Sunday, January 24, 2016

live. dangerously.

hello, internet.

it's been a couple months. i'd say i was sorry ... but i'm pretty sure nobody expects anything else of this blog lately. :P

part of the reason it's hard for me to write is because most of the ideas that come to me seem really ... heavy. (astonishing, i know. the depressive's ideas seem heavy. what gives.) believe it or not, i'm highly invested in the idea of spreading positivity on the internet and making the world a better place, and it's difficult to wrap my mind around sharing my personal thoughts and experiences when my voice is too worn out to represent with anything but periods and lowercase letters.

on the other hand, my values also prioritize other people's attempts to demystify their own greyspace and personal traumas on the internet and elsewhere as some of the most important work going on in all of the media, which basically means I'm a hypocrite. i publicly applaud the courage of others in laying themselves bare for all to see while my foot is covertly nudging the rug to cover back up my own unseemly parts, lest, heaven forbid, somebody SEE them and NO LONGER LIKE ME.

(oh, look, there are the capital letters)

part of it, i think, is that communicating takes so much work. the puzzle of deciding what to put in and what to leave out, how to generate intimacy without oversharing ... there's simply too much material to put it all in. how do you balance between the good and the bad? how do you edit a story to make it seem complete?

lots of questions without time for answers. right now I'm at the point where this post is already starting to seem long and I'm wondering if it's time to call it quits -- but I haven't actually said anything. and this is the struggle, always. lingering outside your roommate's door, wondering if you should knock and say hi, wondering if you've already bothered her enough. sitting beside your friends in the institute classroom, knowing they care about you but questioning why, wondering what any of them would say if they knew how badly you just wanted to be held.

the greatest irony of human existence is that we all feel so incredibly alone, and we all think that we're the only one. it takes bravery to reach out. it takes guts to stand up and say, hey, friends, I have an eating disorder. it's so hard to find the nerve to confess that you are not okay, not happy alone, that any of these people who love you could wrap their arms around you and hold you tight and it would literally never be too much ... except that when they do, you hug them for the requisite four seconds and if you're really brave then you hold on for fifteen and then you pull back because heaven forbid if anyone you loved ever knew how much you need them. we'd rather die than admit that it's killing us to sleep alone.

and then there are the other things we aren't saying: that we think someone is so beautiful, we could watch them walk down the street all day. we admire someone so much we're petrified to talk to them. we wish our body looked like hers, and she wishes her body looked like ours, and NONE of us EVER SAYS ANYTHING. most of us are sitting around in our rooms, dying alone in a crowd, and holding ourselves back from engaging with the people we really want to because we are 100% certain that they have LOADS of friends, all of whom are better than me. he is so handsome, she is so smart, nobody like that would ever waste their time on me.

well, i'm calling bulls#^%. you is funny, you is smart, you is half the reason somebody else is hiding in a closet and crying out to God for the guts to reach outside. probably also you is a coward like me. it's very easily to hypothetically believe you are worth something. it's a damn sight harder to show that something to another human being in all of its naked, unedited glory.

vulnerability is so much riskier than dying alone.

live dangerously.

(and if you need someone to hug you for about an hour, by all the glory of the western sunset you come and find me. i am always game.)


Friday, November 27, 2015

Flashback Friday #1: Waitressing

Heyall! I've decided to start a new feature on the blog: Flashback Fridays, in which I will dig through the mess of my ancient, outdated drafts and fish out something semi-presentable to an audience. Then I'll share it, with a little background and no minimal editing.* Hopefully it will be fun, provide you with a little insight into what I'm working on ... or, err, was working on a couple years ago, and allow ME to appreciate how much I've grown! Let's try it out!

[Now for the moment you've all been waiting for (drumroll, please) ... an unfinished scene written Jan '14, meant to be the opening of one of my WIP's, codename WONDERLAND. This book is one of my more troublesome babies, and you'll be seeing more alternate versions of it soon -- I think it ran up to seven openings before I caught the one I'm using now. Nothing about this scene is still accurate to the book, but I loved it enough to share, in all it's warty goodness. Comment with your favourite line below and you could win something awesome! (and totally imaginary shh just pretend)]

