There’s something about the quality of the light in September that I love. The position of the sun in the sky, its later rising as we near the autumnal equinox. They instil peace and evoke memories of happy times in my life. Lying in my bed with the light flooding into my room as a gentle nudge to waking. Sitting on a covered porch in a comfy chair, wrapped in a sweater, with a cup of tea and my journal, writing. Solitary moments when I felt wholly myself.
I hope you find some joy in the season, too.
Before we get to the update, here are my monthly PSA’s:
All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.
Keep washing your hands, wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distance, and, if you haven’t been fully vaccinated yet, please get on that, won’t you? Delta’s still raging and new variants are on the horizon.
The month in writing
August started off well, writing-wise, but something happened (more on that in filling the well) that sent my train off the rails. Originally, I’d set myself an ambitious goal (as you do), but around the middle of the month, I realized I wasn’t even going to come close. I adjusted down and still didn’t reach it.
Of my 10,000-word goal, I wrote 6,703 words, or 67%.
I wrote my next Speculations. 1,080 words, or 108% of my 1,000-word goal.
I wrote 5,385 words on this blog. That’s 144% of my 3,750-word goal.
I worked on a couple of pieces of short fiction, trying to get them ready for open calls, but that fell by the wayside after mid-month as well.
Filling the well
The three writerly events I attended in August were closely clustered. I signed up for Fonda Lee’s Revision Boot Camp, on August 12th. It was offered in conjunction with When Words Collide, which was free and ran from August 13th to the 15th. On Saturday the 14th, I also attended Margaret Dunlap’s Demystifying Outlines offered through the Rambo Writing Academy.
It was a packed weekend, and I didn’t get to attend as many WWC sessions as I would have liked, but they will be coming out on their YouTube channel. Eventually.
So … the thing that happened.
For the month of August (August 3rd to September 3rd, actually—so five weeks) I was acting for my team lead in instructional design. I was the project manager for everything my team was working on, including a very important and time-sensitive project (henceforth known as the VITSP) that had to be completed. I knew it would be challenging and had booked the last two days of July off, leading into a long weekend, for a nice break to muster my resources.
Unfortunately, in the two working days I was off, the scope of the VITSP changed drastically. Originally, we were to have the learning products published on our learning management system (LMS) on the 9th of September. Now, it was to be published August 27th. That was two weeks cut from our timeline.
The instructions I was left with indicated that we would have to have the validated and translated documents for the self-instructional modules (SIMs) in the week of August 16th, so that we could edit, send for review and approval, convert to PDF documents, and submit them to our technical partners for posting to the LMS in time for the due date.
My first meeting of that first day of my acting made it clear that the SIMs would not be validated and translated until August 25th or 26th. I panicked. But I couldn’t be seen to be panicking. Add to this the fact that my manager was also absent for most of the week, and I was spiralling.
I tried to power through, but I found even thinking difficult. I couldn’t seem to make a decision (a deadly shortcoming in project management), and I certainly couldn’t articulate what was happening to me. My brain literally could not brain.
On the evening of August 12th, the situation had been diffused sufficiently that my brain began to brain again. What I was experiencing was related to my autism. Had I had some kind of meltdown? I did some research over the weekend and learned that what I’d experienced was called autistic burnout. I’ll let you click through if you want to find out more about it.
The best remedy for autistic burnout is rest. Unfortunately, I did not have that option, so I powered through. The brief rest of weekends was insufficient for recovery. I was plagued by insomnia, spent hours ruminating about the mistakes that resulted from my autistic burnout.
Proactive about my mental health as I am, I again reached out to my employer’s employee assistance program (EAP). After two weeks of playing phone tag, however, I gave up on the idea of getting counselling support. People were probably on holidays and demand exceeded supply. I only had one week remaining in my acting assignment, anyway, and the crisis would likely be over by the time we finally connected.
I explained to my manager and critical partners what was happening, and the situation improved. But it was still extremely stressful.
Somehow, I managed to get the VITSP done on time, but not without days of foregoing proper breaks and lunch, working overtime, and shaking like I was standing naked in a snowstorm.
I’m still not fully recovered, but I have a doctor’s appointment on the 13th. I’ll see if I can get some support then. I also have a couple days of leave coming up and will take my overtime as compensatory leave. I’ll make it through, but I’m still feeling foggy.
I tried to persist in writing, because my creative pursuits are one of the things that bring me joy but bullying through wasn’t serving me. The quality of my work was not satisfactory. So, I’ve stepped away from writing, too. I’m trying to be kind to myself.
