When I was a kid, my mother used to say, “Karen, you are so anti-social!”

Not like a description. Like a flaw.

Actually, I can be pretty social. I like people. I like listening to them and talking to them. I like hanging out with people and Doing a Thing Together, or Doing A Thing Separately. I’m introverted in that spending a lot of time with a lot of people can be exhausting, but it’s still fun.

The problem was that I would rather read than do anything else in the world, especially if my other options were “entertain your siblings” or “talk to your distant relatives or your parents’ older friends.” I didn’t know how to fulfil social obligations and get what I wanted at the same time, so I would sit in the same room and read. When well-meaning adults asked me questions, my response was usually a distracted “What?”

If I was so deep into a book that a question only lightly brushed the surface of my submerged consciousness, then my response was nothing at all.

This wasn’t someone trying to bother me on public transport. This was people who deserved my respect, and who I indeed respected. Mum found my rudeness frustrating. I found her frustration baffling.

When I was a teenager, my mother used to say, “Karen, you are so anti-social!”

And I would say, “Yes, I am! So you should stop forcing me to socialise!”

Then we would shout at each other. We did that a lot.

This Christmas, there were seventeen people in my parents’ house. I poured drinks, played with the little kids, cleared the wrapping paper, patted the dogs, set the table, and chatted with almost everyone. When the noise levels got too high, or the sun too bright, or I didn’t have anything to do, I went to my room to read.

My mother didn’t say a thing.


I am suspicious of muses.

I do know writers and other creative persons for whom the muse is essential - nothing works unless the muse is in residence, but when she is, all things flow well. They feel something, explicable or otherwise, a force that compels from them work they find good.

I used to be scornful of this, and I remain dubious about claims that this particular science fiction world requires all white people, or that in this story the gay characters must all die tragically, because thus the muse decreed it and nothing can now be done. People must take responsibility for the work of their hands: the muse's name doesn't appear on the cover.

However, apart from these appeals to the muse to justify shitty work, I am not scornful now. People work how they work, and they feel what they feel.

But I remain personally suspicious of muses, because one possessed me once, and I didn't like it at all.

I was fifteen years old, and participating in the Oamaru Society Competitions, which was a mixed bag of performance events in varying age categories. Highland Dancing! Piano Solo! Vocal Duet! My specialty was acting - poetry recital (Lyric Poem! Narrative Poem! Set Poem!) and monologues.

I stepped on stage to perform a liberal translation of Cassandra's ecstatic ravings in Euripides' The Trojan Women. In the aftermath of the Trojan war, the princess Cassandra is condemned to slavery and rape, the prize of the victorious general Agamemnon. Cassandra rejected the sexual advances of the god Apollo, and his curse was that she would see the future - and her pronouncements would never be believed,

Cassandra saw it all before it happened. She saw her brother Paris abducting the Spartan princess Helen. She saw the brutal death of her brother Hector, dragged by his feet from a chariot. She saw the wooden horse that disgorged the Greek invaders into the heart of the city, the fires that razed the topless towers of Troy, the tiny body of her infant nephew tossed from the city walls. She saw blood and rape and flame.

She warned them, and nobody ever listened. They thought her mad, and so she became.

But Cassandra is happy now. Because she can see the future, and she knows that Agamemnon will not live long to enjoy his victor's spoils. His wife waits for him at home, with her lover behind her and an axe in her hands. She spins out her prophecy of his doom, laughing and dancing in the ruins of Troy.

If you think this was a weird choice of monologue for a fifteen year old girl, then you might not know many. Horrible tragedy was where it was at. The day before, I'd done the speech from Saint Joan where she rips up her signed confession and yells, "YOU GUYS ARE TOTAL ASSHOLES, JUST GO AHEAD AND BURN ME THEN."

I remember I was nervous. I'm always nervous when I speak in public. I get through it by knowing exactly what I'm going to say, by searing every word into my brain, until I can be perfect.

The bell went. I ran on stage and started speaking:

O Mother, fill mine hair with happy flowers,
And speed me forth. Yea, if my spirit cowers,
Drive me with wrath! So liveth Loxias,
A bloodier bride than ever Helen was
Go I to Agamemnon, Lord most high
Of Hellas! . . . I shall kill him, mother; I
Shall kill him, and lay waste his house with fire

Five minutes later I was in the wings again.

