Bucket List, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Writing

Fear of Flying: Inside the Memoir-on-Submission Wind Tunnel

And, through it all, the writer keeps writing, inspiring other writers to keep writing too.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

By Cameron Dezen Hammon

“What is it Mama?” my daughter asked, her so voice so hushed I could barely hear her. “What did they say? Mama?”

My daughter is not a quiet person. When she speaks, she’s usually heard. Maybe she was afraid of my answer. Or maybe I couldn’t hear her over the rush of blood in my ears, the slap of my palms on the hot steering wheel, the tepid air conditioner in my ancient Honda, barely keeping out the one-hundred-degree Texas heat.

I was in a Starbucks drive-through, my 11-year-old watching slime videos on her phone in the backseat. We’d just come from iFly, an indoor skydiving place on the Interstate 10 feeder road. My agent had sent my memoir out in early July to 45 editors, and since then I’d become an expert at choosing activities–like indoor skydiving—that prevented me from obsessively checking my email. I’d…

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, RIP, SoCS

The Heather By The River, #SoCS

Journalists. Photographers. And I use the term loosely.

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As a woman in my thirties, one who writes about things as my oxygen, I wonder what any of us would do for enough money. Would I write about people, even intrusively, for a living if given the chance?

Have I done it now? Already? Before?

How can it make anyone feel good about themselves to hound another human being, with their camera or their pen?

Responsibility: direct or indirect.

A world’s grief. Anger toward someone, needing to direct blame somewhere, the press. The press reports. The papers are printed. People buy the papers and mags.

More. More. More. We always want more.

From birth,
the two boys asked for none of it. That’s mostly where my thoughts return to.

I am not British and barely knew who Princess Diana was when she died. I wasn’t alive for the wedding seen around the world.

A sea of people, rather than water. That is what Diana must have seen when she looked from her vantage point, after saying her vows.

I would rather see a sea of Red or Black, blue or green, but the press fed off of the woman and she fed off of them, in a way, at least at first and for a long time afterward.

She was a fashion icon and a princess, but not only that. She used her position as a bit of an outsider, under the thumb of the monarchy, to become a change maker, by reaching out to those in need, those no one else wanted to associate with.

HIV and AID’s, in the 80s, when the hysteria about both was growing and at its greatest fever pitch. She shook hands, hugged those diagnosed and dying of the feared and misunderstood disease.

She came here, to Toronto, to sit by the beds of dying patients in hospice care. She walked a minefield, literally and figuratively. Danger signs.

Such grief of so many, I would not cry. As a fourteen-year-old child, fresh off of a kidney transplant and a thrilling wedding – I attended, my first of my oldest cousin. That was my wedding of the century.

Of royalty, I knew nothing. A fairytale life gone wrong is more like it.

Fairytales. I was familiar with these…the concept, the ideals, as a young girl. My Disney fairytale movies were my favourite. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, with the bright pink dresses and dancing with their handsome princes. I may have had similar dreams at the time, but what did I know? A lack of life experience and my own understandable immaturity.

What do titles represent, really? Sometimes, they bring just the right kind of attention and sometimes the wrong kind.

Now, upon reflection, twenty years later I do feel sad. I know of celebrity of her two sons. They are the British royalty of my generation.

I do perk up when I hear their names on the news. I bought the fake imitation giant ring, modelled after that of the one worn by both Kate and her mother-in-law, still lounging in my drawer. I woke to watch the wedding, once again broadcast live.

Prince William and Kate came to Canada after their marriage, the same date as my big brother’s own marriage took place. I hope one generation learns from the previous one, in certain cases, that sometimes it happens we grow wiser with enough knowledge.

They’ve come again since, since then, and with their two small children, touring parts of the country in which I live, that still sees itself as the child of Britain, past and present.

What is Kate wearing? Where are the couple going next? Are they in love, for real, or is it all just another fairytale?

But I do feel for two boys who, in August of 1997, woke up to the loss of their mother when I clung to mine for dear life, during some of the hardest and scariest times of my own childhood.

