Tea & Chemo by Jackie Buxton

You don’t have to have a cancer diagnosis to enjoy this book!

My father and good friend recently survived cancer and I found Jackie’s portrayal of the experience of debilitating disease to be most uplifting and heart-warming. I suffer from an immune disorder that often makes life very unpleasant.  I was personally inspired by Jackie’s account of how she fought for life and tried to embrace the brighter side of suffering, which is something I need to learn to do!  Jackie’s upbeat statement: “Why NOT me?” really made me consider the difficulty my friends and family have undergone during their cancer treatments and follow-up therapies to keep disease at bay. Jackie doesn’t whitewash how incredibly scared she was, at times. As the mother of two daughters she had to find a way of coming to grips with the possibility of not seeing her daughters grow up.  Thankfully, Jackie is currently cancer free, but as she points out, this doesn’t mean she, or anyone else is out of the “danger zone.”

I thoroughly recommend this book to everyone: those with no experience with cancer, but whom need a little inspiration, those with family members suffering from cancer, or people like me, who have a lifelong non-curable immune disorder that makes life unpleasant a lot.  The best part about Tea & Chemo is that a huge portion of the proceeds from book sales are donated to cancer research.

I was really uplifted by Jackie’s book and look forward to reading Glass Houses, now available in both hard-copy and online here.

Artists are fundamentally inconsolable

I have been thinking a lot.  These are the haunting thoughts: the ones that stick to your insides like grits or dumplings or other food I generally don’t eat because I’m secretly programmed to eat curries and strange vegetable casseroles I make-up out of culinary laziness. (And a general lack of interest in following a recipe).  These haunting thoughts have nothing to do with food.  They have to do with inconsolable things.  This post from writer unboxed inspired me to write the following.

It’s important to define what haunts you as an artist.   The voices of ages 11-18 inspire me.  There is something this age group that is still misunderstood even though they are the subject of a lot of controversial/trashy TV shows.  They are a large part of why I started writing seriously and tend to be my target audience for 80% of what I aim to publish.  I disagree that I write because I am inconsolable, I write to find the consolation in things I still don’t understand.  Like your sixteen year old, I believe the world should be fair.  I still don’t understand why it isn’t and why people who have the ability to make it fair hoard when they could share.

The pathway of inspiration (excerpted from my writer unboxed comment):

I’ve taught “public” school for nine years. Before I became a teacher I worked in mental health as a drama therapist and research assistant for PTSD (combat trauma and stressful life events). I have always been compelled by people’s stories, their struggle and what they’ve decided to do with the tenuous hold they have on their lives.

When I started working solely with kids, I witnessed a struggle of an entirely different magnitude: children can rarely be actors unto themselves. They must adapt because they have few other choices. Their world is defined by people who often don’t have their best interests at heart. I wrestle with feeling powerless in a sea of so much need and despair: witnessing adult needs trump the necessary emotional and physical needs of children (I’m not talking about Junior having the latest gadget, game or gizmo). I try to nourish voices I don’t feel are heard in the “mainstream” into the characters in my plays, books and short stories.

I want to give my teen characters abilities and talents that free them from their oppressive climate in a way I think every child has the ability as they mature into adulthood. I fundamentally believe in hope and redemption at some level. I don’t start a story with that idea in mind, but I am beginning to believe that a story, such as my novel, The Curse of Beal Atha, that started with a girl whose Mum is abusive and father has disappeared is less about time traveling and more about finding yourself when others are trying to define you only by what you can do for them. It is possible to free oneself from the identity others have imposed on you.

Perhaps the fact I grew up in Japan in a military family and have now lived half my life abroad helps to give rise to the need for “third culture” youth voices or that I love rooting for whomever I feel is the underdog at the time. I want to feel that my characters are real people who exist somewhere; people who someday I’ll meet and feel like we’ve known each other forever. And perhaps, when that day arrives, consolation shall as well.

 What inspires you and keeps you going?  Is it a haunting story, a particular theme you enjoy or do your characters also speak to you?  Feel free to share below.

Vying for airspace

I love interviewing people.  I enjoy how their facial expressions change, their voices mutate for inflection, and their eyes twinkle when they touch on something humourous or touching.  I am a natural-born listener.  It isn’t easy for me to speak for long periods of time.  I could probably sing for longer than I speak.

For this reason, I do not understand the new era of interviews, particularly those I view on CNN.  Interviewers interrupt their subjects, talk over them, and sometimes even talk more than the person they are interviewing.  When this happens, I have to turn the television off.  Perhaps I am naive in assuming that the interviewer’s role is to listen, to enjoy, to allow the story of the other to sink in and shine for television audiences to enjoy.

I remember listening to womens’ conversations in my mother’s living room.  If I was really quiet, her friends wouldn’t notice I was there.  Often women would come over to can, help make pastries, tie quilts, or just to gab while the kids played in the backyard.  Inevitably, I would creep in and make myself useful or almost invisible.  I still remember their oversized forms, headless and all legs.  But, I haven’t forgotten their conversations.

I wish that more people understood the joy of listening, the joy of cataloguing the ways in which you can recreate a story someone else has told.  Photographs and videos cannot capture the retelling of a story like words on a page.  

Today I sat, during my lunch and listened.  Tom told me a story.  I watched him tell it, my spine tingling, my brain whirring.  And I treasured that moment with the hope that someday his story, in my brain’s collection, might make it to the page.

Even if his story doesn’t morph into a future collection or project, I was glad to not have to vy for airspace.  There was joy in drinking in a meditative moment– without the need to steal the limelight.  

Gratitude

Writing is hard. Or so my students sometimes think.  I am thankful to see them bent over their laptops, furiously trying to reach their 30,000 words by December 4th (our class deadline for their NaNoWriMo entries).  Several students are pitted against each other to see who can rise to the top before November 30th.

Today I achieved 50,000 words in my second novel.  It is a mess, it rambles, it twists, it meanders.  I brim with gratitude for all the experiences that allowed me to write this second novel, even if it goes nowhere.

In Start by Jon Acuff, he mentiones that when we find our passion it is something we would do, even if we weren’t paid.  He is right.  If I never make a single, solitary cent off of my writing (which I, naturally, hope isn’t the case) I would still do it.  I bank the hours, work multiple projects, re-arrange my schedule, have even temporarily given up dancing (something I love) to explore my passion.

My house is a neglected mess, laundry piling up, Christmas presents still not wrapped to send abroad, filing to my right and a broken lens to my left.  I ignore it all in order to meet those self-imposed deadlines that weigh on my mind morning and night.

I cannot say thank you enough and I probably never will to everyone who has joined me on this journey from my co-workers at my school, friends abroad, and fellow writers on the Word Cloud.

50,000 words today, a book published yesterday.  There is a lot to be grateful for.

The latest finished project is here: http://www.blurb.com/books/4797743-sakura-dreams

Thanks for stopping by!