It's George's fault, of course. Every time the topic of dogs came up...and sometimes when it didn't...he'd look mournful and say, "I miss my dog." His ex-wife got the hound dog in the divorce. He likes hound dogs. This is relevant.
I sent George a text message. "A dog followed me home."
He calls, immediately. "Are you serious?"
"Well, yes. Why would I make that up?"
I took a photo and posted it to our neighborhood e-mail and Facebook groups, then sat outside with her while she busily sniffed...everything. And peed on the back porch rug, portent of things to come. I sent another text message: "I think she looks like a Myrtle."
Before we learned all that, though, which took a couple of days, George said, "This is exactly the kind of dog I want." He turned to me. "Did you go out and get a beagle?!"
I laughed at him. "No. But I told you, shit like this happens to me."
She is a dog of dainty mein and disreputable habits. Her house-training is mediocre and she chews on anything stuffed if left alone with it for a minute. She barks at people and dogs she can see from the dining room window, and since there's a path along the lake down there she can see plenty. Her flatulence is infrequent but terrible. I mean that I can count the number of Myrtle farts on one hand, but I remember each one distinctly and vividly, etched separately in my memory, a miasma as if a skunk crawled into a septic tank and died and then the toilet backed up. I have dog fart trauma.
Isn't she cute?
So, I'm a writer. I have a poem in an anthology of Georgia poets which is coming out just now, and I have some other stuff published, and I have a blog on Patheos, and sometimes people pay me for that stuff. I also have a novel in second draft, and another novel in first draft, and a bunch of half-written short stories, and a chapbook I am trying to get someone to publish. I have a number of ideas that could, in theory, turn into published pieces. And...I can't seem to get any of that done.
Other things are bothering me. I find my living situation stressful, though I like where I live. I want to find a different job but haven't yet. (I do HAVE a job though, and I enjoy it). I am disappointed in some people. Things like that.
I note that most of my writing recently has been about racism. I think that is probably precisely because, while it is an important topic, there's lots of discussion about it in the world at large and affects people I love, it's not about me. I mean, it is when people are using white women as an excuse for violence, but not really. It's about my social markers but not actually about me. It's not personal.
And while that is a good thing with regards to the topic..people are justifiably wary of white people who want to discuss racism in terms of their personal feelings, or men who want to discuss sexism in terms of the same, etc...it's not so good in terms of me, as a writer. Because I write from the deep self, and if I lose track of that, I just lose it, period.
I don't even like the confessional style of writing. And my writing for publication doesn't necessarily fall under that category. But somehow, I need to keep the path to the well clear via talking about me, my thoughts, my feelings, my ridiculous daily existence. So, therefore...this. The return.
Some posts will be publicly visible. Others won't, and if you want to see those, you'll have to have a LiveJournal account and be my "friend." I'll warn you that if you like my writing elsewhere, you may find my burblings here to be perplexingly full of quotidian whining and discussion of my pets. Basically, like my Facebook feed, only longer and with fewer links and memes.
If that sounds awesome to you, you're in luck.
I'm not likely to start writing here again on a regular basis, because I have too many writing irons in the fire already. Some of the reasons I shut this journal down still obtain; the fact that my actual writing career is going somewhere means that I have to choose how much energy to spend on "outside" projects, even personal ones that I do for fun. My personal random musings now go on my blog under my legal name, my discussions of geekery are soon to be seen in Luna Station Quarterly, and my thoughts on Pagan topics can currently be found on A Sense of Place at Patheos.com.
Other reasons, not so much. Those who pay attention to such things will have noticed that I fairly recently decided to start writing on Pagan topics again and collapse my "literary writer" and "Pagan writer" identities and write under my legal name for everything. Part of this was driven by the realization that maintaining effectively two writing careers was causing me to double my effort in some areas with no appreciable benefit, and as a practical matter it was probably better not to do that.
The other reason, of course, is that someone (actually a couple of someones, including Storm Faerywolf and Valerie Walker) had already "outed" me, not just as a Pagan but as a bisexual, by linking my legal name to my Pagan name and this journal. They also posted where I lived and my place of work, in a stated attempt to punish me for speaking up about their plagiarism of other initiates' work. Storm's intentions were, in his own words, to inflict "consequences" and cause me harm. I can only assume, based on previous conversations with Storm and one of his initiates in which they expressed the worst kinds of stereotypes about the South, that they assumed my employer would fire me and the local rednecks would set my house on fire. Understand that at the time they did this I was a single mother with a minor child.
