December Writing Projects

Milwaukee Christmas treeShit kinda got wacky last month, I will not deny. Cubs World Series parade, the election, the world on fire, NaNoWriMo. Just unforeseen craziness. And so outside of NaNo, my writing really didn’t get a whole lot of attention. I was going to try write, revise, and submit a short-short to a contest, but that didn’t happen. I got it started and it ended up being abandoned in the chaos. The essays I’ve been writing for practice met the same fate. Only NaNo and a rough revision on my Patreon serial idea happened.

And now it’s December and the holiday season is upon us and if this isn’t my well-documented least favorite time of year. I automatically call a mulligan every December because it takes so much of my energy to find and maintain any little dribble of holiday spirit.

But I still got shit to do.

The Patreon serial project is going to be my main focus this month. I’m getting a beta read on it right now, I’ll do another revision on it, and then go from there. The goal is to have this little thing going starting in January.

Which means I will also be pimping this thing. If this sort of self-promotion annoys you, let me remind you that I don’t work one of my jobs for like a month because of Christmas/New Year’s. I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Any little bit of coin I can scrape together helps to ease that pain.

Speaking of, you may or may not (probably not) have noticed an update to the Storytime Jukebox. You can now read the short stories on the blog. You drop in your coins like usual (via PayPal) and I’ll send you a password to use on the story link. Nifty, yes? Sure. The novellas are still only available on Googledocs, though. Or you can buy the short story collections they’re in. That’s good, too.

Though Patreon will definitely be my main gig this month, if I have any spare brain power, it’s going to be spent organizing my plan for next year.

Because I’m going to need some kind of plan for 2017.

That’s Another NaNo Win

NaNo 2016 winNaNoWriMo was in the bag at a little over 50,000 words on November 19th and I got around to validating it on the 26th. I reconciled pretty early on in the story that I wasn’t going to hit 60,000 words like I usually do for my NaNo novels, but I sort of knew that was going to be the case. The story I had was a little thin, to be honest. As I wrote I saw places that will probably be fleshed out whenever revisions happen, but I didn’t bother following any of those tangents. More than any other NaNo, I just wanted to be done.

This was a sort of wild NaNo. For the first time in many years I didn’t make my usual 2,000 word minimum every day. Taking off for the Cubs World Series parade, I settled for only writing 500 words two days in a row, which set me back not only by my standards, but also by the NaNo daily need to stay on target.

I only made 4,000 words a couple of days. I usually hit that mark easily on the weekends, if not a couple of other days during the week. The fallout from the election really kinda consumed my existence for a solid week, week and a half. Most of my time was spent reading articles and being active on Twitter spreading information (I’m sure I was muted/blocked/unfollowed by scores of people because I wasn’t entertaining anymore and I’m sure the few people who know me in my offline existence were the first to go). I didn’t want to write anything, let alone some stupid novel about a conjurer that will probably never be revised and/or see the light of day, even if I do love my conjurer and her friends.

But I wrote it anyway.

Because that’s kinda the point of NaNo. Writing when real life intrudes. Writing when you don’t want to. Forcing yourself to make time for your words. This is my 13th NaNo. You’d think I’d have gotten that drilled into my brain by now. I guess it sort of is because that is what made me push to get my words written. I admit that some days were more of a struggle than others.

My final push saw me hit 6,000 words two days in a row. Like I said, I wanted to be done.

And I am and I’m glad and it’s win number 10.


We Can No Longer Deny What We Are

We can no longer deny what we are as a country.

We can no longer claim that hate and ignorance, bigotry and misogyny and racism, the homophobia and Islamophobia and xenophobia, belong to loud minority when the quiet majority has spoken in agreement with it.

This is who we are. We are a bigoted, hateful, lazy congregation of humans contained within an imaginary boarder. And we have elected a leader that represents that very core, that truly embodies the nation we are, the nation we deny. Because we like to think we’re great. We like to think that we’re inclusive and tolerant and underneath it all, not bad folks.

But that’s not the truth, is it?

