Wizardry and Wild Romance by Michael Moorcock – read
Wizardry and Wild Romance by Michael Moorcock – read
Feminisms and Womanisms edited by Susan Silva-Wayne and Althea Prince ~ read
In Cold Type by Leonard Shatzkin
From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne – Drink Tank
The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells – Drink Tank
Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin – Literary Theory
The Hugo Winners Volume 3 – edited by Isaac Asimov – Drink Tank
Challengers of the Unknown by Ron Goulart – Drink Tank ~ read
The Lady From the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara
Feminisms and Womanisms edited by Susan Silva-Wayne and Althea Prince ~ read
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker
An Informal History of the Hugos by Jo Walton
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. – 1960 Nominee
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi – 2010 Winner
The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber – 1965 Winner
A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke – 1963 Nominee
This Immortal by Roger Zelazny – 1966 Winner
The Big Time by Fritz Leiber – 1958 Winner (I apparently have two copies)
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny – 1968 Winner
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin – 1970 Winner
My birthday was in July and I have wonderful friends.
Keep Going by Austin Kleon ~ Creativity ~ read
Who Cooked the Last Supper? by Rosalind Miles – Feminism, History
Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo – Creativity, Self-Care
Better Living Through Criticism by A. O. Scott – #LitCrit
The Book of Vice by Peter Sagal – Fun
The Steal Like an Artist Journal by Austin Kleon – Creativity
Biblioholism by Tom Raabe – Reading
I really like Austin Kleon’s take on creativity. His weekly newsletter is filled with bits and pieces which give insight and stir creativity within myself. This fairly recent issue goes into the many options for pens and notepads and index card systems and … I get breathless reading it all.
By the time I got to his notebook turducken, I thought I was going to need a bit of a lie down. I’m surprised he doesn’t have a notebook to keep track of all his notebooks!
Reading articles like this often causes me to fixate on my own tools and how I use them. Many of the systems he describes are things I’ve tried, thought about trying, and almost always given up on. Even my bullet journal has turned into something less than it was designed for.
It’s not the systems, it’s the fancy notebooks and pens. And being a school supply nerd myself, I can get into all the fanciness. But I don’t have the money to be spending on those things anymore. And, what’s more, I don’t feel like my creativity is missing out.
I do have a preferred style of notebook, they’re usually the type which can be found in museum gift shops. And I loved this sampler set of pens from JetPens (where I also bought this great pen case, which also stands up). Those are my preferences.
But what it comes down to is having a stack of composition books, blank journals, etc. I’ve accumulated over the years, that’s what I’ll be using. Nothing fancy, just something I can throw in my bag with the pens and current book.
I don’t begrudge Austin or anyone having preferences for tools which are more than I can afford right now. I love learning what others use. And I’m extremely comfortable knowing that whatever I use and how I use it will still get the job done.
When I have two day weekends, Sundays have become the day for beating back the clutter. Last week it was finding my desk amongst the stacks of books so I can read and write more comfortably. Today I’m beating at the overflowing email filled with a few requests for reviews, links to stories I’m following, and the daily ephemera which creeps in reminding me there are adulting things to be taken care of.
My day job affords me the opportunity to make up hours for days I’m forced to miss (as a contractor I don’t receive pay for company holidays). I’m also afforded overtime to help keep the finances in better shape. Of course, this cuts into time for my own work, which includes finding a balance for it all. But I have to have my #moneyhoney.
Yesterday, I took colorful pen in hand and opened my book journal to make the somewhat definitive list of projects and writing I’m working on. It is a lot. With deadlines. I’m not here to join the chorus of every writer saying it’s hard. That much is obvious. But when I dedicated myself to this work nearly a year ago, I knew going in it would be tough to keep up and get it done. That commitment remains foremost in my mind.
As my work on the Three Books continues (not writing, reviewing), I have taken some side steps into womanism. The woman’s studies reader has some of the classic essays from founding mothers, making this an opportunity to explore my own feminism. I was probably in my mid-fifties when I started recognizing feminism as a thing in my life, and the sexism which is so rampant in every woman’s life. I want to learn more in order to continue my own healing process.
Attacking the clutter is another way I’m taking care of myself. I can’t nap myself through it.
The best piece of advice I’ve received is, “Just finish the thing.” So that’s where I am.
Uncle Buck’s Grill and Diner is a uniquely updated version of a bowling alley food counter. It’s part of the monstrosity called Bass Pro Shops, a sporting goods store which takes up the entire side of a strip mall filled with big stores. The draw to Uncle Buck’s was their underwater theme for the bowling alley. I knew we wouldn’t bowl, but I wanted to see the place anyway.
So late on a warm Sunday morning, my friends and I descended on this spectacularly overdone place for lunch. Entering, we walked past the statue of Uncle Buck with the dumbest “I caught a grrrrrrrl” look on his face holding a mermaid cuddled up to him as if to say, “My hero!” Through the small alley filled with families eating pizza and playing on the black light lanes, decorated under the sea with shark heads on the ball return. The balls themselves were reptilian eyes. On the way out Henry, who is from Florida, pointed out one set was alligator eyes. To which I retorted, “That’s Godzilla! What are you talking about?”
The three of us were the only ones in the restaurant proper. Deep fried gator, a boar cheese burger, and a shared dessert were talked over. I was so full I figured I wouldn’t be able to eat for a couple of days. I was pretty close to right. Gone are the days when I could have eaten that, not shared the dessert and gone home to another meal later.
Joy is my emotional intellect partner. We drill down into our feelings and sort through them. She has talked me through many anxiety and imposter syndrome attacks. Always understanding, empathetic and loving, she shows me I matter.
