Make a note

I feel you, Colm.


I’m reading a Murderbot novelette, and I keep having ideas for my space opera series — not even the novel I’m supposed to be actually finishing now, that I’m almost done revising, but the related series that is just a big jumbled mess, and which I wasn’t planing to even look at again until September or maybe October, and part of me wants to stay up and write some more right now.

But the rest of me says that I have to be ready to go get on a tour bus at 9 a.m. tomorrow, to go see Newgrange and the Hill of Tara, and that will undoubtedly spark lots more ideas, so just — make a note, Mary Anne.

(Yes, the rock used for dwelling walls on the indenture planet should have invisible inclusions that glow brilliantly when you sing to them, and it’s tied up with their religion but will also make for an awesome ceilidh scene when the pregnant Sri Lankan girl shows up there, cold and lonely and broken-hearted…)

Make a note, and then go to sleep. You’re still jet-lagged, and you were rather desperately short on sleep coming into this vacation. SLEEP.


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In the hotel bar

I’m in my hotel bar, having a cider and reading the next Murderbot book, and the guys chatting at the other end are speaking in a language I don’t know, maybe Danish or some such, but then they said ‘Game of Thrones’ and a few minutes later ‘sci-fi’ and now I’m intensely curious what they’re talking about, and I kind of want to name-drop spending half an hour chatting with George this morning, but that would be a jerk move, interrupting their conversation, so I’ll just sit here enjoying my cider and my book and being slightly bewildered at my life. 🙂



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Starting the day with fiction writing

Note to self: When you start your day with even an hour of fiction writing, you feel like you’ve already ‘won’ the day, no matter what else you do or don’t accomplish later. Prioritize it.

Liminality revision: Up to 45K solidly revised. I had sort of given up on actually finishing this novel revision before I left for Ireland Sunday evening, but maybe I can actually do it? Hm.


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E-mail triage tracking report

E-mail triage tracking report:

8/7/19 — started at 1625 e-mails — down to 1373 after 90 minutes working side-by-side with Stephanie.

Massive progress, very heartening, but of course, we’re mostly going for low-hanging fruit at first — tons of totally random political, fundraising, etc. messages that I somehow just got too harried and didn’t delete the first time through. So it’s very fast now, and I’m expecting it to slow down.

I also have checked for and cleared all the academic e-mails, and scheduled the GLAS meetings into my calendar, etc., which is a great weight off my mind. No snakes lurking on that front. Onwards.

I have gotten totally avoidant about e-mail over the last few years, but this is really helping — having an accountability buddy, essentially, who meets me at a specified time, and then we sit down to do e-mail. Like going to the gym with a friend. Of course, this is a paid buddy, so it’s a little more like a personal trainer at the gym, but same basic principle.

Getting my digital life in order — once we finish the e-mail (FINISH THE E-MAIL! WHAT A LOVELY THOUGHT!), I hope to move on to her helping me organize my physical office. And then Stephanie and Heather can take over organizing my Trello board and task lists? And so on.

We’re hoping Stephanie will also be able to be my main e-mail point of contact for business-related messages, with close friends and family writing to a separate account, to reach me directly.

Also with academic e-mails, library trustee e-mails, and SLF e-mails also going to separate accounts, or at least being directed into separate folders that I work on at specific times? We’ll see how that goes!

Clearly the current system of it all coming in as a big jumble and I glance at it and then don’t deal with it because it’s all too much and too overwhelming was not working. Almost anything would be an improvement, I think. 🙂

  1. #blog
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A memoir, in its own way

Jeremy has delivered the final, indexed and fully designed, text of Feast of Serendib. I am feeling weirdly emotional about the whole thing. My cookbook makes me want to cry. I’m not sure that’s normal.

It’s a memoir, you know. In its own way, though not exactly the sort of memoir I learned to write in my creative nonfiction class. But I think I’ll send my professor a copy anyway…


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A very writerly day

Plan for today — I owe Pem a press release and Jeremy John Parker back cover copy for Feast, so those are the two priorities (after coffee and breakfast!). I’m going to take a little time to try the map endpapers thing, but if it doesn’t go smoothly within an hour or so, I’m going to give up that idea, and just call the cookbook done. DONE? That can’t be possible. Check back later, folks. I also need to write a few organizational e-mails for the SLF, re: volunteers and fundraising.

