Spicewood, TX

I returned from a mini honeymoon in Spicewood, TX, yesterday. New landscapes always help me break out of a writing rut, which is what I’ve been in lately, especially after working from home since July.

For the past couple of weeks though, I’ve been workshopping poems one-on-one with a close friend, and I can’t help but feel like I’m writing the same thing over and over again.

A lot of my work is centered around Louisiana and the collective trauma of the natural disasters that we endure time and time again here. This hurricane season provided a lot of fuel for that, as did the flash floods; however, I don’t always want to write from that headspace. It’s draining and often feels like cutting open an old wound, which is why I sometimes unwittingly begin relying on familiar images/lines or have trouble forming anything to say at all or making natural transitions from line to line.

Traveling always seems to help with that predicament though, particularly when seasons change.

I guess I’ve always been fairly introspective so I don’t require the life experience and day-to-day interactions so many of us are lacking in today’s Covid climate in order to write. But I do sometimes need a change of scenery. In fact, many of poems are written in gas station parking lots from New Orleans to Austin.

It brings up a lot for me, especially that difficult time post-Katrina when my mother and I were going from our new home in Houston back to the house in New Orleans just to gut and sell the place. I know I-10 like the back of my hand now. But passing through Lake Charles, which got hit by 2 hurricanes this year, really got to me. The familiar blue-tarp neighborhoods, endless debris, and power trucks made me feel like I was 15 years old again sitting in my empty lime green bedroom.

Then the landscape began to transform into something else entirely. Spicewood is nestled in the Hill Country about 45 minutes outside of Austin. It’s remote and desert-like with hills, shrub, cacti, and lots of wildlife—very different from where I live. Yet the storms still seemed to follow me to the desert. It’s a familiar pattern in my life, the same way Hurricane Rita followed me to Texas after Katrina. Inescapable.

That was still inspiring in a way though. We were there a few nights before the nearby cacophony of coyotes began. I’ve been around them enough to know how close they are from their wails. Still, I remember the sharp pang of fear and rushing my small dog into the house we occupied. They were still a ways off and few in number, but I didn’t want to run the risk of him becoming coyote bait.

I’m reminded of the time, back when I lived in Boulder, CO, and hiked regularly, when a coyote sidled up right next to me, and I thought, “Whose dog is out here roaming around alone in mountain lion/bear country?” I went to coax it toward me, and immediately realized my mistake (LOL). It was alone and didn’t pay me any mind though, scampering off somewhere in the tall grass. There were bigger predators to worry about out there.

The coyotes in the south though, are bigger and less scrawny in my opinion, maybe because they’re the apex predator down here, and they definitely understand their value in numbers. I once saw security footage of one climbing a 20-ft fence at the Air Force base here in Bellechase. It was massive, and stuck its paws through the loops of the fence to climb over. People in Colorado might’ve actually admired its ability to scale such an ascent.

When I was growing up though, a pack of wild dogs (not to be confused with coyotes) attacked the livestock at our school, taking down a full-grown llama and a several-hundred-pound potbellied pig named Petunia. I guess there are all sorts of things lurking in the untamed dark.

In Spicewood, we saw deer damn dear constantly with zero sense of self preservation or fear of humans. I sure as hell wasn’t about to find out where the coyotes stood on that front.

There was supposed to be an epic meteor shower our last night out there, but of course, it rained and the sky remained cloudy through the next day when we left. The fire pit, transcendent bbq (Opie’s Barbecue is life changing), and breathtaking views from the back porch and drives into town made up for it though. In any case, it was nice to touch a bit of wildness for a few days, write some newly inspired poems, and (sort of) forget all that’s gone wrong this year. That and I’m a huge fan of Buc-ees. We must’ve stopped at 5 of them of the way there and back. Now the writing bug is back!

DDIY (Don’t Do It Yourself)

pretty much

I got bored this weekend and attempted to give myself a shag haircut, and BOY, was that a mistake and a half. I mean just woooooooooow. Did I mention that I’m also in the middle of moving right now? In other words, I didn’t have access to the necessary tools I needed when I began this foolish endeavor, even running over to the other house mid cut only to discover my sheers were packed away in some unknown location. Luckily, 99% of shags look like they were done in the recesses of a garage by someone’s half-blind grandmother. I can also hide most of my mistake with a ponytail, but I already went ahead and booked an appointment to see a stylist in early December. Oh the irony. Had I waited in the first place, none of this would’ve happened. But alas, my overly impulsive ADHD butt lost any trace of patience that day.

