rockinlibrarian: (voldemart)
2017-02-20 02:41 pm

Political/Fictional Parallels

I was talking politics with my mom the other day (it's nice having an in-real-life person who agrees with you politically to talk to sometimes), and I mentioned this really interesting blog post I'd read a few months back that unfortunately I CANNOT find now. Sorry. I really wanted to link you to it. It's about how this president—at the time of the article he was president-elect or even just a candidate, I'm not sure—uses language. The article posed that it wasn't so much that he is a pathological liar as much as he's using—I think this was the term—prescriptive language in situations when most people would use (and would assume he is using) descriptive language. Descriptive language describes reality as it is (or as it at least appears to be). Prescriptive language describes reality as the user intends it to be. For example, "You're fired!" The phrase isn't true until it is said, then saying it makes it true. That's an obviously iconic example of how he's used to using this sort of language, but think about it—he's a spoiled rich kid who could get whatever he wanted, with a major entitlement complex—he's USED to whatever he says being granted, or at least, that the making of whatever he says happen is other people's problem. 

As I told her about this, I remembered how some of his original supporters liked how he was a businessman-instead-of-a-politician, so he would "run the government like a business." Right, the kind of business where the Boss is IN CHARGE and everyone must do exactly what he says. That's what they wanted? I guess that IS what they wanted. And THAT made a scene pop into my head.

Shut up a minute, Star Wars prequel-haters, I'm not saying the acting and/or dialogue itself of this scene was fabulous or anything, but it DOES FIT here. You know the scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin and Padme have been frolicking in the fields of Naboo and he starts teasing her about being a politician and she's like what is your problem with politicians, and he's like The system doesn't work, we need everyone to sit down and work out what's best for everybody and then just do it; and she's like But that's what we DO, it's just that people don't always agree on what the best thing is; and he's like well then somebody needs to MAKE everyone agree; and she's like Hold up you're crossing over into Dictatorship territory here; and he's like Well maybe that's what we need then; and then they go back to flirting as if he hadn't just admitted that he's totally someday going to be the Emperor's Right Hand Man and will totally kill hundreds of innocents to make it happen. 

So I'm like oh shoot, that's totally what happened, all these people are like Hey, a Dictatorship's fine and dandy if I AGREE with the Dictator. Let's give the Chancellor unfettered power because he'll TOTALLY make everything right in the galaxy again because he'll just MAKE it that way! Yay, everybody we disagree with just being TOLD WHAT TO DO! That could NEVER backfire!

...I mean it's not like people haven't totally glommed onto the Rebel Alliance as a symbol of resistance to all this or anything.

Meanwhile, the kids and I have made it to The Last Battle in our Narnia reading. Ugh, we're back to the problematic racist Calormene portrayals, which is ironic, because the real life parallels otherwise are very pro-Rebel Alliance, I mean Resistance. Eerily so, reinforcing that we seem to be living in an apocalyptic scenario. But look: we start out with Shift the Ape creating a False Aslan, which IMHO nicely describes certain prominent folks in the Religious Right preaching the "Prosperity Gospel" and linking the professed "Christian" culture with big business and exploitation of workers and destruction of the environment and other stuff the real Aslan would DEFINITELY NOT APPROVE OF (and omg the dwarfs who are all like "NEVER AGAIN" when they find out they've been had, are all those people driven away from the very idea of Christianity by the actions of these sort of Christians). And, ugh, that Shift, the way he gaslights poor Puzzle—I keep interrupting my own reading and saying to the kids "I REALLY do NOT LIKE this guy!" —personality-wise, and the more he gains power, the more he becomes Our Esteemed President in this scenario, to the point that he becomes the ineffectual puppet of sly Ginger the Cat—that'd be Bannon—and the Calormene general, who is definitely effectively Putin, looking to take over Narnia from the inside (yes, government. Calormen may LOOK like the Middle East, but get over your xenophobia/Islamophobia and look at the ACTUAL ACTIONS). I mean, dang. The Prophet Clive Staples Lewis says we're screwed, folks.

Oh, speaking of which, the end of The Magician's Nephew inspired some interesting/creepy conversations with the kids, too: talking about dying suns, and Maddie's like, "Will the Sun really DIE? Like our great-great-great-great grandkids won't have a sun anymore?" and I'm like, "The Sun will eventually die but not for billions of years, humans will probably die off from something else long before then," which just made the kids like, "WHAT? How could all the humans die?" and I'm like whoa I sat in it now, and said, "Well, like the dinosaurs died off. It could be something like an asteroid strike covering the sky with dust so the sun can't peek through so we can't get food, or it could be—" and then I realized I was heading into frighteningly relevant territory "—the climate just changes so much that it can't support human life anymore, or—" why on earth was I saying this out loud to my sensitive children, it just poured out of my mouth "—when he said that bit about humans discovering a horrible secret like The Deplorable Word that could wipe out all life? I'm pretty sure, since he wrote this right after WWII, he was hinting at nuclear weapons—" SHOOT I'm going to have to come up with a comforting spin on this somehow— but then I noticed the kids had actually stopped paying attention to my nihilistic rambling. But seriously folks. I saw a tweet the other day that was like "Hey, remember those couple of decades we DIDN'T think we were all going to die in a nuclear war? Good times." SIGH.

Anyway, last week I was writing my latest GeekMom article, about Labels vs Symptoms (btw, Megan, someone wrote a glowing response to your comment on that), and I was thinking about Billy (H)arrison's superpowered autistic tendencies and wanted to use some of "his" actual quotes on the matter, so I went into my files and scanned over my related writings, and, let me tell you, some of the plot of my book, which had seemed ridiculous when I wrote it, suddenly looked prophetic. Reading tweets about the president's rally in Florida this weekend made me tweet this, in a series of linked tweets copied here into an easier-to-read paragraph:

"There's a scene at a political rally that is just REALLY EERIE right now. Not to mention gaslighting and attempts to control the media. I don't think it will ever be good enough to officially publish, but I almost want to share it as-is now just to say 'READ WHAT I WROTE DECADES AGO! It was about an OVER-THE-TOP evil take-over-the-world plot! OVER-THE-TOP, I say!' Do you think it would be a bad move to self-publish something I don't think is perfect or up to traditional publishing standards just because I want to share some of the scenes NOW? I mean, it's as good as or better than a lot of fan fiction that's out there. It just doesn't have a built-in audience. (The fact that it has Real Person George Harrison fanfic in its backstory is not obvious in text). But I'm not trying to sell it/get famous from it. I'm just like READ ABOUT THIS RIDICULOUS WORLD DOMINATION PLOT & TELL ME YOU DON'T SHIVER!"

Well, I had several people respond that they WOULD like to read it. I think the easiest way to do it, though, is just share the file (non-editable) right off the Dropbox it's already in.

So here, if I've done this correctly, is the link to Ian and Co, aka The Incredible Adventures of Four Teens Who Are More Than They Appear, aka The One With Billy 'Arrison In It. I'm pretty sure I have not given you permission to edit the document, but just in case, um, politely refrain from editing. And by "editing" I mean "changing the document itself" —I'm all FOR you leaving constructive criticism with the Comments feature or whatever. I'd love to hear your ideas! Keep in mind, if I ever do come back to these characters' stories, it may be ENTIRELY different. I already have a completely new beginning written which has Ian more of a marginally-more-innocent bystander in what ought to have been Billy's adventures, which is most likely how I will take it in the future (I said once that Ian is Watson to Billy's Holmes and that suddenly made the whole concept click into place better). But DANG is this Swish plot relevant NOW, which is why I'm sharing THIS edit as-is.

Now here's something I considered doing awhile ago, which is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL, mind you. But since I'm kind of self-publishing my book, above, there, and I've written other good stuff you might like, and we still need to replace our patio/retainment wall that fell down in the back last summer, if YOU would like to donate to the cause of ME WRITING STUFF, I've got here a nice PayPal.Me link: https://paypal.me/rockinlibrarian  So, whatever you think my book is worth to you, go ahead and pay for it here! If not, don't! I probably wouldn't because I'm cheap (but then again I might anyway if I really love it and am not currently broke—I guess I have done such things before). Because after all it isn't quite up to standard, but it's still pretty fun and I did take decades writing it!
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
2016-11-09 04:37 pm

Samwise the Brave

So, unlike people living in Bubbles of Blue, I was not shocked. Disappointed, absolutely, but not surprised. So why did it hurt so much? Why was I crying? Why have I been unable to shake off the tears that keep coming all day?

I mean, there's the usual. The stuff I've already explained, about why I was voting the way I did in the first place. I want to thank those who voted differently but acknowledge that they're not necessarily happy about it, or who even, plain, don't gloat at all, because for some of us this IS genuinely not just a matter of the-one-we-liked-lost, but the-one-who-won-gives-us-literal-panic-attacks-and-it's-going-to-be-rough-for-us-to-watch-the-news-for-the-next-four-years.

But as I tried to explain to the kids, doing a very bad job because my own emotions belied every "it's going to be all right" I said, it's not like the world is suddenly going to erupt into nuclear war this afternoon.

Besides, WE are lucky. WE don't have to deal with systematic racism. OTHERS are much more directly fearing for their lives.

I began to get the sense that there was something slightly selfish about my grief. It felt so personal, like I wanted to shout "But look what you've done to ME!" at everyone who voted. What HAD they done to me? Voted for a guy who triggers my bully-anxiety, so what, it's not like my health care or marriage legality or right to freakin' live in this country is in danger. Sure I could TRY to nobly insist it was all alturistic, that I really felt so bad for EVERYONE ELSE, but no-- I mean, yes, I DO feel bad-- but no, this personal grief IS INDEED personal. What bugged me so much?

Eventually I unearthed it. It's because I always started crying harder when I read inspiring messages like this:










And most notably, this:


Because THAT is one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE QUOTES OF ALL TIME. I was keeping a quote book when I first read Fellowship, and at that I'd jumped up and ran to grab the dang thing because I needed to write that one down. It hit me hard in the chest this morning, like J.R.R. Tolkien had taken me by the shoulders, given me a little shake, and said, "How could you have forgotten what I told you?!"

"I'm sorry, Professor. I hear you. I hear the others. I'm just having a really hard time believing you right now."

WHO NEEDS MY VOICE. I worried for ages that my voice is useless because I'm too Privileged, because I'm not from a population that's been historically silenced. Ah, but then I found it again. I found it not enough to feel that I had any FICTIONAL stories worth telling, but I at least had, not just the right, but the DUTY, to speak up for those who AREN'T as privileged as me. So I started getting political. I started getting BRAVE. I started making statement after statement and long essay after long essay.

And I voted. Because Every Vote Counts.

Yeah, but I look at the returns for my county, and although it was obvious from the signs along the road, it just felt disheartening to see that MY vote, in my county, had been outnumbered two to one.

And I thought about my essays. My impassioned pleas here and on Twitter and Facebook, and the time last week I finally absolutely BLEW UP at my husband for his continued insistence that both candidates were awful so he'd stick with the one who "wouldn't take away [his] guns." And I thought, did it even matter?

Who even reads what I write except people who already agree with me? Who even CONSIDERS what I have to say? WHOSE MINDS HAVE I CHANGED by writing these things? Nobody. Nobody cares. I have no effect. I've failed.

Writing has failed.

So I had a well-timed counseling appointment this afternoon. By that time I'd pinpointed this problem, this stupid selfish thing that was upsetting me. As I said last time, my therapist was unsurprised by my general anxiety about the thing because that was going AROUND in her office. "What can help you from getting stuck here, though?" she asked. "What are you going to do in your own life? What do you have control over?"

She was paraphrasing Gandalf. I smiled.

But my eyes teared up again. "It's just that nothing ever changes. No one listens to me. I spoke, but I didn't change anyone's mind."

"Maybe you've got the wrong goal. Maybe you're going to fail if you go into it thinking, 'This one beautiful essay will CHANGE PEOPLE'S MINDS.' That starts to sound kind of nasty, actually, wanting to CONTROL WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK, you know?" She looked hard at me. "Instead, make the goal to be strong in your own beliefs. Believe in yourself enough to put your beliefs out there. You've done that. You've made something beautiful. It may seem like a small drop, but it's something. A small drop still makes waves.

