Tag Archives: blogging

Finding your tribe

I woke up early this morning with a nervous stomach, which shook loose this memory:

I’m in college.

I’m wearing a black sweater and a pair of black and hunter green checked pants that have one of those funny hook and button things like men’s dress slacks.

I’m sporting a pair of black penny loafers, a shiny penny looking out from the center of each like cooper eyes.

The campus is cold and dark and still at this time of the morning. A group of us are boarding a small yellow school bus that will take us to our student teaching assignments.

I don’t want to be a student teacher, but my parents are pushing for it. Besides, what else do you do with a degree in English?

I feel sick in my stomach those weeks that I teach. Sure, part of it is plain old nerves. But there’s something else. That feeling of not belonging that I can’t seem to shake.

This weekend, I’m attending a creative nonfiction conference. This weekend, I’m speaking at a creative nonfiction conference.

Along with the founder of my writing group, I’ll be presenting How to Find Your Tribe or How a Writing Group Saved My Life.

A little dramatic, I know. But we’re writers, folks.

So, that’s where the nervous stomach is coming from.

IMG_1911

Me and my magical mullet circa 1985. You know you want to run your fingers through it, ladies.

But I know I’ll be okay. Talking about my writing group is a passion of mine. And I’m no longer that 20-some-year-old mullet-headed kid in the penny loafers. Did I not mention that magical mullet of mine? Must have slipped my mind.

I’ve got a tribe. A tribe of writer friends who make me feel like a cross between Dorothy Allison and Alison Bechdel.

A tribe of blogging buddies who make me feel like a flannel-covered rock star. A little bit of Melissa Etheridge and a little bit of Joan Jett and a little bit of Xena Warrior Princess because she is a bad ass, too, and this is my blog so I can write what I want. And anyway, she could play a helluva lute, at least when she was inspired.

On my last post, my catsup-versus-mayo-on-fries post, Family Values Lesbian replied that “mayo on fries is as butch as glitter.”

downloadI laughed out loud then smiled real big on the inside, sorta like the Grinch when the corners of his smile almost touch the sky and his heart grows three sizes that day.

“What?” W asked.

“My peeps,” I said. “They get me.”

And that’s my hope for everyone–the writers I’ll be speaking to on Saturday at the conference, all the LGBTQ folks out there who might not have built-in support systems and the rest of the world, too. People who get you. A personal cheering section. Folks who support you like a really good bra and tell you to keep going, you got this, you can do it. Even if the road ahead is paved with glitter. Or whatever it is that’s your kryptonite.

Thanks, guys, for always being a part of my tribe.

 

Advertisements

Middle-age butch goes on tour (#mywritingprocess)

Go ahead and throw your panties, girls.

Go ahead, girls, throw your panties.

It’s a blog tour, folks. But it’s a tour nonetheless, which makes me a rock star like Melissa Etheridge. In my own mind anyway, and that’s really all that matters.

I was invited to participate in the #mywritingprocess blog tour by my blogging buddy Maia Morgan. Maia blogs over at The Saltwater Twin. Maia is finishing up her essay collection called, natch, The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures. In Maia’s words: “It’s a collection of linked essays about survival, fear, redemption, love, religion, art, boyfriends, girlfriends and dogs. It’s about the way we make myths and meaning from our lives and forge our identities through story.” What’s not to like. I encourage you to check out her blog because she’s smart and funny and thoughtful and likes words as much as I do.  Maybe even more.

So, more about me:

What am I working on? If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’m currently writing a memoir/creative nonfiction book. It has a working name of Leaving Normal. Seems that Girls was already taken, as was Puss in Boots.

Tell me about it, Stud.

Tell me about it, Stud.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? I would say that my work is kinda, sorta like the stuff written by Ivan Coyote. At least that’s the closest thing that I’ve found. Certainly, those are big boots to fill. Ivan is a hero of mine, to say the least. But my story is different than Ivan’s. For one thing, I write a whole lot about Olivia Newton-John.

