Wednesday, January 17, 2018

That Jetsetter Life

Remember that blog post I wrote last week about my relentless schedule? Well, it seems that schedule came back to bite me. Over the weekend my body crashed pretty hard; I felt sick, but I think I just needed rest. Spent a lot of time in bed.

But I'm glad I took the time to recover, because I'm going to need to be in good health to make it through the rest of this month. As you know, my soul is consumed by wanderlust, and it's been far too long since I took a trip. So to make up for it, I'm taking three:
  • 1/20-1/24 - Flying to Vegas for the Women's March—and to visit my friends, of course. Let's go to Stake Out. 
  • 1/26-1/31 - Meg and I are driving to Denver to visit Letakins in her new apartment. Let's drink Bhakti Chai.
  • 2/2-2/4 - Meg and I are flying to Orlando to spend our birthday at Harry Potter World. Let's turn 30. 
I'm simultaneously thrilled and exhausted just thinking about it. 

In other news, I got a kind and positive rejection for my novel the other week, which is great news—at least I know I'm not completely alienating agents with my cover letters or anything like that. And on the same day, I found out that Pithead Chapel had nominated my story "In Captivity" for Best Small Fictions 2018, which means a lot to me. I love this little flash piece, and it was rejected many times before it found a good home. Give it a read, won't you? 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ambitious & Restless

Earlier today I exclaimed to a coworker that I am "a goddess of productivity." Which is true! I mean, every once in a while I lounge in bed and binge-watch something on Netflix like a normal person. But for the most part, I accomplish a ridiculous amount each day—even though I don't always give myself credit for it. 

For example: yesterday I got up at 6:45, got ready, drove to work, answered emails, posted a blog entry on our intranet, wrote another blog entry for our intranet, attended three meetings (one of which I ran), answered more emails, created two job aids, researched an article, answered still more emails, drove to the gym, ran for 40 minutes, lifted weights, stretched, drove home, showered and ate dinner, queried an agent, prepared the Split Lip Twitter queue for the next few days, answered personal emails, read a book, and went to bed at around midnight. 

Like I said. Ridiculous. 

I've been considering why I so frequently put myself through days like this—or rather, why I can hardly imagine having days that aren't like this. 

I'm sure it's partially due to the fact that I grew up watching my small-business-owner parents working their asses off 24/7, and therefore learned to imitate their work ethic. And I'm sure it's additionally due to the fact that I'm a neurotic, anxious mess who measures my self-worth by my accomplishments, which is really unhealthy. But at least I know it's unhealthy? 

However, lately I've been been coming to terms with the fact that I'm also ambitious. It's a trait that I didn't recognize in myself for a long time, and when I first had an inkling of it, I tried to suppress it. Proper ladies aren't supposed to be ambitious, of course—that's why female CEOs are "bossy" or "bitchy." There are a billion articles about that phenomenon, so I won't elaborate here. 

But I think the fact that we associate "ambition" with corporate careers is another reason that I failed to acknowledge my own ambition for so long. I don't think of myself as a "corporate" person—even though I now work at a major corporation. (Oh! How the tables have turned.) I've always thought of myself as more of an "artistic" person, except that it also took me forever to consider myself an artist. I'm still not sure I'm comfortable calling myself an artist. I call myself a writer now, but I have trouble identifying as an artist, though I understand that by writing, I am making art. 

It's all in the connotation, both for "ambition" and for "artistic." I think "artistic" connotes impracticality, but I'm a rather practical person. Yes, I did travel around Southeast Asia for two months with no particular agenda—but I worked remotely while I traveled and earned money. See? Practical. And I think that "artistic" can connote "ambition," but mostly for male artists. I imagine the connotation isn't there for female artists because, as I mentioned earlier, women aren't supposed to be ambitious according to the norms of our patriarchal bullshit society. 

But I can't deny it: I am an ambitious woman. I want to publish my novel. I want to publish my stories. I want to write more stories and more novels and publish those, too. I want to travel to every country on Earth. I want to try new hobbies, and when I take them on, I want to excel at them. I don't want to do anything by half measures. I want people to admire me for this. 

