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I did some writer things

If I’m a writer that means I’m a writer everyday, right? I don’t just don on the writer hat when I’m writing or doing writer things. I always wear that hat, right? Along with my human hat and chocolate addict hat, yes?

Of course, some days I don’t feel like a writer at all, just a stressed, unemployed student with hardly any time to read or write thanks to university preparation, job searching, and upcoming graduation. It’s been awhile since I felt like a “writer.”

Last week I was feeling particularly writerly, however. On June 12 I ventured with Zozie to Calabay Cafe in Truro to participate in a night of music and poetry, organized by local poet Chad Norman. The night featured local musicians Brian Porter, Dave Hayman, and Dale McCabe, and poet Paul Zann along with Chad and myself. Paul Zann is amazing reader. If I can ever read as engagingly as he can, I will be perfectly happy.

It had been awhile since I had done a reading in public, and I forgot how great it is to share poetry (and music) with people who enjoy it as much as I do.

Naturally I’m an introvert, and for the most part pretty quiet, but I love reading to others and hearing others perform. Whatever nerves I have (most of them being stamped out through seven years of 4-H public speaking) vanish when I start with introducing whatever it is I’m reading. Poetry is something I’m happy to share. I enjoy it. And it’s when this happens that I remember that I am a writer, not just an anxious, penny-pinching student.

And, to show you how small Nova Scotia is, two of the audience members were past graduates of my high school (one of who was a lovely gentleman kind enough to buy my book).

Calabay Cafe is beautiful, the staff is wonderful, and the chai lattes ARE TO DIE FOR (THEY ARE GLORIOUS CLOUDS FROM HEAVEN IN A MUG). I highly recommend stopping by — the chai lattes alone are enough to make me go back.

What else have I done to make me reaffirm the ownership of my writer hat?

I did an interview with Colchester Weekly, posted on the Truro Daily website.

I sold the seventieth copy of my book (which is currently out of stock, by the way).

I’m in the process of designing a bookmark.

I’ll be publishing something (it’s a surprise) at some point in the very near future.

And I’ll (hopefully) be able to spend some time this summer working on my YA novel.

Bonne chance, mes amis!

Libby

 

PS: Chad Norman is organizing the third annual RiverWords Poetry and Musical Festival for July 12th in Bible Hill, NS. I participated last year, and this year has a great line up. Spread the word and help support local artists. 🙂RiverWords 2014 (2)-page-001

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#YesAllWomen: Feminist jokes aren’t funny

Since I heard news of the UCSB massacre I’ve had a hard time putting my feelings into words. I think I’ve passed from an emotional response and into a sort of numbing phase of confusion, anger, and defensiveness. I’m deeply disturbed by Friday’s events on top of the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls more than a month ago. The trend #YesAllWomen over the last few days has unveiled a massive outpouring of tweets spreading awareness of discrimination, violence, and sexual violence against women, and while I’ve been re-tweeting a storm, I’ve only composed one #YesAllWomen tweet thus far.

I have plenty of things to say, experiences to share, but I haven’t been able to put them into words, and like many other women, I’m afraid to put forth an opinion on the internet that may be too “big” or “bold” or have repercussions on my life (the woman who started the #YesAllWomen trend has since privatized her Twitter account, which I have both utter respect and sadness for). This fear alone, of expressing an opinion that may be construed as “feminist” and could result in backlash and even online attacks from strangers,  is an example of the long journey women still have towards the world of gender equality. We shouldn’t be afraid to express opinions, to be labelled as the dreaded f-word, to be made fun of, looked down on, or seen as overreacting or ridiculous.

Normally I’m pretty tolerant of my friends making “feminist” jokes, because I know they’re not terrible people and simply taking advantage of my good sense of humour, but these last few days have been different. I was horrified. Did they realize what happened only days ago? Did they know one man felt so sexually entitled to have women that he killed six people over ten crime scenes and left a haunting YouTube video detailing his hatred towards women? Did they know someone made a Facebook fanpage for the killer (which I along with many others have reported for removal to no avail)? Have they seen the reactions from women (and men) around the globe? Why is it funny to make fun of a group of people who are fighting for gender equality at any time, let alone in this time of tragedy? Why is it humourous to jokingly insult someone who believes in women’s rights, improvement of women’s standing in the social scheme, who openly talks about the media maltreatment of women and girls and proudly calls herself a feminist? There are certain things you can poke fun at, and advocating women’s rights and opposing hatred and violence against women is not one of them.

And why didn’t I tell my friends this? Why did I paste on a half-hearted grimace like I usually do? I brushed off a jab that “jokingly” demeans a massive human rights movement and insults the memory of the victims of the UCSB attack. Feminism is not funny. Societal attitudes towards women as objects, sex toys, submissive wives, and men-pleasers are not funny. Mass murder is not funny.

I recommend taking the time to read through some of the #YesAllWomen tweets.

she's someone

The Truth Will Out: The Age Closet

Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, by their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.

~Oscar Wilde

Greetings, Internet! I’ve recently had a bit of an online identity crisis. This has happened before: flashback to 2012, and then my super long extended blogging hiatus in which I abandoned Let Them Grumble and created this blog/website/thing in August. Since I started blogging two years ago, a lot has happened to me.

I’ve been published in three anthologies. I self-published my first collection of poetry and short stories.

