Monday, June 18, 2018

Found my soapbox to talk about American heroes

I was in the seventh grade when we went to the library to meet a World War II survivor. He spoke about a Nazi soldier who pointed right and left, telling each person which line to enter. He held out his hand like a hitchhiker, one thumb swinging back and forth in absolution, and in that gesture, families were broken. This man said that he watched his mother and sister go one way. Suddenly he was alone. It wasn’t until later he realized the other line had been sent to die by poisonous chemicals.

This moment left a scar on my heart. I had nightmares about it. I imagined what I would have done if it had been me, unable to hold my mother’s hand. He concluded with tears streaming through his eyes as he recalled the day an American soldier lifted him into his arms and liberated him from the death camp.

My peace with this story came from knowing that my country, the United Stated of America, would never commit such crimes against humanity. That these were ancient practices by cruel people. It was in the past. We were all safe now.

I am so wrong.

So motherfucking wrong.

We destroyed the Native Americans who lived on this land. We sold human beings on slave auctioning blocks. We forced Japanese Americans into internment camps. Children are shot by guns at school. Just a few from a very long list.

So I just need to ask, can we be the heroes?

I want to be the America who saves people.

I want to be the America who remembers white folk are immigrants, black folk were stolen from their homes, and every shade in between is too big for the word beautiful. I want to be the America that embraces refugees at the border. When someone says Help I want America to say I got you.

I want to be that America who lifts a scared and starved boy off the ground in a foreign land to save him from horror.

Oh, you want to talk about the economy? Farming, food, and hospitality industries would collapse if every “illegal immigrant” vanished from this country (are you listening, white people? Did you come here legally? Have you recently checked the definition of hypocrisy?)

Oh, you want to talk about food stamps? You want to talk about Medicaid? You want to talk about social programs? Think the people who don’t have two nickels to rub together and abuse the system are ruining this country’s viability in the global market? Wake up. I need you to wake up once you’re done punishing the people at the bottom for all the injustices committed at the top.

Do you want to be the hero or not?

Do you want to help people or not?

Oh, want to talk about how you had to work for everything you’ve got so you don’t want to hear the word privilege? You don’t see how your white skin helps you? So, you’d change to black in an instant. If there’s no problem, why not be black?

Oh, you want to talk about crime? Give people an equal opportunity to thrive. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don’t even have boots.

Imagine the America who invents the next plant-based thing that reverses ocean pollution.  Imagine the America that builds factories for solar energy panels for every house. Imagine the America that lets you eat cake.

Imagine saving the 22 veterans who will commit suicide today.

But who is going to pay for this kindness?

We’re the richest country in the world. Let’s figure it out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

30 Lessons Learned in 30 Years

I turn 30 years old in 30 days. Here are 30 lessons I’ve learned so far.

1. Don’t shower seven days a week when two will do. I could buy a private island with the money I’ve saved in shampoo in the last five years.

2. Knowing how to cook from scratch has become such a rare skill that it makes you worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize if you can roast a chicken and make your own salad dressing. Learn these skills and people will flock to you with adoration and gratitude.

3. Leaving the Earth a better place means that sometimes you have to pick up someone else’s trash.

4. The only thing better than cheese is melted cheese.

5. Making your bed doesn’t make you a good person but it makes going to bed more satisfying—transferring all the stuff I’ve piled on top of the neatly made bed onto the floor, peeling back the covers, slipping inside the nighttime cocoon. Bliss.

6. I behave best when I have Maya Angelou’s wisdom in mind. Two quotes in particular:

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”

In short, be kind and care about people.

7. The Shawshank Redemption is the best movie ever.

8. Farmers markets are queens. They rule. They accept WIC and food stamps. Buying from them means supporting families in your neighborhood instead of lining CEO pockets. Also, free samples. Also, walk ten feet and get more free samples.

9. I am gay and I am loved.

10. Google knows everything.

11. Put your phone on silent. At the movies. During a lecture. When a loved one is pouring their heart out. When you’re having sex. Nothing ruins a moment and provokes an eye-roll quite like a poorly-timed ringtone.

