About Disabilities · About My Life · About Other Stories

My Life as of January 2022

General Thoughts

It’s been quite the six months! The most notable update is that I’ve realized I have likely been dealing with undiagnosed autism my whole life. SURPRISE! 🥳 There’s a lot of misinformation around autism, so I’ll be devoting the next couple of months to posts on the topic. Some basics to know now are that autism is a complex, diverse spectrum and that it is not intrinsically a bad thing. However, the way autistic people are treated leads to lots of trauma and suicidality. Autistic burnout is a particularly big issue coming to the forefront right now, and I believe that my various other disabilities are at least partially the result of this. Thus, knowing I have autism could be lifechanging for me going forward!

I’m really thankful for the autism community online for helping me recognize this in myself. I’m also grateful to the people who have affirmed and accepted my self-diagnosis. I’m working towards a formal diagnosis, but that can be difficult to access, especially for adults. Quite frankly, most of the formal resources available to diagnosed people aren’t even that great–but there are many wonderful informal resources online!

In other news, I’ve finished EMDR therapy for processing grief, which I do recommend. I’ve also finished a major edit of #OCDStory, and I’m back to working on #SnowQueenStory. Now that I know I’m autistic, I’ve realized that #SnowQueenStory is actually about autistic self-acceptance and has a romance with two autistic people, which makes me feel ~soft.~ 💜 I’m also on the hunt now for a part-time in-person day job. Who knows how long I’ll be searching for one that fits my needs, though? For now, I hope to volunteer with my local Friends of the Library to help combat emotional issues related to five years of chronic-illness-and-pandemic isolation.

New Year’s Resolutions

With 2021 having come to an end, it’s time to review and renew resolutions! Of last year’s seven resolutions, I accomplished #3, #4, #5, #6, and #7. #1 and #2 are complicated by my autism self-diagnosis, but I’ve at least made progress! I also accomplished some unplanned work typing and abridging my old diaries, which was important for better understanding myself and regaining lost memories.

For 2022, here’s what I’m resolving:

1) Start sending query letters for #OCDStory. I’m hoping to get one last mass batch of critique from my friend-readers so I can do a final edit before querying this year! It’ll be the first time I’ve queried since college, so that’s exciting.

2) Continue work on #SnowQueenStory. My speed at writing has improved quite a bit since I last worked on this book, and I’m feeling enthusiastic about it. I have about 100 pages of this manuscript written already, so who knows how much I’ll do this year?

3) Keep striving towards a healthier adult life. I’m in counseling right now to address the emotional issues I’ve been dealing with, which are manifesting mostly as binge-eating. Between that and figuring out how to be as a newly aware autistic adult, I’ve got plenty to do here!

4) Spend more time interacting with people in person. As noted earlier, I am perusing options, but the Friends of the Library seems to be my best choice for the moment! Small towns in pandemics aren’t terribly full of social opportunities.

5) Research a different religion every month. I consider religion and spirituality important both personally and intellectually, but I’ve realized I’m pretty ignorant about most world religions! I’d like to remedy that. This past year, I unintentionally learned a lot about Judaism through social media, so I’ve started this month with that religion. In February, I’ll move on to Taoism.

6) Read 300 books. I managed a bit more than this in 2021, and reading is good for both my mental health and my development as a writer, so 300 reads in 2022 too sounds like a solid plan to me.

BOOKS

New Book Recommendations Second Half of 2021 with a large array of book covers

Remember that you can find my entire list of book recommendations here!

TV SHOWS

New TV Show Recommendations Second Half of 2021 with posters for LOKI, THE CLONE WARS, GRAVITY FALLS, CINEMA THERAPY, GOOD OMENS, WHAT IF...?, MIDNIGHT MASS, and THE WITCHER

MOVIES

New Movie Recommendations Second Half of 2021 with posters for BLACK WIDOW, SHUTTER ISLAND, BIG FISH, SHANG-CHI LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, SINGLE ALL THE WAY, MINORITY REPORT, DON'T LOOK UP, and ENCANTO

MUSIC

I struggled to get my Spotify Wrapped to stop crashing on me (☹ boo for old phones), but here’s some of the information I got about my listening choices in 2021:

Top Spotify Listens 2021 "Jumpsuit" First to Eleven "Crossing a Line" Mike Shinoda "Running From My Shadow" Mike Shinoda and grandson "Losing My Religion" BELLSAINT "Glitter and Gold" Barns Courtney TOP MUSIC MOODS: wistful and motivation TOP GENRE: Modern alternative rock

Three of those top five songs are from my official #OCDStory playlist–I’ll let you guess which ones! ☺

Social Justice Note

One of my resolutions last year was to donate more to the various causes and the many people who are in need. The places to which I donated are listed below in case you want to do the same! Many of them are local to New Mexico, so if you want to find your own local nonprofits, check out Charity Navigator.

Places I Donated 2021 Resistbot New Mexico Asian Family Center* Heading Home* Equal Justice Initiative Direct Relief The Trevor Project First Nations Development Institute Family Promise Hope for Haiti Flourish Point* We Need Diverse Books Autistic Self-Advocacy Network * = local organization Also donated to friends in need

Thank you for checking in with me! How have your past six months been?

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About Other Stories

Stuff I Do and Don’t Like in Stories

One of my favorite things about stories is that each individual person has aspects of storytelling that they love to see–and aspects they don’t love to see. Whether you’re talking about genres, tropes, themes, or more complicated concepts, our personal preferences can be really revealing. They also can guide us in finding new stories to explore and other people we can geek out with! So today, drawing from a few posts I wrote on my old blog over the years, I’m going to share some of my personal preferences: what I do and don’t like in stories.

Stuff I Like

  • Speculative fiction, especially in the YA category. My favorite genres, unsurprisingly, are the ones that I write: fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, mostly in the YA age category. Speculative horror especially is something I’m interested in exploring at the moment!
  • Good marginalized representation, especially of disabilities. Everyone deserves to have stories that reflect their lives, but many groups of people, due to their general marginalization in society, have also been marginalized in storytelling. I especially jump at the chance to read about disabilities, whether mental, physical, or even fantastical, because that’s a huge part of my life that I never used to see in stories. (Like many people, I prefer #ownvoices work because it’s a little more likely to avoid stereotypes, but there are exceptions!) Finding something that connects with the parts of you that feel most isolated and unrealized is always such a beautiful moment.
  • Religious themes without preachiness. Religion/spirituality is another important aspect of my own life that I’d like to see more in stories. I’m not looking for anything too preachy, but I love it when commercial fiction includes religious themes and/or religious representation. Fantasy religions can be especially fun to explore. I love me a scary eldritch god!
  • Complex family dynamics. Once again, family is something that really matters to me, but I also know how difficult and emotional family life can be. Fictional explorations of the horrific and beautiful realities of family relationships speak to me a lot.
  • Strong psychological or time-related twists. Good twists that shift the reader’s entire perspective on the story because of point-of-view wonkiness always get me. It doesn’t matter if I predicted them or not; I just want to explore how different realities can be created by where you’re standing.
  • Story retellings. Likewise, I really enjoy seeing the different ways different people can rewrite the same basic story, and knowing that something is part of a long cultural tradition gives it greater weight for me. So I’m a fan of stories that retell fairytales, folktales, mythology, classic literature, and the like!
  • Nontraditional formats. Art in general is something I’m enthusiastic about, so when authors play around with different formats to tell a story, my interest is piqued! I struggle with novels in verse and with audio-only formats, but otherwise, I love to see that creativity in action.
  • Magical women, especially with psychic-ish powers. Look, women are awesome, and I love seeing them wield a ton of power in a magical, non-physical way. (It’s kind of a metaphor for femininity being a valuable force instead of just masculinity, and there are also disability parallels.) I especially like telepathy and empathy because I’m very much about interiority and emotional connection.
  • Characters who love stories. I tend to shy away from stories that feature writers as characters, but I do love seeing book lovers or other people who are enthusiastic about stories. Like, hell yeah! Stories are awesome! Libraries are awesome! Art is awesome! I understand you, character.
  • Cats or other fun nonhuman sidekicks. Sometimes these are AIs, in science fiction, or talking objects, in fantasy, but generally, these sidekicks are nonsentient beings who hang out with the main characters and show off their quirky personalities. Cats especially I decided I love after seeing Captain Marvel. (I mean, I love cats anyway, but I need more of them in stories now.)
  • Robots with souls. In retrospect, my long-standing love for this trope may have to do with the fact that robot characters are often autistic-coded. Regardless, I am super into stories where a robot (or clone or other humanish nonhuman) proves themself to be a person with a soul of their own, basically, with emotions and dreams and especially romance. Not all those things are required for personhood, obviously, but I love to see them!
  • Slow burn and friends-to-lovers romances. Many common story tropes are romantic in nature, and these are two favorites of mine that fit well together. I’m a fan of a slow burn that ratchets up the tension and allows the emotional bond to grow, and watching two friends fall into romantic love makes my heart melt. I am, after all, demisexual. Mutual pining is also fun to see!
  • Romantic partners sleeping together non-sexually. Adding to that, I really love the soft, safe intimacy of (potential) romantic partners sleeping in the same room or even bed without it turning sexual. Like… it’s so nice. (Versions of this trope that are more about the growing tension are good too, LOL.) But basically, any romantic stuff where the characters are vulnerable with each other and that vulnerability is treated with respect and love and protectiveness from the other person–I want it.
  • Trying to “hack” emotions, especially romantic love, with logic and science. On the one hand, I like trying to make things make way more logical sense than they actually do. I am a categorizer and organizer. But on the other hand, I appreciate the utter chaos and randomness of love, how it can come from unexpected places and at any moment. I appreciate the utter chaos of humans. We are so weird, and I love it.

