Tonight is the 4th Annual Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Roosevelt University. We will be inducting six important historical Chicago writers: L. Frank Baum, Leon Forrest, Edna Ferber, Ben Hecht, John H. Johnson, and Thornton Wilder.
The ever-charming Elysabeth Alfano, host of The Dinner Party and Fear No Art, will be the emcee, and friends and family of the inductees will be there to celebrate, with an after-party to follow the event.
Over the last four years, the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame has assembled an amazing group of inductees, and I love this opportunity to celebrate their work: the unforgettable characters and worlds they created, the ideas they challenged, the books and plays that inspired generations, and the multitude of ways they have left their mark on Chicago's literary landscape.
I hope you can join us this evening!
- Current Mood: busy
It's 2am, and I'm putting lights and garland on the tree.
Earlier this evening, it was a mostly joyful and noisy team effort of uncovering boxes and assembling, and tomorrow, after breakfast, we'll put on the bulk of the ornaments.
But right now, it's blissfully quiet.
Everyone else is in bed. Loreena McKennitt is softly playing, I'm drinking eggnog, and I'm reminded of decorating the tree in my first Chicago apartment on Janssen Street in 1995.
That was the year I started my tradition of putting up the tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. I usually did it alone, with a glass of wine and Loreena's To Drive the Cold Winter Away. My parents had given me their old Christmas tree, and I bought white lights and a few ornaments (most of which I still have and will put on the tree tonight). I decorated with red apples and cherries, pine cones, and faux crystal snowflakes and icicles.
I loved that tree.
I loved the moment of sitting on the couch in the dark when it was done, the room transformed. I dreamed big by the light of that tree.
It's hard to believe that was almost 20 years ago.
I still love the ritual of decorating the house for the holidays, of creating a space for celebration. Including the kids has its own delight, and I especially enjoy having the house full of family and friends on the holidays.
But I cherish moments like this one--quiet, solitary times that allow me to reflect and remember. It's good to be reminded of the young woman I was back then, to be reconnected with that romantic dreamer.
In the morning, I'll put on my other hats; but for now, it's just me and Loreena and the tree, a meditation on nostalgia and dreams.
- Current Location:The Living Room
- Current Mood:reflective
- Current Music:Loreena McKennitt
Thanks veterans. Come home safe and soon. And if you're back, welcome home.
- Current Mood: grateful
It's something I look for and love about the people in my life: give me honest grumpiness over false pleasantries. I think that's why I sometimes have a hard time with sarcasm--if I can't tell what's true, it makes me uneasy.
I've recently had a few conversations with friends about the internet and authenticity--the ways we portray ourselves and the quality of our online relationships.
Just last weekend, I was at a baby shower for a dear childhood friend, sitting at a table with my sister, my oldest friend, and others from the neighborhood. The conversation turned to the love-hate relationship many of us have with Facebook.
My sister refuses to join Facebook, while the rest of us use it to varying degrees. She teased me about some of my posts, brought to her attention by my cousin, who asked if I really do the things I post about (especially with three young kids).
The things I post about really do happen.
But it got me thinking.
When I post a photo or an anecdote about some small instance of joy, like dancing in the kitchen or enjoying coffee under canopy of trees or laughing with friends by a campfire, it's not to point to them as examples of my everyday life.
My everyday is filled with a rather unexciting routine of kids, coffee, writing, kids, cooking, coffee, housework, relationships, writing, wine, frustration, bickering, procrastination, overcommitment, deadlines, and so on. The everyday is pretty typical. It's messy, and I'm generally ok with that.
and the ever-moving piles of paperwork.
My dining room at this very moment--a mess of homework, Halloween, and the ever-moving piles of paperwork.
Sometimes I will post about the everyday, usually if I think it's funny because I think it helps to know that other people are dealing with ridiculous moments of child stubbornness or homeowner frustration, but nobody wants to read about the everyday every day.
So most of my everyday posts are about coffee or wine. Because the sharing of those seems to be a recognizable symbol for "the routine"--a shout out to everyone else, as if to say "Cheers! We're in this together, this grind of everyday"--without having to specify the details. It's like a nod of recognition.
