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

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.

_____

All Womyn’s Showcase

All Womyn's Showcase
Admist a great many other things that happened last week, on Sunday I attended and performed at the All Womyn’s Showcase — which featured five hours and more than 20 performers of poetry, music, and art, as well as booths for artists and community activism. It was a stellar day, one that I felt so honored to take part in.

Some of the amazing poets included Arlene Biala, Santa Clara Poet Laureate, with two moving pieces; Christina Springer; Jaqunasty, a spoken word poet with a powerful voice and words full of feels; and Aasha, who performed several kick-ass poems, as well as co-hosted the event alongside Estrellita Munõz. Also, Nicole Henares shared a poem from Madrid with Bianca Rodriguez performing flamenco alongside — there was something powerful about seeing two such different forms of art performed side-by-side, with ever staccato-ed flamenco step punctuating the words in the poem.

There was so much great music, too — Socorra floored me with her foot-stomping rock; Claymoon wowed me with the growl of the lead-singer’s voice and the emotion in their lyrics; Astralogik made me want to sway to their soulful electronica; Bird & Willow shared some lovely folk; and as always Q&A made my world a better place with their beautifully strange, folky tunes.

One comedian, PX Floro, also took the stage and she was hilarious.

This is really just the short list, as there were so many other amazing poets and artists who gave wonderful performances at the All Womyn’s Showcase as well. Thank you so much to Robertino Ragazza and Quynn Nguyen for organizing and hosting this amazing show!

In other awesome event news, I also attended Cito.FAME.Us hosted by the hella famous Lindsey Leong on Thursday night for the first time in many months. I read a few poems and listened to a variety of comics, musicians, and poets share their works. There have been some changes with Cito — the event remains a weekly, free open mic taking place at Iguanas in San Jose, but the hours now run from 8:30 – 11:00 pm, with signups starting at 8 pm. It a great venue for South Bay poets and artists to come share, with all forms of work welcome, from poetry to music to comedy and dance (as long as it’s family-friendly, i.e. no cuss words). Sometimes they even set up a screen to share short films and other media — as they will be doing this week with the screening of Through the Walls, a 45-min documentary filmed at San Quentin State Prison that shows how inmates are healing through music.

What I’m Reading

I’ve come back to Gateway by Frederik Pohl, a book I started reading many months ago but only got a few pages into before the time limit expired on my library loan. The story seems to center around a man, who continues to be haunted by his time working on Gateway, some sort of space travel station (though I’m not clear yet on how it operates, since I’m still in the beginning).

Still reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and the nostalgia is strong.

What I’m Writing

I honestly can’t remember what — if anything — I wrote last week. So, that basically means that I didn’t write anything, which is not where I like to be.

Goals for the Week:

  • Work on that short story or one of the poetry collection projects

Linky Goodness

Webster Dictionary on when words stray from their roots:

“Many complain when the word ‘awesome’ is used to describe things that are not, in fact, deserving of awe. Yet few object when ‘awful’ is used to mean something other than ‘full of awe.’ … There have been a number of people who have inveighed against this loose sense of awful over the years, but their ranks are thinning, and most of us seem to not mind its use very much. If you have taken these conflicting positions about awesome and awful, you needn’t feel bad about it (and you probably don’t); one of the only things that is as resolutely illogical as the English language is the way that most of us feel it should be used.”

The fabulous Ursula Le Guin will become one of the few living writers to be inducted into the Library of America canon for her literary work, The Complete Orsinia.

Why Do We Judge Parents For Putting Kids At Perceived — But Unreal — Risk?

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

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.

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.”

Stand up and speak

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

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

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

What I’m Reading

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

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

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

What I’m Writing

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

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

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

Linky Goodness

Speaking under the moonlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m Reading

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

What I’m Writing

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

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

Submission Bonanza

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

Linky Goodness

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

YA Thrills & Chills

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

Nova Ren SumaThe Walls Around Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Recommendation: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Lauren SaftThose Girls

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

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

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

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

Book Recommendation: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Katie CoyleVivian Apple At the End of the World

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m Reading

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

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

What I’m Writing

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

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

Submission Bonanza

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

Linky Goodness

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

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

Amazing poets reading words

I attended two awesome lit events last week. On Wednesday, I visited a friend’s college classroom with Lorenz Dumuk, where we read poetry and listened to the students read poetry. It was awesome to see a younger generation take an interest. 

On Thursday, I attended friend Allie Marini Batts’ chapbook release party. She read from Before Fire: Divorce Poems and Pictures from the Center of the Universe, as well as some new works. It was no surprise to me that she was awesome. 