What I’m watching and reading
Due to the above difficulties, my reading and watching habits have suffered as well. Concentration is hard, right now, so I have less than usual to report for August.
In the watching department, I only finished two series.
First, I watched the series finale of The Good Witch. It’s a positive and uplifting kind of series, and the last season was no exception. Though the writers tried to insert some romantic tension and uncertainty, nearly everyone paired off by the final episode. After a brief disconnect about Sam’s workaholic nature (aside from the season’s big arc of the red haloed moon), he retired and embarked on a world tour with Cassie.
Joy ends up with her girlfriend, Zoey, who was nearly frightened off when she discovered that Joy was a witch. Adam and Stephanie get back together, and even George gets a love interest. But Abigail and Donovan, who were engaged to be married, abruptly call it off. What about her happily ever after? And her flower shop is in danger from a big floral chain that’s moved into town. It seems that there’s more story to tell. Too bad the series was cancelled.
I also watched the end of the first season of Superman and Lois. It was a short season, because pandemic, I suspect, but it was typical DC network fare. Clark and Lois are devoted partners and the parents of two boys. Clark is fired from the Daily Planet and Lois quits because of the new owner of the paper, Morgan Edge. They move to Smallville after Martha dies.
Jonathan and Jordan, their sons, are day and night. Jonathan is the golden boy, popular, QB on the football team, and otherwise typical teen. He adjusts poorly to small town life, having left his girlfriend behind in Metropolis. Jordan is shy and awkward and plagued with social anxiety. It’s a surprise to no one and everyone when Jordan turns out to be the one who inherits Kal-El’s powers.
I really liked John Henry Irons.
I only finished reading three books in August.
The first was We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. The book starts with the origin story of the land of Medio. It establishes the social contract between men and women, as well as the class structure of the island nation. In Medio, every affluent man is married to two women. His Primera manages his household and is his intellectual and political partner. His Segunda is his social partner and bears his children.
Daniella is about to graduate from Medio School for Girls and enter into her marriage contract as a Primera when she is approached by a member of a resistance group who blackmails her into spying on her new husband for them. His price? Silence about her impoverished background and family.
It was definitely a heroine’s journey novel, a la Gail Carriger. Dani has little power throughout the novel, and it’s only her compassion and desire to do right that allows her to prevail. It’s also an enemies to allies to lovers story between Dani and her Segunda. I enjoyed it.
Then, I read Nancy Springer’s The Case of the Missing Marquess. Yes, the novel that inspired the Enola Holmes movie. I attended a literary event back in the spring that featured Springer, and everything she said about the adaptation was true. It was a short, but lovely story, and Enola is much more resourceful in the novel. She has to be. Basilwether is also much younger, so no romance in the book.
Finally, I read P. Djèlí Clark’s A Master of Djinn. Loved! I’ve heard some negative things around the interwebz, but I loved the story. I loved Fatma. I loved the world. Read this book. I will say no more.
And that was a month in this writer’s life.
Until tomorrow, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!
Here we are in July, after a strangely introspective and quiet national holiday—on this side of the border, anyway. I won’t speak for my American friends. With the discovery of nearly a thousand unmarked graves near residential schools, I, and many Canadians of colonist descent, have been examining our collective lack of action with respect to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.
If you read the calls to action—and I encourage you to—they’re mostly common sense. Ensure that all Indigenous communities have clean water, solid infrastructure, support for health and mental health needs, and so on. Reuniting Indigenous families, doing whatever we can to identify the occupants of unmarked graves, and demanding accountability from the Catholic church (other protestant denominations and the federal government have already apologized, but no further action has been taken) are the least we can do.
And how do we do it? Personal actions are a start, but we can act most powerfully by lobbying our local members of parliament and through voting. If swift action is not taken by the government in power, then we elect a government who will act.
With that, I’ll segue into my usual PSAs:
All lives cannot matter until all BIPOC lives matter.
Wear your masks, wash your hands, and get fully vaccinated. The delta variant wants to undo all our good work. Don’t let it!
The month in writing
The month started out well. I was making headway with Reality Bomb, and once I got the May next chapter update and my Speculations column dealt with, I even manages some more work on the short story I started … in April.
Then work (several days sacrificed to the meeting gods) and meetings (about 10 hours worth) for the Canadian Authors ramped up and my productivity went down.
