The Work of Woman

The world is forever ending,

every generation chasing the same

catastrophes and atrocities their parents

learned before them. Migrating in search

of herds of hatred, anger, and fear to feed upon.

 

But for each inky night that swallows up hope,

there is a woman who stands up,

though her soul is broken,

and crosses the room to light a fire

and places a potato in a pot

or the very last grains of rice,

because stomachs must be fed

and laundry doesn’t care for cataclysm.

 

A woman who, in her grandad’s pickup truck,

her forehead resting against one chapped hand

as she mouths the music on the radio,

drives to the bank for the loan,

because the chemo won’t pay for itself.

 

A woman who rises early for work at the factory

and pins a yellow Star of David on her coat,

because the rent is due, and it’s been almost a month now

since they took father and Misha away.

 

A woman who has watched a thousand men

ascend the ladder ahead of her, but who shows up,

measures her smiles and speaks calmly, firmly,

because her message is important and must not be dismissed.

 

A woman who weeps and arranges the shattered

pieces of her heart into the shape of a poem

to send out into the crumbling world,

because somewhere in the desolation

are the ears of others listening for signs they’re not alone.

 

A woman who leans over the cradle of an infant

she did not birth and will not raise,

but who she will pick up and comfort and feed,

becoming for only a moment a mother

in place of the mother who didn’t make it through the night.

 

A birthright, this numb inertia

that keeps life slowly wading forward

through the scalding lava of destruction

as the world ends

and ends

and ends

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The Work of Woman

Twitter Tips for Writers: How I went from 80 followers to 1800 with 8 simple strategies

twitter logoTwitter is an essential part of any writer’s platform. But it can be a daunting place to try to figure out. Which is why I, like so many writers, made an account then promptly let it lie fallow for years.

Last November, with 80 followers, I finally realized that in my pursuit of book publication, Twitter has the potential to be a powerful ally. I started working to cultivate a larger following. Here’s what has worked for me:

1. FOLLOW BACK! — The number one rule of Twitter is reciprocation. Unless you’re Beyonce  or Neil DeGrasse Tyson (and who among us is?) then almost no one but porn bots, sales bots, and your mother will follow you just for being you. Take time to follow the real people who take the time to follow you. (Don’t follow back the sales or porn bots though. That way lies doom).

 

2. Identify your communities. Think about the topics that you most want to tweet about. For example, I tend to tweet about writing, motherhood, Alaska, food, art, sex, and current events. Look for and follow people who are tweeting about the things you care about.

3. Use hashtags. Identify some of the hashtags associated with your communities and start using them. The topics themselves make a good start for hashtags. For example #food will attract people from the #foodie community.

hashtag4. Find the community hubs. Community hubs are accounts that are centered around a single theme and promote people within that community. For writers these may be indie author promoters, literary journals, agents, etc. They may also be readers who have an enthusiasm for particular types of writing such as erotica or flash fiction. Hubs generally have a lot of Followers, a lot of people they are Following, and tend to tweet or retweet people who are actively promoting. These are a great resource for finding new writers and readers to follow.

5. Watch your ratio. Keep your Following number higher than your Followers number. But not too much higher. 10-20% is a good number to aim for. Do not follow anyone who’s Following number is dramatically lower than their Followers number. (Unless it’s NDT or Beyonce, and you’re following out of genuine interest). Having uneven Following/Followers ratios is a red flag. It tells you that the account is not reciprocating when followed.

6. Make a routine. Set aside a time on day or two each each week (I do Sundays and Wednesdays) to search for people to follow, cull people who haven’t followed back, and follow back people who have followed you. Allow yourself 20 minutes or so for this.

7. The Mute button is your friend. As your Following/Followers grows, use the mute button to control what appears in your timeline. Obviously it isn’t possible to listen to 1800 people all the time. Be selective about what you hear by tuning out accounts who you’ve Followed back, but who don’t necessarily have the same interests as you. For example, if you write historical romance, it might be okay to mute some of the sci-fi writers in your feed, and vice versa. Don’t worry, if you’re in the same communities, their most liked and retweeted tweets will still get through to you via the networks you’re engaged with.

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8. Use pictures. As writers, we tend to forget that not everyone gets as excited by words as we do. But we still want to be read. So use a visual to draw attention to your tweet.

Attention-Grabbing-Headlines

Twitter Tips for Writers: How I went from 80 followers to 1800 with 8 simple strategies

Dear Mormon leaders,

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I don’t plan to send this letter, but I’m writing it just the same. I won’t send it, because I already know what your response will be: no response at all.

