Because I Do Not Hope…

I’ve been thinking about this poem a lot lately… T.S. Eliot is one of my all-time favorite poets.  And, while I love The Waste Land, my favorites poems by him are “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “Ash Wednesday.”

It’s “Ash Wednesday” that has been on my mind so much recently.  I can’t pinpoint exactly why, though have a few ideas on it that I won’t be sharing here.  In any case, the words are ringing in my ears and vibrating between my ribs.

(EDIT: …and apparently today is World Poetry Day, which I’m embarrassed to admit I did not know.  But I’m also highly amused that I managed to post a poem on World Poetry Day despite the fact that I DIDN’T know it.  So… Happy World Poetry Day!)

“Ash Wednesday” by T.S. Eliot

I

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgment not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

II

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.

III

At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitful face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jagged, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy

but speak the word only.

IV

Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary’s colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile

V

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

VI

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Why I Love the Holiday Season

Happy Holidays, folks!

I love the holiday season.  Let me share with you a few of my reasons why.

It’s no secret, Christmas is a pretty big deal in my family.  Even though my brother and I are in our twenties, and we have assured my mother she doesn’t need to go overboard, she still insists on doing her best to FILL the bottom of the Christmas tree every year.  Christmas Eve dinner with my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins is a HUGE affair.  My mother, brother, and I ALWAYS go to a movie on Christmas night, and spend the next day lazying around the house and playing with all our presents.

Also, we have four Christmas trees.  Yes, you read that right, FOUR.

We have the original tree, which mom started the year before I was born.  It has all the traditional ornaments — silly Hallmark ornaments, hand-made ornaments, Disney characters, and Star Trek ornaments, etc.

When I was ten or eleven, my mom decided she wanted a more elegant red-and-gold-themed tree.  So then we had two.

My brother took over managing the original tree, because he still loves buying silly ornaments, like reindeer wearing hunter’s outfits, and dancing fish, etc.  And, when I was thirteen, I started collecting ornaments for my own tree, which is a Victorian-inspired, pink and white tree.

Then, a couple years ago, Target came out with a new series of ornaments in crazy-bright colors like teal, purple, pink, and lime green, that I simply could not resist.  So I started collected ornaments for another tree.  I call it my Dr. Seuss tree.  And it is AWESOME.

My mother has also recently started collecting ornaments for a blue and silver tree, but she didn’t have enough ornaments yet to fill out of a whole tree so I didn’t take any pictures.  But next year we’ll have FIVE trees.  Yeah, we’re a little nuts.

We just love Christmas, what can I say.  We also have a side table filled with Santa Clauses:

And the fireplace mantle is lined in Nutcrackers:

We simply love the beauty of it.  We love the color and the light and nostalgia, and the new, and the elegant, and the fun.  It gives us joy, even when other things are difficult, frustrating, or depressing.  Christmas movies help too — Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, A Year Without Santa, and the Muppets Christmas Carol are some of the best movies ever.  Oh, and The Nightmare Before Christmas (which I watch far more often than can possibly be normal) is totally and completely BRILLIANT.

Now, I know there are always complaints about Christmas becoming too commercial.  And I’m not denying that is often true, and it makes me sad.  So many people who only care about what they can get out of it.  Who spend all their time and effort making sure they get what they want, instead of reveling in the joy of giving to others — when the GIVING is seriously the BEST part.  Sometimes, I despair for the fate of this season.

But then I read things, like this short memoir-ish piece by Oindrila Mukherjee (a UH almnus) about the simple joy and beauty of snow: “My First Snowfall.”  Or I read the dozen or so articles about the “layaway angels” who go around to K-Marts and pay-off layaway accounts for needy families: here’s one such article.  Or I just pause in the act of addressing Christmas cards and really THINK about how grateful I am for my three best friends, who have on more than one occasion been the only things between me and total despair, who have on occasion been quite literally the only things keeping me alive.  And these things remind me of what is so special about Christmas.

(For a ton of really fantastic Christmas-y posts and links check out Tiffany A White’s Holiday Mash-Up!)

So I hope I can share a bit of this feeling with all of you.

So go hug your mother or father.  Tell your friends how much you appreciate them. Decorate a tree, or light a candle, or enjoy the weather.  It doesn’t matter what you are: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, and everything in between…  This season (while perhaps initially instigated by religion) is not ONLY about religion.  The holidays are about family and friendship and beauty and joy and hope and compassion and charity, all of this in the face of despair and poverty and the hardships that seem to keep piling up year after year.  Life isn’t easy.  And this season is NOT about pretending otherwise.  It’s about giving each other the only things that make life WORTH it, despite the fact that it’s NOT and NEVER WILL BE easy.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Holidays, Joyful Season, or Happy/Hopeful New Year’s.  There is so much to worry about, to be afraid for, to be angry about… but there is also so much to be grateful, glad, and hopeful for too.  Let’s carry those things with us into the new year.

I love you all!

Let Me Explain…

Let me explain…  No, there is too much. Let me sum up (bonus points to anyone who knows what that’s from):

1)     On Friday, Dec 9th, having completed one 20pg paper, one 10pg paper, one portfolio with various elements, one 20 min presentation, a final French translation project, graded approximately 50 student papers of various lengths, and compiled my final grades, I reached the official end of my first semester as a PhD student.  And survived!