All of my fellow ADHD peeps know the struggle of jumping straight into a project without the benefit or deterrent of executive function as well as I do. It’s great for creative pursuits like writing but little else. What’s sad is that this isn’t the first time I’ve done this or the second or the third or the forth, and I doubt it will be the last. Although in all honestly I cannot wait to see the stylists reaction to this mess. One thing I’m an expert at is laughing at my blunders. I mean, what else can you really do?

This also reminds me of how I became known in college for dropping my cell phones in public toilets and equally known for saving them from certain death every single time. Although I never wanted to touch them again let alone hold them up to my face. Poverty was obviously a huge incentive for sticking my hands in used toilet water (*gags*). I couldn’t afford to buy another phone so I did what I had to do. But what’s mind blowing is that I never seemed to learn to avoid keeping my phone in my back pocket whenever I went to the restroom. It seems that very little has changed. I’m just grateful that all of the new iPhones are water resistant now.

One of the last times I brought a water-damaged phone into the Apple store, I lied straight to the guy’s face about it only to have a single, traitorous grain of rice fall out onto the counter top when he took the case off in front of me. God, I wanted to die of embarrassment right then and there. In my panic, I somehow thought it better to tell him I blacked out during a night out on the town and threw the phone in rice just to cover my bases but didn’t remember dropping the phone in water (it was actually a solo cup full of champagne, lol). I could’ve saved the phone too had one of my best friends not asked to see it and turned it back on, immediately frying the damn thing. I wanted to ring his neck for that.

That was the only phone I was unable to save, well that and the first ever water-resistant iPhone I managed to kill during a foam party in Gulf Shores. Believing the foam would act as a cushion, I took an impulsive nosedive onto the ground, which hurt something awful, not realizing my phone had slipped out of my pocket at some point. I paid a group of small children to search through the piles of suds for it, but the screen had cracked and water had seeped in. By the time it made its way back to me back, it was already fried. I could probably write a manual on how not to treat an iPhone if I really wanted to.

(image from the Delta Enduring Tarot deck)

When my husband returned Sunday night from the Renaissance Faire in Hammond, Louisiana, where he works on the weekends as a cast member, a Spanish count to be exact (he’s also featured in this costume popping out of a wormhole in Bill & Ted 3), he kissed the top of my head and told me he liked my hair, which was still mostly up in a ponytail. I warned him the day before via text that I’d accidentally given myself a mullet and wanted him to be prepared. Bless him for always supporting me no matter what wild shenanigans I get into, lol. Maybe he deserves that PS5 for X-mas after all.

I hate moving, but our new place is superior in every way. Same square footage, but the ceilings are so high that it makes the space feel infinite. Now he has his own gamer room, and I have my own reading/writing space. I’ve lived in New Orleans-style shotgun homes ever since I moved back here 4 or 5 years ago, and they’ve all come with their own list of individual issues (no central A/C, broken gas heaters, mold, weird smells, fighting neighbors, car break-ins). Issues that became harder and harder to ignore as the pandemic forced me indoors damn near constantly. I’ve actually been working from home since July, when I first tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. But I find myself having more success working from home and writing in my free time now that I don’t hate my surroundings with a fiery passion. Flooding was also a huge issue at our last place. I mean, people were kayaking in the streets every other weekend at one point when we lived there. I don’t know how many times I woke up in the middle of the night to move the cars to higher ground during random torrential downpours that would pop up without warning. It was also a terrifying place to ride out Hurricane Zeta. There’s something to be said for change though.

One of my friends and I have decided to start our writing workshop back up on the weekends, which I’m excited about. It’s so much easier to write when you have some level of accountability. Lately, I find myself feeling burnt out and stagnant on the page. I recently had a burst of writing where I wrote my novel non-stop outside of work. Now I hate all of it and can’t seem to get back into it. I think this workshop will help with that thought. This is definitely one area of my life I feel confident performing DIY in.

In Sickness & In Health

This year has been full of ups and downs. For starters, I got COVID-19, not once but twice and canceled my wedding ceremony an equal number of times.

Before we knew the virus was here, I fell ill for several weeks at the end of February, and ultimately missed the good parts of carnival season and Mardi Gras, which is also canceled next year due to recent Covid spikes that put us in the red. As a New Orleanian, I can’t emphasize enough how crushing that is. That doesn’t even begin to cover the amount of recovery time I’ve suffered through from the virus itself.

