25 August 2010

What's your {life} color palette?

Hair dye packaging. Quilting fabric. Cosmetic color forecasts. Paint store swatches. Just a few of my favorite things. I like how a few smart words dressed up in the right clothes can make or break a deal. I love how word and image combined bring out delicious, unexpected combinations. I love embellished details and color blooms against monochromes.

While embarking on my Style Journal, I noticed a synchronicity between what caught my eye as a handbag designer and textile worshiper and my most recent (and patiently waiting in the wings) quilting project.


Chromophobia (FOCI)Chromophobia, by David Batchelor, is an excellent read on the history of color. Orange. Russet. Fire engine red. Party pink. Deep turquoise. Magenta. Ochre. Beige. Love me and leave me heart stopping yellow (as a dear friend and I agreed, why didn't we know how amazing yellow was until recently?). I'm a blissful chromofanatic. Looking around I see bright red couches. A turquoise water glass. My blog colors emblazoned on my curtains.

Who's hiding in the curtains? Hmm.

What's in your color palette and does it overlap with the rest of your life?

19 August 2010

Monsters, irascible inner critics, and Merilee

"Hybrids are used to strengthen the homogeneous. Grafting different orchids together makes flowers nobody has ever seen before. Cross-pollinating makes hardier fruits and vegetables. Hybrid cars are more energy efficient. Not one, or the other. Both. Conjoined. The hybrid/monster can be sensed even from the shadows. Poison Ivy left behind her traces of vanilla scent. The snakes in Medusa’s hair hissed." 

 Sezin Koehler, from a hybrid/MONSTER manifesto

When I read The Fluent Self, I find myself enmeshed in Havi's language, the way she talks to monsters like inner critics, doubts, and fears. I've been hanging out with my inner writing critic since I started writing stories on yellow legal paper in this maroon recliner in our farmhouse over two decades ago. I discarded the stories over and over because I didn't like how I had written the words. I didn't like how the words looked. I was obsessed with perfect transcription and had no idea that a first draft could be messy and alive.

I think about the 9-year-old me who threw crumpled pieces of paper on the floor because she thought writers were always surrounded by their maimed, discarded thoughts. The opposite of cultivating a creative life.

Once proud of moving overseas with only a few suitcases, I now have stuff spilling over. And not just physical stuff, but also taking time to work on things that I love, building in quiet time into my otherwise bell-clanging-kid-filled day. Words fill up space. Ideas fill up space. Sometimes our own thoughts seem insurgent to the ones before them and that thinking takes up space. How do we live with conflicting ideas? Mediate

I'm in the middle of making 1,600 words a day for thirty days come to life. These run-at-full-tilt-projects are what keep me energized and fueled up.

It's a lot easier to take a break from my irascible inner critic thanks to the 15-year-old girl in my head telling me what to do. Not my adolescent self. Merilee. The girl in my NaNoWriMo novel who's father writes eulogies for a living and who's in love with a celebrity. Totally not my thing to write about celebrities - it's all Merilee's doing.

And then there's this other way of looking at monsters: Sezin Koehler's collaborative hybrid/Monster project is a glimpse into how letting the shadowy side of our selves be visible can create rich, creative, multifarious ideas of beauty.

What are your monsters, and do they ever help you discover something wonderful? 

11 August 2010

Voice lessons from a hybrid ambassador

HYBRID AMBASSADORSa blog-ring project of Dialogue2010
You met our multinational cultural innovators this spring in a roundtable discussion of hybrid life at expat+HAREM. Now in these interconnected blog posts they share reactions to a recent polarizing book promotion at SheWrites. Join the discussion on Twitter using #HybridAmbassadors or #Dialogue2010

Every day, from my Twitter stream to my blog reader, there’s a controversial topic that captures my attention. Poised on the edge of typing in a heated response or writing a blog post in reaction, my surety wavers. I’m at a precipice, knowing that if I chose to go further, I commit publicly to an idea or a belief that is part of a larger mosaic of my online identity.

I acknowledge that my words could leave a trail of anger and resentment or a digital footprint of critical thinking, empathy, and support.

Can I admit that sometimes I don't know when to jump in or when to watch from the sidelines? That insecurity surfaces when I feel my voice isn't loud enough? Or would be silenced before it is given a chance to be heard?

Case in point a Countdown to Publication post on SheWrites by author Lori L. Tharps. The platform gives Lori, and other selected writers, an audience of 10,000 plus women with whom to share their progress marketing and publishing their books. In Wanted: White Ambassadors to Help Me Cross Over, Lori appeals to white women to promote her book because of the publishing industry's failure to market their writers of color to white audiences. Segregated bookshelves are a reality. SheWrites Advisory Board member and author Tayari Jones writes about 'The Colored Section' in a guest post on Maud Newton, part of a reader-led discussion.

The problem was the how, not why, though there are so many resources for authors promoting their work through platform building that I was surprised by the entreaty. Like 
this on artistic revolution, this on writers of the future, and this on interactions being personal, not business. Not surprising is that people read Lori's post and reacted personally. 

When some people spoke up about the awkward, jocular tone of the post, their reaction was interpreted as being an attempt to humiliate the author, an unwillingness to support her, and a reluctance to engage in a discussion on race. Others pointed out they wanted to help Lori, but were critical of her casual conclusion that 'if you're white and you like these authors, you might like my book, and if you do, your other white friends might like it, too.' Those critics were seen as infringing on Lori's right to free speech. Only those who heartily agreed to tell their white friends about the book were applauded. Anyone who brought up alternative ways to spread the word about her work was called a 'detractor' and told to keep their thoughts to themselves. The comment section was rife with disquiet. 

