personal musings

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Open Doors: #HoldOnToTheLight

Published October 5, 2017 by admin

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Sometimes I have bits of stories that come out of nowhere, and I’m not quite sure what to do with them. Usually it’s a premise, sometimes an ending punchline, other times it’s a character or just a snippet of a setting or time period. Sometimes I’ll get a few paragraphs that don’t have anything to do with anything, so I write it down, file it away, and go on with life. It’s much more stream of conscious than how I usually work, but I’ve learned to go with it in those moments.

A piece of dialogue has followed me around for years, and I could never figure out where it fit. I thought I knew which idea it went with, but then I’d start to doubt, or things would shift, or not quite match up. It’s something, more or less, to the effect of:

“You can wait and hope, scream and beg til your voice gives out, but at the end of the day, sometimes no one’s coming to rescue you. Maybe they don’t hear. Maybe they ignore you. That’s just the way it is. Being rescued, happily ever after – that’s a little girl’s dream, not reality. So you can give up, or go through it, fight through it, and hope to God you come out on the other side and be better. And some days I’m not sure if I have.”

They’re words that resonate with me personally, and they could fit with a few things I’m developing, so it’s not a question of them not getting used, but who they belong to. Recently, working on a pitch involving the expansion of some reprints, I suddenly discovered who it belongs to, or I’m at least 95% sure. And it shook me to my core, because I never would have guessed it would have been that character. I full well know that I’m putting her through some things, but I also hadn’t quite expected that to come out of her. And it makes me a little sad that I didn’t catch that about her before now, because in her earlier appearances, she’s strong and capable, and obnoxiously flippant to a certain extent. Looks can be deceiving, in fiction as well as real life.

Now, more than ever, it’s extremely easy to lock yourself in your own world, insulate yourself in your friends groups, secure your walls and lock things down for your own sanity. Sometimes you have to, and there’s no shame in that. Sometimes, though, it’s worth leaving a little crack for the light to get in, as Leonard Cohen would say.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes would say in her poem Abre La Puerta, a wound is a door. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to go looking for them, as well as leave them open. And it’s terrifying to do either, especially when you’ve been hurt, yourself.

I worry these days that in our world of cultivated social media and algorithms, it’s all too easy to put out a blanket “hey I’m here for you!” and feel like that does the job, especially when it gets likes or retweets or whatever. Yes, sometimes that’s important – you never know who’s scrolling by and may see it. But is that seriously enough, or is that emotional marketing that makes the poster and their friend group feel good, but not much beyond that? I don’t know. Admittedly I have a thing about pretty words with no real attempt to back them up, where the person offering pretty words and platitudes is somehow the only one gaining anything from them.

Besides, what about the people who aren’t in your direct circle that you don’t always talk to? What about the person standing next to you on a corner or that acquaintence at work or that you pass by every now and then at the store that doesn’t see those posts? Sure, there are a ton of resources out there, but what about those people that are in a place where they can’t comprehend that it’s there for them, that they’re worth those resources and time, too? You just never know. The person next to you could disappear at any time, that is a definite reality. And I get it’s a little idealistic to think that someone can be saved with a smile or an enquirey or a kind gesture, especially if they need real, in-depth help.

Couldn’t hurt, though.

I’m not saying overextend yourself or put yourself in danger or put huge mental pressure or stress on yourself. Be mindful, because you just never know what people are going through. Now, more than ever, I will continue to try to advocate empathy, because it’s something we all need to feel human and to be better humans. It’s a private thought of mine that one of the blanket meanings of life, one of the only reasons for bad things happening (privately or publicly, small or mass scale) that I can come up with, is to cultivate empathy. That may not be the case, but it’s the only thing that makes sense to me in the scheme of things.

We’re conditioned to be incredibly guarded in this modern world. To be tough, to keep rolling with the punches, to suck it up, buttercup, to deal, that other people have it worse. It’s incredibly hard to be vulnerable in this day and age, even a little. If things aren’t on the catastrophic scale, especially now, how can one complain?

It doesn’t make some things any easier.

Admittedly, I can be an extremely guarded person. There are reasons for this, and it’s my choice who to share those reasons with. No matter the case, I joke sometimes about hiding out in my tower, or the Great Wall of Selah, or just pushing my personal feelings aside until I get through a situation and deal with it later. Through the years I’ve had many lessons fall in my lap (though they didn’t feel like it at the time), as to why those are not great ways to live your life. It also goes to show that we can’t just talk about the reason for people being the way they are, whether it’s trauma, addiction, diagnosis, whatever. There’s also the carrying on, the journeying from that point, the recovery, the coping. We love a hero story and a redemption arc, but we tend to forget how hard it probably is for the person in question to get from point A to point B, even in the most tell-all of memoirs. And sometimes it’s the moving on that brings whole other painful moments that you just don’t see coming.

