Tag Archives: writer

Watch

Describe an object that describes you:

IMG_1192A vintage Timex wristwatch, circa 1970 with a stretchy metal band.

Dependable.

Consistent.

Comfortable.

Casual.

Plain face.

Stylish in its own way with a flash of silver like a crooked smile.

Always moving forward. Sometimes second by second, other times making bigger leaps until time is lost and I wonder how I ended up here.

At times, a know it all.

It’s 10:30 a.m.

It’s Tuesday.

It’s May 16.

The cold metal on my wrist reminding me I’m alive.

* * *

What about you? What object are you?

 

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Mullets, lesbian bars, forbidden love, oh my

imageshl3fdmtxI’m participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days and have a first draft for a novel. Kick-off is today.

“What’s your book about?” my editor asked.

“Lesbian romance set in the 80s. Big hair, big love, something like that,” I wrote back.

“I’m feeling nostalgic,” she wrote. “But mullets.”

So, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. If you don’t hear from me in November, I’m busy writing about the 80s and lesbians and quoting lyrics from songs sung by the big hair bands. “And, baby, talk dirty to me.” Like that.

Because lesbians rule and the 80s were the best and if you’ve never rocked a mullet you’ve never really lived.

If you want to help a writer out, I still need a name for a really great, fictional lesbian bar. Best answer will find its way into my novel.

Anything else that needs to be in there? Trivial Pursuit, Pac-Man, a Rubik’s Cube …

Oh, and if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, e-mail me and we can be NaNo buddies.

Here’s what put the “Fest” in OutFest

Philly PrideI think I’ve finally recovered from OutFest.  If you don’t know, OutFest is the national Coming Out Day block party in Philadelphia.  Tens of thousands of people attend every year.

This year, I paid for a table to promote Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender.  I sold books, handed out business cards, talked with anyone who stopped by and raffled off some sweet bowties to people who signed up to follow The Flannel Files.  A big shout out to all of my new followers!

I pretty much broke even after adding up all of my expenses.  But still, it was a beautiful gay day.  And me and W’s anniversary day to boot.

So, here are my top 10 highlights from OutFest:

10. Everyone who stopped by and talked Fun Home the Musical and “Ring of Keys” with me.  You really know how to make a butch’s day.

9. Those people who gave me fist bumps and high fives and said “I respect that” after I gave them the elevator pitch to my book.

8. The woman who wanted her picture taken with me because I had written a book.

7. The mother who wanted to buy her fresh-out-of-the-closet teen daughter the book, but the daughter wanted nothing to do with the book or me. “Buy it for yourself,” I told the mom.  And she did.  God bless you, mom and good luck.

6. All of the butches in all of their ball cap and cargo shorts and spiky hair glory. You are my tribe.  (Silent head nod.)

5. The guy who told me that he liked the cover to my book.  “We should all wear capes,” he said.  Amen, brother.

4. All the bois who read the back of my book, nodding their heads and saying “yep” to growing up tomboy, being called “sir,” etc.

3. Drag queens.

2. Me and W wearing matching “I Love My Wife” buttons and having everyone congratulate us when they learned it was our anniversary. I felt that people were truly happy for us and understood how big a deal it is that we were able to marry.  Marriage is something our community doesn’t take for granted.

1. Dinner out at a Cuban restaurant with family and friends after.  Our friend who married us last Oct. 11 — the “Right Reverend” — toasted us.  And everything came full circle.  And all was right in the world.

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?

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.

xx

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.

xx

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.   

* * *

What does your voice of the universe sound like?

How to win friends and more — be yourself

I am leaving for a writers’ retreat tomorrow.

I am excited and nervous.  I am in an almost-constant state of excitement and nervousness these days.

I tell myself not to feel guilty.  That it’s ok to spend money on this adventure.  That I am allowed to take time away for myself.  Old habits are hard to break.  Guilt is hard to outrun.

From the get go, W and I were not one of those couples who asked permission.  We are both adults with free choice and free will and our own spending money.

As I sit here writing this, I feel gratitude for her support.  For supporting this crazy habit called writing, which requires me to carry around tiny notebooks and pens at all times and jot down ideas and phrases at the most inopportune moments.  That has me leaving bits and pieces of my work and my writing tools in our bed, turning that soft place where we sleep into a paper-cut and pen-poking hazard.

I think back to those days when I was still in the closet and had a fear of being alone.  I thought people wouldn’t like me if they knew I liked women.  I thought people wouldn’t like me if they knew the real me.

There’s nothing like publishing a memoir to remove any last, forgotten items from the back of the closet.  A mangled umbrella, a partnerless tube sock.

What I’ve learned is that I actually have more friends now that I am out and open and me.  Butch me who likes women and neckties and suspenders and baseball.  Weird me who likes Wonder Woman and Cream of Wheat and books about dysfunctional people.

I have a newer writer friend who gave me a glitter pen to sign books at my book launch party.  And this awesome “You Rock” rock that I’m taking to my writers’ retreat.

xx

This is how I like my glitter — in a pen.  And thank you for noticing that I rock.

I have old friends who gave me this awesome metal sculpture stamped: “Rae Theodore, Published Author.”  They tell me they are proud of my achievement.

xx

Do you see the likeness?

It’s not about material things.  So many people have given me a thumbs up by sending thoughtful e-mails, offering a kind remark or just being present in my life.

So, the moral of the story?  Be yourself, be honest, be kind.  That’s good enough for most folks.  At least the ones who matter.

Oh, and if you’re real lucky, you might find your better half.  The one who makes you believe that you can do it, that you deserve it, that you deserve her.  The one who becomes your biggest fan and thinks everything you do is perfect (all the while admitting her bias).  The one who says you look cute in a bowtie and a necktie and in that baseball cap that you wear backward on the day you don’t feel like showering.

I dedicated my book to W with this: “To my wife, who thinks me a better writer and person than I really am.”

And I think how lucky I am to have found someone who always sees the best version of me, even when I can’t.  Especially when I can’t.

* * *

How does your partner support those things that make you who you are?

It takes a village to write a book

Here’s what happened when I joined a writers’ group a few years ago.  Wait a minute, you guys already know how this story ends.

If you’re interested (I know there’s some writers out there in the blogosphere who follow me), you can read how my writers’ group provided me with the fuel to write my book.

Just click here to link to the Women’s Writing Circle.  You’ll find my guest post and lots of great writerly resources.

Book stress

My book comes out in about a month.

xx

Me.

I am so stressed that I have a huge cold sore on my face.  Yep.  The motherfucker skipped my lip (apparently, lip cold sores are for sissies) and erupted right there on my face.  I am like that craggy face guy from The Fantastic Four or the Elephant Man.  I can’t be sure as I have been avoiding mirrors and shiny surfaces.

“Don’t look at me, I’m hideous,” I tell W.

I have forbidden her from making direct eye contact with me.

Actually, I think it’s best that everyone refrain from looking at me or even in my direction, at least for a few months, I suggest.

xx

On second thought …

It seemed like a good idea to write a memoir.  Until right before it’s available for purchase.  Then not so great.  Like New Coke.

I am re-thinking my decision not to use my Middle-age Butch alias.  Or my other pen names: I. B. Butch, I.P. Daily (that was me) and Sexy Handsome Beast.

When I am telling W all of this — 1) don’t look at me and 2) pseudonyms rule — she notes that I am smiling a lot for a person on the verge of a memoir-induced psychotic breakdown.

xx

This is me 24/7 these days.

I tell her that’s normal.  Extra smiling = crazy.  Everyone’s seen The Shining, right?

I don’t admit that I’m excited about the book.  I only admit that I’m nervous.

I’m feeling vulnerable and exposed.  I’m worried about what people will say.  I’m worried about being perceived as a freak — a boy-girl mutant, a girl/boy oddity — to those who don’t understand.

W tells me it’s too late to take it all back now.  The wheels have been set in motion.

I try to remind myself why I wrote my story in the first place.  Through the writing process, I learned who I am, as a person and a writer.

But I wasn’t writing for that me.  The today me.  I was writing for the me who existed three or four decades ago.  The young girl who didn’t know she had options.  Who didn’t know gender isn’t carved in stone.  Who didn’t know she could marry a girl.  Or shop exclusively on the left side of The Gap.  And that the world wouldn’t end if she did those things.  In fact, her world would just start beginning.

I try to remember that my story is important.  That all of our big butch stories are important.  (Silent nod.)  That all stories about those who live in the margins and on the fringe are important.  We are underrepresented in literature and largely misunderstood.

I try to remember that I wrote the book for that one person who will recognize herself in the pages and feel not so alone, at least for a few minutes.

That is the power of books and stories and writers.  We read to know that we’re not alone.

I try to remember all of that as I sit here scared and unsure of my words.

What’s in a name?

Name tag

So, you’ve all seen it.  I know you have.

My name.

It’s right there on the cover of my book.

I’ve gone from anonymous blogger to author who shall be named.

Note: Middle-age Butch is not my real name.

I’ve enjoyed blogging anonymously for the past two years.  It allowed me to open up and write about whatever I wanted.  And be more flannel-y and cool than I really am.

But now the jig is up.  And I’m not even Irish.

When I was a kid, I used to hate my name.  It was seven letters long and contained every vowel except “u.”  It rhymed with “Crayola,” kinda.  It was French.  These things do not make for a cool name.

In second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Ruth Dixon, shortened my name to Rae.

I'm like this but butchier

I’m like this but butchier

At about the same time, my grandmother started calling me Rae.  Her favorite movie was The Sound of Music.  I was Rae, or “re,” her drop of golden sun.  So yeah, I’m like a butch Julie Andrews.

And it stuck. Rae.

Not a bad name for someone who gets called “sir.”

It’s one letter away from Ray.

I think I’m just feeling exposed these days, what with my memoir less than three months away from its premiere.

I’ve never had to worry about my family reading my blog.  It was something I did privately.  Under a pseudonym.

I worry about what they will think about the book.

More specifically, I worry that they will be embarrassed by the book.  Not so much by how they are portrayed (this isn’t the lesbian version of Running with Scissors … which would be Running While Scissoring, I believe).  But just by the fact that they have a daughter who sometimes gets mistaken for a man.  Or young boy.  Or Boy Scout.

ElephantWe don’t talk about anything in our family.  I have this great line that didn’t make it into the book: The elephant in the room was our family pet.

So having a book published is like airing our dirty laundry in public.  Even though it’s my dirty laundry.  And yes, those are my boxer briefs thank you very much.

I had thought about publishing the book under a pen name.  Maybe Girl-Who-Hasn’t-Worn-Skirt-Since-Grade-School.  Or Little Flower Stamen-Pistil.  Did I mention that I’m part Cherokee?  But couldn’t come up with a suitable moniker.

I guess I need to adjust to being a little more open and honest.  To putting myself out there.  Not so much with the rest of the world.  But with those who claim to know me best.

Doing the work

The EndAfter I had finished writing my book, I didn’t think it would be too hard to find an agent or a publisher.  I mean, everyone was telling me how good it was and how important it was.  Ok, at least that one person in my writing group said so.  And she was really smart.

I worked really hard on my query letter and sent it out to about a dozen agents.  I picked the ones who weren’t asking for a full-blown proposal.  Because who has the time for that?  Besides, I am an artist.  I just couldn’t be bothered.

I waited and continued to send out queries one by one to agents and small, independent publishing houses.

When nothing happened, I wrote a new query letter.

Months passed and still nothing.

I started thinking about self-publishing.

So, this weekend is dedicated to making that big push.  Writing the proposal, sending it out.  Contacting anyone who might be able to help with my publishing goal.

If I come up empty, I’ll be able to say I gave it my best shot.

I’ll self-publish because there is a dearth of butch stories out there.  I believe in the power of stories.  I believe in the power of telling your story.  I believe in the power of seeing yourself in someone else’s story.

It’s like that C.S. Lewis quote: “We read to know we are not alone.”

As I try to summarize my writing, I come up with this:

These are my stories.  The ones that keep me up at night.  The ones that appear on re-play in my head no matter how hard I try to shake them off.  They are stories about what it’s like to grow up different.  They are stories about what it’s like to live as a butch decades before you actually become one.  They are stories about hurt, shame, loneliness and wanting something that you can’t quite put your finger on.  In the end, they are stories about love and acceptance, because if you never learn to love yourself, who will?  These are my stories.  But I have a feeling they are many other people’s stories, too.

I think of Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle.  The first time I read it, I wished I had read it 20 years earlier.  I think it would have prompted me to come out much earlier in life.

I think of Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon’s Gender Failure.  The first time I read it, I cry (shhh … don’t tell anyone), because I still didn’t believe people wrote books for people like me.

Books mean something beyond the mere words printed on their pages.  Don’t ever doubt that.

* * *

What about you?  Which book has been most influential in your life?