If We Were Having Coffee…

Today’s post is a part of the Weekend Coffee Share, graciously hosted by Part Time Monster every weekend. A time for us to come together, share a cup of coffee (or our beverage of choice) to share some of what is going on in our lives.  It’s a lovely check-in!


If we were having coffee I would tell you that my weekend plans were, ultimately, decided by a bag of Bobs Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza dough.

Friday, very early in the morning I discovered that, when stepped on, the mix inside can get some good distance to it, exploding out of both ends of the packaging.

Also, it’s quite fine flour, which is good at sticking to clothing, getting under furniture and books, and probably would be fun to add to a toddler’s sensory table.

I had been struggling with what to do: my original plans had been for a long weekend with very little activity — including two days that were mostly devoted to “me” time.  Writing, reading, and cleaning were high on the list of things that needed to be done, along with sleeping more and just relaxing.  This introvert has been pushing herself with an awful lot of social time lately.

But, then friends and family started to invite me out, events were planned that I was invited to and I faced decisions.  That’s where I stood Thursday night, trying to figure out what to do, how to balance what I wanted to do….   I wanted to go spend time with friends and family, but I also wanted to have alone time, make progress on my writing projects, and get this room cleaned up.  There were other things tossing through my mind that made it hard to sleep Thursday night (also, it was hot… it’s been very hot here). I was up way too late tossing thoughts around in my head and fighting aside anxiety about inconsequential things.

Then, Friday morning, well before I had to be awake on this day off, I stumbled my way down the hall to the bathroom and suddenly the world exploded under my feet.  “The world” being a bag of Pizza Dough Mix that had fallen off of it’s carefully (or, maybe not so carefully and not so) balanced pile.

I take it as a sign… at least, I joke that the fine flour scattering itself under my books and into my closet is a sign. The reality is that my reaction was a sign.  A quick look around my living and working space shows piles of clothes and other things.  A pantry that got emptied because of the very persistent and annoying ants, but never put back together.  Books that were pulled off shelves for one reason or another and never returned.  The clothing pile which, normally a beast of it’s own, has kind of become epic.  Stacks of miscellaneous papers waiting to be sorted and put away…. it’s a flat out mess.

I have been going non-stop, between work and social-things and writing.  That means life has tumbled into a chaos state — a room that contributes to anxiety and the sense that I’m always behind.  A room where a package of flour mix can fall right into my path unnoticed until it explodes in early celebration of Independence Day, leaving me with a sudden sense that it’s all too much and there’s no way I can complete all I intend to complete.  Making me want to curl up in bed and hide from everything (and I mean everything, even the fun reading I want to do).

Which is a sure sign that I need to give myself the weekend as I had originally intended.  Friday I went to breakfast with my mom, then went on a “art date” with my big brother.  It was fun to sit with him in the coffee shop that started my coffee addiction while he drew and I typed away at the novel.  Then I did more writing at home, paid some bills, and went to a neighborhood potluck.

Saturday I plan to eat some of the fancy cheeses I bought the other day, maybe open a bottle of wine, and relax.  I’ll chat with my best friend in the morning, spend some time meandering around all the great coffee-posts, clean a little, and then settle in to write a few blog posts and work more on the novel.  Cleaning, cooking, laundry will all happen on Sunday.  My pace, my time, the freedom to change my plans in an instant if I want to.  That’s what I need, so that’s what I’m going to do.

July is going to be a very busy month, so I’m happy I do have this opportunity to relax a little bit before everything takes off.

I’d also tell you that I’m looking forward (but also with a little trepidation) to my next Taliana event.  Depending on how it goes it may be the last for a while….

But I’ve rambled on, how about you?  What are your plans for the weekend?

Feminist Friday: The Myth of “Girl Stories”

When I asked my friends for fantasy book recommendations for an 11 year old, they had many wonderful  suggestions.  I hadn’t mentioned the gender of the child in the original post and a few posters made assumptions which appeared to influence the recommendations they gave (much to their chagrin).  When I noticed this was happening I pointed it out, and that led into some great conversation.  One friend, Lynn, had recommended books that her son enjoyed, but noted that she “assumed the child in question was a girl, but only because she liked the Princess Bride — interesting huh?  I kind of hate to admit that.”