Are those boys/men in some ways like their mother, under scrutiny of duty, feeling hunted or like outsiders, wanting to reach out to those in need, perhaps not born with some of the advantages? They grew up with cameras as their mother tried to navigate a life of celebrity and being followed. She was hunted, more even than Prince Charles.

Now that I am more aware, I watch documentaries on the weekend after the anniversary of her death. I listen to stories of a nineteen-year-old who got married much too young, to an older man who shouldn’t have ever proposed to her in the first place, who was likely always in love with another woman. He should have been with this other lady all along and now appears that he is.

People marry the wrong person all the time, every single day and have babies with them. In these cases it is my hardest task not to judge because none of us are perfect. This challenges me as an adult who wants to see everyone happy, no matter whether they’re famous or not.

As a writer, this is my obituary of sorts, no matter how stream of consciousness based it may be, twenty years on.

From birth to death: Diana, 1961-1997

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TToT: The Sound of Water at the Edge of All Things – Sirens and the Bird Song, #10Thankful

Your Memories on Facebook
Kerry, we care about you and the memories you share here. We thought you’d like to look back on this post from 4 years ago.

Kerry Kijewski, August 28, 2013

I have a dream…that one day we’ll live in a world where not only people of all ethnicities and cultures and religions will live together in harmony, but as far as we’ve come with that, we still have a long way to go: for black and white and yellow and brown, for women, and for LGBT too. I have a dream that as far as we’ve come with accepting all people included above, that the next step is to bring people of all disabilities into that list.

I have a dream that one day, people all over the world will recognize that people with disabilities of all kinds, physical, mental, or intellectual will be received and given the chance to prove that they have something to offer, each and every one of them.

I have a dream that one day…we will be given the same chances and opportunities to show the rest of the world just what we are capable of…that we have love and intelligence and dedication just like anyone else, and that we are just as eager to help out, make a difference, simply to participate in the world we share, to function and thrive as willing citizens, in our neighbourhoods, our communities, and as part of the bigger world’s stage.

I have a dream that people with all disabilities will one day live in a world where we are judged not by our lack of sight or hearing or mobility, but by our hearts, our minds, and our gifts, talents, and abilities. I have a dream that we will one day be taken seriously as contributing members of society…that we may be given just the same opportunities in ife to let our skills show and our hard work shine through, without the fear of being thought of as less than…I have a dream…

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech… Fifty years later…I have given mine…there’s hope yet, I know there is.

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I appreciate the reminder of my relative size. There are bigger things in life that I must remember still.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful I could have a day in Toronto with my sister, brother, niece, and nephew.

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A dinosaur really dwarfs you by comparison.

I’m thankful I got to see the blue whale exhibit at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum).

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I got to feel a exact sized replica of a blue whale brain.

I’m thankful my niece and nephew seemed to get so much out of the museum.

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Then we got up close with a replica of the blow hole.

It was just nice to see, that although there was the usual amount of youthful restlessness, we were still able to show them things that they found interesting.

Mostly dinosaur or other, more modern animal stuff.

I’m thankful for all the new sounds my niece is now making regularly.

At six months old her vocabulary of sound is really growing.

I swear I hear words sometimes. No rush. It just makes me smile, whatever she’s saying.

I’m thankful my rough draft of my SiriusXM piece was so well received.

The editor said she was swamped, but couldn’t help listening to the thirteen-minute piece.

Her positive feedback was encouraging.

I’m thankful I got to see my brother play music at my town’s local fair.

The small crowd size left a lot to be desired, but it was more of a nostalgia thing than anything else.

I’m thankful for things to do and places to be away from the loud noises while the roof was being fixed…

I’m thankful for a yearly catch-up lunch.

She started out as my pupil aid when I was in grade one.

Then, as I needed it more and more, she learned braille and became my braille transcriber.

Back before computers were much of a real option, in the 90s, I would braille out my schoolwork on a manual braille machine and she would transcribe the assignments, in print underneath, for my teachers to read and mark.

That was years ago, she has moved on with working with other students in the meantime, but we still like to catch up every now and again.

