rawboned Gets a Nod, Brevity-style


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.

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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!

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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

A Poem for Solstice

O Soul

I always find Solstice oddly bittersweet. I rest into the dark, have myself

a long and shadowy dream time, and when the light begins to call with news of

pending industriousness? I can’t help but look back. No one expresses this better than

Rilke, of course.

Happy or otherwise thoughtful Solstice to you.

You, Darkness

You, darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.
But the darkness pulls in everything:
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! –
powers and people –
and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.
                                 ― Rainer Maria Rilke

Thank you to Kimberly Mayer for the Rilke reminder.

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Meto-News Addendum

Isn’t that always the way? Post news, get news.

So, three things:

1. Recently, I enjoyed the opportunity to interview a wonderful writer (and all around friendly person), Julia Strayer, for Smokelong Quarterly, a fabulous online journal with great taste in material and a healthy appreciation for writers (they interview every writer of every story…wow…). Check out Julia Strayer’s story (here) and my interview with Julia (here). The whole thing is brain-nommy, time-bendy, perspective-twirly good. Here is the thing, if I have the chance to spend time talking to a writer about writing, I’m all in.

salon 2011

That’s me on the floor, talking to writers about writing, feeling incredibly happy about it.

2. The crazy wonder that is theNewerYork not only hit their kickstarter goal, but made some extra cash. I’ll post all day long when the goodies arrive, which will include Book IV.

3. I’m currently taking an online workshop, a winter present from my poet partner, meant to keep the word-juices flowing through the holiday slash and burn. This experience will be highly discussable, afterward. For now, I’m remembering how cranky I get in workshops. The system of prompts followed by feedback to prompt-driven pieces is tedious at this point, as in, the thrill of being told what to write is sort of long gone, long buried, eaten by worms, pooped out again as soil, currently growing potatoes somewhere in Idaho. But…I am writing daily despite the million other jobs waiting to be done.  And naturally, the increased time on task results in an exponential boost to output. Funny that: write to write.

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Meto-News for 12-14: Good Stuff to Click

So here’s a rundown of cool stuff, linked and highly clickable:

Volume XXVII.2 of The Concho River Review has arrived. I’m particularly proud of this piece appearing in this journal. Angelo State University, Concho River’s sponsoring institution, is kind of in my original neck of the boonies. The issue is crammed with literary swag. It was a great read, and I felt all blushy in such company.  And it’s huge—so much to love. Let me just say one more important thing about Concho River Review: having fondled my contributor’s copy quite a lot, I’m here to tell you, the cover is like butter.

concho page

I’ve also enjoyed reading Extracts lately, probably because they’ve recently featured poetry by my significant other, David L. White. I can recommend this publication with a degree of gusto.

And finally, theNewerYork is in the final hours of a critical kickstarter campaign. Watching the dollar amount accrue has been thrilling, nerve wracking. I imagine this is what it’s like if you care about sports and your team is down—but not by much!—late in the fourth quarter, ninth inning, final seconds of some huge playoff game. Go, art, go!

This alone, by August Smith, is worth having these guys fully funded on the side of goodness and light:

Meanwhile, plans are percolating for a very wordy summer with more publications and news in the works.

Update: Great news: theNewerYork hit their funding goal. Why am I so stoked?My story, “The Hummingbird Murder”, featured on their site last summer, will be coming to print. And I’ve seen the galleys. The book is outrageous, stuffed with art and wildness.

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Art, a Verb for Hard Times

book on gold meme

During the last few weeks of what has—inaccurately—felt like unprecedented social, political, and moral turmoil on a global scale, I have found it difficult to stay focused on writing or writing about creative interests of any kind.

While everyone watched unfolding disasters in Gaza, Ferguson, and West Africa, I felt compelled to put away personal thoughts and pursuits. I began to comb through news outlets I usually avoid, monitor live web feeds, and doggedly follow each morning’s round of commentary.  But anything I had to say about it all was also just commentary, hardly in the creative vein. And I began to feel terrible about my creative silence.

While I was in grad school, there was an emphasis on the artist’s responsibility toward raising social awareness by taking up the banner of humanitarian activism.  I heard that call, but have never been sure how to answer it.

Although I have clearly defined views about various issues that plague the world, unlike many of the writers, musicians, and artists I have admired for taking public stands for love and compassion, I have never found my compositional-political voice.

In personal venues, I have no difficulty engaging with others and sharing my views. I’ve had enough face-to-face-offs and online troll fights to clarify my perspective, and in doing so I’ve weeded out “friends” who seem to think that hate speech is something to have a conversation about, as if there could be a give-and-take discourse about whom it’s okay to lock out of hope (nope, I won’t take that). So I know I can confidently express myself.

But artistically, I have never known what the hell I have to offer in that way. My attempts at social commentary have seemed ineffective, self-conscious, preachy, clumsy…I’m not a political artist and that has always made me feel a little sad, even guilty, especially during times of seemingly heightened conflict and tragedy.

I say seemingly heightened in order to acknowledge the inaccuracy of that panicky feeling, the one insisting that the world has never ever been this bad. In reality (not suggesting this makes anything that’s happened recently or that will happen in the coming days and weeks any better in any sense) lots of bad things have always happened, often lots of terrible things have happened at one time, and those who can stand up and illume with their art are always needed. Always.

So I have been thinking about the ongoing nature of unrest and how necessary art activism is in a world that forgets to preserve its own life force. And I’ve been looking for my role in all that.

But I think I must have gotten so wrapped up in roles and in the pain of witnessing the moment, I forgot that I already knew the answer to this personal and professional puzzle: Art is by its very nature a radical act.

Art pushes back against the bleakness, the corruptness of inertia. It unseats unwelcome dominion over the spirit. Art is radical reclamation of energy. If we create, write, paint, whatever, we’re creating a light source. It will have all the properties light always has, to warm, to vitalize, to reveal the hidden.

Whatever I write about and whatever I paint is the only activism I have, and it’s enough no matter what it is. We are bombarded by the attitude that art is superfluous, even silly, a self-indulgent waste of time in a world of hurt. I am saying that’s a lie. Creating your art in a time of adversity is a rebellious act of beauty. Of course the pain hates to give an inch, as if it were conscious—doesn’t it seem so? But that’s precisely the time to lash out in a wave of creative purpose, no matter—not a single matter—whether your art is an event statement or simply a lyrical movement along the subtle body of your work.

When times get hard, when it’s all falling apart, I have to try to remember, though I am not a political artist, art is medicine to treat the locked jaw of the crisis mind. Art can mock or proclaim, but it can also just as effectively syphon strength from the ideological machinery of misery. Art rises. So, artists, you don’t have to be working on a statement piece. Please just get out of bed every day and art. You will have reclaimed that drop of creation for the whole good. That’s activism, baby.


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