In which there is much squeeing!

I’ve been meaning to post about this for awhile, but kept getting distracted. While we were in Portugal I found out that several new writers were joining the faculty at VCFA this summer, and two of them write fantasy!!!! And not only that, but the theme day for this year is "Writing Fantasy"! And not only that, but we were all asked to read The Wizard of Oz to prepare for the residency. When I heard the news I felt as though the threads of my life were converging rather nicely. The two new faculty members who have written fantasy are Franny Billingsley who wrote the beautiful book The Folk Keeper (a girl disguised as a boy, seal maidens and a red-headed lad! What more could you possibly want from a book?) and Susan Fletcher whose book Alphabet of Dreams was, by chance, already on my shelf. As for the theme day, well, it makes such a lovely change to have a school celebrate the genre I’ve always loved, instead of looking down it’s nose at it. And The Wizard of Oz. When I was small-er I was obsessed with The Wizard of Oz. With the books, the musical, and the terrifying film "sequel" Return to Oz. On my first day of preschool I insisted to all my teachers that my name was Dorothy. And I had read the book so many times I nearly had it memorized. But over the years I forgot a lot about it. I just finished reading it and the experience was surreal. There were so many things that were different from the film that I had forgotten, but as soon as I read them I remembered them again. I must admit, though, that I was a little disappointed. It reminded me of re-reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Somehow when I read those books as a kid they filled my imagination, but reading them as an older person (I hate to say adult) they were much sparser, emptier than I remember. It’s as though half of what I loved about them was what existed in my head, not the actual books themselves.

I have two weeks left before school starts and I’m starting to realize just what I’ve gotten myself into, lol. It’s going to be so much work, but I’m honestly so excited. I was helping my mom at a sewing conference at a college campus recently and spent a lot of my time there reading and revising the first part of my novel. At one point I was sitting in the computer room in the dorm we were staying at and a student walked in. I realized that he probably thought I was working on a paper and at that moment I felt so elated, because I was sitting there on a college campus doing work that I loved, that was fun, laughing hysterically at my own ridiculous manuscript. That is what I always wanted college to be. And that is why I am so glad to be doing this program.

I admit I did have a few days of panic when I got the manuscripts of the other students in my workshop because that meant that real, live strangers were reading my novel and possibly thinking thoughts about me. Horrors! What if they don’t like fantasy? I worried. What if they think I and my novel are not fit for human society???? Now before any one rolls their eyes and starts to remind me that being a writer means people will read your work and criticize it let me just say that that is not what I was afraid of. I think ever since my horrendous poetry workshop experience at Smith I’ve been terrified that as a writer I just won’t fit in. My poetry stuck out horribly in that workshop. Horribly. Everyone else was writing pretty typical college fare. I was writing surrealism. Sometimes with, God forbid, foreign words thrown in. I still cringe when I think of it. It was like wearing crimson and walking into a room of white. No one knew what to do with me. So I was really worrying that that would happen again. That I would be the only one writing something funny, or fantastical, etc, etc. 

I am not allowed to talk about the other students’ work, but let me tell you, boy was I wrong. I am in some amazing, scary, funny, imaginative company. And that was only the work from one workshop 🙂 In other words, I am feeling much better. And that made me realize another thing that I love about this program. Everyone is doing this because they love it. Imagine. A school in which you can read and/or write picture books for your homework. Or children’s poetry. Or fantasy or scifi. All the things that intelligent adults are not supposed to bother with. That is going to be my life for the next two years. I can’t believe my good fortune 🙂 And the sense of community is astonishing. I’ve already had an invitation to an event from a graduate of the program who I know of, but do not know personally. And everyone I’ve talked to online has bent over backwards to welcome me and answer my questions.

All that being said, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to keep up with livejournal. I am going to be so busy!!!! But I would like to keep up some sort of reporting about my projects. I may also have a part time job at the children’s bookstore in town (which has a new owner and has totally been revamped) so that may take up the rest of my time. It’s such a lovely place to be though. *sigh* Maybe everything will work out after all 🙂

Happy Thoughts!

Technically, I am supposed to be resting my hands, but I really wanted to write about something cheerful and happy, lest you all think my livejournal a place of sorrow and self-pity 😉 So! I am very excited about this MFA program. I spoke to the disability coordinator last week and she was encouraging and friendly. I felt so much better after talking to her, as she thought my accommodations were quite reasonable and no big deal really. Everyone I have talked to from that school has been so welcoming. It’s remarkable. I’ve never met these people in my life but they make me feel like I belong. And, perhaps even more thrilling, they all enjoy books for children and young adults. I admit that I often feel embarrassed about admitting my reading and writing preferences because, dammit, you never know if people are going to look down their noses at you. Silly them. So, yes, very excited am I.

Also, I found out that both Holly Black and Gregory Maguire will be visiting writers at the residency this summer! I was so hoping they would pick someone I knew of and lo! They have outdone themselves. After years of almost meeting Holly Black (meeting her best friend Steve Berman at a reading of Vintage in SF and yetiherd working for her husband) I will finally get the opportunity to make a fool of myself in her presence. I cannot wait! I am going to take books, people, and hope that they will sign them. I am going to say thank you for making faeries cool to readers other than myself after years of trying to explain to my schoolmates why I carried Brian Froud and Alan Lee’s Faerie book with me everywhere, mwahahaha.

