Vive la France

vino

On Bastille Day (or Le quatorze juillet as the French say), I mentioned something about the day online. My French/German friend Ollie told me they say joyeux or vive la France, instead of the greeting I gave. That reminded me of a very short story.

In 2006 I went to Paris for my birthday. Now that I’m une femme d’un certain age, I won’t reveal which one, but those of you playing at home probably already know. My sweetie and I had a fabulous time. We traipsed about, eating cheese and chocolate and visiting the various tourist sites. I think that’s a separate post.

The morning we left, we knew there was going to be a strike (or greve). We left for the airport early, because we weren’t certain how often the trains would be running, etc. As an American, I found this strike quite … well .. striking. People showed up to work. But they didn’t do their work. In America, they would picket outside the workplace. By doing it this way, no one else could come in and do the work, either.

Needless to say, we got all the way through and on to our flight (sans the corkscrew I had to leave behind). As we taxied to the runway, the pilot came on and gave an announcement in English. He said there was going to be a delay before we could take off. We were tired and grumpy and ready to go home. RIGHT NOW.

Then the pilot made the same announcement, but in French. Except instead of being vague, he said, “a cause du greve.” My French is middling, but I understood that! I turned to my girlfriend and said, “It’s because of the strike! Vive la revolution!

We sat back in our seats, content. We could wait.

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52 Photos: At the Water’s Edge

This week’s prompt was at the waters’ edge. I didn’t think I had much, and then I realized I was going to Discovery Park for a -3 foot low tide! For your viewing delectation, I present without further comment, this week’s set.

discovery park panorama

clam shell with seaweed

clam shell vista

green and purple seaweed

You can see the rest of the pictures here.

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When the going gets tough …

leap leap

I swim laps a few times a week. In my ideal world of lap swimming, I would have my own lane and never have to share. The reality is, there are usually more swimmers than lanes. Which means sharing lanes. I generally don’t mind sharing. It’s about finding a rhythm with the other swimmers and then praying no one runs into you.

My point is, sometimes swimming is easy and effortless, sometimes there are obstacles. I’ve been working on paying attention to my reactions – that is, the knee-jerk, unconscious responses. I have a tendency to quit or shut down.

On Sunday, I started swimming with my own lane. Ahh, perfection, I thought. Soon enough, one woman joined my lane. Then another. And then another! Before I knew it, there were 4 of us sharing one lane. The flow was fine, but I noticed I was getting annoyed. They had disrupted my peace. MY peace, I’m telling you.

I contemplated getting out of the pool. I’d swum enough. But then I paused. A thought surfaced: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Fuck that shit, I thought. I hate that. But then I relaxed, and I had another thought. What do I want??

What did I want? I wanted to keep swimming. Focusing on what I wanted, rather than on toughing it out, changed my experience. Rather than having to prove myself, I could return to the activity. I could relax and let go of the irritation.

The next time I feel frustrated, when things are hard, and I feel like quitting, I hope I can remember this. It’s good to stop every once in awhile and re-evaluate. Am I still on the path? Is this serving me? Is this the direction I want to be going?

I want to pause and say, When the going gets tough, what do I want?

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Clarion West: A Love Letter

I’ve known about Clarion West since I first heard of Nicola Griffith. I’m going to say close to 20 years now. For those of you who don’t know, Clarion West offers a 6-week residential writing program for emerging speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy/??) writers in Seattle.

Squid canoe

A few years ago, Clarion West also started offering one-day workshops in Seattle on specific topics. I screwed up my courage and signed up for one. It was on how to create a plot, something I desperately needed. I sat in a room with about 20 other people, and while I sat there, I discovered something. I was a writer. I’ve always wanted to write. But more importantly, I’d found my tribe.

I was recently asked for my impression on my experience at the workshops. Here’s what I said:

I have attended nearly half a dozen of the Clarion West One-Day Writer’s workshops. While each workshop has focused on a different aspect of writing, I’ve taken away lessons that have improved my writing. I’ve met and befriended fellow writers. I’ve found support.

I’ve attended other types of writing classes, and the workshops offered by Clarion West are without peer. Most of the workshops have offered a mix of lecture and hands-on, giving me the opportunity to try out what is being taught, in the moment. They are often collaborative, with each writer offering his or her own experience as well as the instructor offering theirs. We have the opportunity not only to learn from the “expert,” but to learn from the other students. I’ve been able to share my own work and get feedback, which has increased my comfort with receiving critiques on my work in other arenas.

