Names

This year has been tough. I am not sad to see it go. Although truthfully, it’s just a number that has no bearing on anything that has happened or will happen. Things just happen.

I didn’t want to let 2013 pass without writing something new here, but I don’t have the words in my head. Not the ones I want.

Somewhere, though, I wanted to mention the people who died. I wanted to make some small record of their lives. Some of them I barely knew. Some I’d never met at all. Some are the loved ones of my loved ones. Some I’ve known and loved my entire life.

Kate, Adam, Karen, Neeny, Patrick, Will, Ned, and Alice….you are missed.

I know. But I do not approve.

Retreat

The view from AJU

The view from AJU

A few days before I was supposed to leave for Los Angeles, I freaked out.

When I first found out that I’d gotten into the Emerging LGBT Writers Retreat, I’d been pretty excited. I’d spent several months working on the application and then trying not to obsess too much about whether I’d get in or not. When I got my acceptance, the Lambda Literary Foundation also gave me a partial scholarship, and after a couple weeks agonizing over it, I came up with a plan to make videos as a way to raise funds for the rest of my tuition. It went better than I expected, and thanks to some really amazing friends and family, I was able to fund not just my tuition but also my plane ticket.

I thought I was all set, until July 3. That’s when I found out we’d need to submit 40 pages and a synopsis for the workshop. I did not have 40 pages or a synopsis. I’d just begun a revision of my book, Mind Tricks, and I had maybe five pages at the most. I hated the old version and was planning to rewrite it from scratch. So I made a schedule for revising and rewriting what I hoped would amount to 40 pages, and I figured, if I really pushed myself, I could pull it together in the next few weeks.

Things did not go as planned. The next day I got a call from my mother. My grandmother’s hospice nurse had told her that Neeny was starting to show “the signs.” Neeny had been in hospice for about two weeks, and up until that point, we’d heard all sorts of things. Things like “some people are in hospice for years.” The future was a roiling sea of uncertainty. Jill and I had begun driving home from Austin every weekend to spend extra time with my grandmother and help out in any way we could. The trips were hard. I could see that Neeny wasn’t going to get better this time. But there was no clear indication of when anything would happen. We were all just kind of waiting to see how things would progress.

Even after I got the call from my mother and packed up on a Thursday night to go home, we still didn’t know what would happen. No one was talking about it in specific terms. And maybe I was a little bit in denial. I’m not sure. We knew about “the rally.” But when it happened, I didn’t recognize it for what it was. It was July 5, the day before Neeny’s 91st birthday, when my grandmother asked to be wheeled into the dining room for dinner—something that hadn’t happened in a few days. Earlier that day, the hospice nurse had come by again, and she said things were looking better than she’d thought they would. And here was Neeny, sitting at the dinner table with us for two hours, then refusing to go to bed afterward. Instead, she was wheeled into the Blue Room, her study, where we all sat with her while she opened get-well cards and talked on the phone with my cousin and my brother. Some part of me knew what was happening, but her birthday was the next day. I was certain she’d be there for it.

I’d bought birthday balloons. I’d bought party hats and a giant banner. I bought noisemakers and Star Wars napkins that had pictures of Yoda printed on them, because Neeny once took me to see Episode Two. I bought two candles that made the number 91. But on the morning of Neeny’s birthday, at 7:00 a.m., the phone rang, jerking me out of sleep, and I knew.

Her house was right next door to my parents’ house, the house where I grew up. Mom and Dad threw on clothes and headed out the door, Dad telling me that Neeny was “unresponsive” as he hurried down the hall. I stumbled around, trying to find something to pull on over my pajamas, while Jill sleepily asked me what was going on. Just a few minutes behind my parents, I ran across the yard to Neeny’s house in a groggy fog, my heart pounding. By the time I got there, she was gone.

The two weeks following that day were a time warp. They stretched and dragged like silly putty. I could barely keep track of what day it was. I’d remember things that had happened a week before as if they’d happened months ago. I slogged through work in a haze. I spent my evenings lying on the couch and staring out the window, at the TV, or into space. The last thing I wanted to do was write. The last thing I wanted to do was anything at all.

