Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Month: January 2013

We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Remembering MLK, Jr.

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

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This post originally appeared on Flights of Fancy on January 16, 2012.

***

Today the United States celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr., the activist who helped to galvanize and lead the Civil Rights movement, and who was instrumental in the legislative changes that ended legal segregation in the American south. King was a remarkable orator, a proponent of non-violent protest, and an advocate for social justice. In the years before his death, his focus broadened to include the injustices of war and poverty, as well as racial inequality. He spoke out against the Vietnam War and took a stand against both racial and economic disparities in the United States as part of the Poor People’s campaign.

His dream of an egalitarian America is one that is readily apparent in his speech, “Where Do We Go From Here,” delivered at the 1967 meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition. Racialicious has posted the complete transcript, along with the video clip that I include below, but I want to walk through a few of the passages that I find to be particularly important.

In the speech, King acknowledges the many victories that have been achieved through the Civil Rights movement. However, he also turns his attention to the future, and contemplates the action that will have to be taken in order to alleviate all forms of suffering.

The message that he offers is one that is strikingly progressive, one that demands we question our whole society and realize “that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together.”

He continues,

I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about “Where do we go from here?” that we must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, “Why are there forty million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, “Who owns the oil?” You begin to ask the question, “Who owns the iron ore?” You begin to ask the question, “Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that’s two-thirds water?” These are words that must be said.

While King calls for “restructuring the whole American society,” he makes it clear that communism isn’t the solution, nor is violent riot and protest. Instead, he calls for action, for plans to create jobs and to alleviate the suffering of the poor. He calls for the integration of schools, the destruction of the slums and ghettos, and the celebration of diversity. All of this, however, must be tempered by love. Turning to the Bible and invoking Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he reminds his audience,

you may be able to speak with the tongues of men and angels; you may have the eloquence of articulate speech; but if you have not love, it means nothing. Yes, you may have the gift of prophecy; you may have the gift of scientific prediction and understand the behavior of molecules; you may break into the storehouse of nature and bring forth many new insights; yes, you may ascend to the heights of academic achievement so that you have all knowledge; and you may boast of your great institutions of learning and the boundless extent of your degrees; but if you have not love, all of these mean absolutely nothing. You may even give your goods to feed the poor; you may bestow great gifts to charity; and you may tower high in philanthropy; but if you have not love, your charity means nothing… What I’m trying to get you to see this morning is that a man may be self-centered in his self-denial and self-righteous in his self-sacrifice. His generosity may feed his ego, and his piety may feed his pride. So without love, benevolence becomes egotism, and martyrdom becomes spiritual pride.

[vimeo 11154217]

-oOo-

“Where Do We Go From Here” is not only deeply resonant almost 50 years after its original delivery, but also serves as a poignant reminder that King’s dream has yet to be fully realized. The ghettos and slums that King railed against still stand, and in many cities across the country, informal racial segregation still occurs, both in residential neighborhoods and schools. Institutional racism is still present within our society, with systems of power like the legal system and the educational system working against the interests of the people. The current economic recession has also made plain how deeply class and racial inequalities are intwined together, as we can see in the Center for American Progress’s latest “by-the-numbers” report, which shows that young people and people of color are among the hardest hit.

Quite clearly, there is more work to be done, and yet we have to remember that so many dreams once deemed impossible have come to pass: the ending of slavery, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the election of a black president, and countless other victories that have occurred. Rather than feel daunted by the work that is before us, I take heart in King’s words:

Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

I take heart knowing that there are countless people across the country who are working towards justice in their communities. We cannot underestimate how even the smallest actions can bring change, how we can use our voices — and our words — to stem the tide of inequality and injustice.

I encourage everyone to check out Colorlines’s post, “How to Become a Racial Justice Hero, on MLK Day and All Year Long,” because it contains ways that we can all carry on King’s legacy of social engagement. We can all become “Racial Transformers.” All we need, according to Terry Keleher, is “an open mind, open heart, open arms, and often, an open mouth.”

