Goals for 2018

new year meme

During the month of December, I had a vast number of projects and deadlines going at once. What kept me from collapsing into a quivering mess from being so overwhelmed was taking out my physical notebook and writing down every necessary item that needed to be completed that month. That list, which I was able to return to daily, helped me focus my attention in order to actually get things done — not to mention the absolute pleasure of scratching a line through an item once it was accomplished.

This experience has prompted me to try out a Bullet Journal, essentially a system of tracking and planning one’s daily life in a way that’s entirely adaptable to one’s specific needs. There are hundreds of tutorials and inspiration posts about bullet journaling throughout the internet, all with their own unique way of approaching the system. If you bullet journal, I would love to know about your process too.

I’m not starting fresh with a shiny new book the way most people do. First, because I hate leaving a notebook only partially filled (it makes me twitch). Second, because this is kind of an experiment and I want to see how effective it will be for me.

Essentially, I’m hoping it will help me with the tracking of my goals throughout the year, as well as with breaking down the bigger goals into bit sized bits for progress on a day to day basis. So far it’s going well, which brings me to:

My Goals for 2018

1. Clear My Schedule Enough to Be Able to Focus on THE NOVEL – I would love to be able to put “Finish the Novel” on here, but I know down in the depths of my wailing heart that would not be practical. I can’t seem to focus on the novel, while I have a number of projects going that need my attention right now. The plan is to clear the handful of things that are most important to me, with the aim of launching into novel revisions by July 1st.  These things include:

  • A Kickstarter project to create a chapbook of erasure poetry that I’m launching this month.
  • Finish story/chap based on the 12 Dancing Princesses fairy tale
  • Write all of the episodes of a webseries that I’m working on with some filmmaking buddies (probably most important on this list since it involves obligations and deadlines and other good things like that)
  • Finish and submit various poem and story things (though some of these could be put on hold once the noveling recommences)
  • Prepwork for the novel (a bit of research, outlining, and so on that will be helpful when I get to the editing)

The trick is going to be not piling on more projects in the meantime, which is going to take some self control.

2. Return to THE NOVEL – Assuming all goes well, I’ll spend the second half of the year focusing on the novel. Just doing that — digging into the work and making progress — would be amazing.

3. Run a Half Marathon – This has definitely been on my list for a couple of years, and I refuse to give it up. I’ve run 10K races before, so running a half marathon should be doable. The key is sticking to a running schedule (4 times per week) that allows me to accomplish training goals.

4. Blog At Least Once a Week – Donna Vorreyer and Kelli Russell Agodon have started up a blogging challenge for poets for the year, in which every participating poet agrees to post something about poetry (craft posts, reviews, interviews, etc.) at least once a week. Since I’m always trying to make sure this blog stays active, I jumped on board. If you want to keep up with my posts without having to think about it, you can subscribe in the sidebar. The list of participating poets is here

5. Other Goals:

  • Attend an open mic or author reading at least once a month
  • Obtain 100 Rejections – in other words, send out oodles of submissions
  • Sketch, poem, and/or journal daily
  • Bring journal everywhere (because it doesn’t help me if it’s sitting on the couch)
  • Meditate every night (10 minute min.)
  • No hitting the snooze button (which is how I get more time in the day to accomplish all the things here)

I have a tendency to want to go very detailed on my goals for the year, and this seems like plenty… and fairly achievable.

What goals or resolutions have you set for yourself? What are you hoping to achieve this year?

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 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

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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Just Keep Swimming

For the past, oh, year or so, I’ve been telling myself, If I can just get past this project or trip or ordeal or whatever, then things will mellow out and I won’t feel so overwhelmed any more. But when the project or trip or ordeal or whatever is completed, another just sprouts up in its place — creating an ongoing saga of overwhelming days that seem to be never ending.

Some days, it seems that all I can do is take advice from Dory:

finding-dory-movie

And just keep swimming, swimming until I get through it all. Keep writing, keep working, keep on keeping on until the next project or trip or ordeal or whatever is done and I can move onto the next.

What I’m Reading

I don’t know what is will me these days, but all of my reading is incredibly slow. Too much going on to focus on books the way I used to, I suppose.

I’m currently reading The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett. This is FogCon homework, since Jama-Everett will be one of the Honored Guests at the event. The story involves people powerful enough to be considered beyond human and the reaching for more power that comes from this. It’s very interesting so far, with a thrilling storyline. I’m not sure where it’s going to go and that makes it fun.

I’m also reading Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, because Okorafor is amazing. And it won both the Hugo and Nebula for Best Novella. It’s really wonderful so far and I’m sure I’ll polish it off tonight.

I’ve paused my progress on Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, due to my desire to get some books read in time for FogCon. Also, despite being a fantastic story has turned into a really slow read for me. It’s unfortunate in the sense that this slow reading with gaps of days in between isn’t really allowing me to immerse myself in the story the way I would like.

What I’m Writing

I have a lot of non-writing projects that are on my desk at the moment, including getting submissions out there, editing work, preparing and posting interviews, etc. — all of which is taking time away from the actual writing and editing of existing work. My 15 minute rule/plan goal is not really working out, so I may have to adjust at the end of March.

A number of good things continue to develop, though, particularly in the collaborative arena. Laura Madeline Wiseman and I continue to meet weekly to write and edit new poems and we’ve produced enough work that we’re starting the process of putting together a collection.

I also met with some people over the weekend to discuss the creation of a web series, which I’ll officially announce later if it becomes finalized. But for the moment, we’ve hashed out the first act of the proposed series and I’m going to start writing scripts for that in the coming weeks. I’m excited to see where this goes.

More rejections coming in, more submissions going out. I tell myself this is all a part of the process, because it is — because even the most famous of writers faced rejection, because rejection is not a sign of your value as a writer. I tell myself this, and most of the time I believe it.

Goals for the Week:

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

The Running Life

Inspired by Sierra De Mulder , I’ve set myself a personal challenge for March. The goal is to run a minimum of 1 mile daily, only about 12-14 minutes for me depending on my pace. After completing six days in a row of running (with some days in which I ran far more than one mile), I’m feeling rather good. Because I’m mixing in some longer runs, the short runs don’t seem that difficult. The hardest thing so far is being in the right headspace to make sure I get out there no matter what.

Longest Run Walk of the Week: 3.63 miles
Total Miles for the Week: 10.51 miles
Total Miles for 2017: 47.2 miles

Linky Goodness

Malanda Jean-Claude examines The Chaos That Makes Poetry: “What does it mean to be a word smith? A writer. I struggle with answers for things I never had dreams to become. A cannon, an act of rebellion. A synagogue, a revolution tucked in the Quran inside of a prayer. Hip-hop laced with the holy ghost, a contradiction in my own walk.”

“Art isn’t easy. It’s not just that we need a revolution in style but also a revolution in audience, distribution, circulation, performance, perception and, indeed, motivation. These revolutions are never a question of being marked as ahead of the times—that is the problem with the label avant-garde, with its flamboyant promise of “being out front.” Rather, the issue is staying in and with the times and not letting the times drown you,” write Charles Bernstein and Tracie Morris in Poetry Needs a Revolution That Goes Beyond Style.

The recent poet spotlight features Jessie Carty discussing her new chapbook Shopping After the Apocalypse.

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.

_____

The 15 Minute Rule: Goals for 2017

GIVE ME JUST

This is the second year in a row that I’ve been hesitant to set forth concrete goals for the year, paranoid perhaps that if I set down anything specific I won’t complete them (a strange paranoia, since I’ve been known to accomplish at least a goal or two in the past). This feeling is mixed up with the general sense of feeling overwhelmed by life, the universe, and everything, not to mention my writing. But I think I’ve settled on an idea that works for me (at the present moment, at least).

Writing Goal: The 15 Minute Rule

In my writing lately, I feel like I’m being pulled in a hundred different directions — with numerous poems and short stories and even a novel all halfway drafted or needing a rewrites. The pileup of things to finish (not including all the ideas that haven’t even been started yet) is so tall that I’m not even sure where to begin.

It reminds me of having to clean a cluttered room — clothing piled on top of papers piled on top of other random things, covering every surface and the floor, the things you need on a daily basis lost underneath the junk. When decluttering a room, I’ve sometimes used a technique recommended to me by a friend. Pick a small section and spend just 15 minutes clearing that out. The next day, pick another section. And the day after that. Until the room is clear.

This year, instead of trying to set specific goals, I’m going to try to apply the 15 Minute Rule to my writing — 15 minutes everyday working towards finishing or editing a draft, sending something out on submission, or drafting something new. Or a total of 1.75 hours for the week.

