Archive for Musings

How my Cisgendered, Straight Sexuality Taught me about Truth

Posted in LGBT with tags , , , , , on March 16, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

I was raised by a mother who I still worship to this day. I grew up with two sisters who I have always looked up to. I am Pagan, and relate to the Goddess so much more than any male-centric god. I had a father who cared more about alcohol than me, and a shitty stepfather who abused me and my sisters to the point that we’re still dealing with the psychological rift he built between us even now. My first marriage was full of control and psychological and religious manipulation. I never had any reason to even respect a man until I was in my early 30’s.

Yet I am a heterosexual woman.

Why does this matter? Why should anyone care that I’m in the realm of “normal” for society?

Because if sexual orientation was a choice, I’d be the perfect candidate for a lesbian.

Funny, though. I have no interest in women. I have experimented, like many, but every time it felt wrong. I am attracted to men, despite my prison-like patriotical upbringing. Despite the rape I experienced as a nine-year-old at the hands of my stepfather’s fourteen-year-old son. Despite my religiously controlled first marriage. Despite everything I have endured that tells me men are everything I want to avoid, I’m still attracted to them. Despite my love of my mother, despite the adoration I have for my sisters, despite the closeness of my very best girlfriends, I’m attracted to men.

To men I should hate. To men I should fear. To men I was raised to avoid and be terrified of.

Yet after 37 years of experimentation and adventure, I know now that I am 100%, absolutely, positively, and completely heterosexual.

Because I. Love. Men.

I am attracted to males. I am sexually excited by males. I adore my husband and am so attracted to him that it sometimes drives me wild. It never felt natural to be with a woman. Never.

And this, above everything else I can cite, is why I am entirely supportive of  the LGBT community. Because if I, as a woman who never had a reason to even like men for the first three DECADES of my life, am still attracted to men, then how in the HELL could it be a choice?

Respect everyone. Love everyone. We all follow the path we love, and if we don’t then we’re on a path to Hell. Nobody deserves that. Never be the ferryman to that kind of place. Not for anyone. Not ever.

I refuse to ever point anyone in the direction of a lie.

Update From a Writer MIA: Part 1 ~ Graduate School, Theses Proposals, and Teaching Writing

Posted in Graduate School, Writing with tags , , , , , on September 13, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

So it’s been a while since I blogged, and I’m feeling a little neglectful for that. How ya been? Ya good? Good. That’s good to hear. I will say, though, that there are some great reasons for my MIA status these last two months — events in my life that have changed oh, so many things. The bulk of these events are over now, for the most part, so that I can finally take a moment, breathe, and catch you all up on what’s been going on.

First, as usual, is school.

My previous term was over at the end of July, but of course that meant that the vast majority of July was spent doing schoolwork. I can’t honestly even remember if I posted my final paper here or not. I probably did — that time is hazy (for reasons I will explain in a bit). I am now completely finished with prerequisites, and will be entering into my final thesis proposal next term, starting October 1st. I am also taking a class on teaching writing, just in case I can’t repay my student loans with my writing alone. This should be an adventure, as I will be teaching undergrads who aren’t usually English majors. Stay tuned for some ranty blogs! oi. (Though my Facebook friends may be thankful that I have a distraction from their posting foibles for once!) As for my thesis, I am planning on creating a whole new literary theory, JUST for children’s books, based on Joseph Campbell. It should be fun! Watch for updates on that, for sure!

Anyway, so after school was out in July I STILL didn’t have a moment to breathe, despite the fact that the kids were gone to their dad’s for the summer. Why?

The HOUSE.

But that is an entirely crazy, epic adventure that I must put into a separate blog for reasons that will easily become apparent to anyone who reads it.

Stay tuned…

What Dreams May Guilt Trip

Posted in Family, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on July 24, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

What are your dreams like?

