2017, huh? Okay, so. At the beginning of the year I quit my job because workplace conditions had repeatedly deteriorated to the point where my mental health was in a tailspin and dragging my physical health down with it. With no relief in workplace conditions and workload in sight, unable to reliably fill out job applications because my free time was occupied with being stressed out from this week’s workload and being stressed out thinking about next week’s workload, feeling constantly miserable and drifting towards… the bad end of depression… I quit. Luckily I had enough savings to weather several months of unemployment, and now I have a new job which I very much like and my co-workers are lovely and supportive and my manager isn’t toxic and I am not being overworked and underpaid! It’s nice and strange and good for me.
Here’s a flash prosetry piece of mine which appeared in Verse Kraken in 2014! The formatting in this inspired me to do “stone”, my twine poem.
“She is, there—amongst the Mango Trees—a Flytrap Garden”
by Penny Stirling
For the summer holidays she goes north to her girlfriend's family's mango farm
of parental introductions and appraisal—oh, scriptwriting? many jobs?
red dust, sweat, spiders, mosquitoes and flies, wondering if she'll make it 'til New Year's.
bit overwhelmed but okay!
Here’s a poem of mine which appeared in ASIM in 2014!
“We Met in Dragon Shadow”
by Penny Stirling
The first kiss is a fleeting duty
on my cheek burned and sooty.
“Thank you,” she says, “mighty sir—”
But then I remove my armour.
Although the fight was my conquest
the dragon’s sullied the success.
My gryphons are dead, my magics blown.
Princess and I have a long walk home.
Read Pt 1 (Shading) here.
I’ve been doing up some blackwork patterns to sell on Etsy, which for newer ones means tidying up some shortcuts, making some quick fixes to things that annoyed me when I was stitching. For some of my older ones, though, this means a complete redo because my methods and organisation were… questionable… when I started making blackwork patterns.
Gardevoir was the second blackwork Pokemon I stitched, and the first on black cloth. It doesn’t look as good as it could. I’m currently redoing this design, so I’ll talk about the mistakes I made and how I’m rectifying them!
This is NOT going to be an introduction to or guide on how to do blackwork or any other type of hand embroidery, those are very easy to find online if you’re inspired and interested, but I enjoy talking about my favourite craft a lot and people seem to indulge me in this. (You can find my page of finished embroidery photos here and keep up on my embroidery Tumblr which is updated more quickly than this site.)
I took up cross stitching in 2010, and then in 2013 I tried out some blackwork because I’d seen some and it looked really fun. I’ve never looked back. I find blackwork much more enjoyable and fulfilling than cross stitch! It takes much longer to create the design, but usually it’s faster to stitch and the end result is just so lovely and unique. Most people can cross stitch a Pokemon sprite, but how many design and stitch a blackwork version of it? Like, three?
This is one of the first full blackwork pieces I did. It was more impressive than the cross stitch I’d been doing but I was still finding my style and knowledge. I had much to improve upon!
One of the interesting things is that there are many more ways to show different shades in blackwork than in cross stitch. In cross stitch, if you had five different shades of blue then you would either use five different shades of blue thread, or fewer threads and blending them. But here are some shading methods available in blackwork:
I’ve written before about the Korra finale, about how my elation at Korra and Mako not getting back together turned into my stomach bottoming out when Korra and Asami held hands, that I immediately felt guilty about being upset by something that would be groundbreaking for so many people, that I wrestled with whether I was allowed to feel upset that the ever-increasing hope of Aang’s successor finishing her show single was suddenly dashed. And I decided that I was allowed to feel upset, and I decided that I was allowed to talk about being upset, but only if I paired this with being explicit about how important it is that Korra and Asami held hands and stared into each other’s eyes, how important it is to me and to my friends and to strangers across the world that there is canon bi rep. There was zero possibility that Korra was aro and yet I had built up this hope that she could be happily single for the final episode because that is all I can ever hope for on television and that is fucked up.
But you know what? If in the comics Korra and Asami weren’t together, if the cartoon canon were changed and they had never held hands, they had never stared into one another’s eyes in a direct mirror of the wedding scene, if they were platonic besties? I would not be happy with that. I would not celebrate that. I would not call that a victory for female friendship rep. I would not say “isn’t the fluidity and journey of sexuality so important?” I would not tell women who are attracted to women that they should be happy about this. I would not tell them to shut up, I would not tell them “but this Korra is not that Korra”, I would not refuse to hear and boost their concerns, I would not write articles about how wonderful and important and nuanced this female platonic-only friendship is to me and to everyone without even mentioning that this is queer erasure and that this has hurt others. I would not go “fuck you got mine” at the erasure of a character’s canon queerness.
And you know what? If Jughead in Riverdale turns out to be aromantic and allosexual I won’t proclaim that a victory for aros. I won’t call that a win. I won’t tell aces that their pain at being erased doesn’t matter because fuck you got mine. And if Jughead in Riverdale turns out to be aroace but touch-hungry and romance-hungry, that’s not a victory either.
• Do think about why. Why do you want to write an arospec character? Are you questioning or have you identified as aro in the past? Do you have aro friends or acquaintances and what to do right by them? Did you accidentally create an aro character and realise something that an aro wrote resonated? Do you want to be inclusive and raise awareness and educate your readers about us? Have you read about the aromantic spectrum and thought it was interesting? Did you decide not to write a romance and then thought “well, in for a penny in for a pound”? Have you been thinking your writing’s getting a bit formulaic and that it’ll be an invigorating challenge to write an aro character? Are you collecting characters of different identities like they’re Pokémon? Do you think it’s the new craze to make you stand out amongst the crowd? Are aro readers just easy advertising and money? Do you think being aro is more palatable than other queer identities? Is there some plot block that you can only solve with an aro character?
Just like with any minority, there are better reasons and worse reasons to write an aro character. I’m not saying that if you have some particular reason then you shouldn’t, but you perhaps should think more carefully about the character and whether the reason for their existence might lead you to negative stereotypes and upsetting real life aros with this representation.
Yesterday’s Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week entry is an update to my how to write aromantic spectrum characters guide, in response to seeing some people ask about aro romances and how that would even work. I don’t know much about romance genre or romance-centric stories so I don’t have any recommendations for aro romances, but I can clear up why they could and should exist!
Q. Aro(spec) characters in romantic relationships? talks about both arospecs who fall in love and those who don’t but are still in romantic relationships.
I’m touch-averse, though not repulsed. I do not enjoy the vast majority physical contact, it does nothing for me, I have no desire to touch or be touched, I read about skin hunger and I’m just baffled. I don’t feel violated or experience sensory overload or have a physical reaction to being touched, the idea of it doesn’t make me feel ill except when it’s in sexual contexts; I just don’t like it. I’m pretty asensual.
I had a short Twitter thread on this topic several months ago and have finally been able to expand on my thoughts!
I’ve been interested in attraction magic for a long while. Succubi, love spells, seduction magic, manipulation, enthralling—all that kind of stuff. I’m interested in thinking about how they would work, or how they would not work, on acespec and arospec characters. So whenever I see a piece of fiction where attraction magic and asexuality/aromanticism coexist I’m always excited to see how the author’s chosen to think about this intersection. And so far… So far I’ve always been disappointed. There’s just “this asexual (usually also aromantic) character is not affected, that’s it”.