Not everyone who voted for Trump is racist, you say. They’re not all homophobic and misogynist. They’re not all bad people.


But they decided they could live with it.

He wasn’t Hillary, so they decided they could live with it.

He had an R next to his name, so they decided they could live with it.

They’re not black or Mexican or Muslim or Jewish, so they decided they could live with it.

They’re not gay or lesbian or trans or bi or in any way queer, so they decided they could live it.

They’re not women, so they decided they could live with it.

They’re not feminist women, so they decided they could live with it.

They’re not disabled, so they decided they could live with it.

They’re not mentally ill or otherwise sick, so they decided they could live with it.

They thought that it wouldn’t effect them, so they decided they could live with it.

Now we all get to live with it.

Even if the best case scenario were to come to pass (which in my simple mind would be an avoidance of total financial ruin, not being obliterated by a war started in the course of a hissyfit, and somehow some of our rights being left intact), we are still left with ourselves.

We are left with those of us thrilled by this victory because they’ve been made to feel uncomfortable about their hateful thoughts for the past few years, being called out as bigots, being shouted down for their inappropriate “jokes”, and now they feel vindicated. They’re “oppression” is now over because they have a leader that supports their views. Those that have been dying at the hands of political correctness have been given a second life.

We are left with those of us who will now exist in fear because of the realities that “living with it” will entail. The threat of deportation, restriction of rights, loss of rights, sexual violence, physical violence, incarceration, torture, loss of health care, the destruction of our planet are some of those realities.

We are left with the knowledge that we sacrificed the well-being of many for the interests of a few hoping that we would be one of the few.

We are left with the knowledge that we did this to ourselves. Because this is who we are.

So now that we’ve gone past the Rubicon here, now that we’ve looked into the mirror, now that we’ve seen the monster that is our soul, now that it is, in effect, too late, NOW we finally ask ourselves a question we’ve been avoiding for centuries because we’ve been very skilled at avoiding our own reflection…

Is this who we want to be?

…And Then I Went to Chicago to See a Cubs World Series Parade

World Champs“Hey, do you wanna go to the Cubs World Series parade?” I asked my roommate Carrie upon waking her up Thursday afternoon.

“What?” she asked, groggy.

“Do you wanna go?” I repeated.


“Now. We have to leave, like, now.”


And so began the whirlwind.

I haven’t been to Wrigley Field since 2012 when I saw the Cubs lose their 100th game that season. Time and money constraints have prevented my return. I didn’t luck out in the postseason ticket lotto and couldn’t afford them on the secondary market (honestly, I couldn’t have afforded them if I’d won the lotto, but that wasn’t going to stop me this time). I felt like I’d missed out on everything during this magical season. The least I could do was find a way to get to the victory parade. This feeling was cemented when I found myself in tears on the drive home from work Thursday afternoon because they’d played the Harry Caray call/final World Series out mash-up on the radio. Of course, I’d been bursting into tears regularly since their win Wednesday night.

When I got home, I DM’d my Cubs bestie Harry and asked if he was ditching work to go to the parade and when he confirmed that he was, I told him that I was trying to work it so I could go to0.

“If you can get up here, I’ve got a hotel room for you by Wrigley.”

Harry had booked the room for his mom to attend the celebration, but she unfortunately couldn’t make it.

But I could.

Kiki and HarryCall it serendipity. Call it fate. Call it divine intervention. Whatever name you want to put on it, fortune smiled on me for once and I was more than beaming back.

Within ten minutes I was waking up Carrie and throwing things into my overnight bag (notebook and pen first, of course; writer life). By 3:30, we were on the road to Chicago. Three hours later, driving through rush hour traffic on Lake Shore Drive, I pointed out the buildings lit up in celebration of the Cubs winning the World Series. Carrie took pictures of them through our unfortunately dirty windshield.

