The Big 500.

I knew it was coming. feature-74-inc500_38

I kept preparing. I kept running through possible topics that was worthy of the 500 mark. Big topics, lively, funny, poignant.

Nothing. Zilch. I got so bogged down in saying something worthy, I found I had nothing to say. Add to that the bronchitis I came down with on boxing day and have yet to get rid of, and well, the word blockage became something like a bowel obstructed by a bowling ball.

So, as always happens when I get stuck, I’ll do a list:

1. 500 blogs may not seem like a lot for people who blog every day, or who even blog consistently. For me, it feels significant.

2. On this blog I’ve discussed gender, labels, writing, growth, ideas, illness, travel, other people’s blogs, paying attention, and the nature of publishing. Among other things.

3. Perhaps that’s why only a few of you brave souls have hung on–the ponderous and often illogical nature of this blog does not appeal to those who need structure from their cybersphere.

4. I am so grateful for those of you who continue to read. Who comment, share your thoughts, write your own blogs, and just make writing in general a process that is enlightening, fun, and interactive. And to those who lurk in the background, thank you, as well, for stopping by my playground.

5. I have begun a process of buckling down to work smarter, because I can not continue on in the way I’ve been working. We’ll see how it works out. I have given up caffeine, wheat, dairy, meat and sugar. And my migraines are definitively, inescapably, less because of it.

6. The growth I’ve had in the time I’ve been doing this blog is exceptional. I have been devastatingly ill, I have hit rock bottom and clawed my way back. I have broken both elbows, I have spent years in therapy. I have learned what love is. And what unconditional means.

7. I have been to States several times, Cyprus, Venice, Tenerife, Greece, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Spain and in two weeks, Belgium. I have travelled through the Netherlands, Iceland, Sweden and France. I learned enough Italian and Greek to get by while we were there.

8. I have started my own business. I teach writing, I teach editing, I learn, learn, learn. I’ve led conferences, book festivals, panels. I am becoming…something. I have yet to figure out what.

9. I have started my PhD. I have published several short stories. I am still learning to write. And the more I learn, the less I know. It’s a good place to be, most times. But not always. Some days trying to write is like trying to scratch out hieroglyphics in tar.

10. And I continue on. Editing, teaching, writing, learning, laughing, loving, growing. Balance remains elusive. Love remains solid. Life is good. Really, really good.

  • My most popular page, by far, is that on Story and Character Arcs. These are useful for plotting your novels. I think the other writing pages might have something to offer too…
  • The most popular search term is still lesbian armpit hair, followed closely by story arc, lesbian fiction, and my name.

Thank you, readers. A writer needs readers, and without readers, a blog can be a woeful place indeed. I hope that you’ll continue to read, to share your thoughts, to invite me and other readers into your writing worlds, and help grow the beautiful blogosphere we all play in.

Happy 500. Here’s to another 500.

Song: Te Busque by Nelly Furtado

Book: The Golden Fleece by Robert Graves

Marriage: Romantic, or Outdated Concept?

What, exactly, is marriage? r8

It’s a question that came up a lot in 2012-2013. I mean, it has come up a lot before that too, but over the past two years there’s been a lot of rhetoric around the issue of same-sex marriage as countries deal with it on a legal level. The answer isn’t as simple as folks once considered it.

According to Wiki: As of 19 August 2013, fifteen countries (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Uruguay) and several sub-national jurisdictions (parts of Mexico and the United States) allow same-sex couples to marry. A law has been passed by the United Kingdom, effective in England and Wales, which will be fully in force on 29 March 2014.

and:

As of January 2014, eighteen states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized same-sex marriage, although the Illinois law will not become effective until June 1, 2014.

So, what is it? Is it a ‘sacred commitment’? What if  you’re not religious? Is it just a legal commitment? What if marriage didn’t exist? Would you be any less committed to the person you’re with? As an LGBTQ person, do you feel strongly about being able to get married legally, or is it a heterocentric tradition that doesn’t apply to you? Does marriage imply ownership? Historically, marriage was about creating alliances that were good for the family, and a way to make certain that offspring ‘belonged’ to a certain man/family. It was about strategy, and power, and money. Romantic marriage, or marrying for love, is a modern concept, very twentieth century. What if you’re in a non-standard relationship, like a Poly one? Do you believe in monogamy, in forever? Is there a ‘special’ someone for every person?

