My own little micro-minority.

Phantom Fern © copyright D. Gerard Lancaster

Phantom Fern © 2011 D. Gerard Lancaster

I admire lesbian women. I see them as having a massive kind of freedom that’s been lacking in my life due to certain roles I’ve been locked into since birth. They seem to have the boldness of men without female restrictions.

I admire gay men. Their strength as men, combined with their lack of masculine restrictions, can result in amazing creativity. I’m lucky to have as a friend the immensely creative D. Gerard Lancaster–painter, photographer, composer and fiction writer. (I keep telling him he should go into illustration, but will he listen? No!)

Of course, my view is romanticized. Lesbians and gays have their own lock-ins and lock-downs. But from the outside I admire the the lack of boundaries imposed by a mainstream culture.

What I admire most is the individual, sometimes called the smallest minority. That means each of you: whatever there is of you that’s you alone, separate from society. I admire the ability to see and act independently and without artificial restrictions.

Maybe I don’t admire lesbians and gays. Maybe I’m jealous. They’re independent of mainstream culture to a certain point, but participate in a smaller culture in which they can find people who may be more like themselves.

On second thought, I don’t have to be jealous since my husband and I make up a little mini-culture. Together we’re a micro-minority all our own.

These are the thoughts I’ve been trying to put into words ever since I was awarded two blogging awards last week. (So I guess I’m part of the blogging mini-society, too.)

Liebster blogging awardThank you, Serena Dracis, for the Liebster Award. Versatile Blogger Award Thank you, Prudence MacLeod, for The Versatile Blogger Award.

Thanks for thinking of me. For different reasons, neither of you has to worry about being swallowed up in the mainstream culture. Stay strong!

Each award must be passed on. I pass the Liebster Blog Award on to Kate Spencer, Pat O’Dea Rosen, Asrai Devin, BJ Bangs and Louise Behiel. The Versatile Blogger goes to Mark Lieberman, Soapmarked, Kristy K. James, Jane Myers Perrine and Jean.

As for the facts about myself I should disclose as a requirement for accepting the awards–see above.

By S.J. Driscoll

When blogging: feel inward, look outward.

My life is falling apart. My cat naps on my keyboard. I have a new lover (don’t tell my husband). My best friend died. I just climbed Everest. I live in a deep, dark hole and can’t imagine I’ll ever climb out.

Are you interested yet? Since everyone faces similar situations, you’d think they’d be great topics to blog about.

They are–depending on the execution.

We should blog about our personal concerns, our personal interests. But why would anyone care, just because we have some shared experiences?

Picture your blog reader as a listener. You’re in a coffee shop, talking. Does the listener lean forward, eyes on yours, waiting breathlessly for your next words? Or does the listener’s eyes glaze over? Does he or she sidle away, glad of the lucky escape from someone with such dedicated self-involvement?

I don’t mean we should step back to the point of being impersonal or cold-hearted. Blogs benefit from the self-revelation of the writer: the revelation of how the writer experiences life. Readers read to find a personal connection with the writer.

But we need to extend a hand to readers, not huddle in a private locked room. We need neither rescue nor a pat on the head. To be understood by other living humans like ourselves, we need to expand beyond ourselves.

How do we find this balance between the personal and the universal?

We should try to establish kinship.

When we blog about our lives, we should try to include the readers. Not by our topics alone, but also by our intent.

Though most bloggers are not fiction writers, the approach is similar to a fiction-writing technique. The self-revelation of a blog illustrates the blogger’s journey. As bloggers, we can use an ancient fictional tool: the hero’s journey.

As described by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, at the end of the quest the hero of the story can bring back what he or she has found and offer it to people, to those who listen to the hero’s story. What the hero discovers is vitally important to them. It will make their own lives better.

Write your personal journey for your blog, but bring what you’ve discovered on your journey back to your readers. Offer your discovery to them, knowing how valuable it is.

Hold on tight to what you feel inside, yes, but express it while looking outward.

As you write, be aware of the strangers there with you. They are strangers, but they want to be interested, sympathetic strangers. They’re looking for a connection with another human being. They need that connection as much as you do.

Look those strangers in the eye. Reach for their hands. You’re about to give them something priceless.

By S.J. Driscoll

I want her car.

Debra KristiToday self-described geek-girl Debra Kristi, who drives around in a 1962 Buick Skylark (jealous!), Debra's Skylarkgifted me with The Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks, Debra! She and I met as students of one of Kristen Lamb’s social media classes.

