A Million Things I Haven’t Done

Way back in the day, when I was a wee 13 year old, I had a Xanga. If you don’t know what Xanga is, I’ll just be over here dusting off my cobwebs and trying not to feel ancient. If you are in the know, you know that it pre-dates Insta, Twitter, even Facebook. It was a blogging site that for some reason, I adored, and it was my first foray into the blogging world. I used to write on that baby all the time, even up until college, letting it serve as a means of chronicling my life and years. And so, as I reflect back on how much I miss than dang blog, I thought I’d bring back an old tradition, which was writing just before my birthday about everything I’d done in the past year, and then looking ahead to what comes next.

So 26.

What a damn year, yo. Let’s break down some of the highlights, starting with last year and working up to the most recent highlights…

OCTOBER 2016
Mere weeks after turning 26, I went to my first New York Comic Con, where I proceeded to meet Guillermo del Toro, Ron Pearlmean, Steven Yeun, Andy Serkis, and this little guy you may have heard of named STAN F**KING LEE. *breathes a moment* Sorry. I get carried away about that last one. We also hosted our first live show for SpeakBeasty at that con, which was unreal and magical and definitely didn’t make me cry. (Narrator voice: she definitely DID.)

NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 2016
As any American without a MAGA hat will tell you, November was hard. Gut wrenching, heartbreaking, soul crushing hard. I went from standing in the shadow of Independence Hall the night before the election, hearing the Obama’s and the Clinton’s speak, thinking, this is it. History is happening right in front of me. I’m here the night before the first woman president gets elected. As we all know, the story didn’t pan out that way, and that has led to our very frightening current climate. To add insult to injury, the depression I experienced that month was so intense, that I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo.

But, because my life is weird like that, there was one thing that happened the day after the election that managed to be a beacon in the darkness. A patronus memory in the making, if you will. For on November 9th and 10th, I got to see an advanced press screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and I got to cover the goddamn red carpet, where I saw J.K. Rowling in person. Yeah. I don’t talk about this moment of my life enough. But it definitely happened, and no fronting whatsoever, I SOBBED. I wish I’d gotten a picture with her or a signature or said hey thanks for my childhood and life and stuff, but that’s an adventure for another day. 😉 Seeing her was enough to turn on the light even in the darkest of times.

Oh, and I saw Hamilton. That happened. #StillNotOverIt

JANUARY 2017
It’s true what they say that when one door closes, another one opens. The only thing of note that went down during this month was finding out my short story wasn’t going to be published by Inkshares, and subsequently entering it to be published in a literary magazine, which led to…..

FEBRUARY & MARCH 2017
The month I found out/got my first work of my life legitimately published. I still look at my copy of Wizards in Space sometimes, in sheer disbelief that it exists. That my story is printed within its pages, and that strangers out there somewhere who I may never meet have heard a story I had to tell. And apparently at NerdCon: Nerdfighteria, John Green bought a copy of the mag, which means that there’s a small chance John Green has read something I wrote. Being 26 could have dropped the mic here and been fine cause IT DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THAT KIDS. (Or does it???)

APRIL & MAY 2017
As if getting a story published wasn’t enough, these two months finally saw me getting a new job, the job I’d honestly been wanting ever since graduating college and starting to work at the company I’m with. It’s not a dream job, nor a job I plan to stay at forever, but its the first time in my life that I have ever made a livable wage. I’m by no means making big bucks or anything, but it allows me to function more like a normal person, and man, it sounds insane to say, but being a person without wanting to die every minute because of financial stress is just bliss, I tell you.

JUNE/JULY 2017
Much of this summer blurs together, since most of it was spent doing one of two things–being at the new job, or working on the rewrite for They Are the Last. I made a lot of progress during these summer months, taking the story a bit slower and steadier without the worry of a publishing campaign looming over my every moment. July and August blazed by as I worked lots of extra hours and then spent what weekends I could stealing away to cafes to write. I also got a lot more into my love of poetry, which led to me doing my first spoken word event.

AUGUST 2017
This one was a bit of a month, as I finally moved into a new apartment and at long last, started getting treatment for my anxiety and depression. These two things happening at just about the same time made for a really interesting combination, and as exhausting as the move was (I managed to sprain an ankle the day I was originally supposed to) it was a process I needed. It was the closing of a door, while opening a shiny new one. It was a sign of progress that I desperately needed to feel like I’m moving forward with my life. And the medication has honestly been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. I’m finally starting to manage my conditions, in a way that doesn’t rip me apart as much as it used to. It’s been incredible.