And that brings me to my second point. I believe that my ambition also causes me to be a restless person. Though I'm sure my wanderlust is caused in part by curiosity, I think I also just don't want to stay in one place. One place isn't good enough. I want all the places. As a restless person, I fill my day to the brim in order to avoid standing still. I can't achieve my ambitions standing still. 

I worry about my restlessness. Again, I'm not sure it's entirely healthy. But I'm also worried because our society isn't structured in a way that's conducive to restlessness. You're supposed to live somewhere, not everywhere. You're supposed to do one job, not many jobs. What if I fall in love with someone? Will the love of my life be okay with it if I just jet to Tasmania alone for a while? 

Of course, I've already determined that our society is a bullshit society. So I should just reject it, right? Easier said than done. 

Anyway, I'm not sure where I'm going with all this. It's just something I've been thinking about lately. I should head to bed now, or I won't have time to read. 

In related news, I need to become more ambitious about sleeping. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Winter 2017/18 Playlist: Annotated

Happy New Year! Get your winter tunage right here.

1. "This Strange Effect," The Kinks: A cover of this song was on an Apple commercial during the autumn, and I think it unconsciously set the tone for most of the stuff I decided to listen to over the winter. But I didn't want to go with the version from the commercial because, you know, The Kinks rule.
2. "We Were Beautiful," Belle & Sebastian: Belle & Sebastian is one of those bands who almost never substantially changes their sound, and for some reason I'm 100% okay with that. Their newest EP is hit or miss for me, but I enjoy this one, and since they write mod-throwback music I figured they'd be a fitting follow-up to The Kinks.
3. "Venus," Television: I had a hard time placing this song, but I wanted to include it because I'm translating this French novel for fun right now (yeah, I know), and the novel mentions all these wonderful 1970s punk/glam bands that I'm now exploring in greater detail. Television is one such band.
4. "Moment," Timber Timbre: I've been listening to Timber Timbre for some years now--their song "Woman" might have to go somewhere in my top 100 songs of all time, as I never seem to get sick of it--and while their sound is always vaguely creepy, they really take it up a notch on their new album Sincerely, Future Pollution. It's like if the Twin Peaks and Stranger Things soundtracks had a baby. "Moment," however, is one of the less creepy songs on the record, and it has the same synth vibe that permeates most of my winter playlist.
5. "Strange Phenomena," Kate Bush: Kate Bush plays a major role in the French novel I'm translating, but ultimately I wanted to include her because her music is so. damn. wintery. It's as though she distilled winter into a musical genre. Also, if "synth" is one theme for this playlist, "high-pitched vocal arpeggios" is another, and Kate Bush kicks that theme off here.
6. "Oh! You Pretty Things," Lisa Hannigan: Always down for a good Bowie cover, always down for more high-pitched vocal arpeggios. I like that the cover sort of defamiliarizes the original song (strange effect indeed). Putting it here was a no-brainer.
7. "four ethers," serpentwithfeet: I've been trying to fit serpentwithfeet on my seasonal playlists all year to no avail until now. Their music is unlike anything I've ever heard before. It's like...indie opera R&B? Maybe? I suppose it's what you get when you mix a "classically trained" R&B singer with "Bjork collaborator and producer the Haxan Cloak." Make of that what you will.
8. "Pulaski," Andrew Bird: Included this song for several reasons. First, it's all about Chicago, which coincides nicely with my move back into the city. Second, my sister was kind enough to take me to see Andrew Bird at the Fourth Presbyterian last month, and I always like to add songs by artists whose concerts I've seen recently to my playlists. Third, serpentwithfeet is a hard act to follow, and only Andrew Bird could do the job.
9. "Isn't That Enough," Joan Shelley: Joan Shelley opened for Andrew Bird, so she fit logically here. It was also the only spot on the playlist where a sweet little acoustic number seemed to make sense. Her voice is gorgeous, though I find much of her recent album to be somewhat bland. This song, however, is a favorite of mine.
10. "I Wish I Didn't Miss You," Feist: Here I relied on Feist to bring the playlist from straight-up acoustic back into slightly weird territory. Still can't get enough of her album Pleasure.
