An Update!

It has been an incredibly busy time recently — for those of you who haven’t tried to hang out with me in the past few weeks and failed, I’ll let you know why: I’ve been working like mad as an assistant stage manager for Open Stage’s “Carrie: The Musical”. It’s taken up most of my free time, which is bittersweet — I have missed a lot of improv opportunities, but it’s still been really fun. So it all evens out, I suppose. Performances are still happening, but selling out quickly, so get on that if you want to see it!

But even with all the fake blood and quick set changes that I’ve been making, I’ve still tried to spend some time figuring out what I’m going to do about this book. And I think I’ve finally landed on one detail: The Fields‘ release date will be December 30th! (I figured I wouldn’t delude myself into believing I would be people’s priority during the holiday season, but I will make ample use of the fact that people get gift cards around that time!)

So mark that on your calendars. I will slowly get the hang of marketing and squeeze out more details, like pre-ordering, what the cover will look like, etc, but hold onto that one tiny detail for now.

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It’s Kinda Sorta (Almost) Finished

It’s finally crunch time. I’m going to publish this damn book if it’s the last thing I do. I’ve talked about The Fields from time to time on this blog, and that’s all it’s ever been… talk. Now I will do. And it’s going to happen in the next two months.

That’s as risky of a deadline as I’m allowing myself at this moment… god forbid I give myself an actual date. But I am the closest I’ve ever been, and I’m reaching the point where I feel I need to just bite the bullet and get it over with — a sure sign that it’s ready. There are just a few details I need to attend to in order to get it off the ground, mainly dealing with promotion.

Some of you have already obliged me in my feeble attempts at promotion, as I created a public figure page on Facebook. This feels so weird to me. I don’t like advertising myself, but I know I need to in order to get people to read my work, so it’s always an awkward battle with my self esteem.

As I get closer and closer to publishing The Fields, I find myself face to face with questions I do not like. One of those questions is, “who is your audience?”

I hate the audience question. No one sits down and says, “I’m going to write a story for x audience” (Okay, maybe children’s authors do. Whatever. That’s different). When you write, you’re creating a story that you’re interested in, and you don’t think about how it will conform to any one genre or age group. You just write the damn story. It’s only afterwards that you have to think about what the hell you’re doing.

That was definitely my process for The Fields, anyway. I technically started writing this book about eleven years ago, but I didn’t really gain traction with it until eight years ago, and then I didn’t even really figure out what the backbone of the story was until four years ago, and then the message began to piece itself together after that… yeah, I’m a really slow writer. But my point is, I didn’t start off thinking, “This is my audience. This is the plan I have for this book, and I will write within the constructs of this plan.” I was just letting the characters come to life, and babysitting, essentially, until those details began to fade into place.

Turns out, The Fields is definitely a young adult novel. And I tried to convince myself otherwise, but it’s true.

First, there’s the protagonist. Mukisa is nineteen years old. Ironically, when I first started writing this story, I was a teenager, and the protagonist was a 30-something year old man (the character who is now the protagonist’s father. Mukisa didn’t even exist at that point). I suppose as a teenager I hadn’t quite learned that I should push women’s voices into the forefront of my work? But as the story grew, the age of the protagonist shrank (I don’t know, I didn’t write the rules, I just wrote the story).

Now, just because the protagonist of the story is a young adult doesn’t mean that the story is for young adults, but it is a step in that direction, especially when you take a look at the themes being represented in the story. Though technically independent, Mukisa struggles with her relationship with her parents, and being able to make her own decisions. Both of her parents are authority figures in the community, as well, so that conflict is heightened. There are also themes of discovering your identity within a community, and a struggle with morality… a lot of the themes do line up with young adult fiction.

I’m not sure why I was initially so frustrated with the idea that I was writing a young adult novel. Maybe it was because some of the content is a little dark — which isn’t a good reason, because young adult books increasingly wrestle with darker topics. Or maybe it was because when I asked for feedback, some of my readers suggested that I simplify some of the language to make it more accessible to younger readers — the words were too big — which I will never, ever be ashamed of refusing. Readers, if you aren’t able to figure out the meaning of a word through context, then it is not going to kill you to look it up and learn a new word. God. (I’m a little bit too firm on this subject, perhaps).

For some reason, I wanted my book to be for adults. And in a way, it still is — there are plenty of young adult novels that adults read, like The Outsiders, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc. The nice thing about story is that if it’s good, it’s good for anyone.

So I’m learning to deal with this.

Maybe this shouldn’t have been such a difficult thing to come to grips with. Are you an adult who likes young adult fiction? Are you a young adult who reads everything you can get your hands on? I’d love to hear people’s experiences with the books they delve into, and/or prefer.

Burnout

Burnout is constantly feeling like I’m late to something, even when I’m not, rushing through an activity because I just want to get to the end and “be on time”.

