Happy Siblings Day!

April 10 is Siblings Day, a day in many parts of the United States of America used to celebrate the importance of siblings. It’s not a federally-recognized holiday, yet, but it’s still a nice time to remember and honor the brothers and sisters in our lives. In lucky circumstances, a sibling is our oldest friend, a member of our genetic family with whom we will often know and share the greatest amount of time of our life. Our parents will usually pass on before we grow old; our children will often outlive us. But siblings grow up with us, and influence us in many ways they may never know.

I have one sibling, a sister. Sisters Day is the first Sunday in August, but I didn’t want to wait that long. I’ve mentioned before in my blog how my sister nurtured in me a love for stories. Through example of her own stories, she taught me about things like character and plot. She was also the first person ever to read my stories. While I couldn’t teach her much, being the little sister, I like to think that we offered each other encouragement when one of us might have felt down for not being like more “normal” girls who liked concerts, clothes, cars, and boys.

My sister has always been an avid reader; she is, in fact, one of the most well-read people I’ve ever met. From science fiction and psychology to folk tales and philosophy, she will read anything, even the back of a cereal box! She just…loves reading. That love was instilled in us by our father, I think, who always put a high value on the joy of reading. He used to tell us to never let us lose our joy for reading. Once you lose that joy, it’s so difficult to get it back. To my sadness, I’ve discovered this is true, among my friends and peers.

Wheaties 2

Wheaties box ca.1937. Well before our time, but this is the kind of stuff cereal boxes used to have on them.

Luckily, my sister has never lost her joy of reading. She’s kept that joy alive in me, too. There have been times in my life when I’ve feltĀ  too tired, too restless, too jaded to read. But then I remember my sister, and how smart, compassionate, and generous she is, and how she got that way from being so well-read. And, just like as if I were a little girl again, I want to be just like her.

These days, I stay reminded of my sister with my favorite bookmark: an old Polaroid of her that I keep in whatever book I’m currently reading. When I open up that book each night, and I see her smile, it reminds me how lucky I am to have a sister who loves stories, and who started in me a love of stories, too.

Happy Siblings Day to you! Do you have a sibling with which you share a love of something intrinsic to you both?

Freeing Myself From the Comparing Mind

It’s a new year, and with the start of a new year, we traditionally make resolutions. Over the last several years, I have focused my new-year’s-mind on being kinder, listening more closely, supporting more causes in which I believe. I think I’ve become a (slightly) better person for those past resolutions. This year, though, I need to look inward.

I’ve been struggling with a kind of lingering depression for several years, now. It has not been clinically diagnosed, but I also know it’s more than just mood swings or the odd blah feeling. I function fine at work, and I carry on my family chores and responsibilities. My creative soul has been drowning, though.

I have known for a long time that I waste too much effort comparing myself to others’ success. Others’ popularity. Others’ epicness. I had thought that the best resolution for me this year was to be more accepting of others’ accomplishments, but it has to go deeper than that. The real answer came to me from a cooking show, of all things.

Jeong Kwan "Creativity and ego cannot go together."

Jeong Kwan

 

The show “Chef’s Table” (available on Netflix) did a portrait on Jeong Kwan, a Buddhist nun in South Korea. In her interview, she said the above, as well as the following:

“If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly.”

Jeong Kwan said these words in regard to her cooking, but I have taken them to heart for my writing. She equates the art of making wholesome and natural food to spiritual enlightenment. I believe that the same can be done with writing. Creating characters and stories has given me strength over the years. I’ve learned from the conflicts of those characters, and letting them speak, fight, and sing through my pen has opened my eyes to perspectives and ideas that might not have occurred to me otherwise.

I know my journey to this greater enlightenment and peace will not be easy, but every journey worth making takes effort. I hope to become a better creative, and a more well-rounded person, for that effort.

How do you deal with jealousy? Have you made any resolutions in the new year?

Giving Makes Me Feel Good

Last week, Kate Johnston, AKA 4amwriter, posted a writing contest on her blog. The contest involved writing a 250-word (max) story featuring wolves in a positive or hopeful light. Three entrants will be chosen as winners by Kate’s panel of judges on April 10, 2017.

It had been a while since I’d participated in a good, old fashioned writing contest, and this one was for such a good cause, I had to put down my editing/rewriting pen and give it a try. I’ll post my entry after the winners have officially been announced on the 4amwriter blog, so as not to potentially skew any of the judges, for good or ill. Not that anybody reads this blog anymore, let alone those judges, but I need to decide how to present my entry anyway (first draft with changes, or just final submission version?).

Part of Kate’s contest involved her donating $5 for every entry received. I was so touched by that endeavor, I decided to check out the site that prompted her to offer the contest in the first place. That site turned out to be the Wolf Conservation Center, a private, not-for-profit environmental education organization located in South Salem, NY. Per their webpage, the Wolf Conservation Center teaches people about wolves, their relationship to the environment and the human role in protecting their future.

