Playing a game of catch up

What I’m Reading

It’s still poetry, poetry, and more poetry, which you can see on my Instagram.

But I’ve also started reading the first few chapters of In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood, in which she discusses her own relationship with the speculative genre and what inspired her to write her own other worlds.

What I’m Poeming

I keep playing a game of catch up with the 30/30 challenge. I fall behind a day or two, then get caught up and then fall behind and get caught up.

Some of my poems have required “research,” by which I mean the watching of copious amounts of movies and TV in order to get new ideas. For example, I watched both two 1930s movies, Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein with the aim of writing a poem for the Bride (who is only in the movie for about a minute). Of course, in the process, I couldn’t help but write a poem for the monster himself, as well.

The poems I’ve completed this week (all will be taken down at the end of the month May):

Goal for the Week:

  • Only SIX poems left to write in the challenge! So polish it off!

Linky Goodness

Alyssa Rosenberg on Mourning Prince and David Bowie, who showed there’s no one right way to be a man: “We’re in a moment in American politics consumed by gender panic, from Donald Trump’s menstrual anxieties to the rise of and backlash to a movement for transgender rights. And now we’ve lost two men who had an expansive, almost luxuriant vision of what it meant to be a man and lived out that vision through decades when it was much less safe to do so.”

Brain Pickings shared The Importance of Being Scared: Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska on Fairy Tales and the Necessity of Fear.

Scott Mendelson explains Why It Matters When Female Stars Are Kicked Out Of Their Franchises: “When you’re a woman in Hollywood, no matter your stature, no matter your billing, and no matter your importance to the television show or film franchise in which you appear, you may well always have a target on your back. At the end of the day, the only indisposable part of the franchise or the hit television show is the guy.”

Burning Tales

On Saturday, I attended the one year anniversary of the Burning Tale open mic, which was held in what is my new favorite venue, Studio Bongiorno. The studio features a fantastic mix of the beautiful and creep with assemblage art and random doll heads on shelves and a full size coffin in the courtyard.

Studio Bongiorno

The feature poet of the night was Abe Becker, who shared beautiful, raw, and funny words exploring the awkward land mines of human relationships. A number of other amazing readers also took the stage, and I was honored to have been able to read two of the poems from my current 30/30 challenge with a kind response from the audience.

I’ll definitely be returning to Studio Bongiorno for more Burning Tales and other events, as well as just to grab some great coffee.

What I’m Reading

A number of excellent poetry books — mostly a poem here and a poem there, jumping around as I post photos of the books I love. However, I did finish God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant, about which I posted a very short review.

What I’m Poeming

I’ve slowed down a bit on the 30/30 challenge. Although, I’ve mostly been able to keep up the pace, I fell slightly behind (just a day). The main problem is that the ideas are not as free flowing as they were at the start of the challenge — something I expected to happen. So, now I’m just trying to slam any words down at the wall, a dragging my feet through the sand level of momentum, which is sometimes kind of painful. I’m still going, though, and I intend to finish.

The poems I’ve completed this week (all will be taken down at the end of the month May):

Goal for the Week:

  • Get those poems per day written and posted!

Linky Goodness

Some thoughts about Contemporary Innovators of the Short Story on Electric Literature.

And Gwendolyn Kiste presents my one of new favorite retelling of Snow White in “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray.”

Poetry Review: God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant

“He got into nails, of course,
because He’d always loved
hands–
hands were some of the best things
He’d ever done”

In Cynthia Rylant’s novel-in-poems, Godgets a job, watches cable, eats dinner alone, marvels at he beauty of the world, sees all the ways life went in directions he didn’t intend it to go, discovers Himself. By grounding himself in the mortal world, He learns loneliness, anger, wonder, and fear. I found myself smiling at each new discover God made about the world he created, as well as each new discovery about Himself. These are accessible poems, beautiful in their simplicity and the way they subtly unveil layers of meaning in their own words and in religion and life. Recommended reading.

“But he finally saw
how pain caused
one of two things:
A reverence for life.
Or killing.
Both grew from the same seed.”

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Poet Spotlight: Jenna Le on Whales, Womanhood, and the Writing Life

Jenna LeJenna Le lives and works a as a physician in New York and writes poetry, fiction, essays, criticism, and translations, which have been published in numerous periodicals, both in print and online. She is the author of two full-length collection of poems, Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Anchor & Plume Press, 2016). She has been a winner and finalist of multiple awards, including the Minnetonka Review Editor’s Prize, the Pharos Poetry Competition, and the William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition, among others.

Her poetry has been described as visually precise, culturally aware, poignant, sensual, intriguing. In this interview, she speaks about her most recent collection, her writing process, and about the inherently political ways human beings relate to the natural world.

Your most recent book of poetry is A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora. Tell us a bit about this project and how it came about.

Well, my first book of poetry, Six Rivers, came out in 2011. In the years that followed, I wrote a poem here, a poem there, without any conscious thought of putting a second collection together. As this stack of poems grew, I became increasingly interested by the puzzle of how to tie them all together. I had many, many false starts: I initially thought about using superheroes as the unifying theme for this book (I’m crazy about superhero stories!). Another idea I considered was to organize the collection around the idea of diseases that are transmitted from mother to child, both literal and figurative.

But the obsession with whales snuck up on me, unexpectedly liberating me from the mother-child dyad that had structured my way of looking at the world for so long. I found myself writing more and more poems about the shadowy idea of the whale and what it meant to me. There was something deliciously anarchic about it; it let me rewrite stories that had grown old to me through familiarity in a fresh way. Eventually the sheer preponderance of whale poems in the collection left me with no choice but to make that the central conceit of the book.

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Jenna Le on Whales, Womanhood, and the Writing Life”

Defying Gravity

I took a break from poetry reading, writing, and living on Thursday and wandered up into the city with my mom and sister. We ate a ton of amazing Indian food at Mela Tandoori and watched Wicked in the gorgeous Orpheum theater. The musical was just as powerful and amazing as it was when we saw it six years ago.

Orpheum theater - Wicked
Sis, mom, and I outside the Orpheum theater before seeing Wicked.

My favorite song is “Defying Gravity,” which always has me singing to myself after hearing it as well as wanting to find my own ways to defy gravity. For the moment, I think accomplishing all the poeming that I’m accomplishing this month works for me. For the most part, I feel as though I’m flying through words and it’s wonderful, although I foresee some headwinds in the near future.

What I’m Reading

I’ve shared a number of excellent poetry books this week, but I’m most excited about From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes by B.C. Edwards, in which each poem is presented in a psuedo-recipe format.

I’m putting Gateway by Frederik Pohl aside for the moment, probably until I can get through April.

What I’m Poeming

More poetry words on the page for the 30/30 challenge. My initial burst of writing flow has slowed down some. I’m still managing to get at least one poem out per day (pretty much), but I’m also feeling a little worried as I look ahead to the 20 more poems I still need to write this month.

The poems I’ve completed this week (all will be taken down at the end of the month May):

Goal for the Week:

  • Get those poems per day written and posted!

Linky Goodness

White Poets Want Chinese Culture Without Chinese People, writes Timothy Yu in response to Calvin Trillin’s poem ”Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?”

I want to feel what I feel. Even if it’s not happiness,” Toni Morrison says in an interview with Emma Brockes, in which she also shares about her life at 81 and her new novel, Home.

“My college professor Brooke Stevens told my class it was not the best writers who succeeded, but the most persistent ones, and I have reminded myself of that advice again and again. What he left out is that in addition to trying really, really hard, you also need the chutzpah to promote yourself and make the right connections. But that becomes challenging, if not impossible, when you’re constantly questioning your value as a writer,” Lindsay Merbaum writes in Not a Real Writer: How Self-Doubt Holds Me Back.

Siobhan Lyons writes about what ‘ruin porn’ tells us about ruins: “Criticisms of ruin porn stem from the suggestion that these photographs are bereft of any sort of socio-economic context regarding their cause and aftermath, and are dismissive of the broader failures of modern economic life.”

Poet Spotlight: Chella Courington on being "at home with voice and vision"

Chella CouringtonChella Courington grew up in a family of storytellers. Seduced by the written word, she pursued her Ph.D. in literature from the University of South Carolina and her MFA in poetry from New England College. In addition to teaching literature and writing at Santa Barbara City College in California, she writes and publishes poetry and fiction, which has appeared in several books and chapbooks. Here, Chella speaks about her two latest publications, a flash novella and a new collection of poetry.

Tell us a little bit about your recently released novella, The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow.

A life in flashes, it tells of Adele and Tom, a writing couple now in California. Told from both points of view, the novella explores the increasing distance between two artists trying to occupy the same space: one writer’s success is another’s failure.

But finally, the story is Adele’s as she struggles with relationship, self and aging. A woman born in the Appalachian South yet finding home in California, she tries to understand who she is through the past and the present.

The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow by Chella CouringtonYou’ve described The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow as a flash novella. How did flash fiction as a structural form lend itself to the telling of a larger tale

Flash fiction is not naturally a form that lends itself to a longer traditional narrative (one with a mainly linear plot line). But flash fiction does lend itself to a pointillist novel/novella where each flash provides a point, an emotional brushstroke. The combined points, artfully arranged, tell a tale.

The flash novella is a good choice for writers with time constraints because the structure allows for the creation of many individual pieces of art that can be written in bursts of limited time. Each piece is small with a focus on language and imagery, rewarding close attention and revision. The flash novella does not depend on an outline nor require high drama (murder and mayhem).

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Chella Courington on being "at home with voice and vision"”

Poet Spotlight: Chella Courington on being “at home with voice and vision”

Chella CouringtonChella Courington grew up in a family of storytellers. Seduced by the written word, she pursued her Ph.D. in literature from the University of South Carolina and her MFA in poetry from New England College. In addition to teaching literature and writing at Santa Barbara City College in California, she writes and publishes poetry and fiction, which has appeared in several books and chapbooks. Here, Chella speaks about her two latest publications, a flash novella and a new collection of poetry.

Tell us a little bit about your recently released novella, The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow.

A life in flashes, it tells of Adele and Tom, a writing couple now in California. Told from both points of view, the novella explores the increasing distance between two artists trying to occupy the same space: one writer’s success is another’s failure.

But finally, the story is Adele’s as she struggles with relationship, self and aging. A woman born in the Appalachian South yet finding home in California, she tries to understand who she is through the past and the present.

The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow by Chella CouringtonYou’ve described The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow as a flash novella. How did flash fiction as a structural form lend itself to the telling of a larger tale

Flash fiction is not naturally a form that lends itself to a longer traditional narrative (one with a mainly linear plot line). But flash fiction does lend itself to a pointillist novel/novella where each flash provides a point, an emotional brushstroke. The combined points, artfully arranged, tell a tale.

The flash novella is a good choice for writers with time constraints because the structure allows for the creation of many individual pieces of art that can be written in bursts of limited time. Each piece is small with a focus on language and imagery, rewarding close attention and revision. The flash novella does not depend on an outline nor require high drama (murder and mayhem).

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Chella Courington on being “at home with voice and vision””

Poetry all the time

Over the weekend, my mom and I did a sleepover with the babies (i.e. my niece and nephew), who we read to and played with and climbed all over me like a jungle gym. It was a delight, as always.

Other than that, it’s been all poetry all the time due to all the National Poetry Month things I’ve got going on.

What I’m Reading

Poetry, poetry, and more poetry. Most notably, I read bits of Paper House by Jessie Carty (Folded Word) and Terra Incognita by Jennifer Martin (Dancing Girl Press).

I’m still sort of reading Gateway by Frederik Pohl, but only in bits and fragments, since so much of my focus is on poetry this month.

What I’m Poeming

Pretty much ALL of my words will be in poetry form this month, due to the poem a day challenge that I’m participating in. So far the poems are coming well, falling into place exactly on the day they’re due, and I’m feeling wonderfully inspired and excited about how the series is going.

I’ve been posting these poems on a separate blog and you can view them here (although they will be taken down at the end of the month May):

Goal for the Week:

  • Keep on writing a poem a day.

Linky Goodness

The Big Poetry Giveaway is in full swing. Go comment to win a book by some amazing poets.

Ursula K. Le Guin on Racism, Anarchy, and Hearing Her Characters Speak.

And, since pop culture is something I’m thinking a lot about while writing all these poems, here’s Kevin Pickard’s exploration of how pop culture is addressed in fiction.

National Poetry Month 2016 – It Begins

National Poetry Month is one of my favorite months of the year, because I get to be all excited about poetry and people don’t stare at me weird — okay, they stare at me less weird, or less people… Nevermind.

In addition to reading all the poetry I can, I have a number of poetry thingies going on.

Poetry in process meme
Whiskey. Whiskey will be an April necessity.

First, I’m offering up two books of poetry as part of the Big Poetry Giveaway 2016.

I am also participating in ELJ Publications’ 30/30 challenge, in which I will attempt to write thirty poems in the thirty days of April. For that challenge, I’ve created a separate blog to house all the poetry that I create.

I’ll be posting a #selfiewithpoetry a day on my Instagram.

And, if all goes well, I’ll be sharing four new Poet Spotlight interviews on my blog.

So, yeah, it’s going to be a busy, wonderful, and word-filled month!

What National Poetry Month look like for you? Share your plans (or lack thereof) in the comments. 

New-to-me movies watched in March 2016

March was a GIANT movie month for me, because I participated in the March Around the World challenge, which has a goal of watching thirty movies from thirty different countries in one month.

I did not make that goal, but I did manage to watch 22 movies from around the world. Not too shabby.

March Around the World Challenge (my favorites are in bold):

1. Monsoon Wedding — India (2001)
2. Suspiria — Italy (1977)
3. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert — Australia (1994)
4. Ida — Poland (2013)
5. Blue is the Warmest Color — France (2013)
6. Heavenly Creatures — New Zealand (1994)
7. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night — Iran (2014)
8. Bangkok Love Story — Thailand (2007)
9. Volver — Spain (2006)
10. The Snapper — Ireland (1993)
11. The Assassin — China (2015)
12. Sin Nombre — Mexico (2009)
13. A Better Tomorrow — Hong Kong (1986)
14. Juan of the Dead — Cuba (2011)
15. Stalker — Russia (1979)
16. The Second Mother — Brazil (2015)
17. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance — South Korea (2005)
18. Sisters in Law — Cameroon (documentary, 2005)
19. The Devil’s Miner — Bolivia (documentary, 2005)
20. The Cave of the Yellow Dog — Mongolia (docudrama, 2005)
21. Xenia — Greece (2014)
22. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha — South Africa (2005)

Non-challenge movies:

1. Treehouse (2014)
2. Crimson Peak (2015)

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “New-to-me movies watched in March 2016”

Big Poetry Giveaway 2016!

Big Poetry Giveaway 2016

As National Poetry Month is around the corner, it’s time for the Big Poetry GiveawayAllyson Whipple has taken over hosting duties from the amazing Kelli Russell Agodon.

Other blogs participating in the giveway will be listed online shortly.

But first, let me introduce myself as I have a feeling that there are going to be a number of new faces around here.

Andrea Blythe - poet

I write poetry and fiction with primarily a speculative bent. Images of fairy tales, mythology, and folklore often appear in my work, sometimes in unsettling ways. Some of my poetry has appeared in print and online publications and a few of my poems have been nominated for awards. I also on the rare occasion attend open mics and poetry slams where I perform my work in front of actual people.

Beyond the writing life, I am trying to convince myself that I’ll someday run a marathon. I also watch an inordinate amount of creepy television and horror movies, plan for the zombie apocalypse even though I’m not convinced it will happen, and shower my nieces and nephews in love.

Ahem, moving on…

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The Books

I don’t have any of my own work to offer this year, but I am happy to present two chapbooks from two poets I love.

Chapbook 1

Southern Cryptozoology by Allie Marini

Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide to Beasts of the Southern Wild by Allie Marini delves into beautifully unsettling territory, as these poems present (possibly mythological) creatures that live and hunt in the Southern states of the U.S. (Cover art is by MANDEM.)

“Then the kegger at the party rock: furred & scaled & unexplainable,

grunting, tossing tires from a cliff as though they were rings in a carnival shill’s booth. Suddenly, chaos, the squeal & stink of rubber on dirt & asphalt. There are rumblings of LSD in the keg: There’s got to be some natural explanation.”

— from “Southern Cryptozoology 4: The Lake Worth Monster,” in Southern Cryptozoology

Chapbook 2

Cover-a heart with no scars

A Heart with No Scars by Brennan “B Deep” DeFrisco is a witty set of poems with layered messages examining how we relate to the world around us and to each other. Brennan is an amazing spoken word poet and his words will hit you right in the feels. (Cover art is by Arthur Johnstone and Livien Yin.)

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How to Enter

To enter, just comment on this post with your name and email address by 11:59 p.m. Pacific on April 30th. I will select the winners shortly thereafter using a random number generator.


Running and feeling strong and beautiful

Saturday was the She is Beautiful 5K and 10K run in Santa Cruz. This is the third year that I’ve participated (starting with the 5K the first time and the 10K thereafter) and it’s always a fabulous experience. The women are of all ages and shapes and sizes and the course follows along the coastline with waves lapping at the bottom of cliff below.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day in Santa Cruz and I ran the first four and did intervals of running and walking for the last two miles. Although I didn’t run the full 6.2 miles of the 10K, I felt stronger than I had the previous year. Instead of feeling drained at the end of the event, I felt energetic and happy, if also red and sweaty.

I’m already looking forward to next year and am looking for some other events that I might do in between now and then.

She is Beautiful 10K 2016
All set to rock the 10K in my new Welcome to Nigh Vale leggings.
She is Beautiful 10K 2016
“Some days I crush life and other days I just want to take a nap.” — one of the many inspiring She is Beautiful signs

What I’m Reading

I finished up The First Part Last by Angela Johnson, which was a lovely story about a teenage boy becoming a father.

Next up I’m planning to read Gateway by Frederik Pohl. The description I’ve got says “The Heechee gateways, remnants of an ancient civilization, provide instantaneous passage to the far reaches of the universe but do not ensure destination, return, wealth, or survival.” Should be fun!

What I’m Writing

I wrote things! Or, more like, I started editing and redrafting an existing story, because the deadline for submission is looming in a few days and I really want to submit something to that market, so I better get sh!t done. In other words, my scifi sleeping beauty story that has little to do with sleeping beauty other than original inspiration is this close to being finished and ready to submit. Or as finished as I’m going to be able to get it for now anyway.

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

“I grew up anxiously awaiting the apocalypse, a taste of ashes in my mouth,” writes Rachel Kessler in her essay “When Apocalypse is Your Religion.”

Because National Poetry Month is coming up, here are 14 Brilliant Women Poets To Read.

Podcasts Part III – Films and Filmmaking

Wrapping up my trio of podcast posts — the first two focusing on radio dramas and poetry and fiction, respectively — I’m going to point to those podcasts focused on films and filmmaking that I’m currently consuming.

Although, my writing focus has primarily on poetry and fiction, I’ve always held a fascination with the collaborative nature of the filmmaking process. The idea of scriptwriting and film directing is always present at the back of my mind as something I might do someday. Listening to podcasts about the process and history of making movies lets me daydream and marvel at others doing the work, while also stirring up that latent desire. I know this is going to kickstart me into attempting screenwriting again or maybe jumping into a 48 Hour Film challenge.

Black List Table Reads

The Black List Table ReadsThe Black List is a “closed network of script buyers, script representatives, and script writers that makes everything easier for everyone involved.” The idea is to share awesome unproduced scripts in the hopes of getting them made into actual movies. New scriptwriters can also upload and share their work to get feedback as well as using the script as a demonstration piece for future work. That alone is awesome.

The associated Black List Table Reads podcast takes is a step further, turing the best of the unproduced scripts on the site and turns them into “movies for your ears.” These scripts are read by pro-level actors, with sound effects stitched in for an immersive experience of the scripts. And the scripts themselves have generally been fantastic. Being able to hear the scripts read provides a great sense of scene pacing along with other lessons in craft — in addition to just being an enjoyable experience.

Just a few of the scripts I’ve loved (and really hope become full movies):

  • The Hitch — “While visiting Los Angeles in 1927, young British filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock is accused of murder and must go on the run to prove his innocence.”
  • The Other Side — “A young Hasidic Jew recruits a hipster girl to help him expose a horrific crime in a secretive community in Brooklyn.”
  • Mr. Malcolm’s List — “We head across the pond and back in history about 200 years for Mr. Malcolm’s List. It’s a little bit Jane Austen. It’s a little bit Oscar Wilde, and it is all good.”

In addition to the script table reads, the podcast also features interviews with screenwriter and producers, which provide perspective on the writing process, how other writers have managed to get their movies made, and the ups and downs and sideways avenues of the industry. Lots and lots here for anyone interested in the art of screenwriting or who just enjoys great movies.

Scriptnotes

ScriptnotesScriptnotes is a weekly podcast in which working screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin discuss “screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters,” from the craft of writing scripts to the business of being a working writer dealing with directors and producers to places to glean ideas from. What I love about this podcast is the practicality of how screenwriting is discussed. No fluff, no air declarations of trying to find your inner writer. Just a straightforward look at the business of being a screenwriter, and since both John and Craig are currently working in the industry, writing original feature scripts and performing rewrites, their advice has merit. Also, the buddy humor between John and Craig in their kind of opposites attract relationship (like you’d see in a movie) is wonderful.

Only a portion of the most recent episodes are available to listen to for free, but for a measly $1.99 a month, the entire log of over 200 episodes can be accessed.

Slums of Film History

Slums of Film HistoryCurrently on hiatus after completing season one of Slums of Film History, Slate and Tom share a low “a lowbrow look into the high art of cinema.” The duo present in-depth historical scope of the gritty, gross, explicit, weird, and other aspects of the movie world not normally discussed in polite company. Each takes turns sharing taboo subjects with detailed movie references and legit-ish research. Previous topics discussed have included cannibalism, snuff films, the rise and fall of the NC-17 rating, nudity in film, hooker vengence, bad babies, and hagsploitation — other among unsavory things.

Being a fan of horror and weird creepy sh!t, I freaking love this podcast. It’s fun and funny and sometimes inappropriate, as well as providing some fascinating information about film history. The discussions about the evolution of the current rating system and how nudity has been handled over different time periods was particularly interesting (although to be honest, my favorite episodes are the gross ones, like “Bad Babies”). Definitely recommended for fans of cult movies and other oddities of film.

Imaginary Worlds

Imaginary WorldsCreated by former Disney animator Eric Molinsky, Imaginary Worlds is a podcast “about science fiction and other fantasy genres — how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief.” Episodes explore an array of fictional worlds, from movies to TV animation to comic books, novels, and other art forms. Each is well put together with interviews from historians, filmmakers, cultural critics, and a variety of others. I’m particularly fond of the episodes that go behind the scene of how some forms of art, such as movies, are made. However, there’s a wide range of topics covered, so that the episodes never get boring. The also tend to be on the short side (under 20 minutes), which makes them the perfect bite-size podcast to listen to.
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And that’s is for the current podcasts I’m enjoying. I’m sure that, as I finish up with the back episodes of all of these, I’ll start exploring further. For example, I’ve heard awesome things about Serial, but have not had a chance to start listening in yet.

FOGcon Recap 2016

A couple of weekends ago — has it been that long? — I traveled up to exotic Walnut Creek to gather with fellow readers and writers to talk about genre books, movies, and other bits of geekery at FOGcon. As always it was a fun event, which included tons of coffee and a little booze and karaoke and other such things.

Honored Guests were Jo Walton, Ted Chiang, and Donna Haraway, with Octavia Butler services as Honored Ghost.

