Characters I Connect With: Catra

Today’s installment of Characters I Connect With is about everyone’s favorite sad, gay cat.

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No, the other one.

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No, the other one.

Catra - Wikipedia

Yes, this one!

It’s a bit unnerving saying that I connect with Catra. For most of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, she’s a villain and in such a dark place that she harms everyone around her, physically or mentally. Although I don’t believe I ever got quite as bad as her, one particular moment of her story resonated on a deep, uncomfortable level. It reached into a very common mental state in my past and one I can still fall into today.

Near the end of season 3, Catra gets her greatest wish: the entire world rewritten on her terms, a world where Adora never left her and every other problem she has is conveniently solved. It’s the most perfect scenario Catra can imagine: she and Adora back together in the Horde like nothing changed, both of them poised to rise through the ranks and eventually squash the princess rebellion, taking over Etheria.

meh on Twitter: "Noelle didn't just say that the alternative ...

The problem with this version of the world is that it’s fake and so is the Adora who inhabits it. Catra has fixated on a version of the person she loves without actually knowing or accepting that person’s reality. Catra cannot accept that Adora has a world outside of her, so she manifests this “perfect” world that she has probably been deeply developing for a long, long time.

Although I’m usually pretty good at keeping my own idealized worlds and people to myself, there have been many times when I’ve done the same thing. My usual pattern is to become infatuated with someone I know distantly and then craft an entire lifetime with them, replaying the same escapist fantasies over and over. I know it for what it is now and don’t get torn up anymore when reality doesn’t match what’s in my head like I did when I was younger. I know that the version of this person that exists in my head isn’t really how they are and now, when I have the chance, I let any natural interactions with a person enter in to take away that glow of false perfection. Because really, the impetus of repeatedly living in these fantasies is a desire for knowing and for connection.

And at the end of the day, that’s all Catra wants with Adora. Connection. But in order to get the connection she wants with the real Adora, she has to let go of the idealized version in her head. It takes her another two seasons and a lot of transformation in other ways to get that connection, but when she does, she’s in a much better place mentally and is therefore able to receive it, if that makes sense.

So I relate to both the unhealthy obsessive side of this and the much better process of letting it go. As comforting and safe as the fantasies feel, knowing the real person not only enables you to take them off a pedestal, but it’s also much better most of the time, especially as you slowly see that the real them has more and more qualities that you want from people in your life.

That entire “perfect” world episode felt like it reached into the worst parts of my thinking, translated it into She-Ra language, and played it back to me. Catra’s state in that moment is a difficult place to be in and we see the catastrophic results. I’m thankful that for the most part I have a good handle on my own similar tendencies. I can deal with them on my own without negatively impacting the other person, and the worst moments are few and far between.

Early Cringe Writing: My Awful Middle School Book Ch. 3

Today in the world of my awful middle school book, Karen makes her BIG MOVE, Haley laughs hysterically, and Mrs. Layford takes no prisoners.

Chapter 3

The next day on the bus I told Laurie, Julia, Jenna, and Kathy about yesterday’s phone call.

“Are you serious?” Laurie asked.

“One hundred percent.” I said.

Haley basically invented the 100 emoji.

“I can’t wait to see this.” Kathy said.

“She thinks that I’ll actually hate the sight of her kissing Ryan when really it’s going to be the greatest thing in the year!” I exclaimed.

Haley’s gonna tell EVERYONE on AIM and memorialize the event in her subprofile.

“All right. Here’s what we’re going to do. When she kisses him we’re going to laugh hysterically and point at her.” I said. They started giggling.

Laughing hysterically and pointing is the only mocking technique Haley knows.

When we got to homeroom we waited for Karen to make her big move. Finally, when everyone was there, she made her attempt.

“Okay guys. Get ready.” I whispered.

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I turned around. Karen glanced at me to make sure I was looking. Then, she did it. A big one right on the cheek!

Comedy omg pop GIF on GIFER - by Shakagar

“Get the hell off me!” Ryan exclaimed. Everyone started laughing hysterically and pointing at Karen. She blushed. Then, when she saw me laughing she almost cried.

“You should’ve known that I wouldn’t really care!” I shouted.

Haley really knows how to twist the knife.

Mrs. Layford entered the room and everyone stopped laughing.

“Okay class. I hope you studied for your test today.” Mrs. Layford said.

“Mrs. Layford?” Karen asked.

“Yes Karen?” Mrs. Layford replied.

“I’m in no condition to take a test.” Karen complained.

“Well, it’s not my problem. Maybe you should have thought of that before you kissed Ryan.” Mrs. Layford said.

Haley may have brought the knife, but Mrs. Layford committed the murder.

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Later at lunch we were laughing about what Karen did earlier.

“Hey look! There’s the famous kisser right now!” I shouted so that everyone could hear. Everyone started laughing except for one boy who had a crush on Karen ever since pre-school. The boy’s name was David. David just looked at Karen. He didn’t do anything else. Whenever I see him look at her it makes me sick!

Haley went to a very dramatic pre-school and h8s boys staring at girls. It makes her sick!

Later Kathy, Laurie, Jenna and I overheard Ryan and Tyler talking.

“I wish it was Haley that kissed me instead of that jerk Karen.” Ryan said. We started giggling.

Ryan:

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“Too bad that really didn’t happen.” Tyler said. David joined them.

“Where’s your girlfriend Dave?” Ryan asked.

“Where’s yours?” David asked. Ryan looked around. Then for some reason he looked behind the table and grabbed my shirt.

“Right here.” Ryan replied.

Hahaha, my dude is so FUNNY calling Haley his girlfriend and grabbing her without consent. 🙂 🙂 🙂 

“How about you Tyler? Where’s yours?” David asked. Tyler looked behind the same table and pulled out Jenna. David snickered.

He pulled out Jenna. Just pulled her out of the air like a street magician.

“Some girlfriends!” David exclaimed.

“At least we don’t like Karen.” I said.

“You go girl!” Ryan exclaimed.

“Yeah Ryan.” I said.

You go girl GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Haley and Ryan bond over their mutual, unfounded hatred for Karen. What a great couple.

“Well my girlfriend is a lot better than your stupid crushes!” David exclaimed.

“Shut up!” Ryan shouted.

“Ryan let me handle this.” I said.

Haley said “hold my beer” before anyone else.

“Look Dave I’ve got a little question for you. Why would you want to like a klutz that can’t dis anyone and who thinks she’s cool?” I asked sarcastically.

Haley’s calling out every 2000s YA heroine.

“Because…uh,” he hesitated. “Because she’s, c-cute.” David replied meekly. He ran off so embarrassed that he couldn’t face anyone again.