Rather than trying to nail down the goal of finishing a specific story (or the novel glaring at me from the corner of the room), the 15 Minute Rule will allow me to refocus as needed without feeling guilty about working on something other than what I initially planned.

So far, I’ve been fairly consistent about getting work done, with some editing accomplished and some submissions sent out. As a result, I’ve already received my first rejection. Yay?

Other Goal Stuff

I’ve set myself a goal of reading 70 books for the year, a bit more than the 57 books I finished last year. At some point, I’d like to get back to reading an average of 90 books, like I used to, but keeping myself above 50 still feels acceptable.

My one other concrete goal is to complete a half marathon (finally). I’ve signed up for a gym near my work, so that I can get some runs done in the morning before work. My sisters and I are registered for the She is Beautiful 10K in March, which is a good starting point. If I can keep up the training, getting to a half marathon will be entirely doable.


Do you have goals for the new year? Share them in the comments.


Looking Back on 2016

Just about all the 2016 in review posts I’ve read so far have begun the same way: 2016 sucked, but there were some good things, too. I feel everyone on that sentiment.

If I look back — past the overwhelming days, past the stress — there have been some great moments, a few of which, I’m happy to share here.

The Publishing Game

I sent out a total of 32 submissions in 2016 — including poetry, fiction, and chapbooks — with a total of six acceptances, one finalist placement for a chapbook, 20 rejections, and five still under consideration.

My first collection of poetry, a chapbook titled Pantheon, was accepted for publication this year by ELJ Publications and is scheduled to come out in August 2017. I couldn’t be more excited. The cover art is currently being developed and I’m sure there will be other developments as we get closer to the publication date.

Red Sky, an anthology on the global epidemic of violence against women from Sable BooksSeveral of my solo and collaborative poems cowritten with Laura Madeline Wiseman have appeared in or are forthcoming  in several anthologies, including: The World Retold (The Writers’ Guild of Iowa State University, March 2016); Red Sky, an anthology on the global epidemic of violence against women (Sable Books, September 2016); Write Like You’re Alive 2016 (Zoetic Press, September 2016); and Undead: A Poetry Anthology of Ghouls, Ghosts, and More! (Apex, forthcoming in 2017).

Slink Chunk Press published “The Shadows Flight,” a flash fiction piece. It’s the first piece of fiction that I’ve ever published and I’m grateful to the editors for sharing it with the world.

What I Wrote in 2016

I left the novel on the sideline last year, focussing instead on smaller work like poems and short stories — trying to get drafts completed and edited and sent out into the world. Although I felt a bit lacking in productivity toward the end of 2016, I have to admit that it’s been a fairly productive year. I’m pretty sure I came close to doubling the number of submissions I sent out, which means an increased amount of words were written to enable that.

The bulk of my writing was completed while participating in three writing challenges — for ELJ Write Now, I wrote 30 poems in the 30 days of April as a series of Our Lady poems praising pop culture characters, which became the basis for the soon-to-be-published Pantheon; Zoetic Press’ Write Like Your Alive challenge in the month of July drove me to complete another 23 poem drafts (of varying quality); and finally, The POEMING 2016 in October was a found poetry challenge in which poets were each assigned one novel by Stephen King and were required to create one found or erasure poem per day for all 31 days. I usually sign myself up for a month-long challenge at some point every year for the past few years and rarely complete them. So, I surprised myself by signing up for not just one challenge, but three and completing each one.

I also participated in a Short Film Scriptwriting Challenge through MMtB. Although my script was not one of the ones selected to be produced that night, it was an great experience that provided me with some contacts of people working on indy films in the Bay Area and reminded me how much I want to work on films.

More writing and editing and writing and editing happened throughout 2016, I’m sure, although I can’t remember it at the moment. Nevertheless, I feel confident about the work I’ve done and am feeling good as I move in to 2017, ready to accomplish even more. Maybe even move back toward working on the novel again.

I’ll put together another post on my writing goals for the year in a later post.

Travel in 2016

Most of my travel has been within the U.S. on a variety of work trips. Nashville was a delight — I loved the music and the history and food (oh, my goodness the food). I also ended up in parts of Ohio, Kentucky, and Alabama for a day or two at a time.

Closer to home was a weekend in Yosemite National Park. It was frigidly cold and so, so beautiful, worth every shiver and layer of shirt, sweater, sweater, coat, scarf, gloves, and hat that I had to put on.

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

I also made it out of Dusseldorf, Germany for a week (also for work). It’s a trip I’ve made several times before, made delightful by the fact that my brother joined me. We walked through the Christmas Market, tasted spiced wine, and rode the ferris wheel. So much fun.

Running in 2016

I’ve been continually trying to progress in my running — although like most of my goals, it sort of dropped off toward the last few months of 2016. I haven’t accomplished my goal of running a Half Marathon yet, but I did run the She is Beautiful 10K again, which is always a delight.  Nevertheless, I have made progress  — because despite skipping running for weeks at a time sometime, I can come back and get back into the groove fairly quickly. Apparently, I’ve been consistent enough for my muscles to remember, so that I don’t feel as though I’m starting from scratch each time I restart.

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How was 2016 for you? I’d love to hear about some of your good things.

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

My Top Ten Blog Posts from 2016

I published 82 blog posts in 2016, including this one. More than one per week, which is not too shabby, but not too great either.

In terms of numbers, my most popular (or most read) posts were as follows:

  1. Poet Spotlight: Jenna Le on Whales, Womanhood, and the Writing Life
  2. The whole Whole30 thing
  3. Poet Spotlight: Chella Courington on being “at home with voice and vision”
  4. The Whole30 Thing – Week One
  5. Big Poetry Giveaway 2016!
  6. Thoughts on the Whole30 Thing Now That It’s Over
  7. Poet Spotlight: Pamela Taylor on balance in life and poetry
  8. FOGcon Recap 2016
  9. Top Reads of 2015
  10. Saying good bye to David Bowie

It’s interesting to look back and see which of my posts gathered the most interest. On the one hand, posting here is entirely for myself, something to keep me engaged with words and with the books I read. On the other hand, it’s also my author website and ideally I’d like to increase the readership. Looking at the numbers, it seems clear that I need to reach beyond the weekly updates, providing more content, such as Poet Spotlights, event reviews, and longer essay style posts might gain more interest.

I’m stoked that the Poet Spotlights fall into this category. I enjoy helping my fellow poets get the word out about their work and I would like to do more posts like this more often in the coming year — a minimum of one a month, although if I can do more that would be great.

It doesn’t surprise me that the Whole30 posts were in the top ten either. There’s a wide audience for nutrition and food, although it’s not something I’m likely to post on much in the future.

The majority of my blog posts — at a rough guess, I would say at least half — are the weekly update posts that I do. These are great for keeping me accountable and active in posting, but are probably somewhat less interesting to readers (a fact that is reflected in the number of reads they get).

As a side note, I find it interesting that a number of posts from previous years seemed to still be going strong, such as St. Michael’s a jerk and other paintings at the National Gallery (November 2014), which was my second most visited post of the year.

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.

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

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.

Writing in Chaos

Although I’ve pursued the more solitary act of writing poetry and fiction, I’ve been interested in the process of filmmaking since high school. The collaborative nature of the medium, in which a handful to hundreds of people with their own skill sets, come together to tell a story is fascinating to me. As an entry point into the medium, I’ve tried to write screenplays (both short and feature length) over the years and have even made some awkward attempts at directing with no idea of what I was doing and no understanding of the complexities involved in the process.

Other than the money and (more importantly) time aspects of the filmmaking process, the biggest obstacle for me over the years was trying to figure out how to track down a community of filmmakers to work with. I didn’t even know where to begin. So, I was stoked to discover MMTB – Movie Making Throughout the Bay, which not only provides that sense of community, but also has a “get in there and get movies made” attitude with workshops and challenges that focus on making moviemaking happen.

Over the the weekend, I participated MMTB’s first Writers & Actors Short Film Challenge. Writers showed up at the MMTB headquarters in Rodeo, CA — and interesting jumble of a building with rooms that can be staged in a variety of ways — were given a set of guidelines and four hours to complete up to three scripts. The guidelines were simple enough: keep the story under three minutes, include all three available actors, set the story using one of the rooms in the building, and no special effects. After four hours of writing, we gave feedback and voted on the scripts, and the top three scripts were filmed that night.

I managed to complete one script to my own satisfaction — which was not selected for filming. But I received a lot of positive feedback for my incredibly awkward bathroom scene, which starts out humorous and becomes a story about one of those unexpected moments in which two people connect. I also received some great feedback about how to make the short script better. (Someone said the script made them incredibly uncomfortable because it was set in a bathroom, which made me laugh because uncomfortable was what I was going for.)

