27 September 2019

On crowded spaces and weird moments of podcast clarity

(photo courtesy of the Anderson Independent: Clemson students on the library bridge at class change)
This morning, as my bus hurtled down I-85, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts: And That's Why We Drink. It is one part paranormal stories, one part true crime stories, and several parts humor. But this morning I listened to an episode recorded after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. The tone was angry, accusatory, afraid, resigned, and just sad - and I felt every single one of those as I listened. As usual, storytellers Em and Christine spoke my truth along with theirs about this issue.

But then, as also often happens on a dark bus before 8am on my way to work, my mind started to wander. Christine had said something about people who are now afraid to leave their homes, afraid to go to crowded places. Em was talking about how people who want to go to the premiere of a superhero movie think twice now after the Aurora Theatre shooting. I thought to myself that I haven't really changed that much of my daily life, but that could just be because other than my friend who died at Virginia Tech I haven't really had a personal connection to the other shootings.

But on closer inspection, I do have some alterations that have happened. One glaring one is related to the picture above. In order to get from my office to two of the buildings in which my students often have classes, I have to cross over that bridge and it often is just that crowded. I don't do that anymore. I go under the bridge and take the elevator up to the top of the stairs at the other end. I thought I was just doing that because I was lazy - and I am, don't misunderstand - but it is also because I have become rather uncomfortable in large open spaces that have loads of people in them. Places like college campuses. Places that could be targeted.

I tested that theory the other morning by walking across the bridge rather than under it, and sure enough, by the time I got to the other side and was walking up the steps to the sidewalk I was full of anxiety. On my walk back from class I go across the bridge all the time with no worries - because there aren't that many students on it then, I suppose. As much as I hate to say I'm letting the terrorists win - however melodramatic that is - I am because to arrive at my class to interpret with a ball of anxiety in my chest is not doing anyone any favors.

I wonder if this is a permanent thing? Will I be resigned to side streets and outdoor elevators for the rest of my life? Will someone somewhere that is in charge finally do something about the root cause of these shootings?

23 September 2019

Conference Post Mortem and the ETR™

Graphic Courtesy of Broadleaf Writers Association
So, what did you do this weekend?

I spent my weekend investing in my impostor syndrome anxiety myself at the Broadleaf Writers Conference, held at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta. This is the second writers' conference I've attended but the first one run by Broadleaf (which I joined after the Atlanta WDW back in March). 

The two events can't even be compared! The WDW was a bit...haphazard? That's how it felt to me, anyhow. BWC19 was professional. It was not what I had feared - a get-together for the members of the BWA. It was welcoming and friendly, where WDW seemed like an "every writer for themselves" sort of situation. Could that be related to the fact that it was my first writers' conference? Probably. There were more panels at BWC than individually taught workshops, and that format - for me - has both pros and cons. I like the instructional nature of the individually taught workshops (especially ones that mention the Kobayashi Maru) because I am not coming from any kind of formal writing education perspective. But at the same time, the introvert in me would like to just sit back and take notes, and a lot of those sessions involve hands-on work. I may need it - I do need it - but it makes me anxious.

The panels should be just what I am after - a large room, lots of perspectives, no one asking ME questions, but at times they tended to drift off-topic. The tangents were useful, don't get me wrong, but I came to the panel for the topic. Still, it is not enough to register as a complaint, per se - the caliber of the panelists was high enough that I was there for them to say whatever they wanted, topical or not. Furthermore, this year I stepped WAY out of my comfort zone and submitted a piece to the First Pages Critique session. 

Yep, that was not a typo. I asked someone that I don't know - FIVE someones, to be exact - to listen to the first page of a piece I am working on and give feedback. Now, I went to the First Pages Critique at WDW and came away CRINGING at some of the comments. But I have been struggling for long enough that I thought it was time for some objective feedback. Full disclosure: I was certain that they either would not get to mine or that someone would have looked at it upon submission and relegated it to the rubbish bin.

Neither thing happened. They read out my words (which - y'all. I am so wordy! Ugh) and gave me some great feedback which at no time involved the words "Don't quit your day job." I don't think my feet touched the ground for the rest of the conference - or at least until the self-publishing panel where it seemed that the only way to make a living as a self-published writer is to go with an indie press or already have amassed a considerable fortune. I went with an indie press for my first Proud Racer book and it got me exactly nowhere, so that was discouraging to hear.

Overall, though, it was a fantastic experience. Every time I attend something like this, I come away with a list of things to do (or not to do) that will make the next one even better and this time was no exception. The thing that I learned about conference attendance this time is that if you are not careful as you are loading your car to head south to Atlanta, you will leave all of the clothes that you intended to wear to the conference HANGING IN YOUR BEDROOM AT HOME IN SOUTH CAROLINA. Thankfully I have a marvelous sister who, when I said, "We may have to make an Emergency Target Run," was already halfway out the door with her keys in hand at 9pm on a Friday. Big thanks are due to her, my brother-in-law, and my niece for folding me into their lives for the weekend. We MUST do that again, complete with the ETR™ and maybe a late-night bobbin winding lesson. I mean NEVER let it be said that I am not the life of the party.

09 September 2019

On Tired Bones and a Still Too-Raw Heart

How many Wolfhounds can YOU fit on one loveseat?
This summer was spectacular in that awful, soul-killing, exhausting way, and so far autumn has not been much better. I mean, can you even call this autumn? The forecast for today is 94F/34C with no clouds and sun. To me, this is more summer than the actual summer, more summer than even AUGUST. This is a level of hell that even Dante hadn't encountered.

I have not been able to do much when I'm not at the DayJob™ but sit on the sofa and binge-watch telly. I hear this is part of the healing process from trauma, but to me it just seems lazy and indulgent, in a lazy and indulgent sort of way with which I am familiar, seeing as how I am lazy and indulgent. However, this seems different because before I COULD get up and do things, I just didn't want to do that so on the sofa I stayed. Now - well, it's just hard.

Before I could at least bring the laptop to the sofa and write or edit or research. On Saturday, I managed a character sketch, and when I say that, I mean I wrote out a background for a character. I still have no idea what she looks like or what her internal/external conflict may be. I managed to do some research and get that into my research folder. But that's it. Most of the day was dedicated to binge-watching.

There was a dog recently where Hubs works who was coming up on his last day and Hubs really wanted to foster him just to keep him alive. There was a family that was interested but they bailed. He was on a bite hold for a bogus claim from his most recent adoptive family. He is heartworm positive. And try as I might, I could not feel good about telling Hubs that I really didn't want to foster him so I agreed. Lucky for me, he is going to a rescue group, but I spent entirely too much time crying over a dog I had never met.

It's all related. It is all a function of trying to function when you are tired right down past your bones and into your soul. It is what happens when you are looking for your heart of steel but the only one you can find is too raw to manage. Thus, retreat into the sofa cushions until further notice. With those fuzzballs up there in the photo for therapy.

If you need me, I will be in between Mindhunter and Agents of SHEILD with a jaunt here and there to Babylon 5. Until further notice. Until my heart heals a bit and my bones rest - because I think for my soul it is going to be much longer.