July 31, 2009

Tattooed Ladies of the TLA

The Texas Library Association has a new fundraising item for its Disaster Relief Fund - The Tattooed Ladies of the TLA Calendar. The 20-month calendar features the inked artwork of library professionals from all around the state.

I always have mixed feelings towards variations on the pinup calendar. On the one hand, I'm sure these will sell well, and the Disaster Relief Fund definitely needs the money right now (not to mention that a year after recent hurricanes, many parts of Texas still have not recovered). On the other hand, the idea of pinup calendars in general bothers me - I don't like that one gender is giving themselves up to the gaze of the other. And yes, I know models consent to be in these calendars, but that doesn't mean that posing for one isn't problematic. (Just for the record, I am just as uneasy about male pinup calendars as I am about female pinups). I think that if half of the models were men and half were women, it really wouldn't bother me so much. It might not even bother me at all. Especially on a calendar like this, which is designed to showcase tattoos more than specific body parts. If the buyer is really more interested in the ink, then why should the model's gender matter?

But then on yet another hand, I like that this calendar glorifies tattooed women. When I was growing up, I was taught that only certain kinds of women got tattoos, and I did not want to be one of them. Of course, I later found that wasn't true, and now have three tattoos, planning for a fourth. The point is, I'm sure I'm not the only person who grew up learning similar lessons about tattoos and femininity. I like that this calendar shows that tattoos don't mean a woman is immoral - that she can be a professional, and that she's a philanthropist as well. I definitely give this calendar credit for messing with stereotypes.

July 30, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #102 is up!

The next poetry installment of Gloom Cupboard is up online! Thanks to all the wonderful poets and artists willing to share their work for this issue.

Now reading for issue #103. If you sent in poetry before #102 and have not received a response, fear not - you're first on my reading list for the next issue.

July 28, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I think I might be starting to come out of the funk that chased me through most of July. Yesterday I had the most productive writing day all month. Hopefully I can sustain that progress.

I confess that I have developed a weakness for Jodi Picoult novels. The part of my brain that for some reason never left grad school is nagging me about it. But her work is well-researched and her plots are compelling. Except I guessed the twist of A Change of Heart about 100 pages before it was revealed.

I made it into the dance teacher training program at my studio, and I qualified for work study, so I'm saving a LOT of money. Classes start August 19th. Hooray!

July 27, 2009

Flash Memoir

The following fragment is something I sketched out while working on a prompt for the flash fiction workshop I took two weeks ago. I like the idea of writing memoir in the flash form, and it's something I've been experimenting with over the past few months. The ideas are still rough, but I like where this is going. I plan to expand it in the near future.

What I think is most important about the flash genre is that it is capable of giving us an entire story while only showing us a moment. With this in mind, I've been working on an idea that I call flash memoir, in which you give an event in your life in the flash form. Unlike traditional memoir, where you arrange a large story thematically (your abusive childhood, your struggle with cancer, the birth of your child, your journey to marriage, your spiritual awakening, your career as an activist), flash memoir is made up of disconnected moments and events told in the flash form. At the end of the flash memoir collection, the reader should be able to glean insight about the writer's life based on these small impressions. Each story gets just one moment, and then it's done; no conclusion or afterword filled with self-reflection, no attempt to tie everything together, no insistence on attempting to give life meaning. Instead, just a presentation of brief, important moments that have shaped the author. Life doesn't have neat conclusions; our personal narratives are not easy to wrap up. And flash memoir doesn't attempt reconciliation; it merely presents the brief actions and events that shaped us. Flash memoir makes even the smallest lives seem important. You don't need to have amassed a life of grand gestures or ideas; you just need to have lived. We may not all have big adventures – but even the smallest moments can have significance, and what looks to us to be a boring life may in fact have been full of quiet yet transcendental wonders.

July 24, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #101 (Poetry) is up!

The poetry section of Gloom Cupboard #101 is up. I'd like to thank all of the wonderful poets who shared their work for this issue.

July 21, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I have a meeting with the head of my dance school on Thursday to talk about enrolling in teacher training. I am very excited and very nervous. And also surprised - I'm coming back to ballroom dancing after a 3-year hiatus and surprised to be in good enough shape to be considered as a teacher. I hope it goes well; I would love to become a dance teacher. It's a dream I had as a child that I put aside, thinking it would never happen. It's thrilling to think it might actually come true.


July has been a difficult month professionally. I've had trouble meeting my freelance goals AND my creative writing goals. The past few months have been good; I had a really easy time dedicating myself to my work. But for some reason, in July, I have had numerous little things encroaching on my time, and it's been more difficult than usual to set boundaries between my writing, day job, dance, and social lives. I really need to power through this week and then revise my strategies so this doesn't happen again in August.

