Monday, March 29, 2010

In Thanks To Amanda Palmer (here we go again)

Disclaimer: More Rage! More Swearing! Lots of it! Heads up!
The sick thing is, this is not the post I was writing. I was about to write a post about positive thinking, when I found this. Because I found this when following a link, because someone had posted a link to this blog on another site and not told me, and I just stumbled on it accidentally, and was so damn excited omg you guys! Because that is still really cool, when it happens. And then. This. and I really. I don't know what to think. And I am angry. So. I'm writing a letter. Because that is what I do when I get angry. She won't read it, and I don't care. I just want to be able to be clear. I just want the distracting rage to dissipate so that I can think like a normal human person again.

I would also like to apologize in advance for any form of RACE!FAIL I am about to commit. I am a white person living in predominantly white area. Pretty much all I know of racism is that it is wrong, and that there is a whole lot about it that I don't know about. I can, however, point you in the direction of people who say it much better, (and probably more succinctly) than I. Any corrections or additions I need to make, please feel free to mention them in the comments - I like to learn things. So. Here are people smarter and more articulate and knowledgeable explaining and extolling on this latest WTF-ery.

In addition, I almost didn't post this. Because I knew it would degenerate into all the many reasons I am angry, and what the fuck is so wrong with Amanda Palmer, and not just focus on what needs to be focused on right now. And it did, a little. Stuff spins around in my head sometimes, and this is what happens to it. Feel free to help yourself to some rage, and we'll play some catch-up. 'Cause on top of THAT, there was this:
and of course THIS:
And it's just. Exhausting. So now, you get to hear what I think. Yay.

Dear Amanda Palmer,
I would like to thank you. I would like to thank you because I hate you. I have never truly hated another human being. My hatred has always been tinged with self-pity, or a sense of despair. I never believed it was truly possible to hate someone so purely and venomously, and I never approved of hating someone you didn't know. I still don't approve. I am actually very conflicted about all this. But I understand, now, how it can happen. I hate you. I want nothing but horrible and terrible things for you. And I'm very sorry for that. I dislike what that makes me. I dislike that I feel this way. And that is why I am grateful to you, too, because, as much as it is knowledge I wish I didn't have, it is knowledge. It is knowledge that tells me that I must find a way to centre myself and calm down and not be prejudiced towards you, however you might deserve it. Because as much as I believe you know exactly the shit-pot you are stirring, I don't think many of your fans know, or know how they are helping you. And I cannot help to explain that to people if I am coming from a place of absolute hate. So, I apologize for my mindless, shrieking rage. I am doing my best. Not for your sake, but for the sake of the people who admire you, and for the sake of my own happiness and sense of myself. Because I really, really like the me that doesn't hate people, and doesn't spout mindless hate propaganda for the sake of getting attention or being 'interesting.'

Firstly, so you're aware, Amanda, you don't get to throw around words like 'metaphor' and 'irony' squeezed in with, racist or ableist or sexist statements. You certainly don't get to think that those are 'art' words, and thus, everything you say when you put those words in is about art, and therefore only has value in the most abstract terms, and should not be taken out of context to mean, oh, say, what you think about various marginalized groups or the treatment of these marginalized groups by... people like you. Who are not part of them. You just don't get to do that. Because you live in a world where you had the opportunity to do a great many things with your life, and what you chose to do is put yourself out into the world, and be seen, and admired, and most especially to be seen and admired by people who are maybe a little bit weird, and a little bit misfit. You chose to speak up in ways and about things that other people wouldn't, couldn't, or didn't. And you enjoy that. And that's okay. Having that job and liking that job, and even succeeding at that job, are not bad things. But you're not allowed to only bear the responsibility of the parts of that you like.

Please don't misunderstand me. It makes me sick to my stomach when I see a famous person who has really been screwed up, and people won't leave zir alone. Or a famous person, say, taking zir kids out for a walk who gets into trouble while protecting zir kids, and people who are not celebrities go, "Oh well, they shouldn't have got famous if they didn't want that to happen." I despise that. It's tantamount to, "She shouldn't have been wearing that in that neighborhood, it's no wonder she got raped," or, "Listen, if you don't want people to see you as your disability, you should stop expecting special treatment." That's not what I'm saying. That's not what you did. You have made a career out of getting attention by shocking and startling people with your 'honesty.' and that also turns my stomach, because it becomes clearer and clearer to me that you did that purely so that now you can say this crap and people will go, "Of course she's going to say it. She's Amanda Palmer. She's just weird. She's different. Everyone knows she's not racist." No. You know what? You're not weird. You're not special. You're not unique or edgy. And, shocker, not everybody knows or cares anything about you, except when they have to care because you add to the crap they have to put up with. You are doing the exact same thing people have been doing for centuries, when you participate, even in a small way, in the marginalization or outright hatred of a group of people who suffer at the hands of another group. So for all that you're trying to be edgy and different, you are just like everyone else. You are just a typical racist in denial.

And it's gross, because as much as I hate it, because I hate you, and now I have to spend energy thinking about this, and getting a nasty case of the rages, you have value. You have value to a good many people, and there are people who will defend the nonsense you say purely because you said it. People who are willing to forgive you because you helped them. So you're teaching them that it's okay to only think about themselves, and how they have been hurt. Which will not only continue an escalating cycle of hate, but will actually isolate those people from other people who have also felt the sting of some kind of marginalization because it's either them, or it's me. And Amanda said it's okay if it's them. You wanted people to listen to you, but you don't want the things you say to be taken at face value? What's even worse is that you have alienated your fans with this ridiculous noise, and you don't care. You have styled yourself to speak for the 'misunderstood masses', and then, carefully and methodically, pointed out which misunderstood masses you don't care about. Only, of course, when you absolutely had to. Because product placement is the devil, but asking people to buy a CD because you're totally a voice for the people... (just not those people) Now that has artistic merit.

Then I hate you again, for being ungrateful and spoiled enough that it doesn't matter. It matters to me, even when I can do small things, contribute to a discussion, or inspire someone to do the same. And it will matter to me, if I happen to hurt someone with this post, in my clueless and bumbling way. I know, Amanda, I know. You have a great deal more fans than I have readers. You have more people on either side, and I get that it's important not to compromise who you are and what you want to say for the sake of people who may not like it. I really do understand that, artist to artist. But what you have done is absolute cowardice. If you had said something like that, and then said, "Okay, my bad. Supporting the KKK is racist, and I shouldn't have said that," instead of, "Lookit who ELSE is doing it, so there!" If there had been any kind of humility, we could walk away. Shaking our heads, yes, but still. If you had said, "I'm sorry for the people who don't like it, but I truly believe it's better to support/comparable to supporting things like the KKK when you support Big Nasty Corporations," at least then, people would know where you stood. We'd still call you racist, and we'd still hate you, but we wouldn't have to listen to you, or the legions of mindless masses who follow you going, "Oh, come on, I didn't mean it that way!" Because, and here's the important thing I think you really need to understand: You don't get to decide what it means, when you say something like that because it means nothing to you. You know the power of your words. You know exactly what you're doing, and exactly how vague to be to get away with your nonsense. But it means what it means. It means what it means to people who have a stake in that kind of talk. And just because you don't, doesn't mean you get to use words like 'irony' and 'metaphor' to mean "That's not what I meant" whenever it suits you. It just means you should be listening to those people who do have a stake in it. And how you can just decide not to care about an entire group(s) of people who may care about you, either because they truly admire you, or because they have to pay for the damage you cause when you open your mouth, that, Amanda Palmer, is revolting, childish and cowardly. Especially when the exact second you decide you don't care is when you realize you may have taken things a step too far, and are forced to be something other than ARTIST, for once.

