A couple of weeks ago, I escaped from the routines of my everyday life and disappeared into the woods for four days.Â As the video above explains, the intention of the trip was to shape a small writing retreat for myself. I packed up some pens, notebooks, my laptop, and printouts of a poetry project (along with some books and art and mediation supplies).
The goals of the retreat were low-key:
Disconnect from social media, the internet, and other distractions that fill my time with mental clutter.
Rest, relax, and rejuvenate through reading, walking among the trees, and meditation.
Visually arresting and utterly one-of-a-kind, Sarah J. Sloat’s Hotel Almighty (Sarabande Books) is a book-length erasure of Misery by Stephen King, a reimagining of the novel’s themes of constraint and possibility in elliptical, enigmatic poems. Here, “joy would crawl over broken glass, if that was the way.” Here, sleep is â€œa circle whose diameter might be small,” a circle “pitifully small,” a “wrecked and empty hypothetical circle.” Paired with Sloat’s stunning mixed-media collage, each poem is a miniature canvas, a brief associative profile of the psycheâ€•its foibles, obsessions, and delights. (Description by the publisher.)
â€œWhen I was doing [Hotel Almighty] and even now when I work on projects, a lot of what I find Iâ€™m doing is just expressing a love of reading and of books themselves,â€ says Sloat in discussing her new book. â€œI mean, I just love paper. To take a book and be able to make it into something â€” that was really fun and exciting for me.â€
Hereâ€™s a sample of Sloat’s writing and art from the book:
You can listen to the interviewÂ hereÂ or on the podcast app of your choice.
For January, Kickstarter is hosting the make/100 challenge â€” essentially urging creators to created a limited edition something (100 tee shirts, 100 sculptures, etc.). It’s concept I found fascinating and I really wanted to participate when they launched the challenge last year, but I had too many projects going on at the time and it didn’t work out. So, this year I was determined to put a project together.
After thinking about what would work best, I decided to do an extension of a 30/30 poetry challenge I did in April, in which I created 30 new erasure poems based on Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer as source material.
The Kickstarter project â€” A Fearless Chapbook of Erasure Poetry â€”Â is to print a limited-edition chapbook of erasure poetry, compiling 20 of these already completed poems and 20 new poems that I am making during the course of the project.
I wanted to keep it simple, so I have only three reward levels:
$1+ â€” get a pdf of the chapbook and a thank you on my website
$10+ â€” get a signed print copy of the chapbook
$40+ â€” get an original of one of the erasures I create, in addition to everything else
Simplicity seems the best way for me to make it through the challenge with the least amount of stress (especially considering all the other projects I have going on simultaneously).
I’m trying to approach it in such a way that I’m asking for money without directly asking for money. Essentially, by posting a new erasure poem every day with a link to the Kickstarter included, I’m hoping that it will draw enough attention to achieve my goal.
So far, this idea is working well â€” I’m four days in and have achieved 26% of my goal. Yay! Although, I have a feeling I may need to be more direct as the project goes on… kind of like this:
If you have a buck or two to spend on some poetry, I would be thrilled if you could head on over and back my project.
(Whew. Not so hard.)
Anyway, it’s a strange, fun experience so far (making the video was a journey in itself), and I’m excited to see how it will all turn out.
My day three poem:
“Iâ€™m decades in to being a poet, but it continues to hurt to write them,” notesÂ Karen Craigo in her excellent post, When the poems don’t come.
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 â€“Â 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 â€” and interesting jumble of a building with rooms that can be staged in a variety of waysÂ â€” 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 â€” 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.
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!
“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,
Still readingÂ Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, as well.
What Iâ€™mÂ 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 â€” despite sometimes getting temporarily lost in my own maze.
Get all my required POEMING found poems written and posted.
“That book youâ€™re writing is mewling again in the dark. Itâ€™s a half-formed thing â€” 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 havenâ€™t finished it. Itâ€™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”