the problem with being trans is cis people. The problem with being queer is straight people. The problem with being disabled is abled people. The problem with being Black is white people. In other words, prejudice.
…except when it’s not. But when it’s going well, oh my, oh my, those days or moments are worth their weight in lightbulbs. Talk about illuminating your way forward.
How’s your writing going? It’s a terrifically hard month to write because of all the distractions and interruptions. I manage less well in August than any other month. My garden, though, even at its worst, is a paradise of calm, a true oasis of scented beauty, and this is what this month has been for me creatively this year, as well (yes, despite the gruesome news cycles including the attack on author Salmon Rushdie. May he live on), calm inside the storm. You know what that’s like, right? The way forward announces itself to you and off you go, chasing it like the rainbow it is.
Good luck to you in August, creators. I love how the days stretch and morph. Don’t forget to smell the martini as you drift by.
Hard to be enthusiastic these days. No matter how hard I push to keep up, I seem to fall farther and farther behind. I haven’t snapped back from June surgery the way I should have yet. I’m dragging myself from event to event, and because I haven’t felt this much fatigue in a good while, I’m going to go out on a limb and call this a flare. In any case, nothing personally catastrophic is happening in my life so I’m going with that! Very concerned about the general conditions in the world (is this the beginning of dystopia? Is Cdn healthcare going to be gone in six months, once mpx hits hospitals hard? Is war going to ever stop? Where are the vaccines? Anne Heche! Etc etc. I find myself thinking about the kiddos from Uvalde, both the victims and the survivors, a fair deal). What are we doing to ourselves? What are we doing to our world/our globe?
As for writing, it’s going well. I finally had my book printed the other day (I thought I’d changed the font size but I had not, so it’s all printed in 18 pt, what a waste of paper) so that in case the web goes down permanently, I have a copy of sorts (of sorts). I made a chart of what’s happening in each chunk so I can keep track. I’m beginning to “read” it though I’ve never been good at reading my own work. I work on it as I go instead. Not very far into it yet.
Meantime, the enormous project of getting some artwork on paper ready for my new website has concluded! Hurrah! Now to build the site!
Not at all looking forward to this week. It has some challenging pieces to it.
Hope your week is looking fabulous. Have a good one!
What do I have to say for myself this week? I last saw humans Tues when the family (daughter and kiddos) dropped by to give me berries and peas from the market. Otherwise, I have been head down, working hard, and sometimes fighting sickness. (Was quite ill at points, unknown cause.)
Every boiling day I’ve been managing to get a snippet of gardening down. Can’t ignore watering during heat waves, alas, and that’s my least favourite thing to have to keep up with every day. Otherwise, it’s time for the Shirley poppies to go. I’ve been waiting for them to go to seed first. Now the seed’s collected and away their brittle brown corpses can go, down the hillside. I’ve lost the young man who did an astonishing good job cutting my grass (to a job!), so I’m trying to at least weed-eat the dandelions before they seed, though the battery isn’t properly charging so this is tedious. Otherwise working on the already seeded weeds. How did I let them get this bad? A question I ask every summer.
Since I don’t go to the nurseries (covid, inaccessibility), I don’t have my usual filler annuals. It is already looking very brown out there and once it’s clean, I imagine that will be far worse. I’m trying to be chill about it.
I’m controlling the heat in here by keeping curtains drawn most of the day and then, when they’re open placing fan in front of open door facing house, with bowl of ice, to cool the place in the evening. The heat spell is said to be about to break. I’ll be glad.
Have barely painted, and I just don’t know what to say about the mess I’m making of this memoir, so I won’t say anything. Working hard when I can on getting images of paintings sorted, named, measured and web-res’d to go up on my new painting site.
Hope your weeks as summer ends are good ones, with satisfying connections and summer play. Tonight I’m taking the girls to see (swim in possibly) phosphorescence (masked in my Flo Mask, of course)!
…and have a lot of medical appts to wade through, it never happens that I can clear my schedule for a week. It seems baggy and luxurious, like an emotional space I can fit into for once.
Moving has never really been as bad as now, since if you don’t find a place before you to have leave, there’s literally nowhere to go. Not for the wealthy, I know, but for we serfs.
