Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019: My Year in Books

Each year for the past few years, I've set a goal of reading 52 books, or one per week. I use Goodreads to track my reading and as of this writing, I've read 50 books. There are still a few days left in 2019, and I know I'll finish at least the novel I'm on (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë) and I'll probably pick up a graphic novel for that number 52 at the last minute.

It was quite the variety again. Look: 

Through my local library, I run a book club with fellow author, James Maxey: The First Monday Classics Book Club. As you might guess, we discuss a work of classic literature on the first Monday of each month. We're in our fourth year as a book club, with many members participating the whole time, and we work to find books that are classic in the sense of having a lasting impact, while still avoiding reading only "dead white guys." It amounts to 11 books a year most years, since Labor Day falls on a first Monday and the library is closed. 

This year's list included (in the order I read them): 
  1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  2. Roots by Alex Haley
  3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  4. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  5. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  6. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  7. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain
  8. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  9. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
  10. Les Liasions Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
  11. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Of these, The Sun Also Rises, The Haunting of Hill House, Les Liasions Dangereuses, and The Call of the Wild were re-reads for me. I can't really stomach Hemingway anymore, but the other three held up quite well, especially Shirley Jackson! 

The jewel of the collection was The Heart is a Lonely Hunter which is a heartbreaker if I've ever read one, the most disappointing was Fahrenheit 451 which is definitely NOT the best thing Mr. Bradbury wrote, and the most painful to read was Tristram Shandy which far too long considering it's really just a shaggy dog story

Several of my other reads were books by friends, colleagues, and members of professional organizations I'm in or that I support. 

Some I promised to read to help another author garner some reviews. 

A few I read because I was judging a contest. 

Others, I just wanted to read because I'd heard so much about the work from spending time on panels and at author events with these talented people. 

This list includes (in the order I read them): 
  1. Kristen Brand's Hero Status
  2. A Pocket Watch, Spray Paint & Morphine: How Viv the Librarian Weathers the Boom by Kimberly Lynne
  3. Designer You by Sarahlyn Bruck
  4. Just Cause by Ian Thomas Healy
  5. Bedside Manners by Heather Frimmer
  6. Storm Forged (The Darkest Storm #1) by Patrick Dugan
  7. The Ghost and Dr. Watson: A Shadow Council Archives Novella by Alexandra Christian
  8. Cinched: Imagination Unbound (various authors)
  9. My Dad is a Mad Scientist (The Adventures of Ubergirl #1) by Matthew S. Cox
  10. A Nighttime of Forever (Vampire Innocent #1) by Matthew S. Cox
  11. A Fall in Autumn by Michael G. Williams
  12. Sisters of the Wild Sage: A Weird Western Collection by Nicole Givens Kurtz
  13. Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
The shining star in this collection was Michael G. Williams's A Fall in Autumn. Gorgeous prose, fascinating world, and amazing characters. Far future noir. Lovely. 

A close second was Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, which was very creative in narrative structure and genre bending in that it was a locked room mystery in space. 

I also really loved Cinched and Sisters of the Wild Sage, two collections of short stories that startled me in the best ways. 

The Ghost and Dr. Watson was beautifully realized, and I loved this interpretation of Dr. Watson!

My main writing project since summer has been a gothic romance, so I read quite a few things to feed that project: classics in the genre, works set in a similar era, and a bit of nonfiction for historical detail and inspiration.

This list includes (in the order I read them): 
  1. Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening (Monstress #1) by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda (Illustrator)
  2. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  3. Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel
  4. Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by  Charlotte Gordon
  5. The Monk by Matthew Lewis
  6. The Cater Street Hangman (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt #1) by  Anne Perry
  7. Wild Women: Crusaders, Curmudgeons, and Completely Corsetless Ladies in the Otherwise Virtuous Victorian Era by Autumn Stephens
  8. Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  9. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (finishing in the next couple of days)
The standout among these was Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, especially when compared to The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Monk, two of the other classic gothic novels on the list. While the latter two novels suffer from the passage of time and feel clunky or outright offensive in sections, Lady Audley is still quite a page turner, and much in the vein of what I'm attempting to write myself, so quite an inspiration. 