After picking up Harry and getting settled at the hotel, the three of us went out for a celebratory dinner. The mood was giddy edged a bit by the surreal. Despite all of the tangibles, there was still a misty fantasy quality about the whole thing. The Cubs had won the World Series and we were going to the victory parade in the morning. That’s probably why I struggled to sleep Thursday night. A long held dream had finally become reality and it was just hard accept.

Friday morning, we walked around the block from our hotel to stand on Addison and watch the parade. Here, less than a mile from Wrigley, there was a crowd lined up against the barricades, but not nearly as suffocating and dense as what was around Wrigley or lined up along Lake Shore Drive or packed into Grant Park. The morning weather was pleasant, a little chilly, but really perfect for a parade. The crowd vibe fed into the surreal joy and the three of us stood there, soaking it all in.

BryzzoThe parade itself happened so fast. Part of it was that the buses were going by at a quicker clip since this wasn’t prime parade real estate and they’d left the gate late to begin with; the huge crowds on Lake Shore and at Grant Park were waiting. The other part, the more personal part, is that when you’ve been waiting for something for a long time, be it an hour for a parade to begin or since you became a fan in the late ’80s for a championship to be won, when the moment arrives for you to experience, it feels like it happens too fast. Like even at a snail’s crawl, it still wouldn’t happen slowly enough to be thoroughly enjoyed.

But I managed.

To see the guys that I’ve been cheering for all season, to see the guys I’d cheered for in past seasons that almost feel like past lives, to see the coaches and the front office and the families, the whole shebang that had to come together just perfectly to make this one incredible thing happen, to see them all go by in total victory put my heart into a state of bliss that it won’t forget. This is a memory that won’t be corrupted.

After the parade, the three of us went back to the hotel room to watch the rally for a few more cheers and tears of joy. We bid Harry farewell and then Carrie and I left the city. It took us over an hour to get out of city, almost like Chicago was begging us to stay. And I wish we would have. I would have loved to have spent the weekend there, walking around Wrigleyville and soaking up that vibe until my seams split and I burst with joy.

Instead, happy and exhausted, I drove back to the cornfield, content that I had the pleasure to experience just a little bit of history.

World Series Champions

November Writing Projects aka NaNoWriMo

nanowrimoIt’s that time of year again. Oh yes. Time to write 50,000 words (okay, 60,000 for me) in thirty days.

I finally figured out that I should just write another Outskirts novel. This one will feature truther (not THAT kind of truther) Maisie Day, conjurer LittleJessie Witt, and famed hunter Sister Mary Valle. The working title is To Tell the (Conjurer’s) Truth, which isn’t great, but not great titles are my thing. I’m not married to it by any means, so I can easily change it if I ever revise it.

Naturally, I say “if” because (Vampires) Made in America and The End of the (Werewolf) Curse still sit waiting. I’ll get around to them one day, I’m sure.

I’ve only outlined the first ten chapters of To Tell the (Conjurer’s) Truth, the idea being that for every chapter I write, I’ll outline the next. You know. Write chapter one and then outline chapter eleven. I don’t want to get too far ahead with this story because I only have a vague idea of what I’m doing with it.

Reassuring, no?

This could be a potential disaster, but I’m all in as always, baby.

Though my main focus will be on NaNo as my Novembers are usually spent (I think this is number 13 maybe), I did finish the first “season” of my Patreon serial idea. I’m going to attempt to revise at least the first episode or two during the month. Fingers-crossed that it’ll be something worth trying come the new year. As usual, I was feeling way too ambitious to think I’d have it ready to go before then.

I’ve also been writing essays on the side for the last month or two. Just another practice thing. A page a day of learning is good for my brain, I think.

Let’s hope I have some brain left after this month.

New in the Storytime Jukebox–Land of the Voting Dead

Land of the Voting Dead

Miriam Showalter opened the heavy wooden double doors to the unseasonably warm November morning.  Sunlight streamed in, golden so early in the morning and so late in the year.  Miriam lodged the doors open with heavy wooden doorsteps that her husband Gene had carved thirty years ago to replace the ones that the previous twenty years had worn out.  Back then they’d been horses’ heads, like pieces on a chess board, and Gene had spent his days in the fields planting corn and beans.  Now all of the features, the delicate detail that Gene spent hours squinting at and refining, were worn smooth and Gene spent his days as a pile of ash in a brightly polished urn.

