leahbobet: (gardening)
September 25, 2012 Progress Notes:

On Roadstead Farm

Words today: 650.
Words total: 42,150 (wrong).
Reason for stopping: It's late, and I'm weirdly rattled.

Motivational Threat of the Day: P. offers: "If you do not write 500 words, the world will go up one Defcon level. We don't know which one. But I wouldn't want that on my hands."

Darling du Jour: Cold, was my first thought, and it came wrapped like a baby in a soft, blank irritation.
Mean Things: Battlefield surgery (we're back to that scene).

Research Roundup: What colour redheads' eyebrows are.
Books in progress: Libba Bray, Beauty Queens

Not easy progress today: Had CSA to pick up, and a Women in Toronto Politics meeting, and after that some possible change on the wind, and I never do well with change, good or bad. The result: everything's a little scattered today, including me. But if tomorrow bears out well, I'm still on target for getting my milestone with this book done by the end of the week.
leahbobet: (gardening)
September 7, 2012 Progress Notes:

On Roadstead Farm

Words today: 1,000.
Words total: 37,650 (wrong).
Reason for stopping: Home time, and bedtime, because tomorrow is bookstore shift time.

Motivational Threat of the Day: From [livejournal.com profile] hawkwing_lb: "If you do not write 500 words, I will send you manky fish bones in the mail." On the positive reinforcement side of things, [livejournal.com profile] tanaise said that if I made 1,000 words I could have a pony. I like ponies.

Darling du Jour: I fit my hand to the twisted, grooved hilt. Torn leather pricked my fingers. The rips in it were the jaggedy lines of Heron's broken hands.
Mean Things: Hallie's No Good Very Bad Day continues. But I did put in two whole paragraphs about doggies, and I feel that should get me a gold star.

Research Roundup: N/A.
Books in progress: Sean Stewart, The Night Watch

The previous conducted at Chococrepe, after a day that was pretty much political organizing and event-planning from the comfort of my living-room couch. I've learned in the past year that political organizing is 95% details, scutwork, meticulous e-mails, and non-glamour. And that it feels goddamned awesome on the payoff, but today was the scutwork portion, in service of Making Things Happen.

Also: Very tired words, but I did get to write two paragraphs about doggies, and finish a scene that's been pestersome for a while now, and build the skeleton of the rest of this chapter into the next. A little more work and I have a feasible proposal sample (again). And then there's forward, and I intend to do some forward. This has been circling around itself for way too long. I want to write a book.
leahbobet: (gardening)
September 6, 2012 Progress Notes:

On Roadstead Farm

Words today: 750.
Words total: 36,650 (wrong).
Reason for stopping: I've a meeting to get to.

Motivational Threat of the Day: Nothing, but [livejournal.com profile] stillnotbored promised me one for when I get back.

Darling du Jour: Nat's uncle James frowned, pulling his scars into whole different constellations.
Mean Things: Someone else's awkward family dynamics, on your front lawn. Hallie's No Good Very Bad Day continues no good and very bad.

Research Roundup: N/A.
Books in progress: Sean Stewart, The Night Watch

One of those days where there are fifteen thousand things in your inbox, all of equal priority, and they just let you loose with a starting pistol. Urgh. By the time I got to the words portion of the program, my brain was so scattered it took forever to catch.

I have a political meeting (a-hem) to go to, for the better planning of cool workshops. And may be back to this tonight when I'm done, if the spirit is still moving me.

Thud: Light

Oct. 6th, 2011 01:27 am
October 5, 2011 Progress Notes:

Light (bad working title)

Words today: 100.
Words total: 3600.
Reason for stopping: It's late, and I'm not getting anywhere.

Darling du Jour: N/A.
Mean Things: N/A.

Research Roundup: The hours at the Moonbean Cafe.
Books in progress: Caitlin Sweet, The Pattern Scars.

I did not get even close to what I wanted done today. I'd say this has left me grouchy, but let's be honest: I was grouchy before things failed to get done.

Election day tomorrow. If you're in Ontario, get your butt out and do some voting.
September 19, 2011 Progress Notes:

Light (bad working title)

Words today: 275.
Words total: 1350. No, it doesn't match. I frogged a couple paragraphs.
Reason for stopping: This is what happens when you stay up late watching all-night deputations to Council's Executive Committee. Such are the wages of municipal nerdery.

Darling du Jour: Three blackened dots along the inside of her left forearm, where she'd hugged a century-old girder and the massive iron rivets pressed hard into her skin.

Mean Things: The kinds of bruises that are going to make even strangers want to ask who's been hitting you. Sleeping 48 hours straight and not knowing where those two days went.
Research Roundup: Construction of 1920s buildings; how dark bruises on your neck actually get.

Books in progress: Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science-Fictional Universe.

I am trying this in present tense. Nothing seems to be objecting so far.

The fun volunteer gig of Sunday was indeed fun: I spent the afternoon alternately manning the Not Far From the Tree info desk and helping wash, chop, grind, and press apples into cider at City Cider, at the Spadina Museum. Let me tell you, working on a demo of cider-pressing under a big blue sky and apple trees, with a nice crisp breeze and music, chatting with the other volunteers all afternoon? That is not work in the slightest. That is hanging out and playing with a cider press.

Also we got to drink some of the leftovers. The benefits cannot be overstated.

Today was rainy and crappy from dawn to midnight, so today I slept in, stayed in, and puttered around the house. Potato salad and honey walnut cake got made. Apple rings will come out of the dehydrator in the morning. Ideomancer duties were done. Three (3) author interviews/guest posts were written up and dispatched, and some receipts filed, and most of my inbox cleared. And then I got sucked into watching Council and there went the rest of the evening, but it was still and all a reasonably productive day considering I never got out of my pajamas.

