Category Archives: random

Burning Bright in a Garbage Fire World

I recently attended and returned from my second residency at VCFA (and my first winter residency). It was in many ways even better than the first residency, and in some ways it was less, but it was incredible to be surrounded by so many creative, insightful, inspiring people, especially after the year we’ve all had.

snidelyUpon returning from VCFA, I crash landed back into reality with severe withdrawal from the community there, compounded by the horrific garbage fire political state of the US. There’s so much evil in the world, so much evil on our own home soil, and I have no idea where to begin. As an artist, I feel alternately useless, misplaced, and occasionally hopeful. I want to create stories that make a difference, but it feels too late, doesn’t it? We have so many good stories that already make a difference…but they didn’t make enough of a difference. Fuck, we even have straight up historical facts that are being ignored in favor of these “alternative facts,” gaslighting to the extreme. As a woman of Jewish heritage, I cannot ignore the way Muslims are being vilified, refugees being denied entry, and so many people buying into the disgusting hate and fear mongering tactics being employed by the real terrorists: the GOP and DJ Tr*mp.

But I don’t want to talk politics. I want to talk solutions. I want to talk passion and art and unstoppability.

And yet it’s hard to create when people are dying, or going to die. It’s hard to write stories when the story you’re living makes no sense whatsoever.

But I keep trying, like my fellow students and fellow writers and artists. We keep trying, keep thinking, keep writing and creating, even if it’s crap. Even if it goes nowhere. Even if it fails. Because merely trying to create is an act of defiance in the world today. Following your vocation is an act of rebellion. Refusing to buy into the idea that art is not important is an act of resistance.

Burning bright enough to outshine the garbage fires all over this country and this world is an act of heroism.

So on the mornings when I don’t feel like waking up early to write before work, I think of Princess Leia and Anne Frank and my favorite novelists, and I haul my ass out of bed to create something, even if it’s going to suck. In the evenings when I’m worn out from a long day at the office and being inundated with bad news from the world, I buckle down and get to work on my reading, finding new and different inspiration wherever I can get it, lapping up the dregs even from weak-ass Wikipedia articles or a single line of text in an otherwise useless essay. And when I can brain no more, I take care of myself by letting myself play. I knit, small simple projects that remind me I am capable, I can finish things, I deserve that little burst of dopamine at the crossing of the finish line.

And I reach out to my people when it feels like too much, like dopamine is not enough, like creating is a selfish, useless act. I reach out to friends and colleagues, even when it’s scary, even when I’m ashamed. Because human connection is essential, even for us introverts. Belonging is essential, even to us anxious, socially awkward outsiders. Community is essential, especially in these harrowing times when reality feels like a Snidely Wiplash cartoon, too comically villainous to possibly be real. Someone needs to ground us, and we need to ground each other, when the going gets bat-shit insane.

I don’t really know what this blog entry is about, only that I’m scared and anxious and also trying to be brave, and I think a lot of you are, too. Take care of yourself, and reach out, and reach back when people reach out. Find the thing that makes you burn a little brighter than the garbage fires in this world. Create because it’s your mother fucking right, not to prove your worth to anyone. Defy, resist, rebel. Be the change. Love more fiercely than ever before. Dare something worthy. Dare greatly. Be the man in the arena. Be the still small voice. Fight back. Take time to heal. Make yourself heard. Uplift the voices of others. Care for yourself. Rinse, repeat.

Just don’t give up, no matter what you’re fighting for. Don’t give up.

We have a lot of work to do.

Thoughts from the Inside of an Egg

(Yeah yeah I haven’t updated in ages. 2016 sucked, end of story.)

Kinder SURPRISE

No, not that kind of egg. (I wish!)

Of all the slang to come about in the last decade, “no chill” has bee the best phrase to apply to my general state of existence. I’ve always been an excitable, overly anxious person, over-thinking, over-processing, to the point of wild emotional instability. I hide it well, I think. People tell me that I seem really laid back, but they don’t see the cartoonish gears spinning out of control inside my head.

Thankfully, over the last few months, I’ve developed some chill (thanks, modern medicine!). I feel like I’m on the brink of being able to actually navigate the sheer terror I feel every time I think about certain things. It’s nice.

