Can*Con 2018: Anatomy of a Convention

Last night, I stumbled back into my flat and I slept hard. Head hit the pillow, lights went out. For ten glorious hours, I was submerged in deep, (mostly) dreamless sleep.

See, it was Can*Con this weekend.

I’ve talked about Can*Con before. It’s a SFF convention in Ottawa, and my favourite con by far. This year was no exception. It felt like the platonic ideal of cons.

Good professional things happened. My workshop went really well. I spent time with dear friends. I scored some sweet stuff in the dealers’ room. Fun food expeditions were had.

I could ramble on about how great the weekend was, and leave it at that. But I want to take a moment to dissect why Can*Con works.

Some Background

Can*Con was inaugurated in the nineties. After going on hiatus for a time, it was resurrected by Derek Künsken (who just released his debut novel, THE QUANTUM MAGICIAN!). He currently co-chairs the con with my pal Marie Bilodeau. The Ottawa writers’ community is lovely and vibrant, and most of them are involved in the con on some level, whether on the programming or corporate teams.

So what makes this a good con?

Defined Focus

When a con attempts everything, it ends up with nothing. Cosplay, media, literature, gaming, science, and history attract different audiences and need different skills. Spreading yourself thin to hit them all dilutes the con’s purpose. Some cons fragment into self-contained enclaves; others just end up feeling watered-down, and can’t progress beyond surface-level skimming of their topics.

Can*Con has two main focuses: literature and science.

There are some history panels, of course, and I taught a podcasting workshop. The focuses allow some room to breathe, but all programming aligns with that basic mandate.

Baked-In Accessibility/Inclusivity

Accessibility and inclusivity aren’t after-thoughts. They are incorporated into planning from the outset. There is also a designated Accessibility Coordinator.

Pronoun stickers for badges, a dealers’ room designed with mobility in mind, all-gender washroom availability, a quiet room, accessibility seating in programming rooms—these are all givens. Accessibility and inclusivity are non-negotiables.

Is it perfect? Of course not. But identified shortfalls are met with commitment to refining and improving—not denial and shirking of responsibility.

Get the Right People

Convention teams need a carefully curated mix of personalities and skills sets. After all—those personalities and skill sets become the con.

It’s a diverse group, but there is a common factor: commitment to the convention’s mission and values. Without that, you’ve got no coherency in your team, which translates to no coherency in the con either.

Swagger

Just a little bit. Every con has a personality—which in turn influences the audience it attracts. Author and storyteller (and my friend) Nicole Lavigne describes Can*Con as “the little con that does.”

At this point, it’s the best game in eastern Canada. And it got there partly by saying it was. It’s a bit like performer A.E. Shapera pointed out…if you claim you’re famous, eventually people make you so.

Commitment to Harassment Policies

Again, there are always procedures to refine and improvements to make.

But the commitment to upholding the current code of conduct is total and absolute.

End of story.

And so…

It takes a lot to make a convention. It takes even more to make a convention work. As I reflect back on the weekend, I keep coming back to this:

A convention is its community.

I feel very fortunate to call this community—and this con—my friends.

-KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

Ēriks Ešenvalds’ wonderful piece, “Northern Lights.” It starts with a Latvian folksong, and then changes to the writings of American explorer Charles Francis Hall, set to music. The piece reminds me very much of The Flying Dutchman.

 

Can-Con Schedule!

From one adventure to the next!

Six Stories, Told at Night had its showcase and reception last week. Overall, we were thrilled with how it all went (I regret a few moments of clumsiness). And to celebrate, The Seventh Story was released on Friday! This is a companion story written as one of our GoFundMe rewards. You can find it here!

So what’s next?

Can-Con!

Yes, I return once again to this delightful con! Its numbers are swelling, the programming looks awesome as ever, and I’m so looking forward to seeing lots of cool people. It’ll be a busy weekend, too!

