7 Jan
2016

This is the thing I don’t talk about.

There are two sentences I try not speak aloud. There are two sentences that I don’t even dare write directly down. There are two sentences that tell the story of who I am, or at least the parts of me that I carefully guard. These sentences will change the way people think of me, will make me so easy to dismiss: I know because they have so many times before. This is a story about one of those sentences.

This sentence is especially terrible to write down because I have been looking for full time employment for a long time, and I know employers will look at my online presence. I encourage them to. I want them to see how well I write, how creative I am. I am proud of the stuff that I write. I will be proud of this, even though I am terrified.

The summer before I went to college, I finally received an answer to why I was so different than everyone else: I have Asperger’s syndrome- one little speck on the Autism Spectrum.

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19 Oct
2015

How to act like a human (for dogs)

One- stand up: Humans have two legs. Don’t walk around on all fours

Two- wear clothes: “Put some clothes on, no one wants to see that thing!” is what humans say to naked humans. REMEMBER: No shirt, no shoes, no service.

Three- buddy up: smaller dogs- stand on top of each other and wear a trench coat. Humans will mistake you for an adult human.

Four- NO FAKE MUSTACHES (unless you are a hairless breed): Seriously, you have hair on your face already. Fake mustaches will make you look silly.

Five- learn to talk: DO NOT say, “Hello, I am a dog.” That will give you away immediately. Some helpful phrases: “I would like a number four with bacon.” “Supersize it.” “more bacon, please”

11 Oct
2015

COMIC: Secret Childhood Games (Or, How to Be a Butterfly)

When you were a child, did you play make believe by yourself? Did you have secret games, with intricate rules, that you refused to share with or explain to anyone?

 

I did. Mine was called Butterfly. Here is how I played it:

 

Butterfly Game 1

Butterfly Game 2Butterfly Game 3Butterfly Game 4

 

7 Oct
2015

NEW COMIC: I made this for someone

I made this for a friend. I don’t remember exactly who and I don’t remember exactly why. I remember that someone I care about needed some support and I immediately pulled out a scratch piece of paper and made a storyboard. Whoever you are: I just wanted to say sometimes I feel the same way too, like I’m talking and my words aren’t making it to their destination. Don’t give up.

 

i'mhere500

 

i'mhere2-500

 

i'mhere3-500There’s one more thing I have to mention.

18 May
2015

TWO THINGS

Two creative exercises done while walking

ONE:

weird characters I came up with this week that I have no intention in using for anything but would like to keep record of.

1. A three year old girl who wants to be an old woman. she dresses up in a cotton shawl and a cane with an orthopedic grip. She stuffs her grandma’s old Dr. Scholl’s into some flat shoes and carries around a huge purse stuffed with moth balls, Kleenex, loose change and Werther’s Originals.

2. Okay so you know the movie Kickass? This is like that except for a nerdy girl who is way too into magical girl anime and manga. I don’t know how she deals with the transformation sequence. I do know that instead of trying to beat up crime bosses, she just shows up and lectures them on Love and Truth and Justice.

3. Someone is featured on My Strange Addiction for their addiction to watching My Strange Addiction

 

TWO

walking along, I hear one side of a phone conversation. It went something like “… This ain’t New York, this ain’t Vegas, this ain’t Rome, This ain’t Paris…” And I thought, what an inefficient list.  There is no end. To wit:

A further list of places This ain’t:

1 Ohio

2. Hollywood

3. Gary, Indiana

4. Buda

5. the bottom of the ocean

6. no disco

7. no country club either

8. the head of a pin

9 a closet to a magical realm

10 a plain old closet

11. the moon

12. the shoe what That Old Woman Who Someone Should’ve Called Social Services On lived in with all them kids

13. grandma’s house

14. a bathtub

15. the produce aisle at HEB

And so on. See what I mean? no end.

9 May
2015

Life, Death, etc

bird

16 Apr
2015

Write like a _____

Writing, huh? It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort. Your butt has to be in a chair. Bring a notebook everywhere you go. Write like a motherfucker.

 

Yes. Yes yes yes yes.

 

I truly believe in all of that. Not just for writing, but for anything that’s worth doing. Invest your time. Large chunks of it, if you can. If not, steal what little minutes you have: on the bus to your draining job, while sat up sick in bed. Take advantage of your chronic insomnia.

 

But. but.

 

What about the time you are not writing? What if you set a little bit of time aside just for getting a story down on paper, or a poem (or, in my case, a 90 second pun-filled speech that I need to write by May 9th ) and you don’t get anything done? You balance a pencil on your nose. You take your dog out for a walk. You eavesdrop on stranger’s conversations on that long bus ride. Your friends want to go out for a drink after work and all of a sudden it’s 1am and you haven’t even opened up a word document.

