PROTECT THE SACRED III

In response to someone who was questioning my decision to continue to not only support the movement at Standing Rock, but to personally put myself out there, I once said that the moment that Dave Archambault asked people to go home, that I would be the first person to leave. When he did finally ask that people go home I struggled with this idea. What it came down to, above all else, was sovereignty. I believe that colonizers rarely consider the importance and relevance of sovereignty in their lives. There are so many rants and rally cries that circle around freedom and independence that sovereignty is assumed, and even taken for granted. Further, I think that the colonizer understanding of freedom and independence is flawed; it is not the freedom and independence that is associated with sovereignty.

My expression of willingness to follow the words of Archambault was directly associated with my wish to respect and support the tribal sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux. When he did ask people to go home, I fell into rather deep contemplation and inner conflict. Truthfully, I am still sitting in a state of conflict. If I was able to just dismiss Archambault’s words, I know I would be the wrong person to come to the camp newly named Oceti Oyate. There are people who are part of the tribe whom I love and respect on both sides of the debate. In particular, I have been listening to the wisdom in Chase Iron Eye’s words for nearly a decade before the Dakota Access Pipeline became a conflict that the world slowly, but inevitably, turned to listen to. While Chase is not an elder of the tribe, he holds more wisdom in his heart than I do. So too with LaDonna Brave Bull, who in many ways (and most ways) has been at the beginning of the #NoDAPL movement, and remains at its heart.

There are many difficulties surrounding the concept of tribal sovereignty. It is not black and white. When considering tribal sovereignty in the face of a government that would prefer it destroyed, I will always sit on that side of the fence. But when considering tribal sovereignty in the face of women’s sovereignty, or even individual sovereignty, it becomes much more difficult. As a leader, Archambault has a responsibility to the people he represents, who are, at minimum, the members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, but no one could argue that he is not one of the leaders of the #NoDAPL movement.

But in contrast to tribal sovereignty, the #NoDAPL movement has grown larger than, though not exclusive of, the tribe. I don’t submit this argument to deny Archambault’s stance. I say it emphasize the complications of merely following the words of one leader. LaDonna is another leader who this movement would not exist without, and LaDonna also requests that people stay and help.

I’m still not entirely convinced, when it comes to the decision I’ve made to come back to Oceti Oyate, that I am making the right choice in respect to sovereignty. But what I am convinced of is that whether I chose to stay or go, I would be denying the sovereignty of someone who I respected. There was no way for me to make a perfect decision, but the most wrong decision I could have made was to make no decision. I have made my choice, and I will sit in it for good and for bad. I am comfortable if there are those who want to accuse me of going back on my word. I am comfortable if I am to be accused of being an agent subversive of sovereignty. I will sit with that decision forever, but I will always walk forward and never sit still.

* * * * *

Listening to the wisdom of Chase Iron Eyes through the winds of the internet has had a profound effect on my life. Listening to him while standing five feet away is something that I might not be able to describe. He has had a lot to say, and much of it has been wisdom and teaching, and much of it has been bolstering morale, but there is one thing I have been thinking of that he said in relation to my own life. The camp, he said, is the tip of the arrow that is being fired at the heart of the black snake, but the women and elders, he said, were the bow that was aiming it in the right direction. This is why I have tried to put the wisdom offered by elders and women first. Archambault has been a guide as an elder, LaDonna as an elder who is also a women.

But there is more to this metaphor that I have been exploring. When I first came to Oceti Sakowin via Sicangu Camp in September, my wife expressed to me that there was a part of her that felt a sickness for not being able to come as well. She confessed that she felt that I was in the world, doing great things (I would argue that I am not doing anything great) and that she was remaining behind, working her nine to five, and contributing to the abject capitalism that drives the direction our society moves. I have heard other loved ones of my camp express similar things, though I won’t call them out by name. But it is important that I say this: if the camp is the tip of the arrow, and the bow is women and elders, then the shaft is our loved ones who have remained at home, keeping our lives in order and giving us the emotional and even financial strength that is required for us to be here. The same is true of those who have donated, either directly to the camp, or to us to help in our trip. You are the shaft of the arrow that is aimed at the Black Snake. You are part of this the same that we are. Please do not discount the power you have had in this movement, it could not have been successful without you—it will not continue to be successful if you withdraw. You are needed, and you are strong.

* * * * *

Oceti Oyate is not in fighting mode. Oceti Oyate is a survival camp. The primary focus of the camp is to stay alive, and stay strong, because come spring, the camp will fight again. Survival is not a state to be held lower or in contempt. It is the same with those who support us and other water protectors coming out to camp, it is a necessary thing that must be embarked on so that the fight can continue again in the future. We know that come January 20th, our fight will become much more difficult. We know that the powers and allies of the Black Snake are growing and planning anew. The camp is so much smaller than when I was here in September, but it is also more impressive. The tents and buildings are larger and more fortified. The people are carrying great power and will wherever they walk.

Make no mistake, survival is difficult. When we arrived it was -30f or so before wind chill. When we set up our tent it had warmed up to around 7f. The winds are disastrous. We roped blankets and tarps to the tent, and the winds want nothing more than to rip them free. Meghan, my brother, and myself all woke up this morning to the winds trying to rip our tarps apart, and worked in 30mph winds to try and salvage our shelter. It still needs work, and as I am in Bismarck so that I can write this post, it might be a disaster when we return. We will find out soon enough.

It also “rained” on us last night, and immediately froze. There were thousands of chunks of ice covering everything when we woke up as well. The ice-sheeted roads were the slipperiest they had been since we arrived. There have been many close-calls and accidents, not just in camp, but on the road here. But we are here to survive, and we are here to survive so that Oceti Oyate, and the battle against the Black Snake can survive.

* * * * *

There are too many jobs to be done here at Oceti Oyate, and everyone is working constantly in one way or another. I have been meaning to write more, a lot more. I know that the power that I have comes through writing and I can do more work through it than I can in other, possibly more obvious ways. But contributing to the survival of camp has been better served through physical labor than through writing so far. This means I won’t be updating as much as I would like, but understand that I am still doing powerful work, even if you’re not reading about it every day.

Some examples of the work that my camp has done have been volunteering to run the composting bathrooms, working in the kitchens for around twelve hours, and scavenging through the camp. Let me extrapolate on the scavenging job: even before the first blizzard, but especially because of it, people were abandoning their camps and leaving a lot of supplies, but also a lot of garbage behind. So we have been systematically digging out entrenched camps (literally, as they are buried in up to two feet of snow sometimes), and garbaging the summer tents and fiberglass tent poles while simultaneously saving tarps and blankets in good condition, pots and pans, rugs, firewood, food, and other things that have been left. So we not only brought the donations that you gave to us to bring, but we have also literally been scavenging through the ice and snow for further donations for those that can use them. One of the concerns that Archambault has brought up multiple times has been the conditions that the water protectors are leaving the camp in. He has been concerned about garbage and latrines, but there are no more latrines, and we are actively cleaning the camp of the garbage that many people have left behind. There is a future here.

