Platform and other worthwhile objects

The last few weeks I have been rushed-off-my-face busy. This is likely to continue.

I spent a fortnight learning how to make handmade hard-cover books in Editing 2, and surprised myself, the teachers and the class by inventing a way to improve the process through section sewing rather than webbing the page sections together. Being a hand-crafty sort—before I injured my hands, I sewed dolls clothes, cross stitch, felt animals and other crafty things all the time—this immediately became one of those new hobby-obsessions, in part because I had half the supplies already and, well, who needs an excuse to go out and buy more craft materials, right? (As someone who writes things down and is never without a notebook or my laptop, I also find the idea of writing in a book I’ve made—an object infused with my own energy—rather appealing.) Be warned, everyone: you’re all getting handmade books for Christmas.

As soon as I have time, I mean to take photos and put together a how-to guide. The heavy cardboard covers are covered with fabric, which makes them very durable (no dog-eared corners or bent covers, which is always nice for the anxious types, myself included) for toting around in one’s backpack. I’ve made one with striped coloured fabric for every-day use, and I enjoy writing in it.

My intention, when I’ve finished this semester and have published my novella, is to offer a give-away for a copy of my book and a handmade journal. So if you want free stuff (come on, who doesn’t want free stuff?) come back in November. I may even custom-make the journal for the winner in their preferred colours.

I’ve also spent hours on the production management for Platform. It is that wholly unglamorous job that, when somebody picks up the glossy cover, nobody will remark upon, and yet without it, the whole project falls apart. It also involves being organised and communicating and sending a thousand emails, and it’s challenging me to not avoid answering my email. (I have spent weeks not answering my email and feeling guilt that I haven’t looked at my email and being unable to do it because of the guilt and…) Funnily enough, all the spreadsheet management involves skills I learned in my old minimum wage job that my family used to give me grief over: the reality is that if I hadn’t done that job, I wouldn’t be able to do this one (and production management skills aren’t something readily taught in a school environment). This job, this real-life experience, is a tremendous thing to put on my resume. Of course, when I tell my family this, they make comments about the universe guiding me (which is something I wholeheartedly believe) and conveniently forget everything they said about the job not being ‘good enough’ for me three years ago.

There’s really nothing I can say or do about that other than sigh quietly to myself and go about doing my thing, being grateful for the skills I did learn on the job – and that these skills are now being acknowledged by my teachers.

The editorial team gave me a very flattering moment when they unanimously voted a creative non-fiction piece of mine into the next issue, however, so in a couple of months I’ll have another publication credit to my name. I may, at some point, start looking like an actual author, and how exciting is that?

For anyone who is interested, the PDF for the previous issue of Platform can be downloaded from my Google Drive here. A friend of mine, Emanuel Cachia of Error Proof (who does all manner of editorial, book production and literary services, and is a lovely person besides), had a large hand in its editing, production and distribution. If anyone’s interested in reading new, upcoming and established local Melbourne voices in a magazine whose ethos is about giving voice, please consider giving Platform a read. For Melbourne locals, it’s also available in print, for free, at many Western Suburbs libraries, all about Victoria University (who provides funding) and other sundry places.

Aside from having an epic trigger and depressive breakdown (I wish people understood that a trigger isn’t just something that messes up my afternoon or my day, but something that pushes me into a state of depression that lasts anywhere between a weekend and a week, seriously impacting on my ability to do things that aren’t watching TV and trying not to cry for the umpteenth time; and that most of my triggers aren’t things readily avoided short of never leaving my house, never going on the internet and never interacting with fellow human beings … oh, wait) I have been largely working on my novella, Asylum.

By ‘working’ I mean ‘redrafting’ because I came to the conclusion that while I wrote 45 000 words, those words weren’t exactly dripping with tension, plot or even plot relevance. (But so much about character psychology!) I’ve redrafted to completion six chapters, with three more to go, and then it’ll be handed over to my editor before coming back to me for design and layout.

Until this point, I had no idea how many drafts it actually takes to produce a book. Yes, you can laugh at me. I’m laughing at me!

I am doing this because it’s a school assignment: my Editing 2 class major project is a Book Production Project, or as my teacher likes to call it, the Be Your Own Publisher assignment. It is the creation of a print book from copy to distribution (in our case, a presentation before the class with the book in our hands). We emerge from this course as self-published authors who have some experience in most of the steps involved in birthing a book. It’s pretty exciting, and a good exercise in real-life, practical experience. My intention is to get Asylum perfect bound and printed at a local digital printer. I would like to do the thing properly and get an IBSN (and politely pester a local queer bookshop to stock it), as I do want to start my own press and see this as an ideal beginning, but we’ll see how well this works out.

Because I’m interested in accessibility (as a primarily digital reader because e-books and e-readers are easier for me to use), my intention is to produce Asylum in both print and digital formats and offer them both for sale. If people are interested in owning print copies of my work (and drooling over pretty spines lined up on the bookshelf … the one thing I miss about going digital), I’ll likely consider releasing print compilations of two or three books in the coming series.

For all that I’m suffering ongoing doubt over getting this thing done, I’m still feeling inspired to work on it: I feel Asylum is a story idea that fills a hole in the queer lit genre, namely the absence of non-binary characters and the lesser presence of queer women, but also the comparative lack of feminist queer genre stories that aren’t romance and erotica. I enjoy writing the main character (because there aren’t enough non-binary queer heroes with chronic pain and PTSD)  and, to be honest, the whole damn cast amuses me most of the time (because there also aren’t enough awesome bisexual grandmothers in queer genre fiction!), even while I’m writing about psychologically dark topics and experiences. It’s a story (a series) I need to make exist in the hope someone else can pick up this book and feel like a literary hero represents and validates their lives and journeys, and even while I’m burdened by the old fears of not being good enough (this is why I have a psychologist, in a nutshell) I do need to work past that, because I’m damn tired of either being a non-presence in the kinds of books I enjoy reading, or reading primarily erotic/romantic stories just to get people who are kind of like me.

(As a person whose queerness is expressed in ways other than the relationship I’m not in and the sex I’m not having, I’m pretty damn tired of queerness and queer identities being expressed through romance and erotica. I don’t even consider myself asexual and I’m tired of it: it seems, to me, to be a thoroughly heterocentric/ciscentric/binary-centric viewpoint, and why do we need to perpetuate those tired ideas? I’m not saying queer people shouldn’t write erotica or romance; I’m just saying there are other ways of living queer that also need to make it into the stories, and I yearn for queer genre fiction that isn’t driven by queer people falling in love or lust. This said, I enjoy L-J Baker, Naomi Clark and Sarah Diemer’s works. Their worlds and plots are often as important as the romance element if not more-so, and they write about awesome, awesome queer heroines. We need more of this, though, and we desperately need non-binary people to exist as more than just occasional supporting cast characters.)

The class distribution date, the completion date for Asylum, is November 6. I anticipate the digital release will happen a few weeks afterwards. Until that time, my updating is going to be spotty, because I am also a full time student completing any number of assignments in addition to all of the above … and trying to begin a full length screenplay (about a queer woman struggling to live an out, protesting life at university and a separate, closeted life with her family). I’m also seeing a physio weekly to try and manage my wrists better, and enduring the fun of, under full GP supervision (and with the intent of trying a new pain med afterwards), reducing my pain meds.

(We’re trying to avoid the dreaded opiate withdrawal. So far, I’m only enduring hot-cold flashes and feeling like hell in the mornings. I’ve accidentally missed enough doses to know why a slow reduction is vital.)

Did I say I was busy?