Tomorrow there must be out: there is some extra yarn to exchange, and a new bedside lamp to buy, and other little things. Vacation continues to be more productive and less stressful than dayjobbing. There's a moral in that, I suppose.

To bed.


Sep. 4th, 2011 04:46 pm
leahbobet: (bat signal)
Over the past few weeks I've been thinking about inspiration.

(No, this is not a writing post. It is a post about the things we do with our hands.)

Jack Layton -- for the international readers, the leader of the (social democrat) New Democratic Party and the current federal official opposition -- died abruptly of cancer two weeks ago. The response was solid national mourning: my very political Twitter friends posted their personal Jack stories; publishing people linked articles and eulogies; my very apolitical suburban upper-middle-class relatives talked about him in an almost puzzled, off-balance way at a family funeral last weekend, like people who'd lost a tooth and kept worrying at the gum. People who didn't like this mostly demonstrated enough sense and class to keep their mouths shut and respect everyone else's mourning.

There was a state funeral, and a lying-in-state at both the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and City Hall here, where he served for many years as a very active and visible city councillor. I went to the visitation with friends, and waited an hour and a half in line to pay my respects at that flag-draped coffin. [livejournal.com profile] commodorified, who was in town though I did not know it, inadvertently started a tribute they'll be talking about in the history books. We left chalk. It was almost the definition of a community experience: the vast iceberg of a whole city and country groaning and shifting together. Everyone drawing a little closer.

He left a letter. It was his last public act. It's called A Letter to Canadians, and was released shortly after his family announced that he had passed away.

You should read it, but here's the important bit:

...consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

I am not politically partisan, both by personal inclination and professional obligation, but I believe in those words. They took me in the chest and made me cry at my desk for the loss of a person I'd never met. They are good words, and I say that in the way Beowulf keeps repeating þæt wæs god cyning. Yes, they confirm my worldview to a certain extent, and one must always be a little careful of that. But they are good words. They are right.

I want them so very badly to be right.

It's been a week. Things go back to normal. They do, and they don't.

But this is a post about inspiration.

I don't know why it's faintly embarrassing to say that paragraph inspired me, especially when it came from someone who was often cited as being close in the vicinity of inspiration: down the block or right next door. I want to twist to avoid the word. I want synonyms, waterings-down, elisions.

Possibly it's terrifying.

It's the same root as respire and spirit; Latin spirare. It means "to breathe". It means to have something put its lips to yours and fill your lungs or soul like a sail.

There is, I think, a particular courage inherent in being willing to be inspired: being willing to take someone else's words into you, breathe them into your lungs, and let them animate your arms and legs and heart. To hear someone else's words and change your life is a ceding of a certain kind of control, and it's frightening, and brave: it puts you on roads you didn't plan to walk to places you've never been, and some of them can be trying and terrible and dark.

They demand willingness to devote yourself passionately to something bigger than you, and nebulous, and chancy, and like all passions, bearing a terrible risk of heartbreak. And many of us, in pursuit of ways to never fail, are perfectly willing to make a very bad tradeoff, and never try.

It does not mean agreeing with everything the speaker ever said or did. That's role model, not inspire, and I remain very against role model on the grounds that it's sloppy critical thinking. But it means picking your stars, and orienting yourself by them, and then throwing yourself into space by their light.

(Yes. Throwing yourself into space.)

It's been six months since my grandmother died. She left a letter for each of us too. Mine was not polished in the way political rhetoric is: either because of the times, or possibly my great-grandfather's views on women and education, my grandmother never got halfway through high school. But it was honest, like the one I linked above. It was good words, and true.

She told me that she would be there for me, and that good things would happen; questions would be answered in their own ways. She told me to always smile.

I take that as one of my stars too. I carry it in my lungs.

This can be read, I suppose, as an argument for activism. It's definitely an argument for living an engaged and deliberate life. It could also be an enormous arrogance and intrusion: to have someone else speak, and expect you to twist and alter your life and all your careful plans.

What I think I'm asking here is for you to take courage: to not shrink from that word (that task, that challenge) or minimize it. To reject the cynical, slowly or altogether, raise sail, and fix, one by one, your stars.

It's terrifying, yeah. Space is cold. Jumping is the kind of thing that always tends to make my knees lock.

But it's the most natural thing in the world, too. It's nothing but breathing.

Breathe in.
leahbobet: (gardening)
July 30, 2011 Progress Notes:

"On Roadstead Farm"

Words today: 500 on Monday, 650 today.
Words total: 6300.
Reason for stopping: The undergrads at the next table have turned to Middle Eastern politics, and the Tourette's-ish woman at the corner table is singing at top voice because nobody's paying attention to her, and productivity at the coffeeshop is officially over.

Darling du Jour: "That's not what I mean," Nat said, lean and sunburnt but still the same Nasturtium Blakely who'd played by the river with Tyler and me, forever frustrated that we were catching her imaginary lake trout wrong.
Words Hallie Won't Admit to Knowing: wavered.

Mean Things: Being condescended to a bit by your bossy friend. Or, shoe on the other foot, the remarkable lack of self-preservation your friend whom you love is exhibiting. The way everyone keeps kicking you out of your own kitchen, dammit.
Research Roundup: Some southeastern US geography, which I am bad at; shellfish indigenous to the North Carolina coast; image reference for the insides of oyster shells; common German-American surnames; spices indigenous to the US; current crops of North Carolina; rice cultivation in the US; sheep-shearing seasons; sheep varieties; sheep reproduction cycles; things sheep eat.

