Diversity, Rainbow Hill Meanders, Writing

Wednesday Write: Diversity of Hair

 

“There’s no such thing as a bad hair day.” and yet, our hair speaks volumes about us. How we wear it often tells how we embrace our identity.

Writers should always think about hair and headwraps and what it says about our character, not only what we want to say about our character, but a lot about how our character views themselves. For some races (race being an arbitrary construct), it makes more of a difference than most of us realize.

I first learned of this issue from the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference “Writers for Diversity” session by Eliana West. She has twelve rules for dealing with black hair. Among her rules: “Don’t touch, ask to touch, or comment about wanting to touch our hair. Don’t ask if our hair is real, don’t call it unprofessional, don’t suspend our children from school or fire us from our jobs for wearing our natural hair.”

Wait, whoa. Are those issues? I was shocked at my ignorance of an issue that clearly is very real.

I have a young black character who wears her hair in braids. I didn’t think about how her hair choice made such a statement about who she was, or that she would face discrimination based on her hair choice.

I suggest a Netflix romantic comedy called “Nappily Ever After” if you’re interested in how black hair choices make a difference in how one perceives themselves and how others perceive them.

For a visual presentation of Western vs. Natural Hair look at the wonderful before and after pictures at TeenVogue https://www.teenvogue.com/gallery/10-girls-on-embracing-curly-hair?

Or check out All Things Hair to see amazingly beautiful celebrations of black hair. https://www.facebook.com/Lisafarrallhairstylist

As to my character, her hair remains the same, but I have learned of depths of her character of which I was previously unaware. She is with me on this journey and she is teaching me about the world outside. A world of bias I thought only existed in the past.

Before next week, I suggest watching a wonderful Ted Talk by Dr. Myrtle Bell called “Diversity Hats” which explores all types of diversity and bias in the American culture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tj9kIhp46-A

~lisa

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Cryptozoology, Mythology, Rainbow Hill Meanders, Writing

Monday Myth: Cryptozoology

Big foot and a rose

 

Cryptozoology is one of my favorite parts of being a fantasy writer. I’m always exploring myths and legends around exotic creatures that may or may not exist.

Cryptozoology is well-stated in Wikipedia as Cryptozoology is the study of rumored or mythological animals that are presumed by many to exist, but for which proof does not yet exist.”Green Dragon

It is also described in (IMHO) the best site on cryptozoology: http://www.newanimal.org/ by Jamie Hall.

Cryptozoology is the study of animals and other creatures that have not yet been accepted by science as real. In other words, it is monster-hunting. Cryptozoologists look for creatures like sea serpents and the yeti, hoping to gather enough evidence to prove that these beings exist. They also look for more commonplace animals, such as the ivory-billed woodpecker, the giant vampire bat, the inflatable hedgehog and the pygmy elephant. Creatures that are under investigation by cryptozoologists are called cryptids.”

There are many dedicated people that devote their time, and in some cases their careers, to finding these elusive animals.

Unfortunately cryptozoology is plagued by hoaxes, and pseudoscientists even though there have been cases of cryptids being discovered and handed off to the field of zoology.

Do I believe in most of these myths and monsters? Not really, but I love the ideas of them. I love their mythic symbolism and messages and I really enjoy all the “what if” moments that come from exploring them.

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I will also be the first to celebrate if any of them are found.

Cryptozoologists are not ghost hunters or devotees of the supernatural. To once again quote Jamie Hall http://www.newanimal.org/:

Cryptozoologists are a specialized branch of monster hunters. Since their ultimate goal is to discover either new species of animal or new subspecies, the science of cryptozoology is rooted in biology. The more a creature shows evidence of being supernatural, the less likely it is that cryptozoologists would be interested in it. Not many cryptozoologists investigate the strangest things like ghostly demon cats, Mothman or werewolves. Ghost hunts are left to the paranormal investigators and a few fringe cryptozoologists.”

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2015-SX50-0037Some of my favorites from the cryptozoological zoo that inspire me and my writing are: Dragons, Kraken (giant squids have now been found), Sasquatch and Yeti, Fairies, Living Dinosaurs, and Thunderbirds. See http://www.newanimal.org/ for a complete list of the diversity of creatures.

Another outstanding list of the creatures of cryptozoology and the facts known about the animals can be found at http://www.unmuseum.org/lostw.htm where descriptions of such animals as Nessie of Loch Ness, snakes as long as railroad cars, and their crypto alumni list reside.

The crypto alumni are large animals that have been discovered in the last century.

What are your favorite cryptids? What creatures of myth, legend, and rumor call out to you?

