I’m cishet and I write queer characters, but not without help.

rainbow bookYeah, so I’m cisgender, which means that a doctor looked at my new-born bits and said, “It’s a girl,” and when I grew up I said, “Good guess, Doc.” I’m also heterosexual, which means I am romantically and sexually attracted to men. Right, so we got those boring details about me out of the way.

What isn’t tedious is that I have a truly amazing circle of friends. *my binary-straight self waves to all my peeps who reside all over the sexual orientation and gender spectrums* For this I am blessed because my perspective of the world is quite vast, and being a lover of diversity, it’s a wee bit o’ heaven for me. I like learning about people and listening to their points of view. It’s fascinating to hear what we have in common and what makes us unique. Unfortunately, it also can be heartbreaking when I witness the prejudice, fear, and hurt my friends go through. That makes me very Hulk-smashy and has led me to my go-to expression: Cishet people suck.

Now, before you go all #NotAllCishetPeople, maybe take a breath and think for a second. Really think. Maybe one’s degree of suckage has not been extreme, but I bet we can find a time in our lives when we’ve said, “That’s so gay,” even if we were talking about a thing and not a person. And we can’t even justify that as “gay meaning lame,” because then we’re insulting people like me who have mobility issues. I often say, “That’s not lame—I am!” We also have used gender as an insult, as in, “You run like a girl,” and decide to misgender people based on their interests, like,  “You like football? You’re one of the guys!” (Yeah, no, I’m not a guy. I just like football.) Worse yet, we justify our solidarity by our genitals, saying, “This group is for everyone with a vagina,” meaning, cisgender women only.

Even when we’re trying to be inclusive of people on other parts of the sexual orientation and gender spectrum, we can muck it up. While it’s okay to politely take someone aside and ask them what pronoun they use, it’s not okay to ask them about genital surgery or any other wholly private and non-of-your-are-you-kidding-me business. That’s super ungood. Bombarding someone with questions doesn’t work. People who identify as queer or with the LGBTQIA2 acronym are not here for the sole purpose of educating us. Sometimes they just want to hang, see a movie, and eat cupcakes with us. You know, just “doing life stuff” as our friends.

I am lucky that my best friend is an educator, though, I won’t lie. She teaches me how not to be so sucky. But still, that’s not what we talk about 24/7. We mostly discuss our lives and act silly. Like BFFs do.

In my circle of friends, I am teased (by my BFF) that I am the token cishet. It’s kinda true! As immersed as I am in my peep’s lives, I still know that there is so much I don’t know about what it’s like to be them on a daily basis. When I hear about how holding a partner’s hand in public can be dangerous, I’m gobsmacked. How does that feel on the inside? Or how other friends cannot walk about peaceably downtown without getting verbally assaulted or having the threat of physical/sexual assault as an immediate possibility. . . all because of their gender. As a cis woman, I know what that feels like for me, so I just multiply that by ten billion and then I imagine that’s what being transgender or non-binary is like. It hurts that this is a reality. Nobody should live in fear like that.

Because there are nuances I probably won’t get no matter how much I try to understand, as a writer I cannot publish even a short story without having it vetted. The beta readers for Life in the ’Cosm were a diverse group of people. Even though I wrote about aliens and not life on Earth, I still wanted to avoid writing something where readers could scream, “BURN IT TO THE GROUND!” Yes, my characters are not perfect, personality-wise, because I have yet to meet a being who is in real life, but as far as queer or gender representation, I knew I needed help. Mind you, I was so panicky about being a douchecanoe, my BFF said over and over, “It’s fine. It’s sci-fi. Just have fun with it!”

Oh yeah, being the anxious cishet person who doesn’t want to insult people can also be oppressive. If you accidentally misgender someone, for example, don’t put on a Shakespearean tragedy-like display about how horrible a person you are. Just use the correct pronoun, maybe pop in a “sorry”, and then slow down your brain to make sure you don’t do that again. Making a scene just creates a really awkward situation. *cough*

Back to writing stuff. I have been told that’s it’s okay for cishet authors to include queer and gender-fabulous characters in their stories. In fact, it’s encouraged! The big thing is just to make the characters part of the story, and maybe just don’t include only one queer person who dies . . . like, in every single story you write. That’s not so great. Having your work read by real-life people who you are trying to represent will improve the quality of your characters. I say this especially about transgender characters, because there is glaring misrepresentation of trans people on TV and in stories. If your work has trans characters in it, then I do recommend hiring my BFF as a sensitivity editor. She’ll read your manuscript and tell you what tropes to avoid and how to write queer and trans characters more realistically. Here’s a link to her website.

So, yeah, I don’t want to be a cishet person who sucks. I think there are others like me, too. Many folks my age just didn’t grow up with enough exposure, so we’re sorta ignorant. However, there is a cure for ignorance. Just learn a thing! Then learn another thing! Keep going like that, and you’ll be a better, more understanding person. Even still, don’t fly that ship alone. When you write something, get yourself a sensitivity editor or at least sensitivity beta readers. Writing takes a lot of time and effort, and if you cover all bases with having your manuscript vetted, the more people will enjoy your stories.

