Monday, October 30, 2017

Harm or Mystery



There's a predator crouching in your soul.  And it might be why you love gory, violent movies depicting torture and other bodily harm.

Jungian psychologists know where it crouches. "This predatory force can manifest as a psychopathic torturer in outer reality or as a tormentor, who attacks us from within. Like all creatures, the human creature must learn that there are predators, in the world out there and within us."  Dr. Heidi Kolb

Horror movies can sublimate the predator, or they can empower it.  The evidence shows that people who are more aggressive are relaxed by violence in media, while people who are less aggressive are upset by it.

I fall heavily into the second category.  Especially after completing the EMT program at Swedish Hospital 20 years ago, my fascination with gore and bodily harm in movies did a 180.  When you train in emergency medicine you don't just learn bandaging.  You look at pictures, lots of pictures, of crime scenes and child abuse.  You learn how to spot who was murdered and who committed suicide. You learn to spot systematic abuse by the movement of bruises and the way victims often defend the offenders.  You get to know how brutal people can really be to each other, especially to innocents.  And you also do rotations in emergency rooms and ambulances where you see plenty of bodily fluids relocated to where they don't belong.  You see pain and suffering and harm.

So, no movies for me named after wood shop tools tearing humans apart.

But the predator can also be an ally.  It can warn you of trouble if you pay attention.  And it can even increase your quality of life by reminding you, with some of your darkest thoughts, that life is not forever.  That we will die someday.  And that can give you plenty of energy.  It can also remind you of the mysteries of simply existing.

In my distant youth Halloween aesthetic was one of otherworldliness, eeriness, and the textures of autumn and harvest.  Back then Halloween always seemed to come on an overcast day with dark, heavy clouds, lush piles of crisp leaves you could jump into with a soft landing and a rush of their spicy funk.  There were always scents of pumpkins and apples and spices, or roasting chilies and bonfires, and stories about grey ladies and ghost trains.

Those Halloweens were about mystery, unanswerable questions about afterlife and other worlds.  Supernatural rituals like masking and carving demon faces into ground fruit connected us to to those worlds.  There was a sense of something beyond our understanding that we were linked with, whether spirits or goblins or (since there were no big bags of manufactured candy at the store and everybody made Halloween by hand) just Mrs. Williams' magically amazing peanut butter popcorn balls.

Harm has never interested me much.  I'll stick with the mystery.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hold Up A Mirror

That's a quote from my friend Bill Thorpe, a brilliant man and great radio personality, copy writer and producer, among other things.

In radio, we're still doing a lot of inside-out thinking.  We talk, the audience listens.  And that works to a point because passive listening is a relaxing service, and also because audiences have learned to expect it.

I talk, you listen.

But audiences are looking for their own reflections in their media and entertainment.

That's why the news has been taken over by a handful of outlets that pander to their demographics, to the point where nothing is really news anymore; it's just a version of reality the outlets have determined that their audiences want to hear.

It's the reason representation is so important and why you see a much, much more diverse cast of characters in most TV commercials and stock photos than you saw even ten years ago.  Representation pumps up sales.

It's also why radio needs to bring back phones.

Phones have been phased out somewhat, because most people don't call anyone anymore.  Most people text or message and only call for business or Mom on the weekends.  Still, radio needs to try again to make phoners work much more often.  Because people want to hear themselves on the radio.

Particularly during tragedies, as my friend Bill says, most stations get it wrong.  They work on making the killer famous, or spew out statistics to incite outrage, or dive into political rhetoric. What we should be doing is letting listeners tell their stories and express how they feel.  That's why social media works, and why stations that use phoners and ask for listener input get bigger ratings.

What we really do, if we do it right, is hold up a mirror.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How I Pay The Bills



...tossing out silly double-entendres weekday afternoons in between Korn and Imagine Dragons songs...

Uranus

Saturday, October 14, 2017

One Reason...

