The next chapter: March 2021 update

It’s April. For the last couple of months, it felt like a time warp. I blinked and the month just disappeared. March slowed down the pace a bit, but a lot happened, most of it good.

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. This is front and centre in my mind as I watch the coverage of Chauvin’s trial.

Wash your hands, wear your masks, keep physical distance, and stay home as much as you can. The moms have both received their first vaccinations and are scheduled for their seconds. Phil’s registered for the Astra-Zeneca vaccine when we receive our supply. But this pandemic still ain’t over. Variants of concern are on the rise. Be careful out there.

The month in writing

I was supposed to start working on next round revisions of Reality Bomb. And I did start, but I didn’t get far.

At the outset of the year, I was thinking positively. I had worked hard on rewriting and improving RB in 2020. I hoped that the critiques would validate the work. They did. In part. But they also reflected that I had a lot more work ahead of me, and the prospect of that work, in February, when the first critiques came back, felt daunting.

As I mentioned last month, I suffered a crisis of confidence in February (and in January before that). I was feeling like a fraud. In March, I turned a corner, though. More on the specifics in the next section of this update.

I started working on a new first chapter, which I already had an idea I would have to do. Beginnings and endings are very difficult for me. I never know how to identify the right place to start or finish. Part-way through March, another critique came in and it did two things. First, it opened my eyes to several of my weaknesses in a gentle way that broke through my resistance. Second, it gave me a very concrete path forward.

Then, I put on my big girl pants and asked a question of the critique group. The discussion gave me a place to start. The place to start, in fact. So, I’ve started working on RB more diligently.

With respect to my optimistic goal, I had originally hoped to revise the whole MS in March—lol! I knew that wasn’t going to happen at the first of the month and set a much lower goal of 1,500 words. I wrote 1,330 words on the new beginning, not all of which will go to waste. So, 89% of my revised goal.

I wrote two new poems for the Laurentian University SciArt Poetry Competition and … won the community category with “Encoded”! I read the poem online at the SciArt Gala (you can watch it on the Science North YouTube channel, if you wish) and it will be published in the Fall issue of LU’s literary journal, Sulphur.

Just to keep the poetry news together, I was informed on March 31st that two more poems were accepted for future publication. I’ll offer further details when they’re published.

I wrote my next Speculations column for DIY MFA. It came in at 850 words, or 85% of my 1,000-word goal. I’ll put up my referral post when the post is live.

In short fiction, I finished revising the story I was working on last month and revised a second. I’d aimed to revise 2,500 words and revised 3,978. 159% of goal. Less impressive was my attempt to write a new short. I only managed 131 words of my 1,500-word goal, or 9%. The anthology call that I was hoping to submit to was due March 31st. When I checked the site, just to be sure, I saw (with joy) that the call had been extended to April 15th. I’m hoping to finish the story this month.

I blogged 5,302 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 141%.

It was a productive month, but a bit of a mixed bag for all that. I met my overall writing goal (101%) and exceeded my revision goal (133%).

I’m going to have to amend my annual goals. And I’ve decided not to work on Marushka after all and change focus to another standalone novel idea. I’ll have to think about what a reasonable writing goal should be while working full time. I also have a lot of committee work I have to do for the Canadian Authors Association (CAA). It’s becoming a burden, but I don’t want to leave the board at this critical juncture. Leaving would be the better choice for me and my wellbeing, but I made a commitment, for better or worse, and I need to see it through.

Filling the well

With respect to online events, I had four in March. A reading by Asian speculative fiction authors, including Melissa Yuan Innes/Melissa Yi, on March 4th, A Writer’s Guide to the Genre Universe with DIY MFA instigator Gabriela Pereira on the 12th, Lisa Cooper Ellison’s workshop on how to get better critiques, another Jane Friedman offering, on March 24th, which, because it was during the day, I caught on the replay, and the aforementioned SciArt poetry reading on March 30th.

I’m enjoying a more reasonable pace to my online learning and entertainment these days instead of signing up for everything that comes across my inbox in some frantic need to … do what, exactly? Yeah. I’m starting to learn some lessons.

My mom wanted to prearrange her cremation and interment, so I accompanied her to the appointment as her only child and executor. After her health scare back in November, she wanted to get this last piece of her end-of-life planning in place. I wouldn’t say this was necessarily a “fun” thing to have done, but it was reassuring for both of us.

I also had a DIY MFA columnist call, and then a finance committee meeting, an email “meeting” of the board, a fundraising and sponsorship meeting, and a special general meeting to attend for the CAA all in the space of a week. It was an exhausting week. I am not a financial whiz.

In other, more personal, news, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor, and I am in good health. All of my tests came back, either negative (breast screening and gynecological exam) or in the acceptable range (bloodwork, blood pressure). I broached the topic of counselling and he suggested I start with my employer’s EAP (which I expected) but gave me a referral for psychological assessment should I need it.

I had my first appointment with my counsellor and, though the worst of my anxiety had passed by the time I spoke with her, it was good to have a safe space to “get it all off of my chest.” She also suggested a few organizations that could help me if I wanted to proceed with an autism/Asperger’s assessment. She has several family members who are on the spectrum, both child and adult.

