Recommendation Wednesday: Nothing Without Us

This anthology, published by Renaissance Press, is currently on Kickstarter! I’ve been following along with this project since they asked for author submissions in fall 2018, and the authors they accepted are incredible (and I’m sure it was incredibly difficult to narrow it down). I am really looking forward to this anthology.

Nothing Without Us cover art. Image from Renaissance Press.

The Kickstarter is off to a great start, already at over 25% after only two days live.

And there was a delay of a few hours in it going live, because the title of one of the stories is “CharityTM“, and Kickstarter bans any charity work on their platform. Once the issue was straightened out, however, they quickly got to 10% of their goal.

You may recognize the name of the publisher. That’s because they publish Blush! They also publish a diverse variety of books, including several by the author of the other half of this blog; Éric Desmarais.

Here is the summary of the new anthology Nothing Without Us, direct from the Kickstarter itself:

For the most part, people who are disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, Spoonie, and/or who manage mental illness are faced with stories about us that are crafted by people who really don’t get us.

Nothing Without Us combines both realistic and speculative fiction and stars protagonists who are written by us and for us. These are bold tales, told in our voices, which are important for everyone to experience.

Why we’re doing this

According to Statistics Canada’s 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, more than one in five people is currently living with a disability. If one were to go by how many disabled people we see in fiction or on the screen, however, it would be reasonable to assume disabled people are as rare and misunderstood as unicorns. Even worse, when we are represented, we are lonely, unhappy, searching for a cure, and we often die tragically to inspire the protagonist of the story (who is never disabled themself) or find a magical cure (and inspire the protagonist.) It’s very clear most of these stories are being written by people who do not have those lived experiences; an unsurprising fact, considering that people who are disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, Spoonie, and/or who manage mental illness are chronically both underpaid and underemployed.

Spoonies to the rescue

After publishing her first novel, Cait Gordon was invited to speak on several panels, most of which were about disability visibility in fiction. She rapidly found that panel after panel, members of the public would ask her to recommend books where protagonists were disabled, as opposed to them only being side characters, and she found that she could barely name any title. So, with the help of her BFF, activist Talia Johnson, she decided to assemble this anthology to showcase not only what disabled characters, but also what disabled authors, are capable of. 

Renaissance Press is a small, independently owned Canadian publisher dedicated to uplifting the voices of marginalized people. When Cait approached us with this anthology project, we recognized it as exactly the kind of project we love to champion: own-voices fiction written by a majority of marginalized people whose stories also show the intersectionality of marginalized communities. We’re very proud and excited to be able to present Nothing Without Us to you.

If you’re enjoying the Blush blogs, consider learning more with Blush: The Card Game from Renaissance Press.

Molecular Coffee

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Atomo Coffee sounds like something from a science fiction story. Coffee that isn’t from coffee beans. It’s the lab grown meat of coffee.

My biggest worry with this sort of thing is allergies. I have a severe intolerance to coconut oil and milk, along with IBS, so I try to be very careful.

Here’s what they say:

Atomo will not have any allergen components or materials that impact metabolic disorders.

For the insoluble, non-volatile portion of the molecular grounds, we are still exploring many options and targeting an upcycled play that would take the byproduct of a current commercial operation and add value to it by using it as the carrier matrix for our flavor and mouthfeel compounds – essentially the proteins, carbohydrates and oil components you can expect from coffee grounds. Some examples of that would be watermelon seeds or sunflower seeds husks. Much of what we are doing at this stage is still proprietary as we have a good journey ahead to optimize the perfect molecular coffee that can be enjoyed as your daily ritual. All compounds and strategies will be shared as they evolve and are optimized.

The kickstarter is already funded and has 22 days to go.

I’m interested and a little skeptical. What do you think?

Éric

Recommendation Thursday – The Booger Hunter’s Apprentice Kickstarter

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

An extremely talented author, and an acquaintance, Benoit Chartier has launched a Kickstarter for his new kids book called The Booger Hunter’s Apprentice.

Go check out the campaign!

The book looks fun and beautiful. (Never thought I’d say that about boogers…)

In my opinion, getting a hardcover book at $15 is a fantastic price.

Later days,
Éric

Seize the Bean – Kickstarter

Hello Coffee Lover!

I came across a really cool Kickstarter board game called Seize the Bean. The concept is pretty simple; you play a coffee shop owner trying to make their customers happy. It’s a really interesting concept and has a lot of potential.

