Winners Selected in Book Giveaways

The Goodreads contest is over! I want to thank everyone for entering. In all, 435 people entered to win my cookbook, Compote Is My Jam, and 510 people entered to win my book of essays, I’Mmoral: Poems for Unrepentant Sinners and Free Thinkers.

Goodreads has selected the winners in both contests (again, to be clear, I have/had zero input in the selection of the winners), and I’m pleased to announce that Sharon in Kentucky has won the cookbook, and Shelby in Louisiana has won the book of essays.

Thanks to everyone for entering — I hope you’ll consider seeking out and reading the books even if you didn’t win: All of my books are available at very low and reasonable prices in eBook format at Amazon and other retailers.

Thanks again!

/rk

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Book Giveaways!

***UPDATE*** The contest has ended and Goodreads has selected the winners. The winner of Compote Is My Jam is Sharon in Kentucky, and the winner of I’Mmoral is Shelby in Louisiana. The books will be sent out to the winners in the next week or so. ****

I’m giving away one copy of each of my latest books through Goodreads!

Here’s how it works: You must have a Goodreads account to enter (a complete list of rules and regulations is listed at goodreads.com). You also need to be at least 18 years old and a resident of Canada or the U.S. Both contests (one for each book) run from today, November 3, 2015 to November 27, 2015. Goodreads will randomly select a winner in each contest (they pick, not me), and inform me of their addresses to send the respective winning book. Winners are encouraged (but not required) to complete a review (positive or negative!) on Goodreads for the book they have received — any feedback is greatly appreciated. Please note that I am prohibited from further contacting the winners for solicitation or any other purpose.

Here is what you can win:

Compote Is My Jam Cover 6 x 9

Compote Is My Jam: Volume 1 (Motown Mix)

(colour paperback, 6″ x 9″, MSRP $24.99 CAD, 56 pgs)

Compote is like jam, only without the work. Making compote is like being a cook, without the cooking. Compote Is My Jam is like a cookbook, if it was penned by someone with few skills and even less common sense. You will learn a lot from these recipes, but possibly mostly about what not to do. Join R.K. as she attempts to one-up her friends who jar and can produce, with as little effort as is humanly possible. The perfect how-to for lazy cooks who are also looking for a little musical inspiration to accompany their kitchen adventures. Get ready to slow it down with Motown. May your fruit be warm and squishy.

Click here to enter

.

I'MMoral imageI’Mmoral: Poems for Unrepentant Sinners and Free Thinkers

(paperback, 4 1/4″ x 6 3/4″, MSRP $14.99 CAD, 152 pgs)

What would the war cry of a mostly introverted, mentally ill, autistic, genderqueer, physically disabled, feminist, atheist, polyamorous woman sound like? A lot like this. Using a combination of essay and free-form poetry, R.K. confronts the status quo and dissects it, inspecting its parts and discarding the bad bits. In spite of tackling some obviously serious and controversial topics, such as abortion and the anti-vaccination movement, she approaches her subjects with humour and then slaughters them with equal parts derision and kindness.

Click here to enter

GOOD LUCK!

New Book!

I’m pleased to announce the soft launch of my latest book, “I’Mmoral: Poems for Unrepentant Sinners and Free Thinkers.” For the time being, the eBook is available only on lulu.com, but is being rolled out for distribution through Amazon, Kobo, NOOK, and more. Once I have approved the proofs of the paperback version, I will advise where those can be purchased as well.

cropped-immoral-image.jpegSummary: What would the war cry of a mostly introverted, mentally ill, autistic, genderqueer, physically disabled, feminist, atheist, polyamorous woman sound like? A lot like this. Using a combination of essay and free-form poetry, R.K. confronts the status quo and dissects it, inspecting its parts and discarding the bad bits. In spite of tackling some obviously serious and controversial topics, such as abortion and the anti-vaccination movement, she approaches her subjects with humour and then slaughters them with equal parts derision and kindness.

Price (eBook): $2.99 / Click here to view/buy

Thanks very much for your support!