Burnout is thinking that I have to get through just a little bit more, hold out a little longer, and then realizing I’m not even sure what it is I’m holding out for.

Burnout is when, instead of doing the four very simple tasks before me, I do nothing. I just… do nothing. And then I panic about not getting the four simple tasks done, so when a fifth task is added to the list, it seems like the most arduous, overwhelming task in the world.

Burnout. My therapist asked me to work on trying to identify burnout in my life, so that I can recognize when it’s about to happen, and prevent it. I have reached burnout so many times in my life, and usually I only take action when I’m in its midst — eliminating stressful factors from my life once they’ve already grabbed me by the throat and thrown me to the ground. But to stop the problem before it occurs… well, that’s an idea.

I’m an activity girl. I cram more and more things into my schedule — not social experiences, but activities that may produce social experiences but whose main focus is productivity. I don’t know why I do this… the comfort that I’m looking for is never in quantity of activities, it’s in time spent. I know this. But somehow, activities seem like a more tangible, achievable thing — it feels easier to plan a get together than to actually convince people to spend time with me. I plan because I have social anxiety, I plan because I don’t want to disappear off the radar.

In the times I’ve felt burnout, I have pared back on activities, because activities so quickly become obligations for me. I made a list once of all the monthly obligations I had related to improv, film-related events, meetings, practices, etc, and the count came to more days than there were in a month.

There are things I’ve neglected hardcore in my life because I just move from event to event, activity to activity. I have been absolute shit at writing this past year, because it has gotten bumped down on my list of priorities. I also have greatly ignored friendships, or watched them grow distant, because I don’t know how to fix it and I don’t have the time to figure it out.

And I have neglected being in the moment. I have neglected spending time outdoors, I have neglected people watching, I have neglected peace of mind.

My friend once chastised me for not making enough time for myself, but I think that’s because my introspection happens when I’m looking outward. Being alone with myself is something that’s really hard for me, because I don’t really find joy in being by myself. I enjoy being around people, and soaking in their energy, and this is probably why I jump at so many opportunities to be a part of so many things — because then I can be around people for those things.

And maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I shouldn’t formulate an idea of who I am internally by looking at the world around me. Spending time for myself allows me to get a grasp on who I am, once I strip away my reactions to other people.

So I’ve been trying to spend more time by myself. So far this has meant watching a lot of Netflix, which I don’t think really counts as “by myself”, but it’s a start. It’s at least a sabbatical from the act of hiding behind my schedule.

A plea

Stop
Worrying
About being a friend,
And being accepted as a friend,
And friendships unraveling before you as a roll of ribbon,
And you try to put it back together neatly and the way it was before but once unwound the ribbon doesn’t take,
Doesn’t want to take, never wanted to be
A part of the roll anyway,
It just wanted to tie to something else, or to hang by itself,
To do anything but be taped to a cardboard circle.
Stop.
Stop looking at motive.
Stop trying to understand why the ribbon is on the roll,
And start
Focusing
On getting to know
Those you care about.
Friendship will follow,
If it chooses to.
And if it doesn’t,
You’ve still got
Stories.
You’ve still got
A strong surface
For another ribbon to grab hold.
You’ve still got
You,
And if you can’t handle air being the only thing around you,
Then you should be
Worrying
About more than ribbon.

Loren

dsc_00101000194159796445708.jpgThere is now a kitten residing at This Damn House, and his name is Loren.

I told myself I would wait a while before I got a pet. I’ve been wanting one for years, but never was really in a good spot to have one, and then, when I moved to my own house, I had the ability, but I wanted to try and settle down first.

But then, I met Loren.

He was in need of a home. His mama gave birth to him and his siblings at an animal hospital, and all of his siblings were claimed, but he was shy. So no one had claimed him yet.

img_20180709_163618_8508958878538062126834.jpgI couldn’t resist. I was a little nervous when, for the first several hours that he was in the house, he hid. I thought, oh no, he really is shy – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I was worried I was never going to actually see him.

 

But then I managed to drag him out from his hiding place, and pushed him into the living room, and he freaking loves that living room. Loren has now graduated to running around, chasing his tail and being very, very vocal. And he is the best at cuddles. He won’t play with any of the toys I got for him – only his tail, and paper – but he is warming up to the soot sprites. He doesn’t yet seem to be a huge fan of food.

img_20180724_152410_9164926205345827315035.jpgAt first I thought that Loren reminded me a lot of me. I am often that shy little kitten who skulks in the corner in new situations, trying to blend in with the wall. I realize now that I may be projecting on my cat a little bit… just because it took a few days for him to come out of his shell with me, and just because it takes a few minutes for him to warm up to strangers, I rush to the conclusion that he has anxiety just like me. I’m not alone, I think. Loren and I can figure things out together.

