As I worked on my thesis last fall, my wife and I decided to have a baby. We spent months reading, making appointments and decisions, tracking my ovulation and doing all sorts of things to (maybe) boost my fertility, saving money, and worrying. In the spring we started trying, expecting the process to take a long time.
I got pregnant on our second insemination. I'm now about half-way through the pregnancy, expecting a new family member around the end of the year. We're thrilled. It's not surprisingly taking up a lot of our time and energy.
While I finished grad school, I still have a full-time day job, which I'll be returning to a few months after this little person is born. I've decided to step away from regular writing for the time being. I'll hopefully revise my second novel, get a publisher for my first novel, and return to writing reviews and short original work in the near future. Thanks for all your support.
The novel's on pause for a bit while I 1) apply to Lambda, 2) finish my thesis (ugh), and 3) apply to be a staff writer for Autostraddle, which is my favorite website basically ever. Who knows if they'll accept me but it's exciting. Not exciting? The theory base of my thesis, which I am avoiding working on at this very minute.
Last summer a good friend of mine was fortunate enough to go to the Lambda Writers' Retreat. She's been encouraging me to apply and I'm going to. I'm going to be working on my application for the next couple of weeks and may be a little extra busy. I'm nervous but excited. Think good thoughts!
I'm a fairly patient person. I am not terrible at waiting. Waiting to hear back about writing I've submitted is part of the job. For a little while I was an editorial intern at a magazine, a job that involved reading through the unsolicited submissions. It was the best thing in the world for making me appreciate editors. Would-be writers sent in submissions that showed they had clearly never read the magazine: historical fiction (which we never published), middle-of-the-road opinion pieces to a liberal magazine, convoluted theories that were impossible to follow. I read through dozens of submissions, finding only one that might fit, and that one was nixed by the editors. It was discouraging to read so much writing that just wouldn't work and I was glad that it wasn't my job to that all the time, let alone try to polish writing that might work but wasn't ready.
So, thank you editors. Your job is frustrating and I'm glad you do it.
That said, I'm waiting a lot right now. I submitted two stories to anthologies this summer, but one of the anthology calls was deleted and the other's date was pushed back so I won't know anything until November. I won't hear about my novel until November. I'm FINALLY working on my thesis but I won't be done with grad school until May. I'm itchy for the next stage but right now it's so much waiting.
What do you do when you're waiting on forces beyond your control?
So, I wrote a novel and submitted it, and I should hear back by November. Which is closer, but still so far away that if I think too much about it I want to tear my hair out. As my hair is beautiful and tearing it out would be wasteful, I am actively avoiding thinking about this.
I'm also working on a new novel, with the working title "Winning." I currently have 27,500 words. I'm aiming for 65,000 to 70,000 words. Considering I started this in mid-August, it's not too shabby. I'm, what, 40% done already? I've had to slow down a little lately but I'm still working it and that's not nothing. I'm aiming to apply to Lambda's retreat this year on this book, finish the first draft before I'm done with grad school (in May!) and then complete the final drafts in the summer.
What I'm not doing? My thesis. Ugh. I need to write it this semester. I absolutely have to get it done by December and am not motivated at all. Grad school is the worst. Never do it.
There are these huge billboards around the Bay right now that read "PORN KILLS LOVE. FIGHT FOR LOVE" and a website. I, of course, looked it up. The design is good and it avoids any political or religious reference, so the articles it posts look more reliable. These articles tell you all the horrible things porn is going to do to you, with citations.
But some of those citations are more than twenty years old, and since these articles frame it largely as internet porn, it's dubious to use sources from a time when the internet was not a given in people's lives. A little more digging shows that the mostly white, mostly male employees and leaders of this organization are also mostly members of LDS. In other words, white Mormon guys are putting up signs all over telling us that porn is going to ruin our relationships and cause rape and other awful things.
I mention this because when I looked at the website, I had a moment of worrying that all these well-done articles were correct. I wondered if maybe this was real, this was science, and perhaps images of sexuality were bad for you. I don't typically look at porn, largely because I don't want awful free stuff that doesn't pay performers and don't feel motivated with my limited finances to pay for better things like CrashPad, but also because my introduction to porn was all the awful stuff and I typically found it unappealing. (Though I loved On Our Backs after I found that). But I still thought, "Oh no, I've ruined my brain with porn." Not to mention all the erotica I read (and write).
Of course, a minute later my skepticism kicked in, thank goodness. The guys making these billboards and writing these articles aren't thinking about queer people really, and their analysis comes from their perspective which is very different from mine. As a queer woman, I've seen my sexuality erased, twisted to make entertaining to men, ridiculed and condemned. For me finding images and stories that affirm my sexuality and my relationships is a relief. Good porn and even more than that good erotica has been incredibly valuable to me.
Sometimes you read a thinkpiece saying everything is completely sexualized, and while that's often true, we also live in a time and place when "PORN KILLS LOVE" is plastered in public spaces and its well-designed site lures readers into fear, making no distinction between exploitative pornography and that created with equity. It was a reminder to me that writing queer sex and love is not frivolous. We have to fight for space to exist, and we have to imagine ourselves in a world that does not imagine us.
I have a project (a book) I've flirted with for half my life. I wrote a draft in high school and had no idea what to do with it, so I put it aside, went to college, and thought about it sometimes. I thought about variations that would make it stronger or more complete. I thought about and wrote snippets and summaries for other ideas that I didn't think of as related but now see are extensions of the same project. A year or two ago I started thinking how I'd put this all together into a finished novel.