Your thoughts?

Book: Women’s Writing in America (Short Stories)

Song: Crawling Back to You by Daughtry

When the cracks start to show

I am not a pacer.Weakest Link in Chain

As in, when I decide to do something, I go all in. I put every bit of focus and energy into it. Heart and soul.

Now, if that’s a work project, or a hobby, it isn’t an issue. Because it’s finite, right? There’s an end to it, so I can go full steam until I have time to breathe again.

But these days, I’m running out of breathing moments. In fact, my tank is empty and I’m still twenty thousand leagues under the sea, with all manner of things with big teeth swimming around me.

And when I get stressed, and/or worried, my natural inclination is to go inside myself. To live in the office space that is my head, bouncing from internal conference room to conference room to deal with each project in play. In those rooms I deal with the ‘staff’ involved, then move to the next room and do it again. My world becomes internalized.

That means I stop talking. Any verbal conversation I have involves the project in question and nothing else. But mostly, even those conversations are in my head.

And that’s when the cracks start to show.

The pressure builds. The office gets over run because no one goes in or out. Small things in one room vent into other rooms and become big things. My imaginary staff start fighting with one another and feeding me a diet of insecurity and frustration. Deadlines loom and pass and the office gets more chaotic, with whirlwinds of paper and storms of calendars.

One unrelated question blows apart the office. The whole organization is sucked into a vacuum of instability and tears. And then I start to talk again. The walls crack, the foundation fails. I’m crying in every conversation and making the poor people who must deal with me (often on those projects) terribly uncomfortable as they try to figure out where to look and what to say as I melt down.

I will be okay. I can do this. I will. I always do. When I finally hit my knees, it’s only a matter of time before I get up again and rebuild my mental office. I can do this.

Today’s Question: if you were to float above your life, and see it from a distance, what would it look like? What would you think of it?

Home and Away

Home. 998597_336185073181453_1276341467_n

The final day at the resort was like the last day of summer camp. Everyone on a final high. We had pool Olympics, racing across the pool on lilos, on foot, and swimming. We had a last big meal full of laughter and general silliness.

And in the morning, we said good-bye to folks we genuinely liked.

Will it be like summer camp, where you promise to stay in touch, but life intervenes and those summer friends become a vague happy memory?

Perhaps.

But at least it was a damn good time. I got a bit of business done, I got a feel for the area, I met my business contacts…and I relaxed. Like, closed my eyes by the pool and listened to music. Like, grabbed a noodle and read my kindle in the pool. Really, actually, relaxed. I was oddly comfortable in my body, too, for the first time I can remember. Overweight and in a bikini, but it didn’t matter. I soaked up the rays and played in the pool, heedless of my figure and just happy to be alive.

That’s growth, right there folks.

After 14 days away, it feels both amazing and terribly strange to be home. My own bed? Amazing. Not sweating while brushing my teeth? Amazing. But where is the pool? The desert sun? The Med? Giant bottles of iced tea?

Not to worry, of course. I’ll be back in a similar environment in just three weeks, when I head to Greece.

So over the next three weeks I’ll be doing some hard core work. I’ll be busting my ass to make sure everything gets to the people who need it. I’ll be making deadlines, setting new ones, and, hopefully, announcing some new courses happening in the autumn.

Today’s Question: How is your summer going so far?

Natal Pondering

Another year closer to 40. I’m a summer solstice baby, a Gemini-Cancer cusp child. candles

I’ve been trying to reflect on the bits and pieces of the last twelve months. So much of it has gone by in a blur, I’ve actually had to get out the calendar to remember where I’ve been and what I managed to do.