/rk

New Digs, New Work

Last year was supremely difficult, creatively speaking. My ongoing health issues got even more complicated, with new symptoms requiring new medications, and overall I felt really defeated. It took a toll on me physically, and ended up triggering a lot of mental fallout as well. Writing under those circumstances was almost impossible.

As we go into the fall this year, though, I’m finally feeling a sense of renewed creative energy. Some of this is down to some changes in medications and learning how to deal with some of my new physical challenges, but the biggest change is that I’ve found a new writing space.

I have always wanted to write. But writing is work, and for most people, you have to treat it that way. You need to set aside time and space to commit to getting it done. One of the things we sacrificed in our move to downtown was our home office, which makes writing at home even more difficult. I used to do a good deal of my writing from bed (out of necessity sometimes), but there were inevitably distractions that would make it hard to concentrate.

It hasn’t helped that I have been struggling with depression since I officially retired and became fully disabled — depression due to my lack of direction and identity. I needed a reason to get up and get dressed in the morning. I also underestimated, when I moved in with my husband, how much I would miss having my own space — something that was mine alone.

mybywardofficedesk

My space: I’m surrounded by my books, my art and a cactus I haven’t killed yet. There are also windows and other nice creative people here.

I realized that what I needed to feel like a whole person again was to find a creative space, commit to finishing all the projects that had been in limbo, and hopefully find a way to re-establish a professional identity for myself.

It took a bit of searching to find a space that fit the bill (and the budget), but I’ve been really pleased with the amount of work I’ve gotten done so far (and it’s only been two weeks!).

What I’m working on / coming soon:

  • A book of poetry and essays on counter-culture subjects called: “I’Mmoral”. It is 98% complete and I hope to have it published and available for sale in the next month (the ebook version should be ready in the next few weeks, with the paperback version taking a bit longer due to proofs and distribution, etc.).
  • A compote cookbook! You can catch up on my recipes in progress at Compote is My Jam. I would like to finish this one and have it available for sale in time for Christmas.
  • A memoir focusing on my childhood stories of abuse and mental illness. I’m about half-way through writing this one, so my tentative goal is to have it complete by early 2016.
  • A re-imagined work of Oedipus Rex (fiction novel), hopefully to be completed by late 2016.
  • I will continue to blog here, at Cuckoo My Cuckoo, as well as on my transgender/androgynous lifestyle blog, That’s My AgendA.

I have sincerely appreciated the support of my blog readers and those who have purchased my existing books. If you might consider further support to help me subsidize the cost of my writing space, I would be super grateful!

It’s tough being a writer, period (most people don’t make enough from their writing to make ends meet), but being a disabled writer is even tougher. I really don’t have any other options in terms of working. I’d like to think, as well, that my writing adds something to the world and has value on it’s own.

I have set up a page over at Patreon, where supporters can sponsor me for as low as $1 a month. Rather than set it up with walled access to content (I believe content should be accessible — I want you to read my writing!), what I might do instead is set up a Thank You or Sponsors page here on my blog where I can put your name (or avatar name) showing that you are one of my awesome patrons.  Please consider sponsoring me here:

https://www.patreon.com/rkbelford

Thanks so much! Without readers, being a writer is pretty boring, so you’re the best part of my day!

/rk

You Probably Think This Memoir’s About You

Writing memoir doesn’t come without fallout of one kind or another. I write about myself and my feelings and experiences. And I get a lot of good feedback from objective sources for doing so. People relate to it and thank me for putting into words the things they’ve held back or buried over time. Because it’s easier, sometimes, recognizing yourself in someone else’s story when giving voice to your own can be so painful and feel so risky.

Why risky? Because when you write about your life, other people are featured in the story, and our instinct is to keep private things private.

Well, let’s not be disingenuous here — for those of us among the emotionally wounded, the PTSD sufferers, the mentally ill — privacy has usually been drilled into us from a young age. It’s that stifling environment, where expressions of discord or discussions of fears or ‘working on relationships’, were either not the status quo or were entirely verboten that helped to pack up all that emotional baggage and lock it away.

