PIECES COVER REVEAL

Long story about this cover. This is a novel, in part, about the pieces that make up community. The first idea for a cover was images of community, friends hanging out, a family at Christmas, etc, and each image was a puzzle piece. Cute, right? A jigsaw mosaic?

My graphic designer (who is also my talented and exceedingly patient sister) vetoed that. Too busy. Too difficult. The images will be too small.

Fine.

Second idea. A school photo of the main character with a jigsaw overlay and the pieces near the bottom falling apart. We tried it a few times. We couldn’t find the right image. Her expression was wrong. Everyone in my support team vetoed that idea.

Okay. Deep breath.

My sister came up with the idea of taking the first idea and omitting the jigsaw overlay. She made it look like Instagram instead. Or Pinterest. Only we still couldn’t get the right images. And it was too busy. And my husband thought it looked unprofessional, like a cover for a family memoir or a photo album.

After a ten minute squabble with my husband we finally talked a little about the book itself and he comes up with this idea of a shattered picture frame. A photo of the sisters’ hands, them holding hands, and the photo being in a broken frame on the floor.

Shit.

So simple. So exactly what I needed. And here’s why.

Rachel grabbed the framed photo from her bedside table and waved it at her mother. “She was my sister! My only sister.”

“That’s enough!” her mother screamed, lashing out with one hand.

The picture went flying and hit the only clear spot on the floor. The glass cracked. The frame split at the corner.

“Rachel, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“Get out of my room!”

She hesitated, ready to say something more, but she turned away instead. As the door clicked shut Rachel dropped to the floor in tears. Carefully she picked up the broken frame. There was no saving the glass but the frame didn’t look too bad. Maybe some glue would fix it. I have to be able to fix it. As she pulled the photo out a piece of paper fell in her lap. With trembling fingers she picked it up and unfolded it.

So I talk to my friend and marketing guru about a photo of two girls holding hands, just elbows down, outdoors, summer-y. He says he has something and will dig through his old stock photos to find it for me. I get back to the computer that evening to a cover. Not a photo. A cover.

And damn if it isn’t the right cover.

I will take a moment to side-step the topic at hand and make a note about graphic designers. They only do what you ask them to do. When it came to making what I asked for, my sister did it exactly right. I just wasn’t asking for the right thing and I didn’t know what I wanted. I was the worst kind of client. So, cover artists out there, be assured, I paid her for the half dozen mock-ups she made for me because she spent a lot of time and effort trying to translate a cloudy vision into a clear reality.

Okay. So, this isn’t the first time I’ve paired up with this graphic artist, marketing guru, illustrator (and he cleans my computer too!). His name is Andreas Ganz and he illustrated my children’s book.

garbage can

Everyone who has picked up Nelly-Bean and the Kid Eating Garbage Can Monster at sales these last few months, even just to look, has commented on the quality of the illustrations. “Eye-catching.” “Cute.” “My grandson would love this.”

He’s currently illustrating a book for my editor, Angil Grafton and then he will be illustrating the sequel to Nelly-Bean and the Kid Eating Garbage Can Monster (titled Nelly-Bean and the Missing Bear).

And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Drum roll please. An instant success. A cover for a best seller if I ever saw one. Here it is. Pieces, by Casia Schreyer. Cover by Andreas Ganz.

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Ladies, Rape is OUR Problem …

… and no matter what we want to think, we are the driving force behind a solution.

Let’s be serious here, the “shopping list” of things not to do, and things to always do, to avoid rape, sexual harassment, street harassment, etc, is a joke. Travel in pairs, don’t walk alone at night, don’t leave your drinks unattended, don’t wear your hair in a ponytail, it’s too easy to grab, wear sensible shoes so you can run away, take self-defense classes (that one I endorse), learn to use your keys as a weapon, always have your keys in hand before you walk out into the parking lot … god the list just goes on and on … don’t wear short shorts or skirts, don’t wear revealing clothes of any kind, call or text someone when you leave and when you get home, talk on your phone if you do have to walk alone, wear a wedding ring even if you’re not married, tell them you have a boyfriend … sigh

Look, I fully believe in equality for women. I fully believe that if a dress code can’t be or isn’t being applied to both genders it shouldn’t exist. I fully believe that women have the right to safety no matter how they’re dress, where they are, or who they’re with. BUT those beliefs don’t reflect the reality of our world. Yet.

