An Art & Words Show

Hi all!  This past Saturday (Sept. 26th), my dad and I ventured out to Fort Worth to attend the opening of Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s Art & Words Show.  It was the fourth annual show and the third year that I have attended, so I decided that I wanted to share my experience with all of you.

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Bonnie reading for one of the authors who couldn’t be there.

I met Bonnie at Stonecoast.  She graduated in July 2013, so we didn’t have much time to get to know each other very well, but she was the first fellow Texan I found in the program.  When I learned about her Art & Words Show, I had to check it out.  What is an Art & Words Show, you ask?  Well, Bonnie takes submissions from both writers and visual artists (submissions usually open around March if you’re interested), then she chooses roughly 10 written pieces and an equal number of artworks.  At that point, there’s a selection process where the writers choose a piece of art and the artists choose a story or poem, which they then have to interpret (authors write a story/poem based on the art and vice versa for the artists).

Where is the show held, you might be wondering.  It’s held at Art on the Boulevard in Fort Worth on Camp Bowie Blvd (check the website for the full address).  The show runs for about a week, so if you’re in the area and have some free time between now and Saturday (Oct. 3rd), check it out!

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Borrowed from their Facebook page.

As someone who loves ekphrastic writing, this whole project intrigued me from the beginning.  I haven’t had a piece featured yet, but I have submitted in the past and plan to submit next year.  It’s like any other project writers submit to, there’s a good chance of rejection, but you have to try.  I actually didn’t have anything to submit this past year, so I volunteered to work behind the scenes (yes, I was a slush reader).  It actually gave me a little perspective on the whole rejection thing.  Narrowing down the submissions (most of which were really good), not to mention picking just 10, is quite a task.  If you ever get the chance to be a slush reader for anything, do it.  It gives you a new appreciation for rejection.

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Sean R. Robinson reading.
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Karen Bovenmyer reading.

Anyway, on opening night, Bonnie holds a small reception where she invites the writers to read.  A lot of the local artists tend to show up as well.  It’s a lovely experience.  My only complaint is the lack of accessibility (there are no curb cuts or ramps near the place and there are steps between the nearest ramp and the shop), which I fully blame the city of Fort Worth for.  For a place that’s commonly on top 10 lists for accommodations and accessibility, I expected more.  Step up your game, Fort Worth!  Aside from my issues with the location, the show itself is wonderful and I fully encourage both writers and visual artists to submit next year.

Until next time (which will finally be a food review)!

Yes, You Wrote It and Yes, It’s Okay To Like It

Howdy, howdy!  After a nice rest, I’ve been digging into the second novel attempt (it doesn’t have a title yet).  I’m currently just reading through it to get back into the voice and to figure out where I left off, but something strange has been happening during this process: I actually really like this story.  Like, I’d be willing to buy it if I came across it in a bookstore kind of like.  It’s weird.  Personally, I’m the type of person who usually hates everything she writes, so this is a scary concept for me.  I know I’m not alone in hating everything I write, so I thought I’d share a little about why I think I’m that way and what this experience has taught me thus far.

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Yeah, that kind of “like.”

First off, for anyone who thinks their words suck, you will be asked (repeatedly) why you keep working on something you feel so bad about.  You are not alone.  Most people don’t understand the usefulness of self-loathing.  For me, I think it’s mostly just a defense mechanism.  If I tell myself that story I just submitted sucks, then the inevitable rejection won’t hurt so much.  And yes, while a story is in the limbo of a slush pile, rejection is considered inevitable.  Maybe I’m a pessimist.  Anyway, it’s not that I actually hate my work, it’s just that if someone else ends up hating it, it doesn’t hurt as bad if I can say “yeah, I know it sucks.”

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It doesn’t suck, it just sucks.

