Discouragement

It’s been a while since I’ve written.

We got a new tire for my car. Or rather, we got 5 new tires for my car and one of them turned out to work. The first time Mr Katje went to the scrap yard he got a deal on 4 tires for 200 bucks off a 2000 Dodge Caravan — ie, my exact car.

They didn’t fit.

I don’t fucking know WHY, they just didn’t fit. They should have. SAME CAR. That night included Mr Katje lying on the ground looking at this tire he couldn’t get onto my car and saying “Happy birthday, Dear, I got you the wrong tires.”

(Yes, tires were my bday gift. I turned 31 and I got a working car. #blessed)

So he went back and was able to return them (a VERY WELCOME SURPRISE) and got a different one which definitely DID fit. So my car got all fixed up in time for me to drive up to Sechelt.

So mom and I went to the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, or FOTWA, or #SecheltWritersFest, or SCFWA, from August 17-20. We were in the tent selling books with other local indie authors.

We had a great time; I sold 2 books. Pretty good considering the overlap between SFF readers and people who go to festivals like that one is pretty slim.

Then we got back to our respective homes and Mr Katje and I went and watched the eclipse the next day, which was fucking underwhelming. I thought 86% totality was going to be pretty good but it was just disappointing. Didn’t help we couldn’t get any eclipse glasses so we had to look through pinhole boxes we’d made that morning.

When we’re 80 we’ll just look right at it because either medical technology will have progressed to the point where it doesn’t matter and we can just get new eyes, or we’ll be so close to the grave we won’t give a fuck.

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Existing

You know that feeling when your crush remembers your name? Or asks about something important to you? That fluttery, happy feeling, that voice in your head yelling “Oh my gods, they know I exist!”

Or maybe you get that feeling when you meet your idol and they show interest in what you’re talking about. Or when anyone important to you shows you that they know you’re there. They’re aware. You have made an impression, no matter how small.

Now imagine the feeling you get when the opposite happens: you’re ignored, pushed aside, dismissed. It’s a sinking, awful feeling, isn’t it? Like an anchor dragging your heart down to your stomach.

You don’t exist to them. You didn’t make an impression. They are not aware of you at all, nor your brilliance or your individuality.

You have been erased.

I ask you to imagine these feelings because they are two feelings I deal with very often in relation to my gender identity — and more often than not I deal with the second one. Most days my gender identity is erased, and I am left with that sinking feeling, and a horrible decision: do I correct the person who just misgendered me, or do I let it slide? A decision that is very rarely easy.

There are few situations I find myself in where correcting someone is the easy and best path: they will accept it, apologize, and be sincere. They will accept me not being binary.

More often, I know that correcting someone, or asking for more gender options on things like survey forms, will lead to a rolling of the eyes at best; a screed about “Why do you people have to make everything so PC all the time?” or, perhaps, violence at worst.

I usually choose not to correct people face to face. I let it slide. Most people see me as a heterosexual, cisgender woman and I let them think that, even though it’s wrong on all counts. For the most part it’s a microaggression that slowly wears down at my mental health, causing me to question my very existence and worthiness on a daily basis — though there are some areas of my life where “being a woman” is okay, and doesn’t hurt me mentally. I don’t know why those areas exist, but they do, and I don’t want to ignore their existence in this post.

Passing as a cishet woman is safe for me in many ways, but unsafe in others. It’s a balance I have to strike, and mostly I choose to let people continue to erase me. At least face to face.

But when it comes to forms I have to fill out for various reasons, I ask people to give me more options than “male” or “female”. Why? Because I rarely get any personal response from the form-makers — I send an email, hope they see it, and go about my day. It gives me a sense of accomplishment even if I have no proof I’ve made any difference; I have made a small stand for my continued visible existence; I have fought back against the erasure I face every day.

Today I got some proof that this works. I don’t know if I made this change happen or if it was a bunch of us trans*/non-binary folks, but it did happen, and it made me happy.

I filled out the Volunteer Survey form for the Vancouver International Writers’ Fest today – the festival I volunteer at every year. When I got to the gender section, this is what it looked like:

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 3.41.06 PM

Four multiple choice options PLUS a place to fill in a different answer. Prefaced with “I identify as:”, not “Other”.

I was immediately filled with elation. That first feeling I described above? I am floating on a cloud of it.

I exist.

I matter.

I made an impression.

And this is a big deal, when I mostly deal with the second feeling I described. The first feeling is such a rare occurrence when it comes to my gender identity that when it does come, it’s almost overpowering.

So, thank you VIWF. Thank you for listening, and thank you for giving me a small space in my life that said, very clearly: You exist. We have noticed you. Here is a place where you can proclaim your existence and have it be validated.