I know it’s unfair that people tell us “Don’t dress like that, you’re asking for it”. No woman is asking to be raped.

rrsaturday1

Here’s a photo of myself at the Richer Roughstock Rodeo this past summer (with the talented Barbara Ann Derksen) at the Authors of Manitoba table. Trust me, I had to keep tugging at the back of those shorts to make sure my ass wasn’t showing. But it was hot and muggy all weekend. It was a party type atmosphere, people just chilling and running free, it was awesome all around. And believe me, I would never dream of wearing something like this to work. I never would have worn shorts that short to school. And while there is a dress code involved in both those situations, it wasn’t the dress code that made me think twice about what I wore there.

I work in a daycare and before that I spent a few years working in schools. I dressed like teachers dressed, casual but professional and modest. Yes, I wear skinny jeans at work, but they’re high rise (because that’s what I like) and when I wear the low rise jeans it’s with a LONG shirt. Because I work with kids. I’m crawling on the floor, bending down all the time to pick up kids and toys, sitting on chairs way too small for me, running, chasing, tumbling, dancing, playing … (I love my job by the way) and it’s just not practical to wear clothes that I might fall out of or that I have to constantly readjust.

When I was in school my mom told me something crucially important to my academic success. “School is your job. You go every day. You attend every class. You dress like you would for a job. You hand in your assignments. Because it’s your job.” She was right. School is a training ground for the working world. There’s a lot more room to fuck up. You don’t get fired for missing a few shifts, you don’t get fired for breaking dress code on occasion, you don’t get fired for not completing work. You might fail. You might have to retake a class. But they don’t fire you. You have time to explore life, to explore who you are, but it’s still work, it’s still your job.

Yes, I work spaghetti strap shirts, generally under a button down plaid while in the building, but I played full contact football on the community field at lunch and a button down was too easy to grab so I played in just the skimpy top. I wore tight pants. I wore crop tops and had to remember not to fix my hair when teachers were around so I didn’t get busted. Yes, I was a typical, if very well behaved, teen. I didn’t follow ALL the rules ALL the time.

And this isn’t about self-respect. Self-respect does not equal dressing like a nun. I wore those shorts because of self-respect. I love my body and I have only recently come back to that place of self-acceptance. After two kids my tummy is soft and stretchy, I have very distinctive stretch marks on my thighs, and my thighs are thicker than they were ten years ago. But I made a decision to love my body again, to wear what I want to, stretch marks be damned! Go look at that photo again. I’m not dressed like a “slut”. My boobs aren’t hanging out. Just my butt sometimes. I felt sexy and confident and still self-respecting in my choice of clothes.

What women wear is dependent on where we are, what the occasion is. You can bet that if a guy showed up to a fancy office job in Bermuda shorts and no shirt, and it wasn’t casual Friday, he’d be reprimanded. He might even get told to put on a shirt even if it was casual Friday. If women want equality, we can’t use our gender to claim a double standard. We have to dress appropriately for our jobs. Unless you’re a stripper, cover up a little! It’s professional. Look at what men in your profession are wearing – suit and tie? All buttons done up? Yup, that means you should be wearing pants or a skirt of a decent length, and your blouse shouldn’t have a plunging neck line. Equality, remember? Doesn’t mean you have to be “frumpy”, just professional. And not THAT profession.

For the most part, most of us women are physically weaker than most men. There was a time that I had abs and a toned athletic body. I worked with concrete lawn ornaments. At 105 lbs I could lift 90 lbs of concrete. My husband (then boyfriend) picked me up by the ankles once, I did a hanging sit-up to fix my socks. We were wrestling (yes, actually wrestling, not having sex and trying not to admit it) and I got my legs pinned against my chest. Somehow I got both feet against his chest and I kicked. I guess he wasn’t expecting me to be able to put that much power behind it because I knocked him across the basement. Don’t ask me to do that now. I’m an out-of-shape writer and the only reason I’m this size is good eating, moderate will power, and a high metabolism that’s going to slow down any day now (and then I’ll be in real trouble). If a guy grabbed me, there’s not a lot I could do but scream and struggle. If he doesn’t want me getting away, I won’t be. And I know it.