"Besides, no great social movement happened overnight. Do you think it took just one pamphlet to win women the right to vote? Did Martin Luther King go out and make one beautiful speech and suddenly win equality for all? I bet all the great leaders had days where they came home, said to their families, 'Why do I bother? No one is listening.'

"But what did all those great heroes have in common?"

I grinned sheepishly, because again J.R.R. Tolkien supplied the answer, popping immediately into my head:


Why SHOULDN'T that answer have been ready in my head? I NAMED MY SON AFTER THIS GUY BECAUSE OF THIS SPEECH.

Heroes have lots of chances to turn back, but they don't. That's all. That's what makes a hero.

I could actually feel light seeping back into the wrinkles of my brain, sitting there. I started to believe in the inspirational messages again.

"So, what are you going to do now, so you don't slip back into that stagnant water?" she asked me at the end of our session. "What action are you ready to take, to keep things moving?"

"I--" I started to laugh. "...I actually want to write about it."

The Lone Power is always trying to get me to SHUT UP, one way or another. I've said it before and I'll say it again, because over and over It feeds me excuse after excuse, why I should just give it all up, stop trying to write, stop trying to be heard. It's always something new, but it's always the same in the end: "SHUT UP, AMY, NO ONE NEEDS YOUR OPINION." And it always results in entropy taking over, which is how I KNOW it's the Lone Power's doing.* You'd think I'd be able to catch It in the act quicker now. You'd think I'd recognize it sooner. But I guess that's how It works.

I need the reminders, every so often, that the only thing that makes a hero different from everyone else is that they don't turn back.

Don't. Give. Up.


*God bless you, Diane Duane, I don't know how you so deeply infiltrated my own personal theology, but it sure is handy for expressing my dilemma.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
2016-11-01 01:43 pm
Entry tags:

Trigger Warning

I should probably get out of the habit of checking the Internet first thing in the morning, because the anxiety it evokes ruins me for the rest of the day. But then, I should probably also change the radio station on my clock radio. It wakes me with news, and local news, at that, which is why I like it. It's the little Washington, PA, station, as opposed to the Pittsburgh stations covering all of western PA, so it's got local traffic and weather and other stuff about things that might affect me in my day to day life, so it's good to wake up to that way (it's also an independent Oldies station that plays the HUGEST variety of music from the 50s to early 90s-- ALWAYS pulling up obscure stuff or stuff that's fallen out of rotation on the bigger stations-- and I often find myself yelling "I LOVE you, WJPA!" periodically every time it unearths something awesome and unknown. Though I will admit some of the stuff they play on their Cruisin' Sundays PROBABLY should have stayed unknown). But it covers national and international news, and while earlier in the year some of the announcers did express some anti-HeWhoMustNotBeNamed (BecauseNowEvenHisNameMakesMeSick) sentiments, the way the news is covered, itself, when it doesn't outright show a bias towards him, at least WHY do they always have to include a soundbite of him, which in most cases adds no information to the news story but never fails to make my body freak out in response?

Self-care says I should be AVOIDING triggers, particularly when they ruin me for the rest of the day like this, but at the same time they're kind of unavoidable right now, period, and if I stay offline I'll just be facing my own ruminations in isolation. And as an EnneaType 9, I'm all about avoidance. There's nothing new there. I'm all about suppressing my own anger (to the point where often even I am not aware of it), peace-ing out, and pretending everything is JUST FINE. It's a sign of growth for me to face up to things, and to express my anger instead of let it simmer.

It's delicate. I know other people are feeling as sick-- or nearly as sick-- of this election stuff as I am. I usually try to be the bearer of light on the Internet, putting beauty and humor out there to counteract all the negativity. But there are TWO definitions of being a bearer of light: counteracting darkness is only one of them. The other is ILLUMINATING, and sometimes that means shining light on things that aren't so pretty. I feel like if I stop speaking the truth I see, I'll be betraying a Holy Mission or something. It's my duty to speak. And I know I've spoken up before and what difference does it make, everyone has made up their minds and the only people who will read this are the people who already agree with me. But I have to keep saying it.

At this point what I'm trying to say to you, to everyone, right here is THIS IS NOT ABOUT POLITICS. This is not about differences in opinion regarding policies and the role of government in the lives of the people, which is what differences in politics should REALLY be about. This is about my personal feelings of horror at watching half the nation rally around a demagogue. It is about personal gut fear, and how I normally do not feel this way about political figures. Remember, I'm a registered Independent! It's not a simple matter of government size or particular policy!

Anyway, what follows is what I wrote for MYSELF as the only audience, in my journal Sunday morning. Not trying to convince anyone else of anything, just me getting it all off my chest. Some of it I've expressed before in bits. I'm sharing it here because that's all I feel I can do at this point: just put it out there, This is what I am experiencing and I feel you should know. What you do with my personal experience is up to you.

Well I mean, within reason. Don't plagiarize my personal experience and say you wrote it, that would suck of you. It's copyrighted by virtue of me writing it here, first (or in my journal first, me second), the law's on my side, dude.

*ahem*

Sunday, October 30, 2016

There's no CCD today so for once I'm not rushing off anywhere in the morning. I feel like I journal so infrequently now that maybe that's why my brain feels like it's about to explode. I woke up at 8 and still feel tired. I realized, this week, is part of it is current events, but not in some theoretical isn't-the-state-of-the-world-frightening way. No, it's that monster of a GOP candidate, there's no escape from him and, here's the thing, he's a genuine bully who uses all the emotionally abusive techniques all the bullies in my life have used-- the ones that tormented me in elementary school, Angie in high school, my other students when I was a teacher. So it's not just an ideological beef I have with him-- he's genuinely triggering. Just seeing his face or hearing his voice puts my body reflexively in fight-or-flight mode-- by this point even just seeing/hearing his name will do it (notice I haven't used it here).

I'm torn between WANTING to talk about it and WANTING to pay attention to the news, and just taking it easy, knowing that reading the news won't accomplish anything, all I can do is go in and VOTE for Hillary next week and pray enough other people are voting for her, too. If she wins maybe this constant state of stress will let up-- if she doesn't, I honestly don't think I can take having to be exposed daily to that man for the next 4 years. Maybe they'll impeach him sooner than that (they impeached BILL C for less), or maybe he'll bully his way into a dictatorship. Still, ANY amount of time with him continuing to dominate the news is TOO MUCH FOR MY POOR NERVES. It got to the point that yesterday I found myself wondering if the Xanax I got last year was still good. I don't know, maybe it WOULD do me good to take one! But one won't change the political situation, so I'd soon devolve into an addict, popping pills one after another in a desperate attempt to stop the world from hurting me.

It's just... insane. You know, some people find the word "insane" a slur toward the mentally ill. But it's BACKWARD, because I'm the one dealing with actual mental illness here, these anxiety flashbacks, but I'm not the dangerously irrational one. This anxiety is not, in and of itself, irrational, it's an actual warning, my experience and understanding throwing up flashing red lights and sirens: "THIS GUY IS BAD NEWS: DON'T LET HIM BE IN CHARGE." The only thing that makes it irrational is that the warning outweighs my ability to DO anything about it. All I can do, besides casting my own vote, is speak up, but WHO'S LISTENING besides the people who already agree with me? I'm Cassandra, over and over.

Sammy had the bad timing to yell "Vote Hillary Clinton!"  while [J's extremely paranoid Survivalist friend--not exaggerating, anyone who knows him knows exactly who I'm referring to-- which would be pretty much Megan, Megan's the only one likely to read this who would know, but she'll also tell you I am definitely not exaggerating], king of the Libertarian Survivalists, was visiting with Jason last night, so the two of them gaped at each other in shock and finally piped up "Why would you SAY such a thing?!" and Sammy goes "Because Donald Trump's a BAD man," naturally-- see? KIDS know. And Jason,* sounding strangely panicky, burst out "WHERE'S YOUR PROOF?!" at his 9yo son, sheez, I mean MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS-- first of all, this is another bullying tactic, throw off someone from expressing their opinion by demanding proof in a way that suggests no proof exists (or at least can be used-- there's also the "your word against mine" version of this technique). Second and MOST important, THE PROOF IS ALL OVER THE PLACE, BLATANTLY OUT IN THE OPEN, as opposed to scraps of incidents taken out of context and blown out of proportion by political enemies or conspiracy theorists, which is all Hillary-haters base their hatred on.  Whereas the far greater faults That Monster has are flaunted out in the open. His supporters praise it as a sign of transparency-- because apparently when it's OBVIOUS someone is a pathological liar that makes him more trustworthy than someone who's just accused of being a liar without the facts backing it up? Well, the conspiracy theorists haven't dug anything up on him! BECAUSE THEY DON'T NEED TO DIG!

This is why KIDS don't like him! Why do KIDS so consistently profess their dislike of him? BECAUSE IT'S OBVIOUS if you're not mired in political maneuvering and bias. He is simply a BAD MAN, and kids can spot the emperor's lack of clothes, just like the story said. I'm not saying kids will ALWAYS be right about politics, just that they can tell when the emperor has no clothes. Like a dog who's normally docile suddenly growling at certain strangers who turn out to be bad. It's gut instinct. THIS IS A BAD MAN.

[Name of daycare retracted], the daycare I went to on Friday, has THAT MAN signs up-- one along the edge of the road I thought could be just, you know, anybody, not the daycare itself trying to make a statement, but then I saw they had TWO HUGE SIGNS, one on each side of the daycare's actual sign, EACH EVEN PARTIALLY COVERING UP THE SIGN FOR THE DAYCARE ITSELF. Hol-Lee-Heck. Well, it's a very effective Halloween decoration, scares the crap out of me. How desperate ARE the directors of this daycare? I mean, I'd find even Hillary signs displayed that way inappropriate for a large non-affiliated-with-any-other-group-that-could-be-biased daycare/school, even if it is technically a private school. It's just-- it's mind-boggling. Obviously the other side has feelings just as strong as mine, it's just THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES. There's no other way to put it. That's what that story was about. I feel like I'm screaming truth into a void.
___

So, that. I've said my bit. Mic drop.

Here's to all of us surviving the next week and whatever comes after.

Now let's see if I can actually accomplish anything practical with the time I have left today.

----

*Note: back during the Primaries, J thought That Man was a horrible joke, too-- but now that he's, GASP, the only one who can save us from CROOKED HILLARY, suddenly it doesn't matter! Yippie! He's outnumbered 3 to 1 in this household and he's highly aware of it-- Sammy's outburst the other day wasn't the only time it's come up-- but...! At least none of us here are trying to put up any yard signs, boy, that would be a fun household war, wouldn't it? Though in all seriousness, maybe I should try to explain my anxiety reaction to him, maybe then he'd get it. But he's SOOOO touchy about it, he's pretty much shut himself off from listening.

For the record, I get that HRC represents everything the poor folks of rural pennsylvania (and elsewhere) hate, but the charges laid against her over the years have been outrageously, excuse the term, trumped up. She's not a bad person, although she might have policies you disagree with. I don't agree with everything she says. But she is FOR SURE competent and I have faith in her to do the best job she can do. I'm not JUST voting against the other guy. I genuinely think, though admittedly not perfect, she'll be good for the job. Her biggest hurdle in doing a good job will be the same as Obama's has been-- political enemies trying to block everything they do. WHICH IS JUST RIDICULOUS, CONGRESS, GET OVER IT ALREADY. Anyway, but that's discussing politics calmly on the subject of actual issues and abilities, something we can politely disagree over, as opposed to DEAR GOD KEEP THAT MAN AWAY FROM THE NUCLEAR CODES.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
2016-05-25 07:22 pm

On Superheroes

Today is Billy 'Arrison's birthday. It's a thing I still say that only makes sense to a few of my friends now, but still when I see any other references to any other aspect of Geek Pride Day, asking me where's my towel or my lilac or arguing over whether the day has anything to do with Star Wars or not (look, I'm a Star Wars fanatic, but we already have May the Fourth AND a Saturday in October for Star Wars Reads AND nowadays most of December as new movies keep coming out, so we really don't have to claim any more)-- anyway, fan as I am of all those things, I still want to say "...but none as important as BILLY 'ARRISON'S BIRTHDAY," even though it ought not to mean anything even to ME anymore.

