Saturday, October 31, 2015

Personal Digest Saturday: October 24 – October 30

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday I dove into a week of preparation for my Halloween party, because I knew it was going to be my last weekend before the party actually happened. I wanted to use having a party as an excuse to clean my house, so I set about cleaning the office room. My mom came over and helped me clean some of my toys and hung out with me, and we ate macaroni and nothing. I stayed up all night cleaning the office.
  • Sunday I completed the Great Office Cleaning of 2015. Since this is where I spend most of my time, I really like that the office room is so clean now! I also cleaned up the hallway and did some laundry. I also posted a video about demisexual invalidation.
  • On Monday after work I cleaned my bedroom. Thoroughly. Like, even under the bed. And then I redecorated for Halloween. Looks so nice!
  • On Tuesday I cleaned the bathroom, which was the final room to clean. And I started making the food that could be made early, like the cookies that keep for a long time. I made ginger molasses dough for my animal cookies and spent the evening cutting out tiny shapes to bake.
  • Wednesday was Jeaux Day and our restaurant was IHOP, where I had a coupon for a free stack of pancakes. We also watched the latest Gravity Falls (I screamed a lot, I'm afraid), and then after Jeaux left I swept my porch, baked two pumpkin pies, and drew the pencils for my Halloween poster.
  • Thursday morning I got up early so I could do some errands before work. I dropped some stuff off at a clothes donation place and did grocery shopping. Then I came home and did a Skype interview with someone at Convergence magazine who's covering asexual media representation, and afterwards I made my cream cheese pumpkin roll and my autumn leaf cookies. And got my windows washed and some final decorations up. (I wanted to hang shiny spiders from the ceiling.)
  • And Friday I did some last shopping, finished drawing my comic, and made vegan pumpkin brownies, banana muffins, and pumpkin muffins. And colored my Halloween door sign for my party. Huzzah!
    Places featured:
        • Blogger wearmanyhats photographed a copy of my book and declared intent to highlight its text and read it aggressively in front of family.
            Reading progress:

            • Completed reading: Well, as you could see by my week-in-review, I was pretty busy and I decided not to try to cram in reading too. I didn't finish anything this week. Back to it next week!
            • Currently reading: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale.

            New singing performances:

            Here I'm singing "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith.


            New drawings:

            My door sign for the Halloween party featuring a bunch of my favorite cartoons (The Party God and Finn from Adventure Time, Mabel from Gravity Falls, Keef from Invader Zim, Space Ghost from Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Garnet from Steven Universe, and Wakko from Animaniacs):

            Webcomic Negative One Issue 0546: "Pretending to Know."

            New videos:

            Letters to an Asexual #30 is here, dealing with demisexual invalidation and other forms of the same.


            New photos:  

            I didn't take any pictures except some snapshots of my cookie-baking, so I won't post that here.

            Social media counts: 

            YouTube subscribers: 5,172 for swankivy (14 new this week), 521 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 698 for swankivy (1 new), 1,179 for JulieSondra (2 new). Facebook: 287 friends (no change) and 183 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 620 likes for JulieSondra (2 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 111 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,212 (5 new).

            Thursday, October 29, 2015

            A History of Halloween: Or, That Time I Was Almost Dracula

            Halloween was always a big deal in our house when I was a kid, because our mom went all out on our costumes. October would bring huge lists of characters we wanted to be, narrowed down through a painful process based on practicality. Awesome candy packages were always given out at our house, and every year we went trick-or-treating.

            One time when I was in third grade my mom pointed out that I'd never been anything scary for Halloween, which was weird because that was what Halloween was about, wasn't it? I'd been a Smurf, an angel, a princess, a ballerina . . . but never anything actually scary.

            Sister P went as a witch.
            Sister L was a gymnast.
            So we decided, for some reason, that for my first ever "scary" costume, I was going to be Dracula.
            My mother went all out to sew this beautiful cape with a shiny inner red lining, and she went through no small amount of effort and time to get the stiff collar to stand up. But when Halloween came and I donned the cape and slicked my hair back, I looked in the mirror and scared the piss out of myself, and wouldn't stop crying and refused to wear the costume.

            Mom was understandably upset with me, especially since I refused to wear the costume but still wanted to go out trick-or-treating with my sisters. She was presented with the problem of a costume to dress me in with absolutely no notice. Out she came carrying a pillowcase and some safety pins.

            "What's that for?" I asked.

            "Your costume," she said. "You're going to be a baby."

