Conflict Resolution?

No, this isn’t a post about finding ways to deal with that annoying thing your partner does or the boss who mansplains. It’s your friendly neighborhood conflict-avoidant  writer having a moment.

If you know any published authors, you know the love-hate relationship most of us have with reviews. We know they’re part of the game; we appreciate when people take the time to write them. We feel giddy elation when they’re good. We go through the five stages of grief when they’re terrible.

My latest release, Summer’s Cove, is no different. I check Goodreads and Amazon far too often. I laugh. I do happy dances. I huff and roll my eyes. I do my best not to cry.

Actually, they’ve been more good than bad so far, which is nice. A few people have commented that they see growth in my writing (yay!). One called me her hero (blush, swoon). A couple dislike a character or the way I went about something (point taken).

But here’s the thing. No one has dinged me on my weak/non-existent/uncompelling conflict. No. One.

As a person and a writer who really likes everyone to get along, this is huge for me. (Just ask my editor.) It makes me feel like I really am growing as a writer.  That I’m doing something right. Maybe it’s a conflict resolution after all.

P.S. If you’ve enjoyed a book and want to make an author’s day, leave them a nice review. I promise they’ll appreciate it. And if they’re anything like me, they might even jump up a down a little.

The Complicated Art of Simplifying Things (Repost)

Another re-post, pulled from the old Bold Strokes blog. It turns out, I’m pretty good at advice. I’m less good, sometimes, at following my own words of wisdom.  This is a perfect example. Whether or not it really counts as simplifying is debatable. But I’ll take the reminder to focus on what matters, what brings me joy. I’ll take that any day of the week.

The Complicated Art of Simplifying Things

BY AURORA REY

built-to-lastI think there’s a switch that gets flipped when we approach middle age. For some people, it’s all about more—more money, more toys, more thrills before youth slips away. For others, the switch flips the other way and there is a burning desire for less—less stuff, fewer demands on our time. I’m definitely in the latter camp and, like many people closer to forty than thirty, I’ve found myself looking for ways to make life simpler.

Whether clearing away excess clutter or ridding my closet of clothes I’ll never wear, part of this desire is tied to having less stuff. Another part is about authenticity, which is partly about stuff, but also about focusing on people and relationships that are meaningful and resonate with who and how I want to be. And, last but not least, it’s about deciding how to spend the most valuable resource of all—time.

Which all sounds a little hokey, I know. But hear me out.

A little over a year ago, my partner and I bought a little farmhouse out in the country. We decided to trade our downtown existence for fifteen acres and no neighbors within a thousand feet. We cancelled our cable; we started talking about chickens and goats. One of us (me), became enamored with the idea of keeping bees. Sure, we’d have to keep our day jobs, but life was going to be simple and we were going to love it.

The irony of moving out the country is that it requires a lot of equipment. You can’t really tend fifteen acres without a tractor. It’s alarmingly easy to spend five hundred dollars on dirt. Canning is fun, but definitely not child’s play. Don’t even get me started on how much attention farm animals require. And while I definitely have fewer tchotchkes than I used to, I now have more power tools.

So, I’m not sure we’ve mastered the art of simplicity, but we are a lot happier. I like the exhaustion of a day tilling the garden. Tomatoes you pick an hour before you eat taste a thousand times better. And I don’t think I’ve ever been more relaxed as I am sitting around a fire, drinking wine and looking up at the stars.

I think the moral of the story is that simplicity isn’t always simple. Sometimes it’s more about mindset that minimalism. It’s about figuring out what’s important and focusing on it. It’s resisting the allure of things that seem shiny but will suck your energy and leave you feeling unsatisfied. It’s understanding those things aren’t the same for everyone and accepting there are a thousand ways to be happy. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s learning that finding the love of your life isn’t about finding someone just like you, but finding someone whose version of simple (or complicated or happy or satisfied) fits with yours.

