Quick Check-In

Just a short post this week, since I’m fighting a nasty cold/flu-type-thing. But on the bright side, I’ve had a few headache-free days this week, thanks either to the nerve block I got, or stopping my other meds. (Whichever it is, I’m just glad to have a few days without pain!)

I’ve been hard at work on yet another round of revisions on my YA Contemporary, including one tricky little scene that is just refusing to come together for me (I think my crit partners have pointed me in the right direction now).

Still busy on edits on my MG Fantasy, as well as critiquing my partners’ work in turn.

And on top of that, I’m plotting away at a new YA Contemporary, inspired in part by last week’s #MeToo post, which I hope to write for NaNo instead of the Fairy Tale re-telling I had originally planned (just not sure the world needs another Cinderella story at the moment, although it may still come one day.)

Well, that’s how I’m keeping busy, what are you up to? Let me know in the comments.

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#MeToo

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault & Harassment 

The MeToo movement has been around for ten years, started by a black woman named Tarana Burke (more info can be found here), but I didn’t hear about it until this week when Alyssa Milano wrote on social media, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

Within a day, those words echoed throughout my timeline, in a way that was somehow simultaneously horrifying, traumatizing, and comforting. Horrifying: to know that so many others had suffered the same way I had. Traumatizing: as many of their stories made me re-live my own experiences. Comforting: to know it wasn’t something I did, some inherent failure in my person that caused these things to happen to me.

So here, if you can stomach it, is my list of some of the worst times I’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted. (I know many women have had worse experiences than these, I feel like mine are kind of “average,” which in a way makes this even grosser.) I’ve never had the nerve to report any of them, except the first incident, which quickly taught me how rigged the system is against the victim.:

  • Age 10 or 11 : boys at school started a butt-pinching & pu**y-grabbing game called “squeaking.” (You can read that whole story here)
  • Age 12: multiple incidents of walking to the corner store or grocery stroe alone and being cat-called or honked at, often by men older than my father.
  • Age 14: was followed home and groped by a 12-year-old kid I’d gone to elementary school with. I tried to physically fight him off, but he was stronger than me. I only got away when I announced his full name loudly and told him I was going home to call the cops on him.
  • Age 15: the 17-year-old playing my boyfriend in our community theatre insisted on “realism” by groping me during every performance (there was a part where I got to hit him in the play, and I regularly put my all into it). Same production, at the opening night party the musical director cornered me and told me I was so beautiful he was missing his cues, he spent all his time staring at me.
  • Age 16: creepy old doctor insists I take my shirt off so he can use his stethoscope “properly.” I’m there for a busted ankle.
  • Age 17: a teacher (I wasn’t in any of his classes, thankfully) started flirting with me/hitting on me so hard, I was scared to go to the caf on the weeks he was on lunch duty.
  • Age 18: a boy on  my co-ed softball league knocked me down (accidentally-ish) hard enough to knock me out and cause my first concussion. He then told everyone he “took me out” and I “went down” for him.
  • Also age 18: I worked in a donut shop at the intersection of two highways. It was well known that the place was always staffed at night by a lone teenage girl. Guys would come and sit for hours in the shop, hitting on me, staring at me. I was terrified one day one of them would go farther. On the worst nights, I’d call friends and family to come and sit in the shop during my shift, and bribe them with free donuts. When they came, the guy(s) would leave immediately. I stopped taking evening shifts.
  • Age 19: A friend’s dad got drunk at a wedding and grabbed me and kissed me.
  • Also Age 19: a manager at my job who was always making lewd remarks called me and another girl in to the office to show off his birthday cake. It was an erotic cake.
  • Also also age 19: went to Montreal with my English-only-speaking grandmother. Taxi drivers would hit on me in French, say lewd things. To this day, I don’t take taxis unless there’s no other way/other people in the car.
  • Age 20: I invited a date over to watch a movie. We started kissing. He pinned me down and wouldn’t stop. I finally got him to stop, but then he wouldn’t leave my house. I locked myself in my room with a chair under my doorknob and didn’t sleep. The next day he walked me to work (where we both worked) and implied to everyone we’d slept together.
  • Age 21: I got sent across the country to help train new store staff, with a manager and a male co-worker. We stayed at a B&B. The manager spent the whole week pressuring me for sex (“It’s just sex. Loosen up.”), even in front of my co-worker. I quit shortly after we got back to our town.

There are more that I can’t even bring myself to write. And others I’m not sure are worth the energy (the dozens of times complete strangers have rubbed themselves against me in bars/clubs/buses, for example. Or the (again) complete strangers that start by striking up a “friendly” conversation, that turns into a compliments session, that turns into angry name-calling if you won’t give out your phone number/agree to a date.)

I don’t have any good solutions, except that maybe if people start to realize how pervasive the problem is, we as a society can start to effect a change (but also, if you can’t bring yourself to post #MeToo because of the trauma involved, that’s cool too. Everyone needs to do what’s best for their own health).

For my part, I’ve already started teaching my kids (male and female) about consent and respecting boundaries so we have a basis for future lessons. My greatest wish is that my kids never have a #MeToo status to post.

The Green Eyed Monster Rears Its Head

The past few weeks, my timeline has been filled with good news from friends and writing idols: book sales, book launches, awards, movie deals, interviews, and celebrity encounters, among other things. It feels like everyone I know (and lots of people I don’t know) have exciting book news to announce. And I’m super happy for their successes. I’m glad they’re getting the attention they (and their books) deserve.

