Sunday Brunch: Thoughts on Community

Suunday Brunch

Once I month, I write a column called Sunday Brunch at Modern Creative Life. Going forward, I’ll be doing weekly Sunday Brunch posts here, as well.

It’s day twenty-seven of the Dog Days of Podcasting, an annual event where twenty or thirty people attempt to post a podcast episode every day for thirty or so days. Originally founded by Kreg Steppe, it was his attempt to get back to the old-school days of podcasting, when it was very much an indie – even underground – hobby, and shows weren’t as slick and commercial as they are now.

I was not involved in that first year. And I wasn’t invited into the project by Kreg, because I didn’t know him. In fact, at the time, I barely listened to podcasts at all, though I remember attempting to – unsuccessfully – several years before.

In any case, this is my fifth year with the project – challenge – whatever. But it’s only my third year truly participating in the community that has coalesced around the challenge.

And that’s what I want to talk about in this piece.

Community.

We all have several communities that we interact with during our lives. When we’re very young, we have the community of our family and immediate friends. For me, that community extends to people who aren’t biological relations, but who have been in my life, my family’s life, since before I was born. Helen, Robert, Tess, Cheryl, and Alisa you represent the core of that group. I don’t tell you enough – maybe not ever – but I love you all.

As we get older, we have the community of our school friends. Sometimes that community is an extension of the first, but for me, it really wasn’t, and honestly, I haven’t kept in touch with most of my friends from school – from any of the schools I attended (there were many) – but Jennifer from USF,  Geoff, Joy, Juliette, and Robert from Fresno, and Toby from Modesto – even if we don’t talk a lot, even when we don’t agree on everything – I’m glad to have the contact we do.

Our lives often go in directions we never expected. Our interests develop, fall away, change, and grow. In my early twenties, I started playing online roleplaying games – MUSHes – and found a new community among other players. Some of them I only know online. Many I’ve met in person, shared meals with, cried with, laughed with, and hugged (but never enough). I met my husband that way – in fact, I can legitimately say I met Fuzzy on another planet, since we met on a Pern MUSH (but not the PernMUSH).  But Elana, Jeremy, Clay, Veronica, Julia, and Victoria are all in my life because of that kind of gaming.

More recently, I’ve found another game-related community in the Klingon Marauders fleet on Star Trek: Timelines. I’m using their handles because while I know some of their real names, I don’t know them all, but Stones, O Captain, Deli, Rowden, Admiral Scarborough, Khalessi, Videm, Grease Monkey, Q, McCracken, and the much-missed Worf – I don’t think any of you realize how much you mean to me.

Communities come in various forms. I’ve had church communities and choir communities, and a community of fellow improvisers. I have a small community of writing friends – Debra, Becca, and Roxanne among them and I have a group of friends that began as fans of an epic fanfiction series I’m still writing, and have become close friends, advisors, and even, when needed, a sort of Brain Trust: Berkley, Elizabeth, Caroline, Clariel, Fran, Hannah, Karla, and Selena you have been my supporters, my cheerleaders, and my friends, and I’m grateful for all of you.

Sometimes, communities overlap. Clay introduced me to Tabz, and through her podcast dramas in the Buffyverse, I met Kim, Heidi, Robin, Crystal, Brian, Jancis, Mark, and Nuchtchas. (Yes, O Encaffeinated One, we met through Tabz before I was part of DDOP). It was Nuchtchas (and Tabz, but somehow, I remember it being more Nuchtchas) who invited me into the Dog Days of Podcasting, who gave me pointers, and encouraged me until I’d figured out what I wanted BathtubMermaid to be. (I’m happy with the content now.)

Clay and Brian, on the other hand, introduced me to Sage, and it’s through her that I got to know Jancis better, and actually interacted with Kymm (that’s Kymm with a Y) whom I’d been crossing paths with for years doing Holidailies.

And then there’s the Dog Days Peeps. I can’t name any of you without wanting to list all of you, but Kreg and Chuck have been incredibly welcoming since Day One, so they get special shout-outs. You’ve never made me feel stupid for not knowing how stuff worked, or unwelcome because I wasn’t an original member of your circle. Thank you for that. And Jay, thank you for coming to play in my sandbox.

