Everyone talks about self care and self love, but let’s talk about you and me. Recently, I signed up for a workshop. I get work back from the workshop and it was a critique and then, they wanted money for me to attend the workshop.
Now I know my shit was tight. My work was finely tuned. I’ve made all the changes and I filed it under the “done” folder. As I’m reading this letter, ripping my work apart, I’m thinking, “Well, I’ve had critiques from several other people and they didn’t have this problem.”
I’m a Pisces. I’m paranoid as hell and I get offended easily.
So, I’m wavering and thinking. I’m also about to go finish schoolwork with my kid and make lunch. But hey…I’m thinking that I’m reading a story and I thinkthat the author uses the word “said” too much. Everyone said. Then, she said. No adverbs or descriptions of how they said what they did. Just said. I don’t think anyone said anything to this author during the editing process. Or maybe they said to tone it down on the adverbs. You know what, just change it all to said. I mean the rest of the book is good. (YA is always a hard read because at some point the protagonist commits a series of wtf’s and you wanna put the book down, but you need to finish.)
What’s the point of all this. Man, I gotta stop taking shit personal. If Person A reads it and says it’s perfect. Person B said to add a few details blah blah. Person C says this and that. You go over three or drafts done and finally they all agree. Yay! Then, anyone else that reads it has an opinion as well. At this point, I can only take so much.
Self care and why you matter starts here…do I change this story for the 890th time or let it go. I’m open to critique, mind you. I know a person is trying to make it so they understand it. If I change it for you, I’d have to change it for every reader. And I don’t have the time to do that. In other words, I’m gonna pass on your word.
Am I cocky? Nah. It’s like so many people write the great American novel and never get published. Some people are afraid to get their work out there. I’ve had stuff published and am working on a novel. I’m not afraid of getting my stuff out there. But unless this helps me to clarify something or improve the story, nah, son. This is like my 890th pass on this one work. I ain’t got time.
Basically, know when to say no. Know when your ideas and your truth matters. Know when to say, “Thanks, I’ll take it into consideration.” You matter. Take care of you.
This is probably the umpteenth blog about this stupid pandemic and working, but here goes:
This is your time to shine.
Last week (or week before), my mom came to town. One thing led to another and as we were talking she said, “So, I asked her-is this all you’ve done in three months?” I stopped to think for a sec. Is this all you’ve done in three months? (which means) Why haven’t you done shit in three months?! (I know my mom, it’s what she was thinking)
Why haven’t you done shit in three months?
This time has flown by in a blink. I have made it a point to put all my short stories into a book and keep working. I should have the epic to end all epics after this is over, but that’s beside the point.
I was reading Vogue-the September issue-and the theme is “hope”. And they got it right, for the first time ever. Normally, it’s full of ads of shit I can’t afford and have to wait for the Target version to come out. However, this month, it’s filled with kids not from my generation, but from several generations talking about hope and change and the future.
These generations are serious. They are sick and tired of my generation and our parents telling them about what we endured and they got out and did (are doing) something. Minnesota-black guy killed then protests. Wherever there was a useless killing of a black man, there were protests. Then, the bring back the ones no one will talk about-Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland…you know the names by now.
I have never seen a generation about it. We are not going home. We are not going to stand down. We will fight until they hear us and then we will keep fighting when they come for us. We will fight for each other, but we all will fight because black lives matter to all of us.
And what happened? Like a ripple in a pond, this is causing protests worldwide. Where there are black people, there are protests. Ugly indignities in the treatment of blacks are being exposed. I mean, England and as far as Japan! I never thought I’d see the day when so many brown and black brothers and sisters raise their fists and join the fight we have been fighting all along…for over 300 fucking years.
So, I’ve got my shit together. I made an accountability squad of sorts (you know who you are) and we hold each other accountable for stuff that we need to do. Why? Because when you have to answer to someone, you make sure the work gets fucking done. If you need help, you ask for help. Have an idea? Bounce it off one of your squad and get it done.
