Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Why I think Writing Courses are Cool and Free is Awesome.

I enrolled in a distance learning course on fantasy fiction writing, and have just started it. Within the first thirty minutes, I learned new things. Fantasy is not a total unknown to me, but it wasn't my favorite or starting genre, and already I feel more confident in my ability to write while having a guide and lesson plans. 

I absolutely know, however, that some people find that draining in the worst way. But I think as a WAHM they help me tremendously...

Writing courses, for me, help channel my attention into getting something done. While I can and did finish a novel without it, I damn sure am not interested in doing it again right now with our busy schedule, and three child life, and fighting the drains on my everyday health. I needed this. And I needed it right now because when so much is in flux or you are having a rough year, it just seems to help to fixate on accomplishing something even if it's just an online course. 

I'm a GIANT fan of libraries, they have done so much to increase the quality of life for so many, including my children, and guess what: This course was offered completely free through a local library program. And they have tons of other courses and certificates. Before you go paying hundreds of bucks for distance learning, please check around at your library and other online sources just to see if what you want or need to learn is offered. 

Want to hear a kind of ugly truth? Had I known about things like this, I probably would not have gone back to university chasing my certificate. 

I would have had more time at home with my baby (who was, back then, a baby-baby) and my older two, who were still kind of tiny...

I maybe would have felt a little less brave, but you know what, maybe not. The piece of paper you get from going to $chool will not help you the way just getting #$% done will in humanities. It won't. This would have been an easier and less insane way to accomplish the extra training, and while I was grateful to get the chance to work with programs like Maya on huge mega computers at college-I could have done some of that at home, too. For free. 

Those wasted nights, those days I should have been taking care of my health, those finals so stressful I often caught an illness preparing for them, those nights I was unable to eat dinner with my family or eat dinner at all...I don't feel now that it was worth my time. And that is the truth.

 I wanted that piece of paper because I was fighting the effects of being conditioned to think I was worthless. 

The distance learning classes, you are there simply because that is where you want to be and what you want to learn. You're not expensively ticking off a list of pre-approved subjects you need to prove competent in even if they make you want to jam a pencil in your brain. 
We're not even going to talk about the scary painting instructor or how long this
took to get finished...Or the fact that I have to redo this illustration for
it to be useable. Seriously, online courses are the way to go sometimes...

So, if you find you are fighting writer's block or just fighting the funk, maybe a free online course might help. Learning for fun is the best way to be a human. And you never know where it may lead.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Writing Different Body Types and How Not to be Terrible.

I recently heard several complaints about books who were advertising having a plus size heroine or hero focusing in on weight so often throughout the work that it became comical or distracting. 

Seriously, in writing (and in real life) DO NOT DO THAT. You could maybe use an exception for focusing on one trait or marking if it becomes a plot point or a smoking gun, something important (like Potter's scar, which was still mentioned less in the series that the weight of the main character in this singular novel). 

When you write for a body type (any) don't dig up overused adjectives, and for the love of everything, don't continually mention it. 

In literature, as in life, weight is one detail. One. I tend to mention it once when writing a character, maybe twice, but usually just that once. First, it keeps from barraging the reader while they are painting the picture of your characters in their own mind, and secondly, once again, it is one detail and not generally made to make or break an entire image or convey anything else. When you use it that way, it often reads as unimaginative. 

Listen, being fat isn't easy. I mean I have been overweight from birth. It never got better, or easier. The worst part about it is always the abuse. We're not represented well or often, and when we are, whoever was brave enough to try it is demonized for treating fat people like human beings. I guess we are supposed to be continually ashamed until we're thin. That has never worked, and studies show that the abuse of overweight people actively hurts them, but hey, maybe they are only trying the shaming thing because that is all they could come up with...

And that is why body type in literature (and the ability not to focus on just that in character building) matters. It fleshes out your world, and if you do it right, the real world. 

Nobody has to like or love your body type. And you can write for characters with any body type you wish-thin, fat, in between- hell, create a character with NO BODY (those are fun). 

Honestly, the only time it becomes an issue is when somebody who doesn't like a trait about you rails against your right to exist. 

