On Recieving Feedback

Throughout this whole process of getting my book published (I firmly believe that if I keep saying it’s going to happen, it will!), the scariest thing for me has been opening myself up and letting people read it. Before this process, I was terrified of feedback. I receive feedback on my academic writing constantly, but my creative writing? Never. It usually stays hidden in files on my computer or tucked in between the pages of my journal. Although my creative writing is often about fictional characters and not me personally, so much more of myself shows up in my creative writing. I was afraid to share that with the world, and I am still am.

Part of my fear stems from my general introversion and trust issues (hey, we’ve got all them), but another part comes from the sense of elitism that is so pervasive within the writing community. I don’t have an English degree, nor was I drawn to it – to be honest, I’ve never liked the way English is taught in academic settings. It may be my best subject, but that’s only because I’ve learned to write the way that professors and teachers want me to. Perhaps I’ve just had poor professors, but all the English professors I’ve had in college have stifled my creativity, which is what drew me away from an English or Creative Writing major and pushed me towards Social Work, where I’m working on fulfilling my dream of doing some good in this world. By sharing my writing, I’ve learned something incredibly important: You don’t need an English degree to be a writer.

I’ve been blown away by the heart-warming and positive responses I’ve received. People are really connecting with the characters and invested in the story, which makes me so so so happy! I’ve been told by multiple people that I write like John Green, which is one of the best compliments a person could give me. But, of course, I opened myself to constructive criticism as well, something I don’t generally take well – I’m a highly sensitive person who thinks she knows best. I can be rather difficult.

HOWEVER, I’ve seen that the suggestions people have given me are helping me figure out the parts of the story that I struggled with and they have made the story so much better. I am so excited for everyone to be able to read the final version – I am almost done with the last read-through and am actually proud of it! Which means a lot, coming from a perfectionist.

Overall lesson from this experience: People aren’t as mean as you think they’ll be. If you put your heart and soul into your writing, it’s important and worthy of readers. People want to help. And besides, if you don’t agree with their criticism, you know the story best!

Until next time! 

I’m Writing a Book!

Hello WordPress universe, and anybody else who comes accross this post! I have been talking a lot about my writing with peers, on Facebook, and on my Instagram, but have yet to properly enter the world of branding and marketing (because, quite frankly, it confuses & terrifies me — I don’t want to sell myself!). This post is my first step into marketing and putting myself out there into the writing world — that’s right, I’m writing a book!

I suppose I should begin by introducing my book, but it’s nearly impossible to do that without spoiling things! It’s a wild ride to read, and it’s been even wilder to write. As an overview, it’s a story about loss, mental health, friendship, and change. It follows the life of a girl named Jamie Madison, who picks up from her small town home in North Carolina to move to a boarding school, leaving behind her father and her little sister. I obviously won’t give anything away, but that’s the premise, and I can tell you that the story ends in a very different place than it begins, as with most stories. Oh, and I suppose I should give you the title: Chasing Lightning.

So, where am I at? Well, awesome news – I’ve just finished my THIRD round of re-writing and editing! I have to go through another time for typos, but for the most part, the content part is DONE (awaiting commentary from a few more readers, that is). I am so excited to begin this scary process of attempting to find an angent/publisher (side note: if anyone reading this has connections to a young adult genre publisher or agent, help a girl out).

The writing process has been hard. People have asked me if it’s harder to write the first draft or edit the third, and honestly, it’s equally hard. The first draft is hard because you have to get the ideas from your mind to paper, but the third draft is just as hard because you KEEP FINDING TYPOS and it takes so long to get the story to feel perfect…!!!

I’m planning to start posting more updates, and possibly a video, about all of this soon. Yay for marketing!? Anyways, if you’re interested in learning more about this and staying updated on my process, please please please follow me and sign up for my mailing listIf you are a personal friend of mine, I fully expect you to do this, okay?!

Thank you for reading this!! Although the publishing process is terrifying because 1. Beaucracy, 2. Literally putting my SOUL out there to be judged, and 3. Marketing said literal SOUL, I am doing it!! My amazing room mate (shoutout to Mary, if you’re reading this) not only read draft two in five hours, but afterwards sat down with me for five more hours and went over everything she loved & her suggestions, said something that made me hopeful for the process just the other day — the conversation went something like this:

Her: So what are you planning to do with this?