And by the way, words like 'irony' have real meanings too. Where you find the irony in giving money to a group of people who would gladly see large portions of the population meticulously, viciously, and publicly killed, I would really like to know. That's not ironic. That's not even cruel irony. Y'know what is, though? There are people in this world who spent money on you, so that you could get the stuff you have now, (and you already said you're not ashamed to take their money) so that you could have the following and the opportunities and the ability to say this shit and have people not think you're a disgusting racist. There are people in this world who thought you were worth defending. And they are now being slapped in the face with the realization that someone they looked up to and supported doesn't give a flying fuck about people like them. They cared about you, and you delight in reminding them they were suckers. If they disagree with you, it's because they're outside of you, they are not of you, and you weren't talking to them, anyway. You don't have to care about them. You have the right to hurt people, to encourage the hurt of people, and it's okay, because if the words are 'ironic' and 'metaphorical', so's the hurt. Right? You're not actually racist, (and people should know that, omg, and if they don't, it's so not your fault,) so you can give money in support of racism and that's irony. I'm sure, in your own head, it's a totally ironic support of racism. But, y'know that thing, about the tree falling in the forest? If a person who isn't racist gives money to someone who uses it to support their violent racist agenda, does the violence still hurt someone?

It's not like you don't fucking know what they are, or what they do. It's not like you don't know that people listen to you when you talk. I mean, that's the whole point, isn't it? Racism or any other kind of ism is not like your gender identity, sexuality, or sense of personal space. You don't get to self-identify. Your actions and your attitudes speak for you. And you have made a point to try and nullify your actions, not by apologizing, or attempting to do better, but by saying you have a right to say this, because people who have a problem with it don't know what it means! I'm white. I'm a person with a disability. I make fun of my disability. Because it's not a bad thing, to be in this body, not all the time. And sometimes, weird stuff happens to me, or around me, purely because I was born in this body. And sometimes, I have to find that shit funny, or I might possibly go mad. So sometimes, I forget myself. I make fun of my friends, the same way I make fun of me, because they know me, and I know them, and life is funny. I say or do things, jokingly, or unknowingly, and after, someone pulls me aside and says something like, "That was racist back there. There's stuff you don't know, there's stuff you don't understand, there's stuff that isn't yours to claim." And I feel horrible about it. Because I'm  not so up on the socialization skills, and I need people to tell me some things. Sometimes, I don't get an opportunity to apologize. And when I can't apologize, I can only promise myself to do better, and keep trying. I didn't always do that, but I do now, because I had people stopping me to tell me that it is the right thing to do.

You have people asking you to do better. And some of them even believe you can. And you're saying no. Not only are you saying no, but you insult their intelligence while you're at it. Which is a bit much for someone who doesn't know the meaning of the words she uses as a get-out-of-jail-free card. The KKK is not ironic. They don't kill each other or themselves and take pictures to comment on the irony of it all. They kill other people because they hate otherness. Nothing ironic. They just hate. Because they can. And I don't care that you've never actually given money to the KKK (If you haven't, that is, I really don't want to know what you do with your ill-gotten gains) and I don't care if you didn't actually mean that other people do, or that they should. All I care about is that you said it. You said it, and you defended it after you'd said it, and now people will defend you for saying it because oh, you've just been picked on so much lately, haven't you? And then they will say it, and defend themselves, and each other, because you said it. And you're important. And agreeing with you means you're on their side. And they are one of you, and that's what they want. And it was wrong to say, not only because it's not funny, it's racist, or because it hurt people, but because the mere fact that you said something you knew was going to be hurtful, again, and you act like you don't care that it was, that that's what you meant to do, again makes me wonder if even you know what you really meant by it.

I had the unfortunate task of explaining privilege, and lack of it, to someone, a few weeks ago. She is physically disabled, and believes what she is taught to believe, that it is in her best interests to let people do things for her, and think what they will of her, regardless if what they're doing actually helps her, or if their assessment of her is accurate. So I really had to go over things with her, and at one point, she said, "Why bother explaining things to people? Why bother forcing them to think a certain way, or try to change them? They probably won't care." And I was flabbergasted. So I said that the truth is, most of them do care, but they make mistakes, they do what they're taught and what they're told to do, and they think it must be right, because otherwise, why would so many people do it? And, from my own experience, I want to know when I'm being a jackass. And most of the people I have met, who treat me this or that way because of my disability, are deeply relieved when I tell them they are doing wrong. Because then I tell them how to do right. And there are some people I know who are still stubbornly ableist in some way, and still say that I am 'different' from other people with disabilities, or that I 'think about it too much' etc. But they are fewer. Because people don't want to be that kind of asshole. For the most part.

Only now, I don't know if I believe that. And by the way, I blame you for that unwanted knowledge too. So, thanks.

In Sincerity and Anger,
Another Judgmental Person With No Sense Of Humor Who Doesn't Get You

There. I feel better now. Moving right along.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

For All That They Deceive...

Looks are important. I have been contemplating Hannah's appearance.

As I mentioned before, Hannah's original intention was to be frightening and jarring-looking. We crafted her to be ghostly pale, with implausibly dark hair and neon green eyes. And I literally mean neon. We coloured it with a highlighter. I'm not sure, now, why we did it that way, put that particular brand of nonsense into it, but my cousin had a flair for the dramatic, and I suppose I wanted to be able to get a clear picture, to make her as unmistakable as possible. The point is, Hannah looks the way she looks. It's not subtle, or simple, and she's certainly memorable. But. There's a plausibility factor. I have, actually, come up with  an imperfect backstory to explain at least part of the mystery, but I'm not sure if it's good enough to work with at this point. There are a lot of things that were left in the ether on earlier drafts, to save time, to save space, to hurry up and get on with the good bits. It's not good enough, now, as I approach the project with a shrewd editor's eye I simply didn't have at eighteen, for version two, and certainly couldn't have dreamed of at fourteen, when it was an accomplishment just to have gotten to the end of the story. (Which, in actual fact, turned out not to be the end, or even close to it. More on that later.) Anyway, the point is, she doesn't look right. She doesn't look real. She doesn't look as if she fits into the world in which she inhabits. And I... can't decide how I feel about that.