Imagine admitting out loud that a girl is cute and being so embarrassed that you can’t face anyone again. David is me.

“I’m going to take a barf before it ends up on everyone’s shirt.” I said and ran to the bathroom. I didn’t barf but I went to the bathroom anyway. Jenna, Kathy, and Laurie followed behind.

“That was nasty!” Laurie exclaimed.

“I know seriously!” Jenna said.

“But guess what we can do now.” I said.

“What?” Jenna and Laurie asked at the same time.

“We can tell everyone in the sixth grade about this. It’ll leave major dirt on both of them and everyone will start bugging them about it!” I said.

WOW HALEY YOU’RE SO DIABOLICAL.

“You are brilliant!” Laurie exclaimed. In the boys room Ryan and Tyler were also making the same plan.

This became a huge weird type of thing and I’ll tell you why soon.

Haley is clairvoyant and 10-year-old me learned the magic of foreshadowing!

Totally one of my better chapter endings, right? I had an idea and told myself about that idea by writing that last sentence, but did I execute on that idea? Who knows?

There’s your dose of my early cringe writing. Did it make you laugh hysterically or are you just plain sick? Is your cringe writing even worse than mine? I want to know about it all.

But you’ll have to excuse me if I go to the bathroom to barf and then don’t barf.

Early Cringe Writing: My Awful Middle School Book Ch. 2

Welcome to today’s edition of Early Cringe Writing! In chapter 2 of my terrible middle school book, Haley needlessly antagonizes Karen, more dissing happens, and everyone laughs hysterically. Cringe and enjoy the creativity of a 10-year-old.

Chapter 2

Later at lunch Jenna, Laurie, Kathy, Julia and I were sitting together. I was telling them about what happened in homeroom. Then, Karen walked to the other end of the table and sat where Ryan and Tyler were sitting.

“Watch this and prepare to laugh your heads off.” I told my friends. I walked over to Karen. She looked up from her lunch.

“How’s it going goober!” I said.

Haley literally has nothing better to do than provoke Karen. Karen is just minding her own business, eating her chicken nuggies, but Haley wants to cause a scene.

I had to use “goober” as a stand-in for all the awful slurs and insults we slung around in the 2000s. Use your imagination.

“I’m not a goober.” Karen replied.

“Yes you are. You’re sitting at the goober table.” I said.

Goofy Goober's Ice Cream Party Boat | Encyclopedia SpongeBobia ...

“No I’m not I’m sitting at the– She paused and looked around her. Freaks and geeks surrounded her.

Freaks and geeks! How embarrassing! Little did I know when I wrote this that my own conversion to weeb was nye.

“See! I told you that you were sitting at the goober table!” I exclaimed. Everyone started laughing. Karen tried sitting with us again but Ryan and Tyler wouldn’t let her. She sat down at the goober table and finished her lunch.

Woman-Yelling-At-Cat

Oh, middle school lunch table wars. In my actual life, the preps had a full table to themselves and the nerds had a separate half-table right behind them. I usually sat with the nerds since most of my friends were there, even though I also had friends at the prep table.

One day, the preps had to share a table with us for some reason. I literally sat between both groups, squeezed between a prep friend and a nerd friend. One of my nerd friends kept leading a collective chant to yell “Preps suck!” and honestly her behavior was so embarrassing.

In science we were learning about the wonders of the world. Mrs. Blossom, our science teacher was calling on students to hear what they think a wonder of the world would be. I raised my hand.

“Yes Haley?” She said.

“I think a major wonder of the world is how Karen can look in a mirror without breaking it.” I said.

DISSED.

Everyone started laughing. Mrs. Blossom didn’t do anything because she totally adored me and so did all my other teachers.

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Get it? Haley is a perfect, hilarious, popular ANGEL.

“But really the Grand Canyon is really a wonder of the world along with Karen’s face.” I said as everyone started to laugh even more. Karen hid under her desk.

All anyone ever does in this chapter is point and laugh hysterically.

“Hey look! She’s doing her impression of an ostrich!” I exclaimed. Everyone started laughing even louder.

“That’s a good observation.” Mrs. Blossom stated when everyone settled down. “But it is not appropriate in this classroom. Karen you get after school detention.” Mrs. Blossom said.

That makes total sense!

“But I–

“Don’t try to get out of it Karen. Come to this classroom after school.” Mrs. Blossom said.

Yeah, Karen. Don’t try to get out of it. You’re too young to speak to the manager.

In math class we were observing uneven numbers. I raised my hand.

“Haley?” Mrs. Springfield our math teacher said.

“Well, I don’t know if anyone agrees with me but how many people think Karen’s face is uneven!” I exclaimed as everyone started laughing.

WHY is Haley so obsessed with Karen?

At the end of the day I went home and started my homework when the phone rang.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Revenge will be mine Haley. Revenge will be mine!” The person on the phone exclaimed.

Karen is a cartoon villain with lightning bolts in the background.

“You can’t fool me Karen what do you want.” I said.

“How’d you know it was me?” Karen asked.

“Anybody can recognize your ugly voice.” I said.

Haley can really keep going all day.

“Shut up and listen!” Karen exclaimed. “I want you to stop being so pretty and cute so that I can get Ryan to like me!” Karen shouted.

Wow, Karen. That’s really hetero of you.

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“It’s not my fault he’s liked me ever since pre-school!” I shouted.

“He’s liked you since pre-school?” Karen asked obviously really mad.

“No dip.” I said.

“No dip” was the slickest comeback you could throw at someone in the 2000s. Karen’s been DISSED.

“Well anyway stop or I’ll do something really bad!” Karen exclaimed.

“Like what? Stop taking showers for the rest of your life?” I asked sarcastically.

“No I’ll kiss Ryan tomorrow and see how you like it.” Karen said.

Karen.

“Fine whatever Karen.” I said. Then I hung up and laughed hysterically.

BYE, KAREN.

I know, you all are anxiously waiting to see what happens next and how Karen will exact her revenge. But what’s obvious to me in this chapter is my basic understanding that the antagonist needs motivation to be terrible to the protagonist. It does accomplish that, but also reveals that Haley is awful. I’d like to deny any inkling you might have that I was pulling a Death Note and telling a story where the protagonist is the villain. I wasn’t that smart or clever at 10.

How did your early cringe writing establish the villain’s motives? Did everyone laugh hysterically at them? Were they constantly dissed? Share your cringey writing!

Update: Encuentros de Gracia y Bienvenida Pentecost Black Lives Matter video, Podcast episode 2

Hey, everyone! I’ve got a couple quick updates for you today.

