memories

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2nd Look: Dropping the Mask and Exposing the Spirit

Published September 15, 2017 by admin

What can I say – I’m back from vacation this week and the wireless has been cutting out on me. At any rate, I wanted to do a second look at this post, because I think it warrants it. It’s probably the only serious post I’ll ever do under the Lost Manuscripts tag (usually reserved for horribly illustrated stuff I did as a kid, hilarious school projects, and pages of my angst journals). I’m also getting back into Jung, and everything seems to point to that sort of undercurrent lately: Clarissa Pinkola Estes keeps showing up in my social media, The Unwritten series with the whole Leviathan symbolism, and I was given a copy of the reader’s edition of The Red Book last Christmas (still working through that beast). My fascination with this kind of thing is fairly personal and probably goes back to my teen years. It may even go back to this very project.

So, without further adieu, click here to read all about that time I did a gigantic 2 volume school project on my personal interpretation of the masks people wear in society. And my parents wondered why it was hard for me to date as a teen…

 

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:

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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.

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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:

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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

 

 

The Medical Mystery Tour (writing from sense memory)

Published August 11, 2017 by admin

One of the things that I really want to do here on out is to explore not just where I get my ideas, but how I incorporate them into writing. In a lot of ways, I think all my acting classes have really helped me here, especially with getting under the skin of a character.

For those who haven’t heard the term sense memory, the short version is in acting, basically you’re using one of your senses to recall an emotional memory from a specific time to help flesh out the character you’re playing. For instance, I once played Anna in The King and I. During the letter scene where she learns the king is dying, I focused on the memory on the last letter that I’d received from my grandmother before she died from cancer – that I accidentally threw away, thinking it was a different letter. That feeling of loss, as well as focusing on the color and feel of the stationary, the memory of her writing, really helped with the mindset the director wanted from the scene. While they may not call it this, a lot of writers use this trick, as well. Granted, I would add the caveat that you want to make it work for you – you don’t have to go full blown method to make your writing believable, and anything that’s putting you through the wringer isn’t necessarily something that you should pursue just to say you’re adding to your craft. For me, personally, though (especially since it means I’m putting my degree to use), recalling specific bits of memories has helped me when I might be facing writer’s block on a particular situation or character. So off and on I’ll

So off and on I’ll proably touch on some of my own personal experiences and how I’ve used them. For instance, this thing right here. It’s a beaut that will leave you traumatized, but shows just how much mileage you can get from even awful times.

Some years back I was recovering from the flu and noticed that even months after, I still felt draggy. Not bad, just overly tired. I still did what I had to do, because that’s just how I live my life. At any rate, I had started back at seasonal main dayjob I had at the time, just gotten a promotion, and was dealing with some big transitions and a lot of work due to a lack of crew. I was preparing to see friends at Famous Monsters at the end of July, I think, and suddenly out of nowhere I started getting intense headaches. No prob, go to the doctor, sinus infection, get antibiotics, go on my way, just as I had times before because my allergies and sinuses like to work together to remind me who’s in charge from time to time.

Except this time, I didn’t go on my merry way. I reacted to the antibiotic, got a different one, okay, great, life goes on…except it didn’t. The pain pulsed out from the side of my nose and face to the back of my neck and down my back and sometimes the top of my head. It was like all my muscles were tightening and kept being tightened by some Inquisition-level torture device. While I was still exhausted and sinusy. I have no idea how I survived that convention other than one of my best friends kept an eye on me to keep me alive, except for the time I left a film screening early and nearly collapsed in a hall, which I never did tell her or others when asked how I was feeling, so people are just going to love me for this. Seriously, learn from my idiocy. At any rate, by time I got back from that adventure, I was subjected to lots of tests and lots of raised eyebrows. As in: Are you sure it’s not in your imagination? Have you thought about a neurologist? It may just be phantom pains, see if it goes away.

It took everything in me not to reply with how I was pretty sure I was in agony and couldn’t I just wait and see if they went away, instead? (Did I mention I’m not the biggest fan of doctors?)

By the time they decided it could be allergies and put me through that test and an attempt at weekly drops so hilarious it bordered on the sitcomy, I was also buzzing under my skin and it felt like an ice pick had been driven into the side of my nose all the time.  Diet changes, life changes, an extremely understanding boss, some fairly understanding side gigs, ten different doctors, loads of different prescriptions and otc meds, an offhanded comment that I should prepare that it could be cancer (right before Christmas and a month before I went to a new ENT), and finally maternal intervention so I didn’t lose my mind, took up my time. I’ve never been so wound up, so at the mercy of my body and everything I was putting into it in my life. I get why people lose hope because of a medical condition, because I was going nowhere fast, and in agony. My gp finally put me on the correct dose to kill the infection, and the ENT finally adjusted my allergy meds to reduce inflammation. And that’s when we found out what was really going on.

