Archive for February, 2012

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax – A Review

A few years ago, two movies with environmental messages came out a few months from each other:  Evan Almighty sacrificed comedy for the sake of its message whereas The Simpsons Movie kept its eye on the comedy goal line.  Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax falls closer to the Evan Almighty camp.

Timed to be released on the 108th birthday of Dr. Seuss himself, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax brings to the big screen an adaptation of his 1971 children’s classic.  The folks behind Despicable Me and Hop decided they couldn’t just tell the original story, but instead fill out the story with an “in case you missed the point” framing story which fully beats you over the head with the message stick.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is the story of a young boy named Ted (Zac Efron, Hairspray, 17 Again) who is trying to get a tree to impress the girl, Audrey  (Taylor Swift, Valentine’s Day), whom he likes.  Their home town of Thneedville is completely plastic and fake.  They have to buy (purchase bottled air) or build (battery-operated trees, some of which include a disco setting) nature.  The town is perfectly happy with their way of life (disco settings!), however, Audrey has the dream of being able to see a real tree.  Ted, a master of his convictions, makes it his mission to get the girl find a real Truffula Tree.

Ted’s Grammy Norma (the awesome in everything Betty White, The Proposal, Hot in Cleveland) directs him to the mythical hermit, The Once-ler (Ed Helms, The Hangover).  However, Ted’s quest brings him into conflict with bottled air tycoon, Aloysius O’Hare (Rob Riggle, The Hangover).  His is the best bottled air available, fresher than breathable stuff (“Please Breathe Responsibly” <– A CRITIQUE OF THE BUYING BOTTLED WATER CULTURE IN CASE YOU MISSED IT).

The Once-ler’s price to help is to force Ted to listen to his tale of ambitions run amuck, told in parts thus making Ted have to escape his town several times. He tells of him coming to the pastoral pre-Thneedville forest, encountering The Lorax (Danny DeVito, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), but not letting nature get in the way of his manufacturing dreams.

It pads takes a while to recall how he turned a garden of Eden into a technological, pre-fab wasteland, but hopefully no one notices since the movie is filled with catchy songs and eye-popping 3-D.  The 3-D experience reminds the audience how great it can be when it’s intentional and incorporated into the movie-making rather than slapped on after the fact.  One is practically sucked into the page of the story.

“A tree falls the way it leans.  Be careful which way you lean.” –Lorax

The movie’s less than subtle message is that there is a cost to manufacturing, industry, and technology run amuck.  Yet the movie teeters on coming across as anti-corporation and anti-capitalist, with the even-less-subtle “How bad can I be?” song being the most egregious offender.

There is an aspect to Christianity that has gone long unattended, a creation spirituality. Thoreau said that “with a keen awareness of the natural world one could find truth”. God has created all things and declared them “good” (even “very good”).

One of the lessons from the Genesis account of creation is that humanity was created to be stewards of creation. Yet, we’ve lost our connection with creation, continuing to develop new ways to either insulate ourselves from it or encroach our brand of civilization into it. Our souls are starved for God’s creation.  All spiritual people should enjoy God’s creation, embracing it the way God intended for us.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing will get better.” –The Once-ler

Like The Once-ler’s hope for redemption, the journey begins with repentance, exchanging an old way of life for a new way.  The hope is for a New Creation with us being caught up in the story of the completion of that mission. Joining that mission requires us face the cost of our “progress,” to change the way things are, to plant seeds of change, and celebrating the world’s rebirth.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax was punctuated by a couple of other troubling elements:  its “til a bunch of hill jacks come and ruin nature” message as well as the non-stop, easy short person jokes.  Even leavened by catchy musical numbers, great animation, art direction, and cute animal characters, the movie’s pro-environment message becomes a heavy-handed screed.  One which smacks as a little hypocritical considering the amount of corporate tie-ins involved in its marketing campaign.  Maybe this is a birthday present Dr. Seuss may want to re-gift.

Another Mo*Con Cometh

[Unfortunately, Alethea Kontis won’t be with us (though we will still be having our traditional “In Celebration of Alethea Kontis Opening Dinner”).  However, Brian Keene will be joining us.  So imagine him in that outfit.*]

Another year, another Mo*Con approaches:  May 4th-6th (Cinco de Mo*Yo).    I both love and dread this time of year.  There is an excitement as Mo*Con is typically the opening to my convention season.  It’s like my kickoff party.  There is a dread as, well, with all the planning and detail work that goes into it, (and it’s strange how such a laid back con requires so much thought) my writing productivity drops to about nothing.  But it’s totally worth it.

A lot of writers have regular (insert their name) cons, ranging from backyard bbq/parties to full borne conventions.  There’s no easy way to describe Mo*Con.  Some call it the Necon of the Midwest.  Or compare it to a con suite convention, a convention room party for a whole weekend, except held in a church.  Its aim has always been to be small and intimate, yet be like a family reunion.

Mo*Con has a two part vision.  The first, inspired by many a late night at conventions, is to provide a forum for folks, namely my horror and fantasy writing colleagues, to get together and discuss some of the larger issues which affect our writing, our social conscience, and our spiritual lives.  We can have discussions and disagree (the whole point is to disagree), yet listen to one another in a spirit of respect.  The second is that too often the artist is underappreciated and we wanted an occasion to spoil a few.  This year’s line up includes:

“Apex Publishing Presents … Mary Robinette Kowal
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of Shades of Milk and Honey Tor, 2010). In 2008 she received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and in 2011, her short story “For Want of a Nail” won the Hugo Award for Short Story. Her work has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards. Her stories appear in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and several Year’s Best anthologies. She is the Vice President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Mary, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor, recording fiction for authors such as Elizabeth Bear, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi. She lives in Portland, OR with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters. Visit www.maryrobinettekowal.com. Photo © 2010 Annaliese Moyer
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Mary SanGiovanni has a B.A. in English, with a concentration in Writing, from Fairleigh Dickinson U., and an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill U. Mary lives in NJ with her son. Some of her favorite things include video games, movies, books, long baths, art, Asian food, lilacs, dollhouses, woodworking, singing, salsa dancing, and butterflies. She is of Italian and Irish descent. She is left-handed. She believes in God, the Devil, angels, demons, ghosts, fairy folk, aliens, karma, ESP, telepathy, worm holes, other dimensions, Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, love at first sight, Roswell, monsters, and the American Dream, because life’s too short and boring without them.
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Nate Southard’s books include Scavengers, This Little Light of Mine, Red Sky, Just Like Hell, Broken Skin, and He Stepped Through. His short fiction has appeared in such venues as Cemetery Dance, Black Static, Thuglit, and Supernatural Noir. His short story “Going Home, Ugly Stick in Hand” received an honorable mention in The Year’s Best Horror. A graduate of The University of Texas with a degree in Radio, Television, and Film, Nate lives in Austin, Texas. You can learn more atwww.natesouthard.com.
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Publisher Guest of Honor: John Edward Lawson
John Edward Lawson is the founding editor of Raw Dog Screaming Press. For eight years he has successfully released books classified as “unpublishable” by other publishing houses. Recently RDSP added two new imprints: Guide Dog Books for nonfiction, and Imaginary Books for children’s literature. As a freelance editor he has edited eight anthologies, worked on the National Lampoon books, and spent four years as editor-in-chief of The Dream People Literary Journal of the Bizarre. As an author John has published ten books and over 400 works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction around the globe. He lives in Maryland with his wife and son. You can spy on him at www.johnlawson.org.
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Artist Guest of Honor: Mike Altman
Mike Altman growing up never wanted to be anything but an artist… well, ok, maybe Batman for a while. Altman uses simple line work and bold colors to illustrate a sometimes complex message. Altman’s work can be laced with symbolism, satire, spirituality, and double-meaning. And then sometimes he just paints a picture of a blue cow that is… a blue cow. Altman’s work has been exhibited in Jacksonville, FL, Knoxville and Nashville, TN, Bloomsburg, PA, Montclair, NJ, New York City and most recently Indianapolis, IN.