2)     I spent yesterday (Saturday, Dec 10th) with my grandmother, as I had been too busy over the last month and a half to go visit her.

3)     I spent most of today (Sunday, Dec 11th) trying to clean the house, which became excessively messy and cluttered over the semester, so that I can start putting up Christmas decorations.  I will probably be cleaning and/or decorating all this upcoming week especially since we are Christmas-crazy in this house and I have four (count them, FOUR) Christmas trees.

4)     Beginning tomorrow (Monday, Dec 12th) I am participating in a series of blog tours with Novel Publicity. The first is for Terri Giuliano Long’s debut novel, In Leah’s Wake.  I am about halfway through the book myself (having started reading it the MINUTE I wrapped up my grading on Friday afternoon), and should have my own review up in a day or two.  The second is for Scorpio Rising by Monique Domovitch.  And third is for Emlyn Chand’s Ya novel Farsighted.

5)     I am planning some time over the next week or two to revamp a few things on the blog.  I’ll keep you updated on that.

6)     I have a list of 20 books I’m hoping to get through over winter break.  I probably won’t make it through even half of them, but I’m allowed to dream.  Be prepared for plenty of book reviews over the next month or two.

7)     I am also planning to get back to writing over Winter break.  I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to work on the story I started (and didn’t get far with) for NaNoWriMo 2011, or get back to editing Midnight’s Knife.  We’ll see.

In short, the hiatus is over.  I’ll be around for regular posting times again (MWF), through winter break.  When the Spring semester starts in mid-January I may have to adjust my schedule, but we’ll see what happens when we get there.  I look forward to getting back into the swing of things here, and to hearing from all you lovely folks again.  So please feel free to stop on by when you can.  The next few weeks are going to be fun!

Happy Thanksgiving and a Brief Hiatus

First: Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate!  I hope your day (and week) is joyful and filled with family and good food.

My Thanksgiving is usually pretty small: just me, my mother, and my brother, but we like it that way.  For years and years we never lived close enough to the rest of the family to have the classic huge family get-together.  Now that we do live fairly close to some of our aunts and uncles, we still generally don’t get together for Thanksgiving as there is a usually some tension over which house should host, and how many of them are going to their in-laws places instead, etc.  I love my big family but they are rather… exhausting.  So my mother, brother, and I enjoy a quiet day: getting up to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, cooking and eating very good food (we go the traditional route mainly, though my brother became a vegetarian this year so we’ve added stuffed flounder to the menu), watching 1 or 2 of the scheduled football games, and then in the evening going to a movie (I think it’s going to be the new Muppets movie this year).

I always love hearing what kinds of traditions others have.  I am always fascinated by, part-jealous/part-terrified of stories about enormous family get-togethers.  Some of my friends have really epically HUGE family dinners that I can’t begin to imagine — especially since they mainly get along really well with their aunts, uncles, and cousins (not something I can only claim).  So if you have any interesting traditions, or if you like a nice quiet day like me, I’d love to hear about it!

Second: I want to let all my lovely blog followers know that I will be taking a short hiatus for the next 2-3 weeks.  I am at the end of the semester, and between portfolios, presentations, term papers, and grading, but plate is over-flowing.  Add to that the fact that my NaNoWriMo plans got derailed by my work load, and I just can’t keep up right now.  I’m sure this has become obvious by my spotty posting record the last few weeks.  So I’m taking a short break while I wrap up the semester.  I should be done somewhere around Dec 9th-11th, and then I will be back on schedule.

Also, I am participating in a blog book tour in the second half of December, so I will definitely be back in time for that.

I am highly thankful for all of you who read this blog.  It’s been almost a year and half now since I started here, and I’ve learned a lot, met a ton of awesome bloggers, and managed to write more about random things than I ever thought I could.  I will miss writing here, and I will miss of the lovely comments I get from some of you.  I hope to see you all when I return.

In the meantime, have a wonderful end of November and beginning of December.  Be safe, be happy!  Bye!

— Amanda

I AM a “Real” Writer and They Just Don’t Get It

Free-For-All Friday:  I AM a “Real” Writer and They Just Don’t Get It

(CC) David Turnbull

There’s been some discussion on Twitter and various blogs (as there always is this time of year) about whether NaNoWriMo is really for “real” writers, or if it’s just for non-writers who want to FEEL like “real” writers for a month.  Now, I have NO DOUBT that many of the people who participate in NaNo never write a single word of fiction (except for that email to the boss about being sick) at any other time the whole rest of the year.  However, a) that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with them wanting to try on the “writer” hat during a month when there is lots of enthusiasm and support for the endeavor; and b) plenty of “real” writers who write ALL THE BLOODY TIME also participate in NaNo.

Case in point, I consider myself a “real” writer (whatever the hell that actually means).  No, I’m not published.  No, I don’t have an agent.  And no, I don’t write all that often during the semester (I should say I don’t write FICTION often during the semester, but I’m writing non-fiction up the wazoo).  But I DO write at every given opportunity, I scrape out every spare moment I can, I write in the middle of class sometimes, and I forego sleep some nights because that’s the only time I can find.  And when I took the year off last year, I wrote pretty much NON-STOP.  And did FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY finish a whole first draft (and very long one at that) of a novel.  So, I consider myself a “real” writer, and I think I have right to.