Stephanie is coming by around 8 to work on e-mail triage with me. I am just drowning in e-mail; it feels ridiculous that I have literally hired someone to answer e-mail for me, or at least delete no longer relevant / important things, but this is where I am, so. My hope is to sit next to her and work on map stuff, answering questions as she goes through it. Are there any tricks to teaching someone how to process someone else’s e-mail? Guidance would be welcome, as this is not a skill I know anything about. (Alyshondra, is this something you do for Mary?)

At 10, I go meet Lori for a writing lunch, and while I am looking forward to talking to her while we eat, I am also planning to actually write, as there is still some hope of finishing the novel revision before I leave the country on Sunday, which is going to need concentrated effort this week.

2 p.m., I pause the writing to talk to Benjamin about our potential podcast interview project. It is always a delight talking to Ben, so whether we get work done or not, it will be good. 

I think one of my strategies for better happiness along with productivity going forward is simply to spend time with good friends when possible. Sounds simple, but surprisingly hard. Given the busy-ness of life, sometimes that will only happen if we can work together, so hoping that working together doesn’t wreck any friendships! (Also must remember to schedule both a monthly lunch date with Amanda, and bring back Tired Moms’ Night Out. Wine with the girls = good.)

At 3, meet Roshani to get her help with a comic-related story thing — she helped me brainstorm it before, but then I didn’t WRITE IT DOWN, so I’m hoping we can recreate it. And then my tentative plan is to finish reading the big stack of Ms. Marvel comics that Julie loaned me, so I can give them back to her tomorrow evening at writing workshop.

A very writerly day, full of friends. It sounds LOVELY. Onwards.


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Ahead of the Little America profile

Just had a good conversation, that I’d been afraid would be fraught. It started out with me a little shaky, honestly — my voice was sort of wobbly on the phone when I explained the issue.

I’d been approached some months ago to be part of the Little America project by Epic Magazine. They’ve done some profiles of immigrants, as a deliberate humanizing counter to the conservative nationalist media narratives, and they were expanding that into a book, and wanted to know if I’d be willing to be interviewed.

I took a look at the profiles online (link in comments), and really liked what they’d done there. Brief, first-person accounts, compelling and sympathetic stories. Good work, great mission, so I said yes.

There then followed a series of interviews, and this is where I started to get uneasy, because after initial wide-ranging conversations, they mostly focused on my erotica writing in my 20s — which, okay, is a significant part of my life, and I can totally understand why folks might want to write about it and include that somewhat unusual story in this kind of collection.

But a) it was a long time ago, and I honestly have forgotten a lot of the details, so I got a little stressed when they were pressing me for what I or various other people said, b) I started fretting a bit that it might turn into some kind of exploitative scandal piece, which would be deeply irritating, and c) I was mostly worried that somehow, in the many hours of interviewing, I might have said something that could be interpreted in such a way that it would hurt my parents or the rest of the family.

They finished the interviews this past week, and scheduled a photo shoot for tomorrow (Monday). I started fretting immediately, and by Friday, was worried enough that I ended up writing to them and asking if I could see the draft before they published it. They said no, which honestly didn’t surprise me, as I think that’s pretty common for journalistic interviews — you don’t want the interview subject to slant the narrative to make it extra-favorable to them. Fair. If they’d just said no, though, I might have pulled out right then; I was considering it.

But the editor of the project offered to talk to me and go over the rough contours of the piece. She was kind enough to make time on the weekend for that, which is really going above and beyond, and I hope her bosses appreciate her. And we just had a great conversation, and I’m now reassured that the finished piece will be honest, sympathetic, and mostly not focused on my parents. Whew.

There’s a few sentences about how my parents reacted when they first learned that I was writing about sex and putting it on the internet, but nothing they haven’t heard me talk about and write about before. I think it’s okay if their friends hear, yet again, that my parents were not thrilled about that. 

There is some sexy stuff too, but y’know, that’s fine with me. Some of it was a long time ago, and I may have had trouble remembering the details, or even remembering what it felt like to be that somewhat hormone-driven girl. But it was obviously a significant part of my life, since I spent close to a decade as a sex activist. And I still think it’s incredibly important to normalize talking about sex, which is such a huge part of human life and society. And of course, also talking about queerness, and poly, etc. and so on.

So for this particular piece, I’ll take off my politician hat, and my mom hat, and my professor hat, and my foundation director hat, and even my science fiction hat, and will drag that dusty sex activist hat out of the closet.

Hopefully it still fits.


