July 12, 2022

Blogging “My Ántonia”

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:21 pm by chavisory

Hi all! I don’t have a clue how many people may be interested, but just in case, I am going to be blogging my reread of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia over on my Tumblr (where I tend to keep more of the photography, random thoughts, and early drafts of things than I put here).

My Ántonia is a book I read far too young to really appreciate it, and though I have a sense of having liked it, I truly remember almost nothing about it. My curiosity was rekindled when I ran across this essay, and when the local high school that hosts my polling location was having a library book giveaway this past election, I snagged a copy of an old Cather anthology (as well as a replacement for the copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe I lost in college when the neighbor I’d lent it to dropped out three weeks into our freshman year and took it with her).

Not promising any particularly deep or organized analysis (though you never know!) or even necessarily a schedule) as opposed to thoughts and observations as they occur. Relevant posts will be tagged “my antonia.”

December 28, 2021

No such thing as “out of time”

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:57 pm by chavisory

One of the most personally important, life-changing, and freeing things I’ve been learning to internalize lately, as a writer or when I’m making art just for myself, is that you can just do things over again.

And maybe that sounds really obvious, but I think a lot of common experiences with schooling actually make this a difficult thing to learn. Homework is always due the next day, projects and papers within a pretty limited time frame; you have to get things right the first time or you will not finish at all, or you just have so much work spread between different classes that you never really have time to rework something to your satisfaction, even if it’s something you enjoy and care about, rather than just to get it done on time.

It’s like specifically being taught that you’re not supposed to need to practice. You’re not supposed to need more than a night’s processing time for any given skill or concept. Even as we’re told that the whole point of homework is for practice, we’re not really supposed to need more than one try at it.

And working in production, while the time pressure is part of what makes it exciting…this thing that people are buying tickets for? It doesn’t actually exist yet! It will in three weeks, though, we promise! …it also means that large amounts of money are at stake if initial design or technical decisions turn out not to work the way they need to and have to be revised.

But over the course of the pandemic, even though I did have some significant obligations, I also had more time than I think I ever have in my adult life when there was nothing really I had to do by a certain time, when there was no work I owed to anyone else for days and days on end. And only then did it start to truly hit me that things I’m doing essentially for myself, ostensibly because I enjoy them?

I can re-do them as many times as I want. I can take the time to make them as good as I can make them, and not just finished enough to satisfy a deadline or for the minimum grade I need to earn.

Not happy with how a poem came out? I can rewrite it. I can rewrite it as many times as it takes. And I don’t just mean edit or revise it. I mean start over from the beginning and write it again. It’s not due tomorrow. It’s not due ever. It’s not immutably screwed up forever because I approached it wrong the first time and now that’s just the way it is.

I did a visible mend on a pair of jeans recently and didn’t like how it turned out. So I took it out and did a different one.

I was reinforcing some fraying seams on my hoodie this week and didn’t like the job I did. I did a better job on the second arm. The next time I sit down to watch a movie, I’ll rip the stitching out of the first arm and do it again.

There are no rules. There are no time limits. The time you spent on the first try wasn’t wasted. That’s what it actually takes to get familiar with what you want and what you’re capable of.

September 7, 2021

Interview with author Elena Taylor!

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:44 am by chavisory

I was so happy to be able to do this interview recently with my old friend and favorite mystery author Elena Taylor for her own blog, along with my Sincerely, Your Autistic Child co-editors Sharon and Morénike and our contributor Lei Wiley-Mydske! We all talk a bit about disability acceptance, finding places we felt accepted in the world, and what inspired the chapters we wrote for the anthology.

And if you’re into mystery, Elena writes both the Eddie Shoes and Sheriff Bet Rivers series of mysteries! I very strongly recommend both. Back at the beginning of the pandemic, All We Buried kept me up many nights promising myself I would finish just one more chapter….

No, just one more chapter….

Really, just one more….

August 8, 2020

Mushrooms and minor updates

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 11:37 am by chavisory

IMG_1200I went hiking a little bit upstate last week and saw some beautiful bracket mushrooms. I climbed Sugarloaf Hill in the Hudson Highlands, and it was fascinating to see how much the ecosystem changed along the way even in a relatively small elevation gain. Further up this same trail was cactus.

Also I once again have a couple pieces in the newest issue of Fuckit: A Zine, the “Vote Motherfucker Vote” issue–one poem, one essay about hope in fundamentally unpredictable times, weird dreams, and Game of Thrones.

