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The Metaworker Podcast | 006 Meditations on Water by Stella Meadows

Episode Description:

Editors Matthew, Elena, and Melissa talk to Stella Meadows about her brilliant nonfiction (as well as what makes brilliant nonfiction in general), identity, introspection, LGBT+ representation in art, and specifically LGBT+ representation in the science fiction and fantasy genres. 

Referenced in this Episode:

Meditations on Water by Stella Meadows on The Metaworker website; 

Paradise is a Feeling by Stella Meadows on The Metaworker website; 

House in the Cerulean Sea by Tj Klune, book recommended by Stella; 

The Pervert by Remy Boydell & Michelle Perez, comic book recommended by Stella; 

Drop-Out, web comic recommended by Stella; 

Grease Bats by  Archie Bongiovanni, comic recommended by Stella

Author Bio:

Stella Meadows is a writer to know. Born in 1996, she’s been active since the age of eight, ever in search of the perfect sentence. Her first story was published in Quirk Literary Magazine in May, 2020. Her other work is forthcoming. Meadows takes a personal approach to story-telling, focusing primarily on issues of identity and self-expression. When not reading or writing, she can be found drinking espresso and chasing down scared raccoons (they need affection too!). A student of Humanities and Communications at California State University, Monterey Bay, she will graduate in early 2021. 

Episode Transcript:

Matthew Maichen (00:00):
Hi, my name is Matthew Maichen. I’m the editor-in-chief [of The Metaworker].

Elena L. Perez (00:05):
I’m Elena, the managing editor.

Melissa Reynolds (00:07):
I’m Melissa, also an editor, here to chat with you all.

Matthew Maichen (00:12):
Okay, great. So, we are here speaking to Stella Meadows. Stella submitted two nonfiction pieces to us and we accepted both of them because they were awesome and amazing. Stella is here to introduce herself and her work, and then we will be talking about that.

Stella Meadows (00:34):
Hi everybody. My name is Stella Meadows. I am a long-time writer, kind of first-time submitter, and today we’re going to be talking about some of my pieces that I am so grateful to The Metaworker for choosing to host.

Melissa Reynolds (00:47):

Stella Meadows (00:48):
All right. So, this is from my piece, “Meditations on Water (Ode to Escambia)”. It’s kind of about my childhood and my memories and kind of gets, later on, into identity, but I’ll just jump right into this:

Stella Meadows (03:13):
We only ever left the pool with the arrival of sudden rains, a common enough occurrence in the Panhandle. When the skies turned black and the thunder began to rumble, we’d duck inside, and us children would stand shivering in the kitchen, trying our best to ignore the wind shrieking between the trees – sounding so much like human screams that, twenty years on, I still get goosebumps. We’d watch the wet pooling between our shrivelled toes while the grownups cooked dinner, then we’d entertain each other with the Gameboy Color and remote-controlled robots, or by pressing our faces into the glass of the side table and watching the imprints recede, like some rare amoeba contracting beneath a beam of light. Then we’d be marched off to the master bathroom where we’d build Babylonian constructs of bubbles. It was after one such washing up that we took an excursion into Pappou’s closet, finding a religious tract about the Rapture. We were fascinated by the imagery and demanded an explanation, forcing strange new pedagogies from the mouths of our parents. After the double-immersion of swimming and bathing, we’d tear out across the lawn, making up new games to play and pushing the limits of our tender young bodies. It was there that I tried jumping off a stepladder with an open umbrella, chunking open my foot on a pointed stick, before limping back inside, crying, to be patched and cleaned and sent back outside, to return, grizzled, to the scene of the crime, to resume running, only slightly more cautiously than before, reminded again that we are fragile, we can be hurt, we can bleed, then forgetting because we’ve seen a cow ant – a cow ant! – a marvelous new creature we’ve never before encountered, fat and red and furry, and told that it won’t sting if we leave it alone, that most bugs won’t bite if you just don’t touch ‘em, advice I never forgot, and even today, even still, decades later, I still hesitate for fear of being bitten in nearly every aspect of my life. Thank you.

