scribble-scrabble, Television

Genius

As you already know, I’m in TV school, learning the tricks of the trade. Over the past couple of weeks, I watched these videos. The first I learned about in class…

The second showed up while I was doing research for a project.

Both speak volumes about the writing process.

Tell your truth–no matter what it is. Don’t worry about convention. Don’t be discouraged by what “they” say. Just be honest.

Standard
scribble-scrabble

Non-Fiction #2

Howdy, Dear Reader. For this entry, I’ve decided to turn to the vault and dig up some more creative non-fiction. This fragment comes to you straight out of my childhood.

In the near future I intend to move to Toronto. As I consider this next step I realize that if I ever have children and my future husband says, ”Let’s live in the country/suburbs/outside of the GTA,” we’re going to need to have a chat. I was born and raised in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. Whenever media folks talk about how “diverse” Canada is, I feel like they’re talking about a parallel universe. To me, urban centers like Toronto are diverse. Yet other parts of my country can be incredibly monocultural.

When you’re a person of color, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter racism. But I don’t think a child should have to endure being teased about her appearance on a regular basis.

Regarding the tone of this piece: I tried to write in the voice of a child looking back on her somewhat younger self. It’s a work in progress. Enjoy!

***

daisy-june 14 2012

When I left the house, I felt nothing but love. My mom had helped me get dressed. She had spent a really long time making me some new clothes. It seemed like days and days. That day I was wearing a brand new vest and skirt—she’d sewn them just for me. There were itty-bitty flowers all over the fabric. I wore my new outfit with a plain white blouse. I felt as pretty as a princess.

I remember that I was happy. But I also felt a sense of wonder. Specifically, I wondered what school would be like. I’d never been there before. I barely understood why I had to go. All I knew was that my being there meant my life was changing. My days wouldn’t be spent with Mommy or the babysitter any more. When you go to school, you have to be there every day. Except for the weekends.

Daddy had to leave early. He went to school too. Except that it wasn’t my school. He was a teacher. All I knew was that he got to tell the kids what to do.

“Let me give my girl a hug and a kiss!” He held me close for a minute before walking out to start his car. Then, it was just Mommy and me.

She helped me get dressed.

First, she combed my hair. Mommy put it into three big braids. Two at the back of my head, and one in front. She brushed my hair carefully, making sure every thick, curly kink was as it should be. I sat patiently.

“See, Claire,” She smiled. I couldn’t see her face, but I could tell by the sound of her voice. “It’s almost time to go. I want you to do your best and listen to your teacher today. But don’t worry. I’ll come with you for the first few minutes. I want you to be ok.”

Then, she helped me into my outfit. I held my arms in the air, and Mommy slipped my blouse over my head. Then it was time for my skirt. I stepped into it carefully. She zipped me up in the back.

After that, I stuck my arms out to put on my vest.

Mommy helped me straighten up. “You look lovely, Claire. Lovely!” She smiled again, and dusted off my shoulder. Then, she took me over to the mirror to see.

“Woooow!” Now it was my turn to smile. I looked so pretty! I couldn’t wait for the other kids to see me.

“Let me take a picture of you.” Mom took me out into the living room and sat me on the arm of a nearby chair. She darted into her room to get the camera. I shifted around a little bit but basically stayed put. I perked up when she came back into the room.

“Smile!”

I did. I couldn’t wait to get to school.

Mommy was nearly ready. She went off to grab her purse and keys.

“Let’s go.” She smiled and guided me downstairs to the foyer. She helped me slip on my shoes and put on her own.

All along, Mommy and Daddy had said that they were sending me to school to learn. I don’t know why. I already spent a lot of time with them reading and writing. What else was there for me to figure out?

I also knew that going to school meant spending time with other kids. I couldn’t help but wonder what that would be like. I didn’t have any brothers and sisters. I didn’t know any kids who weren’t from the same church as me. What would these other kids be like? I kept hoping that at least school would be fun.

And what would I do all day?

I’d know soon enough. Mommy and I walked out to the car.

“I want you to have a nice day, dear,” Mom said as we got inside. There was no need for her to tell me to behave though. I was always a good girl.

The drive to school was a short one. But in my little-girl mind, we were headed to a different galaxy. After a couple of minutes Mom parked the car. Then she helped me outside.

