Friday, February 23, 2018

On "A Wrinkle In Time" & Not Having A Visual Imagination

I am so excited to see "A Wrinkle in Time". I was excited when I first heard it was being made as a film by Ava DuVernay, I got even more exited when I heard the Murrys were being cast as a biracial family, and then I was over the moon when I saw the preview at Christmas.

These books meant so much to me as a kid, and I knew they had meant a lot to The Dude, so I assumed we would see this together. But no. Apparently as a kid he had a very clear image in his mind of these books, so is hesitant to see this adaption, at least until he's heard more from other people. (He had the same reaction to the Harry Potter and Lord of the Ring movies, but ultimately came to love them.)

I have no such trouble!

While I certainly do process things visually, I don't have much of a visual imagination or memory, and I process things best physically - through movement, touch, and spatial relationships.

It took me a long time to learn this about myself. Probably because I have some skill in making art, and could memorize things easily. And because the visual is prioritized in Euro-American culture.

Has not knowing this hurt me? Only to the extent of having the sense that I didn't quite "get" things in the same way as other people. Descriptive passages in books, for example, frustrate the heck out of me. I can picture things, all right, but it takes a lot of effort and I have to really want to. So for a long time, for example, I thought there was something lacking in the way I responded to literature, or the type of reading material I preferred. (More so because I went to school with Very Smart People.)

And it would have been helpful to realize earlier on how I do process things. Both to take advantage of that information, and, again, not to think less of myself for how I process things. Moving while listening to someone (in a meeting, or a lecture, or on a phone call), is called fidgeting. Not a good thing, right? I definitely remember lectures about this a child. Now I deliberately wear items I can fidget with.

Going back to writing, I'm aware that I have to make a point of including visual description --- something to keep in mind for editing. I'm also hyper-aware when movement in books doesn't flow right. I have one favorite author where this is a constant issue; I adore her writing in many ways but I've had to decide not to try to make sense of positions when her characters are interacting with each other or with the space.

This way of processing is also why I prefer print. I read a lot of e-books --- for convenience, for cost, and simply because a lot of what I read isn't available in print --- but I will always prefer print, I make sense of things and remember things better if I can handle the pages. The movement of turning pages, the feel of the paper under my fingers, knowing where sentences are on a page, all these things together lock the story into my head in a way I just don't get otherwise. (And forget audio books, my auditory processing is not good.) Before reading e-books I knew I would prefer print, it wasn't until I'd been reading e-books for a few months (I only started last summer) that I understood why, and that it was more than just a preference.

Back to the movie. It's one of the few times I'm grateful for not having a visual imagination - I have nothing in my head to compare this movie to. Now, will it get the feel of the books for me? I'll just have to wait and see.

Twitching in anticipation,

Friday, February 16, 2018

Tag, You're It

I read a post on tags on EM's Permanent Ink blog - you know, where you answer a list of questions about something personal and then tag people you know to answer them as well. This one was of course about books (as they write, "BOOKS ARE LIFE"), and while I didn't feel like answering all of the questions ("Count your age along your bookshelf" - which bookshelf?) I rather liked this one:

Find a Book for Each of Your Initials

A - Agnes and the Hit Man, by Jennifer Crusie

Agnes and the Hitman: A Novel by [Crusie, Jennifer, Mayer, Bob]

This was the first romance novel I read as an adult. I stopped reading romances when we moved overseas - I had only ever read them while at other people's houses babysitting anyway. And then I came out and it didn't even occur to me that there might be queer romance out there - I wasn't even looking because I fell into the trap of believing all the stereotypes about romance novels. (Also, this was the late 80's / early 90's so a lot of those stereotypes were still true.) But believe me, I searched for romance in everything else I read.

Then I came across this book at the library and it blew my mind. So funny and smart and sexy and with adventure to boot! I quickly read everything else I could find by Jennifer Crusie, and when I found a hardback copy of this on the book cart at work I snatched it up and read it once a year. But it still didn't occur to me that there was a whole world of romance novels that I was missing.

I still love Jennifer Crusie and I still re-read at least one a year.

B - Breakaway, by Avon Gale

Breakaway (Scoring Chances Book 1) by [Gale, Avon]

I have so many feelings for her books it's hard to know what to say. This is the first in her "Scoring Chances" series. Oh, I love her characters so much, the way they think, speak, behave. I love the economical wit of her writing - she tells you so much about them in just a sentence, a phrase, a word sometimes. I like that these are gentle books - I don't get put through the wringer with them (except with the force of my adoration). And she has a unique timing to her books that I haven't seen in other romances - usually by 2/3 through our couple is solidly together and then the rest of the book is a deepening of their relationship and a view into how they navigate the rest of the world together. Very sweet and very rewarding.

C - Citizen, by Claudia Rankine

Citizen: An American Lyric by [Rankine, Claudia]

I don't know how many people I have pushed this book on (recommendation only, I'm not letting go of my copy). This is poetry as an explosive, a visceral force making you feel and understand in your body things you cannot get from news reports or essays. But an explosive that slides up into you before detonating (like some of the encounters she describes) - a word or a phrase that seems neutral at first and then you're gutted by it. And then you find your whole understanding of things is turned over. Go. Read this.