Matthew Maichen (03:15):
Thank you. Oh, man. I love that you chose that section because one of my favorite parts about this piece is that there is so much of Stella’s identity here, interwoven with moments that everyone can kind of understand from their childhood and that they can identify with. I just connected to this so strongly, you know? Later on, you even mention moving to San Diego, which is the place that I grew up—my entire life—and the connection that I have to that. To, I don’t know, just running around as a kid, you know? And I really love that feeling of connection, those honest experiences. We were talking in another episode about choosing the moments when you write nonfiction. So, there’s that question of which moments do you choose? Obviously, you can’t include every moment from your life, and I think the moments that were chosen here are so interesting in the subtlety,

Elena L. Perez (04:32):
Also the language. It’s so visceral and it makes the piece feel that much more real. Yeah, the word choice. There’s another paragraph in here, close to the beginning, “Do you feel a hole in your heart? Worm-gnawed, flesh flapping ragged, strings of necrotic flesh clinging by threads of cells?” That’s just so…just raw. I think that’s also what I really loved about this piece was just, you know, you can feel the emotion behind this piece.

Melissa Reynolds (05:05):
I also felt a strong sense of…I guess identification is kind of a strange way to put it, but it felt very honest and real and that vulnerability is something that I’m drawn to because it’s very hard to do as a writer. I tend to like to hide behind characters. I don’t like to write from first person because it is hard to be vulnerable. When I see someone who does that, I instantly respect them and I cheer for them and I want their work to do well. So, I just thought it was very beautiful on top of being all those things I mentioned. There wasn’t one point where I got bored or sat back and said, ‘ugh’. I was completely engaged throughout the whole piece.

Matthew Maichen (06:02):
Yeah. And I just want to say, this is quite a long piece, so that’s saying a lot. If you just heard the excerpt and you have not read it before, you might not realize that… For us, in particular, because we try to publish shorter pieces with our web format, it is quite long. So, we always say if something’s going to be long, it should be very well-written. And this definitely passes that bar. The references to being transgender are interesting in how they’re woven in because it gets mentioned right away. Immediately. And then it just kind of sits in the background for such a long time, but it’s always there, it’s always present. That’s why I find it so fascinating. I would really recommend reading the whole thing, honestly. As great as that excerpt was, definitely look it up if you have not and find it on our site because this is one that you definitely have to read in its entirety.

Elena L. Perez (07:20):
Well, it’s kind of discovering itself. The idea is being discovered throughout the entire piece, especially with the whole discussion of water and how there’s different aspects of water. There’s the everyday use of it—a bathtub, a swimming pool, a river, a lake—it’s mentioned in here, but then there’s also the religious aspect of it. And I really liked the way that those two were kind of woven in. It’s kind of like being trans is almost a discovery in this piece and I can really feel that.

Melissa Reynolds (08:01):
Tied into what you’re saying, Elena, I thought that the innocence of childhood was shown so beautifully and it was through the exploration of water that the child begins to grow up and figure out who they are. And I thought that was such a nice way to…It didn’t feel like the author, Stella, was trying to convince us of anything or change our minds or preach at us. It was more of, ‘Hey, this is my experience. I was a kid just like you and then I grew, and now this is who I am. I figured it out and I’m pretty awesome.’ And that’s one of the things I really liked about it. It allowed me to, as a reader, go along on that journey, too, and I liked it a lot.

Matthew Maichen (08:54):
That’s the power of art. I just want to say, because it’s especially relevant to this piece, I like that you mentioned a lack of preachiness ’cause this gets into my own experience of being… Like, when I write from the perspective of being a neurodivergent person, you can get so much more empathy out of just presenting yourself and your own experiences than you can out of telling people to empathize with you. It makes a difference. It really does, especially because we’ve seen in popular culture this movement of people having so much more empathy toward people coming from very diverse perspectives and it’s pieces like this that help serve to make that change. I almost feel like, at this point, I want to hear Stella speak about this because I feel a little strange talking about that now without her input. So, Stella, the first question I always ask is: how does it feel hearing us talk about your work as if you aren’t here? How does it feel hearing our discussion about what you have produced?

