Culture Consumption: September 2018

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games. 🙂

Books

I read and adored I Am Not Your Final Girl, a collection of horror-themed poetry by Claire C. Holland (review) and Nova Ren Suma’s latest eerie YA novel, A Room Away from the Wolves, for which I’m hosting a giveaway. Although each has a very different tone, both books explore the strength of women when faced with unsettling or violent circumstances. I highly recommend them.

I also enjoyed Jeremy C Shipp’s novella The Atrocities, which is a tightly told horror story. Ms. Valdez is hired as a private teacher for Isabella. She journeys to an labyrinthine estate adorned with grotesque statues and painting, where she learns that the young girl she is supposed to teach is dead and a ghost. As Ms. Valdez begins to uncover the truth about this strange family, she faces the hauntings of her own past. Great story.

Sticking with the horror theme, I finished the graphic short story collection Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito. I adore Ito’s work in general, though this collection didn’t quite meet the same level of unsettling beauty as Uzumaki or the stories in Shiver.  Still, there were a couple stories that stood out for me, with images that linger, including “Dissection-chan,” in which a woman is obsessed with the idea of dissection, and “Blackbird,” in which a man survives a hiking accident through horrific means.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: September 2018”

Book Love & Giveaway: A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

Feeling betrayed after her mother kicks her out of the house after another supposed indiscretion, Bina takes immediate action — choosing to leave of her own accord. She grabs what money she can and travels not to the family friends her mother selected, but to Catherine House in New York City, the woman’s residence her mother once lived. Bina has heard many stories of Catherine House, stories to fascinate her, stories to make her believe she can regain some connection to her mom by going there herself. But when she arrives at Catherine House, she is confronted with dark secrets she doesn’t understand and which may leave her trapped within its walls.

Nova Ren Suma is one of my favorite authors. I love the way she builds unsettling atmosphere into her stories and how she complicates female relationships, which are never simple in her tales. A Room Away From the Wolves does both of these things — both Bina’s relationship with her mother and her strange friendship with her downstairs neighbor Monet are complex, loving, and problematic. Much of her story is trying to find herself outside the context of her mother, while also confronting her own fears.

As Bina learns about herself, she works to understand the mysteries surrounding Catherine and the house. One of the things I love and am frustrated by in this book is how the story is comfortable allowing some secrets to remain secret. Not every mystery is explained. Not every dark corner is revealed. And the reader is left wondering. It makes me want to pick up the book and start rereading to see if there were some clues I missed the first time around, knowing that I would get to enjoy the beauty of Suma’s prose and storytelling all over again.

Footnote: This is the second book by Suma that I immediately saw being perfect for movie adaptation (the first being Imaginary Girls). This could be made into a beautiful kind of haunted house movie, one with complicated female characters at its center.

Giveaway

So, it turns out I have an extra copy of  A Room Away From the Wolves. How? Well, I’m a goof.

It went like this: as soon as I found out it was available for preorder, I clicked the order button. Then, time went by — and I saw another mention of the book. How have I not preordered this yet? I demanded of myself. It’s absurd! So, I ordered it again.  Hence: extra copy.

And what am I do with this extra copy? Why spread the love, of course.

If you would like to get your hands on my extra copy of A Room Away From the Wolves, all you have to do is leave a comment with your name and email by October 25th.

Want an extra chance of winning? Then, also subscribe to my newsletter, where I talk about books, poetry, and the writing life.

That’s it. I’ll use a random number generator to select the winner.

Culture Consumption: August 2018

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games. 🙂

Books

The Changeling by Victor LaValleThe Changeling by Victor LaValle is a powerful novel, presenting a variety of horror, both mundane and supernatural, a mix of folklore and familial love and violence. Apollo Kagwa is a book man, tracking down rare first editions to make his living. When he falls in love with Emma and they have a son together, he is determined to be a better father than the man who abandoned him when he was young. But Emma begins acting in strange and unsettling ways, building to a terrible act before vanishing — and Apollo’s world is spun out of control.

What makes the horrors of this novel work so effectively is how rooted the story is in normal, everyday life before slowly gathering in strange moments one-by-one. It’s beautifully evoked, layering in the anxieties of fatherhood and dealing with racism and the ways we fail to be compassionate to loved ones when things are hard and the male ego and so much more — all combined with its undertones of folklore. The worst horrors are not always of the supernatural kind, and this story parallels them well — making for a frightening and deeply moving tale.

This is the second book by LaValle that I’ve read (the first being The Ballad of Black Tom) and I’m itching to read more of his work.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: August 2018”

Reading the 2018 Hugos: An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

I’ve been hearing about An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon  for a while now, someone or another popping up in my twitter feed to announce how wonderful the book is. Having read it, I am in complete agreement with the praise it’s received.

Description:

“Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.

When the autopsy of Matilda‘s sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother’s suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother’s footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.”

Aster is a fascinating character, an adept healer, as well as a scientist with an avid curiosity for how things — machines, the ship, the universe — work.  She’s also brilliant, obsessive, and somewhat solitary due the way many in the community treat her, calling her ogre and freak. She’s The ways she interacts with other people is complicated by her being  aneurotypical. She has difficulties with parsing out meaning behind people’s words, has difficulty recognizing sarcasm, and tends to have difficulty understanding the emotional undertones in her interactions with others.

The few people she is close to — Giselle and Theo — are each hard edged and complicated in their own ways. Giselle, her closest friend, is violently self destructive. Theo, the Surgeon General of the ship, is an ally and friend who helped to educate Aster in medicine and health care. Both act as a kind of foil to Aster, providing pushback and counter perspectives to the way she perceives the world.

It’s Giselle who provides the key Aster’s obsession with discovering more about her mother’s past, providing the key to unlocking her mother’s journals. As she dives more and more deeply into that history, hoping to understand herself, she begins to see how the some of the stories she’s been told may not be what they seem and that the ghosts of the past provide no easy resolution.

This novel provides many layers that could be unpacked.  It’s a stunning and beautiful accomplishment — and I’ll be keeping my eye out for more work from Solomon in the future.


Rivers Solomon is nominated for theJohn W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, an award associated with the Hugos. All my Hugo related posts are under the 2018 Hugos tag and you can check out the complete list of nominated creators and works here.

Culture Consumption: May 2018

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games.

Books

It’s been a fantastic reading month for me — both in terms of sheer numbers as well as a multitude of books that I loved. Most notably was my delve into the works of manga artist and writer Junji Ito, including Uzumaki, Gyo, and the Shiver collection of short stories. As I mentioned in a previous post, Ito is a master of weird, cosmic, and body horror (sometimes all at once). It’s beautiful, disturbing, wonderful work.

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-GarciaI was also delighted by The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Love, deception, and etiquette are a the center of this story in which a young women travels to the city of Loisail for her first Grand Season. The aim of her trip is to mingle with the Beautiful Ones who make up the wealthy high society in the city in the hopes that she’ll find a suitable husband. Unfortunately, her manner and her telekinetic abilities make her a target for gossip. When she meets telekinetic performer Hector Auvray, she thinks she’s found the kind of love one reads about in books — but learns that no one is what the seem in Loisail.

This is a charming fantasy of manners, full of polite but cruel society and wonderful explorations of the people who live in it. I have so far bought and read three of Moreno-Garcia’s books and I have loved all three of them. The Beautiful Ones was no exception, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: May 2018”

A Great Big Stack of New Books

I’ve been on something of a book buying frenzy over the past couple of months, hitting up bookstores, small presses, and library sales (and in one case a contest win!) to the point that my bookshelves are overwhelmed and the stacks around my home are growing into towers. Although I’ve been a slow reader lately, there are many of these books that I’m super excited about and I can’t wait to dive into them.

  1. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  2. I am Not Your Final Girl, poetry by Claire C Holland (won this in a contest! woo!)
  3. Let’s Not Live On Earth, poetry by Sarah Blake (which I just finished reading and need to review
  4. To Live Here, poetry by Soul Vang
  5. Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View 
  6. The Changeling by Victor LaValle
  7. The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton
  8. The Tale of Tales by Giambattista Basile
  9. The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Xavier von Schönwerth
  10. The Letters of Abelard and Helloise
  11. Children of Lovecraft, edited by Ellen Datlow
  12. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  13. Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  14. The Novelists Lexicon: Writers on the Words That Define Their Work

And in a separate pic, because some of my chapbook buys don’t have spines to show:

  1. Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern, poetry by Kristofer Collins
  2. No God in This Room, poetry by Athena Dixon
  3. Slut Songs, poetry by Jade Hurter

What do you think? Any books I should jump into reading first?


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Culture Consumption: February 2018

Here’s my month in books, movies, and television.

Books

As I already mentioned, I adored Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, which is a stunning book of gods and bodies and fractured minds. The writing is stunning, and I highly recommend picking up this book. I’m planning to read everything I can from this author from here on out.

The Night Masquerade by Nnedi OkoraforAnother great read was Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor. This is a powerful conclusion to the trilogy, which had me crying in front of strangers on several occasions. The trilogy has been imaginative and moving from start to finish. I love Binti as a character in every way and she grows more and more strong and interesting with each book. I’m sad that the series has ended, because I could always read more Binti.

I also did a reread of Stephen King’s Wizard and Glass, the fourth book in The Dark Tower series — which I already wrote over 2,000 words on, but I’ll just say that it was fun to return to the story of Roland’s youth and I’m excited to pick up the next book in the series (new territory for me).

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: February 2018”

Book Love: FRESHWATER by Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

“The first madness was that we were born, that they stuffed a god into a bag of skin.”

I learned about Freshwater after someone (I don’t remember who) quoted a short passage on twitter. Just a single sentence or two — too short to know what the story was about, but beautiful enough to make me long to read the book. It was not yet published at the time, so I watched and waited and clicked the preorder link as soon as it appeared, then I waited some more for this beautiful book to be printed and shipped to me.

It was every bit worth the wait, because this debut novel is gorgeous.

“There was a time before we had a body, when it was still building itself cell by cell inside the thin woman, meticulously producing organs, making systems.”

Born in Nigeria, Ada begins life with a fractured self, burdened with the weight of god creatures that have been bound into her flesh. Living “with one foot on the other side” she is a troubled and volatile child who grows into a troubled and volatile adult, with a tendency toward outbursts and self harm. As she grows and moves to America, where she experiences a traumatic event, new selves crystalize within her, each providing their own protections and hungers.

Much of the story is told from the point of view of these god creatures (or spirit beings), which have their own needs and desires beyond that of Ada herself. Their story and her story blends together, as they have been blended together in spirit and flesh. It’s a fantastic rendering of having a fractured self, the confusing mix of desires and emotions that make up a person, the ways we work to protect and harm ourselves.

“I had arrived, flesh from flesh, true blood from true blood. I was the wildness under the skin, the skin into a weapon, the weapon over the flesh.”

The writing style in this book is lush and vibrant, evoking the energy and power of spirit realms represented in the voices of the gods the speak this story. It’s gorgeous on every page, bringing into existence a story that is unsettling, surprising, and powerful. This is a novel I will return to again and again.

Wizard and Glass – Returning to The Dark Tower, Part IV

“Dreams either mean nothing or everything — and when they mean everything, they almost always come as messages from . . . well, from other levels of the Tower.” He gazed at Eddie shrewdly. “And not all messages are sent by friends.”
— from Wizard and Glass

Here are Part I, Part II, and Part III of my journey through Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.

Wizard and Glass by Stephen KingPart IV is focused on my reread of book four, Wizard and Glass.

Fair warning: Spoilers ahead.

The third book ended on such a massive cliffhanger — with Roland and his ka-tet set to begin a battle of riddles with a homicidal AI train — that it was a great relief to finally get around to reading Wizard and Glass. This was even though I’ve read these books before and knew how the scene would play out.

Wizard and Glass opens right back with the start of the riddling competition between Blaine the Train and Roland, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake a scene I remember being delighted by when I first read it. And it was just as entertaining to read again, because of how King manages to create intensity in a game of wordplay. I also just really like the idea of riddling, even if I’m not particularly good at it myself. The game plays out, with the group growing more and more desperate each time Blaine smugly answers — with everything wrapping up in a maniacal and humorous form of heroism.

Our heroes all survive of course, arriving at the destination of Topeka, which turns out to be an alternate version of our Kansas — a Kansas emptied of life due to a plague that killed off the population (which I’ll come back to later). All of this is an introductory endcap to what is ultimately the heart of the novel, Roland opening up to the group with the tale of his first mission as a gunslinger and his first love.

Continue reading “Wizard and Glass – Returning to The Dark Tower, Part IV”

Culture Consumption: November & December 2017

Hi, all. Hope you’ve had a good November. Here’s my month in books, movies, and television.

Books

Tipping the VelvetTipping the Velvet presents the life and times of Nancy Astly, an oyster girl, who falls in love with male impersonator Kitty Butler. After forming a friendship with Kitty, she follows her into the theaters of London, where she works as a dresser (helping Kitty with costumes) before becoming a performer herself. This beautifully told story is a sensual exploration of love and the ability of gender roles. Waters is a master of historical fiction and I loved this almost as much as I loved Fingersmith.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: November & December 2017”

2017 in Review

It’s been a rough year — and I know I’m not alone in expressing that sentiment. Putting aside the politics and news stream (which has been a constant barrage of stress and frustration), if I were to sum up 2017 in a single word, it would probably be: overwhelmed. As it turns out, this has also been my usual response these days to the question, “How are you doing?”

The year also presented a great family sorrow, as my grandmother, Florence Schlegel, passed away at the end of November. She had an amazing history — worked as a coat check Girl in NY, serving the likes of Howard Hughes and other celebrities; worked at Lockheed Martin constructing aircraft during WWII; lived on a homestead in Alaska and shot three black bears; served her community in Anchorage in a number of ways; and she was always witty and funny, and all around awesome. We miss her so much.

For all the stress and sadness that the year has yielded, though, it’s also offered up some wonderful experiences — adventures in travel and the writing life, some amazing books, and delightful moments with friends and family.

Below is some of my 2017 journey. If you’re inclined to share, then I would love to hear how your year treated you, as well.

Writing Life

I feel like I’ve done more writing than I’ve done in any previous year, although I don’t really have a way to prove that (and I’m not certain it’s true when I think about the multude of 30 challenges I did in 2016). I haven’t really been keeping track of word counts or other forms of tracking, partly because my work has been across so many diverse projects (poetry, script writing, fiction, etc.).

