Thursday, April 19, 2018

Me and My College Artist Friends: Just Stupid Drunk Kids Playing on Swings at 3 AM or Nectar of the Gods: When Art Was Everything 


Forgive typos. As always, I have to voice text due to chronic neck injury.

Jesus. What were we, 22, when this photo of me was taken? My college buddy took it. His name was Mike Adkins, but it still is. (Sort of) His business name is Most Exalted. (He’s online. You’ll find his work if you look)




It was back when I smoked and did stupid things the college kids who think they know shit (they don’t know shit) do, stupid things I would never do now, at 40, yet wish I had that same innocence and naivety that kept me from seeing the danger of said stupid things we did. (And did again)

This is back when Andi (me) was called "Andimal" by her friends, who were all crazy as hell artists. Andi-mal, as in from the Muppets’ character, Animal.

You know, the one who screamed and flailed and growled when he beat his drum set. And his friends had to keep him chained. Because he was really just an animal, afterall, no matter the enthusiasm with which he (loudly) played. He wasn’t dangerous, just in love with the music he played and expressive, maybe a little more boisterous than necessary. Like me.

 

When we would go out to the bars and really show our asses (behaviorlly, not literally), my friends would say, "Do animal, Andi!" And I would growl and yell, "yeah yeah yeah! Beat drum! Beat druuuuuum!" to their uproarious laughter.

It doesn’t seem so funny now. I also was really proud of how well I used to sing Pantera’s "Respect" however- my heavy metal growl always impressing the idiot frat boys who’d stumble down the sidewalk behind us.

I don’t miss the stupid things we did, the trouble we got ourselves into, the moron frat guys and goth and/or idiot skater boys we were SO sure we loved at the time. These losers treated us terribly. But we were stupid, remember? Who knows what we were thinking. (They were hot. That’s what.)
I definitely don’t miss bars. Or wearing the obligatory tight black pants that every girl wore in early 2000‘s with their shining, very tiny, usually backless, almost frontless, tiny top.



We looked like this every weekend. I’m not even exaggerating. One. Bit.
We wore the strappy tops you’d see on Toni Braxton or Ricky Martin’s dance partner in one of his videos. Or Pink and Aguilera. (Pictured)

Man, I miss feeling like we could live forever and always be young, always be fine. I remember when we were overlydramatic, softer but sharper at the same time. Shit was real. It was real real. But it was all a joke to us, too.

Only we didn’t really know it. We took ourselves pretty seriously, not realizing how little we knew. But we believed so whole-heartedly in what we did know (or thought we knew).
And we told the truth about it in our work, which I produced feverishly with the encouragement of my professors who said the most remarkable things, making realities which before seemed so unremarkable, seem amazing.

 Maybe some of these discoveries about the world and writing were more impactful for me than my buddies because I was born and raised in a holler. I didn’t have exposure to much.
I didn’t set foot in a real bookstore until college. The only live music I saw was in garages and at family reunions. I had seen one play as a teenager, "The tell-tale heart" by Poe.
I was a fan of Poe and still recall my heart thumping in excitement when the curtain came up. Going to university and having all these ideas about literature and art shared with me by my teachers, was utterly transforming.

And from this, we wrote a lot of poetry and we took a lot of photos and we painted. We strove to find our voices and to eventually hone them.

We created constantly and we did it for the right, the pure reasons, The reasons that produce only the most honest, raw work, the kind so much more difficult to produce once you reach adulthood and find yourself in a "career" built around these old passions. and we all know careers require us to do things we hate. They require us to do things like self promote, sell our work, build a "brand."
How do you remember why you create if you’re busy doing all that? It’s difficult, let me tell you.
Me and my friends played on swingsets at 3 AM, too dumb to care if we got arrested.



.....then. stumbled into class the next day at Marshall University where we were so inspired by our creative writing and art professors, we couldn’t grasp why or how the hell our professors could ever be jaded with anything. Responsibilities? What’s that?

They gave us the nectar of the gods, which was a mix of disdain for a system we never before understood or knew we’d been, up until then, limited by and also, at once- a sudden urgency and sense of the life or death nature  in creation of original thought and artistic work.
Below is a photo by the same college friend, Mike Adkins. This is a more recent photo he took one of our former professors, Art Stringer.

He was mine (and Mike’s) Poetry Writing Professor and eventually my thesis chair in graduate school. Needless to say, we all love this guy and what he taught us.

He coordinated the visiting writer’s series for so long at Marshall University, they named it after him. Finally- The A.E. Stringer visiting writers series. We are still friends. I doubt he knows how much he gave to us. I doubt any of them know.



The partying, the stupid boys who couldn’t love us "freaks", the drama, none of it mattered. We were artists and it’s all we cared about, really.

Nothing else mattered.

They handed us the keys to the kingdom. And we made things: songs, poems, plays, photographs, paintings and sculptures, and original thought. For some of us, it was the first time in our lives we felt our thoughts, our work, mattered. Then, it suddenly meant everything.

We had loud debates about Philosophy in the middle of calamity café. We had arguments about what made work "bad" or if "bad" existed. Of course, we also argued about stupid shit. Mostly it was the first, though.

I came across that old photo of me, which I adore, and I miss thinking we could live in that free place where we could create anything and we could do it fearlessly and honestly, just how we do now, except with a vividness to our dreams possessed only by drunks, vagrants, and children.
We were adults, but also children. I miss believing art was urgent, life or death and that nothing else could be salvation.

I guess we were maybe 22, if that, when Mike took this photo in my bathroom. I was a young writer with one publication and he was a young photographer, and like me, still unsure and finding his voice.

I remember when my roommate came home, still in her Pizza Hut employee outfit and said, "what the hell?" Then, after I got out, jumped in the tub in her uniform.

That was the same year I filled a baby pool in the middle of our living room floor. Yeah, I don’t know why. It’s how we were. "What the hell?" Really meant, "cool", I think.

They’re different now. We all different now. But the kids are still in there, you can see it our eyes, even in the eyes of our teachers. Look closer.