In general, I was impressed with the number of quality screenplays that the group was put together and I had a great time sticking around to watch the scripts become films. All of the actors were equally impressive, memorizing their lines on the fly, getting into character, doing a rapid shoot, then switching up for the next one and doing it all over again.

On set at MMTB in Rodeo, CA.

ANNOUNCEMENTS!

I seem to have forgotten entirely about making any announcements in a while, so I’ve got quite a few of them to share. Woo!

First, I’m incredibly honored that the editors of Noxnbinary Review has nominated my essay, Beyond Shahrazad: Feminist Portrayals of Women in The Arabian Nights, for Best of the Net 2016.

Several poems from my forthcoming chapbook, Pantheon, have been published online. You can read three poems — “Harley Quinn,” “Rogue,” and “Ursula,” over at Issue 8 of Yellow Chair Review, and a fourth poem, “Sarah Connor: Our Lady of Self Determination,” within Issue 26 of Literary Orphans.

“The Tenth Sister,” a prose/hybrid poem that is part of a series based on the Twelve Dancing Princesses fair tale, has also just been published in the Write Like You’re Alive 2016 anthology from Zoetic Press, September 2016. The anthology, which I also helped curate, is free and full of tons of great writing.

And last but not least, “Because Her Face Fades,” a poem I cowrote with Laura Madeline Wiseman, was recently published in Faery Magazine #36, Autumn 2016,

What I’m Reading

China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station is amazing but presents slow, slow, slow reading for me. It’s a little too challenging for my overworked brain right now, but I keep pressing on.

Still reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, as well.

What I’m Writing

In addition, to the script challenge I mentioned, I’ve also launched into the THE POEMING 2016, which my first three found poems based on Stephen King’s The Plant up at Tendrils of Leaves and ready for your reading pleasure.

Usually when creating found poems, I work in erasure (like this, for example), in which I take a printed text and blackout words until all that’s left is the poem. It’s a very restrictive way of doing found poetry, as you have to move down the page in such a way that it remains readable, but it also provides the ability to incorporated fun visual elements.

But I’m trying something different with THE POEMING, opening myself up to using any word on the page in any order. But since I’m still drawn to the tactile sensation of writing on paper, I end of creating wild intricate webs of lines and circles words (as pictured below). It’s a fun sort of chaos and somehow I’m still able to decipher it as I work through a page — despite sometimes getting temporarily lost in my own maze.

Goals for the Week:

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

Linky Goodness

“That book you’re writing is mewling again in the dark. It’s a half-formed thing — all unspooled sinew and vein, its mushy head rising up out of the mess of its incomplete body, groaning and gabbling about this life of misery it leads. Its life is shit because you haven’t finished it. It’s flumping along on stump legs, pawing its way through your hard drive, bleating for attention. It needs words. It needs plots. It needs resolution,” says Chuck Wendig in his post, “Here’s How To Finish That Fucking Book, You Monster

And since it’s a King month, here Why Stephen King Spends ‘Months and Even Years’ Writing Opening Sentences.

Also, 40 Jokes That You’ll Only Get If You’re A Grammar Nerd

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?

Moon Glowing and other things

Glowing with the Moon is among my favorite open mic events. It’s a summer event, hosted outdoors by Lorenz Dumuk at the beautiful School of Arts & Culture @MHP in San Jose. The combination of the outdoor venue and the wonderful people who come to participate always makes it a relaxing and enlightening event. I read an older poem of mine and listened to many other poets read their own words. Tshaka Campbell was particularly powerful — his performances usually are — and I hope he comes out with a book soon, so that I can enjoy his poetry as often as I want.

Announcements

Red Sky, an anthology on the global epidemic of violence against women forthcoming from Sable Books, will feature the poem “The Matchsticks I Sold for Him,” which was cowritten by Laura Madeline Wiseman and myself. I’m not sure of the date of publication yet, but will let you know when I do.

Patreon logoQuite a while back (like, two years ago) I wrote a post on the crowdfunding platform, Patreon, which enables fans to make monthly contributions to artists in order to keep them creating new stuff. There are a lot of great writers and publications on there (some of which I mention in the first post).

After spending some time contributing to other creators on Patreon and a considerable amount of time dithering about my own worth as a writer, I’ve decided to create my own artist’s page on the site. This means that — if you love my writing and are so inclined — you can contribute money every month to help me out in this whole writing thing. I still feel really weird about this, still doubt whether my writing is good enough to have fans, still question whether I’ve provided enough rewards for backers — but I did it anyway, because the worst that could happen is that no one contributes and my page just sits at zero for forever, leaving me exactly where I am now.

What I’m Reading

I’ve started on a reread of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and its interesting reading this now, because I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a writer compared to when I first read it.

Although I haven’t started it yet, SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki is next up on my list (I’ll probably be getting into it tonight, actually). I’m sure I’ll dig this one, because I also really enjoyed her book, This One Summer.

What I’m Writing

After last week’s hiding away from all things words, the Glowing with the Moon event was a breath of air invigorating me back to the page. I was able to come clear with one prose poem draft and I was able to shape is into a “final” draft — which felt good.

I also turned to a not-quite-drafted Hansel and Gretel retelling, but I just sort poked at it with a long stick a couple of times without getting too close. I know I’ll be able to get this one out eventually, maybe even sooner rather than later. But there’s still some mental processing going on.

Goals for the Week:

  • Work on that short story

Linky Goodness

“Many fantasy authors wrestle with the desire to produce historically plausible narratives that are not innately offensive and oppressive by modern standards of gender, sexuality, and race relations. This is a worthwhile struggle; there are far too many lazy works that blame their prevalence of rape and misogyny on “historical accuracy.” At the same time, patriarchy and sexism have actual societal consequences; you cannot just create a world where women can become fighters and everyone wears a magic birth control necklace and expect that nothing else will change. Adding divorce into the mix is one means of balancing gender and marital dynamics, without sacrificing the coherence and logic of a fictional society,” writes Anise K. Strong in Beyond Happily Ever After: Why Divorce Needs to Be An Option in Fantasy Fiction.

And because I love watching great movie trailers, here is Max Covill on A24 and the Art of the Movie Trailer.

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

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.”

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.

I really don't know how to write this post

The recent mass shooting in Orlando is taking up much of my heart and soul, so I’m putting my usual review down lower in the article and skipping to links I’ve found to be important and/or helpful.

It’s not enough to be mournful or to send prayers, as John Scalzi points out in his heart rending piece on “thoughts and prayers” in the face of continued violence. There’s a point where action has to be taken, and I’m looking for ways to offer what actual physical help I can.

The Huffington Post has a piece on How To Help Orlando Shooting Victims And Their Families.

Vox explains America’s gun problem:

“No other developed country in the world has anywhere near the same rate of gun violence as America. The US has nearly six times the gun homicide rate as Canada, more than seven times as Sweden, and nearly 16 times as Germany…

To understand why that is, there’s another important statistic: The US has by far the highest number of privately owned guns in the world.”

Petition to Ban Assault Weapons.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t had time to do much reading the last couple of weeks and so I haven’t started in to any novels or full length collections. The next on the list is The BFG by Roald Dahl, a reread of a book I loved when I was a kid. Something nostalgic and simple and sweet would be boon right now.

What I’m Writing

Last week was incredibly busy with deadlines looming both at my day job and for the chapbook I’ve been working on all through May and June — so busy that I never got around to writing about my time at Bay Area Book Fest, where I hung out with my Zoetic Press peeps. But Allie Marini wrote about it, so you can read that.

The chapbook is almost done — which is great, since the deadline is just two days away. Over the weekend, I’ve editing the hell out of a lot of poems, culled several that were just not coming together the way I wanted, and finalized many more. There are three poems remaining that are not quite ready, but I really want to include, so I’m desperately trying to work through them in time to submit.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish and submit the 30/30 poetry collection
  • Breathe

I really don’t know how to write this post

The recent mass shooting in Orlando is taking up much of my heart and soul, so I’m putting my usual review down lower in the article and skipping to links I’ve found to be important and/or helpful.

It’s not enough to be mournful or to send prayers, as John Scalzi points out in his heart rending piece on “thoughts and prayers” in the face of continued violence. There’s a point where action has to be taken, and I’m looking for ways to offer what actual physical help I can.

The Huffington Post has a piece on How To Help Orlando Shooting Victims And Their Families.

Vox explains America’s gun problem:

“No other developed country in the world has anywhere near the same rate of gun violence as America. The US has nearly six times the gun homicide rate as Canada, more than seven times as Sweden, and nearly 16 times as Germany…

To understand why that is, there’s another important statistic: The US has by far the highest number of privately owned guns in the world.”

