My NaNoWriMo, voicing, and cultural musings

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I successfully made it through all of November without a single blog post!  

Was I busy writing a novel in a month, like many other writer friends of mine?  

No.  I was actually taking a break from my usual writing-like-crazy to let other people do the writing-like-crazy.  I submitted my latest book to a literary agency that prefers exclusive reading time and have been just—waiting.

The waiting has been good, though, as you saw in my last post about making blocks for my toddler.  I made blocks, then I sewed the entire inside and outside of a handbag, painted stars on a new Ergo baby carrier, sewed a tank top for myself, sewed patches onto pants, sewed some other things.  You get the picture.  I’ve been crafty this November, and waiting ever patiently to hear from the agents (which is probably the only time I am able to be patient).  

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I am reaching that point where I feel like I’m sitting on my hands all the time to stop myself from writing, though,—because—the only thing I wish to write is the second installment of my YA science fiction trilogy.  But I’ve learned my lesson from literary agents and the “Big 6” publishing houses already.  Never write the second book in a trilogy unless you’re pretty confident the first is going to get published NOW.  

Only last year at this time, I was in the throes of editing the first volume of a YA Urban Fantasy trilogy.  I wrote the first draft of that book during Nanowrimo 2010, while sailing south from Block Island, Rhode Island, to Key West, Florida.  It was a mess of a story about a wolf girl journeying from New Hampshire to New York and then passing in and out of stories.  I put it down when I discovered I was pregnant in January of 2011, and didn’t start editing it until November of that year.  

The single volume turned into a complex trilogy about fairy tales, myths, and the doors between reality and stories.  Werewolves escape their stories and a wolf girl named Blue has to put them back.  I sent the 6th draft of that book out and it wasn’t finished—I needed much more world building, I needed to know what all the action of this book was leading to, I needed to know my characters better.  So I did 9 more drafts of it and resubmitted it in April of 2013.

By this time, however, the “Big 6” publishers (who I sometimes imagine as six mythological gods sitting around a round table discussing what would be popular next year and what would absolutely not) had decided that werewolves were out and so were shapeshifters that turned into wolves.  I knew that my story was great, but if the “Big 6” said it wasn’t the right time for it, then I knew that only smaller presses would even consider publishing it.  It made me sad to put that trilogy aside, but I feel pretty confident in the fact that wolves will resurface someday—and in 5 or 10 years, I would probably rip up that story and write something vastly different, but it’s okay.  Sometimes that’s what happens.  As writers, we can’t stop growing and changing and making decisions based on what is important to us.  

I feel in my heart that my current project is going to get published.  But I don’t have the heart to start writing the second book right now—not because I am uncertain the first will get published—but because I realize the whole agent and publishing process will change this first book into something else…which will change what happens in the second.  

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So—what do I do with my time now?  

Lately, I’ve been devouring the brilliant science fiction Ender Series and reading some more contemporary paranormal YA like Everlost, the first book of the Skinjacker Trilogy.  

I’ve been dreaming of the second book of my science fiction trilogy and adding little notes about it to my Index Cards iPad app that allows me to just throw a bunch of scenes and pieces of storyline together—so that I can sit like Dumbledore staring into the pensive as the details rearrange themselves into what they are supposed to become.  I often feel like my characters are telling me their story, not the other way around.

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Aside from the writing, I am going through some inner cultural conflicts.

I am back to thinking about not wanting to voice again.  

I go through this every few months or so.  I am Deaf, but I went deaf in my teens, and I still have enough hearing to hear some voices and sounds and to be able to speak clearer English than most hearing people (because I grew up with a deaf mother who lip reads, so I needed to annunciate my words very carefully from a young age).  I love voicing, too, because I love using the English language, my first language.  

My deafness, however, makes it so that any social interactions with other people are hard if they are not in ASL.  When I voice, I am not just meeting hearing people half-way and asking them to meet me half-way in our communication.  I am bending over backwards for them, making it so that it’s easy for them to know what I am saying.