I leave you all with one of my favorite Civil Rights-era songs, Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” A change can, will, and must come, and we are the ones who are going to create it.

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ROW80: Some Progress, And A Shiny New Opportunity

It’s Sunday, which means it’s time for another ROW80 update. This week was a little hit and miss for me; I had a lot of grand ambitions, but only a few of them ended up happening. I’m in the midst of a two week break from my work in the archives, so I don’t have all that many excuses for my lack of productivity… So let’s just blame it all on my cat, shall we? He’s been planting himself right in front of me every time I have the urge to work.

kitty-face How can anyone say no to this face?

Before I get to my check-in, I just want to point your attention to a very exciting, very shiny new opportunity hovering on the horizon: the awesome anthology of writers’ success stories that I am planning with my friend and partner-in-crime, Chad Carver. I posted our call for submissions on Friday, but if you missed it, here’s a description of what we are looking for:

We want to hear real success stories from writers who didn’t give up.

It’s tough to be a writer.  Most people quit.  But some people do not, or cannot, and those people change the world, whether for many people, or simply for themselves.

Whether you’ve published, are still chipping away at your magnum opus, have written the book that freed you from a demon, or have simply scratched the itch that all writers know, we would love to hear your stories of strength, hope and success in a world that is so often painted as hopeless, and foolish – the writer’s world.

I’ve created a new page with all of the submission details, so swing by there (or check out Friday’s post) for more information. It would be absolutely wonderful to be able to include essays from my fellow ROWers–y’all have done some amazing things in the time that I’ve been involved with this community, and I know you all have great stories to share.

Now then, onto the week in review:

DAY JOB:
I haven’t finished reading any of the books that I added to my to-do list last week, but I did succeed in (1) scheduling research dates for my next two archives and (2) adding a fourth member to my dissertation committee. This week’s goals are the same as last week’s:

WRITING:
I didn’t get any poetry written this week, but I did finally sit down with my steampunk WIP. I spent a few days this week rereading and flagging spots for improvement, as well as making a prioritized list of edits. By the end of the month, I’d like to have the following done:

  • A synopsis draft, ready for the “beta readers” who are going to help me figure out plot problems (“beta readers” is in quotes because this stupid novel isn’t finished, and so therefore they are just reading all my nonsense gibberish at this point).
  • A complete Act 1, free of empty spots and placeholders.

This week, then, I’ll be focused on poetry and edits. Good stuff, all around.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Aside from the 10 or so ROW80 blogs I visited last Sunday, I haven’t visited any others since. One of the things I am trying to work on is being much more focused and deliberate in my online wanderings, so that is on the top of my list this week: fewer hours spent pointlessly poring over Facebook and Pinterest, more attention paid to bloggy things.

As far as my blog is concerned, I did post 2 non-ROW80 posts: Friday’s call for submissions and Monday’s vlog with me reading one of my favorite poems, “The Dangerous Weird,” dedicated to all the wacky, wonderful, delightfully odd people I know. I fell behind on responding to blog comments, but today I will be playing catch up. For this week:

  • More blogging.
  • More commenting/promoting.
  • Less time spent on shiny internet timewasters.

SELF-CARE:
This was an odd week in that a change in my workout routine (20 minutes of Pilates added to my 1.5 mile run/3.5 mile walk) left me totally wiped out each day. I only succeeded in reading half of May Sarton’s memoir, PLANT DREAMING DEEP, but I did do things like spend a couple of mornings laying around in the sun and listening to jazz music. I also had two excellent in-depth journaling sessions, which have left me with far more clarity and a renewed sense of peace. For next week:

  • Finish PLANT DREAMING DEEP.
  • Keep on journaling.

Whew, so that was my week! It’s not too terrible, though as always, there is room for improvement. 

How are the rest of you doing? I hope everyone has managed to stay warm and healthy. If you’ve been sick, then I hope that the illness passes swiftly. 😀  Don’t forget to wave hello to the rest of the ROWers checking in this week!