Petition to Ban Assault Weapons.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t had time to do much reading the last couple of weeks and so I haven’t started in to any novels or full length collections. The next on the list is The BFG by Roald Dahl, a reread of a book I loved when I was a kid. Something nostalgic and simple and sweet would be boon right now.

What I’m Writing

Last week was incredibly busy with deadlines looming both at my day job and for the chapbook I’ve been working on all through May and June — so busy that I never got around to writing about my time at Bay Area Book Fest, where I hung out with my Zoetic Press peeps. But Allie Marini wrote about it, so you can read that.

The chapbook is almost done — which is great, since the deadline is just two days away. Over the weekend, I’ve editing the hell out of a lot of poems, culled several that were just not coming together the way I wanted, and finalized many more. There are three poems remaining that are not quite ready, but I really want to include, so I’m desperately trying to work through them in time to submit.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish and submit the 30/30 poetry collection
  • Breathe

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.

Legacy of Poetry

The Center for Literary Arts at San Jose University (SJU) hosted Legacy of Poetry Day at the Hammer Theatre on Thursday. The event started off with music and presentations of theater and folkloric from SJU, followed by readings from poet laureates from around California, culminating in a reading by U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.

Herrera read some amazing pieces, including at one point a poem about laundry written on the back of an actual laundry bag. He has a generosity of spirit that’s really wonderful. Following the readings, he did a series of signings and for each one, he sat the person down next to them and spoke for a short moment about poetry while he signed.

Alejandro Murguía, the San Francisco poet laureate emeritus, was equally amazing during his reading in which he played off the other poets and performances from the evening — having either come up with the words on the spot or just before going out on stage. It was one of those performances that socks you in the chest because it was that good.

I was also blown away by the work of Arlene Biala, poet laureate of Santa Clara County, who read a deeply moving poem.

What I’m Reading

Apparently, I missed out on a thing called Anne of Green Gables as a child. So here I am reading it and I’m almost done and it’s fairly lovely in a wistful, hopeful way.

Still working on In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood. In the second section, she’s included portions of past essays that analyze SF books and worlds. Some of it’s interesting, some of it’s a repeat of what she’s already discussed.

What I’m Writing

All those thirty poems I wrote during April? Well, now they need editing. A few are almost ready to go. Others need a lot of overhaul. So, I’m starting in. I’m finding myself being super critical of them, even hating some. Mostly, I am just trying not to despair, because sitting around wailing isn’t at all productive.

But that’s all kinda part of the process.

In a similar theme, I speed-wrote the draft of a new poem this week, while my mom was sitting near by. She asked me to read it aloud, so I did. It was too soon. The poem was too rough, resembled nothing of what it had been in my head, fell flat across the polite silence of the room. I should have waited to share it, held on to it and waited to share it when the timing was right as I usually do. No one said anything. The conversation moved politely away from the scope of poetry without commentary. I quietly despaired.

That’s kinda part of the process, too.

Goals for the Week:

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

Linky Goodness

Mallory Ortberg on Publishing, Weight, and Writers Who Are “Hard To Look At”

“I was an escapist. That was what, finally although implicitly, he was accusing me of. For a long time I felt vaguely ashamed of being an escapist. But recently I have decided to reclaim the word,” writes Theodora Goss in her lovely piece, Writing My Mother’s Ghosts.

Sonya Vatomsky on The Gendered Experience of Fear & Better Living Through Horror Movies:

“I’ve been watching a lot of horror movies after my assault.

This surprises people, women in particular — horror as a genre is so overrun with male fears and fantasies that it’s almost impossible to separate the human desire to feel fear in a safe, contained environment from allyship with the male fear narrative. They are conflated. Empirically, depending on how broad the range of movies you watch, they can be identical. Because in the same way that a nearly all-male literary canon shapes our personal narratives, male identity also shapes our fears and our perceptions of what should be feared.”

In her piece On Robots as a Metaphor for Marginalization: The Stories We’re Not Telling, Maddy Myers writes, “Much like how the mutants in X-Men serve as a catch-all metaphor for various forms of marginalization, so too do robots end up in that role. They most often serve this purpose in the stories that have a robot in a starring role; a story that is about a robot will generally also be a metaphor for oppression.”

Ending Poetry Month with a Bang

and by bang, I mean the pounding of my fingers against the keyboard as I desperately worked to finish the number of challenges I set for myself at the beginning of the month.

Sunday, I travelled up to San Francisco for an evening of words at The Alchemy Slam & Open Mic, located at F8 bar & lounge. Unfortunately, I mixed up the times, so I missed the first half of the show, but caught the second half, which was plenty full up of amazing poets whose words filled the room with feelings. The Grand Slam Champion, Casey Gardner, with Hadas Goshen, Kyle Liddle, Apollo, and Mic Ting rounding out the Alchemy Slam Team, which will be going on to nationals.

Announcements!

  • Winners for the Big Poetry Giveaway! Brian Wong and Renee will soon receive copies of Southern Cryptozoology by Allie Marini and A Heart With No Scars by Brennan DeFrisco, respectively. (Winners were selected by a random number generator.)
  • Dirty Chai Press announced the winner of their Dirty Chaps Contest — Unapology by Courtney Gustafson — to whom I offer a hearty congrats! I’m also thrilled to note that my manuscript, The Things I Own, was named as a finalist!
  • Laura Madeline Wiseman and I have have received an acceptance for two poems — “Eleven Wild Brothers” and “Maestros of the Farmyard” — for publication in The World Retold anthology, edited and published by The Writers’ Guild of Iowa State University.

I managed to post three poet spotlights this month with three wonderful women:

What I’m Reading

I’ve finished up the 30 selfies with poetry on my Instagram, which highlighted both new poets I’ve discovered and works that I’ve loved for years. I’ll list my complete poetry reading for the month tomorrow.

Still working on In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood. So far she’s shared how she perceived genre as more of a fluid thing and her reasoning behind using the term “speculative” instead of “science fiction” to describe her own work.

What I’m Writing

There were a few days toward the end of the month in which I began to doubt my ability to complete the 30/30 challenge. It wasn’t the number of poems left, as there were only about a handful left to write. But at a certain point I began to loathe every word I put down onto the page. It happens.

With reminders from fellow writers that these are meant to be drafts, not completed poems, I worked through the frustration. One of the ways I did this was to switch from screen to pen and paper for several poems and just free wrote as fast as I could to outpace my inner critic.

And it worked. I completed a total of 30 poems in 30 days and I feel good about most of them. I’ve never managed to do anything like that before. So, I’m feeling rather good.

Poems I completed last week (all will be taken down at the end of May, maybe):

Goal for the Week:

  • Take some time to chill.
  • Start editing 30/30 poetry collection.
  • Write at least one poem from Twelve chapbook.

Linky Goodness

“The practice of developing any kind of spiritual practice, anything that brings you greater awareness of yourself and your relationship to the world around you, is a process of stepping into a fire and allowing the flames to eat you whole. It is not gentle. Often, it even seems unkind,” writes Robin Lee on the dark side of being full of light.

100 Must-Read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels By Female Authors!

Playing a game of catch up

What I’m Reading

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

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

What I’m Poeming

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

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

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

Goal for the Week:

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

Linky Goodness

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

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

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

Burning Tales

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

Studio Bongiorno

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

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

What I’m Reading

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

What I’m Poeming

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

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

Goal for the Week:

  • Get those poems per day written and posted!

Linky Goodness

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

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

Poetry 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

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.

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.

All the Birds … and other things

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

All the Birds in the Sky description:

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

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

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

What I’m Reading

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

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

What I’m Writing

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

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

Goal for the Week:

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

Linky Goodness

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

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

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

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.

Transitioning into the New Year

Looking back on 2015…

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

In Writing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Non-Writing Things:

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

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

Looking forward to 2016…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things I Learned from the Brainery Workshop

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

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

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

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

Things I learned about craft…

The Magic in the Gutter

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

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

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

Draw from Your Passion

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

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

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

Things I learned about myself as a writer…

Apparently I CAN Finish a Short Story

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

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

It feels pretty damn good.

My Super Power is Voice

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

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

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

What now…

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

Still recharging

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

What I’m Reading

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

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

What I’m Writing

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

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

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

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

  • Edit a short story. 

Room to rest

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

What I’m Reading

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

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

What I’m Writing

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

Goals for the Week:

  • Edit another short story to completion.

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Twelve

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

Linky Goodness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m Reading

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

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

What I’m Writing

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

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

Goals for the Week:

  • Edit last story for class.
  • Finish Persephone poem

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Eleven

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

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

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

Linky Goodness

Gratitude and things

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

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

What I’m Reading

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

What I’m Writing

See Brainery Workshop below.