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Panels

Lots of great thinky things at the panels this year to mentally chew on. Nom, nom. The panels tended to be more focused on science discussions that reading and writing discussions, but it was fascinating nonetheless.

The Developing Reality of Intelligent Machines looked at how AI is perceived in fiction and films as a self-aware being compared to how intelligent technology in the real world today is being used to provide better ways to solve problems. The intelligent machines of today are incredibly advanced in how they have been programed to serve human needs. But, as the panelists noted, these computers and machines are limited to their programming — they will do what they are programmed to do. So the concern is not so much about machines suddenly becoming self aware and taking over the world, but who is running the machines and to what purposes are they setting them to.

And even if a machine were to become self aware, it would be questionable as to whether human beings would recognize the moment when it occurred. It’s assumed (in movies and fiction) that AIs would think in the same ways that we do, however, that is not necessarily the case. Someone from the audience stated that the singularity is now, bringing up the game of Go (apparently more complex than chess) taking place between a computer and Go champion that evening (which the computer won).

The From Caterpillar to Butterfly panel delved into the weirdness of nature, from parthenogenesis to penis fencing flatworms to interesting mistakes in biology. We discussed the adorable tardigrade, or water bearer, an adorable micro-animal that is the only creature known to be able to survive in hard vacuum; a multitude of amazing plants (such as a vine that can change its leaves to match the tree they’re on); and animals that can change their gender (such as the clown fish, all of which are male, except for the biggest and baddest, which becomes the only female). The lesson, for me, was that in designing alien or strange species of animals with interesting biology and social structure, a writer can definitely turn to the natural world for inspiration of many kinds. Recommended Reading: The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins and Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson.

Other great panels (which I’m going to go into less detail on, because time):

The Ethics of Magic discussed how the rules of magic are presented in stories. For example, the rules of Star Wars present the Jedi as the “good guys” despite some deeply troubling and morally ambiguous aspects to their order. Recommended Reading: Wildseed by Octavia Butler.

Are 72 Letters Enough? In Search of a Perfect Language tried to define what was meant by “perfect.” For some this was a language that was unabiguous and complete, able to portray every thing in existence accurately. The discussion lead into how often the concept of the “true name” for things comes up in fiction, among many other things. Recommended Reading:  The Search for a Perfect Language by Umberto Eco and “TAP” by Greg Egan.

Homo Sapiens Tekhne: Assistive Devices and Body Modification in Science Fiction and Fantasy looked at the past and present of human body modifications, from tatoos and piercings to assistive devices and cell phones, as well as looking at how body modification is handled in stories. Recommended Reading: Runtime by S.B. Divya.

And finally, Domestic Fantasy: Transforming the Domestic looked at how the domestic scene, family and home, are portrayed in fantasy stories. Recommended Reading: Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick and Little, Big by John Crowley.

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The Book Haul

FOGcon book haul

I went rather light on the book haul this year, as I was trying to keep my bookshelves from topping down and crushing me beneath a ginormous pile of books. My grabs:

  • Rolling in the Deep by Seanan McGuire – a limited edition, signed copy, which I didn’t realize at the time
  • Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer
  • The Neat Sheats, poetry by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • The Fantod Pack by Edward Gorey
  • and three editions of Fantasy & Science Fiction

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*sleepy, happy sigh*

FOGcon is one of my favorite events of the year, and already I’m looking forward to 2017. The theme next year will be Interstitial Spaces (intermediate spaces between one thing and another), which is a topic I find fascinating.

So this is what exhaustion feels like

Last Tuesday, I participated in Get Lit #10 at Ale Industries in Oakland. This is a great event for two (of many) reasons — first, it hosts a ton of great writers who are encouraged to read something they’ve never read before (first drafts, recent edits, something hidden in the back of their closet for ten years, etc.) and, second, because Ale Industries is a fantastic space, part brewery, part tasting area, in an old warehouse. I was feeling all nervous and awkward at the start of the event, but the event was full of great people reading new stuff and I soon settled in to the groove well. I even talked to some new people and made some new writerly contacts. I’ll definitely be back, if only just to sip beer and have a listen.

The weekend was consumed with a plethora of hard labor, as I stepped in to help my sister and her husband paint their kitchen and bathroom, while their children began to reenact scenes from Lord of the Flies after being left to their own devices in the living room. I can’t exactly say this was fun (although I love any baby time I can get). It was more hours and hours (a total of something like twenty-five hours spread out over three days) of grueling work leaving me work out and exhausted — but their house looks amazing.

And … week three of the March Around the World movie watching challenge, I watched: A Better Tomorrow (Hong Kong) and Juan of the Dead (Cuba).

What I’m Reading

This post actually catches me between books. Up next I have either A Step from Heaven by An Na or The First Part Last by Angela Johnson — both were Printz award winners. But I haven’t decided which one I want to launch into first.

What I’m Writing

Another slim writing week, with the exception of ongoing collaborative projects. Although I did finish a draft of a new poem called “Grandpa on the Stairs,” which I read at the Get Lit event. The poem is almost there and with another edit might be ready to send out.

I’m going to have to get kicking with the short stories this week, since there are a couple of deadlines looming.

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

“…who doesn’t hope occasionally for some brilliant blast of insight, some perfect kick in the ass?—only to be left strangely deflated by the advice I’ve just received. In fact, I’ve come to suspect that the likelihood of these pearls of wisdom stymieing a writer—aspiring or otherwise—is quite a bit greater than the chance of their helping her at all,” writes Danielle Dutton on Terrible Writing Advice From Famous Writers.

Tim Urban explains the uncomfortable truth about tipping, which is awesome because I can be super awkward about that sort of thing.

10 Women Shaking Up Comics

Podcasts Part II – Poetry and Fiction

Following up last week’s post on audio theatre podcasts, here are a few of the poetry and fiction podcasts I’ve been gorging myself on lately — most of which are associated with print and/or online publications for speculative fiction and poetry.
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Uncanny Magazine

Pod-UncannyUncanny Magazine is an bimonthly online Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine that published gorgeous fiction and poetry, as well as essays and interviews. What I love about the Uncanny podcast is the unique format, which incorporates a reading of a short story and a poem from the current issue, followed up by an author interview (most often the author of the short story that was just read). As such, each episode tends to be about an hour in length. Uncanny provides a powerful collection of emotionally moving and beautifully written work, which is read by fantastic narrators.

A Small Selection of Favorite Stories and Poems (so far):

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Lightspeed Magazine

Pod-LightspeedLightspeed Magazine is a monthly publication, providing a wide ranging array of science fiction and fantasy fiction, as well as essays and interviews. Each podcast features an individual story. The narrators are all phenomenal, making it easy to just melt into the story while listening. Most of my (current) all-time favorite stories have been discovered on this podcast.

A Small Selection of Favorite Stories (so far):

  • Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn, as read by Gabrielle de Cuir

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PodCastle

Pod-PodCastlePodCastle is unique here in that it is solely an audio journal, providing well-produced audio versions of fantasy stories, most of which have been previously published in other publications. At the end of each episode, feedback is provided for stories that have previously appeared on PodCastle. Since, PodCastle is subscription based, only a selection of the most recent stories are available for free.

A Small Selection of Favorite Stories (so far):

  • Ogres of East Africa” by Sofia Samatar, as read by by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali and Troy L. Wiggins

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Nightmare Magazine

Pod-NightmareNightmare Magazine is a sister publication to Lightspeed, and often features many of the same set of fantastic narrators. The stories in this podcast are darker, slipping into more horror and dark fantasy, tales to unsettle and creep you out.

A Small Selection of Favorite Stories (so far):

  • Spores” by Seanan McGuire, as read by Kate Baker
  • Fishwife” by Carrie Vaghn, as read by Susan Hanfield
  • Returned” by Kat Howard, as read by Gabrielle de Cuir

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The New Yorker: Poetry

Pod-NY-poetryIn each episode of The New Yorker’s Poetry podcast, a poet is asked to read a poem that has been published in The New Yorker and then to read one of their own poems. Together with the host Paul Muldoon, the poet discusses the poems and why they are compelling. These discussions tend to be more intellectual and academic, which is sometimes more than I can fully focus on when I’m listening on the road home. However, there are some interesting discussions of craft and how the language in certain poems can create an emotionally moving experience in the reader.

I believe there’s also a New Yorker fiction podcast, but I haven’t got to that one yet.

Episodes I Particularly Liked:

  • Ellen Bass’ reading and discussion of Adam Zagajewski’s “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” as well as her own poem “Reincarnation”
  • Meghan O’Rourke’s reading and discussion of John Ashbery’s “Tapestry,” as well as her own poem “Apartment Living”
  • Ada Limón’s reading and discussion of Jennifer L. Knox’s “Pimp My Ride,” as well as her own poem “State Bird”

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Another two podcasts that I’ve started listening to are Strange Horizons and Apex Magazine, both of which feature great stories and narrators. Although, I’ve found them to not have quite as good of a sound quality and in some cases to be a little more glitchy.

Next week I’ll finish up this little series of posts with my favorite Filmmaking and Screenwriting podcasts.

Events and more events

So many things this week!

Tuesday, I checked out the Alchemy Slam & Open Mic at the F8 Lounge in San Francisco, which is a homey, intimate space. My plan was to simply kick back and watch the amazing Allie Marini and Brennan DeFrisco perform, but I got talked into pulling putting my name on the list. It was a wonderful experience in terms of both listening and speaking, due in a large part to the great group of people who were present.

Over the weekend was FOGcon, three days of talking all things genre and geeking out with friends and meeting authors and hoarding books and generally having a good time. I’ll being doing my usual report later this week.

And finally, for week two of the March Around the World movie watching challenge, I watched: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Iran), Bangkok Love Story (Thailand), Volver (Spain), The Snapper (Ireland), The Assassin (China), and Sin Nombre (Mexico).

What I’m Reading

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang, which was supposed to have been FOGcon homework. The story involved the creation of AI creatures in a virtual space, at first as

What I’m Writing

My writing was slim this week, though I mostly managed to keep up with all the collaborative projects I’ve been working on. But FOGcon and the movie watching challenge have taken giant bites out of my writing time. This weekend will be rough in that regard, as well, because I have plans to help my sister paint her house this weekend.

However, since I signed up to participate in Get Lit in Oakland tomorrow, where I am required to present new work, I will be compelled to get something down on the page this week.

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction, as presented by Nisi Shawl.

Five Signs Your Story Is Sexist

FOGcon Homework: Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton

FOGcon 2016 kicked off yesterday, and I’ve already been to several interesting panels, connected with friends, and generally having a fabulous time. I’ll be posting a recap sometime next week, but for now…

About a year ago (or something), I read and adored Jo Walton’s Among Others, for the way it handled fairies and magic as subtle things in the world, so subtle they often go unnoticed by most people.

Tooth and Claw is nothing like Among Other, a completely different direction in style and story. The book is a comedy of manners, kind of like Jane Austen but with a society of dragons. It deals with the practical matters of such a society. From the book description:

“Here is a tale of a family dealing with the death of their father, a son who goes to court for his inheritance, a son who agonizes over his father’s deathbed confession, a daughter who falls in love, a daughter who becomes involved in the abolition movement, and a daughter sacrificing herself for her husband.”

It’s so human in the kinds of troubles the dragons have to face (which makes sense since dragon culture was influenced by the Yarge), but social manners and propriety are all greatly influenced by the biology of the dragons — a young women is gold when she is a maiden, but blushes to pink when she becomes betrothed signifying her new ability to have children (it makes for some interesting new challenges when a woman is “compromised”); the length of a dragon has a strong influence on their social position; and so on. There is more, but I don’t want to give too much away.

The only giant glaring negative to this novel was the fact that my edition had two pages that were bound wrong — page 19 came after page 22 (which took me a week to figure out) and another page toward the end was flipped upside down.

Otherwise, Tooth and Claw was a charming read, neatly pulling together the threads of all the character’s storylines into a satisfying conclusion.

Podcasts Part I – Audio Theater and Radio Drama

A few months ago, I discovered podcasts. Or not discover them, per se, as I’ve been aware of them and they’ve been around for ages now. So maybe I should say, several months ago, I decided to give listening to podcasts a try and they’ve consumed my life. My usual music time in the car has been taken up with listening to podcasts, and I’ve also started listening to them when I go on runs.

I don’t know why I didn’t start listening to them before. Podcasts are amazing — or at least the ones I’ve discovered are, and I know there are a ton more amazing podcasts that I could be listening to.

Since the list of channels that I’ve been listening to is rather long, I’m splitting them up into three separate posts. Part II will be fiction and poetry podcasts, and Part II will cover film and filmmaking podcasts.

First up is radio drama or audio theatre, which I think both describe the same thing and I’m assuming apply here, in regards to narrative podcasts in which a story unfolds over multiple episodes.

I’m itching for more radio drama style podcasts, so please send recommendations!

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Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale podcast“When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. But, because of distance, not for millions of years.” — Night Vale Proverb

Welcome to Night Vale is a serial podcast about a community radio show, reporting on the quaint and creepy desert town of Night Vale. The voice of Night Vale is Cecil Balwin, who reports on local news and community events, like giant glow clouds raining down the bodies of dead animals or the goings on of the Sheriff’s Secret Police or strange underworlds appearing under bowling alleys.

So, I started listening, and because I’m a completionist on these kinds of things, I started at the beginning and have been working my way forward. Since there are over 80 episodes and since I can only listen to one or two a day without devolving into madness, it’s taking me a rather long time to catch up. But that’s okay, because starting at the beginning has allowed me to see how the town and all of its characters have grown and survived or survived but damaged or not survived, as the case may be.

Night Vale was the rabbit hole that spun me off into discovering more and more podcasts. It’s fantastic.

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The Message

The Message podcastThe Message is a sci-fi narrative that follows “the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 episodes we get an inside ear on how a top team of cryptologists attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message.”

Only eight episodes long, The Message is a great bite-size introduction to this kind of audio theatre and podcasts in general, presenting an unsettling sci-fi storyline with great voice acting and sound effects. Just talking about it makes me want to go back and listen to it again. It’s that good.

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Alice Isn’t Dead

PrintAlice Isn’t Dead follows the story of an unnamed narrator, searching for her wife, whom she believes to be dead, while working as a truck driver. Joseph Fink, one of the creators ofWelcome to Night Vale, told Wired, that the story would have the same humor mixed with creepiness as Night Vale — a sure win for me.

This one is so new that I’ve only listened to the teaser. But based on that and the fact that it’s from the creators of Welcome to Night Vale, I have high hopes that Alice Isn’t Dead is going to be fantastic.

Updated to Add: Having listened to the first episode, I can say that Alice Isn’t Dead is creepy in a decidedly different way from Night Vale., where strange and creepy happen but are generally mitigated by the light, humorous tone. Alice Isn’t Dead has humor, however, it seems to be a little darker.

Narrated by truck driver, Nicole, the narration is punctuated by scratchy hiss of the truck’s CB radio cutting in and out. The effect is unsettling as some of the storyline comes through in non-chronological order. The horror of events described are more personal and frightening, leaving a lingering sense of threat. All of this is to say, I freaking like it and can’t wait to hear more.

Rain and mud and beautiful things

The rain, rain, rain came down, down, down this weekend. But that didn’t stop my family and I from heading out to Loch Lomond and taking a short hike. It was a grey, chilly day by a beautiful lake, tromping through slightly muddy trails and watching my niece and nephew jump in puddles.

My favorite part was when my niece put her finger to her lips and said, “Shh. We have to be very quiet. Because of the water.”

Loch Lomond1

Loch Lomond2

And because, apparently, I have all the time in the world (haha), I’ve signed myself for the March Around the World movie watching challenge, in which I am meant to watch 30 movies from 30 countries. So far, I’ve watched: Monsoon Wedding (India), Suspiria (Italy), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Australia), Ida (Poland), Blue is the Warmest Color (France), and Heavenly Creatures (New Zealand).

What I’m Reading

Turns out the missing page within Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton (that I mentioned last week) turned out to be not missing but transposed. Apparently, page 19 comes after page 22 in my edition.

Other than the little page weirdness, Tooth and Claw is turning out to be a good read. It kind of reminds me of something like Charles Dickens, but with dragons instead of people. An interesting aspect of the society is that it’s perfectly normal for dragons to eat other dragons, either as an inheritance from family member that have died or to cull the weak, whom they don’t feel are worthy of surviving. I’m curious to see how this family of dragons strive to make their way in society and try to build a wealth for themselves, although I suspect at least one of them is going to fall into tragedy.

What I’m Writing

Due in part to the immense amounts of movie watching and, in part, to my inability to focus on any one project at a time, I didn’t manage to complete anything last week. Being indecisive about which short story to work on is a sure way to fail to finish any short stories. Although, I did manage to jot down a few scenes and notes in the hopes that I might actually finish something this week.

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

SFF in Conversation: Talking Novels with Haralambi Markov, Sunil Patel, and S.L. Huang

Why is Elizabeth I, the most powerful woman in our history, always depicted as a grotesque?

Benjamin Crouse comments on the friend-zone and how it diminishes the value of friendships as a whole.

Good things at Zoetic Press

I adore Zoetic Press, which produces two fantastic lit journals Nonbinary Review and Unbound Octavio among a number of other wonderful things. Within the Litho Reader app for iPhone and iPad, they wrap amazing pieces of poetry and fiction in gorgeous covers.

Recently, Zoetic Press released their first two full length books on the Litho Reader app — Erin Elizabeth Smith’s The Fear of Being Found and Christopher E. Grillo’s The Six-Fold Radial Symmetry of Snow — both of which look fantastic.

Zoetic Press has also been migrating all of the back issues of Nonbinary Review online to make them accessible to the whole wide world of readers. Although I recommend downloading the Litho Reader app to get the full experience of each issue, This means that Issue #4 Bullfinch’s Mythology is now up online, which includes my poem, “Eve and Pandora.”

I recommend reading the entire Bullfinch Mythology issue, because it is brimming with amazing work. And not just that, but all of the available issues because they are all full of wonderful things.

 

New-to-me movies watched in February 2016

1. Jupiter Ascending (2015)

By all accounts this is a ridiculous movie, but it’s delightfully so. The movie just oozes with scifi geekery, from boots that allow you to fly to human-animal clones to a planet comprised of bureaucratic aliens. The costuming and sets are visually gorgeous with rich detail.

My major complaint is the heroine, Jupiter, spends most of the movie falling off of buildings and being caught by the hero. She’s literally whipped around from place to place without much agency of her own, which doesn’t make me much interested in her as a character.

Nevertheless, this was fun.

2. Deadpool (2016)

Amazeballs. This movie manages to be a superhero movie that breaks the rules of superhero movies. It’s incredibly violent, with tons of blood splatter and severed limbs and other cringeworthy moments, and it has more fourth-wall-breaking humor and asides than a wrecking ball. Plus, it brings in two awesome X-Men characters, who have not been seen (much) before. So much win.

deadpool

 

 

Weekend? What weekend?

It’s been one of those weeks where time seems to compress itself together and you find yourself blinking and wondering where the days went. Which is not to imply a lack of fun. In fact, much fun was had, what with the celebrating of my brother’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Chase!) and the throwing of a Stella and Dot trunk show — both of which involved family, friends, laughter, and just the right amount of liquor.

What I’m Reading

Well, I was reading Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton. However, there’s an entire page missing — just one whole page gone — near the beginning and it’s thrown me off a little bit. I keep trying to figure out how best to read the missing page, while deciding if I should just keep on reading even though my brain is screaming at me that there might be vital information within that page regarding plot of character.

I can’t even tell you about the story, except that there are dragons, because of the horror of the missing page. *wails*

What I’m Writing

I’ve started redrafting my scoff retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Connecting to the tone I want for a story is a large part of my ability to actually finish a short story, and I seem to have the right tone now. So, I have hopes.

A deadline to a writing market sprung itself on me last week. It was a today, what do you mean today, I haven’t written the thing moments. In the past, this has meant me just giving up on the idea of submitting to the market. But last week, I decided, hell no, I’m writing the thing. So, I wrote the poem in an afternoon and submitted it. I feel pretty good about it, too, although I’ll wait to pat myself on the back until I get a response from the publisher.

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

“You don’t need more motivation. You don’t need to be inspired to action. You don’t need to read any more lists and posts about how you’re not doing enough,” writes Jamie Varon in her post to Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind In Life.

Hanna Brooks Olsen on Why Women Smile at Men Who Sexually Harass Us — “In my life, it has become abundantly clear to me that there is no way for me to end the constant barrage of unwanted conversation and touching and sexualization of my body. There is nothing that I can do to stop giving tiny pieces of myself and my time on this earth to the men who demand it because there is nothing that I can do to stop the demand. That’s not on me.”

A huge international study of gun control finds strong evidence that it actually works. Surprise, surprise.

Book Review: Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

New York is a terrifying place in the summer of 1977  with incidents of arson, a massive blackout, and a serial killer known as Son of Sam shooting young women. As if this is not enough, seventeen-year-old Nora Lopez also has to deal with her out of control brother, her mom who may loose her job at any moment, and a landlord who continues to hassle them about the rent. With all this going on, its seems almost too much to have to deal with falling for the hot guy who started working at the grocery store, as well.

The heat and anxiety of living in 1977 New York comes through clearly in Burn Baby Burn. I could practically feel the heat baking through the cement and the growing tension surrounding the ongoing murders created a constant underlying anxiety, which must have been present for so many people at the time.

But for all the dangers out on the streets, the biggest dangers in Burn Baby Burn are the ones that are closest to home. Nora’s situation at home is clearly abusive, but it can take a lot of break out of the secrecy and suffering and shame that such a situation creates. Medina does an excellent job balancing the frustrations and fears of being a teenager in a hostile world, while also imbuing the story with a sense of young joy and hope. Nora has a lot to deal with, but all of her problems are real relatable problems and there is little to no angst for angst sake. She’s a believable character, one I could easily relate to and sympathize with. Nora’s relationships wither her family and friends are well handled, each with their own layers of complexity.

FOGcon Homework: Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler

As Octavia Butler is the Honored Ghost for FOGcon this year, it seemed like an excellent idea to return to Bloodchild and Other Stories. Its a slim volume of stories, one that could easily be read in an afternoon. But these are stories with incredible strength.

It’s no wonder, for example, that “Bloodchild” won three awards for best novelette (Hugo, Nebula, and the Locus). This story of how humans have come to live symbiotically with an alien species on another planet. It’s also a coming of age story and a beautiful and complex exploration of birthing, family, and love. “Bloodchild” lingered with me long after I first read it, and returning to it I find myself pondering it all over again. It’s a powerful story and makes me desperate to write, to continue attempting to build my skills in the hopes of coming even a little close.

All of these stories provide their own explorations of humanity, from apocalyptic world in which people have lost the ability to understand either written or spoken language to unusual solutions to managing genetic diseases to the sympathetic explorations of family conditions. There’s a lot of strangeness and a lot of beauty to discuss and explore here and I highly recommend this book as an introduction to Butler’s work.

Visiting historical sites around Nashville

My trip to Nashville last week was necessarily mellow, because I fell sick halfway through. Nevertheless, my mom and I managed to get out, see some historical sites, and have some good eats. I could write a whole other post on the food in Nashville — bonuts from Biscuit Love and fried chicken from Hattie B’s (which has six levels of spicy including “Shut the Cluck Up”) — um, yum. But I really want to share some of the history we learned about and how it was portrayed.

There is a certain amount of rewriting of history in the South, a romanticizing of the antebellum era, giving the period a soft glow that blurs out the uglier aspects of slavery. Traveling to the South, I wondered how much of this I would see while visiting historical museums.