Some of my hardest personal times were feeling like a failure and going through the day to day, still having to show up, feeling like people were brushing things off or that I couldn’t open up to them. I still on occasion get flustered or anxious during conversation and feel like the biggest idiot in the world, because there are days it still feels like I’m rebounding and relearning how to connect with people and trust them with actual conversation and not be “on.”

One of the hardest things to experience is talking to someone you love dearly, step off the cliff and open up, and the door in their eyes slamming shut and locking tight because you’re saying things they may not want to hear. There’s the being brushed off because people around me figured I’d eventually just over things like I always do, as long as I’m keeping up with whatever’s on my plate. In reality, I’d push them off to deal with them later, until I couldn’t, then not know what to do and felt completely at a loss. Some of the hardest days I had years ago were when I couldn’t find the words to express what I thought might be going on at the time and show up every day and play pretend with my life anyway until things resolved themselves. I’ve bided my time to hang out with and open up to people, anxiety about stuff be damned, and find out they’ve changed their mind and gone off and left me because there were other things going on and other people needed them, and what could they really do? I’ve spent evenings with people wondering if I could talk to them, let it go, then found out years later if they wondered if I was doing okay.

I’ve felt that horrific feeling of being alone in a room of people and wondering if it even mattered I was there.

So yeah, I know how hard it is, and I know the inner workings of my tower, my fort, my wall very well.

If you’ve ever had a nightmare of running through a hall with something after you and every door of escape, of help being locked tight, leaving you nowhere to go, you’ll know the general feeling.

And realitistically, especially as I’ve gotten older, I do get it. Sometimes things happen, and I doubt all those incidents were meant personally. I’ve resolved a few of them with the people involved, forgiven and moved on. Besides, life gets in the way, it’s easy to judge, to choose self-preservation, especially now.

And yet..I also wonder during all those times, who was I walking by? Who was I passing up that could have used a smile or a conversation or some recognition that yes, you are human, I see you, I’ve got you, hang in there.

Because as hard as it was to write the above, I’ve also had some amazing people in my life and beautiful, wonderful little moments that have kept me going.

I’ve had people that started out on my periphery make a choice to come ask how I was in my day to day, and if I was too cynical they took me aside and gently called me out on it.

I’ve had people text me out of the blue with things they’ve kept that I’ve made for them, or things that we’d laughed about years ago, or just to say that they thought of me.

I’ve had people send me cat pictures, or ridiculous gifs, or ask me how a project is going, even if it’s stalling out. And then genuinely bug me to hear about it. Sometimes I get random cards in the mail, and I try to reciprocate those, because they’re fantastic to come home to. I’ve had friends share moments of their kids living up to my bad influence, and just all sorts of silly, fun things that end up mattering. As someone who feels like I’m always the first person reaching out, the one reminding people I’m alive, the one putting out the effort, those who know to keep after me have been godsends at proving that there are amazing people out there and that I’m someone worth looking after.

I’ve had people that I never thought in a million years would remember I existed remember me after not seeing them for a few years, and get genuinely excited about things I’m working on – so much so that I can’t even begin to put a clarifying or cynical spin on it.

I’ve had a close friend on his deathbed ask how I was doing and make me promise to keep creating things and be happy. I still wear the necklace he gave me as a reminder of how much my ideas can influence things at cons and other times when I’m feeling nervous.

I’ve had people call me on the pretense of checking up on a project but really check to make sure things are going okay.

I’ve had library friends, who I never see anywhere else, who would talk about anything and nothing for handfuls of minutes just because.

I’ve had friends and acquaintences who would bring up things like meditation and yoga and transcendentalism, and then pivot the conversation to Prince, and cats, and who knows what else – and it always gives me a laugh and brings me back to present.

I’ve had friends text me just because, and those tint moments have made my day.

I’ve had friends just encourage the dumbest, insane ideas and keep the conversation going until I’m sitting there laughing with tears streaming down my face and it doesn’t even matter if the thing we’ve talked about ever happens, it just feels amazing to be silly and riff like that.

I never realized how much little gestures meant until I went out to dinner with some friends I hadn’t seen in years, and in coordinating the details I began to feel the ol’ virgo detail anxiety creeping up, until I was easily told ‘Hey, no worries, you don’t have to worry about that here. We got ya.’ The fact that I could spend an evening not having to figure everything out was like a vacation.

I’ve had people remind me to come to them with questions, for advice, for venting, because (strangely enough) we’re all in this life thing together and I don’t have to do it all alone (contrary to what past moments and anxieties say, because those definitely lie).