Stella Meadows (10:34):
It’s very illuminating. I would use that word. It’s very interesting, as well. For me, when I look at this piece…I get very, very fussy about things that I write. It’s part of the reason I haven’t submitted very much stuff in general. I’m trying to get over this feeling like something needs to be perfect and needs to be written and rewritten and rewritten. Even now, I try not to go back and read the things that I have published because as soon as I do, I just think, ‘oh, I should’ve changed that. Oh, I needed to do more of this’. Even in this piece, which I felt really confident about when I submitted, you know, now I look back and I think, ‘oh, did I get enough in the idea at the end? Did I connect those things as much as I would’ve liked to?’ I feel like I could have written three more pages of this honestly but, you know, it is what it is, and hearing everyone talk about it and talk about the things they got out of it, makes me feel like, ‘oh, okay, I kind of was getting somewhere’. Maybe it’s just my own perfectionist mind that, you know, beats myself up over my writing. That thinks, ‘oh, you needed to do more’. But it sounds like, oh, no, people are understanding. People are kind of getting where I’m coming from and people are taking things out of it that I didn’t even realize I was putting in half the time. So, it’s just a very, like I said, illuminating process to hear other people talk about it and see it through fresh eyes. It’s very exciting as well.

Matthew Maichen (12:05):
Thank you. It’s funny that you say that and I’m going to say something that is probably a gross oversimplification, but there was, I think, a creative writing professor I talked to who told me that he feels like there are two types of writers. There are the ones who write the first draft and feel they’re totally confident in it and then there are the ones who are on their third or fourth draft and are, like, ‘No. Three more drafts.Then it’ll be halfway decent’. And you have to train people out of either one or the other. But I think that, if it makes you feel any better, that kind of persnickety-ness with getting it absolutely perfect, I think that has produced something that is quite good.

Elena L. Perez (12:59):
I love that, though. What you were saying, Stella, about wanting to add something after you’ve written it and published it and sent it out. I think you can write something about a topic, but then, once it’s published and submitted or whatever, you can also go and write another piece about that same topic. It doesn’t have to be all in one piece. You can kind of break it up and, you know, you could have all these different iterations of the same idea and they all come out different. And I like that, too.

Matthew Maichen (13:30):
I like that you mentioned that because we actually have published multiple pieces by Stella. We also published “Paradise is a Feeling” and I think there is a connection. It’s okay if I’m reading too much into this—you can just tell me—but this resonance with water and then being in a very coastal place and feeling that kind of belonging there, I guess. Feeling that sense of paradise and being in the right place. But…I don’t know, maybe I am just spit-balling. Am I spit balling?

Stella Meadows (14:24):
I think that’s a very good idea, and it’s maybe not one that was a conscious decision, but I think you’re right on the money with that. Which is, with this first piece, “Meditations on Water”, I’m kind of connecting the dots in a sense. Looking back through my childhood and there are a lot of these memories where, as a child—especially as a child raised cisgender and from a religious background—where things like different gender identities and LGBT identities are not talked about at all. Most of the time you don’t think about your ‘self’ as a child at all. You just are who you’re told to be. And, you know, children have very active imaginations and they’re playing a lot. And children, when they’re playing, are never playing as themselves, they’re always somebody else. So, when I look back on my childhood, I think all the places I lived, the places where I played with friends and had chances to really think of myself as someone else or connected to water. Then you grow up and you stop playing those games you play as children, and you go through puberty and you confront your own identity, and you go through all these changes, are presented with all these new worldviews, and you have to think about your identity in a different way. There’s a whole period of years of my life, not talked about years, when a bunch of things were getting figured out. And then you get to that piece, “Paradise is a Feeling”, which wasn’t written consciously to explore any part of identity or belonging. It really stemmed from kind of a free-writing session I had while I was out by myself in Monterey, where I had been living for the past year or two. I think in that moment, sitting there writing the first draft of that piece, I was feeling a sense of belonging and a sense of identity. It was kind of one of the first places where I had been accepting of myself, telling other people my new name, not just keeping it to a small group of my friends, and this moment of sitting there with the ocean in sight and just being on the coast and thinking about this, it kind of all came full circle for me. I didn’t realize that at the time, but because I was living in that same location for so long…when I was preparing these pieces to be submitted, it kind of did make sense to me that this was a full circle moment. One is the childhood of realizing something’s going on and one is being an adult and being back on the coast by the water again and feeling a sense of understanding.