Goals for the Week:

  • Edit two more stories for class.

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Ten

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

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

Where I’ll Be

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

Linky Goodness

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. 

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”

A plethora of words and writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m Reading

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

What I’m Writing

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

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

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week Two

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

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

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

Linky Goodness

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

What day is it?

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

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

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

What I’m Reading

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

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

What I’m Writing

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

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

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

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

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week One

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

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

Linky Goodness

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

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.”

Clinging to Rockface

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading “Clinging to Rockface”

It's all about pacing

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

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

What I’m Reading

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

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

What I’m Writing

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

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

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

Submission Bonanza

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

Linky Goodness

Submission Bonanza 2015


Jaclyn Bergamino over at Lightening Droplets announced her plans to once again do Submission Bonanza, a challenge to send out 30 submissions in the 30 days of June.

It’s a fantastic challenge and, since I’m currently trying to stick my neck out more, I’m planning to throw my hat in as well. I’ve been slow about getting around to submitting, mostly because I’ve been slow to get around to editing first drafts. This might just be the kick in the pants that I need to get a move on.

Realistically, I don’t know that I’ll be able to manage a full 30 submissions, but I might be able to stretch myself and send out 20 submissions this month, which would be awesome.

So here I go!

Organizing the Writing Life

My poems, stories, novel, and script drafts exist in various stacks, clumps, and file folders of uncertain date or destination, making it a difficult task to track down the latest version of anything. I have been thinking about how I might be able to better organize this mess, pulling both the physical paperwork and digital drafts together into a system that works on both sides.

After a little internet searching I found a system online shared by Sarah Selecky that might work, at least digitally. The system breaks things down into five file folders: Fresh Ingredients (notes, thoughts, ideas, etc.), Cooking (drafts in progress), Ready (finished pieces ready to be submitted), Published, and Leftovers (pieces that are not actively being worked on but you don’t want to throw out).

I’m trying to figure out how to work collections into the mix, such as chapbooks that are still “Cooking” but would include “Ready” poems. One of the things I’m hoping this system will do is to help me get rid of confusing duplicate drafts of some of my pieces.

The system also won’t help with filing hard copies of paper, but I’m trying to think of how I can use better organization on my laptop to reduce the amount of paper I have on hand. One thought is that I should type up all the notes and snippets I have in journals and on scraps of paper, and then I can toss the scraps or store the notebooks out of the way.

I also have print outs of poetry and fiction in various stages of drafts (some with reader notes and some without) that I need to organize in my filing cabinet. Another thought I had was to have a file for drafts with handwritten notes, which would then be moved into a “changes made” file once they had been entered into the computer.

I’m still toying with it all, and I would love to hear recommendations on how others manage their drafts so that they can find them easily.

What makes a story a story and other thoughts at the Tate Modern

Untitled Painting by
Untitled Painting (1965) by Michael Baldwin

As I was walking through the Tate Modern, I came upon “Untitled Painting” (1965) by Michael Baldwin, which is a work with a mirror attached to a canvas. The description noted that historically painting has often been referred to as window to the world, a perspective captured within the frame. However, the mirror in this piece shifts the gaze of the window, revealing the viewer in the act of viewing rather than an image the artist made themselves. In addition to being the viewer, you also become the subject of the painting as well.

As I stood observing myself, now the living and temporary subject of the painting, I started to think about the nature of art and the artists who create it. Since it’s been years since I’ve taken an art history class and I don’t tend to speak critically of art, bear with me as I may misinterpret some things.

Continue reading “What makes a story a story and other thoughts at the Tate Modern”

How to Dig Yourself Out of a Creative Slump

It’s an awful, crappy (insert additional expletives) feeling when you’re in a creative slump, no matter what you’re working on, whether its writing, painting, or a new business proposal. Everyone goes through it — and yet it manages to be a terribly isolated feeling, like you’re trapped inside a dank, dark cave with no sign of rescue on the horizon.

Here are some things you can to do to help pull yourself out of the mire. Or, rather, I should say, here are a few things I’m currently doing to try to dig myself out of my own current slump. As with most bits of advice, your mileage may vary.

Seek Community Engagement

Go out and find fellow artists, writers, creators with which to interact. You can do this online, but if you’re really stuck, I recommend seeking a face-to-face experience. It provides a different level of osmosis. On a really good day, you can feel their excitement, their creativity energy coming off them. I don’t think of this as stealing, so much as basking in their sunlight. It’s great for gathering inspiration

My most recent foray was to attend Writers with Drinks at the Make-Out Room in San Francisco this weekend. Charlie Jane Anders is a live electrical wire on the stage and she always selects amazing writers to perform. It was a fantastic event and I felt energized by the end, excited to get some of my own words down.

Continue reading “How to Dig Yourself Out of a Creative Slump”

Just 10 Minutes

The “write just 10 minute a day” goal worked well last week. It got me to write five out of seven days, and as I figured, I ended up writing for more than 10 minutes each time.

My word count was especially boosted when friend Yvette and I got together on Thursday for a writing session. I had some panic approaching the blank page, but pushed through and churned out 1800 words for the new opening Adam chapters for the werewolf novel that I swear will get written this year despite it all dagnabit.

So this week I’m keeping with the 10 minutes per day plan and adding send out a poetry submission to the list. Both totally doable.

Good Reads: Tom Pollock has a great guest post up on Chuck Wendig’s blog about Writing Around a Day Job, which is especially pertinent for me right now. Key advice: Make a time plan and stick to it. Yes, sir.

How did it get so late so soon?

“Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” — Dr. Seuss

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Photo: Petra Dr – Creative Commons

I’ve felt the weight of of time these last few weeks. I woke up this weekend amazed that July has passed me by, and I wasn’t entirely sure how it happened. I had this flash of terrifying premonition that I would wake up tomorrow and I would be 90 with nothing written or completed, my life already vanished before my eyes in a great big “Where has it all gone?”

I’m probably being over dramatic.

Okay, I know I’m being over dramatic. But I also know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Life seems to fly by so fast sometimes, especially when you’re not actively engaging in the things you/re passionate about — as I’ve been doing these past few month. I have been actively avoiding writing any resembling my novel and most things resembling stories or poems, with a few exceptions.

That said, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about spending every available moment of the past week with my cousin, who is in town from Alaska. Hurrah for family love and laughing about our own strange families and drinking three bottles of wine in a single night!

In other news.

I have been upping my running as of late. After completing a 5K, I was all mentally geared up to go for a 10K, but fell off running for a while. I’m trying to run Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, strength train on Wednesday. If Life will let me fit in a Thursday run, then I’m trying to do that, too. One the whole, I’m feeling good about my progress — despite having to rebuild my endurance to 3 miles again — and I’m starting to look for a 10K to sign up for in November or December.

Though in the meantime, I’m stoked about the upcoming Run with Zombies, fun run 5K, which I’m planning to sign up for, if I can convince a family member or friend to join me (my usual race buddy hates horror and won’t touch the race with a ten foot machete).

Back to the time thing.

As a way to assuage my feeling of lost time, I’m setting a goal of writing for a minimum of 10 minutes per day. While that may seem low, it’s just about the right amount for how busy I am at the moment. Also, once I get started, it’s unlikely that I’ll actually stop at the 10 minute mark.

So that’s it, goals and such for the week.

How are you these days? Do you feel like the forward progress of time is against you? Or are you seizing the day?

__________

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.

Review: Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

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Not actually the last book you’ll need on screenwriting.

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder provides a guide to screenwriting from an industry perspective, focusing on what a writer needs to do to prep for the act of writing. These techniques include creating a logline (or one-line), watching and analyzing movies in your chosen genre, creating a beat sheet, and building a board to layout scenes as a form of outlining. Skipping over actually writing process, he then reveals some screenplay “rules” and somethings to look for during edits if the finished draft isn’t working.

Continue reading “Review: Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder”

“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 Patronage Model for Artists, Writers, and Creators

I rather love Kickstarter, because I love seeing interesting projects come to life and seeing my funds culminate in a tangible results. This may mean that I get to end up with a copy of the book, a print of the art, or a DVD of the film I supported, which is a nice gift in exchange for my money. Or, it may just mean that I get to see an artist who I respect and whose work I love get to complete a project that they’re passionate about. It’s awesome.

So, I was very curious to learn about Patreon, a new crowdfunding website based on the traditional patronage model, which used to involve kings, queens, and other royalty or the wealthy providing funds to allow artists to continue their work.

The website says, “Patreon was created to enable fans to support and engage with the artists and creators they love. Empowering a new generation of creators, Patreon is bringing patronage back to the 21st century.”

