what is grief, if not love

Let me tell you, writing about grief as an intellectual experiment and writing about grief as someone firmly in its clutches are two very different experiences.

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fanfic manifesto

I write, uhhh, a lot of fanfic. I am a fanfic old, if you will. An elder internet millennial. I’ve been here a long time and have had the same one hobby since I dialed up that modem and realized other people felt the same about Mulder and Scully as I did.

I was already an adult when ao3 hit the scene. So while that’s not an all encompassing view of my fandom history, the statistics page there is illuminating. For instance, I have 126 works posted, which seems like a lot until you consider I’ve been scribbling down pretend stories about other people’s characters for nearly 25 years. And yeah, typing that did hurt. My word count is… over two million. Easily.

ANYWAY, I write a lot of fanfic.

It means for the last twenty years or so, I’ve always been working on something. Some story, some idea, some fandom. Always something in the hopper. I realized driving to work this morning that I’ve been writing my current WIP for over a year. Did I mean for it to become a behemoth? No, but it happens. I remember when I started writing it, I was like, why am I even doing this? This is gonna take forever.

With fanfic, your deadlines are kind of your own. You can make yourself a schedule and stick to it or you can post whenever or you can start something and never finish it and because it’s a hobby you do that doesn’t make money, and if people don’t like it, too bad. I’ve always been really good about finishing things and keeping to a schedule of some sort. Once a week. Once a month. Something.

However, I’ve been feeling so guilty about my current WIP because this is the first time I’ve had to juggle my career and my book deadlines AND my fanfic and I bet you can guess which one always gets put on the backburner. It kind of breaks my heart because my fanfic is WHY I have book deadlines in the first place. My fanfic audience who have read my stories devotedly and shared them and reblogged them and talked about them with their friends is why I get to now be published. So I don’t want to abandon something that has been such an enormously large part of my life for so long, but I also want to wholeheartedly go on this new journey. I know that I’ll never stop writing fanfic because I love to do it and because the community is so, so important to me. But I might write it slower and I may write less. And that’s okay.

In conclusion, here are some of the great things I have because of fanfic.

This meme:

These fanarts:

And the time someone had one of my fics bound like a real book and so kindly sent me some copies:

I think the most important lesson I’ve learned from this hobby is that I absolutely have to write what I want to read, even if it’s very specific and niche. My longtime fandom friend mylittleredgirl was on the fanfic maverick podcast talking about her fanfic journey and it was a little like listening to myself because our experiences were so parallel. But she was saying she wrote for an audience of one: herself. I do the same thing. It’s always an extremely happy accident that other people like those stories, but they’ve always been tailored exactly for me and that’s definitely a lesson I can take with me as I move into the publishing world.

I’m gonna write for me, but for a nominal fee, you can read it too. Or, if you’re broke, you can still read two million words of my fanfic for free.

Also, if you think I’m writing this blog post to procrastinate on finishing my next chapter, mind your business!

hashtag icarus

It’s not that I don’t want to achieve my goals, but sometimes it feels like I’ve girl bossed a little too close to the sun when I have too many things up in the air. I can plow through obligations with the best of them, but I can’t do it forever and the recovery is always kind of dicey.

I signed with Ylva Publishing in April, turned in the first draft of my book in the summer and then spent most of this fall working through the editing process. And somewhere in between waiting for edits to come back, I started the second book. Now, the final, final draft has been submitted and it’s a big weight off, but ALSO, the first draft for the second book is due at the end of the year, so now I’m just realizing that I’m always going to be caught up somewhere in this process of writing and deadlines and edits. Maybe in multiple places at the same time! It’s okay, but I’m new at it and so it’s been somewhat of a learning curve, figuring out how to manage it all.

My body knows, too, when I’ve completed something stressful and important because the moment it’s off my plate, my body forces me to take a break. Sleep all day, nurse my joints, survive a migraine. I spent most of yesterday in bed. (Relatedly, I cannot recommend the Starry Eyes Self-Warming eye masks enough for people who get migraines. I use the ice hats a lot, but sometimes you just want something warm and not cold and these are great for naps.) I even gave myself the day off from working out, and I hate to upset my routine, so you know it was ~serious~.

It’s easier to beat myself up about not being perfect at handling a bunch of new responsibilities on the first try, but even I know that’s not productive or a good use of my mental energy. And the truth of the matter is, even though it’s been difficult, I think I did handle it well. I learned a lot about how I need to structure my time and my environment to make progress. I’ve been lucky to have the physical space to work and a partner who has been very supportive of both respecting my time and helping me change my space when I realized my original set up wasn’t working.

I’m a very disciplined person when it comes to work. I’m organized, I’m self-motivated, I’m efficient and so I was suited to take on a side hustle, so to speak, but knowing you can do it and actually doing it are two different things! But now that I’m somewhere between doing it and having done it, I find myself strangely motivated to keep doing it. To do it better. To have some success at it, even! I’ve watched my body slow degrading since I was a teenager and my vague plan about that, besides pretending it’s not happening, has always been to just work until I can’t and then it’s just like a blurry row of questions marks, but now maybe I do have a back up plan? Wild. Next stop, the sun!

I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers

October is the best month. It’s not a debate. FACTS ARE FACTS. I love the fall, I love the Taylor Swift RED aesthetic, and I love being a spooky bog witch. Halloween is my favorite time and I never met a costume I didn’t want to wear.

