Wednesday, March 05, 2014

When we last saw our hero...

...she was doing some navel gazing and kicking of her own butt to get motivated again.

I am a little humbled and very grateful for the response to my most recent blog entry. Supportive feedback came from friends (although one might say it's in their "friend contracts" to be supportive). A very kind mention on DCBlogs described me as "one of the most talented writers around." I will gladly buy a coffee for the individual responsible for that text. I will not lie: it was an invigorating compliment (and yes, wee ego boost) that has encouraged me to continue on the "Back from the Dead" creative path.

I've committed myself to doing at least one creative thing every day. Some are things I just do for myself that may or may not see the light of day beyond my desk, some are in the form of drawings that sometimes show up on Facebook (to torture my friends), and some are words that will either show up here or in short stories I'm going to try to finish. I have a bookshelf of half-finished stories, but I don't know that fiction is my gift. We shall see.

A while back, my friend the Sasquatch fell in love with letterpress after taking classes at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Silver Spring. The end result of this is that the Sasquatch has made some very cool cards on a vintage letterpress and sells them online through his business, Model Citizen Press, on Etsy and at funky art and craft fairs in the DC area. While my style of "art" might best be described as "early onset Grandma Moses primitive" (aka, "you draw like a child"), some of my drawings have translated well into handcrafted cards sold by Model Citizen Press.

 In an homage to my background in Russian culture, I've drawn a series of matryoshki images (the classic Russian nesting dolls) for the Sasquatch, representing families, wedding parties, heck, even a little steampunk action and - the heart of the Internet - cats. Some of the wedding and family cards represent "traditional" straight families, and others celebrate gay and lesbian families like "Ellen and Portia" here.

"Ellen and Portia," the blushing brides gettin' hitched

I considered sending one to the Russian embassy to congratulate their government on being so tolerant and accepting. As I recently made the decision to never return to my erstwhile home, I don't think pissing off the people who process visas to Mother Russia is much of a big deal for me. However, that would have been a waste of a nifty card, lovingly handmade by the Sasquatch himself.

So, I have sketched matryoshki, zombie sock monkeys, zafitg angels and devious devils, and sea-green mermaids, all scratched out in pen and pencil and handed off to the Sasquatch. It's been a blast to see my scrawls translated into things that are sent and exchanged as tokens of love and affection (and, in a few cases, just tokens of utter strangeness). The zombie sock monkey started as a joke, but he has become a bit of a thing for me. I feel great affection for him, and I find myself drawing him in different situations all the time - some of them definitely not ready for prime time and exclusively for the amusement of the Sasquatch and myself. But these little steps, and the appreciative reception from folks who have bought cards with my drawings, have made me want to continue. I am evaluating all sorts of ideas, but while I do that cautiously and with the thoughtfulness of someone with shallow pockets, I keep drawing. I keep making things.

I bought a $5 sketching app for my tablet, and I have been a menace drawing random things in the past couple of weeks. I appreciate the tolerance of my Facebook friends who see all that stuff popping up on my timeline. My thought is this: good, bad, ugly, if I put my stuff out there, I can't hide it. I get feedback, I get criticism, I see my flaws and errors and strive to do better. 

Sakura, one of my little tablet sketches.

It's the same with my words. I think I lost some faith in my writing in recent months after getting a string of rejections over a short story I tried submitting to a number of magazines. One low level reviewer bounced it back to me with the notation that it was utterly juvenile writing. There's part of me that wanted to embrace that at 48 and say, "Awesome, how youthful of me!"

Just kidding. It was a cringeworthy moment. 

But if I don't try, if I don't share my words, how will I improve? How will I know what strikes a chord with people? I am under no illusion that I will become a best-selling author. I realize that is a pipe dream of thousands. But I would like to write things that grab people and make them think or simply resonate somewhere within a reader - their heart, head, or gut.

I have been working on starting a storytelling podcast for a while now. I want to create a community of people who can use the podcast as a hub to share their own work, while also sharing my own. I was ready to embark on this project last summer, but just as I was preparing to push the button, I was hit in another car accident. Yep, Ms. Auto Injury was walloped by a minivan full of teenagers who tried to defy the laws of physics. I lost my whole summer to pain, hammer-to-the-skull headaches, and physical therapy. My car survived - don't ask me how - and it looked pretty spiffy for an old station wagon when I got it back from the body shop. And boy, was I happy to see it, as Enterprise had rented me a vehicle that reeked like a corpse was riding in the trunk.

At least they didn't give me a stinkmobile in September when I was hit again.

Again. Yes, again. 

At least this time, I was hit by a New York Times "Notable Author" and former Clinton West Winger. I have to wonder which of President Bartlett's staff members was based on Mr. Audi A7-I'm-in-a-Hurry. Amusingly, I got rear-ended by him just as the sun was setting on Yom Kippur, and I can only imagine he was in a rush to get home. At least hitting my car gave him something to atone for, right?

More physical therapy, more time lost from work. The depression that had settled on my head after the July accident was pulled down like a hood after September. And the desire to be creative (or much of anything, frankly) vacated me. It's been a series of tentative steps and stumbles since then. The podcast is on hold, but I hope to return to the idea. Storytelling seems to be a hot button concept this year, and I may already be so far behind the curve that I can't catch up. Until I figure out what I want to do, I'll keep taking baby steps, writing here, drawing there. Eventually people on Facebook will get tired of my little tablet sketches and readers will want more than me just yapping about getting my act together. 

That will come. Until then, the Zombie Sock Monkey and I will muddle through, one undead day at a time.
Zombie Sock Monkey is my co-pilot


Cyndy said...

People on Facebook will NOT get tired of your little tablet sketches! They are cute!

I'm very glad, after all you've been through, that you're feeling up to getting back to writing, not just because you are a great writer, but because I really enjoy your sense of humor - I feel like it's on the same wavelength as mine. So maybe that's not a complement, hahaha! Your writing on serious topics is beautiful, so I hope you keep at it, all of it.

Jamy said...

I'm just stunned and disheartened by your bad luck. I will happy contribute to a fund to get you a tank or something of the sort to drive around in. :)

Other than that, it's always great to read your stories. You are a good writer. Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work!

Jamy said...

PS that sock monkey zombie would be a bit hit with knitters--that's a whole untapped market. I love it!