The most important thing, I guess, is to leave something behind. When 2021 comes, they will look back at 2020 and see the deaths and COVID and no school but they will also see the ones that fought. The ones that raised their voices and said, “NO FUCKING MORE OF THIS SHIT!” I’d like to also leave something behind. What I’m working on is something about my family so we don’t forget the past and carry that shit forward into the future. I am working on it. (Dude, check my squad. We hold meetings every three weeks. You wanna be squad? Hit me up.) This way, my niece, nephews, kids, grandkids will have something after I’m gone that says, “This is what she left behind. And it is awesome!”
And now, I ask you, what are you going to do? It’s your time to shine!
When all this pandemic madness started, I was excited. (I’m not gonna lie) I thought that I could write everyday and that I would have soooo much free time. I could read books I checked out of the library, watch movies I’d been meaning to watch and generally catch up on my life.
Instead, I ended up looking like this for most of the time:
By the grace of God, somehow, I pulled myself together. It took several months but I did it. It helps if you have a support system. My sister is a bit of my support system. She’s a scorpio and “very foot in the ass get it going”. Referrals to conferences and whatnot to attend online.
I discovered more horror writers and it was nice to see horror writers of color because you do feel alone sometimes. These all took place online via Zoom and they couldn’t see me. I also don’t have a particularly ethnic name, so I’m just another whisper on the wind to them.
Either way, 1455 Literary Arts had the best seminar in July. One of the sessions was called Writing Through a Pandemic. It was led by Robert Anthony Siegel. (He has the most soothing voice and way of speaking. I wanted to call him up afterwards and pay him to call me daily and give me a boost.)
He made several suggestions which include:
Schedule for daily increments. Even if it’s 5 minutes (which is unrealistic) or 30 minutes, be sure to schedule it daily. Mark it on your calendar. I have a planner where I highlight across by the row and time everyday.
Have a dedicated place to write. It could be the kitchen table or wherever, but your butt needs to be in that chair at the time you scheduled.
Have a ritual to start the writing and it needs to be the same. (My ritual is making myself a cup of oolong tea. That’s it. No lighting incense, no namaste…I put water in a pot-because I’m crazy old school and don’t own a teapot-and boil it. Let it steep for 4 minutes and ta-dow!) Now, Robert, suggested to light a scented candle to place you in the memory.
I’m going to add this one-that is have a check in buddy. I have started a “Tracy Responsibility Club” where I am one on one with a person, every three weeks and we go over lists of things we want to have accomplished by the next meeting. Since I do this one on one-for emotional support as well-I can’t handle more than three people. Even then, I’m biting off more than I can chew (typical Pisces-learn to say no!!) And so far, the club has helped me be even more responsible-hence writing this update.
Some other suggestions he made were to think about what happens when the pandemic ends. At this rate, I’m guessing 2021 because people are doing some dumb stuff right now and here we got with a surge.
Write a letter to your future self. Maybe something you’ve accomplished during the pandemic. (Don’t look at me like that. You have been home as long as I have and you know you should have done something other than get fat. I’ve taken my online writing class and a Shakespeare class, certified in Google docs, Anxiety Therapy, Writing Basics 101, Novel writing 101 and yoga. I’ve done 100 points a day on Duolingo to improve my Spanish skills. I’ve written three stories, edited a lot, cleaned out several rooms filled with paper and done yoga every day. This does not include the things I’ve done with my kid that’s at home, which would blow your mind. How can she do all that? Dude, there are 24 hours in a day. Make. It. Fucking. Happen.)
Write 10 things that give you joy-because after all this shit happens, people are gonna go nuts.
Write 10 things you can do to give someone else joy.
And one of the more important things is to reward yourself for writing today-I get one bonus episode of some show I’m watching or a longer, sexier nap. Because naps are my life now.
I hear phrases like “write what you know” or “write what you want to read”…what happens when you feel like you don’t know much about what you want to write?