Matthew Maichen (17:22):
Yeah. Thank you so much for that, because this is a thing that…sometimes talking to the author really can add so much because that adds so much to “Paradise is a Feeling”. When I look at it again, it’s not just a feeling of the world is beautiful, which I appreciated it for. That was how I interpreted it at first. But this feeling of the world is beautiful and I have now learned to love myself. That makes it so much stronger. Thank you for that. I appreciate that.

Stella Meadows (18:05):
Absolutely. I think that you’re right there, as well. It was kind of meant to be ‘the world is beautiful’. When you’re writing from an identity like mine, which is not the average identity, I suppose. Writing from a trans point of view, you’re writing from a point of view where you’re saying that the world is beautiful and maybe you didn’t always realize it was. Maybe [you didn’t] always realize where that feeling is coming from, but in conjunction with the rest of what you’ve written, you know, it comes from a different place. Like you said, it was kind of just written in this spur of the moment joy of like, ‘wow, it’s beautiful to be alive and beautiful to be a person’. It’s a moment where you’re not thinking about yourself or who you are or what you’re doing, you’re just thinking, like, ‘oh my God, it feels amazing to be a person’.

Matthew Maichen (18:55):
Thank you.

Melissa Reynolds (18:58):
Something you said really resonated with me. I’m a big journaler. In fact, I have mine here with me right now. I’m often…for me, it’s not by water, it’s out in the woods. I’ll find a rock or a stump and I’ll sit and I’ll just write and reflect. I’ve never thought of actually trying to do anything more with those—you’ve inspired me a little bit here—but I find it’s amazing what you can discover about yourself just by taking that little bit of time to reflect and… Something about writing it out draws it out for me even more. Do you find that happens pretty often with you, with your own writing?

Stella Meadows (19:48):
Yeah, I find that I don’t as much as I’d like to. I have to make a conscious effort to do it. It’s a very writery thing to do, to keep a journal, and I like to think of myself as a journaler, but I’m never very steady with it. So, I think for me actually going out somewhere with a journal is one of the only ways I can get my thoughts down. I think for me, part of the process is not thinking of it as, ‘today. I’m writing a journal or today I’m writing something I want to publish’. It’s just writing. It’s just, you know, when I have free time and I have a lot on my mind, which obviously I always have a lot on my mind, I feel like I need to write about it. Some days I don’t feel up for it and some days I do, but when I write, it’s not with a conscious goal in mind. It’s not, ‘today I’m writing a journal, today I’m writing a novel, today I’m writing a short story’. It’s just writing. Obviously, you have to do a little bit more planning— development, plot, characters—if you want to write fiction. For nonfiction, I take what I know and I take what I feel about myself and I take what I’m thinking, and I just vomit it on the page. Sometimes you get something or you think, ‘oh, this is kind of good’. When you practice writing enough and your language develops to a point where, you know, maybe you’re writing a little bit too flowery for just an average journal…flowery is not the right word. I don’t know. Sometimes just writing whatever’s on your mind can produce something that actually looks good. And oftentimes, if you have something that doesn’t look good, but it has a seed of an idea in it, it doesn’t take very long to shape that into something worth looking at. I think that it’s that seed of an idea that really makes good writing ‘good writing’. Because you can know how to write a paper, you can know how to write a story, but if you don’t have a reason why you’re writing it, if you don’t have an inspiration, a joy from your own life or challenge that you’re trying to communicate, if there’s nothing that it’s coming from, then it’s just pretty writing on the page and there’s a million pieces of that out there. I think you really need to have an idea inside of you of an emotion that you’re trying to connect with.

Melissa Reynolds (22:15):
That makes sense.

Matthew Maichen (22:16):

Melissa Reynolds (22:17):
I think some of the strongest writing [are] the ones that convey emotion. That’s a key ingredient that…It’s easy to forget sometimes.

Matthew Maichen (22:27):
One of my favorite writers, actually my favorite writer, is Neil Gaiman. He is…what’s interesting about him is that he is a scifi fantasy writer, but he said—so not only is he a fiction writer, he’s a scifi fantasy writer—and he said you should feel like you are giving too much of yourself away. Once you feel like that’s happening, you’re doing a good job at writing. And it was so fascinating to hear that from someone who, ostensibly, is so removed from reality, you know? But maybe it’s just true of good writing in general, maybe you’re right. That’s just what you should aim for.

