Tag Archives: writing

Parents

27 Jun

I don’t write normal parents. Not that I write parental figures with seven limbs, or serial killer tendencies. I just don’t write “traditional,” functional relationships between parental figures.

Yeah, hi there Freud. I see you smirking over there in a corner.

The more I’ve written, the more I’ve come to notice about my abnormal parent figures. The fathers, for example – most of the time, they just don’t exist. My earliest stories, written in the big, round handwriting of an eight or nine year old, they just didn’t have father figures in them. The absence wasn’t a key component; it just was. Without explanation or ado. It was just the norm for my characters, something they didn’t think twice about.

Makes sense, seeing how for a very long stretch of my life, it was something I didn’t think twice about either. Business trips, golf trips, hunting trips, gambling trips, affair trips. My father’s presence was an anomaly, not a rule. I simply didn’t know how to write about present fathers. I had no material.

Mothers, however… Even before I hit puberty, they got a broader ranger of characterization. They were present, for one thing. Sometimes, they were caring. Or neutral, at the very least. NPC’s there for the main character to interact with, if not exactly salient actors in and of themselves. Other times, though…

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three pieces of writing with abusive mother figures in them. Around thirteen or so, I spent my nights angrily scratching out a story of a nineteenth-century, Sarah-the-little-princess-esque near-orphan girl whose central conflict was with a physically abusive mother. The narrative was basically F. H. Burnett’s novel boiled down to a purely familial relationship. The horrid school teacher became a sort of evil stepmother figure – minus the “step.”

Abusive mother figures have shown up again and again in my writing. Left alone to parent because of an inexplicably absent husband, they take out their anger of what life has dealt them on the children life has dealt them as well. They cause silence in their daughters. They cause their girls to withdraw and go insane. They yell. They hit. They degrade.

They are not my mother.

My mother has always been more of a passive victim, or inactive co-conspirator at worst, in my eyes. My worries around her have been of the protective sort. When it came to the battles between her and my father, my mother is always the one I have sided with. I have been frustrated with my mother, yes, but more for her inactivity. She has accepted my father’s maelstrom. She has not fought back. Even when I needed her to.

And yet she, in her many literary representations, is the one that I have made the abuser.

Perhaps it’s because in some way, I do hold her responsible. She didn’t stop my father. She taught me to shut up and keep quiet about it. She passed on a sense that I must just deal with whatever shit I’m served. That having someone and taking their blows, emotional or otherwise, is better than having no one.

Over the course of my childhood, I asked her again and again to do something about this father of mine. Tried to make it clear how it was hurting me. Hurting my younger sister. Hurting her.

Her response was largely to shove her head in the sand.

With the life experience and therapy and psychology education that I now have at 23, I can rationalize her actions. I understand victimization. I understand co-dependency. I understand the fear that leaving something bad will only result in something worse. I understand. I do.

But I think that growing up, and perhaps even now, some part of me still holds her responsible.

Why not write father figures that are abusive? Why not assign the blame where blame is more truthfully do? The defensive answer is that it’s my writing, and I’ll do whatever I damn well please, thank you very much.

The more truthful answer is that I’m not sure I could handle it. Not sure I want to have to handle it. I already dealt with one abusive father, thank you very much. Why would I create even more, in my writing? I have a mother that I love. That I want in my life. Even with all of her fretting. So even if I write a culpable mother figure in my stories, I still have a less culpable one to return to.

I cannot say the same of my father.

So much of writing is a sort of authorial wish-fulfillment. While 99% of my narratives barely involve a father figure at all, the 1% that do feature fathers that look nothing like my own. In a YA manuscript I begun writing at the the age of 14 and have been editing ever since, there is a father figure that I am fairly shocked by. He is calm and gentle. Scholarly and patient. Quiet and fiercely caring. He cares for both his daughter and his wife. He might disagree with his well-meaning but overly-fretful wife sometimes (the fictional mother who comes closest to my own), but he does not belittle her.

Ah, hello there, fairy tale father.

I find it somewhat comforting to know that in the narrative that contains the most real version of my own mother, I would assign her a partner much better than the one she’s got. Even with all of the frustration I channel at her through those other less-realistic mother figures, when it comes down to the “real” her, I would wish her more happiness than what she has, rather than punishment. I want better for her.

I want better for myself.

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Become a Story Patron!

4 Jun

patreon

Hello lovely readers! So, here on my blog, I post stories, flash fiction, poems, ramblings of highly variable levels of coherence… And you all read it. And like it. I think. I hope.

