Why I Write: A Continuation

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Somewhere around the end of December 2014/January 2015, my life started unraveling. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. A lapsed control freak, one might say. In other words, I knew how to chill. I had a strong group of loyal friends, I knew how and when to take time for myself, and a few Bs (or Cs) had never really hurt me. So, by the end of 2013, I was in a great place. 2014 was to be the year of me. And it was. Mostly. Had I really paid attention as I entered the fall of my senior year, I would’ve noticed the warning signs. But I wouldn’t be a control freak (even a lapsed one) if I was able to easily assess and say to myself, “woah, girly…slow the fuck down.” Guess what? I kept chugging along. My senior fall was supposed to be the semester I let shit go. I was going to ONLY be involved in the clubs I deeply cared about, I would focus on my publishing work, and I would write. I was going to write a ton. Well, none of that happened. I took on officer positions I shouldn’t have. I didn’t focus enough on my coursework. I was drowning, and I refused to admit it. Oh, and not to mention I developed this HUGE lesbian crush on one of my closest college friends. That friendship developed into a best/bro-friendship. We stayed up until 1-3 AM every morning, watching TV, talking, basically suppressing our feelings for each other while also denying the other responsibilities/personal care (ahem, sleep) we owed ourselves.

**As a small note, this weird friendship didn’t really develop until halfway through the semester…the first half of the semester was great, the rest was the beginning of the end… (I’m not dramatic at all, right?)

Well, I crashed. Over winter break I didn’t do much writing. If you go through this blog you’ll see I didn’t really post. I did, however, Skype with said best friend every night. And because I can’t hold onto things/this story needs a silver lining, I’ll “spoil” the ending and say we’re now dating. (Hallelujah, right? … Our friends were getting real tired of the teenage angst and longing and denial we were both displaying.) Anyway, back to the crash. For this to all make sense, I should mention that I’ve dealt on/off with depression and anxiety since I was a little girl. That being said, for the most part, I hadn’t had anything happen since the winter after my first year in college. Again, I still thought I was in a good place. I didn’t seek the help I needed, and, because I’d stopped writing/didn’t have the motivation to write, anymore, I no longer had an outlet for the emotions that sought to consume and drown me. I told myself I was fine and began my second, and final, semester in college. Zoe (my now girlfriend) and I started dating. And let me just say that she’s the real MVP. We were in bliss for about 1-2 weeks, maybe, before shit got real rough. And it means to world to me that she stayed by my side the entire time. I used to hate that I put her through all that, but now I realize it just means that I’ve found someone who won’t desert me when the going gets tough and who not only understands my mental health struggles but knows the danger signs. As she often said, I kept talking to her during her toughest moments and we weren’t even dating. And, as I often say, she’s not the person I imagined myself with for the long haul but she’s the perfect person for me. And, I assure you, she’s one of the main reasons I walked across our commencement stage in May.

Back to my shitty spring semester: Not only was I the officer in orgs, but I was also the president of one. I quit a few things but my pride wouldn’t let me step down from the others. Looking back, that was a half good/half bad decision as while my responsibilities tipped me over the edge they also kept me in contact with, well, people. I also didn’t tell many of my friends what was going on and because of that alienated myself from many of them. I finally broke down one morning in April and told one friend and she said, “I knew something was wrong, but because you didn’t say anything, I didn’t know what to say.” I get that, I really do. And to my friends, thank you for silently supporting me and for being there for me when I was ready to talk. But to those wishing to help a friend they know, or think, is suffering…I know how painful/awkward it can be but say something. Often we’re too afraid to tell the truth. My worst mistake, was not telling my parents until I was at risk of failing one of my classes (FYI, I didn’t!). I told myself I didn’t want to burden them. I told myself it was nothing. I said, “Patrice, you’re an adult, you need to handle this yourself. Most of all, as the oldest, I didn’t want my siblings to find out. So, because I didn’t have a therapist in Boston, I went to my school’s “Stone Center.” Literally, the worst experience. The therapist basically associated everything with senior stress and sadness over leaving behind my friends. *eyeroll* The sad thing is, I’m not the only one with a horrible experience there. The good thing is, they’re revamping the counseling and wellness center.

