the Right to Write: Finding the Stakes

3 Topics I often read about:
1. Occult
2. Science Fiction
3. Creativity
4. (Bonus round) Human Rights

3 Topics I Often Think about
1. Stolen voices – the ways in which people are silenced, and reclaiming those voices
2. Whether or not you can fix stupid
3. Filling in information gaps

5 of your favorite books
1. This encyclopedia of myths and monsters from childhood
2. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
3. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol
4. The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
5. The Witch of Portebello by Paolo Coelho

What do these books have in common in terms of a theme, stakes, etc.?
Facing the unknown, finding inner strength, going against what society demands to find the truth and to do what is truly right; also, certain characters are humbled/ignored/not taken seriously but still find a way to speak their truth and make themselves heard.

What are five of your favorite movies?
1. Finnian’s Rainwbow
2. Pump up the Volume
3. Nightmare Before Christmas
4. Grease (I)
5. Midnight in Paris

What do these movies have in common?
The bottom three change often. Aside from 3 of the 5 being musicals… 4 of the 5 are about finding your voice, trying something different and even living a little out of step with cultural expectations – or deliberately trying to be out of step to see where it gets you.

6. What do the movies have in common with the books?
All of them are in some way about claiming your own identity and making your truth heard.

7. What is your favorite fairy tale?
I’m not fond of fairy tales as we know them, although I love how Neil Gaiman retells them. I went through a phase in elementary school where I wanted to write my own, too. Never did. The one that sticks with me is the Norse/American one about the girl who falls down a well, does kindnesses wherever she goes, and returns covered in gold. Her lazy, spoiled and favored sister goes after she returns, damn near sets the place on fire, and returns covered in soot and utterly unclean. It spoke to the household dynamic I grew up with, and it felt gratifying to me, like there was someone else out there who saw me and knew what was really going on at home.

8. What is your favorite childhood book?
Anita’s Choice – about a Latina girl who was torn between her own ambitions for a college education and her mother’s constant demands that she give up those dreams and conform to the limitations of her local culture.

9. What do the fairy-tale and the book have in common?
Asshole mothers? A separation of the individual female from the identity demands of the other females.

10. List five topics you are currently thinking about.
1. Emotional violence, and learning to recognize it and respond to it for what it is.
2. Fashion, and integrating cultural considerations into fashion blogging.
3. The trashion art movement
4. The West memphis 3 case, and the injustice surrounding it
5. Nanowrimo, and getting that book off the ground.

What feels the hottest?
Emotional violence, and of course, nanowrimo.


Right to Write: Self as Character II

The exercise asks you to look at yourself as a character, and to celebrate making a “wrong” choice that was right for you.

That is the easiest one to pick out ever.

Diana made a lot of unpopular choices in her life. Her rigid upbringing left her constantly sticking with doing the “right” thing – what teacher said to do, what her parents insisted was true – and it came at a significant social cost. While the kids around her were busy being kids, she was strangely adult, often going along with what her mother said on faith that there would turn out to be wisdom in it.

Then Diana went away to college. When she tried to communicate the problems she was having to her parents, Alice dismissed them out of hand. “Oh, colleges haven’t changed since I went!” the woman would say. This was despite having no experience with administration specifically screwing with her, and despite a massive technological and information gap swatching the period when she last got real education – the late 1960s, and Diana’s time in school during the mid 1990s. It slowly occurred to Diana that her mother was willfully ignoring screaming differences for her own purposes, and that there was no wisdom behind the woman’s actions. She was directing all her anger at Diana, and the one summer Diana spent back in  the woman’s house was enough for her to know that the future she had spent her childhood working for was in danger if she stayed.

The application to Ball State, her parents’ alma mater, wasn’t a feint. Diana really considered it, but also read up about it in magazines, and found its academic ratings declining, along with its job placement rate. When she raised this simple, verifiable fact to her parents, the denial that they responded with (declaring such sources as Kiplinger’s bullshit) she realized that, despite promises to “help her finish school,” they had no intention whatsoever of helping her at all. Diana was still unhappy with having to resort to publicly humiliating Alice to get a payment in for another semester of tuition, and really disgusted at their refusal to let her get a car, once again based on their own experience with college life in the 1960s while ignoring that it was thirty years later and costs were 30 times more expensive. Stray comments and strange demands here and there led her to conclude that her grandparents were also up to no good.