I still have friends willing to come with me to conventions or events I do, just so I’m not driving myself bonkers with preparation. They’re right there pointing out the fun, quirky moments (or instigate them when my back is turned if a giant troll costume is involved), making sure I don’t run myself into the ground.

I’ve had people keep after me and be willing to call me out when I needed it. People who drag me outside, or remind me to put on music, all sorts of little things that are so much better than a general “hey, glad you’re still here!” posted on social media…because I definitely know I’m a part of their life. I know they know that I exist.

And I honestly think at the end of the day that’s what we’re all really after. People to know and remember we’re here.

And it’s not just the direct benefits that I’m talking about in these instances. These incredible, awesome people have taught me how to take a breath, notice those around me, and in turn pass it on. These are the things that make a day better, but in my darkest moments through the years and my not dark but plain tired moments now, they remind me how good people can be and are. If anything has kept me around and encouraged me to tentatively step foot out of the tower and reach out to others, it’s the private gestures from kind people. They’ve turned me into a much better human.

I’m grateful – both for all these wonderful little moments, and the things that brought me to them, because you wouldn’t have one without the other. They’re all teachers in their way, all things to think on. True, you lose a little protection when you open space in your wall or whatever, but you can’t reach out to others until you let some light in.

In my own way, I’m probably a little too prone to emotional vomiting on people, but I want people to know that they matter. I have no shame in thanking people who influence me, or who have put up with me through the years, or randomly texting people to say I’m thinking of them. It may be a little awkward, but it’s become part of who I am. I try to notice people around me most days and it probably creeps some out. Deep down I know that little gestures probably aren’t the be all and end all. But still. If you don’t keep your door open, you can’t reach out through it to others, and they also can’t get through to see you. Besides, there’s the old tradition in fairy tales – you never ignore the stranger or weirdo when you’re lost in the woods or at your wits’ end. How you treat them determines how you’re treated, and that figure is usually the one who teaches the best lessons and distributes the most influential gifts. If you’re closed off and hidden away in all but words only you don’t get them, and you also close off any opportunity to help someone else, in return.

Life can be dark, but it’s also dotted with stars. You have to open the door to see them, though, and sometimes you have to dare to peer through, to reach through other doors to see things further.

About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

 

 

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2nd Look: Library Livin’

Published September 27, 2017 by admin

Besides teachers, I think sometimes we take for granted how much libraries and the communities they foster can really, truly encourage people, especially kids. So today’s look back deals with some of the libraries in my life.

***

I’ve talked about it off and on in interviews and the like, but I cannot stress how big of an influence libraries have had on me. I still remember going into my first one as a kid. It was built into a former residence in a small Illinois town, the librarian still lived above it, and it was magic. Rooms chock full of shelves, a lovely, open front room with homey windows and dark wood, just the stuff of story books. The very first book I ever was allowed to take home was There’s a Nightmare in my Closet, and even though I already knew the plot, the thought of plucking it from a shelf (it was misplaced in the adult shelves so that made it even more important-seeming) and taking it home all by myself was a beautiful feeling. I went on to do the summer reading programs there, get vacation packets for long car trips there, I was even able to check out puppets there, something that I’m sure fed my love of the art form early on.

My mom made a point of taking me to the library any time I was interested in something, and I give her a lot of credit for my voracious love of reading today. After every Reading Rainbow episode, we made a list of titles to go searching for. Anything that I wasn’t allowed to buy on the Scholastic book forms we put on the library list. There were times during the summer when we were there every other day. I was encouraged to read anything that took my fancy, although she quickly had to put a cap on the number of titles I could get at one time (I may still have problems with limiting my TBR pile…).

That was also the library where I was accidentally locked in during the librarian’s lunch hour.The children’s room was in the very back of the place, time got away, and there I was with my mother, completely panicked that I’d never get home again…for the first five minutes until I realized that I had All. The. Books. to myself (even if I had to share with my mother). I have a vague recollection of compiling a massive stack in the amount of time it took for her to fetch the librarian’s niece, convince her that we weren’t hiding downstairs on purpose, and get her to fetch her aunt so she could let us out.

To read on, click here

Find Your Definition of Success (Things I’d Wish I’d Known)

Published September 21, 2017 by admin

So I was going to do a post about Dayjobs, but things have kind of segued into something that should probably come first. We’ll start basic and go nitty gritty later on.

You’ve decided you want to work in the arts. Yay, you! Welcome! It’s going to be a wild ride, however you decide to do things. That being said, one thing that really wasn’t a conversation when I was first starting out was something incredibly simple, something that you’re going to need to hang onto as you navigate your art and your career, but mostly personal interactions with others.