 

Is that unproductive? Writer’s block? Have you wasted your time?

 

I have been a turtle all of my life. I hide in my shell. I move slowly. So slowly, in fact, that I am often overlooked. I am deliberate in my actions. I do not let go of anything I grasp until I am completely done with it.

 

It bothered me to no end for the longest time to see everyone else speed past me. Still does to some extent. For the most part I have become comfortable in my own shell. Here is what I have learned in my 28 years of moving slowly and steadily: There is more to creating than action.

 

There is the time spent inside your own head, the time spent becoming comfortable with your own self. How could you make something of your own without this? The only audience you ever have control over is the audience of you. How can you be satisfied with your work until you know what you will enjoy most? How can you make something meaningful without discovering the engine that fuels you, without experimenting with different power sources for that engine?

 

There is also the time you spend outside of your head. That time spent listening to conversations- paying such close attention that you not only understand what people talk about but how: the word choice and the cadence- is the only way you could ever learn to write good dialogue. How could you describe a tree to another person without carefully examining every strip of bark, every vein in every leaf? How can you have a vibrant cast of characters without having vibrant, diverse relationships in your life, relationships that need care and cultivation to thrive?

 

I remember, after reading from my thesis, being asked how long it took me to write a particular story. I remember saying “Two years.” What became my final very short story took me one afternoon to write from start to finish. There was a lot cut, but everything that remains was written in that first draft. I did the hard work of writing it. My fingers cramped, I killed my darlings, I did not move my butt. I worked until I was satisfied and then began the hard work of finding it a home.

 

But first I had to do the hardest work of all. I had to do the work of living. I had to sit very still and notice everything. I had to notice myself. I had to be okay with pulling my head far enough out of my shell to share my story. I had to make dear friends and advisors who I could talk to. I needed to tell someone how afraid I was to tell my own story and why. I needed them to tell me to shut up about it.

 

I needed to see with my own eyes that I wasn’t the only one of me that existed. That if I wrote down how I feel and what I see there would be someone else who understands. “You are not alone” is a hard lesson to learn. It is also one that you have to re-learn over and over again, every time you hide yourself away to write, or draw, or do whatever wonderful thing it is that you do.

 

It is hard to remember that you are actually doing something when you look at nothing but blank pages and see submission dates fly by. When you are getting too old to ever be on the “10 under 10″ lists of awesome young writers. It is hard to remember- to be conscious of the fact- that sitting still is also listening and paying attention and gathering information and waiting. It is also living, and loving-or hating- something so much that you want to tell everyone about it. Write often, yes. Or draw or dance or act or paint or make spreadsheets. But don’t discount the quiet time when your page is blank and your mind seems clear. Hard work is being done.

18 Mar
2015

Self Portrait

self portrait, age 3

I’m really loving playing around with ink and washes, despite my previous adherence to technical pens only. My apologies to my friend Danielle, who has been trying to get me on the ink and brush bandwagon for years.

The book I’m reading is Milk and Cookies: a Frank Asch Bear Story, by Frank Asch. It wasn’t my favorite book, but I read it often. The house in the book reminded me of my Great Grandparent’s house, which I loved dearly. There was also a monster, which never hurt.

14 Feb
2015

In Defense of Fanfiction (or, The Nerdiest Thing I Have Ever Written)

There is this Very Popular Book Series that is being turned into what will most likely be an Equally Popular Movie Series. The first of these movies came out yesterday.  I don’t care about these books at all. The little bits that I read I didn’t like very much because I don’t think they were written particularly well.

There is a lot of valid criticism to be made about the Very Popular Book Series. All of it has all been said with varying degrees of eloquence. I understand and agree with most. The hate over the fact that this series started out as “Bad Twilight Fanfiction” is what gets my nerd hackles riled up.

As Carl Sagan would tell you, every story begins at the beginning of the universe. Back at the beginning of when stories were being told, back before we wrote or chiseled or painted, stories belonged to everyone. I mean that once a story was told it would be retold in different ways by everyone who heard it, of course. But I also mean that anyone could come up with and tell their own story. You didn’t have to be a good storyteller. You didn’t have to be clever, or know the right people, or have enough money to become well educated.  You just had to open your mouth.  Whether or not anyone heard you is a different story.

It might have been harder to get your fanfiction read before the internet, when you had to know about fan zines and how to get copies of them. Now all you need is an internet connection, which you can get at the public library. Thirteen year olds write fanfiction, as do adults. A large number of fanfiction writers are women, but there are also men out there. Yes, a lot of it is bad. Yes, a lot of it is as gross as you would expect. But the same can be said for any other type of storytelling. There are plenty of renowned  authors out there who just don’t speak to me. (Some of the students I am tutoring are reading Camus in their AP English class and are incredibly amused by my
response whenever he is brought up.)