E - Emma, by Jane Austin, and, Enchanter's End Game, by David Eddings


These were both books I read in high school, and read over and over and over. And you know what? I still like to read clever, questioning, historical romance with strong female characters, and I still love to read clever, questioning, fantastical adventure/romance with strong female characters. And great dialogue! I've never been able to finish any other Eddings other than The Belgariad and The Mallorean linked series (and really, you can stop with The Belgariad, those five books are plenty), and I've heard complaints about his world-building, but honestly, I don't read for world-building anyway.

What would your books be?


Friday, January 26, 2018

I Blush

It's been quite a week for outside affirmation, and it's only Friday.

One is a work-related invitation for some months from now, so I'm not jinxing that by naming it here.

One is very private (blush) so I'm definitely not sharing that here.

One I've been sharing all over the place (you may have already seen it); a devotion I wrote for work has gotten more attention than usual. In particular, I had the unexpected honor of having it read out loud at our weekly staff meeting.

I have noticed that the more I risk in these devotions - by being more personal, more emotional - the greater the response. That's a nice affirmation of what I've been trying to do in my writing and in my life: to be more brave, to allow myself to be vulnerable.

But it was also surprisingly gratifying to hear it read out loud to me.

There's a stylistic gap between the writing I did until about, oh, ten years ago, and the writing I do now. That's fine, I understand that, my form and my intent have changed so it makes sense my style would too. But I've missed aspects of my earlier writing and I've been trying to find ways to bring it back, but into these new forms.

When I heard that devotion read out loud, I heard echoes of my earlier writing - and that buoyed me. It gave me hope that I might be on the right track after all.

A small victory? Perhaps. But I will grab it and tuck it away to remember for when I'm feeling writer misery again.

Saving some sunshine for a rainy day,

Friday, January 19, 2018

Be Brave, Sleep More

No, those aren't connected, aside from both being resolutions for this year. Or maybe they are? (Something else to ponder... while trying to fall asleep, no doubt.)
  1. Be brave.
  2. Sleep more.
  3. Respect my limits.
I get a lot of my inspiration these days from Twitter. (I promise this is the last Twitter mention for a while. Really.)

For all the vitriol I know people experience there, in my little corner of the Twitterverse I see a lot of encouragement. About a lot of things, but right now I'm thinking of the encouragement I've seen about being one's full self. About being brave. About self-care, knowing one's limits and keeping them safe.

Which has made me think about some of mine. So here's one of them.

I have a hand tremor, have had it since high school. I don't think of it as a disability, but in truth it has shaped me and changed life choices and limits what I can do.

(One early example: the doctor who saw me back then joked about it being a good thing I wasn't planning on being a surgeon. He didn't know me. He didn't know that. He didn't know I'd been planning for years to be a vet.
     Now, given the reason I'd noticed the tremor in the first place was because I had to have my lab partners do the measuring in chem class, he wasn't exactly wrong... But.
     Also, pretty sure he wouldn't have made this comment so quickly if I'd been a boy. 1988 and all.
     I joked about this incident for years without realizing how much it had hurt and how much it shaped how I think about myself in relation to the shaking.)

It poses physical challenges sometimes - I'll just find there's something I can't do.

It's painful sometimes - when it's especially bad I'll notice the muscles of my arms are trying to control it and then they ache. (Doesn't work anyway.)

It impacts decisions I make. It's gotten worse as I get older and I have other issues with my hands as well, so I anticipate a time when... well. Let's just say I've prioritized what's important for me to be able to do by hand, and let go of some activities I used to enjoy. And have started paying attention to certain commercials on MeTV.

On a day-to-day basis it's mostly background noise (getting louder over time). Looking back though I can see myriad things I have done over the years to accommodate it. And when I pay attention I see myself doing a half dozen little things in the course of a day without noticing.

So, as part of being brave and setting limits, I am starting to be more open about it. Declining to do things I know I can't do without difficulty, and asking for help when I need it.

Without apology, or letting myself feel less for it.

It's a new place for me. And one (here's where I get schmoopy) I wouldn't have gotten to without being on Twitter. So thanks.

Having too many feels to think of anything clever,

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Month Later, A Month Wiser (A Month More Ambitious...)

I had big plans.

I was going to knock out the first draft of this novel by the end of March. Or did I say the end of February? Whatevs. Clearly I was on writer's high. I think that's related to runner's high? 'Cause I've made the same kind of pronouncement about my running goals too, only to have it fall short of reality. Miles short.

After the glories of NaNo I floundered through pretty much all of December. I was having trouble figuring out a new writing schedule, for sure, but I also wasn't sure what I should be focusing on. Typing up my handwritten pages? Editing while typing or after? Writing new material? More research? All of that needed to happen. Eventually I settled down to typing up my pages without trying to significantly edit or write new material, and instead just keeping track of any new ideas and the changes I want to make.

And then...