Miriam finished pinning the doors open and dabbed the sweat away from her brow with the tissue she kept tucked under her watch.  She could have taken off her cardigan, but she was no fool.  Just because she worked up a sweat, just because the sun was shining, just because they were having a late warm up didn’t mean that it wasn’t November.  Miriam wasn’t catching her death today.

From the front doors, Miriam walked across the dark wood floor, the insolated soles of her shoes barely making a sound in the open room, past the long table and single folding chair (with a many-times patched, pink cushion that she’d made about the same time Gene made the horse head doorstops) that she’d set up when she first got there, and down the back hallway where the sunshine couldn’t reach.  There was a storage room on the left, a bathroom on the right, a door at the end, and not a window in sight.  The light was still on in the storage room.  Miriam walked in, wrinkling her nose at the heavy musty smell and the lingering scent of something that just couldn’t be placed, but Miriam knew what it was.  She’d leave the doors open all day long.  That’d chase most of the smell out.  The place just wasn’t used enough to get rid of it entirely.

Another table and a stack of folding chairs sat against one wall.  There were several miscellaneous cardboard boxes along the wall opposite the door.  It seemed that there were more every year, but Miriam had no idea who brought the boxes or what was in any of them.  Shoved off to the side were two voting pedestals that stood like misshapen patio umbrellas, their dingy little screens separating six little cubicles, their little desks hitting Miriam just under her bust as she wheeled them out one by one into the main room, positioning them on opposite sides of the less than great hall and locking their wheels into place.

Miriam dabbed away the sweat from her face and replaced the tissue under her watchband.  She checked the time.  Russell Sims would be along any minute with the vote box.  That’s what Miriam called it.  It’s where the votes went after people were done filling in the circles with a special black pen.  That wasn’t the proper name for the thing, but Miriam didn’t care.  People gave stupid names to things anyway.  “Vote box” was accurate enough.  It wasn’t like anyone was ever going to quiz her on it.  They probably didn’t know the correct name for it either.

Russell showed up in his old truck that had the most ineffective muffler still attached to a vehicle and left it running as he wheeled in the black vote box and a cardboard box full of ballots on a dolly.

“You gonna be alright on your own, Miriam?” Russell asked as he positioned the box next to the table according to Miriam’s hand gestures.

“Yes, of course.  I’ve been dong this longer than you’ve been alive,” Miriam said.  “Just put the ballots on the table.”

“They’re supposed to be in a secure location.”

“They’ll be fine.”

Russell set the box on the end of the table.

“You got your voter book?” he asked.

“Picked it up this morning.”  Miriam opened the ballot box.

Russell looked around, unable to decide if he should put his hands in his pockets or not.  “Anything else you need while I’m on the get, Miriam?”

“No, no, Russell, I’m fine,” she said without looking up, dismissing him with a flutter of her hand.

“Good.  ‘Cause they’re on the move,” Russell said, hurrying toward the door.

“Of course they are,” Miriam said.  “They don’t like to be late.”

Russell said a hasty goodbye at the door and Miriam gave him another wave.  She listened to his truck roar off into the morning.

Miriam busied herself by testing all of the magic black pens as she placed them at the voting pedestals.  She opened up the voting book, took out a stack of ballots and a roll of “I Voted” stickers from the cardboard box, and retrieved her “voting stick” from the storage room.  Miriam sat down with a sigh, the cushion deflating beneath her, a delicate ache creeping up her legs and along her spine.  She waited.

The first voter of the day shambled in right at eight.  A trail of dirt followed him, falling from the cuffs of his pants and the pockets of his jacket.  Miriam grimaced at the sight.  She forgot to bring the broom out from the storage room.  Sighing, she got to her feet.  Miriam flipped the book to the correct page as he staggered to the table in a less than straight line, his eyes half-open, a faint scent of rot preceding him.  Miriam knew Douglas Kless when she saw him even if he had been dead six years, in part because embalming had improved over the years (Douglas had hardly moldered at all), but mostly because Miriam was always good with names and faces, even decomposed ones.