11. "Audrey (Spending All My Time With You)," The Shacks: Remember that Apple commercial I mentioned earlier? The Shacks are the band who covered "This Strange Effect" in that ad. I still wanted to give them some credit for inspiring me, so I included one of their original tunes here. I think it's a nice bridge between soft mod rock and the synth the playlist moves into next.
12. "Sober," Lorde: When Lorde's new album Melodrama came out earlier this year, I didn't like it nearly as much as her first album, apart from a few songs. I don't know what happened in my brain this winter, but Melodrama finally clicked for me--I'm obsessed with it. (Except for "Supercut of Us," which still seems like a total throwaway.) I could listen to "Sober" on repeat basically forever.
13. "Prom," SZA: Let's be real--SZA easily produced the most finely-crafted album of 2017. She crushed it. There's no way I could not include her on this playlist, and the synth in "Prom" made it a natural fit.
14. "Cautious Lip," Blondie: Blondie plays the largest role in that French novel I'm translating, but as many of you know, I've been in love with Debbie Harry for years--it's one of the reasons I was so adamant about translating the novel in the first place. I decided to throw in a Blondie deep cut for good measure.
15. "Axolotl," The Veils: Here's one from the new Twin Peaks soundtrack that I couldn't find space to include in my fall playlist. It's like...dark grunge American roots rock. (Speaking of grunge, have you seen that video of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" transposed into a major key? It's hilarious.)
16. "Thumbtacks in My Marrow," Asaf Avidan: Asaf Avidan is that Israeli artist whose music I like so much that when I was in France, I traveled to Nice just to see him play a festival because he virtually never plays in the U.S. (I mean, I also had a great time in Nice otherwise. It's a lovely town.) I've been revisiting some of his albums lately, and this song seemed appropriate for winter.
17. "Second Skin," Maiah Manser: Stumbled across this song in one of my Discover Weekly playlists--thanks, Spotify! It bumps the playlist from acoustic back into another round of synth.
18. "Electric Blue," Arcade Fire: Their songs have been featured on all my other seasonal playlists this year, so why not winter, too? I saw them back in late October, and it was phenomenal--the only time I saw them before that was in high school, right after Funeral came out. This song is perfect for the playlist because it has synths AND high-pitched vocal arpeggios.
19. "Reality Check (feat. Akenya & Eryn Allen Kane)," Noname: Noname is one of the best artists to emerge from Chicago in the past few years, and I was lucky enough to see her not only in Amsterdam in 2016, but also the night before New Year's Eve last month. She is outrageously talented, and what's more, she is freaking adorable. You all should go see her live if you get the chance. She's playing Coachella this year, which is amazing.
20. "Scales," Solange: This would definitely have been on my winter playlist last year if I had made a winter playlist last year. A Seat at the Table is literally one of the best albums I've ever heard in my entire life. And this song has plenty of high-pitched vocal arpeggios, to boot.
21. "Smoking Section," St. Vincent: I don't like St. Vincent's new album as much as I'd hoped I would (or maybe it just hasn't clicked yet), but I am a fan of this song. It's like St. Vincent wrote a Lou Reed song.
22. "Pure Gold," Carl Hauck: So Carl Hauck is my sister's friend--she used to play music with him on a regular basis. And years ago, I saw him play this song at a show, and it totally bowled me over. But he didn't release a recording of it until this year, and I got very excited, and I had to include it so that you can all listen to it and become equally enthralled with it.
23. "Blackstar," David Bowie: Since we're nearing the anniversary of the death of my personal god/soulmate David Bowie, I knew that I had to include him on the playlist. It's one of the last songs he ever released, and it most definitely has a strange effect on all who hear it. It's as though he managed to include 2/3 of all musical genres in one song. Because he's a genius, through and through.
24. "I Only Have Eyes for You," The Flamingos: As much as I love "Blackstar," it seemed like a depressing way to end the playlist. So instead I went for The Flamingos' classic "I Only Have Eyes for You." It may not initially seem to fit, but you need context; my friend Scott once wrote a short story where this song was used to extremely creepy effect, to the extent that I'll never be able to entirely separate the ballad from the ominous overtones that he gave it. So if you consider the lyrics in a sinister way, I think you'll see where I was going with this.

