Many of you know I spent much of the spring and summer writing, and it's finally time to announce why! A new book!!! And it’s coming next Spring!

A few years ago, my writer friend and editor extraordinaire Stephen Segal edited GEEK WISDOM: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture. I loved the book of thoughtful essays reflecting upon well-known quotations, and when Stephen asked me if I would be interested in co-writing with him a follow-up that explored the parenting tips gleaned from geek-culture kids and their families, I was thrilled to be able to bring together some of the most important aspects of my life: being a mom, being a writer, and being a geek.

That book, GEEK PARENTING: What Joffrey, Jor-El, Maleficent, and the McFlys Teach Us about Raising a Family will officially be out on April 5, 2016, by Quirk Books, but ARCS are ready now and being given away free at Book Riot Live 2015 in New York this weekend!


Stephen and I will be sharing more information as the date gets closer, and there will definitely be Chicago events around the release date, as well as elsewhere. (I believe that the book can already be pre-ordered online.)

I’m proud of GEEK PARENTING. The lessons Stephen and I write about are important truths I try to keep in mind every day as I strive to raise thoughtful, kind, passionate, creative kids. There’s a lot of wisdom in those fantastic books and movies, TV shows and comics that we grew up with and continue to enjoy. Whether you have kids or are a kid at heart, I hope you enjoy it half as much as we loved writing it.

Ibsen's Hedda Gabler

Mrs. Elvsted: You’ve got some reason for all this, Hedda!

Hedda: Yes, I have. For once in my life I want to feel that I control a human destiny.

Mrs. Elvsted: But surely you do already?

Hedda: I don’t, and I never have done.

In 1891, Henrik Ibsen's play "Hedda Gabler" debuted in Munich, and the titular character has come to be regarded as one of the greatest dramatic roles of all time. I've heard of the play, but never seen it in the theatre, and it's now being produced and performed by an incredible ensemble in Philadelphia that includes the amazing Trillian Stars in the role of Hedda Gabler and kylecassidy as videographer....because there will be a movie for those of us who may not be able to make it out to Philadelphia!

Kyle and Trillian have put together a kickstarter campaign to fund the live production and video shoot for "Hedda Gabler." Rewards include pre-sale tickets, dvds, a cravat from the show, leaving a prepaid ticket at the door for someone, and other goodies.

As soon as I heard Trillian was going to play Hedda, I was struck by just how perfect a role for her it would be. Trillian has the kind of self-possession and graceful beauty of silent film stars. She's unforgettable, and it would be a delight to see her as Hedda.

Kyle Cassidy is a brilliant photographer, but the thing I really adore about him is the way that he brings artists together to make beautiful, provocative things. I'm such a proponent of creative collaboration--there's magic when you bring the right people together to "make good art." Kyle's vision, generosity, and dedication have birthed so many unforgettable works of art and creative experiences, from his own War Paint to Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman's The Bed Song Book, from music videos to to theatre posters to librarian portraiture.

Together, Kyle and Trillian make magic. If you're in Philadelphia, you can see the play performed in the parlor of Philadelphia's historic Physick House, a mansion built in 1785 and decorated in the tastes of the late Victorian era  If you're elsewhere in the world, they will have dvd and digital downloads available.

Here's the direct link to kickstarter:

A lot of talented people are working together on "Hedda Gabler," and I'm honored to be able to support it in some small fashion. Here's Kyle talking about the project:

Wyrd Words 2015

It's nearly the Autumn Equinox, and I've yet to write about so many Summer adventures.

After more than a year of planning and months of drafting, revising, and exchanging manuscripts, the inaugural Wyrd Words Workshop was held in July. We ate, drank, and danced around the kitchen (Well, ok, maybe that was just me); we workshopped brilliant beginnings and provocative plots; we used technowizardry to traverse miles; we strolled under the full moon, and we sauna'd; we talked about creativity and inspiration, punk rock and K-pop, politics and fairy tales. There were bees, rockets, and skeletons in the trees...


Most importantly, we did good work. I'm so excited to see the books that eventually make their way into the world from this workshop. Such good stories. Such excellent writers. Such dear friends.





Writers spend so much time alone at the laptop that in-person connections of quality are a real gift. Thank you to everyone at the workshop and behind the scenes who gave it shape and filled the weekend with such wonderful, wyrd words.

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I'm going to quote from one of my favorite children's books, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, because it fits so well for this dear group:

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer."

Wyrd Wordians, you are both. Thank you.


Recent Publications

Just back from a remarkable writers workshop that I really need to write about, but I wanted to first mention a few recent publications. I don't always remember to write about them in a blog entry, but I do try to keep my Valya's Works page updated (here).