Eventually, I noticed that the end of the month was creeping up, the retreat drawing nearer and nearer. The only thing that motivated me to get off the couch was guilt at the prospect of making the other Lambda fellows wait so long for my submission. I dragged myself upstairs to the spare bedroom for several days in a row, slouched on the futon with my laptop, and attempted to write. I have never before hated writing so much. I’d been frustrated, discouraged, even angry about it at times, but I’d never hated it. This time, though, I reached a point where trying to force any more words from my brain made me want to throw up.

So I stopped writing. I literally dumped my computer off my lap one week before I was supposed to leave for LA and said, “Fuck it!” to the empty room. Then I opened the old draft of my novel, copied the first 40 pages of it into a new document, dashed off a synopsis, and sent the thing without even reading it over for typos. I couldn’t stand to look at any of it. Then I shrugged and figured that at least it was over. I spent the rest of that week half-heartedly trying to read the submissions of the other fellows and feeling alternately guilty and apathetic about my lack of progress.

And then, just days before I was supposed to go, I panicked. I looked at the work I’d done—primarily the lack thereof—and was certain that I’d squandered my chance to be useful at the retreat, either to myself or to the other fellows. I was doing a crap job at critiques, and I’d sent in sub-par work for them to read. I’d be wasting everyone’s time by going.

At that point, I think the only thing that stopped me from backing out was the fact that other people had paid for me to go. Other people had seen something of worth in me or in my work and decided to give some of their money to make it possible for me to attend this retreat. I’d already bought my plane ticket. I had no choice. So I packed up my suitcase, got on my plane, and wound up in Los Angeles at the American Jewish University.

The first day of the retreat was hard. My brain felt like it was on lockdown, probably because I was so stressed out and sad from the last two months that I didn’t think I could handle much more. Meeting people was hard. Talking to people was hard. Just being in the same room with people was hard. But I had to try to make it work, and not just for myself. I had to try for all those people, my friends and my family, who had made it possible for me to be here.

The second day was also hard. I kept finding myself in situations that involved interacting with other humans, and I desperately wanted to communicate with them, to connect with them, but the lockdown was still in effect. I felt awkward, shy, inadequate. I felt like I’d failed before I’d even gotten there.

That afternoon, though, something shifted. Our workshop leader, Malinda Lo, had scheduled time slots for individual meetings with her where we could talk about our works-in-progress. For some reason, I picked one of the earliest slots, and I was terrified. I stressed about it all afternoon, leading up to my 4:30 appointment, wondering what I could possibly say about a submission I hated, especially when my mind was somewhere else. My stomach was in knots as I walked in and sat down next to her.

But then we started talking. Malinda asked me questions about my book, and I focused on answering them. We began discussing things like world-building and character motivations and research and complicated plots, and as we did that, the haze in my brain started to lift. My focus shifted away from the last few months, away from my awkwardness and terror, and back to my writing. I woke up.

By the time I left that meeting, I felt excited again. I was excited about my writing, and about the workshops, and about critiquing. I began to look around me, as I went to dinner with the other fellows, and it occurred to me that I was finally here—I was at the Lambda Literary writers retreat, and I was surrounded by nothing but other queer writers. The experience was unique—and I was struck by how truly amazing and fantastic it was to be there, spending my days like this. And I woke up some more.

The rest of the week went by too quickly. I made so many friends. I enjoyed those workshops more than any others I’d ever participated in. I became completely immersed in the experience, in being somewhere I’d never been before, largely isolated from the things that had haunted me back home. After a year of trials and heartbreak, something finally felt right. I felt right.

The Lambda Literary retreat gave me something to care about. It gave me something to hope for and to work toward. Most of all, it gave me the people who made that possible—Malinda, Rose, Dave, Jesse, Tess, Dakota, Miguel, Laura, Nash, Gillian, Audrey, and M-E, not to mention many others outside of the YA/Genre track. These people gave me encouragement, camaraderie, rides in their cars, fascinating mealtime conversation, unicorn masks, wine and vodka, a shitzillion hilariously wonderful photos, Indian food, cuddle huddles, and their brilliant ideas on how to make my writing be the best that it can be. I love them and miss them, and I can’t wait until I can see them again.

