Monday, July 16, 2018

Putting Yourself Out There - Protests, Panels, & Podiums

So it’s been a rough year. For everyone. And I am no exception. In addition to the insanity that is our country, under the cruel and incompetently unusual Trump rule, my mother had a stroke in the beginning of the year and, since the stress of it all caused a rift between me and the rest of my family, I've pretty much been her sole caregiver. She is doing much better, but it's been rough. To say the least.

But it's times like these where you have to grab hold of and cherish the shining moments in the darkness. And the last few weeks have definitely been that for me.

Free Our Future! March & Day of Action

Along with the rest of the country--the world--my heart broke when the stories about the families being separated and the children being caged broke. And I remember feeling so angry, so distressed, and just so utterly helpless. I still do.

But, when they announced the June 30th nation-wide protest, it felt like being given a time and a place to let those feelings out. To scream into the collective and let my pain and frustration resonate with others'. It was a chance to be seen and heard.

So at the last Planned Parenthood protest I went to, I as a cosplayer, dressed up as a Handmaid because it just felt too appropriate. And people LOVED it; it was so much fun having people shout "Under His eye" and "Blessed be the fruit" at me. I even had a congressional candidate or something compliment me on it and tell me how glad he was that "the young people are so engaged these days." Uh-huh, so young.

Anyway, I couldn't very well slack off this protest. So I grabbed an old vacuum box, a couple rolls of duct tape, and a box cutter and got down to business.

Again, there was something really cathartic about creating this. I've said this before, but costumes feel like a kind of magic to the theatre geek in me. The idea of wearing your insides on your outsides. And this was definitely one of those moments. 

Though, I must say, I think, in my head, I knew that my costume would get attention. I was not expecting the level of attention it got. Every time I turned around, there was someone with a camera pointed at me and it was both flattering and flustering. I really had no idea what to do with myself. Do I smile? Does a smiling kid in a cage send the wrong message? Do I strike a dramatic pose? Does the seem insensitive to fake their very real pain? Finally, I think I settled on my default: awkward.

I'm glad I came with a friend, whose sign was perfect and we didn't even notice it until someone pointed it out, since I'm dressed as the iconic girl on her "I'm With Her" sign. 

Also, glad I went with her because, as we were making our way to the protest, a Trump supporter hassled me about how our country can't afford to take care of our own people, like veterans, and shouldn't have to take care of immigrants and told me to "go back to where I came from." Which, as a native born American, was about 8 miles from where we were standing. Fun. This is why we march. 

Not for nothing, but even while at the march, people came up to me speaking Spanish, assuming based on my looks that I do too. I do not. I was also constantly being asked where I’m from and if I was eligible to vote, some on account of my citizenship status and some on age. (How young do y’all think I am?!)

But it was, on a whole, inspiring and empowering and reminded me why we fight and why it's so important to fight and reinvigorated my spirit to fight. Turning resonating pain into resolve. I didn’t celebrate the 4th this year—for lots of reasons, not least of which that it felt completely inappropriate to celebrate my country while we cage children and destroy families—but this was my day this year to participate in one of my nation’s longest and proudest patriotic traditions: political protest.

CONvergence 2018: Natural Twenty

 And, of course, this is my favorite time of year: nerd Christmas. Otherwise known as CONvergence, a Midwest geeky convention. This was this convention's 20th anniversary, so I decided to dust off and revisit some of my favorite cosplays that I've done at this convention.

On the first day, I did a mash-up of one of my very first cosplays, a marionette I'd made literally in the mess left after my apartment burned and I needed to not be me for a bit, and a Harley Queen dress I Von-Trapped out of bed sheets and tablecloths bought secondhand. Not to mention the hoop skirt I made out of old computer cables my work was going to throw out anyway. I don't make costumes, so much as I MacGuyver them.

This was also my first year as a panelist at CON. That first night--because, of course, I'd be on the CON-After-Dark panels; where else would I belong--I was part of the Flirting 101 and the Kink Talk panels, which were so much fun. Both had great people on the panels as well as great attendees with fantastic questions for us.

Honestly, since I didn't have much costuming to plan this year, I put all my planning into preparation for the panels. I brought personalized bookmarks and free books to give away. I emailed back and forth with other panelists. I always showed up WAAAAY too early to each panel. 

Which is an easy way to tell that I was nervous as all hell. I was so afraid no one would come or I'd screw up or say something awful. I was so sure it was all going to be a disaster. Hence all the overcompensation.

But it all turned out wonderfully. I'm so glad that people enjoyed it. Some people even came up to me afterward and chatted, which was the best!

The second day, I dressed up as Yoshi, from a past group Mario Kart costume. But, since my friend wanted to dress up as Bridal Peach, I spruced mine up to be her bridesmaid, complete with venus fly trap bouquets and a new fancy-pants wired headwrap, both of which I made in a weird frantic overnight frenzy. But I think they turned out beautifully.

We also--a little late on the trend train, I know--did a guerrilla-style photo shoot in a nearby Michael's Arts & Crafts store. It was so ridiculous, but so much fun and the pictures turned out amazingly.