One example, I love to read short stories but a book has got to start off with a huge BANG or I’m not interested. I’ve gone through so many books and short stories that when I write what I want-well, I’ve been told that it seems a bit too speedy. (slow it down…describe what’s going on…give me some scenery….) That could be me trying to get all the ideas out of my head as fast as I can because if I don’t, some other random thing or random assignment for my kid will pop in. (Like I just remembered I forgot to send a copy of my driver’s license to her school to get her reregistered for fall. #parentingfail)
Now, I’m a person that likes to cross genres and boundaries. Maybe I’ll read a little cyberpunk here, a little exorcism there and try to make it work for me in a short story.
But I’m gonna tell you, the best ideas come from my dreams (and other dream like states). When I wake up, it’s like a mad house trying to find paper or something to write what happened down OR figuring out how to record my dreams on my iPhone at 3:30 in the morning, in the dark. Those are the funnier ones.
One story I wrote-from a dream-was sooooo good and scary that it made people very uncomfortable. (Note-I’m not here giving you a trigger warning. If you don’t understand horror, then that’s on you. If I pick up a book labeled horror, I will be ready to be scared. Like if I pick up a George RR Martin book, I’m expecting maps, very small font and lots of history. Get used to it.) I liked the short story because it took place in one of two worlds I write in-the near future or further out into the dystopian future mixed with cyberpunk.
Okay, so now you’ve read my ramblings. Let’s get down to the grits and gravy. If you are running short on an idea or something-I like to read a story and think, “How would I retell this story?” Like if the story was mine. That’s always a start, then you can add other extraneous stuff in there to take it off the original path.
Another thing is using (the never use in college or academic research) wikipedia. That’s right. If you dig deep enough, you will get trapped in a k-hole of absolute terror. I was watching a movie about Sada Abe and ran across the word “ero guro“. Let me check wiki…oh dear god. What the fu– hold on…let me click that other link in this definition and get lost. Trust me, sometimes you get stuck down there and you need a cartoon or something to snatch you out.
Okay folks, so that’s my thing for now. I did listen to a podcast (Write Minded) where Veronica Roth said something to the effect of not feeling like you have to stay within the boundaries of your genre. Explore, look around! I mean, when I was 7, I was impressed that we had a digital clock where the numbers flipped. Then we got the Zenith tv and let me tell you, not having to hold the channel with a book of matches was giving me new life!
Another place I like to look is Pinterest. Yup. Pinterest. The gift of inspiration. If you are trying to think of a way to write a psychological horror story about a sexy ghost-type it into the Pinterest search bar. I guarantee you will pop back with an idea. OR you could like for prompts. I have found some interesting prompts. Even setting up a page with sub pages (I’m telling you, Pinterest is the ish. And I was an Evernote junkie!)
Another thing is podcasts. There are so many podcasts out there about cults, murders and horror. There’s a really good Mythology podcast on the Parcast Network (I listen to them the most). They have a crew of actors that act out parts of it, which is cool. I am thankful, however, that the cult podcasts do NOT have actors. (Once I listened to a podcast where the hosts were discussing a murder and making fun of it and laughing about it. I hate that.) Anyway, you can find out some really great crime details or even investigation details-which is better than CSI and incorporate them into your work.
If you aren’t feeling inspired-check out Digital Underground and Doowhatchulike
Or you can “Do What You Feel” like the Simpsons
Either way, I hope this inspired someone a little because I hot linked the shit out of this and it’s only 2 in the morning.
It’s time to make another awesome author announcement for TALES OF THE LOST Volume Two: Stories To Get Lost In edited by Bram Stoker Award Winner Eugene Johnson and Steve Dillon. Join us in welcoming Tracy Cross!
The anthology will be released later this year from Things In The Well. Cover art by the brilliant Francois Vaillancourt, and interior art by the amazing Luke Spooner.
Tracy was awarded the Boston Accent Literary Journal Prize in 2016. Her work has appeared in several anthologies and magazines, including Big Book of Bootleg Horror, Things That Go Bump, Arc City Stories and D’Evolution Z Horror Magazine. She has appeared on several websites, such as Midnight and Indigo, New American Legends and Dark Fire Fiction. She is an active member of the Horror Writers Association. Tracy hails from Cleveland, Ohio, and loves her current home, Washington, DC.