I set myself a goal of revising 25,000 words on RB but adjusted it down to 20,000 words around the middle of the month. I’m into another section where I’m rewriting, not just revising, now, and most days, I’m lucky if I can get 250 words written. There’s a lot of resistance around this section of rewrite, which is how I know that it has to be done. It’s just taking more time than I’d like.
But I rewrote/revised 16,330 words in June, or 82% or my amended goal, so I’m happy enough.
In short fiction, I revised 567 words, or 38% of my 1,500-word goal. Again, I’ve gotten to the point where it’s writing and not revising (the story was only part-written before). This is where I return to the old NaNoWriMo saying: every word’s a victory.
I wrote 1,272 words for my Speculations column, or 127% f my 1,000-word goal. And I submitted it on time. Win!
Finally, I blogged 5,458 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 146%.
Of my total writing goal for the month, I achieved 141%, of my total revision goal, I achieved 79%, and overall, I achieved 90% of my combined goals for the month. Not bad 🙂
Of the projects I’m not tracking, I made progress on my Ascension master document (like that much better than bible …), I did brainstorm a new short story, but I didn’t finish the story from two months ago, or start revisions on another story.
You can only do what you can do.
Filling the well
On June 2nd, I attended another Tiffany Yates Martin webinar through Jane Friedman. Always a good investment, those. I also signed up for TORCon June 10-13 and attended a few sessions, but that was it with respect to writing related events.
I had an appointment with my registered massage therapist on the 10th and I don’t know if it was the weight loss or my ASD diagnosis, but I’ve never had a more relaxing, less painful massage.
On June 20th, I went out to my sister-in-law’s for a lovely afternoon of lawn games and BBQ. I didn’t even take pictures. Just relaxed. So much relax.
Had an appointment with my financial advisor to make a couple of small tweaks to our banking and investments.
And … on the 28th, I called first thing to book my second vaccination. In another week, I will be as fully protected as Pfizer allows 🙂 I did have more pain in my shoulder than I did last time, but I got my shot. I done a #goodjab.
I’m down to 154 lbs, but now most of my clothes are too big. Can I say I hate shopping? First world, privileged white woman problems.
What I’m watching and reading
The latest season of Grey’s Anatomy came to an end in June. Same old, same old. What can I say? It’s a guilty pleasure.
Nancy Drew also finished its season. It was okay. Still not sure I like the ghostbusters version of ND. She resolved the major problem of the season only to have more crop up. Par for the course.
Phil and I watched the second volume of Love, Death, and Robots. Some of the shorts were amusing, others grim. Not bad.
The History of Swearing was amusing, though. I hope they do more, though I think they’ll run out before too long.
I also watched two movies.
The first was Monkey Beach, based on an Eden Robinson novel of the same name. I’d been meaning to watch it since I found out about it (about the same time as the Trickster series came out). It was good. Sad, but hopeful.
Wonder Woman 1984 was bad, but not as bad as I was prepared for it to be. Compared to the first movie, though? Meh.
Only three books on the reading radar this month, but they were all great.
I read TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea first. Pure joy. If you haven’t picked it up yet, do it.
Then, I finished Diana Harkness’s The Shadow of Night, to catch up with the series. It’s very interesting to see the differences between the two, and I could really understand the creative decisions behind the adaptation. Doing the book, as written, would not have worked visually. Like them both for different reasons and in their own respects.
Finally, I read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Ohmygodsogood! Just going to leave it there.
And that was the month in this writer’s life.
Until tipsday, be well and stay safe, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!
October has ended. NaNoWriMo has begun. This year has been temporally bizarre. Covid time moves both slower and faster than normal time. Months have passed at a snail’s pace, and then I blink and the next month is gone.
Black and Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. Marcellis Stinnette and Jonathan Price were killed by police in October. The RCMP has refused to protect Mi’kmaw fishers and their rights.
I’m so afraid for what will happen, not just in the US, but also to countries and economies all over the world if Trump gets in for a second term. Not a little of my anxiety these days is due to this election.
Worldwide, we’re in the second wave. Numbers of infections are exceeding those seen in the spring in many countries are increasing restrictions. While I understand that people are tired, if we don’t recommit to reasonable restrictions like wearing masks in public, maintaining physical distance, washing your hands, and getting your flu shot, governments will have no choice but to implement lockdowns again.
It’s not about inconveniencing you. It’s not about violating your civil liberties. It’s about protecting other people. It’s about preventing the spread of disease.
Do your part.