Those other moments: the ones that are silly or playful or creative--they are exceptions and exceptional. They are the moments that make me stop and feel gratitude, they remind me to keep perspective, they show me what the everyday is for.
When I share them, it's because they are outside my norm, because they are not everyday or typical. I feel like they're a gift, so I share them.
I've been reflecting about why I post the things I post: on Twitter, on Facebook, on Tumblr, on the blog. Each one is different, a different tool.
This past year I've been trying to write as much as possible: fiction, short fiction, poetry, comic book script. Making a commitment to writing means that I spend a lot more time at home alone on my computer. When I take a break, I pop online. I read a post or some tweets. Then I go back to work.
Twitter? It's about community for me, the larger writing/arts community, many of whom are not in Chicago. That's where I can wave to friends who are also writing at 2am, learn about a new poem someone published, or give congratulations for an award or good review. It's also where I get most of my news.
Tumblr? I post photos and stories that I find interesting and quotes that strike me as compelling. Much of what I post there if for myself, a sort of bookmark for the future. (I tend to use Google+ in a similar fashion).
Blog? I process the world by writing. When something is really important and I've been giving it a lot of thought, I often write a blog post. It's my way of working things out and also inviting a conversation from people I don't get to see in person.
Facebook? This one is trickier.
Facebook is good for long distance friends and family, for birthday greetings and other milestones. I periodically check-in on people, pick a few folks I'm thinking about and read their posts, skim their photos.
But what about the things I choose to post?
There are the interesting articles and links. I try to only post things I think are compelling or important.
I think it comes down to connection.
In her TED talk on vulnerability (and also in her book), Brené Brown says, "Connection is why we're here. It's what gives purpose and meaning in our lives."
I think she's right. Of course, connection means different things for different people. For some people it's the close friendship of a handful of trusted friends, for others it's crowds of fans and followers. Most of us are somewhere in between.
I think at its best, Facebook can be about those little nods that tell us we're not alone. Especially when we are alone so much of the time.
That's how I see "likes," as nods, not in agreement necessarily, but in acknowledgment: I see you, I hear you. In this moment, you are not alone.
Of course, we are. Alone. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's what I loved so much about Louis CK's talk on Conan.
Louis CK said:
"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That's what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That's being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty. That knowledge that it's all for nothing and that you're alone. It's down there.
And sometimes when things clear away, you're not watching anything, you're in your car, and you start going, 'oh no, here it comes. That I'm alone.' It's starts to visit on you. Just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad, just by being in it...And I go, 'oh, I'm getting sad, gotta get the phone and write "hi" to like 50 people'...then I said, 'you know what, don't. Just be sad. Just let the sadness, stand in the way of it, and let it hit you like a truck.'
And I let it come, and I just started to feel 'oh my God,'and I pulled over and I just cried like a bitch. I cried so much. And it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic. You're lucky to live sad moments. And then I had happy feelings. Because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. So I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness. It was such a trip."
I think Louis CK is right. We need to be able to just stand in the way of moments without the distraction of the phone or the filter of the camera. We need to be able to feel them fully, to be present.
But after? After those moments?
After that profoundly sad moment happened, Louis CK shared it on live television, and it has been archived and passed all over the internet.
Maybe somewhere in there lies the balance?
We need to experience genuine moments--moments of joy or sadness or revelation. But after? Afterwards we can share them.
Facebook can never be a substitute for a face-to-face talk, a hug, the energy of a lively dinner conversation, but the internet does give us a starting point from which we can further connect.
I think it's always important to remember that the virtual is only part of the whole.
When I raise my mug of coffee in the morning, know that I'm probably setting it down on a large pile of papers to be sorted. Just because I don't mention them, doesn't mean they're not there.
When I'm singing to the Beatles in the kitchen, it may to be to drown out the sound of the kids complaining about homework or fighting over who gets to use the cool, sparkly pencil.
And when we're dancing in the living room--I often close my eyes not to see the clutter --because sometimes it's better to just be present in the moment. The rest of it can wait.
