The next chapter: August 2021 update

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.

Torvi on kiltti koira. Yes. I’m still enjoying learning Finnish.

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!

WorldCon 75 summary post

It seems we’ve exchanged hurricanes and mass shootings for wildfires and floods. Wherever you are, whatever has come your way, please find safety.


Welcome back to the ongoing tale of my European adventure 🙂

This instalment will be the penultimate one. Next week, I’ll cover my takeaways from the trip.

Since I’d made the decision earlier in the year to stop blogging my session notes … I didn’t take any during the whole of WorldCon (!) It was very freeing. I relaxed and enjoyed.

Something I forgot to mention in my last post is that I also enjoyed the hotel’s Sauna on Tuesday night. I had a nice, naked conversation with some Finnish ladies who were curious about all the Americans in town … but it was helpful for the cruise crud.

Wednesday, August 9, was the first day of WorldCon, and at breakfast that morning, I met up again with the Tracy’s, Heather and Bill, and their mom, Becky, who’d been my roommate on the WXR cruise. Bill was also attending WorldCon, while Heather and Becky did the tourist thing in Helsinki.

After breakfast, I strolled down the pedestrian underpass to the train station, bought my ticket at the kiosk, and caught the train to Pasila.

I want to take a moment here to express just how fabulous the Helsinki trains were. Clean, spacious, and efficient. My registration for the con included a train pass for the week, because they knew most of us would be staying in the downtown area. There are a couple of hotels in Pasila, but they were booked quickly, and blocks of rooms were reserved for those who needed accommodation (or so I understand).

The only other city train I’ve been on that comes close is Vancouver’s, but at the time I travelled on it, the number of passengers made the journey (with luggage) uncomfortable. In Helsinki, there were two main lines, the K and the I (though there were more) that ran north and between the two, one left every ten minutes.

The first day of WorldCon was a bit disappointing, to be honest, because I think the organizers underestimated the interest of casual attendance (day passes). Except for the academic stream session I attended, nearly every room was full and they were very strict about the numbers because fire regulations. I don’t blame the organizers, but it was a frustrating first day.

The convention centre did have a great food court, however, and I ended up meeting a couple of friends of fellow Sudbury Writers’ Guild member Andy Taylor at the cafe. Tim Boerger and Nina Niskanen had both attended Viable Paradise with Andy and he wanted me to connect with them. I’d actually seen Nina at WorldCon last year, but I didn’t know who she was until after her steampunk panel was over 😦

While there, I also met Lara Elena Donnelly, author of Amberlough 🙂

I also saw a number of WXR cruise mates, and fellow member of SF Canada, Su Sokol.

That evening, I met up with a group of Canadian SF fans and writers, including Su, Eric Choi, and Jane Ann McLachlan, to have dinner at Zetor.

Thursday was a more productive day. I attended sessions on the Kalevala (which I was geeky enough to be reading at the time), Nalo Hopkinson’s Guest of Honour interview (I kind of stalked her sessions throughout—I’m a fan), a presentation on the sauna, the live taping of the Coode Street podcast with Kelly Robson and Walter Jon Williams, a panel on secrets in SF that Jane Ann McLachlan was on, how to start a podcast with Howard Tayler, and the live Ditch Diggers taping.

nalohopkinson

That night was a meet up with Writing the Other alumni and K. Tempest Bradford. We went to a Nepalese buffet that was only a block or so from the convention centre called Mero-Himal. A number of alumni had also been on the cruise, and so it was a very enjoyable evening.

Friday’s WorldCon line up included a panel on artificial intelligence, one called Building Resistance, on which where Nina Niskanen and Kameron Hurley, one on female friendship in fiction with Navah Wolfe and Amal El-Motar, another Nalo Hopkinson GoH presentation, a panel on Austalian fantasy with Juliet Marillier, more Nalo Hopkinson (I said I was stalking her), a panel on how science really happens with Eric Choi, one on weird fiction with Helen Marshal, and one on alien language in SF with David J. Peterson, creator of the languages for the Game of Thrones series.

australianfantasy

Friday night was the night of the Hugo Awards Ceremonies and, still suffering from cruise crud (it didn’t completely clear until I was back home), I thought I’d catch the ceremonies on YouTube from the comfort of my hotel room. They were supposed to be webcast.

As I headed out on the train, the skies grew ominously dark and by the time the train arrived back in Helsinki, it was a full-on torrential downpour. The forecast had said that the weather would hold until evening … and so I’d left my umbrella in my hotel room.

While I waited some time at the station for the rain to stop, I eventually had to make it back to the hotel and got completely soaked. I got in and changed clothes, waited until the weather cleared a bit, and then strolled around the block—with my umbrella—to a little sushi restaurant for supper.

When it was time for the Hugos webcast … I was unable to connect. When I hopped on social media to see what I could find out, it turned out that there were technical difficulties and the webcast was a no go. I watched the Twitter feed for a while and ended up calling it an early night.

Saturday began with a science panel on planets beyond the Goldilocks zone, a panel on worldbuilding without ableism with Fran Wilde and Nalo Hopkinson (yes, I know), one on maintaining your scientist character’s credibility with Karen Lord, a panel on Octavia Butler (with you-know-who), I checked out the author signings where Mary Robinette Kowal and Margaret Dunlap were at side-by-side tables, a panel on fairy tale retellings with Navah Wolfe and Karen Lord, one on bad-ass female leads in young adult, and one on crafting a fantasy tale from mythology with Juliet Marillier.

I decided to call it an early night because I’d be heading for the airport in the morning for my flight home. I had supper at a sports bar, packed, and got a good night’s sleep.

secondmorningskyiceland

My flight left just after 8 am. I watched the sun rise on the train (at—bleargh—5:30 am) and, after a three hour flight to Iceland, watched the sun rise again 😉 Because I was travelling back through time zones, another five and a half hour fight brought me to Toronto before noon (!)

I hung out in Toronto for five more hours as my flight home was delayed, but I was home in time to watch that night’s Game of Thrones episode and then crawl into my own lovely bed.

I spent the next day resting and catching up on the television I’d missed during the trip. I could have used the rest of the week off to resent my internal clock and fully recover from the cruise crud, but it was back to the grind on Tuesday.

And that was how my European adventure ended.

Thanks for hanging with me on this journey!

As I mentioned off the top, next week will be my lessons learned/takeaway post but, because next Saturday is the launch of Kim Fahner’s latest poetry collection, Some Other Sky, I may not get the post up until Sunday. The next week, I’ll probably dedicate some time to writerly events (including the launch) and other happenings in this writer’s life, and then I’ll be on my annual blogging hiatus for NaNoWriMo!

Holy cow! This year is disappearing!

In the meantime, dear friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.