Because it DOES still mean something to me. even if I said I've given up trying to give him a story. May the 25th rolls around and I realize I can't ever give up on him. And in the meanwhile, have you noticed, the superhero genre has become more prominent in prose fiction in the past couple years? Both the big comic publishers have licensed their characters out to prose writers lately, and that's not even counting all the stand-alone books about original superheroes like my Billy. And I realize how many of my favorite shows and movies are superhero related and every so often I'll go, "Hey, there's a genre I'd feel comfortable writing in, the superhero genre," and then sometimes it doesn't even hit me then that I'VE TOTALLY WRITTEN IN THAT GENRE BEFORE and my favorite character I've ever created not-counting-D&D-characters* is a superhero.

And then I'll see discussion of superheroes and start to say, "Oh yes, that's why Billy... um, sorry, I keep forgetting nobody knows who Billy is." Today, in fact, on his birthday, the comics fans on social media were talking passionately-yet-vaguely about various developments, none of which I really got any actual idea of but that doesn't matter because that's not what I'm talking about. What I AM talking about was what I saw someone said about different perceptions of what superheroes are FOR. For some, the focus is on "HERO," for others, on "SUPER" (as in superPOWERS). It made me think about the old Marvel vs. DC argument, which I'll admit that I'm on Team Marvel even though I don't read comics, because I find the characters more interesting (and my favorite TV show ever DANGIT ABC revolves around a Marvel character who was little more than a passing reference to a one-time girlfriend in the comics, but anyhoo INDEFINITE HIATUS NOT A CANCELLATION NEVER SAY NEVER) *AHEM* what was I talking about? Right, the old Marvel vs. DC thing. The idea being that DC characters were more Other, like, superheroes as a whole different breed, whereas Marvel characters were more like people who had to deal with superpowers on top of being people, that's all. And that's KIND of what the guy on Twitter was saying, some more HERO, some more SUPER, but on the other hand...

...How do I put this? He was referring more to the purity of heroics vs. dark and edgy anti-heroes (which in the movie universe, Marvel and DC kind of flipped their old stereotypes haven't they? Deadpool doesn't count). But I prefer my superheroes somewhere in the middle. I prefer them not to be the infallible demigods but the regular people who happen to have superpowers instead. But on the other hand, I DO prefer those people to be heroic, not antiheroes (well, except sometimes). I want them to be faulty people who TRY. I want to see what a regular person would DO if they had more power than the average person, and I'd like to see them make the right choices. Because with Great Power, as the saying goes, comes Great Responsibility.

Which brings us back to Billy. When he was very young and training himself to be a superhero, he patterned himself after Superman. But the older he got, becoming an awkward, nerdy teenager (albeit one with superpowers), the more drawn to Spider-Man he became. Here was another nerdy kid trying to figure out how to manage his Great Power. Superman PRETENDED to be a nerd so people wouldn't notice he was actually an all-powerful alien. Peter Parker WAS a nerd. With spider powers. And that's why Billy found comfort in him as a teenager. He needed a role model he had a CHANCE of emulating.

So I take this argument kind of personally, on Billy's behalf. Heroes can be faulty and still have good intentions. Supers can have powers and still have problems. It's what you DO with what you've got that matters, whether your powers involve flight and telekinesis or whether they're just a bit more experience, a bit more money, or a bit more opportunity.

In conclusion... I guess I should keep holding out for a new story for Billy after all.

*Her name is Coriander Lemongrass and she's a Kender if the campaign has Kender but if not she's just an ordinary Hobbitty halfling, and her class also changes depending on the campaign-- right now she's a "thief" because that was the only appropriate class open to her in this campaign, but usually she's had some sort of magic, too-- bard seems to be the best fit. The best thing is, when I pulled her out and dusted her off for this current campaign, after YEARS, I looked up and said in shock, "You know what? Cori is totally Maddie. I CREATED MADDIE BEFORE SHE WAS BORN." 
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
2016-05-13 09:21 am

Random Reactions to Various Things I've Seen Lately

1. I feel kind of guilty about expressing my discomfort with the We Need Diverse Books campaign in the past. I want to make it clear that my discomfort is COMPLETELY PERSONAL, not ideological. I never want to give anyone the impression that I think it's "reverse racism" or unfair to me as a really-boringly-undiverse writer in any way people have industry control over. IT'S NOT. IT'S COMPLETELY FAIR, AND AS A LIBRARIAN I AM ALL FOR IT. It's only me as a struggling writer with low self-esteem, every time I see it The Lone Power whispers in my ear "NOBODY NEEDS YOUR WRITING, YOU'RE BORING, GIVE UP TRYING TO WRITE NOW." And obviously, considering I'm attributing the voice to The Lone Power, I know it's wrong, I know it's a lie, but the part of me that knows this can't think of a good comeback. "I SO TOTALLY DO HAVE A UNIQUE VOICE AND AN OUTLOOK THAT NEEDS TO BE SHARED! I'M GOING TO WRITE...uh...okay I have no idea what I'm going to write." And the Lone Power goes "SEE?!" and I go waste my time reading TV recaps instead. So what I'm saying is DIVERSE BOOKS=GOOD. SUPPORT THEM. I DON'T WANT ANY SPECIAL TREATMENT FROM PUBLISHERS. I'M NOT AFRAID OF HAVING MY CHANCES TAKEN FROM ME BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE LESS REPRESENTED VOICES. I'm only afraid of having my chances taken from me by my own internal doubts.

2. ABC, you can't CANCEL Agent Carter. I'm not saying this as a rabid fan who doesn't personally WANT you to cancel Agent Carter. Well, I AM, but that's beside the point. No, it's just, and I've said this before, Agent Carter is a MINISERIES and theoretically you can bring it back at any time, stick it in anywhere you have a break. The word "cancel" is too FINAL for something so flexible. Just say, "Not in this next year, but hey, maybe some other time!" I mean it'll WORK, we've got YEARS to explore, with the exception offinding out what happened to Thompson

there's no reason we can't pop back into the history of proto-SHIELD several years later. Don't be all "CANCELLED" about it! Be "on indefinite hiatus!" COME ON, KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN!

3. Speaking of Marvel TV, Jason has decided he doesn't care about Agents of SHIELD anymore. Part of me's like, okay, I'm fine with that, I don't need to worry about making it to the TV every Tuesday at 9, I can watch on my own time the next afternoon or whatnot (I work Wednesday mornings), but another part of me is like YOU DON'T REALIZE WHAT A HUGE BLOW THIS IS TO OUR MARRIAGE. It was our DATE NIGHT. That's one of the few things we really enjoy doing together, watching superhero shows! And I have a feeling I want to see Civil War more than he does. Which if we could only get babysitting he'd be okay with, but his parents are in the middle of moving and my parents live farther away. Part of me's like, gee, I could totally go by myself some weekday afternoon, but then I'm like, "NO, AMY, THAT'S THE EQUIVALENT OF ADULTERY. Not just because your Imaginary Husband has a small part in it. IT WOULD BE SUCH AN UNCARING MOVE TO GO SEE A SUPERHERO MOVIE WITHOUT JASON." Seriously. There's more at stake here than watching a movie.

4. I'm kind of mentally cluttered at the moment. I've got gardening to catch up on, on account of being down with the flu all last week. I have a lot of GeekMom articles I want to work on, but I feel guilty sitting down to write long enough to do so. The house is, of course, a wreck. And I still have to feed three picky eaters and myself, which is still the bane of my existence. Sometimes I just want to shout "ENOUGH! FROM NOW ON I AM ONLY MAKING SALADS AND YOU WILL EAT IT OR YOU WILL MAKE YOUR OWN FOOD WITHOUT WHINING!" But I have a hard time cooking for myself.

5. Now I am running late for work, so bye. Excuse the lack of editing and links that I would have done had I had more time.

rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
2016-03-19 10:33 am
Entry tags:

Why I Can't Write Fiction Anymore (or why it's currently not working at least)

I'm sure I've mentioned that the reason I actually started WRITING stories as a child (instead of just playing make-believe-- I was plenty enough good at THAT sort of storytelling without any other prompting) was that I kept having awesome narrative dreams that needed to be written down and shared. In my teen years I actually came up with tons of stories that WEREN'T inspired by dreams, then in adulthood I mostly concentrated on rewriting old stuff in an attempt to make them publishable, then I had kids and lost control of my mental capacities.

Nowadays I never think of fictional story ideas during my waking hours. I'm just like, "I have no ideas. There's nothing I need to write about." Occasionally I think of things to BLOG about, and to be honest probably the only reason I allow myself this is that blogging is easier and it's so much more immediate than fiction.

Because my subconscious still ADORES writing fiction. I really do have epic, marvelously story-like dreams. I even work on revising and otherwise shaping the story to make it better while I'm dreaming it.

And then I wake up.

Anyway, here's what I dreamed last night. I was in a pet supply store. There was a sense of survivalism among the shoppers, and a couple of girls in front of me in line begging for leeway with their payments because they only had SOME of the money now but they couldn't wait because there's no time, "the DNA shift is messing everything up!" The "DNA Shift" was apparently affecting masses of people, changing their genetic makeup just enough to slightly alter the way they experienced the world. It had apparently happened to prepare humanity for a pending apocalypse. Only the shift affected everyone differently apparently depending on their moral values and choices, and only SOME of the shifting would actually result in survival, only nobody knew exactly how. And I was given a brochure about a holiday CALLED "Ramadan" but celebrated by Celtic Neo-Druids in early February and based on spring cleaning, both actual and symbolic-- and then I was in the midst of such a celebration, which was kind of fun and involved candy feather dusters and a video game about vacuuming up evil spirits. But they were still actually prepping for the pending apocalypse, and there was a gas that caused the DNA Shift that was incorporated into the celebrations, but because not everyone had been exposed to the gas/experienced the Shift yet, some powerful executives tried to exploit Celtic Ramadan to withhold the gas for only those they deemed Most Worthy (ie, those who had the money to pay), so now there was a whole thing about who could and who could not undergo the Shift, and rogues going out intentionally exposing people and other rogues going out trying to stop them, and... and...

I woke up. And immediately I think, "Gotta write this one!" and then almost immediately another part of me thinks, "It's TERRIGEN MIST, you were totally just stealing Terrigen Mist because you're a Marvel TV addict with no ideas of your own. And the fact that the survival-likelihood of your DNA shift is based on moral values has a weird religious tinge to it, what exactly are you trying to insinuate? And is Celtic Ramadan more offensive to Muslims or Neo-Druids? Why does your subconscious have to have such messed-up cultural appropriations? WHY CAN'T YOU GET ANY USEFUL STORY IDEAS?"

And THAT is why I can't write fiction with my conscious brain. BECAUSE IT WON'T SHUT UP AND LET ME.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
2016-03-03 02:42 pm
Entry tags:

My Literary Analysis Problem: A Memoir

I touched on my personal problems with Lit Analysis in my last post (which, by the way, I have edited to include thoughts on Agent Carter's season finale, if you care), and as I continue to read a wide variety of opinions-expressed-as-truth about shows and books and etc, I thought it might make a good GeekMom post. So I pulled up something I'd written before about Lit Analysis to see if I could pull any of it for a new piece.

This had been one of a series of "memoirs" I'd written about my first years of college during my last year of college. Yeah. Kind of stretching the word "memoir" here but whatnot. As I read it I both laughed and cried. The bits and pieces I might use in an article would need a lot of reshaping to sound like a proper article, but I kind of want to share the whole thing as-is right now.

(I think I shared the one I wrote about my birthday once a long time ago, too. I'm going to go look for that! Oh, it was friends-locked because I used real names. I've un-friends-locked it due to like three people actually ever reading this while logged in on LiveJournal anymore. If anybody is called out by name in this who would not like to be, let me know!)

I'm not going to change or remove names in this one, either. Just shout at me if you think that should change. I've added a few notes and edits to clarify things for people who didn't know me in college, and taken out some chunks that are completely off-topic, but otherwise, I'm leaving it. I want to get other stuff done today!

