My Book “Unraveled” is Being Published!

I can’t believe I’m writing this post. This past week has felt like a dream. But since I haven’t woken up yet, I’m going to assume that it’s reality and share the news with you that my novel Unraveled is being published by Gurt Dog Press. Yes, the story that I blogged here in 2015-16 is going to be a real book!

I wanted to do something special to announce this to all of you, and I commissioned a piece of art from @avgolden with the main characters from the book. (Please check out her account, I absolutely love everything she draws and it was such an honor to have her illustrate my characters.) Presenting Cat and Auri…

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I haven’t stopped staring at this painting because I love Audrey’s art so much. She really got the characters how I pictured them…everything from Cat’s freckles to Auri’s pink shawl (which is pretty much the whole plot of the book). Those are my babies!

You can check out Gurt Dog’s announcement about Unraveled on their Instagram here. Gurt Dog Press is a publishing company that focuses on speculative fiction with LGBTQ+ characters that doesn’t rely on romance as the only story that queer characters can have. This is exactly what I strive to achieve in my writing, so I knew right away that they were a good fit for me. I’m just beyond delighted that they accepted Unraveled and that it’s going to be a real book. They’re located in Sweden and their first book just released in June to great reviews and exposure.

And now I’m one of their authors. (And you know my full name.)

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It is so surreal that a book I started writing in 2015 is going to be out in the world. I’ve rewritten this post over and over and there’s so much to say. If you’re interested, I can tell you about the writing and submission process, because it was quite the journey. A week ago, at about 8:34 in the morning, I got the email from Gurt Dog saying that they would love to publish Unraveled, and I started crying. After I calmed down from the happy tears I immediately called my mom, who squealed with me for a while. I pretty much haven’t stopped squealing since. Picture an overexcited puppy sprinting furiously around the yard and you’ll have a good idea of what the inside of my head looks like lately.

And you know what? I couldn’t have done it without all of you. Every single one of you who read and commented on Unraveled, who took time out of your day to read my story and give me feedback, who wanted to know what happened next…you gave me the motivation I needed to put this story out into the world. You better look for your names in the acknowledgements when this book comes out, because I am grateful for every single one of you. Thank you for believing in me. I hope that you’ll enjoy Unraveled. It is terrifying and exhilarating to know that people will read this little chunk of my soul, and it really is a dream come true.

I will share more information as I receive it, like the cover reveal and release date. Until then, please go give both @avgolden and Gurt Dog Press some love.

A Trans Pride Cupcake

I love getting custom orders. Someone asked me if I could make a trans version of my Pride cupcakes, which I had been meaning to do anyway because I’m all for trans pride. This is what became of it!

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I am tickled with the result. The trans pride flag has my favorite colors in it, pink and blue, and I like how symmetrical it is. Of course I like all the pride flags because of what they stand for, but I appreciate them on a purely aesthetic level as well.

This little fellow goes off to its new home today!

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I have, like, mega news that I get to tell you guys on Friday. Stay tuned. I’m probably going to explode.

An Open Letter to J. K. Rowling

Please note this post involves discussion of transphobia and some swearing.

Dear Ms. Rowling,

I speak for thousands of people when I say that your Harry Potter series changed my life. The characters were like friends to me, and the books sustained me during the hardest years of my life. Harry’s mental struggle in the fifth book reflected my own, and seeing him get through it gave me strength to go on. Although I am grateful for the books you’ve written, I am saddened by the thoughts you’ve been sharing on Twitter lately, and I would be remiss as a vocal Harry Potter fan if I did not speak out.

In your Tweets, you devalued the experiences of trans women. You equated physical sex to being a woman. And you mocked people for using gender-inclusive language. Although these may seem like small things because it’s “just a Tweet,” they hurt many of the people who love your books, and I am not okay with that.

I will be including images of your Tweets for reference. This is the one I take the most issue with because of the condescending tone you take.

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The phrase you’re taking issue with here is “people who menstruate,” which you assert should just be labeled “women.” The problem here, as many people have pointed out, is that not all women menstruate. What about post-menopausal women, who are often around your own age? What about women who take birth control pills to stop menstruation? What about women post-hysterectomy? There are countless medical conditions that cause lack of periods in women, and you aren’t any less of a woman if you don’t have a period.

On the other side, a lot of transgender men have a period. That doesn’t make them any less of a man. Can you imagine how they feel, having their body do something that doesn’t line up with how they perceive themselves, and how they want other people to perceive them? Hermione is so self-conscious about her front teeth that she magically changes her appearance, which you portray as being fine…but somehow it’s different when trans people want to change something about their bodies? You have characters who can literally change their physical appearance to animals. Nymphadora Tonks can change gender whenever she wants to. Why is it okay when you write it, but not in real life?