I will continue to include diversity in my stories because if it exists on Earth, it would be silly not to include it in other galaxies. Just like cake. It would be silly not to include cake in other galaxies. All sorts of people and all sorts of cake make a galaxy a cool place to live.

What?

/cg


cgauthorCait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a comedic space opera where boy meets girl, but girl doesn’t notice boy because she’s sharing a body with another boy. She is also the creator and editor of the Spoonie Authors Network. You can read more about Cait on her Website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m Writing like Lady and The Tramp Eat Spaghetti

Um, okay, this is a bit different for me. Maybe for you it’s perfectly fine, but I’m a bit surprised at myself.

I am currently writing the first draft (or trying to anyway while LIFE keeps smacking me in the face) of the second book in the ’Cosm Series. There are several new characters, but I’m having just as much fun as when I wrote Life in the ’Cosm. The only thing is that I sort of wrote the first book in a straight line. At least I did for about 23 chapters, and then I came up with the ending. But I sort of continued in a straightish line after that.

pasta

With Book, Too (not the title, I promise), I wrote three chapters and then the last chapter. Then I wrote some more and went back to beef up the last chapter. Then I wrote yet more and then scenes kept popping into my head, so I jotted them down. Then I wrote the second-to-last chapter. I’m not sure if I’m writing the same way that Lady and the Tramp ate spaghetti, from both ends, hoping to meet in the middle.

And with these extra scenes randomly spewing from my brain, I wonder if this book will be coughed out like hairballs. Oh well, I do like puzzles. Even sopping wet hairball ones.

Perhaps this is why some authors use tools like Scrivener. I hear it’s great for organising scenes and characters and such. However, I am stubbornly sticking with my Google Docs and a table of contents that helps me remember where I’ve put stuff. I’m barely organised as a creative writer and I sort of love that. After forever as a tech writer, it’s nice to be so wheeeeeeeee about writing. Yes, that was the appropriate amount of e’s for that word.

With all my editing assignments in the next few months, I’m not sure when I’ll finish this first draft, but I’ll steal moments the way I did with ’Cosm. I’m in no rush, and I loathe the thought of pushing something out for the sake of an imaginary deadline. I want to create and not fret. When you write as silly content as I do, being stressed is not a good place. Being chill leads to the silly.

So, off I return to the spaghetti eating!

Gosh, I love pasta.

I should make pasta for lunch.

And maybe watch Lady and the Tramp.

/cg

CGAuthorCait Gordon is an Irish-Canadian warrior princess and author of Life in the ’Cosm, a space opera about a little green guy who’s crushing on the female half of his two-headed colleague (Renaissance). Cait’s also the editor of the Spoonie Authors Networka blog that solely features writers who manage disabilities and/or chronic illness. She might make pasta for lunch.

What I’ve Discovered about Writing Short Stories for Competitions

stories

Brace yourself. This is the revelation of all time. Are you sitting down? You should really sit down for this one. Okay, you at the bus stop, since there isn’t a bench, just ask the person beside you if they might catch you in case you faint.

Right, so the thing about writing short stories for competitions is this:  You don’t have many words to play with. The short story word counts are kinda, well, small.

I know right? It floored me, too.

Okay, so perhaps this was beyond apparent to most of you, but I’ve not written a short story since I was in high school, and I think it was about how my cat scared me with his food bowl in the middle of the night. A simply riveting yarn. I do remember my teacher hating it. Anyway, this past weekend I thought I would try my hand at a short story. I’ve had a couple of ideas for over a year now, and because of a contest deadline that loomed in a loomity way, I thought I’d crunch a tale out.

The restriction was set at under 2500 words. TWENTY-FIVE HUNDRED WORDS?! My book was about 118, 000 words! I like words, and using many of them to tell a story. How the heck could I build characters and issue my certain brand of whacky in so little a budget of words???

I started writing on Saturday night and submitted yesterday. The second thing I learned about crafting short stories for competitions is that they don’t take as long to write. You know, because they’re short and all. Shockingly, I think I might have pulled it off, too. I completed the task in just over 2000 words, and made myself and my trio of reviewers laugh. Achievement unlocked!

It wasn’t easy at first, but I think I might have developed a taste for it. I might challenge myself write a few more 2K-word short stories, just to see what I can come up with within that restraint. Someone once told me that limitations are beautiful, regarding the creative process. Well, it does keep you sharp, I must admit.

I can’t reveal this particular short story yet, but when I can, I will. In the meantime, stay tuned as I try to bang out some more short but silly wordy things.