-Katje

A good day for pluviophiles

Well, actually, even I find this weather kind of frightening. It is monsooning outside right now. As in, I’m pretty sure if I walked out of my building I’d drown.

Anyway, this means that WORD Vancouver is being moved indoors — so you can still come see us tomorrow but we’ll likely be inside.

Oh, right — we’ll be at WORD tomorrow. Not sure if I mentioned that. I probably didn’t, because I spent this week getting my FACE EATEN by the work I had to do in prep for WORD. Beeg [bada boom] publishing order had to be completed and then I had to finish editing Stranger Skies so I could get the ARC out to winners and people who helped me with the cover reveal.

(If I missed you in that email — please let me know. My brain is basically dead right now and I’m not even sure what my name is. Awesome McBitchpants? Something like that.)

Who is we? Kat and Wolff, obviously, and the Powell River Live Poets’ Guild and International Peace Poem and Youth Peace Poem Competition. We’re big on peace. And literacy.

Right now I am trying to give my brain a desperately needed break after going through editing hell over the past two days. Mainly by watching Angel and Buffy on Netflix. Don’t judge me. I never got to see them in the order they aired (I watched Angel before Buffy and marathon-ed both shows) so I’m re-watching them in order. I wish Netflix would make this a bit easier by allowing you to create playlists but it doesn’t. C’est la vie.

Also, yes, that annoying box at the top of each page on this blog will be there until October 4th. Sorry. Actually, not sorry, ignore that reflexive Canadianism.

And finally, in honor of Banned Books Week (which I totally missed thanks to work), here are my favourite three lines from the poem “Voice” by Kaimana Wolff (found in the witless poisoner).

This flesh is made of words:
light me and I will burn
like a brave, banned book

-Kat

Writers Fest Recap (picture heavy)

Last week I volunteered sixteen hours at the Writers Fest. If you’ve been reading my posts, you already know this. I wanted to give a brief recap of the week, along with pictures I took (or had taken of me).

“Eclipse White” by Andre Petterson.

My volunteering hours were spent selling raffle tickets. The raffle was to win a painting by Andre Petterson. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a hard sell. I think the painting didn’t really appeal to a lot of people, and I think the people it did appeal do didn’t have any place to put it. Still, during my first shift we sold 11 tickets — that was at the Opening Reception — and according to the volunteer manager I had the best sales all week. I maintain it was my purple beret. It attracted people to me like moths to a flame. (That, or I’m apparently a better salesperson than I think I am.)

The Writers Fest is on Granville Island, which is probably my favorite place in Vancouver. I used to live there, ages ago, and it hasn’t changed much since then. It’s artsy and hippy and absolute hell to drive or park in. There are at least three independent coffee shops. There’s a Public Market. And there’s Arts Umbrella, which is where I spent a lot of time as a kid, taking classes in architecture, animation, pottery, jewelry-making, film, and other arts. While I was walking past Arts Umbrella on my way to Festival House on my first day, I noticed some chalk graffiti on the wall of the building. It was Doctor Who graffiti. I had a squee moment, and took a picture. The graffiti stayed up the whole week, so I got to show the real thing to my mom, too. (Then I convinced her to watch 6 episodes and finish off season 5 before she went up to Powell River this week.)

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There’s one in every group

Quite honestly, though, there is one guy in every group of people who want to discuss feminism at more than a 101 level who just has to bring it back down to a 100 level.

That happened Thursday night.

As a volunteer for VIWF, I have the option to enter into a ticket lottery to win one comp ticket to an event I want to see. I managed to score a ticket for Women and Literature, which was my first choice.

I was super-stoked. This was definitely the one event I really wanted to see.

The event was a panel of four women authors and a woman moderator/interviewer/timekeeper who would ask questions. The authors were Kate Mosse from the United Kingdom, Gail Jones from Australia, Gillian Jerome from British Columbia, and Susan Swan from Ontario. Here is the summary of the event:

In response to the 1991 Booker Prize nominee list, which included not one female author, novelist Kate Mosse founded the Orange Prize to celebrate outstanding fiction by women throughout the world. Now, more than 20 years later, poet Gillian Jerome has founded Canadian Women in the Literary Arts in response to the critical reception of women’s creative writing. In this so-called post-feminist world, does the literary and critical environment reflect what’s really happening? Susan Swan, novelist and past chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada, has followed issues of gender equality in writing for decades. Australia’s Gail Jones, an award-winning author and professor of writing, brings an international perspective to this panel discussion.

When the “post-feminist world” was mentioned, I and several other audience members guffawed. Jokes were made about Gillian Jerome’s binder, because it was full of women.

