Monday, August 13, 2018

Building a Mountain With a Teaspoon

I'm blindfolded on the most even field the gods ever created.  The grass blades tickle and shush me.  Some far-off birds twitter in welcome... or at my foolishness.

I am tasked with creating a mountain on this flat place-- a Midwestern Kilimanjaro, if you will.  The tool of creation?  An indestructible teaspoon.  I can't remove the blindfold, but am given my entire life span to finish the job.
Trying to "make it" as a poet/writer feels like the slowly forming mountain beneath my calloused hands.  It's fun playing in the dirt, but attempting to form that pile into something large and sculpted is difficult.  Getting the mountain high enough for people to care about seems impossible.

Seven rejections so far this month.  I'm frustrated and sad.  The spoon might be indestructible, but I'm not.  Sometimes, I don't know why I do this to myself.  I don't have to submit, I can just write in private.  No one is obligated to read anything anyone writes.  I expect nothing.

But, expectation and restless hope are different.  I still hope that what I'm doing matters to people.  I still hope that my writing gives people something they had less of before-- entertainment, understanding, beauty, etc. I still hope to connect with others through my art.

Perhaps "hope" is the mountain-making spoon.  Perhaps, if I refuse to let go, part of me will be unbreakable, too.  See you on the summit.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Acrid (A Poem)

When I dug at the earth with the tines of my heart,
you said I was rootless. Ruthless of you,
to cast me upside-down into my own tilled soil.
It smelled like the snap of cut grass in summertime.

My movements became jerky, a lawnmower puttered
out. I wouldn't take your sour offer, lemonade without
twelve spoons of sugar. Perhaps we're back to rations,
sweetness. Perhaps I'd stay for a granular paradise.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Overview: Eyewear Publishing Controversy

Eyewear Publishing caused an uproar in the poetry community after tweeting that they were suspending poetry projects due to their poets announcing books with "rival presses".  When Kaveh Akbar (a poet and judge for one of their contests) called them out and asked them to apologize, they fired back and even insinuated he sides with sexual abusers.  It was nasty.

People are left in limbo because their collections are being dropped.  Due to the publisher's behavior, few people will want to purchase books from the poets whose books are being sold by them.

Eyewear Publishing is a successful poetry press.  It makes money.  In a genre where presses are lucky to break even, they're an anomaly.  Of course, it helps that they charge a reading fee for literally every contest, anthology, and normal submission they consider.  I heard they have shareholders, something that's beyond comprehension as a poetry-focused press.

Rumors of a short-tempered, verbally abusive editor/publisher have surrounded the press for years.  The "whisper network" told tales of the abuse and intimidation, but most people never heard a thing.  For those who did hear something, a successful track record is easier to believe than a quick warning from two years ago at a reading.

Through all the ugliness, the beauty of the poetry community has shone bright.  Poetry publishers are opening to free submissions of manuscripts abandoned by Eyewear.  Poets and editors are offering to refund people who sent in manuscripts that have now vanished out of their own pockets.  The contest Kaveh Akbar was the judge of is being offered several new homes.  People are posting their favorite poems of Eyewear poets all over Twitter.  It's beautiful to see.  There are no "rivals" here, just a small ecosystem intent on surviving... in unity.

More information:  

A Twitter thread about the abrasive director of the press.
A blog post that's getting some traction after the blowup.

Monday, July 16, 2018

New Poem in ETTT & Personal Stuff

My poem, "Consumption" was published in the new issue of Eye to the Telescope yesterday.
It feels weird, having publishing news so close together... but great, too.  I'm receiving even more rejections behind-the-scenes, so it's nice to know all my efforts aren't bouncing off into failure, just most of them.
My personal news:  

Someone dear to me is still in the hospital.  He's been there since about the beginning of the month with a bad infection that even landed him in the ICU for a fair number of days.  He seems to be making progress, though.  The people who love him are holding onto that fact.
I need another test for another medical issue.  The gastroenterologist said it could be a common issue or I could be dead in a year.  Reassuring, right?  Since I had cancer, all the rules around what seems innocuous enough are darkly bent.  The main problem:  I'm unsure I can do the preparation for the exam because my digestive system can't cope with some things.  We'll see.
The mentor program I'm running for disabled/neurodivergent writers is almost ready to launch!  The term for this year starts on August 1st and, like any mother hen, I'm fretting and working my butt off.

I want to start an online writing retreat as the next project, but I'm completely unequipped for it.  I'm currently in fact-finding mode.
What is everyone else up to?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Acceptances, Statistics, and "Diving In"

My poem, "Diving In" was published in Lonesome October Lit late last month!  This is the same magazine that accepted two of my Christmas horror flash pieces to appear in December.

