No good, very bad month.

March is the month when people find out awards they didn’t get, colleges they didn’t get into, workshops and jobs that gave them a pass, internships given to someone else.  Everyone’s depressed and licking their wounds, Spring Break is in sight but too far away, no one’s gotten enough sleep in weeks.

Third try, and I didn’t get in to Clarion this year. I am disappointed and terribly frustrated, despite the knowledge that it’s a crapshoot, taste of the judges, etc. I got waitlisted in ’06, with a story I wrote in undergrad, but I’ve been flat-out rejected twice now (’07, ’10). Now, I KNOW my writing has improved over the past five years. I got into a PhD program, ferfuckssakes.  But the fact that speculative is inadmissible to graduate-level workshops doesn’t help–it’s hard to improve when all I can do is a self-crit.  I want to form a speculative fiction crit group something fierce.  A project for next fall, perhaps.

I woke up to an email from the summer subletter I thought was a sure thing saying that she had found another place, so once again I’m staring down the prospect of paying $1500 for an apartment I’m not living in.  And this morning I had perhaps the third most awful student interaction I’ve ever had, ever.  I’m going to be spending more time than I wish figuring out what to do about it, self-criticizing, replaying the incident in my head ad nauseum.  One more thing I don’t need.

The (few) bright spots: I survived the insane quantity of work I had to plow through this weekend. Nothing got done well, but everything got done, which I need to learn to live with.  And I got into a department reading with the shorter of my two Clarion pieces, so at least that story won’t be a wholly wasted exercise.  I finished a new essay for Urrea, too, something that I may be able to turn into a memoir chapter.  I like its form, even if the content is still all over the place.  I’m not proud of it, but…yeah.  Is done.

The mantra is basic: writing is hard.  One step forward, two steps back.

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Creepy dude at the bar.

I’ve been meaning to write this post all weekend and have been unable to marshal my thoughts into an argument.  This will therefore be full of holes.

So after the neoliberalism conference on Sat., me and a large chunk of cohort went to our usual bar to grab drinks, kill time, procrastinate various large projects, the usual.  I walked, since the day was beautiful (you know, balmy Chicago and all), and ended up waiting outside the bar for the rest of my people.  A random drunk guy came up, shouted at me, and touched my hip, which was weird but dude, drunk guy, what do you expect?  Things went downhill from there.  This drunk guy really wanted a conversation, and Brianna and Chris, being nice people, were willing to humor him.  Me, being not a nice person, was not.  After he interrupted our conversation for the fourth time to hover over my shoulder, asking if I thought he was “stupid” (answer: yes), I turned to him and said “I just want to talk to my friends.  I don’t want to talk to you.  Sorry.”  This was apparently a bad move, as he started shouting at me, that I was a racist (dude was Asian), a snobby bitch, the usual drill.  (This is why I fear rejecting men who hit on me.  Feels like 50/50 odds it’ll turn ugly no matter how kind I try to be.)  He eventually got bounced, thank god, and the evening ended well, although I was jumping at shadows the whole way home.

So here’s the half-formulated argument.  This happens to me, and to other women I know, way more than it should.  Oh, it happens to guys too, but I wonder if the fear of physical safety is as loud.  The easy answer is “it’s just a drunk guy, man up and ignore him.”  Except that’s not a structural fix, and looks a whole lot like victim-blaming.  I wonder what else I could have done, other than not looking single in public.  Perhaps I should have left my asshole magnet at home?  I wanted to hurt this guy, scream back, do something other than quail like a giant girl.  And I hate that I’m afraid to go back to that bar now, and that my brain turns it into “well, it’ll all be easier when Matt’s here and you have an overt boyfriend,” which completely misses the point.  What’s the good feminist response to being cornered by a drunk asshole in a bar?

Nothing but blue skies.

I may be cursing us to three months of winter, but can I just say, Chicago winter has been way mild?  Nay, balmy.  (Knock on wood.)  This has been the kinder, gentler introduction to the Midwest.  After hearing horror stories of people using tanning beds to combat newly minted seasonal affective disorder after they moved here, I thought I was in for a long haul, but the cold gray dreary is a lie.

An elaborate ploy to keep the kewl kidz from coming in and taking over the place, perhaps?  Don’t tell people it’s nice, or everyone’ll want in.  Anyway, enjoy your vicious winter, Arizona, New York, the South.  I’ll be here in Chi-town, soaking up the sun.

A life so full of joy.

So I keep track of my people on that ancient social networking tool, the Facebook.  Was bumming around and came across the pile of pictures from my hometown theater’s faux-prom. Everyone all dressed up snappy sassy and getting wild.  I miss Patty, and Laura, and Rich, and every time I see pictures of Matt my breath catches a little because even when making terrible faces with a garter on his head, he’s still the prettiest thing ever and I miss him.  I even miss the grumpy ones, the bitter ones, the ones who didn’t like me all that much.  ‘Cause they’re my people, you know?

And I know, because it’s theater, that likely as not all those laughing people are probably harboring secret resentments and crushes and what we see in the picture is an illusion and blah and blah.  Then I have to keep from idealization in absentia.  If I were there, I’d be desperately wishing to get out.  Now I’m out and I’m pining?  WTF?  I want to tell all those people to look through those pictures and see the happiness spilling out everywhere.  Good to stop and notice joy every now and again.

I just submitted to Clarion, two brand new stories, both of which I’m actually rather proud of.  It’s been so long since I devoted my brain to fiction, it was a rusty trap, and yet once I pushed through the shitty first drafts, well…yeah.  Working titles: existential crisis of robot and gender-swap Jesus.  As I said, I’m actually pleased.  If I don’t get into Clarion this year, I’ll at least know I did my best.  Opened the docs up last night and spotted five (five!   How?!) typoes, but that’s just Murphy.

Last night I rode the bus for two hours going nowhere.  I need to learn to read maps.  Was trying to get to a steampunk meet-up, but…epic fail on my part.  That said, Chicago night bus drivers are sweetness itself.  This guy was determined to help me reach my destination, despite the fact that I’d written the directions down wrong.  He was genuinely disappointed when I gave up and got off the bus to head home.

Chicago is worlds of awesome.  I went to see Brian Dennehy in Krapp’s Last Tape, $13 nosebleed seats.  I’ve never seen theater like this.  Luis Urrea is still a love. Although I’m tragedized that I missed Neil Gaiman’s pitstop in Naperville.  Director of the Program for Writers is setting up a mini-class with me and the other trauma memoirist, to “address issues you’re having with the form.”  So that’ll be fun.  And tonight I’m going to Mexican food and then on to a giant reading/party for a literary magazine run by one of my colleagues.

When I line everything up, I know I’m happy here, happy and productive, my little brain chomping away at everything I’ve been feeding it.  Critical theory!  Memoir!  Fiction!  I can see myself getting better, which means change must be happening quickly.  I fear plateauing, boredom, and loneliness.  But it’s almost Spring Break, when I’ll get a shot in the arm of Flag love.  Almost there.

Urbane.

Still boggled by Big City living.  Small victories, though–en route to Trader Joe’s for my weekly groceries (which I carry home on the subway in a mondo backpack, turtle-style) not one but two separate groups of people asked me for directions, and I was able to give semi-helpful responses.  Magnificent Mile and the Pavilion, so not rocket science, but still.  Slowly but surely I stop feeling like a city idiot.  Now I just need to get mugged, and I’ll feel right at home.

Food scores: more baby quiches, chocolate croissants, fried rice ingredients and a jug of OJ (I must kick this cold, stat).  Now if that horrific storm rocking Flagstaff decides to head east, I won’t starve to death.