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Embracing the Dangerous Weird

corazon-lampshade

Nothing says “quirky” like running around with a lampshade crown.

In October, I participated in a wonderful poetry celebration known as OctPoWriMo. One of our early prompts was to write a poem inspired by the word “eccentric.” The creative process remains a mysterious one to me (and probably always will), but through whatever machinations of imagination and muse, “The Dangerous Weird” is the poem that emerged.

I wrote it thinking of all the wonderful people I know in my life who have weathered the storm of being seen as different, odd, less-than-normal. It’s a celebration of that amazing, dangerous weird within all of us, something I think that my online community of creative folk can appreciate.

This community is one that inspires me and encourages me towards all sorts of mischief, like rambling about my love of Hugh Jackman and sloths, or dancing around on tabletops with a lampshade on my head (as seen at the last #myWANA Twitter party). The chance to be fully myself, knowing that I’ll be accepted, is an incredibly rare one, and one for which I am truly grateful.

So this one’s for you, gang. Enjoy!

“The Dangerous Weird”

i am eccentric
     you
          say
because color tastes of
          sound
because history is
          my dwelling place

i was a child with a calligraphy pen
     my mother's borrowed
          cameos
     a collection of teapots
a girl enchanted
          by amulets
     faerie
          unicorns
imagined elven revelries
worlds that exist only in my head

acne-cursed chubby sally-jesse-raphael-bespectacled awkward child
     too smart
          too ambitious
     teased and tormented for the dangerous
          weird
     (because idiot child bullies can't pronounce "eccentric"
          and don't trust the abnormal)

but i am a forward-thinking girl
          despite the obsession with dusty antiques
adulthood was my ticket to survival
and i
          waited
     honed and polished my weird
          shined it up like the best silver serving set
     to put on display for
          rare souls
    that understood
          (password: "kindred spirit")

today i find the peculiar ones 
     those 
          grownup off-beat children 
     catch them running through the rye 
together we make a mountain of 
          weird 
a paradise of 
     strange 
to us, the song of color 
          the taste of word 
     is to be savored 
time is neither linear nor measurable 
and the world 
          is 
     our playground 
eccentrics one and all

ROW80: When One Email Equals Success

I need a little bit of this in my life.

I need a little bit of this in my life.

My morning began with a freakout.

Well, no, that’s not entirely true. My morning actually began with a wonderfully incandescent moment where I turned on the radio and heard the sweet, gentle sounds of of Ralph Vaughn Williams’ exquisite “Serenade to Strings.” It was when the piece was finished that I found myself falling into panic mode.

The problem: I’ve spent the last three weeks telling myself to email my dissertation advisor to tell her all the things I’ve learned in the course of my research over the last three months. The longer I wait, the more panicked I get. But every time I sit down to write the darn email, I freeze up. Why? Because everything I write sounds less than perfect.

It’s the curse of the overachiever, this need to be hyper-critical and always in control. Judging from the comments on my last couple of posts, many of you can relate. It’s perhaps the ultimate irony that all of our attempts to be perfect leave us frustrated and dissatisfied, ready to throw in the towel and just be done with life.

Little by little, moment by moment, I am trying to undo these nasty habits.

What would happen if I trusted in my talents and abilities? If I was confident that my advisor won’t judge me if I send along a few underdeveloped ideas? If I trusted that brainstorming + a little work will yield the theoretical framework that my project currently lacks?

I’d work faster, I’d be more creative, and I’d be so. much. happier. 

My friend Chad Carver may have said it best in his latest blog post:

In fact, our imperfect humanness is what makes us great artists because the interesting people are those whose character are coloured with most, or all, of the hues of the human condition.  They are, as a result of their layers of virtue and vice, capable of wide thinking, and profound creativity.  So, embrace your imperfection.

“Embrace your imperfection.” That’s an awesome sort of battle cry, isn’t it?

