Eaton Hamilton

Has anyone considered the astonishing idea of blaming the abuse on the abuser?

Tag: writing

Memoir Monday features ‘Benzo Mama’

Mother and Child: Eaton Hamilton

Memoir Monday‘s weekly newsletter and a quarterly reading series, brought to you by NarrativelyThe RumpusCatapultGrantaGuernica, and Literary Hub. Each personal essay in this newsletter has been selected by the editors at the above publications as the best of the week, delivered to you all in one place. 

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Best American Essays 2021 Notable!

A page from the 2021 Best American Essays Notables, with my deadname

Well, well, well. I came home from my kid’s house tonight to the news on twitter that my essay “The Dead Green Man,” which won Event Magazine’s cnf contest last year, is a Notable in this year’s Best American Essays, ed Kathryn Schulz. Thank you to Robert Atwan, series editor, who is the magician who makes these things happen (or so I assume)!

I should mention that this essay doesn’t appear online, so to get a copy you’d need to contact Event Magazine in BC, Canada.

I didn’t imagine this essay had a chance of being a Notable, because it’s an essay looking at guns from a Canadian’s perspective, which I thought would read as pretty naive from the US experience.

After I heard the news, I ate a late dinner I’d cooked earlier and rubbed spicy bbq sauce in my eye. Thank you very much, life, for keeping me waaaaaaay humble.

[As a point of interest for those curious, it’s really, *really* hard to see this with my deadname.]

Mid-June and it’s lovely here

art by Hamilton

This week, I did some preliminary work toward registering my legal name change to Eaton Hamilton. The lovely folks at Rise Marketing changed the name of this blog for me (thank you, thank you). I changed my driver’s license and BC Medical, along with my Services BC card and a credit card. I ordered a birth certificate because some places need two pieces of ID (I thought my license would be one of them). It’s obviously going to be an expensive, drawn-out process with many complications along the way, but in any case, I’m happy it’s underway.

Hopefully, my many publishers will take note and in any instances where possible, change over my short work or books (when new eds come out, say). That would be appreciated.

Some of you may know I’m writing a book of poetry these days, alongside a memoir-in-essays. I’m one of the strange creatures who has to work on multiple projects at a time (I direct sustained focus as needed). I’ve been trying to write an essay this week, but I’m running into creative roadblocks. By that I mean stylistic problems I haven’t been able to resolve. I’m not sure if they stem from content concerns or something else, but my voice has abandoned me. Does that happen to you, that you lose your voice? When I sit down with an intention toward a work, and yet it doesn’t come, I swear it feels like my mouth is falling open and closed without sound, like every time I’ve ever been silenced by another person.

Wish me luck. I still need to write it!

How are you doing these days? Me, I’m bloody nervous about BC opening when people only have their first dose of vaccine and the Delta variant is taking root. I’m a fan of zero covid and I hate the government taking such risks with our lives. Me, I’m staying home as much as is possible; not the summer of seeing friends and family. Not for me, anyhow.

Covid snags and other tidbits

Most of you know I’ve changed my name to align with my gender identity. (More about that here.) For several years, I concluded that it would simply be too hard to change my writing name to the name I now go by, which is Hamilton, but during lockdown the idea of not being genuine enough, and having to still deal with a girl’s name, to see it associated with me, really began to weigh on me, and I proceeded with a legal name change to Eaton Hamilton.

So welcome to the new, old me. The whole name thing bugged me from the earliest dates I can remember. You wouldn’t think “Jane” was a name people with which people would tease you, but you’d be wrong. I hated my last name too. When I was a kid, there was a TV show called Mr McGoo, with an addled senior in the main role, so having the name “McKee” was fair game on the playground. Now of course I understand it wasn’t really the names they were picking on, but the person they saw as different and flawed, but it still humiliated me, so I hated it too, and changed my surname to my mother’s natal name when she reverted after divorce.

I’d rather chase a female lineage anyhow, even if it does peter out mere generations back.

Happy almost spring! We got through this blighted winter. I wonder what the covid world holds in store for us in the next season. I only leave the house about once every six weeks, and unless something is emergent, I don’t partake. I hope to hell it’s more positive.

