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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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jjbrownwordslinger

So, I’m aware of the alleged controversy…….

……surrounding the American Library Association children’s book award being removing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name.  What a to-do – an award’s name being changed to better reflect diversity and inclusiveness that it seeks to honor!! The horror!!  Oh, the humanity!! [1]

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

What followed was a great gnashing of teeth and rending of hair, accompanied by faux-outrage videos that reduced its argument to insults and name-calling.  The asinine responses would be truly amusing and delightful……if they actually knew what they were talking about or if it was being presented as satire.

Many reduced their arguments to insults and derogatory comments, rather than do any actual research to discuss why they disagreed with the American Library Association’s decision to re-name the award.  This shows a singular lack of respect for other viewpoints, a severe lack of empathy and a definite lack of intelligence.  Those kinds of posts are designed to rile up and cause arguments, with a good amount of bullying thrown in.

There is the mistaken idea that doing so is white-washing history (it’s not); that the award committee was bowing to political correctness (they weren’t – they had been considering changing the name for more than a decade – read their statement here); and the reactions have been as vitriolic as if the books themselves were being banned and burned (they aren’t).  What most people don’t understand is that Wilder herself white-washed her own history, with the help of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane.  The Little House books began life as Wilder’s autobiography, but it was Lane’s editorial help that shaped the books into the classics we know today.

World Fantasy Award.
Designed by Vincent Villafranca

This is not the first time that an award’s name has been changed, to better reflect the values, the diversity and the inclusiveness as proscribed in its mission statement. Until 2015, the World Fantasy Award had previously been known as the H.P. Lovecraft award.  Lovecraft was a racist bigot and made no apology for it.  However, fantasy and, in particular, science fiction has always taken a more inclusive and diverse view of the world around us.

Bust of HP Lovecraft, the previous award.
Designed by Gahan Wilson.

It is extremely problematic for an award to claim it is about diversity and inclusiveness, only to be symbolized by an individual who is the antithesis of that.  But to cry “White washing history!” for simply changing a name to better reflect the diversity that is out there to be represented is to ignore the very real problems that exist today.  In both cases, neither author was banned from schools, libraries or otherwise censured nor are they being thrown onto pyres and set aflame – which would have been cause for concern in terms of censorship.

The attitudes of Lovecraft and Wilder are of their times, yes, but they are still alive and well in 2019 and are still doing some serious damage.  If all you see is political correctness run amok, then you’re not paying attention.

And f you find yourself saying, “I hate being politically correct about (fill in the blank)”, then please do yourself a favor and substitute ‘politically correct’ with ‘respect’ and ’empathy’.

You might be horrified to hear yourself.

 

Recommended reading:

Pioneer Girl – Laura Ingalls Wilder; edited by Pamela Smith Hill
Prairie Fires – Caroline Fraser
I Am the Providence: The Life & Times of H.P. Lovecraft – S.T. Joshi

 

[1] Please note the dripping of my sarcasm.

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So, while writing Secrets & Howls……

……my first self-published novel, I chose to set the time frame in 1978 (with occasional flashbacks to 1852).  I did this in part because I didn’t want cellphones or the internet in the story.  Technology that we find useful today would not have been useful in my story, which I had purposely left without a specific time-frame until an editor suggested I do so, because it wasn’t clear to her when the story took place.

Also, I was kind of lazy and didn’t want to adjust the story to suit the cellphone/internet.  Which sent me to the library for books on the seventies, since I only had a rudimentary recollection of the decade I grew up in.  The books, however meticulously researched, were deadly dull and did nothing to help me gain a clear picture.

So I did the next best thing – I turned to music.  Going to my local music store (long since gone), I scoured their classic rock section for music specific to the seventies.  There were a few disco CDs and, looking at the playlist on the back, I remembered ever single song playing on my mom’s VW hatchback.

Naturally, I bought them.

Which brings me to my Ancient Greek Comedy.

Apparently, music from the seventies fits right in with the chaotic hijinks of the gods and goddesses of ancient myths.

Who knew?

