What happens when a dream, a conversation, a notification of a cousin’s acceptance into his Archaeological Doctoral program at Yale, and a life-long fascination with Mars all converge?
Possibilities happen. And, sometimes those possibilities surprise even the the most creatively misunderstood (read: unsuccessful) writers among us!
Such a crazy, random, rapid-fire sequence of events. It reminds me of my son’s (Asperger’s) insistence that 2 + 2 = windowpane. Why? Because he remembers some random math problem that used panes of glass to represent two plus two with the sum total being a window of four panes of glass. But, I digress…back on topic: Hooray for random ideas!
So, now I’m writing. Again. I don’t delude myself into thinking that this will be anything more than an interesting and unique short story, but it will be a story. All I can hope for now is that it captivates readers as much as it did me when it smacked me upside the head and announced: I’m HEEEEERRRREEEE!
One of the things I really wanted to do was to write some compelling pieces about female sci-fi authors. And oh my God, have we had some prolific feminine voices in the genre: Margaret Atwood, Ursula Le Guin, Madeleine L’Engle, and Octavia Butler – to name just a few! These are writers I grew up reading, some of my favorites that helped me to mesh together a genre that both intrigues me and makes me feel like I can really make a mark in the literary field. They’re the reason I ever wanted to start writing in the first place. One thing has led to another – and I’ll explain that in a moment, and I haven’t gotten to these pieces – yet. But I do plan to, in the very near future. In fact, I have a short break coming up that’ll be begging for some writing, so stay tuned.
Now, to get back on point, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never hidden my hopes of, one day, joining this list of authors, even if it were just as a footnote. I would be so thrilled to count myself among these truly talented women. And, I also know a degree doesn’t make an author. I know this like I know breathing is necessary to life. But – and there is always a “but” in my world – while my brain understands this, there is still a small, angry, bitter voice, hiding down in the dark, damp corners of my head, continually feeding me the idea that I am not a strong enough writer. That my characters are weak, or my plots are too thin. That I’m really not “good enough.” If I knew how to smother that voice, I’d already have my pillow in hand but, alas, it still shouts out often enough that I find myself not trusting my own voice, and writing only in fits and spurts.
In an attempt to counter that personal failing, I took some classes and finished a degree I’d started nearly twenty years ago. However, as challenging as these classes were, they weren’t so advanced that they were able to appease my inner-critic, or silence that festering little gremlin. No, this was just your basic BA. Not an MA, not an MFA…something to be proud of, sure, but still: not enough.
So, I pushed it just a bit further. What the hell, I thought, the worst they can do is say “no.” And then that festering little gremlin can give herself a congratulatory pat on the back and an indulgent grin, and I can move on with my life, content in my perfectly acceptable, normal career of writing web copy and health care marketing pieces. So I sent off my personal statement and two pieces of writing – not my best work, but not my worst either. They were what I considered mediocre. I’m still not convinced those mediocre pieces being mailed to the school wasn’t an attempt by the festering little gremlin to sabotage my application from the jump.
And then I got the letter.
I won one of sixteen spots for the June Cohort. I will be going to school for my MFA. NOT my MA, my god damned MFA. The authors on staff at the school think my work is good enough and shows promise. The professors think my work is good enough and shows promise. Me? I’m still on the fence – because I’m a self-deprecating little trollop that thinks everything she writes is “the suck.” But, right now? What I think comes second to what the pros think. And THEY think: Good enough. And, bonus: that festering little gremlin has gone silent. For now.
Here’s hoping that letter is just the “pillow” I needed to smother that bitch.
“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” – Author Unknown
I had just finished setting up my daughter and her friend so they could sack out and watch movies, before heading into my son’s room to settle him in with his kindle and a snack, when my cell started pinging message notifications one after another. I stopped what I was doing and thought, “Well, something must have happened, and by the sounds of it, it can’t be good.” So, I hurried up and tucked my son in, and then went to check what all the fuss was about.
It all started with a note on Facebook from a friend…asking our little group a very difficult question: should she…or shouldn’t she? In the end, she did, of course. She did it because it was the right thing to do, because she is strong, and she is brave. But also because she felt an overwhelming responsibility to her daughter. A responsibility that demanded she do everything in her power to nurture an environment, a country – a world, for the love of God – worthy of her presence. One where she will have every opportunity – without strings.
So, you’re probably wondering, “What did she do?” And, that’s a fair question. What she did was throw open the curtain and walk out into the light. She posted her story, with all its ugly facets and residual, sharply honed shame. She left the shadows and, damn it, she is not going back.
