Episode Summary

What makes fiction “good?” It’s the kind of question that every writer (and reader) answers for themselves. But it helps to have a qualified and bonafide expert offering her own perspective! In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders we chat with author and President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (also a puppeteer!), and we dig in on what makes fiction relentlessly good.

Episode Notes

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of The Glamourist Histories series, Ghost Talkers, and the Lady Astronaut series. She’s the President of SFWA, part of the award-winning podcast Writing Excuses and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the Nebula and Locus awards. Her stories appear in Asimov’s, Uncanny, and several Year’s Best anthologies. Mary Robinette, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), recording fiction for authors including Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi. She lives in Nashville with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

Visit maryrobinettekowal.com

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authors, disney, people, anthologies, plates, organization, thinking, sif, happy, royalties, check, pay, essences, world, depression, contract, craftsmanship, adhd, form, writers


Kevin Tumlinson, Mary Robinette Kowal

Kevin Tumlinson  00:02

Well hey everybody according to stream yard, we’re alive. And that’s that’s my favorite word when it comes to these things because you just never know how things are gonna go south. And I was having a discussion about that very thing with today’s guest Mary Robinette co author, you may have heard of her. She is the author of the glamorous history’s series, Ghost talkers, the lady astronaut series. She’s also currently the president of SF w. a, and an award winning podcast. She is one of the hosts of the award winning podcast writing excuses. Which is one of my favorite writing podcasts. I got to tell you. So. And I’m not just saying that because you guys had me on an episode, I really truly mean it.

Mary Robinette Kowal  00:46

Well, thank you. I think that’s part of I think that buttering up is part of why we got you on in


expertise. Yeah.

Kevin Tumlinson  00:54

So thank you so much. We, you know, you and I had you were on my podcast a couple years ago, now. We’ve done it, we’ve kind of crossed paths several times at conferences and, and that sort of thing. So in an S, SF w a two. So that’s been, it’s been interesting to watch things evolve with that conference.

Mary Robinette Kowal  01:16

Yeah. I’ve been very happy with that. Yeah, we’ve really liked it when we’ve been able to partnership with draft to digital. So yes, I’m glad that it’s,

Kevin Tumlinson  01:24

I’m hoping we can find all kinds of new and additional ways we can, we can partner up. And we’ll talk more. So if you’re unfamiliar, listeners and viewers, SF w A is the science fiction and fantasy Writers of America? Did I get it? All right, I am so terrible. I’m better with the actual acronyms than I am with breaking them out into what they mean. So, but yes, and, you know, I, I have attended a few of these and really always enjoyed it. What you are not president, when I first started going to these things, you’ve stepped into that role. So what’s that been like?

Mary Robinette Kowal  02:04

So I had been Hello. And now I have my cat with us. This is fine. Look, this is how it’s now it’s a real world.

Kevin Tumlinson  02:13

America right now everybody’s got a cat or a child or something that pops up.

Mary Robinette Kowal  02:20

You’re gonna try to tangle in my cord, really appreciate that. So nice. So I had been on the board previously. close to a decade ago at this point, I was on as secretary and then later VP and then remained involved in the organization in various ways. So getting, you know, getting backstage, I knew I knew what to expect. Mostly, the thing that has been a delight, about joining being on the board this time, is that this particular set of board members that just they’re so committed, it’s such like, healthy, good discussion, where we don’t always like it’s not that everyone is totally in lockstep with the best way to execute policies. But, but we are all totally in sync on what like the path we want the organization to be on, which is inclusive. And the the phrase that I’ve been using is that we want Sif, which is how you pronounce SF who

Kevin Tumlinson  03:31

didn’t work your eyes to

Mary Robinette Kowal  03:34

it. sf Ws fine.

Kevin Tumlinson  03:36

I know. The other

Mary Robinette Kowal  03:37

one. So far does sound like a disease. We all know that. But, um, you know, I’ve been the thing we’ve been saying is there are so many gatekeepers in the publishing world, and we want Sif would it be a gate opener, and so we’ve been really focusing on on working on that, especially over the past year with the pandemic, and some of the tools that have become available to us because of, you know, Hello, we are all living in these little boxes, have also allowed us to make the convention more accessible. And to, to do things like Sif, what because it’s, it’s an organization for professional writers, you have to hit a certain publishing threshold to become a member. And and what we’ve been able to do is create a year round Nebula membership, which is for people, like for anyone, like you don’t have to have published anything yet to join. That way. You get access to to community and, and so we’re hoping, hoping things like that will help.

Kevin Tumlinson  04:49

And that’s, that’s more of a nurturing kind of thing, right? You’re actually trying to encourage the growth of the community through that. That’s good.

Mary Robinette Kowal  04:56

Yeah, it’s been very exciting.