So that October, when she got invited to a Weird Al Yankovitch concert, she was already casting around for other choices. If she stayed in Wisconsin, she might have to drop out for a year. If she moved to Indiana, she would return to the indentured servitude that defined her childhood while paying even more for the “privilege” of her family’s relentless abuse. She was also very nervous about her love life: her mother and sister had started an offensive “You should have baaaaaaaaaabies!” assault upon her in response to the academic honors she’d received her freshman year of college. The idea she might actually be a contributing member of society made both of them want her knocked up and out of the game; her health, happiness, and personal goals were in no way relevant to either of them.

The boys in the car were all from Mankato State, a school in Minnesota. Two looked like hippies, the other like an iron worker. Diana found herself quite enjoying her interaction with the straight-haired hippy, with his green eyes and his goofy wit. She willfully ignored the T-shirt he wore that said “Painfully Single.”

The weekend was wonderful, and a relief from the grind of the small college’s political bullshit. Diana had exchanged phone numbers with the green eyed hippie man. She also went ahead and sent away for information about his college.

While she and the boy had a flash-in-the-pan romance that she still considers one of the most painful experiences of her youth, he was also the gateway that led her away from the people that wanted to prevent her from any chance of success in life.

As it turned out, even for out of state students, the fees cost less than half of what it would for schooling in Indiana. It also had financial aid options for a person of Diana’s academic ability that prevented any further dependence on her parents for funding. While she had minimized the cost to her parents with scholarships, loans, and her own money, the idea of no money from them appealed to her.

She got her acceptance letter by that December. When she told her father about it as they drove back from some fast food restaurant, he screamed at her and told her he forbade it. Diana told him flatly that she was over 18, and it wasn’t his to forbid, but hers to decide. She was deeply disturbed at the authoritarian attitude assumed towards her.

Tantrums and bullying followed from both her mother and her sister, with both of them demanding “explanations” for why she was moving so far away. It never occurred to them that what Diana was doing was actually normal, nor did they recognize that they were behaving like an abusive cult. Alice had made plans for Diana without consulting her, without her consent, without any conversation about Alice’s expectations of her – and Alice never got over her sense of entitlement. Even though Alice had no rights over another human being, she persuaded herself she did.

It took work, and magic, and maneuvering, especially with the ex-boyfriend freely breaking promises made about helping her move because she insisted on finishing off the year at the school in Wisconsin. But she found someone to help her move out there, and she got there. It was a hard summer, and Minnesota culture is very hard on its outsiders. Things with the green-eyed boy did not work out.

But it confirmed what Diana long suspected: something was very much amiss in her family, in that they were trying to tell her what she was and was not to do with her life.  Good people don’t make plans for other people’s futures, not when they demonstrate as much independence and capability as Diana had. Good people would recognize Diana’s GPA, her hard work and that she busted her ass to finance her own education. Instead, they thought only about how her absence forced them all to do their own chores.

Life in Mankato was hard, but it was her life, and her choice. It was the best decision Diana ever made.

The Right to Write: Pick one story

This is synchronous, since I’m going to post my possible Nanowrimo stories on my main blog, in hopes of figuring out as I write what will be the most fun to write for around 2500 words a day. It’s also an exercise to keep me accustomed to writing raw material, as I’m pretty heavily embedded in rewriting at the moment, and that’s a very different process.

5 topics I could write about:

  1. My favorite pet
  2. My favorite vacation
  3. An unexpected accomplishment
  4. The places I’ve lived and why I moved
  5. My favorite teachers

I think I’ll go with the unexpected accomplishment. I’ve told this story a few times, but I don’t know if I’ve written it down. It’s from high school, so probably. There’s more college memories that have gone unrecorded, if for no other reason than to make sure the statute of limitations has expired. (Joke!)

My high school speech team started up my junior year in part because the state sent down the edict that the school could have a speech team, or the football players could pay for their own damn jock straps. So lo, a speech team was born. I joined at the time because I actually really did like public speaking, and during my junior year, every few meets I would cross paths with my boyfriend (he attended a school about ten-fifteen miles north of my town) who was on the state championship Douglas-Lincoln (was that it?) debate team. Also, it gave me plenty of chances to talk to kids from other schools. Kids from other schools were universally nicer and more fun than kids from my school.

It turned out I had a knack for it, but I also had shit for coaching. The speech coach we had was trying to live out her feminist mistakes through another member of my team, and was often so busy making whatever the hell we were doing some weird and completely unnecessary competition between herself and every other speech coach that at least twice I missed my competitions just because she couldn’t get her head out of her ass enough to show up on time and ask direct questions. I also had the cloud of my father hanging over me: he had stopped doing speech coach work long before I even knew about it.  Still, somehow, any coach from one of the lesser teams seemed to remember my father and hold some sort of grudge. I dreaded getting one of those coaches as a judge, just because I knew it was my father being graded and not me. This is despite him actually doing very little coaching, and what little I got from him I more or less demanded.