They were actually barking up the wrong tree in terms of the professional aspect, because while I was a graduate student at that same Southern university I was co-president of the oldest Pagan student group in the country. I was CEO of a local Pagan non-profit after I graduated, and have spoken as a representative of Pagan religions at university events and classes more than once. They know I'm a Pagan, knew it before they hired me, and manifestly do not care.
On the other hand, as a locally known and visible Pagan I had been the focus of concern for some nice people who were worried that I might be possessed by demons, and while I appreciate anyone taking an interest in my welfare, I also found them creepy. I decided that I did not need that amplified by the Internet, and while I continued my work locally, I erased my Pagan-related Internet presence for the most part.
Let's be clear: Regardless of its ineffectiveness, Storm Faerywolf, Valerie Walker, and anyone else who posted my name anywhere, meant to cause me harm. They outed a queer woman and a fellow Pagan out of sheer spite.
At the time, I under-reacted, because there were other things going on that were bigger than my personal situation and I didn't want to make the problem worse. Besides, I was assured by several people who were mutual friends that they would "talk" to Storm and try to convince him that his behavior was unethical. However...it has been three years, more or less, and nothing has changed. I realized while participating in the #yesallwomen conversations that there is an element of sexism here as well; Storm has a pattern. He'll plagiarize from anybody, but let me or another woman disagree with him and we get over-the-top personal attacks as well, usually accompanied by calling us "crazy" which is one of the classic gendered insults. (I am definitely not the only one this has happened to; among his other targets was an elder of the tradition who provided evidence that he'd plagiarized her then-student's work). There is a long, ugly history there, including real-life horror stories of women being institutionalized for speaking out against injustice. (Cf. etymology of "hysteria" and the early history of the women's movement).
If you are still in doubt about any of the things I've said on the matter of plagiarism or anything else, here or elsewhere, ask yourself...who would respond to a false charge with viciousness? That kind of hostility and vengefulness is typically only seen when someone feels threatened. Nobody should feel threatened by an accusation with no substance behind it. Even if I hadn't offered careful documentation, the reaction alone gives credence to my statements.
Be that as it may, it's clear to me that Storm is never going to come to a realization of his moral failures on his own. Also my situation is different. My son is now an adult. I don't live in the same place...I now live in a very small town where all of my neighbors know me (and appreciate weirdness) and the police have a 90 second response time. Academics, it turns out, are kind of liberal, and they also have a strong code against plagiarism and completely understand where I'm coming from there. Any potential material harm is reduced to nil.
On another level, though, this was an attempt to belittle and intimidate me...to take my power away. And while I had logical reasons to not press the issue, I admit it galled me a bit to even give the impression that it might have worked. After all, giving in to bullies only encourages them. I promised myself that I would keep my mouth shut until certain situations (including legal cases and if you know what I'm referring to, no, Storm and Valerie were not on the side of the angels in that one, either) worked themselves out, and I would also give the people trying to rectify the situation the fullest possible amount of both time and benefit of the doubt. And then I would speak.
So then. I will take this weapon from their hands, permanently. This doesn't ameliorate the wrong, in my eyes; it just means I'm making the best of it, and reducing the likelihood that they will try this with anyone else by making it not worth the blowback and trouble. What they did, as I explained in the post I wrote when I shut down this journal, was a violation of common ethics. It was also a violation of specific sworn vows. They are oathbreakers, several times over.
My name is Sara Amis. If you wish to follow my personal blog, you can find it at The Consequence of Chance. I don't post there too often, but it does have a list of my current publications. I have a weekly column on Patheos.com, at A Sense of Place. I am on Facebook and Google Plus and Twitter. I have more writing projects in the works which will be announced when they happen, probably on my blog.
See you around.