I will try to write more anon as I have just returned from recording more songs, but, alas, my hands! I needs must find new ones. Oh and I cannot wait for people to hear some of these songs! They are gorgeous!

MFAs and Celiac Disease

The good news is I found out a few days ago that I was accepted into the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. I am so excited! They actually called to welcome me which I feel bodes well for the program 🙂 Leda Schubert (one of the faculty) also called to welcome me and answer questions so we talked a lot about Lyme Disease and possible accommodations. I admit that even though I’m excited about all the wonderful things happening in my life I’m also starting get scared. It feels like my life is moving on without me regardless of my ability to keep up with it physically. This is what I wanted. I wanted to keep having a life beyond being sick, but everything is happening so fast! We still have to record demos and then it’s off to Portugal. I’ve got to finish a novel and read enough books written by the faculty to get an idea of who I would like for an advisor. Before July! I hope I can pull it off.

The bad news is that my stomach has been much worse lately. It’s hard to pinpoint because it swings back and forth, but I think it started to disintegrate around Thanksgiving and hit an all time low in January. I had a moment of panicking a few weeks ago when I realized that if this continues (the pain, uncertainty and sore throat) I cannot hope to have a career as a singer. I can write to some extent with joint pain. I can write slowly. But I can’t commit to performances if I can’t depend on my own body. Being sick is hard, but I can deal with pain and fatigue. I can’t deal with things that keep me from physically able to do the things I’ve loved. And as much as I’ve asked myself for years if I had to choose between writing and singing which I would keep and which would go, I really cannot choose. It’s like choosing between your heart and your brain. I need them both. They complete me.

So with that in mind I hiked up my skirts and hied me to the internets to try to figure out what out of the myriad things I haven’t been tested for I might have. Let me tell you, the list is not comforting. There’s a lot of things that could be going on but from what I’ve seen most of them are mysterious in origin and would probably be something I just had to live with sans treatment. Then I reconsidered the possibility of Celiac Disease. This is something that has been brought up before but I always dismissed it out of hand because my main symptom is carbohydrate intolerance. “How can I have celiac,” I have asked many a doctor, “when I feel sick if I eat rice?” The irony is that whereas most people moan and sob about having to give up bread I have often said I wish I did have Celiac. At least then I would be able to eat chocolate and rice and corn and potatoes and gluten free desserts, etc, etc.

Anyway, I came across an interesting blog written by a woman who has celiac and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (which causes carbohydrate intolerance) and my brain did a backflip. What? You mean you could have both simultaneously? Apparently I have less imagination than I thought, lol. Turns out many people with Celiac have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO. When people go on the gluten free diet and still feel sick this is a common cause of their continued symptoms. IT’s very possible that celiac itself causes SIBO in these people because it destroys the lining of the intestines and interferes with proper digestion. So I started looking up more about Celiac. It can cause joint and muscle pain, headaches, fatigue, numbness, tingling, dizzyness, and many more things. It runs in families. Like Lyme disease it’s underdiagnosed and the tests aren’t always accurate. I was actually tested once but don’t know which tests they ran and was on a mostly gluten free diet at the time which makes it nearly impossible to get an accurate result. It’s actually odd how many similarities there are between Celiac and Lyme only Celiac is actually recognized by the medical community as a legitimate illness.

To make a long story short, I talked to my doctor about getting tested and we agreed that it was a likely possibility. The only problem is I have to eat large quantities of gluten (bread, etc) for a month before getting tested which means I feel like shit. It’s actually amazing how many of my symptoms are back in force just since I started eating like this which makes me wonder, do I have Lyme or Celiac? I know I could have both, but it is rather inconvenient that I went on a more restricted diet when I started taking antibiotics. Now it’s impossible to say whether it was the diet or the antibiotics that helped. Part of me is enjoying eating all the things I haven’t been able to eat in two years. I’ve eaten oatmeal pancakes, lots of bread, ravioli and pizza. Oh bliss! I still have to eat a marionberry muffin, a giant slice of chocolate cake and french toast because regardless of what the tests say I cannot eat like this again. It is death. So I shall enjoy myself while I can. I also did a different test for SIBO since the last one was negative and got me curtly dismissed by my gastroenterologist.

I was praying last night over and over again that this is what I have because then maybe I could get better and get my life back. Maybe after being carefully gluten free I’ll someday be able to eat rice and fruit and chocolate again. Maybe my throat will stop hurting me. Maybe it will explain the mysterious illnesses of both my parents who btw are cousins (yes, it’s legal. No it’s not gross) so double the genes. My dad’s getting tested too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Of course, I would probably be the ideal candidate for a gluten free diet as I love the idea of having to reinvent all my favorite baked goods. Gluten free chocolate bobka! Gluten free chocolate cranberry bread! My celiac friends (I seem to meet more and more people with this disease) will love me. The one thing that breaks my heart is that I would never be able to eat a Pasteis de Belem again. That is a true tragedy. I guess I’ll have to invent my own.