Top 10 Books of 2017 (well, Top Nine)

Here are my recommended readings for 2017. I read a lot of really great books, but as always happens I was on the wrong side of all the best books recently coming out so I am now scrambling to suddenly read more than 50 of "the best books published in 2017". As such, I only have nine recommended books that were actually published in 2017! Didn't quite make it to 10. But hey, I think we all have book lists longer than our arms, so you can thank me later for not adding too much to your growing pile. 

I hope you enjoy Paige's Top Nine Books to Read from 2017

1.       My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent. Don't pick this one up unless you're intent on not thinking about or doing anything other than it, this book, this story. Even then, after you've put it down, after you're finished and you want to bury it in the ground and cover it in dirt you'll try and get it out of your head, you might even try shooting it right in the face and yet it will won’t leave you. Trigger warning; this book will hurt. It will be worth it. 

2.       Lincoln in the Bardo--George Saunders. George Saunders gives voice to the dead. 52 different voices, actually, or some other staggering number like that. Each of them distinct and heartbreaking and heart-mending. Five stars way way up for this Man Booker-prize winning novel. Part history, part fantasy, and all love.

3.       The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O'Neill. This was a riveting book: I couldn’t put it down. Two orphans orphaned under unusual circumstances find and lose each other and themselves in a whirling world full of naughty nuns, circuses of sad clowns, and all the similes.

4.       Priestdaddy, Patricia Lockwood. The memoir of a daughter of a Catholic priest. Her father literally became an ordained priest AFTER being married for years and having a daughter. Also, he’s oddly obsessed with pork rinds. It was a fantastic and very curious read. Poetic and true and it deeply resonated with me and my Catholic upbringing.

5.       Norse Mythology--Neil Gaiman. Amazing. This book sold out its first printing faster than Thor's hammer could call down lighting from the sky. And this book also tells you HOW Thor got ahold of such a hammer that could call down lightning from the sky! I was very interested in Gaiman's matter-of-fact interpretations of the origin stories for the Norse gods and goddesses; he sounded like an anthropologist relaying his thesis, tracing the lineage and origin stories for these names and figures that are at once recognizable and yet still so unknown. The book focuses on Thor, Odin, and Loki mostly, but it draws in all the gods and goddesses at some point, from their births to their deaths at Ragnarok. And he still managed to end it in true Gaiman fashion--teasing, not telling, not giving anything away about what might come next. 

6.       Spoonbenders, by Darryl Gregory. This is the story of psychics, the mob, the Cold War, teens discovering themselves, and dysfunctional families. The family dynamic here was genuine, messed-up, and so loving. Original concepts and brilliant execution. Buddy’s storyline was my favorite.

7.       Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire. What happens to the children that fall down the holes, or crawl into the wardrobes, or peek between the leaves and find a door, a door that leads them off to distant lands so unlike those they came from? What happens when those children, lost for years or eternities or jus the blink of an eye come back to the homes they left to suddenly? This book, the second in the Wayward Children series gives what Alice faced after returning from Wonderland, how Peter and Susan and Edmund and Lucy felt after returning from Narnia. And the biggest question of them all lurks throughout these pages—can you ever really come home again?

8.       A Court of Wings and Ruins—Sarah Maas. This is the third book in the series: the first is A Court of Thorns and Roses, a retelling of the classic story of Beauty and the Beast, which stands to this day as one of my favorite fairy tales. Only, this retelling actually HAS fairies. Sarah Maas captivates with her spunky heroines, the twists and turns of adventure and love and heartbreak, and her leave-you-wanting-more flair.

9.       No One Can Pronounce My Name--Rakesh Satyal. Rakesh’s first book, Blue Boy, won the 2000 LAMBDA Literary award, and that alone was enough to put a spotlight on this author for me. Following the lives of Indian Americans living in Ohio, this book speaks to self-identity and finding a niche somewhere you feel you don’t quite belong.

Today

Today was rough. The alarm went off too soon--4:30 am. My phone rattled and jingled against the hardwood floors, chiming in with my husband's phone singing from his office. Another alarm was set to go off in fifteen minutes, if we somehow slept through the first two. Just in case. 

We pulled ourselves out of bed. It was chilly in the room, the early-morning chill I remember from when I would walk to school as a kid. It seemed to strike in the days before winter took hold and before it let up, the last dying days of Fall and the first days of Spring. This kind of chill gets in under your sweater, under your jacket, in the space between your scarf and your hat; it gets in and settles like a wet blanket across your skin. Cold. Heavy. Damp. 

I sat in the car, shoulders scrunched up to my ears, willing the heat to kick on. My husband pulled the apartment door shut, locked it, and slipped the extra key into the mailbox, just in case. He got in, buckled up, arranged his bags in his lap, and off we went, to the airport. 