Why do I write what I do? For some reason, small moments of time have stuck with me. Three words said by a stranger on a stairwell. A birthday gift from a classmate. A pair of sneakers spotted in a parking lot. I never knew why I couldn’t shake these memories. I’ve held onto them all of this time so that I could break them down and write about them and piece them together in order to make sense of my life. So, yeah, it’s like a flip book. Each story running into the next one to make a picture that is my life.

This is how it starts.

This is how it starts.

How does my writing process work? These days I feel like a sculptor. I do a quick brain dump — usually with pen and paper — writing down a story as quick as I can. I include images, words, phrases, anything that pops into my head. And that’s when the sculpting begins. I keep carving away. The one thing that I’ve learned about writing is that it is a process. It can’t be rushed or hurried. Most times, I can finish a chapter in a few days, but something won’t feel quite right. It might be the ending. Or the beginning. Or something in between. I’ll need time to sit on it, to think, to be still and quiet and discover the right words, the perfect turn of phrase. I have brilliant moments in the shower and just before I go to sleep at night. When I’m in these reflective moods, I keep a Moleskin notebook and pen tucked away in my back pocket.

When everything has fallen into place, I send it off to my three critique partners for feedback. Sometimes they say it’s perfect. Sometimes not. But their comments are invaluable and allow me to go back and tighten things up.

Next on the #mywritingprocess tour. You don’t need tickets to get front-row seats for four of my favorite writers:

* Vicki Gael calls herself “an impatient writer.” She’s working on a cozy mystery and a sci-fi story, both at the same time. That’s talent for you. She’s also a member of my writers’ group. Vicki just started blogging at Rumpled Ruminations.

* Here’s how Karelia Stetz-Waters and yours truly became blogging BFFs. She read one of my posts and then told me how funny I am. That’s all it takes, folks. Anyway, she’s a college professor by day and a writer by night. Karelia is a published author. It seems like every time I check Freshly Pressed, one of her posts is being featured.

* She’s only 27, but she writes like a young Dorothy Parker. If Dorothy Parker wrote about tormenting her boyfriend and getting a steal on laundry detergent. Julia Boriss’ posts on J-Bo.net are smart and funny. I read one of her Freshly Pressed posts and have been a stalker fan ever since.

* My newest virtual buddy is Widdershins, who writes fiction, science fiction and fantasy. Writing is her passion and profession. Widdershins writes novels and stories always with lesbian characters. What’s not to like about that? (Really, every story should have a lesbian character or 12.) She blogs over at Widdershins Worlds. Plus, she gives really great advice and laughs at my jokes. This is very big with me.

* * *

What about you? What’s your writing process like?

Everyone wants to know what I’m thinking

I was talking to a friend the other night and she commented that everyone wants to hear what I have to say these days.

I'm like this guy

I’m like this guy

This is weird because I am the strong, silent type.

When I mentioned this, she said that maybe I should work on speaking up and out.

Friends, always putting the pressure on.

When I got off the phone, I started thinking about the wisdom that rang true in her words.

Friends, they’re not always wrong.

His name wasn't really John

His name wasn’t really John

When I was in college, I once wrote a letter to my boyfriend back home breaking up with him.  I couldn’t pull the trigger though, so I had my friend physically mail the letter.  This placed all responsibility for the break up on her shoulder-pad clad shoulders.  It was the 80s after all.

This has been my pattern.  I’m skilled at expressing myself in words.  I just suck at telling other people how I feel.

That’s been changing though, as my friend had pointed out.

Friends, sometimes they say something worth noting.

Here, in no particular order, is a list of recent events that have presented me with an opportunity to say something to an audience:

  • This blog.  If you are reading this, you are reading my thoughts.  Scary, I know.
  • A major newspaper interviewed me regarding the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on gay marriage.
  • A fellow blogger interviewed me for an article on being butch.
  • I won third place in a writing contest.  My submission, a chapter from my memoir, has been published in a newsletter available at a local bookstore.