A part of why I might feel this way is that I’ve been trying to consistently focus on my writing in two ways — first, by getting to work early and using the extra time to write, and second, by using my lunch time to write. These little chunks have been helpful in not only getting words on the page, but also accomplishing the business side of writing, like getting work out on submission.

During the year, I sent out 47 submission packets (with anywhere from one to five poems or short stories — nine more than previous year I received 42 individual rejections and had a total of ten poems and one short story published. Not bad. Nowhere near the 100 rejections I was aiming for, but still not bad.

This does not include the collaborative poetry, submissions, and publications that have occured over the past year. I am so grateful to Laura Madeline Wiseman for being my partner in this work, and an inspiration in general. Together, we have had eight poems published in 2017, and have received an acceptance for our chapbook, Every Girl Becomes the Wolf, to be published by Finishing Line Press.

Blogging

For a couple of years, I have been doing weekly updates noting writing progress, books read, goals for the week, and other tidbits. The idea of these posts was to hold myself accountable for the progress (if any) that I was making, as well as keeping the blog itself active. I started off 2017 continuing these posts, but stopped doing them about halfway through the year when they began to feel more burdensome than helpful. Rather than spending time crafting an obligatory weekly post, I tried to focus on posts with more content to them, like my revisit of The Dark Tower book series.

In total, I shared 45 blog posts, about half the amount of posts from the previous year. I’m okay with the lower number, since it’s more important for me for focus on finishing my existing poetry and fiction projects than sharing things on the blog. However, I would like to share more (hopfully) thoughtful posts in the coming year.

Top Five Blog Posts from 2017 (By Views):

Reading

Normally I share my top reads in a longer, separate post — but I’m starting to run out of spoons to make it through the end of the year, so here’s a truncated version.

My reading stats are they lowest they’ve been in probably a decade. In years past, I’ve averaged about 90-100 books per year, this year I’ve managed 45 (as of this posting), which kind of pains me. The reason for this significant drop in my reading rate is because of how I refocused my time at work (taking up my lunch to write instead of read) and the introduction of Netflix into my home life (and the subsequence TV binge-watching that that implies). That said, I’ve managed to read a number of books that have delighted me this year, which I present below.

top ten fiction books read in 2017

Top Ten Fiction Books (with series books counted as one)

  • The Obelisk Gate & The Stone Sky (Broken Earth Book #3) by N. K. Jemisin
  • Binti & Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Tender: Stories by Sofia Samatar (my thoughts)
  • Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez (my thoughts)
  • Bone Gap (audio book) by Laura Ruby
  • A Tale for the Time Being (audio book) by Ruth Ozeki
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle (audio book) by Shirley Jackson
  • The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
  • Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

to poetry collections read in 2017

Favorite Poetry Collections

  • Let it Die Hungry by Caits Meissner
  • Your Hand Has Fixed the Firmament by Kolleen Carney (poet spotlight)
  • Shopping After the Apocalypse by Jessie Carty (poet spotlight)

Favorite Graphic Novel

  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Running

It’s been an interesting year for running. On the one hand, all totalled up, I ran 73.63 miles over the course of year — which sounds like quite a bit. But most of those miles were in the first half of the year with March being the highest month at 17.58 miles. All of this is reflective of how my motivation regarding running shifted throughout the year (with an impact on my body health).

One of the highlights of my running practice this year was attending the She is Beautiful Run in March (despite being incredibly hungover at the time). My sisters came along and we took part in the joys of this event. I’m looking forward to finding more events like this next year.

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Travel

The day job certainly kept me busy in travel and sent me on some great adventures, including some good times in Nashville, Tennessee and most notably a two week trip to Dubai and Singapore, during which I fit in a short hopover to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I loved the cultural experiences of that trip, although the heat and humidity was so intense that I was soon happy to head home to more moderate weather.

And just for funsies, my sister and I put together a two week trip to South America, squeezing in a few days in Peru (including Machu Picchu), Chile, and Argentina. Since our time was so short, we only saw a fraction of these countries, each of which I would like to take far more time to explore.


Well, that’s my year in a snap shot. How was your 2017?

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The Waste Lands – Returning to The Dark Tower, Part III

Here are Part I and Part II of my journey through Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Part III is focused on my reread of book three, The Waste Lands.

Fair warning: Spoilers ahead.

The Waste Lands - Stephen KingThe Waste Lands begins with signs that Roland Deschain, the gunslinger is slowly going mad. At the end of the previous book, he stopped the Pusher from shoving Jake (the boy who appears in the first book) in front of a car, thus preventing events from the first book from ever happening. This creates an interesting temporal paradox, in which the gunslinger begins to experience split realities — one in which Jake dies and one in which he never met Jake. As time goes on, his mind becomes more and more divided between these two realities.

Continue reading “The Waste Lands – Returning to The Dark Tower, Part III”

Culture Consumption: September & October 2017

Fell a whole month behind and still moving slow, but here we go — presenting my last two months in books, movies, and television.

Books

The Stone Sky is a powerful conclusion to N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. Essun has grown into immense power and is determined to end the seasons (times in which the world tears itself apart), while her daughter, Nassun, with her own power and burdened by the memories of cruelty enacted on her and other orogenes, sets out to destroy the world for good. The character walk through an apocalyptic landscape of ash and cold, a world coming undone, each marching to their own destiny — and in the end a beautiful conclusion full of heartbreak, forgiveness, and ultimately love. The Broken Earth trilogy is brilliant from start to finish — one of my favorite reading experiences in recent years.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter is a well loved collection, especially the title story “The Bloody Chamber.” People have been telling me about it for years — and now that I’ve read it, I totally understand why so many people love it. The story follows the Bluebeard fairy tale closely: a girl marries a rich man, who gives her the keys to the house telling her that she can open all the doors but one — a test she fails to nearly disastrous results. Carter takes the myth and brings it into the modern world (1970s, when it was first published) and provides more depth to the main character, giving her a history and motivation for the choices she makes. It presents servants that have personalities and her mother, who has fought in revolutions and can advice her over the telephone. The resulting story is at the same time grittily real and subtly magical.

One of my pet peeves about fairy tale retellings is that they often loose the magic when they are modernized. But all of the stories in Carter’s collection present similarly gritty and unsettling takes on old fairy tales, while not loosing that original weirdness and magic. It’s a fantastic collection.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: September & October 2017”

Happy International Speculative Poetry Day!

I was delighted to learn that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) “has designated November 3rd as International Speculative Poetry Day to bring attention to the genre of poetry influenced by science fiction, fantasy, horror and other imaginative genres.” This is the first time it’s been held and I’m stoked.

In honor of  International Speculative Poetry Day, here are a few of my favorite collections of speculative poetry.

Southern-Cryptozoology

Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide to Beasts of the Southern Wild by Allie Marini

Southern Cryptozoology has been twice nominated for the Elgin Award, which is no surprising to me because it’s one of my favorite poetry reads in the past few years. This collection presents a bestiary of strange, legendary creatures from the Southern parts of the U.S., examining what it means to be monster or human, beast or woman, myth or flesh. The lines are wildly spaces on the page, leaving gaps and holes where truths or secrets or double meanings might slip in. And I discover new things every time I pick up this book.

“A whole town: armed to the teeth,
arming themselves against my teeth.
She-cat of Bladenboro,
I’m here for your dogs,
your sheep, your sons, your blood.
You know who I am, boys.”

– from “The Beast of Bladenboro”
(wordpress likes to compress the spacing, but you canread the complete poem at Drunk Monkeys)

The Moment of Change

The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry edited by Rose Lemberg

In this anthology, editor Rose Lemburg offers feminist speculative poetry from diverse perspectives. The quality and range of styles and stories these poems address make this a powerful collection of science fiction, myth, and folklore. (I did a longer review of this book in 2013.)

“Perfection is frictionless —
I need to stub my soul on yours,
I need to lick the slivers in your wounds.”

— from “In Defiance of Sleek-Armed Androids” by Lisa Bradley
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“This is a story,
and it is true of all stories
that the sound when they slam shut
is like a key turning.”

— from “The Girl with Two Skins” by Catherynne M. Valente

Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse

Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse by David Pérez

David Pérez uses speculative imagery in his poems to explore the ways things fall apart at the most intimate levels and how was can pull the pieces together from the chaos. There are poems in this book, like “Tickle Me Elmo on Black Friday,” that haunt me; I’ll be minding my own business and then wham, I’m thinking about them all over again.

“Sarah,
Why bother saving us
when you have fewer scars from machines
than you do from the men who made them?
You don’t have to answer that.”

– from “To the Lady who Carves a Notch in Her M-16 for Every Robot She Leaves Charred and Perforated in the Ruins of Los Angeles”
(here’s a video of Pérez reading the poem)

Transformations

Transformations by Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton’s Transformations presents retellings of classic fairy tales. The poems bring a unsettling, raw beauty to the original tales, while also being darkly humorous.

“No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.”

— from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
(read the whole poem)

God Went to Beautyf School

God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant

God Went to Beauty School is a collection of YA poetry that envisions God trying out life on Earth. God goes shopping, gets a job, gets cable, explores all the mundanities of human life — and it’s deeply enchanting.

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

– from the title poem “God Went to Beauty School”
(read the whole poem)

A few other great reads: Drink by Laura Madeline Wiseman; Shopping After the Apocalypse by Jessie Carty; Sharp Teeth (a novel in poems) by Toby Barlow; and Eating in the Underworld by Rachel Zucker


The Drawing of the Three – Returning to The Dark Tower, Part II

Here’s Part I of my journey through Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. These are my thoughts on rereading The Drawing of the Three, the second book in the series — and as such, there may be spoilers ahead.

Drawing of three-1The Drawing of the Three opens precisely where the first book left off, with the gunslinger Roland alone, collapsed from exhaustion on the shore of a great ocean. As the tide rolls in, he is woken by the incoming tide (which douses his bullets) and is greeted with horrors that drag themselves out of the water. These lobstrocities with their strange questioning sounds attack him as he’s waking — and this attack, which happens in the first five pages, is brutal, leaving him catastrophically wounded.

Undeterred, Roland continues his long, plodding journey toward the Dark Tower. As walks up the beach, with infection from his injuries spreading, he discovers the first door, the first drawing.

In the first book, The Gunslinger, the man in black laid out Roland’s future using a form of tarot cards, presenting three cards in particular that represent the people he would need on his journey to the Dark Tower — The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows, and Death (but not for the gunslinger). Each door represents one of these cards. When opened, the doors reveal our own world at different time periods, from where (and when) he must draw out the people destined to join him in pursuit of the Tower.

In the afterward to The Drawing of the Three, King wrote, “This longer second volume still leaves many questions unanswered, but I feel that it is a much more complete volume than the first.” And I am in agreement with this sentiment. I enjoyed my reread of The Drawing of the Three more than I did the first book. Where The Gunslinger felt a little disjointed, as though all the pieces didn’t quite fit together, The Drawing of the Three feels whole. The storyline is simple on the surface, with the gunslinger finding three doors and opening them, but each door presents it’s own complications in terms of how the gunslinger can obtain who and what he needs. As new companions are added to the story, things become increasingly character driven, with their flaws driving much of the conflict — as they tend to do in relationships. It makes for interesting character growth for all three of the main characters, and that growth more than anything else is what makes this such a great novel.

Continue reading “The Drawing of the Three – Returning to The Dark Tower, Part II”

The Gunslinger – Returning to The Dark Tower, Part I

My love for Stephen King’s books began in high school. At least, that’s when my passion was at its highest peak, a time when I sought out every copy of his work I could find through book stories, libraries, and garage sales and read book after brick-thick book full of nightmares and horrors. Over the years I’ve read over 25 books by King, mostly the novels now considered classics published in the ’70s and ’80s along with several short story collections. I even dedicated a video poem to his work a few years ago to show my appreciation.

The Dark Tower: The GunslingerOf all the numerous King classics I’ve read, the book I held with most love in my memory was The Gunslinger, the first book in The Dark Tower series. I remember being hooked immediately by the opening sentence, “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” It seemed at the time the perfect opening sentence, setting the main characters into place upon the stage and presenting an immediate mystery as the reader wonders, Why? In fact, I loved that opening sentence so much, I memorized it and the line has often come to mind at random moments over the years.

I remember being blown away by the story, with the plodding gunslinger dragging himself through the desert, the man in black, the boy torn from another world. It leveled me and, although purely in a fantastical way, opened up new ways of perceiving the universe (or universes, as the case maybe). It became one of those books I clung to after reading, not wanting it to be over yet.
Continue reading “The Gunslinger – Returning to The Dark Tower, Part I”

On the Art of Making a Living as a Writer

“I feel strongly that we’re only hurting ourselves as writers by being so secretive about money. There’s no other job in the world where you get your master’s degree in that field and you’re like, Well, I might make zero or I might make $5 million! We don’t have any standards in that way, and we probably never will. There will always be such a wide range of what writers are paid, but at least we could give each other information.” Cherryl Strayed in conversation with Manjula Martin, published in Scratch

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a LivingScratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin (founder of now-closed Scratch Magazine), presents a mix of interviews and essays on the act of trying (sometimes succeeding) to make money as a writer. These perspectives come from writers of varying backgrounds, from novelists and poets to news and creative nonfiction writers, to filmmakers. A number of writers I’m fond of are included in this book — such as Austin Kleon, Malinda Lo, Roxane Gay, and Daniel José Older — as well as many writers whose work is new to me.

Readers of Scratch will not find a step-by-step guide on how to “make it” as a writer. This collection of essays never reaches a consensus, except perhaps to say that the pathways to making a living as a writer are multitudinous and have not all been discovered yet. Lacking any one clear answer, the reader instead of directives, the reader is given personal journeys (sometimes deeply so). It’s not a matter of “this is how you should do it,” but rather “this is how I am doing it”.

Continue reading “On the Art of Making a Living as a Writer”

Culture Consumption: June & July 2017

With all the traveling and such, I’ve fallen a bit behind. I’ve read some great books and seen some great movies over the past couple of months, though.

Books

“There is a point when a man may swim back to shore, but he was past it. There was nothing left but to be swallowed by the enormity of the sea.”
— from Certain Dark Things

I love vampires and I love Mexico City, so it’s no surprise that I loved Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. The world Moreno-Garcia has created features vampires of many species that live out in the open with humanity. Though vampires have been ousted from many countries around the world, they’ve gained a stronghold in Mexico, forming powerful and dangerous cartels — with the exception of Mexico City, which exists as a vampire-free zone due to the strength of the human gangs.