We discussed my writing and her summer travels out east with family.

I’m thankful for a nice time out with a friend at a place that smells like chocolate and has delicious lattes with vanilla sugar.

It’s not my choice for a chocolate shop, all sugar free and vegan, but it wasn’t a bad spot for a drink.

I’m thankful for stories of history.

Regal. Often stilted. The music of the latest movie about Jacqueline Kennedy/Onassis was heartbreaking and real.

It was based on an interview she granted a week after John’s assassination. She spoke to her priest first and then the journalist.

I don’t know why I am fascinated with this part of still fairly recent history, as the exact graphic details of the killing are horrifying and this film does not shy away from that.

I am fascinated by the history of the 60s as a whole, for many reasons, as a time of real upheaval, feeling eerily similar to now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vDWWy4CMhE

From John F. Kennedy to Martin Luther King, Jr. From “all men” to “all men and women and all of us” in the twenty-first century and fifty years on and onward.

I don’t wish to strictly compare or relate, but this stuff is similar in my experience, but mine alone.

Self evident indeed.

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While We Sleep: A Warning

This, all true. I was shocked by what I saw when I pushed myself to watch The Handmaid’s Tale and, yet, I wasn’t. We need to drain off the water we’ve watered horrors of history and even the present down with for so long, even if it feels highly uncomfortable and unsettling. We must. We can’t afford to keep on repeating history.

Drifting Through

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 4.54.35 PM“I was asleep before… that’s how we let it happen. They suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary.”

This is Offred’s stark warning.

A narration of regret.

Her name’s not really Offred. It’s Jane. Or June. Or something that I can’t remember because her name no longer matters. She is no longer a human with an identity, she is the property of Fred. And she is the main character in Hulu’s series The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel.

Offred is a Handmaid in Gilead, the religious fundamentalist reincarnation of the United States. After a terrorist attack and environmental disasters left the republic weakened, a strong-arm theocracy took hold. Patriarchal control was the new order. Women, no longer allowed to work, read, vote or hold property. Children, taken at will from parents who refuse to conform. Traitors, hung along the river, government spies around…

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A Response to Jia Tolentino’s “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over”

This response is directly on point.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zoeBy Zoë Bossiere

A couple of weeks ago, a piece by Jia Tolentino came out in The New Yorker called “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over.” The title alone was enough to deluge social media feeds with writers stepping forward to defend the vitality of the personal essay in spite of the article’s assertions, or otherwise agreeing with Tolentino that the personal essay is, in fact, “dead.” The only problem is, the article isn’t actually about what we writers know as the personal essay at all, but rather a separate subgenre of nonfiction called the “confessional essay.” If we want to get even more specific, Tolentino’s article is talking specifically of the confessional essays typically printed in online “women’s” publications such as xoJane, Jezebel, Salon, and others. To compare the personal and the confessional is a common false equivalence, and a great underestimation of all that first-person nonfiction writing encompasses.

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TToT: Hum Bucker Splitting Push Pull Pots – Go Pretenders and Sluggers, GO! #Baseball #ChrisCornell #RIP #10Thankful

Most recently, on The Handmaid’s Tale, a line is spoken that captures how it is:

“We only wanted to make things better. Better never means better for everyone.”

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So true.

Oblivion – Grimes

It’s a two-in-one edition of the TToT this week, as last week I allowed my mood and a bad sun burn on both arms to dictate my lack of a post.

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Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful for an unexpected email.

The anthology I was published in two years ago is being rereleased this summer. I received the surprise email to confirm I still wanted to be a part of the project.

I’m thankful for a successful first violin lesson in weeks.

Other than writing, I have never felt so frustrated one minute and wanting to give up and then so determined the next minute as I feel with the violin. It’s my roller coaster.

I’m thankful for an anniversary celebrated with my friends at “The Elsewhere Region”.

We celebrated the existence of writing group, two years on, with blueberry cheesecake and, you guessed it, writing.

I have written more fiction, more stories, starting during those nights in the group than I’ve done on my own time in a while. The short story I submitted to the Alice Munro Short Story Contest, for instance, was begun there. Though I found out this week that I did not qualify with it (bummer), I am still glad it came out of that place.