Romantic Outlaws and Pride and Prometheus are wonderful for their insights into work I already love, the first by filling in details of Mary Shelley's life and work and the second by melding two work of fiction I already love and admire. 

The last category was books that I'd heard a lot of buzz about and wanted to read based on that--a bit of keeping up with what's going on in my chosen industry. 

This list includes (in the order I read them): 
  1. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  2. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
  3. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
  4. The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal
  5. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  6. Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse
  7. The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson
  8. Sass & Sorcery: Rat Queens #1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
  9. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
  10. The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin
  11. The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O'Meara
  12. The Power by Naomi Alderman
Rebecca Roanhorse, Mary Robinette Kowal, and NK Jemisin all blew me away in different ways. I don't think I can choose a favorite among their books (five of which are on this list). Most of the list held up to the hype and I'm glad I read all of them. 

There's only a few others on the list I didn't mention. My semi-regular neighborhood book club was responsible for some choices, and others I don't rightly remember why I picked that one in that moment. Looking back, though, I had an excellent reading year! I only wish I could have fit in even more books. 

How was yours? Did we read anything in common? What did you love reading this year?

Update 31 December: I made it!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Disney+ Project: Part Four: early 1940s

We're on holiday vacation now, which means we can spare a little more time for enjoying some couch time together. The littlest Bryant and I are continuing our Disney+ Project. In the past few days, we've watch Dumbo, Bambi, Saludos Amigos, and The Three Caballeros.

We missed Victory Through Air Power. It wasn't available on Disney+ and appears to have been a propaganda film of the war era. I'd still like to see it sometime, but it won't be part of this project since it's not available on the Disney+ service.

You can see what we thought of other Disney movies here, here, and here.

Truth be told, I was dreading watching Dumbo and Bambi. I remembered them as traumatizing from childhood.

They're still a bit brutal by contemporary standards for children's entertainment, but not as bad as I remembered. Of course, I'm also no longer six.

Poor Dumbo's mother is incarcerated for trying to protect her baby and he himself is subject to bullying from what should have been his community. Thank goodness for Timothy Q. Mouse! A spark of human kindness (in mouse form) in an otherwise desolate landscape.

Bambi may have fared better. Though he lost his mother, he still had a loving father and a loving community around him. His tragedy feels less tragic.

So, our thoughts:

First Dumbo. How hateful is it that the movie is titled with the derogatory nickname awarded a child by bullies? His real name is Jumbo, Jr. (And where is Jumbo, senior, BTW? He's even more absent than Bambi's dad).

My daughter and I both had trouble getting our minds around how making Dumbo a circus star was supposed to help his poor incarcerated mother. This wasn't a movie where animals could talk to humans, so the new circus star Dumbo would exactly be able to demand his mother's freedom in exchange for his work.

Then again, maybe the empathetic Timothy Q. Mouse was just trying to keep hope in his friend's life and help him build a life for himself.

Even the twelve-year-old watching with me questioned the kid-logic of the plan. The story reminded us both of the old stop motion Rudolph in that there is socially sanctioned bullying a child by adults and dubious messaging about what is and isn't supposed to be acceptable.

Those other elephants were horrid. First they pick on a baby elephant for his unusual physical attributes, then they shun him when, effectively orphaned, he takes work as a clown. Those elephants felt like they could have the society dames on Downton Abbey, or like Oscar Wilde might have enjoyed lampooning them in a play. Lady Bracknell as dowager elephant.

The drunken elephant sequence was still horrifying, and the minstrel crows made me cringe. Kudos to our society that my twelve-year-old didn't understand the depictions overall. I'm proud that she needed an explanation to understand what was going on with the crows. She's not familiar with those particular racial stereotypes, which means they're probably dying! w00t!

When the movie ended, after only a little over an hour, my daughter's main comment was that "they wrapped that up awfully quickly." I agree. It's like 55 minutes of abusing a child, followed by 10 minutes of magically making it all better. I guess it was easier than writing a real resolution to problems a baby elephant had no power to effect.

