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Showing posts from 2016

Elle's Proposed Book Rating System

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In spite of my rather severe case of nerdiness, I have neither read nor watched Game of Thrones. Shocking, right? I refuse to do so because, before I could embark on the series, several friends told me beloved characters die in droves. Die. In. Droves.
Nope. Nopity nope nopers.
I refuse to consume media in which main characters die. I hate stories that don’t have some kind of happily-ever-after. I eschew media that allow any kind of harm to befall an animal. I also try to avoid any media, from movies to music to novels, that include any of my deal breakers: rape, harming an animal, rampant and unchallenged -isms, and really, really bad writing.
On the topics of books, you wouldn’t think it’d be difficult to find some that don’t kill main characters or end poorly, that don’t include graphic or gratuitous rape scenes and animal abuse, and that aren’t horribly racist or sexist. You’d think.
Let me give you a brief example. I just stopped reading book three of a long, enormously well-revie…

Making Peace with Our Bodies

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I am an officer in my local National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter. We just pulled off a Love Your Body Celebration, which went swimmingly. Heck, I even vended my literary wares, since representing body diversity in my novels is so important to me.  

But anyway, I had the privilege of starting off the festivities and wanted to share my speech with my faithful readers. May you also find peace and comfort in your body.

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to our first annual Love Your Body Celebration. We’re here to honor, recognize, and celebrate bodies of all ages, races, sizes, sexualities, genders, abilities, religions, and so on. All bodies are good bodies.I wanted to address the idea inherent in the name: Love Your Body. That’s not something that’s easy to do, particularly if you live in a body that we devalue and marginalize in our culture. Sometimes it’s difficult to like your body, let alone love it. I hope today offers all of us an opportunity to learn more about and per…

Body Love Word Blank

I made this for the South Dakota National Organization for Women's Love Your Body Day Celebration. Enjoy, all!


AdjectiveYearAdjective - Ends in ERNounPart of BodyColorPart of BodyAdjectiveNounAdjectiveAdjectiveNounVerb - Base FormVerb - Past TenseVerb - Base FormNounAdjective

The Emotional Toil and Toll of Office Work

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“The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency.”
I taped up the following quote up near my desk where I worked as a secretary. For the last five years, I had worked for the organization for two whole dollars above minimum wage and some pretty rocking benefits – at least in theory. (It’s worth noting that although friends coveted my benefits package, my meager paycheck couldn’t stretch to cover insurance deductibles, so I never visited the doctor or dentist, even when asthma had me gasping for air and a cavity slowly morphed into a dead root.)
In addition to my bureaucracy quote, I also decorated my office with various feminist paraphernalia, including goddess statues and quotes about women’s worth. A coworker even crafted a very official-looking sign for the door that read “Goddess Elle.”
In my workplace, I perched on the bottom rung of a very steep ladder. My first five years, I had slogged through payroll-related tasks and knew I made literally less than every…

Beyond Ebony and Ivory

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“Ebony, ivory living in perfect harmony.”
I just finished a compelling paranormal romance by a Black American author in which she described a character as having skin so dark it seemed blue-black. Not long ago, a book I read by a White American* author described a character’s skin as so light, it almost appeared translucent.
In spite of what popular songs, literary imagery, and even our language itself tells us, skin colors don’t come in black and white. Ebony and ivory language aside, we are all shades of brown. Some, like me, have very light brown skin; I like to think of myself as a fetching shade of beige. Some, like the woman pictured to the right, have very dark brown skin; rather than “black,” we might think of her skin color as mahogany or seal.
Often in my classes, I flatten myself against the whiteboard in the front of the class and ask students if I’ve suddenly become invisible to them. Spoiler alert: I haven’t. The fact is, even pale, Western European-derived me isn’t really…

Poem: Morning Meeting

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If I fits, I sits. But I don’t fit, and still I sit, In the very back, Capping the row, An oversized bookend.
One side gasps for air. The other knows my colleague. Our arms, our thighs Kiss, make love. Their mouth, their eyes Frown, promise retribution In seething blog posts Or cruel laughter Over afternoon cocktails.
My doughy bottom Rolls across hard plastic, Sighs, drips over sides. I torque twist, fold: Inward, always inward, In posture if not in fact.
My fat, knotted body An unvoiced apology For daring to exist.
Thighs that normally Clap and steam Loll, cold and dead, The only tingle The electric shocks Of restricted blood.
Tiny, hinging writing surface Unfurls – O Modern Technology! It bounces on my belly, Slanting our worldview.
I’ll take notes in my lap If I can just… reach… I’ll take notes in my head.
What happens when you Stuff a peck Of tender/tenderized poet Into a tiny, Industrial coffin? A drippy, gooey mess That flows Across and over, Coating hard plastic And hands: Folded, lumpy, Wobbling In pain.
Maybe mass-produ…