- Current Mood: thoughtful
- Current Music:The Beatles - Nowhere Man
Sometimes we choose to look for October in unexpected places, we work a little harder, maybe find roads never before taken.
Tell me about your October.
Photo by 8 Eyes Photography
I left the house early to run errands, and as soon as I sat down in the car, one of my favorite songs came on, the acoustic version of an oldie. I love it when that happens; those songs always feel like gifts--little touchstones to launch me into reverie and remind me of people and places that are often no longer in my life.
Maybe it was the music, or the way the wind felt on my face, or the way the air smelled, but I felt like I had slipped into my childhood skin. Do you know that feeling? One part deja vu, one part daydream. It hits at random times: stepping into an empty classroom, visiting an ice cream shop in a vacation town, waiting for someone at a restaurant, swinging on the swings in an empty park. I love the sensation, like time folding in on itself to give us a peek of something past.
Even after I returned home with groceries, unpacked them, and got into the business of the day, I felt residual nostalgia. Things I touched felt like allusions to other things, more so than usual: my broken rainbow coffee mug reminded me of my circle of girlfriends, Nutella brought me back to eating crepes on the Fressgasse in Frankfurt, cider evoked sitting around a campfire, and so it went all day long--little wisps of the past.
Today is the Autumnal Equinox, one of two days during the year when day and night are in balance (the other is the Spring Equinox). I started writing this at dusk, on the threshold of light and darkness. I love thresholds. I believe that there's magic in those in between spaces, so it doesn't surprise me that the past was slipping in all day-- looking to be remembered.
As I finish this, the sun has set, and the balance has shifted. This next half of the year belongs to the darkness, to cooler temperatures and the landscape of nature dying, to hearth fires and candles, to blankets and loved ones, to stories and dreaming and everything that keeps us warm.
Blessings of a bountiful harvest to you and yours.
- Current Mood: nostalgic
I attended my second WorldCon in San Antonio at the end of August. My first was last year in my hometown of Chicago. In the span of a year, I've participated in a few different cons, some large, some small: Locust Moon Comic Festival, ICFA, C2E2, Readercon, WisCon, and LoneStarCon.
Each time I leave inspired, not only by the great works that get honored or by the guests who are celebrated for their contributions, but by other working writers and editors who carve out time whenever they can; who are on their second, third, or tenth books; who complain about their laptops, vent about their partners and families, gush over stories that inspire them, and find joy in the company of other weird and wonderful creative people.
After the Hugos, with Amy Sisson, Francesca Myman, Cady Coleman, Stina Leicht.
There were panels: some informational, others provocative; some balanced, others not so much. I attended many discussions which featured friends, and I was treated to passionate conversations about poetry and science; plot problems; the future of short stories; science, space, and speculative fiction; and China through the lens of its science fiction.
"Science, Space Exploration, and Speculative Fiction Collide" Panel with Marco
Palmieri, Ann VanderMeer, Stanley Schmidt, astronaut Cady Coleman, and John Chu.
There were awards, where I cheered for Campbell-nominated friends (yay Max Gladstone and Stina Leicht) and celebrated those who won Hugos (yay John Picacio, Best Professional Artist; and Galen Dara, Best Fan Artist); and there were After Parties, places to celebrate with friends.
After the Hugos: Wesley Chu, Stina Leicht, Max Gladstone, and David Boop.
After the Hugos, with Tara Smith, John Picacio, and Nancy Hightower.
There were large public spaces where we congregated for wifi and coffee, for meetings and impromptu chats; and when the sun went down for wine, scotch, sweet things, and more coffee.
In such good company, hanging out with wonderful Tor people: Ellen Gallo,
Max Gladstone, Stephanie Neely, me, Miriam Weinberg, Stacy Hill, and Carrie Vaughn.
Those "writers in the wild" times were my favorite--the casual moments when we wandered and were welcomed at tables and beside bars. When a conversation could carry on late into the night, or well into the morning. Because sometimes 5am guacamole along the riverwalk is a way of holding onto the magic for a little while longer, before we all have to return to the real world and the work that makes up most of our days.
