Meto-things: What’s Up


Here is where things are at:

1

My own take on monsterishness... "Mwhahaha"

My own take on monsterishness…
Mwhahaha

My partner in all things of art and life, David L. White, has three poems up at The Knicknackery, “Low Tide”, “Crochet”, and “At Oven’s Door”, which I can’t even read because it breaks me. IntensityI love the seeming simplicity of “Low Tide”, how it jolts you at the end, and “Crochet” is a favorite of mine–it’s like a weird incantation. It does something when you read it, when you speak it, but it’s unclear exactly what.

Hackles? Prepare to raise them.

You’ll be hooked by the nerve on David’s monster poetry in this edition of monster-themed lit–the spooky factor is always fun. More goodness: to complement their issue-of-freaky, The Knicknackery folks have chosen some vintage art I find particularly good, ghoulish fun. And I’ve already staked out my in-this-edition-crush (besides David, who was a shoe-in for my wow vote), Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, who has some lovely, ghostly pieces.

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Olivia wrote this for me when I was away at a residency. Who knew owls would be such good friends?

Olivia wrote this for me a couple years ago when I was away at a residency. Who knew owls would be such good friends?

No sooner did I write a sad song to our lifeless concrete suburban community, when what should take up residence in an overgrown palm tree directly across the street from us? Barn owls! They fly south at night and most likely hunt the freeway berms and industrial zones (rodents), but those are guesses. We do have an abundance of feral cats around. Gruesome to consider this, but the presence of owls are not more dire than other perils stray animals face. Bygones, owls. Of course, pigeons factor into their diet, I would wager. We’ve been searching for castings to get a better idea of what’s going on, but any such thing would most likely be swept up by the HOA crews before we could find it.

Falling asleep to their kleak-kleak sounds has been nothing but joy and twice I’ve been stealthy enough to get glimpses of them soaring out of their tree–well, it’s more of a shove off and then a ghostly swoop–silent, elegant, powerful. Took my breath away. Just as I thought our everyday environment had lost the last vestiges of natural surprise, these dangerous angels turn up, hunting, haunting.

On the worrisome side, they’ve made enough noise a few nights to wake us up around 3 a.m., not that they bother me–I find it thrilling–but I heard what I believe to be (cannot confirm actually were) gun shots. No doubt, someone was trying to take them down. I suppose some people have so acclimated to endless asphalt, they’ve paved right through their souls.

But we love our owls. And we hope they will stay awhile, and also that our hateful neighbors have bad aim and better meds.

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I’m spending the next three months in deep writing mode. I have to finish a project and I’m at the point with it, I need to declare my commitment. Sometimes you have to stop balancing, stop trying to make life evenly managed, stop giving everything a fair share of yourself, making every daily task equally important in the moment.

Sometimes, it's just that easy.

Sometimes, it’s just that easy. Other times…no…

Sometimes my writer self can skip around, smelling roses and returning phone calls. Sometimes I have to surrender and become the bear in the cave. When I’m done, I’ll come out.

But I’ll keep meto-ing. A little light goes a long, welcome way in a cave.

Posted in art, creative process, creative writing, creativity, David L. White, elegy, Literary Journals, nature, owls, Poetry, Publications, Uncategorized, wild spaces | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prompt-a-thon, with Pictures


I have learned something valuable: Prompts are well liked.

I guess I get a little frustrated with prompt-driven writing because it was so much a part of the public school classroom. I, the student me, hated grade school (and everything after), and teaching, though it could be beautiful, was fraught. With what? Different post. Maybe also an encyclopedically long novel.

Also, I tend to panic when I am given a prompt because I am still neurotic enough to immediately assume I’m going to blow it and write something stupid and the prompt-er is going to look at me-the-prompt-ee and say something like, “That’s not what I meant at all!” You know, “of all the Charlie Browns in the world…”

Baggage. Sheesh.