I have absolutely no memory of what I did in between. It felt as if the top of my head opened and something poured in and ran through all the veins until they glowed. Other than this sensation, I wasn't present in my body. I wasn't observing the performance, from within, or without. I started the monologue and then I was off-stage, and a friend was giving me one of those great theatre-girl hugs and telling me how great I was.

I won. The judge wrote: "An accomplished performance. You were completely in control of your Cassandra."

Everyone thought I was there, and I wasn't; everyone thought I was acting, and I could recall no control of my actions.

I want my work to be mine. I'm suspicious of muses.

When We Wake, Awards, and Why I Write

Okay, Internets, brace yourself, because this post has been brewing for a while.

In the last three months, When We Wake has been honored with a number of special things. My science fiction Sleeping Beauty story is:

This means that When We Wake has been honored in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States - all the territories where it has been published.

It's hard to tell you how I feel about that. It's gratifying to be recognised. And I am stupendously relieved that after five years and (as of this week) four books published, I can still write what someone wants to read.

Writing is hard work for me right now, in my first year of full-time teaching. Writing requires time I don't have to spare, and a focus I lack by the end of the day, and an emotional fortitude I'm drawing on to support my work in the classroom instead. It's discouraging when I hit the end of another weekend without writing a word of fiction, or think that I really must update my website, or remember that if I don't get started on my Cranky Ladies story now, like, right now, I'll have to do it right in the middle of report writing.

Occasionally - not anywhere close to regularly, but occasionally - I wonder if I might not be better just to give up on even trying to write this year. Give myself a break, say no, save my brain. Honestly, perhaps I should.

Today my Year Nine class and I went to the school library for our fortnightly visit, where they renew, return and exchange books for our compulsory reading sessions at the start of every English period. I took attendance and then told the girls that I was nominated for the NZ Post award. They applauded, I thanked them, and then we settled into our routine.

Just before we left, I thought about what, actually, we did in this light-filled room with the carefully labelled shelves.

I'm sure every student could give you a different explanation of what she was doing there. What I can tell you is that I saw girls curling on chairs with books, girls perched on desks exploring Project Gutenberg, girls asking each other what they should read next, girls talking to me about what they had read. I saw 25 girls, 25 interconnected universes of experience and interest and ability, all doing the important work of making meaning from words. All reaching through open doors.

It might be better for me to give up writing this year.

But I'm going to write anyway.

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When We Wake Awards Eligibility

Awards season is upon us! Here is my official post about what awards When We Wake is eligible for this year.

When We Wake is eligible for:

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

NOTE: If you're thinking, "hey, I really liked Karen's book, I'd like to nominate it for something, but I don't have time for a lot of selection and consideration, I wonder which award she'd most prefer nomination for," the answer is: this one.

SFFANZ is awesome, and supporting New Zealand spec fic creativity is very important to me. I also really like that the nomination process is open to ANYONE; nationality, organisation, or con membership are irrelevant. All that's important is that you liked something, and want it to be recognised.

Eligibility: SFFANZ awards apply to works of fantasy, horror, or science fiction, by New Zealand citizens or residents, released in the previous calendar year. When We Wake is eligible for nomination in the Best Young Adult Novel category.

Who can nominate: Anyone at all! Non-New Zealanders are welcome.
How to nominate: email with the following information:

Nomination for Best Young Adult Novel
When We Wake, by Karen Healey
Young Adult Novel, 2013.
Allen and Unwin/Little, Brown
Author contact:
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
[Your own email address]

You can nominate as many works as you like in as many categories as you like: nomination guidelines are here.

Nominations close: 8pm (NZ time!) 15th February 2014.

The Nebula Awards

Eligibility: "All works first published in English, in the United States, during the calendar year, in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, or a related fiction genre are eligible for the Nebula Awards® in their respective categories." When We Wake is eligible for The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book. (This award isn't actually a Nebula, but the same process and ceremony take place).

