My Relationship with the GBBS

So…I have entered into a serious relationship with the Great British Baking Show.

I realize I’m behind the times and many of you have watched the GBBS for years, but it’s all new to me.

How We Met: One day, Netflix suggested I might like the GBBS and pointed out Season 6 had just dropped.

“Hmm,” I thought. “I like cooking shows. Maybe I should check this one out.”

What Was Your First Date Like: Honestly, I enjoyed the very first episode of Season 6 but I didn’t know how serious we’d get. I mostly thought, “This is soothing, these baking challenges are neat, I’m interested, I’d watch this again.”

When Did You Know It Was Serious: After a few episodes, I found myself thinking about the GBBS during the day and longing to get home to it. I felt connected to the bakers, the hosts, and the judges. One day, I realized I gasped out loud–an audible, thrilled gasp accompanied by a hand flung to my chest–when Paul shook a baker’s hand. This was it. I had fallen hard.

What’s Your Favorite Thing About Your Partner: I love that the GBBS is so different than most US reality shows. Most US reality shows try to showcase/manufacture interpersonal conflict and drama between the contestants. I do quite enjoy the show Chopped, but the little bios and quotes from the chefs are always things like, “I’m the best, the world’s best, and I’m here to show everyone I’m better than everyone, and no one else has a chance, take that, you losers.” On the GBBS, bakers genuinely seem to form a bond and root for each other. Sometimes they help each other out–lending a sieve or moving cookies to the final plate when time is running out. They often hold hands when the Star Baker and the losing baker are announced, which is SO DAMNED SWEET. Like, the biggest drama is whether Paul will choose to give a handshake or when something actually related to the baking goes wrong–someone puts in salt instead of sugar, a cake topples, a biscuit breaks.

I love the three very different challenges each week, two that can be prepped and then the absolutely surprising technical challenge.

I love the accents and “biscuits.” I love how soothing it is to watch things get mixed and to watch dough proof. I love the artistry of the show stopper pieces (and many other items).

Where Is Your Relationship Going: We’ve moved on to the next phase. I’m now watching Season 5. After finishing Season 6, I chose Season 5 primarily because someone told me one episode had bakers making a biscuit board game–and you know how I feel about board games. After Season 5, I’m going to watch the Holiday Show. After that, I’m probably going to go back to Season 1 and watch the rest of the seasons in order.

My primary plan for winter break is to watch a LOT of the GBBS.

What’s Something Special About Your Relationship: This weekend, my 18-year-old KitchenAid stand mixer bit the dust. The motor began to sound like a dying, growling creature.

It’s cookie-baking season and I’ve been watching a ton of the GBBS, so you KNOW that I could not wait long to get a new stand mixer. I hopped right online and ordered one on a great sale. I happen to love purple, so I ordered the Boysenberry model.

The next day, I watched the first episode of Season 5. Guess what? The decor of the tent in Season 5 features several colors of KitchenAid stand mixers INCLUDING BOYSENBERRY. Some of the contestants are using the very same mixer I now own.

Can you believe it? The GBBS and I are linked for life.

Or at least for the next 18 years or lifespan of my mixer.

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Picture of the gorgeous KitchenAid mixer in Boysenberry.

Moving Goal Posts

You know what human beings are really good at?

Moving goal posts.

There was a point in time when I thought: “If only I could actually finish writing a novel–a whole novel–it wouldn’t even matter if anyone else read it or liked it.”

Then I wrote a novel (NOT a good one) and it became: “Okay, if only I could write a GOOD novel that would get PUBLISHED and people would enjoy it!”

Then I published two novels and started to think: “Okay, the people who read my novels really enjoy them, but not enough people are reading my work. These two novels were with a small press. If only I could get a good agent and publish something with a better press.”

And I think: “I want to sell enough short stories to professional markets that I can become a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.”

I start sending out stories. Some of my pieces make it to the final rounds of cuts in really high quality markets. I get a number of personal rejections, not just form rejections. That’s all good. I know that’s good. I see the statistics on The Submission Grinder and I know how hard this is.

I sign with Irene Goodman, who is a fantastic agent–encouraging, thoughtful, and kind, with great connections and a solid reputation. She’s shopping around SMASH: Tearing Down Gender Rules. 

I’m publishing book three of Calling the Moon in 2019 with the small press.