Hearts

ID: Candy hearts with romantic sayings on them like “My Hero” or “Only You”

Valentine’s Day week is a good week to post a story with the title Hearts, isn’t it? It was published by the fine The Sun Magazine in 1993, almost thirty years ago. When they published me a second time, I didn’t actually recall having been published there the first time because, at the time, I was in a new relationship and I’d just quit smoking. I was slammed alternately between limerance and a sucking depression. I probably didn’t even notice a new publication.

Here’s that old story, Hearts. My newer piece with The Sun is Skinning the Rabbit.

I wish you all the best for this week of love. I hope there’s a person or animal who brings a sparkle to your heart. Luckily, a friend sent me a handmade card and a box of chocolates; things like that make it easier to get up in the morning.

If you’re like me, you don’t have a special someone. I’m locked down alone and have been all along. There are benefits to having a loving relationship with yourself, of course, and I find those mostly in the creation of art. Where I live, despite a current cold snap, there are buds on the daffodils, so I know I can soon have an affair on art and fool around with spring.

(If you’d like to keep up with my visual art life, please see Hamilton Art on FB or hamilton1000 on Instagram.)

Best American Essays Notable!

I’m thrilled to be able to announce that one of the essays Roxane Gay chose as “Best of 2019” from Gay Magazine has now garnered a Notable in Best American Essays 2020! I believe it’s my fourth Notable for Best American Essays, and I had one for Best American Short Stories, too, once. Congrats to the other Notables, with whom I’m honoured to be mentioned and to the essayists. Thanks to the series editor, Robert Atwan! #canlit

image credit: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2019, acrylic on paper

I’ve been reading author Carmen Maria Machado’s new memoir ‘In the Dream House’ this week. Luminous, queer, wry, broken–it’s smart and vulherable about IPV in queer relationships. Fragment to fragment, it builds a sharp wounding story.

Some of her anecdotes, though, have been hard on me.

Some anecdotes Carmen described are similar to ones I experienced. In particular, I remember one night where my ex raged and stomped so hard and long that I, terrified, locked myself into my office. This infuriated her and for about 4 hours she pounded the door. That night, I thought she was going to kill me; I didn’t know whether to call 9-1-1 or resist (I’d been warned off it by my lawyer who said the cops wouldn’t support me; in the end, there were about 5 times I needed police or ER help but didn’t call because of that advice). In ‘In the Dream House’ Carmen says that if there had been a gun around, she’d have been killed by it. Me too. I’ve been relieved I lived in Canada, where household guns are rare. That night, I gauged the ridiculous awning windows we’d had put in that opened only about 8″–wondering how I could slither my fat, disabled body out onto the second floor roof. My ex carried on for so long and at such volume, pounding the door, yelling abuse, wheedling, that eventually I had to pee into my coffee cup, and when I did, a pure vein of hatred for her erupted. I had never hated her before. I didn’t again. That’s what Machado understands. She gets it when you are too beaten down for hate. Hate is beside the point. Horror, incredibly sadness, the fall-out of love’s betrayal, the realization you could die–those are what replaces hate. My ex finally stopped trying to pound the door in and things grew quiet, but that was the most ominous thing yet–had she quit? was she waiting until I turned the knob?–and I went back to shaking and waiting, waiting. Waiting for what I didn’t know. Waiting for something to happen.

A few Christmases ago, two fathers in BC killed their families over the holidays. We like to think of familicide as uncommon, but it isn’t. The next fall, I started a book that takes place 10 years after a family homicide. I’ve been considering this novel as my winter rewrite (I work on several). Like Carmen’s book, oddly, it is written in fragments. And it’s illustrated. (Or at least I have envisaged it as such.) I decided to just write a novel I wanted to write (and read). This is how my experimental ‘The Grey Closet’ came to be.

Now I’m going to crawl into bed with the last third of Carmen’s luminescent masterpiece.

How do you say goodbye?

Toni Morrison towered over literature. Though older than me by a generation, her early novels became my lodestones, magnets pointing me toward a new kind of literature. Her writing cracked open a world I hadn’t read on the page before, a vibrant world where Black women were accorded center stage, absent “the white gaze.” I knew how corrosive the white gaze could be from going to school in the Bahamas, and how complete, complex and nuanced were the worlds beyond its acid brow.