At this point, certain aspects, like Hannah's appearance, seem utterly insurmountable. I don't think I could change her appearance, should I decide I needed to, which is another part of the reason I am self-publishing. Once, years ago, I was in a writing class where I wrote a family film about a girl with a crush on a boy she doesn't end up with, in the end. I liked the idea, that the point of the story is that sometimes, you don't get what you want, you get something better, and learn lessons about wanting the wrong thing. My writing teacher, however, said that people 'expected' to see the leading lady get her man, and I had to make it happen. I absolutely refused to change the ending, and ended up reworking the original story so that my ending fit better. The script wound up better, in the end, so I suppose I should thank him. And I now know that, popular or not, I have the ability to change the story to suit my vision for what it is and what it means, rather than change the vision itself to make it more 'readable'. I like that. The only thing is, Hannah's appearance isn't really an integral plot point, and I'm not always sure it sends a particular message, or at least, that's not what it was designed to do. And I don't want to have to change the original story to make up for my desire to see her in a certain way, and my affection for the character the way she is. (You see kids, Mary Sue isn't the problem. bad writing is bad writing.) So. I don't know.

On the other hand, Hannah's looks were not designed to say anything integral to the plot or fit with the themes of power and responsibility and family et al, that I have going in the story. But they are beginning to. Hannah's looks set her apart and make her memorable, because they are implausible, because she doesn't look real, because she looks like what she is, she looks different. People make wrong assumptions about her, based on how she looks, even as young as her infancy, because it is that unmistakable. It's funny, isn't it, what we base on looks? I don't just mean the obvious stuff, but it's funny to me, that although most of us are born into a certain look and do precious little to change it, it is acceptable to wander around believing everybody looks the way they do on purpose, and make our assumptions from there.

I have a friend who calorie-counts and exercises to excess. In the interest of full disclosure, I despise the whole notion of weight loss. If it's going to come off, it will come off, barring that you don't have some kind of food addictions or blood sugar issue or Pika, etc, which you genuinely need to see a doctor about. Having said that, this is not a judgment on the person in question, only an example of the kind of weird connections people can make. Once upon a time, she was 'overweight.' Now, when she sees an 'overweight' person, she looks down her nose at zir. She feels that she has earned this right, as someone who worked to make herself into something else. She feels she has the right to see fat and think lazy, if she wants to, because she has worked so hard. She also feels she has the right to obsess to the point of a frustrating amount of vapidity, over her appearance, because she is no longer one of those people who don't take pride in her appearance. Do you see where the connections are made? Fat people are lazy, because thin people are motivated. People who get positive reinforcement for looking a certain way have obviously achieved something to be proud of, because everyone is proud of them. Therefore, fat people also must have low self-esteem, because if they didn't have low self-esteem, they would want to be something other than what they are now. Head-scratcher, right? Here's another one: I am a thin person. Therefore, in the eyes of many, I am a picture of health, and also, fairly attractive (as in, not ugly. as in, a potential.) Yet I have had my gender and sexual identity questioned because quite frankly, I don't give a care how interested in me you are, I will not make myself available, and by the way I am thin because I had a heart condition and  parts of me have almost zero muscle mass, not because I am healthy or self-disciplined, you idiot. Let us recap: If a woman or a girl is pretty it's because she wants you to like her; if she's less-than, it's because she doesn't feel that you could like her. If a woman dresses "like a boy" it's because she doesn't understand, or won't accept that she is not a boy, is not allowed to be like a boy, or is still in the state of trying to prove herself. If a woman dresses "like a girl" she is probably vapid and shallow and old-fashioned and sexist. If she looks like something that it turns out she is not, it is not because your assumptions are wrong, it is because she is putting off the wrong image.

Hannah's appearance was not designed to spark political discussions, and I didn't mean for this to turn into that in order to justify my own stubbornness. It's not going to end up as part of the plot of the book. This is actually the stuff that goes on in my head. (Scary, isn't it?) But the thing is, Hannah's appearance, implausible, impossible, and unsettling as it is meant to be, does have something to say about who she is, and why she is the way she is, in my little universe. It says that people are wrong, and that Hannah has had to understand the inherent wrongness of people from an early age. In the first book, this book, she is only eight. People are frightened of her power and her strength, but they are even moreso, because they feel they know what she would use it for. People feel that she is sinister largely based on the fact that she looks sinister, and offers no explanation for that. And that is important to the plot. So, where does that leave us?

My dearest love is a transboy (he insists I refer to him in that way, as a boy, not a man). He is a marvel, and a large part of the reason I am writing, this blog, or much of anything some days. And one day, he asked me how it was possible I understood his struggles so well. And I told him, truthfully, that I don't know much. But I know what it is to look in the mirror and be sharply aware that what people see, when they look at me, is what they have to get over to get to the real me. And that, unfair as it is, it is expected and accepted that it's my job to make sure they do see the real me. When I was fourteen, I did not understand why Hannah had the appearance she did, but I was acutely aware of the reactions it would get her, even then, even as I skated casually over them to get to the story. More than that, I felt I could skate over them, largely because, I think, they were such a part of my own life, I expected that people would know, of course people think these things, assume these things, because of how she looks. So I don't want it in there, because I'm afraid I'm wrong, I'd be hitting people over the head with things, and it makes the whole thing too simple to be real. It's not symbolic of anything, she looks weird, and that's enough to treat her like an oddity. But I want to keep it in there because that is how it happens, whether we're aware of it or not. It really is that simple.

What to do, what to do? Change it entirely, or leave it the way it is? Mute it a little and make it subtle, or heighten it and really drive it home? Advice?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oh, Mary, Mary

Okay, I'm sorry. I was gonna hold this one off. Really, I was. But the thing is, if I don't get it out now, a whole bunch of other stuff I want to tell you about what I'm writing and why and how the journey is going is not going to make sense. I didn't want to make this post, because it involves more Twilight bashing, and also because it involves a lot of Really Unpopular Opinions About Writing. So before I alienate all of my BRAND NEW READERS (oh my gosh people are reading my stuff! oh my gosh people are commenting! holycrow people want other people to read my stuff! *squee*) I would like to say, to those of you who have added me to your blogrolls, or commented, or are just lurking around, Hello! and Thank you! It's pretty awesome that this blog is being discovered by so many people in its very, very youthful state. Possibly I don't suck at this marketing thing nearly as much as I thought I did, which is heartening. Keep the comments coming! And while I have you, how do I comment on all the awesome comments I've been getting? Because I'm really all *cherishes comments* about it, and I'd like to know how to do that, but I'm a total blogspot newbie. Help?

Now, on to the alienation.

For those of you who don't know, that is apparently the Universal Mary Sue Litmus test. My apologies to the person who wrote the test, but it is the most ridiculous thing you will ever do with ten minutes. And here's why. Watch me, I'm about to blow your mind:  

Mary-Sue is a myth. She was invented by fanfic readers to scare - er, that is, discourage - writers from putting OCs (most particularly OCs meant to be reflections of the authors themselves) into fanfics when all the readers wanted to do was read about their favorite characters. She has morphed and mutated to basically mean any character any reviewer or commenter doesn't like. Want proof? I want you to do three things for me.

1. Run the test with a fictional character you created and have a particular attachment to.
2. Have someone you know run you through the test, as if you were a character they created.
3. Run the test through with one of the following characters, depending on which fandom you hail from, or, if you're so inclined, try all of them:
Harry Potter. Luke Skywalker. Edward Cullen. Dr. Who. Superman. (I chose boys for a reason, you'll see in a sec.)