Those are always interesting. It’s one thing to talk to other artists/creatives – that’s pretty easy, and even though there may be some clashing with people at different points in their career, you at least kind of speak the same language and can find a common ground.

With other people, however,  things can go a little something like this. For me, somehow this usually happens when out and about, dating, or at (non industry/creative) dinner parties, so this type of person is forever branded in my brain as:

Dinner Party Person: So, what do you do?

Me: Oh I’m in costumes and design/I’m a writer/I’m (insert whatever I felt would be better to navigate these conversational waters here. There’s a reason I hate this question, and moments like this are likely why).

Dinner Party Person: Yeah, but what do you really do?

Me: Uh, I’m in costumes and design – right now I’m working at (insert place/gig here), I’ve got a few things lined up-

or

Me: Well, I’ve got this book out that I’m promoting, I’ve been doing some guest posting and podcasts while I submit, I’m working on an idea that-

Dinner Party Person: No, I mean how do you make your money? Your real job?

At this point, if we were talking costumes, I’d usually saucilly offer to pull out my tax returns, but whatev. To be fair, there are some people who regard my career stories as entertainment (I’m not lying when I say I’ve used stories to get out of dinner parties), and that’s usually fine. I can be that person. No one would believe my autobiography at this point. Writing is harder, because people are either way impressed that you’re published, or they know enough to start asking what type of publishing (I escape this somewhat because I’ve mostly worked through publishers), or how much you actually sell.

There’ are always people who are looking for an opening in these conversations to prove to themselves for some reason that everyone who chooses a creative path is a weird bohemian who lives with 37 other people and paints actual cats or something and is destined to face their lives alone living in a box. It’s like they want to watch you give up on yourself in real time and think that one conversation over food is going to turn on a light bulb and make you go “Oh my god, you’re right, you’re so much better than me! If only I’d been an investment banker! If only I’d not let art into my life! Shame on me!” as you curl into a ball and have the breakdown they expect you to have at some point. Okay, I may be exaggerating a little, but still.  It is all too easy to feel less than coming out of those conversations.

Take social media. Somehow Facebook’s real power is to put you in touch with everyone who is better than you and perpetually throw their accomplishments in your face at your most vulnerable moments. You may love those people, you may be happy for them, but I guarantee at some point you’re going to be scrolling and wonder why your life is a shambling ruins when everyone else is getting contracts or working on amazing things (and they feel the same way, too. It’s all relative). Both of these situations also don’t take personal circumstances into account, so we just assume that we’re obviously not doing something right or we’re not good enough, and on and on.

The point is, we’ve got this idea in our heads that a person isn’t successful unless their face is on Entertainment Tonight all the time, or unless they’re like Stephen King or JK Rowling. Here’s the thing: There are an awful lot of working artists/writers making a living who fall into neither of those categories.  And by this being the prevailing, subconscious viewpoint, that puts a ton of pressure on feeling like things have to be all or nothing. There are a lot of options between those two extremes, and there’s nothing wrong with falling into that big, giant category. People in that middle ground accomplish stuff, yo, there is nothing to be ashamed of!

Your artistic career is not going to be all or nothing. It’s going to change. A lot. You may have to go do something else for a while, then come back to things. You may achieve instantaneous fame and glory and then have to figure out how to not crash and burn. You may, because of location or means, be somewhat of an unrecognized working artist your whole life. This falls back on why you have to decide why you want to do this, because you have to make up your mind constantly if you can live with that or if you’re always chasing an image.

However, it is still your career. Your projects. Your baby. Your dream, your soul, your thing. So you also need to figure out what success means to you. If you’re an actor, is it only being on Broadway or starring on a hit TV series? What’s that going to mean if you get tours or regional gigs or guest star a lot, but can’t quite get that final bit to happen? Are you cool with just doing side event performance work while you do something else? As a writer, are you only going to be happy if you have a huge film franchise built off your work? Are you cool with just putting out a free blog, or are you somewhere in between?

Things can change, goals can change, your definition of success is completely personal and can absolutely change.

I’m not saying don’t shoot for the stars, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re not there yet. This is your personal happiness we’re talking, here, and if you’re continually judging yourself on something that’s likely to be elusive, you’re going to miss out on a lot in the meantime. You want to make sure that you’re appreciating what you are doing, celebrating the successes you have obtained. I’ve had to remind people that while I haven’t had Harry Potter or Twilight-level success, I’ve also put out some books which I’m very proud of, and networking with some amazing people, and determined to keep going so this can be my career. With costumes, I’ve worked alongside some incredible companies and done stuff that I never would have dreamed I could accomplish when I was in my late teens and early twenties and likely still have far to go on that path, as well.

