did I tell you guys about that thing I had?

So, I had a thing for awhile. And I didn’t know I had it for…well, awhile. And then when I figured it out, I dealt with it for another year-ish, realizing to some extent that it’s never going to entirely go away.

Kids, I had postpartum depression and anxiety.

It was…horrible. Like really horrible. Hor-ree-bleh. Once I got my diagnosis, I didn’t exactly hide what was going on. I gave it a name. I told other people the name. But I didn’t really talk to a ton of people about what it was like. What it felt like. What it made my brain do.

Now I feel like it’s time.

See, I’m pregnant again. (first: YAY! but also…well, keep reading). I’m at risk of the horrible thing happening. Again. In fact, it’s starting to creep up on me already.

Two weeks ago, I was driving home after work, listening to It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders. They end every podcast with people who call in to share the best part of their week. I typically enjoy this segment but this time I rolled my eyes. I had not had the best week. The morning sickness had been coming at all hours of the day. I had to run out of meetings at work to go retch in the bathroom. Even the mere notion of certain foods made me gag. As the cheery parade of voices bubbled through my car speakers, I thought to myself, “the best part of my week was eating dry toast without throwing up.” And then immediately after that, I heard a voice in my brain say, “you stupid bitch, you can’t even handle the first trimester. You’re going to royally fuck up everything once THIS kid gets here.” I gasped and locked my hands on the steering wheel. I recognized that voice. I had heard it before. That’s what my PPD was: the darkest things I didn’t know I could think of myself automatically pouring from my brain.

Two weeks ago, I went to brunch with a really good friend at a place that was small and sweet and a little bougie. It was great. We started talking kiddos and she asked if I felt ready to have two. It wasn’t a real question – it was one of those cute topic transitions: “So…are you ready to have two??” Wink, smile, wink.

I smiled and said “Yes, I definitely think so.” At the same time, my brain said “The fuck you are.” My smile froze.“Run,” said my brain and snapped by body into fight-or-flight mode. As my friend, with all the best intentions in the world, talked about her experiences with two and recommendations about preschool and day care, the blood drained out of my brain and drummed in my chest. “Run.” My wrists started to turn numb. “Run.” I pretended to look at my decaf coffee while whatever rational part of my brain was left tried desperately to turn the voice off. The ensuing brain battle was making my eyes burn with tears.

The tears helped, I think, though they just brimmed in my eyeballs instead of falling. I was able to breathe again. I was able to enjoy my friend’s company and some delicious ratatouille toast. But I haven’t been able to shake the knowledge that the darkness is lurking in my brain, waiting for a chance.

I need to take some proactive measures here.

So I’m going to write. I’m going to write about what it was like then. And what it’s like now. It’s going to suck. I’m going to hate it. But hopefully I’ll find some trends or signs I can watch out for. Or maybe it will just help me feel better in some small way. I already know writing can do that for me.

Buckle up, folks, it’s gonna get awkward.

 

imposter syndrome: whiplash

I had some sci-fi microfiction published!! WHEE! Check it out! Thank you to Alex Massey and Story Seed Vault! A second story will be forthcoming! ALL THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!

140

Ok, that was the high I was riding last night. Today, I am in fear of the 150+ comments on the short story I submitted to my writing workshop. It is truly the very first short story I have ever finished. I have Disneyland fanfic that I started EIGHT YEARS AGO which is sitting on a back burner. On a very low simmer. Think like the “warm” setting on a Crock-Pot. And it’s going to stay there. Maybe forever. (Oh God, did I just admit to having Disneyland fanfic???)

Back to the short story that I did finish. I like it a lot but also, I hate it fiercely. I like it because it’s aspirational. It’s a fairy tale re-telling. And I love those. It’s what I WISH I could write. It’s what I wish could BE. But mostly, I just think it sucks. Because it’s not actually me. It feels like singing. I suck at singing. It feels like I’m singing at a concert to my favorite song, but someone hears me over the band and says “oh, what’s THAT noise?” and then I turn red and want to die a little bit. That’s what this story feels like.

