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Authorial Heroes

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John Steinbeck is mine, and I’m guessing an author’s name came springing to your lips when you read the title of this post.

Because they offer us different lives to live (if only while we’re enjoying their stories) storytellers are our greatest teachers. They give us diverse shoes to wear, opening our minds to possibilities unconsidered. They are our conscience and consciousness.

Why is John Steinbeck my authorial hero? Because he wrote Cannery Row. Doc, Mack, and Lee Chong tell the stories of the denizens of Cannery Row in Monterey, California. The people range from middle-class to homeless citizens, each trying to make their way through life as best they can, wishing each other well but ending up in pickles of their own making. I love the way he interrupts his primary tale with short stories of particular people who never appear again. The woman who gives tea parties for the neighborhood cats, the neglected boy who can’t quite control his hand-eye coordination, a wife who won’t accept her new home in an abandoned, windowless cannery steampipe unless she has curtains, and Hazel who’s mastered the ability of never answering a question by always asking a new one, these are the jewels scattered along the row. Perhaps one of the finest character driven stories ever told.

Of course, other authors and stories have made profound impacts on my life, far too many to even try to list. Some authors write better, others have offered more insightful characters, the stories told much deeper than friends planning a party. But when I think of who I’d most like to be compared to as a writer it’s always John Steinbeck.

Too bad he wasn’t a woman.

Who is your authorial hero? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

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Brave New Look

colorful-1312799I’ve decided to knuckle down and get serious about this author business. I’ve always been serious about writing, but now I’m going to get serious about building a brand and marketing. I moved from Blogger to WordPress because it supports things like opt-in email – which I’ve just found out I should have been doing for years now.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be building, tweaking, importing, and creating all sorts of neat and nifty things here. There will also be some pretty big announcements coming up. I hope you’ll visit often to keep abreast of what’s going on in my world.

Works and Words of Genta Sebastian

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You’re Doing It Right Now

Or you will be once you finish reading this. If you’re within reach of a PowerBall lottery ticket, you’re dreaming of what you could possibly do with over $6,000,000 dollars. That’s the lump sum payout for a single winner.

My wife and I just spent a pleasant hour discussing the possibilities, those we’d help, how we’d help, what kind of dreams we could make possible, what responsibilities we’d like to shoulder. A retirement village for low-income LGBTQIA+ seniors was mentioned, free operations for kids born with cleft palates whose parents struggle financially, a writer’s retreat for authors struggling to find their voices, and, of course, the house purchases for those we love.

Everyone’s doing it – dreaming of the possibilities of great wealth. It’s the new American dream, that you win enough money to be independent for the rest of your life, and enough left over to provide for those who are the most important in your life.

And then there are the little digs that would be possible. One grandson suggested he would buy his grandmother anything she wanted, but that his own father would be gifted with a small, one bedroom house. “And no maid,” he added. “He’d have to clean it himself.”

It’s human nature to dream, and a uniquely American quality to dream BIG. So buy a lottery ticket, and dream out loud, sharing your thoughts with others and ask them about their own.

Lottery dreaming is more fun than even planning for Christmas because the boundaries are unlimited. And all you have to do is buy a ticket. Lottery chance means you have the same chance that a millionaire has, ticket for ticket. It’s the great equalizer, but if you win it leads to joining the top level of American icons, leaving the common people behind.

But then the doubts set in. Strangers will come out of the woodworks claiming to be friends or long lost family. Others will ask for donations to one or a million worthy charities. Friends will stop valuing you for your inner qualities, instead courting you for your help and assistance. Everyone is suspect, and the temptations placed before you and your spouse can lead to disaster.

So you decide not to tell anyone, let a lawyer accept the prize and keep your anonymity as best you can. (If you live in a state that even allows you anonymity) You know that won’t work, that someone you know will begin to notice the new cars, and houses and travels to corners of the world you didn’t know existed before – before you got rich. And of course, all the new people you meet would know you were rich, so that blows the secret right there.

But still you dream – dream of impossible deeds and unexpected assistance. Of all the big and little things having lots of money can do for you, for yours, and for the world at large.

And all of this can be yours, yours mind you, for a mere $2.00. The dreaming alone is worth the cost of entry.