Who can nominate: "A work must be nominated by an Active, Lifetime Active, Associate or Lifetime Associate member of the SFWA (with no fiduciary interest–which means, not the writer, not the editor, the agent, publicist, or significant other)."
How to nominate: Go to this form and fill it out!

Nominations close: 15th Februrary, US time.

The Hugo Awards

Eligibility. WorldCon members award the best works released in the US and worldwide in fantasy, science fiction, and horror (ALSO the fan awards, which are pretty darn neat).

Who can nominate: You! If you are an attending or supporting member of Loncon 3 (the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention), and/or you are an attending or supporting member of Sasquan (the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention), and/or you were an attending or supporting member of LoneStarCon 3 (the 2013 World Science Fiction Convention).
How to nominate: Hugo nominations and voting are a trifle complicated, so I shall link to them here. When We Wake is eligible for Best Novel.

Nominations close: 31 March, 2014.

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My 2013, and that of Ghok'ii, Lady of Flame.

I like this survey of the year business. These particular questions I took from Qian.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?

- Spoke at NCTE
- Went to Boston
- Edited my fourth novel
- Became a (qualified) teacher

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA NO. I had all these grand ideas about reading the Four Great Classical Novels and I got about a third of the way through Journey to the West before school ate my brain.

I've got some in mind for next year, though.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes, my BFF. Then she named the baby after me. VICTORY LAP.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No. Fortunate!

5. What countries did you visit?

The USA, and thank goodness for publishers because I was about ready to claw something if I didn't get out of the country for a moment.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

A steady pay check! And I'm gonna!

NOPE NOPE NOPE this is the most boring list ever. I'm going to start lying now.

7. What was your favorite new recipe this year?

Harving of the Deeps showed me an excellent way to roast wild greldebeest over whitewood. The secret is gutting the greldebeest WHILE it cooks.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Oh, definitely raising up the seven spheres over the seven towers in the Kindred Night. The bards will be singing about that one for at least three ages of the People.

9. What was your biggest failure?

It's hard to choose. Losing Hilam was a bitter blow, and I regret that I could not prevent his drawn-out demise. But also, that time I picked up the Orb of Jer when I had just read the scroll warning me not to pick up the Orb of Jer seems, in retrospect, to have been something of an error.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Hah! 'Tis but a scratch!

11. What was the best thing you bought?

This cloak pin. It increases my night vision and wards off bad smells! Well, when I say "bought", it was more like, "strip from the loathsome corpse of Kinnear the Ghoul King", but same difference.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Deri of the Underhill! Her valiant speeches turned the tide and overthrew the cruel tyrannies of the Pale Lords!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Axera the Usurper, Tlench of the Arid Waste, and Ani DiFranco.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Redcap rental. They can carry a lot of loot, so it's worth the expense, but I swear the overtime charges wasn't as described in the contract. I lost the contract somewhere over the Gully of Despair, though, so you get what you get.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Oh, Free People! When I held aloft the seventh sphere and felt my bones thrill to the music of the First People and their song burst through my unworthy throat like a cataract leaping gladly from the mountain's peak, that was pretty great.

16. What are you looking forward to in 2014?

I hear there's an ogre in Jarnstown who makes armor from starlight! I plan an expedition to barter for his wares in the season of drifting snow.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Smiting. I did quite a lot of smiting, but it's never enough, is it?

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Mourning lost companions. May you wander wisely in the vales of night, dear Hilam.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Burning the bones of Axera the Usurper. They smelt most peculiar.

21. How will you be spending New Year's?

Leaping over the flames with my beloved. Haha!

22. What was your favorite TV program?

I don't possess a TV. However, Graelie would sometimes show us the tales of yore in zir Shining Orb by the campfire of an eve, and that was most grand! I like the tale of Dark Mirpin the Wise best.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

I did, but those wretched souls no longer trouble the Free Cities. There's no honour in hating the dead! Haha!

24. What was the best book you read?

I don't go in for that reading much. Graelie is our reader. Zhe's helping me with the writing too.

25. What did you want and get?

My beloved's hand, given most tenderly in exchange for mine.

26. What did you want and not get?

Hilam, come safely back to us from the Howling Peak.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?

