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Happy New Year!

Hello, O Reader!

I made it through my first semester of grad school with flying colors. And also moved, and got all myself together. It’s exciting!

Our kitty is adjusting to the new house, but he’s happily hiding inside the box springs of various furniture and popping his head out every once in a while to play. I have also discovered that instead of the nice scratching post he has, he really likes to sharpen his claws on a couple of branches I have under the bed, so we might just give him a log.

Lo, the kitty prepares for…. more hiding in various places, probably.

But most important, the wedding dress got finished on time! It was an amazing day (6 months ago @_@) and we’re both still really really happy, although neither of us is quite sure what to do with the dress yet. Most current thought is seeing if the DMoMA might be interested. Apparently they might like things like this? Who knows. Anyway, PICTURES!

My husband and I! Thank you to the anonymous stranger who took this photo, I still don’t know how she did this with her phone and without getting any other visitors in the shot!

My page and I – she is showing off the back of my dress! I have little paper roses in my hair as well.

Me sitting in the dress – it was surprisingly a lot easier than anticipated. My brother is coming to join me here – kudos to my awesome bridesmaid for getting this shot!!

One of my bridesmaids is taking this picture – my bridesmaid on the right took the picture of me sitting with my brother. This is probably one of the funnier ones for me; the two of them are *acting natural*, but meanwhile my page and I are having a legit sweet moment in back. Hilarity! 😀

My flower girl and I! also the front of my dress. We had the sweetest girls walking with us 😀

It was a beautiful day, and every time I think of it I still get giddy. So much love!

I have also started to get back to my writing now that I’m not working through the pages and pages of essays and moving and wedding brain. Things kind of weirdly piled up there, in the last 6 months of 2018 which I really wasn’t prepared for, I guess. I recently submitted a piece to a publishing company whose work I love, so I am crossing my fingers that I’ll hear from them, but if I don’t I’m going to try again and again until they get sick of it! Picking some more places to start working towards publishing.

I also am going to probably update the blog with the poem I’m working on from my Eco-poetics class which will likely at least be touched on in my Long Poem class, because it’s really cool! I started writing about plants, and the cool aspects about them, from the perspective of the plants! The poem is shaping up a bit like an illustrated and poetic field guide, which I wasn’t expecting? I don’t usually think of myself as a poet, but apparently I can do at least a little of the wordshaping! 😀

Stay tuned for more writing, O Reader!



Hello, O Reader. No doubt you have given up hope of my posting some time ago. The Wedding and finishing of my dress went well (Pictures at some point I promise) but immediately after I started work and grad school and have very little brain space left over. Working on it tho! My goal is to try to start posting on a regular if infrequent basis. Hopefully, once a month will be doable I might also start posting some of my writings for class, since the MFA is Creative Writing after all.

Hoping things are well; this autumn I feel like we’ve gone straight to winter, and leaves aren’t the only things falling.

Because this is becoming a more and more frequent thing in my life, please please please. Please if you’re depressed, if you’re angry or scared or tired or just need help, please ask someone. There are hotlines. You can ask anyone you trust. Please hold on. Saying it will get better feels really trite, but remember that you are one part of a network; the l oss of another life affects us all. Your pain may or may not end, but ours won’t. Please stay alive. Please keep trying even if you haven’t got anything left to give. This world and this life aren’t perfect and they never will be.

Nonetheless, you have value.

As a wise friend reminded me:

You are loved.

You are loveable.

You are worthy of love.

And maybe I don’t know Your real name or who you are or what you’re going through ( I can’t imagine how you feel in your situation) but I remember feeling tired and done and wanting itto end. I’m feeling some of that right now.

A very clever phrase I found online (sorry to the author I am on lunch and don’t remember your name but will try to later) said that depression and other mental illnesses are like fighting a ongoing and constant war that you can’t even acknowledge it exists or is happening.

So I send my care package of love. Winter is coming. Darkness across the land and in the mind.

But remember spring. Remember summer. Remember there once was happiness and lightness, and I’ll try to do that also. I look forward to seeing you on the other side.

Now, lunch is over and I’m back to my hiatus.

More to come: at least by December!

This has been a long time coming.

I think I’ve been working on this for a month and a half or so. 

Okay, before I go any further: Bear with me. Let’s take a deep breath. I don’t want to have an argument, I want to start a discussion, or even and more importantly add my thoughts on the subject as a means of trying to find some logic in the rhetoric around me.

Breathe in with me, (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

Hold it. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Breathe out with me. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

I don’t want to fight. I want to understand. Shall we take another breath? Let’s meet on the same level page. Let’s think about this, not jump into the roles predetermined for this topic. We are more than just single thoughts. We are more than either or. We are complex, and have different and difficult beliefs, and even when we want the same outcomes.

I want to start with the trope of the “good guy with a gun”, and how I see it developed in the culture around me. I then want to touch on, only touch on! some statistics and perspectives, from both the NRA and sources like the CDC and some research organizations, as well as the BBC. Finally, I just want to work on a simple thesis, which I will state now.

I want the U.S. to direct and fund the CDC in researching gun violence.

I don’t want to either take guns from people or make it easier to obtain them. I just want some research on the topic.

Again, O Reader, bear with me. Here we go. This is a long one.

1) The Trope and Some Context

The above clip is from the video game Overwatch. I’ve played this game, and while it isn’t my favorite, it’s a fun first person shooter style game.

The character speaking is McCree, a Western Cowboy styled hero, and if you look him up on gamepedia, his motto below his picture (smoking gun and cigar and all) is “Justice ain’t gonna dispense itself.” He is written as if he is from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and his voice actor, Matthew Mercer, has a nice western accent that feels familar and comfortable. You know who this man is, he’s the good guy bounty hunter, or the white hat sheriff. He’s the guy who rides off into the sunset, but also the one who does what needs to be done, the one you know will get his hands dirty and then pat the dust off himself with quick, efficient strokes. He is, as he likes to call himself, “Your huckleberry.” He owns his power of the quickdraw.

I remember as a child the games of the westerns that have been common in the states since the heyday of the era of the Wild West. The cowboy is the romantic, “the quintessential American hero“, the worn-down, civilised outsider, who has a flair for the heroic and fits as well into the rugged landscape as any man, the man who speaks to people of all races but is never himself actually subordinate no matter how much society looks down on him, because he’s good with himself and his God, and has the whole open space and his freedom no matter what. A free spirit, but often the law himself as well.

And one of the most iconic scenes, of the hero and villain facing off, is epitomized from the instance of the final showdown, where the white hat (our good guy) and the black hat (our bad guy) both stand in opposition, fingers twitching above there guns, eyes squinted despite their hat brims in the sunshine, the wind blowing in the background, both still as stone until – bang! bang! someone goes for their gun and gets the shot off a little faster, and the other man falls to the ground.

They aren’t always on the right side of the law, either. Some of the famous Outlaws draw power from their celebrity, the ability to excite the imagination in the same way Robin Hood does. Escaping the law to where the law can’t reach, taunting the people who try to create the civilized and make it exciting again. When kids play Cowboys and Indians, it’s a question of the Wild Other and the Othered Wild. It’s how we present the rough edges of civilization mashing up against the wilderness that is untamed and fights back.

Image result for Gunslinger

And the gender isn’t always male, although it mostly presents that way (for example, the Lone Ranger, Buffalo Bill Cody, Eddie Dean, the iconic John Wayne; Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, Jesse James). Annie Oakley, Kitty Canutt, Pearl Hart, Belle Starr, and Calamity Jane all took part the great unknown, the Manifest Destiny of taming and turning wildness into some form of sense. Bonnie and Clyde, among others, even took on the West in couples, rather than on their own.