Fires of Pentecost, Protests, and Black Lives Matter

Last week, several of us in Encuentros de Gracia y Bienvenida took to Facebook live to share messages about the protests and uprising against injustice and white supremacy in the United States. Watch the video below.

Encuentros Latinxs Podcast episode 2 is live

Episode 2 of the podcast is out! I talk with Yadi Martinez-Reyna, who designed the logo for the show, about growing up in the borderlands, American Dirt, Second Life, and furries. Subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. Be sure to rate and review!

Writing Fiction Passages for Educational Publishers

I’ve worked in educational publishing for 8 years now and sometimes it dovetails with my author life. My favorite way this happens is when I need to write short reading passages for assessments. 

You’re likely familiar with those English tests where you read a story or informational text and then answer questions about it. But have you thought about where those passages come from? Many times, they’re either public domain texts or custom written, not licensed from real publications. A publisher who creates these assessments often hires a company like my day job to quickly scale the passage and test item development. And companies like my day job will hire freelance writers when our internal staff can’t handle the load within the time frame.

From a writer’s perspective, projects like these can be a taste of the dream. You get to write stories! And you’re paid for them! But some aspects about writing assessment passages may go against your artistic sensibilities and even contradict what we generally know as “good writing.” So while writing assessment passages can be a great freelance gig, you need to understand these factors to be successful at it.

The Primary Purpose of an Assessment Passage is to Educate, Not to be Artistic

Writer, Typewriter, Author, Blogging, Write

This is a frustrating truth to accept as a fiction writer, but a truth nonetheless. You can write the most original story with an amazing plot and perfect prose, but if it doesn’t give students enough information to answer the assessment questions based on the skills being tested, clients will reject it.

I’ve seen particularly artsy freelance writers submit “edgy” work to us to make poignant social or political commentary. But a passage for 4th graders can’t be that complex. When these passages are paired with multiple choice questions asking students to identify the theme or correctly define a vocabulary word, they can’t bury those elements beneath artistic flair.

Most of these passages are 500-1000 words and their first goal is to convey the information the test questions are going to ask about. The most cliched passage about a kid having trouble studying for a test will pass through if, for example, it clearly establishes a point-of-view and the questions tied to that passage ask about point-of-view.

Don’t despair. It’s totally possible to write fun, original stories while overemphasizing certain elements for the sake of the assessment questions, but your main thought while writing a passage must be “What do I have to include or show for a kid to answer a question about this?” Your priorities when writing educational content are different than when writing your own fiction.

Most Educational Content Publishers Have Strict Sensitivity Guidelines

Dolphin, Playful, Wise, Fun, Instinctive, Open, Curious

You know how some middle grade and YA books get to tackle tough issues and face the scarier parts of life head-on? Educational assessment passages don’t get to do that, despite being written for the same audience. Many sensitivity guidelines make perfect sense: no violence, no sex, no stereotypes, no foul language. But I’ve worked with many clients whose sensitivity guidelines are much, much more elaborate. Forbidden topics include:

  • Birthday parties
  • Holidays of any kind
  • Unhealthy food
  • Injuries
  • Anything that doesn’t resolve in a happy ending
  • Anything celebrating competition
  • Anything remotely scary
  • Magic, witchcraft, the occult, etc.
  • Politics 
  • Pirates

With these clients, you feel like you can’t write any conflict in your passages at all. Guidelines like these are a major reason why so many of the passages you might see in lessons and assessments recycle the same tropes: kid has some struggle in school that parent/friend/sibling helps them overcome. Kid loses something to learn a lesson from parent about cleaning up after themselves. Kid does a science experiment. Kid has a family or friend conflict that is easily resolved within a few paragraphs and a squeaky clean lesson learned.

But this is done with good intentions. Because students are forced to engage with educational content, the goal is to never include anything that will stir trauma or cause them to feel negative emotions. They are already under the pressure of taking the test or completing the lesson. The reading itself shouldn’t make them feel inadequate or remind them of what they have or don’t have in their personal lives. Educational publishers have to consider every objection students or parents may have to the stories told in their content. The same publisher targeting school districts in California may also want their product used in Texas. There is a reason why some larger publishers even have separate Texas versions (or other state versions) of the same curriculum.

Breaking sensitivity guidelines is not only a quick path to having to rewrite the passage, but may also result in phone calls discussing the problematic elements. If the quality of your work doesn’t change in the client’s eyes, you won’t get hired for the next assessment project. When writing educational assessment passages, you have to pick the safe option over the edgy one. That is soul-crushing at times because it means you can’t always address important topics.

Passages Must Be Grade-Level Appropriate

Boy, Outdoor, Human, Backpack, Thailand, Asia

Often, this means that passages must fall within a certain Lexile or Flesch Kincaid range. Lexile and Flesch Kincaid are readability tools that measure the complexity of a text and tell you what grade level it’s best suited for. In my experience, the lower the grade level, the harder it is to write. You have to rewire your adult brain and what you learned about beautiful prose to write a story a 9-year-old can read independently. This means you’re writing in short, simple sentences.

Passages also have to be relatable or interesting to the targeted age group. A 3rd grader is not likely to care about college or career preparation. Generally speaking, the best bet is to write a story about a kid the same age as the students taking the test.

Passages Must Emphasize the Tested Skills

Homework, Quiz, School, Test, Exam, Study, Studying

Most assessment work I see involves creating Common Core aligned assessments. Each grade in Common Core English and Language Arts covers specific skills. For example, RL.5 in some grades focuses on text structure. RL.2 in most grades focuses on theme or summary. Assessment questions will test one or more of these skills, which means the passage must include them in a discernible way.

For example, if the test questions will focus on character or setting descriptions (RL.3), the passage must have at least one character or setting description. If the test questions ask for definitions of grade-level vocabulary, the passage must include words or phrases with enough context clues for students to determine the meaning. To make these accommodations, you sometimes may have to break cardinal “rules” of writing fiction. You may have to state the theme. You’ll have to tell more than show. You’ll have to use cliche idioms. Remember that the educational element is the primary goal of these fiction passages. “Bad” writing is less of a concern.

But that said, even with all of these constraints working against your artistic instincts as a writer, you can still write stories you’re proud of. A couple years ago, I had a project where I wrote passages all day for a week or two. Considering everything that I explained about writing fiction passages in educational publishing, here are some stories I came up with:

  • A Percy Jackson knockoff where the kids run an underground society that captures the gods and steals their powers.
  • A story told as journal entries about a kid trapped in an online RPG.
  • A story about a school teacher who takes two students back in time to solve their dispute about whether technology has helped or hurt people.
  • A story about a girl who builds a Rube Goldberg machine with her mother to take a break from a frustrating school project.
  • A story about a girl who shadows at a weather control company in a futuristic society.

