Category Archives: Rants

An Audience of One

I’ve taken this idea from John Irving’s “Until I Find You.” I didn’t make this up, but I love it.

There’s a lot of talk about readers in writing, and whether or not you should write for them. In my (albeit limited) expertise, the debate breaks down along the same divide as almost every writing debate: literary guys on one side, genre gals on the other. (There was no reason for that sentence to be gendered. I could un-gender it, but I didn’t.) Folks in the literary community say, Write for yourself, the rest will follow, or something along those lines. Folks in the genre community say, Know your audience, or never get published. And me? Well. I say write for the one person who really needs it.

This is kind of a lofty idea, and like lofty in the “look up there in the sky, someone threw a ball too high, is it ever gonna come down” way.

It goes like this: when I’m writing and I get stuck, I don’t think about a crowd of faceless people. For me, these are the “readers” that are so often spoken of, and I can’t picture them. They’re faceless and intimidating, and they’re just as likely to eat me alive as read me. (I’ve always thought ‘read me’ sounded like a sex act. I think I’ll make it one.)

kodoma

Oh look. A bunch of faceless nobodies.

I also can’t write for myself because I’m stuck. If I was writing for myself, I’d just stop. But if I imagine that one person that really needs it (or okay, more realistically, wants this story), then yeah. Alright. I can do it for them.

Shit gets weird when I start picturing them. Honestly? It’s usually a younger version of myself. Sometimes, it’s my mom. (Sorry, Mom! Or you’re welcome, Mom. You’ll never know.) It can be a friend or an ex-lover, and once in a while, it’s someone I make up. The fact is, they’re out there, somewhere, and I’m creating this thing for them on the off chance that one day, they find it. (And I want everyone to notice that I gendered literary and genre up there, but then used ‘they’ for s/he down here. Suck it.)

My number one goal as a writer is to one day meet the person who I wrote a piece for. I just want someone to walk up to me and say, “Yo, K. That piece? That one was for me.” And, if I’m really luck, they’ll tell me why. (And people say I’m not a romantic. Psh.)

Bonus little me. I needed a lot of stories to make it through.

Bonus little me. I needed a lot of stories to make it through.

 

Keeping Up with the Book World (or not)

For a brief period in 2015 (note when this blog started…), I made the decision to Stay on Top of the Book World. I would read all the books people were buzzing about from award winners to nominees to best sellers to murky basement cult classics. I made a list of Books I was Excited About. Topping it were Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things and Broken Monsters. I went to the book store and got ready to join the party…

And abandoned the party immediately because hard covers are more expensive than soft covers, and I’d conveniently forgotten that.

But the thing is, learning that there was a Book World to keep up with was kind of crushing. I’m a person who’s perpetually behind the trends, and consequently dismissive of them as stupid. Do I really hate skinny leg jeans? No, but if I keep on hating them for just a little longer, the boot cuts and flares I never managed to throw away will come back in style.

Books were supposed to be the things that didn’t let me down. They were the things that hung around, waiting for me to read them instead of begging me to keep up. I could read Newberry winners from the 1950’s or Victorian gothics or trendsetters from the 1980’s, and it didn’t matter that I missed the boat because there wasn’t a boat to miss. Trying to stay on top of New Releases and Best Sellers was participating in a popularity contest I wanted no part of. It was the antithesis of what i wanted out of reading. I wanted an intimate experience between me and the book I was reading. It wasn’t about what everybody else thought; it was about what I thought.

I read Broken Monsters and The Book of Strange New Things a year late. That year didn’t affect my reading experience at all. If anything, the build up for these two sort of made them a let down for me. I like exploring books quietly and coming to them mostly unprepared and open minded. That way, they’re the most magical. And, thanks to the Internet, all the pre-book buzz is still around to dive into. The reviews still exist. In that way, I can get excited in my own time, at my own pace, and books can still feel like a secret to be discovered, instead of a dialog to join.

I Don’t Feel Like Writing Today

I’m not in the mood to blog today, so instead of coming up with something interesting, I’m going to explain the sudden influx of blog posts. Because why, Morris? Why are you unleashing your opinions on the interwebs?

It would be cool if this was some kind of galactic demand, and if I didn’t post a new blog every Friday, I’d get smited or the sun would burn up or every third person would get boiled alive in a plague. But such is not in the case. As with so many things I do, nobody really cares if I manage to finish it (though, if I’m really lucky, a few people are glad to have it once it’s done). Well, nobody except for my mom. My mom is pretty awesome. And she’d get annoyed if I didn’t blog by every Friday (re: on Friday because deadlines aren’t deadlines if you aren’t right on top of them). We made a deal a few weeks ago that we’d each update our blogs on a weekly basis. Me because I was terrible at blogging. Her because she wanted to start a blog. Yay blogs!

It turns out writing blogs is just like every other kind of writing. The more you do it, the better you get. At least, I really hope so. Otherwise I’m wasting a ton of time learning how not to blog.

This holds true for my mom, certainly, and while I’ve had years to cut my teeth on writing, she’s fairly new to it. In answer to your unasked question, I will not be debuting her blog on my blog today. That will come another time. Instead, I will point my finger at all you would-be writers and say, “Get the hell off here and start writing already! You’re wasting time.”

In other news, “Light on Dimmed Bodies,” a story I wrote in grad school, came out this week in the first print edition of The Flexible Persona. I haven’t gotten my copy yet (it’s coming, yay!), but the snippets of the other pieces I’ve seen look amazing. You should check it out here.

