Mary Anne Mohanraj


July 3 -- 5:31 AM

Cancer log 90: Slept poorly last night, though the meds mostly kept the nausea at bay -- just kept waking up, sometimes with very weird dreams. I'm teaching post-colonial lit. in the fall, and in one dream, I was trying to teach the first day of classes, but had apparently decided to change all the texts for the first third of the course, to ones I hadn't actually read, focused on Native American history. So I was trying to fake my way through the first class, (desperately planning to read everything I needed to read that night), abjectly failing to come up with anything useful to say, which is already ridiculous, because you can really spend the entire first class going over the syllabus and doing introductions if you want to, although admittedly, that is not my style; I usually try to make that class at least half actual content, so they get a sense of my teaching style and course expectations, so they can decide if they want to drop. But anyway, I was freaking out, quietly, and to make matters worse, I had apparently decided to order pizza for the first class, which is just so beyond ridiculous that I can't tell you. That pretty much guarantees a totally non-productive class. It was utter anxious stumbling chaos.

And I woke up, and of course, knew exactly where it all was coming from. I'll have a new co-teacher for that fall class, and while I'm sure she'll be great, and I actually think the students had an excellent experience with the co-teachers in my spring classes, probably learning more than they would have with just me and getting a great diversity of perspectives, it's still a little nerve-wracking, working with someone new. And to add to that, I'll be out for at least 2-3 solid weeks at one point for the surgery, as opposed to just missing a class here and there; it'll mean turning over an entire segment of the course to someone else, which makes me fret for my students, because it'll be a big shift for them. I'm sure it'll be fine, but I suspect I won't really relax about it until a few weeks into the semester, which, btw, doesn't even start for a month and a half, so it's just silly to be having anxiety dreams about it now, so stop it, subconscious, okay?

Also, I am fretting a bit about showing up bald to the first day of class. For some reason I keep thinking about whether I want to wear a bandana or cap or something, and whether I'd want to wear it for the whole class, or whip it off dramatically at some point, when I reveal the whole 'your teacher has cancer and you'll have a co-teacher this semester, which will be somewhat disruptive, but probably also great for you.' I don't think the dramatic reveal is actually my style -- I'll probably wear some kind of head covering for the first class or two at least. For the rest, we'll just have to wait and see.

And none of this is actually worth disrupting my sleep over, especially not *now*. Hush, brain. Enough already. There are more immediate issues to think about, like what kind of potato salad I want to make for tomorrow's 4th of July potluck, and when I should start making the pavlova. Is pavlova a make-ahead dessert, at least the meringue part? Time to go research.

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July 2 -- 1:47 PM

We are delighted to announce that Arkansas writer Michael Fontana and Massachusetts writer Deborah (DK) McCutchen have received the 2014 Older Writers Grants from the Speculative Literature Foundation (SLF). The $500 awards support any purpose that the writers choose to benefit their work.

The Speculative Literature Foundation created the Older Writers Grants to support writers who are 50 years of age or older at the time of their application, and who are just beginning to professionally publish their work. The awards are intended to aid older writers in overcoming barriers to writing speculative fiction professionally.

Deborah (DK) McCutchen is a senior lecturer for the UMass College of Natural Sciences. She and her two daughters and a "Kiwi who isn't green, but is fuzzy" live "on the bank of a Heraclitean stream." Her first book (nonfiction, science and travel), The Whale Road, was published by Random House NZ and Blake in the UK, receiving a Pushcart Prize nomination and a Kiriyama Prize Notable Book Award. Now writing "gender-bending, scientifically accurate" speculative fiction, her novel Jellyfish Dreaming has been excerpted in an upcoming issue of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. Her second novel, Ice, is set in the near future, amid climate disasters and loss of species.

Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and currently living in Bella Vista, Arkansas, with his wife Marla and a "Zen cat" named Tommy, Michael Fontana has been actively writing since age 13. When not writing, Michael raises funds for a nonprofit organization serving people living with mental illness. His first novel, about teenagers with mental illness, was published after he turned 48. His second novel, an exploration of the meaning of God, was published when he was 50. A chapbook of meditations is forthcoming in 2015 from The Medulla Review Publishing. Michael believes that fiction "ought to be constantly transcending and blending literary boundaries to develop new forms." His work strives to "imagine what lies beyond the stretch of time that we call life on Earth."

The Foundation also awarded honorable mentions to Janice Croom and TM Waldroon.

Jurors for the 2014 Older Writers Grant include Lilla Smee, Stephanie Feldman, and Malon Edwards, Managing Director and Grants Administrator for the Foundation.