SEPTEMBER 2017
Only 19 days of this month, and already, unparalleled moments and memories I’ll treasure forever. My vacation to Orlando to attend MuggleNet LIVE 19 Years Later was too unbelievable to comprehend. I spent a magical day at Disney with a number of my SpeakBeasty friends, ushered in the only canon date in Harry Potter that fans have been able to live through together (September 1st, 2017, the day Albus goes off to Hogwarts) and spent lazy days strolling through Universal with people I love more than anything. I got to live out my dream of spending a day writing in the Wizarding World, sitting outside Florean Fortescue’s with a Butterbeer ice cream working on edits, and enjoyed a delicious dinner in the Leaky Cauldron as I worked on the book. It was too beautiful for these measly words to convey. I wish life could be like it every day.

Which brings me to the now. Or rather, the tomorrow. Tomorrow, I turn 27, an age that doesn’t come with much pomp or circumstance, and which forces me to face the fact that I was 17 10 years ago. But I feel energized for it. I feel an anxious kind of ready that’s trapped in my bones. I look back at how my life has progressed over especially the last 3 years, and each time, life gets ever more complex which makes it ever the more beautiful.

My life still gets messed up. I’m still broke some days. I still get majorly stressed. I still don’t always accomplish the things I set out to do. But the one thing I have yet to do, and which I pray I never do till my time on Earth is done, is give up. I hope that 27 is a year in which I keep pushing forward, and boldly going after my dreams, even though the thought of it scares the hell out of me. But as my fave said in a tweet earlier this year, which I put to paint…

“Courage. Even when panic’s at the back of your throat, courage.”
-Lin Manuel Miranda

I hope as I go forth into my 27th year that I can have even a shred of the courage exhibited by my heroes. I hope that even as I struggle, beautiful things come of it. I hope that no matter what comes my way, I don’t give up. Because for all the amazing things that happened to me while I was 26, there’s still a million things I haven’t done. But just you wait… 😉

 

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Lots of Magical

The last two months have gone by in a big, messy, life-altering blur, and I feel remiss to have not written in so long. But had to get in at least one post before the month is out, and with everything that’s been going on, I think it was high time for an update on my life and my book.

Let’s start with life.

For those who don’t know, I’ve spent three long years working a job that, well, to be candid but also respectful, was not very great. Lots of management changes and stressful days doing something that wasn’t very creative or along the lines of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Some days, it made my depression and anxiety unmanageable, and I spent much of that time so monetarily broke and feeling emotionally broken that I honestly don’t know how I made it. But if my heroes who came before me taught me anything, its that strength comes from struggle, and I can say with conviction, while I might not be unbreakable, I am certainly a much stronger human than I was back then for having gone through it all.

But in good news, playing the long game paid off, because as of May, I finally started the job I’d been wanting and pitching during that whole time I was here. Its been a lot to take on, with its own new challenges and responsibilities, but I can honestly say that it has been a very long time since I worked a job I enjoyed doing this much. 90% of my job relates to social media, which I love contributing to. And to make things even better, I’ll be moving soon, into a new place with one of my best friends, which will start a whole new chapter for me. It’s terrifying, but also pretty damn exciting.

Then there’s been IndiePen Ink.

I haven’t had much chance here yet to talk about the website for writers that my dear friends and I launched back in February, but after a few months of getting our feet wet, we’re soon rolling out some really big and exciting things that has me more jazzed than I can describe. It feels like we’re at the beginning of something really beautiful, and after spending the most wonderful week in recent memory with the two ladies I co-founded this site with, I can genuinely say that I believe we have something really special we’re creating here, and that’s just magical.

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The savvy, snarky, sassy founders of IndiePen Ink. (Aka, mah girls.)

Speaking of magical things, SpeakBeasty just turned 40! Well, sorta…

We just recorded our 40th episode… fortieth. When I think about where we are and where we started, goodness, it gives me so many emotions. Our show certainly hasn’t been without its bumps in the road, but we’re getting to make something that’s just so much fun to create, and the more comments we get like “thanks for helping me power through this week“, the more full my heart is. It’s living out a childhood dream for me to get to contribute to this show. Being a professional fangirl is, and always shall be, #goals.

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Recording the 40th. Can’t believe it.

And for one more magical thing, how about an update on my book?