I don’t know about you, but mine tend to be pretty epically insane. And yeah, that’s really the best way to describe them. A typical dream of mine on any given night could easily encompass post-apocalyptic city homebuilding, underground cavern / basement excavation, buses being thrown through the air at a slow arc, flying, dying in numerous interesting yet totally unpainful ways, trips to the moon to watch the earthrise… the list goes on. I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. After all, I do spend my days living in other worlds of my own making. When you write speculative fiction for kids, it’s not because your brain is wired for cubicle work. Still, every once in a while I wake up thinking maybe I had a little too much Kool-Aid the night before.

Like this morning, for instance.

Now, this dream wasn’t specifically fantasitical in any way. Really, it was just a typical schoolday for me… in high school. Still, that’s nothing really new, either. Who hasn’t had dreams about being back in high school and missing graduation, or being naked, or something along those lines? Only I was fully clothed, and to be fair it was really kind of a hybrid between high school and college. (The night before last I dreamed of being in college, too, only there were vampires involved, and something about going to Seattle… Whatever.) Last night’s dream started out with me in the school kitchen for some reason, doing something — maybe volunteer work, I don’t know — between classes. A friend of mine asked me to help her with some homework, which involved reading a Cliffsnotes version of ALL of Shakespeare’s plays. By the time we were halfway though, classes had changed (which really is quite a feat in and of itself; I mean come on, halfway through Shakespeare within an hour?), and we were both late for our next class. I ran out and started searching for my fifth period classroom, which was math, a class that I never got along with. Ever. Even in college. Anyway, this class, and the science one after it, have featured in past dreams of mine as classes I am constantly missing, being late for, and otherwise entirely failing. Often I can’t even find the classroom for the math class, and end up skipping it entirely and running for sixth period science instead. This time, though, I did find it. On my way I also found food: a sack of potatoes, a bunch of onions, some eggs that looked like bluebird eggs / Easter decorations, and something else I can’t remember now. The food was just sitting around for people to take, I guess. Anyway, outside the math classroom there were bunches of the food, which I assumed meant the teacher didn’t want us bringing it inside, so I left mine with the others. Inside, the teacher welcomed me back with open arms as I told him I’d do my best to make up for lost time, and try to pass despite always missing class. It was good times. Afterwards, I grabbed the food up again and headed to science class. When I got there, I found that my food had gone bad, and so I had to make a choice: search for better food or get to class.

Yeah… THAT isn’t metaphor or anything.

Which brings me to the point of this blog (yeah, there is one, I swear). Math and science have always been my worse subjects. Thankfully now, as a graduate liberal arts student, I don’t have to take any more of those particular tortures. Still, they remain a subconscious link to my deepest discouragements and self-doubt. Food, of course, is the classic metaphor for providing for ones self and one’s family.  Choosing between something I have been a failure at my whole life and yet refuse to give up on (as is apparent in the re-occurrence of these classes in my dreams), and providing for my family which I am not currently doing (my husband has the job, and yesterday… well… I won’t get into it; let’s just say he needs to find a better job)… Yeah. Guilt trip dreamscape, anyone?

So when I woke up from this blatant self-brow-beating, I had to ask myself: is it all worth it? I’m not too proud to say we are struggling right now, and it’s gotten very discouraging recently for myself and my husband. As an able-bodied, right-minded (mostly ;-)),  adult, shouldn’t I be working to help provide for my family, instead of chasing dreams that might never come to fruition? A master’s degree won’t get me a job writing — publishers don’t look at resumes — so why am I working so hard to get one? Every time I bring this up to my husband, he tells me to stay in school. “It’s where you belong right now,” he says. “You’re working toward the future of all of us.”

My husband is a wonderful man.

Still, I wonder. Sure, my masters work is helping make me a better writer, but is it making me good enough to warrant all the time, stress, and money I’m putting into it? And for that matter, is my dream of being a writer worth another year of struggle, wherein we have to tell the kids they can’t have enough school clothes, can’t order from Scholastic book fairs, and… worst yet… my eldest can’t have her yearbook… again?

Until these questions are answered one way or another, I fear these dreams have only begun. And at the moment, I honestly have no answer.