TALES OF THE LOST: VOLUME TWO
Tales To Get Lost In…
We lose many things during our time in this universe. From the moment we are born we start losing time, and loss becomes a part of our life from the beginning. We lose friends (both imaginary and real), loved ones, pets, and family. We gain stuff and lose stuff, from our socks to our money. We can lose our hope, sanity, passions, our mind, and perhaps even our soul! In the end when death finds us, we end up losing everything… Don’t we?
Loss is part of who we are. We can’t escape it. We learn from it, grow from it, and so much more. Some of the greatest stories ever forged come from loss. Within this book is some of those stories.
With an amazing lineup including Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon, Christina Sng, Tim Waggoner, Peter Straub, Palisano, Neil Gaiman, Lisa Morton, Joe Hill, Kaaron Warren, Joe Hill, and many more!
Tales of the Lost takes a dark look at the things we lose and the ghosts we struggle with. Money raised by the anthology will go to benefit the Save the Children Coronavirus response. The purpose of the book is to provide people stuck in their homes something new to read during this crisis, whIle all profits go to a great cause.
Join our Facebook page (TALES OF THE LOST) for regular updates, sneak peeks, links, interviews, and more.
We are in the sixth month of the year 2020 and it has been a very strange time.
I have been home for over 60 days-since March-and everything in the world has been cancelled. I’d like to thank COVID-19 or the Corona virus…whatever you want to call it. It’s winning this battle.
My daughter just realized last week that she would not be seeing her friends from school in person again for awhile and lost it. She is genetically enhanced, so it takes her a bit of time to understand some things.
Cops are still killing black folks but even more in the open now because they don’t care. If you sit down and realize that one man was the lynch pin to set off all these protests, you want to do some very unkind things to him.
Singers are running around-imitating black culture when it benefits them (Lana Del Rey-“I’m the Ghetto Priscilla Presley”) and pushing them away when it doesn’t. And not shutting up about it when you get called on it.
My youngest child’s father asked me what does it all mean? What do I think of it all? I’ve been in some kind of strange relationship with him for close to 20 years and I said what I’ve always said, “Black folks just sick and tired of being sick and tired.” He finally understood what I was saying.
I’m not going to do a whole…”When I was young…” diatribe because that gets us nowhere. Just know that as a black woman, I was taught to keep your hands where police can see them, answer only the questions they ask you with “Yes, sir” or “No, sir” and never get upset in front of a cop.
Once, when I was maybe 15 or 16, I was at the Mall in Cleveland. I took my 2 year old sister to ride a kiddie merry go round while my mom had her hair done. I was a harmless, gawky girl with big glasses dragging a little chubby kid around with me. I stood in the store by the merry go round and read a magazine. My sister was quiet and waved to me every time she went by.
Then, here comes Officer White Guy. He sees us. He beelines straight to us. We aren’t doing anything. I put the magazine down and stand next to the merry go round.
“You have to leave the Mall, now.” Officer White Guy snaps at me.
I pick my sister up off the merry go round while he keeps chiding me to leave. Even the guy in the magazine store said that I was leaving. I looked at the officer and said, “I don’t understand. She’s just riding and I’m standing here. I haven’t done anything.”
Feeling himself, he pushed harder, “You go now or I’ll arrest you.”
I thought to myself, “Okay.”
I grab my sister and we start walking. He’s yelling at me and asking me where I’m going. I don’t speak, I just move my ass as fast as I can until I can see it. The Hair Salon. I run inside and tell my mom that this cop is telling me I have to leave the Mall. My little sister is on my hip, looking around and wondering where the merry go round is. My mother mumbled something under her breath and slid from beneath the hair dryer.
What I didn’t anticipate were the other mommies and black women following her out the salon-with their hair wrapped in towels, getting touch ups or hair color added-to talk to Officer White Guy. He waited at the edge of the salon and refused to enter.