The discussion was good, and pretty much completely unsurprising to me. Women authors get reviewed less often than male authors do. It’s assumed that boys and men cannot relate to books written by women, but can relate to books written by men. It’s assumed that boys and men must have a male protagonist in order to enjoy the story — and boys and men are socialized to believe this from an early age. Women don’t get shortlisted as often, or win as often, many prominent literary prizes. Women are more generous readers than men — they’re more likely to read books with male protagonists with whom they can’t fully relate than men are to read books with female protagonists — I mean, obviously, women have had to be more generous readers with regards to that, because it’s not as if their stories have been centered in literature for centuries.

And women and feminists say these things, say “This is what is going on, let’s talk about it,” and we get “Why are you so angry? Are you a lesbian? Do you hate men?” in response. Anytime more women authors become visible — anytime women become more visible in any field — it’s seen as a takeover. All male = neutral.

And this discussion was refreshing, because it seemed we were actually able to talk about these things, for once, without derail.

I was too happy, too soon.

There was time for only three questions at the end. I finally worked up the courage to raise my hand for the last question — I wanted to know what their perspective was on genderqueer authors who had lived as women and still were assumed to be women finding spaces within women’s literature, within the circles of women authors supporting each other, etc — but the question went to a dude down at the end of my row instead.

His question had nothing to do with the discussion. It had to do with feminism in general, and he prefaced it by saying “This is going to be a controversial question, and of course I believe in women’s equality.”

Pro-tip: if you have to preface your ‘controversial’ question with ‘of course I believe in _____’, it’s a pretty huge red flag that you actually don’t believe in ___. No matter how much you think you do.

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A Brief Wondrous Talk from Junot Diaz

Slight trigger warning: mention of rape, colonialism

Wednesday night my volunteer shift was during Junot Diaz‘s reading and Q&A session (followed by signing). I’d never heard of him before then — apparently a lot of Canada hasn’t, even though he’s fairly well known in the States. For me, I think it’s just because I tend to know authors within a certain genre — speculative fiction — and I don’t really pay attention to what’s called ‘mainstream’ fiction.

But I fell in love with him during his talk.

He talked about how science fiction and comic books are the genres he read, because things that were unrealistic were the only way to explain his life as a Dominican immigrant living in New Jersey. How the life of oppressed people is spoken to not through ‘mainstream’ fiction, but through the fantastic, the strange, because when you live with society’s great boot on your neck life doesn’t add up according to the master narrative. His book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has a quote from The Fantastic Four on the epigraph page.

He talked about white privilege and said ‘motherfucker’ so many times I lost count. He talked about how he’s fascinated with how we privilege masculinity and the invisible power that goes with growing up a man, yet how that gets diluted if you’re not masculine enough; he talked about the history of colonialism and rape within the Caribbean — how do you form loving intimate relationships when your ancestral line was raped into existence? — and how the “exoticism” and “unbridled sexuality” of Caribbean and African-American women as viewed by mainstream society is directly linked to that. How do you admit centuries of rape and conquest without actually admitting it? Well, just say they’re naturally very sexual people. (See: the sexualizing of Native Women.)

I was writing down some of the things he said because they were so true, I wanted to get as exact quotes as I could. (I’m not a fast writer, however, so some errors will occur.)

On his political views and how they blend into his work:

Anyone who’s a reader knows no book is not a political act.

On the exclusivity of literature:

The biggest strength of any work is its stupendous particularity.

On the difference between religious works and literary ones:

The Bible and the Koran make universal claims that freeze people out. Literature, in its stupendous particularity, invites […] people in.

He spoke about how, as writers, we must work hard at the parts we’re really shit at — which is why he wrote a story entirely in second-person viewpoint. He says it took him 11 years to write his first book and 16 to write his second, and that’s because writing is really difficult for him — and that there needs to be space for people for whom things that they’re good at take a long time. We have this idea that if someone is good at something, it should come quickly and easily to them — but that’s not always true.

I got to meet him afterwards, when I went to get his book [that I’d picked up as soon as the reading was over] signed. He was incredibly sweet; he gave me a hug and a kiss on each cheek, and was totally unassuming. I told him I’d never heard of him before that night — “It’s ok, sweetie, no one has” — but that I loved him already — “Aw, thank you.” He thanked me personally for volunteering, and he’d said thank you to all the volunteers during his talk.

I’m now the very proud owner of a copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, signed to me.

I’m glad I got to see him speak, because he confirmed what I’d thought for a while: you can still be a successful writer and be political on your social media accounts, your blog, in public. We get told, as indie authors, to leave politics and religion out of it, that it has nothing to do with our books.

My book is about political turmoil and revolution. It’s about warring goddesses and the mortal chess pieces they move across the board. It’s a feminist writing experiment with using female-centric language in a matriarchal society.  How can religion and politics not have anything to do with my book? And if writing about politics on my blog or my Facebook or my Twitter turns people off from me as an author, then that’s their loss. I do not apologize.