July 20, 2009

Out of the Cupboard/Snob Report

Check out the most recent Out of the Cupboard, a semi-regular Gloom Cupboard feature. This time around, I featured Christopher Savage, an Austin poet and co-founder of literary group the Boho Cocos. Check out Chris and his poetic compatriots at Austin New Blog, Boho Coco, and Dumbsville.


In addition, GC nonfiction editor has a new Snob Report up!


And in other GC news, I'm getting ready to organize the poetry section of issue 101. Anyone reading this who sent me stuff for 101 but didn't hear back yet - I have all the poems I need, but I haven't rejected you; you'll be first in line when I start reading work for #102.

July 19, 2009

Flash Fiction Workshop: Day 3

Okay, so the workshop finished on Thursday night, but I didn't get back to Austin until late that evening, and on Friday I had to head to work, and Saturday was a day of work/dance rehearsal, so this is the first moment I've had to sit down and blog about it.

Anyway, Thursday's session was fantastic! This was my first time doing real workshopping in probably four years, so I was a little nervous at first. But my classmates were all great, and we provided each other with fantastic feedback. Plus, it was fun to see what we had developed over the course of a few days. The experience made me realize just how helpful workshops are, and that I don't need to be nervous - everyone is there to support each other as artists, not tear each other down.

I also got a very uplifting email from my instructor this morning, encouraging to send one of my workshop pieces out once it's finished; it's nice to have that kind of follow-up.

After three days, I came away with nine new pieces. Two are almost ready to send out as-is; they need a little more adjustment, and then I'm set to send them out. There are two more that I don't plan to do anything with; they're duds that I wrote to fulfill an exercise and get my brain going so I could write something better. And there are five more that are not ready yet, but all have potential, and just need some intense revision.

All in all, I'm very glad I had the opportunity to take this workshop. I'm not sure if I'll do a Gemini Ink workshop next year, but I would definitely consider it. I say I'm not sure just because there are a couple of other summer workshops I would love to do as well, and due to both time and money I just cannot do everything. This workshop wasn't totally what I expected, but I gave some constructive criticism in my class evaluation, and all in all I enjoyed working with my classmates. Plus, I developed a lot of new work in a short span of time. Definitely a worthwhile experience.

July 17, 2009

Link Love!

I encourage you all to check out Gloom Cupboard fiction editor Stu's blog post on cover letters. It articulates all of the things that come to my mind as I read through all of the submissions that come through my inbox each week. All writers can benefit from reading Stu's perspective.

July 15, 2009

Flash Fiction Workshop: Day 2

Today was a bit more of what I was expecting; we finally got to do some writing! I had a lot of fun with that. The most interesting and challenging aspect was when our instructor dealt out 9 tarot cards and we had to compose a flash fiction piece from them. This was difficult for me largely because I know almost nothing about tarot. I don't know what each card signifies, and I don't know what it means when they are placed rightside-up or upside-down. So my story largely revolved around the images presented on the cards, rather than making up a story based on what the cards meant.

Tomorrow, we're bringing in the prompts we've been working on outside of class. I'm excited to show what I've worked on. I'm a little nervous, but it should be fun. My classmates are all nice, and we're enjoying each other's company.

Of course, when researching my hotels, I failed to consider that I should pick one with a business center. So now I need to spend some time tomorrow finding a Kinko's or similar place to have enough copies of my work for the class. Ooops.

Wordless Wednesday

July 14, 2009

Flash Fiction Workshop: Day 1

Tonight was the first night of my 3-evening workshop. To my surprise, we didn't actually write anything.

First, we went around and just discussed the many forms of flash fiction (including PP/FF, microfiction, short-short fiction, etc.), our personal definitions of the genre, what distinguished flash fiction from prose poetry, and other conceptual stuff. Then, we spent the rest of the class reading examples of flash fiction and discussing them as a class. It was nice to see the varieties of flash fiction that exist: everything from classics by Borges and Carver to more experimental work. We had a really productive discussion.

However, I was a little bummed that we didn't do any writing at all. We did get prompts to take home and work on for the next sessions, but I would have liked even a 5-minute exercise. Still, I had a good time, and I look forward to the next two evenings.

Now, off to some reading and then some sleeping.

Confession Tuesday

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to write "personal" poetry. Over the weekend, someone very important to me was having a rough time, so I sent him a copy of a manuscript-in-progress. This was difficult for me because 1) I only allow certain people to see work in progress and 2) these poems were extremely personal. But seeing my writing helped him feel better.

But although I was nervous about showcasing rough, personal poetry, what I consider "personal" has changed so much from when I first started writing. It's difficult to explain how, though. But I'm trying to articulate the difference because, since I have started submitting work again, all the poems that have been accepted have been intensely personal. And yet - they're not the same "personal" poems I was writing in high school and college (and getting rejection after rejection).