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The Lambda Literary 2013 YA/Genre Fiction Fellows

Articulating what exactly was so special about that week in Los Angeles is difficult. But I know it came at a time when I needed it the most. It gave me joy. It reawakened my desire to write—it showed me that I still could write. It showed me that, in spite of everything I’ve lost, I am still me, and I am still here.

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For a fantastic day-by-day breakdown of what the YA/Genre track was like at the retreat, check out Audrey Coulthurst’s LLF posts! Also check out Malinda Lo’s and Rose Yndigoyen’s amazing posts about the week, and click here to learn about all the fellows.

More

Neeny at her 80thThis is my grandmother. Her name was Jean Barber Smith, but I call her Neeny. On Saturday morning, she died. It was her 91st birthday.

The night before, I could see that she was rallying. Hospice said that might happen. It is, apparently, common for people nearing the ends of their lives to perk up a bit right before. On Friday night, Neeny was more lively than I’d seen her in weeks. She sat up with us for several hours, first eating dinner with us in the dining room and then sitting with us in the blue room—her library—talking with us, talking on the phone, and opening the ten or so cards that came in the mail for her that day.

We must have all seen it for what it was. But we had plans for her birthday. Dad was going to sing “Happy Birthday” to her with his guitar, and Mom was going to write her a poem. I was going to make a video of myself playing the piano and decorate her room with balloons and a huge “Happy Birthday!” banner. My brother was driving down from Austin for the party.

When I left her house on Friday night, it never occurred to me that we wouldn’t get to have our birthday party with Neeny.

I know I should feel lucky that I had her as long as I did, because not everyone gets to live for ninety-one years. But I just want more years.

I’m told that we move forward by remembering Neeny and the countless happy memories we had with her. But right now it hurts to touch them.

I want to make more memories, not grasp at the ones I have, the ones that are already elusive. I want Neeny to be more than a photo in a frame, a voice on a recording, or even years of happy memories. No matter how greedy it makes me, I want her to be here.

The Importance of Revision

IT’S HERE! The video you’ve ALL been waiting for, in which I reveal my sordid past as….a teenage writer. I don’t know about other people, but my writing wasn’t quite in tiptop shape when I was a teen. I had liked adverbs a little too much, and I hadn’t quite learned as much about the intricacies of grammar and style. But I got better over time, due in large part to the teachers and fellow writers who encouraged me to revise and revise and revise.

And THUS, I bring you this video, about the importance of revision.

SO. I hope you enjoyed that. I had to dig into the depths of my soul to find the courage to reveal to you my writerly beginnings. It was truly a challenge. :)

Since you are watching this video on my blog and not on YouTube, the link to donate is actually in the sidebar on this page. You may haven noticed it already. It’s that bright and shiny teal button in the top right corner. If you can donate anything, even, like, A QUARTER! (seriously), it will all help me get to L.A. AND, as a thank you, I will also send you the SUPER SEKRIT LINK to the outtakes from my video. If you enjoy seeing me make a fool of myself, you won’t be disappointed. ;)

THANK YOU!!!!

HOLY BREAKDANCING UNICORNS!

I really cannot believe how many people have already helped me raise money to attend the Lambda Literary writers retreat. I did not anticipate things going so well, and I am totally amazed and honored and flabbergasted that I have come so far toward my fundraising goal in such a short period of time. YOU have helped me raise nearly ALL of the money I need to pay tuition, and we’re making great progress toward my travel expenses goal too. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH. I hope that I can find an adequate way to say thanks to each one of you.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to work on fundraising, and that means I’m working on editing my next video! It’s going to be….a bit different from my first one. Perhaps a bit more scandalous and ridiculous. Muahahahahahahaha. I hope you will all find it amusing. While you wait, if you can donate anything, even a dollar, to help me buy my plane ticket, you can do so by clicking on the big “Donate!” button at the top left of this site! You do NOT need a PayPal account to donate. Just enter your donation amount at the top of the page, and click the “Continue” link in the “Don’t have a PayPal account?” section (to the left of the login box). If you would prefer to contribute to my tuition, I am still a short ways out from my total goal, so click here to go to my tuition donor page! AND I WILL FLAIL AROUND AND SAY THANK YOU AND FAVORITE ALL YOUR TWEETS!