I’m working on Marked, a young adult fantasy novel that I’m really excited about.

I got selected to attend a really cool online writing workshop and I’ll get to learn a bunch there (more news on that when I’m allowed to share it).

I write at least 5 days out of 7, even if it’s only 400 words some days.

Why do I keep moving my own goal posts instead of recognizing my accomplishments and appreciating how hard I’m working?

I don’t think I’m alone in this, right? Some of you feel this way, too? I think many of us have a hard time celebrating ourselves. Instead, we’re filled with imposter syndrome. As soon as we accomplish something, we move the goal posts for ourselves. We want to meet the NEXT goal.

I’m going to start thinking more consciously about this–about celebrating myself. You know how some football players do crazy dances in the end zone? They strut and prance and carry on a bit?

We need to do that more in life. We need to celebrate ourselves. We need to embrace our accomplishments and bask in them. We need to remember what we HAVE done–instead of always moving toward the next thing we want to do.

I’m going to work on this. Celebrating.

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Love (Even if I Don’t Remember the Color Feather in Your Hair)

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Picture of a crying baby. (Not one of mine.)

I’ve been reflecting on parenting a lot lately–how it changes as your kids grow. When they’re little, parenting is an exhausting slog of meeting physical needs. Do you remember the sleep deprivation? The agonizing over whether to feed them rice cereal or sweet potato first? The constant vigilance over their safety as they learned to move about the world? The tears and the smiles. The sleep deprivation–did I already say that?

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Three colorful plastic dinosaurs, one holding a sign that says, “Howdy.”

Then come the toddler years, full of play so alternately-wonderful-and-agonizingly-boring I often wondered if I could gouge my own eyes out with a plastic dinosaur. My daughter used to spin elaborate “role playing” scenarios: Mama, I’m going to be a mermaid and I have medium brown skin and a green tail with kind of aqua scales right on the tip and I have long flowing hair that’s braided with an orange feather and I have some purple flowers right here and then I have bras made of orange and purple seashells and my name is Cassidy and I have a pet dolphin named Banana who is blue with a shell necklace. Mama, are you listening? Well then, what color feather do I have in my hair?

Elementary years: where kids make friends and lose friends and experience the joys of school and the boredom of some-parts-of-school. My kids first experienced being left out on the elementary school playground. My daughter was surrounded by other girls and grilled/taunted. My one son was told to “man up” and not be “too sensitive.”

As they get older, I found parenting focused on allowing them as much independence as possible within a structure that set boundaries. They learned to express themselves, and tried all sorts of behaviors and activities. I did lots of modeling relationships, lots of discussions about identifying emotions and acting on them appropriate. Lots of listening.

My three kids are all tweens and teens now, in middle school and high school. Two of my kids are taller than I. One of my kids is dating for the first time. All of them have friends I haven’t met yet. Each of them still needs some boundaries and reminders–that’s enough screen time, did you brush your teeth?, drop that tone of voice and talk to your family like you love us–yet each of them yearns for more freedom. So what’s my role as a parent now?

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A parent and child walk on a beach at sunset.

I want to be the safe place they can bring anything and everything.

I want to be the person who will always listen and believe them.

I want to be able to share my own experiences in ways that are helpful, but to always remember they are their own people with their own ways of solving problems and thinking about the world. I want to give them that space.

I want them to start seeing me as a person, not “just” Mom.

I want them to understand the richness of our authentic selves. I want them to know IT GETS BETTER. After these teenage years–these hard, hard teenage years–it DOES get easier to be your full and authentic self.

I want them to know I understand how hard these years are. And I’m here, no matter what comes next.

I want to be fully present, fully loving, fully safe.

I want to hold them close, even as I hold my breath and watch them walk away.

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A simple red heart.

 

I Am a Lot

I feel things strongly. My emotions are intense. I am intense. My heart is full to bursting most of the time and often with a slew of competing-and-equally-strong feelings. I care intensely and immensely about people and issues and issues and people and all things.

We live in a world that tells us emotions are a weakness, that rational thought and logic and reason are the highest human achievements, that caring is somehow less cool than aloof objectivity.

Why?

Emotions are gendered feminine by our culture. We talk about women’s intuition. Women are assumed to be empathetic. We believe in motherly instincts. Our culture links women to nature, to animals, to children–to things that operate on gut instinct instead of intellectual arguments.