On the third and last day, I resurrected my most ambitious cosplay, the infamous Racist Fantasia Centaurette. It is huge and cumbersome and completely unsubtle in every imaginable way, but it is just so much fun. There is even video of me shaking it during a belly dancing session in the middle of the CON. I also sang the ENTIRETY of Hamilton in the Earworm room with a bunch of other fans, just basking in the brilliance of that show.

And I also had my last panel of this year, 50 Shades of NOPE! which was fun and an excellent way to finish up my CONvergence experience this year. Again, this panel, like the others, had great people everywhere and made for great discussion. I'm so glad that I decided to do panels this year. Will definitely try again next year! Hope to see you there.

Amber Tamblyn's Any Man Book Event

 So, a month ago, I saw a call on Twitter for Amber Tamblyn's Any Man book tour and noticed that Magers & Quinn, one of my favorite Minneapolis bookstores was on the list:

And I remember thinking that it was incredible that someone would use their platform to help showcase and amplify local women writers of color, trans, disabled, and queer identities. I had to be a part of it. Or at least try.

I mean, what are the chances that they'd ACTUALLY pick a smut peddler like me for something like this? But, it is an absolute truth that you will never get picked unless you put yourself out there. So I did. Hoping against hope, I applied, assuming that I'd get nothing but rejection.

But, to my amazement, they chose me. I remember squeeing about it to my partner, who promptly squinted at me skeptically and asked, "They know what you write, right?" I had to think about it. I actually checked my application letter. And, yes, I had explicitly told them what I write, so they HAD to know. And they picked me anyway.

Blown away.

Again, just like with the panels, I was sure that this was all going to go horribly wrong. That I'd get there and be turned away, like the filthy word slut that I am. Or no one would show up. Or no one would like me. Or I just be forgotten in the shuffle of other readers.

So, just like before, I channeled all my anxiety into prep. I planned out my reading, as well as an opening and a closing, making sure I plugged my upcoming works and my social media. I stayed up late practicing so I wouldn’t stumble too much over my own words. Cause, even if they hate me, I was going to hustle. You can't be given an opportunity like this and NOT hustle. 

Even though hustling is still one of the most uncomfortable things about this whole writing experience for me. Even at CON, it felt so weird pushing my books and my media on other people, even people who literally came to hear what I--or someone like me--came to say.

But, again, when you're given an opportunity, take it. Put yourself out there. The worst that can happen is an awkward moment. Hell, I have those all the time no matter what I do; what's one more?

And, you know what? 

This moment was awesome!

Magers & Quinn was amazing and so welcoming. Amber Tamblyn was the nicest, most encouraging person I've ever met--she even commented on how she was so glad that I plugged my stuff; that not many other writers on her tour have and she was glad I did. (Yay!)

And, again, because I'm a proud queer cosplayer of color, I just HAD to rep one of my favorite strong, female, queer characters of color, Asami Sato

The reading went great. Even if no one was actually there to see me, I was both thrilled and nervous to see the place already packed when I got there. 

I also absolutely 100% thought I was going to be one of a group of readers. Hide the smutty girl in the pack of real writers. I don’t know why I thought that. No one had said anything about anything other than when to show up and with what.

But SURPRISE! Just me. I was freaking out. I had not practiced enough for this level of pressure. I was literally between the bookshelves, texting my partner in a full-state panic,

But for no good reason. The whole event was great. The absolute best. During my reading, I got some great laughs, some gasps, and thunderous applause. Even though my knees were shaking the entire time, it was a thrill!

I read 5 minutes from my story "Rise or Shine" in the new, upcoming anthology from Supposed Crimes Upstaged!: an anthology of women who love women in performing arts

Afterward, I listened to Amber Tamblyn read from her book, which is amazing and powerful, as well as answer questions from the crowd. Then I got to hang out with her as she signed copies behind the counter. I even got a lovely gift from Magers & Quinn, which was amazing:

As well as an amazing message from Amber Tamblyn herself:

And, of course, you can get a copy of my story, “Rise or Shine,” in Upstaged!: an anthology of women who love women in performing arts, an exciting, new anthology from Supposed Crimes!

"These talented storytellers captured womanhood, and women on stage and screen, in all their beautiful, wonderful glory. These are the ones that made me laugh and cry and want to sing. There are erotic and sensual tales, gender non-conformity, trans women, lesbians and bisexuals, politics, falling in love, parenting, youthful crushes, opera, toe-tapping musical numbers, death-defying stunts, humor, and more. This anthology is a celebration." - AM Leibowitz, Editor.

Including my story, Rise or Shine - What is Cadence Carrington to do? Her public life is colliding fast with her private persona, when her boss at the governor's office sets his eye on shutting down the club she secretly performs burlesque at as featured dancer and femme fatale, Rebel Rouser. It's only a matter of time before she's found out, but the question is will she choose Cady's steady, straight-laced life or will she choose to be the Rebel she knows she is at heart?

And, now, though I loved every moment of these past few weeks and regret absolutely nothing about any of it and 10/10 would do again, the introvert in me really needs a nap.

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