It’s okay to lighten up on yourself and appreciate all your successes, whatever they may be. It’s not going to be all or nothing. If you need someone to tell you, then I am telling you right now: not hitting the highest of highs does not make you a failure. You don’t have to hit that mark to prove anything to anyone, be it yourself, former teachers, family, or those obnoxious dinner party people.

Enjoy the journey in all it’s wild, crazy glory. Enjoy what you learn and what you’re creating, because that’s kind of the point. Enjoy all your successes, no matter what level, because they are yours and they are awesome.

2nd Look: Of Stories and General Jerkishness

Published September 20, 2017 by admin

Another look back at the teachers who have helped to shape my life and kindle the creative spark. This time, we’re going to junior high English class.

***

So to truly kick of this whole new world for you and me   direction where I discuss craft and influences a little bit more, I did hunker down and think a lot about where to begin. I’ve talked in the past about my mom being very pro-books, being a library fanatic to the point of getting locked in one as a kid, and growing up a Reading Rainbow addict.

There are other people, though, who may or may not realize the part they’ve played, who may or may not accept the role they played in not only my love of reading, but the formation of the gloriously weird person that I’ve turned into. Yeah, like I’m totally going to claim all of that as my fault. Please. I’m also not going to name names, because I feel like if people don’t have a public personality, sometimes shining a beacon on them is the last thing that they’d actually want, especially if they’re part of something as vast and sundry as the public education system. I’ll leave it up to them to call me out in the comments section or something, heh.

Back in Jr. High, I went through what one might have called a phase of being something of a royal jerk. We all have those phases, and it seems that the twelve and thirteen-year-old bracket is ripe for this part of personality development. Granted, my version of jerkishness was probably tame in comparison to a lot of other people, but I definitely had those smart-alecky moments. I don’t know if growing up a minister’s kid or if growing up in a community where my parents would know what I’d been up to by dinner finally made me lash out a bit at certain points. I don’t know if I was enabled by certain friends,…honestly there’s no point really blaming anyone or anything. It was a part of my growing up, and for the most part, I’ve grown out of it.

Granted, I can still rock the sarcasm when I need to, but I consider that a life skill.

There was one English teacher, in particular, my snark got leveled at. I have no clue why. I don’t know if it was because he was younger than a lot of my other teachers if he just seemed to rise to the occasion more, or if I was just that cranky by that point in the afternoon. Maybe it was because at that point in life I liked to get the last word, maybe it was because a certain friend and I both had him as a teacher, or maybe it was the sheer fact that he didn’t know my parents so the likelihood of me hearing about what a weirdo I was at dinner every night was less likely with that class.

To read more, click here

2nd look: It’s okay to stand up for yourself

Published September 13, 2017 by admin

Going to highlight another amazing teacher in my life this week, this time from junior high and in a class that I didn’t exactly excel at any given point:

***

So obviously, I was a right gem in Jr. High. Honestly, I think a lot of my attitude and ineptness was residual issues that came with moving to a new area when I was like nine or ten. Unlike where I grew up originally, I didn’t have kids right across the street and I wasn’t as constantly enabled as I had been before. Sure, I had people at the church I went to and some friends at school, but tween years are that wonderful age where you can be friends and not friends depending on the day and time. Plus, my school friends weren’t actually in my class, or even my end of the building. Add to that a much younger sibling who I spent the bulk of my time around, vastly different interests than a lot of people my age, and no cable, and yeah, I’m sure I came across like a socially inept mutant a lot of the time. It’s honestly always been easier for me to connect with people younger or older than myself, and I know that didn’t help, either.  I had no concept of self at eleven. I knew how I wanted to be, and how I saw others, but I had absolutely no idea how to bridge the gap or lessen the tension. As I’ve said before, I wandered through the Forest of Awkward and bumped into every stinkin’ tree trying to find the way out.

Sometimes, though, the universe, fate, a higher power, whatever you want to call it, is looking out for you. And sometimes other people are, too.

To read more, click here

Becoming a Germ of the Wild, another look back

Published September 6, 2017 by admin

Since we’re at back to school time, I want to tip my hat to some teachers that forever shaped me (and who are probably regretting that now). These are actually past blog posts of mine, so I’ll give you the intro and then link you to the rest of the original post. Today’s look back takes us to senior year of high school:

***

After fumbling through the beginning of teenagerdom in Jr. High, dealing with on and off friends, and all the other fun things that 80’s sitcoms didn’t fully prepare me for, high school was mostly uneventful. My freshman year was a little bit of an acclimation time. There was also a theme of me fast growing into a professional piner for dudes who I viewed as unobtainable and who probably wouldn’t have been good for me/would have been a let down had anything actually happened. Other than that, though, I kept my head down and avoided most drama. School work plus a growing love of theatre and music occupied my free time, and then there was college and the ever-important looming future to think about. Then senior year happened.