12. Straight white men don’t see the invisible maze the rest of us are navigating. They need the maze to be described to them and many will struggle to visualize it. But keep trying. Some mazes are far more complicated than others. Still keep trying. And in the meantime, visualize the other mazes you yourself cannot see.

13. Mail hand-written notes to people and blow their minds.

14. Do not underestimate the power of a deep breath. Before doing something emotionally difficult, to decelerate thoughts before sleep, when your head feels cloudy, whenever you feel unsure, before making a big decision. Remember to breathe.

15. Cal Garrison writes great horoscopes. She is on Facebook and writes new ‘scopes every Monday. I’ll wait here while you go read yours....

16. You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything. Even if it means standing alone.

17. Go into nature and be brave enough to feel small.

18. Use phrases from your favorite inspirational quotes or motivational mantras for your passwords so you are reminded of them every day......and of course I wouldn’t use those Maya Angelou quotes above for my passwords so don’t even try it......

19. Add reading to your bedtime ritual. Brush your teeth. Pee. Eat cream cheese with your finger, whatever you normally do—then read something other than a social media feed. Some nights all I last is a paragraph, others a chapter, and sometimes I pull an all-nighter (and then text my friends in the middle of the night about the thing I think they need to read immediately).

20. Pause for the sunrise. The moonrise. The change of seasons. Imagine shapes in the clouds. Take a picture the old fashioned way—with your memory. It’s been the inspiration of countless songs, story beats, and inner peace. Take it in.

21. Check your resume and email signature for typos approximately one million times. I had “college” spelled as “colloege” for a year before I noticed. That’s just terrible.

22. Everything is energy. Nothing is created or destroyed. Energy is transferred. Therefore, ghosts.

23. I saw a meme one time that said: “In your 40s you stop caring what other people think. In your 60s you realize no one was thinking about you in the first place.” Not exactly a lesson I’ve learned yet but I think about that a lot and it gives me comfort.

24. Food matters. Too many people count calories instead of chemicals. Don’t be a blind consumer. Open your eyes as wide as the information available will allow.

25. My great-grandmother passed away just before this past Christmas. She was 97 and had out-lived all of her friends, siblings, her husband, one son, one son-in-law. There was no one left with whom she could share memories who wasn’t nearly two decades her junior. She never talked about it, but I always wondered what it would be like to carry that much grief over the course of so many years, and if her wisdom earned with age made the weight any lighter. Her will to laugh and smile despite her numerous losses is a source of strength for me. Most people talk about wanting to grow old—but loss is inevitable, so cherish every second with your loved ones now. Don’t take people in your life for granted. One day they’ll be gone.

26. S’mores done properly require two marshmallows. (Pro-tip: substitute chocolate for a peanut butter cup.)

27. DRINK WATER. A lot of times the best things in life don’t come easy, but drinking water is the best and easiest thing you can do for your health, your skin, and to reduce your chance of hangover after a night of heavy drinking. (Pro-tip: I also suggest two ibuprofen tablets on your nightstand. Don’t take acetaminophen/Tylenol because that is filtered through your liver and at this point your liver has been through enough.)

28. Find a physical activity that you enjoy that can be a lifetime hobby. Try everything until you find something you love. You’ve got one body and it’s strong and capable—so do strong and capable things with it. The hardest step you’ll take is the one outside your front door. Just get started. Hiking is my favorite.

29. It’s not what you know, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. Again and again I’ve experienced that it is not my knowledge that breeds opportunities, but instead it is the relationships with people I have made which causes doors to open.

30. Share your story. There isn’t a single culture in this world that does not have stories. Storytelling is in our nature as humans to learn, teach, and to heal. Sharing yours is vital to our collective growth in empathy and understanding.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Pocket Knife

One year ago I floated toward the sights and sounds of Pride Festival on a cloud of kitten-shaped rainbows just given to me by the Supreme Court. Their decision in Obergefell v. Hodges stated in legal terms that same-sex couples have the right to marry while shouting in human terms that all love is equal. Electricity and the air at Pride were indistinguishable. I did not represent an L or G or B or T or Q or ally—we were all one people, bound by Love, and gleefully celebrated this moment in history when Love won. But that was last year. This year, I spent the morning before Pride searching for my rainbow sweatband and wondering if I should carry a knife in my pocket.