            So my mom made a makeshift giant diaper for me out of the pillowcase, put me in a leotard, and handed me one of my sister's old bottles as a prop. Believe it or not, despite being well aware that she was doing this to send me a message about my behavior, I was too relieved that I didn't have to be Dracula to give a rat's ass.

            And since then the scariest thing I've been for Halloween was perhaps when Mikey and I did Jay and Silent Bob in 2007.

            Er, and dressing as a Catholic schoolgirl in 2010 was actually pretty horrifying.

            But yeah, no zombies. No monsters. No skeletons. No ghosts. Fairies and elves and cartoon characters and pretty superheroes ever since.

            Seventh grade: I was a valley girl.
            Sister P was an old lady and sister L was a devil.
            Ninth grade: Joke costume. I told everyone I was going as a white girl.
            And then I wore all white.
            That's my friend Emily the Grim Reaper.

            Dot from Animaniacs!
            I think this was 1995.

            In 1997, I went to college in this outfit on Halloween.
            I was Electra, a comic book character my friend had made up.
            First and only Halloween party at a bar, in 1998, dressed as a pixie.
            College friends, 1999! I'm a fairy of some kind.
            Another fairy costume, 2003.
            Dressed as Galadriel, in 2005.
            2006 looks like this. I'll be damned if I know what it was supposed to be.
            2008 included several fairies!
            I was some sort of Renaissance chick in 2009.
            Renaissance again in 2011.
            In 2012 I was a ballerina.
            In 2013 I was an utter dork and dressed as one of my own book characters.
            In 2014 I inexplicably did not have a party but I wore a witch hat to work.

            I'm just not scary, guys. Even as a witch I have pigtails.

            Wednesday, October 28, 2015

            Wednesday Factoid: Sad

            Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Where do you go when you're sad?

            I don't have a specific place to go when I'm sad. It depends on what kind of sad I am. If something horrible has happened and I just need to digest it, I'm probably going to go to my bed, hug a pillow, and sleep.

            If I'm sad about something and I want to talk to people about it, I call my best friend or my mom, or I write essays about it on Facebook or Tumblr.

            And if it's the kind of sad I want to be distracted from, I go shopping. (Sometimes with family or friends.) That doesn't happen very often, but for some reason just being out somewhere without anything in particular in mind to buy is helpful. I might buy clothes or food or both. 

            Most of the time that I'm sad, it's because of someone else's problems. So more often than not, my way of dealing with the sadness involves helping them, and that means they affect where I am when this happens. But for sadness that's just mine, the above rambles apply. :)

            Monday, October 26, 2015

            Next book on the horizon

            I think I've decided to start writing my next book after my Halloween party this year.

            I'm making no promises about starting immediately on Sunday or anything (although I might), but I really want to start writing this. It is not going to be a NaNo novel. It is not going to be a thing I rush to get done at all costs, though if I write at my usual pace it'll come out pretty damn fast. I have a vague goal of finishing it by the end of the year, but I'm not going to sacrifice quality if I just can't do it.

            Stuff I know about the book so far:
            • It is a contemporary YA book with very slight magical realism flavor.
            • The protagonist's name is Megan.
            • Megan is asexual and homoromantic. She doesn't know that at the beginning of the book.
            • Megan is a very serious artist. She likes to draw cities and buildings and inanimate objects, and prefers to draw in ink.
            • Megan is a senior in high school.
            • She is trying to get into art school based on the enthusiastic reception of some of her drawings at a show.
            • Megan lives with her older sister Dyane.
            • Megan is on the tall side of average, heavyset and curvy, half Hispanic/half white, and has brown hair and brown eyes. She doesn't have much hair actually--it's buzzed to peach fuzz. She has pierced ears and a pierced nose.
            Dollmaker utilities only have one body type usually. Bah.
            • Megan sits behind a boy named Brady in homeroom. Brady is important.
            • Brady is attracted to Megan. Megan is not attracted to him.
            • Megan doesn't talk very much and is externally kind of intimidating. That's on purpose.
            • Megan's sister Dyane is an aspiring actress and has a serious boyfriend. Megan has a loving but sort of disconnected relationship with her sister.
            • Megan had some very bad experiences with boys when she was in middle school because she hit puberty early. When she learns about asexuality, she struggles to decide whether it describes her or whether her bad experiences explain her lack of interest.
            • Megan joins a GSA during the course of the book and dates a girl for some of the time in the book.
            • Megan's drawings operate on specific rules and go in a certain order that she feels conflicted about breaking when she's called to diversify her portfolio.
            • Megan sees a school counselor about several things in the book. The counselor is a man, and he's not useless.
            • Even though Megan learns she is an ace lesbian in the book, her most important relationship in the story is a friendship.