Founded in January, 2004 to promote literary quality in speculative fiction, the all-volunteer Foundation is led by Mary Anne Mohanraj and 30 other committed volunteers. The Foundation maintains a comprehensive website offering information for readers, writers, editors and publishers of speculative fiction, develops book lists and outreach materials for schools and libraries, and raises funds for redistribution to other organizations in the field, as well as four awards made annually to writers, of which the Older Writers Grant is one. The others include the Gulliver Travel Research Grant, Diverse Writers/Worlds Grant, and the Working Class Writers Grant. For more information about the Speculative Literature Foundation, contact Malon Edwards at or visit the website at

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July 2 -- 6:18 AM

Plan for today: breakfast, get the children off to camp and preschool. Post a recipe to the cookbook club on Patreon, for tangy peppered beef stew (a slightly Sri Lankan version of a regular British beef stew; it's something my mom made, and I find it addictive. Basically peppercorns and vinegar added to the regular stew recipe. Lots of peppercorns, good for chomping on.)

Sign up for SFWA, play an hour of the Email Game (maybe two), as I am really behind right now, and I'd like to get back to inbox zero before the semester starts. (Too bad you can't use it for Facebook messages, also behind on.) Do the Scrivener tutorial and try moving the manuscript over there. Unpack from D.C. trip and do a load of laundry. Move the poor dragon's blood sedum that is now totally buried amidst three clumps of a different plant whose name I'm forgetting.

Figure out what I can cook in advance for Saturday's potluck -- potato salad should keep fine for two days, right? (Samanthi is bringing spicy potatoes, which will be great, but two kinds of potatoes never hurt anyone, and I do love potato salad.) Do I want to make macaroni salad / broccoli salad? Are the kids likely to eat either? Hm. Favorite kid-friendly 4th of July recipes? We have hot dogs already.

All of this contingent on anti-nausea meds being effective. Am reserving the right to ditch it all and nap on the couch watching Doctor Who re-runs if necessary. Or maybe I will try The 100 or Sense8, both of which I've heard good things about. And I have a Diana Gabaldon novel to finish...

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July 2 -- 5:57 AM

Cancer log 89: Okay, so after the first round of chemo yesterday, I was fine for a few hours, and then started feeling quite queasy. I took the milder anti-nausea meds I had on hand, which frankly, didn't help very much. I napped a little, after doing my reading for monthly writing workshop, which did help some. I hosted workshop -- or rather, I half-hosted it, getting through the parts I needed to (with the aid of nibbling crackers) and then passing the hosting over to Kat so I could go upstairs, take the more serious meds, snuggle the children for bedtime, and go to sleep.

On the plus side, workshoppers liked the revised chapters, whee! (My workshop has been very patient with looking at drafts over and over, and I am grateful.) Also on the plus side, the new anti-nausea meds seemed to kick in almost immediately; I was feeling much better by the time I went to sleep. And I woke up this morning still feeling reasonably okay -- a little woozy, perhaps, but my tummy seems semi-stable. I had a couple crackers on my nightstand, and just nibbled one as a precaution before getting up for the day.

This reminds me a lot of the early stages of pregnancy -- a constant, low-level nausea that spiked on occasion. (I know some women have it much worse; my sympathies.) I got through that with the aid of crackers (and oh, I got sick of crackers, but I have a full variety pack, so hopefully that will help), and of course, when you're pregnant, you try to avoid taking anti-nausea meds, and I have no such concerns now. At 9, I get to take the strong meds again, and I'm looking forward to that -- my doctor's approach seems to be to 'squash' the nausea, as she put it, before it really gets going. Sounds good to me.

This has been your morning queasiness report. Hopefully not TMI! :-) It's the main thing on my mind right now. I have three days prescribed of the stronger meds, which suggests that this should ease off by Saturday. Fingers crossed.

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July 1 -- 3:02 PM

Cancer log 88: I'd forgotten how great super-short hair feels. The woman at the salon was hilarious -- I walked in and said I wanted a pixie cut, and she looked at me and asked, "Are you going to cry?" I assured her that I would not cry, but she was only halfway convinced. She held her scissors up to one of my braids and said, "Cut here?" And I said, "Or higher, if you like," and she said, "Okay." Braids below, with a pen for scale. I suppose it's a lot to take off at once, but given that I had hair down past my waist for a decade or so, it doesn't actually feel that dramatic. She eventually got really into the cut, assuring me that even with all the grey (which she repeatedly told me I should dye, because I'm too young to have this much grey, and I'm sure that spiel is not motivated at all by the extra business it would bring her), the new cut was super-sexy. I should keep it like this all the time (which would also mean coming back in for frequent haircuts). She assured me that my husband would love it. I didn't have the heart to tell her that he's only going to get to love it for a couple of weeks, before it all falls out. :-)

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