My pocket knife typically requires several moments of forearm-deep digging in my purse to excavate, which is not convenient should there be a crisis that required an immediate response with sharpened steel. I keep it in my purse because I watch too many survival shows and zombie shows and sometimes it truly comes in handy, like when a twig must be sharpened to spear a marshmallow and on Christmas morning when presents are restrained with impossible knots. The only time I carry the knife in my front pocket is when I think I am at greater risk of dying.

What happened at Pulse in Orlando could happen anywhere, I repeated to myself, resuming the argument between my head, heart, and gut, whether to carry a weapon with me or not. This decision weighed far more than the three-inch blade, even though it was a decision I had made several times before. I carry my knife in my pocket whenever I hike or am alone in a parking garage, without pausing for second thought, without having to calibrate the scales of my conscience.

My heart said that a weapon is a physical representation of readiness to act nobly in the face of fear. That defending life, my own or someone else, even if I used a lethal weapon to do so, was brave and honorable. Responding to danger with courage has been a virtue coveted since the birth of human culture.

Then my heart proclaimed with Shakespearean flair, “I want to be virtuous!”

But to say bravery exists only in the presence of weapons is untrue. Appearing defenseless before an enemy and calling for peace feels more honorable. A profound respect for life is shown when reaching for someone’s heart with compassion instead of stabbing it. Even if the outcome is death for the peace seeker. Self-sacrifice, in service of what one believes is the greater good, is widely considered a sacred act. Is this the same self-sacrifice that ISIS murderers seek?

Survival instinct always surpasses the heart’s craving to do what feels right. The decision for my gut was simple: Carry the knife in your hand! You can count only on yourself for protection! Better to be safe than sorry!

My head then mocked, “Lolllll! You think a knife shorter than your finger will keep you safe?!”

My head said if guns were feathers, the people of Kentucky could dress an entire species of birds. The logic seemed obvious: vast accessibility to weapons amplifies the opportunity for an ill-intentioned person to possess such a weapon, providing them with tools to inflict maximum harm. Therefore gunshots were a tangible possibility in Lexington, Kentucky, the host of the Pride Festival I would eventually attend once I made up my mind.

A mass shooting, a hate crime, a terrorist attack, could happen anywhere. I thought about the other cities in the United States celebrating Pride that day—Cincinnati, Bend, Flagstaff, Minneapolis, Nashville, St. Louis, to name a few—what were the odds of something bad happening at this festival on this day? Chances were nothing would happen here.

Although my head loves to rely on the numbers game to extinguish anxieties, I know there exists a day for the exception and not the rule. And if today was the day social media would be overcome with hashtag prayer requests for my city, I needed to have my mind made up—should I carry a knife in my pocket?

My feet came to a sudden stop as I identified the root of my inner conflict with one word: Fear.

If the goal of a terrorist is to inflict terror, then they had defeated me.

It isn’t unusual for scenes of horror to flash across my imagination when I enter a movie theater, school building, church, or a large crowd, like one gathered at the end of a marathon race, wondering what I would do if it happened to me. Fear of mass shootings, suicide bombings—so far they haven’t stopped me from living my life but they have influenced the habits of my life. The dilemma to carry the knife was not the cause of my fear, but one of its symptoms.

How does one eliminate fear? I considered two options:

1. Deny fear completely, which is impossible. Fear is a basic motivator. Just ask Ron Swanson. Fear has a well-established role in human life and cannot merely be ignored if it is to be conquered.

2. Replace one fear with an even bigger fear. It’s like fearing the ocean and being forced to swim in it. Once someone screams, “Shark!” the fear of the ocean is suddenly replaced with fear of the shark.

So I need a shark.

What I fear more than being attacked is losing my humanity. I fear losing compassion. I reminded myself to live in the present moment, to enjoy friends, to love, to stand tall with my queer family, feel the electricity of the community once again. To empathize with murderers I picture them as the children they were (some still are), the houses they grew up in, societies that shaped them. Then it’s easier to find how cause created the effect. It’s a science of the heart, which isn’t perfect, but I find it the most satisfying when trying to understand why people do the things they do.

