Dream of Sanctuary

LETTERS

Written by: Lily Dauphinee

Some ghosts haunt us, some serve as constant reminders of what we could have done or been. Some take their time before they find solace elsewhere. Some drag us down for the rest of our eternities. Mine lives with me, making my greatest accomplishment the only thing I’ve truly done wrong. When called to strength, I prevailed, yet made the lives of others increasingly worse.

When I could’ve shared the burden of my past with those I loved, I decided instead, to shed the sins of my father for a better life of my own. I’d be leaving behind my own blood, the only person I ever truly loved and wanted to protect with my life, my sister.

It’s funny how three words, spoken a dozen times in my head had no effect until I said them aloud in a moment of weakness. The phrase “he touched me” left my lips and turned the life I knew on its head. Then my mother locked the doors and shut the blinds, all because of three little words. Yet previously, the words “stop” and “no” served no effect other than to encourage misbehavior.

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My mother held me all night as she cried into my hair, and I cried into hers. She cried for not being able to protect her children from her ex-husband’s temper and heavy hand; I cried for leaving my blood, not being able to protect my only sister like I had done for years before. I knew then what I had done could never be changed, I knew then that I’d never let anyone hurt me again if not for me but for my sister. I had failed her and left her in his grasp for no reason other than my own weakness.

That night I dreamt of my sister…

While we shared a father, her skin in contrast to mine was dark, though even in the shadows, I could tell she was crying. Her tears ran silently down her cheek, not letting as much as a whimper escape her lips, for we had been trained not to show weakness. We were told weak women were undesirable in the eyes of man, and man should be the only thing we seek. I wiped her tears and soothed her with impromptu stories of fancy all through the night.

In the world of our room, we weren’t victims of child abuse…

rape, or the injustices that came with being women in a household dominated by a man. The covers provided us sanctuary guarded only by our imaginations. Beneath these yellow-stained sheets, we were spending our Sunday’s playing in a swimming pool, suckling on strawberry popsicles, and drinking homemade lemonade out of mason jars. Here the worst pain in life would be the sunburns on our backs, reminding us of a day well spent. I knew in this environment I could truly do anything, be anything. Too soon, however, the daydream would end. Too soon, a knock on the door would come. Too soon, we’d be ripped from the sheets that kept our utopian fantasy safe. Eventually, as all things do, the dream we could never reach came crashing upon on us, as the winds knocked down the door and swept up the tented sheets.

He’d separate me from my sister…

As we drifted apart, my sister let out a single sob, not of sadness or even of fear, but one of longing, longing for the sanctuary she knew she could never have. The sanctuary I would achieve just three months after that day. For I was grounded in my mom, tethered to the possibility of achievement; of the love and respect that comes with freedom, while her life remained in the air, never to know what could’ve been. She remained in the eye of the storm while I sought refuge elsewhere.

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I haven’t dreamt about her since…

and let myself accept the fact that I left that small, trembling girl in the hands of the devil. Though I never saw him touch her I wouldn’t let him, she was mine to protect, and that had been my purpose, to put myself in harm’s way so she could be strong and…

grow. Yet with those three little words that she’d never even heard, her life had drastically changed forever. She would lose a protector, and I would become bereaved of my purpose.

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Now I live my days trying for the best. I do all that I can and make the most of this life I would give back in a second just to wipe away that one last tear. I will forever be grateful for the existence I’ve carved out for myself, and do my best to succeed in spite of my father and all of his wrongdoings. I triumph for my sister, and look forward to the day when I can hug her once again. But for now, I continue on the path I’m on and vow to make not only my family proud but myself proud. I believe in that, my dream of sanctuary can transform into a reality.

Female Writers and the Pseudonym

Literary writing is no longer the middle-class occupation it once was during the 20th century. An Authors Guild survey revealed that the median pay for full-time writers in 2017 was $20,300 and including part-time writers, $6,080 (NYT, 2019). These figures represent a 42 percent drop since 2009, and also reflect declines in journalism. Today most writers’ salary is supplemented by a partner or another occupation. This need to subsidize income, according to the Guardian (2019) experts say, is directly linked to the survey data indicating a 94 percent Caucasian demographic.

Markets

Written by: Berti Walker

Do genders still play a prominent role in society in regards to writing? Or, with the epoch of gender fluidity and diminishing pronouns upon us, has society finally moved on from pigeon-holing genders and genres? There have been countless arguments, articles, and papers written on the subject, so I’m going to focus on my experience and what advice I would give now to someone who may be choosing their own pseudonym.