Overall, I’ve found that attending the One-Day Workshops has strengthened my writing, bolstered my confidence, provided me with a new and supportive group, and expanded my sense of what is possible with my writing.

It’s through Clarion West that I met Camille Griep, who has become a stalwart support for me. Last year, through the write-a-thon! I met GG Silverman, another fantastic comrade. I befriended Karina, and she befriended me. Three powerful women who inspire me and encourage me, in all my silly, weird, and wacky ways.

Last year I wrote a blog post about the power of story and the danger of a single story. In the past year, I’ve explored more about the mono myth and become curious about the heroine’s journey.

I think Rebecca Solnit captures what I’m trying to say here in her book, The Faraway Nearby:

We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or hate, to see or be blind. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then to become the storyteller. Those ex-virgins who died were inside the sultan’s story; Scheherazade, like a working-class hero, seized control of the means of production and talked her way out.

This is the third year I’ve participated in the Write-a-thon. The mono myth has failed me. We all need more stories that show us other ways of being. Please consider sponsoring me and making a donation!

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Writing Process Blog Tour

My good friend Camille Griep tagged me for this one. I have to admit, after reading her answers, I had to take a deep breath and tell myself I’m a writer, too. So, here I am, plunging into the deep end.

For Jill - keep writing

What am I working on?

I feel like this is a two-part question. First, I’m working on learning craft. I’m learning the bones, the tricks, and the various approaches people take to writing and storytelling. I just finished a workshop with Connie Willis. Have you ever taken a class from someone who makes you feel like a genius? Well, that’s how this one was. Now it’s just about applying the lessons. Turns out, that bit’s a little more challenging. So I’m figuring out what the basic pieces are in a story and thinking about them and then trying to write them.

As for actual stories? Ah ah hahaaa. Well, I just finished a short story that’s about dust bunnies. I’m waiting for a few more critiques before I start sending it out. I have also been invited by a group of women I met on Twitter to participate in a Weird West compendium, so there’s that story. And then there’s the novel with the character of my heart. I’m on my second attempt at this story, and I’m not really sure where to go with it. I might have to rewind a little bit and make some different decisions.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

This question couldn’t have come along at a better moment. I was thinking of writing a blog post about this, but instead, I’ll just answer it here. One of the things that drives me batty is that the overwhelming majority of stories for LGBT folk are either coming out stories, and/or, the LGBT character is depressed/suicidal/comic relief/evil killer. I like to write stories with happy queer characters, living their lives. Coming out stories are important, but we need stories that address life after coming out – like, happily ever after. Fairies can have their tales, too.

Why do I write what I do?

Because I want to see myself reflected in the stories that are out in the world. And to the previous question, that is rare. Somewhere deep in my narcissistic soul, I also hope that my stories will resonate for someone else. I write to expose my silly, weird ideas. And I write to have fun! I’m interested in exposing and exploring truths through humor. It’s a sneaky way to get someone to let down their guard and relax enough to consider other ways of thinking about the world.

How does my writing process work?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked! This is the part where I quiet the doubting voices. I’m still stumbling and fumbling in the dark, working to discover what my process is. With each iteration, I gain more clarity. Sometimes I start with a character, sometimes it’s an event. From there, I .. get lost, try to figure out what the story is, noodle, force myself to write something, and then try to make something resembling an actual story from the wreckage. It isn’t pretty.

Thank you so much, Camille, for inviting me to participate in the blog tour. I’m handing the baton over to my Spider Overlord, G.G. Silverman. She has a YA novel coming out, Vegan Teenage Zombie Huntress, and I will be first in line to buy it!

Also, if anyone else wants to participate, I would LOVE to hear your answers to these questions. Don’t wait to be tagged. Break the rules! They’re only guidelines.

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52 Photos: In Flight

This week’s prompt was In Flight. I have plenty of bird pictures, but not many of them actually flying. So here’s my assortment, plus a bonus. There’s a scooter in air, a bald eagle being harassed by a red-winged blackbird, and a breathtaking snowy owl on the day of its release from rehab. It looks like pelicans are quite popular this week, so I’m adding one of mine. They’re like a box of chocolates – something to satisfy every taste.

scooter in the sky

Bald eagle and red-winged blackbird

Snowy in flight (closeup 2)

brown pelican in flight

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The Secret Sauce

I asked if anyone had any burning questions on Twitter for me. Miss Idgie sure did!

I’m sure John Gottman could give you specific and detailed instructions on what makes a relationship work. This is what I’ve figured out for myself.