 

 

But Loren is a kitten. And while he will probably grow out of this skittish behavior, mine got worse as I grew older. I suppose I am slowly learning to run after my tail, and I’m getting a lot better at enjoying what is in front of me and forcing myself to be present and engaged in my surroundings. But I still have a long way to go.

img_20180724_181406_5892414780616135367217.jpgSo as I try to socialize my cat with other people, I’m also trying to remind myself to do the same with, well, me. I want to be able to be myself around anyone, regardless of the situation. I don’t expect my true colors to come out in front of everyone, but I want to get better at revealing myself to those I enjoy, and to not feel stuck when I’m in their presence.

This baby boy has brought me a lot of happiness these past few weeks, and I can only imagine the fun we’ll have as he grows up. And for my sake, I hope I can grow up a little with him.

 

 

Those are human beings, you assholes.

I have never been great at talking politics. I have never found the right words to soothe pain, to explain cruelty, to reason with those who don’t seek reason. I learned to speak in images, not in outcries, and my arguments only go so far.

But I have been pretty good with metaphors, and symbols, and imagery. So this is what I have to offer.

America is a bear trap. It holds out a prize, dangles it until it gets the attention of a bear with particularly high ambition, and, when the bear takes a closer look, wooed by the tempting morsel, it snaps down and crushes the bear, trapping it in its claws, carving into its skin, digging deeper and deeper. The trap only trips for certain animals, with the hunter waiting just around the corner, watching to make sure that only those who fit his bounty get the morsel within.

America is a predator. It professes idealism, and freedom, and it doles out fear, hatred, and chains. Its citizens work tirelessly to limit the ammunition, but America keeps spitting bullets at an imprisoned target.

America is a siren, offering a song, luring with its sweet voice, with its years of hope and opportunity, and relishes in the splintering crash in the waves below.

We are a cove of bats, blind and comfortable on our perches, only stirring when a loud noise shakes us from our reverie, marring our rest. And the flurry that follows, with wings fluttering and mouths screeching, only lasts as long as the surprise that we have in being rousted, until one by one we settle, fading back into the dark.

We stand at the crosswalk, hitting the button impatiently, wanting to reach the other side, wanting to see a change, but we are waiting for an automated system. We could cross, looking both ways and making an educated decision, but we wait for the green, the signal that all is well. We wait and we wait.

And while we wait, the traffic thickens. While we sleep, the air gets thicker. The hunter reloads, the trap is cleaned of the blood of the many.

We need accountability. We need voices. We need hope, and we need love. Discussion. Truth. Education. Reaching across the barriers. We need to look each other in the eye. We need to understand each other. We need to see. And respond.

This Damn House

I bought a house today.

Those five words seem pretty easy to say, but I’ve been waiting more than eight months to say them. The path to homeownership has had its fair share of turmoil (okay, let’s be fair: every inch of the goddamn way was turmoil), but I’ve finally closed. No take-backs.

A lot of houses have names, like Graceland or Green Gables. After my grandparents had both passed and we could no longer call it “Grandma and Grandad’s house”, my sister and cousins and I gifted the home with the title “Boyne Manor” (their last name). But we also gave it a nickname. See, “Boyne Manor” was the official title, but it sounds a little stuffy when saying it in everyday conversation, so we nicknamed the house “the G-House”, after the G-rents themselves (for years, our family referred to them as Gma and Gdad). This is actually the name that is used more often, and it quite fits.

So my new house will have an official title as well; but until I come up with it, I will refer to it as This Damn House. Because, to be honest, that’s how I’ve been referring to it for months now, anyway.

It’s funny how easily I let myself bear the burden for things I can’t control. Of all the circumstances that swooped in and prevented or delayed me from buying a house, about 95% of them were external – the sellers changed their mind about selling, or the lender read the inspection report wrong, or a bunch of paperwork got shredded so we had to start over from scratch, or the house was listed as part of a commercial zone and the only person who could sign a form saying the house was a house was on vacation [insert steam coming out of ears here].

Most people, I hear, find a house, put an offer on the house, and in a couple of months, have the house. I, on the other hand, had long stretches of time where I began to convince myself that I wasn’t good enough to be a homeowner — that I hadn’t proved myself to the world, somehow, and my penance was to have my closing date pushed back every few weeks until the end of time.

All of this is bullshit, of course. The truth is, I ran into some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad luck. But had you asked, my anxiety-ridden brain, worn down by months of self-disparaging thoughts and a slipping grasp on normality, would have told you otherwise. I owe my sanity to some very good people at Century 21 Real Estate, who encouraged me not to give up after countless dead ends.

I know some exasperating times are coming up in terms of rolling with the punches that a house may pull, but for now, I’ll be content. Because when all is said and done…

I own This Damn House.