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On Choosing Where To Make Your Stand

(Photo above by V. E. Schwab)

I recently had a rare and precious chance to get a cross-section of public opinion on my act of civil dissent, while remaining largely anonymous (i.e. “that stupid cow in the red hat”). While I’m cultivating a habit to steer clear of internet comments, I waded through this particular minefield in the name of research. Said research was quite rewarding: I found that people’s criticisms usually fell into one of three categories: (1) why aren’t you at work? (2) what is this going to achieve?; and (3) why aren’t you protesting something closer to home?

It’s N3 that I want to talk about. Not the blindingly obvious reasons why I’m protesting against Trump while I’m in the UK. But the connection between protesting and home.

The very notion of home is currently very mercurial for me. I’m a thoroughly globalized Millennial snowflake, and while my passport isn’t fancy enough to let me travel just anywhere without a colonoscopy at the embassy and border visa application process, I don’t have a problem with the idea of uprooting my life and moving to a new country at the drop of a hat. (My bank account may have a problem with it, but that’s a different story.) Any bonds I have to my birth country that’s fighting tooth and nail to be in Europe, and to the soggy island that’s trying to paddle away from it, are forged of people I care about. Whether these people are the family I was born into, the family I found, or the crowds that spend weeks on the barricades at minus twenty Celsius. I sound pretentious as I say it –Millennial snowflakes are expected to – but over the past ten years I’ve become a citizen of the world without trying or noticing.

Citizen of the world, with a Ukrainian passport and a UK residence card. Instead of having one home, I could have three.

Then, one by one, each of these three homes got threatened. Ukraine made it through the revolution, only to spend every day since then fighting back a wannabe Tsar who wants his empire back. The UK, while convulsing all over, decided it’s best to kick out job-holding, tax-paying freeloaders like my husband and me. As for the world, well…


So you tell me where I’m supposed to protest.

Should I go back to Ukraine? What help I could give there I’ve been giving over the past three years, with my knowledge of English, writing skills, and donations to help soldiers. Even when the revolution was happening in the downtown, I wouldn’t have been any more useful on the field than I was at my laptop.

Should I fight for civil rights here in the UK? Conservation in the UK? Labor unions in the UK? Climate change policy in the UK? Any search for campaigning advice will tell you to “get in touch with your MP.” I don’t have an MP. I don’t have a vote in any election that takes place here. Even if the EU citizens had a vote during the Brexit referendum, I still wouldn’t have had one, because I’m from outside the EU.

So I’m left with one just battleground. The world. And make no mistake that the stakes in any protest against The Clockwork Orange in the Oval Office are on the global scale.

The good news is, this is one battleground on which I have power. Here, I don’t need the right to vote. I don’t need representation in any parliament. The requirements are simple: a brain with which to create, and a body with which to show up. I’m a human being. That’s plenty. (In fact, I’m a human being with a fucking internet connection! For this battleground, that’s, like, officer material.)

Go protest at home?


Go protest about something closer to home?


I’m a citizen of the world. I’m a citizen of this goddamn planet.

And this is why I will keep making my stand, on whichever geography, while there’s still geography left to make a stand on.

In the hope that those who have more power than I will take note. And those who have less power than I will take heart.

That Stupid Cow in the Red Hat

If You’re Scared, Put It On A Banner

On January 22nd, I lay awake at 3 am. If you know my nightowl self at all, you’d sooner be surprised by the lying down part than the awake part. But over the past few days, I’d gotten sleep in two-hour scraps around the clock, so I was trying to restore a semblance of a circadian rhythm, hence the early-for-me bed time.

The past week had been a flurry of preparation for the protests on Friday and Saturday. Friday, January 20th saw the first rally I put together myself, to support #BridgesNotWalls worldwide. Saturday the 21st was Women’s March in Liverpool. During the weekend, I made a couple of new friends, talked to more people I usually interact with in a month, was approached by a handful of reporters, and had my first, albeit peaceful, encounter with the police. I made it to two newscasts of local radiostations as well as the regional branch of the BBCan article in the local newspaper, and a Facebook video of the same local newspaper that got some 40k+ views and made a few hundred people very angry.

Photos by Liverpool Echo, myself, and our photographer Simon

The whole experience was gratifying. Following protests on social media is an entirely different experience when you’re also a part of them. Whether or not you see a picture of your event/face crop up somewhere, you feel connected to these hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

But enough with the platitudes, positive as they may be. Here’s the real talk.

When you try and fail to sleep, your brain is your worst enemy. It’s at those moments that all useful feelings – strength, camaraderie, even anger – fade away, and give room to fear. That cold feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you that you can’t really change anything. That it’s all for naught. That all the ill-wishers– actually, let me take a moment and speak to the ill-wishers.

