Poetry is a Hedgehog

from Hélène Cixous, Messiah (1996):

“One day I heard a very fine scholar respond to the enigma What-is-Poetry: Poetry is a hedgehog; and then I had a marvelous vision, I saw the hedgehog big as life with a soft skin like tiger silks and the hedgehog brought forth a high meadow that made for the earth red- and yellow-spotted corollas, and the meadow brought forth an admirable dead woman whose stories and tales are the cities and lights of my inner existence, and the hedgehog was in the center of the springtime like the spirit of resistance at the heart of great leaps of growth. As if on an elevator, the dead woman had gone straight up to that which lives again and she spoke to the hedgehog in the voice of a beloved. She spoke to it as “Ceres,” in a voice whose gentleness was stronger than any authority. Seeing that, I understood for myself the mystery… to say: “Poetry is a hedgehog” is a bit short. One phrase does not a lecture make. But hold out your hands, and into them I’ll put the word hedgehog and the word Ceres. Keep them safe, each of them will bring forth harvests.”

*the “very fine scholar” Cixous refers to is, of course, Derrida.

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What I’m thinking now

The Thinker and Death, by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.

The Thinker and Death by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.

Drawing, which I’m not doing.

Writing, which I AM doing, no matter how gross or stolen (or sometimes perfect) those moments feel.

Heteropatriarchy and the damage it does every day.

Women Destroy Science -Fiction, which is practically the best thing ever.

My third, most recent Interzone sale, which I will say more about later.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Ursula K. Le Guin and the hermeneutics of love.

Clarion West, which is four years ago for me and right around the corner for others.

The desert, Trickster mythology and motorcycles.

Changing my name.

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#Draw365 January 9, 2013 Shoe

I skipped yesterday, Le Sigh. I’d thought I might do two sketches today to make up for it, but opted not to.

I may be building up for the Janelle concert next Tuesday…

shoes are hard

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#Draw365 January 7, 2013 Kansas City Selfie number 1

photo(29)A work in progress.

For myself, of course.

 

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#Draw365 January 6, 2013 Happy hiker

happy hiker

happy hiker

I wish I could capture the natural beauty of the ridge I’m trying to depict here, and the happy smile of my favorite person.

I have to think that practice can only help!

This one is for Remy, in case you can’t tell who it’s supposed to be.

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#Draw365 January 5, 2013 Saguaro

Saguaro on Tumamoc Hill

Saguaro on Tumamoc Hill

On day two of my #Draw365 efforts, of course I should attempt perspective!

I adore saguaro cactus plants and their human-like figures. Road-tripping through the desert last week, I admired these slow giants standing watch on hillsides, slumping by the road, reaching to touch the enchanted sky over Arizona or even to embrace one another.

This unschooled effort is for the artist Galen Dara, who I am exceptionally blessed to call friend. Thank you for showing me Tumamoc Hill and its lovely silent occupants, clinging to life and thriving.

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#Draw365 January 4, 2013

happy birthday, Andy!

happy birthday, Andy!

I’m drawing something new every day this year, beginning today.

Want to join me? I’m not an artist, I’m a writer. But I’m inspired by Betty Edwards’ excellent Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and artist friends like Andrew Penn-Romine.

This one’s for him.

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Clarion West Write-a-thon Wrap-up, 2013

This year marks my second year of participation in the Clarion West Write-a-thon! The fundraiser means a great deal to me, as the anniversary of my own CW experience in 2010, and as a way to pay it forward in gratitude for this life-changing experience.

My report
I’m excited to say that while I did not meet my wordcount goal for the 6-week period, I made significant progress on my novel! This madcap narrative began as a story seed last summer and then grew into a novella project for the 2012 fundraiser. Now it wants to be a book. I also finally completed an emotionally challenging short story during a dry spot in the novelizing.

The sponsors who generously donated to CW gave me a boost of confidence. The money is for the workshop, but gratifying FEELS occur when other writers give in your name. So, thank you. If you’d like to hear about the project itself, read further. If not, please accept my heartfelt gratitude for your support of Clarion West.

About the book
Since Clarion West 2013, I’ve sold a number of short stories, and I’ve been ducking the long form. But this one kept bugging me until I let it in. I’ve kept fairly quiet about it so far, because it’s my first long form attempt (other than a manic dalliance with NaNoWriMo). However, it’s picking up steam and overcoming some of its shyness. A measure of that steam comes from the extraordinary generosity of Mark Teppo, who offered to listen to my pitch back in March at the Rainforest Writers Retreat 2013 and gave me useful, hard-hitting feedback about structure and believability.

He also gave a cool talk called “Nuns With Guns,” in which he asked, “Are characters fighting you because they know the scene they’re in rings false? Ask yourself if there’s a simpler way. What if they fail? How badly could it go? Are you having fun?”