“What did my daughter do that was so wrong?” My mother asked him.
“Well, I just asked her to leave. She should have left. She can’t be…mumble mumble mumble.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the end, Officer So and So. What did my daughter do that was so wrong?” My mom pressed. Other black women stood back and crossed their arms on their chest.
Officer So and So didn’t say much and left.
For the rest of the time, I sat in the salon with my little sister, scared to death. This white man-someone that is supposed to uphold the law-came over and basically bothered me for no reason. I mean, I wasn’t doing anything. I was over the age requirement to be in the mall. I guess my crime was being a docile black kid he thought he could boss around.
And that’s what’s wrong today. Officers are flexing their powers and trying to pick out the docile black kid/person to boss around and we are done with it. We are done with all the lies and bullshit. I am so done with telling my kids the same thing my grandparents told me, which was the same thing their great grandparents told them.
We are sick and tired of being sick and tired and we are fighting back.
I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am tired of cops being total jerks and white folks acting like blacks owe them something. You use our culture (or any other culture) until it gets you somewhere and then you stop. Please, don’t even act like that. Madonna infiltrated gay ballrooms faster than Gwen Stefani stole the whole Chola look. I mean, it’s one thing to take a little of this and that, but when I watched Lady Gaga neck popping at the Grammy’s while she stood next to Michele Obama, I thought, “Damn, girl, really?”
And now, this is where we are. You know, I’m watching my friends struggle and try to understand what they can do. How can I help? You want to help? Be yourself. That’s it. I don’t want you to be my friend because of my skin color, I’d rather be friends because we have something in common. But, if there is ever a time you question what you are doing or if you are doing because another person is of a different race…well, you’re a racist and you can kiss my ass.
Don’t patronize me. Don’t pity me. What you fail to see is that we are stronger than this. I mean if we can overcome slavery and we are still here…well think about it. I mean, I aim to be a great horror writer, who happens to be a black woman and a mom. I don’t want to be a black horror writer. That makes no sense to me.
I love the diversity of living in Washington, DC. I love that I can grab lunch with my Latina friends and go for Pho, or meet my friend-an older white musician-and chat about comic books while we drink coffee. I love my Ethiopian neighbor living downstairs that talks to me about planting okra in our garden or how the white woman beneath me trusts us enough to call me (from out of town and caring for her sick mother) and ask me to get her mail. This is my world. I don’t want to see color, but I’m pointing it out because I can.
Go ahead and make your donation to Black Lives Matter. Go protest with the rest of us and get tear gassed. But if there ever comes a moment where you have to question-why the fuck am I doing this? You are probably a racist.
I know, something else will come along and all the bored Hollywood celebrities will flock to it. Black Lives Matter will become something that gets tossed by the way side while the next trend explodes. Our mannerisms and culture will still be copied and nothing is really going to change.
Trust me, I’ve seen this song and dance for the last 45+ years.
Ugh, I’m sorry I haven’t posted in awhile. All this COVID-19 is too much. I’ve been trying to pull it together and actually write, because there is nothing better than having a full day of writing. What I did not count was having my teen with me all day-even though she’s self sufficient, single mommy guilt does creep in. Checking in with friends and trying to simply function is hard. Not to mention the non stop partying near where I live is becoming bothersome. (Ya think?!)
I finally have a pattern figured. First, I needed to get through my class on Shakespeare and reading one play every week after Borderlands. That was kinda difficult. Then, I had to write one helluva paper on Macbeth (I think I may pull a solid B). Blah blah writing, blah blah work blah blah friends having breakdowns blah blah COVID hitting a little too close to home. (From what I understand, “chicken feet soup” is supposed to work. Although, I think that’s some voodoo stuff, so I may not ask for any. Gotta love my Southern Family!)
Here’s my new pattern of not being overwhelmed: Trying to do something for 30 minutes. If I’m cool, I can keep it going. If I’m bored, after 30 minutes, I can give it up sans guilt. This has worked much better. However, me and my kid are living like vampire rockstars (Sleep all day, awake all night) I’ve gotta get that together.
