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National Poetry Month, April 20

Another Scotland picture. This one was at Traquair House, where there were lots of random peafowl just wandering around. I really wanted to play with this photo because of the colors—even with the peacock not displaying. The poem…well, should be self-explanatory if you can read it around the corner of the page. Both are called “Not on Display.”

The poem, like all of what I’m posting, is in its rough draft form, though the picture has been tweaked. My aim for the month is composition; I’ll edit later. Please do not copy or share the photos or poems I’m posting. I am not finished, and sharing them can hurt my future plans for these pieces. Thank you!

Conbust Schedule!

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Three months into the year, and it’s a FOURTH convention schedule I’m posting! Woohoo!

(At some point my personal blog posts will be more than convention schedules; I promise! I have thoughts on a variety of things and some health updates, too…)

Anyway, I know it sounds redundant, but this is another beloved convention of mine! Conbust!

Conbust is a student-run feminist SF/F convention held at Smith College every spring.  I found out about Conbust through Broad Universe, not realizing that such a gem was basically in my back yard. (I grew up in Springfield, about 15-20 minutes from Northampton.)

I have a pretty ambitious schedule this year at Conbust, so if you’re looking to follow me to all my panels (and they are pretty awesome panels, so you might want to), make sure you are loaded up on your favorite coffee or energy product! I’m scheduled in the very first panel slot, the very last—with eight panels in between!

Also, I’ll be traveling to and from the convention with my friend and editing colleague, Suzanne Lahna, who has their first novella out.  They’ll be on a bunch of excellent panels, too. Find out more on their blog!

Since Conbust is on a college campus, I won’t be hosting a party here, and we don’t have either a Broad Universe or New England Horror Writers table here, so it’s all panels and catching up with some of the great people I only get to see at this convention. I’m excited!

Oh—quick note, these aren’t the official convention descriptions. They’re mine—and subject to change depending on the audience / panelists.  I’m also not listing the panelists here because there were some last minute changes that I don’t know got finalized… but just check the guest list!  I’m on panels with almost all of these spectacular people!

Without further ado, here’s where I’ll be:

Friday, March 23; 5:00 PM; Room 101 – Fandom and Criticism

Can you criticize what you love? Should you? Why is it important?

 

Friday, March 23; 6:00 PM; Room 201 – Hero, Protagonist

Discussing writing the protagonist hero, or analyzing them.

 

Saturday, March 24; 9:00 AM; Room TBA – Believable Fight Scenes

This was my favorite panel of last year’s Conbust. Actual reenactment fighters play out writer battle scenes! Of course, now I need to figure out which gods’ awful fight scene of mine needs the most work / will provide the most entertainment to the audience…

 

Saturday, March 24; 10:00 AM; Room 101 – Suspension of Disbelief

What throws a reader out of a story? How can writers avoid these pitfalls? What’s the term “Flying Snowman” (coined by John Scalzi) and what does it mean to writers and readers?

 

Saturday, March 24; 11:00 AM; Room 109 – Freelancing: More Ways to Make Money Writing

This panel will discuss the ways people can make a living working with words. No, it’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible. See if this career works for you or if you want to stick to the day job.

 

Saturday, March 24; 2:00 PM; Room 204 – Everything but the Writing

Note above panel on making money while writing? That’s Making Money Writing 101.  This is Making Money Writing 102 and talks about the business decisions you’ll have to make if you decide you want to make money while writing.

 

Saturday, March 24; 4:00 PM; Room 109 – Children’s Fairy Tales

Fairy tales is my jam. So is writing for kids. This is a thing that far predates my efforts, though, so I love studying and talking about it. Come discover all the nerdy, geeky goodness children’s fairy tales have to offer!

 

Saturday, March 24; 5:00 PM; Room 109 – Fairies

Rather apropos that this is in the same room immediately following Children’s Fairy Tales. Except the fey are NOT just for children. In fact, they can be kind of predatory on children—or humans in general. And they go waaaay beyond “fairy tales.”

 

Sunday, March 25; 9:00 AM; Room 106 – Female Protagonists / Female Villains

Because, yes, we still really need to talk about women characters, how they’re included in stories, and how authentic they are.

