Monday, May 15, 2017

Hiatus and Published Poem

This blog goes on hold after today, though I will still be on Twitter @jenruthjackson.  I'm trying to give myself some space to get things done.  Or relax between things.

I hope I'll be back late next month, but can't say anything for sure.  Summer is a hectic season for me.  This blog doesn't garner enough attention for this absence to mean much to most of you, but I thought I'd let everyone know.
My poem, "What is Left" is up at Street Light Press.  You will have to scroll for it, if you haven't read it and want to.

Be joyous and creative, everyone!

Yours in ink and inspiration,


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Writing (Instead of Receiving) Rejections

Rejection is always a disappointment.  No matter how prepared you are, it doesn't shield you from the blow completely.  And it feels worse (for me) to be the rejecter.

When I started The Handy Uncapped Pen, I knew rejecting submissions would be a (hopefully small) part of operations. I've had to send a mere two rejections because of the lack of submissions, but I hated it both times.  I have this urge to say yes to people, even if I know the content on offer isn't right for my publication.

I hope H.U.P. will never be so big that I need a template rejection.  One of the few things I can give my submitters is a bit of my time to respond with genuine feedback or compliments.  Perhaps it softens the blow, to feel they aren't just a means to an end for my blog.  It isn't easy being a writer, it's worse when you don't feel appreciated or respected.
Components of my rejection:

1.  I thank the person for submitting to me.  I mean my gratitude and say it within the first two sentences.
2.  I clearly tell the person I'm declining/passing on their work.  No flowery words, no confusion.  
3.  I try to offer honest feedback or praise.  I want people who submit to know their pieces were read by someone who engaged with it enough to have an opinion beyond "no".
4.  I ask them to try submitting again.  There might come a day where I hope someone never sends writing to me again, but it hasn't happened yet.

I don't tell people "art is subjective".  Artists know it is.  
Have you ever had to reject artists for a project/publication?  How did you deal with it?
What makes a rejection letter/email easier to take?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

My First "Open Mic"

I gathered my courage as I waited outside the room, surreptitiously checking my watch.  In honor of National Library Week, my library was hosting an informal poetry reading, the first time we've ever had one in my hometown.  I wasn't sure I wanted to be there, presenting my work in an open forum.  I desperately wanted to be there, seeing other local poets and knowing I wasn't alone.

I went in.

The assistant director of the library (the organizer for the event) was a friend of mine in high school.  Soon after I arrived, a teenage girl showed up with her notebook of poems.  She was the last poet to come in.  Yes, just three people (organizer included) were at the open mic poetry reading.  The lack of interest was a bit disappointing.

But, it was also nice.  We talked influences, how each of us got started writing poetry, and read poems to each other.  It was a comfortable experience, one I wasn't sure I'd get if twenty or more people would have attended.  
Maria (the assistant director) told me there are a lot of poets-- published poets, in this town.  I know we have a few writers spanning all genres, but don't know any specifics. She said she's going to host another open mic in the summer (with better advertisements).  She also said a woman who writes children's books is thinking about starting a multi-genre writers' group here.

I'm not holding my breath, but my little midwestern city might be gaining resources for the wordsmiths residing here.  All I can do is wait, and surreptitiously check my calendar.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Update (What I'm Reading and More)

Have any of you ever had a CT scan?
I'm going in for my first one tomorrow.  I'm finally searching for answers to some health problems I've had for years.  I want answers, but I don't.  Maybe I just want good results and don't want to know if they're otherwise.
I'm reading the newest installment in the Throne of Glass series.  My best friend got me into it and it's quite good.  I often wish more fantasy books had older characters, though.
I don't know what I'm reading after that, perhaps more books for review on my other blog, The Handy, Uncapped Pen.  A few people have mentioned the desire for more reviews on there.
This month is National Poetry Month.  This month is yielding no new poems.  I should feel guilty about not writing, but I don't.  I am reading a lot of new poems, though!  Hearing the voices of others will stoke the flame of words within myself.