BIOGRAPHY 

Andrea Fekete recently compiled and edited a collection of poetry and essays by and about women's lives, Feminine Rising (forthcoming Cynren Press, 2019). Her co-editor, (and the subject of the Lara exhibit) is the author of the memoir Girlish (SkyHorse Press 2018), Lara Lillibridge.

Andrea Fekete is granddaughter to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants and a native of the southern West Virginia coalfields and yes, an actual coalminer’s daughter. She is a proud "Man High Hillbilly."

She is author of the novel of the WV coal mine wars, Waters Run Wild (Sweetgum Press, 2010) and poetry chapbook I Held a Morning (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Waters Run Wild has served as course material in several universities and can still be purchased at the famous Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia in Beckley, WV or on amazon.com.

Her fiction and poetry often appear in journals such as Chiron Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Kentucky Review, Montucky Review, Adirondack Review, ABZ, and in such anthologies as Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. (WVU Press, 2017)

In 2016, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation funded her three-week stay at the famous artist retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She earned her MA from Marshall University and MFA in Creative Writing from WV Wesleyan College.

Currently, she is seeking a publisher for her newest novel-in-progress, Native Trees, set in her hometown of Buffalo Creek, West Virginia.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Helping Your Chronically Ill Friends: Notes from an Endometriosis Patient 

Note: My exhibit "Letters to Lara: Letters to My Best Friend on Endometriosis" is up until the end of April 2018 at Taylor Books in Charleston, WV. This is your last week to see it there. For questions, I will be there for Charleston's Art Walk Thursday, April 19 until 6 or so. (Art walk is 5-8)

The Lara Exhibit will also appear at Make: Community Art Gallery in Barboursville, WV May 31st. I’ll be speaking on that date for their Art Walk Event at 7:30.  

I want the exhibit hosted in other galleries in West Virginia. I’m hoping it can travel to educate as many women as possible. The exhibit includes rough language. If you're interested in it, please be advised there is cursing and graphic imagery.


If you are a gallery owner or person who can help help make that happen, please contact me, Andrea, at feketeandi1@gmail.com





Photo: Letters to Lara Exhibit at Taylor Books in Charleston,WV
See it April 2018


This exhibit wasn’t for me or for art’s sake but for education. I'm not a visual artist, but an author. I had no idea what I was doing. I even had to ask local artists how to hang these pieces which are made of simple plywood (mostly). It was scary and challenging to build but I know educating women is important, especially women in West Virginia, where we are uninformed and have fewer resources.

This exhibit isn't just about endometriosis, however. It's mostly about chronic illness/pain and what I wish my friends had known at the time, what I think you need to know now if you have a chronically ill loved one.

This disease, endometriosis, affects some women 24/7, NOT just around their period. I went years without a diagnosis. For more on endo, see the Endometriosis Foundation of America  I was finally treated with 2 surgeries (a year apart) Lupron, and Provera, all of which I cite for my current near-symptom free state. Many women who do not have total hysterectomies (I retained my ovaries) do have a recurrence and I’m fearful I will. But I’m vigilant. I have new adhesions that cause pain but I am so much improved that I honestly can’t complain at all (well, not too much).

I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis in 2015 after years of puzzling symptoms and asking the wrong specialists (who didn’t believe me) for help. By the way, not being believed is pretty common for endometriosis patients.

Doctors outside of women's health aren't usually educated about the disease and even gynecologists can even be misinformed. Just read about this woman who had it in her lungs. I'm sure I do as well but Lupron and surgery has seemed to really change my life.

My journey is a long story and that’s why my exhibit "Letters to Lara: Letters to my Best Friend on Endometriosis" is filled with my own surgeon’s photos, selfies from home, and daily email spanning three years, to my best friend, Lara Lillibridge. This is Lara. She's an author, too.



The exhibit focuses on the isolation of chronic illness and how patients feel trapped inside their disease. The interior of the exhibit represents a "home." The "walls" of the home are made up of paintings. Every piece in the "home" says something else about being chronically ill. The nightgowns and "hospital socks" on the clothesline. The TV dinner tray holding a poem. The chair covered in screws. My entire exhibit is covered in "adhesions" to demonstrate how my pain is what kept me trapped.

Had I viewed an exhibit like this one, it could’ve changed my life. But to see it, I would've had to venture out of my home (aka jail cell). For two years, I almost never left my house before my final surgery in November 2016. Had someone else built this, I would've felt less alone. I would've felt more comfortable reaching out to others. I definitely would have realized what was wrong with me body and immediately spoke with my doctor. THAT is why I built it.

I may even have stayed and spoke to people at an exhibit like this. Wouldn’t that have been nice, to speak to people in real life and not online! I was alone almost all the time, living in a new town. I had a few old friends who I spoke to occasionally, but when you’re that ill, you feel like a burden and it’s hard to ask someone to come visit. Sometimes people would say "let me know if you need anything." I never did.

The two years I sat at home alone avoiding life, were the darkest and most frightening of my life. I mainly spoke to old friends and family on the phone and online. Without those people, I’m not sure what I’d have done.



To loved ones of chronically ill: 

If you know someone with this disease or any chronic illness, don’t judge. Be a friend. Please remember they may not get better (some aren’t as lucky as me). They may complain a lot or they may hide it. But they need the help you say you’re offering.

Facebook comments and "prayers" and emojis smiling are nice. If I complained online, I got those. But I needed in-person comments and smiles more, though and I bet someone you know who is chronically ill does, too. It's not easy to ask for company when you don't feel like you are any fun to be around.

They’re afraid to ask. I’m asking for them. Go see them for a few moments. Invite them out, even if they say no.

Offer to help in a specific way so they don’t feel guilty. Instead of "let me know if you need anything" (they won’t let you know) say, "I’ll bring you some food tomorrow if you don’t have plans for lunch" or "I’d be happy to give you a ride to your next appointment if you need" or "Can I help you around the house this evening?"

Sick people can look very healthy (I did) even when their body is miserable. You wouldn’t have known I was nauseated with every bite. That I was in pain with every step. That I was going to the bathroom every hour to pee. (Not embarrassing to me to say. The bladder is just another organ)
You don’t know what people are experiencing. I can’t tell you the number of times I felt angry when a receptionist was rude or somebody made some comment about how I looked fine. Or a doctor looked at me like I was crazy or drug-seeking.