I normally try to keep my playlists to 20 songs, but there were just too many good ones this winter! I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Holiday Card 2017

I suspect I'll never get my shit together enough to send out proper Christmas cards. I also suspect social media has largely eliminated the need for them--after all, if you want to know what I'm up to, you merely have to hop on Facebook or Twitter.

That said, 2017 has been another wonderful year for me, and I'm filled with so much gratitude that I feel like I ought to recount the high points here, if only briefly.

  • Early in January, I visited Tim in Kalamazoo--and I got to meet Laura for the very first time! Always a plus when internet friends become real-life friends. 
  • Later in January, I hopped on a bus and drove to Washington D.C. for the Women's March on Washington. Always a plus to be part of an historic protest. (Though my favorite part is probably still when we commandeered the men's bathroom at an Indiana rest stop.) 
  • February brought both my 29th birthday and yet another trip to D.C., this time for the AWP Conference. I was able to reconnect with Vegas friends and geek out over literary minutiae. And at the end of the month, I flew out to Vegas for Shaun and Rachel's surprisingly chilly but nonetheless charming wedding. 
  • You couldn't reasonably expect me not to travel in March, could you? I went to Denver to visit Letakins for a few days. We drank loads of spicy Bhakti Chai and made the acquaintance of a very friendly cat named Toulouse. 
  • April was a big month for me, as it marked the beginning of my great solo Southeast Asian adventure. I started the month in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, then took a bus to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, then another bus to Siem Reap, then a plane to Singapore, then another plane to Bangkok. I rode on a motorbike for the first time, I climbed the temples at Angkor Wat, I watched a thunderstorm roll in from the top of the Marina Bay Sands. Phew.
  • May was the second half of my great solo Southeast Asian adventure. Took a train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, a tiny little plane to Luang Prabang in Laos, and another tiny little plane to Hanoi, where I gave myself a nearly two-week writing retreat. Then it was a boat around Halong Bay, a train to Hue, then...how did I get to Hoi An? I think I flew...or maybe I took a train? No, I'm pretty sure I flew. At any rate, I also befriended several pachyderms, visited loads of temples, and bought some perfectly tailored clothes. Ate a lot of food, too. 
  • June saw the end of my adventure. Flew to Phu Quoc Island, where I went snorkeling for the first time. From there it was back to HCMC for a quick trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels and souvenir shopping in Ben Thanh Market, and then the long flight back to the U.S., where I was finally forced to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life next.
  • Over the summer I applied for roughly one million jobs (or at least that's what it felt like), but in August I ended up securing a Corporate Relations position at Allstate, where I have top-notch coworkers, a good salary, and great benefits to boot. I suppose traditional job security has its upsides.
  • Oh yeah--I bought a car in August, too. Geri is basically my new dog. Prius is a breed of dog now.
  • In September I was honored to be a bridesmaid in Gena and Marty's wedding! #genamartyparty
  • In October I was honored to be Unicorn of Honor in Meg and Marc's wedding! #holycatrimony
  • The first weekend of November, I moved into my new apartment, where I got settled in quickly thanks to the aid of my overly-generous friends. I am happy to report that I am still keeping it relatively clean because I am an adult or whatever.
  • On December 1st, I sent my novel to an agent for the first time! And it got rejected! But that's okay, because it was a really brave thing to do! Waiting to hear back from many more...
Not to mention my flash publications in 2017: Midwestern Gothic, Pithead Chapel, and (b)OINK zine. AND I started working for Split Lip, which has been utterly amazing. And then there are the concerts I've been fortunate enough to attend: John Fogerty, Stevie Nicks, Mountain Goats, Andrew Bird--and tonight I'm going to see Noname at Lincoln Hall. 