So week after week I found myself going up against kids who were coached for speech competitions from  birth, who had polished deliveries, knew how to break the rules and could leave me in a pile of ash. I always came close to placing, but not quite.

My senior year the boyfriend had dumped me and I was sort of sleepwalking through the year to avoid thinking about or acknowledging the hellish conditions of the house I lived in at the time.  It was depression, but not enough that anyone cared, and I was going through the motions necessary to make everyone around me think they were getting what they wanted while quietly laying track for my eventually escape. I honestly don’t remember how I fared competitively that year – I think not well. Except for one: the broadcast tournament.

My speech coach had thrown herself behind making sure another team member got everything she wanted, and in the process kept sticking me in crap I didn’t want to do, I wasn’t prepared for, and that no one had coached me on, period. It didn’t help that she kept listening with her ego instead of listening to what I – or even any of the coaches from other teams – actually had to say. In a spectacularly crappy maneuver, she threw me into broadcasting the morning of a speech. I had to prepare my material on the way to the meet, and from there stumble through.

This was at the pre-sectionals meet, the one that defined the standout competitors from the rest. So I prepared my material, and went into the competition.

And I rocked it. I placed 1st place first round…and then again on the 2nd round.

On the 2nd round, some girls from another school found me and had a little talk. Apparently the girl that was the “reigning queen” in broadcast competition had a habit of finding the girls she was competing with and psychologically battering them right before they’d go into the next round. You have to have a super clean mindset for broadcast, and she ensured her place by making sure the competition was not at its best.

Sure enough, half an hour later, when I was sitting with my teammates, a girl approached and asked for me. I spoke up when she asked for me by name. “No, she’s not here. Not sure where she is.”

My friend Tim boggled at me. “Why’d you make her go away? She was hot!”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s a competitive thing. Just trust me, OK?”

I got through the final round, and then we had to sit through the whole award-auditorium thing. Broadcasting was called last. As it turns out, there was a tie for first place.

They actually did the beauty pageant thing where the lesser placed got theirs and you knew by elimination who won. When they got down to just me and the other girl, the girls who placed second and third both hugged me.

The girl who tied with me for first asked, “Why did you lie to me?”

I smiled at her. “I was warned about you.”




The Right to Write: Sound

To selected sounds and “expansion music” write out what the ideal life would look like in the headed areas.
Sounds: leaves rusling in the wind, some still attached to strings. The computer fan wobbling along behind me. The fan in the next room, drying boxes I just sprayed.
The occasional car and bus roaring past.
Music: Elias, Prayer Cycle, Grace. Also, Pachelbel Canon in D.

Envisioning an Expanded Life Exercise
I still don’t know if group work is the right choice for me. I’ve always left feeling dissatisfied, tired, slightly – or very – used. I want a working partner. I want a selection of people I can go to, not bound to dogma while thinking they’re not. I want people who yes, consider my approaches and even experiment with them, but also do stuff on their own. New stuff. Not the same stuff, over and over again. I want a real sense of spiritual connection in a shared community; right now I have to step away from the community to feel spirit because community crap is always what throws me off from the spiritual. I have a daily practice. I would like to greet acts of magic with joy and not because I need to break out the emergency kit again. I want to be around some people that get me on a spiritual level, and who don’t project their religious bugaboos onto me. I am Wiccan, and the Goddess resonates, and Eros resonates, and even Diana resonates (namesake) but the forms I see around me don’t, no matter how welcoming their practitioners.

I have some amazing friendships, and I actually cherish how we are spread out across the world. It gives me a sense of connection to the greater world, a reason to travel, a reward for maintaining a global viewpoint. I need to find more people of quality within my local sphere. A few are there. I just want something healthy, and people that are also doing the work to be healthy from the inside out. I want people I feel safe being myself around – and that I haven’t really had since I moved to Minnesota. It seems like so many of the locals watch and wait for you to screw up, and there’s that whole human projection screen I struggle with where I do get projected onto a lot. Right now I feel like I’ve been trapped in a double standard, where people are demanding I accept them as they are – even if I must change myself to do so. I’m also wary of people that only approach me with an agenda in mind; that’s residual poison to my aura from my family. Simple liking seems to have died in this state. I need a sense of safety, and of trust, and reassurance that these are not people who will ignore pathological behavior and expect me to as well.