Either way, I’ll be here. I’ve got a bunch of new exciting adventures to share and I can’t wait for all three of you guys to read them! Rock on!
I went upstairs and saw the continental breakfast was the sexiest and hottest thing I’d ever seen. Turkey sausage, homemade waffles, fresh fruit and my dilly ass was eating donut holes in my hotel room, packing.
Consider this a learning experience.
We meet in the room and have to share our stories we wrote from the one line we were given. I have to say, even I felt improved. My story went in a strange direction. I’ll end up putting a photo of it in here because I’m feeling pretty lazy today.
Either way, everyone was shocked. We weren’t supposed to reveal who wrote what, but I did make a squat with glee sound when Chet Williamson read my story. Oh, he did the damned thing. I was sure everyone knew, but nope…I was being my paranoid self.
We were also able to make our exchanges of the critiques of people we didn’t see, which was odd because there was this algorithm in place. It did not work very well, I kept ending up with the same faces.
In closing, we were given advice. I remember Chet’s advice the most:
“Fuck doing Nano in a month! Take a year to do it! Do it forever! You can’t get anything done in one month.” (silent nods from the room of yes, true)
“Have these books in your ownership and fucking use them: “Eats Shoots and Leaves”, “Elements of Style”, “Chicago Manual of Style” and “Sister Bernadettes Barking Dog”” (scribbles like crazy and makes mental notes.)
“Readers want to know what’s going to happen next, not what happened.”
“For God’s sake, read all dialogue aloud. Read it out loud several times to make sure it sounds real.” (even I can’t stress this enough)
“Cut down on your attributions-like he said/she said. Use other words like growl/grunted/hiss”
We lingered for a bit. Purchased some books. And we left. That was the end. Some of us exchanged phone numbers, vowed to see each other again…stuff like that.
I went out for coffee with some new friends, which was fun
I also came home with a shitload of papers and missed my train by two minutes, but was able to catch up on my podcasts.
One complaint-the price of the hotel seemed to fluctuate. On the last day there, I saw a lot of questionable things but I was glad I was leaving.
Would I go again? Yeah, you betcha! It was fun but I’d make sure I had all the batches of work and reading beforehand, instead of second guessing myself.
Headed into Day Two of Borderlands with a binder full of interesting stories that I have read and given a decent critique.
This is how it goes: We were given a schedule on Friday along with a number and a small piece of paper with a sentence. Based on the numbers, we were to go to specific rooms to speak on our critiques. The small piece of paper was a “starter” for a story we were to have ready for Sunday. Aaaand the story was to be based on everything you learned today. Yeah, Saturday, Day Two.
My sentence was: So you think you know the truth?
My brain shut down. I folded the paper and stuck it in my writers notebook.
Friday night, I made plans to get up early and do some yoga. Then, I was going to check out the continental breakfast (which normally is yogurt or a homemade waffle-no meat). I had big intentions. Especially after I took the picture with F. Paul Wilson and fan girled to death. Now, you know my big plans.
I woke up late as fuck.
Dammit iPhone alarm!!
Fastest shower in history. Thank God, I stole my kids donut holes and turkey sausage (thanks, sis for that idea), think about yoga as I grab the piece of paper with my location and run down the hall. I made it.
First session was with Tom. Tom was a super laid back guy. Head of the whole Borderlands event and a New York accent that comes and goes. He was a hoot.
Feedback time…my story seemed to cause a bit of controversy. I didn’t name the sex of the protagonist, which confused everyone. There was discussion on the trope I chose but I gave it a lovely twist. (No, I’m not gonna share). Tom liked the twist.
Sadly, because of my old grandma like age, no one knew who in the hell Robert Johnson was. And this meant, I would have to explain this all the rest of the day.
It seems I wasn’t emailed the first batch of stories, so I missed out, but I did have another person email me them later. It turns out those were the most fun stories and I didn’t have them. Ugh.
We received feedback. We sat and everyone went around the room-not necessarily shitting on you (but it felt like it)-and in the end, you are able to explain or share anything you felt relevant to enhance your story. It went like this for a few hours (maybe two?)
