Amazing, amazing!

My last post was heavy. It was so heavy, I almost didn’t have the strength to publish it. I feared being vulnerable. I was worried that people would be annoyed by a post that was more personal and less like a nice, safe essay. I even thought some people would be mad that I foisted my anxieties and fears on them, or disgusted that I mentioned anything to do with spirituality.

None of that happened.

Instead, the whole world reached out to me. I got thoughtful comments on the post. A friend I haven’t seen in years contacted me directly, with kindness and care. Others sent direct messages, and one lovely person even sent me a beautiful travelogue of  a recent adventure. And, as if the effect of being brave enough to admit to having lived through some darkness spread beyond the digital expanse of the post, another friend who knew nothing about it chose last week to remind me she’s always here for me, no matter what. It was the best week. I felt so loved.

Thank you all for being there for me.

With love,

-aniko

Beautiful blooms near my bus stop - gorgeous as your friendship!

Beautiful blooms near my bus stop – gorgeous as your friendship!

Wondering Where I Am These Days?

I’ve been building a website for my new publishing imprint, Odd Sky Books! You can visit the “under construction” page to sign up for a newsletter to get updates that will be more frequent than I’ll be updating this blog. Here’s the URL: http://www.oddskybooks.com.

I am also busy preparing to publish a collection of short stories later this year, and getting ready to write a novella that continues the story of Mario Santa Maria from my recent short story, MIXED MEDIA. The idea to do that wasn’t mine – it was yours! Readers wanted to know how the story turns out, and I’m happy to oblige.

My publication plans for the next few years are very aggressive. I will not be spending time blogging, but I also will not take down this site. People seem to find it useful for two things:

1. The MailChimp + WordPress.com Tutorial

2. A Review of Ania Ahlborn’s Seed

You can always reach me by using the Contacts page on this site. The best way to find out what’s going on with me or my writing is to sign up for the newsletter, either using the link here, or by visiting Odd Sky Books. I will be sending a monthly letter that has the tone of an email from a friend, not a marketer. When Odd Sky Books launches, there will be additional benefits that current subscribers will receive. I’d love to have you join me!

As ever,

-aniko

Ourselves, Perfected

Copyright: aberration, via 123rf.com

Copyright: aberration, via 123rf.com

I love to walk. Quickened blood bathes my brain, carrying fresh oxygen to fuel my imagination. The unexpected sights and encounters of a walk can’t be planned; wooded path or city block, something will be revealed.

Walking is a primary component of my life. I have three dogs that clamor for their exercise. I also work a mile from the commuter train, and I walk that route ten times a week. There is joy to walking. It’s so simple, yet no two steps are identical, even when you walk the same route for weeks, months, years. Every walk is an encounter with the edge of the unknown, a direct entry into the future.

I have a pair of Docs, with Air Soles. I got them my Junior year of college (1998). My Docs have carried me across the beautiful bridges in Brugge, over the haunted, brick-laid walkways of Mary Washington College, and through the busy streets of the living, beating heart of Austin. I didn’t wear those Docs in Australia, Boston, the wilds of Maine, or Hawaii, yet in spirit, somewhere in my metaphysical reality, they were there. The Docs are the archetype, the Platonic ideal. All of my shoes are participants in the ideal of the Docs, carrying me forward. They were with me as a young girl in Budapest, tasting and breathing my ancestry. They were with me the night I went to the Blue Ridge mountains to see the meteor shower. They were with me in Kauai, a place that resonates with the depth-less soul of life.  In some future, I may walk in Italy or wander Kyoto. The ideal of the Docs will be there, too, always with me as I walk.

Walks transport not just the body, but also transcend time. I do not walk in some singular “now.” Every walk reminds me of some other walk, the same way strangers in an airport look familiar. I’ve been in LAX, DFW, O’Hare, and so many more I can’t remember, and in each of them I see the shades of former co-workers, friends a decade lost, the dead. The experience of strolling an airport concourse alternates between exhilaration and terror. There is a chance, however small, that you will see someone you know – unexpectedly, and possibly from beyond the veil. Airports are a concentrated nexus of paths, a place where all of us are take flight from walking, and “unstick” from that which literally grounds us in our humanity.