But…

Deep down inside there’s this little tiny part that wonders, When will it be my turn? and What if I’m just not as good as them?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by those kinds of doubts. To let Imposter Syndrome convince you you’re the last person who should be writing. I think it’s part of the reason that, while my MG revisions have been slow, my YA draft is non-existent. (“I just need to plot some more,” I say everyday, even though I’ve already filled one whole notebook.)

(Of course another reason is probably the unending headaches – it’s hard to concentrate enough to draft when your head feels like it’s being crushed – but it’s more than just the pain stopping me.)

So what can I do about it? Well, pretty much I just need to snap out of my funk. Suck it up and get over myself. Other people’s victories don’t take anything away from me – if anything they open up more opportunities for the future.

Instead of focussing on all the things outside of my own control, I need to concentrate on things I can control: like writing the next book.

What about you? Have you faced down the green-eyed monster? Have any tricks for beating it you’d like to share? Put them in the comments.

The Storm

So, it looks like I may have ticked off more than just the head injury gods last week (How? I don’t even know).

The last few weeks in Ottawa have been unseasonably warm – hotter than the summer. All that changed on Wednesday as a cold front rolled in at the end of the school day. Standing there with the other parents waiting to pick up kids, I watched the dark clouds whipping in and we took bets whether we’d make it home dry. Occasional gusts of warm wind made me wonder if my flimsy mid-thigh-length skirt had been the best choice of clothing (spoiler alert: it was not).

When the bell rang, and the kids ran out, the sky was still was still blue enough that some parents hung around to play on the playground. I ran inside to check with my concussed kid’s teacher about the next day’s planned activity day (they told me to keep him home). As I got back outside, a few raindrops fell lazily from the sky.

The kids and I hurried toward home, less than ten minutes away. By the time we reached the sidewalk, the rain was heavy enough to need the umbrellas I’d brought, just in case.

A gust of wind hit my umbrella and tried to flip it inside out. I shouted for the kids to cross to the side street – a route that’s slightly longer, but more sheltered from the wind. We caught up to another family, who hadn’t brought umbrellas, and my daughter matched pace with them, determined to share her own umbrella, leaving the boys and me in her wake.

Thunder boomed overhead.

About a minute later, at the bend in the road, the wind swirled around us so fiercely it picked up my skirt in one motion, turning it completely inside out, and plastering to my abdomen like a second shirt. If anyone could have seen out their windows, they would have got a good look at me in my underwear.

I didn’t even try to push it down, but just pressed on.

The boys were having trouble walking against the wind. They were still struggling with their umbrellas – now completely inside out – and I screamed at them to put them down and run. I couldn’t see my daughter anywhere.

The world around us looked like footage from a hurricane. Solid walls of water, moving sideways, trees leaning, barely any visibility beyond a few feet. There are no sidewalks on the road, and I was terrified a car was going to come out of nowhere and hit us.

Within ten seconds of putting down my umbrella I was drenched. I didn’t have to worry about my skirt flying up, it was far too sodden to go anywhere. My running shoes were filled with puddles. I urged the boys forward, but the concussed boy (Boy #2) fought my demands to hurry, since he was under doctor’s orders not to run.

We hit the edge of the road, a straight run on sidewalks to our house, and I screamed for Boy #1 to run home as fast as he could. I grabbed the hand of Boy #2 and ran with him at a slow jog – worried for both our heads – but by now the rain was already easing up. My feet sloshed with every step.

As I turned the corner to our house, visibility had returned enough to see the streets were filled with bits of trees. The Girl ran up to me in a panic. “Mama, look!” she pointed into our side yard.

Had we just walked home in a tornado?

But no. At least not according to the news. It was a “micro burst.”

Inside, we discovered we had no power – but the power company’s message assured us it would be back on within two hours. I called my husband to ask him to pick up food, and checked in on others.

Sirens filled the air outside, along with the smell of smoke. We locked ourselves in, windows closed, and waited.

The power didn’t come back for almost 24 hours. We went for a walk that night to see the damage and were astounded: tree and power lines down, eavestrough ripped right off houses, and a house that caught on fire (from a tree knocking a live power line onto the roof). Plus, I’m told a child from my kids’ school was hit by a falling tree. It’s almost a week later and (at the time of writing this) the wooded area near my house is still closed due to the amount of damage from the storm.

The storm lasted less than ten minutes.

It seems almost unreal how much damage was done in such a short amount of time. How lucky we were not to get hurt (a large tree came down on the faster route home, so it was a very good thing I chose the more sheltered, if longer, route), or have more damage to our own property.

And it also made me think about Puerto Rico, and how much worse it is there. How much longer and stronger their storm was. How hard it was to feed my family with no power for 24 hours, when some of the stores around me still had power – and what it would be like to be without it, potentially for months… Not to mention the added luck we had, that the storm brought cool weather with it, so we didn’t have to struggle in the heat without electricity to help keep us cool.

We were lucky, but the people of Puerto Rico weren’t, and now they need help. Some fabulous kidlit people have got together to raise money via an auction that ends tonight (Thursday October 5th at 10pm), so if you want to help out and maybe score some cool kidlit prizes, check it out here.

In the meantime, maybe start thinking about some small changes you can make to affect your environmental footprint. If we all do a little bit, maybe we can slow down climate change before these storms become everyday occurrences.