Monday morning with Stina Leicht and Marco Palmieri.
So I came home and delved back into the stories I've been working on all summer, finishing up a novelette and a few shorts, tweaking some poems, and sending things out to readers. Fall brings the next novel and the excitement of delving into ancient history to build a new world and a new cast of characters who will live inside my head until it's done.
My fabulous roommates: Nancy Hightower and Stina Leicht.
In the meantime, there are little tastes to keep us going: tweets at midnight when we're writing, facebook chats and email exchanges. It helps to keep us connected, but nothing can compare with midnight marshmallows, early morning guacamole, and coffee in the company of good friends.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
Yesterday morning I joined Madeline and Sean on another of our road-trips in Madeline's orange Element, caravanning with Maura, Tina, and Mindy to Indianapolis to attend Amanda Palmer's house party at The Strange Brew Coffee House. (If you're unfamiliar with Amanda's house parties, you can read her recent post about them on her blog.)
I hadn't seen Madeline or Sean since my trip to Europe, and so we caught up and time passed quickly. Upon arriving in Indy, we stopped first for a visit with Joan of Dark and Dill at their home, where they fed us and introduced us to their menagerie of adorable dogs, cats, and Widget the bird.
Willie! (Photo by Dill Hero)
The ever-inspiring Fabulous Lorraine was there and while she went for a 2-mile skate on the neighborhood streets, we met the charming Allie. (Lorraine and Allie had driven in from Wisconsin for the house party). I was happy for a little time to sit on Joan's couch with cuddly dogs and good coffee. I only wish they lived closer. I'd love to have more such mornings. We parted ways to check into our hotel and would reconnect at the coffee house a few hours later.
After lunch and a quick change, we got to Strange Brew and settled in, watching the rest of the attendees arrive with potluck offerings and anticipation for the evening.
Waiting for Amanda to arrive (photo by me).
Amanda arrived with surprise guest, Neil (who had surprised Amanda at the airport), and after snacking and saying hello to friends, Amanda sat down to talk with the audience.
Loved this photo of Amanda and Neil settling in at the Strange Brew. (Photo by Marc Lebryk)
House parties are not formulaic. From what I have read online and in blogs, each one has its own distinct energy: some loud and energetic, others quiet and intimate. I've written before about the idea of creating a container, a time and space, for special things to happen. Well, this was a container made by a lot of people: Joan, Neil, Amanda, Allison, Allie, Kristine, and more. The thing is, when you create a container, you never know exactly what you're going to get. So much is dictated by what fills it, in this case: the venue, the audience, and by Amanda's mood and energy at the time.
Neil, Amanda, and Lorraine share a sweet moment. (Photo by Marc Lebryk)
The Indy house party reminded me a little of those times in college when I would go with a group of friends to the local coffeehouse to hear a friend play or do a reading. Back then, there may have only been a few small groups of people at the cafe, and I wouldn't know everyone, but I knew we were all there to support the performer(s). This vibe was similar--mellow and anticipatory. A few people played as a warm-up, while the rest of us mingled, listened, and watched. Some songs struck chords, with people, and I saw a some tears, many rapt listeners, and so many smiles.
Listening to Allie perform an amazing version of Time After Time,
Amanda and everyone else at Strange Brew.
(Photo by Marc Lebryk)
I had brought face pencils and decorated a few friends' faces with stars (in honor of the Perseid Meteor showers). Amanda borrowed the pencils and went around the room talking with people about their fears and then writing/drawing those fears on their faces. For the rest of the evening, people went around the room wearing their fears on their cheeks. At one point, Amanda drew a "pencil mustache" on Neil (I think it looked surprisingly dapper):
Neil autographs the giant Strange Brew mug, while a charismatic Dill looks on.
At some point Neil shed the mustache, and then the couple drew on each other's fears.