I spent my childhood, adolescence, and much of my adult life believing that you had my best interests at heart. I have the same story that you must have heard hundreds of thousands of times by now. I knew I was different from other boys from the time I was five years old, I knew to hide it by seven, and I started getting teased about it at 10. While all of you were (presumably) learning how to like girls and what that meant for you, I was learning how NOT to like boys, how to form a part of myself deep down inside that no one could know about.

I don’t blame you for any of that, of…

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Dear Mormon leaders,

Open Letter to the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Dear President Monson,

I’m writing today to thank you for the recent change in policy regarding homosexuals.

The new policy states that LGBT individuals are apostates.

It bars the children of homosexuals from receiving church ordinances.

It prevents them from entering into the church until they are 18 years of age, they no longer live with their parents, and they are willing to condemn same sex marriage.

Thank you for putting this policy into place.

You see, I was confused there for a couple of years.

Way back in 2008, when you were pouring huge amounts of members’ tithing into backing Proposition 8 in California, I said to myself, “This is a perfect example of what the LDS church represents.”

Then Prop 8 was overturned. With a new election cycle, it became obvious that Mitt Romney would be the GOP candidate.

Here at last was another chance at the political power Mormons have craved since the church’s inception.

This is where things got confusing for me.

Suddenly the church was accepting homosexuals, albeit with a stipulation of celibacy.

Openly homosexual members were paraded around to firesides and stake conferences to talk about how accepting and loving the church has been to them.

No longer was the church forcing the horrible practice of “aversion” therapy on its gay members.

No longer was straight marriage and prayer touted as the “cure” to homosexuality.

What an exciting time it must have been for LGBT people of the Mormon faith!

It must have seemed, for a brief moment, that the church was finally starting to progress toward inclusion.

Romney lost the election. Still, for the gay members of the church, they had the sweet relief of no longer having to live in the closet. Of being openly accepted for who they were.

It was very confusing for me. Was this the church I was raised in?

The church that so condemned homosexuality that I witnessed friends endure brutal bullying from the same righteous members who, in Christlike holiness, sat in sacrament meeting taking bread and water?

The church that, as recently as the 1990s, warned members that homosexuality was a disease?

The church that forced cruel and physically painful therapies on homosexual members?

President Monson, your decision to exclude children whose parents are in loving, healthy, stable homosexual marriages, affirmed for me the decision I made when I was 14 years old: to have nothing more to do with your church’s bigotry.

It’s difficult for non-members to understand the impact your policy will have on families within the church.

The church is a pervasive presence for its members.

High schoolers attend seminary daily.

Members attend services or activities several times per week.

Members are “called of God” to serve the church in volunteer positions.

Basic ordinances, like naming of infants (similar to a Christening), baptism, confirmation, the laying on of hands, receiving the priesthood, and temple endowments, are essential within church doctrine for a member to attain the highest kingdom of glory in the afterlife.

With this new policy, gay church members and their children are not just being cut off from a church.They are being cut off from their families, friends, communities, and, essentially, a tremendous part of their own identity as people of faith.

The church uses a highly coordinated communications plan to reinforce predetermined messaging in every aspect of its members’ lives: Sunday School lessons, Relief Society and Priesthood lessons, Young Men and Young Women achievement plans, firesides, conferences, seminary, news outlets, social media, and in home lessons known as Family Home Evening.

In this way, the church both implicitly and explicitly tells members what to read, listen to, watch, think, how to vote, and who to shun.

The most recent of their themes is: “Doubt your doubt before you doubt your faith.”

It’s a pretty way to say, “Don’t question your leaders.”

The church I was raised in taught members to explore their doubts.

We were admonished to “search, ponder, and pray.”

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Church leaders must have figured out that too many people were doing just that: thinking for themselves and recognizing the church’s hypocrisy.

President Monson – I hope this new policy awakens millions of members to abandon your wrong and immoral doctrine.

I hope it becomes a sore that will fester and hurt your brand marketability for decades to come.

I hope that the thousands of active gay Mormons who you just slammed the door on, run as far away from your church as possible and never look back.

I hope too that these members know that there are places of love beyond the church. Places where they will be accepted and loved without judgement.

If love is wrong, I will be wrong.

For I would rather be wrong for the sake of compassion, than righteous in hatred and exclusion.

Thank you for giving me a reason to do what I should have done years ago.