Friday, October 12

WORKSHOP: A Sound Idea – Fiction Writing for Podcasts

Ever wanted to dip a toe in the ocean of podcasting? Play with sounds and learn the difference between a read and performed narrative? Then step right up! I’ll be teaching a session on podcasting writing and production.

Can-Con has a few masterclasses running, so click here to learn more and register!

READING: 3:00 pm

It’s gonna be Anatoly Belilovsky and me kicking off the readings!

Saturday, October 13

A Seriously Folked-Up Panel on Fairy Tales — 12:00 pm

Me, Amal el-Mohtar, Kari Maaren, Rati Mehrotra, Derek Newman-Stille (m)

Sunday October 14

Beyond Romantic Entanglements— 2:00 pm

Me, James Alan Gardner, Jessica Reisman, Kelly Robson (m)

Of course, then fun doesn’t stop after Can-Con. There’s a slew of projects in the works. I’ve deviated some from my magic New Year’s Day list of goals, but I’m happy with the things in the hopper…including a new musical comedy crossover.

Things are good. Exhausting, but good.

Best,

KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

I just came across César Franck’s “Le Chasseur Maudit” (The Damned/Accursed Hunter). It’s a wonderful musical take on the Wild Hunt motif. I love the hunter’s horn crying out in the beginning, and the grand, sweeping lines as he’s pursued by Hell. Perfect for this time of year!

Six Stories – Thank You

It’s been a very long road for Six Stories.

I’ve been working with this story—in different forms—for three years. Written in 2015, podcasted in 2016, Fringe plans in 2017, Fringe and remount in 2018.

Like I said, a long road.

So the showcase is this Thursday. And what I really want to say is…

Thank you.

Thank you for supporting this story from this first, early scribblings, through to the podcast, through to the stage play. Thanks to everyone who travelled to Toronto this summer, who re-arranged their schedules, who were unquestionably there when I really, really needed you. It all makes my heart really full, you know? Thank you for believing in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.

Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend, so gratitude is particularly in mind. Yes, it’s been stressful and I’m exhausted, but…

I’m doing theatre. I’m writing. I am so fortunate in the friends and communities I have.

Now, lest this blog post become an Oscar speech, we should probably wrap it here. I hope people enjoy our show. I hope Sam and Joëlle—these two brave, strong, loving heroines—find their place in others’ hearts as much as they have in mine.

Two quick bits of business, before we go:

The Seventh Story will drop in the usual Six Stories feed this Friday. I’m quite pleased with the way it turned out, particularly the narration. There are a few surprises in store—have fun!

And here is the obligatory ticket link, for Thursday’s showcase/party.

Thanks all. Very truly.

KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

This choral piece is pretty—it’s Dan Forrest, but it feels very Eric Whitacre. But it’s not really the arrangement that got me. It’s the text itself, a poem by Jake Adam York. I’ll leave it here:

ABIDE

Forgive me if I forget

with the birdsong and the day’s

last glow folding into the hands

of the trees, forgive me the few

syllables of the autumn crickets,

the year’s last firefly winking

like a penny in the shoulder’s weeds,

if I forget the hour, if I forget

the day as the evening star

pours out its whiskey over the gravel

and asphalt I’ve walked

for years alone, if I startle

when you put your hand in mine,

if I wonder how long your light

has taken to reach me here.

– Jake Adam York

New Worlds with Social Anxiety

The Six Stories, Told at Night showcase/party is distressingly close. Blythe and I have been racing about, organizing things and booking things…and going to other people’s events.

It has been a bad week for social anxiety, as I feel terribly out of my element. In many ways, indie theatre is a lot like the SFF world. It’s small. Most people know each other. Different theatres have their niches. There is a whole web of social connexions and unwritten social codes that I can’t see, because I’m not aware of them. Going to the Word on the Street book/magazine festival yesterday felt like heaving myself onto a life raft.

Writers! Editors! Readers! Book people! I know how to do this! I have friends here! I feel safe!