There was no one else on the road. Or rather, there were more people on the road than I would expect at 5 am, but few cars straggled by. As I made my way to work just a few hours later I would battle three times as much traffic and would narrowly avoid a wreck, but no one challenge us this early in the morning. We pulled up to the airport an hour before he had to board. Just in case. 

My husband was going on another book tour. I was staying home. He would be gone a little less than a week, leaving in the middle of the week and coming back on Easter Monday, our two-year anniversary. 

I made a plan for while he was away; clean out my closet, finally, and get the apartment cleaned, room by room. Read all the books. Watch a couple movies I'd had queued up forever. Take a bubble bath. Relax. 

My husband was only gone twelve hours and I was feeling panicked, overwhelmed. In a slump. 

I could blame the early morning--I was bone-tired by three pm.  

I could blame it on the weather--it was gray, gloomy, cold in my office, like the early-morning chill had never left. 

I could blame it on my recent eating--I was binge-eating Easter candy and it was definitely taking its toll.

I could blame it on a lot of things, or I could take ownership. 

I am feeling tired today. I am feeling stressed out. I am feeling grumpy and fat and worn-out and creatively blocked and anxious and like I have too much on my plate. 

I am feeling frustrated that I am not the one going on tour. I am feeling left behind that my husband is off visiting far-away places I have only heard about in books. I am feeling like a loser because my book is done in its first-draft form and I know it has a whole lot of work left to be done on it. I am feeling despair that I will never find a job in the cities we are trying to move to. I am feeling strangled by the amount of cat hair and dust clogging my house. 

This is how I am feeling today. 

But now that I've said it, I don't feel nearly as bad, or as much of these things as I did before. I feel better. I don't feel great, I don't feel 100% yet, but I feel better. 

I might sleep in tomorrow, though. Just in case. 

Micro Tears

I am making micro-tears in my perfect universe. 

Micro-tears in my muscles. That's strength. 

Micro-tears in my comfort bubble. That's growth. 

Micro-tears in the fabric of how I live, so carefully woven and cut and sewn just right. Micro-tears that give me a little more freedom, a little more move, a little more space to breathe deep and new. 

I am making micro-tears in what came before, to make room for what is coming next. 

Montana

Thanks, Montana. It's been a great 24 years.

The time has come to set off, to see what we can see. 

I'll never forget you, Montana.

You've done a great job raising me. 

I learned courage from you, and resilience, and strength. 

I learned to wave at people as I passed them by. 

I learned even the worst of storms will end.

I learned the smell of wheat and sun and earth.

Big Sky, big hearts, big open plains where you encouraged me to spread my wings. 

Skies wide enough to fall in; the clouds will always catch you.

Goodbye, my friends, my loves. 

Until we meet again.

Adventures call to me from the tops of those distant mountains. 

I'll always come back to you, Montana. 

Nothing can keep me from coming 

home. 

 

Currently Reading: March--Science Fiction and Fantasy

In March I am diving back into Science Fiction and Fantasy works I have been putting off in favor of other, more "literary" works. But at heart I AM a fantasy writer and I will always appreciate the nuance of fantasy that allows writers to delve into the most gripping social and cultural themes and leaves the reader with something to take away, a new way of thinking about these problems. Science-fiction and fantasy present such difficult subjects as racism, homophobia, war, stigma, terrorism, supremacy, and even death and offer readers, if not comfort or answers, an outlet through which to process that which cannot be comprehended. 

February I was focused on works of non-fiction, mostly memoir and personal essays; I am almost 50,000 words into my first book of personal essays,short stories, and poems,and I am even submitting excerpts from my book to publishers and magazines and they are actually being picked up. I focused on non-fiction works to help propel my own work along, and I am in a great rhythm with it now. I am excited to finish it so I may focus on my first novel again, which is a work of fantasy. 

In February and early March I finished reading the following books, and I would recommend them all. Especially David Sedaris. He is just too honest about real life and it made my soul happy to learn other human beings on this Earth as possibly as crazy and messed-up as me. Enjoy.

Me Talk Pretty One Day--David Sedaris. This was the first taste of Sedaris for me, and at first bite (or essay) I was hooked. Sedaris has a way of drawing his readers in, a compelling writing style that is very roundabout and non-linear and riddled with bad words and even worse imagery (cum and spit and toilets and poop) and I couldn't turn away even as badly as I wanted to. He makes the nitty-gritty relatable, awkward as it is. 

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls--David Sedaris. Again, I was laughing out loud and cringing visibly and enjoying every moment of it with David Sedaris' essay collection that only briefly mentions owls. 

The Wave in the Mind--Ursula Le Guin. This is a collection of essays spanning years and topics and themes and I loved it. Le Guin is a new-to-me artist and I am mildly disappointed in myself that I did not discover her earlier. This year the "Big Read Under the Big Sky" in my hometown was Le Guin's Earthsea novel, A Wizard of Earthsea and I was all but dragged into the magic of this world. I had to have more Le Guin, and I was thrilled to discover a collection of readings, essays, and even prose poetry and evaluation and diagramming of prose and passages from some of Le Guin's favorite writers. Fantastic, all the way through. 

