Dietland Fan Fiction

6 Oct
Sarai Walker wrote a wonderful feminist novel called Dietland, which is a lot more than a criticism of fatphobia and diet culture.
Below is a tiny bit of fan fiction I wrote, possibly the beginning of something:
Jennifer straightened up over the mound of dirt, leaned on the shovel, and surveyed her work. The mound was an oval, about six feet long, and covered the remains of a sexual predator whom overtly misogynistic politicians elected for the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. Yup, the entitled parasite wouldn’t be getting away with anything ever again, not in this lifetime. Jennifer sighs in relief and smiles faintly.
Her smile fades, and her sigh becomes shaky, as she mentally reminds herself: so many more sexual predators and their supporters to go. I can’t dilly-dally here.

As if I haven’t had enough Gaslighting

5 Oct
Every woman and girl in every patriarchal country has been gaslighted since the day she was born. The past two weeks have been a nightmare, not unlike being in an abusive relationship.
Today I realized that, emotionally, the past two weeks have felt like being in an abusive relationship.
The abuser in this relationship is the Senate judiciary committee. The abuser is the government of this fucking country, which has told every woman and girl, and every survivor of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape, that they don’t matter and that they are invalid. It has told yet another sexual predator that he’s so fucking valid that he’s fucking entitled to be on the Supreme Court, taking away women’s reproductive rights.
This calls for a REVOLUTION.
Facebook had an event on September 27: a rally in Portland, in support of Christine Blasey Ford, across from the courthouse. It began at noon, and I didn’t get organized in time to leave by 10 am…so I posted a comment on the event page.
“It’s too late for me to drive the 2 hours, so instead of attending, I’ll be revising a story about sexual harassment. But I’ll be with you in spirit.”
Just this morning–days later–an entitled male troll fucking reacted with a “laughing face” and commented, “What do you mean revise? Make stuff up?”
I became so furious that my hands were shaking as I typed. At first, I was going to reply before blocking the fucking piece of shit, but I remembered my usual policy of not replying to trolls. I didn’t want this smug and arrogant misogynist and possible sexual predator to have the satisfaction of thinking he’d succeeded. So I deleted what I’d started to write with very shaky hands, blocked the parasite….yelled KILL ALL MISOGYNISTS a few times, and then found the event again and posted this comment:
“The only good troll is the one under the Fremont Bridge. “Revising” doesn’t fucking mean “making stuff up.” It means revising, asshole. As in adding more details. Your attempts to gaslight and invalidate me only prove that you’re devoid of any redeeming quality.”
 I then posted a variation onto my Facebook page:
“The only good troll is the one under the Fremont Bridge.
“Revising” an autobiographical story about sexual harassment doesn’t fucking mean “making stuff up.” It means revising, asshole. As in ADDING MORE DETAILS. Your attempts to gaslight and invalidate me only prove that you’re devoid of any redeeming quality.
And I really, really enjoyed blocking your evil, soulless, entitled ass.”
As a fiction writer, I do indeed make things up. I look forward to writing a story in which a group of vigilante feminists chop rapists, sexual predators, the politicians who gaslight us and reward sexual predators, and gaslighters. At the very least, I could post it on a fan fiction site as Dietland (by Sarai Walker) fan fiction.

Only Negative Feedback

16 Sep

Six years ago, I had begun to work with an editor of sorts, someone who decided to create an ebook website as a hobby. This editor accepted one novella and gave bizarre, verbally abusive feedback on a second manuscript, Woodland Castle. She wrote comments in all caps with exclamation points. She hadn’t done that on the first manuscript, although she had been very brusque and negative and made it sound like it was charity to publish my novella.

I was recently going through my hopelessly messy Yahoo inbox…and noticed an important email or two I hadn’t previously noticed. They came right after the devastating email from a friend who gave me feedback on the second draft of Woodland Castle. I thought she was my friend, one of the few people I really connected with in grad school, but her feedback on that novel, inspired by the Burning Times, was so devastating that I figured she had no respect for me and must assume I’m a terrible writer, based on that one manuscript.

She wrote the letter in a professional manner, so I didn’t think I could complain, but…I didn’t really think. My reaction toward the letter was shock and hurt and depression and shame and humiliation. Six years later, my not responding at all—not even after a week—seems insane, but at the time it apparently made sense to me. I climbed into my shell. I couldn’t think of any response, especially not any professional response; now I wish I’d given it about a week to come up with something.

Until then, I thought I was good at judging my own writing—normally it seemed like I could sense whether a story or novel is good and publishable, but since receiving her feedback, I’ve lost that certainty. All I can do is set manuscripts aside for a while and go back over them, revising them and making them much better. (Actually, I do have a great critique group, but we’re currently on hiatus.)