* * * * *

The fight is quiet right now, but we remain. We are here at an important time, because it is a time when many people are not capable of being here. But we are. We are here. We are fighting; not just for us, not just for you, and not just for the Standing Rock Sioux. We are here for this earth, and we will never stop fighting for her.

PROTECT THE SACRED II

It’s been a few days since I drove home from Standing Rock and I have sat at the keyboard every single one of them and tried to write something about the last day we were there, the drive home, or even the rally here in my hometown of Bellingham. Although a lot of writing has been happening (I just finished edits on a story I’ve been working on for a couple of months and sent it off to Clarkesworld. Fat chance, but why not try?) I have been paralyzed when it comes to writing about Standing Rock. This isn’t writer’s block. As you all know, I don’t even believe in writer’s block. I’ve been writing. It’s something else, and a lot of it has to do with emotional fatigue.

In my last blog post I wrote the following:


Instead, most of the direct action protesters/water protectors were camped out about another mile north of that, where the Dakota Access construction crews irreverently sliced a scar into sacred land and where the protectors watched as cultural sites and remains were desecrated and destroyed. I know that a lot of people have requested pictured and recordings and I have been doing some and plan to do more, but we are not going to take pictures of that scarred sacred land. It is not appropriate, and it is one of the most heartbreaking things I have personally witnessed in my life.

 

As hard as I try, I cannot summon up the words to describe to you the retched feeling that wormed its way through my guts seeing this. I stood across the street from that rent, black line in the rolling grassy North Dakota plains for hours (which is incomparable to those who have been there for weeks) and I barely spoke a word while I stood watch over this sacred site, this burial ground…this cemetery. I could hardly speak because I felt sick the whole time I stood there. I also felt ready. We believed that the National Guard was inbound to arrest us at any moment, and I was waiting for the potential of both physical pain, imprisonment, and possibly some awful form of humiliation. None of those things could compare to what I was staring at while I watched.

I believe in magic, although what I believe in is not what is summoned to most people’s minds when they hear that word. At the rally in my hometown one of the speakers said something that did some work in my head. He was talking about the damage that had been done to this burial site, the site that I stood beside (or on, perhaps. No doubt that the highway was already carved through Lakota ancestors final resting places), and he said something to the effect of, “The Dakota Access has already made a mistake in attacking the living, and their water supply, which is the blood of the living. But now they have brought war on the dead. Now they have brought war on our ancestors, and if they were not standing with us before, they are now. Everyone in indian country knows you don’t mess with the dead.”

I don’t know if that has anything to do with that haunted feeling I had standing at the frontline camp. I don’t know if it’s had anything to do with how brittle and hollow I’ve felt since coming home. But those words haven’t left me, and I can’t stop thinking about them.

All of these scars lie between us and our ancestors. You can call them what you want: boarding schools, foster homes, criminalized ceremonies, criminalized languages, broken treaties, genocide, erasure, industrial development, resource theft, pipelines…All of them have happened, are happening, and will be happening tomorrow.

I am a lightskinned urban indian who is half-white. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, although my family comes from more traditional lands. I have about as much privilege and opportunity I can possibly have while still being indian. I’m pointing this out because the devastation I feel and will probably continue to feel for the rest of my life after witnessing the desecration at Standing Rock has left me feeling broken, helpless, and worst of all as a writer, speechless. I never grew up in indian country, and although I would argue the connection to indian land is in my blood, and my bones, I didn’t grow up out there, where you can still see it as it used to be. I grew up with sweaty concrete, bleeding asphalt, and raging graffiti. I grew up in a family broken by the damage done to our communities. I grew up disconnected. Still, the tears keep flowing every time I think about it.

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I’m going to write more about our last day there and the trip home, but I had to say something about why it has not come yet. I had to say something because I haven’t been saying anything and it hasn’t been intentional, it’s just all too raw.

But I do want to say this:

When the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior made their statement about Standing Rock I announced it as a victory. I was clear in what I said: it was a victory, but not THE victory. There were more battles ahead, and a war that will not end until we move away from fossil fuels or we’re all dead (the latter is more likely, I feel, in my heart). But it was a victory. I proclaimed it a victory because when I, and we, look upon such travesty, and in the face of a history of consistent travesty, we NEED victories. We NEED to know that we are fighting for good. We need to sit back and howl glory at the moon. We need to write it down so that it is not erased. We won that day. Do NOT tell me we did not win. Do NOT tell me that it meant nothing. It DID mean something. You, who have never had to fight and claw just for acknowledgment of your existence as a people do not know what it feels like to have people snatch just the word victory from your teeth when you’re only just tasting it.

Yes, we’re not done. And things have gotten markedly worse since I left, which I regret deeply, but that day we won. We won. We won. We won.

PROTECT THE SACRED

I’m exhausted.

This morning, somewhere around 4am, we arrived at the Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock Reservation. We pulled in and the overnight guard helped us find a place to park and then left us to set up our tent. I walked alongside the river inlets which, without doubt, will be poisoned by the Dakota Access Pipeline if it is allowed to go through, and looked for a good spot to set up our tent with a blanket from my mother’s house wrapped around my shoulders and a flashlight in my teeth. I nearly gave up and was about to turn back and suggest that we just camp next to where we parked when my light honed in on something round and glowing and white. I thought it was a rock at first, and since we were at Sacred Stone, I found it auspicious and chose that spot for our tent.

It turns out it was a boiled egg, and so our campsite became dubbed “Egg Camp” and set up the tent with only minimal tired bickering, crawled inside and passed out. Not an hour later, I briefly woke to a call outside the tent for young warriors to travel to the pipeline site, or Red Warrior Camp. I couldn’t stay awake long enough to even consider answering the call, though.

I woke up to the sounds of hand-drums and chanting, with the sun slowly warming our tent. It was one of the best waking experiences I had in my life. I sat up and looked out the screen on my side of the tent, which gave me a view across the river to the largest part of Sacred Stone Camp, which was littered with teepees, tents, vehicles, and the flags of over 500 indigenous nations flying proudly in wind.

As soon as I had comported myself, we set to the task of emptying my car of all of your generous donations. That car was packed incredibly full. Every inch of space except for the driver’s seat was used to maximum advantage. The roof was packed with almost a dozen tents and two massive totes full of medical supplies and food. I could not see through the rearview and could rarely even see whoever was sitting in the back because they were covered with donations. We delivered the food to the station closest to our own camp, which was coincidentally the furthest one out at Sacred Stone Camp, so their supplies were much lower than the other two. We took a list of other needs they had as well.

