Pledge for a Frantic Activist

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So I called some senators. I knitted a hat. I’ve marched, signed petitions, and typed a jillion angry emojiis on Facebook. I can’t keep up with the news, real or fake. It all feels like Whack-a-Mole politics. Idioms that used to be metaphoric are now literal: my head is spinning. I feel sick to my stomach. I’m so angry I can’t see straight.

I’ve become a frantic activist. A Franticivist.

At the same time, life is marching on as well. There’s the personal—lunches to pack and little people to take care of. There’s the professional: ballet classes to teach, submissions to read for a storytelling series, and a revision deadline for my memoir.

Something has to change. I can’t just ignore what’s happening in the world but I can’t neglect what needs to be accomplished in my personal life. Moreover, the phone calls and postcards are important, but I have a gut feeling that this is not the best way for me to make a difference. So, inspired by this article How To Stay Outraged Without Losing Your Mind, here’s what I’m going to do. Because the franticivsm is going to be the death of me.

READ
I used to get my news from the New York Times and the Daily Show. Now I get it from Lit HubTheir daily newsletter is a compilation of articles from around the web that keeps me informed. The diversity of voices and demographics is comprehensive with a variety of women, WOC, and prominent writers from all over the world, all are intelligent without being shrill or reactive. Lit Hub is where I first saw this article by Rebecca Solnit and this one from Roxane Gay.

WRITE
Last weekend I had to explain to my nine-year-old daughter why it’s called a pussy hat. Which meant we had to talk about personal space, innuendo, and what it means “take a word back.” We talked about the N-word and how words hurt. This story goes beyond pink hats. This is about finding a voice and using it. I want my daughter to take for granted that she can speak up. It starts with me putting that story down on paper.

LISTEN
Just before the inauguration I attended this Litquake event at the San Francisco Public Library in which writers such as Sarah Lapido Manyika responded to the current administration. As with reading intelligent commentary from authors I admire, listening to their words made me feel connected to a larger community. Online click-bait often makes me feel anxious and panicked but listening to nuanced analysis and opinions was inspiring. For those in the SF Bay Area, litseen provides a comprehensive calendar of where to go and who you’ll hear.

SPEAK OUT
Currently on my plate is an event at Kaleidoscope Coffee with the Write on Mamas and Michelle Gonzales. The theme is Plan B: Now What Do We Do? I’m also reading submissions for the San Francisco production for Listen To Your Mother in which ten percent of all ticket proceeds will go benefit a local nonprofit that benefits women and children. This is my opportunity to amplify the voices and stories that I think need to be heard. It doesn’t all have to be about politics. Compassion starts when someone else’s experience resonates with you. Now with the current political climate, I’m seeing that people (writers, cafe owners, librarians) are actively on the lookout for events and many have a community calendar already. There’s a lot of energy to be harnessed around creating a lit event.

RINSE, REPEAT, AND REVISE AS NECESSARY
This is a plan that I think can help me feel engaged, informed, and pro-active without feeling overwhelmed and frantic. But this could change. I know that new opportunities will present themselves and that might involve taking different actions. Until then, I’m going to cozy up with a copy of RAD Women Worldwide for an extra dose of Yes, We Can.

Don’t-Call-It-A-Vacation Email Responder

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Layout 1Work so busy that you can’t answer your personal email? Try this handy “I’m too busy to pay attention” email response with bonus points for shameless self-promotion. 

Hello and thank you for your email!

If this message is Litquake-related, please contact me at my Litquake email address. If it’s not, please know that my response will be delayed until after October 18th, after the festival.

Until then your best chance of catching up with me is at the festival itself!

Check out our schedule!

I’ll be dancing here (but come for the charismatic poet) and reading here.

 

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done

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The Goal: Wear the quinceñeary-est quinceñeara dress to Litquake’s opening night party next Friday without spending any money to acquire said dress.

The Solution: Find someone who happens to have an old wedding dress which she uses to play dress up with kids and sit around until she gives it to you.

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¡Yay!

But get your frowny face emoticons ready.

All the directions that describe how to dye great big dresses claim that you cannot dye it if it’s 100% polyester. Cannot dye because it does not work or cannot dye because it does not work well? That’s what I had to find out.

It took approximately 16 hours of scouring the Internet (or 20 minutes if you take out interruptions) and skimming through DIY dye blogs where industrious young people sent their cute, 100% polyester off-white formals to Florida to be professionally dyed for undisclosed amounts of time and money, before I found what I was after. Back in 2003 on some costume forum, GitaGurl23 asked: “I want to dye my wedding dress for Halloween. It doesn’t have to look great. Can I do it?”

And the answer posted six years later in 2009: “Yes. And here’s how.”

The solution involved using isopropyl alcohol with water at a ratio of 7:1 (something about it evaporating faster), an iron to bind the color with heat (polyester is essentially plastic fibers, that’s why the color doesn’t hold), and a third thing that I read but subsequently ignored.

“I don’t have time to do this,” I thought. And immediately drove to Target and bought a 34-gallon bin, 3 bottles of RIT fuchsia dye, 2.5 gallons of isopropyl alcohol, and—because I fell under the spell that is Target—a jacket (so cute! and cheap! and the right size!), a pair of shoes (wrong size, oops) and ant traps. (We don’t have ants but I always like to be prepared).

The prospect of making white things pink was an exciting one, inspiring Michael to throw in a pair of underwear along with the dress.

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before (dress and underpants)

 

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materials to dye dress according to some random Internet forum

“I hope we don’t get some kind of chemical burn from these fumes,” I thought, as the children emptied bottles of rubbing alcohol into the bin.

