Tag Archives: memoir

Leaving the center empty for God

 

downloadI’m still reading Maggie Nelson’s memoir The Argonauts. This story about Nelson’s relationship with her “fluidly gendered partner” Harry takes a look at the hot button topics of sexuality, gender and what it means to be a family.

It’s been taking me longer than usual to get through this slim book of less than 150 pages. It’s a heavy read, packed with thoughts and insights that seem best suited for slow, meditative pondering.

In the pages I read last night, Nelson writes about a lecture she attended given by poet and professor Anne Carson in which Carson spoke about the concept of leaving a space empty so God can rush in.

imagesNelson said she had heard about this concept from a boyfriend who was into bonsai. In bonsai, people often plant a tree off-center in the pot to allow space for the divine.

“But that night Carson made the concept literary,” Nelson writes. “I went home fastened to the concept of leaving the center empty for God. It was like stumbling into a tarot reading or AA meeting and hearing the one thing that will keep you going, in heart or art, for years.”

That’s what I’m thinking about these days. Leaving the center empty for God in my writing and in my life.

The Argonauts is a terrific read. Dense and intense but worth the effort.

P.S. I’ve been sleeping better.

I find that when I’m focused on social media and the news, I have a bad day,” I told W yesterday at dinner.

“And when I stay away from social media and the news, I have a better day,” I told her.

“Then stay away from social media and the news,” she said like a Sapphic sage.

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Night, night, you big butch.

That’s been helping, plus W has been rubbing my face with lavender butter before bedtime. She rubs the thick cream on her hands and then smooths it on my forehead, my temples, the back of my neck and a little under my nose.

It smooths over the jagged edges of the day. I have been sleeping like a baby these days.

Plus, it makes me feel like I’m being taken care of, which is a nice feeling right before bed.

We just ordered a new batch of butter. Check out Renaissance Lavender on etsy if you are in need of a magic sleeping potion.

Carrie Fisher

My dad took me and my brother to an old theater in Reading, Pennsylvania, to see Star Wars. We sat in the balcony. I was ten years old.

I remember being captivated from the beginning when those now-famous words scrolled across the screen. I liked the scene in the cantina with those crazy aliens and that funny, tinny music playing in the background.

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Cream Magazine

I’m not sure how many times I’ve watched Star Wars since 1977. My favorite scene became the one with the garbage compactor. “Into the garbage chute, Flyboy,” Princess Leia says to Luke as she shoots her laser gun at the Stormtroopers, transforming from rescuee to rescuer, from damsel in distress to take-charge badass.

I replayed that scene over and over in my head. “Into the garbage chute, Flyboy.” That was the kind of girl I was when I played with the guys. That was the kind of woman I wanted to be.

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naplesherald.com

When I got older, I idolized Carrie Fisher the author. She was a brilliant writer. If you want to learn how to write memoir, read Carrie Fisher. Her words were sharp and cutting, vulnerable and honest. The humor was so dark, you never knew whether to laugh or cry. I always did both. She wrote with the bravery and balls of Princess Leia. “Into the garbage chute, Flyboy.”

I read a lot of books. Most I recycle, handing off to friends or family, or donating to Goodwill. I keep some of Fisher’s books in a small, neat stack on my bookcase mixed with books written by a few other authors. My stack of weird books. They are the books that told me it was okay to think the way I did. That it was okay to be different. They are the books that gave me permission to be myself.

It’s been a tough year for losses. I lost two of my heroes earlier this year when the wrestler Chyna and the musician Prince died on back-to-back days in April.

And now Carrie Fisher.

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themarysue.com

I like to think they left me a little of their magic when they departed this world. A little of their bravery and in your face badassery. That it fell like stardust and caught on the inside of my sleeve or the back of my pants and clung like specks of glitter.

And that when I need to be bold and courageous, it will be there, giving me a needed push.

“Into the garbage chute, Flyboy.”

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What about you? Who will you miss most from 2016?

Happy

images[1]I attended a creative nonfiction conference this past weekend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. W and one of the kids came with to enjoy my big, fancy hotel room.

I left the hotel room early in the morning while the two of them slept in. I popped in from time to time to use the bathroom or check in on them.

“You look so happy,” W said.

I couldn’t lie. And I couldn’t stop smiling. I was in my element. I was with a bunch of other people nerding out on using white space in an essay or the ethicality of composite characters in memoir. There was a entire panel discussion on truth in creative nonfiction.

We were all fangirl/fanboy when memoirist Mary Karr delivered the keynote Saturday evening.