The restaurant was stifling, heavy with the scent of grease and bad cologne. Scarlett was sweltering in her black waitress uniform. She itched to get out, to burst through the doors into the cool night air and never come back. Instead she plastered on a smile and went to refill a tableful of water glasses.
This table sat a party of six — three adults, three children, the youngest of whom seemed to be painting a Picasso in the gravy on the table. Scarlett’s plaster smile became a little strained at this.
“Will you be having dessert today?”
“Actually …” The thickset older woman at the head of the table frowned at the man on her right, and he subsided.
“We don’t need any dessert, thank you,” she told Scarlett.
“Are you sure?”
“Quite positive. But do be a dear and get us some extra napkins. I believe Franklin has upset his plate.”
The heavyset woman had a sharp glint in her eye. It was the look of someone who only bought toilet paper on sale. Scarlett decided not to press for dessert.
On her way back to the kitchen, she caught sight of one of the TVs set up beside the corner booths. It was displaying a local news channel, where one of the news anchors was talking against the backdrop of …
Scarlett’s heart sank at the sight of the smiling fourteen-year-old girl’s face. Emily Keys, her name was. Local kid — she attended a school only six blocks over from where Scarlett’s own younger sister went. She’d been missing for six days.
There was no evidence of foul play, no unusual behavior on the girl’s part before the incident. She had left for school that day perfectly normal, had by all accounts had a perfectly normal day at school, and had biked home from school with a group of friends, only turning off when she reached a residential alley half a block away from home. Then she had simply … disappeared.
They’d found her bike in the alley, when they finally went looking. Lying on its side across a jagged crack in the pavement, one wheel spinning gently in the breeze. Perfect and unharmed. What they didn’t find was the girl.

* Originally there was going to be no editing allowed, but then I found a couple things in this snippet that I absolutely COULD NOT post without editing. So I've settled on a compromise -- I will edit as little as possible, and then tell you exactly what I changed in a postscript. Deal? Okay.

Edit #1: second paragraph, first sentence. In the original copy, for some reason it said the oldest of the children was painting in the gravy, but the wording wasn't absolutely clear as to whether the artist in question was child or adult. It was driving me crazy, so I changed.

Edit #2: tenth paragraph, second sentence. My subconscious does this obnoxious thing sometimes where it names minor characters after celebrities I know just little enough about to not realize, in the distraction of drafting, why the name sounds so natural. This scene was one of those times -- in original copy, the little girl was named Alicia Keys, and I didn't realize until I was uploading it to the blog. Oops.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

an experiment in authenticity

hello, internet.

I struggle with blogging. I know I've said this a million times, and I suspect that most people really don't care, because I am quite certain that most people do not actually read my blog. In fact, I'm pretty sure there are exactly three people who read my blog.

[...hi, grandpa]

What you might not know, if you are one of those three people, is that for every post you've seen on here, there are approximately a hundred more that never get written. I just did the math, and I have exactly 74 posts on my blog -- 75 if you count this one, which I hope will actually be going up. And there are 102 drafts on my archive. and there are a million and three aborted drafts lost in my brain.

There is a very real possibility that this post will never be read. There is a very real possibility that I will never share it, for the same reason I never shared any of the others. Because

Somewhere deep down in the core of my being, I firmly believe this. I believe that everyone who is reading this blog post 'right now,' in this abstract unit of time known only to writers and the mentally unstable which comprises EVERY SINGLE MOMENT in which anyone could POSSIBLY be reading my work, everyone is judging me. I hear your voices in my head: Oh, puleease, staaaahhhp. When are you going to realize, nobody cares? I am mentally writing to an audience of constant eye rolls and bored texting.

Actually, now that I think about it, I am mentally writing to a mass-produced audience of middle schoolers.

But, for some reason, I keep writing.

And I'm not going to quit.

And so if you are one of those non-imaginary people who is actually reading this, right now, in any moment in time ... this is for you.

hello. my name is sarah.

i have monsters in my brain.

i would like to be your friend.

please, let me know if you are human too.

dysfunctionally yours,

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Thoughts On Writing Diversity And Other Complicated Things

[ETA: There are a lot of things wrong with this post that (as of a couple weeks later) I now see and wouldn't write today. However, this were my real and honest thoughts that accurately represent a period of my life, so I'm going to leave this up. Please read mindfully -- I hope to have follow-up posts soon.]

Crap, crap, crap. I shouldn't write this post.

Crap. I'm writing this post.

Let me start out by saying that this is NOT a post about how to write diverse fiction. NOT EVEN CLOSE. This is NOT a post about how to talk about diverse fiction. NOPE, NOPE, NOPE. This is a post about my experience as a straight, cis, white girl with mental illness who cares, cares, cares about the whitewashing, straightwashing* and otherwise homogenization of fiction to exclude marginalized groups, AND DOES NOT HAVE A FREAKING CLUE WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.