So, I had a week where I could cancel a couple last things and just feel the space around me. I motored through a partial draft of my memoir having no idea if I was hitting the right direction or losing it even more entirely than I had in the draft where that was allowed. I’d laugh except the daunting task of reading this one-third book has not happened yet. I dread finding out it doesn’t work, again.
What are you writing this week? Are you getting through in a project that’s been giving you pain? Any successes to report?
…that I am no further along in unlocking the mystery (infrastructure) of this memoir than I was seven days ago, and not for lack of trying. It’s me that’s my impediment. I would give a lot, some days, to be a different writer with different skills, though then I’d likely pine for my original skills, right?
How are all y’all doing? It’s difficult with BA.5 on the romp, I know, since it’s our most infectious variant yet, and transmissible even outside–and how we want to be maskless outdoors! I suspect everything will worsen until governments realize the “let ‘er rip” plan is ruining lives, creating mass disability, wrecking the economy from record numbers of days-of-work lost, and put back in effective measures and education programs. We must protect ourselves from dirty air just the way we protect our water. We must get serious about cleaning our air!
Hope you manage to have safe and good weeks, folks.
I’m hard into composition this week, trying to crack open a roadmap to the memoir, here at the (perpetual?) start to draft 3, which is really going to be the third-go at a draft 1. Once I get that infrastructure and feel it’s working, I think I’ll feel released, but I’m not there yet. I was reading this morning about research that confirms that autistic brains are 42% more active than NT brains, and this doesn’t surprise me. But how to capitalize this extra brain power to create a work that is readable, compelling and fresh?
Are you an autistic writer? How does this work for your brain? I find I’m all about complicating things unnecessarily, because the *entire* story must be told. Which isn’t what a book needs, of course.
It’s not summer here yet. We had a few nice days, even a 3-day “heat wave” I barely noticed, but today was just as chilly and rainy as winter. Good thing, though, really. I might have had to resort to watering for the first time. The maple trees are down with powdery mildew. The roses toss in their yearly extravaganza. The clematis beam their flat-petalled joy. The delphs are stunning, rising in their blue and purple spires.
The stories re: Roe v Wade are dunning. This sadistic ruling by the so-called Supremes in the US will push us toward fascism faster than any other single decision. Already a child has been refused an abortion following rape (any sex with a child is rape) and forced into another state. States are planning to let ectopic pregnancies or incomplete pregnancies end in death. It’s becoming illegal to cross state lines. Bounty hunters are being let loose.
They’ve wrecked themselves, of course.
I had a hard lesson to learn this week about ethics, or the lack thereof.
And day surgery, from which I am trying to recover.
My hope for you this week is that you grab rays of hope wherever you can.
How could this week be about anything but the erasure of of half the US population’s bodily autonomy, and how the populace is angry, rattled and terrified for their own and others’ futures, including their children’s?
I’ve been around long enough that I was a teen before restrictions on abortions began to ease in Canada, replaced by a Draconian system where someone had to petition three (white male) doctors and say they’d kill themselves, and then their “case” would go before a hospital board. Needless to say, all these stalling tactics often meant second trimester abortions, through no delay on the pregnant person’s part. Later, Canada repealed this dangerous nonsense, and we now have no law at all. Abortion is provided piecemeal by hospital boards–or often not. In my opinion, our right to it needs to be codified by legislation and enshrined by our Supreme Court. The legislature could ask questions of the court to make this happen.
Canada too has taken and is taking a frightening turn to fascism. We need to be alert and wary and start fighting back–hard–against misinformation and lies propagated by the right. People are, as we’ve seen during the pandemic, repulsively swayable toward doing to wrong thing.
This week we writers are sharpening our pens so they can do double-duty as alphabet-daggers. I send heartfelt warmth and wishes for safety to the USians dealing with this appalling situation. It’s a little like sending throughts and prayers after a school shooting–useless–but so it’s on the record: I will always support your fight for justice.
I knew diverse representation in publishing was bad, but I didn’t understand quite how bad it really was until authors divulged their advances on twitter’s #whatpublishingpaidme thread a couple years back. Even to me, who absolutely expected evidence of racism, homphobia, transphobia and ableism, it was a shock how publishing advances often had nothing to do with prior publishing success and a whole lot more to do with whether or not the author was white, able-bodied, straight and cis, and, often (still), male.