And I LOVE NaNoWriMo.

I love it for a lot of reasons.  I love it because it is the sort of masochistic fun I tend to get myself into.  I love because of all the enthusiasm and support.  I love it because of all the crazy, eccentric, fun, would-be/hopeful writers who crawl out of the wood-work disguised as housewives and teachers and highschoolers and businessmen and firefighters, etc, etc, etc.

But here’s the one thing I think I love MOST about NaNoWriMo: For one month, I can tell my family I’m writing, and they back off.  For some reason, the tangible goal of writing 50,000 in one month is real enough and presumably daunting enough that they realize my time/energy/concentrate are precious, and they don’t bother me with incessant questions, or requests to “just spend some time with family,” or tirades about not doing the dishes in two days.  They leave me alone, and let me write.

Here’s the problem though: They just don’t get that this is how we writers think ALL THE TIME.  In November, when tell someone you’re writing, they don’t respond: “but you wrote YESTERDAY!”  They understand: “But I only have x days left to write x words!  I’m on a deadline and I just don’t have time for anything else right now!”  BUT, any other time of the year, if I say I’m writing, so I don’t have time right now, the retort is: “but you write everyday!” or “you were writing yesterday, can’t you take a couple days off?” or (my favorite) “some things [insert: spending time with family, doing housework, mowing the lawn, etc] are more important than your little hobby.”

They just don’t understand that we’re thinking: “But I only have the rest of my life to write every insane word crowded around and screaming in my brain! And that’s a whole helluva lot of words, dammit!  I’m on a deadline and I just don’t have time for anything else right now!”

Now, I’m not saying I do (or want to) ignore every other aspect of my life.  I still do housework, I still clean the dishes, and do laundry, and go grocery shopping, and do my homework, and watch a little tv, and go to family dinners, and all that other stuff.  But if the dishes wait a couple days while I get a huge chunk of inspired prose out of my screaming brain, then so be it.  And if some Sundays I’d rather sit in my office and write instead of sitting in my grandmother’s living room while all my uncles watch football and I try to look entertained, then so be it.  And my family just doesn’t get it.

As long as it’s November, and I have a clear start and end date, with clear guidelines and an attainable goal in mind, well then: that’s a pretty cool achievement.  But if I’m just writing, every day, any time I can find a few spare moments, when I should be doing homework, when I should be sleeping…  Well, then, it’s like my brother playing video games all the damn time: it’s a fine enough hobby in moderation, but it shouldn’t take over your life, and never supersedes your other duties, activities, etc.

Perhaps if/when I’ve published something, and can definitively say: look, this is a career choice, not just a hobby!  I AM A REAL WRITER.

Maybe then they’ll get it.

But then again, maybe not.

NaNoWriMo, The Truly Masochistic Endeavor

Free-For-All Friday:  NaNoWriMo, The Truly Masochistic Endeavor

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  We are 17 days away from the beginning of NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month, when a few hundred thousand people crawl out of the woodwork to participate in a month-long, high-intensity challenge to write a 50,000 word novel.  All sorts of people participate: students, housewives, full-time writers, published and hope-to-be-published-soon writers, people working two jobs…  It is always amazing to me how many people who have very little free-time still make the commitment necessary to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which comes out to approximately 1,666 words per day.

Last year I participated for the first time.  I had thought about it before, but I was in grad school and crazy-busy and it just didn’t seem possible.  But last year, having taken the year off from school before starting my PhD, I had plenty of free time to just write, so I did.  And I completely the NaNoWriMo challenge with approximately 70,000 words though I didn’t actually finish the whole novel until this past June (with 165,000 words).

It was an absolutely exhilarating experience.  I had a few friends who were also participating and we encouraged each other on Facebook and over messaging.  I also went to a few local write-ins and met some of the other participants in the Houston area, which was a lot of fun.  And it led me to starting and finishing an entire first draft of a novel for the first time ever.  Which was AWESOME.

This year, I’ve been very unsure about doing NaNoWriMo again.  I have started my PhD, and as some of you know, I’ve been very busy.  I’ve had difficulty keeping up with the blog, let alone any other writing.  And since finals week starts Dec 7th, which means that the month of November is when the scramble to survive the end of the semester kicks in.

And yet… I’ve got a fun idea for a strange retelling of the Little Mermaid story that would be an absolute BLAST to write for NaNoWriMo.  So, in a show of true masochist stubbornness (which I am fairly famous for among my friends), I have decided that I will be participating in NaNoWriMo this year.  It will be interesting to see if I can actually reach 50,000 words in the midst of everything else.  I might just end up in a padded room instead.

‘Cause let’s face it: we’re all masochists at heart, right?  We know we’re not going to get any sleep, we’re going to get carpal tunnel, and live on coffee (as if we don’t already), and our families are going to alternate between being supportive and being downright irritated, and we’re going to frazzled and stressed out and lose what little sanity we have left.  NaNoWriMo is a truly masochist endeavor.  And we all love it.  Because we’re masochists.  And that’s what we do.

