Sean took this gorgeous photo here in Cape Breton a couple of days ago, and I thought it would make a good visual image for a post about the end of summer.
It's been a busy one. A sick and recovering kitty, a return trip to Iceland, the writing of my first peer-reviewed publication, the writing of my first space opera short story, writing conferences, funding proposals, household repairs, and other important and sometimes stressful (but less public) issues.
Now our return to Newfoundland looms large, and we're really looking forward to it; Internet that isn't buggy as hell, dinner at the Peaceful Loft, blueberry picking (with the appropriate fairy abduction avoidance gear in our pockets), reunions with friends, and most importantly...
I should be catching up on writing career things while I'm between semesters, but now that I have my studio back, this blog post is crowding the front of my mind. So I'm going to get it out of the way first, and then I'll work on that story stamping its feet in the queue.
So, Trump will likely be president, barring some Electoral College miracle. But even if somehow Hillary Clinton takes the oath of office, we've learned something about the level of right-wing ideology in American1 culture, and it's higher than we thought. Of course, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community have been shouting this at the tops of their collective lungs for years now. Meanwhile,...more
In recent weeks (since the Orlando shooting), I've read a great deal of frustration from people where it concerns offering thoughts and prayers to tragic situations. I understand where this frustration comes from. It's easier to 'like' a post or write a quick note of sympathy and get on with the day than it is to engage a tragic situation, so offering thoughts and prayers can seem trite to people who are suffering.
But it isn't always possible to support the people and things we care about as fully as we might want. Sometimes posting an offer of thoughts and prayers online is all we can do because of our personal circumstances. Having said that, one of the cornerstones of spiritual teaching is that we introspect first, which makes thinking and...more
I've been struggling with this blog entry for over a week now, but in the wake of Mary Robinette Kowal's excellent post, I decided it was finally time to collect my own thoughts and write about the controversy around this year's Hugo awards. I'm not terribly certain how all of those thoughts will come together here, so I hope you'll be patient with me as I muddle through.
First, I think I should clearly indicate that I've wanted to win a Hugo since I was fourteen, the year Isaac Asimov won the award for Foundation's Edge. I knew nothing about his private life back then; I simply loved his work...more
One of the most important things we can do as women is to support the strength of other women. When we undermine the concerns of another woman, when we downplay her righteous anger, when we say to others that she 'just gets that way sometimes', 'had a hard life', or 'simply doesn't understand', we are saying to the world that the voices of women are not worth hearing. It is a fundamental betrayal, a violation of trust and it does harm to all women everywhere.
This is especially true in the face of casual misogyny. Our culture still supports this disempowerment of women at the hands of men by downplaying the significance of it or dismissing the objections of women who are victims of it. Men who disempower women with their casual words and behaviors are often excused because of their advanced years, their cultural milieu, their odd sense of humor and so forth, while the women who defend themselves against this disempowerment are often told they need to be more understanding,...more
Before Winter passed away, I began a blog post about creativity but never finished it. The post was so dry; 'received structures' and 'creative scaffolding' and such. I deleted the twisty thing, and good riddance.
Good writing is shamanism. You journey in and down and out, unclutter your mind and soul with everybody else's stories until you find the ones you need to tell, there in the shapeless void. You mound-sit and speak with the dead about what they see from the walls of Helheim, across the river of swords, on the slender branches of Yggdrasil that touch the infinite night.
When you return, lungs breaking the traveling rhythm of deep trance, the things that pour out of you have a shape unto themselves, often unrecognizable to anyone but you. These are the fundaments of authentic creativity, and it's your job to fashion them in a way that other people can understand. That's what creative scaffolding is for; three-part story structures, plots that rise to...more
I wrote the other day about the possibility that I might serialize Twilight of the World Sea People, and I've decided to hold off on that a while, for a few important reasons. First, it would be much harder to build a readership entirely from self-publishing now than it would be later as a traditionally-published writer with one or two novels under my belt. This is a well-known downside to self-publishing; that no matter how good a book is, finding readers for it is harder for people without the reach of a traditional publisher. Second, the book I have outlined and ready to write now (Motherland I) might genuinely be a better first book in the series, and it would represent a second opportunity to introduce a traditional publisher to this universe. Third, I would have the opportunity to revise TWSP in light of further storytelling in the series and present it as a possible Book III (Motherland is a duology).