Kevin Tumlinson  04:58

That’s the kind of thing I’ve always felt Has has been missing from a lot of the the writer organizations that are out there that there’s very little done for the will be author. It’s not it’s not unheard of for them to be something, but it’s usually very limited. So,

Mary Robinette Kowal  05:15

yeah, yeah. And this is. So you know, as I say, this is one of the silver linings that we have carefully polished.

Kevin Tumlinson  05:25

Yes. Yes, yeah, there’s been some interesting, we’ll just say events that have been associated with Sif over the past, maybe four years. Anything you’d like to dredge up and comment on or quietly move along?

Mary Robinette Kowal  05:46

Well, I think so a lot of the ones that people think about are not actually us. It’s a lot of real world con, which is not our organization, right. You know, or world fantasy, which is, again, not our organization, the things that we’ve, you know, that like when I think about a lot of interesting events over the past four years, I’m thinking about stuff like Disney mouse Bay, which I definitely we had a question pop up already about loving Foster. So

Kevin Tumlinson  06:16

I’ll pop that up. And let’s talk about Disney must pay because, you know, just before we we started chatting live, you and I had sort of a mini cast of our own going to hop on what’s been happening here, but you want to break down so Clark is asking has there been any any results for for Alan Dean Foster, and that is directly tied in with the Disney must pay or hashtag Disney must pay? Do you want to give kind of a rundown of what’s happening there?

Mary Robinette Kowal  06:46

Yeah. So recognizing that I have to be a little bit careful about the details with which I can get into this perfectly?

Kevin Tumlinson  06:53

I don’t. So.

Mary Robinette Kowal  06:57

No, no, no. So the for the short form for people who are not familiar with this is that Alan Dean Foster, who wrote the novelization for Star Wars, and aliens came to civil because he was not being paid royalties. And, and it his agent had just been trying to figure out who owned the rights now. We finally found out that it was Disney now. And again, just trying to get through, it finally got escalated up to me. And this is over the course of like two years. So gets escalated up to me. And we in order to get them to, to kind of move forward, we wound up doing a social media campaign called Disney must pay, because we were fairly certain that there were additional authors out there. So where we are with Alan, is that the alien titles are resolved to his satisfaction. Star Wars is not Yeah.



Mary Robinette Kowal  08:03

they are they have gone non-communicative again. There was a deadline of March 15. I checked in again this morning. Today happens to be March 18th. March 18. As we are recording

Kevin Tumlinson  08:19

in the future, yeah, yes.

Mary Robinette Kowal  08:23

So, you know, it’s it’s really frustrating. They say that they’re deeply committed. And here we are. We sent two authors, to them out of the round a dozen that contacted us, Allen and James Caan, James, they have taken care of him, we are very happy about that. But we have, we have all of these others that we have been waiting to see how how Disney treated the two test cases. And it’s not ideal. They’re doing they’re doing things that are kind of classic union busting techniques, but they’re applying it to like volunteer service organizations. So there they are. You know, if if a writers agent comes to me and says, I don’t understand this thing, this form that I have to fill out and I look at the form I’m like, I think it’s just a pretty standard, although 60 page form that’s to get paid. It’s their vendor service agreement, which is like, ridiculously long. It’s the same agreement for everybody. So like, Hey, hey, Disney, give me a copy of the form. I’ll run it through our legal so that they can vet it. I’m sure it’s fine. And then I can tell the authors that it’s okay to sign and the responses I’m already talking to the agent and I’m like, but the agent literally asked me for help with this. I’m sorry. This is need to know only I’m like this is a form 1000s of people sign

Kevin Tumlinson  10:00


Mary Robinette Kowal  10:00

yes, the agent is asked for help. And you’re telling me No? Okay, no. Yeah, yeah. My other favorite favorite thing is just like, so we’re gonna send these additional authors do you what subjects line would you would you like? Like, just tell them to email me. Okay. Do you have any information you need in there? Just tell them to email me. I don’t think it’s appropriate for anything to come from Sephora. And I’m like,

Kevin Tumlinson  10:24

Wow. Okay.

Mary Robinette Kowal  10:26

Noted. But there’s stuff they have not backed down from the from the rights don’t transfer. Right. And actually, that rights don’t transfer is a new phrase, because I said, there have been more developments. And I mentioned that there is about a dozen authors. We have, we have, we will be announcing, like during a big formal announcement, you all get the scoop. That

Kevin Tumlinson  10:57

I like, getting the scoop. That’s Well,

Mary Robinette Kowal  10:59

I haven’t mentioned it before to other places, but we’re shooting down yet. But you you are getting a scoop that there’s a website coming to Okay. All right. So we’ve formed a coalition with a task force across multiple author organizations, right. So novelist, Inc, authors, guild writers and crime horror writers, like, you know, just basically, everybody recognizes that. It looks like it’s just this one. Everyone thinks, l&d and foster. But this is something that affects everybody.

