Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Decade in Review: 2007

Feb 17, 2007.  New Moon.  After months and months of knowing I was a finalist, I received the news that I had placed Third in Writers of the Future!  I was going to LA for a week-long workshop.   I'd submitted twelve manuscripts over a four year period and it had finally paid off!

March 2007.  Having jump-started CUUPs at UUCE, I was encouraged to give a four-minute presentation at a local Interfaith gathering.   After a brief introduction Neo-Paganism, I lead a quick visualization of the four elements.   The presentation was well received, probably because I used my radio voice (someone  commented that I should make relaxation tapes).   The presentation resulted in a jump in CUUPs attendance.

I'm trying to find the exact date, but sometime around now the Rev. Carolyn Colbert retired from being the UUCE minister.   She'd been serving there for seven or so years, and everyone was used to her style.  With her departure, a search began, and various interim ministers took over the pastoral care of the church.   What I learned from this was that I'd been coming to UUCE to hear Carolyn's sermons, which I always found challenging.

A year or two of being parents put the final nail in the coffin as far as our involvement with the gay community went.  Not that we were terribly active in gay community events after the Outdoor Club (a local LGBTQ hiking group) imploded, but we stopped hearing much or seeing our gay friends.   And then they began the exodus to Portland.

Sometime in the spring, I went to a Eugene LGBTQ Community building event, held at a local high school.  After listening to folks talk about self-esteem issues on the University of Oregon campus, lesbian dance parties, queer youth, and the logistics of building a Eugene Queer Resources Center, the question came up about community.  What did members of the LGBTQ community want to build for ourselves?

When I was my turn to speak I said, "Hi, my name is John and I'm a gay dad."  (pause for applause)  "My husband would be here, but he's at home caring for our child.  I'd like to remind planners that if you want to include more parents, many toddlers take a nap at this time [11 AM - 1 PM].   So, I have a question:  could the gay dads in the audience raise their hands?"  One other guy in a room of about a two hundred raised his hand.  "Thanks," I said, "that's kind of what I thought." ("But hooray for lesbian moms, too," an older woman across the aisle said encouragingly.)  I sat down.  The other gay dad disappeared by the time the meeting finished.

As Mark pointed out later, just because someone else is  a gay dad doesn't mean that we'd get along with them or want to hang out.  Which is true, but still....

May 2007.  I attended a wonderful local writers' workshop with Ellen Datlow.   She wasn't enamored with "The Colossus of Rhodes," but she did like "Sky Dance" (although apparently it's too much like, "Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death").

August 2007.  I flew down to LA for the Writers of the Future (WOTF)  workshop and awards ceremony.  Fellow Wordo Damon Kaswell had also placed in that year's volume, and we flew down together.   At the LA airport, some of my luggage got lost, which included my wedding jacket and shirt.

My roommate during the workshop was Tony Pi, the other half of the Canadian team which was in a friendly, unofficial contest with the Wordos to get into WOTF.  The workshop was like a giant Wordos marathon, only with more professional advice.

What I learned was that I could pound out a rough draft of a 4000 word story in in less than 24 hours.  Writing it was scary, because we had to interview a stranger as a character prompt.  My stranger was a kind of homeless, down on his luck, hot-chocolate loving, fifty-something art-dealer theologian.

I could follow some of his rambly connections very easily and  throughout our conversation I kept thinking, "Oh crap; we sound like we've started in similar places and what do I need to do so I don't turn into some shabby, damaged prophet, mumbling a burnt-out vision to himself in the streets?"  Considering how this Ghost of Christmas Future kept sitting in the middle of the story I was feverishly trying to write, I'm amazed I produced any manuscript at all.

What I learned is that writing is a business, and that there's a lot of competition.  Charles Brown sat  down with us, and the first words as he looked around the room were, "Out of the twelve of you sitting here, only one or two of you are going to make it."

This was followed later in the day by a moment where I overheard a hotel hallway conversation.  Another hotel guest asked a big name author who all the folks in tuxedos were (we were getting fitted).  And the author said, "This is part of the Writers of the Future contest; these folks are all writers."

"Oh! Writers!  And who are you?"  the guest asked.  "Are you famous?  Have I read you?"  I could imagine her reaching into her purse for a pen and pad to autograph.

The big name author told her who he was.  "I write science fiction and fantasy."

"Oh," she said, obviously let down he wasn't Stephen King, Tom Clancy, or John Grisham.  It was obvious she didn't read the genre and she'd never heard of the author before.

I let myself into my room, thinking, "And let this be a lesson unto you."

I learned that it's good for my mental health to hang out and talk with other writers.

I learned I should have started banging out a novel as soon as I had heard the news I'd placed in WOTF so I could have a draft of the manuscript to hand out to various folks and agents.

I learned that KD Wentworth remembered "Briallan Dreaming of Myrmidons," "Skies of Dreaming," "Sky Dance," and "The Colossus of Rhodes" -- stories that had made it to semi-finalist status in previous years -- and we had a great conversation about writing, editing, and submissions.  The woman who had been a gatekeeper became a new friend.

Mark and The Child came down for the ceremony, as did my parents.  The ceremony was kind of cheesy, but I loved it anyway.   And it was validating; instead of wondering what the heck I was doing, my family could now say, "Well, he's an award-winning author."

There was a lunar eclipse, which wasn't the most visible from the hotel, shining the the sky of LA.

Oct 2007.  Damon and I appeared briefly on the local TV station to talk about our stories in Writers of the Future.  It was part of a four month period of book signings up and down the Willamette Valley.  Damon and I had a lot of fun, and I learned how to hawk books.

Shortly afterward, I took a break from being the Wordos chair.  About four years prior,  Jerry Oltion wanted a break from running the Wordos meetings.  He called a meeting of various folks and because I was so consistent about attending that I got dubbed key-holder.  For the next couple of years, I was part of a triumvir consisting of Eric Witchey, Jay Lake and myself.  and then the next thing I knew I was facilitating the meetings.   And then gas prices went up  and folks from out of town stopped coming to Eugene for Wordos messages and for a while I was running things solo.  But I was done facilitating, and I took a break from the Wordos.

November 2007.  A particularly poorly attended CUUPs ritual was a wake-up call that the honeymoon with UUCE was over.  Clearly, I was doing something wrong, because I wasn't attracting a consistent core group of Neo-Pagans.

Neither Ronald Hutton nor Margot Adler clones had appeared for deep theological discussions or numinous moments.  Many women dropped out of CUUPs to pursue a multi-week, women-only, program entitled "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven."  And, while they were warmly interested, many of the regular Sunday going UUCE members were more focused on Neo-Paganism as part of a cultural diversity course.

Into this vacuum crept prosperity-focused folks, and before long we were having rituals about writing "prosperity checks" and "reclaiming your personal power."

Around this time UUCE hired a settled minister, who everyone had high hopes for, but who ultimately (to put it kindly) did not work out.   I'd thought, based on some of the things he had said, that he would engender a sense of wonder and worship with regard to the natural world; unfortunately, that never panned out.

November 21, 2007.  I had a fun time being a panelist at OryCon.  I had so much fun dancing Saturday night, I managed to get really sick.

December 2007.  For my 43rd birthday, Mark decorated the house as if it were Savoré ("Tea the Way It Used to Be").  He dressed up like a French waiter, put lovely linens on the tables, and served tea, sandwiches and petit fours.   At some point we realized The Child had pilfered quite a few petit fours and moved them to a higher table. 

2007 was the Year of the Gay Pagan Writer.  It felt like my writing career was picking up, and even if Neo-Pagan events had fizzled a little at the end, the year started out strong.

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