-oOo-

Here’s what I’ve accomplished in this first week Round 1:

DAY JOB:
I finished preliminary research at 2 out of 6 sites, continued to work through my notes, finally emailed my committee, and read 80 pages of Coburn & Smith’s Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life, 1836-1920, which looks to be really useful for my work. For next week:

WRITING:
I sort of ditched last week’s plan and revisited my August CampNaNoWriMo novel, STRANGE BEDFELLOWS. It is in surprisingly good shape, possibly because it has more of a plot than any of my other WIPs (plots are useful things, did you all know that?), but I don’t necessarily know that I want to make that my major project for the year. However, I did write a couple of poems: “muse” and “drought“.  For next week:

  • More poetry.
  • Reread TELL ME NO LIES (for real this time) and make the Ultimate Editing Battle Plan.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
I made my rounds to the allotted number of blogs this past week, answered all my comments, and spent a little time on Twitter. I didn’t write my 2 non-ROW80 posts, which tells me that I really need to write them over the weekend. For next week:

  • 2 non-ROW80 posts
  • Continue visiting blogs/leaving comments/responding to comments

SELF-CARE:
Confession time: I have been avoiding books for the last few weeks because I know without a doubt that once I start, I will never be able to stop reading. I will become a tired, haggard, zombie-like shell of a person because I will stay up all night devouring books, and I won’t get anything else done.

But! I marshaled a little self-control and took the plunge into the world of books. I read THE RUTH VALLEY MISSING by the wonderful Amber West (seriously amazing book; review forthcoming), along with the latest novella in Lindsay Buroker’s EMPEROR’S EDGE series, BENEATH THE SURFACE (also fantastic). For next week:

  • More reading.
  • More journaling.

How has the first week of Round 1 treated everyone else? Have you hit the ground running, or are you slowly building up momentum?

Be sure to swing by and visit this week’s ROWers to offer them lots of encouragement and word love!

ROW80: Starting Fresh With Strength, Courage & Wisdom

ROW80Logocopy

January 7th marks the start of a new round of A Round of Words in 80 Days, “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.” For those of you looking for more information about the challenge, you can find it here.

I’m waving a wildly enthusiastic hello to all my old ROW80 friends, and offering the warmest of welcomes to all the new folks joining in on this round. This community is one of the most supportive and welcoming that I’ve found online, and is one of the reasons that I’m participating in my 7th (!!!!) round.

For anyone who may have missed my first post of the year, I’ve declared that 2013 will be my year to “stop the cray.” I’m pulling the plug on negative thinking, nasty energy, and all the habits that cause me to sabotage my own success.

To aid me on this journey, I’m blasting my anthem song for the year, “Strength, Courage, and Wisdom,” by India.Arie. As she sings,

It’s time to step out on faith, I’ve gotta show my face
It’s been elusive for so long but freedom is mine today
I’ve gotta step out on faith, it’s time to show my face
Procrastination had me down but look what I have found

With a little strength, courage, and wisdom in my life, I’m launching myself towards two giant goals for the year: (1) completing (at least) one novel and (2) finishing the first draft of my dissertation.

I won’t lie. Just typing those giant goals makes me want to do this:

supernatural-shockBut if there’s anything I’ve learned with ROW80, it’s that identifying small, achievable goals goes a long way to helping me conquer seemingly insurmountable tasks. With that in mind, here are my overall goals for Round 1:

DAY JOB:

  • Finish dissertation proposal and have quarterly meeting with committee
  • Complete preliminary archival research at 4 out of 6 locations
  • Continue to write rough sketches of research memos based on collected data

WRITING:

  • Write 2-3 poems each week
  • Revisit TELL ME NO LIES and THE PEACOCK QUEEN; identify what needs to be tweaked/fixed/written in order to finish first drafts
  • Figure out Ultimate Editing Battle Plan (and which novel I feel like hanging out with–or if the answer to this question is “both”)

SOCIAL MEDIA:

  • Write 1 ROW80 check-in post each Sunday, along with 2 non-ROW80 posts each week
  • Respond to all blog comments
  • Use weekends for catching up with Google Reader, Twitter, and Facebook
  • Visit 10 blogs each week to read, comment, and promote posts

SELF-CARE:

  • Journal daily
  • Read 1 novel each week
  • Unplug when necessary

So there you have it, folks! Is everyone feeling rested and ready to go? Anything special y’all are looking forward to this year?