Before we left for the conference, I was having second thoughts about attending.

“I’m not good with peoples,” I told W.

“You’ll be fine,” she said.

And I was. I had two of my writer group friends with me, which made things easier. I didn’t have to assume wallflower mode. Which is a good thing because none of the walls were flannel covered.

Plus, many writers are introverts, which meant we could all be awkward with one another without judgment. (Looks at floor.)

My writer tank has been filled.

And I’m still glowing from the weekend.

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What about you? What lights you up?

Ahem. Announcements and stuff

Guys, here I am. It’s been way too long. I think I was still wearing flannel the last time I posted. We’re stuck in what they’re calling a “heat dome” here in the Philly burbs, so no summer flannel for this butch. 

I’ve been busy, folks. I haven’t been ignoring you because you think Cindy was the best Brady ever. Everyone knows it was Jan. Or because you’re a Yankees fan.

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Maybe a crown AND a cape like professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler wore back in the day.

You’re looking at one of the newest authors to sign with Regal Crest, a powerhouse in the world of lesbian literature. I’m sure I’ll get a crown or velvet cape any day now, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

I just finished the manuscript for the new book.  

Remember when you were a kid and you were playing outside and the whiffle ball got stuck in the gutter or the kickball landed in the creek? You always got a do-over.

This book is a lot like that. I had a chance to go through the current version of Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender and make edits. Tighten it up. Really, that’s every writer’s dream–one more chance to edit. I know, we’re weird creatures. 

Plus, the second edition, which is being billed as an author’s cut, has added content. New stories I wrote this past year specifically for this project. You’ll get to learn more about Middle-age Butch when she was big butch on her college campus and didn’t even know it. And of course, the book will include more of the those butch-tastic tales everyone loves like the hunt for the perfect buzz cut and the time-honored tradition of the clandestine butch nod. If you turned your head just now, you missed it.

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My trophy looked like this except it was invisible.

Also, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender was short listed for an award in creative nonfiction by the Golden Crown Literary Society. It didn’t win, but I still feel like a winner.

While I’m making announcements, I should mention that I’ve started my next book. The working title is Love Is Like Tiny Cheeseburgers: Essays from a Butch Romantic. Basically, it’s about me and W sitting in a tree and other stuff that makes your heart beat faster.

Hope you all feel like winners these days. Because you are. Big, beautiful winners. Now go hoist your invisible trophy over your head and shout out that you’re number 1!

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Ok, I told you what’s new with me. What’s new with you? Share one new thing. A new movie, a new book, a new place you visited. Anything. Go.

Restroom heroics

images[7]This is for everyone who has ever felt uncomfortable using a gender-specific public restroom.

And for everyone else, too.  Those individuals who have never felt uneasy or unsafe using a public restroom that corresponds with their gender.  If you fit into this category, see what it’s like to be butch or genderqueer.  Walk in my big butch shoes for just a few minutes.

Read what happened to me when I used a public ladies room when I was on vacation.  My story has been published at The James Franco Review.

On Wookies and books and other stuff

Guys, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks.

Chewbacca and me. Abducted by a Wookie in Target of all places.

Chewbacca and me. Abducted by a Wookie in Target of all places.

This explains why I haven’t posted in so long.  It’s a complicated Butch in Spaaaace tale.

While I was away, my book got a really great review on the lesbian website Autostraddle.  You can check it out here.  Perhaps the best compliment any butch writer can get: “A smart and eloquent memoir about becoming butch, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender will resonate if you have a proud copy of Stone Butch Blues on your shelf, or listen to “Ring of Keys” from the Fun Home musical on repeat.”  That’s pretty great company, folks.

Speaking of Fun Home, just 15 days until W and I become official Fun Homies!

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I wanted to be this guy.

I just wrote a new memoir piece about my obsession with my brother’s Big Josh action figure.  Does anyone remember Big Jim and Big Josh?  Geez, Barbie was so lame in comparison.

If you like free stuff, I’m giving away two signed copies of my book on Goodreads.  You can enter here.  But don’t wait too long.  The giveaway ends Sept. 30.

That’s all the news for now.  What’s new with you?

Butch books

Fun HomeI am obsessed with Fun Home.

Like I’m changing my major to Fun Home.

I’m talking about the graphic memoir by the brilliant Allison Bechdel and the hit Broadway musical based on the book.

I tell W I’m a Fun Homie.

She grimaces.

But buys us tickets for our anniversary next month.

And sometimes sings Ring of Keys in the shower.

I bought Fun Home in 2007 from Giovanni’s Room, a gay bookstore in Philadelphia.

I just finished re-reading it in anticipation of the play.  I was sad like I always am when I finish a good book.

I started thinking about what to read next.  But when you’re a butch lesbian, how do you top Fun Home?

Stone Butch BluesAnd that’s when I read that Leslie Steinberg’s groundbreaking Stone Butch Blues is being made available for download to celebrate Leslie’s Sept. 1 birthday.  Click here to download your free copy.

So, I will be reading Stone Butch Blues tonight.  And thinking about Leslie Feinberg and Allison Bechdel and all the other butch writers who have made it a little easier for the rest of us to be ourselves.

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What are you reading?

The stories we tell

When I had my bridal shower back in the day when marrying a man seemed like a good idea, I was supposed to stand up at the end and say a few words.

I’m not very good at speaking in front of groups of people.  Even in front of people I know.

As I sat on a chair in the center of the room in my floral dress from The Limited and started stammering, I was rescued by my best friend.

Beaver Stadium“Kick-off is in 30 minutes.  We have to go she said.”

It was a perk that came with being alumni of a university with a dominating football program.

It’s been our running gag every time I am nervous about speaking in front of a group of people or trying to get out of an uncomfortable situation.

“Can’t you come and tell them kick-off is in 30 minutes?” I ask.

Even when it’s not football season.

Last week, I called my friend and told her that because of my book I have an opportunity to speak at a large, multinational company that has an office near my house.  The company has an LGBT group and often has speakers come in.

She tells me to go for it.

“But you know me and public speaking,” I say.

“Maybe it’s time to stop telling yourself the story that you’re not good at public speaking,” she says.

She’s a terrible friend.  The worst, really.

After I get off the phone with her, I think about the power of story.  The stories we tell ourselves.  The stories we tell others.

Then I stumble across this quote about storytelling:

“Being a storyteller is about helping other people tell their stories.”

I know my presentation will address the power of story.  That’s my passion.

In my head, I am mapping out how it will go.

NecktieI am working on a new story about going to the company that first time for a meeting. I am unsure about what to wear.  I am afraid about being judged for being a woman wearing men’s clothes in a corporate work environment.  About looking like a little girl who just raided her dad’s closet.

I sit on the edge of my bed and remind myself to be me.

It will be ok, I tell myself.  Stand tall.  Be strong.  Be butch.  Be yourself.

It’s a pep talk.

Another story.

* * *

What are the stories (good and bad) you tell yourself?

Guest post on Women and Words

Guys, check out my guest post on the fabulously awesome Women and Words. Oh, and if you leave a comment, you’ll be in the running for a free copy of my book, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender. Because who doesn’t like free stuff?

Women and Words

Leaving Normal CoverHappy Sunday! We have a fabulous guest blogger for y’all today! Rae Theodore recently released her debut novel Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender.

She’s here to tell us all about her inspiration for the book. And, because she’s super fabulous, she’s giving away a couple of paperback copies. Drop a comment in the space below and I’ll draw the winners next Friday, 7/17.

Good Luck!

Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender
by Rae Theodore

As I sit here wondering what to write for my guest post, I’m hyper-focused on the word “Women” from the Women and Words logo that sprawls in dark red script across the top of the website as if standing guard.

For a moment, I feel like an interloper, but I remind myself that I’m a different kind of woman.

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I’m a butch. A masculine-presenting woman. A cherry red Tootsie Pop with a center comprised of flannel shirts…

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A funny thing happened on the way to the writers’ retreat

So, yesterday I was preparing for my writers’ retreat.  Running errands, taking care of business.

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My car sounded like this guy.  God sounded like this guy.

And then my car started making a terrible noise.  It sounded something like Harvey Firestein.  With a head cold.

Long story short, it’s in the shop and being repaired.

Last night after I had dropped off the car, I told W that there was a part of me that wanted to back out of the retreat.  Cut my losses on the deposit.  Stay home for the weekend.

“I’m having car problems,” I would say.  “There’s no way I can make it.”

But I knew this whole car thing was God’s way of getting my attention.

“If you want something, you need to work for it,” I imagined him saying.  “How bad do you want to be a writer?”

Strangely, this voice also sounded like Harvey Firestein.

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This is my new notebook.  Awesome!

So, come hell or high water or car problems, I’m off this afternoon.  I have my notebooks packed, along with my statement of intention:

I accept this gift of time to write, reflect and be in the company of other writers.  I open myself to possibility.   

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What does your voice of the universe sound like?