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Writer Life

Small Goals | June 2017

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Small Goals

I did my first monthly/small goals post in a while last month, and I really enjoyed having a focus for May, especially only a few small ones. I didn’t feel too overwhelmed, and even though I–spoiler–didn’t fully accomplish any of them, I do feel like I accomplished something on each of  them, so I’m not getting down on myself either. I’m excited to go over last month’s goals, see what I can continue versus what I want to change or set aside for a while and share a couple of goals for June as well.

Send out three writing submissions.  I sent out one. However, I did make a list of places to submit, and I’m currently revising a piece to send out in the next week or so. Sometimes you just don’t have the right thing to share, either because the publication has a certain theme or you just haven’t found the right place for what you have. But I’m excited to be taking steps, even if they’re slow baby steps for now.

Finish my Daria zine.  I’ve got all of the text laid out in InDesign and ready to print, but I started second guessing whether or not I want to finish this project the way I’ve set it up so far. I’m not feeling enthusiastic about the pieces I’ve written, and part of me would like to open it up to submissions for a bigger comp zine. I’m nervous to do it, though, because the last few times I’ve tried, I haven’t gotten nearly enough submissions. So I think this is going to sit around on my laptop for a while until I decide where to take it.

Write another 3,000 words on my novel.  Close! I got through 2,000 words, which is more than I’ve done since about February, so I can’t fault myself for it. The first thousand flew by, which was of course exciting and encouraging, but then as I moved onto the next thousand, boy, was that a slog. But I managed that much at least, so at least I’m that much further along with the book.

Finish writing and revising Whatsername #4. I’m thrilled to work on this issue of my perzine because it’s all about my relationship with horror and being a weirdo goth/emo/punk kid in school. I started working on this before I’d even finished issue three simply because I’ve been getting so deep into horror again, and it’s brought back a lot of nostalgia for me over the past couple of months. I’ve got a rough outline, and I’m having such a blast writing each piece, so I think this one is definitely achievable for me.

Write for at least fifteen minutes every day. I have a little row of habit tracker boxes specifically for this, and it’s kind of a dream for me to fill out every one of them for June. I’m going to count all kinds of things, too: blog posts, journaling, poetry, novel work, whatever–just maybe not my grocery list. I’ve never had a good habit for my writing, at least not a lasting one, and I’d like to start making it a more regular part of my day. I’m hoping to go back over the bit on writing in Lauren Graham’s book because that made such a difference for me when I first read it that I think it’ll be helpful to take another look.

Read five books. I’ve been a very slow reader this year. By this time last year I’d read about twice as many books as I have now, and while it’s not a contest, I do love to read. I just haven’t been making it a priority, instead letting myself get sucked into way too many shows on Netflix or listening to podcasts and coloring (which is fine and relaxing, but maybe something I need to take a break on, especially now that I’m caught up on my favorites). It’s just unusual for me not to read more than I have been, so I’d like to get back to my usual self. My tbr right now only has three books for the month, but I’m sure I can find more once I finish those.

I really wanted to include something that wasn’t “write…”, but I guess the best I could do was a reading goal instead. What can I say? I’m a lover of the written word.

What are some of your June goals, big or small?

June 5, 2017
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girls in the underground. | a prose piece

Posted in Writer Life, Writing by

The glow of a suburban streetlamp shines on us, three teenage girls throwing punches at one another because we have just seen Fight Club for the first time. Holed up in the weed punk smoky bedroom of one of us, we drank in the narrator’s words, Tyler’s words, with each sip from the hard lemonade bottles we passed around. Anti-capitalism, anti-authority; we are adolescent experts, of course. (And my heart beats for Ed Norton, but I’ll never tell.)

In the auto body shop’s parking lot, our pockets are empty. We are untraceable. We are anonymous. We are three teenage girls taking swings at each other in the dead heat of a summer night because we can.

 


This piece originally appeared in my poetry collection Reflections in a Dirty Mirror (2015).

If you enjoyed this piece, please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor, checking out my zine shop, or just buying me a cup of coffee to help support my writing. Every dollar makes a difference and allows me to keep plugging along at my work.

June 2, 2017
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Cursive Letters Into Knives: About My Newest Tattoo

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When I was thirteen, I fell in love with my two favorite bands, one right after the other. I listened to Green Day’s American Idiot on my Discman every morning and afternoon, to and from school, and I was quickly sucked into the mystery of who was singing the opening to “Letterbomb.” Digging through the liner notes, I found Kathleen Hanna’s name credited and did what googling I could from there. YouTube didn’t exist yet. Wikipedia was still so young. The best thing I came up with was a thirty-second clip of “Rebel Girl” on the VH1 website. So I took a few notes, and on my next trip to FYE, I picked up a copy of Pussywhipped.