To tide you over until the new video is posted, here’s a teaser screenshot. *giggles*

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Snapshots: An Essay

I’m twelve years old. My composition book, where I do all my schoolwork, is covered in grainy computer printouts of Star Trek: Voyager characters. I’ve scrawled “I ♥ Harry Kim!” all over the back with a sparkly blue gel pen, but most of the pictures are of Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres. Two desks down from me, the tall blond boy smirks. On the playground, where the teachers pretend not to hear, he makes fun of the burn scars on my legs. The other kids laugh, and no one picks me for their kickball teams. But I always keep my composition book close. Hidden at the end of that book is a secret section where I write stories, using a made-up code in case it ever falls into the wrong hands. My character is Marg Hatchoway, a twenty-first century girl who gets sucked through a vortex and onto the bridge of a starship. She is my lifeline.

I’m fourteen years old. At my new middle school, I’m still too scared to make eye contact with the popular kids, but I have a new friend, a sci-fi nerd like me. We’re both devastated when Star Trek: Voyager is canceled. To fill the void, I watch Starship Troopers one afternoon, but it’s immensely unsatisfying. The next day, I sneak a stack of notebook paper from the supply cubbies and start to write, even though I should be working on my Renaissance research project. A new story explodes onto the paper, about Kette and Savannah, two girls living in a war-torn colony on a faraway planet. It’s much better than that stupid movie. The story gets longer and longer until finally I realize—I’m writing a book.

I’m sixteen. I love everything about high school, except for World History. My favorite teacher teaches it, but this girl I know from Spanish class sits next to me every day and won’t leave me alone. I tried to be friends with her at first, but she started poking me in the ribs and telling me I look hot. I make sure that the pictures of cute boys on my binder far outnumber those of my favorite female TV characters. I’m into guys, of course, but I haven’t dated one yet, and I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea. Even the teachers think those gay girls are weird.

I’m twenty years old. Nothing about college is turning out the way it should. I’m an English major, writing teen literature in a class full of students who want to be the next Great American Novelists. My romance scenes suck. They feel forced and flat, which isn’t surprising since I still haven’t dated any boys. And I haven’t made any friends at school—instead I go to an off-campus writers group once a week, the only relief from my roommates and their fake smiles. I avoid the dorms as much as possible, usually by working late in the photo lab, even though I hate photography. I despise the smell of the chemicals and the awkwardness of fumbling around in a darkroom. My clumsy fingers can’t get the film into its canister for developing, so the lab monitor has to help me. She’s called Carrie. I like to roll the name around in my mind as we stand there in the pitch black darkroom, only inches apart. It’s both wonderful and terrifying. Carrie.

I’m twenty-two years old. A month ago, I moved to New York City to study writing for children. I just started school, and I only know a few people in this city. One of them, a woman, is the most brilliant person I’ve ever met. She makes my heart beat too fast, and my brain melts when she’s around. Every day, I imagine myself running into her on the street, and every time my phone beeps with a new text message, I hope it’s her. After weeks of this, after losing my grip on every last shred of denial, I gather the courage to instant-message one of my closest friends. And I tell him—I’m in love with a woman. A straight woman. A woman who will never love me back.

I’m twenty-five years old. I’m browsing at the bookstore with my first girlfriend, Jill, looking for something to take on our trip to the beach. I pick up book after book in the YA section, reading the flap copy, not sure what I’m searching for. My heart jumps when I grab one that features two characters, Emma and Kelly, who are falling for each other. Eagerly, I devour the rest of the flap copy, ecstatic to see a lesbian couple featured in a paranormal romance—until I discover that Kelly is a he, not a she. Though I tell myself it shouldn’t matter, I’m disappointed. The book goes back on the shelf.