And so I present to you "April 1997: The Trouble with Lit Analysis":

As written by me about 15 years ago! Not editing at all! So don't judge current me! Unless in a good way! )
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
2015-11-16 10:26 am
Entry tags:

A Bit of a General Update and Notes About Stuff on My Mind

Just a short bit so that my last entry isn't the first entry you see when you come here, because it's been put to the lie this weekend. I mean, sort of. I mean, my latest GeekMom article went up Saturday, on wordless picture books, and it got lots of raves and shares and by the end of the day as I was scrolling down Feedly, I spotted a "100+" beside it in the column where the "popularity" of posts are noted, and I kind of gaped. When I look up and down that list, most of the blogs I really respect and think of as children's-librarian-blogosphere-must-reads don't get near 100. The Bloggess gets lots of "500+"s, and she's definitely the outlier. GeekMom in general has a lot of 100+s and 200+s, but that is not by any means on ALL the posts there.

And, yeah, by this morning-- or actually yesterday-- the number beside mine had gone up to "200+."

But this isn't about the numbers so much as it was EYE-OPENING. All those posts, whines, frets, things I've said about feeling like there was nothing anyone needed to hear from me, that my voice has been done a thousand times, that I have nothing to contribute-- I hope you realize that I wasn't just looking for sympathy or fishing for compliments. I HONESTLY BELIEVED I had nothing unique to say. It was kind of a shock to be snapped out of it, by seeing so much wide-spread love by strangers over something I'd written. It forced me to look fresh at what I'd written. Sure, other people write about picture books. They even write about wordless picture books. But it's not like I'm NOT more knowledgeable on the subject than the average person. And even among the other people who write on the topic, I've never seen nearly enough gushing over Barbara Lehman the way I do. Maybe I really have added to the discussion, made a little bit of a difference, by drawing more attention to her work.

With my eyes open, I even caught a bit of a Twitter discussion, a We Need Diverse Books discussion, about how much stories about kids who practice religion incidentally, where it's not an extreme example of the religion, are needed, and I realized, Oh right, I'm a Bad Catholic, and there aren't nearly enough voices of Bad Catholics out there, showing how someone may not strictly follow every tenet of their religion and may even strongly disagree with aspects of it, but they still believe and they still get something out of it. I mean I AM constantly seeing that disconnect, that two-extremes way of looking at it, and I'm like, you stupid white middle-class cishet American woman, THIS IS YOU ACTUALLY BEING DIVERSE and you knew it all along, you KNEW that voice needed to be heard and you still denied that it was yours!

Speaking of which, current events make me feel it's really important to relink to a post I posted earlier this year. Right, that was me saying something important, something that needed to be heard, and needs to be heard even more now. Why have I doubted my voice for so long.

Anyway, I've got a lot of other stuff to work on today, so I will sign off now. I just needed to get this on the record, if only to remind myself when I forget again.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
2015-11-07 05:06 pm

Too Many Books: A Whine You Probably Shouldn't Read But I'm Putting Out Anyway As Therapy

NOTE: I'm kind of unsure about my personal blog, now that I write on a MUCH LARGER PLATFORM over at GeekMom. I could kind of count on being mostly ignored here on my little corner of the internet, just talking to the few people who knew I was here, so I could just WHINE STUPIDLY to the universe every so often and no one would care. So I apologize. This is one of those whiny depressing unhelpful-to-anyone-else posts so if you're looking for something professional from me, this isn't it.

Well then, if you're still here, let's begin:

I couldn't figure out why I was getting depressed sitting at my desk in the library. I LOVE the library. I LOVE my job. Sure I have depression issues but I'm managing them and anyway it's just something about this desk that's weird. It's not all the time. It's not when I'm working on programs or booklists or specific orders or helping patrons (unless I'm already depressed, then my INTROVERSION kicks in). It's days like today, when I have to catch up with review reading and updating my Massive Spreadsheet Of New Books.

Right now I've got 1317 books on that list. 1317 books published for children through teens by a traditional publisher in the past two years that I HAVEN'T BOUGHT for the library yet, and considering I have just $37 dollars left in my teen budget for the year (at least I still have a thousand in children's) it's a good bet most of them WON'T get bought. But I'm thinking, "SO MANY BOOKS! WHY CAN'T WE HAVE ALL THE BOOKS?" And then I think how I'll never get around to reading most of the books I HAVE bought, let alone all the books from the past I haven't read, and all the ADULT books (as in, not children's or YA, not, like, "Adult"), period (disclaimer, I'm reading an adult book right now, the Bloggess's latest, Furiously Happy. But that's because I love her desperately and so have made the exception), and you add in self-published books and magazines and blogs and fanfiction, it's like SO MANY BOOKS! SO MANY WORDS! INFORMATION OVERLOAD! TOO MUCH TO READ!

And the blogs and other review sources I use, they've got me on the We Need Diverse Books train. Because we do. But we always hear how putting diverse characters in books is good and all, but when people who aren't that minority do it they usually do it wrong even when they're trying, so what we really need is diverse AUTHORS, and I'm as un-diverse as can be. Books have been full of mirrors for me FOREVER. Maybe that's why I got into books. A white straight American mainstream-Christian able-bodied cis-girl who dreams and reads in her happy middle-class home with both parents, OH GAH THAT'S LIKE EVERY CHILDRENS-YA BOOK IN HISTORY. Well, some writers will reassure me, you can't please everyone so just do the best you can adding diverse characters and accept that somebody might say "Hey, you portrayed that wrong!"

But it doesn't MATTER, because it will take a huge effort to get myself writing fiction again, and how can I ever feel like I can start when I see ALL THE BOOKS and I know IT'S NOT MY VOICE that people need?

It doesn't MATTER, because I have so much to fill my time as it is. I share books with children, maybe that's my part, I can connect all sorts of books with all sorts of children and I will give them the windows and mirrors they need to grow and THAT'S ALL I'M NEEDED FOR in the world of story. I write BLOGS occasionally, ARTICLES, and now I have an even bigger platform for my articles. I have my journal, where I can do the writing I need to do to keep my head on straight, just for me, which when people say "writers can't stop writing," THAT'S the thing I can't stop writing, just my journals. I don't have any STORIES I need to tell. And I have two children and a husband who feel I never give them enough attention, and a house that I KNOW I don't give enough attention, and I have my sewing projects, which have been my major outlet of creativity lately after library programming which is probably my BIGGEST outlet of creativity, to be honest.

I just DON'T NEED to write fiction. I have no stories pouring out of me, and nobody would need to hear them even if I did. There are too many books, and my voice isn't needed.

So why does this continual realization of basic fact make me so depressed.
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
2015-08-05 08:43 pm
Entry tags:

Literary Closure and Fear of Self, and Stuff. Read and comment on my blog here! :D

Time and again I've mentioned how far away I've gotten from my two #1 childhood-- and adolescent and early adulthood and basically PRE-MOTHERHOOD-- hobbies, reading and writing. I guess I keep moaning about it because it gives me an identity crisis, that's how tightly BOOKS have been tied to WHO I AM my whole life. People STILL associate me with books. I'm always getting Facebook-tagged for something book-related, or someone reads/hears/sees something bookish and is like "I was thinking of you today." The tie is so strong that even POST-(the-beginning-of)-motherhood, at least six years post, my daughter was being tested on basic vocabulary in preschool, had to identify a book, and allegedly immediately volunteered "my mommy knows a lot about those," as soon as she had. Well, okay, I am a librarian, and people do associate librarians with books even if there's so much more to it than that. But beyond the library tie-in, when people say to me "YOU! You're the one who loves BOOKS!" part of me kind of blinks and feels like a fraud, because... maybe I really don't?

It's not true, though, that I don't. It's more like I avoid reading and writing because I'm a little terrified of them. Maybe it's BECAUSE they're so tied up in my identity. Maybe cause and effect is backward, and I'm terrified of reading and writing because I've been having an identity crisis. MAYBE IT'S ALL A GIANT COLE SLAW OF CAUSES AND EFFECTS CAUSING PSYCHIC INDIGESTION.

READING is a bit less traumatic. Okay, I used to read approximately one novel a day; whereas now I've managed to complete two novels in the past three months or so.* I still get excited when a new book by an author I love is coming out (which both those books naturally were), but whether I get around to READING them is something else. But it's not because I don't LIKE it anymore. I'm just afraid to start because it always happens: if I love it (and why bother if I don't?) I will eventually NOT PUT IT DOWN. I will not be able to manage being a Responsible Grownup while reading. Everything else will be shunted aside. It's my fatal flaw Inertia rearing its head again: if I start, I can't stop; if I stop, I can't start.

But once I stop, it's easy to trick myself into forgetting the magic. I'll read the internet for awhile-- quickly written bits and pieces of essays and opinions and comments, so my brain is swarming with words and ideas and opinions thrust on me by the masses and I'm like "JUST BE QUIET FOR A LITTLE BIT, WORDS! I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF WORDS TODAY!" But when I DO get sucked in to a REAL BOOK, a work of fiction, one that's been finely crafted by a master (because again, anymore I'm likely to only bother picking it up if it IS by someone I know is a master), I remember WHY, WHY I would bother to suck so many of these down in a sitting. THESE are words that unlock the imagination, let you experience a true alternate reality in the comfort of home.

So yesterday morning I woke up, having gotten to bed late because I'd gotten into the climax of that last book and couldn't stop until I finished, and my brain was telling stories to itself. Basically that's WHY people write, isn't it, because their brains won't stop telling stories. Anymore my brain does all its storytelling late at night when my inhibitions are turned off and I'm securely dreaming, but reading had apparently reminded my brain that I don't HAVE to stop dreaming when I wake up. But I'd already written this story. This was one of my former Works In Progress. I'm not sure when they officially STOPPED being Works in Progress, somewhere between 3 and 5 years back, but if you've been around long enough you might remember me blabbering about Ian Schafer-- or more likely, his superhero best friend Billy 'Arrison. Loved those kids. In the back of my head I always thought, "when am I finally going to give them a book worthy of them?" I got pretty far. I drafted a whole book during a correspondence course, and the instructor thought it had genuine promise. Still needed work. Rewrote the first few chapters a few times. Had one of those initial chapter rewrites critiqued by Bruce Coville at an SCBWI conference and he didn't hate it, which made my entire life for awhile. Decided to rewrite the whole thing from scratch with an entirely different opening chapter, which I wrote and then... I stopped. It just wasn't happening. I just wasn't happening.

But yesterday I woke up smiling as I watched the final showdown with the big bad playing out in my head again, and thought, "That was fun. I want to read that book again. Just as a reader." So I did.

Yeah, still needs work, if it is to be Publication-worthy, but I'm not sure it CAN be fixed. Maybe I've never been able to wrestle the plot into submission because it's not MEANT to be wrestled into submission. Maybe its technological confusion over whether it's the present day or the 1990s, or its insistence on being a middle-grade story with a 17-year-old protagonist, is just PART of it. Maybe it's all just silly fun. Maybe it's time to leave it be and move on. It was a great practice novel.

And I feel okay about that. I can let it be. I'll always have Billy and Ian and Hannie and Ashlynn even if nobody else does.

That said, it was also way better than I've given myself credit for. I mean I ENJOYED it as a reader, reading it now several years later when I haven't been thinking about it. I fell in love with those stupid teenagers and their awkward chemistry all over again. There was a lot of REALLY GOOD STUFF THERE. When I left it I only saw its insurmountable problems that would never find it a home with a publisher. But I haven't been trying to get it published for years. I haven't been trying to publish ANYTHING for years. I've just been trying to WRITE again.

...or BELIEVE in myself enough to even ATTEMPT to write again...

So this time I still saw the flaws, but I saw the good stuff too, and it was GREAT stuff. It Wasn't Half Bad. I did that. I wrote an entire book and the characters made me laugh and cry and the plot took some neat twists and there's these lovely little character-building details you'd almost miss and there's Overarching Themes and STUFF.

Oh, and here's the best part. I also found an even earlier draft. That, too, had some good stuff, but the latest draft was SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER. That means I can learn.

So I'm still too terrified to attempt to write something. I'm still swirling through this identity crisis thing. But-- there's one rope for me to hang onto, at least.