I entered Pride with my knife buried inconveniently in my purse, to appease the always be prepared department of my generalized anxiety instead of the three-inch knife will protect me during any crisis variety. Once I crossed beyond the first row of vendors and saw a couple draped together in a rainbow flag, laugh and then kiss, all thoughts about my knife evaporated.

Later that night I arrived home, happy to have seen friends, proud to have added my coming out anniversary date to the community wall, spirits buoyed by the display of people living brave and free. The light of the television guided me through my final moments before bed. The news was on. Six shots had been fired at a residence in Texas. Two people were dead.

As I rummaged around my purse to untangle my phone charger I realized that my knife was missing. After some searching I found it had been at home all along, still in my hiking backpack from the week before.

That was where this post was supposed to end, but as I finish the final edits another presumed terrorist attack has occurred, killing dozens, injuring hundreds. Traveling to Istanbul has been the number one entry on my bucket list ever since I learned about its history (Constantinople’s history) as the city between East and West. I am also addicted to seascapes. One day I will walk through the international terminal of that airport, whisper a wish for peaceful rest to the people who perished there, and carry onward with peace.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Writer's Block and Terms of Surrender

Asking a writer about writer’s block is like asking an alcoholic about hangovers. It’s an unpleasant side effect that comes with the territory and its main treatment is time. I compare writing to addiction because anyone who believes storytelling is not a choice, and I put myself in this category, but a need as fundamental as breathing oxygen, the threat of not being able to tell stories anymore is considered a way of death. I’m grateful writer’s block is rarely this dramatic or fatal because despite its causation, a halt in word-flow is temporary should the storyteller know when to surrender.

The flavor profile of writer’s block rivals Baskin-Robbins. Top-sellers include “I’m paying for a decision I made 100 pages ago,” “I’m stuck in the middle and don’t know what happens next,” and the plot alphabet variety: “I know A and C but I don’t know B.”

My particular flavor of writer’s block has always (so far) been the same: “Lots of ideas, little progress.” This happened most recently when I finished revising my first novel. After chin-ups and protein shakes my manuscript was in top shape, read cover to cover, and then cover to cover again, until satisfied, and for the first time in eighteen months I felt free to work on something different. I immediately turned to my affair for comfort. Lots of writers have them—the secret story kept hidden from the story you married first, a secret story one scribbles notes about instead of facing another night of loveless banter with chapter eleven. I kept the promise I had made to my secret story—that one day soon I’d leave my first novel for her—and fell into the new first paragraph of the secret story, a novel, I had fantasized about writing.

Then the flood came.

My mind swelled with characters’ personalities, hopes, fears, lessons, scraps of dialogue, new landscapes, all churning in random eddies of imagination. Over a year’s worth of suppressed ideas and story-bits addressed me as I showered, cooked dinner, walked the neighborhood, and “slept” in the night. My secret novel swept aside, the beginnings of five short stories precipitated out of the creative waters and this is where I got completely stuck. This is where my writer’s block begins.

I have several ideas, all promising, but I can’t seem to commit to one of them. In the past I’ve asked myself, which story do I want to write the most? But I never receive a clear answer because: 1. I am optimistic and wish to write them all, and 2. It doesn’t work that way. Deciding which story to write is rarely about satisfying my want, as this would imply I have a choice in the matter. I do not.

I jumped between the five short stories I had started. One would engage me for a morning, another for the afternoon, and then another for an entire week, then back to the first, onto the fourth story, the fifth. Several weeks passed but not the ache of not having written much of anything. I turned to the short story I’d spent the most time with because it had the most words on the page and seemed most likely to remedy the insatiable itch to just finish something. (I compare writing troubles to physical pain because it’s true. Something isn’t born without a little pain.)

I danced with this short story for the third or fourth time, I’d lost count, and reached a scene where the narrator meets a character who affects the trajectory of the narrator’s life. Each character sings a note in the story’s song, and their union formed a storytelling chord whose harmony I had heard before. Their performance was then followed by a light show, orchestrated by the single light bulb flashing inside my head.