IMG_0553Memoir writing is cathartic. I mean, that’s the appeal, right? That’s what drives the writer to write; to un-cork the bottle and spill out its contents, while hopefully painting them with a careful brush into something that inspires or resonates with the audience.

But it takes courage to air your dirty laundry out for the world to see. Not so much because of the fear of letting people inside, or because you open yourself up to judgement — strangers knowing your business is actually less intimidating than you might expect — but because the ghosts from your past often aren’t content to stay ghosts.

“Men’s memoirs are about answers; women’s memoirs are about questions. Most male authors want to look good in their memoirs and have a place in posterity, while most women know that posterity is what happens when you no longer care. Women want to connect with others here and now; they couldn’t care less about legacy!” — Isabel Allende

Memoir writing tends to be (for me) a lot about emotional processing. Certainly at its root, a memoir needs to contain an event or series of events, whether unique or uniquely told, but it’s the emotional connection that differentiates memoir from autobiography. Which is not to say that memoirs aren’t based in fact; but those facts are tempered by perspective. Does this make the author an unreliable narrator? Maybe. But I would argue that reliability of the facts isn’t the most important goal: honesty of intent is.

My mantras for memoir writing are as follows:

  1. Make it YOUR story.
  2. Be honest.
  3. Be fair.

That’s it. As for as making it your story, it’s crucial to remember that the other players are really there to serve a purpose: as tools to tell your story. As such, the basis for their inclusion should always be as a means to move the story forward and/or to allow the reader to learn more about you.

“I think most memoirs, though they purport to be about this particular time or this person you met, are really about the effect that person or time had on you.” — Rosemary Mahoney

That’s not to say they don’t have value as human beings! Of course they do; but we’re talking about story-writing here, and these people probably didn’t consent or want to be written about. But I believe fundamentally that as long as I stick to the rules/mantras, I have a right to re-tell my life. Because who else has a right to tell my story if not me?

Honesty is one of those things you will undoubtedly be challenged on. In disseminating life events for my readers I ultimately let them decide for themselves: When I have objective facts or markers, I say so; when I am making assumptions or interpretations, I say so; and I temper everything with reminders that my recollections are subjective at best. That’s the nature of the beast. My reality may not be the reality, but it is mine. About that there is no deception.

As for fairness, the things above are part of that, but it’s also about representing all the players in a balanced way. I try to keep #1 in mind in the retelling of every interaction. I keep it about me. And I don’t mean that in an egotistical way, but rather that the goal isn’t to tell anyone else’s truth — it’s about telling your own. And doing that fairly means a) being honest about what you know, b) being truthful about what actually happened, c) being honest about what you don’t know, d) being honest about perspective and how that influences your recollection, and e) acknowledging that the people around you are human and are going through their own shit.

That last one is pretty important. If you feel it’s necessary to represent someone else on paper in order to tell your story, you have a responsibility to treat them like a multi-faceted, fallible human being. You need to cut them some slack. Even if they hurt you or did a crummy thing, you need to avoid crucifying them. For one thing, it’s pretty doubtful that anyone is 100% evil.  Or even evil at all. I’m damaged and I’ve hurt people because of that. Ergo the people who’ve hurt me were probably hurt themselves.

If you’re going to tell about the bad things a person did to you, you have to also tell about the good things. If you don’t, you’re a shitty person; because that’s not fair. You’re also a shitty writer; because this isn’t a fairy tale where  you’re the hero and everyone else is the bad guy. Which is why, to be fair, you need to lay out your demons as well. Because what is the point of writing memoir over fiction if you’re not going to at least try to be honest?

Unfortunately, whether you’re ethical about it or not, people probably aren’t going to thank you for writing about them. So why do it? Why put yourself out there and open yourself up to criticism or recrimination from the people from your past?