Grace (Eventually) Some Thoughts on Faith--Anne Lamott. I all but devoured Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and for good reason--she is an amazing writer. I enjoyed a lot of the essays in this book but some of them I disagreed with, and some made me downright uncomfortable. After all, Lamott is a pretty devout Christian, and she is a bit of a hippie, and she has a now-grown son and I just could not relate on a lot of those things; we had trouble seeing eye-to-eye at times. Still, a good read by a great writer. 

A Confusion of Princes--Garth Nix. This one was a little more science-fictiony than I normally read. I can get bogged down in the creation of the worlds and the tech and it can hinder my interest, but this story was fun and different and it really picked up speed for me a little later on. Plus, I got to revisit the world in the next book I read, which was an unexpected treat. 

Shade's Children--Garth Nix. This is a weird one; an alternate universe where overnight all adults (people over 15 years of age) disappear and giant humanoid creatures come to gather all the children left behind, taking them to a giant warehouse known as The Meat Factory. The strange new fantastic creatures that now run the world keep the children in storage until they reach their "Sad Birthday" at age 15 and are killed and dissected, organs and legaments and body parts used to fuel grotesque creatures like the Ferrets, furry men with elongated bodies and claws and teeth that sniff out the children who have escaped, and the Mormidons who look like giant spiky robots and who stomp around in groups of six, fighting enemy Mormidons and also tracking down children who manage to escape The Meat Factory. This story is about a group of children who escape the knife and find each other and an AI/holographic memory-of-a-man named Shade. Together with Shade's instructions these children try to put the world to right again and bring back the humans. By the end of the book I'm not so sure they succeed, or whether we are all doomed. It may be an allegory I never picked up on, but supposedly this is a YA novel. I first read it in 8th grade--I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. Nix will do that to you. 

To Hold the Bridge--Garth Nix. Seriously, Garth Nix. Read him! Read Sabriel and the Old Kingdom series. I don't care if you don't end up liking it, you should support this artist anyway. He is great. This is a smattering of different works by him, of all themes fantastic and mythical. Some are funny, some are gross, some were a little confusing and full of too much backstory to hold their own (or my attention) but this collection starts with an Old Kingdom story and I will never stop wanting to explore that world more and more. 

8 Things I Wish I Knew about Polyamory Before I Tried It and Frakked It Up--Cunning Minx. Personal growth comes with growing pains just like bones.  

Magic Bites--Ilona Andrews. Ilona Andrews is actually a pen name for the husband/wife duo that write this series. I was not immediately hooked, but this book has popped up on my radar for a number of years now and I finally  buckled down and got it. I was drawn in about a third of the way through, and I am eager for more of this sassy character. I want her to be more than just sassy, though; I want my fantasy characters to be more than thick-skinned, sword-wielding badasses. I want them to be able to cry more, and to think how unfair the world is, and to like the girl and not the guy, and to have more gratuitous sex, because in a post-apocalyptic world like this one I am fairly certain more people would be fucking like rabbits. I want my heroines to be real flesh-and-blood people even when they aren't really, even when they turn out to be ghosts, and gods' daughters, and part fairy and what-not. Bu having a main character be a woman in a mostly male-dominated genre like fantasy, though, is hard enough without trying to work in the subtlety of having a woman character who can cry and throw a punch and be taken seriously as a sexual being and also save the world. That's a hard day's work even for the best of us. Still, Joss Whedon managed it, so the impossible is not impossible. 

Norse Mythology--Neil Gaiman. Amazing. This book sold out its first printing faster than Thor's hammer could call down lighting from the sky. And this book also tells you HOW Thor got ahold of such a hammer that could call down lightning from the sky! I was very interested in Gaiman's matter-of-fact interpretations of the origin stories for the Norse gods and goddesses; he sounded like an anthropologist relaying his thesis,tracing the lineage and origin stories for these names and figures that are at once recognizable and yet still so unknown. The book focuses on Thor, Odin, and Loki mostly, but it draws in all the gods and goddesses at some point, from their births to their deaths at Ragnarok.  And he still managed to end it in true Gaiman fashion--teasing, not telling, not giving anything away about what might come next. 

The Magicians--Lev Grossman. This book spans literally decades, and has almost eight main characters. It is no mean feat to introduce so many criss-crossing plot arcs, one shooting over atop another and another, each one coming in with a bang and then fizzling out until one day, just when you think the sky is clear, they all come shooting across again in an even bigger light show, but Grossman manages to pull it off. A well thought-out coming-of-age story. Though the book gets a little muddy for me in the middle with the main character's constant whining and sense of disillusionment with the world and with his life, even besides the fact that he's a fucking wizard who does magic and can pretty much mold the world in his hands, the plots all tie up nicely in a bow at the end and you end up smacking yourself in the forehead for having not figured it all out before. That's the best kind of writing--everything written there, plain as day, and you combing through the bushes in the dark, convinced you've been tricked. 