“Beloved” eventually became my most cherished title.

I started writing in about 1985 as an out lesbian, using mostly male protagonists. I snuck one story with lesbians into my first collection, a story about two women and their adopted autistic child. My second story collection had lots of queer protagonists, and my second poetry collection was all queer. By the time I wrote those books, I was done pretending just to get published. I understood that I’d been pandering (to use Claire Vaye Watkins’ word), though all the while I had been reaching for something else, the bravery to make up tales my way, from a queer gaze, a non-binary gaze, a disabled gaze, and to insist that mainstream Canada hear me. I honed my skills so that they would have to listen. When they wouldn’t, I submitted to literary awards, and I won contests.

That never translated, for me, into publishing contracts, and so, broken-hearted, I distanced myself. I’m sorry to have to say that we have a long way to go in Canada before parity for queers is reached.

I loved Toni Morrison, and I loved her writing, and the lessons of her writing resound with me even today. I’m grateful her literature is available to us all, and particularly grateful it and she stood as beacon and exemplar for generations of Black womxn. I’m going to be doing what many people around the world are doing now, reading her novels again, reading The Bluest Eye, Jazz, Song of Soloman, letting her literature soak back into me with all its strength and wisdom.

A white person, even one marginalized, cannot begin to understand the meaning of Toni Morrison to Black womxn. Here is a link to a touching and important eulogy by Dr Roxane Gay, NY Times. The Legacy of Toni Morrison.

At Medium, the Zora team has re-printed Toni Morrison: In Her Own Words; Cinderella’s Stepsisters, her commencement address to the Barnard graduating class of ’79.

 

How to Grieve For Your Friend and Mentor, by Amy Jo Burns

image from LitHub

Have you loved and lost a mentor? This is a hollow spot, and we need to write through it. As this terrible year ends, I read this essay by Amy Jo Burns on Alexander Chee, Sigrid Nunez, and Writing After Death. You might like to, too.

How to Grieve For Your Friend and Mentor

Writing Through Disability; Sonya Huber at LitHub

Writing With and Through Pain

by Sonya Huber

“The Key is to Not Panic in the Face of this Void”

The talented, skilled and disabled Sonya Huber, author of the stunning “Pain Woman Takes Your Keys,” writes about how pain affects her literary process.

Sonya Huber is the author of five books, including the essay collection Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System. Her other books include Opa Nobody, Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir, The Evolution of Hillary Rodham Clinton and a textbook, The Backwards Research Guide for Writers. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, and other outlets. She teaches at Fairfield University and directs Fairfield’s Low-Residency MFA Program.

“Every Time We Put Pen to Paper, It is an Act of Protest:” a Michele Filgate roundtable on silence

“Red Ink is a quarterly series curated and hosted by Michele Filgate, hosted at powerHouse Arena. This dynamic series focuses on women writers, past and present. The name Red Ink brings to mind vitality, blood, correcting history, and making a mark on the world.

The following is an edited transcript from November’s panel, “Silence,” which featured Rene Denfeld, Alisson Wood, T Kira Madden, Gayle Brandeis, and Alexis Okeowo.”

I always admire the speakers at the Red Ink panels, which are generally excerpted for LitHub. This one is particular good. Since I write mostly about the aftermath of trauma, and am writing about it currently in a novel where a character (like one of Rene’s!) has selective mutism, I was particularly riveted. So might you be.

Every Time We Put Pen to Paper, It is an Act of Protest

 

CBC Guide to Writing Contests for Canadians (some international)

We’re lucky when we get a more or less up-to-date list of what’s happening on the contest scene. Here we are for fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry:

CBC Guide to Writing Contests

The Cocktail Party

 

An ER physician said to me, “What do you do?”

“I’m an author.”

He turned white as a blanched almond. “Did you just say you’re a nothing?”

I hooted. “I guess I might as well have.”

#whydowedothis

Finish your goddamned book

Yonder at Terrible Minds, here’s the not-so-terrible truth about finishing your novel, by Chuck Wendig.