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We’ll be debuting a few projects at this year’s Mo*Con, not the least of which are The Miseducation of the Writer, an anthology of essays by writers of color edited by myself, Chesya Burke, and John Edward Lawson. And a portion of the money raised at Mo*Con will be given to the Carl Brandon Society. Lastly, a strange thing has happened with Mo*Con.   Besides the fact that the bulk of the convention involves us continually rolling out food and drinks to facilitate great conversations, it has its own metric about whether that year was a successful con.  It’s probably the only convention where people measure it by how well they feel loved.  You have to experience it to understand.

*In case you have trouble imagining this, allow me to help with a visual (he posts so many political-career-ending pictures of me, I’m scared to do a Google image search of myself):


I never seem to have enough time to write …

(aka, Making Time to Write aka Plant your behind in a chair)

Being unemployed (aka, a freelance writer) you’d think it’d be easy for me to find time to write.  I have found that my schedule actually hasn’t changed all that much for a variety of reasons.  For one, looking for work is a full time job.  So in a lot of ways there’s a lot of going through the motions of a regular schedule, but to be straight, there’s still a lot of flexibility to write (or do like many of the other folks with 9-5 gigs do:  play games on Facebook).

Plus, I still have a lot of outside interests, from teaching to volunteer work.  So the usual balancing act of work, family, interests, and writing is still pretty much in play.  It’d be a lot easier if I were more disciplined.  The closest thing to discipline I have is that I am committed to putting words on a page regularly, even if at the time of this writing, it’s 12:08 a.m. and I’m doing a blog and not the chapter which currently has me stumped.  The long and short of it is that I, you, any would be writer has to make time to write.  It won’t just happen, no matter how hard I’ve tried (and I’ve been a committed scientist in this area).

To begin to carve out this space to write requires sacrifice.  There are 24 hours in a day, that hasn’t and doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.  So something’s got to give.  It could be something easy, like television (currently I have my random X-Files marathon paused).  For others it might require less time on Facebook, Twitter, ranting on message boards (I’m so glad I have that habit kicked), or other internet surfing (which I still have to do … IN THE NAME OF RESEARCH!!!)

But there are other hours in the day to wring more time from.  Writing on the job is a tricky proposition, after all, you still need to be responsible and do your work or you won’t have said job for very long.  However, ideas still happen and you need to jot them down.  My personal method of choice was either my trusty notepad or, in a pinch, Post-It notes at the office.  Here’s the deal though:  you had BETTER collect them as to not let your co-workers find them.  Especially if you are writing a horror story, allow me to assure you that this scenario ends with a company staff meeting where you discuss any latent feelings of hostility you may have towards your colleagues.

I’d also suggest that you write long hand. That can’t be tracked as easily (speaking for a friend who got busted at work for using their computers.  Key stroke logging says what?).  But I always write longhand so that was easy for me.  All this and I haven’t even broached the topic of the time you can gain with a well-timed extended trip to the bathroom.  You’re good for a paragraph or two depending on what you had for dinner.  (Too much?)

Even with my erratic schedule, there are a few constants to it.  Most of us can write an hour or two at night or an hour or two in the morning.  For that matter, you can also write for an hour over lunch.  If you figure an average of 500 words and hour (your mileage may vary), that’s around 1500 a day.  Crunching the numbers, that’s a short story a week (if you’re feeling your inner Jay Lake) or a novel in a year.

To be honest, that’s about my writing output regardless.  Even when I’m not working, that’s about all I have in me creatively.  Sure I can do other writing (blogging, articles, etc.), but that “creation” muscle is worn out for me after a few hours.  With kids around, I can do the business of writing (e-mails, researching, social media, etc.) or typing and organizing my notes

Which brings me to my last point:  make your family part of the process.  Living with a writer is hard enough.  I’ve had to have a series of conversations with my wife and kids about my writing time.  Though it was tough trying to get them to understand that they had to leave me alone when the “office door is closed” (and only mildly confusing when the office in question is the bedroom or the couch).  On the flip side, with my “method” writing, I tend to take on the moods of my characters to write from that place, sometimes hard to turn off, which means explaining that my moods aren’t their fault.  And let them in on the rest of the process: celebrate getting published, take them to conventions when you can, and show them that their sacrifice is not all a waste of time.

