Monthly Archives: January 2017

Within Winter Lives the Spring

Well, oh my goddess, pass the plate and say amen! Weren’t all the marches on January 21 inspiring?

We’re learning to get out of our own way a little bit as we rise up as never before in a generation. And as we move out of our own way, that leaves room for someone else at the table. And someone else. And someone else. And soon the Cabinet, the Administration, the school boards, the local legislative bodies will look like America–all of it, not just the white male parts.

Keep the momentum from the marches. Stay involved. Run for office. Stay vigilant on the phone lines and the front lines. Subscribe to investigative journalism sources like ProPublica. Donate to Planned Parenthood. The ACLU. The Southern Poverty Law Center. The Anti-Defamation League. The Sierra Club. You pick. You add your own. None of us can do everything, but we can all do something.

Don’t accept #alternativefacts. That’s spin for lie. And when the naked king tells you he’s wearing clothes and you see plain as day he’s dangling out in the wind, don’t get gaslit. Stay woke.

A fierce bright inclusive new day is dawning. Maybe the petulant orange one was the sun we needed for our seeds to sprout. Tend your gardens. Feed your communities.

#springiscomingsayamen

One of my favorite signs from the march in DC:

Stay Sane Inside Insanity

made w/Paper 53

From the darkness of Frank-n-Furter’s castle in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Columbia sings out, “Stay sane inside insanity!” I’ve thought of that line frequently since the election. I’ve felt like everything that mattered to me–the planet’s health, women’s reproductive rights, the ACA, civil liberties, on and on–has come under attack. I’ve been tossed away with each day’s news, and I’ve felt the fear of helplessness start to silence my work. I grow more afraid as I watch many news organizations start to normalize the gaslighting of a narcissist-on-Twitter. What rabbit hole is this?

What does a novel matter when the world is flooding and heating up and our new government could care less? What does fiction matter in a world where facts are apparently optional and synonymous with opinion? Why should we write at all when there’s talk of registries and walls, privatizing education and repealing health care?

And then I remember Eugene Ionesco’s play, The Rhinoceros. If you weren’t an English or Drama major, you may not know it, but it’s a phenomenal work in which, in a far-too-simple synopsis here (sorry Professor Dunn!), a rhinoceros comes to town and people debate it, ignore it, and eventually normalize it. Then, they become the rhinoceros, willingly abdicating their humanity in favor of the force and power of the rhino. Only Berenger, our protag, refuses to capitulate as the whole world turns rhino.

And that is one demonstration of the value of what we do as artists and writers. Ionesco wrote the play in 1959 as a response to the rise of Fascism and Nazism prior to World War II. The play is still relevant today.

What we writers write in these unsettled times serves many purposes:

1) Helping us, the writers, stay sane (which allows us to show up fully for our families, jobs, and activism work)

2) Providing respite, laughter, and contemplation for people fighting difficult fights (Never underestimate the value of escapist literature in mental health!) Don’t self-censor your stories by thinking they’re not ‘important’ in these new times

3) Providing cautionary tales for future generations

4) Resisting, resisting, resisting normalcy of the rhino with every word in us

The coming years promise unfamiliar ground for many of us. Be vigilant. Take a stand for the rights of others. We all will need each other.

Writers are often the canary in the coal mine of societies’ trajectories. Don’t stop sending the signals. We never know which ones will be heard. Be gentle and compassionate with yourselves as you find the ways of resistance that work for you.

But do not, do not, do not become the rhino.

New Beginnings

Pseudo-Chagall cat I made on the iPad with Paper53. 🙂 I’m experimenting with doodling and daily drawing as a connection to the writing process (making no assertions that I am a professional visual artist — it’s just for fun.)

I want to return to blogging once a week. I’ve missed it and I’ve missed a regular communication with readers, but I’ve struggled over what a blog “should” be, and I fell into the trap that I needed to always deliver “measurable content” and that shut me down and took my voice away. I felt like I had to be teaching to be valuable, but I really wanted to share experiences and struggles. I’m learning all the time. The things I eventually teach in a formal setting came about through lots of mistakes and missteps. Those things that are the underbelly of being an artist are what interests me. The blogs and feeds I enjoy are ones that are talking about the artist’s struggles, not the ones that are offering me 10 Tips to a Bestseller.

I’m always happy to talk about craft, but I do that all day long and that doesn’t push me forward as an artist. I’ve been wrestling with how to manage social media and my writing career for several years, and then the election happened and I plunged into despair. But now I’m regrouping, getting back up, stronger and more focused and more committed than ever to the power of writing and language.

I don’t want to make noise. I don’t want to shout at you. I am a writer. And I’m an introvert. And I’m tired of pretending to be things I’m not. I’ll never shout the loudest, but I can persevere the longest. So I am claiming that here. One of my super-powers is persistence, followed closely by discipline. So hey, silent, non-sexy strengths, welcome aboard!

I’m still sussing out what the blog will primarily be, and it will take time to find its legs, but it will be more personal than ‘how-to’. Perhaps short essays, a poem or two, a piece of flash fiction — and a doodle that connects to where I am in my daily creative process. They’ll be short. Once a week.

I’ve been cyber-stalking @Lin_Manuel, the Pulitzer Prize winning creator of all things Hamilton (and many more!) and his Twitter feed has become an inspiration to me, not a place to feel tense and to fight and to shout.

Above, he tells us a little about his approach. He wants his feed to be a place of reprieve and release for people who are fighting hard fights. He recognizes that he can control what he puts into the world but not the world itself. That’s important to me as a writer and a human.

America has hard fights ahead of it. We each need to use our super-powers to do the work that is ours to do. I think one of the hardest challenges is determining what that work is. It’s easy to mistake the outrage for the work. It’s easy to get distracted by the sheer magnitude of what needs to happen. As Meryl Streep said at the Golden Globes, “Take your broken heart and turn it into art.”

This will be an experiment for me and my relationship with my creative work and with an audience. So if you’ve read my books and like my work and want to follow along and see what I’m up to and thinking about, please do. You can have it sent to your e-mail or you can find it on FB/Twitter/Tumblr. And if it doesn’t excite you, no worries.

I’m still writing books, and I’m still showing up for the silence of my office at dawn. And I’m always, always using language as my tool for activism and resistance.