Em's place

Writing, anxiety-wrangling, tea.

The fear of being seen

By Emma on June 29, 2015

When I first started my life online – and by that I mean blogging and having actual conversations using Twitter instead of just staring at it, confused – I had a stormy sky and a single lightning bolt as my avatar. It was a miniature version of the big stormy sky and single bolt that was at the top of my website for quite some time.

I was hiding.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I loved that picture and it really spoke to me back then. But it wasn’t my face. No-one online that I chatted with knew what I looked like. And that was just the way I liked it.

Then things started to change. I was commissioned to write a short story for an anthology that led to another and then I had a short story collection published. I got my debut book deal and all of a sudden people asked for a picture of me.

I was mystified and horrified in equal measure. Why would anyone want a picture of me? I was there, right there, in the gaps between those words. Wasn’t that enough?

My first photo shoot

You have to understand, I was recovering from pretty severe post-natal depression and trying to carve a new space for myself in the world. I was heavier than I’d ever been in my life and my body was stretched and distressed in ways that I still can’t bear to think about. It no longer felt my own. It just felt like a flesh bag in which a terrible car crash had happened.

Emma NewmanI didn’t want anyone to see me, but there was a pressure to be seen. I went for my first photo shoot and the best picture that came out of it – and was my avatar for at least a couple of years afterwards – was one of me peeping over the top of a copy of The Kraken Wakes (my favourite John Wyndham novel).





I was still hiding.

Time ticked by. I landed a proper book deal for the Split Worlds series and then something happened that I never thought would: SFX wanted to do a two-page featured author spread about me.

Oh shit. That meant another picture had to be taken.

My second photo shoot

By that point I’d figured out that going to conventions was about three million times easier when I dressed up in fancy outfits of my own making. What better way to hide in plain sight than making a grand coat for everyone to look at instead of me?

I had discovered armour. I couldn’t remain unseen any more, not now I needed to be on panels and do launch events and all that stuff. So I donned said armour and went to Bath for the SFX shoot by Joby Sessions.

After about an hour and a half (I think, I was mostly traumatised by the whole pictures being taken for SFX magazine thing), poor Joby was faced with an author who just froze up every time the camera was pointed at her. We tried all sorts of poses in the fantastic Mr B’s bookshop. None were any good. So we went outside.

Taken by Joby Sessions for SFX magazine

Taken by Joby Sessions for SFX magazine

We took shot after shot. Time wore on. A man walked past us in a back street with the most beautiful huge velvety grey dog and we took a few shots with me and said dog which Joby liked more, but it wasn’t quite right. Then he said something along the lines of “come close to the camera and imagine there’s something inside it that you’re trying to touch” and that shot to the left was taken. I, of course, imagined there was an evil little faerie inside the camera that I had to get. He smiled straight away and said “That’s it. That’s the one.” I was relief incarnate. I bet he was too, poor chap.

It was the first photo taken since my wedding day that I actually don’t mind looking at. It’s still my Twitter avatar and I love the dramatic Doctor Who feel of it.

Then I got a book deal with Ace/Roc for two sci-fi novels and an email arrived from my (fabulous) editor, asking if I’d like to have my photo in the book.

Not again

My first response was, obviously: NO! Why on earth would I want that? Isn’t the book enough? Isn’t that the best part of me, right there, pressed between the covers? Why spoil it with my face?

But there’s more than that. I’m a woman who writes science-fiction. That is a massive negative modifier, despite the fact that it’s the 21st century. Because of my gender, my book is less likely to be reviewed, less likely to be displayed in book shops, more likely to be overlooked in general, and more likely to be left out of lists that fly around the internet. Just because I’m a woman. Did I want to put my face in there too?

Because when you’re a woman, you are judged by the way you look. I know everyone is, to some extent, but for women it’s taken to a whole new level of value judgements. I didn’t want people to make a judgement based on the way I look. I didn’t want my face to pollute my work.