I remember there were a lot of other kids. The school belonged to the church, and I remembered some of them from Sabbath School. But there were many others that I’d never seen before.

And they were by themselves. Where were their parents? Was I the only one with my Mommy? I saw a few other grown ups around, but they didn’t seem to care about the kids one way or another.

The school was made up of two buildings. One was beige, with brown trim. It was rather plain, shaped like a large rectangle.

The other was across the street. It was grey and unhappy looking. Mommy held my hand and we went inside.

Soon Mommy had to say goodbye. She gave me a hug and a kiss. I was taken with the other kids into a room. Each one of us was told to sit in a chair, at a small table called a desk. Our day began.

The woman at the front of the room was our teacher. She was brown. But not brown like me. Also, her hair was different from anyone else I knew who was my colour. It was shinier than mine—and straighter. Even her voice sounded different from any grown up that I’d ever heard. She wrote her name on the board. There were so many letters.

I remember…She said her name, and had us say it back. “Mrs. S-O-M-A-S-U-R-A-N*.” I was excited. I knew I could say my teacher’s name. Mommy and Daddy had taught me to read. I did my best. But I got it wrong—“Mrs. Somasurang.” Somehow I had come up with an extra letter—a “g”. I didn’t mean it, but the way she said her name reminded me of one of my favourite desserts: lemon meringue pie.

The other kids thought my slip of the tongue was funny.

They began to laugh.

I didn’t understand why. I had tried so hard to say our teacher’s name. I’d wanted to get the ending just right.

The teacher explained that yes, I had made a mistake. She said nothing to the other kids about their laughter, though. She just told them to hush. Quickly, we moved on.

Eventually, Mrs. Somasuran stopped talking. She said we could go outside for a special break called “recess”.

In the yard, I was able to speak with the other kids. It was then that the questions began.

“What’s your name?”

“Claire.” I perked up. “What’s your name?” I asked back.

“Katie”

“Amber.”

“Jeremy.”

The exact timing of the shift in way that my fellow students responded to me remains a blur. I can never remember if they noticed that I was different on that first day, or within our first week together. But on one occasion during our usual attempts at small talk, one of their faces changed.

“What’s wrong with your lips? You look funny.”

I didn’t know what to say.

At home, I was normal.

As the days went by, the other students in my class never hesitated to remind me that I was strange. My skin was brown, my lips were big, my nose was flat. And then there were my parents. Why did my mother have to come and see me at lunch? She did it only occasionally, but from the way some of the kids reacted, you’d think she showed up every day.

I’m different. I don’t understand. I know I don’t look like any of the other kids do, but so what? Why does it matter so much? There are a couple of other brown kids who are in other grades and they don’t get teased. In fact, one of them picked on me along with the other kids. I didn’t get it. Kids back then in this area didn’t have the same crude vocabulary as some do today, so I guess I was spared. And if time didn’t spare me from absolute depravity, then perhaps it was religion.

And yet, still, I didn’t understand. If, like our teacher said, Jesus loved me, and God made everyone, then why did the way I looked matter so much to my classmates? I just wanted them to like me. I wanted to have a bosom friend, like Anne in Anne of Green Gables had Dianna Berry. Instead, I felt like a little alien.

 

*A pseudonym.

Standard
scribble-scrabble

31 Write Now: Face Your Fears

Something in me feels driven to share a glimpse into what I’m learning as I participate in 31 Write Now.

I had a really important revelation the other day. With every post, I’m facing my greatest opponent: Fear. I used to think that what I feared the most was actually my goal—being a successful writer. However now I’m starting to believe that what I’m really afraid of is being a regular writer. The thought of publishing something every day was intimidating at first. Yet when I do so, I realize that I’m looking my fear right in the eye. I’m daring to tap it on the shoulder and say, ultimately, that I don’t care. I have been put here with a job to do. I am going to share my writing every day. Even if only for a month. And I must not fail.

I’m learning to be more transparent in my writing. I’ve spoken my mind regarding some of religion’s taboo aspects. The other day I presented a glimpse into my day job.

It’s funny. A part of me wonders where I’ve been hiding.