Let's say that you have this cousin, whom you find obnoxious. He is always showing up and bringing his sketch-ass friends over, and sometimes when they leave you find stuff is missing. Worse, your family has a treasure trove of your grandmother's silver, china, and glassware that is supposed to be for everyone in the family to use, but ONLY the family, and you discover that he has been taking some of it and pawning it and playing beer pong with the rest. When you complain about this, he tells you it's HIS STUFF TOO and you can't tell him what to do with it, plus your other cousin had a party and used that stuff and you didn't complain then, never mind that it's not the same thing and none of her friends broke any of it. When you point out that some of the stuff he is pawning and beer-ponging is actually yours, he claims it isn't.
PS. This is a parable. It has absolutely nothing to do with anyone in my real-life family. All of my actual cousins are awesome and delightful.
"Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes. " ~Henry David Thoreau
"If I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me?" - "Free Bird" Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Either that wallpaper goes, or I do." - att. Oscar Wilde
I began this journal not quite ten years ago, in October of 2001. In it I have recorded my frustrations, triumphs, hilarities, tragedies, hopes, and confusions for the better part of a decade. I have made good friends. I have won the Internet several times, so I am told. I pissed some people off. I learned that is sometimes a badge of honor, and sometimes not, and how one might try to avoid it when it isn't, and not worry too much about it when it is. I learned many, many things, and got some very important practice and encouragement in the art of expressing my thoughts.
And, I'm done. My life has changed dramatically...in some ways, my involvement in online communities was its own undoing, because I began this journal during a very difficult and isolated time in my life and it sustained me through some traumatic life changes. These included witnessing my mother's final illness and helping to care for her during it, which I still consider the hardest thing I have ever done. I received support and empathy from others, and a willingness to read my agonized ravings, for which I am still grateful.
But partially because of that support, I have become less isolated in my daily life. I am more involved in face-to-face communities, which require time, and there's only so much of it in the day. The biggest change however is that my writing has gone from a hobby to something approaching a career...I am in a completely different place in terms of work and what I am doing with my life than I was ten years ago. As my career develops, it requires more and more of my time and especially my writing energy. I haven't posted much in this journal of late, partially because I have so much else going on. Including publications right and left, and more in the works. Plus a full time job doing something I frankly love even when it tries my patience.
So, then. It's time to move on. I appreciate all of the people who have read what I've written here, and responded to it...with encouragement, with ideas I hadn't encountered, with new ways of looking at it, even with acrimony. Every time you see my name in print somewhere, I want you to realize that you helped get me there.
That's probably enough, right there. I should end on a high note, good feelings all around, that sort of thing. Everything I just said is true and sufficient. But if you've been paying attention, you know there are other, possibly lesser, reasons. And if you know me by now...and I think you do...you know that I just can't let a parlor pachyderm go by me without pointing it out.
I've been a Pagan for nearly a quarter of a century. More than half my life, at this point. And I came up in the middle of a local Pagan community which is no less prone to drama, shenanigans, and ass-showing than any other, and more so than some. I was just as loud-mouthed and even more tactless in my early twenties than I am now, and I have done my share of provoking people. They've also made me so angry I could spit fire. I have witnessed behavior that was callous, childish, short-sighted, unethical, and just plain mean. I've had people kick me out of a group behind my back, I've had people threaten me, and I've had people spread rumors that I'd been arrested. I thought I'd seen it all.
Apparently not. If you had asked me a year ago if I thought that a member of my community would attempt to damage my livelihood and put me and my son in physical danger by revealing my legal name, work place, and where I live, I would have said no. Talking smack is one thing, but there are some lines you don't cross. If you'd asked if a member of my specific religious tradition would do it, I would have said doubly no; because most of us swear an oath "to protect and defend our brothers and sisters in the Craft" and the ones who don't say those exact words still adhere to it as a moral concept. No matter how much we may hate each other's guts, I would have said, we take that seriously.
Evidently, I was wrong. Perhaps it was naive of me to think that someone who had previously shown a serious lack of boundaries or moral compass would suddenly develop same, but then I had considered all of the people involved to be friends, once upon a time. They had talked a good game (and still do talk it, apparently, though it's hard to see once the glamour is broken why you were ever fooled). But when you look at what they do, rather than what they say, you start noticing discrepancies.
The ethical principle of not "outing" people is a widespread standard...one shared not only by all of the Witchcraft traditions I am aware of, but by the larger Pagan community, the LGBT community, and the online community.