*BOOK REVIEWS HERE, for the interested:
The other month I read Elizabeth Wein's most recent of her books about young pilots in WWII, Black Dove White Raven. This one was not quite as devastating as the other two, but considering this one included a detailed mustard gas attack on a Red Cross hospital camp, that really just tells you something about how devastating the others were. The most interesting thing about this one is it takes place in Ethiopia, which, seriously, I know We Need Diverse Books makes me feel worthless as a writer, but as a READER, I'm like, DARN YOU Colonial Europe with your stories of Savages in Darkest Africa, why did you hide all this FASCINATING HISTORY from us?! Everytime I read a book set in Africa that is not starring animals or happening in Ancient Egypt, I feel this way, this TELL ME MORE, TELL ME ALL THIS STUFF NOBODY TOLD ME EXISTED! Specifically in this book, among other things, did you know Ethiopia had its own branch of Christianity dating back to the beginning, not through some colonial missionaries? Didn't you, like me, just think ALL the early Christian sects eventually were united under the Roman Empire, and then didn't separate again until the Orthodox churches broke off? NO DUDES, there was a completely DIFFERENT sect down in Ethiopia all along, and they have a big part in this book! How COOL is that? I DIDN'T KNOW THAT AND NOW I WANT TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS!

*AHEM*

The book I finished the other night was Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song. I never adored her Mosca Mye books as much as a lot of people, but The Lost Conspiracy blew my mind, so it was on the strength of that I decided to read this one. It was slow going for the first chapter or two, to be honest: our protagonist is very confused and has a lot of blanks in her memory, so it was a little hard to grab onto for a currently-sort-of-reading-averse person like me. But then I got through a whole bunch of chapters at one sitting that involved a lot of waiting, and then I couldn't wait to get back, and got more and more SUCKED IN as I went along. This is a very creepy book, creepiest at the beginning when you're not sure what's going on-- a well-read adult will figure out what basically had happened to our heroine long before she does, but it's still creepy, and it's twisty and full of delicious details and there are enough moments of triumph throughout that you're not bogged down by the horror, and, as in Hardinge's other books, the characters are all so layered that everyone spends some time feeling like a good guy OR a bad guy, except maybe the Very Big Bad, I don't remember him having ANY Good Guy time (okay, EDIT: I'll give him that his motives are extremely noble from a certain standpoint. He's just pretty awful how he goes about things).

Anyway, so me finishing a book is in-and-of-itself a thumbs-up from me (me write negative reviews? I would, but I DON'T FINISH THOSE BOOKS), but now you know that these two passed the test.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
2015-06-17 10:55 am

A Bloggiversary and Some Thoughts About Having a Voice

Ten years and one month ago today yesterday (I got busy!), this happened.*

If I'd been paying attention, I would have pointed it out last month, but I got distracted (I've READ stuff and I did a whole lot of sewing, and of course there was day to day LIFE involved). But I'd PLANNED to point it out, because people with hugely popular Official Blogs are always pointing out their five year bloggiversaries or even one or two years, and I'm like "TEN! TEN YEARS! And still no one takes me seriously!"

But of course, it wasn't a BLOG, per se. It was a LiveJournal. At that time only college students used Facebook, and as for the rest of social media... well, I'm not entirely sure the phrase "social media" even existed. LiveJournal actually WAS social media. You followed your friends. People'd post pictures, surveys, memes, short cryptic passive aggressive comments that no one besides the poster understood, links to news articles, and there were LOADS of "Communities" on every conceivable topic. Just like Facebook and Twitter, and supposedly Tumblr but I still don't understand why that's considered a community-building place and I've been there two years already (no CONVERSATION! Just reblogging and adding comments that other people may or may not even see!). So I had friends on LiveJournal, ones who would tell me I should join. I think it was my old college roommate who specifically said, "It's something I can really see YOU getting into." I don't even know if her LiveJournal still works. Let's see what happens if I put it in here. [livejournal.com profile] gloworm59 Huh, it DOES still exist. But it was last updated six years ago, which means this one has been happening over TWICE as long.

Anyway, she was right, obviously. Because here I am, still using it, if only once a month or so (and I must admit I RARELY look at my Friends Page anymore. Most people I care about there link to their posts through other social media, so I KNOW when to go look!) And I enjoyed participating in the meme-survey-quiz-things whenever they showed up-- I miss surveys, to be honest, somebody give me a survey! -- but the thing I REALLY appreciated, which flashier social media could never offer me, was the LENGTH. The opportunity to write whatever was on my mind and actually get feedback about it.

It's like in middle school, when our english teacher would ask for volunteers to share our daily journal entries with the class, my hand would always shoot right up, because finally my peers would get to hear all the stuff I was thinking about! It was my chance to TALK! It was so much easier to talk that way than to talk out loud!

So right, Tumblr does offer length, but not, like I said, an easy way to get FEEDBACK. I LIKE comments. I LIKE the discussions that come from comments. I wish I got more comments.

And at the same time, I'm glad I'm just a little LiveJournal blogger. I'm glad I'm relatively invisible. It's this weird balance between letting myself OUT THERE and having somebody else acknowledge that I have something to say, and protecting myself-- the louder your voice, the more nasty voices find you and tell you to shut up.

I mean, here's an issue I've noticed for a long time: people can be nasty on the Internet. I know, duh. But while some people are just trolls, some people are actually well-meaning. They feel they're standing up for what's right by pointing out what you've done wrong. BUT they cross the line and turn it into a huge issue, make it personal, won't drop it long after you've moved on, fill it with hate. And for a long while a lot of people I admired thought, because these people's MOTIVES were good, or because these people's voices were traditionally unheard (like when they were calling out a person of privelege), that protesting this kind of behavior was just further oppression, further silencing of the seldom-heard. So I figured I was in the wrong, because I'm a spoiled straight white girl. But lately I've been noticing more and more people acknowledging what I noticed all along, that sometimes good motives don't excuse outright mean behavior.

And I think, hey, so maybe my gut instinct was RIGHT, here. Maybe I should have believed in myself, stood up against what I could see was bullying even if it could be argued as justified. I still need to remember that even I can sometimes be RIGHT.

So the other day at the library I was scrolling down my collection development spreadsheet, just looking at all the authors' names. All these people who managed to write books and publish them in the past year! When I was a kid I thought I was special for being a writer, the ONLY ONE... well, that I KNEW. Even when I met Angie, my best friend, in high school, and discovered that she was an absolutely fabulous writer, part of me was like "No, I'M the writer! ME! She's not as MUCH of a writer!" even as the rest of me was like "Don't be an idiot, Part of Me, this story she wrote off the top of her head is hilarious and awesome and not at all what YOU would have written so it's not like there's not room for BOTH of you to be writers!" So anyway twenty-some years later I'm looking at this list of a thousand-some names of professional, paid writers, and those just the ones who've published something recently for anyone under 18 that might be worth purchasing for a public library...

...being online, blogging and following other bloggers, has really driven home how MANY writers there are in the world...

...but for some reason the other day when I looked at that list, the thing I thought was "Maybe I could write something if I changed my name to Belinda."

That wasn't just a random name I picked. Belinda was my alter-ego as a very small child. Princess Belinda of Switzerland. I actually got the name from the Ogden Nash poem about Custard the Dragon, which my mom used to recite. (Not the Princess of Switzerland part. That I made up myself). So I guess it taps into that pure, brave soul-child of mine, the one who isn't afraid to put her vast imagination Out There. I don't think I was thinking that in so many words at the moment, it was just a gut-thing: "If my name was Belinda, I could be a writer again." Like, that IS the name of my inner soul-child, and maybe it's HER who can write.

But it seems kind of funny to adopt a pseudonym now, when here I am on the internet under my real name for over a decade. NOT writing fiction, even. Writing my innermost thoughts, putting them out into the universe in hopes someone else might see them and understand. Somewhat protected by the unprofessional backdrop of LiveJournal, by the anonymity of Not Being Famous. Fully exposed, but not where anyone's looking. Well, where SOME people are looking, which helps. Because I like that validation, that if I DO speak up, somebody might listen.

So here I am. Ten years I've had a voice, a small voice, a largely drowned out voice... but a voice nonetheless. And sometimes just having the voice reminds me that sometimes I actually have something to say.

----
*Note that the userpic is set to "default" and the "Current Mood" theme has changed over the years, as neither the building in the default userpic nor the baby in the Current Mood pic actually existed at the time of that post. Also, that baby learned to ride a two-wheeler the other week.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
2015-01-28 03:45 pm

I Wish I Had a Great Title For This That Would Make You Want to Click But Maybe That's For the Best

First of all, I would like to apologize to everyone else whose blogs I "follow," because unless you've posted a review of a relatively new children's or YA book (which I then make note of on my extensive collection development spreadsheet), I most likely have not read your blog for the past month. Unless you're Angie. Angie gets instant-read privileges on account of being Angie. NO OFFENSE, PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT ANGIE, you're all lovely too, but we can't all be Angie. And it seems hypocritical, because I like to think that all the people who follow ME actually read what I post, but when I can't manage to read other people's posts and I ACCOMPLISH NEARLY NOTHING ELSE, EITHER, I'm sure the much more productive people out there with their actual lives can't make time for this blog that only rarely actually says anything useful.

But that works out nicely, and brings me to my actual introductory paragraph, because today I have even less actually useful stuff to say than usual. I'll be going back to old-school LiveJournaling, emphasis on the "Journal"-- a ramble. The only reason it's not in my paper journal instead is I'd like to toss these thoughts out there, see what they bounce off of, instead of having only me to look at them and think the same old circular things about them. So right, busy folks, there are no useful librarian-esque tips, no life-changing philosophical pronouncements, and no gratuitous pictures of Martin Freeman in the rest of this post, so you can go about your business. But if you have a quiet evening and an open ear (well, eye-ear. Unless you're using voice software to read the internet which I suppose you could be doing), or if I am in fact YOUR Angie (in which case I am touched, honored, and a little worried by the responsibility), come on in! Here's what's been going on in my head lately.
Read more... )
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
2014-09-29 02:59 pm

Thing I Just Wrote

Trying to drown out the quiet,
the thundering of possibility,
the space that whispers to be filled
by you

when you're not even sure there's enough of you
to fill where you already are

the quiet asks too much

or knows more about you
than you do







(Post-Script: the past two nights I've had random bits of dream in iambic pentameter. My subconscious is way more clever than my conscious is. It's annoying. My conscious does free-form and thinks it's accomplished something)
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
2014-09-25 08:33 pm
Entry tags:

Anyone care to beta-read an early-reader "chapter book" (4 manuscript pages) I wrote?

Okay, Kim Aippersbach, I've met your challenge! I have two short drafts-in-progress that I've been trying to work on this month. Not as much as I COULD'VE gotten done, but more than I would have if I'd allowed myself not to aim for anything.

Both the pieces are complete but for a hole where I'm NOT SURE WHAT HAPPENS. But it's possible I'm wrong about my Early Chapter Book, and only am thinking I have a hole because I arbitrarily got it into my head that the story should be split into five chapters. So it seems like that would be something another reader could objectively look at and decide whether the arc DOES need something more or not, or whether the last two chapters should just be smoothed over into one.

This is something I started writing earlier this year when my son was reading a lot of Henry and Mudge books for school. So that's the basic structure I had in mind if you're not sure what I meant by "early-reader chapter book," although I'm NOT SURE-- either my story is a slightly higher reading level than Henry and Mudge, or I somehow need to simplify the language more.* I DON'T KNOW. I guess different publishers have different guidelines for beginning-reader books anyway, some with stricter vocabularies and/or structures than others. So if any of you out there actually KNOW something about writing for this age group, your advice would be gratefully appreciated!

So if you'd like to be a critique partner for me (for this piece at least), apply now!

*I just ran it through this readability calculator. It gives it a Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score of 93 / grade level of 1.9, which would be about comparable to Henry and Mudge I suppose, but the Coleman-Liau Index gives it a grade level of 8.1 because it apparently doesn't like me.** All the different readability levels average out to 3.7--that's including the bizarre 8.1 in the calculations-- so if you DISCOUNT that it's probably about a second-or-early-third-grade level which is what I had in mind. But honestly, reading about the differences between these readability formulas just further reinforces how stupid strict adherence to reading level is. No WONDER the dinosaur books always score too advanced!