Contrary to the myth, publication isn’t hard.*  It all boils down to discipline, drive, and devotion, in short, it’s a matter of how badly do you want it.  Or, in my case, how looming is that deadline.  The secret to making time to write:  plant your behind in a chair and get it done.

*Not to put too crass a turn on it (he says as he’s about to put a crass turn on things), publication is like getting laid.  It’s easy to find someone to have sex with.  When all else fails, you can pay for someone to have sex with you.  But to find that right person and make that special connection requires more work, more diligence, more patience, and a measure of choosiness.

My Hectic Schedule Continues…

This past weekend was spent with the Indiana Horror Writers at our annual retreat (pic taken by special surprise guest, Douglas F. Warrick…look how we sparkle).  As I’m still recovering here are a few quick links to stuff I’m up to:
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-The first night of the retreat, my interview on the Funky WerePig Podcast aired.  On there I was talking all things Knights of Breton Court, Mo*Con, & Dark Faith 2.
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Dreamapolis and the KI EcoCenter partnered with @innovateindy for the latest summit.  We had a great turnout two weekends ago discussing social media uses in branding as well as updating one another about our respective action teams.
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-I did a recent guest blog post about the Fountain Square area of Indianapolis over on city gallery indy.
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-Speaking of blogs, here’s @nkjemisin’s awesome and powerful essay “Dreaming Awake” from the upcoming anthology The Miseducation of the Writer.  It’s edited by me, @ChesyaBurke, and @bizarroguy

Who is Welcome at the Throne of Grace?

After thinking about being welcomed at the cool kids table, it wasn’t too much of a leap to thinking about churches. I remember when my wife and I were doing some church shopping, one of the quick ways we crossed a church off of our list was in how much they made us feel welcome. That is, if they said boo to us at all (there were too many times when, even when it was obvious that we were visitors, that we weren’t even greeted).

The kingdom is available to all. You don’t have to be “fixed” or already live a certain way or meet other people’s expectations before you can be a part of things. You can belong before you believe. As my friend Rich Vincent would say, that’s the paradox and mystery of the kingdom. It’s more important to include and welcome and embrace and love others. You may want to take a cue from Jim Altizer

How well do you make others feel welcome?

Welcome Back Broaddus

I’m loving teaching the creative writing classes down at the Writers’ Center of Indianapolis.  A few weeks ago I did the kick off Introduction to Speculative Fiction class that focused on what makes up fantasy, science fiction, and horror, the state of the markets, and the business of writing.  Now doing four weeks on various aspects of “preparing to write” (Brainstorming, Character/Dialogue, World Building, and Plotting).  By the way, walk ins are welcome. It helps that I have a really good group of folks that I’m working with.  The preparation for the classes forced me to sit down and think about process a lot (READ:  even though this isn’t a writing blog, per se, expect plenty of blog fodder from it).

Going with the teaching thing, I’ve been going down to Outreach Inc once a month to do mini-workshops on creative writing.  I love those kids (I’d say they’re too old to be called kids, but I’m coming to terms with the fact that somewhere between last year and today, I got old.  Come on, anyone humming “welcome back, welcome back, welcome back” after reading the title to this blog can feel me).  It’s a pure joy to engage their world, hear their voices as they tell their stories and express themselves.

And while I haven’t been doing as much subbing this semester, I still have been going into my sons’ classes as a writer cheerleader.  (This, by the way is what Second Story does as an organization, which is why I love that organization so much).

My big take home lesson:  kids love to write.  I can’t walk into my son’s class without one of them (READ:  a half dozen of them) shoving their latest ten pages of story into my hands.  And these kids write well (especially compared to what I was producing at their age).  A lot of the times, schools kill the joy of writing with creative writing given the short thrift and other art programs slashed.  I’m not blaming the teachers.  They’re hamstrung having to teach to IStep or iRead or the latest metric that supposedly measures learning and don’t get to actually … teach.  Some of the teachers don’t feel like good writers themselves and thus don’t feel qualified to judge or critique it.  I think one of the brilliant things my oldest son’s teacher has done has simply carved out time for the kids to write.

And the kids in my sons’ classes challenge me too.  They want to read my stuff.  While I can show them the covers to the Knights of Breton Court series, they are going to have to wait a few years to become consumers of mine.  (There was an incident involving my sons taking some of my author copies to school).  So I’m working on a few things I can take into schools now.  Plus, after staring down a room full of fifth graders, any other public speaking doesn’t seem nearly as scary.

Five Questions with Ekaterina Sedia*

Okay, I couldn’t just let it go with a review of The House of Discarded Dreams.  I wanted to ask Ekaterina Sedia a few questions about her story and her process.

1.  What made you decide to write the character Vimbai.  Did you have any trepidation about writing “the Other”?  What did you draw up on to create her?

Well, my interest with this book lay primarily in trying to write about the conflict between first and second generation immigrants – something I do have some experience with. I did however want to write someone different from myself, and since one of my closest friends is from Zimbabwe and we often talk about some of the common experiences and frustrations, the choice seemed obvious.

To me, the Other component was primarily about writing an American person – something I do quite a bit. Not to dismiss race as a crucial component, but what “Other” is certainly depends on one’s cultural perspective. So Vimbai was really someone I imagined my children would be like – a person who doesn’t share her parents’ culture and yet not entirely embraced by the world around her, someone who is adrift in more senses than one. And being adrift is something I know and can write about!

2.  Is African folklore an interest of yours?  What made you decide to explore this for a fantasy novel?  With themes of the lingering effects of colonialism at play in your book, what sorts of concerns did you have about cultural appropriation as you wrote it?

Yes, it is of great interest, along with other non-Western narratives. In all my books, I try to break away with the traditional linear three-part arc, so embracing a different tradition certainly gave me a good template of doing so. As for imperialism: I don’t think one can honestly write about the world today without talking about it. I mean, we grow coffee and cocoa where we grow it because of it – imperialism shaped the world, and going about as if it was just that brief phase that ended without any long-lasting effects is disingenuous, to say the least.

As for cultural appropriation, it’s a several-fold answer. It’s always a concern, sure. First, I was reluctant to use existing myths, so I used them very sparingly and in close consultation with Tait, the aforementioned friend. The myths that characters tell each other are all made up but within bounds of existing folkloric tradition (such as characteristics of animals) or literary ones (man-fish is a Zimbabwean urban myth of sorts, explored by Marechera, and one of Vimbai’s stories is a riff on Tutuola.)  Europeans tend to be very liberal while “collecting” folklore and I tried not to do it – that is, I went by definition of creative transformation rather than mere copying as described in African customary laws folklore copyright protection  (summary document here: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001277/127784e.pdf).

Then, Vimbai herself is a cultural outsider to her parents’ tradition – that is, she is second generation and is culturally an American, with not as much insight into her parents’ culture as she would like. I would not be comfortable writing about Zimbabwean folklore from the insider perspective, because I am not an insider. I was careful to speak about the culture rather than for it, which I believe is a crucial distinction between talking about other cultures and appropriating them.

Finally, I do realize that my insight is limited, and the book is really much more about the immigrant experience – something I do know about first-hand. And this is something I spoke a lot to my friend about. He was very supportive of the book, but he also said, “You do realize that some Zimbabweans will not like this book because it was written by a white woman.” And yes, of course I do realize that, and you know what? It’s a valid position. I think it’s an important thing, to accept that you won’t have a unanimous approval, and to not be hurt about it. Westerners writing about other cultures either seek validation or just default to “haters gonna hate so screw them, I’ll write what I want” positions. So for me, I think it’s important to do one’s best, but not expect that everyone will love you for it. I mean, I myself am wary when Westerners write about my culture, so who am I to expect a different treatment?

3.  You created a world within a house.  [I’m not going to lie, you had me with naming parts of the world after Malcolm X.]  How conscious were you of making the house a character as well as a reflection of Vimbai?

I kind of had to, didn’t I? If we’re going to wander through someone’s subconscious for a few hundred pages, have to make it relatable somehow!

4.  Very little of this book smacks of “typical” fantasy.  Was Maya’s quote “I don’t like these weird quests” a critique of fantasy?  What sort of tropes are you tired of seeing in fantasy novels?