Luckily for me, this project allowed genre fiction, so I went to town as much as I could. 

Passage writing provides great practice for writing flash fiction and making high stakes from small conflicts because the larger/easier conflicts like death and violence aren’t allowed.

Tips for Writing Interesting Assessment Item Passages

Desk, Notes, Notebook, Album, Write, Pen, Pencil, Issue

Remembering these tips may help you compromise your artistic desires as a writer with the unique needs of educational publishers.

  • The smallest conflicts mean the world to your main character.
  • You only have 500-1000 words. Unless otherwise required, develop your character through action and dialogue rather than description.
  • Recycle and adapt plots from your favorite kids shows or books.
  • Favor that concise, close POV you find in YA to get the most out of your word count and meet the readability requirements.

Hopefully, this gave you some helpful insight about writing fiction for educational publishing. While much of what you know from fiction writing in general applies, you do need to learn to prioritize some other elements that you usually don’t have to consider otherwise. Now, you can go into that passage writing gig feeling prepared.

Characters I Connect With: Elena Alvarez

Welcome to the first post in a new series called “Characters I Connect With,” where I reflect on characters who deeply resonate with my personality and/or experiences.

Today, I’m reflecting on Elena Alvarez from One Day at a Time. This post contains spoilers through season 3. In general, this show feels like a weird AU of my life, but some of the details aren’t in the right place. For example, some of the characters’ first names are middle names in my own family, and there are even more personal connections that I won’t share for the sake of privacy. But the weirdest not-quite-1:1-parallels are in Elena’s entire character.

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Physically, she’s me with glasses. I’m very blanquita like she is with the long dark hair and eyes. Yes, my picture shows me with short hair, but I’ve been too lazy to get it cut for like three years.

She’s also a huge nerd and has no/minimal relationship experience until she meets Syd. That nerdiness and the complete lack of relationship experience was true for me at her age and over a decade beyond.

In my early twenties, I wasn’t as pushy about social justice as Elena is, but I was definitely pushy.

But the part about Elena that resonates the deepest is her distance from Spanish, the flack she gets about it, and her active desire to improve after Lydia almost dies in season 2. Elena confesses that at first, she pretended to stop speaking Spanish because Lydia got mad at her one day and went off. But then, Elena actually lost her Spanish. That placed a barrier between her and the rest of her family. Lydia gave Elena’s mother grief about Elena having lost her cubanidad.

These details aren’t my exact reasons for why I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish in my house, but this is quite honestly the first time I have ever seen my experiences as a latina represented on screen by a latina who looks like I do. It feels a bit strange to say this since so much of the important dialogue of representation centers around the need to see more black and brown people. To be extremely clear, I firmly believe that such representation is desperately needed and I’m always happy when I see more black and brown folks on screen, in books, creating stories, etc. But my personal existence and experience is that of a very, very white-passing latina–a white latina, a half-boricua. I don’t even know what language to use half the time.

Insomnia - Cast - Wattpad

Elena validates and represents parts of my identity that I didn’t even know I needed. Part of being so white also means that I often feel represented enough by white characters, and the latinx experiences I saw in most books or TV shows growing up were more immersed in the culture than I ever was, so it was easy for me to say to myself “these aren’t for/about me.” That was just one drop in the ocean of factors that led me to ignore/deny/invalidate an entire half of my identity.

Watching Elena is like watching how my life could’ve been just by changing around a few different factors. She gets to overcome the language barrier to connect with her family. She gets full acceptance and support from her family when she starts dating Syd (except for her dad, but he’s barely around anyway). She gets to figure herself out much, much earlier than I did. It’s feeling seen in a tilted way, like when you see your reflection at a weird angle in a window or mirror.

For me, Elena is both a reflection and wish fulfillment for aspects of my life that I honestly didn’t think would warrant representation. I thought other latinx narratives would count more or be more important than a blanquita having feelings about not speaking Spanish. Maybe there are more important narratives than that, but this dorky latina really feels like she was written with me in mind.


Speaking of narratives, the podcast I run, Encuentros Latinxs, focuses on stories about faith, culture, and identity from latinx perspectives. The goal of this UCC-backed podcast is to highlight many different stories to show that no singular story is the dominant latinx experience. New episodes drop on first Saturdays (meaning episode 2 is tomorrow!). Listen on Podbean or subscribe on Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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Early Cringe Writing: My Awful Middle School Book Ch. 1

Writing unreadable garbage is a rite of passage that all writers undergo as we grow in our craft. I was blessed with my early cringe writing intersecting with the cringiest stage of my life: middle school. Yet some of my garbage has aged like fine wine.

So, I’m launching this blog series revisiting and reacting to my early cringe writing. As much as I mock my younger self, I wouldn’t be where I am today without writing that badly. Want to blog your hilariously bad writing, too? Let’s laugh at and honor our younger selves with #earlycringewriting.

At the tender age of 10-years-old, I wrote a series creatively called Middle School Experience. It follows a group of awful middle schoolers being awful to each other. My main character is not a good person. When I wrote her, I thought she was amazing, but actually, she’s terrible. Everyone is terrible. It was the early 2000s. I was obsessed with Degrassi and I hadn’t yet become a nerd. This may be the only middle grade thing I will ever write and I based so much of it on reality that I had to change most of the names to protect the innocent.

Chapter 1

It was dawning.

I actually like this line and this use “dawn” as a verb for sunrises. Don’t get excited. This is one of few gems in this heaping dung pile.

We could hear the motor of the bus get louder as it approached. Me and my best friend Jenna walked up the steps. We spotted our friends Kathy, Laurie, and Julia.

The narrator’s friends are, more or less, the exact same generic 2000s girl. You know how Orphan Black is this amazing show where everyone is a clone but they’re all different and interesting? This posse is the opposite of that. They are the five Laurens in your homerooms, the two Beckys that you really shouldn’t confuse, but do anyway.

We sat with them in the front like sixth graders are supposed to. The bus was totally crowded at the end of the route.

Woman-Yelling-At-Cat.jpg

This was an actual, unspoken rule in my school bus culture. You only sat in the back of the bus if you were older or cool. I was neither and even my main character knows her place.

I’m Haley Springer and welcome to the middle school experience.