Kevin Tumlinson  11:31


Mary Robinette Kowal  11:32

There’s a hypothetical that we mentioned in our initial thing, that Disney or any company, any company, if if Disney’s thing that that it’s possible to take a contract and have the rights but not the obligations, right. Like, if that were a thing, then any company could take a property and then sell it to a sister company and break that contract. Turns out, that hypothetical is not actually a hypothetical.

Kevin Tumlinson  12:05

Oh, yeah.



Kevin Tumlinson  12:09

let’s do it. Yes, sir. Can you share?


Oh, no. Okay,

Mary Robinette Kowal  12:12

no, I’m gonna share. So, um, Fox had Buffy You know, I think Indiana Jones but, but let’s take Buffy as the example, even though we have

Kevin Tumlinson  12:28

a lot of property, we

Mary Robinette Kowal  12:29

have a list of properties that this has happened with. But we’ll use Buffy as our example. So Fox owned Buffy licensed it to Dark Horse Comics. Disney bought Fox withdrew the license from Dark Horse. And granted the license to boom, boom says, quote, royalties don’t transfer. Boom. Guess who one of the owners of boom is? And if you’re guessing Disney, you

Kevin Tumlinson  13:05

would have assumed Disney. Yeah.



Mary Robinette Kowal  13:09

So that hypothetical we were talking about is 100%. Not hypothetical.

Kevin Tumlinson  13:14

Yes. So there, they are not the sole

Mary Robinette Kowal  13:16

owner of boom and my job. But there’s a

Kevin Tumlinson  13:19

there’s a definite conflict of interest there. And it’s it’s obvious what’s happening. I mean, that’s been well, we can’t really assume anything on any sort of legal grounds, but we know as human beings,

Mary Robinette Kowal  13:31

right. So and this is the thing like to be to that I just want to draw a line under. Yeah, we do not know what boom was told. We know from another publisher, and I’m not going to get into details on this one. We know from another publisher that they were told that, that the licenses that they were being granted, were clear of royalties. Okay. So so that that messaging was messaging that did come from Disney. So we have no idea what boom has been told my, you know, I would like to believe that they are operating in good faith, because they’ve been very pro, author and creator and in other properties, but yeah, but but we have this situation. Right? That’s gonna be fun.

Kevin Tumlinson  14:20

Yeah. And where this is important, even for the indie author crowd, which is mostly who we draw in, is, you know, we are sometimes I’ve been approached numerous times about selling certain rights to some of my properties. And now I have to question whether or not that’s a wise idea, even if the contract seems ironclad, and I’ve had it vetted by my attorneys, and, you know, I’ve done everything possible to do due diligence with that contract. This opens a loophole that could still rob me of certain rights. So

Mary Robinette Kowal  14:56

yeah, yeah, yeah. If If we hit a thing where They can cherry pick from contracts. Right? You know if that if that gets established as precedent that’s, that’s a serious problem for like, every writer.

Kevin Tumlinson  15:10

Yeah. Yeah, this is what copyright and IP law are are already sort of ridiculous. Yes. kopen Yeah. and difficult to understand. And so when you have scenarios like this, now, it’s just becoming downright dangerous. And, you know, with, with Alan Dean Foster’s story, there’s also some tragic elements, there’s, you know, the, this is not a good time for him to have to fight this battle. You know, I don’t want to dish on on his personal life or anything, but there’s a lot going on in his life. And this is, this is a blow he didn’t need. So that’s, that’s why it’s good to have organizations like cifa and nink, and others that that are advocates for these authors and their rights.

Mary Robinette Kowal  15:56

Yeah, and I’m happy that we have gotten some money for him. I would like the the remaining titles to be resolved.



Kevin Tumlinson  16:05

right, well, if you just consider, okay, so they bought it LucasArts or I don’t remember which Lucasfilm so Lucasfilm and they bought Fox. So they own the rights, the intellectual property rights to properties with under those labels. That’s a huge swath of of IP. And there are so many novelizations and, you know, adaptations out there, under those two labels. This affects a very large population of the author, community. I mean, this is a lot. So, yeah, good for you guys. We’re taking the forefront on this. I mean, somebody had to hashtag Disney must pay, I wrecked. I was telling Mary before the show that I have, I probably share something along those lines once a day at a minimum, I have a split. I have a Tweet Deck, I used to scan everything. And I actually have an entire tab dedicated to that ash. Because it infuriates me. So yeah.

