Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Every so often, I like to browse through the list of Amazon's recommendations to me. This can sometimes be a very strange experience: my purchase of a season of "The West Wing" on DVD resulted in the suggestion that I might want to buy a My Little Pony. (I did not.) And buying Ellen Kushner's fabulous The Privilege of the Sword generated the recommendation of, well, this. (NO. Also, why? Also, only a brainless ninny fences in a cape and with that much exposed skin.)

This weekend, I had the rather surreal experience of Amazon recommending that I buy Stories, the anthology edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio that I am fortunate enough to have a story in. My first thought was something along the lines of "Wow, Amazon thinks I am a raging egomaniac." That probably would have been my last thought, too, had I not just finished reading my advance copy. Since I had, I thought, well, in this case, Amazon got it right.

Stories is amazing.* Every story in here does what I love best about fiction - it makes me think about things in a different manner than I did before I read it. They engage with what it means to tell a story, what kind of power the creation of a narrative wields. Some of them - Elizabeth Hand's "The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon," Jodi Picoult's** "Weights and Measures" and Joe Hill's "The Devil on the Staircase" - I've already read twice. I feel like I got invited to sit at the cool kids' table, and they turned out to actually be cool. Neil, Al, thank you for inviting me to be a part of this.

* When I refer to the book, I'm not referring to my story. I try not to be a raging egomaniac. Also, other than noting that I am really proud of "A Life in Fictions," I can't speak in a useful way about it.

** I've given my sister Jodi Picoult books for pretty much every gift-giving occasion in recent memory. Getting to be in the same anthology with her means that I am totally the Most Awesome Big Sister Ever.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. And my Church is yet again in the midst of scandal, a scandal it has brought upon itself because of years of failing to render abusive priests unto secular justice.

I do not believe - as some have suggested -  that religion itself is the evil behind pedophile priests. Nor do I believe that the Catholic requirements of an all-male and celibate priesthood are the root of this evil. I believe the unfortunate truth is that any job that offers a position of inherent authority and trust and offers a high level of access to children is going to attract those who would use that access for evil. 

And let me be clear: the abuse of a child is a grave evil. The abuse of a child by someone who has been given responsibility for that child is not only an evil, but a betrayal of a trust. For a priest to commit such an action compounds the evil and the betrayal of trust with the breaking of his priestly vows.

The actions of these priests are horrible. Any priest who abuses a child should, like any other person who abuses a child, be turned over to the secular legal system. While he should be defrocked as well, that alone is not sufficient penance. We no longer live in a society where the ecclesiastical court sits in judgment on its own, or where an offender can avoid prosecution by pleading the tonsure.

But the Church itself - the Church that decided that instead of rendering the sinners unto Caesar, it would protect them in its bosom and allow them to harm others - needs to undergo drastic change. Jesus himself said: "And whosoever shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me; it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and he were cast into the sea." (Mark 9:41, Douay-Rheims translation)

So let's talk about scandal. Or, more precisely, let's talk about fama. Fame. Not fame in the modern Page 6, paparazzi photo sense, but fame in the Fourth Lateran, medieval, theological sense of loss of reputation - something more akin to infamy. For example, the inquisitorial proceedings against Joan of Arc were opened because of a charge of fama. Joan's infamy scandalized the faithful. (Read: she wore pants while kicking English ass.) Fama, the public outcry sufficient enough to act as an accuser, and begin legal, inquisitorial proceedings in ecclesiastical court. Sufficient to bring a charge of heresy.


St. Thomas Aquinas defines heresy as "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas." (II-II: 11:1) The hierarchy of the Church who have covered up the actions of pedophile priests, who created the culture of silence which has resulted in this great and shameful scandal, have corrupted the dogmas of the Church. I do not think that it is wrong to call on the current pope, who, when he was a cardinal was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Sacred Congregation for the Universal Inquisition) to act in a manner that defends the Church from these heretical acts.

Friday, March 26, 2010

And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?

I started writing stories for myself when I was about seven. I know that this is true because I found a couple of them recently. I wrote them because I wanted to imagine myself differently - not as the nerdy, lonely kid that I was, but the much prettier and well-beloved princess of a magical land. I carried those perfect worlds around inside of me, to live in when I could.