The Lotz House

Driving on a road trip to see the countryside, my mom and I accidentally discovered the Lotz House in Franklin. We were just exploring and didn’t have any destination in mind while we were driving, but the sign indicating that the house was a Civil War museum called to us.

Since we were there on a weekday, we were were the only two people on the tour. Our guide explained how the house was a center point for an epic battle in which thousands of Northern and Confederate soldiers died. The Lotz family, including the children, were present during the battle and hid inside a brick basement while events raged outside.

Johann Albert Lotz was a master woodworker and he used his home as a showpiece for his profession, displaying elaborate mantles and carved banisters. Following the battle, his family returned to their home, which had been battered and badly damaged, a home full of bullet and cannon holes. The evidence of his quick repairs to make the house livable again are still evident in the home. There are still scars in the brickwork, still bloodstains in the wood floors.

Despite all these repairs, Lotz and his family were forced to flee Tennessee when the KKK threatened to end Lotz’s life for carving a piano that portrayed an eagle holding a tattered confederate flag. He fled all the way to San Jose, California, as far away as he could get before hitting water. (My mom and I have plans to visit his gravesite, which is nearby where we live.)

What was interesting about the Lotz house was that it centered around an everyday sort of family. They were not rich. They were just craftsmen trying to get by and survive impossible circumstances.

Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage

The Hermitage is the home-turned-museum of President Andrew Jackson. The primary focus of the museum is the life of Jackson, his role as a general and as a president, and the legacy he and his family left behind. The tour of the manor house was interesting, although it also felt brief giving a perfunctory view of the household and how it operated (though this is likely because of the large number of tours and tourists coming through there everyday).

Out behind the Hermitage, the plantation home of President Andrew Jackson.

The Hermitage was a working plantation, which was made profitable by slavery. It was no surprise to me that, in being a museum dedicated to a former president of the United States, the museum glossed over much regarding the lives of the slaves. Most of the information stated or hinted at the idea of Jackson considered to have been a “benevolent” slave owner, who treated the slaves as his “black family.” Even the former slave buildings say little, explaining only that little is known about the lives of the slaves who lived there. Anything more than that is mostly related is subtle hints and insinuations, at best.

However, there was an interesting display about the life of Alfred Jackson, who was born as a slave at the Hermitage to the cook, Betty. Following the end of the Civil War, Alfred continued to work at the Hermitage as a caretaker. When the plantation was converted into a museum in 1889, he became one of the first tour guides.

Alfred Jackson remained at the Hermitage after emancipation and was the first tour guide when the plantation was converted to a museum.
Alfred Jackson remained at the Hermitage after emancipation and was the first tour guide when the plantation was converted to a museum.

The Belle Meade Plantation

We visited the Belle Meade plantation in a rush at the end of the day after returning of our tour of Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. The Belle Meade plantation includes a manor house tour (which we did not take), a beautiful stables and carriage house, a large collection of antique carriages and sleds, and outbuildings. A winery has also started up on the site, with wine tastings available as part of the tour.

The Manor House of the Belle Meade plantation with an old cart sitting out back.

The collection of horse-drawn carriages was wonderful (although our experience of it was frustrated by the wedding that was being set up for the night). All of the carriages are beautiful and well preserved, and I enjoyed learning about the various uses of each one.

One of the many carriages on display at the Belle Meade plantation.
One of the many carriages on display at the Belle Meade plantation.

The plantation was known for its horse breeding. According to our Uber driver, all of the horses that have participated in the Kentucky Derby can trace their lineage back to the Belle Meade plantation. I have no idea if that’s true, but it’s fascinating either way.

The dairy house at the Belle Meade plantation. Behind it is a replica of the slave quarters, which would have originally be placed further from the manor house.

The thing I appreciate the most about Belle Meade, however, was how it handled the history of slavery. The property includes a reconstruction of the slave quarters, which is used exclusively to explore the lives of the slaves who once lived on the plantation with video recordings forming an oral history of black lives and excavated artifacts revealing fragments of how the slaves lived found in and around the Belle Meade site.

Belle Meade acknowledges that an important aspect of history has been erased and is making strides to combat that erasure through an archeological project called Journey to Jubilee. The mission statement of the project is “to preserve and interpret the African-American story at Belle Meade plantation while educating the public about the significance of the contributions made by African-Americans and their significance in American history.”

After seeing how the Hermitage glossed over this important part of history, it was so refreshing to see a historical site making efforts to share and discuss challenging topics. The three to five year project is ongoing and hopefully, they will put together an excellent historical resource as they work to tell more of the whole story.

Home again from Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee is a pretty cool town. Beyond the neon lights of the entertainment strip, where every bar has live music pouring out country and rock tunes, there are plenty of sights of explore and some fabulous places to eat (my mother and I visited Biscuit Love twice, because the Bonuts, OMG, they are so good). Despite my falling ill halfway through the week, my mom and I managed to have a great time, hanging out in the city and exploring the countryside. A little longer write up on the trip will come in the next day or two, because I have thoughts. But for now…

What I’m Reading

I’m doing a reread of Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler, as she will be the Honorary Ghost at FOGcon 2016. I’m relearning all over again how amazing she is at telling complex and interesting short stories. If you want a short form introduction to Butler’s writing, this is a great way to go. Several of these stories — “Bloodchild,” “Speech Sounds,” and “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” — were nominated for awards, such as the Hugo and Nebula.

What I’m Writing

In the week prior to my Tennessee trip, I hunkered down and finished a new draft of a my short story, “A Dream of This Life,” which is about dream selling and addiction. Response to the story has been good so far, although it still needs some tweaking. For the moment, however, I’m just going to let it sit for a little while so that I can come back to it fresh.

I also pulled together a set of poems and got them sent off.

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

Allie Marini writes on the Fallacy of the ‘Serious Writer’ in her an ongoing series of essays on reading fees over at Rhizomatic Ideas.

Kelli Russell Agodon on how women writers can become more successful: Submit Like A Man.

“As literary writers, when writing about our individual traumas, we’re still called upon to use the elements of our craft in a way that strives to move beyond the individual story, and instead, capture something universal, or offer something educational,” writes Kelly Sundberg in her essay, Can Confessional Writing be Literary?

My inner critic is harassing me

What I’m Reading

I’m still reading Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. The story is focused on the coming of age journey of the main character, dealing with a mess up family, deciding what to do with yourself after high school, and falling in love. But it’s also marked with the constant fear of being made the target of a serial killer (Son of Sam).

What I’m Writing

Words and I did not get along so well last week.

This is in part because the day job has not eased up on me as much as I expected it, too. I will pass this hurdle soon enough, I hope. Oh, how I hope.

This is also because I’ve been trying to write more thorough book reviews for “professional” publication on various websites. When I’m writing reviews for my blog, then the process is no problemo. But as soon as I decide to write a review for submission, my inner critic clamps down and strangles the words out of me. The process of working through the block has been causing me to fall behind on both my writing AND my reading, which it so, so frustrating.

I’ve been trying to think about the book review process differently by imagining the book reviews as being only for myself or my blog in order to shake the inner critic off. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I just give up and post it on my blog, like I did with The Ballad of Black Tom, just to get it done and posted.

However, despite all these frustrations, I managed to send out several submissions of poetry, so at least I felt productive in some way.

Accepted! Yellow Chair Review has accepted my poem, “A Letter from Eve to Barbie,” for their forthcoming Issue #6!

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

“In “Formation,” black women’s bodies are literally choreographed into lines and borders that permit them to physically be both inside and outside of a multitude of vantage points. And what that choreography reveals is the embodiment of a particular kind of 21st Century black feminist freedom in the United States of America; one that is ambitious, spiritual, decisive, sexual, capitalist, loving and communal,” writes Naila Keleta-Mae in her piece GET WHAT’S MINE: “FORMATION” CHANGES THE WAY WE LISTEN TO BEYONCE FOREVER.

Ursula Le Guin Gives Insightful Writing Advice in Her Free Online Workshop.

It’s Women in Horror Month, and Carina Bissett presents some excellent examples of women writing the weird.

Book Review: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

The Ballad of Black Tom is a fitting tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. It’s a novella that draws up the doom-ridden horror of the elder gods, while also addressing the unsettling prejudice of Lovecraft’s writing. “I grew up worshipping the guy so this issue felt quite personal to me,” explained Victor LaValle. “I wanted to write a story set in the Lovecraftian universe that didn’t gloss over the uglier implications of his worldview.”

The story centers around Tommy Tester, a young black man in 1920s Harlem. In order to avoid the hard life his father led as a laborer, Tommy turns to hustling in order to make his living. He has learned to disguise himself, donning a suit, a guitar case, and a shuffling step to mask himself against the watchful eyes white folks and the cops, who might see him as threatening otherwise. He knows how to put on a bit of theater and draw in a certain subset of clientele. But after he delivers an occult tome (with a page conveniently missing) to a reclusive sorceress in Queens, he earns her wrath, which brings destruction down on him and leads him into awakening powers best left sleeping.

Racism serves as an ever present backdrop, a constant shadow laid across the vivid descriptions of Harlem and other regions of New York that make their appearance. This racism takes several forms, both subtle and overt, from the cops who hassle him and steal his money to the patronizing rich white man who promises “salvation” for the downtrodden. Some of these moments are eerily familiar to current events. This is an intricate part of what makes this story so horrifying. If the world is so hateful, then how can ancient, powerful, and indifferent beings be any worse? Thus, Tom’s descent into darkness is frightening, blood soaked, and to a certain extent understandable.

The Ballad of Black Tom is fast read and a brilliant horror story.

New-to-me movies watched in January 2016

1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

The first film I’ve seen in the new year and a good conclusion to the Hunger Games storyline. They handled some of the stranger aspects of the book with aplomb and Jennifer Lawerence continued to bring depth to the character in situations where it could easily be overshadowed by the action.

2. Pontypool (2008)

A three-person team of a small town radio show become more and more horrified as reports come in of what seems to be rioting and death. With its small cast and single location, this movie manages to provide a growing sense of tension. It’s a fantastic take on the zombie apocalypse story with a unique concept for how the infection spreads. Really enjoyable.

3. Blazing Saddles (1974)

A spoof of the western genre. Not as funny as I thought it was going to be based on my experience with other Mel Brookes flicks. While probably “edgy” for the time period, some of the jokes are somewhat cringeworthy in the present day. However, the scenes with Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder are brilliant.

Book Review: Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Get in Trouble provides yet further evidence as to why Kelly Link is one of my favorite living short story writers. These tales are raw and human, with interweavings of the speculative, sometimes in subtle ways.

In “The Lesson,” the only hint of magic or the scientifically strange is a stuffed, clawed creature said to be long extinct, despite strange rustlings in the night. Where the magic comes in is how the story unfolds. Two men, awaiting the birth of of an adoptive child through a surrogate mother, take a trip to an isolated island to attend the wedding of a friend they haven’t seen in years. Through the bride’s wonderfully weird version of party celebrations and the discomforts of being disconnected from news from the mainland, it becomes clear that these two men love each other deeply and that that love is being strained by the stress of adoption. It also becomes clear that the decadence of their youth no longer appeals to them. “The Lesson” is a beautiful tale and my favorite in the book.

Other stories reveal a young woman who serves as an uneasy caretaker for the mysterious beings that live up on the hill (“The Summer People”), an aging movie star, formerly known as the demon lover, who seeks out his ex-girlfriend while she’s on a ghost hunting expedition (“I Can See Right Through You”), and a girl attempts to meet an older man she catfished online at a hotel where dentist and superheroes are both having conventions (“Origen Story”).

Another story that lingers with me long after I read it is “The New Boyfriend,”    which explores the complicated mess of teenage friendship and young love in unsettling ways. When her friend received her third animatronic boyfriend, a girl enacts a plan to steal it for herself, convince he can love only her.

All the Birds … and other things

On Saturday, I took a jaunt up to the city to Borderlands Books for a reading and book signing with the amazing Charlie Jane Anders in celebration of her new novel All the Birds in the Sky. It was a packed house, with standing room only as Charlie read from her charming and funny tale about a witch and a mad scientist becoming friends. I laughed out loud several times during the reading and then waited in a rather long line to get my book signed (during which time, I found too more books to purchase that day). It’s was a joy and a delight to have been there, even though I couldn’t stay longer to mingle. I’m just so happy for her and for all of her success.

All the Birds in the Sky description:

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

What I’m Reading

Since I started it first, I’m reading an ARC of Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina, which is the story of a young high school student coming of age in Brooklyn, New York in 1977, when the infamous Son of Sam serial killer was shooting young women on the streets. So far it’s interesting.

On the docket: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

What I’m Writing

As expected, the my day job work pretty much stripped my brain of words or any interest in looking at computers last week. So, I honestly can’t remember actually putting any words to the page. I might have done, might have worked on a book review, but I’m not sure. So, yeah.

Anyway, now that the big day job project is done, it’s time to get back to creative things in my off hours.

Goal for the Week:

  • Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
  • Submit something.

Linky Goodness

Tobias Carroll discusses things left unsaid or unspoken in fiction“Every story that works gets the level of description that it needs. Which isn’t to say that the level of description needed for every successful story is the same; quite the opposite.”

The Five Stages of Confronting Your Own Privilege, as described by Daniel José Older.

Charlie Jane Anders on 5 books that wonderfully combine sci-fi and fantasy.

Book Review: The Arrival by Shaun Tan

In a dark city, overshadowed by darkness, a man embraces his wife and daughter and then boards a steamship for another country, where he hopes to create a new life for his family. After going through a long process of immigration, he finds himself in a city he finds himself is bright and beautiful and strange.

Although he doesn’t understand the local language, he fumbles his way into a room for rent and then seeks employment. Along his journey into shaping a new life for himself and his family, he meets other people from other countries who have migrated to this city as well. Each has their own stories, their own reasons for leaving home and making a new life for themselves.

One of the amazing things about this book is how it tells a moving, heartfelt story entirely in images. There are no words, just gorgeous art. The art is softly penciled and sepia toned. It manages to be both realistic and fantastical at the same time, elaborately bringing to life a strange world that also feels familiar.

A beautiful book.

Art from The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Season of the Crow

Last Friday, I witnessed a bit of magic in the form of poetry and music at the Octopus Literary Salon (which is fast becoming a favorite place of mine). Hosted Richard Loranger, the Crow Show featured an amazing array of diverse voices, including musical guest the Lake Lady Ukulele Project and poets Corrina Bain, Kelly Klein, Brennan DeFrisco, Tureeda Mikell, Annelyse Gelman, and Laura Jew. I took photos throughout the night, but they were on my phone and turned out horrible.)

It was a tough week last week and I almost opted out of the event. But I was able to rally my energy when Friday rolled around, and I was so grateful to have been able to be present that night. Some moments are perfect at the time in which they occur, something about the combined energy of the people in a room and the energy of the performers — which is difficult to describe to anyone else after the fact. All I can say is that it was a wonderful night and I highly recommend tracking down the work of each of these performers, if you can.

What I’m Reading

I’m still loving the short story collection Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. The most recent story I read, “The Lesson,” was a heartbreaking and beautiful tale about a gay married couple anxious about the health of the surrogate mother bearing their child. It’s also about a wedding, a strange tropical island, and wish making. It’s gorgeous.

What I’m Writing

Somehow I started working on a brand new story draft last week, rather than trying finish the almost-done story I meant to work on. Apparently I’m distractible. Although jumping into new and shiny things instead of finishing existing things has been a habit I’ve been trying to avoid. However, the new (-ish, because I had previously tossed out an old draft) story is geared toward a specific market with a specific deadline, so all will be hunky dory if I can stick to that deadline.

Meanwhile, the day job is somewhat overwhelming this week, leaving me little mental capacity to handle the two book reviews and two short stories I really should be working on. I’m trying not to beat myself up, if I find myself exhausted at the end of the day.

So, this week, I’m going to give myself a break on all that, with a gentle nudge to try to get some work done, but it’s okay if I don’t.

Goal for the Week:

  • Survive.

Linky Goodness

Daniel José Older with 12 Fundamentals Of Writing “The Other” (And The Self).

A loving tribute to Tori Amos’ Boys for Pele presented by Gina Abelkop.

Frida Kahlo on How Love Amplifies Beauty: I love Diego so much I cannot be an objective speculator of him or his life… I cannot speak of Diego as my husband because that term, when applied to him, is an absurdity. He never has been, nor will he ever be, anybody’s husband. I also cannot speak of him as my lover because to me, he transcends by far the domain of sex. And if I attempt to speak of him purely, as a soul, I shall only end up by painting my own emotions.

“I love it when you post pictures of yourself… They give me a little window into your life,” writes The Bell Jar in her post on selfies.

Holding Patterns

I’m in a weird place for the beginning of the year. On the one hand, I feel excited about what this year can bring (provided I put the work in with the writing and such). I have short stories and poems and novels and ideas all in various stages of drafting and/or brainstorming (some might say too many of these things), all of which have me wanting to scratch at the page in a rapid fashion.

On the other hand, I feel like I’m in kind of a holding pattern. My day job is intense right now, with two giant projects looming over me and which are not allowing me much headspace beyond their enormity. I keep feeling like once they’re done, I’ll have energy to get back to it again. But I think the issue is more that I’m falling back into old habits and not carving out space to write no matter what.

It’s all solvable. The big projects will get done. In the meantime, I just need to make sure that I leave clear space for my own words on a regular basis.

What I’m Reading

The Ballad of Black Tom by by Victor LaValle, a novella about magic in Jazz Age New York. Charles Thomas Tester, a young man from Harlem, who gets mixed up in a deeper and darker magic than he’s prepared to handle. It’s interesting so far, well written and starting to get creepy.

I’m also reading the short story collection Get in Trouble by Kelly Link, who is one of my favorite short story writers. These stories so far are inventive, each playing with writing styles and tone, while sharing human experiences that glance at the supernatural and strange.

What I’m Writing

I’ve entered into a hectic period at my day job, which has me not wanting to look at computer ever again by the time I get home. That being said, I managed to edit and pull together a chapbook of poetry last week, which was sent out to two different publishers. Here’s hoping.

Somewhere along the way I also managed to throw down some outlines for new scenes that will go into my dark Sleeping Beauty-inspired story, “A Dream of This Life.”

In other news, I received my first rejection of the year. All par for the course.

Goals for the Week:

  • Edit  “A Dream of This Life” to completion.

Linky Goodness

Tasha Robinson talks about the Trinity Complex. She explains that while there has been a push for more strong and more complex female characters in movies, TV, video games, etc., many of these characters are hampered by the fact that they have nothing to do. (Discovered via Rhizomatic Ideas.)

The Night Witches were a band of an all-female squadron of bomber pilots who ran thousands of daring bombing raids during WWII, which is an awesome piece of history I didn’t know about.

Lise Quinta talks about the death of art and what it is we are really mourning when celebrities, like David Bowie and Alan Rickman, die.

Also, here’s a list of David Bowie’s 100 favorite books.

Saying good bye to David Bowie

“The truth is of course is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.” — David Bowie

I was going to write about my lovely weekend as part of my usual Monday update, which included a surprise visit from my amazing aunt and a walk among the redwoods, but right now my heart is all caught up in the world’s loss of an astounding artist and man. A lot of people have reached out and shared their tributes and feelings about this loss already, so I’m not going to repeat the same sentiments, when there are so many people who have done it better.

“Bowie provided us with a soundtrack for our alienation,” wrote Charlie Jane Anders in David Bowie Made The World a Safer Place for the Alien in Us All.

Emily Asher-Perrin describes Bowie as the The Patron Saint of Personal Truth. She writes, “We talk so much these days about how representation matters, and here’s some more anecdotal evidence to fuel the fire; I’m not sure I ever would have realized that I was queer if David Bowie didn’t exist.”

Buzzfeed also has a roundup of the ways People Are Mourning David Bowie On Twitter, which is both moving and humorous and heartbreaking.

For me, my awareness of Bowie was less through his music than through his film performances, most notably Labyrinth, which both dazzled and frightened me as a child, with Bowie as the goblin king being likewise both creepy and attractive. Along these lines, Peter Bradshaw has a nice piece on Bowie the film star: “Pop singers from Sinatra to Elvis to Madonna have dabbled in the movies, with varying results, but David Bowie always convinced his public that every role he accepted was an artistic decision and an artistic experiment, governed by his own idealism.”

I also want to point to a well rounded piece by Aida Manduley, in which she asks Time to Mourn or Call Out? She writes, “We should not simply dismiss David Bowie’s artistic legacy and the impact he had on many AND we should not dismiss the allegations of rape and the realities of how he had sex with a 14/15-year old when he was a powerful and revered adult.”

Prior to reading Manduley’s article, I had no idea that Bowie had been accused of rape, which adds another layer of disheartening to his loss. No one wants to believe their heroes are flawed, especially if those flaws are to the degree of something as awful as the accusation of rape. However, it’s important not to ignore the full picture of pop stars and actors and other famous individuals, which is why I’m including Manduley’s article here.

Top Movies of 2015

Toward the end of the year, I didn’t seem to have much time for watching movies, but nevertheless there were some fabulous feature and short films that I’ve seen for the first time this year. As with my Top Reads, I’m organizing these based on categories.

Best Drama

Pariah (2011) is the story of a  17-year-old African American girl who hangs out at clubs with her openly lesbian friend Laura. Through the course of the film she begins to figure out her own identity. It’s a beautiful story of young love and family friction/love and the many ways a heart can be broken and healed.

Pariah-title-placard

Best Historical Picture

The Academy Award nominated film, Selma (2014), tells the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. and several civil rights activists’ peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in the face of violent opposition. The aim of the March was to achieve fair access to voting access for African Americans. It shows the many layers of effort from multiple groups that enabled this march to happen successfully. The directing, cinematography, and performances throughout the film are fantastic.

selma-bridge movie still

Runner-up: Belle (2014) is the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the daughter of a slave and Captain John Lindsay, a British career naval officer. As the captain must travel to earn his living, he leaves his daughter as a free woman in the care of his uncle, a high ranking judge of the U.K. courts. This beautiful movie reveals the conflicting nature of her position in which she is both loved by her family and an outcast in society.

Best Science Fiction Movie

A three way tie between The Martian (2015), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), and Ex Machina (2015) — all vastly different films, all great for vastly different reasons.

The Martian, a story about a single astronaut accidentally stranded on the hostile surface of Mars, provides a combination of intense moments with humor. This is combined with beautiful images of the Martian surface, red deserts and plains stretching to the horizon. It’s gorgeous and moving and hilarious and wonderful.

martian-gallery5-gallery-image

What I loved about Star Wars: The Force Awakens was how it was able to capture that elated joy I felt when I was young, watching A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Last Jedi over and over and over again. This new iteration went straight to the heart of what makes Star Wars great with a new cast of young heroes ready to take up the fight.

star-wars-force-awakens-rey-bb8

Ex Machina, meanwhile, is a much quieter movie, centering around only a handful of characters. In it a young engineer is recruited by an genius entrepreneur to perform a Turing test on a humanoid AI robot, named Ava. The movie intelligently explores the nature of humanity and consciousness. Alicia Vikander is amazing as Ava, bringing a subtle alieness to the character, even when she seems to look entirely human.

EX-MACHINA-screenshot

Best Post-Apocalyptic Movie

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is a gorgeously filmed vision of the post-apocalyptic world. Although, lets be honest, it’s pretty much a single long car chase sequence across the wasteland. It’s a spectacular spectacle with beautifully choreographed stunts and action sequences. Mad Max is just as hard core as he’s ever been, and he gets to fight along side some amazingly bad ass women, not only Imperator Furiosa, but all of despot’s escaping wives. It’s one-note, perhaps, but it’s brilliant. The wasteland never looked so good.

mad max fury road

Best Horror Movie

A tie between The Devil’s Backbone /El espinazo del diablo (2001) and It Follows (2014).