I’m twenty-six years old. I’ve got my first real, forty-hours-a-week grownup job. I like it, but I begin to realize just how precious my free time is. When I come home each day, I make a choice between writing and everything else—the television, my Twitter account, playing on the Wii, even spending time with Jill. There isn’t time for everything. Often, I’m consumed by my latest project—a YA paranormal about a girl who fights the terrifying demons taking over her city. Her name is Gwen, and she has a forbidden crush on her fellow demon-hunter, Claire. This story is fun—full of dangerous chases through dark city streets, dating angst, and tough decisions. I can’t get it out of my head. I write it for myself—for the isolated middle school student and the sixteen-year-old who buries secrets so deep she doesn’t even know she has them. I write it for the lonely, scared young adult who still has a lot to figure out. But I’m also writing it for everyone else—for best friends and beloved family. For neighbors and teachers and photo lab monitors. For cruel bullies and whispering students. For them, for us, for everyone, I want to create characters who are relatable, who are human, regardless of who they love. I work to become the best writer I can be, to close the gap between us all.

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I wrote this essay as part of my application to the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Emerging LGBT Writers Retreat. I was fortunate to receive a partial scholarship from the foundation, and now I’m trying to raise the rest of the money I will need for my tuition and travel expenses. I am VERY CLOSE to meeting my goal of $1,000 at my official donor page, but I still need to raise $500, separate from the donor page, to pay for additional travel expenses (plane tickets to L.A. and cab fare to and from the airport). If you would like to help, please use the donation button in the sidebar on this page (top right). To learn more about what I’m doing with the money and why, click here to read about it and watch my video. THANK YOU!!!! :D

Two Years!

jill and me at bodies

I’m pretty sure this is the first picture Jill and I ever took together. It was during our 10th date. We went on a picnic in Central Park with some of her friends, and then she took me to the Bodies exhibit in the Financial District. We went out to dinner afterward, and I remember just walking around the cobblestone streets with her on a breezy, early summer night.

The next day, I’d been out somewhere (don’t remember where–probably Jill’s apartment), and I was heading home on the N train around mid-afternoon. As the train emerged from the Queensboro tunnel, my phone beeped with a text message from Jill. She asked me if I would be her girlfriend. I texted back to say I would. I remember grinning like an idiot until I got to my stop at 30th Avenue. I’m pretty sure I kept grinning like an idiot for the whole walk home. And possibly the rest of the day.

Two years later, we’re living across the country and starting to plan our wedding. It’s a little crazy to think about. Two years doesn’t sound like a long time, but it feels like quite a while. Looking back, I know that Jill and I probably moved a bit faster with our relationship than most people. [Insert U-Haul joke here.] But it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like we’ve been together for decades, and the person I was without her is a distant memory.

I love her so much. :)

Writing is So Gay!

OMG, I made a video! YOU SHOULD WATCH IT!

In case you cannot watch the video, here’s a quick summary:

I GOT IN to Lambda Literary’s Emerging LGBT Writers Retreat! Holy crap! I’m really, really excited to go, because I’ll be studying writing with Malinda Lo, who is one of my favorite writers ever. She’s also perfect for this retreat because she’s the only author I know of who writes YA sci-fi and fantasy with non-straight main characters. She’s amazing, and if you haven’t read her books yet, GO DO IT NOW.

To go to the retreat, I need to raise $1,000 to pay for my tuition. This money goes straight to the Lambda Literary Foundation via my donor page. I also need $500 to pay for airfare and associated travel expenses, money which must be raised independently from the donor page. As part of this initiative, I plan to keep making videos and maybe even write things!

If you’d like to make a donation to my tuition, my donor page is the best place to go about it. If you want to help me with my travel costs, please donate via the BIG TURQUOISE BUTTON at the top right of this page. Anything you want to give, even if it’s only a dollar, will help a TON and will mean very much to me. :)

THANK YOU!!!!

Five Years

sydneyFive years ago today, at just past seven o’ clock in the evening, I lost my seven-month-old kitten, Sydney, to Feline Infectious Peritonitis. FIP is a disease that affects young cats and kittens, believed to be caused by a mutation of the common coronavirus that causes the cat’s immune system to attack itself. FIP is incurable and fatal.