One of the things I think it is vitally important that people remember about NaNoWriMo is that this project should be considered a first draft.  Or even a zero draft as I and many other writers call it.  NaNo advocates just sitting down, shutting up, and writing.  You don’t worry about quality, you don’t back-track to change things or edit, you don’t pretty it up.  You WRITE.  Every day.  Period.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach as long as you don’t think this is the final project.  There is not a single person who has ever written a NaNo project novel in 30 days and immediately sent out to an agent or editor, and actually had it published.  The idea is RIDICULOUS.  This is your zero draft: your “I’m going to get all my ideas down on paper without worrying or second-guessing or revising or editing or anything right now, because I know I’m going to have go back later and work on structure, and probably change/rewrite half of it, take things out, add things in, fix details, develop the characters more, etc” draft.

On that subject and others, here are few posts that have some great tips and information about preparing for and doing NaNoWriMo:

NaNoWriMo Cometh by Suzan Isik

The Ultimate NaNoWriMo Checklist by Suzan Isik

25 Things You Should Know About NaNoWriMo by Chuck Wendig of Terrible Minds

NaNoWriMo 2011 by Ashley Prince of Byron’s Curse

The Whole “Nail Your NaNoWriMo” Series at by Larry Brooks at Storyfix.com

So! Who’s doing NaNo this year?  Have you done it before, or is this your first time?  If you’ve done it before, how were your previous experiences?  If you’ve never done it before, what made you decide to try it now, and what do you hope to get out of the experience?  It’s time to sound off, folks!

My LGBT YA Bookshelf

Bookworm Wednesday: My LGBT YA Bookshelf

Update: Please note that the agents discussed in the article by Brown and Smith have offered a rebuttal.  I have included the link to a Publishers Weekly post which contains both the rebuttal and a counter-rebuttal from the authors.  Please keep in mind that while there may be some question as to the validity of the authors specific claims, the overall discrimination issue remains entirely real.

On Monday a blog posted by Publishers Weekly began making the rounds on social media sites, especially Twitter.  The article, written by YA authors Rachel Brown and Sherwood Smith and titled “Say Yes to Gay YA,” told a sobering story about how these two well-known authors attempted to find an agent for a post-apocalyptic YA novel they wrote together.  However, none of the agents they contacted were interested, though several said they would be if changes were made, and one agent stated point-blank that he would be interested only if the authors removed a gay pov character, or made him straight.

It is implied that this is a marketing concern rather than a personal problem with homosexuality (though one can never be sure).  The generally consensus seems to be that YA scifi/fantasy novels (or another kind of YA novel, no doubt) with gay characters (or other minorities ethnic, religious, disabled, etc) simply cannot sell books.  The authors refused to make their gay character straight or remove him, and have yet to find an agent for their novel.  But this is not the end of the story.

The authors are asking for everyone to get involved in changing this trend that implies that LGBT and minority characters in YA, and by extension LGBT and minority young adults, are at best not interesting enough to sell books, and at worst a social evil that is (and should be) subject to erasure.  Readers, writers, editors, and agents all need to bring this problem to the public’s attention.  And they need to show other agents, editors, and publishers that having a gay or minority character in a YA novel (scifi/fantasy or otherwise) will not prevent people from buying/reading it.  That, in fact, many readers specifically want more YA fiction featuring LGBT and other minority characters.  We went YA fiction that truthfully and fairly represents the lives of all young adults.  Not just white, heterosexual, middle-class, Christian Americans.

In one small effort to do my part, I am taking a moment here to mention a few of the YA novels I have read personally that featured gay or lesbian main characters.  I tend to read more adult scifi/fantasy featuring LGBT characters, so I don’t have a lot of YA titles to share.  Of course, part of the reason for that is that there simply isn’t much choice in YA fiction.  I’ve also noticed that while gay YA lit remains an overall minority, within that grouping it is far more common to find YA titles with male gay characters than it is to find novels about bi or lesbian young adult girls.  However, the few titles that I own all have female main characters, with one exception, simply because I’m a girl, so that’s what I tend to gravitate toward.  Also, only one of these is a YA scifi/fantasy.  The others are more mainstream coming-of-age.  Again, more because that’s what’s available than out of any particular intention on my part.

My LGBT YA Bookshelf:

Annie On My Mind (1982) by Nancy Garden: This was the first lesbian novel I ever read.  I bought it for a friend of mine when she’d told me she was bisexual our Freshman year of high school, and then read it myself as well.  It is a classic about two teenage girls who fall in love and have to learn how to live their lives when no one around them can understand except for two teachers who happen to know exactly how they feel.  Eventually, the  girls’ secret is revealed to their parents and the rest of the school and the fall-out is enormous.  It is a touching and believable story that all questioning girls should read.

Please Don’t Kill the Freshman(2003) by Zoe Trope:  This book actually began as a chapbook memoir written by a girl under the pseudonym Zoe Trope.  All the characters have names based on a characteristic like “Linux Shoe” and “Plum Sweater,” but all of these characters are painfully, shockingly real.  This diary-esque memoir follows tortured, sharp-tongued Zoe through high school as she deals with the growing apathy of the world, her disdain for everything around her, and the her complicated transgendered relationship with her first girlfriend who becomes her first boyfriend.  This book is profanity-laced, stream-of-consciousness in style, gut-wrenchingly raw, and painfully familiar to anyone who want through high school in the late 90s-early 2000s.