Versatile Blogger AwardA few rules go along with accepting the award. I have to thank the person who shared the award with me and link back to her in my acceptance post, tell my readers seven things about myself and then pass the award on to fourteen fellow bloggers. Here we go:

  1. I did not want to learn to read. I wanted to run outside and play. (I still do.)
  2. Immediately after learning, when I was seven and in first grade, I read all of Edgar Allan Poe. This may have permanently affected my psyche.
  3. I wrote my first story in first grade and the teacher rejected it (I didn’t want to write it and turned it in a day late). This prepared me for the writing life.
  4. After I wrote the story, I realized I could read it. Stories came from somewhere! I could make them! Since life as a kid was so boring, fiction had to be better. I’ve been writing fiction ever since. (But I still want to run outside and play.)
  5. Hmm, let’s see… My dad wanted me to be a doctor and practice in Africa. I was interested in medicine, but looked down at my semi-crippled left hand and could hardly visualize myself trying to do surgery. Nope. Good thing, because I’m convinced I would’ve been the first white female doctor to die of AIDS. I remember reading the obituary of Dr. Grethe Rask, the Danish physician who was that first white female. I stared at her photo in the newspaper and shivered. That was going to be me.
  6. Time-warp ahead. Recently a cousin I hadn’t seen in decades told me that our maternal grandmother, who’d brought her up, was part Seneca. The Seneca people were one of the tribes of the Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee). Put that together with my dad’s part-Tatar/Mongol ancestry, and my heritage reaches around the world.
  7. My husband and I weren’t born in Texas, but we got here as fast as we could.

Now to pass the torch–I mean, the award–on to another fourteen bloggers:

  1. Jennette Marie Powell: Making the mundane magical
  2. Lena Corazon: Flights of fancy
  3. Annette Gendler
  4. Patricia Sands: Everyone has a story
  5. Mariam Kobras
  6. Elena Aitken: Don’t forget to breathe
  7. CC MacKenzie: Romance with fizz & fangs
  8. Rabia Gale: Writer at play
  9. Carrie Daws
  10. M J Wright: a blog about writing, reason and stuff
  11. Patrick Thunstrom: A digital magician
  12. Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck: Welcome to my worlds
  13. Rob Cornell: Dark fantasy and thriller writer
  14. Cora Ramos

Now it’s your turn, Jennette, Lena, Annette, Patricia, Mariam, Elena, CC, Rabia, Carrie, M J, Patrick, Julie, Rob and Cora. Link back here, tell your readers seven things about yourself and then pass the award on to fourteen fellow bloggers.

Have fun!

By S.J. Driscoll

Standing Shoulder to Shoulder

Live oak on riverbank, 12-30-11The changing of the year was exquisite in our corner of the Hill Country

My husband and I never get tired of walking down to the river. With the variable weather, the rising and falling waters, the freely roaming animals, the constantly changing light and shadow, the wind like ocean surf and our unique neighbors, this is the most alive place we’ve ever been.

Sometimes we’re stunned that we ended up in this place, though moving here was a deliberate decision. We’re also stunned that we–who can go for days without wanting to speak to another human besides ourselves–we’re stunned that we like so many people here. And there are so many worth liking.

It’s not like we’ve been holed up somewhere all our lives. Each of us has lived in other states and traveled extensively. We’re originally from New York, my husband from the City and myself from the Island. But now we become uneasy when we cross the Cibolo River into the moderate congestion of San Antonio. The little town of Blanco, north of us, is as bustling and cosmopolitan a burg as we want to visit.

We’re not withdrawing from life. We’re doing the opposite. We have more positive human interaction than ever before because the people here are different.

Perhaps that’s because this area retains some of its frontier quality. This place was the edge of Comanchería before the 1860’s, and Apachería before that. Settled mostly by mountaineers from Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas, and then by German immigrants just before the Civil War, Texans here count their generations on a single hand. The past is recent. There are fewer people, but more interconnections among people.

On a frontier, it’s vital to know the character of your neighbors. People talk to each other here. People measure each other here. Each person is an asset or a liability. Can your neighbors be trusted? If you help them in an emergency, will they come to your aid when it’s your turn to need help? Will they stand firm? There’s a degree of solidarity, of standing shoulder to shoulder, that seems to be handed down from an earlier time. It’s a strange but wonderful feeling to stand shoulder to shoulder with people you know you can trust.

On a frontier, people’s jobs don’t define them. They define their jobs. They do what they have to do. They make opportunity. Conchay and Mari opened a Mexican restaurant that revived a dying shopping center, then opened a Chinese restaurant next to it. Derek runs a 300-acre ranch and is one of the two fire department captains. Paty sells the best tacos in 50 miles from a tiny trailer on the side of the road. There’s confidence and self-sufficiency here that we’ve never seen in a city or a suburb.

People are more individual. Not that they try to be–they are. Katie, who worked in a factory, has such an original mind that we’ve thought about walking around after her with a pad and pen, writing down what she says. Her husband built an airplane in their living room.

Most amazingly, there’s no propaganda–or, at least, propaganda is recognized for being just that. Only after we left the East and West Coasts did we realize how bombarded the rest of the country is with constant propaganda.

This isn’t Pollyanna-land. There are plenty of problems, including underemployment, poverty, drugs, drought, flood and fire. But we’ve found what feels like normal life. Standing shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors, we mean to hold on to it as long as we can.

By S.J. Driscoll