But I am willing to say that I’m on my own, mostly, in this grudging relationship. And the writing of writing prompts, or finding good ones elsewhere, is a parliament of hoots. So here you are, two multi-potentialed prompts–and I’m thinking of making this a regular thing.

flowered strip 2671

Prompt 1: Let’s get ekphrastic.

Saying ekphrastic reminds me, sound-wise, of ecstatic and that leads me to consider all the ways art can lead to an ecstatic state…but then saying “ekphrastic” can also feel intimidating (I’m jumpy, y’all) as I typically associate this word with observance of the masters, works of art universally recognized as worthy of observation and response. Here’s some detour in that bit of heavy: between emotional freeze factors (“What could I possibly say about Van Gogh that Van Gogh doesn’t already say?”) and right-to-use image issues, we’re going to go more casual here with our images.

Use this totally unintimidating and litigiously risk free image to feed your thoughts. You can use the title or not. Make the image your environment, your creation, your discovery, your recurring dream. Or anything else you’d like to do with it, for it, near it. Talk in front of it, about it, to it, or behind its back, quite puckishly.

I Didn't Know There was a Curtain

I Didn’t Know There was a Curtain

If you would prefer to use a photographic image, try this one:

The Only Chicken

Because Chickens

I Won, I Won! (by Liv)

I Won, I Won! (Liv’s)

Prompt 2: Talk about talkingheads.

Here we are, a couple days before the Oscars. No one watches the Oscars anymore, except for my sister and me. We eat that funky shit right up. We’re going to have a sleep over and watch every lavishly weird second of it. So with that in mind, write your acceptance speech. For what? Whatever far flung thing you’d like. Or tell the story of an acceptance speech. If words have souls of their own, then they surely must live, learn, die. What beautifully flawed Bildungsroman can you envision for the life of an awards speech?

 

Always recommended: keep the initial draft around 500 words. That way you plow through rough drafts and find the ones you want to expand, the ones you want to refine, and the ones you want to make into paper airplanes. If you should happen to come up with a killer final draft under 750 words, well, you know what to do: rawboned that thing.

Posted in art, creative process, creative writing, creativity, fiction, flash fiction, imagery, inspiration, process, Prompts, rawboned, stories, symbolism, vision, writers, writing, Writing prompts | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meto-News 2/10/15: tNY Anthology Arrives and Other Intriguing Thoughts


As previously promised, here are my tNY Book IV contributor’s kickbacks. Visuals reign supreme in this weird little book, which is as it should be. Check it out:

tNY loot (Book IV Anthology, Postcards, bonus goodies

tNY loot (Book IV Anthology, Postcards, bonus goodies

My story appears on page 24  and is paired here not with the artwork of Lori Nelson as on the website, but with another piece I love enough to put on a wall,  “A Nightmare”, by David De Las Heras (instant eyeball crush).

The Hummingbird Murder and the art of David De Las Heras

The Hummingbird Murder and the art of David De Las Heras

And the postcards are super cool. A couple are so pretty I’m going to have to weigh the fun of sending them out against how nice they would look in a frame on my wall.

Interesting news tidbit–recently, theNewerYork has had to change their designation (for legal reasons) to tNY.com, home of The Shrug (lit mag) and several other cool enterprises, including theEEEL, which is an ongoing, constantly updating catalog of stories, words, and artwork.

The way I initially became aware of this site was by browsing, reading deep down into their archives. Good stuff in there.  I was in Texas with my sister when I heard I’d have a story up on (what is now) theEEEL. She and I had several Bloody Mary toasts to that, making for a lovely summer-high. Recently, another cohort of mine from Goddard, James Gapinski, placed a little bit of wonderful (Cheat Codes) on theEEEL. I hope he has toasted to it, a lot. I recommend that.

I often go on about how much I love online lit mags. Working for rawboned is a source of fun and pride and, well, work (which is such a good and life-saving thing). My heart is greedy for this stuff. I wish there were more—more reading, more work, more to love.

