#BinderCon: Too Short, So Sweet

The first ever BinderCon is over, and I’m feeling so much about this experience.

For those who don’t know, BinderCon is more formally called Out of the Binders: Symposium on Women Writers Today,and it’s amazing. The weekend is a space for writers, agents, and editors—most of them women or gender non-conforming—to come together and support each other in getting published and in publishing.

There was so much that was affirming about this weekend: being in spaces filled overwhelmingly with other writers from marginalised communities, in-jokes, understanding, teaching and learning and sharing. Everyone I talked to was so kind and friendly and helpful. The volunteers were amazing, and the #BinderCon hashtag was constantly running with quotes, thoughts, and connections made.

The only hardships for me were related to limitations largely uncontrollable. Being new and run on a tight budget, only one meal was provided by the con, and that was a little hard to navigate, especially as a non-New Yorker. The workshops/panels happened in different buildings in disparate locations, and there was a lot of walking, made more difficult because of my lodging difficulties: I carried all of my luggage with me for the vast majority of the last three days, and my body is not happy with that, and I ended up missing both of the Sunday keynotes because of my pain and walking issues. The only explicit identity panels—one for/about trans folks and one for/about women of colour—happened in the same time slot at the very end, and I had to miss them to catch my flight.

Still, the space was great, overall. It’s so important for ppl facing marginalisations to have nourishing spaces like this one, where our identities, issues, and experiences are centred and discussed. I feel so loved and inspired from the last three days—I’m excited for all the writing I will do!

 

My question: do you have a nourishing space to go to for support? Can you find one? Maybe brainstorm where you could look for community that supports you in your needs

Let me know in the comments if you have a resource to share!

Sharing Stories Saves the World

A lot of the work I’ve been doing lately centres on helping others tell stories, and telling my own story.

Recently, I started working at my university; I am the program coordinator for Queeries, an LGBTQ2 speakers bureau organised through the Queer Resource Centre here on campus. Queeries brings panels of folks with various orientations, genders, and intersectional identities to speak about their lives and experiences in college classrooms and the community. I just held the first training session for panelists, which focuses on orienting them to the program and helping them think about how to tell their stories in a time-limited but compelling way.

I also joined the Vanport Multimedia Project, collecting stories from survivors and family members of those who went through the 1948 flood of Vanport, Oregon, for a digital multimedia archive. Vanport was a war-time housing project for shipyard workers and their families. It was the second-largest city in Oregon, until it was obliterated by flooding on Memorial Day in 1948, and many of the residents scrambled to find housing in the aftermath. Some were also survivors of Japanese internment who had already lost all of their belongings, some were recent immigrants facing the difficulty of navigating a new place, and some were African Americans heavily impacted by redlining. We are performing video interviews, editing the videos, and then creating a video and transcript archive that will be freely available, so these stories can be shared instead of being lost.

I was accepted into the Black Girl Dangerous Editor-in-Training program, where we are learning to be editors for online publications, helping authors who submit refine their pieces for an internet audience. We are learning to be better writers ourselves, and will learn what makes an effective piece for online reading: what length to shoot for, what kinds of titles to use, how to shape pieces for BGD’s audience, and so on.

And now I’m in a group performance project about intersectional identities: 4 weeks of workshops ending in a performance where we will each share a personal story about our intersections and journeys. We’ve picked stories we want to tell, and have started generating important details to shape the narrative into an interesting, entertaining stage piece.

I’ve always believed in the power of storytelling: I’ve been participating in speaker’s bureaus for the last decade, and I’ve seen the understanding and interest that can be built through talking about our own identities. Recently, it’s become the focus of a lot of my life. This may be a natural extension of my work as a writer, but it’s the first time almost all of my work has focused on one thing, and it’s a pretty novel experience. I’m so excited for all of it, even if my workaholic tendencies are leaving me a bit frazzled.

I’ve seen over and over folks who have been told they’re uninteresting or unimportant gaining release and healing from sharing their stories and having them validated and affirmed by listeners. Especially for those of us from marginalised communities, who’ve often been made to feel pushed aside or ignored by oppressive systems, it is important to have spaces for this. These stories matter.

So here’s a question for you: what story do you want to tell, need to tell? What story is weighing down your heart? What story is resting like a stone in your belly? What story is buzzing in your brain, sticking in your throat? What story is filming over your eyes?

Whatever that story is, it’s important. I encourage you to tell it.

Writing from the Core Day 12

I disappeared off here for a couple of days, but I’m not going to apologise, which is my first instinct. Instead, I’m going to open up to you more than I have before.

I have been pretty seriously stressing out about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. My PTSD was pretty heavily triggered by a series of events last week—encountering a White supremacist in a local diner, hearing about a stabbing on the train I usually take to school, and following the ongoing police riots in Ferguson. I haven’t been able to get much writing on this challenge done. Instead, I wrote and shared a poem for Mike Brown; I’m having trouble focusing on myself with everything else going on.

Day 10‘s prompt was: Write a memory of beauty and/or love associated with your topic.

