Monthly Archives: June 2016
It’s my birthday tomorrow! Granted, this does happen every year. But tomorrow is rather a milestone. I’m turning twenty-five, you see.
It feels like a big number.
I’m sure I’ll look back on that sentence in ten years and laugh.
Regardless, the idea of twenty-five seems to be settling quite well. It feels like I am exactly where I’m meant to be at this point in time. And a slow realization has been dawning on me…
I’m really, overall, very happy.
There was a time that I didn’t think that would be possible. Frankly, there was a time when I thought I’d be lucky to make it to twenty-five. That period leaves an overwhelming impression of greyness and cold. I was living by my fingernails, and I would’ve been miserable, but everything inside was too frozen for that.
Going into this twenty-fifth year, it’s green-gold and light, all the way through. Honestly, when I think about how happiness looks to me, it’s the same image over and over: those golden summer mornings at the village, early, before the public arrives. When the day’s heat is banked and the air’s shimmering and full of dew, and the dust lies quiet on the road.
Of course, there have been bumps in between Then and Now. There was also an impressive derailment. But overall…
I’ve worked really, really hard to create a life that makes me happy. I’ve learned stuff, too.
It is always, always better to talk things out.
Unexpressed emotions fester. They turn septic, poisoning you from the inside out. It is always better to get them out in the open.
I can’t drink beer and be productive on the same night.
Not at 20, definitely not at 25.
The prevailing narrative isn’t the only valid one.
Grow up, meet significant other, marry, buy house, have 2.1 children, work, retire, etc.
This is the narrative we all receive as children. It’s a fine narrative; there’s nothing wrong with it at all. But it isn’t the only one. Over the last year especially, I’ve learned that my life narrative is NOT going to look like this. And at first, that was really hard to accept—because damn, isn’t something wrong, if you stray from the Approved Story?
But you get to write your story. You can change the ending. Throw in a plot twist. Whatever narrative you end up living is no less valid than the one with the most cultural currency.
The arts really is a matter of taste.
I recently read an award-winning story (from a few years back), and said, “Eh.” Nothing wrong with it. Just not for me. And then I realized, OMG this is what editors do too!!!
See also: my experiences with modern art.
Success is a numbers game.
If you are lucky, talented, and persistent, you will eventually make it.
I’m talented. My Canadian soul quakes to say it, but it’s disingenuous not to. I’m lucky.
The minimum amount of sleep I need to be reasonably functional is 4 hours.
This has been extensively tested. 3 hours is not pretty.
There’s always a line in the sand.
Whenever I go into tailspins, there’s always some line in the sand—something that I am not willing to lose—that pulls me upright again. It’s an impetus to start clawing my way back to the light.
Everyone has their price. It’s a matter of sorting it out, before it’s too late.
My family/friendships are my centre.
I like Being Alone. I like staying up until 4:00 am writing. I like bopping around museums and galleries by myself. I like having my art play a prominent role in my life.
But without you—you, my families; you, my friends; you, my Tribe—there’s nothing.
So that’s twenty-five years. They’ve been good ones, on the whole, made much better by a whole host of wonderful people.
Here’s to a whole bunch more!
What I’m Listening To This Week
More Hamilton, #sorrynotsorry. The musical just works for me, okay? It’s incredibly well-crafted, and the music does hugely interesting things. That’s why I have to keep listening – because you can’t quite get it all, the first time around.
So: the Reynolds Pamphlet. My inner history geek loves this because they quote the actual primary source document. My ear loves the deep-voiced, “Daaaaaamn.” My plotting self loves that this is the moment at which Hamilton’s world crumbles – plotwise, this is pivotal. And my character loving self adores Angelica’s rage and Jefferson’s unrestrained glee.
Quite a lot, for a two-minute song!
Well. It never rains, but it pours. We got back to our museum life, hit the ground running, and then immediately got walloped with all the things ever. Including a video series! I’m not complaining. It’s all good stuff. It’s exactly what we want to be doing, and we’re stoked to see where it all leads.
(See our videos here!)
And it also takes up a lot of brain space.
I’ve been doing all right, actually. The play and some short stories are moving a little more slowly than I’d like, but they’re moving. For now, I’ll take that.
I do want to talk about something, though. Lauren Harris first articulated it for me this spring, I’m conscious of it now, and it really struck home while I flailed about rehearsing my new monologue:
I’m the freaking Energizer Bunny, and I run at 100 mph.
It’s not even something I’m usually aware of, until it’s pointed out: the rapid speech, the constantly tapping foot, the thirty million simultaneous projects…. Sometimes, I feel like my body’s trying to compress 1000 mL of ideas and energy into 750 mL of KT. It mostly sort of works, but inevitably, stuff brims over and spills out.
I’m not the only one, though. There are other freaking Energizer Bunnies out there—I know some. It can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be challenging. When you crash at 100 mph, you’re more likely to crash spectacularly.