...it's been a long time between posts.

The shed, which I kept angora rabbits in.  Turns out angora rabbits are very unhappy in cages, fight when taken out to play in the grass, and fight when taken inside to safety.  Also, my dog Sunny killed one of them (through my negligence).  I rehomed the second bunny in a good herd.  I was writhing with remorse over it all, so the shed sat for a year looking like this:


 ...and finally ended up looking like this:


I tore out the rabbit-pee-saturated old insulation, scrubbed it out, bleached it out and painted. 

The most pressing problem was the door, which had sagged and warped, and no longer closed. I didn't want to buy a whole new door.  We'd made a trip out to Bent's Fort and Jim's engineering brain had memorized the Old West/Steampunk technology locking mechanism, which he then recreated from scratch:



It also needs to be said that Jim painted the exterior, put the roof on it when we first got the thing and put in a brand new window.  Who's spoiled rotten?  Oh, yeah, that would be ME.

Then, the ceiling needed to be insulated.


My Mom bought the recycled denim insulation I wanted.  Installation was a puzzler, but we finally decided to use bird netting and staples to hold it in place.  It worked brilliantly.

I didn't want a bunch of heavy, space-eating paneling over it, so we went with simple muslin panels, stapled.

Then it was time to insulate the walls.  I wanted to keep as much space in the little shed as possible, while keeping it comfortable.  I went with foil-backed foam.

We didn't end up using much glue, since Jim put all the foam insulation in for me while I was at work one day by just cutting the pieces to fit between the studs and wedging them in snugly.  I was grateful, since the glue I'd started using was not agreeing with me.

Still trying to keep as much open space as possible, I didn't want paneling, but I did want the feel of a shed.  I chose contact paper that looked like rough white panels...but a little like birch bark, too.  I pasted it right onto the foam.  The glue in the contact paper wasn't my friend, either, but I had it done in a weekend.

The table had belonged to my friend Kim; I had sanded the ruined finish last year and painted it.  All I needed was a desk chair, a space heater, and a working computer and BAM:  Writing Shed.


But...I added a few things I already had that belong in any writer's space: a Day of The Dead skull because "Alas, poor Yorick" and also as a tribute to Lord Byron who was said to drink wine from a human skull.  Also Rouser, my raven puppet, because Poe.


The view from my desk is awesome, too...just trees soon to be hung with bird feeders, and the compost pile behind them.

We're not fancy.  But if feels like a massive luxury to have this little writing space. An embarrassment of riches.

And now, to get my word count up.  November is coming.







Sunday, July 2, 2017

Grief Post-Its

I almost need post-its around the house. 

On the sliding glass door inside: “Don't look for him. He’s not coming home ever again.”

On the outside: “Don’t bother to pull the screen door shut and prop the box fan just so when you go out to weed and water; he’s not here to open the door and let the kitten out.” 

On the bathroom mirror: “He’s never going to be sleeping on the bathmat or in the tub again.” 

On my bedroom door inside: “He will not be waiting in the hall for his breakfast.” 

On the outside: “He’s not on the bed taking a nap. Go ahead and turn the overhead light on.” 

In the writing shed: “He will not need a bowl of fresh water ever again.” and "Don't look for him napping in the big chair.  He'll never be there again."

On the front door: “He is not lounging on the deck waiting for you to look for him here.”

In the office: “Don’t look out the window-he will never leap on top of the fence out there and stalk across the field, never again.” and "He won't interrupt your writing by jumping up, sticking his butt in your nose and stretching out across the keyboard ever again." and "He won't nap in Jim's chair again."

For the kitchen:
“Don’t put an extra spoonful of yogurt in a cat dish and take it in the office. He will never have it again.” and "When saving the tenderest, fattiest bits of chicken or salmon carefully unseasoned, only put a tiny bit in the tiny dish for the kitten.  Bob is not here anymore."

In the garden: “He will not meet you today to lie in the weeds and watch you.” 

