Eaton Hamilton

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.

Tag: Eaton Hamilton

Diversity in authors and subject matter

painting by: Eaton Hamilton 2020; woman in wheelchair

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.

Here’s The Guardian discussing diversity in publishing lately:
Changing the narrative on disability: is representation in books getting better? by Lucy Webster

and here they are, recently, discussing senstivity readers:

Stop moaning about sensitivity readers – if there was diversity in publishing we wouldn’t need them, by Juno Dawson

Scrivener

Scrivener system software

Who uses this program? Who values it?

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?

What do you use it for?

In the Green Sublime

My Garden with Poppies 2020; photo: Eaton Hamilton

What Do Writing a Novel and Tending a Garden Have In Common? by Naheed Phiroze Patel

at LitHub.

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.


Memoir–how much truth is the truth?

Salvadore Dali: The Persistence of Memory

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.”

 

Roe, Roe, Roe Your Boat Safely Down the Stream?

painting by: Eaton Hamilton 2022, acrylic on acrylic paper

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.

Phew, that’s finished…

artwork by Eaton Hamilton 2020

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.

CNF–dialogue, or no?

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:

It’s such a hard time in the world

painting: Eaton Hamilton 2022, 9×12″ acrylic on acrylic paper. For sale.

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.

All cheer and good wishes from my house to yours.

Hello, everybody!

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.

Grants in Canada

sketch: Eaton Hamilton, some years ago

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.

This week

drawing by: Eaton Hamilton

My kid had a birthday and took her children snowboarding for their first time–lucky ducks. They both loved it, and staying overnight at a hotel, too. The older child, 7, has fallen for independent reading in the worst way, doing exactly what both her mom and I did as kids, walking around with her book clutched in her hands, not willing to exit the story long enough to eat or interact.

I find that thrilling, I think because reading’s always been such a joy for me as well. “She reads a book a night,” her mom said, so I asked how she manages to keep up with the demand. “The library.”

Me, I’ve finished prepping the garden beds for spring thanks to a lovely sunny day yesterday, which thrills me except I’m so stiff I can no longer walk. So good to dig my hands into the loam. I swear I’m hungry for this by March, but the earth is usually too damned cold. Not this year where I live and love.

Next for power washing and a dump run and the outside will be in tip top shape. I moved my canvases from inside to the storage shed, where they’re set up with a dehumidifier. Glad that’s done. Next step is moving inside, where I will declutter, de-spider-web, and give the place a good going over. That should take some weeks.

Spring cleaning. Or should I say accounting avoidance?

I just got buzzed by a hummer telling me it’s time to change the nectar in the feeders–quite rightly. They know. So the new nectar is cooling in the measuring cup on the stove.

I have to create a grant application in the next couple weeks. I was trying to come up with a name for the new project and I realized I’d thought up a great title for a book a couple weeks ago and noted it down. I was wondering what the scope of the project should be–its defining scaffolding, if you will–and I went in search of that book title. There it was, not just the title, but as soon as I read the title again, the book itself announced itself, its range, tip to toe, where it begins and where it ends.

Also relieving.

I got a cheque for royalties for my old memoir, too. Good to know it’s still selling!

How are things down your way, here on the spring equinox, when days and nights are the same lengths? At least at this time of year we have the beautiful resurgence of spring. The first cherry blossoms here where I live are popping! They are perhaps my all-time favourite and most cheering sight.

I hope you see them where you are and I hope they give you hope and forebearance.

What would you like to learn about writing?

painting by: Eaton Hamilton 2021

I was wondering what to write today, and I wondered if there are followers here who’d like me to speak about some aspects of being an author? I have the best advice for writing blocks! I was plagued by them for decades until I figured out that having multiple pieces in-progress at once works well to overcome them. You run into a block on one piece, you just move to another. If you have, say, five going along, waiting for your attention, just the fact that they need you seems to be an impetus to get moving on them.

Try it. Work this way for a month or so and then tell me what you think. Do you have questions about it?

What else would you like to talk about, here?

This week, the author Sonya Huber posted a great essay on LitHub, “The Three Words That Almost Ruined Me As a Writer: ‘Show, Don’t Tell’” You know those words if you’ve been around writing instructors–including me–at any time. I think they’re valuable but, as Sonya points out, they’ve become way too prescriptive. She also notes that part of that instruction is “don’t tell” which as we know is what every victim of violence has heard again and again, to her harm.