A few things recently published:


“Phantom Leaf Effect,” “Tree People,”and “I need to sleep on this poem,” Black Fox Literary Magazine (Summer 2015)


Shower Muse,” Scheherezade’s Bequest – Volume 1, Issue 2 — Something Rich and Strange: Tales from the Sea (Summer 2015)

It's a wonderful issue and such great writing. I'm honored to be a part of it. (Nice write-up about this issue in Fairy Tale News.)

In case you missed it, a fun little molecular gastronomically inspired story in the March Monster issue of Schlock Magazine: “Cask,” Schlock Magazine (March 2015)

More soon!

Remembering Uncle John

We buried my Uncle John yesterday.

He died a week ago, on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. I haven’t been able to write about his death. I think it’s because it still doesn’t seem real. Even standing with family and friends, watching as his grave was filled with dirt, it was still so hard to believe.

John Chychula and Hanusia Dudycz

John Chychula married my aunt, Hanusia Dudycz, when I was just 8. I think that theirs was my first real example of courtship as I watched him become a part of our family. Growing up, we have those examples in films, in books, or in life, of couples who have the kind of magic we hope to someday find. I never told Hanusia or John, but for the little girl version of Valya with her head full of dreams, they were that couple for me. He serenaded her! They would dance together. They were in love. They were my fairy tale.

I was just old enough and they were just young enough, that I remember seeing them together before they got married. I loved seeing them dressed up--in costume from the Halloween Maskarada or dressed up in fancy clothes for Malanka. They always looked like they were having such fun together.

However, if I had to point to one thing though that stood out to me, to the little romantic kid watching from the corners—more than the singing or the dancing, more than the way he would put his arm around her—it was the way that John looked at Hanusia, like she was the most remarkable woman in the world. You can see it in their photos, but in life, it was even more powerful. It was magic.

For me, John and Hanusia were better than any movie prince or princess, because they were real, and he was a prince who took the time to play with us—the gaggle of little kids in the Dudycz family. I was always delighted when he was at Baba’s house, because he got down to our level. In one moment, he would be silly and do tricks with his fingers or his eyelids, making us laugh. Then in the next moment, he would ask us questions about our lives and really listen to the answers. It was easy to read on his face that he genuinely cared. Again, it was something in Uncle John’s eyes—they were so kind and gentle.AnnieJohnShower

When I was older, I worked for a few summers downtown in the Department of Human Services, which was in the same building as Drivers Services where Uncle John worked. I would see him at work, and he always treated me like an adult, like an individual, not just his teenaged niece. But that’s how I saw John treat everyone. He took the time to listen to people, to really pay attention. He cared about people. That made an impression on me—the way he moved through the world with such a generosity of spirit.

My oldest daughter is only a few years younger than John and Hanusia’s twin girls. So again the wheel turned, and my relationship with them evolved as we found ourselves parents of young children around the same time. I watched the way he adored his girls, and the way he was once again a doting uncle, this time to my kids and the children of my cousins. I am so grateful that they had the opportunity to know and love him.

Some people have a way of caring about you that makes you feel accepted no matter what. It’s rare, and it’s special. Uncle John was like that—openhearted.


That is the best word I can find to describe John Chychula. If you knew him, if you ever had the pleasure to spend time with him, if you were blessed to be his friend or family, you know.

Uncle John, you will never be forgotten. Вічная пам'ять.


It's been too long. I have been writing, but not here. I've had a deadline for this nonfiction book that I'll announce soon (and is finally nearly finished) and the next novel. I've essentially been off social media and devoting all the time not with my kids, to the writing. It hasn't made for a very fun or social Valya; but I've been productive, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

My next post (that I'll put it up after this one) is about my Uncle John who passed away a week ago. I didn't want to post the tribute without some quick note in between.

Life and death. Spring to Summer. The wheel turns. Before long Autumn winds will be blowing leaves in circles. Life is so fragile. I want to hug all the people I love, all the time. (Consider yourselves hugged. Virtually. Hopefully in person soon.)

That's the update.

More to come.


Writers in Chicago in the Summertime

Next month, Chicago is hosting the 50th Annual Nebula Awards and Nebula Weekend! A few years ago, I had no idea about the rich resources and networking opportunities afforded by something like the Nebulas. I really wish I had known, and so I'm passing this along to writer friends in the Chicagoland area (and those looking for an excuse to visit Chicago…Come!)

The Nebula Weekend is an amazing opportunity, and it rotates cities. This year (the 50th Anniversary!) and next, Chicago will hosting the weekend. (Chicago in June is so lovely--finally warm and sunny, but not yet sweltering. The lake breezes are perfection, and we have such lush, green spaces.)