To tell the truth, I’ve been afraid of upsetting people who know me in real life. Yet deep down, I know the importance of perseverance. One or two of my recent posts left me thinking, “Well. This is awkward. But I’ve got to post something today. It might as well be the truth…” I have the right to set myself free. Whether I’m comfortable or not, moving forward with my writing is better than standing still.

Knowing this truth about artistic freedom is changing me. In spite of the risk of failure, only perseverance can yield success. The 31 Write Now challenge has brought me back to the essence of what I’ve always wanted. To be a writer. Not only a blogger. A writer. Although blogging involves a form of writing, it isn’t the same thing as composing regular prose or poetry. The other night I opened Scrivener on my computer and looked at some of my offline projects. I felt like it’s been a million years since I’ve seen them.

Overall, preparing and publishing content on a daily basis has been interesting. Here’s to another 3 weeks!

Standard
scribble-scrabble

¡Dios mío! What have I done?

Or what has God done? ‘Cause something about this is beyond me.

I signed up for a writing business class.

Note: That’s not a typo. I’m going to take my writing skills and develop a business around them. I’m not interested in a discourse on business writing.


If you’re poor, you can do the same thing. Sites like skillshare and Coursera have all sorts of offerings. Most are cheap. Some–like the ones on Coursera–are FREE.

At first, I thought, “Oh, geez. I don’t have a business. But I’ll do this anyways…”

I figured at the very least I could use my blog and go through the motions. You know. Blog as business. Or rather, make my blog my business. People do it all the time…

Welp.

Since viewing my first lecture, the wheels have been turning. Never mind books or stories or scripts.

I have a rough idea for a writing-based business.

I’ve had a few extra Twitter and gmail IDs out there for a while now. They’ve been dormant, laying around. I set them up just in case I ever establish myself in some way and need to attach them to something.

Because hey. You never know… 😉

It’s time I put them to good use.

Standard
scribble-scrabble

Dear Followers:

The wait is (nearly) over.

I’ve set up a new editorial calendar for 2013. I drafted it with every intention of following it. Starting…This Monday.

Don’t you love how motivated I am…?

I know it’s been a minute or ten since I’ve written something substantial. For that, I’m sorry.

On one hand, I think that writing is an act of love.

On the other, it’s like my friend Joanne said during a conversation today. It feels like “homework”.

And I’ll admit something terrible. There are times when I hate blogging. In those moments, I think it’s a pain in the ass–as opposed to other types of writing.

Yet somehow I can’t stop myself from posting. I keep wanting to…Chat.

One way or another, though, I know I’ve got to keep these creative juices flowing.

Happy New Year!!

Standard
scribble-scrabble

Monday was a revelation.

Lately I’ve been praying for growth opportunities. Well…Earlier this week I had a couple. Negatively speaking, I had an unpleasant run-in with someone. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that I had a significant reminder of the importance of not taking myself for granted.

On the other hand, the most personal and positive rendez-vous of the day involved my first love–writing.

I had an appointment with our county’s Writer in Residence. I won’t mention her name. (I don’t know if she’d mind.) What I will tell you is that she’s a young, talented author from Toronto. I enjoy her work very much.

But in the moments before I saw her, I was sure I was embarking upon a minor disaster.

You see, in the days before our rendez-vous, there was a problem. I couldn’t remember when we were supposed to meet. Sometime in May, the whispers started. “You have a writing appointment coming up.”

I put them aside. Yet still they came. “Writing…You should have something ready to show Ms. Author, blah, blah, blah…”

Before I knew it, June was here.

“Claire, you have a writing appointment. Soon. Check your calendar to see what’s going on.”

Meh.

I opened Entourage. My appointments aren’t hidden. Still…I didn’t notice anything that made me worry. And when I did a quick search, nothing came up.

The whispers kept getting louder. Finally last weekend, they turned into a scream.

“CHECK YOUR EMAIL!!”

And check it, I did.

I don’t remember what time it was on Sunday night. Only that it was late. I found myself on the edge of my bed, horrified. I was looking at a message that told me that my meeting was the next morning. My writing sample was due days ago.

(un)Fortunately, my Inner Optimist was on duty.

“Calm down, Claire. Just GO. Everything will be all right!”