It’s late…

It’s late at night. I made Colombian coconut rice tonight. I mention that only to bring up the fact that I’ve been writing about Colombia of late in my memoir, which of course reminded me of the delicate rice and generally how amazing Cartagena was. But it also reminded me of attending three bullfights when I was fifteen, which sent me down more than one research foxhole to make sure I was getting the sequences and names correct. I read part of Hemingway’s “Death in the Afternoon” and his “The Sun Also Rises.” I had to really firm myself up to re-enter that world, but, generally, the behaviour around animals in my childhood was not exemplary, and I’d seen gore long before I ever saw my first bullfight. As an autistic person, it often takes me a long time to absorb things and understand how I feel about them and this was true in the bull ring, too.

One night in Colombia, I was out walking along a beach with a boy and the power went out in the city. For a few minutes until it was restored, life was what it always should be. Mystical, expansive, full of stale light from the stars and wonder.

I hope in your life that you have moments like that, despite everything.

January holds twelve months

painting by Eaton Hamilton 2022

Anyone else feeling the pinch of the longest month of the year? God, it drags. Never sure I’m ready, though, for how life escalates after February until, by April, it feels like a race. Not sure it’s possible to get back the feeling of endless summers I had when I was a kid (“Mo-oo-om, what’s there to do?”).

But I appreciate all the garden changes–the buds, the bulbs shooting up, the snowdrops, the crocuses blooming. The idea of clean-up. Getting compost on the beds after being indoors all winter.

I’m not able to work efficiently at this time because of health issues keeping work at bay, but I’m able to work steadily, a little at a time, without taking any days off–what would I do with them? I’m in lockdown–and bits accrue, they do. Up to about 35,000 words in the memoir-in-progress now, looking to March as a possibility for finishing the first draft, leaving me a few months for hopefully making my way through two more drafts.

All very pie-in-the-sky hopes at the moment. But, dream big.

Dream with me, won’t you? Pick a dream and let’s dream it with me in Feb and March. I’ll dream that I’m somehow able to stay in my house another year and with that dream get a dependable car.

Hello, folks, from the middle of January

Eaton Hamilton 2021

We’ve had a nastiness of snow where I live and rotten temps that finally, in their last hurrah, killed all the hummingbirds. Or they went back to where they came from. Maybe the latter. I like to think the latter, since I only had 4 or 5 when the cold hit, and suddenly there were 20-30, what with my feeders. In any case, there are hummers here again, but not the juveniles. Haven’t seen them again. I am not sad that I don’t have to do the constant thaw and freeze, bring in, hair dryer, take out routine any longer.

January has been a bugger for covid. Governments are now routinely behaving badly–letting their populaces fend for themselves in a pandemic, figuring they’ll only deal with hospitalized patients when they have to (and maybe no one with pre-existing conditions? Yes, I’m outing you, hospital personnel, triaging out a constitutionally-protected group of people.) I rant about government lack on twitter, where you can follow this.

If it’s art you’re after, try @hamiltonart1000 on IG. Posting daily!

I’ve had a dear beloved down with covid the last couple weeks, and kiddos back at school without effective mitigation, and so many friends with covid I can’t count, and friends worried about their little ones. None of us will come through this psychologically unscathed, I don’t believe, even if we manage to miss getting long covid.

My writing is going okay. It’s the first time I’ve written a book without regulating my output (2000 words/day, 1000 words/day, poem a day etc). I thought it would be dangerous. I just write when I want to; what I’m finding is that if I can make myself start, and stick to it for about two hours, the rest will flow pretty easily and I can put in a good six hours or so before I conk out.

I hope you are managing out there in these tough times. I wish you the easing of your burdens.

Scary times

oil stick painting by Eaton Hamilton 2018-2022

Omicron is raging and where I live, kids are going back to K-12 tomorrow without the proper mitigations to keep them safe. No HEPA filters, no CO2 monitors in every class, no N95 masks. It’s terrifying. At most, only partial vaccination status. Teachers too without N95s. I wish every one of them well.

Did I say I turfed my essay collection in Dec and decided to re-jig and re-write as a typical linear memoir? I’ve had a month with it now, and while I’ve had major health problems during this time, I manage to sit with the ms, now about 20K words, most days for at least a little while. That’s one of the benefits of being on perpetual lockdown, I guess, and it’s important to find satisfaction in that ugly situation where you can. So that’s me. Always a dollar short and a day late, but struggling along, doing my best.

I continue to be passionate about advocacy work and educating others about ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fat phobia and violence against women/enbies and children. I put a lot of time into twitter these days trying to undo some of the damage of government covid policies. BC is off the rails. I can’t get BC back on, but I can link to some of the people whose work very well could.