See that? Amazing, isn't it? FYI, Hannah scores between 39-45, depending on how generous I am being, and which novel I am testing her on. I scored around 28. Probably would have got higher, but apparently, being inherently flawed like having a disability for no reason, and being asexual and getting no action at all means you are less than Ideal Character, and therefore, less Sue-ish. Aside from making me grumble, this is actually problematic, as, when I write characters with disabilities, I am basing many of the experiences and feelings on my own, so, would that make it more Sue-ish? Or does the natural bad of having a disability cancel that out? And if I want to write an extremely likeable asexual, or an asexual who has to fend off the boys/girls, is that wish fulfillment? Because, trust me, it's not something I want, but it has, on occasion, happened.

Sorry. I'm really not here to pick, on the test, or the author of the test, who I'm sure felt that zie was doing a very good thing, clearing all this up. But the thing is, a shocking number of those questions are geared specifically towards female characters. And they are amazingly stupid and inane questions, too. Like, "if your character is a girl, does she have a boy's name?", "if your character is a girl, does she have to prove she's 'just as good as the guys'?", "if your character is a girl, does she have 'rebellious princess' syndrome?" In other words, kids, if your character is a girl, she is more likely to fail this test. I pointed this out to someone once, who responded with, "It's written that way, because Mary Sues are mostly girls. There aren't that many Gary Stus." Which brings me to experiment #3.

When I tested Harry Potter, he scored about 116. When I tested Edward Cullen, he scored about 129. When I tested Luke Skywalker, I stopped halfway through from giggling. (He eventually scored an impressive 149) You get the point. This is incredible for several reasons. Firstly, almost everyone you know knows, or knows of, one of these characters. Most of the people I know, know all of them. These characters are from best-sellers and well-loved stories. Secondly, is the fact that they are all male, and many of them were written by men. Thirdly, Star Wars was written in the 70s, Harry Potter began in the 90s, Twilight in early 21st century, and apparently, the original Dr. Who was written  in the 60s and holds the record for the longest-running sci-fi series of all time. (I didn't test the Doctor, but I know people who did; he scores around 102.) Which means, to those of you playing along at home, Gary Stus are everywhere AND WE LOVE THEM! In fact, they are probably a large part of the reason many of us are writing today. And, I would hope, a large part of the reason there are so many Mary Sues. Why let the boys have all the fun? Finally, and most importantly, for those of you ready to remind me, "Well, yeah, but those are good writers." I would like to say two things. Firstly, no, they are not all good writers. George Lucas has been telling the same story for 40 years. It's getting really effing old, dude, seriously. And oh, Stephanie Meyer, please do not think that because you led us all on for three books that the fourth one required absolutely no plot at all. Secondly, none of those best-selling authors had (well, actually, I don't know Dr. Who from a hole in the ground, so one of them might have) written anything major up until that point. George Lucas was a budding film student, Stephanie Meyer was raising three children, and we all know the meta-myth of J.K Rowling. They had no way of knowing, not even the capacity to dream, what they were about to unleash onto the world.

Here's the thing: I think everyone should write. I don't force writing on people, I'm not one of those "you're an artist or you're nobody." people. But I think everyone should be in the practice of telling stories. We should tell stories, early and often. We should tell stories about the people we are, the people we know, the people we wish we knew, the people we dream would exist some day, and the people we want most in the world to grow into. We shouldn't tell stories to be realistic, we should tell them to be honest. We should tell stories because they are fun, because that's what makes our lives better, because deep down inside, we believe we really are that special, that beautiful, and worth the kind of struggle worth writing about. Because even if you don't believe it, when you write it down, when you can make it work, make it fit into a story, it starts to make sense. And then you will believe it. Mostly, though, we should tell stories because we exist, and we are not alone.

There's a reason I wanted people to run themselves through the test, too. People who yell Mary-Sue at your original fiction, and even at your fanfic or RPG, want you to believe you are alone. They want you to believe no one is interested in what you have to say, or your perspective. Because everybody else thinks differently. They want you to believe, that if you tell your story, that everyone will know, instinctively, that it's you, and you will be punished severely. Because yes, beautiful, incredible, wonderful, tragic, unimaginable things can happen. But they won't happen to you. They won't happen to anyone like you, and you can't imagine yourself a better person, smarter, prettier, more likable, more lovable, more talented or stronger, either. Because you are not any of those things, and you probably never will be, and it's absolute arrogance to assume that could change. I asked, in this post, for readers to run themselves through the test because I wanted you to see that unless you have really bad friends, or incredibly low self-esteem, don't find yourself particularly well-liked, likable, talented, smart, unique, good-looking, well-mannered, good-tempered, basically, unless you or your friends find you a totally boring, generic, bland, and in some cases, downright detestable human being, you're probably going to score pretty high. You probably won't reach kill it dead, you have no magical powers, and unless your friend has a huge crush on you, zie is probably not extolling on your beauty at this moment. But, I mean, you would have to dislike yourself or distort yourself quite a bit to get a low score, and if you got a low score, you may need to get some better friends. Which means, in order for your characters to pass, you have to make them as forgettable as humanly possible, especially, as the test decrees, if your character is a girl. And, even more frightening, in order for you to be someone people want to read about, you have to make yourself as bland and forgettable as possible. If you're female. Because that, apparently, is what makes good writing.

I don't mean to generalize. Some of you probably passed the test with flying colours, and some of your characters probably did likewise. Hats off to you. Some of these points really are overused cliches. And some characters are actually really annoying. But let me tell you a little story about my girl.

I am not responding to the fact that Hannah scored poorly on the test. I'm actually really pleased. 45 is pretty much best-seller territory, as long as I use a pseudonym and choose a different title. I designed her to be a Mary-Sue. At the time, of course, I had only the vaguest notion of what a Mary-Sue is. I only remember looking at the drawing and thinking, "No. I want to make her younger, I want her to scare people, and I want to make her powerful." In this body, power is difficult to define, and even more difficult to express. I wanted her kind of powers, the powers to move things she couldn't move physically, with the power of her mind, which is sharp and clever and sarcastic. The power to get inside people, to understand why they thought the things they thought about her, and the power to recall and remember things the way she does, so she could know every important moment in her life, zero in on it like she's seeing herself under a microscope. I wanted to be different and special, like Hannah was different and special. I wanted to look the way I felt inside, odd, out of place, and a little bit someone to be wary of. And, to be honest, I didn't want to be disabled. I was at a time in my life where I was afraid to write about people with disabilities, because I live in a small town, and in many cases, I was considered "the girl with cerebral palsy." So Hannah is physically normal, but improved. Because whenever I did write based on my own experiences, it didn't matter what the disability was. I wrote about a blind person, a person in a chair, a person with canes, and still, there were sidelong glances, 'mmhmms' and amused half-smiles, softened by pity-tinged eyes. It didn't matter what else was going on, I was a person with a disability, and that's all I was. So I wrote about someone who wasn't. I wrote about power and presence that had never been ascribed to me. And I slipped by, unrecognizable. You see, it's not that nobody wants to read about someone who is supposed to be perfect, although I'm sure, it started out that way. It's that nobody wants to read about you. The internet is not kind. Your friends know you are inherently awesome, so your friends take the test, and you score high. However, strangers assume any scrap of confidence you got, any positivity in your identity, as a girl or a women, is accidental or imagined.