It all made me feel so much worse. This exhibit or disease will never be a primary focus in life as rehashing this stuff is painful and can be embarrassing. But I hope some of my rehashing helps someone’s friend offer them help today but be specific, so it’s more than just words.

I hope you go see my exhibit and if you can, learn something about chronic illness. I hope you tell a woman you love about it and take her a brochure from the Endometriosis Foundation of America (I have them there) and I hope we begin talking about chronic conditions such as endometriosis as often as beast cancer. Endo is much more common. And, over 70% of suicides are related to uncontrollable chronic pain. Did you know that? (Source)

One endo advocate did finally end her life. She had multiple surgeries and kept getting new adhesions with each surgery. I’m lucky my surgeon is quite gifted and I have not and hopefully will not need more. I am much improved and grateful.

This disease is real. It’s serious. 1 in 10 women have it. And some women are dying at their own hand or losing their ability to have children because of it. You’d never believe me if I told you over 60% of General practitioners don’t feel confident in their abilities when treating an endo patient. (Source)

Many doctors outside women's health, even some OB/GYNs, don’t know the most unusual facts about this disease. The myths are many. There's little attention.There are marches but nobody talks about them.




There is no checklist or non-invasive method to screen for it in place. Id like to see that changed.

Ask yourself why you know more about diseases that affect men that are (comparatively) rare but you don’t know about this very common woman’s disease. What a shame. 

Endometriosis takes an average of 3-11 years to accurately diagnose. (Source) That's a shame and it needs changed. But until your loved one has her miracle surgery (like I did), be there for her. Pick up the phone. Invite her for coffee. You can’t fix her pain but you can set with her through it.


LINKS/SOURCES

Please see The Endometriosis Foundation for America's exhaustive resources for information at https://www.endofound.org

Endometriosis.Org

Memorial Page to Fallen Endo Sisters

Visit the "artist"- Andrea Fekete on Facebook: http://facebook.com/andreafeketewv
Visit the "Lara" - in "Letters to Lara" Exhibit: http://laralillibridge.com






Pictured: Pieces from Letters to Lara





BIOGRAPHY 

Andrea Fekete recently compiled and edited a collection of poetry and essays by and about women's lives, Feminine Rising (forthcoming Cynren Press, 2019). Her co-editor, (and the subject of the Lara exhibit) is the author of the memoir Girlish (SkyHorse Press 2018), Lara Lillibridge.

Andrea Fekete is granddaughter to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants and a native of the southern West Virginia coalfields and yes, an actual coalminer’s daughter. She is a proud "Man High Hillbilly."

She is author of the novel of the WV coal mine wars, Waters Run Wild (Sweetgum Press, 2010) and poetry chapbook I Held a Morning (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Waters Run Wild has served as course material in several universities and can still be purchased at the famous Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia in Beckley, WV or on amazon.com.

Her fiction and poetry often appear in journals such as Chiron Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Kentucky Review, Montucky Review, Adirondack Review, ABZ, and in such anthologies as Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. (WVU Press, 2017)

In 2016, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation funded her three-week stay at the famous artist retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She earned her MA from Marshall University and MFA in Creative Writing from WV Wesleyan College.

Currently, she is seeking a publisher for her newest novel-in-progress, Native Trees, set in her hometown of Buffalo Creek, West Virginia.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Letter to my Asshole Artist Friends 

This shittily-edited, voice-texted (due to chronic neck pain) post is dedicated to all my artist friends.

I love my artist friends, those I know well and acquaintances, too.

I support my artist friends AND I’m also the happy-to-help-you-move friend. Wow. I’m almost a perfect human. 

The one quality I’ve never lacked, among all the (many) qualities I definitely lack, is my sincere enthusiasm in supporting my asshole artist friends. 

I do this in a pure way, not in a suck up way where I support someone just so they’ll support me. 

We’ve all been used for something, though, right? For our connections, what we could do for someone else. Money. Sex. Our tanning bed. Whatever.

I encourage my artist friends. I mean it when I say, kick some ass, man. I genuinely want them to do well, not just because they are my friends, though that’s definitely a big part of it, but because every artist adds something to the collective conversation about life and the answer to oh, what does it all mean???

Every artist has a a point-of-view, offers some commentary or raises some question about art or life. 

Questions like What’s funny? What’s not? What do those words even mean? Do they mean anything? What is "good" art? What’s "bad" art? Is there a such thing? And if there is, does it matter? Etc. etc.

These answers (or lack of) impact the production of work throughout the artistic community. No one’s work is ever a "waste." 

Even if your writing pisses me off or annoys me or your visual art disgusts me– you have played a part in shaping my own work or at least moved me to think. Thinking is the first part of creation. (I think?) 

What if someone told you why you’re really here and the answer was actually, "There is no deeper meaning of life. You’re not here for any particular purpose. You sir, are nothing more than the fantasy of a toad asleep by a river in one of God’s dreams."

Oh, shit. That’s deep. 

Y’all realize I’m just goofing off now, right? (Mostly)

The only meaning to life is the pursuit of that meaning through art and even if the answer to life is that I’m a toad by a river in some god’s dream, I’m happy croaking beside my asshole artist friends.

My friends help and inspire me most by making their own art, sharing it, talking to me about theirs or mine, and occasionally arguing with me about it (as they should). 

Which brings me to explain why I call my artist friends asshole artist friends.

I call my artist friends assholes because they challenge me to be original, constantly. They remind me I need to write. They give me ideas without even trying. They make me feel that urge to say something. In other words, they don’t let me get lazy. 

Ugh. Assholes.

True, some of my friends are dramatic, sensitive, messy, goofy, stubborn, eccentric, grouchy, and/or sometimes contrary just for sake of being contrary. 

I have NEVER been any of those things.

That is a complete lie. 

We are assholes. We challenge each other and sometimes disagree.

My point is, inspiration comes from my artist friends each time I speak to them, sometimes when I just look at their work. I get emails from my friend and memoirist, Lara Lillibridge, almost daily and talking with another writer that closely has changed me and my work forever.