Empress of the World (2001) by Sara Ryan:  This is the story of Nicola Lancaster who goes to a Summer Program for Gifted Youth, a camp filled with intelligent, artistic, and intense highschoolers all living like college students for 8 weeks.  Nicola has never really had friends, and she’s never been in a relationship.  Then she meets Battle Davies, a beautiful, passionate girl who claims Nicola’s heart despite the fact that Nicola always thought she liked boys.  This one is short, smart, and intense, with a bittersweet ending that leaves you wanting more.

The Rules for Hearts(2007) by Sara Ryan: Thankfully, where Empress of the World leave you wanting, Rules for Hearts at least begins to answer.  This one follows Battle in her first year of college, when she moves in with her older brother in his Bohemian apartment building filled with strange characters who all work at a local theatre, including Meryl.  But while much of the focus of this book is obviously on the complicated intertwined relationships of the theatre crew, and how Battle gets swept up into it with Meryl, it also deals heavily with Battle’s relationship with her brother, who had run away without a word years before.

Keeping You A Secret (2003) by Julie Anne Peters: This one is another classic.  Julie Anne Peters has written a number of YA novels with LGBT themes, including one called Luna, about a transgendered boy and one called Between Mom and Jo, which is about a teenage boy raised by his lesbian mothers (neither of which I’ve read yet).  Keeping You A Secret is one of my favorites because it deals with a high school girl with the perfect boyfriend, who suddenly finds herself absolutely fascinated with the new girl: who happens to be an out lesbian.  The romance of this one moves quickly but believably, and the real tension and some terrifying moments (for me at least) come when she has to face her mother.

Far From Xanadu (2005) by Julie Anne Peters: Another one by Julie Anne Peters, this one is about a girl who goes by “Mike” and lives in a small Midwest farming town.  She is the classic tomboy: dressed like a boy, prefers sports and working as a farmhand, and lifts weights.  Her life is already complicated by her father’s suicide and the competition she’s put herself in against her older brother.  Things get even more complicated when she falls in love with the new girl, Xanadu: gorgeous, exotic, rebellious, contrary… and straight.  I think I like this one because it doesn’t have an exactly happy ending.  (Julie Anne Peters newest book, Rage: A Love Story, came out in 2009.  I haven’t read it yet, but I just bought it, so you might be hearing about that one eventually.)

Hero (2007) by Perry Moore:  Last, but not least, my only LGBT YA novel about a gay male, and my only one that is also a scifi/fantasy. Hero is about Thom, son of Hal Creed, who was the greatest of all superheroes until a horrible event left him disfigured and disgraced.  This event also led to the disappearance of Thom’s mother.  Hal wants to keep his son out of the superhero game.  But Thom’s father doesn’t know two things about his son: one, he has special healing abilities; and two, he’s starting realize he may be gay.  Thom isn’t sure which fact is going to disappoint his father more, and he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure he never has to find out.  I love this one because I love it when authors try to find ways to make superheroes fit into the framework of a more realistic worldview.

So, there’s my LGBT YA bookshelf.

If you’d like to share any you’ve read, I’d love to hear about them.  I’m always in need of my book suggestions!  If you’ve written one, that’s even better!  If you have questions about any of these, I’m more than happy to elaborate as well.  Please feel free to chime in!

Also, again, make sure you read the original article written by Rachel Brown and Sherwood Smith.  You can find it: here.

And for another reaction to the “Say Yes to Gay YA” article, please read Kait Nolan’s “Don’t Kill Diversity.”

For a rebuttal from the agents discussed in the Brown and Smith article please go here.  It is important to look at all sides of this issue.

Why Disney Afternoon Was the Best Children’s TV Ever

Free-For-All Friday: Why Disney Afternoon Was the Best Children’s TV Ever

Last Friday I talked about the new television block on TeenNick called The 90s Are All That, which features the old greats from 90s Nickelodeon programming.  This week, I want to talk that other great 90s block of television programming, which was in my opinion even better than Nickelodeon: The Disney Afternoon.

For those who may not know, The Disney Afternoon was a 2 hr afternoon programming block on the Disney Channel that aired from 1990 to 1999.  It was, for me, one of the defining parts of the 90s in general and my childhood specifically, and it was home to some of the most brilliant children’s programming to this day.  These shows were flat-out amazing. They were brilliant, hilarious, perfect for children, fun for adults (which, let’s be honest, not all Nick shows can really claim), and absolutely iconic of the 90s.  Also, they all had the best opening sequences/theme songs EVER.  My brother and I actually had The Disney Afternoon soundtrack that had some the theme songs on it, and I STILL know most of the words to them.

Many shows made it into the Disney Afternoon block at various points many were made specifically for the block, but several had been made in the 80s and brought back for a stint in the block.  I loved almost every single one of the shows that featured Disney Afternoon, especially the earliest ones, and there are too many to talk about here, let me just mention a few.