A new year, a whole new world?

painting: Eaton Hamilton, 2020

Happy new year, everyone! It’s been a rocky holiday season for me, busy as I was having a PET scan in the omicron soup of Victoria, BC, and waiting waiting waiting for results. Meantime, with family just up the road, I stayed in lockdown. Been painting. Been working on my memoir. Been watching TV. Been switching out hummingbird feeders during out sub-zero weather and snow dumps. One feeder belched nectar and the hummers stuck to the perches and had to tear feathers, and, I presume, skin off to get free, even as it was -12C. After I realized what had happened, I was able to improve this for the future by bringing feeders in and running water over the perches. But it’s been a struggle, made partly so by the birds’ extreme aggression. At the start, I’d guess I had 20-30 birds here; by the end, I was only seeing maybe five. There were new fledglings, too, and surprisingly, they seemed to manage better than the adults because they weren’t scared of unknown feeders and fed well. Now that it’s warmer, I haven’t seen the littles again.

Best wishes as we move a bit further into January and more inane, ineffective mitigation policies from what is supposedly Public Health. Happy creating! It helps, being creative. It takes the edge of fury off about all the unnecessary suffering.

It’s been a great writing week; how about you?

painting by: Eaton Hamilton 2021; middle-aged Gertrude Stein

I don’t know if I mentioned this, but halfway through my memoir writing time, I decided to punt the book and start over. Something had been niggling at me for months, and that something was suggesting it wasn’t working. It finally barrelled to the front of my brain and I began over. I frequently do this with books, which is why I’ve written 3x more than I’ve tried to have published. I already have 10K words done. This week could be a washout, though, due to other challenges.

I hope your holidays were good ones. I don’t really celebrate Christmas, but this year is snowy and desperately cold and I’m certainly watching the weather, at least and hoping the power doesn’t go out. The wind just came up, one of the forecast gusts, I guess. Most of my time seems to be used bringing in hummingbird feeders to blow-dry them into thaw before setting them back out. The hummers–must be 20-30, all squabbling–are desperate.

As always you can follow daily paintings on IG at hamiltonart1000 and also join my Patreon for weekly chats on writing and painting (Hamilton Art)!

The holidays

painting: Eaton Hamilton 2018

We are swiftly approaching the shortest day of the year, but, today, everything where I live feels springlike and I feel that awkward-in-December urge to get out and start spring cleanup. Summer roses near the warmth of the house are still blooming. The hummingbirds asked for a change of nectar (they come hover in front of my face when they need my services), which I provided. They are feeling gay and glorious and I think their instincts may be turning them toward nest-building. We’ll see. I hope they hold off. I hope I do.

I had one of those burning bush moments last night, an epiphany about the structure of my work-in-progress. These work epiphanies are double-sided: fabulous because hello, solution; difficult because it means a ton of work ahead, right? I got out of bed to go retrieve my computer and set things up on Scrivener so I’d have a scaffolding to follow in the morning if the idea held water.

It held water.

This week

Painting: Eaton Hamilton 2021 (appeared at Guernica)

This week BC had catastrophic rains following just on the heels of another catastrophic fire season and heat dome. Things are in a bad way, with thousands upon thousands of animals dead, a state of emergency declared, and many roadways and highways washed out amidst flooding and washouts. Wishing everyone the very best with this new challenge. I’m sorry for your losses and your sorrows. Help victims here:

Times Colonist info

This week, too, of course, was the XX acquittal in the US. I can’t say the murderer’s name, but you know who I mean. I ached for the families in the courtroom as the verdicts were delivered and just as much for what this means for the safety of social justice workers and racial minorities protesting on US streets. As always, you can donate to the ACLU, who work to keep you safe.

The good news is that we now have vaccines for 5-11 year olds in Canada. This is a relief. Despite my own vax status (x2), I have medical problems that mean I need to avoid the people I most want in my life, but when they’re flu and covid vaxxed, I’ll be able to resume our relationships.

On the creative side of things, I continue to show visual art daily on Instagram at hamiltonart1000! I hope you’ll visit and drop me a line; if you fall in love with a painting, do inquire about its availability! You can also support me on Patreon at Hamilton Art.

In the writing world, it’s award-season and I’d like to congratulate all the long-listed and short-listed authors, and the winners (!), and urge readers to remember those who weren’t on the lists–their books are still terrific! Me, I’m working on difficult essays and those remain difficult to find forms to fit them. Still, I work on them every day. I’m working, in particular, on an essay about homelessness and another about autism.

I hope you are doing okay. I find it harder to be doing okay the longer the pandemic lasts. Many gov’ts, including BCs, seem to have decided not to battle hard against covid any longer, declaring it as a preventable illness (say what now?) and endemic. Good luck to you navigating through your week. I wish you all the best.

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