Books in progress: Darren O'Donnell, Your Secrets Sleep With Me; Misha Glouberman and Sheila Heti, The Chairs are Where the People Go.
The glamour: Mild and lazy. Half the city is out of town for the long weekend, another quarter are at Caribana, and thus I can get a whole table! for hours and hours! in the coffeeshop, even on a Saturday afternoon.

Well, hello. I missed you too, LJ.

Lots of stuff on the Above front this week: Filled out a giant publicity questionnaire, did my second-pass proofreader's queries (three more clarifying questions to answer tonight, and that's finished entirely), had a playdate with Scholastic Canada to talk about Canadian marketing efforts and just see the office and such, and sold the second set of international rights for the book.

(Yes, the second. The first was just before Readercon, and I think I got too busy and never told you.)

So: Above will be readable in German, from Baumhaus, and now in Portuguese -- although in Brazil only -- from Novo Conceito, both publishers with pretty impressively diverse lists. Both of these editions drop in the next year and a half to two years. I will tell you when.

The other big thing that went on this week is that I pulled a ridiculous all-nighter to watch Toronto City Council's Executive Committee meeting in person on Thursday night/Friday morning, and while that sounds like a boring political nerd thing to do and a bad reason to spend an entire workday exhausted, it was in fact kind of ridiculously glorious. It also will probably merit its own post, later today or tomorrow.

And now I am almost out of battery, and beginning to grow irritable at the noisy people, and it's time to pack this thing up.


Jul. 14th, 2011 11:56 am
(What's that? It means let's go.)

Not much blogging -- or writing -- this week: I've been caught up with real world/meatspace stuff, the inevitable demands of going out of town for Readercon in a few hours (panel research, frantic housecleaning, arranging of lunches, figuring-out of reading passages, etc., although I just canned it all last night and went out to a reading in Kensington instead), and the doings of Toronto City Council. Yes, this is a council week. It has pretty much eaten my head. Yes, the last few years have brought out my latent political process nerdery. What of it?

So. Long story short: sorry for the radio silence. And it will continue a little longer, because I'm going to Readercon, and have decided to not bring my laptop with me on the grounds that really, I should be hanging out with people I don't see enough of instead of sticking my face in the Internet.

If you are there? I will see you there! I look forward to our hanging out and many panels and some drinks!

If not, usual caveats apply about breaking the place while I'm gone, and while I will check e-mail once a day (or try to) from the business centre, don't expect any substantial answers from me until Sunday night, when I return to my treehousey lair.

(Allons-y. Let's go.)

At home.

Jul. 6th, 2011 03:27 pm
leahbobet: (gardening)
Dr. My Roommate and I went for a walk last night: the tea shop, and then Fiesta Farms (which was closed), and since Fiesta was closed, the big Loblaws at Christie and Dupont. I wanted the groceries; she wanted the walk, and maybe some yogourt while we were up.

I don't remember how we got onto the topic of why we don't drive.

Neither of us do. We both can; we both have held driver's licences in the past, although for me it's the deep and distant past: I haven't been behind the wheel of a car since I was 18. The roommate bikes, and I walk.

She had a reason for why she didn't drive, a fairly neat and clearly articulated one which has nothing to do with the way bike lanes, cars, cyclist and driver behaviour on the roads, safety, and the whole general culture war between bikes and cars, downtown and uptown, is politically exploding in Toronto this month, after the Public Works Committee of municipal council recommended that the year-old bike lanes on Jarvis be removed.

My reasons? I had to stop for a second (on the other side of a stoplight, next to the big, leafy hedge at Bathurst and Wells, which nudged against my shoulder) and unearth it. Yes, there are the environmental benefits, the health benefits, the fiscal benefits of choosing not to drive, but those are really the bullshit on top. If I really wanted to drive a car, I would, I'm sure, have an equal list of benefits to doing so. There is something deep inside me that just finds the act inimical to my personal nature, and so no matter what the drawbacks, I'll put it aside and structure my life -- downtown rents, travel times, occasionally missing get-togethers in the far suburbs or Hamilton -- around that lack of desire for cars.

What it is (I said, after starting to walk again, reaching up to brush low-hanging maple leaves, get a handful of the humid, muggy breeze) is that I dislike the disconnection that comes with doing your travelling in a car. When you are in a car, you have a skin of metal between you and everything else. You control the temperature of the air, the sounds you hear, the tactile input. You don't have a chance to see things, so much, because if you're being anything like a good driver, your eyes are on the road. It can be an inherently wagons-circled experience: moving on your way in a bubble. In a car, the world goes by.

On your feet, you move through the world, and in it. You smell the air. You hear insects, and traffic, and wind, and other people's snippets of conversation. You touch and are touched by plants; pet other people's dogs in the park; jostle and bump and shake hands. You stop places, read signs, look in windows, study the sky. You linger. You engage.

This morning, I read a post from one of my favourite Torontostuff bloggers, Cityslikr, about being at home in the city.

What struck me most about these conversations, though, was how in touch with their surroundings the folks were who spent their time hunting and fishing. At home in their environment, knowing everything there was to know about every hill they climbed, every point they positioned themselves at while tracking their quarry.


It all got me to thinking and wondering if those of us big city dwellers could ever attain such equanimity with where we live.

The other reason I don't drive is because of a certain idiosyncratic little fear.

I get afraid, I think, that when you spend too much time in spaces that are defined by hard borders, which you control, which are all about you and where you are not simply a component, equal to all others, of that bigger, more-encompassing space? That your head and your heart start to think that way too. That you withdraw a little from an openness to random experiences -- to the thought that you may well get rained on, or told by a drunk-or-just-weird guy on the sidewalk that you are totally awesome -- and a sense of community, both social and geographical. You will not have stories about your places. You are not at home.