I want to think about this desire for more. Let’s say I’ve got things on my mind for spring 2015.

tny color eye effect

Keeping it close

 

Posted in art, celebration, creative writing, David De Las Heras, fiction, flash fiction, Literary Journals, Lori Nelson, online journals, Publications, rawboned, short stories, submitting, theNewerYork, Uncategorized, writers, writing, writing community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Places: An Elegy


I’m pleased to share news from my partner in life, David L. White, as we enjoy his latest publication.  His poem, “A Sonnet Just South of Kyrene and Chandler”, is freshly printed in the fall, 2014 edition of Southwestern American Literature.

A beautiful cover

A beautiful cover

The piece is an absolutely brilliant and concise observation of the increasingly concrete suburban landscape. At its core, it is an elegy.

The central premise of this jewel of a poem, in sync with the subject of the ethereal photo and short essay by my friend, Robyn Lynn, (currently appearing in Ascent) embodies the sad truth we see every day. Even in our dry as dust Southwestern suburb, there used to be wild-ish spaces.

When we first moved here ten years ago, there were a few horse properties left and an actual horse ranch virtually across the street. We’d been living in a city, in an apartment for so long, we decided, as a novelty, to sleeping bag it in the backyard one early summer night. The stars, while not exactly Yosemite dazzling, appeared many times more brilliant than they had from our central urban apartment. About 2 a.m., we were awakened from our starstruck doze by coyote call. Chilled to the bone by sound and night air, we shivered our way inside. David’s poem revisits this moment.

During that first year, I was frequently accompanied on a weekend bike ride around the neighborhood by a peacock who always seemed to be slowly chasing me. He would always end our outing with a show of his plumage or a chest-deep bleat.

(This is not the same peacock, but in case you’ve never had the pleasure…)

This was all around 2003/2004. In 2015, the places once occupied by horses and sunchokes, thick as hedgerows, have transformed into a two acre office complex, a sprawled, puzzle box of 50 or 60 separate business fronts strung together like a steel and granite flotilla in a huge blacktop bay. There are, at any given time, about three businesses actually operating out of the entire center.

The coyotes are long gone, pushed south or west toward the foothills. If we were to try sleeping in our backyard now, the constant hum of the freeway would have to do for a raspy and siren-punctuated lullaby.

Noise and light pollution have utterly altered the moment by moment sensory experience of living here.

At my in-laws', skunks are a flat out thrill

At my in-laws’, skunks are a flat out thrill

I can’t imagine what happened to the peacocks, but the property they lived on is another bunkerlike empty building, another stylish tribute to how much concrete it takes to block the last view of the western foothills. And while I realize that peacocks never did actually belong in this landscape, seeing them was nonetheless heartening, enlivening. That doesn’t seem so odd, the idea that animals open a place to wilder energies, and that I would feel I’d been farther, seen more, done more on a day with horses and peacocks, coyotes and starlight.

And it’s not just the surrounding landscape, but the way the people who live here are expected to conform to standards of identity neutral development. Houses must be the same color. Toys and bicycles cannot be visible from the street. Chalk drawings (think of the horror of giant daisies and hopscotch squares) should be washed off sidewalks and driveways within 24 hours to avoid HOA citations. Yards must be clear of large shrubs. Tall trees have to be closely pruned or removed. Leaves cannot be allowed in yards or streets. Restrictions are so tight, folks in this area—and many others—have begun to simply turn their backyards into patios. The entire yard. While I’m all for native landscaping, I’m not sure what to make of the “nobody can complain if it’s all concrete” theory of neighborhood design.

My visual metaphor for all of this.

My visual metaphor for all of this.

Not coincidentally, we now have trouble with smog, with mosquitoes, with speeding traffic on small residential streets, with frequent and middle of the night wrecks. Our corner, after it became the last full stop before the on ramp, sprouted so many memorial crosses at one point last summer, the city swooped in (a move proving bureaucrats know a thing or two about ambiance) and took down all the tributes  at once. The sight of so many funereal markers was alarming, but moving the flowers and crosses, the plastic wrapped teddy bears and balloons will not make anyone any safer. And we heard every single tragedy from the proverbial front row:

“What’s that deafening sound?”