Something that just has to be there. The other day, the conversation with a new friend saved my interest in living a fully present life, at least, for now. I’ve been struggling with sobriety again. This Has never been a secret. My having a problem with indulging too often in alcohol from time to time. I relapsed and now I’m back in the saddle. Again. 

She’s a very new friend of mine, who is going through a very difficult period in her life, (we both are). She showed me her photography. 

 They were of abandoned buildings. Abandoned kitchens and bathrooms. Abandon floors, sinking into the earth. A photo of a book, it’s Pages curled around it like a dying octopus. Or A gnarled up, rotting tree branches.

For a moment, we both forgot about the problems that have recently been dogging us.

Marijean sat beside the window, and that she talked about the words she plans on hanging in between these photos for an installation, with such passion and confidence and love for the ideas these buildings conjured in her heart, I began feeling hopeful.

 I noticed the light from outside illuminating her hair, a dark brown, and the tiny baby hairs everyone has on their cheeks that you can’t see except when the sun or a spotlight hits a person just so. Her love for her work glowed. I couldn’t help but notice the light, both literal and figurative.

She was explaining to me how memories exist in buildings and in the bones of those structures and in the wall paper of the rooms that used to surround the former inhabitants, people who are now quite possibly dead, who loved each other and argued and once existed mainly to keep each other alive and love each other. 

Like us, they got up in the morning and went to work and made money soley to buy the food that would be cooked on the stove that is now sinking into the rotting floor. I was so touched because I had just written something about that in my new novel, about the idea of place holding memory of what once seemed so immediate, so urgent and permanent.

We talked about what I call heart-memories, emotion imprinted, left behind like residue inside these structures, memories of the intense emotions that once chained inside the people who once lived inside these buildings, these now empty, quiet rooms. 

I think that was a run-on sentence but you get my point.

As she sat there talking about what she sees and how she wants to convey the way what she sees makes her feel, she reminded me – the pursuit of art is the meaning of life, for people like us, artists. 

The pursuit of meaning is the meaning of art. We are here to create. And all of us artists are artists well before we even paint the first painting or write the first song or dance the first dance. Before we even produce anything, as children, we know there something we want to tell. 

We are here to tell it to and for each other. 

We are here to find each other in the dark and leave behind heart memories, residue on the walls that cannot be scrubbed away, not ever, like the silhouettes in Hiroshima. And those will inspire future artist. artists tell man what’s really happening to him, don’t they?

And thank you to my friend Mike. He told me today, "Andi, you don’t want to be a damn cliché. I never want to have to say to anyone yeah, my friend Andi was a damn good writer, but she drank herself to death. You have to die of misadventure and drinking isn’t that."

"It would be cliché wouldn’t it," I replied.

"Yeah man, fucking cliché," he said.

Yep. Cliche. Could an artist be anything worse?

So today, which is all I have power over, today I didn’t drink. I didn’t drink because my friends reminded me, I still have things to see and ways to feel about what I see and I have to find new ways to tell these stories. 

Maybe people will read them and maybe they’ll look harder at their surround and figure out what they see, too, and they’ll feel something all their own. 

Maybe the heart-memories they leave behind in the rooms where they live and love, will have some small piece of what I taught them and I’ll get to be part of it. I’ll get to leave behind some small speck of love, too. Something. But we’ll all still stand, forever, even as our bodies and surround crumble around us. 

Thanks, artist friends. For challenging me.

I love y’all assholes.




Monday, February 26, 2018

Memories of an Unborn Camp Kid: The Inherited Trauma of the Buffalo Creek Flood  

My newest novel, Native Trees, might be the first novel to be published (if it is) about daily life in the 2000s in Buffalo Creek written by an actual person from that sliver of a valley in West Virginia, instead of by somebody from outside studying us as if we are butterflies pinned behind glass.

I’m a native of Buffalo Creek, West Virginia. That’s where the man-made (coal company-made) Buffalo Creek flood killed over 100 people. 

The stories of home matter to me, because coalfield people are so often misunderstood, not to mention exploited, historically. 

My family does well back home, renting rooms to Hatfield McCoy trailriders. They have a lively business and jobs and make a good living. My parents love home. 

Today, February 26th, is the anniversary of the Infamous Flood. 

West Virginia has been the subject of my fiction since 1999. But I don’t tell the story of the Flood in my novel. I’m not comfortable doing so, because it isn’t my story. 

Maybe I have a special reverence to those whose story it is because I grew up with these people, they raised me. They’re not some chapter in a book to me. They’re real people whose stories I’m not personally comfortable telling. But that’s just how I feel about it. 

My new novel about modern life in Buffalo Creek, Native Trees, (which I really hope gets published. I won’t self publish because I’m stubborn as hell and broke) just tells the story of a child born to survivors. It’s the only story about home I’m comfortable telling.

I’m not a survivor of the Buffalo Creek Flood, but this post is about the children of survivors and that’s me. 

You’re going to see lots of people online with no real connection to my home talking about the Flood today. They should. It’s infamous.

It’s one of the worst man-made disasters in US history. But lots of people with connections will be talking today, too, because it was just 1972. There’s a Facebook group called Memories of the Buffalo Creek Flood, if you want to hear their stories. 

I want to share what the story means to me, as someone who grew up with a story she didn’t see unfold with their own eyes, but who “sees” it, nonetheless.

I wasn’t born yet when the Flood happened. I was born in 1978, but like almost every Buffalo Creeker I know, I feel the history in my veins, almost able to see the destruction behind my eyes when I close them when I hear a survivor speak of the Flood. I only speak for me, even though I do have friends who feel the same way. 

There is one thing I won’t ever do when I find a publisher for Native Trees and that is claim that I speak for anyone. I do however, speak from that shared body of experience as one raised in a place shrouded in a traumatic past. My main character in my novel about Buffalo Creek is around my age, 40. The year is 2015.

My character Honeybee (aka Harper Jordon) has a lot to say about her home and about growing up with a sense of darkness. She gets this from me, of course.

Trauma doesn’t define who we are. Obviously. But there was a shadow over me being raised in Buffalo Creek. 

