I’m getting published!

That’s right! You heard me, I’m getting mo fuggin published again!

My short story, “What Counts,” is being published by a magazine called Mistake House.

This has come at the best time.

I love to write; I have always loved to write.

I was just beginning to lose my faith in my ability to be a success at it.

And now here we are again. Yay!

Travel Writing: A Certain kind of Kiss

On joyous kissing and travel writing.

 

I haven’t talked about travel writing on here at all because it’s not something I’ve really done before. When I took my creative non-fiction writing class, I hadn’t traveled anywhere yet, and I sure as hell didn’t want to write about my hometown, Bumbleton. So I didn’t pay too close attention (sorry Karen!). Maybe there are guidelines and rules or tips and tricks to travel writing, but I can’t say that I know them. I do know that the happiest week of my life happened when I was traveling, and that I wanted to write about it. So I did.

Mad Decent Boat Party 2014 was a rave cruise that went from Miami to Nassau that I somehow ended up on. I’d never even been to a rave let alone listened to EDM, but a girl I worked with (who I’d never even hung out with outside of work) happened to have a ticket. I had money saved up to travel, but I didn’t have any plans. So I bought her extra ticket. We had the time of our lives. We turned out to be the perfect travel buddies, and have been close friends ever since.

The passage below is from a day when we went to a private island:

A Certain kind of Kiss

There’s a balloon of ebullience swelling in my chest. The sun is baring down on my barely covered form, my pale skin almost stinging as it cooks the granules of salt from the water onto my skin. The inflated raft I’ve commandeered sways beneath me on the waves. Across the water on the beach electronic music thumps from the stage and a throng of bodies, wet and caked in golden sand, thrive to the beat. A red inflatable t-rex crowd surfs, bouncing above waving hands and exposed breasts.

I hadn’t thought to pack any sunglasses and without my glasses, the edges of bodies and sand blurred like a Monet painting.

I close my eyes, feeling the movement of the waves with my whole body, and I float on, that Modest Mouse song flitting into my head. Yes, we all float on, float on.

A wet finger taps my shoulder, the water cold on my sun dried skin.

I shade my face from the sun with my hands and open my eyes, wondering if the owner of the raft has come to reclaim what I’ve stolen.

I meet the gaze of a grinning couple. The one who’s tapped me is a girl. “I just had to tell you,” she shouts over the voices and music skittering on the surface of the water, “we love your smile!”

I laugh because I hadn’t realized I’d been smiling. I had probably looked like a fool, floating amidst the crowd of people on my stolen raft with my eyes closed, grinning. “Thank you!” I shout back.

They wave before turning away. I watch as they try their best to rave in waist deep water.

I still can’t keep the smile from touching my face.

Out beyond the ocean dwellers, a speed boat races around, one of our group tethered to it by a rope lifts into the air behind.

On the beach, people are still arriving from the ferry that delivered me to the island from the cruise ship. They’re just seeing the heaven they’ve arrived in. I watch as two pairs of friends shriek in joy and promptly grab one another in a violent kiss.

I giggle at the display.

That excited kiss has been happening all day between couples, friends, and strangers; my friend Genveive and I were not exempt. We had arrived on the beach after a round of battle shots (a game of battleship where the boats are shots), and seeing the stage, the sprawling sand and blue water that kiss had claimed us too. I would have another kiss like that later on the boat again during a set on the pool deck with Aaron, a guy I’d just met from Seattle, who I would mentally deem my “boat boyfriend.”

There’s something to be said for joy like that, that seizes the whole body and is so overwhelming that it needs to burst outward into an act of affection that a hand grab or a hug could never express. No, it can only be a kiss, sloppily shoved into the mouth of a person who’s experiencing that same moment, that same joy, with you. It’s not a kiss given because you’re not in love with the recipient, but because you’re both so in love with the moment. All of us, everyone in the water and dancing on the beach, shared in that joy, that certain kind of kiss.

 

A Lesson in Semantics

On depression and semantics.

I was near tears when I opened up my laptop with the intent to write this post, but the lock screen was set to a picture of a smiling sloth. It cheered me up, so if you’re having a rough day, here’s a sloth for you too:

sloth

I don’t know if I should publish this.

I often claim that I’m very open about my depression and anxiety, but the truth is that I’m really not.

As a writer, I know the difference between showing and telling.

To show, I would say, “The numbness had seeped out from the girl’s mind and into her body, paralyzing her in the dark in her bed with self loathing for eternity.”

