Search

Lara Eckener

Diorama of a woman exploding

Month

March 2012

.013 – My hair’s favorite band is Bloc Party

There is a short OpEd piece from the New York Times making the rounds on my twitter feed.  It’s all about how the author thinks that adults should read adult books and leave the YA to the pre-teen girls.  I’m not going to link to it, because such a ridiculous and obviously baiting statement doesn’t need any more traffic than it’s already getting.  And while I realize that his opinion is ridiculous and obviously baiting, there was something else about it that caught me up short.  The author states that he himself is embarrassed when he sees adults reading YA and seems to somehow believe that his personal embarrassment should jump from him to the reader.  He clearly finds his feelings and opinions to be more valid or informed than that of the poor soul caught up in what he assumes to be a poorly written dystopian world.

I grew up in a pretty small town and I am very familiar with this kind of skewed mutual embarrassment.  The kind of embarrassment that you don’t really feel until you realize that the other person thinks that you should be embarrassed.  Then you’re almost obliged to give in to it out of propriety.  It took me moving away to college and several years of making poor decisions based on the wants of others to realize that this embarrassment was a thing that I could actually control.  Without getting too deep into the philosophy of it, I had the all too mundane realization that I am my own person and free to make my own choices.  What a relief that is, to know that I can do things that make me happy and not have to answer to anyone else with a twig up their hind end about my happiness.

I recently got a pretty daring haircut, for me anyway.  (I always want to go for the fauxhawk, and I always remind myself that I’m not quite that cool yet.)  While the response to it has been largely favorable I can still hear my mother and the people I left behind in that small town commenting on it in my head.  How silly and frivolous all of these brain phantoms find me.  Why don’t I just grow up?  Why don’t I stop wasting my time on concerts and writing stories about steampunk vampires in space and playing around on my movie podcast?  Why don’t I settle down and have children and buy a house like an adult?  I do wonder if the writer of the New York Times piece would agree with these voices.  And then I remember that it doesn’t matter, because I’m happy.  I can read YA in public.  I can wear ridiculous clothing.  I can get all the stupid haircuts I want, and anyone who wants to bring my happiness down must not find as much joy in such things as I do and therefor really aren’t worth my time.

I’m preaching to the choir here, but YA is a LARGE umbrella.  Stephanie Meyer is not JK Rowling is not John Green is not RL Stine.  If you don’t like Twilight (paranormal romance) that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy Looking for Alaska (young adult literary).  If you don’t like Harry Potter (fantasy) then you might like Goosebumps (horror).  Just like in adult books, there are different shades of YA literature with different intended audiences.  Honestly, while I wish I’d had Looking for Alaska as a teen, its message still rings true to me in my adult life and I’m very glad to have been able to read it.  I don’t personally think I could work in YA, given the types of stories I’m tempted to tell, but I greatly admire the writers who do.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of the most devastating and beautiful books I’ve ever read, and it’s only made better by the fact that it’s accessible to a younger crowd.

I almost pity people with the attitude of the New York Times piece.  How heavy must all of those societal restrictions they’ve built up around themselves be?  How boring must their very serious adult conversations become after a while as they circle around in the same, stagnant pools of approachable thought?  I think they must miss out on an awful lot, with their lists of approved reading and watching and listening.  It’s one thing to find something simply not to your taste, but it’s another thing entirely to look down on a whole genre simply because of the way it’s marketed.  Hey, if you try something find you don’t like it, at least you’ve given it a go and not written it off from the start.

I’m going home in two weeks.  I’m going to flaunt my ridiculous haircut absolutely everywhere and take pride in having allowed myself to become who I wanted to be, even as the adults around me try to make me someone else.

.012 – #ChangeWriteNow and in the Future

I have a friend who takes stealth pictures of me even though I’ve asked her not to many, many times.  It’s annoying as a general rule not to be listened to, but the reason this bothers me so much more than any other thing of the myriad of things my friends refuse to stop doing is because the end result is photos of me, and I’m hideous.

Image

(One she snuck at Epcot last weekend.)

By which I mean of course, I feel hideous.  I’m fat(ter than I used to be by at least 70 pounds) and unattractive and it drives me nuts when people tell me I’m not because I know I am.  I know it.  I don’t want people to argue with me.  I’m not looking for attention or pity, I just know who I am and what I look like to me and that’s what matters.  It would be ridiculous to deny that a lot of that feeling is internal.  I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with all of the ways in which I let myself down and that only adds to the pile of things I find disgusting about myself.  So at the last minute and almost on a whim I joined the second round of Change Write Now.

I’m not a competitive person by nature, but I do find that a lot of times I’m motivated by simply feeling like I’m a part of something.  I don’t want to beat my team members, but I don’t want to let them down either, and that’s huge for me.  For the past two weeks I’ve had more water than I may have had all of last year, a mere four Cokes overall, and I’ve been eating better and cheaper (read: not takeout).  It’s kind of amazing how much I find that I want to do these things now, after just two weeks of having to be conscious of my decisions.  I’ll have soda left over from lunch and give it up in favor of my afternoon water.  The boyfriend doesn’t even know who I am anymore.