Certain Dark Things is told from multiple points of view — Domingo, a garbage-collecting street kid; Atl, a descendant of Aztec blood drinkers on the run from a rival vampire gang; Rodrigo, a human servant of vampires hunting Atl; Ana, a cop who becomes wrapped up in events when bodies start turning up; and a few others. Altogether, this is a brilliant crime thriller full of vampires and gangsters and femme fatales. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is fast becoming one of my writers favorite writers, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

“There are worlds built on rainbows and worlds built on rain. There are worlds of pure mathematics, where every number chimes like crystal as it rolls into reality. There are worlds of light and worlds of darkness, worlds of rhyme and worlds of reason, and worlds where the only thing that matters is the goodness in a hero’s heart.”
— from Down Among the Sticks and Bones

In Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire, Jacqueline and Jillian are twins born to parents who never really understood or wanted children, parents who believe children are objects to be shaped to their desires. But the world is full of doors to other worlds and Jacqueline and Jillian find their way to a place of darkness and death, where they suddenly have the ability to choose.

Seanan McGuire seems to be getting better and better with every book she writes. The writing in this book is beautiful, often taking on the “fairy tale” tone of an outside narrator as a separate character relating the story.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a standalone story in the Wayward Children series, and as such, you can read the books in the series in any order. Although if you really want to know what happens to Jack and Jill, then I recommend reading Every Heart a Doorway, which chronologically comes after this one (even though its the first in the series). I hope there are many, many more books in this series, because I’m loving it.
Continue reading “Culture Consumption: June & July 2017”

The Voices of Spring Mother Tongue

Last night, I slipped out of my routine and to check out the Well-RED poetry showcase, featuring poets published in the Spring Mother Tongue anthology at Works/San José. The event was hosted in part by Poetry Center San José, a rad organization and a great place to turn to for more on South Bay Area goings on in poetry. It’s the first time I’ve been out to a literary event in months (probably, maybe, at any rate it’s been a rather long time).

Spring Mother Tongue is an anthology edited by Arlene Angeles Biala, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate. The collection provides a space for poets to share the stories behind each of of their own names. “You may recognize yourself in us. You may recall your own name(s) and stories around it/them and be moved to use your own poetic voice. I hope that you do,” writes Biala in the introduction.


Some of the poets whose work appears in the anthology read at the event — representing a variety of ages and backgrounds and a multitude of voices and poetic styles. These readers included: America Cihuapilli Irineo, ASHA, Arlene Biala, Jade Bradbury, Bill Cozzini, Kiana Del Rosario, Lorenz Dumuk, Parthenia Hicks, Larry Taylor Hollist, Joel Katz, Lita Kurth, Pushpa McFarlane, Quynh-Mai Nguyen, Nils Peterson, Anthony Santa Ana, Ann Sherman, Donna Steelman, and Jarvis Subia

The readings present a nuanced and layered exploration of names and what they mean. Some are funny, some are sweet, some explore the ways names are used to strip power away from us, and some are reclamations of power. It’s a beautiful anthology, one I recommend picking up, especially if you’re a local to the Bay Area, California.

What I’m Reading

I am about halfway through and entirely loving Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which is about vampires in Mexico City. The story is told from multiple points of view, both those of humans and the vampires themselves. I’m loving learning about the different species of vampires, each with their own evolutionary traits of abilities, strengths, and drawbacks. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a fantastic writer, quickly rising to the top of my list of favorites.

What I’m Writing

Over the past week, I completed a draft of a six page poem — the longest single poem I’ve ever written. Most of my poems tend toward the shorter side, 30 lines or less, and I’ve thought of myself as a poet who just wasn’t the type to write longer pieces like that — but apparently I’ve proved myself wrong. I’ve set it aside for the time being, letting the original flow of idea rest, so that I can come back to it for an edit later.

I also have episodes of a web series in progress — episode one has been done for a while, and I’ve started in on the opening scene of episode two. If I can focus and not get distracted by all the shiny poems I seem to be wanting to write this week, then I can probably finish drafts of at least two more episodes before I head out on my next big bit of travel in a week and a half.

The Running Life

Got my first run done in over a month on Saturday. It felt great to hit the pavement, good for my muscles and good for my soul. I was able to run a bit farther than I expected considering how long it’s been since I last went for it, which was reassuring. I need to get back into the routine. I can tell that my body needs it.

Total miles in the last week: 2.20
Total Miles for 2017: 70.84 miles

Linky Goodness

Kathleen Ossip explains Why All Poems Are Political:

“a poem is an utterly free space for language; no objective and definite criteria could possibly apply to evaluate it. In fact, poetry is the only utterly free space for language that I’m aware of, and that is what makes it indispensable to me, and also what makes writing it and reading it a political act: Any act where freedom is urgently at issue is a political act, and any space that makes us aware of our innate freedom is a radically political space.”

Leah Schnelbach’s fantastic essay “Sometimes, Horror is the Only Fiction That Understands You” is a wonderful exploration of what Stephen King’s writing has meant to her in life — and as someone who read every King book I could get my hands on in high school, I completely resonate with this.

3 Free Poetry Chapbooks to Read This Summer From Agape Editions

Culture Consumption: May 2017

May was an interesting month, in that it was full of fabulous travels. Still managed to read and watch quite a few great stories.

Books

I adored Bone Gap by Laura Ruby a subtly speculative novel about Finn and Sean O’Sullivan, two brothers surviving in small town full of gaps that people slip through all the time. First, their mother abandons them for a new life, then Roza — the young woman who shows up in their barn and brings light into their lives and the lives of the whole town — vanishes. The story and characters and magical realism and the setting of a small town (where everybody knows everything about everyone, even if they always get the story wrong) is gorgeous. Also, the audiobook narrator Dan Bittner does a fantastic job of bringing each of the characters to life, making them feel distinct when the POV shifts.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: May 2017”

Culture Consumption: March and April 2017

My, my. I have gotten rather behind, haven’t I.

Books

“A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”

I delighted in A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, the audio book of which is read by the author herself, who does a wonderful reading. The novel is told from two points of view — Ruth, a writer on a remote island who finds a mysterious packet in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, containing a journal and letters and other items, and Nao, living in Tokyo, whose story is told through the journal itself.

There are so many layers to my love of this novel. The characters and their stories captivated me. Nao, who has faced such levels of bullying at school and sorrow at home, relates her decision to end her life in a straightforward manner. To her it is the only logical solution to what she’s been through (and she’s been through a lot). In her journal, she presents her life with a sense of self-depreciating humor. After all she’s been through, and despite her resolution, there is an underlying strength to her. It’s an interesting balance between depression, sorrow, and enjoyment of small moments.

Ruth is also fascinating to me. Her life is marked by less overt drama, and her story relates more of the small moments, the routines of her life that both provide her with contentment and feel like traps. As she explore’s Nao’s story through the journal and tries to seek a way to help this girl who lives across the sea, she finds certain threads of her own life loosening, creating their own minor havocs.

This novel is also so meta. One could start with the writer character, Ruth, who shares her name with the author of the book, which suggests the potential of the autobiographical slipping in even if none of it actually is such. Even the title A Tale for the Time Being has double meaning — as in both, a tale for a person who lives in time, and also a tale for right now. I don’t want to get too much into the ways this is a meta narrative, since a lot of it comes at the end, but I will say that it had me thinking about the creation of art and degree to which the reader participates in the creation.

I think this is one of those books I’m going to have to reread many times.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: March and April 2017”

Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez

The stories in Things We Lost in the Fire are dark, unsettling and powerful. Mariana Enríquez uses horror and the uncanny to explore women’s lives, from schoolgirls to grown women, some impoverished, some wealthy, most reaching for levels of independence or to carve out some space for themselves in the world.

One story tells of three friend drink and drug their way through their young years, a partying haze. Part of the beauty “The Intoxicated Years” is the breathless quality of the prose, moment rushing into moment as the girls rage through their days. At first, it seems a story of reckless freedom, but it becomes clear that all of their adventures are underpinned with a growing viscousness that’s beautifully powerful and raw.

In “Spiderweb,” a woman feels bored and trapped by the marriage she rushed into, and when she brings her husband to visit her family, she’s embarrassed and repelled by him with every passing moment. One a trip with her cousin Natalia and her husband to Asunción (an open market offering mostly knockoffs or illegal items), her frustration comes to the surface. I love the way this story builds on the feeling of being stuck by the choices you’ve made.

“No Flesh Over Our Bones” is the story of a woman finds a human skull, rings it home and names it Vera. The woman becomes more and more obsessed with the skull, desiring to make it whole again. The story approaches the realm of body horror as it explores women’s relationships to their bodies.

In “Under the Black Water,” Marina is an attorney who works with the people who live in impoverished in the slums of Buenos Aires. She learns that strange things, including a dead man coming up out of the water, are happening in the slums. When Marina investigates, events grow more and more disturbing in a way that feels Lovecraftian. This is one of my favorite stories in the collection. I love the main character and how the story is both grittily realistic and strange in the ways it explores poverty and environmentalism.

Among the most disturbing and powerful stories for me was “Things We Lost in the Fire.” Body horror is a key trope in this story, in which women claim their own lives and bodies by setting themselves on fire and living in the world with their scars proudly shown. The scars are presented by this movement of women as a new kind of beauty, with fearlessness and a fervor, and yet.

I’m looking forward to reading more work by Enríquez.

Note: This book was provided as an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All the Miles I’ve Travelled

Over half of last week was consumed by as work trip to Michigan. I flew in and out of Chicago and then drove across Michigan visiting industrial facilities (something I find so interesting). Over the course of the trip I drove about 940 miles. Most of the roads revealed large, flat empty fields with skeletal trees surrounding them. I wanted to get out and explore the forests, to stand among the winter trees, but my driving schedule didn’t really allow it. I did, however, get some photos from the roadside.

This is probably where I should connect these miles to a metaphor about the roads I’ve traveling in my creative life, how I’ve persistently pursued poetry and fiction and filmmaking, how I’ve come across mountains and ravines and struggled my way through, how these roads have garnered me new perspectives and insights into myself and the creative world at large — but I’m just not going there right now. Maybe some other time.

What I’m Reading

I’m stoked to be reading The Obelisk Gate, the second book in N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy. This book is just as fantastic as the first book, The Fifth Season, which presented a world defined by continual catastrophe (review). I love this world and the characters in it. More about this world has been revealed, making it even more interesting than it already was. I can’t wait to see where this is going.

What I’m Writing

I received three rejections for my homeless ELJ chap over the weekend, back to back. One of them said nice things about my work and offered to publish a few of the poems in their upcoming journal, even though they couldn’t take the book — which was nice.

These days, I’m finding my skin is not as thick as it used to be regarding rejections. I keep reminding myself that most manuscripts get rejected a dozen or more times before finding a home. So, I’m setting myself a requirement to send the chap out to four new publishers, and I’ll continue doing that until it finds a home.

Even with all of the traveling and holidays and life being lifelike, I’ve managed to consistently keep up with my daily erasure poetry on Instagram. I really enjoy doing these and I’m considering putting together a self-pubbed chap of erasure poems at some point.

The Running Life

The not running has continued, and I can feel it in my muscles that I need to be getting back out there again.

Longest Run of the Week: 0 miles
Total Miles for the Week: 0 miles
Total Miles for 2017: 62.54 miles

Linky Goodness

“Literature’s grand mission is to tell the complicated truths about what it means to be human, but the most powerful proof that any writer has achieved that lofty goal is in the humble phrase: me too,” says Cheryl Strayed in a response to question on the power of words.

“So maybe it was just sad, doughy me, at home stuffing the void with takeout, but it felt like Sad Girl Theory had infiltrated all the biggest moments in pop culture over the past two years. Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s breakout TV show Fleabag and Rachel Bloom’s My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend each fixated on two things: being sad and being a woman and the connection between both.,” writes Sophie Atkinson in Feminism and the Pursuit of Relentless Happiness.

Five Fierce Women Poets You Need to Read Now

Little Disappointments

The writing life is full of its disappointments. The words are never quite the gossamer things they were in your head. Projects you spend days, weeks, years on don’t always come to fruition. The work you submit to journals for publication gets rejected, again and again, over and over. Events get cancelled. Publishers close.

At the end of March, ELJ Editions announced that it was closing its doors — an event that leaves my chapbook Pantheon, along with a great many other books, without a home. Since this announcement, I’ve been dealing with feelings of sadness and self doubt, while at the same time being moved by how the writing community has responded. In the wake, publishers have stepped up, offering to take a look at homeless books, and ELJ authors have come together to provide support and encouragement — which is a beautiful thing.

Over the past couple of weeks, as I’ve been processing this news while also being overwhelmed at my day job, I’ve let a few things slide, including the National Poetry Month fanfare I normally engage in.

Things, life, whatever is moving on, and I’m currently working to find my chap a new home. If you want to send me some good vibes on that account, I’d appreciate it.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

In the realm of good news, my poem Songs for Psyche is now up at Devilfish Review. I’m excited about this because I’ve been trying to get work in Devilfish for a while now.

Here’s a little taste of the poem: “if you believe the path / of an arrow is straight // you’ve never / been within / cupid’s quiver”

Zoetic Press is hosting a Kickstarter in order to support its forthcoming anthology of dystopian fiction by POC writers, A Phoenix First Must Burn. There are 12 days left to support the project and even a dollar or few would be greatly appreciated by everyone at the press.

There are lots of rewards available — including things like handwritten postcards and limited edition Nonbinary Review anthologies — all awesome. Also, if the project gets 100 backers, it will publish a print version of the anthology.

What I’m Reading

I just finished Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor, which was amazing. I love the imaginative interstellar world building of this, and I can’t wait for the third book.

Next up is The Obelisk Gate, the second book in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. The first book, The Fifth Season, was one of my favorite reads from 2015, so I can’t wait to get started on the sequel.

(One of the things I’ve let slide is my monthly Culture Consumption report, and at this point, I’m going to let it go. I’ll catch up on all the things at the end of April.)

What I’m Writing

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’m doing 30 days of erasure poetry on Instagram using the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyers. I love doing erasure poems, because it’s a soothing process for me, something I can do with a movie on in the background.

I’ll be traveling for work this week, so I’m hoping to get some editing work and new writing on the webseries done while I’m sitting around in hotel rooms.