As is the nature of living organisms, Communities ebb and flow. Sometimes you’ll have intense relationships with only a few members of a community and more casual ones with the rest. Sometimes you’ll feel like there are people who don’t ‘get’ you, or you don’t really understand. I’ve come to learn that this is normal. It’s not bad or wrong, it’s just life.

The vast majority of the people in my most frequently inhabited communities, I’ve never met in person. But this doesn’t diminish the connections we have. Together, we’ve been through marriages, divorces, births, deaths, successes, failures, hopes, fears, dreams, and brutal realities. We’ve watched storms together, and prayed for those in the center of those storms to be safe. We’ve mourned the loss of cultural icons together, and shared opinions on new projects (I’m talking about you, Star Trek: Discovery.) The fact that much of this happens online isn’t relevant.

We don’t always agree on politics, on religion, on whether or not Tecate really is the best beer (though the first sip of the day – of anything – is absolutely the best), but when one of us is in trouble, we reach out.

From all of you, I’ve learned, or been reminded, that the only stupid questions are those that go unasked, and that accepting help when you need it is just as important as giving it when you can.

Thank you, all of you, for being part of my communities.

Great Writing Requires an Awesome Hat

Awesome Hats

This piece originally ran as part of my Sunday Brunch column in All Things Girl on 12 January 2014.

A few days ago, I made a post on Facebook about how while most of the country had been in the throes of a polar vortex which made temperatures plunge into the sub-zero ranges, I had been in the throes of a writing vortex. I gave the credit for my recent habit of writing in excess of 5,000 words a day to a green hat my friend Jeremy made for me several years ago.

It’s true that this particular hat has been my headgear of choice this winter, but it’s not the first “writing hat” I’ve ever had. It’s also true that was not my first-ever writing vortex, but it’s the longest, most productive such period I’ve had in probably a decade, and that includes at least four successful completions of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

For me, both the hats and the vortices began with Jo March, my favorite character from Little Women, which I read for the first time when I was six. At first my mother read the chapters aloud to me at bedtime, but eventually I grew impatient to know what came next, and I improved my reading ability so I could find out. That was the last book we read together in that way; now we just trade books back and forth.

In any case, the image of Jo with her special writing clothes on, scribbling away in her attic atelier, is one that instantly entranced me, and I’ve been using my own form of writerly cos-play to keep the muse active ever since. Sometimes that includes whole outfits; but mostly it involves hats.

My first writing hat was a black velvet beret, big enough for me to tuck all my hair into (at a time when I had long hair, even) and adorned by a red bow. At least, it had a red bow until the bow fell off, and after that I decorated it with a succession of funky pins – gold stars, silver fairies, a bar pin featuring a jazz trio – things of that ilk. I wore that hat forever, and not just to write. It was a trusty friend through my high school and college years, until I finally killed it by accidentally melting it to death with a curling iron.

In retrospect, the curling iron vandalism might have been a sort of homage to Jo March as well, albeit an unintentional one.

My second writing hat was also black and velvet, but this time it was a baseball cap. I love baseball caps because when my hair is long enough for a pony-tail, I can stick it through the gap above the adjustment tab. This one was pretty plain, but I jazzed it up with a giant dragon-fly pin. Once, I wore it to work (it was a hat-friendly workplace) and my supervisor looked at it and said, “That dragon-fly is scary. And awesome. Carry on.”

I still have that hat, but I don’t really wear it to write any more, mostly because my hair is too short for a pony-tail, but partly because that dragon-fly pin is really heavy.

When I was performing with the Dallas ComedySportz troupe several years ago, I shifted my usual headgear from hats to bandannas – do-rags in the current parlance – collecting them in a wide variety of colors and styles. My favorites include a black one with lavender and green dragon-flies, and a white one with black and gold paisley patterns. I like these “kerchiefs,” as my grandmother would have called them, because they keep my hair out of my face without hurting my scalp (like a too-tight or too-heavy pony-tail can) or being too hot or heavy. I also like them because they make pirate fantasies much more accessible, but that’s another story.

