Zine: A Warrior Princess call for contributions

Zine: A Warrior Princess call for contributions

Image is a person sitting on a couch, watching tv. On the tv is a stick figure with the quote, “That’s what friends do, they stand by each other when there’s trouble. – Gabrielle.” Beside the tv is the name of the project, Zine: A Warrior Princess. The quote is from the show Xena: Warrior Princess, spoken by the character Gabrielle.

I’m ready to start working on my next zine project!

This one has the potential to be a little lighter, a little more playful. 

This zine is about how pop culture is getting us through this time.

What is this zine about?

It’s about the lessons we’ve learned from our favourite tv shows, movies, comics, and books. It’s about how pop culture can invite us into an alternate world, and how these worlds have been safe and comforting spaces for us for many years.

It’s about the archetypes in the Princess Bride allowing us to see ourselves in a playful and generous light.

It’s about Buffy surviving a new apocalypse every season, and what hope that might offer for us as we face this particular apocalypse.

It’s about Steven Universe and She-Ra and Aang and Korra and Kipo and The Magicians and Elle Woods and Kamala Khan and Miles Morales and America Chavez and Kimberly Kane and Starbuck and Furiosa and Marge Gunderson and Elastica and Zoe Washburne and Veronica Mars and Minerva McGonagall and River Song and The Doctor and Jane Eyre and Phryne Fisher and Jo March and Alexander Hamilton (and Eliiiiiiiiiiiiiza) and Fem Shep and so many others, and it’s about how these characters, and the worlds they inhabit, the worlds they invite us into, make it more possible for us to get through the pandemic.

It’s also about pop culture personalities and how we navigate our relationships with celebrity (of whatever magnitude) in ways that make it more possible to get through the pandemic.

Prompts to get you started

What shows/books/comics/characters/etc are getting you through?

How?

Are you re-engaging with old favourites or discovering new ones?

What are the gifts of these pop culture offerings? What skills have they taught you? What values have they nurtured in you? What hopes have they sparked? What comfort have they offered?

Where did you discover them? Does appreciation of these characters or worlds or creators connect you to a community?

Do you share these shows, books, characters with others?

What have they made possible in your life?

What have they made possible in your pandemic life?

I think this will be a fun project and I’m really excited about it!

When and how to submit

I’ll be accepting submissions until the end of June, and hoping to share the zine by the end of July.

Send submissions by email.

Art, poetry, fiction, and essays welcome!

Succulent Zine

Succulent Zine

The Succulent Zine is finally ready to share. (Click the link to download the 92-page PDF!)

This zine started with a plant metaphor. I wrote:

I love the comic about how we are basically houseplants with complicated feelings, and it got me thinking about how isolation means we need to be succulents, able to survive and thrive in conditions of scarcity and intensity, and how fear also turns out lives into deserts, and how precarity does the same.

So, I thought we could use that metaphor, and make a little zine about what gets us through, and how we get each other through.

What are our skills of survival?

What are our strategies of mutual aid and collective action and care?

How are we keeping ourselves going, and what can we teach each other?

Many of us are in communities with generations-long histories of succulent lives in deserts of ableism, transantagonism, queerphobia, colonialism, white supremacy. Oppressed and targeted communities know the way forward.

So many folks responded to this invitation, and what I imagined as a “little zine about what gets us through” is actually over 90 pages of poetry, art, essays, and narrative projects. I am incredibly thankful for these contributions, and honoured to have been able to bring them together in this work.

Each contributor took the time and energy to create something that they shared with this project. This time and energy is precious, especially right now as we all deal with scarcity, precarity, uncertainty, and rapidly changing expectations and pressures.

There is abundance in these pages. Richness despite scarcity.

Succulence.

If you would like a printed copy of the zine, please get in touch for pricing. The PDF is available at no charge, and can be shared.

Download the 92-page PDF here.

Contributors

Tiffany Sostar. Canada.
Finding Succulence and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor)
Tiffany Sostar is a narrative therapist, writer, editor, community organizer, and workshop facilitator. They collected and formatted the zine. This is their webpage! (My webpage? What even is authorial point of view in collective documents?!?!)

Brianna Sharpe. Canada.
Neverlings
Brianna Sharpe is a writer and parent. She writes beautiful, moving, well-researched articles for The Sprawl, among other places. Find her website here.

Kalina Wolska-Chaney. Canada.
Little Rock and cat art.
Kalina is a young writer and artist.

