Empathy through story

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

If you’re not okay with the above statement, I strongly encourage you to look inward as to why it’s spurring such an adverse reaction.

Now, I’m far from an expert on this subject. How can I be when I’m a white cis-woman who is straight-passing? I have never had to witness someone cross the street because they were afraid to walk past me. I have never had to witness someone clutch their purse closer in an elevator. I have never had to fear for my life when getting pulled over for a traffic violation.

But it doesn’t take me having those experiences to empathize with the pain of my Black brothers, sisters and siblings and know they’re treated as subhuman. 

It’s wrong. It’s unfair. It’s inhumane. 

The fact that Breonna Taylor, an EMT, couldn’t be safe sleeping in her own home, is horrifying. The fact that Ahmaud Arbery couldn’t be safe going for a run in his own community is terrifying. The fact that George Floyd couldn’t be safe getting groceries is ghastly. The fact that Tamir Rice couldn’t be safe playing at his local park is disgusting.

The list goes on. The horrors go on. We shouldn’t have to keep reliving the same traumas over and over and over again. So of course we’re protesting. Of course we’re rioting. This war has been waging for centuries, but now we have social media chronicling the unjust violence so maybe we’ll finally make some progress. 

But returning to my original favor of asking you to wonder how the simple phrase “Black Lives Matter” could be so disquieting to folk, I’m brought back to the reason we tell stories to children. Children learn kindness through parables. Same with patience and forgiveness. They learn how different the human experience can be for some by digesting stories either through books, television shows and movies. 

Hope for validation draws us in over and over to different outlets. It’s why many women got so excited for Wonder Woman only to get disappointed by Justice League. After years of crying out for a female superhero movie, we got Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman and we finally got to see our gender kick ass through the female lens. Then Justice League came out and Snyder had reduced our powerful Amazons down to leather bikinis. 

Why? Why does someone feel the need to strip down those who don’t share their gender, sexuality or skin color? 

A part of me thinks it’s due to a deficit in exposure. But the bias goes deeper than that. People’s hubris keeps them from divesting from their original worldview. They fear that if the world truly is more complicated than their perception, then their worth as a human being is no longer valid. So instead of prizing empathy and understanding, they double down on their ignorance because it’s “safer” (for them, not the countless masses of people who face injustice and inequality daily). 

So let’s back it up back to childhood. Imagine a world where from the word GO, there is equal equity in the stories being told. For every Percy Jackson, we get another epic MG series where a young Black girl navigates life in the world of the Orishas. For every Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, we see a young Black boy who just wants to help his family get wrapped up in some whimsical adventure. For every Magic Tree House, we see Black siblings supporting each other as they navigate the world and tackle challenges. 

We have to start demanding that Black voices be heard. There is no future worth living where bookshelves and movie screens continue to be white washed. Only when the stories we tell our children represent the vibrant diversity of this world can we hope to build a future where everyone has access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

No lives matter until Black lives matter too. Plain and simple. 

Sending my love to all those fighting the good fight. 

– B

Life in the time of COVID

I hope you are all staying healthy during this strange time. 

It feels like such a weird way to start off this post, but I don’t think there’s any other way for me to begin posting on here again without putting that out there first. Living in NW Iowa during this pandemic is much like living here when not in a pandemic — I have no idea how some people make the decisions they do but life demands I work around them anyway. 

So like most responsible members of society, I wear a mask while out in public and hold up in my home 99% of the time. My time on social media is limited to messaging/supporting friends because anything more than that lights a fire under my rage for people who care so little for the rest of humanity… but I digress. 

This quarantine has been oddly healing for me and I know there’s a lot of privilege in being able to make that statement. I don’t really have to worry about bills due to my service-related PTSD and my being a chronic introvert keeps most feelings akin to cabin fever from developing. What I hadn’t anticipated was how much internal work that would result from this much time alone in my own thoughts. There’s no distractions to get lost in to avoid old wounds that never quite healed properly. 

Since the quarantine began, I have moved apartments, been admitted to a college to start finishing my degree (starting this fall), and started querying A BANSHEE’S SCREAM, the first book in the Aeon series I’ve been rewriting. All these things held up different mirrors that made me reassess what I think I need versus what I actually need. I plan to do an entire post on the inner child work that sprouted as a result of me preparing to enter the query trenches again, but I wonder how y’all are fairing during this time. 