So, around this time nine years ago……

……I was preparing to move out of my tiny studio in Long Beach, CA back to my artsy and somewhat trying hometown. [1]  I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect (I mean, really, who is when moving back to a town where everybody knows your name?), but I was willing to be open to it and to accept any opportunities that came my way.

Well, long story short, a lot of shit happened to derail that sense of optimism. [2]

For the last few months, I’ve felt out of place and out of sorts, that I no longer belonged in my hometown for whatever reason.  But while I have no real reason to stay here, I have no real reason to relocate to someplace else.  All other locations I’d considered over the last few years sound and look just as good as any other place.

None of them stand out as being The Place.

As I mentioned to a close friend just a month ago, since I’m already here, I may as well embrace it and do what I need to do, to make myself happy, like pursue my writing and develop new skills for both personal and professional reasons.  Eventually, the reason for me to go (or to stay) will reveal itself to me and I can move forward.

Until then, que sera sera.

It was only recently that I realized I had circled back to where I was, nine years ago.  It seems like a lifetime ago and so much has happened since then.  I am not the person I was nine years ago – I’m a little wiser, a little more cautious in who I let in, a little more reserved.  If a door is shut, I’m content to let it remain so.

I’m also more willing to be open to new experiences and new environments, something I would generally shun, being more of an introvert than a social butterfly.  However, I recognized that growth comes with discomfort, and so I found opportunities to stretch my boundaries, find what was acceptable and what was not.  In the meantime, I was able to find my voice and speak up when my boundaries were not respected.  This did not always go down well and I eventually found out what was true and what was not.

And this is a good thing.

🙂

[1] If you grew up in a small town and find yourself living there again, you’ll understand what I mean.

[2] It’s really boring, if you want to know.  At least, it is now.  Suffice to say, shit happened and I managed to wash it off successfully.

Evening Thoughts (8)

1. I know exactly what I want for myself, both personally and professionally.

2. When you know what you want, settling for less is not an option.

3. Holding true to that seems both simple and easy to do.

4. It is simple, and no, it’s not easy.

5. There will be days when you feel worthless and insecure, unsure and hopeless.

6. You will probably over-think things and give yourself a really bad headache.

7. ^^^ Don’t beat yourself up about it; just breathe, get through it and get active.

8. The thing to remember is that you don’t have control over how things will unfold.

9. ^^^ I know, that’s really annoying.

10. Just have faith, patience and focus on what you can do, like rearranging your room or create a new work of art.

11. ^^^ I know, easier said than done.

12. The alternative is to compromise yourself and your values; in short, to settle for less.

13. Don’t settle. Hold out for better, even if at this moment, you don’t think you deserve it.

14. You deserve it.

So, I finished the first revision of my Ancient Greek Comedy….

…..and I feel pretty good about it.  There’s still some work left to be done on it, places that need polishing, and characters that need a little more development, but overall, I’m satisfied with what I’ve written.  My next step will be to send it to a local director for a clear eye and suggestions, and from there, that’s anyone’s guess.

But I’ve got some definite ideas.

Title and cast list of Hotel Mt. Olympus.

Should it go forward and find a stage, a cast and a choreographer [1], it will be the culmination of a dream – to see a work I wrote take on a new life in front of an audience.  Will I consider myself a playwright?  Only in the loosest sense of the word –  this is a fairly comprehensive list of playwrights that deserve the title.  Each of them have a body of work that will forever be in production.

I think this is my only work to be written specifically for the stage.  I won’t say that I’ll never try it again, but my specialty is writing in the narrative form.  This was a fun and, at times, a nerve-wracking challenge.  I’ve removed characters, added them back in, re-wrote dialogue and new scenes and then, when all seemed lost, a piece of music would send me back in with renewed vigor.

In the process, I realized that the story I wanted to tell (using LOTS of humor) required me to use the stories of the gods and goddesses I chose to be characters in my play.  Interestingly, their stories tied into many of today’s social issues and, while I was pleased, I wasn’t entirely surprised by this discovery.