I have another story (NOT DISNEYLAND FANFIC, JUST SHUT UP ABOUT THAT, OKAY?) that really does feel like me but I wasn’t able to finish it before the due date. In the last draft, it took a REAL dark turn. Not like horror spec fic dark but like the capacity-for-malice-and-cruelty-that-lurks-in-every-human-heart dark. And it kind of knocked me out and I needed to step away.

So yeah, I’m going to read these comments eventually. But right now, I’m just going to hide. Maybe in a cave. Or a hole. Send cookies.

imposter syndrome: the impostering

Welp. Another day, another rejection. But there may be some light at the end of the tunnel here…

I signed up for a writing workshop! Led by Alyssa Wong! I’m really excited! Exclamation point!

I’m actually completely terrified. After this last rejection, I’m starting to wonder if there is any point in trying to get better at something for which I seem not to have any innate ability.

Ok, I know I’m a decent writer. Just let me sit here in my sadness and be sad. Just for a MINUTE.

Rejection Pile 1: “Caravan Migration”

This was my entry into the Escape Pod Flash Fiction 2018 contest. I wrote it specifically for the contest with its 500 word count limit. Since it was rejected, I still hold the rights.  However, it is posted on the Escape Pod forums and that’s enough to disqualify it as an original work for other publications, so I can’t really do anything new with this story. So here it is.

Disclaimer: I know the title is cheeky. I know the transitions are rough.

Beep-beep-beep. “ATENCIÓN. Brecha en el sector 5. Las muestras 28-2 y 28-7.” The waystation warning system sent adrenaline rushing through Sofie. The specimens in Group 28 emerged early; this would be her first capture. She squinted, searching for signs of 28-2 and 28-7. She saw a flash of orange and drew her snare from its holster–they had taken flight. The two monarch butterflies hovered just out of reach. Sofie gingerly stretched out her net but lost her balance and fell. Laughter rang out from a crowd of braceros watching nearby. She huffed and pushed herself back to her feet. The insects hadn’t moved. Embarrassed, she stuck out her arm, flicked her wrist and caught them. The crowd cheered.

Sofie started working at the Phoenix Waystation when Group 28 had been caterpillars. Now they were in chrysalids, basking in the sunlight from the open roof. The Great Famine had devastated agricultural hubs like Sofie’s hometown of Delicia, killing tens of thousands of people along with all North American bee populations. When the U.S. and Mexican governments revived a century-old guest worker initiative, Sofie jumped at the chance. She laughed aloud in orientation when she learned that the bracero program was designed to support monarchs, the last major pollinator in the hemisphere, in their migration to Michoacan. She had left behind everything she knew and crossed the border to help a bunch of bugs cross back.

Another beep-beep-beep. “ATENCIÓN. Una tormenta de polvo se acerca. El techo está cerrando.” Lights flashed as the automated roof began to close. Sofie frowned. This was the third storm in two days and the winds were increasingly brutal. Suddenly, someone cried out; the ceiling over Sector 5 was not moving. The braceros raced to the controls to see what was wrong. Sofie started to follow but the sound of scraping metal from above stopped her. One of the aluminum joists had snapped. Sofie looked around frantically and her eyes landed on 28-2 and 28-7. She thought of the others in their chrysalids preparing to fly to Michoacan. She thought of her parents, of Delicia. Bracing herself, Sofie ran up the emergency stairs to the waystation catwalk. She stood on her tiptoes and pulled herself onto the lowest ceiling beam. At that moment, the storm engulfed her with wailing gusts of dirt. Dangling not unlike a caterpillar, she crawled from beam to beam until she reached the broken joist. She stretched out her hand but missed. She grasped blindly for her net. Clutching it in her hand, she reached once more. The net caught hold and she heaved. The roar of the storm was silenced as the roof slid shut, only to be replaced seconds later by a chorus of gritos rocketing from the braceros below. Trembling, Sofie allowed herself a smile.

