Why I Write

ink jar and quills (image by Charles Stanford)
(image by Charles Stanford)

I have been dealing with what I’ll call anxiety induced malaise of late.

As such, my creative work has stalled.

There is a school of thought out there that says anxiety, depression, and the like drive the creative person to make better art. I’m not going to say this is 100% wrong. When a person is sensitive and able to feel things deeply, that can be a gift. I have experienced that. However, it can also be paralyzing. Lately, I have been paralyzed.

I have especially struggled with my writing. I had a number of projects in the works, but suddenly that shifted. One novel I was working on (a sort of companion to Sideshow) seemed frivolous and unnecessary. Another novel seemed precious and overwrought. You get the picture. Each time I sat down to work, it all seemed to be without purpose. I wanted to do something important, but nothing seemed important enough, so I did nothing.

I’ve been here before. It’s far from the first time. I have always been a person deeply affected by the world around me and my effect on it (or lack thereof). I often struggle with being productive when I think that what I’m doing isn’t useful or helping anyone, and at times, it paralyzes me. Who am I? What do I have to give? When I run through my talents, I usually find myself coming up sort (blame the anxiety and some lingering threads of that teenage angst), but there is one thing that still remains: stories.

I write historical fiction not simply because I love history.  I do love history, but more importantly, I love the stories of history. So often in a history class we are taught to memorize names and dates, but we see these people as far away and nothing like us when in reality, we have so much in common with them and knowing their stories helps us to see that. Knowing their stories helps us to understand our own world as well.

When I wrote Sideshow, I initially struggled with trying to explain why I set the book in the in the time period that I did. The 1950s are a polarizing time to write about. They are so easy to romanticize, what with the poodle skirts and roller skating car hops and the birth of the American teenager, but under the surface of all that, there is a lot going on, most of which would bubble over quite fiercely in a short amount of time. I wanted to address these issues in a story of what is often portrayed as an “idyllic” time. I wanted to write a story that talked about some of the parts of that time that still ring true in our world today.

Additionally, I included the flashbacks because just as I do not exist solely in 2017, but also in 1992, 2001, 1988, 2010, etc as the years I lived through helped shape who I am today, the same is true for the people of the past.

Take for example the flashback to the incident with Abby’s mother. This is a history that Italian-Americans did not often talk about or acknowledge to their descendants. I myself had to learn about something similar happening to one of my own ancestors from archival documents and not from anyone in my family. This story as well as the others included in Sideshow were important to me because just as these events shaped Abby’s perception of her own identity, there were events happening in the world around me that I knew where shaping the identities of myself and everyone else for years to come.

So…the telling of stories…

It may not be much, but this is what I have give the world. So…I suppose I must find a way to continue.

Are some of my projects frivolous or precious? Yeah, probably.

Do I feel weird mentioning them on social media when so many more important things are happening? Definitely.

Do I think my words are even close to enough to change anything? No. Not really.

But deep down I know it is one of the few things I have that can help anyone (as self-centered as that may seem), so I have to keep trying.

Why are LGBTQ YA Books Disappearing from Library Shelves?

 

Interlude Press, the lovely people publishing Sideshow, are involved in an amazing new project, partnering with The Trevor Project. As a library professional and writer myself, getting books in the hands of those who need them is something I strongly believe in. Libraries giving me access to books got me through the hardest parts of my childhood, and honestly still get me through hard days now. Below is one of their posts about the challenge. I hope that you will support however you can. ❤

Why are LGBTQ YA Books Disappearing from Library Shelves?

We’re at the American Library Association Convention this weekend (#ALAAC16) talking not only about our upcoming IP titles, but also about The Thousand Book Challenge campaign in support of @thetrevorproject and public libraries. But we have also had a good opportunity to listen to librarians talk about what they see and what they need for their LGBTQ readers—especially at school libraries.

And they’ve had a lot to say, some of it heart-warming, some of it heart-breaking, and all of it reassuring us that we did the right thing when we launched Duet Books for LGBTQ-YA fiction one year ago.

There was the school librarian who said that it wasn’t uncommon for library staff  to remove security strips from LGBTQ titles, knowing that teen readers might feel uncomfortable checking the book out. “The books disappear—and then mysteriously show up on a table a week or two later,” she said. This little act of compassionate rebellion really made us smile. You rock, librarians.

Others told us about the challenges of securing funding for books about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other queer characters. Administrators argue that there is no demand for the books because they aren’t checked out as often as bestsellers. The LGBTQ YA titles are actually read to the point of disrepair—in the library. Several librarians told us that they assume that kids don’t want to bring the books home. “(The administrators) only look at the numbers,” one said.

Overwhelmingly, librarians told us that they need more: More LGBTQ Young Adult fiction; more quality books that are well written and treat the readers and subjects with respect; more cover art that is age (and school) appropriate.

These stories reaffirmed why we have undertaken The Thousand Book Challenge, a dual philanthropic campaign to raise funds for @thetrevorproject‘s life saving efforts on behalf of LGBTQ youth while donating one thousand copies of a new, special edition of @killianbbrewer‘s The Rules of Ever After. Interlude Press will not make any money off the donations made to this campaign. By sponsoring these books with your tax deductible donations, you will help add to library collections for teen readers and help The Trevor Project fund its crisis intervention and suicide prevention efforts.

LGBTQ YA fiction is important for LGBTQ youth. Interlude Press has been raising awareness about the lack of LGBTQ books in libraries and schools at the American Library Association Convention. Help @interludepress donate LGBTQ YA books to libraries & support our lifesaving work with the #1000BookChallenge http://thndr.me/5L46uR.