Featured homepage content, like Countdown to Publication, is considered proprietary to SheWrites. "White Ambassadors" is on its Facebook Wall and was included in its newsletter. Lori's post is endorsed by SheWrites at the same time that their second credo is "community has the power to nurture and sustain creativity."

What if what is perceived as a negative comment is actually a call to action by people who want to support you? Why the slap on the wrist by other commenters to the people who wanted to bring in a perspective they felt was missing from the post?


Lori L. Tharps's forthcoming novel Substitute Me is about two women with lives that are in contrast - in other words, rich/poor, black/white, though it's claimed neither to be a 'black' or 'white' story, but a story about women. She describes it as a tale of "modern-day motherhood" that "all women can relate to." 

There's no way all mothers everywhere get along and have the same ideas of motherhoodAnd if the book's about womanhood, why the outdated idea that women and babies always go together in the same sentenceFor a writer who's steeped in the nuances of being outside the dominant majority, has traveled the world, married a Spaniard, is raising biracial kids, wrote the acclaimed Kinky Gazpacho and co-authored Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, the generalizations about who her readers might be are surprising. As Chimamanda Adichie says, the problem with stereotypes is not that they aren't true, but that they are "half the story," and the single story "emphasizes how we are different, rather than how we are similar."

I didn't comment. Fear of being lambasted by other SheWrites members stopped me. One contrarian was called "uncivil" for objecting to the breezy, cheeky feel of the post. It could have been an enlightening dialogue on publishing and 'culture collide,' like on Lori's interesting and contemplative blog, but instead it was on upholding polarity as a life and work model.  The publishing industry has changed and it means more authors can take matters into their own hands instead of relying on traditional publishing models. Being resigned to "the way things are" is a sign of not believing in your own power.  If you want word of mouth promotion, you need your readers to love your voice and not feel alienated by it.

Hybrids know what it is like to not fit in anywhere, or to have a delicate sense of fitting in at any one time.

Maybe that's why the White Ambassadors post stings so much - it makes the worn out conjecture that everyone subscribes to a binary way of life. 
It is a bleak reminder that assumption about inclusion in a group based on the color of one's skin is still the elephant in the room

At the Women and Work conference held in March in Turin, Italy, on the anniversary of the first women's conference in 1910, I joined more than twenty women bloggers from emerging nations to talk about ways to bridge our differences through social media. Rather than deepen divisions, we mapped new territory with excitement and first-hand experience that unifying can lead to change and growth. 
Which is why I'm speaking up. This is in my own neighborhood, after all. I'm using my voice to draw attention to what I think was a missed opportunity to garner wide-ranging perspectives and to forge one's own path instead of doing the expected. 

I'm sorry, Lori, I didn't do what you asked. I went out and told all of my friends about your book. 

More thoughts on this subject from fellow HYBRID AMBASSADORS:
Catherine Yiğit's Special-ism
Anastasia Ashman's Great White People Book Club
Sezin Koehler's Whites Only?
Tara Lutman Ağaçayak's Circles

Catherine Bayar's Thicker Skin
Judith van Praag's We Write History Today
Elmira Bayraslı's The Color of Writing
Jocelyn Eikenburg's The Problem with "Chinese Food"

03 August 2010

Eat, Pray, Love - and Leave

What does leaving home to 'find oneself' mean if you don't go back home? 

I was captivated reading Eat, Pray, Love. I'm eager to see the movie starring Julia Roberts if and when it comes to Turkey because I love a good story of transformation. It's akin to the feeling I get when reading coming of age novels - a sense of cheering for the neophyte when life lessons are learned and the world feels a little bit bigger and better. 

The book Everything is Going to Be Great by Rachel Shukert came to my attention after reading her essay in the Wall Street Journal on her memoir of her time in Europe. The fact she references and criticizes Eat, Pray, Love makes me think it'll be the not-so-feel-good version of EPL. There is another similarity between the books, though, beyond two women setting off on an adventure of self-discovery abroad.  

Both writers eventually go back home.  

Rachel Shukert's website describes the book as being about "reality-adjusting culture shock that every twentysomething faces when sent off to negotiate "the real world"—whatever that may be." Culture shock. Sending off to negotiate the real world. Those are familiar concepts to me. But rather than "whatever that may be" what about "wherever" that may be? It could be an internal shift, a change in how one looks at the world that is untethered to location 

Do stories of self-finding and transformation only resonate with us if the protagonist goes back home?  

What if Elizabeth Gilbert had decided to stay in Bali indefinitely, no traipsing back and forth to the US except for holidays? Would we have loved her story as much? Would the transformation ring as true? Why can't I shake the notion that leaving the places you "discovered" yourself in is akin to shaking off a too-needy lover? Get what you want and then leave? The flip side of that question would be why would you stay if the feeling is gone? I admit it leaves me wondering.  

I explore transformation in my post 5 Years in Turkey and 5 Insights. Anastasia Ashman talks about creatives surviving and thriving abroad. Catherine Yigit in Mercury Brief explores being an expat mother in a legendary historical town without an expat community. Tara Lutman Agacayak lists the ten (more) things she learned living in Turkey. There are turning points and transformation stories that have nothing to do with crossing the finish line of returning home.  

What's yours?

Thanks to My Dog Ate My Blog, this post at Love, Rose was mentioned in a discussion on the perpetual pursuit of happiness