The Devil’s Backbone, directed by Guillermo del Toro, is set during the Spanish Civil War, during which a 12-year-old Carlos is sent to a boy’s orphanage that is full of secrets. The imagery haunts from the start, with the image of a giant unexploded bomb shown standing in the center of the orphanage courtyard. The movie provides a steady eerie feeling that builds into a surprising conclusion.

the devil's backbone unexploded_bomb

It Follows is intensely creepy. The concept of a sexually transmitted monster, which on the surface sounds ridiculous, is handled with brilliant skill. Every bit of lighting combined with camera angles and music builds a growing sense of anxiety about this creature that never stops pursuing its intended target. I loved how the characters used their friendship to positive effect. When the main character’s friends could neither see nor believe in the creature, they didn’t waste their time doubting her. Instead, they recognized that she needed help and did what they could to provide that help. It’s an incredibly well done movie and one that caused me a few anxiety dreams after watching it.

It Follows movie still

Best Animated Film

Le Gouffre (2015) is a beautiful short film in which two young men face a chasm and find an industrious way to try to cross it. Rendered in CGI animation, a beautiful story of friendship and community evolves in just 10 minutes. You can watch it here.

le gouffre

Best Foreign Film

Wadjda (2012) is the first movie to be entirely filmed in Saudi Arabia and is the first film directed by a female Saudi director. It’s the story of a spunky young girl, named Wadjda, who wants her own a bicycle, even though considered indecent for a girl to ride. In order to get the money for the bike she wants, she joins a competition for learning and reciting the Koran. This movie is charming and the little girl Waad Mohammed who plays the main character is wonderful. I hope to see more work by director Haifaa Al-Mansour in the future.

Wadjda still image

Runner-up: In Circumstance (2011), filmed in Iran, two young women the strict rules that circle their lives in Tehran, Iran. Along the way, they fall in love with each other. There’s a sense of danger present even as they feel the most free, the impression that they are always being watched and judged. A beautiful and stylish film.

Best Documentary

Okay, so technically I only watched one documentary in 2015, but it was a really good documentary. In The Red Chapel / Kim Jong-Il’s Comedy Club (2009), two Danish Korean comedians, along with their manager, travel to North Korea in order to perform for the country’s National Theater. The aim of the trip is to discreetly reveal the disturbing nature of this totalitarian dictatorship, while also subtly poking fun at the regime during the comedy sketch routine. However, their plan quickly falters as their routine picked apart and replaced by a performance that suites the party line. The documentary has its flaws, but it fascinating in the way it moves from being, at first, unsettling but slightly humorous to being somewhat terrifying.

the-red-chapel

Honorable Mention: Best Worst Movie

The Barbarians (1987) is awful on so many levels and takes cheesy fantasy to amazing heights. It features beefcake twins with more glossy, well oiled muscles than any one person should rightly have.  Together with a scantily clad thief, they track down a magical ruby and defeat and evil band of barbarians. The villain has a unicorn horn strapped to his head. One of the heroes brays like a donkey when he’s excited. The dragon looks like a giant erect penis with a deranged Alf head (I’m not even kidding). The Barbarians is bad. It’s so, so bad. But it’s glorious in how bad it is.

What movies have you watched and loved in 2015?

 

Top Reads of 2015

Since I can’t seem to narrow my favorite books down to a top ten list, I’m presenting them here as my favorites according to categories.

Best Science Fiction Novel

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie and with it the entire Imperial Radch trilogy, which is the best science fiction trilogy I’ve read in probably ever. Breq used to be a part of the Justice of Toren, a ship powered by artificial intelligence with a thousand ancillary counterparts all operating as part of the same consciousness. But with the rest of her self destroyed, she is alone — a single ancillary pretending to be human and driven by anger to seek revenge against the one who destroyed her main ship.

As this trilogy unfolds, the world and the characters unfold with it. There are many layers to the Radch culture, a powerful colonizing empire that has invaded and taken control of a number of systems. The cultures and societies that were invaded, however, were not entirely erased and it’s revealed how the Radch rules of propriety are reinterpreted in different systems or ignored entirely, depending on the group of people. There’s more, as well, with mentions and interactions with non-human aliens who are truly alien by human standards. And the characters, likewise, are handled with the same level of delicacy and care, each one uniquely themselves and people I can relate to and care about. Utterly fantastic.

Runner-up: The Martian by Andy Weir — The story of an astronaut stranded on the hostile surface of Mars. The science and humor and constant tension presented make this a quick and thoroughly enjoyable read.

Best Fantasy Novel

A tie between Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold and Uprooted by Naomi Novik — both with stories of women with hidden power, who find themselves ensconced in battles bigger than themselves. Though both provide unique, clear world building, cultures, and magical systems.

Paladin of Souls is the story of a middle-aged royal woman, who has been kept confined due to a decade long period of mental instability caused by prophetical visions. Having regained a sense of autonomy over herself, she feels claustrophobic under the well-meaning coddling of the people who have long cared for her. She decides to go on a pilgrimage as a means of escape and the journey leads her back into the world of gods and visions, with a looming threat on the horizon.

In Uprooted (which I also mentioned as a favorite novel on Rhizomatic Ideas), a Dragon chooses a young maiden to take back to his tower every ten years. The Dragon is an ageless wizard in a tower, who keeps the darkness and malevolence of the Wood at bay in exchange for the service of a girl, whom he releases at the end of the ten year period. Every one expects him to take Kasia, the most beautiful and brave and capable girl in the town, so when the time of the choosing comes and he chooses Agnieszka instead, it’s a great surprise to everyone, most especially Agnieszka herself. Although the Dragon is a central character, it’s the friendship between Agnieszke and her friend Kasia that makes this novel shine.

Best Apocalyptic Fantasy Novel

I’m starting to stretch my category specificity with The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, because how many fantasy apocalypse novels are there in the world.* However, The Fifth Season is too good not to mention. The worldbuilding is fantastic, with a society that has faced many seasons of destruction and famine, so that their lore is filled with knowledge on how to survive.

In the story, Essun returns home to find that her husband has murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Shortly after this discovery, a volcanic rift is torn across the center of the continent throwing the Sanze empire into chaos. A great earthquake rolls over the land, crushing cities and villages, and ash begins to cloud the sky and Essun is left to pursue her husband and daughter admidst the growing calamity. The journey delves deep into her past and unveils many secrets about herself and the world.

*I know of at least one other magical apocalypse novel — The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson, which is also fantastic.

Best Steampunk Novel

Rupetta by Nike Sulway is beautiful and strange alternate history, N.A. Sulway that questions the nature of humanity and god and to explore what constitutes a soul, while also taking into consideration how history is shaped and how the creation of history through carefully selected “facts” or stories shapes a society. Rupetta is an animatronic object, constructed in the 1600s by a young French woman out of brass gears and cogs and leather fittings to resemble a human being. As she continues to exist beyond the lives of those who loved and used and despised her, the world changes in dramatic ways.

Best YA Novel

A tie between All the Rage by Courtney Summers and The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma — both of which present some darl explorations of what it means to be a girl.

All the Rage is is a rough, beautiful book that explores the after math of rape and the brutal reality of rape culture. Ostracized by her community for accusing the sheriff’s son of rape, Romy Grey becomes tried to find ways to escape from what happened to her while being unable to forget it because of the constant bullying from her classmates. This heavy, emotionally wracking story is also beautifully written, with Summers perfectly capturing Romy’s voice and inner journey.

The Walls Around Us has a haunting quality and not just because the story is populated with ghosts. The stories of the three girls at the center of this story — Amber is a young woman convicted of murder who has been locked in prison for years; Violet, a ballet dancer with a dark secret; and Orianna, a girl caught in a tide of misfortune who binds the other two together — weave together unveiling lies and secrets and the truth behind a murder. Rich, gorgeous prose brings the world inside this prison for young women and the outside world (for this books seems to divide the world into two realms – inside and outside) to vivid, brutal reality.

Best Western Novel

Okay, so, I don’t normally read enough westerns to be able to have a separate category for them. However, Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is wonderful. Two girls — Samantha (called Sam), a violinist, and Annamae, a runaway slave — head out on the Oregon Trail dressed as young men, hiding from the law and hoping for a better life in San Francisco. The two make friends with a group of young cowboys along the way, who join them on their adventures in the prairies of the Wild West. I love the way this book breaks down the myth of the West, providing a more diverse portrait of the time period, while also putting the friendship between these two girls at its center.

Best Short Story Collection

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree, Jr. is a must read for any science fiction fan and for anyone interested in tightly wrought, unsettling stories. “The Screwfly Solution” involves increasing numbers of attacks by men against women. Bits of news clips, letters, and diary entries are placed alongside the main narrative of a man trying to make it home to his wife and daughter amid the mounting chaos. The ending is fatalistic, powerful, terrifying, making it one of the best short stories I’ve read in years. And that’s just one example in a collection that explores gender and sexuality in challenging and innovative ways through intelligent science fiction. Reading Tiptree’s stories makes me feel inadequate as a writer, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Best Graphic Novel and Best Comedy

Hyperbole and a Half:Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh is an illustrated collection of essays based on her popular blog. These essays delves into stories about her own life, about her dogs and family and self identity, in each case revealing the flaws and joys with a sense of self mocking humor and honesty. Many times while reading, I burst into laughter not caring what anyone else thought about my enthusiasm.

Brosh is brilliant and witty and a lot of fun to read. I hope all my hopes that she will release a sequel (hopefully one featuring the infamous Alot).

(Image by Allie Briosch)
(Image from Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh)

Best Poetry Book

Populated by mermaids and drift bottles and lost sisters and brutal mothers, Drink by Laura Madeline Wiseman is the collection of poetry I mentally return to again and again. I love the lyrical beauty of these poems, the layering of image and metaphor and how each poem layered with the next provides and beautiful emotional arc when the collection is read from beginning to end. (My full review of Drink can be found over at Rhizomatic Ideas.)

Runner-up: Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone by Annelyse Gelman, which features poems that are witty, clever, fun with an undercurrent of vulnerability and introspection. They explore the chaotic realm of everyday life, poking fun at its imperfections and drawing out its underbelly.

Best Nonfiction Book

In Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, Douglas A. Blackmon reveals through meticulous research how southern whites by-passed the Emancipation Proclamation and constitutional amendments to continue slavery in the form of convict forced labor. They found their way around emancipation by criminalizing black life by writing laws targeted specifically at African Americans, one such law making it illegal for someone to leave their current employment without their employer’s permission.

This is a depressing book, which is also dense with facts and data, making it a difficult read. However, it’s also a vital book. It presents an aspect of American history that one would not necessarily want to look at, but it’s something we need to look at.(Full review.)

What were some of your favorite books from 2015?

Transitioning into the New Year

Looking back on 2015…

If I could sum up my experience of 2015 in just a few words, I would say that it was a strange mixture of overwhelming and astoundingly wonderful.

In Writing:

At the beginning of 2015 I wrote about seeking minimalism and creative focus. The idea was to step away from doing ALL THE THINGS and focus in on the work that mattered most to me. In some ways, I achieved a sense of minimalism through an increased sense of focus on my writing and in other ways I failed miserably.

At the beginning of the year, I focused in on the YA novel I’ve been trying to get drafted for a couple of years now. A few month into slogging through the novel, however, I faltered and couldn’t find my way any further into the story.

Somewhere around that time, when I was starting to feel lost, I reconnected with poetry, writing and editing and submitting it to number of markets. Around the end of the year, I joined the Brainery Science Fiction Fairy Tales short story writing workshop (which I wrote about here), which brought me back around to fiction.

In 2015, I submitted more poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for publication in a single year than I have in all the years I’ve been pursuing writing combined (I’m fairly sure, although I don’t have old data back that up). As I result, I’ve received more rejections, acceptances, and publication credits than before. Around six poems (three of which were collaboratively written with Laura Madeline Wiseman) and an essay have been published since the beginning of the year.

Even more amazing, two of those poems have been nominated for awards — “The Things I Own” (published in Thank You for Swallowing, July 2015) was nominated for Independent Best American Poetry and “Eve and Pandora” (published in Nonbinary Review, Issue #4: Bulfinch’s Mythology: The Age of Fable, April 2015) was nominated for Sundress Best of the Net.

I also attended more open mics, readings, and writing events (such as FogCon) that I had previously, including a few events in which I was a featured performer. Through these events, I’ve made some great connections with other poets and writers and artists, all of whom continue to inspire me in a variety of ways.

In blogging, I started a series of Poet and Artist Spotlights in late 2015, an attempt to highlight and acknowledge creators I admire. The first three in the series — Jill Allyn Stafford, Laura Madeline Wiseman, and Kristina Marie Darling — all shared insights about their work and their process. Doing the spotlights was a fun exercise and I hope to be able to significantly expand this series in the new year.

Other Non-Writing Things:

Running and improving my distance (with the ultimate aim of running a marathon) has been a major goal for me over the past few years. I did participate in a couple of events, including the She is Beautiful 10K, which was wonderful, and the UROC not-really-a-half-marathon half marathon, which I didn’t actually run and was miserable. After the UROC, I fell out of my running routine and I was okay with that. I think I needed the break.

Travel included two work trips to Orlando, Florida in the spring and Detroit, Michigan in the fall, as well as an amazing journey up to Anchorage, Alaska to visit family (which included an intense hiking excursion, or intense for me anyway, my sister thought it was no big deal).

Looking forward to 2016…

I’m hesitant to make any major writing goals, or even life goals, encompassing the entire year. One of the many things 2015 taught me was that priorities shift throughout the year and what’s important at the start is not always going to be what’s important at the end.

At the moment I find myself wanting to be drawn in several different directions. I have a number of stories drafts that came out of the Brainery workshop that are calling out to be polished. The novel is also calling to me again and a couple of poetry drafts and poetry book manuscripts want some attention. It would be easy to end up mentally dismembered by letting myself be pulled every which way at once.

But 2015 also taught me that by focusing in on a specific project (or maybe two at most), fantastic things can be accomplished.

For the moment, I think I’m going to focus on the short stories. A couple are near-ish to done and two more need to finish being drafted. In the second half of the year, I may go back to the novel after I’ve done some more research.

I know that I also want to stay physically active and to that end I’m doing a trial run with some early morning yoga classes (maybe too early) before work and I’m going to try to get back into a running schedule.

And other than that, I’m just going to let the year unfold as it may and will keep readjusting my goals along the way.

How was your 2015? What sorts of goals, if any, do you have in mind for 2016?

Books finished in November and December 2015

1. Attachments (audio book) by Rainbow Rowell
2. Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie
3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
4. My Life Before Me by Norah McClintock
5. The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
6. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
7. Rough Magick, edited by Francesca Lia Block and Jessa Marie Mendez
8. Fables: Happily Ever After by Bill Willingham
9. Fables: Farewell by Bill Willingham

REVIEWS

Continue reading “Books finished in November and December 2015”

Book Review: Rough Magick

The short stories and poems in Rough Magick, edited by Francesca Lia Block and Jessa Marie Mendez, explore the darker side of love and sex with a mixture of haunting, romantic, and horrifying tales. The anthology is split into two parts with the first half being lyrical stories based in realism, while the second half presents fantastical tales. This choice to split the collection was my biggest annoyance. I would have preferred to have read alternating tales of realism and fantasy, which would have provided an interesting juxtaposition. On the whole, though, Rough Magick is a strong collection with the majority of the stories being rather good and some being utterly fantastic. Here are a few favorites.

Written out like a series of instructions, “Spell to Mend a Broken Heart” by Amanda Yates Garcia sketches out the pain of heartbreak and charts a path to healing. 

“Paradise” by Ashley Inguanta is a  gorgeous story of burning — California wildfires and dry, dusty air, and the thirst of dried out and ashy hearts.

In “Venus,” Sarah Herrington presents two young girls discovering each other among the Venus fly traps with a beautiful, magical lyricism.

Probably the most disturbing story in the collection is “Rathead” by Laura Lee Bahr. It’s a strange staying which a woman falls for a handsome magician, only to wake up the morning after to discover he has a rat head. She stays with him, both loving and hating him for and despite of his hideous head.

“Persephone + Hades” by Jilly Dreadful and K.T. Ismael envisions the underworld as a sleek and seedy version Los Angeles, with various gods of death commingling and Persephone’s journeys there a kind of rebellion against her mother. The writing in this is rich and playful and gorgeous. For example: “I was taken by the ruin that bloomed there: eyes rotted out of the skull, nose skin shrinking away from its open mouth and maggots feasting away on what was left. Surrendering to the cycle, how death begets life: these were things I would never know as the daughter of Demeter.”

Kira Lees offers a disturbing vision of possessive love in “Strands of Gold.” A young girl discovers a monster, which falls in love with her instead of eating her. She brings him gifts of other children (to consume) and plays other kinds of games with him as she grows older. The ending is wonderfully unsettling.

New-to-me movies watched in November and December

1. NH10 (2015)

A woman and her husband take trip from Delhi to the countryside. Along the way they try to help a young woman being dragged off by some men, which leads them to being hunted by the locals.

Altogether a solid thriller/revenge film and it’s interesting to see a film from India expressing the same city folk fears of hicks as in the U.S. (but not surprising when I think about it).

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Love, love, love, love, love. It totally gave me the feeling I had when I was young — when I used to watch Episodes 4-6 over and over and over again to the point of annoying the hell out of my family.

Book Review: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

On the same day Essun comes home to find that her husband has murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter, a volcanic rift is torn across the center of the continent throwing the Sanze empire into chaos. A great earthquake rolls over the land, crushing cities and villages, and ash begins to cloud the sky. Essun leaves behind the illusion of normalcy she had shaped for so many years and journeys into a wilds of the collapsing world in order to pursue her husband and save her daughter.

Essun is a woman with secrets and many names. I don’t really know how to talk about her without giving something away. There were aspects of her personality and her story that were only revealed (to me, at least) deep into the novel, her individuality, her self having many aspects, all naturally fitting in to the whole of her story. She’s complicated and calm and full of rage. One phrase she repeats again and again throughout the story as she faces prejudice and oppression in many forms is, “It’s not right.” She sees that society is violently broken and is powerless to stop it. And already, I feel as though I’ve said too much, so let’s move on.

The worldbuilding in The Fifth Season is exceptional. It’s a world built on continual catastrophe, a continent continually beset by earthquakes and the threat of apocalypse. The stability of the empire is built on survival through past destruction, surviving many apocalyptic seasons (known as fifth seasons, seasons of death) in which earthquakes, volcanoes, or other natural disasters have created months, years, or decades of light-less winter and famine. As such, the culture is focused on survival, with their scripture, known as Stone Lore, primarily presenting knowledge on how to prepare for and survive the next apocalyptic season that is sure to come.

The Fifth Season is the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy. I hadn’t intended to get started on another series this year, but here I am and I don’t at all mind. Jemisin’s story is fantastic on many levels and I can’t wait for next books to be released.

Things I Learned from the Brainery Workshop

Last week, the Brainery Science Fiction Fairy finished up with an analysis of the final set of portfolios (including my own). The class was a wonderful and empowering experience. Jilly Dreadful is an amazing teacher and the class was filled with great writers — Katy Stenta and Kirsten Squires. (A few other writers started out with us, but for personal reasons were unable to complete the workshop.) It was cool to see their work develop over the course of twelve weeks and I can’t wait to see where all their writing goes from here.

The weekly mash up of a fairy tale with some element of science was a fascinating exercise, which pushed the boundaries of what fairy tales can be. Although each week we worked with the same fairy tales and science, the stories that came from each writer were vastly different, some barely containing any resemblance to the original tale.

I’ve learned a lot about the craft of writing and myself as a writer from this workshop. Here are just a few of the bits and pieces that stick out most for me.

Henry Meynell Rheam - Sleeping Beauty
“Sleeping Beauty” by Henry Meynell Rheam

Things I learned about craft…

The Magic in the Gutter

One of the ideas Jilly presented was the idea of the Magic in the Gutter, a concept I believe she found in Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. In comics, the gutter is the blank space between panels of art, the space between one image and the other. In that blank space, the reader uses their imagination to fill in the details themselves. This concept can also be applied to fiction writing, as she noted in response to a story I had written, which had a more fragmentary style. In order to have something to submit, I had focused in on specific detailed scenes without connecting them and I was concerned that without these connections, the reader might get lost in the story.

The concept of the Magic in the Gutter, however, trusts that the reader will fill in the details between the scenes for themselves. In many cases, its possible to get away with just leaving the gap and letting the reader make the connection — unless knowing the exact details of what happened in between is important to the story, in which case, it should probably be a scene itself.

Learning this was incredibly freeing to me, as I’ve often obsessed about trying to make my stories linear, following every step from beginning to end in order to achieve clarity. The Magic in the Gutter reveals how that clarity can still be present, even with well placed gaps in the action.

Draw from Your Passion

Sometimes, as in the case of one of my fellow workshop writers, a story has a clear core passion, a message or point of view about the world, that comes out through the story. Figuring out what that core is, what is a driving you to write the story — whether is a central relationship or a frustration regarding how society today is hyper-vigilant over parents — can help clarify the goals of the story and drive conflict.

It was one of the many moments in workshop, where I found myself immediately wanting to apply this new knowledge to other things I’ve been writing. What is the core of this story? What is the underlying passion for me that is driving me to write it? How can I draw that out in the characters and the conflict?

Arthur Rackham Little Red Riding Hood
“Little Red Riding Hood” by Arthur Rackham

Things I learned about myself as a writer…

Apparently I CAN Finish a Short Story

You might not think this that big of a revelations, but it was huge for me. I’ve been a poet for a long time and am fairly comfortable with poetry as a form, but have piled up stacks of story drafts that were never completed or never edited to the point in which I felt they were good enough to submit for publication (although, I’ve “finished” and posted a number of flash fiction drafts on my blog over the years).

One of my goals in joining the Brainery Workshop was to break free of that cycle and to write and edit some stories that I could then send out for publication. I finished two stories — “How Bluebeard Ends” and “Missed Connections – Nov. 11 – Redhead at the House of Needles” — both of which have been submitted for publication. Two other stories were fully drafted and need some editing in order to get them ready for sending out. The rest of the fives stories that were drafted during workshop are not anywhere near ready, but I can see the trajectories of the plots and how to finish them and I know I can put the work in to get them done.

It feels pretty damn good.

My Super Power is Voice

A few weeks into the workshop, Jilly addressed all of the writers and shared  what she felt our writing super power is with each of us. According to Jilly my power was voice, the ability to personify a character or tone in the story.

It was an interesting revelation. During the process of writing a new story draft each week, I found that if I was able to narrow in on the right voice or tone for the story, then it would flow more easily for me. But if I couldn’t figure out the tone, then the story was often more of a struggle.

Knowing this, I wonder if my struggles in continuing with my novel at the beginning of the year might have been partially been influenced by the fact that I never really felt as though I had a handle on the characters. The novel is written from two separate first person POVs and yet they sound the same to me. Maybe finding their individual voices is what I need to do in order to get back into finishing the novel.

What now…

I thrive on deadlines. Self imposed deadlines don’t always work. Far more effective are the deadlines imposed as part of a group or class, in which I ramp up my own sense of obligation to contribute. This is part of the reason why the Brainery workshop worked so well for me. And now that I know that I can write and finish short stories, I’m toying with the idea of participating in one of the novel writing workshops as a way to get back to being engaged with an even longer work. I’m a little intimidated by the idea, though, as I can foresee the level of work involved in participating. If not in the spring, then maybe in the summer or fall.

Still recharging

My need to recharge continued through last week. Every time I came home from work I couldn’t bring myself to pull out my computer and get to work. I’m okay with that, because it gave me time to catch up on my reading.

