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  • A Good Writing Group Is A Great Thing To Have

    As writers, we tend to be solitary creatures. It’s the nature of our work. Sitting in the dark pounding away at a keyboard for hours upon hours doesn’t really lend itself to rich and varied social life. Add the fact that most ‘normal’ people don’t want to hear how our characters hijacked our story yet again, and it looks like we’re doomed to be hermits, doesn’t it? So we can’t be allowed around the general public. But what about… other writers?

    Other writers? They get us. We can vent about our character troubles or share an exciting yet disturbing epiphany about our plot and rather than backing away slowly, a fellow writer will say, “I know, right?” Suddenly, we are not alone. Gather one or two more, and we become a writing group. And a writing group is something we want to be a part of for many reasons:

    A Writing Group Provides Support

    Having a writing group means having people we can go to when we’re stuck or frustrated or feel like giving up. These are the people who can offer workable suggestions for our stories, and even if we don’t use those suggestions, they get us thinking about why giving the MC a pet alligator isn’t going to work which can lead us to an idea that will. They remind us why we wanted to write in the first place even as they commiserate with us. They encourage us as we battle through word count and edits, and they celebrate with us when our hard work pays off. And we do the same thing for them.

    A Writing Group Pushes Us To Improve

    A good writing group is never satisfied with simply writing; a good writing group wants us to write better. This includes critiques and writing challenges, sharing resources we’ve found, and coming up with new ways to work on our craft together. A writing group gives us structure, which as much as we hate to admit it, is something we all need. One day we look up and realize that we’re sitting with a group of friends, analysing something we half-killed ourselves to write, and that we’re doing this voluntarily. That is when we know we’re in a good group.

    A Writing Group Forces Us To Finish What We Started

    In order to discuss each others work, we have to have something written to discuss. A good writing group won’t let us off the hook with a half-finished story; they will make us finish it even if it means shunning us over dinner while we pound out the penultimate battle and final confrontation. And when we finally submit our masterpiece, they will still give us brutally honest feedback, because that’s what friends are for.

    A Writing Group Is An Idea Factory

    Put writers in a room together, and we will feed off each other’s insanity. Our conversations are wild, and often wildly inappropriate (just ask any server who’s waited a table of writers.) The littlest thing will spark an idea. A joke becomes canon, a ‘what if’ becomes a story, a ‘we should’ becomes a reality. A critique group spawns short story challenges, and a short story spawns a forum where our multitudes of characters can interact, just to see how someone from one person’s universe interacts with someone from another’s.

    We make each other work hard, but we also play hard, having so much fun that it’s hard to tell where the ‘work’ left off and the ‘play’ began. We leave each other energized and ready to dive back into the editing we’ve been struggling with or start that story we’ve been meaning to get around to. A good writing group helps us do what we love, and helps us feel less alone while we do it.

    And now for an announcement!

    FELT TIPS – The World’s Greatest Charity Anthology of Office-Supply-Related Erotica is coming out December 12, 2012. It includes What Is It, Suzie? by yours truly, as well as many other exciting stories by authors I am proud to be featured along side of. Check out the ‘Coming Soon!‘ tab above for more information and updates.


  • Building Bridges Part 3: Employment

    In some ways it feels like just yesterday that I started at Alberta Job Corps, and in others it feels like I’ve been there forever. Job Corps was always meant to be a short-term program and there I was, coming up on my third month and wondering if maybe there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t find work and wasn’t even getting any call-backs.

    Today, that changed. Today I was offered a job as a hotel desk clerk, and I took it.

    It’s a good opportunity for me. Full-time, decent wage, benefits after three months, and above all, work that I’ll find rewarding while still giving me time for my writing and studies. I’ll get to interact with new and different people every day and let’s face it, service feeds me. Why else would I be looking at ministry?

    The one downside: the shift I’ll be working includes Sundays. This means I won’t be able to continue as an assistant youth church leader and I won’t be able to attend my regular church as often. I had to think hard about it, do some soul searching–and talk my minister’s ear off a little–but I finally decided that this was an opportunity I needed to take. I had to realize that this does not represent a step back in my faith journey, only a detour.

    The way I see it, if I take a chance on something and it falls through, then it wasn’t meant for me. By that token working at the registry wasn’t where I was meant to be right now, and that’s fine. But if I have an opportunity and I don’t take it? That’s on me. It’s up to me to take what I’m given, and I’m done with letting things pass me by because I’m afraid or because it’s inconvenient.

    I have to work Sundays? All right. I can’t help lead the youth church, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be involved in my church in other ways. For example, there’s still bible study on Monday nights where I can keep in touch with my minister. I can still worship, even if that means going to the Wednesday service at another church. I can still study; after all, no one’s taking my books away from me just because I got a new job(and I’d like to see them try.) In fact, this way I’ll be better able to afford going back to school in the evenings which is a step forward in the long run.

    Today, I cleaned out my locker at Job Corps. Tomorrow, I start my new life as a hotel desk clerk. And for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have solid ground under my feet.


  • Grab-Bag Week

    This has really just been One Of Those Weeks so rather than posting on a single topic, I’m giving you all a whole bunch of topics. Aren’t you lucky? And now, in no particular order:

    Standing Up For Yourself

    I haven’t always had the greatest track record in this area. Most days I’d rather let something slide than risk conflict or risk losing/not getting a service I need. This time however, I realized I needed to take a stand.