            Stuff I don't know yet:
            • A title. But for now I'm tagging my posts "ace of arts" because that's funny.
            • What the deal is with Megan's parents.
            • Megan's last name.
            • The exact circumstances of her crisis with getting into art school. 
            • Megan's girlfriend's name and what her "deal" is, except in my head she's kind of a jerk and probably has cool hair that's at least two colors.
            • How exactly Megan's voice will come off in the book.
            • How exactly the sorta-magical-realism bit will go, though I suspect it will feel a little like lucid dreaming.
            I'm excited to get started, but also worried it will fall on its face and just turn into a ramble-fest that eclipses the plot.

            So, you know, the same thing I feel before starting every book. ;)

            Saturday, October 24, 2015

            Personal Digest Saturday: October 17 – October 23

            Life news this week: 
            • Saturday was Drink and Draw! What a fun time. I got a ride in with a different group but met Eric there, and we all doodled all night. Eric drew three pictures!
            • And for the record Drink and Draw is full of nerds who speak my language, and that's refreshing. At one point there were like seven of us having a conversation about Steven Universe which everyone loves. What's funny is I'd considered bringing my copy of the new tie-in book in case anyone wanted to see it, then figured nah, and someone else had brought the same book. (I brought the new comic, and people enjoyed looking at it.) My friend Joy's drawing of the night was a picture of one of the characters. :)
            • Sunday I participated in Pieces of Ace, an asexuality video podcast. It was informal and full of goofiness. I also got to knock out a bunch of editing on my mentee's book.
            • Monday I didn't do much but work and edit, and fell asleep on my office floor. Tuesday involved Mom coming over and helping me clean the kitchen! It was a pretty thorough cleaning. I even dusted the stuff on the high shelves and mopped down the floor.
            • Wednesday was Jeaux Day and our restaurant was Chili's. We also listened to the latest Night Vale and talked about cartoons a lot. (Surprise.)
            • Thursday I finished edits for Lynn and sent her my commentary. And Friday I did some webcomics and relaxing.
              Places featured:
                  Reading progress:

                  • Completed reading: Nothing except Lynn's draft manuscript.
                  • Currently reading: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale.

                  New singing performances:

                  Here I'm singing "Journey to the Past" from Anastasia.


                  New drawings:

                  Webcomic Negative One Issue 0545: "Not Simple."

                  Webcomic So You Write Issue 53: "Everybody Can Relate."

                  New videos:

                  "Pieces of Ace: What was the cake you spread on your face?": Pieces of Ace had me on to talk about asexuality.


                  New photos:  

                  Joy with her drawing of Amethyst.
                  Eric with his drawing of Batgirl.
                  Eric with his drawing of Randy Savage.
                  Eric and me chilling at Drink and Draw.
                  Me with the pumpkin heads poster at Drink and Draw.
                  Me with Tommy, the tallest person at Drink and Draw.
                  And here's me when my Night Vale book came in!

                  Social media counts: 

                  YouTube subscribers: 5,158 for swankivy (27 new this week), 518 for JulieSondra (6 new). Twitter followers: 697 for swankivy (9 new), 1,177 for JulieSondra (1 new). Facebook: 287 friends (no change) and 182 followers (no change) for swankivy, 618 likes for JulieSondra (4 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 111 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 2,207 (22 new).

                  Friday, October 23, 2015

                  Asexual Awareness Week

                  If you weren't already aware, this week is Asexual Awareness Week.

                  I haven't really done anything special this week. In previous years, I usually got folks reaching out to me to interview me or ask me questions, and I usually created content. I'm just kinda quiet this year, though I did participate in one super informal hangout for asexual visibility.

                  Mostly, this year, what I've run into is nastiness.

                  One person published a gross article called "American and Sexless: And this is a good thing?" in which he mocked a definition of asexuality he'd pulled out of his butt and threw in enough ridiculous ideas that he could get away with calling it satire. (Obviously, the "but it's satire!!" defense doesn't work so well when you're literally repeating the stuff people do actually say about us all the time, to an audience that does not have context to understand why it's a misrepresentation.) And another person had one of my fellow ace activists on a podcast only to say gross intolerant things about demisexuality couched in gaslighting to suggest his guest should be open to disrespectful, abusive treatment in the name of being willing to engage with people who disagree.

                  It's a really low blow to create or promote aggressively anti-asexual work during somebody's awareness week, by the way. Even if you're ignoring it or dismissing it the other 51 weeks of the year, the least you could do is just listen.