Having Your Cake and Writing it, too

Posted in Books, Middle Grade, Publishing, Writing with tags , , , on July 21, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

I’ll admit it, okay?

Sigh.

I’ve been kind of frustrated with the whole traditional publication game. Okay? There it is. And a game it is, full of rules, regulations, and secret codes you have to figure out just to survive. Still, I have spent the better part of my life figuring out said rules and perfecting my gameface. Why? Because at first that was the only way to make my dream of being a writer come true, and even now, as an old-schooler, it still feels that way deep inside. I honestly won’t feel like I have succeeded until I have a Scholastic, Harper Collins, etc. logo on my dust cover. I know, I know, that’s blasphemy these days, when so many authors are going the indy route. But to a girl who dreamed of a Newberry Honor far more often than she ever imagined her wedding day, it’s just… it’s not the same, and it never will be.

There. I said it.

And so, the excitement of “Guts and Glory” being SO close to that goal has been euphoric, and I am doing everything in my power to make it happen. Everything. So the idea of self publishing that particular series… well… that’d be like professional suicide at this point. I’ve worked SO hard to get to this point. There’s no way I’m going to ruin it now. However, having worked so hard on my website, my brand, and my professional presence, I have felt the ever increasing need to offer… something… of worth to my wonderful blog-readers and young fans (yes, I do have some who aren’t my own children lol). Not only that, but when you say you’re a writer these days, and all you have to show for it is a blog, well, that’s just not good enough. Not when you can self-publish so easily.

Then came the offer to be on a radio show, and that’s when I knew I had to do something. I mean, how could I let an opportunity like this go by, right? But what could I possibly promote? I couldn’t self-publish “Guts and Glory”, as I have stated, and Winter is in-processes as my final graduate thesis, so it was also out of the running.

Enter “The Elementals”.

As I have stated in a few places, this is a series I have been writing for my own children, who are the main characters. Though it’s been fun to write and share with my family, I have not expected it to be published for a very long time, if at all. This is because it’s epic fantasy for kids, which is a genre most publishers won’t touch with a ten-foot-pole. Why? Well because epic fantasy as a genre breaks a LOT of the major rules for writing for kids. It’s long, for one, at 600 + pages, and it switches point of view constantly. There is such a long list of characters in the first book alone that I have put a character glossary at the end of it, and the world wherein it is set is extremely complex and multifaceted in its culture and history. These are all things that children’s books should never encompass… and I have done them all with “The Elementals”. Why did I do this? Honestly? Because it was fun. That’s all. Like I said, this series was never really in the running for publication, and I figured (as I told my kids), that if it ever was traditionally published, it would be because my name as a brand carried major weight at that point.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been some epic fantasies for children that have been very successful. The main one that comes to mind is, of course, “Harry Potter”. But when you look at the series, pay attention to the length and depth of the first book. Yeah. It wasn’t until she had earned the right that J.K. Rowling was allowed to truly make her books epics. Another epic fantasy series for kids is Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising books, which, while they are amazing and I adore them, are hardly famous bestsellers. (I know, but ask any average kid if they know who Susan Cooper is… you’ll probably get a “no”, sadly.)

And that’s why a publisher will not publish “The Elementals” at this time… or possibly ever. I believe that this is a sad thing, indeed, because kids can and will read and enjoy epic fantasy, if given the chance, and if it’s written at their reading level.

And so, I have begun self-publishing “The Elementals”. I still have no idea if it will be particularly successful in any professional or monetary way, but that’s not really the point for me. What is? Well, for one, showing my kids that their series is important to mom, and two, to give something to my readers while I work on traditionally publishing “Guts and Glory”. Also, it just feels good to do something truly productive while I build my career… and, as always, it was fun!

So, maybe we writers can have our publication cake and write it too. 😉

Pseudo-Writer’s Block

Posted in Publishing, Writing with tags , , on December 28, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

I’m writing this blog on my phone at about 6:30 AM after a night of agonizing writing. I use the verb very loosely. What I did last night wasn’t so much writing as it was treading water, trying desperatley to stay above the waves.