Thor 2, obviously.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

One doesn't ask the Lady of Flame her age! Such information could be turned to deadly purpose. I had a small celebration, with my beloved and my dear companions, followed by a limited, but enjoyable, riot in the local tavern. Hilam had secretly fashioned a wooden image of me from larkswood. I keep it with me always.

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

Hide and chic. My beloved gave me this velvet Cloak of Flame, which I wear on formal occasions. It contrasts nicely with my overall battered leather and fur ensemble.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Ah, if only I had been faster.

31. Who did you miss?

Graelie, these questions are very personal.

32. Who was the best new person you met?

I don't want to do this any more.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

Ah! Turn the seventh sphere COUNTER-clockwise.

ETA: Edited to change the first name I gave this narrator because I googled after posting and what was a random confluence of letters to me is a real thing to millions of Hindu people and NOPE NOPE. Sorry to anyone who saw that!

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Hey, Karen Elizabeth, how was your 2013?

Hi, Internets!

At the end of a year, I like to write about things I did during that year. I sure did some things this year, yup.

HAHA lies, I basically did one thing, and learning how to be a teacher was the hardest, most exhausting thing I have ever done. The school I went to has a reputation, and that reputation is "our graduates will be competent teachers, and you can trust them to walk into a classroom and be functional immediately, but also we will break them."

As in, we came in and the class before us did all these skits at the welcoming ceremony about how we would never sleep again and the tutors wouldn't let us graduate until we cried, and I giggled nervously with the rest of my classmates because it couldn't be THAT bad. Six weeks later I looked hollow-eyed at the clock and tried to make the decision between finishing a lesson plan and getting more than four hours sleep. Was a tutor going to turn up in my tough class the next day? And oh no, I hadn't done the new seating arrangement to separate those talkers in the back row!

It was exactly that bad. There is definitely crying at grad school*.

But can I teach? Yes, I can.

Grad school turns out much fewer teachers than most teacher training schools in New Zealand, but has notably higher employment rates. I think that's largely down to three things: selective application procedures; giving us a lot more classroom exposure; and normalising the incredibly stressful working conditions. They warned us it would be hard, and Internets, they were not kidding.

At most NZ teaching programmes, you arrange with your tutor to come in and observe you on a day when you have prepared a lesson plan and will be taking the whole class. At grad school, we told the tutors when and where we were teaching each class (and if we weren't doing full classes by the end of week two of our placements, it was time to get worried). The tutors might not turn up, but also they might. Without telling us they were coming.

This had the salutary and absolutely terrifying effect of making us exhaustively prepare for every single minute of every class, which is why I racked up massive sleep debt every week and would be out by 7pm each Friday. I used to put in at least two or three hours of prep for every class hour - now it's more like one and a quarter, which feels a bit more like Real Teacher time.

The tutors watched us so often so that they could give us feedback and I love this feedback model so very much. They asked us to articulate the things we did well (positives) and the things we wanted to do better next time (advice), and they told us what they thought in each of those categories. No one interrupted. No argument. No defense. Just me, and them, and what we both thought of my performance.

I did well with the feedback model, partly because at the age of 32 I have finally realised I don't need to be perfect to be worthy, but mostly because I am used to editing and I know exactly how I respond to critique:

Stage 2: Oh, yeah! *edits*.

But I wasn't great at everything aha oh no. We had academic presentations - self-directed research, presented to a tutor, who would then skewer exactly the point I had neglected to investigate. And at the end of every term we had to write a lengthy and detailed reflective report on what we'd done, and we had a week to do that, and I was so terrible at this you do not know. But Karen, fellow students said, you write books. I DO NOT WRITE BOOKS ABOUT MYSELF. IN ONE WEEK. I inevitably reached toxic levels of boredom by Tuesday. I would have done anything other than write that report but I had to do it, so I did. It felt like dripping acid into my brain.

I knew I had a chance of getting out in term three, and I very deliberately cut almost everything out of my life but work and sleep. I went to weekly game night twice. I looked at my budget for the potential term four and then I stopped cooking. I used the remnants of my savings to buy prepared food every day for nine weeks. It was ruinously expensive, but it meant I had an extra 40 minutes or so every day, and I needed that time.

