In April, I decided to take a Greyhound bus to see my birthmother in Indiana, go to a writing conference in Michigan, and pitch an idea to some wonderful publishers in Toronto. I was out of work, and had been for many months. The only affordable way to do this that I could see was to go by Greyhound Bus. It would take almost three weeks. I knew I would be on the bus for awhile. But I had this idea, that I would sketch the people and the places I saw outside my window on my journey. Just for fun. I would tweet them as “Sketches from the Road”. On one hand, I wanted to get my drawing hand back into practice. I used to be a cartoonist a long time ago, and a portrait artist, but I just hadn’t done a lot of that in many years.
So I did these sketches as I went and it kept me busy and made me really look and see the new places around me. They weren’t people and buildings passing by–I had to know their brickwork and their coats. And that makes a difference in the experience you have while traveling. At least it did for me.
Greyhound liked the whole thing so much that they decided to feature me on their blog, The Hound, and I’m really happy about that. Geist magazine saw the sketches, via my friend Lily Gontard, and wanted to publish the sketches to tell a story of my journey. I’m really thrilled about that too.
Here’s the Greyhound Link to their interview with me on The Hound.
I will put up more of these sketches soon, as soon as I know what Geist needs. I have more wonderful news to share from Toronto soon, and when Geist’s article comes out in the fall, I’ll link you there as well. Look for more sketches soon.
Until then, enjoy your travels!
photo by Leo Seta, Flickr, Creative Commons
For the first time, available now by itself: “Lemmings in the Third Year” for your Kindle, iPad, e-reader device.
Arctic researchers stuck in a land of talking animals, comedy, runner up to the Fountain Award. The idea started with Iron John: a Book About Men and ended up being about Women in Science instead. How did that happen?
It was the summer of 1992 when I moved to Missouri to sit outside the gates of the University of Missouri-Columbia and hope that I got in to their Masters program. It was foolish. I can’t believe the belief I had, the sheer power of conviction that they would pick me if I waited right there. To wait the year–in order to get in-state tuition too—I worked at Taco Bell, next-door, and I was just barely getting by. I lived in a house with four roommates, but the rent was about 400 a month for a bedroom. In the fall, I saw an ad in the Maneater (the student newspaper) for a cartoonist. It paid 12 dollars a cartoon. You had to produce 2 cartoons a week, but you had an open subject, any style, whatever you wanted to do.
I was not a student at the time, but maybe they made an exception for me. I could draw. I had imagination. I could do this. But what would I write about? I remember that I was reading Iron John: A book about Men, and was very confused by it. There was a lot I loved, and I lot I argued with. Robert Bly brings that out in people–and that’s okay. I had also picked up a book about polar bears from a discount shelf inside an old Hastings store. By mashing Robert Bly and polar bears I created Captain Bly and submitted six cartoons for consideration. I got in! It meant that I had nearly 100 extra dollars a month! I was thrilled.
I kept that cartoon strip going for four years. After the year waiting outside, I did finally get into Mizzou, but I kept the Taco Bell job too. The strip started out being about men, and about bears (I didn’t have a clue that I was a gay man who loved “bears” but drawing them made me happy). But soon it got into science, and I created three biologists who journey north and are stuck in a north where all the animals talk to them.
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Please join us in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the weekend before the Festival of Faith and Writing (at Calvin College), for Writing the LGBT Spiritual Journey Workshop, APRIL 5, SATURDAY, 9am–5pm.
For the LGBT person of faith, the journey has not been easy. Many of us are refugees from mainline denominations that offer faith but only to some, or only with clauses attached. Some of us have escaped into better, more accepting faiths or denominations–but that journey may not have been easy. Charting our spiritual journey, though, can help bring focus and fulfillment to our lives as part of the LGBT community. Writing our spiritual journeys also completes the missing parts of society’s spiritual journey. In this Workshop we will read LGBT writers of faith, as well as writers of faith in general, to pick up tips and techniques that will help you write about your journey. If you like discussing spirituality in the context of the LGBT community, with others like yourself, and exploring through writing what your journey has discovered, come join us. Using writing exercises, games, techniques of professional writers, and your own lives, you will create writing that struggles, overcomes, even heals, as it maps the spiritual journey of your life. All faiths are welcome. All struggles are welcome. Even if your spirituality doesn’t fall neatly in a box, join us. Boxes aren’t the best places for spirituality anyway.
