Announcing…

The Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Award Winners were announced today. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to see my book on this list of amazing books.

Coyote Ate the Stars won first place in the fantasy category. It’s a special book to me – Coyote is the character who has been living in my soul for over a decade. I tried to force him into so many different stories, but he refused to fit into any of them. Finally, one day, it clicked and I wrote the whole book during NaNoWriMo 2017.

Check out all of the award winners!

https://www.writersdigest.com/online-exclusives/writers-digest-may-june-2019/announcing-the-6th-annual-self-published-e-book-awards-winners?fbclid=IwAR0CxdNJPP_8Spe08rHNnv2bLQJhiofKM-OZp8msHKP9Br05MsLIJIGb39k

Celebrating Women (Subtitle: Leave My Sister Alone)

I’m a fat activist. That is, I’m fat and I am an activist. Or, at least, I’m as much of an activist as I can be between teaching five classes, running an online writing academy, donating my time to sit on the board of directors for the Golden Crown Literary Society, marketing my novels, finishing my second master’s degree, trying to find a publisher for my women’s fiction book, and dealing with immigration with my Canadian wife. I’m not glorifying busy here, it’s just the state of my life right now.

When I *am* focusing my attention on the fat-phobia that permeates our nation, I generally do so by pointing out the wage gap often seen between fat people and non-fat people, the way folks seem to think it’s okay to yell insults at me when I’m outside exercising, and the way seemingly well-meaning people like to say, “I have this new diet you should try.”

Mostly, my activism comes in the form of gently correcting people who mean well and raising my middle finger to people who don’t. Sometimes it comes in the form of reposting quotes from people who step outside of the patriarchal idea of womanhood in adele.PNGone way or another.  Do I shave my legs? Nope. Do I care what you think about that fact? Nope.

Most days, however, my activism just comes in the form of living my life as a large woman and dealing with the bigotry and hatred that is often directed at people, especially women, of size by this world that has somehow made it clear that being skinny is preferable to being fat, even if that comes at the cost of one’s health.

 

On a related topic – my sister has always been unhappy with her weight. Like me, she yo-yo dieted for much of her life. Like me, she grew up in a household where our weight was a main topic of mockery and discussion. Our father used to have a saying, “There’s large, there’s extra-large and then there’s you – Whoa, my god, it’s coming toward me.” Like me, she got into relationships with people who didn’t value her body the way it was. Like me, she suffered insults and jabs and substandard medical care. Like me, she felt out of place almost all the time. Like me, she learned from our mother that dieting and self-deprivation is the only way to be a good person. Like me, she hated her body and everything else about herself. Like me, she lived with abusive people far longer than she should have because she didn’t think she had any other choices. And like me, she ultimately came to fall in love with someone who loved and accepted her just the way she was.

This is where our stories diverged. I threw myself into my life and, with the help of my wife, decided to stop dieting ever again. We’re vegan, we eat mostly whole food, plant based. We sometimes have cake. We’ve been known to order a vegan pizza here and there and eat the whole thing while watching Doctor Who episodes. We go for walks, we go for bikes rides, we sleep in and drink coffee in bed. We eat the same things, same portions, same snacks. The difference is that my wife is tiny and I’m fat. (And she also travels so she sometimes [often] gets bags of M&Ms on the road. I see you, babe. Love you.) I didn’t spend my time losing weight, but I spent my time getting happy with my body, luxuriating in how it feels to be intimate with someone who adores the feel and look of my body. I focused on self-care, self-advocacy, and self-love. I learned to stand up to doctors who, when I walk in to talk about a sore throat, say, “Let’s talk about weight loss.” I’m fat and I’m healthy. My blood pressure is normal, my blood sugars are normal, and I have an incredible life in every way. In essence, I became a fat activist simply by existing.

My sister, on the other hand, decided she wanted to lose the weight. She wasn’t happy with her body, she didn’t feel comfortable moving, and she wasn’t healthy. She started Brightline Eating and she lost a lot of weight and she has kept it off. If anyone here has ever lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off, you know what an incredible feata laura that is. I liken it to being harder than quitting smoking, because when you quit smoking, you can just be done with cigarettes for life, but you always have to come back to food. She put a ton of work into it – skipping parties or taking her own food to restaurants, weighing and measuring everything she ate. And she is happy with her accomplishment. She’s happy that she can move her body in ways that feel good to her. She’s happy that she succeeded at something so hard.

And she got to be on a magazine cover! I mean if that isn’t a super-incredible reward for a ton of hard work, what is? My sister worked hard and she’s proud of herself. And she should be.