But there is a lot of well written, blow-your-socks-off fanfiction out there, even if we call published riffs on someone  else’s work as “homage” and not fanfiction. May I suggest Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality? (YMMV on this one- personally it is too “Textbooky” for me, but lots  of non-fanfiction readers like this one.) There have also been lovely character pieces on Luna Lovegood that left me more satisfied than Rowling’s “let’s give the weird outlier character the same happy ending as everyone else: she grows up, gets over some of her crazier theories and gets married to some dude, idk.” (memo to self: Write “Luna Lovegood: Squatch Hunter.”)

The value we sometimes place on other people’s favored type of storytelling often bothers me. We all can be too exclusionary- I, too, can’t help but scrunch my nose up when ever my mom watches “Real Housewives.” It happens when serious literary types get into “graphic novels” but still stick their  nose up at sweaty nerds reading their non-Watchmen superhero ”comic books.”

It is why Anton Ego was so deplorable when he dismissed Gusteau’s cookbook based on it’s title, Anyone Can Cook.

Sure, dismiss a book for having started off as bad fanfiction, but don’t dismiss it just because it started off as fanfiction.

 

TLDR;

people are stuck up, yo

if anyone takes “Luna Lovegood: Squatch Hunter” away from me, I will hunt you down Liam Neeson Style.

 

 

2 Feb
2015

My favorite comics (as a kid and a teen)

My friend Angela wrote about her childhood favorite graphic novels on her blog and it reminded me about the kind of stuff I liked to read when I was little. I’m titling this post “My favorite comics” instead of  “my favorite graphic novels” because: a) I like the term “graphic novel” about as much as I like the term “magical realism” (which is another post for another time.)  and b) the majority of these are going to be comic strips from the Sunday paper.

I took an art class in seventh grade. We spent all of one day on cartooning and I absolutely loved it. I loved the big white board cartoonists worked on, I liked how expressive cartoons could be with very few lines, I loved how well they lend themselves to comedy.  Newspaper Cartoonist became number one with a bullet on my “What I want to be when I grow up” lists, far above astronomer, artist and even writer. I had serious Calvin and Hobbes vs. Peanuts discussions.

Here is what little me looked forward to reading the most.

Cathy

Cathy was genuinely my favorite comic for a while. When reading Cathy I thought “So this is what being an adult woman will be like.” Bikini angst. Shoulder pads. unfulfilling jobs. milquetoast boyfriends. hobbies: shoes, chocolate, nothing else. You lied to me, Cathy. I am so glad you lied to me.

Those apple-slice eyes are the bomb, though.

The Far Side

This comic has everything: an idiosyncratic art style, surrealism, dark humor, and cows.
farside

 

 Bone

On the rare occasions my brother and I could get our mom to buy us copies of Nickelodeon magazine, I would flip straight to the back in order to read Jeff Smith’s Bone. Why did I like it? It is weird.  There are these weird  things with the last name Bone, and a girl, and her grandmother, and they go on adventure, and there are these cows. Bone combines my love of oddball protagonists, humor, and sprawling fantasy epics.

 

Ghost World

I read this on several occasions, huddled up in the back of the library (where they kept the most shameful of books- comics and pulp science fiction novels.) I didn’t know what to think of this then. This book was nothing like my beloved newspaper strips. It makes the list because the narrative was so well done that I kept reading it even after I reached the conclusion that I should probably wait until I’m older to read it.

I still don’t know what to think of this one.

 

Great Lakes Avengers

It does say as a kid and a teen up there, so I guess I will pick a favorite from that strange time in high school when I actually read superhero comics.

I watched the old Adam West and Burt Ward Batman on TVLand with my dad. I grew up with Nipple Suit Batman. My brother and stepdad were reading all the dark, edgy comics like Watchmen and Frank Miller’s anything. My mom picked up Wonder Woman and anything by Gail Simone. I read along with them, but none of these grown ups in spandex taking themselves seriously spoke to me.

The Tick spoke to me. Justice League International spoke to me. The Great Lakes Whatevers spoke to me. It’s like Squirrel Girl opines: “comics are supposed to be fun.” 

Fun doesn’t mean childish. Fun doesn’t mean meaningless.  As much as I love Squirrel Girl,  teenage me related most to Big Bertha. As supermodel Ashley Crawford, all anyone cared about was her looks. As larger than a house, morbidly obese Big Bertha, citizens tell her “why couldn’t I have been saved by a hot superhero?” All she wants in either body  is for people to notice her for what she can do, not what she looks like. What teenage girl can’t relate?

(yes I know about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. yes I am super excited to check it out. Between that and Lumberjanes I might have to start my first comic subscription.)