“Oh, it’s just Life Flight again.”

If I had a place I could go. If there were still any sign of openness, of any kind of life other than hives of contractors erecting permanently unoccupied buildings. If there were a wild slot into which I could slip and hear—nothing. We had all of that. But it’s gone. And no one who is in charge of planning how cities grow and people evolve as communities seemed to think it was a big enough deal to save anything at all.

I know some places do a better job of guarding those beloved few and (should be) sacred wild spaces within the urban- and suburban-scape. There are cities and annexes that seem to be at least somewhat aware that people need a place to escape that trapped feeling of being lost in a sea of concrete.

Places have needs, too. If my neighborhood could, it would probably write a poem that would read a lot like the one David wrote. And then it would move.

Posted in Ascent, awareness, creativity, David L. White, ecology, elegy, fragility, inspiration, nature, photography, poem, Publications, Robyn Lynn, SAL, Southwestern American Literature, urban development, wandering, wild spaces, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

rawboned Gets a Nod, Brevity-style


img_0234_2

This just in: over the weekend, the good people at Brevity gave Trisha Winn’s rawboned a mention. As an editor, I’m feeling the love. Viewership and submissions were rolling fast by Sunday night. Keep it going. Submit your best bear-pokings. I promise to read every word.

Take a look at Brevity‘s space (what follows is straight from Brevity, reprinted from rawboned):

From the bear-poking folks at rawboned:

Recently, a friend and I were discussing the role of art, written or otherwise brought into being. To us, and to a great many others (I suspect), it is this: to poke the bear. We writers and artists do what we do because we have questions. Creating our art may not bring us the answers, but it can more fully, and in sometimes astonishing ways, articulate the questions. “Good” writing/art pushes readers and viewers to find their own questions.

Issue #6, to be published in April, will be dedicated to poking the bear. Whether you question your culture, your government, literary criticism, or why you always make eggs on Sunday morning, question something. Or send us something that makes us question something. And do it in 750 words or less. Surprise us. Stun us. Please.

Posted in Brevity, flash fiction, online journals, Publications, rawboned, submitting, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Meto-News: January 2015


Story finds a home

Story finds a home

I’m thrilled to say my contributor’s copies of Sou’wester, with my story, Graduation Event, are here. If Graduation Event could talk, it would gush about how much it loves the work featured in this edition by writers like Martha Silano, Sarah Gerkensmeyer, Ajay Vishwanathan, and so many others.

It would definitely mention how long it has dreamed of appearing in a journal already much beloved in our household, such is Sou’wester. Taking a turn for the personal, Graduation Event would thank my family for ordering takeout so that I could work the night it was written, then it would recall the day it was edited while I ate my breakfast, spilled tea on the desk, and nearly ruined it forever when I accidentally dried a function key that apparently exists only to send Word documents down to a watery and irretrievable grave of wingdings . It would say it feels like a survivor.

The music would rise, signalling Graduation Event to shut up and leave the stage, but it would do neither–suddenly remembering the flurry of “Event” stories written in proximity with it, it would become emotional, “Where are they now? Are their files even saved?” The daughters of aging celebrities would have to drag it offstage, still remembering all the reasons it’s so happy, so lucky, so gorgeous (in that adorable way only fiction can get by with) as it reads on the pages of Sou’wester.

It's so tall!

It’s so tall!

Posted in flash fiction, Literary Journals, Publications, short story, Sou'wester | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Prompt-a-thon


Third cup, coming up

Third cup, coming up

Whoever came up with the abhorrent idea that January first is invigorating? Post-holidays, I am not invigorated, I’m exhausted. Resolution is not in the air. Days are dark, dreamy. Nights feel right cozied up with family.

Family, being cozy.

Family, being cozy.

Mornings feel like a third cup of tea. Afternoons feel like work and busy-work and chores piled up, stacked, heaped, growing riper by the moment. Where, in all of this, is the muse? Hibernating. Hiding. Okay, but this is no reason to forego writing or painting or the other things I do. Or that you do.