Stuff I Don’t Like

  • Historical fiction on well-trodden ground. Historical fiction is probably my weakest point when it comes to general genres. The stories in this genre that I do enjoy usually include speculative aspects and/or explore events or identities that are less represented in the genre and in history education as a whole. I’m just tired of World Wars, y’all.
  • Westerns. I don’t know what it is about these, but they don’t work for me. I guess it’s the often-historical vibe combined with the rough-and-tumble edge. The Mandalorian is the closest to an exception here I can think of, and it’s science fiction/fantasy with a cute baby, so.
  • Really gritty or grimdark vibes. As indicated above, gritty, rough-and-tumble stories aren’t my style, and I don’t need depressing grimdark stuff in my life either. I’m okay with a fair bit of violence, and emotionally dark stuff can be fine, but I usually want some ultimate ray of hope–or at least clearer lines about what’s right and wrong.
  • Bad marginalized representation. When there’s a lack of representation, that’s plenty bad enough. Adding harmful representation that leans on stereotypes and treats marginalized groups with disrespect, dehumanization, or general disregard is not okay. Now, it’s important to note that different people in marginalized groups have different experiences, and a story not reflecting your own personal experience does not mean it’s harmful. But I want to read honest portrayals that aren’t distorted by prejudice so I can learn from them. I don’t want unconscious biases to be reinforced.
  • Too much “masculinity”. As a woman who’s always been pretty feminine and as a fourth wave feminist both, I don’t want stories that only value traits currently seen as “masculine” in our culture. I don’t want female characters who only matter because they’re physically tough and unemotional. I don’t want male characters who have to always be either violent or uncaring in order to be taken seriously. There’s too much of that out there right now. I want women who are strong and feminine, and I want men who are soft and sweet.
  • Heavy sexual content. I can handle sexual content, but I’m pretty vanilla and get grossed out at times when there’s too much detail. So if I start feeling like a book is sacrificing the plot for the sex scenes, I’m not into it. I’m not into much visual nudity for the same reason. Obviously, this one is very much an individual preference!
  • Strong focus on sports/cooking. Look. I can’t do sports, and I hate cooking, so for me, it’s hard to get into stories that have a strong focus on those topics. It’s really a me thing.
  • Novels in verse/anthologies. As I said earlier, novels in verse, where the story is told entirely in poetry, don’t work for me most the time. The same is true with anthologies, which collect essays or short stories. I suppose the shorter pieces of writing just leave wanting more. It’s frustrating!
  • Audio-only formats. With audio-only stories like podcasts, my brain just struggles to process it properly. I think that’s an autism thing. I often get impatient, too, because I’m a fast reader–much faster than talking.
  • Characters who are writers. This is another one I mentioned earlier, but for me, when characters are writers, it feels too… self-inserty, I guess? It rings false to me somehow. Part of this might be because the first writer-character I ever read was Jo March in Little Women, and I was mad that she was so nonfeminine compared to me. It made little Kira feel like she wasn’t cool or tough enough to be a writer. So. 🤷‍♀️
  • Real-life animals as main characters. Again, this for me feels too false. The only exceptions are stories with cats as main characters, because I’ve lived my whole life with cats and I suppose they feel more like people to me than other animals do. Otherwise, my disbelief resists this suspension.
  • Teenage girls thinking they’re not good enough for a guy. Okay, so this has just been my life most of the time? And I don’t want it. I don’t want to suffer through it anymore. I want girls in stories to be confident or at least not self-hating when it comes to romance. Because I want to see them deserving that love without question. Teenage girls especially get enough crap already.
  • Animal deaths, especially violence towards cats. I can handle some of this, but I’m very sensitive about deaths of and violence towards animals, especially when it’s cats. Have I mentioned that I love cats yet? Because I do.

Thank you for reading! What stuff do you like in stories? These are individual likes and dislikes, so there’s no expectation of agreement and we don’t need to be starting any arguments, LOL. Related recommendations for books/movies/shows are also appreciated!

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About Writing

The Publishing Process

This post was originally published in September 2012 on my old blog.

Today’s post provides an overview of the traditional novel publishing process for anyone who wants to brush up on the basics! Authors may deviate from this path in a variety of ways, but this is the standard journey.

White feminine hands typing on a typewriter on a wooden desk with baby's breath in a vase nearby and written pages

1) Write a novel. Contrary to popular belief, you do have to have a completed book before you try to publish it, haha. Nonfiction operates on proposals and is a whole other kind of process, but for fiction, you want to have the manuscript ready first.

2) Edit your novel. Most of writing is, in fact, editing. You want your work to be as polished and awesome as possible before you start putting it out there. You are selling this to the industry, and they want as great of a piece as they can get. Yes, they’re going to do a lot of editing themselves. No, that does not mean you can let it slide. Make the best product you can on your own.

Start by stepping away from your work once you’ve finished your first draft. It’s important to get some space to improve your perspective. You won’t be able to see your mistakes until you’ve had some time away from them. Come back later to get the job done.

One important part of the editing process is getting readers who can offer even more perspective. Be sure to seek out varied views from people with different skill areas, some of whom tend to be harsher and some of whom tend to be more complimentary. Then look over the responses, consider what you want from your story, and figure out what you need to change.

It’s a good idea to start with the bigger storyline stuff before you get down to editing the exact wording. Over time, as you write and edit new manuscripts, you’ll also find your own special writerly weaknesses and learn how to counter them. For example, I am a plot-rusher. I’m so excited about the big picture and seeing what happens that I tend to leave out important filler. So in edits, I get to go back and fill it in! When it comes to words that are overused or that weaken the prose, like those listed in The Elements of Style, my personal weaknesses are passive voice and iterations of the words “look” and “eyes.” There are lots of tools online that can help you find yours, including word cloud apps!

Once you run out of notable issues to edit, it’s time to move to the next step.

3) Finalize the pitch material.
You may actually find it helpful to draft these documents while you’re in the midst of the previous two steps, but whether or not you do that, you need to polish them afterwards. These documents are key. They’re what you send to literary agents in order to obtain their interest in representing you. Because pitch material is all about summarizing, organizing, and marketing your ideas, it has the side effect of clarifying your ideas. Getting it right is so important.

Here’s what you need:

  • a query letter
  • a plot synopsis
  • a finished manuscript

This step is where you fully switch from artist to business thinking, which means being smart, professional, and exact. It’s similar to what’s required when applying for a regular job. A query letter is a mix between a cover letter and a project proposal. A plot synopsis is like a more detailed project proposal. Samples are often requested, which is why you need that book ready! You also may be asked for an author bio or a marketing plan, and if you attend special writerly events, you’ll have to condense your query letter down even further: 140 characters for a Twitter pitch online or a minute-long verbal “elevator pitch.”

The query letter is the central piece here. It begins with a pitch of your manuscript (make it exciting, specific, but professional, like on the inside flap of a published book), either followed or preceded by a paragraph stating the title, category/genre, word count, and a couple of comparable titles. You don’t want comps that are so blockbuster-popular that you’ll sound egotistical, but you want some well-written, recent titles that have a similar theme, style, and/or genre as your manuscript. Then include a paragraph with any writing credits you may have, followed by a closing where you offer the manuscript to the agent and thank them. You may also want to share your reason for choosing that particular agent to send to. Make sure that your final query is one page only! 

There are all sorts of resources online to help you write a top-notch query, but I recommend seeking out other writers who are familiar with the process, at places like WriteOnCon, to specifically critique yours.

4) Choose who to send your materials out to.
This step involves a lot of research. There’s no point in marketing your novel if you’re marketing it to the wrong people. It’s important, first, to know that it is very rare to get a publishing deal without a literary agent as an intermediary. The agents select the clients whose work they most love, prepare them more, and then send them to editors at publishing companies, who know that these novels are higher quality because the agent chose them. Agents also assist with the entire rest of the process, including contract negotiations, which makes them indispensable.

Second, Writer’s Market and the website QueryTracker are two great reference tools that can help you find agents. Each agent has different genres they specialize in. Narrow down the field to the agents that work with your novel type and look at their websites. Be sure you’re considering not just the overall agency, but the individual agents to find which one fits you best. You will be expected to address that person directly in your letter, and it’s to your advantage to know a good bit about them. Check places like Writer Beware and Absolute Write online to make sure they aren’t scamming you. Find with whom the agents have worked and what books they’ve sold. You can also look at their social media to see how they interact publicly with others.

Third, once you have a list of agents you’d like to work with, find what their submission requirements are. Each one will have slightly different rules about which materials they want sent where, and they’ll have different response times. (Many of them are so busy they don’t respond at all unless they want to read more.) Get that information and follow it to the letter. Again, professionalism! Be the person others want to work with.

5) Send out your work.
Once you’re ready, I recommend sending out to a handful of agents at a time. You want to query multiple agents because you’re very unlikely to get a yes the first few times, but not too many agents because it can get confusing and you need time to correct your materials based on the responses. Keep track in a spreadsheet so you know if they’ve exceeded their response time and if it’s time to a) check in or b) move on, depending on what their website says. 

Remember that you will be rejected. It happens to all of us. For example, I’ve been rejected 111 times so far! If I’m not your prime example, you can look up any author and see what their experience was like. Rejection happens. It’s part of the process. Be strong, never give up on becoming a published author, but be ready to move on to another manuscript if the time comes.

If they haven’t asked for the full manuscript up front, which is rare, agents who are interested will ask for that once they read your query. Based on where in the process you’re getting rejected most often–whether it’s with the query, the first few chapters, or the full manuscript–you can figure out where you need to focus your edits. Reconsider your materials. Get more opinions from people you trust. A lot does depend on the current market and individual taste. Agents may also ask for a revise and resubmit (R&R), where you edit your manuscript based on their critiques and they check whether it’s right for them afterwards. You don’t have to make those edits if they don’t feel right for you–just move on to somebody else.

If it’s really just not happening, you might reach a point where you have to “trunk” that novel. If you’ve been writing another book while you’re been querying (which you should do!), you can move on to that one. Sometimes a manuscript you write ends up just being for you. That’s valuable in so many ways, so don’t feel bad that it wasn’t meant for more. Move forward until you get to the book that does work.

6) Here’s what happens after an agent makes an offer.
Hopefully, you’ll reach a point where one or more agents decide they want to represent you. At this point, you need to notify the others who have not yet responded. There will be a phone call so you and the agent can discuss your visions for the manuscript and your future career. That’ll help you figure out if you’re the right fit for each other. Your agent is your business partner, so you need to be able to communicate with and trust them. Once you and an agent officially decide to work together, with a signed contract and all, take a moment to celebrate! This is such an important step forward. (One I haven’t yet reached myself!)

Done celebrating? Okay. This is a business relationship, and like all relationships, it takes mutual work. You might do some editing together. Then your agent will start sending out to editors at publishing houses who the agent sees as a good fit–and you’ll get more rejections in the process. With luck, you’ll find the right editor, but things can go wrong. You might still have to move on to a different manuscript. It’s also possible that someone might end up breaking the writer/agent contract, and you’ll have to start over. This is a difficult, messy industry, but if you’re really here for this, it’s worth it.

Once you’ve negotiated and signed a contract with a publisher (which requires the okay from multiple editors, usually), there are still more ways it can go wrong. It often takes a year or two for the book to actually hit the market because there are multiple levels of editing that you have to undergo along with designing and formatting and marketing. Your agent will help you through it all. Together, you and your publishing team will hopefully be able to kick off your authorly career!