Which brings me to Olivia and Joss, the protagonists of Built to Last. Over the course of the novel, the characters embark on a similar journey. Olivia buys a farmhouse in an effort to break away from the artifice of her upbringing and family, but quickly realizes she got a lot more than she bargained for. She navigates the world of DIY with relative ease, taking pride in her work and doing things her way. In the end, though, she has to learn that making a home is about a lot more than paint chips and finding the perfect stove.

Joss, on the other hand, believes she’s mastered the art of simple goals and straightforward priorities—family and work, in that order. She’s convinced she has it all figured out, until Olivia shows up and drives her to distraction. She has to confront her own notions of what it means to be family, and whether happily ever after counts if it comes in a package you don’t expect.

You’ll Never Know Unless You Try (Repost)

A few months ago, Bold Strokes did an amazing upgrade to their website. (Seriously, it’s awesome. You should buy all your books there.) Part of that included a new host for the BSB Author’s blog. Since that means the old blog is going away, I decided to snag my old posts for posterity. And since reading them made me smile, I thought I’d share them again here on my page.

A lot has changed since November 2015. The next Cape End Romance, Summer’s Cove, is due out in October. Oh, and I totally had just the right combination of encouragement, backup singers, and alcohol to try karaoke. You really don’t ever know unless you try.

“You’ll Never Know Unless You Try”

BY AURORA REY

A few years ago, I spent my free time baking instead of writing. I’d gotten a small, modestly profitable cake business off the ground and fantasized about fame, fortune, and Food Network. I even passed an initial screening and had the opportunity to submit an audition video to Cupcake Wars. While freaking out about the potential rejection, as well as the chaos that would ensue if I was chosen, my therapist at the time had some words of wisdom: you risk nothing by trying.

She’s a very smart woman, so I took her advice. Unable to fathom doing it in front of anyone, I set up a tripod in my basement bakery, filmed it, learned iMovie, edited it, and put it out there for the world to see (all over the course of a weekend.) I didn’t make it onto the show, but making the video was a blast. To this day, it’s a great conversation starter and my go-to random interesting fact. Sure, I’m a little bitter every time Cupcake Wars comes on, but I’m still glad I tried.

My first stab at NaNoWriMo was similar. A friend who’d done it the year before inspired me to take on the epic challenge of writing 50,000 words in thirty days. At the end of November, I had 50,279 words of novel that wasn’t terrible. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that good, either.

Undeterred, I set it aside and gave myself permission to start from scratch. I also gave myself permission to write a book I’d love to read (a romance) and to set it in one of my favorite places (Provincetown). And, well, it worked. The result is my first complete novel and my first work with Bold Strokes Books.

Winters HarborWinter’s Harbor features Lia, science writer, and Alex, a pastry chef. Lia arrives in Provincetown after her ten-year relationship tanks. She’s on her own for the first time since college and is pretty sure a girlfriend is the last thing she needs. Alex lives and works in Provincetown. As far as she’s concerned, Lia might be the perfect distraction for the cold and quiet months of winter.

Like many writers, I wrote a ton of witty dialog and self-indulgent scenes and was pretty happy with myself. My editor, on the other hand, pointed out that I’d neglected to create truly meaningful conflict. I huffed. I put my hands on my hips. I whined. How dare some hot shot editor pick apart my perfect story? After about an hour of this, I admitted she was right.

My premise was that getting involved throws both women out of their comfort zones. They enjoy spending time together (spoiler: there’s a lot of cooking and baking), but neither of them is eager to put her heart on the line. It was only when I started to pick apart what that meant, however, that I got anywhere. When I thought about how much our deeply held insecurities drive us to avoid taking the kinds of chances that make life worthwhile.

Ultimately, that’s what it came down to. Lia and Alex had to grapple with the same little voices we all have. The ones that can make us feel content, but that can also keep us stuck. Clever banter and baked goods notwithstanding, Lia and Alex had to be willing to take a chance—on themselves and each other.

This is all starting to feel like a recurring theme in my life, and a lesson it’s taken me a long time to learn. I’ve still never been brave (or drunk) enough to sing karaoke, but I embrace the belief that the risks pay off. And even if I don’t always get what I want, I learn a lot and mostly manage to enjoy the ride. I think that’s what life is all about.