Some of them found a fine line between their feminity and the projection of their empowerment into a place where, typically, no sane woman would tread alone. Laura Ingalls Wilder writes of her travels, but her womanhood isn’t questioned, as she helps farm with her family, marries, raises a family, does all the right, womanly things. Annie Oakley, and her competitor Lillian Smith, were promoted as “lady” sharpshooters, and dressed in hat, gloves, corsets and skirts. Others made their way in pants, or disguised as men, and simply got things done that they wanted done. Laura Bullion, for example, took this option as well as wearing the more conventional attire as it suited her.

I think Yosemite Sam is yet another version of our good guy with a gun, though he treads a little closer to the line. His attire and attitude present him as a foil to Bugs Bunny, but with all of his bluster and wild behavior, cleverness and yet failure to outwit his creature nemesis, he seems to embody an inversion. Instead of taming the wilderness, the wild creature is able to defeat him in his schemes, and he has to try again and again. The Cowboy, traditionally wins out. Nonetheless, despite Sam’s character flaws, he does keep trying, improving his approach, working towards his goals. He’ll pull himself up by his own bootstraps (another common trope in the U.S.) or die trying. Or at the very least, end up flattened or exploded or whatever the episodes require of him.

But overall, the image we have is the sun-tanned man with skin like leather, a ten-gallon hat, with a Remington or a Colt, cowboy boots with spurs, maybe a poncho, smoking or chewing tobacco, with a horse of his own and the ability to find perfect sunsets to vanish into at the end of the day. Weatherbeaten and seductive. What’s not to like?

And even the ladies have their place. Either shocking in buckskins, or in elegant and fashionable dresses, with rifles and/or a careless air, a drive to succeed and the ability to follow through.

There are no weak people in the west; they wouldn’t survive. The delicate must survive back east, and the strong and just will prevail in the west, paving the way so those delicate souls can follow them out safely, to conquer this new world.

What’s not to like?

And we still believe this today. We have heroes in Stephen King’s Gunslinger Tower series (which hits the nail rather on the head, I think), Cowboy Bebop, Firefly, Fullmetal Alchemist, Marvel’s Deadpool, DC Comic’s Vigilante (again, hammer meet nail), Kingsmen, the Dresden Files, some of the CSI characters, Criminal Minds, many tabletop role-playing games allow characters to embody this archetype, Devil May Cry, Call of Duty, Destiny, Mass Effect, Disgaea, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Overwatch (as mentioned above), Leverage, and the list goes on and on. We see folk heroes, played by people like Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford, John Wayne, Keanu Reeves, Angie Harmon, Renee Zellweger, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Again, they’re sexy, we trust them to protect us despite the odds, and they aren’t afraid to kill when danger presses. Usually, these days, it presses with guns and greater and greater martial threat.

They’re our heroes.

2) Arguments and Numbers

I’m going to try to be as unbiased as I can be in this section; I’m pulling from the places I trust, and also the big ones from the opposition to my usual view. I want to be as fair as I can. If you read this, O Reader, and think I’ve missed information or need to add more, please please let me know. I do not think we have enough information to successfully deal with all of the pieces of this issue, and I crave more, more and more that is valid and provable, and reasonable, and logical. Something that I can trust, and verify.

If I don’t manage to be unbiased, I am very sorry.


Giffords Law Center states that, in regards to gun laws,

Many types of gun laws are effective at reducing gun deaths and injuries, keeping guns away from criminals and other prohibited people, and fighting illegal gun trafficking. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence tracks important studies proving that smart laws can and do work to prevent gun violence. Our publications offer in-depth analysis of significant trends in firearms laws and policies nationwide.

According to their research, citing the New England Journal Medicine, living in a home with guns

“increased an individual’s risk of death by homicide by between 40 and 170%”

-[Garen J. Wintemute, Guns, Fear, the Constitution, and the Public’s Health, 358 New England J. Med. 1421-1424 (Apr. 2008).]

And from the American Journal of Public Health,

“…even after adjusting for confounding factors,  individuals who were in possession of a gun were about 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession” 

-[Charles C. Branas, et al, Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault, 99 Am. J. Pub. Health 2034 (Nov. 2009)]

They state that the gun lobby has claimed a higher rate of defensive gun use than the Violence Policy Center with Bureau of Justice compiled statistics has found, that gun violence costs “at least $229 billion every year”, including emergency and medical services. They claim that it costs more than $700 per American yearly and that “smart gun laws” prevent loss of life or capital. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they say, over 30,000 lives are lost annually, and more are wounded. They have pages of statistics and numbers, and it’s worth looking through them to see what they have found, and to check their sources. But –

These sources are largely from 2010 and before.

So, moving later and later.

FactCheck.Org discusses “Gun Rhetoric vs. Gun Facts”. They note these issues:

  • Laws allowing concealed carry do not necessarily lower the crime rate
  • Guns in school do not necessarily provide the option of preventing school shootings
  • More guns do not necessarily mean more violence, but there is no proof of a causal relationship as yet. There are other factors that lead to crime.
  • According to a study by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, seven of the ten states who had the strongest gun laws also had the lowest gun rates
  • The number of daily gun murders is not the same as the overall rate of murder, and as of 2010, the rate of murder was the lowest it has been since at least 1981. BUT- non-fatal gun injuries increased last year and is the highest since 2008
  • Federal data shows violent crimes committed by guns have declined for 3 straight years; additionally, of the 130 school shootings included since Columbine are about a quarter fewer than claimed
  • The US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, the highest rate of homicides among advanced countries, but gun crime has been declining. 
  • President Obama suggested that gun violence is an epidemic, but that factors like access to mental health care, and cultural glorification of guns and violence are factors; additionally, he said that polls show support of banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, as well as increased background checks
  • The CDC has been careful around gun issues, since the 1990s because NRA lobbyists worked through Congress to cut funding.

A Campus Safety Magazine explains the CDC in 2016 found that almost 90% of public school have a written plan for a response, and 70% of those schools drill students. And a 2015 report they reference found by a 2004 Secret Service Report suggested that “the likelihood a student will be killed at school [is] less than one in a million”. They count also that the statistics suggest that of 123 school shootings,

  • 93.5% of shooters were male
  • 5 used 2 firearms each
  • 26.8% of shooters committed suicide
  • 69.1% of shooters perpetrated a homicide
  • 15.6% of the homicides include multiple fatalities

Tracked through 2015:

  • 84 incidents of total shootings occurred at k-12 schools (53% of the total)
  • 76 incidents took place at college or university.
  • More than half of these shooters intentionally injured or killed at least one other person with a gun.
  • 12 shootings were unintentional.
  • almost 1 in 6 shootings occurred after a confrontation or verbal argument
  • in 33 of the shootings, no one was injured on school grounds

The Secret Service Report then offered:

  • all of the attacks were committed by males
  • 98% took place after an experienced/perceived major loss
  • 78% had a history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts prior to the attack
  • 71% felt persecuted/ bullied/ threatened/ attacked/ injured prior to the incident
  • 95% attackers were current students
  • 59% occurred during the school day
  • 61% used handguns, 49% used rifles/shotguns
  • 3/4 only used one weapon, even if they carried multiple
  • 81% were carried out individually

“Red Flag Behavior” can include bringing a gun onto campus (which feels obvious), but there are also other factors which can give warning to a student in trouble.