So, what happens when self-haters can’t help but admit what they’re working on is good?  Lots of mixed emotions, that’s what.  There’s denial: “I didn’t write that.”  “There’s no way my thoughts are that organized.”  Then there’s the fanciful rationalizations: “The writing fairies got ahold of it while I wasn’t looking and changed everything.”  (Yes, they exist.  We’ve all opened our manuscripts to find things we know we couldn’t or wouldn’t have written.  It’s usually just a word or phrase, nothing too obvious.)  And finally, there’s acceptance.  That “Holy crap, I wrote this…” moment.  And you know what?  It’s okay to feel that way.

I’m still at the point in this novel where I don’t have to share it with anyone.  Where all that matters is what I think.  So, I’m allowing myself to indulge in that rare book-narcissism that I see others constantly immersed in.  Why not wrap myself in the warm fuzzy feeling of liking something I did all by myself?   The book’s not even a third of the way finished.  There will be plenty of time for hatred and disgust later, right?

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In other words, even if every fiber of your self-loathing writerly being says to resist, know that it’s okay to like your words.  Hell, some people would go so far as to say it’s a natural feeling!  Not me, of course, but others.  You can worry about all of the potential rejection later.  Right now, accept the warm fuzzies!  Accept them!  That’s right… just let it happen.

Achievement Unlocked!

Hello, hello!  So, as of Saturday (09/12), I finished a round of major revisions on Garnets and Guardians.  Huzzah!  What did I do to celebrate, you ask?  Well, I got a flu shot; a round of antibiotics for something completely unrelated, but blah inducing; and decided to take a few days off before working on another novel while this one is away with a trusty reader.  Yeah, I’m not an exciting person.

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I had to for the flu shot.

Since this is one of my days off, this post is going to be short, so I can get back to laziness.  I just wanted to share my achievements with anyone who might be interested (a girl’s got to brag some times).  I posted once before about how rewards are necessary, and wanted to let you know that I’m following my own advice.  My lazy days have been filled with:

1. Music.  I’ve been kind of obsessed with James Blunt recently (don’t ask), but also getting back into stalking some J-rock bands.

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Bonus points if you know who this man is!

2. Crossword puzzles.  You can blame Dad for that.  I usually do Mondays-Wednesdays of the syndicated NYTs puzzle, and I attempt Thursdays, but I’m behind on those.

3. Watching Charmed reruns on Netflix and catching up on Sailor Moon Crystal (no, I still haven’t finished).  P.S. I’m pretty sure all of your current favorite sci-fi/fantasy actors had bit parts in Charmed.  So many familiar faces. 

Misha Collins to Pheobe: “You must be an angel.” (Or something close to that.) 

Me: “No, you are.”

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Anyway, I’m going back to vegging.  Next week, I will return with something more interesting to ramble about!  Until then.

The Writer’s Struggle: Cultural Appropriation

Hi all!  Today, I want to talk about something that is a really touchy subject for a lot of people: cultural appropriation.  It’s something I’ve seen tossed around a lot lately, and most of the time, I wonder if the people throwing that phrase around actually understand what it implies or if they’re just looking for something to rant about.  Honestly, it usually seems like the latter.

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It’s something that’s seeping into every aspect of life.  It’s gotten to the point where people are afraid to study other cultures because some lunatic might come up screaming “cultural appropriation” at them when really, they’re trying to learn how not to appropriate things.  People are afraid to cosplay characters outside of their race and gender because of the same reason.  It’s ridiculous.  As long as the cosplayer isn’t doing anything derogatory, what’s wrong with an African American Elsa or an Hispanic Tiana or a white Mulan?  There’s nothing wrong with showing your love for a character by cosplaying as them.  And that’s what cosplay is about, love and appreciation of a character, not taking something that doesn’t belong to you.