So, yeah, it’s been a ride.

Here’s the truth.  I couldn’t have done it without my friends.  The one on the phone and all of the others who have supported my creativity and weirdness for decades.

And, all of you blog readers and followers.  You were the ones who first let me know that total strangers were interested in what I had to say.

And, the writers in my writing group.  They never judged and offered enthusiastic praise and kind, careful criticism.

And, most especially, W.  Because she’s the one who tells me that I can everyday single day.

Cat in the keyboard

This what I do when I don’t feel like working.

I extract my cat’s hair from inside the dark recesses of my computer keyboard.

See, she likes to sleep on my shoulder when I am hard at work at my desk.  Her hair is on the longish side, and strands of it fall onto the keyboard.  I brush them aside, but they still manage to find their way in between the keys.

xx

This is my cat Magic sound asleep on my very messy desk.

Last weekend, I vacuumed the keyboard in an attempt to remove snack cake crumbs, bits of potato chips and any stray cat hairs.  This just made things worse.  Little tufts of hair peeked out from between the keys.  My vacuum apparently didn’t have enough suction to remove half a cat from a keyboard.

I refuse to buy cans of compressed air any longer.  It is just air.  In a can.  For $7.99.  I just took three deep breaths and made $1.59.

xx

Actual picture of hair removed from keyboard.  No cats were harmed in the filming of this hair.

I ended up using a straightened-out paperclip to pull out the hair, running the metal tool under the keys —  QWERTYUIOP — and pulling up.  I called my son over to help.  It became a family project.

We piled the hair into a neat little pile.

“Wait, I want to take a picture of it for my blog,” I said.

He just rolled his eyes.

Here’s something else that I do when I don’t feel like working.

I write about extracting my cat’s hair from inside my computer keyboard.

What about you?  What do you do to put off work? 

The year in review: On blogging and looking back over my shoulder

2013The Flannel Files started on a whim.  My son had just left to live with his dad, and I was looking for something creative and productive to do to fill the void.

So, this blog sprung from a loss, as many creative endeavors do.

I didn’t know anything about blogging.  I didn’t even read any blogs.

But I stumbled onto WordPress, and the rest is history.

I wasn’t sure that I was doing it right (which brought back memories of early sexual encounters) or that anyone would ever read it, but hey, it was all about me and the writing and away I went.

I’ve been blogging for about half a year now, and it’s been a real joy.

I find that when I blog purely for myself, the words come easily and people seem to respond.

To date, I’ve written 65 posts.  The Flannel Files has received a whopping 6,600 views.  I have 181 followers.

I peaked in late October when my post about a really bad fish sandwich was Freshly Pressed.  More than 1,000 people read that post, and it made my day.  Ok, year.  It was such a thrill to watch the views increase by the hour and my e-mail in box to fill with “likes” and comments and new followers.

I’ve found that readers seem to like stories about my life struggles.  Like coming out and my never-ending quest to let go dammit.  Coming out certainly isn’t a universal struggle, but everyone can relate to trying to fit in and searching for one’s place in the world.

My favorite blog post was Of Mice and Lesbians.  Probably because every word, believe it or not, is true.  After I wrote it, I had one of those gee-this-is-really-my-life ha-ha moments.

I hope to blog in 2013 about letting go — still — and forgiveness and my cats and hopefully some new adventures that I’m planning.  I would love to find a way to cobble together some of these posts for the beginnings of a memoir.

Anyway, I hope you’ll come along for the ride.  When I started this project one day last summer, I never knew that one person (well, except for W) would be interested, let alone 181.  And as much as this whole thing is for me and about me, it just wouldn’t work without you.  Without you, dear reader, there would be no “likes” or comments or give and take or community, which is what makes a blog much more than just a bunch of words on a screen.  Thank you for all that you do to inspire me to be a better writer and a better person.

Happy New Year!

Nothing good to write about

Wow, I’ve hit a wall.

I didn’t think it was possible, but I’ve run out of things to blog about.