Then we took the medical supplies and utilitarian supplies to the center of the camp. It was surreal seeing how fast the tents disappeared. We had around ten. Before I placed the last one down, all the others had already been taken. For those who have been asking, without question, tents are the most needed thing here that you could donate. Later on we found deals at Wal*Mart for 25 and 35 dollar tents – I’m sure you can find these deals locally too. At the medical tent, our supplies were unloaded with a significant amount of gratitude. We also learned that some of the higher demand medical items are instant cold compress packs, hot hands, and dropper bottles. None of those cost much money, but they are desperately needed. We took a list from the medical tent as well and then journeyed northward toward Mandan and Bismarck to begin purchasing supplies (again, with the generous help you have given us).

On our way north we passed Red Warrior Camp (less than a mile north), the camp where most of the videos and pictures have been coming from showing confrontations with local authorities and mercenary groups hired by Dakota Access. There were few people here because the construction groups have been ordered (temporarily) to withdraw from the site. Instead, most of the direct action protestors/water protectors were camped out about another mile north of that, where the Dakota Access construction crews irreverently sliced a scar into sacred land and where the protectors watched as cultural sites and remains were desecrated and destroyed. I know that a lot of people have requested pictured and recordings and I have been doing some and plan to do more, but we are not going to take pictures of that scarred sacred land. It is not appropriate, and it is one of the most heartbreaking things I have personally witnessed in my life.

We’ll get back to what’s going on at the frontline camps.

We traveled north and that is where we took the video of the blockade that state patrol had set up. While we were waved through, we witnessed people being questioned who were coming south (the individual I saw was indigenous, of course). We went into town and loaded up on supplies. When we returned we chose to take backroads. Again, I understand the desire for video, but we had a significant amount of perishable food with us, and decided that we should not risk it.

When we cycled through the food tents, medical tents, and the frontline camp to deliver supplies, a helicopter flew overhead. Several drones flew even closer. We discovered that the National Guard had been called in and there was a strong belief that they were going to push the protectors out of the frontline camps and potentially arrest them (the camps are on public land, but not on reservation land, but as I said, this is still less than a mile from the reservation’s northern border). Originally I had planned to return to our tent and write for a couple of hours before heading back out to Bismarck to update you guys, but instead we decided to heed a call for more warriors to stand at the front. We geared up with our emergency gear, and with my chicharrones in one pocket and my gas mask in the other, we stepped up to patrol with everyone who has been there for days and weeks already (the first arriving around the middle of August).

While we waited, I heard first hand stories of the protectors being maced and the attack dogs being released. I also heard stories of mercenaries hiding beneath tarps in the nearby hills with rifles. I personally witnessed four different black vehicles with no markings, and drivers wearing what was plainly bullet proof vests, patrol back and forth on the road near the camp. Meanwhile, the National Guard took over the road block we drove through earlier and the protectors debated when they might move in and how to react. There are bottles of vinegar water and milk collected at the center of the camp, the first to ward off attack dogs, the second to wash pepper spray out of your eyes. The protectors wave flags at everyone who drives by, some say Protect the Sacred, or Protectors Not Protestors. When a veteran with a prosthetic leg showed up waving the American Indian Movement flag, cheers went up from the protectors.

There is also some discontent between the different methods of protest. At Sacred Stone, the manner of protest is peaceful with song, dance, and gathering. People stand together on the reservation where the government has no right to push them off the land for gathering and conduct ceremonies. But the northern camps, while still peaceful, are more concerned with direct action. I would describe it as passive resistance. I also want to make it clear now that I do not believe in criticizing the method of resistance. I believe both are valid. I brought the majority of the donations to Sacred Stone, and I spent the majority of my time north of the reservation in the frontline camps. The only reason I left when I did is because I know how important it is for me to be communicating with you, and telling you what is going on inside the camps. I left because the media does not want to the knowledge of what is happening here to spread. There is no love for indigenous people in this country and there never has been. Our existence and our resistance is a stain in the unfurled red, white, and blue, and the more the world is reminded of the way in which we have been and continue to be treated, the bloodier and blacker that stain grows.

So don’t let me have left the camp in vain. I need you to help as well. Your donations have gone a long way, your love and support have helped carry me here, but I, and we, need you to share with the world what is happening here. Not having the time or money to come here is understandable, but silence is not.

This isn’t over. The ruling will be coming tomorrow and I plan to be at the frontline camps when it does. The National Guard might respond then, especially if the ruling is not in our favour. I may not be able to make another post very soon if I am there when they do. I hope it does not go that way. I am praying for a favourable ruling, and I am praying that we will be able to return home safely – but I also know the history of this country, and I know the history of how the government has treated me and my ancestors, so I am preparing for the worst.

But pray for the best, and hopefully I’ll be writing another post tomorrow night about the ruling and the response here at Standing Rock.

Rainbow Warriors

 

Your Flower Crown Shouldn’t Have Cracks In It

Ilvermorny

Months ago (a year ago?), information was released on the new series of books by J.K. Rowling set in the Harry Potter universe, but this time focused around America and it’s particular history. I am appalled by the way this new franchise is being delivered, and my disappointment has grown each time a new bit of information has come out. Most recently, Pottermore, a website devoted to the Harry Potter fandom, released a quiz where any wizarding world lover can find out which American house they belong to, whether it be Pukwudgie, Wampus, Horned Serpent (Unktehi or Uktena), or Thunderbird. Ever since this quiz came out, my Facebook and Twitter feed have been crawling with people posting the results of the quiz, identifying which house and which symbol belongs to them, and overall trivializing the significance of these characters.

You see, both Thunderbird and the Horned Serpent are considered by many people to be gods. Thunderbird is the caretaker of the heavens and the Horned Serpent is the caretaker of the underworld. I don’t mean that people used to think this, such as in the case of Zeus and Hades (exception: pagans, but not really comparable), I mean these stories and belief are presently essential aspects of our origins. This isn’t mythology to many of us, they are living, breathing things, relevant to the here and now. Thunderbird is probably one of the most recognized characters across indigenous America. Thunderbird carries significance from the Kwakwaka’wakw in the Pacific Northwest to the Lakota of the Plains to the Algonquin of the East Coast and even my own people in the Southwest have stories about Thunderbird! It would be comparable if she had written East Indian houses named Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesh, and Durga. It would be comparable if she wrote another story but her houses were Mary, Jesus, the Holy Ghost, and God, the Father. The previous Harry Potter houses were named for different animals, a Lion, a Snake, a Raven, and a Badger. These animals were quite generic. One could argue that instead of a lion, that a Griffon was the mascot of Gryffindor, but even that myth is suitably generic and is not tied to present day marginalized cultures.

When these house symbols were first announced, there was a massive response from the American and Canadian indigenous communities, calling out to Rowling about the mistakes that she had made, and generously suggesting that she should change the direction she was going. The community even offered up their own experience and wisdom. We offered to try and help so that she could still write a story that involved the indigenous past of the Americas in her wizarding world. But these pleas fell on deaf ears. In the past, Rowling has jumped to defend homosexuality and blackness, even proclaiming that Hermione was a black heroine all along (or at least indicating this). Rowling has made some mistakes, but more often than not, has appeared to be a great white ally, and indeed I have often spoken of her reverentially and the way in which she caught up a generation in reading and writing that had never been done before. Normally she is very easy to reach on social media and quick to respond to questions. But this time, she chose to ignore the indigenous community. This time, she did not care.