The BBC posted an article in 2016 when President Obama vowed to increase background checks on buyers. Their statistics, in summary:

  • in 2015, there were 372 mass shootings, where mass shootings are defined as a single shooting incident killing or injuring four or more people,  including the assailant.
  • in 2015 there were 64 school shootings, including Sandy Hook and also including occasions where no one was injured  but a gun was fired
  • in 2015, 13,286 people were killed and 26,819 people were injured (excluding suicides) and these figures were expected to rise once the end of the year as counted
  • in 2012 (the most recent comparable year), they say, gun murders per capita in the US were 2.9 per 100,000; in UK, 0.1 per 100,000; 60% of murders in the US, 31% of murders in Canada, 8.2% in Australia, and 10% in the UK were by firearm.
  • the death toll from 1968-2011 exceeds the number of deaths from the War of Independence to Iraq
  • After Sandy Hook, the NRA claimed its membership reached around 5 million
  • On average, between 201 and 2011, according to the US Department of Justice and the Council of Foreign Affairs, 11,385 people died
  • Guns are effective and lethal. When an attacker has a knife instead of a gun, there are fewer fatalities. However, more research is needed before making a conclusion from the variety of statistics
  • There are more guns being owned, but it is unclear if there are more gun owners because they do not have to register to purchase one.
  • The CDC shows falling gun homicide rates, but only includes “injuries inflicted by another person with the intent to injure or kill”, but some accidental shootings are included
  • The number of school shootings is sometimes inflated to prove a political point; this article only could confirm 130 school shootings since Columbine, which is still a lot and really tragic

Aljazeera posted February 15th of this year an article, where they explained that “three of the deadliest mass shootings in US modern history have occurred in the last five months” prior, and then provide a timeline of a 20 year period’s worth of the deadliest shootings in the US.


According to the Gun Violence Archive, who states they are a “not for profit corporation formed in 2013 to provide free online public access to accurate information about gun-related violence in the United States”, in 2018 alone, the statistics are thus:

  • Total Incidents: 17,055
  • Deaths: 4,299
  • Injuries: 7,542
  • Children (0-11) Killed or Injured: 179
  • Teens (12-17) Killed or Injured: 753
  • Mass Shootings: 65
  • Officers involved where Officer was shot or killed: 79
  • Officer involved where Subject/Suspect shot or killed: 708
  • Home Invasions: 629
  • Defensive uses: 495
  • Unintentional Shootings: 501
  • Annual Suicides (22,000) are not included on the Daily Summary Ledger

Looking at the NRA website, they formed in 1871 with the primary goal of “promoting and encouraging rifle shooting on a scientific basis”. Since then, they have promoted shooting sports for youth and adult members both, and have been affiliated with programs like the Boy Scouts of America, the American Legion, and many others. They also have provided access to legislative facts and analysis to members, so that they can act politically. Law enforcement training has also been a facet of their interests, in order to provide law enforcement with proper certifications. They also focus on firearms education and are proud that they boast some of the most politically active members who contact their congressmen and vote. They also offer support for members who identify as disabled, and try to provide better access. They are also aware of women who have begun to show their enthusiasm. According to their Gallup poll reference, 23% of women own guns as of 2011, as compared to 13% in 2005; And according to their own statistics as of 2016, there were 5 million members, their annual revenue was $348 million, 100,000 members joined after Sandy Hook, there are an estimated 310 million guns owned by civilians which means 22.4% of adults owned a gun, and 31% of households had a gun on the premises. They were able to spend $3,605,000 lobbying,  and $5,982,316 was given to them.  They also provide these demographics:

  • households owning a firearm: 42%
  • total individuals owning a firearm: 30%
  • total males owning a firearm: 47%
  • total females owning a firearm: 13%
  • total whites owning a firearm: 33%
  • total percentage of non-whites: 18%
  • Total Republicans owning a firearm: 41%
  • Total percentage of Independents owning a fire arm: 27%
  • Total Democrats owning a firearm: 23%
  • Total owners for Protection Against Crime: 67%
  • Total owners for Target Shooting: 66%
  • Total owners for Hunting: 41%

American Gun Facts provides its sources at the bottom of the page:

  • Guns are used over 80x more often to protect a life than to take one
  • 200,000 times a year women use a gun to defend against sexual abuse
  • They provide a comparison of Highest Gun Ownersip Rates compared to the Highest Intentional Homicide rates around the world
  • According to the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, they state there is a negative correlation between gun ownership and violent crime
  • Nations with strict gun control laws have higher murder rates (and after this statistic is a link to take action)
  • They provide the FBI crime statistic that Murders, Rapes, Aggravated Assaults and Robberies decreased, and offer the percentages of how much.
  • They also state that all public mass shootings from 1950 have taken place where citizens are banned from carrying guns
  • This site also claims that between police officers and armed individuals, there are more citizens who own firearms, that they have a lower error rate, can stop shooting rampages more quickly, and kill more criminals per year than the police.

And if you want more sources, I recommend these two sites for a starting point. Personally, I’m more inclined to believe the NRA’s statistics than those from the American Gun Facts site, and more inclined to trust the numbers from where I can dig through the sources they provide, but the short answer to this entire section is that there are too many sources and places for information to be gathered from and we need a more solid, comprehensive study that actually digs into all of the facets of this tricky issue.

3) My Personal Experience

I love folktales, folklore, cultural heroes. I love hearing about Annie Oakley, and the other heroes of the West who paved the way for settlers and the more gentle and ‘delicate’ city folk to make it out across the rugged mountains into a ‘civilized’ new home. There’s something about riding off into the sunset that appeals and the idea of being that one hero who can outdo the villain for the sake of the town by being just a little bit faster is a story I’ll read or watch over and over again. I’ll admit I like Zorro more than John Wayne, but both have their place.

My cousins and my grandparents who ranch and who deal with large animals like bears, elk, and javelinas, have appropriate weapons to keep themselves and their land safe. They keep them carefully and make sure that they know how to use them as tools. They know how to do what they need to do, and they never, ever point them at anything they don’t want dead. Some of them use rifles; one of my cousins has a small rifle that’s Barbie pink. She’s very good. My grandfather took time to teach me how to shoot a .22. I’m not very good. But I have a feel for what a weapon that can kill feels like against my shoulder, in my hands, what it feels like to hit or miss a target. I’m lucky – I’ve never needed to train with one to keep myself safe from wild animals. But I know that if I did need to, I would put hours and hours and hours in making sure I knew how to do it safely and intentionally.

I will say, between a hand gun and a rifle, I like the rifle better. It feels more precise. And I do support appropriate guns for appropriate solutions. If you are a rancher, for example, you need to keep your home safe from things like bears and javelinas and possible your land safe from elk or moose. I don’t really think bleach is going to work in the case of a javelina coming at you. Wild pigs will mess you up. But I don’t think you need a submachine gun to deal with them. Probably. If you do, you have other problems.

I’m also a gamer; I play first person shooters, I play games where you have to kill aliens or spiders or monsters or other players and some of them are more graphic than others (I’m looking at you, Dragon Age. That is a lot of blood.) But they’re fun, and some of the stories that are developed in series are gripping, touch on important issues of gender and decision making, or just question who you can and can’t trust in a world torn apart.

I like to play Destiny, which is a first-person shooter and when given the option in game, I prefer to use my fists (see below video- that’s my jam! Although not me playing. Kudos to Mr. Fruit. Also I suppose language warning?). I’m more accurate with a shoulder check, and it really really surprises people when I charge them. There’s a certain distance that it doesn’t matter because I can get to you. When I have to, playing me against the computer, I prefer hand cannons and rifles.

When I played Call of Duty, I liked a sniper rifle alright, but my favorite weapon was a shield. You can do remarkable damage to another player if you corner them with a shield. You can also draw people out, help the people you’re on the same team with by drawing attention and causing enough of a stir that you can’t be ignored and you can’t be dealt with. There’s a power to it.

That one on the left was my jam. Take ALL the attention! And find your corners. If you find a good corner, no one can touch you. It was great.

Artwork by Marvel illustrator Ryan Meinerding

Captain America has been one of my favorite heroes since I got into comic book characters and superheroes. His strength of character, compassion, willingness to protect others and stand against what’s wrong, and his understanding of what it takes to overcome a disability and make something better. Fearlessness and compassion. The combination makes him dangerous – and I suspect it’s why he has a shield as a weapon, and not a gun, a hammer, explosions or magic. His job and his identity are wrapped up in his need to defend. That’s important.