As you might know if you’ve been following along on this journey, I spent pretty much all of 2016 reworking and reworking the first parts of the book, all while trying to run that campaign on Inkshares. After that crashed and burned, I took it hard. I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo, a bigoted orange got elected president, and I ended last year/started this year with next to no positive creative energy. March 1st of this year though, I finally decided to take all those reworkings and incomplete chapters and set them on a shelf to start a fresh new draft, which came with a shiny 22 chapter outline, which built on the Frankenstein version from last year.

Since then, I’ve been trying to get through this second full draft, and making what has felt like slow, but is actually pretty steady, progress. As of this writing, I’m through 13 chapters, and have 9 left to go. And with it officially being Camp NaNoWriMo again, I’m reeeally looking to finally get this draft finished.

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Me at the cafe earlier today, revising that Ch 7 bit & intermittently working on Ch 14.

This will be my third July Camp in a row in which I’ll be working on this book, which feels very strange. The version I did in 2015 got scrapped. The version for 2016 was more me beating the same chapter to death without making much progress. But this year, I go into July with 13 (sorta?) solid chapters, and have a strict trajectory of what needs to happen form now through to the end of the book. I’m more prepared than either of my previous July Camp attempts, so really what I need this coming month is just going to be lots and lots of focus. If my estimates are correct, there’s about 30,000 words to go before I get to finish the last chapter and slap that exciting ‘To Be Continuued…’ on the end of this book. (I’d especially like this to happen so that this November, I can take a wild, crazy, pantser-style stab at the first draft of Book 2 in The Alterian Trilogy, but let me not get ahead of myself…)

This road has been long and weird and winding, but even on its worst days, I’m still so happy to be doing it. I spent today having several writing friends look over some pages I’m using for a writing residency I’m applying to, and I was mortified to share it with them, because the scene I had them looking over was one of *the most* important scenes in the book. (Your only hint is that its in Chapter 7.) And while the mark-ups and edits were many, the consensus among them was pretty similar: still needs work, but you’ve got something here. Can a writer really ask for more?

So to bed I go. Want to be up early so I can get in some words before work. Because I’m resolved friends: this draft is getting done this month. No matter what, I’m making it happen. I think it is finally time.

See you on the other side of Camp!

 

What Gives Me Life

A late night blog cause my heart’s doing some things.

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve failed, even when I shouldn’t feel that way. Like the one thing I might have done wrong or not done well enough means I myself am a failure. Its a feeling that bites and burns and I wish I knew how to shut it down as it happens, but sometimes, that shit’s hard. But what I’ve learned in recent years, is that there are other things in my arsenal of emotion I can use to at least combat it, if not eradicate it. Tonight was one of those nights where I got to do that.

Not an hour ago, I hopped off a call with my podcast co-producer and our three new interns. Yep. That’s right. The podcast I run has interns. This statement feels unreal, because as my co-producer put it, it means we’ve grown so much that we need help. This beautiful and weird little thing we created is becoming a big enough thing that we need more people on our team to make it continue to grow and succeed. And while bringing on unpaid interns to an already unpaid job I have might not look like much on paper, to my heart, it is everything.

Most of the things I love doing most in life are things I don’t get a paycheck for. I didn’t get paid to make short films with my production company/band of friends when I was in college. I don’t get paid to produce a podcast about a movie about wizards. I don’t get paid to insanely agree to write 50,000 word novels every November, while encouraging strangers to also write 50,000 word novels with me. As of yet, I don’t get paid to stay up late at night editing and rewriting a story that’s been in my mind for most of my life. But these things that don’t put any coins in my pocket are the things which breathe life into my soul. They are the worthwhile things that make up the entire short list of most profound, enthralling, uplifting moments I’ve ever experienced. These things make me feel more alive than anything I’ve ever punched a time clock for.

These little moments, these small victories, they are my weapons for the days I feel like I’ve failed. They are the swords that cut my self doubt and they are the fans to my flames of hope. While there were things I did and didn’t do today that made me feel like I’d messed up or failed, the one thing I did right has to be enough to keep me going onto the next moment, and the next, and the next. I will fall and I will fail more times in life than perhaps I’d ever be able to count, but these things are sure to come in equal measure with things that are beautiful, inspiring, and which will give me the strength to stand back up.

