I’ll be reading a novella a day for this last week of 2020 (shake that dust off my boots and forge ahead to better things). Seems like a good way to clear out some of the TBR and also read all the things!
I spent the weekend soaking in books, writing talk, and friends at Readercon 30 in Quincy, MA. Check out this beautiful souvenir book, with Charles Vess cover art:
Both guests of honor—Stephen Graham Jones and Tananarive Due—are horror writers, so the programming was heavy on horror. I attended panels on ambiguity and vagueness in horror, haunted houses, cultural hauntings and African American history, and horrors of being female.
I went to readings by Sonya Taaffe and Stephen Graham Jones, and I attended Stephen’s Guest of Honor interview. He’s a treasure, deploying a cunning sense of wit while saying outrageous and true things.
Other panels I attended (and enjoyed!) include “Old Punks Read New Punks,” “Outgroup Reviews of #ownvoices Work,” “Lloyd Alexander, Existentialist,” and the delightful, “I Don’t Know Why I’m on This Panel,” where the Readercon 30 programming committee put five panelist together and didn’t tell them why, and they spent the hour hilariously searching for commonalities and connections. I attended because I liked all the panelists as people, liked their work, or both. At one point, they trash-talked the “greats” (like Heinlein and Lovecraft) they thought were worthless, and that three minutes made the panel. Jeffrey Ford is sassy and sarcastic; he said about Lovecraft, “I can’t even get to the moral outrage because I fall asleep before I get there!” I’m excited for next year already, because he is Guest of Honor alongside Ursula Vernon.
I bought 8 books
and I’m 15 pages from the end of Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching already. But the book I was most excited to find is this pristine hardcover of Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose:
I read this book twice when I was young, first when I was about 10 or 11, and again two or three years later, because it haunted me. I didn’t remember anything about it except how it made me feel. In the intervening 20 years, I’ve again forgotten nearly everything about the story except those sad and haunted feelings. When I spotted this hardcover with a flawless dust jacket, I wanted it immediately. The dealer had already told me the price was reduced because it was the last day of con, so I flipped it open to see how much this would cost me:
Not bad, I thought, especially with a discount. And its signed! I flipped forward to look at the signature on the title page. When I saw the inscription, I knew I wasn’t leaving the convention without this book:
I don’t recall exactly when I read this book for the first time, but it was likely 1994 or 1995. Jane Yolen signed this to another Elisabeth in another time, but the book came to me yesterday with a message I need, at a time when the country I call home is setting up concentration camps for a different people but with the same outcome.
This time—I promise you, Jane—I’ll remember.
You’ll notice I haven’t posted any book reviews since mid-May. It’s not because I haven’t been reading, but I haven’t felt like writing reviews for anything I’ve finished. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and I had a bad year. On top of the usual loss-of-interest depression I experience every winter, I overextended myself at work and burned out. My writing ground to a halt (like it does every winter), and my volunteer position on a fan-run convention committee became so stressful I nearly quit. I only saw my commitment through because I don’t like dropping the ball and there was no one to hand the work over to.
In April, I started writing again on a mini-retreat with some members of my amazing writing group, and just as I was starting to pick back up – the days got longer and sunnier, if not warmer (thanks, New England), and I was feeling good and fantasizing about an easy summer – I got surprise slammed with a large, months-long, highly stressful project at work that derailed me completely for the past six weeks. I’ve been in a stress shutdown almost as bad as the middle of winter.
The project is opening some career development doors for me, and I’m whipping it into shape, but I just couldn’t muster up the energy to write reviews for any of the books I’ve read since mid-May. However, it’s summer now. I’m up with the sun every day and this is the time of year I feel my best and most energetic. If you are one of the few people that follow this blog, you are about to get bombarded with reviews! I’m writing them up today and scheduling them to post this week and next.
I will always say fall is my favorite season because of the colors and the crispness and leaves and apples and snuggly sweaters and hand warmers, but fall also heralds the dark season. November is the cruelest month. Summer is when I feel good. Here’s what I’ve done for myself in the past six weeks:
- Read a shit ton of fan fiction
- Cut off my shoulder-length hair into an asymmetrical pixie
- Drank milkshakes and ate ice cream
- Took an impromptu long weekend to visit my husband’s family in sunny Florida
- Bought books (even though I already have an entire to-read bookcase) and actually read them right away!
- Built a LEGO Parisian Restaurant
- Started a short story AND a novel
Self-care and self-kindness are important, and I’m always learning new ways of taking care of, motivating, and forgiving myself. I wish I was confident that I can maintain my energy through the next winter, but I can’t hope too hard for that only to be disappointed. I will enjoy the now, the sunshine, the long days, the heat and the energy. My creative juices are flowing. I’m writing again. I’ve already well exceeded my goal for today. I’ll ride this train ‘till I run out of fuel.