The Running Life

No running last week. Or the week prior. This was partly due to my having to work overtime a lot of the last couple of weeks

Longest Run of the Week: 0 miles
Total Miles for the Week: 0 miles
Total Miles for 2017: 62.54 miles

Linky Goodness

John Freeman on How a Literary Magazine Editor Finds New Writers:

“I sometimes hear publishing new writers talked about as if it were an occult art. Tea leaves consulted. Sand art made. A voice in the dark. But it’s not that hard to find very good new writers. You just have to listen to people. There are agents who seem to constantly have good new voices, magazines which have a record of publishing them, cities where they seem to develop and read in public, and, of course, teachers and writing programs around which they seem to cluster. Just as tornadoes hit the plains and avalanches happen in winter, spend enough time in these spaces and soon enough something miraculous will walk into view.”

A set of poetry postcards from immigrants, refugees and others touched by migration.

A gorgeous font that evolves as you type with it.

She is Beautiful – A Walk Along the Coastline

Sunday I participated in the She is Beautiful race for the fourth time in a row. It’s one of the most delightful races I’ve been to, with beautiful women of all ages streaming along the Santa Cruz coastline together. It makes me happy every time I go.

This time was additionally joyful in that I was joined by sisters galore and the four of us formed a small team. None of us were really prepared to run a full 10K — not only did we not train properly, but we also insisted on partying to 2 a.m. together the night before. Honestly, we were all so hungover it was a miracle we got out of bed, let alone participated in a 6.2 mile race event. One set of sisters managed to run 4 miles before walking the rest, while another sister and I ran one mile. In the end, we were all happy to have participated (despite our exhaustion) and we’re all planning to go again next March (preferably with less pre-game drinking).

The Santa Cruz coastline is beautiful, and one cool discovery was that someone had put together elaborate piles of rocks in impossibly towering stacks. What a beautiful kind of public art.

What I’m Reading

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman continues to be a fun read, with it’s story of wizards and magical bookshops and talking books. If my available time allows, I’ll probably finish it tonight.

What I’m Writing

Not much. I’m plugging along (slowly) on the first episode of a web series idea and I’m working on various non-writing projects. So, there’s not much to report on that front.

The Running Life

So…., my challenge to run a minimum of a mile a day fell off entirely (with the exception of one run on Friday) last week due to a combination of exhaustion and stress — exhaustion being recovery from FOGcon and stress because my car broke down, leaving me to figure out how I was going to get to work everyday. The car is fixed now. But I don’t know that I’m going to jump back on the challenge at this point. It taught me that I’m capable of squeezing more runs into my life, which is a great thing to know.

It’s unfortunate that my training fell through, since it left me a bit unprepared for the She is Beautiful 10K. As I mentioned, I ran the first mile and then walked the rest — keeping my sister company, since she was injured.

Although I loved the She is Beautiful experience as I always do, I do wish I could figure out how to make the progression to the next level of training and push myself to safely increase my mileage. I’m sure that getting more run days in will be a part of that — since I started to feel the difference during my challenge (right before I quit, that is).

Longest Run Walk of the Week: 6.2 miles
Total Miles for the Week: 8.23 miles
Total Miles for 2017: 62.54 miles

Linky Goodness

“Inclusive filmmaking from a powerful studio is just what the industry needs right now,” writes Yohana Desta in The Year Disney Started to Take Diversity Seriously.

Muslim Artist’s Dreamy Nude Self-Portraits Show The Power Of Self-Love

10 Transgressive Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups

Catching up on rest after all the FOGcon fun

My weekend was full of FOGcon in all its geeky glory. Lots of fun and thinking about speculative literature and movies. Lots of food and drinks and karaoke. It was wonderful and exhausting to the point that I came home on Sunday and immediately fell into a mid-day nap. Still feeling tired a day after (and I should probable wrap up this post as soon as possible, so I can head off to bed.

Sometime this week, I’ll do a full recap with notes from panels and book recommendations. For now, here’s my bookhaul from the even, which was somewhat small this year. Probably a good thing, since my bookshelves are already overflowing and my reading time is slim. The books:

  • Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
  • The Velocipede Races by Emily June Street
  • Life in Babel by Brett James (mini-chapbook)

 

What I’m Reading

I’ver started The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman, which I picked up with the intention of reading before FOGcon. The story is of a young boy who escapes his abusive uncle only to be trapped by an evil wizard, who expects him to be his apprentice. Sherman did a great reading of the prologue and first chapter during FOGcon and I’m excited to continue reading this fantastical adventure story.

What I’m Writing

I wrote on FB earlier today about the state of overwhelmed I continue to be feeling, due to the multitude of projects I have going on. The bulleted list of things to accomplish is long and it seems to only be getting longer the more I work on it. So, I keep taking one item at a time. Then one more. Then one more. And hopefully I’ll get through a few things by the end of this week.

One of those things is writing the first episode of the webseries in time for critiques later this week.

The Running Life

My personal challenge for March to run a minimum of a mile a day has been going well for the most part, although I have not been hitting all the days. I skipped Wednesday, Sunday, and today — Wednesday because I could feel my muscles were already overworked from the workout with my trainer and the other days because I’m still recovering from the weekend festivities.

I’m going to try to finished up the rest of the month straight through. But even if I don’t I feel like the challenge was something of a success in terms of what it taught me about the effects of daily running.

Longest Run of the Week: 1.76 miles
Total Miles for the Week: 7.11 miles
Total Miles for 2017: 54.31 miles

Linky Goodness

“Dolly Parton started writing songs as a child, and she left her home for Nashville at 17, and she’s been working ever since. She’s 71 now; she says she writes songs every day, unless she is sick or on a movie set. It’s hard work to maintain a career that spans decades. This is important to remember for all creative people. It is a long game. There is no overnight success,” writes Annie Hartnett in Lessons I Learned From Dolly Parton on a Creative Life

From ‘alibi’ to ‘mauve’: what famous writers’ most used words say about them

17 Essential Short Stories Written by Women

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FOGcon Homework: The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett

FOGcon starts later today. It’s a small con for fans of genre and an event that I’ve gone to several years in a row. I usually try to read at least one book by each of the Honored Guests ahead of time, so that I’ll know their work when I see them speak. I’ve been a little behind on this “homework” this year and have only managed to get one read in so far — The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett.

The Liminal People is a scifi crime novel centered on Taggert, a man with the power to heal or hurt the people around him. He serves a ruthless man and has done terrible things in the course of his work. Although he dislikes it, he has made peace with his life — until an ex love asks for his help to find her daughter. The search for the girl leads him into a face-off with others with enough power that they seem to walk the borderline between human and god.

Taggert is an interesting character, bordering a line between hero and anti-hero. He’s capable and willing to be cruel and violent, but his cruelty is mostly associated by the way he’s been trapped into his current life by his master, Nordeen. Taggert also acts to protect the people he cares about, even if it means personal danger to himself.

The novel is a great crime/action thriller that sets up an interesting world, in which powerful people have the ability to manipulate the world (which kind of makes us ordinary humans feel rather small) Being both on the shorter side and fast paced, it’s a quick read (perfect for where my head has been at lately). I’m looking forward to checking out the other two books in the trilogy, The Liminal War and The Entropy of Bones.


Next up in FOGcon homework is The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman, who is also an Honored Guest at the event.


Culture Consumption: February 2017

My reading continues to be sloooowwww, but at least I finished a few things this month — along with seeing a TON of movies.

Books

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll was a favorite read from this month. This beautifully illustrated collection of scary stories, involving ghosts and wolves and other stranger monsters explores the dangerous things hidden in the dark that can steel one’s life and/or self away. The art uses bright vivid colors with a mixture of line styles to create a sense of tension and unease while reading — some scenes are vividly terrifying.

ThroughTheWoods-EmilyCarroll

I also loved reading Jessie Carty’s collection, Shopping After the Apocalypse. In this collection of prose poetry, the narrator begins a journey across an apocalyptic landscape. Contemplative and beautifully written, each poem builds on the next forming an interconnected story of isolation in an abandoned landscape. The result is a more contemplative exploration rather than the violence and terror expressed in most apocalyptic storylines. I really enjoyed this collection so much that I interviewed the poet about her writing process.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: February 2017”

Going to the Movies by Myself

Going to the Best Picture Showcase has become a tradition for me. I love seeing the movies all at once and seeing good storytelling on the screen. But this year has been a strange one, in that circumstances aligned in such a way that I was not able to go with the usual group and no one else seemed to be available. My options were to either skip the showcase this year or to go by myself.

So, I went by myself — both to the first half of the showcase and a double feature of the Oscar nominated short films. It was fun. Although I didn’t have a gathering of friends to chat about the movie afterward, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the experience.

Plus, I got the chance to meet a little old lady who sat next to me in the theatre. She was all sass and talking about it being one of those days where nothing goes right. White curly hair. Wearing a rain coat exactly like the one I inherited from my grandmother.

She was funny as hell. At one point, she was talking to her sister about her doctor, and the sister said, “Does he have a good bedside manner?”

My little old lady replied, “I bet he has a good bed manner.”

She said she would be showing up for the second part of Best Picture Showcase, so I guess I’ll have one buddy (for at least a movie or two of the marathon anyway). Maybe I’ll make some other buddies, too.

What I’m Reading

I’m still reading Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. It’s fantastic, but I’m plodding along slowly because of all the other distractions going on.

What I’m Writing

The rejections came piling in last week, so a large portion of my time was chocking down disappointment and spinning submissions back out into the world.

Goals for the Week:

  • Get more poems edited
  • Hot potato my submissions to at least two more journals/publishers

The Running Life

I was struggling a bit last week, completing only two runs and the one being more of a long walk than an actual run. Sometimes the mood swoops away from me and it’s a stuggle to get any running in at all. Always feels good to get out and move, though.

Longest Run Walk of the Week: 4.11 miles (
Total Miles for the Week: 6.16 miles

Total Miles for 2017: 35.43 miles

Linky Goodness

Seyward Darby explains how What America Needs Now Is Horror Movies: “Good horror movies reflect immediate social anxieties and abiding fears that humanity, in both the individual and collective senses, is under threat. The great ones go even further: ‘[I]t isn’t just that these traumas trigger these films,’ film historian Tom Gunning once said, ‘but that we understand these traumas through these films.’ My favorite fright-fests adjust the lens one additional time. They pose the provocative question: What if you’re the monster?”

The 16 Most Anticipated Horror Books of 2017

“I’ve never felt bullied or unwanted in Geek spaces. I definitely think that as geeks, we’re in a struggle together,” says Minnesota Playwright and Poet Saymoukda Vongsay in an interview with Twin Cities Geek

Poetry To Pay Attention To: A Preview Of 2017’s Best Verse

Lots of Love to Give

On this Valentine’s Day, as I sit here putting together my weekly update, I want to take a moment to send some love. It’s been a rough start for the year and will likely continue to be rough for a lot of people. So, I’m sending you all some love and wishing you joy.

ANNOUNCEMENTS!

The Drowning Gull has accepted three collaborative poems from Laura Madeline Wiseman and myself. Looking forward to seeing them published.

What I’m Reading

I finished some actual books last week! Woo! Now I’m just on Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, a sequel to the amazing Seraphina, the story involves dragons and war and half-dragons seeking each other out.

What I’m Writing

I actually found myself avoiding the Twelve chapbook that I intended to work on. As I sat down to work on it, I felt in my gut the need to let it sit a little longer, giving my brain more of a break before launching into editing it again. It can be good to allow this kind of space (if you have the time), so that you can approach it fresh.

So, instead I found myself taking a look at other poems needing some editing and even tried to convert a Frankenstein poem into a sestina — which fell apart halfway through, but I’ll come back to sometime this week.

In addition to actual writing and editing work, I’ve been in the submission-rejection-submission cycle. I’ve been skipping right over the sorrow stage and making sure to send out work again as soon as the rejections come in. It’s kind of fun actually, like hot potato-ing my poems right back out the door.

Goals for the Week:

  • Get three poems edited
  • Hot potato my submissions to at least two more journals/publishers

The Running Life

Longest Run of the Week: 3.35 miles
Total Miles for the Week: 3.35 miles

Total Miles for 2017: 29.27 miles

Last week was a bit stressful in terms of the day job while we were getting the magazine to press. Because of that — combined with the fact that I did two strength training sessions instead of my usual one — I chose to take my Tuesday and Thursday morning runs off in order to get a fraction more rest.

Saturday was a gorgeous day, sun and cool — just the right weather for a good run. I managed 3.35 miles, with a minimal amount of walking in between, and felt great afterwards. Although, my goal this week is to get my long weekend run up to 4 miles.

Then on Sunday, I tripped on the sidewalk and fell hard. I didn’t injure myself — at least not any more than a few bruises and aches — but the fall left a bit shaky. I thought about doing a run or even a walk to work some of the feeling out, but opted to let my body rest that day instead.

Linky Goodness

‘Take your clothes off’: Poets reveal their favourite love poems.

Sarah MacLean on why Bashing Romance Novels Is Just Another Form Of Slut-Shaming: “I don’t defend the genre anymore. Instead, I bite my tongue, because I’m more polite than most of these people, and it would be rude to say what I’d really like to say, which is: ‘What’s your problem with women and sex?'”

Gay Romance Novels Are Not Queer Romance Novels

Eight Affirmations for Self Love.

“One forges one’s style on the terrible anvil of daily deadlines.” – Émile Zola

On Tuesday night, I forged out five hours after an already stressful day at work to make a last ditch effort to complete a chapbook manuscript in time for a looming submission deadline. I slammed into the work, editing and in some cases entirely redrafting prose poem pieces, following by a reordering of the set, and what final polishing I could manage within the tight deadline. Some of the final pieces came together strong, others less so.

I love deadlines for the amount work they force out of me in short spans of time. I don’t know that I would say I thrive under them, since who can thrive when you’re mentally and physically exhausted to the point all you can do is collapse into a stupor. However, I do find them valuable.

However, the intensity of the deadline is influenced in no small part by my capacity to procrastinate. For example, on Monday night, the day before this five hour editing bonanza, I had set myself a goal of finishing off edits on a handful of poems — only to find myself watching Game of Thrones instead. I would saved myself a lot of stress and pain, if I hadn’t avoided the work Monday night.

Since I’m on the subject of procrastinating, here’s a bit from a great piece on Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators, by Megan Mcardle:

“Over the years, I’ve developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: we were too good in English class. This sounds crazy but hear me out…. If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good.”

In her piece, Mcardle also writes, “Most writers manage to get by because, as the deadline creeps closer, their fears of turning in nothing eventually surpasses their fears of turning in something terrible.” This was pretty much the driving force that got me to finish the chap in time for deadline.

I didn’t expect that my chap would be selected. I just had that feeling based on how rushed my work was, and that feeling was confirmed less than a week later, when the rejection came in (mega kudos to the publisher for the awesomely fast response time, though). I couldn’t feel too bad about this, however. The deadline provided me with the impetus I needed to finish a project I’ve been poking at for well over a year. Over the next week or so I’ll take a look at it again to refine it further and send it out again.