I kept writing stories because I discovered I was good at it, or at least people told me I was. I won young authors' contests, and essay competitions, and the English scholarship to my high school. I had a Talent, and I was raised to believe that if you had been given a talent, you had an obligation to use it. Writing wasn't the talent that I wanted - I desperately wished to be able to draw, or, failing that, to have the talent of being popular. But it was something that was mine.

Except then, for years, all I did was fail. There was the yearly ritual where I would submit things to the literary magazine in high school, and in college, only to receive rejection after rejection. (I do not, it seems, have a Talent for poetry.) In law school, I began a novel, and showed the first chunk of pages to someone. His comment was, "No one will ever want to read that. You're wasting your time." 

I believed all the rejections. There were just so many of them. I was a smart person, and I knew that if enough people told you you weren't any good at something, well, you probably weren't. Vocab 10, imagination 3. That ain't it, kid. So, for years, I didn't write at all. Or, I did, but it was only academic articles. No fiction, no poetry - bad or otherwise. I stopped imagining, stopped so hard and so completely that if you had reminded me of all the years that I did write stories, I would have thought that you were the one making things up.

I don't know why I started again. I remember getting the idea in the shower, and the story was so insistent that I sat at my desk, half-dried and shivering, wrapped in a towel and my hair dripping on the page as I wrote it down. I don't know why this time, when I get rejections that range from form letters that tell me my story wasn't what they were looking for to the personal rejections that enumerate all the very specific ways in which my story was not what they were looking for, my reaction is to pick up the pen and keep writing, rather than to stuff the manuscript, and that part of my life, into a drawer. 

I don't know why I believe that I can do this, that there are stories that I want to tell, and that I am the only one who can tell them. I like to think that it goes back to that seven year old girl who imagined things, and carried worlds around inside her.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The end is where we start from

I think maybe I'm not very good at understanding superhero comics.

I was reading Michael Chabon's essay, "Secret Skin: An Essay in Unitard Theory," the other day, and was completely flummoxed by his assertion that it was the origin stories of costumed superheros that most fascinated people. The fact that there was a supporting footnote, citing the disproportionately large prices paid for Issue #1s among collectors to back up this assertion did nothing to unflummox me. Because for me, origin stories are the least interesting part.

Maybe this failing of mine comes about because the first comic I read wasn't a superhero comic, it was Sandman. And I like "Sleep of the Just." I'd even pick up a single issue copy of it, not because it's one of my favorite issues of the run, but because I enjoy the fact that the day that Dream breaks free from his prison happens to be my birthday, September 14. But I didn't really begin to love Sandman until after the origin story has been told: after Dream is free, after he's completed his plot coupon adventure, and successfully reclaimed the instruments of his power. No, my love for Sandman - the reason that the collected run would be my desert island book, the reason this is the text that I'll be writing my first post-dissertation academic book on - begins in "The Sound of Her Wings," when Dream, suffering from post-adventure ennui, is given a serious set to by his older sister. I love Sandman because of what Dream becomes after he has his power back, because of the heartbreak and grace of his story's unfolding, and its end. In fact, the one single issue that I have bought is the final issue, #75, "The Tempest."

Even in superhero storylines, the part I care about isn't the beginning. Anyone can be bitten by a radioactive spider. Anyone can be born with amazing genetic gifts. (And don't even get me started on the heroes whose origin story involves a refrigeratored girlfriend.) What makes the story interesting - to me, anyway - is the what happens next. What happens after you discover you have superpowers? What kind of person do you decide to become?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Her hair was long, her foot was light, and her eyes were wild

In the novel I'm currently working on, most of the characters aren't human. One of my goals for this book is to remember that as I write. It seems like it ought to be an easy thing. Nonhuman characters show up all the time in speculative fiction: vampires, were-whatevers, the Fey, aliens. But quite often, what shows up on the page isn't a nonhuman creature that is truly Other, but a sparkly sexy human, wearing a vampire costume.