Unsurprisingly, I can spin this into something negative if I look at it too closely. Having no chill seems to have been what made me passionate and daring; having no chill pushed me to try insane creative tactics, to self publish, to put my writing before everything that held no value to me. And by that, I mean my anxiety made me passionate and brave. My anxiety fueled me. Most of the progress I’ve made as a human being has been urged on by anxiety and the existential dread that initiated it–the unsolvable problem of being.

Did my anxiety help me? Sure.

Do I want my anxiety back? Lord no.

I’m in a liminal place (“liminal” is one of my favorite words, by the way). I’m no longer what I was, and not yet what I am becoming. If we’re gonna talk phoenix cycle again (one of my favorite metaphors!), I’m an egg. Out of the ashes, thank god, into the egg. I’m a goopy substance swirling inside my shell, coalescing into an embryonic state. It’s cozy here, even if it is a fragile state of being.

And I do feel the fragility at my edges, that eggshell wall holding me together, threatening to spill me out. But inside, at my core, I’m a sunshine yellow glob of delicious possibilities. What’s interesting about this whole “having some chill” thing, is that I can now experience the idea of that eggshell cracking, maybe even leaking, and I’m not entirely afraid. I can sit with that discomfort, and know I will survive.

Most of the time.

Sometimes, like last night, I think about how hard it’s been for me to write this past year (2016 was a creative failure for me) and the shell caves in around me, threatening to spill every drop of pre-embryonic me out into the frying pan of existence. I think about showing up to residency tomorrow feeling like a total fraud, like a total failure, like someone who has lied to themselves their whole life and is just now realizing they do not have what it takes to make their dreams come true–someone who maybe doesn’t even know what their dreams are any more.

And that’s actually true. I’m a millennial, after all. We were taught from infancy to shoot for the moon and, at worst, we would land among the stars. No one prepared us for the sub-zero vacuum of the light years between.

But I am still a sunshine yellow glob of possibilities. I’m probably benefiting even more from my education than I would be if I were in a solid state. Maybe that’s the secret to finding your chill: try not to be so solid all the time. Experiment with being pre-embryonic. Entertain the possibility that you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do.

Anyway…just some thoughts from the egg.

I’m off to VCFA tomorrow for my second residency/the beginning of my second semester…wish me luck and a stellar immune system!

The Timing of Things

84Hello all! It’s been a while!

Life has been life, shall we say? And let it go at that.

But some exciting things have happened while I’ve been absent from this blog! I finally decided to take the plunge and apply for a few low-residence MFA programs in creative writing, specifically programs geared towards writing for children and young adults. And you know what? I GOT IN! I got in to my top choice, even!!! And this July I will be starting my MFA journey with the Vermont College of Fine Arts. *swoons*

What does this mean for my writing, other than my dream-come-true of working one-on-one with established authors to hone my skills? I’m not sure! And I feel bad about that. I know I promised the third book in the Arcana Series by fall of ’16, but now I’m not so certain. What I can promise is that I am working on it. Seriously. And I will not give up on it! I am a Taurus, so when I commit to something I am determined as HELL to get it done (see also: stubborn, bull-headed, etc.). But I also want to do the story justice, so it might take a bit longer to get it right.

Or, who knows?! Maybe I’ll be so revitalized by my MFA experience that I’ll be more inspired and energized than ever before and I’ll get it done even sooner than I thought! Maybe?

But speaking of Arcana Series news, two things! One: we are *this close* to wrapping on the audiobook for The Hierophant! Once again, Maria Marquis has narrated her way into my heart and shattered it into a thousand pieces (in the good way, like some stories are supposed to). I’m absolutely thrilled with it, and downright giddy about starting production on The Tower (omg Pax and his poetry! omg Nikolai’s storytime dinner hour [that’s what I call those scenes in my head…]! yass queen yaaaass!!!). And two: both books are now available in Kindle Unlimited! The Hierophant has been in the KU catalogue for a while now, so if that’s where you first read it and you’ve been waiting patiently for The Tower to join its predecessor, today is the day! Enjoy! :D

That’s all I have for now. I will be trying to update here more often (she says for the kajillionth time along with all the other absentee bloggers who pop in every few months to apologize for their radio silence :p :p :p)! But if you’d like to connect elsewhere in a more reliable and regular fashion, check out my Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook page :) (I’m especially fond of Instagram these days.)

<3!

Rambling: On Milestones, Stories, and Happily Ever After

Bear with me, this might get strange.