Nobody has that authority. Nobody. You can prefer green-eyed people over those with blue eyes, but you can not discriminate, abuse, or call into question the worth of a person with blue eyes. That's literally the only line. That's it. You can dislike anything you want, without owing an explanation. And that is 100% your's, and you can own it in your fiction, too. 

Just don't hurt other people for what they look like. 

You would think we'd be better at this by now. 

That's a really, really simple concept. 

For those of you writing for bodies of all shapes and sizes compassionately and well, thank you. I'm hoping to pass onto my children the idea that we are all more than a number on the scale, and when more fiction supports that, it will make a big difference. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

In Praise of the Small Celebrations

We're not doing the big birthday party thing this year. 

We're not. At all. 

I just read a post about a mom who said that and still rented her kids a hotel to have a party sleepover in. Don't get me wrong, I don't do sleepovers, so having that in a hotel when they are teens sounds like a good idea. But that is totally a  BIG birthday party. 

Now, the kids will still have presents-we try really hard to get them what they want each year and spend a great deal of time choosing the best thing. Still making a cake/cookie/brownie/lasagna-made-of sugar or whatever you want birthday treat. 

But the party stuff can go to hell. I tried, I did. We spent too much on reservations, messed up our schedules and ended up in almost DANGEROUSLY crowded play spaces to accommodate other people our kids loved being there on their messed up schedules. 

#$%* that. 

We HAVE to be better about saving money. And that isn't a bad thing for the kids to learn. A simple cake at home on a special day and gifts nixes that $50.00-$23,410,948,098.52 dollar party reservation and party food and party favors. 

Also, being the parent of a neurologically diverse set of kids means sometimes their peers are not great to them. I hate seeing their feelings get hurt over birthday invitations. We have a lovely set of friends who strove every single year to make sure they always had people who loved them around and holy hell do I appreciate all of that in ways I can't even find words for. But they do the same thing for our holidays, and that shouldn't be on them entirely x3 a year plus. My kids have to know they are loved even without big birthday gatherings and tons of gifts. Love is far more than that, and they have REAL love in their lives from these people and their children. 

My youngest also can become very shy, and hates crowds. Not a good mix. 

I think it also redistributes real world expectations. I don't want them to feel like they didn't do the right thing if they don't want to show up for that big house party. Small celebrations make it okay to have small celebrations. 

And honestly? Party planning is stressful. Not planning for our friends, but the kids at school who might show up, who might not, and standing around with other parents I don't really know is stressful. I would rather be at the dentist. I don't want my kids growing up thinking parenting is this exercise in sacrificing everything that makes you comfortable or happy in life for your child. I'm not a mothering expert, but I know that is a bad recipe. And it's not a path I'd want them on. As near as I can tell, parenting is balancing bringing these small people into your life with YOUR life and finding the real joys in that...

So, a cake at home with presents and then if it is possible-inviting other kids they love to do a free (usually outdoor) activity like a park date- with no expectations of them having to bring more gifts- is what we are doing this year. No more big #$%*ing parties. Just small celebrations and laid back expectations. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Dirty Secret Inspirations.

We all have our favorite books, the ones that changed us, changed how we looked at the world, changed our entire damn lives. 

And then we have the books we read and knew we wanted to write like that. For some people, it's probably the same. It wasn't for me, though. I don't remember the series changing me or the way I thought. Maybe made the idea of bravery more important, though I can hardly remember. 

I caught someone reading a book with zombies on the cover, when I saw it was based in a video game world I wrote it off. The reader then told me the entire gory adaptation was written by a woman. Not sure how often that happens now, but back that, wasn't something I came across every day. I made a note of it, and later when our library stocked the entire series in the YA section, I checked out every one of them. I was working as a substitute then, and would use our between periods or that fifteen minutes you received in which you were either 1. pressured to work for another classroom or 2. expected to choke down food to camp out and read. I finished the series in a few months. 

In case you haven't guessed yet, the novels were S.D. Perry's Resident Evil books. Who the hell ever gave me the impression these sort of books weren't fantastic? I should have picked them up the day I saw another person reading them. Maybe not all of them are. But these made you SCARED. Vulnerable to the scratches and bumps you hear in the dark. The descriptions are still some of the best I have ever encountered in the world of detailed bloody horror, and I wasn't a super fan of Resident Evil as a game series. It was okay, it's fun to play co-op in ways most other spooky games never have been, but the writing here is great. 