What I’m Reading

I’ve just started Ancillary Mercy by Anne Leckie, the conclusion to the Imperial Radch trilogy, and I AM SO EXCITED. I’ve loved both of the first two books and the third is starting out just as great.

Still working on Rough Magick, a collection of short stories edited by Jessa Marie Mendez and Francesca Lia Block.

What I’m Writing

Although I didn’t continue on any of the other short stories from the Brainery Workshop, as I intended, I did manage to churn out a spontaneous villanelle with rhyme and everything, even though I never rhyme in my poetry. It was kind of an exciting moment for me.

Published! Yellow Chair Review released its Pop Culture Issue, which includes “Allow Me to Tell You About Plastic and Mold,” a poem about Barbie and the various forms of decay I experienced in my youth. 

Accepted! Rose Red Review has published “Hunger” and “The Huntsman’s Heart,” two collaborative poems cowritten with Laura Madeline Wiseman.

Another collaborative poem, “A Gathering of Baba Yagas,” also written with Laura Madeline Wiseman, has been accepted for publication in Strange Horizons.
Goals for the Week:

  • Edit a short story. 

Room to rest

Over the weekend I allowed myself space to step back from writing for a few days. Instead I attended a holiday party with friends, celebrated my dad’s birthday with a hike, and gave myself space to lounge and read and take naps. It was a calming and healing weekend, which didn’t quite cure me of my two-week-long cough but came close. Sometimes I forget how important it is to allow space for recharge, mentally, socially, spiritually.

What I’m Reading

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin is amazing. I love the world building, which is revealed through three central characters at, I presume, different points in the timeline. One of the characters, Essun, is presented using second person narration, which is an interesting choice. Although I’m not sure it’s necessary, it’s well done and I don’t find it distracting at all, especially since her hunt for her daughter as an apocalyptic event (called a Fifth Season) falls down upon the world is totally thrilling.

Still working on Rough Magick, a collection of short stories edited by Jessa Marie Mendez and Francesca Lia Block.

What I’m Writing

Most of my work last week was focused on finishing up my portfolio pieces. Once I submitted them on Thursday, I considered launching immediately into another story, but stopped. My brain needed some rest over the weekend after all the hard work of the last eleven weeks.

Goals for the Week:

  • Edit another short story to completion.

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Twelve

The final day of class (the day in which my portfolio pieces will be discussed – eep!) was rescheduled to Monday of next week so that we could accommodate almost everyone attending. I finished the three stories I wanted to present as my portfolio. One of my concerns going into this class was this fear that I would end up with a ton of drafts, but no finished stories. There was a part of myself (rather foolish, perhaps) that believed I would never be able to finish a story. But I did and I am all kinds of glee.

Linky Goodness

  • The Two Most Powerful Words That You Can Say To Yourself While Writing by Charlie Jane Anders — “‘I’m bored.’ These two words are the hardest thing to admit, when you’re writing your deathless novel, or screenplay, or short story. You’re supposed to be creating a work of timeless brilliance. How can you be bored?  But admitting that you’re bored is the first step to not being bored.”

“Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy.” – Søren Kierkegaard

Note: I started writing this post on Monday with the intention of posting it on Monday, but somehow managed to forget it entirely because there were too many things going on in my mind — which when I think about it is somewhat of a contradiction to my statements below. 

It’s that season. You know, the one where you’re rushing around trying to schedule in family events and time with friends and shopping and events and all in the name of showing how much you care about people, but sometimes it feels as though it gets lost in the rush of getting things done. Or maybe it’s just me, feeling a little overwhelmed.

Brain pickings has a great post on what Danish philosopher Kierkegaard wrote in contemplating our greatest source of unhappiness. He talked about how busy-ness is a kind of escapism, of being absent from your life. “The unhappy one is absent,” he explains, and certainly the holiday season is one in which it’s to be busy and focused on the past or future instead of present in one’s life.

The idea of busy-ness as a source of unhappiness is not entirely new to me per se, but it’s one I’ve lost sight of. I don’t think being busy is bad in and of itself, as it depends on what kind of busy. My participation in the Brainery Workshop, for example, has filled up a significant portion of my time in a good way, making me both busy and happy. It’s allowed me space to be fully present in the experience of words, both in reading them and in writing them. Engaging in writing and reading is something that fills me with joy, when I give myself space to do so.

Likewise, I think it’s possible to approach the holidays with less stress by being more present when with family or friends. At least, that’s how I’m hoping to approach this month. Although I have a long list of things to get done, I don’t want such lists to get in the way of my enjoying the moment with the people I love. It’s not as easy as saying it, I know. Being present, like most things, requires its own kind of practice and it’s something I’m going focus on (really, it’s something I’m often focusing on as much as I can).

What I’m Reading

I’ve started The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin and by started I mean opened it up and placed a bookmark inside. I’m certain this will be a good one, though, because I’ve loved other things by Jemisin.

Still working on Rough Magick, a collection of short stories edited by Jessa Marie Mendez and Francesca Lia Block, and I’ve reached the second half of the book, where there seems to be some stories with actual magic in them.

What I’m Writing

My collaborative poetry work has slowed down a bit due to how massively busy I’ve been with work and writing short stories and life in general, but it’s still going and good things are happening.

Unbidden a new poem idea popped into my head, because ideas do that sometimes. So, I started jotting down thoughts for a Persephone poem and will also be working on it this week, assuming I get through my writing/editing work for the Brainery Workshop.

Goals for the Week:

  • Edit last story for class.
  • Finish Persephone poem

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Eleven

We’re in the series revision stage at the Brainery Workshop, with last week’s session being focused on revision exercises to stretch our concepts of what’s possible with a story. This included switching POVs, doing the opposite of what was originally planned for a story, and other goodies — all of which provided some fruitful considerations for the rewrite.

My portfolio of stories is almost ready and includes my Bluebeard story, Iron Henry story, and Sleeping Beauty story. All of which are pretty much as done as I can make them at this point, so I’ll be putting them aside to wait for the comments that will be coming in at next week’s session.

Technically, I don’t have to write anything else for the workshop and I could take a break this week. But since I’m still in the workshop mentality, I think I’m going to try to get one more story written to a finished draft by next week. Ultimately, I’d like to get all of the stories I started during the workshop finished and ready for submission, which would make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Linky Goodness

Gratitude and things

I spent my Thanksgiving holiday bouncing between family members’ homes and being met with gobs of good food and laughter at each place. The weather was chill and we shivered in our California-level sweaters (i.e., too thin) and enjoyed watching out breaths puffing into the air. They were some lovely and mostly restful days.

Of the many things I’m grateful for in my life, I find myself really blessed by words at the moment. It’s been a great year so far in terms of my writing life, due in part to the inspiring work of my many writing friends, to collaborative work with Laura Madeline Wiseman, and to the Brainery Workshop. I’ve probably written more consistently and more profusely this year, as well as having submitted more work for publication, than I probably ever have in the past. I’ll probably expand on this in an end of the year post.

What I’m Reading

Still working on both Rough Magick, a collection of short stories edited by Jessa Marie Mendez and Francesca Lia Block, and My Life Before Me by Norah McClintock.

What I’m Writing

See Brainery Workshop below.

Goals for the Week:

  • Edit two more stories for class.

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Ten

Last week’s topic discussion for Brainery Science Fiction Fairy Tales workshop group looked at the “Hansel and Gretel” and synesthesia and empathy disorders. I was particularly interested in an article about a young woman who has a form of synesthesia related to machinery, which I incorporated into a story about an smart house that welcomes runaways Hansel and Gretel inside but does not wish to let them go again.

Last week ended the writing of original drafts for the Brainery Worshop and now we’re on to a stage of finishing and editing and putting together a short portfolio of our word. I already have one done, called “How Bluebeard Ends,” and I am starting work on my Sleeping Beauty and Iron Henry pieces. If I finish those with enough time to spare, then I’ll try to put one of the others together.

Where I’ll Be

On December 3, from 9-midnight at Iguannas in San Jose, I’ll be one of many ladies featuring at the Cito.Fame.Us Queens of the Bay mic and birthday party for the amazing host Lindsey Leong.

Linky Goodness

Books, words, and the role of technology 

What I’m Reading
Still working on Rough Magick, a collection of short stories edited by Jessa Marie Mendez and Francesca Lia Block. Not as many of the stories have actual magic in them as I would have hoped, but even so they tend to be beautifully written, which makes up for it.

I’ve also started reading My Life Before Me by Norah McClintock, which is set in the ’60s and is about a young woman who wants to be an intrepid reporter like Nelly Bly. As a fan of Bly myself, I’m finding this fun so far.

What I’m Writing

See Brainery Workshop below.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish workshop draft before class.
  • Edit Bluebeard tale in time to submit to Uncanny (sooclose).

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Seven

Last week’s topic discussion for Brainery Science Fiction Fairy Tales workshop group looked at the “Little Red Riding Hood” and surveillance culture, which was a theme I thought would have been rife with ideas. But all week I came up blank, with only vague glimmerings of overly complex concepts without characters or a story.

A few days before our workshop group was set to meet, I posted about my frustrations. Jilly Dreadful came back with a writing challenge to write a Craigslist Missed Connections personals ad, which turned out to be just the kind of constraint I needed to put something on the page. Over the course of my lunch break, I pounded out a story of a missed meeting and sent it in for workshopping. I was blown away by the positive response the piece received. For me, it was a quickly written throwaway piece. But I followed my group’s advice, made a few minor corrections, and submitted it for publication.

This upcoming class will focus on Hansel and Gretel and synesthesia and empathy disorders. Since we’re meeting early, I only have tonight to put something together, but I’m feeling okay about that as I already have the beginning of an idea.

Where I’ll Be

On December 3, from 9-midnight at Iguannas in San Jose, I’ll be one of many ladies featuring at the Cito.Fame.Us Queens of the Bay mic and birthday party for the amazing host Lindsey Leong.

Linky Goodness

  • In The Problem with #FirstWorldProblems, An Xiao Mina looks at the problematic ways mobile technology is discussed in the media, considering how vital it has become to people around the world. — “Empathy is founded in our ability to see ourselves in the lives of others, to understand their pain and suffering and respond with compassion. If we cannot imagine the lives of others very different from ourselves, we cannot empathize with their joys and sorrows, and if we take as a frame of reference our own experiences, we cannot deeply engage with others’ lived experiences. If we assume that phones are frivolous, luxury devices for playing games and getting distracted at the dinner table, we cannot imagine how critical they are for helping people find their way to nearby safe points — and then we overlook the need to distribute prepaid SIM cards alongside water bottles. If we assume that transparency and openness are universal goods, we cannot imagine how that openness can be terrifying for a queer person trying to live safely and with dignity in a country with anti-LGBT legal structures — and then we enact Terms of Service and user experiences that promote the very thing (visibility) that can make their lives more dangerous.”
  • Rachel Syme presents a thorough and detailed discussion of the history and current role of the selfie in society and culture in SELFIE: The revolutionary potential of your own face, in seven chapters“Consider this: maybe a woman — or really any person — who takes and publishes many pictures of herself is simply ambitious. She wants people to recognize her image-making ability, her aesthetic boldness, her bravery for stepping into the frame and clicking send. When you tell someone that they have sent too many images of themselves into their feeds, when you shame them with cries of narcissism and self-indulgence, when you tell them that they are taking up too much virtual space (space that is at present, basically limitless, save for the invented boundaries of taste): you need to question your motives. Are you afraid of a person’s ambition to be seen? Where does that come from?”

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

From page one, I loved Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Every ten years a Dragon chooses a young maiden, but this is not the kind of dragon with scales or the kind who would eat her. He’s an ageless wizard in a tower, who keeps the darkness and malevolence of the Wood at bay in exchange for the service of a girl, whom he releases at the end of ten years (although none of the girls chose to return home after). Every one expects him to take Kasia, the most beautiful and brave and capable girl in the town, so when the time of the choosing comes and he chooses Agnieszka instead, it’s a great surprise to everyone, most especially Agnieszka herself.

It’s difficult to describe the plot of this book, because so much unfolds is packed away and then unfolded again over the course of the story. Amal El-Mohtar has in her review on NPR has a wonderful description of reading this book.

“Watching the plot develop is like watching time-lapse footage of a plant growing, unfurling leaves, gaining height and depth simultaneously: it’s an organic, vivacious development that builds seamlessly on what came before. Agnieszka’s training, her failures and successes in magic, her loneliness and fears and frustrations, all bud and blossom into new adventure even as the roots tangle into deeper complication: The ultimate source of the Wood’s malice.”

Although the story features sex and something like romance, the friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia is the true heart of this story. Having known each other all their lives, their friendship begins sweet, but delves into a deeper trust as all their petty jealousies and hidden anger laid bare over the course of the story. But throughout, they stay true to each other and they stay true to themselves, able to have their own emotional arcs, face their own inner demons, and realize their own strength and confidence.

There are so many other things I could say about this book, about how it plays with story telling and myth, how it focused more on the local village community than on royalty, how it relates a story of nature versus civilization, or maybe how explores the differences between linear versus organic styles of magic. This book is just so wonderfully layered and I’m sure there will be more to think about and reconsider when I come around to reading it again, but for the moment I just want to say that I love Novik’s writing style, how she manages to maker her lines seem at once so beautiful and at the same time so effortless. I melted into this story and I will be looking forward to exploring more of Novik’s work.

 

A week away, but not to play

Most of my free time last week involved prepping for and going on a business trip to Detroit for my day job. On the whole the trip was a success, although I had to struggle through it a bit since I was sick the entire time.

Having been to Detroit before and having loved the experience, I was looking forward to getting out and doing things, checking out an art museums, a cemetery, or whatever sounded interesting. Normally, when traveling, I’ve been known to pack my days with activities. But because I had been sick through almost two weeks — through too much work while preparing for this trip, through setting up and going to a trade show, through interviews and meetings and business dinners — I gave myself permission to laze around my hotel room and recover instead. It was the right move and what I needed.

However, I did have to go out to eat, so I made sure to hit up my favorite restaurant and bar, Wright & Co., where I had a boulevardier (to burn off those germs) ordered some aMAZing port tenderloin. I also visited Astoria Pastry Shop in Greektown for baklava. Good eats = good times.

What I’m Reading

I’ve started up Rough Magick, a collection of short stories edited by Jessa Marie Mendez and Francesca Lia Block. This has a couple of stories from writer friends I know through the Brianery workshop, including our beloved teacher Jilly Dreadful.

In other bookish things, a few of weeks ago I chanced into being at my local library during a $3/bag book sale. All considering, I was extremely conservative in my purchases, as my book shelves are already pretty much full. When considering a book, I made sure to consider whether I would read the book immediately, if I had the time available, in order to prevent adding to the number of books I’ve had for years and never read.

So, here’s my book haul.

Book Haul - November 2015

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Many Waters by Madeline L’engle
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
The Intuitive Writer: Listening to Your Own Voice by Gail Sher
Superstitions and Old Wive’s Tales by Hilary M. Cannock
Bartimaeus, Book One: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
Rashomon and Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
City of Darkness, City of Light by Marge Piercy
The Red Tent by Anita Diamond (this is the only one I’ve read before)

What I’m Writing

All my writing progress vanished while preparing for the work portion of my trip. It was only after the trade show was over that I had mental capacity to handle words.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish workshop draft before class.
  • Edit Bluebeard tale in time to submit to Uncanny (I’m getting close).

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Seven

Last week’s topic discussion for Brainery Science Fiction Fairy Tales workshop group looked at the “Little Mermaid” fairy tale with a connection to gene manipulation and transhumanism.

Normally, I read a number of fairytale versions and a number of articles in preparation for my story, but last week did not offer my time to make that happen. I ended up just speed writing as much as I could over the story in the hour and a half before class and I wasn’t really satisfied with what I wrote.

But this week, we broke with the typical class format and did an in class writing exercise, which opened up the ending of the story for me and gave me a clear sense of where I wanted to go. It’ll take a bit more research and brainstorming to outline the plot, but I think this one will eventually come together.

This upcoming Thursday’s class will focus on Little Red Riding Hood and surveillance culture. I have no idea where this one will take me. At the moment, I’m starting to look back over previous stories to see what might be edited to completion.

Linky Goodness

  • The Difference Between a Great Story and a Shitty Story Is Often Really Tiny by  Charlie Jane Anders — “It’s easy to see why telling stories and casting magic spells are so often compared or conflated in fantasy stories—because telling a good story is very much like casting a spell. You’re creating another reality and trying to immerse people in it, and you’re hoping to make it so compelling that people “forget” it’s not real. (Almost like a trance.)”

Travels and travails 

I am writing this in between flights at the Seattle airport. I was supposed to layover in Minneapolis but sh!t happens and important mechanical components sometimes stop working on planes, requiring them to be replaced and thus travelers, such as myself, must find new means to reach their final destination. 

Despite the four hour delay, I am quite pleased they discovered this complication while we were all on the ground instead of in the air.

There was one brief moment of this trip is doomed when a boom of thunder rattled the airport right before my newly scheduled replacement flight. But the staff assured us all was well and the flight took off as scheduled. Now I wait in Seattle.

I’m also coming off being sick over the weekend, which along with all the prep required for my work trip left little space for writing. 

What I’m Reading

My in flight reading is Uprooted by Naomi Novik. The story presents an interesting twist on the idea of dragons taking maidens. In this case, the Dragon is an ageless magician who keeps the girls as servants for ten years before letting them go. He does this in exchange for keeping the Wood at bay, a place mysterious and frightening. I love the main character, Agnieszka, who is fumbling and frightened but is stronger than she thinks. 

What I’m Writing 

I planned to finish up my Bluebeard tale last week, but with the preparations for this trip and getting the current short story written, I didn’t have time. I need to hurry to finish it, though as the submission deadline for Uncanny is fast approaching. 

Brainery Science Fiction Fairy Tales Workshop

Last week’s writing assignment focused on  the Three Little Pigs and animal testing. I got a bit lost on the animal focus, as it didn’t invoke many story ideas. I couldn’t think of any kind of animal subjects and eventually tried to think of the three houses as mental defenses and the wolf as an outside presence trying to break in. 

It felt like the weakest of the stories I had submitted, but the feedback was good. What came out of it was that the strongest aspect of the story was the interactions between the three family members. Knowing that will help guide me in directing the story once I get around to rewrites. 

This week’s assignment focuses on The Little Mermaid and genetic modification/transhumanism. I’m just starting to read the source material, but already I can tell this is going to take me some strange places. 

New-to-me movies watched in October 2015

(I don’t have the mental capacity for full reviews this week, so here are some short thoughts.)

1. Glengary Glen Ross (1992)

About five minutes into watching this, I thought, This feels like a David Mamet play. That would probably be because it was written by David Mamet. The story is as simple as a day in the life of shady real estate salesmen, but the crisp and snappy dialog and brilliant acting make this incredibly dark and tense.

2. The Martian (2015)

Capturing almost everything I loved about the book, the movie was just as funny and thrilling as I hoped it would be with gorgeous shots of the martian landscape.

3. We Are Still Here (2015)

This fairly standard haunted house movie set in the early ’80s features a family trying to start over, a suspiciously creepy small town, and a violent ghosts. The opening sequences are unsettling with sparse images of a snowed in landscape, which building to a conclusion full of bloodplatter. Just what I wanted to see.

Books finished in October 2015

1. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories (audio book) by Susanna Clarke
2. All the Rage by Courtney Summers
3. Fiendish (audio book) by Brenna Yovanoff
4. Celestial Inventories (short stories) by Steve Rasnic Tem
5. Failure Lyric, poetry by Kristina Marie Darling

Still reading at the end of the month:
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie and Attachments (audio book) by Rainbow Rowell. Both are wonderful.

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “Books finished in October 2015”

It begins…

The season has begun — not the season of manic holiday shopping, although that’s alive and well, too — but the season of manic writing in the form National Novel Writing Month, the annual challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.

To all participants, I wish you much caffeine, words, and luck.

I will not be participating this year, although I have been severely tempted to throw yet one more thing on my plate. Instead I will take a more practical approach to the month of November and focus on completing my current challenge — writing and finishing every weekly story for the Brainery Science Fiction Fairy Tales workshop, which is enough work in and of itself.

What I’m Reading

I AM READING Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie AND I’M JUST HALFWAY THROUGH AND IT IS AS AMAZING AS Ancillary Justice. Leckie is my writing idol, with how she has created unique, complex cultures combined with a large cast of interesting characters combines with thrilling storylines.

What I’m Writing

See below, because only Brainery writing got done this week. All other writing was outside my ability to function last week.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish workshop draft before class.
  • Edit Bluebeard tale in time to submit to Uncanny.

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Three

Last week’s topic discussion for Brainery Science Fiction Fairy Tales workshop group looked at the “Bluebeard” fairy tale with a connection to cryptography, a recipe for something dark and unsettling. (The exploration of the tale certainly had my mind going down dark alleys and even evoked an anxiety dream based on the movie It Follows, in which I continually tried to find ways to evade and un-evadable monster.)

After reading a number of cryptography articles, I decided to take a chance. Instead of including some sort of science fictional cryptography in my tale, I attempted to make the tale itself a kind of cryptography in which the readers would have to determine the ultimate meaning. It was really risky and (much to my surprise) was met with positive results from my writing group to the extant that I will be attempting to finish the piece by the end of the month in order to submit it to Uncanny Magazine at the recommendation of our teacher Jilly Dreadful.

This upcoming Thursday’s class will focus on The Three Little Pigs and animal testing, which may actually take me the dark and unsettling places I thought I was going last week. I have not started this yet, as I’ve been too focused on the Bluebeard tale.

Linky Goodness

  • Killing Like They Do in the Movies  by Justin Phillip Reed — “My first and only real conversation with my great-grandmother, the truest stoic I ever knew, was a warning after she caught wind that I “went around” with white girls. Perhaps she recalled how this would’ve ended in the early part of the century she had lived, had witnessed. The consistent drama of horror seems to be its nestling inside the trope of preying on and violating innocence, which is the domain ruled by young white women, if ruling is a way of being puppeteered.”

Happy Halloween! and 100 Years of Costumes

In honor of my favorite holiday, here is video presenting 100 Years of Halloween Costumes. Most of the costume choices seem to be spot on, although the 2015 costume is bizarre. Also, I love that some of the early masks, even the innocent ones, are the creepiest by far.

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Another fun post: Feminist Halloween Costumes for 2015

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My weekend Halloween celebrations begins tonight with some creepy horror movies and will be followed up tomorrow with some trick-or-treating with my niece (Elsa) and nephew (a ninja turtle). Later that night there’ll be drinking and dancing I’m sure.

I’ll just be recycling last year’s Jack Skellington costume. Coincidentally, my mom bought a Sally costume this year, so we’ll be able to hang out together as a pair.
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Happy Haunting, everyone!

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In which there is an unexpected vacation, books, and kudzu

Last night, I got an unexpected vacation from writing — because I left my laptop at the office, which is an hour away from my home. So, I setting into the couch and let myself relax for the evening. I watched an episode of Scream Queens and then the premier episode of Supergirl, which presented a bright, enthusiastic hero and a wonderful cast of sidekicks. I’m looking forward to seeing more.

What I’m Reading

I finished All the Rage by Courtney Summers last week, in part due to a can’t-put-it-down-even-though-I-need-to-work-in-the-morning late night reading session. Let me just say, Oof, my heart. It’s a brutal, emotionally honest book with an intense exploration of rape and its aftermath. I’m still toying with the idea of doing a more thorough review.

Not sure what’s up next. I have Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie and a couple of audio books available to me. Although, I’ve joined a reading group and so should get started on Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

Decisions, decisions.