Elena L. Perez (23:16):
I mean, If we’re talking about scifi and fantasy and even flowery writing, I think in a lot of ways it’s not so removed from reality because that kind of writing oftentimes gets to the essence, which is what we’ve been talking about. It takes away all the unnecessary…not unnecessary, but the everyday things that we see or, you know, have to deal with, [it] strips all that away. Then you’re just left with the beautiful writing and emotion and reality that you want your world to be. And, Stella, you did that really well, I think, in this piece.

Matthew Maichen (23:58):
I was going to say, lest you think we’re getting too off topic… Stella, why don’t we talk about your research and what you’re going to be doing, ’cause I find it very fascinating.

Stella Meadows (24:10):
Yeah. So, I am actually super excited about my research and a little bit overwhelmed because I don’t quite know where I want to begin, but I am going to be studying in just a few months at McGill university, the English thesis program. I submitted a research proposal about exploring gender identity and non-normative identities in speculative fiction. So, I talked about how, you know, some of the most famous authors that we talk about…you know, we talk about Ernest Hemingway. He explored gender identity a lot, but in a really subversive way and a way that wasn’t often talked about because he’s the stereotypical macho ‘man’s man’ writer. [He] wrote a lot of obviously problematic things, but at the core of it all, I feel like Hemingway’s work was struggling with gender identity. We just don’t talk about that because we don’t like to talk about that in classic literature, but as we’re moving into a society that highly values speculative fiction and fantasy and science fiction, we’re seeing more authors use the genre as a way to explore real-life problems that you couldn’t quite talk about in classic 19th, 20th century literature. I want to explore how speculative fiction uses magical races, artificial intelligence…all these systems of things that don’t work the way they do in the real world to act as analogs or explanations for different identities and whether or not that’s a good thing, whether there needs to be more of it, whether it should be done differently, just the whole thing. So, I’m diving into that and seeing what I can find out.

Elena L. Perez (26:14):
That sounds amazing. I am super excited to read all of your research when it comes out. I love that.

Matthew Maichen (26:19):
Yeah, that means a lot because the stereotype is that no one wants to read anyone’s thesis, but I would read this thesis. I’m pretty interested.

Stella Meadows (26:29):
I’m hoping that’s why they chose to admit me into the program.

Matthew Maichen (26:33):
Yeah. I mean, some of the most blatant examples we talked about, obviously, are “The Left Hand of Darkness”—that’s the book [by Ursual K. Le Guin]. But I love that you mentioned AI because that’s such an interesting idea. I’ve been reading a lot of scifi and fantasy lately ’cause I’m trying to fill out NPRs 100 best scifi fantasy books, and even super old stuff…there’s this Heinlein story, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, and one of the main characters is an AI named Mike, and he’ll just, every once in a while, switch to being ‘Michelle’. Just, you know, whenever he feels like it, he’ll take on a feminine voice. For some reason ‘Michelle’ has a French accent. One is just as valid as the other because it’s an artificial intelligence, you know, it doesn’t actually have a gender so it can just be whatever it wants to.

Elena L. Perez (27:42):
That’s so interesting, right? That AI characters are allowed to do that, have been allowed to do that, but just now it’s becoming more acceptable for humans to do that in stories as well. And that’s…I love that.

Stella Meadows (27:56):
Yeah. If I can insert my own little 2 cents on that matter, I think that artificial intelligence is a great tool for how we talk about this thing. Because, like with the Heinlein story, with the Mike/Michelle dichotomy right there, we talk about, ‘oh, I guess it makes sense because, you know, it’s an artificial intelligence’. It doesn’t have chromosomes. It doesn’t have a body. It doesn’t have the things that we typically put a gender on. So, if it’s just a constructed identity, it can be whatever it wants to be. When you look at the human individual, we put these gender terms on them, but the body and the chromosomes and all the things that we look at are so mixed up, anyway, it’s already so far beyond a binary and gender itself is being constructed and deconstructed and shifted around all the time. I mean, it was just a hundred years ago that pink was the manly color and blue was the feminine color, and now it’s the other way around. It’s all made up. It’s constructed. When you talk about an artificial intelligence, people are really able to look at that and understand this idea of an identity can be whatever it wants to be, but then they think, ‘oh, but I’m a human, so I’m stuck the way I am’. And it’s, like, ‘no, it doesn’t work that way’. That’s why I really love the realms of scifi and fantasy for being able to have these discussions in a way that the average person who hasn’t thought about it before is able to kind of understand.