Telling my parents, telling my friends, was the best of decisions. The hardest thing is feeling alone in your struggle even though, in reality, you’re not.

It’s taken me a long time to pick up the pieces or rather, discard the pieces of my life that were burdensome, unnecessary. After I did, I realized I need writing back in my life. But not just writing, the writing community that has, in part, helped me over these past three years to become the writer, the informed citizen, woman I am today. I kinda had to desert everything, to lose nearly everyone in order for me to figure out what I really needed, what I really valued, and ultimately who I really am.

Sometimes I still feel trapped, sometimes I get down, and every once in a while I have panic attacks…I feel like I’m losing control all over again. But, I guess, the important thing to note is that I don’t have to be in control of every situation. I don’t need that anymore. My girlfriend has this look she gives me that basically says, “Patrice, you’re micromanaging me again.” And then I’ll step back, laugh a little, a go on a walk or something. Walking…that really helps.

And as for my worries, because worrying had a big hand in my breakdown, I can’t really say I worry less. But I can say that I’m getting better at distracting myself from all the things I’m worried about. Also, bit by bit, my major worries are going away. Zoe and I have found an amazing apartment in the city to sublet while we figure out where exactly we want to live, etc. I have an amazing job I start in late August (definitely more on it/the nonprofit I’m working for in the future), and I’m learning how to balance time for my family, my girlfriend, my friends, and ultimately myself.

So, why do I write? Or rather, why do I still write?

I write to feel less trapped, to be free. I write to explore vulnerability (which is a new, scary thing for me thanks to my relationship). I write to tell my stories. I’ve always had a “larger than average” imagination, and I’ve always loved to share my stories with others. I hope one day to be able to share my stories with the world, with people, with children and teens who desperately need them just as I desperately needed and clung to the stories I grew up reading and read. But, most of all, and something I keep reminding myself of, I write for myself. Because I need writing… To make me happy. To make me whole. To entertain myself and as a reminder that though the past never leaves, it doesn’t have to control what I do today.

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-Patrice

*View my first ‘Why I Write’ post*


The Fight is Finally Over? #LoveWins

alllgayeverywhereHey Readers! Long time no posting :D

I’ve been swamped in post-grad life (apartment hunting, job training, and exploring Boston even more now that I’ll be living in the actual city). As you’ve probably noticed, this blog is a hot mess. It’s still very much so under construction, but I couldn’t resist posting about the Supreme Court’s decision today.

YAY for GAY!!!

And while it seems like everyone is celebrate, I keep seeing all these posts talking about why the fight isn’t over and why this isn’t a victory at all. Now to this/people who say this I want to say a couple things:

1. It’s a fucking victory. As a queer woman of color from Texas it’s amazing to think that I can get married in my home state. Yes, I recognize it’s a privilege for that to even be on the table for me. Yes, I know that just being you have a marriage license doesn’t mean you’re “more legit.” Love is love, right? Right. But the thing is I like that I can give a big f-you to all those racist, sexist, homophobic assholes in my home state (and everywhere) who said this would never happen. AND, I know my very closeted younger self would be thrilled right now. It is for that reason I pretty much started crying in the middle of Roche Bros. (But actually.)

2. There is a lot of work left to do. On one hand you have the fact that marriage isn’t really an equal institution even for straight couples. There’s a lot of fucked up ideals holding up the “institution of marriage.” It’s still pretty sexist and racist and there’s a lot to unpack with “straight marriage” alone. And then there’s the fact that this idea of top-down change, passing things like marriage equality which are great for upper and middle class couples but not so great for everyone else (because there’s still racism and sexism and transphobia…).c669b873c6ab0980b004988578bbb17b

Change needs to happen from the bottom. Shit doesn’t trickle down. You have to deal with the biggest threat first and so while things like marriage equality, gender neutral bathrooms, and other “privileged” things my fellow Wellesley classmates like to debate are important, they don’t really enact change for all people. Just the lucky few who don’t have to deal with the fact that if they tell their parents they’re gay they might be kicked out of their home, or worse. I get that, I really do, it’s part of the reason I waited until I was finished with college to tell my mother I’m 1) gay and 2) have a girlfriend. And so for most people this isn’t a day of celebration.

