An Open Letter to Caitlyn Jenner

Dear Caitlyn,

Since your Vanity Fair cover debuted, you have been the subject of many comments.  Some of them were welcoming, some were flattering, but some were fetishizing and objectifying, and still others were plain vitriolic.  I’ve spent the better part of the last 24 hours attempting to combat the vilest of these, but I’m sure you can imagine how effective I’ve been.  Instead, I have decided to address you personally and I hope that this somehow makes its way to you.  I want you to know where I stand on the things some people are saying.

“That is not a woman.”

You are absolutely a woman.  For better or worse, the good and the bad, you are one of us and I welcome you.  I will not relegate you to a sub-woman (or sub-human) status.  I will not exclude you from feminist spaces.  I will not presume to speak for you, but I will absolutely speak up for you.  I will be your ally the best way I am able.

How dare she call herself a mother?! That’s an insult to the sanctity of motherhood!”

I am a mother and I am a birth mother. You identifying yourself as a mother does not threaten me in the slightest.  And, really, why should it?  It’s not like we’re BFFs.  We don’t even know each other.  And even if we did, your parental identity does not impact my parenting ability in any way, shape, or form.  No, Caitlyn, I am not bothered by you calling yourself a mother.  You know who bothers me?  These mothers.  Some sanctity, huh?

“I’m so sick of hearing about this. All she wants is money and attention.”

You know what?  We need you to get attention.  We need to have more trans* people visible in the media and in daily life.  So many people end up being erased, so if you being in the spotlight helps to prevent trans* erasure, I’m ok with that.  Use your spotlight wisely, though.  That’s all I ask of you.

“I have a friend like this and she doesn’t experience violence. That used to be a problem but not anymore.”

Yes, someone actually said this to me.  And in part, this is why it’s so important for you to be in the spotlight.  Trans* people experience much higher rates of assault, rape, and murder than the general public.  You are famous, and beautiful, and wealthy, so you may not experience this.  I sincerely hope you never, ever experience this.  Unfortunately, too many trans* people do.  When a group goes unseen, the violence done to them tends to go unremarked upon.  You have the opportunity to show your heart to the world, to show us who you are as a woman and as a human being.  Maybe if we can start seeing trans* people as human beings, we could finally start treating them like human beings.

“She isn’t brave! Our veterans are brave!”

Yes they are.  You know what?  So are you.  Bravery is knowing the path you need to take is filled with dangers and pain, but it’s what you need to do so you do it anyway.  You did that.  That makes you brave.

“I’d fuck her.”

The people actually saying this one think they’re paying you a compliment.  They are not, and as a woman, you will need to adjust to this reality.  Being a woman means constantly combating the idea that we become community property when we enter public spaces.  Men will catcall you.  Some may try to grope you.  Some may start to follow you if you don’t acknowledge their lewd comments.  Ok, being wealthy and famous might cut down on that a lot.  I wouldn’t know, as I am neither.  Still, these aren’t compliments.  In fact, reducing you down to whether or not you are an acceptable sexual partner is objectifying you and fetishizing you.  That’s not cool.  What makes this even worse is that I have seen women participating in this.  You’d think, seeing as how we deal with this kind of behavior fairly regularly, that women would know better and do better.  But no, some women don’t.  It reduces you to sub-woman status, and that isn’t cool either.

“She only looks good because she had surgery.  Otherwise, she’d just be playing dress up.”

You do look good, but let me be very clear.  You would be a woman whether you had surgery or not.  Whether you had hormone replacement therapy or not.  Wore women’s clothing or not.  We don’t have the right to dictate your femininity.  You will be the woman that you want to be, and it might look different than how other women want to be women.  That’s ok.  Whether you decide to wear evening gowns and red lipstick or sweatpants with a messy ponytail, you are the woman you want to be.  No one else gets to define that for you and no one else gets the right to validate your identity.  Fuck those people.

I am cisgendered, so I will never be able to know what your experience is like.  All I can do is offer my hand in sisterhood and welcome you to the fold.

Best wishes for a happy future,

Erin R. Britt

P.S. You don’t look gorgeous because you had surgeries or could afford expensive clothes.  You look gorgeous because you look so fucking happy and free.  Keep being happy.

Til Only Her Thesis Remained…

That’s right, folks!  As of this moment, the only thing standing between me and my M.A. in English degree is my thesis.  It has been a lot of hard work compounded by life.  In fact, this has been the hardest few months of my life.

My oldest son has been having a lot of health issues.  In March, we discovered he has a large cyst that was causing him a lot of problems and needed surgery.  In April, he had brain surgery.  There is nothing more terrifying than to learn your child has a potentially life-threatening condition.  Without surgery, the pressure from the cyst would most likely have killed him at some point.  With the surgery, he is limited from doing things he enjoys because a blow to the head could kill him.  There is a lot of adjustment going on.

His health issues (which included a week in Chicago and I do not live in Chicago) made school work more challenging than it should have been.  I didn’t have the time or the energy to devote to my work.  I initially wanted to be completely done by now, but something had to give so I chose to push back my thesis work.  I missed a lot of teaching because of being out of town or at various doctor appointments, so I asked that they replace me.  That helped in terms of my work load, but that stress was replaced by anxiety over money.  I am thrilled to say that his surgery went well and he is ok.  This is something he will need to monitor for the rest of his life, though.

I ended the semester with a 3.7 GPA.  Not too shabby considering the other stuff I was going through.

Now that school is over for the most part, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.  My poor blog has been mostly forgotten about.  I have some new projects in the works and some major changes coming up.  Hopefully, I’ll have a lot of good news to be sharing.  After the first of the year, I plan on getting back to my interviews, so if you’ve been missing Author Corner, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I might also spend time lamenting that Hollywood, not content with simply systematically destroying my childhood, is now working to destroy my life in its entirety with their horrible remake schedule.  I’m no screenwriter, but I’m reasonably certain that I could be doing a better job of things.

And, of course, I will be updating periodically on my thesis.  My goal is to have my proposal approved this summer so that I can start my revisions.

Have a happy weekend!

Happy Birthday to Me

It is that time, once again, where I celebrate the glorious occasion of my birth.  It is also the first day of the spring semester and I am teaching today as well as taking a class.  It stands to reason, then, that I haven’t been able to sleep and the birthday butterscotch creme brulee has killed my insides.  For those who don’t remember/are new, I’m allergic to eggs and that’s basically what creme brulee is: baked eggs with crunchy sugar on top.  I realize I shouldn’t have eaten it, but we were at a nice restaurant and our server brought me a complimentary dessert and that was what she brought.  It was delicious, but I am paying dearly for it now.

I am 38 today.  Some things really make that hit home.  My oldest son is already angling for his first car and he won’t even be 16 until August.  My high school class is planning our 20th reunion.  Whenever I think about the things I used to enjoy in my 20s, I instantly feel the need to take a nap.  Oh, and there’s my stockpile of hair color.

Last year, for my birthday, I was deathly ill with flu and I had lost a dear friend of mine to a lengthy respiratory illness.  It was shaping up to be another sad birthday for me when weather prevented me from seeing my youngest son this weekend.  But, you know?  It hasn’t been that bad at.  It’s actually been pretty good.

I spent the weekend with my oldest son, just the two of us.  We went to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies yesterday and it was great.  When I got home, I had a present waiting for me.

IMAG0114

 

A friend wanted to make my day suck less.  It worked.  My guy took me to a really nice restaurant where I had fettuccine with shrimp and lobster in a spicy diavolo sauce and my butterscotch death brulee.  Came home and watched a few episodes of Game of Thrones.  Yes, I’m behind, but I’m in the 4th season now so cut me some slack.  After that, I came into my office to do some work but saw a contest and decided to enter a chapbook of poetry instead.  If all of this wasn’t quite enough, I’ve had birthday wishes coming in from Facebook and in my email, and I’ll be meeting up with friends after class tonight to eat noms, drink beverages, and spend time together.

It’s cold.  The roads tend to be awful.  I didn’t get to see my small man.  Nothing is perfect, though, and so I’ll spend my day being grateful for all the wonderful people I have in my life.  I fully expect lots of birthday hugs and lots of laughs.  Here’s to another trip around the sun.

Car Shopping Makes Me Sad on the Inside

For the last two months or so, I have been without a vehicle.  With the start of a new semester fast approaching, this won’t work out well for me, so I’ve been combing the interwebs for a new car.  To say the experience has been soul crushing is putting a positive spin on things.  Everything is either almost as old as I am (and I have a birthday soon :/), over 150,000 miles, or gets horrendous gas mileage.  I drive over 1200 miles per month, so that’s just not going to work for me.  Side note: if you are wondering why I’m not writing, chances are I’m driving somewhere.  It feels like I live in my car sometimes.  Except I have no car.

My goal is to have something to drive by this time next weekend.  The hunt continues!

Happy New Year

Hopefully, everyone had a great night last night and no one is too hung over today.  My own evening was spent deep cleaning and getting pinned under the deep freezer.  We were moving it out of the basement and into the front garage, but moving it around the landing and up the stairs was somewhat…problematic.  I was at the top of the stairs and I ended up pinned underneath the thing.  It went something like:

Him: Go up the stairs.

Me: I’m pinned.

Him: You have to get up the stairs.

Me: I can’t.  I’m pinned.

Him: You’ve got to move!

Me: What part of “pinned” was unclear?!

Needless to say, I became unpinned once he rolled the freezer over the top of me.  My leg is still a little sore from where it rolled, but there’s no bruising so I don’t think there’s any major damage.

If you saw my year end post the other day, you will know about the wonderful writing spreadsheet my lovely guest Jamie Raintree created and shared.  I had last year’s spreadsheet and that was pretty cool.  The changes she made to this year’s spreadsheet are amazing.  Now, you can track more projects and there’s a new section for tracking your editing progress.  I spent some time setting up my projects and I’m excited to get tracking.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t feel like you do any writing at all if it’s not on your primary project.  The fact is, we’re constantly writing things.  My goal for this year (I refuse to call it a resolution) is to track all of the different forms of writing I do every day and see what I’m actually producing.  With the extra project space, I can do that more thoroughly.  Of course, one of the very first projects is for Enraptured, and I’ve actually been working on it today so I may finish it at some point.  You know you have something special when you go back over your manuscript to see what you’ve done and you impress yourself:

“Church shouldn’t be comfortable.  You’re here to work, and work should be hot and sweaty.”

“But shouldn’t the Church also provide comfort?”

“The people of the Church provide comfort.  The building does not.”

–Enraptured, Chapter 2

I have a project set up to track blog postings, so that should help keep things a bit more regular around here.  I’m in my final semester (!) of graduate school, which means another writing workshop and my fiction thesis project.  This time, it’s creative nonfiction.  This isn’t my favorite thing to write, but “Fruits of Labor” was published last summer and “Don’t Be Sorry” was included in a collection of grad student essays, so there’s that.  My thesis project is already written, so I get to play with the edit tracking feature.  I do need to add 2-7 pages through editing but that isn’t a problem.  I’m having more of a problem writing the damn thesis proposal (which I will do!).  I added a project to track my poetry writing and then a final one to track whatever writing exercises I do.  I have a couple more spaces left, so I have room to work on something else if I want to, but I really think this is enough for now.

What goals have you set for yourselves this year?

 

 

The Dawn of a New Year

Last year, I had the pleasure of hosting Jamie Raintree here on the blog.  When it came time to do another year end post, I knew I’d love to have her back.  She shared a wonderful writing tracking worksheet for 2014, and she’s back now with tips on being a professional writer as well as an updated tracking worksheet for 2015!

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6 Ways to Be a Professional Writer Right Now

blog pic

They say the most important job of an aspiring published author is to write, and it’s true for obvious reasons. You can’t publish a work that isn’t complete, and the only way to become a better writer is to do it consistently, to study the craft, and to keep your nose the the grindstone. But often times, as the years pass and there seems to be little tangible evidence to show for all your blood, sweat, and tears, it can be difficult to remember what all the hard work is for. When it feels like there’s no one in the world but you who cares whether you complete your book or not, it’s easy to skip a day or a few months or to stop trying altogether. After all, it’s just a “hobby” right?

But you and I both know it’s a not a hobby, or a flighty dream. In fact, it’s often the most real thing in our lives–the part of ourselves that makes us feel like the people we’re meant to be. It’s what gives our lives purpose and keeps us going when we feel lost.

So then why does our writing life often feel like a dirty secret we fit in between all our other responsibilities? Why do we talk about it sheepishly with the people in our lives, if we talk about it at all?

As someone who does a lot of reading on personal growth and who spends a lot of time around entrepreneurs, the phrase “act as if” is one I’ve heard a thousand times. Then idea is that when you act as if the person you want to be, you will make choices like that person, and draw opportunities to you like that person, and eventually, you will become that person. This mindset has worked magic in my life many, many times and that’s what I’m sharing with you today–six ways to “act as if” you are a published author in order to get yourself in the right mindset to become one.

 1. Create a Consistent Message and Active Routine on Social Media.

We already know marketing is a big part of being a writer today and while you may not have a product to promote yet, it’s never too early to start creating a fan base for yourself. What’s better for a writer than having fans? Who are your fans before you have a novel to share? The people who understand your struggle to make your dreams come true and who want to be a part of your journey. There are more of them out there than you might think.

 2. Create a Blogging Schedule and Stick to It.

One of the hardest parts about writing books is that you complete projects so infrequently. I’m lucky if I finish a book a year. Other writers can finish one every few months, while others still take several years. No matter how long it takes you, it never seems to be fast enough, and it’s hard to stay motivated without having regular accomplishments under your belt. A blog is a great way to hold yourself accountable, to put your writing out in the world consistently, and to chalk up regular writing accomplishments.

3. Create a Website.

Writers are notorious for writing in our pajamas, curled up on the couch, our hair pinned up into a bird’s nest, a cup of coffee within reach, and Hershey Kisses wrappers littered around us in every direction. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a professional presence. Creating a simple WordPress website and blog is easy, it’s free, and it’s your professional face to the world. Once you have one, visit it every day to remind yourself that no matter what you are currently wearing, you look like a pro.

4. Join a Critique Group.

Or create one. Either way, talking regularly with people about the industry, asking questions, getting feedback on your work, and creating accountability can make it feel like you have colleagues around you working toward a shared goal. They are the ones waiting to read your next work when the publishing industry hasn’t quite caught up yet.

5. Join and Volunteer for Writing Organizations.

Being a part of writing organizations gives you the opportunity to attend events wearing your author hat–not your parent hat, or your day job hat, or your laundry-folder hat. It gives you the chance to look like and feel like the writer you know you are. Even better, volunteering is so appreciated by the people who run these organizations and it’s a fun way to be a part of the industry before you’re a part of the industry. There are lots of opportunities to meet and make connections with people who are further along the path than you and who are more than happy to share their expertise.

6. Submit Short Stories and Articles to Magazines.

What makes you feel more like a writer than submitting your work, and potentially getting paid for it? Even if you typically only write novels, there are many opportunities out there to get your work published now. It also gets you used to writing to a deadline and getting feedback from industry professionals. Plus, it’s a great way to build your portfolio for when it’s time to start querying or to publish your book.

Yes, it can take many years of practice to get good enough at writing to catch the attention of the industry, but it also takes years of practice to be a professional. Just like you put in the words each day, it helps to train your mind on a daily basis to live like the success that you already are and that you strive to be. As they say, dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

FREE WRITING TOOL

I want to send a big thank you to Erin R. Britt for having me on her blog today. Thank you, Erin! Also, as we start the new year, be sure to check out my 2015 Writing Progress Spreadsheet to help you track your writing and revisions progress each day, week, month, and for the year. I wish you all a very productive and successful new year!

Jamie Raintree

 

Jamie Raintree writes women’s fiction about women searching for truth in life and love. She is currently working on revisions of her first novel in preparation for submission to publishers. In the meantime, she blogs about her journey toward a well-balanced life and a career in publishing–her struggles and successes along the way. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and two young daughters and is a Workshop Coordinator for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Subscribe to her newsletter for more blogs, book news, and writer tools and other free downloads for dreamers. To find out more, visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or subscribe to her newsletter.

Poem 8–We Have Met Our End At Last

The other day, while browsing my Facebook news feed, I saw a link posted by two of my friends.  It was for this:

Breathe-easy-shirt

Yes, this is really a thing.

One person posted this ironically and the other posted this in earnest.  Let’s look at the most obvious problem with this shirt.

When you state something, you imply that the opposite is also true.  For example, if you say, “Drunk drivers kill people,” you are also saying, “Sober drivers do not kill people.”  So, when a shirt says, “Breathe easy. Don’t break the law,” it is also saying, “If you break the law, then you deserve to have difficulty breathing (or to not breathe at all).”  What constitutes breaking the law, then?  Well, lots of things, as it happens.  Jaywalking.  Turning on red when it’s posted you can’t do that.  Failing to use your turn signal.  Performing oral sex.  No, I’m not making that last one up.  In Indiana, oral sex is illegal, regardless of whether you are married to your partner or not.

Are any of these things worthy of capital punishment?  Please tell me you’re all saying, “No, don’t be ridiculous” right now.  And yet, according to this shirt, these people are not obeying the law and so they deserve to have lethal force used against them.

“But Erin,” you might be saying, “let’s get real here.  It’s only talking about ‘big’ crimes, like killing people or resisting arrest.”  Fair enough.  Let’s look at that.

James Eagan Holmes was arrested outside of a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado after he went inside and killed 12 people and injured 70 more people.  He was arrested.  He wasn’t shot to death.  He wasn’t choked to death in a prohibited maneuver.  He. was. arrested.

Eric Garner was accused of selling loose cigarettes.  Seriously, that’s what they thought he was doing.  That’s not a capital offense.  Even if Garner had resisted to the point where an officer felt his safety was threatened, are there not better ways to resolve that situation?  The short answer is, “Of course there are,” and that’s why people are so upset and why #Icantbreathe is even a thing.  Side note: when you become a police officer, you accept that public safety becomes more important than your own and that your job entails added risks because of this.  If you don’t want to be in danger, don’t become a police officer.  I don’t want to be in danger.  This is why I’m not a cop.  Seriously.  Lethal force should be your final option, not your first response.

When looking for inspiration for this last poem, I decided to try doing an erasure poem from a news story.  The news story I chose had to do with Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

 

When The Wild West Was Yesterday

Who is telling the truth?

Have faith in military zones

riot gear,

tear gas,

rubber bullets—

that they can tell

the difference.

 

Jack up the conflict—

armored cars,

gas masks,

SWAT gear,

chaos.

Don’t release the name

arrest the journalists.

 

Respond with solidarity

explain the resonance

add another hashmark

to the genre

of Black Death.

“I can’t breathe.”