Here’s How To Finish That Fucking Book, You Monster

Lidia Yuknavitch’s Survival Guide for Writers

A while back, the electrifying Lidia Yuknavitch talked to Anna March at Bustle. Two more recent of her books (The Small Backs of Children, The Book of Joan) weren’t published when this interview took place, but the article remains a wonderful piece to guide the working writer back to sanity, and I recommend it.

Bustle

“Matthew Klam’s New Book Is Only 17 Years Overdue” and other tales of failure

 

the new book

Over at Vulture, Taffy Brodesser-Akner has a terrific feature about Matthew Klam’s career and his new book. Every writer should read this. We all deal with self doubt and castigation, I think. The article is a really a good look at Klam’s early fortune; about how just as he was deciding he’d quit writing, he got a yes from Dan Menaker, editor at the New Yorker, for one of his stories. (My stories got lots of comments from Menaker in my time, and once we even moved into editorial, but I never quite got the yes. The story that came closest was published in the Alaska Review.)

The world opened for Matthew Klam, and his list of early awards and honours was daunting. He had it all except for a second book. As the years passed, he still didn’t have a second book. He wrote continually, he tossed continually, he taught instead for its anonymity.

For me, the world never opened, and my talent, which was substantial but wanting, withered from lack of support. I didn’t have an MFA program to weed out weaknesses. I learned slowly. Sometimes folks went mad for one story or essay, but when they wanted more, the more was always so different they didn’t like it. This is a problem with range and writing across genres (and letting my heart have its way).

I needed an imprimatur I didn’t have. A Menaker imprimatur, maybe. Once Ellen Seligman at M+S spent six months telling me yes, telling me no, telling me I don’t know, I go one way, I flop the other way, and I wonder what would have happened if she had said yes eventually, whether that profound novel about child rape in the world of wild mustangs I was then working on would have come to fruition. All these years later, I’m still curious about what would have broken out of me if by chance I had just been valued and nurtured, and really had to work to an editor’s expectations. I would have risen, I know, because I am like that, but in what way, to what end?

What literature did I not produce because I:

a) wasn’t quite good enough?

b) wasn’t repetitive enough?

c) there was discrimination (even inborne and unacknowledged) against certain categories of writers (disabled/queer/feminist)?

d)  wasn’t from the US?

What would those stories and books have been?

I was low-income and a sole-support parent a lot of those years. And of course I asked the same questions Matthew Klam asked himself: What does this matter? Who needs another story? Another novel? To what purpose? To win a prize and still be unable to pay the bills? I certainly never cared about a postmortem reputation–that and $5 I’d get a plastic glass of latte at Starbucks to set on my gravestone.

I won the CBC contest a couple times. I published in the NY Times, the Sun and other strong periodicals (back then and again this year). But no successes ever built, no one ever tucked me under her mentor wing. I still write in my self-propelled bubble without much response. I certainly write now without any hopes at all for the marketplace–really, only to please myself.

I had my perfect form and lost it. I quit writing stories and nobody noticed. I quit writing stories and only a friable piece of my heart noticed. I struggle to write novels, but I am no novelist. I am no novelist.

Maybe Matthew Klam is. I look forward to reading Who Is Rich?

The Vulture

 

 

Skinning the Rabbit, The Sun Magazine

I got home from a trip, picked up my mail and found my contributor copies of the July 2017 issue of The Sun Magazine (along with the welcome cheque). A couple of weeks ago, I went to add The Sun to my list of places I’ve published, and it was already there. I was puzzled; I didn’t remember having already added it. But then I explored a little further, realized I’d published there a long time ago, and sought out the issue, the cover of which is above. I was bemused to find that the subject matter was quite similar to the recent essay since I haven’t written about my childhood in ages.

Here’s that original and second-person story, which was still on my desktop: Hearts

My piece this time around is called Skinning the Rabbit. I explored my relationship with my father through our collision about animal welfare, and through the bullying I experienced when I got alopecia totalis at six. I hope you like it. Tell me if you do, k? It’s not online, but you can find The Sun almost anywhere that carries literate magazines, even in Canada.

I am proud to have had essays in the NY Times and The Sun this year.