Now, Bambi. Bambi is a very odd movie. It feel more like a nature documentary with a little more anthropomorphism than usual. We watch a cycle of life: baby deer is born, grows up, faces dangers, survives, and we end with another baby deer (twins this time!). The joy in watching Bambi is the art of it. It's beautiful visually--water drops, naturalistic animal movement, forest greenery, light, and even the fire. (It is a little disconcerting how all so many of the female animals end up looking like they're wearing makeup though--like eyeshadow is what defines femininity).

My daughter thought they did an amazing job making the animals' mouths move in a way that still let them look like deer, rabbits, birds, etc., but made speech believable. I hadn't considered that, but I have to agree.

Bambi's mother's death didn't hit my daughter as hard as it hit me as a child. Maybe it's a difference in us as people, or a difference in what age we saw the film at (I was much younger when I saw it for the first time than her current twelve years). But she took it more in stride than I did as a child.

Compared to the kidney-punch-in-the-feels approach of a contemporary Pixar film, Bambi's mother's death felt, if anything, underplayed and subtle. While the gunshot ringing out and the silence that follows are still harrowing, Bambi (and the viewer) does not see his mother die, and he is not left long without guidance.

He is sad, but we quickly move forward in time to springtime and puberty to continue the cycle of life. As I mentioned above, Bambi has a good social support network, with a father who steps up and friends that stay by his side. The entire forest community is on the lookout for him. In that way, he's a very lucky boy.

After the two tearjerkers in a row, my daughter and I were happy to move onto "lighter" fare in Saludos Amigos and The Three Cabelleros. Saludos Amigos was a lot like The Reluctant Dragon in that it intermixed live action with cartoons and was, in part, a behind-the-scenes narrative about how animated features were made, involving animators traveling to South America to study the culture and creatures.

The highlight of Saludos Amigos was Goofy in "El Gaucho Goofy" which bears some similarity to "How to Ride a Horse" from The Reluctant Dragon in that it's a lot of physical humor involving Goofy trying to ride a horse. But it was still a lot of fun!

Since we watched it directly before The Three Caballeros, we got to see what the animators did with what they learned in their South American sojourn.

Unfortunately, what they did with it was turn Donald Duck into "a wolf" and throw him at beautiful women (animated and real) made of eye-rolling stereotypes.

So much red lipstick!

Saludos Amigos got a little boring for us before it was over. Maybe because it was mostly a travelogue and we've seen a lot of depictions of that part of the world already, so it was "old news."

The Three Cabelleros had more animated stories and less educational lecture, so we enjoyed it more. It started strong with the story of "The Cold-Blooded Penguin" Pablo who leaves the South Pole for the Galápagos Islands. Both of us enjoyed the creativity of the story--that bathtub speedboat was the best!

"The Flying Gauchito" was also charming, telling the story of a boy who finds a flying donkey. The other features were far less entertaining and memorable.

The story does feature the first intermixture of animated characters alongside live action ones though, in the form of Donald Duck and José Carioca, a parrot introduced in Saludos Amigos, competing for the attentions of Aurora Miranda, sister of the more famous Carmen Miranda. Intermixing live action and animation has come a long way since 1944 (compare it to Roger Rabbit or Space Jam), but it was an impressive beginning!

Our project continues into the later 1940s now with several features I don't remember ever watching and one that I suspect we won't be able to get: the contentious Song of the South.

I'd love to hear what you remember about any of these features in the comments! Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Disney+ Project: Part Three: The Reluctant Dragon

Welcome to part three of the Bryant Disney+ project, in which the youngest Bryant and I watch all the animated features in chronological order. You can read our earlier adventures with Snow White and Pinocchio here and with Fantasia here.

We're up to 1941 and The Reluctant Dragon, an interesting piece consisting of a live action narrative that gives behind-the-scenes access to the animation process at Disney interlaced with shorter animated features.

I didn't remember this one, so it might be one I missed in my youth, or one that I only saw once.

My daughter enjoys nonfiction, informational kinds of shows. I know this, but I was still surprised with how pulled she was by the live action component. I think she may have enjoyed that more than the animated bits. I guess that makes sense given her own love of drawing and animation. It's really right up her alley.