On my fifth rewrite of Trevor Tate’s adventures in Nil, I finally know what will happen, exactly how the story will go, and exactly how mag it SHOULD be… if I can get it right, that is. I have the voice mostly figured out (though Trevor has a way of cracking jokes that plays jarringly against his bad temper, as well as a need to directly speak to the reader that, while charming, I have been warned against doing so many times it’s become a mantra to naysay it every time it comes up), and I have the characters, gadgets, giant bugs and robots that make the story interesting. What I don’t have is the drive to finish it.

No, that’s not right… I don’t exactly have writer’s block, per se’… More like writer’s meh, I guess. I want to work on it when I’m not, there’s no lack of excitement for the craft or the story there, but the moment I sit at the computer, I find myself feeling entirely at a loss to put coherent sentences together, let a lone be quirky and fun while at the same time  throwing in those ever-important tension-strings of plot and mystery.

I know what I’m doing, who I’m writing about, and where they’re going. Heck, I LIKE all of it too! It’s an amazing adventure, if I do say so myself… only I can’t seem to get my brain to WORK well enough to make it HAPPEN.

Anyone else ever feel like that, or am I the only one who’s ever suffered from pseudo-writer’s block?

Oliver Twist and Marxism

Posted in Books, Literature, Scholarly, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on November 30, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

Number three in my graduate papers series. I decided to post this one because it directly relates to my own work, and possibly to yours. I hope it does you some good; if it does, let me know! ~ MM

In Barry’s chapter on Marxist literary theory he defines Marxism (“communism”) as “… the belief in the state ownership of industry, transport, etc., rather than private ownership.” (Barry 150) Though Marx and Engles themselves never had an official stance on literature or the arts in general, many literary critics have used Marxist ideas in their criticisms. The most interesting form of this to me is “Engelsian” Marxist criticism, specifically the idea of “making strange”, an idea that “… one of the chief effects of literary language is that of making the familiar world appear new to us, as if we were seeing it for the first time, and thus laying it open to reappraisal.” (155)

Though, as Barry points out, these “Formalists” were not strictly Marxist in their ideas, many of their members went on to form later Marxist criticisms based on original Engelsian views. For example, the concept of defamiliarisation, or “making strange”, has certainly transferred over to modern Marxist criticism in the idea that “Literature… often tries to repress historical truth, but analysis can reveal its underlying ideology…” (160) This idea, coined by the American Marxist critic Frederic Jameson, reconciles Marxism and psychoanalytic literary explanations.

To put it succinctly, Marxist Criticism then espouses the idea that the Marxist ideal of everyone in a society being equal and thus sharing equally in ownership of industry via the state, is often denied by literature through the assumed fictional world wherein similar ideals are openly shared, but underlined by a more capitalistic moral in the end. Thus, the story “makes strange” factual historic data such as the lives of the working poor by showing it in a far more dramatic, and thus surreal, light than the actuality.

Such as it is in Oliver Twist

Since I first read Dicken’s classic novel as a teenager, I have been somewhat disconcerted by the ending. Oliver, born into poverty of the like Marxism defends against, pushed into the role first of a “machine cog” worker, then of a thief against his own wishes to be good, is saved in the end not by his goodness or by his own intellectual or physical abilities, but because he is in actuality a member of the bourgeoisie himself. In showing the reader Oliver’s world of poverty as a “made strange” literary device through the eyes of Oliver and thus new to the reader, Dickens indeed helps to open our eyes to how it has been for so many and the original push behind Marxism. However, by saving Oliver through a birthright instead of his own abilities, Dickens seems to remove any hope for those who have not been lucky enough to be born into wealth.