The site is similar to Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms in the sense that it allows fans to directly interact and fund artists and creators they enjoy. However, rather than funding a single big project, Patreon allows fans to provide funding for an artist or authors ongoing work. Here’s a short video about how it works.

I love the idea, particularly for those artists and creators who may focusing on ongoing work and art, rather than the big idea/project model that Kickstarter supports. It could help to keep some artists working when they might not otherwise be able to.

Continue reading “A Patronage Model for Artists, Writers, and Creators”

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Reality has been kicking my ass lately, but I’m managing to get a few swings in finally. Bits and pieces of life are starting to fall into place, resembling at least an amalgamation of order.

The sun dappled through the trees as I took my run this weekend, a little more warmly than I would normally like, but it was lovely out nonetheless. Since falling off my running habit a few weeks ago, I’m not quite back to where I was in terms of distance. I only have the rest of this week to train, because the She Is Beautiful 5k is on Sunday. I’m sure sure the adrenaline and energy from my fellow runners will help me get through race day with a smile.

Writing progress has been minimal at best. I opened up my laptop this weekend with the intent to write new chapters for The Cold Nothing Taste of Winter (formerly Under the Midday Moon), but couldn’t jump into the groove of words and sentences and paragraphs and all that lot.

So, instead I gathered all my printouts and started putting together a spreadsheet of chapters written and chapters yet to write and problems that still need to be addressed — which I consider to be good progress. I have more work to do on the spreadsheet and it’s helping me to wrap my head around what I need to get done and how I might approach things, which is a relief.

To Do This Week

  • Finish the novel spreadsheet
  • Edit “The Shadow’s Flight” short story to meet flash fic markets and send it out
  • Write and/or edit one of the poems on deck
  • Run the She Is Beautiful 5k!

Good Reads

1. The Bare Knuckle Writer presents an awesome blog post on “Character EDC.”

EDC = Every Day Carry, or the things you always take with you no matter what.

“The things a person always has on them tells you what kind of person they are. A sentimentalist? A minimalist? A survivalist? All those people will have different things.”

This immediately had me thinking about the characters in my novel and what they always carry with them. Claire, for example, always carries the keys to her dad’s cage around her neck, even though she only needs them at home. So far, I’ve only referenced the keys a few times in the story, the times when she’s needed them. But since she always wears them, even when she doesn’t need them, I can see her wearing them as a kind of charm, a comforting talisman when things are going wrong.

Now I’m going to have to think about other characters and what they carry around and what it means to them, even if they’re not conscious of it.

2. The Winter 2014 issue of Goblin Fruit is out!

Go forth, friends, and read beautiful things. (^_^)

Three Bits of Bad Writing Advice

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I’ve seen several posts that have their list of things they consider bad writing advice, some of which I agree with and others I don’t.* Like most writers, I’ve received various bits of bad advice. Here are a few moments or pieces of advice that stand out most for me.

(PS. I did not intend this to be so dang long. Sorry.)

1. Forget King

Sitting in the college councilor’s office, a small cramps space with a too large desk covered in stacks of marked up pages, I asked about what it would take to major in Creative Writing. My transferring to the UC had complicated the matter, because some of the classes I took at community weren’t applicable at university.

The councilor told me about my options and asked, “Who are your favorite authors.”

I grinned and said, “Toni Morrison, Amy Tan, and Stephen King.”**

She blinked and then wrote something down in her notes. “I wouldn’t mention that last one.”

I continued to smile and nodded, even though my skin went cold and embarrassment began to make me blush. It would be impossible for me to forget Stephen King as an influence on me as a reader and a writer. I spent too many hours in high school, curled up, pages deep in the blood drenched and horrifying worlds he created. Reading his books was like an obsession.

But the councilor’s message was clear: If you’re going to be a writer, you need to be a serious writer and read serious things.***

I remember walking out of that office feeling conflicted. Why shouldn’t I talk about something that meant so much to me?

The conclusion I came to — Screw it. My love of genre (scifi, fantasy, horror) ran deep, and I wasn’t going to let that go just because I was told it wasn’t good enough. I was going to write what I wanted to write.

Whether stories, poems, scripts, whatever, a writer usually writes their best when writing stories that mean something to them instead of trying to write what someone else thinks they should write.

My recommendation: Move toward your passion. Write what moves you to write.

(Ultimately, I did not get a degree in Creative Writing, though this was more due to time constraints than to my reaction to the councilor’s advice.)

2a. Join the Bandwagon

My dad has always been encouraging of my desire to be a writer, for which I’m grateful. However, he also comes at this encouragement from the perspective that I will eventually be a best selling author of the sort to be able to live in a giant mansion and buy my dad a Cessna airplane (he used to be a bush pilot in Alaska). Goddess love him, he wants his little girl to have oodles and oodles of money so she never has to worry every again.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had that went something (sort of) like this:

Me: Yeah, so I’m working on this project that I’m really excited about! *describes story*

My Dad: That’s great! I love that idea! I’m so proud of you!

Me: Thanks!

My Dad: But you know you should do is check out what these famous authors did. You know, Stephen Kind and James Patterson. Just copy what they do, and you’ll be able to make a lot of money.

Me: Um, it doesn’t work that way, dad. *tries to explain publishing* So, you see, only a tiny percentage of writers actually become rich and famous.

My Dad: Well, I don’t know about that. I know! How about you write a vampire novel! I know they’re really popular and you could sell a lot of books!

Me: That’s not going to happen, dad.

My Dad: Why not?

Me: Because, I don’t want to write a vampire novel. I don’t feel moved to write a vampire novel. When I do, I’ll write one, but right now? No. Nope. Not going to happen.

My Dad: But…

From there, the conversation would usually loop for a long while with the result that either I got frustrated or we both started laughing.

Doing what everyone else is doing will not guarantee fame or riches any more than writing what you love. Plus, it tends to lead toward weaker writing in my experience.

Creating stuff is hard work. Especially if there is not guarantee that there is a reward when you’re done making it. So, I figure, write what you’re dying to write, what’s overflowing from yourself, or simply what amuses you.

2b. Selling Out is Bad

On the opposite side of Bad Advice #2 is the concept that “selling out” and it being an evil, evil thing that only bad people do. This is based on the common idea that true artists are starving and/or suffering, and that artists or writers or musicians who make lots of money have sold their souls for profit, sending the quality of their works into the fiery pits of hell.

Most of which is hokum. This idea that artists and writers create work for the love and the love alone has also spawned a great number of people who believe artist and writers don’t need to be paid for their hard work.

And, as I mentioned in #2a, creating stuff is hard work.

It’s not always easy to get paid for that work for a whole lot of reasons, but there is nothing wrong with mild compromises, or taking jobs for the money, or doing what you need to do as a writer to keep going.

Making money is not a bad thing. In fact I like making money. It puts food on the table and lets me do things, like buy books and go to the movies.

(In fact, if Kim Kardashian were to walk up to me and offer to pay me thousands of dollars to ghost writer her memoir, I would do it in a heart beat.**** Because those bucks will help me pay bills and keep writing all the other things I love writing.)

The key, I believe, is to keep a balance from doing work that you love and find inspiring, while also obtaining an income that you and your loved ones can live off. (If you’re going to say that that’s easier said than done, I will agree with you. I’m still trying to get there myself.)

3. Almost Anything Involving the Word “Should”
(or “must” or “have to” or any variation that implies “this way is the only way”)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that once you declare yourself to be a writer, someone will tell you what you should be doing to be to be successful. Or at least, it’s something I’ve seen happen a lot to writers and have had happen to me.

Though, I admit that I have been guilty of offering this kind of advice. Once (or twice) during a Writing Gang meeting, I’ve thrown my hand in the air and said to my fellow comrade in writing, “Why aren’t you submitting your work? You should! You work is good! I insist you submit your work!”

But the thing is, she has no interest in submitting her work for professional publication. When another member of our group asked her when she was going to submit one of her novels, she said, “Never.”

What she’s done is self publish them online (you can find links on her GoodReads profile), and then spends exactly no time marketing them. She has no website, no blog, and does no self promotion. For her it seems, just writing the novels and posting them is what she wants. It makes her happy. Who am I to tell her she should do it any different?

Writing and developing a writing career is a strangely exploratory act. There is no clear map that can lead you from point A (beginning) to point B (success). No clear definition of what success even is.

For me, advice is great and wonderful. I’m happy to take in advice by the bucketfuls. I dig through it, sift it, and eventually through experimentation find something that works. At least for this story or this poem.

The next story or next poem might require a different method, the absorption of different advice.

.

Anyway, that’s it. Hopefully I didn’t accidentally slip in some bad advice while talking to you about bad advice. 😉

What advice have you received as a writer that you found to be bad or not work for you?