For my part, I found Robert Benchley too smarmy and the narrative that he was wandering the Disney complex avoiding meeting with Walt Disney an odd choice. But I also liked seeing the color mixing, maquette making, storyboarding, expression studies, sound effects, and other aspects of the craft we explored in his adventures.

There was one cringe-inducing moment with an asian woman in the life drawing class with an elephant, and way too much of Benchley flirting with young women trying to do their jobs, but we were both able to just roll our eyes at those sections and move on.

It was very cool to see the face of the man who voiced Donald Duck and a pleasant little treat to find Alan Ladd portraying one of the storyboard men. I loved learning that Clara Cluck was voiced by an opera singer. How fun!

I learned in reading about this movie that it was released during an animation strike, which might explain, at least in part, why it was the sort of piece it was and why several of the people we see in the movie are not actually animators.

The title is a little misleading in that The Reluctant Dragon story itself only makes up the last fifteen or so minutes of the feature. It's a charming story about a dragon who is uninterested in fighting and would rather drink tea and recite poetry. We both enjoyed it immensely.

Other stories included a black and white segment from "Casey Junior" (from Dumbo), "Baby Weems" told partly in storyboard and partly fully animated, and Goofy's "How to Ride a Horse."

The song from Casey Junior has been running through my head since our watching--it's a darn catchy thing.

Baby Weems was just okay, not really charming either one of us, but we both loved How to Ride a Horse. If you're already a Goofy fan, then you know what to expect and won't be disappointed. Lots of good natured foolishness and hilarious physical comedy.

Alongside this one, we also watched a couple of older shorts including Ferdinand the Bull, a childhood favorite of mine that is still pretty fun (though I wonder if I would feel that way if I were a Spaniard) and The Plausible Impossible, a feature in which Walt Disney talked about the concept of making impossible things seems plausible in animation.

Next we're taking on Dumbo and Bambi, more traditional full length features. It's funny that my daughter has seen neither of these films, but already knows that we're in for a rough go in terms of sad stories. I guess the stories are just that engrained in American culture that she knows them to some extent even though she hasn't viewed them. I'm looking forward to finding out what she thinks!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Disney+ Project: Part Two: Fantasia

My younger daughter and I have taken on a little project: we're watching all of the animated Disney films in chronological order and looking at how story and animation changes over time. You can read the first installment about Snow White and Pinocchio here.

I had more exposure to classical musical as a child than was average for those around me. My beloved grandfather was a fan, especially of Wagner and Beethoven. You know how some kids sneak into the back of movie theaters to watch movies without paying? My grandfather, as a boy, snuck into the back of Music Hall to listen to opera and classical music.

I also took dance lessons. My parents hoped it would make me less clumsy, and I did enjoy it even though I didn't have much talent. Later, I was in the band and the chorus. All that is to say that I liked classical music more than many children around me, so the classical aspect of this film was not a hard sell for me, even then.

My younger daughter isn't particularly a classical music fan, but she appreciates music and animation in combination and does listen to quite a bit of instrumental music on her own.  She was quite open to giving this film a chance, and remembered the Mickey Mouse sorcerer part from Fantasia 2000, which we watched kind of a lot when she was smaller.

For both of us, one of the oddest aspects of Fantasia were the bits between pieces. We were tempted to fast forward the man talking to us about the music (Deems Taylor) to get to the "good part" where we actually hear it and see what the artists did with it.

Program notes are tricky beasts. Classical programs always seem to want to combine education with entertainment, and the audience overall does seem to want that background about the composers and the times they wrote in. Neither of us found these particular program notes all that engaging though. The bit where Mickey came out and shook hands with the conductor was cute and charming. The bit where the musicians randomly knocked over their own instrument was weird. The rest was utterly forgettable. In fact, I don't actually remember anything said during this part now.

I guess the program notes were intended to add some gravitas? To make sure we didn't feel the serious music was disrespected by the animated interpretations? I don't know. Maybe it's a product of its times. It was 1940 and I'm watching in 2019. I think I'd have left this part out and just put in a title slide letting me know the name of the piece, the composer, and when it was written.