Sophie Cao. China.
How a Wandering Cat Survived During the Coronavirus Outbreak and Dear World, Dear Friends.
Sophie is a narrative practitioner in mainland China, and has been involved in projects for the Dulwich Centre. Dear World, Dear Friends formed the basis of the Exchanging messages with Chinese narrative practitioners, which can be found here.

Lyn Janelle. Canada.
Cat art.
Lyn is a seamstress, artist, and crafter-of-all-sorts.

Neko. Canada.
Huohuo and Momo
Neko is a young writer and artist.

Agnieszka Wolska. Canada.
A Pandemic Correspondence with a Challenging Presence and I am Tired of Sitting and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor)
Agnieszka Wolska is a narrative therapist and parent in Calgary, Alberta. You can find her therapy work, Calm at the Centre Therapy, here.

Bryan J. McLean. Canada
[ Lights in a Dark Landscape ]
Bryan McLean is a poet, musician, writer, and artist. You can find his website here.

Anupa Mehta. India.
Toolkits For Trying Times.
Anupa Mehta is a narrative therapist and workshop facilitator in India. Her website is here.

Josiah Ditoro. Canada.
Become the Borg of Your Favourite Things
Josiah is a writer, disability justice advocate, and one of the engines behind the Calgary Wrimotaurs, Calgary’s NaNoWriMo group. You can find the Calgary NaNo site here.

Rei. Canada.
Allow Yourself to Start Again and Cheerio Upside Down
Rei is a writer, artist, and disability justice advocate in Calgary.

Lori Helfenbaum. Canada.
A Pandemic Passover Haggadah and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor)
Lori is a narrative therapist in Calgary. You can find her website here.

Nicole Marie Burton and Hugh Goldring. Canada.
Take Care: A Community Response to Covid-19.
Nicole and Hugh run Ad Astra Comix and publish smart, funny, political comics. You can find their website here.

Hugh D.A. Goldring. Canada.
Anarchism and Pandemics

Kay Fidler. Canada.
Sober in Isolation and Novel: A Pandemic Love Poem
Kay is a Metis writer and perfumer in Calgary. They are working on a graphic novel, and it’s going to be amazing!

Beatrice Aucoin. Canada.
Good Leadership in the Time of Corona
Beatrice is a writer and cat sitter in Calgary. You can find her site, Cat Mom Calgary, here.

Callan Field. Canada.
Mixed media pair
Callan is a visual artist in Calgary. Callan’s website is here.

Anisha Uppal-Sullivan. UAE.
Cat art
Anisha is an artist in the UAE.

And the narrative practitioners group! We each contributed to the conversations that formed the basis of When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing
Tiffany Sostar
Agnieszka Wolska
Lori Helfenbaum
Joel Glenn Wixson (see his website here)
Amy Druker (see her website here)
Mim Kempson (see her website here)
Sonia Hoffman
Rosie Maeder
Julia Scharinger
Marisa Barnhart
J.
L.

Non-Binary Superpowers!

Non-Binary Superpowers!

This isn’t new, but somehow I had never put a link into a blog post!

I’m sharing it here now, in honour of Trans Day of Visibility.

Last year, my beloved colleague Rosie and I collaborated on a project – we met with non-binary youth in Adelaide, SA, and also with non-binary youth in Calgary, Alberta. Then we created a collective document bringing together the insider knowledges shared in those conversations.

This collective document has since been published in the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, and you can download the PDF here.

Shiny! March letter

Shiny! March letter

Dearest magpies,

I have been trying to write this letter for most of the month, and it is arriving a full two weeks late. It has been a time, hasn’t it?

I’ve been thinking about what Shannon wrote in our very first in-person meeting – “The calm that exists because of it is wonderful and is like a vacation that never ends. I remember vacations and loving the way the days were shaped by desire and curiosity. I remember loving them. I know you love them. Imagine a world like that.”

I’ve been thinking about all the pressures we are under to be productive in this time of isolation and lockdown and physical distancing, and how we are also under a competing pressure to experience this time as a break, a rest, a reset, a vacation of sorts. I’ve been thinking about how both of those pressures land in unkind ways for many of us.

Right now, maybe not “more than ever” but certainly more than usually, we need ways to reach for hope, to find the shiny threads hidden in the gutters, to seek out possibility, to imagine our way into the future. We need ways to do this that are justice oriented, that are aware of existing power structures, that are welcoming of diverse experiences, that hold space for the discomfort and fear and grief of this time in our lives. We need robust hope, a light that can show us the next step forward.

So, here we are. The Shiny! speculative writing group meets again.