It’s not something I’m going to waste a lot of time talking about or fully get into, because at the end of the day it’s something that happened long ago, is minimal in the scheme of things, and bringing up specifics would turn into a they-said/she-said situation, and I don’t need that in my life. What’s important is that my reactions to it changed me forever as a person.

To read the rest, click here

 

 

Influences: Billy Wirth and the Best Advice I’ve Ever Gotten

Published September 3, 2017 by admin

So the other day I talked about the oddly profound effect The Lost Boys has had on my creative life, so we’ll just piggy back on that theme today because it’s the weekend and thinking, ugh.

I’ve mentioned this story before on podcasts and in interviews when talking about influences and advice for authors/creatives in general. I wanted to share it here because not only does it fit the theme and fill up an entry, but it’s a great example of how simple sentiment and advice can have a profound real-world effect. It’s also evidence of my giant dorkiness, so there’s entertainment value for ya, too.

I also feel bad, because I had promised Billy’s fan club gal, the amazing Max, a write up when I first met him and that may have been back in 2009. I would just like every editor that I have worked with to feel better about themselves and recount this time lapse any time they’re tapping their foot at me. It could always be worse. Seriously, at the time I kept getting massive costume workloads dumped on me, a lot of life stuff happened, and then through the years, I discovered a horrible, awful truth.

You guys, I’m so bad at being a fangirl. For real. I know I geek out about a lot and I’ve regularly moderated fandom panels at different cons (though I still think it’s because I helped diffuse a brawl at one), you’d think this would be cake. I love what I love, I appreciate the people who have made those things to a huge degree, but I can’t really separate the part of me that likes to analyze and wants to know how things work and is used to looking at things/critiquing from different angles. At the end of the day, I’d rather just talk to people as people then try to put a fandom spin on it or jump around because they’ve been in something I love (and there is nothing wrong with that, if that’s your deal, you do you).

I tried. I tried so hard, and I am just so bad at writing the ‘hey I met this person this is what they’re like’ kind of post without having a theme or a guiding moment to base it around. I end up feeling like a creeper. Case in point: I actually had the idea for this post in the spring, knowing the 30 year anniversary of Lost Boys was coming up. I started jotting down what I remembered from that first convention meeting…

And I may have turned it into the intro for a horror story. I tried again. And turned it into an outline for a novel about the symbiotic nature of fandom and the dynamic of fans and celebs involving ancient gods and soul sucking.

I swear I’m not a bad person.

So, I’m going back to the anecdote that I know will work and, so help me, I am going to do this. I won’t be able to be overly descriptive or starry-eyed, but there are plenty of posts telling you what the Lost Boys convention experience is like. Apologies in advance for tangents and background info – my blog, my rules, yo.

Winter of 2009 was a weird, turning-point time for me. I was slowly getting freelance work and doing more side gigs along with seasonal creative day job, but before I really got a sense of confidence in myself. It was directly after the death of my grandfather, and the family had recently gone through a tumultuous time. While on break from seasonal job, the holiday gigs stretched out much longer than usual, with some extra opportunities coming up, plus some business and other curve balls.  It was a lot all at once during a time when I should have been hibernating, and I was exhausted and emotionally burnt out.

I tell you this to really give context to the fact that when someone sent me a link about a Lost Boys reunion at Horror Hound Indianapolis, I thought it was a great idea to go. Because I am a genius like that. At the time I just needed to get away, and what harm would a weekend be? Yeah, then I was suddenly told I had to get my tail back to the day job the day after the convention or else. And everything I had known there was being shifted around with the workload doubling and tripling up. And with everything going on and coming to a head, I kinda sorta didn’t really sleep for five days leading up to the con. In retrospect, this was probably a vague foreshadowing of the medical mystery tour, but in the absence of mind-numbing pain or any real symptoms, my doc figured I was grieving and said to go live it up as long as I didn’t drive myself there.

Thank god for friends who are eternally patient and understanding, and I’m forever grateful to my friend Laurean for going with me. This was also the first time I had set foot in a con, so it was a total learning experience (though I’d been working on haunted events for like five years anyway, so it wasn’t like I didn’t feel fine at a horror convention). At that point, I kept half an eye on the fandom and had been talked into joining Billy Wirth’s fan club mailing list. I mention I’m going, get encouraged to say hi and all that great stuff, maybe take some pictures and do a write up for the web page (and you can see how well that went).