“Morning, Douglas,” she said, even though she knew he wouldn’t respond and honestly wasn’t sure if he heard her, but that was no different than when he was alive.  She liked to be polite.

With one hand, Miriam held out a pen for dead Douglas Kless, killed by a brain aneurysm on his way home from a movie, and with the other she pointed to the place in the book Douglas was supposed to sign.  Douglas took the pen with clumsy fingers and his hand dropped down to the book.  Somehow he formed something that looked like a “D” on his space.  He dropped the pen.

“Both sides, Douglas.”  Miriam flipped the ballot over and back before handing it to him.  She put a sticker on his lapel.

Douglas Kless stood there for a minute, blank and swaying.  Miriam picked up the “voting stick”, a stubby, faded blue broomstick, and prodded him with it.  Douglas started walking, feet dragging along the hardwood, to the voting pedestal.

The doorway darkened with the arrival of several more voters.

In Chicago, the dead voted in spirit.  Downstate, they voted in body.  At least in this town they did.  They voted until they were so rotted, so decayed that they couldn’t claw themselves out of their graves and shamble to the polling place.  It’s why Miriam’s husband Gene had himself cremated.  He had enough trouble deciding whom to vote for while his brains worked; God only knew the trouble he’d have once they stopped.

Miriam felt the same way.


Wanna read the rest? Head on over to the Storytime Jukebox and drop in some change.

It originally appeared in the anthology Zombidays: Festivities of the Flesheaters, which is currently out of print.

Those Self-Destructive Weeks

mushroom cloudI have a bit of a self-destructive streak that I try not to indulge actively. It’s not a seriously overt thing, really. I don’t take risky gambles with my life like challenging biker gangs to duels or riding a unicycle along the edge of a cliff or attempting to bake. I just actively don’t care about myself.

I did it again last week.

Most of the time, these self-destructive days, or in this case a whole week, aren’t planned. One thing sets it all off, like lighting the fuse on a string of fire crackers, and I’m just like, “Fuck it.”

What set me off last week was a Cubs playoff game on Monday night that went into extras. The regular nine innings didn’t get over until midnight and four more innings were played after that. The game didn’t get over until quarter til two in the morning. Had this been the regular season, I would have bailed long before midnight as I was looking at working both day jobs the next day. But this is the playoffs, man. If the Cubs would have won that night, they would have clinched the NLDS. It was important that I stay up and watch this game, grown-up obligations  be damned!

But they didn’t win. They lost. And I didn’t go to sleep until 2:30 that morning.

Fuck it mode engaged.

Because I knew I wasn’t sleeping Tuesday night either because I work until midnight for floorsets, if I’m lucky. I got out of this one late. And then had to drive home. Another two in the morning bedtime.

These two sleep-deprived nights were used as an excuse to self-destruct for the rest of the week. It was the excuse to eat like garbage, to continue to not get adequate sleep (except for Wednesday night when I slept a solid 9 hours because exhaustion couldn’t be beat), to drink way too much coffee, to not exercise (outside of my hour-long walks; somehow I still managed that), to drink more beer than I should when I shouldn’t, to basically just wreck myself.

And I knew that’s what I was doing, too. I knew that I shouldn’t, but I did it anyway. I looked at it and went, “Well, I already started this shit show on Monday, so I may as well just finish it out.”

I don’t recommend this tactic. By Sunday night I was feeling like hot garbage and eating Tums like they were my favorite candy. I also didn’t like myself very much for not hitting the emergency stop on like Wednesday. I admit that I could stand to loosen my grip on my control issues once in a while and let things flow, but this is not one of those issues. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about not being able to get my shit together in a timely fashion and instead just gave in to the chaos.