Language changes. Maybe the word we would have used in the past is “women.” But we’ve learned, as a culture, that there are better ways to say things.

You say that you support transgender people. But what do you mean by “support”?

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Ms. Rowling, I agree with you that my life, too, has been shaped by my being female. But trans women aren’t any less of women just because they may have experienced a childhood before they transitioned. Everyone’s life is different.

You say that it’s important for people to be able to “meaningfully discuss their lives.” How do you think trans people will be able to do that if you deny their existence? You are privileging your own feelings as a cisgender woman over the lived identity and experience of transgender women.

You say that would march with trans people if they were being discriminated against, but you don’t see that you are the person doing the discriminating. You don’t see that you are being the Professor Umbridge. And then you play the victim when people call you a TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist).

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You talk about “woman-hate,” but it seems to me that calling trans women “men” is the real woman-hate here. By saying that women are only women if they have a uterus, that diminishes the actual definition of being a woman. I am so much more than my reproductive organs. If I didn’t have a uterus, I would still be female. Do you really think that people are just the sum of what’s between their legs?

I understand that it may be uncomfortable at first to change the way you think. But a little discomfort is necessary in order to grow. Harry couldn’t conjure a Patronus at first. If he gave up because he was uncomfortable, he never would have succeeded. If he prioritized his feelings over the good of the world, Voldemort would have won. Harry and his friends taught me that friendship and love are enough for good to win over evil.

Your characters showed me how to stand up for what I believe in. They showed millions of people that good can win over evil, if people are just brave enough to speak out. Harry was accepting and loving – just look at how he treated Luna, an outcast. Those are the morals I try to follow. I guess I just thought that you practiced what you preached.

This letter will be one of thousands that you receive. I don’t really expect you to read this. But maybe it will reach one of your readers and help them see things in a different way. And it will allow me to say that although Harry Potter will always mean something to me, it will now have to come with the asterisk that I don’t agree at all with its author.

To close, I would like to share the response that Daniel Radcliffe had to your Tweets, because I am encouraged by it. In a piece written for the Trevor Project, he writes:

“If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred,” Radcliffe wrote.

Yes, a thousand times. My relationship with the books will always be special to me. And I will always remember the lessons I learned from Harry and his friends.

In solidarity with Harry Potter,

Claire

Changing the Canon

This term, I took a required class for my English major called “Canons and Canonicity.” Just from the title, I expected to suffer through it, but it turned out to be the best class I’ve taken because I learned so much. We talked about what makes a “canon” and whether or not we agree with those standards. For our final project, we had to design a syllabus for an “ENG 255: Intro to American Literature” class. I’m proud of how mine turned out so I wanted to share it with you here. This project made me think, and reevaluate how I’ve approached literature in the past, and that’s why I’m proud of it.

Literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and that’s why my project centers around the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s also why I’m sharing it with you here, because if I don’t use my (small) platform to do something, why do I even write?

Trigger warning for discussion of books involving racism, slavery, and sexual assault.

graphic from blacklivesmatter.com

Syllabus for ENG 255: Introduction to American Literature, taught by Claire G.

Course Description: In this class, we will read five novels spanning 150 years that will offer a survey of American Literature. The goal of this class is to expose students to a variety of authors with different writing styles, as well as learn about several literary movements including the slave narrative, modernism, science fiction/fantasy, and young adult literature. We will tackle issues of gender and racial inequality from the 1800s to today. And we’ll ask the question: Why does literature matter? And what has, and hasn’t, changed?

Reading List:

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, published 1861

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, published 1937

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, published 1960

Dawn by Octavia Butler, published 1997

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, published 2017

Above is a syllabus I would teach for ENG 255 if I were teaching the class this year. As it turns out, all of my texts are from black female authors, which was a coincidence. I’ve had classes where I only read works from white male authors, or just male authors, or just white authors. Those are a normal experience for many students. I’ve heard stories of many other fellow English majors who have had the same experience. I’ve also heard professors talk about assigning some women writers and then having students complain that it felt like they were “pandering” because there were so many women. So it was nice to flip the power dynamic for a change.

When I was working on this syllabus, I immediately put Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston on the list for several reasons. First, it’s an incredible book that stuck with me long after the class it was assigned for. Second, it’s a good example of American modernism, which I would want to cover in a survey of American literature. After I put the novel on the list, I started filling it up with other books and quickly I had four white authors and one black one. But that didn’t sit right. Is one black author really enough? Why should only 20% of the texts be by a black author? It was like I had met my diversity quota and stopped trying. So I started over, and this time I ended up with primarily black authors. I’m not trying to virtue signal that I’m such a good person for having such a “diverse reading list.” I just picked the ones that I thought mattered the most right now. But what does “mattering” even mean? 