As I said before, I fully support equality between genders. We deserve equal safety and the ability to go wherever we want whenever we want safely. But the truth is that there are situations, times and places, that will put us at greater risk. The guy going home on a crowded bus in a pleasant suburb at 4pm is less likely to be mugged than the guy walking through downtown alone at 10pm. No one should put themselves in potentially dangerous situations just because they have the right to safety. What’s not fair is that jogging in the park before or after work is a potentially dangerous situation for women, but not so much for men. What’s not fair is that going to a bar is more dangerous for women then for men, even small bars in good neighbourhoods. Women will be groped on the subway at rush hour, even if they’re travelling with friends. Girls in the hallways at school will be bullied and harassed, boys will ask for blow jobs and call them cruel names when they refuse, even with the hallway packed with people.

All those rules boil down to nothing. It’s the same as wearing bubble wrap into a war zone. It may be comforting, but it’s not going to stop the bullets. So yes, culture needs to change. Men’s thinking needs to change. But a large part of the onus is on us. We need to change too.

Stop being afraid. We need to stand up for each other. We need to stand behind #yesallwomen and #freekesha and #standwithJada together. Don’t lower your voice because you’re making men uncomfortable. Don’t laugh at jokes that you don’t find funny and speak out against the ones that support rape culture. Don’t take “it’s a joke, get a sense of humour” as an answer when you do speak out. Don’t be afraid of being assertive, don’t be afraid of being a bitch sometimes. Don’t be afraid of saying no.

Be yourself. Dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Dress appropriately for the situation you’re in (and yes, that means it’s okay to dress in a way that makes you feel sexy when you’re going to the club). Don’t let anyone shame you for dressing too slutty or too modestly.

Be smart. Don’t put yourself at risk just because you have rights to safety and equality but don’t hide in your house until the world changes either. The buddy system is smart, so is texting someone to say “I’m leaving the club/party/ work, home in 15”. Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be home so your loved ones know you’re safe. And honestly, you should be teaching all teens, all genders, that these are good practices.

Women face a lot of challenges in this modern world. They are our challenges, our problems, and we have to take the initiative and responsibility to solve them.

 

To the good men out there

#yesallwomen was a campaign meant to bring awareness to the ever present harassment women face in the work place, on the street, at bars and clubs, at the gym, even in schools. Many women were encouraged or inspired to share their own experiences painting a picture that wide spread and disturbing.

#yesallwomen was a campaign about women. It was about unity, awareness, and courage. It was not about men.

#yesallwomen does not equal “all men are assholes”. I never read a single tweet or article that condemned all men as “the problem”.

And yet #yesallwomen was hijacked by #notallmen.

Hijacked. Stolen. Our agency and importance was once again second to men’s. We were not allowed to speak about our problems, our experiences, without placating men. Without apologizing.

People tease Canadians for saying “sorry” too much. The reality for women is that we HAVE TO apologize if we speak our mind, if we speak too loudly, if we hurt the tender feelings of the men in our lives, if we make ourselves too big, too powerful. #yesallwomen doesn’t need any modifiers. It doesn’t need explanations. It doesn’t need to apologize for giving women the courage to speak out against harassment. And yet we are bombarded by #notallmen comments.

Here’s a truth, just to get it out of the way. Not all victims are female. Men are abused, physically, sexually, and emotionally, as minors and as adults. Not all perpetrators are male. Women can be abused by other women. Men can be abused by women.

Here’s another truth. Men who have never been victims tend not to understand what it is to be victims. Women who have never been victims still tend to share the collective fear of the women around her.

Here’s my truth. I have never been raped. I have never been physically or sexually abused. My experiences with mental and emotional “abuse” were limited to seven years of being a bully victim (from grade 6 to grade 12). But it doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced #yesallwomen.

Because today I saw a mean featuring some big time country star and the text read “Kanye West? Never heard of her.”

“Her” in this meme is being used as an insult.

And it happens all the time. “You throw like a girl” (I happen to know how to throw a perfect spiral, I played football at lunch for two years. I can also pitch a baseball, overhand). “You’re acting like a bunch of girls” (generally said when boys are whining or “bitching” about something and doesn’t take into account the number of women working in dangerous careers without pissing or moaning about it).