Elena L. Perez (29:35):
Yeah, exactly.

Matthew Maichen (29:36):
Yeah, so cool. It’s funny that we ended up here because we were talking about your nonfiction and now we’re here talking about scifi and fantasy.

Stella Meadows (29:47):
That’s what all discussions with me should be like.

All (29:47):

Matthew Maichen (29:52):
Great. All right. So, is there anything in the literary world right now that you’ve read recently that you would like to share or kind of plug with our audience? That you think is really great [and] deserves more attention?

Stella Meadows (30:19):
Absolutely. I actually wrote down four of these. I don’t know how much time we have, so I’ll try not to discuss any one of them too much at length, but I’ve been reading a lot lately and I read four that are just fantastic and I think everybody needs to check [them] out. The first is a fantasy book that’s been getting a lot of traction lately. It’s pretty new. It’s called “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by T.J. Klune. It is just this…I heard it described as a big warm gay blanket. It’s just this super, super queer, super, super positive story. It’s got body positivity and found family and all these things. It’s just this very funny, very heartwarming story that manages to be very queer and not just a tragedy like so many other LGBT stories that already exist. Please check that out.

Elena L. Perez (31:21):
Oh, my gosh, that is on my list. I’m so excited to read it.

Stella Meadows (31:24):
Yes, it’s wonderful. You should absolutely read it. I read it in, like, three days. The others, though, are comics and these ones get, I guess, a little bit of content warning because some of them get a little serious. One of them is called “The Pervert” by Michelle Perez. It’s a pretty short graphic novel. It’s about a transgender girl who’s also a sex worker just trying to make ends meet. It’s very short and deals with a lot of themes that I feel like don’t get talked about often. It just shows a very realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be a transgender person without a lot of money and doing sex work. It’s a very, very interesting look into that world and I’d recommend it to anyone who doesn’t really have a glimpse into that world. It’s very enlightening work. Then two that I just loved to death and I have to recommend. There is a comic called “Drop Out Comic”. You can’t pick it up in a book, you just look up “Drop Out Comic” and it should be the first thing that pops up, by an artist named Gray. This is the one…super, super strong content warning for anyone who’s going to check it out. It’s got relentless talk of alcohol addiction and drug addiction and self harm, mental illness, suicide…the whole thing. Genderqueer, intersex girls who decide to go on a road trip to kill themselves. I won’t say anything else about it. I will just say, if that sounds like it’s too dark for you, maybe don’t read it, but it gets so into what it is like to be a person dealing with gender identity and mental illness and taking medications and all these things and it is by far one of the darkest things I’ve read in a long, long time. It was terrific at the same time. It really got into my headspace in a way I didn’t think literature could do. Again, that one comes with a very strong warning because it’s not an easy read by any means, but it’s a wonderful use of your time. It’s just a one-shot comic, there’s a defined beginning, middle, end. It’s not an ongoing series, so it’s easy to read in one sitting. Then, last but not least, a much, much more lighthearted comic. I just read it yesterday. It’s called “Grease Bats” [by Archie Bongiovanni]. This one is a collected volume of the comic and it’s just about being a young, 20-something queer person. It felt like somebody had basically videotaped my life and my friends and then put it all down in a comic book. It’s so, so helpful. It deals with all the different aspects of being a queer person in the 21st century. What it’s like to have safe spaces taken over by straight people. What it’s like to take over straight places. What it’s like to be experimenting with relationships. Failed relationships. Every aspect of the queer experience is exemplified and given a voice on the page and it just felt like the most refreshing thing I’d ever read because I’d never seen myself and my friends so perfectly recreated in a comic book before. Or in anything before. So, if you are a queer person listening to this, please go read “Grease Bats”. It’s hilarious. It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s everything I wanted it to be and I cannot praise it enough. I’m pretty sure after this is over, I’m going to go sit down and read it all over again.