I listened to it in the car on the way home, the sounds harsh and unpolished in my headphones, and it might not have been instant love, but it was definitely second-listening love.

A month ago, just over twelve years later, I got my second Bikini Kill tattoo (the first being the turntable off of the New Radio album). Dan and I were driving home Brattleboro on a Saturday afternoon, windows down, Green Day’s Revolution Radio loud in the few speakers my car has, and it felt like it was finally time for this one. It’s an idea I’d had for probably ten years, but in the last few I’ve just never had the money for it, so I kept putting it off and getting smaller black and grey pieces instead. But this time the money was in savings, and I couldn’t in my heart wait any longer.

A switchblade tattoo with the words "We are turning cursive letters into knives" wrapped around it

I’ve listened to every Bikini Kill album countless times since I first discovered them. Various songs have cycled through my life as something of an anthem at that moment when I needed it, but the one I always come back to–besides the undeniable “Rebel Girl”–is “Bloody Ice Cream,” from the album Reject All American. It’s always appealed to my writer sensibilities, and its impact has grown all the more noticeable over the years.

The song is short, half a dozen lines or so long, but it’s always been influential to me.

The Sylvia Plath story is told to girls who write
They want us to think that to be a girl poet means you have to die
Who is it that told me all the girls who write must suicide?
I’ve another good one for you
We are turning cursive letters into knives

It’s brief, but it’s full of bite and meaning to me. The phenomenon of women writers committing suicide (Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Virginia Woolf). The bullshit nature of that overwhelming narrative–these women weren’t just cases of suicide but amazing writers. And the power that we have when we write, using the words to fight and to survive.

That last line has always felt like a big “fuck you” to that fatalist narrative to me, and it’s stuck with me. It’s how I made it to twenty-six and how I’ll make it to twenty-seven, twenty-eight, and beyond. And this tattoo is to remind me of that and how much it matters to me and the impact that women writers–tragic or not–have had on my life and the world.

May 22, 2017
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Small Goals | May 2017

Posted in Personal, Writer Life by
Small Goals

April was a hard month for me. Some reasons are legitimate; some are just excuses.

For May, I needed a way to refocus myself in my work and my goals, and I realized the somewhat obvious solution was that I actually needed to have goals again. Sure, I’ve got my goals for the year, but I need to break them down further to be both mindful of what I want and gentle on myself as I take the steps to get there.

In a fit of inspiration gleaned from the myriad small goals posts out there each month (my favorites being Kay’s, Nicole’s, and Mia’s), I’m writing up my own. Maybe I’ll do them every month, maybe I won’t. But I needed them for May, so here we go.

Send out three writing submissions. / I mentioned this in my April recap, as well, but I wanted to expand on it a little bit. I’m excellent at self publishing my work. I have number of outlets for doing so, but I almost never submit my writing for publication by other people. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had anything published in at least a year. While I don’t need someone else to say, “Yes, this writing is good and we want to publish it for you,” it also doesn’t hurt to offer myself up in the hopes of expanding my audience to people and places that might not find me without that middle person. So in May, I would like to write and send out three submissions–three separate submissions or one submission to three places, either one will count.

Finish my Daria zine. / The ridiculous part about this is that my Daria zine is almost finished already. I just got stuck on it in March, then fell apart in April and lost all motivation to just wrap it up. I’d like to take May to finish the last piece or two to include and wrap up the assembly. It’s been a bummer not having anything to share after such a strong February and March and watching my Etsy sales plummet without adding anything new to my distro. My hope is that this will kick up interest again and help me start getting back on schedule with my zine goals.

Write another 3,000 words on my novel. / I haven’t worked on my novel in months, but it hasn’t been too far from my mind. When you think about something like NaNoWriMo, three thousand words doesn’t seem like much of a goal, but as I was choosing a number, I tried to keep in mind my other goals and obligations for the month and be realistic. I don’t always accomplish realism in my goals, and it’s something I’d like to start working on more to keep myself from feeling too overwhelmed by everything I want to achieve.

And that’s it. I was considering doing five, but as I mentioned, I want to keep it realistic and avoid inundating myself with too much all at once.

What are you hoping to achieve in May?

May 1, 2017
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unspoken. | a poem

Posted in Writer Life, Writing by

Two teen girls
in ragged band tees and flared blue jeans
practice kickflips
on the middle school blacktop.
Their faces flush
pink in the summer heat as
they pass glances across the asphalt,
and their skin gleams with sweat.
They can’t hold the words yet for what’s happening;
it’ll be too late by the time they can.