This is where I feel the largest difference between Marx and Engles’ view of the world and that of Dickens’. The former, in their “Communist Manifesto”, call for the rights of all people, especially the “proletariat”, or the workers on who’s backs the bourgeoisie have built and continue to build their empire: “The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save their existence as fractions of the middle class.” (Marx and Engles, 4-5) Dickens also shows us early on the terrible exploitation of the lower classes from birth: “…a parish child- the orphan of a workhouse- the humble, half-starved drudge- to be cuffed and buffeted through the world- despised by all, and pitied by none.” (Dickens 1) And, indeed, throughout the whole of Oliver Twist there is a continuation of this theme. However, it is never assumed or hoped that the lower classes will ever become anything more than they are, unlike the views of Marx and Engles, who see within that same class the makers of a revolution: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletariats have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” (Marx and Engles 5) Indeed, as I have said, Oliver is saved by being a part of the higher classes, not by fighting them. Still, Oliver’s new family, though of the bourgeoisie social status, are good people. Marx and Engles themselves admit that this is more than a possibility: “… a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and in particular, a portion of the bourgeoisie ideologists, who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole.” (4) In his array of colorful characters, too, there are good poor, bad wealthy, good wealthy and bad poor. Yet still the wealthy stay wealthy and the poor stay poor, despite it all. Even Oliver, of whom it could be said wealth is gained in the end, truly only gains his birthright.

I would venture to say that though this is a far less optimistic view than that of Marxism, it is also far more realistic. Which, in the end when viewed through the eyes of defamiliarisation, is quite ironic to me.

 

Works Cited

Barry, Peter.Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Manchester University Press (1995, 2002): 150-160. Print

Dickens, Charles.Oliver Twist.The Literature Network (2011):http://www.online-literature.com/dickens/olivertwist/2/.Web.

Engles, Frederich and Marx, Karl. “Excerpts from the Communist Manifesto”. (1848) Pdf.

On the Lighter Side… Custom Teabags!

Posted in Family, Kids, Shiny Happy Musings with tags , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

I’ve been working my tailfeathers off, as my eldest would say, on school lately, and just posted a new essay for you all to read and admire and tell me how smart and stuff I am. OK, not really; I just hope it helps some of my fellow writers who might be struggling with detail in their kids’ books, is all. Really.

Ahem.

So now let’s get on a lighter, and pretty much entirely different, trail. A while ago I said I was making a surprise for my thirteen-year-old who is at her father’s in South Dakota for the year and that I would post about it once she got the surprise so as not to ruin it for her. Well, that time has come.

One of the things that was always special between myself and Emily was our nighttime tea. Now, I make tea for all my kids all the time (though the younger two don’t get it before bed; peeing and all that), but for some reason, for Emily it’s even more special. Maybe that’s just me talking about a daughter I miss terribly right now, but whatever. She always asked for “Mommy tea” before bed, just as her big sister Cisily and her little sister Joei do (Cisily is 15 and Joei is 10). But for Emily, it’s always been a love thing; her way of bonding with me. See, Emily is one of those kids who has a hard time showing any kind of sappy emotion. You know, like love and gratitude and mommy-cuddles and stuff. Even as a baby she didn’t like to cuddle or hug. Now, as a sassy, sarcastic, self-titled skater/goth/tomboy teenager, Emily has a rep to uphold, you know.

But we have the tea. Always the tea.

Her asking for “mommy tea” every night was her way of saying “I love you, Mommy”. And my making it for her was my way of saying, “I love you too, and I promise not to be too obvious about it. Especially in front of your friends”. One of the things she said she would miss when she was at her dad’s was mommy tea, because she couldn’t get it without Mommy being there to make it for her.

So I decided to do the next best thing.

This works with any kind of tea, and/or you can do it with instant coffee bags too, if you’re so inclined. It’s a great idea for the hard to please person on your Holiday list, which is why I decided to post this now instead of two months ago when Emily first got the tea. An important note before we get started: It’s always best to ask permission when using images from the web. That is all.

Onward!