And because this is blog, free here on the interwebs of cat gifs and other soul-stirring content, I am not ever going to charge my readers for it. This blog is free. The end. Period. Anyone tries to change that and I’ll… I dunno. Hunt them down with a shovel and friendship-is-magic murderous pony and some other sort of nonsense and stare at them scarily until they back off and let my blog be free again.

Ahem. Please excuse the minor blip of insanity. Been holding it together at the seems today.

Anyhoo. This blog is free. But my writing career is not. And in order to sustain that writing career, I’m asking for help. From you. My readers. The people who would presumably like to see my writing get even better! and more interesting! and fuller of awesomeness! and not just drop off into an ugly slug trail of mucusy drivel.

Sooo. In order to keep up with the costs behind the logistics of maintaining and improving my wordcraft, I’ve set up a Patreon page. While my blog content will always be free, through Patreon, lovely patrons can pay $1-$5 per Patreon post. Each of those posts will be a sort of behind-the-scenes look at what I’ve posted here (or published through other mediums). What was the inspiration? Where are the secret messages? What’s the story behind the story? SECRETS SECRETS SECRETS!

Patreon is pretty cool because it allows patrons to decide how many and what kind of emails they receive, whether they want to donate once or a million times, and whether they want to cap their monthly donations. So, if you sign up to give $1 per behind-the-scenes post, you can cap how much you want to give at $5 a month, and then, if I suddenly go semi-manic and write 500 behind the scenes posts in one month! you, the patron, will still only donate $5 for the month. Not $500. And you can end or change your patronage at any time.

So. If you’ve got some change to spare and enjoy reading my writing, I as a starving artist sort would appreciate a monetary tip of the hat. To become a patron of my writing, visit my personal Patreon page at:

http://www.patreon.com/miceala

Thank you kindly, sir, madam, or whatever title of respect you’d prefer. I give you a bow in my minstrel garbs.

Seriously. Thanks.

Disgruntled Groveling

23 Mar

Hello folks! I’m going to attempt to sound more cheerful that I was in my other blog post from this morning. Because there are happier things to talk about here! More exciting things!

Things that also maybe sort of kind of possibly involve that super awkward thing called “money”…

No! Please don’t go yet! I promise I’m going to try to be funny in writing this! Then you don’t have to give money, either! You just get to laugh! Laughing is good, right? RIGHT?

I am only one largeish cup of coffee into today’s caffeination, I swear.

Aaaanyhoo. First exciting thing: books! I have them! For you! Wooo! So, what are these books? Well, these books are writing-containing-things that I’ve talked about on this here blog thing before, except now they’re even cheaper! Why? Because I decided that I wanted to make my books cheaper, actually. More accessible. Especially my memoir about life with (and moving towards without) an eating disorder and depression and other mental health stuffs. Because I wrote it in the hopes that maybe it would be helpful for someone out there. As a place to find sympathy. As a place to direct the friends and parents and extended relatives with their bagillion questions for answers. Perspective, more so, really. You can throw statistics and diagnostics and symptoms at people all you want, but that’ll still only tell them what a disease is, not what it’s like. So that’s what I tried to do with my memoir. Show people what living inside an eating disorder is like.

So. Lower prices. (Some of my poetry + short story collections are even less than $3 now!) More accessibility. Good stuff. Check out what’s available on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=miceala%20shocklee

Also, heads up, my memoir is almost half as expensive if you get it direct through LuLu, because Amazon hasn’t updated the price change I made:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/miceala-shocklee/drop-dead-gorgeous/paperback/product-20635940.html

 

Other exciting thing! I’m going to the Galapagos in two days!!! It’s literally a dream come true for me. Yes, I’m a writer, but I’m also a biologist. Who loves animals. And nature. Especially cool nature. Do you know how much cool nature there is in the Galapagos??? All of it. ALL of the Galapagos is cool nature. I’m seriously not kidding.

I’m lucky enough to get to go on a mostly-completely-paid-for science research-ish type trip to the Galapagos through a class I applied for and was accepted into at Caltech. We spent the entire term, 11 weeks of it, talking about evolution and geological history and 16S RNA genome mapping stuff and LOTS and LOTS about the Galapagos. And this Tuesday, I get to wake up before 6 am and head out to LAX with the rest of my class to hop (well, probably more like “sleepily bedraggle”) onto an airplane that’ll take us to Quito, from where we’ll be sent off straight to the Galapagos!

So, like I said, very exciting. Me, a biologist, gets to go to the Magical Land of Biology. Dream come true.