Henry, my book benefactor, is my intellectual jack of all subjects partner. We’ve drilled down into feminism, religion, books, emotional trauma, art, etc. He is my museum partner, come hang out and help me get stuff done friend. He also helps me remember my past has shaped me, and the struggles I fight are almost always because of childhood trauma.
The day before my birthday I asked Henry to come over because I didn’t want to be alone. I was all kinds of freaked out about turning 60. The number didn’t bother me so much as reflecting on what I thought I should have and didn’t at this point in my life. The dream had always been a house, a husband and a career. None of which were ever a possibility in my non-dream state.
The realization I was ill-prepared by my parents to face the world had come earlier in the day, but it was Henry who helped me drill deep and figure out why I was feeling like 60 was some sort of doomsday marker for me.
Watching my mother handle money was a master class in what not to do. But it didn’t teach me the things I needed to do to attain a house I could make a home. Things like saving and using credit judiciously in order to secure a mortgage.
Which brings us back to the weekend after my birthday when the three of us sat in Uncle Buck’s Diner and Grill and talked. My writing, the books I’ve read, the plans I have. And, somewhere during the S’mores skillet Joy and I shared, she looked at me and said, “Look how far you’ve come.”
Stunned into silence, my thoughts reviewed what we’d talked about. Henry and I taught Joy about genre appropriation, #LitFic vs. genre, ways of looking at the text. As I spoke, I felt the voice of authority creep through me. I actually sounded like I knew what I was talking about, and was thankful for the practice of explaining it to someone who doesn’t read genre.
Underneath all of this is a layer of anxiety which has caused procrastination which has led to guilt and paralysis. I keep taking deep breaths, reminding myself what it’s about, that being a critic is why I put up with the shenanigans at the day job. All the things, I have planned, scare the bejesus out of me if I let them
And when I stumbled over Black Leopard, Red Wolf, I panicked. I circled that review like my life depended on it. The perfectionist in me held me back, while my imposter taunted me. Who was I to think I could do any of what it would take to reach such lofty goals? I would come home drained from the day job and stare at the blank page. WTF did I have to say?
None of the conversations I’ve had with encouraging friends made it better. While talking to someone who’s also read Black Leopard, I bemoaned my inability to just write the review. “It’s dark, violent, and complicated.”
“Why can’t that be your review?”
Uhm …. Back to the blank page. I typed those words, and then I typed some more. I referred to Moral Fiction, which led to more typing. My imposter was laughing hysterically at me by this point. Jumping up and down and pointing at me in ridicule. I was an anxious, guilt-ridden mess. Then one weekend, “Oh fuck it I just want it to be done.” More words on the page. Still doubting myself, I wrote. I referred to my notebook, and thought about why I didn’t like this book, and about the conversations I’d had about it.
I got through a shitty first draft. And then I left it. I spun through the emotional cycle. Anxiety, guilt, fear. During my breaks at work I breathed deeply, and while reading another book, thought about Black Leopard as though it was a career defining review.
But I also thought about why I want to do this work, and what it would feel like if I stopped. What would happen if I just went back to reading and writing Reader Response? That thought didn’t make me happy at all. “No, I’ve come too far, learned too much to ever just go back to that.” Forward, onward it is then.
Why then am I following this path which has the possibility of taking me lofty places I’d never dreamed of? It’s easy to answer, and it’s not. The kind of conversations I have with Henry and Joy are the kinds of conversations I want to have with others. I want to cut through the chatter and get to the meat of a book. I want to stand in a hall at a gathering of geeks and talk about the way Marlon James thinks he can read Game of Thrones and then write the African version.
I want to talk about the way Alfred Bester took a noir crime thriller and turned it into a cyber-punk story with SJW overtones and bad feminism. Further, I want to write the critical reviews that almost no one else is writing. I’m not sure I’m up to saying I want to inspire others to dig deep and demand better from our genre, but I do want to hear those conversations. I want to see a LitHub for genre, a place where serious discussions are being had. Selfishly, I want to have more people in my life I can talk to the way I do Henry and Joy.
And what this means is I have to fight through that emotional cycle. I have to remember that getting the thing done is more important than getting it perfect. There’s no going back for me. I’ll never be able to read in the same way. My book journal will always be out with the book I’m reading. It’s scary. But I can’t give up, I just can’t.
And so, in not quite a year, I’ve gone from wanting to learn the better way to read and write about what I’ve read, to actually doing it. I’ve gone from just wanting to do it to amuse myself to wanting to do it for the community. From reading whatever came off the pile to reading with purpose, and writing about it with purpose.
I’m still stunned when publishers send books at my request for review. But I’ve gone from hoping I’d win a copy on LibraryThing to asking the publisher directly. This work fulfills me, even when my anxiety leads me to near paralysis.
It’s also led me to understand I just need a day job, not a career. It’s easier in some ways to shrug the nonsense off and move on. I may be drained when I get home, but I know there’s more for me than trying to carve a career out of yet another place made of jello and bandaids.
That sunny day at Uncle Buck’s will serve as a marker in time. It’s the one that reads, “I made 60 and am thriving.” It also reads, “We were together in congenial company and I was lifted up by the reminder of how much I’ve grown.” And that’s the difference a year makes.
The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin – read
On Moral Fiction by John Gardner- Theory ~ read
They’d Rather be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley – Hugo ~read
A Case of Conscience by James Blish – Hugo
The Iliad and the Odyssey by Alberto Manguel
The Big Time by Fritz Lieber – Hugo
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak – Feminism
What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton – Genre