P.S. If you want to see the gem that didn’t win over the Cupcake Wars people, it’s still on YouTube. I’m still impressed with my editing skills. My fierce competitor face? Not so much.

 

 

It’s Gonna Be May

I said going in that April was the cruelest month. I didn’t want to, really, because April is my birthday and brings the first true tastes of spring. It also, however, brings a crescendo of admissions events, awards ceremonies, honor society inductions, and course registration. Oh, and crises. The students-who-haven’t-gone-to-class-since-spring-break variety.

I’m talking about my day job here. I still have one of those. I like it mostly, but there are a few times of the year that it takes far more out of me that I want to give.

Despite knowing this going in, I scheduled myself to finish the first draft of Spring’s Wake by May 1. This would give me a couple of weeks to do a read-through before sending it off to beta readers. I’d hit my weekly word targets every week since the start of 2017. I wasn’t about to fail.

Only I did.

I was mildly on track for the first half of the month, despite all-weekend admission events. It went downhill from there. Not all bad, mind you, but out of control. A couple of days of fun plus my ex’s wedding (notably non-traumatic) took up lots of time. Having a weak middle and a pacing problem in the manuscript made those last 15,000 words or so beyond painful.

In short, April made me her bitch.

It got so bad that I spent the better part of a Saturday morning in a crying, sniffling heap. Andie pet my head and reminded me that April sucked.

Right.

So, the manuscript still isn’t done, but I think I can whip it into shape. The end of the semester is in sight. I discovered the amazing *NSYNC play on May and giggled. A lot.

may

I’ve decided that, for next year, I’m going to do whatever it takes to have essentially no writing obligations in April. That way, anything I accomplish is bonus. For now, I’m just glad the worst is over. And May? You’re going to be my bitch.

The Glory of Love, Loser’s Edition

I promise this is not a post about Peter Cetera. Or The Karate Kid Part II. It is a little bit about love, though. And glory. And why I write.

I’ve reflected before about why I write romance novels. Of my delight in having readers. Fans, even. I’ve touched on how nice the money is and how much it has meant to me–as a writer and a person–to have found a home in the lesfic community.

But today I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m also in it for the glory.

Perhaps glory is the wrong word. Esteem might be better, with a layer of recognition. But glory is definitely part of it. And I’d already committed to the Peter Cetera reference, so here we are.

Today, the last batch of finalists for the Golden Crown Literary Society Awards (the Goldies) were announced. Built to Last was not on the list. Nor was it on the short list for the Lammys that was posted a month or so ago.

I knew the list was coming, so I pulled up the page on my phone the minute my alarm went off. Names I knew. A few I didn’t. Not mine.

I was disappointed, but I got out of bed and took a shower. I told Andie and she said sweet things to make me feel better. I did my morning writing and came to work. I congratulated my colleagues, I commiserated with friends. I moped a bit, but not too much.

It’s funny because I’m an introvert at heart and don’t actually like being the center of attention. But there’s something about awards, recognition of a job well done. I wasn’t raised to be competitive, but man do I love a pat on the head and a “job well done.” Literary awards are the pinnacle of that–positive reinforcement and an ego boost all rolled into one.

Not getting that recognition can be so…deflating.

I’m an optimist, though, and do my best to shoo away negativity before it gets too comfortable. So here goes…

I get notes from readers–unexpected bursts of joy that make me happy for days. I get royalty checks–quarterly reminders that people are willing to spend their hard-earned money on my stories. I get Facebook likes and retweets and mentions in reading groups. I get more good reviews than bad.

In short, I get plenty of glory. On top of that, it’s the kind of glory I care most about. And I love every minute of it.

Don’t get me wrong. I still aspire to a Goldie and a Lammy and, yes, even a RITA. But, at the end of the day, that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about the stories and the characters and the readers. It’s about love.