And at night, before storms: “Don’t call him like you're calling your cub home. He’s never coming home again.”

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Magnificence of Creaturehood



How you taught me that, over and over.

The way you hid when we first brought you home, then were seduced slowly, treat after treat, finally into my arms.  The way you would glare at me when I offended you.  The way you rewarded me with the fur of your back under my nose and the swish of your long, thick, lush tail over my eyes when you were pleased with me.

The way you'd mount the 6 foot wooden fence like it was a speed bump, pause up there on an impossibly narrow edge gripped in your big paws as you surveyed your domain of fields and woods, your territory.  The way you would slip gracefully down and then stalk through the tall grass, the muscles in your shoulders rolling under your glorious black and silver coat as you set out for adventures.

The way you would join me in the garden and lie a few feet away, available if I needed you and always reviewing the action.

The way you would climb heavily onto my chest in the middle of the night, your whiskers pressed to my face as your purr thundered, and make biscuits with your huge claws digging into my flesh; you were so beautiful that I tolerated it as long as I could, wincing and finally rolling you gently off, which sometimes got me bitten.

How you could BITE, leaving the puncture wounds rimmed with bruises.

And how you could love.

And how you maintained your pride and magnificence to the last moment, bearing your agonized breathing as casually as if it were some new fashion accessory.  The way you refused to get in the carrier one last time.  Even while gasping for every breath, you could fight.

There was so MUCH of you.

You leave a gaping sinkhole for us.

We'll try to bear it with the pride, the pride of your creaturehood.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Cave

I've spent the last few weeks in what I call the cave, because it feels like the Degobah cave.

Processing trauma takes a lot of energy.  Tara Brach wrote, "Even years after the actual danger is past, the trauma, undigested and locked in our body, randomly breaks through into consciousness."

I'll be strolling along through my life and suddenly come upon the cave again. Sometimes it's triggered, and that has happened several times, but sometimes it just appears on its own. When it does, I have to go in there like Luke into that cave.

Integration of trauma and abuse takes a lifetime, but it's not your whole life.  You can go years functioning at a pretty high level and then suddenly be pulled into the deep dark undertow of the injury and all the other injuries incurred because of the first injury: the shame, anxiety, sleep disorders, mood disorders, flashbacks, panic attacks, harmful coping strategies and the additional injuries from people who don't get it and worse, presume to judge, which adds insult to injury and often ignites rage and sorrow and feelings of isolation, depression, and then anxiety; and then the cycle is triggered and starts all over again.

But if you don't do it, if you settle for half-life, it's like being half ghost.  You have to plunge into the cave, fight the fight, accept what's unacceptable, and then emerge.

I'm emerging again now, and still dragging tangled vines and tracking mud, but stumbling into the open air.

And hopefully, getting back my word count.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Trigger Mocking

Triggers are only real for the people who are triggered by them.

This is why they're mocked.

In one description I read, "Tragedy is: I have a hangnail.  Comedy is: you fall through a manhole cover and die."

Mocking other people's pain is a way to cope with our own.  That's why you see the term "triggers" used in a lighthearted or cavalier manner.  I'm sure there's a large portion of the population who would have seen my 80-something WW II veteran father dive for the ground at the crackle of thunder as the most hilarious thing they'd seen in at least a week.  And I've had many people telling me, throughout life and also lately, that I'm overreacting, being too emotional, being a victim/martyr/whiner or "giving my power away".

This form of casual brutality is like poison.  No bruises are incurred, no guns go off, but there's injury on the inside.

Just an FYI.  Mocking a trigger is in itself a trigger.

Please remember that before you fire off a little lighthearted snark.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Permission to Tell


Auspicious Tibetan chatra from 4vector.com

Culture is not an umbrella.  So if you're a white writer and you want to write a story in, for instance, Tibetan culture, then asking one person of Tibetan descent is not gaining permission to tell your story. That kind of permission is unattainable.

