Let’s Me And You Make A Reunion

What is there to say right now, I mean, really. What could I say that wouldn’t simply be responding to the intentional distraction of this rotten, wormwood system we’re so afraid to burn? Nothing. And since I’m exhausted of just seeing my twitter and facebook feeds – even when I agree – I thought, what can I talk about? To what memories do I keep returning?

IMG_0545

Erm. But, you know…except in my memory my son isn’t making ridiculous faces. Which, let’s be honest, is almost never. He’s nearly 11, y’all, and I cannot.

So we’re not all facebook friends so you wouldn’t know that at the beginning of last month (WAS IT REALLY SO RECENTLY?!) I was in Portland to see my sister Jen-the-Twin and her my boys! Of whom I apparently feel squicky about publicly posting pictures! So there’s that ridiculous picture of Ez and I before or after we had an amazing easter pie from …wait for it…Paiku. A Portland food truck. That serves pies, both meat and dessert. Called Paiku. Because OF COURSE. Portland gon’ Portland, y’all.

But if you’ve clicked that link and gone to my sister’s style blog, you already know why Portland exists. For thrifting. And as someone who has drooled over Jen’s various (and numerous) finds, she did what any loving sister would do and hooked. me. up.

Yes, please, $3 jeans. Snatch that, $1.75 skirt that made me feel like a kindergarten teacher from Maui. I bought several-many skirts and they are all wonderful and I have worn them all and there are no pictures BUT.*

The dresses.

IMG_0616This is the picture I’m supposed to show you. Because aside from Josh being asleep which is completely unavoidable, look. LOOK. But let me tell you a secret.

IMG_0614This is my actual favorite. Not because it’s blurry, DADDY. (I know you’re reading this.) And not because my husband is totally hilarious. But because WILL YOU PLEASE LOOK AT THIS DRESS?! And, on the very off chance that you are not breakdancing in solidarity with me right now over this almost criminal and obscene gift (did I mention my twin is EVERYTHING?)….I can’t make you love me, if you don’t. You can’t make your heart feel…something it won’t. But there’s the door.

IMG_0619This was super expensive. I literally paid $9.99 for it – full price, y’all – but I mean. And then. Because like.

Right?

Portland. You sly little rodent, burrowing into my heart and making me consider things I shouldn’t.

And this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the lovely Mother Murphy, who took me thrifting in her corner of Quebec last week and who just gets me.

Thrifting does the body good.

*Okay, there is something that I found that LITERALLY (nope) set the rain on fire but I refuse to mention it until I have an accompanying picture because I cataplexy-ed OUT in that thrift shop. Also I need to picture more.

Everything She Wants

It’s about that time, no?

::5 days pass::

::and then literally 3 weeks::

So yes, Jelena, the blogging got away from me. It would be easier if…. wow, that gif quickly becomes distracting… as I was saying: if I were an open book and could just tell you everything I’m doing, writing, et cetera, because the source material never ends. Mais alors. Instead, lemme tell you about the wonderfully random and completely inconsequential minutia of life.

So Josh and I are sitting in a doctor’s wait room this week and people-watching, as one does. First of all, I love the number of people who have a translator with them – and I mean that. I love living in culturally diverse places and what is more interesting to watch than the translator her/himself, navigating two cultures at once? I’ll tell you what. The obligatory old woman pretending to be slightly senile because she is here to win, kids.

Old Woman (OW) has arrived for her appointment.

Receptionist requests her medical card.

OW does not have.

Receptionist says she’ll reschedule her appointment.

OW will see doctor now.

Receptionist like, whu? Gimme the card then.

OW left the card at home. She sees doctor now.

Receptionist is tryna keep the bite out of her voice because the whole wait room can hear whether we want to or not and OW got salty immediatement. Receptionist insists that cards must be proffered.

OW: (verbatim) I don’t have it with me, what can we do? (Rhetorical) I’ll see doctor now.

OW steps. toward. hall.

Reception door opens, refusals are stated strongly.

OW does not understand what you are not understanding. She should’ve brought her card. She didn’t. She is not going home, y’all. She will see the doctor now. She will.

It’s at this point that 2nd receptionist decides to help out because perhaps his being a dude will change something?

It doesn’t.

OW figures out how to grease this wheel. Pulls out OPUS card. That one uses to ride public transportation.

Receptionists are silent. Because what?

OW: (verbatim) Visa. (Shows credit card… and then immediately puts it back in wallet.)

Receptionists are silent. Because where are we. What’s happening.