The point of putting a vampire in a story (unless the point is, vampires are dead sexy, in which case, sure, but so are a lot of people) is that the character functions in the story in a way that a human character does not and cannot. You don't write a character as the Faerie Queen because you need a person who is really pretty and who a lot of people are obsessed with - you  can bring a supermodel on stage for that. The point of writing a non-human character is that they are Not Human, and hence governed by a different set of needs, of behaviors, of rules. If a vampire doesn't have a soul, he should act like an amoral sort of guy. If the Faerie Queen doesn't have a heart, she may have lovers, but she won't have loves.

Normally, when writing, the challenge is to put actual people on the page, not just a set of quirks and characteristics. But the narrative interest inherent in nonhuman characters is their inherent nonhumanness. The challenge when writing something nonhuman is to make such characters recognizable, not as people, but as what they actually are.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The scent of my memories

There is a bottle of Calvin Klein's Obsession on the shelf with my other perfumes. I don't really wear it any more, but I save it. It was the first "grown up" perfume I ever bought. And for a few years, I wore it, well, obsessively. Every day, no matter the weather, the occasion, what I was wearing. It was my signature scent in my late teens.

Then I branched out and wore single note oils: vanilla, lavender, sandalwood, musc. I still wore Obsession, but more when I dressed up, when I needed confidence, when I wanted to feel elegant or desirable. 

Somewhere along the lines, I switched from being obsessed with one fragrance to obsessed with fragrance in general. I began reading perfume blogs, like Now Smell This, and books that were simply collections of fragrance reviews. I tried niche lines, ordering samples and decants. I learned to love the odd brilliance of Bulgari Black, the cold, winter earth smell of Serge Lutens' Iris Silver Mist. I fell in love with perfume houses such as CB I Hate Perfume and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, that use fragrance to tell or interpret a story. This fall I lived in November, which smells like pumpkins and smoke and leaf mould. In the winter, I wore Sunbird, which smells like a phoenix and the desert, and more than anything else I've ever worn, caused people to follow me around and tell me I smelled delicious (mildly disturbing, when you think about the story behind the fragrance) . Today, I'm wearing Wild Pansy, because it smells like the beginning of spring.

I burn candles when I am writing, because they help me find the scent of the story. I wear perfume because of the story it creates in my head. I can tell you what I wore the first day of law school, the first time my heart was broken, when I wrote the first story that I sold. I can tell you all the perfumes that were given to me during my marriage, none of which I ever wore, because they smelled like someone else: someone quieter, pastel and subdued, someone who was retiring and appropriate. And then I can show you the fragrance I bought for myself after my marriage was over, and it smells like none of those things.

There is a shelf in my bathroom, and it holds the scents of all my memories.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The act of writing

My friend Damien recently wondered about the link between the process and the craft of writing, and asked if we have made writing too easy. His essay made me consider one of the parts of writing that I don't normally think about very often (unless my wrist and shoulder are aching), which is the physical act of writing itself.

In the patristic and medieval period, it was not necessary to physically write a text in order to be considered its author. In fact, because the physical act of writing was seen as a labor, even those who were literate in the modern sense (able to read and physically write) would have scribes write down the words that they dictated. This is a cultural tradition that has had predictably gendered fall out: the authorship of texts written by men, such as Thomas Aquinas, who dictated to scribes, has not been called into question, whereas the authorship of texts written by women, such as Margery Kempe, who also dictated her writing, has constantly been challenged. But that is a rant for another day. My point is, for a significant chunk of time in Western history, being an author and a writer was not the same thing.

Now, of course, we use author and writer interchangeably. But the physical act of writing is still an interesting one to consider. I handwrite nearly all of my projects. I draft by hand, and when I edit, I print out a hard copy, and edit by hand. A large part of this is because writing by hand allows me to think more clearly and more carefully about what I am writing. I notice not just the ideas, but the words that I am using to convey them. I am more aware of context, and of the rhythm and sound of the text on the page when I actually see the text on a page, rather than on a screen. The only time (other than something like blog entries) that I compose directly on computer screen is when I don't want to think too closely about what I am writing in the first draft - if I know a scene will be particularly painful or difficult to write, and I don't want to let myself back away from writing it.