The choice to post my name, town of residence (which is quite small), and place of work on the Internet along with some rather muddled "refutations" was made in response to my criticisms of a couple of Feri initiates, written up as a series of articles and also stated in an interview with The Wild Hunt. Those criticisms included fostering an atmosphere where abusive behavior could flourish, and plagiarizing the work of other initiates while claiming it as their own. Apparently my criticisms stung. As my father used to say, "the bit dog hollers."
Two justifications are currently given for this: One, that I previously made connections between my legal name and the Feri Tradition (even though those pages are all defunct), and two, that I was "attacking" under different names and therefore it needed to be revealed that "all" of the names were the same person.
The first one may be dispensed with by this quote from the Judy Harrow article I linked to: "The way to know how public a Witch is willing to be is simply to ask them. In very rare circumstances where you are truly not able to ask them, follow their example. Be careful not to rely on old statements or behaviors. The right to choose implies the right to change one's mind. Perhaps she was open in the freewheeling atmosphere of a college town, but now is struggling to establish a professional career. Perhaps he's in a new relationship, and his new lover has a stronger sense of privacy than the last one. Saying that somebody who had their legal name in the letter column of some obscure publication twenty years ago has yielded all right to privacy is about like saying that only virgins can ever say no. "
The second is simply a flat-out lie. I made the connection between "elorie " and the "Sarsen" of freeferi.org and in the Wild Hunt article explicitly myself here. I named this journal after a D&D character, and the fact that I chose to use the Craft name I've been known by for over a decade rather than my LJ handle for the articles and interview is indicative of nothing more nefarious than the fact that I don't ever go by "elorie" as a name. More importantly, I never wrote anything about the individuals in question under my legal name, or any permutation of it. There might be some reason to emphasize the connection between "elorie" and "Sarsen" (though not to insinuate that I tried to hide it). There was NO reason to include my legal name, except pure spite.
The real motive was actually stated in so many words in a previous version of the web page: to impose "consequences" for my criticisms. That is, to punish me for speaking out. It should be noted also that another consequence of connecting this journal to my legal name was to out me as a bisexual...something I had never done myself in so many words. The reason being that things like this still happen. Moreover (as noted in the Geek Feminism article) I used this journal to talk extensively about my sexuality, both past experiences and what it meant to me.
If you are prone to assume that because one of the people involved is a gay man that he didn't intend that consequence or that he didn't mean it maliciously, I think you are wrong about that. In any case, he and his partner have both made statements in my presence which I consider biphobic.
I did not address this openly before now for two reasons. One, I didn't want to compound the problem by drawing attention to it. Two, I was told by mutual acquaintances that they would "talk to" the people who did this (it was more than one) and see if they could be made to see reason. I was giving them time to think it over and back down without losing face. Somewhat predictably, they haven't; in fact, they have doubled down on it. I was also giving myself time to think it over.
I don't live in the same place any more. I don't work in the same place. I feel...somewhat...safer. After a good deal of consideration, here is what I choose to do:
Fare thee well.
"But there you are: Hobbits must stick together, and especially Bagginses. All I ask in return is: take as much care of yourself as you can, and bring back all the news you can, and any old songs and tales you can come by. I'll do my best to finish my book before you return." - Bilbo Baggins
"Today was both more and less of an adventure than I was hoping for."
I then digressed into a long description of my attempts to find my ancestors by driving to where they were buried, some of whom refused to be found that day. And witchiness. I made, naively to my eyes now, casual references to my son, places, people. I posted an invocation that I wrote, with no notion that someone might come along and decide to swipe it. I talked about magic, and my hopes and fears, for an audience made up only of my friends. I bitched about a certain significant other type person asking me to buy him cigarettes because I did not like contributing in any way to the smoking.
I was still in Reclaiming, and my coven still existed. My son was seven years old. I was broke, and worried about money.
"...well, at least I got signed up to this thing now. Which is a cool thing. I think that's it for today."
In the wake of the destructive tornadoes which ripped through Alabama on April 27th, 2011, Southern Fried Weirdness Press is proud to present the charity anthology, Southern Fried Weirdness: Reconstruction. This collection of poetry and short fiction features 46 pieces from 40 different contributing authors. It spans multiple genres and presents an eclectic mix of voices. All profits will be donated to The American Red Cross to aid disaster relief efforts.
Now available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.