The Sun November 1993

 

 

 

 

Floundering

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2017

Floundering

A friend and I spend the warm, sunny day on Crescent Beach. I once housesat a block from the beach so I could do a concentrated writing stint—a retreat for one. For months, shine or rain, every wintry morning I circled the town, trodding past tossing ocean headed for the mud flats with my binoculars, DSLR camera and my ubiquitous umbrella. Work was not going well. This riparian area beside the Nicomeki River, Mud Bay on Blackie Spit, was balm. Known for birdwatching because it’s on a migratory path called the Pacific Flyway, it’s also the only place nearby where Purple Martins nest. The swallows looped above while I strolled through demarcated paths beside the eelgrass, able to pull from my photography belt lenses of different focal lengths. I discovered seed pod decay was as beautiful through a macro as a blooming flower. I took photo after photo of rotting pylons, cormorants drying their wings atop. Later, when I became an art student at Emily Carr, I made a painting of one of the bleached white morning pylons. One day I walked late, and rounded the corner to town just as the sky lit up pure radiant orange from top to bottom, north to south; I shot the silhouettes of people as they stood watching. The photos were gaudy, like seventies’ paintings.

Today, I’m older, and for the same stroll I’ve brought a walker. I sit on our blanket, pulling my gear out to photograph great blue herons—I don’t count; are there ten? Fifteen?—fishing along the low tide banks, but I understand it would be chancy for me to hoist this heavy, long-lensed equipment while standing up. We eat our overheated picnic lunch while I feed a crow egg salad from my hand, hoping some nestlings will be the healthier for it. Kayakers paddle past. Behind us, a woman reads in a purple outdoor inflatable. We turn up our pants’ legs and make our way down to the water while mud oozes through our toes. The water pulls the sand from under our feet. It’s hard going indeed for my arthritic body, rife with pain the way uneven surfaces always are, but I love it—my body’s screams of objection at least have the courtesy of silence. A bay has formed a sand shoal and in the intermediate strip of water, as I slosh through it, I notice a creature leaping and flailing. I head for it, but I am slower than everyone, so have lagged behind when a father picks up a flounder to show his kids. I see the milky under-body, which looks like sole in the frying pan. I don’t know my flounders, but I enjoy pointing and saying, “Look there. A flounder is floundering.” It may be a gulf, summer, southern or winter flounder. It may be a sole or (just for the halibut), a halibut. It thrashes. It has two eyes on the top side of its body, jumbled close, which I later learn are ordinarily placed at birth then metamorphose to the top of the fish’s flat head. The child carries it across the spit to the deeper ocean on the other side, but it just lies there looking quite dead, exhausted from its ordeal, far too visible. It’s heron bait, if you ask me.

It’s low tide in my love life too. Epitonium sawinae seashells, dead mollusks picked over by crows, crusty seaweed. Brackish water, poor circulation. The water makes alligator patterns on the surface. My feet keep sinking. My hips keep hurting. My feet are in agony.

Sad, I think of that flounder all evening. I think how it needed a world, a circumstance, it was helpless to create. In the survival of the fittest game, it lost. It’s a bird eat fish world out there.

I am not strong, either, after multitudes of surgeries. I think of sanctuary, where to find it, what it means to the various creatures of the world. I’m lucky that for me, sometimes, sanctuary is as simple as the arms of a beloved wrapped tightly around me, the simplest of homes.

 

 

Mud Bay, Crescent Beach, Jane Eaton Hamilton, acrylic on loose canvas 2013

“Never Call Yourself a Writer, and Other Rules for Writing”

 

Really, this is all you need to know to get started and keep going, by Shawna Kenney, from Brevity:

Never Call Yourself a Writer

 

 

What Being an Editor Taught Anna Pitoniak About Writing

Anna Pitoniak on the Inside Tricks of the Trade

writing-3

“I’m an editor at Random House, but for the last several years I’ve been writing around the edges of my day job: mornings, nights, weekends, wherever I can grab the free time. I began my first novel (which is publishing today) while I was working as an editor, and I credit my job with giving me the courage, and the tools, to tackle writing a book. The truth is that spending one’s life reading good writing—not just reading it, but thinking about what makes it so good—is the best way to teach one’s self how to do it. For some people, this might mean enrolling in an MFA program. For me, I was lucky enough to learn by observing the other editors around me, and working on manuscripts as they went from rough drafts to finished books. It was the best writing education I could have received.”

LitHub

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