I read S.D. Perry's works and felt at home. I felt like I could do this. Like I was driven to write dark fiction and horror. Those books were my dirty secret inspirations. But I disagree with having to hide that, and would recommend any fan of this genre to go ahead and try these. 

Not really long after that, I started looking into the Dead Space universe for graphic novels and was also REALLY impressed. These are dark, detailed worlds. Things toted as not wonderful writing or world building because of where they were based, but that is absolute bullplop because they are those things. 

So, I guess long story short is don't be afraid to find your spark of inspiration anywhere. 

It's not less valid no matter where you found it. Browse writing in every genre and form, and find what speaks to you as an author and a reader. And then, talk about it. You never know if your recommendations might help someone else discover what they need. 

Chronicles of the Chronically Ill Parent

I probably had two tear-filled breakdowns after getting a new heart diagnosis. I think at two, I was doing pretty well. 

What haunts you most is how it changes parenting, and being there for your family. My goals became just to get another fifteen years out of life-to make sure all of our children were grown. I hope I get to have that. I also hope being this sick doesn't hold them or my husband back, or hold me back from helping them...It bothered me so much after my severe tacchy episode that my baby would just tell me she loved me twenty times a day-she would suddenly drop what she was exploring and hold me like she was scared I was going away. And she can now work the buttons on the blood pressure cuff. I feel so sad this has to be a part of her life at all. 

I wasn't healthy before, but I was the kind of sick people could forget about. And I didn't talk about it because who the hell wants to reminisce about that time you were allergic to yourself? Or found out you had a scarred and messed up kidney while in surgery? What about that time you had a heart episode while pregnant and fainted? Or when you had to have operations for your miscarriages and kept setting off heart alarms and almost bleeding to death? Fun times. 

Now, I can't hide it. I have to work toward being more in shape, but it won't get rid of what is going on, which I realized mid-stride while swimming laps this late summer and having to cope with chest pain. 

I don't have support from an extended family, but I do have it in our close friends. And my husband helps out so much. Him just being around allows me to navigate life easier, but he actually helps, too. Chores I can't deal with, homework, DIY projects-he's wonderful at all of it and I am so lucky. We've had to instrument a system of cleaning for allowance for the older kids. It keeps everything mostly manageable and they are excited to earn dollars here and there. Since they attend a charter school, we have expensive uniforms to keep up with, and they've learned the schedules and procedures for wash days so I have everything in place. The homework here, thankfully, is reasonable. Something I know a lot of students and parents don't have. 

Truly, I'm lucky. I'm lucky to be alive, and lucky to have the family I do have. 

You still feel guilty, though. You feel bad for not being able to take them more places, to more lessons, you feel guilty for ordering take-out when you can't cook, hell sometimes I feel guilty for when the toddler is in disposables instead of cloth. I feel guilty for not homeschooling or having the energy to really consider it. You think life was supposed to be more than this. I was supposed to be more than this. 

And you feel guilty when you're not working, too. 

I understand where it comes from, but I also know it's useless. 

I'm not going to beat myself up about it this year. I refuse. I'm going to try to include down time activity lists (sensory bins, movie days with blankets and pillows, board games) and really easy meals for the days when I feel terribly or have an episode. My husband even said to find work for the joy of it this time around since it is something I can finally consider-and to realize my work was worth something. Also a thing I have trouble with...So, yeah, no real freebies this year. Except blog buttons. You will get some of those pretty soon. But other than that, anything I put out this year will be WORTH SOMETHING. And it will bring me some happiness. Or I'm not bothering. 

Low-key NYE at home with my favorite human beings.
Waiting on the homemade balloon drop, which my husband almost fell
off of the couch to do...I'll try and think this through better next year. 

Because, from what we can gather, I get a short time here. To live some kind of happy life. That doesn't include working for a jerk for free, and it doesn't include projects I don't want to deal with that take me away from moments that matter. I also need to budget the time to care for myself and my sickness which means exercise and eating better. I'm going to work on asking for help when I need it. Chronic illness impacts the hell out of life, but instead of hiding it and suffering I can reach out so that the hit is not so hard on all of us

2017 is the year I chase joy, and get the hell out of my own way.