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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Only Way to "Be Someone"

Thirteen years ago, I had a conversation online with (who I thought was) a good friend.  It went something like this:

Her:  no.  seriously.  u shuld become a pc programmer
Me:  I can't see myself doing that.  I'm not good with computers.
Her:  learn.  u set ur hours & work from home. it will work
Me:  I can barely update my computer without help.  I loathe technical stuff.
Her:  tough. Jen, ur never gonna do anything else.  ur writing is cute but not practical
Me:  I know I won't become famous, especially as a poet.
Her:  right.  u have no options other than a programmer
Me:  Programming isn't an option, either.
Her:  yes it is.  don't u want to do something useful? be someone useful?
Me:  Sure, but...
Her:  then get off ur butt & be a good member of society
Me:  I'd need schooling and everything.
Her:  teach urself. u're smart.  do you want to be a drain ur entire life? like now?

And it got better from there.  I ended our friendship that night.  She and I were so close, I called her "auntie".  Few people are literally worthless, even without jobs.  She let me know in those twenty minutes how she really saw me.
Sometimes though, I replay our last conversation.  Maybe, if I would have tried it, I'd be able to open my own organisation for disabled people, buy a house, travel... all the things I long for and will never have.  I haven't been out of my county in over a decade.  I haven't travelled more than four hours away from home in my whole life.  I look at houses and wish for one of my own, then berate myself for not being grateful for my accessible, affordable apartment.

Maybe, if I would have listened, I would be somebody by now.  Instead, I'm this insignificant poet who rarely leaves home more than once a week due to finances and chronic pain.  I'm a taker in more ways than I want to be.

But, my life could be different in other ways, too.  I might have failed.  Might have been miserable doing a job I despise.  I may have missed the wonderful night I met my husband because I was too busy to log-on.  I could have made enough money to get my medical insurance taken away, but not enough to afford it myself (which is death).  Not every what-if is a regret.
I'm in the process of trying to figure out what my "next step" is with my life.  I haven't had a major change (for the better, anyway) in almost a decade.  So far, I can think of nothing that requires the amount of time, money, and spoons I possess.  I am starting to think there's nothing else I can do that doesn't take a miracle.  But, I'll wait.  Maybe the opportunity just hasn't shown itself.  I just have to keep hope.  It's just so damn hard to when I don't even have a clue.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Writing Books and Magazines Often Neglect Poetry

I subscribe to Poets & Writers.  I used to subscribe to other writing magazines, but find most content doesn't apply to me as a poet.  The Writer used to have one column bimonthly about poetry, but dropped it.  Writer's Digest offers a new poetic form every issue... something readily available online.

Craft books said to be for "every writer" often skim over (or even skip) poetry and poets.  Books and articles on marketing and promotion for writers focus on nonfiction writers and novelists.  There are a few books on the poet's craft specifically, but most are dense and technical... and more than twenty years old.

I can't tell you how many times I've purchased (or borrowed) the "hottest book about writing" only to be disappointed.  A book released last summer promised a special section on poetry, the author even stating during the development process she was hard at work on that spot in particular.  I bought it, though I have little money to devote to my craft, waiting to read it.  Guess what?  Nothing!  Not even a whole page on poem crafting, marketing as a poet...

There will be some overlap in genres for marketing and branding.  But poets, especially poets without a collection out (like me), won't get much out of it.  Blogging about my protagonist's interests (for example) won't work, though poetic themes might.

It never hurts to know how to write better in another genre, but poetry is a different beast than a novel.  Poets have fewer rules, but more complex considerations.  I can get away with zero punctuation, but must have a coherent answer as to why I didn't use any, though I may never be asked to explain.

If magazines about writing are loathe to really engage and cover poetry, what hope is there for current, entertaining information that applies to poets outside of academia?  Must we dust off books from decades past that bore?  Or are there bright spots (probably online) shimmering just out of sight?  I think my poetic salvation will come from blogs, they'll just take a while to find.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Voice Auditions

I love The Voice (the reality competition) auditions.  It's appealing, the thought that only talent matters.  My entire body tightens in anticipation, waiting for that first chair to turn.

I admire the contestants.  The amount of hope they carry and confidence they have to have is incredible.  I can't imagine feeling that way about any part of myself.  The look on some faces when their ambition is rewarded speaks to me.

The singing is now the only portion I watch, and not just because I love music (and truly enjoy singing).  The banter and "fighting" between judges for the decision of a singer is often more cringe-worthy than legitimately funny.  There is also a little too much filler.

But, the part that bugs me more than any scripted jab between the "pros" are the backstories of our starry-eyed songbirds.

First, it bothers me that a fair amount of these singers are (at least) semi-professional.  Some spent time as background vocalists for famous recording artists.  Others have had songs on the radio (and some "top chart songs") but are between contacts so it's okay that they audition.  I know everyone can/should be able to sing well if they have a chance on The Voice, but there are many artists who are amazing and would almost kill for the chance.  The producers have to try harder.

The other thing about the show (and I can't tolerate) are the sob stories.  Nearly every person trying to make it on the show has tales of heartache and woe.  Sick grandfather?  Let's exploit that.  Your mom left when you were a baby?  How did that make you feel?  You beat cancer, incredible!  Do you have any photos of you in the hospital?  Everyone has had something in their life that's disturbing, sad, or difficult and I'm not suggesting they're telling lies, but I am sick of executives playing on people's pain for ratings.  I know hearing what happens to someone else can (possibly) help someone in a similar situation, but (I feel) the way it's packaged only leaves the audience with some vague pity and ensuing barren feel-good thoughts at the "positive turn".

Still, there is something irresistible about a new season and new chances.  Maybe the whole thing is, indeed, scripted like most reality television.  Regardless, it lets me believe in brighter beginnings, at least for a few episodes.  And... that's worth it to me.