Even my daily walk from train station to office reminds me of other places. The columns on the Event Center evoke my brief time as a Physics grad student at Old Dominion University. The bridge crossing the Colorado reminds me of a river in Bangor, Maine and a larger bridge near Dahlgren, Virginia. The building I work in, from a distance, reminds me of another building on a hill, another job. There is an arrangement of trees that reminds me of Paris; the wrong type of tree, of course, but just as all my shoes participate in the Docs ideal, these trees participate in an overreaching, spiritual tree form. They are as unique as our stories and our souls, but vibrate with a shared harmony. Everything is perfect when it is itself, except possibly people. Our will and our greed and our envy make us less perfect, but we have the gift of walking. We can calm our acquisitive monkey-brains and get perspective when we walk. Walking reminds us we are a part of something vast and incalculable. When we walk we can simply be, simply breathe, simply move: ourselves, perfected.

 

As ever,

-aniko


 

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The Lost Writers

lost writers

Image Copyright laurast via 123rf.com

In 2007, the job market was not as dire as it would become, but it was already tumbleweeds in the tech sector in Southern Virginia. I relocated to Austin, Texas where tech was (and is) booming. I had a job within a week, but I had no friends in my new town. That’s where blogs filled a gap, giving me access to the intimacy of friendship without geographic constraints. I discovered several writers’ blogs, and anticipated their posts with the giddiness of afternoon coffee with a good friend.

It would be another four years before I started my own blog. In the intervening years, I lurked rather than commented because I felt weird with how lopsided our “relationship” would be, given I wasn’t blogging. I learned about the illnesses, the envies, the fears, and the joys of many writers I’ve never met. Sadly, none of continue to blog. I wonder what happened to them. Did life crush them with obligations, commitments, or depression? Did they move to a new blog with no backlinks to avoid a troll? Are they dead?

I had a writing mentor at that time. We met in Zoetrope’s Virtual Studio, a forum for writers to critique other writers, rank them, and possibly get a story picked up by Zoetrope for their lit magazine. Most of the writers were newer than I was to the craft, and I lucked into finding IJJ, who was a very experienced writer. At one point, he sent me a physical copy of a story of his published in The Paris Review. (Yes, mind=blown!) IJJ never wavered to tell me when I’d edited out the heart of my story. He called me on my BS and also told me where my writing shone. IJJ was in his sixties, and there were intimations of health issues. The last time I heard from him was in 2007, and he was moving to a new home in the country. He reminded me that while we put ourselves into our writing, strict adherence to our personal reality can diminish the impact of the story. I wrote back, and he never responded. I tried again last week, even knowing his email address has been disconnected for years. He hasn’t logged in at Zoetrope or any other known haunts in the last seven years. I think that he is dead. I am sorry that I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that my writing is better for having his influence. I hope that he knows that.

There are many other writers I’ve met that have disappeared. They stopped blogging, stopped commenting, stepped away from the community. I wonder where those lost writers are. I wonder if they are still writing, and if their silence means they are working on the next Great Novel. I hope they aren’t sick, dead, depressed, or utterly gone from writing. I miss them.

I understand disappearing. I disappeared physically from Virginia, choosing to start fresh without leaning on any of my former friendships. Later, I disappeared from the online writing community, not even connecting with the people in my writing guild. I know what happened to me. In both cases, I felt too raw to connect, too vulnerable. I retreated into isolation because I didn’t know how to cope with what felt like Really Big Things: job loss, shattered dreams (I wanted to be a philosopher of science, imagine that!), broken friendships, living in a new place, the fact that self-publishing wasn’t what I thought it would be, and later, that submission to traditional publishers was what I thought it would be.  There are a lot of situations in life that are overwhelming. My coping mechanisms were faulty, and they left me isolated. I’ve learned new ways to deal with life, and they’re working for me. I banished artist’s envy. I got out of the ambition room, and stopped striving for success that didn’t thrill my soul. I seek fellowship with others on my path. I embody gratitude. I’m entering into a more spiritual mode of coping. I’m no longer one of the lost writers.