Now, I’m not much for following directions, but here’s what I did and didn’t do.

1) 7:1 ratio of alcohol to water.

Nope. I added the 2.5 gallons as pictured above and perhaps another ten gallons of hot water.

2) Hot water (140 degrees).

Nope. I added some boiling water and a bunch of water from the hose outside. It was warm but not super hot.

3) Clean garment first.

Nah. I washed the bottom of the dress and the train in the tub because that was the dirtiest part of the dress. But I’m too impatient to wait for a dress that weighs more than my firstborn child to drip dry in my shower. And I’m way too cheap to dry clean it.

4) One bottle of dye for every two pounds of fabric.

I just grabbed three bottles and decided that should be enough.

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pink things in a bucket

This photo was supposed to be informative. You know, the way they do in the DIY blogs. But really it just looks like pink tulle in a bucket. Or maybe it looks like flamingo carcasses. I don’t know. This is my first DIY blog post.

 

5) Use rubber gloves. 

This is the one thing I should have done. Because the vinyl gloves I used were very thin. My left hand was bright pink for about 10 hours after dyeing.

6) Leave in dye for 30 – 60 minutes stirring constantly.

Seriously? I have things to do! I think I did about 25 minutes and then we hung the behemoth to drip dry in the backyard over an old shower curtain. (Which meant I didn’t iron it dry, either.)

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In short, I didn’t follow any of the special directions and it still looks fantastic, right?

A couple of caveats: turns out I can’t rinse the dress because most of the dye will rinse out. Also, the color isn’t totally even. The bottom is a little darker than the rest of the dress. And maybe I should have spent more time cleaning it because there are parts near the neckline that are dark pink (presumably something oil-based–makeup?) that absorbed a lot of dye. OH–and for several hours after dyeing, the whole thing reeked of alcohol. And not the good-party kind. The hospital kind. (It eventually wore off.)

In short, the professionals are right. You shouldn’t dye a polyester dress if you want the color to be uniform and permanent. But if you don’t mind the funky, dye away!

P.S. The tightie-whitey Hanes underwear is a beautiful bright fuchsia, much to Michael’s delight.

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(Michael, if, like GitaGurl23’s forum question, this post survives on the Internet for another ten years, I want you to know that you really loved this underwear.)

The Story Behind Violet and Ruby

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Three weeks ago on a lovely Wednesday afternoon, my daughter Violet_and_Ruby_Cover_for_Kindleand I were sitting in a cafe in our neighborhood, doing what we always do on Wednesday afternoons: sip hot chocolate while we finish the homework that’s due the next day. This Wednesday was different because the cafe was buzzing with a boatload of 10 and 11-year-olds with green books that must have been somehow connected to the green bus parked across the street.

It turned out that the bus was a promotional tour bus for Jeff Kinney’s newest book from the middle-grade series Diary of a Wimpy Kid. According to the buzz in the cafe, Jeff Kinney himself was signing copies at the bookstore next door.

Chiara has never read any of the Wimpy Kid books. As a first-grader, those books are little over her head. But of course it didn’t stop her from wanting one. And because I help organize author events in my daytime life, of course I had to indulge her.

“How come the bookstore doesn’t have books written by kids?” Chiara wanted to know as she emerged from the store with her own signed copy.

In retrospect I could have just told her that only professional writers get to be in bookstores, the same way only professional firefighters get to drive the fire trucks. But instead I gave her a brief history of traditional publishing.

“Well, it’s not so easy to publish a book,” I began. Then I listed all the droves of people involved with publishing a book who aren’t directly involved with the writing of said book.

“Then an agent—that’s a person who helps you get your book printed by the companies who print books—talks to a bunch of people. Some say, ‘No, thank you. We already have books about that.’ But maybe one will say, ‘I love that story!’ That person is an editor. And then maybe they’ll look at the book and say, ‘But we think you need to change that one part at the end.’ And then there’s another person who calls up the bookstores and says, ‘Hey! I’ve got this book that I think is really great! Want to have it in your store?’ It takes a lot of work.”

“But you’re publishing a book,” she said. Which was partly true. I’m editing an anthology of essays from my writing group. We intend to self publish.

“Why can’t little kids self-publish?” Chiara wanted to know. I didn’t have a good answer for that one.

And that’s how we found ourselves at the same cafe two days later. I typed while Chiara dictated one of the stories she tells herself at night when she is trying to go to sleep. From time to time I’d ask a question such as “How can a wheelbarrow fit in a backpack?” and she’d clarify (“It folds up, of course!”) Or I’d say, how old is Violet? How do we know? But for the most part, I just typed what she told me to type. Occasionally she’d ask me to read back to her what she’d written. Sometimes she’d even correct my dictation. (“That’s not a period there. I want it to sound really fast.”)

I kept waiting for her to lose interest. But each day she’d say, “Can we work on my book today?” Sometimes she’d even decide to revise. “I don’t think that chapter title tells you what’s going on anymore. I wrote about something else. Can I change it?”

She drew pictures for each chapter. I scanned them into the computer.

“Can I give a copy to my cousins for Christmas?” she wanted to know.

So I went to the website for Amazon’s Create Space and opened an account. We bought an ISBN number ($10). I found a template cover and uploaded a photo from the Create Space library. We even invented our own imprint (Noelle & Noelle) after our middle names. I clicked through the screens, filling in the blanks. And then, voila! We submitted the book. An actual book. 44 pages. For sale on Amazon and everything.

Doesn’t that sound like a great stocking stuffer? Not convinced? Check it out for yourself.