It was this moment I became aware the short story I was writing was actually a pivotal scene in the life of a primary character from the novel I had been “seeing on the side”. Without trying I was working on my next novel, the secret story I easily swept aside when surrounded by new ideas.

Stepping back from the scene, I appreciated more than ever how stories have a life of their own. Born from experience and observation, stories reside in ethereal houses within the subconscious. They communicate with the conscious mind, to the storyteller, in the form of instinct and impulse.

From my pocket I retrieved a white handkerchief and waved it frantically. The story captured my full attention—I surrendered. I relinquished my weapons—the four remaining short stories—by placing them in the “Stories to Tell” folder on my computer. If another one of my ideas communicates with me, I will listen to it, too, and have my white handkerchief ready to display. In the meantime, I have a novel to write.

Now that enough time has passed so I may look back on it, I realized my experiences with writer’s block are not unpredictable clogs in my productivity pipeline, but are an essential part of my writing process. Although words are not adding up on the page, plenty of work is being done between my ears, my brain doing the heavy lifting that includes sorting ideas, word choices, and character traits in order to craft a story’s point as clearly as I can.

With this new insight I feel at liberty to call writer’s block what it really is: thinking.

Being stuck on words is temporary, but simply waiting for it to pass is to walk a path of misery. Whether a storyteller is hung-up on the second act, a character trait, plot device, or between ideas, you have to think  your way out of it. Don’t be the writer who prays to win the lottery but never buys a ticket. Feed stories with your thoughts, have a conversation with them, and wait patiently for their reply. While you wait, be as bold to have fun with a writing exercise. Here’s one: Craft a story with an answer to the question: “Where’s Papa going with that ax?”* If that doesn’t get your creative thoughts flowing, read everything ever written.

*The first sentence of Charlotte’s Web, authored by E.B. White.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lesbian paint on a straight canvas

I was angrier shopping for an anniversary card than I was when skinny jeans came into style, having lost my mind somewhere between the endless variations of “To my devoted Husband on our anniversary” and “Celebrating another year in love as Man and Wife.”

Coming up fast is my third anniversary with my one and only, Esmeralda (I’m calling her Esmeralda because this is likely the only time I can get away with it). I pinch myself everyday trying to understand how such a wonderful person would want to hang out with me so much. So when I’m trolling the anniversary cards I want to find one that:

1.      Does not have a picture of a guy dog and a girl dog.
2.      Does not have a picture of a stick figure and another stick figure with a bow on its head.
3.      Does not define love with binary gender language.

It is in these moments I realize I’m a lesbian living in a straight world. The rest of the time I enjoy cooking, writing and reading, being with friends, being anywhere with Esmeralda, communing with nature, and watching Breaking Bad. I’m living life and, since coming out five years ago, am no longer ashamed of being me. This allows me to go long periods of time when the differences between my relationship with Esmeralda and straight couples disrupts my life as often as yesterday’s weather report. It isn’t until an uncalculated moment—I can’t find a same-sex friendly anniversary card—when the differences flood to the front of my mind, and all the little moments that have accumulated since the last time I acknowledged how different I am, and we are as a lesbian couple, rush together into an emotional pool of aggravation and raw resentment.

These little moments when the minority reality comes to call usually happen in social settings. I can’t say that my experience as a lesbian in a monogamous relationship and my attitude is the same for everyone on this side of the rainbow, and I enjoy stereotyping as much as I would popping my eardrums. But, and here comes the but, the part of my brain that values math and science and psychology can’t deny when common trends and behavior patterns predominately present themselves in individuals who happen to share basic traits. All this to say: I’m speaking from my own experience and any generalities are formed from my own opinion for the sake of my personal understanding.

I don’t like being asked how gay I am.

Nine times out of ten the person asking is a straight man. One time out of ten it’s a straight woman who, after a couple glasses of liquid courage, leans in and probes, “Do you miss it? The penis?”

I think it’s a valid question, considering sexuality exists as a spectrum, but an inappropriate one when I have just met you. I endure it time and time again, when the moment comes in the introduction or conversation when—shock!—it is revealed I am with a woman, and I’ll watch as the person’s eyes go out of focus for a moment and constrict again, and the man will ask with a hopeful smile, “Are you a lesbian all the way?”