The last to give feedback was Tom. I could listen to him talk forever but alas, this is but a summary. Our time was up and we headed to the next room for critiques.
Next session was with Ginger. She’s an editor and works with Tom. She has bright red hair and she’s tiny but has an aura around her of power. I was first and we chatted before everyone else arrived. Repeat of the first session.
And then, lunch.
I felt a cold coming on. I hooked up with one of the other girls from the Horror Writers Association and we both decided we wanted soup. We walked around downtown Baltimore, searching for soup. (I didn’t even see the damned Chik Fil A across the street…duh!)
We found a lobstah joint. She got a lobster roll. I asked to try the lobster bisque. (There was chow-dah but I didn’t have a good experience with clam chow-dah years ago) It was really good. I got a cup with fresh lobster on top. We had a nice chat and talked about the stress of writing and stuff like that.
Back to class. Next session was with Douglas F (Prime Evil) Winter!! It took me a minute but when I remembered him, oh the crushing came in strong. It’s like, “I used to read your books in bed, under blankets late at night.”
No, Tracy, that didn’t sound perverted at all. Not one bit.
We took a picture together. After everyone came in the room, he closes the door (albeit dramatically) and walks over to our little group, “I just got over pneumonia.”
I stood up. Nope. Not today Satan.
He said he was cleared and had a note from his doctor. Instantly, I felt my throat tighten and fluid fill my lungs.
Sadly, pneumonia made his voice soft and scratchy. I had to crane to listen and of course, didn’t have some of the stories I needed to critique. I listened and took my critique like a man.
The best was last-F. Paul Wilson. We’re friends now. And I was first and goofily walked in and probably said something incredibly stupid. (Hey Paul, pigeons can’t fart. Did you know that?)
This was a fun group. We’d all passed out our critiques, so we came in empty handed. I’m not even going to get into it but I will say that Paul is a fun guy. Worth the wait.
We went off kilter because I was the black dot in a snowstorm, one of the other women asked me a question about writing about people of color. She said that she went to a conference and a guy led a seminar that basically said, “People of color don’t like to be described in the terms of food. Like no chocolate or fudge.”
I looked at her like she lost her mind, “Huh?”
“Well,” I cleared my throat, “I don’t mind. I mean, my kids are mixed. My youngest kid’s dad is Latino. Someone referred to her skin color as cafe con leche. I wasn’t offended because she is cafe con leche colored.”
“Look, you can describe skin without being offensive. But, in short, and on behalf of the black race, no problem describing skin as food. I mean, I like to call myself the ‘chocolate girl wonder’. It’s no biggie. My sister, the poet, does it better and with more eloquence than me. But no offense taken.”
Then, my boy, Paul, backs me up, “Some people just look for something to bitch about. I mean, do what you need to do.”
I asked for more “Repairman Jack” books for my friend. And the chicks of the room discussed our writing assignments for the night. One girl had the first line from Fahrenheit 451. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew.
She had a good idea for me to work on mine and we all got advice from Paul. It was dinner time and we still had one more group session together.
I turn to the Southern gal that asked me about race and said the following, “Where you from?”
“Where can I get some fried fish?”
“Girl, I know just the place.”
“I knew you would. It’s a Southern thing.”
We had fun. She said it felt like she knew me but I know it was my mother’s Southern side taking over and exuding Southern warmth and kindness.
Everyone needed a drink. We went to what was a pub. Fish and chips were good. Then, we looked up and another group of writers entered the joint. We waved and finished eating.
One girl wanted ice cream. I decided to go with her to get ice cream, which was an adventure because it was located in a fried chicken joint! They had this interesting way of making it and it looked like a rose. She had a small bowl of mango roses with other stuff on top (like coconut and mango sprinkles). It looked good but I knew my body. I pushed my limit with the creamy bisque. I would be surprised if I didn’t fart my way back to the hotel.
One more group meeting. We all were a bit more familiar with each other. I made some new friends. This was the wrap up.