And then back to feeling generally useless.

So what does it feel like, when the anxiety starts kicking in?

Imagine, dear reader, a dimly-lit bar with lots of loud conversations and lots of people clustered in groups. But it’s not a background hum of noise. Oh, no. You’re getting ten different conversations piped directly into your ears—and your brain treats them all as equally important.

It’s a bit like having pop-ups that can’t be turned off. You’re just trying to surf the web, but you can’t get very far before something fills the screen demanding all the attention, right now. My brain’s trying to navigate a situation that it’s fairly sure might kill us, but half of it’s stuck processing incoming sound.

Sensory issues make me good at podcasting, and bad at crowds.

Anyway, they’re all having conversations. Great. So – who has two thumbs and gets intimidated by groups?

Except at cons, weirdly. But then, I know con etiquette better. Loose circle of people drift into the hallway after that panel you all saw? It’s probably okay to introduce yourself and have a brief chat. Two people in a deep conversation, by themselves, in a withdrawn corner of the bar? Keep walking.

“At Dawn,” by John Bauer (ca. 1913).

Anyway, it’s that classic social anxiety thing of being the weird kid standing along the playground fence.

And we can throw in some general competency-based anxiety, just for fun.

My chest tightens. My thoughts race. My hands shake. Really, my brain is trying to be helpful. It’s CERTAIN that danger’s lurking RIGHT HERE, and by George, it’s going to let me know.

But—I’ve been trying to remind myself that SFF has only started feeling comfortable over the last few years. And it’s only been really comfortable for…I don’t know, maybe the last two? Whenever I started going to Can-Con, I suppose.

What made the difference?

Some of it was time, of course. It takes a lot of form rejections, awkward cover letters, and nervous pitches to learn the rhythms of publishing. It also takes time to nurture relationships.

And I started going to stuff. That made the biggest difference. Take ChiZine’s reading series. I made myself go month after month. Sometimes, I had to literally force myself up the stairs. I still went. Every month. Hard rule.

And now…man, I love ChiSeries.

But the point is that it was a conscious decision to force myself over the hump. Going to new cons is a conscious decision. I can do it. I’ve proved it to myself.

I just need to trust that theatre works the same way.

Reminder that you can purchase your tickets for Six Stories, Told Again right here. And join us at Theatre Passe Muraille for the after-party! The Seventh Story will drop there, that night, and in the podcast feed the next day!

 

-KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

More Emilie Autumn, a take on “The Lady of Shalott” this time. I’ve been thinking about that poem a lot this year…

 

 

Place, Identity, and Home

So I’m reading Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife for the first time, and I’m only surprised that it’s taken me this long. Terri Windling is a superb editor (her fairy tale series with Tor is particularly worth reading). I love her blog, where she talks about her creative life amidst the green of Dartmoor. Her takes on mythic fiction fascinate me.

In short, she’s entirely up my alley. I’m not quite done The Wood Wife yet, but I am devouring it. It’s contemporary fantasy, and it’s still got very old magic in it. In many ways, it reminds me of Charles de Lint’s fiction (unsurprising), and I love it for many of the same reasons I love his (even more unsurprising).

It is also a novel inextricably tied to place; in this case, the desert and mountains outside of Tucson, Arizona. The dried-out washes, saguaros, vivid mountain colours, and harsh desert light enfold everything else: place is the magic and place is the character, and it speaks to a lot of what I’m mulling right now in terms of place, identity, and building Home.

This passage particularly struck me:

“He could only guess by the lines of his face what lineage was in him…Did it matter? He was of this land, whatever it had been. He was born here. Eaten its food, drunk its water, sweated under its hot, hot sun; he had taken the land into his body. His blood and bones were formed of it. He belonged here, as nowhere else.” – Terri Windling, The Wood Wife

The same can be said for the novel as a whole. Somehow, Windling has taken the land into the novel. It wouldn’t work, set anywhere else.