To tell I would say, “The girl was depressed.”

I tell.

I tell people, “Why yes, I struggle with depression and anxiety,” like it’s a fun fact. I’ll bring it up to maybe explain a certain quirk I have, or to make a joke about it. I don’t show anyone why I’m too distraught to move for days. I tell them I drink so much because I love to party and don’t describe how booze fends off the panic that comes with being in a room filled with men who are bigger than me and could overpower me if they wanted. I don’t let anyone see how I rip myself into pieces until all that’s left is a handful of bloody confetti. Only my closest friends get snapshots, and even then, they’re few and far between because I am afraid. I’m afraid that if I show my darkness, what I really am beneath all the meaningless chatter, people will run. It will be too much. A burden.

In my ed psych class we’re discussing learning disabilities. My professor keeps emphasizing that if you ever hear a student say, “I’m ADHD,” or “I’m autistic,” you tell them that they aren’t ADHD or autistic, rather that they have ADHD or autism. They are not their disorders. Meaningful semantics.

I am not depressed.

I have depression.

But I don’t really believe that, not about myself or about him.

In fact, one of the stories I’m trying to get published currently is about  him, my first boyfriend who was an obsessive compulsive, cripplingly anxious, alcoholic with dissociative disorder and was an abusive mother fucker. In the story, I refer to him only as “Illness.” He functioned in social situations only by mimicking television shows; he was composed of learned wit and good timing. The only thing beneath the visage was the illness he was hiding, and I question to this day if there was even a person left amidst all of his sickness. But I loved him, whatever he was, despite the abuse.

But lately I’ve been trying to move away from relationships like that, to be smarter about who I get close to.

There’s a blogger named Jennifer Lawson who unabashedly shows and tells about her mental illness. What baffles me most about her life, is that she has a husband who isn’t mentally ill and never has been. I wondered if an unafflicted man could really understand her, really empathize, without growing weary of dealing with someone who is sick.

Her marriage gave me hope.

I thought that maybe if this woman who is so ill could be with someone who’s well, then maybe I could. Maybe the idea of a normal healthy relationship wasn’t too out of left field. Maybe a well companion could help me get well too.

I’ve been trying really hard to get better, to open up, to show. I tried in my most recent relationship, and to avoid the coldness I’ve so often been accused of. I showed, just a glimpse. And it was too much. He told me so. And I’m single again. It’s not his fault. I wanted to know, and now I do. I was right to be afraid to show my darkness.

I’ve learned that if I am depressed, then I am a burden to whomever I am with. Showing was a mistake. I need to tell, or maybe even not do that either. Maybe I should just deal with things on my own, as I always have. Hide my illness and stay on my own until I’m truly well again, if I ever will be.

I’ve been doing Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and I know that logically, I shouldn’t believe what I just wrote. Just because my illness was too much for one person doesn’t mean it will repeat every time. But logic smogic. I’m sad.

Here’s another sloth.

annother

Free Write– “Typical”

The result of a free write exercise. There are bad words, sexual references, and drugs in this post. Sounds like a good time, right?

It needs, he thought, it needs…to be held. Gently in soft lubricated hands with long fingers tipped by carefully manicured nails. It needs to be pleasured, made love to. Fucked. Hard. It needs…it needs cocaine. That was it. You can’t go wrong with cocaine. Well, maybe you could. But what did he care? His heart hurt, after all. It needed to be held, or it needed cocaine, and the former wasn’t going to happen. Not since she’d gone.

He thought of the energy infused in his muscles after snorting a line, mouth chattering almost faster than the words spouting out his throat, eyelids peeled back, taking everything in faster than possible, his energy lashing out in all directions, feeling larger than his body. And his heart. Oh, his heart would race with joy. It would thunder and leap in his chest. It would palpitate with life, with the rush. Energy. Rage. Love. He needed cocaine.

Getting up from the disheveled bed, he rubbed his hands across his unkempt beard, brushing out the stale granules of last night’s pizza from his face. He stumbled over to the coffee table, sticky with pop spilled a month ago. A month. A whole month gone by without her, his heart cold and untouched.

He’d devoured a large pepperoni pizza and two pounds of salt and pepper wings the previous night in an attempt to feed his heart, thinking that maybe after all this time that it might just be hungry, and that it was just crying for food. But his heart didn’t want pizza and wings. The food hadn’t made it happy. Instead, it had only made his skin oily and his stomach protrude with an unsightly food baby beneath the fuzz of his body hair. His bed sheets were filled with crumbs and his heart was indifferent, untouched.