Then you can look at how far you’ve come. You made it to publication. YOU WIN! (I mean, you still have a whole career to manage, and there are a million more ways it can go wrong. Your book sales will determine how likely you are to get published again, and you don’t have much power over that! The best determiner is actually how much marketing the publisher chooses to do for your book. There’s also all sorts of complications with payment schedules and advances and taxes and a sad lack of health insurance. But that’s life! This moment is still monumental and deserves congratulations.)

Thanks for reading! I hope this overview proves to be of assistance to my fellow writers tramping through the publishing wilds.

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About My Books

My First Recorded Novel Attempt

When I first decided to become a novelist, around the age of nine, I made various attempts that failed to reach novel-length. (I defined that as “100 pages” then.) Most of these stories were lost a long time ago, but a few were included in the thousands of pages of journals I’ve kept. This story, called The SuperSonics, is the first novel attempt that I actually have a record of! It was inspired by my then-obsession with the Weather Channel and stars me and my best friends at the time. Last names and location have been removed, but otherwise, this is a genuine, unedited piece of childhood writing.

THE SUPERSONICS

CHAPTER 1: THE EXPLAINING

“Why do I feel this way?” asked Kira.

“I feel it, too,” chimed in Amy and LaPriel.

​Kira is a 12-year-old girl with long, gold, wavy hair and blue eyes. She loves to write. She has a beautiful kitten called Angel who calms her down. 

Her best friends are Amy and LaPriel. They both have brown hair and brown eyes. LaPriel is thin and shy, and Amy is average and totally not shy.

Kira, the main character, has 2 little brothers, one 9 and one 6.

I should go back to the beginning. 

CHAPTER 2: 1ST DAY OF NOVEMBER

“Hey guys!” called Kira as she approached the swing set. 

“Hey!” answered Amy. Kira hopped on the swing next to Amy.

“First day of November. Cold and no more daylight,” she said happily.

“Yeah,” sighed LaPriel.

“Don’t you love to swing?” asked a happy Amy.

“Yeah,” said Kira dreamily. “It’s like flying.”

10 minutes later, the bell rang. Kira went inside, mumbling, “Math, oh great.”

At recess they noticed dark clouds in the distance. I mean, really dark clouds. Black. Pitch black with a touch of green.

“That’s weird,” said Kira.

“Yeah…,” Amy said distractedly.

“Yep, wow, weird,” said LaPriel with a pale face.

“Hmm,” said a confused Kira. “Weird. Let’s wait until tomorrow to see what happens.”

CHAPTER 3: THE FEELINGS

That morning, Kira watched the news.

“Nothing!” she exclaimed to herself. “How could that be? The clouds are now covering the mountains!”

Her mother, however, sent her to school.

At school, she and all her friends were silent through the math class they all took. At recess, they began to speak.

“Why do I feel this way?” asked Kira.

“I feel it, too,” chimed in Amy and LaPriel. It was a cold weird feeling. The ground seemed to quiver. They had a big headache, and felt dizzy, too, but no one else had this feeling. 

“Why? Why are we they only ones to be submitted to this torture?” asked a very angry Kira. “Why?”

“We don’t know. We don’t like it, either,” said Amy. LaPriel nodded. Then the bell rang for lunch. 

 “Oh, great. What’s for lunch?” said Amy with a groan.

“Today is Beef Stew. The boys are going to go crazy,” said a harassed LaPriel. 

Sure enough, they began yelling, “Poop soup! Poop soup!”

“Ugh,” said Kira, distracted for a minute. Then the eerie feeling came over her again. 

She quickly got her “poop soup” lunch and sat down.

“What should we do?” said Amy as she and LaPriel sat down with their lunch. “About the feeling and the poop soup, heh hah.”

“I’m going to call Lisa,” said Kira. Lisa was Kira’s cousin, a science master who could explain everything.

“I hope she knows,” said LaPriel.

​“She will,” answered Kira.

CHAPTER 4: DISCOVERY

“What!” screeched Kira into the phone. “No, no, no. What? Oh. Really? Really! Well, I guess.” She hung up. “Lisa says that we are SuperSonics!”

“Huh?”

“People who can tell if something bad is gonna happen.”

“Oh man. That means something bad! If only we knew what!”

That night, Kira had a vivid dream. Snow covered the town and it froze everyone in her dream. Soon, her hometown was no more.

Kira ran to school. When she reached Amy and LaPriel, she said, “I know what the eerie feeling means!” She heard two other voices say the same thing.

“How come you know?” they said together. They all began to giggle.

“I guess we all had the same dream!” Then Kira looked serious. “We have to tell people before it happens.”  

The next day was Saturday. Kira called Amy and LaPriel and asked them to come over.

“Today, we walk around and tell people.”

For an hour, they walked around. When they stopped, the whole town knew, saw the dark clouds were dangerous.

The news ran it. After 1 more hour, it began to snow.

“Everyone must evacuate,” said the news guy. Soon the whole town was on the move.

“Get everything important you can,” said Kira earnestly into the camera.

“Soon nothing will be here!” exclaimed Amy.

“Hurry!” yelled LaPriel.

“And don’t leave any pets behind. Anyone or anything that stays will freeze to death,” added Kira.

“Hurry!” they said altogether.

Kira ran home and began to pack. Two outfits, one dress outfit, PJs, Angel and her cat toys, blankies, Kirsten + Britta dolls, diaries, books. She packed hurriedly. 

Soon they were all leaving.

“Gone. Good-bye. Gone. Good-bye,” mumbled Kira.

CHAPTER 5: RECOVERY

Slowly they drove away from the town that was steadily becoming snow covered.

Two hours later, in the next city, Kira’s grandma rejoiced.

“I’m so glad you’re here! So, so, so glad! What a wonderful thing! My grandkid saving lives! SuperSonic! Wow!” she cried happily. Kira smiled at her own face on the news.

Hours and hours passed, Kira reading and thinking.

She babbled happily as soon as Amy and LaPriel came over.

“Gosh. This is weird. We will always be important to our community now. Always,” she said.

The weatherman monitored the weather. A day passed. Then the snow stopped. Everyone drove home.

Two hours again, then home. 9 feet of crunchy thick snow. It was about –15 degrees. Slowly, Kira swiveled her head to see the plain of deep snow.

“We will recover,” she said confidently.

A week later, the snow mountain was an ocean. Everyone either stayed inside a high room, or swam around everywhere in their swimming suits. It was kind of funny, but scary to the people who couldn’t swim.

A month later, all that was left of the ocean was a river in the canyon and puddles in the street. Windows in houses were broken, shingles were gone, and anything in lower floors were gone.

“We will recover,” said Kira, and she was right. People all over were fixing windows and roofs and replacing semi-important things that were gone.

“Soon the town will be back to normal,” she said happily, walking into the sunlight.


Awwwww. It’s so sweet.  😊

I had a whole series of disasters planned for this story, but it kind of died off when I realized I couldn’t make it to 100 pages. I wouldn’t achieve that until I was eleven. But you gotta start somewhere!

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About Other Stories

Twilight and Mormon Theology

This post was originally shared on my old blog in August 2014.

Ever since it came out, Twilight has inspired a lot of love and a lot of hate. There’s plenty of existing discussion.

In terms of love, Twilight speaks to a lot of women lacking in confidence who are yearning for a special, old-fashioned romance all their own. I adored the series when I was in middle school, which is when I was both struggling and yearning the most. (Yay middle school!) It was a beautiful escape for me that included one of my favorite tropes: sharing a bed nonsexually. It also, as many YA writers will tell you, did a lot for the world of teen literature, just as Harry Potter did for children’s literature.

In terms of hate, Twilight does have a lot of problematic content. For example, Bella and Edward’s relationship sets off a lot of red flags for domestic abuse. The story has some other misogyny too, with Bella often presenting as a blank slate lacking her own interests–and with that weird pedophilic imprinting issue. Racism is also scattered throughout, mostly in terms of Native stereotypes but also against Black people. On a less valid note, there’s been plenty of that hate that occurs around most things beloved by teen girls, because we as a society devalue anything associated with femininity, especially teen femininity.

In all this discussion, one topic that I haven’t seen examined is Twilight‘s deeper meaning. A lot of people see it as a shallow paranormal romance with basic entertainment value. As Stephen King once said, “Twilight is all about how important it is to get a boyfriend.” However, when taken in the context of Mormon theology, there’s a lot more to be discovered. Stephenie Meyer is Mormon, and I grew up Mormon myself. For me, reading this series was like a treasure hunt full of references that I was uniquely situated to understand. Unfortunately, a lot of the negative aspects of the series can be connected to Mormon culture too, which is a whole other post, but here, I’d like to briefly talk about the story’s thematic interpretation through the lens of this theology.

The basic plot of the Twilight series is that ordinary human Bella moves to a new town and meets Edward, a strange, beautiful, and idealized young man who turns out to be a good “vegetarian” vampire from the early 1900s. They fall in love despite being all star-crossed, and there are evil human-killing vampires who hate them, and there are werewolves who hate vampires too, and the entire time all Bella wants is to be turned into a vampire herself so she can be with Edward forever. Eventually, this does happen, and they create a space for their little family in the vampire world by proving to the bad vampires that everything’s fine.

First, the core conflict and the core romance of the series speak thematically to the Mormon vision of life after death. In Mormon belief, everyone will be sorted into three heavenly kingdoms at the Judgment Day. (A few rare individuals will go to actual hell, the Outer Darkness, but that’s mostly for Satan and his demons.) Each kingdom is good, as you will there have eternal life in a perfected body that can accomplish incredible things. The ultimate goal, however, is to reach exaltation in the highest kingdom, the Celestial Kingdom, where the best people will continue learning from God on a perfected Earth to eventually reach godhood themselves. This exaltation can only occur within family groups (married couples being the basic unit).

In Twilight, vampires represent humans post-Judgment. All vampires have perfected bodies with magical gifts, and they will all live forever. (I’m not sure that “sparkly” is exactly what a perfected body is meant to be, but, you know.) As Bella says after she becomes a vampire herself, it’s as though she was always meant to be in her vampire body.

Edward’s good vampire family specifically represents those who reach exaltation. They live in this perfected state together as a set of married couples, and they find greater meaning and purpose in that than other vampires have.

Edward, of course, is initially single. However, he is forever changed by his love for Bella and thus becomes his true best self. Meanwhile, the quest for exaltation is reflected in Bella’s desire to become a vampire herself and be with Edward forever. They can each only become the perfected selves they were meant to be through the other’s influence.

In a related point of note, while the vampire’s magical powers represent the spiritual perfection that is reached after the Judgment, they also represent important spiritual gifts that people have even as imperfect human beings. (Just as Bella already had part of her gift before she became a vampire and figured out what it really was.) Many of these gifts are basic traits: faith, loyalty, intelligence. However, some of them are more on the supernatural sideprophecy, discernment, healing. You can compare the powers in Edward’s family for reference.