So for all you finalists out there, I send you heartfelt congratulations. For my fellow “also ran” friends, I’m with you. It’s okay to mope a little. For the writers still working to get published, don’t give up. And most importantly, for all you readers, thank you. You make it all worthwhile.

We’ll live forever
Knowing together
That we did it all for the glory of love

And just in case it’s not already in your head:

You’re welcome.

Reading (and Writing) Romance in the Time of Trump

If you follow me on Facebook, you know I’ve taken the leap to pitching blogs to HuffPo and some other mainstream outlets. I mitigate the sting of rejection by repurposing that unclaimed content here. Please pardon any redundant thoughts or things that might seem totally obvious to anyone who already knows or follows me.

(Disclaimer: No bodices were ripped and no pussies were grabbed in the writing of this post.)

Romance novels get a bad rap. We know this. They’re dismissed as trashy, fantastical, formulaic. Romance is a joke, not something to be taken seriously. That’s the argument against anything by/for/about women, right?

But now more than ever, women are standing up and refusing to be quiet. We resist. We persist. And now more than ever, romance should, too.

My grandmother gave me my first romance novel in 1993, when I was in eleventh grade at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls Catholic boarding school in south Louisiana. The sex was barely PG, but she gave me a warning anyway. “It’s a good story,” she said. “Just skip the dirty parts.” I tucked myself in my room and read it instead of doing my homework on the Sacraments. It was the closest I’d come to being a bad girl. I was hooked.

By the time I got to college, romance was my preferred guilty pleasure. I hoarded Harlequins to read between studying for organic chemistry and genetics. And after changing my major to English, I savored Nora Roberts in secret, far from the judgmental gaze of my literature professors and creative writing seminar classmates.

In grad school, I discovered Janice Radway’s Reading the Romance and learned the language of dismantling hegemonic patriarchal structures. But even as I wrote papers and pounded my fist about the importance of women-centered stories, romance remained something I sheepishly admitted to reading. Usually while blushing and saying something about how I alternated romance with “real” books.

That changed a few years ago when I finally gave myself permission to write the genre I loved. Suddenly, halting attempts and half-finished chapters gave way to a finished manuscript and a publishing contract. I met a community of readers and writers who not only love romance, but take it seriously. I got my first fan mail.

Now, I’m a college administrator by day who reads and writes lesbian romance novels by night (and early morning and weekend and the occasional sick day). I might still blush when people ask me what I write, but I’m much savvier in what I have to say.

Romance is hopeful, I say, and that’s a pretty radical thing. Name another genre where love conquers all and female protagonists—surgeons and Supreme Court justices and bounty hunters and CEOs—are front and center.

I make the business case. Did you know, for example, that romance makes up a 13% share of the adult fiction market? Then there’s the feminist angle. The romance industry is one of the few in the U.S. that is and has always been predominantly by women, for women. It’s also been quicker than other industries to embrace a host of diverse stories and characters—people of color and LGBTQ characters in particular.

But that’s my usual shtick. These days, there’s more to the story. Just like everything in the era of Trump, the rules have changed.

Romance isn’t just legitimate; it’s relevant. I’d go so far as to say it’s essential. In these days of alternative facts and grossly unqualified cabinet picks, romance keeps me centered. It keeps me sane.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

Take La La Land. Whether or not you’re smitten with the romantic musical comedy, it’s hard to argue with its record-tying fourteen Oscar nods. You’d be hard pressed to find another time when the drama-loving Academy picked an upbeat romance as its darling.

We’re living in a world where #lovetrumpshate is part of the vernacular. For every three articles or calls to action on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, there’s one about self-care. Resistance is exhausting, after all. Making the time to recharge is critical for the long game. I don’t know about you, but I’m in it to win it.

So I’m saying loudly and proudly: Romance is part of my resistance strategy. Because when women are repeatedly silenced and publicly reprimanded, romance amplifies women’s voices. When women are grabbed—literally and figuratively—by the pussy, romance empowers women’s agency, sexuality, and desire.