Tell me all about it in the comments, and be sure to swing by and wave hello to everyone else participating this round.

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Hard Truths for the New Year

It’s been pretty quiet over here at Flights of Fancy over the last few months, and for good reason. For me, 2012 was a blur of deadlines and responsibilities, punctuated by my Big Move over the summer from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, and the transition to living with my parents once again.

I finished my MA thesis and earned my long-awaited degree at the beginning of March, switched dissertation topics at the end of May and hustled like crazy to write all the papers necessary to advance to doctoral candidacy by mid-September, packed up all my worldly possessions and moved at the beginning of July, and spent the last three months of the year collecting data for my dissertation.

Oh, and I won CampNaNo back in August and NaNoWriMo in November, started working on my physical health, somehow squeezed in time to have a semblance of a social life, and rediscovered my love for writing poetry.

It’s not a bad list of accomplishments, to be honest, even if the day job did take precedence over my blogging life, and even if I still haven’t gotten around to finishing any of my WIPs. But as I look at this list, I know that the successes I made in 2012 were weighed down by the horrible encroaching monster of negativity that has been slowly taking over my life.

Tangling With the Doubt Monster
(Or, How I Am My Own Worst Enemy)

I am, as most of you are probably aware, a perfectionist. I’m a Type-A personality, and I’ve been speeding along the racetrack for academic success for as long as I can remember. My life has been one long series of coursework and papers and extracurricular activities and, these days, research and teaching. And I love this. I am good at it. But I’d be a helluva lot better at it if my head wasn’t filled with all sorts of crazy bullshit that tells me that I am an utter failure.

I used to laugh my little Doubt Monster off. Y’know, because feeling like a failure in the midst of a life filled with success and a lot of blessings seems absolutely ridiculous. But if I’m being honest with myself, I have to admit that I spent most of 2012 (and 2011, and 2010…) trapped in a horrible paralyzing world of grey, where fear and anxiety leeched away the excitement I should feel for life, leaving me with a mess of despair and a tangle of emotions.

But it is a new year, and I have decided that I’m through with living this way. I could accomplish so much more, and be so much happier, if I kicked my Doubt Monster to the curb and ditched all the crazy that has taken hold of my life.

With that in mind, I leave you with my intentions for 2013, summed up in poetic form. Here’s to a safe, healthy, and wonderfully creative new year for us all!

“Poem for a New Year”

2012 has been a painful lesson
that the way I live–
all smiles on the outside
shattered and broken on the inside–
cannot be allowed to continue.

This last year taught me
that I can’t keep living in the grey world
of can’t–
too stupid
too slow
too trite
too cliche
too untalented–
where I self-mutilitate
not with razor blade and substances
but with words weighed down with negativity
words that pollute and poison
till everything that lives in my soul is mutated, ugly–
foul-looking with missing eyes and extra limbs
savage mockeries of all that was once beautiful and clean and real.

In my brief moments of sanity
where perfectionism and the hideous monster of not-good-enough are silenced
I know my worth,
see the shadow of the woman I know I could become
if I stopped the cray,
banished the negative,
trashed my doubts,
and stepped into the light.

I want a soul free from toxic waste
returned to its former glory
all shiny and sparkly and spangled with glitter
riotous with color, suffused with the glow of a million gems–
a soul that can breathe, one that can create,
one filled with all the glorious dreams I’ve allowed
to fall by the wayside.

And so 2013 is my time
a chance to seize back my life
return to a place where prayer and creation are
second-nature
where my wings have strength to soar off on new adventures
and my fingers are able to seize hold of new opportunities.

I rejoice in this new beginning
revel in the promise of days to come.
“Strength, courage, and wisdom” is my mantra;
transformation is my goal.

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