In 1972, Sherry Ortner did a fantastic job deconstructing some of the reasons for this in “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?”–an article which draws on the work of Nancy Chodorow. She shows women are socialized to prioritize relationships and the subjective experience, while men are socialized into the realm of the objective and the abstract. Because our culture ranks the masculine above the feminine, we therefore believe that the objective, abstract, rational, logical, constructed is somehow more important than the subjective, relational, emotional, passionate, natural. That article is almost 50 years old, but I find her arguments still valid.

I’m thankful for a recent post by Captain Awkward which introduced me to Melissa McEwan’s essay “The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck.” (Side note: if you aren’t reading Captain Awkward, what are you doing with your life?? No joke.)

Read this excerpt from McEwan:

There are the occasions that men—intellectual men, clever men, engaged men—insist on playing devil’s advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading: Women’s Issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that’s so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.

There is the perplexity at my fury that my life experience is not considered more relevant than the opinionated pronouncements of men who make a pastime of informal observation, like womanhood is an exotic locale which provides magnificent fodder for the amateur ethnographer. And there is the haughty dismissal of my assertion that being on the outside looking in doesn’t make one more objective; it merely provides a different perspective.

And Captain Awkward’s recap:

I think about this “lady emotions are dumb, man logic is superior!” fallacy all the time…

Feelings are just one kind of information. Experiences are extremely informed sources of information. They are not the only information, but they aren’t not-information, either? They have a part to play.

What if we acted like the the people most affected by something/who have the most at stake/who have the most to lose/who have been the most fucked over by the status quo are the center of where our caring should go and the primary experts on what would fix things, but on like, a national or even global level? And what if caring for them was way more important than our “objective” debates about what they need and deserve?

In the meantime, the idea that “your emotions and your experiences with a thing make you uninformed and unqualified to talk about it, but my emotions (that I have renamed ‘logic’) and my lack of experience with a thing make me more informed and qualified than you” is a brand of bullshit that I will be fighting until my dying day, one really really long blog post at a time.

I’m reminded of my intense reaction to Wonder Woman, which I blogged about at the time. As I said then, “This movie stars a woman who stands for idealism, caring, a belief in love, a belief in the power of beliefs–things which, personally, I have been MOCKED for (and I’m not alone)–and turned those things into a portrait of strength, empowerment, and respect.”

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It’s not better to be objective than emotional. It’s not better to be rational and distant than to be passionate and personal.

On 10/23, Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted:

Gmorning
“You’re a lot
You have no chill
You’re so extra”
These are all COMPLIMENTS.
Apologize for your passion
on the day after f***in’ NEVER.
Let’s go!

I care about “too many” things. I can’t focus my desire for equity and justice on just one issue. I truly believe “there is no hierarchy of oppression” and we must band together to end all oppressions before making any change in this world. I don’t always know how to make change, so I write and I teach and I hope I can make enough small differences in enough people’s lives to matter.

My whole life, my biggest fear has been that I’m “too much.” I fear overwhelming people with my energy, my passion, my intensity, my sincerity, my thoughts, my words, my voice, my caring. I don’t stay in my place. I don’t act like a lady. I don’t stay quiet.

In my 40s now, I’m finally owning it. My husband once said to me, “You’re a lot, but you’re never too much.”

I am a lot. And I will use my “a lot” to change the world in all the ways I know how.

 

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Image from Hyperbole and a Half, which you really should read if you haven’t. Caption says: “I care about this Alot” and the image shows a brown hairy beast with horns–the Alot–being hugged by a person. Note: “Alot” isn’t a word. It’s “a lot.” 😉 http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

 

SMASH: The Origin Story

SMASH: Tearing Down Gender Rules was born when a radioactive spider–Wait.

One day, SMASH was exposed to gamma rays–Hold on.

SMASH grew up on the planet Krypton–No.

Although SMASH used to be a Russian secret agent and assassin–Um, that’s not it.

SMASH left the island of Themyscria to fight–

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Picture of LEGO Avengers. Yes, I know Wonder Woman is DC, not Marvel.

You know what? The origin story of SMASH isn’t nearly that exciting. But maybe you’d like to hear it anyway?

Late last spring I heard through a writing group that Irene Goodman–THE Irene Goodman, founder of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, did you hear me? Irene Goodman!–was looking for someone to write an approachable, snarky-yet-grounded book about the history of misogyny.