3.And yet, there’s hope. Like I said, shit doesn’t trickle down but many of the people I know are dedicated, constantly working, advocating for the rights of more than just the lucky few. And most of us aren’t planning on giving up anytime soon. I believe in my lifetime I will see a lot of things such as more rights and protections and services for those who intersect multiple identities, for those whose only problem isn’t that they can’t get married. It might be, first, that they have no home. It’s really important for us to remember this when we speak of marriage equality. I don’t want to take this day/week, etc. of celebration away from anyone. I just want to say that while I disagree with those who say the SCOTUS decision isn’t important, I do agree that this only scratches at the surface.

So beautifully written, so true

So beautifully written, so true

For now, though I’m celebrating. It’s a privilege I have (a privilege many of you reading this have), and I know that. I’m celebrating for myself, now, but also for my younger self who would be surprised and so proud of the woman I’ve become. I think so often we’re so focused on what’s next that we don’t stop to celebrate the small stuff. This is one of the small things. Growing up in Texas, I never thought I’d see this day. And so even though there’s so much work to be done, though the fight, my fight is FAR from over, though black lives and bodies are still being violated, though undocumented queers face a lot of discrimination, though queer woman of color are often barely recognized when it comes to the “gay rights” movement, though I still don’t feel safe walking some places with my girlfriend or even mentioning I have one, I’m happy and I’m thankful to have this day.

#LoveWins

Best,

Patrice


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Dear Cinderella (2015), Where Are All the POC?

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Happy New Year, Readers! I can’t believe 2015 (the year I graduate college!!!) is finally here. As many of you probably noticed, I’ve been MIA for a while, but I’m fully recharged and thrilled to begin a new year. As such there’s something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest. I figured what better way to do so than to engage in a discussion, erm, rant with you. It all started last week when I went to see Into the Woods* with my family. Being the musical theater nerd I am, I was so excited to see one of my favorite musicals adapted for the “silver screen.” I loved it. Yes, it could’ve been better, but that’s not what we’re here to debate. Before the movie, there were the usual trailers and you know, Disney being Disney, they, of course, advertised some of their upcoming movies. One in particular caught my attention.

I’ll just leave this here for you to watch:

Pretty cool, right? I mean Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, and Richard Madden are among some of my favorite actors. Like, damn, that’s a cast. And, as a Cinderella fan, okay, someone who has literally seen every Disney Cinderella movie to to mention every other Cinderella movie, book, retelling, you get the point, I was freaking out over another Cinderella adaptation. Now, to be honest, Cinderella doesn’t really have a backbone. It’s not like she teaches girls to stand up for themselves or anything important like that but, hey, she’s an underdog…a poor girl who becomes a princess, what’s not to like about that?

Yet, at the same time, I freakin’ pissed. The case is 100% white. I’m going to assume straight and able-bodied, too (forgive me if I’m wrong). Wait, what, the Captain is black? (Who the heck is the Captain?) Oh, he’s Prince Charming’s friend? There’s a movie with a black friend? Haha, exactly my point.

Oh, wait, here are some more POC:

XXX CINDERELLA MOV JY 0333 .JPG A ENT GBR ENHint: They’re in the background. At this rate, I might have to reconsider my argument.

Now, because I know people, or rather, because I talk about POC/LGBT media and pop culture representation (or the lack thereof) a lot, I know what you’re thinking. What does it matter? It’s a just movie. Not to mention, it’s a universal story.

Well, let’s start with the first part of that: “What does it matter? It’s just a movie.”

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I present Exhibit A.

Now, go back to the trailer and that nice image of the ballroom scene, and then look at ‘Exhibit A’.

Remember this?