Place is particularly on my mind because I finished rewrites on the Beer Magic novel this week. Beer Magic isn’t mythic fiction—there are no Old Ones, here—but I’m trying to treat place in a similar way, trying to take Toronto and its ravines into the story, to sing its own song back to it.

We’ll see how well I do. That is one nice thing about the new place, though. I am closer to the ravines…

Of course, another writer’s words float to mind:

“I truly believe that each of us has a natural home. It may or may not be where we are born. We make it—yes. But we cannot make it perfect unless we discover where it belongs.” – Timothy Findley, Inside Memory: Pages from a Writer’s Notebook

I think I’m trying to figure that out now. I don’t think I shall do so within the next year, or even the next two, or five. But it will come closer—and I think the persistent preoccupation with place and home in my fiction is part of that journey.

But for now? The goldenrod and chicory are blooming in the ravines, and the leaves have that limp, strung-out look they get before they change colour. The sun sets earlier; warm though it remains, autumn is hastening.

And I have more of The Wood Wife to read.

-KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

“One foot in front of the other foot” will be my motto for the next while. Repetitive, forceful as marching footsteps, this song’s been surprisingly comforting.

Updates: the Next Few Months

It’s one of those weeks where I feel like I haven’t anything insightful or interesting to say. Mostly, it’s just been a lot of hard work. But I figured that it’s probably prudent to give updates on a few things…

 

DinoKnights

Yes, it’s true! My interactive fiction novel with Choice of Games released last week. It’s a sword-and-sorcery epic…with dinosaurs! Choose your prehistoric pal, fight in duels, learn magic, and get involved in various schemes!

You can check it out here!

 

Six Stories, A Surprise at Night!

After a thrilling run at the Toronto Fringe, we have more plans for Six Stories…

Theatre Passe Muraille!

…which we’ll announce very soon!

Super Secret Seventh Story

It’s written.

It’s recorded.

I need to edit the audio. We also want to time its release to coincide with our surprise, so mark your calendars for early October! It’ll drop into the same Six Stories feed!

 

Return to Coxwood

Yes, yes, yes, it’s happening!!!

Believe me, ideas are percolating. I’ve got a general thrust of plot, along with a list of actors I’m keen to worth with. Currently, I’m looking at an early 2019 release. Again, mark those calendars!

 

Beer Magic

This novel is so entirely my heart: queer ladies making magic beer across alternate versions of Toronto. I’m well into my own edits on it, and I’ll be looking for betas around early-mid September. If you’re keen, hit me up!

…is that it for now? I feel like that might be it for now.

OH, NO, WAIT.

 

Nutcracker-Messiah

The story of The Nutcracker, told through the music of Handel’s Messiah. (Albeit with some tweaks to the libretto!) Somehow, incredibly, this appears to actually be happening on November 14th. In addition to being a hilarious mash-up of Toronto’s two favourite holiday traditions, it’s also a fundraiser for Gangway! Theatre Co!

It’s the most ambitious crossover you’ve ever seen…

We’ve got a venue and roughly half our artists booked. Again…mark those calendars, it’ll be a party!

Okay. I think that’s it for now.

*thud*

KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

Lots of fugues, lots of J.S. Bach. In my endless spare time, I’m also doodling with some short story ideas…and I’m trying to figure out how to steal the fugue’s structure. I love the idea of starting simply, with one voice, and getting steadily more complex before simplifying again and resolving at the end.

But we shall see.

The Boy on the Train

I wasn’t going to make this a thing, but I’m still processing it…and writing is the way I process, so here we are.

Yesterday morning, I was on the subway heading to work. And let’s be honest: things haven’t been great for a bit. Everything is kind of A Lot right now, I’m not sleeping well, my anxiety is flaring, huge upheavals are happening. And yes, I’m getting help for those things.

But, context: I’m miserable.