I have met some wonderful people online and in person, and haven’t followed any of your blogs nearly as diligently as some of you have followed mine.

I’ve changed my main blogging topic from Anne Boleyn to writing to feminism and everything (and I mean everything) in between.

I’ve switched countless themes and two domain names and attempted a character blog.

I’ve grown in the last two years. Every post, comment, like, and follow has impacted how I perceive other writers, history fans, feminists, bloggers, and people in general. And I wanted to thank you all for that — goshdarnit I don’t care how cheesy I’m being. I know I sound like Bilbo Baggins at his one hundred and eleventh birthday party, but I swear I’m not going to pop on a magic ring and disappear again.

When I started blogging, I made the decision to remain somewhat anonymous. The main reasoning for this (other than online safety) was because I wanted to be taken seriously as both a blogger and a writer. I know I’ve posted some very non-serious things, but I didn’t want who I was to impact how people thought of me and my writing.

I was afraid of being stereotyped because of my age.

Of course some of you knew how old I was, or guessed, and obviously I wasn’t a 95-year-old woman judging by my profile photos, but I didn’t want my age to become relevant to my content, even if it was a compliment. I wrote my first blog post just before I turned sixteen. Now I’m eighteen.

I know those of you who take the time to read, like, and comment on my posts don’t care how old I am because you’re fabulous anyway, but there would have been those skeptical to read the blog of a sixteen-year-old rambling on about the validity of Anne Boleyn’s reproductive organs or researching for novel-writing. I didn’t want to be labelled as a “teenage blogger/writer.” I wanted to be a blogger. I wanted to be a writer. Period. No stigma of teenagers attached. I didn’t want anyone to think, “Oh that Libby. She’s so cute thinking she’s a writer, and she’s only 15-18.”

So, the little italicized voice asks, why are you coming out of your age closet, Libby? 

And yeah. I take selfies.
And yeah. I take selfies.

Since I joined Twitter I’ve interacted with several “teenage bloggers/writers” and these are the ones that inspired me to come out of my age-caged turtle shell. Not only are they successful at both blogging and writing, but they have a certain pride regarding their age. They don’t care that they’re XX years old, but it is a part of their life and it is something many of them talk about in their social media outlets. I loved “meeting” them online. There’s an entire online community of teenage writers that I had no idea about. They were fascinating. I wanted to support them because I understood. I had things in common with them, things I wanted to say “Me too!” at, until I remembered I was keeping my specific age locked away in a dungeon so none of my adult followers would judge or label me, consciously or unconsciously.

I want to be able to relate and reach out to other writers/bloggers/feminists who happen to be in their teens. I want to support them and swap experiences with them.

Do I want my age to suddenly become centre stage? No. But if my age makes it easier for others to share their experiences or for me to share mine, then I will happily add the phrase “teen writer” to my online bio.

I’m tired of hiding in my age closet. It’s unnecessary and inconvenient. If I want to tell you about the time George Elliott Clarke visited my Advanced English class, I will. (Sidenote: it was fantastic.) If I want to give advice on how to apply for scholarships, I will. (Sidenote: user discretion is recommended.) Where I previously avoided talking about age-related activities, I will embrace them.

So yes. I am a teenager, and it does take up a considerable amount of my life. Unlike some writers I have tests and exams to study for, research papers to write, and preparations for university to make. I haven’t seen a whole lot the world yet, but I will. I like teenage things and adult things. I’m afraid and excited for the next stages of my journey — writing, publishing, attending university, and otherwise. I want my work to continue to be taken seriously, and hopefully more seriously as I accomplish more in the coming years.

My name is Libby, and I am an eighteen-year-old writer, blogger, feminist, and chocolate addict extraordinaire.

Wanted: Muse

i’m not in love

but i’m not heartbroken

i’m not lost

but i’m not found

i’m not bored

but i’m missing something wondrous

i’m not empty

but i’m not inspired

i’m searching

but i haven’t found it yet

wanted: muse

audrey-hepburn-mark-shaw-5
Audrey, be my muse?

Okay so hey guys. I feel like I haven’t blogged in a while…but I’ll be back with some actual non-poetry things eventually. I’m working on a new small project, and some littler ones. I plan on e-publishing a few of my short stories this summer, so stay tuned! 🙂

a good note

i like to end things on a good note

 

but I don’t want to leave

        in the middle of the symphony

and step on everyone’s toes

 

as I shuffle silently through aisles to indignant whispers

long before the curtain falls

 

—i don’t want to miss the ending to the show, the finale

 

but I can’t bear to hear the final note fade

        or to see your final bow

Image

Evolution of the Nine-Year-Old Feminist

Today I encountered a rather angry and defiant nine-year-old girl. Maybe she was ten or eleven, but regardless of the number, part of her attitude reminded me of myself at a similar age. She proclaimed her disdain for flowers, dresses, and other “girly” things. She loudly announced, “I hate princesses. They’re ugly,” while the four-year-old girl next to her drew ten crowned princesses and purple kitties on purple paper.

From my perspective at first this seemed insensitive and harsh, and perhaps downright wrong of the outspoken, opinionated nine-year-old. I tried explaining that liking princesses was okay, and you can like both girl and boy things, or one, or neither. Of course this didn’t sink in — what nine-year-old girl listens to someone trying to explain that other opinions are right too?