What I’m Reading

I finally finished Tim Burton: Essays on the Films by Johnson Cheu, a rather good collection of academic essays on Burton’s films — interesting analysis in the ones I could decipher.

Still working my way through Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. Both are great.

Just started Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz on audio book this morning. I didn’t realize when I picked it up that it’s a future dystopia/utopia novel, in which people are expected to fit into norms or risk being sent to the Blight. This allows for transgender identities as long as they are able to fit into the gender binary once they select their gender, but causes problems for Benders, in other words genderqueer folks who don’t fit neatly into the binary. The story centers on a young teenage Bender, named Kivali, who is sent to a camp where they are expected to learn how to fit into society. It’s very interesting so far.

What I’m Writing

Following Tuesday night’s deadline chasing, I pretty much allowed myself the rest of the week off. I had completed my !5 Minutes per day, after all — and then some. Now it’s time to get back to work. Most likely this work will involve a new look at the chap for more polishing. Some additional poems will also get some looksees to see what edits need to be made.
Goals for the Week:

  • Go back in for a fresh look at the chapbook; get three poems edited

The Running Life

The dawdling continued a little bit this week. I got one weekday run in and one weekend long run in. However, my body was so achey on the long run that I cut it short and walked most of the way. I’m glad I got two days in this week, which at least keeps up the baseline — although it doesn’t do much for improving my distance.

Linky Goodness

“I am most satisfied when a poem works on several levels, when it sings, rings, plays the changes, and invokes the transcendent,” says Akua Lezli Hope in an interview.

An App That Makes It Easy to Pester Your Congress Member.

“The progressive liberal agenda isn’t about being nice,” writes Tucker FitzGerald in Intolerant Liberals. “It’s about confronting evil, violence, trauma, and death. It’s about acknowledging the ways systemic power, systemic oppression, systemic evil, work in our world around us.”

Beginning the Year with Words

Welcome to my first Weekly Update of the year. I post these because they provide a good way for me to hold myself accountable, both in terms of meeting my writing and reading goals, as well as making sure I post regularly on the blog.

Lately, there seems like there’s so much to write about, so much to resist and fight against, so much to do and say and act on that at times it feels overwhelming. Sometimes you can only do what you can do, so today, I’m going to talk about the Uptown Fridays event hosted by Nomadic Press that I attended a couple of Fridays ago, because it was wonderful and inspiring.

It was an interesting challenge getting to the event that night, involving an hour long car ride from my work to Oakland — only to find when I arrived that I had left my wallet back at the office, which meant that I had no cash or cards on hand to buy dinner or books from the reading. I considered returning to my office and coming back over the bridge (which would have made me late to the event), but decided to roll with it. Since I had an apple left in the car, I knew I wouldn’t starve and I let go of the idea of otherwise needing my wallet on hand. I let go and gave myself to enjoying the event I came for.

Thomas Nguyen performed a set of songs that were moving, some mixed with speeches and sounds from a tape recorder to wonderful effect. (He was also my hero of the night, reminding me of the toll on my return trip to work for my wallet and giving me a fiver to make it back without a wicked ticket.)

Isobel O’Hare read both from new work and from her chapbook The Garden Inside Her. I’ve known her from the online Facebook world for some time, so it was great to meet her in person. Her work is great and I’ll have to buy her chap the next time I get a chance.

Caits Meissner, whose work I’ve been following for years, was a delight to meet and hear read. She read both a new experimental piece that gave me chills and from her new book Let It Die Hungry. I was so grateful that my checkbook was in my purse, because it allowed me to buy Caits’ new book and have it signed. The book includes poems in both text and comic form — I can’t wait to read it.

Thomas Nguyen.
Isobel O’Hare.
Caits Meissner.

For all the frustration of getting to the event and leaving my wallet behind, it was worth every bit of panic and frustration, because the night was a blessing. And it’s clear to me that I need to attend events like this more often, more events where people speak and address the world — both because it’s important to support artistic communities in times like this and because I find such experiences soothing to the soul.

What I’m Reading

My reading pace has been abysmally slow this month, has in fact been getting slower and slower over the course of the past year. I think this is partially because I’ve been reserving my lunchtime reading for getting some writing work done and because I’m too mentally distracted when I actually get home.

I’m currently working my way through Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, two very different books that I’m enjoying quite a bit. One is a collection of darkly beautiful short stories, the other is a novel about dragons.

If I finish on book this month, it will have to be Tim Burton: Essays on the Films by Johnson Cheu, because I’ve been working on it for several months now.

What I’m Writing

I have been off and on sticking to the 15 Minute Rule more or less over the past couple of weeks, especially during the last week when I launched into that wonderfully productive time of deadline panic. Poor Belly Press is closing for chapbooks in two days and I would love to have my Twelve Dancing Princesses chap picked up by them, because their chaps are so beautiful — which has lead me into desperately trying to edit and polish up my work in order to make the deadline. In fact, I should be getting off the blogging and back to work right now. (But allow me just a moment more.)

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish chap edits and get it sent out

The Running Life

Since one of my goals is to actually accomplish a half marathon this year, I’ve decided to add running to my weekly updates.

I’ve been keeping with my routine of getting up hella early and making it to the gym two days a week for some short runs before work. These shorties are at about 25 minute, or 1.5-1.6 miles. Good small starts in preparation for the buildup, and they feel make me feel energized and cleansed in the morning. However, I have skipped my long weekend runs the last couple of weekends. I should be pressing past three miles into four miles at this point, but I’m dawdling.

Linky Goodness

I’ve been gathering links for weeks, so this is going to be a longish list.

In How To Keep Your March Momentum Going (regarding the amazing, inspiring event that was The Women’s March), Catherine Pearson recommends actions like signing up for e-mail updates from your local legislators and calling Congress daily.

“What comes next for the anti-Trump resistance will depend on how consistently these activists will engage and turn out for causes that are not their own; whether they’ll continue to phone their federal and state representatives after the inauguration and confirmation hearing hubbub dies down. It’s quite possible that what was started as an arguably superficial gesture at unity will evolve into one that holds the most powerful dissenters accountable for the least powerful,” writes Devon Maloney in Some Inconvenient Truths About The Women’s March On Washington.”But to do so, resisters must first reckon with complex issues of intersectionality.”

In Before You Celebrate The Zero Arrests At The Women’s March, Zeba Blay writes: “Of course, it is always a good thing when citizens are allowed to exercise their right to protest without anyone being harmed or detained. But there’s a question that should be asked and acknowledged, even as we celebrate the success of the protest:Would the outcome have been the same if the march had been exclusively organized by and mostly comprised of women of color?”

When You Brag That The Women’s Marches Were Nonviolent by Ijeoma Oluo.

How to survive in intersectional feminist spaces 101.

Alvin Chang describes how White America is quietly self-segregating, “Everyone wants diversity. But not everyone wants it on their street.”

20 Small Acts of Resistance You Can Do Today.

Celebration of women filmmakers triggers heated debate between Salma Hayek, Jessica Williams and Shirley MacLaine presents an interesting conversation between these women concerning issues of intersectionality in supporting women filmmakers.

_____

Top Reads of 2016

I read a total of 57 books in 2016, far lower than usual, but it was a particularly busy year for me in regards to writing and other projects. Nevertheless, there were many great reads this year, so many that I would not be able to narrow them all down to just a few. So, here are my favorite reads, all categorized, because that’s how I roll.

Best Science Fiction Novel

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. The more I read Connie Willis’ work, the more I admire her as an author. Doomsday Book was no exception. Set in Oxford—at a university in which historians are able to actually travel back in time to witness and experience the past eras they research—the story is split between Kivrin, who travels to the Middle Ages (one of the deadliest eras in humanity’s history), and Dunworthy, her mentor who is terrified to see her go and is left to face his own crisis in the present day as a sudden influenza outbreak flares up, forcing Oxford to go into quarantine. Dealing with disease as it does, it’s a dark story, although it is laced with Willis’ wit and humor. I especially loved Kivrin’s journey to the Middle Ages and fell in love (as Kivrin does) with the family that takes her in. A fantastic book, one that had me itching to read more in Willis’ time travel series.

Honorable Mention: Ancillary Mercy, by Anne Leckie, which was the conclusion to the Imperial Radch trilogy (the first book was featured on my list from last year).

Continue reading “Top Reads of 2016”

Culture Consumption: December 2016

Alrighty, here’s December in books, movies, and such. I’ll be posting my lists of Top Books and Top Movies from the year over the next couple of days.

Books

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway introduces Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a place for children who have been there and back again, those who have found doorways to other worlds (of which there are many) that feel more home than home, and who, for one reason or another, found themselves back in the mundane world of their previous lives. It’s a place where these children can bide their time, trying to make do while they search for a way back to where they really belong, or learn to accept and make peace with the fact that they’ll never return. The story centers on Nancy, a teenage girl who has traveled to an underworld presided over by the lord of the dead, a place where she has learned to still herself into a statue. Having returned home, her parents can’t accept who she is now and so have sent her away to this school, where disasters begin to happen shortly after she arrives.

This story is beautiful and I love the way it presents different worlds for each kind of child and different kids for each kind of world. I also love the way it rejects the idea that a child like Alice would want to live in England instead of a place like Wonderland. It’s a good thing that this is a series, because I wanted more from this book, more of the characters and this strange school and of the worlds beyond.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: December 2016”

Breathing in the Cold, Crisp Air

As we drove along the dark roads under the sheltering shadows of trees, the face of a mountain rose up before us like a monolith, ghostly in the blue moonlight, while the stars sprinkled the noctilucent sky behind. All of us in the car — except the one sleeping — gasped. The night could not hide the grandeur of the mountains that sheltered us in Yosemite valley.

It was the first time to Yosemite National Park for most of us (my mom, my sister, my sister’s friend, and I), and somehow entering the park in the dark, barely being able to see anything other than the mountain aglow was the perfect introduction.

* * *

Visiting Yosemite in the winter is beautiful, but the cold can be exhausting. Our group was in a constant battle against the cold, grasping for every ounce of heat, the heater in our tent barely holding up against the drafts that slipped in through the door and window flaps. It was a good thing we brought our own sleeping bags and an extra assortment of winter gear.

My clothing was mostly California-thin, laughable as winter wear. The cold was a creeping thing, working its way through layers of clothing, to crawl along the skin, slip its way in to settle under the surface, nestle in my bones. I layered pattern upon pattern, not caring about hat conflicting with scarf conflicting with coat, in an attempt to maintain warmth.

Icicles and moss at Yosemite.
Icicles and moss.

* * *

The only time we really got warm was on our hike, our bodies becoming furnaces fighting against the frost and wind as the trail inclined upward, leading us toward rivers and waterfalls and mossy stones and vistas.

Water was everywhere on this trip, sliding over rock faces in grand cascades glittering with a framework of ice or dribbling through cracks, rushing through rivers, leaving slick patches on the trails, nearly invisible and dangerous underneath our feet. It covered everything in during each night, making the whole world glitter.

Yosemite as seen from Tunnel View lookout.
Yosemite as seen from Tunnel View lookout.

* * *

I’ve fallen in love with Yosemite. The place is too beautiful not to return to again and again. I hope I’ll get the chance to return again soon, whether in the frigid cold of winter or the heat of summer.

Half Dome in the setting sun - Yosemite
Half Dome in the setting sun — it almost tricks you into thinking of warmth, doesn’t it?

ANNOUNCEMENTS!

Thank you to the editors of Undead: A Poetry Anthology of Ghouls, Ghosts, and More! I’m looking forward to seeing my poem “Beware of Attics” reprinted within its pages sometime in 2017.

Also, I forgot to mention it before, so I’ll mention it now — latest issue of Nonbinary Review: Anne of Green Gables is now available to read for $1.99.

What I’m Reading

I’m enjoying Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier, a graphic novel about two sisters who move to a coastal town with a local population of specters. The artwork is bright with clean lines and slightly cartoony (as in the characters have large round eyes and exaggerated expressions. Fun, so far.

What I’m Writing

Mostly I’m dealing with end of the year stuff, figuring out just what I accomplished this year and what I need to finish up in order to clean out my files and prep for the new year. This will involve a considerable amount of gathering and editing and arranging, I’m sure.

 

Goals for the Week:

  • Get organized
  • Edit, edit, edit — and submit something

Linky Goodness

“The women in her stories are often constrained – by convention, by their families, by their own fears and subconscious desires. And beneath it all is a sense of powerful, hidden rage – a rage that belies the setting of so much of her fiction. Under the bland surface of these small, suburban communities, something dark is fermenting; something is about to erupt,” writes Joanne Harris on the Shirley Jackson centenary.

Don’t Look Now, But 2016 is Resurrecting Poetry

Have a Creepy Little Christmas with These Unsettling Victorian Cards

Finding Your 12 Best Days: Edward Burns’ Reflections on Filmmaking

In Independent Ed: Inside a Career of Big Dreams, Little Movies, and the Twelve Best Days of My Life, Edward Burns relates his experiences working in the film industry as a writer, director, and actor. Burns directed and produced his first film, The Brothers McMullen, on a tiny $25,000 budget — which went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995. Since that initial success, he has gone on to make ten more films on his own terms and act in several big budget Hollywood movies (such as Saving Private Ryan) and television shows.

This memoir highlights Burns’ successes, but perhaps more importantly delves into his mistakes, the poor decisions and bad luck that makes a movie fail to be the success one hoped it would be. These missteps, more than the successes, are where the greatest lessons lie.It’s hard to figure out why something succeeds, much easier to point to the number of reasons why something didn’t. His honesty in looking back on these moments, in which he examines where he went wrong and where the cards were against him, is a part of what makes this memoir work.

A few practical, useful pieces of advice are littered throughout the book (the difference between a master shot and a two shot, for example), providing some help in the nitty gritty of making a movie — but the real value of this book is in his philosophy toward filmmaking in general.

For Burns, the act of independent filmmaking is the ability to make movies according to your own vision and away from influences that might compromise that vision. He describes the twelve best days of his life as the twelve days he spent filming his first movie, The Brothers McMullen — twelve days telling a story true and making a movie for no other reason than the sheer joy of making a movie.

The Brothers McMullen
The Brothers McMullen (1995)

After The Brothers McMullen became a success and as his career as a director progressed, Burns continued to seek out those twelve days of joy. This lead him to choose projects that may have had smaller budgets, but that provided him with the freedom he needed to tell the kind of quiet stories to which he was drawn and to experiment with new technologies (such as using digital cameras and premiering some of his films on streaming services).