So, this week comes what I like to think of as the hard reset.

This week I have to go to bed at a decent hour (this is an ongoing struggle of my life, though, so…). I have to mind what I eat closely so my gut can recover. Ditto minding the coffee intake. I have to make every workout. I have to put off finishing that six pack. I have to get back into the regular, boring-old groove.

Build myself up again in time for the next spontaneous combustion.

October Writing Projects

pumpkinsLet me be straight about something. I have been in a writing fog for the last several months. It’s one of those things in which my head is crammed with ideas, but none of them have any immediate use. I want to execute them all, but none of them really further any of my immediate goals. And that’s been kind of frustrating for me because, obviously, it’s the immediate goals I need to be focusing on.

I have to produce dammit!

My business mind has a tendency to clash with my artist’s heart and it does my hellscape mind no favors.

So, in other words, I haven’t been making a lot in the way of tangible progress on certain things lately.

I have done some things, though.

I finished the first draft of another script called The Hitman’s List. I was emboldened by Open Christmas Eve receiving an honorable mention in the contest I entered it into to finish this one because it was my second choice for an entry. I’m pretty pleased with it, though I have no idea what I’ll do with it.

The victory also encouraged me to enter a couple of poems into a poetry contest. I actually got second place in a state contest back when I was in high school. It was an assignment/entry. I’m still bitter my teacher made me change the last line of that poem, even though I can’t remember what it was about (I can’t remember the theme of the contest). She made me all-caps the last line because she decided I didn’t have enough poetic devices in it. I don’t know if that change won me second place or lost me first. Now I’ll know if I win, it’s all me, baby.

The serial idea for Patreon plods on. I’ve got the first draft of the first two “episodes” done and I’m well on my way to completing the first draft of the third. It’s moving along a lot more slowly than I thought, but I think I might be comfortable enough to have something going by November maybe. Of course, I might be overestimating myself once again. I have a great talent for doing that when it comes to time. The planning fallacy. I has it.

Looming around the corner is NaNoWriMo. I should be planning what I’m doing for it. And I will.

Just as soon as I figure out what that is.

Oh, the scares October has for me.

When I Talk About Being Fat

Love moreWhen I talk about being fat, I’m not fishing for a compliment. I’m not asking you to run in and tell me I’m beautiful, to tell me I’m not fat. I am fat. I weigh around 240 pounds. If you saw me as a stranger, walking down the street, you would identify me as fat. I am fat. It is an accurate description of me. Not all of the connotations of that descriptor are accurate: I’m lazy about some things, but not my whole life; I don’t eat all the time; I do exercise; I’m not a gross slob; I bathe regularly, thank you; I do have some self-esteem; I do eat vegetables; I do take a walk; no, I haven’t given up on my life.

When I talk about being fat and you rush in to assure me I’m not, you’re not really assuring me I’m not fat. You’re assuring me that I’m not all of those bad things you automatically associate with being fat.

Good news! Your reassurance is lovely, but misguided. I know my personality flaws are independent of my appearance. I guarantee that I could look like a size zero model and I’d still be lazy as fuck about some things. It’s just who I am.

When I talk about being fat, I’m talking about my experience as a fat person and the hypocritical nature of the people that know me. I’m talking about the people who say there should be a weight limit on skinny jeans and take pictures of people without their knowledge so they can post them on Twitter for shaming purposes, but who would be first in line to defend me if someone told me I couldn’t wear my skinny jeans or took a picture of me and shamed me online.

Oh yeah, I see you. I don’t say anything to you because Twitter isn’t the place for it. 140 characters isn’t enough room for you to fit in your tired, bullshit excuses about why it’s okay for you to do that to THEM, but you would NEVER do that to ME and it would NEVER be okay for ANYONE to do that to ME. And frankly, I don’t want to bother with your tired, bullshit excuses. They don’t excuse what you do. And I know so long as you have those excuses at the ready (and I know you do), I’m not going to change your mind. You’ll always feel perfectly justified in your little smidge of fatphobia.