Yes, I'm frustrated about TWSP. It's tough to sit on a...more
I worry that I'm becoming one of those people who only writes anything meaningful when it's couched in fiction or poetry. I keep thinking I should blog about something important, and I do from time to time on PaganSquare, but when I approach writing for my own blog I frequently back away. I thought about writing on the Charlie Hebdo tragedy two weeks ago, but then I realized it would be foolish to wade into that awful conversation any more than I already had. May the dead rest in peace, and may the living hold them in cherished memory.
There's a thing happening on the Internet; a social leveling I've only previously encountered in meatspace. Ten years ago, I kept a blog about All The Things, written from my tar-covered mobile home in Maine. Nobody read it but my husband, and perhaps that's the reason why I was so free with my thoughts. Now I'm well-connected, and I find that I hold my truths more closely to my chest than I once did. I keep trying to write around them, to...more
I have a confession to make. I'm reading all those near-future, dystopian novels everybody is complaining about (except the ones with zombies), even though I'm complaining about them too (I am large, I contain multitudes). A child of Jehovah's Witnesses, I was taught to believe the End of Days would come to pass in my lifetime. So even though my understanding of the world is more nuanced now, I have this not-so-secret infatuation with apocalypses, especially the kind with aliens. I also read comic books.
Of course, I read lots of other things too. I'm a writer, so you'd expect that of me, but I'm here to tell you that having a book or two (or five) on the go, having a...more
It is best for man to be middle-wise,
Not over cunning and clever:
The learned man whose lore is deep
Is seldom happy at heart.
- The Hávamál
It seems I always come back to this quote from the Hávamál when I consider the possibility of furthering my formal education. As a person with a Master's degree, I feel solidly middle-wise by modern standards; I've made a respectable academic effort, and yet the esoterica offered by a terminal degree program are outside my frame of reference. I've considered this degree or that; a MA in Ethnomusicology, Icelandic Studies or Celtic, a MFA in Writing, a PhD in English, a Bachelor of Science in Physics, and all of these are within my grasp if I want them enough.
Yet there is more to knowing than knowledge, and there are processes to the acquisition of that knowledge that shape the mind in specific ways. For instance, because I was raised a Jehovah's Witness, and because I...more
I've just encountered an interesting point of confusion between my writing and its reception by readers that I thought it might be useful to discuss. In a recent blog entry, I defaulted to the feminine, third-person pronoun when discussing an animal because I wasn't certain of the animal's sex and didn't want to use the gender-neutral 'it' for reasons having to do with my vegan ethics. This created some confusion in my readership, so I subsequently footnoted the relevant passage to indicate that my usage was a default preference and not a specific gender identification.
I often default to the feminine pronoun and list the feminine first when I need to offer pronoun options (e.g., her/him, hers/his). Failing the widespread adoption of a gender-neutral...more
I've been thinking a great deal about what Paganism means to me and more directly about the relevance of the term 'Pagan' as a descriptor of my spiritual life. Paganism is a broad umbrella that shades a variety of budding faith paths, from Wicca to Aztec Reconstructionism (a blossom I find deeply troubling, given my recent research into Aztec religious practices). It boasts a host of non-Christian Gods and a burgeoning repository of historical, pseudo-historical, reconstructed and reinvented religious practices, including many that non-Pagans would call magical (ritual, spell-craft, tarot and the like). It is certainly diverse, and I've often heard that our unity is drawn from our diversity, though...more
I have a confession to make. I like to sew, to garden, to can and preserve food. I like to make my home a comfortable place to live in and to receive guests. Not fancy mind you; I'm not that kind of girl. But comfortable. Liveable.
Here's another confession. I like to write for the sake of the beauty of the words. Yes, I want to be commercially successful, and yes, I want for people to read what I write. But I love challenging my skill too, even when it means I spend 'too much' time on a story or poem once in awhile.
I've been thinking a lot about these things as Sean and I plan our move to Cape Breton, where we will be buying a rural home and settling down. In making this decision, I am making larger decisions about the direction of my life. I have a Master's degree, but I'm consciously deciding to be a Gaelic speaker for the sake of it, a homesteader, a writer who might or might not ever 'make it'.