If this is the first question you ask me you’re revealing how you view me—as gay first. Not as a compassionate, loving person or any of the other labels I hope to be worthy of one day that speak more to my character and less to what is none of your business.

And it gets uncomfortable. I don’t like having to blatantly say, “Yes, we can be friends, but Esmeralda and I will not have sex with you.” I recently said those exact words to an aggressively curious male co-worker. To my straight brothers and sisters I ask, To how many co-workers do you have to explain that your relationship is off limits to other people? How often do you have to defend wanting to sleep with only the opposite sex?

Coming out of the closet gets old.

By all means, if you’re comfortable, you go right ahead and let your spouse, your mom, your hair dresser, and everyone else know I’m gay because it’s one less person I have to tell.

Coming out of the closet doesn’t happen once. It happens every time I meet someone new. For me, coming out is easier than it used to be but—good grief—it is exhausting. I brace myself for every reaction, never sure what I’m going to get. The best reaction I’ve gotten is no reaction. This is when the conversation, task, whatever I was doing when my sexual orientation was announced, continues onward without making the nature of my relationship the main focus.

One reaction I’ll never get used to is:

Me: “I’m a lesbian.”
Them: “You’re joking!…right?”

This reaction is satisfying because I get to see the person’s expectation of a lesbian meet the conclusion that I do not match the picture of sexual oddity in comfortable shoes they had fabricated in their head.

This delicate moment is why the coming out process is so exhausting—I never know if I am the only gay person this straight person has ever known. I feel an enormous responsibility to be a positive example of the LGBT community and to let them know that not all gay people can be detected by outward appearance.

As much as I would like to take all the hate away from every prejudiced heart, I know it’s impossible as long as fear exists, the fear attached to the unfamiliar. But this reality won’t stop me from trying to change minds. I don’t want you to see how we are different; I want you to embrace how we are the same, enough so that maybe you’ll consider judging books by their content and not by their covers.

The worst reaction isn’t realized until a year or more after the coming out event. In that time, no hateful words are summoned, only distance. A friend I cherish, someone I used to talk to everyday and was supportive when I came out to her, was not available for dinner. When I tried to make plans to see the movie we had talked about, she told me it was a “busy month” and she would “let me know.” Sometime after that I realized I was no longer worthy of Facebook friendship. A few years later, after I found out she was married, I wrote an email to congratulate her. Her response is one that will never come.

Tread carefully when asking about future children.

When you ask a gay couple if they want to have kids, remember that you just asked a couple who cannot conceive if they want to have kids. Even if the couple doesn’t flinch when you ask, never assume that it is not a sensitive subject that they are trying to navigate.

My answer, by the way, is, Yes! I want kids! I’m not sure when or how, and the fact I don’t know when or how terrifies me, but I know I want to be a mother.

The follow up question usually is, “Who will carry the child. You or Esmeralda?” So far, whenever this and all the other questions that follow it have been asked, I answer them as honestly as I can at the time, and am genuinely grateful to hold a parenting conversation with someone who knows a gay couple is just as capable of screwing up a human being as a straight couple.

There are days, however, when the thought of putting a price on my future child makes me unbearably sad. Whether I’m paying for sperm or an adoption lawyer, the conception of my future kids will come at a literal cost and will require adequate planning. (I would pay any cost, it’s the matter of having a monetary value assigned to a human life that repulses me.) There will never be a spontaneous month when it just happens. There will never be a person on this earth who is equal parts me, equal parts Esmeralda. And if I’m asked on the wrong day, all of this may come to the surface when you casually ask if we want to have children. It hasn’t happened yet, I’m just saying you’ve been warned.

Don’t make me prove I’m a lesbian.

This tends to happen at parties. Esmeralda and I have been asked to make-out in front of a group of guys who wanted us to prove we were in a relationship. We declined. At one point later the same night, when Esmeralda slid her hand over my knee as we sat next to each other on the couch, someone we met not fifteen minutes prior exclaimed, “So you really ARE together.”

Shouldn’t me introducing myself as, “Brook, this is my partner, Esmeralda,” be proof enough?