Credit to Guyu on Tumblr for this rendition.

I love Dick Grayson, Robin and Nightwing. He’s another one who doesn’t use guns, more inclined to disable than take apart a perpetrator. It’s a hypothetically gentle way to deal with people who break the law, who put other people in danger, who want to hurt and hurt until they get something out of it. He works out how to save the most people possible, and does it while quipping and making sure other people feel safe and okay while he saves them. He’s also fearless and compassionate. He learned from Batman, who I am reevaluating in my list of heroes; I didn’t use to like Batman, but Dick Grayson learned his behavior from one of the best, one of the original heroes with that perfect combination of need to protect and desire not to kill, even when it would be easier.

We’re going to pretend the library I work at is this one – The Trinity College Library, in Dublin Ireland. (Perhaps one day I WILL work at this one….. I’d at least like to visit.)

I work in a school library. I’ve been keeping an eye on the gun debate, on the schools that are attacked and the massacres. The stats and the stories and the protesting. I’m so proud of our students who protest. I support them wholeheartedly. They are changing the dynamic and the tone and the way we frame the dialogue around this fraught topic.

I keep an eye on them; make sure they’re safe, make sure that bullying doesn’t happen, make sure that the ones who need help are helped and that they know that they are safe. It’s important that they feel safe when they’re learning. When they’re seeing their friends, when they’re away from their homes and their families, and when they’re in a place that should be safe. A place that values merit and progress and access.

Kids should be safe. It’s my job to make it happen.

I am no man. And that doesn’t matter. I will protect my charges.

My personal thought on arming teachers? Don’t give me a gun. Give me training on using a fire extinguisher, or bleach, or cleaning chemicals, or even my school building itself as a weapon and a defense. I don’t want a gun. Don’t misunderstand please – I will get between my students and a threat, but adding my questionable capability with controlled death in a tense situation has never felt right to me. I can’t help anyone with that. And I think it frightens me more that a student would see me as an easy danger to their life than a person who wants to protect and help them.

We had a lockdown at work on account of someone reporting a gun case entering our school. It terrified students and teachers both, and even though it was resolved safely, and it was a good practice in case of emergencies, it was still an exhausting, frightening, and overwhelming experience. What broke my heart, in particular, was one girl, talking to her friends after the fact, who said, “It’s not that it’s going to happen to us, it’s that it’s going to happen to someone somewhere.”

In the morning, we were informed that we were on lockout and then lockdown. We collected our students, helped them to hide away and shelter in place. We waited together, in the dark; some teachers comforted crying students, so afraid they couldn’t help it. Some teachers prepared for the worst case scenario – one teacher at my school, who was locked into a small gym, nearly hit another teacher with a baseball bat when the door opened because he was ready to go, ready to protect his kids. Some students, when the teacher was not prepared or able to fulfill their duty, mutinied and protected themselves because they’d drilled for this. They knew what needed to happen and they made it happen. I am so very proud of them.

My kids were calm. I offered coffee in the dark, told them it was a precaution and that we would be alright. The cops I spoke to didn’t seem worried. I don’t know what’s happening, but I’m not worried. It’s okay. It’s okay. I’ll let you know when I hear anything else. Some kids were nonetheless more cautious than others; some tucked themselves in between the metal shelves, away from doors and light and as small as they could. Some kids, not worried and with their phones updating them, sat in a dark corner away from the door and drank coffee in silence. I stood there, between them and potential danger, and couldn’t be afraid. I couldn’t. If I had had a gun I would have been more afraid. It would have signaled to them that I was unsure of what was going to happen and actually thought that they were in imminent danger. As it was, I kept my eye on the fire extinguisher and the email feed that told me what status we were in.

What was I ready to do to protect them? Anything. Anything, and above all, I needed to protect them from being afraid. I needed them calm and relaxed in the face of an emergency, because when you’re calm and rational, when you aren’t afraid to the point of crying, you can think and react safely. I needed that.

Just in case.

And we were okay. And I tried to check in with other teachers and kids for the rest of the day, tried to make sure that everyone was doing okay, and when I went home I started feeling the exhaustion and the fears hit. I’ve been going through what I did and didn’t do, over and over again, because my job is to take care of my kids, and what if something I did or didn’t do put them at greater potential risk? What if I could have done better?

What if I did something wrong?

I’m still having those feelings. I’m still unsure of everything, down to the words I put on the page to try to escape the circular, fearful thoughts. I’m unsure of driving. Drivers are frightening me, with how stupid they’re being, with not signaling, with swerving and being aggressive and just generally using a skill level we would be ashamed of our high schoolers using. I’m unsure of how tired I am or might be. I don’t know if I’m hungry or tired or thirsty, or what I want, but I’ve gone through quite a lot of ice cream.

Find the recipe here

I’ve been through a lot of emergencies when I was little. I think I have learned quite a few things about how to manage one, but it’s entirely different when someone else’s kids are with me. If it’s just you, or just you and your family member, or you and a friend. The stakes are different. But with those kids, who I may or may not talk to again this school year, who may or may not need my help as a librarian, all I could hear in the back of my head was quotes from a childhood activity I learned in kindergarten.

Here it is, in all of its glory:

Going on a Bear Hunt: Children’s Song

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!
Oh look! It’s some long, wavy grass!
Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go around it,
Got to go through it!
(Make arm motions like you’re going through
long grass and make swishing sounds.) 

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!
Oh look! It’s a mushroom patch.
Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go around it,
Got to go through it!
(Pretend to go through the patch
making popping sounds by clasping
fingers together and clapping hands.)

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!
Oh look! It’s a wide river.
Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go through it,
Got to swim across it.
(Pretend to swim and
make splashing sounds.)

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!
Oh look! A deep, dark cave.
Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go through it,
Got to go in it.
(Pretend you’re in a cave)

Uh, oh! It’s dark in here.
I feel something,
It has lots of hair!
It has sharp teeth!
It’s a bear!

Hurry back through the river,
(Pretend to swim
and make splashing sounds)

Back through the mushroom patch,
(Make popping sounds)
Back through the long grass
(Make motions like you’re
going through grass
and make swishing sounds)

Run in the house and lock the door.
(Make a loud clap sound.)
Phew! That was close!

I’m not scared!

I haven’t thought about that in years and years. It was pretty surreal.

Apparently, repeating “I’m not scared” in the back of your head is a great way to encourage other people to also not be scared.

Or something.

Grizzly bear Betty playfully waves to on-lookers at the Bronx Zoo in 2005. J. Larsen Maher / Wildlife Conservation Society

4) Let’s Study This

In short, O Reader, since this has gotten quite long enough, I think we don’t have enough knowledge on this subject, and the causes and effects, to make an accurate decision one way or another. This is an incredibly complex issue, and there isn’t a simple answer, or we would have come up with it by now. I want more of us to be able to approach one another with a base knowledge to determine the grounds for the actual conversations, not arguments that we should be having.

I do think that our cultural outlook on the presence of firearms in our lives and who is allowed to have them and who is not is impacting rather dramatically our ability to approach this as scientifically as might be useful, or as compassionately as might be needed. The politicization of the arguments has further caused rifts and painful collisions of beliefs; I truly believe that we all want our families to be safe and happy and healthy, and that we want to live in a world where fear for our lives is not a common thing you drill for and instead we can continue to be a productive and united society.

Whether or not you agree with me, O Reader, I would request that if this sort of topic comes up, you try to take space, calm down, breathe deeply, then open your mind and question where the similarities are. What can we agree on? and how can we all best understand each other’s approach so that we can actually get somewhere with a contentious issue and make the world better?