                  I'm hoping these folks will eventually realize the damage they're doing, and realize that they literally have to make a special effort to do this damage . . . while just shutting up and leaving us alone takes no effort at all. If you do not understand, listen. If you do not find it relevant to your life, fine, ignore us. But it is a complete dick move to go out of your way to silence us. To create work that exists to represent us as ridiculous to your audience--and without even actually looking into what asexuality is. Like, they didn't even do the research. Both of the above examples latched onto sexual activity as some defining factor in whether someone's asexual and reduced our sexuality to "not getting laid." Both laughed about why someone in our shoes needs a movement. Both implied or outright stated that the proper emotion one should feel in our shoes is shame. And both did it from a personal place of interpreting our existence as an attack on theirs; both creators value promiscuity and want to celebrate its place in their sexuality, and they don't seem to get that we are not against that, nor are we the opposite of it.

                  Happily, there's certainly been some nice stuff going around on Tumblr. And AVEN has an interesting master list of projects.

                  Here's my guide on how to be an asexual ally.
                  And here's Why You Should Care (by Sciatrix). 

                  I wrote this this week: Young Aces Coming Out.

                  I've said a bunch of stuff before. I didn't feel like saying a whole lot of new stuff now. I'm watching what gets said. Contributing where I'm asked. 

                  I've learned so much from listening. A while back, a media group asked if they could use something I wrote a long time ago for reprinting on their site. I read through it and immediately saw half a dozen things I wouldn't say the same way now and wouldn't want associated with my current message. Some of it was language-related. More of it was concept-related. I spent a decent amount of the article taking potshots at the condescending comments I was always getting, contradicting them for myself without taking care to point out important nuances. For instance, my response to comments like "you must be mentally ill" or "you must be traumatized from abuse" or "you're too ugly to get sexual offers" mostly sounded like "no I'm not!" But there are mentally ill, abuse-surviving, and less normatively attractive asexual people, and they aren't less asexual because of those things. Part of the reason I didn't know to discuss those intersections was that at first I didn't know any asexual people and I was just talking about myself, and part of the reason I didn't discuss them was that I thought those experiences might actually contribute to using asexuality as a cover. I didn't know anything about the reality.

                  Then I listened. I came into contact with the rest of the community. I learned and I changed my message, and I'm irritated at my former self for not realizing earlier that asexuality is far more complicated for some people than it ever was for me.

                  I want the people being gross in the media to stop what they're doing, stop harming people, learn something, and retract their harmful comments. But I also want them to go through what I went through: a learning experience that made me a better person. Because even though it was hard to realize some of my messages could be poisonous without my having intended them to be, I love the effect of that realization. Being able to help and connect with more people. To understand them. To have them feel understood. To know how wide the world is, even inside my little community.

                  I expect that I'll be learning for years to come. I hope the learning curve isn't so steep that I end up wishing I could retcon everything I've said up to this point, but I fully expect that more nuances will appear that I'm unaware of now. I'm here for the long haul and still listening.

                  Sometimes that means you have to spend some time shutting up.

                  Wednesday, October 21, 2015

                  Wednesday Factoid: Laughter

                  Today's Wednesday Factoid is: When was the last time you laughed so hard your stomach hurt?

                  This is actually an easy question because it was pretty recently and I remember exactly what it was.

                  But I'm not telling you.

                  I'm basically embarrassed to admit what I was laughing at, but I will say it was just a dumb YouTube video and I made myself sick laughing at it. It was something that should not have been as funny as it was and it was incredibly pointless throughout. Mostly it involved editing videos to make it look like cartoon characters were saying and doing inappropriate things. I just lost my brain and turned into a mess.

                  Me when I cry from laughing

                  Monday, October 19, 2015

                  Authentic Redemption

                  In real life, seeking forgiveness is rarely simple, and it is rarely granted all at once. If you do something wrong, you might never be forgiven, or it might take a while to prove yourself to the person you wronged, and things might still never be the same again.

                  But in fiction--especially fiction written for children or younger readers--redemption often happens simply, in uncomplicated ways, and it's often not very satisfying or realistic for that reason. Furthermore, some people learn from fiction that forgiveness should be simple, and that it is something you can buy back from the person you wronged with easy, transaction-like offerings.

                  How many times have we seen representations of guys buying their wives flowers or chocolate to make up for whatever they did wrong but never actually addressing the underlying problems that caused them to make those mistakes? A peace offering can be a nice start. But it shouldn't be what makes the wronged party throw their arms around you and state that all is forgiven.