The red carpet rolls out for those folks, and not so much for the rest of us. I do maintain that most agents and publishers give lip service to wanting diverse books and authors, but in actuality they really only want to want them. They used to tell us that our stories were overloaded by the addition of queer characters and they’d suggest the protagonists be straight so as not to distract from the storyline, but now they say there’s just not an audience. What they really mean by that is that they’re not willing to give a good advance to work they’re not personally interested in, nor go to the trouble and expense of finding the book’s enthusiastic market.
I’m sick of it. It’s lasted all my literary career. All of it, over 35 years of it. You don’t know my books because of this discrimination, and that is true for thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of other artists as well.
If you build it, to quote WP Kinsella, they will come.
…didn’t enjoy people and had a writing hut to which he could escape. Lots of writers do. But the special thing about his is that it was on a Lazy Susan, which rotated? Too much sun? Rotate. Too much shade? Rotate. “London,” he called it, so that when someone telephoned, they could be told that Mr Shaw was in London.
I use it and I value it, though even after years, I don’t understand it completely nor use it efficiently. I do love it, though, for the ease of bringing up alternate versions of the ms I’m working on, or other chapters, or research notes. Toggling through is intuitive in a way that Word just isn’t.
I’ve never used it to organize a poetry collection, but I think it would be useful. What do you think? Have you ever tried it for poetry?
I am not a fan of author Lionel Shriver’s grim and condescending attitude toward other writers, whom she dismisses for their concerns about appropriation, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend her masterpiece “We Need to Talk About Kevin” a novel told from the multiple perspectives of the family of a school murderer as the go-to read for understanding mass murder. (There was a movie, but it was ghastly.)
I was touched by the President and First Lady visiting the makeshift monument set up in Uvalde. I thought about what it would have been like if the person in charge had been the former guy, instead. Well, we know, don’t we, from the NRA convention this week where he appeared, saying nothing at all about the 19 kids who died, the teachers who were slaughtered, the many, many injured people (38 were shot), or the vast problem of gun ownership and the second amendment in the USA.
I don’t live in the US, but I used to. Did you know there’s no other country in the world that lets these kind of mass murders transpire? “The USA has had 2,032 school shootings since 1970.” Just by way of example, Canada has had two. Do I feel smug, safe, superior? Not at all, because we see mass murders here too, and conservative govts uniquely try to curtail gun restrictions in Canada. But, but … no right to bear arms exists, thank gawd.
I mourn the people killed in Buffalo, near where I grew up. I mourn the people killed in Uvalde. My heart goes out to loved ones. The revolting, cowardly (and racist?) behaviour of the police in Uvalde will never stop hurting. What parent can’t imagine themselves being harassed, tazed, handcuffed and prevented from trying to save your child?
Here are their names. Honour our babies. Say them aloud.
What Do Writing a Novel and Tending a Garden Have In Common? by Naheed Phiroze Patel
I can’t think of a better metaphor for writing than gardening. All the work one has to do outside–cleaning the debris from last year, tilling the soil, planting, waiting for germination, waiting for plants to grow and bloom/produce. Every year, if we have them, we side-eye our gardens thinking about what can be done better next time. What should be moved, and where? Editing, editing, editing.
We’re never truly satisfied, and so it is with our books as we coddle them through draft after draft, nudging them closer to fruition.
Every reader contemplates this; every memoir writer agonizes about this. We understand the research on how flawed memories can be, and we have to balance this out with our worry about accurate representation. We want it. We go hunting for it. We put ourselves into trances, or pick up writing exercises to prod what’s stuck in our grey matter so that it burbles again to the surface.
Is what we say accurate? If we’re twenty years from the events? If we’re fifty years from the events? More? We surely hope so. Even if the other people in the scene are dead, we hope and pray we are not distorting events as we recall them.
Recently on twitter, a thread appeared where (mostly) readers discussed just this, and their consensus seemed to be that memoirists could never reproduce dialogue accurately and should therefore leave it out.
I don’t concur. Those who’ve read my memoir “No More Hurt” can see that I want to take the reader into my experience as I lived in. How else to impart the true flavour? In my case, as an autistic person, I have an excellent memory for dialogue–it’s one of those things that sticks. Yet I’m sure people would argue that some of the dialogue isn’t accurate, because I still took what resonated with me and others took what resonated with them away and store it into memory. Picking and choosing illuminating bits even in the moment.
