Thursday, December 20, 2018

2018: The Highs, Lows, and Mediums

Not *that* kind of medium, though I wish I could predict the future.

Image of John William Waterhouse's 'The Crystal Ball" used under a creative commons license: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Crystal_Ball.JPG

I didn't set many specific writing goals for 2018 at the close of 2017. For the most part, this was because of my prior experience of setting goals and watching them crash and burn when confronted by life. However, the one major goal I had - finish the Halcyone Space series and publish A STAR IN THE VOID, was accomplished.
Albeit with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

When I look back over the year, it's pretty astonishing that I was able to get anything written. The political climate following the 2016 election  and leading up to the 2018 one was a confounding factor for so many creative people I know and I was no exception.

It was hard to write when I was obsessed with following political news on twitter. When news broke and kept breaking about women coming forth with their #metoo stories, I was shaken. Memories of my own childhood trauma that I had thought dealt with, constantly broke my concentration and sapped my creative energy.

I wrote anyway. Because I'm a stubborn cuss and I had made promises to myself, my characters, and my readers that I didn't want to break. Instead, it nearly broke me and from the time I finished drafting A STAR IN THE VOID early last year until this month, I've struggled to do any kind of consistent writing.

But not all is gloom and doom. When I looked back at 2018's work, I realized that I had accomplished more than I'd feared.



I wrote (and the process was painful, filled with stops, starts, and the delete key - just ask the editor of the collection) "Perpetual Silence" for the collection OF GODS AND GLOBES. It's a story that emerged from sadness and loss, and yet, I found hope in the writing of it. Creativity is weird that way.


Toward the end of the year, I was approached by the editor of LONGSHOT ISLAND and UNFIT MAGAZINE to submit for their inaugural edition of UNFIT. I dug through my story folder and found one that served the magazine's theme. "Persistence of Memory" was a story I had self published in my first collection of short fiction and took the opportunity to give it another editing pass before sending it on to be published alongside some of Science Fiction's heavy hitters.

There are a few other short stories written in 2018 that will be published in 2019 and I'm at about the 10% mark on a new novel that I'm excited to be working on.

The other writing I did was non-fiction: I took space in this blog to chronicle the incredible year I've had connecting with a birth family that I hadn't known and who hadn't known about me. I will be continuing that series, as I have so much more to share and new discoveries keep surprising me. If you want to read along, part 1 is here.


If you are so inclined to recommend any of my work to friends or for any applicable awards, I would be incredibly grateful.

I wish you all a happy, healthy New Year. May 2019 bring you joy.

#SFWApro



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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The 10 Commandments of Elie Wiesel

This afternoon, I was listening to WBUR as I was prepping dinner, and heard a moving story about Elie Wiesel's life and legacy as told by Rabbi Ariel Burger, a former student who became a colleague and then a friend.

Rabbi Burger had put together this from his time in Wiesel's classroom and so much of it spoke to me.

Ten Commandments of Elie Wiesel
By Ariel Burger
  1. Listen to a witness to become a witness.
  2. Don't kill the dead again by forgetting them.
  3. Enter madness if necessary to awaken sleeping communities.
  4. Don't let the enemy define you.
  5. Any one life is worth more than all that's been written about life.
  6. True prophets don't comfort; they disturb.
  7. Remember to laugh in spite of all the darkness.
  8. There is always something you can contribute – even if it's just your protest.
  9. Worship God by arguing with God.
  10. Sometimes there is no meaning. But then we must make meaning.
Of all of these, I am most struck by the last one.

Sometimes there is no meaning. But then we must make meaning.

That speaks to me as a poet and a writer. In a world that seems dark and ominous and where I feel so very vulnerable, writing is an act of valor, of defiance, and of creation. 

I have a friend who is struggling to make sense of her past and to find a path for her future. I have urged her to start journaling, not as a means to make a living with words, but to bring clarity and self-compassion to her life. 

Until I have written down the words, I often don't truly know how I feel. Finding the way to describe an experience is akin to sorting through a pile of stones for a handful of the right size, color, and heft. I often consider each word - alone and then next to its fellows. Does it fit? Does this phrase carry the meaning I need? Do the lines resonate with one another? And above all, will the language I craft organize the tangle of emotion into something I can understand and view from outside of myself?

Then I find peace and acceptance. Patience and compassion. 

Words are my tools to make meaning from the chaos of existence. This is more than capturing the accuracy of a memory. Our minds are not video recorders. Our memories are always in flux. Our interpretations of those memories change, depending on current life events, emotions, and our interactions with others. In effect, our lives are in a constant state of creation and recreation. 