“Autumn Evening,” Eilif Peterssen (1878)

So about halfway to work, a young man gets on the train and sits across from me. He’s maybe a few years younger than me. “That’s a cool jacket,” I think, and then lapse back into sadness.

A few stops later, I look up and notice that he’s crying. Silent tears course down his cheeks.

Uh-oh.

I pretend engrossment in my phone, because public emotion is awkward and I want to give him privacy. After all, I am also miserable. If I started crying right then, I’d want everyone to ignore me until I could regain control.

But then silent tears turn to that thin weeping you do when your heart’s really broken.

Shit shit shitshitshit

My heart’s hammering. We’re almost at my stop. The moment’s poised on the edge: it’s going to tip one way or the other, but which?

I look left. I look right. I take a deep breath.

And I go and sit—not beside the guy, but near him. “Hey, man. Is there anything I can do?”

He jerks upright, scrubbing his eyes. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”

“No, no,” I say lamely. “It’s just…I wasn’t sure, if it were me, would I want a stranger to reach out or leave me alone? So I needed to ask. That’s all.”

He hesitates a moment, then blurts, “I’m going to the cemetery.”

And so we have Dead Fathers Club: Subway Edition. Blowing past my stop, we talk about death, grief, and fathers all the way to his. “It may never be okay,” I tell him. “But it does get easier.”

He nods. “That’s why I’m alone, this time.”

Then we reach his stop. We say goodbye. He goes his way and I catch a train south to get back on mine.

And for all the sadness, I’m glad I was able to be of service; I’m glad he found the kindness he needed in that moment. But I think it helped me just as much as it helped him. I needed the connection too. I needed to remember that humans are Neat and we really do Try Our Best and that even two random strangers on a train can lighten each other’s burden. I needed to crawl free from my sadness and remember that this life is all about service and love.

But it’s strange: it’s both a beautiful thing that happened, but also I don’t want to make it a big thing. I didn’t do anything special. This isn’t at all about me.

The reason I’m writing this is…I just want us to remember to be kind. I want us to remember that even in the depths of our own darkness, we can still offer light. And I want us to remember that Being Human sometimes means being very, very sad, and also lifting each other up, as we are able.

Thank you, Guy with Cool Jacket. I hope you find peace and healing.

I love this painting, but I’ve searched high and low and cannot find the artist’s name. If you know it, please send it my way so I can link properly!

Be kind. Be well.

That’s all.

-KT

What I’m Listening To This Week

“Soon Ah Will Be Done” is another spiritual that has a jaunty tune and a heartbreaking historical context.

How “Doctor Who” Helped Me Deal With Life Changes

I’m not even quite sure where to start. It’s been a time. It’s also been a week since I moved from my beloved little garret, and we are…settling in. Kind of. Change is hard, change to my home environment harder still. I do not do well when I’m uprooted.

(Sidebar: which is why I’m amazed that people can routinely move between cities, provinces, and countries. It’s like…how? How do you transplant yourself somewhere completely new, where there is nothing familiar? I’ve only done it temporarily, and I am not keen to try it again anytime soon.)

But we are getting there. Guinness has become braver in his explorations. I vacillate between “ahhhhhhhhhhhh” and “wait this isn’t so bad and I specifically chose this neighbourhood because it contains ravines and many of my friends.” For now, I hold out hope for an eventual triumphant return to Little Italy, because…well, I can’t really do anything else.

And the office set-up is really quite cute. That’s my stable point, too. As long as I have a solid place to do my work, I can handle quite a lot else.

With all this change, though, something has helped immensely. Apologies, as this was cross-posted to Twitter, but I think it’s worth repeating here.

I’ve been watching a lot of Doctor Who regenerations. Not full episodes, mind you. Just the regenerations. In doing so, I’ve noticed a rather helpful pattern.

It happens after something big

The Doctor doesn’t just regenerate willy-nilly. S/he regenerates after some big adventure, some massive outpouring of effort that would usually result in death.

