Precipitate/Solution

Distilling wonders into words, says my “about me” page, since two thousand ten.

While true, and catchy, and a play on the blog’s subtitle “Words and Wonders,” I’ve never taken considerable time to actually say what these four words mean.

In times of continued self-exploration, I often find myself thinking, “What do I value?” Today, these two questions seem more intertwined than distinct.

Continue reading

The New Mouse in Town

In my pocket. That’s where I like to keep my books.

I mean, I like to keep all my things in my pockets–my phone, my keys, my wallet, you know, the usual stuff, but also my GameBoy and my DS and, yes, even my books.

But growing up and reading bigger books (and somehow wearing pants with fewer pockets… RIP the days of cargo shorts being in style), it was just no longer practical.

At least until I joined the Mouse Book Club.

Continue reading

Erowenowe

The Death of Magic. This was the subtitle to my story “Erowenowe,” which I had written sometime during November 2014. It was part of my NaNoWriMo anthology: an attempt to write one story a day for one month. It was a burdensome challenge, but this post is not about the writing. It’s about the story. The Death of Magic.

Erowenowe (Erowen for short) was a young maiden chosen for sacrifice to the sun god: The kingdom’s fertility had begun to wane, and the gods, they feared, had stopped listening.

In actuality, they were not wrong: Following the end of the War of Fallen Stars (on which I wrote the beginning in my 2012 NaNoWriMo story, Starfall), the pantheon vowed to never meddle in the affairs of men again (a bit akin to Tolkien, I suppose, but he has always been a key inspirer for me)–and their absence, indeed, preluded the death of magic.

I feel the same sense of waning power as I write this as when I wrote Erowenowe.

Seven years ago today, I began the Writingwolf. It has grown so much in these seven years, and I have grown and evolved alongside (and at times because of) it. And since I joined Teach for America and started my training as a teacher, and then started teaching, the Writingwolf has been written silent: no words, no muffled howl, has escaped its muzzle.

Writing has been, is, and always will be my greatest passion and my biggest dream, but the responsibility of maintaining a blog–one enlivened by my readers for whom consistency and attention is one of the few ways I have to show them my respect and regard–requires more of my time than I am able to commit at present. I’m still learning to lesson plan efficiently. I’m still learning to manage a classroom skillfully. I’m still learning, quite literally, what it means to be a teacher (and I’m in grad school to prove it).

Writing, I’m afraid, has been pushed out of my circle of priorities.

This will not always be the case, but for the next six months, maybe even the next twelve or possibly eighteen until I finish my graduate program, keeping an regularly active blog seems as though it’s one responsibility too many. There is power is holding high expectations; but there is equal danger in clinging to unrealistic expectations.

One of the many unfortunate realities of teaching is that a handful of my kids will not graduate the ninth grade, and when our advisory moves on to the tenth grade next fall, they will not be joining us. For this small handful of students, my task now is not only to help them be as successful in the next six months as possible, but also prepare them to move on to another school or another advisory without me. Of course, I cannot change any person, let alone an adamant and strong-willed ninth grader, and I am certainly not the sole bearer of their future potential, but I feel it is imperative that I bestow upon these boys (by which I mean, help them to develop the qualities they already possess, somewhere inside them) the mindsets and skills that I never had when I was their age.

It took me many setbacks and failures and risky choices that may have had life-changing consequences for me to learn these things, and while it’s very likely that such lasting impressions can only be learned while wading through the fire (that same fate destined for Erowenowe, to be burned in sacrifice for brighter days), I believe I can at least provide them a strong foundation so even if they do not master these skills before they need them, when the time comes, they may remember these lessons and crash a little more softly, burn a little less brightly when they fail and fall and begin to fly again.

I say this because one of the activities I want to facilitate fits perfectly with the theme of this post. I want to come to class one day with a bucket of rocks. I want to ask each student to pick up one rock and hold it as tightly as he can. At first it’ll be easy–it’s just a rock, after all, hardly a few ounces heavy, barely the size of their palms. But as they hold it longer, the muscles in their hands will begin to ache and they’ll begin to feel the fatigue of holding on too tightly. I won’t stop here, nor will they: I’ll ask them instead to pick a second rock and hold it as tightly in their other hand as they can. While their second hand begins to tire, their first hand will begin to scream. And misery is best comforted with company, so I’ll ask them to do one final thing–something I know with certainty each of them can be successful with (under normal circumstances): I’ll ask them to write their names as neatly as possible without releasing the rocks in their hands.

Inevitably, they will, as I would, as you would, fail to perform this simple task.

