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How Beautiful to Be Immersed in a Good, Clean Flood

For the past year or two, much of my stress has been caused by human cruelty and weakness. At work and in the news and sometimes in life, I'm witnessing more overt forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, and gun violence. And then, in response to any efforts at reducing such cruelty, there's a fact-resistant, compassion-resistant, intelligence-resistant backlash justified by the same cannibalistic attitude of victim-blaming: "You must have deserved it, you fill-in-the-slur."

While no one dares to visit such cruelty upon me personally, probably because my ass kicking reputation rivals that of Chuck Norris (among my other #blessed privileges), it makes me sick to watch people I know on social media either: a) turn into Russian zombie bot trolls hell-bent on destroying life for anyone who isn't a rich white dudebro in a fact-resistant helmet, or b) unplug completely. It wouldn't be so bad if the trolling were all about hypotheticals and ideas not affecting the RL,…
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Fear Is the Boxlocker of Dreams

So sayeth an internet meme made from a vulgar cross stitch, except I changed one of the words. Wink!

I have come to believe that fear is the #1 barrier to the success of creative endeavors. The evidence:

You're Not Lazy: The Last Motivational Blog Post You'll Ever Need (Medium)

and

Tim Ferris on Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals (TED Talk)

This idea rings true for me and the other ladies of my writing group. We struggle to finish manuscripts, applications, and query letters, not because we are lazy or incompetent or truly too busy, but because we are afraid of what comes next, whether it be failure, rejection, or the dizzying terror of succeeding and having to face an unfamiliar challenge.

The first member of our group to publish a complete novel, Meika Usher, did so after going to great lengths to face her personal fears. She didn't go back to school for a fancy MFA degree. She didn't take endless webinars or read a library of self-help books. Nope…

Samba in the Snow

For those of us who work in front of a computer screen, writer's butt is one of the greatest wintertime career hazards. The more time we spend with our butts in our office chairs, typing away productively, the more we neglect the largest of muscle groups in our bodies. Less oxygen flows through our lungs, hearts, and brains, thus sabotaging our productivity. It's a vicious cycle.

What we need is butt care. Butt care is a kind of self-care, but it's best not to do it by yourself. As I am learning this month, thanks to my daughter's Little Passports subscription, Brazilian communities are demonstrating that collective butt care has the power to save the whole world.

Starting last fall, I've cared for the health of my butt (and therefore my brain) by committing to walking my daughter to and from school every day, in every kind of weather. I've heard that other writers and desk jockeys get the same health benefits by acquiring a dog that needs regular walking. And …

For the Love of Nihilist Tacos

Happy Groundhog Day! In honor of the rom-com by that name, my husband and I will be doing the same exact thing we do every Groundhog Day: eating tacos. On this day, we celebrate our elopement 12 years ago, when we also ate tacos.



Since then, we have eaten 12 years of tacos.

We have eaten tacos in Michigan and tacos in Mexico.

We have eaten tacos on dates, with friends, and with our daughter.

We have eaten homemade tacos and restaurant tacos. We have eaten authentic Mexican tacos and "American taco night" tacos.

Why? Because life is too short not to eat tacos. Soon humanity will go extinct in one way or another, and then there will be no more tacos. The tacos are endangered, and nothing we do can save them.

So eat ye tacos while ye may! 

This year, we will eat food truck tacos at home, with our new ferocious kitten.

We will do the same thing every Groundhog Day, reveling in salsa and samsara, until there are no more Groundhog Days or tacos we can share together.

Tacos un…

Halfway to Miklagarth!

I have written 50,000 words of Matka Danu Miklagarth!


It took me six times longer than a NaNoWriMo winner to get this many words on the page, but... Let's just say, I hope this manuscript is already six times better than either of my NaNoWriMo victories.

Meanwhile, the university where I dropped out of grad school is in the international news for its enabling of a monster sexual predator who has abused triple-digit numbers of children and teenage girls over the past 20 years or more, resulting in the lifelong trauma of hundreds of people and even some suicides. Bravo, a**holes. I dropped out of my grad program at precisely the moment I received confirmation from one student mentor, one advisor, and one professional in the field that this career trajectory would not enable its graduates to seek systemic changes in dysfunctional systems. "If you want to do that, you could call your senator," they said. Done and done.

Meanwhile, the high school I fled as a teen because it e…

Dolores of Our Dreams

I came of age singing along with Dolores O'Riordan. The Cranberries were an alt-rock band like no other, in many ways ordinary and timid and rough-edged, and in that sense exactly like all the tweens and teens who heard their tenderest feelings made beautiful in a voice both sweet and strong.

Dolores was so young and inexperienced at the height of her fame, and yet her singing expressed complex emotion with the musical precision of a disciplined artist. She was a shy, fragile girl who seemed to have been chosen by the gods as a mouthpiece.

We love you, Dolores. You'll always be on the Discman of our dreams.

The Story of Us

The "autobiographical first novel" doesn't always come out in one solid block of naive writing. Sometimes it fractures, as in a "fractured fairy tale," and it becomes a theme that runs through many novels in an author's canon.

I just read Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, which she describes to NPR as the closest thing to her own "autobiographical first novel," which she never produced in her youth. Instead, she wrote many novels about people and places totally unlike those in her own experiences growing up, but each was about a group of people thrown together unexpectedly and forced to create a community. This concept draws upon her experience growing up in a blended family, which she explores more explicitly in Commonwealth, hilariously splitting the character based on herself into two people: "the young woman who's saying, 'here is my story' and... the old author who is saying, 'I'm going to sell you out and take your sto…