Two teen girls
curl back to back in one’s bed
as they whisper
across the cavernous darkness.
One tells about her virginity
gone.
One squirms to listen.
They inch closer and pretend not to notice.

Two teen girls
don’t say goodbye when
they walk away,
leaving the pieces of themselves
in the footsteps already washing away
in the rain
like tears.

Two teen girls are nowhere to be seen.

 


If you enjoyed this piece, please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor, checking out my zine shop, or just buying me a cup of coffee to help support my writing. Every dollar makes a difference and allows me to keep plugging along at my work.

April 7, 2017
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National Poetry Month: What It Is + 5 Ways to Celebrate

National Poetry Month Recommendations

National Poetry Month was introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. It’s a celebration of poetry in our culture–personal, local, national, and worldwide–that takes place every April. If you’re someone who’s never been into poetry, then the month likely holds no significance to you, which is fair. Maybe it’s too artsy or maybe you just don’t find it accessible with all its metaphors and other flowery language. But I’m still going to try to change your mind.

I think what can make poetry daunting for many people, myself included, is exactly what makes it beautiful so often. The use of language in poetry is something you don’t always see in other genres, an often otherworldly level of word crafting even when it’s simple. If I had to choose only one genre of writing to call art, it would be poetry. The way poets can paint with their words is so vivid and powerful in even just a few short lines sometimes. There’s heart, passion, and vulnerability in poetry that can at times compare with something like memoir. The difference to me, besides simple structure, is word craft.

If poetry feels like a hurdle, my biggest recommendation would be to read it aloud or to listen to someone else read aloud. Plenty of recordings can be found on YouTube or Spotify, and it seems like there’s a poet for everyone, classic or contemporary, grandiloquent or ghastly.

And on top of reading poetry, there is of course writing poetry, which can also feel challenging if you focus on the language from the start, but if you want to try your hand at it (and I suggest you do), then my suggestion is simple: Don’t think about the language, just write. Chances sare that you’ll put more of your own emotions into it if you start out free writing rather than trying to make it perfect from the first line. (This goes for just about any writing, to be honest.) After you’ve got your base, then you can dress it up–or not. And remember, poetry doesn’t have to rhyme.

So now that you’ve realized just how wonderful poetry can be, what are some ways you can celebrate its existence this month (and every month)?

Share a new-to-you poem on Facebook. / Browse through poets.org to find a poet you’ve never heard of and read through a bit of their work. When you find one that really strikes you, share it on Facebook for friends and family to enjoy too.

Write your own poem. / If you’re feeling reluctant about this one, start with a haiku. It’s short, allowing you to get it over with and hopefully come out of it with something that you enjoy. Bonus points if you share it (leave it in a comment on this post even), but there’s no pressure to do so.

Ask your friends for recommendations. / Chances are you have at least one friend who secretly or not-so-secretly enjoys a good poem every once in a while. Put out a call on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or your social media of choice asking friends and followers for recommendations. They might help you find a new favorite, and it’ll give you something to talk about together.

Support a poet. / I mean this one financially. While sharing and discussing are also ways to support a poet, it’s not the most lucrative business, so to actively buy a piece of work is recommended. Browse Etsy or the bookstore to find a poet who stands out to you and buy one of their books, chapbooks, or zines.

Find a poetry reading to attend. / This one might be the most difficult depending on where you live, but maybe you have a local bar that does poetry nights (I do) or maybe there’s an event coming up specifically for National Poetry Month at your library. Browse around and stop by if you find a reading and have the chance to attend.

Poets.org also has a list of thirty ways to celebrate, so you should have no problem diving into it this month.

And if you need a place to start, let me suggest any of Amber Tamblyn’s poetry. I’ve been rereading two of her collections recently as I start work on my next chapbook, and they’re just as breathtaking as the first time I read either of them. Dark Sparkler is my favorite, but Bang Ditto is wonderful as well. She also has a third, Free Stallion, and while I haven’t read it, I think it’s a safe bet that it’s just as exceptional.

What are your feelings on poetry? Do you have a favorite poet or poem you would recommend?
Let me know in the comments!

April 3, 2017
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A Quick Contemplation on Comparison

Posted in Personal, Writer Life by

Comparison is the thief of joy.
Theodore Roosevelt

Since I’ve started putting so much of my time and energy into writing, running my distro, and doing things that make me happy, I’ve felt so much better about…everything. I’m writing and mailing out more zines than ever, it seems, and I’m getting so much support and enthusiasm from everyone around me. I’m not boxed in by routine but still producing so much great stuff every day. Life feels great.