All that said, there’s still major room for improvement.  I need to get over my internalized fear of the gym (and a lot of things really) and just get back into going in the mornings.  I’m going to try again tomorrow and see if I can’t actually drag my sorry ass out of bed at 5:30.  I know I feel good when I work out in the morning, but I still can’t make myself do it half the time.  That’s almost as messed up as my self-image.  It’s not just working out I mistreat that way, though.

For instance, I also know I feel good when I’m working on my stories.  I often feel like I can conquer this real world if I’m keeping things in order in my made up ones.  I know that if I sit down and write I can finish things which can lead to publishing things which can lead to my ultimate goal of a writing career, the only type of career I’ve wanted for quite some time.  I don’t want to be rich and famous, I just want to be able to pay my bills by doing things that make me happy.

And yet…sometimes I don’t finish things.  Or if I do sit down at all I let myself be overtaken by a feeling of ineffectuality and give up before I start.  This month has been the lowest production month for me this year, even while I’ve been keeping my mind on and working on other things that I need to get under control.  Why, even though I’m almost thirty, do I still sabotage myself?  Why do I maintain an undesirable view of myself and let it stick?  I can’t control what other people do or how they see me, but I can control me, and I’m still the person who sees the worst in me all of the time.  I need to stop.  I need to stand up and take control and just become the person I want to be without giving in to the fear of failure.  It sounds so easy when other people say it.

Change Write Now has done wonders for making me really think about some of the choices I make and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to carry them over.  In the meantime, when I do get out of bed in the morning, whether it’s two hours early or thirty minutes late, I’ll just continue to recite the mantra written on my whiteboard.  It’s a song lyric from a band that has sadly broken up, but it’s a good reminder of the person I can be.  I can be relentless too.

.011 – To know absolutely nothing is certainly human.

Australia!  I don’t know very much about it!

Back in February a local writing friend sent me a link for a steampunk story call.  The woman who is editing the anthology wants stories from the Victorian period set in almost any place but England or the States.  She has a specific list of location wishes.  We’re not in any way obligated to fulfill those wishes, she just wanted to point out areas which aren’t typically covered by people writing in the steampunk genre.  I took a gander at the list and decided that it would be fun to set something in Australia and it would give me cause to do some reading and learn more about the area in general.

My basic starting premise was to deal with a young woman who had been born into one of the native groups (my reading suggests different attitudes towards whether using the term aboriginal is currently culturally correct) and then had been ‘rescued’ by some of the European settlers and raised by them.  The story itself was to pick up when she learns some of the truths about who she is exactly and denounces her white family to leave and find her true home.  (Ostensibly to touch on the idea that no home is really ‘true’, because I saw Garden State one too many times or something.)  Over all the story would be kind of an adventure and she’d pick up a lady sidekick who she may or may not develop feelings for.   Anyway, I felt like all of this would be a good way to break down the themes of colonialism, race, gender, and sexuality.

The problem I continue to run into is that I really know very, very little about Australia, and while I’ve done some reading, it’s hard for me to get a good feel of the place during that period.  I think it’s simply that I haven’t been steeped in it throughout my life the way I’ve been steeped in period work from the US, Canada, the UK, France, and even Japan, so it’s just not as comfortable.  Also, as a denizen of the internet, I’m extremely wary of committing the very issues I’m trying to write about.  I don’t want to fetishize her native background and I don’t want to be too disparaging about either the native peoples or the European settlers.  I feel a bit like I’ve taken my usual old tightrope and moved it from the skyscrapers over New York to Niagra Falls and the change in view below is throwing off my comfort in performing the feat.

So the question becomes, do I get an Australian tutor to teach me about their perspective on the issues of the time period, or do I simply give in to my fears and change the setting?  I know I could come up with something interesting set in Germany, say, that wouldn’t leave me with this many uncertainties.  But then, it might not cover the themes I want to cover.  It certainly couldn’t cover them in the same way.  (Unless there were Roma in Germany at the time.  Although, that wouldn’t have as much to do with colonialism in particular.)

We have to query the story before we can send it in, so this worrying might all be for not if she doesn’t except the query, but that just makes me want to choose the right mixture of setting and issues all the more.

Anyone out there want to give some informal history lessons?

.010 – March

Oh hello.  I half expect this thing to be gone when I can’t get back to it for more than a week.  Which is silly, considering it took about four years for that stupid Angelfire site with my college poetry on it to finally disappear.  (I lost the password.  It was pretty harrowing there for a while, guys.)  Anyway, half of March has happened, and that’s rude.  While January and February seemed to have blasted by March is practically limping along.  It feels like it might never end.  On one hand, that gives me so much time to write!  On the other hand, it’s just rubbing in how much writing I haven’t done.  But first thing’s first, back to…

February.