Being tender, caring, “soft” – it’s all played as being weak, being girly. It’s not. I work in a daycare and I can tell you it is the hardest thing in the world, being kind and caring and empathetic to little kids who scream in your face and spit at you and try to physically hurt you. It’s hard not to raise your voice when they are stubborn. It’s hard to keep your temper and frustration in check in the face of constant resistance, noise, and mess. And you know what? It’s not just important that I maintain those traits for 8 hours – it’s critical.

You don’t want your children at a daycare where the workers scream at or swear at them. You don’t want them around adults who demean them or manipulate them. Because you know that those things will hurt your child’s long term emotional and mental development. But you also don’t want  your sons to be too caring or empathetic because that would be weak. Right.

I am constantly reminded that I shouldn’t speak so loudly. Even at a hockey game where I was excited and into it, I was told that being too loud would disturb the people in front of us. My excitement, my enthusiasm, was secondary to the comfort of the people around me.

I am constantly reminded that my physical appearance is paramount. I shouldn’t wear what I love because it makes me look frumpy or out of touch. When it comes to fashion I never know what to wear. Am I over dressing? Under dressing? Do I look like a slob? I’m a nervous wreck. I don’t want to embarrass my husband by wearing the wrong thing. I never know what to buy. I should be able to buy something because I like it, it’s on sale, and it’s in my size. But I constantly second guess myself – will it actually look good on me? Will my husband like it?

(My husband is not a bad guy by the way. He just sort of inherited all these issues I face as the male I live with and interact with most often. He doesn’t reinforce my insecurities.)

And on the flip side of this problem is that “maleness” is equated with strong, good, powerful, and intelligent. “Grow some balls” or “It takes balls” or “lady-balls”? Why is a person only strong if they have a pair of testicles (which are extremely vulnerable to harm by the way)? And why, as a woman, do I need an equivalent of these ‘balls’ in order to possess the implied strength or determination?

Okay, I’m not overly sensitive. Honestly, gender-based language doesn’t offend me, not even when it’s used as a joke or light-hearted insult. Language evolves. Culture evolves. Saying “Curiosity killed the cat” doesn’t mean you approve of violence towards animals. “Grow a set” is going to take on a similar place in the vernacular, disconnected from its origins with only its intended meaning left.

And, I should probably get to the point of this entry. The point that’s directed at the good men out there. #yesallwomen have been insulted, harassed, passed over for promotions, leered at, groped, raped, stalked …. by someone at some point in their lives. We grow up learning a set of survival skills that don’t help us at all except to minimize the blame we must shoulder when these things do happen to us. We learn to go everywhere in pairs or groups. We learn never to leave our drinks unattended. We learn not to walk outside at night. We learn not to wear our hair in a ponytail, to wear sensible shoes in case someone attacks us and we need to run, to use our keys as a potential weapon … the list goes on.

We are tired of being good natured about jokes that make us uncomfortable. We are tired of triple checking what we’re wearing just in case someone will think we’re “asking for it”. We’re tired of teaching the new guy how to do the job we applied for and didn’t get. We’re tired of the wolf whistles and the lewd “compliments”. We’re tired of the rape jokes.

So, if you’re really one of the “good guys” then please, stop acting like the jerks. Please, when a woman gives you a cold shoulder in response to a compliment, apologize for bothering her, wish her a good day or a good weekend, smile, and walk on. Don’t demand that she smile, don’t demand anything. She owes you nothing. Show her you didn’t mean to offend her by not being offended by her.

If you’re really one of the good guys, shut down the guys who are making the rape jokes. Let them know it’s not appropriate, that it’s not funny.

If  you’re really one of the good guys, please, step up and act like one of the good guys.

Open Letter to Kanye West

$53 Million dollars in personal debt. I earn less than 1% of that in a year, even if I combine my income with my husband’s. Now, I understand you had some false starts in the fashion industry but that doesn’t explain how you are that far in PERSONAL debt. See, that’s the part that’s bothering me.

I just read an article that explains how people can separate their venture financing from their personal financing. So your ventures are $53 million in debt. Which is how you still manage to pay your mortgage, and other expenses. Because even though you lost $53 million, you also earned $72 million in the same time frame.

