Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fairy Tales, Cats and Queermance 2015

I'm working hard on helping put together the second year of Queermance, which it occurs to me that I should help promote before March turns into April and then the weekend is upon us.

Last year, I wrote a short post about it. This year, we'll have exciting extra items in our line up, such as swag bags and a Queer Art panel. Tickets are still available, although food inclusive tickets are ticking down as we need to get final numbers to the Mecure Hotel. Daytime panels, will all be at the Mecure, Therry Street in Melbourne. Aren't available for the full weekend? Single day tickets are available. Evenings only or single panel tickets will be available right up till the day for as little as $20.

The venue for the evening events will be Hares and Hyenas on Johnston St, Fitzroy, which is still one of my favourite queer friendly venues in the whole city. It does help that books line the walls, and they sell tea. And, if you squint reeeaaaally hard, you can see the place at the back where we had the readings last year for the launch of Queermance Vol. 1.

Queermance Vol. 2 will be launched in the same space on Friday 17th of April, starting 8pm and we'll also be having some readings from authors from the first volume who weren't able to make it last year. Copies of both books will be available on the night, thanks to Clan Destine Press. I have my submission in. Do you?

As if that's not enough, there's other stuff going on in my life right now. Such as:

For the first time since my Honours year, I'm curled up with old friends Hans Anderson, Marina Warner, the Grimm brothers and no shortage of coloured post-it notes. They're just as good a company as I remembered.

Unlike last time, when my focus was on Beauty and the Beast and other permutations, the enchanted slipper and the deformed foot have got my attention. I've lost too many hours to flicking through pages and writing notes. It's been sublime!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Book Release: 'The Art of Asking', by Amanda Palmer

Around 2007, I was invited to go to a small caberet-ish concert with my ex and some others. The event was going to be happening in the Corner Hotel in Richmond. Historically speaking, this has been one of my favourite Melbourne venues--along with The Forum which is in the city--due to the interactions I've had with musicians there. Liv Kristine was amazing. I still remember how diminutive she was when I hugged her after the show in which she'd been the operatic vocals of the metal band Leaves Eyes.

The other notable band I saw around that time was, of course, The Dresden Dolls. Their opening man was the unforgettable Jason Webley. Words cannot express how striking he is the first time that you see him on stage, and so to that end I will instead describe him through the visual sharing of this video:

I see now that this post has become a shameless music post, and cannot find it within myself to be sorry.

One part of the duo that made up The Dresden Dolls was Brian Viglione. This man is probably one of the nicest musicians you will ever meet. To me, when I met him, he seemed quiet, bordering on shy, though you'd never guess it when he gets into one of his drum solos.

It meant the world to me when he was the second musician I loved who flattered me with a hug after the show. I remember grinning like a moron, and yet having had the courage not to hide behind my friend's shoulder in nervousness at meeting him. Me and famous people = tied tongues and blushes that run from cheeks to toes. And yet I love these meet and greets at the end of gigs. Go figure.

Actually, it's really cool to have been able to find this particular video on YouTube nine years after the event, because it's the same one I saw on their Yes, Virginia tour in 2007-ish. Out of the screen, I can still see Amanda sitting behind her piano, avidly watching Brian as he went at it, likely looking for the opening to the beginning of "Half Jack". Oh, my god, the lyrics of "Half Jack". Even without Brian's amazing display of talent at the beginning of the live version of this song, it's absolutely mad.

I should probably say, as I'm typing up this post, that I pulled out my old copy of Yes, Virginia and started nostalgically swaying while glancing down at the cover of The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, by Amanda Palmer, AKA the Queen of the Internet.

You see, I remember the night of Brian's drums just like I remember Amanda's stripy stockings on the piano as she stood up, hair flying, sweat launching across the stage with the pure energy she puts into EVERYTHING.

The saddest thing about that night was that, while I was hugging Brian, Amanda was disappearing into the backstage area in what I later learned was a very uncharacteristic display. It was upsetting, over the years, hearing how engaged she was with all of her fans. Those stories made me feel I had missed out on something important.