**Actually because one of the main characters is a game show announcer who I can't NOT have use words like "gentlemen" even though they're nine letters long.
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
2014-08-24 04:57 pm
Entry tags:

On Being a Writer Even When You Don't Think You Want to Write

This year is the first in ...nine?... that I'm not starting the One Book activities manual writing this month, and I find myself curiously discomforted by this.

It had started pre-kids, while I was working at the Children's Museum, and the Museum had been asked to supply an activities manual to go with an activities trunk for the brand-new PA One Book Every Young Child program, and the Educational Director, having just discussed the Museum's circulating book collection with me since I was in fact an MLIS at that point (even though I was working the floor of a Children's Museum), suddenly looked at me and asked, "Hey, can you write?"

For most of this past almost-decade I didn't even count this as really writing, because I wasn't writing stories from my imagination. That awful voice in my head kept taunting me about NOT WRITING, even though I wasn't just writing, and publishing, but getting PAID for it. I admit I got a kick out of filling in Schedule C-EZ lines A and B of the taxes each year, because the IRS didn't care that I didn't feel like a "real" writer. Writing was what I'd been paid to do, so "Writer, Activity Manual, Business Code 711510" is what I was. I just didn't appreciate it until I didn't have it anymore.

I keep thinking of my writing process for One Book. How I'd feel all proud of myself for color-coding my notes and putting activity ideas in order like I'd done something impressive. How I'd keep getting distracted but I'd make myself work, in little pockets, "Okay you can check Twitter again AFTER you finish this paragraph!" How I'd take drafts of pages with me to work on in bits while waiting to pick up Maddie from preschool. As weird as it sounds, I MISS that. I miss HAVING something to work with, to work TOWARD.

And I now realize that I WAS working, to an extent, like a real writer. The ones I follow on Twitter, speaking of Twitter, are always talking about these little tricks they use to get the work done. It makes it seem like a chore, but I realize how much I enjoyed it now that, well, I don't have anybody counting on me to get the work turned in.

Because I could easily adapt those techniques to working on my own stories. But without that external motivation, the committee saying "We need the manual activities by this date!" --I mean, that's the only problem. It's so easy for That Voice to tell me that nobody CARES whether I write MY stories. But if I COULD, if I could ignore the Lone Power long enough to work on writing other things the way I worked on One Book-- I see now that it IS POSSIBLE. Tomorrow school starts. Tomorrow I'll have five afternoons a week-- okay, three, I work two of those-- with NO ONE ELSE to distract me. No one else but me. But if it's my JOB to get SOMETHING on paper/screen, I don't know, maybe I have a chance.

Because I also realize that my freaking out over the past few years, worrying that I'm no longer a writer or I don't want to be one anymore or I CAN'T be one anymore or I'm just stuck on old dreams that no longer apply-- I realize that I was stressing over nothing. Well, almost nothing. I still have creativity blockages and motivational issues and whatnot, but my basic identity as a writer is so ingrained that I can't even dream at night without my dream self attempting to write everything down as it happens and plotting out how I could adapt what I see into a proper story. My dream self knows exactly what I am, and tells other people in the dream that. "I'm a writer."

This morning my husband, the one who doesn't get the point of art, the one who's completely jaded to the concept of Following Ones Dreams and Finding Ones Purpose, he was chattering about a new RPG campaign he and his best friend wanted to start-- as I've said before, they "meet" to game over Skype, and they like me to play too because it's more fun with at least three people. He was encouraging me with character generation ideas when he said, "See, I'm hoping thinking about this might inspire you to help you get back into your own writing." He said that? My clueless husband? I started to cry and ran over immediately to hug him. He worried that his description of his post-apocalyptic game-world had freaked me out. But I was just relieved.

I really am running out of excuses not to write.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
2014-07-27 08:05 pm

In Which I Try To Face My Dark Side, But Only Decide My Dark Side May or May Not Be Philip Pullman

The other day I jumped back into The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright. If you've been hanging around here awhile you might remember me talking about this book, its beautiful discussions of the way art and spirituality intersect, the way it poses soul-searching Hard Questions that dig way deeper into your motivations than most other writing prompts you might encounter. I'd left off on it just before a chapter called "The Beauty and Danger of a Creative Life: Why the Wonder Brings Darkness With It," which may have been WHY I'd left off. I've been having serious fear-induced blocking issues with my creativity, after all: the last thing I needed was MORE reason to be wary of it. But as it turned out, the chapter told me nothing I didn't already know intimately. I'm IN the Dark Stuff already! If anything, it was further proof that I am, actually, a creative person.

I found myself utterly tickled by a paragraph explaining that artists tend to fall in love easily because the artistic mindset and the-emotional-side-of-being-in-love are both heightened ways of experiencing the universe, and I fell so deeply in love with that concept that I woke up the next morning intent on writing a post about it. Only I got so distracted by breakfast and children and the Internet that hours went by and I found I'd lost the desire to blog. So obviously my best bet was to procrastinate further, by searching for tips on how habitually-procrastination-prone EnneaType 9s like myself can stop procrastinating. Mostly I just found lots of evidence that, yes, we are really good at procrastinating.* I didn't think the blog post could happen in this state, so I went back to the book to reread a bit to see if it put me back in the mood. After all, I hadn't even READ the Hard Questions for the chapter yet.

Wait. HAH. In typical Type 9 fashion, I'd gotten so excited about the Beauty of a Creative Life that I'd managed to forget entirely that this chapter had actually focused on the Danger of it. I'd even forgotten why I called the Hard Questions "the Hard Questions" (hint: they're not actually called that). And these Hard Questions? There was a list called "Worst-Case Scenarios":"The phrase or sentence I most fear writing down..."; "The secret I most fear coming to light"; "The emotion that frightens me most"; "The location associated with my darkest moment"; "The failure that would shatter me most"; "The biggest mistake I could make"; "The cruelest thing I've ever said or done"; "My greatest regret so far"; "The one thing I dread more than anything"; "The possibility I worry about most"; "The thing I need to do but can't"; "The one person or event that can make me angriest in the shortest amount of time"; "The grief that won't let me go." Those are the SHORT questions. The big one was "Write a three-page essay that explores the darkness you have either found in your creative work or feared you would find there. Write quickly and don't edit... [after a few days go back and] make sure it flows well and would be understandable to someone who knows nothing about you....Come up with some sort of structure and revise accordingly." That, oh Best Beloveds, is what you're reading right now. The revised, moderately explained edition.

See, the thing about 9s is that we're actually pretty good at DEALING with the world's Darkness, push come to shove. We're good in a crisis, should we happen to be dropped into the middle of one. But we're not so good at FACING the Darkness. We'll go out of our way to AVOID dealing with the Darkness. We're a bit like the Wizard Howl, having to trick himself into being brave because otherwise he'd slither right out of it.** THESE QUESTIONS WERE ASKING ME TO LOOK MY OWN DARK SIDE RIGHT IN THE EYE AND DESCRIBE WHAT I SEE. That's the DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL for a 9!

But having journaled since my early teens, and being a rather 4-like sexual-instinct 9, I'm a bit more introspective than the average 9. I CAN DO THIS. Maybe it'd be more the Long Dark Tea-Time than the actual NIGHT of the Soul.

Never mind it's taken me five paragraphs and two footnotes to get to the point where I actually DO discuss my Darkness.

If you were to ask me, flat out, to give a name to my own personal Dark Side, I'd tell you I've always identified with Wednesday Addams. She is the living-- okay, fictional-- EMBODIMENT of the Dark Side of Me. On the surface I may be this painfully nice, sweet, quiet, innocent girl-- on the inside is Wednesday, a morbid, snarky, sullen witch who's utterly unimpressed by what anyone else thinks. But I love Wednesday! I love secretly BEING her! I wouldn't MIND-- and probably SHOULD BE-- letting her come to the surface more often. So somehow I don't think that's the answer. That morbid, snarky side of me is NOT actually the Inner Darkness I need to face.

I decided to start with whichever of the Worst-Case Scenario questions I came up with an answer for first. The Location Associated With My Darkest Moment popped into my head immediately: I saw myself sitting in the Oak Grove at college trying to process what, looking back, I see now was a genuine Dark Night of the Soul moment (although it was morning), when I had to face a horrible truth about myself and what I'd thoughtlessly done to someone I loved. It had taken a long time-- years-- to fully recover from that. God help me, I wouldn't have to go through THAT again just to answer these QUESTIONS, would I?

But it opened up the tap-- literally, it made me cry for a moment, but I pulled myself together and quite calmly started answering more questions-- and more of my fears and regrets and demons poured onto the page. My fear of being wrong (that's a product of my 1-wing, since we're on the Enneatype stuff), because it's like every added wrong thing is more negativity in the world (which, yeah, is a 9's problem with having a 1-wing). Fears of anything bad happening to my kids, not just because they're my babies whom I love more than anyone else in the world, but also because I fear having to FACE anyone SHOULD they have (even unwittingly) caused harm to my kids, because I don't think I could forgive them-- I'm not sure I forgive myself for all my failures as a parent and how they might manifest in the future. The regret that I never did anything daring with my life BEFORE I had a family. The dread that I never WILL, that my life has gone stagnant. The deeper dread that the only way I CAN ever learn to live life fully is to give up my family and strike out on my own.

Now, none of these things were a surprise to me. Even if it might be hard to make myself sit down and write them, I've written about them all before. I've written SO MUCH in my journals-- and even here on my blog-- about my battles with chronic depression, which I even refer to as The Darkness-- because it IS, it's a cloud that settles over everything, blocking out light-- you can actually see a difference in the colors when you're depressed and not. I've written about this stuff so often it seemed pointless to write it again for the sake of this exercise.

So what about the darkness I FEARED I would find in my work? That would be more revealing. I KNOW it's fear that's causing my writer's block. I KNOW I'm slithering out of it just like Howl slithers out of his dangerous responsibilities, even as I feel called to DO it. I pondered, and the answer hit me: it's not so much what I'm afraid I'll find there. It's what I'm afraid I WON'T find. You know the Fear of the Blank Page? It's that. But it's more than that. It's the fear that even if I DO put something on the page, there will still be nothing there. I've filled dozens and dozens of notebooks FULL of blank pages, but have I written anything there, really? Anything that MEANS something? Anything with a POINT? What if I write and write but I never write anything that needs to be said? That's really the driving obsession (in the clinical, totally negative sense of the word) during my depressive periods: what's the point? What is the point of MY EXISTENCE? Maybe I'm afraid of that known liar, Depression, proving itself right in my writing, and I'll never find in it a point, or meaning, or a happy ending, or even God. I fear finding the chaos of nothingness instead of the logos of Story.

Let me explain. If I had to sum up what I believe in in one word, it would be logos, a Greek word which, in the Gospel of St. John, is usually translated as "The Word." But logos actually connotes something bigger than just words: order, logic, meaning, sense. Cause and effect. My whole world-view is founded on these things-- that there's an underlying meaning that holds the multiverse together into a story. No matter how bad I might be at following a religion, my faith in The Word-- God as logos-- is so ingrained that I have trouble understanding what it's like to think without it.***

But, if THAT's what I fear I'll find-- a lack of God-- certainly there's a way to get past that. There are thousands of people who manage to be atheists without having existential crises. Me, I don't know how. HOW, oh atheists out there reading this (and this isn't rhetorical, I really want to hear your answers. I'm trying to LEARN here!), do you answer the questions, "What's the point of me? Why am I here? Why don't I just go die?" I have enough trouble answering those questions even WITH the fallback answer of "God loves and has a plan for each and every person, even me." If I DIDN'T have that answer, I'm not sure I could get through my Dark Times.