 You can be a responsible writer and do your research, resist stereotypes and get sensitivity-checked.  But you'll never get permission.

Permission is an issue with oral storytellers as well, but they take a different view.  Like some of my friends who are artists and writers who happen to come from the non-white perspective, storytellers see great benefit in "borrowing" stories.  Sharing stories across cultures is the great connecting force of the planet, because it's the shortcut to empathy. Once you've heard a story from the people, you relate on some level to the people.

As Margaret Reed McDonald states in The Storyteller's Start-Up Book, "Now is not the time to freeze all story into pockets of ethnicity.  Now more than ever we need each other's stories.

Storytelling is folk art.  
We are the folk.
Storytelling belongs to us."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Other Truths and Where To Find Them

The Great A'Tuin by Stephen Player. Sir Terry Pratchett Discworld

The doubt-tormented priest in Terry Prachett's Carpe Jugulum painfully juggles faith and facts.  His struggle reminds me of many of the news headlines I've been reading lately about alternative facts, alternate facts, and how we're living in "post truth".

Taking into account that no one knows the complete truth, nor ever will, I still found the priest of "OM" (one of the most powerful religions in Prachett's books) to be a familiar and sympathetic character.  We were all raised with certain ideas or tenets and, like good loyal children, struggled to protect them or to be faithful to the spirit of them.

 Faith for the faithful is, according to some research, a source of shame and also of redemption, hope and security-in equal measure.  There's a lot to defend there.  As someone who's tried to console "bad" Catholics I can tell you nothing makes them leap into the Christian Soldier stance faster.  Faith is (seen from the perspective of one raised atheist), like a third parent.  And no matter what our parents do to us, we'll defend them to some extent.  It's primal.

I want to quote a passage from Carpe Jugulum about the schism of faith:

"...he was, he knew, in two minds about everything...even when he was small there'd been a part of him that thought temple was a silly boring place...(yet) it had grown up with him...(and the part of him) that read avidly always remembered the passages which cast doubt upon the truth of the book of Om and said, 'If this isn't true, what can you believe?' and he'd reply, 'Other kinds than the kind that is actually true, you mean?'"

Doubt tortures faith with information, or, the other kinds of truth.

We have small brains and big hearts.  We're not thinking machines; we're feeling machines that think.  And when our beliefs are challenged we stop thinking and fight, while yelling at each other about the truth.

And the winner is not the person with a truer truth.  The winner is simply the one with the most power in the fight.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Inner Transcript

Mike Myers as Dr Evil

I have many faults as a communicator, particularly in personal conversations.

I overload my listener, I interrupt when I'm not careful, and I tend to barrel ahead with my own points.  But those are only three of my worst traits.  I do work every day to change these habits, and to become the listener I want to be.  But awareness is the first step.

I was talking to a friend once as we listened to a public radio station and had realized I needed to shut up and listen to her when the announcer broke in and said, "For a written transcript of this broadcast..." and I realized that would be a good way to keep track of my verbal belligerence.

Imagine the transcript.

If I've been going on for paragraphs and the person who's company I'm lucky enough to share has had no blank space, I do a quick assessment and sound the Shut Up alarm.

Conversation isn't score-keeping.  But for a verbal monster like me, a safety measure is necessary.

If the transcript is all me, it's time to zip it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Radio Stereotype

*
I spent last weekend at the Rocky Mountain Storytelling Conference.  I was looking forward to one keynote speaker whom I admired as a humorist and as a top-earning story coach.

This speaker shared a story about being interviewed on the air with a jock I've known since the 1990's. While this jock and I aren't tight friends, he's the kind of guy who even back then wanted to give other people a chance in broadcasting; he's generous.  He's very famous, very humble and very authentic.  He's a consummate pro.  He's also got that radio growl of rock and roll authority which some people immediately stereotype, including the illustrious speaker at the conference.