Some girls are angry at boys, and some girls are angry at girls. Click for source.

But she reminded me of me. I was that girl, the one who hated admitting affection for dresses, the colour pink, and swore to wear jeans and rubber boots to her wedding. Especially at school, where there were boys around, I would play tag, partake in spitting contests, and look down on the girls who openly obsessed about girlish things. While this in part was a facade (I enjoyed playing Barbies as much as the next girl), my expressions of contempt for femininity was most likely my first feminist act (albeit a little narrow-minded).

I was probably subconsciously angry about being part of the gender that received the lesser end of the power battle I witnessed between men/boys and women/girls. The boys at school were the ones allowed to get in trouble, do rough things, do well in class, and have the opportunity to have really cool career options like astronaut, carpenter, soldier, or police officer. Most of the elementary school teachers were women, and the principal for many years was a man. All of my friends’ fathers were the breadwinners of their families, and nearly all the adult women I knew were mothers. Like the nine-year-old girl I met today, I knew something was unbalanced in this gender division, and I was angry about it.

Of course at home and school they taught us girls that we could be anything we wanted, too. We could be astronauts as well. But hearing it and seeing it and becoming it are entirely different things. The message we received was something along the lines of “Astronaut is a male occupation that girls can aim for.” They never said this, but that was what we understood. Instead of astronaut being just an occupation, it was so obviously a male occupation that women could attempt (girls can be astronauts, too). We all knew how important astronauts were, and for it to be a male occupation meant (subliminally) to be male was more important.

Taunts were thrown around: you’re such a girl! you’re such a sissy! Never was you’re such a boy! hurled as an insult. To the young mind, being more masculine and hating feminine things meant being “better,” and we adapted to this mindset to surpass our delicate butterfly-loving fellows through angry and often wrong outbursts of opinion.

As I grew older and more perceptive, I moved my anger away from feminine things and towards the gender imbalance itself. Instead of hating on girls who adored pink flowered dresses, I questioned the reasons for it. I was still angry. I remember vividly my grade seven gym class where the teacher offhandedly mentioned that boys can throw balls farther and harder. I took this personally as a female — were my abilities biologically going to be less superior than that of my male classmates? Was I doomed to be less important because of my gender?

I guess I was a pretty intense pre-teen, still upset about the gender gap without knowing why or how or what I could do about it other than poster-We-Can-Do-Itprove to the boys that I could be as good at everything as they were (or better) and to prove to the girls that they could, too.

But that angry pre-teen developed an interest in feminism and gender equality, and turned her anger into passion. She still gets frustrated at people who think (or pretend to think) that a woman’s place is in a kitchen, nursery, or classroom, but that is expected. She likes things that are classified as both feminine and masculine, and tries to blur the lines between gender-based categories for the children she works with. Boys can like princesses, and so can girls. Girls can like tractors, and so can boys. Maybe you like neither, or both.

Whatever it was that first made the nine-year-old I met today angry about femininity in herself and her classmates, I hope that like me, she turns her anger into something a little more balanced and productive. Who knows? Maybe one day she’ll identify herself as a feminist, just as I do.

Has any one else experienced the evolution of the nine-year-old feminist?

Book Review: Shadows in the Stone!

Hello, internet! It’s been a while (once again) since I’ve stopped by, and I’ve really fallen behind on reading all the wonderful blogs I follow. With today’s snow day (snow week?) I thought I’d catch up on some things.

Back in January, Diane Lynn McGyver was kind and generous enough to give me a copy of her debut novel Shadows in the Stone (Quarter Castle Publishing, 2012) to review. I feel awful that it has taken me so long to get around to it, but here I am!

Corporal Bronwyn Darrow is an honour-driven, hard working young dwarf (and not a Tolkien-esque dwarf, either) who is dedicated to rising in the ranks of the Aruam Castle. When he comes to be the legal guardian of Isla, a hauflin child, he learns, among other things, that there is more to life than work and status. Alaura of Niamh, a young enchantress with a mysterious past, becomes entangled in the lives of Bronwyn and Isla, and this is essentially where the story kicks off, following Alaura and Bronwyn on their physical and metaphorical journeys to save Isla (and everyone else) from a dark and mysterious outside force.

Without giving too much more away about the plot, I will say right away that this was unlike any other fantasy novel I’ve read before. It contains all the yummy elements of a traditional fantasy — an evil magician, a prophecy, dwarfs, elves, and of course a little hard-to-get romance between the two main characters — but there are other aspects that aren’t really typical, and that I absolutely adore.

diane coverThe relationships between all the characters are what steals the show for me: Bronwyn’s relationships with his parents and siblings, his friend Farlan, his daughter Isla, and best friend/hardcore love interest Alaura. I don’t usually see strong familial ties in fantasy books, probably because most of the time the main character is an orphan, and I love the scenes where Bronwyn attends family dinners, banters with his siblings, and seeks advice from his parents.

The fact that Bronwyn and Alaura are friends first and love interests second (for the most part) is one of my favourite things in the entire book. Their ability to help each other, work together, argue incessantly, and understand each other is inspiring, and not what I expected. The forces keeping them apart romantically — usually set up or created by Bronwyn or Alaura themselves — makes us as readers want to slap some sense into them because they love each other and they both know it. The sexual tension is killing me. (But sshhh, as a reader, I actually don’t want them to get together because I like their friendship too much.)