For me, there are a few different motivations. Firstly I should point out that writing about my relationships was a last resort. When you try for years to mend fences (or at least try to figure out why they’re broken) and you continually run up against a brick wall, it’s not very satisfying emotionally. Those feelings need to go somewhere. I needed resolution and I wasn’t getting any. Also, it was about breaking unhealthy patterns: I grew up in a family where a) we didn’t talk about our emotions and b) because I was mentally ill, a lot of the conflict was blamed on my mental instability. Those two in combination do a number on your self-esteem.

Memoir isn’t the only writing I’ve done. I’ve written a novel and a book of poetry, and there are other books in progress. But it’s the stories of my past that keep forcing their way to the surface. I can’t move on until those are dealt with and filed away.

Which explains my need to write and to process, but why make things public?

Well… I’m a writer, not a diarist. It’s what I do and has always felt essential to my existence (emo but also true), and a crucial part of being a writer is the interaction between writer and reader. I also really truly believe that I have a responsibility to speak up and out because not everyone feels similarly able. For those who for whatever reason, be it personal or professional, can’t face the risk of exposing themselves, it’s important that there are beacons of light that shine in the darkness to let them know that they’re not alone. When you’ve suffered abuse or neglect, when you’ve suffered depression or loneliness, it helps to know that you’re not alone.

Sharing stories has long been society’s collective coping mechanism. We feel an inherent need to connect and understand. Sharing experiences helps us heal emotionally, and when we read about the experiences of others, it gives us insight into our own.

So I’ll keep writing about my life, even if it risks alienating the people from my past. Because the reality is that those people removed themselves from my life long before I started writing, and holding up the writing as the reason is dishonest and re-writing history.

Re-writing history isn’t what I intend to do. I want to write about it, attempt to understand it, and then tuck it away where it can’t hurt me anymore.

/rk

Free Books

happy birthdayIt’s my birthday this week, and in continuing my tradition from last year, my books will be free for a limited time (Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 – Sunday, April 19th, 2015).  Now’s your chance to get free e-book copies of my books (and to encourage me to finish the new novel and poetry book I’ve been trying to finish for the last year).

Here are the links!

Cracked: A Novella

http://www.lulu.com/shop/rk-belford/cracked-a-novella/ebook/product-21581295.html

I Am Not These Things (poetry)

http://www.lulu.com/shop/rk-belford/i-am-not-these-things/ebook/product-21581321.html

/rk

Poems of Further Neglect

Well, I still can’t write.  Because reasons.  Lots of stuff stuck in my head.  But apathy.

Also, the upcoming move is kicking my ass.  Even though I’m not actually doing anything.  I kind of suspect that’s why I’m stuck in anhedonia-land.  It’s like some evil plot that mental illness likes to play: Need to get something done?  Tough!  Time to put on the brakes and completely paralyze and defeat you!  Whee!!!

Or rather: meh.

I feel like if I don’t post anything at all, I’ll completely lose momentum and also NO ONE WILL EVER READ ANYTHING I WRITE AGAIN.  Because melodrama.

So you get more poetry.  My poetry (sorry if you were hoping for something more clever).  These are from my book I Am Not These Things.  Which you can totally buy and I will be pennies richer.

~~

THE ACTRESS

There are times outside of the proscenium
When you, your tongue loosened by wine, and fire reflected in your eyes,
Become especially beautiful

Your laughter mirthful,
Alternating between throaty guffaws and the giddy giggles of guilty indulgence

You close space
And stop time

Spilling compliments and golden droplets of affection
To coat my palms And tuck into my heart’s back pocket

The waves of your hair, platinum mixed with straw
More often punished from view
Now resist constraint, twisted carelessly in a loose braid
Ready to swing away, unpartnered
Or perhaps only waiting for my fingers to cut in
And begin the dance

~~

BEAUTY

When you holler
Hey baby Hey baby
Looking good baby
Look over here, beautiful
Uh huh
Hey gorgeous

I get angry because
How do you know I’m beautiful
Just by looking at me

When you don’t even know me

~~

MOTHERS

I distinctly remember being much more mature for my age
When I was your age
And more respectful of my mother

Don’t believe your grandmother, though
Because she wasn’t nearly as understanding as I am
When she was my age
Back then

/rk