The speaker talked about being astonished by the jock's intelligence and graciousness, and then described being led to the slaughter by the jock's charm. "So we go live and the DJ says, after all that nice stuff, 'So you wrote a book and it's all stories about yourself? Well, what makes you so goddamn interesting?'"

Shock from the audience at the conference, but none more than me.  We don't say "goddamn" on the air.  And leading people into interview situations to skewer them isn't something this jock would do, because it makes for a bad interview.

But at least the speaker learned something. "I learned that the story you're telling is not about you!  It's about your audience!"

This was presented as a great revelation.

I was choking down a cold rage as I approached after the speech and tried to smile around a few friendly corrections; there was more than hyperbole at work here. By the way the speaker stammered I knew I'd revealed how I felt.  And, the speaker probably hadn't expected to be busted.

Radio people are widely perceived as stupid, immoral and lazy.  We're imagined as unwashed louts with our feet up, just spewing any old thing we happen to feel like saying into the innocent microphone.  In fact, we work in a very painstaking way.  We're acutely aware that audiences listen to the radio and assume that it's correct and real and true, so we work very hard to be correct and real, and to give our audiences the truths they need.  The great majority of us are not out to destroy anyone and we don't cuss on the air, because we respect our audiences.  In fact, respect for the audience is what it all comes down to.

Radio professionals are constantly guided by the question, "Why should people listen to me?" and we work very hard to make sure we are worth listening to.

If I learned anything from that keynote speaker, it wasn't about storytelling.  It was about radio: that we're the ones who are really the pros.

*Tazmanian Devil character as DJ.   All rights belong to Warner Brothers.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Connector


This machine is not a recorder.  It's not a passive instrument. This machine is a connector, and its terminals are story-shaped.

A study by Dan Johnson showed that reading fiction significantly increased empathy towards others, especially people initially perceived as "outsiders".  The more absorbed in the story the readers were, "...the more empathetic they behaved in real life."

Story is the high-speed connection to empathy. When the brain expands that all-important understanding of other brains, especially through story, the heart must follow.

So beware; the study and practice of storytelling will change you. It will plug you in to realities beyond your own, and the information will go viral within you.  It will make life more rewarding, more heart-rending, and more complicated.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Fallen Warrior



I found this husk of a magnificent being on my walk today.  Her wings were without tear or crumble, legs and antennae folded neatly against her body in a position of dignity resembling last rites.

Of course I suspected pollution was to blame, or lack of habitat or nutrition, but possibly not. Turns out Monarch butterflies proceed through generations pretty quickly.  One generation is now dying while the other is just alighting from the milkweed pods.

I like to think this is an older butterfly, colors faded from exhaustion and mating and procreating, who died after falling from a tenuous perch on a tulip, hanging on until her legs would no longer obey and then drifting down like a kite on a windless day.  I like to think she landed without pain on the pre-dawn concrete walkway; a cool, quiet death after so much striving, so much work in the heat.

I was brought up on the idea that animals don't feel pain, don't think, don't have emotions. That old idea is clearly false, and I always knew that.  But it does make it easier, on us, to say it to ourselves.

Empathy-it's one of the great human dilemmas.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

*sigh*

Well, now I can say I'm submitting.  I've got that message-in-a-bottle-feeling...

"Robbie Knight,
Thank you for your submission.
An email containing your ticket number (*****) for this submission has been sent to (your email). You can use that number to check the status of your story through the online tracking feature of our submission system. I...Occasionally, an email provider may classify our email as spam. Please check your spam folder before contacting us, especially if you are using Yahoo for your email. (They've been problematic.)
At present, our average response time is five weeks with a range covering five weeks to three months. You should expect a quick response."

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

All In Writing Is Not Vanity


All is Vanity by Charles Allen Gilbert

There are two phases of writing, according to Stephen King: door shut and door open.  When the door is shut it's just you spewing forth your first draft. That first draft is pure self-indulgence, and should be; it's whatever your imagination and subconscious and conscious and ego and vanity and id want to spew. It's as pure as both a daydream and a tantrum. 