___________

Good Reads:  Deborah Lee Luskin gives some excellent advice about the importance of word order in her post, “The English Language On Word Order Depends.” Something I think every one forgets or mixes up and is good to be reminded of.

Call for Submissions: Kaleidoscope is an anthology of contemporary YA science fiction and fantasy with a focus on diverse perspectives. “We hope to fill with a variety of exciting tales, happy and sad, adventurous and meditative. We’re not simply looking for cookie-cutter vampire or urban fantasy stories, but for things that transport us and subvert our expectations.” Payment: 5 cents per word (USD). Deadline: Decemberr 31, 2013. Click for more info.

___________

*In most cases, the advice isn’t necessarily “bad,” but tends to assume it is right in every case without taking into account that for every piece of advice that works wonderfully for the adviser, there is a writer out there who would offer the exact opposite advice. For example, “write everyday” is perfectly good advice; it works for many people. Except when it doesn’t; then, it becomes bad advice.

**This was my stock answer throughout much of college. Now, my current list looks of favorites would look quite different, and is actually be quite long. Toni Morrison is still a favorite, but Neil Gaiman now sits perched at the precarious top of that list. They are joined by Pablo Neruda, Charles de Lint, Ron Padgett, Jeff Smith, Ray Bradbury, Jane Austen, Mary Roach, and others.

***The believe that “literature” is better than genre is old and much debated. I don’t really want to get into that battle, since it seems pointless to me. Many works of what is considered literature are genius; many are also complete crap. Same goes for genre of all kinds.

****Plus, some dark part of my soul secretly want to find out what deep dark secrets she might have. What?

[This post was inspired The Daily Post’s weekly writing challenge prompt “Dear Abby.”]

Beyond Nanowrimo: Other Month-Long Challenges to Consider

Challenge Accepted

While I love National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and will be participating again this year, it isn’t for everybody. But the idea of challenging oneself to stretch personal boundaries of what you think is possible is a great thing. So, I thought I’d share a few different challenges that you could do this November instead of trying to pound out 50,000 word of a novel.

  • National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) — Challenge yourself to write one blog post every day this month, which I discovered through The Daily Post. It seems like a simple enough challenge, but since I’ve never posted 30 days straight in my life, I’m sure it would be tougher than I think. I’m planning to go a head and try this (today makes day one!), since I’ll be posting word updates and such anyway this month.
  • November PAD (Poem-A-Day) Chapbook Challenge — Found at Writer’s Digest, this challenge asks writes to take the prompts posted and writes a poem a day for the month of November, THEN to take those poems and turn them into a chapbook in December, which can then be submitted to the associated chapbook contest. Very cool.
  • Submission Bonanza! — The blogger at Lighting Droplets came up with a personal challenge to send out 30 submissions in 31 days (they did it in the month of July), but it could be done in November, too. The idea is to rack up rejections (and hopefully an acceptance or two). This sounds like an awesome challenge and one I’ll be trying at a later date.
  • The 30 Day Vlog Challenge — This is for Youtube and involves creating a new vlog post (at least 1 minute long) everyday for 30 days. I need to do something like this to get back into the habit of vlogging, but it will probably be a while.

I’m sure there are dozens of other such challenges out there, and if you know of any that I should add to the list, please let me know in the comments.

Edited to Add:

  • National Comic Drawing Month (NaCoDrawMo) — Draw one strip or one page of a longer manga/webcomic every day for a month. Submitted by ingridsykora.

Five Tips and Tricks for Nanowrimo

Since today marks the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — that delightful challenge to complete a ridiculous 50,000 words in a single month — I thought I would pull out an old video for today’s Friday Five.

To summarize:

  1. Don’t Delete Anything
  2. Jump Around
  3. Dares and Prompts
  4. Plot Ninjas Are Your Friends
  5. Be Competitive

While I will be attempting to write 50,000 words this month, I will not technically be doing Nano because I will be working on an old project (the rules of Nano say that it should be a new project). I will be attempting to finish draft one of Under the Midday Moon, so that I can use 2014 to edit it.

The key to Nano, really, is the community and that you are not in this alone. I really appreciate that a lot, especially at moments like now, when I haven’t been feeling very motivated.

For those like me, not technically following the Nano rules, but still wanting to participate in some form, you can do an anti-Nano project. Set your own goal and then post updates on your blog, or if you’re on livejournal join the squidathon and post updates there (they do check-ins on Mondays and Fridays).

I will, however, be updating my progress on the Nano website, under my username blythe025. You are welcome to join me there, if you’d like.


Are you participating in Nano this year? What will you be working on?

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” – Philip Roth

Goodness, it seems it’s been almost two whole months (!) since I’ve last posted a Monday Update. During that time I have completed next to no writing and, while I have been doing my weekly training at the gym, my running days have been sporadic at best. Since all my traveling is done for the year, I’m planning on hoping back on the wagon and getting some thinks done by the end of December in the hopes of completing most, if not all of my primary goals for the year.

November is NaNoWriMo, in which writers from around the world attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Technically this is supposed to be a new novel, something you haven’t touched before. But since I really want to complete the draft of my werewolf novel, Under the Midday Moon, I’m planning to use the challenge for that purpose with the hope that 50,000 words will be enough for me to finish the draft. If I can get this done, then next year’s big goal can be focused on editing the dang thing.

As for the running…, it is still possible to reach my goal of running three complete miles by the end of the year, I suppose. So, I will still keep working toward that goal. If I can get to where I’m running one mile, though, I’ll be happy. I’m also thinking of buying the zombie runner app, just because I think it would be fun and would add some variety to my training.

To be accomplished in the coming week:

  • Write a minimum of 5,100 words on Under the Midday Moon as part of Nano challenge
  • Submit something (poem, story, whatever)
  • Do a minimum of two runs.

.

Good Reading: I’ve found two posts that could be helpful in my own goal setting this week.

Visuals for goals make an impression” talks about how adding a visual element to your accomplishments can help spur continued progress, like awarding yourself gold stars on the days you workout or pinning up your race bibs as Lisa J. Jackson did. I’m thinking a calendar for the year for posting stars would be great. I might also incorporate not only stars or smileys for exercise, but also for when I submit some of my writing for publication and/or when I receive an acceptance. I’ll have to get a variety of stickers for that purpose. Posting rejection letters, acceptance letters, and/or race bibs is also a great idea, and I may do that as well. 🙂

And on Courage 2 Create, Ollin Morales talks about “How To Add More Time To Your Day (AKA: How to Make The Most of The Time You Do Have),” something that I’ve been definitely feeling as a challenge lately.

“I have tried to see how I can literally add more time to my day. Unfortunately, I have learned that there is no way to actually add more time to your day, but I have learned that there are ways to make the most of the time you do have, and also how to make it appear as if the time is stretching out longer, rather than shrinking at a rapid pace.”

His advice is pretty darn good, and I’m going to try to practice a few of his suggestions in the hopes of getting done what I need to get done.

We’re in the fourth and final quarter for the year. How are you doing with your year long goals? Or, how are are you doing with your day-to-day goals?

Updatery – Life Keeps On Keeping On

The winners of the Rhysling Award have been announced. I am not among them, and that’s okay. I was and still am just so honored to have been included in the list of nominees.

In other writing news, the short story I have currently circulating has been rejected again, but that’s the writing life. Time to send it to a new publication.

My biggest issue in my writing world right now is that I haven’t been writing much of anything at all, which is rather depressing. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, in part due to all my traveling and I’ve been trying to just relax when I get home. (I suppose it doesn’t help that my relaxation has lately taken the form of mainlining episodes of Fringe.) At any rate, I’m going to have to hunker down toward my goals once I’m back from work trip to Italy and into my day-to-day rhythm.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that I am going to Italy? No?

Well, I’ll be traveling to Udine for work, then spending three days in Florence and a day in Venice for fun. I am STOKED.

* * *

In other, other news, my trip to Washington DC (a couple of weeks ago) was awesome. We did so much and saw so many sights. Here are photos I took of the Lincoln Monument, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.

DC

Washington DC

Washington DC

The amazing thing about the trip was not just the places we visited, but the people we were with. These women I traveled with are amazing women — books geeks, fabulous mothers, nerds, intelligent business women, joyful lovers of life, and so much more. I feel blessed to know them.

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Last week was starting to shape up into another nothing-gets-done kind of week, when BAM!  I somehow got smacked with some determination and began cleaning out my shelf, adding items to my Goodwill pile, tossing others, and reorganizing the rest. I even created an itemized list to go with the receipt and then took the bags and boxes to the donation station (follow through? what?).