As a writer, I am endlessly fascinated by how this shared shadow helped mold us camp kids from Buffalo Creek into who we are, us kids who weren’t even around for the Flood but who feel some strange deep down black undercurrent of sadness and anger when they see photos of houses in trees and railroad tracks wrapped around their trunks. And all because the coal company was greedy as Hell.

Pfft. What’s new? Just read about the Upper Big Branch Disaster. Don Blankenship was convicted of his role in killing all those men. Now, he’s running for office.

And in West Virginia, money rules. Just ask Lissa Lucus, who was tossed out of the state Capitol for pointing it out. The video went viral. I’m sure the asshole will win. 

Although I’ve lived in the urban centers of West Virginia for 20 years since I left for college, Buffalo Creek is my original home. My grandparents, mom and Dad and all my aunts, and uncles were there for the Flood. Many of them still live there.

My poor dad, who was only maybe 23 at the time, helped clean up after the Flood. I only heard him talk more than a few minutes about it a few years ago when my nephew interviewed him for a school assignment about the Flood.

My nephew had the same visible reaction I did when he heard the story. I felt sorry for my dad. Angry for my family, too, and all those who died because of coal company overt greed and negligence.

And I’m still pissed about the resulting crap “reparations” given to victims.

Dad told us how the victims’ bodies were laid in the school gymnasium floor, which served as a makeshift mourge. I grew up knowing that part already. “The bodies looked awful,” he said, “just awful.”

He even had to help get someone out from under a railroad track. 

I hate Don Blankenship and those like him with such a vengeance, West Virginia Public Radio once told me an essay I’d written about it was “too opinionated” for their program where West Virginians talk about West Virginia.

I take it as a compliment, I guess. Ha.

When I was a teenager, decades after the Flood, my peers would run up and down that same gym floor that was once a makeshift mourge, their sneakers squeaking as they dribbled the ball while we cheered and stomped, as if that floor had never been anything but a place for play and showing off athletic skill, and sometimes a scuffle when Man and Logan players’ mutual competition-born hate took over after a foul.

I don’t know if I ever sat in that gym without thinking about it. 

I feel emotional when I see photos or hear stories because it has been a part of my consciousness since a young age. I don’t recall a time in my life not knowing about the Flood. Kind of how nobody really remembers the first time they had ice cream or swung on a porch swing.

Dad has a newspaper from after the Flood and photos in this dresser. I studied that stack of black-and-white photos and that old, tattered yellowed Logan Banner many times as a kid.

Each time I looked at them, the only thing that seemed to age was me, the immediacy and shocking rawness of that history felt the same.

I was a naturally curious child, but perhaps unnaturally intrigued by experiences of others, addicted almost, at a young age, to recreating, in my mind, what went on in other people’s lives and minds. 

An artist’s job is to study the surround. Apparently, I was a writer, an artist, before I knew how to spell, even before ever demolishishing my first set of crayons how all kids do. You know, how every single one ends up either broken in half or worn down to a nub. 

I was in 1st or 3rd grade when I took the 1972 newspaper about the Flood to school to show my class. At age 6ish, I felt like the newspaper glowed, like some special treasure, documents almost holy. I was afraid of tears, so handled it as carefully as a girl that little could. I didn’t understand why. 

I just knew my parents guarded them reverently and everyone talked about the Flood. All the adults had stories. And I grew up on them.

Some stories were like my Mom and Dad’s, how they came down off of the mountain the day after the flood, having been staying with someone else who lived above the valley up on Kelly Mountain or somewhere else safe when it happened. Other stories were about people who were actually in the flood.


That’s my mom and Dad. Terry and Tita. Mom’s daddy was from Mexico, so I think that’s why he called her Tita instead of her legal name Christina. I should ask that. I like the details.

And below, here’s me and Mom. My mom is still pretty and about that same size. I’m no longer fat.


When I was six, the thin, yellowed newspaper felt like dried out onion-skin in my small, clumsy fingers. And why are kids’ hands always so sweaty? My fingers stuck to the pages that were nearly transparent, like moth wings.

When I looked at the photos, I felt some sort of awe, like I was looking into something deep down, like maybe a dark, secret well all the adults guarded.

Much to my parents horror, when I took the newspaper to school, I had my classmates sign it as if it were a yearbook, some important, relic to be used as a gathering place for the scribbled names of those people to whom I belonged—my friends who shared our story. 

We still have that paper. I’ll have to post a photo of it when I go home again. 

I think as a future artist, I instinctively knew history like this man-made, coal company-made Flood, bonds human spirits together— those who survived the black waves of coal slurry and those whom were cradled in their wombs (or dreams). I was still a dream when Mom and Dad came off the mountain and stood there and just looked and looked.

“It looked like a war-zone. An actual war-zone,” Dad had said. I never have heard Mom talk about it. But that’s ok.

The Buffalo Creek Flood is part of my history, my DNA, one of the main threads throughout the tapestry of who I am as a human who grew up out of the dirt there.


I had a billion cousins. This is my mom’s side, the Ojeda’s. I’m the fat dollbaby in the front. My brother, Johnny, is just behind me to my left. (Your right) I follow all of them on social media and get to talk to my cousins every now and then. 

Everyone from home is thinking about the Flood today. Appalachian writing is pretty hip now, so every artist from WV is, too. 

It’s a shared experience. No experiences seem so important as those shared.

The stories of the survivors are amazing, terrifying. You can hear those stories in some museums and back home, too. Today, they’re gathering at the library today to talk and listen to my high school teacher, Mr. Dickerson, give a lecture about the Flood how he does every year. 

But other than busy gathering-rooms and on radio programs, there are other more fractured, mysterious chapters to the story recorded in places much quieter than photos and newspapers—in our psyches.

We, the children of Flood survivors, are the StoryKeepers of our parents, even if we never talk about it. We won’t forget. We can’t go anywhere and leave the story back home.

It is what it is, as they say.

I grew up resentful as hell of the coal companies since this Flood was their doing. I grew up resentful of anyone who might make jokes about my home, a place with a past people outside of the coalfields couldn’t and won’t ever fully understand. 

I also despise those who treat us like a lost tribe of freaks to be studied. I won’t put a link here to the more condescending photographers who visit Appalachia.