What has this pandemic brought up for you? 

Much love!
– B

Resolutions for 2020

Not going to lie. I wasn’t sure about posting resolutions — mostly because I haven’t done so in quite some time. With PTSD and depression ruling much of my life these past couple years, the concept of goals seemed too intangible to consider putting any thought into. 

But here we are, the start of a new year, a new decade, and I’m ready to start moving forward and creating a life that is my own. 

Writing Resolutions: 

  • complete the newest revision of current manuscript (Aeons: Book 1) to send back out into the query trenches
  • draft short story for creature anthology to submit to editor
  • begin adult revision of Aeons: Book 2
  • begin drafting non-Aeon novel

Professional Resolutions:

  • begin classes to complete degree
  • post to blog more consistently 
  • be more active on social media

Personal Resolutions: 

  • get back into weight lifting
  • establish more healthy habits
  • post (at least) 3 singing videos

Really, what this all comes down to is me trying to hold more space to love myself this year. So here’s to a year of self-love, growth and acceptance. 

Cheers, everyone!
– Bree

That’s a wrap on 2019

Hey clan, 

Life can change quickly, can’t it? A lot has happened since last I posted, but sometimes all you can do is live in the moment and take each lesson for what it is. But with 2020 launching in a few days, I figured this would be a good time to catch you all up. 

My 2019 managed to be one of the most wide-ranging emotional selection of months – unexpected success, devastating loss, and a lot of self-worth work to try and navigate everything in between. The sad thing is it’s taken me five months to find words to discuss both extremes on that spectrum. 

So let’s dive in!

I’m getting published! I was accepted into a short story anthology slated for release Halloween 2021. The anthology features stories from aromantic and aro-spec authors. Each story takes place in a magical university for creatures – so expect some cameos from your favorite critters from horror, fantasy, and mythology.

Moores Academy

The announcement! 

The anthology is through NineStar Press, a publishing house centered around serving the LGBTQ+ community. This opportunity means so much to me for so many reasons. First off, my fiction will be published for the first time, which is beyond exhilarating. Second, and possibly more importantly, this opportunity was available because I was able to own my sexual/romantic identity publicly without reservations. It was kind of surreal because so much of where I live currently has revolved around me not being worthy of love (or success) because of my orientation. The acceptance into this anthology was a swift kick to the self-deprecating depression demons. *VICTORY!* 

Speaking of the glory that is the LGBTQ+ community, Orange City Pride was sweet enough to invite me to sing again this year. Being able to share my voice in a forum of resilience and self-love will always be one of life’s greatest blessings. I sang six songs in total during a storytelling event that provided a platform to feel cradled while recounting some of life’s harshest lessons. The stories shared sparked a conversation with my dad that I didn’t know I needed. Somewhere in my soul, I thought that if my dad knew who I was, he wouldn’t love me anymore. We spoke about LGBTQ+ youth being abandoned by their family and my dad replied, “We would never do that. Ever.” 

They were words that I desperately needed but couldn’t fathom receiving, which leads me to the devastating part of 2019. My grandmother passed suddenly and we’re all still reeling from that loss. 

Nanna was our strength, wisdom, compassion and love… and the occasional much-needed swift kick in the logic pants. She was the first family member I came out to who didn’t try to make an excuse for why I was bi. I was her grandkid and that was all she needed. 

Even now, writing this, I want to cry because I miss her so much. There are so many things I wish I could tell her, so many things I crave her guidance for, so many experiences I’d hoped to share with her.  

She had the best sense of humor and was possibly the strongest person I know. I keep a picture of her on a sideboard inside my front door. She’s dancing with my grandfather, smiling up at him, blissfully unaware of the photographer. She reminds me to be resilient and kind and not take things so seriously. I had a wooden jewelry box made with the inscription, “Love you to the moon and back.” written on the inside of the lid. It was what she told all of us. So every morning as I’m walking out the door, I grab a necklace from the box, read the inscription, and smile at her photo. I’m blessed to have gotten to call her Nanna. 

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Me and my gorgeous Nanna.

But she’d be pissed if she saw me wallowing, so I’m going to close out this post here. My 2020 goals will be posted soon, and who knows, maybe I’ll even post more regular content on writing and my projects. After all, we’re beginning a whole new decade. 