And I'm okay with that (except the 'making it' part - gonna...more
On Saturday afternoon of the convention, four holes-in-the-shoes, dust-in-the-petticoats wandering minstrels offered up an hour of entertainments designed to lift the spirit and put the mind at ease. Never you mind that our minstrels were forced to move at the last minute from their assigned space to a suite on the tenth floor because NO YOU CAN'T BRING YOUR HOME-MADE COOKIES INTO THE KING ROOM (Did you know that forbidden cookies taste like unicorn giggles?) and NO YOU CAN'T HAVE SINGING EITHER (what kind of Lurch/Miss Umbrage wannabe was running that room, anyway?). Never you mind that halfway through the hour, the hand-painted backdrop slipped from its duct tape mooring and had to be violently ripped from the wall by one C.S.E. (Claire) Cooney mid-sentence. These women were professionals, and no cookie, singing or backdrop calamity was going to stand between them and the show.
Caitlyn Paxson kicked it off with a banjo, which she played with a most amazing alacrity while...more
I just took down a G+ post about a funny Craigslist advertisement in Virginia for a topless, female dungeon master who might be willing to run an AD&D 3.5 campaign for a bachelor party. Nerdy, strange and somewhat misogynistic all at the same time, I thought it was worth sharing. But when it passed through G+ to Twitter and Facebook, somehow the link to the actual advertisement forwarded to the Craigslist category it was posted in and not to the advertisement itself. And since I try to keep my posts fairly uniform cross-platform, I deleted all three. Then I wondered if people might think I was removing them because I believed they were inappropriate, which led me to wonder if I'd be faced with the 'she took it down' value judgement I've seen other people make when folks do this sort of thing, which led me to think about the way I view online interaction, which led me to this post.
I'm troubled by the notion that everything everyone posts on the Internet should occupy the...more
As I've mentioned on social networking recently, I've been researching and outlining a set of short stories to write before I return to novel-length fiction. In some cases, the research has been fun (i.e. watching episodes of Dexter to learn how other writers have crafted sociopathic characters), some of it has been gruesome (i.e. reading on Aztec sacrificial practices) and now some of it has crossed a boundary for me, forcing me to reconsider the cultural backdrop of one of my stories.
The story is Songlines, which takes place in my Petals of the Twenty Thousand Blossom universe and to date has been a coming-of-age story about a boy of Australian Aboriginal extraction living on a far-future generational ship. I outlined the bones of it many years ago after reading a monograph by David H. Turner, one of my University of Toronto professors, about Australian Aboriginal music. But after polishing the outline yesterday, I realized I needed to read the...more
Today is for planning the next six weeks of my writing life. I've been fortunate enough to sell nearly all the stories and poems in my inventory, so while I'm waiting to hear back from agents about my novel, I thought I'd take a break and create some new things to share. One of the stories came to me whole cloth in a dream, and while the dream logic of it will likely need tweaking before it works as narrative, I'm still excited to finally be giving it some attention. The title came to me in the dream as well; Sing the Crumbling City. Another story is rooted in my distaste for the pseudo-philosophical concept of metanorms and my desire to write the evolution of a female anti-hero. It might be called Chachalmeca, but I'm not sold on the title yet. I also need to unearth a few unfinished poems from the journal I jotted them down in and polish them up.
Today is also the second day of the regular Kundalini yoga practice I've been trying hard to establish for...more
I'm preparing to reinstall my operating systems today (Dhia! What an undertaking!), and while I'm waiting for various backups to complete, I'd like to share with you something I'm learning about writing your first book.
The hardest part isn't beginning the work, or straining against the limits of your creativity to craft the most beautiful words you can, or finding the time and the wherewithal to finish what you've started.
It's trying to sell your book when you're done.
The waiting and rejection are easier beasts to battle when you only have a poem or a short story on the line. They took a day, or a week, or perhaps a month to write. Not so with the novel where your mind, heart and soul have lived for likely a number of years, the novel that made you say 'no' to so many other things for its sake, the novel whose characters are not quite people but live in you nonetheless. When you send that work out into the world, a significant piece of your being bears it...more
I've written before that my husband engages in vegan advocacy online by way of direct interaction with people and the issues they discuss around the topic. Often this approach works well, but as with all conversations on the Internet, sometimes it brings the bridge wardens out from underneath their charges, if you know what I mean.
Today's example of trollish ass-hattery comes from a Science-Based Medicine article about the use of fetal tissue and placenta in the production of pills for human consumption. All by itself, the article is a parade of the bizarre written by a man who, if he is an M.D., obviously skipped every English class he was ever forced to take. Halfway through the text, the author references an AlterNet article on the consumption of placenta and writes that 'it is the one meat OK with vegans'. (Yes, we all eat placenta. It's our primary source of protein. Didn'...more
I'm moving into the 'STFU and finish it' phase of my edits, which likely means less activity on social networking, however that might manifest this time. But this morning I've found myself staring out the window at the storm-gray bay and thinking not so much on the beauty of this place I live but on its transformative power.