Me: I mean, ideally, publishing would be amazing. But it’s so hard.

Her: Well, my gut is always right, and I have this gut feeling that your book is going to be on the shelves one day. Next to John Green and Perks of Being a Wallflower and all of those young adult books.

Here’s to making her gut feeling come true.

(Below are some pics of my process, for those of you visual folks)

My view while editing outside

An old draft, editing in a coffee shop. I guess this is a sneak peak…
 

 

I’m Not Doing Okay: Mental Disability and Oppression

I’m not doing okay. Those words scare you, don’t they? They scare me too.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability. I’ve mastered being vulnerable about my past – I’ve learned how to wrap up my hardships up in a little box and tie a ribbon on top. I’ve learned how to turn my stories of struggle into stories of hope, into stories of “I’m-doing-a-whole-lot-better-now” and “look-what-I’ve-overcome.” I’ve seen how powerful other people’s stories of vulnerability can be in encouraging others to share there own stories and reach out. But how come vulnerability is only acceptable when it’s contained to the past? How come I feel so much more comfortable sharing my past struggles, but not my present ones, the ones that need to be shared?

When I talk about mental health, I tend to talk about it in the past. Like it’s something I faced when I was younger. Something that I’ve overcome. And in a sense, I  have grown since then – I’ve learned how to care for myself and I’ve established a better social support system. But no matter how great of a job I do at self care, no matter how many times I go to counseling and no matter how great I am at remembering to take my anxiety medication, I still have bad days. Really bad days. And I don’t know how to talk about them, nor do I feel I have the space to talk about them (which is why I’m writing a post about it…forcing myself to be extra vulnerable).

I’ve learned that no matter how much self-care I do, I will still face hardship from my mental illnesses on two levels: 1) The biological, chemical level, and 2) The oppression I face for my disability.

On the biological level, I can’t help it. I’m sick. Sometimes I feel like a ticking time bomb – like one day, the depression will get so bad that I’ll explode. And that scares me, no matter how good I’m feeling, I’m terrified of that happening to me one day.

On the societal level, I am damn tired of constantly feeling pressured to normalize and minimize the oppression that I face. I took a social justice class last year. The professor was the best I’ve ever had, but I first started to notice something about the oppression I face as a person with a disability in this class – disability is always the first to leave the table. When we fell behind in class, the disability unit was the first to be cut. I attended a leadership conference a few weeks back. We did an activity about identities, where various identities were all put up around the room. Disability was not up there. I raised my hand and asked why, and was told that not all models are perfect. While that is true, I’m tired of disability being discounted from discussions about oppression. It’s incredibility important, especially when talking about intersectionality and the cross-over between other identities (i.e. race, gender, sexuality) and disability.

When it comes to invisible disabilities like mine, I feel like I’m constantly having to prove my disability to others. I’m very high-functioning. Like, in my three years of college, I’ve only missed a course because of a panic attack once. I volunteer a lot. I’m active on campus. Because of all these things, people doubt the validity of my mental illness. People assume that because I’m not having panic attacks at school like I used to in high school, it means I’m all better now.

Mental health is not simply an individual issue. Like I said earlier, I know how to practice self care. I go to therapy. I take my medicine. I work out and eat well and I do everything I can for my mental health, but it’s still not enough, and it won’t ever be enough if people continue to let the stigma that surrounds mental illness be so pervasive in society. Oppression for those with both physical and mental disabilities is real. I face it from  my own thought patterns that have been socialized into my behavior, from my peers, and from laws/policies/political rhetoric.

I’m tired of always being the voice to advocate for myself. Where are all of my friends who had my back for so long, who have seen first hand the things I experience in my mind – where are my allies? It’s exhausting enough to live with a mental health condition. It’s even more so to constantly have to speak up for myself when nobody else does.

When I say I’m not doing well, I generally get one of the following responses: Either people freak out and assume I’m at risk, or people think I just mean that I had a bad day. I hope that one day, I’ll live in a world where I can tell others I’m not doing well and they’ll understand what I mean – that I need support. Isn’t that what all of us need?

di9radxat

An Ode to the Girls Who Watched Me Grow Up

The older the get, the luckier I realize that I am. I am lucky to have met my best friends at such a young age, to have picked the right girls from the handful of awkward elementary and middle schoolers. I am lucky to have girls that have been by my side through the years, who still take weekend trips with me and understand my weird quirks and laugh about how weird we were.