This class needs a minimum of five people to run. Some reading will be sent to you via email before the workshop begins. Cost is $80 per person. Sign up early so we can be sure that the workshop runs, and that you receive readings for the workshop. Bring a journal, a pen, and the heart of an explorer.
For more information, and to sign up, please contact Fountain Street Church.
Saturday, April 5, 9am-5pm
Fountain Street Church
To sign up for this class, please follow this link to EventBrite:
Happy Nonetheless– by Amanda Graham
A friend of mine in Kentucky asked for any tips I might know about dealing with cold weather since I lived in the Yukon for nine years. I told him I’d share what I could. Not definitive, and many other Yukoners have great strategies too. These are just my thoughts, presented humbly from my own experience. Not a cold weather expert at all–just someone who went though ten winters, down to -50C once and made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of advice and help. Fellow Yukoners, feel free to add your advice in the comments. I know I missed important tips! And you are all awesome at cold weather living. Please add any advice for your Southern brothers and sisters.
Hey Graham. I’d be happy to share what I know. Personally I learned that cold is a game you play with the outside. Dress in layers. One cool sweater over a shirt won’t do. Better to have multilayers that will trap pockets of warm air. I suggest three. And a good down-filled coat (lots of pockets of warm air there). Gloves are important to always keep on. Hands can get really chapped and stiff very quickly. I learned that even a short walk to the car and back in -20C would chap my fingers quickly. I liked those black ninja masks with air holes that skiers sometimes wear. Allows you to cove half your face and still breathe.
Pace yourself. Don’t go so fast as to breathe hard. You don’t want -20C air in your lungs. Always breathe in your nose. Your mother was right. Your nose hairs will freeze at -20C and below. But it just feels prickly. There’s no damage. It’s actually a cool experience.
Cover as much as your face as you can–but a furry hood can set your face back far enough that it will help.
Take breaks in your shoveling. Warm up. Don’t run your cars if the temps falls below -30C. Unless you plug them in every night and a heater under your oil pan keeps your oil warm. Or you keep them in a garage. But still, Yukoners knew that operating most cars after -30C was extra wear and tear. We’d all take the bus or ski to work. Lol.
Hiking boots are fine with warm wool socks. OH long johns are priceless. I wore mine for the whole winter in the north. They make a huge difference. Polypropylene longjohns are awesome and thin by Terramar and other companies. Well worth the 30 bucks or so.
If I think of more ill let you know. I’m just planning on spending more time inside the house. If you dress warmly, in layers, you will be fine. And playing in the snow is great, but probably not below -20 unless you are used to it. And if there’s a strong wind, I’d advise hot cocoa and watching a movie.
* Just a note, many Yukoners did drive after -40C. Had to get to work. But most all would say it’s not good for your car. But Yukoners take pride in being able to function fully in cold weather. Nothing is closed because of cold weather–few events are ever canceled. I once got in trouble for canceling class when I taught at Yukon College when the temp was to drop to -50C. “We are the standard,” I was told. “If the Yukon closes things, it must be horrible.” And -50, though rare, wasnt horrible. Lol.
Good luck in the cold! It doesn’t have to stop your fun, but while the Yukon had roads cleared in an hour, because we were ready for it, and had extra crews, and because we had drivers used to winter driving with their winter tires, roads were safe for us. For everyone else, maybe think twice about going out. Your drivers aren’t used to winter driving, your road crews may be overwhelmed because your cities have more roads to clear. Your city will be doing the best it can. Stay in and watch Netflix while the world goes through the Ice Age until Wednesday. Good luck and enjoy experiencing a little bit of Yukon*.
Hope this helps.
*PS The Yukon isn’t responsible for cold weather, even though the weather people keep saying that this “cold air mass” is brought to you by Canada, or the Arctic…. they aren’t made in the Yukon. They ARE, however, first enjoyed in the Yukon.
Again: Fellow Yukoners, feel free to add your advice below. I know I missed important tips! And you are all awesome at cold weather living. Please add any advice for your Southern brothers and sisters. I titled this “Yukoners” for that reason. Thanks!
As a science fiction/fantasy writer, I just want to remind folks that we aren’t all alike, and we don’t live in just one bubble. My blog has always been about the experience of being a science fiction/fantasy writer and not just reflecting the genre/writing parts—but about my whole experience of being a Yukoner, of having a faith, of being gay–AND being a science fiction/fantasy writer. So this is part of it.
The Queer Story Archives came up to Whitehorse–Lulu from OnMyPlanet.ca–in July 2013, recording stories of Yukon Queers, and we recorded this right before I was to leave for Dayton, Ohio. I think it’s turning into a positive story so I’m sharing it. Ultimately I’m suggesting that including gay people can save a rapidly diminishing Church population. To do that, I tell my story. Some of you have heard it–either through the Yukon News, or through DNTO. Both sources were good but heavily edited. This is me telling it in less than ten minutes. It feels better in my own words, complete.
We grow from hard times in our lives and this was a good growth for me. Eventually, I’ve come to retain and re-establish many friendships from the first church. I hope my story still helps others. I’m placing this over on Talking Dog too.
From Brian Stavely comes a thoughtful post on depicting the divine in Fantasy over on Tor.com. I’ve included a short beginning here, but read the whole thing at this link to the whole article. Essentially Stavely counts off the ways one can describe a god in epic fantasy fiction–and there are five options. I was thinking through his list, and it’s good, but I think there are at least three more ways to depict a god in epic fantasy, and I humbly offer them up:
Option 6: Use other people’s understanding of the god as description. They might not all be alike, but the confluence, the overlap of them, will give a mosaic feel to your god. It will also create character development for the characters who have seen/or believe in this god, as we tend to see what we desire in our gods. A god’s description in the mouth of one character as a “god of vengeance” is a very different character than someone who calls him “a god of protection.” May be same god.
Option 7: Use tales of the deeds of a god to describe him or her. Actually what a god does says more about him than his/her description. And again, people have tales. If you can gather up the tales of a god, you can capture a character description that readers can fill in as they go. Then if and when the god shows up in your text, it may already have a pretty firm description in the mind of the reader, based on what it has done in the world. God is rarely described in the Bible, but his deeds let you know exactly what kind of God he is.
Option 8: Every culture uses Art to talk about its gods. Can you pull together images of the divine from a culture’s art? That will help form a picture in a reader’s mind through the cultural depictions of the gods, telling you a hell of a lot about the culture, as well as the god. Michaelangelo’s God touching Adam who seems curly headed and benevolent, and other depictions of God as a fiery, anger-filled rage monster.
Depicting the Divine in Epic Fantasy
by Brian Stavely
There’s a striking moment near the end of the twenty-first canto of Dante’s Inferno, one that almost all readers tend to remember, when the demon Barbariccia “avea del cul fatto trombetta.” It’s hard to put it delicately: he turns his ass into a trumpet. Not the kind of thing you expect out of a writer recording the steps his salvation, but the image stays with you.
Likewise, readers of the Divine Comedy remember Ugolino, who, for the sin of eating his sons, is forever frozen to his neck in ice, gnawing on the brains of Archbishop Ruggieri. In fact, Dante has no trouble at all depicting sinners in the various postures of their suffering, and for seven centuries readers have kept turning the pages. Corporal violence sells. Electronic Arts even has an eponymously titled video game in which Dante looks less like a poet and more like a Muay Thai Knight Templar. The EA people are no fools—they understand that there’s a ready market for brain eating and ass trumpets.
When it comes to the celestial realm of heaven, however, Dante runs into trouble.
READ MORE HERE.
Thanks, Brian and Tor.com!!
Hopefully these suggestions help YOU when writing about Faith in your Fantasy or Science Fiction. Let me know what you think. And don’t forget, you can write about Faith in Fantasy and Science Fiction for the Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods anthology, open for submissions right now over at http://www.tesseracts18.com!
If you’re in Ohio, there’s a new workshop of Writing Faith starting up at Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Dayton. A collaboration with First Baptist Dayton and Temple Israel, the workshop is going to be 13 weeks, Tuesdays, 5:30-8:30.
The workshop is designed to teach you how to write about Faith–a tricky subject to begin with–but with a long history. Come explore your faith and learn techniques found in Annie Dillard, Langston Hughes, Donald Miller, Thomas Merton, Andre Dubus, John Updike, Frederika Mathews-Green, Kathleen Norris and others. While the core may be Jewish and Christian based, there will be readings from other faiths. We hope to create a lasting workshop of multi-faith writers who will continue to write and workshop together.
Follow us on www.writingfaith.net where I’ll be posting short articles about “How to Write about Faith” as we go.