Finally, the bad vampires represent those who have given into sin, becoming unexalted or even demonic beings. Their blood lust is a metaphor for the intense struggle we all must go through on Earth in resisting temptation so we can become our ideal celestial selves. Giving into that sin prevents exaltation. However, as exemplified in Edward, who had a “rebellious” period, people can repent and come back from their sin. Those who don’t choose that, though, may go so far as to become demonic figures who are constantly attacking the very family unit that supports exaltation.

That’s the meaning of the core conflict and romance. Second, though, are the werewolves, who represent a specific variation of exaltation. Like vampires, werewolves are perfected celestial beings, but they reflect more directly the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Mormon theology states that the Twelve Tribes, having been scattered across the Earth, must come together to accept their true birthright of leading the Church. The werewolves’ connection to this can be clearly seen through the names of their grandparents. Jacob is a direct descendant of Ephraim, which is the birthright tribe of Israel, and through that, he is the birthright of leader of the pack. However, he didn’t want this birthright, so he left it to Sam, a descendant of Levi, which is another important tribe that watches over much of the priesthood. (The priesthood authority is held by men in the Church, which is probably why most of the werewolves are male.) In the end, the werewolves and vampires can only come together to protect their families and reach their full eternal potential once Jacob accepts his birthright. 

The love triangle plays further into this theme. Mormons believe that Gentiles can be “adopted” into the Tribes of Israel and that is how we gain eternal glory. However, Bella couldn’t become a werewolf because she didn’t have the heritage, so in order to reach her celestial ideal, she had to go the vampire route. The vampires are the “adopted” celestial beings, and Bella had to be adopted into the family through her romance with Edward so she could reach exaltation. That’s why Jacob couldn’t be the right choice for her.

Third, Carlisle represents Jesus Christ standing as the head of the exalted family. Mormons believe in Christ as their savior, same as the rest of Christianity, so he had to be included here too! Carlisle not only leads the vampire family, but he is the one who first created it and who now adopts people into it, saving those so broken they were destined to die. Like Jesus, he’s the most ancient of their family, once friends with the worst of the vampires before they fell too far. He is the one who accepted Edward’s “repentance” after his rebellion into evilness. Without Carlisle, the good vampirism wouldn’t be possible. Throughout the series, he acts as a figure of care, guidance, and protection to everyone around him, though he refuses to tolerate threats to his family. He also chooses to be a doctor because he is more gifted at saving people than any human could be. (Christ is sometimes called “the Physician.”) Carlisle is even immune to temptation. It’s really a pity the series didn’t focus more on him.

As noted previously, there are other aspects to Twilight that come from Mormonism, both as a religion and a culture. For example, Edward’s old-fashioned insistence upon getting married before he and Bella have sex and Bella’s insistence on going through with her pregnancy because she values her unborn child’s life so much reflect the Mormon belief in the sacredness of life, sex, and creation. However, the points discussed above are what I see as the most notable, and they’re what give the series a deeper, more valuable meaning.

So the next time someone tells you that Twilight is totally shallow, you’ll be able to explain how rich it is in meaning through Mormon theology! In the end, it’s not just about the importance of having a boyfriend. It’s actually about humanity’s journey towards godhood, as represented through one girl’s escapist (and often problematic) supernatural romance.

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Images via Amazon and puzzlefactory.pl.

About My Life

My Experiences with Chapter One Events

Hello, everyone! I’ve been attending Ch21Con 2021 online today, so this seemed like a good time to share my experiences with Chapter One Events, which runs both Ch1Con and Ch21Con. These are two writing conferences, one for teens and one for twenty-somethings, that take place every year in Chicago!

Chapter One Events

Fun fact: I had the honor of being a founding member of Chapter One Events! This glorious journey began when I was 13 and became a member of the Scholastic Write It boards, a heavily moderated online community for young writers where we shared our writing and discussed the book industry. During the five years I was a member, the boards had a really great regular membership. I made many incredible friends there whom I love more than I can express. I got the chance to experience a real writing community full of camaraderie (A+, would recommend), and I also learned a lot about writing, editing, and publishing. Without the Write It boards, I would not be where I am today, and I would be missing out on what bloomed into a beautiful set of friendships!

As the Write It regulars grew older and began to sneakily find each other on much-less-moderated social media, we became eager to meet each other in person. So in summer 2012, Julia Byers, my writing friend and a brilliant entrepreneur, put together a little private conference for us! Since I live in New Mexico and they were further east, I was unable to attend in person, but I spoke at it via video chat. (I talked about writing romance. 👍🏻)

Because of the success of the meet-up, Julia decided she wanted to make it into a full public conference where young writers could meet together. It would be a writing conference run by teens for teens. After tons of legal stuff and more legal stuff and monetary stuff and legal stuff, she finally was able to set up the Chapter One Conference to have its first official event in summer 2014. I was given a position in marketing on the original team. I started trying to raise money to go to Chicago, and I set to work putting together a blog tour. That wasn’t something I’d ever done before, and I was very intimidated. Still, I faked it ’til I maked it. (LOL.) I really learned a lot, even though I kept thinking I was way too young to be taken seriously.

After a lot of back-and-forth, I figured out a way to afford the travel to Ch1Con 2014. Julia immediately put me on as a speaker, doing a workshop about novel openings. So now I was putting that together on top of the conference promotion and my first ever self-planned trip, which was a delightful adventure! I was beyond excited to see in person these longtime friends who had done (and continue to do) so much for me as a writer and a person–and to meet real published authors for the first time. 🤩

My travel to Chicago was a chaotic, wonderful time. I’d never travelled that far east before, and I was stunned seeing all the differences from what I’m used to! Black-and-white cows, tons of brick houses, so much green and wet, a big city skyline, more diverse people than I’d ever seen. My mother and I traveled via Amtrak, which was also a fun new experience. I was honestly pretty overwhelmed, in part because I was so nervous about meeting these people who were so important to me, so I shut down a little bit. I was so scared that I was an awkward disappointment in person!

Once I had a chance to eat some food–Panera, which was also a first for me!–and spend time one-on-one with my favorite Julia doing a podcast interview promoting Ch1Con, I started to calm down and relax into the experience. I hung out that evening with my Write Iters and went to bed excited for the actual conference to start the next day.

We started setting up around eight the next morning, and it was a little more complicated than I’d expected, but finally, we had everything together. All of us attendees and speakers and team members (there only ended up being eight of us that first time, but hey) had a ton of fun and got off topic a lot. There was book analysis, school talk, and general writing mayhem. It was one of the most enjoyable things I have ever experienced. Getting to be with other people your age who have your same interests is truly unparalleled. That was the best part of the conference.

Our speakers talked about procrastination, POV as a central part of world-building, journalism’s connection to novel writing (with Mr. Rogers pictures), movies vs. novels, and character development. I also got to do a live panel with Amy Zhang and Patrice Caldwell, which was awesome. Then we ended the official sessions for the day to have a touristy Chicago adventure! We spent more time endlessly chattering about our shared interests as we rode the subway, went to Millennium Park and the Bean and face fountains, and ate dinner. My fibromyalgia caused some trouble, which was upsetting, but it was 1000% worth it.

The next day was much more low-key, with a smaller set of workshops that included my own. We continued to get way off-topic a lot, but Julia’s query workshop, especially, was helpful. Then we did a little driving tour before going to Union Station. I got more time with the Write Iters who were left and also saw Lake Michigan. Then I awkward-hugged my friends over the car seats, and it was over. My heart hurt so much from missing everyone already. It was magical, being able to find this great group of friends in people I’d never actually met before, and just… the experience was amazing.

For our conference in summer 2015, the stakes were raised. We had more experience, but we needed this event to be successful enough to continue investing resources in. So I upped my marketing work. Thanks to that first conference, we’d established a bit of a brand, full of jokes like rotten tomatoes, Larry the Hamster, and Panera as a sponsor. Now we added ongoing events like YouTube and Twitter chats. We teamed up with popular blog Teens Can Write, Too! Julia continued to show off how phenomenal she is. We had fun with technology and time zones and Indiegogo campaigns. And it worked! We got enough attendees to keep the flame burning.

I didn’t know whether I’d be able to go in person again–I thought that 2014 might be it for seeing my writing friends. But luckily, finances worked out again! This time, my mother and I travelled by plane, and I was a lot less nervous but even more excited (also more tired). Karuna Riazi, whom I’d been a huge fan of for a long time, was one of our speakers, and I couldn’t even manage to talk to her face-to-face because I was so thrilled about it, LOL.

Once again, we had a marvelous time all being together as young writers. Things were more official and less off-topic, but still totally delightful! Our speakers this time talked about teen authorhood, world-building, color-coded outlining, diversity in writing, and the publishing process. We got even more of an insight into the background details of the industry, which was awesome.

I was too sick with my fibromyalgia and such now to be able to go be touristy, so I slept instead. The next day, my Write It friends decided I did need to go see dolphins at the Shedd Aquarium because my username on the boards had been DolphinWriter and I had never seen one before. Once again, my illnesses caused trouble, but I was able to see the dolphins. It was lovely.

Then the 2015 conference experience was over, and I said goodbye to my writing friends. I have yet to see them in person again, but we continue to constantly talk online. They’ve gotten me through so much!

Despite my physical distance, I continued to be a part of the Ch1Con team as the conference’s stability grew. Eventually, our original team became old enough that we decided to add a second conference, Chapter 21 Conference, for writers in their twenties. New, younger people took over Ch1Con, and together, the teams formed Chapter One Events. Thanks to my chronic illness crisis, unfortunately, I did have to leave the team earlier than I otherwise might’ve. But I’m thrilled that some of the original team are still there, while we also have many new people taking charge!

In 2020, obviously, the unexpected happened in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. So the summer 2020 conference moved to virtual form, which permitted me, for the first time, to attend Ch21Con! It being virtual was not quite as fun, with no travel adventure and fewer chances to interact with people, but I appreciated it. Julia once again had some good query advice.

Then this year, summer 2021, the team decided to do a hybrid event, so I once again got to attend via video. I missed part of it because my body loves sleep too much, but it’s been nice! The sound over video was a bit of a sensory nightmare, and I still missed the lack of socializing. I imagine it’s hard when there’s so much happening in person, but I think it’d be awesome if they had a dedicated person focused entirely on running a chat through Twitter or the Discord in the future!