The country is angry, and for good reason. Black people are making their voices heard when nobody has been listening for too long. Literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and neither do classes. If I were gearing up to teach a class this term, it would be silly for me to ignore the current political environment. I couldn’t pretend that nothing was happening and go on teaching like I planned to. I couldn’t in good conscience ask students to analyze yet another white, male author while Black people are being killed by police and no one is doing anything. So for my syllabus I chose to feature primarily Black authors so that I could promote the voices that really need to be heard right now. 

Another reason I chose this angle is because “American literature” is such a broad category that there’s absolutely no way it can be encapsulated in just five texts. I developed a lot of sympathy for my English professors in the first five minutes of doing research for this assignment. My thought process went something like, “I want this one, and this one, oh and definitely this one…but now I have 13 texts! How can I possibly cut so many out?” Depending on the texts you choose, you can present a narrative of American history. I could have assigned William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, and shown what white men have been saying over the last hundred years. Or I could turn to the other side that isn’t assigned, but that needs to be heard even more. 

American history isn’t pretty. It’s awful, and ugly, and it’s uncomfortable to look at. But that’s exactly why we need to be looking at it. If we don’t, it’s like we’re pushing it under the rug and pretending it didn’t happen. By acknowlding the suffering that our country is built on, we’re taking a tiny step in the right direction. Ignoring pain doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. While Kate Chopin was writing The Awakening, Harriet Jacobs was fighting to get free from slavery. The narrative is completley different depending on who you ask. And right now, I think we need to be asking the people who had it the worst.

My syllabus starts with Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. I don’t intend to just copy the syllabus for “Canons and Canonicity,” but I absolutley had to include this book, because I’ve really never read anything like it before. Nobody had, when it was published; it was the first of its time, and that’s one of the reasons I think it’s so vitally important that more people read this book. It was astonishing. It’s a true story, unlike the other books my hypothetical students will be reading, so that will be a valuable conversation topic: How does the fact that this story is true change how we talk about it? I plan to offer excerpts from other slave narratives to get a look at the slave narrative as a genre. Then we can discuss how radical Harriet Jacobs’ narrative is.

The next book on the list is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I’ve already discussed why I feel this book is so important. Another reason is the author’s use of dialect when she writes, which makes the book a bit of a challenge to get into at first but which ultimately offers an immersive experience that allows the reader to get into the head of Janie, the main character. We can discuss modernism as a literary movement and probably read some short stories by other modernist writers; this will be a good time to read some Ernest Hemingway because he is certainly a classic, and his stories are so short that it won’t take long or add much to the workload. But I’m less concerned with discussing specific literary movements and more focused on presenting an overall narrative with the texts I’ve chosen.

I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee when I was in middle school, so I’m sure a lot of the themes went over my head. I haven’t read it since, but it’s higher on my priorities list now than ever. It will be fascinating to examine the justice system when the book takes place compared to how the justice system functions now. Since the book is about a rape allegation, it will be important to look at it alongside the #MeToo movement. Because although the accused in this book did not actually rape the accuser, it’s also important to believe women when they report sexual assault. It will be a difficult conversation to have, so I would definitely want to provide warnings to the students in case they need to miss that particular day. Still, the book is an important read and it made an impact on me as a young teenager. It might be worthwhile to watch the movie adaptation too, as well as discuss Harper Lee’s recent addition, Go Set a Watchman. Maybe I would offer extra credit to the students if they read that book and talked to the class about it.

I really wanted to include something by Octavia Butler, because she’s an immensely talented writer who made an impact on American literature. However, the only books I’ve read by her are the first two books of the Lilith’s Brood trilogy, which are science fiction. I thought about including Kindred instead because it sounds absolutely fascinating, even though I haven’t read it. At first I was unsure about including a science fiction book because I thought it would make the texts feel less cohesive, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized my reasoning wasn’t very solid. Science fiction and fantasy are a vital part of the American literary tradition. A text isn’t less valuable just because it has science fiction elements in it, and I don’t want to send that message to my students. So I went with my original instinct.

I decided on Dawn, which is the first book in Butler’s Lilith’s Brood trilogy. It’s about a woman who becomes the mother of an alien-human hybrid species. One of the reasons I think science fiction is such a useful lens is because it allows for cognitive dissonance: that is, the reframing of issues in a less familiar way. In this case, racism takes the form of humans mistrusting the Oankali, which are the aliens in the book. By seeing xenophobia mirrored in the human-alien relationship, readers might examine their own xenophobic thoughts in a different way. They might think it’s silly for humans to be so shy around the Oankali, only to realize they do exactly the same thing around people from a different race. It will be useful to have a conversation about cognitive dissonance and how it can be used to make the familiar new.