Neil writes Amanda's fear on her cheek. (Photo by Marc Lebryk)
I was so happy to be at a coffee shop, because in addition to some wine and spirits, I could enjoy Joan's amazing coffee (if you're sad you didn't get to have any, you can order from the Strange Brew on their website, Cafe Yarns.) I also got the chance to sample the "Neil Gaiman" specialty coffee drink. Back in 2009 (I can't believe it's been four years!), there was a discussion on the internet about what a Neil coffee would taste like. Joan came up with her concoction (it has Neil's honey!) and continues to donate the proceeds to the CBLDF. You can read Joan's blog entry about it from 2009.
Amanda talks with Madeline C. Matz about the Amanda Palmer Tarot Kickstarter project.
While our little group was gathered around talking with Amanda about the Amanda Palmer Tarot Kickstarter, Neil brought a large mug of the "Neil Gaiman" over to Amanda for her to sample. She did, then shared the mug with us.
Of course I have a knack for getting caught making funny faces.
Here I'm about to sample the "Neil Gaiman" latte. (Photo by Marc Lebryk)
Contrary to what my face suggests in the photo above, the Neil Gaiman was sweet and delicious.
I would expect nothing less from Joan. She and Dill have really built a wonderful place and community in the Strange View. Many people dream of owning a coffee shop, and some people even try, but they have successfully run one for 9 years. That is an amazing thing in this Starbucks Age.
Plus Joan and Dill roast their own coffee, she's a Roller Derby Goddess, she's written two knitting books, Knockdown Knits:30 Projects from the Roller Derby Track and Knits for Nerds), and she recently started doing silks! Joan's a wonder and one of the most genuine and amazing people I've had the good fortune to meet. (You can read her account of the house party and her other adventures on her blog, and if you're driving through Greenwood, Indiana, you should definitely stop in to The Strange Brew Coffee House for a pound of "Jamaica Me Crazy" and a "Neil Gaiman" to go.)
Amanda on ukelele at The Strange Brew coffee house in Indiana.(Photo by Marc Lebryk)
After time spent with the folks in attendance, Amanda performed, then was joined by Neil on a couple of songs. Neil read some short stories (always a treat to listen to him read aloud). One of my favorite moments was listened in the dark as he read his scary story, "Click-Clack the Rattlebag" accompanied by Lorraine on violin and Amanda on keyboard:
Neil reads his scary story, joined by Lorraine and Amanda.(Photo by Marc Lebryk)
The evening closed with photo booth portraits on the couch, where folks could pose with Neil and Amanda. (You can see the portraits and candids by photographer Marc Lebryk on his Flickr page.)
Amanda decorates Kristine Scalzi's face, after Neil autographed WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER.
(Photo by Marc Lebryk)
Neil signed some books, there were many hugs, then Amanda and Neil bid their farewells. It was a wonderful night.
Me and Neil, Strage Brew. (Photo by Marc Lebryk)
After breakfast the next morning, we headed back home to Chicago, and Maura and Tina headed back to Wisconsin/Minnesota.
Breakfast with Mindy Perry, Tina Needles Melvin, me,
Sean Swaggerty, Maura Henn, and Madeline C. Matz (left to right).
(Photo by nice Denny's manager)
I picked the Henry Miller quote because the journey is often as important as the destination. It may sound cliché, but it's true. I fully admit to my wanderlust--that feeling of being called to explore new worlds and adventures, from German forests to Spanish Hills to Indiana suburbs.
Each trip we take introduces us to new people and adventures. There's something else, however. Travel also reminds us to appreciate the places we leave behind, and sometimes coming home is just as sweet as the journey away.
- Current Location:home
- Current Mood: happy
Part 1 features John Crowley and Scott Edelman, and includes a wonderful discussion about fairies, zombie-fiction, storytelling tips, and writing challenges.