I’ve never been able to let Sydney go. I’ve marked her birthday every year since she died by donating to FIP research. I’ve tried writing about her. I’ve tried clinging to her memory, and I’ve tried putting her away in a quiet corner of my brain. I’ve never stopped missing her.

I still remember the three weeks of hell between her diagnosis and her death. I remember the urgent phone call from our veterinarian. I remember the brief moment of hope I had when Sydney’s body seemed to be responding to the antibiotics, remember desperately hoping that it was salmonella after all. I remember skipping final exams and taking incompletes in my classes so that I could drive Sydney to multiple vet appointments and be with her every minute of each day. I remember listening to Coldplay’s “Violet Hill” on repeat at 4 a.m. while I struggled to comprehend scientific papers on FIP research and treatment. I remember learning how to inject antibiotics, clean IV catheters, and administer subcutaneous fluids. I remember the Last Good Day, after a dose of interferon and steroids gave her a second wind. I remember my roommates leaving for the summer, and the way the apartment was so empty with just me and Syd. I remember sleeping with her on the couch because she was too weak to walk down the hall to my bed. I remember screaming into a pillow the night that Sydney began to throw up the food I fed her through a syringe every day, because I knew it meant I could no longer put her through this hell. I remember calling the vet and scheduling a time for her to come over to my apartment, then calling my dad and asking him to drive up to be with me. I remember the hours and minutes ticking down to 7:00 p.m. that day, and I remember taking Sydney out on the balcony, her favorite place in the world, while we waited.

sydney easterSince she died, I have been trying to find a way to honor Sydney—a way to show the world that her tiny, short life mattered. I always thought I’d do it through writing, but even now, the experience still feels too overwhelming. I can barely write a short blog entry, let alone an entire novel. Someday, though, I hope I’ll be able to do it.

Until then, all I have are my memories. I’ve shared some of the bad ones with you. Now I’ll show you some of the good.

I remember when I met Sydney. She was alone, all her brothers and sisters already adopted by other people. She had a little cold, and she climbed into my lap, sniffling, and curled up. I was only supposed to play with her, help socialize her. I wasn’t supposed to take her home. But she looked at me with enchanting aquamarine eyes. It’s the kind of connection I’ve rarely felt with anyone, human or animal. It just wasn’t something to be ignored.

I remember her tiny kitten meow and her silver-and-charcoal tabby fur.

I remember how she always curled up on the pillow next to my head at night.

I remember how she loved to play with feather toys. Her favorite was a bunch of peacock feathers that were attached to the end of a long, pliable plastic stick. I would shake it back and forth so fast it sounded like a bird flapping. Sydney went crazy for it. She leaped in the air, twisting and turning like a tiny acrobat. She was full of energy.

sydney and the orbI remember one night when my best friend and I sat down on the couch to watch 10 Things I Hate About You. We were five minutes in when Sydney came tearing down the hall, leapt up on the couch, ran across the back of it, and landed on the end table, where she skidded into our globe-shaped glass lamp and sent it crashing to the floor. I remember how, instead of being mad, Kate and I couldn’t stop laughing about it for hours, especially when we saw Sydney frozen in the center of the lamp carnage, looking totally guilty.

I remember how Kate would sometimes get home before me and take Sydney out on the balcony with her, so that when I arrived home from class or work, I’d see the two of them up there waiting for me.

I remember how I much loved Sydney. I remember how much I still do love her.

sydneyvideostill

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In the five years since Sydney died, FIP research has continued with some potentially promising results. This has happened at least in part because of financial support from people who love cats. If you would like to contribute, I recommend supporting the Bria Fund at the Winn Feline Foundation or Dr. Diane Addie’s research at the University of Glasgow.

OT, LLF, and Other Acronyms

Work has basically taken over my life for the last six or seven weeks. We had a brief lull after year-end updates occurred, but it was so short-lived I barely noticed it. Then we got this MASSIVE project that had to be completed by the end of the first quarter, which meant most of us were working nights and weekends. Constantly. I checked my pay stub, and I’ve earned almost fifty hours of overtime since the beginning of January. And that doesn’t count anything from the last two weeks, which have been the craziest ones I’ve ever had at this job. Holy crap.