Isla is the little girl everyone loves, but she’s not just a cutie that needs protection from the adults 100% of the time. She’s independent, strong-willed, incredibly clever, and able to gain the help and alliance of those around her in order to survive. Her friendship with fellow hauflin Liam is something I look forward to the development of in future books, and I’m eager to see her become a strong and caring young woman. Out of all the characters in the book, I think Isla is my favourite, followed by fierce and powerful Alaura (everyone loves a strong heroine).

The book as a whole is stunning visually. The Land of Ath-o Lea is beautiful and varied, and I’m curious to know more about the politics of it, and how humans, elves, dwarfs, and hauflins all coexist. I want to read an Ath-o Lea history book on how it all came to be. Many of the scenes are so well described it felt more like I was watching a movie rather than reading a book — when this happens in novels, I am an incredibly happy reader.

If I have anything to say that is a critique it’s that I would like a glossary of characters/places and a pronunciation guide at the back. Maybe it’s because I read it in chunks over a long period of time rather than in one or two sittings (time constraints didn’t allow for this) but I had a wee little bit of a difficult time keeping track of who was who and where, especially the minor characters. It was a book that I had to consciously dedicate time to. It’s not what I would consider a casual, easy, light-hearted read for bus travel, but one for snow days where one stays put for several hours at once.

All in all, Shadows in the Stone is what I consider a very unique, relationship-oriented novel with fascinating, multifaceted characters in a diverse and changing world. I’m intrigued as to where the plot is headed, because I honestly have no idea.

**I wouldn’t recommend this book for young readers, as there is some sexually intense scenes and graphic content, but to everyone else, especially fantasy fans, go for it!

The Bus Stop Bench

One of those days when the rain clouds

Are so low I have to duck to keep my head out of them

And they cover the sun to make morning look like dusk,

Thousands of tiny liquid stars fall to quench the thirst

Of wilting July flowers and lost souls

 

I go outside, coatless, to be watered

Letting the screen door slam shut behind me

In a shower of mist and creaky hinges.

I follow the river-sidewalk to a bus stop bench

With peeling green paint and take a seat

In my star-soaked jean shorts.

I bury my toes in the five inches of turf

Between the bench and the sidewalk

A world for the surfacing pink worms to cross

Where they will shrivel and die when

The sun brings their hot-concrete Armageddon.

 

I absorb the tiny stars in my skin

And my arms and legs and hair become slick

With the gathering galactic water.

Before I never understood why florists spray

The flowers completely if the roots are the part that

Drink, but now I know.

The ricochets of rain pelting my face in the energy of

Each ping of every drop

I sit, covered in diaphanous liquid stars

And I imagine I glow in the gloomy darkness of noon

 

Someone else has joined me at the bus stop bench

To be watered too, I suppose.

He wears a coat with the collar turned up

And a faded Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap

With a frayed brim like laugh lines around a smile

That doesn’t exist anymore

 

The rain only touches his face and his hands, folded

On his lap over wet denim jeans.

I slide over and take his hat off, because I want him to

Feel the tiny stars like I do

He’s startled like someone should be when a stranger takes

Their hat off, and his glare of surprise is brown

Like a cinnamon stick.

He asks me what I’m doing

—You’ll be watered better if you let the rain touch your skin

—What?

—Do it

But maybe he sees that I’m glowing so he takes his coat off

And a grin slowly spreads across a face with a freckled nose

I know he can feel the energy of the stars in his skin too

 

We sit at the bus stop bench in front of a sidewalk

That wriggles in happy fat worms dancing in the stars

But that will be shrivelled and dead this time tomorrow

And everyone else has umbrellas and coat collars and hats

And we have nothing between us and the rain

That feeds maps into our lost souls

Image
Source here!

(Busy busy busy like bees — I have some reviews coming up, and a couple rants to deliver, but for now here’s a poem I wrote in a moment of summer nostalgia. What do you miss most about summer? I’m pining for walks in the rain, can you tell?)

28 Things to do on Valentine’s Day (Illustrated with Harry Potter gifs)

I admit, it can be cute, and I love individual aspects of Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate, for one. And roses. And love. Those are all nice things.

**warning: next paragraphs are over-exaggerated, melodramatic, and full of gifs**

Buuut, it’s basically a holiday that boosts the greeting card industry, lingerie sales, risk of diabetes, attendance at bad romantic comedy films starring Taylor Swift, and stress (which in extreme cases over time can cause health problems and even death).

We single ladies/men are expected to moan about being alone, sitting at home eating ice cream from a container and watching The Notebook in our pajamas. We single ladies/men are expected to be unhappy.

See this BuzzFeed post. While it’s funny, it’s sarcastic implications are concerning.

I’m not going to dwell on this, because of course everyone knows Valentine’s Day is a great time to be single. While all your attached friends are out having awkward dinners and forgetting to take their birth control, you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT. It’s like Christmas, but without the loud relatives and Michael Bublé music blasting from every radio station.

Here are some suggestions for how you can spend your Valentine’s Day, if you’re single or not.

1. You can go out.

Alone or with friends. Or with the Dark Lord. Source here.

2. You can stay in.

…we probably have similar definitions of staying in. You know, pajamas, friends, etc. Source here.