With the availability of such technologies, he notes, filmmakers have the opportunity to seek out their own twelve best days, to experiment and learn how to make movies while in the process of making movies in the same way writers learn how to tells stories through the act of telling stories, and musicians learn how to create songs by plucking strings on a guitar to get it right. He explains:

“At this moment, anyone who dreams of becoming a filmmaker is lucky indeed. For the first time in the history of cinema, filmmaking does not need to be a capitalist enterprise. You no longer need millions of dollars or even thousands of dollars. You are no longer beholden to someone writing a check. It no longer needs to be a business. It can be your artistic expression.”

Many filmmakers have realized this and are using various outlets on the internet to get their movies made and seen. But, as someone who’s often felt overwhelmed by what I believed the barriers to moviemaking to be, it’s empowering to be reminded that those barriers than I had imagined them. It’s a strong message for me — for all of us creative types — to get back to work and to keep seeking out those best days, those days when we are engaged and living our work.

As a footnote, I realize that I’ve never seen any of the movies Burns directed. As someone interested in independent filmmaking, I’m fascinated by what people are able to accomplish with small budgets and creative thinking. It would be interesting to do a marathon focused on movies that Burns directed to see how his skill in low budget movies evolved over time.

Another Note: This book was an ARC provided by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Reordering and Facing Change

Over the weekend I got a gumption — wouldn’t it be a great idea to rearrange my closet, flip-flopping it, so that the office supplies and the clothing would switch places. (Since, I don’t have a separate office, I have to keep all of my office supplies in my bedroom.) It’s an idea I’ve had for months now, but kept putting it off because I keep a heavy filing cabinet in the closet and I didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off alone.

Then the gumption happened. So, I put Daria on in the background and pulled everything from the hangar rack down out of the closet, creating a massive heap of clothing and boxes and bins on and around my bed. Then I put it all back in with minimal sorting.

It was far easier than I thought it would be to make the switch.

The strangest moment for me was as I was restoring order — a strange anxiety started creeping up around the edges telling me that this was all wrong. My clothes were not meant to be here, my craft supplies not meant to be there. This feeling of wrongness started to freak me out a tiny bit. I felt my pulse speeding up and my chest tightening.

But I kept working. I knew what I was feeling. It was an underlaying fear of change. How many years had I kept my closet in the exact same order? Four? Five? I was used to the status quo and a part of me was rebelling against any alteration to that status. Mostly, I just laughed the feeling off and kept working until I was done*. Since completing it, the anxious feeling is gone, having been replaced by the mild confusion about the location of things.

My mom has said that it’s a good idea to reorder things in your life from time to time, because switching things around breaks up your routine and keeps your mind more actively engaged. In the few days since I’ve made the switch I have found that I have to actively thing for a moment before I move to the new location of my socks, for example. I’m not sure if it will help my mind in other ways, but I’m happy with the change.

* Technically I was only done with one phase — there are two more to complete the reordering project. The first is to switch up the top shelve as I had done with the lower section. The second is to go through all the stuff I haven’t looked at in ages to see what I might get ride of and/or condense.

ANNOUNCEMENTS!

Years ago I wrote a flash fiction from the point of view of Peter Pan’s shadow. It took a long time and many rejections the piece — called The Shadow’s Flight — has finally found a home, where you can all read it for yourselves. This is my first fiction publication — and I’m stoked. Thank you so much to the editors of Slink Chunk Press!

Are you looking for something to give the writers in your life? Along with some of my fellow editors at Zoetic Press, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions slightly silly, slightly helpful gift suggestions. Be sure to check out the lists from Lise Quintana and Kolleen Carney, as well!

What I’m Reading

After finishing Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire last night, which was a lovely tale of lost girls, I’ve picked up Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal and started listening to I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson on audio book. Good stuff all around.

Still also enjoying Tim Burton: Essays on the Films. It’s quite academic in its discussions, so it’s taking a bit of work to get through, but it’s at least stretching my ideas of how to interpret Burton’s films.

What I’m Writing

I finished up my writing assignments from the previous week, but did little on the litany of poems and stories that need editing. I’d like to get a bunch of them completed and sent out by the end of the year — or a dozen or so poems and at least one story.

This is in addition to various administrative, end-of-the-year type stuff that I need to get done.

I’ve lucked out this year and am able to take some vacation time during the holidays. So, if I can stay focused I should be able to pull that off.

Goals for the Week:

  • Edit, edit, edit
  • Post two additional blog posts (not including this one)

Linky Goodness

If you’re looking to expand your reading list, check out 2016 Asian American Poetry Books and Chapbooks and 7 African Women Poets to Keep You Calm, Cool, and Collected.

How to call your reps when you have social anxiety and Calling Cards  – two comic posts on making calls to members of the government.

Culture Consumption: November 2016

Alrighty, here’s November in books, movies, and such. Some really powerful works this month.

Books

“If you want to see what this nation is all about, you have to ride the rails. Look outside as you speed through, and you’ll find the true face of America. It was a joke, then, from the start. There was only darkness outside the windows on her journeys, and only ever would be darkness.” — from The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad — which has won a National Book Award and a Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction —  tells the story of Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When a fellow slave Ceasar tells her about the Underground Railroad, she agrees to escape with him and begins a journey north, taking her through various states and cities — each one with its own unique culture, some welcoming her with open arms, others openly hostile. The story unfolds the landscape of the Unites States, unveiling the many shades of racism, both openly violent and disguised behind a seemingly friendly face. This is a powerful book, at times uncomfortable in its straightforward portrayal of the violence inflicted on Cora and her peers, but always beautifully written and challenging in all the best ways.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: November 2016”

Coming Home

For the past several weeks, I’ve been avoiding writing much of anything, either here on my blog or poetry and other projects. I’ve been overwhelmed following the election and also busy spending time with the family over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend followed by jumping on a plane to Germany for a week long work trip.

Life is like that sometimes. But I’m back home and back writing. I will probably have a string of posts wrapping up the year over the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, here are a few pics from my time in Dusseldorf, Germany last week.

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What I’m Reading

Independent Ed by Edward Burns is a memoir describing the filmmaker’s passion for the process of directing movies and his focus on independent work, as well as some stories from his acting career. Rather interesting and enjoyable with a few useful tidbits of advice here and there.

I’m also working my way through Tim Burton: Essays on the Films, edited by Johnson Cheu. The essays present some fascinating analyses of Burton’s movies. For example, one of the essays examines atypical bodies as presented in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

What I’m Writing

I have not been writing much of anything lately — all a part of giving myself time to decompress. I tend to feel two ways whenever I’m not writing. The first is guilty, as I know in order to improve at writing and to develop my career, I need to put words on the page and send them out into the world in one manner or another. The second thing I tend to feel is acceptance, a kind of forgiveness mixed with relief, because I also know that there is no sense in beating myself up when I’m not in a place to deal with words directly.

This whole not-writing thing is going to shift, I’m sure — in part from necessity, as I had a meeting yesterday regarding an upcoming project that could be an amazing amount of fun. As the project is in its initial stages of discussion, I can’t really share what it is yet, but I may be able to do so over the coming months, assuming everything pans out.

I also have some writing assignments that I need to finish up this week.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finishing writing assignments
  • Type up and send out meeting notes regarding mystery project

Linky Goodness

“We are living through a time when dark, violent forces have been released, encouraged, and applified, on both sides of the Atlantic: by Trump in America, the Brexiteers here, Le Pen in France and too many others eager to extend its reach. I contend that in the face of such ugliness we need the beacon of light that is beauty more than ever — and I hold this belief as someone who has not lead a sheltered life, nor is unaware of the true cost of violence on body and soul. It is because of the scars that I carry that I know that beauty, and art, and story, are not luxuries. They are bread. They are water. They sustain us.” — Terry Windling in Dark Beauty.

“The 2016 presidential campaign was decidedly lacking in poetry. Yet in its aftermath, as Americans consider the contours of their new government, they are, often, turning to poems,” writes Megan Garber in Still, Poetry Will Rise.

Star Trek’s Feminist Statement: Believe Women

Culture Consumption: October 2016

A lot going on the past few days, so I’m coming in a little late, but here’s September in books, movies, and more.

Books

I really enjoyed Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville, even though it took a ridiculously long time to read. It was worth it, but it seriously took forever to read.

Miéville presents an ornately complex city, operating on a mixture of steampunk science and magic, layered with neighborhoods, districts, slums, and inhabited by numerous intelligent species from humans to khepri (insectile humanoids), Garuda (birdmen), cacti men, and other beings. Everywhere is slick and reeking with filth and squalor (although it’s noted that there are rich burroughs that are less so. It’s a fascinating place, although one I’m not sure I’d want to visit.

The story spends some time getting to know the main characters, alternating between their POVs and adding more characters as it goes along building to a catastrophic moment that unleashes danger and fear on the city. Those first 200 or so pages are necessary to making the novel work, but I had a hard time getting through them (almost too much information to be absorbed). When the action finally gets started things become gripping while still being richly detailed. A great novel, but it definitely took some work to get through.

I did a reread of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, which was a nostalgic experience that I talked about elsewhere.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: October 2016”

Returning to Bird by Bird

I returned to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life this month, although looking back I’m not really sure why. I knew I wanted to read a writing book and this was a book I loved once upon a time, but it had been years since I’ve read it and there were plenty of other as-yet-unread writing books on my selves that I could have picked up instead.

Maybe I was just drawn to it. Lamott’s words were as witty, intelligent, and compassionate as I remembered them, but I struggled through the first portion of the book, my mind distracted and unable to focus — a problem with my own headspace more than the words on the page.

I think I’ve been a bit mentally overwhelmed in recent weeks (or months), too many things in life and literature for me to process — which might be a reason I’ve been turning more to TV and movies as a form of relaxation, since they tend to require less engagement.

But as I read and continued reading, working my way through the my own mental blocks, the book slowly anchored me and I felt a little clearer. Lamott writes about her own challenges in writing and in life and the ways it can overwhelm and drive her into despair. Seeing to her imperfect journey was a comfort, providing a sense of I’m not alone in this mess as I approached mine.

At the moment, I don’t have the book in front of me, so I can’t seem to call up any of the specific pieces of advice that Lamott gives. So, I’ll point to Carina Bissett, who also did a reread of Bird by Bird recently and shared a lovely piece on the ways that this book has helped her through challenging times. In her post, she highlights the recommendations Lamott has for getting past perfectionism and moving into getting words on the page — shitty first drafts, short assignments, the picture frame technique.

As Carina notes in her post, “It can be a difficult pursuit to move past the desire for perfection in order to put the story on the page in its raw and garbled state. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to discover the places where a story might have missed its mark or characters whose voices might never be heard if you don’t get the words on the page.”

Once upon a time, I would have recommended Bird by Bird primarily to young writers, writers just learning to face the immensity of the page. But having reread it now, I can see that this is a book for writers of all ages and at many stages in their career, a book that teaches compassion for the self, even when struggling with the writing life and the universe, and everything.

Some thoughts on recent days

I was going to go into more detail, but the short version is I got a new hair cut and color, went and picked out some pumpkins with the fam, and am now resting because I’m fighting off a potential soar throat.

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Went to buy #pumpkins with the fam today.

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What I’m Reading

I’ve started up Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clark, which is fun and readable so far. The science is there, but in just enough detail to make the discovery of a giant cylindrical alien starship seem real without stopping up the flow of the story. I’m enjoying it.

Still working on Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

What I’m Writing

I am caught up on all my daily poems for THE POEMING 2016. It’s been a challenge to keep up with them everyday with the amount of non-writing to-dos there has been over the past few weeks.

In other news, it’s amazing what can you do under a deadline. When I discovered that the submission period for poetry at Uncanny Magazine was coming to an end in just a few hours last Monday, I rallied into editing mode — because Uncanny is one of my favorite genre publications. In two hours I did a complete rewrite of the poem, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet,” a Rapunzel retelling. I was happy enough with the results that I sent it in right as the deadline was closing. Now to just wait for a response. 

As the month draws to a close I can’t help but think about November and the forthcoming Nanowrimo. Although I don’t think I’m going to sign up for the novel writing challenge, I’m trying to think about what other sort of challenge I might set for myself — particularly a challenge that will help me to get work done and out into the world. Maybe an editing/submission challenge of some sort. I don’t know.

Goals for the Week:

  • Get all my required POEMING found poems written and posted
  • Avoid getting sick

Linky Goodness

As I’ve been trying to get back into running, a pastime that both keeps my body out of pain and clears my head, I found Ryan Holiday’s essay, The Timeless Link Between Writing and Running and Why It Makes for Better Work, rather interesting. He writes, “I run because I love it. Because it’s good exercise. It’s the only exercise I’ve ever really been good at, and I’ve done it essentially non-stop since middle school. But I run for another reason, the same reason that many writers apparently run: it makes me better at my job.” I don’t think you need to be a runner (or walker/hiker/etc.) to be a great writer, but for some of us, it acts as one of the many support struts that aids our work.

Robinson Meyer also wrote a beautiful piece on Hayao Miyazaki and the Art of Being a Woman. She writes,

“I remember watching 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind for the first time. A young woman flies in, early in the film, on her white glider, into a vast forest of beautiful yet toxic plants and takes a sample from one into a beaker. When I hear her voice, something makes me shiver. When she takes off her brown oxygen mask under the protective molted shell of a beetle’s eye, poisonous pollen falling around her like snow, it happens again. I know she’s the girl on the cover of the movie case, yet here she is: alone, exploring, unafraid, androgynous. I’m a tween, and I don’t process my thoughts clearly at the time. But I know, suddenly, that she is different from everything else I’ve watched up to this point. She seems to wear power like a coat. She lingers in my thoughts after the movie is over.”

Something About Something

Between multiple birthdays, a baby shower, going to press at the day job this week, and now starting to feel energetically off (and maybe getting sick) — I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed and a little behind on quite a few things. So…, I am keeping this short.

What I’m Reading

I didn’t actually read anything last week — at least not anything in book form. I temporarily lost my copy of China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station and just didn’t make any progress on Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

What I’m Writing

I made it through all my daily poems for THE POEMING 2016 last week, except for Sunday. Now with all that’s been going on and how I feel and everything else, I’m a few days behind. I can and will catch up, of course, but I have to make sure to find space to mentally and physically rest in order to prevent a collapse.

Goals for the Week:

  • REST
  • Get all my required POEMING found poems written and posted.