But I also handwrite because I like the physical work of doing so. The color of the words on the page is important to me, and so I use fountain pens because I can choose from a variety of colors of ink. My friends have given me pens and notebooks, and so sometimes I will choose to work with one of those, because it is a quiet reminder that people believe in what I am doing, and support the art that I am creating. And it is a reminder that writing is work, something that deserves to be taken seriously.

I'm not saying that mine is the best or only way to create. Far from it.  Modern technology has given us a plethora of options and the best way to write is the way that most helps you put words on the page.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

If you can't say something nice

There are books that I have read that I do not like. There are books that I have started, and disliked so much I have stopped reading them. There are books that I have looked at in the bookstore, and then placed back on the shelf. There are books that I walk past, never even making eye contact with.

I think all of this is fine. A wide variety of books means a greater likelihood of there being something for everyone. A set of readers with a wide variety of literary tastes means a greater likelihood that there are people out there who will like what I write.

But I will almost never tell you when I don't like a book.

The primary reason for this being that I am a writer, not a book reviewer. My job is not to tell you my opinions on books, but to write books and hope that you will one day have an opinion on them. When I do mention a book here, it's because I have enjoyed reading it and I want to share that experience with you.

The secondary reason is, that sometimes, when I don't like something, it has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. It might just be that it wasn't my sort of thing. (To draw an example from outside the world of books, I never made it through more than about half of the first season of Battlestar Galactica. I thought it was well-written, well-acted, and it depressed the hell out of me. And yes, I can hear them coming to take away my geek card even now.) When I was in grad school, I took a seminar where we had to review certain of the texts we studied that semester. My professor told us to be sure to review the book that the author had actually written, rather than the book we wish the author had written. I thought that was really good advice, and I still adhere to it. So if my enjoyment of a book was lessened because what I really wanted was a sexy vampire, and the author gave me a grumpy zombie instead, well, that's on me, not on the book, and I don't need to punish the author for that with a bad review.

There may someday be a set of circumstances where a book goes so horribly wrong, or pisses me off to the extent where I will need to rant a bit and tell you why. But I'll leave that discussion for that day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Congratulations, Clarion 2010

Clarion has announced the members of its 2010 class. I want to wish all of you congratulations. I am so proud of you for applying. You have an amazing faculty, and are going to have a wonderful, challenging, and life-changing experience.

Last year, I wrote a post, offering unsolicited advice to the class of 2009. Looking over what I wrote, I realize I would give the same advice today, so here it is again. And if you are one of those members of the class of 2010 and are stopping by, introduce yourself.

And welcome.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My mind holds the key

I'm currently caught up on Project Put the Plot in the Novel. As I'm certain will surprise none of you, actually having a plot necessitated a number of changes, and the removal of vast swaths of text. I'm down about four thousand words, and have gone from being about a quarter of the way through the book (word count wise, assuming a 90K manuscript) to being about one-fifth of the way through. And even though, on paper, I have lost ground, I feel as if I have a lot more accomplished than I did.

Not only do I know the conflict that is driving the book, I know my characters and their relationships better. The geography of the city is taking shape in my head (this is a big deal for me - I get lost in my own city on a fairly regular basis.) And I know what this book is about on a thematic level. I will likely be updating my playlist soon, because the story sounds different in my head than it did when I began. I still do not have a title - The Widening Gyre is fine, I suppose, but I feel sort of meh about it. (Although since titles, like cover art and the cost of the book, fall under the category of things that writers have little to no control over, maybe I'll just leave it as is.)

And I am not doing anything except writing this weekend. The contractor came this morning, so no more house selling prep, no packing, no sorting until Monday. (Yes, this is a relaxing weekend for me - my crazy, let me show you it.)

In other exciting writing news, today I received in the post the proof copy of Stories, the anthology that my story "A Life in Fictions" will be in (edited by a couple of people you may possibly have heard of, Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio). I did the Dance of Joy around my house. Twice. The I read the Table of Contents and nearly died from the awesome. Stories comes out this summer. You will really, really want to read this book.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Currently reading

I tend to have bookmarks in a wide variety of things at any one time, not least because I read for work as well as for pleasure. Here's what's at the top of the pile right now:

Michael Chabon's Maps and Legends. I picked it up because I will be teaching a course this fall on "The Fantastic as Place," and I thought that some of the essays in here might be useful to think about. They are. They are also quite enjoyable and thought-provoking even outside of that context.