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Massive re-assessment post

Massive re-assessment post. Brace yourselves. I have been so heavily scheduled the last few weeks that I’ve barely had time to talk to Kevin, much less anyone else. A lot of that has been contracting with a few experts to help get the SLF ready for its Kickstarter and the next year of programming.

I have known for some time that it isn’t possible for me to do five people’s jobs, but actually contracting with fundraisers and finance people is also a process that takes time. We made a lot of progress on that last week, though, and I think it’ll mean good things for the SLF (and by extension, Maram makerspace and Jaggery lit mag).

I’m actually feeling so relieved, to have people who know these jobs much much better than I do, stepping into do some work for the SLF in August. Fingers crossed that through this process, we’re able to set up sufficient operating funds to position the SLF solidly for the next few years — or better, decade. More on that soon.

But between that and trying to finish Feast (which I started more than two years ago) and hand it in this week, finish the novel revision (which I started more than five years ago) and hand it in this week, it’s been an intense few weeks.

Truly, though, it’s more than just the last few weeks. That’s just the cherry on the top of a mountainous sundae.

It’s been a very intense summer. I’ve managed to spend a reasonable amount of time with the kids, thank all the little gods. But the last week, esp., I’ve been kind of exhausted and on the verge of tears every night (and Daddy, don’t worry, I’m doing okay now, it was just an intense work period, these things have to happen sometimes). I come to bed and I can’t relax enough to go to sleep, so then I get up and work for a few more hours, and that quiets the brain-monkeys enough that I can collapse.

There just wasn’t TIME to do the things I find rejuvenating — cook and garden and read for pleasure — even watching tv fell by the wayside. I found myself playing Polytopia compulsively sometimes, which would make me so angry with myself, because I didn’t even really enjoy it — I just seemed to need a way to make myself shut off for a little bit.

There’s a thing in gardening — indicator plants. Those are the ones that are the most temperamental — when the indicator plant starts to wilt, it’s a glaring warning siren, that you’d better take start taking care, or the whole garden is going to fall apart. Usually, for me in the garden, that means watering, which I’m not the most consistent with. (I also am bad at remembering to drink enough water myself. Working on it.)

This summer has been a real lesson in what the indicator warnings are in my life:

– playing a phone game compulsively, without enjoyment
– not having enough time to post the photos from my phone (I’m weeks behind on some of them)
– not enough time talking to close friends (Lisette, I’ve wanted to call you several times, and just completely couldn’t manage it, gah — soon!)
– not enough time talking to Kevin — for much of the past few weeks, we’ve had to communicate tersely via texts, primarily, because there just wasn’t time
– taking more baths
– not singing around the house anymore (too generally tense)
– wanting a drink

That last one is interesting for me. I’m not normally much of a drinker at all — I went through most of adult life barely drinking — maybe a glass of wine at a dinner party, but more often not. I like being clear-headed and in control (maybe a little too much, which is a separate though perhaps related question for another post), and so I’ve mostly stayed away from things that mess with your head. (I know my dad is reading this now and thinking, ‘good.’ Yes, Daddy). I’ve always had a fantasy that when I’m old, I’m going to try all the drugs, the psychedelics, etc., but right now, I’m too protective of my brain and body; they have enough challenges as it is, why add more?

But a thing happened after cancer. (My diagnosis was 4.5 years ago, and for those just coming in now, I’m fine, knock wood!)

During the five months of chemo, I mostly didn’t drink. It was hard enough just staying awake and getting through the days, esp. towards the tail end of treatment. And then there was surgery, and recovery from that, and then months of radiation. It was at that tail end of that year, when I really, for the first time in my life, found myself really wanting a glass of wine or a hard cider at the end of the day. I was so drained, and simultaneously so wound up and frustrated, and I had started taking a lot of baths during that year, and that helped, but adding a glass of wine helped more.

Self-medicating, clearly, and I’m not sure there’s really anything wrong with that in small doses. A little wine, a few baths, can help get you through a tough spot.

But it’s an indicator, a warning sign, that my life is out of balance, that there’s too much work, too much of me pouring out, and not enough refilling the spring. That’s a metaphor we use in writing — we ask our students, ‘What refills your creative wellspring?’ And maybe it’s visiting an art museum, or walking in the woods, or something else, but if you don’t make space for that in your life regularly….well, you won’t be writing anymore.