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For a writer, cultural appropriation is a terrifying thing.  We’re constantly told to write diverse characters, especially when it comes to popular fiction.  That’s like rule number one in writing.  However, I’ve seen a huge increase in authors (mainly white authors) getting called out and put down for writing outside of their own cultures, no matter how well they did their research and how respectful they were.  Basically, it seems like we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

Personally, I tend to blend cultures in my longer stories (I’m from the U.S., aka the melting pot, so why wouldn’t I write that way?).  I’m constantly worried someone’s going to accuse me of cultural appropriation, but you know what?  I’m not going to whitewash my stories simply because some overzealous crusaders think a white chick from Texas shouldn’t incorporate Japanese culture, Greek mythology, and all of the other elements included in my stories in her work.  I like a colorful world that expands beyond my own horizons.  Sorry, not sorry.

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I do, however, follow a few rules when writing that I hope will deter the cultural appropriation shriekers if/when I get published.

1. I do my research!  Granted, I use a lot of mythology and, when there’s not a lot to go on, I tweak certain stories to fit my books, but I’m never disrespectful about it.  I know I’ll catch flak from some people for it, but I’m prepared for that.

2. I don’t rely on stereotypes when creating my characters and worlds.  Most stereotypes are quite insulting, a personification of the worst aspects of a person.  If something fits the character, I’ll use it, but it will be tempered by other aspects of human nature to create a fully fleshed out person.  At least that’s my goal.

3. The one don’t on my list is “don’t be a dick.”  I never use anything with the intention of making fun of or insulting a culture.  Research and not relying on stereotypes really helps with that.  Don’t get me wrong, my characters can be incredibly rude to each other, but there’s always a purpose for it in the stories.  It’s never an attack on any culture.

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So, to sum up…  Go learn about that culture you’re interested in (and all of the others)!  Go cosplay as that character you adore!  Go write all the things!  Just don’t be a jerk about it.

Let the Colors Shine

Hello once again!  Recently, a friend of mine released an adult coloring book (Enigmatic Mind, Vol. 1 by Shiraishi Art).  I totally encourage you to purchase it and a set of markers or colored pencils, and get to coloring!  Aside from making me want to shamelessly promote a wonderful artist, the release of this book got me thinking about other facets of my creative side (yes, I occasionally do more than write).  I used to cross-stitch, draw, paint, color, and do all kinds of artsy craftsy things before my hands decided to be evil and lose a lot of their range of motion.  It was all very relaxing.  So, I’ve decided to dedicate today’s post to alternative  passions, namely coloring and drawing.

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“Fishing” (Acrylic, 38¼” x 31”) by 6-year-old me for MDA.

When I was younger, I used to do a lot of paintings for MDA.  They used them to make gifts and thank yous for big donors and stuff like that.  But as I got older and my hands started screwing up, my mom started helping (read as: started doing most of the work).  I still draw sometimes, but if it’s anything more complicated than my usual flower design, I use my tablet (do they even call them that anymore, what with all these half-phone/half-computer tablet things?).  I haven’t even done that in a while since I’m too lazy to ask anyone to hook it up to my computer.  Honestly, the only reasons I draw anymore are either to design clothes or because I want to color.

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A gift I made for a friend. It says Lunar with Cyn below it (our nicknames).

One of my favorite types of drawing has always been to scribble random lines and color in the spaces between them.  It requires zero talent and gets you into the coloring portion of drawing pretty quickly (which is why I enjoy it so much).  Granted, my earlier pieces were simplistic and boring, but as I kept trying to make them more interesting, I discovered shading and even started hiding messages in them.  The piece above is one of my favorites.

On the rare occasion that I do try to draw people, I tend to focus on the clothes (I suck at faces and hair and hands and things), I always have.  Even then, I start with a line and work my way out from there with the end goal of being able to color.  No idea why.  I think it’s mostly because of that random love of designing clothes that I mentioned (I don’t usually wear fancy things, but it’s fun to imagine them).

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Something drawn out of boredom. The dress is an oddly simple design.

It is an oddly refreshing experience to control something down to its very color.  You control the light, the texture, everything.  It’s very much like writing in that way, only more visual.  A lot of people equate creativity with freedom, but for me, it’s more about control.  I have complete control over the worlds I create, whether writing or drawing.  It’s kind of a relief when compared to living in the real world.