Well, just in case, it’s the movie adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (co-produced by Disney) with an extremely diverse AND talented cast (I mean, Whitney Houston, Brandy, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters, and Victor Garber together, folks!). Not to mention it won one Emmy and was nominated for six others.

The movie came out in 1997, so I saw it when I was little girl, and it was my everything. Scratch all of what I said about Cinderella not having a backbone or teaching real lessons (other than just be nice and keep wishing and your dreams will come true). This Cinderella adaptation had two interracial relationships at the center of the movie, taught about the importance of finding real love, and had an older black woman mentor a younger black woman who desperately needed guidance. It was so important for me, especially at such a young age, to see a musical that handled diversity as if it wasn’t a big deal. I did musical theater through middle and high school so much so that I almost studied it in college.There are only so many famous parts out there for black girls and with this movie-musical and, now Keke Palmer as Cinderella on Broadway, Cinderella became one of those roles I aspired to play.

Nothing is ever “just a movie.” And Disney being Disney knows that. As little girls, so many of us grow up watching their movies. Everyone wants to be a freaking princess. Disney movies shape AND change lives. And when you see, but especially when you don’t see representations of yourself in something as far-reaching as a Disney movie, it does affect you.

I spent years looking through “windows.”** In other words, I read and watched stories with white girls not just as the main character but as the secondary characters, too. I became skilled at finding ways to connect with them that wasn’t on racial or cultural lines. I’m not saying that’s not okay. What I’m saying is ALL children should be able to look at “the other” and see a connection. What I lacked, however, were “mirrors” or characters who looked like me, who shared my cultural heritage. I had a couple of those growing up (aside from slave narratives or civil rights activists), but they were few and far between.

Alright, then. You might still be waiting for me to address the universality of a film, a story like Cinderella.

As I touched on earlier, everyone should have the ability to see “windows” or to find the universality in narratives that might not outwardly reflect their own. I will give you that. However, I’m also going to call your BS, if you will.

Universality, while a good thing, is often used to argue in favor of not including diversity in stories where it should be. Truly, if I wanted to, I could argue that every story should have a black, queer girl as its main character for as long as the story has universal themes (rags to riches, the importance of being kind and good, the hero’s journey, etc.) everyone can understand such a character. So, for the sake of not engaging in what would become a very circular series of arguments, I’m going to put universality in the corner for the time being and focus on something else: the real origins of Cinderella.

Now to be clear, Cinderella is a folk tale therefore no one can be sure of who truly told the FIRST Cinderella story. But it is pretty well undisputed, or universally known if you will, that origins of the European Cinderella story that Western society loves to retell every year or two, is Ancient China.

Yeah, China.

I won’t go into the details of the story, but it centers around “Yeh-Shen” a beautiful, orphan, peasant girl who has small feet. It was recorded by Tuan Ch’eng-shih during the Tang Dynasty (aka it’s really old).

It is for this reason and many others I’m tired of hearing people talk about how people of color are always complaining about not having representation in European stories like Cinderella. First, there have been POC in Europe since before the Middle Ages. Second, it’s not a European folk tale to begin with. If anything, I’d love to see Disney retell Cinderella with a cast of actors who are Chinese. Now that would be something.

The Last Airbender, Prince of Persia, Cinderella, Tiger Lily… come on, Hollywood (publishing industry & co.), this has got to stop. As a little girl, I might have sat through all of your whitewashing obliviously, but I won’t now and younger generations sure as hell don’t. Just ask my three little sisters, they’re 5, 8, and 11, and they can tell you more about the lack of black girls on TV, in movies, in the dolls they play with, and the books they read than I ever could.

We’re here, we’re aware, and this has got to stop.

***

*The irony of talking about the whitewashing of a movie, Cinderella, who’s trailer I first saw while watching Into The Woods (a movie-musical with a very white cast) is not lost on me.

**The metaphor of ‘Mirrors’ and ‘Windows’ when talking about diversity in children’s literature was first coined by Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emeritus of Education at The Ohio State University, in 1990.