If you have something to share about your experience writing short stories, please feel free to leave it in the comments! You can include links to your tales, too. Dazzle me with your word-smithyness! 🙂

/cg

CGAuthorCait Gordon is an Irish-Canadian warrior princess and author of Life in the ‘Cosm, a space opera about aliens with issues (Renaissance Press). She’s also the editor of the Spoonie Authors Network blog.

Fun ‘Cosm Facts: Virj’s mug

 

You’d think authors always draw upon real life but in this case, I made up the sentiment on Virj’s mug and then had to have one made for myself!

 

Insecurity, Thy Name is Writer

Boing, boing, boing! There goes my confidence as it bounces out the door. I assumed colossal bouts of insecurity would only happen during the writing of my first book and there was no need for me to repeat those feelings the second time round. Surely, I’ve learned so much from the previous experience, right?

Wrong. And don’t call me Shirley.

The love-hate relationship with your work

Writing my first novel went something like this:

  • I love this book!
  • This is so much fun!
  • Hahahaha, it’s funny, too!
  • Huh, at second glance, it’s really not that well written.
  • Actually, it reads pretty poorly.
  • Crap!
  • I NEED TO HIDE IN A COUCH FORT BECAUSE I SUCK!
  • OTHER WRITERS ARE SO MUCH BETTER THAN I’LL EVER BE!
  • NO, I’M NOT READY TO LEAVE THE COUCH FORT YET!
  • Can someone bring food to my couch fort?
  • Maybe I’ll re-read those chapters again.
  • Oh, they just need a little filling out.
  • I’ll clean up some other things while I’m at it.
  • It reads much better now!
  • Hahahaha, this is funny!
  • I love this story!

(I won’t even get into the sheer panic of sending the manuscript to beta readers.)

When I expressed my emotional roller-coaster to my friends who are writers, they knew exactly what I was going through. Apparently hating your writing is a thing. It seems if you write, you most assuredly think you suck. No matter how much effort you put into creating your manuscript, no matter how otherwise confident you are, you just want to run and hide and never show your book to anyone who can comprehend your language.

Thanks. I feel much better now. Sorta.

History repeats itself, I guess

And now onto the journey of writing book 2. So far, it’s gone like this:

  • I love my new protagonist!
  • I love these new characters!
  • Hahahaha, this is funny and cute.
  • Oh wait, is it too dialogue-y?
  • I’m not sure.
  • Never mind, just finish the first draft. You’re only on chapter 10.
  • Neil Gaiman writes so much better than me. Maybe I should read his books and live vicariously through him.
  • Nobody would want to read my book.
  • No, keep going, you need to keep going.
  • Maybe it’s not that dialogue-y.
  • I have no idea what to write for chapter 11.
  • Those pillows look like they would make a good couch fort.

So I suppose I’ve learned exactly nothing. Or perhaps the lesson is this: keep writing no matter how badly you think you suck!

Because maybe, just maybe, you don’t suck at all.

How does anyone ever get published if we’re so horrible?

I had a discussion at an art studio the other day about people who get published. Are they lucky? Or is it that they put themselves out there? A woman who works at the studio was confident that the artists who push themselves are the ones who get published or, in the art world, exhibited. This brought up memories of people like Walt Disney, who I believe was rejected hundreds of times for the concept of Disneyland. I also think of J.K. Rowling, whose life was no bed of roses. Yet, we think of the Disney and the Harry Potter franchises as massive success stories. I’m realizing they are only successes because their creators did not back down in the face of rejection. The key is to never give up.

But wow, imagine believing in yourself so much that you keep going despite hundreds of rejections? This takes guts and a half.

Thankfully nowadays we writers have the option to self-publish. We also have access to free marketing tools like social media to help promote ourselves. However, even with self-publishing, we still need the self-belief to keep pushing ourselves to finish our books and to think them worthy of publication. We need that smidge of confidence not to back down.

When anxiety strikes, what do we do then?

Accepting we might be scared to bits is the first step. The next step is to complete the work. We write, get feedback, incorporate edits—the whole shebang. After that, we submit the work. Yes, even though we want to breathe into a paper bag—while wearing our Rainbow Dash onesie with a plate of cupcakes at our sidefrom the comfort of our couch fort—we must submit the work to a publisher or we must publish it ourselves.

Because heroes are made from risk takers, right? Right!

OK, good.

So, I still have no idea what to write for chapter 11. And I’ll make a note to check my dialogue balance, after I eat some pickle chips. I think I might want to wear my Rainbow Dash onesie, too. Or my minion feet pyjamas. What? This is important to the process, trust me.

Keep writing, fellow scribes! I bet dollars to doughnuts that you don’t suck! Just get yourselves out there despite the fear. I’m cheering you on! *waves pom-poms enthusiastically*

/cg

CGAuthorCait Gordon has been a senior technical writer for high tech and government organizations. Her first novel is being sent to the universe. She hopes the universe likes it. (The second book has begun and a third will happen, too!)

Image, “Panic Calm Buttons Show Worrying Or Tranquility” by Stuart Miles.