I’m Sexist

But I don’t mean to be.

And that’s why it pisses me off when people tell me there’s no reason for feminism or that feminism should be dead. Here’s a story.

I come from the Harry Potter generation. When I started the series, only three books had been published and I was about 11. The final book was released when I was in my late teens or early twenties, and it felt like the end of my childhood.

I remember when I read the first book. It was Christmas, snowy outside. My brother had to beg me to leave Harry for a few hours to try our luck on our parents’ old cross country skis. (We had no luck.) I made him wait until the end of the first Quidditch match, and I remember thinking about Golden Snitches and Lee Jordan the entire time I failed at skiing.

I remember this for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones is because I was certain J. K. Rowling was a man. Any author who wrote about sports, who invented a sport, had to be a man.

I also noted that Harry was a boy, and my 11 year old self knew that men wrote about men, and only sometimes women, but women always wrote about women. (I was pretty sure I was worldly. I was not.)

Harry Potter was also a good book. It wasn’t a love story. I was pretty sure that women couldn’t write books that were well-paced with lots of action. I was pretty sure that all books written by women had fairly low action and lots of emotions, and that the plot stopped so the characters could mull around and talk. I liked books like this well enough, but they weren’t Great, like Harry Potter. Only men could write Great Books.

This is pretty obviously bullshit.

Harry Potter

But it took me awhile to realize this, and it took me longer to realize how deep rooted these beliefs ran. I still can’t tell you why I have them or where they came from.

I found out J. K. Rowling was a woman after an Internet search. (The Internet was still pretty new, and J. K. Rowling was one of the first things I Googled…before Google was a verb.) J. K. Rowling wasn’t only a woman, but she’d hidden her gender on purpose. And weirdly, that’s what bothered me the most. She wrote under her initials specifically to hide her gender, and I felt duped. I didn’t reflect on my feelings about this, or what those feelings said about me or the world. Instead, I spent my time feeling righteously outraged in the way of 11-year-olds. And really pissed that I was so invested in Harry that I’d read more of his books even though I’d been “lied to.” Weirdly, I felt like she was furthering the exact sort of sexism she was fighting against (as if my own misconceptions about her gender didn’t prove the usefulness of her writing under her initials). I believed that being aware of something automatically meant you had to fight it.

It took me a long time to admit what you’ve probably already figured out. Had JKR written Harry Potter under her real, female name, I probably would not have read it. Or, had I read it, I would have found fault with it, judging it more harshly and picking Hermione apart. I would have found fault because she was a woman where I found no fault when I thought she was a man.

This is really screwed up.

It’s more screwed up because I was a young girl who wanted to be a writer. I’d glass ceiling’d myself. I’d absorbed that young male characters were standard and that a character needed a reason to be a woman. Female wasn’t a default setting. What bothers me most now, as an adult, is that this didn’t bother me as a kid. After I’d come to terms with J. K. Rowling’s trickery, I decided to copy it and use my own initials to hide my gender. I continued to write male characters unless I had a Reason to write a female, and I continued to believe that female writers weren’t, and couldn’t be, as good as male authors. It took me a long time to realize that the women writers I loved were not the Exception to the rule, but that the rule itself was ludicrous.

So, let’s raise our beer glasses (because women can enjoy beer, too. This chick used to believe wine was for girls and beer was for boys) to the kick-ass female authors who got us through our childhood’s. I’ll start. Here’s to Megan Whalen Turner, Robin McKinley, and, Queen of the Realm, J. K. Rowling.

 

I’m nauseous like curdled mac and cheese.

I heard a rumor that “I am nauseous” means you cause nausea in other people. So, “Like rotten meat, I inspire nausea in other people.” Tickled by this information, M and I spent a wonderful afternoon trying to one-up each other’s metaphors.

“I’m nauseous like rotten mac and cheese.”

“I’m nauseous like puppy diarrhea.”

“I’m nauseous like toe fungi.”

“Like a dog puking.”

“Then eating its puke.”

“Like exercising too much.”

“Like burnt coffee.”

“Like turds.”

I figured now would be a great time to crusade against the incorrect use of the word nauseous, but before I did, I checked my facts. And thank God I did. I’m a one source wonder (Merriam Webster), victim of confirmation bias (it’s as I thought!), and hold to the idea that language is fluid and common usage should be respected. So, take what you will from this.

From Merriam Webster online:

“Those who insist that nauseous can properly be used only in sense 1 (causing nausea or disgust) and that in sense 2 (affected with nausea or disgust) it is an error for nauseated are mistaken. Current evidence shows these facts: nauseous is most frequently used to mean physically affected with nausea, usually after a linking verb such as feel or become; figurative use is quite a bit less frequent. Use of nauseous in sense 1 is much more often figurative than literal, and this use appears to be losing ground to nauseating. Nauseated is used more widely than nauseous in sense 2.”

If you’re having trouble parsing that, no worries. I did, too. Basically it means, I was wrong. (It’s surprisingly hard to type that.)

The more colloquially favored “I am nauseous” can mean that you’re feeling nauseated. It’s totally acceptable. And people who say it can’t be used that way (me, for example) are stuck-up buttholes who need to get a life.

But this is all taken from the dictionary that claims ‘octopodes’ can be the plural of octopus, so there’s that.

Merriam Webster’s Entry on Nauseous

More information on nauseous/nauseated from Grammar Girl and The Grammarist.