A week later, all butterfly groups in the Phoenix Waystation had emerged. Sofie watched wistfully as a cloud of black and orange wings drifted through the open roof, fellow migrants beginning their journey home.

Escape Pod Flash Fiction 2018

So I entered the Escape Pod Flash Fiction contest for this year and I am proud to say…

I DID NOT COME IN LAST!

Second to last in my group. *wink*

I’m taking it. There was a word cap at 500(!) which is SO hard, especially when I don’t really know what I’m doing. Plus I wrote my entry after getting a rejection letter that a different story I wrote was too “static,” and I might have let that get in my head. Plus I gave it a cheeky title: “Caravan Migration.” Plus it wasn’t about space because I don’t know anything space and a LOT of the other entries were about space.

YAY NOT LAST!

imposter syndrome: infinity war

Other people’s success is not my failure.

Other people’s success is not my failure.

Other people’s success is not my failure.

As I continue to field rejections for my short story submissions, I am hiding from Facebook at all costs. Why, you may ask? Well, the Facebook newsfeed algorithms are a funny thing. I can go for months only seeing posts from the same 20 people out of the over 200 with whom I am Facebook friends. But see, Facebook starts to pick up on things I’m doing in my life. Like when I was pregnant and it decided I wanted to read all the stories about miscarriages and women dying after giving birth. Now, it’s picking up that I’m writing more. So while I’m struggling to figure out what the hell it is I’m actually doing, Facebook decides to show me that a distant-ish colleague, who is my age and in my same field (not related to speculative fiction whatsoever), has published a sci-fi book. The first in a series, actually. Which is AMAZING. It’s incredible. But it makes me feel like an idiot.

So I’m trying to tell myself over and over again that other people’s success is not my failure.

I’ve always been the type of person who needs to have my own “thing.” If someone else is doing something, I take that to mean there is no room for me. My sister is the singer so I decided at the ripe old age of 8 that music wasn’t going to be my “thing.” In fifth grade, my class was tie-dying t-shirts for science camp. The teacher gave us instructions on how to tie them with rubber bands to make a cool design, and I realized everyone’s t-shirt was going to look the same “thing.” So I started making up ways to twist and tie the rubber bands so my shirt would look different. As a teenager, I ignored the Harry Potter books for several years because they were the “thing” everyone else was reading, so naturally, I couldn’t. And now, that same annoying part of my brain is trying to tell me that if someone else my age and in my current field is writing spec fic, then I shouldn’t. That part of my brain is trying really hard to tell me that I need to go find a new “thing.” But here’s the kicker this time, my dudes: I don’t want to.

Because other people’s success is not my failure. Right?

Now my brain is in an epic battle royale between the part that is saying “this thing has been done, go find a new thing” and “you have something to offer here, don’t give up.”

WHO WILL PREVAIL??

(It would really, really help if someone would throw me a damn bone and publish a story. Kthxbye)

 

dear amy schumer. on a slightly bigger stage.

I entered the City of Tempe Community Writing Contest and came in second in the Adult Non-Fiction category. I submitted a less frenzied version of a piece about my dad which I wrote a couple of years back.

Here it is, for your reading pleasure. FYI, if you are new here, this is kind of a doozy.

Also, I did not spell Amy Schumer incorrectly. Someone else did. After I proofed the final version for publication. Because I can’t have nice things.

Tempe Community Writing Contest 2018

this is such a copout

The Daily Prompt today is “rush” and so naturally, all I can think of is Paula Abdul. I don’t even know the words to this song. I just know the “rush, rush” part. And I’m not writing anything real for you today because I have a tension headache and my stomach hurts and NO ONE BROUGHT ME ANY DONUTS. I mean, that’s basically most days but I particularly wanted one today.

 

Rush

via Daily Prompt: Rush

representation matters

When the Disney/Pixar movie Coco won Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards, co-director Lee Unkrich wrapped up his part of the acceptance speech with the following statement:

“With Coco, we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do. Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.”