When I was writing as an adolescent, my personal poems were really just me spilling out my emotions; essentially, trying to turn journal entries into poems. Now, the personal poems are not so obvious. I draw on people, conversations, important events - but there is a sort of concealment taking place. For example, my poem "Accidental Dancer" is based on a very specific person - but even my spouse did not know who it was about. These poems are highly personal to me, but at the same time, they're more abstract. It's not "this is how I feel" but instead "here is something from my life that I want to show you." And I think my most successful poems are the ones that are both highly personal, but also are somehow abstracted from the rest of my life. My most successful poems are those that evoke for me something very specific, but at the same time, even people close to me won't necessarily know that source of inspiration. My best poems are those that are personal and yet transcend my own life, and engage with the rest of the world.

What's also interesting to me is that I have become oddly more shy about sending out personal poems. In high school, I was sending out all my emotional poetry and didn't care that it might be rejected. But the way I write personal poems now - examples of my life that are somehow not specific to only my experience - I get nervous about other people seeing them. Even though no editor is going to know the specifics about what inspired a piece. Even though a rejected poem is nothing personal. Even though these personal poems are somehow depersonalized, I am somehow more protective of them than I was with any of the emotional ramblings I used to submit. The poems made exclusively of thoughts in my own head - those didn't need so much protection. But the poems made from people I care about, meaningful events, important conversations - those are ones I want to protect. I know I'm rambling, but I'm just trying to write my way to an answer. And I haven't quite found an articulate one yet.

July 13, 2009

Self-Promotion

I have a poem up at Wanderings. Very excited to see it up!


Also, tomorrow I head out for my flash fiction workshop in San Antonio. So many things to wrap up before then! And I'm also looking forward to getting out of town for a few days and getting away from my routine. I need to clear my head.

July 9, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #100 is up

Gloom Cupboard #100 is now available. It's the first issue I put together entirely on my own as poetry editor, and I'm thrilled with the way it turned out. Congratulations to everyone whose work was accepted, and thank you for sharing your poems with us!

July 7, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I've been delinquent in my writing the past few days. The holiday weekend started on Thursday evening and just wrapped up this afternoon. Lots of people to see and things to do, and side dishes to make for parties. It's hard getting back in the groove of things, and I have to pull a lot of shifts at the bookstore this week, meaning getting back on track is going to be extra difficult.

One of our degus got injured last week and she does not appear to be getting better. She has a follow-up with the vet tomorrow, and I'm very worried.

My 1902 Leaves of Grass has finally been repaired and is back with me. Huzzah! It's as good as new; you can't even tell that it was damaged. And it cost much less than I was expecting.

July 3, 2009

Hint Fiction Antholgy Submission Guidelines

Robert Swartwood has published the guidelines for his upcoming hint fiction anthology at his blog. Check them out and submit!

From the guidelines:

Tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2010, W.W. Norton will publish an anthology of Hint Fiction. What is Hint Fiction? It’s a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story. The thesis of the anthology is to prove that a story 25 words or less can have as much impact as a story 2,500 words or longer. The anthology will include between 100 and 150 stories. We want your best work.

It’s possible to write a complete story in 25 words or less — a beginning, middle, end — but that’s not Hint Fiction.

The very best Hint Fiction stories can be read many different ways.

We want stories we can read again and again and never tire of. Stories that don’t pull any punches. Stories that make us think, that evoke some kind of emotional response.

[. . .]

For formatting purposes, you must include a title (which actually works in your benefit, as the title helps give a better “hint” of the overall story).

Writers can only submit up to two stories, both embedded in the same e-mail. Don’t worry about a cover letter. We don’t care where you’ve been published or what graduate program you’ve attended — all author identification will be stripped by a third party so we will only see the stories and nothing but the stories.

[. . .]

Submissions will open August 1 and close at midnight Eastern time August 31. A submissions e-mail address will appear on this page on August 1 — DO NOT SUBMIT TO ANY OTHER ADDRESS BEFORE THEN.

Please note that due to the expected volume of submissions, we will be forced to respond with form letters.

July 2, 2009

July Goals

Review of June Goals
Yay! I accomplished everything I set out to do in June! In fact, I managed to exceed my expectations this month. And some positive things have come from that, particularly attending a flash fiction workshop later this month.

July Goals
1. Do at least one full revision of my poetry manuscripts-in-progress.
2. Enter the Three-Minute Fiction Contest.
3. Submit work to at least three literary journals.
4. Attend at least one poetry reading or other literary event.
5. Come away from my writing workshop with at least one piece worth submitting.
6. Pitch my novel to at least one publisher.
7. Finish a short story I started but have since neglected.
8. Begin to do research for my NaNoWriMo 2009 novel.