They can’t possibly understand what it’s like to carry this history inside your body. I walked into university at 18 and ws teased for my accent. I was asked ignorant questions about whether we wore shoes or not. I was even informed our high school mascot “Man Hillbillies” was offensive because it perpetuates stereotypes.

They didn’t know our mascot wasn’t a person but a Billie goat. “Sorry (not sorry) we offend you,” I should’ve said.


I didn’t know I was “Appalachian” until people who aren’t working class Appalachian or aren’t from the region at all pointed out my separateness. 

But you can’t come from a place like I do and not be separate, not be “other.” 

I have a relative who my niece says still cries sometimes when it rains hard, how it did for three days before the Flood. Our survivors won’t ever heal, not really. How could anyone.

That’s how we grew up. We were witnesses to the damage, bearers of the anger towards those who did this to our parents. 

That’s all. I don’t have a beautiful, poetic ending for this post. There wasn’t one to the story of the Flood. Isn’t one. I can’t make one up.

I will say to my elders, I’m sorry if I (we) didn’t understand you better when we were kids. PTSD, etc. and how the trauma surely shaved off some of your happy edges. (Thanks, Lara Lillibridge, for that expression)

This is my poem that I dedicate to my parents and all my Buffalo Creek friends and family. You have my greatest condolences and sympathy. 

Be good to yourselves today. 

This poem was first published in the Charleston Anvil of Charleston, West Virginia  In 2016:

————————————————-

GRAVETSTONES IN BUFFALO CREEK, WEST VIRGINIA MARKED FEBRUARY 26, 1972

go unvisited mostly. Us kids knew about the Flood, the one the coal company made but told the papers it was an Act of God. 

That freezing dark February morning when black water-wall rumbled through the valley, 

people still sleeping, snoring, waking to the crash of trees, snapping. What was the final sound?  

We played in graveyards as kids. As teenagers we smoke cigarettes, leaning against trees in the middle of the silence, unafraid of ghosts.  

BELOVED HUSBAND BELOVED MOTHER DAUGHTER  

SON and the little ones ASLEEP WITH THE ANGELS. February 26 February 26 February 26

February 26 small lambs of stone lambs sleeping on the small ones: February 26. 

We couldn’t imagine their prayers, didn’t know

their faces, nicknames or voices,but we knew it was a sin to walk on the swells of dirt.

Copyright 2016 by Andrea Fekete 

————————————————-

I won’t post photos. I don’t want to upset family or any other survivors. Here is a link for more information.

Instead I will post a photo of my youngest niece. It isn’t a picture of me, but when I think of my happy childhood in Buffalo Creek, it looks a lot like this—back in the 80s when Buffalo Creek was very different, when my world as a camp kid was safe, and happy, even among the ghosts, my home was light and laughter, and mostly green. 



BIOGRAPHY 

Andrea Fekete is granddaughter to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants and a native of the southern West Virginia coalfields and yes, an actual coalminer’s daughter. She is a proud "Man High Hillbilly."

She is author of the novel of the WV coal mine wars, Waters Run Wild (Sweetgum Press, 2010) and poetry chapbook I Held a Morning (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Waters Run Wild has served as course material in several universities and high schools. 

Her fiction and poetry often appear in journals such as Chiron Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Kentucky Review, Montucky Review, Adirondack Review, ABZ, and in such anthologies as Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. (WVU Press, 2017)

In 2016, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation funded her three-week stay at the famous artist retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She earned her MA from Marshall University and MFA in Creative Writing from WV Wesleyan College.

Currently, she is seeking a publisher for her newest novel-in-progress Native Trees. She is also currently seeking a publisher for the anthology of women's writing Feminine Rising: Voices of Power & Invisibility, which she co-edited with the author of the memoir Girlish (SkyHorse Press 2018), Lara Lillibridge.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

City of Charleston, You’re Wrong: Kitty Pinto Bean is Innocent! 

The City of Charleston, West Virginia is trying to fine me thousands of dollars for something my teenager hasn’t done. 

I’d like to defend my poor, innocent stripe-faced, sweet teenage kitty, who only occasionally bites me, (and only certain  people who try to sit on her sofa), Pinto Bean.

Bean pouch! 

Someone spray paints the word “Bean” all over Charleston, defacing city property. I’ve received hate mail over this. The mayor is angry. I am sick of these rumors and accusations!

I know why judgmental people suspect her. She’s a teenager and unlike many teens who strive for popularity, she’s a very independent thinker. She’s a free spirit who almost never follows the crowd. 


She does NOT drink the koolaid. 

She wears a lot of black. True. But not ALL teenagers who wear black are trouble makers and it’s normal for ALL teens to have an occasional emotional outburst when someone tries to pee with the door closed or doesn’t let them out of the house and back in and back out......and back in again and back out and then back in.

 (And also out)


Pinto-drawer!

People have been accusing her of doing drugs. That’s terrible! She only experimented with catnip ONCE. And only because of peer pressure from the local strays! She does not spend time out back by the trash cans anymore. 

She’s a great kitty, very accomplished for her age. She gets very good grades in chorus, which she practices every morning without fail between the hours of 5 and 7 AM, with a resounding yowl that almost never wakes the neighbors. 

She never misses practice in gymnastics. You should just see her leap from the floor and bounce sideways off ALL the chairs and sofas around 3 AM. 


Bean chair!

She’s very thoughtful and loves her mommy and grandparents. A budding chef, she leaves mice on the porch all the time!! Feline delinquents would never be so sweet.

I demand the city of Charleston apologize to me and my Pinto Bean, immediately! Pinto promises not to sue the city for emotional distress only if she receives full reparations of no less than 3 toy mice, one package of treats, and for some reason, exactly 2 pieces of loose string, one bottle cap small enough to lose under the stove, people-food she will not want after she rubs her nose on it and chews it once before spitting it out onto the hardwood floor, and an empty box.


Bean box!!!


Maybe THEN we can all kiss and makeup. 



Andrea Fekete is granddaughter to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants and a native of the southern West Virginia coalfields and yes, an actual coalminer’s daughter. She is a proud "Man High Hillbilly."