The irony is, this makes sense even WITHIN my spiritual worldview. Most atheists pride themselves on basing their beliefs on only hard evidence, which is, when you think about it, exactly what a Type 9 is supposed to be incorporating MORE of into her life. My challenge in growing into an actualized human being is to learn to ground myself, in my body, here and now. To an atheist, the here and now is all that EXISTS. But I'm out there drifting in the numinous without any substance-- I need to reconnect with substance--in a sense, cultivate my atheism!-- in order to actually DO THE WORK of God. FURTHER irony: the word logos I identify with? Being that it means logic and reason, it is sometimes used, philosophically (less so in theology), as the opposite of the emotional. So in other words, it's ALL ABOUT being grounded instead of dreamy!

It's also strange, but facing the fear of meaninglessness by accepting it is weirdly liberating. Like, if nothing really matters, then it doesn't matter what I write, so I can stop FREAKING OUT about not knowing what to write and JUST WRITE ANYTHING. Which is, of course, the only way the bits that DO mean something will ever make it out onto paper in the first place.

Thing is, I'm not an atheist. The theme of church today was Trust in God and good will follow. We sang one of my lifelong favorite church songs, "Be Not Afraid," and my faith was THERE and fully participating. My faith will ALWAYS be there, it's just the way I am. But I have faith in the irony of my need to be more atheistic-- to stop expecting things to Just Happen, to get more involved in the here-and-now-- in order to live truly as a child of God.

Now the question is: did I successfully pull my Dark Side up and put it into words here, or did I just distract myself from true introspection with philosophical ironies that are fun to discuss?

Well, it's interesting, either way.

----
*My favorite sentence was "9w1 [that's me] has a kind of refinement and poise, because of the one-wing's desire to be perfect. But 9w1 is more likely to lie down and take a nap than the more workaholic 1w9." What, that isn't how everyone deals with perfectionist moments?

**Howl, a 9, gee. Seeing that vanity is considered a hallmark of 3s it might be tempting to put him THERE instead, but no way. He's too much of a slitherer-outer to be a 3. Maybe a 4 with a 3-wing. But what with the slithering-out, and the maintaining multiple identities, and the falling-madly-in-love-until-it-gets-too-REAL-then-abruptly-running-away... yeah, quite likely a 9. HUH. And I always identified with SOPHIE.

***My original "three-page" freewrite of this topic here took a tangent into ranting about Philip Pullman. When it came time to form this into a Proper Essay for the Consumption of Others, I realized my musings on Philip Pullman didn't really fit, structurally, but I enjoyed it SO THAT'S WHAT FOOTNOTES ARE FOR. If you're new here: I've always had a PROBLEM with Philip Pullman. Oh sure, he's a great writer, but somehow, whenever I read an interview or an essay written as HIMSELF, it ALWAYS rubs me the wrong way, even when I AGREED with him. Sure, he IS a sometimes controversially-outspoken atheist, but quite a lot of atheists say things I agree with just fine, and even where our beliefs seem to differ I often get the feeling we merely define a few words differently, or have different understandings of what God or religion IS. Philip Pullman doesn't even allow me THAT much. But writing this I realized that, unlike most atheists, it isn't merely a matter of not believing in an Old Man Creator In the Sky-- Philip Pullman doesn't believe in logos! It's not that our worldviews are DIFFERENT, they're OPPOSITE. They CLASH! Weird story though-- some weeks back I took a "Which Fantasy Author Are You?" Internet survey, one that was quite long and in depth and therefore you'd expect it to be more accurate than usual. GUESS WHO MY ANSWER WAS. Maybe Philip Pullman is my shadow self. Maybe HE'S my Dark Side! Sorry, Wednesday! You've apparently been supplanted!
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
2014-07-13 02:47 pm
Entry tags:

Random Journaling Online Because I Can't Hold a Pen

Hey, kids!

Do you enjoy when I ramble aimlessly on the Internet? Well, you're in luck! Today I need to use you in lieu of my private paper journal, because the heel of my right thumb is injured and I'm finding it exceedingly difficult to write with a pen for an extended period. Meaning, longer than a paragraph. I just tried and it's not working, so here I am, because even though I can't seem to MAKE anything of my writing (for now, for now! To everything there is a season! as my dear friend E. Louise Bates reminded me last time I felt down about that online), I apparently still must write SOMETHING daily to keep my head on straight.

I got stabbed with a steak knife, if you were wondering. This is why loading the dishwasher is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. J had foolishly stuck it in the silverware holder moments before, point up, which is not a wise thing to do, by the way, and he still can't seem to forgive himself, but I think he did a rather fine job of redeeming himself by coming to my aid afterward, as I was going helpless. "I'm okay, I need to get a bandaid," I said, going to wash my hands, "I'm bleeding a lot. Um, could you get me a bandaid? I don't think I can get it open," and that's when I started getting woozy and had to collapse on the floor.

Please say I'm not the only one who has this problem with injury? Like Anne Shirley at first, I feel like I'm missing something because I've never PROPERLY FAINTED, but I come NEAR enough to it for all sorts of stupid reasons. I get surface booboos all the time, being a klutz, and I almost don't even notice those (hense my immediate "I just need to get a bandaid!" reaction), but just a bit DEEPER than surface and I start to pass out. Part of my deep mistrust of gym teachers is rooted in the time we were supposed to be practicing cartwheels in 5th grade and I came down on my thumb wrong, pulling it backward too hard, and this Woozy Reaction hit me so I tried to go sit down and the gym teacher would NOT HAVE IT. How injured could I BE, really? And I'm like I KNOW it's stupid and I'm barely hurt BUT I HAVE TO SIT DOWN OR I WILL FALL DOWN ANYWAY.

So J applied pressure and bandaged me up and talked me through the feverish faint until I could actually sit up again, and then cautioned me against overtaxing the hand until it healed, so then I laid down and watched Netflix for the rest of the evening. And there went my plans for today. Go to yoga? Weed the garden? Write with a pen, apparently? I am SO MAD that I'm not ambidextrous.

So anyway, I must do my rambling here instead of in my notebook. Normally first thing in the morning when I write, I often write a bit about what I dreamed, but last night there's nothing sticking out as PARTICULARLY memorable. OH, OH, except this part about how people in an Irish village have to be sacrificed to the fairies every New Years Day but the group of us slated for sacrifice managed to avoid this this year through strategic elevator deception and possibly fireworks? I'm not sure. That's where the not PARTICULARLY memorable part comes in, because I don't remember that part.

Yesterday we were playing Rifts, a "tabletop" RPG, over Skype with J's best friend. The two of them can talk minute details of RPGs they will never get around to playing for HOURS, but every so often they'll get a block where they can both sit at the computer and chat over the microphone and actually PLAY, with ME around to be a third player, because it's boring to have less players than that. I enjoy playing from a storytelling standpoint, if not to the point of minute details, but the difference between making up a story out loud vs. on paper is frustratingly apparent, at least when you're trying to play a spy with advanced interrogation skills, and the rest of the team is waiting for you to ask just the right questions and you're sitting there making fish faces until you burst out "My CHARACTER knows what to say, but I don't!" Why IS that? I don't think it's merely a matter of confidence. I think there really might be a short circuit in between my putting-things-into-words center and my mouth center. There doesn't seem to be that problem between my brain and HANDS, which is why I can SAY everything I'm thinking in WRITING. Not that I'm exactly Queen of Improv here, either. I guess it's just less of a problem to take your time remembering the right words when you're putting them on paper and only letting someone else in on them when you're all done (if ever). Or, maybe, taking things back and trying out DIFFERENT things to say, and what order to say them in, whereas you have to make a snap decision on what you're going to say if you say it out loud.

So it's possible that the only reason I'm a better writer than a talker is because I'm indecisive.

I'm reading Jaclyn Moriarty's A Corner of White-- I KNOW! I KNOW! I'M ACTUALLY READING A NOVEL FOR ONCE!-- and it's because I love Jaclyn Moriarty that much, so much that I can finally get around to reading a book AFTER the sequel is already out. Anyway, in the part I was reading last night, a teacher tells his students about Isaac Newton writing himself questions to think about and answers in different handwriting, so that changing his handwriting can help change his thinking in new ways, too. And I thought, well, THAT'S something I need to try. Now, writing with my left hand would certainly be a change in my handwriting, wouldn't it? But I don't want to mess my journal up with it!

This time around, when I had to buy a new notebook for journaling the other week, I bought a sketch journal. No lines! My heart cried out for it. I still WRITE more than draw-- I doodle on lined paper, too. But so far I think the only doodle in this so-called sketch journal is Paul McCartney's bass. This is okay! I had no intention of using it for drawing. It's just a different surface for journaling. Of course I tend to draft things on the backsides of scrap paper, anyway. Stories, letters, complicated blog posts (not my concert review, though. That was actually drafted, for the most part, IN my journal itself. Along with the doodle of Paul's bass). Random rants to the ghost of Diana Wynne Jones. It feels less like you're wasting paper that way than if you do your jotting in a nice lined notebook. But journaling is more linear, so I don't mind-- nay, I PREFER-- to do that in a nice self-contained spiral-bound, in non-smearing pen. But I have yet to see if there's a difference in the way my MIND works, journaling with no lines versus lines.

Now I'm journaling on the screen, with a keyboard, with the full intention of hitting "Publish" when I'm done. But I don't know if even THAT has changed WHAT I would have written THAT much. I explained a few things more than I would have in my private journal. But even my private journals have a bit of an audience. There's SOME imaginary person, far in the future, that I direct them to. It's something in the shaping of it-- not TRULY just random thoughts, but an effort to turn my random thoughts into COMMUNICATION. What would I SAY right now if I had a captive and unwaveringly-supportive audience?

And that's about it. Thank you for being here for me, Livejournal, when my thumb would much rather occasionally hit a space bar than continuously support a pen. I bid you good day.
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
2014-06-26 02:31 pm

How to Challenge Advanced Readers and Make It Actually Mean Something

A friend of mine asked me for book recommendations for her 8-year-old goddaughter reading at a 6th grade level, and mentioned how her parents and teachers were finding it hard to find books that "challenged" her but were still appropriate for her age level/maturity. This is an incredibly common dilemma, judging by how many times I get this question, let alone every other children's librarian I've encountered online or in real life. "I always want to ask the grownups in these cases," I said to my friend, "is it really necessary that the kid be CHALLENGED by reading? Why not just read to enjoy? Obviously she's got the reading thing down pat, it's not like she needs to WORK on it." Maggie Stiefvater posted a nice take on this recently, that we've got this whole weird idea that Books Make You Smart And Therefore If Your Book Is Not Properly Challenging Your Brain Then What Is It FOR? Goes along with all the SHOULD ADULTS READ YA snobbery and the Reading Level Fallacy in general. Once you're a fluent reader, GREAT! HAVE FUN! READ WHATEVER YOU WANT. You don't have to keep pushing until you're reading scholarly papers at your leisure.

But this time I started thinking, maybe instead of continuing to try to find challenge in reading, maybe it's time to APPLY ones reading skills. Creating something new and bigger instead of just continuing to consume.

Like take a wordless picture book and write a (worded) story to go with it (any excuse to get people to appreciate wordless picture books). Or retell a familiar story in a new setting. Write fanfiction. Write blurbs to encourage other kids to read favorite books. Learn how to write a carefully-thought-out-critical review.

I wasn't INTENDING to make a great philosophical statement out of it. I was just coming up with alternative ways to challenge a young reader instead of just saying "NOW YOU MUST READ HARDER STUFF," and what I came up with was CREATIVE literary projects. But self-centered person that I am, I was thinking about ME, to be honest. I'd just read this article on productivity that Kristi Holl had linked to, pointing out how we can be very "productive" by getting all sorts of Necessary Things Done but how that's COUNTER-productive to creativity. The part that was sticking with me-- which wasn't even the main idea of the article-- was the difference between Reactive and Proactive tasks. Creativity is Proactive. It has to come from you. Reactive tasks are all the things other people ask you to do, or tell you to do, or you have to do because you need those dirty dishes to be clean so you can use them again. THIS is the problem with my LIFE! I realized. I keep trying to be a Better Person by keeping up with reactive tasks, but I won't SHINE as the truly unique individual I am unless I allow myself to be PROACTIVE. I'm... really bad at that. I sit there thinking, "I wish somebody would just tell me what I should do!" even though, naturally, when they DO tell me what I should do, I resent it. :P

I guess technically my literary challenge suggestions are "reactive" tasks too, particularly if they're assignments. But what they AREN'T is mere consumerism. They're making, doing, adding to creation. They're a way of giving a kid a little agency in the world-- and a sensitive kid like that, who's bound to be exposed to a lot of tough topics earlier than others just because she's reading more, is going to need to feel all the agency she can get. And, speaking from experience, the more out of habit you get at being active instead of passive, the harder it IS to act. So she might as well start practicing now.