Melissa Reynolds (35:19):
Thank you. And I wanted to ask, is that ‘vat’ as in v-a-t, or bat like the one that flies through the air?

Speaker 3 (35:25):
Oh, yes. It’s “grease” like pizza grease and it’s “bats” like the thing that flies through the air. And it’s by an artist named Archie Bongiovanni.

Melissa Reynolds (35:35):
Thank you.

Elena L. Perez (35:36):
Those are all amazing recommendations. I’m going to go check them out. Thank you.

Matthew Maichen (35:40):
Thank you.

Stella Meadows (35:41):
I hope I didn’t gush too much because I could talk…

Elena L. Perez (35:45):
No, that’s great. That’s awesome.

Matthew Maichen (35:48):
That actually leads me into another question. I’ve noticed that there’s been this huge surge in LGBT-plus representation in the last few years, right? The last decade or so. It’s been amping up to the point that…in a major TV show I just watched that is not a cult TV show, it was one of Netflix’s major flagship titles, the main relationship at the center was a lesbian relationship. Some of the biggest books that are coming out these days are about LGBT individuals. I guess my question is, as someone who’s part of this identity umbrella as it is commonly referred to, what do you think we still need, as far as representation [goes]? What do you think are the strides that still need to be made?

Stella Meadows (36:59):
I think there just needs to be more more of it, all of it, all of the representation and especially for, I think, transgender and non-binary identities. Like you said, Netflix is having shows with gay relationships at the center of these things. And I think that, in many ways, a lot of the strides we’re seeing are for relationships that can be kind of straight-coded, even though they’re not straight. You can say like, ‘oh, it’s two women or it’s two men dating’, but they’re still, you know, a normal heteronormative relationship. I think we need to see more relationships that are not so easily swallowed by straight CIS people. We need to see it not being the focus of things. That’s one of the things, a lot of this representation comes kind of as the focus, or it comes as, ‘this is a detective, but he’s gay’ and it’s like, oh no, no, we just need to have: this is a superhero, this is a detective, this is whoever and their queerness is not a special identifier that makes it a separate thing. Which is why I enjoy reading this queer literature so much where the character being queer is a front-and-center part of who they are, but it’s not made for straight people. We have to remember that straight people are not the only audience. I think, too, with the trans identity, you’re seeing a lot more representation of trans identities in TV, but it’s not just trans people playing regular characters, it’s trans people playing trans people. It’s usually a transgender person playing a transgender person whose whole character arc is about RuPaul’s drag race or something like this and it’s never just a transgender person getting an opportunity to exist or getting an opportunity to play a regular character. I think we just need to tear all those boundaries down. Obviously, it’s not going to happen overnight, and the direction we’re moving in is a very good direction and, I think, the right direction, of being more open about it, putting it more on TV. It sounds like I’m complaining, but if I’m being honest, when I was growing up, the exposure on television to gay people was, like, Oscar in “The Office” whose whole joke was that he was gay or, like, transphobic jokes in shows like “Friends” and “How I Met Your Mother”. That was…my whole understanding was, ‘oh, that’s a woman, but this one guy falls in love with her without realizing she has an Adam’s apple or a really Husky voice’. That’s just gross old-timey TV representation of queer people and it’s moving in a good direction. So, that’s what I can say about that.

Elena L. Perez (40:03):
Wonderful answer.

Matthew Maichen (40:05):
All right. Thank you so much. I think it’s really important to hear that, too. ‘Cause there’s only so much I can say about it, obviously, as someone who’s just observing it from a distanced perspective. I’m going to ask the most cliche interview question: What is the question that you wish that you could be asked and what is the answer you would give to that question?

