One year later

It is March 2021. Each time I look at the calendar this week, I can’t help but think about last March and how the novel coronavirus unfolded worldwide: symptoms, travel bans, asymptomatic carriers, masks, ICU capacity, case and death counts. It’s been an incredibly challenging year.

I have also been thinking about where I was a year ago. Exactly one year ago today, I was debating whether or not to get on a plane to fly to visit friends across the country in Washington, DC, and then to proceed on to New York City for a wedding on March 15.

In the remembering, I decided I wanted to reflect on this experience, and to do so using my pandemic skill: making stop motion movies. I’m delighted to present my longest film yet, “COVID Unfolding: A Love Story.”

Please give it a watch!

And good luck this March. Grief anniversaries are hard, and this month will be full of them. I hope the pandemic skills you learned along the way – baking bread, taking long walks, unmuting yourself on Zoom – will offer some comfort. We’re still in this together.

Days of Gratitude

On December 27th last year, I started a gratitude journal. I used a prompt shared by a friend, a woman two years into her transition from assigned male at birth to female: share three pieces of gratitude for yourself and three pieces of gratitude for others or the world. My first entry spans large and small:

  • I am grateful that I’m 48,011 words into my new novel. I will finish this first draft.
  • I am grateful to feel my feelings. There has been some sadness and anger the past few days.
  • I’m grateful I ran the dishwasher last night.
  • I am grateful for cuddling with my dog on cold winter mornings.
  • I’m grateful for the sunrise, hidden today by snow flurries and thick clouds, but the dawning happened anyway.
  • I am grateful for Ellen, writing with me in the mornings.
My gratitude journal, plus a cup of chamomile tea, which always makes me think of my Grandma June.

I haven’t done this practice daily since last December, but I have stuck with it, sometimes once a week, sometimes a string of days in a row. There are themes: I continue to be grateful for my spouse and my dog. I continue to be grateful for my writing practice and those that support it. I continue to be grateful for my love of exercise and my physical abilities. I am always grateful for friends and family.

And then there was COVID-19. In my first entry after things shut down, I wrote: “I am grateful for a home to shelter in. I am grateful for sunshine and springtime alongside fear and uncertainty. I am grateful that I’m learning to call on help as I need it.”

Now here we are, Thanksgiving in a year of pandemic. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving: the food, time with family, games together. In recent years, I’ve held my love of the holiday alongside the pain it raises for Indigenous communities (see HERE and HERE and HERE). Today, I woke feeling a lot of sadness. I’ll see my family, but through Zoom. I’ll see my spouse, but only after he finishes his twelve-hour shift at the hospital. The majority of the day will be spent by myself with my dog.

The pandemic has been so hard.

And yet there is so much gratitude. I will write my six things this morning. I have shelter. I can feel my feelings, even when love and pain and sadness and anger intertwine. I can cuddle with my dog.

There will be family and games and green bean casserole.

Good Job, Random Stranger

This Sunday, May 3, was supposed to be the 2020 Lilac Bloomsday Run, an annual tradition that is perfectly Spokane. But we’re not running it this weekend. We’re holding each other close by staying separate.

I wrote a short essay about my experience of Bloomsday, how it created community when I was new to Spokane, and how I feel now alongside COVID-19. Our local weekly newspaper, The Inlander, was kind enough to publish the piece! Here’s the link:

And here’s a picture of the piece in their print edition!

Good Job Random Stranger

February beginnings

It’s early Februarywe’ve had snow, but it has melted. Another cold snap is in the forecast. There’s been mud, too early for the spring thaw, but it has brought on the itch for flowers and green and warmth, none of which have arrived. For me, February is a month of patience (if I can find it) or frustration (if I can’t).

February is also a month that is a little bit late for giving a year-end update (bye, 2018!), but I hope you’ll bear with me anyway. Writing is often a slow task that seems to go nowhere. But a year of doing work slowly will still have markers of progress.

My biggest achievement of 2018: I finished my first novel.

Phew! That fact deserves its own line. And then a line of people cheering and toasting with champagne and me being hoisted onto shoulders. Not all of those things happened, but I fully celebrated the completion of the book. I’m still a little in awe of thisI wrote a novel!!

Then I promptly turned my attention to the next step: finding a literary agent. Publishing houses and editors are a small group of people with very specific interests and tastes. Literary agents have the important role of finding new writing and authors they love and helping that work find a home in the publishing landscape with the best possible partner. So I’ve been sending query letters to literary agents: emails about the novel I wrote, about who I am, and why I think we’d work well together. Keep your fingers crossed that I’ll find someone who loves my book as much as I do and has a good sense where it might fit in the publishing market.

Since I finished the novel, I’ve been researching the next book idea and have been following my muse as she’s given me other ideas. I’ve written a few creative nonfiction essays. I finished a new short story. I even wrote a few poems.

And all through 2018, I’ve been submitting stories and essays to literary magazines. I didn’t have much to show for this submitting other than a whopping 131 rejections (three of them had nice comments, though). Perhaps this is another reason this update is a little belated. Yeah, I finished the book, but then that turned into a pile of rejections from agents. Yeah, I’ve been writing short stories and essays, but that turned into an even bigger pile of rejections. Last year didn’t have much to show for all of that work.

And then in January: an acceptance.

That deserves it’s own line, too. I submitted an essay that I’d just finished, and it was accepted by the first place I sent it. I almost couldn’t wrap my brain around it. It was joy and surprise and excitement and validation and all the grief from all the rejections that happened to get me there.

Stay tuned: my essay will be published by The Threepenny Review later this year.

One of my favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption. The main character is in prison, and he writes one letter a week to the state for support to expand the library. After six years, they send him crates of secondhand books and records and a check for $200. Then they ask him to please stop sending letters.

He looks up, a half-smile on his face, and says, “Now I’ll write two letters a week.”

2019 is the year of “two letters a week.” A year where I’ll keep sending out my stories and essays, trusting that the next acceptance will come. Where I will seek to find a great literary agent to represent my novel. Where I’ll follow the next novel idea, the next story idea, the next poem.

It’s February. The journey starts again, as it always does, and it continues. It starts wherever I am.