Words: 8,627.  Yes, merely a measly eight and a half thousand.  A backslide that might never end.

Flubs: In looking at the things I wanted to have done through the end of February I have not: a) finished a draft of Volunteer Vampires, b) let alone have one polished enough to submit somewhere, and c) have not made it halfway through the rough of my half of the Steampunk novel.  And that’s all incredibly depressing.  I can’t feel too bad about Volunteer Vampires though, because I’ve definitely sorted out where I’m going with it and just need to sit down and put one word after another on it.

Follow Throughs: I HAVE, however, written one poem for the express purpose of submitting it to an online poetry zine and have gone about polishing another one up so I can either submit it to a magazine or enter a contest with it.  I know, contests are what people with talent and faith in themselves do, but I am knee deep in faking it until I make it over here, so I might as well go for broke.  I’ve also started another short story for a call requesting lesbian steampunk fiction set in places other than England and the States.  We’ll see if I can settle on where that’s going and get it suitably polished.  It seemed relevant to my interests at the very least.

Words To Date: 18,133

March:

I received the second draft of a friend’s novel manuscript in the mail today.  I spent a good number of hours last year reading through her rough asking questions and making suggestions.  This one I got hard copy so I can mark it up to my little heart’s content.  I’m excited to be doing it, but I know I’m going to have to be more strict about what I do with my time through April and May so that I can get it all done.

In the meantime, the rest of March needs to be set aside for some serious word churning.  By ‘the rest of March’ I clearly mean ‘after the 18th when the Boyfriend is back at his home because he’s horrible for productivity’, but it doesn’t sound as snappy.  I’ll have twelve days to submit that poem and finish rough drafts of two short stories.  I feel kind of terrible for putting the Steampunk on hold, because I was chomping at the bit to get a final outline of it and it’s all I really want to write most of the time.  My one consolation there is that my co-writer is also busy writing other things, so I’m not really holding her up.

Now if only I could stop feeling like I was holding myself up.

.009 – Beginnings.

It’s four days into March and I have yet to recap February properly.  I didn’t want this year to feel like it was slipping away, but I guess I don’t really have control over some of that.  And what do I do when I lose control of things?  Ignore them!  So here, instead of my plans for the rest of March, are some responses to an exercise a friend put to an online writing community I’m a part of.

Working from Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us: A (Sort Of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected by Jessica Page Morrell, she suggested that we write several openings to stories that we didn’t have any intention of completing and that were outside our typical choices of genre.  I chose three genres I have no current interest in writing in, decided to set them all in the field pictured below, and had at it.  Because I don’t intend on trying to publish any of them I wanted to place them here.  Feel free to comment or crit on any of the snippets, and as a bonus, see if you can guess which one was my favorite.

Image

Period Romance.
The landscape of the countryside was slipping away and blurring into one continuous bleeding red field before Cady felt calm enough to open the letter she’d been gripping tightly since she left home.  It had been cowardly of James to not come see her in person, but she supposed that there was wisdom in an absent goodbye as well.  After all, neither of them could be certain that she wouldn’t take to London and her aunt’s teachings, and if she did she wasn’t likely to want to return and be a farmer’s wife.  Although, in books there was often a romantic wistfulness associated with working the land.  Still, she knew the realities.

She turned the envelope over finally and slid one gloved finger under the sloppy seal he’d used to fasten it.  Several crumpled red poppies fell out into her lap.  The letter itself simply said: If you don’t already know what these mean, you should soon.  I will give you anything.  Don’t forget.

. . .
Murder Mystery.
Ingles found summer murders to be tedious.  Even his lightest linen jacket was too warm for the sun that beat down the open fields in the middle of July.  The sweat on the back of his neck was distracting.  The clashing green and red of the poppies waving mildly in the warm breeze was distracting.  The way the local inspector would not simply stop talking about decency and morals and the way god fearing people should and should not act was distracting.  About the only thing that Ingles didn’t find distracting about the scene of the crime was the corpse, which had apparently had the decency to be killed by a blunt object to the temple in a tidy way without causing a fuss.

. . .
Literary Fiction.
The poppy fields were offensive to Asa.  He claimed to think that they were beautiful flowers, and he could ramble for nearly half an hour in his deep, rusty voice about the curvature of the hill the fields rested on and those hills surrounding it, but it never sounded quite genuine.  It was almost as if the primary beauty of it all–the bright redness of the flowers nestled amongst their green stalks under a blue sky holding a fierce yellow sun–was the most offensive thing about it.  It wasn’t beauty for the sake of beauty anymore, it was beauty in remembrance of the war.  Even in those days he was old, and could remember the time before the war.  He claimed that there were other bits of beauty that would have been more appropriate.

“Crooked smiles,” he’d say after several minutes of quiet.  “Why does no one share a crooked smile around a cigarette in remembrance?  It’s surely what the soldiers would have wanted.”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