House Immortal--Devon Monk. Devon Monk is an author I read religiously for a number o years. Her series Magic in the Bone with Allie Beckman was very compelling, and rather long, and I read every one, some even more than once. This is a new series by Devon Monk, and while it has everything I liked about her writing (sassy main character, well-built universe, rounded-out characters who don't go throwing themselves into things unnecessarily) I was not as intrigued by the new character, Matilda, who is a stitched-together (think Frankenstein but a woman, and hot) creature who lives off the grid with her two-headed farmhand, who one day opens her door to a wounded (hot) stitched-together man, the only other person like herself she has ever met, who has come to warn her that bad people are out get her, and he knows how to save her. By the end of the book I was interested enough to want to go searching out the next chapter in the story, but I am not pounding down the doors for it. In the end, Monk is a bit of an airport writer--someone I pick up because I know her work will be entertaining and a quick read, but not someone I can see being canonized for her genius. 

One Step at a Time

What just happened?
What have we done?

 He was just elected president. He has won.
What have we done?

This is happening. 

This sucks, this
fucking sucks. 

Do they know what they’ve done? He’s a bigot, 
I’m unsafe, the world’s so rigid.

We’re unsafe,
guns on a rampage.

What the fuck America?
What are we going to do?

I don’t know what to
do. 

This is happening. 

I’m so angry, everyone is so angry and
crying 

and I’m trying
to hold it together. 

Make America great again?
How about make America hate again. 

How could we. 

This is happening. 

I tried to have hope.
I put in my vote. 

And everyone is crying
and he’s defiling 

this system. 
No one will listen 

to each other.
Father turned against mother. 

But it’s alright.
It’ll be alright.

We’ll fight the fight.
Put it to right. 

One step at a
time.

One step at a
time. 

Great Legs

I hope you don't mind...I just gotta say...you have great legs. Ya know that? You just do. I'm sorry, you'll have to forgive me, I just had to say it! 

Thank you, sir. I know, sir. Yes, sir. Thank you. 

I know I have great legs. They are powerful legs. They take me places I need to go. They let me walk, run, move, shake. They are great legs. They do work. 

I do work, too. Me, the person attached to these great legs. I am up here too, you know. You talked to my legs almost as if you forgot there was a human powering them. 

Yes, sir, I know I have great legs. You really didn't need to say it. 

Currently Reading: February--Memoirs

Franzen and I did not get along. I picked up his memoir The Discomfort Zone but I almost immediately zoned out and did not finish it. 

I firmly believe that life is too short to read books you are not passionate about--that philosophy dictates much of how I live my life. I want great food, a healthy mind and body, new challenges that excite and engage, and Franzen's memoir was not a challenge that engaged me. 

I put aside Franzen and turned to Joan Didion's The White Album, but I am sorry to say the same thing happened. I am seeking out inspiration for my current personal essay project and I need to read pieces by authors I feel connected to and inspired by--authors with similar voices, thoughts, subjects, and experiences. 

Sometimes you have to look no further than your own bookcase to find the right work for you, and I almost smacked myself in the forehead when I realized I already had what I wanted to be reading. I had a stack of library books urging me to start diving in before the return deadline loomed too close, and yet I still turned to my shelf and pulled out Inside Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories.

This work pulls from myriad voices in the LGBTQ community, voices similar and very different from my own. Sometimes the right book finds you at just the right time; I had bought this book four years ago in my final semester at university and had yet to crack it open, but I am glad I did now.

More updates to follow. 

Currently Reading: January 2017--African American/Black British works

I have made it my goal to read 75 books in 2017, from January 1st to December 31st. I am an avid reader and while this goal means I'd need to read an average of 1.5 books a week, I am confident I will be able to succeed.

I have discovered the great joy of reading books in series. Not necessarily books OF a series, but books that have common threads, themes, and thematic elements that draw correlations between them. This could mean reading books by just one author, from one time period, or regarding one theme. 

I got my hands on a few of the "Best Books of 2016" over the Christmas season: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Swing Time by Zadie Smith, and Homegoing by Yaas Gyasi and this drew my attention to a group of authors I had studied much of in university but had since not delved back into: African American/Black British authors.

I began to scour our four bookshelves, approximately 500 books worth, for works written by African American/Black British/African writers and I was pleased to come up with a reading list of over 15 books. Works by such authors including Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, Ann Petry, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Johnson, and of course Whitehead, Smith, and Gyasi, sit, amassed, on my desk, waiting to be explored.