Then there was the record-breaking hurricane season that seemed to target my city and state without any particular remorse. At the end of October, Hurricane Zeta hit us head on as a strong Category 2 (1 mph away from a Cat 3, in fact), just days before my legal wedding ceremony. Somehow, we lost power as the eye of the storm passed overhead.

My husband and I went out onto our front porch during the eye of the storm. The sky turned blood red. It was one of the most eerie and beautiful sights I’ve ever witnessed. But my focus quickly shifted from the sky to the children playing in puddles beneath the power lines I’d seen spark during the first half of the storm and to the wandering droves of people who thought it was over. Luckily, a few were swayed to go back indoors as the second half of the storm fast approached.

When our power came back on a little after midnight, we knew that we were one of the lucky few. Over 2 million lost power from Zeta, and locally, many areas didn’t regain power for up to 10 days. Still, we spent that night bathed in candlelight, listening to the moan of wind against the surrounding houses. Before the power went out, I’d been able to curb my anxiety by watching the movie Crawl. That might sound counterintuitive, but I was able to convince my brain that the sounds of the storm baring down on us were just really good surround sound.

We ended up marrying in my aunt’s backyard on Halloween a few days later without power. The few close friends and family that attended had also been without power for days, which is why I offered up our place as a charging station and for the storage of refrigerated medications like insulin. The whole thing felt surreal. But it could’ve been much much worse.

I also found out that my poetry collection Louisiana Alchemy is getting published next fall by a literary press I’ve been drooling over since I discovered them back in graduate school.

I’ve always been pretty motivated to continue writing creatively in my free time despite working a full-time position as a scientific/technical editor (I’m also writing a novel right now), but I think months upon months of quarantining were the catalyst that led me to start sending out submissions again. That and the fact that most of my classmates had either published or recently released books. I didn’t expect anything to come of my efforts though and mentally filed the submissions away after hitting the “send” button. A few months later, my heart surged when I received the acceptance email. I’m still in shock to be honest.

I also began reading religiously again, and the more books I read, the more I convinced myself that I was capable of producing similar work. Thus began my rekindled love(/hate) affair with the art of writing fiction.

I admit, I’m out of practice when it comes to this genre, frustratingly so. Even as a teenager, writing stories and cohesive chapters came naturally, which is why I went into college as a creative writer with a focus on fiction and very much considered myself to be a fiction writer at the time. As part of the degree requirements, I took screenwriting and poetry workshops as well. I remember being absolutely terrified and out of my element in my first poetry workshop.

Ultimately, I fell in love with poetry though, even going on to do an MFA in the subject. As a result, I stopped writing fiction entirely for years. Naively, I thought it would be like riding a bike — I was wrong. So so wrong. Now I often find myself frustrated, wondering how 16-year-old me was capable of organizing a novel without even blinking.

When you live in a poet/editor mindset for years of your life, your focus is on whittling down language from the moment you put words down on the page, and the work often relays personal experience. Fiction is the opposite. I can’t seem to get the audience out of my head or stop comparing the early stages of the work to the books I’m currently reading. I don’t know how to just let it be ugly for now.

It’s weird to feel simultaneously happy and accomplished over one area of your writing while also feeling completely defeated in another. But my writing, just like this year, has been full of ups and downs. From contracting Covid twice in one year to the relentless hurricanes to the election to married life and a new book, things have shifted wildly for me. Despite the incredibly bad, there’s still incredible good that pervades through it all.

Using Twin Signs in Astrology to Inform Your Reading List

As previously stated in my last post, “Field Notes on Writing, Astrology & Escapism”,