One of the grunts gave the panel some liquor. Paul opened the liquor and everyone on the panel seemed to partake.
A very big takeaway is that writers can drink. Like DRINK!! But, they got nothing on Librarians. Oh, they can tear a house down and come to work the next day like nothing happened.
We learned a lot that night. I learned about editing and how Paul was like, “You guys-everyone in here-lays a lot of exposition, cut it out.”
Tom said, “Fuck the simultaneous queries. Just send your work everywhere. It’s better to turn someone down than wait for one person to turn you down.”
Chet Williamson gave an awesome, funny speech which basically said, “Don’t quit your day job, be sure your partner has medical benefits, write and submit. Never stop.” He said a lot of stuff. He is a really great speaker, he showed even more greatness on Sunday.
In the end, a fun time was had by all. Sadly, I can’t party like I used to and this was the second time for midnight in a row. I am not like these other writers. A new friend and I snuck out to work on our stories at 1100. I felt like I let the team down.
We needed to send our print jobs to the front desk to be printed. I finished my opus at 1230 and looking like anyone’s mammy, I went downstairs to get my print job. I step off the elevator and there is the panel, going out for drinks!
Let me elaborate. I attended the Borderlands Boot Camp in Baltimore, Maryland. I was selected. I’m not gonna lie, initially, I was the black dot in the snow. But, it didn’t bother me. I’m used to being an anomaly. I do need to put the brakes on though…or at least slow the speed limit.
After a particularly dismal day at work of checking me email 8000x in an hour, I got the email. Welcome to the Borderlands Boot Camp. In summation, we will book your room-you pay-and read a lot of stuff. Don’t come with your heart on your sleeve because that’s not what we are here to deal with, you sniveling grunt. Now, here’s the first packet of shit you need to read.
Okay, I got this.
My life decided it needed a full upheaval in 2020. I finally got the transfer I NEEDED, I joined a writing group I WANTED, two anthologies I was in were published and of course, my family went into semi turmoil (but that’s what families do-and my sneaky sister and brother in law hid a pie I made).
Everything felt like, “What next?”
Life said, “Okay, bitch.”
Sitter (aka my mom) for the conference couldn’t come, my sister (plan b) got SUPER DUPER SICK, I started to get sick, my book for class showed up a week late (FYI-I’m still behind) and pretty much anything else you can add.
But, Plan C came through, I got tickets and went to the conference.
Upon arrival-Frank Zappa winked at me in the lobby. I went to my room and realized I needed a full body mirror in my life. I also need to embrace all the tenements of minimalism. Oh, hey Frank was in my room and Adam Duritz was over my toilet. Not cool, yo.
First meeting was that night. I grabbed my bag and dragged my ass upstairs. Okay, I tried not to fan girl out but there sat F. Paul Wilson (author of “The Keep” and my intro to horror after Matheson and Beaumont). Holy shit! At the end of the table was “Prime Evil”-Douglas Winter-who I swear stared a hole through my shirt (you gotta look at this shirt. What the fuck is she wearing?)
We had a lecture, which was informing. We listened to why we should not take shit personal and then we listened as our work was eviscerated. I almost went into a fetal position but, I held strong.
We received our Sunday assignments-write a story based on a sentence. The sentence starts the story. My sentence was: So you think you know the truth.
I started to panic. How? Who? What? I can’t think in any language and I’ve got 8000 pages of reading to turn in. Okay, be cool. Paul grinned at me. I got a friend (new friend-Nicole) to take a picture. I felt all stalker like but Paul was mad cool. He was also like a grandpa that you want to hug…only he would crawl into your brain and snatch that horror out of it and use it against you. Anyway, I’m a dork. Here’s the pic:
And that was the first day. Also, there was drinking-but not by me-and let me say that the panel is all over 55 and we, the grunts, were falling out like little bitches at 11:00 pm. They (the panel) could have gone all night. I knew I was tired. I was running on adrenaline, Burger King and coffee. Bedtime: 12:46 am