It paid off. By the end of term three, I was getting long lists of positives and very little or no advice, which meant that I was ready to graduate. A friend helped drag me through my final academic presentations, and I wrote that final report (a third of it I wrote TWICE, because that is how bad I was at that aspect of my training), and I was done. I have a job starting in late January.

Teaching: I started out terrible, and I got better, and now I am good. I aim for excellent within the decade.

Learning how to be a teacher was what I did this year. It was worth it.


** Dear critique partners and editors: you are not idiots.

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Cover Reveal!

Internets, what does one do during a six hour layover at Auckland airport?

If one has the money and inclination, one buys an ad hoc pass to the Koru club international lounge, which is about ten thousand times quieter and more relaxing than the regular terminal, even though they don't have proper diet coke, but only Coke Zero, that weak shadow of the perfect form of non-food non-sustenance.

(I saw some reviews for the lounge while I was looking to see if I could buy access, and saw one business-class frequent flier wanting to know SINCE WHEN the GENERAL PUBLIC could gain access by PAYING MONEY for a SERVICE.  I sincerely hope that person is in the lounge right now and I am offending them with my middle-class economy-flying presence. I also hope that during their next flight, they spill orange juice on themselves just before a lengthy bout of turbulence.)

One then shows one's readers the Australian/New Zealand cover to one's next novel:

I got this on the bus on the way to the airport and I grinned so much I think my seatmate might have thought I was contemplating some terrible deed.

And here's the American cover again:

Abdi Taalib thought he was moving to Australia for a music scholarship. But after meeting the beautiful and brazen Tegan Oglietti, his world was turned upside down. Tegan's no ordinary girl - she died in 2027, only to be frozen and brought back to life in Abdi's time, 100 years later.

Now, all they want is for things to return to normal (or as normal as they can be), but the government has other ideas. Especially since the two just spilled the secrets behind Australia's cryonics project to the world. On the run, Abdi and Tegan have no idea who they can trust - and, when they uncover startling new details about the program, they realize that thousands of lives may be in their hands.

Karen Healey offers a suspenseful, page-turning companion to When We Wake that will keep readers on the edge of their seats and make them call into question their own ideas about morality -- and mortality, too.

Internets, my publishers have been pretty generous with showing you pretty ladies on my covers*. I thought long and solemn thoughts** and then I said, "publishers, it is time for there to be a pretty gentleman on my cover. I feel this is important. For reasons. Equality reasons? Misandry!"*** I yelped, much like an MRA who has just been contradicted by someone whose lived experience as a woman is somehow not as valid as his deeply considered assumptions about how sexism doesn't exist any more.

"Karen, you know misandry isn't actually a thing," they replied. "But how about a pretty gentleman because the narrator is actually a pretty gentlemen?"

"Oh, right," I said. "Much better reason, let's do that."

And it was so, and I was very pleased! I love these colours, I love the way the tone is so different to Tegan's cooler mood and style in the When We Wake cover. I think both of the models chosen show a different aspect of the Abdi in my head, and that this perhaps will help connect readers to that Abdi. I think the designers and editors and everyone involved did a really great job.

I say this every time I get a new cover, but I say it because it's true; I am SO lucky with cover design. I am lucky that the designers are so talented and hard-working, and I am lucky that my editors take my thoughts into account. And I am very, very lucky that I work with people at Allen and Unwin and Little, Brown who will most absolutely put people of colour on the front cover without me having to explain why that's important and right.

Oh, also, why am I flying? I am flying to Boston! To do some stuff at NCTE, to wit:

2:30 – 3:45 PM  Convention Center – Room 307, Level Three:

I am speaking with MALINDA LO on Fraying the Seams: Using YA literature to explore overlapping and contested identities.

Me and Malinda, that's going to be great. I imagine you can't go to that unless you're actually at the conference, but if you ARE, you should come see us; we will be awesome.

Also awesome will be our school visit to Wellesley High the next day. You probably can't go to that either, sorry.

But if you happen to be in Boston, you CAN go to:

6:00 – 8:00 PM    Event with MALINDA LO and A.S. KING at Cary Memorial Library.

