Reflecting on My Work in 2019

I tend to start off each year with high hopes for what I’ll be able to achieve — and 2019 was no different. But looking back, the first half of the year was a struggle for me. Having set myself a single goal for the year, I was pushing and punishing myself to finish a novel that wasn’t connecting for me. That frustration overshadowed a lot of my work and my perception of my value as a writer.

When people asked me what I was up to, I often answered that I was hermiting — which sounds like a purposeful withdrawal from word in order to delve into self reflection. However, in reality, I was hiding, too timid to come out of my shell.

But recent months have been more positive. Letting go of the need to finish the novel was the wisest decision I made, providing a huge sense of relief. Subsequently participating in National Novel Writing Month and allowing myself space to dive into a new story and just enjoy the process of writing was a giant boon for me. The work was no less difficult, but the joy of writing was more present.

And then, I recently learned that Corvid Queen nominated my short story “How Bluebeard Ends” for a Pushcart Prize — a delightful acknowledgement for a story that was rejected numerous times before finding a home. (Here’s all the wonderful works Corvid Queen nominated.)

These recent wins have provided me a different perspective on my year. Looking back with a more positive lens, I can see more clearly the huge amount of work I’ve done.

I had three poems published this in the year — “Belatedly, The Refusal”  (Glass: A Journal of Poetry), “A Little Background Information” (Cotton Xenomorph), and “Bride of Frankenstein: Our Lady of Rage” (Star*Line). I’ve also received an acceptance for a project coming out next year that I can’t quite announce yet.

I’ve also done a tremendous amount of work on my blog, publishing around 70 posts. Among these, I’ve conducted 15 interviews with poets — seven Poet Spotlights on my blog and eight podcast interviews for New Books in Poetry (the fact that I started cohosting a podcast alone is a wonder). Not to mention the number of other blogs, newsletters, poems, stories, and projects that I’ve have been and am continuing to work on.

In the midst of all this, I took three major trips this year to Venice, Iceland, and a family trip to Alaska. All while consuming an enormous number of books, movies, tv shows, games, and podcasts.

I’m grateful for this year. I’m grateful for words — those I’ve written and those I’ve read. I’m grateful for the breath in my lungs, for the rain pattering outside my window, and for the cozy sweater wrapped around me. I’m grateful for making it through the adventures and struggles this year has brought me — and I’m grateful to you for being here to share the journey.

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Closing out my journal from the past two years — including my attempts at bullet journaling, sketching, goal setting, notes from cons, travel collages, and even a drawing left by my niece. I’ve always loved the idea of journaling, of keeping a record of events and emotions, but I’ve never been all that consistent. When I started this book in 2018, I aimed to fill it up within the year — that didn’t happen. Even so, I still have this record of the past two years, something to hold onto. I’m looking forward to launching into the new year with a new shiny journal. The audio is “Overthinker” by INZO, found on #tiktok (where I’m andreablythe07). . . . . . #journal #journaling #journals #bulletjournal #bulletjournaling #bujo #drawing #sketches #art #writing #writersofinstagram #writingcommunity #endoftheyear #endofanera #newyearseve

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Good Things in Poetry and Fiction

I have news! Things that have been happening! And so forth!

Thing the First: This week Corvid Queen (a literary journal published by Sword & Kettle Press) announced their nominations for the Pushcart Prize. I am so incredibly chuffed that they choose to nominate my short story “How Bluebeard Ends” along with five other amazing works. “How Bluebeard Ends” is a story that went through a number of rejections before it found a welcoming home at Corvid Queen. I’m honored that the editors liked it enough to nominate it.

Thing the Second: The Fall 2019 issue of Star*Line is out, and I’m happy to report that it contains my poem “Bride of Frankenstein: Our Lady of Rage,” which they have also shared online. To get the full serving of great poetry, however, be sure to order the print copy.

Thing the Third: I do have more cool news, but I can’t quite talk about it yet — so instead, I’ll tell you about my newsletter, through which you can make sure you’re fully informed about this future announcement, as well as getting my thoughts on writing and life. The news is that I have decided to switch my newsletter over to Substack, which provides many more tools for community building — such as the ability for readers to like, comment, or share posts. It also includes an option to monetize newsletters, but for the time being I’m sticking with things being free as they’ve always been.


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Culture Consumption: November 2019

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

Books

I can’t believe I only got through two books this month (I started several that I haven’t finished). Anyway, here we go.

In Couch by Benjamin Parzybok, three roommates and slackers — Thom, Erik, and Tree — find themselves out of a place to live, when the couple in the apartment above manages to break their waterbed, flooding their apartment. When their landlord asks them to carry the old couch in their apartment to the thrift store. Unbeknownst to them, this simple act triggers an epic journey. The premise for this book was so quirky and strange that I didn’t quite know what to expect from Couch. This book is so beautifully grounded and is abundant with heart. These guys get put through the ringer and they grow and learn and become better humans. I was honestly moved and awed by this book. Wish I had read it sooner.

My second finished book of the month was Mary Shelley Makes a Monster by Octavia Cade (Aqueduct Press). This collection of poetry is brilliant from beginning to the end. The collection begins with Mary Shelley crafting a monster out of the remnants of her own heartbreak and sorrow. Left alone after her death, the monster goes looking for someone to fill her place, visiting other female authors through the decades — Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Octavia Butler, and others. It’s a beautifully moving examination of the eccentricities of authors and how monsters reflect us in the world. I got to have a fantastic conversation with Cade (barring some technical difficulties) about her work for the New Books in Poetry podcast, and hopefully I’ll be able to share it with you soon.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: November 2019”

Movie Review: The Dark Fantasy of DOCTOR SLEEP

Doctor Sleep

Following years after the events of The Shining, a now-grown Danny Torrance struggles to deal with the traumas he endured as a child by suppressing his powers through alcohol. At the same time he starts to face and deal with his alcoholism, Abra Stone (a young girl becoming aware of her own powers) initiates a long distance friendship with Dan through the shining. When a cult of immortals who prey on children with powers becomes aware of Abra’s existence, Dan has to find a way to protect her. 