The Adventures of the Gummi Bears:  This is the show that started it all, and seriously, it doesn’t get much better than this.  It first aired in 1985, but was the first show brought to the brand new Disney Afternoon block.  The Gummi Bears are the exiled remnants of what was once a great civilization destroyed by humans, who now hide in a warren beneath the kingdom of Dunwyn and who befriend a few special humans only after they prove to be civilized. The Gummis: Gruffi, Summi, Grammi, Tummi, Sunni, and Cubbi ran the usual gamut from old and grumpy to young and mischievous.  And the show ran the gamut from rather dark to flat-out trippy.

Chip’n’Dale Rescue Rangers:  One of the favorite stories my mother loves to tell about my brother was how our grandmother bought a VHS tape of a couple episodes of Rescue Rangers of my brother sat down right in front of the tv, so his little blonde head blocked half the screen, and watched that tape over and over and over and over again for days.  Inpsired (loosely) by the two chipmunks who terrorized Donald Duck in the old Disney cartoons, The Rescue Rangers actually included Chip and Dale (the chipmunks), Gadget and Monterey Jack (mice) and Zipper the fly.  Together they solved mysteries that the humans couldn’t handle, and often came up against their two main arch-enemies: Mobster-esque Fat Cat, and the mad scientist Norton Nimnul.

DuckTales:  Let’s make this clear, DuckTales was awesome.  And it had one of the best theme songs EVER.  This show followed Scrooge McDuck, the richest Duck in the world who was always looking for new ways to increase his wealth, and his three Great-Nephews (the nephews of Donald Duck): Huey, Dewey, and Louie, as well as Scrooge’s housekeeper/nanny Mrs. Beakley and her granddaughter Webigail.  This show was, quite honestly, insane.  The inept burglars the Beagle Boys, the evil Magica de Spell, scatter-brained Gyro Gearloose, the ever-hopeless Launchpad McQuack, and superhero Gizmoduck were just a few of the regulars, who were also joined by ghosts, time-travel machines, dinosaurs, and a host of other crazy scenarios, all made the show completely awesome.  Also, I still love the DuckTales Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp to this day.

TaleSpin:  TaleSpin is a strange case.  Many of the characters are based/inspired by characters from the Jungle Book — Baloo the Bear, Louie the Orangutan, Shere Kahn the Tiger — but they take on new life as a sea plane pilot, bar owner, and business tycoon respectively, and a enormous host of other characters were brought in, include Kit, Baloo’s young assistant, and my personal favorite: the theatrical air pirate Don Karnage.  Baloo flies a cargo plane under the employ of Rebecca Cunningham (a straight-man character if there ever was one), and gets in all sorts of ridiculous trouble.  There was some great music in this one too!

Darkwing Duck This is arguably the best of the bunch (though my brother would say that there is no argument, it’s a simple statement of fact that it is the best).  Darkwing Duck is the Batman-parody-esque hero of St. Canard City, a character with some skill, but very bad luck, and a ego the size of Jupiter.  To make matters more interesting, in the pilot episode Darkwing Duck (whose alter ego is Drake Mallard) adopts a young and spunky (to say the least, some might say “bratty”) girl named Gosalyn.  The show is also a spin-off of DuckTales and features two characters from DuckTales: Launchpad McQuack as Darkwing’s well-meaning but bumbling sidekick, and Gizmoduck as a rival superhero.  This show was brilliant and hilarious, with a gallery of villains the likes of which will never be seen again, including Megavolt: whose main goal is to “liberate” lightbulbs and electrical devices, Quackerjack: a toy maker gone stark-raving mad, and the ultimate villain: Negaduck: an evil version of Darkwing Duck whose enormous ego became twisted in an alternate universe (who has some of the funniest damn lines EVER).

I could seriously go on about almost every show that ever aired on The Disney Afternoon.  The Little Mermaid Series!  Timon and Pumba!  The Aladdin Series!  GARGOYLES!!!  But I’ve probably gone on for too long as it is.  So I’m going to direct to you this page: The Disney Afternoon List, which has the open sequences from (I think) every show that ever aired on The Disney Afternoon, and leave you to enjoy the retro splendor.

(Note: you can click on each picture to go to that show’s wikipedia page.)

So, now it’s your turn to chime in!  What were your favorites from The Disney Afternoon Block?  There are so many to choose from, I know I didn’t get them all!

100th Post Celebration

Science/Fantasy Monday: 100th Post Celebration

This marks my 100th blog post since I began this blog last July! WOOHOO!

I admit that 100 posts doesn’t seem like enough in a little over a year.  But it took me awhile to get the hang of this blogging thing, to find a good rhythm, a routine, a flow I could work with consistently.  And I think I’m starting to get it down now.  But whether its less than it should be or not, 100 posts is still a pretty cool milestone, and I say it’s time to celebrate!

So again: WOOHOO!!!

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with Jensen Ackles. DANCING. Like Michael Jackson. Yeah.  ‘Nuff Said.

But just in case that’s not enough, I’ve also borrowed Annalise Green’s Dancing Calvin & Hobbes:

To further celebrate, I thought I would share one more little tidbit from my WIP Midnight’s Knife, because a few people at least showed some interest last week.  This is a short one, especially compared the first scene I posted a couple months ago.  But I think it’s a fun little scene.  Also, as my current WIP is an Urban Fantasy, I’m telling myself that this post still technically fits into my Science/Fantasy Monday theme.  (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!)