Yeah, let’s talk about you for a minute. I figure I can’t be the only one already treading water, energetically speaking, 2015-style. I can’t change the effects of the season, but there is one way to force a cure for muselessness. As hokey as it seems, I am advocating that we all sign up for a prompt-a-thon.

A what?

Hang on. The sound of the word, “prompt”, feels somehow gouging, stifling, even to me. It’s what my second grade teacher used to give us: “Okay boys and girls, grab a character card from the character can and a setting picture from the settings folder!” Not thrilling.

If you are January-lulled, January-worn, January-blahhed, like me, thrill is not the point.  The point is to work, and that means a job is good stuff on a deeper, thank-ourselves-for-it-later level. Besides, I’m not in second grade, so what prompts me and where I go with a prompt has nothing to do with pleasing someone else and everything to do with my own expectations. Allowing myself to answer a prompt (don’t get hung up, it’s just a word for a call to action, right?) can be totally appropriate to me and my art. It can’t help but be. And I am so abstract, live in such a globbish gack puddle of swirly thoughts, sometimes the only way to go forward is by merit of following a map. It’s taken some time, practice, and leaping over stubborn resistance for me to embrace this truth.

For those of you blazing the trail of a cherished project, good on you, keep going. For anyone who, like me, is doggedly determined to cope with this creep that calls itself January and emerge from its company with hard copy to show for it, grab your art and gear up to something productive day after day, until it’s so easy to make action happen, you forget to need something external to get it going.

As I prompt along, here are some ideas I have found usefully concrete yet conceptually flexible—and keep in mind that the finished product (picture, story, cake) can wind up many miles from the place the prompt first directs:

Note: Writers, consider keeping word counts under standard market bars—500-750 (micro), 750-1000 (flash):

Something to get you moving: Go outside. I know, it’s cold. But extremity forces response. Dig up a couple spoonfuls full of dirt, mud, snow, leaves, pebbles, sand, whatever it is you have that’s diggable. If you are afraid of dirt, make a collection of objects, rocks, feathers, dried leaves, a particularly curvaceous stick. Surrounded by concrete? Find an easement or pick crap up until you have a tiny little collection (not of actual crap and nothing harboring bodily fluids—gross!). An envelope is a great receptacle. Now take it inside to a well-lighted place. Pour the envelope onto some paper. List out what you have.

I don't live in the woods, but I found plenty.

I don’t live in the woods, but I found plenty.

Go Sherlock on it. Use a magnifying glass. Write what you see, analyzing standout colors, features. Make up a story about any portion of your list, or all of it, or make your list your story. Or make it your sensory grounding for visual works: color, texture, materials. I like this because it gets you outside. Early or late. Moving. Touching nature or faux nature. With gloves if that’s safer, but still, it’s active. And also, lists.

Something to get you communicating: You’re on Facebook. Or Instagram or twitter. Ask your friends to throw you a noun. Pick five. People love to randomly contribute thought fodder. If you get tons, choose five from people you have considered deleting from your profile (extremity again) and make their words function in one story or visual image, perhaps channeling your pseudo-friendly ambivalence. This is also a great collection to make at school or work—in that case, consider a draft employing latent feelings about employment. Here’s one of my lists: Onion, iron, door, tiger, fluid. No friends, near-friends, or co-workers were injured or deleted in the acquisition of these words or in resulting stories.

Something to get you to do what you need to anyway: Clean out your fridge. Write a story about the experience as a character. Why do people clean out fridges? What’s in there, too much or too little? Where did it come from to begin with? What was it for? Where will it go? Visually, what image goes with this experience? What speaks to you—the clean, white coldness of the machine or the mucky, murky mess of leftovers? Are you remembering meals shared with a partner in love or silence, or are you feeling like a lonely, first-world waster? Hmm. Pull the strings you have unwittingly tied to food.