This could be true. This could be true just personally for me. This could be a delicately crafted pile of steaming bullshit. Who's to say? For you it might be nothing, or more of my trademark flakery -- and that's cool, because we're different people. For me, it's like breathing.

I have lived in this neighbourhood a year next week, and I know its byways. I move through it like a needle through soft fabric. I can tell you stories about this tree, or the Most Metal Garage in All Toronto (south of Bloor, alleyway around Lippincott or thereabouts), or the Door to Nowhere, whose function we do not understand, but the pondering of which is really, really entertaining. I know where all the little parks are, and the fruit trees, the cheap hardware stores, the secret bar patios. I know my neighbours. I know when the tiger lilies bloom. My fingerprints are all over this place now. Its fingerprints are all over me.

And maybe that's the first step to the thought Cityslikr's positing: Cities are our homes. Instead of fighting that idea, we need to embrace it and figure out the best ways to make our home, well, livable. Dare I say, desirable? For everyone who chooses to put down stakes here and not just those who can afford it.

I think about how to do that a lot. Don't talk about it so much lately, not in this venue, but it's going on up there. And some of that drive to the livable and desirable comes from civic programs, funding allotments, infrastructure initiatives; but some of that comes from us. Some of that is cultivating a personal and very individual capacity to open yourself to whatever the city will throw your way; to giving it space to leave fingerprints all over your head and heart, and not just trying to leave yours on it. Relationships are two-way things. Your interaction with the place you live in, if it is to be truly a home, is no less a relationship than a marriage. You can't keep a marriage going on metal walls, and controlled sound systems, and climate control.

I have no water-proof, bee-proof, age-proof idea on how to do this. Like I said, you're you and I'm me, and what works for one person is pretty much guaranteed to not work for another, and that's just how things are. But I do have a good starting point:

Take a walk. Take a couple, long and meandering, with no particular destination in mind, or no real attachment to how you get there. Engage with the things you find along the way. Touch things, and smell. Linger.

See how you feel about it.

It was a good walk, last night. I got home, and slept well after.
[livejournal.com profile] kafkonia 10:05 pm: Maybe I'm old fashioned, but some of these things make me say "No, I will not be tolerant and accepting of your alternate lifestyle. You need psychiatric help."
[livejournal.com profile] kafkonia 10:05 pm: But then I worry I might wake up one day and find I've joined the Westboro Baptist Church.
[livejournal.com profile] kafkonia 10:05 pm: (We have a neighbourhood in Ottawa called Westboro... I have never investigated what churches are present.)
[livejournal.com profile] beatriceeagle 10:07 pm: I think as long as you accept someone, you've got one up on the WBC.
[livejournal.com profile] kafkonia 10:07 pm: heh
[livejournal.com profile] katallen 10:08 pm: I believe the WBC are moderately tolerant of each other.
[livejournal.com profile] kafkonia 10:08 pm: There appears to be only a Unitarian Church in our Westboro.
[livejournal.com profile] cristalia 10:08 pm: Isn't it standard assumption now that the WBC aren't bigots, they're trolls?
[livejournal.com profile] kafkonia 10:08 pm: And I don't think the Westboro Unitarian Church would be quite the same.
[livejournal.com profile] cristalia 10:08 pm: Oh man, although now I want to start it.
[livejournal.com profile] kafkonia 10:09 pm: "We hate everyone, except all the people we tolerate."
[livejournal.com profile] beatriceeagle 10:09 pm: I think that if you act like a bigot all the time, it doesn't much matter.
[livejournal.com profile] beatriceeagle 10:09 pm: Ha!
[livejournal.com profile] cristalia 10:09 pm: You picket funerals with signs like "We accept your lifestyle and welcome your friendship."
[livejournal.com profile] beatriceeagle 10:09 pm: "We're sorry for your loss."
[livejournal.com profile] kafkonia 10:09 pm: "And those we accept."
[livejournal.com profile] kafkonia 10:09 pm: "But other than that -- WATCH OUT!"
[livejournal.com profile] cristalia 10:09 pm: "Can we get you anything? Drink? Cookie?"

In other news that is not about shit-disturbing on the Internet, today's e-mail has brought both a copyedited manuscript and an ISBN for Above. I give back the CEM next week, but the ISBN I may keep.

The new issue of Ideomancer is up, with fiction from returning author Sandra Odell, Emily Skaftun, and Su-Yee Lin; book reviews aplenty; and three poems from and an interview with our first featured poet in a while, Mari Ness.

Also, Chilling Tales has hit its Canadian release date and is available for those of you in the Canadas (if you are in the Americas or the UKs, you have to wait longer. Sorry.) This is the anthology that "Stay" is in, alongside a lot of very, very, very good Canadian horror writers. We are launching it at the bookstore in two weeks' time.

Aside from that? It is cold, and I am terrifically busy, although most of it is good busy.

I am ready, I think, for winter to be done now.


Nov. 12th, 2010 12:56 pm
This morning I was going to make one of those long, reasoned, essay-style posts about this, and some discussions I've had in person and online recently about professionalism, credentialism, and the weird, threatened reaction a lot of writers/editors at all levels seem to have towards self-publishing and NaNoWriMo and the like, which is only equalled by the weird, threatened reaction that a lot of beginning or self-published writers seem to have towards professional publishing and those who work in it at any capacity.

It would have been elegant and explained its terms and employed both data and anecdata, and the writing of it would have eaten up my entire lunch hour today.

I want to hang out with my workfriends with what's left of my lunch instead, so I will not write that post. I will write this thing shorter.

Let's be straight here.