It was more of a comment on general Western narrative. Fantasy (and other) books tend to be terribly uniform in structure, to the point where any deviation starts to look like a mistake. It’s a common thing with all my books; with The Secret History of Moscow, some readers saw the endless backstories as a distraction form the main plot, and it’s of course a valid interpretation, but to me the backstories were the book. So yes, I’m aware that maybe my expectations come from being raised on a different literary tradition, with a much more diverse set of narrative templates, and quests just aggravate me, and rising tension thing gives me heart palpitations. Tropes is not what gets me tired, but rather the same constructs being played to death. Good, evil, confrontation, escalating obstacles, yawn. (And banter. Too much banter everywhere! And get your spunky heroines off my lawn.)

5.  Young adult.  African American interest.  Fantasy.  There are a number of places your book could find itself in a bookstore.  Who do you imagine is the audience for this book?

I’m hoping for immigrants, but really, any audience is welcome. As long as people are reading, I am happy.

*I have a loose definition of “five” in my world

The House of Discarded Dreams – A Review

Ekaterina Sedia has been one of those writers that I’ve always been “meaning to read a book by”.  That is, I’ve been a fan of her short fiction (insert plug for Dark Faith here) and had made a note to keep my eye out for some of her longer work.   Because Paul Jessup constantly whispers in my ear like the Jiminy Cricket of speculative fiction, I picked up her book The House of Discarded Dreams (as well as Genevieve Valentine’s Mechanique, but anything I have to say about Mechanique has already been covered by Nick Kaufmann).

Booklist describes The House of Discarded Dreams like this: “Vimbai, who studies invertebrate zoology because of a fascination with horseshoe crabs, moves into the house on the beach in order to escape her Zimbabwean immigrant mother’s intensity; she finds something strange and beautiful. There are two roommates: [Felix], who has a pocket universe where his hair should be, and Maya, who works in an Atlantic City casino. Vimbai’s dead grandmother haunts them, a ghostly presence who tells Zimbabwean children’s stories and does the dishes. When the house comes unmoored and drifts away to sea, Vimbai must bargain with ghostly horseshoe crabs, untangle the many and varied stories that have come loose in the vast worlds of the house, and find a way home. From Maya’s urban nightmares to Vimbai’s African urban legends, the house is filled with danger and beauty and unexpected magic.

It’s easy to get lost in the lush, unfamiliar world Sedia creates, however, its unfamiliarity is one of its best parts.  Drawing on African myths, with an African American woman as protagonist, The House of Discarded Dreams is a creative journey of self-discovery.  Vimbai’s self-exploration questions her sexuality, her cultural identity, and her passage into adulthood.

The emotional core of the book is Vimbai’s attempts to find her own way despite the long shadow cast by her mother.  Sedia perfectly captures not only the immigrant experience, a familiar thread in her work, but also that struggle of being caught between cultures.  [I’m either biased or an authority.  Besides majoring in Biology in college, I’m the son of a Jamaican mother and an American dad, but I was born in England.  My mother’s Jamaican heritage was such a force in our household that she often referred to us (African Americans) as “you people.” ]

There are times when the sheer imagination of the book threatened to overpower the narrative with its anything could happen anytime sensibility.  Thus Vimbai was never truly in jeopardy because some new magic would manifest to save her.  Felix, as a character, gets lost in the shuffle.  There are times when the story seems to meander, caught up in its own sense of whimsy, but this novel isn’t meant to be a thrill ride romp.  It’s a beautiful coming-of-age fairy tale where the power of fantasy (and story) isn’t left behind, but embraced.

I know I was late coming to this party, but I didn’t want folks to have slept on a gratifyingly original fantasy novel.  The bottom line is that Ekaterina Sedia usually leaves me feeling like I under-imagine my stories.  Or for that matter, that we don’t see enough magic in life.

Being Creative, Christian, and Crazy*

At my counselor’s the other day, my wife and I were going over how life has been for us lately.  We described our time as I’ve been coming out of my latest depressive cycle and entering into my manic time.  Our counselor’s ears perked to increased attention.  Apparently the words “manic” and “depression” when used so close together are magical words which signal the need for further exploration (not just one of my favorite Jimi Hendrix songs).

As a part of life with a writer, we’d rather gotten used to the cycle.  Bipolar Disorder runs in both of our family lines.  We’ve both lived with a bipolar parent and that condition plays out in a variety of different ways.  Thing is, I straddle a weird nexus with this as being unhealthy mentally is embraced in the artistic community (we LOVE the image of the eccentric writer), a source of embarrassment in the black community, and something to be ashamed of in the church** community.

It’s not the first time the notion of “getting medicated” has come up in my life.  It took me a long time to drop the resistance to going to a counselor, but I still hesitate at the possibility of being medicated.  I’m lumping this under the category “fear of getting fixed”:

1.  “Novelists are damaged people, and writing is how they repair their psyches.” ~ David Morrell. That quote holds a lot of truth to many writers.  I’ve always had this quiet notion (lie) that I’d never be a great writer because I wasn’t cracked enough in the head, one of those mad geniuses.  Maybe it’s part of the romanticized ideas of what it means to be a writer, but I’ve always lived with my demons, letting them play out on the page.  And I’ve thought that “getting fixed” would lead to the ruin of the stories I write.  Here’s the analogy I’ve used:  the best comedians work from a place of pain.  What happens to their comedy when they have found some measure of healing?

2.  Drugged out zombie. Now I’ve not been one to take drugs of any sort in the first place.  I think our culture is quick on the trigger to medicate itself as is.  That being said, I’ve been doubly scared that drugs that would “stabilize” me would also hinder my creativity.  My big fear is that my mind would function as if it was moving through mud, and I’d be unable to string two thoughts together.

All of this angst-ridden noodling is done under the long shadow of how some in the church community tend to approach issues of mental health.****  Far too many times, any sort of mental issue, for example, depression, is met with an attitude that the sufferer demonstrates a lack of faith or has some other sort of failing in their spiritual walk.  The “treatment” as it were amounts to reading the Bible and praying.  Diseases of the mind somehow can’t be treated on a physical basis, as opposed to a toothache or having cancer.

Spiritually speaking, the problems should be confronted on three fronts:  as a spiritual problem, an emotional problem, and a biological problem (spirit, mind/heart, and body).  It’s like whenever we deal with the issues of mental health, we only address one area when all three have to be addressed to find wholeness.  For example, as a thought experiment, think of how a past wound done to us can turn into unforgiveness and bitterness thus becoming a spiritual stronghold in your body.  Who knows how this might throw off your brain chemistry.  Don’t get me wrong, this is an oversimplification of things, but hopefully you see where I’m going with that.

This is me just getting mentally prepared for taking the assessment.  We’re not there yet, and I’m a long way from having a “label” to deal with (and even then, that label wouldn’t be my identity, just part of who I am).  It’s just what I’m thinking about.  There is wholeness to be had.  God created me as a creative person and I will continue to create.  I will always have stories to tell.

*I almost went with “I’m Not Crazy, I’m a Christian”, but I think I’ll save that for a different kind of blog post.

**I’m defining “church” as American Evangelicals, as that’s been the majority of my experience.  I’d worry about offending them, but the “take two verses and call me in the morning” crowd doesn’t read me.

***I could say the same for hip hop artists who have their muse in the cauldron of pain and poverty of their life on the streets … and then what happens to them once they’ve made it big and gotten rich.

****When I wrote my blog Male Pattern Depression, I was deluged with e-mails from guys who felt like this was something they couldn’t talk about this publicly.  I was fascinated by some of the discussion on my Facebook page leading up to me writing this blog post.

***

Mo*Con VIII: The Mind and Spirit of the Artist

May 3 – 5, 2013.  Indianapolis, IN

Previous Guest Blogs:

Maurice Broaddus – Being Crazy, Christian, and Creative

Lucy Snyder

Doug Warrick

Jim C. Hines

Gary A. Braunbeck

Nate Southard

Delilah Dawson

Michelle Pendergrass

Steven Saus

Janet Harriett

Being Creative, Christian, and Crazy (Pre-Discussion)