A simple vision for improving this area of my life: coffee with someone once a week. A regular hangout for a group event, which I already kind of do. To be able to go to a friend’s birthday party without being verbally attacked by one of her other friends when she’s not looking.

Work Life
I’m working on an overall vision for this. Right now it’s about getting multiple projects going, and finishing off the book on divorce so it’s ready for the editing process – and also spending a significant amount of time marketing it while working on additional stuff. Right now I’m seeing a half-day split like I’m doing now, with writing in the morning and blogging in the afternoon. I also enjoy running Fat Chic on auto in the background, but clearly I run out of steam on that from time to time, and in the long run, I want to offer real quality.

Living Space
We want a condo, but it’s not the right time. Besides, I really like this apartment. I want to improve lighting in the office and bedroom, and set up a sort of photo-studio on the bedroom with the improved lighting so I can do that whole tour of my closet thing for Fat Chic. I did go to the trouble of buying a tripod for it. I’d like to get baskets up in the bathroom so that the only thing that sits on the sink is the soapdish. I still want a basket for the living room. Also, we’re seriously considering using a Groupon and trying one of those cleaning services – it’s not a bad way to go, assuming Mike can get over his guilt about it. I keep telling him it’s not even remotely the same as having a servant, but he is very Iowan in that respect.

Maybe I should give the UK another try, and see if I actually enjoy it this time. I’d really like to see Rome next, and I want to go spend some time in New Orleans. I’d prefer to spend time there writing, which maybe after my second book or my first fiction book I’ll do, depending on where I’m at with all that. I’d very much like to go to Pantheacon, and I’m working on my crowd-fear so that I can withstand Gallifreycon. Time in New Mexico also really appeals to me.

Creative Projects
Let’s see, I still want to self-publish an anthology of my old Llewellyn articles, and assemble that Zombie Story into an epub with transitional writing. I also have tons of herbs and essential oils begging to become something useful, and a long, slow plan involving decoupage. My fantasy is to actually clean my shelves of ALL supplies and sell them all off without restocking. I enjoy it, but I’m starting to wonder if that part of my life is over, or if it’s just waiting in the background for a new phase. My life revolves so much around writing right now.

I really am happy with what I have in my immediate life. Content, even. Relationships could improve on a local level, but I’m starting to think that it’s really not something I can or should try to “fix.” There are just more people that are sick than that are well, and I have to learn to deal with that.

The Right to Write: Safe and not-Safe lists

In this exercise, we’re asked to make a list of up to 5 people that are safe to share writing with, and 5 people that are not. My problem in this is that not only does this change all the time, I live in a city with a lot of writers who mythologize and confuse feedback and criticism almost as much as they do the practice of writing itself. It’s not intentional, it’s just part of the deal. I also know that none of the people on my “bad” list are malicious; they’ve just got a way of looking at life and work that doesn’t work for me. I also have some unknowns – people who would be happy to give me feedback and notes, but whom I don’t really know what I’ll get, or who sometimes just don’t get what I’m doing. I minimize naming names here, but it is a list with personas. Continue reading “The Right to Write: Safe and not-Safe lists”

The Right to Write: Footwork

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It would be a support to my writing life if I let myself

1. say “no” to people very clearly.

2. get my calendar system updated to something that works for me now.

3. go ahead and started collecting groupons for house cleaning services.

4. read more.

5. quit with the perfume stuff altogether.

I would feel better about my writing if I tried

1. drafting more original material alongside my revisions.

2. sent more pieces out for possible publication.

3. querying editors on a few different topics.

4. talking to someone about establishing a real career plan.

5. taking some refresher classes in public speaking.

I have helped myself to have a writing life by

1. sticking to showing up at the page daily.

2. blogging actively.

3. participating in a pro writer’s message board.

4. attending a writer’s group until it no longer helped me.

5. trying new things.



5 things that could benefit from my writing and a prayer for commitment

  1. I could get started on that draft for the Doctor Who marathon.
  2. I could start working on that poetry-spell book, writing a single poem a day.
  3. I could write a prayer series.
  4. I could open up Scrivener and plot out my Nanowrimo novel.
  5. I could write Mike a love letter.

I’ll start with a prayer – to stay committed:

In small steps, repeated, tiny
I advance to you,
the God of my exaltation, the God of my heart, the God I love first and most and with abandoned passion.
Fill me with desire –
that I show up because I want nothing else but these glorious moments of endeavor, that I want nothing but to be where I am when I am, that I want nothing but to let me self seek expression –
and set aside the burdensome thoughts of duty.

Mostly it’s a prayer to keep me motivated to write and continue my exercise program. But I can see where it’s applicable in plenty of other situations.