***

Whimsically Yours,

PnC


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To My Fellow Black Millennials.

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I write this knowing full well that in 6 months (more like 6 days weeks) most Americans (& the world) will have moved on from what happened at Ferguson. I, we, however, cannot.

I will not.

My reaction to the Ferguson decision, the decision to not even indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, started with a lack of surprise and quickly moved to confusion, sadness, and then anger. I yelled, I cried, I comforted friends and allowed them to comfort me. Being the Political Science major I am, I wanted to learn everything about how such a decision could be reached so I read the documents released knowing full well that no one, except Mike Brown (RIP) and Darren Wilson will ever know what truly occurred. I read those files because I needed to do something, feel something other than the jumble of emotions I’ve been experiencing for almost 24 hours.

I am furious, as I’m sure many of you are, frustrated about the lack of justice for Mike Brown and the many black youth who have been gunned down by those who are supposed to serve and protect. I am sad to the point of heartbreak about the situation occurring in Ferguson and around our nation. This was the moment my insider/outsider status became cemented, my double consciousness clearer than ever. Like Daily Show Correspondent Jessica Williams tweeted, “For me the hardest part about becoming an adult is realizing that the world is not a fair place. It has been the hardest lesson.”

Yesterday, I learned that lesson.

People often say that when you’re little your parents tell you that the world is fair, that everyone has the same chance at “success,” that all will be well. My parents never told me any of those lies. They didn’t bother. Some of my earliest memories are of me at street corners protesting corrupt gas stations and other corporations that were polluting my black community. I went to Marcus Garvey Day parades, I attended MXGM meetings, and so I  should’ve known the world is not a fair place.

I should have accepted that.

I, however, did not. I didn’t understand why we spent so much time fighting for injustices that we didn’t experience ourselves. I didn’t understand why my father spent hours every week working at his community center only to be met with resistance from a community that obviously didn’t want his help. I wanted to read Tamora Pierce not Booker T. Washington and I most certainly did not want to spend my Sundays with a bunch of “liberated” black folk when I’d rather be in my room (reading, of course). It was a waste of my time.

Needless to say everything changed (no, not when the fire nation attacked) when I went to Wellesley College and joined Ethos, our black student organization. No, black people/culture is not a monolith but I found comfort, strength even from being around such accomplished and passionate black students. I’m sure there are many of you who can attest to this moment–the moment you felt comfortable with and supported in your blackness.

Fast forward to the present and I have had the honor of serving as the president of said black student org as well as holding a few officer positions. I say all of this to show that myself, like many of you, took a long time to get where I am today. Too often are people quick to judge our generation. They say we’re lazy, we don’t vote, in other words we don’t value the rights our ancestors fought for us to have. And yet, we seem to have proven them wrong.

As I’m sure we can all agree, we cannot change the past. Mike Brown is dead. He was tragically gunned down by Darren Wilson, and that is an understatement. My prayers are with his family. I know many of us have or will go to protests as we need a forum to express our anger, to show the world we refuse to be content, to do something, anything about the injustices we face.

In light of this, it is beyond important that we educate ourselves and our communities. Not just in terms of reading a bunch of dead white men (most of them, after all, were racist and sexist) but reading about OUR forefathers (and mothers, etc.) and training ourselves in self defense.

This is about more than personal responsibility.

I, like you, am more than aware of institutionalized racism and rampant corruption our generation, much like our parents and grandparents, faces. We, unfortunately, cannot change the racist man. He will likely always be racist.

This is about liberating ourselves.

Freeing our minds so that we may be ready for the current and upcoming storm. I’m not saying the system won’t change. What I’m saying is we don’t have the time or energy to wait for it to change. We can only change ourselves and so that is what we must do. Empower ourselves. Give other black youth the tools (and weapons–both literally and figuratively) to empower themselves. Separate ourselves from this capitalistic society that was not meant for us that did not originally and does not now value our black bodies. I’m not saying we should live in a black commune, of course if that’s what you wish so be it, but we do need to support our writers, our inventors, our businesses, and bring power back into our communities. Let us find ways to inspire change where we live.