This group of works have brought to my attention many interesting ideas; discussions on identity, belonging, heritage, self-worth, what makes us human, culture, what makes us laugh, how we express ourselves, and the nature of language, to name only a few. Many of these works are canonized and a few I have already read. But there is never any harm in familiarizing yourself with a great book again, living out once more a story that has touched you. 

Here is what I read in January, 2017:

1. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. A very good read, and one I immediately passed on to another friend. A great way to start the new year, too. This book was a lesson directed to the reader by a very unusual and poignant teacher. Ishmael touched on ideas of responsibility, culture, and how humans view the world around them. I will say, about halfway through the book I had to take a break, even though the novel is not very long. I felt I needed to sort through what had already been said before I could go on; I needed time to compartmentalize the various lessons being taught. 

2. Homegoing by Yaas Gyasi. One of my favorites I had read in a long time. This book takes place over literally hundreds of generations, with multitudes of characters that weave in and out of the book. It was thrilling and tragic and engaging and masterfully paced such that each time a chapter ended, the reader was eager to go on to the next, envisioning what next could lie ahead. This author's voice was distinct and powerful. I cannot wait to read more of her works. 

3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I am rereading this one after reading it first in university, four years ago. Still amazing, four years later. Hurston's dialect is unmatched in its elegance and execution. The reader is drawn entirely into Janie's story of love, heartbreak, resilience, and self-awareness. Once you get into the rhythm and flow of Hurston's dialect, the story envelopes you and never lets you go, even after you've finished it. 

4. Swing Time by Zadie Smith. This was my first encounter with Zadie Smith and everything I have heard about her rings true: she has a voice deep with wisdom and soul, even for how young she is yet. This is a story of two young friends who meet in a dance class in urban London with the same dream--to dance. But only one of them has the feet for it, and their paths diverge as cause of it. The girls' differing paths take them far from what they know, out from London to the far coasts of West Ghana, but throughout the book their interconnecting destinies remain a taut line linking them to each other and their heritage, even as they both struggle to let go. 

5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Another rereading, as well it should be. Alice Walker says Their Eyes Were Watching God was the book that most influenced her own writing, and that is very apparent in Walker's use of dialect as well as her strong, tradition-defying women characters who break away from the drudgery of lives chosen for them and seek to become self-actualized, independent creatures of their own making. This book is composed entirely of letters written by the main character to God, and later to her sister Nellie. The letter format is engaging and compelling, giving the reader a keen glimpse into the development of the character through her most private, intimate thoughts and experiences. 

6. Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown. A complete deviation from the theme series and from what I normally read--I borrowed this book from a friend I was visiting because drunk Paige thought it looked interesting. It was okay. It is what it sounds like: a semi-trashy airport novel without much depth and a little casual sex, murder, mystery, and sexy firemen. 

7. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. This book won the National Book Award and it is very apparent why. This work takes a staple of American History, the urban myth of "the Underground Railroad" network that runaway slaves used to escape the bonds of Southern slavery, and turns it into a reality. The way in which Whitehead takes one of the most important, notable metaphors of American culture and flips it the other way is praiseworthy. Whitehead invents an actual railroad with actual stations and trains and conductors that help escaped slaves travel North. It was enthralling and provocative and masterfully executed. Whitehead actualizes the metaphor just enough and does not reveal even half the mystery of how the railroad operates. He tantalizes the reader with magic but never reveals his secrets. 

8. Goldenhand by Garth Nix. I have been waiting to read this book for a long time and I finally got my hands on it. Garth Nix is my favorite author. He writes works of fantasy, many of which are geared to Young Adult audiences. I discovered Sabriel, the first book in the Old Kingdom series, at the local library when I was in middle school. The overly dramatic ink drawing cover was what drew me in, and I was immediately hooked. The series takes place in a magical world that consists of the Old Kingdom, a place of magics unlike anything else--Charter Magic and Free Magic---, and the non-magic kingdom, Ancelstierre, that borders it. 

The Old Kingdom series begins with Sabriel, a Necromancer (someone who can control the Dead and bring things back to life.) But Sabriel is no ordinary Necromancer--she is the Abhorsen, the person whose sworn duty it is to put the Dead down again and protect Life from that which should stay dead. She must protect the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre from an evil unlike anything anyone has seen for hundreds of years; a Free Magic Creature of great power has risen and is hell-bent on taking over the world. Nothing a 16-year-old can't handle with a magic sword, a bandolier of bells to control the Dead, and a magic cat-like creature with an attitude. 

Goldenhand is the fifth in the Old Kingdom series and it is just as enthralling as the first. I recommend Garth Nix to anyone, young or old, who needs a spark of magic in their life. And who isn't too squeamish. 