Of course, I could write about the cats.  How I think of them as furry people with four feet and claws and really unpleasant personalities.  Or, how I’ve been trying to modify their behavior using water aversion therapy.  No, not waterboarding, but that’s always an option.  Just a 99 cent squirt gun.  But the little buggers take up too much of my time as it is.  With the food (feed us!) and the water (we’re so thirsty!) and the litter boxes (not clean enough for us!) and the neediness (tell us you love us!  again!  again!).  They have serious self-esteem issues, which is probably why they act out.  I’ve been working on a musical/opera for them.  Like Cats but way better.  It is dramatic and poetic and grand (sung in my opera voice), and the cats like it very, very much, thank you.  “You are good cats.  Very, very good cats …”

There’s the home repairs, but I’m over them.  They are b-o-r-i-n-g.  So is cleaning and organizing and making the house presentable.  Dust and clutter?  Nothing wrong with them, says this guy.

My sexual orientation?  Still gay.

Things with W and I are good.  Sometimes we have to pretend fight to keep things interesting.

Newsflash: My parents are coming to our house for Thanksgiving dinner.  That’s good, because they’ll be spending the holiday with us.  And, bad because they’ll be spending the holiday with us.  What more is there to say?

Nap socksI bought “nap socks” from Brookstone.  They are super soft and warm and fuzzy.  They can be worn for more than just napping, like sleeping and walking and standing, which makes me question the marketing strategy behind this product.  The black and gray ones make me feel Dr. Seuss-ish.  Like Leslie Lou O’Lesbian or the Butchalot.

More socks … I’m thinking about throwing out all of our single, mateless socks.  But I’m not ready yet.  I still like living in a fantasy world in which every sock has a partner.  Forever.

As you can see, I have absolutely nothing to write about tonight.

Mandatory post after getting Freshly Pressed

In reality, we are lesbians and not suitcase-toting bears.

W and I have returned from our weekend without kids and cats and chores and the computer.

We had an awesome time.  So awesome, in fact, that I can’t post any of the super-sexy details.

Well, I could.

But I’d have to kill you.  Or, blush a whole lot.

I can reveal that the weekend included good food and good company, a really nice bottle of Chianti and several rounds of shots.  Oh, and our room had a sleep number bed.  We were all Beverly Hillbillies over that marvel of modern technology.  Firm, soft, firm, soft, firm, soft.  You try it, Ellie Mae.

No, but it’s close.

Before we left for the weekend, I got an e-mail from WordPress informing me that I was going to be Freshly Pressed.

I knew from that moment that it was going to be an exciting weekend.

My words on the WordPress homepage for all the world to see.

I’ve only been blogging for a short amount of time, but I’ve written some poignant and heart-felt posts about such tough topics as coming out, depression and being butch.  Really.

And, I get Freshly Pressed writing about fish sandwich-induced trauma.

My friend told me that I should focus on the Fish-a-majig fiasco in therapy instead of my mother.

Could have been me if it wasn’t for my rigid-on-gender-roles mother.

For those of you who are new here, my mother never let me take drum lessons when I was a kid because, apparently, drums are for boys.  This is why I never fronted for a kick-ass all-girls band like The Runaways and grew up to become a lesbian.

That is my story in a nutshell.

Which has now culminated in WordPress fame and glory.

So, newcomers, welcome to The Flannel Files, where I hope to amaze and entertain you with more true tales about my many unique neuroses, unfounded anxieties and cats.

If you’ve been here all along, thanks for your support and for letting me know that it’s not weird to be creeped out by Mrs. Butterworth, the talking maple syrup bottle.  You are good people.

Both Claire Danes and I have shiny new awards

I just got nominated for a One Lovely Blog Award.  This is a huge thrill as the last formal award that I received was Best Female Softball Player back in the 90s.  Yeah, I know, you’re all so surprised.