I’ve always believed that representation matters. I cheered when Rey picked up the lightsaber in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I love Jane the Virgin and its focus on Latinx themes. But my enthusiasm has always been a feeling of collective support and inclusion. I didn’t know it could really be a truly personal feeling until I saw Coco. That was the first time that I saw myself in art, and not something like me. I saw ME.

I’ve had to learn to code switch my whole life, before I knew there was a term for it, and even thought I’m not fluent in Spanish. My code is cultural. I’m relatively fair-skinned: half white and half Latina. At home, I learned to count to 100 in Spanish before I went into kindergarten. My nana, my maternal grandmother, was everyone’s boss. All of my cousins, the grandkids, were “mija” and “mijo” to every adult. Every Christmas movie that showed people eating turkey, not tamales, confused me until I was about ten years old. In fact, I convinced myself one year that Kevin McCallister had traveled back in time to Thanksgiving when he watches a family eat a turkey dinner in Home Alone. That was the only way I could make sense of what they were doing. I mean, that movie stretches the bounds of physical reality anyway (hi, an iron in the face is a serious injury) so time travel didn’t seem like that much of a stretch. And I have always loved mariachi music. My tata (what my family calls my grandfather) played guitar in a mariachi band. He used to make mixed tapes for my mom, my sister, and me. But when my friends at school would ask my what my favorite song was, I would never answer “Cielito Lindo” or “Zacundito Loco.” After learning that Kevin McCallister did not, in fact, time travel, I realized that some of the things my family did and liked were not the same as my friends’ families.

(Side note: if anyone can find me a mariachi version of “Zacundito Loco,” YOU WILL BE MY NEW BEST FRIEND. I can only find cumbia version now and it’s just not the same.)

My code has also been pop cultural, too, with a huge emphasis on Disney. My family wore out Disney soundtracks in the tape deck of our pick-up truck. We went to Disneyland at least once a year for over a decade. Half of my tattoos are Disney-themed. Obscure quotes from Disney movies are regular catchphrases for us to this day, like Flounder in The Little Mermaid saying “this is this and that is that,” and Pinocchio when he says “ok, Lampie.”

I’ve roped my husband into the Disney life, too. We broke the news that that I was pregnant with pictures of me making sad puppy faces and standing in front of Disneyland rides, pointing at safety disclaimers that said “expectant mothers should not ride.” You can mock me, but I have loved being in the audience for Disney over the years.

It may surprise you to learn that I only watched Coco about a month ago. It was the day before my birthday. My mom, my sister, and I made plans to watch it at my house. We had tried to get to the theater to see it together but between work, my new baby, and various caregiving schedules, it didn’t work out. We braced ourselves for an emotional experience: 1.) hello, it’s Pixar and 2.) one of the central ideas of the story is “remember me” and we’re all still trying to figure out how to function without my nana, who passed away a year and a half ago. So I was ready for the waterworks to hit at some point at the 60-70 minute mark of the movie. I didn’t expect them to start with the introductory logo. I was facing away from the TV holding my son, figuring I had another minute before the movie started, when I heard a peal of violins and a bouncing guitar. I looked over and saw the screen panning over the Disney castle paired with “When You Wish Upon a Star,” arranged as a mariachi song. And I lost it.

My codes had come together: two things that have meant so much to me for my entire life were existing in the same place and time, in an inescapable place and time. You can’t ignore the opening logo. It’s iconic. It’s in front of every movie. It’s the seal of Disney approval. And now it sounded like it was for me. The guitars, the violins, and the trumpets were playing a song everyone knows in a style that is an indelible part of my identity. I didn’t feel like just one more body in the vast Disney audience at that moment. In those thirty seconds, I felt like this thing, this Disney thing I have loved for so long finally said back to me “we see you, too.” It was a beautiful opening for a movie that was full of animated characters that looked and sounded like my family. Yes, Mr. Unkrich, representation does matter. It especially matters for children but it can still have wonderful and unexpected meaning for adults, too.