This Is Only The Beginning…Sort Of

The phrase “This is only the beginning” can be read in a few different ways. And I’m going to share with you how I mean it. It may not be what you think.

The year of 2016 changed me. If we’d had a conversation on this day in January of 2016, it likely would have been a vastly different conversation than if we’d had it today. Several occurrences factored into this, some personal, some professional. But then, as I was thinking this through, I realized that my conclusion wasn’t entirely honest.

Here’s a more honest way of putting it: throughout the year, I became more of who I am.

I don’t like thinking that an outside experience “makes me different,” mostly because I don’t want to give my power away to anything outside of me. I’m in charge of my thoughts, my feelings, my reactions, my actions. I’m in charge of my words, my expressions, my hopes, my dreams. I’m in charge of my own damn imagination and no one can take that away from me.

I will admit that the 2016 election challenged me – to stay positive, to stay focused, to stay centered in truth, and open to evolving that truth.

And in (mostly-ish) meeting that challenge, I began to become more of myself. (I also began cussing a lot more, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Over this weekend, seeing people all across the world come out to support the basic notion that Equal Rights are Human Rights, moved me. Knowing I’m not alone moved me.

A lot of what I have to say, a lot of who I am, comes through in my books, in my written words, however subtly. In social media, on this blog, I have steered away from expressing blatantly polarizing ideas because my intent in life is not to polarize. Quite the opposite. Compassion and empowerment are biggies for me. Understanding is a biggie for me. But there is no middle ground between compassion and hatred. Being compassionate about discrimination is not a step toward acceptance.

There are times when I have sent pieces of my work to people who are nothing like me (different race/gender/sexual orientation/religion/etc.) and I ask them to tell me if there’s something I’m not understanding, if there’s something I don’t know that I should know. I ask people not just like me to help me to understand more than what I know. I ask them to, out of love, call bullshit on me.

And I’m so grateful when I understand some new human facet, new human truth, in a new light. That is a step toward acceptance.

Over the weekend, watching women and men and children all around this world of ours come out in support of equal rights, I understood something else in a new light.

Me.

Now, stick with me, because I don’t mean this in a selfish way. I mean this in a human empowerment way. I understood that there are others who feel as I do, and who feel completely different than I do. Others who have had experiences like I have had, and who have had completely different experiences from what I have had. There are others who have powered on through chaos like I have, and in ways I’m not even aware of. Others who have made sacrifices for something they know is the right thing to do, however unpopular it may make them, and others who quietly do what they do and stay under the radar to stay alive. I understood there are others who live the daily paradox of what it means to be a strong woman in our world.

Over this weekend, solidarity has rooted me in ways I have never felt before. I feel connected to others in ways I have never felt before. I feel purposeful in ways I have known, but hadn’t fully realized until now. I feel empowered as one of many human beings alive today, and I’m ready to continue understanding more of what life is like for others, in an effort that we come together, be generous listeners, to seek to know what we don’t yet know, to understand what we don’t yet understand, and to empower one another to ensure that “equal rights” isn’t just a philosophy, it’s an evolving way of being as well as A HUMAN RIGHT that we, together from our many perspectives, will fight for.

I know I’m not alone in that feeling. And I LOVE that.

Also over the course of the year, given the chaos in our country, in our brief time in history, I looked more directly at what it is that I’m here to contribute. What comes next as we march forward. What torch do I carry alongside others? And in finding my way to this, I honed in on a few facets of humanity I care passionately about:

Compassion, equality (including but not limited to feminism), empowerment, and emotional honesty.

Because all of this begins inside of me (I cannot, for example, write with any kind of emotional honesty if I’m not being honest with myself), I will be fair and say that, a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have said something that I knew could potentially bring bullies and trolls my way. And now, in the aftermath of 2016, I’ve concluded that that’s okay. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. And I will not be indifferent in the name of keeping peace.

I will keep my compass dialed into what is important to me. I will use my voice on this journey. As Margaret Atwood said, “A word after a word after a word is power.” I will carry a pen for power and a sword for protection.