I continue to be a supporter of this conference experience. Connecting with your peers, especially as a young writer, means so much, and there’s a lot to be learned from the speakers! I hope I’ll be able to attend a conference in person again someday, despite my illnesses/finances, whether it’s a Chapter One Events conference or another. I also hope these conference organizers will continue providing some options on the virtual side for disabled people like me. 😊

If you’re a teen or twenty-something writer, I recommend you check out these two conferences. You can follow Ch1Con and Ch21Con on Twitter, and keep an eye out for registration to open next year! 🍅

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About My Life · About Other Stories

My Life as of July 2021

General Thoughts

This year so far has proven to be difficult, though not so much as certain other years. More than anything, I’ve been struggling with a binge-eating problem that has spiraled out of control over the past few years, reaching its peak (I hope!) during the last few months, as I’ve tried to create a new life for myself post-chronic illness crisis.

I’ve restarted counseling because of this, and I’ve discovered that I have a lot of grief about what I lost in that crisis that I still need to process. It’s frustrating because I’ve had to grieve illness-related losses multiple times in the past, and I’d honestly like to move on–but I’m not emotionally ready for that, as it turns out. So I’m processing that grief now, and I’m also trying to reprioritize my writing, since working on my books has consistently been helpful during times of emotional upheaval.

Other updates from the past six months include that I’ve performed and recently finished a significant revision of #OCDStory (🥳), that I’ve finished typing up and rereading my old diaries to help me regain my memory of the crisis, and that I’ve quit attempting to obtain SSI due to the extremely restrictive limits. (I’d love it if you would sign this petition to raise those limits, which is an important issue affecting far more people far more deeply than me!)

BOOKS

New Book Recommendations First Half of 2021 with covers for EXQUISITE CAPTIVE, DON'T LOOK BACK, WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT, LET'S CALL IT A DOOMSDAY, GIRL ON THE LINE, RULES FOR VANISHING, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, THREE DARK CROWNS, THE ART OF SAVING THE WORLD, DAWN, CONTAGION, LEGENDBORN, YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN, A SONG OF WRAITH AND RUIN, SLAY, THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS, THE ONES WE'RE MEANT TO FIND, THE CRUEL PRINCE, THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE, THE DISTURBED GIRL'S DICTIONARY, THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI, THE FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER, THE INFINITY COURTS, TRULY DEVIOUS, THE QUEEN'S RISING, SING ME FORGOTTEN, THE FIFTH SEASON, and ARU SHA AND THE END OF TIME

Remember that you can see my full list of book recommendations here!

TV SHOWS

New TV Show Recommendations First Half of 2021 with posters for THE GOOD PLACE, WANDAVISION, SCHITT'S CREEK, MURDER AMONG THE MORMONS, THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER, QUEER EYE, SHADOW AND BONE, STAR TREK PICARD, and LOKI

MOVIES

New Movie Recommendations First Half of 2021 with posters for THINGS HEARD & SEEN, THE OLD GUARD, and SOUL

Thank you for reading! How have your past six months been?

SIMILAR POSTS
About My Books · About My Life

My Writing-Related Journey to Demibisexuality

Hello! Last year for Pride Month, I posted about how, after years of research and thought, I’d figured out that I’m not just straight: I’m actually demisexual and biromantic. For Pride Month this year, I’m sharing that post again here on this new blog!

If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology used for different kinds of attraction, that might sound like a confusing collection of random syllables. Human attraction is ​complicated, like most things related to humanity. The fact that we have the language now to better explore and understand it is amazing! So thank you for taking the time to learn.

Demiheterosexual and biromantic flag

My journey in discovering my attraction orientations began early on in writing #OCDStory. I knew that I wanted one of the side characters to be asexual because it’s important that stories appropriately represent people with different orientations. Not only is it unrealistic to exclude them, it’s also hurtful and can leave them feeling unmoored and rejected. I chose asexuality in particular because it was the marginalized orientation that I’d always found myself most interested in.

Asexuality is a sexual orientation where a person does not feel sexual attraction to people of any gender. Asexual people do not have a medical or psychological problem, and they are not just choosing to be celibate. In fact, some of them aren’t celibate. Asexual people can still respond to sexual contact. They just don’t feel any of that attraction or desire the way allosexual people do when they see or are near an attractive person of their gender(s) of interest. Some asexual people are sex-repulsed, meaning even the idea of engaging in sex is repulsive to them; some are sex-favorable, meaning that they’re interested in engaging in sex despite not specifically being attracted to anyone; and some are sex-neutral.

One thing many allosexual people don’t realize is that sexual attraction and romantic attraction are two different things. Most people’s romantic orientation aligns with their sexual orientation, but that’s not always the case. The asexual community is where this divergence is most obvious. The split attraction model is a common topic of discussion among asexual people, many of whom do have romantic attraction. However, while sexual attraction is a concept that is fairly easy to describe and understand, romantic attraction can be a lot more confusing.

THE SPLIT ATTRACTION MODEL

When I wrote the first draft of #OCDStory in late 2014, I didn’t understand what made romance different from friendship other than sexual attraction. Because of that, I left my asexual character’s romantic orientation undetermined. I revisited the idea a few times in editing, but I could never make enough sense of my own romantic orientation to feel comfortable writing about hers. I’ve always been a very romantic person; while sex is something I’ve struggled to be comfortable with, I adore the concept of romance and all its intimate, affectionate commitment. But I still couldn’t explain romantic attraction.

In April 2019, I realized that I needed to focus in, do some research, and make the necessary edits. Leaving Phoebe’s romantic orientation unexplored wasn’t right. So I embarked on an adventure through the asexual community online. For a while, it only left me more frustrated. Most people who knew their romantic orientations couldn’t describe the experience clearly. Some listed specific non-sexual things they wanted to do only with romantic partners, but that didn’t fit my experience. Some said romance was just “different” from friendship in a way they couldn’t explain, that it was “something extra.” I discovered that a whole segment of people call themselves things like quoiromantic or wtfromantic because they have no idea what romantic attraction even is.

Then, out of the blue, something clicked. I remembered a roommate, my best college friend, from late 2015. She and I had connected right away and became devoted to each other within days of meeting. She’s a wonderful person in so many ways, and she’d done so much for me. For example, her influence had helped me become more comfortable with sexuality and bodies in general. Multiple people had commented on our unusual closeness, including my mom, and for a while after that semester, I had questioned whether I might actually be bisexual. But I had never felt sexual attraction to her, the way I sometimes had with guys, and I hadn’t wanted to do anything with her that I didn’t want to do with my other friends. (I did often think that I would totally marry her if she were a dude, though.) She’d since come out as pansexual, but I’d had no explanation for what I had felt.

Now, four years later, I understood. I hadn’t been sexually attracted to this girl, but I had been romantically attracted to her. Like people said online, it was “different” and “extra.” My feelings for her had been brighter and more obsessive in a positive way. It was friendship, but also not. Thus, I now knew I was biromantic. Like most bi people, I had a “preference,” leaning more towards men, but here was one example of romantic attraction towards a woman too. Later, I came to recognize a few more women I’d felt that for, though not as strongly, in my past. With that knowledge in hand, it felt right for Phoebe to mirror my own journey to discovering my romantic orientation.

I was quite comfortable with that label for myself. There were a few questions still lingering, but I didn’t pay much mind to them until May 2020. One night, I was lying in bed like usual, letting my thoughts whirl their way around my head however they pleased until they slowed into sleep. For whatever reason, I started thinking about asexuality. I thought about how I’d always been drawn to it as a concept, and most particularly, demisexuality. Demisexuality is a sexual orientation that lies in between allosexuality and asexuality, where a person only feels sexual attraction to certain people with whom they have a strong emotional bond.

I thought about how multiple online quizzes I’d taken had put me somewhere in the asexual spectrum. I thought about how my counselor sometimes questioned why sexual attraction was an afterthought when I talked about my crushes. I thought about the time in AP Literature when the teacher asked us all to share one thing we found physically attractive and everyone thought I was so “pure” because I couldn’t answer.

I had been operating on a few assumptions: I’d assumed that my interest in the asexual spectrum was because of my OCD-fueled fear of sex. I’d assumed that my OCD-fueled fear of sex had also caused me to become very good at suppressing my own sexual feelings, which was why I usually only felt brief, seconds-long bursts of physical attraction here and there. I’d further assumed that demisexuality worked like a light switch, where you hit a certain point of closeness and suddenly it’s on. But that night in May, with my OCD now well-managed, I found myself questioning those assumptions.

What if those sexualities spoke to me for a reason? What if my fear of sex was, in fact, partly caused by me being less interested in sex than others, not the other way around? What if demisexuality sometimes worked more like a dimmer, where sexual attraction slowly ramped up the more one got to know an attractive person?

Suddenly, things started clicking in my head again, leaving me wide awake. I thought of the only two people I’ve ever been sexually attracted to for more than a brief moment. The first was a guy I’d fallen deeply for, feeling a deep though illogical emotional connection to him. I’d been romantically attracted to him pretty quickly, but the physical attraction took months to appear, at which point it slowly grew–then sputtered as we grew apart. The second was the closest guy friend I’ve ever had. I wasn’t attracted to him for a couple of years, but then it started to develop, quite against my will. Eight years after I’d first met him, I understood for the first time why people in stories felt the urge to throw themselves at each other. The strength of it startled me because I’d never felt anything like it before.

Remembering that now, I realized all at once that I was demisexual. A bunch of other things started making sense: I understood now why I’d always been confused by one-night stands, celebrity crushes and “freebie lists,” by people who got married after knowing each other for less than a year, and by religious people who struggled with sexual “temptation.” I understood why I’d felt so uncomfortable when I’d tried using dating websites and apps. I understood why I sometimes had a hard time deciding whether there was relationship potential with people. Suddenly, so many things made sense!

“DEMIGoddess” Eugenex

Today, I’m pleased to be able to say that I’m demibi. Some people might not understand the power in having that knowledge because, in practice so far, I basically look straight. But knowing the subtleties helps me to better understand myself and others. It’ll certainly help me to better navigate future romantic relationships! I’m also thrilled whenever I find the words to better communicate and understand different concepts. That’s why I’m glad complex labels like these exist. Knowledge is power, and I hope this story helps you to understand different kinds of attraction better, too.

Thanks for reading, and happy Pride!

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Images via my own files, OurAceSpace on Wattpad, Hafuboti on Wikipedia, and Eugenex on TeePublic.

About Disabilities · About My Life

My Worst Teacher’s Worst Ableism

I originally shared this story on my old blog in June 2017.

Like everyone who’s been through school, I’ve dealt with a variety of teachers, good and bad. I’ve had teachers who guided me in my writing career and through my chronic illness struggles, and I’ve had teachers who mistreated and disrespected students and who were terrible at actually educating. As a chronically ill person, I’ve also dealt with a variety of ableism. But the worst example of both ableism and teacher misconduct that I’ve personally experienced is that of Kevin and his calculator.