Without the transformational power of art, I would argue that we cannot make meaning. Events would crash over us like the relentless tide on a rocky beach. Without transformation, we react,  lacking the space for reflection. Without reflection, there is no understanding, no wisdom. 

That final commandment is an obligation. We must make meaning, especially when there seems to be none. And yet, there is a danger in this, too. Especially if the meaning we make is one that distorts rather than illuminates. 

As I have lived through the political upheaval in my country these past several years, it occurs to me that we have become vulnerable to letting meaning come from without rather than from within.  We practice less introspection and reflection and instead abdicate our responsibility to self by accepting prefabricated and neatly packaged versions of our experiences. Is it any wonder that so many of us feel fragmented? Strangers to our selves?

It's been far too long since I've kept a journal consistently. Perhaps it's time to return to my old practice and use it as a way to interrogate my emotions and beliefs. Maybe the meaning I seek is waiting for me there.    



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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Importance of Small Joys



This was the start of a thread I posted on Twitter this morning. I wanted to keep it all in one place, so I am sharing it here as well.

In every quiet moment, I try to focus on hope. And I repeat this over and over:

May all beings be held in lovingkindness.
May all beings be at peace.
May all beings be free from suffering.


I struggle on social media about boosting all of the terrible acts of evil around us.

Am I adding to the despair?

Or helping to warn people of good conscience?

If I let the evil pass without comment, am I complicit?

If I celebrate small joys, am I minimizing the pain & suffering around me?

If I deny those small joys, am I allowing evil to win?

A dear friend posted this to my FB wall. Because I love word-based puns, & I'm a potter.



I had two loved ones send me silly things today that made me laugh.

I am grateful for the momentary respite. It feels right and good to find something positive to cling to.

Right now, it's a blue VW Bug with the license "Alonzz" my son sent me.

My son took this when he was stuck in traffic this morning. Any day that starts with a Doctor Who reference is a good day.



Maybe that small joy is what allows someone a burst of hope & energy to keep fighting.

So I will keep sharing silly dog pictures & groan-worthy word play.  And I hope you will keep sharing those with me, too.

As we fight. As we keep fighting.



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Sunday, October 28, 2018

There is no "them"; there is only us

Our synagogue sent out an email last night inviting congregants to gather for a service in remembrance and in honor of those who were slain in Pittsburgh.

I am not a religiously observant Jew, despite attending Friday morning services nearly every week. I don't keep kosher. I don't quite believe in a biblical God. But I am Jewish and have been part of my local synagogue community for nearly 25 years.

When I do attend services, I meditate. I read the English translations of prayers and argue with that God I'm pretty sure doesn't exist. I breathe. I lift my voice in song with melodies that have carved their way through me to my core. Melodies that link me in an unbroken chain with my far away ancestors. In those moments, it doesn't matter what I believe: I am whole.

Today, I woke up early on a day I might have slept in.

I dressed and drove to the synagogue.

As I parked in the midst of other cars, I wondered if any of the other people here came with hatred and harm in their hearts.

I went in anyway.

Inside the small chapel, I gathered with other congregants. Some of whom I knew, others I did not. Their eyes all wore the same haunted look. Many were red rimmed. Others were openly weeping.

It was an act of resistance: raising our voices together in prayer in a sacred space knowing that just yesterday, someone had violated such a space. In that terrible moment, our community became inextricably tied to other communities of different faiths whose peace had been desecrated by hate. To classrooms of school children whose joy of learning had been shattered. To victims of violence in our streets when a normal trip to the market or a night out dancing became a death sentence.

This is not a Jewish Issue. Or a Black Issue. Or a Muslim Issue. Or an LGBTQ Issue.

This is an Human Issue.

______________________________


I am afraid. Not so much for myself, but for my loved ones. Particularly for my children and the world they have come of age in. 

The world I have helped shape. I cannot absolve myself of my part in a terrible complacency that has allowed hatred to flourish. We believed that things were getting better. That society had moved beyond narrow tribalism to embrace a multi-ethnic culture. Perhaps the truth is I allowed myself to believe that because I was prospering. 

Over the past several years, a small voice inside keeps asking the same question: At what cost?


______________________________


What can I do to help repair a wounded world? It feels so trivial to gather to say a prayer for the dead when the living are in so much pain.

Even in my current anguish, I argue with the translated blessings. Instead of reciting the Amidah, I meditate.

May all beings be held in lovingkindness.
May all beings be at peace.
May all beings be free from suffering.

To those reading this, thank you for being here with me.

May you be held in lovingkindness.
May you be at peace.
May you be free from suffering.



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