taking a step back

a big tip in writing is to “take a step back” and wait a few days, weeks, even months before going over your first draft.

maybe the same is true for trauma

to forget it for awhile

to tuck it away in the folds of your grey matter

to bury it in the bottom of your sheets with chilly toes

and sit on it for a few days, weeks, even months

before going over it.

maybe you need to let it stew

let it sit

let it tumble around in your brain without your consciousness getting in the way

maybe you need to see it with different eyes

older eyes

eyes more wise and steeled with time.

strengthened by distance.

maybe you need to forget a little

to be strong enough to step back into your pain again.

maybe that’s why i know my grandparents’ stories

but not my own.

if i was in a novel

if i was a character in a novel

my “surface” journey is easy to figure.

i would be working to get out of this abusive house

and settle myself into a healthy life.

my “inner” journey

would be to get myself out of my abusive mindset

and ease my anxiety

and grow as a person

into a confident young woman

i’m still caught in the rising action, i guess.

the resolution is  a   whole     plot       line           away.

Release: Word of the year

For 2018 I decided to write a bullet journal, which obviously didn’t last long. However, I liked looking back on the 10 or so pages I did do. They were all goals. Books I should read, movies I should see, things I should do. A list of friends I had already, as well as space to write in new friends I make along the way. I liked crossing out the boxes I drew about a year ago. I didn’t get to them all, but I got to quite a few.

On one of the pages, I wrote: Word of the Year: Renaissance.

I think I did quite a bit of that. Renaissance means “rebirth,” as I learned in 7th grade history, and I did try to be “reborn” as well as I could. Things truly have changed, and I do have a totally new life.

For 2019, I think my word of the year will be “Release.” I have changed my life for the better. Now, it is time to let go of all the pain of the past.

It is going to be a challenge, but a worthy one. I want to be able to forgive and forget, to move on, to let it go.

Hm. Let it go. I teared up the first time I saw that scene from Frozen. I watched it over and over until I knew all the words–and I was about 17. I was so inspired that this person could, well, let it go. Move on past her pain and her depression and her awful parents. Maybe she’s a good role model. A little “basic bitch” to look up to a Disney princess, but whatever. I’m done adjusting my personality to fit the molds of others.

I need to stop indulging in escapism and bottling up. I need to learn how to feel my feelings, acknowledge them, and let them go. I need to learn how to let go, how to move on, how to accept that people don’t change and things don’t change and all I can change is myself. I want to be able to let it all go. I want to be able to have my mind free of worry, both about the past and about the future.

My worrying is the biggest threat to my life. It threatens to ruin job and relationships all the time. I need to get a hold on it, and the best way to do that is to learn how to release.

Release. 2019. Release.

architect

I want to write.

I’m terrified.

Even my sister, who’s never read a word, told me that I need to get over my fears and do it, edit, send it off to people.

I’ve sent it off to people.

Every time I look at my novel I feel both better and worse. I touch up a few things, take out a word here, add a word there, make a few more connections from here to there. It’s like weaving a hammock, and every little knot makes it more structurally sound.

And now that I can lay in it, I’ve taken to weaving in flowers. Dying the rope. Making it pretty, not just serviceable. And I’m happy.

And I’m locked.

My stomach has been churning at top speed. My fingernails have been bitten away to shards. I’m breaking out in welts.

I need to get this book out.

It’s not ready.

That’s the thing, it’s not ready. It’s not good enough. I’ve been writing since I was in second grade and I’ve been writing books since I was twelve and this is my tenth year writing novels, my eighth novel, and it’s not good enough, not yet. But what can I do to improve?

I know it’s good. But it’s not great. It’s ignorable, and I don’t want that. This is something I have been putting every ounce of my being into, every drop of my soul.

I have agonized over every paragraph, and yet it’s not good enough.

I know it will never be perfect in my mind, but my heart won’t agree.

I must be a designer, not just an architect.

Pseudonym

Ginny Brattle isn’t my real name, and I don’t even like it.

How am I supposed to pick a pen name?

Why is this even on the top of my mind?

I hate my real name, too, to be fair.

Ingrid, Ingrid Peterson? I.P. Introvert Playground. Intellectual Property.

I.P. I pee. Nope. Or yep.  Whatever.