**Cue the Lizzy McGuire opening**

lizzy mcguire.png

We just came from Tidewater Elementary School and are now going to Riverside Middle School. The first day of school wasn’t that bad. On the second day, with the seventh and eight graders was hectic. The halls were so crowded you would think it would be an hour until you’d get to the next class!

Anyway, this is what we call life. We wake up at six a.m., get ready for school, and walk to the bus stop while the sun is still rising. We try to make our way through the hall and upstairs only to wait for people with big feet to get out of our way so that we can get to our locker!

It’s October now so we’re used to it. Everyday we follow a bell that rings at the end of every class. We have eight classes a day.

This entire chunk is the on-screen narration while Blink 182 plays in the background. The big feet line was 10-year-old me expressing the very real and very deep rage I felt at having the locker below a tall kid who did, in fact, have big feet.

I have dark brown hair with streaks of chestnut, dark brown eyes, and bangs.

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Haley Springer was the original Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way. Don’t @ me.

I’m kind of a medium height but Laurie and Julia are really tall. Julia has a record of being the tallest person in class and still holds that record.

Great job, Julia. Congrats on being tall. You have achieved.

We got off the bus and went into the cafeteria. We didn’t really sit with anybody. We just sat at a table. It took about twenty minutes for the bell to ring.

This was a real thing in middle school. We’d get off the bus and instead of going right to class, they packed us into the cafeteria to wait for the first bell. No idea if that happened in other schools or just mine.

As we were walking towards the stairs Julia saw him again. She saw what she describes as “the cutest boy on earth” and that was Ryan Penski.

OH NO. THE CUTEST. BOY. ON. EARTH.

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The trouble is everyone in the sixth grade knows that he’s had a crush on me ever since Pre School. Except for Julia.

Oh, Julia, you sweet summer child.

I even know this because he is in every one of my classes and I can see from the corner of my eye that he’s staring at me. I find it just plain sick! He looks at me all day instead of paying attention in class.

JUST PLAIN SICK.

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The thing is I don’t want to tell Julia because it would ruin the fun and I’d get killed.

Haley is a narcissist who loves seeing her best friend pine pitifully for a himbo who will never like her.

Julia stopped right in the middle of the staircase as she watched Ryan go up the stairs. Julia started following him but she was going too slow. So, I yanked her backpack and she woke up from her little fantasy. As we went up Ryan stopped and watched me go up the stairs. His friend Tyler Roy watched as Jenna went up the stairs.

There’s just A LOT going on on these stairs, okay????

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We both looked at each other and rolled our eyes. Both Tyler and Ryan are in our homerooms and both of them do weird stuff to impress us. It never works.

Yeah, weird stuff like staring.

We went to our desks and copied our homework as Mrs. Layford got our papers ready. As usual Julia wasn’t paying any attention to anything except Ryan and Ryan wasn’t doing anything except pay attention to whatever the heck I’m doing. Of course Julia thought that Ryan was looking at her. This happens every day. Sometimes it was funny but other times it was just plain sick!

Haley’s two moods are “You hate to see it” and **vomiting.**

I don’t like any boys. Never have. The problem was that while I like no boys at all there’s some guy over there who’s practically worshipping me!

Ah, here comes the repression seeping out in ways I wouldn’t fully understand for decades!

Tempted to make merch saying “I don’t like any boys. Never have” and “I like no boys at all.”

I had to yank Julia again so that she wouldn’t get in trouble. She came back to earth just as Mrs. Layford passed by. She looked at us with a strange look on her face.

Mrs: Layford:

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I let go of Julia and smiled a fake smile. Mrs. Layford just walked past us.

“Why do you keep doing this everyday?” I asked.

“Do what?” Julia asked.

“You know! You come in the classroom, sit at your desk and stare at Ryan until I have to yank you back to earth before Mrs. Layford gets the wrong idea and starts thinking that you’re a freak of nature and gives you detention!” I exclaimed.

Get ready to see a lot of “exclaiming” and hip 2000s slang like “freak of nature!” Someone get this child some snap bracelets to channel her nerves.

“Calm down Haley I can’t help it.” Julia replied.

“Well too bad because you will get detention like, everyday for lack of concentration!” I exclaimed.

“Come on I’m not going to get detention.” Julia said.

“Stop talking class or I’ll have to put you in detention.” Mrs. Layford stated.

“See what I mean Julia?” I asked.

Wow, Haley. You predicted the future. That’s so Raven!

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I probably took this pattern from a Boy Meets World or All That episode.

“Yeah sure whatever Haley.” Julia said in a depressed voice.

“Is there a problem here girls?” Mrs. Layford asked as she walked by.

“No.” I said bailing Julia out for the hundredth time.

“How about you gentlemen.” She said walking towards Ryan’s table.

“No dude.” He replied.

This line exemplifies the understanding I had of writing boys at the time. They’re exactly the same as girls except they say “dude.” That’s it. That’s the only difference.

“Tyler! Stop staring at the young ladies!” Mrs. Layford exclaimed.

“Hey! Mrs. Layford we’re not young ladies we’re girls. We haven’t reached our teenage years yet.” I said. Everybody laughed. Julia, Jenna and I are the funniest people in our class. Everybody laughed at whatever we said.

But this isn’t funny. Haley is not funny.

“Mrs. Layford? I think it would be a good idea if the young ladies would shut up because if they don’t then I’ll make them smell like crap for the rest of their lives! Wait a minute I don’t have to they already smell like crap!” Karen said.

HERE. WE. GO. Introducing our antagonist, Karen.

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Karen is this stupid jerk who thinks she becomes cool by trying to dis us.

It’s 2001 and you’ve been DISSED. **slams Sony walkman on the table**

Raise your hand if you’re a stupid jerk who thinks she becomes cool by trying to dis us.

What really happens is whenever she does it just makes her become more of a loser. Also, she’s trying to get to Ryan. She knows that he likes me and so she decided to start trying to make fun of me. It never works.

Haley is petty.

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“Hey Karen! Was that supposed to be a dis or something because it didn’t really work. Oh! I know why! It’s because you are a total airhead! People can look in your ear and see out the other!” I exclaimed. Karen was speechless as usual. Everyone was laughing. Even Mrs. Layford!

Wow, Karen is so reviled that even the teacher enjoys making fun of her.

 

And there’s chapter 1 for you. It was certainly a chapter of a story. We’re just getting started unpacking all this drama I manufactured in my head. Please believe me when I say that the plot escalates.

Maybe I seemed like a mean kid writing this. But I rarely, if ever, behaved this way in real life in any obvious way. Much of this book is the way it is because I was not, in fact, a popular kid who had boys falling all over her. My actual middle school experience was that most kids liked me or were indifferent. I had one group of friends who somehow became the popular crowd and another group who didn’t, but people in both groups liked me.