Brace yourselves. This is going to be a long one. You might want to grab a drink. I know I'm going to need a drink.**

(brb getting water)

(got the water. drank the water. now let's do this.)

Okay. Okay.

First, before I go flailing like a chicken with my head cut off into territory I don't understand, let me give you some background into what I HAVE experienced. Because although I don't have a FREAKING CLUE what it's like to be a person of color or LGBTQIA+, I do know what it's like to be marginalized in fiction.

Exhibit A) I am a girl.

And I know: females are not a minority group. But in fiction? It sure as heck feels like it. I have lived my entire life in a world where speaking male characters outnumber speaking female characters by a ratio of 3 to 1,••• where the precious few women who do make it through are stereotyped and objectified, where stories about men are considered universal and stories about women considered "niche." I fought my entire life against a world that tells me MY stories are not important, that MY voice is not worth listening to, that I will never ever be as 'relevant' to the human experience as that neighbour boy down the block. And I HATE IT.

When I have spoken up about this, when I have protested a fictional diet of active men and passive women, when I have cited statistics and studies and anecdotal evidence, I have repeatedly been told to sit down and shut up, to get the chip off my shoulder, to forget about female representation, because there are more important things to worry about. But I do not sit down, and I do not shut up, and for this I make enemies and I shed a LOT of tears. I am familiar with the experience of being told I do not matter.

Additionally, I have serious mental illness. To be more specific, I have lived with moderate-to-severe anxiety and depression since I was about five years old. Sometimes it's not so bad. Sometimes it's a living hell. Currently, as I write this, I am living through one of the worst depressive episodes of my entire life. Some days, it takes literally everything I have to get out of bed by 9 AM, eat, shower, exercise, read my scriptures, pray, watch a couple YouTube videos, and go to bed at a reasonable hour without killing myself. I am not saying this because I want your pity. I do not want your pity. I am not saying this because I want you to worry about me. You do not need to worry about me, although I will happily accept any good thoughts and prayers you want to send my way. I am saying this because I am sick and tired of living with a legitimately life-threatening illness that everyone pretends isn't real. I am saying this because the other night as I was sobbing in my mom's bed because all my broken brain would show me was repeated demands that I smash my brains out against a wall, that I hurt myself cut myself kill myself MAKE IT STOP, part of me was STILL whispering, "you know this isn't really a thing. mental illness isn't a thing, and if it is, you don't have it. you're probably just selfish. you're doing it for attention. grow up and get a life."

Not okay. This is not okay. I am no longer okay with living a world where the thing which threatens my life is dismissed as laziness, or bad character, or immaturity. I am a hard worker. I have to be, to stay alive. I am a positive thinker. I have to be, TO STAY ALIVE. I have more willpower than you would freaking believe. EVIDENCE: I AM STILL ALIVE. I keep the door to self-harm or suicide tightly shut, locked and superglued, and I get up every morning and go at another day in spite of living in a world which tells me I had better not exist, and where there is next to no one like me represented in the media.

I know what it's like to be discriminated against. I know what it's like to be marginalized.

I don't know what it's like for you.

I do not know what it is like to be targeted by racism, by homophobia, by transphobia, by physical ablism, or by any of the other things that make YOUR life hell. I cannot even imagine wearing my differentness on my skin. I could pretend I do, try to compare it to the way I experience sexism or the fear I sometimes experience as a woman, but we both know it's not the same.

I have spent most of my life in an unusually homogenous environment. For the last eight years, I have lived in a small town that is not only overwhelmingly white, but in which 80% of people belong to the same Christian faith. This is not good preparation for writing diversity.

I am aware that the burden is on me to educate myself. Problem is, self-education has proven to be more difficult than it looked in the commercials. This is partially because of my anxiety issues, and partially due to a horrific tendency I have of speaking before I think and the fact that I tend to try to lighten all moods with humour ... which usually results in me saying something hideously offensive and then I want to crawl into a hole and die because A) my ignorance is showing, and B) I KNOW WHAT THAT'S LIKE. I have been the one cringing in my seat because someone else just said something nauseatingly sexist, or they have innocently reflected a whole society's worth of damaging stereotypes about the mentally ill. I know what it's like to be hurt by someone who's not intending to hurt you, but is just accidentally stupid today. And I have also been that stupid person. All the freaking time.††

And all this is made even worse when I see white, straight, cis authors (who appear to genuinely care) make attempts at including diverse characters in their fiction, and mess up, and then I see the Internet rip them to pieces and spit on the remains. And I get it. I get that the voice of the privileged should not take precedence in conversations about marginalized groups. But when I see privileged authors who attempt to write inclusive fiction villainized for their mistakes, the message I get is YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE. WE DO NOT WANT YOU HERE. GET BACK TO YOUR SIDE OF THE PLAYGROUND AND NEVER COME BACK.