Please let me know if you disagree in the comments, but I request you be as respectful with me as I will try to be with you. I would like to know what I don’t know that you do, or if you have other ideas or thoughts on how to approach this, I would like to hear it.

What? Why?

Handelingenkamer, Netherlands

Things found in a library:

  • a school of goldfish, scattered across three feet of dark carpet-seas, some of the fish in pieces and particles from some unknown predator
  • sunflower seeds, in fairy-circles; or perhaps a squirrel has exploded? Unclear.
  • a clementine, half peeled, pressed between the covers of two books in the 300s section; shelved, incorrectly, and waiting for someone to see it
  • contraband, rolled up and resting just behind a book on a stand, too lethargic to find a better hiding place as soon as it saw me coming
  • a turkey salad, dissected carefully and intimately, lying in stark relief away from the tin foil it traveled in
  • pistachio shells, one by one like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb trail; only I can’t see where the path leads
  • a gold necklace, thin and fragile like a fairytale quest item; unclaimed from where it glittered beneath a shelf
  • a moldering apple core, desiccated and rotting; a zombie crawling underneath the heights of the book bastions, friends with the mice
  • gum, crushed into the floor like lovers kissing, impossible to separate but with more of a permanent proof
  • paper shreds, the teeth torn from a notebook page, the homework lost and forgotten, a test graded and discarded in frustration or obliviousness
  • bottles, hopefully washed into eddies of hidden corners behind chairs and beside the rows of bindings, waiting for someone walking along a beach to read their messages
  • keyboard letters, part of some scrabble game that no one entirely knows the rules of
  • chess pieces who have taken their turns far afield in search of Alice or Wonderland or both

The Book Of Secrets Digital Art by Donika Nikova “Silent Night. You only hear the noise of the opening of another sheet of the old book. The night light is sparkling lightly. Every book is a new adventure experienced by your imagination. And she invites you … come … in another world.” – Donika Nikova

A post! A post!

I thought I might do two things at once here; I promised someone I would give them a list of all of my fairy tale/folktale/mythology books and such, and also I think if Sei Shonagon could write up lists of things as her entries in her pillowbook it should count for me to do something similar now. (There’s another post idea for later – early blogging before the internet!)

Image result for lIBRARY

So; I don’t have anything like the complete collection I’d like, and if you have any suggestions to broaden my cultural background would be really nice! O Reader, here we go.



Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum

Ashley Bryan, Ashley Bryan’s African Tales, Uh-huh

Hasan M. El-Shamy, Folktales of Egypt

Dayrell/Lent, Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky

Kioi wa Mbugua, Inkishu: Myths and Legends of the Maasai

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Coomaraswamy and Sister Nivedita, Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists

Kato, A History of Japanese Literature

Keene, Essays in Idleness

Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths and Legends of India

McCullough, The Tale of the Heike

McKinney, The Tale of Saigyo

Mildred Marmur, Japanese Fairy Tales (A Giant Golden Book)

Morris, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Old Tales of Japan ( I think this is compiled by Algernon Bertram Freeman Mitford, Lord Redesdale)

Amina Shah, Folktales of Central Asia

Shirane, Traditional Japanese Literature

Rumiko Takahashi, The Art of InuYasha

(Tuttle) Tales of a Korean Grandmother

Legends of Micronesia

Reader’s Digest, Tales from the Arabian Nights

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Mudrooroo, Aboriginal Mythology

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Aesop’s Fables

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King

Anchoritic Spirituality: Ancrene Wisse and Assorted Works

Hans Christen Andersen, Fairy Tales (Three copies)

Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People (translated)

Joseph Bedier, The Romance of Tristan and Iseult

Beowulf (I have maybe six different translations, not counting my feeble attempt, which is really nice when I’m trying to get to the meat of some of the more difficult phrases to translate)

Jan Brett, The Hat

Burns, Perilous Realms: Celtic and Norse in Tolkien’s Middle Earth

Chretien – Raffel, Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (Five different copies)

Dante, The Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso) (I have a couple of different translations because it’s nice to compare and I don’t speak Italian -yet?- so it’s good to have several eyes on the same words)

Paul Delarue, The Borzoi Book of French Folk Tales

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North

The Finest Legends of the Rhine

Jude Fisher, The Lord of the Rings: Complete Visual Companion

Laszlo Gal, Prince Ivan and the Firebird

Garnett, The Norman Conquest: A Very Short Introduction

Goethe, Translated by Walter Kaufmann, Faust

Goodrich, King Arthur

Rene Guillot, The 397th White Elephant

Edith Hamilton, Mythology

Homer, The Odyssey

Ibsen, Peer Gynt

Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales

Irish Blessings, Toasts, and Traditions (Barnes and Noble edition, apparently)

J.R.R. Tolkien

The Silmarillion

– The Hobbit

– The Fellowship of the Ring

– The Two Towers

– The Return of the King

–  The Book of Lost Tales 1 and 2

–  The Lays of Beleriand

–  The Lost Road and Other Writings

– The Shaping of Middle Earth

– Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Kalevala

Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories

Nora Kramer (Ed.), Princess Tales

Lindow, Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs

Samuel Lover and Thomas Crofton Croker, Ireland

The Mabinogi

George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Magnanini, Fairy-Tale Science

Sir Thomas Mallory (Penguin Ed), The Death of King Arthur

Lucy Maxym,  Russian Lacquer Legends and Fairy Tales

Perry Moore, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

[moore?], The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion

Njal’s Saga

Nyeb, D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths

Alexey Orleansky (Illustrator)/Paul Williams (Translator), Russian Fairy Tales: Palekh Painting

Packer, Tales From Shakespeare

Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library, Ed. By Henry Glassie, Irish Folk Tales

Polacco/Philomel, Babushka’s Mother Goose

Purtill, Lord of the Elves and Eldils

P.V.Glob, The Bog People: Iron-Age Man Preserved

T.W. Rolleston, Celtic Myths and Legends

Russian Fairy Tales

The Sagas of Iceland

The Saga of the Volsungs


– Othello (Cambridge)

– Romeo and Juliet (Folger)

– The Pelican Shakespeare, The Sonnets

– As You Like it

– King Henry V

– Othello (Signet Classic)

– Macbeth (Signet Classic)

– The Riverside is probably my favorite edition, but I have several different copies

[snorri sturluson] Edda (The Poetic) (I have two copies)

Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda (I also have two copies)

The Song of Roland

Swedish Folktales and Legends

Tan, The Arrival

Chretien De Troyes, Arthurian Romances

Elizabeth Warner, Russian Myths

Carolyn White, A History of Irish Fairies

Wolkstein/McDermott, Oom Razoom

Yershov, The Little Humpbacked Horse

Zvorykin/Onassis, The Firebird

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North America

Baylor/Bahti, When Clay Sings

Tales from the Dena

Pat Carr, Sonahchi

Cohlene, Turquoise Boy

Courlander, The Fourth World of the Hopis

Isak Dinesen, Winter’s Tales

Guiberson/Lloyd, Cactus Hotel

Henderson/Garretson/Weber, Prose and Poetry: The Firelight Book

Lloyd Lewis/McCousland, Poems of the Midwest: Containing Two complete volumes Chicago Poems and Cornhuskers

Max, Spider Spins a Story

McQuarrie/Anderson, The Illustrated Star Wars Universe

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Noble, Ancient Ruins

Rucki, Turkey’s Gift to the People

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South America

Cruz/Zubizarreta/Rohmer/Schecter, The Woman Who Outshone the Sun

Brenda Hughes, Folk Tales from Chile

National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Magic of Remedios Varo

Frances Toor, A Treasury of Mexican Folkways

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Tony Allan, The Mythic Bestiary

[Arizona], Hopi Dictionary: Hopiikwa Lavaytutuveni

Brian Andreas, Some Kind of Ride

Ed. By Stephen L. Antczak and James C. Bassett, Clockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk Fables

Nathan Ausubel (ed.), A Treasury of Jewish Folklore

David M. Bader, Haiku U.

