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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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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Rainbow Hill Meanders, Wednesday Write, Writing

Wednesday Write: Writing Diversity

Rainbow over Cottage Lake

Happy New Year to all our readers.

Writing diversity is a subject near and dear to my heart. I’ve learned so much in writing characters of diverse backgrounds.

My first few attempts at writing an ethnic character came with a shock. There was unconscious bias in my vocabulary.

“Me?” I replied.

“How?” I asked with surprise permeating every anxious cell in my body.

Thank heavens for writing groups and rich resources on the web.

20110905-60d-0209-smallFirst, kudos to my most amazing writing critique group. They are the most talented and supportive people I’ve ever run into. Over the years I’ve been in more than a few groups and my current set of fabulous fellow writers exceeds them all.

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As a fantasy writer, I often develop my characters with the backgrounds of mythology and folklore which I wish to include in my story. I love them dearly.

Some of my characters are prejudiced both knowingly and unknowingly. That is often part of the tension and conflict in the story and I will often guide those characters to the growth I’d like to see reflected in the world around me.

So, the question became how could I, who is desperately trying to enlighten my diverse set of characters, be showing unconscious bias?

A lot of it comes down to random adjectives still employed in our current language. Some of it comes from reading older books and not realizing some of the conventional tropes of description have changed for the better.

Next week I will write about how to proof your writing for those biases and steps to culturally educate yourself.

~lisa

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Rainbow Hill Meanders, RHM Wednesday Write, Writing

Wednesday Write: Writers Anonymous

brass dragon

Writers are known as solitary and elusive, but they exist among us. You’ve probably seen one or two of them without even realizing it.

Writers, otherwise known as those who write, live in more diverse habitats than the ubiquitous crow.130427-scan070

While a secluded ivory tower without any distractions or restrictions on their time haunts their dreams, most writers live out in the social sphere. Many are happily disguised as normal “non-writer” people.

These writers among us, who work and play next to us, also go to parties, play sports, watch television, and sometimes even own animals other than cats (or owls).

Overall most keep up a good façade that hides their inner nature. Most writers don’t want you to know how much they study you. They mine their daily social interactions looking for nervous ticks, rhythms of speech and the archetypes into which you fit. The world, outside of the ivory tower they crave, is their playground.

Another secret (& I know I must be breaking some secret code in telling you this) is that writers congregate. They join critique groups, writing clubs, support groups and type furiously at speed writing tables.

Even more than that, writers by the hundreds will go to writing conventions. They seek each other out, springboard off of each other’s energy and somehow bring a little more magic into the world.

I’ve already picked the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference http://www.pnwa.org/ for my 2018 venture into the crowds of inspiring fellow authors. Will see any of you there?

~lisa

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Rainbow Hill Meanders, Writing

The Writer’s Paradox

Seaside, OR

The Hill is back meandering again. For those of you who are new, Rainbow Hill Meanders darts around with glee as the hill roams through the diversity of life, mythology, cultures and eclectic odds and ends.

It’s been a long and exhilarating journey these last few months, but that is what brings me to today’s subject.
Writers are told to “write what they know.” I’ll be the first to admit compared to everything I want to know, I’m fairly ignorant.

The other adage is “write from your experience”, and I would add that there are so many things in life to experience, where will I find the time to experience all of it?

With a few caveats, I can agree with both pieces of advice.
It’s not easy to write about the ocean without knowing the taste of salt on your lips. Sure we can imagine the setting, but the details are in the sea breeze, in the force of the wind bringing sand against your skin and the air filled with the crash of waves and the call of birds.
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I could perhaps write forever about the beach from so many experiences in so many climates. There are movements caught in the periphery of vision, and the smell of the sea life on each wave rolling in. All beaches smell a little different, sound a little different and all of them can surprise you with something new.

There are so many great experiences to try, bask in, absorb and feel. There are so many things to learn and find and revel in the knowledge of. There is so much life that we can’t ever experience all of it, but we can expand our experiences by embracing each other whom we meet, by bridging the gap and exchanging our experiences, our triumphs, our failures, and our moments of wonder.

Back to writing.

As a writer you read everything in your genre or subject. Mostly as a writer you need to write. Writing is the ultimate goal. So where do all of these writing adages take me?
We all struggle with work/life balance. Writers add on read/learn/experience/explore and then write. Sometimes this is a daunting commandment. Other times it is the richest gift life has given me.

I’ve tried many methods over the years. This meandering blog is one of my favorites. After all, being a writer encompasses the love of sharing with others. We share our stories, our imaginations, our experiences and our dreams.120924 -  - medium-3
If I can share through words the tickle of a crab scuttling sideways across your hand and leaving a small trail of abandoned sand behind then I have shared with you. When I read, it is the other writer sharing back. If I can share a lively detail of dodging a tornado with friends then they can share their own lively tales back.

And back to the writer’s paradox. There are all those hours and connections that enrich us beyond measure, but then there is the solitary art of going into the flow, of coalescing all of richness into a story to share with others.

My wish is that all of the writers out there forever enrich us with their words, their art and the dedication of what is mostly a solitary endeavor. My wish is also that they may enjoy the world and people around them in equal balance.

May tomorrow always bring new discoveries.
~lisa
A pari of bengalsWhat do you think the best strategies are for balancing writing and experience? Life and the work it takes to share our passions? I would love to hear your advice.

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