Friday, February 15, 2013

tapestry, stew, cuckoo bird

I keep discovering parts of the story I'm writing in other stories. Inevitable, I suppose. So much myth is universal, crosses cultures, oceans. Creation mythology, for example.

I think one of the biggest things I have been wrestling with is how to create an authentic fantasy world that is similar enough to this world, without completely mirroring cultural specificities. I don't want to be disrespectful or flippant with belief systems, with sacred ritual, with story. For instance, there is a type of warrior in my story that I wrote into existence over a year ago. A few days ago I was looking around on the internet and I found that very warrior. He was pictured in an article about cultural appropriation. Shit balls. Did I see this warrior somewhere in my past? Did I file him away in my subconscious without realizing it? Should I even worry about this crap?

My writing is also heavily informed by everything I've ever read. No surprise there. I read an interview with an author who has been accused of stealing the work of other writers. He insists he was inspired, and there is also the defense that most fantasy is derivative. A well-published writer friend of mine has encouraged me to steal ideas, make them my own; this writer has even specifically shown me how they "steal" then make the work their own. I struggle with the idea. But even when I don't realize it, I'm stealing/inspired by other work; or weaving a tapestry formed of different threads of story, or a stew.  

I also have a hard time talking about the specifics of the story. Years ago when I was working on my first attempt at a novel, I shared the plot with a writing group. Last year I saw that one of the writers in that group took my idea, wrote his own book, and published it.  Close to the chest it is. I've shared the plot/world/idea with a few people I trust but no more than that. I'm not putting my eggs in someone else's nest.

The next ten days will be awesome. My boyfriend comes into town tomorrow to spend ten days with me for my birthday. I'm pretty damn excited. Ten days in one place. I'm super super looking forward to it, and I know it will be a a little challenging for me. Even when I was in a relationship with someone who lived a half mile away, I would only see him on weekends. I don't think that in the year and a half we were together we ever spent more than five days in a row together. I love my solitude. But I'm not worried. H is incredibly sensitive to my needs and desires. When he's here he allows me plenty of solitude, as he enjoys time for himself as well. Ten days. TEN DAYS! Overjoyed. And he completely supports me in my writing, as I support him in his. Yay!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

seeing myself in story, myth, fantasy

The world I'm writing is the world I needed when I was young, and a place I continue to crave. I was having a conversation the other day with a good friend; we were discussing my current project and he asked me why I'm writing it. I told him that when I was growing up I was completely enamored of story, mythology, fantasy. But when I wanted to retreat into that world, place myself into myth in my imagination as children do, I had to change everything about myself. I had to change the color of my skin, my eyes, my hair, where my family was from.  I couldn't read a book or listen to story and think that's my story, my myth. It always belonged to someone different from me. The underlying message to a child who doesn't see herself in story is you don't exist. Even when I moved past children's literature into middle grade and young adult fiction I didn't see myself. It took me years to realize that that kind of invisibility creates shame, a shadowy self-hatred. And the undoing of that shame and self-hatred is a long process that often involves a lot of anger. I'm just coming out of it.

Yesterday I read this article. Even more confirmation that what I'm doing is necessary. I also realize I need support in doing this. I am writing genre. I'm writing an imagined place fit together with various influences and sometimes I'm terrified of criticism.


Before bed each night I'm reading Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. What a glorious, thick, heady book to get lost in, and found in. I read with pencil in hand, underlining, writing notes to myself in the margins, putting exclamation points next to passages that rip me open. Passages like this:

Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamics of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the  problems and solutions are directly valid for all mankind.

Passages like this fuel me when I'm feeling low about my work. What I'm doing is necessary. Placing myself into myth for all mankind. I'm not feeling particularly low about my work these days but sometimes the scope of what I'm trying to create is daunting. I have to remind myself, and allow myself to be reminded by outside sources and influences, that this path of artist and creator has been mine since before I could articulate it. And I have to continue to honor it.

 I've created a vision board of sorts above my desk. I've printed out pictures of my characters, or what I imagine my characters to look like. They are pretty damn beautiful. Gorgeous in fact. They don't necessarily fit into contemporary ideas of beauty, but they are beautiful to me; they convey strength and grace. They're fierce, each a warrior in their own way. Beautiful brown people. I don't just see their faces above my desk, they're the faces of my family, of the people I work with, strangers on the street who look like me. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

so much, so much, enough

Life has been good. I've been busy, and happy, with enough time for rest and contemplation.  January is usually a slow month for me, in work, in living but things picked up this year. I still have had time to contemplate, reset, plan.

Good news abounds in all areas of my life. I've been invited to be on a panel at the Tucson Festival of Books. I'll be on the panel for the anthology I was published in last year, Ban This! Anthology of Xican@ Literature.  I will be on the panel with Luis Urrea, one of my favorite writers, and SJ Rivera, publisher of the anthology. Gustavo Arellano will moderate.

In May I will be one of two featured writers at Lunada, full moon literary lounge in San Francisco at Galeria de la Raza.

The novel writing is interesting. The second book in the trilogy is heavy (in a good way) in my mind. And I love it. The characters are in me, the plot is in me, the world is alive. Funnily, this second book may be the first book and the book I have completed may be the second book.

And, there are other wonderful happenings. Nothing I can talk about yet but holy wow.

Work is blowing up. I am so incredibly to have a job I really love. I am so grateful to work in a non-traditional field. There have been times that I questioned my choices, but I decided to stick with it. There were hards years, there were times I was down on myself for not going into a more traditional field. But damn, I'm happy.