December 6, 2010

Calling All Non-fiction Writers

A post on behalf of PRISM ... we're looking for non-fiction!

PRISM international has extended their Non-fiction Contest deadline to December 15, 2010 (post-marked).

That's right, friends! You've got just over one week to send in your memoir, literary journalism, rhetoric, personal essay, etc.

The Non-fiction Contest has an exciting $1500 Grand Prize. The entry fee is $28 for one story, and $7 for each additional story. All entrants receive a one-year subscription to PRISM international.

Check out the contest page for more details, and get that entry in the mail!

August 1, 2010

Emergence

I'm the seasonal opposite of a bear. I seem to hibernate in summer (at least until my birthday comes around, at which time I emerge and demand attention). After years of judging myself for these periodic bouts of seclusion, I've decided that it's natural and necessary. Granted, I am one of the fortunate members of society that actually has the privilege of having the essentials for survival taken care of. That being the case, I struggle with falling into extremes (consumption, information overload, unhealthy food and lifestyle choices). I'm often out of balance, and these occasional periods of hibernation give me the space and time to find some equilibrium, or at least make a plan to move in that direction.

I'm currently housesitting at my sister and brother-in-law's place; their backyard is literally a forest and the house is built of cedar, brick, and glass. Despite my best intentions to use this time as a writing retreat, I have instead been wiling away my time on the Internet, baking sweets, and staying up until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. watching movies or old Sex and the City episodes. It's as if I've translated "summer off from work and MFA program" to mean "I have permission to overindulge in all that requires the least effort for the most pleasure."

As with all bad habits and addictions, "the first step is admitting that you have a problem." So here I am, admitting it. I will also make a public vow to work on one writing project for at least two hours today. Small, attainable goals, right? A disoriented, hungry bear should not be provoked.

Resistance, I will beat you down one small, daily decision at a time. Talk to the hand, buddy!

February 16, 2010

To Procreate, or Not to Procreate?

I recently read a controversial article by Anne Kingston in Maclean's called, The case against having kids. The question of whether or not to have children is pretty prevalent in my life lately. I currently have six friends who are pregnant, one who recently had a miscarriage, and a couple who are trying to conceive. I am 32 and have a partner, but I am still negotiating through my thoughts, emotions, and fears surrounding procreation. I know that deciding not to have children is a valid option for any woman or couple nowadays, but there is still a social stigma associated with this decision, or moreover, the potential reasons behind such a decision.

In the Maclean's article, Kingston refers to a growing collection of essays, literature, and cultural movements aimed at helping "child-free" individuals and couples feel validated and supported in their choice not to have children. British Columbia poet, Lorna Crozier, asserts: "Children were not a way of ensuring happiness or endowing my days with meaning. That hard task was mine alone." In a similar vein, author and analyst Corinne Maier writes: "Children are often used as an excuse for giving up on life without really trying. It takes real courage to say 'Me first.'" (from No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children). Maier's statement could easily be taken the wrong way, but I believe she is referring to those people who choose to sacrifice their personal goals in life for those of their children. I don't believe this ever has to be the case (at least I hope not, or I am definitely not cut out to be a mother).

There is also the issue of overpopulation and sustainability. The world's current growth rate of approximately 1.14% represents a doubling time of approximately 60 years. This is simply not sustainable for the human species. It's not sustainable as it is. When I listen to these kinds of statistics, it seems as though (if I decide that I want to raise a child) exploring the option of adoption would be the most responsible and ecologically sound decision. But adoption has it's own minefield of bureaucratic hoops to jump through and considerations of the child's racial and cultural background and the most sensitive way in which to handle the inevitable questions that will arise with regards to their origin.

All of this being said, I have also witnessed the miracle of motherhood, and this is something that Kingston's article does not discuss. I have seen my friends discover a form of love they didn't know was possible until this being passed through their bodies into the world. I have held my cousin's baby in my arms while she slept and was reluctant to let her go, and I have experienced the awe of watching her grow into a tall, spirited child that has no conscious recollection of her first year on earth--being breastfed, comforted, cooed at, loved, and protected. But none of this is enough--I need to feel the desire to be a mother in my bones, my cells, my heart. I need to know what the ticking "biological clock" feels like. I haven't felt it yet, and this is not a decision that I trust to be made with my head, or social and cultural expectations, or the pressure of an extended family that is ready to embrace grandparenthood.

No, this is my choice. I wholeheartedly agree with Kingston's assertion near the end of her Maclean's article, which concludes: "what any happiness appears to stem from is not children or their absence but rather the ability to make the choice." In order to be at peace with any decision I make in my life, I need feel that I had the freedom to make that choice. Ideally, I would also live in a cultural climate in which that choice was respected.

Are we there yet?

January 15, 2010

Ready to Leap

I have heard this maxim from various sources over the years, and while I comprehend its wisdom, I can't seem to get up the cajones to enact the command: leap. The years accumulate and I don't get any closer to the goal.

So what is the goal? There's the rub. I don't think it's any one accomplishment (not that I don't have daydreams of winning the Griffin Poetry Prize, or accepting an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay). No, it's not about that. I want to live an interesting life. To be bold. To genuinely connect with people and contribute something valuable to the conversation. To live with a general sense of well-being, and when it's knocked off kilter, to call upon a deep well of inner strength in order to put myself right again. I want to find a location and a vocation that is in line with my calling.

I would love to feel (and truly believe) that the hours I spend alone writing, typing, deleting, retyping, researching, agonizing over, and loving words is something that I do to serve something greater than myself. The thing is, if I'm really honest, I do believe in the value of my potential contribution. It's my awareness of the diligence and self-discipline it will take to get me there that summons the demons of self-sabotage. Humility taken too far, like ego, can be a force of distortion and destruction.

I feel as though I have been on the precipice of leaping for some time now, but it will either take a momentous act of self-will or a gentle nudge from behind to push me over. I have to forget about the net. There is no net. There is no treacherous abyss of no return, either. It's endless space, endless possibility.

Leap.