You will need:

  • Teabags. Any kind will do, though a mixture of flavors is always good for a gift. As I said, coffee bags will also work. I made a total of 50, but there is no set amount.
  • Printer paper.
  • A printer.
  • Ink, colored and black.
  • Double sided tape and/or strong glue stick.
  • A stapler and staples.
  • Scissors.
  • A small box, about the size of a baking soda box. (Optional)
  • Photoshop or the equivalent.
  • Microsoft Word or the equivalent.
  • An imagination.

So, here’s the steps in making custom teabags!

Step 1: Gather your supplies.

Step 2: Create a logo for your tea wrapper. Mine looked like this:

Again, it’s always a good idea to ask permission before using someone else’s images, or else you can make your own. You can even put a photo of yourself and the gifted together on your logo. Whatever. The important thing is to make sure it reflects the gifted’s personal tastes. As I said before, Emily is into goth styles, and her latest favorites are steampunk and anime. (I’ll take full responsibility for the first one… hehe.) So I found an image that was perfect and added the text in Photoshop. The font I used is Freebooter, but you can use any font you want. Make sure the logo is about 3×3 in., the standard size for a tea bag wrapper. (I found great step-by-step teabag wrapper making directions here.)

Step 3: Tea Tags!

Make a logo for the tea tags as well. These are smaller, at about 1.5×1 in. Unlike your teabag logo, the tag should be made so that it prints out as a mirror image of itself, like this:

It can be the same image as your bag, or different. As you can see, mine is the same style, but a different image.

Step 4: Change it up.

This step can be skipped if you’re only making one kind of tea. Starting with your original logos, which I used for black tea, mess with them in Photoshop a bit to come up with different colors and styles that still match each-other for your other flavors. I don’t have any pictures of my other flavors, sadly, but you get the gist.

Step 5: Print out your tags.

I found that pasting my logos into Word was the easiest way to print them how I wanted. Set the print options to landscape and print about four of your logos per page, along the top. Leave the rest of the page blank:

Your tags should be printed mirroring themselves, as I said before. Otherwise, however many you can fit on one piece of paper works!

Step 6: Form the wrappers.

Take a page that you printed your wrappers on and fold it backwards, along the bottom of the logos:

As you can see, the back of the paper is longer than the front. You want that.

Step 7: Glue your logos into wrappers.

This is tricky to explain, but easy to do. In between the paper sides, along the gaps between logos, you want to place either a strip of double sided tape each, or run the glue stick. I found the glue stick to work far better, but I also had industrial strength, so there’s that. Here’s a couple of images to hopefully help:

Here’s where you glue it…

And here is EXACTLY where you glue it.

Don’t forget to do the same on both sides of the logos, or your bookmark wrappers will only have one side glued!

Now, carefully fold the paper against the tape/glue like so:

Step 8: Separate your new wrappers.

This part is easy. Just cut along the gaps!

Step 9: Create the wrapper flaps.

All you have to do here is…

Step 10: Cut out your tea tags.

Remember to mirror them top to top.

Make sure they look like this:

And not like this:

Step 11: Dismember the original teabags.

Remove their wrappers and their tags. (I should note at this point that all measurements I have made pertain to flat teabags only. Those triangular things and etc. won’t fit in these wrappers.) What you should have left is a naked teabag and a naked string. Like this:

Step 12: Stuff!

Stuff the tea bag into a wrapper (which now resembles a tiny envelope). It should slide in easily, but if not, use a butter knife to gently push it in. Make sure not to tear the bag!

Notice that I have the string coming out of the far corner. That is important for the next step.

Step 13: Close and seal the top flap of your wrapper. Make sure not to glue/tape the tea string while you’re at it. 😉

Step 14: Staple the tea tag.

Take a tea tag and fold it in half so that the mirror images are now on either side. Slip the free end of the tea string in between the flaps as a loop…

… close down and and staple them all together.

And here is the finished product!

Do this with as many or as few tea bags as you like! I also made a little matching box to put them all in, but you can take it from there in whatever way you see fit, of course…

And yeah, Emily loved them. Win! 😀

Have fun and Happy Holidays! 🙂

John M. Cusick

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