Ginny Brattle, bah. Reeks of youth.

I want my author persona to be one of mystery and age, like red wine and balconies, not one of a whining teenaged poet.

Brattle. After the Brattle Book Store, which I’ve gone to a handful of times.

Creating a Persona. A Star is Born. If everyone knows I’m fabricated, does it mean I’m even fabricated? Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm). Ginny Brattle (born Ingrid Peterson).

What is your mother’s maiden name?

Answer: I don’t know.

And why a pen name, you ask? Because my book is bathed in controversy before it even hits paper. It’ll be judged and hanged before it’s even read. Mothers and teachers and “the man” will condemn it.

That is, if anyone even hears of it.

Am I damned to be a nobody? Will no one even know my pen name, never mind my “maiden name?”

My worst fear is not never being published, it is being published and selling 43 copies, mainly to family and friends.

Absolutely Remarkable Things

This isn’t a book review, by the way. It’s more of a life review?

Anyway. A million years ago (…10, I guess, in retrospect) my friend introduced me to the YouTube channel Vlogbrothers, starring Hank and John Green. I got super into them, watched every video, and John’s book Looking For Alaska quickly became my favorite.

Then The Fault in Our Stars came out, etc.

Anyway, the other brother, Hank, just came out with HIS first book, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. To be honest, I wasn’t going to read it. I’m kind of over watching their videos–they’re aimed at a younger audience, which is fine, but it’s just not my thing anymore.

However, that friend (who introduced me to them 9 years ago) and I recently reconnected after like, a five year separation (I started dating her ex, we went to different colleges, then ended up back in our old home town). And she had an extra ticket to An Absolutely Remarkable Tour, the book tour starring the Green brothers. So I went.

And it was great, and weird, and everything I knew it would be, being a stage show put on by two incredibly famous middle-aged YouTubers. And the book (so far) is pretty good, too, but that’s not my point.

As the Greens were talking about how strange and complex and wonderful the world is, and the internet and books are, I began thinking about how strange and complex and wonderful it was that I was in that theatre at that moment. All the things that had to happen to bring me there…I had to pick the cello as an instrument in third grade, I had to stick with it and be just good enough to be my friend’s stand partner in middle school, I had to like Vlogbrothers and fall in love with John Green’s books and let them influence my own budding writing, I had to go to the same high school as her, and watch her break up with her boyfriend and consequently (a year or so later) start dating him myself, then go to a different college and then reconnect and then have her current boyfriend-fiance bail on her extra ticket, then be free on that day and then bam, there I was. In a theatre with this friend and these YouTubers I’ve known for a decade.

That friendship had become inextricably intertwined with the Vlogbrothers, and my loss and reconnection with both my friend and Nerdfighteria mirrored each other in an absolutely remarkable way.

It just goes to show the crazy weird coincidences that happen every day.

September

This is the exact day when I used to write, “Time to go wake up Green Day.”

As if “Green Day” was a person and as if “Wake Me Up When September Ends” isn’t about Billie Joe Armstrong’s dead father.

Ah, did you miss me? I’m a spark of sunshine in a dark world, huh?

 

Right now I’m in a library, a library that closes in an hour. I’ve been here for three hours and haven’t moved from this table in the center of everything. I’ve actually gotten a lot done. But not enough. Never enough.

 

Did I mention I’m a teacher, now? High school English, yeah. Starting off by covering a woman’s maternity leave. About fifty percent of the time I tell someone that they ask me when the baby’s due. I’m not the one with the baby. If I was, I wouldn’t be at work.

Sometimes people’s mouths move faster than their minds.

I’m starting Hamlet with my seniors tomorrow. I haven’t read Hamlet since I was a senior in high school. I was supposed to read it as a senior in college, but I figured I knew it well enough. I don’t think I know it well enough anymore.

I type fast and hard. The other library people keep glancing at me. Sorry. My fingers are silent to me. My thought-words drown them out.

I just uploaded all my Ireland pictures–pictures from a trip I took in July, almost three months ago. Yipes. Some things just get away from you. I wonder how many hours of YouTube bullshit I’ve watched since July. Probably a sickening amount.

On the plus side, my novel is truly, really, almost done. I mean DONE done, like ready to send to publishers done. I’ve “finished” 8 novels since I was 12, but this is the first novel I feel comfortable sending to a publisher. I’m terrified, lol.

“Terrified, lol” is how I’m explaining it to everybody.

Honestly, yeah. That sums it up. I’m terrified, lol. I’m scared I’m not good enough, lol. I’m hiding my fears in millennial internet slang, lol, to lighten the weight of my emotional load on the shoulders of my unsuspecting readers, lol.

I wonder if I’ll use the same pen name I use on this blog. Probably not, I’ll probably change it. Pen names are so hard. Do I go the gender-neutral initial route, or choose a good female name? Who knows.

The clock seems to go slower, here. There’s an art book for Solo: A Star Wars Story, and it’s still in plastic. No one is ever going to borrow that book. I wonder who ordered it.

Whenever I get back into blogging I realize how much I missed it. It’s so nice to journal out loud. And yes, lady by “New Non-Fiction,” I know my typing is loud. Sorry. It’s impossible to type quickly and quietly.

They probably think I’m playing a game or something. Heck, maybe I am.

 

How do people DO this art thing?! How am I supposed to deal? I never minded when college magazines would reject me because hey, they’re just as stupid about literature as I am, but a Big Boy Publisher? Damn, that will hurt. Of course I assume I’ll get rejected right out the gate.

I think it’s actually a good book, and that actually scares me more.

July

When I’m writing this, it is just past midnight on July 1.

Holy shit. July.

When I was seven, I wrote a poem–my first, ever–and titled it July. When I was twelve, I set my first novel entirely in July. And now, in 2018, I head into my busiest July ever. Busier than all those Camp Nanos I can’t even entertain the possibility of this year. Busier than any job or camp or anything.

I start July with a day of packing and frantic emails, then a week in Ireland, then three weeks straight of teaching summer school English, then Newport Folk Festival.

Then finally, in August, I get a breath.

I’ve been trying to attune myself to reiki, to feel the chi universe energy in my fingers, to make myself relax, but my jaw clenches up anyway and my stomach knots itself up and my forehead is perpetually cinched. My mouth is ablaze with canker sores, my face a minefield of acne. My body handles stress nearly as bad as my mind does.

I feel silly. All I’ve wanted for months and months and months was a job, and now that I have one I feel stage fright. That’s my best way of putting it. I’m scared.

July was always such a magical time as a kid, a month I spent all year dreaming about and writing about and waiting for with all my simple heart. Now…

i have overwhelmed myself again

and so i prep for a job i am under qualified for, using not enough time to do something too far out of reach.

i edit the novel months away from completion, i read the book a hundred pages from the end, i lounge to the sound of birds and coyotes, dozing to dreams of unfinished stories half watched or half imagined.

i listen to music halfheartedly, the hour-long compilations set to a mood, the pleading piano and weeping violin, my face wet and swollen, my hands clammy and too big for their weak wrists.

i am out of my wits.

i feel again as if i am walking down the plank, hot summer air whipping my clothes with the force of icy sea mist. i am voluntary. i am sacrifice. i am martyr for the cause of myself.

the greater good.

i leave things lowercase here. i leave my ring finger blank. it’s easier to think in grammerless terms when my mind, too, is riddled with run-on sentences. nothing in my head is in capital letters except my own voice.

i build a fortress out of phone books. i cry ink onto pages made of skin. i sit alone in a room painted green and feel locked in. i smell chlorine. it reminds me not of summer pools but of formaldehyde.

Anna Peefer–a short story

This story has been in my “drafts” for over two years now. I’ve not got the energy to edit it over, but I’ll publish it here.

 

Anna Peefer went to Funland Extremepark every Saturday in June and July. She brought her nieces twice, but the other weeks she went alone, riding the nine roller coasters two or three times each and nothing else. She never got sick, or sick of riding. She’d buy a bag of kettle corn worth its weight in gold, munching on and off all day. She often jumped half the line, when attendants searched around for a single rider. No one at the park knew who she was. It was amazing. She was free.

Anna Peefer always went with her wild curls tied back as well as she could. She liked her hair in box braids but on the roller coasters they thrashed about and she was afraid of them getting caught in something, so in the summer she kept her hair loose and frizzy, tied back and out of her face. She liked to see the sky take up her whole vision as the cart tilted backward, all the blood rushing to the back of her head, her heels sliding against the metallic floors, her fingers tighter on the shoulder restraints than the restraints themselves were on her.

Then a swishing in her stomach, and the trees and Ferris wheel would come into view, bit by bit. Anna Peefer, on top of the world.

And then the fall.

She screamed at each fall, louder than is ever necessary, stretching her voice past its limits. She kept her eyes open, her hands tight, her feet clamped around her purse and the bag of popcorn, both threatening to fall out. After the fall, after the g-forces at the bottom of the dip make her feel heavy with relief and she took the first inhale in about ten seconds, the car erupting with laughs and quick shouts, giggling girls and boys pretending to almost fall out of the cart.

Anna Peefer’s mind, at this point in the ride, was already on which coaster she’ll get in line for next. After the big drop, the rest of the coaster was never really worth it.

The thrill of the climb, the fear of the fall. This is why her favorite coaster, the park’s most famous, was the Pink Panther. 150 feet tall and bubblegum pink, the coaster was a torturously slow climb, a steep drop, and a small loop around the area to slow down momentum. She waited in line, munching the popcorn, and was set for the second-next coaster (she was terrific at cart-math by now) when she almost bailed the ride completely.

The attendees at Funland Extremepark have a simple yellow polo as a uniform, meant to be worn with blue jeans and peppered throughout with pins, stickers, and Sharpie drawings to add character. The attendee checking everyone’s shoulder restraints had an elaborate Crusade Warrior design ironed on across his back, and there, right by Markallia Erqus and her warfairy was Anna Peefer’s signature.

She couldn’t for the life of her remember signing a bright yellow Funland Extremepark shirt—she signed about a thousand every convention she went to—but regardless of how little she remembered the shirt, the guy wearing it would remember her.

She fiddled with the twist tie on her popcorn. She’d been in line for quite awhile, and this was her favorite coaster. He probably wouldn’t make a scene. Besides, she thought, the wind making her loose hair tickle her back, he probably won’t recognize me. She couldn’t believe this had happened. She practically knew all of the attendants by sight, and now the first new employee all summer is a fan of Crusade Wars.

She got in the coaster about five minutes later. The guy checked each restraint, down the line. He seemed to falter on Anna Peefer’s, but she didn’t dare look up at him until the cart was beginning to move.

When she met his eye, his furrowed brow shot upward, disappearing behind his bangs. He grabbed a coworker by the elbow and whispered in his ear, making subdued hand motions down at his side, trying to keep from making a fuss. The coworker began scanning the coaster. Anna Peefer stared at the back of the seat in front of her.

“The game designer,” one of them whispered loud enough, and Anna Peefer closed her eyes.

“Please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times,” said the girl at the podium. She was also watching the two attendants.

Please, Anna Peefer thought as loudly as she could, glancing at the slits of sky through the ceiling boards. Don’t let the girl know Crusader Wars. Don’t let her be a gamer. Let her think the attendants are crazy. Please don’t let her say—”

“Enjoy the ride,” the podium girl said into the microphone. “And may heaven’s light illuminate your way.”

Anna Peefer snapped her eyes shut again. People in line were laughing, clearly getting the reference. Someone mispronounced her name as Anna Pfeiffer. The cart lurched.

“You can’t go here anymore,” said a tinny voice Anna Peefer thought she left at the entrance gate. She kept her eyes tight shut. “It’s too much, it’s too much. This stupid game follows you everywhere.”

The roller coaster lurched, and the warfairy, six inches tall with the wings of a dragonfly sprouting from her back, dove into the ponytail gathered at the nape of Anna Peefer’s neck. She dug her tiny claws into Anna Peefer’s skin.

“We gotta get off, the restraints are too tight,” the warfairy whined.

Anna Peefer cracked her knuckles one at a time. The coaster ticked its way up the first incline. The fairy screamed all the way up, her feet latched around Anna Peefer’s throat and holding tight. At the top of the peak, the fairy’s grip loosened, and Anna was free to scream. Anna screamed alone, everyone else holding their breath for the fall. She screamed so loud, and so high, for so long it hurt her. She could feel the rawness in her throat as the coaster sped down the hill. She sucked in the cold, biting air, riding the rest of the track in silence.