“One of the most amazing things about writing to me is that, even though you’ve read, and heard, and seen thousands of stories, when you sit down to write one, you have no idea how to begin!” –John Crowley
Part 2 features Theodora Goss, Nancy Hightower, and me. This from the Virtual Memories site:
First, Theodora Goss talks about her new accordion-shaped novella, The Thorn and the Blossom, what writing contracts taught her about writing stories, why most classic literary monsters were female, and the joys of coffee in Budapest. Then (52:00), Valya Dudycz Lupescu explores the joys of Growing Up Ukrainian in Chicago, the role of folklore and myths in her fiction, and how every immigrant wave has to choose what it holds onto when it lands in America. Finally (1:15:00), Nancy Hightower tells us why she gave up Colorado for NYC, how she made the transition from teaching the grotesque to writing epic eco-fantasy, and how we learn the cost of wilderness.
(from left): Nancy Hightower, author of Elementari Rising; Theodora Goss,
author of The Thorn and the Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story; and
Valya Dudycz Lupescu, author of The Silence of Trees.
It was wonderful to be in the company of these two intelligent, creative, and talented writers all weekend at Readercon, and I enjoyed listening to their interviews as much as I enjoyed chatting with Gil.
In her interview, Theodora speaks about the joy of conferences and conventions like Readercon. I'm new to the scene, but I wholly agree. Cons allow us to engage other writers in a social setting, to discuss everything from coffee to craft.
Cons are an oasis of sorts, they create the opportunity for community to happen in a physical place, because for most writers, the work is solitary. Even the internet, while a lifeline for many and an invaluable tool for connection, is not the same as sharing a meal, or sitting in a hotel room drinking wine with friends as the sun comes up. Those become the memories many of us hold onto when we're back alone in front of our laptops and notebooks, facing blank pages and beginning again.
- Current Location:Home
- Current Mood: happy
For hundreds of years, the Tarot has been used as a system of divination, reflection, storytelling, and inspiration. There are decks inspired by gods and goddesses, decks of cats, decks inspired by fictional worlds like Harry Potter or Star Wars, fairy tale decks and complex metaphysical ones. People are drawn to certain decks because they identify with the imagery or connect with the artwork or theme.
It comes as no surprise that fans of singer Amanda Palmer decided to draw upon the iconography of Amanda's work, both as a solo artist and member of the Dresden Dolls, to create a Tarot deck.
For those unfamiliar with her work, Amanda's songs, while fiercely intimate, are also iconic. She sings about abuse, addiction, abortion, heartache, love, abandon, regret, and hope; and her songs give voice to the dreams and fears of fans around the world. That would be enough to endear Amanda to her fans, but she takes it further to connect with them on a personal level at shows, ninja gigs, and online. Amanda opens herself up, and people often walk away saying that the experiences were intimate, inspirational, and transformative.
That is what the Amanda Palmer Tarot is about: Intimacy. Inspiration. Transformation.
When Madeline C. Matz, told me she was going to take the collaborative deck to Kickstarter, to use the crowd funding tool for preorder and distribution of the tarot deck and to pay the 78 artists involved, it made perfect sense. Collaboration brought the deck into existence; collaboration would get it produced.
***UPDATE: The Tarot was fully funded within 24-hours of launching the Kickstarter Campaign, but you can still order a deck until September 3, 2013!***
At its heart, the Amanda Palmer Tarot is a one-of-kind creative collaboration, a tribute deck featuring the work of 78 different artists, including Molly Crabapple, Kyle Cassidy, Walter Sickert, Kristina Carroll, Zelda Devon, Katelan V. Foisy, and more. Even fans unfamiliar with Tarot as a system of divination can enjoy the beauty of the unique cards inspired by all-things-Amanda.
Tarot is like a mosaic or patchwork of our lives at any given moment. People look at the cards to gain insight, to glean something new, to be challenged, to connect with a larger picture. (Interesting that those are some of the same reasons we encounter art.)
It will be interesting to find out what Tarot readers will think of the Amanda Palmer Tarot, because of course, the cards are sexy, symbolic, and provocative.
But then again, Art should provoke, and Tarot should provoke. Any deck inspired by Amanda would have to be provocative, and I think that translates into a beautiful and powerful collection of cards.
Aren't you curious to find out what you'll see in the cards?
- Current Location:Home
- Current Mood:jet-lagged
- Current Music:Yes Amanda Yes - Molly Robison