You guys I cannot wait to get to this age. Head full of white hair – seriously, her tress game was crushing it – and using a cane while simultaneously holding a huge parka, a purse, several bags and clearly this woman has her faculties is what I’m saying.

OW will TALK to the doctor. Final offer.

When the receptionists tell her the doctor is leaving for the day very soon they should really have anticipated her attempt to break for the hall again. They really should’ve. I did.

Receptionist AGAIN insists that OW will be rescheduled. At this point, OW’s indiscernible muttering is her strength. That and she clearly has nowhere else to be. She will stand at this counter all day.

Receptionist, loudly, because she knows that we know that she has been bested: Just have a seat.

I mean. Better luck next time, baby girl. OW knew what she came to do.

Le Fall Down

This is life after revision.

For me anyway. It’s actually every part of the writing life after an intense stretch of intensity. Because nothing can fill the vacuum of a weeks long cocoon of creative expression and mental preoccupation. Every fiber of my being has been directed in one, beautiful direction. And then bam. I’m a little girl laying face down in the rain. What is life even.

Other uses for this posture:

1) The night THAT episode of The Good Wife aired. You know the one.

2) The first day of that week in the life of a woman.

3) After failing as an adult in one of the following ways:

a) having poured cereal without first checking that there was milk.

b) having wet one’s hair before realizing that there is no more apple vinegar shampoo.

c) being unable to find the car keys.

Demolition (Wo)Man

I’m gonna be honest, I gave that title all of three seconds of thought. That’s a lie. It was less than that and I feel like you can tell.

So I’m in the middle of a really, excruciatingly deceptive revision right now. Like, a deep bones revision.

You know how you’re watching brain surgery (as one does) and it just looks like this person will never be the same because you’ve flipped their scalp the other way and sawed through their cranium and dug around in the brain – and then you see them afterward and you cannot see the scar? (Shout-out to the docu-series, Brain Hospital. I wanna be you when I grow up.)

Okay, that’s what I feel like but not what I feel like I’m doing. Let’s start over.

This is the book.

Oh my gosh, it’s also the house I wanna DIE in.

::ahem::

Sorry. Anyway, so that’s the book, right? It’s the world, the concept, the scene outline, the characters to some extent. And so, that – that beautiful structure up there – looks relatively the same.

But see, inside – where one keeps all the insulation and world logic and character interaction and motivations?

….

Right?

So, sometimes my brain’s all, no, what are you talking about, this is totally a low-key revision because look.

And I’m like, yeah!

What was I thinking! This is gonna be super chill. I’m so silly. I think I’m just getting all mixed up about this whole driving in the snow and feeling like every mile brings me closer to the moment I go home to be with the Lord and this whole hubby having been sick and fever dreaming, cuz I really haven’t been getting great sleep what with how he’s taken to growling and kicking off the covers so lemme just open this word doc again, I don’t even know what I got so worked up about –

::crying in the wreckage::

~

So we’re good.

It’s gonna be great.

Super excited. Mildly terrified. Glad we’re doin’ it.

Totally unrelated: isn’t it hilarious when agents/editors/cps make one apt comment and you re-envision (the execution of) the entire novel. I love it.

Next time we’ll talk about writing other projects and how it sometimes teaches you how to properly write the first one. (And we’ll use “the first” rull loosely.)

::puts on hard hat::

 

Watch. And Pray.

It’s not like there’s a lack of things to talk about. I just haven’t been sure I want to or I want to yet.

Some of that is because I have learned so much about the power of social media through having found a thriving, articulate community of people to hear and by whom I feel my identity – or aspects of it – reflected. Most people would probably never think I needed help speaking up but then I think people mistake hearing your voice ever with hearing it all. There’s plenty the world has succeeded in making me self-conscious to assert. Plenty of times I didn’t want to go through the work of replying to something unacceptable because I knew that the attention would be given to my response (with words like “here we go again”) and not to whatever caused MY “here we go again” moment – here someone goes undermining my beauty, worth, intellect, love, faith and identity as a Black woman.

And I’ve found so much – so. much. – relief in scrolling through my timeline in those times and “hearing” these people speak. Because the truth is, I have a right to not engage every time. Often, I think of Toni Morrison’s genius commentary on the work of racism:

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

Sometimes I will exercise my right to be heard, to respond, etc. Sometimes I’m not having it. Just like the woman who tweeted that a male scientist at her convention commented that her attire was not appropriate (let’s not even) – and then so many women responded by affirming that her outfit WAS appropriate. This is our socialized response, no? Not “You do not have the authority to make such a claim/approach me in the first place” but defending the outfit in question. (And I know, for myself, part of the reason for that type of response is also born out of a desire to let the other party know that I know s/he’s wrong. Hashtag: Just so you know. So it’s not like I don’t get it.)