Oh My Dear, #WisCon Was A Blast!

https://www.facebook.com/WisCon

I’m so sorry I’m a day late in posting this week. I spent the long Memorial Day weekend at a fabulous convention for feminists and science fiction aficionados in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m sure WisCon will feature heavily in my blog posts for awhile, because I met wonderful people and was given so much to think about it will take months to filter through the old brain-pan.

This was the 38th year of WisCon, and I’m very sorry that I’m missed the last 37. Just imagine how much further I’d be along the road of writing if I’d attended every one! It boggles the mind.

Much of the conference centered around the reality of privilege, how to recognize when you have it, what steps you might take to counteract the effects of privilege, and how to be a constructive ally to those who are oppressed. It was most interesting to realize that most of us fit somewhere up or down the ladder of privilege. More on that in the next few days, I promise!

Tomorrow I will post another short short story, because I’m preparing a special post for Pride Month, which as everyone in the entire frickin’ world ought to know by now is JUNE. Some celebrate the last weekend in the month, others choose to celebrate during the early part of June, and then there are those of us who celebrate the WHOLE month:

I wrote this several years ago in response to a woman’s original post on Facebook, and her follow up response to me. To protect her privacy, I’ve omitted her name and words, but I’m sure you’ll get the gist.


D., I’m so sorry that you feel this way. I’ve known you as a FB friend and Farm Ville neighbor. I believe you to be a good kind woman, and I’ll miss you.

But I am a lesbian in love with the finest woman I have ever known. She and I share two daughters, and four grandchildren. We are normal people, just like you. We go fishing, mow the lawn, take care of our family and house, pay our taxes, bury our dead and celebrate our births. We go to church, read ourselves to sleep, bake food when someone’s ill, visit with the neighbors, and shop in local stores.

You’re choosing to follow the teachings of your church – not your religion. Your family is Christian, and my family is Christian. Your church teaches one thing, ours another. Yours teaches exclusion, ours inclusion, yours will tolerate a penitent sinner, ours doesn’t offer mere tolerance, but total WWJD acceptance. We choose our religions, and our churches. I never chose my sexuality, I was born this way.

Your choice to help maintain the inequality between heterosexuals and gay folks is a deliberate choice to make me and my family ‘less than’ you and your family, separate from you and yours. But separate is never equal D. And your choice to support inequality is a clear decision to continue hurting my family.

We are American citizens, and as such we are GUARANTEED equality under the law. Since you choose to ignore our Constitutional rights and our very real needs as a flesh and blood family filled with hope, love, and laughter, I will delete you as a friend after giving you a chance to respond to this post.

I wish you well, both you and your family. May you never, ever, have to watch one of them suffer being a second class citizen in his own country, the land of his birth.

Oh, and unless someone’s lying, Jesus died for me too. I stand up for Him every single time I stand up for equality, and acceptance, and love.

And I just have.

 TWO HOURS LATER:

Ah, D. See? I knew you were a good kind woman. I’ve just been able to feel that about you since I’ve known you.

The problem is choice. You believe the idea that every single gay or lesbian has chosen to become one. I know that isn’t true. I know for a fact that some of us were identifiably gay before we even learned to talk. And others of us have been so terrified by beliefs such as yours that we deny the truth even to ourselves for many many years. But we are as God made us, and eventually we find the path He chose for us. If we’re lucky He helps us find a soul mate to make a home and family with.

 I wonder just how many close friends you have that are either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans. I’m pretty sure you have identified a hair dresser or two, but I doubt you’re friendly enough to really know their lives, their partners, their families. I think it’s much more likely that you’ve been told by someone, or the TV, or you heard a story from somewhere, and most likely a combination of all three about people making the ‘choice’ to be gay or lesbian. Because D., as I think we both can agree, I live in and among a LOT more LGBT folk than you do and I’d say at least 95% insist, as I do, that we had no choice. My sexual orientation was mine at birth, just as yours was. And after years of self-loathing, doubt, and fear I found a welcoming church of Lutherans who helped me understand more about just who I am, and where I fit in God’s plan.