This October has been lovely so far. Currently I am on a two week vacation that has only just started. Yesterday, I completed the first round of edits on my book and turned it in, which is like an enormous weight off. On Saturday, we had a backyard party for a coworker who is moving out of state and I got to see some of my lovely, fully vaccinated friends that I haven’t seen in person in like two years. We strung lights in the backyard and everyone brought food to share and there were drinks and it was just fully wonderful.

I also got a tattoo to celebrate my love of all things autumnal!

It was done by Kristina Bennett at Sugar City Tattoo Company and she was so nice to work with. I gave her some vague reference photos and said “autumnal floral with a pumpkin” and she knew the vibe exactly.

In a few days, we’re going up to South Lake Tahoe, which I’m excited to say did NOT burn down, so it will be so good to get out of town and decompress. I’m halfway through writing my second book, something I started while waiting for edits on the first one, so hopefully I can make some progress on that.

Anyway, I’m just popping in to say I love, love, love October and I hope you’re having a good fall so far.

Good news, I lived!

That’s part of the chronically ill life. Sometimes my body just needs a break and if I won’t give it one, it’ll find a way to take it anyway.

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Spoons

I have a lot of jobs right now. I don’t know how it happened! I work 40 hours a week as a librarian. That’s the job that pays me. I also am the current president of our union chapter, and believe me, that’s another full time job and it doesn’t pay me. I do it because it’s necessary and believe deeply in the benefits of unionized labor.

Now I’m a writer! I always was, of course, I’ve always written a lot and continuously, but when you have things like contracts and deadlines, it becomes a thing you have to budget into your week instead of a hobby you can pick up whenever the mood strikes.

But my other, other, other job is chronic and one I can’t quit. It’s pain. It’s fatigue. It’s blinding migraines and swollen, tender joints. It’s subluxing ribs and burning hip bursitis and all of the other things that go with a lifelong chronic illness.

If you have ever known anyone with a chronic illness, they’ve talked about their spoons. The Spoon Theory has become widely used slang among us chronically ill folk, but I think of myself more as a phone that will only charge to 50%, say. (50% on a good day.) The phone can do anything that a fully charged phone can do, but not for as long. So then you have to start making choices. What is crucial, what’s important, what can hold when you run out of battery and have to crawl to bed.

I wish that I could write when depleted. I wish that having my laptop in bed didn’t cost energy, but it’s hard to think when you’re exhausted and in pain and you can’t write without thinking, unfortunately. I’ve tried. I write best in the morning when I’m awake and charged and fresh. I end up writing on my days off, early. I end up writing in pockets of time during the day. But by the time the sun sets, I just can’t write anymore. I can’t do chores. I can’t take long walks. I can’t process complex conversations or watch anything complicated or new.

However, I’ve been doing this for a long time and while you never get the hang of it, exactly, you learn how to plan for it. You know that some things are costly and will need recovery days buffered in. For instance, I never have a day of travel and then plan to go to work the next day. I always factor in a day of recovery in between. Since the pandemic, a lot of meetings have gone virtual, and that’s been a life saver for union things. May I never have another in person meeting again!

So, here are my brief spoonie survival tips:

  1. Buffer in rest days
  2. Find the products that work for you: ice packs, heating pads, soft clothes, etc.
  3. Having a buddy or two to keep you company always helps!

The First Draft

It’s about time to turn in the first draft of my first published novel.

It’s a weird thing to write!!! I’ve been thinking about publishing a book since I was, eh, thirteen? But then, you know, things get in the way. Finishing high school, getting into college. I chose English Literature as my major, over Creative Writing because I thought I wanted to be a teacher and wanted a more general degree.

And then, when it was time to go to grad school, I was paying for it myself so I knew I better come out of it with a viable career. I graduated from college at the same time the economy collapsed, so instead of becoming a teacher at a time when teachers everywhere were getting laid off, I went to library school. I just didn’t think a degree in Creative Writing, a field that is notoriously hard to find success in, was a sound financial decision.

It’s not that I ever stopped writing. I’ve been writing consistently since I was a teenager. I started with fanfiction, I wrote original stuff in school, but fanfiction has been my hobby for 20 years. With every story I hit publish on, with every new fandom I dipped my toe into, there was always that thought in the back of my mind that I still had time to writing something original. A novel.

Lately, though, I’d started to put that dream to bed. I work at the library, I know intimately that a lot of books aren’t even very good and yet, getting published is HARD. A lot of it is just knowing the right people, networking, being in the right place at the right time. The rest of it is hustle. Write the damn thing, send it out, get rejected over and over again. It all sounded so difficult while trying to balance a full time job, a marriage, a chronic illness, whatever else life was throwing at me at the time. So I started to shift my thinking away from that. Fanfiction makes me happy. I like to write it and I find the community I’ve built around it to be very fulfilling and I worried that turning my hobby into a hustle might make me like it less, anyway. I was at peace with not being a ~writer~ and I figured that unless something fell directly into my lap, it would just never happen.

Guess what fell directly into my lap?

In a way, it was about networking, about being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people. Fandom is a powerful network. I’ve made so many fandom friends who have become powerful, badass adults. Now I’m on this journey, I guess. I feels like the right step for me now. Maybe I’ll publish a few books and decide it really isn’t for me. Maybe I’ll publish a few books and decide that I love it and I’ll keep going. I can’t wait to find out.

But first, I just have to send in this first draft, real quick.