I didn’t get any writing done on this one. I’m honestly so upset and anxious that I couldn’t think of a beautiful moment related to touch—still can’t, actually. I might go back to it later, but I’m not in a place to write about it now.

Yesterday‘s prompts was: frailty.

This one was easier to work with. I can be honest, because I know that what I write for this won’t be seen. I wrote about how much I struggle with showing weakness.

I had a panic attack last night and the night before. On Tuesday, I called a friend to pick me up and give me a ride home, and I used a motorised wheelchair to go grocery shopping, because my legs were weak and unsteady in the aftermath of my attack. Last night, I made a Facebook post for some of my friends about support I was hoping to receive around my mental health.

I hate to admit when I can’t do everything, or I need help. I tend to downplay how serious my needs are, or act as though I can meet them all myself. I don’t necessarily invite help; I just share my struggles, or vent about a small portion of my frustrations. I’ve gotten into heated debates on social justice issues on social media, and when I later expressed that I wished for someone to step in and support me, more than one person has said they felt I was very capable and they didn’t think they could do as good a job, since I seemed to be doing so well.

I continuously bear up under pressure, and it’s come back to bite me: everyone assumes I don’t need help, even when I do. I need to work on this one, have needed to for years. We’ll see how well I do, now that I’ve articulated some things.

Today‘s prompt is: What have you never said?

Oof. I’m gonna let that alone until I’m in a better frame of mind. I’m honestly just too fragile for this prompt.

Lisa writes that she understands if folks are having trouble with the prompts and our topics, and encourages us to write, no matter what we are writing about. I have a paper due today, but my personal writing will probably be more poetry.

 

Is there something you’re struggling with right now that seems to be eclipsing the rest of your life? I hereby give you permission to take care of yourself. You can ignore the big thing, or you can take time to decompress. You can tell the folks you care about that you’re having trouble, or you can withdraw to a private space and stop taking care of everyone else for an hour or an afternoon, or even the rest of the week. Take care of yourself.

Previous posts here.

Writing from the Core Day 9

Saturday was hard, y’all. There was a stabbing on the train near my house, a murder-suicide in a nearby town, and an extra-judicial murder of a teenage boy by police officers in Missouri. I took Sunday off to decompress from my anxiety and sorrow, but I did get some writing done last night.

Yesterday’s prompts was: What are you hiding from? What are you protecting?

I wrote about my fear of being trapped. Here’s an excerpt:

I feel most uncomfortable with touch when I have the perception that I am trapped, or I might be unable to stop someone from hurting me. I mostly need to be in complete control of how others engage with my body, and will disengage if I start feeling the itchy, prickling sensation on the back of my neck that arises when I am unsure I can get away.

Avoiding touch is a way for me to make sure I am always able to move away from someone who might hurt me as soon as possible. I have been in situations where I felt like I couldn’t move away from someone without provoking violence, and ones where I was packed in among others during rush hour on the train, and ones where someone was over or on top of me. I have been trapped, and I fear being trapped again; controlling how and when I am touched is one way to minimise the chances of it happening again.

I might go back and add more, but I am going to continue on and work on the writing for today. (It’s supposed to get really hot today, so I’m going to spend as much time inside as possible, which means more time for writing.)

Today’s prompt is: If you could change one thing, what would it be? If you could change everything, would you?

How’s that for loaded? My first instinct is to say yes, but I think the real answer depends on what comes out in the writing…

 

Think of your biggest regret. If you could go back and change it, would you? If you did, would you be who you are today? Are you okay with the possibility you’d be a totally different person?

Previous posts here.

Writing from the Core Day 7

Today’s prompts is: When did you begin to put up protective walls? How did you build them?

This prompt is similar to the first day’s prompt, but it draws out a different aspect of the experience and my difficulty. I think this one will be a bit more likely to yield meaningful writing than yesterday’s—I can already tell where it’s taking me, and it’s an important distinction that is teasing out things I’ve not really thought about.

We’re a third of the way through, and this writing challenge has definitely been hard. The only thing allowing me to get through the prompts is knowing that no one besides me might ever see what comes out. The honesty of some of this writing makes me cringe, because I know it could hurt people in my life if they read it.

That’s one of the hardest things about writing out trauma: knowing that you’ve been hiding things from yourself and those you love, and worrying about how they may react to finding out. I’m trying not to let the worry stop me from writing, though. I need to write my truth. I’m 17 years past my first big trauma, and the past two years have been getting harder and harder. Writing is my path to healing, and I’m determined to try to traverse it.

 

Is there something you’ve been having trouble writing about? Try writing about it honestly, maybe using one of these prompts, in a place only you can access. Write in a file that is password protected through email or on a thumb drive. Write on paper and then destroy it. Use code words and false names. Get the feelings out.

Previous posts: Day 1Day 2Day 4Day 5Day 6

Writing from the Core Day 6

Today’s prompts is: How are you like what you fear/resent? How has it made you into yourself?

Honestly, I’ve no idea what to do with this. I’m not sure how to write about my topic, touch, through this lens. I am going to free-write today and save this to ruminate on.