Finally, I get to my review of this book:

Just over 100 pages in, I read the line, "I notice the difference if I don't sign after a show. It can feel deeply lonely." And it was like... acknowledgement. While I'd been hearing for years about the caring, sharing figurehead of this whole interconnected community of likeminded people the internet, here, finally, was an acknowledgement of my little moment "with" (around?) Amanda. And it felt reassuring to note that Amanda Palmer is human too.

A lot of this book is about getting the feeling that, despite the fame, and the TED talks, and the music, and the dating Neil Gaiman, and the general being Amanda Palmer, she's just a person too. And, I think, that's kinda why I love this book so much. Because it could be written by anyone. It's self-deprecating in all the right places, it's honest, and hilarious.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

'Tear Me Apart', and the closing of Egmont USA

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love three things: retold fairy tales, young adult fiction, and raving about favourite authors.

Two years ago, I wrote a review of 'Kill Me Softly', by Sarah Cross. There was no doubt in my mind then--and still no doubt now, truth to tell--that Sarah Cross was one of the new up and coming authors combining young adult fiction and fairy tales into happy little packages.

Kill Me Softly, published in 2012, is a Sleeping Beauty story set in the fictional town of Beau Rivage. The wonderful thing about this story, though, is that it's not just a Sleeping Beauty story. The whole town of Beau Rivage is filled with fairy tales coming to life. Other main characters include Snow White, Beauty and her Beast and, of course, Bluebeard.

It was like reading something in the world of Disney, only with a deliciously dark undertow after the Grimms' own hearts.

“Birthdays were wretched, delicious things when you lived in Beau Rivage. The clock stuck midnight, and presents gave way to magic.

Curses bloomed.

Girls bit into sharp apples instead of birthday cake, chocked on the ruby-and-white slivers, and collapsed into enchanted sleep. Unconscious beneath cobweb canopies, frozen in coffins of glass, they waited for their princes to come. Or they tricked ogres, traded their voices for love, danced until their glass slippers cracked.

A prince would awaken, roused by the promise of true love, and find he had a witch to destroy. A heart to steal. To tear from the rib cage, where it was cushioned by bloody velvet, and deliver it to the queen who demanded the princess's death. 

Girls became victims and heroines.

Boys became lovers and murderers.

And sometimes... they became both.” 
(Kill Me Softly, page 1) 

Now imagine my delight when, three years later, I hear about the release of Book 2 in this series: Tear You Apart, a Snow White story starring Viv from Kill Me Softly.

Viv knows there’s no escaping her fairy-tale curse. One day her beautiful stepmother will feed her a poison apple or convince her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Henley, to hunt her down and cut out her heart before she breaks his. In the city of Beau Rivage, some princesses are destined to be prey.

But then Viv receives an invitation to the exclusive club where the Twelve Dancing Princesses twirl away their nights. There she meets Jasper, an underworld prince who seems to have everything—but what he really wants is her. He vows to save her from her dark fate if she’ll join him and be his queen.

All Viv has to do is tear herself away from the huntsman boy who still holds her heart.

The whole thing would have been much more exciting had it not been paired with the information that Egmont--the publisher of both Kill Me Softly and Tear You Apart was closing its doors, less than a month since the latter title was released. 

Attempts to sell Egmont USA since October 2014 have not resulted in any final agreements. As a consequence, Egmont has decided to close the office, effective from January 31st 2015.  
The spring 2015 list will be published and books will continue to be available via Random House. (Source: egmont.com)

In conjunction with Cuddlebuggery Book Blog, I and 54 other book blogs are launching the Last List Blog Hop for the authors and books that have been hit hardest by this closure. As per the above press release, authors like Sarah Cross will still have their titles available via Random House, but without the publicity backing of their publishing house.

So spread the word! I can personally attest that these books are 100% amazing and cannot wait to add Tear You Apart to my personal--OMG and constantly growing--library. Please feel free to reblog, repost, retweet, re-anything this post to anyone you think will be interested.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Me too."

It's been a while since I wrote in this little safe space of mine, and I've been looking for a way of getting back into it since it ended up in the, 'It's all a bit too hard' pile around the middle of last year.

It's February, so it's a little bit too late for New Year's Resolutions, too late for best moments of 2014 reflexion-style posts.

It's February, so it's definitely more of a looking forward time of a year than looking backward.