<em>Growing up is tough, and no one knows that better than writers of Young Adult fiction. Their teenage characters solve mysteries, unravel conspiracies, and rebel against a world of unfair expectations. YA authors tell stories about overcoming obstacles, falling in love, and the fight against injustice. Their stories teach us how to survive in an uncertain world.

Join us for a special after-hours event as Karen Healey, A.S. King, and Malinda Lo talk about identity and coming of age in contemporary teen fiction.</em>

I think actually that most people who are currently growing up know growing up is tough much better than I do, but, you know, we try. And all three of us got through it. Come and get some survival tips.

* There was actually one time when we wanted a non-pretty lady on the cover - Ellie Spencer, of Guardian of the Dead, and we couldn't find a damn stock photo anywhere. I talk about that, and about whitewashing, in another post. Instead the covers for that book are a creepy white mask (US hardcover), a pretty lady with her back to you (ANZ) and a pretty, creepy lady's face (US paperback). ONE DAY THERE WILL BE A PLAIN LADY ON A COVER.

** Lies.

*** Total lies.

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To New York, From Christchurch, With Love

Yesterday, I read an article and by the end I was so angry that my eyes turned into burning coals and shot right out of my face.

I was so angry that my howl reached the heavens and the stars extinguished themselves in fear.

I was so angry that I stamped my foot three times on the earth and the impact shattered my body into a trillion pieces hurtling through the cosmos, each a dense, screaming microcosm of my rage.

Then I put myself back together and started writing this.

What set me off was an article by Ruth Curry, excerpted from Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York.

It tells the story of a young woman who moves to New York, falls in comfortable love with a dude, and then he moves to New Zealand and she follows, and things do not go well. And it talks weird smack about Christchurch, the city of my heart.

Christchurch "spreads out like a spreading stain". Christchurch "really was exclusively populated by angsty teenagers and the middle-aged". Christchurch is where Curry "jokes, meanly" that "the only options for arts, culture, and entertainment were respectively rugby, rugby, and rugby." Also, there were no bagels in Christchurch in 2006 and she is forced, FORCED, to order interesting pizza with corn and shrimp on it instead of the boring pepperoni-sauce-cheese pizza she could get in any pizza place in New Zealand if she really wanted. I will concede the horrible enchiladas. There is decent Mexican in Christchurch, but it's hard to find.

Anyway, all of this is largely bullshit, but sure, whatever. (Christchurch spreads like a GLORIOUS MICROCHIP, thank you very much). I was rolling my eyes at the exaggerations and inaccuracies, but largely feeling sorry for Curry.

Curry had apparently never anticipated that she'd hit culture shock in an English-speaking nation, and it hit her hard. She was trying to break into publishing in New Zealand on a working holiday visa (yeah, no - retail, service jobs, and seasonal fruit picking are all you're going to get without some major chops) and her boyfriend kept telling her to grow up and dragged her away for hiking trips.

Curry was living the cold, poverty-ridden, tenuously-employed life of the student without the fun parts, like hanging out with fellow tenuously-employed, poverty-ridden, cold students or learning anything. And she was living in Lyttleton, a port town just barely connected to Christchurch through a tunnel cut through the Port Hills. She crashed her boyfriend's car into an SUV and totaled the car (no indication of the health of the SUV or its driver). She was totally miserable, and she left, and he did not follow her. I nodded sympathetically along. I've had the culture shock, the employment woes, the shitty boyfriend. I got it.

And then the article concluded:

I saw Russell once more. About six months after we split up, he came through New York and stopped by to return the stuff I had stored at his sister’s. Her basement had flooded, and a lot of his own things had been ruined, but not, he said, the sweet, silly notes I had left for him every morning when we first met. A year later he got married. I know his wife; they started dating three weeks after he and I separated.

A major earthquake struck Christchurch in 2011. It was the second-deadliest natural disaster in New Zealand history. Almost every place I remember well was destroyed, the rest damaged or irrevocably changed by what’s fallen down around them.

The sympathy train screeched to a halt. Flaming eyeballs, extinguished stars, a trillion dense spinning microcosms of rage, etc.