Singing the Literary Songs

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A week ago, I completed a poetry half-marathon. A full marathon asked poor, abused poets to pen a poem an hour for twenty-four hours. Wimps like me who appreciate a comfy night’s sleep could opt for a half-marathon, which demanded one poem an hour for only twelve hours. So, by the end of my stint, I became the proud mama of twelve poem babies.
Since then, I have become a poetry fiend. I pen quick limericks in elevators, wax poetic in blog posts, jot down freestyle verse during lunch. Heck, during a series of endless meetings last week, I wrote pages of poetry bemoaning the uncomfortable, molded-plastic, stadium seating into which the administrators had shoved us poor instructors.
Here’s a haiku I wrote while shifting every five minutes in order to restore circulation to my legs.
Metal-toothed plastic
Bites my ample derriere.
Classroom seating sucks.
In addition to actually writing more lately, I’ve also found myself pondering the musicality of poetry and, by extension, prose. How do I kn…

Poem: An Ode to Yellow

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You varnish the skies.
Your incandescent arms
Embrace dark rooms,
Make them blush
In the slow burn of
Flickering kisses.
When summer’s green
grows tired and bored,
You crisp along its edges,
Crackling with something like laughter.
You pull the sun into bed at night
And tug it back into the morning sky.
As a child, my younger sister’s hair
Gleamed pale yellow,
A shiny brass coin rubbed matte.
I dressed her in yellow
And called her my daffodil.
Fat bumblebees, weighted by
Beauty and importance,
Bounce through the air.
They wear natural crowns
And make love to
Golden blossoms.
You coat the curves
Of trumpets, trombones,
And sultry saxophones.
They bleat round notes of rapture
And praise.
If you melted And spread me about,
Smearing me to the edges,
I would flow like butter and
Taste like sunshine.

Poem: Sky Eater: A Haibun

I drank the sky,
opened my mouth
wide,
my teeth flashing, cameralike,
in the sun.
I meant to stutter an excuse,
offer an apology,
sing the praises of someone
not me,
but something fuzzy and cool,
like gossamer
or lavender cotton candy,
spun inside.
Well, what was I to do?
Eyes wide and guilty,
I swallowed.
It was delicious,
I don’t mind saying:
Soft and spiky,
bitter and so sweet
my lips puckered
and my tongue perspired.
My empty tummy,
heretofore wrapped
like an undelivered present,
unfurled, stretched,
gurgled a message
to my fretful brain:
“More.”
I didn’t know what else to do,
so I kept my lips unsealed.
The heavens poured inside,
bulging my cheeks,
kissing my throat,
rounding my belly.
I’m pretty sure
a satellite, thundercloud,
perhaps a star or two
tumbled in.
They tasted hot and bright,
like metal against my teeth.
My face shifted upward,
eyes shining, mouth open
in a hungry song.
Words spun, colliding,
forming sentences and heat.
I’m confident I glowed.
So you see,
the fat orange s…

Penning the Poems

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What's that clickety-clack sound and the smell of toxic amounts of cinnamon coffee permeating someone's pores? Oh, nothing. Just me doing a poetry half-marathon today from 7 am to 7 pm.
I just finished my fourth poem. And by the way, did you know morning happens before 10 am? No, for real.
I shall post a poem or two throughout the day. So far, my poems, covering topics from childbirth to sexual assault, have been a bit too personal or dark to share with the universe, but I have eight to go, and my next prompt arrives in seventeen short minutes. 
Onward ho, poets and lovers of poetry!

Updating the Masses

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Faithful readers (which pretty much means my best friend and my ex, but still), I have missed you. Like, a lot. Life has been pretty ridiculous lately, though, what with the wedding thingy, teaching a summer class, and then prepping for the new semester. Also, in the last few months, I, the inveterate hater of travel, have gallivanted to Seattle, L.A., Denver (two or three times), and Fort Collins. And Spearfish, South Dakota, but that doesn’t seem quite as impressive. It does have nice scenery, though.
To keep our relationship fresh and updated and to explain my unseemly absence, here’s what’s happened in my world in the last couple of months:
I DIYed a good chunk of my wedding. I am the invitation-penningest, program-designingest, escort-card-makingest, centerpiece-strategizingest, travel-organizingest, vendor-liaisingest, sign-creatingest, DJ-song-list-compilingest bride evuh!I added zero words to my stagnating, paranormal romance novel. Zero. Words.I taught a rousing Social Psychol…