There’s really two main challenges that I’m learning to work around: one entirely related to the individual, and the other to dealing with other people.
Let’s talk about the individual challenge first.
When you’re the freaking Energizer Bunny, you tend to mistake exhaustion for accomplishment. You bank on endless energy, rather than actual self-care. Then, when the well dries up, you don’t know how to get yourself back on track. It’s like bright kids who coast through elementary and high school, and then hit university without proper study skills. Sheer strength only gets you so far; you need to learn how to channel and preserve it.
Of course, measured pacing seems less appealing when the ideas are coming so fast, you’re already struggling to keep up. You know, those nights you want to weep because you can’t turn your brain off. Even if you wanted to. But there’s so many ideas, and not enough time, and another just hit, and…
And so I become that child who doesn’t want to go to bed. And if you can stay up all night, or take on another thing without consequences, why not?
Because ultimately, it’s better over the long term to take care of yourself. As I see it, you can roll at a slow burn for a good long time, or go out in a flash fire blaze of glory. Sometimes the latter is tempting, but it’s probably not the smartest.
What’s more, Energizer Bunnies are exhausting to other people. For a long time, that simply never occurred to me. And it’s hard, because there are all of these amazing things to do right NOW, and they’re fun, and what do you mean you don’t want to hit up another museum???
I’m learning to moderate my pace. Sometimes, that’s really, really hard. Again, because there are all of these amazing things to do right NOW—who wants to wait?
I do….because it’s not just about the amazing things. It’s about respecting other people’s limits and being a decent human being. And hey, if you’re good at working with people, more amazing things tend to happen anyway. It’s win-win!
A last thought: it becomes very easy to pathologize our various quirks. My thyroid has been tested approximately eighty times, because I am wee and run at 100 mph.
My thyroid is fine.
People who do not run at 100 mph are fine.
I feel like a children’s TV show right now—but difference isn’t always abnormality. It’s this vast spectrum of people and experiences that make us humans so interesting. Of course, self-knowledge and understanding go a long way towards smoothing the places where those differences clash.
After all, we’re all driving on the same road. 😉
What I’m Listening to This Week
This upcoming choir tour introduced me to Haitian composer Sydney Guillaume. I really like the piece we’re doing, so I went hunting for more. And I found this one! I love it!
“Twa Tanbou” is about three drums having an argument: the boula drum, who says he’s the loudest; the tanbouren, who says he’s the most beautiful; and the kata, who thinks they’re both ridiculous. Guillaume himself says: “The central theme of Twa Tanbou: In order for a team to reach the optimal result, each member must play his or her own part as a team…”
The music itself embodies this philosophy—it demands very rhythmic precision and listening from all parts. Each line is like a piece of clockwork that, set in motion with the others, ultimately makes the gears move.
When I was a wee sprogget, I was irrationally, intensely, phobic-ly afraid of things turning to stone. I didn’t read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe until high school, and still have no desire to see the film. Pokemon: the First Movie felt like a betrayal. It still makes me nauseous.
So of course, Medusa was my personal Boogeyman. She scared me absolutely shitless. See, the White Witch at least had to decide to point her wand at you; Medusa doesn’t have to do anything. You look at her, and bam—too late.
I have vivid memories of watching an ancient Bugs Bunny cartoon when I was seven. Most of the classic monster movie references flew way over my head…but then, suddenly, unexpectedly, there she was.
A wave of coldness rolled down my throat. I started shaking. I felt sick. I turned off the TV and did not look at the clip again until right now.
That was not my first encounter with Medusa. That was an episode of Tales from the Cryptkeeper, circa 1995. I refuse to watch it, but it’s online here.
So what was the big deal? Why the persistent, overwhelming terror?
I’m not sure. It could be as simple as: I got really scared by a stupid cartoon too young, and it’s left an indelible mark on my psyche. It could be as complicated as a visceral existential horror at the prospect of oblivion and death.
(I do remember intensely debating with myself about what happened to the souls of Medusa’s victims. Can the soul turn to stone too? Was petrifaction like death? Did the soul pass on? Was it stuck in limbo? I was a weird little kid; that’s all I can say.)
So now I’m an adult (allegedly), and I still don’t like watching Medusa. But I can read about her just fine. I can read about how she was once a beautiful young woman, pledged to chastity to serve her goddess. I can read about how she was raped, betrayed, transformed. I can read about how the goddess she loved condemned and damned her for what was done to her.
I can read how, following that, she’s consistently named the most horrifying woman EVAR, the archetype of womanhood gone Wrong—and how she’s also been co-opted as a symbol of female rage.