Okay, this is good advice for ALL kids, not just advanced readers. But it's still going to be my go-to response from now on.
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
2014-06-07 01:20 pm
Entry tags:

The Importance of an Encouraging Word to a Kid

Read the first sentence of this Young Writer's Program campaign and have to write something.

In my elementary school, the head teacher of the 6th grade teachers was an imposing man. Not that he was abnormally LARGE, but he had a powerful barking voice and a reputation for not suffering fools. He'd been in the Army.* He even looked eerily like Hulk Hogan, a detail that actually meant something to kids at that point in history, which he'd occasionally exploit for cheap celebrity appearances at assemblies.

As an abnormally timid child, I wanted nothing to do with him. I was glad, then, that I KNEW I wouldn't have him for class. Our school had an unadvertised practice of sorting kids for reading and math classes strictly, fastest to slowest, and I was always in the very fastest classes. Mr. Rodgers, everyone knew, only taught the SECOND-fastest 6th grade Reading class.

Until, naturally, MY sixth grade year, when the top two Reading classes were resorted into two equal advanced-track levels. There I was in Mr. Rodgers' classroom after all.

It was clear he really wouldn't suffer fools. But he also only used that bark as a last resort. Most of the time he kept his voice gentle, good-humored. He gladly advertised his fannishness for the Three Stooges and PeeWee Herman. He liked to laugh, and to make us laugh, and it was the good sort of laughter-- the laughing WITH laugh. He'd laugh for being happy.

Most importantly, he'd laugh whenever I wrote something that I meant to be funny. He appreciated it.

Each week we had to write our spelling words in sentences, and because I was a writer-geek child, I did my very best to link every one of those sentences into a story. Mr. Rodgers loved that. Nearly every week he'd ask me to read my "story" to the class, and because I was always one of those weird shy people who came to life when asked to actually PERFORM,** I always did happily. Helped, I think, because he always listened with a huge smile, punctuated with a nod or a chuckle.

He'd do the same for other kids, sometimes, so I knew it wasn't just some weird teacher's-pet thing he had for me. It was a genuine thrill in seeing us create good things. Which pleased me even more, that, as far as I could tell, I was thrilling him most often.

I've probably said this before, but the one academic thing I've never been good at was getting my homework done.*** But only Mr. Rodgers ever scolded me for it in THESE words: "I expect much better from you." I couldn't just brush that one off like I could the "You need to be more responsible!"s!

So eventually he became the first adult outside my family who ever read the "books" I wrote on my own time. I waited impatiently over the course of a week or so for him to finish, though having since been on the other side of The Teacher's Desk it's a wonder he finished as quickly as he did. I think part of me hoped for a loud, "This is brilliant! Let's get it published!" so I was a little let down when the only feedback I got for the whole 70-some pages**** was a post-it note. But it said, "This is good. It made me smile. Keep writing, Amy!"

Sometime in my early adulthood he had a stroke, but I saw him in passing just a few years later while I was subbing at my old elementary school-- hobbling through the halls with a cane, relying on student teachers to do the heavy stuff, but still, THERE, unwilling to give up inspiring kids to learn and create. He did finally retire a few years back, and I asked around among my old classmates on Facebook but nobody seems to have heard anything about how he's doing now or even if he's still alive. A couple months back I saw a Write a Letter to Thank a Teacher! thing for Teacher Appreciation Week or something, and I thought about writing this then. But a letter to someone whom no one seems to know if he's even alive?

Well, why not. That's what blogs are for.

Here's to the teachers who encourage, everywhere.

---
*Or it could have been that he actually WAS, still, in the National Guard, but it's hard to tell with kid-rumors.

**Note: today I have a job where I frequently read aloud in front of a highly-opinionated audience. I love that part. The most terrifying part of my job is when I have to MAKE PHONE CALLS. There are many different KINDS of social anxiety, you know!

***This is still hard as a parent. Except now it's not MY homework.

****Handwritten by a kid, with illustrations. Not 70 double-spaced typewritten pages. Still.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
2014-05-04 04:57 pm
Entry tags:

The Catch to Calling For "Diversity"

So the other day when I was having a crisis of identity, I mentioned how the Lone Power likes to twist healthy, positive messages like the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign into attempts to get me to shut up, by pointing out that because I'm not any typical big-name minorities-- not in ethnicity, sexuality, physicality, language, whatever-- then obviously no one needs to hear MY stories. E. Louise Bates replied in sympathy, saying that the campaign really DID seem to take on more of a "This is DIVERSITY, this isn't" tone after all-- a strange sort of us-vs-them undercurrent, focusing on certain labels. Like quotas. It's hard for us to talk about, Louise and I, because we ARE coming from places of Privilege, and it's too easy for us to seem to be missing the point or just whiny and self-centered, like the struggling white male authors who protest every time someone says white male authors get all the attention.

But you NEED to talk about it, which is what the point of an attention-getting campaign IS. If only people could be clearer what they're talking about. This is why sometimes I prefer to talk to dead people. I've chosen as my Patron Saint of Creativity a woman who ironically was an avowed atheist, but whatnot-- when I'm trying to get jumbled personal thoughts about writing out and need to bounce them off somebody but not an actual biased person who can directly answer me back, I write to Diana Wynne Jones. (Sure, it's Madeleine L'Engle I named my daughter after, and she would probably be more understanding about being prayed to, but I've always felt that my own writing niche seems to more closely align with Jones... or something? Anyway, it just feels right). So I was writing to her this morning and got to talking about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and tried to work out exactly what was bothering me about it, beyond a selfish entitled "what about ME" kneejerk, and, as one does when one is praying in a freeform way on paper, I had some interesting thoughts that I feel are worth sharing, even though I could be wrong and all I am is a clueless Privileged girl.

I think what's so disconcerting about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is that it DOES focus on labels, instead of characters in and of themselves. This seems counter to the point. I like what Shannon Hale has to say on the subject (granted, I like what Shannon Hale has to say on MOST subjects: she's a very wise woman and I recommend following her on at least one media platform if you aren't already)-- she talks about SPECIFIC characters as opposed to NEUTRAL characters, where "neutral" usually defaults to "white, straight, able-bodied." You know, like me :P. Shannon Hale was one of the originators of the campaign, but she's also white, straight, and able-bodied... and Mormon, though-- you note she notes religious differences, too, in her post, and I'm sure she's sick of the Backwoods Polygamist stereotypes out there in the world. But, you know, when you start breaking it down into more and more specific character traits... well that's the thing. They're CHARACTER TRAITS. When we talk about diversity, are we talking about a wide variety of character traits, or are we talking about just a few specific big Labels?

Lisa Yee wrote a "rambling rant" for #WeNeedDiverseBooks where she addresses this question of "should an author write outside their own Group?" with a lovely little catchphrase: "Do not presume -- but do dare to imagine." Well... that's what an author is SUPPOSED to do. We're SUPPOSED to imagine what it's like to be somebody else, no matter what TYPE of somebody else we're writing about. We're SUPPOSED to portray a character, not necessarily a stand-in for ourselves. A unique character who nonetheless is embedded with a universal humanity. CAN you write outside your race? Can you write outside your sexual preference? Can you write outside your gender, your interests, your home life, your tastes in food, your basic personality type? I'm afraid if I say "It's just like any other character trait," I'll come off as privileged and naive, but... it IS like any other character trait. You just have to make it TRUE.

I know I can't claim to be metaphorically "colorblind," not noticing the Type a person belongs to, and I admit to still finding it delightful and surprising when someone defies their stereotypes in some way. It's just I'd rather wait and SEE that part before acting on a first impression-- I'd rather deal with an individual than a type. I'm interested in the things we have in common. I'm interested in the things that make us different, but different as individuals, not group differences. I'm female, but I feel that way about gender, too-- I just don't CARE so much about whether you're male or female or neither as much as I do your individual quirks. Maybe it's just that LABELS remind me too much of CLIQUES. I'd rather not think like that.

The thing is, I DO personally understand the Need for Representation. As a child-- and even now as an adult-- I hungered for two particular Representations of my own self that I just wasn't seeing enough of in media (worse on screen than in books, but still): people with glasses who weren't (stereotypical) nerds, and blonde girls who weren't Bombshells (I could do without the DUMB Blonde thing, too, but even when shows and books made their blondes smart, they were always still considered pretty/love-interest-y/popular). It's a weirdly powerful subconscious and-sometimes-even-conscious NEED for me to see it. To be honest one of the things I love most about Allie Brosh is that she represents a non-bombshell blonde-- a blonde who's funny and angry and unfeminine and tending toward scrapes and completely unique and just happens to be blonde. Because she's autobiographical. And, you know, she just IS blonde. It's just a trait. It wasn't a trait that was chosen to PROVE anything. It's not being used as a shorthand for Beautiful or Ditzy or Popular, or even as a conscious contradiction of any of those things. SHE JUST IS. Like a person.

I think the problems start when people DO think in terms of conscious representation. When someone says, "well, we need more books about black kids that aren't historical, so, hmm, what's a black kid like?" BAM, suddenly they ARE writing a Type instead of an individual-- even if they're consciously writing AGAINST a known stereotype. It's got to be more organic than that, and it's hard to MAKE it organic when the discussions of representation are so HEATED, when there's so much riding on them, when every time a minority character shows up in a story (on paper or screen) they're immediately SCRUTINIZED for how ACCURATE they are and yet NOT STEREOTYPICAL they are and WHETHER THEY'RE GIVEN ENOUGH ATTENTION or whatever. Heck, Lisa Yee above often cites some of the horrible Amazon reviews she got for Millicent Min, Girl Genius which complained that she was fueling the "Chinese smart kid" stereotype... even though Millie is SUCH an individual who just happens to be of Chinese ancestry (and guess what: I, as a Caucasian adult living on the other side of the country, I totally --painfully at times-- identified with Millie). (Also they obviously had not actually READ about Stamford Wong before they complained). Shannon Hale must have said it on Twitter because it's not in that blog post, but her answer for why #WeNeedDiverseBooks was So That It Wouldn't Fall On One Character's Shoulders to Represent An Entire Group. Again, I LIKE THE WAY THAT WOMAN THINKS. It needs to be about individuals.

These sort of campaigns freak me out as a Privileged writer, because I suddenly find myself worried that my stories aren't "diverse" enough or that when I DO have "diverse" characters I'll do it wrong, and I'm REALLY HUNG UP ABOUT WRITING as it is. The funny thing is, when I dream at night, I frequently-- REGULARLY-- nearly nightly-- end up trying to shape the dream into a workable story as it's happening. Okay, here's the main character-- ooo, I'll have to remember that detail-- ooo, this is the conflict upon which the plot will turn, isn't it!-- so on and so forth, working the storytelling muscle overtime while my inhibitions are turned off, because as soon as they turn on again once the light of day hits, it shuts down again, Paralyzed by Self-Doubt. A few weeks ago I had one such dream in which one of the main characters just happened to be legally blind-- no plot-specific REASON for it, she just WAS-- and all I thought about it in the dream was "ooo, that'll force me to work on describing things with non-visual details!" When I woke up and looked back, I realised, "Oh, that there would be one of those 'Diverse' characters I'm supposed to be working into my fiction more." Huh. It was so REFRESHING when she was just a character who happened to be legally blind, and now my waking brain-- my INHIBITIONS-- was trying to make a Thing of it. Well, heck. It doesn't need to be a thing. She's simply a character who happens to be legally blind, and I'll have to focus less on visual details than I do, but you know? I can do that. It shouldn't have to be a Thing if you truly believe in your characters as individuals, right?

But what do I know? I'm still trying to work my way out of this serious many-years-long writer's block. Tell me I'm wrong, where I'm wrong, but I really do believe that portraying individuals is more important than portraying groups.