  1. This time last year I had a normal part time job. (Which I lost in August)
  2. I got back in touch with my father after nearly thirty years
  3. I taught two six week editing workshops
  4. I went to the Olympics. Three times.
  5. I went to Florida and saw my Mom (and Harry Potter)
  6. I edited. A lot.
  7. I wrote (two anthologies came out in the Spring of this year)
  8. I completed the first year of my PhD. Passed my project approval. Finished my research course with a first.
  9. I’ve attended a number of conferences and presented three papers. Only one was disastrous.
  10. I completed my business course and got my business off the ground. Well, almost.
  11. I’ve organised/run two Bold Strokes events in Nottingham.
  12. I’m re-evaluating my belief system
  13. I’ve got a writing retreat planned for 2014 in Spain.
  14. This year I’m spending a few weeks at that lesbian resort in Spain
  15. and a few weeks on a research trip to Greece
  16. and I’ve got a few trips planned for 2014.

What strikes me, other than how insanely busy I’ve been and will be, is the amount of confidence it takes to do some of the stuff I’ve done. Some of this confidence comes from doing things over and over, from knowing what to do simply because I’ve done it before.

But I think some of it might be that age=widsom thing. I’m now in my late thirties, and things that were scary or unfathomable when I was in my twenties–from going to a movie by myself to travelling to London for a professional conference alone–are now nowhere near scary. In fact, the biggest change, is that I’ve come to enjoy my own company. Not only am I not afraid to go places and do things on my own, but I enjoy it too. I still play nervous wall flower, and I still worry that people will find me an inarticulate, brash, pseudo-everything.

But, growth is good, and at this stage I’ll take it as it comes.

Thank you: for being with me over the years. For continuing to read, and share your thoughts, and hang around through the random and the specific and the generally odd. Here’s to another year. Thanks for sticking around.

Question of the day: Do you celebrate your birthday? Do you believe in astrology?

Book: Medea

Song: Why’d You Have to be so Good by Heidi Newfield

 

 

28 Day Photo Challenge, Day 9: Admire

pen2#bllphotoaday

I admire each and every person with the courage to put pen to paper. People who play with words, build worlds, create people, communicate via these funny little symbols that turn into words and then into sentences and then into paragraphs and on and on into ideas, ideals, dreams, change.

Thank you to all the scribblers who change the world a vowel at a time.

 

Semi-Transparent Walls

transparent wall

The other day, S and were talking about a situation I’m involved in, and without thinking, I used some absurdly long, fairly obscure word to describe my behavior. She looked at me blankly for a second and then we both burst out laughing. Having a large vocabulary does not mean you always need to use it. Because, frankly, you sound like a toss-pot if you do.

But this links slightly to a strange feeling I’m having about my professional life right now.

There was a time when I felt like I was on top–I was around people who got me, I knew what I was talking about, and folks could come to me with questions that I felt I could answer in some kind of accurate fashion. We were on a par.

But now, I feel like a minnow surrounded by whales. And not just regular whales either. Prehistoric sized whales. With horns and wings and halos.

horned whale

 

The horned whales of success

 

And this isn’t only at University. I mean, at University you’re bound to feel like that because you’re learning, right? So you’re not necessarily supposed to know everything. But I admit, I feel rather at a loss there too. “You haven’t heard of author X?” “How can you not have read author Y?” Or sitting there while the group around you laughs at some literary or philosophical reference you have no clue about. It’s daunting, and I admit, it feels somewhat defeating.

How will I ever be as smart as these people? How will I ever figure out how to move forward in the profession like the people around me have?

And I’m also surrounded by a rich, varied and lovely collection of writers and publishers. And the same thing happens: references to people or books I’m fully unaware of as the room titters away. Folks talking about issues author X faced and how they would deal with them. People who walk around the room blowing air kisses at one another’s cheeks and nattering about the old days as I stand against a wall because I know…no one. Do I introduce myself a bit? Sure. But even then I can see the person’s eyes looking past me as awkward pauses clearly indicate someone else would be pretend smooching his face and asking about his domestic details.

Am I really that uneducated? That unworldly? How do I possibly catch up when I don’t even know where to start? How do you enter a community of people in a professional environment when you’re just the unknown outsider? Will I ever become the respected go-to, or will I forever be the mediocre lackluster wall-leaner? At what point do you become less ‘upwardly bound professional’ and more ‘irritating boot-licker’? Why do I feel the need to be as good, to do as much, to be a horned and haloed whale too? Why do I feel inferior because I’m not?