    Those of you on Twitter may have noticed me mention ‘awkward questions about my genitals’. Without going into too much detail, during the interview for an unrelated psych evaluation, the psychologist got overly curious about my trans history, to the point that I felt uncomfortable. I decided I needed to let him know how I felt about it, so I wrote him a letter. I kept it calm and reasonable, using ‘I feel’ language rather than accusatory, even if part of me wanted to call him an insensitive idiot, and other invectives along those lines. I also included some of the ‘what is trans*’ resources I received at the gender clinic, because I think it’s important to educate where I can, whatever the topic.

    And you know what? I think it worked. I got a call from him thanking me for the feedback and the articles, and apologizing for putting me in that position. Does that make what he did all right? No. Did his apology wipe the slate clean and repair my trust? No. But now he knows and can do better next time, and I have closure and have taken away his ability to hurt me. (This, by the way, is what forgiveness is really about. Letting go of the hurt someone else has caused, not ignoring the hurt and letting them hurt you again.)

    All The Fun Jobs Require A Degree

    Brain-mush and inappropriate questions aside, I actually enjoy psych evaluations. I love seeing what’s going on in my brain (and I kind of feel like it’s a licence to show off.) So I asked one of the ladies administering the tests how I could get a job doing that, and the answer was pretty much: “You need a degree.” This is pretty much true for everything I would like to do. Librarian? Need a degree. Minister? Need a degree. Even Graphic Designer; for anything in-house you’re better off with a degree. All of this pretty much leaves me with the question of how do I afford going back to school? Because one way or another, I’ll be going back.

    AndroGel Is Not A Good Long-Term Substitute For Delatestryl

    This may not be true for everyone of course, but for me it’s no contest. Delatestryl is an injection every two weeks that is effective, inexpensive, and covered under my insurance. AndroGel is a daily topical gel that is ineffective for me, can be transferred to others if I’m not careful, is expensive, and is, of course, not covered by my insurance. Granted, it might be more effective at full dose, but since I can’t really afford the starting dose as it is? Yeah. Unfortunately, I have very few options right now, since Delatestryl and all other injectable testosterone compounds are currently unavailable in Canada due to manufacturer shortage.

    In Spite Of It All, I’m On The Right Path

    One thing I have gotten out of this is yet another confirmation that I am headed in the right direction for me. Yesterday, even after all the awkward questions, my first genuine smile of the day was when I talked about my experience guest preaching at my church. Remembering how it felt to look at the text, to find the message in it, and to share it with others… it was amazing. Just the memory of that connection cut through all the crap of that day and reminded me of the most important thing: this is what I’m meant to do. This is my path. As crazy as it sounds, this queer trans boy is going to be a Christian minister. And I feel good about it.


  • Building Bridges Part 2: Alberta Job Corps

    The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father… wait, no, that’s the Psi Corps. Totally different.

    About a month ago, I mentioned having an interview for a paid work training program in this post. That program is Alberta Job Corps, and as you can probably guess, I got in. I started work on Friday the 13th, which is ironic because this is the best luck I’ve had with work in a long time.

    I’ll admit, the first two days were like being dumped in a snake pit of anxiety. Orientation days are always tough, sitting there with no idea what to really expect while some facilitator hands out booklets and goes on about procedures and requirements. Add to that the people who feel like they’re being forced to be there being as disruptive as humanly possible, and it’s no surprise I left the building shaking like a leaf at the end of the day. I was there to learn and improve; I wasn’t sure I could handle it if I had to push past all that negativity each time.

    But the third day? It was like magic.

    For the work experience aspect, we had a choice between painting and carpentry. I chose carpentry because I wanted to work with my hands and maybe learn some new skills, so on the third day I found myself in the wood shop doing tool orientation. The change from the class room to the shop along with the separation from the Negative Nellies made a huge difference. What’s more, some of those who I’d marked as ‘trouble’ in orientation were a lot happier and more relaxed once they started doing something. So was I, for that matter.

    Over the next little while, we got to know our workers and we got to know each other. There was a sense of optimism growing in us as we saw ourselves doing something worthwhile and learned more about what we really wanted to do and how we could actually get there. Hearing good news about an opportunity for one of our co-workers, or seeing them develop some skills in the shop they didn’t even know they had made us all feel excited and happy for them.

    And it doesn’t just begin and end in the shop. Yesterday and today I was in the career assessment workshop, which will be continuing next week. Here we’re looking at our interests and skills to find jobs that suit us as well as looking at what what sort of challenges and issues we have when it comes to not only finding but keeping a job.

    Once again, I was surprised at how open and receptive everyone was to the class. The facilitators kept the atmosphere positive and constructive, and we all felt comfortable sharing honestly about our experiences and the troubles we’ve had both in the workforce and in life. For the first time, we recognized that we were not alone. How we got there might be different, but we were all there for the same reason. We were all having trouble, and we were all trying to change. I may never have done jail time, and my classmate may not be trying to rebuild after a major identity shift, but we all want something more, and something more satisfying, than a string of going-nowhere survival jobs.

    At Job Corps, I’m getting the support I need to move ahead in life. I get up every morning and go to a wage-earning job that helps me discover what I really want to be doing and gives me the skills to get there. Right now, this is exactly what I need.

    Trust the Corps.