Tonight began the next leg of a journey. One with a bigger team, more responsibility, and more chances for me to fail. But I have a feeling that with the right amount of dedication, spirit, and joy, whatever pitfalls may lay in waiting will be far outweighed by the triumphs sure to come.

Keep Letting Go

I’ve blogged about it before, and I’m sure I’ll blog about it again one day, but I never stop being amazed at how the stories I love find ways of saying exactly what I need to hear when I need it most.

This time, that story was last night’s new episode of Jane the Virgin, a show I’ve fallen head over heels in love with for its insane ability to make me snort with laughter and cry with sadness and/or joy all in a single episode. While much of the episode last night was fun and campy and about the main characters maaaaajor new crush on someone, it was also about her being vulnerable as a writer, and letting the world see the sides of her which while most painful to face, are the things that shaped her most into the person she is. I felt like I was watching my life via Gina Rodriguez.

But the part that struck me most was a conversation that Jane had with her Abuela, Alba. As Jane was trying to accept the fact that she needs to face the pain she was feeling over a lost loved one, her grandmother said:

You’re in a long term relationship with grief. But it has to evolve, and it’s okay to keep letting go. You have to.

It should be noted that while I watched this episode last night, today happens to be my mother’s birthday—my mother who passed away almost eight years ago.

Her birthday is always a hard day for me to face. Its a day when I should be celebrating her, yet I have to do it knowing I can’t see her. That I don’t get to hug her or bake her a cake or write her a card that would probably make her cry. (A skill I learned from her I should add—giving meaningful cards was kinda our thing. No wonder I ended up a writer.)

My mom was everything to me. Growing up (and even now) I’ve been surrounded by friends who have estranged relationships with their moms or who just aren’t that close with them, while I find myself treasuring beyond measure the eighteen years I had mine. For while we fought, and while I could be a bratty teenager, and while neither of us was ever perfect, my mom was always there for me. Rather than punish me for not being the best, she always encouraged that I try my best. She supported my passions, believing that I could accomplish my many head-in-the-cloud dreams, even when I couldn’t.

But to that quote, hearing it was such a cathartic reminder, that while I miss my mom every. single. day… letting go is part of moving on. Grief is an every day, never goes away kind of experience, in which some days are better than others. Some days you can get through talking about them without crying, some days you can’t. But that line reminded me that no matter what kind of day I’m having—it’s going to be okay.

Here’s to you mom. Happy birthday.

(Ps, it’s really fitting that today also happens to be World Penguin Day, as penguins were her favorite animal on the planet.)

Write Space

For most of the country (and let’s be real, the world) 2016 was just awful. Not only did we lose people who were regarded as cultural icons, but the world was ripped apart by wars, mass shootings, and other instances of violence that took so many others from us. It was a year in which I got to see both Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton speak at rallies, each time inspiring within me a hope that this nation can do better, only to have hate win out in a devastating conclusion to an election, which felt more like the beginning of a dystopian novel. 2016 was hard.

But when I think about what this year meant to me personally, it was really a year full of words. This day last year in a frenzied marathon, I wrote 11,900 words to conclude my first draft of They Are the Last, which still is one of the most accomplished moments of my life thus far. So it was only natural that 2016 should be a continuation of that. And while I’ve yet to complete my full second draft, I managed to write 80,000+ words during NaNo and Camp months, and countless other words of rewrites for the new draft in-between. I even wrote my first short story (add another 5,000 words for that) which is hopefully set to be published next year. You could say that words themselves defined my year.

And so rather than try to convey exactly what it feels like to be writing like I’m running out of time, I thought I would instead share this collection of photos I’ve snapped over the year featuring the spaces in which I have written. Some were posted to my Instagram, some were taken with my professional camera, but all of them were captured by me.

As a writer, it feels like sharing these images is one of the most personal things I can do, because it invites you in to my space in which I create. These photos capture an extension of my very head space, and a glimpse into how, when, and where I make happen the closest thing I can to magic.

I hope you enjoy them, and even more so, I hope each and every person who happens upon this post has a beautiful and blessed 2017. We could use it after all we’ve been through together. Keep your heads up, hearts full, and as we leave 2016 behind and soldier into this brave new world, may the odds be ever in our favor.

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January 1, 2016
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December 26, 2016
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December 31, 2016

(All photos in this post are copyright © 2016 Elayna Mae Darcy)

Patient Understanding: Losing a Legend

On June 25th, 2009, the world was in mourning. Michael Jackson had died. As someone who was never a big MJ fan, I didn’t understand why everyone was so upset. At the time, I was worried about enough things, for on that very same day, my mother had just gotten out of the hospital. Who had time to worry about a celebrity who had passed when my mother was ill?