I’ll warn you, I won’t get detailed gory but you may want to scroll by the next paragraph if you’re squeamish.

So, I’d had jaw surgery when I was 16 or 17, and I’d even done a presentation on it in college, complete with illustrations of a line of screws that had been put in to hold my bones together until they healed. Apparently, though, that wasn’t quite right because I had some big honking brackets under my face, and by the way, they were coming lose and cutting through my nasal cavities. We won’t discuss how we found that out for certain, other than to say that if you’ve never felt anything rattle under your face, you’re missing out. So, that was fun. Add in a lot of phone calls to find a doctor who could deal with this, and like nearly a year after the initial exhaustion, I was getting de-borg-ed. It was a long, extended foray into pain, exhaustion, paranoia, the health care system, amazingly sensitive and insensitive reactions of others, and feeling utterly helpless. I still tense up every time I have a cold simply because I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

However, the experience dropped a huge amount of sense memory in my lap (not to mention a great name for the experience, the better to keep myself from crying at those memories). Not just the obvious physical feelings, either, but the exhaustion and long-term helplessness, of just wanting things to go right for a change, was directly funneled into Paddlelump in Olde School. Poor guy goes through one thing after another after another without relief, while facing the subtle and unsubtle judgment of others. That was definitely something I could relate to.

The physical feeling of different meds interacting added with not sleeping very much at one point contributed a lot to Jermiah in In the Red. While I haven’t lived the rock star lifestyle, I definitely know the feeling of not feeling in your own skin, of being there but not being in your body or in control, of everything running away with you, or opening your mouth and some other thing coming out that just isn’t you. And you’d be amazed the feelings of worthlessness you feel when you’re seeing yet another professional and can’t get across what’s going on because you just don’t know and you’re at the end of the rope, and they ask if you’re sure that’s what you’re actually feeling. So it definitely fit for a guy who sees demonic hallucinations and feels the effect of magical memorabilia at one point.

At one point there was also an incredible feeling of release and submission, if that’s the right word for it (I’d been doing a lot of meditating to try to not lose my mind and really got into Wayne Dyer around that time), a sensation of being on my knees and having to trust that things could work out, which also feeds into Jeremiah’s resolution, and in a lot of ways, to Paddlelump’s as well. Both characters have to be broken before they can move on. That feeling of being out of control feeds into a lot of the kind of thing I write, so I’ve gotten a ton of mileage out of the experience. It’s even fueled my short fiction, because I really didn’t have a choice but to keep moving forward and to go through it, and many of my characters have that journey to take, specifically those like Hunter Mann in The Ruins of St. Louis, an anthology story I did years ago.

I don’t feel the need to focus myself and try to bring everything into uber clear focus, because it still causes a pretty big knee jerk, but it definitely has given me a lot to work with.

And one of these days it will definitely provide a direct horror story inspired by the subject matter, but I may need a paper bag to breathe into to do it.

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In the Red isn’t in print at the moment (actually working on that, tbh), but you can get more information and some fun tidbits about Olde School here

 

 

Said You Took a Big Trip: David Bowie

Published January 12, 2016 by admin

I talk a lot off and on about influences, and there will be more of that to come this week – some sad, some not. But what do you do when you wake up and find out that THE influence, the major creative force that inspired you to do what you do, is gone?

David Bowie isn’t just a celebrity. People would still be mourning, but it’s more than that. He’s touched so many people who felt excluded, whether because of gender, sexuality, artistic identity, race, whatever…he made all us outsiders feel like there was a place to go. He had so much influence, not just in the music world, but in fashion, business, art, finance, literature…people wouldn’t be devastated just because he’s famous. It’s because somehow, he appealed to so many vastly different people and gave us a haven to interpret as we will. Something to strive for. Something to look up to.