 

Sunday, March 25; 1:00 PM; Room 102 – A Monster Manual Beyond Dragons

There’s already a panel about how awesome dragons are, but other fantastical creatures need and deserve our love, too! Find out about other magical beasts and their proper care and feeding.

 

Sunday, March 25; 2:00 PM; Room 204 – Tarot and Writing

Two great tastes that taste great together! I love giving this workshop at convention. Come learn a little about the Tarot and how you can use it in your life and writing.

 

There it is! It is SUPER crazy, and I am SUPER excited because it’s my last convention until probably July. I am so excited to return, and SUPER excited to catch up with a lot of amazing people.

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“Controlling” Emotions

Maine Retreat Terri

I’m at a Broad Universe writers retreat this weekend with a bunch of friends, among them the fabulous Rona Gofstein, who also writes as Rachel Kenley. And in my all-important “procrastination before writing” time, where I was glancing through Facebook, I saw her recent blog post, “Emotions Don’t Need to Be Controlled.”

I gave a “quick” (i.e. 4 paragraphs long) response on the post here, but that only dealt with one aspect that I think is important in this discussion.

She said in the blog that it was probably an unpopular topic, but I don’t think it should be. It’s a many-faceted topic that I had about ten different replies to flying around in my head. In summary, I think our relationship with emotions needs to be more openly and readily discussed. Not just if we should and should not repress them or control them, but how they affect us, how we create emotions, the physiological and psychological importance of a good relationship with emotions…

Our relationship status with emotion, of course, is best filed under “it’s complicated,” but I also think all good relationships are. And as a writer, I love exploring those complicated relationships… and a good blog response should pick one particular aspect and discuss it. And perhaps save other aspects for future blogs.

Having had my surgery and a long history of period / hormone issues, though, what’s foremost in my mind and has been for the past year is physiological causes for uncontrollable emotions. (Basically, almost the opposite of what I ended up responding on Facebook.)

Our current culture in modern America, and many other places across the world, takes the stand that we should “control our emotions,” as Rona puts forward in her post.

I agree with her that we shouldn’t control our emotions and that it is a problematic, if not dangerous, thing to do so. (She has a great example of following her instinctual emotions on her blog.)

Emotions cause physiological effects in the body that we cannot control—blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, tears or laughter are some examples. (Breathing, too,  but we have some control over that, at least.) These are part of your autonomic nervous system—the things your body does that you don’t have to think about, and in essence, can only marginally affect even when you do think about them.

Because emotions have such a major physiological component attached to the autonomic nervous system, as well as the endocrine system (your hormones) and neurotransmitters, that means you can have physical triggers for emotions that you also cannot control. The science of psychiatry and psychology deal with those quite a bit. But consider when you have a health problem that affects your body’s chemistry—you’re not able to control your body chemistry, so you simply cannot control the emotions caused by these symptoms.

Many women suffer this dissociation with regular PMS—the butt of far too many jokes. However, consider how society pressures people (particularly women) to “get it together” and “control your emotions,” when she literally, physically CANNOT DO SO. Not only is there this awful feeling of intense anger, sadness, happiness, or what not because estrogen or progestin is doing its thing, but there is this logical awareness that the emotion being felt is not associated with any actions or events currently happening around us. And we’re regularly told that THIS IS WRONG; YOU ARE WRONG.

And it’s not wrong. And it’s not controllable. And no one should be punished for going through this.

It’s bad enough to be standing in the kitchen, filled with rage and a physical illness of dissociation because there is no good reason for there to be rage. Thought processes and thinking about the situation aren’t going to un-flush our system with the chemicals causing rage (or grief, or elation). In fact, the discomfort or panic of that dissociation can enhance and exacerbate the unwanted emotion. Add in feeling like a failure or like you ought to be able to control this emotion, and you’ve added even more chemicals interacting in the body.

What to do?

Change starts within us. Within individuals. I’d love to magically change society and society’s dangerious and poisonous views, but that isn’t something any individual can do. But we can learn to create a better relationship with our own emotions—and to forge more healthy relationships with the emotions of others by our own reactions.