He had touched other things in attempt to heal the shuttering gasping thing in his chest. In fact, his genitals were well loved—not by anyone else, but at least they responded to his efforts, like his stomach did to food. They allowed themselves to be indulged unlike his sad heavy heart.

But somewhere in the city, there was cocaine.

The thought spread in him like warm honey oozing down an aching throat. He didn’t have any coke in the house, hadn’t for years. He didn’t even remember his dealer’s name, let alone his contact information. Why was life so hard?

With a sigh that wreaked his whole body, the man fumbled with a slip of cigarette rolling paper and dumped in some green from the absurd amount in the jar on the sticky table. He ran his tongue along the paper, the moisture picking up little flecks of weed, green on pink. Bitter. Like everything in his world.

He pinched the paper together, lit the end and took in a breath matching the ferocity of his sighs. The cloud of grey smoke rushed into his lungs. It filled his whole chest, but it didn’t reach his heart. Typical.

Hamsters

On teaching, university, writing, and hamsters.

I need an attitude adjustment.

The kids in my class had swimming lessons on the first day of my first teaching practicum last semester. The hamlet I was placed in (yeah, it’s so small it doesn’t even get to be called a town) didn’t have a swimming pool, so the teacher and I loaded up the kids onto a school bus for an hour’s ride to the Bumbleton pool. I sat next to a cute little blonde girl on the bus, and she proceeded to tell me about her pet hamster while the immense flatness of Southern Alberta passed by out the windows.

I went into this practicum with an acute fear of small children. No, the words “acute” and “fear” are not hyperbolic. Children are terrifying.

The last time I interacted with more than one child, I was a child. Even back then, I detested most them, much preferring the company of older kids, adults, or best of all, books. This, as well as the fact that social interactions drain rather than energize me (which seems detrimental to succeeding as a teacher) made me incredibly nervous to embark on such a strange and uncomfortable adventure to a grade 2/3 class. My cohort spent the semester before the practicum reflecting on our feelings and why we want to be teachers. I existed on the periphery of the group, thinking, “I don’t have feelings, and I’m not sure if I even want to be a teacher” and, “I don’t like humans, I like books!” But I was optimistic, still high from my escape from Bumbleton even though my practicum would be sending me right back home; I thought I could do it. Maybe I could like little kids if I tried really hard.

So I sat on that bus next to that six year old girl, and I asked her about her hamster. I thought that if I asked, if I showed interest, that this would create my first real connection to a child. They’re all about making connections in the ed program–something else that is really hard for me.

So she told me about her hamster and a hamster that died and her horse and her dogs and do I have any pets?

I told her about my dogs, and we chattered a little bit back and forth, but eventually,  not knowing what else to possibly talk to a miniature human about, I let the conversation die peacefully. I was proud that I had tried so hard, reached out and showed an interest.

But she revived the conversation. Like Frankenstein’s monster, she sent violent intermittent bolts of lightning into the corpse over and over again; she just wouldn’t let it die.

Did I have a hamster? She asked.

Nope! Just the two dogs, I told her, raising my voice above the yelling of the other kids on the rolling yellow tin can, feeling my energy draining.

Oh…Well her hamster did this thing that was cute one time.

Wow, that is cute!

And also, more about her hamster. And also this fact about hamsters. And do I ever want to have a hamster? I should get a hamster. Hamsters have wiggly noses. Hamsters, hamsters, hamsters.

I was stuck, blocked in on the seat by her and her fucking hamsters. And it had only been ten minutes out of sixty on the bus.

I didn’t know if asking her for quiet time or if I stopped answering would do irreparable damage to her delicate child psyche, so I persisted. I continued to engage with her longer than I would ever have tried to were I not so desperate to succeed at this career.

Eventually, despite all of my efforts, I ran out of cools, and neats, and wows.

But the bus kept going. And so did she.

Hamsters!

And I thought on my very first day, “I can’t do this.”
But now I’m here in the first full week of my second semester, and I did do it.

Barely.
Since classes have begun, I’ve been debating a lot about whether I want to finish this program. There are fifty-one students in every class this semester, and we’re in a windowless room with a heating problem for seven hours every single day. There’s also another practicum at the end of the classes; the thought of it horrifies me.