                  Recently, in The Cartoon That Shall Not Be Named Because I Talk About It Too Much, the storyline has been focusing on redeeming a long-time villain, sort of. (I'm planning to ramble about this on Tumblr pretty soon, but for the purposes of this blog, I'm just going to discuss what's relevant to the topic I'm covering here.) I mention this because--as usual--they're doing everything right. And I've been thinking about how incredible that is.

                  I've read so many kids' books where "I'm sorry" is enough--and where saving someone from danger or doing a favor for them or literally giving them a gift is enough to make up for lying to them, cheating them, hurting them, or insulting them. But these uncomplicated presentations don't tell you that "I'm sorry" is just a beginning. It's not the whole ticket to redemption.

                  "I'm sorry" means you recognize what you did wrong and that you on some level wish you had not done it. It does not mean you undo what you did, and it does not mean the person who was victimized is no longer suffering because of you. Intent is not everything. Especially when what you've done was not an accident.

                  Authentic redemption can occur in a story when someone not only apologizes, but tries to mend the damage AND proves through continued action and attitude that they have learned their lesson.

                  Right now, in my cartoon example, we have a villain who literally tried to kill the heroes multiple times, and now she's working with them only because she has no choice; the world is literally going to end and take her with it if she doesn't cooperate. The writers are really taking their time with this one--as well they should--because earning trust after immense transgressions should not be easy. But it's not just that these characters were on opposite sides of a war and were just doing their jobs. This character has gone on to commit very personal transgressions. This villain was raised in a different culture and has extremely poisonous beliefs. So far, she has unlearned very little, and most of her attempts at collaboration have been self-serving. The protagonist of the show is a little kid and his understanding of the situation is mostly just YAY SHE'S ON OUR SIDE NOW, LET'S BE NICE!--but the adults are not buying this.

                  And it's honestly a relief and a delight to see.

                  Children's media so often pushes an incomplex "always choose forgiveness" model. The "good" characters always trust so quickly and are usually rewarded for it. Holding onto suspicion and resentment is a negative character trait. Don't you know? You have to be pure of heart! But in real life, when someone continues to demonstrate that they can and will hurt you, it's smart not to trust them. And you shouldn't be demonized for refusing to forgive or trust someone who has abused you, no matter how sorry they say they are. Forgiveness is granted, not purchased.

                  This television show has actually covered this subject before--but between two of the heroes when one of them betrayed the other in a very personal way for a very selfish reason. The show devoted four more episodes to the fallout of the betrayal and the effect it had on the other characters. And as the plot called out for resolution between them, they had this dialogue:

                  "How can I make you forgive me?"
                  "You can't! You lied to me! You need to learn that there are consequences to your actions."
                  "I'm sorry! I couldn't help myself."
                  "I don't wanna hear your excuses."

                  By the end of this, the character who'd done wrong understood that earning trust again would be a process. They didn't just hug it out and go back to where they were, but they did acknowledge that now they would be moving forward. This is also built on a shared history where they have been allies for (literally) millennia, so that's part of the reason they know their rift can be mended and part of the reason why it was so devastating in the first place.

                  But now there's an antagonist-turned-reluctant-ally in the mix, and her only history with our heroes is a murderous one. During the course of working together to make it so the Earth does not literally explode, this character has more or less won over a naïve child, attempted to establish dominance fueled by something akin to racism in their universe, and attempted to kiss up to the character she thinks should be in charge. None of these attempts is going well. This antagonist is being tolerated. (And sometimes they just up and tie her to a fence like a dog if she gets out of line, so there's that.)

                  In the most recent episode of the show, this antagonist character delivers a massive insult to one of the heroes, and then spontaneously saves her from potential injury or death. The way she executed the rescue also put her in danger. And guess what?

                  She wasn't forgiven for the insult. The hero character she saved did not suddenly become grateful and chummy. She was still very angry.

                  The ice melted a little after an extremely awkward apology that acknowledged the wrongdoing and established a desire to be better. The character who'd been wronged even said "thanks." But not "I forgive you" or "I trust you." She accepted the apology in a heartfelt way and then just walked away.

                  That's how it's done, folks.

                  Being sorry isn't the endgame. It's a beginning.

                  When we write characters, we have to incorporate gray areas and messy relationships. If someone steals from you, the damage is not undone if the person returns your item. It's not undone if they give you two of the item. It's not undone if they steal and lose your item but say they're sorry. It's generally not about the stolen item. It's that the person has become someone who steals from you. Resolution can never be as simple as giving back the item. Not when theft removes trust as well.