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This is for Mary, who I met in the fourth grade, who bonded with me over sleepovers, ChatNows, and lost walnuts on the playground. For Mary, who never left my side, who laughed with me at the strange shape of Avocados and the boys who we had crushes on, who never feared to point out the obvious and awkward (i.e.: “Erin, you have a pimple on your face.” *poke*), who’s face is sprinkled throughout old pictures of awkward selfies and Listerine commercials. The peanut butter to my jelly.

And of course, there’s Abbie, the far-away friend who I met in the fifth grade. The boy-crazy, hamster-loving, Japanese-obsessed ten year old with the blonde hair and the cute hat. Abbie, who although she was always far away, first home-school and then Arizona, will always be in our hearts because we know that we are in hers. The girl who I watched grow up into one of the strongest people I know, suffering through the heartbreak with her head held high. The girl with the coolest basement and the weirdest taste in music, with the best sleepover parties and the best of laughs.

This is for Kaitlin, who I became friends with at the age of eleven, the day that Abbie invited us both over, the girl I had heard stories about but had never spoken to. Kaitlin, who bonded with me over a strange story about a witch and a knight and odd Japanese Hamtaro music, who danced with me to weird songs, who poked fun at all of my crushes, who stayed up late writing and color-coding scripts with me. Kaitlin, who let me put my head on her lap the night that I cried and I didn’t know why, who was always there with her goofy smile and awkward dancing, the Harry to my Hermione.

This is for Natalie, brought together through Kaitlin the infamous day of the “period rock,” a friendship full of sleepovers and weird pictures and bickering over things that don’t really matter, like the chocolate that dropped on the floor that she wouldn’t pick up, or the correct pronunciation of the word “bag.” For Natalie, who was always there for me, who I aspire to always be there for as well. From playground adventures to coffee dates (where we both order tea, of course), Natalie will always be there to laugh at our pasts and hope for our futures.

This is for Manasa, who I met in the seventh grade, brought together in an awkward homeroom full of cool kids and weird kids. For Manasa, who braved the waters to talk to me – I was the quiet girl in the corner of the classroom who would read and ignore everyone during every homeroom session. That is, until we became friends, a friendship beginning with imaginative soap operas that soon led to stories and novels about dreams and reality and friendship and loss. The one who always knew what to say and how to help, even if she didn’t think she knew what she was doing.

This is for Grace, who bonded with me at the age of thirteen over our fondness of British words and our mutual stubbornness. For Grace, who I watched grow up, who always cared and looked out for each of us. The late night skype sessions wearing Harry Potter merchandise, the debates over fictional characters, the midnight premieres, and the meddling with our friends. The screaming Taylor Swift songs in the car over boys who were oblivious to our feelings, having her by my side as I fell in love for the first time. For Grace, the one who I know always believed in each of us, even when we didn’t believe in ourselves.

 

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When I watch old videos and look at old pictures, it’s as if we are all characters in an old show, each of us portraying a different character-type. I cringe at the videos of us in the ninth grade, but laugh all the same. Abbie, always the dramatic one who thought our shenanigans were strange but played into them all the same, the one who always had a new and exciting story to tell. Grace, the one behind the camera, the quiet one with the eye for beauty and the heart to hold us all. Manasa, the adventurous and reckless type, yet behind it all there lies a mom-like nature, always looking out for us like we were her babies. Natalie, the goof-ball, the one who doesn’t give herself enough credit for her bravery and huge heart. Kaitlin, the spaz, the star of our parodies and videos, always dancing and screaming and confusing us all. Mary, the one who was always in every shot (somehow), dancing and laughing and making fun of us, the one who was always poking us and annoying us but we loved it all the same. And of course, me, the high-pitched nagging, bossy voice directing everyone around, striving for perfection but never seeing that it was always in front of my eyes, in each of them.

The older I get and the more wonderful friends that come into my life, the more I realize that I will never meet another group of girls like these. I am lucky to have met these girls as a kid, and to have grown up so well alongside them. Few people have this kind of connection with a group of girls, and we are as lucky as they come. I swear, our group would make a damn good sitcom…but not one of those boring ones, one with dragons and magic and also normal things, like falling in love and laughing until we cry and stressing over homework.

This is for the girls who watched me grow up, long live our friendship, until the very end.