Linky Goodness

10 Books That Don’t Exist But Should (Unfinished, Lost, Withdrawn, and Otherwise Tempting Us), which includes Stephen King’s  The Plant, my book for THE POEMING project

21 Amazing Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Add to Your October Reading List

Watch a Book Being Made the Old-Fashioned Way. Slowly, and by hand.

Culture Consumption: September 2016

A lot going on the past few days, so I’m coming in a little late, but here’s September in books, movies, and more.

Books

Pixar Animation is one of my favorite movie making studios. Not every flick is my cup of tea, but they seem to approach each project with a sense of innovation and heart. How they manage to consistently maintain that level of creativity in an industry that tends to churn our generic blockbusters on a regular basis is presented Creativity, Inc. Written by by Ed Catmull (one of the founders of Pixar) with Amy Wallace, the book is simultaneously a history of the computer animation industry, a memoir of Pixar with all its ongoing success and challenges, and a guide for approaching the management of creative teams.

One of the main ideas behind his management philosophy is that it’s impossible for one person to know everything, and that, in fact, it is certain that there are things unknown that are influencing the flow of creativity. He writes,

“I believe the best managers acknowledge and make room for what they do not know—not just because humility is a virtue but because until one adopts that mindset, the most striking breakthroughs cannot occur. I believe that managers must loosen the controls, not tighten them. They must accept risk; they must trust the people they work with and strive to clear the path for them; and always, they must pay attention to and engage with anything that creates fear. Moreover, successful leaders embrace the reality that their models may be wrong or incomplete. Only when we admit what we don’t know can we ever hope to learn it.”

This acknowledgement of unknown factors influencing the dynamics of a creative environment enables the initiation of a process of self reflection and analysis — not as a one time solution but as an ongoing process of growth. As one solution proves to be successful, another litany of challenges will present themselves and it’s important to know how to navigate those new challenges and change tactics as they arise. One of the many things I love about this book is how it shies away from simple, trite catch phrases that are usually presented as rules for success. Phrases such as “Trust the process” sound wise at first glance, but can often come to be meaningless. The reality is that finding solutions often requires adaptability and a willingness to address problems, failure, and change.

One of the great flaws, he finds in many operations is how they address failure as something to be avoided at all costs, a believe that often stifles creativity and risk taking. Catmull asserts that failure is “a necessary consequence of doing something new.” The very act of forging ahead on a new project, whether creating a film or writing a book, means that there will be inevitable failures along the way. Rather than seeing these failures as doom, seeing them as inevitable enables people to work through the frustration of not getting it right the first time (or second or tenth). It’s something that I’ve learned (and am still learning) to accept as I’ve attempted and failed again and again at finishing my stupid novel — each failed attempt getting me closer and closer to understanding the heart of the story, getting closer to learning how to get it right.

I also rather likes what Catmull had to say about change (similar to failure, in that people tend to be terrified of it):

“Here’s what we all know, deep down, even though we might wish it weren’t true: Change is going to happen, whether we like it or not. Some people see random, unforeseen events as something to fear. I am not one of those people. To my mind, randomness is not just inevitable; it is part of the beauty of life. Acknowledging it and appreciating it helps us respond constructively when we are surprised. Fear makes people reach for certainty and stability, neither of which guarantee the safety they imply. I take a different approach. Rather than fear randomness, I believe we can make choices to see it for what it is and to let it work for us. The unpredictable is the ground on which creativity occurs.”

I could probably quote passages and passages of this book, and examine each one closely, but I would quickly run out of space here. Having listened to Creativity, Inc. on audio book (narrated by Peter Altschuler), I’m eager to buying a print copy so that I can peruse the text more closely to better absorb the information and examine it for concepts that might help my own creative life.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: September 2016”

Culture Consumption: August 2016

It’s been a great month. One of the highlights this month was the All Womyn’s Showcase (write up here), which I not only attended but also participated in. I love attending live events (even if they sometimes exhaust me) and I keep telling myself that I want to see more of them.

Books

Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki is such a wonderfully strange graphic novel. For most of the book, each page represents a single vignette, a tiny story about one or more of the characters from the Academy. At the beginning the vignettes jumped between so many different characters, it was difficult to keep track of who was who and what was going on, which made it a little hard to get into. But, as I continued reading and the characters began to repeat, I recognized a main set of characters I could connect and resonate with, allowing me to settle into the odd and beautiful stories at this strange school which features an array of mutants and magic and science.

Some of the vignettes are anchored in ordinary teenage angst (like crushes and school dances and friendship) that makes them easy to relate to, while others are simply, delightfully bizarre (such as the everlasting boy, who throughout the book experiences a variety of deaths and rebirths and eternities). There’s a lot of wit and wisdom present (sometimes beyond what I would expect from a typical teenager, though these are not typical teenagers). Taken as a whole, Super Mutant Magic Academy is really a fabulous book, which doesn’t allow itself to be anchored by any single storyline, but lets itself fall into the chaos of teenage-dom with all its weird wisdom and foolish obsessions.

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Continue reading “Culture Consumption: August 2016”

Nothing Comes of Nothing

I felt like I was hermit-ing myself away this week. I don’t mean that just in the sense of hiding myself from the world (because when I think about it, since I spent time with my sister on Monday and hung out with a friend on Sunday), but also in the sense of hiding from my own creativity and somewhat from social media. Although, this feeling may be less reflective of last week than how I feel at this moment.

I don’t know if I’m ready or willing to pull myself out of that mode just yet, but I can tell that this is going to start to drag on me if I let it go on, too long. When I’m in this mode I tend not to get much of anything productive done and that’s not helpful on many levels.

What I’m Reading

I finished up She Walks in Shadows, the anthology edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles and may have some thoughts to share on it soon. But for now I’ll just say that it’s a solid collection of weird, Lovecraftian stories.

I’m about halfway through The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms, which is an entertaining adventure romp with a fun, sassy main character.

What I’m Writing

Rinse and repeat from last week — no new words were written last week, and no major editing. I’m finding it very difficult right now to face words, can stand to either look at a blank page or edit anything I’ve already written. Kind of frustrating, but I’ll work my way out of it soon, I’m sure.

Goals for the Week:

  • Work on something – ANYTHING

Linky Goodness

“We love her and we hate her in equal measure. We feel that way because she revels in being all the things that we are told we aren’t allowed to be. She is confident, and she has wrinkles, and her nose isn’t a formless nonthreatening comma in the middle of an ill-defined wide-eyed face—it’s a knife, or an arrow, or a scythe. She frowns. Everyone in the audience and on the internet wants to talk about whether or not she’s sexy but they’re asking the wrong questions and she’s laughing at them for it,” writes Sarah Gailey in Defense of Villainesses.

The Historical Origins Of The Witch by Danika McClure

Jo Eberhardt on The Problem with Female Protagonists

Moving Slow

It was a mellow week last week. I gave myself space for that, just sitting around and watching TV and old movies.

I particularly loved binge watching Stranger Things — creepy and nostalgic with amazing music and some cool world building. I can’t wait for season two.

What I’m Reading

I didn’t read anything out of books last week, so I’m still working on both She Walks in Shadows, the anthology edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles, and The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms.

What I’m Writing

No new words were written last week, and no major editing. However, I did manage to make some minor tweaks to the new chapbook and send it out to a contest for consideration.

Goals for the Week:

  • Edit and submit something

Linky Goodness

Jade Sharma tells the story of the terrible, no good, very bad day she woke up as a debut author.

On The Furiosa Test, How The Mad Max: Fury Road Heroine Is Inspiring More Inclusive Cinema, by Jamie Righetti.

A New Journal Publishes Poetry by Computers

Culture Consumption: July 2016

Wait. July is over already? Where did the year go?

Books

All the Birds in the SkyI’ve long loved the work Charlie Jane Anders does — both as the host of Writers with Drinks and as a long-time editor and writer at i09. So I was thrilled to have been able to pick up a copy of All the Birds in the Sky (which I got signed at one of her readings in San Francisco).

The novel is sort of a like a nature witch and mad scientist love story that explores the philosophical differences between how magic and science approach deal with a world that’s falling apart. Both have their own ways of trying to make things better, but when magic and science begin to clash, it threatens to destroy the world instead.

I love the characters in this novel. Both Patricia and Laurence had rough childhoods that they managed to survive and deal with in their own ways. Though they are both flawed, they also have their own sense of compassion that leads them to try to do good in the world. Somehow, despite all their differences and mistakes, they manage to fit together.

Anders’ writing is beautiful — a mixture of beautiful details, humor, and emotional resonance. I loved this book.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: July 2016”

The Big News: Pantheon forthcoming in 2017

Pantheon, my chapbook of poetry based on a series of Our Lady poems has been accepted for publication and it forthcoming from ELJ Publications in August 2017! Each of the poems speaks to a female pop culture character, examining their hidden stories and the ways these characters can sometimes feel personal or sacred to our lives.

This will be my first collection of poetry and I’m so excited!

In related news, I just learned that three of these poems — Harley Quinn, Ursula, and Rogue — will be published in Issue 8 of Yellow Chair Review!

What I’m Reading

I’m still working on both She Walks in Shadows, the anthology edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles, and The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms. Both are thrilling in different ways, the one being dark and strange Lovecraftian short stories and the other being a fun action adventure fantasy romp.

What I’m Writing

The 31/31 challenge hosted by Zoetic Press wrapped up yesterday. I finished a total of 23 poem drafts for the challenge, which feels kind of awesome because now I have 23 new things that can be edited and submitted.

During the course of this challenge, I managed to put together first drafts for all the prose poems in my Twelve Dancing Princesses collection — something I’ve been meaning to polish off for a long time.

So, now it will be all editing, editing, editing and submitting for a while.

Goals for the Week:

  • Submit chapbook collection to YCR contest.
  • Start editing

Linky Goodness

Lynne M. Thomas on How Creating Inclusive Sci-Fi/Fantasy Sparked a Culture War: “We all want to find ourselves in stories. Finding ourselves in stories should be easy. No one should ever have to feel grateful just to see themselves.”

Defining the Genre: 7 Novels of Afrofuturism

The Lake Monsters of America (which is just begging for a series of poems)

The Mondays Ain't So Bad

Over the weekend, my family and I celebrated my niece’s birthday. She’s four years old and such a wonderful little princess monster.

I’m back in the office after a work trip and the weekend and it’s Monday. My to-do list both at my day job and my writing/poeming job is long and only growing longer, it seems. But that’s okay, because I woke pretty well rested and generally feeling good, which is a nice start to the week.

What I’m Reading

She Walks in Shadows, the anthology edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles, continues to present fantastic weird stories and art involving Lovecraftian mythos. I especially enjoyed Jilly Dreadful’s story, which is creatively told through the format of a dissertation outline.

I’m also started The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms, which looks like it’s going to be a great fantasy, superhero, action-adventure story.

What I’m Writing

I managed another six poems/flash pieces last week for the Write Like Your Alive, a 31/31 project being hosted by Zoetic Press, which jumps me up to a total of 15 pieces. So, I’m still quite a bit behind, but not dauntingly so. I’m hoping that I can manage two poems a day for the rest of the week, which would put me at a total of 30 for the month — a happy making amount for certain.

In other news, I received a rejection on a chapbook submission. It was a lovely encouraging rejection that said some wonderful things about the collection as a whole and complimented two of the poems in particular (one of which I wasn’t as confident in, but am now feeling better about). On the one hand, I’m disappointed. On the other, I’m feeling good and more confident about my ability to put together a coherent poetry collection — something more than just a randomly thrown together set of random poems — which is kind of awesome.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish up the 31/31 challenge by drafting a multitude of poems
  • Take a look at the rejected collection and see about submitting it to another publisher

Linky Goodness

Vanessa Willoughby has a beautiful essay up, Black Girls Don’t Read Sylvia Plath.

“It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t mean it. It doesn’t matter that he’s secretly quite a sweet, vulnerable person who is gracious to those he considers friends. It doesn’t matter that somewhere in the rhinestone-rimmed hamster wheel of his mind is a conscience. It doesn’t matter because the harm he does is real,” writes Laurie Penny in her amazing piece, I’m With The Banned: What my evening with Milo told me about Twitter’s biggest troll, the death of reason, and the crucible of A-list con-men that is the Republican National Convention

Michael Arnovitz presents a call for reason regarding Hilary Clinton: “Hillary is nobody’s idea of perfect. Fine. But in my view if a man with her qualifications were running in the Democratic primary, Bernie would have been done before he even started. And if a man with her qualifications had been running for the Republicans, they’d be anointing him the next Reagan while trying to sneak his face onto Mount Rushmore.”

The Mondays Ain’t So Bad

Over the weekend, my family and I celebrated my niece’s birthday. She’s four years old and such a wonderful little princess monster.

I’m back in the office after a work trip and the weekend and it’s Monday. My to-do list both at my day job and my writing/poeming job is long and only growing longer, it seems. But that’s okay, because I woke pretty well rested and generally feeling good, which is a nice start to the week.

What I’m Reading

She Walks in Shadows, the anthology edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles, continues to present fantastic weird stories and art involving Lovecraftian mythos. I especially enjoyed Jilly Dreadful’s story, which is creatively told through the format of a dissertation outline.

I’m also started The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms, which looks like it’s going to be a great fantasy, superhero, action-adventure story.

What I’m Writing

I managed another six poems/flash pieces last week for the Write Like Your Alive, a 31/31 project being hosted by Zoetic Press, which jumps me up to a total of 15 pieces. So, I’m still quite a bit behind, but not dauntingly so. I’m hoping that I can manage two poems a day for the rest of the week, which would put me at a total of 30 for the month — a happy making amount for certain.

In other news, I received a rejection on a chapbook submission. It was a lovely encouraging rejection that said some wonderful things about the collection as a whole and complimented two of the poems in particular (one of which I wasn’t as confident in, but am now feeling better about). On the one hand, I’m disappointed. On the other, I’m feeling good and more confident about my ability to put together a coherent poetry collection — something more than just a randomly thrown together set of random poems — which is kind of awesome.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish up the 31/31 challenge by drafting a multitude of poems
  • Take a look at the rejected collection and see about submitting it to another publisher

Linky Goodness

Vanessa Willoughby has a beautiful essay up, Black Girls Don’t Read Sylvia Plath.