When Rowling was about to publish her book, she was told to change her name. She was advised that boys wouldn't read a book by a woman, even if the protagonist was a boy. Which is why her first fan letter is addressed Dear Sir. When I set out to start on The Damn Vampire Novel (sorry, I'm not ready to talk about that yet.), I asked everyone at the NaNo boards what their take on the current crop of vampire novels was, what they were doing wrong, specifically, and if it was simply vampire purists vs teenage romantic vampire lovers. I was concerned, because my vampires are a far cry from Edward Cullen, but I am no expert either. One response stood out to me. He said, essentially, that he didn't like to read vampire books written by women, because women had some weird sexual issues involving vampires he didn't like to think about, so he just steered clear of all of that, and if I had to say my vampire novel was different, it probably wasn't. And in film school, they teach you that no matter what you are writing, you should be trying to appeal to men, ages 18-35, because that's any movie's most profitable audience. It took years before I realized that's not who is watching movies. That's who is making movies.

I said, before, that a certain insidious type of ablism involves telling our stories for us, which means, in reality, that we no longer have that job. Eventually, that means someone is telling our stories to us. Thus, we believe them, subscribe to them, and the cycle continues. There's a matching kind of sexism too. Think about it. They have taken bad writing and given it characterization. They have given it a name. A girl's name. Not because they're sexist. But because that's something girls do. Girls write about girls. They write about strength that real girls don't have. They write about individuality real girls don't have. They write about girls who are comfortable with their body and their sexuality, girls who are wanted, and have the power to turn a boy down, or the ability to say yes and still maintain their sense of self. They write about girls to whom bad things happen, a lot, who still manage to be good people, in spite of that. They write about girls who overcome their surroundings. They write about girls with power, and girls who grow into women who other people aspire to be like, and girls who get the boys everybody wants to have, and girls who make people sometimes uncomfortable with their inherent awesomeness. And that is not good writing because it doesn't happen that way.

I want your Mary-Sue. I want to read fanfic with original characters again, because that's what started me writing my own, and that's what started a lot of my friends writing, period. I want to read books about girls and women like you, whoever you are, or like me. I want to know you, and I want to know that you want to know me. I love meeting new people. Because if we could call bad writing what it is, we could turn writers into good writers, and I love helping people who maybe aren't strong writers yet, but have big feelings and big dreams and good feelings about themselves, and love their characters and treat them like family and have them over for lunch every now and again. I want to write like I'm good enough to get away with writing whatever I want, and I want everyone else to do the same. I want your Mary-Sue, and I'm pretty sure you want her, too. I mean, I may be a disabled, asexual, pagan, feminist, neurosis-ridden writer. Still.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. Not completely, anyway.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Le Shame

Let's get honest. It's March 16th and I... well. I've written a grand total of around 10 pages. FAIL. RL stuff is kicking me in the butt, and life is getting exhausting. I have faith, though. I'm going to hit my stride somewhere in the next week, and maybe even be able to make up for some of the lost time. Or, at any rate, stop losing it. Ugh. I think I'm just getting old. RL never used to be so busy. I used to have the time to sit down and focus.

I am blaming it on the music. I am of the breed of writer who needs music to write. And the playlist I picked out isn't fitting what I'm writing. Or maybe it's because it's spring. A funny thing happens every spring. Stuff wakes up and lilacs come out and all that jazz, and I get new ideas. Lots and lots and lots of shiny, new, distracting ideas. It's very inconvenient. Also, ten years ago, I didn't have a job. Also, do you know how hard it is to self-publish? Holycrow.

So yeah. The thing is, I'm not off to a good start. I mean, I've started, so there's that. I think - I hope - that I can still make the deadline. Thinking like a businessperson is pretty heavy stuff, not something I'm used to, and I'm hoping now that I have things down a bit (did you know 10 pages on googledocs is actually 20 pages when properly formatted? Yes! Did you know the original Hannah document is 200 pages, and that's without proper formatting? Crap.), I can stop distracting myself and get down to business. I've also noticed some amazing parallels between me at fourteen, and my politics and what I was writing, and what I am writing now, and how that reflects the way I still feel. More on that later.

For now, hanging head in shame, and keeping it down to get some work done.

xfingers for me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Call To The Heathens. er.

Sorry. We don't do heaven and hell where I'm from. ;)

Feeling blah. You know that sinking feeling you feel when you realize you may have put your faith in the wrong person? I got that. Only it's not someone I could give a good swat upside the head and tell them to smarten up. It's just I am realizing I am admiring people who maybe, not necessarily don't deserve it, but deserve it less than I thought they did. I admire people because I see parts of myself in them, watch them succeed, and feel optimistic. And then I find out that in fact, we don't share all that much, or they don't like those parts of themselves. And that makes me feel duped. And also, disappointed. And, maybe a little bit lonely. So, I'm a bit morose today, but it really has me thinking about something.

Thanks little-miss-sunshine, for your tireless efforts on my behalf. I am always happy to provide distraction. The search continues. But for now, I would like to discuss a different search, for something else entirely.

Disclaimer: If you are a Twi-hard fan, and you feel you cannot take even one more minute of Twilight-bashing today, lest it provoke in you nonsensical rage that is defensive to the point of reducing you to irrational shrieking, it might be safer for you to skip this post. If, conversely, you are just one of those bitter, jaded haters who want to watch Stephenie Meyer/Robert Pattinson/Bella Swan/Fill In Unidentified Twilight Problem, get dragged through the mud, spit on, eaten and then puked out, I must ask you to also skip this post. I don't drink that koolaid. I much prefer serious discussions and constructive criticism. 

So. Part of this project is writing, but another part is publishing, and one of the things I am terrible at, is marketing myself. I get all stammery. So I've been looking up places to market my book, once it's published. And I came across this:

Have you been here? It's awesome. I'm sure I haven't even combed all its uses yet. Chiefly, I like how it promotes self-published and POD authors, and also, how you can find books you want, and they'll find you other, completely obscure books you might like, that you have never heard of, and tell you where to get them. Now, Hannah is a sci-fi, or as sci-fi as I'm willing to get (I hate hardcore genre purists. I cannot do one genre. I am not that dedicated to one way of thinking. I'm sorry)  so I got a little off topic, but where it asks you to list your favorite books, I did, and wound up looking through the list of fairytales and supernatural stories (totally counts. Hannah is a supernatural novel. nyeh.) And. Well.

As I've just stated, I am not one of those people who dump on Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight Saga (saga, really?) just because, hey, it's Sunday and I don't have anything to write. Because of that, I'm going to do my best to stay away from the GAPING PLOTHOLES and the general anti-female, anti-girl, anti-woman attitudes in the book (Be ye warned, Twilight fans, I cannot guarantee that I will never discuss my many and varied issues with the books, just that I promise not to do it now.) But I am a little annoyed with Meyer, because I feel she has taken something that is very precious to me. Here's the thing; There is nothing I love more than a good fairytale. A good fairytale for adults is really hard to find. Gregory Maguire does it, and Neil Gaiman does it (I don't read that much of him though, so I really can't say anything there.) Everything else is either published by a Harlequin imprint or... well. Or it's for young adults. And it looks, sounds, feels, tastes and smells exactly like Twilight. Which, I'm sorry, reads like a Harlequin, but without the naughty bits.