Biblical interpretation is a fascinating topic. Your church’s ministry obviously focuses on the Old Testament which is filled with various abominations that most of the civilized world no longer fear, such as raising two crops side by side in the same field, or touching the skin of a pig, or eating shellfish. I don’t for a moment think that your church condones execution for insolent teenagers, or forcing a woman who’s just given birth to stay in her home for weeks. You’ve stopped focusing on those commands of the Old Testament, and don’t give a moment’s thought to enforcing them. But you do focus on this one, ancient command to despise gay men. The Old Testament were the laws we followed before Christ’s birth, when we were still Jews. The New Testament gives us His life, and His words to follow. You ignore the fact that Christ Himself said not one word against gays or lesbians in the entire New Testament.

My church’s ministry focuses heavily on the words of Christ, and following His commands to judge not, lest ye be judged, to give unto these, the least of Mine, and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. My fellow Lutherans do not merely tolerate me as an unrepentant sinner, they welcome me in acceptance as one of God’s children and help guide me in ways that celebrate the life of Jesus Christ. I won’t be looking for any guidance from groups that refuse to recognize that I am as God made me, whole and complete. I’ve found a church that satisfies all my spiritual needs, and expands them.

What you don’t understand is that your vote to keep marriage only to yourself, and adopting children only to yourself, and sharing health benefits with your mate only to yourself, and bringing a foreign love to America only to yourself, and all the other literally thousands of rights only to yourself is shouting to the world: Heterosexuals are better than gays! LOOK! We get all these goodies, and they don’t! We win!

In my eyes, that’s not a very Christian attitude. I’ve been to churches like yours, was raised in one. Have you ever visited a church like mine? If not, please do. You’ll be welcome! And maybe when you can love one of us in true Christian fellowship, the mote will fall from your eyes and you’ll see the Truth that God doesn’t make mistakes and has created a world with heterosexuals, and lesbians, and gays. Then you’ll have to explain to Him just why you chose to discriminate against some of His children. But He’ll forgive you when you’re truly repentant, He always does!

I’m saying this next part gently, because I know you’re a woman of good intent and I don’t wish to offend you. But I will state my truths.

I will delete you as a friend, because I cannot continue to enrich your life in even the smallest way with my FV gifts and FB friendship while you actively seek to deny my family their basic civil rights. You’re my oppressor, and I don’t play games with people who are part of a majority keeping down a minority.

You (and all the others like you) are the reason I was not allowed to be with my Beloved in the hospital when she had a heart attack. You’re the reason that my girls suffered intolerable rudeness and incivility because of who their Moms are. You’re the reason our legally obtained marriage certificate was stripped from us, leaving us once more in legal limbo. You’re the reason we pay more in taxes as individuals than you do as part of a married couple, pay more for health coverage and insurance. You’re the reason we walk the streets ever vigilant against physical attack. You’re the reason that I won’t be able to go to a retirement home with my lifelong love. You’re the reason that I’ve lived as a second class citizen in my own country. You’re the reason so many people feel justified in cruelty and attacks against LGBT folk and their families. You’re the reason so many young people develop serious depression, self-hatred and self-harming actions up to and including suicide. Your actions have already cost me and my family way too much, and other poor souls much, much more.

You might just as well pick up a spray can and decorate your garage door with: GOD HATES GENTA.

Goodbye D. – God’s Peace be with you.

The Coultergeist Is Hoisted By Her Own Petard

Ann Coulter has been given a taste of her own medicine which has lasted since last Sunday night, when she decided to ridicule Michelle Obama’s #BringBackOurGirls photo. She was not alone. In a shocking display of heartlessness, right-wing pundits began bemoaning hashtag activism when it was used in the hunt for the missing Nigerian school girls kidnapped by a ruthless group known for selling women into slavery. That, in itself, is offensive. Their obnoxious meme is that it will hurt the stolen girls and their families more than it will help.

Coulter has never hesitated to use shocking insults to self-promote her spew of hate, this is not her first time around this particular block. However, rarely has such an ugly act had such a swift and terrible (but sometimes hilarious) response. All over the Twittersphere her photo was shopped with messages that painted the foul-tongued Coultergeist in less and less flattering ways. You can find some of them gathered together at (of all places) Market Watch of the WSJ

Hashtag activism starts conversations, and forces the American media to cover events in far away places that it would otherwise ignore. In places where women are being enslaved, sold, and kept from education, shining a light on what’s going on may start conversations that lead to actual change, which can come in many forms and from many different places.