After all, their stories have been around for centuries – they are very human concerns that transcend time and place.

[1] While this is not a musical, per se, it does have some song and dance numbers.

So, it’s a New Year and a New Start…..

…..where the dust of the last three hundred and sixty-five days can be shaken off and the next three hundred and sixty-five days have yet to be written.  I often find some kind of inspiring quotes and themes to use as a springboard for what’s to come.

Last night, I found this particular theme floating around.  I rather liked the challenge it presented, because, 1.) who doesn’t have a book lying around; 2.) sometimes there is a truth to be found; and 3.) it’s actually kind of fun and silly.

So I found the nearest book at hand (literally, not even a foot from me) and opened it to the named page.

“So say it.”

At first, I thought it was just a throwaway sentence in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, that nothing important to be found in just three words. I was tempted to slide past it to the third sentence, which also rang true and which I do anyway. [1]

But the more I looked at those three words, the more I realized what power they had in their simplicity.  People often dismiss simplicity as unimportant. But I’ve found that simplicity can be the most potent magic ever devised.  ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ are simple words and yet, they can open doors you never imagined were there.

“So say it.”

Speak your truth.  That’s what those words, in their utter simplicity, are charging me with for the year 2019.  This is not a new charge – in fact, speaking my truth had been a huge part of 2018 and the changes it wrought had a major impact in many positive ways.  So, I’m interpreting this as a sign that I’m on the right path, that by continuing to speak my truth, the way will become clearer.

So.  Grab the book nearest you and open it to page 119.  Find the second sentence.  Use that as your challenge and task for 2019.

You’ve got this.

 

[1]  If you want to know that third sentence I was tempted to use, find a hard back copy of Big Magic and turn to page 119. Those who know me will recognize its truth and that I live it every day.

So, there’s this Woman & Lioness post going around……

……that I find extremely manipulative.  At first, I wasn’t exactly sure if I was offended by the piece because of who posted it (which, if you’re wondering, can influence your opinion) or if it really was the piece itself.  So, I held back on my opinion, kept my thoughts to myself and waited to see if it got shared again.

Woman & Lioness.
Understand – the woman would be dead if the lioness felt like it.

It did.

I was genuinely offended and outraged by what this piece was saying.  It is a sly piece of work, presenting in a complimentary way an insult and denigrating view of women and the choices they’ve made for their lives because they have the opportunity to do so.  It’s implying a great many things without actually stating up-front what these roles are.

So I decided to break it down, line by line.

“Our generation is so busy trying to prove that women can do everything men can do, women are losing the unique qualities that set us apart.”

How are women losing their unique qualities? Aspects of their personalities? Or are they losing aspects of their physical selves? And according to whom? What are their sources? And why is it wrong for women to prove that they can do everything men can do?

All I see are women going into careers that, until recent decades, have long been denied them because of their gender – in sciences, in tech, medicine, military, police, business, etc. I mean, until the early 1970s, women couldn’t even get a bank account in their name or their own credit card without their husband’s permission. In the United States of America.

Mary Shelley created what we call modern science fiction at the age of 19 – she was forever subjugating herself to her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, ironically, was an advocate for women’s rights, having written A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

The only ones placing the expectation that they be as good as or better than men are those who established the rules in the first place.

“The God-given femininity & unique way our Creator designed us.”

I almost snorted my drink through my nose when I read this one. Fortunately, I was able to do a spit-take.

Let’s take a look at ancient mythology, shall we? I’m gonna focus on the Greeks because I’m more familiar with them.

Artemis, goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and chastity, swore never to marry; was the patron and protector of young girls; and even aided during childbirth. She is the twin sister of Apollo and her symbols are a bow and arrows, and hunting knives.

Athena, Greek goddess of war and wisdom, is incredibly feminine and intelligent; she was the patroness of the city of Athens; her symbol was the owl. According to her myths, she was generous to those who pleased her and vengeful to those who did not.

