I did a live event on the Eastside, so that should be fun.

Some of the virtual events (maybe all; I haven’t checked) require preregistration, so follow the links and then the instructions.

April 20, 2022 | 4:00 PM PT/6:00 PM CT		
VIRTUAL EVENT
Tubby & Coos Bookstore (New Orleans, LA)
In Conversation w/Candice Huber (Store Owner)
Platform: Streamyard to Crowdcast/FB Live
Info/Register

April 21, 2022 | 6:30 PM PT
VIRTUAL EVENT
Books In Common NW (Paulina Springs Books, Sisters, OR; Madison Books, Seattle, WA; and Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, MT)
In Conversation w/Nisi Shawl
Platform: Zoom Webinar
Info/Register

April 22, 2022 | 2:00 PM PT/4:00 PM CT
VIRTUAL EVENT	
Women and Children First (Chicago)
In Conversation w/Riva Lehrer
Platform: Crowdcast
Info/Register
				
April 23, 2022 | 4:30 PM PT/7:30 PM ET
VIRTUAL EVENT 
Charis Books & More (Decatur, GA)
In Conversation w/Ed Hall
Platform: Crowdcast
Info/Register

April 25, 2022 | 4:00 PM PT/7:00 PM ET
VIRTUAL EVENT	 
Harvard Bookstore and Third Place Books
In Conversation w/Alix E. Harrow
Platform: Zoom Webinar			
Info/Register

April 27, 2022 | 7:00 PT
IN PERSON EVENT
Seattle Public Library (Hosted by Elliot Bay Book Co)
Central Library, Microsoft Auditorium
1000 Fourth Ave
Seattle, WA 98104
Info/Register

April 28, 2022 | 7:00 PM PT
VIRTUAL EVENT
Mysterious Galaxy
Solo Presentation
Info/Register

April 29, 2022 | 6:00 PM PT 
IN-PERSON EVENT
Brick & Mortar Books
7430 164th Ave NE, Suite B105 
Redmond, WA, 98052
Info/Register

The following bookstores will have signed books for sale—personalised to order while you’re there (for the SPL/EBBC event and the B&M event) or already prepared if you’ve preordered (Phinney Books), or to buy later if you’re not there in person. Some will also come with enamel pins!

  • Phinney Books, Seattle
  • University Bookstore, Seattle
  • Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle
  • Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park
  • Brick & Mortar, Redmond

All other bookstores in the above list will have signed bookplates. They may also have enamel pins while supplies last.

I hope you come. I’ll be reading sometimes, sometimes not, and depending on my interlocutor talking about everything under the sun. I love doing these things—but what I love most is talking to readers. So come! Bring questions! Bring a friend! Or two!

See you soon!