But clearly, I was a terrible judge of my rough novel, Woodland Castle. I felt like she punched me. Despite the professional style of her email, she had absolutely nothing good to say about the book and discouraged me from trying to get it published.

That wasn’t what I was expecting from her, especially after we discussed critique feedback. I don’t remember, but surely I described the kind of feedback I prefer: when I was an undergraduate, my favorite writing instructor was Joseph Schuster, who gave constructive feedback that inspired students to eagerly revise their stories; he acknowledge the good and the bad. I recall that she talked about how she regretted being so positive about someone’s ms that they were really encouraged and thought it was worth publishing when it actually wasn’t.

It was completely unexpected–I was accustomed to some positive feedback, not none…except with that ms, which had already received 100% negative (not to mention verbally abusive and unprofessional) feedback, from the Editor from Hell. That had happened recently; I must have still been shaken up by that, so that must have contributed to my not responding to her email.

More than anything, I didn’t reply because I had no words with which to reply. I was hurt, shocked, and depressed, and I crawled into my shell. I remember the email mentioned she wrote track changes (at least, she did on the first fifty pages). That was another thing: she gave up after only 50 pages, claiming it was too rough for feedback, and she even claimed it consisted of random scenes, even though the Editor from Hell was able to figure out that it was a heroic journey. (Granted, I added more scenes after the abusive feedback, so the novel was twice as long.)

Today I I noticed while cleaning up my inbox that she sent a couple more messages. The first one was probably the one with the track changes, unless that was attached to the original email. (I never looked over the track changes, the feedback that she put on the manuscript; I only read the completely negative email.) The second was probably asking me why I hadn’t responded. It wouldn’t make sense, but she may have even still expected me to be a reference for her, since originally she was going to critique the entire 200 pages, and I was going to write a recommendation for her. However, since her feedback was completely negative, I didn’t feel like writing any such recommendation, and since she wrote the ms off as so terrible that she stopped after 50 pages, I figured she no longer wanted the recommendation.

At the time, it made sense to me that I didn’t respond to her email because I was devastated and had no idea what to write (which no doubt anyone would say doesn’t make sense, because I’m a writer). Now in hindsight, six years later, my behavior seems crazy. So much for my communication skills. But I’m an INFJ, a feeling personality, and my reaction was entirely emotional, not thinking. Still, I wish I had replied–at least read the follow-up emails and responded to them–rather than not communicating at all. I never noticed the follow-up emails until now.

I just imagined writing her an email apologizing for not responding and for ignoring her other emails, but doing so would probably just open me up for attack. I fear that if I read those additional emails, I’ll only be opening old wounds.

By the way, since receiving her feedback, I’ve done absolutely no work on Woodland Castle. I haven’t even opened the manuscript and glanced at it. Negative feedback has probably ruined potential writing careers.

Adventures in Querying Agents

1 Sep
Jeff Hermann’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents (Oxford comma added by me) features this question for literary agents:
“How would you describe ‘the writer from hell’?”
One agent, Gordon Warnock of Fuse Literary, answered:
“Hunched, moaning, pungent, with an incessant hunger for brains (p. 323).”
 
I can certainly reassure myself with the knowledge that I don’t fit that description.
It took me three hours just to query two agents. Sometimes that’s normal; some of the agents I’ve researched aren’t currently taking queries. Some just don’t sound like a good fit for this particular novel, after I’ve looked more thoroughly over their website.
Reading the descriptions of what some agents wish for, I sometimes find myself thinking, “I should hurry up and finish writing/revising (such and such novel)!” It can be inspiring but also a little frustrating, since I’m looking for agents for two novels I’ve completed, shared with my critique group, and revised and proofread many times.

Disturbing Dreams

31 Aug

I dreamed I was a spy in a city. I was a pedestrian on a street corner, across the street from a big, post-modern glass building. I stood looking casual and watching the crowd walk by…but watching specific people. Many people walked by, not only on the sidewalk but also right through the street itself; there were no vehicles, only pedestrians.

I waited for just the right moment and was watching a tall and slender woman (she looked something like Tilda Swinton) and at least one other person. They were among the people who were sort of dancing in the street. The woman made eye contact with me once, or at least looked at me, so I worked harder at exuding indifference and blending in.

When a tall and slender male spy who was my coworker casually, slowly, crossed the street through the crowd, I waited a beat and crossed the street.

Inside the glass building, it looked like a library. The walls were lined with books. In a far corner, I approached a very tall ladder. Just above the ladder was a loft with more books, and a petite young female friend of mine was up on that loft and looking through books.