Joining Allie on the stage, were a handful of other amazing poets — B. Deep, Cassandra Dallett, Daphne Gottlieb, Joshua Merchant, and Jaz Sufi — each one with their own powerful and unique voice. 

 

Allie Marini Batts reading at the Octopus Literary Salon.
 
 
Me and the awesome.
 

What I’m Reading

I’m focusing on Don Quixote (in the midst of my short story reading) and am hoping to finish it by the end of the month. Part II is dragging a lot more than the first half did for me, so it feels like hard work at the moment.

Also still reading Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman.

What I’m Writing

Ummmmm…. yeah… so…

I need to come up with a new routine that involves me going to a coffee shop or library in order to get actual work done, because as soon as I get home after work I slip into relaxation mode. This week’s plan is to bring my laptop to work on Tuesday and Thursday for just that purpose.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish off poem inspired by the Arabian Nights for submission to Nonbinary Review. Submit the chapbook to a few more publishers.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Poets! Hearing poets read, both newbies in the classroom and professionals at the Octopus Literary Salon, had me reaching for my pen, wanting to scribble words onto the page. At one point, I even got so distracted in writing that I missed my metro stop and ended far from where I intended to go.

Nights of Words and Discourse

Meant to post this on Monday, but I got sick this week, which knocked me flat for several days. Since I’m starting to feel better, I’m posting it now.

* * * 

Last Thursday night I attended the fantastic Cito.FAME.Us Women’s History Month open mic, which featured the amazing folk duo Q&A and yours truly. I’ve been a fan of Q&A ever since I first heard them and so it was a great honor to have been paired with them for my first feature performance. I made a video of one of their new songs and hopefully I’ll be able to upload and share it soon.

Q&A includes Quynh and Alice

  

I also attended the Her Story to Call Her Own open mic, which was a wonderful grounding experience, full of many beautiful women singing or speaking many beautiful words.

What I’m Reading

I just finished Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick, which was beautiful and not at all what I expected. 

 
Blue by George Elliott Clarke, which is a powerful collection of poetry. 

 Still enjoying my slow read of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

What I’m Writing

I made it halfway through a chapbook submission, which I’m starting to feel fairly solid about. I’ve got some more work to do on it, some cleaning up of some of the poems and than I should be able to send it out.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit chapbook.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Amazing women and artists who live in this South Bay community and who open up their voices to share.

Linky Goodness

I think I’ll just leave you with From Tank Girl to Mad Max: The 10 Most Stylish Apocalypse Movies.

Feeling the Beautiful

My sister and I rocked the She is Beautiful 10K, both of us running the entire course for the first time.

I ran the She is Beautiful 5K last year, which was an amazing and moving experience. I just loved being surrounded by so many different women, of all shapes and sizes and abilities and ages — and all beautiful.

This year I decided to up my game and challenged myself by signing up for the 10K. Life has been hectic this month, so I haven’t been properly training over these last few weeks as I originally intended. I didn’t think I’d be able to run the entire event, but was joyful to just be there.

Mile One: The morning was misty, but not overly cold. My sister and I danced through the starting line and started into a stable, steady pace as we weaved through the crowds of walkers.

Mile Two: We smiled at our fellow runners. I felt strong, moving with this massive wave of women through the streets of Santa Cruz. My sister moves out ahead and I urge her on to run at her own faster pace.

Mile Three: The crowds thin out as the 5K runners and walkers head back to the finish line, leaving the rest of us to continue the journey. I wipe sweat and mist from my forehead and smile.

Mile Four: The tiredness started to set in and my pace slowed. But I pumped my arms and cheered as I past the mile four marker. I made it that far; might as well keep going.

Mile Five: As I rounded a corner and started into the only downhill section of the run, my legs got wibbly wobbly and my knees started to ache sharply. It’s important to respect signals from your body, so I slowed down to a walk. As soon as the ground flattened out again, I pushed back into a run and chugged up a long uphill stretch before the final mile.

Mile Six: Slow, so slow. Exhaustion sat my chest, urging me to stop. My legs felt numb. My hips ached. I churned my body forward at a tortoise-paced jog, watching the grey rolling ocean and the horizon beyond. I put one foot after another. One foot. Another.

Finish Line: I wore a mad smiled and shifted into a higher gear, finishing the race with every ounce of run I had left, with my sister cheering and joy in every fiber of my aching body. My sister and I were so proud of each other, both having run a 10K in its entirety for the first time.