This month there will be no in-person meeting. And I’m not sure when we’ll have our next in-person meeting! We’ll be listening to the recommendations of health professionals, and then being a little extra careful because some of us have compromised immune systems or complex health concerns (including me!)

Instead, we will be meeting from 4-6 pm Mountain time on Sunday April 5 in a GoToMeeting chat. If you’d like the invite link, please send me a message.

In this letter, you will find a craft lesson, writing prompts, some recommended reading, and some shared writing.


Craft Lesson

How do we practice craft during a crisis? Plot, pacing, dialogue, point-of-view… all of these things seem so far beyond what many of us are experiencing in our daily life. How do we bring these onto the page? How can we write anything good while everything around us is terrifying and bad?!

If you’re having trouble writing anything at all, let alone anything that feels like it’s “good” writing, you’re not alone. Even Neil Gaiman has been having a tough time with it.

So, instead of our usual craft lesson, this month let’s try something else.

Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird, writes, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.

This month, let’s remember that craft includes shitty first drafts, incomplete paragraphs, stories that go nowhere, ideas that tumble around the page and end up looking like a mess. This is craft, too.

So just write anything.

Write five first lines, with no demand on yourself to take them further than first line.

Write one snippet of dialogue.

Write a list of ideas, no matter how far-fetched.

Set your timer for 10 minutes and free associate from the word “pandemic” and then set another 10 minute timer and free associate from “hope” and then spend five minute searching for resonances between your two lists. (Free associating just means that you start with the word and then you write as many words as you can think of that are in some way connected.) When your mind takes you down a path during this process, follow it – turn the timer off and go.

However you show up for yourself at this time, however you show up at the page (or not!) is craft.

I know it doesn’t feel like it. Trust me, my beloved magpies, I know. I feel the failure, too! I, too, saw that post that went viral about documenting our lives during this time for future historians, and even though I’ve had a three-pages-every-morning routine since my dad died, I still haven’t managed to journal in the morning this month. I know it feels like failure.

My favourite craft book is Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft, and the title reminds me that right now we are steering our craft through the storm.

Now is the time to be kind with our creative selves.

These gentle invitations to the page are craft, too.


Shared Writing

This month’s shared writing comes from Agnieszka, and although it was written before the pandemic was determined to be a pandemic, before we went into isolation, before we realized that everything would change… even though it was written before this time, the portal described is exactly what we need right now.

Now, with so many pressures to be productive, to be creative, to be well… it’s a possibility that some of us will experience create productivity, creativity, wellness, in this time. But let it pass. Just breathe. Hold onto the wall. Just be in the now. In the doorway.

A portal opens or closes

By Agnieszka

A portal opens or closes
March 1, 2020

(My gut hurts from worry about too many difficult things, unsolvable problems, total fear of failing at all dreams, time passing by, kids growing away from me, me hanging on too tightly and causing issues for their future but letting go causes issues for their future too. But, there is nothing coming from all this effort! I’ve been too serious, too worried. That’s always the problem – worry shuts down creativity… But does it really??)

I want this mind to open. Let life pass. Let ideas pass. Let hope and newness and possibility pass.
Why be so crammed in the dinghy basement of tension, freaking out, pressure, fear, and self-judgement?
Why breathe only comparison and self-judgement? Let possibility pass.

Let possibility pass. The door IS open. Yes, it is. Regardless of words not coming out perfectly. Just a chance to practice, to imagine, no matter what, doesn’t matter what.
Just let them pass. Breathe. Let whatever IS there just be there.

And stay. Stay quietly calm, present, patient. Curious.

Let it pass. Give it time. The door stays open. Approach slowly. No, it won’t suck me in. It’s okay. Hang on to the wall. Take small steps. Breathe deep and slow.

So. This is a threshold then.
Afraid that I’ll get lost. It feels like fear on the inside.
If I let go of the worry, what will be there?
The story of success is bullsh*t, I know…
If I let go of the tensions, what will keep me upright…?

Maybe it’s okay to let the tension go and just be.
Just be. Lie down. Rest.
And maybe it’s not all up to me.

The tension lessens. The door is still open. Nothing needs to happen.
Just let possibility pass. Stay here waiting.

Breathing into the vast space.
Take shelter in the sky.
Letting the blue feed me.
Drinking in the safety of the ground.
Letting skin be warmed by the sun.
That’s it.

Coming back into being. Not past, not future. Just now.
Just being now.
In the doorway.
When the breath passes through, the stories and possibilities will pass through as well.


Links and Recommended Reading

Reading it also part of our writing craft!