May 14, 2020

Elsewhere

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 9:52 am by chavisory

Hi all!

Just wanted to let people know if you’re interested that I have two pieces out in other places this week. First, in issue #2 of “Fuckit: A Zine,” a short musing on prayer and Call the Midwife. It’s available here.

And second, I have a new post, “Why Doesn’t Respect For Communication Diversity Include Non-Speaking Autistic People?” at the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, here!

I hope everyone is holding up okay and getting to enjoy spring at least a little bit!

 

October 13, 2016

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 2:01 am by chavisory

I know it’s been quiet around here lately.  It’s not an intentional silence or hopefully an overly long one.

I could make the expected excuses about being busy (true), or that I went from unemployed to very employed in a blink (true), or that I’m working intensely on finishing up another project (true).  Which are all true, but not the whole reasons.

One factor is that I actually have a great deal that I feel like I need to write, but most of which I probably can’t publish.  Not now and possibly not ever.  For either personal or other reasons.  But they still feel like important things to say, and to commit to paper, so I’m dedicating some time to doing that.

I halfway considered getting a secret blog for some of it (yes, I use a pseudonym here, but most of my social network knows that this is me, and a very minor amount of research using information I’ve provided would probably tell you who I am), but honestly I’m just not up for the work of maintaining yet another internet identity and ensuring that it remains secret.

I’ve gotten bad at splitting my identity up into pieces.

Not unrelatedly, I’ve found myself irritated with a lot of my own writing.  Simultaneously with how much I feel compelled to over-explain, and how much I feel like I have to leave out.  I’m working on both of those things, with trusting my voice and my words, and saying everything that actually needs saying, with less concern for a potential audience.

The result is writing that I’m happier with, and also less able to publish.

The third thing is that I’ve been feeling a little futile about blogging.  I know that’s not really true.  I know I’ve written valuable things.  A couple of which have been republished and are actually now getting me paid on a semi-regular basis.

But I look at what’s happening politically, and…too many of my posts from four to five years ago are just recyclable.  I look at what’s happening in the world, particularly with regards to police violence and Black Lives Matter, and I just don’t even know what I can say to people who really don’t believe it’s happening.  Or don’t see a problem.  I feel like I’ve been saying a lot of the same things for a long time, and not very much is different.

And maybe that’s self-important, to think that it should be.  But it seems time to go in a slightly different direction, and I’m not entirely sure what that is yet.

June 12, 2014

Who was I the last time I read “Native Speaker?”

Posted in City life, Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:05 pm by chavisory

I don’t re-read books very often, except for the handful that I read more or less constantly, just a few pages at a time before bed, infinitely.  The ones that I’ve re-read probably dozens of times apiece in the course of just opening them randomly to read three or four pages…while I have a midnight snack before bed, or wait for tea water to boil, or for my computer to finish processing a printing job.  Aside from those, I can probably count on one hand the number of books I’ve picked up again and re-read from beginning to end.  I don’t want to take the time, which sounds horrible.  But there are so many new things to read, and so many things I’ll never get to read for the first time as it is.

So a book that I choose to re-read has to be one that I both enjoyed that much, but also realize fairly desperately that I need to understand something about it more clearly that I probably didn’t the first time through.  Like that something about it rang an inexplicable bell, but through a murky fog.

Native Speaker was like that for me in college, when we first read it in Asian-American Literature class.  Having just read Chang-rae Lee’s latest novel, which is so different from this one in my memory, I was driven to take another look at what had attracted me so powerfully to his writing in the first place, in the story of a first-generation Korean-American professional spy.

I didn’t actually remember very much of the plot, still in the grip as I was of my memory of Lee’s fluid, lyrical grasp of the experience of being hamstrung by issues of language and culture.  But, unlike the protagonist of the novel, Henry Park, without any identifiable reason or claim as to why I had always felt like a foreigner, a non-native speaker—eternally and irreparably.  It was baffling.

It probably had fallen into a category of things I once held as “too perfect to let myself get too close to.”

Too close to me in some almost tangible way to risk letting myself know or love them deeply enough to eventually be betrayed or let down.