Mary Robinette Kowal  17:11

I will say that one of the things that we’re asking people is to raise awareness by using the hashtag Disney Miss pay. But we are also asking people not to do a abroad boycott. That’s what I was because because the problem with a broad boycott is that it affects authors who are not involved. Because there are authors that Disney is paying royalty on Or more accurately, their licensees are paying royalties. And I think Disney is paying royalties as well to modern contracts. This is just something that’s happening with contracts as far as we can tell contracts that are transferred. So you know, it’s like, we don’t want to penalize people. It will disproportionately affect authors who, you know, who have who are blameless in this. So we’re asking people not to do a broad boycott, but to, you know, to help raise awareness to support the author is by buying books that they are being paid royalties on. Right?

Kevin Tumlinson  18:10

Yeah, wow. Yeah, that, that. That’s a very good point. And before we start broadcasting, I had said that might, you know, my family and I had kind of started boycotting stuff. But now I need to reconsider. Because I had thought about that, because there are definitely people who get hurt in this, who aren’t involved in the treachery. So, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Um, well, I don’t want us to I don’t want this to be the Disney must pay our let’s talk. Yeah, let’s get happier. So that does piss me off, though, by the way, and you should piss off a lot of authors so well, but we’ll move on. So let me mark Leslie Lafave had a question. I want us to chat about it too. So considering your talent experience in multiple creative pursuits. How do you decide when and where to switch hats and channel your energy?

Mary Robinette Kowal  19:07

Alright, so there’s a couple of things. So there’s a couple of things you should know. One is I think of this as as juggling juggling plates, right?

Kevin Tumlinson  19:22

Keeping, like carrots, but

Mary Robinette Kowal  19:24

yeah, no, no, I can do that. Or I can hurt them. I’m pretty good at herding cats, right? But so you keep one plate in the air. That’s, that’s no big deal. You can you can absolutely do that. Right. Two plates in the air. If you’re a juggler, okay. You’re still fine. The more pull but you know, if you want to impress anyone, you have to be doing really fancy patterns with the plates. Yes. The more plates you have in the air, the more impressed people get that you have any plates in the air. Like it’s like seven plates. How are they doing that? And really, it’s just like up in the air then And my secret is that I use a very tightly focused spotlight and also refill my fountain pen, very tightly. spotlight

Kevin Tumlinson  20:11

listeners don’t know that you were pointing at the blue on your, oh, sorry, your thumb and forefinger.

Mary Robinette Kowal  20:18

So very tightly focused spotlight who so that no one can see the shattered crockery at my feet. Okay. So anytime someone asks me for advice about organizing my time in my life, I’m like, you have to understand, I am standing on shattered crockery all the time there is I drop a lot of plates. But what I’ve done is I’m going to show you my my calendar, and to do list and it is I will grant you slightly terrifying. Okay, so there’s two things, just make sure there’s nothing on there that’s. So the night before I go to bed, I write down kind of a rough overview of my day. Now you’ll see this thing that says craftsmanship. And look, there you are. And then you see sharing. Yeah, so I have identified, I’ve sat down and thought about the things that make me happy. And the more and basically, there’s like, these are called essences, I got this idea from a woman named Laura Levine. The idea between the difference between form and essence. So form is something you can touch her by and essence is how it makes you feel. And anything that makes you happy. Like the happier an A thing makes you the more likely it is to combine multiples of those essences. And everybody has like five to seven that make them happy. So what I did about a year ago, was because I was not balancing my time well, was that I identified those essences, and I made calendar blocks. And, like, identified what each task kind of, you know, which essences each task sort of ticked off of the things on my calendar, and what I discovered was it everything I was doing was in a impact slot, because I like to do things that make a difference, which explained why I was feeling tired and burned out all the time, because it was only feeding one aspect of self.

Kevin Tumlinson  22:16


Mary Robinette Kowal  22:17

so craftsmanship is a thing that makes me really happy. Like I super enjoy it. And I enjoy sharing in this, this is actually an A sharing slot, right? It’s so then what I do is I have my to do list, okay? Okay, identify kind of two minute tasks, things that I can check off real fast, identify, oh, this is a priority, I really have to do this today. And then I revisit my timeline. And when I revisit it, I get more specific about what I’m doing. So in the craftsmanship, I’ve had a fountain pen that I’ve needed to do repair on for ages, and it’s just keeps going, you got to it today. And I feel like I feel so much more rested, because because I had been doing all of those other things. And I finished that. And then immediately sat down and cleared my inbox and got to Inbox Zero. Excellent, which is not technically craftsmanship, but, but it made me feel satisfied. So so that’s what I tried to do. And it has helped enormously to help me set barriers, right. And the other thing that I’ve found is that when when something comes in if I think okay, well what, you know, a request comes in, I’m like, what, what things does this tick off, tick off sounds wrong?

Kevin Tumlinson  23:41

What boxes does this check in really solve these?