Well then, I breathed deeply. I can’t show up with absolutely nothing to say

I scrawled one of those nice-to-know-not-need-to-know writerly-topics on a legal pad. I figured Ms. Author and I would chat for a few minutes and then I would run off. She could take an early lunch, and that would be that.

The next morning, I arrived at the library, flustered. Our WiR comes in from the city by train. I was worried. I envisioned her in meetings with well-prepared candidates, and then me. Someone who didn’t even have the decency to cancel, but expected her to be willing to talk about next-to-nada.

Instead, Ms. Author was very kind. She asked me about…Well…Me.

I wound up telling a bit of my life story. This included the fact that I’d moved to Toronto multiple times over the last decade. My reason? I was determined to leave my small town behind and (hopefully) never return.

Somewhere along the way, something caught Ms. Author’s ear.

At first she had asked me about my childhood. From there, she started digging.

Growing up, I was the only black girl wherever I went. Eventually I saw one or two other brown faces at school. But in spite of this when it came to my daily life, as far as I knew I was the only one of my kind around for kilometers miles. I attended a religious school. Few if any of the children showed me Jesus’ love. Instead, all I remember was them teasing me about being bookish and pointing out how different I was.

In the past I’d thought about exploring my life through writing. But I’d abandoned those impulses. Perhaps I could do something autobiographical down the road. That’s what I told myself. After all–as a new writer, wouldn’t it be better to work with scandalous characters that were purely products of my imagination?

At this point in my meeting, I felt as though there was a bit of divine intervention. I often believe that God–or “The Universe”, for you non-theists–speaks to us through others. Imagine how I felt when Ms. Author brought it to my attention that maybe I really should be mining my childhood for writing material.

The picture above is from a rough rough draft. I started scribbling on Tuesday during my lunch break. There’s something about discussing my school days. It’s both sad and empowering. I remember when I first went. Before then I had never really felt the weight of being different. But my classmates seemed to like to remind me.

Today, a huge part of me is still a child. That’s been both a hindrance and a help. (For instance, a part of the negativity I experienced on Monday came from the fact that I can be way too trusting.) Still. Although part of me hates to admit it, deep down I can’t help but feel as though some sort of healing will come through making art that is rooted in my history.

Standard
scribble-scrabble

Today’s Discovery: Kindle for Mac

Click here to get yours.

Even though I know it’ll save me room in the long run, for the longest while I have loathed the thought of getting a Kindle. In my mind there’s nothing like a real book with real pages to hold.

But a little birdie (Writers Digest’s Twitter feed) told me that this book was available for free today.

Initially I was dismayed. On their set of download links, I had clicked to download The Portable MFA via Google.

I thought, “Heh. I have access to Google. Doesn’t everyone?”

Maybe so, but you’re out of luck if you want a book via that service and you’re Canadian.

Fortunately I’m relentless. It was just as I began to lust after My Dreambook via it’s page on Amazon that I noticed a wee “Available on your Mac” notice under the shopping button.

How stoked am I?


The Portable MFA in Creative Writing should come in handy. I’ve been wanting an MFA in creative writing for ages, and I keep telling myself that THIS will be the December that I apply.

However there are other forces at work.

For, as I relayed in an email to my friend Joanne, the main reason I want an MFA is because I think that I lack the discipline to focus on my writing on my own. (I’ve had No Plot? No Problem! and known about NaNoWriMo for HOW LONG now?)

Yet behind the scenes, deep down I realize that this discipline problem is directly related to my desire for success with the written word. Lately I’ve noticed that as my desire for success increases, so does the amount of guilt I heap upon myself about being undisciplined.

I wish I had a chart.

Add to that the fact that

1. My local library has a Writer In Residence program–and I am super-stoked for my first appointment next month. I’m reading the author’s novel to prepare. It’s awesome.

AND

2. My writing course is over, but my assignments have left me with a plethora of possibilities…

And I may not need to get a real-live MFA after all.

All in all, its been a good day in ClaireVille. I hope that y’all are doing well!

Standard
scribble-scrabble, wisdom

Setting ME Free – An Ode to Rumpus Column #82: The God of Doing It Anyway

Lately I’ve been doing a substantial amount of thinking about the changes that are coming over me. Slowly but surely I’m starting to appreciate myself more, becoming increasingly committed to doing what I was meant to do instead of pursuing what other people think count as “wise” career choices.