But sometimes, as when a deserved artist wins a National Book Award for the first time, I (a) know that one of these people I admire will speak and I will read it and be able to breathe deep because someone gets it and someone spoke and that means I have the validation everyone who takes it for granted wonders why I need and I (b) am unsure how best to support the artist. Does she want another thinkpiece to come up when her name and win are googled? Does it bother her at all? (Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe they’re best friends and while she wishes he hadn’t spoken that way in mixed and streaming company, she knows his heart. Maybe he thought he was making social commentary on the ridiculousness of antiquated stereotypes – yeah, that one’s a long shot but remember when I said we’re socialized to give anyone but us the benefit of the doubt?)

Then there’s times when a new tv show comes on – particularly one with a problematic or at least confusing title – and it is everything you hoped it would be and you feel for the first time in a long time like the audience. You feel this way because instead of being about the gaze, it’s actually about things as we see and experience them. And it doesn’t have to be perfect just because it’s one of few, and did I mention it’s that pressure to be the perfect representation for a varied and diverse people group that demonstrates the problem with white-washed broadcasting.

Then sometimes kids give interviews and ho-my-word, I don’t even think I can do this one. Because they’re kids. And despite the fact that they are basically the embodiment of what I can only assume would have been one of Dr. Marvin Monroe’s social experiments (what happens when you are tragically wealthy, do not engage in agencies of socialization such as corporate schooling, are “trusted” by your parents enough to make and immortalize your own life choices as a pre-teen who will have one of two options going forward: a really painful period of realization during which you are haunted by your nonstop public declarations and images – or – refusal to undergo said very-public process and therefore stay the course and just…just be horrible) – it’s not fair to anyone to have such an exhaustive record of these years.

Or what about when part one of a two part adaptation of a third book comes out and people are so upset over that concept – which apparently and seemingly has been done unnecessarily before but this isn’t that time and it isn’t those books and it was so good and I’m not sorry that we might actually lose friendships over this discussion because you will NOT badmouth MOCKINGJAY PART 1.

Ahem.

A Story Is A Play Is A Novel Is A Show

The first time I changed formats/mediums was in university. I’d written a short story about a girl who realizes her boyfriend’s interest is moreso in the fact that theirs is an interracial relationship than in her. (It would be giving it too much credit to believe the execution lived up to that, since what I mostly remember is the character fumbling with the inconsistencies of what you’d expect your partner to “get”, what level of social maturity/critiquing in which you’d expect they could participate.)

I decided the story was better served as a screenplay, a decision probably not unrelated to the fact that moving from high school into university cut my performances by about 90%. No marching band, no color guard, no repertory theatre, no drill team. But that’s not the point.

The process of transposing a story from the page to the stage or screen is such an exciting (to me) experience. It’s also (sometimes) frustrating, stumping, illuminating, a dozen other things. My willingness/need to do this – not only when I realize a story is better suited to something other than a short story, novella or novel, but also when it would simply be an interesting variation to see it that way in addition – is probably why I’ve always taken exception with people who insist on comparing novels to their film adaptations. Or more accurately, comparing films to their source books. It. Is. Not. The. Same. It’s not supposed to be, it couldn’t possibly be. Get on with it.

So, upon hearing about the Sci-fest (the Los Angeles Science Fiction One-Act Play Festival)

…I decided to take one of my short stories – one that wouldn’t exceed the 20 min run time – and transpose it into a stage play. It was actually pretty easy to make the choice, not just based on length but also on what I thought I could most effectively stage on a budget. (The flash trilogy about planets having their own unique soul conditions or my beloved Jigsaw, whose synopsis is available on my Writing page, did not quite fit this bill.)

The clear choice was Caroline Samir is Alive and Well.

And then I got stuck.

Not inorganically, which is just another way of saying the pause in the process was necessary, but still. Frustration. (Mostly because I had other deadlines…) Because pretty early on, it was apparent that the choice Caroline makes in the short story would not be emotionally satisfying or even possibly defensible on stage. Which means that I needed to reimagine her decision for the physical audience that (if not at sci-fest then someday and somewhere else!) would be watching. And of course it still had to be consistent with who she is.