What I’m Reading

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, which is intriguing and thrilling. A group of colonists living on another planet (I think) were infected with a disease that killed all the women and has made it so everyone can hear everyone’s thoughts in a constant stream of Noise. I’m finding it to be a page turner.

I’ve also started a slow read of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The story is quite funny at some points with a surprising amount of toilet humor. Since a lot of the humor is based on the book’s satire of courtly romances featuring errant knights and damsels and other such things, it helps that I’ve done some reading of the classic Arthurian tales, which provides good context.

What I’m Writing

Half of my week was taken up with traveling to Orlando for a work conference, so I didn’t get around to actually putting words on the page.

However, I spent several hours this weekend beginning the process of organizing my writing life. The system I developed should work — mostly. Paper drafts of all my poetry is problematic, since it would be ridiculous to have an individual file for each poem, so I’m still trying to work that out (and likely it will be best to keep poetry primarily on my laptop rather than in print). Works great for fiction, scripts, and nonfiction, though. I’m planning to post about the system sometime this week.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish organization. Edit and prep poetry for reading on Thursday. Prep poetry chapbook for submission.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Accomplishing my goal of running six miles on Sunday was amazing and has me feeling that I can accomplish all sorts of things at the moment. I’m hoping that feeling will linger.

Where I’ll Be

March 26: I’ll be a featured performer at Cito.FAME.us at Iguanas in San Jose. The open mic begins at 9 pm and I’ll be opening, so come early, if you want to see me perform.

Linky Goodness

21 Ways to Break Out of a Slump provides a list of simple measures to switch things up, like heading out to the farmers market or do a cell phone detox. I particularly liked its link to a 30 Day Spring Cleaning Challenge, which would be a challenge indeed, but represents an awesome approach to something I’ve been meaning to do.

The 2014 Best of the Net Anthology has been released for those looking for some good fiction, poetry, and nonfiction reading.

Love in the air – poetry, music, laughter, and joy

Cito.FAME.Us celebrated it’s first Valentines Day party last night, with pink and red paper hearts and little chocolates for all — not to mention an amazing crew of artists, including poets, musicians, and some smooth moved dancers. Love of many forms was expressed and shared.

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Chris Quality handed out his Lyrical Fitness album at the event.

Our Hella Famous host, Lindsey Leong, shared a moving, deeply felt poem. It always amazes me how she can hold such a safe space for everyone who comes to her events. She’s an amazing poet and such a wonderful soul.

Chris Quality is a fantastic hip hop artist. He helped plan the event along with Lindsey, and is another generous soul. Each time I’ve seen him, he’s just been one of the happiest people I’ve met. He handed flowers out to all the ladies (and some gentlemen) with the help of Mohamed X, who also rocked the mic last night.

A stunning song came from the lips of the beautiful Miachalah, who I hope I will get to see perform more in the future.

Mc Tate performed a series of amazing spoken work pieces, that had my head spinning trying to cling to some of his wicked phrases and metaphors. I hope he publishes a collection soon, so I can have those words on my shelf, where I can look at them anytime I want.

The always delightful Q&A performed several sweet folksy songs. They get better and better every time I hear them, which was especially impressive since Quinn was feeling sick last night.

Melissa Baxter was taking photographs of the performers all night long and also belted out a best friends song from the Wicked musical.

I also want to send love to Lorenz Dumuk, who didn’t perform last night, but helped to set up the fantastic back drops and sets for the show. Hugs to you, friend.

Amid all these fantastic artists and wonderful people, it was an honor to be able to share one of my poems, a piece I wrote especially for the event, called “As a Single Lady Alone on Valentines Day” (which I’ll be submitting for publication as soon as I make some edits). I was grateful for the positive feedback to be able to just be there and share in the experience.

PS. I want to be able to help promote the performers with this post, so itf there is anyone who performed who I forgot to add here, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add you to the list.

Lifting Our Voices to the Moon

Last Friday night was lovely. I attended Glowing with the Moon, an open mic hosted by my amazing, wonderful poet friend, Lorenz Dumuk. Lorenz is an amazing poet and one of the kindest, most generous-hearted people I know.

The night included a mix of featured poets and open mic participants with a variety of styles, including Yvette McDonald, Lindsey Leong, Scorpiana Xlynn, and others. The out pouring of words as the sky darkened into night was wonderful.