Mary Robinette Kowal  23:47

If it’s only checking one, then I’m like, maybe I don’t want to do that at all. Right. And so I just decline it. So it’s made it much easier to identify the things that I want to decline. And which things that I want to prioritize. Because also if if it’s something that checks multiple boxes, then that gives me multiple time slots that I can put it in, which means that it’s going to be scheduled sooner, like I said, this is this one is in sharing, but this actually this actually takes a checks the sharing, discovery and, and narrative boxes. So this actually, this was like, you know,

Kevin Tumlinson  24:25


Mary Robinette Kowal  24:26

I knew this was gonna be fun. Good.

Kevin Tumlinson  24:29

That’s good to hear. But and people don’t often think about this, but you’re what you are revealing is that these tasks, they carry some weight. Yeah, and the more of these things we have on our plate to bring the plates back in. They the heavier things start to feel. And you’re you’re focusing on the I like that approach, by the way, because I’m a big fan of how many things can I get out of this one? tool, service task, whatever. I like to get it. I like to start We’ll use as much of that stuff as I possibly can. I like your system. It’s very elaborate.

Mary Robinette Kowal  25:07

So I’ll tell you that if you try it, it takes that the thing about it is that it takes a bout took me about three months before I started seeing the results from it, because because of all of the things that were already on the calendar, but I have I have weekends and evenings again.

Kevin Tumlinson  25:25

Yeah, yeah. Which is, those are nice. I’m, yeah, yeah. And

Mary Robinette Kowal  25:29

it’s been one of the few things sometimes that has kept me really functional over the last year. Yeah. And I’ll also say, as a full disclosure for people. And a reminder that everybody’s brain is wired differently. Rather, the two kinds of expansion packs that my brain has our depression and ADHD, which is like juggling plates with butter on your fingers. Right. So, you know, medication is something that helps you wash your hands. This also is is like, oh, okay, I just, I was able to wet my hands off with a towel. Right? But if I don’t do that every day, there’s better on my hands again.

Kevin Tumlinson  26:08

Yeah. Yeah, that’s a very good analogy to butter on the hands. You know, that reminds me of his Zen aside, to bring forth and Scott Card and into the discussion. And those everyone listening is like what, and it comes down to, I had read a collection of essays about the novel Ender’s Game, saw that married written one and leveraged my already existing email address connection to her to tell her I liked the essay. And that’s where we got started. And then I did like the essay, that was actually a really good collection. I reread that book like at least once a year. So it’s a passion of mine.

Mary Robinette Kowal  26:50

very formative for me and that and that was a fairly constant reread now. Now Now I’m very much in the through too many books and not enough time,

Kevin Tumlinson  26:58

on the same same boat. And there’s so many, there’s so many I love and want to revisit, and then I look at the to be read pile. And I feel like that’s more anxiety who needs that? anxiety. So Alyssa, who is one of our one of DVDs own? She says I’d love to hear more about writing excuses. If I’ve never heard any episodes, where would you suggest someone start? Does the podcast, commitment help or hurt your actual writing productivity?

Mary Robinette Kowal  27:27

So thanks, Alyssa, I’d recommend starting in season 10. We did that one. We structured that as a masterclass. And so it’s it’s a really good way to kind of step through sort of the writing process, and then you can continue forward, you can dip into the podcast at any point. We’ve, this season, we’re doing something we’re we’re each. We’re doing a series of smaller master classes that are each a couple of weeks long. So we just started one on poetry last week, right? I think was last week. But the beginning of the year, we started one on the business of writing mostly focused on on trad To be fair, but not only, I mean, there’s plenty of stuff in there that’s applicable to other things. And how does it balance? It’s actually great. So I have my co hosts are Brandon Sanderson, Dan wells, Howard Taylor. And then we each season we add two to three season long co hosts, and one of us will one or two of us, right here, Mary,

Kevin Tumlinson  28:45

all you ever need to do is ask for a tiny bit of podcasting experience.

Mary Robinette Kowal  28:51

I love you dearly. However, you

Kevin Tumlinson  28:54

know, one

Mary Robinette Kowal  28:55

of the reasons I’m gonna I’m gonna I’m gonna go ahead and say it like it is. Yeah. What one of the things because this is a funny side story. One of the things that Dan Howard and Brandon who started the podcast, we’re very proud of when they started it was how diverse it was because they had a fantasy writer, a horror writer, and a comic writer, who were all straight white men from Utah. Right Mormon living within three miles of each other, super diverse. So the diversified some by by bringing me on, which takes care of the gender and I’m also not Mormon, nor do I live in Utah, but we are all still white. So the CO hosts that we bring on, are always coming from a different walk of life.