I hope there are many more still to come.

I’m thankful for the chance to see my sister included in a team of dedicated women.

My dad and I walked to see her game the one night. We stood there and I listened as best I could. It was the sound of the coaches leading their players, encouraging them by shouting positive reinforcement and the other teammates cheering them on that was so nice to see.

My sister hasn’t played in over ten years, since before motherhood and time gone by, which makes it all the much harder to jump back into a game like baseball. I admire that.

Hearing a group of women encouraging each other to do their best. I wish I could be a part of something like that.

I’m thankful that my nephew is getting more comfortable with his baseball.

He is still so little, but he will get there. Maybe he will play for many years and maybe he’ll ultimately decide baseball isn’t for him. Either way, he gets to learn about being on a team, just like his mom.

I’m thankful for my sister, two years older.

Our two-year age gap feels like nothing really. She will always be my big sister though. She is one of my biggest influences, an example I follow, two years behind and I like celebrating her every May that comes around with the loveliness of spring.

I’m thankful for a Friday morning surprise phone call.

I’ve volunteered with the Kidney Foundation of Canada for years, since soon after my transplant, and now I was contacted about getting involved more so, possibly with public speaking opportunities about diagnosis, dialysis, living donation, organ transplant, and hopefully to offer some hope that life can be good for twenty years with care and a little bit of luck.

I’m thankful for an enlightening and enjoyable conversation with my new neighbour.

She showed me around her home and we sat at her kitchen table for over two hours, talking about writing, the town we live in, family, and she wanted to meet the rest of mine.

She came by two days later, for a drink, to meet my brothers and my sister-in-law and the kids.

I’m thankful for a family day.

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We were celebrating my sister’s birthday when we could all be together.

It was Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada. This means the carnival comes close to my house and we all walked down there together.

My nephews went on the cars and my niece went on a few rides all by herself. She is braver than I ever was when I was her age.

We went on the gravity ride with her (my brothers and I) and it felt both good and bad.

It was a glimpse of what going on a ride like that was like as a kid, moments of pure pleasure, and then I’d return to being thirty-three and I’d feel a little ill and I was off balance for a long time after the ride ended.

We passed games with those people yelling and bells ringing and buzzers buzzing. It was loud and a little went a long way, but I remember what it was like to find such a thrill from a place like that.

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The child roller coaster was loudest of all. Every click/thud of the cars as they went around the bends and up and down, up and down. Life is loud and uncomfortable a lot of times.

I’m thankful for extended family that are cool and care about what’s most important.

whole front porch
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We had a lovely afternoon sitting on my front porch and talking about everything under the sun. My aunt and uncle spoke about my cousins and we discussed movies and animals and family.

As for roller coasters…
Buckle up because we’re only about ten feet up the clicky part.

—The Daily Show

Whether it’s 45, a sicko who attacks a concert full of young girls, an attack on a bus in Egypt, a knife attack by a white supremacist on a train, I can’t seem to get off the roller coaster, but gratitude for family and fun and flowers takes the edge off the nausea a little bit.

But check this out.

Roller Coaster Story

Grandma is always the wise one.

Into You – Ariana Grande

RIP to all who have been lost in the last few weeks.

I’m always thankful for life.

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Why I Have to Look away from The Handmaid’s Tale Sometimes, and Why That’s a Good Thing

Part-Time Monster

Last week, as I was watching “A Woman’s Place,” the sixth episode of Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I was struck with a realization: I had not watched a single episode of the show without flipping through the social media feeds on my phone or my laptop simultaneously. So I started to think about why…Why might I might be avoiding focusing myself entirely on this show, a show that I gave high praise to and found fascinating for so very many reasons?

The answer was deceptively simple: I was, in fact, avoiding focusing myself entire on this show in order to avoid the trauma of doing so. As a woman, the show terrified me. So I did what I do when I need a distraction…I pulled up a social media feed that I could passively scroll through or easily put aside while I was watching, redirecting…

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