I no longer wish to be formally affiliated with your church.

I am an apostate.

Remove me from your rolls.

Open Letter to the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

I Used to be a Reader

This is a hard thing for a writer to say:

I used to read.

I used to read voraciously. I carried books with me wherever I went. I slept with them under my pillow.

I read three or more books at a time, and knew what page number I was on in each of them.

When I found a writer I loved, I inhaled EVERYTHING they’d ever written. I spent hours in bookstores. I lived in the library.

Then two things happened. I had babies and I graduated with a degree in literature.

After college, I didn’t read anything but non-fiction for a full two years. I was burned out. Proust will do that to you.

I did still read a lot of poetry and history. I read to research my novels. And of course I memorized Go Dog Go, Skippy Jon Jones, and Sandra Boynton’s entire canon, (which I highly recommend).

But outside of an occasional audio-book, I almost quit reading novels altogether.

It’s hard to read when you’re a mom.

Every book was like the leftover, half-finished bagel you shove in your mouth between jumping out of the shower and rodeo-ing the kids into the car. When I did get to read, I read without tasting. Without digesting.

To be a writer without reading is like breathing without inhaling. It makes your writing dizzy and tight. Blue-faced.

To be a writer without reading is like breathing without inhaling. It makes your writing dizzy and tight. Blue-faced.

But today, ten years and two days after learning I was pregnant with my first child, I took my youngest child to kindergarten, hugged her, kissed her, hugged her again, cried a little, and turned to find myself facing a tiny ocean of time.

Time to myself.

I’ve had today marked for a few months as the day I’m going to start working on my novel again. But as it got closer and closer, a different excitement overshadowed it.

I’m going to read.

I’m going to read Literature. With a capital L.

I’m going to read big, fat, difficult books.

I’m going to read skinny, compact, difficult books.

I’m going to read my old favorites – Atwood, Steinbeck, Morrison, Camus, Bradbury, Allende.

I’m going to read new authors.

I’m going to read authors I’ve never even heard of.

I’m going to read poetry and plays.

I’m going to read Shakespeare again. Shakespeare! Out loud! For fun!

I’m going to read in public and ignore people.

I’m going to read in private and ignore my phone.

I might even try to tackle Moby Dick for the umpteenth time.

I went to a bookstore today by myself. I spent a lot of time selecting the first three books for my bibliophile bacchanal. Three books made of paper and ink.

They smell terrific.

If you need me, I’ll be in my room.

P.S. Don’t need me.

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I Used to be a Reader

Chain, Chest, Curse: Combating Book Theft in Medieval Times

Fascinating read!

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Do you leave your e-reader or iPad on the table in Starbucks when you are called to pick up your cup of Joe? You’re probably not inclined to do this, because the object in question might be stolen. The medieval reader would nod his head approvingly, because book theft happened in his day too. In medieval times, however, the loss was much greater, given that the average price of a book – when purchased by an individual or community – was much higher. In fact, a more appropriate question would be whether you would leave the keys in the ignition of your car with the engine running when you enter Starbucks to order a coffee. Fortunately, the medieval reader had various strategies to combat book theft. Some of these appear a bit over the top to our modern eyes, while others seem not effective at all.

Chains
The least subtle but most effective way to keep your books safe…

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Chain, Chest, Curse: Combating Book Theft in Medieval Times

Life on the Couch: A Writer’s Guide to Being Lazy & Loving It!

Writers have an obsession with productivity. A day not writing is a day wasted.

In “The Midnight Disease,” Alice Weaver Flaherty, discusses the burden of guilt writers face.

Artists of other stripes are permitted fallow periods to recharge their creative juices. But writers beat themselves up when they go a day or two (or OH-MY-GOD-THE-WORLD-IS-ENDING!) a week without writing.

I’m currently wading out on the far side of a fallow period (reinforced by my overwhelming schedule at my other “bringing-home-the-bacon” job). This lazy period has compelled me to share my secrets with you, so that you too, can embrace the lazy life.

I was blessed to be born into lazy family. Sleeping 20 hours a day, and “vegetating” the remaining 4, is a skill passed from one generation to another. But although I was born with a genetic gift for laziness, I have also worked hard develop my gift through years of arduous immobility.

Here’s what you need to know:

Lazy-Wear

Ensure you’re suitably attired for your laziness. Acceptable lounge-wear includes yoga pants, sweats, pajamas, bathrobes, beach dresses, and baggy sweaters.