Kevin Tumlinson  29:45

so dearly, but I’ll have you on as a guest, and he says white male strikes me down once again. Wow. Well, who would have

Mary Robinette Kowal  29:58

but it’s That’s, that’s the thing. So the reason that it doesn’t take up that much time is we, what we do is we batch episodes. So we’ll get together and record. They’re also only 15 minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart. But we batch episodes. So we’ll record we’ll get together on a day and record like eight, eight episodes over the course of the day. And since we rotate, it does, it means we don’t all have to be there to record all of those efforts. It’s uh, but you know, it’s it’s figuring out finding that balance.

Kevin Tumlinson  30:39

Yeah. Yeah, that it’s not easy to balance that kind of thing. It’s a very different skill set from writing about it, at least in my experience, and I think this is probably true for you just knowing you. As little as I know, you marry that. Yeah, because you shift gears. I think this is I’ve personally in analyzing you from afar, I feel like one of the reasons you are into so many different things is because it helps you each each thing that you do seems to help you sort of rejuvenate and attack the other thing with new energy. Am I anywhere close on that?

Mary Robinette Kowal  31:18

There is a reason that my, one of the the boxes, my essences is discovery? Yes. Like, learning new things makes me so happy. I get really excited when there’s when it’s it’s like, oh, I don’t know this thing. Tell me all about it.

Kevin Tumlinson  31:39

Yeah, yeah. That’s good.

Mary Robinette Kowal  31:41

I mean, that was, I mean, that was I think you may remember that I started quizzing, you’re like, tell me about drafted digital? Or is this self published?

Kevin Tumlinson  31:49

Yeah, yo. I’m glad, though, that you asked about that stuff. Because there there was a stigma about self publishing for many years. Yeah. It’s something we still sort of see, in certain organizations. I’m really, really proud of cifa for sort of stepping forward and, and starting to consider, you know, these are authors too. And, you know, yes, there’s, there’s a difference. Yes, there is. We know that. But you know, that doesn’t mean, you know, you don’t approach it. There’s specialized ways to, to incorporate this group in there, I think, what are some of the ways you guys are doing that? I mean, if you don’t mind.

Mary Robinette Kowal  32:27

So we changed. One of the first things was we changed our membership requirements. So that because the way they were originally structured, they prevented indie writers from joining at all. So we, even after we said, yes, you’re welcome. We then had to make changes to the how things restructured. We’re actually having a meeting this weekend to revisit again, the qualifying rules, because we’ve realized that



Mary Robinette Kowal  33:00

we came up with a good path for novelists who are Indies. But for people who are on the traditional path, they can come in as a short story writer and and join it as an associate and there’s not a good path for that, for Indies. So

Kevin Tumlinson  33:20

we’re publishing say, novellas or short stories, right. As ebooks. There’s not there’s not really. Yeah,

Mary Robinette Kowal  33:28

right. So we’re so we’re looking at how to how to fix that. We’re trying to make sure that when we one of the things that we do very consciously when we are staffing committees is try to make sure that that people from underrepresented groups are in there and within so in addition to the demographically underrepresented Yeah, we also within science fiction and fantasy because of that, that long stigma on on Indies, we also try to make sure that that we are you know, we’re thinking about that. I’m really excited. The jeffy Kennedy is running for president unopposed for us if you’ve had enough. Well, yeah, I said I was I mean, I knew coming in I was going to be a one term president. Because I

Kevin Tumlinson  34:28

yeah, it’s hard. It’s and you have 12,000 other things that

Mary Robinette Kowal  34:35

are 12,000 but also, honestly, because I’m keeping you know, that that plate thing that I was talking about one of the plates that I keep dropping cifa plates, which does not make me happy, right, so jeffy Kennedy is running unopposed. She’s, she’s hybrid. She’s got a strong track record as an Indian very involved in that community. She’s a romance writer. As part of her science fiction identity, so I’m so excited. She’s got this. She’s bringing in a ton of good ideas. She’s, I asked her to run, because of all the board members, she’s kind of she’s very frequently the one who is driving and focused and getting stuff done. Right. So and I am, I’m going to take seats on some committees like I’m getting I’m going to stay involved with Disney must pay, but then I’ll also be on the fundraising committee. So but that way, I don’t, I felt like I was not serving the organization well. Because my focus is so strict,

Kevin Tumlinson  35:41

scattered. But you still managed to do quite a bit of good while being while being in the role. So yeah.


It’s been a ride. Did you?

Kevin Tumlinson  35:53

I mean, you know, nobody, I think everyone knows, I think when you get into a role like that, that there’s always going to be the possibility of some kind of thing. But you know, it still I still can’t imagine you were in any way prepared for Disney must pay.

Mary Robinette Kowal  36:12

No, no, definitely not. And having that and pandemic is we had to,

Kevin Tumlinson  36:18

yes, we do a thing called the pandemic. Yeah,

Mary Robinette Kowal  36:22

having those two things hit simultaneously has been a little consuming.