The syllabus concludes with a recent book because I wanted to span a wide range of time with the texts, so we could see how publishing has changed. This book is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, published in 2017 and made into a movie starring Amandla Stenberg. It’s about a black girl named Starr who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend, Khalil, at the hands of a white cop. She gets pulled into the Black Lives Matter movement and seeks justice for her friend. This novel opened my eyes as a white person to what the Black Lives Matter movement is about. It’s based on true events that we see unfolding around us right now, and that’s why this novel is so important. It’s a difficult read, and it elicits many emotions in the reader: shock, sadness, and rage. It’s not a comfortable book. It shows that, in some ways, nothing at all has changed since Harriet Jacobs wrote her autobiography. No, slavery doesn’t exist in the same way, but prejudice is alive and well and black people are still dying. This book also offers a look into the world of Young Adult literature and shows that even though it’s written for teenagers, it can still be valuable for adults.

I’m sure this syllabus will get some complaints from the hypothetical students whereas a syllabus with only white male authors would likely go unremarked upon. But if I actually taught this class, I would address the choice of books so the students knew why I chose what I did. I’m genuinely happy with how this list turned out and I would be enthusiastic to teach this list of books. It won’t be an easy reading list in terms of emotional impact, but the easy reads are never the ones that stay with me in the long run. I would hope that this class would leave a lasting impact on the students.

Etsy Adventures, Again

WordPress, can we please stop changing the editor? I barely had gotten used to the last one. Oh well, it’s a free service and it’s wonderful in many ways, so I suppose I’ll get used to this one, too.

I’m blown away by the amount of love and support you all delivered on my last post, announcing my new design. Thank you so much, it means the world and I’m so glad to have you with me on this crochet adventure!

This is a short post just to share that my Etsy shop, BaleineCrochet, is now up and running again. finally put some of that quarantine spare time to good use and listed a bunch of stuff. Here are some photos of what’s available. I have 17 things listed right now and it’s quite exciting, I feel like a real business. And somebody already bought a crochet cupcake!

I have a bunch of stuff listed for Pride month, which is just around the corner. Here are some mini flags…

pansexual flag
rainbow flag
transgender flag (I really love the colors of this one)

And here are some bigger items…

I have always loved Twinkie Chan’s designs, so when I had some spare time I finally made this bread scarf that I’ve been wanting to make for years. But there are only so many food scarves one person can wear, so I’m putting it on Etsy to spread the crochet food love.

And these gloves are designed by Morale Fiber and were so much fun to make. I’m going to make another pair for myself, I love the crocodile stitch.

As always, I also take custom orders, so if you want me to make you something just drop me a line. It would be my absolute pleasure! And thank you again for your support.

So, I’m a Published Designer Now

So this happened, and I didn’t blog about it because I was drowning in school, but now I’m here to tell you about it.

I got to partner with KnitCrate to be a crochet designer for their February box. They sent me this absolutely gorgeous, custom-dyed Malabrigo yarn that I could never have afforded on their own, and this is what I made for them. (All images are copyright KnitCrate, and they are the most gorgeous photographs I’ve seen in a good long while.)

Presenting the Butterfly Shell Infinity Scarf!

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My design is actually on a MODEL? Like, a real-life model is wearing something I crocheted, and it’s published in a book? WHAT IS THIS LIFE.

To make things even more exciting, take a look at the cover of the ebook:

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Yep, that’s my design…on the cover…?!?!?! I was sitting in the college cafeteria when I saw the cover, and it was so hard not to squeal. I can’t even believe how beautiful these photos and this ebook turned out, and it is such an honor to have been involved. I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a wee young teenager and first learned to crochet, so to actually be a published designer? It’s unreal.

Click here to view all three designs from this issue. We all got the same yarn to work with, and I absolutely love what the other two designers did with it. You can purchase my pattern here. I’ve seen a copy of the pattern PDF, and it’s so beautifully formatted. I got to work with an actual tech editor, who caught a couple silly mistakes I made, and the whole experience was just so cool.

Man, it’s a good life, you guys.