The problem is—that doesn’t make it any easier for me to hear them.  And it makes them want me to lip read, which is exhausting and it gives me headaches.  But they hear me talking and they automatically want to talk back.  It’s a natural response, so I don’t blame them for it.  

But if I start the whole conversation with writing on a notepad, or typing on our cell phones, then we’re on the same page from the start.  We’re BOTH typing to each other, we’re both communicating in written English.  The communication is balanced—it is equal.  

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I know these things, but when I go home to my parent’s house and I see my family, I am pulled back into hearing culture and voicing.  Most of the women in my family, even the other deaf ones, speak loudly and tell stories.  Dramatic, repetitive storytelling is a huge part of American Italian culture and I’m not outside of its compelling influence.  When I want to tell a story, even to my partner (who is hearing but knows ASL), my first instinct is to tell it the way my grandmother does—in English with wild gestures (though now, my hands move with ASL signs instead).  

When I am especially excited, I probably sound like other bilinguals (who might yell something in English and then yell more in Spanish or Russian), but I’m even more confusing because sometimes I yell in English and ASL at the same time, ripping something away from each language by mashing them together, but illustrating how divided I am at the same time.

I can speak volumes faster than I can sign, which is what I am hoping to change as my toddlers becomes an older child.  I want him to be as fluent in ASL and I wish I could be and I want to never feel like I need to voice with him.  

And I want to remember to STOP VOICING with him NOW.  

I am Deaf, but I used to be hearing.  When I go to sleep, sometime I dream in ASL, and sometimes I can hear and I dream in spoken English.  

I’m writing these struggles out there for all the other people who I am sure are also straddling cultures, whether it is French and American cultures, or Eastern and Western cultures, or hearing and Deaf cultures.  

We’re all different.  And we’re all beautiful and ugly in our own unique ways.  I don’t think any of us should ever stop learning about other cultures, but sometimes it’s good to remember and honor (all) the cultures we belong to, however they may conflict inside of us.  

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One response »

  1. Hi Kristen, thank you for your post, I found it after reading the article about your sea-faring life, which I loved. My husband Ben, who is friends with Rob, had pointed it out to me. I always meant to contact you after Rob had visited us this Summer, but never got around to it. So here I go!
    Your blog post puts beautifully in words what bothers me as well. I am trying to teach my three year old daughter and my baby son German, because of all the warm words that vibrate through the room and bring back childhood memories, especially now during Adventszeit, before Christmas. They give me strength and guidance on what do with these kids when we need a little coziness at the end of a long day. But Anna doesn’t really understand German, she is growing up in Rhode Island and goes to day care were the other kids speak English or Hebrew. She sometimes voices some words in German, and it breaks my heart if I can’t understand her at all. Books recommend to always stick to one language, but I don’t have the energy to speak only in German to her. I wonder if it is harder for people who love words and languages. I heard of other moms who manage to speak to their kids just in their native language. My problem is that it feels inadequate and irrelevant to speak German in Rhode Island. I am writing and speaking English for work, and I want to share the English words of the day with my daughter as well. Words that will be more relevant for her own reality. How do you talk about the day in a American city with words from another continent? I figure she can always learn it when we visit my family in Germany, some time in the distant future. And then I have days like today, were my brain decides to glide into effortlessly speaking German while fixing dinner and lighting the candles on the Adventskranz, and I would like to give it a try. I guess, what I am trying to say is that having the gift of two fluent languages makes me want to share it, but I am often too tired to use any one language perfectly in front of my kids. And it further complicates the matter that the languages are mapped to my own history. I never speak German in my sleep anymore, I have been living in the US for nine years, since I met my husband and grumpily decided to stay. I gave up my voice for love and I still haven’t mastered my English one. My reality with my children is often a mischmasch of sentences from both German and English, chosen for relevance and effect. I fear that I will end up like when, as a child, I kneaded all my colorful play-dough together and it became a irrevocable shade of industrial grey. – Well, right now Anna is in full-blown toddler tantrum mode every day, so Movie-German would probably be more useful to yell when she gets out of bed all night for the n-th time. What sounds better? “Hoer auf!” or “Stop it!”? : )

    Like

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