I suppose I shouldn't say that. Carrie Jones' Need reads like Twilight without all the gender-bias problems. House of Night from P.C. and Kristen Cast, reads more like Twilight if someone had gotten to Bella, and she'd met Edward after she'd been turned into a vampire (there's less anti-girl in that one too, though just as much boy-obsessive angst, wtf?), and if I read another review of a book that says, "Twilight Fans will love it!" I am going to vomit, for real. I will literally look that reviewer up and drive to zir house, just so I can throw up on the right pair of too-expensive shoes.

Yes, I know. Now, more than ever, books have to capitalize. They have to make money, they have to be six-figures. They are competing with, in no particular order, free TV, free online tv, blockbuster movies (which also come free, if you know where to go, I'm just saying) free youtube videos of a cat dancing on a rug and a baby playing a piano concerto, vapid and materialistic magazines which sell for much cheaper and offer a much quicker thrill, and of course, scores of sometimes incredibly well-written and insightful fanfic on the internet. Not only is it free, but it's a set of established characters that already has a fan base, it usually has a healthy dose of smut and some taboo for those too young to buy those books when their parents aren't looking, and it's totally legal. Goddess, if they didn't have the blessed Fear Of The Evil Mary-Sue to fall back on, (another rant, for another day.) safe to say, self-publishers would be making scores more money and big publishing houses would fall like the ancient Romans. So I get it, Idiot Publishers. You're tapped. You've got nothing else to go on, and TV and Movies has been pulling this crap for years and no one says anything.

Consider me saying something. Twilight has done all it can do. None of these new versions, whether they are well-written or even genuinely better than the original, (like the aforementioned Need, and the very well-written and innovative Blue Blood Series) will have that success. Fans will call them ripoffs, dissenters will call them wannabes. And potential readers and writers (both of which I am) will simultaneously not want to read anything that looks like a modern fairytale for fear of crushing disappointment, or not want to write it, for fear of being mocked as 'another one of those.' And we will all miss out.

Someone, for pity's sake, write me a fairytale. Seriously, I don't care if you're seventeen and got a C on your last English assignment and have to POD it. I will buy it. I am that desperate. I want to be able to love it again. One day, I dream of writing an adult fairytale of my own. Give me something to put in my cranial cauldron, so that I am able to do that. Don't let bitterness over what Meyer did to vampires, or fear that it's not like what's good right now, stop you. One day, possibly soon, Twilight will be done. And there will have to be something else. I'd love to be that someone else, myself. But I really wouldn't mind if it was another someone else. I just want something there, to be enjoyed, to be able to enjoy. I'm not jealous of JK Rowling for being so freaking rich and famous and now she thinks she can just go away OMG, she's totally just in it for the money and fame. I'm not jealous of Christopher Paolini just because he only got published so young because his mommy and daddy are in the business, I've written books way better than him and nobody reads them. And I am not jealous of Stephenie Meyer just because OMG she's a total Suethor, it's pathetic, people only read the books because 'omg edwards so hot!!!'"*

I just really want something to read.

*Italicized comments are not mine. They are lifted, sometimes directly, from conversations with other unpublished or self-published authors, all of whom sounded like they were more into sour grapes than anything resembling real criticism. What the hell? Were we not readers first? I'm just saying.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In Which I Remember Why I Hate This

whew. I really didn't wanna hit the RAGE! button so close to the beginning and scare off potential readers. I feel all expunged now. Thanks for hanging in. A few quick things:

1. Firstly, does anyone know where the quote on my header comes from? It's one of my favorites, and I can't remember where I found it, or who it's by, and I looked it up and couldn't find it. I feel like an ungrateful hack leaving it at "unknown" like that. So if anyone knows, help a lady out?

2. Thank you to the amazing awesome person who went and left a comment. My first comment! From a person I don't know! OMG I'm like, a blogger now, or something. Shoot.

3. I realized, belatedly, that my post may have left out people who were disabled through accident, illness, or circumstances that arose later in life. I apologize. The situation at hand centered around people born with disabilities, and since I myself was diagnosed in early infancy, and most of the people I know from the community were similarly diagnosed shortly after birth, I sometimes lump us all together when I discuss the political and social aspects, and forget that a person who is disabled later in life may experience things drastically differently than one who has been born into it. I'm fairly confident to say I'm sure we all feel ostracized in similar ways by portrayals in the media, but I wanted to be clear I didn't mean to leave anyone out.

So. Now that's done. You know what else?

Beginnings suck. I do not like writing beginnings. They are crap. They are hard. I am a terrible writer and nobody loves me, either. hmph. Y'know what I like to write? I like endings. When I write a screenplay, I always, always know like, the last 20 minutes. So I get through the VICIOUS HELL OF WRITING THOSE FIRST 10 @#%$?! PAGES LIKE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO, and then reward myself by writing the last half hour. I almost never even have to edit it much. Then I just muck around in the middle for like, 100 pages or so. You know what? That's really hard to do with a novel. I don't have a set page limit. Plus, I kind of like, know where we're going to end up, but, unlike with a script, I am responsible for all the detailed nuances of how we get there, and I don't know them all yet. So I have to tackle this thing head-on, and chronologically. Not everyone has to do that, as I understand, and if you have a secret for doing it the other way, I would really like for you to share it with me.

I think I know where some of the problem is, to be honest. In all of Hannah's early incarnations, I touched a little on her infancy and origins, but left most of it to be explained at a later date, and much of it glossed over and left 'in the ether' so to speak. With this new, darker version, I cannot afford, nor do I really want, to leave that up to someone else to interpret. Not that I don't know the other characters at least as well as I know her, not that I can't get inside their heads it's just... I like hers better. Hannah's respective mothers both come into the story from bad places, and early on, I don't particularly like them. And I have to make them a little bit unlikeable, which I didn't have to do the first or second time I did this. Plus, I'm not good at subtlety, and I'm worried I'm going to give too much back story right off the jump. Pretty much I'm worried that after all this time, I still suck.

I wouldn't be doing this project if I didn't think Hannah could do it. If I thought the story was a good example of what I was capable of in high school, but it was time to let it die, I would move on. There are other novels I would like to write. (Don't ask me about the damn vampire novel. Don't.) This project is one part narcissism, one part that PUBLISH HANNAH occupies slot #2 of my List Of Things To Do Before I Die. But another part of it is, I owe it to myself to be the writer I set out to be when I began the project. I owe it to fourteen-year-old me to say, "This is what you wanted, and it was possible. It is possible." And I owe it to me now to say that I maybe haven't always been as good as I am now, and hopefully, I will be better eleven years from now, but the stories can come out amazing,  not just in spite of, but because they were written by me. Because I am talented, but lots of people are talented. Nobody else has my stories, and that means something. This is a story that I want to be told, and in my best moments I sometimes believe that this is a story that needs to be told, and it's mine. It's good. It really is. And that I can go 'on record' to say that is the miracle of the thing.