What feels like eons ago, I corresponded with the brilliant Sue Perez of Mrs Micawber’s Recipe for Happiness when she had just begun her professional crochet design career. She gave me advice as a young teenager and helped me see that my dream was achievable. I owe a lot to that conversation, and I’m truly grateful. Thank you. ❤

No Buttons Required Ear Savers: Free Crochet Pattern

Hi friends! A few weeks ago I became aware of the need for “ear savers” for front-line medical workers on the coronavirus pandemic. Workers develop wounds behind their ears from wearing masks so much. Crafters developed “ear savers” or “mask mates” that sit on the back of the head and have buttons to secure the straps around, thus saving workers’ ears.

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It’s been amazing to see the world come together in support. Knitters, crocheters, and seamstresses have been working tirelessly to produce these. People are 3d printing them, too. I’ve been making lots of them, and I ordered some buttons, but they won’t get here for another couple weeks (for obvious shipping delay reasons because, you know, pandemic). I didn’t want to wait that long to start donating them, though. So I started searching for alternatives to buttons.

This is one fantastic pattern I found that uses pop tabs from soda cans instead of buttons. I quickly ran out of pop tabs, though, but I still had lots of yarn and time. So this is what I came up with. Nothing revolutionary, just my take on the ear savers pattern. Do what you will with them and let me know if I can be of any help.

Pattern Details

Finished Size: about 4.5″ long, 1.25″ tall

Buttons measure just over 1″ in diameter.

Materials

  • Worsted-weight yarn. I’ve heard that cotton is best, but acrylic washes just fine. I ran out of cotton, and I have tons (and tons and tons) of spare acrylic, so that’s what I’m using now.
  • H (5.00 MM) crochet hook
  • Yarn needle
  • That’s it!

Ear Saver Band

Round 1: Leave a long (12″) starting tail. Make a magic ring to count as your first chain. Ch 16. This will result in 17 chains total.

If you don’t feel comfortable making a magic ring, just ch 17 instead.

Hdc in 3rd ch from hook and each chain until you reach the last one. 5 hdc in this chain. Turn to work across opposite end of starting chain. Do not crochet over the tail because you’ll need it to sew on the “button” later. Hdc in each ch until you reach the last one. 3 hdc into this chain. Sl st to top of ch-2 to join.

Round 2: Ch 2, hdc in same stitch. 2 hdc in next st. Hdc 13. 2 hdc in each of next 5 hdc. Hdc 13. Hdc 2 in each of last 3 hdc.

Invisible join to first hdc, leaving long (12″) tail for sewing.

Button (make 2)

Make a magic ring, ch 1. (If you don’t feel comfortable making a magic ring, just ch 2 instead and work into the second chain from the hook.) 6 sc in magic ring.

Round 2: 2 sc in each sc around: 12 sc

Round 3: sc in each sc around

Round 4: sc2tog 6 times.

Fasten off. Tie ends of button together in a tight double knot, then trim. The ends will hide inside the button.

Assembly

Use the long starting and ending tails from the ear saver band to sew the buttons onto either end. I created an X with the yarn and went over it twice. Weave in ends firmly.

Pandemic Poetry

I guess it takes a global quarantine to get me posting regularly here, huh? Well, blogging is here for us when we need it most, namely when we’re not getting enough social interaction otherwise. Which brings me to today’s topic… Pandemic Poetry!

In short, I’m trying something new on my (neglected) YouTube channel and reading some poems out loud. Poetry can be quite relaxing to read and listen to, and that’s what I’m hoping to accomplish. Come chill out with me for ten minutes and hear some of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”…and check out my newly finished crochet afghan:

Incidentally, I’m taking 4 English classes this term and just need a way to make some of the reading fun.

Stay healthy and happy, you guys.

Easter in Isolation

Happy Easter, my fellow quarantinees. It’s a strange one, that’s for sure, but maybe that makes the meaning of Easter even clearer. It’s going to be amazing when we all come out of this quarantine period. It really will be like a resurrection.

Anyway, at the risk of getting too sentimental, let’s get to the crochet:

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Turns out when you have nothing to do but stay inside and crochet, you can make an afghan pretty darn quickly. (Admittedly, that’s pretty much all I did anyway, but the stress of COVID-19 has meant I’ve been turning to crochet even more than usual.) Here is the Isolation Blossom Blanket CAL nearing completion. This was the week when we made granny squares. We weren’t going to be joining them together for a while, but I was really excited to do so.

My boyfriend helped arrange the squares using a combination of six-sided and four-sided dice to determine random color order, which worked astonishingly well. Then I joined them all using a sc, ch 3 in the side chain spaces. It’s halfway joined right now, which is when he captured the above picture. I won’t pretend that’s my best angle, but the happiness is real. Because even though we’re stuck inside for 28 days now, I can’t remember ever being this happy. I have everything I need. And I realize just how lucky I am.

I hope you’re happy too, whoever and wherever you are.