Well, yes, I’m having fun.

The Pitch
Myths to Live By is a post-Event novel that follows the travels of Bailey, a dedicated scientist and Asema, an increasingly dangerous woman she’s sworn to protect, through an apocalyptic landscape populated by motorcycle stuntwomen, talking animals, hippies, wasteland demagogues and tree-dwelling Amazons. Between the two of them, Bailey and Asema hold the power to save the world or utterly destroy it.

Would you read that? I kinda think I would.

Where did THAT come from?
At Clarion West, one of my instructors was the formidable Maureen McHugh, who advised us to write our obsessions. I think it’s a fair representation to say that she credits the success of her award-winning novel China Mountain Zhang to this principle. Rather than trying to guess what publishing markets want, go with the story that only you can tell, the one that’s eating at you and incorporates subjects about which you care the most. A combination of two of McHugh’s obsessions formed the basis of her novel and created space for risk-taking and invention, producing a unique and exciting narrative.

My obsessions, apparently, are tricksters, nanotech, intentional community, sex, and motorcycles. But it started with “trickster plus nanotech.” It grew and shifted as influences other than these folded into the early novella and gradually the novel outline.

When I’m in the thick of creative process, my writer-brain does a katamari thing, and everything I roll past sticks to the story I working on. Sometimes I fight the katamari impulse, and other times it’s serendipitous. I was reading Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By when I started the project. The book is classic but problematic; I purposefully distanced myself from it by giving my ragged paperback (purchased at a used bookstore in Seattle during my stint at Clarion West) to a high school student who expressed growing interest in Campbell’s work. I read Fight Club for the first time, and found Palahniuk’s eye for violence and its motives, satisfactions and consequences intriguing. I fell headfirst into Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World, and began to see connections between aspects of characterization I’d been struggling with in the novella. The main characters, who had felt flat and resistant, like they do when they’re bored with shouldering the weight of the author’s obsessions, sprang upright. They pushed off the packs they’d been carrying for me and began intruding into my thoughts when I wasn’t writing. They started arguing with each other. It was exhilarating.

The Outcome
Now, I’d be lying if I tried to claim this all happened during the Write-a-thon; it didn’t. I’ve been wrestling with this story all year. Writers I trust told me to keep going when I fretted about my novel “jumping the shark” right in front of my eyes. A few folks even said, ah, yes, that’s it.

So, here I go, off into the wasteland. Thank you for all your support, and wish me luck!

 

 

 

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Goddess Temple Kerfuffle Part III

You may recall my post last year about the Goddess Temple of Orange County’s discrimination against trans women. This week, I received news that the Temple is changing their name.

According to a recent post by Medusa Coils (also known as Judith Laura), the Goddess Temple of Orange County will soon become The Goddess Center of California. Along with a new name, a room-by-room refurbishment of the Temple itself and a website reboot, the Temple plans to re-examine its policy regarding the inclusion of trans women in the Temple.

This inclusion currently means the Temple offers a once-a-month service “for all,” but “women-only” spaces continue to be closed to trans women. Central to last year’s controversy was Temple founder Ava Parks’ insistence on the right define “women,” and to exclude trans women on the grounds that they are not true women, not “women-born-women.” This stance denies trans women the right to define their own personhood in relation to the Temple, and frankly, the unsatisfactory solution of services “for all” continues to feel like an empty gesture when both cis and trans women were calling for dialogue.

The new information posted by Medusa Coils comes from a subscriber-only e-newsletter  (that I signed up for before the Kerfuffle but strangely have never received), and it includes the following call to reconciliation:

“Over the years we have had a bit of controversy over our definition of ‘woman’ and our ‘women only’ policy for many events… Beginning this year, it is our intention to identify, name, formally recognize and honor these as-yet unacknowledged genders, creating a sacred place for each in our community.Those (of any gender) who are interested in being part of this unfolding and groundbreaking work, please contact us. You will be invited to join a committee, the intent of which will be to guide The Goddess Center’s gender policies for the greatest good for all.”

It should be noted that this is hardly the first time the Temple has experienced gender trouble. Will something change for the better this time, or is this just a facelift? Will this call go out to the general public, and will the Temple reach out to those who have disagreed with their policies in the past?

I’m a bit skeptical.

Posted in gender, Goddess Temple, paganism | 14 Comments

Outlaw Bodies is Here!

cover art by Robin E. Kaplan

A little belated in my announcement, but here it is! Now available from Amazon, Wizard Tower Books (UK, as an ebook) and Lulu.

Some reviews have come in, some quite positive, including Strange Horizons and The New York Journal of Books.

Thank you so much to editors Lori Selke and Djibril al-Ayad for the faith and effort they invested in bringing this collection to life.

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