I did not quite make it through all 15 of the books I pulled off my shelves, but I am not yet done with this exploration into culture(s) so different from my own. I will take a slight divergence in February to study essays and personal memoirs, but I will delve into Maya Angelou's All God's Children Need Walking Shoes as a way to bridge the gap back into African American/Black British exploration. I still have Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes, more Zadie Smith, and Ann Petry to enjoy.  

I am currently about halfway through the writing of my own personal memoirs and I am seeking inspiration from some of the greats such as Joan Didion, David Sedaris, Jonathan Franzen, Mary Karr, and even notes by some of my favorite writers such as Ursula Le Guin and Stephen King. First up for February is Jonathan Franzen's work, The Discomfort Zone. This one in particular called to me as much of what I am currently writing is very personal, deep, and something I hope no one in my family ever reads. I think Franzen and I will get along very well.

Me and My Label Maker

This is a talk I was honored to be able to participate in with Linda Stein's exhibition, "The Fluidity of Gender" through Have Art: Will Travel. 

 

https://www.facebook.com/HaveArtWillTravel/videos/1089835891053219/?pnref=story

Dear Friend

Dear Friend--

May I call you that? I feel I should, considering how long we have talked, how much you know about me. I would like to call you Friend. 

Dear Friend, 

Please tell me. Please ask. It's alright to have questions. It's alright to ask. 
I know you wonder, reading this and the others I write to you, that you are curious about what it is I say, about things I share. Curiosity is only part of being human. So is wanting to share, to tell stories--that is what I do here.

You may not like my stories. That's fine. You may not want me to tell you so much. So don't read. But if you do read, and if you want to share a story or tell me something in return, please do. 

I tell these stories, I tell you my thoughts because I hope they will help. It helps me to write them. I hope it helps you to read them. 

So please ask. Tell me you've read what I said and then ask me the questions you think. I don't mind. I want to know what you're thinking--I'm an open page and your mind remains locked up. Share with me and I promise to listen. It's only what Friends do. 

Thank you, Friend. You're more important to me than you know. Next time, let me tell you in person. 

Until then, all my love. 

Your Friend

Free Porn

*reader discretion advised*

I want to tell you about me. I want to tell you my story. I want to tell you about what it is like to be me, as a woman, as a person. But you won't let me tell you in my own words. You don't hear. You take the words I say and you cover them up with your own. You take my story, my life, and you twist it in your mind. My hand in hers becomes fantasy before your eyes. You lean forward waiting for a kiss that will not come. We feel you watching. We are not here for you. I am not for your entertainment and yet you make me so. If I wrote a book, would you read it? Or would you skim, thumbing the pages back and forth in eager anticipation of material you will not find, our deepest secrets and trysts laid bare, spread-legged for your hungry gaze? My life is not your free porn. "Pussy-licking dyke! Lesbian cunt! Who do you think you are, pervert, you make me sick!" You call to me across the street, shout across the buzzing screens, Caps-lock held firm under your thumb as you type. "YUR GONNA BURN IN HELL 4 YUR SINS! GOD H8TS FAGGOTS!!"I know why you do it. I know why you yell. You are scared, and that makes you angry.You are scared because this isn't right. I am not right. You know the way of good and evil in this world and the next, and I am not good. You are scared because while you yell, while you scream, you wonder, too. You wonder what it would feel like to have my head between your legs, not hers. You think about it at night, after you see us walking hand-in-hand down the street. You picture us as you rub  and tremble, and you want it to be me making you tremble, not her.  You are scared of other's happiness, like there is a finite amount of it in the world and somehow you aren't getting your fair share, and that makes you angry. But while your words may be angry, mine are not. My voice is calm--there is a purpose to these sounds, a purpose that, loud as they may be, your words will never have. My words have power. My words, given strength by the voices of others, will always speak louder than yours. They'll long be carried high, bolstered upon the shoulders of others who hear and know them as their own. My words have power. Yours do not. Yours will wither and die as quickly as those make-believes in your head. You have no power here. My life is not for your entertainment. I am not a fantasy for you to play in your head. I may be a pussy-licking dyke, but I am not your free porn. 

Wooden Bridges

Stories are bridges. 

But not just bridges to other countries, other cultures, other worlds. They are not a latticeworks connecting us with the unfamiliar. Stories are the unfamiliar. Stories are latticeworks. Like wooden bridges. 

You have to build them carefully. You have to create an arc. There is a science to it. But passion, too. 

You start with one side and you try to work toward the middle. You have to go bit by bit. You can try to jump ahead but you have to step carefully, build yourself out to that point. 

You might start again from the other side, see if you can work yourself back. It isn't much easier. You still have to connect these bits and pieces. You can tell when something is not quite right. You can sense the balance is off. There is a shift and a sway. Your bridge is uneasy.  

It is never too late to start over. You just have to know when that's best.

You have created something, that is the first step. Your wooden bridge may be unstable for now, but it is not too late to try again. The next will be better. And the next after that. 