A big-shout out to mike75 from Untitled*Unlimited for this nomination.  mike75 blogs about, well, just about anything (hence the title).  Like the top ten literary figures he’d like to meet and whether or not the Gene Wilder version of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory trumps the Tim Burton remake.  Anyway, mike75 has some interesting things to say, so you should check him out.

In accepting this One Lovely Blog Award, I’m supposed to do a few things:

  1. Post the One Lovely Blog Award logo on my blog (see above).
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated me and link back to his blog (thanks again, mike75).
  3. List seven things about myself (ah, you’re drowning in anticipation).
  4. Nominate some other blogs for this award (wait for it).

So in keeping with the One Lovely Blog Award tradition, here are seven random things all about me.  It’s sort of like an acceptance speech.  But not really.

ONE.  I use to play third base on a co-ed softball team because I had the strongest arm on the team.

TWO.  I once lost a Nike tennis shoe while hiking/falling down Mount Nittany after a mountaintop keg party.  Flashlights.  That’s what we forgot.

THREE.  I think Cream of Wheat is the most perfect food in the world.

FOUR.  I’m afraid of Mrs. Butterworth, the talking maple syrup bottle.  Oh, and people on stilts.

FIVE.  In fourth grade, my mother wouldn’t let me play the drums.  Why?  “Because drums are for boys,” she said.  Instead, I played the flute, which I hated and repeatedly tossed down the stairs.  This is why I was never in a really cool all-girl band like The Runaways.  And, why I became a lesbian.  At least that’s what I tell my mother.

SIX.  I have a huge lesbian crush on Jennifer Aniston.

Especially in The Good Girl

SEVEN.  I once ignored my brother for two entire months because he wouldn’t let me watch General Hospital after school one day.  Bastard.

With that being said, here are some interesting and well-written blogs that I read.  Please give them a look.  Oh, and thanks again to mike75 for the nod.

  1. 40 is the new 13 — These are her 40s … what happened?  A lot of great writing and on-point observations about getting older and raising kids.  Did she secretly assault Jerry Lewis?  Read to find out.  Plus, she looks absurdly hot in a 1980s fraternity picture.
  2. Queer Simian Blogging — Where Dolly Parton meets science fiction.  How can you not be intrigued.  Gotta love the latest post that mentions The Runaways, Angels in America and Xena:Warrior Princess in the same sentence.
  3. The Musings of a Lesbian Writer — A whole lot of randomness, mixed in with some usefulness.  Worth a read, especially if you are an aspiring writer.
  4. Old, new or true — Books to keep you out of mischief.  Beautifully written reviews of all sorts of books.  It makes me want to read more.
  5. How to Be a Hipster Without Really Trying — The somewhat hilarious, occasionally insightful, mostly unexciting story of this blogger’s life as a closted gay guy living in this great big world.

Me and Claire Danes. Winners.

My cell phone: Good enough, smart enough

My phone

This whole blogging thing has been an experiment of sorts.  It’s a way to redirect my energy into something a little more creative and productive than watching marathons of Hoarders or Jerseylicious.

I consider myself a Luddite, or at least as much of a Luddite that I can be in the 21st century and still maintain a job.  I’m kind of like an Amish youth on Rumspringa — allowed to leave the fold to use technology but retaining the ability to return to safety after such folly.

Note: I am writing this blog entry using a computer.  Computers are good.  I like computers.

I work from home as a writer for one of the largest news services in the world.  I have a computer, which allows me to write articles and e-mail them to my boss.  I don’t understand how this works, but it does.  I don’t write my words out longhand like Bartleby the Scrivener or on a typewriter like Erma Bombeck.  I don’t have to drive to the office to deliver a manuscript or hand it off to the local Pony Express guy.  E-mail is fast, and easy and convenient.  It is computer magic.

I am spending some of my free time reading about the art of blogging on my computer.  There is a lot of information on the computer.  Have I mentioned that computers are good?

I have been reading about tagging and category clouds and how to draw readers to your site.  I have been reading other blogs for ideas.