Q&A also performed a couple of sets. The musical duo is comprised of Quynh Nguyen and Alice D. Chen. They play a mixture of covers and original music in a style that is sweet and slightly eerie. They don’t have a website or facebook page that I can link to yet, but they have definitely made a groupie of me.

Lorenz presented several lovely counterparts to the mixture of spoken word and music:

  • He asked everyone to participate in a salt-art table, to draw out our dreams or what we’re looking to let go off in salt, then to sweep it into a bag, which he will later take and return to the ocean.
  • At another point, he asked everyone to stand up and greet a stranger, saying our name, what we hoped to call to ourselves, and what fears we wanted to let go of — the result was an opening up to someone new, perhaps letting in a little vulnerability along the way.
  • Since it was that kind of night, Lorenz also asked us to close our eyes and listen to the wind singing in hushed tones in the trees around us.

I don’t know that I can properly explain how grounding and wonderful a night Friday was and what a great community these artists and poets are. I find myself sometimes longing for community of this kind, a creatively charged group casting their words into the world (I do have my Writing Gang, though life has intervened making it hard for us to gather). Such kinds of communities makes me feel alive to words.

As I usually do after such an event, I went home and threw some words down on a poem I’ve been working on for a while. There’s going to be another open mic at Iguanas in San Jose on Thursday. My goal is to finish this poem in time to read it at the Thursday open mic, which is intimidating since this poem makes me feel vulnerable writing it, let alone reading it out loud to others.

I hope everyone is having a lovely week, full of creativity and joy.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

While the weekend was spent celebrating Mammas, both my own mom and my sister who is fantastic with the Little Monster, I somehow managed to be somewhat productive this week.

On Tuesday, fellow poet Lorenz Dumuk (@LorenzDumuk) and I visited a friend’s classroom to read our poetry as part of her English class. As I haven’t read in ages, I was feeling rather nervous and kind of rushed through my pieces, but as usual Lorenz was amazing. He is a powerhouse of spoken word and it’s always inspiring to watch him offer up words to an audience.

Afterward, I went home and started reading Jessie Carty’s new book of poetry, Practicing Disaster,* in order to hold on to the galvanizing feeling created with poetry.

As a result of all this hearing and reading of fantastic poetry, I poured out five poem drafts all in one go, one of which I posted up on wattpad, called “Kamikaze.”

The juiced writerly feeling didn’t fade away, and I ended up putting together a Friday Flash. The short short story, called “Four and Twenty” is a bit about baking pies and a bit about a murder of crows. I plan to make a habit of posting a Friday Flash at least once a month.

My goal for the week is to edit the poem drafts and put together a small submission to a journal. I also have one submission still out that I haven’t heard back from, which I need to send an inquiry on.

*Jessie Carty sent me a review copy of her book. I should have the review up middle of the week, which I plan to follow with an interview with the poet (something I have never done before, eek!).

A new stage adaptation of Pride & Prejudice

Sunday night discovered that San Jose Stage Company was doing a reading of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Neither of us had any idea what was meant by “reading” in this case, because it was at a theater rather than a book store. But we are both Austen lovers and couldn’t miss the opportunity of seeing this.

It turned out that, inspired by her own love of the book, Halsey Varady (one of the actresses in the troupe) had written an adapted stage play for the novel and this was the first public reading of her newly written play.

The ensemble cast (about eight) was fantastic. The only staging was a set of chairs all in a row and a set of music stands in front of them and during the reading. When it was their turn to speak, they came up to a music stand, placed their script binder down, and read their part. They occasionally switched positions and used very minimal blocking to scene shifts clear, but otherwise that was it. The lack of stage set or costumes in no way detracted from the performance, and the actors proved that, with the right cast, such stage design is unnecessary.

Also, though the actors playing Elizabeth and Darcy stayed in the same character throughout, the rest of the ensemble played two, sometimes three different characters. It was amazing to see them just stand, step up to the music stand and disappear into a new character. A couple of times, I thought additional actors had magically appeared out of the thin air, they were that great.

One of the wonderful things about the performance was how Varady managed to bring out the humor from Pride and Prejudice. She chose her favorite lines and was able to utilize punchlines without loosing any of the linguistic flair of Austen’s linguistic style. It all worked well, and the tightened up the storytelling was hilariously entertaining. (I honestly never laughed so hard at Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s dinner at Rosings.)

After the performance, Halsey Varady spoke to the audience and asked for feedback. There weren’t many critiques, because it was so polished.

The idea is for the play to be transitioned into a full stage play or a radio show (or both), any and all I’d love to see happen — because I’d love to go see it again.

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