I could’ve been a prep, but instead I became a weeb. This story has no weeb cringe, sadly, but is dripping with prep cringe.

At 10, I felt edgy writing this, edgy and powerful. This whole series is a mixture of projections, obsessions, and realities that I had no other way to process. All early cringe writing is like this, whether “early” for us is middle school or high school or later. We just have to get it out, and execute it horribly, so we can write something decent later.

How about you? Is your early cringe writing a preteen power trip? Does it make you JUST PLAIN SICK? Leave a comment and share your cringiest writing!

What I Read in May 2020

Welcome to my first monthly reading wrap-up! In these posts, I’ll share quick thoughts about all the books I read in a given month. I post all of these to Instagram (@taylorrama) and some of them to Goodreads.

For Alison by Andy Parker

This is a difficult book, not because it’s bad (it’s not) but because the subject matter is one of the most harrowing epidemics in American society. You might remember the shooting where journalist Alison Parker was murdered on live TV. Her father has since become an activist and has written this book, not only about Alison’s murder, but about the media storm, the nature of gun discourse, the politics, the non-profit turf wars, and the poison from Internet trolls. I felt angry, sad, and hopeful at various times while reading, but it’s definitely a one chapter at a time read, especially the beginning. 

I have some personal connection to the book, too. I am about 80% certain that I watched the video of Alison’s murder shortly after it happened and had a minor panic attack. Yeah, it was on a screen but it wasn’t at all like watching a movie or TV show. Now I know better. 

But there’s more. Andy Parker came to speak at my church last October, which is actually where I got the book. I even joined the group lunch we treated him to on the second day of his event. At the time, he was touring around the world to hold community forums about gun legislation and gun violence, and my pastor (who provided clergy services in the fallout of the Virginia Tech shooting) made arrangements for him to come speak at our church. We filled the churchyard with pinwheels bearing the names of everyone who, up to that point in 2019, had been a victim of gun violence in our city. It was over 300. 

The only “criticism” I really have is that Parker discusses so many people that I lost track of who most of them were and why they were important. Part of this is because it took me 6 months to read this book and the other part is that him becoming such a public face really did involve a flurry of interacting with a thousand people all the time.

So this book is a heavy read, but necessary. Parker does not mince his words. You will not feel coddled or edified. You will be disturbed and challenged. Parker even told members of my church that this book is like Schindler’s List–you only need to read it once and that’s it. That’s how raw and harrowing it is.

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician follows Ceony, a young magician who becomes an apprentice in the art of paper folding, which she resents at first because it’s the least exciting type of magic. But after spending a few months with her teacher, Emery Thane, she starts to find it useful. Then, Thane is attacked by an Excisioner, the most dangerous type of magician (they deal in body parts) and Ceony has to race through Thane’s heart in order to save him.

I DNF’d this book at 68%. The premise is interesting and paper magic is really cool, but Ceony becomes a bystander in a massive flashback of Thane’s life. What’s supposed to be a tense race to save him drags and due to personal reasons, I can’t step into the place of this flat main character who is in love with her much older male teacher. If she won’t have a personality, I at least have to relate with what she’s obsessed with and I don’t. 🤷🏻‍♀️ She also keeps resenting paper magic well after she’s seen the cool things it can do and in general she feels like a 12-year-old yet she’s 19. But if historical fantasy and notice-me-sensei are your jams, this book offers an interesting take on paper magic. Not nearly as cool as Read or Die but still cool.

Also, awkward side note that when I posted this mini-review on Instagram, the author liked it. Authors can choose to engage with their reviewers as much or as little as they’d like to, but being on the other end of it feels weird to me probably because I have different boundaries between me and my reviewers.

Percy Jackson Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

A solid continuation of a solid series. The kids are 14 now so we’re getting a touch darker, a touch angstier. Percy and Annabeth journey through a maze on a new quest to stop Luke and the Titan army from invading Camp Halfblood, but plenty of distractions and teenage feelings make everything complicated. Gods and demigods die. Others are reformed (maybe) and other creatures find that destiny isn’t quite how they thought it’d be. . .

I mean, it’s the second to last book of this first series. My description has to be vague lol. This book is great but for some reason I didn’t have as many giddy feelings about it as the previous book. Even so, my girl Annabeth is an emotional mess and she needs some Lego to process her feelings. Percy is a big mood with his whole “the girl I like kissed me and I don’t realize that I like her but does she like me???” thing. Also, Rachel 👏🏻 Elizabeth 👏🏻 Dare 👏🏻. 

At several points during this book, I thought of Thrice’s song “Daedalus.”

The Raven King by Maggie Steifvater

Depending on how I start this review, it’s about me coming to the conclusion that Stiefvater pulled off the whole giving the prophecy at the beginning of book 1 and making the rest of the series satisfying. The things that really needed resolution got resolution. Everything happens as we’re promised it does and it’s all wrapped in beautiful prose. While I can’t fully wrap my head around the weird magic in this series, the reason why I think it’s good is because, as I’ve said before, the characters and their relationships. The technicalities of the magic, the search for Glendower–those are secondary to the actual story about a group of kids who become family over a weird obsession and would do anything for each other. If that element wasn’t so strong, nothing else in the book would work. 

I’m glad I read this series. It’s a great, strange story if you can buy into very weird yet very normal events. Can’t say much else without spoilers, but this series is worth your time and I personally have taken many mental notes about how Stiefvater does narration cause damn is it *chef kiss.*

I will say that I think Adam x Ronan came out of (almost) nowhere. While I saw enough hints of Ronan being some type of not-straight, I didn’t at all pick up on Adam having feelings for anyone besides Blue.

Permanent Jet Lag by A.N. Casey

Lucas is emotionally numb and would rather take the easy way out, escaping from his small town, his friend who’s been in a coma for a year, and other difficult relationships. But summer means he’s home from college and not only is he forced to face it all again, but he also falls in love with a boy whose lease on life is greater than Lucas could ever hope to have. But when you’re 19, things aren’t always easily repaired and the bad things in life still happen. Lucas can choose to keep running away, or he can allow himself to risk happiness and vulnerability. 

This is a solid romance with all the bitter sweetness of your favorite Netflix coming of age film where not everything works out but it’s kind of okay. Lucas is in a very relatable mental state and all of the characters are interesting, memorable people. I connected with many of their emotional and relationship struggles, and overall thought the story was well-told. 

So if you’re looking for some contemporary, sad(ish) hours mlm romance, this book will creep slowly into your feels.