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Paul Dukas is still the most memorable piece in the collection. Perhaps this is because it has a plot, whereas most of the others don't really tell a story, or maybe it's because of Mickey Mouse. It's beautifully matched to the music and Mickey is sympathetic as the apprentice looking for a shortcut for his labor. My daughter was as charmed by those relentless water-hauling broomsticks as I had been as a child, and it ends on a cute laugh where Mickey is punished by the scary wizard, but in a "get out of here, you scamp" way which is a relief of tension.

"Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor" by Bach, the opening piece, probably did the least for either of us. It morphed from live action images of the orchestra into increasing abstract images. My daughter--the visual artist of the two of us--admired the moment of transition, noting that at some points it was difficult to tell if something was real or drawn, but I was impatient. It doesn't help that I'm not particularly a Bach fan, so the music didn't pull me in either.

"The Nutcracker Suite" by Tchaikovsky is by far the piece of music we both know best. Thanks to the popularity of the ballet, that score is etched into our brains. This one must have made an impression on me when I was a child, because it hit with a rush of nostalgia, especially the long-legged fairies the dancing mushrooms.

My daughter was especially charmed by the Russian flower people section. Overall, we both enjoyed this section immensely for the way it reinterpreted the music while still referencing the familiar and popular aspects of the ballet.

"Rites of Spring" by Igor Stravinksy or "the dinosaur part" as children remember it reminded me of Bambi. The part where the spike-tailed dinosaur fights for life and loses it to the T-Rex (who has larger "hands" than are usually depicted, which made him even more terrifying) was heartbreaking, with all the other dinos hiding in the greenery and watching him die. Disney really loves to get gruesome in its pathos sometimes.

My daughter's highlight in this part was the pterodactyls (who were pretty scary looking too) getting their comeuppance for torturing the squid they'd captured by losing one of their count to the large-jawed sea creature. It suited her sense of justice.

"The Pastoral Symphony" by Beethoven, in contrast, was so pastel-romantic that it was funny. The plot of this one involves little cupid babies trying to get centaurs and "centaurettes" (I kid you not: they actually called them that in the intro) together for a little spring romance, then everyone being attacked by Zeus with thunderbolts for a while. Oh yeah, and the bit with a chubby comically drunk Dionysus.

Now, my daughter is into Greek mythology. She's a fan of a Red from Overly Sarcastic Productions on YouTube (whom I also really enjoy! She's witty and sarcastic and unapologetic in her interpretations and opinions). So, my girl was a little startled by this portrayal of the gods, though she thought Zeus randomly throwing lightning at people because he was bored was very on-brand. He's such a bro-dude.

I was more taken aback by these simpering, beauty-obsessed female centaurs. (Not that the boys did much either--they seemed to mostly mope about hoping one of the girls would notice them, or jump around athletically). In my first piece on this project, I talked about my ambivalence about Disney, some of which stems from portrayals of female characters. This is some of the kind that bothers me. Every Centaur girl was so passive and sweetly docile. How about just one with a little moxie?

Still, the art was idyllic, soft and pretty. And Zeus definitely looked like a jerk for attacking their party with lightning for no clear reason.

"Dance of the Hours" by Amilcare Ponchielli didn't sound familiar until we got to the bit that was stolen for "Camp Granada," but I did remember the dancing hippos fondly. This one was clearly meant to re-engage the younger children who might have lost interest during the pastoral languor. We have ostriches, hippos, elephants, and alligators dancing ballet. It's cute and funny. Watching, my daughter and I were a little confused as to the intentions of the alligators. Did they want to eat the hippos or date them? It seemed a bit of both.

"Night on Bald Mountain" by Mussorgsky was a surprise. Chernabog the demon/devil dude was pretty darn dark and scary looking. I recently read a book about Milicent Patrick, an artist who worked on this segment and later went on to create the Gill-man, my favorite old movie monster and I thought about that while I was watching, wondering what parts she'd been responsible for.

My daughter often creates demon OCs (original characters) in her sketchbook (though hers are usually cute-creepy rather than large-scary), so she sat up and took notice during this part, too. She ooo-ed and ahh-ed over the imagery of his drawing ghosts out, skeletons and ghostly figures swirling through the air.