Stories are bridges. You'll know when they're finished. 

Shields Up

Apart, you're amazing. Together, though, you four are unstoppable. 

My dad always says that about us kids. The four of us can do anything, he says, if we stick together as a team. Nothing is impossible. 

But some things are. We were faced with the impossible just a couple weeks ago. A lot of impossibles, actually. 

We lost someone in our family. My dad's partner got sick. We had a few hours' notice and then she was gone. That was the first impossible thing. 

The other impossibles came with what was left behind.

It seemed impossible to be without her. There were moments when we all would wonder, here is she? She must be running late again, before we remembered why we were there.  

It seemed impossible to find the right words to say. Especially to our dad. A lot of the time I just stayed quiet. 

My siblings seemed to not have any trouble finding their roles. My sister became the protector. She led our father through the motions; she had to remind him to eat, was his driver, stood beside him at the funeral home. 

My brother was the cook. He took our father's anger and multiplied it with his own and set to work. Baking, stirring, cooking anything and everything in sight, pouring his energy into the food as his outlet. Something over which he had total control. 

My oldest sister has the baby. Nothing can calm you like a baby. He certainly calmed her. When I couldn't seem to ebb the flow of bitter tears, her eyes remained dry. She took on a new strength as a mother. She had to remain resilient where we crumbled. She had to do it for the baby. 

I clung to my siblings' decisiveness, to their strengths. I didn't know what else to do. I had never seen my father cry, not like this. He was so tired. Angry. Sad. 

I knew I couldn't pinpoint his emotions like that. I knew my father wasn't just tired. He was exhausted, drained. He wasn't just angry. He was frustrated, furious. He wasn't just sad. He was empty, 

I didn't know how to help. There didn't seem to be anything I could do, but listen. Maybe that was all he needed from me. He had my siblings to keep him safe, to keep him fed, to keep him distracted. What could I do? 

I could listen. And I did. I tried to take his pain and lessen it. Each story, every word, when he spoke I could take them on my own shoulders, lift them from his.When I could do nothing else, I could listen. 

And tell. 

When the impossibles seem overwhelming, I can at least tell them to the world. So they don't seem quite so impossible anymore. 

Her

My first kiss was with a woman. A girl, really--we were both girls. 

I was barely fifteen, she not quite. We were in our first year of high school, meeting again for the first time in years. 

It was New Year's Eve. We kissed in the snow as the fireworks went off. It was perfect. 

It started as a dare, something shocking and reckless, to kiss one another on the cheek. She was telling us, the group of about seven girls clustered together on the bed, talking about school and boys and silly things, that this was something she did with her other friends. Kisses on the cheek were  "no big thing". So, giggling among ourselves, we tried it.

Lips pressed to cheeks. Some of us too shy ducked and bowed our heads away at the last minute. I leaned right in. It made my stomach flutter to kiss her cheek. She smelled like foundation and baby powder and something else, something floral, probably from her  hair.  

She went to the other high school in town. She didn't recognize me when we greeted each other in the cramped, wet mud room of our mutual friend's house. We had met before at a school program that drew in students from all the elementary schools  once a week to do projects and collaborate as teams. 

I noticed her even then. I wanted to be her friend. I wanted to talk to her. She seemed cool. But we were never put on the same team, and I never spoke up. 

It seemed like fate that we were put together that night, then. My urge, my need, to know her only intensified that night. It was a desire, even as my fifteen-year-old self didn't quite know what that could, or would, mean. 

We kissed on the cheek and sat chatting all night. We arranged our sleeping bags next to each other. We sat next to each other at dinner.

Then as the ball dropped and we went shrieking out into the snow, twirling and throwing snowballs and yelling our resolutions to the New Year's air, I asked if I could kiss her again, not on the cheek this time. She said yes. 

It was perfect. 

Time

Time moves differently when you're writing. You enter a portal, a wormhole. You travel backwards and forwards and then stand still.

Hours may have passed;  you either feel every second, or none of them at all. You've experienced entire lifetimes, seen your worlds, your characters born, live, and die. 

It's different from reading. This isn't immersion into a world already created--you're the one doing the building.

Mountains rise in one scene and fall in the next. She has blue eyes, then brown, then she's a he, then he's gone. It's happening one at a time, and simultaneously. Your fingers can't seem to type fast enough, your mind is whirling, it's all coming together, and then!

It's done. You've lost it. Time drags. How could minutes move so slow? You have to put in the time, sit in the chair. It just isn't working. You don't dare read what is already done. You have to look ahead before you go back--you need the word count, you need the sense of progression. Editing is your enemy now. How could you think this would be easy? 

But it's worth it. When the worry falls away, when the mistakes and typos are minuscule blemishes on the face of something truly great--that's what you're writing for. That's your portal, your wormhole to another world. The rest just falls away. 

 

How?