                  Forgiveness has to be offered by the person who was wronged, not negotiated for by the person who chose to violate someone else. People--and characters you write--will have different terms for what it takes to earn their trust back. Some will take an apology at face value and flip a switch. Most will not. It's writing these sometimes awkward, sometimes chilly, sometimes heart-wrenching relationships that makes audiences get so invested in characters. We WANT to see them resolve. We WANT to see them getting along and know how much stronger they are for having been through this stuff together. but it will not be realistic or satisfying if big violations are resolved with one stroke, any more than a significant tear in a blanket can be mended with a single stitch.


                  Saturday, October 17, 2015

                  Personal Digest Saturday: October 10 – October 16

                  Life news this week: 
                  • Saturday was my friend Victor's surprise party at my house! His girlfriend Tia ordered pizza and accompaniments and a cake that I'd picked up at the local store, and I invited his friends. We all hung out and chatted about nerdy things and watched him open presents. I think he had a good time.
                  • Sunday I did laundry and talked to my sister, and I made a new video about how to decide what to put on your acknowledgments page.
                  • Monday I was supposed to hang out with Mom but she was tired after my sister and her husband came over to pick up their dog so we didn't hang out. I answered e-mail and finished a book review for the book club book.
                  • Tuesday was my paperback's release day! The sales have been really good surrounding the new format. My dad was in town so he took me to dinner at Best NY Pizza. After he left I did some more work with my mentee's book and put captions on my video.
                  • Wednesday was Jeaux Day and it involved IHOP and watching the new Gravity Falls episode at my house. And we shopped at the comic book store. Oh, and at work I put a bunch of proposals from before I worked at the office into the recycler to make room for more filing. It's amazing how old some of the stuff we keep is.
                  • Thursday I went to book club, where the book was The Hound of the Baskervilles. I didn't much care for the book but it wasn't terrible. We had a nice discussion and dinner at Burger 21. And then I went to Jeaux's house to watch the new episode of Steven Universe. I think it is the last one for a while and I'm like NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. What will I do with myself? Perhaps I can write a book or something.
                  • Friday I had to do webcomic stuff and had my mom over. She brought me food from one of our favorite restaurants. So for those of you doing the math, I had restaurant food on Saturday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. That's ridic.
                    Places featured:
                        Reading progress:

                        New singing performances:

                        Here I'm singing "Stars" from Les Misérables.


                        New drawings:

                        Webcomic Negative One Issue 0544: "Girls Only."

                        New videos:

                        "The Acknowledgments Page": A guide to who you should think about thanking.

                        New photos:  

                        Nerds at Victor's party! Rachael, Michael, Tia, and Victor.
                        Nerds discussing superhero fights. Rachael and Michael, Victor, Jeaux, and my feet.
                        Victor with all his presents.

                        And now it's time for the old monthly haircut comparison photo, too.

                        Front, February 2014
                        Front, October 2015
                        Back, February 2014
                        Back, October 2015

                        Social media counts: 

                        YouTube subscribers: 5,131 for swankivy (19 new this week), 512 for JulieSondra (no change). Twitter followers: 688 for swankivy (1 new), 1,176 for JulieSondra (1 new). Facebook: 287 friends (no change) and 182 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 614 likes for JulieSondra (lost 1), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 110 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,185 (11 new).

                        Friday, October 16, 2015

                        Lucky and grateful

                        Recently Facebook reminded me of a friend's birthday--a friend I haven't talked to in a while. I was trying to think of the last time I talked to him when I got the notification that it was his birthday.

                        And then I realized oh, right. The last time we really exchanged any words was when he was borrowing money from me.

                        A pretty significant amount of money. Like a couple years ago I think. I forgot about it. He never paid me back and never talked about it again.

                        I am incredibly lucky that I am in a position where I can throw money at people and forget about it and not notice a difference.

                        A couple other people owe me money right now. I know both of them will pay me back. But I've done this before. I've spent money on people, paid for things for people, or given people money for things listening to them promising me they'll pay me back and not really caring if it's true. Most of the time, unless it's completely understood between the two of us that it is indeed a loan, I don't expect to see it again.

                        I'm not a rich person, but I'm in a good situation that doesn't seem to be in danger of exploding on me, and if anything it's getting better all the time. I also have safety nets. If I got in trouble, there are several people I could ask to help me. Most of the people I've helped don't have safety nets.

                        I hope I will continue to be in a position to lend people money and forget that I did. Not only because I don't take being comfortable for granted, but because I'm so grateful to be able to be someone else's safety net without risking my own fastening pins. When I was in college and poor all the time I told myself I'd be a charity contributor and always be there for my friends if they needed someone to bail them out, and I'm pleased to find that I did become that person. I know it's not just the result of my choices. It's luck and it's privilege, and only some of it is what I've earned.