Sometimes writers include notes about what they’ve done in regards to these matters, and one of these I’ve recently seen is writer Maryann Aita’s frontispiece to “Little Astronaut: A Memoir in Essays,” shared with her permission.
A Note on Truth, by Maryann Aita
“Most names in this book have been changed, and some identifying details adjusted to protect people’s privacy as much as I can without losing story. Dialogue, dates, and the narrative arc of events in my life may not be precise because I am not a computer. These are pieced together from my memories, which may be different than the memories of my family members. But memory is all we have to build the foundation of ourselves; it is possible for multiple truths to exist at once. I’ve done my best to capture my emotional truth, which may mean I remember rain on a sunny day. A weather report could prove me wrong, but if I was crying, isn’t it still a kind of truth?
“Since writing this book, I’ve learned my sister remembers being diagnosed with anorexia at 13. She also told me she was probably restricting her eating before then. I, however, remember learning about it when I was eight, and she was 15. Memory is deeply fallible. My memory is probably inaccurate. Her memory could be as well. Every time we recall something, even in our own minds, it changes. The facts of memory are not equivalent to truth. I’ve decided to keep these details as I remember because they are my truth.”
People will know me as half American in my heart, since I was once a permanent resident there, and that’s where I went to university and learned about literature. Watching the Supreme Court steal rights from half the population in the leaked draft decision overturning Roe, and reading their appalling and ludicrous basis for the decision (citing a dude who burned witches at the stake? saying we owe the country an increase in adoptable babies?) has been soul-crushing, and while I am worried and anxious about climate change, about the war and its deathly abuses, about violence against women and children, about justice, about transphobia and homophobia, about ableism, about racism, about the young people and children of today who need to be able to find homes, I am freaked the eff out about what’s happening. Yes, I can trace the white bread crumbs back to the seventies and see the GOP’s long-game, and I know the GOP is where grown-up bullies go to toy with new victims, but even so the sadism of this surprises me.
I grew up during the times of back alley abortions, which thankfully had mostly vanished by the time I was a late teen. Still, even then, abortion was only legal if the health of the mother was threatened, which wasn’t good enough. Three doctors (white men) had to agree and then the matter went before a hospital board.
And nor do I think Canada’s position on abortion, modernized since then so that we have no law at all, is by any means secure. It only allowed the right-wing to take over hospital boards, who rule access, and remove it where they can. Even while abortion remains legal, access continually dwindles and the threat of violence against people seeking procedures remains heightened.
We live in perilous times. But I always stop to remember that if you are Indigenous or Black or Latinx or Asian you have always lived in perilous times. Maternal deaths from childbirth in Black communities are high. In Canada, on the regular and in current times, Indigenous babies are ripped from parental arms for no reason beyond racism.
That supply of adoptable babies, again.
So, yes, I have been writing, and, yes, I have been painting, and, yes, I have been spring cleaning, but more I’ve been staving off depression because I cannot bear what’s happening.
I hope you’re doing a fair sight better than I am.
Pretty astonishing to get a first final draft of my 2011 novel done this week! That makes eleven years on this one, though indeed most of that time was not spent on much beyond ignoring it. It did go through 7 or 8 drafts to get here. Wooee! I really enjoyed the process this week, though the hours were grueling and my life fell to wrack and ruin while I engaged with it. Now it’s time to do all.the.things, like work on query letter, synopsis, chapter synopsis, and getting blurbs, maybe. Seeing about hiring an agent. It’s strange to me to be unagented since I almost always have an agent, which does make the submission process possible.
Anyone craving a psychological thriller with a queer disabled ornithologist as protagonist?
I keep thinking of all the populations hungry for TV, movies, and books with disability, infertility and IPV rolled up into one. Publishers always say, “Oh, we just don’t have a market for this.” But that’s only because they prefer not to develop the audience for whatever reasons. $, homophobia they don’t understand they have, ableism they are ignorant to, etc.
It’s time for us to shine, publishers. Let us. Help us.
