So I was sitting in a classroom at the University of Oklahoma. This was about a decade ago. I was in my master’s program and it was a special topics course on heteronormativity in American culture. We were discussing James Baldwin’s work, and the professor said, “I love Baldwin’s writing and I don’t know how he does it.” Then he looked at me. We locked eyes for a moment. I’m the only one in this MA program who has a BFA in Creative Writing. I immediately thought, I know how he does it. But before I had a chance to respond, he quickly stated, “And I don’t want to know,” as if he knew I was about to break the spell.

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I get mentally stuck sometimes, and frustrated, when I think of the disparity rates in the communities I serve. I’m Cherokee and Kiowa. I live in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and work for Indian Child Welfare. I’ve worked my entire career serving Native communities, working diligently to correct the disparity rates, and every time I see a Native person walking down the street strung out on meth, fidgeting and impulsively picking at their skin (the telltale signs of meth addiction), it breaks my heart. I get frustrated at the disparity rates among Native Americans and see first hand the negative impacts caused by historical trauma.

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There I am, like you, and so many writers, sitting at my computer and starting a new writing project.  I’m drawing up characters because this story has been running through mind for years and it’s finally ready to go onto a page.  Since I already have a working idea of who my main character is and her antagonist, I now need to weigh her against Karpman’s drama triangle.  What is her good, bad, and ugly?  This is how I’ve drawn multidimensional characters for over 10 years.  But then two other creative forms changed my approach:  Evolutionary astrology and Stanislavski’s method acting.

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I hiked into the Grand Canyon.  I must’ve been in my late twenties, maybe early thirties.  It started out as a walk to look over the rim.  I had camped the night before in a tent at one of the sites and woke early (probably about 5am).  I was there with a friend and she was still asleep.  As the sun rose out of the east, I decided to follow the paved roads toward the rim of the Grand Canyon.

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What to do with a great idea?  Let’s sit down and map out a novel.  Writing in the dark is a popular way of writing short stories.  We get an idea.  We pull out the laptop.  We write until everything is on the page.  As we write, we don’t know where the story will lead and this suspense and feeling of surprise keeps us writing, it builds adrenaline, and keeps us guessing as we finish a story.  But there may need to be a different approach when it comes to a 25 chapter novel.

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We’ve heard the reified stories of men brutalizing men.  A rehearsal of patriarchy.   In fact, hyper masculine bullshit permeates our lives.  We see in the media, if not in our daily lives, the ramifications of patriarchy unchecked.  So what’s the answer?  Men are being called out now more than ever and violence continues.  Wars haven’t stopped.  We hear about a mass shooting in the U.S. almost everyday.  In my debut novel, Unsettled Between, Ever Geimausaddle faces his own brutality with the help of an underground matriarchy.

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Like clipping and pruning back branches on a bonsai tree.  Then we wire and train those branches to spread in the appearance of organic design reflective of the natural environment, taking careful consideration and steady hands.  We have to make the right decisions.  I’ve been revising Unsettled Between over the last two months and it’s been a transformative process not only for the novel but for me as well.

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Suppose you’re at a coffee shop and you’re telling your best friend about your workday.  You’re saying so-and-so is building a case to take to human resources and will file a lawsuit soon.  So-and-so has evidence of coercion and retaliation.  Maybe it’s based on gender.  Maybe it’s based on race.  So-and-so will also file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a federal employee complaint due to implicit biases at work.  Then you notice someone at the next table staring and listening with interest at all the juicy details.

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No one believes themselves to be like Azrael.  If we had to choose between the cat and Gargamel, we’d all choose Gargamel–if push came to shove.  We’d rather be neither, or think of ourselves as neither.  But we’re one or the other in someone’s eyes.  This article is an examination of how the “underling” can allow himself to be abused.  And maybe we can resolve:  Why we allow people in power to control us.

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Have you ever felt like you were being watched?  It’s a creepy feeling.  And then you look up to find someone staring.  Your instincts picked up on the energy and you knew before looking that someone was watching you.  When I encounter implicit bias, it has the same effect.  I know when I’m being targeted with excess negative attention.  I wonder why someone is so concerned about me in my life, when I have zero interest in theirs.  The person comes off as creepy, and likely harbors underlying racist and sexist ideologies about dark skinned males.

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