3. Chocolate. I mean, it’ll be on sale tomorrow so you could wait. But you probably shouldn’t.

Filch it. Filch them all. Source here.

4. You don’t have to shave your legs. (You don’t have to shave your legs, ever.)

Even Snape is happy about this. No more Venus razors for me, suckers. Source here.

5. Watch endless episodes of Simon’s Cat.

This is why they invented internet, for ancient Egyptian cat worship. Source here. 

6. Dance to your playlists from highschool in your underwear.

Pretty sure I have the Lovegood dancing gene. Just let loose, man. Dance. Source here.

7. Invite your other single ladies/men over and play board games — because playing board games with your friends is highly underrated.

I’m no chess wiz. I’m more of a checkers type girl. Source here.

8. You can do nothing. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to exist. You can go about your life as usual and ignore consumerist attempts to get you to buy heart-shaped pillows that match absolutely nothing in your house.

Harry is talking the talk. Source here.

9. Buy your cat another bag of Temptations (because I’m sure you already have at least one bag).

Especially if he eats ears. Give the cat some treats. Source here.

10. Send your mom an embarrassing collage of all the selfies you’ve taken together.

harry-potter-selfie

No source necessary. We all know where this came from.

11. Rearrange your Harry Potter books.

Because you’re the only one who knows how to do it correctly, and with love. Source here.

12. Send terrible jokes to Facebook friends you don’t really know.

How many wizards does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Source here.

13. Cuddle.With a pillow, a cat, a dog, a friend, your favourite stuffed animal left over from childhood. Cuddle.

Nothing is better than a long hug. I’m sirius about this, guys. Source here.

14. Blast Serena Ryder.

Dumbledore knows what’s up. Source here.

15. Stalk cute people on Twitter even if they live in a different country.

Twitter flirting is the best flirting. @LibbySometimes 😉 Source here.

16. You should probably be nice and share your chocolate with others. Sharing is caring (even if it’s hard).

chocolate

Bless her heart. I could never do it. Source here.

17. Spend hours on IMDb planning all your trips to the movie theatres for the next year.

Research is important. Source here.

18. Reminisce about your exes. Laugh at all the poor attached people having to suffer through dates and other assorted pressures.

Gotta love uncomfortable social situations. Source here.

19. Eat lots of food for no other reason than because you can.

My life. Source here. 

20. Write a passive aggressive blog post/Facebook status/Tweet about Valentine’s Day.

Vent your feelings. I am. Source here.

21. Watch Jurassic Park.

And do you best raptor impression. Source here. 

22. Watch V for Vendetta.

Hugo Weaving causes excitement where ever he goes. Except future British governments. Source here.

23. Watch Sherlock.

MY FEELINGS. Source here.

24. Watch The Big Bang Theory re-runs.

I applaud your nerdiness, Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Roj. Source here.

25. Watch anything with Liam or Chris Hemsworth’s pretty faces and impeccable jeans genes.

One gif for Chris…

And one for Liam. Sources here and here.

26. Practice your axe-throwing. (Maybe start with darts. Or packing peanuts.)

You know, safety first. Source here.

27. Photobooth.

But I won’t judge you. Source here.

28. For each person you love, send them a single, anonymous red rose with a note that says “I’m watching you.”

That’s a special kind of love. Source here.

So happy Valentine’s Day, if you’re single or not.

Sources here and here.

Rainy Cafe

I just wanted to pop in from my busy life and share this with you!

This came up on my Facebook newsfeed a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been using it ever since when it comes to writing or get work done. (Who are we kidding? Writing IS getting work done.) You can fill your ears with the sound of rain, the sound of a busy café, or both. You can play with volume and whatnot, but this has been a surprisingly helpful focus agent for me.

Happy writing/reading!

Keep on loving, dudes,
Lib

Enter the rainy café here.

oscar wilde world

10 New Year’s Resolutions Everyone Should Do

Happy New Year, everyone! Whether you celebrated last night with sequins and alcohol, friends and a movie, or a kiss with your significant other, the good news is that we made it to 2014! And we all know what New Year’s Day means. Resolutions. We have to make resolutions, to shape a new me, make ourselves better, newer, shinier. Lose the weight, get the girl/guy, write a book, give up drinking or smoking…

Last year I compiled a list of 10 New Year’s resolutions on my old blog. To update, I failed to finish A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin (I made it 7/8 through Book Four and for some reason stopped…and now I don’t remember what happened, so I have to start it again), I did not become the godmother of William and Kate’s little Prince George, and I didn’t meet the love of my life (but if you’re out there, 2014 isn’t too late). I did however, publish a book. It wasn’t a novel and it didn’t become a film or a teen fettish, but hey. I did it. I kind of blogged more…sort of. Here I am, anyway.

The birth of Prince George was one of the highlights of 2013. Click for Source.
The birth of Prince George was one of the highlights of 2013.

But let’s cut to the chase.

New Year’s resolutions are about making yourself better (apparently). Here are 10 smallish resolutions I’d like to attempt, and that I think everyone else should too.

1. Watch a foreign film.

Like, who watches foreign films? We see them flaunted a wee bit during awards season, but that’s it. We don’t follow up, look it up, go through the pleasurable pain of illegally streaming it from the internet, sitting on your bed at 1 am and squinting at the captions glowing on your screen. At least I don’t. But spending two hours watching and listening to another culture, without leaving the comfort of your duvet? This way you can be cultural, sophisticated, and lazy, the best North American combination.