This is a key difference between lesbians and gay men. When a man says he’s gay, he is believed. When a woman says she’s gay, she is doubted. Because, as women (and some of our brothers in Texas will agree), we are helpless creatures when without a man to validate our decisions.

I’ll put it in plain English—I am a lesbian, not an open invitation for your sexual fantasies. I am devoted to one woman. Together we pay bills. We eat a concerning amount of tortilla chips during football season. We argue. We resolve. We are madly in love and love each other madly. We don’t want to be treated like a spectacle. I’m not confused. This isn’t a phase. I don’t need a man to “change me back.”

In a world where sex sells it’s easy to forget that, for billions of people, sexuality is considered a private endeavor that doesn’t want to be dissected in public view. My advice to anyone trying to understand their LGBT co-worker, friend, cousin, but aren’t sure how to begin—think about what you say before you say it. It’s elementary advice that has a profound impact on general respect.

Remind yourself that any person who has to check a minority box battles hopes and fears, struggles and successes, and is another human being sharing the same earth as you. Bridging the gap is as simple as being respectful. Words matter. Be kind. If you wish to atone for analyzing people with the shallow logic needed to equate sexual orientation to human worth, you’ll have to apologize to our faces because sadly, there isn’t a card for every occasion.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Eastern Further Interview

It's hard to describe what it's like to feel profoundly baffled and utterly flattered at the same time. Being interviewed by Eastern Further was one of those moments.

Here's a little taste of what my brain has to say for itself:

Will you describe what your experience with getting your career started has been like?
It’s like playing the game Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey on an obstacle course. I’m blindfolded and have the felt wool tail, my writings, in one hand; the other hand is groping the space in front of me trying to find the donkey, the individual who can make my writing “happen.” I think I’m close to getting my writing in the right hands but then – a mud pit. Then a ten-foot wall. Then monkey bars. Then a swinging rope. Then barbed wire. Then a fire breathing dragon. Then a mariachi band forcing me to drink tequila shots. Not a game for the feeble.

Eastern Further spotlights students and alumni from Eastern Kentucky University and is currently trying to fund a women's leadership scholarship at EKU by growing their network. It's a generous and inspiring effort to say the least.

Read the interview here:

Show your support for Eastern Further by learning more, by reading almuna and student spotlights, and liking them on Facebook: 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Hello, Book, this is Amazon."

Unless you've been frozen in carbonite by a bounty paying slug, you've heard of Amazon. Not only has Amazon dominated the quality products-competitive price model in the Online arena1, they are one of the biggest book sellers in the world.

Three days ago I threw the novel I spent a year taking from concept to completion against the Amazon publishing wall and I'm currently waiting to see how well it sticks.

The Blood Keeper's Prophecy is a Young Adult novel in the head of a sixteen-year-old girl who survived the vampire apocalypse.  The book is the first in the Blood Keeper trilogy, a story straddling a thick dystopian-paranormal line.

For now, it is available on Kindle for $2.99. If you don't have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle reader to your personal computer here:

The Kindle reader app is also available for iPhone/iPad and for Android. Basically, if you're reading this blog post, you have access to Kindle.

The results of the Kindle giveaway were far beyond what I had expected. The Blood Keeper's Prophecy landed #28 in the Top 100 Free on Amazon in the Paranormal/Fantasy category. It hasn't sunk-in that something I wrote is actually sitting on all those Kindle devices around the world. Click here to download your copy: Buy the Books

I'm anxious to know how my self-publishing experiment ends. I'm nauseated, at times, wondering if this will be another sidestep, an inch forward, or a leap forward. I wonder if I have made a mistake, or if there is something I should have been doing differently.

One thing I wouldn't do differently is write it. It doesn't matter who you are, or whether or not you have ambitions of being a writer, you will learn something after sitting down at a keyboard and punching out 100,000 words. You might learn you'd rather eat sandpaper than be a writer, but at least you learned it for yourself. For me, I learned I'm a better writer now than I was a year ago, and as long as I write today, I'll be an even better writer tomorrow.

1. Stores® list of 2012 Top 100 retailers: asdf