The way I see it, the problem isn't that self-published authors actually! make people think! they're as good as you! or that those uptight, pursed-lips, stick-up-the-butt New York writers are such! elitist! bastards! or that some other person is standing in the way of your dream, rightful realization thereof, or rightful recognition due to, from any perspective, while you can merely wring your hands and weep a single, 1970s Native American TV commercial-style tear because that other guy is somehow so all-powerful that their shadow blocks out the sun.

That's just the bullshit on top. Nobody actually has that much power over your life, and you, generic non-individualized reader, know it deep down. The problem actually is the little voices in your head with which the accusation of you're doing it wrong resonates. The problem is that those voices can achieve a resonance hum even when someone isn't accusing you of doing it wrong. All they have to be doing is doing something differently, and looking like they're enjoying it.

The problem is you don't actually think you're cool.

This will sound arrogant -- and, y'know, maybe the problem is that it sounds arrogant, and there's a whole sociocultural essay in that -- but: it wasn't a novel sale that made me cool. It wasn't getting an agent, and it wasn't Year's Best reprints or editing a magazine or knowing the "right" people or learning the skills to talk to people at overcrowded smelly convention parties or whatever. Something didn't drop down from the sky and anoint me cool. I have been dead cool since the day I first put pen to paper hands to keyboard. What anyone else thinks about my coolness on these matters is purely secondary.

Or, to put that in less smartassed terms?

I know my worth. And -- more importantly -- I know the worth of my work, and I believe in my work: not that it's unconditionally good or that it doesn't make mistakes, or that I am unconditionally good or that I don't make mistakes because hoo boy, I make mistakes like there's a Girl Scout badge for messing up and I've got one space left on my uniform. But I believe my work and I both are always improving. I am rock-certain of that. How do I know that?

Because I work to improve them. Because I was worse before, and now I'm better, and tomorrow I will be better still. I know that.

So what other people think about it? Not so big a deal, really. I live in my head. I know that head better than they do, and I know I'm cool.

What other people do with their time, even and especially if it's different from what I do?

Wholly immaterial.

Here's the other thing I posit, and I bet it can be backed up with evidence.

You're cool too.

You are most likely better -- at writing, at knitting, at dancing, at your job, at looking for a job, at being a spouse or significant other, at driving a car, at planting a seed, at doing your taxes, at writing an essay, at changing a lightbulb or a tire or a fuse, at being a generous or kind person, at living -- than you were in the past. You will likely get better at these things, any of them, all of them, in the future, even without that little bit of targeted elbow grease and spot of determination, although those things make it go faster. That makes you cool, and you have been dead cool since the day you first took that deep breath and tried something new; since you first expressed the willingness to be better at a thing than you were yesterday with the glimmer of something, someone that is more in your eye.

You're super, mega, ultra-cool. And the only thing more dispiriting than cool people being cruel or dismissive or belittling to other cool people is seeing cool people be cruel or dismissive or belittling to themselves: telling themselves they aren't actually cool enough. That they have to tear someone else down to be cool. That other people being cool differently is discomfiting, devaluing, a threat.

It's not. And you don't have to. And you always, always were.

I mean, don't you ever get tired of feeling so threatened?

Ever considered not letting that feeling win this time, or the next?

(And I have used up my lunch hour anyway. O well.)
March 19, 2010 Progress Notes:


Words today: 2000.
Words total: 7550.
Reason for stopping: I just wrote enough that my hands hurt. I'm throwing in the towel and watching cartoons the rest of the night, dammit.

Darling du Jour: The raven stood over it and howled, all the voice of wolves and snuffling bears and winter, and fluttered into the night laughing, its wings snapping like doors slammed shut.

Mean Things: The wendigo knows where the wendigo goes! Also, the girl you like being really upset and having nothing good to do about that. Also, bloody dismemberment. Also, Raven's inappropriate sense of humour.
Research Roundup: Dene photo reference; sodium lamps and what temperatures they're rated for; Greyhound schedules to Hay River, NWT, which I actually had to get on the phone to Greyhound about, confusing the hell out of a Greyhound dude who couldn't understand that no trip was actually happening or being booked.

Books in progress: Gemma Files, A Book of Tongues.
The glamour: Actually, a bucketload. I sent some owed auction critiques, did a bunch of OWW mail and copywriting, fussed with or finished or got further on a couple Ideo tasks, wrote a post for the new blogging gig (tell you later), renewed my lease, and basically mucked out my inboxes. And made pierogies, for I was so great with virtue. Nom, pierogies.

Kind of an up-and-down day around here. It would have been a really good one, if not for this. Which, at the moment, I really don't want to talk about, so if you have comments to leave please do it over there and not here.

I am taking the rest of the day on its own terms, and tomorrow's a different one, and we shall see and we shall see.

Laptop Debt Kill:

8350 / 17000 words. 49% done!
leahbobet: (milk?)
Via [livejournal.com profile] sdn on another platform, Hipsters on Food Stamps: They're young, they're broke, and they pay for organic salmon with government subsidies. Got a problem with that?

I'm not sure what this post is going to be, exactly. I'm not pointing this out to slapfight with it and the 400+ comments it's engendered; not really. I could point it out to dissect its rhetoric (ew, hipsters! Bad people doing a thing we find bad!) or assumptions (artsy neighbourhoods are actually rarely that because they're expensive; often, it's the other way around) or to talk about the sort of financial slut-shaming behaviour evident in the comments, the kind that people get into when it comes to the taxpayer's dollar. The attitude that public money = my money and therefore I have a board-of-directors vote in how you live -- that you aren't winning at poverty unless you're demonstrating you're really, really sorry for being poor -- is a really ugly one, but we've covered that around here before. These are all valid angles on it, but not really what I'm feeling today.