Hey! I write things. And I’ve taught gender studies for 18 years. And I know some things about misogyny. And I’m approachable. And, well, definitely snarky. Kind of funny. McSweeney’s published me, so I must be kinda funny.

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A picture of Lin Manuel Miranda in a blue suit in front of a portrait of Hamilton, looking happy & proud & awesome as usual.

So…

“I am not throwing away my shot!”

I took some deep breaths and emailed her. She emailed right back! We talked on the phone and connected well–she liked my vision and wanted to know more, even though she’d originally been looking for someone more, well, famous–a big name already.

I’m not a big name. YET. But she was intrigued by my ideas, so I wrote some sample pages and sent them to her.

Then came the real shocker. She emailed, told me she loved the pages, AND THEN asked if I’d ever considered writing middle-grade non-fiction.

Middle-grade?

No, actually…I hadn’t ever considered it.

But the more we talked, the more I saw it. And the more I wrote, the more the words poured out of me, the more the project took shape in my mind, the more I realized OF COURSE this was a middle-grade book.

SMASH shows middle-graders how to decipher culture’s messages culture about gender. We can’t fight what we don’t even name. We can’t think critically about things we assume are just “natural” and “normal.” Once we see that gender is CONSTRUCTED, then? Then we have the chance to decide which messages we believe, which we question, and which we resist. Then we have the chance to figure out how to be our best, most authentic selves.

Knowledge is empowerment.

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RED HEART

I love this book so very much.

As I’ve been writing SMASH, I feel like I’m talking to my own kids. I’m talking to YOUR kids. I’m talking to ALL kids about things I wish I knew when I was their age. I’m talking to all kids about things they need to know–the earlier, the better.

I never want to talk down to kids–they’re capable of understanding SO MUCH MORE than adults often give them credit for. Instead, I break down complex concepts and explain them in simple terms, with clear examples.

Irene’s talking about SMASH with editors now. We’ve sent out a proposal including the first four chapters.

Next blog post? I’m gonna talk about how SMASH got its name.

Unless its name changes before then.

Which could happen, because we’ve had about seven million and three title iterations at this point.

So stay tuned!

 

 

Who Says Feminists Aren’t Funny?

I’m intense. I hold strong opinions. I have a hard time “enjoying” media without critiquing the hell out of its problematic messages. I am amused by nothing that contains sexism/racism/classism/able-ism/homophobia/any-other-isms. I care about “too many” social issues (for other people’s comfort). I may even be “too much” for some people.

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But I’m funny.

WANNA KNOW HOW I KNOW???!

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency just accepted a piece I wrote.

And if McSweeney’s isn’t funny, NOTHING is funny. Like. Because McSweeney’s IS funny, get it? Most of the pieces on McSweeney’s are absolutely hilarious and amusing and MY PIECE WILL LIVE WITH THEM.

I’m not claiming I’m up to par with “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers” or “FAQ: The ‘Snake Fight’ Portion of Your Thesis Defense” or “An Update on the Problem of Maria.” 

My piece might be the sad, neglected neighbor-child to those pieces. BUT WE WILL BE NEIGHBORS!

BECAUSE I’M FUNNY.

(And, yes, I will absolutely, definitely, without-a-doubt post the link here when it’s published, which should be in the next few weeks.)

The Ten Stages of Getting Critique on Your Novel Draft

Well, lookee here! I’ve written a novel! I have an entire draft. Now it’s time to share it with my beta slideshow_1readers and get some critique.