 

I’m an inveterate underliner and defacer of hard copies of books; it’s something I have to restrain myself from doing when I read library books, and one of the hardest things for me about reading on a Kindle, is the inability to mark pages and take notes by hand.  My copy of Native Speaker was already a several-times used book when I bought it, and there are incidental underlinings and bracketings from several semesters’ worth of Asian-American Literature students before me, in red, blue, and green—ink colors I’ve never used.  Notes so pedantic even I would never write them…more like the kinds of observations they felt like they were supposed to make, the facts they were anticipating being grilled on in a quiz, rather than actual personal thoughts or resonances about what the text meant to them.

Then there are just a few underlinings of passages, in black, in the kind of pen that I used religiously at the time, in what could be a younger, clumsier, slightly more pretentious version of my own handwriting.  Lines that obviously struck me acutely at the time, but I didn’t readily remember the lines themselves, or why; they didn’t form the backbone of my memory of what I loved about the book.

You don’t tempt fate; you ignore it completely.

Our office motto:  Cowardice is what you make of it.

I am the most prodigal and mundane of historians.

It comes flooding back, though.

There are few surprises to my refreshed memory of the book itself.  It is as gorgeous as I remembered on the subject of linguistic alienation.  (I kind of hate to say that I feel like it’s still Lee’s best book, but I do.)  I hadn’t remembered how it ended; I hadn’t had the experience yet for it to mean to me what it does now.  But more unexpected is this cumulative, accidental little self-portrait of 21-year-old me:  what I struggled with, what I was grasping at language for, what life felt like, what I knew clearly and just how much I didn’t know at all about myself.

(Reading a book set in New York City is also a vastly more rewarding experience when you live there than when you have little personal experience of the place.)

More and different passage of text hit me in the heart this time around.  I pick up a pen and start underlining again, this time noting the date in the margin.

In ten years I could be astonished to remember who I was now.

Stranger.  Follower.  Traitor.  Spy.

May 19, 2014

Miranda

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:28 am by chavisory

Is the Neapolitan night too quiet for her now,

Does she lie awake listening still
in vain for the melancholy thing’s watchful singing
in her cowslip bed

Watch her young husband’s slumber untroubled by memory
of ocean winds in the reeds,
squalls across the wild sand.

Will she ever be able to sleep not sensing
the gaze of a thousand feral and delicate voices.

Her feet are growing soft.
Her ladies dress her in the gray morning.
At breakfast she is learning
the weight of porcelain, silver,
brocade and whalebone, and ceremony.

Is the very silence of their desertion like freedom
to the spirit, she wonders, like peace?

Or does Ariel also not know
what to do with her own hands anymore?

***

(You ever suffer that experience when looking through old writing, when you cringe and go “I can’t believe I wrote that?”  I just had the opposite experience finding this.  I wrote it a few years ago.  I was working on a production of The Tempest at the time.  I found it while looking through old writing for various submissions, and loved it so much all over again I couldn’t believe I wrote it.)

June 8, 2012

Great minds thinking alike

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:16 am by chavisory

“You take all your interests and all your preoccupations and you kind of fill up a bucket.  And the stuff that runs off, over the top, is a song, or is a novel.”  -Josh Ritter

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.  The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”  -Ray Bradbury

Two men whose writing has meant the world to me.

Josh had just better plan on sticking around a while longer….

April 13, 2012

Survival Skills

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:24 am by chavisory

Keep a list
See what needs doing

Build a fire
Do my own taxes
Walk a long way

Stage manage a dance, a play
Read a map
Spring at a chance
Swim—well enough

Wait
Watch and learn
Listen hard
Endure
Make it up along the way

Write a poem, a letter, a research paper
Eat with chopsticks
Hold a grudge
Carry a torch
Carve a pumpkin

Type 80 words a minute
Fold a paper airplane
Love a broken thing
Travel by bus and train

Give first aid
Hide in plain sight
Take note
Pack light

Play “Blackbird” on the guitar
Brew coffee
Shelve books
Patch a shirt

Recite “The Fairy Reel”
Grow a window box of herbs
Cook comfort food
Wear out a pair of shoes

Draw
Use a scale rule
Rock a baby to sleep
Befriend a stray cat, a wary goose

Braid hair into pigtail buns
Knot a clover chain
Climb a magnolia tree
Look again

Read stage directions
Trust to intuition
Curse like a sailor
Name the phases of the moon
Find my own way home

Recognize edible wild things
Onions, wild carrots, crabapples, dandelion greens
And the calls of a mourning dove, robin, owl, chickadee

Keep warm
Sleep deeply
Kiss lightly
Dream little

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