Thoughts on “How We Behave”

This short essay is part of a series called ‘Publication Reflection’ where I look back at my published work. Want to see content like this more often? Consider supporting me on Patreon.

I think “How We Behave” (published by Valparaiso Fiction Review) is one of my favorite pieces I’ve done. I wrote it in the fall of 2018 and was so in love with it that I used it in my writing sample for MFA applications. According to every ‘veteran’ offering advice at the time, this was a terrible idea, because ‘older pieces are more polished.’ Obviously, my new piece did well for me, considering I got into my dream MFA. So who knows what the best choice is.

This piece was pretty directly inspired by a Disney river cruise I went on with my parents in the summer of 2018. I’m really afraid of Disney though, so I didn’t make direct references. That’s why it’s “the largest entertainment company in the world” and I just describe Mulan instead of actually saying what it is. I was also reaching the end of my own gender journey, finally setting into they/them pronouns and starting to come out to a few people, so I was interested in exploring something that was a little more non-binary. I didn’t want any part of it to feel cut and dry.

One other thing worth mentioning, I think. When VFR promoted my work on their Facebook, they described it as being about a mother coming to terms with her trans child. I thought this was interesting because, in my mind, the mother didn’t have much to do with anything. She was just there. Not the most supportive, necessarily, but not particularly unsupportive. So I don’t know if I agree with them about what the piece was about. But that doesn’t really matter, in the end. They published it, and that’s what I really cared about.

If you’ve got the time, take a look at this piece and let me know what you think. Love and gratitude, as always.

Thoughts On “Equality”

This short essay is part of a series called ‘Publication Reflection’ where I look back at my published work. Want to see content like this more often? Consider supporting me on Patreon.

The image above, a painting by Carl Napolitano, was printed alongside my piece when it was published. I love butterflies. What a joy to have this one associated with my first publication.

Before rereading “Equality” for this post, it had been years since I looked at this strange little flash fiction. Part prose, part script, a little naive. Perhaps very naive.

I wrote this piece as a freshman in college. By the time it was accepted at the undergrad-operated lit mag there, I’d already decided to transfer. But, it was still my first publication. I won second place in the fiction category judged by Trenton Lee Stewart, and he wrote me some nice feedback on it. I even got a bit of money for it.

All of that to say, I certainly don’t look at this piece and think that it’s bad. I think there are spots to improve it, some instances of repetition that I should have eliminated, basic sentences that could have been elevated. But for who I was at the time, for where I was at with my writing and with my life, it’s a solid little piece.

What I wonder about is where I stand on the moral of it.

It’s simplistic, of course. The kind of thing an 18-year-old thinks is very clever but is only sort of interesting. I still agree that we should be nice to Prejudice, though, which is different than letting him walk all over us. We have to be nice to him while also trying to stop him from dictating laws and public policy, which is a very tricky line to balance on. We have to be nice to him like I’m nice to the prejudiced people in my family, sending them well wishes while desperately hoping that their opinions and ideas weren’t passed down to their kids. And I think jokes about white people not seasoning their food are hilarious. It’s true in a lot of cases, after all.

It’s the nuance of it, though. That’s what I think about when I look at this piece now. It’s not a bad point, overall. I just wish I’d been capable of explaining it better.

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