For each individual, admit and surrender to the idea that emotions are not a thing to be controlled.

That’s a lot of work on its own.

Next, each of us should pay attention to your body during emotions. How do I feel? What is my natural inclination for action while experiencing those emotions? Is there a situational cause for the emotion? If so, what? If not, that’s okay too; I  notice and appreciate your body is going through something physical and physiological that creates this emotion.

This is also a lot of work. We need to give ourselves permission to take our time with this.

Then, then, after we’ve acknowledged these things, we can look for the things we can control.

For me, the first thing is to learn how to communicate about emotions. Let the ones I love know when I’m angry, that I need to do something physical—walk, yell, punch or throw inanimate objects. Anyone I’m in a relationship with—my hubby, my friends, my family—are people I could potentially act out upon due to emotions, and none of us have psychic powers, so it’s important to tell them why I’m acting out—what I’m feeling, what I need, and so on. Of course, it’s important that if the emotion was caused by an action that, once the uncontrollable need is met (time alone, being hugged, pillows beaten up), the cause needs to be addressed.  I’ve seen people (and it’s often shown in literature, television, movies, etc) take care of the emotional need, but then never address the issue—so it continues to fester and cause the uncomfortable emotion—and that discomfort will grow, requiring the physical response to be stronger and stronger. Communication is the most important thing in any healthy relationship. Communicating with ourselves and others is key when it comes to our shared relation with emotions.

Once we get communication moving, we can look at other things that are within our control. Especially when emotions come at inconvenient times. Rather than try to control the emotion, however, we can control how we handle the symptoms of emotions. Rather than saying, “I can’t be angry right now,” we can think, “I can’t tell so-and-so to self-copulate painfully right now.” We can take time to pay attention to breathing and work at controlling that to an extent. We can take time with responses, crafting them so as not to damage other relationships. We can remove ourselves from situations when we realize we are at a place where the physiology of the emotions is not appropriate.

I don’t think I can say enough times that this is not easy, and I, for one, am far from perfection in this practice.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. And try again. And try again. (And apologize, communicate, and try again.)

The last thing regarding “control” over emotions is how we respect and appreciate others’ physiological-emotional needs. Telling someone to “get control” is, as mentioned above, not only likely impossible but damaging, potentially making the situation worse. Find out what they need in the moment to deal with the emotion, and later discuss the situation. Be forgiving when someone lashes out; it may be a thing they physically can’t control at the moment…

That said, suffering regular abuse from someone who “can’t control their emotions” is a relationship not worth keeping. That is an entirely different—but still very important—conversation that needs to be had. Physical attacks, deep emotional attacks, any abuse is wrong.

Outside of abusive behaviors, however, it’s worth being flexible, honoring the physiological aspects of emotion, and opening a channel of communication. For ourselves, and for the ones we care about.

I hope this isn’t an unpopular topic, and that more of us do start healthy discussions about what emotions are and what makes for good emotional relationships.

Being Feminist and Being Activist

I’ve got an awful lot going on that I’d love to talk about, and an awful lot of deadlines looming, but something else is on my mind.

And it’s my blog, so damnit, I’m using it.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. Yes, I’m president of a feminist non-profit, and yes, I work for a company of mostly women. This: This is me and only me. I just want to make that clear.

I am a feminist. I’ve identified as a feminist since I had an inkling of what that meant–and that was around when I went from a single-digit age to a double-digit one.

I’ve also always identified as female. Oh, and human.

And you know what? Even though each of those categories covers a larger category of persons, each hosts an infinite amount of ways in which people define themselves with those titles.

And sometimes those definitions don’t match.  Okay, a lot of the time, those definitions don’t match.

Why am I bringing this up now? Well, there’s this fight/kerfluffle/terrible, evil act of sexist oppression that has lit the flamethrowers of many of my friends. It’s about the SFWA bulletin and some articles that were published that offended a lot of people.  There are links and such about it all over the place if you haven’t heard of it, but if you’re not familiar with it, check out my (yes, biased, and definitely NOT complete) referral to author Jim C. Hines blog for some good info and an awful lot of links on stuff written about this, some of which have scans of some of the original articles. From there, you’re welcome to get pulled into all sorts of stories on the issue.