The very next morning, my mother joined him. While the world was still grieving over Michael, I began grieving over my mom, and my sentiments of apathy and frustration about everyone’s focus on this celebrity death was only made worse.

As I listened to the world despair that someone had died that they had never met, I was angry. At the time, I was 18 years old, two months from starting college, and now – an orphan. I didn’t understand what everyone else could possibly be grappling with because I was young, scared, and going through more pain at my mother’s unexpected passing than I ever had ever known before. In those moments, I did not think it conceivable that the loss of a stranger could be anywhere near as agonizing as what I was going through. I was heartbroken, and those scars may never fully heal. But because of what I experienced yesterday, I know now that thinking their hurt was any less real than mine, was wrong.

Yesterday morning (January 14th) I awoke to a message from a friend saying . . .

I know how upset you’re going to be today. Just know I’m just as upset and I love ya.

Both shock and fear gripped me. What had happened? What was wrong? Had someone died? I immediately went to twitter, and the name I saw at the top of the trends for a moment made me exclaim, “No, no, no . . .”

Sure enough, it was true. The world had lost Alan Rickman.

A loss of someone I’d never met, which had six years ago been incomprehensible to me, somehow now made sense. With perfect clarity, I began to feel a pain, sadness and confusion that I ‘d never known before. I never met Alan Rickman, and I knew I now never would, but it didn’t stop me from feeling like a friend had just died.

As someone who tells stories, I know the impact that characters, authors, and artists can have on a person – they become like friends to us, family even. I remember being 11 years old and seeing the first glimpses of Alan as Professor Snape, and I would spend the next 10 years of my life watching him brilliantly play one of the most complicated hero-villains I’ve ever seen. I watched him in behind the scenes features, heard stories of his kindness to the kids on set, and from those who knew him best. He was one of my faves.

Then I laughed hysterically because of his role in Dogma, looked for the best in him when he made mistakes in Love Actually, and then he stole my heart in Sense and Sensibility as Colonel Brandon – probably the only other role of his that majorly impacted my life. As with many other creators, he had come to be someone I looked up to, admired, and was inspired by. I’d never met the man, but he affected me.

And thus his loss has been excruciating. No doubt the pain I feel is far, far less than that of those who loved him and were a part of his daily life. Fellow Potter alumni Sean Biggerstaff and Evana Lynch posted beautiful accounts of what an incredibly caring man he was. He was someone who genuinely and freely expressed kindness towards others, even if he barely knew them. He may have spent the years in which I knew him playing a Slytherin, but these accounts have convinced me: I believe Alan may have been a Hufflepuff, and it has made me connect with him all the more now that he’s gone.

His characters will live on forever. That is the beautiful thing. His vulnerability exhibited with the utterance of one word – “Always” – will continue to inspire strength for generations to come. But for me, Alan’s death, tragic though it may be, has helped me understand something that I didn’t all those years ago.

It is okay to mourn someone you’ve never met. Was Alan just one person who passed in a world where people are dying every minute of every day? Yes. Does that make the impact of his loss any less for those who looked up to him, were inspired by him, and connected to him? No. I couldn’t possibly understand this as an 18 year old in the wake of the greatest loss I’ve ever known, but as a 25 year old who has just experienced the loss of an artist who helped shape me, I can.

As you go through the internet in the next few days, there will begin to be people who say things like – ‘Get over it, already!’ or ‘You never even met him, so you have no right to be sad!’ – I encourage you to exhibit what I’m sure someone like Alan would have. Be patient and understanding, for they may not understand. This kind of loss is unique, and for those who may never have lost an icon they looked up to, it’s not a feeling they can relate to.

Forgiveness of those who don’t sympathize with you is key – but I write this so that in reading it, you can also know you’re not alone in this. There is a whole community of us who feel it too, and who want to pay tribute. This is a sadness felt ’round the world, and as Albus Dumbledore once reminded us at a time of great loss:

Now the pain we all feel at this dreadful loss reminds me, and, reminds us, that though we may come from different countries and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one. – Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire film)

May we remember Alan and his legacy, always. /*

(Featured Image Photo taken by Claire Furner at Kings Cross Station in London, where a memorial for Alan Rickman began to form at Platform 9 3/4.)