I’m busy writing a guide explaining the precepts I followed to get to where I am now: happy, peaceful, excited about writing. It’s called Bring Your Joy: A Code for Creatives. I know it can’t bring back IJJ, RIP. I know it probably won’t ever reach the bloggers who pulled me through the loneliness of 2007, and have since disappeared. It might reach you, though, and be of some help. When it is ready, I’ll announce the release of Bring Your Joy. The guide will be offered as a free PDF download. Expect it within the month. If you’re in dire need now, though, leave me a comment, and I will get you a rough-draft. It’s that important to me to share the message.

If you are a writer or blogger who has gone away from the community, know that someone misses you. We wonder where you are. We hope you are okay.

Xoxo,

-aniko

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Is Fiction Frivolous?

Sometimes, I wonder if writing fiction is frivolous. In a world where animals are mistreated, and people are eating out of dumpsters, where does fiction fit? Stories don’t stop abuse. Stories don’t feed starving people. I am fairly sure the couple I saw taking turns wearing the one pair of shoes they had would prefer more sneakers, not a story. As a writer, it’s a bleak thought to wonder if storytelling might not just be a frivolous pastime.

I refuse to bow to bleak.

Art is a valuable expression of our humanity. Art transmits ideas, and fiction is the perfect vehicle for new modes of thinking. Stories are a way to put what is in my mind into your mind. The best art illuminates the mundane by refuting the very concept of “mundane.” Every moment is a revelation. Every experience is an opportunity to encounter the prosaic from a new perspective. Art gives us a way to share our revelations.

Do I think fiction is frivolous? No. I think we need more of it, and more of all other arts, too. I encourage everyone to create that which makes them excited about being alive. It will change the world. Your joy will spread to those closest to you, and your art will carry your message places you would never expect and could never plan. The seeds of changes are in your creative power. YOUR art is not inconsequential. It may bring a person out of the dark. It may bring you out of the dark.

I love the era of digital freedom. Now, more than ever, groups of like-minded individuals can “meet,” without leaving the comfort of their own continents. Ideas cross borders, and there is no reason for the masses to be homogenized into some manageable, marketable stereotypes. If there are seven people on the planet who LOVE making fake sausages out of textiles, and this brings them joy, those seven people can find the thousand people who want to support fake-sausage artists. We don’t have to understand what they see in it, but I believe we do have to encourage creative joy in all forms. The world is a better place when we are able to create and share. If small groups way out in the “long tail” of the creative markets bond and support one another, we stand a chance to solve those bigger societal problems, one situation at a time. The fake-sausage artists won’t let each other starve or go shoeless. They will have found their net, their way out of the dark, but it couldn’t happen if they didn’t reach out from their creative joy first.

I guess maybe it sounds a little Pollyanna (or Penny, from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog!) to advocate that creating even the strangest, niche art can change the world. But think about it: when I am a happy creative, I am not wallowing in self-pity. I’m engaging the world. I’m able to be aware of the plight of others because I am no longer wrapped tight in the winding-sheet of my own unfulfilled needs. When I’m creating, I’m engaged. When I’m engaged, I notice what others need. When I notice what someone else needs, I can do something to help. Small kindnesses, yes, but these are the foundation of a better, less painful world. I can’t fix everything wrong with the world, but I can make this moment better for someone, somewhere. I can do that in person if I am not wrapped up in selfishness. My stories allow me to be there for someone even when I am not there in person, and wow, isn’t that some powerful juju?!

Now that writers can go straight to readers, there is no reason for anyone to remained mired in that half-alive state of waiting for “acceptance.” They can share their stories NOW, and use the momentum of sharing to propel themselves into more empathetic modes of being. This means that some writers will, gasp!, publish things that aren’t as polished as you want. Personally, I like it that writers are able to make mistakes in front of readers. I like it, even though I’ve read several indie books that were huge disappointments in terms of craft. You know what? Despite the imperfection of their delivery, those stories are still with me. I love well-crafted prose, but even stumbling prose that tells me something new is a gift. I encourage those who are stumbling to keep on writing. If they are teachable, if they are willing to listen to their readers, if they keep following their bliss, they will improve. Their readers will love them for it, because they’ve been included in the journey. The world will be better because of those stories, and there’s nothing frivolous about it!

xoxo,

-aniko

 

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