The Right to Write: a Family Cup

I’m actually producing pretty steadily, as those of you who follow my DianaRajchel blog know. I am also at a hard point. I have my first (well, technically second) book contract ever, and I am continuing the process I already had underway when I made the proposal. I have loads of planning to do. I am also experiencing emotional volatility; I confirmed that someone was essentially spying on my Facebook page for my mother (tacky) and there’s no way of explaining to that person why what she did was wrong, especially as I’m sure she’s very convinced she was doing the “right” thing based on her experiences with her mother, and her experiences with my mother. That her experiences with my mother bears no resemblance to my experience with the woman isn’t likely to register with her at all.  A “cup” about my family’s history follows. It’s ugly family stuff, and I need to write it, and I need to make it public. I have documentation of ALL of this, and it’s not pretty. Continue reading “The Right to Write: a Family Cup”

The Right to Write: Honesty

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Como conservatory flower room

To give context, I’m having significant anxiety the last few days, more than I’ve had in several months. So much that despite the dry weather, I woke up in full-on asthma attack last night.

Why? Because something good happened. I’m having a major anxiety attack over something good: part of this is that it did come heaped with some underlying nastiness, not intended by the people that made the delivery. There is no gracious way for me to ask “can I avoid this specific attitude-holder?” So while I want to embrace this new and wonderful thing, that nastiness has raised all sorts of new fears, and made me ask the question…”is this the trustworthy place?” My deep self says yes, but my ego is a bit bruised.

On the other hand, I finally realize why Julia Cameron encourages us to indulge our sensitive natures, to be a little more thin-skinned, to not always “man up.” While some people pretend to be thin skinned as a way of controlling others and most of us see that for what it is to the point of ignoring or steamrollering genuine hurt, I’ve finally figured out the positive side to sensitivity. Continue reading “The Right to Write: Honesty”

The Right to Write: Place

Creamette Lofts - I lived here from 2002 - 2004

My schedule has conspired to make writing “out” not so much possible – besides, I have the ultimate “out” in a few days: Paris. Hopefully there’s not some deep seated reason I need to be out beyond “writers are not equal to hermits.”

Places I have lived:

  1. Crown Point, Indiana – same house, 18 years
  2. Sheboygan/Howard’s Grove, Wisconsin – same dorm room, 2 years
  3. Mankato, Minnesota –
  • Several different dorm rooms, but only subjected to two roommates that entire time. Hooray for great grades and a few civil liberties cases that preceded me.
  • Devonshire apartment, first one side of the hallway, then another
  • A fourplex in Le Hillier or whatever the hell that section outside of Mankato is supposed to be called

4. Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • An apartment on 1st street in the warehouse district
  • An apartment above a hardware store.
  • An apartment just on the edge of Minneapolis, across the street from Minnehaha Falls and running next to the train line.
  • A coop apartment right on Franklin Avenue.
  • My current 1000 ft 2 bedroom on the 4th floor, right on Central Avenue in Minneapolis.

It is August of 2003, and around 4:30 Sunday morning.  I pull my Ford Escort into its parallel slot outside the Creamette lofts and make my way into my pseduo-warehouse apartment building. I can hear the trucks from the Star Tribune Office pulling up on 1st street, and otherwise, downtown is quiet. My head is spinning, too full of inspiration to stop and feel creeped out by how quiet my middle-of-city residence gets in the wee hours. I am wearing a grey skirt and a red and whilte button-down blouse; I stumble out of the shoes I wore with it.  I am always wearing shoes that hurt my feet.

I run into my one bedroom apartment; it’s about one foot to large to get the “efficiency” label.  I drop my purse somewhere, and settle in at the child’s desk/laptop stand in my living room, open up my computer, and begin to write. The words fly out of me. The tapping is frenetic, and goes on until well past 8 am. Deadlines I worried I might miss become mere abstractions; the material is there, in raw form, needing nothing more than a few rewrites into coherence.

For the first time in months, I feel good. I don’t care about the welt climbing up my arm or the red splotches across my breasts. The constant searing itching of my skin doesn’t matter. The endless chatter of the Indian girls is pushed out of my head, as is the self-loathing that always visits me before and after I spend time with Mark or Lionboy. It is nothing but myself, the page, and the words.

I am out of my head. I am with the muse. I am, for the first time since my divorce, completely present and in the moment.

I hit save on the final document – 3000 words in four hours – and crash, fully dressed, on my bed in the adjoining room. I decide briefly before I space out not to change clothes even though I have plans with Mark in the evening.

He doesn’t matter anymore. I’m on the page.