The story is one of a 17-year-old girl, a freshman at college, at an off-campus party, who was raped. She didn’t report it because she was ashamed and intimidated. This boy and his friends made her cower in fear – she had to spend the next four years going to the same school. Over the course of our conversation, each and every one of us echoed our support for her by lending our own voices. One friend recounted her experience: 8 years of physical and mental abuse. She never reported it because all of their friends were mutual. She was ashamed and afraid – he made sure she stayed afraid. Another added to the conversation: an ex who demanded she abort their child and, when she refused, tried to “abort” the baby himself through physical violence. She never reported it because they were a couple, and she was afraid no one would believe her. And, of course, I outlined my own experience with sexual/domestic abuse. The first time, I didn’t report it, I was young 16 at the time, and terrified. The second time I did report it, and got out.
This is just one small group of friends. And yet, every one of us had an experience. The really scary part though? We were not alone.
On the public post, more women added their stories. A rape while serving in the military – the victim forced to take an honorable discharge, but only if she remained quiet. If she complained, or brought charges, that would earn her a dishonorable discharge. The victim punished and forced out of the Navy because she had the audacity to “get” raped.
All across social media, from Twitter to Facebook, Instagram to Snapchat, women of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds (social and financial) have been coming forward to add their stories, their voices to the swelling tide of rage and disgust that is, at this very moment, sweeping across our country. Enough is enough.
#WhyWomenDontReport? Because we’re made to feel ashamed, like it’s all, somehow, our fault. We’re told: “How were you dressed? Did your clothing ask for it”? “What did you expect, going out to a bar and having a drink?” “Don’t you know you court trouble when walking at night alone?” So, we’d like to address those questions with the following: “My God damned clothing is inanimate and doesn’t ‘speak.’” “I expected to go out for a night with my friends and not get attacked, why is that too much to ask?” “All I was ‘courting’ was getting to my destination unharmed and without being accosted.” Now take your excuses that place blame on the victim, and shut the hell up. There’s your answer. That is why women didn’t report. But, do you hear us now? We are raising our voices and rejecting this twisted version of “how it is.”
We need men, real men, to stand up and support a different kind of narrative. And this should be done publicly, not privately via emails and messages, but right out in the open. Loud, vociferous, and angry – male voices that offer support, empathy, sympathy and understanding. Because that code is still in place. That dismissive brand of entitlement that seems to say “all men do it” when, in reality, they don’t. But to remain silent only allows the behavior, the “rape” culture to grow, fester, and bleed out into everyday society, everyday actions. A society where little boys who hit girls do so because “they have a crush on her” – and it is considered a cute, and valid excuse. Where women can’t venture out into public without rethinking if the shoes they are wearing will allow them to run away if necessary, or if their dress is too clingy, or whether or not they have 911 already dialed into their cell phone, their fingers hovering over the “send” button, as they begin to cross a darkened parking lot to get to their destination. No more. Screw that to hell and back.
It has been said that sunlight is one of the strongest disinfectants – and nothing can hide when the spotlight is cast upon it. Each one of these voices are throwing back the curtains, and snapping up the shades. They are calling the light from inside their kitchens, the grocery stores, and the Kindergarten classes, they are screaming out their frustration from the boardrooms and the assembly lines, they are standing up in the crowds at the libraries, on the trains, in the carpools, and at the gyms. Because they’re fed up, they’re pissed off, and they’re just not going to stay silent one second longer.
Over the past few weeks, the conversation has grown into a giant, virulent boil that has finally, painfully – and damn-the-consequences – been lanced.
So, my advice to those who continue to push this “weak wristed” narrative that “real men talk this way,” “real men act this way,” or “it’s just ‘locker-room’ talk,” is to buckle the hell up – because you flipped the “bitch” switch, and we will not stay silent just to make your turn-of-the-century, stunted selves more “comfortable.” In fact, the more you insist this is acceptable, the louder, and more uncomfortable we will make you feel.
This ride has just begun, and you all can either act civilized and keep the hell up, or get left behind to fade into obscurity. But make no mistake: under no circumstances will we allow you to push us back into the shadows. #MyVoiceMyStory #IBelieveHerIAmHer
Spot the hell on.
Dear Mr. Trump… can I call you Mr. Trump? Is that ok? I want you to be happy, that’s very important to me.
Before I get started, let me say this letter isn’t from all women. The Trumpettes surely won’t approve of this message. But this is from most women.
We see right through you. We have all known you at some point. Your ways are not unfamiliar to us. We see through you because we’ve been dealing with you our whole lives.
We heard you call women pigs. And disgusting. And stupid. And bimbos.
We watched as you called a former Ms. Universe “Ms. Piggy” and then spent four days continuing to insult her.
We see your weakness. Your lust for attention at any cost, your need to denigrate women. We see all of it. And we’re mad.
Yes. We’re mad. And fired up. And here’s the thing about us……
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I had a pretty decent idea for a short story – but, as usual, no time to start writing it – yet. Now, those that know me know that I am so preoccupied with organization, I walk a shadowed line that exists somewhere between Librarian Of The Year and “Hoarders” candidate. So what did I do? I made a spontaneous decision to do away with the little bits and pieces of paper, the endless notebooks, and the leaking pens that stain my fingers blue. Instead, I opened up a word doc and started typing out the concept. You know, so I wouldn’t “lose” it. And, rather than writing “Short Story Concept,” I typed “Shit Story Concept.” This…this does not bode well.