“It’s incredibly frustrating that parents, educators, and librarians continue to say that boys don’t have to read books that center on girls. There’s no reason that boys can’t empathize with girls, other than that we don’t teach them to. And as we continue to not teach them, this painfully harmful myth continues to dominate both parenting and publishing.'” –Rebecca Croteau

While I was having this conversation with friends, Shannon Hale (an author I really enjoy) was running head-first into the same issue.  When she goes to give author talk at schools if is often only the girls that are automatically excused from class to attend the talk.  One particular instance of this caused her to take to twitter about it (the tweets have been storified if you want to read them) and she also wrote about it on her blog.

“I heard it a hundred times with Hunger Games: ‘Boys, even though this is about a girl, you’ll like it!’ Even though. I never heard a single time, ‘Girls, even though Harry Potter is about a boy, you’ll like it!'” – Shannon Hale

There are many layers of issues at play here, at the moment though I am focusing in on this concept that, for some reason, there are books that are “girl books.”

We construct this societal expectation, that a boy won’t be interested in a story because…. Because the lead is a different gender than them?  Because a girls experience in a world is going to be different than a boys?  I have yet to hear a phrase to follow the “because” that is appropriately convincing.

Girls regularly read books with male protagonists and no one seems to bat an eye at it.  As though we are saying to girls: It’s okay to look up to, admire, and follow the adventure of a boy; there are things you can learn and relate to there.”  But then turning to the boys and saying: It’s NOT okay to look up to, admire, and follow the adventures of a girl; there’s nothing for you to relate to or learn from that.

When we say to boys that a book is a “girl book” and discourage them from reading it, we are telling the boys something about the importance (or lack thereof) of female stories in their life.

When we say to boys that a book is a “girl book” and discourage them from reading it, we are telling girls something about their own life experiences and stories.

This attitude and these assumptions need to change.

Just because a story has a female lead does not mean it is a “girl” story.  It doesn’t mean that boys won’t be able to understand and connect to the main character.  It doesn’t mean it won’t draw him in as strong to the story as it would her.  There are some simple ways we can start changing these assumptions and attitudes.  The easiest that comes to mind is this: when picking or suggesting books for an individual, remove the consideration of gender.

Do as my friend Michelle did in her recommendations on that Facebook thread.  She “almost didn’t recommend [a particular book] because it has a female protagonist but decided ‘Fuck-it. Boys can identify with a female lead as easy as I identified with a male lead…'”

What if we think instead about interests and personality when we suggest a book? What if, when you see gender assumptions taking place and holding influence, you say something?

Not girl books. Not boy books.  Just books.
Not girl books, or boy books. Just books.

Celebrate Long Weekends!

Well, today is my Friday (because I have a LONG WEEKEND!!) so I’m going to Celebrate the Small Things today!

Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly post (usually occuring on Fridays). Hosted by Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner of Writing Off the Edge, and Tonja Drecker of Kidbits, this is a time when we all take a moment to celebrate something good from our week.  It can be small, it can be big, just something to look back on the week and celebrate!

The long weekend is a huge celebration for me — I have PLANS!  Plans that include things like “drink wine and eat cheese,” and “write, write, edit, write.”  Of course, as is always the case when I make such plans, there are people inviting me out to do things, so I have to decide how much I’m going to cut into my writing and “me” time.  Really not complaining — it’s pretty cool to live somewhere that I have enough friends around that spontaneous plans can be made and I have options for socializing.

I’d celebrate my Feminist Friday post going up this week!  It’s the second post on this particular topic (gender and books) that I’ve written, and I have a feeling I’ll be writing more on it in the future.

I’m celebrating the fact that I’ve started to get more contributions from people for Passionate Geeks!  I have a good line-up shaping up, and look forward to getting even more.  If I start getting enough people contributing I might expand it to more than just once a month.  Maybe just a pipe-dream but, a fun one to have!

And I’m celebrating the coming month.  July is going to be busy busy busy for me.  I have a friend from Maine coming to visit at the end of the month, and a cousin and her family coming mid-month.  I’m running another Taliana event mid-month.  I have a preaching gig towards the end of the month and I’m trying to finish the first revision/rewrite/edit of my novel so I can get it to my very first level of readers by the start of August (my “is this worth the effort? and where are my MAJOR holes?” group).  Phew!

But I’m feeling good about all of it, excited and looking forward to it all — so it is worth a celebration!

What are you celebrating this week?

 

“I Should….” The Way to Write?