I know that there’s no scientific merit or validity to astrology but also I could care less about trying to prove it.
it be like that
I think learning creationism in place of science throughout elementary school sort of ruined that for me, lol. Instead of continuing on the metaphysical path that was set before me though, I went to the opposite end of the spectrum, exploring New Age ideas and philosophies.  
Anyway, this brings me to a strange epiphany I had this morning, which is that most of my major role models, style icons and favorite celebrities share the exact same Sun and Venus sign combination — Capricorn Sun/Aquarius Venus.
As a little girl growing up in the 90’s, I was an unapologetic Sporty Spice fan. While most people wanted to be the alluring Ginger or sultry Baby Spice, I was running around my living room in noisy sweat pants and a sports bra. 
Most of my favorite style icons — Janis Joplin, Sienna Miller, Kate Moss, Sissy Spacek, Marlene Dietrich, Sade Adu, the Duchess of Cambridge — also share this combination. But what I find even more interesting are the Cap-Sun/Aqua-Venus authors — J.R.R. Tolkien, Simone de Beauvoir, Carlos Castaneda, etc.
In astrology, you only get half of the picture when you analyze sign alone; you must also look at what house this planet is in. 
My Venus is located in the 9th house, an indicator of writing and publishing. Go figure! Language, publishing, and writing are all ruled by this house. 9th House Venusians are also frequently attracted to/attract people from other cultures (*enter my Cuban boyfriend*) and also make great travel writers.
Being cosmically destined to become a writer and work in publishing is an appealing thought no doubt. But this led me to seek out some of the writings of like-signed people, and I have to say, I agree with everything I’ve read so far. At the very least, it’s an interesting exercise leading me to explore works I might not have otherwise. Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophical writing, in particular, is appealing to me.
Although I’ve studied her before in women’s and literature classes, the astrological context makes me see the work in an almost personal way now. Her radical feminism is something I definitely relate too. The below excerpt from ‘The Second Sex’ is the OG “of course you call them females”.
Whether or not you believe in astrology, there is something about the idea of hidden kinship with favorited authors that can change the way you view great works and the lens through which you see the world.
As writers, we naturally possess expansive imaginations. Most of us hope for the impossible to be real each and every day. I’ll refrain from encouraging you to believe in the metaphysical but know that it can be used in beneficial ways in terms of craft. Great writers can use anything as a tool of expansion.

Field Notes on Writing, Astrology & Escapism

To read and write creatively is to live in a dreamstate, or so many would

have you believe. A sizable demographic perceive R&W as beneficial forms of entertainment but some of these people also believe that these pastimes hug a treacherous line between education and escapism in what can only be described as strangely reminiscent 90s gateway-drug propaganda.
The idea that R&W might impact anyone negatively is pretty laughable. Can you imagine the wave of television ads telling us to just say no to a rich inner life indoors? [1] Neither can I. I suppose the only merit to this idea is that virtually anything can be abused to escape the growing hellscape that is the year 2019. But as far as vices go, there are worse things one could fall into in my opinion.
Truthfully, I fell in love with both of these activities because I didn’t understand how to process trauma or how to vocalize what was happening around me a lot of the time. I felt voiceless throughout my early childhood and telling my story in my own words changed that feeling in a big way. Reading first-person perspectives from people in similar situations helped me navigate my world a little better and also made me realize I wasn’t alone.
While my daily reality felt hard to deal with at times, escape wasn’t the only reason behind throwing myself religiously into the arts. Like dreams, these activities allow us to work through our subconscious and process our emotions as well as our environments. [2]
In my family, it is particularly hard to get a word in edgewise or to process anything communally that could be perceived as negative, emotionally or otherwise. In other words, overall empathy and emotional support are both a bit lacking, although it has gotten much better as we’ve all matured. But it’s the sort of family dynamic that makes you pray for water-sign children in the not-too-distant future. 

Rising Star

In recent years, I’ve found astrology to be a useful tool in psychoanalyzing these relationships and in fictional character development, not that I believe there is any scientific validity or merit to it, rather I find the simple, elemental assignment of various parts of one’s personality to serve as a helpful descriptive device.   
fire suns/moons/mars be like
For instance, my natal chart is mostly comprised of earth elements (Capricorn Sun/Mercury/Saturn/Uranus/Neptune) plus a very prominent fire Moon (Aries) and Mars (Sag), air venus (Aquarius) and rising (Gemini) signs, and pretty much zilch on the water sign front. The way I decipher this information is that I am well grounded and ambitious but am also prone to flashes of anger and impulsivity, am detached and independent in love, and have a very hard time being vulnerable with others.
My mother, who gets along with everyone she meets, is all water, while my Leo-Sun father has heavy fire/air placements, and my younger Aquarius-Sun sister has 5 planets in Capricorn as well as a fire Moon (Sag). [3]
When I realized all of this, everything finally made sense to me, at least with regard to the gapping dissonance between our various and individualistic communication styles. I never really understood as a child/adolescent why my father and sister were so abrasive or how they had the ability to let things roll off of them into the ether. It just wasn’t something I could relate to, and, although I wanted more than anything to be just like them, the lack of freedom to express myself only drove me further into being my own psychologist on the page. 
This is all to say that it’s hard not to view yourself in limited and debilitating ways when you are an earth sign inundated in fire and air. In the end though, it made me much stronger, teaching me how to trust myself, my feelings, thoughts, and observations over that of others, and it led me to a flourishing inner life, even on the darkest days.
When we can’t make sense of our environments or resolve stressful situations, it often falls on us to make it work alone. This is often the case with kin. As they say, you can choose your friends but not your family. So it goes. Part of me wonders though if it isn’t all part of some larger life lesson relating to tolerance, selflessness, acceptance, and appreciation.