The date to drop out and get my tuition back is swiftly approaching, and I’ve been trying to consult with friends and family for advice, but nobody’s input has drastically impacted my view of the program or my options. That’s very likely because at my core, all I want to be is a writer, and my friends know that, but they’re taking into consideration that whole needing to eat and pay rent thing too.

I decided today that I’m going to finish the program. Not because I want to be a teacher, but because I want to be a writer.

Since my third year of my first degree, I’ve turned into a high strung straight A student because I wanted to get into an English masters program. This still might happen one day, but realistically, it’s off the table for at least five years. I loved studying English, so devoting every waking hour to it wasn’t a chore.

But I don’t love education.

In fact, it makes me rather miserable. But I got straight A’s last semester in education, so I don’t need to worry too much about my GPA unless I start getting C’s (which let’s be real, even if I’m not wholly devoted to it, I’m too much of a spaz to let that happen). So I’ve decided that I’m going to be a writer and a student and focus equally on both goals rather than prioritizing school as I usually do. This plan is foreign to me; all I’ve identified myself as for a very long time is a lover of being educated, of being a student. But other students have families and careers and life stuff that take priority over their studies. So maybe I can make school not be number one for once either because A. I’m miserable, and B. writing is that important to me.

I’m going to create some happiness for myself while doing something tedious. At least until the practicum begins.

My first practicum experience never got better after that first day on the bus. In fact, it’s the reason why I’m so discouraged and pessimistic about the whole program now when before I was so optimistic and motivated.

A moment that perfectly represents how it went was when the teacher addressed the class after swimming lessons and said, “Alright! Everyone in the same seat on the way back!”

An Unpleasant Discovery

On NOT feminism and submitting stories to literary magazines.

I’m not a feminist.

During my early years of university, I was a feminist as is often the case when young women are first exposed to Women’s Studies and sociology. I burned bras, yelled, “Fuck the patriarchy!” and stopped shaving and all that jazz. Just kidding. I still trimmed my mustache.

I currently no longer go by that title, and I intentionally avoid discussing gender issues because when I did carry that F word on my back, I faced not only resistance, but hatred. It wasn’t hatred inspired by anything that I had said or done, in fact, I was relatively soft spoken even back then, but I felt hatred because of the bra burning stereotype that I just poked fun at. Worst of all, I had the misfortune of meeting two people who are with out a doubt the worst humans I have ever and will ever encounter in my life. They identified themselves as feminists. Every time I spoke up for feminism, I was defending those monsters. And it wasn’t worth it anymore. So I laid down in the stream and let it carry me away rather than standing waist deep with the current bashing against me. Now I float in this weird untitled grey area where, sure, I think everyone should be equal, but if someone says a sexist joke and I open my mouth in response, it will be in laughter. And maybe laughing makes me a bad person or even a traitor against my own sex, but my laughter will never even brush the same realm of cruelty of those feminists. So I will not feel guilty for it.

I’ve been working really hard on the goals I made in this post about my delusions of power.

It still baffles me how much work it is to find just one literary magazine that MIGHT be a good fit for my writing.

But it’s enjoyable work. I mean, I’m in school to be a teacher. Or whatever. At my core, I’ve always wanted to be a full time writer, and since I’ve been working on my mental health too, I’ve actually been going out of my way to make time for my writing goals.

So far I’ve submitted my story called “What Counts” to five magazines(my goal is 50). Along my literary travels, I’ve also come across two magazines to submit a piece I wrote for a creative non-fiction class called “Contagious.” For some reason I always discount that story. I always think it’s bad, but every time I read it, I’m always impressed by it. Calyx magazine even gave me a really encouraging rejection letter when I submitted it to them. You’d think that would inspire some sort of faith in the quality of the story, but no. That’s too logical for the likes of me.

However–it makes me cringe in anticipation of the backlash I may get for writing this–one thing I’ve noticed in my travels through digital stories is an overabundance of literature by men (excluding those ‘zines that are dedicated solely to women’s works), and very little by women.

It wasn’t in every magazine, but it was enough that I noticed it when my anti-feminist brain wasn’t even looking for it.

I’ve read about an imbalance between men and women writers publishing success before, but I’ve never really noticed it until now. Even when I was a feminist, I always kind of assumed that it wasn’t as bad as it was being made out to be.

But this is something I’ve been seeing with my own eyes. Which makes me think that maybe I should take on a male or gender neutral pseudonym like George Elliot (AKA Mary Ann Evans) when I sign my cover letters to magazines.

