Brief Update on the Agent Pitch

Regarding yesterday’s post on missed opportunities:

Guess whose pitch went well enough that the agent, looking for authentic female voices who also has background in working with Autistic children as a volunteer…greenlighted this person to send her the full novel?  Not chapters.  Not an outline and a chapter a two.  The full novel?

(This is agent speak for: this particular project, I really do want to see and I’m not on the fence about whether or not I want to see it.)

She seemed very nice and nurturing enough (she literally said she doesn’t like to give up on an author if she keeps believing in him or her, even if they have to change direction sometime) that she might be a good fit for me.  She also seems to be kind and gentle enough that she might have actually developed relationships with editors in such a way that she stands out.  I know New York can be rough; a Midwesterner selling a Midwestern book (she’s sold to all the majors) might be a welcome contact for them in terms of being treated pleasantly, but firmly.

It’s early, and the actual book might not be a fit for her, but I felt blessed to even move to the next step.

This time, I know we moved forward because of my Autism, and not in spite of it, since we spent quite a bit of time talking about what adult Autism looks like and how it can manifest in the novel without completely revealing itself.  There is something quite beautiful about that.

 

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, writing

Missed Opportunities: Why I am Underemployed

I’ve mentioned, before, that I’m doing a job for which I would be paid at least triple what I’m making now, with full benefits when I now have none, if I could work in public schools.

I’m not unhappy I landed in Catholic ed., but even then there are different types of Catholic school jobs.   I’m meant to lead the outcasts.  On the plus side, we are the only school in town that would be actually making a difference because we are arming our kids to move into the middle class and self-advocate.  We take the time to find the right place to succeed.

But on the other hand, the lack of compensation and access to health insurance at a better price than on the health insurance market (our premium just doubled, and we were struggling to afford the price that it was to begin with) is stressful and takes its toll on my health.  Among Autistics, this problem is somewhat normal as many of us are underemployed.  We can find a job, but it’s the best we can do since the primo jobs are saved for people who can navigate the social structures better than we can, so we continue to struggle.

Here are times I had chances at better jobs, but simply couldn’t land them.

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Posted in writing

Emotions and Writing

Another archival piece coming back:

My Monday class was a bit unusual.  We were supposed to identify emotions and how they appear.

I had no idea it would be a major big deal.

This is funny because it’s not that Autistics don’t have emotions; we do, but no one ever thinks about how we are taught to express emotions and to interpret these emotions.  It’s not overt, but neurotypicals can typically pick up this stuff without too much difficulty (side note: I wrote “humans” in this sentence where I swapped it out for neurotypicals.  Funny how that slipped out there).   My teacher seems to think that people just “know” this stuff.  She made us list some emotions and then put us into groups to show the outward and inward feelings.  As in, what does your body do and what it looks like to others. Fortunately, my partner for the activity was in my blogging class and is a teacher, so not only does she know I’m Autistic, but found the whole thing hilarious with me (laughter is the socially acceptable interpretation of the feeling you get when you realize you’re being asked to do something that your Disability makes quite difficult as if it’s easy) that I would be trying to “interpret” emotions.  She picked “sadness” for us because she figured out, somewhat intuitively, that happy/sad/mad are easier emotions to interpret.  My son, when he was diagnosed, could usually get happy no problem and sad if there was crying.  While I do better than that, she was right since I knew apathy and excitement might be difficult for me.

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Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, writing

Counterstorytelling: Crushing the Dominant Narrative by Telling our Own Stories

We have this otherwise banal hymn we do every so often in Catholic Masses that has this rather amazing chorus in terms of the words:

We come to share our story,
we come to break the bread,
we come to know our rising
from the dead.

