Cool Thing Roundup: TEDx, Publications, and Midwest Writers

I kind of thought that after I graduated, the writing and reading slumps I’d been in would magically dissolve. I’d have loads of free time since I was taking a break before the big job search. I wouldn’t have classes or homework to exhaust my energy before I could get around to writing or pleasure reading. The summer was gonna be magic.

Well. Uhm. Yeah. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

I’ve been feeling pretty shitty about this, to be honest, like I’m defective and I should be ashamed that I’ve only read four books this month and that my word totals leave something to be desired.

Weird how shaming myself into a spiral doesn’t help my productivity much.

This week, I realized that the past few months I’ve been apart of several really cool things that I didn’t celebrate on the blog. Right now, I kind of need a confidence boost, so allow me to be just super, super self-indulgent and tell you about all this cool stuff.

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TEDxBallStateUniversity

I got a really cool chance to speak at a TEDx talk at my school. It’s actually a reading of my “Fat Revolution” essay – a version of which I’ve posted before. This one is revised and, in my opinion, way improved. Here’s the video:

Side B Magazine: Attacking Our Assault

For Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Side B Magazine did a special online issue. I was asked to contribute, and they published my short essay, “Not the Men You Know”. One of my best friends, Brittany Means, is also in the issue, and quite frankly her talent consistently blows me away.

It is probably self-evident but I’m still gonna say that reading our essays and the other essays in the issue comes with a pretty hefty trigger warning on sexual assault and abuse.

You Are Here: Finding Yourself in Middletown

My last semester at Ball State, I had the great luck of taking the first English senior seminar taught by a creative writing professor – the wonderful Cathy Day. The class was based around how to do research while writing fiction.

Ball State is in Muncie, Indiana, which was the basis for the Middletown study in the 1920s. Using research from the original study, subsequent studies, and dozens of other sources, my classmates and I created our own version of Middletown and wrote a linked short story collection set there.

The collection is called You Are Here: Finding Yourself in Middletown can read it here. My story is the last in the collection, titled “Between the Beams”.

Stomping Ground

indexAlong with working on You Are Here, I was also taking a class called Creative Writing in the Community with Lyn Jones, who is possibly the most organized professor I’ve ever had and makes impossible projects (like putting together a book in a few weeks) totally possible.

In this class, Ball State English students get together with elementary school kids in the Muncie and surrounding communities and write. I worked with two amazing sixth grade girls, Sara and Marisa.

At the end of the semester, we sorted through the mass of material we’d gathered from these kids and put together a book.

You can buy Stomping Ground on Amazon, and perhaps I am biased but you should seriously consider doing so. The range of talent and emotion and depth presented by these kids was stunning. I was incredibly lucky to work with them and proud of the book we produced.

#MWW15

Last but DEFINITELY not least is the fact that I will be interning at the Midwest Writers Workshop for the THIRD TIME (read about my first two years here and here) as an agent assistant.

Oh, and this time, I’m also the lead intern. They actually just made me in charge of these people.

tumblr_miadpnO4iR1rgz9z1o1_500Okay, it really will be fine. The other interns are amazing, smart people and I’m only one of two interns who even has two years of experience to back me up. (This is me convincing myself that I’ve got it.)

I think that’s all I’ve got for the cool things round up, although if my calculations are correct there should be another publication post coming up in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime – I love all of you, you’re beautiful, and here’s a truly amazing reminder that my dear friend Katy made for me:

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Am I Enough? Thoughts and Venting and Feelings on Bisexuality and Gatekeeping

I’m going to be honest. I’m a little freaked out about this blog post. I’m scared of sounding whiny, of sounding self-indulgent, of sounding a million other things because I have spent years telling myself that this is No Big Deal and Other People Have It Worse So Just Shut Up.

But I need to write about this, and maybe someone else needs to read about it.

I’m bisexual. I’ve been out for ten years, this isn’t something that most people who know me don’t already know. It’s on my Facebook profile, I’ve said it (seemingly) casually in tweets.

