Conversations Between Writers

M. Fenn


A fellow genre writer and TOC mate from Crossed Genre’s Winter Well, today’s writer is M. Fenn. You can follow her on Twitter @MFennVT and she blogs at


  1. Fenn: Hey there!

Minerva Zimmerman: Hello! How’s it going?

MF: Not bad. Trying to stay warm. How are you?

MZ: Not too bad. Just got done with work for the week. Now it’s all the household and writing stuff.

MF: Nice to have a long weekend.

MZ: Sorta, I”m starting to get to the point where I’d rather have the extra work days cause it feels like I never get enough done.

MF: Heh. I kinda get that impression from some of your tweets. I take it the museum’s rather under-staffed?

MZ: Well, yes and no. I mean all museums are under staffed

MF: Yeah?

MZ: but mostly I’m the only collections person

MF: Gotcha.

MZ: so that tends to get backed up when we have big projects or a lot of object donations

Plus I have to get all the paperwork out before the end of the year so now I”m trying to get that done while doing projects, processing objects and all that.

MF: That’s hard. The house museum I used to work for ran into that problem a lot.

MZ: Oof, yeah you understand how stuff can get.

MF: Oh yeah. Especially when you throw politics in the mix. One winter I was the only employee.

MZ: that is super common, especially at house museums

MF: I’m not surprised. Kinda why I’m not there anymore.

MZ: I actually have no idea where in the world you are geographically, you aren’t stuck under snow are you?

MF: No, thank goddess. I live in southern Vermont–325 miles or so from all that lake effect craziness. But it’s gotten way too cold too early here.

MZ: Yeah I’m in Oregon and we had a weird cold spell last week. Really odd for us.

MF: I bet. You’re near the coast, right?

MZ: Yeah it got a lot colder in Portland. The ocean keeps us a little more temperate here.

MF: We used to live in Eureka, CA. I remember that temperate climate. And all the fog.

MZ: Yeah pretty similar if a bit rainier and a tad cooler overall. So what have you been up to recently? What thoughts have been cluttering up your brain?

MF: All kinds of stuff. Getting ready for my weekend escape to Boston tomorrow. Trying to get a story in some kind of shape to send to my betas.

MZ: Are you a writer who researches a lot of stuff?

MF: Depends on the story. If I’m writing alt history, there’s tons of it. How about you?

MZ: I like to do a lot of “what if” research. I think that if I throw enough strange information into my head a story is bound to fall out eventually.

MF: Heh. I like that approach. I did some “what if” research for a new story involving potentially sentient plants. Discovering what science has actually been done on that topic was pretty cool.

MZ: Ooo there is some super neato stuff with polygraphs

MF: Oh yeah? I didn’t find that.

MZ: which I mean, who thought to hook a plant up to a polygraph is weird enough…

MF: Definitely. I love that there are folks thinking like that.

MZ: yeah apparently one of the tests they’d do was to have two fichus and hook one up to the machine, and then slowly pull the leaves off the second in a different room and supposedly they’d get readings off the one not being molested.

MF: Whoa, that’s interesting.

MZ: And this is old stuff, 1960s or so

MF: Most of it does seem to be old stuff, that I found.

MZ: and then the kirlian photography stuff, that’s neat.

MF: That is neat. And I was reading about how plants can send out chemical signals to insects–like helpful parasitic wasps–for assistance.

MZ: Yeah and some forests seem to transmit information through underground fungus colonies too

MF: Plants are amazing.

MZ: I wonder if there’s more modern studies on article databases

trying to think what search queries to use to try and get fun stuff to fall out of the internet when you hit it with a stick.

MF: I don’t know. Pretty much what I found were summary articles that referred to older stuff for the most part.

MZ: I’d probably look at JSTOR for “plant communication”

MF: Is it just me or did that seem to be easier to do before Google started to try to read our minds?

MZ: maybe “botanical”

MF: Oh, that’s an excellent place to start. So much stuff in JSTOR.

MZ: and now that they let you “check out” a few articles at a time without an organizational membership it’s super useful for writers.

MF: Indeed. I need to hunt around in there more.

MZ: Me too. Time seems to be the thing I have the least

MF: You’re not alone in that. And this fall is whizzing by.

MZ: Ahhhh deadlines. The thing I’ve been thinking about this week that’s kind of weird is teletypes.

MF: Yeah? How so?

MZ: We updated a bunch of labels in a display that has a teletype in that was used for telegrams, and I can’t help but think about how you could hack some of these historic machines for modern purposes.

MF: Interesting. What did you have in mind?

MZ: I was doing research for the labels and it turns out some steampunk people restore these things… and I got to wondering what other reasons people might have for resurrecting them.

MF: Huh. And that makes me think about how the Germans (I think) have gone back to using typewriters to write secure messages that can’t be hacked.

MZ: Yeah, I played with that concept a little with resurrecting modem BBS systems in the near future in COPPER, but I think there’s more there to play with.

MF: I think you’re right. Hey, did I ever tell you how much I love the computer your MC in COPPER has? I want one.

MZ: ME TOO. Also her chair. Omg… that chair. I want that chair so bad.

MF: Yes!

MZ: I mean, genre fiction isn’t much fun if you don’t get to “create” all the things you want to exist.

MF: Very true. That’s something I need to get better at, expanding my imagination for the details that could be.

MZ: That story is weird because stuff I pulled out of my brain kept getting invented in the prototype phase between when I wrote it and publication.

…like, the toasters. THOSE EXIST NOW

MF: Really?!

MZ: Yes. And the order-interface touchscreen table for coffee. plus my friend briefly dated a detective from that exact Seattle precinct too.. SO WEIRD.

MF: That’s kind of hilarious.

MZ: It was pretty funny.

MF: And now I’m wondering if I borrowed that order-interface table from you. I need to compare yours with the one I came up with now.

MZ: Eh, it’s simple extrapolating from present tech. I wouldn’t worry about it.

MF: Yeah, pretty much. But you know, I ought to polish it a little differently. Or call it the Minerva-XZ25 or something.

MZ: /shrug I find it weird that you basically order your drink off a touch screen on the Coke Freestyle machines. I think I end up in more people’s fiction than I have any right to.

MF: Your comment about how you end up in lots of other people’s fiction made me laugh. One of my characters is named after you.

MZ: 😀

MF: Minerva is a great name. It suited this chick pretty well. She’s a psychic pharmacist.

MZ: Ha! people really seem to like the name, especially writers

MF: There’s just something to it. I gave her the nickname Minnie, though. She hates it.

MZ: Yeah, I can’t imagine anyone would be too enamored with Minnie.

MF: Yeah, me either. Especially in the time frame (1932). Minnie Mouse?

MZ: ooof

MF: Heheheh.

MZ: Mouse Ears Bad.

MF: That would be a good band name, though.

MZ: Probably. I once created a fake band called “Stiff Kitten” I still don’t know why that seemed hilarious to me at the time.

MF: That’s a good one, too. Punk or goth?

MZ: Metal I think.

MF: Even better. It is pretty funny.

MZ: It’s always nice to talk to a fellow writer and museum person 🙂 Have a great trip to Boston and stay warm.

MF: Thanks! Stay warm in Oregon.