I mean, in a mythic sense, the Doctor does die. The Doctor constantly dies. And the Doctor is constantly reborn.

The lead-up hurts

But anyway, regeneration happens after something monumental. The Doctor is almost always wounded. S/he is almost always in pain. Sometimes, s/he is alone.  And so we usually see the Doctor stumbling around the TARDIS, knowing that regeneration is inevitable but still attempting to fight it off, just for those last few moments.

This is the hard part: the letting go of the old self.

They can always see it coming…

The Doctor sets his/her house in order

Sometimes the Doctor makes a speech for his/her successor. This is where everyone cries. This is where we find out what’s been really important to this iteration.

This is when s/he puts his/her old self to rest. The chapter closes.

REGENERATION BOOM

When it finally happens, after all the lead-up, all the inexorable steps, regeneration is violent. There’s fire. Explosions. The TARDIS gets damaged. It is not a pretty, gentle transition. It’s like the phoenix conflagrating.

It’s that thing where a lot of small changes build up until there’s a MASSIVE change.

A new adventure starts right away

But then the music changes. Humour ensues. There’s very little time spent mourning the old Doctor—we hit the ground running right away with the new.

We’re onto the adventures only the new Doctor could have. And the Doctor always wears a specific face for a reason; it underscores his/her personal arc. The universe needed the War Doctor at a very specific time; it needed Smith’s off-kilter gregariousness just as much.

So…

It’s okay to be in pain. It’s okay to be wracked with upheaval. This is the stumbling-around-the-TARDIS phase. There may be a big explosion of light and sparks soon.

But that’s okay.

That’s when the adventures really begin.

We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.

– Eleventh Doctor

For obvious reasons, I’ve been thinking about cycles a lot. The dance of creation-stability-destruction, the phoenix and its ashes, the Doctor…

2018 has been a rather more tumultuous year than expected. But I’m excited to see what subsequent chapters bring.

After all…

This song is ending, but the story never ends.

-KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

I’ve used the composer Brunuhville for writing playlists before. It’s all very epic-cinematic-fantasy music. To the surprise of no one, this one also touches on the idea of cycles, of falling darkness leading to dreams…

Pace Yourself! Hack Yourself!

I think calmer seas might be on the horizon?

First things first: I sold a story! “The Song of the Oliphant” will appear in Lackington’s “Magics” issue later this autumn. This was one of this year’s retreat pieces, thus continuing the trend of selling at least one story from every retreat. And I’m glad. It’s a bizarre near-future fantasy piece with a narrator I love and an aching quality I’m pleased with.

In other news, this post is late because…I hit my deadline for Choice of Games! The game is pretty well done, pending copyedits and a few more nips and tucks. But the bulk of the work is off my plate—and I’m exhausted.

“Sleep,” William Powell Frith (1872).

You see, for various reasons, I landed myself in the position of needing to write 35,000-40,000 words in under two weeks. Whilst doing my dayjob and preparing for the move, and everything else. I’ll admit that when I first heard the number, I wanted to burst into tears.

We just finished Fringe…

I thought I was done…

I’m so tired…

But then I actually did the math. And talked to my editor, who brilliantly broke down a daunting task into totally manageable steps.

37,000 words in just under two weeks is about 2800 words/day. On realizing that, I calmed down. You see, I know my limits when writing. It’s taken a LOT of trial and error over the years, but I’ve built up a pretty good self-knowledge of what I can reasonably accomplish in a given time frame.

When I’m writing novels, 2000 words/day is a comfortable pace. Enough to get into the flow, but also easy to fit around other projects.

3000 words/day kicks it up a notch. Think of it like a brisk trot. Still doable, just a bit more effort.

4000-5000 words/day is my pounding pace. This is the most I can reasonably expect to write without risking burnout. And even then, I can’t do it for long—three or four weeks, tops.