I’m bisexual, but most of the time I feel like I can’t own that identity. Sometimes it’s a little confusing just because, well, maybe pansexual is more accurate – I’m not just into cis men and women, I’m into trans men and woman too, and I’ve been attracted to people outside the binary – but that’s a whole other conversation and I’m going to leave it at just saying that for me, bisexual is how I’ve identified for ten years, and it’s the identity that feels right to me, and it’s the one I’m going to talk about.

I feel like I can’t own it because I’ve never been romantically or sexually involved with a woman.

I hear gay men and lesbians talking about the “straight-passing privilege” of bisexuals and think I’m just the poster child for that and I should just shut up.

I didn’t realize until recently how much this hurts me. I didn’t realize the little ways in which I’ve changed myself because of this. I feel like I’m not allowed to identify as LGBTQ+ or queer or bisexual or anything. When conversations about these identities and communities come up, I feel like I have to step back – like I don’t belong there, like I’m not who this conversation is about.

Like I’m an outsider.

I’ve only had relationships with men, and the vast majority of my crushes have been men. Even though I experience romantic and sexual attraction to women, because I’ve never slept with a woman or dated a woman I started to wonder if I was faking. Like, faking so hard that I’d convinced myself. I heard the people who, when I came out at fourteen, said that I was just following along with a trend. That I just wanted attention. I can point back to crushes I’ve had on girls from the time I was a small child (I generally credit Jade from Jackie Chan Adventures as the first but it might be Lola Bunny from Space Jam) but I still wonder if I just jumped on a “trend” when I was fourteen and convinced myself it was real.

I stopped talking about being into women. I stopped thinking that a relationship with a woman was even possible for me. When I talk online about wanting dates and wanting relationships I only talk about guys. And every time I do, this part of me aches, because I know that’s not even true to who I am. I’m someone who craves love and affection and I’d love to find that with anyone, not just cis men.

But I hit tweet and I hit post and I think I’m just not bisexual enough.

On the few occasions that I do say “hey, I’m bisexual” or mention it I’m always scared that someone will look at me like, “Really?”

When I wrote “This is an Essay About a Fat Woman Being Loved and Getting Laid” I only mentioned men, because that’s the only sexual and romantic experience I have. It’s all I can write about it, and I put in this line at the end: “We flirt with another fat girl at the coffee shop.”

It was all I could think to do to acknowledge my sexuality, to show that I’m not straight, that I’ve never been straight.

I’ve had people comment on and criticize the heteronormativity of the essay and I don’t blame them. They don’t know me. They don’t know that as proud of that essay as I am as a fat woman, I have spent so many days thinking that if this is the only experience I have then this is just more proof that I don’t get to say I’m bisexual. That I don’t get to say I’m queer or part of this community.

Yesterday, the LGBTQ+ community got a huge win in marriage equality. It’s not the biggest win or the last win and there’s so much more to do but it was a big win, and I spent the day on this high. I watched reaction videos and proposal videos and coming out videos and sobbed.

I started thinking about my place in this community, in this moment in history.

I came out as bisexual online and to family when I was 14. The people who truly mattered were supportive. But I also dealt with harassment and bullying, with a group of girls I’d known in elementary school (I was homeschooled through middle school) piling on over AIM telling me that I’d never find love, that I’d be beat up in high school, that no one would ever marry me, because I was fat and pagan and bisexual and all of this was gross.

High school wasn’t as bad for me as I predicted. It wasn’t physically unsafe. I was never beat up. I knew other people who identified as things other than straight, and we were generally physically safe.

I can’t say there was no violence against queer kids at my school. I tended to not know what was going on socially and if none of my friends were involved, I wouldn’t have heard. I can’t say it never happened. But I don’t think it was common.

That doesn’t mean we were entirely welcome.