Some lessons appear in so many different parts of your life that it’s hard to ignore them. Over the past few years I have been downright hit over the head with the message, “We all travel our own paths, at our own paces.” If my life were a novel I would accuse the author of being a bit to obvious and heavy-handed with that point.

Today I see it in writing.  I’ve been having a lot of conversations with other writers about the act of writing. I see people who can push out thousands of words a day (and not just by chaining themselves to their computers). I talk to people who write multiple novels a year, and people who can juggle novels, short stories, blogs and freelance writing all at the same time. Then there are the different ways that everyone writes, from the medium we use for our first drafts, to our methods of planning (or not), the order in which we write the story, and how the editing process occurs. So many different ways to go about things.

It can be hard to not fall into the trap of “I should…” I should be able to write x-many words a day.  I should be able to work on the novel, the blog AND this other project.  I should be outlining this or that.  I should… I should… I should…

However, I have learned some very important things about my writing, and now shuffle those I should…’s aside.

I have a tendency to immerse myself in what I am writing. When I was younger I would spend hours playing out scenes in my mind, creating different versions of the story I was writing, exploring the lives of side-characters.  I would imagine dialogue, and sometimes even find myself wandering the story in my dreams. I was all in.

I was reminded of this a few months ago. I’ve talked about it some, around my decision to stop working on Disparate Threads.  For a year I had been trying to work on both Bria Lana (a novel that still needs a proper title) and Disparate Threads.  In Disparate Threads I had four different characters telling the story, and Bria Lana has a decently extensive cast-of-characters. Trying to get into all of their heads was too much for me, they were all starting to sound alike and none were getting the attention they needed.

Since I stopped working on Disparate Threads it’s been amazing. I’ve been able to focus on Bria Lana’s story, really digging into her mindset (and the mindset of some of the major supporting characters). I can sit and imagine the conversations she’d have, think about why she is doing things the way she is, and explore the deeper motivations of those she is encountering. Bria Lana’s story is so much richer for it.

I’m learning a lot in the process of working on this novel, and I know I will be sharing more about what I’m learning with you all, but this is a hugely important insight for me.  While other people may be able to have many stories in the works at one time, I am a one-story-at-a-time gal.  At least if it’s a story with any real depth to it (I can still have fun with shorts, it seems).

There are plenty of “I should…”s, but most of them aren’t true.

The only thing I SHOULD be doing is telling the story, however quickly or slowly that may come, in whatever manner that may take. I should be true to the story I am trying to tell, true to the characters who are involved. I should write in a way that makes sense, and works, for me.


I’m excited to be co-hosting this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a IWSG badgegreat group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
There is a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG. 

We’ve also put out a book, available for free, full of great articles on topics from writing to publishing, everything in-between and beyond! And, now, there is a T-shirt available!

#LazyLambs Book Club: A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore

The Lazy Lambs Book Club has completed it’s second book!  AND we actually managed to read it by our deadline! Yay!

We read A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore.

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I really enjoyed this book, but struggled with the question I wanted to ask, and how to ask it… what I finally settled on was this:  What do you make of the fact that the more unique characters (such as the emperor) are able to see things that most people can’t?

I think I mean “understand” or “grasp” when I say “see” in this question. The Emperor, for instance, is a homeless man who talks to his dogs and considers them his soldiers, and he takes all that Asher tells him in stride. My thoughts on this are still percolating, but it ties to the concept of people on the margins sometimes being more open to the unusual. In a world where what we see is not all there is, being able to approach the world differently allows you to see things and accept things that others might miss.
A jumble of thoughts still, so I wonder if that makes sense….

Hannah asked “What do you think of the Alpha Male/Beta Male construction in the book, and how it’s used?

This is a piece of the book I really struggled with. While I understood what Moore was doing with it (I think) I found it chaffing against my general rejection of setting anything up in a two-sided system. I don’t like pretending that the world can be sorted into simple categories. It gave pieces of the story the sense of being outside the story, analyzing human nature using overly simplistic terms. There were certainly moments when the characteristics being described were ones I could understand and equate with people I know, but that could have been done without the alpha/beta setup.
Diana’s question is one of my favorite, she asked “What do you think your soul object would be, and why would it be that particular object?