What I’m Writing

Just like an alien parasite, the Science Fiction Fairy Tales Brainery Workshop is filling me with euphoria and eating my brain — and I love it. Although very little of my other writing projects are getting done. I’m fine with that. Writing is writing is writing.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish workshop draft before class.
  • Continue editing the Sleeping Beauty and/or the Iron Henry and/or Jack and the Beanstalk inspired stories (see how these stories stack up, I can tell) — if there’s time.

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Three

Last week’s topic discussion for Brainery Science Fiction Fairy Tales workshop group looked at the “Jack and the Beanstalk” fairy tale with a connection to invasive species. I focused in on kudzu, which an invasive vine infiltrating toward the north from southern states. It grows rapidly and in giant towers, knocking over power poles and causing a multitude of other problems. I find it incredibly creepy and I’m not the only one as the video below shows.

Continue reading “In which there is an unexpected vacation, books, and kudzu”

Mondays keep bleeding into Tuesdays

Litquake concluded over the weekend, after a full week of literary events. I didn’t make it to even a fraction of the readings or panels I would have liked to have gone to, because I started feeling overwhelmed last week. So, I did what I needed to, listened to my own needs, and took time to tune out and rest when I needed.

The Zoetic Press Presents Mythmaking on Saturday at Double Dutch was fabulous. Allie Marini MC-ed with literary trivia and marvelous introductions. My fellow readers, Daniel Ari, Brennan ‘B-Deep’ DeFrisco, Rosemary Tantra Bensko, and surprise reader Emily Rose Cole, were all fabulous, each offering works with unique spins on old tales. My own reading of three poems also seemed to go well; I felt confident, at least, while reading.

The Zoetic Press reading was livestreamed and there’s a recording for anyone who wants to check it out.

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What I’m Reading

My personal reading time continues to be focused almost solely on articles and fairy tales for the Brainery Workshop. So, progress on Celestial Inventories by Steve Rasnic Tem remains slow, although I’m continuing to enjoy the collection.

I have All the Rage by Courtney Summers checked out from the library right now and I need to start reading or it’ll end up overdue. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this one, so I’m excited to get started.

What I’m Writing

Um, just jump ahead to the Brainery Workshop section and you’ll get the idea.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish workshop draft before class.
  • Continue editing the Sleeping Beauty and/or the Iron Henry inspired stories (this is going to start stacking up, I can tell).
  • Get one Twelve Dancing Princesses prose poem drafted.

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Three

Pretty much everyone in the Brainery Science Fiction Fairy Tales workshop group was challenged by last week’s story topic, “The Frog King, or Iron Henry” fairy tale with a connection to robots/cyborgs. For me, the problem was that I couldn’t connect to the princess and frog story line, but I was fascinated by the character Iron Henry, a seemingly minor character in one version of the original fairy tale. Iron Henry is a loyal servant of the prince, who is so heartbroken when the prince is turned into a frog, he wraps three iron bands around his heart to prevent his heart from breaking.

Continue reading “Mondays keep bleeding into Tuesdays”

A plethora of words and writing

Litquake, a weeklong festival celebrating the written word, be it fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, started over the weekend. Although I wasn’t able to attend any of the weekend events (due to the fantastic and extended celebrating of my brother and sister’s birthday!), I was able to shoot up to the city last night for two panels — Hot Off the Press: The Latest From the Publishing Pros and Horror and Hilarity: A Conversation with Christopher Moore and S.G. Browne.

The Hot Off the Press panel included a number of agents and publishing house representatives, including the amazing and wonderful Lise Quintana, founder of Zoetic Press and the Lithomobilus app. Much of the discussion centered around how writers can attract the attention of agents and publishers (i.e., treat your writing like a business, write good stuff, build an author platform, do your homework, etc.), with a little bit of attention offered to digital applications and other publishing trends. Overall, it was a good panel with the exception of the tendency of the gentlemen to interrupt the female panelists before they barely had a chance to get a word out.

Horror and Hilarity was good fun. Both authors — Browne (who I’ve read) and Moore (who I haven’t) write satirical fiction with speculative elements, such as vampires (Bloodsucking Fiends, Moore), zombies (Breathers, Browne), personifications of ideas such as death (A Dirty Job, Moore, and Fated, Browne), and so on. It was kind of a nuts and bolts of genre, publishing, and writing kind of discussion, so it was a bit dry in some parts. The most hilarious part of the night was the first audience questions, in which a young man asked the authors if they talked to girls, you know, for research on how to write women.

The rest of the week will include a ton of other exciting events, though I don’t know how many I’ll be able to attend during the work week, as I’ll be saving my energy for Saturday.

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What’s on Saturday? Just a little reading reading by Zoetic Press writers at Double Dutch from 6-7 pm, which will include Daniel Ari, Jaz Sufi, Rosemary Tantra Bensko, and myself! I’ve heard rumors there will also be some Literary Trivia fun, as well. The Zoetic reading is just Phase One of Litcrawl, which includes copious amounts of readings. So come by and say, Hi!

If you’re not going to be able to make it in person Saturday night, you can tune in online as Zoetic livestreams the reading.

What I’m Reading

Due to the amount of activities and writing I’m doing, I’m still working on Celestial Inventories by Steve Rasnic Tem. I haven’t been as attached to the later stories in the book as I have been in the first, but I’m still enjoying the read.

What I’m Writing

It’s been a busy week in terms of events, but I’ve eeked out some writing time in order to throw down a few scenes for this week’s Brainery workshop short story, while also inching along on the Sleeping Beauty (see below).

Goals for the Week: Finish workshop draft before class. Continue editing the Sleeping Beauty inspired story. Get one Twelve Dancing Princesses prose poem drafted. Submit one poem. (Because I don’t have enough going on.)

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Two

Last week’s class focused on reviewing work created for the Sleeping Beauty and science of sleep topic. I was really drawn to the idea of projecting dreams back to a viewer (not a new concept in science fiction) and was fascinated to learn through the class reading that scientists have actually been able to achieve something close to this. They can create a map of a person’s brain while they are watching movie clips and using the data can project the images back on a screen, which blew my mind.

My half finished Sleeping Beauty story used this idea of dream projecting as the basis for selling dreams, which turned into something dark and noir-ish. I got some great feedback from my fellow writers, all of whom shared their own creative spins on the tale, and now the story is poking at me to finish it and I think if I stay focused, it will turn into something submit-able.

This Thursday’s class will focus on The Frog King, Or Iron Henry with a connection to robots and cyborgs, oh my!

Linky Goodness

  • Pop Culture is ‘Boring as F!@#’: A Playboy Conversation with Monica Byrne — “The word “diversify” centers white experience as the permanent default, but whiteness is actually very rare and exotic, statistically speaking. “Equilibration” implies—if you’ll permit me to get scientific for a second—a natural process of diffusion across all boundaries. In other words, “equilibration” implies that the array of art that gets made will finally reflect the array of people who live under its influence.”

What day is it?

I came to the realization halfway through writing this post that today Tuesday, not Monday. This is because I spent my Monday helping my mom clear out and transfer belongings from one storage shed to another in a grueling twelve hour period resembling the interminable curse of Greek gods. If we hadn’t been laughing so hard at the absurdity of the situation, I’m sure we would have been miserable. But we were laughing and we accomplished a hell of a lot and my mom rewarded my efforts with beer, so all was well.

In other weekend news, I SAW FLOGGING MOLLY at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival and they were —in what was no surprise to me — amazing. They played all my favorite songs and introduced me to new favorites. I danced my ass off that night and sang my throat out and it was worth the next day’s pain. We also saw The Brothers Comatose and Gillian Welch play and they were both wonderful, as well.

The crowds were thick and fun at the Flogging Molly performance in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
The crowds were thick and fun at the Flogging Molly performance in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

What I’m Reading

I’m still working on Celestial Inventories by Steve Rasnic Tem, which continues to astound me with its ability to present stories, ranging from deeply moving to incredibly disturbing.

I’m also working my way through the 1001 Arabian Nights issue of NonBinary Review, which is full of amazing poetry and fiction.

What I’m Writing

Most of my focus has been on finishing an initial draft of a Sleeping Beauty story for the Brainery Workshop I started last week. I have the main outline and a good sense of how I want to approach it, but since it has some science fiction elements I’m not sure how much explaining I should do up front. I suppose I should just get the draft

Laura Madeline Wiseman and I have finished up a number of collaborative poems, which need to be sent out. At which point, we need to get started on some new ones.

Published! KYSO Flash reprinted “The Things I Own” — a poem that (I learned just five minutes ago) has been nominated for Independent Best American Poetry by Thank You for Swallowing, who first published it.

Goals for the Week: Finish workshop draft before class. Submit some collaborative poetry and get started on some others.

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week One

The first meeting of the workshop, which is run by the amazing Jilly Dreadful, was introductory, introducing us to our fellow writers and to how the workshop will work. My fellow writers (most of whom I met, although there was a switch in students at the last minute) are all amazing as far as I can tell from the small piece of writing they all shared and from their comments during the meeting. This makes me even more excited to see how things will go.

Our assignment for the week is as I noted above, a Sleeping Beauty story, which can incorporate some of the sleep science in various articles Jilly assigned.

Linky Goodness

  • Justine Larbalestier notes Our Heroes Are Fallible And So Are We“We do not write in a vacuum. We write about the real world while living in the real world. That’s true whether we are writing about zombies or vampires or high school or genocide or butterflies or all five. Our words have effects on other people.”
  • Afrofuturism Rising by Ytasha L. Womack —While Afrofuturism is viewed as a tool of empowerment for people of color, the dual aesthetic and philosophy at large serves to provide answers for a gaping hole in the story of humanity. Afrofuturism values intuition, feminine aspects of humanity, and nature. Afrofuturism views the future, past, and present as one. Afrofuturism provides a platform to explore time and memory in the context of human life.

The Power of People Working Together and THE MARTIAN

Note: This post involves minor spoilers. 

A significant portion of Andy Weir’s The Martian centers around a lone astronaut using his wits to survive in impossible circumstances.

During a massive sandstorm and an evacuation of the mars expedition team, astronaut Mark Watney is hit by a radio dish and presumed dead. But he wakes on Mars alone, still alive in a hostile environment. The only way to survive is to use scientific knowledge and engineering skills to make an uninhabitable world inhabitable for four years when the next Mars mission is set to return.

Space and travel to other planets are incredibly dangerous for human being. There are thousands of ways for a person to die, from severe cold to lack of atmosphere to the wrong oxygen/nitrogen/carbon dioxide mixture in a space suit. A small error in judgment, one tiny unconsidered element of physics (like a single flawed bolt or a piece of overstretched fabric) can mean catastrophe and death. This epically fun book makes this danger brutally clear.

Continue reading “The Power of People Working Together and THE MARTIAN”

Rocking the UROC

On Saturday morning, my sisters and I crawled out of bed while it was still dark and outfitted ourselves as best we could to face the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) half marathon in Auburn, California — an event we all decided to sign up for while drunk during Fourth of July (because that’s how we roll) and for which only one of was in any way prepared for (I’m looking at you, C.).

Although, we all knew it was going to be a hard event (the title included “ultra” and “champions,” afterall), we really had no idea what we were about to face. Warning: Strong language ahead.

We started the event just as first light was filling the sky.

Sun rising over the trail.
Sun rising over the trail in Auburn.

The first 5 miles were joyful. Sister P. and I decided we were going to treat the UROC as a hike rather than a run, due to our lack of training. Near the beginning, we met an adorable young woman who was of the same mind as us and the three of us cavorted over the narrow trails (some only about 1.5 feet wide with a steep dropoff on one side), awed by the beauty of the trail.

Later, we would figure out that our new friend was a lifesaver, in that she had brought a water pack and an extra bottle with her, while we had not.

Continue reading “Rocking the UROC”

The State of Being Overwhelmed

I have several things I keep meaning to post about and that I can’t seem to find the time to put together, including (but not limited to) the half marathon I participated in over the weekend and the amazing reading in honor of Nomadic Press’ fall chapbook collection with poets Allie Marini, Brennan “B-Deep” DeFrisco, Cassandra Dallett, Paul Corman-Roberts, Dan Shurely and Freddy Gutierrez (present in spirt), as well as a number of book and movie reviews.

I’ve managed to sign up for a Brainery workshop called Science Fiction Fairy Tales, which I don’t really have time for, but am uber excited about. This, along with the suggestion that I might also do Nano along with the whole host of writing projects that I am currently working on and need to finish.

All of this is to say, wow, I’ve got a lot going on. In a good way. (Mostly.) But it’s still overwhelming. (Which is also why there wasn’t an update last week.)

What I’m Reading

Celestial Inventories is a collection of short stories by Steve Rasnic Tem. I am several stories in and so far each one has been surreal, strange, disturbing, and gorgeous. What a delicious collection so far.

What I’m Writing

Oh, so many projects at the moment. Currently poetry, but it’s going to switch over to include to fiction very soon.

Published!

Accepted! My poem, “How to Open a Jar of Honey,” was accepted to be included in the We Can Make Your Life Better anthology to be published in 2016 by University of Hell Press.

Rejected! Three poems were declined by Word Riot.

Submitted! I immediately turned around and submitted the three rejected poems elsewhere. Also submitted two more collaborative poems, written with Laura Madeline Wiseman.

Goals for the Week: Survive.

Linky Goodness

  • If You Were Wonder Woman and Chris Pine Were Your Boyfriend, by Nicole Steinberg is utterly fantastic – “If you were Wonder Woman and Chris Pine were your boyfriend, you’d take a special, spiteful pleasure in apprehending any criminal who dressed in plaid. Because all day, every day, you’d be SURROUNDED by plaid.”

NonBinary Review – Arabian Nights!

Gorgeous cover art by Mandem.
Gorgeous cover art by Mandem.

I’m thrilled to point out that NonBinary Review #6, 1001 Arabian Nights has been launched into the digital universe!

It includes poetry, fiction, essays, and art by over 30 contributors. I’ve been reading through a few of these pieces — like Cetoria Tomberlin’s “1,001 Songs”,  Jaz Sufi’s “Preface”, and Carina Bissett’s “A Houri’s Hymnody” — and each one has given me chills, so far.

The issue also includes my essay, “Beyond Shahrazad: Feminist Portrayals of Women in The Arabian Nights,” which represents the first time I’ve written an essay since college.

NonBinary Review is available for free on the Lithomobilius app (available only on the iPad and iPhone for the moment, but will eventually be made available to other devices).

Vulnerability and Forgivness in Writing

Writing is an incredibly vulnerable act. You put piece of yourself, however fictional, down on paper — sometimes something deeply personal — and offer it to the world to be judged and sometimes its hard to distinguish between the art and yourself.

In Writing Begins with Forgiveness, Daniel José Older writes, “Here’s what stops more people from writing than anything else: shame. That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be,’ ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame lives in the body, it clenches our muscles when we sit at the keyboard, takes up valuable mental space with useless, repetitive conversations.” 

Older is specifically talking about the “write everyday” advice that has created a feeling of shame in many writers (I’ve been known to be one), causing a feeling of paralysis. However, this sense of shame and inadequacy also applies in other ways, from comparing ourselves to others and feeling like an outsider (as I found myself doing on Friday at the latest Glowing with the Moon open mic) to judging our words too harshly and not believing in the value of our own work (as I also found myself doing despite positive feedback I’ve received lately). Many writers I know have experienced imposter syndrome, the feeling that their work is actually stupid and uninteresting and someday soon everyone is going to find out.

It’s not always easy to disentangle the layers of self-doubt and shame that come as part of the writing process, but Older’s lesson of approaching writing with a sense of self-forgiveness is a good place to start. It’s something I aim to work on as I continue to submit my work and attend events in the coming months.

What I’m Reading

I’m enjoying Less Than Hero by S.G. Browne, which is about a man professional guinea pig for pharmaceutical testing and his friends, who through some strange combination of meds develop the ability to project their medical side effects onto other people. It’s kind of a superpower. Mostly fun so far, but I’m not loving it as much as I’ve loved other books by Browne (such as Breathers and Fated). However, I expect it will turn out to be a fantastic read by the end.

What I’m Writing

On Sunday, Allie Marini and I ambushed Lise Quintana into an impromptu writing session, which resulted in some butt-in-seats hard work all around. My personal progress involved a couple of poem drafts completed on the Twelve Dancing Princesses manuscript and a couple of submissions sent out.

Published! The Myth+Magic anthology is out and contains my poem “Red Riding Hood Remembers.”

Submitted! Two poems send out to two separate markets.

Rejected: Another rejection from a publisher for the Sincerely Yours chapbook, which means it definitely needs to be reconsidered in terms of organization and length.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish another poem or two for Twelve Dancing Princesses. Submit something.

Linky Goodness

  • Matthew Salesses writes on Moral Craft: Issues of Plot and Prejudice“Prejudiced writing is a moral concern and a craft concern, so I’m going to treat it as both. I should also admit that my concern comes from noticing a (mostly good) trend of white authors wanting to reflect the diversity of the real world by writing more characters of color.”
  •  This is (not) a Laughing Matter by Lindsey Hall – “Humor, I believe, is as effective a tool and as difficult a form of expression as anything else. Ultimately, humans seek pleasure, and writers hope to entertain, to arouse and sustain a reader’s interest. We have stories of suffering that must be told, and humor is a viable conduit. Comedy helps readers connect with characters; comedy helps readers swallow uncomfortable or painful truths.”

Now Out: Myth+Magic

mythmagic

Myth+Magic is a collection of modern takes on old myth, fable, and fairy tale. Nothing is quite what it seems to be. Included in this edition are short works inspired folk tale, fable, fairy tale, gods, monsters, myth, magic, tricksters, divination, witchcraft, and herbalism. This handbound, limited edition (125) booklet includes poetry & fiction curated by the joint efforts of Porkbelly Press & Sugared Water staff.

It also includes one of my own poems!

Excerpts from some of the poets are available online, with information on how to purchase.

 

SF Zine Fest book haul

Winner! I am pleased to announce that Skylar L. is the winner of The Walls Around Us giveaway! I’ll be sending out your copy this week.

On Sunday, I journeyed up to the city to check out the SF Zine Fest. It was a free event that housed two rooms packed full of independent and small press makers and creators of zines, chapbooks, art, and comics. It’s a very cool event (although there were so many people it was almost overwhelming) and I grabbed lots of goodies (spending more money than I probably should have).

SF Zine Fest 2015`

I was also happy to be there to support friend and amazing human being, Allie Marini, who has two new chapbooks out from Nomadic Press. While at the Nomadic booth, checking out all the 2015 poetry chapbooks on the table, each with its own gorgeous cover, I couldn’t help but swipe up the entire lot.

Cliffdiving and And When She Tasted of Knowledge by Allie Marini
On Sunday, A Finch by Cassandra Dallett
A Heart with No Scars by Brennan “B Deep” DeFrisco
Collective Regeneration and Universal Love by Dan Shurley
Nueva Cuenta by Freddy Gutierrez
We Shoot Typewriters by Paul Corman-Roberts

Other poetry chapbooks I picked up in my meandering included Caffeinated Fairy Tales by Heather Boyd and Milk & Servitude by Noelle Zappia.

Among the art and comics, I picked up were:

Raising Dion, written by Dennis Liu and illustrated by Jason Piperberg, which I grabbed because it tells a superhero story from the point of view of the mother trying to raise her powerful son to be a hero.
The Gecko and the Tree Grave Robbers (as well as some awesome notecards) by Cheez Hayama
Mythology Anthology by the Nijimafia, a group of artists including Adual, Akaibelier, Elaine Nguyen, Giselle Sarmiento, Madeline Zuluaga, Stephanie Hueden

I also learned about an documentary in progress called Secret Identities, directed by Mike Phillips. The doc is about GLBT fans and creators in the comic book community. The aim is to give voice to under represented groups, which is very cool.

What I’m Reading

Plowed through Volumes 18-20 of Fables by Bill Willingham. Oh, the terrible things that happen to my beloved characters. I am almost afraid to read the final two volumes because I know more terrible things will happen.

My next read is Divine Scream by Benjamin Kane Ethridge, which is a dark YA fantasy novel about a boy and a banshee. Can’t wait.

What I’m Writing

I’ve started putting together what I think will be a chapbook of prose poems based on the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale — which is partially inspired by recent projects I’ve read by Jessie Carty (Shopping After the Apocalypse, soon to be published) and Kristen Marie Darling (Failure Lyric) — both are fantastic. One poem is completed and two more are getting close to completion. I have the rest of poems loosely planned out.

Due to my new Twelve Dancing Princesses project, I did not get around to looking at and reconsidering Sincerely Yours, my chapbook which is currently out on submission. It’s been rejected twice already and I’m waiting to hear from two more publishers. However, I have two poems that I could consider writing and adding to the collection, and may remove or reorder some of the other poems

In other writing news, I was contacted by Clare MacQueen at KYSO Flash, who has requested to reprint “The Things I Own” — wow! What an honor and it’s a really cool market.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish two more poems in Twelve Dancing Princesses chapbook. Put together additional poems for KYSO Flash.

Linky Goodness

  • Zachary Wood writs on Cultivating Empathy and Open Mindedness — “To begin with, I think reading about the struggles of others helps us cultivate empathy. No matter what our experiences are, we can glimpse the challenges and crises our world faces every day on the news. Great literature offers us far more than can be captured in soundbites, news clips, and advertisements. Great literature gives us a platform from which we can explore all of what we see on the news in more depth.”
  • Michelle G. writes about empiricism, testing, and how differences in performance tends to be perceived as related to differences in math ability  — “It is true that men score higher on spatial reasoning tests, though you might have caught on that there’s a little bit more to this picture (why would a female MIT student publicize stereotypes that actively work against her?). If you’re now wondering whether I’m about to throw some kind of feminist rant at you, I’ll give you a “well, sort of,” because calling out factual misconception is just as important as promoting feminist ideals here, and because I think those two go hand in hand anyway. I’ll largely put the romance of egalitarianism aside, though, to talk about empiricism.”

Books completed in August 2015

1. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
2. Rupetta by N.A. Sulway
3. Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
4. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (audio book) by Susanna Clarke
5. Highku: 4 & 20 Poems About Marijuana (chapbook) by Brennan ‘B Deep’ DeFrisco
6. House and Home (chapbook) by Jaz Sufi
7. Reflections by Jocelyn Deona De Leon
8. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
9. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr.
10. The 2013 Rhysling Anthology, edited by by John C. Mannone

In progress at the end of the month: The Martian by Andy Weir

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “Books completed in August 2015”

SciFi Reading

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree, Jr.

Man is an animal whose dreams come true and kill him. 
— from “On the Last Afternoon”

One of my goals this year was to start reading books that have won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, which is presented for stories that explore aspects of gender, primarily in SciFi and Fantasy. Since I was reading these award winners, I figured I should also read some of the work by the author after whom the award is named. James Tiptree, Jr. is a pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon (and had a second pen name, Raccoona Sheldon), who wrote hard science fiction for years without readers knowing she was a woman.

Tiptree is a perfect namesake for this award because so many of her own stories explore gender and sexuality in challenging and innovative ways. These stories are intelligent, sometimes challenging, and often bleak.

“The Screwfly Solution,” which is one of the best short stories I’ve read in years, involves increasing numbers of attacks by men against women. Bits of news clips, letters, and diary entries are placed alongside the main narrative of a man trying to make it home to his wife and daughter amid the mounting chaos. The ending is fatalistic and powerful, haunting.

In “The Women Men Don’t See” a journalist on a trip into Mexico takes a flight on a small plane with a mother and daughter, whom he finds unsettlingly independent and not fitting into his expectations of how women should be. I can’t say much more about the story without giving too much away, but the exploration of gender roles becomes increasingly explicit.