And then I think, oh crap. If I attempt this, I am going to mess up so bad. And so I slink away and write another MS with another white protagonist, in a very white cast where everybody is straight and able and Hollywood beautiful. Because it's safe. Because it's where I'm comfortable. Because, ultimately, no one wants to be where they do not feel wanted. Not even straight, able-bodied, white people.

And yet I still want to write diversely, because honestly? Although POC writers should absolutely be the loudest voices in fiction about POC, although queer writers are the MOST IMPORTANT sources of queer representation, although women know best how to write about women and we mentally ill writers SHOULD represent the mentally ill, I honestly do not believe that our society will ever progress to the place it needs to reach unless those who are privileged put in the effort and the courage to write about those who are not like them. Plain and simple.

Unless men write about women, white people write about POC, and the mentally able learn to write stories about the mentally ill, marginalized authors will always be "niche." Nothing is ever going to get better, and I will continue to write long, rambly blog posts with random passages bolded. I don't know about you, but to me, that future looks pretty bleak.

So, please, CORRECT MY MISTAKES. Correct all the mistakes, because bad representation is worse than no representation, and those who are not oppressed do not know what the heck they're saying about those who are. When I do something racist, or homophobic, or otherwise hurtful, PLEASE, please, PLEASE CALL ME OUT ON IT, and EXPLAIN. Otherwise I will never get better. You will never get better. None of us will ever get any better.

Just ... try to show a little compassion, if you can. Try to have a little patience, even with the ignorant. Especially with the ignorant. Because some of us are like five-year-olds, and we speak before we think, and we will make stupid mistakes, because we have not hurt like you have, and we do not understand.

Help us understand. And by all means, make your voices heard. You are the only ones who can get us out of this mess.


[P.S. I'm not editing this post, because I've learnt long ago that if I 'edit' something for postage online, I will end up deleting the whole thing. So I'm just going to post it, and you can let me know if you see any typos or otherwise strange things I should fix? Thanks. Really, really thanks. <3 S]
* Is that a word? Let's pretend that's a word.

** Of water. As a Mormon health food junkie, I strongly advocate the drinking of water. You can, of course, drink whatever you want. But I suggest water.

*** In animated movies/this is an approximation/blah, blah, blah. I don't really want to nitpick about statistics. You can look them up yourself if you want.

† I have not officially been diagnosed, because ????. I have had a handful of doctors say things like, "Yup, you have depression," and "I think you just have serious depression," to which I reply, "You don't say, I never would have figured that out thank you for your help." /sarcasm

†† If you know me in real life, you are nodding along. I have the insatiable curiosity of a novelist and the tact of your average five-year-old. Baaad combination. On so many levels.

††† Lots of things have happened on Twitter since I wrote this post. (This post originally happened because of things said on Twitter.) I have a lot of different thoughts, and conflicting thoughts, and new thoughts. But here is the ultimate thought:

With my writing, I want to help people more than I hurt them.

I don't know how to do that. I don't know if that's possible.

Maybe the only way is to write lots of books about white, straight, cis, mentally ill girls like me, or maybe there is a place for my carefully-researched-novels that will never ever ever measure up to the Real Thing -- books by people who have LIVED the experiences they're writing about. It's hard, because I know the industry is biased towards me right now, through no virtue of my own, and so any 'diverse' books I publish will tend to obscure the voices we really need, by making people think that's enough, we have diversity, game over. When really, what matters is the diversity behind the author name, and I'm not it.

For once in my life, I really don't know what to do. That's where this post came from, even if it doesn't communicate it clearly. I want to find out what I'm supposed to do. It seems that I am, by default, part of the problem. I want to do whatever I can to change that, but I will need the help of people like you to figure out how.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Monday Poem

"Chocolate Cake"
by Sarah

I would like a chocolate cake.
A rich chocolate cake.
A moist chocolate cake.
A dense chocolate cake.
I would like a rich, moist, dense chocolate cake.