2020, A Year I Examine With Hindsight

There is an expression I often use in therapy:

“My life is equal parts awful and awesome. As long as the awesome is really awesome, it wins.”

To be completely honest, though, it’s difficult for me to write this post because I’m currently managing a depression. Still, sometimes it’s good to examine one’s life, even in this state.

Right. So, what happened in 2020 for me, other than the pandemic?

I decided to curate a flash fiction challenge for the year

ID: Banner for December's flash fiction draw. A painted white brick wall with the words: It's time for December's Flash Fiction Draw! hosted by author Cait Gordon

In January, I followed in Canadian romance and speculative fiction author ’Nathan Burgoine’s footsteps to curate a monthly flash fiction challenge, where the genre, setting, and an object that must appear in the story are all determined by drawing cards of different suits. Despite all the trials that this year brought, I was delighted by my small but faithful band of writers who stepped up to the challenge each month. It was also pretty hilarious how awful I was at choosing cards. Note to self: never gamble. You can find links to my and their entries in my Free Reads, Flash Fiction menu!

A work I co-edited was nominated for a Prix Aurora Award

ID: Book cover of Nothing Without Us and the Aurora Award Nominee logo

That was a massive surprise. Nothing Without Us received the nomination, and Talia and I almost fell off our perches. This was the first anthology we had ever co-edited as editors-in-chief, but thanks to the encouragement of Renaissance and our supremely talented authors, it happened. It’s so important that disabled, d/Deaf, Mad, and neurodivergent creatives are recognized for their work in this industry. We couldn’t have been prouder of them and this project.

That same work was taught in a disability studies course at Trent University

Billionty-times Prix Aurora Award winner and academic Derek Newman-Stille included Nothing Without Us as part of the syllabus of a disability studies course at Trent this past winter semester. Talia and I even spoke to the students one session. I can’t even tell you how cool that was. It had been a dream of mine for that collection to be taught in university, so this was like winning a thousand awards in my mind.

I attempted a work of microfiction for the first time, and it was accepted for publication

ID: Cover of Stargazers (micro) Tales from the Cosmos. A woman in a space suit, holding a scanning device, enters a hatch and it looks like electric activity is all around her.

It’s amazing how my brain keeps adapting to fewer and fewer words and can still tell a story. Years ago, I thought I could only write tomes, but the writing community kept challenging me, and I’ve grown so much. With My Kind is an escape story starring a disabled protagonist, and it’s included in AE Science Fiction’s STARGAZERS: Microtales from the Cosmos.

A nonfiction essay of mine was published by Wordgathering

I’d documented my experience with sound and hearing in a short work called Gorgeously Hard of Hearing, and was simply thrilled for it to be included in Wordgathering’s spring/summer issue. You can find it in my Free Reads, Tales from the Crip menu!

I teamed up with Dianna Gunn, and the Spoonie Authors Network has a podcast

No longer a lone Spoonie, I invited Canadian fantasy author Dianna Gunn to merge her Spoonie Authors Podcast idea with the Spoonie Authors Network, and she hit it out of the park right away. There’s one season done and we’re into the second season. So, it’s lovely she’s doing that while I continue to edit the blog part of the website. The best part of this is I get to listen to even more authors in my community. I just recently learned how to create transcripts for the podcast, too, so a new skill is emerging! You can find out how to listen to or read the transcripts about the Spoonie Authors Podcast at spoonieauthorsnetwork.com.

Drawing came back into my life

ID: Nat and Kat Squidbling, two aliens with squid heads who run a textiles booth at a large market. Nat's skin is bright red. He's wearing a shiny grey suit with a vest and tie, looking rather dignified. Kat is orange and her hands are in a heavy metal salute. One of her wrists has a spiky braclet. Her grey vest over a white t-shirt reads: The Squid is hawt tonight. The squidblings are surrounded by different bolts and samples of fabric.
Nat and Kat Squidbling make a cameo appearance in Episode 4 of Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space.