To use a term that my boyfriend often says, it “chaps” me to think of doing that.

I’m selfish.

I want credit.

I want compliments.

I want writing fame.

I want cake.

Mmmm.

Cake.

A lot of people have discouraged me from writing throughout my life. If I ever do make it as a successful full-time writer, I want there to be no question if my work is mine. I want my name on it so I can smush it into the faces of my doubters and go, “SEE?! YOU TOLD ME I COULDN’T, AND I STILL DID IT. I’M THE BEE’S KNEES.”

But if my name really will decrease my chances of publication, the question then becomes, which is more important: my name or my dream of being a writer? Obviously the latter.

But it’s been two hundred years since Mary Ann Evans hid her identity to get published. Maybe it has changed and I’m simply over thinking it and seeing the imbalance in only a small sample of literary magazines when overall it’s really quite equal. But if I’m not, it’s a risk. My name could hold me back.

It’s something I’m going to keep in mind for now. I’m not quite ready to surrender the face smushing of my doubters yet.

In the meantime, I think I may pull a J.K. Rowling and submit stories only using my first and middle initial with my last name. It’s a fair compromise.

Chapped indeed.

Delusions of Power

On cognitive behaviour therapy and creating rational writing goals.

My car accident really put into perspective the fact that I have a problem with control (see My Lucky Day to read about how I almost died on Friday). I never recognized it before because I thought of someone with control issues as a high strung busy body who needs to be the boss of everyone. That’s definitely not me.

My problem manifests itself differently: I beat the crap out of myself mentally for things that aren’t in my control. Especially if they are things that don’t work out. This in turn, often results in horrible depression and low self esteem.

Proof of my control delusion was posted right here on my blog under the heading, “The Write Goals” pictured below. I can now see that these goals are not “write” at all, but very wrong indeed. Oh the irony.

wrong-goalsSince sliding out into oncoming traffic and realizing that whatever would happen to me and my car was completely out of my hands, I’ve been working really hard on my mental health. This has included Cognitive Behavior Training which is essentially recognizing irrational thoughts and correcting them. A lot of my irrational thoughts revolve around things that aren’t in my control.

A few of the goals listed in the picture above are rational goals (ie things in my control), like attending a writer’s conference, starting a creative writing club (someday I will actually do this), and even publishing Joe, my novel, but only if I take the self publishing route.

However, the majority of the items on this list are things out of my control, like getting an agent, going to a writer’s conference as a guest speaker, writing a best seller, and getting 1000 followers on Word Press. Even getting my novel published if I were to take the traditional route is not in my control. Every single one of those things sounds awesome, but the problem is that for them to happen, it’s in the hands of other people. It’s the agent’s choice whether to take me on as a client. It’s the writer’s conference who chooses their guests. It’s the the world that decides what becomes a best seller. It’s the people of Word Press who choose which blogs they want to follow or not follow. It’s the editor’s choice to either accept or reject my manuscript. Of course there are things I can do to direct my life towards those dreams, but the reality is that if they happen or not really wouldn’t be up to me. They’re not rational goals; they’re evidence of my delusions of power over things I’m not the boss of. Maybe I am a bossy pants after all.

Recognizing that has really been a huge breakthrough and to set myself up for success, I’ve crafted new Rational Writing Goals:

  • Create a system to organize queries and short fiction submissions
  • Query 100 agents about my manuscript
  • Submit my short story “What Counts” to 50 literary magazines
  • Have my serial killer story peer reviewed and polished
  • Submit the polished version of the serial killer story to 25 literary magazines, especially looking into ones with a mystery focus
  • Write my story about the convenience store
  • Write a new story specifically for the magazines that haven’t published me, but have asked to see more of my work
  • Write 24 blog posts (that’s two per month)
  • Research self publishing
  • Read 30 books in 2017 and continue to catalogue books finished in the 50 book pledge

Unless some sort of catastrophe happens (catastrophic thinking is also another form of irrational thinking!) and wipes out all technology like a belated Y2K bug, these are goals that are in my control. These goals (aside from the 50 book pledge) don’t have a time bomb attached to them, like they need to be completed in 2017 or I am a failure. Life happens. Car accidents, medical problems, and depression happens. Sometimes it can’t be avoided. That’s also why I’ve only pledged to read 30 books instead of 50 for the one goal that does have a time stamp. If I do more than that: awesome. But if I meet my goal, I’ve completed what I’ve set out to do. I’m setting myself up for success.

I am so proud of myself.