Much love!
– Bree

Women’s Fiction & my relationship with it

The older I get, the easier it is to get swallowed up by my frustrations far before I consider my joy. Whether that’s because of mental health issues or the fact that the U.S. is attempting to survive in a post-2016 Election reality, who knows. But the benefit of recording your thoughts is seeing some of your own fallacies (aka. Calling out your own bull-honkey). 

Recently, my friend and I launched our podcast, The Shiny Squirrel, where we talk about all the creative nerdy things along with the social impacts of being involved in that space. Monday, we published an episode getting into the nitty gritty of being a woman in these different creative fields. 

While I stand by everything I said, there’s one item – in regards to publishing – that I failed to give justice to. And that’s Women’s Fiction. I’ll still argue that books like Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness should be shelved in fantasy and Gillian Flynn should be in thriller (sorry, I’ll die on this hill). But Women’s Fiction plays a very important role in the lives of not only female writers and readers, but also the industry. 

No. 1 – Women’s Fiction is more than just “beach reads”

Women’s Fiction is first and foremost stories surrounding the female experience. Yes, there is a large market for “beach reads” – your romcoms and self-discovery stories with lighter subject matter. However, there are also books that are so devastatingly profound and raw that make you feel ‘seen’ for the first time. 

Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You comes to mind. Not only is her writing absolutely stunning, but the way she captures the human experience in relationship to identity, family, society, and everything in between, leaves you in tears. 

Another brilliant example is Halsey Street by Naima Coster, who captures the complexity of healing internal and familial wounds against a backdrop of cultural and economic clashes and the harm gentrification causes. 

There’s also swaths of complex stories that handle the topics we don’t want to talk about with incredible humor while maintaining brutal honesty about the characters’ experience. 

Here, I’m drawn to almost anything written by Liane Moriary. Summer Heacock’s The Awkward Path To Getting Lucky is also on my list here. It handles the constant pull between personal and professional while also dealing with the painful issue of vaginismus. 

No. 2 – There’s nothing wrong with “beach reads” 

No one can read devastating story after devastating story and maintain any kind of sanity. Sometimes, you really do just need something to make you laugh and leave you feeling empowered when you turn that last page. 

Everyone knows Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding – this is one such book. For those of us with body conscious issues, this was one of those stories where you could laugh about the frustrations while also cheer on a woman who is determined to feel sexy regardless. 

A more recent example is Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Olephant Is Completely Fine. Eleanor is one of those MC’s that you connect with immediately. She’s intelligent, lacks a filter, and is completely fine… that is until she realizes she’s not. The book takes you through her journey of self-realization and rediscovery. 

No. 3 – Women’s Fiction has done some of most innovative genre bending I’ve ever read

Because the focus is on the character’s experience, it clears the path for crossing genre lines strictly maintained by the rest of the industry. Historical romance with time travel? Yup! Magical Realism, Romance, and Science Fiction? Definitely! Cross-generational mother-daughter stories with different historical settings and plenty of magic to go around? I’ll escort you to the shelf. 

To give you titles and authors to the above examples… 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon 

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

The unfortunate reason Women’s Fiction tends to make me flinch…

Here’s the thing about these incredible genre-bending books… they aren’t marketed well. Mostly, because I don’t think the industry has figured out how to market them just yet. With the exception of Outlander because of its recent success with its TV show, these little nuggets of literary innovation get lost amongst the shelves. As a reader, you have to DIG to find them. 

And that’s the frustrating bit of Women’s Fiction. It allows this brilliant space for all these incredible stories, but because you have such a wide range to choose from as a reader, finding what you need is so incredibly difficult. You might be looking for something like Anders’ unique flavor of fiction, but after picking up twelve different titles in the vein of Moriarty or Honeyman, you give up and walk away without buying anything. 

The impact of this? Publishers are less likely to invest in books like Anders or Morgan because “the numbers say there’s no market for it.” 

I know this blog post is getting super long, so I’ll finish with this… Support your female authors. There are so many brilliant novels written by talented, intelligent storytellers shelved in and out of Women’s Fiction. I’ve pasted a few more authors to check out below. 

V.E. Schwab

N.K. Jemisin

Amal El-Mohtar

J.L. Gribble

Karin Slaughter

Lori M. Lee

Jasmine Warga

Elicia Hyder

Let me know who your favorite female authors are in the comments! Load up my TBR! 

Much love.
– Bree