Another curveball: I’m so shy, guys. Even my best friends refuse to believe it, and yeah, give me a sewing machine, give me a script, put me in a panel or production meeting and watch me go, point me to an editor at a bar to talk to about an idea, fine, but just to like show up somewhere and make small talk with people? You have no idea the amount of psyching myself up that I have to do. Now, after more experience, it’s not as bad, but back then, especially on top of everything else, yeah, but I was going to try my best to fake it and fall on that sword a million times before chickening out. We finally arrive, check in, get our wristbands, start looking around. My friend suddenly yanks on my sleeve “Oh hey, there he is and there’s no one at the table. Let’s go!”

Now, despite my twitchy feelings on fandom, if you go back a post, you know how deeply I feel about The Lost Boys. I love that movie and I probably owe it a lot. Billy’s also an actor that I half was aware of through the nineties, but this was before wiki and Google and so it took me a long time to realize that a lot of the performances in stuff that I liked or that intrigued me were actually the same guy. And the cast hadn’t really don’t much in the Midwest, so now, here, was an awesome opportunity. And okay I was nervous and emotionally exhausted, but I had read up on stuff and I’d just try acting like what a fan was supposed to act like and yes I know that was the dumbest idea ever.

Needless to say, Laurean, who thought she knew me completely, was somewhat startled when I looked over at her declaration, had a sudden flood of panic, and decided “You know what, yeah, I’m just gonna go back to the room, laterz.”

Though she wasn’t as startled as I was when she glowered at me, physically lifted me off my feet, and dragged me over to the Lost Boys tables, where Billy was on his own and setting up. I really don’t know which of the three of us was more surprised. Tact and grace, that’s what I’m all about.

So yeah, this is the bit you came for, I know. Intros are made, and I’ve said before how awesome all the Lost Boys dudes are, but seriously, I can’t stress this enough. It was probably the best first con experience I could have had, in all honesty. Billy, himself, is super sweet, though I think the thing that always strikes me when I’ve been around him is how present he is. It’s something you don’t see very often, and I’m always struck by how much he listens to people and takes things in. It’s an enviable trait. Truly, watching him and the others interact with people prepared me for when I finally got on the other side of the table in a way I could never have predicted, and for that alone I’m grateful.

Standard fan interaction and transactions commence, there’s not a crowd so we start talking about stuff. I’m exhausted and my brain isn’t functioning great for small talk, but he’s very kind and doesn’t flip a table on me or anything. I mention vaguely that I’ve done entertainment work (in that delightfully dismissive way I’ve had to make myself stop doing).  He asks the sort of thing I do.

Ugh.

I’m still kind of amazed I stayed put, at the time. I’ve never been great about walking around with my resume stapled to my head. These days, I’m better about it, but at the time I was keenly aware of all the things I hadn’t done. It tended to slip my mind that I’d worked with a lot of great theatres and opera and amusement parks, licensed properties and other stuff. And so much was just so weird, and how do you even throw that into a conversation? I mean I’ve wrecked dinner parties and gotten out of bad dates with work conversation, that’s the level of weird I’ve been at. And damn it, every time I tried to be dismissive he kept asking follow up questions, and I really wasn’t used to that. He was patient and I think I sort of vaguely fumbled through an explanation and mentioned how I was frustrated with where I was at and really wanted to do more design type work, I was still trying to find my exact niche, insert standard artistic angst here.

Since then, having been on the other side of the table, I get that there are certain conversations that you’re going to have at these things, and I get that he was likely being nice and trying to be supportive while determining if I was a vague threat to his personage. Still, what he said next has stayed with me to this day:

“Well, you know, you just have to keep at it, just keep working.”

In a story, this would be the turning point in which the protagonist realized this wisdom and begins reapplying herself, cue montage of projects toward the next plot development. In reality, it was all I could do to not lean across the table and smack him (That is a joke.  Also, he’s like three feet taller than me and could’ve easily blocked that).

Beyond the whole frazzled bit, you’ve got to understand that at that point I’d been working professionally for about a decade. That’s not a lot in the scheme of things, but it felt like I was going nowhere and wasn’t figuring things out. Plus, I don’t really see it, but I’ve been told by more than a few people that my will power is apparently off the human scale. Brooke was fond of referring to that part of me as a pit bull because when I apply myself to something, that’s it. My will is iron until I know for a fact that things won’t come together. So, my immediate thought to being told to just keep working was something like What the hell do you think I’ve been doing why are you giving me this motivational la de da you don’t know my life, what the what?!?! Quitting is not an option!!!