Love bloom

  • Don’t compare your relationship to anyone else’s. You have to figure out what works for you. Your relationship is unique. If that other relationship falters, in some way that will then cause upset in your own.
  • Have fun!
  • Be honest with one another.
  • Have fun! This means doing things together that you both enjoy.
  • Don’t except the other person to fill all your needs.
  • Admit it and apologize when you are wrong.

I am in a relationship with an introvert. It’s taken me many years to hone my “care and feeding” of said creature. There are always balances to be struck and negotiations to be made. People time v. alone time. Outside/nature/physical activity time v. indoor/cultural/social time.

I think the other reason my relationship (to date) has been successful is because I see us as being a team. My girlfriend supports me and encourages me and challenges me and I hope, at my best, that I do that for her (I’m pretty sure I do, since she’s said things like this me).

I don’t believe there’s a secret sauce that makes relationships successful. Gottman says contempt is poison, but I have to wonder why you would be with anyone you felt contempt for, so respect is a given for me.

What do you feel makes your relationship successful?

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52 Photos: Powder Blue

This week’s prompt was powder blue. Some weeks, like last, I have a hard time coming up with images to share. This was not one of those weeks. Hope you enjoy!

fORD

blue and yellow fORd

I am mother, hear me roar:

I am mother, hear me roar

Blue umbrella

umbrella

Nigella bloom

nigella bloom

Even though this isn’t blue, I wanted to show you the pod of the Nigella, too:

nigella pod

Blue house in Lisbon, Portugal

blue house

Blue Pool, Green Trees at Norris, Yellowstone National Park

blue pool, green trees

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52 Photos: Busy Street

This week’s prompt was busy street. I really wanted to post a picture of the insane traffic that my mom and I experienced in Hanoi, Vietnam. But the three pictures I took just don’t capture the intensity. As a matter of fact, I had friends who warned me about the traffic in Hanoi before I left. And they gave me advice on how to cross the street. As if I didn’t know how to cross the street! Turns out, I needed their advice.

cars and scooters

If you want to cross the street in Hanoi, (I hear Saigon is much worse), you wait until a pack of motor scooters comes. Then you step into the street and move slowly, with focus and consistency, until you reach the other side. You do not try to make eye contact with the drivers. Apparently this just throws them off. It is an exercise in trust, above all else.

I would link arms with my mom, and we would start walking. We moved at the pace of a small child or an elderly person. I would say, “We are the rock. They are the river.” We would clutch each other tight. When we reached the opposite side, we would rejoice in our success.

Since I find that picture doesn’t evoke the terror we felt every time we stepped off the curb, I’m sharing this delightful image of a pair of robots from the 2005 Fremont Solstice Parade.

robot couple close-up

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On standing up for myself

Umbrella broom shovel stand

On Monday, Fran Wilde posted this piece about being “Mouse”. She spoke about learning to be silent, to be quiet, and gaining competency at sailing a boat. And then she said:

But there is another place where I want that feeling of competence. That sense of being capable:

Speaking up for myself.

I have never felt competent at that.

These words were like a giant gong going off in my head. I’ve been coming to this understanding/realization about myself in the last couple of weeks. I think I’ve realized this before, but in the past, I just felt overwhelmed by it and then let despair set in.

I’ve been working on engaging my fear the last couple of months. I’ve been taking baby steps, and saying out loud the things I think people will make negative judgments about. So far, all signs point to me continuing to do this. Mostly because it strengthens my confidence in myself, which is what Fran talks about in her post.

Speaking up for myself feels like the next stage/phase. I was in yoga on Monday and I realized something I’d never quite put together before. In my adult life, for every employer I’ve had, without fail I’ve jealously guarded my time. I was unwilling to compromise on time. I realize this rigidity is connected to my unwillingness to speak up for myself.

When I was at work, I would let people treat me like crap. When I wasn’t at work, I could choose (i.e. “control”) who I spent time with. If someone was being disrespectful, I could just walk away. Or suffer in silence until the event ended, and then vow to never spend time with that person again.

Fran talks about developing confidence in a physical skill and being able to translate that into another realm. Rose Lemberg responded with a series of tweets about belonging, competence, and privilege. She talked about where one finds strength when there isn’t a physical place to return to (a strong theme for Fran). It was the last several tweets that really nailed it for me (13-18) – like the hammer on the gong.

There is something inviolate at my core, a place I’ve guarded and it is that place from which I can trust myself. It is the place I return, time and again.

As I’m learning to turn down the dial on the fear knob and turn up the dial on the curiosity knob, I’m seeing possibility and considering new ways of being. Including standing up for myself.

For today, I’m taking R.E.M.’s song, “Stand”, as my theme song.

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