My freshman year of high school was the first time I attempted to be an activist. I wasn’t new to the idea of activism – my mother grew up all over the South with parents who were outspoken in the civil rights movement, who moved around supporting Martin Luther King Jr., who fled towns more than once because their allyship to black activism was not appreciated.

My parents have never been the kind of people who see injustice and sit and let it happen. I wanted to be the same way.

I found out about the Day of Silence and decided that I wanted to do that at my school. I started working on getting it to happen, and high school had been so safe for me as a bisexual student that I never thought organizing this even would be difficult.

I ended up in a meeting with the principal, who was very calm, who smiled, who said that of course all students were welcome, that of course they were supported, but he just didn’t think a Day of Silence was right for the school. He didn’t think that anyone would be served by gay students putting themselves out there and saying they were gay. We had to take baby steps, and this was a giant step, and people would just get hurt.

I would get people hurt.

I would get my friends and peers hurt if I encouraged them to put duct tape over their mouths for a day and tell people that it was for gay rights.

I was 15, and I’d always been a good, rule-abiding kid. I didn’t know how to stand up to authority. I felt that he was wrong, but didn’t know how to express it, didn’t know the right words. I argued some, but when he didn’t bend, I just said okay and left the meeting and went home in tears.

I don’t remember how I got from there to the actual Day of Silence, when I didn’t put duct tape over my mouth because that would draw too much attention, but I did stay silent the entire day. I had cards that explained why and wrote out notes. A few students joined me. It was something. I felt like a failure. But I did it again in other years, and I can’t say it was ever a rousing success, but it was something.

Yesterday, I thought a lot about that 15-year-old girl who went into her principal’s office and stood up for this cause she believed in because it was part of her, who put herself out there and spoke up because it was who she was and who her friends were and she wanted a better world.

I wonder if she would be disappointed in the 24-year-old who only does that activism from the sidelines, through RTs and weblogs, like an ally, not like someone whose own life and happiness depends on it.

My most outspoken form of activism is my fat activism. There is no denying my fatness, no denying that I experience oppression and stigma because of it.

It is too easy for other people to deny my bisexuality, to say that I don’t have any real stakes in this activism and this movement.

Yesterday was part of my future and my rights, but I didn’t feel like I could stand up and say that. I didn’t feel like I was allowed.

I don’t know if this blog post is me saying, “No more,” or trying to shed light on the gatekeeping in the queer community. I’m writing this and I’m crying because I haven’t allowed myself to face up to how much this has been hurting me. Some of the things I wrote in here are things I realized only as I wrote them.

I don’t know what this is for me, or what this is for you, or what this is for anyone. I don’t know if my bisexuality is enough or if my pain is enough to qualify me to write this or post it, but I am, because I need to.

So here it is.

On Being Kind, Being Afraid, and Being a Young Writer

I’ve been wanting to write something about this whole situation with Andrew Smith and #KeepYAKind. I’ve wanted to say something.

I haven’t in part because so many other brilliant people, who are more experienced in YA, who are smarter, who are braver, have already said so much. I pretty much obsessively followed what Ellen Oh, Kelly Jensen, Justina Ireland, and Tessa Gratton were saying on Twitter. I read the amazing posts by Sarah McCarry and Jenn Northington and I thought: I don’t have anything to add.

I read YA, sure, and I review some books, but irregularly. I want to write YA but I don’t have an agent or a book. I’m unestablished. I haven’t even graduated college yet. Why should anyone care what I have to say?

I also held back because of fear. Because I am unestablished, because every new connection I make is a treasure and I’m worried they’re fragile. Because I want to be published and read and I kept worrying that if the wrong person saw me tweeting about my hurt and anger over Andrew Smith, I’d be marked as aggressive and mean. I’d be overreacting and hysterical. I’d be a bullyAndrew Smith already decreed me and the many other women reacting to systemic and internalized misogyny as fools and assholes.

So I RTed a lot and I tweeted a little bit, and nothing happened, and I don’t know if that’s because my fears were unfounded or because I’m lucky or because I just didn’t go as hard as I wanted to.

It’s important to note that as a white cis woman I already have a certain amount of shielding from harassment that trans women and women of color aren’t afforded. It’s not as dangerous for me to speak up as it is for them. But I was still worried.

I was too worried to speak up, at least to any extent that I thought was good enough.

I just watched as people I respect, people that I want to one day be my colleagues, said that if I spoke up too loudly, I would be mean, I would be a bully and abuser. I would be saying that I can’t see nuance. I would be one of the horde of overreacting Twitter feminists.

I watched as women who did speak up were torn down, spammed, threatened. I watched as they were told to just sit down and shut up because he just messed up, you can’t criticize him for messing up, we have to protect our own, and our own means this white male writer, but not the women he found too mystifying to write, not the women being targeted.

I hate that I’m scared of being called mean while standing up for what I believe in, but I am. I’m scared of having something negative already attached to me while I try to get into the YA world.

When I was seventeen, I got Twitter and discovered that all of my favorite YA authors knew each other. They talked. They were friends. They supported each other.

Since that moment I’ve dreamed of being one of them. I’m passionate about YA. I’m passionate about the importance of teen voices, of giving teenagers the representation I wish I’d had. These are the books I want to write more than anything, and these are the authors I’ve dreamed of joining.

Over the past couple of weeks, for the first time in seven years of dreaming, I’ve been scared of entering this world.

It’s not that I’ve never seen conflict before, between authors, between authors and reviewers. I’ve known it’s not a perfect community. But that conflict has never made me think that I shouldn’t be there.

I’m scared of being the person I am and being a YA writer.

I’m scared because I’m a woman with strong opinions, an activist, and I don’t like to keep quiet about it. Sometimes that involves being not so nice. Sometimes that involves being aggressive. Don’t get me wrong – I like to be understanding and kind. I know that people make mistakes. But I also know that mistakes can hurt other people, and that we have to talk about those mistakes. We have to have these hard discussions or nothing will change.

I’m scared that being part of the YA world will mean compromising a part of myself. I’m scared that it will make it more difficult to stand up for the things that I believe in, because what I’m seeing is that when a woman in this community says, “Hey, that thing that male writer said? It was kind of shitty,” they get told to be nice. So, what, we can talk about things in abstract, but can’t point out the specific examples when they happen? Criticizing these mistakes means that we deserve entire hashtagged movements against us?

I’m still going to write the books I want to write, because more than the fear, I care about the fat girl in high school wondering why she never reads books about girls that look like her. I care about the kid having panic attacks between classes that doesn’t know what’s wrong with them or why they can’t just be normal.

I care about giving a voice to my seventeen-year-old self, even if her dream has become less rose-colored.

I have hope because I also see the amazing women in this community speaking up despite the backlash, despite being told to stop. I have hope because I see these women supporting each other. I see women more vocal and aggressive than me facing horrible responses, but also receiving love from those they speak up for.

But every second I’ve been writing this, I keep thinking: This is silly, these fears are silly, you’re just paranoid, you can’t post this.

Maybe they are, maybe I am, but the emotions and fear are real, and I know I’m not the only one feeling them. I know I’m not the only young female writer hesitating, thinking,

“Is this really the world I want to be part of?”

And I think that fear matters. I think it should matter that young women are seeing this situation go down and having those thoughts. I think this is worth posting.

Publication: “I Dated A Real-Life Christian Grey Online When I Was Just 15 Years Old” on The Gloss

Hello, friends!

I’ve had another essay go up, this time at The Gloss, which is one of my favorite places on the internet. Seriously I’ve been reading it for years and to actually have a piece up there is kind of wonderful.

chris-pratt-gif-3I do want to put a trigger warning on this essay – it is entirely about emotional and psychological partner abuse. I definitely want everyone to read it, but I want you to do it safely.

Oh yeah a link might help here

“I Dated A Real-Life Christian Grey Online When I Was Just 15 Years Old”