The panels offered are targeted at authors. There will be a self-publishing workshop on Thursday, and experts are participating throughout the weekend to discuss things like the future of cities, intellectual property law, and selling your work to Hollywood.

On Friday evening, the Mass Autographing session is FREE to the public, with more than 50 authors expected to participate, including Cixin Liu, Larry Niven, Greg Bear, Tobias Buckell, Jody Lynn Nye, Connie Willis, Aliette de Bodard, Daryl Gregory, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ken Liu, Fran Wilde, Alyssa Wong, Usman Tanveer Malik, Sam J. Miller, and so many others!

There's also the Awards Banquet and Ceremony on Saturday evening with toastmaster Nick Offerman, best known for his role of Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation!

Incredible writers and editors who are brilliant and inspiring and delightful are coming in from all over the world. So because I adore many of them, and I adore many of you…you should meet!

Do let me know if you're coming because I will be there all weekend.

Register to attend here!



When I'm writing with a looming deadline, I tend to get hermitty, only leaving the house when I absolutely have to. I drop the kids off at school, make a pot of coffee, and start writing until I have to pick them up again. Then after I put them to bed, I'm back to writing again. I'm an introvert at heart, albeit a social one, so I can sustain this for quite a while before getting antsy.

That said, I find that scheduling one coffee or breakfast during the week, or at least a conversation via skype, helps to reinvigorate me, nourishes my spirit. The time spent away from my manuscript also often helps me to process things I have been turning around and around in my head.

So yesterday, before delving into the work, I had a coffee chat with my friend, Scott​. A fellow writer, we met while teaching at DePaul (over 15 years ago now!) Our conversation turned to a psychiatrist/neurologist whose name I recognized, but whose work I did not know well, Viktor E. Frankl. A Holocaust survivor, Frankl wrote about man's search for meaning (which is how his name came up in the first place), and I was intrigued enough to do a little digging this afternoon.

Several snippets of his work resonated with me on several levels, and I wanted to share a few here from his book, Man's Search for Meaning.

Here he writes about his love for his first wife, Tilly, who died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp:

"I knew only one thing--which I have learned well by now: Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.

I did not know whether my wife was alive, and I had no means of finding out (during all my prison life there was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment it ceased to matter. There was no need for me to know; nothing could touch the strength of my love, my thoughts, and the image of my beloved. Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I would still have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of her image, and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. 'Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.'"

And this from the same book:

'But what about human liberty? Is there no spiritual freedom in regard to behavior and reaction to any given surroundings? … Most important, do the prisoners’ reactions to the singular world of the concentration camp prove that man cannot escape the influences of his surroundings? Does man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances?

We can answer these questions from experience as well as on principle. The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. … Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.


[E]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way."

One more:

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the 'why' for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any 'how'.”

And a link to a video, because it's so interesting to see the Frankl speaking:

May we all find our why's.

Back to writing.


Chicago Spring


Once again, I've fallen behind with blogging. The year began cold and chaotic. Winter lingered and lingered. We had a few brief breaks of warmth and sunshine, but far too many grey, blustery, snowy days in March for my liking.

In Chicago: City on the Make, Nelson Algren wrote, "Chicago is an October sort of city even in spring."

It's true.

Chicago does seem to have a reluctant Spring--as if the season is too delicate. Chicago appears to want to go straight from the gray grit of Winter to the sunny swelter of Summer. BUT there are usually a few rare days in May when Chicago's Spring is glorious and green.

I'm waiting.

The first few signs are appearing: pussy willows have their catkins, the magnolia buds are bright white or pink against still bare branches.

The sight of blossoms against the sky calls to mind one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, E.E. Cummings. Here's a part of it:

"here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)”

I'm going to attempt to blog with greater regularity as part of my revamped writing routine--a few minutes to warm up and then leave the day behind before shifting into one of the two books I'm working on (more on that later).

I've got things to catch up on here, but if I write a bit each day, I should get caught up pretty quickly.

Here's to a day of catching up. I hope that your Monday is peaceful and productive.

My 2014 Rhysling-Eligible Poems

If anyone is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, Rhysling nominations are open until February 15th, and I would be honored if you'd consider nominating my work.

My Rhysling-eligible poems for 2014 are:
“The Mermaid of Lincoln Park Lagoon,” Strange Horizons (November 2014)
“Deepwater,” Mythic Delirium (August 2014)
Daughters of Melisseus,Abyss & Apex (January 2014)
Singing the Dirge,” Fickle Muses (January 2014)

* * *
Instructions on how to make nominations are here.

Thank you.