Favorites will move to the head of the pack for future blog posts.

Unicorn

May you all find your unicorns, fairies and friendly dragons.

~lisa

 

 

 

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Bengal Cat Pictures, Bengal Cats, Rainbow Hill Meanders

Cat Convos: We’re Busy

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Me: It’s time to write your Friday blog post.

Kuri: We’re busy.

Me: Too busy to blog?

Loki. Kuri & Hiyu: YES!

Me: It looks like you’re too busy napping?20100312_160034000_iOS

Kuri: We have a lot to process.

Me: That’s why the three of you have become a snoring Bengal puddle?

Hiyu: The twins snore, I don’t.

Me: What are you processing?20131206_000045000_iOS

Loki: Our new powers.

Me: Dare I ask?

Kuri: There’s a button on top of your laptop. If I rub my cheek on it, I can make the screen go black.

Hiyu: On your Xbox, I can push a button and make a tray come out.

Loki: And I can bat the tray back in.

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Kuri: We have demands.

20140324_002510475_iOSHiyu: We want motion-sensor sinks.

Loki: And fans we can leap through.

Me: Not going to happen.

Kuri: We can shut off your computer, your television and your games. You’d best give in to our demands.

Me: I’m busy.

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Hiyu: You’re looking at a computer screen that we can turn off.

Me: (typing earnestly before they shut off my Surface) “Ways to Bengal-proof.”

~lisa

 

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Diversity, People, Rainbow Hill Meanders, Writing

Wednesday Write: Diversity for All

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“People are people and each person comes with their own unique story.” – Lisa Kraft

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I was fortunate enough to attend the Writers for Diversity session at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. The founder Eliana West runs the Facebook group Writers for Diversity. She is one of those miraculous leaders who saw a need and rose to the challenge. She runs Writers for Diversity as a closed safe group where one can have respectful conversations about all types of diversity.

I thought my quote above covered all I needed to know about diversity and acceptance. I found myself more naïve and ignorant than I ever expected.

While my belief is true, there are so many other factors I had never considered. People are also their culture, history, and the unique challenges that come with membership in non-mainstream groups.

Writers for Diversity is about all non-mainstream groups: ethnic, handicaps, self-identifications, culture … and many more. I, as an Accessible CERT (Citizen Emergency Response Team) instructor, have worked with wonderful people with many different self-determined handicaps. For Redmond, Washington CERT there is no separate, but equal classes. We accommodate everyone as much as our budget allows. The caveat is that translators are expensive so we can only offer full accommodation every three years.

I would feel horrible about that, but I took my Train-the-Trainer class with many of those from the first accessible class and these incredible individuals have taken the curriculum back to their own. If I guest teach at any of these CERT programs, then I’m the one who needs an interpreter.

20170104_034940000_iOSFor writers who are writing diverse characters, spend sometime thinking about your character and what they bring to your story. Simply changing the race of your character to fulfill a diversity quota, is like splashing new paint a wall. No matter what color you paint it, it’s still the same wall.

Your character should be relevant by the culture they bring. The unique challenges they may face. They should add a richness of who they are based on culture, history and location. If you can change their color at will, then you need to go back to the drawing board.

Another issue that often comes up in writing is writers asking the token minorities they see to tell them everything about the race or non-mainstream lifestyles they want to represent. See paragraph above about when and why you should writer diverse characters. Ask yourself if you can represent everyone in any group you belong to. (And yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition, but to write “to any group to which you belong” certainly sounded incorrect and pompous in a blog such as mine)

This is perhaps the longest post I have ever written and I have barely scratched the surface. Stay tuned for more Wednesday Writes in which I will dive deeper in the diversity of issues.

While you wait for next Wednesday’s post, I suggest reading a wonderful article by R.F. Kuang called “The Racial Rubber Stamp”  https://www.sfwa.org/2018/01/racial-rubber-stamp/

~lisa

Join me on this journey of discovery and send your own questions and issues you see. I will try to address each one I receive.

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Monday Myth, Rainbow Hill Meanders

Monday Myth: Bulgarian Dragons


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Do you know anyone with wings under their armpits? Do you know any old crones or beautiful young women who are always followed by inclement weather?

  • If so you probably know the offspring of a Zmey or you may be rubbing elbows with a Lamia in human form.

All Bulgarian dragons are successful shape-shifters.

 The Zmeys are especially known for falling in love with and seducing humans. Which means they’ve spent a lot of time in human form.

