Thursday, June 21, 2018

Rest and Relaxation

I just returned from a trip to Denver to visit my lovely Letakins. Aside from my return travel—40 minute train delay due to lost power, 6 hour flight delay due to weather—it was a calm, stress-free vacation. I'd forgotten how to relax!

We went to a fun but poorly attended Motown dance party. We read books outside in the park. We took Denver Pride by storm. We strolled through the botanic gardens. We ate all the food. All the food.

We watched movies! I hardly ever watch movies anymore!
  • The 2001 Josie & the Pussycats film totally holds up.
  • Love, Simon is freaking adorable.
  • Ever After is just as delightful as it was 20 years ago. (oh god.) 
  • Empire Records is still in my top 3 films of all time. What's with today today? 
We also powered through several episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. That show is never not funny. Its writers deserve every award under the sun. 

Speaking of writing: I WROTE THREE WHOLE CHAPTERS OF A THING. THREE OF THEM. 

It was glorious.

Considering how awful the news has been lately (here are some scripts for calling your senators and representatives post-executive-order-which-doesn't-help-anything), it was nice to get away from the office and other responsibilities. Missed my dog, though. We were very happy to see each other when I finally did get home at nearly midnight on Tuesday.

I should take vacations more often. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Bookish Sunday

Yesterday I got my butt out of bed, dug my wrinkled raincoat out of the closet, and took the L downtown to make my mostly-annual visit to the Printers Row Lit Fest.

It really was miserable outside, but fortunately, the events I came to see were both inside. First I went to see Jac Jemc (author of the ambitious and ultra creepy The Grip of It) and Augustus Rose (author of The Readymade Thief, which I have not read) speak about their work. The tickets said the conversation was supposed to be an hour, but it ended up being only a half hour, which was too bad. On the other hand, it was a small crowd, so I was able to actually speak with both authors. And I got a lot of compliments on my passport stamp tattoo sleeve. [insert painting nails emoji here]

Later I went to a performance celebrating a new Black Girl Magic poetry anthology, hosted by none other than the *freaking amazing* Jamila Woods (listen to her music immediately), with performances by several other brilliant artists including E'mon Lauren, Britteney Black Rose Kapri, Eve Ewing and more. Not to mention DJ Ca$h Era who brought all the best 90s jams. Mind blown. [insert explosion emoji here]

I also bought lots of books, because who do you think I even am? Of course I bought books.
  • The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic, edited by Mahogany L. Browne, Idrissa Simmonds, & Jamila Woods - Picked this one up before I saw the show. Excited AF.
  • Mammother by Zachary Schomburg - I almost always pick up a book from local press Featherproof when I'm at Lit Fest, and I've heard good things about this one. 
  • Boring Boring Boring Boring Boring Boring Boring by Zach Plague - One reason I always buy from Featherproof is that they have good deals. Got this one for free. 
  • The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose - After seeing him speak, I thought his novel sounded wonderfully weird. I also felt bad that most people were there to see Jac Jemc instead of him. I'd hope that someone would do the same for me. 
  • Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky - I've been wanting to read this one for a while, but I haven't been able to find a paperback copy. Thanks, Sandmeyer's Bookstore
For a while I'd been trying not to buy any new books, since I already own so many I haven't read. Hence The Backlog. But here's the thing: thanks to the corporate job, I have the money to buy books. And independent booksellers need money. If my purchase helps a nice bookstore to stay open another day, I'm happy, even if I never find time to read the book.

Literary good citizenship, y'all. Literary good citizenship.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Red Wine, Success!

My title has very little to do with the actual content of this post; it's just a Cold War Kids song from several years ago that I suddenly remembered liking. It may have utterly depressing lyrics for all I know. Though I'm a writer, I am terrible at listening to lyrics. I listen to The Smiths when I'm in a good mood because their melodies are so goddamn chipper.

Anyway, it's the "success" part I wanted to bring to your attention. Last week I tweeted about how I'd been having trouble writing lately, and I asked for good vibes to help me push through the block.

And boy oh boy did y'all come through.

Not only did I edit multiple stories last week, but I also started a completely new one. The idea just popped into my head. Who needs a muse when you have supportive friends? Thank you, thank you, thank you.

In other writing-related news, I've had three flash stories published this month!
Pleased as punch that all of these weird little stories found such good homes. (Can you tell I submitted a bunch of stories to magazines at once?) Just this week I've also had two more agents request full copies of my manuscript, which is obviously exciting. It had seemed like things were tapering off, despite my continued queries, so I'm glad to know my baby book has not been forgotten. 

I truly can't thank you all enough for being supportive of my writing. Because I don't get paid to do it, it can feel unreal sometimes, like the world views it as a cute hobby--whereas in my head, my corporate job is just some random thing I do to pay the bills so I can get home to my real work. It feels wonderful to know that you care about my writing, and that you want me to keep doing it. 