Kevin Tumlinson  36:34

Well, that’s why the fact that you do anything other than stuff, why is what is fairly amazing then, crockery, shag crockery all around my feet. And Mary Robinette cola.

Mary Robinette Kowal  36:47

It’s gonna be it’s gonna be my, the title of my memoir, shadow.

Kevin Tumlinson  36:51

There you go. I will read that memoir. If I am alive long enough for it to come into existence. I got my own shattered crockery

Mary Robinette Kowal  37:00

hit there’s one thing, if you don’t mind, I just saw something in the comments that I kind of want to quickly address. Someone someone said that. They thought that having depression and ADHD were necessary. Yes,

Kevin Tumlinson  37:12

I did see that. I just

Mary Robinette Kowal  37:14

want to say that I don’t think that you need to. Yeah. Because I don’t want to call them out. But but that’s a very common thing that I hear in the world. Yeah. And and I have to say that I don’t think that is true, partly because I have friends who have neither who are fantastically good writers, and perfectly successful. And the other thing is that the times that it is hardest to write, or when those two things aren’t least under control. Like when those are not under control. That’s when I have a hard time. I do think that my writing is informed and the way I move through the world is informed by that. Like, I like the fact that my brain grabs things from different places. I don’t like ADHD or add being described as a disorder. My feeling on that one, like if I could cure depression, and never have it again, hard to get done. Yes, thank you.

Kevin Tumlinson  38:16

I’d be very grateful.

Mary Robinette Kowal  38:17

Yeah, ADHD, I’m like, this is the way my brain is wired. And the reason the problem with it isn’t that this is the way my brain is wired. It’s that normal was defined by people whose brain is not wired my that right this way. And I like, I don’t think that there is such a really and truly such a thing as neurotypical I think that the people who defined neurotypical defined people whose brains were like theirs, right, and, like, my brain is perfectly fine. It’s a it’s just a different set of wiring.

Kevin Tumlinson  38:55

Right? Yeah. I, you know, I don’t have ADHD, at least, not that I’m aware. I was diagnosed

Mary Robinette Kowal  39:03

years ago. And in hindsight, I’m like, Oh, yeah.

Kevin Tumlinson  39:06

things make sense, right? I mean, but I do deal with you know, bouts of depression and high anxiety and that sort of thing. So and that that can be crippling. And, you know, the advice you get from people is always well meaning but isn’t always comforting. So yeah, I I too, would cure depression in a heartbeat if I had the ability so we can unite. Let’s let’s work against author depression. As if you don’t have enough things on your plate right now.

Mary Robinette Kowal  39:36

Yeah. And when I say cure, what I mean is if someone offered me a cure

Kevin Tumlinson  39:42

Exactly. Yes. Yeah, that’s that that is a good point. Though. There. There are a lot of myths around the writer Mystique. You know, things like alcoholism, for example, you know, like you have to be bombed out of your gourd in order to act access your soul and right yeah, good words.

Mary Robinette Kowal  40:03

No, I have tried writing drunk just as an experiment and it’s terrible.

Kevin Tumlinson  40:07

Oh, we edit drunk. No,

Mary Robinette Kowal  40:11

no, you’re I know you’re


like, oh, wow,

Kevin Tumlinson  40:15

I try a different I have to admit I am one of those who does occasionally promote that stereotype of the, you know, the whiskey swilling author. Because I do enjoy bourbon and that sort of thing, but I never could write drunk I. For one thing. Once I’ve released all the inhibitions, that’s not a good time for me to be attacking the page frankly.

Mary Robinette Kowal  40:42


Kevin Tumlinson  40:45

all right, or I have to, you know, get up and go to the men’s room so often that it’s, it’s not worth. It’s not worth any benefit. I may have gotten. Of course, now I do. I do a lot of writing on my phone. So I guess I could technically just carry that nice. forward. So. So this went in a unanticipated direction.

Mary Robinette Kowal  41:05

So you at least one famous writer who had a typewriter that they would take into the bathtub with them? They had like gumbo? Yes, yes. Yeah.

Kevin Tumlinson  41:16

I admire that. But I’m, I’m sad that that had to be a reality for Trump. Right. But yeah, great, great film, by the way, I kind of caught it. By accident, I didn’t realize there was a movie about his life. I didn’t actually read him for a while and then suddenly realized, and I can’t remember the actor’s name. He from breaking bad. I’m not gonna be able to help you. I’m terrible with that. Um, so one of the things when you send out a tweet to promote this, this live stream, you mentioned anthologies as one of the topics. So I want to make sure we do actually talk about anthologies. What, what, what did you have in mind? Because I didn’t have any questions about anthologies. But we have a whole cool thing going on with drafted Digital’s collaboration tools and our royalty splitting. So it all ties in.