Flower, Fuji X20

Zmeys are usually male and associated mostly with fire. There are records of a few Zmeyitsas (female) protector dragons and some accounts of the Zmey having an affinity for both fire and water. Most villages in Bulgaria have their own Zmey as protector. The Zmey battle the elements for the safety of crops and village. Mostly they battle against the Lamia, the female water dragons.

Another form of the Zmey is described as part snake, part bird and part human. No one can give an exact description because they can become invisible at will. Their battles with the Lamia often cause thunderstorms and lightning.

It is said if you eat the heart of a Zmey you can partake of their power. Considering how dangerous these dragons are, well, I think most sane people would give that a second thought.

Bulgarian female dragons, the Lamia (Lamya) & Khala (Hala) are powerful water creatures with little love for mankind and his settlements. The Lamia can stop the flow of water in a well or stream, or dry up lakes and cause drought. She can also create storms and pummel the fields with hail.

If your Zmey isn’t strong enough to defeat her then a sacrifice to her might ease her temper. I have not found any documentation yet that the Lamia has the power of invisibility like her male counterpart, but I certainly wouldn’t put it past her.

Lamias have been described in many different ways in many different regions. They all seem to be quite individualistic.

Various Lamia descriptions include:

  • 3 to 9 heads (Sometimes dog heads)
  • Long tail of a snake
  • Enormous
  • A large enough mouth to swallow a man whole
  • Sharp teeth
  • Yellow scales
  • Sharp-nailed legs (quadrupeds)
  • Wings
  • Snake-like
  • And of course the ability to shape-shift

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Zmey and Lamia, male and female, fire and water, are locked in endless battle. I imagine that little dragons must come from somewhere so the conflict might be a little over-hyped.

Personally. I think powerful female figures can be intimidating in some cultures. In a more enlightened time perhaps there are reformed Lamia wandering among us and equally liberated Zmey who are no longer constrained by the notions of the past.

There is far more Bulgarian myth than I can share in a year. The richness of the tales and culture are staggering and well-worth exploring.

I leave you with another Bulgarian saying

 “Work like you’re going to live for 100 years, but live like you’ll die tomorrow.”

 ~ lisa

 In my opinion one of the best sites for an overall accounting of Bulgarian Mythology. http://www.spellintime.fsnet.co.uk/Folklore_Section_Background.htm

Bulgaria Superstitions and Folklore http://www.bestcountryreports.com/Soci_Bulgaria_Superstitions_Folklore.php

Bulgarian creation myth http://www.spellintime.fsnet.co.uk/Folklore_Section_Background.htm

BulgarianRiddles:

1. As small as walnuts, they sit in a low place, but they reach to the sky.

2. What is the sweetest and the bitterest thing in the world?

3. A world without people Cities without houses Forests without trees And seas without water.

Answers:

  1. The eyes

2. The tongue

3. A map

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Bengal Cat Pictures, Bengal Cats, Cat Convos, Rainbow Hill Meanders

Cat Convos: Secrets

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Loki: I’ll tell you a secret.

Kuri: Don’t, you’ll get us in trouble.

Me: Is it an important secret?

Hiyu: Yes, and we really can’t wait to tell you.

Me: Okay…

Loki: Keep the feather stick moving and we’ll tell you everything.

Hiyu: We’ve been practicing secret cat ninja skills.160728-SX50-7722

Me: I thought all cats were ninjas.

Hiyu: True, but we decided we had to be more versatile to be a Cat Emergency Response Team.

Loki: I’ve secretly been watching dog shows.

Kuri: I’ve taught Hiyu and Loki how to make shoes disappear. If you stick your head in a shoe far enough, you  can walk it under some furniture. It drives humans nuts.160604-6D-1308

Me: You mean my friends?

Hiyu: I’ve taught Kuri and Loki how to open cupboards and how to hide in the highest places.

Me: So all three of you now know how to open cupboards?

Kuri: And sliding doors.

Me: Loki?loki 1 30 14

Loki: (feather in mouth) mmmph?

Me: What skill have you taught?

Kuri collides with Loki and the feather jumps back in the air. Hiyu, who’s been waiting for his chance takes it down.

170722-SX50-5247Loki: I’m working on door knobs. I have the mechanics of it down. I’m still figuring out how to hook my paws around the knob to get a good turn out of it.

Hiyu: You almost did it.

Kuri: And once we can open all the doors, we can go anywhere and use our secret cat powers for the good of the world. 

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Me: I think– (mid-air collision between Kuri and Loki. Hiyu jumps on his throne and laughs at them.)

Loki: Can we have dinner now?

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Me: Yes.

I don’t tell them that I know the secret of locks and keys. ~lisa

 

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