This is actually really hard to figure out.  My first instinct is that it would be a book… but as I think more I’m wondering if, perhaps, it 20150627_002349_001wouldn’t be a particular stack of papers.  The first novels I wrote — four of them grouped together in a folder.  These are the first complete novels I wrote (well, Cassie was unfinished, I think). These are the stories that planted the first seeds in my mind that I could, maybe, someday, be an author. I poured myself into these and, despite the fact that only one of them has any merit whatsoever, I have carried them with me through the years.  It seems like, if my soul was going to end up contained in anything, it might be this stack of handwritten papers.


Want to join the discussion?  Have you been reading along with us?  Feel free to share your questions in the comment, and link your post with answers to the link-list!  Gather up as many questions as you’d like — from the comments here and on Diana and Hannah‘s posts.  The Link-list will be open to be added to through July 4th!

If We Were Having Coffee… Geeks, Religion, Community and Chaos.

Today’s post is a part of the Weekend Coffee Share, graciously hosted by Part Time Monster every weekend. A time for us to come together, share a cup of coffee (or our beverage of choice) to share some of what is going on in our lives.  It’s a lovely check-in!


If we were having coffee I’d invite you to join me at the table I’ve been claiming as “my space” at the Oregon Convention Center.  The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly (GA) has been happening this week and I’ve been visiting old friends and enjoying the atmosphere.  I can’t afford to actually attend, so have just been getting the moments I can.

I was raised a UU, and it is still the religion I claim (when I feel like i need to claim one), but there are a lot of things that I encounter in the religion that I struggle with — things that downright frustrate me.  There have been times in the past days that I’ve wanted to shake people and try to make them realize just how much their actions go against the very principles they claim to embrace….

But I don’t want to dwell on that all, not right now.  I have done a little venting on twitter, and I did a brief vent on my personal facebook page but to say much more I need to sort my thoughts more. Instead I want to focus on the good things that have come out of my “infiltration” of GA.  It’s been fun to be get to spend some time with old friends, and to see the energy and excitement of the attendees.  I have a lot of things to think about, and a good amount of reflection has been done, with a lot more to come.

If we were having coffee I’d want to take advantage of having your ear to talk a bit more about Passionate Geeks.  I’m excited about all the buzz, enjoying how many people are sharing with me some of the things they are passionate about.  But it is taking some time for writing to happen, so I’d probably give a little push — I can write about my own geekdom’s but I really would love to have other voices…. I know have a July (Yay! Thanks!) but would love to start getting some posts so I can have this scheduled out ahead of time. :)

If we were taking a moment to have coffee today I’d confide that I really pushed myself this week and things feel kind of chaotic — I”m kind of scattered today.

In my writing I’ve hit this scene that is a pretty emotionally intense one —  a very important one for the characters so, even though it’s just a second draft, I want to at least get the structure of it right.  Good bones so that I have something good to work with.  I’m hoping to get a little time this weekend to make progress on that…

I’d tell you that I’m working on my response to the second #LazyLambs Book Club post!  Hannah and Diana will have their posts going up today, and then we’ll be opening the conversation for people to share their questions, and their answers, about Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job.   I’m really enjoying this book club – it’s been fun to see other people joining in!

How about you?  Have you been reading anything interesting lately?  What has been going on in your life?

Celebrate the Small Things: Friends and Community

Celebrate the Small Things

Today is Celebrate the Small Things Friday.  Hosted by Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner of Writing Off the Edge, and Tonja Drecker of Kidbits, Celebrate the Small Things is a time when we all take a moment to celebrate something good from our week.  It can be small, it can be big, just something to look back on the week and celebrate!


Today I am celebrating good friends, good energy, and fellowship.
I’ll talk more about this during weekend coffee share tommorow, but this week is the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, which is being held here in Portland this year. I’ve been attending small pieces of it, enjoying time with a friend who is in town for it, seeing all sorts of friendly faces and checking in with people I’ve met through the years. Last night I attended a worship service that honors people reaching milestones as religious professionals (the service is availible to view online if you’re interested). I found it a powerful and moving service, and LOVED the music. It is great to be able to be somewhere like that, where there is so much energy in the air. Exhaustion was the only thing that kept me from staying up late putting that energy into writing. It was inspiring and I am looking forward to some time this weekend to put into turning that inspiration into writing.
That is what I celebrate today! What are you celebrating this week?

EDIT: an ammendment to my celebration. The Supreme Court of the United States just affirmed marriage equality! It’s the law! Not such a small thing, but certainly worth celebrating!
 

A bit of this, a bit of that, the meandering thoughts of a dreamer.

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