This month I have some excellent recommendations, along with short study guides.

First, AK Press is having a $1.99 sale on all of their published ebooks. I love AK Press, which is a worker-owned anarchist publishing house. Although I have enjoyed almost every book I’ve read from them, here are my top recommendations from their sale, and why I think they would be useful for this group:

  • Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. By adrienne maree brown. This book! It is the spark that grew into An Unexpected Light and it is a constant source of inspiration. I highly, highly recommend it. It also includes many, many references to speculative fiction works and writers.
  • Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories for the Transformative Justice Movement. Edited by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. This collection of stories is a brilliant place to spark your ideas for justice beyond the prison industrial complex and ideas of punishment and exile. If transformative justice is part of the future you want to imagine, this book will offer you a lot to work with.
  • Turn This World Inside Out: The Emergence of Nurturance Culture. By Nora Samaran. This book (which is phenomenal and inspiring) grew out of Samaran’s essay “Nurturance is the Opposite of Rape Culture,” and both the essay and the book invite us to imagine what might become possible if we cultivated communities based on nurturance rather than violence. Where the essay focuses specifically on men and women and rape culture, the book expands this conversation to include all of society. For those of us wanting to write speculative fiction that includes care and nurturance, this will help. (For those of us who want to understand violence, this is also an incredibly valuable book.)
  • Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times. By Carla Bergman and Nick Montgomery. This was one of the single most formative books in my own life as a social justice advocate, and it offers incredible wisdom for imagining (and writing) more just and more joyful futures.
  • Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief. Edited by Cindy Milstein. I think that learning how to grieve, and how to write grief, and how to grieve together, and how to become comfortable with grief and grieving – these will be critical skills for those of us who want to write through to more possible futures. It’s a beautiful and moving book.

I want to share hopeful short fiction. I think it is so important! But in reality, I have not been able to focus on reading any kind of fiction this month. And I won’t share what I haven’t read, so instead… I love this essay by Aislinn Thomas. “Disability, Creativity, and Care in the Time of COVID-19.

And I recommend watching Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts and Netflix. (Participants in An Unexpected Light have been invited to participate in weekly watch parties while we’re all in isolation together. Would you like to participate? Let me know!)


Writing Prompts

Here are the three prompts for our next writing session. (Which, again, will be happening on April 5, from 4-6 pm mountain time, on gotomeeting. If you’d like the link, let me know!)

The last prompt is an invitation, and a hope. I hope that you will contribute to the zine!

  1. An enchanted apple. (Or pomegranate seed. Or fruit from some sort of super fancy tree. Or, like, a really amazing raspberry.)
  2. The soft relentlessness of waves on sand.
  3. Write something for my Succulent Zine! (April 10 is the deadline for the zine.)

I love the comic about how we are basically houseplants with complicated feelings, and it got me thinking about how isolation means we need to be succulents, able to survive and thrive in conditions of scarcity and intensity, and how fear also turns out lives into deserts, and how precarity does the same.

So I thought we could use that metaphor, and make a little zine about what gets us through, and how we get each other through.

What are our skills of survival?

What are our strategies of mutual aid and collective action and care?

How are we keeping ourselves going, and what can we teach each other?

Many of us are in communities with generations-long histories of succulent lives in deserts of ableism, transantagonism, queerphobia, colonialism, white supremacy. Oppressed and targeted communities know the way forward.

If you’d like to write something about how you’re feeling about the news, the health guidelines, the government response, your own experiences of isolation as a result of disability or illness that were not accommodated and how this has given you insider insight into what gets you through

From the call for submissions here.

Alright, my magpies.

We’ll find our way. We’ll write our way out.

(On which note, have you listened to the Hamilton soundtrack recently? Do you need some historical hiphop in your life right now?)

Until next Sunday.

Warmly,

Tiffany

Succulent zine call for contributions

Succulent zine call for contributions

Call for contributors!

After writing an update to my patreon supporters yesterday, wondering whether we could do some kind of small collective document or zine, I decided that, yes, I do want to do a little zine about how we are handling covid19.

I haven’t made a zine in a little while, and this is a pretty big issue that has lots of us worried and in our feelings. In my experience, writing and co-creating something can help us alchemize those big and overwhelming feelings into something that feels possible, into paths forward.

I love the comic about how we are basically houseplants with complicated feelings, and it got me thinking about how isolation means we need to be succulents, able to survive and thrive in conditions of scarcity and intensity, and how fear also turns out lives into deserts, and how precarity does the same.

So I thought we could use that metaphor, and make a little zine about what gets us through, and how we get each other through.