White Inneffectualism

J.K. Rowling is a perfect example of white inneffectualism among writers. This is something that plagues the writing community that I am a part of, so I end up seeing it and being forced to confront it on a daily basis. A few weeks ago I made a comment about white inneffectualism that was met with some confusion, so I thought I would write this post to explore it. As I have come to understand it, the term inneffectualism was coined to mark the opposite of exceptionalism, particularly when exceptionalism is being claimed by the subject (I’m the greatest!). If the U.S. claimed that they had the best education system in the world, but in reality it ranked as one of the lowest, this would be a claim of exceptionalism that was, in reality, just American inneffectualism. I was asked if this term was related to white mediocrity, and I would say that it is, but mediocrity tends to be used to describe when someone claims to be exceptional, but is just average. Inneffectualism is worse than just being average, it is actively doing harm through the claim of exceptionalism.

I live in an extremely white, polarized, and supposedly liberal part of the country: the Pacific Northwest. Racism here isn’t screamed in your face, it’s held below the counter, pointed at your vitals. It masquerades so well as politeness and fairness, that it is ten times more dangerous (in a socially ruinous way) to confront it, because those without the ability to see the it’s subtleties will think you are calling out nothing, or that your motives are less than pure, and deride you for it. I have had this experience time and time again. Some people call this microaggressions, but I think that definition is a little too simplistic to explain what the culture of racism in the Pacific Northwest looks like.

None of this stuff is really new. I’ve spoken to it plenty of times before with perhaps the exception of a more in-depth look at what I am talking about when I say “white inneffectualism” and now I have the opportunity to give you a beautiful (horrible) example of white inneffectualism at play. What I’ve been building up to talking about here is my experience at my first official writer’s conference. Writer’s conferences are a big deal when you are trying to get published. They give you wonderful opportunities to network with other, established authors, agents who are interested in your work, and publishers who might potentially pay you for it. On top of that, there are usually some great workshops to help you improve your craft, or else introduce you to new ideas that you may not have previously been exposed to.

* * * * *

Last month I had an amazing opportunity, one which, despite my coming criticisms, I was very grateful for. The college I attend thought of me when it found it had extra tickets to the Chuckanut Writers Conference. This is the sixth year that the Chuckanut Writers Conference has existed, and since its inception I have dreamt of going, often reading the schedule with yearning. Since it is the first official Writer’s Conference I have attended, I don’t have another I can really compare it to, but if I compared it to Norwescon (which is not, strictly speaking, a Writer’s Conference, but really does act like one in a big way), it costs nearly eight times more to attend. So when I was gifted a ticket, I was delighted.

I also attended with a good friend of mine, Monica Cole, who keeps her own blog. You can read her take on the conference here.

So let’s get to the meat of this post.

The Chuckanut Writers Conference

Monica and I got there early-ish and we decided to hit up a breakout session called “How to get the most out of your conference.” By and large, this session was fine. It gave you some tips on socializing and networking and pitching, and there were a lot of introductions. I got a little peeved when one lady practiced her novel pitch and proclaimed it to be a novel about an unknown Native American tribe called the Northern Ute (I don’t know why she thinks the Northern Ute are unknown. I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure they’re the biggest Ute tribe. Maybe it’s just more of the whole “native people are invisible when you’re white” thing). I was interested because of her subject, and she did mention that she was talking with tribal members to write her story, which is always a positive thing when I hear it (I hear it so rarely). But then she said that the story was going to be told from the perspective of a white woman who loves the Ute culture and joins the tribe. Okay, well. I hope I don’t need to explain the issue there. I get tired of reiterating 101 stuff all the time. Anyway, I tried not to let this colour my emotions too much. It was just one person reading on pitch, right?

I did notice while we walked around that although I am fifteen years older than Monica, we were two of the youngest people there. The average age, as I saw it, was probably 55-65. There were about five people of colour at the entire conference that I could see (maybe there were more, a couple of white passing, who knows?) and judging by how people were dressed, I’m guessing that the attendees leaned toward middle/upper-middle class. Also, in that session where everyone practiced their pitches…I think all but one were memoirs (which tend to be focused around an older crowd, for both writers and readers).

That’s fine, I think. I can still get a lot out of this convention. I want to know more about the attending agents. Well, I read that there are two, and the deadline to get a pitch session with them was before I knew I had a ticket, and neither of them accept fiction. That’s okay, I’m still going to enjoy myself. The sessions will be great. Maybe I will meet some interesting authors that I can befriend on the interwebs.

The opening keynote speech is by Claire Dederer, who I’ve never read because I don’t usually read memoirs. I might read Claire. Her speech was great. It was mostly about encouraging people to write despite struggles, setbacks, fear. It was meant to be encouraging, and it was. I also spoke with Claire later and we talked about Joy Division, the Misfits, and the Dead Kennedy’s. She seemed great.

The first “breakout session” was led by Roberto Ascalon, a Seattle-based poet with a Filipino background. I’ve written poetry, even won awards for it. I don’t necessarily consider myself a poet. Rather, the reason I attended this session is because it was called “Race, poetry, and the color line.” I was intrigued, especially since I was already feeling a little overwhelmed by how white this conference was. Four of the five PoCs I could identify at the conference were there. One was Roberto and another was me. Another was a young writer who I would befriend later, but we’ll get to that. Roberto started the session by highlighting some titles that he felt people should read, including Citizen and Between the World and Me, so again—some 101 stuff, though if you haven’t read these books and you’re reading my blog, it would benefit you greatly to do so. Then he had us work on an exercise in which we recalled the first time we were aware of our race. He wanted us to write about that moment, but not just the event that influenced the awakening, but what was going on. Sights, smells, sounds, clothes worn, etc. It was hard for me, because it was a very long time ago. I was very young. The words did eventually flow, but I can’t be certain at how exactly accurate they are. They do exist that way in my memory, though. (I’ll include what I wrote at the end of this post). Finally, he asked us to stand in a circle and read parts of what we had written down to each other. He emphasized that we were in a safe space, and because of that, we should respect words that others might be particularly sensitive to, such as racial slurs, even though he recognized they would be part of people’s stories. I accepted this and prepared to try and talk about a story in which my mother was cursed and had a slur used against her. I was trying to think of the best way to describe the slur without being hurtful to people. Others began reading their work. They were interesting. Although Roberto had asked that people not focus on the races of others in their stories, the majority of white people seemed to recognize their race when compared to black people. It was very different for the PoCs stories, but those aren’t necessarily mine to tell. Eventually the white woman to my right began to speak. At first, she talked about her childhood, but quickly I noticed her accent began to change into something that was stereotypically “black” and racially charged in its association with that whole shuck and jive kind of accent. She then started to tell a story of when she first realized that she had a “black soul” and was actually black despite her “cursed” white skin.