Also, as I said, the trip is only mostly completely paid for. I did still have to pay for my own flight. Which means that I am $700 of life savings short and recently graduated. I kinda get these knots in my stomach whenever I’ve thought about my bank account over the past few days…

But oh man! I set a “GoFund Me” page to hopefully help make some of the stress-knots stop attacking my insides! In return for donations, I’m writing Galapagos-y things (poems, flash fiction, pieces, short stories, etc.), printing them out all pretty-like when I get back, signing them, and sending them off to donors! The more stress-knots you slay, the more literary goodies you get!

So, um, if you think you would like to help fund my scientific writerly trip to the Galapagos, that would be super nice! But no pressure. Really. It’s cool. Money’s tight. I get it. I like smiles too!

It’s really hard to ask people for money. Katherine Fritz on her blog has called it “shameless whoredom.” I’m calling it “disgruntled groveling.” Because I’m kinda sitting here in my chair all tensed up as I write these paragraphs in which I presume to suggest that maybe if you like my writing you could possibly help fund it and my dreams and travels but if you can’t it’s really okay and you can forget I ever mentioned it okay bye please keep reading.

Here’s that link you can totally forget about to the GoFundMe page thingy that’ll be up till some time tomorrow:

http://www.gofundme.com/53r4wo

Okay. That’s enough being balled up in a whole-body stress knot for the day.

I swear, I was going to make this post more positive…

Um. Here. Have a puppy.

The Writing Scent

4 Feb

frostbeard old book smell candle

So, I’ve known for a while that there are lovely, wonderful candles out there that smell like books. Old books, usually. And why I don’t currently possess even one of these candles, I have no idea.

But to smell like “books” is one thing – “books” have a faaaaairly defined scent, since it’s usually the lignin breaking down in the pages that people associate with the smell of old books and libraries and secondhand story-purveying stores.

old book smell lignin quote

To smell like “writing,” on the hand, is something completely different. That, I would argue, is something astounding.

And today, while wandering around Eagle Rock with my friend Kim (she’s super cool and pretty, by the way) in a quest to escape campus and become properly caffeinated (and in my case also further ignore oh-god-all-the-work I’ve got to do), we stopped into a store with the wonderful name MediaNoche. There, in addition to a ridiculously affectionate cat called Luxe that snuggled me for at least the first 30 minutes we were there, I happened to notice a set of candles – made locally in LA, of course :p – branding themselves Wicked.

And they smell like writing.

Specifically, the writing of particular authors. Each of the candles, apparently categorized as “negative space” candles by Wicked, pulled out the contrasting undertones of famous authors’ writing and turned them into scents.

For example, Jane Austen’s candle is entitled “Lovely + Decay” and emphasizes the scent of lavender, lily, and black tea. Oscar Wilde’s candle, “Lethargic + Warmth” combined bergamot, oak, and vanilla.

Both of them smelled like the writing perfectly.

I’m so impressed by Wicked candles. To pull out writers with particular styles of writing, manage to find two contrasting words that describes almost the whole of the authors’ work, and then find what combination of scents actually conveys the sense of those two words together – that’s ridiculously good. That’s art and science and reflection and creation.

And oh hey, did I mention that the candles also come in really cool glass containers with yet another fitting characteristic – this time in an image – in the glass?

Wicked Austen Candle

If I weren’t a poor-college-student-starving-artist-almost-graduate-needing-a-post-ug-job, I totally would have spent the $30ish dollars right then and there to bring one home. Probably after deliberating for another half an hour or so over which particular candle to buy.

Of course, I am currently accepting tribute, too… 😉

Aaaaanyhoo. Finding the candles also made me wonder – what would my writing smell like? What two words would create the representative negative space of my words?

There are so many of them. Words, that is. There are the words I post here, in my blog. There are the words in my memoir. The words in my poetry collections, both already and to-be published. There are the words I write for others, in my freelance jobs. There are the words, tucked into neat 140-ish character statements and stories and poems on Twitter. There are the words in the fiction manuscripts still hiding in folders on my computer or neuronal connections in my brain. There are the words in my journals and 750words.com entries. There are the words I write on post-it notes, some of which I keep and bring with me through move after move after move, while others I throw in the trash a month or a year or a college-education-span later. The words others know I’ve said. The words I’ll never let anyone ever know I’ve thought, that I’ll hide away in the dark recesses of pages or hard drive storage space.

What would my words smell like? What would my candle be?