How, we ask, do we keep going after they're gone? 

We go through the motions--there are things that have to be done. We can do these things because we have to. We have plans set in motion, people to guide us through. 

But after that? 

What next. 

We keep going. 

It's quiet for a time after. No one says much. We're all thinking. 

What next. 

It'll get easier. We know that. 

We start to smile when we think of them, not just cry. 

The smiles will come easier after that. 

It's not that we keep going because we know that's what they would have wanted. We keep going because that is what we are meant to do. They go and we stay. That's how it is. 

That's how. 

We keep going because we can. We have to. It's the way of these things. We have things to do. We have to get to work. 

Get to work talking again, first. Laughing, next. Remembering the whole way, and sharing it. That's why we go, that's how we go. Remembering along the way. 

We have stories to tell about them. They'll be kept alive through our stories, and our memories. 

We say farewell, but not good bye. The story isn't over, not yet. We keep going. 

NaNoWri NO

Last year I tried to write my entire novel in one month. It didn't happen. I'm still working on the same novel.  

November is "National Novel Writing Month". The objective: write an entire novel in a month. If not from start-to-finish, then at least finish the novel you're already working on by stroke of midnight on the 30th.There is a whole following behind this--even a website where you can track your progress. 

I got really excited when first I heard about this--this was my chance to finally get my novel done. My chance to finally get my novel STARTED! And what better way, I thought,  than to join the thousands of others who were, even now, typing away furiously, scribbling madly, their thoughts flying faster than their fingers in desperate attempt to catch and pin down the unraveling threads of their works that for so long had remained stubbornly tangled. 

Spurred on with a new fervor, I got straight to work. I wrote 2,000 words the first day, sitting in the tiny living room my then-fiance-now-husband and I shared, us working elbow-to-elbow as his "office" was actually just a desk shoved in the corner next to the tiny love-seat on which I sat, laptop perched on my knees. 

The second day I wrote 3,000 more words. By the end of the first week in November, I had almost 12,000 words. I was ecstatic. More Facebook posts than you can even imagine about #myfirstnovel and #NaNoWriMo. I even got excited when I saw other people posting about their progress! I had myself convinced my novel was going better than theirs, that I would succeed where they failed. 

That didn't happen. I didn't finish my novel by November 30. The midnight bells tolled and I felt like the biggest pumpkin possible. 

But I knew why I hadn't finished--NaNoWriMo didn't work for me. It wasn't just that work got busy, that I was travelling, that I found other things to do than to sit for two hours each day and furiously write write write. 

My mind just didn't work that way. My mind STILL doesn't work that way. It's another year gone and my novel is still not done. 

And that is completely fine. I'm going to take as long as I need to get it done right. Even now I try to work on my novel every day. I am certainly not getting 3,000 words every day but am doing more small edits. I am polishing little spots rather than chipping away big chunks. 

For any one else working on their first novel, or their fourteenth, or the ones who are polishing and chipping away at things, keep going. Years may pass--pay them no heed. Spare yourself time and effort spent worrying about the work and focus on doing instead.

It's the hardest thing in the world to sit in the chair and stare at empty pages. You have to fill them over and over. Fill the pages, and make them count. 

Source: http://nanowrimo.org

Desperate Times

Writing is desperation. It's desperate thoughts, desperate feelings, desperate I-must-get-these-out-before-I-explode examinations of the world. 

Writers see things a little differently--that's why we write. To tell you how we see things. 

And that's why you read--to see what we see. 

Writing is desperation, and you can tell when that desperation is just right. You feel it. You are drawn into it. You are compelled to keep reading. 

Don't blame us for the good or the bad of these worlds, these adventures we lure you into. There is no fault here--we are messengers for our own desperation, and so things go. 

You feel the desperation, don't you? You love it. It's why you keep reading. You can't help yourself. 

You are desperate, too. 

Go Ask a Lesbian

So when did you know you were a lesbian?

Um...what?

You know, when did you figure it out? Or were you born with it? Like, you were born liking girls. 

I don't really...

You must get asked that a lot, huh? I mean, you don't look like a lesbian, so people must be kinda shocked to hear it. 

Well, I don't really know what lesbians are supposed to look like, but...

Oh you know, like short hair and boy clothes and stuff. You're, like, too pretty to be a lesbian.

 Uh...

So, like, did you ever think one of your friends was cute or something and that's how you knew, or what?

 No, I met someone and I liked her and that was it.

So you never liked your friends and dated them and stuff? 

You know being queer doesn't mean I am attracted to every woman, right? 

Oh, right. That makes sense. Some people just aren't that cute....my girlfriend is, though. 

Okay...

Yeah, my girlfriend is pretty cool too...maybe you two could, like, meet or something...

Right..

Cause I think you'd really like her. She's really cute. And, you know...

Know what? 

Well, you know, cause you like girls and so...hey where are you going?