When I was fourteen, though, I had no idea how much I sucked. By now I'm aware enough to know my weak spots. Not that I wanted to be able to continue writing absolute crap uninterrupted, but it makes first drafts that much harder, because the general rule that first drafts always suck, you're going to hate them, and you're supposed to just know that, is clouded up by all that, "maybe if I just do this..." And I could just wring my own neck. Because after all this time, I know, in the way that I am an intelligent person with some experience, at least, with the writing part of writing that the first draft sucks, and that mine especially suck. But I still sometimes feel like it makes me a bad writer. To just see it sitting there. Being awful.

Whatever. We've begun, anyway, she and I, taking little steps, but hopefully, moving fast, as Hannah says. When I stop having to count each word to reassure me that I am moving forward, you'll be the first to know.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Well, there goes that plan.

disclaimer: Swears ahoy! Rage can do that. Sorry 
So. I was going to write my five pages, and tell you all about it. I was all excited, our first little steps on the final leg of the journey. And then my love sent me this:

Let me just say, I haven't read everything linked here, but I got the gist of the situation. I apologize for not being thorough. I went essentially stupid with rage, after I realized what all of it was about, and couldn't stomach everything. I promised myself to make this blog about my literary and artistic endeavors, and not about the Brave StruggleTM or my politics or my day to day. So um, let me just, try, here, to circle this back from the complete WTFery of how this is screwed up so blatantly and wrongly that I should not even have to point out how blatantly and wrongly it is screwed up, and focus on the points of this that make sense from an artistic and literary standpoint. Because truthfully, if I focus on everything that is SO VERY WRONG with all of this, I will digress into incoherent babbling and nonsensical rage. Again. And let me say right now, I am not going to talk about the wrong inherent in the fact that these apparently fictional conjoined twins were sexually abused. Not only is that part taken off the Myspace to avoid further backlash (with the promise that the whole, sordid story will be available to those willing to pay for the CD, mind) so I wasn't able to read it, but also, I am one of the few and fortunate disabled women who has never been sexually abused or exploited, though I'm not naive enough to believe that was for lack of trying. I, unlike certain other 'artists' do not like to presume to speak for a marginalized group of which I am not part. My heart goes out to those of you who do know that hell, and were also hurt or disgusted by all of this.

So. In film school, they teach you that everything you put into a script and on the screen, everything has a purpose. If life worked out this way, it would be a lot less complicated, and we would have a lot more excuses for our bad behavior. It doesn't. Real life just is. Even if you are part of a religion that believes we are born with a set path (I am not, so, sorry for my callousness,) you cannot presume to know what that path is And certainly, you cannot presume to know for somebody else. So let me make this clear. Once, because once should be enough.

We, as members of the disabled community, do not need you to represent us, artistically or otherwise. We need to be given the opportunity to represent ourselves. We do not exist to provide you something interesting to look at, dissect, discuss, or parody. We do not exist to provide you with thinking points or talking points. We are not a theme. We are not the gun on the wall. We are not here to make a point to you about the preciousness of life, the resiliency of the human spirit, or even how fucking weird the world can be. Our lives are not made meaningful by enriching or educating you. We do not need you to make our lives meaningful. We are not unique because we were born with more apparent flaws than you. We are unique because we are people and every person is different.

 The thing is, it's not cool to pretend to be disabled. It's not cool when actors do it on TV or movies. I understand, from an objective standpoint, why a severely autistic person might not be able to play a severely autistic person. But every time I see a sighted person playing a blind person, or a person in a wheelchair when I saw them just last week walking on another show, I get the rages all over. Because not only are you taking jobs away from the community of artists with disabilities, you are sending a clear message:
Nobody wants to look at you. The only way we can make this acceptable is to remind people it's not real.

We are real. We're not quirky or creative or interesting based on what our bodies or brains do or do not do, because we do not make those choices. You are not creative or especially interesting if you have red hair, even though red hair is a recessive gene and that makes it rare.

This is part of what bothers me about the whole Evelyn\Evelyn mess. That Amanda Palmer's defense seems to be, from what I can glean from the Myspace and recent response, that she just thought it was 'interesting.' It's not interesting to be a person with a disability. Further, you don't get to decide what disabled is. Her saying other people thought it was the most creative and interesting idea ever does not take away from the fact that it is wrong. Concepts can be morbid and strange and intriguing, and still not something you'd actually want to see. People can be creative and fascinating and cutting edge, and still be over-privileged assholes who don't see what they're doing wrong even when someone points it out to them. Which, um, is pretty much what happened.

And conjoined twins? Are born with disabilities. They are born without fully functioning independent bodies. They are not inherently flawed or inherently bad. But their bodies do not work the way they are 'expected' to, the way the world is made for them to work in. And no, many of them probably don't feel like people with disabilities. Guess what? Neither do I! Shocking, but I don't wake up every morning and go, "how will I ever manage brushing my teeth and flossing today, let alone going to work?" I just do what I have been doing for the past 20+ years, and make this body do what it needs to do, the best I can. There are days when I accidentally grab the door handle with the wrong hand, and then remember, "oh right, the door's not too heavy. wrong hand." There are days when I can walk the 40 or so minutes home from work, and days I just don't want to make the effort. I function. I get bitter, I get angry, I get the rages, when stuff like this comes up. I get exhausted sometimes too. And sometimes, at about 3AM, I think about how I deserve more, and how much things could be different. Who doesn't?

The bottom line: We are not a metaphor for anything. We are individual people facing unique challenges, that can either be ignored or glossed over, or blown out of proportion for the entertainment value of people who are never required to deal with us head on, the way we are forced, every day, to acknowledge and accept that we are not worthless, no, but we are most certainly worth less. And really, we should have known that.

When you pretend to be a cliche of a disability, you are not doing it to be avant-garde. You are not doing it to make a statement about us. You are not doing it because you find it 'creative' or 'interesting.' You are doing it for the freak factor. You further the idea that the best we can ask for is that it will one day be okay to be a freak, when what you could be doing, is standing next to us in support as we explain to the world that we were never freaks to begin with. I meant what I said before. What makes me different and interesting is not in my body. It may be in my brain, but not where people are looking. And it's tacky, childish stunts like this that make screenwriting professors look at people like me, and tell us to change the story, because no one would ever believe an average guy would fall in love with a woman with a mental disability. It's stunts like this, and people like you, who make it impossible for us to tell our own stories. Ours are true, but yours, well. You do know how to draw a crowd, don't you?

And if you are one of those people, I don't care how talented or interesting you think you are. I f*cking hate you.
(more to come on the actual project, promise.)

First and Foremost.

There's a story I like to tell.

When I was a kid, following well into my teenage years, I used to warn people that I was odd. Before the anxiety was diagnosed, before biochemistry forced me to acknowledge my asexual status and circumstances turned me into an aromantic, and years before I had discovered alternative religions, back when, as far as we knew, the kids only made fun of me because of the Cerebral Palsy, and all that entailed, I used to say to my mother, quite frequently, "I think something is wrong in my head. I don't think it works like other people's heads work." My poor mother used to pat me on the head, and reassure me that at my age, everybody feels like an outsider.