As I consider this her blog, something’s been nagging at me.

Because honestly? There’s a lot of theological content here, folks.

Often insightful, sometimes cheesy, always me.

At one point I even thought of scrapping my old posts. After all, I figured, I’m too religious for a lot of people.

Yet I’m also too liberal for most religious types.

But the greatest of these is writing, and over the past couple of days I’ve begun to have an epiphany.

One of the reasons that I’ve avoided fully honoring my desire to be a writer is a healthy sense of Good Christian Guilt.

Thankfully, I’m on the road to being cured of that.

Minutes ago at The Rumpus, I read the following letter:

Dear Sugar,

Do you think there will ever be room for me in the art world? I love words, art, culture, ideas, and, most importantly, people. I read The Rumpus every day and my reading list savagely grows with titles I intend to devour. I am planning to go to graduate school within spitting distance of San Francisco because of its amazing literary culture. My dream is to take all the painful, gut-wrenching, soul lifting, breathtaking, fucked up and ordinary life experiences and turn them into stories that are beautiful and meaningful. I’m young and inexperienced and am desperate to learn and experiment with writing.

But there’s something that paralyzes me. I’m a Jesus-loving Christian.

The grad school I’m aiming for is a seminary because seeking understanding of my faith and reveling in its mystery is incredibly important for me. I don’t believe out of fear, but rather love. But I’m afraid that the beautifully open, tolerant writers and artists, like those I read circling in The Rumpus orbit, will not have room for someone like me because of what I love.

Christians have a terrible reputation in the art world now, with due cause, but it wasn’t always the case and I hope that starts to change. There doesn’t seem to be a place for people like me yet. We are too liberal for most other believers, and too conservative for most liberals of other belief systems. I want to be a part of that change, but I need the push. I don’t want to beat people with my Bible. I just want to share my story honestly and connect with others without having to strip my beliefs from my writing.

Do you think tolerance and love will ever go far enough to take in someone who reads e.e. cummings, soaks up Wallace Stegner, Deitrich Bonhoeffer and the Bible, and has books like “The Adderall Diaries” on my reading list? Or had I better prepare myself to start out without an audience and with a handicap? I’m standing at the edge. Should I jump or not? Is it okay for a Christian to “Write like a Motherfucker?”

Culturally and Spiritually,

Paradoxed

Sugar’s response is brilliant. It includes gems such as this

To think that you will be alone at the Christian writer table tells me you’ve got some reading to do. There’s a rich and varied tradition of such writers. Flannery O’Connor, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Anne Lamott, C.S. Lewis, Kathleen Norris, Reynolds Price, and Mary Karr spring to mind, among many others. What they have in common, aside from their Christian faith, is that they write like motherfuckers: full-throttle, no excuses, with humility and nerve, with intelligence and grace, with exactitude and audacity and love.

and

You must apprentice yourself to the craft, bow before the word. But most of all you must stop using Jesus as an excuse.

I don’t think you know this yet, sweet pea, but I’m pretty certain you aren’t writing to me to ask if it’s okay that you write about your passion for Jesus Christ and whether the generally heathen lit world will accept you into the fold. You’re writing to me for the same reason Elissa Bassist did last year, though you use different language. You’re asking me if it’s okay to be you. You want me to give you permission to write your truth with honesty and heart because doing so scares the living crap out of you. I’m here not only to give you permission, but also to say that you must. There is no other way.

(emphasis added)
You can read the rest of what Sugar said right here.

Her response also includes a link to a previous column in which she encouraged someone to “Write Like a Motherf**ker”.

Sugar’s column made me smile. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I took her words as yet another sign that the time for me to embrace the all that I am is way past due.

And so…I shall. 😉

Standard
scribble-scrabble, self-care/self-aware

The goal.

I know it’s my second post in a couple of days. But it’s a Saturday. Going by what I last wrote, I’m not breaking any rules. 😉

If Todd can make and keep a promise to himself to be out on his own boat within a year, then, surely I can commit to my own destiny.

Two-thousand and eleven will be a year of new beginnings. Of that, I am sure.

The writing schedule I came up with today almost brought a tear to my eye.

Edited May 9, 2010

Standard