She is author of the novel of the WV coal mine wars, Waters Run Wild (Sweetgum Press, 2010) and poetry chapbook I Held a Morning (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Waters Run Wild has served as course material in several universities and high schools. Her fiction and poetry often appear in journals such as Chiron Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Kentucky Review, Montucky Review, Adirondack Review, ABZ, and in such anthologies as Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. (WVU Press, 2017)

In 2016, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation funded her three-week stay at the famous artist retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She earned her MA from Marshall University and MFA in Creative Writing from WV Wesleyan College.

Currently, she is seeking a for her newest novel-in-progress Native Trees. She is also currently seeking a publisher for the anthology of women's writing Feminine Rising: Voices of Power & Invisibility, which she co-edited with the author of the memoir Girlish (SkyHorse Press 2018), Lara Lillibridge.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Help Get House Bill 2106 on the Agenda, West Virginia

I am a survivor of violence. This is my story.

12 years ago, I walked into a courthouse in West Virginia and asked for a restraining order against my then boyfriend, days after he choked me. The clerk told me my protective order was still active. I informed her I never  had one.
Turns out, his ex-wife did. I had no idea he had a long history of violence against women.
My abuser was convicted of assaulting us both, receiving only one year of home confinement for multiple related offenses including restraining order violations. Before it was all over, he would assault me a second time.

Finally, after all that, the next warrant issued was a felony. He ran the night the sheriff knocked on his door and was never found.

This felony warrant will remain active for the remainder of his life. I still hope one day he will be brought to justice. Until then, there are other women out there who don’t know his pattern.
The next victim may not be so lucky as to wake up after he chokes her like his wife did, or to escape his chokehold and run, like I did. His ex-wife and my story were years apart but eerily similar, as were the stories previous partners had alleged but never officially reported. No doubt, they were too afraid.

I told my story to Delegate Pushkin and shared with him my idea of creating a registry for domestic violence reoffenders. In 2016, he introduced the Central Abuse Registry Bill.  (HB 2106)

Unfortunately, it did not make it on the agenda. Right now, Delegate Pushkin needs your support for the Central Abuse Registry Bill this upcoming legislative session. Think domestic violence offenders only abuse their partners? Not so.

Domestic violence offenders are the same violent men who commit mass shootings, such as the Las Vegas shooter of 2017.

As if it isn’t horrifying enough that three women a DAY are murdered by partners and exes, these same men (and women) murder their own children, co-workers, first-responders, family members, and neighbors. They are also more likely to abuse animals.

But do you know who they are? Frighteningly, you don’t. These people don’t wear signs.
What if your daughter just met him? What if you were considering asking him to coach Little League? What if you are considering renting a room to her? Hiring a tutor for your son? This information would be free to request. And it should be!

The Central Abuse Registry is already used to protect the elderly from caretakers with a history of abuse. This bill would amend the already existing registry to include domestic violence repeat offenders.

The information police need to list offenders on the registry is already compiled by local officers and submitted periodically to state law enforcement, so work in creating this registry would be minimal. It already exists; we just want to add to the demographic it protects.

Perhaps it wouldn’t deter future violence. Perhaps it wouldn’t protect anyone.But what if it does?
And what if that someone is your child, your parent, your brother or your best friend?
Please contact your representatives today, West Virginia, by email or phone, and ask them to put the Central Abuse Registry Bill on the agenda this 2018 session! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

CALL AND ASK THE CENTRAL ABUSE REGISTRY BILL (HB 2106) BE PUT ON THE AGENDA


Andrea Fekete is granddaughter to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants and a native of the southern West Virginia coalfields. She is a proud "Man High Hillbilly."
She is author of the novel Waters Run Wild (Sweetgum Press, 2010) and poetry chapbook I Held a Morning (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Waters Run Wild has served as course material in several universities and high schools. Her fiction and poetry often appear in journals such as Chiron Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Kentucky Review, Montucky Review, Adirondack Review, ABZ, and in such anthologies as Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. (WVU Press, 2017)
In 2016, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation funded her three-week stay at the famous artist retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She earned her MA from Marshall University and MFA in Creative Writing from WV Wesleyan College.
Currently, she is seeking a for her newest novel-in-progress Native Trees. She is also currently seeking a publisher for the anthology of women's writing Feminine Rising: Voices of Power & Invisibility, which she co-edited with the author of the memoir Girlish (SkyHorse Press 2018), Lara Lillibridge.
She lives and writes in West Virginia.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Stigmatizing Mental Illness on the Internet: When YouTube Becky's Spread Misinformation (Social Responsibility Not Included. YouTube Ken Sold Separately.)

NOTE: You can read more about the stigma surrounding mental illness and how to overcome it on Mayo Clinic’s website. If you suffer from mental illness, you’re not alone. You can get help. See the National Alliance for Mental Illness Top 25 HelpLine Resources.

There’s a new video by yet another young, highly attractive internet “star” making the rounds on social media. Her rant about mental illness being all in your head, is going sickeningly viral.

She’s super pretty, super opinionated, and her new video is super terrible. I don’t want to send more traffic her way, so I’ll just refer to her as YouTube Becky. She's internet famous, but I think that's about all she is.



              Wait, "internet" famous? Are there other kinds?

In her video, she demonstrates an extremely basic (sort of) grasp of concepts found in neuroscience to support her equally extremely basic ideas related to mental illness and its treatment options. She presents her unoriginal opinion as scientific fact.

She goes against reputable medical authorities by stating that depression and mental illness is not only, in her words, “all in your head” but self-curable trough “positive thinking.”

She scoffs at the use of proven treatments, shaming those who do use or consider using them. She dumps blame for their own suffering on the burdened shoulders of people with potentially debilitating mental illnesses. Every word of her speech is dripping with condescension and sarcasm.

Internet stars like YouTube Becky's and YouTube Ken's are dime a dozen. They influence what viewers think. There really isn't any way to stop them. But I'm going to try to put a ding in the armor of the ignorant hoards of Internet Talking Heads right now.

Remember back when someone else (besides you) had to think you knew what the hell you were talking about before granting you a massive audience? I do.

This is the late Walter Cronkite. He was a famous newsman. He's from the mythical time when nobody watched television 24 hours a day and you had to answer the telephone to see who it was.

And also, people in the media were expected to know things. And if you didn't know things, you probably weren't going to be heard by millions.


                                         
             I'm sorry, Mr. Cronkite, but that’s just not the way it is, anymore

Now, no one is filtered out. Everyone has power to persuade. Anyone can pretend to be an expert on any topic they choose.

And people will believe them.

It’s a beautiful thing that we can now publish ourselves, our own books, music, and art. We can broadcast ourselves over podcast. We can take photos and blast them out into the internet ether. It's amazing. I love it. My friends publish some great work.

No doubt there are people the mainstream media would silence but can’t, not now that we have this modern luxury of self-publishing. This does, however, come with a price.

Using the power of the Internet, anyone can lift themselves up as an authority on any topic.


         You wouldn't doubt someone wearing glasses and pacing slowly across a stage, would you?

YouTube Becky’s rant has been shared over and over on social media although she’s just another loudmouth, ill-informed kid looking for quick fame and an easy paycheck from advertisers.

YouTube Becky’s and Ken’s can be annoying, but she’s much more than a minor annoyance.
She’s adding to the long list of various ways mental illness is visibly stigmatized. Stigma is the top reason people experiencing symptoms of mental illness don’t seek help.

Mental-illness-related stigma is one of the reasons people actually die of mental illness.
According to the American Psychological Association, In the US, men are least likely to seek help for symptoms of depression or other serious mental illness.

Men are also the most likely to complete suicide. You can view these bleak statistics here.

Call me crazy, but perhaps, as a culture, we should begin visibly accepting mental illness as diseases that require treatment like any physical illness. Perhaps we should encourage our friends and neighbors to seek help.

According to Mayo Clinic, stigma leads to discrimination. Their website also lists these as serious effects of stigma:
  • Reluctance to seek help or treatment
  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others
  • Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
  • Bullying, physical violence or harassment
  • Health insurance that doesn't adequately cover your mental illness treatment
  • The belief that you'll never succeed at certain challenges or that you can't improve your situation
The most unfortunate part is how convincing her video is. What she says sounds true, when she uses words like neuroscience. But why?

She uses a combination of humor (read: thinly-veiled hostility), pseudoscience, and effective strategies of persuasion to convince you she knows what she’s saying.

While her message is bull, her strategies of persuasion are top notch.

Unlike us boring (underpaid) adjunct English professors (did I mention underpaid?) at your local community college, (we are sooooo underpaid) the average person doesn’t know that correlation does not equal causation, and that total bull can sound like total truth if persuasive strategies are used effectively.

I’m speaking of Aristotle‘s strategies of persuasion most of you learned in (and later forgot) in English 101. The more persuasive she is, and the more confident listeners are of her assertions, the more likely they are to share her videos.

Then, advertisers pay her more, based on her hits.

A Few Examples of YouTube Becky's Strategies:
  • She successfully uses pseudoscience to back up false claims. Her rant sounds just jargon-y enough to sound as if she’s an authority.
  • She uses humor in the form of sarcasm.  We are more likely to listen and be open to someone who is funny.
  • She sneakily taps into our shared human emotions of fear and pride. 
YouTube Becky’s Desired Reactions:

Fear based reaction: I agree with her! If I just think positively, I’ll continue to be safe (or will become safe) from mental illness. 

CLICK. SHARE.

Or 

Pride-based reactions: I agree with her! The mentally ill are weak. I’m not mentally ill. Therefore, I am strong.

CLICK. SHARE.

Primal-based reactions: Ooh, she is really, really, really pretty!

CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK! SHARE!

Don’t make the world dumber by sharing false information. Avoid doing so by checking the reliability of your sources. Here’s a link to a Georgetown University site on determining the reliability of an online source.

Stop sharing stupid shit that isn't true, internet people. You're making babies dumb!

This is a meme I made that won't make babies dumb. 


Anyway, back to YouTube Becky...

You don’t see similar rants about physical suffering. No one goes on YouTube telling individuals with muscular sclerosis if only they did more yoga and got "woke" the disease would be magically cured.

No one goes online and rants about the “negativity” of people with Parkinson’s or those damn whiny diabetics.

No one does that. That would be considered wrong. That would be considered unkind. That would make YouTube Becky a great big jerk. But YouTube Becky isn't a jerk, really. I think she's just irresponsible.

Because mental illness is poorly understood and stigmatized, people feel comfortable with criticizing sufferers.

It’s difficult enough to put on your pants and show up for life every day. It’s even more difficult if you live with illness, but being ill and being shamed for it online? That's not difficult, that's just terrible.

That’s enough to make some people feel pretty isolated. A new study out of Bringham Young University suggests social isolation and loneliness are serious health risks.

Don’t take my word for it, or even that of Bringham Young University researchers, do some research of your own and draw some solid, evidence-based conclusions. Learn about the topic that interests you and make sure, before you spout information online, that your message is, to the best of your knowledge, accurate.

But please, if you plan to later share your research findings online, don’t use Wikipedia and for the love of  The Andy Griffith Show, please don’t involve YouTube Becky. (Logic and social responsibility, not included. YouTube Ken Sold Separately.)

Use the internet responsibly, people. And please, don't believe everything you see online.



I'm going to go post pictures of my cat riding a lawnmower on Instagram.





Andrea Fekete is granddaughter to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants and a native of the southern West Virginia coalfields. She is a proud "Man High Hillbilly."

She is author of the novel Waters Run Wild (Sweetgum Press, 2010) and poetry chapbook I Held a Morning (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Waters Run Wild has served as course material in several universities and high schools. Her fiction and poetry often appear in journals such as Chiron Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Kentucky Review, Montucky Review, Adirondack Review, ABZ, and in such anthologies as Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. (WVU Press, 2017)

In 2016, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation funded her three-week stay at the famous artist retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She earned her MA from Marshall University and MFA in Creative Writing from WV Wesleyan College.

Currently, she is seeking a for her newest novel-in-progress Native Trees. She is also currently seeking a publisher for the anthology of women's writing Feminine Rising: Voices of Power & Invisibility, which she co-edited with the author of the memoir Girlish (SkyHorse Press 2018), Lara Lillibridge.

She lives and writes in West Virginia.