Aphrodite, goddess of love and procreation, is also incredibly feminine (as most goddesses of love tend to be) and owned her sexuality. She had a mind of her own and did as she pleased (as most immortals do), with no apology or shame. She was also married to Hephaestus, blacksmith to the gods, but was not faithful to him.

Side note – there is a male version of Aphrodite, named Aphroditus – his statues depict him dressed as a woman, but lifting the skirt so as to show his, um, attributes. He fell out of favor.

Hera, goddess of women, marriage, family and childbirth, was also the sister-wife of the most intolerable, arrogant Zeus.

As I write about her, I am wondering if the creator of the original post I am now dismantling was thinking of her as the ideal woman – a long-suffering wife, who is essentially brainwashed by her manipulative, philandering husband into continually forgiving him and punishing the women he seduces and the children they bear. Because she had a temper and woe be to you if you dared to cross it.

All of these goddesses are aspects of all women – powerful, vengeful, loving, kind, passionate, intelligent, tender, and forgiving.

Humble, not so much.

“Women weren’t created to do everything a man can do…. Women were created to do everything a man can’t do.” – unknown

Again, according to whom? I think a woman can jolly well do whatever the hell she wants to do. She might not do it exactly as a man would do, but who says that certain roles are made for men only and women only?

A woman cannot self-inseminate, like certain plants, except by medical means and men can’t give birth. That’s pretty much the only real difference that I can see.

I bet that ‘Unknown’ was a man intimidated by strong, intelligent women who saw through his shit and refused to be manipulated by it.

“The lioness does not try to be the lion.”

Did this writer not watch any National Geographic programs? The lioness would actually kill the lion (and here’s an example of one doing just that, in a zoo. He probably pissed her off one too many times). The lion is just a figurehead of the pride – the lionesses do all the work.

Also, she can actually develop masculine traits, like like growing a mane, and altering her behavior to act like a lion.

“She embraces her role as the lioness.”

Um, whut? She doesn’t ‘embrace’ her role. She IS her role. Stop that.

“She is powerful, strong, and nurturing.”

I’ll buy that – mothers are like that, all across the board.

“She does not mistake her meekness for weakness.”

Again, whut?

Lionesses are NOT meek. They are predators – they go out and kill the prey that feeds the pride.

Will someone please tell the idiot who wrote this post to go and watch some National Geographic and maybe spend some time with people who actually know something about lions? Like, you know, a zoologist?

“The world needs more kind, compassionate, humble, faithful, persevering, confident, fierce, bold, pure, and tender-hearted women.”

I agree with this one, too.  I am all of those qualities, I embody them every day of my life because I do not know how to be any other way and still feel authentic. I’m pretty damn lucky to know a LOT of women these words in the last sentence describe.  And they have nothing to prove to anyone, least of all a man.

But you know what? It’s a ploy, tacking this on to the very end. The whole of this post is a sly guilt trip and back-handed insult to women AND men. Leaving this final sentence to the end is manipulative.

You know what this sounds like? This sounds exactly like the propaganda used after World War II, to ‘encourage’ women to leave the work force and go back to being wives and mothers, to forget about having a life and autonomy over one’s finances and future.

The text of the actual post.
Author Unknown. Typical.

In short, unless you, as a woman, are a wife and mother, completely subjugated to the needs of your man, you are trying to be a man.

I call human feces on that.

Calling it bullshit, horseshit or hogwash would be an insult to the bull, the horse and the pig.

But it’s written very prettily, isn’t it?

So, I’m working aspects of my Asperger’s into my novel……

…….because it is a huge part of who I am and how I perceive the world.  And since Novel Now Finished is about a woman who ‘sees’ the world differently and is told from her Point of View, it seemed like the ideal place to incorporate this part of my personality.

Some see a graveyard, where the dead sleep.
I see the past, waiting to be heard.

Is the Narrator herself on the spectrum?  No, I didn’t write her to be Asperger’s, or even autistic, both of which were the furthest thing from my mind when I originally conceived the character and her story.  However, like me, she sees things that others don’t – I can see patterns and energy within events and people and make connections.  The Narrator works in a cemetery and sees and interacts with ghosts (which I think is far more fascinating than patterns and energy, but that’s just me).