What I want to talk about today is food.

I did a really good shopping run in the past two days; cut loose a bit, because I cleaned out the fridge to the bones before going to Arizona and I had nothing fresh in the house, and besides, it's spring. Four kinds of nice cheese (jalapeno havarti, gloucester with stilton, mouton noir, asiago) and goat's milk and Mediterranean yogourt and dolmades; antipasto shrimp in oil and sundried tomatoes and purple grapes and pears; dried mango, figs, a pomegranate, walnuts, red peppers, and four trays of fresh-made sauerkraut and mushroom pierogies; sliced roast beef and pine nuts and strawberries. The first thing I did Monday afternoon was start fresh bread: honey and buckwheat flour.

That's how I eat: mostly -- if only incidentally and accidentally -- vegetarian, fresh, local where possible, and well. I like food. I like it in theory and practice. I get joy out of planning menus for other people that work, despite allergies or preferences, in the way some people enjoy cracking an engineering puzzle. I grow some of my own vegetables in the summer, I lust after urban chickens, and I cook.

Hell, even making that list of all the stuff I have in my kitchen right now made me feel really, really good.

The thing is (and yes, here's the thing), food is a lot of things that it's not; it's a marker and symbol of a lot of things about a person above and beyond putting calories in to keep the engine running.

As Roger Ebert pointed out in his Nil By Mouth (which you should read if you haven't. Right now), food is community on a fundamental level. It's the first step to a certain awareness and respect of another culture: eating a Japanese or Moroccan or Ethiopian meal kicks you out of your own headspace a little, into how a Japanese or Moroccan or Ethiopian person conceptualizes eating, living, comfort. Food's also an expression of our weird, patchworked personal cultures: my ultimate comfort foods are lokshen and cheese because my Jewish mother made it, egg-in-the-nest because my blue-collar grandmother made it, and miso soup because I have lived every day of my adult life in downtown Toronto. Food is love. Some feminist theorists argue it shouldn't be, that that link needs to be decoupled, but too bad. Food is love.

You can tell things about a person's cultural background, geographical background, class background, and who they conceptualize themselves to be by what they'll go for when they're feeling stressed. You can also tell things about their politics and worldview by where they'll get it, or how.

Food is also like books in one crucial way: it is not an interchangeable commodity. One does not equal the other.

When I was in my early twenties and poor enough to qualify for food stamps, poor enough that I would steal rice out of the cooker at the restaurant where I worked in order to get a second meal into the day, I still paid ten bucks a tub for parmigiano reggiano. We were eating a lot of pasta at the time; pasta was cheap and wasn't full of bad shit, the kind of preservatives and chemicals and high sugar content that makes my body and brain chemistry go apeshit. The generic Kraft or grocery-store parmesan extruded byproduct tastes like nothing but salt. I hated the way it tasted without a little cheese. A lot of people would look at that expense and find it silly, but a very little of the good stuff, stretched and thinned to last, was a thousand times better than all of the bad stuff I could eat.

That cheese was my treat. It was my treasure. Whenever I cracked it open and rationed some out, or managed to score a tote bag full of fresh fruit and vegetables in Kensington for $12, or just got something to cook and the time to do it in those years, I was chasing entropy out of my life. I was reasserting a little bit of control. I was doing something small that was good for me, that made me happy, in a space where very little I could do or say was going to stop the way my life was spinning its wheels. Ten bucks of high-end parmesan cheese a month kept the strictures of civilization in my life, kept its walls still standing and intact.

Food is also self-expression and dignity. Food is the most basic and vital thing you can do for yourself, your basic self-reliance. You decide what you will eat, and you go get it and cook it for yourself with your own two hands.

And maybe we are back at the notion of poverty and sufficient shame. Because the only reason I can see for a person to want someone to eat like shit, to remove their ability to express their culture and geography and class background and politics and worldview and self-concept, is because of the idea that all poor people are the same; that self-expression, dignity, and self-reliance are a privilege that comes with money; that if all poor people don't act the same, they should be made to.

We live in the first world. We are rolling in resources; more than we reasonably deserve.

Seriously. There's no need for that shit.

I have a job with a salary now; have for a year and a half. Keeping my fridge stocked is no longer a concern, although I'm still psychotic and anal about wasting food and probably always will be, and I still wear my jeans until they fall apart and my socks until they're more hole than sock.

I did, however, make a rule with myself about food: You can have anything you want. It doesn't matter how much it costs. I buy any grocery-thing my little heart desires, now, and am forbidden to feel guilty about it. I buy dried mango and figs and pomegranates and walnuts and four trays of fresh-made sauerkraut and mushroom pierogies.

I also give to the Daily Bread Food Bank, every month.

And I don't waste food.
All right, kids, buckle up. I'm going to ramble a bit.

[livejournal.com profile] matociquala posted last night on her workweek and how long it takes her to write a book. What this post is actually about, although it comes clearer in the comments, is another aspect of the question that spurred it: The perception of authors as overpaid, spoiled, wealthy, greedy or...maybe just indulged members of our society. The perception, in short, of art as a class of work valued less than other classes of work.

I tangle with this thing a lot.

I am a working writer. No, I am not a writer who has a novel in print (and we'll get into the hobbyist perception that goes with that another time), but I am a writer who has been writing for eatin' money since early 2003 or so, which is when I started being reliably paid for stuff. Trufax: in second year I regularly paid my phone bill with the dribs and drabs of money from poetry sales. Writing still composes a non-major, but non-trivial part of my household income: My support staff and moderation gig at the OWW helps me keep chipping away at my school debt, and Shadow Unit, while not even remotely paying for the time we put into it at this juncture, kicked me enough cash last year to cover a month's worth of groceries and (non-rent) bills.