I can read about all this, and I can look at the world we live in today: a world no less horrifying than that of the Cryptkeeper. I can read about how a young woman was taken behind a dumpster: raped, betrayed, transformed. I can read how the same story unfolds again and again and again: this inability to understand consent; this persistent paradigm that women are their bodies, and that said bodies are only valuable insofar as they are useful to men. I can read how she should’ve known better, she should’ve been more responsible, she didn’t protect herself.
I can read about these victims made into Gorgons by public shame, this brokenness deep in our culture. And I can read my own experiences: the experiences that are heartbreakingly mundane, that aren’t special, that every woman has known.
The man who ran after me when I was fifteen to inform me that I had a nice chest.
The man who inserted himself between me and my friends at the bar, cutting me off like a wounded antelope, grinding closer and closer until someone grabbed me, hauled me back into the circle, and stayed by my side until Creepy Guy left.
The man who barked at me to smile last year, and when I gaped in bewilderment, snarled, “Whatever, foureyes.”
I can write this, and feel tired. Because it happens all the time. Because it isn’t special. Because every woman has similar stories. Because I’ve never bothered to tell anyone half of it, because we all go through it.
And the rage starts boiling: slow and bubbling under my breastbone, because Jesus F****** Christ, how far do we have to go before we hit a tipping point?
I can feel this, and because I’m a writer, I tell stories about it. I find symbols. I speak in metaphor, because otherwise I would give an inarticulate scream.
And so I return, perhaps inevitably, to Medusa.
When Perseus handed Medusa’s head to Athena, the goddess put it on her shield. It became a protective object: The Gorgoneion.
I’m writing about Medusa. The story is there, itching to get out. A Gorgoneion of my own: my worst and oldest fear transformed into a weapon against the real monsters.
What I’m Listening To This Week
Something not full of rage, actually. My choir’s heading to the UK on tour soon, so I’ve been stamping music into my brain. Due to my bizarre work schedule, I’ve mostly been rehearsing with the children, and they’ve been spending lots of time on this piece.
It’s grown on me. It took a while, but now I can hear how the soloist and choir work together. There’s some fun bits throughout: the C natural at ~1:35, the passing of melody around 2:50, and that glorious high G at 3:54. If I have a money note, that’s it. Nothing better than just floating in the stratosphere. 😉
Good news, everyone! The audiobook version of HEARTSTEALER is now available from Audible.com! If you recall, I spent a good chunk of this off-season editing this thing, so it’s delightful to have it out in the wild, ready to be purchased.
Blythe does a fantastic job narrating. Naturally, she was my first choice. Both for sheer talent, and also, becomes this book comes from such a specific period of my life.
“Grief hadn’t made me weak. It had made me stronger than I’d ever known I could be.”
It was such a strange, full-circle feeling, hearing her speak those words. Because it’s true. I figured that out about grief a long time ago: I believed it then, I believed it when I wrote it, and I believe it now.
The thing with spending 130 hours listening to someone read your words aloud is that you hear more in them. Yes, HEARTSTEALER came from a place of great grief…but also from a place of great love. Love for a place, and love for the people I found there.
So, thank you. Thank you to everyone who’s had a hand along the way…and thank you most especially to Blythe. I know it was not an easy project—luckily, I also knew your talent would be more than a match for it!
Now before we get too maudlin, here’s some fun statistics:
Total word count: 105,000
Total running time: 12 hours, 9 minutes.
Total editing time: 130 hours (best guess)
Total time between first handshake and audiobook release: Seven months.
Distinct speaking characters: 61
Distinct voices: 65
Distinct voice actors: 1
Buildings gleefully borrowed: I count 10, but probably more.
Voice talent cursed: Lost count.
Voice talent praised: Also lost count, but it was more.
So—check it out, tell your friends, and most importantly:
If you enjoy it—either the story, the performance, or both—please, for the love of Cthulhu, leave a review. It honestly helps so very, very much. And in this case, it helps both me and Blythe. So hey, boosting two artists for the price of one. Sounds like a deal I could get behind.
Or very craftily and deliberately orchestrate. You know. Either way.
Cheers, everyone. Thanks again, and enjoy the ride to this remote northern village, full of old hurts, older magic, and things that stalk the night…
What I’m Listening To This Week
MOAR VERDI AND TRAVIATA!
La Traviata is still my favourite opera. When I hear the prelude, I’m fifteen again. Because I was a really, really cool fifteen-year-old, obviously. Anyway, the prelude pretty much encapsulates the entire opera in three minutes. The first minute or so is super moody, delicate strings with a wilting-flower melody (spoiler: La Traviata does not end well).
Alfredo is our main romantic man here. His theme starts around 1:20. Hear how earnest he sounds? Only then—scary minor chords at 1:53. This is the operatic equivalent of going DUN DUN DUN. Our lady Violetta herself follows at 2:10 or so: a lovely, flippant little tune. You can practically see her bare shoulders and flipping hair. Listen to the contrast between the two…
The opera in a nutshell. 🙂