I was numbed. I was supposed to the next person to speak. I hesitated a long time because I wasn’t sure if someone was going to speak up, or if I should. I was still in the head space of when my mother was verbally assaulted and how it made me feel and I felt sick. I was sickened by the memory I was in. I was sickened by this woman who had just been grossly racist, but was allowed to be while I had to censor my story. When I spoke, it was quiet, and in a restrained, choked voice. I wanted to speak with more power, but I was reeling from what had just happened. I quickly left and tried to focus on the good that had come from this session (and this session was good…it was the woman who was not). I could not tell you how other people reacted. No one called her on it, but I had tunnel vision and wanted to escape the space at that particular moment.

After that we had another keynote speech from Erik Larson who largely talked about what tools he used to write well. Great. No problems. Normal writer stuff as far as I could tell.

The second/last session of that first day was with Stephanie Kallos, who is going to be at the center of this harrowing tale. Now, the title of that session was something wishy-washy but basically it was comparing the writer’s journey to the journey of the salmon. Now, I’m not a Coast Salish/PNW native, but salmon are still sacred, and I understand that, and living here I try to venerate salmon. I’ve partaken in the Lummi First Salmon Ceremony – they’re not my rituals and customs, but I honour them. So I was interested in this because of the approach I take to storytelling, and was hoping to learn something sacred from this session.

But I had a hard time. It was all over the place. I’m not sure Stephanie knew exactly where she was coming from, or maybe she was hoping to seem mystical if she hid what we were talking about long enough. Ultimately I was able to piece something out of this session, but it was not really with her help. She never mentioned salmon throughout the whole session. I walked out feeling like it was just a poor presentation from a flaky writer – nothing deeper than that.

Day two blew this all out of the water.

Monica and I started with a session that was talking about “The Tao of writing daily.” We didn’t actually talk about it at all, because the presenter spent 40 minutes out of 45 minutes allowing every person in attendance to introduce themselves. I mean, I already try to do daily writing, and know a lot of tips and tricks to make it happen, so while I didn’t necessarily miss anything, I still feel like it was a bum deal considering the cost most people paid for the conference.

Then there was the session “How to keep them hooked” which talked largely about hooks, but as panels tend to, it got tangential a bit. Nevertheless, I’ll say that I got some great information out of this, and I’m particularly impressed with Bharti Kirchner (I bought her novel, Goddess of Fire, and am currently reading it). Bharti was the fifth, and final, identifiable PoC at the conference.

Stephanie Kallos and an Author’s Bill of Rights

This was the second-to-last keynote speech and this was where it all went under water. Before I go into it, here is the short description that was in my booklet about this keynote speech.

Storytelling is a practice of compassion. It is not only an author’s right but an obligation to walk in the shoes of others. One earns the right to tell a story outside one’s personal experience (be it one involving a Holocaust survivor, a Nazi, the parent of a child with low-functioning autism, someone of a different sexual orientation or race, etc.) by using imagination to connect – with integrity, as authentically and deeply as possible – to those whose stories one seeks to tell.”

 

Alright, so for anyone who is particularly astute there are a few warning signs in this, and I was certainly astute enough to notice them, but I focused on what I felt the main thrust was intended to be – that storytelling is a practice of compassion. It is, and I think that in reality, you can tell stories of people who are not you, who come from different experiences and cultures, so long as you commit to writing those stories with compassion. That means you have to think about how these stories will affect the people you are writing about. It means you have to listen to the people you are writing the stories about. It means you have to spend time with them. Live beside them. Be in their world. Compassion means that you are able to empathize, and you cannot empathize if you cannot understand. That is what I believe, but here’s how Stephanie’s speech went.

She started by telling us a story of an experience she had at a writer’s retreat where presentations were given by some of the writer’s, including one whom she only called “The Narcissist” (and continued and continued and continued to call her this). The gist of her experience was that “The Narcissist” said that authors don’t have the right to tell stories about people who they did not identify with, and in this case, holocaust victims/Jewish people were primarily what she was discussing. From what I could understand this was a Jewish person who did not appreciate non-Jews writing about a, to put it mildly, painful Jewish experience.

Stephanie mocked this person, talking about how poorly their book sold. Stephanie mocked this person, calling them a narcissist repeatedly. Stephanie mocked this person for being stupid and foolish. Interspersed with her mockery of this unnamed author, she blithely mentioned writing with compassion once or twice, but by and large her message was this: you have a right, as an author, to write whatever the fuck you want. You can’t let millennials intimidate you into not writing. You can’t let Jews intimidate you into not writing. You can’t let homosexuals intimidate you into not writing, and the list goes on. Now, keep in mind, I’ve already mentioned this. There were, as best I could tell, five people of colour at this conference. When I noticed the direction Stephanie’s speech was going to (I don’t know, 250 people?) I looked around for them. I didn’t see Ascalon anywhere. I noticed Kirchner walk out in the middle of it. I noticed one of the other PoCs, who looked like they might be crying, also walk out (this was the person who I later met up with and befriended, I thought about adding more from her perspective but decided it wasn’t my place, and there’s plenty from mine). I was enraged, but I chose to stay, I was rapidly jotting down notes on my review form and turning the short piece of paper black with ink. I remember I wrote that one of the problems was that she was a white woman addressing a room full of white people and they felt like she was giving them permission to write stories about PoCs and other marginalized folks wholesale. I implored the conference to understand this problem on my dripping sheet. Then she started saying “other” this and “other” that, constantly invoking this fuckawful word (more 101 stuff, look it up on your own time).

This went on for 45 minutes. At the end, she received, I kid you fucking not, a standing ovation. After the standing ovation she opened the floor to questions. The first person to speak was a white woman who literally said, “Thank you for giving me permission to write these stories!” My jaw dropped. Not out of surprise, but because although I had written the note of concern, I did not think someone would literally speak those horrible words. But there it was. A white author gave permission to a roomful of hopeful white authors to write whatever the fuck they want and damn the consequences. There were other awful responses, I can’t remember all of them. One person said that people would tell her stories, but not want to write them down, or possibly even share them with anyone else, so she felt it was her responsibility to tell those stories – but didn’t consider the reason that the person might not be writing them down at all. She also thanked Stephanie for giving her permission and inspiration to write those stories.

After receiving much thanks and praise, Stephanie finally said, “And I know this subject is controversial, so if you disagree, please feel free to speak up!” Let me remind you that I was in an extreme minority in this room. The room had just given her a standing ovation, and another five minutes of spoken praise and thanks. She has no idea what it feels like to be in that kind of environment. Maybe if I had balls of steel, maybe if I wasn’t concerned about my literal safety all things considered, I might have been able to speak up – but this was no safe space to speak. She invited debate knowing that no one could speak, or at least being so completely ignorant of her privilege that she had not the slightest clue of what she was asking people to face.