Escape the Bear and Fall to the Lion

me tryna steal fams’ positive air/fire energy
Despite the risk of falling too deeply into a world of rich, riveting fantasy, there is also something wholly grounding about telling your story on your own terms and adapting to settings you have no familiarity with or settings that don’t exist at all. In this way, R&W feels very much like dreaming. However, I definitely feel my earthiness when I am alone writing through my thoughts and discomforts, looking for hidden meaning in the mundane.
I think the majority of writers also have a deep-seeded desire to preserve the most vulnerable parts of themselves and to keep them hidden and safe from the rest of the world. To me, writing is and has always been the struggle to turn your pain into art, to construct a place of existence out of sheer nothingness. 



Footnotes

[1] *actively resists the urge to crest said ad on photoshop*

[2] One reason why I love poetry so much is that the subconscious is permitted to reveal itself in a less convoluted way in fragments and images without any need for context.

[3] FYI, your Moon sign is the second most important influence in your chart after the Sun and represents your emotions and inner mood.

James Patterson’s Editor

I am not ashamed to tell you that I periodically look at job listings posted by all of the major publishing houses. This is a habit I started back in 2012, after graduating from college.

Despite being a massive cliche, I always wanted to be that young snappy bookworm in the Big Apple, drinking lattes at her desk and sifting through the manuscript slush pile for hidden gems. I still fantasize about this sometimes, and that is how I make my way to the career sections of publishing houses who will never take a second look at me.

Even when I was a magazine editor, I couldn’t get the likes of Simon & Schuster or Hachette Book Group to return my calls and emails about featuring their Naomi Judd books in our nationally syndicated publication (I’m almost over it guys, I swear.). So you can understand why I have never held out hope of actually getting a job at one of these places.

Even if such a prospect were to come to fruition, it wouldn’t be affordable or feasible in any way. Since 2012, every time I have checked these listings, the salary is the same: $40,000/year as an Associate Editor/Editorial Assistant living in New York City. I mean who in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks could survive off of that in a city with one of the highest costs of living? It’s pretty laughable, although not that shocking for a position in literary publishing. Funnier still are the job descriptions themselves, which toss around words like “managing” and other skills that are anything but entry-level.

But when I actually applied for several of these jobs after graduate school with both a master’s in creative writing and editorial experience at a literary press, communication was radio silent. Not even a thanks-but-no-thanks? Not gonna lie, that hurt my feelings a little bit. And, like a glutton for punishment, I still find myself perusing these job boards from time to time, which is how I came across something very unexpected (see image below).

I must have laughed for a solid 10 minutes at this. I mean, I’m just trying to picture my life as James Patterson’s editor (which, admittedly, is way too presumptuous). Like all I do, day in and day out, is read James Patterson while making line edits and coaching him through his manuscripts. After a good belly laugh, I began wondering what happened to the last editor? Seems like a pretty sweet gig so I can’t imagine they just up and left. There’s also something extremely meta about the mystery of James Patterson’s missing editor, don’t you think?

Part of me wonders if this has anything to do with the rumors swirling around Patterson’s writing technique, which allegedly involves a team of writers who formulaically churn out books like factory assembly lines. I have no idea if there is any truth to this gossip, but part of me wonders how anyone is capable of producing that much copy, going through the editing process, book design/layout, and having it out on the shelves so quickly (“up to 10 books a year”), but it’s certainly not impossible. I have witnessed as much on the production side of things.

Even though the listing came as a bit of shock, this is actually a great opportunity for any experienced mystery and/or thriller editors out there. What’s the weirdest job posting you’ve come across?

Snow

I remember how much my heart ached in the snowy mountains of Colorado that first year. I had never seen snow in person before, let alone touched it.

That morning after the MFA Halloween party felt fuzzy, almost like buzzing static or the high-pitched ringing after a bomb goes off.