We were both struck by the effect of the church bell sound on Chernabog. Such expression on his face! The animation work is just amazing here. In fact, there's much that I've seen echoed in later animations: the use of light to indicate power, the body language, the shapes of wing and face. From Gargoyles to Maleficent, lots of future Disney scares seem to have found inspiration in this demon character.

I confess that the Ave Maria that ended the piece put me to sleep, though. In part, this is because I was a tired mother at the end of a long day, resting under a cozy blanket on the sofa. In part it was just so soothing, both the music and the animation of the souls walking into eternity, which is apparently a beautiful wooded landscape with gorgeous bridges, reflective waters, and elaborate gateways. I missed the last two minutes because I had literally drifted off!

My daughter laughed at me, but confessed it had left her feeling sleepy, too. So, I'm not sure what to make of that as an end note.

Since this piece contained so many different stories and styles, it's hard to compare to the single-character-arc stories of Snow White and Cinderella. It's just too different a critter to compare easily.

An interesting aspect of any anthology piece like this one is the effect of the order of the pieces: knowing what emotion to draw in your audience with and what to send them out with, when to up the tension and when to throw in comic relief or something else to calm the audience. Fantasia is beautifully paced for the most part in this way, balancing the different pieces. It's still so well worth viewing!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

IWSG: When I Grow Up . . .

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop.

If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

The awesome co-hosts for the December 4 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nicki Elson, Fundy Blue, and Tyrean Martinson! I hope you'll check out their blogs as well as some of the others on this blog hop after you see what I have to say.

December 4 question - Let's play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

I've always had a lot of dreams about what my life would be like when I grew up. If you went back and talked to six-year-old Samantha, you'd have heard about the giant house she'd have on a cliff above a raging sea, with a tower room where she kept her art supplies and dancing shoes. The gardens would rival the ones I'd seen at Biltmore that one time on vacation and there would be a waterfall in my backyard.

I planned to finance all that by being a teacher, which shows that I didn't have much of a practical understanding of money, but was full of optimism. That's probably still true to some extent :-)

I wasn't much older than six when I decided I'd be a writer, too. Of course, my dreams about how that looks have changed a bit since then. 

When I was a kid, I imagined that a writer spent all her time walking around in long sweeping dresses across gloomy landscapes (like a Brontë sister), then went home and wrote passionate poems (like Emily Dickinson). I didn't spare a moment imagining how this writer bought her pop tarts and hot chocolate. I probably thought my mom would keep taking care of that for me. 

Now, I'm closer to living the dream of my writing life than I have ever been. I've had my first taste of success with three of my novels accepted for publication. They sell at least a few copies every month and I get invited to author events several times a year.

I'm a "real writer" by nearly anyone's estimate and I have to say it feels good. I write every single day and I get my words into print regularly. I'm more confident in my work every day, and know I'm building a career that will see me through to the end. 

My imagination, at least when it comes to imaging my own future, doesn't run as wild and free as it did when I was six. Even my "crazy dreams" are a little more realistic. They are possible, at least, even if they're unlikely.  

I imagine the Menopausal Superheroes getting picked up by Netflix and made into a series with Kathy Bates and Helen Mirren in the cast. It's a huge hit of course, and Hollywood realizes that there's a huge market for stories about strong women of all ages and they've been missing out on millions of dollars by only marketing to and casting the young.
(Menopausal Superheroes as drawn by Charles C. Dowd)
I get more offers than I can find time to fulfill to write more stories. I make so much cash that I send my second daughter to college without borrowing any money and pay off everything I borrowed for the eldest! I take my husband and family on wonderful trips to all the places we've always wished we could go see. I drive a car during the same decade it was manufactured!

Ellen DeGeneres calls and I charm everyone with my genuine awkwardness in my stint on her show. I use the opportunity to raise money for my foundation that sponsors women creators to produce the work they were meant to make. My foundation frees thousands of women from the struggle of making ends meet and their creations change the world for the better. 

I still teach, because I love teaching, but I do it part time, only for students who care about learning what I am trying to teach. I still write every day, because that's the fun part. How about you? What do your dreams of superstardom look like?