“With Delicate Mad Hands” is the story of a woman with a facial deformity who has lived her entire life unloved by her fellow human beings who mock and abuse her. She perseveres through an inner secret drive to leave Earth’s solar system behind her, and she achieves this one day by stealing a ship and steering it solo to the stars. There is so much more to the story than that short description, but I don’t want to say anymore. Although as dark as any other of Tiptree’s stories, this was also sweet and romantic.

Another subset of stories explore sexual behavior through alien bodies and include stories such as “Love is the Plan the Plan is Death,” “On the Last Afternoon,” and “A Momentary Taste of Being.” The alien-ness of these creatures or beings is startling and often destructive to human existence.

Other stories reflect on moral complexities of human society. “The Last Flight of Doctor Ain,” for example presents bits and pieces of Doctor Ain’s last flight told through the points of view of the people who meet him along his journey (again, this tells too little, but it really is a thrilling story). In “We Who Stole the Dream” an alien race enacts a revolt against humanity which holds them captive, breaking free from slavery and suffering, only to find that the home they are returning to is not the dream-come-true they expected.

Although I didn’t necessarily love every story, reading this brick-thick collection was a fantastic experience. Tiptree was an amazing writer, a master of the genre. Her work is a must read for any science fiction fan.

The 2013 Rhysling Anthology

Edited by John C. Mannone

This is not really a review, because this anthology contains one of my poems. (I received my contributor’s copy two years ago and it’s taken me that long to getting around to actually reading it.)

The anthology, published by the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA), comprises works nominated for the Rhysling Awards, which recognizes the best speculative poems published in the previous year. Below are the winners; I’ve included links to poems or poets, where I could find them.

Winners in the Short Poem Category:

First Place: “The Cat Star” by Terry A. Garey

Second Place: “Futurity’s Shoelaces” by Marge Simon

Third Place: “Sister Philomela Heard the Voices of Angels” by Megan Arkenberg

Winners in the Long Poem Category:

First Place: “Into Flight” by Andrew Robert Sutton

Second Place: “String Theory” by John Philip Johnson

Third Place (tie): “The Time Traveler’s Weekend” by Adele Gardner and
“The Necromantic Wine” by Wade German

In related news, I’ve decided to join the SFPA. In a large part this was to receive copies of the various publications as they come out, because I love speculative poetry, as well as to be able to participate in future voting when the time comes.

Progress continues and it feels good

Giveaway! Today is the last day to sign up for the The Walls Around Us giveaway.

This weekend I fell into the black hole of baby love, staying two nights at my sister’s house and letting the little ones laughter (and occasional tears) wash over me. Time slipped away and all the things I needed to get done, should get done, didn’t matter, because there were my niece and nephew splashing in the creek with redwoods towering above and because tiny hugs and bitty kisses.

Besides, I got plenty done in during the work week and even made it out to Cito.FAME.Us open mic on Thursday night, where I was able to visit with friends, hug it out with amazing MC Lindsey Leong, listen to gorgeous music from Alice Chen, the other half of Q&A, and to share some of my own words.

What I’m Reading

I am almost done with The 2013 Rhysling Anthology, which contains so many amazing speculative poems in a range of styles.

Next up, I have The Martian by Andy Weir, which is about an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars and has to figure out how to survive. I have heard so many great things about this book and I can’t wait to get started.

What I’m Writing

Poetry continued to be my main focus at the moment, from collaborative poems to individual poems and slow work on a novel in poems. Several poem drafts were started last week and one was finished. Progress continues and it feels good.

I have only recently discovered Google Docs, a wondrous invention that allows me to work collaboratively and to continue working on a single document from multiple locations, including my phone. Why oh why have I not used this before?

Published! Drink by Laura Madeline Wiseman is an amazing collection of poetry about mermaids and the horrors of being a teenage girl. My review was published this weekend over at Rhizomatic Ideas.

Submitted: A poem was sent off to The Plot.

Goal(s) for this week: Relook at my recently submitted and rejected chapbook to see what I can add or remove to make it stronger.

Linky Goodness

  • The amazing Lise Quintana wrote a powerful piece on What Happens When You Tell A Woman She’s Being ‘Dramatic’ – “With four words, my overwhelming feelings of fear and sadness were dismissed as invalid, and I was made aware that telling adults the things that scared me would never result in those adults trying to make me feel safe and loved. It would result in adults telling me that my fear was ridiculous, and that my perceptions of the world were wrong. That I could not trust my own feelings and should keep them to myself.”
  • The Subtle Linguistics of Polite White Supremacy“Today’s covert version of white supremacy is a lot more subtle than having black overseers beat their fellow slaves. Nor is this power the same as buying or selling your slaves children for a good price, using black children as alligator bait, cutting open pregnant black women, castrating black men, generational rape and molestation of black women and men, and lynchings of those who were accused of making whites nervous. This is something more subtle than that. The ruling class has begun to employ a particularly clever passive tactic to remain in power while denying this power. They pretended this was the natural way for society to function and influenced perception by using double standards in language as a starting point.”

Three Mini Reviews for Three Mini Chapbooks of Poetry

I picked up each of these little books after being present at a reading by the authors, each of whom is a great performer with a unique and powerful voice. If you have the chance to catch them at any one of the many poetry events around the San Francisco bay area, I highly recommend you go have a listen.

IMG_5822

House and Home

by Jaz Sufi

Hand made with a string binding, House and Home is a gift of words, expressing raw wounds of body and heart, mind and soul. The poems explore love and its failures. They address the lives of women, revealing how they are damaged, while revealing a strength that allows them to reclaim their own power. What a gorgeous little collection.

Poetry is not the ship.
Poetry is not the captain.
Life is a constant storm, and poetry
is what we make of the wreckage,
what we cling to alone in the ocean.

— from “Better a Blacksmith Than a Writer, a Carpenter Than a Poet”

Jaz Sufi is a poet, a Bay Area native, and the slammaster of the Berkeley Slam, the longest running poetry slam in California.

image2

Reflections

by Jocelyn Deona De Leon
2005

Although only about the size of my hand, I don’t know if I can quite call Reflections mini at 62 pages.This collection is introspective and soulful, alternating between diary entries exploring and reflecting the author’s emotional space to individual poems sending messages to the world. These poems call upon the reader to ground themselves in the present moment, to look inside themselves, and to feel the world deeply.

moments flutter by like
butterfly wings slowly
floating you away from me.

i cannot catch you
because your freedom is exquisite.
it is the most explicit reminder that
the only way to love free is
to free love.

— from “Complicated Simplicity”

Jocelyn Deona de Leon writes poetry inspired by her Pilipino ancestral heritage and reflecting on experience through the eyes of love (see bio). She has toured nationally, sharing her words and energy with youth at various elementary, high school, and college campuses.

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Highku: 4 & 20 Poems About Marijuana

by Brennan ‘B Deep’ DeFrisco
Lucky Bastard Press, 2015

I don’t smoke, so normally I wouldn’t be interested in a book of poetry about pot. But when I saw this tiny, adorable little book, I couldn’t help but pick it up. The poems inside follow the traditional haiku 5-7-5 syllable format. Each tiny poem contains a single thought, some witty, some perceptive. A fun little read.

Nixon’s solution
for Vietnam protesters:
Arrest them for pot

Brennan ‘B Deep’ DeFrisco likes words and the way they move. He is an organizer and performer at the Berkeley Poetry Slam and will represent them for the second time in the upcoming 2015 National Poetry Slam. He is a co-founder of Lucky Bastard Press.

Watching and Reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

I read Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, the story of two very different and contrary magician who bring magic back to England in the early 1800s, years ago. It blew me away with its wit and complex magical world building, mixing actually historical events with invented ones. So, of course, I was unable to contain my squee when I learned that the BBC was going to make a mini-series of the book. The trailers were fantastic, which just added to my glee.

I gathered together with friends over a series of Saturday nights to watch. I was not disappointed.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

One of the most important things for me was that the adaptation capture the qualities of the two main characters — Strange and Norrell — both intelligent, flawed and arrogant in their own way. Eddie Marsan is particularly fantastic Norrell, capturing the shrinking, shrewd, hoarding qualities of the character. Sometimes he appears rat-like in his fussy white wig, which is exactly how I imagined the character. Bertie Carvel is also wonderful in his role as Strange, revealing the arrogance and flightiness behind the handsome face and charm.

There are also a ton of side characters from the book and the mini-series does a good job of trying to cover them all and tell each of their stories despite the limitations of TV screen time. Not every portrayal was perfect (Childermass could have been more foreboding and the Gentleman with the thistledown hair could have hair that was more like thistledown), but most were handled well.

Strange on the King's Roads
Strange on the King’s Roads.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a rather large book (800+ pages if I remember correctly) representing a story that spans many years and, thus, it must have been a difficult book to adapt. Although the mini-series was seven episodes long, I could easily imagine a version that was ten or more episodes long and that’s without including all the footnotes with additional stories that could never make it on screen.

The writers did an excellent job distilling as much of the plot as possible, merging scenes and characters in some places, removing others where they needed to, while maintaining the clarity of the storyline as much as possible. Of all the seven episodes, I was only confused once when several story points were tightened up into a ten minute span (or so). I noticed they changed Strange’s character and his relationship to his wife some, making him a more romantic figure and their story more of a romance than the book portrayed. I suppose this makes sense, as it makes Strange more sympathetic and the magicians more heroic during the final battle.

The changes didn’t bother me, partly because it had been so long since I read the book I didn’t remember many of the details. But even so, any annoyances would have been minor, as on the whole watching Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was great fun.

(Although one of my favorite moments in watching was listening to my friend rant about the absurdity of men’s pants in that time period. I wish I could remember half of the things she said, so I could quote them here.)


“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never would.”

Of course, as soon as I finished the mini-series, I knew I needed to reread the book so that I could become reacquainted with all that I had forgotten and was left out of the mini-series — most notably the footnotes. So, I listened to the novel on the audio book performed by Simon Prebble, who was fantastic.

There is SOOOOOO much that the mini-series left out (one of my favorite footnotes was the story of the statue of the Virgin Mary brought to life to catch a murderer). The story is rich with humor and interesting side stories. Stephen Black’s character in particular is much fuller and more interesting in the novel, as he is a well educated black man, working as a servant in a country that will never see him as anything more than a novelty. There are also subtle and not-so-subtle references the uncomfortable restrictions of women’s roles.

Clarke has created an amazingly rich historical world, full of imaginary books and complex magical histories, poetry and prophecies. I was dazzled all over again by how great her writing and wit and storytelling is. Although the miniseries is fun and wonderful and everything it should be, it’s nothing to the extent of awesome that is the book (no surprise, I’m sure, to most readers). This is to say, if you haven’t read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell yet, you most definitely should.

“There is nothing else in magic but the wild thought of the bird as it casts itself into the void. There is no creature upon the earth with such potential for magic. Even the least of them may fly straight out of this world and come by chance to the Other Lands. Where does the wind come from that blows upon your face, that fans the pages of your book? Where the harum-scarum magic of small wild creatures meets the magic of Man, where the language of the wind and the rain and the trees can be understood, there we will find the Raven King.”

__________

Titles are hard, I find, so here's my weekly update…

Most of my week has been spent getting back into the groove after my trip to Anchorage. Coming home always makes me want to relook at where I’m at, at my clutter, at my day to day events. I’m wanting to declutter and clean out my space again, although I haven’t felt as though I’ve made much progress with that in recent attempts.

Friday night, I gathered together with the Writing Gang and talked life and words. I got some good feedback on my most recently edited chapter/poem of the novel in poems.

Sunday my mom, sister, and I took a day trip up to Sacramento for a cousin’s baby shower. New family members, yay!

What I’m Reading

I’m a dozen pages in to The Reader by Bernhard Shlink and I’m rather bored. Neither the language, characters, or the story are grabbing me. I’ll give it a little more time, but I’m guessing this one is not going to work out for me.

However, I’m loving The 2013 Rhysling Anthology, which it’s only taken me two years to get around to reading.

Giveaway! Just a reminder that there is only a week left to sign up for my The Walls Around Us giveaway.

What I’m Writing

Most of my writing progress has been in the form of ongoing work on some collaborative poetry with Laura Madeline Wiseman, which has been an amazing experience so far. It’s been humbling and rewarding, as each of us has to learn to give up some control of how the poem will develop and turn out. Some of our darlings get killed along the way, only to be replaced by something different and darling in its own right. We’ve finished one poem so far and are toying with some sestinas. Such fun.

Getting ready for the Writing Gang meeting meant I had to whip together a new draft for chapter/poem three of the novel in poems — a good thing, since progress petered out on that one. I’ve also been making edits on a few other poems in the hopes of submitting them soon.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit a selection of poem(s).

Linky Goodness

  • The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t by Steven Johnson – “The dystopian scenario, after all, isn’t about the death of the record business or Hollywood; it’s about the death of music or movies. As a society, what we most want to ensure is that the artists can prosper — not the record labels or studios or publishing conglomerates, but the writers, musicians, directors and actors themselves. Their financial fate turns out to be much harder to measure, but I endeavored to try.”
  • What is Literary Activism? by Amy King – “Part of working towards understanding and attempting more pluralistic or consciously inclusive approaches to such matters means I have for quite a while been working on recognizing my own privilege, and therefore have also become aware of my limited perspective and understanding. I realized I would never have to face some of the situations, microagressions, suppressions and oppressions other writers explicated in a poetics…”

Poet Spotlight: Kristina Marie Darling on Mapping Heartbreak

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of over twenty collections of poetry and hybrid prose. Her writing has been described by literary critics as “haunting,” “mesmerizing,” and “complex.” She has been awarded with a number of fellowships and grants by both U.S. and overseas universities, institutes, and organizations. She is currently working toward both a Ph.D. in English Literature at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo and an M.F.A. in Poetry at New York University. Here, Kristina shares a bit about her latest collection of poetry, hybrid art forms, and the act of writing as catharsis.

Kristina Marie Darling

Your most recent book of poetry is Failure Lyric. Tell us a bit about this project and how it came about.

Failure Lyric began as a series of erasures. I took a black marker to my four year correspondence with a male writer, who, out of respect for his work, will remain unnamed. What started out as an act of destruction became generative, since the hybrid prose pieces ultimately grew out of the erasures at the beginning and end of the book. Once I had erased every last email, note, and inscription, I started to write flash essays, which map my heartbreak and all of the unexpected places it brought me to: Saint Louis, Iowa, Burlington, and the now infamous Dallas/Fort Worth airport. So my initial attempts to destroy artifacts of the relationship became a documentary project, charting the crazy orbits that grief set me on.

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Kristina Marie Darling on Mapping Heartbreak”

Book Review: Rupetta by Nike Sulway

“History was an art form — the delicate, dangerous art of creating the past.”

Science fiction writers have long used visions of animatronic machines and robots to questions the nature of humanity and god and to explore what constitutes a soul. In this beautiful and strange alternate history, N.A. Sulway performs a similar exploration while also taking into consideration how history is shaped and how the creation of history through carefully selected “facts” or stories shapes a society.

Rupetta is an animatronic object, constructed in the 1600s by a young French woman out of brass gears and cogs and leather fittings to resemble a human being. She shares souls and consciousness with the women who wynd her. As Rupetta recounts her own story, in which she witnesses centuries, from her creation to the formation of a new society with her image at its center, she reveals the ways she has been loved, hated, and used by the women she is bound to, as well as the ways she herself has loved.

Alternating with her own story is Henri’s tale, a young woman living in the “present” day society formed out of the devotion to the Fourfold Rupettan Law — “Life is Death. The Earth is a Grave. The Body is a Machine for Dying. Knowledge is the Path to Imortality.” Henri longs to be a historian of the Penitent order and to give up her human heart for a mechanical one that would extend her life. In her researches on the Salt Lake Witches, she uncovers a hidden secret that could shake the stability of the current societal order.

This was a strange and wonderful read with beautiful language. I loved the varying relationships between each of these women, based on kindness, love, friendship, and trust, as well as pain, betrayal, and anger. At it’s core this is a love story interweaved with the histories that shape society and the intellectual rebellions that threaten to undo it.

The hardback edition is out of print and expensive to purchase, but I recommend picking up a digital copy.

Don’t Forget that I am running a giveaway for The Walls Around Us. Just comment on the post by August 31 to enter.

Clinging to Rockface

“too scared of coming down,
too scared of going up,
too scared of rockface”
— from “Sugar” by Heather Nova

I spent the last week in Anchorage, Alaska, mostly visiting family, as well as spending a bit of time here and there going fishing and hiking. One of my favorite hikes near Anchorage is Flattop, a small (by Alaskan standards) mountain that is exactly as it’s name describes — flat on top. Every time I return to Anchorage, I try to fit in time to climb Flattop and last Tuesday, my mom, sister, and I took part in the hike together.

My sister gazes up at Flattop from the parking lot before the climb.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day in Anchorage when we set out for the hike. The air was cool, crisp, and fresh. My sister said that when she used to hike Flattop as a kid, she always felt like she had been whisked away to Ireland (a fair comparison.

The trail is steep at moments, with switchbacks and wood staircases that seemed to go on forever. We took it slow, breathing heavy and taking time to pause in order to look out and enjoy the scenery, which grew more and more impressive the higher we climbed.

Continue reading “Clinging to Rockface”

THE WALLS AROUND US book review and giveaway

“We went wild that hot night. We howled, we raged, we screamed. We were girls — some fourteen and fifteen; some sixteen, seventeen — but when the locks came undone, the doors of our cells gaping open and no one to shove us back in, we made the noise of savage animals, of men.”

A few years ago now, I read and fell in love with Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls, an emotionally complicated sister-centered story with a touch of creepy and unsettling magical realism. It’s a story that still haunts me, sneaking from behind the shadows into the foreground of my mind. A book that I treasure in my soul and a level of achievement that I aspire to in my own writing.

Nova Ren’s latest novel, The Walls Around Us, has the same kind of haunting quality, and not just because it’s a ghost story. It’s a tale that lingers long after you’ve put it down.

Three girls are the center of this story — Amber is a young woman convicted of murder who has been locked in prison for years; Violet, a ballet dancer with a dark secret; and Orianna, a girl caught in a tide of misfortune who binds the other two together. Their stories weave together unveiling lies and secrets and the truth behind a murder.

Alternating between Amber and Violet’s points of view, the story unfolds with a feeling of inevitability, a sense that everything has happened before and cannot be stopped from happening again. Neither girl is nice or easy; instead they are both complicated and difficult, having made dangerous decisions that lead to catastrophes that define their lives. Where Nova Ren’s skill is clear is in how she manages to generate a feeling of fascination and sympathy for both of these girls. Violet in particular is an awful human being, and yet I found myself pitying her and how she has cut herself off from feeling for anyone else in the world and a part of me wanted her to make it to Julliard despite all the things she’s done.

Amber is particularly interesting to me in the way she erases herself into the group of her fellow prisoners, rarely using the singular “I” and more often using the plural “we”, as though their stories and her own story were the same, as though they are all one body of girls moving through the prison system. Her own personal story slowly unfolds but never quite condemns or absolves her of any crime. She is both guilty and a victim of society and circumstances, screwed over by the man her mother married and the system. A girl taken for granted, as many in the prison are.

Rich, gorgeous prose brings the world inside this prison for young women and the outside world (for this books seems to divide the world into two realms – inside and outside) to vivid, brutal reality. The supernatural aspects of this tale are subtle, weaved in among grounded real-world details enabling a level of plausibility. The effect — of not just the supernatural elements, but the entire story — is unsettling in all the right ways. Although the end is satisfying, this is a novel without easy answers, one to ponder after finishing, and then to go back and reread and ponder some more.

For a further exploration, here are some great interviews Nova Ren Suma has done regarding the book:

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Giveaway

As it turns out, I ended up with an extra copy of The Walls Around Us and I want to share the love, hence a giveaway! I’ll send the copy of the book to someone in the U.S. or Canada.

How to Enter: Just leave a comment telling me about why you would like to read The Walls Around Us.

Signups end on August 31, at which point I will pick the winner randomly.

_____________

Books completed in July

1. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
2. Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone: Poems by Annelyse Gelman
3. Drink by Laura Madeline Wiseman

Books Still in Progress at the End of the Month: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma and I’ve started listening to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke on audio book, which is a reread after watching the recently released mini-series.

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “Books completed in July”

Stand up and speak

I attended and performed in my first poetry slam event on Wednesday night last week. The Berkely Slam is held every  Wednesday at the Starry Plough Pub in (you guessed it) Berkeley, California. The event hosts a small workshop prior to opening sign ups, with readers chosen by lottery. Five random judges are chosen from the audience, which makes the tone very random. It is currently hosted by the amazing Jazz Sufi

The judges — or more specifically one judge — was kind of an ass that night, scoring almost everyone incredibly low, which was annoying. For the most part, however, I laughed along and was astounded by the work of so many amazing poets, Allie Marini among them, and had a fabulous time.

I read “The Things I Own.” I was incredibly nervous to read due to the contest atmosphere and because I knew poets tend to be well rehearsed at slams. But I surprised myself by feeling fairly confident when I performed and I got some nice feedback from the audience. The experience has me thinking that I should work on memorizing some poems and work on getting more confident with performing.

What I’m Reading

Rupetta by Nike Sulway is a fascinating read so far, featuring a robot/android being built in 1600s, who continues to live on over the centuries and ultimately becomes the center of civilization in the twentieth century. Beautiful writing and engaging world.

I’ve watching the mini-series on BBC, I’m rereading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke via audio book, because there is so much that I don’t seem to remember, especially in regards to the fantastic footnotes.

Recently finished the wonderfully unsettling The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma — book review with a giveaway will be posted shortly.

What I’m Writing

Just a little bit of writing got done last week, mostly on Tuesday night with some editing of a review I’ve been working on. I think I needed to take it easy in order to recover from the go-get-em attitude of the week before.

Submitted! A micro chapbook of ten pages to Porkbelly Press, called Sacred Ways.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit a selection of poem(s).

Linky Goodness

Poetry Review: Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone

Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone, by Annelyse Gelman
Write Bloody Publishing, 2014

                                 Hello,
my name is Annelyse, I have
chrystalized myself in the liberal arts
and now emerge, grotesque
insect, able to do nothing
but talk about everything.
— from “Ars Poetica”

I learned about Annelyse Gelman’s work by attending a Writer’s with Drinks reading at which she performed. Although she seemed to not be entirely comfortable with being on stage, she read well and her series of quirky, intelligent poems that had me immediately wanting to buy the book.

After purchasing Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone (and getting it signed by the poet), I quickly read through it and then went back to reread many of the poems over again, revisiting and re-experiencing them because I loved them, I really did. But when it came time time for me to sit down and write a review all I could think to say was, These poems are awesome, without really being able to find the words to explain how or why these poems. So, I spent the last two months, planning to write a review and thinking about the review and going back to read a poem here or there and falling in love all over again without being actually able to write a proper review.

We wanted to show you anything is possible.
Forgive us. We were so in love.
In past lives, we were mothers, and you mourned

when we promised you would outlive us.
— from “Hurricane”

These poems are witty, clever, fun with an undercurrent of vulnerability and introspection. They explore the chaotic realm of everyday life, poking fun at its imperfections and drawing out its underbelly. I don’t really know what else to say, so I’ll just end with, These poems are awesome and you should go read them.

The future has an obscenely happy
ending: one day there you are
then suddenly BANG!
— from “An Illustrated Guide to the Apocalypse”

Loving life and being lazy

My Saturday was spent celebrating my niece’s third birthday with a pool party at my apartment. It was so much fun watching her splash around and leap off the edge into the water — that girl has no fear and I hope it stays that way as she grows up. She’s a giant piece of my heart right now, her and her baby brother both and it give me so much joy to spend time with them.