Biopower and Disempowerment

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Foucault's biopower is a brilliant dissection of the most insidious kind of power: the kind that we exercise over ourselves in the service of others. We give up control of the right to define or categorize our own bodies and even twist and contort and harm our bodies in order to match some of those one-size-fits-all categories or "normal" and "right." 
I have always been fat. How do I know this? Doctors, for one, told me. According to their BMI charts, I am "morbidly obese." All my life, I've been told I am three steps away from a massive coronary, from hypertension, from being a diabetic. Eeeeeeek! OMG! How am I even still alive?!
And althoughtonsof data exist to contradict the safety andlong-term effectivenessof diets, doctors have put me on them since I was seven years old. By the time I gave dieting the middle finger at age 22, I had tried all of them. You know what the effects were? I felt weak. I over-exercised. I fantasized endlessly about di…

Naming Independence

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Happy Independence Day, everyone! For this 24-hour period, may grilled gluttony, safe and legal explosions, and patriotic rhetoric festoon your lives.
I chose to honor Independence Day by writing about women who change their last names after marriage. I mean, obviously. You know: Independence Day, women’s independence, Second Wave feminism, and patrilineality. This 4th of July blog post practically writes itself.
I’ll admit, this topic concerns me a lot lately, since I’m getting married in two short weeks (gulp). Honestly, I have zero desire to change my last name; it’s my remaining connection to my deceased father, it possesses a charming shortness and sweetness, and, you know, keeping it pokes convention right in the eyeball. Win-win-win.
Some cultural pressure exists to change it, however. According to conventional wisdom, women should/do change their last names to create a sense of familial unity and to give any children who come along a single last name. Plus, given pressures from…

Fur the Love of Animals

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All of my books so far but one include animal minor characters. In my novelette, Hunted, a big, chatty, black beast of a cat named Picante owns and demands obedience from our hero, Simon. I mean, come on – nothing says sexy like a man who puts his kitty cat’s safety before his own. In Hunted Past, Aunt Mona, who actually plays a pretty important role in the book, possesses a passel (Herd? Pride?) of cats, all named after cheeses. (Because cats and cheese, people!) In a manner not even slightly reminiscent of one of my many rants, Aunt Mona rather pointedly extols the virtues of spaying and neutering and rescuing homeless pets. Cough, cough. Anyway, in Hunted Dreams, a beautiful, blue pit bull named Mina fearlessly accompanies our hero, Reed, as he searches each night for his sleeping beauty, the Rubenesque Katana. When writing The Tithe, I admit to spending a ridiculous amount of time wondering how I could sneak an animal into a book situated in an abandoned bunker in the middle of t…

Pinning My Identities

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I love Pinterest. It’s such a poignant symbol of modern U.S. culture. It’s communication through shiny, colorful, visual symbols. Per Jameson and Baudrillard, it’s postmodernism at its flashy, depthless best. Also, Jameson would say Pinterest is another example of the flattening of technology, or the inward turning, postmodern use (implosion?) of technology to project our selves rather than striving toward new physical and tangible places. And, of course, we can’t forget Giddens, who would say this is the ultimate in reflexivity, or how we use modern, consumable culture to reflect on our identities and recreate our understandings of our being.

But enough theory. Just kidding – there’s never enough theory.
My pins say something about being a social justice warrior. This is not only accurate, since I imagine most folks who know me would say I’m rather committed to fighting for equality, but it’s also essential to my sense of self to portray this as part of me. When I’m dead, I want my g…

Transgender Allies 101

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What is a transgender ally?
Anyone who advocates for the cultural, social, economic, and political rights of transgender persons. Allies don’t have to march in parades or lobby legislators; we can work for transgender rights via interpersonal conversations, while posting on Facebook, by signing online petitions, and so on. Allies come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors.

What is privilege?
Every person is a glorious combination of our identities: our sex, race, sexuality, gender identity, religion, class, ability, family status, and so on. However, not all identities are equal. Structurally and interpersonally, we tend to assign more value, and therefore more status, to some identities (e.g., male, cisgender, straight, White). As individuals and as members of groups, we experience these valuations as privilege. This comes with a ton of unearned benefits, such as being listened to, earning more money, not worrying about violence, and not having our true selves questioned.
On the flip side,…