But I also know I am screwed up about this

So I asked some friends who are professional authors what they think. They pretty much said “put a photo in, it shows you’re a real person and helps readers connect with you” and that’s a good thing, right? My editor wasn’t putting the pressure on at all, but I felt that if I didn’t put a picture forward I would be hiding again. I couldn’t win. And I couldn’t use my fantastical SFX picture because that belongs to them and it’s only because they are super lovely that I can use it informally online. Having it printed in thousands of books is different matter altogether.

And I didn’t want to end up going to conventions and having people do that “Oh wow you’re actually so much older than you look in your picture” face at me. It was time for a new one.

My third photo shoot

My husband had his first proper author pictures taken by Lou Abercrombie, as did several other author pals – and all were brilliant – so she was my first choice. I freaked out at the prospect of just booking it. I talked on Twitter about it and people gave great advice. So I put on my brave trousers and booked a shoot to be done at home, in the hope it would minimise the anxiety.

You have to understand, this was agonisingly hard. So hard, in fact, that I broke out into the most awful rash all over my face (of course it was my face) that very morning. But Lou was brilliant. She calmed me (and my stupid scaredy skin) down. She reassured me. She told me what to do and I laughed at myself and my ineptitude. I wore my armour, but I didn’t feel I was hiding so much.

Here are the new photos.


Picture by Lou Abercrombie

Picture by Lou Abercrombie

Picture by Lou Abercrombie















I know I have my hands over my face in both, but they were just my favourites. I feel like they are actually showing… me. And that’s why it’s taken me weeks to write this damn post. Because I was afraid of showing them. Of showing me.

I don’t know if that will ever stop being frightening. But the day I don’t do something because it scares me is the day the Fear has won. So if nothing else, that picture in the back of Planetfall this November will be a tiny personal victory over the fear of being seen.

Tea and Jeopardy t-shirts for the Worldbuilders Fundraiser!

By Emma on June 2, 2015

In case you haven’t listened to the new Patrick Rothfuss Tea and Jeopardy episode, I wanted to let you know about the Tea and Jeopardy t-shirt you can buy as part of the Worldbuilders Fundraiser that is happening 1st-8th June 2015.This post contains all you need to know (hopefully).

It’s the one on the right!

The fundraiser is being run through IndieGoGo and I want to say straight away that I have nothing to do with the logistics – it’s Pat’s wonderful team who are handling everything. But there are a few details I wanted to highlight here for any of you lovely Tea and Jeopardy fans who want to buy a t-shirt and raise money for charity at the same time. A great big plump and squidgy thanks to the wonderful Dom Camus for making the gorgeous t-shirt version of the Tea and Jeopardy logo.

Wait – what is Worldbuilders?

Worldbuilders is a nonprofit organization founded by New York Times bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss to raise money for Heifer International. Every year, a small team of Worldbuilders employees and Rothfuss himself gather collectibles and coolness that focus on the “geek community”–fans of fantasy, science fiction, art, and games. They run two fundraisers each year, one in summer and one at the end of the year, presenting their fans with chances to win or buy cool geeky items. Proceeds from the fundraisers are then donated to Heifer International. In the past seven years, Worldbuilders has raised over $3.5 million for Heifer International.

How do I get a Tea and Jeopardy t-shirt?

Go to the fundraiser page on IndieGoGo and scroll down until you see the ‘perk’ at the $25 level which is titled ‘Tea and Jeopardy podcast t-shirt’ and click on it.

What about shipping/ postage and packaging?

If you live in the States, the postage is included in the perk, so you don’t need to worry. If, like me, you live in the UK, or anywhere else in the world, it would be splendid if you added $15 to your contribution when you make your pledge (you get the option to do that on the first page you get after clicking on the perk and it’s called ‘Additional gift’ – click on the far right of that bar on “custom” and enter the amount).

What if I want to order more than one t-shirt?

This is the situation in our household! On IndieGoGo there is no shopping cart system, you have to choose and pay for each order separately – even if you are just getting multiples of the same perk. The way I am handling it is this:
I’ll choose the t-shirt perk and add $20 as an additional gift to comfortably cover postage for two t-shirts. Then I’ll pay.
Then I will go back and choose the same t-shirt perk again and just pay without adding the additional gift.

Is it only available in powder blue?