I've stood on the rocks at Peggy's Cove the day before a hurricane while the sun baked the water into salt on my face. I've gone raspberry picking in the Annapolis Valley and stuffed my face with huge, sweet berries on a hot, summer day. I've driven infant squirrels from Bridgewater to Seaforth because every life matters. I've taken suffering raccoons to a gentle death. I've released rehabilitated owls to the wild. I've encountered cougars on the road.
I've also put the mother tongue of my ancestors in my mouth and put their songs in my throat. I've played the bodhrán at a ceilidh at 1:00 in the morning while two kinds of Gaelic were spoken...more
Over the last few days, I've had a few social networking issues arise that gave me reason to question my own methodologies for maintaining online social networks. The first was a reference to Dunbar's number, which is a 'theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships', usually set at 150. Another was an instance wherein I circled (a G+ term) a vegan woman in Holland who sometimes has interesting things to say, only to uncircle her again when she began to rave about how popular she was and how awesome it was to have so many followers. A third was a public request from one of my Facebook subscribers to accept his friend request.
With regard to Dunbar's number, I need for my social networks to be productive places of interaction. That's why I don't auto-follow, especially on Twitter. If I know you, know of you or know you have something...more
I was planning to post this as a social networking status update, but it's getting too long, so I thought I'd post it as a blog entry instead.
Today, in addition to my novel edits, I'm reading about the headscarf controversy in Turkey. Some estimates indicate that as many as 65% of women either wear a headscarf or support the wearing of a headscarf, and yet women have been barred from public buildings, from working in the public sector and from attending university while wearing them. The ban on headscarves has been lifted and reinstated at least once in the last five years, and now it seems that university students are permitted to wear headscarves, primarily because they wouldn't have access to education in Turkey otherwise.
It's an interesting debate. From what I've read, Turkey works hard to present its government as secular and views the headscarf as a religious symbol. At the same time, many Turkish people want the right to wear headscarves freely. I would...more
I hereby acknowledge that there are Big Things happening in my life that I cannot write about publicly. Some of them have worried me, some have frustrated me with the mind-numbing slowness of their progression and some have excited me with their possibilities. I will probably never write about the first, I will only write about the second when it is completely resolved and I will write about the third when there is something definitive to share.
Strangely, these three queens of my life have demanded so much of my mental energy that I haven't had any to spare for blogging and little to spare for social interaction. But while the tide of that demand has ebbed somewhat in the last couple of weeks, I find that the public silence I need to keep about these larger issues has blocked the flow of my words altogether in some respect. I can still write fiction, but interactive personal writing has been difficult. I just can't get past what I can't say.
Of course, this is a...more
In the last 24 hours, I've had to address two instances of social bullying from people who used the good manners and good will present in professional and personal situations to say wretched things. Both instances were perpetrated by repeat offenders, and both happened because they thought that nobody (and certainly not a middle-aged woman) would have the courage to call them on their bad behavior.
I did. Both times.
For me, it's important to remember that people who engage in social bullying of this sort are engaging in emotional violence, and they succeed when I remain silent about it. Further, the bullies are counting on my need to preserve the professional or personal situation over my need to preserve my dignity. Women can be especially vulnerable to this tactic, since we're often socialized to do just that. But when I cave to that impulse and say nothing, my strength is sapped and my self-worth is compromised. I am made small. There have been times in my life...more
Caveat: This essay was written in 2004, a year and a half after I graduated from the M.A. program in English at the University of Maine. As I recall, it took me a year and a half to contextualize my experience in such a way that I didn't simply rant in broken half-sentences when I tried to write about it.
The essay was up on my web site until late 2006, when I took it down because I believed my perspective on the subject matter was too emotional and too personal. Since then, I've logged about three requests a month for the page, which is significant. So, I'm offering it here again, against my better judgment, in the hope it's of help to you. I still mean just about every word of it.
Roughly a year into my master's program at the University of Maine, a professor I knew very little invited me to write a conservative critique of J.R.R. Tolkien's work. I nearly laughed in her face, but I managed to gather my composure enough to inform her that I wouldn't have...more