The month in writing
Having finally finished my rewrite of Reality Bomb in September, I’d hoped to map things out and revise by the end of October. Once again, my ambitions exceeded my capabilities.
I didn’t finish mapping the story until October 20th. When I got to work on revisions, it wasn’t too bad. With eleven days left on the month, I set the goal of revising 30,000 words. I managed 24,714 words, or 82%. I’ve not just been cutting words, I’ve been rewriting whole sections again, so this is not bad. This is also the first month I’ve posted substantial revision numbers all year.
For NaNoWriMo this year, I’m doing the rebel thing again and I’m hoping to revise the remaining 60,000 (and a bit) words. I’ve already cut over 2,000 words from the over 120,000-word draft. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to tighten everything up and end up with a 90,000-word story that I can present to my critique group. I’m sure there will be further revisions, but this is my short-term goal.
Thanks in part to these long monthly updates, I once again outstripped my blogging goal by 174%. I wrote 6,532 words of my 3,750-word goal.
I also drafted most of my next Speculation column for DIY MFA. I managed to write 840 word of my 1,000-word goal, or 84%.
Overall, I wrote 155% of my writing goal of 4,750 words.
Also, my poem “Visiting Endymion” was published in Polar Borealis 16.
Filling the well
My family did get together for a low-key Thanksgiving at my Mom’s. Even though there were just five of us, we had more than enough food to send everyone home with leftovers.
For my birthday, Phil ordered sushi, I had wine, and we watched a seasonally appropriate movie (more on that, below). I’m a level 51 human now. I still behave like I’m a kid 😛
Virtual event-wise, I started the month with the launch of Ariel Gordon’s Tree Talk on the 1st. On the second, I attended a Carl Brandon Society lecture by Desi authors called Our Literary Mothers.
On the 6th, I attended a talk with Waubgeshig Rice and Eden Robinson in anticipation of the CBC series Trickster, based on Robinson’s books. It’s awesome. You need to watch it. CBC Gem.
I signed up for a series of webinars from Free Expressions. So far, I’ve attended a couple of Donald Maass lectures/workshops, and a Lisa Cron presentation on story and the brain.
I also registered for Surry International Writers’ Conference (SiWC) online, which combined their usual weekend offering with the Writing Excuses virtual retreat. I have to admit that I hit peak zoom saturation on Saturday night, but the recorded sessions will be available for a month for registered attendees. I’ll catch up.
What I’ve been watching and reading
In the viewing category, the month started off on a lowish note.
We finished Wizards: Tales of Arcadia. It wasn’t as good as Three Below, but it was okay and a better interpretation of Arthurian legend than Cursed.
Season two of The New Legends of Monkey was fun, but dumb. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
We watched The Boys, season two, and it was awesome and bloody and surprising, but Lucy traumatized me.
Lovecraft Country blew my freaking mind. I’ve seen some less than stellar reviews, but Phil and I loved it.
Utopia was good as well. I enjoyed it more than Phil, but I think what got him was the lack of resolution. Every plot line ended on a cliffhanger. I’m more comfortable with this than Phil is.
We also watched two movies. The Old Guard was good, but fairly standard and somewhat predictable. Zombieland Double Tap was as delightful a romp as the first one.
Reading-wise, I finished Jade City by Fonda Lee. I’ve been diversifying my reading and quite enjoyed the Asian-based fantasy world. The characters were fabulous.
Then, I backfilled a gap with Sabriel by Garth Nix. I quite liked the world of the Abhorsen.
I consumed Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir’s follow up to Gideon the Ninth. I went in prepared for the second person narrative, the apparent retconning of many of the events of the first book, and the lack of Gideon’s exquisitely kiss-my-ass voice. There is a point to it. Trust me. The second novel is as much a mystery as the first and part of the delight is trying to figure out what the hell is going on. The pay off is worth it, though the ending still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Loved.
I also read K.M. Weiland’s Writing Your Story’s Theme. You may have noticed my book review 🙂 Yes, I’m A K.M. fangirl, but her analysis is on the mark and she has a way of making theme accessible to the reader without too much brain twisting.
I finished off the month with Alice Munro’s Runaway. There are only two standalone stories in this collection and the rest are linked in two groups. The title tale is chilling.
And that was the month in this writer’s life.
Just a reminder, I won’t be doing curation for most of the month of November. There is just one each of tipsday and thoughty Thursday, and then I’ll be devoting most of my time to RB revisions/NaNo. Of course, I hope to provide you with a weekly update on my revision progress.
Until tipsday, be well and stay safe, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.