As [livejournal.com profile] truepenny has pointed out this week it's very hard to make ends meet as a writer. So unlike Bear and Sarah, I am also the proud possessor of a full-time Dayjob with really solid benefits.

My Dayjob is in the public sector, which is another place with some class-of-work issues.

There was a point early last year, when I was still fairly new to the job and quite blissful about it (I have a truly great office full of truly awesome persons) where I got very upset about my inability to communicate to people outside government that I really liked my brand new job. Any enthusiasm I had about my work would be automagically translated into Well, must be nice to have it that good and not have to work hard. You're having fun? Is that my tax dollars at work? The base assumption was that because clearly all public servants are spoiled and lazy and sheltered by the hand of a government employer, the enjoyment I got out of my job must be from lying on the couch and eating bonbons instead of pounding steel all day like real manly men doing actual, real work. It couldn't be that I had a good boss, good co-workers, and interesting, intellectually stimulating work; it must have been that my work was not legitimate, not demanding. To this day, I quite literally cannot talk about anything fun that happens in my office -- silly water cooler stories, lunch table anecdotes, nothing -- in mixed company without getting some form of blowback. Period.

I've learned to work around and weather the thing since, but it was actually quite hurtful. I couldn't share a good thing about my life anywhere but with my most trusted friends. It was like trying to show someone a butterfly and having the thing -- and your hand -- pissed on and then set on fire.

So basically I get shafted coming and going on this one. Of the 60+ hours of work I put into an average workweek, none of it is considered valued or legitimate work outside of my various insider circles. I have one career where I have to step carefully if I want to express the most basic pride in my work, and one career where I have to step carefully if I want to utter the mildest complaint about it.

And that means I'm sort of fascinated by the psychology behind perception of work: Why and how do we decide which fields of work are more "real" than others? How have we somehow accorded legitimacy to some -- totally necessary -- functions in society and yet routinely disparage other -- totally necessary -- functions? Why do normally right-thinking people open their mouths and drop these assumptions onto the floor every day?

I think about this a lot. I tangle with it a lot.

I think it's something to do with a class of products or services that, to people without expert knowledge, seem to self-create or self-maintain; that we feel have always been there. It's to do with the nature of work where, when it's done right, the worker isn't even noticed.

Let me go into that a bit.

People get pissed off at customer service or restaurant wait service if it's obtrusive. People only notice that grocery store stockpersons exist when something's not on the shelf. People only remember the existence of the Ministry of Transportation when there's a pothole. People get pissy at subway repairs because the inherent and subtextual expectation is that while of course subways need to be fixed, the fixing of them should be invisible. We should never see it happen, or it has essentially failed.

People only notice the author in the text, like the waiter or subway repairman or stockperson, if they feel something has gone wrong.

If we do our job right, the logic goes -- and I'm not getting into whether this is right or wrong today -- the reader shouldn't even see us. One paragraph at the back of the book saying general things about our pets, maybe where we live. Standard words at the front about who made this book possible; all very much to the forms. Look at the emphasis that creates, just by inference: the important thing is the book. We, the authors, should be completely occluded, completely obscured by the text itself.

When I pull off a good story, a paragraph that crunches into someone's chest like a wrecking ball, the book's there in their vision and it's fifty feet tall, bright as noon, eating up everything and roaring like a cannonball.

I'm not.

I'm invisible.

Here's the problem with that notion of successful art -- a notion that okay, I can't really argue with. The notion of text that lives head and shoulders above its author, text that takes on a life of its own and forms a relationship with the reader that the author really has no part of is really kind of glorious. I think a lot of us crave it a bit: making something that's bigger than us.

Thing is, it gets really hard to assert the personal or financial rights of invisible people.

This is why the argument against writing fanfic of works whose authors are uncomfortable with it never gets anywhere. This is why things like arts grants, book prices, royalty statements, financial need are considered faintly distasteful topics in a lot of writing circles, or why we talk about them in lowered tones or prescreened company. This is why it's such a big deal when an author "goes nuts" and engages readers who criticize their book, their lifestyle, their looks, their person, and why that behaviour is stomped on and stigmatized so hard. This is why reactions such as that which occurred on the Kindle forum about this Amazon kerfuffle happen. To the greater reading public, authors are invisible people. We don't exist, and therefore neither do our needs.

The question becomes, then: how to create fiction that stands like a pillar of fire in someone else's brain, to not get between my fiction and its reader, and yet, keep myself firmly in existence?

That one's for you, team. I am sadly out of answers tonight.
It's -9 C in Toronto tonight; with the windchill, it feels like -15 C. I came home this afternoon huddled down in jeans and sweater and my big wool pea coat, scarf and hat and lined gloves, and my knees were still freezing by the time I made it the four blocks from the office home.

Those of you who caught the prior post know that Peter Watts, whom I like and respect and count as a friend, was detained, beaten, and pepper-sprayed by US border guards while trying to cross back into Canada; while coming home. When he was released from custody on the other side of the border, it was "coat-less and without a vehicle, in a winter storm."*

Let me tell you a little story about the cold.

In 1990 in Saskatchewan, a 17-year-old boy named Neil Stonechild was found frozen to death in a field outside Saskatoon. He had last been seen, handcuffed and bloodied, being packed into the back of a squad car.**

Ten years later, two more Native men were found frozen to death outside the city in a single week. A third came forward with a story of being driven around outside the city by the police and threatened. There was a public inquiry. Two police officers on the Saskatoon force were ultimately charged and lost their positions.