This is a flashback scene.  Therefore, Gabrielle (the MC) who is 20 years old in the story, is younger in the scene.  Also, I am still undecided on how well this scene fits into the overall flow of the story.  I may decide this particular flashback is ultimately unnecessary, in which case, this may be the only time anyone ever sees it.  So, that’s kind of cool, yes?

Anyway, enjoy!

TRAINING SESSION:

Arm block, spin kick, punch to solar plexus, wrist caught by opponent, twist arm, duck under, turn into strangle hold, punch to kidney, grip on arm still tight, open-hand chop to side of neck, grip loosened, fall away, round-house kick to chin, spin kick again.

“Gabrielle!” Pearce yelled from across the room.  “What the hell are you doing?”

Gabrielle froze, and her sparring partner backed away a few steps with an amused smirk.  Looking down at her feet and shuffling nervously, she muttered, “I was just…”

“Don’t ‘I was just…’ me,” Pearce said sternly as he strode up to her.  “What do you call that dance routine?”

“Uh…”

Pearce looked down at her imperiously.  “This is not a martial arts movie.  Or an exhibition match.  This is not about clean fighting, or graceful fighting, or ‘look how cool I am’ fighting.  This is about life or death.”

Gabrielle nodded, embarrassed.  Her sparring partner stood a few feet away, trying not to laugh.  She threw a glare in his direction.  Then Pearce crossed his arms and claimed her attention again.

“How old are you now?” he asked, though he knew the answer.

“Thirteen…” she mumbled.

“In other words, too old for this nonsense.  You could be on the streets hunting demons as early as next year, Gabrielle.  Stop playing around and get your act together.  Get it?”

“Got it,” she said sullenly, her eyes fixed on her feet.

“Good.”  With that Pearce strode away again.

Gabrielle sighed glumly and pulled absent-mindedly at her braid hanging over her shoulder.  Her dark hair was getting long, down past her shoulder blades now, and it was starting to get in the way.  With a frustrated groan, she picked up the end of her braid and tossed it angrily over her shoulder.

“Well, I thought your dance moves were very pretty,” her sparring partner said with a laugh.

She turned to glare at him.  “Oh shut up, Patrick,” she said, and stuck her tongue out at him.

He laughed again.  “And if that braid is getting in the way, I’m sure we could find a pair of pruning shears and take care of that with one snip.”

“Can we get back to sparring now?” Gabrielle demanded.  Patrick grinned and dropped into his fighting stance.

“Of course.”

And just like that, they were back to business.  Patrick Arrow, Pearce’s nephew and the current Sword of the Arrow family, was five years older than Gabrielle and eight inches taller than her.  It was as mismatched a fight as Gabrielle could imagine.  But she was learning quickly.  And she found that with her long legs and quick reflexes she could hold her own against him for short amounts of time.  But eventually his longer arms and superior strength would get the best of her.  When Gabrielle finally end flat on her back with Patrick standing over her, he flashed her a thousand-watt smile, pushed his shaggy dark hair out of his darker eyes, and held a hand out to help her up again.

“You’re getting there,” he said warmly.  Then he added with a teasing grin: “but you’ll never be as good as me.”

There it is, folks.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Please feel free to chime in on the comments.  I can handle criticism, I promise.  And I’ll see you all back here on Bookworm Wednesday!

The Versatile Blogger Award

EDIT: Due to the fact that wordpress had disappeared all the blogs I follow, I had difficulty thinking of blogs I should include.  Since publishing this post this afternoon, I have thought of one more blog that absolutely MUST be added to my list of nominations.  Even if you’ve already read this post, please scroll down to the bottom to take a look.  Thank you.

In lieu of my usual Bookworm Wednesday post, I have some more news.  My blog was very kindly nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Ashley Prince of the blog Byron’s Curse!  Thank you so much, Ashley!  I really appreciate it.

There are four simple rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:

  • Post a link to the person who gave you the award.
  • Tell your readers seven random things about yourself.
  • Award 15 newly discovered blogs.
  • Send them a note letting them know you nominated them.

So here goes: Seven Random Things About Amanda Rudd:

1)     I love to watch cartoons.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jane and the Dragon, and Phineas and Ferb are a few of my favorites.  As well as all the old 90s cartoons like Doug, Darkwing Duck, and Rainbow Brite.  I have never understood the mentality that says after you reach a certain age you should stop enjoying things like Saturday morning cartoons; I think that’s just silly.

2)     I have had the same bookbag since 7th grade (for those of you who can’t figure it out that’s 14 years).  It’s plain green canvas, nothing special.  Where most bookbags fall apart after a year or two, this bookbag has only two small holes after all these years, the zipper still works, and I love it.  I can’t imagine ever using any other bookbag and I will probably get the seams sewn back together before I give in and buy a new one.  However, toward the 2nd half the semester, when I have more books and papers to carry around than I can possibly fit in my bookbag, I also have to cart around a medium-sized duffel bag, which is quite literally filled with library books and student papers by finals week.