 

What are you afraid of? Think about where that fear comes from and how it is connected to you.

Previous posts: Day 1Day 2Day 4Day 5

Writing from the Core Day 5

I finally broke through my block on Day 3’s prompt, and have done some writing. The hardest part was not analysing the memory I was writing about for Day 3. Day 4’s prompt was easier, because I know that my PTSD partly stems from the loss of my father, but thinking about touch and my family is a little uncomfortable. I know that I hugged and kissed and touched more before my father died than in the years after. I’m sitting with some discomfort around this, but I think it’s important—I chose the topic of trauma and touch for a reason.

Anyway, the prompt for today is:
Multisensory collage: When you think over your topic, what fragments come to mind? Words of course, but also images, sounds, smells, tactile memories, movements, tastes, recurring dreams or visions, moments, emotions? List them, stream-of-consciousness, for 20 minutes (or as much time as you have). Try not to think or reflect too much.

Y’all, I am super excited to do this. Trying to generate writing from the last two prompts was really hard—it was scary and I spent some time avoiding it—but this is a different kind of exercise, and I think it might unlock some stuff for me.

 

If there’s something you’ve been struggling with lately, try coming at it from another direction. Move locations or make a collage or build a mixtape or… the possibilities are endless, and thinking of new ways to engage with something difficult might help!

Previous days: Day 1Day 2 • Day 4

Writing from the Core Day 4

Yesterday was hectic! Sorry about the missing post, y’all. I didn’t get writing done on the Day 3 prompt either, because I was swamped with school work, so here it is: Day 3’s prompt was “Write a memory relating to your chosen topic. No analysis. Write it as if you are there.” I’m not sure how I will write about this in the context of my chosen topic (touch aversion and PTSD), but I’ll wing it and figure something out.

As for today, the prompt is: I miss you. This one will probably be at least partly about my dad—I’ve been processing a lot of thoughts and feelings about him and my PTSD lately; in fact, that was the basis of my Camp NaNoWriMo project last month.

I’m gonna play catch up tonight, after my midterm presentation. I need to sit down and write, but I’m feeling kind of stumped. Hopefully I can break through that today.

 

Is there someone you miss that you haven’t been able to write to or about? Maybe write them a letter today—even if you can’t or won’t send it, writing things down might help. (If it’s a father, check out dear Gerald; I sent my letter in yesterday.)

 

Previous posts: Day 1Day 2

Writing from the Core Day 2

Yesterday was the start of the Writing from the Core 21 day challenge.

After I got the prompt, I procrastinated on writing. I felt apprehensive about actually writing about my topic, so instead I checked my Facebook notifications, then my email, then I wrote a blog post, and then I went out to get burgers and ice cream. Then, I checked Facebook again. But I knew it was time to stop stalling, so I wrote.

It was hard. I wrote explicitly about things I don’t usually. I thought about touches that bothered me, and when and how and why. I thought about partners I’d had and the behaviours I exhibited in those relationships. I wrote it down, nervous and uncomfortable. They can never see this, I thought. It’ll only hurt them.

This exercise is seriously uncomfortable. As I’m writing, just thinking about this trauma around touch is making me itchy. I don’t want to do it. But I need to.

Today’s prompt is: Do they mean me harm? The obvious answer is no, they don’t; yet, my feelings are too complicated for that level of simplicity. And that’s why I’m grateful for this experience.

It’s called a challenge for a reason. It’s not meant to be easy.

 

Is there something challenging you right now? Is it time to confront it?

 

 

Previous posts: Day 1

Writing from the Core Day 1

I signed up for a 21 day writing challenge being put on by writer and artist Lisa Hsia, called Writing from the Core. The purpose is to pick a topic that you’ve always had trouble writing about, and then write about it. Every day, participants will receive a prompt in their email to write about, free of judgement, to try and push past the blocks set up in our own minds about these touchy subjects.

When I signed up for this, I cast about for a topic to write about. What would be hard, but not too hard, that I feel like I need to write about, and that I could write about for this? Eventually, I settled on writing about touch: being touched and how I touch other people as a survivor of sexual trauma living with PTSD. Hard, right? But it didn’t seem too hard. (Check out that self-delusion…)

This morning, the first prompt arrived in my inbox: When did you first notice the pain? I had forgotten exactly what I planned to write about, and I went back to my initial email to check: touch, sexual trauma, PTSD. I put the topic and the prompt into a Word doc, and looked at them together.

Whoa, I thought, nope. That’s not gonna happen. That’s a terrible idea! What on earth was I thinking?! I can’t write about that.

And I saw it happening. The thoughts spun out instantly; I felt the fear and panic creeping in. And that’s when I knew I had to write about it, because that fear’s been holding me back. I’m going to do this. I’m going to conquer this fear, and write about this challenge, and I’m going to be open and honest and authentic. I’ll write about this, and I’ll be okay. It’s time to get started.

But first, I’m going to get a quart of chocolate ice cream. I need self care for the ride.

 

Is there something that’s been holding you back? Think about why. Then, make art. Draw or write. Create.