Seven years ago, my first short story was published in a controversial magazine. The editor informed me that there were cases of hate mail addressed to the contributors, so I decided a pseudonym would be best to make it harder for the crazies to track me down, should they feel so inclined. Choosing a pseudonym is a big commitment. It’s your new identity, your alter-ego, your brand. I could be anything. Anyone. Total anonymity. So, I thought long and hard. I researched. I asked other authors. The advice I received was that genre, audience, and expectations mattered. Women wrote romance. Sci-fi and fantasy genres were predominantly male readers and authors. So were horror, crime, and graphic novels.

Fantasy writers used initials, like J.R.R. Tolkein. You would think, “Well, initials are not gender-specific. That seems safe. The gender isn’t important. It’s just initials and a surname.” I think so, too. But people still assume that the author is male when presented with a pseudonym consisting of initials. That’s on them. You just need to be aware.

Joanne Murray (J.K. Rowling) was influenced in choosing her pseudonym. She spoke about it in an interview with CNN. “Oh, because my publisher, who published Harry Potter, they said to me, ‘we think this is a book that will appeal to boys and girls.’ And I said, oh, great. And they said, ‘so could we use your initials?’ Because, basically they were trying to disguise my gender.” She even went on to write a crime novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

After looking at the genres I was interested in (horror, fantasy, sci-fi, Bizarro), I decided on what I thought was a gender-neutral pseudonym, leaning toward the masculine. I chose Berti Walker. Berti (could be short for Robert or Roberta) and was a nod to P.G. Wodehouse’s character, Berti Wooster. Walker, in recognition of my first published short story, Zombie Lovers Anonymous. As to be expected, most people did believe I was a male. I was, however, using my own photo on social media profiles for Berti and in book bios. So I didn’t hide my gender, necessarily, though I did use intentional deception in hopes of better sales and more publications – as I was operating under the assumption that more people still preferred male writers in those fields.

I mean, take a look at the Hugo Awards winners. Once again, last year, its organizers were in the spotlight due to controversy surrounding the gender imbalance. James Davis Nicoll was kind enough to do the numbers for us, tallied over the last 65 years of Hugo Awards in his Tor article Gender and the Hugo Awards, By the Numbers. These were his findings:

Why a relationship is one plus one rather than two

Relationships

Written by: Jeimmer E. Padilla Gamarra

In his poem, Bolero Julio Cortazar said,

So we will never be

the perfect match

the postcard

if we are unable to accept

solely in arithmetic

two comes from one plus one.

Cortazar‘s wording “solely in arithmetic” is of great importance because what he is saying is that a couple (in a relationship), is in essence, one individual: dealing with the other person, the world, and the self (what and who we are as persons), as opposed to two persons dealing these matters from a state of union. 

Thinking of a relationship as two separate and independent individuals contradicts the traditional notion of a couple facing life together and evolving as one. That each partner is capable of fixing the other’s problems, saving the other from their inner demons with the indestructible and ever-resilient power of love.

However, despite the auspices of relationship, it is possible to perceive the “marks” differentiating each individual, and the territory of those matters extending to the core of the partnership; often beyond our consciousness.

“Morality” or society?

In Top Reasons Spouses Stay Faithful, Wendy L. Patrick Ph.D. wrote that research pertaining to motivations for faithfulness, ‘indicated factors decreasing the likelihood of straying were religious, female, and married for less time. She surmised that religion represents moral motivations for faithfulness while the female component might be attributed to patriarchal society, the dynamics of which bind women to marriage as society commands them. Furthermore, that gender differences between males and females in the research, originate from the respective perception of benefits and costs, since the “cost of cheating could be potentially higher for women due to their partners’ reactions and the social stigma, (Psychology Today 2019).

As a male, I feel that cheating on women is more despicable for this reason, causing marriages to fall on religion for validation as opposed to interpersonal or society-based institutions like character and agreement.

The essence of the Self

We all know, or at least have heard the story of someone who can’t stop cheating on their partner, while the other blames themselves for not “being enough” explaining that the person was duplicitous from the beginning. Of course, in some instances, this may be true, though it is difficult to envision a person who is a cheater for no reason. In the same article, Patrick states that ‘fear of being alone and a person’s moral standards predicted anticipated faithfulness more than concern for one’s counterpart or effects on children (Patrick, 2019).’ I interpret this to mean that we first think of ourselves as individuals or digress from thinking at all, rather than caring for the other person or the relationship itself.

So, what does this tell us?

There’s debate among professionals as to whether it’s preferable to seek couple vs. individual therapy when it comes to distressed relationships.
And while it is always easier to blame everything but ourselves, science is telling us, and especially where depressive symptoms are present, that we should first become introspective to ascertain if something is plaguing our emotions or personal integrity. Let’s look for a mirror as opposed to binoculars when it comes to romantic relationships.

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