Here’s a list to help you out.

Click for source.
1. Foreign films are like silent films…no one really watches them. We should change this.

2. Go mud sliding.

Because if you haven’t, you should, and if you have, then you’ll know exactly why you should do it again.

It's so fun. Just do it. Click for source.
2. It’s so fun. Just do it.

3. Learn to cook or bake something new and exotic.

For me, this should be easy since my culinary skills cover mac n’ cheese and pancakes, and that’s about it. Becoming a pro at a Greek dish or Italian tradition not only tastes good, but it’s highly impressive as well.

Here are some ideas!

I don't know what this is, but it looks good, and it came up when I googled "Greek food." Click for source.
3. I don’t know what this is, but it looks good, and it came up when I googled “Greek food.”

4. Read a biography.

Don’t go for something predictable like JFK or John A. MacDonald or Elvis. I’m not saying these people aren’t important, because, duh, they are, but try someone you don’t know anything about! Maybe Frida Kalho or Maya Angelou? Maybe Georgia O’Keefe or Rosalind Franklin? (I didn’t intend for all my examples to be female…it just turned out that way.)

Not only are you learning about someone imperative to life as we know it (or maybe as you will come to know it), but you’ll be bursting with facts that will awe the people you converse with. You will appreciate people who aren’t often appreciated by the general public, aside from in English and art classrooms and cafes.

Search biographies on Amazon!

Frida Kahlo, artist. Click for source.
4. Frida Kahlo, artist.

5. See/research an usual piece of art, visit it in person if you can.

Because who doesn’t love unusual art? My favourite piece, which I would LOVE to see in person some day is The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago.

Here are links to

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago. Click for source.
5. The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago.

6. Read a really hard book.

Jane Eyre, The Lord of the Rings, Anna Karenina, Homer’s The Odyssey, Utopia…you pick. Read a really hard book, one that you maybe gave up on in the past. I’d like to re-tackle Jane Eyre, and maybe LOTR.

I have it...I just haven't managed to read it...yet!
I have it…I just haven’t managed to read it…yet!

7. Eat a “weird” and/or disgusting food.

For me, that might be sushi. I’ve never had it, and it doesn’t sound particularly appetizing, but this is my chance to prove myself wrong. It’s all about being cultured, people!

Hmm...any sushi lovers out there?
Hmm…any sushi lovers out there?

8. Take yourself on a date.

Whether you’re single or happily attached, do yourself a favour and take yourself on a date, at least one. You can dress up or dress down, go out or eat in. Take yourself to dinner and a movie, or go to an art gallery maybe your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband/etc would never set their foot in. Make yourself your favourite meal and spend a night in your pajamas blasting Imagine Dragons and reading your favourite books.

Only you know what your ideal date is, so it only makes sense that you would be the one to take yourself on it.

(I’ve done this before, and I’ll be doing it again.)

I like this idea...
I like this idea.

9. Play with a little kid.

Because they’ll make you remember what it’s like to be five or seven or nine, when everything was simple and big and the most important observations are made. It’ll be awkward at first, because maybe it’s been a long time since you played, but do it. Little kids love teaching adults, especially how to play.

Kids are the greatest, really.
Kids are the greatest, really.

10. Love yourself and others.

This is literally the corniest thing I could say, but I don’t give a damn. It’s true.

Maybe this year is the year you’ll make new friends, better ones, ones that love you, too. Maybe this is the year you’ll be good to yourself, stop blaming yourself, stop filling your body with toxins, stop hiding. Get to know yourself, get to know the people who you love or the people you want to love.

Dagnabit, just love. It’s the best thing anybody can do.

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? Are you prone to keeping them, or not?

[Disclaimer: I didn’t intend to infringe any photographic copyrights!

Image Sources:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.]

Art is Seriously Messed Up

Art is seriously messed up. Smearing pigments across canvas, smudging charcoal on paper, sewing stitches into fabric to create a unique something, carving out chunks of wood or stone to make a likeness of someone or something that maybe never existed. Blowing into a brass tube with holes cut into it, or plucking strings on a wooden vessel to create notes to create something called music, shaping white-hot metal and gluing broken pottery together.

It can be realistic, it can be disgusting, it can be heartbreaking, it can make you laugh. It can be the most unrealistic, otherworldly thing you’ve ever laid eyes on. It can be like looking into a mirror. It can be like looking into every curve and whisper of the human mind and soul. It can be confusing, it can make no sense, it can have absolutely no purpose, rhyme, or reason.

What I think is beautiful you might think is ugly. What you find beautiful I might find repulsive.

It’s messed up, art is.

Art is waking up at three a.m. with an idea, and stumbling out of bed and smashing into the wall because you can’t find the light switch. It’s not being able to find a pen or pencil, and so you write a poem with a crayon on a napkin from the floor of your car. It’s giggling maniacally at what will surely be a masterpiece or slamming your fist in frustration because this isn’t what you wanted. It’s pulling out your hair and drinking obscene amounts of coffee and tea and spending days locked in your house wearing pajamas. Art is quiet and slow and rolling and honest. It takes time. Or maybe it doesn’t. It could take a second, a snap of a camera shutter. It lies. It makes another reality, a better one or a worse one.