I’m not talking about that, though. There are plenty of better-informed folks out there who can give a more comprehensive opinion.

Okay, there are also some very angry people out there who will make you want to cry in fury at humanity. Or guilt because you’re not “doing something.”

I hate that feeling. I don’t like “disappointing” people. Goodness knows I’ve put more people’s needs above my own for a while. Shoot, I’m catching up on my own writing deadlines and feeling awful about which of my authors is waiting for what edits from me–even though I’ve just seen their deadlines and we’re actually doing pretty good…mine for my writing are the most behind!

But, you know, other people are depending on me.

Also, most people don’t know what I do do to help women. To help individuals…most of which are human. Nearly all my authors are women. I have a significantly higher percentage of women who I’m helping get published, get recognized, get paid, get the credit they deserve. I do that for my men authors, too. But, if we’re looking at numbers, my statistics of whose stories I buy, who I submit for awards, and so on is very different from the industry standard not only for the genres I work in (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.), but for the industry as a whole.

Whether or not I’m someone’s editor, I still am quick to give other women leads on work, references, critiques, and other help. I’ve put myself in a position where people, mostly women, feel comfortable talking to me so I can help them.

But I don’t like confrontation. I don’t like pointing my finger and saying, “You’re wrong! You must change this!”

I prefer more subtle methods. I prefer individual activism.

Among horse rescues, which I’ve also worked with for over a decade, we know how big the problems are with equine abuse, slaughter, and more. We know how expensive and how hard it is to make huge changes. When things feel overwhelming, I’ve heard from many places a quote along these lines: We may not be able to change the world, but we changed the world for that one horse. Or ten horses. It’s a small number compared to the millions of equines just in the U.S. alone. But the horse doesn’t have that concept.

Humans can have that concept. And many of us can and do sacrifice our own dreams and world on the altar of Big Change for the better.

But I don’t believe one of those lifestyles is better than the other.

For me, identifying as a feminist is part of identifying as a humanist–all persons deserve equal rights and fair treatment. Feminist is the part of that definition when I’m specifically doing work that promotes and helps women. It’s the part that specifies that I consider women and woman-identifying people as persons.  It’s the part where, in an intimate conversation, I make choices in my speech to show this–even if those choices mean I don’t use the term “feminist” because it will close down the conversation, the potential for change.

I received advice from someone not to call a particular piece of my own writing “feminist” because it would hurt my chances of selling it. I don’t know whether following that advice had anything to do with getting the piece published, but it’s out there now. And it’s making that conversation happen, regardless of what I call it. It’s still a feminist, an activist, decision.

In my heart, I know I’m a feminist and an activist always. But, if I can get more people to hear me, consider new ideas, and make theirs and others’ lives better by not loudly waving that flag or demanding, that is what I shall do.

I prefer being inclusive. I prefer not driving people away with strong emotions, but drawing them with a mutual chance of listening and empathy. Even if I don’t agree with them.

I don’t have grand illusions of changing the world any time soon, but if I can help change a few individuals’ worlds, I have done good. And as small as that is, it is still a change for the better.

I may not be the feminist or activist that some people want to see or that fits their definitions, but I am a feminist and an activist. And as a feminist, I believe we have the right to own our own definitions.

So long as we are not hurting or oppressing others.

And that is the hardest part: Owning our own definitions means owning our own pain. And difference can hurt or oppress.

So I also listen. And I choose to tread softly. Because when you’re talking about freedom: freedom from oppression, freedom from pain, freedom to live our lives to the fullest, you’re talking about people’s hopes and dreams–and those are delicate.

My quiet feminist and activist points are just that:

If we choose our words with intent to hurt, belittle, insult, and oppress, how are we working towards true freedom and equality?

And why would anyone even listen or consider change if they are on the end of such attacks?

I am a feminist, I am an activist, and I do believe I’m changing the world for the better…even if it is in small steps.

At the very least, if I have changed the world for the better for some individuals, I am happy for that.