Here’s a sunset from my new patio, looking out over the golf course in Sun City, AZ.
If you’d told me 30 years ago I would wind up in Sun City, Arizona, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was, after all, a rebel, a renegade, just too damn rad for that sort of thing. I was listening to “Pleasant Valley Sunday” on a local oldies station the other day. (And, yes, I did once own Zodiac Jones on vinyl.) I realized that, compared to 30+ years ago (or, hell, 50 years ago,) I now have a full realization of just what a privilege it is to be able to enjoy a “charcoal-burned” Sunday in the ‘burbs, thanks very much. I was actually, honest-to-gosh homeless only one night of my life, which is a story for another time, but it was enough for me to appreciate having a roof over my head, even if that roof is one I’ll likely have to replace in a few months because the shingles had issues in the last big wind storm and the inspection report says some of the seals are iffy.
Sun City is known, I now know, as the “City of Volunteers.” One of the several dozen reasons I made the move was because I didn’t want to be the only person in my neighborhood who picked up trash that wasn’t mine, who gave away stuff instead of hoarded it, who played by the rules. More and more, I felt in Sacramento like I was surrounded by people who felt like life’s victims, who were always looking for a way to bend the rules, to get away with selfishness, to take more than everyone else. Part of this was, I think, the vibe of a state in crisis, but also due to my immediate neighbors, who sped in the park despite all the old people walking around and who parked wherever they felt like it, even if it did block emergency vehicle access (which is a big deal if you’re the one living at the end of a dead-end street.)
Part of it was also the politics; I got tired of being literally screamed at by strangers (both members of writer’s groups, as it happens) for not being a Democrat. Like many people, I’m slightly right of center on most issues, as far as I can tell, but not a purist in any direction. In Sacramento, especially among the Creativity Crowd, this meant I was evil and must be bullied into submission. Especially strange was that some of the people doing the screaming at me stood to be part of the funding source for the bigger-government schemes they insisted everyone had to vote for and which they thought they’d benefit from. What’s wrong with Kansas, indeed.
Anyway, on my first trip to the grocery store here, I was approached by a woman campaigning for a Republican candidate for the House. Without apology. Without looking like she had to duck or speak in whispers. Turns out, she was a refugee from California, too.
I’m learning now, three weeks in, that some aspects of life are the same here as in California. For instance, I’ll likely not be joining a critique group again. I don’t know if my writing’s any better than what I keep seeing in groups, but my decisions and goals are, I think, more professional. In California, the biggest obstacles were political, but I’ve also not been able to find people who are focused on really doing it, really trying to get published, who are submitting work and querying agents and, for heaven’s sake, actually finishing projects.
This all is on my mind because I tried a critique group here last Saturday. One of the guys is writing an 80K piece complete with chapters that he speaks of as “a short story.” (For you non-writing normal people, short stories are more like 8K. 80K is a novel.) No one talked about their target audience or what markets they were aiming for. And, there was the usual collection of meandering memoirs and rants without any sort of structure that would be better as blog posts ; ).
I’m facing the fact (again) that I’m drawn to critique groups more due to the essential loneliness of writing than any hope of finding useful input. (I’m always looking for Black Mirror or Twilight Zone or other horror/sci fi fans to serve as beta readers, however. Just saying…) If anyone reading this wants more info on critique groups, send me a note and I’ll send over links to some articles I’ve found. This is a fairly common issue for writers, apparently. If you join a critique group where people are at your own level of experience, they won’t have much to offer that you don’t already know. If you’re the most experienced one in the group, you run the risk of continually coming across as a snooty jerk and also will spend more time helping others than receiving useful advice yourself. And, after a certain point, finding more experienced people to work with is impossible unless you’re willing to pay money to get mentored at a workshop frequented by the pros.
So, instead, I’m going to focus on social activities that are not writing-related and also attend the occasional one or two-day writing conference. The advantage to conferences is that, there, pros are the ones teaching and attendees can just socialize without any pressure. There’s a conference in a couple weeks over at ASU in Tempe, and I’m looking forward to that. And, of course, there’s the actual writing to do, too, between unpacking boxes.
I also hooked up the other day with a Sun City group for disabled people that has exercise sessions in a local “therapy pool,” which is warmer than a regular pool. It’s also my new best friend. At one point, I was slow motion “running” in the water and felt absolutely badass. The people were funny and friendly and we got to chatting afterward while doing walking “laps.” We were not, alas, wearing plastic floral bathing caps, but otherwise, it was a quintessential Sun City experience.
There’s also an enormous indoor pool and one salt water pool, and the “walking” pool down the street, not to mention the indoor walking track and six or seven different centers all with weight machines. The “handi-capables” session itself will likely be only a mild warm-up when I’m having good days (which is fine), but on my bad days (when I feel like the tensile resistance on every muscle I have has been turned up 75% — one of the hyperekplexia symptoms) it will be just the right amount of exertion.
Overall, in summary, I can say that I felt more at home immediately upon taking up residence here than I have, anywhere, for over ten years. Yes, I am still both a geek and a nerd. I still tell jokes that normal people don’t always get. I still am a fat woman in a culture that says I should not be allowed to exist in peace. I still have a life history that people blessed with families fear or don’t understand. But, I don’t feel like a pariah, here, politically or personally.
It does help to not be the only oldish woman around, certainly. But, hey, we’ll talk about Leia Organa and Amilyn Holdo in a later post.
This was drafted using “Writer: the Internet Typewriter.“