So, why am I now wearing a green hat that can be a watch cap or a beret? Well, first, my friend made it for me, and I miss his daily presence in my life, so this hat is a connection to another very cool, creative person. The other reason is that, until yesterday, it’s been legitimately cold here in Texas (and not just in a cold-for-Texas kind of way – it was 23 degrees earlier this week.), and when you keep your head warm, you retain your body heat. It’s never been a secret that I like to have cool air when I sleep, but when I’m awake and writing, I prefer to be comfortably warm, and the hat has helped keep me that way.

Unlike Jo March in her garret, I don’t use the position of my hat to signal the state of my muse or telegraph my mood, but the presence (or absence) of some kind of headgear absolutely alerts my husband to whether or not my “genius is burning.”

Can great writing be accomplished without an awesome hat? Of course.

But wearing a hat, and channeling a favorite character (even if it’s a character of your own creation) makes writing – great or not – a lot more fun.

“Every few weeks she would shut herself up in her room, put on her scribbling suit, and “fall into a vortex” as she expressed it, writing away at her novel with all her heart and soul, for till that was finished she could find no peace. Her “scribbling suit” consisted of a black woolen pinafore on which she could wipe her pen at will, and a cap of the same material, adorned with a cheerful red bow, into which she bundled her hair when the decks were cleared for action. This cap was a beacon to the inquiring eyes of her family, who during these periods kept their distance, merely popping in their heads semi-occasionally, to ask, with interest, “Does genius burn, Jo?” They did not always venture even to ask this question, but took an observation of the cap, and judged accordingly. If this expressive article of dress was drawn low upon the forehead, it was a sign that hard work was going on; in exciting moments it was pushed rakishly askew; and when despair seized the author it was plucked wholly off, and cast upon the floor. At such times the intruder silently withdrew; and not until the red bow was seen gaily erect upon the gifted brow, did any one dare address Jo.”

~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Sunday Brunch: August Nocturne

eclipse

 

When All Things Girl still existed, I had a regular column called “Sunday Brunch.” Well, the core team of ATG launched a new ezine, Modern Creative Life, in March, and I’m writing “Sunday Brunch” over there once a month. Here’s an excerpt from this month’s post:

With the flip of a calendar page (or a swipe of finger on a smartphone) July is gone for another year, and it is August, my month. The first summer month when, even though the sun is still reluctant to set, the days are discernably shorter, and the nights incrementally longer.

I’ve always been attuned to the night. While some people are morning people, happy and chirpy at first light, the only time I typically see dawn is when I haven’t yet been to bed. I have never been afraid of darkness; rather I crave it.

I come by it naturally.

The night before I was born, there was a full moon and an eclipse. If that doesn’t lock you into a special relationship with nighttime, I don’t know what does. (Recently, I asked my mother if she remembered any of that, and she reminded me that she’d been a little preoccupied with being in labor.)

You can read the rest of the post at Modern Creative Life, and if you’re so inclined, consider submitting an essay, poem, or piece of short fiction to our next issue, which launches in September and has the theme of  Wisdom.

 

 

Image copyright: solerf / 123RF Stock Photo

 

Sunday Brunch (Random Musings)

I stayed up too late writing and ended up hung over on words and ideas and lack of sleep and desperate for naps and tall cool glasses of water, which I took in alternate sessions.

The ice machine has ceased making ice. Again. I am an ice junkie. This is a problem.

I miss the days when I spent my weekends jumping from book to book, like stepping stones in a lazy creek.

The weather is playing tricks on me, looking murky and cool, but really being hot. FOUL! I call FOUL!!

(Fuzzy said he might steal my exclamation-point key!)

Sunday Brunch: Random

Random things about today:
Leftover birthday cake for breakfast, a mug of steaming coffee to cut the sweetness and wake my brain cells.
When you’re a freelancer weekends are arbitrary, anyway.

I read and write and nap and watch bad television and cuddle dogs.

“Are you hungry?” my husband asks.

What he really means is, “I’m hungry, but I don’t want to make anything so I’ll just sit and starve until you can be coaxed into the kitchen.”

“I’ll make an omelet if you let me watch the end of this movie.”

“What channel?”

“Hallmark.”

“Use lots of cheese.”

“Okay.”

Sunday Brunch: School Figures

natural_skates

It’s my turn for Sunday Brunch again over at All Things Girl.

Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve been thinking, lately, about how I used to be a daily blogger, and now my blog is nearly an afterthought. I still write every day, but it’s typically writing for a specific purpose, not just chatty musing. I don’t keep a journal, partly because I don’t understand the point in writing things no one will ever read, and partly because without an audience to keep me accountable, I find other things that pull my focus.

But daily blogging, in many ways, was my version of skating school figures. They’re not particularly pretty to the uninformed, but they teach discipline, help you hone technique, give you stamina…and sometimes you do something when practicing a basic figure that informs or inspires a larger piece – leads you to your long program.

You can read the rest of this post HERE.

Image Copyright: vkovalcik / 123RF Stock Photo

Sunday Brunch: The Art of Procrastination

ritual bath

My Sunday Brunch post is up at All Things Girl. Here’s an excerpt:

Here is an example of how not-writing works in my brain:

‘I should be working on Sunday Brunch. But I don’t know what to write about. There are all those notes on the post-Odile piece about getting news from fishing reports. Fishing reports. Oh, there’s a new episode of the Seascapes podcast tonight. Tonight. Dinner. Fish. Salmon. There’s salmon in the freezer. Is it wild-caught? Of course it is, why would I buy anything else? What should I make with it? I think we have beets and yams. There was that recipe I saw in that magazine. Beets and yams in hash. Hash. Hash-browns. We have leftover hash-brown casserole. Maybe I should eat something. If I eat I’ll be able to focus better. Focus. Film. Movie. Stephen King’s IT is in my Amazon queue. Tim Curry was so creepy in that movie. Tim Curry. Clue. Wadsworth. One plus two plus two plus one. No, it’s one plus one plus two plus one. One. Singular Sensation. Musical. Rocky Horror. Time Warp. Time. Ack! I should be working on Sunday Brunch.’

So, yeah, that’s my brain on…not-words, I guess.

Read the rest of the piece HERE

Image Copyright:poznyakov / 123RF Stock Photo

Welcome Autumn

autumn coffee

Autumn has always been my favorite season, and even though it doesn’t technically begin until tomorrow night, I wrote about it for Sunday Brunch over at All Things Girl this week. You can read it THERE or you can listen to it on my podcast HERE.

I’ve been a bit off-kilter this last week, staying up too late writing, waiting for updates from my parents who live in La Paz, BCS, Mexico and weathered Hurricane Odile last weekend (they still don’t have power, but Los Cabos is nearly flattened, so it’s all relative).

I pre-ordered the new iPhone 6 plus and it arrived on Friday, and I’m already in love, but I spent a good chunk of yesterday downgrading my iPad Air away from iOS 8 because iOS 8 breaks Audiobus, which means that podcasting apps don’t work.

I have lines to record for two different projects, but my voice is icky. Tomorrow is my studio day. Someone hold me to it.

It’s hard to believe September has just zoomed by and we’re almost into October.

I love fall.

Also? I’m ready for the mosquitoes to die.

Sunday Brunch: That 70’s Summer

Slumber Party

My latest Sunday Brunch piece is up at All Things Girl. We’re filling the blog, while we continue to rebuild the rest of our site since it was hacked – badly – in June.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

If the “slumber party” was small – me and just one or two friends – we’d set up camp in my bedroom. If the group was larger, we’d take over the den or the living room. I’m sure we watched movies, but since VCRs were not yet commonplace, and DVDs hadn’t even been invented, but what I remember are the games and stories.

Slumber party games when I was seven, eight, and nine, were still pretty innocent, and the favorite thing to play was “Light as a Feather; Stiff as a Board.” There are many versions of it, and many explanations for why it becomes possible for four girls to lift a fifth using just two fingers each, but the reality is that as much as, as children, we wanted to pretend it was magic, the chant just helps to unify everyone, and the rest is basic physics.

The rest of the piece can be found HERE.

Image Copyright: creatista / 123RF Stock Photo

Dog Days of Podcasting: Sunday Brunch – Mail Call

letterboxes-615

Is it technically Sunday Brunch if I record it at 6:30 PM? Do I really care? The answer to both questions is NO!

The piece itself is the Sunday Brunch piece from 26 August 2012. You can read it, listen to it on SoundCloud, or play it in the applet below.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/107216257″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Dog Days of Podcasting