Romance is escapism, sure. But it’s also rebellion. I’d go so far as to say it’s a nutrient. Like vitamin D. And much like my pale, pale self in the throes of winter in upstate New York, I need all the help I can get.

Do I Make You Uncomfortable?

Like most girls raised in the South (or GRITS, as we’re sometimes known), I was raised to be compliant. Smart, sure. Sassy, even. But when push comes to shove, don’t.

Don’t challenge the status quo. Don’t challenge your elders. And whatever you do, for the love of God, don’t make others uncomfortable.

I’m really good at making people comfortable. Like, freaky good. It comes in handy sometimes. Who doesn’t love making people feel more at ease?

The problem is that I often make people feel better about things that they shouldn’t. Through the years, I’ve helped family and friends rationalize some pretty bad/selfish/immature decisions. I’ve also all allowed people to get away with some pretty bad/selfish/immature things.

I’ve owned that this is cowardly on my part. I’ve accepted that confrontation is not my forte and I’ve given myself permission to choose self-preservation over standing up for the myself. At times, I’ve truly needed to do that. But not always.

The thing is, it’s not all about me. Sometimes–most of the time–it’s about standing up for what is right. And not even “right” in the vaguely morally superior way. I mean “right” in the way that keeps people from getting killed.

I was reminded today (by my brilliant editor and friend Ashley Bartlett) that silence is death. True, it might not be my death. I am, after all, an educated and well-employed feminine-presenting white women who lives in a progressive community. But many queer people (and people of color and people in poverty and people with disabilities) aren’t so lucky. And by making my majority culture family and friends more comfortable, I am making life more dangerous for those not in the majority.

Hate crimes don’t exist in a vacuum. People who shoot up black churches and queer night clubs and mosques are acting out hate that simmers, not on the fringes, but in the mainstream. Around the supper table. At holiday parties. On fishing trips. At the gym.

My fellow citizens–the ones who shrug off racial slurs and gripe about “illegals” and tolerate presidents who joke about sexual assault–are a greater danger to me and to my community than the radical terrorist I’m told to fear. My own uncles–the ones who screen the packages I send to my mother for fear I might try to sneak her another of my novels–enable bigotry just as much as as guy on the street corner who screams about my eternal damnation.

Now that I think of it this way, it’s a no brainer. Danger beats discomfort. The days of smiling and nodding have passed.

If it’s any consolation, I’ll be uncomfortable, too.

 

For the Love of Gumbo


It’s February! That means a few things.

One: Crescent City Confidential is out! If you haven’t got your very own copy, what are you waiting for?Crescent City Confidential.jpg

Two: it’s gumbo season. Nothing warms a winter evening better than a bowl of Cajun goodness and a glass of old vine Zinfandel.

Three: those things are not mutually exclusive.

Crescent City Confidential is an Aurora Rey novel, after all, and it’s set in New Orleans. That means lots of food and lots of cooking. Oh, and a cooking lesson. Because who doesn’t love to flirt and make dinner with the woman you’re trying to get into bed?

Today’s lesson? Gumbo. Tess shows Sam how it’s done. And because I love y’all, I’m going to show you, too.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

1 chicken
1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
2 onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 T. apple cider vinegar
salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste
gumbo file (optional)

  1. Put chicken in a pot with enough water to cover and boil until the meat begins to pull away from the bone (about 45 minutes). Remove chicken and separate meat from bones, discard bones and reserve stock. Note: You can take a shortcut (and not sacrifice much flavor) by using a rotisserie chicken and a few cups of purchased stock.
  2. Combine oil and flour in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Whisk over medium heat until the color of milk chocolate. This will take a while. Be bold, but don’t burn it!

    It starts out looking like this.

    Keep whisking so it browns evenly.

    When it looks like peanut butter, you’re getting close.

    When it’s the color of milk chocolate, you win.

  3. Add chopped vegetables and stir until they begin to soften.

    It will look scary. Fear not.

  4. Slowly add chicken stock and pepper flakes.

    It will look a lot less scary.