I Suppose My Freckles Have Faded Now: Rereading an Old Friend

[This book is over a hundred years old, but…this post does contain spoilers for it, fyi.]

Anne sat long at her window that night companioned by a glad content. The wind purred softly in the cherry boughs, and the mint breaths came up to her. The stars twinkled over the pointed firs in the hollow and Diana’s light gleamed through the old gap.

Anne’s horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen’s; but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it. The joy of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams. And there was always the bend in the road!

There are so many books in the world, so a reread is a rarity for me. Sometimes though, it occurs to me that I either don’t remember much of a book I had read years ago, or the book may have something new to say to me at a different age and place in my life. The latter was the case with The Jungle, for example. I can’t recall having a positive thought about the book when we read it in my high school history class, but when I reread it on a whim a year or so ago, I couldn’t put it down.

My decision to reread Anne of Green Gables was more of the former. During a discussion with a coworker, I realized I couldn’t remember much more than the fact Anne had red hair and lived on Prince Edward Island. I was always more of an Emily girl myself. I believe I read that series 10 times over back in my “youth”, but despite my own red hair (though mine has always been more strawberry than carrots), freckles, and imaginative nature, I think I read Anne only once, and never any of the sequels.

Upon rereading, I think I figured out why. I may have looked like Anne, but personality-wise, I was an introvert like Emily. I identified more with Emily’s moody dreaminess than Anne’s exuberance, though they both had the ambition and drive that I both wished I had and had in spades depending on the day of the week.

This is not to say I have any dislike of Anne. On the contrary, I think Anne actually has more to tell me as an adult than she did when I was a little girl. It comes in the last half of the book.

As Anne grows, it is mentioned, she begins to talk less and keep her dreamworld confined to her mind. The story club is shut down and now she is reprimanded in class for including “fantastical” elements in her writing. She matures and though it seems a pity, I relate to that aspect of her character. How often do I take walks and make up stories with my friends anymore? Rarely. I write of course, but gone are the imaginary games in the woods with my friends, and part of me often wonders if by writing fantasy I’m not writing works of actual literary substance.

I felt genuine sadness reading some of these passages. There was a loss of innocence to be mourned. It only grew stronger…and yet…

During the last few chapters of Anne of Green Gables, everything seems to be going Anne’s way. She is well-liked with many friends, decently pretty (even her much maligned red hair has started to darken), and she has won a scholarship to attend college (an amazing achievement for a young woman during this time). She is living a charmed life no matter how many stereotype laden peddlers she has bought green hair dye from in the past. Then tragedy strikes.

Matthew’s death is hard enough. It is then quickly followed by further setbacks: Marilla’s own health troubles and a bank failure. Anne decides to give up her scholarship and stay home to assist Marilla. No longer will Anne be achieving her coveted B.A. It’s a small thing, really, and was probably expected then, in a time when most people didn’t attend college at all, but I was struck and profoundly affected by this in ways I didn’t expect.

Quoted at the beginning of this entry is the last paragraph of the novel. Anne is reflecting on all the has happened and how she has grown. She is still, deep down, the romantic and imaginative little girl she always was, and though her life is not longer laid out before in a straight line, she welcomes the possibilities of her future. It meant a lot to me.

The cart that is my life has gone a little off course of late as I struggle to get my career going. Reading Anne’s reaction to her setbacks, which are even more significant in many ways, hit home hard. Reaching forward from a childhood in which I had given her a slight, Anne says to look forward to the bend in the road. There could be interesting things around it.

Oh hi there, blog. How have you been?

This year I am doing NaNoWriMo and one of the Detroit region pep talks for the week included these words:

Words have power. Your words can change the world. But before they can perform this feat, you have to write them. They do no good trapped inside of you, slowly driving you mad. Now is the time to give those voices and stories and world changing ideas the freedom to spill out onto a page and be preserved there for all of us to learn from.

Ever since I was small, I wanted to be a writer. I was always writing. Even before I knew how to read and write much or could really hold a pencil, I voiced the concern to my family that I would very much like to keep a journal. When the fine motor skills developed, I was off like a rocket.

Then…somewhere along the line. Something happened. I became afraid of my words.

For starters, I had this idea in my head for a long time that I was too young to write a lot of the ideas that I had. I wasn’t “good enough” yet. I had to spend more time practice my writing and learning about writing. This is rubbish. Not only are there plenty of talented young writers, but every writer spends a lifetime learning their craft. If I wait until I’m a “perfect writer” to get these thoughts down in print, it is extremely likely that I will never write them. In all honesty, I’ll probably forget the things that inspired me to write them in the first place. And, if they turn out to be absolutely shit, I can always try again later.

Second, at some point in my life, I grew afraid of having an opinion. I had always been a shy girl, but when social media started becoming more and more intrenched in the world around me, I suddenly became more and more terrified of my thoughts and words. I didn’t want to say something and start a fight. I didn’t want people who perhaps disagreed with me to think less of me. It wasn’t, necessarily, that I didn’t want to be disagreed with (I love to be engaged in good debates); it was more that I didn’t want people I cared for to write me off because I didn’t share their opinions. As someone who tries their best to research things, I was also very nervous that I would miss an important angle and others would judge me because of it. It wasn’t just political things. I didn’t want to say I was sad that day for fear of people taking it the wrong way. I kept most things to myself and that I did say, I agonized over for hours after it escaped to the world. Many stories and essays did not get written because of this fear. How horrifying is that?

I made a pact with myself in September to stop being so fearful when it comes to my thoughts and my writing. Also, I’m going to try to update this more. Blame nanowrimo.

Let’s see how that goes.