Twice in the past week, I hit a breaking point, where the various issues that I was juggling were so complex, so fraught (and at times, I was really mishandling things, and even doing damage to others in the process, which I really regret), that I ended up calling up an old friend in tears, even though I didn’t really have the time. I wasn’t ever trained for running a small business, you know, or for management, or for taking big, deliberate financial risks, like betting $15K on a cookbook — this summer has had a lot of me doing things that are enough outside my wheelhouse that I was sometimes fumbling badly.

I HAD to take the time for those calls, clearly, because I spent four hours on the phone the first time, and three hours the second time. Both conversations clarified things for me, left me more centered. (Thank you Kirsten S. (who isn’t on FB and won’t see this, thank you, Roshani). There were also two earlier conversations at WisCon, which were similarly helpful, because, people, I may seem together, but I was really losing it, and thankfully, I had a couple people who helped pull me together then, which got me through the first half of the summer. (Thank you, Benjamin, thank you Kel.)

I should have been making the time for that kind of call and conversation MUCH more often in the last year, and going forward, I’m going to try to structure more support and mentorship in my life, so I’m not feeling as much like I’m feeling my way in the dark as I try to indie-publish a cookbook and run an arts foundation (or three). (Also, I have been a BAD FRIEND to my friends, stretching myself too thin, and I want to be there for them better too. It goes both ways.)

One thing Kel said to me then has been really resonating with me. They said I needed my tribe, and I needed them around me, taking care of me, and they didn’t see that happening. And, okay, Kel sees me once or twice a year at a convention, so they don’t see that in fact, there are people trying to take care of me.

But y’know, I’m trying to do some BIG things here, things that are so big that sometimes they scare me. The SLF does good, and has the potential to do so much more. I need to make it clearer to my tribe that I need help. I am quite sure that I come off as more self-sufficient than I am, which is a big part of the problem. I apparently suck at asking for help and making it clear when I’m shaky, so I have to work on that.

At least once a year, I want to see them in person. Close friends and family, my sisters (Mir Mo Ga and Sharms) too. In my fantasy, we’d take a vacation all together, a retreat, but they don’t all know each other, so that probably won’t work. Also, small children, jobs, finances, complex schedules, etc. Gah. But I really want to make a piece of that happen, if I can. Maybe we can do it in pieces. Roshani has started coming to ICFA with me, and I’m hoping Kirsten can join me there too. We ‘ll see.

And I need more local tribe, I’m pretty sure — my best friends are mostly far away, so while I need to spend more time on the phone with and visiting them, I also need to build up my local support network. I know a lot of great people here, but not intimately enough? Something like that. I want to build a strong cohort of people supporting each other in our goals and life, which, honestly, may start with drinking a little more wine together. Let the walls down, let the fragilities and insecurities be more seen, make the struggles visible. A weekly coffee or lunch, maybe. Something. (ValerieNaraAmanda, I miss you.)

I went for a swim last night, and it was terrific — exercise has been one of things actually getting me through this summer, and I am so grateful to Pamfor being patient with me slowly getting up to speed to run with her, with my new trainer Liz at the gym (who is really good at adjusting her regimen to accommodate my body and its quirks specifically, and also changes what we do every time, which is such a relief for my easily bored / distracted ADHD brain). Exercise has saved me.

I’m going to build in weekly therapy sessions for the fall, just to force myself to have an unbiased check-in, to help keep me centered, and not frazzled, so much in the middle of juggling spinning plates and knives that I can’t pause to breathe.

Swimming also lets me think. They say swimming and running are two sports which are particuarly good for folks with ADHD brains, and it seems really true for me (so must remember to make sure the kids get signed up for fall swim lessons too; they can keep themselves alive in the water, but they can’t swim laps yet — I just really learned how this year, and it’s SO HELPFUL).

I solved a major novel revision problem and also a minor one in the pool last night, and it was the first chance I’d had in weeks to do that kind of deep generative thinking. Everything else I’ve been doing has been so organizationally focused, which is also good and important, but when it takes over my brain, the writing dries up.

So, watch for the indicators. Take action to avoid getting in this state again. Hiring a bookkeeper for the SLF (such a relief) is like laying drip lines in the garden at the start of the season, with a timer, so you don’t have to think about watering. I didn’t manage the drip lines this year. Next year, I want to do it with a smart timer, that checks the forecast so it won’t water if it rains.

My birthday was weeks ago, but I’ve been pondering this post since then, not having the time to write it. So this is me at 48. It’s been a super-productive summer, but it almost broke me. I need to get through the deadlines of this week, and then SLOW DOWN. Build the scaffolding, the support structures, for me, my family, my tribe.

Then we’ll see just how high we can climb together.

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