  5. Add chicken and sausage to pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about an hour. Add vinegar. Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste.

    Perfection in a pot.

  6. Serve over rice. Add additional hot sauce and a sprinkle of gumbo file, if desired. If you want to be authentically Cajun about it, serve potato salad on the side. (No, I don’t know why. It’s just a thing.)

I hope you enjoy both the recipe and the book. I’d love to hear from you about either!

 

The Personal Is Political: Local Edition

I’m pretty sure that my Facebook and Twitter feeds now consist of equal parts 1) the latest horrifying thing proposed or said by the new administration, 2) instructions on who to call and what to say to protest said horrifying things, and 3) happy and/or cute things designed to help us all keep our sanity. Oh, and the occasional “Aren’t you overreacting?” (But that’s another post.)

It’s encouraging to see so many people fired up and banding together, but it’s overwhelming. First, there’s the fact that I’m an introvert and arguing makes me sick to my stomach. Second, there is so much going on, it’s hard to decide in any moment whether one should be defending science, women, queers, people of color, immigrants, free speech, reproductive rights, the environment, education…I could go on. I have seen some great lists to stay organized, which help, and some great encouragement to remember self-care.

The latter is especially important. The fight will be long and we can’t afford to burn out. That means I fully intend to embrace romance novels and videos of baby sloths and moments of zen and big glasses of good red wine.

It also means I’m going to throw myself even more into work I can do in my community. Take, for example, the Advocacy Center, my county’s agency that provides service to victims of domestic violence, childhood sexual abuse, and sexual assault. It also provides education and prevention training. I’m on the board and we are currently working to purchase the building, a move that will provide financial stability when funding fluctuates.

It’s good and important work. Now, however, it’s critical. The budget that Trump has proposed cuts all grants tied to the Violence Against Women Act. All of the funding. Gone. Now, it’s not a done deal and I’ll be part of plenty of calls to demand it get put back in. And don’t worry, I’ll be imploring all of you to do the same.

But in the meantime, I can put more time and energy into our campaign. I can donate a couple more hours a month to make sure that this vital service in my community is supported and promoted and valued. I can do concrete and tangible work that has impact and makes me feel good. It feels less daunting some days to do that than call my senators. In the grand scheme of things, it might even help win over more hearts and minds than my Facebook posts. (Especially since I’m pretty sure that most of my family that disagrees with me doesn’t look at my posts anyway.)

So in these hard times, I’m adding my own call to action into the mix. Find something close to home that you care about and give it your time and maybe some of your money. Make it personal. Because your experiences and your contributions are by definition political, now more than ever.

Marching Orders


This weekend, Andie and I drove down to D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington. It was amazing, inspiring, energizing. While it’s still fresh in my mind, I wanted to capture the highlights of the day.

First, I should note that I found myself on the fence about going in the weeks leading up to the March itself. I was afraid it might be a rather amorphous thing of (mostly) white women without a true agenda. And then the platform was published. As I read the four-page document–articulate and unflinching in its focus on progressive issues and social justice–every hesitation vanished.

We booked a hotel near the end of one of the Metro lines and drove down Friday after work. We arrived at the Red Roof after ten, tired and still shaking our heads at the alarmingly nationalist tone of the inaugural address. I had a hard time falling asleep.

The next morning, we woke at five. A knot of anxiety sat in my stomach. I was excited, but didn’t know what to expect. So many people had encouraged us to “be safe.” We diligently wrote each other’s phone numbers on our arms in Sharpie, just in case.

We arrived at the train station around 6:30. Dozens of cars were already there. People in pink pussy hats, people with signs and clear backpacks streamed in. As I waited in line to buy metro passes, people explained to each other how it worked, what they needed. We rode the escalator to the platform and I soaked in the energy around me. I knew then it would be a good day. Our train was already full–moms with their teenage daughters, an older straight couple who clearly weren’t new to marches, couples with small children, packs of friends.