So then I’ll ask them to set their pencils down (for those who managed to pick them up) and open their hands. Having clenched down upon those rocks for so long, their fingers will creak as they’re slowly peeled away, muscles locked in place protesting to remain, because by now holding on has become the norm, and letting go isn’t easy to do.

But once they’ve let go, once they’ve taken that first step, the blood of life rushes back to their fingertips, bringing with it fresh oxygen to sate the stomachs of every cell, sweeping aside the buildup of lactic acid and carbon dioxide that come naturally, but erode our capabilities. Within a few moments the stress and strain of clinging too tightly will pass, and when they reach for that pencil or pen, their names will flow forth upon the page like rivers of milk and honey raining down from the holiest of holy lands.

It isn’t easy to let go. It isn’t easy to watch the magic wither and die.

But sometimes it’s necessary to open our hands, flex our fingers, and feel again.

Sometimes it’s necessary to succumb to science over the mysteries of magic.

For now, my path has led me away from the Writingwolf, but no matter where my words and wonders take me, I will always be the Writingwolf, and in time my path will bring me back, reborn through my wanders, borne of new words and new stories to share.

The Quest for Queer Lit

I was hanging around the guilds on HabitRPG when another user gave a heads up to queer writers: Have you heard about Strange Horizon’s “Our Queer Planet” issue?

The sci-fi e-zine is hosting a celebration of queer identity, specifically looking for “work that explores intersectional queer imaginaries and experiences around the world,” with an emphasis on stories set on Earth (timeline variable). So I looked through my past fiction, and some of my best sci-fi stories feature gay male leads or gender-non-binary aliens–but none of them take place on Earth.

So, I decided, I’ll just have to write something new.

But then, I asked myself, what’s queer literature?

Continue reading

Star Wars: Continuum

It’s been a fair month since I blogged last. NaNoWriMo overwhelmed me (I still have some final words to share on that front: like many things in the present, they’re presently forthcoming) and I started a new medication in November that knocked me out entirely. I held onto the end of my first semester in grad school by a thread, and I’ve been using the time since for some much-needed recovery.

No, “recovery” is a bad word. There was nothing to recover from, but I needed to relax.

I had a pendulum of posts swinging through my mind this whole time, but they came and went and I rose and slept and nothing came to fruition. But hardly more than a week ago I pulled up outside a theater with my friend for Star Wars VII and that has been a moment that has stayed with me more than anything.

Don’t worry, there’ll be no spoilers here, but maybe something deeper.

Continue reading

The November Novelist

National Novel Writing Month. If I’ve written about it once, I’ve written about it a hundred times (or at least annually since I began blogging). It’s the one time each year I allow my writing to take center stage (how’s that for mixing metaphors?)–often, though reluctantly, at the expense of my other obligations. So far, I’ve won NaNoWriMo every year.

And this year will make ten consecutive wins. If I manage to make it.

Continue reading

Ask Rachel

I don’t watch the news–the news is depressing. It’s one bad story after another, and the points of importance are pushed aside for the next sensational headline.

Instead I follow stories. I try to understand the exposition, the unwritten prologue, the implications of chapter three, the critical reviews of the page-turning epilogue. And lately, I’ve been reading from a new library–rather than merely perusing the shelves of LGBT identity, Jewish / American intersectionality, and the occasional op-ed on immigration, redistricting, and presidential campaigns, lately I’ve been reading about race.

Here I’ve found more stories, maybe, than I bargained for (and as I write this, I’m reminded of some good advice to beware of the danger of a single story): there are tragedies with names like Travon Martin, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice; settings as varied as McKinney and Ferguson and Baltimore; and narratives simple and complex, like Black Lives Matter.

But the story today that’s swimming through my newsfeed is none of these.

The setting is Spokane, and Rachel is her name.

Continue reading

Wanted: Inspiration

National Novel Writing Month is one week away and I’m pulling my hair out, writhing on the floor, and scrambling between the rooms in my head to figure out what I’m going to write. I dream of telling stories that change the world–stories that impact a reader, share with readers an experience they won’t forget, and forge the kind of relationships I recall building between book bindings as I grew up and discovered who I wanted to be.

And I’d like to invite you along on this journey.

Continue reading

Sloom

Sometimes I wonder what damage those fairytales we were told as children left imprinted in our psyches. Forget the idealized yet ignorant gender norms portrayed in every romance. Forget the blind hopefulness of always waiting for a happy ending. Forget the unbridled belief in magic and myth and mystery.

Maybe there’s a deeper damage to all those Disney dreams.

Continue reading