At first glance, there’s not much here, but it’s really everything about the Mass.  For those who aren’t Catholic, we always do Mass in two parts (and we’re efficient as heck with it; when I was Lutheran, we didn’t do communion every Sunday, but when we did it took FOREVER, but I digress).  So, the first part is always story-telling.  We call it Liturgy of the Word.  We read two or three sections of the Bible and share part of the Psalms.  After the Liturgy of the Word, we have Liturgy of the Eucharist (the holy communion part).  What’s really neat, linguistically, about a Catholic Mass, is figuring out where all the words come from.  At one point, we had a poorer translation when it moved to English, for example, and said “Lord, I’m not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Sure, that was LITERALLY what we were preparing to do (remember, Catholics believe that the Eucharist IS the body/blood of Jesus, not a symbol).  Instead, we now say, “Lord, I’m not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”  If you know your Bible, you’ll know this is EXACTLY what Zaccheus said when Jesus picked him out of a crowd, sitting up in a tree so he could see Jesus walk by.  At every Mass, we tell our story, and we tell it over and over again.

If you’re a wordsmith, you can’t help to be fascinated by how various faith traditions share their stories whenever they gather together.  It’s their story for them and also to explain to all comers.

I know I’m losing some of the non-religious of you out there, but stick with me.  Let me tell you a little story that I saw recently.  Have a look here if you want the whole thing.  I must admit it originated in Buzzfeed, apparently, but I’m willing to buy it happened because it’s the kind of thing that HAPPENS.

So, Marlee Matlin, award-winning Deaf actress goes up for a role in which the character is (wait for it) Deaf.  The role later goes to a hearing person.  They later have the audacity to ask Matlin to coach the actress in “how to be Deaf.”  What was interesting was, when this was posted on The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, the first comments were that “well, maybe she wasn’t the best fit for the part.”  Maybe she wasn’t, but shouldn’t a Deaf actor play a Deaf character?  Matlin would likely have coached a Deaf actress who was new or feeling apprehensive about how the hearing audience might “read” her Deafness even if she didn’t get the part herself.  This would be an inoffensive request.  But to ask her to help someone pretend to be Deaf, which comes with it a culture, a community, and even its own freaking language (btw, American Sign Language (ASL) is not “translated English”…have a look at this great story to get a feel for how the language looks, in print form: http://www.deafpoetssociety.com/raymond-luczak-prose; we were fan-girling (and fan-boying) over this in editing class; it’s a good story, not just a “gimmick”).  So, yeah, it’s like saying, well, we needed a Black actress, but we decided a white actress would be fine here, and we’ll find some Black actress to teach her how to be Black.

So, it’s not cool.

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Posted in writing

Autism and “Shitty First Drafts”

I’ve read Anne Lamott’s ever-handed-out chapter from Bird by Bird called “Shitty First Drafts” many times and also read the entire book.  They throw it at you constantly when you’re learning writing.  Before I realized I was Autistic, I nodded and smiled and figured I was supposed to accept this as sage advice.

But…the problem is, I didn’t need it.

Let me stop you before you think: oh, she thinks her writing is somehow perfect the first time.

I don’t think that.  But I’ve noticed I come to accept “good enough for this project” a lot more than most people.  That said, before I was Autistic, I worked on a novel for over a decade.  Same one.  Taking it apart, redoing it constantly.  I realized I was Autistic this year, and finished it up fully and I am reasonably satisfied I can now revise it.  Not take it apart a million times for another decade, but revise it.  It’s in the drawer now because I’ll have to polish the first 50 pages of it for my “thesis” (final project) in the spring of 2017, but to polish it, I need to have it DONE now, and I do.  I can move onto something else while that rests.  I’m being somewhat pragmatic; I know I have risk of melt-down or being overwhelmed at some point, but I accept that it must be done.  I have gotten used to planning around my husband and son, who both have unusual times where they need help (like any Autistic family) and I know now that I’ll have my own times when I’m not productive, so while the productivity strikes, I gotta work.

Anyway, If you’re not familiar with the “Shitty First Drafts” piece, it goes over how Anne Lamott truly struggles to write.  Yes, a published author struggles.  Yes, it is hard.  We are meant to feel better.

I don’t, though.

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