Stella Meadows (40:41):
I feel like the question I wish I had been asked was, um…that’s a hard question. Especially with [inaudible] I think I would say the question I would like to be asked is: are you happy with the way things have turned out and the kind of writing you’re doing? And I would say, ‘absolutely’. If you had asked me 10 years ago, what I wanted to write about was just dragons and wizards. Very much a part of me still wants to write about dragons and wizards, but this research that I’m doing, and the things I can learn, it’s very important to me. I realize now, as a transgender person, that speaking about this and writing to this experience and adding my voice to the conversation is something I never knew I could do. I never had that representation. The first time I ever knew a trans person in media was when Lana Wachowski came out, co-director of “The Matrix”. For me, it was so amazing to see such a high profile piece of fiction like “The Matrix” have an openly transgender person. I think that was the moment when I realized, ‘oh, people can make things that are high profile and still be talking about the queer experience’. So, I am very happy with the trajectory that my own writing has taken because I feel like I can say something important now. That’s really what I want to do, is be a piece of representation for young people who may not know who they are or what they want to do, but just know that they’re different in some way and know that that’s okay.

Matthew Maichen (42:33):
Thank you so much. That’s such a great…I’m glad that we stopped having audio glitches when you started talking about that because I’m glad that I got all of that.

Stella Meadows (42:43):
Thank you. I’m glad that I got to say it.

Elena L. Perez (42:47):
[laughs] That’s awesome.

Matthew Maichen (42:50):
[laughs] It’s funny about the Wachowskis, right? Both of them are now…they were the Wachowski brothers and now both of them are the Wachowski sisters. There’s a part of me that’s, like, ‘oh my gosh, what are the odds?’ It’s kind of fascinating.

Stella Meadows (43:06):
I think it must’ve been so difficult for both of them to be there, constantly branded as the brothers when that was not something they ever branded themselves as, and [it] just made the whole situation very difficult, but also much more open, since there was such a public perception of them as the brothers. Now that both of them have come out as trans women, it makes it even more open, in a way. I think that grabbing onto that label that was pushed on them and kind of throwing it away is a very brave thing that they did, and really, really inspiring for a lot of people

Elena L. Perez (43:49):
A hundred percent. Well, we do have a couple of questions.

Matthew Maichen (43:53):
Oh right.

Elena L. Perez (43:53):
So, we usually ask, why did you feel like both of your stories, your pieces, were a good fit for The Metaworker?

Stella Meadows (44:06):
Well, I have read some things in The Metaworker. It’s been on my radar for almost the entire six years that it’s been around. I’ve read pieces from time to time and, you know, the wealth of different things that you publish, the number of different voices that you have, the stories and poems and pieces are not all like each other. You know, some journals I’ve published or tried to publish in have been very, very focused on one thing. With The Metaworker, I didn’t feel like my piece might get turned away for being too much of one thing or not enough of another thing. I really feel like you all at The Metaworker team make an effort to publish interesting and diverse pieces and I thought, ‘well, this is a piece that I’m not sure what other journal would want something like this’. I was just thinking to myself, ‘well, maybe they will’, and here we are.

Elena L. Perez (45:11):
Oh, I’m so flattered to hear that. Thank you so much. It means a lot.

Matthew Maichen (45:14):
You’ve been following us, really, this entire time?

Stella Meadows (45:19):
It’s actually crazy that I am submitting and talking and becoming involved now, but I’ve been following the entire time or most of the time. It’s not like…I’m not reading every single day, but every once in a while, I’ll refresh the page and see what’s new and take a look.

Elena L. Perez (45:38):
That’s so cool. Thank you.

Matthew Maichen (45:41):
Thank you. That means so much. I especially love what you said because—I do want to say this while we’re recording it again—we make such an effort…I just want pieces that are good to have a place regardless of what the good piece is, right? It doesn’t need to be anything other than good, in my opinion. It deserves to be published.

Elena L. Perez (46:15):
Your pieces are definitely that. Thank you for submitting them.

Stella Meadows (46:19):
Of course. Thank you for hosting them.

Matthew Maichen (46:22):
Alright. So, in that case, thank you so much for being with us today, Stella. It honestly feels like it hasn’t been an hour. It feels like it’s a been…yeah.

Elena L. Perez (46:38):
This is a great conversation.

Matthew Maichen (46:40):
Yeah. And I think it’s an important conversation, so I’m really happy to be sharing it. Well, in that case…Wachowskis. We still ended on the Wachowskis. Thank you so much.

Stella Meadows (46:57):
Thank you so much.

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