Hello, ill-wishers. Yes, you who slam protesters and activists for being pointless. Guess what – you’re not original. Or did you really think that anything you can say to us we haven’t already heard from ourselves? Spoken in our own voice on sleepless nights, from the dark corner of our minds, from the cold pit of our stomachs? You think your comments are a revelation to us? Then again, I doubt you’ve given it much thought. You just want to give yourself a little meaning at someone else’s expense. You’re pathetic. Moving on.

To battle my 3 am demons, I turned to my vials of light. You know, in The Lord of the Rings, when Galadriel gives Frodo a crystal vial containing the light of a star, and says: “May it be a light to you in the dark places, when all other lights go out.” I have a few vials like that, with distilled memories of certain days that shine brighter than others. When I need some light, I reach for them. Last night, I imagined it very clearly – pulling on a stopper, and watching the memory unfold from its crystal container, flooding my senses. It was a memory of a summer day a few years ago. It helped.


And then, with the vial back on the shelf, I turned back to my 3 am demons, and that was the moment I learned something very important. I figured out why I take action, online and offline – and why I will KEEP doing that, for as long as I possibly can.
I do it because it helps me be less scared. Because you see, the insomniac small hours of the morning always have and always will be full of demons. That’s nothing to worry about. It’s when they spread to your other waking hours that you have a problem. And taking action, it doesn’t banish the demons, doesn’t erase the fear – but it does keep them contained. Shackled to their 3 am prison. Only capable of hurting you when you’re at your weakest.

And when you’re forced to walk through the demons’ dungeon at night, through a corridor that’s so narrow they can claw at you through the bars of their cages – it’s important to know that at the end of this corridor, is another morning. When you will wake up, and take action. And the demons’ cages will slam shut, and stay shut.

Are you feeling scared about the world right now? Drag your demons out into the light. Fight them until you draw blood. Then put it on your banner.

Photo by ghost_with_flowers
Photo by ghost_with_flowers

Dust and Metal – the novel

It is with great joy and much waving of pom-poms that I announce that my debut novel, Dust and Metal, book one in the Firebird Rain series, has been accepted for publication by Driven Press.

Stay tuned for release details and cover previews!

(Psst. The best way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to subscribe to updates. Just punch your email into the little box somewhere to the top left of this post, hit “Subscribe,” and I’ll be dropping into your inbox with news, blogs, and cookies.)

And while you’re waiting, why not pay Driven Press a visit to check our the new releases:

Driven Press Badge

A Song For My Brother

song_cover_tinyA Song For My Brother is a 40-page graphic novelette drawn by Emmi Bat, featuring punk elves, metal unicorns, family drama and forbidden knowledge (dun dun DUN!).
You can buy A Song For My Brother from Level UP!  at the Liverpool Grand Central alternative mall, or shoot me a message to buy from this website:
– GBP 5.00 for a hard copy;
– GBP 2.00 for a digital download (PDF).

This comic debuted at the Thought Bubble 2014 comic convention in Leeds, and was featured in a video review by Pixels and Pages.

Preview below or download the first 10 pages as a PDF:

The Ocean at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange


(Warning: this post will make the most sense to someone who has a) read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman; b) has ever been deeply impacted by someone’s art. (a) is not obligatory, but recommended. (b) is highly desirable, for your sake more than mine.)

This spring, I came back to Edinburgh, for the first time since a very memorable night in 2010. That was the night I met Gerard Way for the first and, so far, only time (I’ve seen his band My Chemical Romance play once before then and three times since, but never got to talk to him again). We exchanged a few words and two-and-a-half high-fives (nerves play havoc with my hand-eye coordination). The whole encounter took no more than two minutes. To date, my only tangible proof that said meeting took place is a packet of cigarettes with a Californian tax stamp, which Gerard had traded me for a pair of goggles that were part of my costume.

Out of context, the meeting itself was hardly anything special. But in the context of my life at the time, it was one of the ‘shining moments’ that make their way into poetry. A perfect alignment of time, space, heart, and soul.

It wasn’t something I could see right away. Moments like that are too big to see when you’re close to them. At the time, all you feel is overwhelmed. Deep down, you know that something strange and wonderful is happening to you, but all you’ve got to show for it is the vague feeling that somewhere, the proverbial stars aligned, the proverbial cogwheels clicked into place.

But as time passes, you look back, and realize, with ever increasing clarity, that you were right. If your life were a universe, that moment was the fleeting instant of perfect universal balance. Bodies in every orbit, from an atom to a galaxy, each in a place that’s inexplicably yet unequivocally right.

Continue reading The Ocean at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange