by Shiloh Osheen
Please welcome Shiloh Osheen to the Writer's Journey Blog!
Mom was always a writer. Maybe it was natural to follow in her footsteps, or maybe it was something I found by chance. I started out learning how to read and write behind grade level and needed extra remedial help. After that extra help and a summer working with Mom, I was eight and reading books intended for people five years older than me.
I had a story in me; a story that’s always been in me. It was bursting at the seams, waiting to be written. I wrote it when I was eight as a four-page disaster on hot-pink paper. I wrote it again, years later, and again and again. I call the draft I wrote in 2017 the “first draft”, but really it’s more like the hundredth draft of the story.
My love affair with unicorns began then, too. Bruce Coville’s “Glory of Unicorns” was a defining book. I fell in love with it. I fell in love further with “Avalon: Web of Magic” by Rachel Roberts; fell in love with every aspect of unicorn lore and knowledge I could find. There are many books about unicorns that I have forgotten about by now or remember only vaguely. A golden corded bracelet: a series of books trying to escape a unicorn hunter; the difficulty to find the wild, untamed unicorns I loved versus the childish pink-and-purple rainbow ones (although I did love those too).
Poetry was even more natural than prose. Poetry didn’t require grammatical restraints, didn’t require ordered word-after-word-in-front-of-word. Poetry could be falling leaves tracing paths on the page, it could be a road not taken, the brilliance of Invictus, Emily Dickenson’s poetry that spoke to me even then and speaks to me more now.
I am a poet, and I am a writer; these things are immutable facts. I’ve known these things since that terrible draft in third grade. I’ve known these things because my fifth grade English teacher who, with tears in her eyes, said “I’m going to be reading what you’ve written in a book one day.”
Other facts are harder. I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until I was 23 and it still feels strange and foreign to call myself autistic. And yet I can see it weave with everything, every story, every history. I was a strong believer in justice. I told a teacher to go to “heck” because she lied to our faces, saying “I’m the most lenient” when she took five of the school dollars instead of one, like the teacher next door. I stood up to bullies and told them to leave people alone. I was weird. I paced the playground alone, always trying to join in with a group and never quite managing. I created a group to exist with, people who were like me and different in some way, but even then, that ended up ending rather explosively.
I exist at a level away from the gender I was assigned at birth. I was a “girly girl” who called myself a “tomboy” because I knew Something Wasn’t Quite Right. I’ve always liked feminine things and florals, but I didn’t actually feel comfortable with my gender until I decided “screw that” and said I was something else. “Woman”, “Miss”, none of these fit. I’m a “person”, a “mx” (“mix”), a genderless entity and I spent several hours panicking over my picture, knowing I’d not look anything like I want to (“fat” and “feminine”, my two dreaded f’s of appearance).
And autism feeds into the rest of me, too. Into every aspect of me being queer (asexual, biromantic/panromantic depending on my mood), into every aspect of how I write, into every aspect of how I relate to the world with metaphor and obfuscation; poetry is my ‘emotion put into words’ which is why it comes so easily. I can expose myself yet have a layer of armor and create false levels of intimacy, write words that anyone could relate to yet speak my truth.
Writing is sanity; it’s a port in the storm. I write because I breathe, I feel, I live.
Every moment I turn my emotions into words. I put my thoughts out on paper and make sure it’s in a story or a poem so that no one ever quite sees the reality of it.
It’s impossible for me to say the when of writing. I would write stories in the margins on my papers, would craft little tales that would come to fruition over several tests and papers for my teachers to read when I’d finished my work early. My teachers humored me in this, and I even had commentary on some of the stories I wrote.
Eventually, I was told to stop. My fifth grade teacher warned me that middle school teachers wouldn’t allow it, and so I finished off my margin stories and never took to it again. Instead, I started carrying around a notebook.
I always had a notebook for my writing and a book for reading. I carried them around all the time in school. There were my school notebooks, of course, where notes and assignments from class went, but then I had my writing notebook. In high school, it turned into a poetry notebook for my poetry club, where I scrawled down assignments for the club or just random thoughts I had. I still wrote stories in it, too.
I write for survival and for clarity. I am a writer. I am autistic and asexual and nonbinary and an absolute mess. I can’t extract myself from the messy lines of my definition, only write about how they make me feel. Most of my poems go unedited, scrawled emotion that I then place in front of someone else. I used to tell people my intentions, but I don’t anymore.
Hearing what other people make of my poetry is far better than trying to fit them in my lines and definitions. I can learn so much about someone with what they read into my words. If it’s not what I intended, well - death to the author. Their intentions create something new.
I want to encourage other people to create. Art, writing, music - whatever drives you, whatever you find... if my words can inspire someone else’s creation, then that’s worthwhile. After all, someone else inspired me.
Unicorn Valley Excerpt:
Nikki Orleaz had dared Isabella Declair to stay a single night in the Ivy House. It was a mean-spirited, cruel dare. It was a dare that was supposed to bring down the pride of a prideful student. Nikki did not expect Isabella to accept, spitting fire as she shook the other’s hand. Even Nikki felt uneasy because to prove the dare she would have to go with her. Anything else would not be proof enough, in the days of Photoshop and digital manipulation.
Accompanying the two life-long enemies would be Rosita Locksley, Isabella's best friend. Isabella and Rosita were polar opposites: fire, rage, and bravery offset with a shy and much more gentle disposition. Isabella, without Rosita's temperance, would probably have gotten into a lot more fights.
On Friday, they would gather their things and meet at the apple tree by the Ivy House after school.
Bio: Shiloh Osheen has written poetry their entire life. They also write stories, primarily in the fantasy genre, but they have dabbled in other genres as well. For them, writing is like breathing - it is both essential and instinctual. They adore their cat daughter, Cinnamon, and hope to have more pets and some human kids after they marry their fiancé. They have published one poetry anthology so far, As Viewed By a Poet Protagonist. Unicorn Valley is their upcoming young adult fantasy novel, slated for Fall 2021.
Poet Protagonist description: As Viewed by a Poet Protagonist is Shiloh Osheen's first book of poetry. It is a collection of some of their older and newer work, all from a deeply emotional place. The poems discuss trauma, abuse, mental illness, autism, and queerness as the author uses them to try to come to terms with how the definition of their 'self' has changed. 'Shiloh will make you feel things you may never have felt before as they explore inner emotions and external observations of life through new eyes. Beauty and pain meld to make a remarkable book of verse. One of Shiloh's poems, 'Beautifully Incomplete,' says it all. This book will open your mind and your heart to new possibilities.' - Ann Christine Tabaka, Poet & Writer