The argument made by conservatives that hashtag activism hurts more than it helps reminds me of all the times over the years when I’ve heard one section of the LGBT movement put down other sections’ forms of activism. Those advocating self-defense and an armed response were soundly shouted down by those who preferred the legal route through the courts, who were equally censored by those who maintained only direct dialogue with individuals would bring about change, who were laughed at by the those who thought shmoozing the rich and powerful in congress would be best. As it turns out, all of these approaches changed things for the better in our community as a whole. 

I’ll keep talking about the missing Nigerian girls, and I’ll keep posting articles relevant to their rescue, so my friends and family keep talking about them, wondering aloud what can be done to not only rescue these girls, but to keep the same thing from happening to other girls in too many places in the world. 

I will use hashtags, and Facebook posting, and write blog articles because I demand that we Bring Back Our Girls. These young women have become the daughters of the whole world, and my daughters too. Yes, they’re Nigerian and I’m not, but hopefully wherever they are right now, whatever they’re living through, they’ll hear about the amazing swell of worldwide support that has spread through social media, and know they’re not forgotten, not the worthless thing they’re being told they are. 

That’s why I do it.

Pura Vida! Animals I’ve Never Seen Before

Anteater

The animals of Costa Rica are vastly different than the ones I’ve encountered in the United States. Now granted, I haven’t been everywhere, in every state of the union, but these animals seemed very exotic to me.

The very first animal I saw after arriving in Costa Rica, was down on the beach. This little guy is an anteater, and he was moving very slowly in the intense heat, hiding from the sun under the leaves of the tree.

Iguana

Shortly after that I started spotting iguanas, a vast variety from very small to rather intimidatingly large. They are perfectly suited to the surroundings, able to survive in the heat and eat the fruit from the trees heavy with mangoes and cashews. They look prehistoric, the descendants of dinosaurs. Oh, and they hiss. Even the little ones will let loose with a warning hiss. Some have spines, others don’t. This one was by far the most exotic one I spotted.

We decided to treat ourselves to a tour of the Corobici river. It’s a wide river that moves very gently and provides the opportunity to spot many varied kinds of wildlife. The boats are small, with minimal chances for shade, so wear a hat and lots of sunscreen. And, fair warning, the bus that carries you from the resort to the river travels for an hour and a half along a seriously rutted old road, causing a lot of jolting and shifting around. Backs and bottoms were sore, and more than one person felt queasy on the return trip after a day in the unrelenting sun. But if you can brave the rough transport you’re in for a delightful treat.

Howler monkey baby
Capuchin monkey

Unlike the parrots, and toucans you find in the tropical rain forest of western Costa Rica, the Guanacaste area hosts completely different animal species in their tropical dry forest. They say there are three varieties of monkeys there, but I only found two: one of the loudest animals on the planet, the Howler monkey, and one of the smartest animals on the planet, the Capuchin monkey. Both are intensely curious and if you stay still, they’ll eventually creep out to take a look at you.

Nine foot crocodile  in the river
Crocodile waiting for an unlucky monkey.

We also saw crocodiles along the river, some in the water, some on the shore. It was a great reminder that you’re in their world, not sitting at home watching it on television. There are signs on the boat warning tourists to keep their hands and feet out of the water at all times. After seeing these two less than a mile apart on the river, I totally agreed. I was lucky to get a picture of the crocodile on the bank. He was so well camouflaged I had to have him pointed out to me, and since I never did see him with my own two eyes, I pointed my camera where their fingers were aimed, and took a chance. I think I’d easily miss him until too late if I were wandering through the forest on my own. CHOMP

Turquoise-browed motmot

There are many beautiful varieties of birds in the tropic dry forest, but all the parrots and parakeets hid from me that day. I did catch sight of a Turquoise-browed motmot, which I’d only ever seen in drawings before.

Further down the river our guide stopped the boat with excited gestures toward this bird. We all dutifully took pictures, but I have yet to find the name of this little beauty. The guide insists they’re very shy and was pleased for us to see it in the wild. If you can identify her for me, I’d be deeply grateful.

It was perhaps the best vacation of my life, filled with luxury and adventure, pleasure and laughter. Yes, all-inclusives are a little spendy, but given the wealth of opportunities to explore, and the fact that except for tips and souvenirs you never need your wallet, I think it’s comparable to most other vacations. Our vacation package contained a non-stop round trip airline ticket, which made things even better.