It was only lately, in the last year or so, that I decided to make Asperger’s an unofficial part of the Narrator’s personality.  To do this, I try to find similarities between my abilities and the Narrator’s and what aspect of my Asperger’s might fit within that scope.  So far it’s been an interesting experiment and one that I hope to utilize more effectively in revision.

Which brings us to the question – how do I see the world?

Differently than the norm, would be one way to put it.

As described in other blog posts, I have had difficulty in reading body language and social cues or I have a tendency to be a little too open.  The best analogy I’ve been able to come up with that others can understand is that it’s like having a paint pallet, but only half or even a quarter of the colors available.  Sometimes it’s like walking around in an unfamiliar room in the pitch dark, with no idea of how to navigate around items that may or may not be there.

Like the Narrator, I’m also empathic – I’ll know by people’s energy if I want to be around them (if it’s a bad vibe, it’s like getting a stomach ache).  I can ‘feel’ if someone’s lying to me, which is like getting sucker-punched; I can ‘feel’ other emotions that people try to mask with behaviors that contradict what I’m sensing, which is extremely confusing.  When that happens, I have to sit back and observe for context.  Often, however, I get overwhelmed by other people’s energy and I’ll end up spending days at home, just to recuperate and recharge.

Because of this, I tend to sit back and observe people and my surroundings.  The details I pick up without even trying would astound you.  I don’t think twice about it.

The most interesting challenge about incorporating my Asperger’s into the Narrator isn’t so much giving her those traits.  The challenge is being able to observe my Asperger’s in such a way that I can identify what will work and what won’t.  In other words, I have to be far more analytical than I already am.

On myself.

As the Great Dane Scooby Doo would say, “Ruh, roh!”

Recommended Reading:
The Autistic Brain – Temple Grandin
Thinking In Pictures – Temple Grandin

So, it should come as no surprise that I dream about books…..

……because I love reading and have more books on my To Be Read shelf than I’ll ever be able to finish.  I dream mostly about books I’ve already read, but on some occasions, I’ll dream of titles I’d seen, but never really intrigued me enough to actually pick up.  When those books show up in my dream, I go out and get them – either from the library or the bookstore.

There is no such thing as too many books.

Case in point – years ago, I dreamt that I was driving along a highway that merged into another highway.  Underneath the overpass was a dry-docked tall ship – it was in perfect condition, but abandoned.  Somehow, I was able to park my car and climb inside the ship, which I took my own sweet time exploring (because, really, who wouldn’t?).  In the captain’s cabin, I found two books – Outlander and Voyager.  I recognized them immediately, since a friend worked in a bookstore and I’d seen them on the shelves.

I immediately picked up those two titles (first and third, respectively), as well as the other two titles that were available at the time.  I read them in about a month (yes, I know they’re bricks, but I read IT by Stephen King in three days, so…….) and was wiped out with the breadth and depth of the characters.  Although there have since been several more titles (and a TV series) released, I stopped at book four.

I guess I got what I needed out of them, although to this day, I’m still not sure what it was I’d been looking for in those books.

Most recently, I’d dreamt about Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz.  I’d read a number of Koontz’s books over the years, but I’ve always preferred Stephen King.  No disrespect intended – I just don’t mesh with Koontz’s style in the way I do with King’s.  That said, my subconscious chose that title to communicate with me about something in my waking life.

How I came upon the book in my dream was interesting – I was as I am in the Here and Now, in an antique store.  A friend whom I grew up with was also in the dream, only he resembled his high school age self, with some of his intellectual and emotional growth as an adult.  The shop did not carry books, not even used ones, but on one shelf was a row of books, all brand new and I pulled out Odd Thomas.  I remember thinking I could get it used at my local used book store, but it seemed imperative that I get the book immediately.

So I did.

And, in case you were wondering, I did indeed pick up the book a few days later.

Used.  From my local used book store.

And I’m pretty sure I know what my subconscious mind was telling me.

Dreams and books are like that.

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