Yes. It keeps costs down so more money can go to the charity. We chose blue because it looks nice with the logo. It has nothing to do with the fact that blue is my favourite colour. Nothing. At. All. (Well, maybe a tiny bit.)

But what about sizing?!

That freaked me out too, but don’t worry. At this stage it’s all about the pledge. Once the fundraiser is over the lovely Worldbuilders team will email you to get your sizing details, so make sure you use an email address you have easy access to when you make your order.

When the email goes out, I’ll also tweet about it to remind people to check their junk folders.

Please note this from the Worldbuilders team:

“There are a lot of pre-orders involved here, and we’ll be sending things out after the campaign as they come back from production, or arrive in the office from the awesome people who are donating them. If we need to collect information from you (like your t-shirt size), we’ll contact you for it once the campaign has ended. We’ll keep you updated with the progress of things as the fundraiser goes on, and afterward.

We’re confident that all perks will be delivered before our annual fundraiser in November, and definitely in time for the holidays.”

But Em, IndieGoGo only lets you pay by credit card and I don’t have one.

Yeah, that’s something beyond anyone’s control here. If you are in this situation and really want a Tea and Jeopardy t-shirt, drop me a line to that fact in the comments below, including your country of residence. I can’t promise anything, but if there are lots of you, I may be able to work something out with the Worldbuilders team.

Any other questions?

There’s an FAQ on the Worldbuilders website. You can also follow Worldbuilders on Twitter (@worldbuilders_)as they may well tweet updates. It’s best to get in touch with either them or IndieGoGo if you have any issues other than the lack of credit card one, as I am very unlikely to be able to solve it myself.

Now go! Go and get a Tea and Jeopardy t-shirt and raise money for charity and be splendid! You’ve only got until June 8th 2015 to do it!

Tea and Jeopardy 36 – Peter Newman visits the tea lair

By Emma on May 19, 2015

teaandjeopardy_geekplanetThe thirty-sixth episode of Tea and Jeopardy is now live and you can find it here.

In this episode of Tea and Jeopardy, the very lovely Peter Newman takes tea at home. We discuss why Latimer seems to disapprove of him, the merits and pitfalls of living with a writer, and the sheer joy of Spartacus: Blood and Sand. We also brush lightly against Netflix’s Daredevil (yes please) and the horrors of waiting.

If you love Tea and Jeopardy and want to join the Order of the Sacred Tea Cup, our Patreon page is here.

Credits for sound effects can be found here.

An index of all previous episodes can be found here.

Tea and Jeopardy 35 – Sarah McIntyre visits the tea lair

By Emma on May 19, 2015

teaandjeopardy_geekplanetThe thirty-fifth episode of Tea and Jeopardy is now live and you can find it here.

In this episode, the eminently fabulous illustrator and writer Sarah McIntyre, visits the tea lair. We talk about Sarah’s Pictures Mean Business campaign, the psychological and professional benefits of wearing unusual clothes for public events and we meet Kevin the Dartmoor Pegasus (you can read Sarah’s gorgeous comic about him here).. Sarah also drew an amazing picture for her Tea and Jeopardy episode which made me very happy.

If you love Tea and Jeopardy and want to join the Order of the Sacred Tea Cup, our Patreon page is here.

Credits for sound effects can be found here.

An index of all previous episodes can be found here.

Tea and Jeopardy 34 – The blooper reel of gratitude + 5

By Emma on May 19, 2015

Ooops! I forgot to post the last couple of Tea and Jeopardy episodes here. After a long and annoying convalescence from the second round of surgery (all is well now) I’ve been elbow deep in my new book (the second one for Ace/Roc) and so filled with the joy of being able to work again that things got dusty here. Apologies.

teaandjeopardy_geekplanetThe thirty-fourth episode of Tea and Jeopardy is now live and you can find it here.

This is a very silly blooper reel episode that I made to celebrate the return to Tea and Jeopardy after my enforced break.

If you love Tea and Jeopardy and want to join the Order of the Sacred Tea Cup, our Patreon page is here.

Credits for sound effects can be found here.

An index of all previous episodes can be found here.