I was chatting a bit with a friend on Twitter about wanting to see alt-history where the Aztecs defeated the Spaniards AND the resulting technological and social development was not along European lines. And I kept thinking about it, and then because neither of us have enough to do I suggested a writing challenge: to come up with a short story, set in that world, in six months.

And then an offhand comment of his made me think that this could fit into the story world I am currently working on. Since I had just come to the realization (yet again) that these books I have in mind are going to be more demanding than I previously thought (both world-building and stylistically), why not pull this in too? And thankfully I have calmed down the thoughts about needing to get this done by the time I'm... whatever age I'm fixating on at the moment.

Fairly quickly I had mapped out a set of questions for myself, avenues to explore, resources to investigate. I have some things already in mind... and my existing characters seem to be taking it in stride. Whew.

Happy writer wriggles. I feel like a pup given a new toy.

So I guess now I have bigger plans. I'll keep on typing up my pages through January and February, make notes for new stuff, get some more research done, and then use March as my own personal NaNo. Since it's my birthday month and I like giving myself challenges as gifts, obviously. And then... cycle repeat, probably, since it seems to be a cycle that works for me. And at some point things will get finished. Probably. Hopefully.

Still wriggling with writing pleasure,

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tweet, Tweet

About three months ago I started actively hanging out on Twitter. Prior to that I would occasionally go on, reading it as a kind of news feed. But I started noticing Twitter handles for some authors I love, and began adding them, especially once I saw they were posting all kinds of good writing advice, and book recommendations, and overall smart thinking about the state of the world. And from those people I found other people to follow and so on and so on... a whole world of really interesting and brave and beautiful and inspiring people. I don't think I can overemphasize how much I've been given by all this.

I never meant to start commenting myself.

But here's the thing. I've been looking for a writing community, a reading community, a queer community, for a while now. And while Facebook is useful for a lot of things I don't feel I can be my full self on it. My Twitter self is the closest to my writing self which is probably closest to my most deeply felt self. (And therefore also my most vulnerable and hungry self.)

In Twitter I've found the closest thing resembling tribe... I was going to say in a long time but I think perhaps ever.

So how could I not chime in, from time to time?

I wrote last month about some of the challenges I experience about being on Twitter. Since then I feel I've gotten more of the hang of it. Both how to be a respectful participant and how to manage my own anxiety. Because of course there are all the usual pitfalls of social media magnified by the fact that I don't actually know these people, yet feel compelled to bring my most fully felt self into that space.

It's been good practice in sitting through discomfort, let me tell you.

It's also made me think more about the roles I have in my real-world communities and the power I have, and also what I consider to be my work in this world. That is leading me to be more deliberate in some of the choices I make and what I voice. Hopefully more brave too.

And being deliberate and brave can never be a bad thing.


Friday, December 15, 2017

In Translation

I've been reading poetry not in English, my favorite way of reading other languages.

In Spanish I read bilingual editions - Spanish on one side of the page spread, English on the other. So I always have at least an idea of what's going on in the poem. It's a way for me to expand my literary horizons, get a sense of the beauty of the language, see vocabulary in context, and cement what I've started to learn. My favorite Spanish-language poets from this last year are Alejandra Pizarnik - there's a line of hers I want as a tattoo someday, palabra por palabra yo escribo la noche - and Roberto BolaƱo. I'm currently working my way through an anthology of Latin American poetry that will probably take me, oh, five years to finish.

German is another matter. My passive German is good enough that I can attempt to read in the original (though always with dictionary in hand). Some poets are more challenging than others, for sure. I'm reading one right now who uses very specific natural history terms, not ones I've encountered before. The problem for me with some of these is that the words can have multiple meanings depending on the context - and I know one meaning of the word, but not the one she's using. So as I'm going through the poem I see references to things that don't make sense to me - but it's a poem, right? Metaphors and symbolism and all that. I'm all for one thing meaning another in the context of a poem, I do that myself. It didn't even occur to me at first that I needed to look up these words I thought I knew the meaning of, not just the words I knew I didn't recognize. (It doesn't help that this poet doesn't capitalize the nouns, not even the proper ones, so I've already had one layer of linguistic cues stripped away.)

As I've been reading these poems and thinking about translations I've been seeing another place where I have to translate - Twitter. There are words, mostly abbreviations, that I don't know, and common words that have acquired new meaning.* There are gifs and emojis - not just emoticons but emojis - none of which I feel skilled in using. There's the need to scan for additional context, especially to be sure I understand the emotional tone of the comment, and the need to hold back, and then hold back some more and weigh my words before I attempt to say something, knowing some things don't translate well to print. Like, most of my attempts at humor. And then, because Twitter is sometimes an odd mix of public and private discourse, of knowing when not to get into a conversation at all.

And yet, as with the poetry, it's worth the effort, as I encounter beauty and bravery over and over again. People shining a light into the world, word by word by word.**

In love with all kinds of words,

*Like "crickets", to mean a response of awkward silence. This may be my favorite new word usage. I'm not 100% certain I encountered this usage on Twitter, but it feels like I might have.

** I know there's a lot of negative use of Twitter but apparently not in my little corner of it, knock on wood.