Archive for July, 2011

Confessions of a Geek (There’s Nothing ‘Former’ About It)

July 10, 2011 15 comments


Roughly from the ages of 7-10, I collected X-Men trading cards. Before that, I was the only girl in the whole of school was a Batman lunchbox. I was more inclined to beg to buy a comic book (and a heap of purple Swedish fish, back when they still existed – along with Nutty Buddies, which are better than Drumsticks, damn it) than I was to ask for a pony. (Never mind that I already HAD a pony.)

That was the very beginnings of my Geekdom. I was also heavily into musicals, running around at recess playing Phantom of the Opera on a boombox. (No, it was not operated by a dinosaur. And no, it was not a Victrola. Damn you, if you do not know what a Victrola is. A plague on both your houses.) I preferred books to most things. I knew the librarian by name, and she knew me by first name. (Imagine her surprise when I requested A Tale of Two Cities. Side-note: bad idea in middle school.)

But the trading cards were a huge deal at the school was attending. I was a displaced Yankee, although I did not know that at the time (Yankee? I was most certainly not a baseball player.). My core group of friends and I sat around, discussing the merits of all the characters. We all watched the cartoon. If it had existed at the time, I’m sure there would’ve been fanfiction.

At some point, I ventured to create my own X-Men character. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, I’m laughing as I write that. It was ridiculously earnest and wholeheartedly silly. Her name was Ultra. I’m fairly certainly that I just “borrowed” all of the cool powers from a handful of X-Men (Jean Grey’s telekinesis, Rogue’s flight, Jubilee’s…fireworks? What the hell was her power?). I gave her a backstory and everything.

One of my friends thought this was the COOLEST thing EVER. She encouraged me (read: demanded) that I tell our other friends about my character. Sheepishly, I did. Miraculously, no one threw tomatoes at my head. No one called me a Super Dork (or, you know, something vaguely insulting). In fact, they thought I was awesome. Large cheer!

Shortly after, I moved back to my home state. It was a glorious decision, because as much as I loved Sweet Tea, I missed my home. I returned to the school system I had started in. It was more difficult to readjust than I thought it would be. All my old friends had moved on, grown up as much as one can at that age, and I was still unapologetically…me.

I collected X-Men cards! I had created my own X-Man! Turns out, that kind of coolness is contextual. Like Farmer Ted, I was King of the Dipshits. But that only works as long as there were Geeks around. (I’m tired. I realize that comparing myself to Farmer Ted from Sixteen Candles is both silly and unwise. Shush.)

I stopped collecting the cards. It wasn’t as much fun without people to share the geekiness with, without an echo back in the darkness. I found the cards, today, in a tin that I have moved about 7,000 times time then. (Hyperbolic? ME?! Pshaw.) I saved the cards all these years. YEARS. They weren’t lost in any of the moves. I did not sell them on ebay. I did not simply throw them out. I kept them. Why?

At heart, I’m still the girl who loves X-Men. (Thank you, Hugh Jackman, for making them cool again.) I’m still the girl who quotes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Princess Bride whenever I can manage it. I reference everything from Stars Wars to Dorothy Parker – and nothing makes me happier than having someone enjoy the joke or reference.

This is one reason I adore Twitter and the Internet. Because if I shout: No one more rhyming – this time I mean it! I KNOW someone is going to respond: Anybody want a peanut?

This benefits me as a person – and a writer. As someone who is constantly looking for, finding, weighing, and sometimes losing words…it’s really nice to not be the only geek in the crowd. To say “Damn it, Janet!” and know that it’s not going to get lost in the fray. To know that if I’ve forgotten to eat, because I got caught up writing, someone is going to get it.

The more I talk with authors, the more I love you all. It’s like finding a really eclectic village, where everyone’s quirky and looking for a good recipe. (I’ve noticed a correlation between writers and food. Alcohol, too, but…DUH.) What did we do before Twitter? (What? Myspace? *creaking hinges* Riiigt. I remember that place.)

My weekend has been comprised of a flurry of writing (so many words. Brain sufficiently smashed on the proverbial thought-rocks), cooking, sunbathing, housework, and cleaning. The last bit was how I found the X-Men cards. I’m still that kid who likes to collect odd things (old books). I’m still that girl singing Phantom of the Opera songs – and Into the Woods, Scarlet Pimpernel, and Les Miserables. The latter, I’m afraid, I will never pronounce correctly. Le Miz is so much easier to manage. Now, instead of collecting cards, I watch The Big Bang Theory. I harbor annoyance that Firefly was canceled. (Yes, still.) And even though I know it will not end well, I STILL try and master any Rubik cube that I find. Stupid, color-code block of Satan! *shakes fist*

Yes, I’m a geek. I’m okay with that. How about you?

The Dark Enquiry, Deanna Raybourn, and What An Author Needs

July 5, 2011 6 comments


I’m currently reading Deanna Raybourn‘s The Dark Enquiry, the latest book in her Julia Grey series (I still maintain that Silent in the Grave has one of the best opening lines, ever. Don’t believe me? CHECK IT OUT.). I’m attempting to read through the novel slowly, which is like giving me coffee one drop at a time. Sure, I’m enjoying it, but I have a tendency to want to gulp it down.

The book, of course, is divine. Raybourn writes with such wit and beauty. Even if you’ve never picked up a mystery novel, or a work of historical fiction, you’ll love her writing. It’s poetry and intrigue blended together with deft skill. (I’ve even got my mother hooked on her novels. We exchange books quite often, and she’s just going to have to wait to get her hands on TDE. My precioussssss. *ahem*)

On a serious note, though — first, congratulations to Deanna for becoming a NYT Bestseller. At the risk of sounding madly conceited, I knew it would happen. Because she’s just that good at writing. And no, that’s not me blowing sunshine up anyone’s existence. It’s fact.

Second, I was reading this interview a little while ago, and it is a good (fun) one. However, as a writer myself, I might’ve cheered out lout a bit (embarrassing? Yes. True? Also yes.) at this:

And my husband has been my biggest champion—whenever I moaned about the lack of money and said I needed to go and get a job his response was always, “You have a job. You’re a writer. You’re just not published yet.”

That made me happy. It also reminded me of Virginia Woolf and A Room of One’s Own, but the Woolf bit is ancillary. Having that kind of support is priceless. It can be damned tough to toil for years (with, I’m sure, people asking, “Why haven’t you published anything yet?” or “Why don’t you publish something?” as if things like that grow on trees or can be found at Wal-Mart) without being able to point to a bookshelf. Having folks around you (family, friends etc) to champion your art and hard work? It is invaluable. It is nice to see that kind of support, too (if you read the entire interview, you’ll see that it DOES take a village to raise a writer, which is great phrasing). I’d be remiss if I didn’t confess to wondering if Deanna’s husband has a single brother. What? You were thinking the same thing, admit it.

This is a lesson, folks. It takes TIME and hard work to learn a craft. It also takes a certain level of tenacity — of not giving up. Because, hell, if you give up writing — you are standing in your own way. Deanna Raybourn has mentioned, before, that it took her 14 years to get a publishing contract. That is dedication, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I admire that greatly.

So, again, Deanna — congrats! And to the rest of you, read her novels. You won’t be disappointed.

A Love Letter to Ted Hughes

July 2, 2011 2 comments

I use your collected works
like an I Ching oracle – whenever
I am feeling used up
or rung out, or wordless, I haul it off the shelf
and flip to a page. Whatever is there,
I read it. I try to eat its wisdom,
a pretty little animal
in the literary food chain, carnivorous
and ready for spilled blood
and raw verbs.

But I am no thought-fox.
I am not a pike. I am
only myself, caught by my mortal
inspiration, or lack thereof.
Sometimes, my heart
needs sustenance, a helpful shove
in the right direction. You
(or more accurately your words)
supply it, leaving me forever grateful
to a dead man.

But it’s not just
your literary levity that captivates me.
I find that despite
all marriages and messes, I am
enchanted by you. In another time
and place, perhaps I would’ve
found you wandering Devon,
perhaps I would’ve smiled at you.
Maybe, we would’ve been lovers.

It’s odd to consider making love
to a dead man – but who hasn’t been there?
No, don’t answer that. It’s a purely rhetorical
question – call it a myth, and I’m sure
someone will believe it. (Open
mouth – insert Crow.)

I don’t care
about your sordid history, what did
(or did not) happen. Memory
rarely counts as reason enough
to believe in something; facts
can be manipulated, and lies
spread like a wildfire wrecking ball.
I prefer feelings to everything else.

Tell me what to feel.
Tell me about regret
and desire – speak, and I will listen.
I will fall down in to the river, the remains
of Elmet; I want to know
how it feels, how you feel underneath
the obvious adornments. Take it off,
take it all off. I’d like to watch you
strip off your syllables, ease out of those
conjugations that you clung to, secrets spilling out of you
in several different languages.

I don’t care what it might cost.
I don’t care what the consequences might be.
Poetry can raise the dead if you let it,
no spirit board necessary.