During my first semester at BYU – Idaho, I had a religion teacher whom I did not much like. Many of the worst teachers I’ve dealt with have been inflexible people. In general, inflexibility is a toxic trait because we are all different people with our own paths in life, our own best ways of doing things, and it’s important to accept and affirm that. With teachers, inflexibility is especially bad because education is so important and, at the same time, a one-size-fits-all system.

BYU - Idaho logo

This religion professor may have been the most inflexible (and self-righteous) person I have ever met. He had an extremely black-and-white way of looking at things–and I say this as someone who was first diagnosed with OCD during this particular semester. His assignments were pedantic busy work that displayed no trust in his students’ intelligence or spiritual capacity. He said things like that we would see who was “truly righteous” by whether they chose to watch the Super Bowl on a holy Sunday. (I’m not a sports person myself, but I think that’s a bit much.)

Though I disagreed strongly with his perspective of the world, I didn’t initially have too much trouble with this professor. The worst moment was probably when he said that “disabled people feel entitled.” At least, that was the worst moment, until we reached the last two weeks of the semester.

During the first week of school, as is usual for disabled students, I’d had to work out a set of accommodations with the Disability Office. At this time, as was usual for the first and last weeks of school, I had been very sick. While I’d been in the Disability Office, I’d ended up in tears because of how much pain I’d been in. (They’d encouraged me then to get medical help, which had come in the form of a steroid injection in the butt–a truly delightful experience.)

The accommodation that I used most often while in school was a Kindle for my textbooks so that I wouldn’t have to carry around the too-heavy weight of physical textbooks with my fragile, exhausted body. I was allowed to use this Kindle in classes as an exception to the usual no-electronics policy. When I had given the religion professor the official letter stating that I would be using a Kindle for my texts, he had accepted that with little issue. His dislike of electronics, however, had been quite clear throughout the semester.

Also throughout the semester, we’d had open book quizzes at home on our readings in the LDS scriptures. This required us to page through those scriptures to find direct quotes and minor details. Thinking that the professor understood I did not use physical books, I had used my Kindle for these quizzes–which, admittedly, made it easier to find those pieces of information. I’d aced all the quizzes, which was not something unusual for me. I always did well in school.

Two weeks before the end of the semester, however, the professor called me into his office.

“You’ve been getting better grades than anyone on the quizzes,” he said, “and you finish them very quickly.”

An open set of scriptures

I nodded, unsure where was this was going.

“Have you been cheating?” he asked.

I was blindsided by the accusation. I’d been given hints over the years that teachers might think I was cheating, but my clear integrity and intelligence had prevented any true accusation.

“I’m sorry?” I said to the religion teacher.

“Have you been using your Kindle to take the quizzes?”

I stared at him. “Yes. They’re open book, aren’t they?”

“Yes, but that means a physical copy of the book.”

I shook my head, confused. “But I have a disability accommodation. I told you that at the beginning of the semester. I use my Kindle for my scriptures. I haven’t used anything else on the quizzes, just the scriptures.”

“The rules clearly state ‘no electronics.'”

“But…”

“So I’m giving you a chance to correct this without going to the Honor Code Office. What do you think your grades would be if you hadn’t used electronic scriptures?”

I was not prepared for this, in part because I had been diagnosed only eleven weeks ago for a type of OCD that made me vulnerable regarding moral issues. I tended to mistrust myself and to become deeply self-hating when faced with the possibility of having done something wrong. However, I knew that what this professor was saying made no sense. My Kindle was a disability accommodation. I did not have physical scriptures. How could using electronic scriptures on an open book test be cheating?

Though we went back and forth a bit, the professor was unwavering. He showed no understanding of the unique circumstances. A part of me was almost impressed by his manipulative way of speaking to me and his insistence on posing himself as a magnanimous figure. I eventually gave in and told him that maybe I would have gotten Bs? It was impossible for me to know, but like I said, I was good at school. He accepted that, though with a suspicious look, and I stumbled away crying.

After processing what had happened, with the help of a typical I-have-a-problem-and-no-one-here-to-ask call to my mom, I decided that I needed to push back more. Now that I was away from the immediate shock and could express myself via writing, maybe I could explain in a way the professor would understand. I sent an email to him, my mother, and the Disability Office that I hoped would straighten things out.

A drawing of hands, palms up, holding the disability symbol

Instead, I received a flurry of berating replies. As my mom and I tried to work things out with the Disability Office, the professor repeatedly threatened me with the Honor Code Office, called me a cheater and a liar, and wrote things like, “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard” and “you and God and I know the truth.” I could hardly believe that a fully grown man was speaking this way to one of his students.

I would have given up sooner, especially since I still had an A in the class, but my counselor and my mom encouraged me to continue. Even my dad called the professor “a disconsolate ass,” which was oddly heartening, since my family didn’t allow cursing. We all agreed that what the professor was doing was wrong, and other students needed protection from that kind of behavior. So I continued sending emails throughout the week.

The Disability Office, however, proved to be exceptionally unhelpful, stating that it had been my responsibility to communicate to the professor about my accommodations. Since we had never explicitly agreed that I would be using my Kindle on tests, they couldn’t do anything. Perhaps that was true, but they had to see how inappropriate this all was, didn’t they? I had forwarded all of the professor’s emails to them.

Without structural support, and with my mental health quickly degrading under the stress of this, I finally decided to let the issue go. I sent an email to everyone stating so, though I again pointed out the unique circumstances and the importance of supporting disabled students. The professor replied thanking me for owning up to my cheating and doing the right thing, having clearly not understood any of my points.

I thought it was over. But the next day, in our first religion class during the very last week of school, the professor went off-syllabus with an unexpected case study. He projected it up on the board. It read something like this:

“In a math class, calculators are not allowed while taking quizzes. Kevin has been using a calculator on his quizzes. of taking the issue to a higher authority, possibly leading to failure or even expulsion, he will simply lower Kevin’s grades on the quizzes. The teacher tells him that, instead Kevin insists that he has not cheated and calls on his parents to defend him. Though the teacher has treated him with fairness, Kevin refuses to admit that he has done something wrong.”

A light-skinned hand holding up a calculator in front of a blurry desk set-up

Then the professor had the entire class discuss “Kevin” and his cheating ways.

As I sat there, listening to everyone talk about how “Kevin” was a terrible person for refusing to admit his wrongs in using a “calculator,” I had no words. To set aside one of the last class periods to target me, using my unsuspecting peers, and again without acknowledging that teeny tiny detail of my disability accommodation, right after I had let the complaint go, was astounding. Part of me wanted to cry, but things had drifted so far from logical reality that I mostly wanted to laugh. The immaturity! The manipulativeness! The utter audacity!

The professor brought up the issue again briefly the next class period, and then, the semester was over. I considered filing a complaint higher up, but I honestly didn’t want to waste more time, effort, and mental health on a man who, I now saw, was incapable of seeing shades of grey. No matter what I tried, he wasn’t going to acknowledge my point. I knew the truth, and that would have to be enough.

Me and God, but apparently, not him.

After that semester, I was sure to use Rate My Professors before signing up for any classes. In a later year, I came across the professor with his latest religion class, which included a blind student, and I winced. I could only pray that the student would make it through without too much struggle.

The professor in question is still teaching religion at BYU – Idaho to this day.

In retrospect, I wish I’d had the resources, emotionally and externally, to continue fighting his mistreatment and apparent ableism. It hurts to think of all the students who are under his power, possibly being manipulated and degraded like I was. You want to talk about “unrighteous dominion”? Look no further. But this all happened in 2014, and I don’t have the emails anymore. Perhaps the school does. I don’t know. I suspect that all I can do is hope that either this professor has significantly changed or a future student who does have the resources will succeed at pushing back.

One of the most important lessons I learned that semester is that rules on their own have no meaning. To follow rules, without question, is to ignore the fact that each rule should stem from an underlying principle.

Golden statue of Lady Justice blindfolded with her scales and sword

The principle is what has meaning. Too often, we ignore that principle and let ourselves be controlled by the rule instead, even when it becomes arbitrary or hurtful. When you look at the rules, you see black and white. When you look at the principles, you begin to understand in true color, and then, you are enabled to follow the rules with greater purpose. You become a better, more educated person. You learn how to balance justice and mercy.

There was none of that balance in what happened to me.

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Images via Brigham Young University – Idaho on Wikipedia, JamesNichols on Pixabay, Hawaii Open Data on thenounproject, and two unknown artists on pxhere.

About My Life

27 Lessons from 27 Years

Today is my 27th birthday! 💃🏻 27 is a good strong number, so I’m pretty thrilled. (Although I basically still think of myself as ~21, so.) Anyway, two years ago, on my original blog, I posted a list of 25 lessons I had learned from my 25 years of life. I’m pretty proud of that post, so I thought I would bring it over here for a bonus today! I’ll just add a couple more points to round it out to the modern day.

Banner of pictures of me (and my cat) for 27

1) It’s okay to not be okay. This is the top thing that I would want to tell my younger self. I’ve spent so much of my life feeling guilty about my own emotions, but it’s okay to not be happy. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to seek out help, and it’s okay to keep having a difficult time even after that. (Toxic positivity is not The Way.)

2) Don’t be afraid of “wasted time” because you’re always learning something. When I was at my sickest, I was distraught at the thought that I wasn’t learning or growing or developing as a person. But afterwards I realized that I’d actually matured quite a bit, even though all I “did” was sit in bed and watch TV. You don’t have to always be accomplishing things in order to learn.

3) The world is both a horrible and a beautiful place. That’s what comes of imperfection. It’s important to see the beautiful, but ignoring the horrible is not the way to live either. Some people will try to do that anyway. You cannot force them to recognize reality.

4) You don’t have to save the world by yourself. One of the beautiful things about humanity is that we live together. We are interdependent creatures who use the mechanism of society to protect each other. That means individuals don’t have to make up for all the horrible things in the world by themselves (and indeed, we can’t–the burden is too great, and everyone needs help at some time or another). It’s groups of people together who will make change. Even Jesus Himself didn’t fix the world. He created a way for there to be both justice and mercy in the eternities, but God, and everyone out there who is suffering, needs us to work together to make things better in the now.

5) ​You don’t have to “save” a man–or anyone else–to be worth loving. My OCD made me believe there was something wrong with me for the longest time, something that I needed to fix in order to be a worthy human being like everyone else. I thought the way I could fix it was by saving or fixing or otherwise supporting a guy. But girls don’t need guys to make them good people. I don’t have to support a “hero,” I can be the heroine of my own story.