  1. All right, this is awesome. I’m going to send this novel to a few people and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. They’re going to love it as much as I do.
  2. OMG. What have I done? What. Have. I. Done? This novel’s not ready to be read. Did I already send it? Can I retract it?  Should I tell them to delete it? What was I possibly thinking? Maybe I should change my email address. And unfriend the beta readers on all social media. And dodge them in real life. I never have to speak to them again.
  3. Deep breaths. This will be okay. I do want their feedback. They’re going to have useful things to say. I need to calm down.
  4. OMG. Why is it taking so long for them to give me their feedback? Have they started reading it yet? Don’t they know I AM WAITING? :refresh: :refresh: :refresh:
  5. My first feedback! I can’t wait to read it.
  6. What the fuck do they know? Fucking beta readers. Do they even know how to read? Are they too stupid to understand my novel? What gives them the right to criticize me? Jerks. I hate them. Fucking beta readers.
  7. The beta readers are right. I’m hopeless. My writing is hopeless. Why did I think anyone would like this? There’s nothing worth saving. It’s all trash. This is the worst possible thing anyone could ever have written. I should delete it and never write again.
  8. Deep breaths. Okay, wait. The betas said they liked some things. And, well, maybe they have a point about that thing. And this thing. And maybe that other thing could be improved. Maybe they had some valuable comments. Maybe this writing is worth saving. Huh. And maybe I can make it even better.
  9. I did it! I’ve done revisions. I listened to other people’s comments and made changes without freaking out. This novel is stronger now than it was. I will send out the new version and see what the betas think.
  10. OMG. What have I done? What. Have. I. Done? This novel’s not ready to be read. Did I already send it? Can I retract it? Should I tell them to delete it? What was I possibly thinking?

 

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image: pain-in-rainbows.jpg    https://monochromejunkie.com/tag/collage/

From Dolphins to WHAT…?!

My prompts for the second round of the Short Story Challenge were action/adventure, animal rights, and delivery driver.

My brain spun round and round through cosmetic and medical testing, carriage horses, owl cafes, and landed on dolphins. After researching quite a bit about Taiji cove, I wrote a pretty serious short story about three characters (Kiyomi, Naoki, and Tom) sneaking into the cove to cut nets and free a dolphin pod. The story illustrated the horror of the Taiji dolphin slaughters and captures. It’s a cause I care a lot about. It was a kind of intense little story.

shutterstock_366792137-1024x683Okay, I thought. This has some promise.

I sent it off to some folks for beta reading. They mostly liked it.

Until one of my beta readers–okay, it was Gary, my husband–said: “You haven’t made this story your own” and “I love when you take these prompts and find some completely crazy and unexpected direction for the story. Dolphins seem kind of…obvious. A bunch of people might write about dolphins.” [Disclaimer: he said none of this verbatim, but this is what I heard. Actually, when I was paraphrasing him before, I said that he said, “Everyone will write about dolphins and there’s nothing interesting or original here and this story sucks.” He claims he didn’t say that. I guess I believe him.]

I started thinking about what I do best, which is fantasy and science fiction. Action/adventure can be SFF…. Maybe I needed to shake things up a bit. Gary said, “You have time to write something new.”

Start from scratch? When I already wrote one story for a 72 hour challenge?

Right about then, my friend John (also a writer) left me a voicemail and said, “Write to your skill set. You can blend genres and make your story SFF if you’re not feeling what you already wrote.” [Again, that’s probably not exactly what he said. I could listen to the voicemail again and quote him, but I’m too lazy.] emoji_update_2017_11_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqqvzuuqpflyliwib6ntmjwfsvwez_ven7c6bhu2jjnt8

I moped around. I sulked. I sighed in frustration. I moped some more. I was really, really, really grumpy. I had like seven million ill-formed ideas and wrote some random sentences.

Then, I just started having fun. A story basically poured out of my brain onto the page and made me giggle quite a bit of the time. I wrote the whole thing in less than three hours.

It’s a ridiculously frothy, funny story that plays with action/adventure conventions in a SF setting. We’re talking high school ninja-girls and animals worn as jewelry and a high speed spaceship chase. Yes, it touches on animal rights, but with the lightest of light hands.

I’m submitting the second story. I have no idea how the judges will feel about such a zany, genre-blurring story.

But I can guarantee they won’t read another story like it. I probably won’t post the whole thing here, because it may have quasi-publishable legs, this wacky little story. I’m happy to share it with individuals, though. If you want to read it, just let me know! 🙂

It’ll be about five weeks before I hear if I make it to round three, so stay tuned.

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On to Round Two!

My “Fifty Thousand Batmans” story got me through to round 2 of the NYC Short Story Challenge. Woot!

This round will bring a new prompt, to arrive Thursday, 3/29 at 11 pm CST. Genre, character, subject. Stories are due Sunday, 4/1 by 11 pm CST and can be no longer than 2000 words.

What genre will I get?

What crazy prompts will I write about?

Stay tuned to find out! 🙂 I’m pleased to continue with the contest and I hope my creative abilities don’t fail me now.

I should get the judges feedback on my round 1 story soon–I’d be happy to share those comments if any of you other writers-types would be interested?

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