I'd planned to start on it this fall but another novel was calling for my attention and I've been working on that instead. It's exciting and pretty fun and very different from the serious magical realist novel I've been thinking about all this time. I made myself a pretty tight schedule to get this one done so I can move on to the novel that's been rattling around in my brain for so long.
But last week I started thinking about other things I wanted to write right now, including short essays and revamping some stories. I want to do a lot of things to reach potential readers who might not pick up a whole novel from an unknown author but will read a short story or essay and then be curious about my book. I also want to get this novel right, which means I need to keep working steadily but not rush.
I'd thought for awhile about putting my weird queer magic realist novel on Wattpad when the time comes. I'm still considering it. But it is so different from my other work and honestly less accessible I realized I should stop thinking about what small press would tolerate it or how it might fare on Wattpad. I decided to think bigger. Maybe I should play with it longer, give it more time and attention than I thought, and eventually send it to an agent. Maybe it's literary fiction waiting to happen and I could try that.
I took some time over the long weekend to think about what I want this to look like, what I want my online presence to be, but unfortunately, I also had to use some of the holiday to work on my fucking thesis. Because I have a pretty demanding job and I'm in grad school, I have to parcel out my energy for other things. Right now, website resign and online branding is ranking lower than other things. Like, for example, actually writing and reading.
What I'm reading right now:
1. Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon. Damn, it's weird. I saw Sonic Youth live just once, when I was turning twenty-six and already felt, ridiculously, too old for things. I was living in Spokane and the venue seemed too small for this band that seemed so iconic, and Kim Gordon had a pink sparkly guitar strap and I was so close to the stage and Cross the Breeze went on and on. Reading this book is making me think a lot about what it means to be a female artist, especially one with a partner and a child. It's thoughtful and interesting and sometimes so random.
2. Love in a Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have to keep stopping. The same thing happened when I read 100 Years of Solitude. My brain gets full, like eating too much rich chocolate.
3. Best Lesbian Erotica 2015 by Laura Antoniou. I'll be reviewing, probably in October.
Things I'm writing:
I'm working on a new novel called Winning, about a woman who gets invited to her ex's wedding and decides to remake her life in order to win the break up. I'm about a third of the way done. Not bad considering I started it in August, though the idea's been rattling around in my head for awhile.
I started out writing for fun a little over a year ago (after many years of writing a variety of things under another name) thinking that I'd just be writing lots of sex. And I definitely wrote some erotica, along with a novel that's erotic romance.
But now I'm writing a new novel. It's a romance too, but I'm finding that it has fewer sex scenes and a different focus. I submitted a couple of erotica stories to anthologies over the summer but I don't know how many more I have in my head at the moment. I'm a big fan of Autostraddle, where I just read some interesting stuff about business, including a link to an article about making work fulfilling beyond a paycheck, as well as a call for writing about relationships between queer women. And I thought, man, I would like to write that. Like, I have things to say about that.
I do want to write hot sex and romance, but I also just want to write about queer things. I feel like I don't really know what to do with Twitter and such because, like, who am I on the internet? Like if I'm an erotica writer I should be a sexy nerd, but I'm actually a busy tired person who wears sweatpants a lot (as well as being a sexy nerd). I think I'm coming up on some revamping, even if I don't know what that will look like yet.
So what's a suitable tagline for a queer femme who writes about queer stuff and sometimes reviews books, writes romance and sex, and would like to be funnier on the internet than she is?
Grad school starts again for me on Tuesday. This time last year, my work life started to fall apart. I worked for someone very unethical, in a terrible environment, but I was good at my job and proud of the work I did in spite of this. I managed for a year. A year in which I was increasingly depressed, but still, I hung in there.
I started thinking about other things I wanted to do during that year, including my long-time dream of writing. I realized in working in that awful place that I wanted most of all to be a writer, to make that my livelihood. So I started working on that, started tackling smaller projects, sketched out a novel that had been in my mind for awhile, and made myself a writing schedule that would allow me to finish my book in one year while I also worked a demanding, draining full-time job (that I hated) and worked on my Master's degree. I even started my novel.
Then in August 2014, my work situation spun out of control. I was depressed but I was also angry that people expected me to accept abuse at my job. I planned to quit and talked to a higher up about it, and was, not surprisingly, offered a transfer. I took it and I still work at the site I transferred to. I love where I work now. There are some deep frustrations and challenges, but I respect my boss, love my coworkers, and think the work I do is interesting and worthwhile.
But changing jobs, plus the emotional toll that the situation took on me, ate up my energy for a long time. I concentrated on getting better and getting a handle on my new job (which is quite different from my old) for months. Plus, I was still in grad school. I stopped writing. I pulled it together, but it was hard.
Eventually I started writing again. I got on my feet at work. I got help and I got better. I got a break from school and finished my novel. Now, coming up on the anniversary of everything falling apart, I feel a little raw. I feel scared. Not because I think my boss will suddenly become my previous boss, but just because things are about to change, and I'm about to start my last year of grad school, and it might all be too much. I finally got into the groove of writing again, of waking up at 6 to write 1000 words before my wife wakes up and we need to start our days. What if I have to stop writing again?
Also, being told all those horrible things I was told, I carried that for a long time. I want to let that go finally. I'm grateful that having a terrible job reminded me that I want to write. I'd like to keep just that--the commitment to writing--without the other baggage being so heavy.
A queer femme, writing romance and smut.