Slow Going

At this point in my life, I know better than to bother with New Years resolutions. I’m perfectly aware that I should make an effort to be healthier, but also that I don’t really have the time or energy to focus on it. That’s a personal failing, and also a problem for Future Nicole. Future Nicole is not much a fan of Past Nicole, but Present Nicole just has to live with that.

It’s been slow going on a few fronts. Last year I had my first literary nonfiction published in a journal, which was a huge source of pride for me – it even won a prize! One of my few goals for 2018 is to get another piece published. I have plans to resubmit some writing I submitted last year that wasn’t accepted by any publications, which I’ve since revised. I’m also trying to rework a couple Alexandria Archives stories and hoping I get a bite on those. And I’d like to be able to produce some new pieces with the intention of submitting them to particular publications, only that’s been kind of dragging. Actually, it’s more like dead in the water. I can’t seem to get past titling a Google Doc. It’s really frustrating, considering that I can bang out an episode script or short story for the Archives in maybe a couple days. And that novel I keep meaning to finish? Yeah, that’s not going anywhere either. I feel like my writing has changed since we started the podcast. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s affected how I go about the process in general. I’ve always been a fan of genre lit, and it’s a little hard to move past that. I wish it was taken a little more seriously by publications. But I also know I need to achieve balance as a writer, and that’s totally on me. Learning to flex my skills can only help me grow.

Speaking of podcasting, remember that podcast that The Spork Review and I were working on? The one that was supposed to launch in November? That didn’t happen. To be fair, I should’ve known better – Skye and I were both pretty busy with the holidays. In addition to family commitments I’ve been working two jobs, and Skye has a lot of professional responsibilities that eat a lot of her time. We also had a slew of technical errors, ranging from malfunctioning mics to editing snafus. But at long last, we’ve got an episode recorded! With the help of the incomparable Uri Sacharow of the Alexandria Archives we got some editing done and are in the purchase of acquiring hosting, cover art, and some theme music. After that, we’ll be submitting to iTunes and Stitcher for approval. Then, at long last, Youth Services 099 will be an actual thing that people can listen to! Of course we’ll have some kinks to iron out, but I’m looking forward to watching the show develop and hopefully gain some momentum. We’re already active on Instagram and Twitter and with luck we’ll be able to keep up with things. I’m crossing my fingers that this is a successful venture.

As for the Archives, I feel like we’ve kind of plateaued as a show. It’s not a bad thing – our download numbers are good, and we’ve managed to get a decent following on social media. We knew going into this that we were unlikely to achieve the success of some bigger shows, and we were okay with that. Our primary goal was to highlight some awesome horror shorts, and I feel like we’ve definitely done that. Recently I had a chat with the guys about where to take the show from here, and we see it evolving somewhat before it draws to a close. When we first started, we didn’t know where exactly we were going to take things…we just figured we’d let them unfold for a while and figure it out from there. Now, we have a concrete endgame in mind. It’s a little scary, but overall I’m satisfied with what we’ve done here. Mostly I’m happy that it’s not going to be the end for us. I like working with Uri and Aaron too much to have it stop with the Archives. We’ve got a couple projects in mind after things wrap up and I’m looking forward to them already. Here’s hoping you are, too!

Book Review -The Female of the Species, Mindy McGinnis

My reading has slowed down a lot in recent years. I guess as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten slower, or maybe I just don’t have the time I used to. Point is, it’s been years since I read a  book in one sitting…possibly since undergrad, even. Then my former housemate Ashley, a teen programming librarian, suggested I check out The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis.

I picked this book up at the library on my way home from work. By 8:30 that night I’d finished it. I was left sitting in my bed unsure of what to do with myself until I decided to go to sleep. The Female of the Species follows three teens in a small Ohio town. There’s Alex, whose older sister Anna was murdered just a few years earlier; Big Man on Campus Jack, the boy all the other boys want to be; and Peekay, the preacher’s kid.

Anna’s violent death was Alex’s baptism by fire into a violent life.  It becomes almost all she knows – hurting, being hurt, avoiding being hurt. But there are cracks in the facade, and that’s where Peekay and Jack make their entrance. Peekay is introduced as the preacher’s sort of “wild child” daughter, though none of her behavior could really be called wild in today’s world. She drinks, she smokes, she fools around with her boyfriend, and she’s honestly a decent kid. The same could be said of Jack, who comes across as your average teenage guy. He’s good at sports, he has a decent relationship with his parents, and he has a somewhat tumultuous relationship with the school’s “easy” girl.

Alex and Peekay volunteer at the animal shelter, a job that’s presented with surprising realism. They don’t just get to play with cute puppies and kittens all day – they’re the ones who get called when someone dumps a bag of dead pups on the side of the road, and they have to watch as animals languish neglected and unwanted day after day. Meanwhile Jack, desperate to save up enough to get out of town, works at the local slaughterhouse. Our protagonists are thrown together their senior year with explosive consequences.

To quote Ashley,  I’ve never seen the idea of “boys will be boys” presented so elegantly. Mistakes are made, and it’s the young and vulnerable ones who are left struggling to choose to do the right thing when they’re not even sure they’re worth the trouble. The hardest part is, there’s no “big baddie” to hate. Even the villains, McGinnis takes pains to explain, are people who made bad choices. The end of this novel hit me like a punch to the gut and left me reeling. It was like taking a swig of good whiskey – satisfying, but oh did it burn on the way down. I can’t remember the last time I read anything like it. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I have before.

I give Mindy McGinnis’s The Female Species 5/5 stars, and welcome it into the Devastator’s Book Club, an arrangement by which myself and several friends attempt to outdo each other with heartbreaking fiction. Seriously, read this book! You won’t regret it.