So either you pocketed the 70 mil personally and your venture is 53 mil in debt (which means you’re lying to us when you say you are PERSONALLY in debt) or you managed to lose 123 million dollars in three years.

Either way, I can tell you a few things. I will never ever see my bank balance hit 7 digits. It will take my husband and I twenty years to earn a million dollars, and we’ll spend most of it along the way just surviving. And I will be declaring bankruptcy LONG before I reach even 1 or 2 million in debt.

So here’s the way I see it. You own a really big house. You own furs. You own fancy cars. You own MORE than $53 million worth of luxury items. You can sell them, pay off your debt, and in a year have $2-20 million in profit again from your music sales and other such projects. Okay, so you’ll have to buy a smaller house for a few years and dress like a normal first class citizen instead of a over-entitled-overly-wealthy ‘person’. You may have to skip a few vacations for a year, maybe even two – but you have money and you have a huge income generator.

Why are you whining? The solution is right there. It’s easy. Of course, for you it’s not. You don’t want to give up your lifestyle and now you think the rest of the world should be bailing you out just because you make “music” (I don’t think I’ve ever listened to one of your songs so I don’t know if it’s any good or not), because you married someone from a rich family, and because you want them to.

You’re not god. You’re not Warhol. You’re not the greatest living musician, or artist, or fashion designer, or anything else. You’re an over entitled asshole who thinks too highly of his own accomplishments.

Now, I do have to respect anyone who has made the big times in a cut throat industry. The money you make from your music, you’ve earned it. I will not, cannot, begrudge you that money.

Too bad you’re not a better person though. Because your sense of entitlement is one of the things that is wrong with our society today. You, and everyone like you, who thinks they should be bailed out even though they are capable of solving their own problems, you’re parasites.

You will not be remembered as a musician, or an artist. You’ll be remembered as the asshole who feuded with Taylor Swift. You’ll be remembered as the asshole of the internet. You’ll be remembered as a pompous windbag. And nothing more.

I really cannot wait for all of this to blow over. I wish you and your in-laws would move somewhere warm and retire to a life of luxury and stop poisoning us with your petty bullshit. Of course you crave the spotlight too much to fade away and let us get on with real, meaningful, art and music and politics, and life in general. So we are stuck listening to you bitch and whine until you really do go broke.

When your boss is a slave driver …

… and you’re your own boss.

That’s self-publishing in a nutshell I guess. You set your own deadlines and you force yourself to stick to them. And then you fall behind and you work your ass off trying to catch up but life has a way of throwing everything at you when you near a deadline.

My next novel, Pieces, is a prime example.

I set the publishing date for late 2015. I didn’t finish the second draft until yesterday. Two months behind and counting. And I could have done it, really, but life got in the way.

I picked up two freelance contracts to fill in the gaps in my income. I started a new job that was supposed to be casual, 20 hours a week tops, for the summer – it turned to 40 hours every week by the beginning of August, but JUST for the summer. And in September it was a full-time permanent job. And I went back to school.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, I love the ladies I work with, and it’s good to have a regular paycheck. And I really do enjoy being a student. But it pushed the writing down the list a little and as my own boss I could let it go.

Two months behind schedule and counting. Sheesh.

At least it gave my cover artist more time to deal with some design issues. And it meant my editor had time to switch day-jobs and get the renos on her apartment taken care of before I needed her. And now the marketing guy has time to do an animated gif ad (I didn’t even know this was a thing). So it all worked out in the end.

But I’m still kicking myself. Because I could have done it on time. I could have gotten that one more book published in 2015. Now I’ll really be pushing it in 2016 to get a novel, two novellas, and two kids books out. The kids books are written at least, just waiting on illustrations. The first novella is halfway through the first draft. The novel is started. I have a schedule. I can do this.

Of course I am a student and that means homework and exams for the next two years so who knows if this doable schedule will stay doable for any amount of time.

And those are the trials and joys of self-publishing and trying to work and raise a family while self-publishing. You push yourself as hard as you can, because  you’re the boss and you have to push. But you miss deadlines and that’s okay too, because you’re the boss. Boss.