Plus it has these adorable Coffee Beans, milk cartons, and sugar cubes as play pieces. 
It’s a little pricey at $60 Canadian but looks well worth it in quality. Check out the video.

 

Enjoy and stay Caffeinated!

Éric

Blush: A New Cup

I have talked about using a Diva Cup in the past, but over the past 9.5 years of my using a cup, I have come across several people who were not able to use one, for a variety of reasons.

I was very excited, therefore, to hear about a Kickstarter for a new cup: the Keela Cup. The new design should make the cup easier to use for a lot of the people who could not use a Diva Cup. I hope that they get the chance to try this cup out.

Check out this article by one of the creators.

The Keela Cup mascot, designed by Nomi Kane. Image from Kickstarter.com


If you’re enjoying the Blush blogs, consider learning more with Blush: The Card Game from Renaissance Press.

Recommendation Thursday – We Shall Be Monsters – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 200 years on

Hello,

There’s a fantastic anthology that is being Kickstarted. There are some great rewards and I can’t wait to read it!

Go check it out:

We Shall Be Monsters – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 200 years on

“It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.” Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

As you may already know, Renaissance will be celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2018, and to mark the occasion, we’ve decided to launch a project celebrating another important anniversary.
In 1818, Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, sparking the genres of horror and science fiction. On this, the 200th anniversary of its publication, the narrative is more relevant than ever.

We Shall Be Monsters: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Two Centuries On will feature a broad range of fiction stories, from direct interactions with Shelley’s texts to explorations of the stitched, assembled body and narrative experiments in monstrous creations. We Shall Be Monsters is a fiction collection that will feature explorations of disability through Frankenstein, ace, queer, and trans identity, ideas of race and colonialism.

Seven-time Aurora Award winner Derek Newman-Stille and award-winning author and theatre artist Kate Story team up to direct this excellent collection.

This anthology is a huge milestone for us as a publisher, and we won’t reach it without your help.
Kickstarter works on an all-or-nothing basis, which means that if our campaign does not get fully funded, we will not get any of the funds. Please take some time to look at the campaign; I think you’ll find the rewards for this campaign are incredible. You can get this wonderful book, but also a selection of Renaissance novels, your portrait made as Frankenstein’s monster, you can participate to a writing workshop, and so much more!
If you can’t pledge, that’s OK! Sharing the link with all your friends is a great way to help!

Thank you in advance for your support. We take the success of our very first anthology to heart, and really believe it can be a great vehicle for emerging and underrepresented voices.

Check out the Kickstarter!

Blush: FAQ

FAQs. Image from here.
FAQs. Image from here.

There are only four days left in our Kickstarter campaign. We are close. SO close! You only have until midnight on Sunday April 10th to pledge, so PLEASE go and support our Kickstarter!

This past week has been rather… Surprising? Unique? Crazy? I’m going to go with all of the above.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a shy person. You’re my friend? I’ll blabber on about whatever comes into my head. You’re alone and I’m alone and we’re complete strangers? No problem striking up a conversation. You’re wearing something geeky? I will talk to you whether you’re in a group or not. Put me in front of a group? No way. I will blush (no pun intended), stammer, forget the thread of conversation (or presentation), and generally be very uncomfortable and awkward.

And this past week has been pushing my boundaries. I’ve had two “print” interviews, one by phone for an article for Apt 613, and one in person for an article for the Metro. And I was interviewed on CBC Radio with my dad for the segment All in a Day. You have no idea how grateful I was that my dad was there. As much as I was able to convince myself that it was simply another one-on-one conversation with Alan Neal (who was super awesome, and a great interviewer), I still had problems getting my words out in the order I wanted them, and forming sentences that actually made sense. My dad, on the other hand, was brilliant. Not only did he get the conversation around to the game (the whole point, really), but he was funny and intelligent the entire time. So glad he was invited, and agreed to join me.

One thing that I have noticed, throughout these three interviews, is that I am asked a variation of the same main questions, although the written words are extremely varied. So I thought I would write down some of the most frequently asked questions, and answer them.

What was the reason behind this game? How did it come to be?

The game started out as a project for my Adolescence class at the University of Ottawa. The project was very open-ended; we had to research a topic that was related to adolescents. After a very brief brainstorming session, and a class on Human Sexuality later that week, I realized that the most obvious choice for my topic was adolescent sexuality. You can read my paper here. This was possibly the easiest paper I have ever written in my entire life (to date). The words came easily, I would get to a point that needed proof, the studies that provided the proof were easily found, and I was done in a matter of days.