The good thing about Caroline herself, and one of the reasons I knew this story was the right one to use, is that she is very boldly herself. Probably irritatingly so, for some. Myself included if I had to spend more than 5000 words with her, to be honest. But that possibly made it a bit easier to think of another way her choice would manifest.

So, long story short (not really, we’ve already been here a while, no?), the ending of the stage play is completely different from the ending of the short story. Necessarily so. And I love that.

And don’t get me started on transitioning a novel into a tv series.

Have you ever rewritten a story for a different medium? Did you love it? (Objection. Leading.)

Yes, it *IS* bold to end a blog post with a question when your once conversational community may be gone forever, which is totally your own fault for not blogging in like ever.

Now. Here’s the deal.

As usual, I’d like to share the blame for my blog absence with you. (As in let’s just say we’re both wrong and be done with it.)

The reality is productivity. Every single thing has been written and submitted and crazy amazingly fun opportunities like Issa Rae’s ColorCreative.tv search for tv pilots written by women and writers of color and Sci-fest’s one act play festival and deadlines for these things and others have happened.

Because seriously, people, if you are like me, you’ve been ready for this for a good minute. Yas.

So away I have been getting the little boy settled in his new school (which we love and about which we sing hallelujah), writing all the things (including this one act play that should NOT be taking this long except for all the other writing deadline interruptions, geez), having no free weekends (which is killing my family as we are homebodies and I am only half-joking).

Watching my dog go full-senile. Yes, he’s almost 11 but dang. He hit old age hard. Let’s just say he is no longer the dog that has to go out once a day. O_O Not at all.

Oh and other AMAZINGLY MARVELOUS things still open to submissions?

Just adore Black Balloon and you should look into this.

If any stranger stumbles upon this post and enters either of these, let me know! So cool.

On Brotherhood

These last few, what has it been? days? weeks? is it a month yet? I’ve been wide awake, even when I don’t want to be. It’s been hard to relax, hard to lay down and keep my eyes closed. Because someone’s living it, someone’s talking about it, and someone’s denying the world that imposes on me exists.

We think that strength comes from not caring what other people think. I don’t see how that’s true. We were created to be relational beings, even if we don’t all execute that in the same way. I’m not sure what the stoicism that says I’m not upset or I don’t mind what other people say or think would gain me. What kind of person would it make me, if that were true? More than that, why is the expectation that it could be true?

I am a socialized being (albeit an intentionally re-educated one, by the grace of God which I mean quite literally). I’m an American, and I’m Black. I’ve gotten messages all my life as to the value system of the culture into which I was born. I don’t say this to absolve any other country of their scarred history, but to say that because of ours, the answer to our questions and our issues and our homegrown terror must take them into account. If I’ve been told all my life – on every conscious level and whether I agree with it or not – that the White American voice is required for all manner of validation, shall I be held wholly responsible then for dismantling all of the privilege that is therein implied, denying its destructive impact and cultural capital, by simply denying that a single voice does harm when it’s declaring injustice to be a lie,  accusing us of “attacking western civilization”, saying that “white people are being demonized” (because there is no way for someone to be wrong without being undone entirely…) or any of the willfully blind and unapologetic other things being said? On my own, I should just be the bigger person when someone tries to rewrite the definition of racism, which – if I can be – somehow means it won’t feel the least bit deflating? I won’t be discouraged or disappointed or further disillusioned, not ever or least only by admission long after the fact?

But if these are your countrymen, and that means anything, why wouldn’t I be? It *isn’t* enough for *me* to know the truth. People who look like me were the enslaved and then the segregated and then the scorned and mocked and antagonized and still the oppressed, but I should today in 2014 because ostensibly time heals all wounds brush off that so many people still refuse to acknowledge the truth? Why would I want to do that? How would that not grieve me?

I don’t *want* to live in a world where everyone looks like me or sounds like me or only knows the things that I know. I don’t want to go our separate ways, stick to our “own” kind, because where and when did that ever work? And, because it matters to me, how does that please God?

It does bothers me that you don’t get it. It just doesn’t change my mind. It doesn’t make me think maybe I’ve got it wrong. It doesn’t mean I’ll let myself be shut up, even when I don’t want to have this conversation all over again, even when I’m tired of having my heart race waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting to be completely disregarded. I’ll never stop knowing what I know about you, about me, about us, about respectability politics and the fact that anyone would find murder justified whether a boy had stolen cigars or not. I’ll never stop knowing that criminalization and oppression and self-loathing and crime are related, even if you don’t know. I’ll never stop knowing how – before I can show my talents – I must first disprove a prejudice.

I just know it should bother you, too.