There’s been a lot of chatter on twitter about whether it’s okay to include dialogue in cnf. Some people have great recall for dialogue, some perfect. I have better than usual, myself, because of my face blindness. Ask me 30 seconds after seeing someone what they looked like or what they were wearing, and I generally couldn’t tell you, but ask me what someone said? Yes, I have excellent recall. Speech contains a lot of unspoken language, too, or sub-text, ones the speaker may not even be aware they’re using. Dialogue develops character in ways no other convention does. In my opinion, memoirs will suffer if there isn’t dialogue that is faithful to the emotional truth of the original convo.
Here is the start of a twitter thread you can search to join the discussion:
When I was a kid, I knew where the Easter bunny lived, beside our garage where there was a round grass circle in a clearning near some pine trees. I’d sit out there for what felt like hours Easter week, trying to trick her with my silence into appearing, hoping she’d feel safe and understand I only wanted to be her friend. I could almost see her in my mind’s eye. She was taller than I was, but not by a lot. She had pink pads on her strong feet. She wore a gay Easter bonnet.
Easter was a thrill when I was a kid because *chocolate.* We’d awaken to a garish basket with a solid chocolate bunny. We had to decide, for this sugary breakfast, whether we’d eat the rabbit’s ears first, or her nose, whether chocolate bunnies could still hear or smell if we did that. Eventually, days later, the rabbit would be eaten down to its legs and there would be just a solid mass of not-terrific chocolate left.
My mother, who was exceptionally bad at most things, was exceptionally good with holidays. When we were little, she roped string from room to room and floor to floor of our house and at each place, there’d be a couple tiny chocolate eggs. We’d roam from the attic to the basement and back up to one of the bedrooms. When we got a little older, she made riddles out of clues. I can’t remember what was at the end of the hunt–perhaps some of those teeny tiny pink, blue and yellow fluffy chicks?
I liked the colours of Easter after the sere winter. I kept up my mother’s rituals in a toned-down way when my girls were little, and their mother does the same now.
What about you? Do you feel left out by days off work for this holiday but not for yours? Or do you, like this atheist, feel a little lift because of the happy Easter colours? The days are lengthening and the garden never needs watering, and that makes me happy. I got my beds prepped early this year, and the peas in, but the rabbits have been eating the tips as they come up, making me realize I’ll need seedlings.
It’s sure chilly where I live in the PNW. The daffodils love it and extend their blooming, but I think all the humans are just ready for some warmth at last!
My life just got eclipsed by medical concerns last week, so if I was meant to get back to you and didn’t, that’s why. Scrambling to catch up. A lot is uncertain in my life just now so please send your good wishes my way.
Meantime, I’ve been trying to teach myself how to paint florals. Clearly not something I can pick up quickly. I admire the skills, but it will be a long time before I can join good artists at this. Still, I do feel the urge to celebrate the floral urgency outside.
I’ve been taking notes re: my memoir (aka current wip), but haven’t had a chance to sit down with it yet. How has writing been going for you? Today I was on zoom with the g-babies (7 and 5) practicing their writing, only my audio was out, and instead of helping them write a story they came up with, as planned, I had to make one up on the spot that they could copy. I know the older one, at least, was very proud of herself when she was done. The younger one just wanted to move on to art, where she feels most competent.
Happy Sunday! It’s a chilly, rainy day where I am, but just outside my window, the first of the clematis armandii are beginning to open. If it were a dry dry, there might be enough of them open at dusk to send out their redolence, which always makes me swoon.
The young lilacs are still sulking but the one I cherish, which has darker blooms, has come into its own finally! I am going to dig up a sucker and replant that hoping for a new plant but in a pot.
Today I am thinking about grants in Canada. The subsistence level is stuck at only $2000/month. One is supposed to devote oneself to the grant, but no one can support themselves on $24,000/year any longer in this country. That’s a studio apt or, if really lucky, a 1-bedroom apartment in Vancouver (and certainly where I live), and that doesn’t even begin to factor in hydro, gas, phone/s, cable, taxes, food, gas or car repairs/bus passes. So if all a recipient can do is worry how they’re going to manage, they’re not able to concentrate on the matters at hand–creating their art.
This means that anyone trying to live on the amount of a grant as their only income is SOL. It’s not possible. Which then implies that most grants are going to wealthier people who aren’t depending on them to get through their month. What I mean is these folks must have other money like investments or a partner’s income to rely on, which means by not increasing these subsistence amounts Canada is guaranteeing a problem with equal access for all.
I’m saying it here first: Grant subsistence amounts need to double, but fast.