Chill, by Elizabeth Bear. Because I read everything this woman writes, and you should, too.

The Midnight Verdict, by Seamus Heaney. I'm pretty sure I'll be teaching this in my other class this fall, "The Dream as Literary Form." This is a long poem, Heaney's translation of selections from Ovid's Metamorphoses bookending his translation of Brian Merriman's 18th c. Irish poem, Cúirt an Mheán Oíche. Anything Heaney does is brilliant, and I highly recommend this.

The Dancers at the End of Time, by Michael Moorcock. I think I gave my friend Lou a small stroke when I told him I hadn't read any Moorcock. When I asked him where to start (because, seriously, there are eleventy billion Elric novels. And that's just the Elric novels) he said start anywhere. So rather than starting with Elric, I'm starting here. I'm just a couple of chapters in, and so far this is one of the most gorgeously insane books I've ever read. I can't wait to see what happens next.

The English Romance in Time, by Helen Cooper. Secondary research for the Shakespeare and Sandman book. Brilliant, thorough scholarship, and clear prose. Covers everything from grail quest stories to Shakespeare's romances to modern speculative fiction.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On failure

Recently, I've been reading Michael Chabon's terrific collection of essays, Maps and Legends. One of the essays, "Diving into the Wreck," is about his experience of failing at writing a novel. Draft after draft, edit after edit, and it never quite came together. After slightly more than five years of trying, he abandoned the project, and wrote what became Wonder Boys.

I mention this not because I take delight in the story of a project falling apart, but because I think an important part of learning how to do something is learning how to cope with failure. Everyone who writes has stories that didn't work. Trunk stories. Sometimes those trunk stories are fixable. Someone else's sharp-eyed commentary makes clear what should have been left out, or brought in. A few small changes (or many really large ones) create the right ending. But sometimes, the story is just broken.

This happens, as far as I can tell, to all writers. No matter how much talent a person has, no matter how long an author has been writing, sometimes the story falls flat. I know I have a set of stories that just aren't. I revisit them every so often, to scavenge ideas or phrases, to see if my talent has caught up with my ambition. I look at them, and realize that they are still broken. And then I put them away. I pick up my pen, and I write something else.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What she said

"I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker, and I long for the day when a modifier can be a moot point." Kathryn Bigelow, after becoming the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director.

So do I.

Happy International Women's Day.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Things that make me happy today

1. I can hear the water trickling down the street as the piles of snow melt. The insanely excessive winters are one thing I am really not going to miss about Minneapolis. I hate the cold, and am pretty much over snow. So this early sign of spring delights me. (Yes, in Minneapolis, snow melting in March is an early sign of spring.) There may even be a walk later, to see if the ice has melted enough to make it safe to run again.

2. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the amazing debut novel from N. K. Jemisin. This book is as good as its hype. Yeine is a strong, smart, complex character (all the characters here are well-drawn), the world is not another faux-medieval, faux-European setting, and the events of the book are sometimes cruel, and often more than they seem. I cannot wait for the next volume. If you like well-written fantasy, you want to read this.

3. Peter Gabriel's new album of covers, Scratch My Back. I love it when a cover makes me rethink the original. This is such an insightful set of interpretations. I'm particularly enjoying the harrowing take on Arcade Fire's "My Body is a Cage," and the lovely, lovely version of The Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love."

Friday, March 5, 2010

For a certain value of getting things done

When I started writing my dissertation, if I wrote 300 words (approximately one typed page) in a day, that was a really good day. A day full of writing. If I wrote that many words, even if I did nothing else, I could go to sleep that night feeling like I had Really Accomplished Something.

You can tell from the set up that I no longer believe this.