The second phase, door open, is when the work begins. That's when you have to consider who you are writing for. That is when you step outside yourself, away from your reflection and your own preciousness, and begin to tear down and pare down, to kill paragraphs and paragraphs of darlings, to ask yourself questions that could dissolve the whole structure of your cherished idea like hot tea poured on a kingdom of sugar.  

But that's not all a writer deals with when the door is open. We also get criticism, rejection, support from important people whipped out from under us like a tablecloth trick, leaving us tipped over and shattered, and endless microaggressions like shards of crystal to crawl over on our way back to the table to start again.

This is why writers need each other, like the good friend who catches you talking to yourself in the mirror and does not think you strange at all, does not mock, is not critical or embarrassed for you or by you.  Instead this friend sits beside you and looks at herself in the same mirror, speaking from her reflection to yours, playfully, gently, with shared joy in that most delicate of moments.

Other writers, like that rare friend, understand.  

In that mirror, as we play and imagine, it is not all vanity.  In that mirror we create worlds.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Inevitable

 

I've had this book since before I could read it.

My mother is a brilliant reader and actress (which she would deny).  She gave a different voice to each character when she read these stories to me, building the tension as the story progressed, working in the subtext, looking deep into the characters.  She used dynamics, pacing, emotional beats, so many intuitive gifts I later could label from my theater experience. I caught on quickly in theater; I already knew the territory.

The Dick and Jane books left the house because my mother was disgusted by them.  She was fine with Rudyard Kipling and Ray Bradbury, and didn't bat an eyelash when, still in grammar school, I absconded with her college copies of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre ( the editions with the amazing woodcuts), The Arabian Nights, and The Complete Shakespeare.  Those were fine.  But no Dick and Jane.  Those stories were not only sexist, but simplistic and "dumbed down".  They would not be in the house.

To my mother, stories did not serve to tell us how to live.  They were expression for the sake of the beauty of it, but also vehicles for questions.  If I found something scary, she encouraged me to ask myself exactly what I found scary.  To look at my fears very closely, with an inquisitive and almost scientific eye.  If I found something funny, we laughed at it together and enjoyed it, without reserve. If I found wonder in something, she shared my feeling.  My mother has always had a profound and unhesitating sense of wonder.

In the same way I nabbed her books for my own, I stole the practice of reading stories as my own-and fancied that I had come up with the aptitude all by myself.  For many years I thought of this obsession as uniquely mine.  And then, like every other grandiose and ungrateful child, I began to look back.

Of course I had to inhale words like they were oxygen. Of course I had to write.  Of course I had to spend my life telling stories; I even made telling stories on the radio my bread and butter.  Looking back, I saw the trail of bread crumbs. And finally saw the point of the story.

This was inevitable.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pain and Presence



I had a molar ripped out 3 days ago.

I could have zoned out in my Valium haze for the procedure, but I chose to remain as present as I could for every jab, grind and splintering yank.

Pain becomes very interesting when you play with it.  I lean heavily on metta phrases in everyday life and in meditation, so I used them during the oral surgery and discovered that the pain, while real in the instant, took on an oily quality, an inability to cling or echo, when I applied self-compassion in the worst moments.

I'm no masochist (nod to Bill Murray, though I have a creeping feeling that was actually pretty unrealistic).  I'm just discovering that with every passing year I want, more and more, to be present for all of it.  Not just the cherry blossoms and the perfect cuppa, but for the dark regrets at 4AM, the smashing of dreams, the ripping of bone from bone.

Plus, it feeds writing like a crazy sonofabitch.  And what's better, at the end of the day in front of a blank screen, than THAT?

Metta is incredibly useful, by the way.  You can read more about it here.