She listened patiently to the reasons I suspected I was on the spectrum and confirmed that my situation met many of the criteria. I’m going to continue in counselling and enquiring about an assessment and will update you in the future about any progress in this area.

I’ve also lost my “covid 19” breaking my goal of 170 lbs. at the end of March. I’m going to stick with my new psychologically informed and reinforced way of eating (thanks to Noom—pandemic struggles require additional support) and see where my body finally settles.

I’ve decided to put health/mental health progress in the filling the well section of my updates because self-care encompasses more than just my efforts to continue my education as a creative soul.

What I’m watching and reading

Phil and I watched what will be the last season of the troubled American Gods series. We enjoyed it. This season tried to bring the series back into line with the book and did a reasonable job in that respect. Apparently, the Gaiman wants to finish the story with a limited series or movie, or possibly find a new home and continue the series. We’ll see how that works out.

I finished watching four series, three on Netflix and one on Amazon Prime.

The first was The Queen’s Gambit. I really liked it, despite the limited series’ tendency toward “everyone loves Beth.”

The latest season of The Alienist was dark, focusing on child abduction perpetrated by a troubled woman. I enjoyed it despite the darkness, but I disliked the crazy woman villain trope. They really need to give it a rest.

I finally finished The Man in the High Castle. The final episodes had to wrap things up quickly and there were a number of contrivances, but most plotlines worked out satisfactorily. It was good.

The last season I finished was Bridgerton. I liked the way Shondaland envisioned the book but agree with some critics that their attempts to address race issues was on the weak sauce side. I enjoy a fake relationship to true love trope, but Daphne’s violation of Simon’s consent (rather than talking things out rationally, or even arguing ferociously) broke me out of the story. It seemed something too damaging to overcome in three episodes. Yes, Simon was being a bit of a stubborn twit about his vengeful vow to Daddy, but people in a relationship worth its salt respect each other.

I read four books (well, three books and a short story) in March.

The first was Emily Tesh’s Silver in the Wood. I really liked the twists on the Green Man legends and the incorporation of eldritch terrors.

Next was Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. The story was good, and the protagonist’s plight was compelling, but I got the same gut-twisting distaste from this novel that I did from reading Crime and Punishment. A lot of (in my opinion) needless chest thumping and dissipation. I figured out the twist before it was laid out on the page and I didn’t feel sorry for the protagonist. The betrayal felt like just desserts. And yet the guy trusts his traitorous “friend” who then drags him through seven kinds of hell in as many days including murder, only to do what the hapless protagonist told him to in the first place? Gah! So … I both liked it and didn’t?

I gave myself a palate-cleanser by reading Marcy Kennedy’s short story “Three Wishes,” the prologue to Cursed Wishes. Sad and desperate, but good all the same.

Finally, I read Return of the Trickster, the third book in Eden Robinson’s Trickster trilogy. It was fabulous. Love! Jared’s not your typical hero. He’s been repeatedly traumatized by his aunt (the trickster Weegit’s sister), who’s turned into an ogress because of her ambition and lust for power. He’s wounded and weak and not smart in the ways the people around him need him to be. But he’s unfailingly kind. He’s not going to be the same kind of trickster as his father was, that’s for sure. You have to read this one. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

And that brings me to the end of this very long post recounting a month in this writer’s life.

Until tomorrow, be well and stay safe, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, May 26-June 1, 2019

Here’s a solid mix of video and articles to get your mental corn popping.

Ben Lindbergh celebrates UC Berkeley’s SETI@home’s 20th anniversary. The Ringer

Greg Nichols reports on technology in development: a robotic trauma centre in a backpack could be MASH for millennials. ZDNet

Arriana Mcylmore: these black women gamers teamed up to take on the worst online trolls. Fast Company

Kati Morton has a chat about what bothers her about self-care.

ASAP Science talks about sleep hygiene and shares a technique that may help you fall asleep in two minutes (!)

Jenna Birch explains what leads you to burnout—and how to recover from it—according to your Myers-Briggs type. Well and Good

SciShow Psych delves into what the statistics are really saying about teens and screen time.

SciShow news looks at how an AI was trained to predict the effects of non-coding DNA and how these effects could be linked to autism spectrum disorder.

The Walrus dedicates an issue to death. It’s amazing. So much good here. Really. You’ll want to read it all.

Nick Summers: science has brought back the scent of a long-dead flower, sort of. Engadget

Tom Allan looks at the wildlife haven Chernobyl became after people left. The Guardian

Tim MacWelch lists 11 gross animals you can eat in a survival situation. Includes cooking recommendations, too … Popular Science

Ian Sample says that exploding stars could have been the reason we started walking on two legs. The Guardian

David Grimm shares the research of Maren Huck, who clipped cameras to the collars of 16 cats and let them do their thing. Science

This made me laugh. So. Hard. Dogs trying to catch treats, mid-air. The Awesome Daily

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found something to take away with you 🙂

Until next tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

ThoughtyThursday2019