Interestingly, at my annual retreat I usually write a story/day, which can be anywhere from 3000-6000 words. And while I’m tired on leaving the retreat, I’m not exhausted. I put that down to the intense creative atmosphere, but that’s another post.

And that’s a lot of numbers I just put down. So what?

So it’s like I’ve learned to hack myself. Like an athlete who knows how much weight they can safely lift, I’ve fumbled towards an understanding of what I can do. It helps with planning. It helps with scheduling. It helps me maximize the time I have—especially since I know when a pace is not sustainable long term.

But how do you figure it out? Everyone’s pace and process is so different, after all.

Practice, is all I’ve got. Trial and error. Every experience becomes a data point in a set that expands with every project. As with most things, play around enough, and you start figuring things out.

But I’m awfully glad to move past drafting. August is going to be all about editing the Beer Magic novel. I miss my ladies, and I’m excited to get back to them! (Particularly as I’ll be living quite close to the ravines, which play such a big part in the magic…)

-KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

A change of pace indeed…but I fell in love with this song so hard. It makes me ache and it makes me happy all at once. But then, it’s Peter Pan—of course I feel that way.

Frivolous and Practical

It never rains, but it pours! As you may recall from last week, we’d just finished with the Toronto Fringe and Readercon. The last few days have been mostly about recovery, but also plunging headfirst into new projects and deadlines.

We got this.

(We did find out that Six Stories, Told at Night was shortlisted for Best of Fringe. While it would’ve been nice to perform it again in August, the forced break may be a blessing in disguise!)

Also, I’m officially into my last two weeks in the garret before Guinness and I move into our new hobbit-hole.

Amidst all this, I did something pretty frivolous.

While I was out, I saw this amazing houndstooth cardigan. Now, clothing doesn’t usually hold much interest for me. But when I fall for certain pieces, I fall hard. That was the case here: love at first sight.

Beautiful as it was, this cardigan was more than I’d usually spend on a single piece. And I just came back from Readercon. And I spent a lot at the Fringe tent all last week. And I can’t even wear it until fall. And I’m moving to a new apartment.

But it fit so well and it was so me. And I’m trying, you know, to figure out what I actually want, what I actually like—as opposed to what I think I should like. As we’ve been saying for months, this is a transition time, the chaos after a long period of stability.

So you’d better believe I bought that cardigan.

Awkward mirror selfie!

Caveat that I don’t ordinarily condone retail therapy. But also—sometimes, you’ve got to be frivolous. Sometimes you need to embrace the things that are so you, because they don’t always come along very frequently. (Besides, I’m usually pretty responsible with my money.)

In any case, I then did something very practical: something that also felt very me-affirming.

Oddly enough, it also had to do with clothes. I have a pair of boat shoes that I love. But the insoles were badly damaged, and they were covered in dust, and the leather was dry and desperately wanting some polish. So after far too much procrastination, I got new insoles. I cleaned them; I polished them with this special “nourishing” cream.

And they look much better. I feel much better, because I like these shoes, and I prefer when they look good. It’s another case of taking one tiny step in a direction that feels more right.

So there you go: one frivolous thing, one practical thing, both of which brought me joy. Of course, writing this post feels a little frivolous too. Cardigans and shoes—what’s that got to do with anything? With writing, with art?

Because I’m fumbling forward in all parts of my life, and these were two very small, very concrete steps in the right direction. There’s going to be a lot of missteps over the next while. I know that. But these two tiny things? These I got right.

What’s bringing you joy? What steps are you taking towards yourself?

-KT

What I’m Listening To This Week

I saw Wicked with my family this past week, and goodness, that musical has aged unexpectedly well. The political undercurrents have become sharply poignant—and current events are shining light on new subtext. (It’s about silencing certain groups and fake news and construction of false narratives/images, right?)

In any case, “Defying Gravity” always makes me emotional, but it’s punching especially hard right now. No, you’re crying.

Just you and I defying gravity,

With you and I defying gravity,

They’ll never bring us down.