We’re still having a BIPOC book fair and inviting all kids who want to be there to come. But we couldn’t get all the books in time. So now we’re asking you to join us on Saturday, DECEMBER 23; that’s when we’ll be at Portland, Oregon’s Norse Hall with a bunch of books by and about Black people, Indigenous people, and all kinds of people of color. Each kid’s admission ticket gets them one free book and the chance to buy as many more books as they like. Bay Area and online bookseller Sistah Scifi is providing a wide selection of titles, fiction and nonfiction.
That includes books by award-winning authors Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford–they’re coming too! Shawl and Bradford plan to read their books’ exciting parts and answer questions about writing, bugs, and ghosts.
Two advantages to this date switch (in addition to having the books on hand for sure). First, we can entertain and distract any kids on school breaks who may be driving their parents nuts; second we can guarantee blissful last minute present shopping for those who celebrate seasonal gift-giving.
Masks are required. A limited supply will be offered onsite.
Christopher Caldwell received the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship the very first year we gave it out. Here’s what he can say about what that was like:
I read Parable of the Sower when I was sixteen. I was a queer, precocious teen struggling with faith in Los Angeles and here was a strange, precocious, teen narrator struggling with faith in a fictional Los Angeles suburb in the near future. It wasn’t so much that I felt seen by the work as the realization that stories like mine were also worth telling. Until that point, my writing had mostly been imitative of what I thought great literature should be: white protagonists, heterosexual relationships, middle class agita unconcerned with the hows and whys of the status quo. Kindred had cracked the world open for me a year before, and Parable drove a wedge into that crack. I wanted to be more authentically me on the page and in my life.
I read a lot. And I wrote a lot, much of it pretty terrible. But I kept up with Ms. Butler’s career, and bought her latest books as soon as they came out. I listened and tried to internalize advice from “Furor Scribendi” and “Positive Obsession,” essays she had written about writing. My twin mantras became “forget talent” and “persist.”
I knew that she sometimes taught at Clarion West and Clarion workshops, and I assured myself that one day, when I felt good enough, I would apply during a year that she taught. That day never came, because she passed away in 2006, far too young. The grief you have for someone you have never met is a strange thing. But I promised myself the next year I would apply.
In 2007, I did apply. I could only afford one application, and I picked Clarion West because Samuel R. Delany was teaching. I didn’t think I would be accepted. I didn’t know how I could afford it if I was accepted. I didn’t know how I would take six weeks off from my terrible, high stress, low paying job. I was working nights and writing in that gap in the afternoon until it was time for me to return to work again. I didn’t even know if it was any good, but I told myself to stop worrying about talent and persist.
I was accepted. And I was elated. I didn’t know how I’d afford it. Then a second call came through, congratulations, you’re one of the first recipients of the Octavia E. Butler scholarships. I didn’t care then how I would take the six weeks off. I had to go. It felt like a calling. I’m not a superstitious person, but this felt as much like a sign as anything. I was enough, imperfect as I was and remain, to be chosen to receive this honor in the name of the writer I respected most in all the world.
The workshop was hard. I cried more than once. “Forget talent.” “Persist.” I did both and I turned in a story every week, sometimes staying up for 20 or more hours to do so. I felt I owed my best effort, and I gave it.
There’s a lot people can tell you about the workshop experience. For some people it helps them understand new ways to work, others value the connections and networks they develop. Some people blossom, others stop writing. But for me, receiving the scholarship and attending the workshop was sort of a contract. I must persist.
I’ve kept writing. I’ve kept giving my best. I’ve kept trying to bring something true and authentic to the world, even if it’s dressed up in lies, which, after all, is the business of fiction. I hope, without expectation, that something I write will crack the world open for some queer, brown teenager the way Kindred and Parable of the Sower cracked the world open for me. But the hope exists because I was honored and trusted with the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship.
When I made the owl for her, I had no idea I was making the Octavia Butler commemorative pendant. It was at Baycon in the late 80’s, and she told me that the owl was her totem – could I make one for her. I told her I would be delighted to make it for her, and that if I could also keep the design it would be much, much less costly. She was happy to have me keep the design and since I’d been wanting to make an owl for a while, I was equally delighted. (I was an early admirer of her work )
She wanted an iconic owl rather than a particular species. The Butler Owl design was influenced by the great horned owl, but it isn’t meant to be a particular species. The out-stretched wings as it lands on the branch were my concept of her owl. I carved the original in wax before casting in into silver, thinking about Octavia and what she wanted from it. I was very happy with the final design and she was extremely pleased.
Octavia died much too young in 2006. Kate Schaefer asked me to make the first pendant that was given by the Carl Brandon Society in 2007 and I’ve been making them ever since.
“The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship enables writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops, where Octavia got her start. It furthers Octavia’s legacy by providing the same experience/opportunity that Octavia had to future generations of new writers of color. In addition to her stint as a student at the original Clarion Writers Workshop in Pennsylvania in 1970, Octavia taught several times for Clarion West in Seattle, Washington, and Clarion in East Lansing, Michigan, giving generously of her time to a cause she believed in.” (Carl Brandon Society web site)
The Butler Owl is a commemorative pendant for the scholarship recipients.
“The first Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarships were awarded in the summer of 2007, and they have been awarded annually each subsequent year at the conclusion of the Clarion and Clarion West Workshops. As of the summer of 2018, 21 Butler Scholarships have been awarded.” (Carl Brandon Society web site)
I was invited to participate in an award ceremony at a San Diego Clarion and it was very moving and special.
It turns out that the owl has a profound meaning for those who receive it. They have told me that receiving Octavia’s totem feels like there is a way that they are in touch with her. And that it is extremely meaningful. I am very grateful that I am able to do this for them.
When Nisi Shawl called me up and asked me to do the cover for their anthology Bloodchildren, I was astonished. Not because they asked me, but because I knew I was going to say yes. I’ve never done a cover and my photography is normally unsuited for an SF anthology. But two days before they called, I had for the first time a clear sense of a new direction for my photography, and this request fit the areas I was thinking about. It was very intense time consuming work, and a joy to do.
I can thank the Carl Brandon Society for the fact that I have made 21 Butler owls and I’ll continue to make the Butler Owls for as long as possible.