ice storm edition
Since my last email, we've endured a round of winter weather that very thoroughly knocked my household off course with a full week of kindergarten AMI (alternate methods of instruction, i.e. remote learning, if that particular face of hell isn't a part of your life). For inclement weather purposes, I might as well be employed by the Pony Express, and so I've been about as helpful to my family during their isolation as a self-righteous tweet decrying book banning is to anti-censorship efforts. (seriously, you need to do more than that)
I have been pleased to discover that I'm much less panicky about driving in snow and ice than I used to be, and I managed to get to and from work several times in conditions I would have been very unhappy about in an earlier phase of my life.
So, useless to my family, but handier than expected on the road!
Okay. I repressed the urge to tweet something like, "OMG OMG OMG I have news! I can't tell you yet!" and so, instead, I'll write it here. I got a major acceptance this morning that literally made me cry. Maybe I'll be able to spill the beans next week.
It's at a place I've wanted to break into since I first started doing this, and I've submitted just about every piece I've ever written to them. I always start with The Dark (which, don't get me wrong, would produce a similar reaction if I got an acceptance there), because of that famous turnaround time, but this publisher is always my next step. Up until today, that's always ended a polite form rejection, save two thrilling rides on the short list. This one was a Big Deal for me, and I'm really, really excited.
Also terrified, since this is one of those "I'll know I've made it in short fiction when..." moments. Cue all of the panicky thoughts about whether or not this is actually my peak and I don't have anything left in me to write, what if it was actually a clerical error and they didn't mean to accept my story, oh no, I don't actually feel like I've made it after all, etc.
Please, brain, just let me have this really nice moment?
I also dusted off my trunked* novel and sent it out to an indie publisher with an open call that sounded very compatible, except they were looking for a PG-13 profanity level. Ah fuck, I thought. So I did a Find All for "fuck," and then spent the next couple of hours of my one wild and precious life whittling my seventy-eight fucks down to a more manageable and hopefully more acceptable five, all of which genuinely felt necessary to the text. Then, sheepishly, I did another search for "shit." FUCK, I thought. But I did wrangle a version of the story that didn't make me feel like I'd completely diluted my protagonist's voice (she is a very naturally sweary person and it's not just that I'm a lazy writer and sweary person myself) and got it sent out the door.
*I do prefer Laura Zats' suggestion in an episode of the wonderful Print Run podcast to think of it as a cedar closet and not a trunk. Maybe it's not the novel I debut with, but that doesn't mean it's bad or unpublishable. It's in storage, not the garbage.
I'm also finishing up a flash piece that I was invited to contribute, which always makes me so incredibly happy to be able to do. I feel great about all of it, except the last line. It's one of those situations where that's a sink-or-swim moment, and I'm going to have to get it exactly right for the piece to work. I'm just trying to be patient with the piece and myself and take lots of showers, since that's inevitably where my closing zinger lines find me.
I polished off All the Living and the Dead: From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People who Have Made Death Their Life's Work by Hayley Campbell, which was an incredibly thoughtful birthday gift from my sister, who gets me. It belongs on the same shelf as Mary Roach's Stiff and Caitlyn Doughty's From Here to Eternity, which are two of my favorite nonfiction books. Jones' fascination with death began with seeing her dad Eddie Campbell's (yep) illustrations of the Ripper victims in From Hell. Unlike Roach or Doughty, she actually does encounter something in her research that really does a number on her (I couldn't get it out of my head either, having only read about it ,and it's upsetting enough that I'm not going to go into more detail). Like any good book about death, it's really funny, heartbreaking and also so, so, so human, with an unexpected and extremely compassionate discussion of trauma and healing.
I also finally read Gender Queer. Gender Queer is one of if not the most banned book in the United States right now. It upsets people in such a visceral way that they're ready to tear down entire institutions to scrub it out of existence. I approached it feeling like I was opening the pages of a heavyweight in the censorship wars, a mighty beast of a book that's reduced grown men to red-faced blubbering at city council meetings.
Instead, it's a sparely drawn and deeply felt memoir of learning to understand who you are. I read horror comics, so I recognize that my shock-o-meter may be a bit defective, but look. This book is not shocking. Seriously, the adjectives I would use to describe this book are: gentle, thoughtful, empathetic. I mean, sure, there are two (2) panels that I guess are "sexually explicit," and there's some menstrual blood. I feel compelled to mention that about 50% of the population has at one point in their life rested their gaze upon a used menstrual pad. Is that really worth defunding a library over?
My takeaway from Gender Queer was that these fascists' goal isn't only to remove LGBTQ people from public life, they're also trying to remove anything that might encourage empathy in the blinkered folks in Straightlandia, which will make their fascist objectives of control and repression that much easier to achieve.
And I read Patrick Barb's excellent novella Helicopter Parenting in the Age of Drone Warfare in one white-knuckled sitting, and highly recommend it. It's a tense, lean genre mashup of sci fi and horror that hits a lot of very specific parental anxieties (like, with a hammer).
Like the rest of the world, I'm still enjoying The Last of Us, and like everyone else, I was appropriately wrecked by the Nick Offerman episode. That was balanced very nicely by the second season of Avenue 5, which I recommend very specifically for people who are relatively new to management. It is a mean show and I want to be very up front about that, but it's also hilarious, and it does such a wonderful job of dramatizing that hideous feeling when you realize no one is actually in charge but everyone expects you to be. It also nails how farcical it feels to be trapped at the interstices of various slow-motion apocalypses.
I got invited to visit a very cool fellow parent's house on my street to sit with her at her kitchen table and peacefully type away on our respective laptops while our two kids played in the other room. It felt wonderful, and also like I should probably seek other people out more often, because I think life could potentially be much easier and better if I would spend more time outside of my own head.
That's all I have for you this week. Thanks for spending a few moments of your Friday with me, and I hope you're happy and have things to look forward to this weekend.