As my research found that parents and their kids had a better relationship, built on trust and mutual respect, if they spent time playing games together, I decided to expand my project (with the professor’s permission) into a physical game that taught the facts of sexuality, sexual health, and identity. The original concept was very Trivial Pursuit-esque, with a board game and pieces, dice, and collecting parts to win. It was a huge undertaking, and would be very expensive to produce. I also didn’t particularly like how similar it was to Trivial Pursuit, but I couldn’t think of another way of formatting it. (I got 100% on the project, and my professor made me promise to develop it.)

Fast forward 8 years, and I was having a conversation with one of the founders of Renaissance Press about projects that we were particularly proud of in school. Blush was obviously one of those, and they asked to borrow the prototype. When they brought it back with a contract, and an idea of how to make the rules different, I was in shock. Definitely changed my life! I started the anonymous question box and this portion of the blog at that point.

What are the rules for playing the game?

Each player takes a turn asking a question and reading the four possible answers out loud. Other players then vote for the answer they think is the right one, their voting cards face down. They flip the card over al at the same time once everyone has voted. Correct answers get a point token. Next player clockwise reads the next question, and so on. First player to get to ‘x’ points (decided at the beginning of the game) wins.

How old would you recommend the kids to be to play this game?

The redesigned questions complement the new Ontario sex education curriculum, so you could play portions of the game with your kids as early as Grade 1. As parents, you are allowed to take out the cards that are too advanced for them (recommended), and reinsert them as your child grows up. To play the game as a whole, without removing cards, age 12-13 is an approximate. If you feel they’re ready earlier, that’s fine too!

I read something the other day that fits in well here. “What age do you think kids should know about sex? Remove two years, and that’s much more likely.”

If you’re a parent with an infant, and you’re not sure whether you’ll use the game, I can see where you’re coming from. My first child is due in September, and Grade 1 feels INCREDIBLY far away. However, Blush doesn’t expire! And in the meantime, you can play it with your friends, even as a drinking game. (Be prepared to get drunk very quickly if you do, though. The questions can be harder than you think!) This goes for people without children as well. How well do you remember your own sex ed classes? Do you think you know everything?

Pledge to Blush: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1357195744/blush

There were lots of other questions that I was asked multiple times, but this post is getting a little long, so I will leave you with a question that I wish I HAD been asked, because I think it’s a rather important one:

What qualifies YOU to write this game? Why should we trust your facts?

My educational background has provided me with thorough researching skills (1), an understanding of human sexuality (2), and the knowledge of how to teach through different methods (3).

  1. BSc in Biochemistry and Chemistry
  2. BA Soc[ial Science] Major Psychology (with a focus on Human Sexuality) Minor Biology
  3. BEd I/S Chemistry and Math

I have been extremely thorough with my research into this game, and will go over the questions again with a fine-tooth comb before it is published. My publisher, Renaissance Press, has already edited the questions, as well as sent them off to UofT’s Sexual Health Centre, to have a second pair of eyes look at the questions.

I feel as though all of my educational and personal background has led to this game. It is a major part of me, and with your help, will come into this world before my first-born child!

 

Blush: Pride

Blush’s kickstarter is doing well, but we still have a long way to go, and about two weeks left! Please keep harassing your friends and family, and add neighbours into the mix! Let’s make this game a reality!

Pride flag. Image from i.telegraph.co.uk
Pride flag. Image from i.telegraph.co.uk

Algonquin College, my school, has their Pride Week this week. I had the opportunity to attend a workshop yesterday afternoon, given by the fantastic people at Venus Envy Ottawa (Facebook, Twitter), on Bi/Pan/Poly relationships. The speakers were very well educated and gave thoughtful and insightful answers to all our questions. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and learned a lot.

This is what Pride means to me. As an Ally, I sometimes feel adjacent to what the Pride movement stands for. I loved the inclusiveness that taking part in something as minor as a workshop gave to me. On top of feeling as though I belonged, I was able to learn more about how to respect people in those relationships previously mentioned, and how to break through the myths surrounding the stereotypes.

Pride Week, to an Ally like me, is about education on different types of relationships and sexualities. It is about showing support and respect to everyone. It is about welcoming other human beings and accepting them for who they are.

Thank you for such a great workshop. I definitely won’t forget it!

Algonquin’s Pride Week will continue today and tomorrow, and has various workshops free to the public. Check out their calendar of events here.