I will not be indifferent.

I will stay rooted and connected, seeking to root deeper and connect further into places I have only, until now, dreamed of.

I will not be indifferent.

I will celebrate others on their journey who are doing the work to carry the light, likely in the face of trolls or bullies or worse. Much worse. I will not be afraid of misunderstanding so that I may move toward understanding. I will share my spirit and recognize when others are doing the same. I will be a generous listener when there is a new perspective to be learned. I will speak with intent when there is something to be said. I will do my best. And I will be patient with others doing the same. We are not alone. We are stronger together.

We will not be indifferent.

As Gloria Steinem said on Saturday, “This is a day that will change us forever because we are together.”

I wholeheartedly agree. And I’m so grateful to be alive right now. With you.

And this is only the beginning…of a renewed charge toward equality. Here we go (again, still). Together.

Xo Isla Dean

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(Photo source unknown)
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Romance Novels & Feminism

Do you see any conflict between being a romance novelist and being a feminist? Do you feel an obligation to interject socially conscious themes into your work? Are there authors you respect for their socially conscious stories? These are a few of the questions I was asked during a Q&A with Geek Girl Authority‘s Leona Laurie.

Here are a few soundbites from my responses:

“We’re at a time in our culture where long-standing and important issues are coming to light in a new way—including feminism—and I’m grateful to have grown up in a family that celebrates empowerment. When we empower individuals to feel good, do good and be equal players, I believe we lift ourselves as a whole.”

“In the genre of romance, Nora Roberts must have very strong shoulders because generations of writers are taking taller strides because of her.”

“My job is to tell the most authentic story that I can, each and every time, and I take that responsibility to heart.”

Check out the full Q&A here!

xo Isla

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Weekend Update: Leaves & Loves

Last week, I was invited by a great publication to do an interview on what it means to be a romance writer who also supports equal rights for women (commonly labeled as a feminist). Sure! Love to! I’m honored!

On Saturday I started in on my responses and found myself fired up. As an autumn storm brought heaving gusts of wind that spun the gold, green, and brown leaves through the sky, I dove in and didn’t come up for air for hours.

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Finally I surfaced, took stock of the fallen limbs, the smattering of raindrops on the deck, and was struck with a a bone-deep love for the fact that I’m a woman, a romance writer, and a woman who celebrates other women. What a time to be a woman. Truly.

Important issues in our culture that have been hiding in the shadows for decades–centuries!–are coming to light. Women are coming together, holding hands, and championing one another through difficult discussions (like sexual assault). Now, for clarity, I’m not talking about political affiliations; what it means to be a woman in our culture in this day and age, goes beyond the presidential election. I’m speaking simply about my own gratitude to be a woman surrounded by really awesome women doing really awesome things with their lives. (I love men too, but that’s another topic.) 🙂

On Sunday, the leaves continued to drift and spin and scatter, tree limbs kept falling on the deck, making me think a bird was trying to fly through the french doors, and the rain drizzled enough to coat everything–including my favorite heart-shaped grape leaves–with a nice dampness, but not enough to make true, foot-stomping puddles. I read over my interview responses, tweaked and refined a bit, then got to work on my current book, listening to the occasional gong from the wind-chimes.

 

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The final moments of the weekend were rewarded with a glass of red wine and some homemade “kitchen sink” ramen–so satisfying on a cold evening. (Okay, maybe a cool evening. Yes, this is California in October, not New York in March.)

I hope everyone has a marvelous week!

xo Isla

PS- I’ll post a link to the article once it’s published!

 

 

 

Women, Fabulous Women

As you know, I love writing about independent women who are doing interesting things. This is important to me, writing women with a strong, evolving point of view, and one of the many reasons I enjoy telling stories–I get to celebrate women being fabulous women.

In the book Pacific Passion, I adored writing about a budding female film director. We need more female film directors in the world and before we dismiss the past as locked with a giant men-only poster on the door, BFI compiled some photographs that celebrate female film directors of the past. 

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Enjoy!

xo Isla