One day, when I was seventeen or so, a family friend came to dinner. She had two sons, both a few years younger than me, and closer to my brother's ages. But the younger one and I, we sat up at the dining room table that night, as our respective mothers chitchatted about... whatever it is they chitchat about, and talked shop. It was slow and stilted in places, he was still younger than me, young enough to believe that he could be published within the year, and it would be an instant bestseller, and bonus, people would be thrilled because at the time, he was something like fourteen. I had to reign him in quite a bit, I remember. But it was nice, to get to talk on the same wavelength with someone, to be on equal footing, crossing terrain I knew well.

Our mothers watched the whole thing, eventually abandoning their talk to listen to us, until my mother turned to his, and said in an interested tone, "I never knew he wanted to be a writer." His mother smiled in the indulgent way parents of artists often do, one part proud, one part uncertain, one part jocular.
 "Since he was six." She said. My mother nodded.
"Her too." She said, and then, suddenly, conspiritorally, she turned towards the mother. "They're weird, aren't they? I used to think it was just her, that she would grow out of it in time, but then she got to high school, and there's like, there's a whole group of these weird kids. They're a whole different kind of person." And his mother laughed and agreed. I remember staring at my mother, until she shifted guiltily and said, "Sorry." and I just smiled, then, and told her honestly.
"I'm just glad you finally said it."

Whenever people ask me if I feel different, I always say yes. But then I have to add an asterisk. I don't feel different, being asexual, or being physically and mentally disabled, or having suffered anxiety or insomnia, or studying pagan theology. I feel different because I'm a writer. I feel different because I feel differently. Because other things are immediately noticeable to others, they make easy assumptions. I could write a whole post on these assumptions, and their wrongness. But I won't. Because this blog is not about that.* What this blog is about is that when I was fourteen, I wrote a novel.

When I was fourteen, I wrote a novel about a little girl in a big, scary grown-up world. A world where she had to watch her strong, independent mother turn weak and scared. A world of grownups who were afraid of things they didn't understand, and kids who were just plain afraid, like kids get. And I created a little girl who could fight back, and fight hard. Five pages every morning, getting up early to squeeze in computer time before my brothers woke, and hearing my mother hush them when they tried to pout about how unfair it was, that extra half hour it took me, "Be quiet, your sister's working. This is important."  And I wrote it, and I finished it, and then... then it ended.

But it always began again, and again, and again. And in between each incarnation, there were new things to write, new stories and characters, and also, real life. I got into a top film college, then had to leave it because the disability services were not prepared for me. I watched my best friend lose her heart and soul to a monster disguised as a man. I lost family members to illness and disaster, and friends to distance and growth. And I wrote. And I wrote. And then I wrote more. And always, in the background, there was Hannah. Waiting for me to finish. For years I toyed with the idea of rewriting, reworking, and getting Hannah published, but I kept putting it off. And recently, I realized that the reason I was putting it off, was because I didn't want to wait. I didn't want to trust someone else to get the job done. I wanted to self-publish. And for a long time, I wasn't ready for that. I think, I hope, I am now.

These are the things you need to know about the project:

1. I am writing five pages a day, and only five pages a day, as a throwback to my youthfully naive goals. The goal is to self-publish the first Hannah book, have it ready for distribution, by August 31st. This is as close as I can remember the original version first draft being finished. Which means nothing to anyone but me, but it's my project, so myeh. Currently, page count stands at ZERO. (pray for me.) 

2. There are actually three novels involved in Project Hannah. I did, actually, complete the first version of the first one, but it never came out dark enough, at fourteen, to consider it done. I recently completed a deliciously dark screenplay titled Everywhere, which nearly cost me what's left of my lingering sanity. So yeah, I think I'm ready now. Of the other two, one was half completed, and the other was outlined. Since the original Hannah had almost no planning, beyond the odd brainstorming session, I am officially working without a net.

3. When I refer to Hannah, unless otherwise stating, I am referring to the character. No, I am not insane. Yes, in theory, I understand she is not a real person. But after 10+ years, I feel that we have a kind of relationship. So much so that a part of me wonders if by finishing this project, I will also be moving myself towards my own happy-or-otherwise ending. (Oh crap, I just gave away the ending. She doesn't die. SPOILER ALERT!) Hannah is one part my daughter, in that she is a child, and even though in later incarnations she grows, she will always be eight years old to me. But in another part, we are  members of the same team. The other reason I have for self-publishing is that I feel that we began this journey together, and that's the only way I can conceive of finishing it. We do have conversations. Real ones, even. Just today, after knowing her for eleven years as I do, I learned she is a vegetarian. Isn't that amazing when that happens?**

4. I am epically disorganized, but not epically lazy. When I say this thing has taken me omgelevenyearshowamIsoold? That's not to say that I worked on it nonstop. I'm not a great writer, but I don't absolutely suck. As mentioned, my attention shifted to screenplays, there was college to try (and epically fail) and other bunnies to chase around my head. I am not so much banging my head against a brick wall. More getting reacquainted with an old friend. I just feel it's time to finish what I started.

5. Adding to 'not epically lazy', I currently have a part-time job, two furbabies to raise, travel semi-frequently, and am fiddling with other projects. Thinking of tackling script frenzy this year too. I also have a huge family that I love who sometimes make me want to tear my hair out, and some amazing friends, and some friends who bring the drama. If, on occasion, some of this spills onto this blog, you will have to forgive. I have never had a blog with a purpose before, and am more used to just shouting into the internet.

6. I am a writer inside, yes, but spelling and grammar? Oh boy. Mostly, I will be working with the aforementioned amazing friends to fix any errors. I will also be obsessively nitpicking on my own. But I will miss things. Sorry, and please feel free to correct me.

So. That's it. Me and my girl, and the next six months. Can I do in six months what I haven't managed in eleven years? Better, can I be happy with it?


Um. Maybe?
No. Yes. Yes, for sure. I can.
I think. Well, just watch. We'll see.***

*When I say 'this is not about that' I am simplifying. I am a person with a physical and mental disability. That fact and all that it entails worms its way into my life, and into my writing, both personal and professional. IRL, ie, NOT on the internet, I am often told I think a lot about my disability. I don't. But it's there, it occupies a space inside of my being, and so sometimes, there is a trickle-down effect and it turns up in different places where able-bodied people may feel it shouldn't, isn't warranted, or doesn't usually. If talk of HAVING a disability makes you feel uncomfortable, you are reading the wrong blog. Feel free to hit the back button, no one will judge you.

**Originally, Hannah was an experiment. My cousin and I created the physical character so that we could recreate the famous experiment where scholars sat around a table, and lent their energy to the room, focusing on their imaginary person. Supposedly, this created an actual poltergeist, a metaphysical being of pure energy, who could move things around and communicate. When we did it, the experiment never worked, and I kept her for myself. I don't see Hannah as a poltergeist, as in, I KNOW she does not occupy physical space of any kind, but after eleven years, she too is a part of my metaphysical and spiritual makeup, and takes up her own energy, inside me. That's why I feel like if I finish the project, I will move on to bigger and better things.

***When I was a kid, "We'll see" always meant, "convince me, because I want to say no, but I don't have a good enough reason yet."