I woke from a restless night of sleep next to my boyfriend, still dressed in a half-assed mermaid costume. One feathery eyelash had fallen off, but my scales, which had been sculpted from eyeshadow and fishnets, remained somewhat intact against my forehead. My hands roamed over my body and face, until reaching the top of my head. I was surprised to find the pink hairpiece faithfully secured there, albeit tangled beyond help.

A faint pink light matching the color of the newly formed nest on my head cast itself over every inch of the room. Sunrise.

There comes a point in the many stages after a party when one wakes much too early and is in too much physical pain to go back to sleep, and I had hit that point. I tried waking my boyfriend without luck, then decided to move around.  

The first thing I noticed, after walking to the bedroom window, was a small streak of red-orange peeking over the mountains, fighting its way to me despite my desperate need for continued sleep and aspirin. The second thing I noticed was the endless, snow-covered landscape. Every ordinary object I had come to know was now unrecognizable, and I could not tell where the parking lot ended and the street began.

The night before had been chilly, sure, but no one, especially a southern girl like me, had expected to wake up to this. I’d waited almost three months to see my first snow, and it was otherworldly.

Starkwhite quiet blanketed the cars in the parking lot below. My Black SUV could’ve been mistaken for a white dune. The light seemed brighter than usual, as if amplified, reflecting off of the shimmering earth and into the air, causing me to squint, the way I did when looking at a pool of water. It was beautiful and completely foreign.

I practically squealed as I threw on a men’s jacket, running out of the door, down the stairs, and into pearly dawn.

Snow wasn’t something I minded in the beginning. Perhaps because it was new and exciting to me then. I hadn’t yet driven in it with my pathetic 2-wheel drive nor had a group of strangers pushed me out of a drift on campus, and I certainly hadn’t skidded to a jarring halt just barely avoiding a violent smack into the back of a stopped Subaru. Like everything else in this new world, snow was alluring until it wasn’t.

I must have looked downright insane twirling around the parking lot in my fish scale leggings and irretrievable pink hairpiece with one giant, vibrant eyelash flapping in the mountain wind, but I didn’t care. And I didn’t know the turbulence that would follow in coming months.

Not long after that morning, my then-boyfriend gifted me a copy of Mary Ruefle’s poetry collection, “The Most of It”. When I opened the book, I noticed an earmarked page; on it, was a poem entitled, “Snow” – a poem that now serves as a time capsule of that day.

Snow Pt.I
Snow Pt.II

There is something about this poem now that makes me feel completely enveloped by a time when everything felt damn near perfect, if only for one day. It reminds me of a world where I could be anyone or anything. A world where I was 24, in love, and finding joy in the ethereal unknown landscapes around me.

I am no longer the woman who once felt astonished in the presence of snow, but the beauty of poetry is that it can take you right back to a place you thought you’d left behind.

Prompt of the Day: Any Genre

Today’s prompt is to write something using this photo as inspiration. I don’t know the original image source unfortunately, but I saw it on Facebook earlier today with the caption: “Farm workers in California continue working while the fires blaze.” It reminds me of one of the YA novels I started last year in which a human-caused ecodisaster blocks the sun, causing an unstoppable super winter set to wipe out all human life on earth.

There are a lot of things I see when I look at this photo beyond fantasy though. It’s pretty terrifying to witness something so post-apocalyptic happening right now. It also snowed in the northern part of my home state of Louisiana, today. Currently, I’m huddled next to a space heater in snow boots and a down parka typing with numb fingers somewhere in the middle of New Orleans. Yesterday, my phone wouldn’t quit buzzing at work from a tornado warning. And last week it flooded within a matter of minutes at the beginning of a thunderstorm. None of this is normal.

For these reasons, I feel torn between a political essay about migrant workers in CA and a short story in the same vein as the YA mentioned earlier.

Either way, this prompt doesn’t have many restrictions, aside from using the photo as inspiration for your opening scene. Any genre is fine. Try to write at least 500 words.Use at least one color. Mention the word “burning” somewhere, whether in or out of context of the CA wildfires. 

Feel free to post what you come up with in the comments section. I’d love to read it!

Thinking of You at 2 AM

Thinking of You at 2 AM

 

The stove clock is still off by an hour

despite the fact that it’s been a whole week

since daylight savings time.

A baby water moccasin darts

across the foot of God without much thought.