So, as a writer and a reader, I think a lot about imaginary people, and I think a lot about story, and what aspects appeal to humans, and how, when things are taken too far, maybe people sometimes expect real life to be like stories, which isn’t impossible, but unlikely. And I think sometimes about these characters that go through so much and finally achieve their huge, massive goal—and then what? What drives them forward? Do they get their happily ever after? Or does the story go on? Or rather, do they begin a different story?

Happily ever after is widely accepted as a myth these days, because we know that time and life doesn’t stand still. You can’t stay at the top forever. Problems arise, solutions must be sought. Stories must be lived.

Anyway, I think about that a lot: what are the characters’ lives like after the story ends?

And then I hit my own milestone/climax-resolution on Thursday. I finished the first draft of GHOST CITY, the first novel I’ve started and finished since 2010 when I posted the last chapter of The Poppet and the Lune (unless you count my massive rewrite of a novel that came before TPaL). I felt like I should have been more exuberant, more over the moon for my accomplishment. I had to check to make sure I wasn’t suppressing the vulnerable state of joy in favor of the safety of doubt (as I do). I wasn’t. I was excited, but no more excited than I’d been the days before. I’m excited for the book! But the story goes on, well after the first draft, as any writer knows. And I’m more excited to move forward onto the next stage of crafting this story than I am excited that I finished one stage of it.

It’s a little bit like me getting fired. I’m far more excited and enthusiastic about being free and living my life as I’ve dreamed, than I am excited to be free of my terrible day job.

That’s not to say that when I do finish a final, polished, ready-for-submission draft that I won’t be exploding with joy, but that’s a slightly larger milestone to meet.

Relief is more the feeling I had Thursday. I was relieved that I made it through the whole thing. I was relieved that I had it in me, another story, another novel. I was relieved that my decisions about the novel, whether they were the “right” ones or not, were good decisions. I was relieved that I could do it. I can do it. I can write novels, and more than just the ones I’ve already written.

I have a feeling I will feel that same relief with the first draft of every novel I will ever write. And I’m okay with that.

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3 Great Documentaries You Should Watch (in my opinion)

My husband and I like to watch a lot of documentaries on Neflix streaming–possibly one of the best things about Netflix is the easy access to a plethora of educational and thought provoking material that, in the age of video/dvd rental stores, you just never had. So, here are some of the awesome documentaries I think everyone, especially writers, need to watch:

Mythic Journeys

This one I was introduced to by my best friend, Sarah Diemer. The documentary discusses the importance of myth and metaphor for the growth and development of the human mind and heart, and the trouble with taking myths too literally. A combination of philosophical and psychological discussion, as well as a kick-ass animation with the voices of Mark Hamill and Tim Curry, this is a great film for anyone who has ever been moved by a work of fiction.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

This movie. THIS MOVIE. Holy cow this movie. I’m a former Anthropology major, a major I chose specifically because I thought it would provide inspiration for writing (which it totally did, and the fantasy books I’m working on were inspired by my Anthropology of Religion class). So maybe this movie is more interesting to me because I have a love/fascination with the creative and spiritual mind of early man. But for the love of all that is good, give this movie a try. Seemingly a documentary about the (at the time) oldest existing home to our caveman ancestors, it’s also a look at how prehistoric man had the same desire as we do, to understand the world through stories. At least, that’s part of what I got out of it. Just watch it.

Marwencol


 

From the website:

“Marwencol” is a documentary about the fantasy world of Mark Hogancamp.
 
After being beaten into a brain-damaging coma by five men outside a bar, Mark builds a 1/6th scale World War II-era town in his backyard. Mark populates the town he dubs “Marwencol” with dolls representing his friends and family and creates life-like photographs detailing the town’s many relationships and dramas. Playing in the town and photographing the action helps Mark to recover his hand-eye coordination and deal with the psychic wounds of the attack. When Mark and his photographs are discovered, a prestigious New York gallery sets up an art show. Suddenly Mark’s homemade therapy is deemed “art”, forcing him to choose between the safety of his fantasy life in Marwencol and the real world that he’s avoided since the attack.
 
This documentary is beautiful, sad, haunting, inspiring. At times uncomfortable, and other times breathtaking, it’s a story of a man overcoming his trauma through the only means he can: through art, and storytelling.
 
I believe all of these documentaries are available on Netflix streaming, and probably at your local libraries as well. Go on, take a break from fiction and try one of these! And let me know what you think :)