I clicked through a bunch of the pages on the site, when I came to the Adopt a Wolf section. Now, I love looking at pictures of animals, and wolves have been a long-standing animal love of mine since the days of reading about the Wolfriders in Elfquest. I scrolled down the list of wolves, and then I saw her:

Alawa-adoption

It seemed so fitting. Those sparkling eyes, that wily smile, and her name: Alawa, meaning “sweetpea” in Algonquin. For those of you who have read my “Finding Mister Wright” series, you’ll know that one of the principal cast characters, Paige, has several nicknames, most of them involving the letter P: peanut, pickle, and, as her grandparents call her, sweetpea. Nobody else would remember that little detail, but I did. The word sprung out at me from the screen, making me think of all of the happiness I’ve felt sharing Paige’s and her family’s stories. And so, I just had to adopt this gorgeous girl.

I’ve felt weighted down for a long time. Even my writing has lacked a certain spirit. But, this adoption made me feel good. Not just for the charity, but for the feeling of being connected to a greater whole. It’s naive to think that my writing can connect people that way, though that is certainly something I strive for. What this good feeling of giving gave me was a breather, a moment of openness to a world made more beautiful for this creature’s presence in it. I can only hope for me and my stories to mean as much, someday.

Did you do a wolf-write for 4amwriter’s Save El Lobo contest? What version of my own entry might you like to see? Who are your favorite wolves from stories?

Nothing Special, But Why I Do It

A few years ago, we went to visit my in-laws. My mother-in-law, a professor at the time at a small, prestigious higher education institution, was talking about her students: young men and young women fortunate enough to be favored by talent as well as privilege. She spoke about how impressed she was by these students – deservedly so – but she also said, very specifically, how these young people were special. And, how we were – how I was – decidedly not special by comparison. How I was “mundane”.

Intellectually, I knew she was right. I’m not an Earhart, a Da Vinci, or a Hawking. I’m not epic; I won’t change the world; I have no revolutionary ideas. But, damn it, if hearing those words didn’t twist my guts around my spine and make me want to stab a stake into my hand.

I’ve also never completely gotten over that feeling of being called mundane.

I write all this without fear of repercussion or rebuke because (A) it’s true, and (B) nobody from that side of the family has ever read this blog, or anything I’ve written, actually. There’s a (C) reason in there, too, though. Because, while I might never be special, I still get up every day, and put forth my strongest effort at my job, support and care for my family the best that I can, and give my damnedest for every story I write. They’re not epic; they won’t change the world; they have no revolutionary ideas. But I still do it. Because if we don’t make the effort, what’s the point of any of it?

I wrote this year’s holiday story not to prove to anyone how special I am, or to force down anyone’s throat how special I think my stories are. I wrote it because I love these people and the little life situations they find themselves in. It’s a story about family, and love, and how we’re all worth it, even if we’re part of the mundane. Click the link if you’re interested (will open in a new post).

“Actually and Indeed”
A holiday “Finding Mister Wright” fic by Mayumi Hirtzel (c) 2016
~3400 words / 14 pages

Is there a type of story you like to write best: fantastic or ordinary? Maybe some combination of both?

Hope, courtesy of a birthday

abe

Timehop’s Abe wished me a happy birthday! (He forgot the comma, but that’s okay – he’s a dinosaur.)

I like birthdays. They are unique celebrations of an individual. Every other holiday and anniversary we share with one or more people, but a birthday is often for one person alone. Twins – or family or friends who otherwise share the same birthday – have a slightly different perspective, but there is still a uniqueness to a birthday, encompassing specific wishes for good health and good fortune for a person.

googlebday

Google got in on the action, too.

I wrote for my birthday, as a kind of a gift to myself. While I didn’t write about an actual birthday, this time, tapping out that short story made me think about all of the birthday scenes and chapters I have written over the years. Turns out, there are quite a few:

  • Peter, in 2007’s NaNoWriMo “Sixes and Sevens”
  • Larry (and Sally, too), in the Doctor Who-Lite Songbirds series short story “Slave Girls and Shining Knights”
  • Yousuke, in 1 More Chance! chapter 22, and Chie in chapter 25
  • Rob, in the “Finding Mister Wright” series short story “Thirty-Nine”
  • Ross, in chapter 19 of Fearless (a somewhat do-nothing chapter but which I’m loathe to lose all the same, for its lightheartedness among the rest of the story’s heavy emotional weight)
  • and Hell, in the Borderlands short story “Whack”
twitterballoons

Not to be left out, here’s Twitter’s note.

Birthdays represent hope. Thinking back on it, all of those chapters and short stories were about life and the role hope plays within it, whether it’s hope for the future, hope to be a better person, or hope simply to share more days with the people we love. It’s a toss-up whether any of those stories actually worked the way they were conceived to do…but the joy of writing them gave me purpose, at least for a little while.

I hope good things for you, dear reader, today and every day, especially if you, too, are a writer looking for purpose. Because why wait for a birthday to share that?

Do you like writing birthdays in your stories? If so, do they tend to be happy events, or sad ones? What present did you give to yourself on your last birthday? Let’s all have cake!

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