What are our skills of survival?

What are our strategies of mutual aid and collective action and care?

How are we keeping ourselves going, and what can we teach each other?

Many of us are in communities with generations-long histories of succulent lives in deserts of ableism, transantagonism, queerphobia, colonialism, white supremacy. Oppressed and targeted communities know the way forward.

If you’d like to write something about how you’re feeling about the news, the health guidelines, the government response, your own experiences of isolation as a result of disability or illness that were not accommodated and how this has given you insider insight into what gets you through… let me know!

I won’t be hosting an in-person narrative conversation about this (because social distancing is what we’re supposed to do!) but I was thinking that maybe we could host an online narrative chat about it, and turn that into part of this collective document.

Let me know if you would be interested in that, too.

Send your submissions to sostarselfcare@gmail.com. Please send your submissions by April 10, 2020.

Despite the hostile ground: collective project

Despite the hostile ground: collective project

This new project, which will become a zine or a collective document of some sort, is inspired by a community member who wanted to create a “map” of all the women and non-binary folks who have managed to live a life they want despite not having family support, and despite dealing with the fear and uncertainty that can come with acute illness and chronic pain.

This project reflects our collaborative desire to make this “map” possible – to bring together stories that will show some of the many ways forward through the compounded hardships of unsupportive family and what we might call “body problems” – illness and pain, but also the problems that can be invited into someone’s life by having a body that is deemed unacceptable in our ableist, fatphobic, transantagonistic, white supremacist culture.

We are looking at these factors together because there is often an expectation of family support in many of our cultures. When we fall on hard times, we are often advised turn to family. When we get sick, family is often expected to be there for us. Although we recognize that family is not always there, there’s still this dominant narrative that they will be, or at least that they should be. And when they aren’t, it can leave us feeling isolated, vulnerable, questioning our own value and our place in the world. Experiences of rejection, dismissal, or an absence of support can stay with us for a long time.

We are looking for stories from trans and cis women, non-binary folks, intersex folks, and trans men who have experienced an unsupportive family of origin paired with body problems, and who have continued to live a badass life despite these compounding factors.

(Although cis men also experience these compounding factors, and their experiences are valid and worth listening to, in this project we are also interested in the particular ways in which misogyny and sexism, which are experienced by anyone who is not a cis man, intersect with these experiences. If you are a cis man and want to share your story of experiencing these compounding hardships of unsupportive family and body problems, please reach out to me – I am happy to create a supplementary zine, or a section within this project! But the initial project is focused on non-men because this is an important part of the original context.)

These stories will be collected and turned into a small zine or collective document, and we hope that this resource will offer some hope for folks in this position, including the community member who inspired this project!

When we then also experience body problems, particularly body problems that impact our ability to find employment, to engage in cherished hobbies or activities, or to access social spaces and support, the lack of family support can become even more difficult to deal with. This is particularly true in contexts where the social support net is being eroded – where welfare, assisted living, disability pensions, income support, housing support, and other supports are difficult to access or not adequate to support our lives.

And yet, we know that people get through these hardships.

We know that there are disabled folks with no family support who are living rich and precious lives.

We know that there are so many people who have experienced these hardships and gone on to be successful on their own terms.

We want to collect those stories.

We want to pull those threads of hope together, and weave a safety net of stories for people who don’t yet see the way through to a life that feels possible.


You are welcome to write whatever feels right for you, and we welcome poetry, essays, art, creative non-fiction, or whatever format works for you. The length of the piece can be flexible, but ideally not more than 750-ish words.

If you would like help with the writing, get in touch with me and we can arrange an interview and I can help write up your story.

We hope to make this project available in early 2020, so please send in your contributions by mid-December.

If you would like some prompts to guide your writing, consider:

  • What does your culture tell you about how families should treat each other?
  • What had you hoped to receive in terms of support from your family?
  • What do you think that families should offer to each other?
  • What does this say about what you value in family relationships? (Care, support, being there for each other, etc.)
  • How did you learn to value this, and how have you held onto this value despite hard times?
  • Is there anyone in your life, past or present, who knows that you value this kind of supportive relationship?
  • Have you been able to find this kind of support in other relationships?
  • What have you held onto as you get through the times of feeling unsupported by family?
  • How have you navigated the body problems that have been present in your life?
  • Is there anyone in your life who has supported you in getting through these body problems?
  • What do you cherish about your life now?
  • What has made it possible for you to get to a life that you want to live?
  • Is there anything that you would want other people who are dealing with unsupportive families and body problems to know?