I’m deep into literary theory and riding the edge to the end of the longest stretch of my academic studies. Now on to my (hopefully) MFA – but if I keep writing “shit stories” I may not even get that nod. Good grief.
Self doubt crept in. I hate that son-of-a-bitch. He does nothing but weigh me down. I was running when he started rearing his head. You see, running is my “deep-thinking” time – and self-doubt isn’t invited to THAT particular party. However, self-doubt doesn’t give a slick-god-damn for invitations and he crashed it anyway. I lay all the blame for the “shit story” slip up on his shoulders, the useless ogre. And yes, in my world, self-doubt is a he. He even has a name: Jackson. Why? Because it’s pretentious as hell and holds a certain aura of arrogance. In any case, this is my party – and I’ll name the nefarious, intangible guests whatever the hell I want.
One bright note from that bitch of a run: I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone has a “story” waiting to be told. And 90% of everything a writer puts on paper is total shit. But then there’s that 10% that we all keep reaching out to catch. Only way to grab that dragon’s tail is to keep right on friggin’ writing.
Eyes on the world people. I leave you with this observation:
When my cousin tells me I need to watch a show, I’m writing down the title and looking for it, because I learned long ago to listen to her instincts.
Now, I have been known to drop off the face of the planet, fall off the radar, go MIA from all things social, and just generally tune out of “pop culture” related everything for months at a time. But when it comes to gripping entertainment (cinema, Broadway, BBC, etc.), I never seem to miss the shows that leave a mark – because I have Annie – my (now not so) secret weapon; the one relative who always seems to know when I swam out a bit too far and need to be hooked by the collar and reeled back into the land of the living. Or dead. Dying? Alien? Whatever. My point is, when she emails me that something is a “must see”…I don’t argue. I just pop some popcorn and get to watching.
Her most recent recommendation was the show Stranger Things, the latest Netflix original series offering. The one that feels as if it could very well be the bastard child of an unholy tryst between Stephen King and Steven Spielberg – if that were at all possible and not in any way unnatural. Okay, it can be unnatural – who am I to argue with greatness?
Show creators Matt and Ross Duffer do not disappoint with this nostalgic and tense trip down a dark, twisted, and cold memory lane. The Duffer brothers concocted a perfect recipe of sketchy, clandestine government agencies, sinister supernatural creatures, mysterious disappearances, and even more mysterious appearances, to turn a normal, run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter, early-80s town upside down (see what I did there? No? Watch the show!) and shake it out of its idyllic existence.
Placing a town in peril and putting the bulk of the detective work into the hands of a group of childhood friends is classic Spielberg, while the understated costuming and settings are a tip back to King. Add to this a seamless continuity from one episode to the next, and solid acting from 80s/90s favorites Winona Ryder, and Matthew Modine, David Harbour, and relative new comers Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Caleb McLaughlin, and Gaten Matarazzo, and it becomes dazzlingly clear that this cast has found a unique and rare formula that simply works.
For purely nostalgic reasons alone, this show is a strong draw – but if you’re a serious sci-fi or horror fan, there are an abundance of verbal and visual Easter eggs threaded throughout the show that give a firm nod back to classic films that came decades before. If you pay close enough attention you’ll see similarities to movies including: Stand by Me, IT, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Alien, Fire Starter, The Goonies, Predator, Scanners, Poltergeist, and many, many more. It’s the movie version of a “Word-Seek” puzzle dedicated to the best 70s and 80s science fiction and fantasy films and stories. Add to that the Dungeons and Dragons theme and it’s a sci-fi geek’s holy grail.
This show is a must see for any sci-fi or horror fan who appreciates a classic, organic “scare” that doesn’t rely on flashy effects and over-the-top CGI. It’s stripped down and raw, but it works on such a deep, psychological level, that you don’t know it’s happening until you’re well and truly sucked into the fold.
All it took was one episode for me to get hooked. In just 24-hours – and allowing for sleep, food, and bathroom breaks, I blew through all 8 episodes. I’m not ashamed to say that I feel a bit lost…as I sit here, wondering what to do now that I’ve finished the season.
There’s no news (well, reliable anyway) on another season – yet, but there are rumors. And I honestly don’t know how they’d even top that first season – although I do have my guesses. That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t state the obvious: with the impressive writing and solid, spot on performances from the cast, I’m willing to bet – if given the opportunity – this series would continue to deliver binge-worthy seasons.
Astrophotograpy: Using Your Smartphone?
This is a really interesting article and, as much as a space-nut as I am, it’s something you’d think I should have known about. Sure I take pictures of celestial events on my smart phone, but I didn’t realize there was a way to wire it up to a simple telescope to get some amazing shots! Give it a read!