My politics are an intrinsic part of who I am, and you will find just as many posts about them here as you will find posts about what I ate for breakfast or my hilarious conversations with my boyfriend. You will find fewer posts about my religion, because I have an entire blog for that elsewhere — but I will never shy away from admitting that yes, I am a deeply religious person, and no, that’s not incompatible with paganism, nor is it incompatible with supporting science or rational thought or evolution or anything else that tends to get held up as mutually exclusive with religion. And my religion does deeply inform my writing, so no — I will not hide it. Not here.

Junot Diaz reminded me that what’s important to me is never not relevant to my writing career. He re-sparked my desire to be political on this blog and my social media accounts. He helped me remember why I write in the first place: because a book can change the world, one person at a time.

Day one of VIWF!

It’s here already!

Wow, that was quick. Half the month is gone. Seriously, am I getting abducted by aliens and losing time? It really feels like it.

Today is the first day of the Vancouver International Writers Fest! I’m volunteering as a raffle ticket seller, which means looking nice and convincing people to buy tickets for a raffle of a really pretty painting.

Also, I’m late.

Well, not yet. But I did want to leave by 1pm so I could be there in plenty of time to find a parking space. I’m going to be leaving closer to 1:15 than 1pm. Oh well.

Going to blog as much as I can about VIWF, but I’ll also be really busy. If you are in the neighborhood and you have the time, you should definitely come check out some of the events.

And tonight I get to pick up mom from the airport! She will hopefully forgive me for the house not being super-clean. At all.

Cross your fingers that she doesn’t murder me, y’all, because if she does it means an end to this blog.

Productivity two days in a row? Madness!

I’ve been productive today and yesterday. Granted, a bit less today, probably because I slept for fifteen hours and could have gone back for more (read: I’m exhausted). But I have gotten a lot done.

Yesterday I started the huge task of reorganizing all my books. You see, when I moved here, my mom unpacked my books and organized them as best she could, bless her. She did a really good job, but I am obsessively neurotic when it comes to organizing my books. (And a lot of other things, actually.)

I also started doing laundry because…drum roll please…I have a working washer and dryer! The saga ends, with glorious defeat of the Imperial Stink-troopers, The Emperor of Funky Fabrics, and the redemption of Darth Undies.

That’s not even all the dirty stuff. There’s still a pile in my bedroom, and I’ve already done four loads.

I went to bed at 8pm and woke up at 11am today. I didn’t get right back to work; I sat down and had my coffee and spent some time on Google+. It’s National Coming Out Day (technically international), so I did that officially, as well as linking to my Full Frontal Genderqueer video again. Of course, being that official about it on my author profile was sort of nerve-wracking (especially as #NationalComingOutDay was the top trending hashtag on Google+ when I did), so I had to step back from the computer for a bit. Allay my anxiety.

I decided to continue my laundry and books work.

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VIWF is here and it’s as awesome as I thought it would be

I have spent the past 2 days volunteering in the food service part of the Vancouver International Writer’s Festival (which I’ve blogged about previously). It has been awesome. Food service for events — doing prep work in the kitchen and working concession stands during intermission — is something I excel at, and as I never tire of having my ego stroked hearing that I’m wonderful from staff is, in a word, heaven.

Of course, my arms and legs are killing me because I worked harder in the past two days than I have in the past three months. Totally worth it.

One of the featured authors for the opening reception, which I worked, was Helen Oyeyemi. She’s 27, has put out 4 books, and was first a guest at VIWF when she was 20. I’m not going to lie, my first thoughts when I heard she was 5 years younger than I am now when she became a guest at VIWF were less than charitable, but her writing is very good, and I was very privileged to hear her read.

I’m still damn jealous that she got on it sooner than I did, however, and is a good writer. (I’m not jealous of all young writers, after all.) But that jealously more stems from self-loathing over not getting my shite done quick enough.

Maybe loathing is a strong word. Self-annoyance. I am annoyed at myself. And at the fact that being part of the 99% makes it so rent and food always come first, all the time, writing career be damned. (Won’t pay until I treat it like a career, can’t treat it like a career until it starts to pay. You know the trap.)

Anyway, I digress. I’m having a lovely time at the VIWF, as is my mom — she gets to pick up Russell Banks from the airport, which has her over the moon. He’s one of her favourite authors.

And I am keeping our last name held in high esteem with my awesome work. So the staff members say.

If I sound a little full of myself, well, it’s because I am — and it’s all true, anyway.

See you on Friday, maybe, if I can take 5 minutes to myself to write a post. And come up with a topic.