The thing that finally got my out of my shell and caused me to re-open the dialogue in this blog is a post called "Coming out again why more queer folks with mental illnesses need to speak out." It spoke of the truths of how many people in the queer community take their own lives, and some of the reasons for it.

Our voices could save someone’s life.
So where do we start? [...] It can be as simple as saying “me too” when someone in your community talks about their depression instead of just nodding; it can be as simple as saying “I know what that’s like” or “I have that too” or, most importantly, affirming that they are not alone.

I realised, when I started writing up this post, that I didn't yet have a tag for LGBTQIA, or even LGBT. I just had one for bisexuality. Which made me think that I've been doing my share of keeping my stories to myself, or sharing them only with a very limited audience, often within my own home.

So here is my voice. Here's my story:

My name is Nicole. I am a cis-gendered woman living in Melbourne, Australia with my two cats, my partner (man), and my fiancee (gender questioning). Towards the end of last year, my partner and I had a not!wedding--which suppose makes him my not!husband as well as my partner--because the laws of our country won't acknowledge legal ceremonies involving multiple relationships or gay ones. I should probably make a photo post of that beautiful day to post on here. Maybe now I actually will.

Outside of my home, I have a second house where my girlfriend lives. She is a beautiful young woman who is hesitant to walk down the street holding hands or kissing me because of the reactions we get from people in cars driving by.

As a bisexual woman in multiple relationships, I notice the differences in the way that other people view my relationships. I notice the way that I feel more "safe" walking down the street or in the shopping centre at night with one of my boys by my side. And, like my girlfriend, I notice the looks that we get from other people when we forget ourselves and hold hands, or stop to kiss because one of us has said something unbearably sweet.

I notice the pause, the hesitation in my voice when I go to my therapist or psychologist. So often, the topics that come up will intersect with the loves in my life. I find myself using gender neutral terms for all of them, or else casually dropping in the word "girlfriend" like it's the 1980s and "girlfriend" is a term used between women of a certain age group. I tell myself then that I'm not exactly lying if it's their misconception that leads to my obfuscation.

But who am I really hurting there? If I get a bad response from a non-LGBT friendly psychologist, I can just go out and find another one. Yes, the inconvenience and upset of needing to do that will be mentally taxing, but surely it's better than invisibility. Invisibility that I myself am perpetrating deliberately.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

I regularly see psychologists because, as well as being part of the queer community, I also suffer depression. Depression that, last month, culminated in my having to quit my full time job of 8 months due to said depression. I was lucky because I managed to leave that job on good terms and with references intact. I was unlucky because I couldn't quite manage to make myself hold on until I had something else to go to.

Depression is something that I have suffered with, according to this blog, about two and a half years. Although I'd had episodes of depression before that, the period between September and December 2012 was the darkest spell I'd had up till that point.

For a long, long time, I saw the treatment of antidepressants to be as bad as the condition. There were storms of weeping and anxiety as I feared that I would be irrevocably changed by taking that kind of medication that would then addict me so I could never come back off it again. It led me onto other types of medication such as St John's Wort which, sadly, was a stopper at the very best and seems an alternative from a long time ago now. It did not work for me in the long term.

As anti-antidepressants I am, I ended up on them between April 2014 and January 2015. The condition came to a head when I realised I could not imagine that any side effects from the antidepressants could possibly be worse than the depression itself. I had hit rock bottom, and I didn't care. Not for myself, anyway. It was my loved ones that, I'm glad to say, gave me the strength to ultimately make this decision.

In January, I had an appointment with my doctor that my fiancee attended with me. Together, we articulated how the antidepressants were keeping my lows at a reasonable level, however the highs were nearly uncontrollable so as to be almost manic. I speak fast and loudly anyway, but when my boys were having trouble telling where one word / sentence ended and the next began after half a dozen or so years together, we knew we had a problem.

I am currently surviving without medication. I"m not sure if this will continue to be the way, but I do know that I'm not up to going back to full time work. I have been lucky enough to happen to fall into a position with perfect part time hours for me that is not too far away from home. I have a nifty little car to get me there and back and audiobooks to keep me company. And, of course, the reward of a bath once I get home, with the cats making sure not to be too far away.

This story is far from over, but I am still here to tell it, and will have the strength to continue to tell it.