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?
I didn’t think it would be like this: a zine about politics

I didn’t think it would be like this: a zine about politics

The other day I responded to a post about politics and said:

I feel like the last couple years have really pushed me away from the faith I had in electoral politics, and there are times when I feel so much grief for losing that thread of hope. Most of the time I am thankful, because letting go of that opens up space to do other things and to imagine other ways of making change, but sometimes it does feel like a loss, and it is a feeling of grief.

Hmm.

Maybe there needs to be a little collective narrative projects for newly disillusioned folks to talk about this grief, which really doesn’t have a lot of space for expression.

Well, here is that little collective narrative project!

Over the next few weeks (until November 8), I’ll be collecting stories about our feelings about politics in 2019.

Submit your piece of poetry, art, or non-fiction by emailing me at sostarselfcare@gmail.com. Submissions will ideally not be more than 1000 words, but, as with all of these projects, I’m flexible.

If you are struggling with how to express your feelings or what to write, there are a few options. You can get in touch with me and we can have a chat that will hopefully help you clarify what you want to express, or you can use the following narrative questions to guide your writing:

  • When you think about the current state of electoral politics, what are the feelings that are evoked?
  • Are these feelings the same, similar, or not at all similar to feelings that you used to have about electoral politics?
  • If your feelings have changed, do you remember a specific experience or story that contributed to this change?
  • What do you miss about your earlier feelings, if there has been a change?
  • Do you have a sense of grief or disillusionment?
  • What are you grieving?
  • What feels like it is lost or more distant?
  • Do you have a sense of what you wish or hope that electoral politics could be like?
  • What does this hope say about what you value?
  • Where does this hope come from – are there particular political histories or thinkers who have inspired and nurtured this hope?
  • What do you hold onto when difficult feelings about politics arise for you? What, or who, keeps you going?
  • What are the actions that you are taking in your life that align with your hopes and values?
  • Have you ever had a moment of realizing the elected officials or the institutions of power were not responding in alignment with your values, and taking some kind of action? This action may be as small as reaching out to an LGBTQIA2+ friend when legislation threatens our safety, or it may be something like reading the 291 Calls to Justice in the MMIWG Final Report, or getting involved in community organizing and protests. People are never passive recipients of harm and trauma, and I would like to include stories of response in this zine!

My hope is that, regardless of the outcome of the Canadian federal election that is happening today, this zine will bring together stories of how we are continuing to do work in our communities, how we are continuing to hold onto our values despite our feelings of disillusionment and grief over the state of politics. I hope that it will bring our voices together, and give us a sense of how we can move forward together, organizing together, supporting each other, doing the work of responding to the problems in our lives regardless of the politicians who hold so much power (and the corporations who hold even more).

I’m looking forward to your contribution!

(Although this zine is inspired by the Canadian federal election, contributions are welcome from anyone. These feelings about politics span so many spaces.)

A Small Toolkit for Taking Care

A Small Toolkit for Taking Care

The Small Self-Care Toolkit was my first effort at creating a zine, and today, years later, I finished a significant update to the content and also renamed it.

So, here you go – the 28-page Small Toolkit for Taking Care (now with a stronger focus on the role of community and relationship in our actions of care).

What are actions of care?

I used to write a lot about self-care, and I defined self-care as any choice you make that honours your needs. I talked about sustainable self-care as the result of consistently bringing awareness, compassion, and intention to your choices.

I don’t really talk about self-care as much anymore, because I think that community care, collaboration, and connection are so critical to challenging the kind of individualism that places all of the responsibility for our well-being on us as individuals, and can end up being victim-blaming and hurtful.

I still think that honouring our needs is important. And I still think that it’s easier to make these actions sustainable when we bring awareness, compassion, and intention to our choices. But now I think that it is important to name and recognize how these actions of care happen within social contexts, and how we are not just looking after ourselves when we take these actions – we are also looking after our communities. And how we can also care for ourselves by caring for each other.

Download the free 28-page PDF here.

And if you appreciate these resources, consider backing my Patreon!