Mary Robinette Kowal  42:09

Yeah, so so one of the things that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is that, that I was inspired by, by a question that someone else had asked, which was, you know, where? What places? Do you collaborate with other authors? And anthologies is actually one of those places that you collaborate with other authors, but people don’t think about it as a collaboration. Because because they always think there’s an editor coming and the editors putting things in and, and unless it’s a shared world, you’re not, you’re not actually, you know, you usually don’t have any direct contact with the other authors. You know, there’s no direct feedback. But once that anthology is out in the world, at that point, it does become a collaboration, because you’re all trying to promote the same piece, the same work. Yeah. But the number of people who actually approach it that way, like, I don’t think that I’ve, the times that I see anthologies that seem to do well. It’s when the editors are thinking about it that way, and are helping the authors. But I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a group of authors in an anthology, in any of the ones that I’ve done, get together and say, Hey, we are all in this anthology together. Let’s see what we can do to cross promote each other. Right? Like you’ll see people do that with humble bundles on a novel level sometimes. But anyway, so I’ve been thinking about that. And, and thinking specifically, like, that’s an opportunity for a lot of it’s one of those places that it feels like there’s a good overlap of right possibles for Indian and traditional, traditional authors. So that was one of the reasons that I thought it would be fun to talk about, but honestly, I was gonna try to pick your brain.

Kevin Tumlinson  43:59

I mean, yeah, it’s really interesting, because anthologies have been a recurring tool for the indie publishing sphere, in a way that I don’t think traditional publishing has leveraged Not quite, because a lot of times, you know, there’s, there’s some some practices that I think are maybe a little on the scammy side, so you need to really be aware of what the rules and laws and you know, and etiquette are. But yeah, these it’s a remarkable tool. And, you know, we we have our whole royalty splitting thing now, specifically to make that kind of thing easier. So that, you know, because one of the the hangups with putting together an anthology has always been managing things like paying people for the, you know, splitting the royalties, determining who gets what handled, taken care of the tax situation, you know, so we take care of all that stuff. That’s our, that’s my plug for us in that, but that’s not what that

Mary Robinette Kowal  44:58

that segue for you. Thank

Kevin Tumlinson  44:59

you for I wasn’t going to do to plug us on things like that. But that’s a pretty important one if we’re going to talk about apologies,

Mary Robinette Kowal  45:07

but it is it is true that that that’s one of the things that that is hard. And and the other thing about anthologies also is that it’s one of the ways that a lot of authors, when when something terrible happens the way they want to, to try to do to do fundraising for it. And that’s that again, you know, that’s a way that for authors to collaborate without, without having to do a lot of Okay, I’ll take your prose and,


you know, yeah, so

Mary Robinette Kowal  45:37

it’s just, it’s something that I’ve been noodling with about No, I wish I had knology as a as an active form of

Kevin Tumlinson  45:45

collaboration. I and this is very, and Mark, Mark Lafave agrees, by the way, yeah, he loves the idea. Now, I wish I had asked this question at the beginning, because we’re at the end of the show now, and I think this would have been a very interesting conversation, which just means we’re gonna have to touch out again,


my heart out.

Kevin Tumlinson  46:10

Very, I’ve always loved you, you. You’re one of my favorite people. And I love what you’re doing, through your work. All aspects of your work is simply included. The stuff that you do for other authors has been phenomenal. So I cannot thank you enough for being a guest on the show. So

Mary Robinette Kowal  46:29

thanks for inviting me. Thanks for reaching out. Of course, sooner. That’s on me, then then I wouldn’t have been able to give you that fantastic scoop.

Kevin Tumlinson  46:40

I’m just I’m just thrilled that we aren’t you wrote DDD and one of your notebooks. That’s all.


Yeah, yeah.

Kevin Tumlinson  46:47

Yeah. All right. Well, everybody within the sound of my voice, thank you for being part of the show as well. The rear my role here at the end is is always pretty much the same. Make sure you subscribe to us on YouTube and Facebook, slash drafted digital and both of those will get you to our accounts, and we appreciate it. And make sure you’re bookmarking D to D live because that’s where you get countdowns for live broadcasts like these. So that’s very important. And of course, make sure you are checking out self publishing insider comm breaking all the marketing rules married because I always give them multiple CTAs at the end of these things.

Mary Robinette Kowal  47:25

opportunity for exploration. That’s what

Kevin Tumlinson  47:27

it is so many things everybody so and of course make sure you check out cifa and Mary Robinette co was a website which I believe is Mary Robinette


calm. Yeah.

Kevin Tumlinson  47:39

a mouthful, for sure, but well worth the Google. So go and check that out. Very thank you again, for being a part of the show. Thank you, everybody. We’ll see you all next time.