Self-Preservation

3 Jan

tornado road

I have a rather intense fear of tornados. It’s just shy of a phobia, actually. I grew up in the Midwest, where there is actually a period of the year that’s fucking called tornado season. And, knowing full well that I would have to live through said tornado season, year after year at least until I turned eighteen, my parents saw no problem in letting five-year-old-me watch the movie Twister with them. For those of you unfamiliar with this movie, let me provide you with a few sentences from the IMDB plot synopsis:

“The father, in an attempt to save his family, tries to hold the storm cellar door down, but gets sucked into the tornado and killed.”

“The tornado hurls a section of a TV tower through their windshield, impaling Eddie. Both teams watch in horror as Jonas’s truck is lifted up by the tornado and thrown into the ground where it explodes, killing both Eddie and Jonas.”

“They find metal pipes inside this shelter and tie themselves to the pipes with leather belts. The tornado destroys the structure, and they are pulled upside down while anchored to the pipes.”

Happy happy joy joy, right? THIS MOVIE IS FUCKING TERRIFYING! And I was five.

Yeah, little me didn’t have nightmares about monsters. She had nightmares about tornados. These persisted until I moved away for college to beautiful, blessed, tornado-less California. Earthquakes? Not a big deal. Whirling vortex of doom taunting me with the possibility of tearing down my house and killing everyone I love because even meteorologists can’t be completely sure about its path and I therefore have to sit in a cold basement for hours listening to sirens and contemplating my potentially impending death? Yeah, no thanks.

Aaaaanyhoo. My response to those tornado sirens did teach me a fair amount about my priorities. From the time I was five up till I moved out at eighteen, any and every time there were tornado sirens, I moved the things I hoped to give some chance of making it through a tornado down to the basement. Sure, when I was five, those were all basically my stuffed animals. But once I hit eight or so, my priorities shifted. Fluff-stuffed bits of cloth weren’t what gave me comfort and identity anymore.

Words were.

So, once those tornado sirens started to whine, I would move my books.

Well, actually first I would move my dog, because she was a living thing and I was more likely to be able to salvage my books intact from the hypothetical future wreckage than I would my dog. But after my dogs, my books were first. Books and journals too, once I started keeping those regularly enough for them to be a significant container of my soul.

Oh, yeah, of course I was also yelling at my family members to get their butts down to the basement while I shuttled back and forth between there and my room. But my parents and sister, they have legs and situational awareness and could very well get themselves to safety. My journals weren’t going to move themselves.

And so, year after year, with each overly enthusiastic late-summer storm that sent wails through muggy air, I was presented with the terrifying opportunity to figure out what, right then and there, I wanted most in my life to save. What mattered most to me? What did I consider most valuable, most vital?

Well, yes, my dog. But after that, it was the writing in my life. My journals, the words I had set sail on the whispering sea of existence, they were what I had poured my identity into. My books, the voices of the authors and characters that had murmured in my brain through the years, they held memories more than any picture ever could for me. There are years tucked between those pages, pressed into the print by the weight of the covers.

Writing, it is the scrawl of my soul. It is my self-preservation.

Image

Happy 2014

1 Jan

Happy 2014

Participating

29 Dec

“I don’t know if I will have the time to write any more letters because I might be too busy trying to participate” – Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I saw this movie for the first time tonight. Most of it, anyway. Enough to understand the important parts.

And of course, I cried at the end. Not just because the end of the movie is meant to take your heart and jerk it in several different directions at once. But because the end, especially the end, that wasn’t just a movie for me. I tried to make light of it, throwing out comments like “that’s a damn nice psych ward room.”

But that’s because internally, I wasn’t seeing Charlie’s cozy room. Internally, I was seeing my psych ward rooms. The ones that I spent too many days in last year. Over a year ago now, actually. It’s strange, that those days, the most bruised ones I’ve garnered in life, are so far away now. It’s been a year. It’s over. I’m free.

But I remember the days when I wasn’t. I have notebooks, drawers of them, filled with pages and pages of those days when I was not participating but was just trying to survive – or, slowly letting go of the idea that I would. My life is there, on those wrinkled and worn and smudged notebook sheets. I couldn’t bear physicality, so I existed, put myself into letters.

Because I needed a way for my narrative to be important.

And so it’s there, years of myself, scribbled down in journal entries and poems and short stories. Years where I left marks of myself in metaphor and analogy. Years where I could only be a silent girl, inked into existence.

In the end, they were all letters. Some of them were addressed as letters to God. But in the end, they were all really letters to me.

I forgot to pack those notebooks with me for my trips this holiday. Well, not quite “forgot”… I didn’t even think about doing it in the first place.

Because I don’t live my life in those notebooks anymore.

Now, I am participating.