This new sense of order inspired me to go a step further and attack the craft, writing, and office supplies in my closet. I went through every random box in there, from empty shoe boxes to big bins to get a sense of what was where. I kept finding surprises — stuff I’d shoved into boxes because I didn’t know what to do with it or knew what to do with but didn’t have a place for. I kept asking myself over and over, why? why on earth would I have put this here. I have no easy answer.

My closet is now the most organized it has been since, well, since I’ve had it. I now have access to my painting and art supplies, which have been placed in plastic drawers and easy to reach bins, while putting the things I don’t need as often out of the way.

Goddess, that feels good.

With my exercise goals accomplished and the organization done, I feel good about last week, even if I didn’t move my writing goals forward.

Organizational-wise, I have to get some tools to get my shoes and jewelery under control, but that’s a small thing. My next big hurdle will be to try to bring order to my writing projects (various short stories, poetry, etc.), and I don’t have the foggiest how to do that.

Any suggestions on how you keep stories, novels, and all their notes and drafts in order (both in print and in the computer) would be greatly appreciated.

To be accomplished in the coming week:
– Finish second half of Chapter Six of Under the Midday Moon
– Submit something (poem, story, whatever)
– Workout at least three days with two workouts being running training (0/3)
– Do three morning yoga workouts (1/3)
– Practice my Spanish
– Finish stenciling on art project for niece’s bedroom

– Make Progress on Organization (do one or more of the following):
• Buy shower curtain hooks for organizing scarves
• Find a way to better organize shoes with double shelf or slots
• Buy a tie hangar for necklaces and create rack for earrings
• Shred papers and dispose of them
• Measure pictures and buy frames

An Assortment of Five Things

1. I picked up my sister from the airport on Tuesday. She had just got back from visiting my grandmother in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s 90 years old and my sister and I started talking about how important it is to record her life in some way. I told her that I have photo copies of her homesteading journal (which I’ve been meaning to do something with for a long time) and we both agreed that it would be great to put together a kind of memoir. Likely we wouldn’t try to publish this, though we might put it as an ebook and make some print copies for family through LuLu or something. We just need to make sure we make steady progress on this and not let it be just one of those things we talk about.

2. Speaking of writing, while I was digging through my filing cabinet looking for the copies my grandmother found me, I noticed a stack of paper about an inch thick in one of the files. I couldn’t help but take it out and read it — turned out to be movie script. I started reading some of the pages.

My thought: What is this? Did I write this? I didn’t write this. There’s no way I wrote this. *keeps reading* Oh, my god. I DID write this. I can’t believe I wrote this.

Turns out that stack of paper was the crappy martial arts script I tried to write about a guy and a girl who train and go take part in a tournament in China. It is so, so bad and I’m sure chock full of cultural inaccuracies. This will never ever see the light of day.

3. I saw Pacific Rim and loved it. It was in truth long sequences of robots smashing kaju, which was stunning in its realization, as in jaw-dropped, me-sitting-up-straight-in-my-seat in awe stunning. Beautifully wrought action sequences. It also had characters I like and story that dealt with countries and cultures working together for a common goal (that, importantly, did not revolve around good ol’ US of A saving the day). Rinko Kikuchi is wonderful and I will now be looking to watch every movie she has ever been or will be in. So, yay! I’m so glad I saw this one in theaters.

4. Also, in movies, I recently purchased Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated, a fascinating art project, in which curator Mike Schneider asked artists from around the world to animate sections of George A. Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead. All of the sound for the original movie is the same, the only difference is that the visual element has been changed (which can be done because the original movie is in public domain). Every minute or so, a new animation style flashes on the screen. It’s a little confusing at first, but quickly becomes hypnotizing to watch. A very cool art collaboration (with zombies!).

5. I went to a Curvy Girls Fashion Show (Curvy Girls is the name of a store in Santa Clara). It was just so cool to see a dozen women of varying shapes and sizes, bravely sporting lingerie walk down this make shift runway, while everyone in the audience cheered them on. Good feelings. Also some really cute stuff, costumes and some day ware too, so I may have some shopping to do soon.

Five Things to Do Instead of Being Jealous of Your Favorite Author

Writers Block

Or, How I Learned to Stop Lamenting and Enjoy the Process

I managed to get myself into a funk last Friday, I was finding myself despairing over my rarely completed to-do lists and my languishing novel, which is suffering through first draft blues. As much as I keep plugging away at the book, there is a deep, ugly, grumbling that believes I’ll never finish the novel or any novel and even if I do, none of them will be worth reading.All this tied into the fact that I had picked up 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma (my review is here), which was blowing my mind with awesome in terms of both writing style and storyline. Normally, I don’t bother with being jealous of my fellow authors, but on this particularly day, I felt it and it layered onto my anxieties. I began to spiral into doom-gloom with “I’ll never write like this, never this good” and “My writing sucks” and “I’ll never inspire or move someone the way the writing of this author does for me.”

Dwelling on this kind of stuff is less than helpful and can lead to an avoidance of writing and/or feeling blocked when staring at the blank page. At least, I know this can happen for me. So here are a few things I’ve done and that others can do to let go of all the negative gobbledygook.

1. Remember that Every Voice Isn’t the Same

I can thank my mom for reminding me of this when I was despairing on Friday and it’s important. No two voices are the same. Every writer has their own stories to tell and their own way of telling it. Therefore, it’s not necessarily an issue of better or worse, but just about being different.

Just because one author writes an amazing book, doesn’t mean that your own story, words, and thoughts are not valuable in their own right. If you have a story to tell, then tell it. Your words are unique to you, and chances are someone will find them valuable.

2. Keep in Mind that Drafts are Called “Rough” for a Reason

I think Anne Lamott says it best in her essay, “Shitty First Drafts” (link to a pdf). Most drafts suck the first time around, and they many continue to suck after the second or third go throughs, but somehow a good story gets drawn out in the rewriting/editing process.

It doesn’t really how many books an author has published or sold, or how great their writing, chances are that author has been through bouts of despair and flailing over the suckage of their own writing at various stages of the process. For an excellent example, check out Libba Bray’s fantastic post on writing despair.

So, be gentle with yourself. Be forgiving of your early mistakes. Be forgiving of your later mistakes. You have to work through each mistake to learn how to write, and every word you write gets you to the next one. You can’t get to the finished story/book/poem if you don’t walk through the tangled, mangy woods of the first (and sometimes second, third, fourth, etc.) drafts.

3. Do a Writing Analysis on the Book

So you’ve found a book you love, with writing you adore, with delightful worldbuilding, compelling characters, and a smooth plotline. Instead of feeling inadequate in all its glory (as I did), use this as an opportunity to learn something.

Once you’ve finished the book take a look at what it was about it that made you love it. What is the plot structure or how it launched immediately into the fray? What it the eloquent scene descriptions? How about how the characters were portrayed?

Create a list of what worked for you and what didn’t. What techniques can you use to improve your writing? What can you try to avoid?

I don’t tend to get too heavy handed with these sorts of analyses, as I don’t want to overshadow what naturally comes out when I’m writing and it’s important not to try to force your writing to fit a mold that doesn’t work. But I’ll often keep these kinds of lessons sitting in the back of my mind while I write and will draw on them when I’m challenged on how to handle a certain aspect of the story.

4. Practice Celebrating Your Fellow Writer’s Successes

Both Justine Larbalestier and Seanan McGuire have posts about how life, art, and publishing are not a zero sum game. One writer or artists success doesn’t take success away from you.

I’ve heard some people say that books like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey should never have been published and lamenting about how many people were taken in by these horrible books. But my sister hated reading, mostly because high school taught her to, and it wasn’t until she read Twilight that she became a reader. That book series taught her that reading could be fun, and that enjoyment has led her to read a multitude of other books in a variety of genres.

What authors like Stephanie Meyer and E.L. James have done is manage to tap into their enjoyment of their readers in such a way that lots and lots of people wanted to read their books. They may not be perfect books, but I salute both authors for their success. Hats off to them, and I’ll keep writing the stories I feel compelled to write.

It’s even easier to salute the writers you love, because their success means more great books for you to read.

But more importantly, if you’re sending out joy and good wishes, then you’re not bogged down by jealousy. Personally, I find it much harder to write when I’m in a fowl mood, so keeping positive (if I can) helps me.

5. Just. Keep. Writing.

Just that. Keep writing.

There’s a momentum to the writing process. I find the more I write, the easier it is to keep writing. If I stop and let myself fall into a mood, it just makes it that much harder to come back to the blank page.

And whatever else is going on around you, whoever is on the bestsellers list or winning awards, one thing you know you can control is the work you put into your own stories and and effort you put into making them the best they can be. That’s a powerful thing.

How do you handle little writing jealousies? What do you do to keep from despairing about your writing?