It is not a good idea to make a deadly and very recent natural disaster the snappy conclusion to your sad travelogue. It is not okay to talk about how much you disliked a place and how down it made you and then casually mention that large chunks of it are now destroyed, because whether you meant it to or not, that comes across with a very strong hint of "and thank goodness." The 2011 earthquake is not an excellent metaphor for your failed, destructive, romantic relationship - unless your relationship killed 185 people and shattered the heart of a city.

That conclusion is not clever, nor wryly amusing. It is glib, nasty, and oblivious to the very real pain that cracks through the city Curry so despised.

I am angry. This is why.

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Road Warrior

Hi, Internets! I have a teaching job that starts next year at a great school; that's exciting!

And it has promoted another thing that is less "exciting" and more "deeply terrifying": I am learning how to drive.

When I turned 17 my parents gave me six driving lessons for a present. They were eventually redeemed by my brother when he turned 17, 2 years and 4 months later. My parents were disappointed. I was sorry they were disappointed. But I was not sad that I hadn't used the gift.

Up until now, I have not needed nor wanted to drive, so I have not learned. I lived in Christchurch and Fuchu-shi (Japan) and Melbourne, all of whom had public transport systems that went from "okay, mostly" to "superb, cleaned by people wearing white gloves." But my teaching job is in a place where a car would, finally, be very close to essential.

So I have to learn.

Five reasons being able to drive would be kinda cool:

1: I could buy a whole bunch of groceries at once!
2: Lugging piles of resources to school would be significantly easier on my back and shoulders.
3: I wouldn't have to check with people if I can get a ride to a thing that isn't within public transport + walking reach, and turn down the thing/take a taxi if no ride was available.
4: Road trips! I like those! I could offer to spell the driver!
5: If there was an emergency I could drive someone someplace, although frankly I would not put me behind the wheel in an emergency unless there was absolutely no other option whatsoever.

Ten reasons driving is super awful:

1: So bad for the environment. Like, ridiculously, terribly bad.
2: I will need to acquire an exercise regime beyond "walk places".
4: Ugh cars are so expensive to buy and upkeep and fill with petrol.

I acquired my learner license on Tuesday. My Fabulous Sister has given me two ten-minute lessons in an empty parking lot, because that's about as much panic-stricken babbling is fair to unleash on her in a session:

Me: "Okay, I'm stopping, gently, gently, I turn on the indicators, I check my mirrors, I turn the wheel a bit, I put my foot on the accelerator, I turn more TURN MORE TURN MORE."
She: "You're fine, now straighten up."
She: "You're fine, just make sure you stay to the-"
Me: "No, nope, I'm just going to stop and wait for it to go. THIS IS SCARY."
She: "No, it's not! You're being negative again!"

I'll get there. I have to learn, so I will. But at the moment, my driving life is a slow* disaster movie.

* Very, very slow.

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Hello, there

Hi, internets!

I'm back! I graduated early! That means I get three months to look for teaching jobs and write a book and sleep and bake and and BLOG and all those good things. I was thinking about some sort of Grand Return Post, and then I decided that no, the more I thought about one of those the less likely I was to write it.

So here is a brief observation for you: my sister is a filthy liar. She talked me into coming to a Body Balance class at the gym today, promising fun times and nothing I would hate. I am fat and stretchy, so low-impact "let's hold a position for a while and breathe!" stuff sounded good. And indeed, it was super fun until:

Instructor (who taught me PE in high school; my hometown is a small town): "And now for the ab work!"

Me, not at all quietly: "I'm going to kill you."

My sister: *wide, delighted grin*

I hate working my abs, and she knew it. I hate ab exercise more than any form of exercise, and I have quite a lot of hatred for many forms of exercise. Ab work HURTS. I can't seem to do any form of lifting without straining at my neck and shoulders, and those are parts that are already high-tension wire level strained. (Don't give me advice on this, btw. I know you'd mean it well, but I have bona fide expert advice from said filthy lying sister). And then my abs themselves are not strong, and have to move quite a lot of me, and all in all, it's a painful time of torment.

Anyway, I grimly flailed my way through about half of each ab exercise, and spent the rest of each one on my back, fighting to breathe and wondering if I could write a good book about a teenage sororicide.

I decided that I could.

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