A very professional-looking woman in what I think was a dark blue 1950s skirt suit was walking by in nearly the center of the room, and she sternly said, “She can’t be up there!” She was loud, and I knew she was talking to me about my friend. I didn’t comment, just stopped in the corner and looked at the ladder and up at her. I felt shaken up by the stern woman’s comment, and I felt very nervous not only because of her but also because of this friend, whose personality was similar to the Worst Frenemy in the Galaxy, at least in her disregard for rules and her arrogant belief that they didn’t apply to her and she could do whatever she wanted.

She glanced down at me and spoke…but I couldn’t hear her. I realized she was behind glass. I looked up at her nervously and quietly said that the woman said she couldn’t be up there, but I doubted she could hear me. I had no idea what to do. She was sitting on the floor of the loft, sitting with knees bent and books lying around her and one open in front of her. She wore a brown tweed pencil skirt and a white knit top. Her outfit also looked 1950s.

 

Later, I was in dreaming that I was in a living room with a guy and maybe a woman. There was a white couch on the side, and someone was already seated at one end of it, and she was reading, and I joined her with a book I was reading, a biography of a Hollywood celebrity, a very unusual book for me. The guy (tall, white, wearing a suit) was standing over me and condescendingly criticizing me for reading such a frivolous book, about a celebrity.

I explained that if the subject of the biography weren’t famous, nobody would read her book, because they wouldn’t know about her…of they wouldn’t recognize her and therefore be interested in the book. He was standing over me, and I think I perched on the arm of the chair instead of the seat. Or maybe I eventually moved to a seat cushion.

 

I don’t think this was the same dream as the one with the glass building.

I was with a young woman who was a very close friend with whom I spent a lot of time, and I think we were walking around inside a large building, perhaps a mall or a department store like Macy’s.

She was talking and talking and talking more or less nonstop, in a monologue. I felt ill at ease, although she was in a good mood and I don’t think she verbally abused me at all throughout the dream. However, she was a lot like the Worst Frenemy in the Galaxy in her personality. She tended to be volatile, often changed personalities and would out of the blue be showering me with verbal abuse, so I was very ill at ease and kept expecting that to happen. I was walking on eggshells, as I so often was with her…although never sufficiently. She frequently managed to catch me unawares.

Gaslighting, Mansplaining, and Entitlement

28 Aug

Since the 2016 election from hell, I’ve been sick of straight cisgender white men who mansplain and smugly wallow in their privileges. They fucking know the world revolves around them and don’t object. Even many who think they’re progressive talk down to women and judge women instead of their over-rated selves.

They think they’re experts in everything, and they think they’re entitled to explain everything, including things they don’t understand and to which they don’t relate. All their lives they’ve been validated and respected and valued, not invalidated and ridiculed and hyper-criticized.

Women have been gaslighted since the day they were born, and these self-entitled men keep gaslighting us, even on a national level.

Homeowning and Social Media

25 Aug

I dreamed that even though I had a big house (that included an apartment) in SE Portland, I decided to get an apartment in NE Portland. They were both about a hundred years old and really quaint, and I was working on home improvements. The apartment was mostly painted white and pale blue inside. In the new apartment, I wondered if this was a good idea and found myself starting to regret it, since I already had an entire house and it seemed excessive to have more than one place.

I dreamed I had a big, cluttered basement and was decluttering it. There was a ping-pong table, and a few things on top of it. I had a large screen, like for a projector, and what looked something like credits was rolling downward on the screen.

On the projector, I noticed something that looked like a letter from the Wizarding world of Harry Potter. It said “Dear Skye… [last name I forget].” I exclaimed about it–that I had a magic name I didn’t know about–and Jill was there, urging me to write it down and saying something about how she got her magic name and found out its meaning after writing it down.

I scrambled to find something to write on and with. I thought I had a pen on the ping-pong table, but it was some elaborate calligraphy contraption I’d had since the 1990s and it was probably dried up, even if I could remember how to use it.

By the time I found pen and paper, the letter was no longer scrolling on the screen, and I couldn’t find that name.

I went to some sort of Harry Potter shop–maybe part of an amusement park. It was inside what looked like the hallway of a modern building, and it had dark tile. There were some tables with toys and figurines on them for purchase. I thought, “Why is it whenever Goodreads on Twitter as is what you’re reading, a bunch of people say “Harry Potter? Bloody read something else!”

I approached a cash register, with a young woman behind it, and I noticed a set of little cat figurines that were mostly pink. I was fascinated and rearranged them a bit.

I never did find again that name and write it down.

I wonder…was the dream about wanting to know myself better? Was it about how I’ve had so much trouble getting to know myself because narcissists and sociopaths have always been around to gaslight me and tell me who I “am”?