6) Society disparages traditionally “feminine” things, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. Being emotionally expressive in non-violent ways is not bad. Interdependence is not bad. Loving romance and family is not bad. Liking dresses and flowers and kittens is not bad. None of those things make you weak or stupid.

7) Don’t miss out on fun stuff on the merit of its popularity. I have a habit of slipping into the “popularity sucks” complex, where I resist popular things (or things that are recommended to me) just because I want to be subversive or contrary. But half of the things I tried to resist I ended up loving later!

8) The worth of a person, including yourself, cannot be measured in an empirical way. I’ve often diminished my own worth by trying to calculate it monetarily or through some kind of moral consequentialism. It’s just not that simple. We are living, breathing, thinking human beings with immortal souls, and that means we all have infinite worth just by nature. You would never think of someone you loved in this way.

​9) Some things just don’t happen until they happen. So keep living your life and let things unfold naturally. My two major goals in life have been to have a strong marriage and to be a successful novelist. I’ve spent my whole life hoping those two things would be right around the corner, striving and struggling to make them happen. They still haven’t! But I’ve learned that big events happen in their own time. It’s worth putting effort into, but not worth agonizing over. Just keep doing what you love and being who you are.

10) Life rarely goes the way you plan. This is classic advice, always true. It doesn’t mean I’m ever gonna stop trying to plan things, haha, but it does demonstrate how all those anxiety-provoking “what ifs” are unhelpful. You just don’t know what’s going to happen, and you can’t prepare for everything. Learn to be flexible and adaptive.

11) ​Rules only have as much value as the principles behind them. Rules aren’t valuable in and of themselves. If the reason for a rule isn’t a good one, the rule won’t be good either. You still might have to deal with them, and that’s why it’s important to learn how to work around the system and jump through the hoops. But where there’s a bad rule, you should do what you can to change it. (See lesson #4 again.)

12) Your body does so many things every millisecond, which means there are so many ways that it can go wrong. Unfortunately, this means you will not realize the value of being able to eat tomatoes until it is too late. 🤷🏻‍♀️ So take care of yourself, okay? And don’t make assumptions about what other people’s bodies are or aren’t capable of doing.

13) Bullies almost never have a good reason for treating you the way they do. It’s not because there’s something wrong with you. It’s almost always because there’s something wrong with them. If you remember that, it’s a lot easier to keep it from getting to you. And ignoring your bullies will often lead to them stopping–though not always. That brings us to the next lesson…

14) Do the minimum that you have to in order to get someone out of another person’s space. You don’t have any irrevocable right to another person’s time or attention or anything else. If they don’t want you in their space, you get out of their space. Not only is that what’s moral, but it’s what’s necessary for a functional society. If someone is ignoring that and is harming or otherwise infringing on the space of another person, that is the only time it is okay to step into their space without permission. Do what it takes to get that person back where they need to be–but only as much as it takes. Violence should be a last resort. Don’t infringe any longer or any more than you have to.

15) Different people in similar situations react differently. This can be seen in mental illness, for, example: you can’t assume that because you know the stereotype or the textbook information or the experience of one person that you can tell whether someone has a certain illness. Some people with anxiety cry a lot (a.k.a. me). Some people get angry. Some people shut down. That’s how it is for just about everything in life. Every person has their own path, their own slightly unique way of being that is right for them. So never assume that your way is the best or only way.

16) Communication is an important and difficult skill that requires flexibility. Just as different people have different paths, they have different ways of communicating. We should all strive towards clearer communication that is neither too aggressive nor too passive. That takes work, especially if you didn’t learn it as a kid, but it’s worth it. At the same time, it’s vital to recognize people’s limitations. Just because someone can’t communicate to you in a way you understand doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth listening to. Keep working towards that place where the two of you can better connect.

17) Anyone can be redeemed, but not everyone chooses to be. You can’t make that choice for anyone else. If someone is hurting other people, focus on protecting yourself and others, not on “changing” the perpetrator. (Some people might also choose to keep being harmed, and no matter how much you love them, you can’t make that choice for them, either. This is a fact that might be even harder to face.)

18) One of the most important things for you to be aware of is how little you know. There’s an infinity of knowledge out there, more than even humanity collectively could imagine. So never think that you know it all. Never think that someone else’s perspective doesn’t have value.

19) Learn your limits and then stay at the very edge of them. This advice originally came from my time at Mayo Clinic, but I think it applies to a lot of things in my life. It’s important that you challenge yourself so that you can learn and grow and expand your limits, but if you go over the edge, you will have a setback rather than the growth you wanted. Be careful with striking that balance! Remember that balance is something that shifts often. It’s a lifelong journey.

20) If you’re unhappy, don’t be afraid to make a change. I learned this the most during college, when I realized that I could resolve some of my unhappiness by making changes, such as changing classes, changing majors, or even changing schools. You don’t have to stay on the path you’re already on. Your choices aren’t a one-and-done. Now, with all that said…

21) There are some problems you can’t run away from. ​Sometimes, you can make a few changes, and your situation will improve. But when the problem is deeper, you can’t escape it by developing a new lifestyle or making new friends or moving to a new place. This is the case for things like mental illness, chronic illness, or past trauma. You need to face them head-on and work your way through them. Otherwise, you may escape for a short time, but they will come back around again.

22) Sometimes friendships end, and that’s okay. I’ve had many times in my life where I was terrified of losing my friends. In the end, I did lose many of them–but that’s okay. Friendships can end badly or prematurely, but often, they end naturally, when they are meant to. And the fact that they end doesn’t diminish their value. The same goes for many other things, like hobbies or trunking a novel.

​23) The human mind is more terrifying than anything else out there. I lost a lot of my innocence around fourth grade, when I had an intense, months-long episode of melissophobia. Afterwards, I was sobered by the fact that my mind could create such darkness. I’d never imagined that kind of twisted fearfulness could exist inside me. It took me a while to start trusting myself again. Mental illnesses like that are just one example of the awe-inspiring power of the human mind.

24) You can endure more than you could ever imagine. Whatever the darkness you find inside yourself, whatever the trials you face, know that human beings are capable of incredible resilience. Humans have endured unimaginable suffering all around the world, all throughout history. That fact isn’t a happy one, but it does offer some hope. When you hit your darkest moments, remember that you have more strength than you know. You have the power to make the best of your circumstances, whatever that may mean.

25) You deserve to be treated with respect. Everyone does. If someone is mistreating you, you don’t have to put up with it. It doesn’t matter if they’re “a good person” or really popular or well-liked. It doesn’t matter if you ​like them. You deserve better. Likewise, it’s not necessary to understand something or someone to respect them. Understanding is great, but create that foundation first with basic respect.

26) Trauma does a ton of damage to people. Per #24, you can survive much more than you might imagine, but trauma also leaves lasting scars. We have to protect each other, especially children, who are the most vulnerable when it comes to this. If you’ve been through trauma, while you may never fully heal, do know that you can find your way to a better life. Give yourself the time and seek out what resources you can access to guide you in that.

27) Everyone should be given the time, the space, and the resources they need to heal. From my experiences with illness and trauma, I’ve learned that we as individuals and a society need to act with greater kindness and not push each other (or ourselves) too much. Again, there’s not one single way to live, and there’s not one single timeline. Let healing happen the way it needs to, however long that takes.

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About My Life · About Writing

The Realization That Transformed My Writing

This post was originally shared on my old blog in November 2019.

Over the years, as I’ve developed as a writer, I’ve had many moments where I realized that everything I had written so far was just not original enough. I’d write a bunch of manuscripts, try to get an agent with one of them, fail repeatedly, and then realize, I still haven’t figured this out. My writing’s still too derivative. It’s still not marketable.

Success/Failure road signs

One of those realizations hit me in September, and it was crushing. Years of failure have sapped a lot of my hope and excitement about publication. That makes the hard moments even harder. I kept thinking, How can I be such a slow learner in my writing career when I’ve always been a fast learner in everything else? But then I realized something, something big. And now I understand that it’s not an issue of being a slow learner. I’ve likely been improving at a decent enough pace.

The problem was that I wasn’t writing in the way that works best for me.

When it comes to writing advice, the cardinal rule is that you need to do what works for you. Quite simply, not every piece of writing advice will be right for every writer. I knew this. What I hadn’t realized was that finding what works for you doesn’t always come naturally. It won’t always be the first method you try. You have to experiment. You have to apply those pieces of writing advice and see if they improve your work.

I tend to be stubborn, which I think is an important trait for writers, but it has downsides. Right from the start, I settled into one method of writing, and I never really considered the alternatives. I started out each of my books with an ending or a climax in mind and then blazed a path towards that. I never planned any other part of the story before I began to write. On top of that, I was a “plot-rusher,” someone who moves so quickly through the first draft that it ends up skeletal. Instead of needing to delete a lot of content the way most writers do in editing, I needed to add scenes and bulk it all up.

I was proud of and enjoyed my way of doing things! I was proud to be the person who wrote nineteen novels before turning twenty-one. I was proud to be a repeat NaNoWriMo winner who once managed 50,000 words in two weeks. I had settled into that identity, and I felt loyal to it.

But then, as I graduated college, my chronic illness crisis hit.

It’s strange to think of my chronic illnesses as being positive. My chronic illness crisis was difficult and traumatizing, and it shifted my entire life in so many ways I consider negative. But it turns out that this crisis also did me an important favor: it forced me to slow down. It’s been a frustrating struggle, going from blazing to glacial, from Stephen King to George R.R. Martin. Nevertheless, a few months ago, as I realized it was time to trunk my pre-chronic-illness-crisis manuscripts because of their unoriginality, I also realized how important slowing down had been for me.

I am not really a creative thinker. I’m a rule follower, Lawful Good, not great at getting outside the box. This is exactly why I had been failing at originality over the years. Someone like me cannot thrive as a pantser and a plot-rusher. All my obsessive enthusiasm, along with my longtime distaste for outlines, has kept me from realizing that slowing down is exactly what I’ve needed, at every stage of the process.

"SLOW" painted on a road surrounded by trees

I seem to get book ideas at the rate of about one per year. But when I became sick, I wasn’t able to write a new book for a handful of years. That means the ideas started piling up, and I had more time to consider them and add to them. Apparently, ideas for novels are kind of like Lego blocks: you have to take multiple pieces and snap them together before you get something special. So now, instead of having basic ideas with a couple of components, I have ideas that are taking on more pieces before I ever start writing.