We were in D.C. by 7:30, wandering in search of breakfast and coffee. Most places weren’t open yet. The couple that were had huge lines. We walked on, figuring we’d find a food truck or something along the way. By the time we arrived at the National Mall, hundreds of people were there, taking selfies and hugging and buying buttons. I chose “Pussy Power” and “I Like Girls Who Like Girls.”


We made our way down 4th Street, along the side of Museum of the American Indian. The crowd was thick–mostly women, but more than a few men; black and brown and white;  differently abled; women in head scarves; old and young and everything in between. We walked to Independence Avenue, where the rally stage was set up, then backtracked to the museum, taking up residence on small ledge a couple of feet off the ground. We had a view of one of the screens and some of the crowd. By the time the rally started, the entire street had filled in, with only a single-file line of people moving in either direction.

There were so many people, but we had no idea the true scope of the crowd. We also couldn’t hear the rally speakers. (Don’t worry, we watched the videos after.) We chatted with women from California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New York. Our little posse on the ledge consoled a young woman who’d been separated from her friends, helped create a clear path for wheelchairs trying to pass.

And the signs. So many signs. “Don’t Tread on My Ovaries.” “A Woman’s Place Is in the Resistance.” “I Can’t Believe I Still Have to Protest this Shit.” “You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This March Is About You.” And this one:


By 1:30, the rally was still going and the crowd was getting restless. Chants of “Let’s march now” gathered steam. Then the message came, passed through the crowd like a hot potato. There were too many of us to march.

Hell, no.

Rather than trying to make our way to the march route along Independence, we headed back to the Mall. So had thousands of others. The throng was massive and felt, at times, disorganized. We were all heading in the direction of the White House, but didn’t really know how we’d get there. Even then, everyone was friendly. People paused to let others pass so that groups wouldn’t be separated. At one point, we bent low to walk under a swimming-pool-sized Constitution.

We were funneled eventually to Pennsylvania Avenue, the route of the inaugural parade. The police offered direction; everyone listened and thanked them. It felt like a march, then. Chants broke out. “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.” “This is what democracy looks like.” “Women’s rights are human rights.” “Black lives matter.” “Trans lives matter.” “We will not go away, welcome to your first day.”

The bleachers, notoriously empty the day before, were packed. Cheers and waves and solidarity. I heard there were some counter-protesters, but I never saw one. One guy in a “Make America Great Again” hat passed in the crowd at the rally. No one said a word to him. The news made a big deal about a crowd that size without a single arrest. More than than, though, there was no shoving, no fighting. I felt profoundly safe. And while I know that being a crowd whose majority was white women made us “less threatening,” I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of it remaining a peaceful demonstration.

Around 5:00, we peeled off from the crowd. I think the ellipse in front of the White House was full and the march had essentially stopped. And we’d yet to eat. (I know, poor planning on our part.) We went in search of sustenance. We snagged two precious seats at a sports bar and laughed about all the hungry and thirsty women pouring money into local restaurants. We were exhausted, happy, proud.

We took the train back to Maryland. At our hotel, we showered, scrubbing off the Sharpie ICE numbers we’d not needed. We caught up with the news (there was absolutely no phone signal at the march) and were asleep by 8:30.

And now I’m home. I’m disgusted that the President couldn’t even be presidential enough to acknowledge the millions of people who showed up to express their concerns, the issues that matter to them. I remain horrified that his racist, homophobic cabinet picks will likely go through without a hitch. I am deeply worried about my right to marry the person I love and the future of public education and the consequences of diplomatic clusterfucks.

But I’m resolved. I’m resolved and energized, knowing that there are so many good people out there, fighting for equality and justice. I’m resolved even though it estranges me from my own family–most of whom “like” all the pics I post of my dogs, but didn’t even acknowledge my half dozen posts about the march.

The true work begins today. It begins with the Ten Action Items and with calling my representatives. It will continue. The complacency that helped to create this situation will not return. The future is not entirely female, but it’s feminist. Or, as my sign said, Feminist AF. And I’m going to help make it so.