Currently, I have three poetry chapbooks (two literary, one fantasy) and a horror poetry collection making the rounds to a few publications.  I'm losing faith that one of them will find a place to call home, but one never knows.
In closing, I leave you with this small Twitter thread talking about what happens to writers who create drama for book sales.  It just goes to show, kindness and respect will still win long-term.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Associate's Degree in Creative Writing

Those who receive an MFA often end up teaching.  A lot of people who pursue those extra years of study however, just want two years immersed in a community that will teach them, challenge them, and give them space to produce new work.

If someone doesn't want to become a creative writing professor, why do they have to take years of extra education to receive the two years they crave?  I understand having a wider knowledge base at the start of grad school helps.  I realize using the education that came before can mean all students have a more equal field.  But, it still doesn't sufficiently explain it as there can be an application process where potential students prove their skill.

There are Bachelor's Degrees in Creative Writing, but most of them are like every other BA:  The kitchen sink approach where giving students a varied curriculum is more important than the writing itself.  There isn't, to my knowledge, an undergraduate degree that offers the connection, support, and focus an MFA grants.

Sure, people can piece together resources that mimic the experience.  A writing group can be found or forged.  Books and blogs on nearly anything taught in a college course can be bought or borrowed.  A writer can volunteer at a literary magazine as a "slush reader" and gain valuable insight.  But the "real world" will be able to intrude more often, time will be spent cultivating information a professor would provide, the writing group might not be as concrete as a classroom of peers, etc.

Writers (and everyone else) need options so they can choose what feels right for them.
I think about my days at college.  If an Associate's in Creative Writing had been an option back then, I could have tried it.  The knowledge I gained from the time I was in college hasn't proven useful in my everyday life. I don't even have an Associate's after everything I went through, but at least I would have knowledge to help me as a poet.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Recently Published Poems

Below is my poem, "Ceremony" in the Winter 2017 issue of Cemetery Moon.  Just a note: the first line of the poem shouldn't be the word "Ceremony", there was a mistake.
The current issue of Black Fox Literary has my poem, "Inside Love" in it! You can read the issue online for free. (It is on page 82 or so, the slider doesn't match the ToC.)

I also received my contributor copies of Banshee recently, a lovely literary journal out of Ireland. You can't read my poem, but you can see the title on the contributor list here. (I will post that poem in a month or so.)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Cripple Effect

I sing daily, if I can get away with it.  Singing makes me feel better.  It helps with breath control.  I sing only for myself (most of the time), though there were a few people in my past who weren't family who I did it for on occasion.

Sometimes, I sing in public and sing loud enough for people to hear because I get carried away.  I dislike this.  I try not to sing in public, but forget from time to time as I don't get out much (and am usually happy when I do) so I sing more.  This mistake of public singing would be fine, if people just moved on.

But, they don't.  Strangers walk up to me and tell me how amazing my voice is (I'm an "okay" singer, but nowhere near great).  People begin to cry.  Someone may utter the word "inspirational".  These people are under what I call, "The Cripple Effect".

"The Cripple Effect" is when a person with a visible disability does something average people do (often without an amount of breathtaking skill) and are called "heroic" or "amazing" for doing it.  This is one reason inspiration porn is so annoying.

If I were able-bodied, I bet there would be no tears.  People would just walk by a fat woman singing through her day without a thought.  In fact, fat people are automatically seen as not as good when it comes to various arts and jobs (true story), so people would probably hear me as worse than I am.
Recently, I was searching for auditions of singing competition shows when I found a blind audition of a man named Vernon Barnard on The Voice:  South Africa.  Vernon has a lovely voice and is visually-impaired.  Each judge who turns around for him ends up crying and babbling on about how "inspirational" he is and his "amazing spirit" and how he has made their lives better, just by meeting him.  It's "The Cripple Effect" at work.

The male judge who turns around has a visually-impaired father, so I understand his reaction somewhat, but not completely and not the two women's reactions.  They (the women) turn for him, liking his voice, get all emotional... then don't even try to fight for him!  The whole thing made my stomach drop and clench.  Isn't it cool for anyone to get that far?

Though the video with the judges' comments and cheesy music was taken down, I present the short version where it merely begins.  I wish I could show you the whole thing, complete with commentary to stroke your gag reflex.