My slowness once I get to the writing stage has also caused a number of important changes. When working at this rate, I have to write every day or I lose both momentum and perspective. I forget too much of what’s come before and have to go back to the start. Outline or no, I think every writer works off of instinct to some degree–you have to develop a “sense” for the story, and if I don’t write every day, I lose that. But writing every day is actually the first writing process advice I’ve ever tried out. It’s showed me how changing up my style might be good. It’s certainly improved my mental health.

Additionally, writing this slowly gives me time to consider my options. When I was racing through my stories with my basic, non-outlined ideas, it was very easy for my Lawful Good brain to default into overused tropes instead of thinking in more complex ways. I believe that I’ll be able to be more original and creative now that I’ve slowed down. The slowness further allows me to layer on more details and do more research during writing instead of doing it in editing.

The slower rate even helps during editing, because I have more time to consider and list all the changes that would improve the story before I send it to my beta readers and critique partners. They get a better product, one that I’ve already done a lot of work on, to critique. I’m also having them read it one at a time instead of all at once now, which I think will increase the potential for improvement.

Without my illnesses slowing me down, I don’t think I ever would have discovered what I needed. I don’t think I would’ve realized that I needed to test methods out in order to find what was right for me. But now I know that I need to experiment not just with what I write but with how I write it. Little by little, this will bring me to a place where I can write better–not just because I’m learning writing skills but because I’m discovering how to write in a way that maximizes my unique potential.

This epiphany also emphasized for me the importance of this piece of writing advice. In the linked Tumblr post, the writer discusses how J.R.R. Tolkien exemplified someone using what they know and are passionate about to write a story that’s both high-quality and uniquely personal. I was struck by that piece of advice from the moment I first read it. Now, I see that it aligns with this concept of finding what works best for you.

Close up of a fountain pen writing on a page

Initially, I didn’t know how to apply the advice because I see my passion as mainly being “stories.” That’s just too broad a topic. But as I’ve thought it over, I realized, first, I had to let go of what is typical for speculative fiction stories. I think most writers struggle with this; after all, there’s a reason we love the genre(s) we write! While it is important for us to examine what we love in our favorite authors/stories, it’s also important to consider what fits us.

As much as I love epic sci-fi/fantasy, I am not a strategist, and I don’t know much about war or political schemes. That kind of thinking doesn’t at all come naturally for me. So the stories that fit me aren’t big epics with worlds in need of salvation. The stories that fit my skills and interests are more personal and focused. These smaller-scale conflicts don’t have to be smaller intensity–what people usually connect to in stories are the characters. And that’s what I’m best suited to focus on, with my interest in human-related topics in general!

Writing small-scale stories does mean I’m less likely to become a Harry Potter- or Hunger Games-type phenomenon, but my vision of a dream career has changed anyway. I’ve realized the better goal isn’t to become a phenomenon, but rather to have a long and steady career with many published books. After all, you don’t have to touch millions to make a difference in the world. Even just one can be enough.

So instead of writing epics, it’s better for me to write about what I have more experience, knowledge, and interest in. I have experience in complex family relationships, in mental and chronic illness, in music, and in social media use. I have a slightly more-than-average amount of knowledge about psychology, sociology, religion, and medicine. I also know a lot about cats, should that ever become relevant, LOL. Though I wouldn’t say I’m knowledgeable about it, I am very interested in romance. Finally, what draws me to speculative fiction is its focus on all the potential in the future, the universe, and ourselves. Between that and the many tropes I enjoy, there’s a lot I can work with in my writing to make it more unique! And of course, experiences and interests can change over time, offering even more possibilities.

Throughout my small and unsuccessful writing career so far, I’ve had a few “most important pieces of writing advice” to offer: First, writers need to become stubborn enough to never give up on their dreams. Second, writers need to explore as many different stories from others as they can. Third, writers need to recognize the autonomy of their characters. Now, I’m adding this to the top of the list: Writers need to experiment with different writing methods so that they can find what works the best for them personally.

For me, this is a career-changer, and it might very well turn out to be a career-maker. Because of my chronic illness crisis, in multiple ways, my writing will never be the same.

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Images via ccpixs.com and Kimchi.sg and Peter Milosevic on Wikipedia.

About My Life · About Writing

My Authorly Bucket List

I originally shared this on my old blog in April 2020.

While most people’s bucket lists span a range of potential life experiences, most of what I want to do relates to authorship. There are a sorts of amazing accomplishments and moments a person could have as a novelist! So here is my authorly bucket list, with a few more general bonuses at the end:

My Authorly Bucket List

1) Sign a contract with a literary agent. I have yet to achieve the very first step towards traditional publication despite many attempts. I look forward to making this professional connection and having another person on my team!

2) Publish a novel. This is the big one I’ve been looking forward to for years and years! It’s only the hoped-for beginning, of course, but it would be a huge step all by itself.

3) Run a book giveaway. Once I have a book to promote, I plan to run at least one giveaway. Since I’ve won many books from giveaways in the past, I’m excited to offer the same chance to others.

4) Hold a book release party. I’m not sure where I’d have one–the library is the only place in my little town that seems appropriate–but I’ve seen photos from the parties authors hold when they release a new book, and it looks delightful. There are cupcakes with book covers on them, y’all! Even if it was very small, I’d love having such a party.

5) See my book on a shelf in my local library. I’ve had this image in my head ever since I first realized I wanted to be a novelist, I love the library, and I’d be thrilled to see my book there among the others I’ve enjoyed! I’d also be excited to see it in “shelfies” of all kinds from all over. 

6) Publish another novel. People say that the second book is the hardest, and a lot of writers do end up dropping out of the field after their first book comes out. I want to make a career of this, and that means getting past the second book hurdle.

7) Earn out an advance. In publishing, you receive an advance payment when you sign a book deal with a publisher. You then don’t see any more money from that book until the book has earned a larger amount than your advance was. This is called “earning out,” and a lot of writers never see it happen! I hope I do; I hope I get some royalties someday.

8) Receive a fan letter. Even just a single positive letter would buoy up my soul so much. To know that I’ve had an impact on a stranger’s life through my writing would be huge. 💜

9) ​See fanart made of one of my books. I adore fanart, and I know ​I’d be all over any fanart that was made of my creations. I’d save it on my computer and maybe even buy it for display in my house if it was for sale!

10) Hit a bestseller list. There are a few of these, of which the New York Times version is the most famous. I know from what others have said that the bestseller list is a bit of a crapshoot–it’s not the most accurate as to actual sales, and there are ways to game the system. I’d like to get on one anyway.

11) Get a starred review. I don’t know a whole lot about this, but I know that starred reviews from professional reviewers like Kirkus are a big deal! So yeah, I’d like one.

12) Get a book published outside the U.S. Some American books end up getting foreign rights deals, where a publisher from outside the U.S. will publish it, often in another language. I think it would be amazing to have that happen.

11) Have one of my books featured in a book box. I haven’t ever gotten one myself, but I love looking at pictures of subscription book boxes that feature newly released YA novels along with themed merch from various fandoms. I think it would be awesome to have one of my books be in one!

12) Participate in WriteOnCon as a published author. I’ve been a fan of WriteOnCon, a low-cost online kid lit writers conference, for years. It’s done a lot to improve my query game, if nothing else. I’d love to give back by being a part of the other side of the conference, whether through a panel, a blog post, a video, or official forum participation.

13) Attend an in-person conference or event as a published author. Because of my disabilities, I won’t be able to attend as many in-person events as most published authors. However, I loved the conferences I attended before I got so sick, and I love online conferences too, so I do want to go to at least one in-person event once I’m published.

14) Be in someone else’s book acknowledgements. I already have a few writing friends, but I hope to make more in the future, and I’d love to be an important enough part of their lives to earn a spot in the acknowledgements of one of their books!

15) Win a book award. I don’t know much about this either, but some books I adore have won big awards, including Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, which won the 2015 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. I’d love to achieve something like that!

16) Have one of my books made into a movie or TV show. Since I joined Netflix and started watching TV show book adaptations there, I’ve realized that TV shows tend to do a better job at adapting books (or at least book series) than movies do. I think the extended time allows for a more direct interpretation. However, most of my writing is in the form of standalone novels, so I’m not against the idea of a movie either. This is a stretch goal, of course–most books do not get adapted–but it would be truly awesome.

BONUS BUCKET LIST: 
Fall in love and get married.
Travel somewhere outside the United States.
Have a library room in my house, preferably with a cool secret entrance
!

What about you? What would you like to do before you kick the bucket?

SIMILAR POSTS

About My Life

My Life as of January 2021

General Thoughts

Hello! My name’s Kira, and I’m thrilled to be here on my brand new website, where I will be reposting some highlights from my old blog and providing new updates. For those who don’t already know me from my previous blog or my social media, I’m a 26-year-old YA novelist seeking publication who also works as a freelance editor online. I live in New Mexico with my family and my cats, and I do my best to make my way in the world with my various disabilities. You’ll get to learn more about me as I post more here!

So, for the first update on my life: I know that it being a new year doesn’t really mean anything, but I’m happy to be done with 2020 nonetheless! I think I’m getting myself together in the wake of 2020 now, maybe. (The “maybe” is doing a lot of work.) For now, I’m continuing my work as a freelance editor and I’m also slowly editing my #OCDStory, with the help of a small local writing group. It’s all a bit routine, but there are bright spots. Like my cat Spartacus, Baby Grogu, chocolate cheesecake, and again, the end of 2020!

2021 spelled out in sparklers

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year! (The beginning part.) With 2020 being what it was, I only managed to achieve 2.75 out of my 8 resolutions. The most significant one was that I read 337 books. I also did a lot of website and social media restructuring, obviously, which was not planned but worth celebrating anyway!

Now, it’s time to set some new goals:

  1. Get my binging under control. Binging of what, you ask? Mostly TV shows and food, but honestly, getting stuck on doing something until it’s done is a bad trait of mine, one that gets worse under stress. That’s part of why 2020 was so fun! I’d like to figure out how to break out of it this year.
  2. Get better at focusing when working on things that are not quite so bingeable. Like my work. And my writing.
  3. Finish the latest #OCDStory edit. Given my chronic illnesses and day job, that seems reasonable, right?
  4. Write some more #SnowQueenStory. I’ve been working on my first novel post-chronic illness crisis for almost two years now, and who knows when I’ll actually manage to finish, but at least I can get closer to that ending!
  5. Donate more to charity. This is another one that makes sense given the struggles of 2020.
  6. Get vaccinated for COVID-19! Hallelujah.
  7. Read at least 300 books. I think I’m just going to make this my running goal for reading. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, but also, yes, I want to read lots of books.

I would also like to ask a guy on a date, but considering how that turned out in 2020, I think I’ll leave it as an afterthought here.

Thank you for checking in with me! How are you feeling for the new year?

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Image via Tim Reckmann on Flickr.