I didn’t say that out loud because that would have been dumb, and it was obvious he meant well and didn’t say it to brush me off. I have no idea how much of a poker face I actually kept, but I’m sure the entertainment value of that whole conversation was amazing. And if I didn’t let on, then awesome, all the acting classes worked out!

We also had some great conversations about the clothes in the movie, I met Brooke, Chance, and G the next day, and all in all it was a great weekend. I went back to my life, hit the ground running, and although I didn’t want to admit it, at times Billy’s words were in the back of my mind. Where they ticked me off again. So, I went back to what I was doing.

The thing is…I inadvertently, instinctively followed his advice. In the following years, I made the decision to embrace the experiences offered to me to see what would happen. While this hasn’t bagged me Hollywood gigs, it did flesh out my resume a lot and provided a lot of material that no one would believe if I wrote my autobiography. I was a goth mascot for a roller derby team for a while, I did more freelance design work, puppeteered with a fairly known company on their holiday show for a couple years.

Costume-wise, I really started putting myself out there and ended up working on all sorts of stage shows: kid shows, character shows, ice shows, magic shows, Cirque-style stuff, musical review, indoor, outdoor, did tailoring and rigging for people, a logistics manual on some stuff for a place in Canada…I made all sorts of haunted attraction characters and started getting invited to production meetings I hadn’t been part of in the past. And I got comfortable with my weird and in meeting challenges like making a Dracula costume for a 20 foot T Rex statue, a pirate costume for an animatronic dinosaur, a grim reaper jumping out of a giant birthday cake, and things like a goth rocker fairy tale werewolf. On stilts. With the only budget going to the stilts and safety gear. I warned you: so weird. 

Billy’s words didn’t really come back to me until a couple of years later, when I was fully in the grasp of the medical mystery tour, on my seasonal break, and waiting to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. I was in pain, I was getting a few hours of sleep every four days or so, and my full attention was on trying to keep healthy, juggling doctor appointments and calls, and distracting myself from falling apart. After exhausting youtube videos and meditation, I decided that I really, really wanted to take up writing again. I’d never given it a fair shot, and after being mistold at the time that I might have cancer, it occurred to me that I didn’t want to not try something that could make me really happy. The mountain was overwhelming, but his words came back to me all of a sudden, out of nowhere.

Just keep working.

This time, I consciously kept them in the front of my mind, even clung to them, because everything was a fight at that point. So I would make myself get up (or sit up if it was a bed day), pull up a document, and get to it until I sent out a submission, then start a new one. If it got rejected, edit and repeat. I kept it up through the surgery that made me feel human again, through starting the day job back up, and slowly, things began to happen.

Whether it was a platitude or not (and I truly don’t think it was), the brilliance of advice like that is it’s so simple and applicable in different ways. You don’t get anywhere unless you work at it. There’s no networking, no improving skills, no figuring things out if you aren’t doing it. Sure, it’s not guaranteed where you’ll end up, but if you don’t keep at it, you won’t get there, anyway. You also won’t learn to enjoy the journey if you don’t keep taking it. You won’t learn about yourself and how to deal with all the irritations and other emotions that all these experiences bring if you don’t go through them. Frustration is part of the game, and I’ve had a lot of it, but I’ve kept that advice with me for years. I’ve given it on panels about writing and creating and gotten the same irritable look I tried to cover up when it was given to me. Circle of life, yo.

Although I wasn’t thankful for the words at the time, they’re a good reminder these days, and I’m so glad I got to meet Billy and have that conversation with him. Hell, even his good intentions were so far beyond what I was used to at that point, it was a definite wake-up call to start searching out people who would actually be interested and invested in what I was doing and not waste personal energy with those who were there to play games or drag others down.

If you take a look at this blog, there’s a giant series of holes. I’ve taken steps back over the past year and a half until recently, and part of that was that I just really had to look at where my writing was, where other things were, and how I want to proceed. I’m not sure that it’s another crossroads, but I’ve had to get honest with myself whether the path I’m on is working, and how to realign things to where I want them to be. It’s pretty obvious that I couldn’t stop creating stuff if I tried (and I did. It sucked), but restarting has been intimidating as hell. It’s hard not to put the cart before the horse and worry about all the ins and outs and how to play every situation or let other aspects and things I can’t control get to me. It’s all part of it, like it or not. At the end of the day, though, I’m deciding to get back to it and see what else there is to do. It’s not easy, it’s not always fun, but the only way I can ever find out just what all I can do is by keeping with it.

Or, as I’ve been told, just keep working.

 

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and seriously, every one of the lost boys crew look like walking headshots and it took me 97 hours to get to this point.