And that’s what I’ve read this month! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these books and whether you liked them!

Why I Self-Published My Poetry Collections

I think of myself primarily as a fantasy writer, yet thanks to my B.A. in creative writing, I’ve dabbled in poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and nonfiction. Though I’ve been writing since I learned how to pick up a pencil, everything I wrote until high school was prose, most of it intended as long fiction.

So since prose is my main game, why did I choose to start my book publishing career with poetry? And why self-publish?

Before I get into this, I want to make it clear that there are benefits I want from both traditional and self-publishing. This is why my longer term career goal is to be a hybrid author. I’m not here to argue that one model is superior to the other.

My Poetry Projects Were Easier to Finish

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Forgive Us Our Trespasses is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon. Cover art by Corrie Liotta

Most poetry is short, and found poetry is especially short. Forgive Us Our Trespasses and Lest I Know Your Weakness were both side projects–fun experiments in an obscure form of poetry. Their scopes weren’t as grand as a novel, and because of the parameters of the form, editing mostly consisted of curating which pieces worked and which didn’t. For Lest I Know Your Weakness, I had more leeway in deleting lines or combining pieces, but the erasure/blackout form itself doesn’t allow for completely rewriting a piece or adding whatever you want.

So, it didn’t take long at all to finish these books. When I got serious about completing Forgive Us Our Trespasses, I spent maybe 4-6 months from finishing it to publication. Lest I Know Your Weakness went even faster.

Don’t get me wrong. I still dedicated a lot of time and effort into these books. But many of the steps to publication were much more bite-sized.

I Needed the Psychological Boost to Call Myself an Author

While I firmly believe that you’re an author if you’re writing, regardless of whether you’ve published books, I saw an opportunity for my poetry to give me that extra mental step of claiming the label. If I published a book, no one could demean me by calling me “aspiring” or “wannabe,” including myself. I would no longer have to qualify labeling myself as an author by using phrasing like “pre-published.” Having actual books out would make it much simpler.

Language is powerful. What we call ourselves can change how we think. Therefore, finishing and publishing these side projects as real books changed my mindset.

I Had the Technical Skills to Complete All Parts of the Publishing Process

One of many lessons my day job in educational publishing has taught me is how to push through troubleshooting the weirdest assessment platforms and learning management systems. If I could get used to finicky tech tools like that, I could deal with formatting an ebook full of images like I did for Forgive Us Our Trespasses. Was it still tedious? Absolutely. And it wasn’t totally perfect but I’m satisfied with the result.

My day job also taught me to get very comfortable with Adobe, how to work with contractors, and how to execute a publishing project from start to finish. If my day job hadn’t taught me these skills, self-publishing might have felt much too overwhelming and I may not have tried.

I’ve also learned through my day job about the vast amount of texts in the public domain. The source texts for both of my books are in the public domain. If I hadn’t had to spend hours looking through Project Gutenberg texts to source passages for English assessments, I wouldn’t have known of it as a source in the first place.

Blackout and Erasure Poetry are Obscure

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Lest I Know Your Weakness is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The most mainstream attention blackout poetry ever got was in 2010 when Austin Kleon published Newspaper Poetry. This was actually my first exposure to blackout poetry. Aside from that, I didn’t see many paying markets for the form and since poetry is a side project, I didn’t have the patience for the traditional publishing poetry market.

Frankly, I have probably made more money self-publishing my poetry in this obscure form than I would have going down any other route (and I am not rolling in dough). But this is one of the great things about self-publishing and why I want it as part of my career–it’s the perfect space for projects that don’t fit anywhere else.

I Learned How to Do It Myself

Publishing a book is more than writing it. I knew this before, but publishing my poetry books was a fantastic learning process for what a publisher does. From page formatting to cover design to ISBNs and attracting elusive reviewers, these books gave me tangible experiences around everything ELSE that comes with book publishing. This makes me a bit more prepared for when/if I do get into the traditional publishing world.

I Was Willing to Let Go

One reality about publishing is that your first book likely won’t be a runaway best seller. While I’m proud of these books I’ve written, they aren’t so near and dear to me that their current obscurity is soul crushing. They are stepping stones that are only preparing me to make the projects closest to my heart even more successful. I could more easily let these books carry first-timer mistakes (like not having a print option available at the same time as the ebook) without feeling like I’d totally ruined something I was carefully crafting for years. Moreover, there is no perfection, only completion to the best of your abilities. You have to learn to let go no matter which publishing path you take, but when I thought about all of my projects, I was most willing to let these poetry books be my guinea pigs.

Having a Product Gives Me Practice with Marketing and Platforming

It’s hard to practice a lot of the book marketing and platforming advice out there when you don’t have books out. I’d read all about connecting with reviewers, how often to make promotional tweets, and a host of other tips, but I didn’t have any reason to do it until I had books of my own. Since publishing my books, it’s been much easier reaching out to podcasts and book clubs that might be interested in my work. I got very thoughtful and nice reviews from a book club for Lest I Know Your Weakness because I had something tangible to give them when I reached out. Now that I’ve made that connection, I feel more confident that in the future I can reach out to them about reviewing any new books that fit the focus of their club.

I’m Free to Connect My Books to Other Areas of My Life

Recently, I made a really neat connection between my author life and my day job. I gave one of my clients samples from Forgive Us Our Trespasses to accompany an activity we developed for them. I plan on writing a separate blog post about this, but I’ll say here that the nice thing about having self-published my poems is that I didn’t have to consult anyone else about doing this before offering the option to the client.

For me, self-publishing was the right decision for those projects. How about you? If you’re self-published or thinking about self-publishing, what are your reasons for choosing that path?

She-Ra’s Love Rebellion

Season 5 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power might be the best final arc of an animated series I’ve seen since Avatar: The Last Airbender. Not only is the queer representation fantastic, but it also declares that reconciliation and redemption are the end results of love. Christianity, at its core, declares this same thing. So while She-Ra certainly is not an intentional Christian allegory by any stretch of the imagination, its values align with those of a decolonized Christianity and I think it has something to say to the excessively loud, colonized one.

I’m going to focus on season 5 because it’s the freshest in my memory, so major spoilers ahead!

 

Horde Prime: the Christianity Baptized in Colonialism

Horde Prime (Netflix Reboot) | Villains Wiki | Fandom

She-Ra is steeped in colonial/invasion narratives. We learn of some of this with the First Ones subplots, but the main force is the Horde, and Horde Prime specifically. Season 5 shows us that Horde Prime positions himself as a god, and the language his clones use to speak about him with exaltation? I’ve heard similar rhetoric my entire life.

“He is all-knowing and all-seeing. His cause is pure and just. He ends suffering with his peace.”

If you heard some of this language out of context, you would think it describes God. And it does. But in the context of She-Ra, it describes this evil, invading force that seeks for every world to be like it or not to exist at all. The “peace” of the Horde is brought about by assimilation or destruction.

Christianity baptized in colonialism does this, too. Pick your “favorite” example–English settlers with the Native Americans in the United States, Spanish colonizers in the Caribbean and South America–colonial empires, like the Horde, spun rhetoric about the rebellious and evil natives that needed to be controlled and saved from their devils by God.

Horde Prime’s peace is complete oneness with him at the expense of diversity in thought, action, and being. Aside from his green, glowing eyes, he is white–devoid of color. He perpetuates his immortality by inhabiting the “purest” of his clones. His empire is exclusively male and exclusively himself. When clones show any signs of deviance, they are “purified” in a ritual in which they’re submerged in a tub of liquid and reemerge even more subdued. This perverted baptism robs the clones and the chipped (the converts) of the ability to feel anything but Horde Prime’s peace.

The eerie choral background music accompanying most of the scenes on Horde Prime’s ship add to these dark religious undertones. I don’t know Noelle Stevenson’s personal beliefs (and I also am not familiar with the original She-Ra or He-Man series), and unless you’re religiously attuned, you might not pick up on these colonial Christian vibes she’s laying down with Horde Prime. But this is the dominating force driving She-Ra’s story.

What threatens this self-serving, religiously coded regime that derives all power and authority from a single, knowable source? Untamable, unquantifiable magic. This magic is intertwined with a love that casts out fear and has little regard for one-side-versus-the-other boundaries as long as you’re open to letting love change you.

 

The Love Rebellion

The New Testament mentions several types of love, including eros (erotic love), philos (sibling love), and agape (unconditional love of God). In the princess rebellion, we see all of these types of love blossom. Even though the characters struggle with it, their community does form closer and closer around this unconditional love.

It begins with Glimmer and Bow accepting Adora into the rebellion, despite Adora being a Horde soldier. They give her a chance to grow and she does. Granted, she’s perhaps the easiest case. But from that point on, the love around which the rebellion ultimately centers its movement continuously tests them. Is there space for all of the princesses in Etheria with their own interests and needs? Yes. Is there space for annoying, shanty-singing pirates? Yes. Is there space for a scorpion princess with terrifying strength, intimidating looks, and the purest desire to do her best? Yes. Is there even space for an abusive mother who nobody trusts but whose intentions are still to defy this invading force? Yes.

She-Ra Season 5 Noelle Stevenson on Coronavirus, Adora and the ...

Accepting Scorpia and Shadow Weaver into their community is perhaps the most challenging for most of the members. In Scorpia’s case, it really begins to upend the notion that everyone in the Horde is inherently evil. And Scorpia, for once in her life, feels like she belongs among a group, which only causes her to outpour even more love and loyalty. She gets to be who she is in her entirety. Accepting Shadow Weaver, on the other hand, is an example of being in community but still holding tension. She’s the member of your church that you welcome into the fold, because the gospel calls us to do that, but you must also set clear boundaries around her. For the most part, the rest of the community keeps Shadow Weaver away from Adora and Catra. She still causes pain when she’s allowed to get close to them, which we see in season 5 when the group travels through Mystacor. Yet being in this rebellion community has changed even Shadow Weaver, and in her last moments, she’s able to give Catra and Adora a message that allows them to heal.

Without accepting first Scorpia and then Shadow Weaver, accepting Catra, Wrong Hordak, and even a revived Hordak would’ve been impossible for the rebellion. But once they’ve begun wielding the power of making space and working through the tension, who they can let in and how deeply their love can reach into Horde Prime’s regime is practically limitless.

 

Catra and Communion in Space

She-Ra' Season 5 secrets, revealed: Netflix creator tells all ...

Being a Christian means I’m a sucker for redemption/reconciliation arcs and Catra gets an amazing one in just a single season. One moment I find particularly beautiful in light of my thoughts around radical love and community is that dinner scene where Entrapta, Wrong Hordak, Bow, Glimmer, and Adora are sitting in a circle eating steamed buns Glimmer whipped up from ancient protein packets stored on the ship (Darla, as Entrapta would have us call her). If you zoom out, this is a pretty unlikely group you’d find sharing a meal together: a defected clone from Prime’s regime, the queen and strategic leader of the rebellion against that regime, a techy archer who might’ve been a nobody if not for his friendship with the queen, a geeky princess who’s betrayed her friends in the past and will join any side For Science™, and a girl raised by the Horde who inherited Etheria’s greatest hero.

Throughout the entire show, Adora holds onto her willingness to create space for Catra long after everyone else in the rebellion deems her a lost cause. But now that Catra is rescued on this ship, others are willing to make space for her, too. She emerges from her room and sits outside of the circle.

Until Bow and Glimmer slide over, waving her toward them.

And Glimmer hands her a bun.

And Catra is enveloped into this community where she doesn’t need to be powerful or useful to be worth anything.

That is why communion is such a powerful sacrament for Christians and why this reads to me as a communion scene. We come to the table broken and imperfect, but there is yet space for us.

 

She-Ra and Decolonizing Divinity

Watch Adora's Complete Magical Girl She-Ra Transformation - Nerdist

Horde Prime conceptualizes himself as a god deserving of total domination because of his advanced power and tech. She-Ra, with her highly powerful magic, could easily do the same. But she doesn’t. Yes, people are still awed by her power and they adore her–Swift Wind practically prays to her while Adora’s out in space–but She-Ra exists among her community without dominating it. This, in essence, is what Jesus does in the gospels. His miraculous powers do bring about healing and liberation for all the people he and the disciples visit in their travels, but Jesus does not dominate them. This is what Christianity forgot when it was baptized into colonialism.

Compared to Horde Prime’s uniform regime, She-Ra’s community flourishes in its diversity. It is strong because it confronts tension instead of avoiding it, calls its members to be vulnerable, and resists forces that aim to destroy connections with one another, figuratively and literally. This looks much more like the Christian communities I find myself in lately, ones that do the work of decolonizing thoughts and practices, and extending the communion table even to people who we believe are irredeemable. The future of the church must look more like She-Ra’s community and less like Horde Prime’s regime if it is to do the work that God calls us to do.

 

Lately, I’ve been listening to a great podcast called “You Are A Storyteller.” The hosts often discuss this idea that stories are powerful, but that they’re either medicine or poison. She-Ra is medicine, without a doubt.