Let me pay forward some of that love. We just published our #SplitLipFAM round-up for the month of May, so you can check out that list for a TON of amazing stories and poems. I especially recommend Dorothy Chan's poetry, Robert James Russell's illustrated nonfiction pieces, sally burnette's story and Marianne Chan's poems. Split Lip is also currently looking for fiction readers, so if you're interested in pulling some gems out of the slush with us, fill out this application.

<3 <3 <3

Monday, May 21, 2018

Unconditional Love

I've always said that I prefer dogs to cats because dogs show their owners constant, unconditional love. When you get home, dogs are waiting at the door, ready to throw themselves at you. Cats, on the other hand, hide away in whatever nook or cranny they can find, and only seek out attention when you're busy with something else.

It wasn't until I adopted a dog, however, that I realized how terrifying unconditional love can be.

My initial assessment was more true than I realized; Okie does give me total, adoring, unconditional love, no matter what. I brought her home from the shelter one day and she was in love. Period.

And now there's this little, semi-helpless creature depending on me at all times. She loves me when I'm frustrated, or when I'm ignoring her because I'm trying to finish something. She loves me when I don't let her chase squirrels.

It makes me feel inadequate. Don't get me wrong--I freaking love my dog. I am convinced that she is the cutest creature ever to grace the planet. And I know that I completely lucked out in terms of shelter dogs, too. She's trusting, she hardly ever chews anything she's not supposed to, and she has never once had an accident inside.

But I feel inadequate because I'm afraid that I don't love her as much as she loves me. I wouldn't die without her, obviously. And sometimes I get so exasperated that she barks at the door when she hears the neighbors. I realize that this is completely normal dog behavior, but I'm afraid she's going to get us evicted. Completely normal dog behavior doesn't always work when you're living in a third floor walk-up. In those moments, though, I'm always more frustrated with myself, that I can't train her not to bark no matter what technique I try.

I feel like I don't deserve her unconditional love, that I'm not worthy of it. I worry that I'm not a good enough dog-mom, that she needs more from me than I can give. (Not that I wouldn't try to give it, just that I wouldn't have the physical/temporal/emotional capacity.)

Yes, I realize that this is the most "me" thing ever. I am well aware that I have major guilt issues.

But I also think that these particular feelings may be so strong because society doesn't do a good job letting people express stress about pets? Just like human babies, they're supposed to be little bundles of joy. And I knew that taking care of Okie would be hard work, but the hard work isn't what I expected. It's not really all that hard to take her outside when she needs to go, or to feed her. But it is hard to take my laundry down to the basement knowing that she might knock down the kitchen gate trying to get to me, and writing is hard when she interrupts me seven times to bark at the neighbors and I have to direct her away from the door over and over again.

It's hard knowing that she wants and/or needs my constant attention, and I can only give her a percentage. I wish I had a roommate or a live-in partner to pick up the inevitable slack.

Don't worry--I'm not even remotely considering giving her up. For me that's a barely forgivable offense. Pets are family, and should only be returned to a shelter under the direst of circumstances. And overall things are great. She is, as I often tell her, my love-bucket. (I have no idea where this nickname came from.)

But hey, pets are stressful. Are your pets stressful? Why don't we ever talk about how stressful our pets are? Why don't we ever talk about how unconditional love is so sublime?

Monday, May 7, 2018

A God Thing

This weekend my sister Molly and I had what we dubbed a Cultured Weekend of Theater (CWOT).

On Friday night we went to see Future Echoes at The Den Theatre, directed by none other than BFFL Meg McGrath. Meg made sure to seat us in the "scary seats," so that bloodied, wheezing actors slithered over our feet to crawl onto the stage. Delightful.

If you want to see an ambitious play, Future Echoes is for you. Everything about it is formidable, from the physics-heavy script to the open set design. Bring your brains along--you'll have to do a lot of thinking. Also, you may very well get stage blood on you! I recommend it.

On Saturday we went to a matinee of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyric Opera, and HOLY MOLY did it blow my mind. I would honestly rank it in the top 10 productions I've ever seen in my life. The set design was really cool--the orchestra was sitting in two different places on the stage, one half atop a platform and one half tucked into the trees (yeah, there were trees), so the conductor had to lead the musicians via video screens attached to the balcony. The performers were phenomenal--I can't get their voices out of my head. The guy who played Jesus actually got a standing ovation in the middle of the show for "Gethsemane" because it was that good. And they made some bizarre directorial choices that I loved. Herod especially was brilliant--the actor played him as a demented, violent (but fabulous!) drag queen in a diaper. Sort of like Caligula on steroids? But he somehow made that ridiculous song scary, which was a first for me.