So yeah. There’s a reason I called it Hell Month instead of March. Smack in the middle of that, I was also doing two freelance copyediting jobs, and as soon as those were over, I realized I only had a couple of weekends left to complete my application to a writers retreat, which meant I spent some very intensive Saturdays and Sundays and lunch breaks furiously revising and editing my essays and 25-page writing sample. March nearly killed me.

Little did I know the worst was yet to come. At work, April means quarter end updates. So, after a month of working past five many days and every single Saturday, guess where I was last Saturday morning? Yep. Guess where I was at eight o’ clock last Monday and Wednesday nights? YEP. Last week was brutal. Nothing has ever come close to comparing. Not NaNoWriMo. Not final exam week. Not applying for grad school with only five days before the deadline. Nothing. Every day around lunchtime, I would feel rather panicky and sick because the workload was so massive. Then I’d force myself to take my lunch break and read, get my mind off it, but I usually didn’t stop feeling panicky until around two or three in the afternoon, at which point I began to just feel resigned. I stopped working out all last week. I stopped doing my shoulder PT in the mornings after getting to work. I stopped trying to do anything in the evenings except watch TV. Every day I began working promptly at 7:30 a.m., and never stopped earlier than 6:30 p.m. Jill brought dinner to work twice. And most of my coworkers were putting in even more hours than I was. By Friday, we all felt pretty broken.

I am really, really hoping this coming week will be better. But at least I know one thing: Even after the awful hell that was last week, I still love my job and am happy to be there.

Speaking of which, it looks like I’m going to get to stay for a long time, because….they just hired me as a full-time employee! I’m SO EXCITED to not be a contractor anymore. Freelancing can be really great in a lot of ways, but I’ve been wishing for a bit more stability for a long time, and now I’ve finally gotten it. Jill and I just got our health insurance cards in the mail today. It’s glorious. I’m still going to take freelance jobs on the side, because I like doing it, but I expect my limited schedule will fill up pretty fast. And once I make it through the rest of quarter end, Jill and I are taking a long weekend to go to the beach (during which there will be NO WORK ALLOWED). I wish we could stay longer than that, but I’m saving up my vacation days for that writers retreat I mentioned earlier.

The writers retreat, if I get in, will be AMAZING. I’m beyond excited, and every time I think about the fact that they have my application and could, possibly at this very moment, be reading it, I get a little twinge of excitement/terror. It’s the first writers retreat I’ve ever applied to, because it’s the first one that’s ever really appealed to me. After grad school, I saw no reason to spend any money on more expensive courses or workshops, but this one is different. It’s the Lambda Literary Foundation’s annual retreat, which is specifically for emerging LGBT writers. And this year, Malinda Lo is teaching the YA/genre fiction workshop. Pardon me while I squee foreverz. If you haven’t heard of Malinda Lo before, GOOGLE HER NOW. And then read one of her books. Or all of them. All of them would be best.

I worked really hard on this application. I’ve been getting the materials ready since early February, which is, um, considerably more time than I spent on either of my grad school apps. (Well, okay, so one of my grad school applications was a last minute decision, and I had less than a week to get it put together, and I did actually get into the program and, yanno, go there, but still. I don’t recommend the last-minute approach, given the choice. It was STRESSFUL, man.) Anyway, the point is that I really really really really really want to go to the LLF retreat, so I’m hoping I get in and get a scholarship and/or can save enough of the dollarz in time to go.

So basically things are looking good for us lately. Finally. I know Jill and I could have had it much worse, even at our lowest points, but it is a massive relief to have employment that isn’t likely to end any time soon. We aren’t stuck in this rut anymore or wondering what the hell is going to happen or when the other shoe is going to drop. We can finally start moving forward with our lives and our plans for the next few years.

Also, I can buy ALL OF THE BOOKS now. And a new bookshelf to put them on. *steeples fingers* *laughs like Smithers*