We obsess over it. We lose our minds, our money, our lives.

We hold onto art from centuries and millennia and civilizations past, we worship it in glass cases and with cotton gloves and anti-contamination body suits. We study it, teach it, love it, hate it. We argue about it. About the medium used, about the artist who made it, about the year the artist was born and who his/her parents were, about what it means, about where it came from, about the symbols and hidden messages that may or may not have been included within its walls of paint and stone. We spent thousands and millions of dollars collecting it, making it, learning about it.

We judge others based on their art, we value their worth to society with their art.

We scorn artists who can’t make a living at their art and hail the few lucky ones that manage to.

We can be ashamed of our art, keep it hidden and protected like the wounds in our souls. Sometimes no one else ever sees it, and sometimes people see it without understanding it.

Art is everything and art is nothing. It is power, and yet renders us powerless at its feet.

Art is seriously messed up.

And I think that’s why we love it.  

 

Creatively Lost: Watch the Snowflakes

It’s not that my mind is empty.

Far from it.

My mind is a blizzard, and every idea a snowflake.

Banks of ideas are depositing themselves into shelves of my brain, accumulating, growing, heaping into what I’m sure will become mountains, the kind you jumped off of as kids and scraped your jaw to pieces at the bottom of. Those kinds of mountains.

But catching a snowflake? You can hold out your hand as they fall around you, and take a glimpse as they settle on your mitten, but you can never make them last long enough to memorize their every detail.

You can take a shovel and dig at the mountain, but then all the snowflakes jumble together so you can’t tell one from the other.

You can take tweezers and pluck one up and put it on a glass slide stolen from the biology lab and keep it in your freezer. But then it’s not the same, not fresh, not pulsing from a recent exit of the heavens or electric from nestling with its brothers and sisters in the bank of snow.

So, you can see, my mind isn’t empty.

No, no, not at all.

I just can’t catch the damn snowflakes.

Sure, I have a WIP novel that has grown from a single snowflake to a tiny snowball. I have a small snowball for a themed anthology. I have a pinch of packed snow for another anthology.

But to build on them?

I can’t get the snow to stick, to wrap layers and build.

And there are so many options.

What to do, what to do?

The snow of ideas is overwhelming and underwhelming, like the fiftieth time a person from Hawaii sees real snow (though I’m not from Hawaii and grew up with snow) — weird and out-of-world, but by this point rather mundane.

Until I figure out what the heck I’m supposed to do with this snow before it gives my mind an eternal snow day, I’m going to curl up with a Christmas mug* of tea, a handmade quilt, and The Book Thief and let the snowflakes fall.

Advice from anyone with experience in snow-removal/nurturing?

This is what my mind looks like. It's pretty, btut Click for source. http://hdwallpapersdirectory.com/real-snowflake-falling.html
This is what my mind looks like. It’s pretty, but chaotic and confusing when you start to watch individual snowflakes. Click for source.

*Christmas mugs = the best part of Christmas, after family dinners and candy cane hot chocolate.

Sofia Brie Child-Milbey?

During the summer I read the Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray (a fun sort of reading that summers are meant for), where the main characters explored the idea of anagrams to hide one’s identity. You can read more about anagrams here, but basically the idea is you rearrange the letters of a name, phrase, or word to create a new one. Ann Bradshaw became Nan Washbrad, and the word orchestra has an anagram of carthorse, Tom Marvolo Riddle became “I Am Lord Voldemort.” You get the idea.

It reeks of adorable letters between secret, forbidden friends or lovers, Victorian serial killers, and women disguising their names to further their works.

I was intrigued by the idea. If I had a pen name, it might be a neat idea to simply rearrange the letters of my real name. It would be sneaky, very sneaky, and I would have a good laugh about it.

Not so simple when you’re just using a piece of paper and your brain (I’m sure there are generators out there, but this was more fun). It took about an hour with a friend to come up with one for me, after several attempts where my name was Billy or Bob or Dilda. The final result? (As so helpfully given away by the title of the post…)

Sofia Brie Child-Milbey.

Well, that’s the not best name for an author out there, but it’s pretty interesting nonetheless. Sofia Child-Milbey. S.B. Child-Milbey.

Either way, it was fun trying to come up with something, and it killed some time with some good laughs. You can probably come up with something at least half decent, unlike poor T.S. Eliot who mourned that “My name is only an anagram of toilets.”

Try it! What would your anagram be? I want to know!

Image

What I Want in a Book

I have a book problem.

I love to read. When people ask me what genre I favour, I usually laugh and reply, “A little bit of everything!” I read mostly classics and YA fantasy and and sci-fi and poetry and biographies and histories and the occasional romance. I read quotes and blogs and magazines and dictionaries. I read the backs of cereal boxes and labels on people’s clothes. I read some books that are popular and some that aren’t.

I like adventure and discovery and a strong female character. I like small towns and bookworms and tall, dark, mysterious strangers. I like star-crossed lovers and ill-fated relationships and I like reading about the banter between siblings. I like flirty things and daring things and weird things and sometimes murderous things. I like make believe worlds and real worlds, and I like wise, old mentors with beards and witticisms.