At the moment, I feel like a pretender. I’ve built a facade with peeling paint and semi-transparent walls. Any minute, someone is going to figure out I’m just that dirty little city rat with delusions of being the noble stallion. I’m far, far outside my comfort zone, and wondering just how far I can go before realizing there’s no ground under me after all, and those watching were always shaking their heads, knowing I was never going to make it because I didn’t have any foundation under my dirty bare feet.

Song: Last to Know by Pink

Book: Difference and Repetition by Deleuze

 

Gender and Fictional Identification

It seems to me there is a greater spectrum allowed for male beauty than female. 

Two lead male characters, rivals for a girl’s love. One skinny, broody, one buff and open. One geeky with glasses, one sporty in tight shirts. Both considered handsome, both paragons of maleness, etc.

But women seem to be all of a similar shape–thin, fragile, breakable. Hair and eye color change, but body shape, not so much.

Do you identify with any particular characters in books or movies? If so, why? If not, why not? And if/when you write characters, does it help if you identify with them, or do you need some separation?

Song: A Thousand Years by Christina Perri

Book: On Not Knowing Greek by Virginia Woolf.

Life’s Reset Button

So, on another blog (Growing Up) someone commented that she feels like her life has been put on ‘reset’ and she’s trying to find a way back to herself.

And this has me thinking about my own reset moments.

I asked in yet another blog (What Would You Say) what you would tell someone about yourself if you were to tell them the most important things. Where would you start?

(Stay with me, I’m going to jump around a bit)

First, I’m still struggling with the introduction bits. How do you tell someone your history, the things that have made you, you? How do you fill them in on the daily minutiae of things that created you? That kitten you saved once, that woman who yelled at you on the street, that addict that made you cry when she held your hand, the guy you helped push his car in a blizzard? How do you reduce these moments, these minuscule anecdotes that rocked your world into something someone who doesn’t fundamentally know you can understand?

I can look back and see several ‘reset’ moments. Times when I was on the path I thought I should be on, only to be shunted off it like raw egg off a spoon, onto another and totally unexpected path. Getting sick at 18 changed my world forever. Falling in love with a girl as a teenager changed my world forever. Meeting S changed my world forever.

But there are a billion little ‘resets’ too. Deciding to move to a new city. The sudden idea to send a story to a contest and see what happens. The first time I saw my name in a book. Graduating.

I’m in the middle of a reset right now, at this very moment. Family I haven’t seen in 30 years are trying to get to know me (now you see where things are tying together) and I’m trying to figure out how to tell them things that matter, what matters, what doesn’t, and learning in general how to communicate. And I’m learning to ask questions, which is actually really hard for me to do, as I tend to respect others privacy to the point they think I’m not interested.

I’ve also lost my little part time work, which has shunted me onto a new path and made me wonder: can I make a living as a writer type? Can I teach workshops, edit, freelance and actually bring in money?

The answer to this seems to be yes, and it’s both thrilling and scary as I attempt to understand the parameters of this new reset. And in getting to know myself through trying to explain myself to others, the reset becomes both murkier and clearer. I realize I still have insecurities, and I realize how far I’ve come, and in articulating where I want to go, I gain a deeper understanding of my own passions and flaws.

Have you had reset moments? How did you deal with them?

Book: The Sea, The Sea by Virginia Wolfe

Song: All Good Things by Nelly Furtado

Blog: Bold Strokes Author Fest, UK (we’ve got some great writers blogging over there right now. Check them out!)

 

The Winds of Change Blowing Up My Skirt

I’m not really sure what to say. 

My emotions, my mind, my memories are all ajumble.

I’m doubting memories long held as fact, I’m developing new curiosities.

I’m afraid.

And I’m elated.

I’m releasing old hurts and hoping for new futures, even as I wonder if I may be rejected.

Is it okay to let yourself hope? Is it okay to let the past go and open yourself up?

Only a few years ago I would have said no. No, it’s not okay, it’s foolish, it’s irresponsible.

But it’s not a few years ago. It’s today. And tomorrow. And whatever years I have left.

And the person I become, and the company I keep, are mine to choose.

If I’m brave enough.

Wish me luck.

Book: The Locket and the Flintlock by Rebecca S Buck

Song: I’m Coming Home by Daughtry.

Blog: A Stranger in this Place by Wendi Kali