Bras, socks, underwear, and shoes are optional, but highly discouraged.

Lazy-Where?

Prep your lounging area. A couch or recliner is ideal, although a good case can be made for the floor or a bed, provided there is a sufficient number of pillows. A chaise longue is also acceptable. In a pinch, a park bench or the back seat of a car will do.

Supplies

Pillows – You’ll want a minimum of 3 pillows for comfort. 6 to 8 is ideal. Make sure they’re full and fluffy.

Blankets – The standard ziggy-zaggy family Afghan is a favorite, but I’m partial to anything goose-down.

Snacks – You’re gonna be here awhile. Make sure you have an ample supply and a wide variety or food you can mindlessly shove in your mouth. Salty treats are preferred.

Remote (with fresh batteries) – Know where this is at all times. NOTHING destroys a good laze like having to deconstruct your nest to find the remote. If you hafta summon that amount of effort, you might as well be working.

Phone – If you wish to be contactable. (This is by no means required)

Lip balm – This is a crucial, yet oft overlooked laziness must-have.

Before you begin, you may also wish to map your route to the bathroom. Using the bathroom is the only acceptable reason to rise. Visitors should be roundly ignored. House-fires will most likely get the attention of your local fire department well before you need be involved.

Note: It’s entirely possible that, during your fallow, lazy period, you will notice other people walking around, talking, and eating inside your home. These are your family. It’s very unlikely that they will recognize you, since they’re used to seeing you hunched over a manuscript, talking to yourself like a lunatic. Should they recognize you and attempt to reconnect with you, permit them to do so. Loved ones make excellent pillows. They often also can be induced to perform small, but necessary tasks, such as fetching additional snacks or scooting the remote closer.

Lazing Positions

The Homer – The most upright of positions. Sit on the couch with a beer in one hand. This position is ideal for alert television watching.

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The Anti-Plank – A great position for beginners. Simply put your body on the couch and strive for complete horizontal inertia.

The Andy Cap – Best for napping or day-dreaming when others are present. Turn your back on the room, facing the wall or the back of the couch. It sends a clear signal, “I’m ignoring you!”

The Bat – Perfect when part of your body starts to go numb from decreased blood flow. Lie down on the couch or chair and swing your legs over the back. Allow your head to hang off the couch. Stretch your hair. Doesn’t that feel nice?

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Getting started:

Don’t try to push yourself too hard too soon. Remember, the world’s laziest people spend years building up their skill set.

Let go of all those little things you know you should be doing. The laundry ain’t going anywhere. The dishes will get washed when someone gets hungry enough. Enjoy your laziness. (I recommend making a laziness playlist, for those moments when an overwhelming urge to do Something arise. Staples include Otis Reding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” and the Beatles, “I’m Only Sleeping”).

You will most likely be drawn to the gadgets and activities that make being lazy easy: your phone, your television, Facebook, etc. However, these can actually negate your laziness by tricking you into doing Something.

Take time to alternate your lazy activities. Include such lazy staples as doodling, napping, day-dreaming, thumbing through magazines, and listening to old songs you haven’t heard in years. This will ensure that your laziness doesn’t spread to your autonomic system and trigger catatonia.

Show Selection

As a writer, you will be tempted to pick TV shows that contain dynamic characters and riveting plot lines. This is an acceptable form of laziness, provided you DO NOT engage in analyzing or socially critiquing the show. No Moleskines allowed.

Do not underestimate the energy-sucking power of reality television and game shows. A single episode of Price is Right can bring on a torpor that lasts for several hours.

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Know Your Zones

Laziness Zone #1: Anything you can reach without moving any part of your torso at all. The remote, your snacks, and your lip balm should all be positioned within this zone.

Laziness Zone #2: Anything that requires to you reach, stretch, roll over, sit forward, or raise yourself onto one elbow in order to reach it. Items in Zone #1 will inevitably try to migrate to Zone #2. You must be vigilant to prevent this from happening.

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Laziness Zone #3: Anything you would have to get up in order to reach. This is the least desirable of the laziness zones. It might as well be on the moon.

Follow the simple steps listed above, and you too can, with time, and non-effort, become the embodiment of laziness.

WARNING: Before altering any writing routine or changing your creative activity patterns, you should always consult with your work in progress. This laziness program contains advanced techniques. Attempting these techniques at the wrong time in your creative process or prior to firmly establishing a consistent routine can be detrimental to the health of your project.

Life on the Couch: A Writer’s Guide to Being Lazy & Loving It!