You guys. You guys are the real reason 2017 was a good year for me--why every year tends to go pretty well for me. It would literally be impossible for me to do all the ridiculous things I do without your support and your love, and I love you for it more than you know. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Holiday cheer, dammit.

Life has been a little strange lately; I've been taking some blows--or what should theoretically be blows--but they haven't hurt me as much as they might otherwise because things have simultaneously been so relaxing.

My novel has been rejected by two agents (and very probably a third, since their website said that if you don't receive a response within three weeks, they're not interested). On top of that, a rad lit journal rejected some of my flash, so that sucked. My friend Brittany sent me a picture of this art print, which she has hanging in her home; if anyone wants to get me a belated Christmas gift, you know what to do.

Then there are the political blows--the monstrous tax bill, mostly. I find it so maddening that one state in our union has tried this before, and it miserably failed. Do what our legislators should have done and listen to the Planet Money episode about the Kansas Experiment--it's both enlightening and depressing.

On the other hand, some lovely things have also happened to me. Last weekend I got tons of work done on my translation, and our Split Lip Editors Workshop discussed my story on Saturday, and I received not one, but two surprise holiday gifts in the mail this week. I haven't had much to do at work, I've been exercising and reading regularly. Tonight I'm catching up with a friend who's in town for Christmas, and tomorrow I'm taking myself on a date to see Star Wars.

I guess the moral of the story is that bad things can happen if good things happen in equal measure. Or perhaps the moral is that I'm confident enough in my writing and familiar enough with the editing process to avoid being flustered by rejection. Or maybe it's that self-care really does make a difference.

I'll let you decide. In the meantime, here's a link to my "Motherflippin' Christmas" Spotify playlist. Let's get festive. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Holy Moly

My housewarming on Saturday night was one whopper of a party! I was expecting a few friends, a few drinks, a few board games. Instead it was LOTS of friends, LOTS of drinks (including a hot cocoa bar!), and no board games whatsoever. Just conversations and laughter and promises to start D&D campaigns.

We got some pretty good pictures out of the deal, too.


Our inspiration for that one was "jellyfish." 

Thank you all for coming--it made me feel very loved. And extra thanks, as always, to Meg, who helped me prepare. Were it not for Meg, there would have been no art on my walls, nor would there have been any hot cocoa. Or at least the art would have been hung poorly, and the cocoa wouldn't have been nearly as good.

While the party was delightful, I haven't been able to catch up on sleep since. So I'm surviving this week almost exclusively on caffeine and sugar. That's healthy, right?

Other updates: 
  • My sister got us tickets to see Andrew Bird at Fourth Presbyterian last night, which was, of course, fantastic. My favorite part was the encore, when he announced that Roy Moore had lost the election.
  • I made Rice Krispie treats and did not ruin them. 
  • I've found a podcast called Revolutions that just talks about various historical revolutions. Right now I'm on episode 9 of their 55-part series on the French Revolution. It's the best. Tennis Court Oath coming up soon. 
  • I'm reading The Iliad for the first time. Enjoying it much more than I thought I would, despite the fact that it's nothing more than a mythological dick-measuring contest. 
  • Haven't heard back about the novel yet. I'll let you know if anything changes. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Update

Regarding my last post: I am happy to report that I conquered my fears.

I submitted my novel to two agents.

*squee*

I could use good vibes right now, if you have any to spare. Acceptance would obviously be wonderful, but I know I must ultimately steel myself for rejection. If I'm like most writers, lots and lots of rejection.

I'm going to try to submit to two agents per week this month. I have a list going--QueryTracker.net is awesome.

In the meantime, I need to distract myself so that I don't obsessively check my inbox. Fortunately, I'm busy as hell.
  • Monday I saw Meg perform/direct horror radio plays at Deathscribe's 10th Anniversary show.
  • Tonight I'm having dinner with my parents for their anniversary.
  • Saturday is my housewarming party--and I have to clean/hang art/assemble furniture before then.
All that and hot tea, of course. It's good for the soul.