This is still a city. Where your arms meet my waist.

Where the river bend meets a bus station.

In my dreams, you are pressed against my back. Loving me fiercely.

The past is a shroud I carry through wet southern streets.

It’s not you that needs letting go.

When you speak the world is still.

When you speak the restless brambles bend back.

I am the god of war. Even if that war is me.

You have to keep me at the right distance.

Which is unfair. A bit like heaven if you ask me.

Is this a test? Sometimes I wonder

what’s between the teeth of knowing.

 

 

 

 

It’s Okay if You Missed the Beginning of NaNoWriMo

giphyIt’s that time of year again, folks — National Novel Writing Month! Of course, I didn’t remember this fact until today with a third of November already underway. Pretty standard for me though if I’m being honest.

For those who are unfamiliar with National Novel Writing Month, more commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo, this is an annual event held during the month of November that encourages creative writers to complete a 50,000-word manuscript in exactly 30 days, the equivalent of 1,667 words per day.

Now is when I confess to you that I have never participated in NaNoWriMo in any official capacity. The organization website has determined rules, deadlines, achievement badges, and so on. I merely adopted the concept some years ago and have since adapted it for my own creative purposes. However, if you struggle to write everyday and need that extra level of accountability, it may be useful to register with the site.

I tend to personalize my restrictions for the month of November around my desired goals with realistic expectations. As a full-time editor and part-time poet, it is not always feasible for me to write an extra 1,667 words per day. Sometimes I come home late too mentally exhausted to do anything other than stare into the abyss that is Netflix. Sometimes my partner wants to spend quality time with me and talk about the day. Sometimes I have to make dinner or go to roller derby practice or run out to the store or walk my dogs, etc. I think most of us lead incredibly busy lives, which is why many of us don’t write regularly or as often as we would like to in the first place.

giphy2To make matters worse, I am the type of person who will stop trying altogether if my goals are ridiculously unobtainable. It’s just who I am as a woman living with diagnosed ADHD and almost no free time. Sometimes I expect too much of myself. I am also in the habit of pushing the limits of my physical and mental capabilities. At my core though, I am my writing therefore this is one area of my life I refuse to ruin through exhaustion.

Being a poet is a factor in my self-imposed month of writing as well. For instance, 1,667 words per day is doable for most fiction writers, novelists, essayists, and those who write long-form pieces, but for poets — who tend to focus almost exclusively on the quality of words versus quantity and who spend hours agonizing over every single word choice/pairing — this can be excruciatingly difficult or even impossible to achieve.

Still, cultivating the impetus to write every day for an entire month, come hell or high water, is useful in creating new habits and making the follow through on deadlines less intimidating. “One day, I’ll finish that novel,” transforms into, “Today, I will finish that novel,” and this monumental shift in thinking is crucial to manifesting your dreams no matter who you are or what you write.

For poets, this may become an exercise in letting go. It is easier to edit/whittle down pages and pages of lines than it is to pull the perfect sequential line out of thin air while writing a poem.

A few years ago, after a particularly bad case of writer’s block, I decided to try writing from stream of consciousness during the month of November. The goal was to write as quickly as possible without pausing — the opposite of my writing practice at the time. The biggest problem I had then was my inability to forget the reader/audience while writing, which led to the belief that everything I put down on paper was garbage; if it wasn’t ready to be published the moment I wrote it down, I tossed it. This is why I decided to try something new, something that would help me bypass the part of my brain intent on shouting, “This sucks!”

I got the idea from Gertrude Stein who, early in her career, performed experiments on “normal motor automatism” — the practice of simultaneously dividing one’s attention between two intelligent activities, such as writing and speaking — which was theorized to reveal one’s subconscious in a literal “stream of consciousness.”

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In the end, Stein didn’t believe “automatic writing” was possible, but her work often reflects a sort of primitivism in the repetition of phrases, unique linguistic patterns and experimental forms she chose that feels reminiscent of a stream of consciousness.

I thought about how Stein might have come up with “Tender Buttons” (one of my favorite works) and concluded that I couldn’t allow myself to stop and analyze what I wrote down under any circumstances. The result was a 70-page collection of poems that became key to my final thesis. In this way, NaNoWriMo can be utilized as more than just a way to create consistent writing habits or to finish that long-put-off novel; it can also be used as a period of exploration and evolution. I encourage anyone who missed the beginning of November to participate anyway. It’s never too late to begin a new writing practice.