These cops weren’t created for our protection. Hopefully…unfortunately, we finally realize that.

My sisters, my brothers, my siblings let us show this world that we shall not be quieted, that we have power, that black lives matter.

It’s only going to get worse from here on out.

In solidarity, power, and peace.

-Patrice

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Gun control laws would not have prevented McBride’s death

An Article I wrote for the Opinions section of The Wellesley News. The article was written in response to the murder of Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old black woman, by Theodore Wafer, a 54-year-old white man. This article was a part of an ongoing series about gun control laws. I argued against gun control while another staff writer argued for gun control laws. Read the full article.


Greek-lettered organizations deserve more respect from media

An article I wrote for the Opinions section of The Wellesley News on March 13, 2014 regarding the value of Greek-life (specifically my experience as a member of a Greek-lettered organization). This was written in response to unfavorable depictions of sororities, fraternities, and similar organizations in popular culture and the media. Read the full article.


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#NaNoWriMo Begins/My November #YABBootcamp Goals!

Participant-2014-Web-BannerYep, that’s me!

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m particpating in NaNoWriMo this year with the intention of finally winning. I write books pretty fast it’s just that for some reason or another writing a book in one month, particularly November, never seems to work out for me.

I wasn’t sure I was going to do NaNoWriMo. I went on a writing hiatus earlier this fall and though I’ve written a few short stories and chapters, I’ve pretty much still been on that hiatus, or in that funk I suppose. I had started about three manuscripts and stopped writing all of them not to mention my computer crashed so while I still have most of my writing I lost a lot of other things that put me behind academically and in terms of my fiction writing (I would be the one to back up most my manuscripts but not my essays, LOL).

However, toward the end of October I was like this is going to change. I started using all the resources I’ve ever found helpful to plot the story but most of all to figure out who the characters are, what are their goals, their motivations. Plot wasn’t as important as I’m pretty good with plot to the point where I sometimes create great plots that lead the characters rather than the other way around. I also worked on setting, Pinterest was a great resource for that:

Follow Patrice’s board HEIRS OF FIRE AND ICE on Pinterest.

And in the end, I came up with two characters who have been in my head for a long time. However, now, I don’t just know their names, I know who they are as people, what they want and what they’re willing to do to get it.

That led me to this:

And in honor of accountability, getting my groove back, and of course my fellow YAB Bootcamp writers who have always been there to cheer me on, here’s a bit more about my WIP that’s, for now, titled HEIRS OF FIRE AND ICE:

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king (or queen).”

-JRR Tolkien, LOTR

Told in dual POV, HEIRS OF FIRE AND ICE is the story of two young women, Zahra, a trader of items of questionable means, and Aaliyah, a princess without a crown. Set in a land where magic is strictly forbidden these two young women are forced together by unforeseen circumstances and must journey to uncover their mysteriously linked pasts and save their empire.

Vague, I know. I’m working on it. The world is based on this lost city and other medieval African civilizations, but it also includes elements of cyberpunk, mystery, and, of course, romance because genre-bending is what I do best. The story was inspired by my love for Avatar: The Last Airbender (TV series always) and Star Wars, but I believe it should appeal to fans of Malinda Lo’s Huntress and The Fire Wish by Amber Lough, two other (amazing) dual POV (diverse) YA Fantasies (I really like comp titles, LOL).

  • Genre: YA Fantasy with a Sci-Fi twist

My goal is just to keep frontloading and write as much as I can every day so that hopefully toward the end of the month, when life gets busier (e.g. finals) I’m already ahead & ready to win NaNo!

Also, if you’re in need of a little pep (talk):

It truly brought me to tears (then again, a lot of things do, I’m an emotional person but that’s how I know something resonated with me)

Good luck fellow writers whether you’re NaNoing or not! But, if you are, share a bit about your story below!! Also, my NaNoWriMo username is whimsicallyours if you want to connect.

Whimsically Yours,

PnC