Ewan McGregor as Dan Torrance.
Ewan McGregor as Dan Torrance.
Kyliegh Curran as Abra Stone.
Kyliegh Curran as Abra Stone.

Doctor Sleep is a fascinating challenge for any screenwriter and/or filmmaker. On the one hand, it’s an adaptation of Stephen Kings book. On the other, it also exists as a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall — an adaptation that King is notably not a fan of, but who’s influence has entered pop culture to such an extent that it’s impossible to ignore. 

I can’t speak to how well the movie adapts the book, as I have not read it yet. In comparison to Kubrick’s The Shinning, however, which can easily be listed among the scariest movies ever made, it seems inevitable that Doctor Sleep would pale in comparison. In other words, it’s really not that scary (with the exception of a particularly harrowing scene in the middle).

The filmmakers do a lot of work to call back to the 1980 film, designing the imagery and  sound design so as to echo the original — both of which I enjoyed. However, Doctor Sleep doesn’t deliver on the ever present menace of The Shining. There are a number of reasons for this. The movie has to jump between multiple characters and locations across the U.S., eliminating the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped alone in a hotel through the winter. Doctor Sleep also is imbued with a greater amount of exposition and tends to be more on the nose with its horror, with the ghosts in full view — compared to The Shining in which much of the tension comes from the eerie uncertainty of what’s happening within the hotel. 

It’s the portrayals of the Torrance family from the ‘80s that I found the most . . .  upsetting? Disturbing? There’s an inherent challenge of trying to recreate the iconic portrayals of Jack (Nicholson), Wendy (Duvall), and Danny (Danny Lloyd) from the original movie. Other filmmakers have managed to pull of convincing computer generated recreations of past characters (Princess Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One, for example). For Doctor Sleep, however, the filmmakers (likely do to cost considerations) elected to cast actors who look eerily similar to their 1980s counterparts. The result represents a strange uncanny valley — they are similar enough to be recognizable, but dissimilar enough to be unsettling — which pulled me out of the movie just as much as bad CGI would have. 

All of that said, I actually enjoyed the experience of Doctor Sleep. I particularly like the portrayal of Rose the Hat, who is an interesting blend of charming, cruel, compassionate to those in her group, and terrifying to those who are her victims. She’s was instantly a character I found fascinating — and one that I’d consider cosplaying or dressing up as for Halloween in the future. 

Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat.
Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat.

As a completely separate experience from The Shining, and subsequently separate from my expectations for horror, Doctor Sleep works for me. I delighted in the movie as an ethereal dark fantasy, which offers up the dangerous underbelly to a world in which supernatural powers exist. There are parts of this that are visually beautiful, and parts of this that are graphically disturbing. Having watching the movie, I’m now wanting to go read the novel in order to dive more deeply into these characters and their backstories. 


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The Mirror Self: NaNoWriMo Week Four Check In

standing woman holding a mirror surrounded by goldenrod
Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash.

As I’ve been diving into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November, I’ve been trying to root myself into the present moment, focusing on the words in front of me in order to allow myself the joy of writing itself.

Even so, sometimes I can’t help but imagine a reality different from the one in which I exist. My mind drifts, draws up plans for the career, the house, the relationships I might or could have one day. A kaleidoscope of possibilities both achievable and not.

The person who exists in these scenarios is not me. Or not me exactly. Instead, the person is kind of a mirror self with a little mental photoshopping thrown in. An Andrea refracted into something better — braver, wiser, smarter with her money, confident in speaking her mind, and overall easier to love. The flaws and sorrows and doubts all vanish in this reflected persona.

For all my efforts to stay in the present moment, I don’t want to discount the value in such imaginings. As I noted in a previous post, there are points when drifting off into pontnetial furture can hinder progress in the here and now. At the same time, being able to visualize my dreams and goals provides me with a signposts for how to achieve what I want in life.

In other words, it helps to know what you want in life in order to achieve it.

Focusing on the now during NaNoWriMo has been an incredible blessing. I was looking to experience the joy of writing — and that’s what I’ve achieved.

I don’t necessarily want to write every day and I writing is still work, but its work that comes with surprises and delights and deep emotional resonance, when I let go of worry about the future and let myself setting into the process.

Currently, I’m around 10,000 words behind on my daily word count goals — and in all honesty, there’s a chance I might not make it to 50,000 with all my other commitments. (Writing this post is itself a kind of procrastination in that regard.)

But the word count, in and of itself, is not necessarily the point. I’ve written nearly 35,000 words and am still finding the story compelling. The events that have transpired on these pages have through the course of writing managed to both make me cry and creep me the hell out. My main character is messy and complicated and fighting so hard to survive. I love her and my heart breaks for her.

Regardless of where my actual word count lands on day 30 of November, I aim to hold to the story and the process of writing it. The work will go on and change, and I’ll discover new challenges along the way.

I may never reach the glassy perfection in the imagined reckonings of myself — and that’s okay. As a human, I’m messy and complicated and fighting hard (almost) every day to be better.

There is a value of envisioning the high in the sky possibilities.

There is a value in staying focused on the present moment and the tasks at hand.

The way forward (for me, I’ve found) is often through the blurred boundaries between the two.

What are some of your big dreams? What practical ways can you work to achieve them?


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