Prince Charmings with a dark side, collections of exotic teas, and funny uncles with top hats and awful comb-overs. I like scarves and rain boots (which sound so much more poetic than rubber boots) and something that won’t take a lot of energy to read but will still make me think about life differently. I like sexy things but think sex in books is a bit unnecessary. I like things that are realistic but don’t like reading about things that go against my strongest morals.

I like books that remind me of mellow music, elegant music, angst-ridden and pure sadness music. Books that remind me of bleached out photographs from the ‘70s and old radio shows and my childhood.

My favourite books are the ones that taught me something, whether it be a moral or an idea or a word or character development. Some of them are just pretty. They sit nicely in the nooks of my brain. Not all of them are deep, dark, disturbing novels, but some of them are. Some of them are light and fluffy and simply easy to read.

I like elements of Alice in Wonderland (“It’s a vegetable. It doesn’t look like one, but it is.”) and Pride and Prejudice (“They parted at last with mutual civility, and possibly a mutual desire of never meeting again.”) and Harry Potter (“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”) and The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place (“Uncle had learned long ago that obeying a rule in fact but not in spirit was very hard on people who say we for I and who do not allow dogs on their premises.”) and Fade (“So he endured. Did not cry.”).

These are things I like in books.

I know it’s a tall order, and that’s why I’ve yet to find ONE book that contains ALL of these things. If I found a book with these criteria, I daresay it would be my favourite book of all time.

The books I turn to when I’m bored or feeling a little blah are the books I read and read again when I was a pre-teen: A Riddle of Roses and The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place and Walk Two Moons and Stargirl. They aren’t particularly deep and don’t leave me exhausted like Game of Thrones or Emma, but instead leave me refreshed, rejuvenated, in love with life again, and maybe a little poignant that life doesn’t turn out for everyone.

I love these books. I still read them, still love them.

I want to read books like those books, but for a YA/NA audience. Give me a 17 or 19 or 21-year-old Margaret Rose Kane of Outcasts or a Stargirl as a university undergrad, with the same tone of voice the original presented to my pre-teen self.

So, to suit my picky, aimless search for the perfect book, I think I may just end up writing it. I want the whimsical, witty themes of my favourite pre/early teen novels with more mature content. I want to read it and be changed but not scarred or exhausted. I want to laugh and maybe cry at its pages. I want funny uncles and dark prince charmings and adventure and feminism and bleached out photographs of the ‘70s.

These are what I want in a book.

And I’m taking matters into my own hands and writing a book I want to read.

I mean, to write a book and have it meet the standards I described as “my favourite book ever” is only a wee bit pretentious, but if I want a book like I’ve described, I imagine a couple other people out there would like to read it, too.

What do you look for in your own “perfect book?” Have you found it? Have you written it?

The Cenotaph

I’m trapped in this body. Cold metal forms my bones and joints, and the muscle and skin feel like a piece of rail road track to the touch of a soft hand. My arm is locked in an everlasting salute, my blind eyes forever fixed on a spot somewhere on the horizon. I ache. My silent, still heart aches. It burns to swell and grow and pulse. My eyes wish to weep and my arms desire to embrace and my legs want to run again. But that is not what I am meant to do.

In the winter the snow covers me, settles in my bent elbow and my shoulders, my eyelids and the tops of my boots. Blue jays are my only visitors. I can feel their tiny talons and feathers and imagine what it’s like to fly, and miss them when they leave. I am lonely, invisible to the people passing along the street. The frozen torch in my hand weighs the weight of a thousand slain soldiers, and their names inscribed in my cold heart are heavy, so heavy. I carry their memories in my mind, see their lives in my blind sight and hear their regrets in my deaf ears. I cradle them without ever embracing them, holding them, loving them, keeping them safe after death. I remember.

The spring brings warmth, and my metal skin isn’t quite so unbearable to touch. Rain washes away snow and I’m reminded of muddy French trenches in April – not my memories, but the memories of those inside me. Drawing on these remembrances I can see flowers bloom in my sightless gaze and feel arms around me, but I also relive dying moments, so many dying moments. Blood and muck and limbs and terror. They don’t mean to force these memories on me, but I must bear them, and they should be remembered. It is a lot to carry, but I would give this job to no one else.

In the summer I rust a little more, but stand just as straight. Teenagers sit at my feet and smoke stolen cigarettes and call at girls as they walk by, and there’s nothing more I would like to do than kick them with my solid iron boot. They don’t see what I see, blind as I am, or hear what I hear, deaf as I am. They don’t hold the memories of the dead and the gone. They don’t know that behind a layer of metal are the enduring moments of war and horror, barbed wire and gas masks, guns and boys and letters from home, letters they never got the chance to read. I am made of unread and unfinished letters, broken hearts and broken bones.

In these seasons I go unnoticed by all except blue jays and teenagers looking for a place away from parents in a world where war is a game on a screen. No one visits me, no one visits the memories I hold. We are alone in our reminisces.

There is one day in the year when I’m not alone with these memories, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. November eleventh. Every person around comes out and stands shoulder to shoulder, poppies bright over their hearts, their warm, beating hearts. I can feel them, and some of them are aching, too, the ones who remember. The weight of my torch throws out a glass circle and traps them all in my spell, and slowly I release some of the memories in my skin, my bone, my chest. I share with them the things we are supposed to never forget.

They all stand before me, taking in all the things I have to show them. They remember.