Graeme Base/Abrams, Animalia

J.F. Bierlein, Parallel Myths

Harold Bloom, Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages

Brett, Fritz and the Beautiful Horses

Brown, Inside Narnia

Jan Harold Brunvand, The Vanishing Hitchhiker

Ed. Caldwell and Kendrick, The Treasury of English Poetry: A collection of poems from the sixth century to the present

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

Kate Castle, Ballet

Joanna Cole, Best-Loved Folktales of the World

Coolidge, Greek Myths

Courage Books, Mothers

Tom Cross, The Way of Wizards

Ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest

Ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, The Faery Reel

Adam Jacot de Boinod, The Meaning of Tingo

Dening, The Mythology of Sex

Joosse/Lavallee, Mama, Do You Love Me?

Jules Feiffer, A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears

Leslie A. Fiedler, The Stranger in Shakespeare: Studies in the Archetypal Underworld of the Plays

Flowerpot Press, Family Treasury of Classic Tales: Enchanted Lands

Ginsburg/Tafuri, Asleep, Asleep

Gordon and Hollinger, Blood Read

Karen Elizabeth Gordon, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire

Gwynn, Literature: A Pocket Anthology: Fourth Edition

James Gurney

– Dinotopia

Dinotopia: First Flight


Hammond and Busch, The English Bible: King James Version: The New Testament and the Apocrypha

Jean Houston, A Mythic Life

(call # SC JEN? ) Tales of Fantasy

Leeming, The Oxford Companion to World Mythology

Alison Lester, Imagine

Mathis, Animal House

Mayer/Hague, The Unicorn and the Lake

Mortimer, Catopia: A Cat Compendium

Burleigh Muten and Rebecca Guay, Goddesses: A World of Myth and Magic

Numeroff/Bond, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Ion and Peter Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales

The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories

Mary Pipher Ph.D., Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

Terry Pratchett/Stephen Briggs/Tina Hannan/Paul Kidby, Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook

Diane Purkiss, At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, and Other Troublesome Things

Putnam, Mythical Beasts

Howard Pyle, The Wonder Clock

Kathleen Ragan, Outfoxing Fear

Margret and H.A. Rey, The Complete Adventures of Curious George

Marks, The English Bible: King James Version: The Old Testament

Minot, Three Genres: The Writing of Poetry, Fiction and Drama: Sixth Edition

Morris Schreiber, Stories of Gods and Heroes

Norton-,  The Study of American Folklore: Fourth Edition

Scholastic Voyagers of Discovery, Water, the Source of Life

Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

Stanley, A Country Tale

Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses

Tartar, The Classic Fairy Tales

Tennessee, Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life

Thurber, The 13 Clocks

Waddell/Firth, Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?

Walsh, Mouse Paint

Ward, Tajar Tales

Warne, The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies

Whitman, Children’s Stories

Louis Untermeyer, Story Poems

Vandevelde, The Rumplestiltskin Problem

Vaz, Mythic Vision: The Making of Eragon

Rose Weitz, Rapunzel’s Daughters

Scott Westerfield, The World of the Golden Compass

Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

Harve and Margo Zemach, Awake and Dreaming

Steven J. Zeitlin/Amy J. Kotkin/Holly Cutting Baker, A Celebration of American Family Folklore

Jack Zipes, Don’t Bet on the Prince

Jack Zipes, The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales

Jack Zipes, Spells of Enchantment

Jack Zipes, The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World 2e


Kaleidoscopes of Butterflies

And sometimes I don’t post for a month and a half. O Reader, I am sorry.

I am thinking I will write a longer post about my thoughts on mental illness when I have a little more strength to do it with, but right now I wanted to at least write something so that you know that I am still alive and doing things. Even if the things are hard to do.


This post is not about that. This post is about my engagement photos at the Butterfly Pavilion and a brief update on our animals at home.


So, since the wedding is going to be in summer at the Denver Botanic Gardens, we opted to go take pictures in the summery regions known as indoor greenhouses, and to see the butterflies. It was a beautiful morning too, with lots of sunshine.

We went in and took a bunch of pictures sort of here there and everywhere, but I’ll save those for another post. Instead, here is a picture of a butterfly that landed on our photographer’s camera!

Isn’t it pretty?

So we wandered, happy as a cloud, and the butterflies fluttered by. There were some well-wishers as we went, and after the photo shoot, we just enjoyed the space for a while. My fiancé took a picture of our photographer with Rosie the Spider, and I went and looked at the honeybees. I am SEVERELY arachnophobic, but I love bees so it worked out for everyone. It was pretty cold, so the bees were mostly staying home and keeping themselves rested and ready, but they were still active and lovely.

Eight brave bees! Or one brave bee multiple times. No one knows. But still, not many went on any adventures. I can’t say I blame them – the hive has to be much nicer on a cold morning.

Bees! and a bit of my reflection because camera angles were not a thing.

I love bees. I’m planning a whole post about them later. Hopefully before the end of the month. Wish me luck!

So then we traipsed. Here are some butterflies who let me take their pictures!

We also saw the turtles in the little pond:

And some bumblebees:

They were not in the little pond, if that was unclear, O Reader.

The aquatic section of the Pavilion was also cool; they don’t have their mandarin dragonet anymore (my favorite fish! But it got eaten by a sea urchin. Go figure.), but they do have a new squid/octopus (I can’t remember which, and aren’t I embarrassed…) and some other really cool critters.

And to finish it all off, we got to go home to our sweet darlings.

And that’s that!

More soon, hopefully you are safe and well and will continue to be, O Reader.

Cheers and Salutations!

Success and December

I did it! 

I am pretty happy about this! It was my fourth year that I’ve ever made the word count in time for, and this year i had a plot and story to keep going beyond the 30th. I probably could have cut back and told a shorter story, but I think this one deserves to be as full as it wants to be.

Here are some of my other stats, tho, if you are interested (and also if you aren’t):

It was a little up to the wire, but I planned ahead and made it work.

Usually in December I would be working on school work or editing or something like that, or even just trying to keep my nano pace going just a little bit longer, but I think I hit a bit of a burn out. This year has been a bit tiring and I will admit to having slept and sort of lazed around a bit in the last week or so. I’ve still been questing (tabletop roleplaying games are pretty essential) and going to my performance rehearsals (shameless plug for the Rocky Mountain Revels – it’s going to be a fun show and we’re all working really hard), but I think I may have fallen into a brief hibernation. Also we’re largely out of halloween candy except for gobstopper-jawbreaker things? I don’t really love those, which is why they are still leftover, but apparently neither do my roomates. 

My kitty has been a bit bemused by my abrupt shift to a nocturnal sleep cycle, but I think he likes the cuddle time. He’s been pretty silly when he curls up. Some highlights:

He was being a panther. Maybe. The last two are actually in reverse order, because I tucked him in before going to bed and he snuggled in. 

He really likes the bean bag chair, if that wasn’t evident.

I keep looking forward to being able to have the classic day of snow, cat, tea, and book, but I guess three out of four isn’t bad. Hopefully the snow will follow soon.

I suppose to wrap this meander of thought up, I hope everyone has a safe and peaceful December and cooler heads prevail. Stay safe, O Reader. More later.


It’s the season of Nanowrimo as I mentioned in my last post, I think. I’ve been juggling a weird work schedule so my word count has looked more exponential than linear, so that’s cool?

Look, my stats! Behold the not writing I did today.

I’ve had a couple of days where I got five or six thousand words done, and that felt really, really good. When I get to the point of writing like that, I fall into the story and it’s just like trying to keep up with the action.  It’s not always easy to do it, but usually after I sit down and actually focus I can get there. It might not always get done perfectly, but during nano I get the plot moving quite nicely and even when I’m feeling the characters despair or joy or confusion or whatever it is I feel hopeful. 