Something to bust you out of your rut: Go have your tarot read. Have an oracle reading. Get an astrological chart drawn up. Go on a guided meditational journey. Cast some damn bones. The ether wants to talk to you. Listen and report.

Brain-food doesn't always taste like BuzzFeed

Brain-food doesn’t always taste like BuzzFeed

Something to grow your brain and keep you real: First, level up and read. We’re talking full on philosophy (summaries won’t do—go straight to Kant, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein) or philosophical poetics (Emerson, Thoreau (love), Rilke (love love)). You have Google, so limits don’t apply. Don’t usually read like this? Now is the moment. Set a timer to make it less impenetrable if you have to, but read up, drink in. Avoid futzing with strict meaning in favor of letting words fill your head and buzz around. Next, after a nice drink of water or cup of tea, brace for juxtapositional blammo. New task: Search local police reports, also accessible online. Choose the case of some poor doof. Choose the doof’s victim, if there is one. Round out the image. Finally, mentally introduce the high to the low. How do these realities coexist, the philosophical and the pathetic? Compose in that confused, juxtaposed state.

Something to scare your roommate or spouse: Go to a thrift store. Randomly buy the first toy you see. Go home. Stare at this thing. Touch it. Hang out with it. Whose was this? What happened to it? Who would want this as it is? Does it have any magical properties? I’m almost certain it does. The art practically falls out of your ears and onto the page or the canvas or both, at once.

Something so easy and self-indulgent you can’t not do it: Listen to music. For two hours straight. Your favorite stuff. From 1990. Or 2001. Or whenever you last listened to music only you chose. This stirs ideas, dreams, desires, pains, drunken revelations long gone. The only rule is that this music must be your essential noise: No friends’ opinions. No selection editing for partners or kids or self-respect. Two hours. More if you have the time. I like earphones, but you be your own guide there. Get lost in it. Get soaked in it. Put the songs you like on repeat and repeat the repeat. When you are fairly well vibrating in tune, write, art it up. Bake that cake.

Something to get you out into the world: Commit to submission. Not in a sleazy, Shades of Grey way, but in a professional, totally cool way. Go to New Pages or Poets & Writers (Duotrope is super useful to writers, but it costs 5 bucks a month) and find some journals that have themed issues coming up. Apply yourself to their themes. Right there, on the spot. Whether you groove with it or not matters not. Just take it at face value and go to work like it pays, which it doesn’t, but please don’t trip over that right now. Off the top of my head, let’s say you visit the newly from-hiatus-rising rawboned. The upcoming theme has you poking bears—what ridiculous levels of fun! Be literal, be political, be personal. Say something you really shouldn’t in ways you ordinarily wouldn’t and then, after careful revision and maybe sleeping on it a few nights and revising some more and formatting correctly (double spacing is non-negotiable), submit this bit of provocative brilliance. What can happen? Forward motion, hard copy, possibly more. Bonus: Check out the art of Pawel Kuczynski, which offers a succinct visual version of what poking the bear might look like.

Something to break the myopic grip of consumer-centric media: We all have tastes. We all have computers. We use our computers to cater to our tastes. It’s called a rut, folks. Climb up out of the cushiness of comfort zones by exposing yourself to new sights, new words, new forms. Respond to what you find, not through taste, but through genuine wonder: question, guess, speculate. Don’t balk and immediately return to seeking out new things to like. Be freaked out. Be grossed out. Be confused. That’s all okay. Stop deferring to the safety of your taste and open up a little. Then react. Tell the story of a first encounter with newness. Learn why a thing exists by explaining why, as if you knew. There are conversations to be had. Bonus: If you have not, try the art of John Frame or the art and writing of Bruno Schulz. Whoa. Oh,  Leonora Carrington, anyone?

If you give prompt-a-thon a try, I’d love to hear about it (comment below, or drop me a message). Meanwhile, my pages are starting to look less lonely. Take that, January.

Posted in Advice, art, creative process, creative writing, creativity, Prompts, Writing prompts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments