Six kinds of books.

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I estimate that, between my Kindle and my home library, I have 250 books in my to-read pile.

What’s a woman to do?

In my case, I put my books in six distinct categories, each with their allotted time in the course of a working month. So at any given time, I’m in the middle of at least six books.

1. Bathroom reading. This is not any kind of insult to the book. These books just tend to be dense with information, and so, best digested in small bits (so to speak). Currently it’s Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict by Joan V. Bondurant, which is extremely good. (Also, I am so grateful that I have not undertaken any kind of nonviolent resistance before I knew a hundredth of what the f*ck I was doing.)

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2. Research books. These are books I’m reading for whatever writing project I’m currently working on.The pile for The Actual Star is…significant. If I get my word quota done early in a day, I read these; I also take them along with me on errands, so I have something to read if I get lunch out somewhere. Most recently: my own sister’s book The Other Catholics!—which is a landmark, comprehensive, gorgeously written study of U.S.-based independent Catholic churches.

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3. Sunday long-term pleasure reads. Sunday is my day off, by God, so it’s reserved specifically for reading what I want and tossing it aside if I don’t like it (SO satisfying.) Right now, every Sunday brunch at Old Havana Sandwich Shop, I’ve been reading Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s Big Book of Science FictionI manage two or three stories a session; even so, it’ll probably take me a year to get through it all. Here is my progress with, as always, a plate of rice and beans, maduros, fried egg, and seasoned pork, with a sweet caf√© con leche. I call it my Sunday church ūüôā

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4. Sunday short-term pleasure reads. These are books I can read in a day. I’d forgotten that I can easily read a whole book in a day! I used to take a month or more to read a single book because I could only read for a half hour here and there, but now that I have an entire day of the week reserved for it, it’s easy. The latest: Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. Holy mackerel it was creepy—like The Haunting of Hill House, except in the Australian outback. I highly recommend it.

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5. Road trip audiobooks. My sweetie lives in D.C., so I’m taking trips up to visit him often, and audiobooks make the long drives happier. Right now I’m reading A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit, about the spontaneous utopias that arise in the wake of environmental catastrophe. Very relevant to our flooded future.

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6. Art-making audiobooks. When I do art commissions (like this one or this one!), I’m bent over them for hours at a time in a trance state. When I’m designing it, I need silence; but when I’m in the coloring-and-decoration phase, I can listen. Right now I’m making my way through the entire Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, an account of how humans settle and terraform Mars. Each of them is thirty hours long!

Also, a few years ago, I finally gave myself permission to stop reading a book if I didn’t like it. It was life-changing. Now, I stop reading as many books as I finish. Because life is too short.

Do you have any “systems” to organize all your reading?

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THE LAST PUSH!

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Friends: we are 88% of the way toward the goal. THAT IS HUGE. And today is the very last day to get your pledge matched by NINE generous anonymous donors toward the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and The Octavia Project. That means if you pledge $5, then $45 will be donated to them. But only until midnight tonight! So go pick your tier, and I’ll see you on the other side! Thank you.

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If you liked this post, please consider supporting my work on Patreon for as little as $1/month. My work is entirely funded by patrons like you. Thank you.

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My childhood lesson in nonviolence.

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Picture credit here.

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TW: abuse.

I was nine or ten years old, on the school bus, sitting¬†toward the back. It was early morning—we Catholic kids had to get up earlier than our friends, because we lived¬†in an¬†adjacent school district¬†(Annville-Cleona) that was required by law to provide bussing for us, but it¬†meant we had to be routed through several stops. So it was always just us few scattered Catholic kids, on a sleepy bus,¬†early every¬†morning, waiting in parking lots for the bus driver to come back on board.

Two older boys sat behind me. They were twelve or thirteen, and¬†cruel. I don’t know what they had going on at home, or in their hearts or minds,¬†that they chose to act that way. But I was chubby, and had bad skin, hair, glasses, braces; I was also very smart and outspoken. All of this made me a target of bullying. They’d just started at the high school, which meant they’d just started carrying around big heavy textbooks.

I heard them whispering to each other in the seat behind me. And then a silence, as one of them rose to his feet. And then, out of nowhere, he hit me over the head with his textbook so hard it knocked the wind out of me.

And I heard a clear inner voice say immediately: Make no acknowledgment whatsoever.

So I sat there, continuing to stare out the window, as if nothing had happened.

He hit me on the head with his textbook again,¬†much harder this time. An involuntary tear came out of my eye. My neck ached.¬†I just continued to breathe deep and gaze out the window. I told myself, I am stronger than them. I could hear them swearing and giggling in the seat behind me, incredulous at what they believed to be their own boldness, and at my course of action. But the second blow had just hardened my resolve, somehow. The voice persisted:¬†Make no acknowledgment. You are stronger. Breathe through. Breathe through.¬†I didn’t move, didn’t cry out. I just took deep breaths and gazed out the window.

A third blow with the textbook, so hard I thought my head would cave in. I could hear them gasping in the seat behind me, both at themselves and at me, and I braced for another round.

But¬†it stopped. That was the last blow. They didn’t hit me again.

That’s all I remember of the incident.

I’m still not sure where my¬†reaction¬†came from. I could have moved, yelled at them, hit back, reported them to the bus driver. But for some reason, by animal survival or human instinct, what seemed to me the most powerful course was stillness.

I’m only starting my reading on nonviolent resistance—currently,¬†Conquest of Violence¬†by Joan V. Bondurant, a classic Western study of satyagraha campaigns. And I just keep thinking of this incident from my childhood. I’m not saying what I did was the right thing or the wrong thing or effective or ineffective. I was just a child at the time. But one of the reasons I’ve always avoided in-person protest so far is because I don’t trust myself to not be violent, thinking that that is my default reaction—even the default¬†human reaction.

But then I remember this incident, and think, maybe there’s a deeper truth.

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$3,012.

 

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Something amazing happened. I asked my patrons to help me with a pledge drive so that I can get to $3,012, which means I can finish my novel The Actual Star (partly set in 3012) without constantly having to worry about finding extra work to pay rent. And NINE of my patrons stepped forward to offer to match all new pledges to anti-fascist nonprofits that need our help right now. NINE! That means that any new pledges will be multiplied by nine and then donated to ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and The Octavia Project, a science fiction writing camp for young women of color. But only for the next ten days!

I started the drive this morning and already raised $83 in new pledges, which means $747¬†in donations. We only have $654 to go before I reach my goal of $3,012—which means¬†$7,000+ for these charities. If you’ve ever ever ever wanted to join my Patreon, now is the perfect time. Go here. Pledge at $1. Pledge at $100. There are abundant rewards for all tiers, on top of your pledge getting multiplied times nine. Head HERE! And if you have any questions, ask them below!

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If you liked this post, please consider supporting my work on Patreon for as little as $1/month. My work is entirely funded by patrons like you. Thank you.

~

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Meet the day with dignity. 

I couldn’t sleep last night. I was woken up by a surge of police sirens around 4am and thought, It’s starting. I looked at my weather app for when the sunrise would be, got up, and drew the blinds. The sun was a gorgeous lurid orange. It painted my whole front orange, and I just stood there thinking how big the sun is, and how small that man is, and how he’ll never be free from the torture of his own mind.

I decided: I will meet this day with dignity. I just took a hot shower, lathering up with Irish Spring shower gel, because I forgot my soap and that’s what my sweetie uses. I wrapped myself in a plush towel. I’m sitting on the futon right now, typing out this post on my phone; when my sweetie wakes up, he’ll do his morning prayers and I’ll write my morning pages, and we’ll have breakfast and coffee. And then I’ll do whatever next task seems right. I may get some work done. Or I may wander in the city, and breathe the air I know is free, no matter what anyone tells me.

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If you liked this post, please consider supporting my work on Patreon for as little as $1/month. My work is entirely funded by patrons like you. Thank you.

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What is likely vs. what is possible, and why that distinction is imperative right now.

The other day, I posted a question on Facebook. I asked only people with professional or academic experience in law, political science, and government to answer. My question was, paraphrased:¬†If Russia did indeed coordinate with the Trump campaign to swing the election against Clinton, and we recognize¬†that¬†Trump’s presidency is illegitimate, what would be a¬†creative legal approach not disallowed by the Constitution to remove him from power?

I had to delete the post because, surprise surprise, people without the requested expertise used the thread¬†to vent their anger instead of answer my question. But expert or no, the answers fell into two categories: those who saw what was¬†possible¬†versus those who could only see what was¬†likely. Those who answered didn’t frame it that way,¬†of course, but the very fact that a few experts¬†did¬†propose possibilities—that possibilities¬†existed at all—exposed the fault line.¬†One friend cited a 1994 case in Pennsylvania where a judge declared an entire Senate¬†vote fraudulent, and ordered the losing Republican candidate to take the seat. Another wrote (and I’ve posted with her permission):

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And later:

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The fact that these are thin threads of hope are beside the point. The point is that they exist at all, and Abby—aka Abigail R. Moncrieff, JD, University of Chicago Law School, expert on healthcare and constitutional law—pointed to them. And that she didn’t answer “sorry, girly, not gonna happen” or any of the thousand variations on it that I’ve kept hearing ever since Election Day.

I felt the same profound frustration in the run-up to the Electoral College vote. Here was a legal Constitutional way to stop this presidency. Not only that, it was¬†literally¬†designed to stop a presidency like this.¬†But at the levels where it would have mattered—politicians, celebrities, lobbyists, influencers—the will to convince¬†those electors was completely absent. I still don’t understand¬†why. Was everyone just still in shock? Or resigned to what was “likely”? (The fact that the “those in power” demographic and the “white cis men¬†without much to lose under any presidency” demographic largely overlap is no coincidence.)

If you give a shit—and first, be honest with yourself about whether you actually do, because if I’ve learned anything since the election, it’s that there’s so much more blissful resignation in the face of encroaching fascism than I ever could have imagined—if you really do give a shit about this country and the welfare of its people, you must start thinking in terms of what’s¬†possible.¬†Start thinking creatively.¬†See ways forward that others¬†don’t. See harder. Try harder. I have no doubt that the ways out of this dark valley exist, if only we have the will to find them.

I wish I were a legal scholar. I wish I had more power. But for now, I’m a science fiction writer with a humble following, so I’ll¬†do as much as¬†I can where I am.

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If you liked this post, please consider supporting my work on Patreon for as little as $1/month. My work is entirely funded by patrons like you. Thank you.

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House of Medici, 2016.

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In the year 2016, my patrons directly funded the making of:

  • 150 hand-made books
  • 93 hand-written postcards
  • 48 hand-made art postcards
  • 34 essays
  • 8 short stories
  • 8 audiobooks
  • 6 videos
  • 3 scripts
  • 1 full play draft
  • 1 full novel draft
  • 1 trilogy treatment
  • 1 published art book
  • 1 TED Talk

…in which they all received a share through Patreon. To be clear: I cannot make art¬†without patrons.¬†They pay my salary. I am so grateful to each and every one of them. I’m not yet to a living wage, so if you haven’t pledged yet, please do. Go here and pledge just $1 a month. Direct patronage is the future of art. And we’re going to need art to fight fascism in the times to come.

Thank you.

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If you liked this post, please consider supporting my work on Patreon for as little as $1/month. My work is entirely funded by patrons like you. Thank you.

~

Patreon | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | The Girl in the Road | Art | Consultation