I’m not going to write about the rest of the conference. It had its ups and downs, but I was in a numb state the rest of the time I was there.

Full Circle

J.K. Rowling has the largest audience of readers in the world next to, arguably, Stephen King and the Bible. J.K. Rowling is a white writer who suffers from white inneffectualism. She is not a mediocre writer, she is a good writer. She is a great storycrafter. She has the love and admiration of countless people, many of them white. When she writes this story using and abusing the sacred stories of native people for her own whimsy (while writing about boarding schools, for fuck’s sake!) she is standing on her platform and “giving permission” to her audience of white readers and writers to look people in the eye and say, “fuck you” when they ask for compassion. Stephanie Kallos was not teaching compassion even though the word was in her mouth, and J.K. Rowling is not teaching compassion. She is promoting white inneffectualism, which actively harms marginalized people.

But shouldn’t writers write what inspires them? Well, yes. And shouldn’t writers write what they don’t know? Aren’t you a fantasy writer? You can’t write about magic if you don’t write what you don’t know! Yes. I, sort of, agree with you. Again, we’re delving into some 101 shit, but let me see what I can do here. I realize that people want to know how to handle this respectfully. I realize people are looking for answers. I’ll give you the best I’ve got, but what you’ve got to understand is that I’m just one dude. I’m one half-breed Cora/Chiricahua dude, and I’ve got one perspective. So don’t take my words as some kind of permission and don’t use what I’m saying as the end-all be-all of your explorative writing. So here’s what I’ve got: You should absolutely write what inspires you, and you should absolutely write what you don’t know. But if you’re writing what you don’t know, you need to write it compassionately, you need to give a few fucks about your subject. You need to write it at the feet of the people you are writing about. Authors take ride-alongs with cops to write about cops, but they can’t fucking visit a few elders on the rez before they write about indigenous people? One of my published stories is about a trans character, and I am not trans. You can be damned sure I spoke with multiple trans people and showed them my story and got their feedback before it got published. If anyone had asked me to change something or remove something, I would have taken their thoughts seriously before publishing it. That’s the huge fucking difference here. Sure, write what inspires you. But don’t actively oppress people when you write! Don’t write Heart of Darkness! It doesn’t matter how well-written the book is, because it is actively harmful to black people! Don’t write History of Magic in America, because it is actively harmful to native people! How complicated is this basic fucking shit, white authors? Write like you actually care and treat people with respect and thank them and honour them.

I have to explain to a lot of people one of the major issues with white people writing native stories. Some of this should be obvious, like the fact that for most of history white people have been writing our stories and completely fucking them up and making us look like goons or worse and we’re sick of it. But here’s the more complicated thing that you fucks don’t take into consideration when you want to write your cool Horned Serpent story starring a wilting blonde white girl who has it all, but loves the culture: the stories are sacred to us. Think about this. White people showed up here and stole our land. They stole our women to be raped. They stole our children to be colonized in boarding schools. They stole our land. Today we struggle with appropriation, particularly of regalia such as head-dresses being worn at music festivals or on sexy half-naked women. Let’s not even get into the fucking Redskins. Today our children are still being stolen from us by CPS and placed into white families. Today our livelihoods are often stolen from us by fake creators of “official native art.” You want to claim this has all happened in the past, but it is an ongoing theft of our identities, of our selves…and here you are, you white writer fucks, and you want to take literally the last sacred thing we hold closely to our chests? Our stories? This is why you can’t just fucking walk around and say write whatever the fuck you want, because none of you get it. None of you have had this experience. None of you have had to live with this theft: your identity so worked over by robbers, that it literally is the aspect of being robbed that you identify with now. You don’t get it, and you can’t write these stories if you don’t fucking get it. I don’t give a fuck how much you love our culture. Fuck you!

Here’s the very brief unedited free write I did about the first time I was aware of my race in Roberto Ascalon’s workshop.

 

I’m at the grocery store down the street from my mother’s apartment, the dingy tile and scent of deep-fried meat in the deli are familiar to me. This is the only grocery store I can remember ever having shopped at. It is familiar as my own home. Maybe I’m 10. Maybe I’m 8. Maybe even younger. I’m sure I was younger, but I can’t recall how young. I’m wearing a swap-meet t-shirt with a Ninja Tortuga on it (just so no one gets sued) and brightly coloured shorts. I am comfortable in my space, behind my mother in line, staring at the collectible sticker books they used to sell. The check-out lady begins to yell at my mother, but it is only when my mother starts to cry and makes me put down my sticker book that I pay attention. We leave without our two carts of groceries (we shopped once a month, and I had three younger brothers) and my mother is hysterical as we drive home with empty hands & empty mouths. The checkout lady had accused her of stealing “just like all the other wetbacks,” but we’re not Mexicans, she sobs. We’re Apache people. When we step back into the house, I look again for the millionth time at the old black & white Edward Curtis photographs of Geronimo & Cochise & Sitting Bull lining our walls. I look at my mother’s shelf full of China dolls, each one dressed in the regalia of a different tribe – Apache are there of course. All of the carpets and blankets are in the Pendleton style. My mom cries and swears and says we’ll never go back to that grocery store. It’s the only grocery store I ever remember having shopped at.

thunderbird

So Let Them Hear Our Hearts

After waking up, getting showered, and getting myself in the mood to start writing the last few papers of my Associate’s career, I casually flipped through Facebook to catch up on what my people were talking about. I am extremely introverted and when I’m taxed by college and in particular finals week, I am grateful for this tool which allows me to keep in touch with my people. There were a couple of random posts sharing articles or highlighting people’s lives, but it did not take long to see my feed inundated with articles about death and Orlando, Florida. I started reading these articles and reading how other people felt about them and was quickly overcome with a feeling of misery and dread.

I stopped then, not because I did not want to read more, but because I have a timeline that I need to complete in order to finish my classes and earn my degree (and ideally retain my GPA). I go through waves in which sometimes I am a resilient rock who gives no fucks about pain, and other times I am so sensitive that if I allow the smallest, most distant thing to affect my mood it will change my behavior in an impactful and long term way.

This was not a small or distant thing.

I am straight, but the LGBTQ community has always been part of my community. Members of my close family are gay and I have had more than a few of their partners act as parental figures – extremely loving and influential parental figures – in my life. I would not be the person I was without two of them in particular, let alone my family members themselves. I went to high school in the 90’s, where homosexuality was not easy to celebrate openly, and I universally defended friends who were part of this community, not out of some distancing reasoning like saying, “They’re just like my family!” but because they were human beings who were not being treated as human beings – something which I can understand on a different level.

I have two distinct families with very little overlap. One of them is white, the other is brown. Even in my white family I have three cousins and an uncle who are Latinx. My brown family consists of people who identify that way, or who identify as indigenous. Both are brown, and if you want to dig into the nitty gritty, all Latinx people are indigenous. This is my mother’s side of the family, in which I also have two gay uncles, one through blood, the other his partner. I could probably get in a lot of trouble for saying this, but they have always been my favourites. They have been so loving and supportive of me and of our family as a whole. Their home is filled with pictures of all of the children of my generation, and also the generation after mine. No one more than them seem to know the details of my family’s story from every perspective. They are the kin-keepers of my family.