There's a name for this thing. It's called a starlight cruise.

I found out this story from a CBC documentary in 2003 or so. [livejournal.com profile] matociquala was over visiting. It had long, lingering landscape shots of the frozen prairies; the very epitome of winter.

I started crying and I couldn't stop.

See, here's the thing about living in a cold-weather society. You stick together, because you have to: it's you against the winter. That is, on a certain level, the basic division of life. That's where the concept of the Wendigo comes from. A wendigo is famine, starvation, greed; the insatiable need to eat until you eat the members of your own society. Wendigo are creatures of the cold, the North. They are supernatural, but a human being can become one, if they resorted to cannibalism.

A wendigo is what happens when human beings turn away from their own and throw in with winter.

These are the worst sins of a cold-weather society, the ones that are irredeemable: siding with winter. Feeding off your own. Taking another person as prey, or leaving them as prey for the winter, in jeans and a shirt with no wool coat or scarf or hat; with no lined gloves and no transit home, knowing full well what the winter does.

These are the things that scare me.

I will not be travelling to the United States for the forseeable future.

I am still getting over whatever bug I had this week and am semi-horrifically busy besides; the Dayjob will be crazy next week, so I am stocking armaments, canned food, and hurricane lamps in preparation. Or doing laundry and putting up casseroles, whichever. In any case this means I haven't been writing, nor have I been thinking the kind of exciting! and fascinating! thoughts that merit blog posts.

So I give you Benjamin Rosenbaum, who is a fine writer and a smart man besides, on the Swiss vote to ban minarets.

Abusers typically, in the moment they are exercising their power, believe themselves to be the victims. The Nazis feared the Jews, the slaveholders feared the slaves, rapists feel humiliated and controlled by short skirts. There's something much scarier about this detachment from reality than there would be in mere cynical political manipulation. The most dangerous people in the world are the powerful caught in a fever dream of victimhood.

We will not discuss how many modern situations this applies to.
Okay, kids. Let me tell you a story.

One day last summer [livejournal.com profile] ksumnersmith and I were strolling through Kensington Market, past Lettuce Knit (a very nice yarn store, and worthy of your consideration) and I saw a sign in the window that said Crochet Friendly. I remarked on this sign, and what I felt to be the redundancy of it -- I mean, it's a yarn store, are they crochet-unfriendly? -- and Karina, who does crochet, told me that no, actually, they can be. Crochet is, in a lot of fiber arts circles, thought of as some cheap knockoff non-craft, and knitters used to or maybe still do scorn it, and yarn stores would sometimes not sell nice yarn to crocheters because they'd "just be wasting it".

There was a knitter-versus-crocheter slapfight. Seriously.

I think I burst into tears I laughed so hard.

Why? Because 99.9% of the people in the world cannot tell the difference between knitting and crocheting. And they don't give a shit. It's totally inconsequential to them. And that?

That is every slapfight ever.

I tell you this story so that, tonight and in future, when I point to something, howling with laughter that I can't even keep in by slapping both hands over my mouth, and yelling Evil Crochet! Evil Crochet! you know exactly what I'm saying about the issue. Because I am on the whole an advocate of people being passionate about the things they are passionate about, and letting one's freak flag fly, and am on the whole opposed to pointing and laughing at people for being passionate, which is the founding principle of Fandom Wank. Not down with that.

But y'know? A shot of perspective is good for the soul.

We should never get so narrow that we can't step back and laugh at our damn fool selves being big damn fools.
I notice every so often these posts pop up: that fandom's getting older, that we need to do something to draw the young folks in, that this generally terribly involves sacrificing doing the things we love to do to *gasp* anime or *gasp* costuming or whatever's the flavour of the month, because those kids don't read or we're being too exclusive or whatever. And yes, this post is spurred by a comment I left on a locked post, although it's in no way at all directed to the author of that post. It's just...directed to the cognitive framework we have about this. To the idea, and how that discussion is handled.

Look. I attended my first con at 19, unless you count that Star Trek thing my mother took me to when I was eight or so where I remember being very clearly annoyed because I couldn't see over the Klingons. I have been a reader all my life and a writer since my early teens. I'm 27 years old right now, and fully conversant in that other cultural track that is anime, costuming, visual media; I was on programming for what's shaping up to be one of the biggest anime cons in North America for several years, and I have a few masquerade awards sitting in my closet somewhere.

This past weekend, I went to Readercon. I hung out there in a swirling gaggle of women around my age or a little younger; my roommate for the con is 23 and some of the other people we hung with are 24, 25. None of us are new to fandom or prodom.

I know this isn't what people are going for when they bring this topic up, but...please stop writing me out of existence. I was The Kids. I am The Kids, the way the discussion's framed. And so are a lot of my friends. Every time I read "Oh, The Kids don't know how to dance to rock and roll come to cons, or read, O woe and fandom is greying--" I can feel my space in this community get smaller and more pinched and less visible. I can feel myself getting snipped out of the official histories and ceasing to be. Cutting-room floor.

We're around, you know. We exist.

And having got that off my chest, I'm going to finish up at work and go have some dinner with my friends in the sunshine.
leahbobet: (we do not brake for assholes)
I am really not sure why anyone even tries to lie anymore. We have an internet, y'know.
leahbobet: (gardening)
Okay, this will show something pointed about my priorities, but here is the thing I just cannot wrap my head around about the whole American "teabagging" thing--

(Pause while I snerk, die, and gasp, "Words mean things!" while giggling like I'm 12.)

--yeah. Okay. Serious. The thing.

How the hell can people countenance wasting all that food?

Not just "in these tough economic times" (drink). In general. How do you waste that much food without batting an eye?

November 2016

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