When I get into that groove editing I catch the mistakes and reweave it stronger. I

But I’m being here vaguely, and sometimes I forget the other things I need to do. Like blogging, or posting on Patreon, or emptying the catbox, or eating food. I think it I weren’t trying to do this on a 40 hour work week it might be easier? But I’ll get one thing or the other, and some things fall through and others get done (late at night usually). My fiance is being patient and loving and helping with the catbox and Chaucer has been occasionally calling me back to reality when he wants attention.

“Hey, I know you’re busy but feed me.”

He tried to pull me out of the bathroom a couple of different times this morning. Unfortunately he isn’t bigger and I don’t fit under the door.

I know I’m going to have a couple of days or frantic thousands of word to keep up and I’m looking forward to it, but I also wanted to make sure I pop up here and there just so you know I’m still here, O Reader. 

There’s a tradition of writers posting during Nanowrimo about how much they’re dying and drinking things with caffeine. I don’t know about the being overwhelmed – I’m not quite out of my initial burst of story confidence so I think I can make it and that sort of helps with the crazy feeling. But the caffeine part is true. I’ve been drinking quite a bit of Chai this month. Thank you to the people who keep supplying the Chai.

And thanks to my friends and family who keep supporting me in beautiful, wonderful, powerful way. I love you all. Thanks for waiting out the vagueness. 

I’ll leave you with a picture of my kitty being silly and comfy with my fiance. 

Stay safe, O Reader.Kitty-cat says mauw! Look at his toe-beans!

The month of November is probably one of the crazier ones in the year for a lot of people. For students and teachers, there are tests and projects due and needing to be completed. For medical and other offices, it’s coming up on the end of the year leading to changes in policies and planning. Seasonally in the northern hemisphere, it’s even busy because it’s the end of summer and there’s the burst of last energy as the snow comes in before everything rests over the lassitude of a sort of enforced silence.

I really like snowfall.  As a side note.

But it’s also the time of year where a bunch of enthusiastic and slightly insane people get into the challenge of writing a novel in a month.

Please keep remembering that it doesn’t have to be a good novel. It just has to be done. The quality of goodness is…. incidental at best.

And the insanity mostly comes from the fact that there’s a lot that goes into wanting to write a novel. I’ve been taking part in the novel challenge for nine years. When I explain all this, I often get asked both, ” wait, so you’ve written nine books?” and “have you published any of them?”

And the answer is kind of no, and also no. I haven’t been published. Yet, I hope. I’m working on it. But, I also haven’t necessarily written nine novels. I’ve made the effort nine times, and according to my track record on the Nanowrimo site I’ve won three times. That means that out of the nine years I’ve done this, I’ve only made it to the 50,000 word count goal three times.

Which sounds slightly less awesome than I’ve actually found it to be. What I’ve figured out over the nine years is both that I have stories that I like to tell, and that people around me want to hear them; I’ve learned how to write and develop characters who have depth, motivation, intention, and flaws. I’ve learned about plot and momentum, and I’ve learned a lot of things that don’t work.

I have learned SO MANY THINGS that don’t work.

But not only have I gotten into a pattern of needing to write for a month, I’ve started realizing what a positive and needed impact it has on my mental and emotional state. When I write, and this is something also that crops up when I play tabletop roleplaying games, I can put my anxieties, emotional ups and downs, and uncertainties into the character and explore aspects in a safe environment. I see what happens when I work with different abilities, with different levels of capability, and empathy in different perspectives. It’s easier to understand motives when you play it out small scale and can ask the player. When you see it played out in real life, it’s much easier to step away from what you think you know and be willing to listen to a different set of information and experience. So with both the release of tension from day to day life buried in characters and the exploration of different ways of understanding, my brain seems to settle and relax which is great for my mental state and the way that I can handle real life.

And not only that, because I’ve been practicing how to write and tell stories, when people ask me if I’m published or how many books I’ve written, I have actually more and more seriously begun to work out how to make that pipe dream happen.

But during the month itself, and a little bit beforehand, I start to step away from the focus that other people intentionally or unintentionally demand. I start to claim more time to myself, I get more demanding about when I am going to step away and leave things undone; even when I’m around other people, the back of my mind is turning over where I left off, where I’m having problems, what I need to have my characters do or get through in order to get from point a to point b or even to just figure out what I’m supposed to do next. I feel almost selfish, but this is my month and I want to write this book, darnit, and I’m going to. It becomes easier to tell people I can’t do things with them or at all, or even that I need to be left alone, because I have a deadline and a word count both, and I’m not going to get either done if I don’t actually make an effort to make it happen. The permissiveness given to say, “go away, I want to do this and I’m going to” is not something I feel I can do except in November. Part of telling people to go away even comes with the reasoning that it’s for one month a year.

When I told someone that I’d be around vaguely for the month of November, they asked me how you can be around vaguely. You’re either there or you aren’t. Which is reasonable, since people aren’t as good as being somewhere and not being somewhere as cats are. But my fiance, who is used to this pattern by now, begged to differ. Before I could even say anything, he said, “nope. She’ll be around vaguely” in sort of an exasperated patience. He is supportive and understanding, and also is aware that for a month I’m going to sort of step out and be more interested in my computer and chai and being completely alone even from him.

This year, since I’ve been working full time and starting to try to find my way back to school, I’ve realized how burned out I am, and how much I don’t necessarily really want to be doing anything else. I like being able to tell people I can’t do things because I’m going to go shut myself away at Starbucks, and not do dinner or laundry, or anything that doesn’t help build me up towards creating myself a new world. My fiance thinks I can change the world with my writing, but I mostly just like to write things, and more and more, things that I think are important. I want to learn how to actually be as good as he thinks I am, and then do that all of the time.

When I go back to work, I think about writing.

When I wake up, and there are things that I have to be doing like applications and wedding planning and laundry and things like that, I sort of just want to go spend eight hours making a story instead.

It’s kind of crazy that this is people’s jobs. ONE DAY.

But I also realized that I can’t work at home. Or at least not in the same way. I can sort of push myself towards getting words on the page, but the productiveness is not nearly the same as I can get when I go and set down without distractions or people asking me things or pets… which are all things that I wouldn’t want to trade away any of the rest of the time, but which are for not focusing. I haven’t set up a good place for me to work. At home, I think I can usually set down and give up a few hundred words at a time, and the pace just crawls. When I’m in my space at Starbucks, I can get a couple thousand words in the same amount of time and still know where I’m going when I have to leave.

It’s not always easy, or inspired writing, but it’s intentioned and sustainable. And it’s hard work that I feel good about even when I have to rewrite and take out the same sentence seven different times because the words are WRONG.

Or because they’re right for a different story. I don’t know. I have collections of words the ways couches collect dustbunnies.

But I think also I’ve heard a lot this year that people sort of don’t realize why it’s hard to do. Life gets in the way, there aren’t a set number of hours or days you can specify if you’re like me as to how long it’s going to take you to get it done. I can’t say I’m going to spend three hours and get my word count done, because sometimes I do that and realize that I’m going to have 500 words done, and then sometimes I spend an hour and a half and I have 2,000 words done. Some days you have to work and then you’re exhausted and then some days you stay up far too late and deal with that the next day. Some stories you go back and work at and work at and work at and then have to cut those thousand words but the two are better that you replace them with.  Sometimes you were wrong to cut them.

I don’t know that I’m in a place to tell anyone how to write or how not to (since I’m not actually published) but I keep encouraging people to try it because if nothing else you find out if you can. Sometimes it’s good for me to realize how much work I actually am doing when I keep trying this, and sometimes it’s just good to see someone else sit down with me and see if we can work through the problems together. Good company who knows how to focus and then come back.