Photo "Planet Explosion" artist unknown.  Please contact me if you know the artist for attribution.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Authentic Appreciation: The Birth of Story

Photo by PhotoClub

I was lucky enough to take Laura Packer's masterclass on Storytelling as part of the Storylights Fairy Tale Festival.  This was weeks ago, but one set of practices I learned, that is still evolving in me, is the practice of authentic appreciation.

Authentic appreciation wasn't a new idea for me.  I tend to be a "gusher", because for me appreciation is the art of reinforcing the positive and I kind of get off on it.  It gives me a happy to authentically reflect to someone that they've worked hard, or they've been kind, or they're being inventive.  But Laura Packer teaches this skill at a level I had never known.

In the workshop we storytellers paired off and practiced listening to each other tell versions of a familiar fairy tale, with appreciation. This entailed very mindful listening with a focus on noting all the positives we could find: creativity, expression, voice modulation, and anything else that struck us as positive as we listened to each other.

A magical thing happens when you listen with this attitude: you witness creativity itself.  You can see the thoughts forming and filtering, see the slightest hint of the words in the speaker's eyes before they leave her lips, sense the oncoming emotion in her body language.  It was an entirely new level of getting sucked right in to the stories, and for the tellers it was a new level of flow, of creating in the moment.  It was so safe, so nurturing, that many of us were startled at how creative we could be, and how gratifying it was as listeners to create the conditions for that creativity-just by the practice of appreciation.

There's a sacredness to creating safe space, but to create an even more nurturing space through authentic appreciation takes storytelling up a notch.  It feels a little like a birth.  Every story, no matter how old, is told by every teller for the first time in that moment.  You as the listener are the witness and with only your mindfulness and willingness to appreciate, you have the honor of catching the freshly created story.

It's a practice I will be committed to now for life.  It has already done much more for me than just improve my relationships or my telling and writing.  It has opened up new sacred spaces in listening, which I'm only beginning to explore.

Want to explore what you could learn from Laura Packer?  Here.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Old Friends From Dead Trees


I reconnected with a childhood friend a while ago.  The first question she asked was, "Do you still sleep with like a dozen books?"

It started in hospitals.  In rural Maine when you live 2 hours from the nearest hospital your working class parents can't visit every day.  Also, hospital staff always put me in a private room, I guess so every time they shot me up with adrenaline it wouldn't freak out other kids. I always managed to wheeze, when the nurses tried to remove my books from the bed, "No...please..."  Books became my comfort, my nourishment, my loyal friends.

At first I had thought Kindle was a genius space saver, but the cumulative eyestrain and dry eye and headaches sent me back to my friends made of trees, friends carefully crafted and maybe a little stinky, because there is nothing like a used book..

Last night after a horrid nightmare I threw my arm over the cool angles of this book, even smiling when the sharp corner bit me in the armpit.  I held it close in the dark and sighed, flooded with comfort.

A story is always there for you.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

White Writer

When people rail against "PC culture" they tend to say that the people they are attacking become "offended".

They never use the word hurt.  Or sadness, or pain, or grief, depression, despair.

People who brag about "not being PC" do so in that tone boys in grammar school used before putting a frog in the teacher's desk. They want to gleefully rebel against the most basic social contract: being nice.

As a writer I care about people, my characters, and my world.  I don't think this world needs another jerk in it.  So in addition to being raised in a household where kindness was an important value, and aside from being the kind of raging empath who weeps several times a week because I have to read the news, I prize kindness.  It's a comfort food for me.  I like being kind and recognizing when others are kind.  It gives me a happy.  When others get hurt it makes me sad.

So for me being a white writer is a lot like rafting in white water.  I've always, from the time I was around 10, written many non-white characters.  This is potentially very hurtful to non white people. There are hidden traps beneath the churning water, there are lethal hard places, and there is the rushing pace of media and social media to keep up with.  So I have to shove out into the turbulence.

I want to write my stories.

I also want to be a nice person.