“It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t mean it. It doesn’t matter that he’s secretly quite a sweet, vulnerable person who is gracious to those he considers friends. It doesn’t matter that somewhere in the rhinestone-rimmed hamster wheel of his mind is a conscience. It doesn’t matter because the harm he does is real,” writes Laurie Penny in her amazing piece, I’m With The Banned: What my evening with Milo told me about Twitter’s biggest troll, the death of reason, and the crucible of A-list con-men that is the Republican National Convention

Michael Arnovitz presents a call for reason regarding Hilary Clinton: “Hillary is nobody’s idea of perfect. Fine. But in my view if a man with her qualifications were running in the Democratic primary, Bernie would have been done before he even started. And if a man with her qualifications had been running for the Republicans, they’d be anointing him the next Reagan while trying to sneak his face onto Mount Rushmore.”

So, life

The week of Fourth of July, I alternated between lounging with family by Clear Lake to hanging out in a camper cabin on the coast for some writing and reading R&R (which I may or may not write a blog post about), to binge watching horror movies with my cousin, to chilling at the Yuba River. I came home feeling energized and relaxed, only to have the “real” world slam into me and I rather quickly went back to feeling overwhelmed in work and writing and life in general. At some point I’m going to have to learn how to cultivate that sense of calm, even in the rocky waters of everyday life and the stresses involved. Not an easy task.

In general, I have not been in the mood to touch a computer when I get off work, which is why my posts have been more sparse here and elsewhere. I’m choosing not to be hard on myself about my level of productivity (since it’s not even as low as I keep guilting myself into believing) and am instead giving myself what space I can.

What I’m Reading

I just finished up Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, which I read in a single day — something I haven’t done in ages. It’s a powerful coming of age story about friendship and rivalry between different groups in a small community. It also has a mystery that gets pulled up out of the past. There’s a lot of humor and a lot of tragedy and it all weaves together beautifully.

I’m part way through She Walks in Shadows, an anthology edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles that is full of female-driven stories inspired by Lovecraft. Some great stuff in here so far.

What I’m Writing

I’m currently in the middle of the Write Like Your Alive, a 31/31 project being hosted by Zoetic Press. I’m behind for the moment, with only nine of the 31 poems completed. I’ve been moving slower through these than I have with previous similar challenges, being more careful in choosing what to put down instead of just powering through. Many of these are poems that I’ve outlined or have had stored away in my head for a long time, so it’s a good feeling just to get them down on paper.

I’ll be traveling this for the day job, which will provide me with a bit of hotel time in which to dive into some more writing and hopefully that will help me catch up.

Goals for the Week:

  • Draft a multitude of poems

Linky Goodness

Why Calvin and Hobbes is Great Literature, by Gabrielle Bellot:

“Though focused on suburban American characters, it crossed cultural borders for me in Dominica because so much of it seemed universal. I lived at the edge of a mountain village, and on the days when the wind had stopped blowing and everything felt still and stricken with the melancholy of a too-short Sunday I enjoyed retreating into a room and disappearing into the world of a book collection of Calvin and Hobbes. (I had them all.) Then someone would call me through the halls of our house, or I would simply look up, and it was like waking from a trance. Suddenly, it would be evening, the wind up our mountain like the breaking of soft sea waves, the brown moths already crashing madly into the lamps or dying in the wax pool of a lit candle, the breadfruit leaves already like the silhouettes of monstrous bats in the dark, the night already having begun to put on her starry pearls. I loved disappearing into beloved books and reappearing into reality, with a shock, some hours later.”

Culture Consumption: June 2016

In the intensity of getting words written, I feel as though I’ve slowed down on reading. In some cases, I’ve even been avoiding it in lieu of more mentally easy story consumption through TV and movies. Not always the best thing, since reading words is a part of what inspires me to write words. So toward the end of the month, I tried to get outside, setting into an easy chair by the pool, and delve into some much missed words.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: June 2016”

The Goings On

Oh, my. I’ve yet again skipped a week of my weekly updates, which makes them more bi-weekly for the month of June. The goings on are going on — mostly a lot of trying to get writing done and then binge watching television to recover from the trying to get writing done.

Announcements!

A Gathering of Baba Yagas,” a poem cowritten by Laura Madeline Wiseman and I, is now up at Strange Horizons! This was the first poem Madeline and I wrote together and I’m thrilled to see it published.

There is some other GIANT news, but I’m not 100% sure that it’s okay to share it yet, so I’m just going to tease you about it for the time being.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t been doing much reading lately. Or rather, I have, but not as much for the shear pleasure of it. So it’s a joy to begin All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. The story of a naturalistic witch and a young mad scientist is charming. This is exactly the kind of book to get me back into the reading mood and I can’t wait to see where it leads.

What I’m Writing

Last week was primarily spent in finalizing and then submitting my Our Lady chapbook for publication. The collection, called Pantheon, is done and off and out of my hands and I’m going to say no more about that.

Since send that off, I’ve polished up The Things I Own, another chapbook which was a finalist in the Dirty Chaps Contest. With some tweaking — pulling out a couple of poems — and putting in of a couple of others, I’m hoping it will find a home elsewhere.

Coming up next is the Write Like Your Alive, a 31/31 project being hosted by Zoetic Press. Signups for the project are open until June 30th, with the opportunity to be published, if you complete at least 20 days. Let me know if you join, as I will definitely be participating (because why not drown myself in more challenges and projects) and would love to be able to share the journey.

Goals for the Week:

  • Prep for Write Like You’re Alive and then write like I’m alive

Linky Goodness

Justine Larbalestier has an amazing poet on How to Write Protagonists of Colour When You’re White: “Step One: Ask Yourself Why”

“All of the goals I had set for myself in my twenties had come and gone. As a result I had simply shut down. For some reason it felt easier and more comfortable to resign myself as a failure than to risk actual failure,” writes Kate Maruyama in On Saying Yes: Fight the Fear.

Time Flying By

I could write about my birthday celebrations last week and wading in the river until it soaked my pants and enjoying family and friends, but I’m currently too dazzled by the fact that it’s going to be June tomorrow and where did the time go, I want to know, where did it go.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t started in on a new novel yet, so right now my reading is focused on finishing the 2016 Rhysling Anthology. The speculative poetry inside these pages is pretty much consistently great, although there are certainly some favorites jumping out at me.

What I’m Writing

I’m approaching the deadline for this poetry collection that I’ve been editing, so I’m approaching the freak out stage of the process. (Okay, it’s all the freak out stage.) I need to polish up the poems I’m pretty sure I’m going to include and allow myself to let go of the rest, even though there’s a part of me that wants to force them into working, even though they may not be able to be forced.

Goals for the Week:

  • Continue editing the 30/30 poetry collection.
  • Submit a set of poems for publication

Linky Goodness

Gretchen Gerzina discusses the rediscovery of a 19th-century novel and how it transforms the image of black female writers.

“If your networks can’t help you reach out to awesomely skilled women, you need better networks,” writes Tin Geber on male privilege and networks.

We Need to Talk About That Wonder Woman Budget: It’s not all good news for Princess Diana of Themyscira, by Ashley Lynch.

Rage Writing Through the Block

It was a frustrating week in writing, one of those weeks where you keep trying different routes to get into the words, only to come up against another wall.

One night this week, I sat with a set of poems in front of me. I picked up one poem, and then the next, and then the next — each time putting the poem back down into the pile after having just barely glancing at it. The feeling of frustration just kept building and building.

There’s a feeling of restriction, I find, in being artistically blocked. I find myself curling in, my muscles tightening up. It’s a feeling of not being able to move or act. And the more I feel I can’t write or act, the more I tighten the ball.

All I want to do is just scribble in rage until I tear through the page, I thought, while still trying to face the words I couldn’t seem to face.

Until I finally asked myself why I was avoiding it. If rage write what what I wanted to do and if it wasn’t really going to make things any worse, why not do it. So, I grabbed a red pen and started scrawling all the hate words and curses and anger out on to the page. I scribbled over what I wrote, I scratched over and I tore through the page, ripping a hole and gouging it open.

Rage writing might seem a counterproductive way to deal with an emotional block (which really what I think writer’s blocks are). But here’s the thing, it helped. It loosen up all that tension that had built up and allowed me to loosen. I started having fun with the scribbles, and they became more playful, less angry.

Not long after putting the page of rage writing down, I was able to pick up a poem and edit it into a finished piece that I’m rather happy with, allowing me to end the day with a feeling of accomplishment and calm.

I’m not saying rage writing is the solution for everyone facing a block, or for every time it comes up. There are a lot of ways to relax that tension and frustration. Other paths for other writers might do better with meditation, or taking a long walk, or reading an awesome book.

The point is there are creative solutions to finding your way around the wall.

Let me know what solutions you’ve found that work best for you in the comments.

What I’m Reading

I should have been able to finishe Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, in just a few hours. But there have been numerous distractions, so I’m still in the process of reading. Good stuff so far.

Also about halfway through the 2016 Rhysling Anthology, which is full of amazing speculative poetry.

What I’m Writing

I talked about most of my writing week already. Another frustration was that I had put together a submission of poems, only to realize halfway through submitting that my intended submission did not fit the journal’s guidelines after all. So, I sighed and put it aside and began looking into where else to submit, but never actually got around to submitting.

Goals for the Week:

  • Continue editing the 30/30 poetry collection.
  • Submit a set of poems for publication

Linky Goodness

“If there is a thematic message encoded in the “girl” narratives, I think this is its key: the transition from girlhood to womanhood, from being someone to being someone’s wife, someone’s mother. Girl attunes us to what might be gained and lost in the transformation, and raises a possibility of reversion. To be called “just a girl” may be diminishment, but to call yourself “still a girl,” can be empowerment, laying claim to the unencumbered liberties of youth. As Gloria Steinem likes to remind us, women lose power as they age. The persistence of girlhood can be a battle cry,” writes Robin Wasserman in her wonderful exploration of what it means when we call women girls.

In The Unsung Heroes of the Poetry World, Krystal Languell talks with 11 poets on what it takes to run a small press.

Beyond Harry Potter: 25 Fantasy Adventure Series Starring Mighty Girls

Boston’s sidewalks are covered in secret poems, which are only revealed when it rains.

Taking in the Sun

My weekend was filled with sunshine. My sisters, mom, niece, nephew and I spend Saturday on the beach enjoying the sun and sand and surf. The babies had so much fun splashing their toes in the clear blue water, giggled as it washed up over their legs. They also loved digging in the sand and building sand castles.

Sunday I took myself on a solo hike and run through a local trail.

We’re definitely in the Spring of things, with sunny days on the horizon (no surprise, really, in California).

At the beach near Half Moon Bay.

What I’m Reading

In my project of making up for missed childhood reading, I’m following up Anne of Green Gables with Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. I’m only a chapter in, so I don’t have a ton of thoughts as of yet, but I’m sure I will.

Also reading the 2016 Rhysling Anthology, so that I can make my votes soon.

What I’m Writing

Work on the 30/30 poems is ongoing. I do a substantial edit of about one poem at a time, followed by a re-exmination of one of the previously edited poems.

One the whole, I still have so many doubts about these poems. But I’m trying to just trust my original gut feeling. I try to focus on the spark inspired me to go in that direction in the first place and to move in that direction with my edits.

Goals for the Week:

  • Continue editing the 30/30 poetry collection.
  • Submit a set of poems for publication

Linky Goodness

“The fact that “The Little Mermaid” revolves around the silence of its heroine speaks to the political situation of the era. In some ways, the 1830s in Europe marked an “enlightenment” period for gay activism,” writes Maddy Myers on Queer Subtext in The Little Mermaid, From Hans Christian Andersen’s Original to Disney’s Adaptation.

Rose Hackman on how women are pushed to de-escalate sexist incidents.

In The Secret to Reviewing Mediocre Movies, Jacob Oller writes, “Each review should be something I’m proud to publish or at least contain something I’m proud to publish.,” which also applies to the wider world of writing in that we should all be writing something we’re proud to publish.

A Strange Horizons survey shows that sci-fi media coverage is still dominated by men.

Reading from Poetry Month and beyond

My April was full of poetry, as it should be. I’m giving myself permission not to have to write reviews for all of these, due to the level of overwhelmed I’ve been and seem to continue to be.

Poetry Books Finished

Some of these are rereads. Some I started earlier in the year and only finished in April. All of them, I loved.

1. Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide to Beasts of the Southern Wild by Allie Marini
2. God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant (review)
3. Terra Incognita by Jennifer Martin
4. was it more than a kiss by Chella Courington (spotlight interview)
5. A Heart with No Scars by Brennan “B Deep” DeFrisco
6. A History of the Cetacean American Diasapora by Jenna Le (spotlight interview)
7. An Animal I Can’t Name by Raegan Pietrucha
8. The Midway Iterations by T.A. Noonan
9. My Mother’s Child by Pamela L. Taylor (spotlight interview)

Read in Part (as in a poem or few)

Again, some of these I’ve read in their entirety years ago, and others are ones I just didn’t have time to delve into completely at this time.

Neat Sheets: The Poetry of James Tiptree, Jr.
Paper House by Jessie Carty
Elephant Rocks by Kay Ryan
Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon by Pablo Neruda
From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes by B.C. Edwards
Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse by David Perez
Ceremony for the Choking Ghost by Karen Finneyfrock
The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You by Caits Meissner and Tishon
No Experiences by Erin Watson
The Woman Who Fell from the Sky by Joy Harjo
TEN by Val Dering Rojas
Dream Work by Mary Oliver
An Apparently Impossible Adventure by Laura Madeline Wiseman
Ay Nako: Writing Through the Struggle by Lorenz Mazon Dumuk
Cloud Pharmacy by Susan Rich
The Usable Field by Jane Mead
Debridement by Corrina Bain
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Haunted House by Marisa Crawford
Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone by Annelyse Gelman
Domestic Work by Natasha Trethewey

Catching Up

Back at the beginning of the month, I forgot to post my reading from March, so here’s those:

1. Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton

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.

2. The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

This novella explores the nature of consciousness and what constitutes sentience. In the story, a set of digital pets are created and sold to users in e VR environment. While some grow bored with the creature a few become dedicated to their progress and they begin to grow their own sense of autonomy. There’s no apocalyptic machines-are-going-to-take-over-the-world elements to this. It’s more of an intellectual exploration of one possibility. It’s fascinating and sweet, and the people raising these AI pets bring them up like family.

3. The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

A young teenage boy has become a single father. He’s not ready for it and struggles to maintain his schooling and raise his daughter and is strained to the point of extreme exhaustion. But throughout there is no doubt that he loves his little girl and he will do anything for her, if he can. It’s wonderfully moving and worth a read.

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 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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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

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. 

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.”

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”

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”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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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.

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.

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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”

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

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