3)     I do not drive.  I know how.  But I don’t.  After a car accident when I was 19 yrs old, I’ve been afraid to get behind the wheel of a car.  So I carpool and bum rides off friends wherever go.  Which, unfortunately, means I do not go to as many events, parties, etc. that I would like to, but oh well.

4)     When we were little, my brother and I collected all the beanie babies, but our beanie babies were better because they could sing and they formed a gigantic band under the management of my brother’s Big Bad Wolf doll.  Also, I had a four-post bed that functioned as full-fledged pirate ship, flying carpet, the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC 1701-D… as in from Star Trek, not the aircraft carrier), and an island surrounded by sharks and/or lava.

5)     I really do not like sports; I don’t like playing sports and don’t like watching sports.  With a few exceptions: I enjoy watching figure skating (yes, it’s a sport dammit!), I like watching tennis occasionally, and I LOVE watching motorcycle racing.  I’m a big fan of the FIM (International Federation of Motorcycling) and cheer most loudly for Noriyuki Haga, who has raced for Ducati and now races for Aprilia.  He has finished third in the Superbike Championships four times, and won second place three times, but has NEVER won the championship, and is REALLY starting to frustrate me this season.

6)     My hair is the one physical feature I really like about myself.  I have never dyed it or permed it; I do not blow dry it, and I use A LOT of conditioner.  It is currently more than three and a half feet long, and almost (but not quite) reaches to the back of my knees.  (Also, when I was younger I really wished I had my dad’s blue eyes, but now I really wish I looked more like the Japanese side of my family.)

7)     I have known I wanted (downright NEEDED) to be a writer since I was in fourth grade and read The Hobbit for the first time.  I now keep an index of the all the story ideas/premises I come up with.  There are literally 100 of them now.  And my biggest, deepest fear in life is that I will die before I get to write at least half of them.

Okay, so there’s a few random things about me.  There’s plenty more I could say.  I’m a very eclectic (read: mildly insane) person.  But I think at this point you all know more than enough.

As for nominated 15 blogs for the Versatile Blogger Award… Well, I’m not sure I even follow 15 blogs… So I’ve decided I’ll nominate 10 instead.  Of course, WordPress recently disappeared all the blogs I DO follow from my subscriptions list, so it’s going to take a little effort to find them all again.  But here goes:

My Nominees for the Versatile Blogger Award:

1) Jess Witkin’s The Happiness Project: Jess always has fascinating stories to tell, great “Guilty Pleasures” lists, and she’s one of the sweetest most supportive people on WordPress.

2) Angela Write Now: Angela Kulig is cool, tough, and supportive all at once.  She’s the creator of the #writingatgunpoint Twitter hashtag group, and she’s a fantastic writer to boot!

3) Tiffany A. White’s Ooo Factor: Tiffany writes about anything that makes you go “Ooo!” but her best posts, in my humble opinion, are her absolutely fantastic, spot-on TV show reviews, with one of the best and most creative rating systems out there.

4) Gene Lempp’s Blog: Gene’s weekly series “Designing from Bones” which uses archeology and artifacts from human culture to find and create stories is one of my favorite weekly-reads.  And his blog mash-ups are always full of awesome!

5) Kristen Lamb’s Blog: Kristen needs no help from me to generate traffic or gather avid/obsessive followers.  We are all priests/priestesses before the altar of Kristen, who is the Queen of Social Media and just plain AMAZING.

6) Terrible Minds: The same can be said for Chuck Wendig’s Blog.  His profanity-laced, hilarious, and supremely helpful posts about writing have made him a King among indie writers, and he really does need me to tell him how awesome he is.  But I’ll do it anyway.

7) The Feminine Miss Geek: The quintessential geek blog for GIRLS, this blog written by a group of 3 amazing women reminds us all that geekdom is not just a country for boys.  Plenty of girls are citizens too, and we’re damn proud of it.

8) EduClaytion: Clay’s blog covers just about every facet of pop culture you can think, and he does it flair and a great writing style.  He’s also a fellow academic, which makes me awesome in my book, though he’s ahead of me currently as he already has his PhD.  I’ll catch up eventually though!

9) I Read Banned Books: This blog by a librarian has more book reviews than you can shake a stick at! I’m still fairly new to this blog, but its awesome so far.  And the design of the blog just looks AMAZING.

10) The World in the Satin Bag: This blog by Shaun Duke began as an attempt to write an entire novel online, but it has since moved on to become a fantastic blog about various topics related to science fiction, fantasy, and other literary issues.  Shaun’s articles are always thoughtful, intellectual, and fascinating.  I only found him about a month ago, but I’ve been reading through his archives a LOT.

11) Annalise Green’s Blog: I blame WordPress for almost forgetting to include Annalise’s blog, but I absolutely HAD to come back to include it.  It’s brand-spankin’ new but I already love it! Annalise’s style is light-hearted, witty, and goofy.  Seriously, any blog that includes a page dedicated to her love of monkeys and another page dedicated to hatred of moths HAS to be awesome.

Okay, so admittedly, none of these blogs are all that “newly discovered.”  Some I’ve been following for months.  A few I’ve only discovered in that last two months (so I guess that’s still kind of new).  But they are all awesome, and you should go take a look at them.  Now I have to dash off to inform all these people that I nominated them.

I’ll see you all back here for Free-For-All Friday! Have a great day!