The whole production was a much darker interpretation of the musical than I normally see, but I loved it. It's in Chicago until May 20th, so if you get the chance, you should go, despite the cost. Totally worth it. In the meantime, I'll be searching desperately for a cast recording.

During intermission I was talking with Molly about my second novel (it's still in the very early stages--don't get too excited). Though it's completely different from my first, the plot still involves religion to an extent. Molly said people were going to think that I had a "God thing."

But I do have a God thing, even though I'm not involved with organized religion at all anymore. There are two obvious reasons for this:
  • Residual effects from years of Catholic schooling
  • I'm agnostic, not atheist 
More than that, though, I simply think the concept of faith is interesting. People often make serious decisions based on no empirical evidence whatsoever--only the conviction that their beliefs are the correct beliefs. And it's not just traditionally religious people. Most people have faith in something intangible, even if it's not a god. That's why religion and God seem like universal themes to me, even if religion isn't universal. Faith is. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pure Talent

As you may have noticed, I have been bad about blogging this month. While I've been busy at work, I've also been moody lately--though I am feeling somewhat better now that we've had multiple sunny days in a row. I should get one of those natural light lamps.

At any rate, I was going to write another moody feelings post, but then I decided f*** that. I'm going to tell you about my talented friends instead. 

One reason I love working for Split Lip is that I now have a whole new network of writing comrades. Not only can I share work with them, but also they just get it. When you're a writer, it's really important to surround yourself with people who get it. Writing and submitting is a weird, exhausting, exhilarating process, and it's hard to go it alone.

Recently several of my Split Lip friends have had some great successes. Get ready to add to your reading list:
  • Amy Rossi is Split Lip's hair metal-loving Managing Editor, and she is truly one of the most delightful people I have ever met. She's also a phenomenal writer. Check out her latest in Wigleaf, a witch story for the #metoo movement called "What's Done Is Mine." 
  • Maureen Langloss is Split Lip's Flash Editor, and I love how kind and positive she is. Anytime I express an even remotely negative thought on Twitter, she's right there with support. Historical flash fiction isn't something I see that often, but Maureen crushes it with her piece "La Rabida Heart Sanitarium, 1954" in The Sonora Review. 
  • Marianne Chan is Split Lip's Poetry Editor, and she was also in my MFA program at UNLV, so I've known her for quite some time. She is clever and funny--a force to be reckoned with. And I think she might be magic, because she always finds the best poems I've ever read for the magazine. This month her poem "When the Man at the Party Said He Wanted to Own a Filipino" was featured on The Rumpus for National Poetry Month.
  • Katie Flynn is our wonderful Fiction Editor. I love when she critiques my stories in our editor workshop--she has such rare insight into character and structure. Not only did her piece "A History That Brings Me to You" win second place in The Masters Review's Winter Short Story Awards, but she also was just named a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, which means she gets a whole bunch of money just to write stuff. Can't wait to see all the new work she'll be able to produce.
  • Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice is our fearless Editor-in-Chief. She has boundless energy, and the magazine has come so far in so little time thanks to her leadership. She writes addictively voicey fiction. One of her newest pieces is in the Spring issue of Copper Nickel.
But wait! There's more! I have loads of non-Split Lip friends who are also being spectacularly awesome these days. 
  • Timea Sipos joined my MFA program when I was in my final year, and I wish I could have spent more time in workshops and other classes with her. She is a good writer and a sharp cookie. She's published several translations, but you can read her original story "What They Call It" in Juked. 
  • Speaking of Juked, my friend Maegan Poland has a story in their newest print issue. She also just got her PhD, so perhaps I should say Doctor Meagan Poland. 
  • A few years back my dearest friend Leta Keane started at Turing School in Denver to learn coding. She got so good at it that they asked her back to teach front-end development (developing? computer stuff?), and this summer she's leading a workshop at the DinosaurJS conference
  • In Chicago? Like gore? Other dearest friend Meg McGrath (Norine McGrath to you theater geeks) is directing a world-premiere play called Future Echoes. It opens THIS WEEKEND, so you should probably get tickets right now. 
I only associate with the most accomplished people, so I've probably missed some on this list. Even so, I hope you all admire my good taste in friends and check out their work. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Smear Appreciation Post

I am happy to report that Leta came to visit this past weekend, so it was All Smear All the Time.*


We mostly stayed in our pajamas and ate food. But we also went shopping at some thrift stores and dancing at a 90's party.

I am so, so, so lucky to have had these friends for so long, and to know that I'll continue to have them. Even if all my other support networks failed, the Smear wouldn't. Couldn't! It's unbreakable.

I am not sure how people survive without lifelong best friends.

Love you, M&M&L.

(And HBD, Leta!)

*The Smear of Brain is a friendship group whose inception dates to 1990, when my baby sister Molly was born. Meg came along a few years after that in the second grade, and Leta at the neighborhood block party when we were eleven.