I was aware of him as a little kid when he first introduced the animated short The Snowman (certain people are convinced I have a thing for blonds because of that), and was vaguely aware of him through my mom’s copy of Let’s Dance and then Labyrinth (which scared the crap out of me when I saw it because it just made me feel so much). It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school, though, that I needed him. I was in a situation where I was suddenly being told ‘yeah, okay, you try but you’re not good enough. You’re interested in strange stuff. You’re way too articulate. You’re just…” and on and on. I survived, but my confidence and spirit took a major blow. A dear friend of mine (we still talk to this day) introduced me to his music and I’ve never looked back. Let’s Dance and Earthling, then I spent money made gigging from classical music and local events to buy Ziggy and Station to Station. I bought part of the Berlin trilogy in Berlin while touring with a chamber choir in college, and had the unique experience of walking past the studio where a lot of it was recorded, seeing the places that inspired it during the day, then going back to the hostel and listening to the albums at night.

Suddenly in my life there was a person who was intelligent, interested in every aspect of theater, constantly changed to suit his whims and vision…and it worked. And kept working. I’m one of those people who honestly loves everything he’s put out. I have my preferences and I go back and forth at times, but what’s amazing is if you line everything up, it’s like an audio autobiography, truth under masks, emotion in music. You couldn’t have the things you like without everything in between. He evolved from his influences to his own genre and beyond.

It’s more than that, though. David Bowie taught me that I can have my influences but interpret them how I want. He taught me to be fearless – let’s be honest…he received major backlash for a lot of his choices and went about things anyway. I cannot even imagine…like thinking back on some of the balls it took to reinvent himself when things were going well with Ziggy, just because he felt like it? To move to Berlin and do music that no one wanted at the time? To come back from the eighties with Tin Machine then exquisite stuff like Buddha of Suburbia and on to Earthling and Next Day and Blackstar? (yes, I know I’m skipping) To progress in a way that made sense to him even though people were constantly judging, constantly holding everything up against stuff he did decades before? He taught me what it meant to be an artist. I’m still trying to find that courage.

He taught me to speak up for myself. That I can be multifaceted as a creative animal and it’s perfectly okay, that I don’t have to listen to those who try to pat me on the head or brush off my ideas. He made me realize that it’s possible to never stop learning, to be an artist but to have an eye for business, that it was okay to be stubborn and take myself in hand. That you don’t have to wave your beliefs on a banner to be heard, but you can be honest when asked. You can also change your mind after the fact and it’s no one’s business but yours.

He taught me to think outside the box, take a chance and try. To learn about every aspect of art and keep discovering other artists.  When people get flabbergasted at how assertive or broad-thinking I can be…guess who I learned that from. He taught me it was okay to make mistakes and to have no regrets. To keep evolving in my beliefs and how I felt about life and the world around me. He also taught me to be kind, to value those I collaborate with, no matter for how long. To try to go a little beyond with people, but also not be walked on. He taught me to laugh at myself, because let’s face it, the past can be pretty damn hilarious. He made me believe that everyone can find love in different places at different times…and just when you think that’s it, there can be something amazing and beautiful and permanent.

He’s now taught me what it truly means to be an artist, to have the courage to go through until the end, exploring, eyes open, using what you can until you can’t anymore.

He was a role model, a beacon for so many of us who up to the point of his discovery felt adrift. He was creating right up until the end…that kind of fearlessness is what people say they want, but very few can actualize. As a woman, I can’t tell you how important it is to have an example like that. I can only imagine how it’s like for others. It’s probably weird to some to say that this is the person that taught me how to become myself, but he wasn’t just a person. This is David Bowie we’re talking about.

He wasn’t just a crush, or a role model, an artist, an actor, or a celebrity, or the best show I’ve ever seen…when I say he was everything, I mean it. I’m devastated over someone I’ve never met and truly don’t know as a person. I’m very aware of that.

His family owns that part of him, and I offer them my most heartfelt condolences and support. It must be so hard to go through the loss of a loved one so publicly, especially when everyone has an opinion about them and also wants to be heard. I wish them nothing but love and healing and the privacy they request and deserve.

I’m also very aware that I’m not Bowie. No one is. No one will be. That legacy is all his own, but he’s also given this world an insane, beautiful, implausibly possible example.  Right now, it’s time to grieve, but then…then all of us left-behind oddities have a choice. Do we keep pushing forward past fear and complacency to do our thing and honor our mentor? Do we crawl back in our shells and let the world slip back as it was? All of us, no matter what level we’re at or what we’re doing, can push a little more, be a little more ourselves, create a little harder.

That’s Bowie’s real legacy. He gave us the possible. He left behind his work, his public persona, and all that possibility. What we do with it, that’s strictly up to us.

I don’t like good-byes, and really, a good part of him isn’t going anywhere. Misfit teens are still going to discover him, we’re still going to remember that he was here. He is here.

Right now, though, I’m heartbroken.

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