So, I guess if you want to try a crazy project that may or may not be good for your sanity and relationships, come try Nano. You’ll either get addicted or you won’t,  but since you already won’t get everything done in November that you want you might as well try a novel too.

Good luck with your novel!

Back to School (again)

This week was a big deal to me because I have given notice at work and am applying to graduate school. I maybe should have done it in reverse order, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the state that my work is putting me in is no longer healthy. So, back into the job market I go.

It was interesting though, because part of the reason that I want to go back to school is so that I can write more. But I want it to mean something, too. My fiance thinks that I can write things to change the world, and I’d like to think that one day I can learn how to do that. But I mostly think I want to learn how to write to understand people and have them understand other people too. Or at least make space for that to happen. I’m not sure yet.

It seems like the more connected with technology and everything that we get as a society, the further away we get from understanding each other, sometimes. It’s easier and easier to pretend that you know about someone or something because you’ve heard about it on the news or read about it on Wikipedia. But it’s not really the truth. I know what was on the sites and in the media sources that I happened to contact, but it doesn’t seem to really matter what the issue is, I don’t know enough about it. I certainly don’t know enough about it to make judgments. Sometimes, I don’t even think I know enough about where I came from to make a statement about it. I feel like I have to start everything with “I feel like”, even if it’s something that I lived through. (See, it’s a joke-thing.)

I think some of this sense of knowing what’s going on is the reason that it’s getting harder to talk to people who have different views, because it’s really easy to assume that everyone has the same knowledge base and backgrounds that you do, and to disagree at all is a stupid decision. Because no one really sets out to make decisions that are stupid.

Well, I guess I shouldn’t say that.

But it certainly seems like people have reasons for doing all sorts of things that I would find weird, or sometimes stupid, like the guy who was going WAY too fast even on the highway and weaving like the dickens, or voting opposite to me, or even having priorities that make absolutely no sense (to me).

They aren’t any less important, or less reasoned, though. And I think part of why I want to write in such a way that impacts how we interact with literature is because it’s important to make sure that there is still space to have conversations across divides, and across backgrounds. And I think even the stories we read are adding to the polarization more and more.

It’s like how if you read Finnish folktales, there are clever heroes who can lead monsters off cliffs and into other traps. (Not to pick on Finland. It just came to mind first.) There are also German wolves and Witches, and how in England you see Jack defeating giants and other such from lands far away. And how there’s the recurring theme of the monstrous, the foreign, or the Other, something that is more powerful or not something that can be understood which comes into the hero or heroine’s space and has to be dealt with. Often, it’s by death or banishment. Sometimes, you can appease the stranger. Then you have stories of snakes in India who are fed milk and become allies, or foxes who bring luck in Japan when they are left to live under the house, or cats who bring their owners help. Or even in Russia you have stories of young women who go to see the witch and by working hard and their own innate virtues are able to receive backing.

But I keep seeing things set out as either or. Zombies and Aliens introduce the foreign which must be killed in certain ways or warded off, vampires become sparkly and yet as deadly as before – as if we suddenly are star struck and must be drawn even more surely into the trap of an unnatural life. Fairies may not appear the same way as they once did, or Coyote, but they still have a presence that we feel.

In Disney, the princess can’t want to just find romance anymore without being seen as weak and one-dimensional. Nor can she be white. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for more and more diversity. I love the way it contextualizes our human experiences. But the definitions of what you can and can’t be are particularly strong in Disney.

We have Ayn Rand and Philip Pullman, J.K Rowling and Bill O’Reilly, and any number of politicians, and we also have Steven King, and Toni Morrison, and the diversity is not enough because as soon as you start down one train of thought you get set on the track.

It’s important to lose your way when you are writing, and moreso when you’re reading. It’s important to know why you think what you think, and why you feel fear or anger when something crosses that belief. I need to see more instances of people working with eachother from diverse backgrounds, and that doesn’t just mean race, or gender, or culture. I need there to be a populace of literature. It’s not a dying art, just because we are coming to the end of the Gutenberg Parenthesis.

Brief aside, since that is a nerd term and I don’t want to assume. The Gutenberg Parentheses encompass a period of time in which we have been able to change how we produce and engage with literature. Before the Gutenberg printing press came into being, words and language were preserved and treated as holy in many ways in the west, because the elite and the religious groups who had the time and wealth to produce and upkeep copies of copies of copies of what few texts were worth preserving physically chose which were worth preserving.

Oral storytelling and information is harder to keep record of in that way, but it is equally as important, as a side thought. It just chooses to preserve different information and tales.

SO, when the press was invented, it provided access in a completely new way than people had had before, and made it much easier for literature and writing to be shared in that way.

Now, we are coming to a period where more and more of our knowledge is being preserved online or on the cloud or wherever you want it to be kept. Books and the printing thereof had gone through traditional publishers, who could be the new gatekeepers of knowledge and the flow of access.

But now, if you don’t want to publish through those keepers, or they deem your work as something that they don’t want to have associated with their name, you can publish on your own, online through blogs or even through books. It’s still hard if you want book form, but anyone who has access and things to say can make a blog or a site or whatever it is, and share what they want to say that way. And so the parentheses close and we move on to the next stage of disseminating information.

I think that’s another reason why people are scared. What information do we preserve? Can we control who gets what information? Can we eradicate things that we disagree with, and if we can’t, can we shield those like us from things that might be upsetting?

I don’t think we should choose what to preserve or allow to be disseminated, necessarily. That doesn’t mean that everyone is right, because there are some thoughts and movements that we have as a whole in humanity which are cruel and lessen us by their existence, but to paraphrase an officer I heard on NPR, it’s important to know what those who are not like you are thinking so you know what you need to be ready for. Whether I like them or not, it’s important to understand where the person is coming from and then act accordingly. That doesn’t even mean that you have to agree or embrace the person who espouses those views. Sometimes it’s better for them and for you to make it clear why you think it’s reprehensible, or dangerous. But we all live here, and we all have space, and I think to deny that is inhuman in and of itself.

In order to see the best of humanity, I think you need to have a good idea of what at least conflicts with you, because otherwise you can’t learn. And you have to learn in order to get better. You can’t just pretend nothing has happened; you can pretend that you’ve found a better way to get through life and when you do that, you can find a new way to do it.

So I want to write stories and discussions that make you think about things, that make you stop and safely consider why you believe what you believe, and what you should do about that. Things that lull you to sleep and are pleasurable to read, and make it easier to create a peaceful space between you and your neighbor, or that one person online who you just have to troll, or talk about at work or with your friends because they are so awful.

I think we need more of it. I don’t want to see apocalyptic futures which fall further and further into darkness; they have their place and I honor the writers who are able to think in dystopian despair and grit. I can’t do that. I want to brainstorm a better future, even if it comes after apocalypse and complete disorder. Humans are really good at surviving, adapting, thriving, and rising above. Why would this be our peak?

I think we can do better.

I always find it funny how optimistic about that. I usually don’t think of myself as all that positive about things like the future or humanity’s life choices, but this can’t be the best that we can do. We’re too divided. If we weren’t, it’d be a different discussion.

So, that’s why I’m going to grad school. I want to hone my skill and continue to think about how the best way to influence our conversations into being healthy debates instead of heated arguments. If we can find a way to talk about the issues that divide us we can make progress. We can be well. And I really hate being sick.

So, the rant about grad school. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about gun violence, today, or anti-immigrant tensions, racism, or bias, or something else, but there’s been so much and I just actually want to make sure that my voice is being used, even if no one is listening? That’s fine. I will know that I said it, and reasoned it out somewhat, and then when I go out again I should be able to make a better foray into fixing all the things.

Again, please be safe, O Reader. There have been too many things lately for me to not worry.