But I see you. Oh yeah, baby, I see you.

When I talk about being fat, I’m not being hard on myself. I’m showing you how society is hard on me. I’m illuminating the things that society thinks about me, says about me. I’m illuminating the things you think about other fat people, the things you say about other fat people, the strangers. The things you wouldn’t dare say to me because you like me.

When I say that I’ll never be pretty enough, never be thin enough, I’m not being hard on me. I’m saying what folks are thinking, what you’ve thought about others. When I say I’m too fat to be loved, you tell me that’s not true. You tell me I’m a beautiful person that deserves all the love and that anyone that doesn’t see that is stupid. But you’ve looked at someone less attractive, you’ve looked at someone fat, and you’ve thought, “How did THEY get someone? Somebody actually fucks THAT?” You’ve thought that about other people and other people have thought that about me.

And if we’re going to be 100% honest, if I were to find myself in the company of a person perceived by society to be out of my league, someone conventionally attractive, while you would be happy for me, I have no doubt, a tiny part of you would also be wondering, “Why are THEY with HER?”

Because it’s an extraordinary thing when someone goes against society’s expectations and instead jives with their heart.

When I talk about being fat, you think I’m talking about myself.

But really…I’m talking about you.

Representation Matters (My Writing Included)

ghostbusters“I can think of seven good uses for a cadaver today.” -Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) in Ghostbusters

Thanks to an empty theater (one of the blessings of living in a cornfield; Thursday matinees are like private showings after about the first week of a new release), my roommate had no worries about disturbing anyone when she looked at me and said, “That’s you.”

And she’s not wrong. I do know seven good uses for a cadaver and probably seven more inappropriate ones. But it was really cool to see that weird aspect of myself verbalized on the screen in a major motion picture. Things like that happen so intermittently for a weirdo like me.

Representation matters. I strongly believe this. I strongly believe that it’s important for people to see themselves or aspects of themselves represented in stories, whether they’re movies, TV shows, or books. So while I left that showing of Ghostbusters feeling pretty empowered by seeing four women I could relate to and who reflected aspects of my existence back at me (please do not debate me on whether or not the movie was good based on your white man “well actually” perspective; I hate-watch Jason Takes Manhattan every time it comes on, so your detailed bullshit analysis is wasted on me), I’ve been thinking about representation in my own work ever since.

I acknowledge that I struggle with it.

I struggle because I’m very mindful about getting it right. I know representation matters, but I don’t want to just throw those characters into a story just so my work appears to be diverse. I want to present an accurate representation. And that’s hard for me. I don’t like to fuck up in this particular arena.

When it comes to fat, white women, I got you covered. That’s something I don’t even think about writing because, well, that’s just writing me. I have no trouble writing white men of any size because that’s the default norm. I believe that I’d have no trouble writing bisexuals of either gender or gay or lesbian characters as I am bisexual and I’ve known and loved enough gay men and lesbian women in my time that I believe that I could accurately represent them. I’ve ventured very tentatively into representing other races and letters of the LGBT+ (both in the same novellas, oddly enough; Art, who’s Puerto Rican, and Riley, who’s transgendered, both appeared in the Ivy Russell novellas). I tried to venture into that territory as carefully and as conscientiously as I could, but I’m still worried that I didn’t do either character justice, that I got something about those representations wrong. They weren’t meant to be plot devices or fill a diversity quota; they were meant to be real, fully developed characters. For that to happen, the representation needs to be accurate.

I admit to cheating a lot when it comes to representation in my short stories. The main character in my short stories rarely gets any physical description so the reader can project whatever they want to on them for a short time. It’s sort of a lazy trick of representation. Here, you do the work and see this character how you want to see them based on the personality traits revealed and the emotions conveyed in the story. While I don’t think being a reader should be a completely passive experience, I do think that there are times that I, the writer, need to put in a little more effort.

Okay, a lot more.

Representation is something that I think I’m always going to struggle with, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Struggle leads to change and growth.

And I’m all about growing into a better writer.