So if it’s not obvious, my uncles and other close family members are brown and gay.

Anyone with a heart is outraged and grieving about this tragedy, but I had to walk away from it, because in those moments before we understood the details of the identities of those people, their faces were my close family members and my uncles. Their faces were indigenous, two-spirit people – people who in the adopted colonial attitudes of this country are treated as deviants instead of sacred teachers. People who are subjected to some of the worst violence in this country.

When I first decided to lift my head and open my mouth on this, my decision was to confide my thoughts in someone who I then understood to be a friend; someone who felt safe. I brought up two things initially, one was that I noticed they had said that it was the largest mass shooting on American soil (which I felt the need to correct because of the numbers of mass shootings of indigenous folk who to this day are not respected as human when statements like that are made) and that this event was the most recent tragedy involving the mass execution of brown people in our country, and also that I was disturbed by the fact that they were brown people was not being reported on as heavily in the media as the fact that they were part of the LGBTQ community.

Let me re-emphasize this point: I was not trying to bring this up because I wanted to play the oppression Olympics and make this tragedy seem less terrible. I was bringing it up because even when the country is capable of realizing the damage and violence committed against LGBTQ people, they refuse to acknowledge the damage and violence being committed against brown, indigenous people – even when they are the same exact people.

The response to my points from my assumed friend were as follows: They felt that I was using a tragedy to further my own biased cause, and they expressed the fact that “you can’t blame this on white people this time. The shooter was a Muslim, and this is brown-on-brown crime.”

Suffice to say that we were no longer friends (and I suspect we never were).

But then my response was to shelter up again. I wanted to get away for many of the same reasons I have been trying to get away from discussing this election cycle and the impact it has on indigenous people and the ways in which candidates support and further the colonial agenda in ways that are as minimal as saying shitty things like “get over it” or huge things like placing and funding governments that destroy indigenous land and assassinate indigenous leaders, but that’s another subject entirely.

I’ve been following another indigenous friend of mine on Facebook who has unrepentantly been repeating the fact that indigenous people were murdered by colonial settlers and you can’t get away from that fact. Indigenous people who celebrated and revered Two-Spirit people had their lands settled and their ways of life utterly destroyed to make room for a way of life which has invited the hate of LGBTQ people. This hate is a result of settler-colonialism, they are not separate issues. I’ve been thankful that she’s speaking out, because it reminded me that I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t wrong in what I was trying to express.

Then, one of my oldest friends, who used to be my roommate for a year, and who is also gay made a post about the silence of straight people on this tragedy. I remembered how often that I express that white silence on indigenous rights and black & brown rights is a bigger problem, if not one of the biggest problems, when it comes to racism. It is the same with homophobia. I am straight and indigenous. I am speaking out. This is my perception and my experience. This is not a tragedy that any of us are going to be able to “move past.” No one should and we should absolutely not forget. It is not going to be easy going forward, but with this shared experience we should stand up and act and remember that homophobia is real. Racism is real. Hate is real – it has a source – and our responsibility is to cut it off at the source.

Won’t Let You Smother It

I am extremely self-conscious about my appearance. This has its roots in many things, not the least of which is my anxiety which sometimes overwhelms to the point of my being incapable of attending to my physical appearance for days at a time, which only makes things worse in a lovely cycle of self-destruction. I am self-conscious because I weigh more than I want to. I certainly weigh a lot more than I did in my early twenties. My family always referred to me as the skinny one in light-hearted teasing, and while I know that for some people that can feel hurtful, I was always proud that I was a little more fit and shapely. I’m not really anymore. I do try (I run three times a week if I can help it, though sometimes I fall down on it). I’m also self-conscious because what I have considered my most attractive physical trait for my whole life is my long, black hair, braided or flowing. But I am getting older and my hairline is receding and I’m not sure if it’s as beautiful as it used to be. I’ve never been afraid of going gray. I invited that. But losing my hair hurts. I’m self-conscious because when you look at my face you can see it. I am getting older. I am approaching thirty five and that’s halfway to forty and I can’t really claim youth anymore at forty. I have been trying hard in my thirties, but there is only so much I can do.

 

This might make me vain and seem quite superficial, but none of these changing traits make me feel the same way my skin colour does.

 

I am a light-skinned Indian. This is because my father is white and I adopted a lot more of his skin-colour than my mother’s. In just about every other way, I am nearly the spitting image of my mother (shifted slightly for masculine features), but my skin is not the colour of hers. It might be a shade or two darker than your average white person, but I would be a liar if I said I was brown-skinned. I have lost a lot of colour since moving to the land-of-no-sun, but I would still be lying to you if I claimed the skin-colour of my mother at any age. I have never been as dark as she is.  DSC_9442 (2)

 

And I’m self-conscious about that.

 

Here’s something I want to share with you that is very important for me to be clear about. I have white privilege. It is not because I am white, but rather because of my light skin. In many circles I can pass as white. I have noticed that this is most commonly true in circles which are primarily white and do not have much social interaction with Indians. The more white my community, the more privilege I receive for my light skin. Of course, it goes without question that my long hair is frowned upon when it is loose, slightly less when it is in a ponytail, and my privilege is nearly completely erased when I dare to braid up (this is when I tend to receive the most direct ridicule and race-baiting when I am in predominantly white circles).

 

I also want to be clear that my self-consciousness has nothing to do with my sometimes ill-earned white privilege. I am not ashamed, and neither should anyone else be ashamed, of the privilege that they are granted for their appearance. We might be ashamed at our society for affording it, and more importantly we should be angry and stand up and shout out against that system, but being ashamed of white privilege is a waste of everyone’s time. When you have that white privilege, you need to use it. You need to take the moments (or all the time, if you are actually white), when people shift their perception of you because of the colour of your skin and use it to tear down the system. I know that I am treated differently than my dark-skinned cousins. I know that I am treated vastly differently than my Indian/Black cousins. So I speak. I have a platform of privilege and I use it to speak as much as I can to a predominantly white audience because I know that I have an advantage.

 

The reason that I am self-conscious of my skin colour is because of the damage that has been done to Indian people by whites (I’m thinking in particular of Jamake Highwater, but he is by no means the only fauxndian or plastic shaman on the list, I’ve just been talking about Chakotay being problematic a lot lately) who have claimed to be Native American for some kind of social or economic gain (which is really ironic). I’m also self-conscious because as much as I discuss injustice with all of you, and sometimes use my own experiences with racism and injustice to make it clear that it is real and alive, I do not want to mislead anyone about who I am.