Fast forward to people sharing the picture from the magazine above and inevitably, someone has to say, “You’re harming fat women by celebrating your weight loss.” My sister calmly responded that this was a personal achievement that she needed to do for her own health and happiness. And at least one person came back with the idea that my sister was parading and flaunting herself and putting it on magazines which perpetuates the idea that thin = healthy.

Folks. this entire culture is designed to make women feel bad about their bodies. Everything in the media, in commercials, in movies, in music videos is designed to make women hate their bodies.

For us to turn around and shame a woman who has moved out of the cycle of self-hatred is also participating in that culture. My sister is a rock star and I celebrate her hard work. When she posts a picture of herself celebrating having lost the weight, the person who shames her for that is just as bad as the culture that created a need for women to hate their bodies. It isn’t right. And it isn’t fair. How dare you blame my sister for perpetuating something we are steeped in 24/7 from the moment we are born? How dare you slam her for finding her own way to deal with a culture that tells her (us) that she is wrong no matter what she does? How dare you?

Women, the only way to truly lift ourselves and each other out of this lifetime of oppression is to support and nurture each other. That means accepting each other’s choices. It’s why my sister doesn’t try to force her lifestyle on me and it’s why I don’t get to force mine on her. It’s no different than accepting that some women will color their hair and some will go naturally grey. Some will be bald. Some shave their legs. Some have armpit hair. We don’t get to tell another woman what she should do with her body and we don’t get to decide for another woman how to survive in a culture designed to bring us down.

 

 

 

Flash Fiction – Emma’s Perfection

Emma’s Perfection

Emma touched my ear during Algebra. My fucking ear. I didn’t  look at her, but the tingle stayed long after her finger had gone. After class, she leaned over to whisper, her warm breath dancing across the already sensitive skin. I know, but it doesn’t matter. She couldn’t know. She meant something else. Maybe that I had cheated on the last quiz, glancing casually at her paper for answers to three, seven, and fifteen. She knew. What did she know?

Later, I slammed into my house, tossing my bag on the floor.

Dad 1 offered cookies. Dad 2 offered talk.

I offered my trouble. There’s a girl. I think she might like me.

One oohed, the other aahed. There’s hope for our little Pikachu yet.

I left them in the kitchen, giggling to themselves.

I’d never been afraid of being queer, being bi, being whatever the hell I was that allowed me to love whomever I wanted to love. I grew up with the dads, after all. And my mom was in love with a man who lived with his wife and his wife’s lover and the lover’s ex-husband.

But Emma’s hair was perfect, and she wore the right clothes and when she walked into the classroom, everyone looked at her. She read Jane Austen and had perfect handwriting. She probably believed that marriage equaled one man and one woman. Continue reading “Flash Fiction – Emma’s Perfection”

2019 – The Year of Beth

I quit smoking ten years ago this month. It was, at that time, the biggest and hardest thing I had ever done. I went cold turkey and I spent the first three months feeling as if I was going to die and the next three months wanting a cigarette every single day. After a year, it was over. And ever since I made that change, I have started every new year with this statement. “This is the year of Beth.”

brutie and gordoSome amazing things have happened since the first “year of Beth.” I’ve written eight novels and published six of them. I’ve had stories in several anthologies. I went back to school and proceeded to get my BA in English, then an MA in Creative Writing, and (almost) an MA in Communications, Marketing, and Digital Media. I adopted Gordo the Magnificent. I bought a home. I went to my first Golden Crown Literary Society conference, then got elected to the board, then moved into the Director of Education position where I took over running the writing academy and have continued to help it evolve into the incredible program it is today. I become an adjunct instructor teaching core English at a community college and literature for an MFA program. I left a long-term toxic relationship and, after several years and several near-misses, met and married the love of my life.

It has been a pretty incredible ten years. 

It wasn’t all rosy. There were tears and heartache and moments of not being able to pay the bills. I remember a winter sitting in my living room wrapped in multiple sweaters, and blankets, shivering because I knew if I turned the heat any higher, I wouldn’t be able to pay the gas bill.  There have been depressive episodes so bad I couldn’t leave the house. There was a bout with the flu that almost killed me. There was a relationship that ended so badly, my ex took to social media to tell lies about me to our (former) mutual friends, many of whom ditched me based on her say-so. There was the time when Brutus was diagnosed with diabetes and refused to eat so I could give him his shots and he got thinner and thinner until I was sure he was going to die. (Note: He is a chunky-monkey now and doing just fine for a thirteen-year-old dog.) Continue reading “2019 – The Year of Beth”

Tell a Writer You Love Them

Today, a woman messaged me on FB to tell me she loved my book Coming Around Again. She mentioned how much she loved the character development of the group of friends and the ups and downs of everyone over a lifetime.