The past few days, I have actually done a fairly large number of things. A previously full storage room is almost entirely sorted. Bags and bags of things have gone to the consignment shops. I have secured - and had an extended meeting with - a realtor, and there is now a plan for selling my house. I have done another round of dealing with an Annoying and Ongoing Problem. Food for myself and the various quadrupedal residents of my house has been procured. I revised and submitted a story. I sent out a query letter. I read and took notes on three books of secondary research for my Shakespeare and Sandman project.

And every day (except yesterday, when I finally wrote more) I wrote about 300 words. And every night, when I finally went to bed, I felt like I had accomplished nothing. 300 words no longer feels like getting things done. 

Part of me is glad, because it means I am holding myself to a greater standard of accountability for my writing, which, when it comes down to it, is the most important of my jobs. Part of me wants to sit myself down, and deliver a stern lecture on exhaustion and burnout. I'm aiming for the happy medium.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

We like dancing and we look divine

The Guardian's "Ten Rules for Writing Fiction" piece has inspired some buzz around this here series of cat-filled tubes I like to call the Internet, causing people to talk about what they think ought to be the rules for writing.

And I dunno.

I like lists, and I like rules, and surely we can all agree that adverbs are the tool of the devil, and certainly he will condemn every writer who useth them to eternal damnation. Or something.

But some rules - "write transparent prose," "never write in first person" - are only a matter of taste. Some stories require baroque and intricate language. And consider the difference between "Call me Ishmael." and "The man's name was Ishmael." as opening lines.

Do I believe it's possible for a person to learn to write better? Of course. I even think there are universal things - read as widely as possible, acquire a basic familiarity with the rules of punctuation and grammar - that lead to an improvement in the quality of writing. But beyond that, do I think that there are rules that must be followed in order for the writing to be good?

I mostly don't. Seeing rules as checklists - if I do x, my writing will improve y-amount - always makes me think of the scene in Dead Poets Society where the textbook tries to rate the quality of poetry using a graph. That page is useless. Rip it out.

I think the good part about lists is that they tell you what works for many people, a lot of the time. Lists are a great place to start, but they aren't magical incantations. If I made myself sit at my desk until I had written something, I would likely become so depressed at my lack of progress, I would never write anything. When I'm stuck, I run through my list of tricks that usually work to jump start my brain, but there comes a point where I need to get up an do something else rather than stare at a blank page because otherwise I begin to feel like a fraud and a failure, and that doesn't get words written for me.

So I guess if I were going to make a rule for writing fiction, it would be to look at the rules that other people have decreed. Then break them. Break them all if you need to. Do whatever it takes for you to find your story, and write it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I am not a near occasion of sin

You may want to look away. I am about to be very, very angry.

Apparently, some people in Bristol, VA., who have the temerity to call themselves Christians, are handing out pamphlets to those they feel are dressing in an "ungodly" manner (and even though the article doesn't specify, I'm going to make a wild guess and assume that all of the "ungodly" are women.) This helpful pamphlet informs the reader that "if you are dressed in a way that tempts a [sic] men to ... sin, you are a participant in the sin. By the way, some rape victims would not have been raped if they had been dressed properly." (emphasis mine)

I am actually shaking right now, I am so angry.

First of all, there's the old, "oh, men are so weak, it's our responsibility as women not to lead them into temptation" bullshit. I know enough about anatomy to know that a man's brain does not actually reside in his penis, and enough about human behavior to know that men - like women - are perfectly capable of finding temptation all on their own, should they so desire. The idea that a man cannot control himself when presented with a desirable woman is insulting to men, and a serious misunderstanding of what rape is.

Then there's the idea that by "dressing properly" a person can avoid being raped. So... maybe if I had worn full body armour? Or clothing that was electrified to shock anyone who touched it? Maybe a chastity belt? I'd really like to see these guaranteed rape-proof clothes.

This just comes back around to the worst sort of victim blaming. Being raped is never the victim's fault. Never. Not under any set of circumstances you can think up. Not if she was drunk. Not if she was wearing a short skirt. Not if she was drunk, and dancing naked on a man's bed. Sex without consent is rape, and it is always the fault of the rapist. Even if he was dressed in a godly fashion.


NB: I am leaving the comments open, because I know that the people who read my blog are intelligent, compassionate, thoughtful people, who know how to behave in public. Do not prove me wrong.