 

I am a half-breed, or mixed indigenous. My mother is Chiricahua Apache on her mother’s side and Cora Indian on her father’s side (this is my grandfather who grew up in a cave, whom I have told stories about previously). Many members of that part of my family choose to only claim Mexican heritage because the shame and stigma associated with being Indian (or mestizo) is so much stronger in Mexico than it is in the States (and I am not saying that it is sunshine and rainbows up here, we know that it is not). On my father’s side I am some mix of Scottish and English, I believe. The stories have always been confused, but my grandmother held to her Scottish heritage more than anything else. I’m also distantly related to John McCain on that side of my family which I am not saying with even an inch of pride.

 

I want you to know that I have a lot more privilege than most Indians do. I want you to know that I have it a lot better than most Indians do. But I am still Indian. I don’t want you to confuse me with someone who I am not. I am mixed-race indigenous, and I fight because I love my family. I fight because I love Indian country. I fight because I love Coras and Apaches. I fight because I am Cora and Apache. I fight for Indians because I am Indian.

 

 

Let a Dog Roam!

I hinted and/or blatantly bragged about my upcoming project with A. Drennan, the Rough Writers Podcast (she turned down my idea to do a slightly off-tone version of the Ruff Ryders Anthem as our theme music), a podcast about writing for budding authors with lots of drinking and nasty swears.

Well, that project has come to fruition and we’ve published episode numero zero which you can find on the Rough Writers webpage and on iTunes.09dfc0c2-0718-4f22-ba47-4b2eeeb19448

In the Rough Writers podcast, Drennan and I are going to be drinking (sometimes a little too much) and whining a lot about what it means to be a writer.  If you love drunk people whining, then this is definitely the podcast for you.  If you care about professional authors speaking professionally and tsking at naughty naughty potty mouth words, then fuck off.

I hope you enjoy the podcast, and if you have any questions you’d like us to answer, or topics you’d like us to address, just let me know!

So True When You Lie

I have been talking about it for long it was starting to feel like it would never come. But I suppose that is the nature of shifting realities and my shortsighted ability to perceive them.

Today Truth Beyond Paradox hit the shelves (the proverbial, digital shelves) and can now be purchased. You can buy a physical copy or a PDF and I’m 99% sure you can stick PDFs on your eReaders, but don’t quote me on that.

Here’s where you can purchase the book.

tbpA lot of you may be asking what you can possibly do to assist me as an artist. Sometimes it’s harder to help writers and authors because of how independently their art is created, but now is your chance to shine. The best thing you can do to help me out is to write a review. And I don’t mean just pop onto Goodreads and give it a 5 star (only do that if you actually came away from the book feeling like it was a 5 star). What I’d like you to do is write an actual review with your feelings about the book as a whole. I know it seems like a small thing, but written reviews do a lot more for authors than you think.

Here is the link to the book on Goodreads.

You can review it on DriveThruRPG too.

I don’t believe it’s listed on Amazon, but if that changes, I’ll edit this post to reflect that.

Finally, if you’d like to bring your physical copy to Norwescon this year, I’d be happy to sign it for you.

Now go buy it, and more importantly, read it! I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Once Praised Now Wrong

Truth Beyond Paradox, the Onyx Path produced Anthology in which my story A Secret Palace will be appearing alongside Seanan McGuire’s We Are the Shadows Cast by the Memory of Giants has been pre-released for the Kickstarter Project backers (and should be out for general consumption any day now). But as it is in the hands of some readers, feedback has already been filtering in. I was more than just a little pleased to see this yesterday morning:


 

Halfway through Truth Beyond Paradox, read 9 out of the 17 stories. So far it’s a great, very diverse collection, both from writing style to character diversity. Some are clearly better than others (in my subjective opinion) but the “worst” of the bunch so far are at least decent and would still get 3 out of 5 stars from me.

Favorite to this point is A Secret Palace, by far. I really, really, really loved everything about this story. Writing style, characters, mood, it’s just brilliant. It represents exactly what a good Mage story is, in my opinion, and yet it does not use a single Mage copyrighted term. Awesome.

Kudos to Bill Bridges for “The Girl Who Remembered Tomorrow”. He keeps getting better and better with his writing and actually managed to make me enthusiastic about an Etherite story when it’s probably my least favorite Tradition.

Least favorite among the first 9 is probably We Are The Shadows… It’s not a bad story at all, it’s just a bit too “roleplaying-game-licenced-story” for my own subjective tastes. But as I said above, it’s still well written and I’d give it 3 stars out of 5 anyway.

–Paul De Senquisse


I just wanted to share this incredible praise I received for a story that I have a lot of strong feelings about. I am excited for it to go to press!

Another Imprint in Borrowed Clothes

venus (3)

I have two important things to share with you. The first one should be obvious. I have changed the look of my website to be easier to read. Personally, I prefer light text on a dark background, but I have conceded that this is not a common preference. I am hoping that you guys appreciate the new look. If you don’t, or have any ideas about what changes I ought to make, I would appreciate the feedback.

 

Second and more importantly, I have my tentative Norwescon 39 schedule. The panels I was selected for are full of fascinating subject ideas and I want to pick brains on these subjects in the two months leading up to the convention, so if anyone has any bright ideas, please reach out to me. Also, if you’d like to see me at Norwescon, but you have a huge time crunch and you have to pick and choose when, what I would absolutely love, more than anything, is to have you show up for my reading at 10:00pm on Saturday night. After that, we can go bury our money in our shot glasses.

 

Without further ado:

 

GAM16 – Non-Traditional Gamers Speak

Fri 1:00 PM-2:00 PM – Evergreen 1&2

Donna Prior (M), J. F. High, Burton Gamble, Mickey Schulz

 

CUL19 – …But It Was Always So Awesome!

Sat 12:00 PM-1:00 PM – Cascade 7&8

Mickey Schulz (M), J. F. High, Lisa Bolekaja, Spencer Ellsworth, John Lovett

 

MISC13 – Finding Diverse Voices & Characters in SF/F

Sat 1:00 PM-2:00 PM – Evergreen 3&4

Marta Murvosh (M), Cat Rambo, J. F. High, Lisa Bolekaja

 

CUL27 – Cultural Imperialism in Everyday Fandom

Sat 3:00 PM-4:00 PM – Cascade 7&8

Jason Vanhee (M), J. F. High, Tim Bruhn, Cheryce Clayton, Sheye Anne Blaze

 

HOR04 – Horror: Not Just for White Dudes Anymore

Sat 5:00 PM-6:00 PM – Cascade 9

Arinn Dembo (M), J. F. High, Lisa Bolekaja, Kate Jonez, Cheryce Clayton

 

CUL21 – Diversity in Media: Why Is It important?

Sat 7:00 PM-8:00 PM – Evergreen 1&2

Arinn Dembo (M), Rafeal Richardson, Lisa Bolekaja, J. F. High, Tim Bruhn

 

R20 – Reading: J. F. High

Sat 10:00 PM-10:30 PM – Cascade 1

J. F. High (M)

 

Art by Camille High