Eye to the Telescope accepted "Consumption" (a horror poem) for their issue on the theme:  Darkness.  It's the first time they've wanted something I've sent.

Antinarrative Journal accepted my poem, "Absentee Father".  I subscribe to their emails and love the work they choose.
Acceptances received in 2018, so far:  Four (consisting of three poems and two fiction pieces).

Rejections received in 2018, so far:  32

Number of submissions out for consideration as of July 3rd:  32

Monday, July 2, 2018

Diversity at Penguin Random House UK (Part 2)

Last week, I wrote about Penguin Random House UK trying to become as varied in composition as the UK itself.  One of the ways they want to do that?  Make college degrees no longer a requirement for any position in their company.

People can be extremely talented and have no degree because:  Not everyone can afford $70,000 of debt, caretakers might not have the time to devote to schooling, disabled people aren't always accommodated in universities, reformed ex-cons might have not had access to education while serving time... it goes on.

Ways to prove talent and potential:
  1. Exams with interviews
  2. Portfolios of work (for cover artists)
  3. Testimonials from a freelance business
  4. Alternative education experience (like reputable online workshops)
  5. Editing/running a small press/literary magazine
  6. Internships/mentorships with advancement opportunity 
Penguin Random House (PRH) specifically says people who have degrees are still welcome to apply, so it isn't like being a college graduate disqualifies someone.  I wonder, by 2025, how many people they'll have on their payroll who possess no degree at all (and I'm not talking about the janitors).
The presence of disability has faded from the discussion around PRH's attempt at true inclusiveness.  This is normal.  While we may get a brief mention, we're almost always left out of any discussion about equality and diversity by the end of it.  

Why disabled/neurodivergent people are left out:
  1. We're perceived as incapable of fully participating in whatever is discussed.
  2. People will often know others from minority communities (or at least about them) but won't know much about disabled/neurodivergent people.
  3. Any accommodation we need is considered too much and renders us invalid.
  4. Our narratives are ignored unless people want inspiration or to pity someone.
The stereotypes of helplessness, low intelligence, and being too expensive to care for make including us seem not worth it.  Better to shove us away than make society accessible.  If they bury our needs, our needs don't exist.

Kenny Fries wrote a great piece on the disappearance of disability in these discussions.
I'll leave you with it.  

Monday, June 25, 2018

Diversity at Penguin Random House UK (Part 1)

Earlier this month, Penguin Random House (UK) unveiled their plan to make those they publish (and hire) more closely resemble the diversity seen in their population by the year 2025.  They have removed the degree requirement from their jobs.  They've expanded mentoring programs and have made sure all internships are paid.

Of course, once you talk about diversity and inclusion, you have people criticising the move.  "Quality will suffer!" the naysayers screech.  "They'll just tick off difference boxes without any thought of talent."
Using minority percentages in populations:

I'm for using them as a guideline, I've suggested it in many instances, but I'm uncertain how I feel about quotas or identical reflections.  Are they going to fire/hire if the population shifts in the future?  Is there a margin they can be "off" by?

How are those with multiple marginalizations handled?  Does an Asian, bisexual man count as both minority groups in those census-type reports?  How will PHR count folks who overlap different marginalizations?

I'd love to see Penguin Random House's (PRH) methods for tracking their progress.

Just as a reference:  The VIDA Count also uses percentages. 
"Diversity" doesn't mean quality suffers:

Much like affirmative action, opponents think PHR will grab the first cripple they see off the street and offer them a job.  (If so, look me up, guys!)  These people think the group those hired belong to will matter more than the skill.  They don't believe for one second that the chosen "minority" person will have the qualifications other applicants do.

The assumed lack of talent is pretty bigoted, if you think about it.  Minorities are often seen as possessing less intellect, less drive, less every good attribute than the majority so of course they won't be the "right" people.

Why would an entity focused on making money purposely hire people without the barest hint of potential?  The supposed boost they'd get from "virtue signalling" wouldn't last nearly long enough to cover the losses of maintaining inept employees, or worse, publishing awful writers.  PHR will search harder and smarter, not with increasing desperation.

There is a subtle, persistent fear by some people in the majority.  If some more of the pie is given to minority groups, there will be less pie for them.  It's a difficult thing, having to concede something to others when you've had it unchallenged (and often unearned) for so long.

Next week, I'll address the change in PHR's policy on college degrees and disability's mysterious disappearance from the diversity discussion as it goes on.