Of course, it took three hours of scrubbing my house top to bottom, while crying Oh, my gawd, why is my house so filthy, in order to have guests over, only to have to clean all over again after they left. But I have no complaints, every bit of scrubbing was worth it.

Sunday was a big fat slug-fest because I was tired of functioning for the week. I feel no regrets…., okay, I feel some regrets, but only little ones.

What I’m Reading

I’ve just started reading my signed(!) copy of The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. As is no surprise to me, I’m already falling in love with the language and with these complicated girls. There’s a reason Suma is one of my favorite authors.

What I’m Writing

Just a little bit of writing got done last week, mostly on Tuesday night with some editing of a review I’ve been working on. I think I needed to take it easy in order to recover from the go-get-em attitude of the week before.

Accepted! I’m pleased to announce that Nonbinary review has accepted my essay, “Beyond Shahrazad: Feminist Portrayals of Women in The Arabian Nights,” for its 1001 Arabian Nights issue. I’m thrilled to know that all that hard work paid off.

Rejected! Two publishers have rejected my Sincerely Yours chapbook (le sigh), but there are two more out. If they both come back as rejections, too, I’ll have to reassess and resubmit.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit a selection of poem(s).

Linky Goodness

Now I can live again…

Last week my nose was rubbed raw by the grindstone and now I’m still recovering, although I’m feeling good.

Also, some other awesome things happened last week.

What I’m Reading

My reading of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and all reading for that matter has been put on hold, as all my available free time is devoted to researching and writing my 1001 nights essay.

What I’m Writing

The 1001 Nights essay is DONE! It’s done! Bang the drums! Toot the horns! The project consumed most of my free time over the last week and a half, with skimming of the 1001 Nights to note all the representations of women in the stories (a huge project), researching what other critics have had to say, and have been drafting the editing the essay — all of which turned out to be much more work than I thought it would be (which should not have been a surprise). But it’s done and submitted and I hope the editors like it. Regardless, I enjoyed the life consuming process and I’m glad I did it.

Now I just need to learn to channel two-thirds of that same energy into future projects, so that I can continue to get sh!t done.

Published! My poem “The Things I Own” is up at Thank You for Swallowing.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish that other thing that I put on hold while working on the essay.

Linky Goodness

Bits and baubles of joy

It’s been an intense week with most of my free time spent desperately finishing off my in-progress essay, which has been taking fare more time than I would have liked. So, it was so lovely to receive three lovely announcements in the midst of all this hard work.

So, here are the bits and baubles.

* * *

NBR-4-Bulfinch-MythologyI’m thrilled to announce that the editors at NonBinary Review for have nominated my poem “Eve and Pandora” for the Sundress Best of the Net awards. I am so honored, especially because this particular poem has had a long history for me. It was one of the first poem that I completed and felt proud of, as well as one of the first poems that received harsh criticism that made me questions myself as a writer. It took time to trust my original vision of the poem again, which has now been published and nominated. I can’t really describe the full extent of how that makes me feel.

“Eve and Pandora” can be found in the #4 Bulfinch’s Mythology issue of NonBinary Review, which is available for free on the Lithomobilius app (available only on the iPad and iPhone for the moment, but will eventually be made available to other devices).

* * *

In other joyful news, Laura Madeline Wisemen interviewed me for her chapbook series. It was a fun experience and I got to talk about fairy tales and folklore, working from poetry prompts, and the self-published chapbook.

* * *

Last but not least, my poem “The Things I Own” has been published at Thank You for Swallowing. Huzzah!

 

Speaking under the moonlight

I had another lovely Friday night at Glowing with the Moon, which featured Nikki Bonsol (aka Nicole Marietta) and Kilusan Bautista.

Nikki Bonsol played some heartbreakingly gorgeous tunes, a couple of covers and a couple of originals. I don’t really know how to describe her voice, so I’m just going to link to one of her videos so you can have a listen.

Kilusan Bautista presented some powerful poetry, the kind that just takes hold, reaches inside and drags out all your feels. He also performed an excerpt from one of his stage performances, which involved a poet speaking to a mop and was hilarious.

He’ll be performing his one man show, UNiVERSALself, along with some other amazing poets on Friday, July 17th, from 8pm-11pm at at Bindlestiff Studios, San Francisco, CA. At the moment I’m planning to go, assuming I don’t just collapse from all the work I’ll be doing this week.

The night also featured two young performers (about 8 and 10 years old) , who bravely stood up to perform a church song. They then periodically took over the mic and just filled the audience with amused joy at all their bravery and exuberance.

Speaking of bravery, I did something I never do in front of an audience. Normally, I like to read off a page or recite a carefully memorized poem. But at the Glowing with the Moon open mic on Friday, I decided to go unscripted. I’ve been so obsessed with writing my essay on feminism in the 1001 Arabian Nights (still in progress) that I decided to work out some of my ideas on stage by doing an impromptu lecture about what I’ve learned. I though I would be stumbling all over the place, but it actually went really smoothly. It helped me work out the flow some, because as I was speaking I could sense when I was going on to long and was able to cut out sections and go shorter. It was a really interesting experience and had me thinking that I might actually be able to do lectures someday.

What I’m Reading

My reading of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and all reading for that matter has been put on hold, as all my available free time is devoted to researching and writing my 1001 nights essay.

What I’m Writing

The 1001 Nights essay is outlined and mostly researched. I’m thinking I can finish it over the next couple of days (probably) and have it submitted by the end of the week. Here’s putting my nose to the grindstone, because hope alone won’t cut it.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit the 1001 Nights essay!

Submission Bonanza

This too has been put on hold (see above), so I’m calling it quits for not. Although I only submitted a total four pieces or groups of poems, I feel good about it. Not the dramatic bonanza I was hoping for, but it’s prompted me to get a significant amount of work done in terms of collecting and preparing poems and stories. I’ll have to wait a few months and try the Bonanza again.

Linky Goodness

  • How To Be More Like Frida Kahlo, As Told By Frida Kahlo“Uncertain how to approach a challenging situation today? Imagine Kahlo as your life coach sitting opposite you, her furrowed brow staring discerningly. Ask yourself, What Would Frida Do (WWFD)? Who knows, you might just end up becoming a brilliant painter.”

It's a marathon life

It’s been a damn good week. Monday was YA Thrills and Chills, a fabulous panel with Nova Ren Suma, Lauren Saft, and Katie Coyle.

Thanks to the Fourth of July holiday, I was able to have a three day weekend with my family. Many of us gathered up in Clear Lake and lazed about by the water, watched my niece and nephew and cousins run around like maniacs, laughing and playing, and drank ridiculous amounts of booze. It was wonderful and somehow relaxing and exhausting at the same time.

During the course of my family’s weekend bonanza, my sisters and I managed to convince ourselves that it would be an awesome idea to sign up for a half marathon. That’s 13.5 miles. In September. Only a short two and a half months away. This was not a part of my plan for minimalism this year. (In fact, right now any concept of minimalism on my part feels pretty preposterous.) So, now I will be rising early before work in order to do training and so it won’t conflict with the writing I’m supposed to be doing in the evenings. Yep. That’s a thing. (I’m kinda totally excited.)

What I’m Reading

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, which shifts from being terribly mundane and dull to graphically violent — although the character is always misogynistic, homophobic, and racist, which is unsettling in it’s own right.

What I’m Writing

After much struggling on a writing project that’s been a dagger in my side for weeks, things are starting to click into place. I can see the finish line. I just have to jog down the path to get there.

Research on the 1001 Nights essay is on-going and I’m getting close to a point where I’ll actually be able to launch into writing a draft.

Acceptance! Thank You for Swallowing, a new online lit journal, has agreed to publish my poem, “The Things I Own” latter this month. Huzzah!

Goal(s) for this week: Finish the book review I started and submit it. Complete the first draft of the 1001 Nights essay.

Submission Bonanza

I don’t really want to talk about it. Really. Okay, fine, I’ll confess. No actual submissions this week. Still at 3/20 for the Submission Bonanza, even with my extention through July 15. *sigh*

Linky Goodness

Books completed in June 2015

1. The Hours by Michael Cunningham
2. Ship Breaker (audio book) by Paolo Bacigalupi
3. Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin
4. Atonement by Ian McEwan
5. Kit’s Wilderness, by David Almond
6. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Books Still in Progress at the End of the Month: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “Books completed in June 2015”

YA Thrills & Chills

On Monday night I attended YA Thrills & Chills at Books Inc. in Palo Alto, where three fabulous women writers — Nova Ren Suma, Lauren Saft, and Katie Coyle — gave wonderful readings of their newly released books and talked about why they write YA and their writing process, and what books they’ve enjoyed lately.

Nova Ren SumaThe Walls Around Us

Book Description (from Goodreads): On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

“I think it’s such a great compliment when people are scared,” Nova Ren said, explaining that she was too close to the process while writing the book to feel fear of what she was writing herself.

I attending this event because of my love for Nova Ren’s past novels, most notable Imaginary Girls, which I still obsess over from time to time. So, I was freaking out a little (read: a lot) to be able to meet her in person and it was fascinating to hear how she approaches the writing process, which she described as part pantsing, part outlining. Nova Ren said the opening was important for her. “I need a way in. To find the right voice.” For the The Walls Around Us, she explained, she spent several months of a writing retreat just working on the right paragraph, trying to find the right voice. Once she found that, act one of the story flowed out fairly quickly. Then, after completing the first 50 pages or so, she would outline the rest of the book heavily in order to work it to completion.

Book Recommendation: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Lauren SaftThose Girls

Book Description (from Goodreads): Some girls will always have your back, and some girls can’t help but stab you in it.

Junior year, the suburbs of Philadelphia. Alex, Mollie and Veronica are those girls: they’re the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them–and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band–without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved–literally, figuratively, physically….she’s not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever….or tears them apart for good?

One of the fascinating things about Those Girls is that Lauren Saft wanted to step away from the good girls who tend to populate YA novels and instead focused on the party girls, the ones who drink and smoke and have sex and get into trouble, the ones who are most often get painted as the villain in stories. But they have their own stories, Lauren explained, they have their own insecurities and dreams. Although I ran out of funds and, thus, could not buy a copy of Those Girls, it’s gone on my TBR list to read at a future date, because I’m fascinated by those kinds of characters, too.

Lauren Saft said her writing of Those Girls started with the characters. She had a clear understanding of those girls, their voices, their relationships, and she was really clear on who they were. She mentioned that writing has been described as driving down the road in which you can only see so many feet ahead of you. “I didn’t really outline this book. I just sort of put my foot on the gas and drove,” she said, explaining that she was surprised when it all worked out by the end.

Book Recommendation: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Katie CoyleVivian Apple At the End of the World

Book Description (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth.

“I did what nobody should ever do,” Katie Coyle said about writing Vivian Apple At the End of the World, explaining that she join a writing contest, to which she submitted the first chapter of the book and a detailed synopsis. At which point, she proceeded to do nothing with it, assuming she wouldn’t advance any further. But lo and behold, the contest representatives called up and told her she was a finalist and the completed novel had to be submitted in three weeks — which she did. Another eight months of editing resulted in the novel I now have sitting on my bookshelf. Based on her reading from the first chapter, it’ll be quite good. As a fan of apocalyptic stories, I don’t often see rapture tales, so I’m excited to see where this goes.

Book Recommendations: The Metamorphosis Trilogy by Kate Oliver and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

It's all about pacing

Every day last week, I came home from work and did at least a little bit of writing each night. It was great; it was wonderful; it burned me out and by Friday night I couldn’t stand to look at a computer again. So, I watched some old horror movies at my sister’s and spent most of the weekend being profoundly lazy.

Keeping forward momentum is all about maintaining a pace that allows you to complete your goals without crashing and burn up like a rocket ship off kilter during reentry. The point is that I’m still trying to figure out what that pacing is (in regards to my creative writing) considering my work levels at my day job right now.

What I’m Reading

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley is a story about a small town, a thought-to-be-extinct woodpecker, and a missing teenage boy. The main character is a decent kid and the story is multi-layered and emotionally complex, which makes it a good solid read so far.

Still in the process of reviewing Drink, a collection of poems by Laura Madeline Wiseman. In the meantime, you might want to check out this interview with Laura.

What I’m Writing

I was pretty consistent about sitting down to write this week, which mostly involved me banging my head against this one piece of writing that I couldn’t figure out how to approach. It was unpleasant, but I think I finally have it figured out, which is good because I was starting to get a headache.

I’m also finding myself excited about the prospect of writing an essay — something I haven’t done since college — about the roles of women in the 1001 Arabian Nights. I’ve started scanning the three volumes on my book shelf for more info and am scouring the internet for information.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish the book review I started and submit it. Complete the first draft of the 1001 Nights essay.

Submission Bonanza

A lot of prep work, but no actual submissions, so I’m at 3/20 for the Submission Bonanza. I’m extending the deadline to July 15th, since I have a chunk of things I can send out, if I just get my sh!t together.

Linky Goodness

Let's just bask in the moment

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Friday that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.” – from the ruling

I am ridiculously happy right now.

Dinosaurs and the Apocalypse, or what I watched over the weekend

My weekend was taken up in part by considerable time watching big screen adventures — Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road — both of which were fantastic fun and, as a side note, both using a number of mechanical effects over CGI.

Mad Max-Fury RoadFury Road was my favorite of the two as a long time fan of the Mad Max series. The movie is essentially a single long car chase seen across the apocalyptic wasteland, featuring a spectacular spectacle of mayhem. What hold the movie together are the assortment of badass characters both good and evil, the carefully choreographed stunts and action sequences, and gorgeously haunting cinematography.

Other people have already spoken about how awesome the women are in Fury Road“Mad Max” Is A Feminist Playbook For Surviving Dystopia and Beyond Furiosa: The Unsung Heroines of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ — so, I won’t expand on that.

Instead, I’d like to say that Mad Max is as hard core as he’s ever been. Although he spends the start of the movie as a captive, Tom Hardy portrays a sense of barely contained violence and rage. War Boy (or one of the others) describes him as a feral, and it’s an accurate description. As in previous Mad Max films (Road Warrior and Thunder Dome), Max starts out with a single selfish goal of obtaining only his own survival, perfectly willing to leave others behind to their fate. It’s only after circumstances force him to team up that he eventually begins to fight for a bigger cause.

Jurassic World provided almost the same feeling of wonder and thrill of the first Jurassic Park. The tone and pacing were just what I’d hoped they would be. It didn’t matter that the plot was full of holes or that most of the characters were caricatures. I loved seeing the dinosaurs again (even if they don’t fit the profile according to more modern science) — I loved seeing the ambling brachiosaurus and the stampeding gallimimus and the terrifying intelligence of the velociraptors.

The only thing that really bothered me was was the main chick’s shoes. Her character was already annoying to me anyway, just so clearly arrogant and financially motivated with little time for her nephews, that my friend and I were kind of hoping she’d get chomped on by one of the dinos. On top of that, she decided to go tromping through the jungle and running from giant dinosaurs in ridiculous spiked heels — an act not just impractical but impossible, since the heels would be sinking into the mud the entire time or she would have broken an ankle and died. If she had taken just 30 seconds to switch out for flats, I would have liked her character so much better.

What I’m Reading

Although beautifully written, Atonement by Ian McEwan, is really dragging for me. I suspect that part of my disinterest is due to have seen the movie and having hated the ending. I was told that you have to read the book to understand why it’s a great love story; I’m still skeptical.

I’m also in the process of reading and reviewing Drink, a collection of poems by Laura Madeline Wiseman. In the meantime, you might want to check out this interview with Laura.

What I’m Writing

My social activities took up a lot of my time this week and the rest of my free time was consumed with procrastinating activities (my turn off the screens plan hasn’t quite been implemented yet), so just little fragments of writing happened this week. So, I need to kick into gear this week.

Goal(s) for this week: Write! Edit! Submit!

Submission Bonanza

Nada. I’m still at a grand total of 3/20 for the month’s Submission Bonanza. Can I manage to send out another 17 submissions before the month is over and make my goal? Yes! Sure! Maybe. We’ll see. Eep!

Linky Goodness

I think I’m going to have to set a personal challenge to try to do each of these 8 Things Every Person Should Do Before 8 A.M.

Also, this lengthy post, Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party, provides an important look at the history and development of how the conservative party works today.

“The enduring Confederate influence on American politics goes far beyond a few rhetorical tropes. The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries. 

That worldview is alive and well. During last fall’s government shutdown and threatened debt-ceiling crisis, historian Garry Wills wrote about our present-day Tea Partiers: “The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule.” 

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.”

Five Ways to Chill When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

Photo by Alex E. Proimos (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic ).

Sometimes life likes to throw everything at you at once. Sometimes you like to add to the pile by throwing things at yourself. Work, family, life, the universe, and everything adds up into a big knotted ball of overwhelmed — which is pretty much where I’m at right now. Not all of it is bad, in fact a lot of it is many kinds of awesome, but it’s still mentally, emotionally, and physically tiring.

Looking forward into the next year, I know it’s probably not going to lighten up anytime soon — my day job will remain hectic, my creative work will still need to get done, community in the form of family, friends, and social activities will still call for my presence. Life will likely remain packed over the foreseeable future, so I need to have strategies to maintain my physical and mental health.

As with my usual doling of advice, these items are representative of things that I am doing or am going to try to do in order to help myself. Results may vary.

Continue reading “Five Ways to Chill When You're Feeling Overwhelmed”

Friday night was filled with my favorite open mic, music, and spoken word event, Glowing with the Moon, hosted by friends Lorenz Dumuk and Quynh Nguyen (the Q in Q&A). In addition to moving and powerful performances by the two feature artists, Asha Sudra Finkel and Jocelyn Deona (her amazing poem “Rice Dreams” is on soundcloud), the outdoor event provided ways for listeners and speakers to connect and get grounded with an altar and symbolic acts (writing ones hopes in salt to be returned to the sea, letting sand run through ones fingers, playing with bubbles). I always come away from this event feeling centered and peaceful. Glowing with the Moon is held on the second Friday of every month this summer. Upcoming shows will be on July 10, August 14, and September 11.

My delay in posting this week’s update was due to two things — my sister and I are doing an ongoing Fringe binge and I was recently introduced to the new iOS game Fallout Shelter, which wants to suck up all my time (if I let it).

What I’m Reading

I’ve started reading Atonement by Ian McEwan, which has some beautiful writing. I wasn’t liking the characters much at first, but am starting to get to know them some and am finding it interesting. Not loving it, though.

Still working on Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin. I’m at the point where the public is starting to fight back against the chemical plant, ironically right when the plant was starting to clean up its act.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been jumping back and forth between a bunch of poems, stories, and projects in the effort to decide what to include in June’s Submission Bonanza. All this tweaking meant that I didn’t actually finish anything. But I think this week will be better (I hope).

Goal(s) for this week: Write! Edit! Submit!

Submission Bonanza

While I did some work prepping submissions this week, I didn’t actually send any out, which leaves me at a total of 3/20 for the month. So, I’m pretty behind at this point and will have to more and double my submission output this week, which will be difficult as I have a bunch of social events to go to.

Linky Goodness

In Do One Thing Today that Makes You a Better Writer, Christina Preetha says,

“Putting pen to paper won’t make you a writer.  Through many (maybe, even all) of your writing years you’re still learning to be better. There will be some good pieces to show for it, but most will be less than stellar. Write the crap. Write lots of it. But don’t stop there.  Because what you can do really well right now doesn’t just involve writing.”

Poet Spotlight: Laura Madeline Wiseman — Mermaids, Myth, and Community

Hello, lovelies! I’m thrilled to introduce my first poet spotlight, Laura Madeline Wiseman. She is author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry and fiction with a speculative bent. Her work explores myth and folklore, history and pop culture. She has collaborated with artists on projects such as broadsides and calendars and has taught a variety of courses in poetry, creative writing, literature, and women’s and gender studies. Here, Laura shares about her latest collection of poetry and her love of community.

laura madeline wiseman, 2014

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Laura Madeline Wiseman — Mermaids, Myth, and Community”

In which I reveal my weekend book haul

My trip to the Bay Area Book Festival could have been a bit more organized. Okay, it could have been a lot more organized. I did zero planning before hand and I lagged Sunday morning, showing up at the festival late in the afternoon. The festival hosts oodles of panels and talks, but I visited none since most fill up quickly and I didn’t know what what happening when or where anyway.

Lacuna is an art installation, which housed shelves of free books. Though, the shelves were looking fairly empty by the time I got there.

My lack of planning also meant that I missed a chance to visit the Zoetic Press booth, as they had already packed up shop by the time I got there. So no shiny shot glass or other Zoetic goodies for me. I’ll have to catch them next time.

Nevertheless, I had a lovely time, enjoying the sun as I meandered through the booths. I had a few good conversations with writers and publishers. One of my favorite bits was the Poetry Trading Post at the Small Press Distribution booth, where visitors can sit and write out a poem in exchange for a free book off the display. I put out a spontaneous bit of words, which may appear on the SPD website at some point.

Along the way, I managed to swell my bag with a number of books, some half price and some freebies grabs. I picked up:

  • The Oxygen Factory by Renée des Lauriers (the watercolor cover drew me in)
  • Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
  • Slices of Flesh: A Collection of Flash Fiction Tales from the World’s Greatest Horror Writers
  • Bright Turquoise Umbrella, poetry by Hermine Meinhard
  • What Snakes Want, poetry by Kita Shantiris
  • The Best of the Devil’s Dictionary by  Ambrose Bierce
  • Sacred Precinct, poetry by Jacqueline Kudler
  • Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace (for my niece)

In other book haul news. Thanks to the Big Poetry Giveaway, I received two new-to-me poetry books in the mail — God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant from Lissa Clouser and The Cradle Place by Thomas Lux from Steve Lavigne. Thanks to you both! I eagerly look forward to reading.

What I’m Reading

I’ve started in on Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin. It’s horrifying to see the lengths companies like this would (and do) go to in order to ignore the environmental and health ramifications of dumping chemical waste into the ground, rivers, and ocean so that they can make a profit. This is not a happy read, but it’s fascinating.

What I’m Writing

Some painful attempts to start a new piece happened this week. I kept leaping in to the work only to stumble all over my own self doubts and come up short. The key to these kinds of moments is to just keep putting words on the page — any words, any at all. If one idea slips through your fingers, reach for another. If that crumbles, keep going. Eventually, all this stilted painful writing resulted in something that may actually be editable and so everything was okay in the end.

Goal(s) for this week: Write! Edit! Submit!

Submission Bonanza

Three submissions sent out this week for the Submission Bonanza:

I’m a bit behind at this point and will have to double up next week in order to catch up.

Where I’ll Be

This Friday, I’ll be attending (and probably performing) the Glowing with the Moon reading and open mic, held at the School of Arts & Culture @MHP, starting at 6 pm. This event happens every second Friday of the summer months and always has an earthy feel to it. It’s a very loving and supportive space.

Linky Goodness

Jilly Dreadful presents her point of view on loving problematic art over at Rhizomatic Ideas – “All Art is Quite Useless,” or, How I Manage to Enjoy Problematic Work and Problematic Creators in Three Easy Steps – It’s the start of a series of posts that I look forward to closely following.

Video: How Fiction Makes Our Brains Better

In Heroine’s Journey: Learning to Work, Theodora Goss talks about the importance work plays in female centered tales, especially folk tales, noting “Often, in these fairy tales, it is exactly the heroine’s work that leads to her final reward.” The post is part of a series on the Heroine’s Journey, with the most recent being A Temporary Home.