Related to this – authors go through ups and downs, just like our characters. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I have moments when I wonder if I’m in the wrong career. I have times when a bad review will send me spiralling. I have times when I recognize my books aren’t selling or I haven’t been nominated for an award and I start to feel that I’m wasting my time writing.

I should qualify this by saying there are times when I absolutely love writing, when I can’t imagine doing anything else, when I know in my heart of hearts that I write for the sanity of my own soul and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

And still, I have those days when I wonder if I simply suck too much to ever make it.

And then someone messages out of the blue to tell me they couldn’t put down my book, that they fell in love with my characters, that they feel as if they haven’t left my fictional world even though they finished the book days ago. Continue reading “Tell a Writer You Love Them”

Boxing Day – Flash Fiction

Boxing Day. Who the hell invented this stupid holiday anyway? I could have been in a boxing match last night considering how I feel this morning. I yank open the curtains, letting the bright morning sun burn my eyes. Squinting, I peer into the front yard. My neighbor is outside in boxer shorts, snow boots, and a parka, picking up beer bottles and ashtrays.

He looks up and waves. “Come on out, Greta. We’ll have a hair of the dog.”

I shake my head and turn away from the window. My gratitude for his invitation to the drunken family Christmas only goes so far. Besides, I brought a present – the scented candle my mother sends me every year despite my lifelong allergy to scents.

A vague memory of making out with the neighbor’s cousin from Winnipeg prods at the corner of my mind. Did I do that? She’d cornered me several times, excited to meet the next-door lesbian. Cute girl, buck teeth. I had scraped my tongue across them by accident. I prodded my front teeth with the tip of my tongue. Yep. Had a sore there.

My slippers are on the couch. I toss them on the floor and slip my feet into them. They’re red and green and have bells on the toes. They’re lined with some sort of fake fur. Green fake fur. Mel got them for me last Christmas. I remember her little smile, the flush on her cheeks. “Your feet are always cold,” she had said. “And you refuse to wear socks.” Continue reading “Boxing Day – Flash Fiction”

Grief and Legacy

Grief is weird, isn’t it? Sometimes it hides and you go days or weeks feeling great. Then it jumps out at you at the strangest times.

A few years ago, I went to the LCLC literary conference held by Sapphire Books. There, I met Amanda Kyle Williams, a lovely, brilliant, introverted author. She gave an incredible keynote speech and later, volunteered to speak to the writing academy students twice.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, my mother knit her a blanket which was promptly taken over by the pets in her home.

I have a few fun and funny memories of Amanda, but my favorite was when I tried to teach her a song to sing to Spike, the neighbor cat.

(To the tune of Let’s All go to the Lobby)

I like singing to kitties,

Cuz kitties like my singing

And humans don’t like my singing

But kitties like it a lot.

There’s another verse, but you get the idea. We sang it together a couple times, then I told her she could sing it as she went to feed all the neighborhood cats. Her response – “Right, because the neighborhood doesn’t already think I’m insane, wandering down the street in pajamas and rain boots with a wagon full of pet food and a herd of animals following me.”

This is only relevant because years later, for some reason, this morning I woke up with that song in my head. And as I was singing it, I was swept with such a huge wave of grief for this lovely woman who fought long and hard and ultimately lost her battle with cancer.

I was thinking about grief and how it attacks when you least expect it when I logged on to my email this morning and saw this blog post by my friend, Carleen. She was reviewing an excellent book by Anna Burke – and in the post, she referenced Sandra Moran, an author who also died way too young because of cancer.

Thinking of Sandra, reading about one of the authors who is succeeding because of her, lifted my grief. These women left a legacy – that of using their talent and their voices to help other writers find ways to bring their own voices to light.

And that’s the legacy I hope to leave. Through my work with the writing academy, through my beta reading for my students, through teaching everything from freshman comp to advanced studies in literature, I am using my voice to help other writers find theirs. Just like Amanda. Just like Sandra.

That’s why I devote so much time to the GCLS Writing Academy. And it’s why I spend time helping my students really understand the concepts we’re addressing in class. It’s important to me and if it’s important to them, I want to be there to give them every chance to succeed, just as others have done for me.

That’s the true circle of life – supporting others so they can go on to do the same.