                        But I'm not going to waste it. 

                        Wednesday, October 14, 2015

                        Wednesday Factoid: Favorite Book Series

                        Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What is your favorite book series?

                        Wow, that's gonna be hard to answer. I really like Animorphs and Artemis Fowl and His Dark Materials and A Series of Unfortunate Events and Vinge's Cat series and Young Wizards, but I think I'm going to go with Shannon Hale's Books of Bayern.

                        Every one of these books is a treasure, each focusing on a different character in an interconnected plot. Shannon Hale always does such a great job inventing characters who remain at the heart of their stories even if they're caught up in an epic plot, and she's excellent at showing what it's like to be dealing with the personal aspects of what epic plots do to you. I've really enjoyed nearly every book this author has written, but these would be my favorites of hers. The worldbuilding is also really incredible, with such unusual ideas executed in such unique ways.

                        I want everyone to love these books. :) 

                        Monday, October 12, 2015

                        When they screw up

                        There are lots of articles out there on what you should do if you screw up. Most of them involve instructions on the basics: stop doing the thing, and apologize (authentically) for doing the thing. But what is your role in this business if someone you admire screws up?

                        I've wondered about that because now and then authors I like screw up on social media and it kinda breaks my heart.

                        Your first instinct is to defend. Someone you like--someone who created something you might have loved--has sinned. Don't they deserve forgiveness? Don't they deserve gentle correction instead of the pile-on they're experiencing? Isn't it also important what they've done well? Can't we emphasize that?

                        Well, the answer is no. Now is not the time to emphasize that.

                        It is the responsibility of the person who screwed up to try to make right, and the way they do so is going to tell you a lot about the kind of person they are. The way you act is your own biz, and I urge you to carefully consider what you're getting into--and what it says about you--if you defend someone's terrible behavior just because you like their work.

                        Here is a list of stuff to keep in mind when this happens.
                        1. Liking someone's work if they have behaved in an unacceptable way does not make you guilty by association.
                        2. Liking someone's work even if it has problematic aspects does not require you to find a way to excuse those aspects before you are "allowed" to like the work as a whole without being a bad person.
                        3. You can and should accept that your heroes can believe bad things and can be spreading terrible messages. If they do this, you are not required to abandon them as one of your favorite content creators.
                        4. You can and should be able to be critical about your heroes. You can and should be able to agree with those who are calling them out, and if you have something to say on the matter, you may even want to join them in echoing the callout.
                        5. If the creator (and perpetrator of the bad message) is worth respecting, they will learn from this experience, not judge critics as bullies and dig their heels in while doubling down on a bad message. You are in the same boat.
                        6. It is actually okay to decide you no longer want to support someone who believes/says those things. It may lead you to look at their older work in a larger context and like it less. It may not. Both responses are okay.
                        7. You cannot completely separate a creator from their creation. If someone believes racist things, they are likely spreading racist messages even if they don't mean to, and you may not have noticed it if you weren't looking for it or aren't sensitive to those messages because of your background. It IS important.
                        8. You should look at the actual statements the person made. And you should look at several criticisms of the statement the person made to try to understand why there's a problem if you don't immediately see why. You don't have to agree with the criticism, but you should definitely listen to it before you try to defend.
                        9. If someone you like is getting dragged and your knee-jerk reaction is to assume they don't deserve it, please do not announce that the real problem is the PC agenda, oversensitivity, or people looking to be offended. You must understand that the outrage is real, even if you can't feel it. Chances are the person who Said the Thing doesn't understand why it makes people upset either, and judging the group as hysterical, unreasonable, overreacting, or guilty of mob-mentality witch hunting is not going to stop this from happening next time.
                        10. It is possible for someone to have worthwhile messages to contribute while having absolutely no business speaking on certain issues. It is possible for an author to say wonderful things about racism while being tone-deaf to the sexism in their work. It is possible for an author to spread great messages of religious tolerance and support while supporting hateful erasure and discrimination toward disabled people. Intersectionality is a thing and if someone is wrong or ignorant about one thing, it is not appropriate to say we need to ignore their ignorance because they're doing it right on another axis.
                        I am not going to name names here, but keeping all this in mind, this is how I've reacted to bad behavior committed by some of my favorite authors. When an author I enjoyed said a casually racist thing in a very public context, I observed his sincere apology and decided I could still read and support his work, but I remain baffled by his poor judgment and certainly wouldn't defend it. When an author whose work I was just getting into said something really tone-deaf about women, I decided it was gross (and explained a lot) but that it wasn't egregious enough that I wanted to disown him from my library or stop reading his books. And when an author made some terribly ignorant, strongly worded statements about the lack of need for diversity in books because we already have all we need and pushing diversified characters is an unnecessary agenda, I observed her unrepentant reframing of the situation and her protest that she can't be wrong because she has diverse characters too, and I quietly removed several of her books from my wish list. If she thinks the book world is fine the way it is and refuses to listen to the people who don't feel represented, I'm sad about it, but I don't want to invite more of her world view into my brain.

                        I absolutely agreed that all of these people did bad things. They left a terrible taste in my mouth after I enjoyed their work and had no idea they thought like this. The way they react to being called out has a lot to do with whether I want to continue to see their writing. I'm okay with ignorance, especially when the ignorant party acknowledges their ignorance and says they're working on it. I'm okay with mistakes, especially when the mistake-maker draws more attention to themselves by saying "I did this, it was terrible that I did this, I apologize in a heartfelt manner and I have learned from this." I'm not okay with buying more books by an author who repeatedly declares that other authors' voices and other readers' needs are irrelevant.

                        And for the record, analyzing and acknowledging problematic aspects of work you like can actually make it more enjoyable. You do not need to defend the parts that are awful (regardless of how intentional or egregious those parts are) to enjoy the rest of the work or the work as a whole. You also do not need to agree with the public outrage to respect that people have a reason to express said outrage. And if you still want to support someone who's done something bad, that does not require you to defend what they did wrong, nor should you diminish its importance or point at people who are doing worse things.

                        Look at what the person did and ask yourself, "Do I want to pay this person to talk to me? Will the fact that they believe this infect the other messages they're sending me? If I was part of the group they're insulting with this message, would I find it less acceptable?" And it's okay to be conflicted about it. Like I said, it can be heartbreaking when one of your idols turns out to believe and say horrible things. Your actions regarding how you react to their work post screw-up are up to you, but don't make the mistake of considering these controversies irrelevant. We do shape the literary world by reacting passionately (for better or for worse) to messages that inspire strong feelings. You should not dismiss or scoff at the importance of these explosions just because you think they don't really affect you.

                        Chances are, if you think they aren't relevant to you--if you won't learn from others' mistakes--then they could be you one day.

                        Saturday, October 10, 2015

                        Personal Digest Saturday: October 3 – October 9

                        Life news this week: 
                        • To get a jump on Halloween party preparation, I decided first I should clean my house so I'm not scrambling to do it closer to the actual event. I spent Saturday and Sunday cleaning the living room and dining area. It looks so great! But dusting all those books is hard.
                        • And I got to talk to Jessie while putting up new decorations on Saturday, so that was lovely! So great to catch up with her on the phone.
                        • Tuesday at Mom's was a little party, almost, because my sister Lindsay and brother-in-law Mike were in town. We went out to dinner at Bonefish Grill and hung out at Mom's afterwards playing Cards Against Humanity. (My mom kept laughing and saying it was a dirty game. Yep!) L brought her dogs Toki and Chewy. They were . . . the usual.
                        • Wednesday morning Mommy cooked us a big breakfast. It was nice because I had a big day at the office that day and the breakfast helped me get through it with some energy. I got out of work late and Jeaux Day started way later than it was supposed to! But we still went to Panera and hung out at my house.
                        • Thursday was another long day at work but we got our proposal in so that's great. And I met up with Jeaux for cartoons afterwards. New Steven Universe episode, woohoo.
                        • I am trying a new sandwich this week. It's pretty good. I'm eating fake bacon on a roll with mayo and avocado. This particular "bacon" smells weird when you cook it.
                        New reviews of my book:
                            Places featured:
                                Reading progress:

                                • Completed reading: Steven Universe: Volume One by Rebecca Sugar, Jeremy Sorese, and Coleman Engle. Four-star review.
                                • Currently reading: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

                                New singing performances:

                                Here I'm singing "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and the Papas.


                                New drawings:

                                Webcomic Negative One Issue 0543: "No Such Thing For Us."

                                New videos:


                                New photos:  

                                Mike and Lindsay enjoying the hookah.

                                Mom's glasses broke so she used a magnifying glass to play Cards Against Humanity with us.
                                My paperback stack.

                                Social media counts: 

                                YouTube subscribers: 5,112 for swankivy (15 new this week), 512 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 687 for swankivy (3 new), 1,175 for JulieSondra (lost 8--people keep following for spam reasons and then dropping out). Facebook: 287 friends (no change) and 181 followers (lost 1) for swankivy, 615 likes for JulieSondra (3 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 110 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,174 (8 new).