A triple or maybe quadruple health scare thing plus frozen shoulder caused me to buy an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. I didn’t know what lay ahead of me with regards to tests and treatments, so I figured that if I had to be alone in hospitals, I need to be immersed in creativity.

It turned out that all four health scares resulted in no cancer and a liver that just needed to be happier at me. My frozen shoulder is still on the mend, but while all the things were happening, I bought the Procreate app and started drawing a ton. It’s something I hadn’t been able to do in an age because of how fibromyalgia and arthritis have affected my fingers, but the device and pencil act like assistive tech!

And I will be illustrating my first Bedtime Stories for Grownups book, which I hope to publish in 2021. Also, I will be doing one illustration for each episode of Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space.

So, yay!

Iris and the Crew is underway!

My burnout made it difficult to read and write this year. Thankfully, I’m back in the saddle for Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space. It has its own challenges, but with the help of sensitivity editors, I hope it will be read and loved. I feel that as autistic and disabled SFF author, I needed to world-build an accommodating and accessible galaxy with diversity of disability and brains braining in various ways.

I will never have my own Netflix series, so I’ll just write one, in book form!

So. Many. Cons.

This was shocking but really great. I moderated a couple of panels and sat on others at Renaissance’s RenVCon in the spring and fall. I also sat on a humour panel at When Words Collide, after being invited by moderator Ira Nayman. And in between those, I attended reading series. All from home.

I was also delighted when Madona Skaff asked me to be her interviewer for the launch of her second book, Death by Association. We did that online and live as well.

Truthfully, I hope there will still be virtual access to cons when the pandemic is over. It really helps me attend more things.

I went back to church

COVID also allowed me to attend church more regularly because it, too, is online. I really like the leadership and community at St. Alban’s Ottawa. Very committed to welcoming everyone and actually doing things for people, not just being performative. I appreciate the sincerity. Because it’s been quite the spiritual journey for me, lemme tell ya.

Oh yeah, I came out!

ID: A grey t-shirt with the words "Swirly Girly" on it with black script. There is a heart above the i in the cryptosexual flag colours of yellow, coral, mauve, and brown.

I wish I could find the folks who created the pride flag for cryptosexual, but I guess that meaning has to be hidden, too! For a while now I’ve known I wasn’t heteronormative, even though I’ve dated men and have been married to my Very Straight Husband™ (a joke of ours) for almost 30 years. But whenever I tried to define my queer identity, my mind would go boggle boggle boggle. But Canadian SFF author Stephen Graham King randomly posted about the different sexual identities of postmodern sexuality, and there was cryptosexual. It’s defined as a person who has trouble claiming currently-defined identities.

Funny enough, for me, in a dream, a deep voice cut through a conversation I was having about sexual identity with my BFF, and the voice said, “YOU ARE SWIRLY!”

I remember waking up and thinking, “Swirly! YES! That fits!” This was before I discovered the word cryptosexual. I kept it only between myself and a couple of friends, but then felt I could say it out loud this year.

And my Very Straight Husband™? He loved it. Accepted me right away and called me his Swirly Girly. I like it. I’m a cis woman, and I swirl about when it comes to my sexuality. It feels relaxing and calming not to identify it any further than that. I do say queer so other folks will know what the heck I’m talking about. But Talia and I (in real life) said that queer can also a swirly word, so it’s cool.

So, what’s ahead for this Crip?

Well, if I tell you now, it’ll spoil things for next December’s post, won’t it? Suffice to say that I have plans and goals, but will take things one step and one day at a time.

Thanks for reading and I wish you all the best in 2021. We could use the best. Yes, more of the best, please!

ID: Headshot of Cait Gordon against a black background.

Cait Gordon is a disability advocate who wants everyone to do everything possible to stop the spread of COVID-19, not only for yourselves, but also for those of us who have been in lockdown since March 2020.

She’s also the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. When Cait’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also teamed up with Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us anthology (a 2020 Prix Aurora Award finalist for Best Related Work) in an attempt to take over the world.

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