I have noticed that a lot of bloggers use other media such as Facebook and Twitter.  I have heard of Facebook and Twitter.

I tell W that many bloggers use Twitter to drive readership.

“You can’t use Twitter,” she says.  “You don’t have a real phone.”

I don’t know what she means.

I do have a “real” phone.  It is not imaginary or pretend.  It is not made of Legos or Play-Doh.  It doesn’t have large buttons with pictures of farm animals, a shiny mirror and an attached teething ring.  I can make calls and receive calls and even take messages.  I can text people, and they can text me back.

It is not a rotary phone or one of those ginormous cell phones as big as an Air Jordan that Jerry Seinfeld used on his show in the 1990s.

It is not a banana.  You cannot answer a banana.  I have tried.  Every time I buy bananas, I hold one up to my ear.  “Hello?  Hello?  It’s for you,” I say, handing it off to the nearest kid.

No one finds this funny.  Not the kids, not the wife, not the cats.  Moe, Larry and Curly would laugh, but they don’t live here.  (Shemp had a much more sophisticated sense of humor.)

My phone is small and compact.  It fits easily in my pocket, even when I’m not wearing cargo shorts.  It cost $9.99.  I bought granola bars at BJs today.  They cost more.  They are crunchy and delicious but do nothing to further my communication wants and needs.  (See bananas, above.)

People say my phone isn’t “smart,” which implies that it’s dumb.  That I have some kind of idiot phone.

My phone can take pictures and tell the time and store phone numbers.  Lots of them.  It has a programmable alarm, a calendar and a calculator.  How is long division not smart?  When I was a kid, phones couldn’t do any of those things.  They dialed and they rang in all of their one-tone glory and that was about it.  You couldn’t even take them with you.  You had to stretch the curly cord from room to room to hallway closet to get some privacy.

“Can’t you see I’m talking to Stacy?!  Get your galoshes later!”

“Oh, you have a flip phone.  How cute,” people say.  Like it’s a Chihuahua or a Cabbage Patch kid.

Personally, I think so-called smart phones are stupid, like Pajama Jeans and Real Simple magazine.  (Hello?  Your life would be Real Simpler without an added magazine subscription.)  I don’t like to be bombarded by anything.  Not e-mails or news or questions or Nerf air missiles or mini marshmallows.

And, that’s what smartphones do.  They bombard you with information and updates and distractions.  Read this, check on that, play another game of Angry Birds, why don’t you?  Portable electronic temptation.  It’s like a stripper that fits in your pocket.  Or, the mythological Sirens who serenaded sailors with their beautiful, angelic voices in an attempt to entice them to crash their ships on the jagged rocks below.  Nothing but a bloody mess in the end.

I like to control my access to news and media.  Every morning, I read my newspaper.  This is how I find out the news from the previous day.

“Did you hear Sally Ride died?” W asks.

“Uh, no.  I didn’t read tomorrow’s paper yet.”

She is a walking spoiler filled with bad news.

Ernest BorgnineRon PalilloPhyllis Diller.  A shooting at a mosque.  Some lady in New Jersey who decapitated her toddler son.

I am perfectly content waiting for tomorrow for today’s news.  I have never been on the cutting edge of anything, and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t need to change.

I am a creature of habit.  An anal, obsessed, compulsive creature of habit.  Like a Hobbit that hoards or a unicorn with a perfectly alphabetized CD collection.

I like that my cell phone doesn’t tell me anything that I don’t want to know.  It can’t.  Not because it’s not smart but because it knows its limits.  That in and of itself is smart.  Super smart, if you ask me.  With whom would you rather go drinking? Someone who tells you, whoa, I better stop at four Captain and Cokes?  Or, someone who insists that a six-pack of Schlitz malt liquor and 14 shots of Jagermeister is really nothing.  Keep ’em coming?

So, if my phone doesn’t support Twitter, that’s ok with me.  It does everything else that I ask it to do.  It’s like the fair-haired, obedient child I never had.

I’m probably not ready for Twitter yet anyway.