Why, then, is it still so easy for me to look at the life and work–the Instagram, the writer’s website, the published works list–of a woman I went to college with four years ago and have barely spoken to since and get so down on myself? When I look at her posts, it suddenly feels as if I’m not doing enough or not doing things “right.”

The list of questions that run through my head looks something like this:

Am I less legitimate in my work if I’m not submitting all the time? If I don’t have a list of links to web publications who have accepted me, then am I really doing anything worth bragging about? Should I be spending less time posting and even more time writing? Should I be writing different things? Why don’t I have as many followers as she does? What am I doing wrong? Am I not (cute, quirky, smart, stylish, etc.) enough?

All of this occurs in a matter of seconds, of course.

It gets my head all muddled, and I start to feel like what I want is wrong or isn’t what I really want. I wouldn’t call it jealousy because I like that she’s doing well–I want us both to be successful–but it’s also far from confident or secure. I just can’t help wondering if that’s what I should be doing; maybe there is a right way to go about this writer thing.

It’s confusion and self-doubt, and I’d like to think it will go away with time and more hard work, but I know there’s almost no chance of that happening for good. If it does, then I’ve probably gotten overly confident in myself and turned into an asshole. We don’t want that to happen.

In between all of the good days, the ones when I get compliments from friends and strangers who have just finished reading a new zine they got from me or the ones when I’m just happy, there will still be the ones when I’m asking myself if I’m doing this right or why things seem so different for me compared to others doing this. While it gets old and depressing, maybe it’s not the worst thing. Maybe it keeps me on my toes, self-evaluating and evolving over time as we all do (and should).

It’s a bummer to think that maybe someone is doing it better and to know it’s not worth fretting about but being unable to stop yourself.

What do you do when you get down like this? Let’s chat about it and lift each other’s spirits!

March 17, 2017
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Working Girl: My First Month of Self-Employment + an Office Tour

Posted in Personal, Writer Life by

I mentioned in my February wrap-up that at the beginning of last month I took my last day at the copy shop and started working from home. Over the past month or so since then, I’ve managed to put out three new zines (two minis and a perzine), plus a newsletter for Nine Lives to go out with all orders and to offer as a freebie at the upcoming Pioneer Valley Zine Fest. On top of that, I’ve been keeping up with my Patreon rewards–and I am so, so thankful to everyone who’s pledged so far!–working on a novel, working on various essays for more perzines, making a neverending list of mini zine topics, and taking care of the house. I have been one busy bee.

When I started, I was splitting my days into two parts: In the morning, I would work on my novel either until I’d hit my word count for the day or until lunchtime came. Then I’d have lunch, and in the afternoon, I’d work on just about anything else I needed to that hadn’t been done in the morning: Patreon, Facebook posts, blog work, zine orders, whatever. I kept that up for about two weeks, but then the routine started to feel stale. My approach now is to simply do what I’m in the mood for. This means I’ve been doing a lot more zine work than novel work for the past couple of weeks, but I’m enjoying it, and I’ve gotten so much done, so I have no complaints.

As part of the agreement for me to stay home, Dan and I decided that I’m in charge of keeping the house relatively clean and also working on some of the renovations (although I have to admit I haven’t done any of that yet because I’m really picky about my renovation activities). To be honest, it was mostly my idea because I would much rather be home listening to podcasts and making the house presentable than out in the world dealing with people, and it’s working quite well so far. The house feels much cleaner than it ever really has been, and it helps me to feel productive on days when I can’t get myself to write as much as I’d like.Dan has especially been helpful and supportive in the transition: he’s agreed to do so many building projects to make my office the perfect work space for me, making me a brand new desk (which I love) and some corner shelves to help organize the space; he listens to all of my crazy ideas and is always enthusiastic about them; and he’s been the most supportive voice when I’m freaking out thinking this is a horrible idea and will ruin my life. I swear, he’s not even human. It’s amazing. It’s something that I really need right now because as much as I needed the change, it was scary to leave a job I’d been at for nearly three years.

As much as I liked my job and the people I worked with, the overall environment was stressing me out far too much to justify staying any longer. One of my coworkers on my last day asked if I was excited and I just shrugged and tried not to cry because it was scary and sad. I don’t like change. I don’t like not getting a regular paycheck every two weeks. But it was a necessary big step for me to take right now.

I’m not opposed to going back to a “normal job” at some point, but for now I think things are working out well for Dan and me. I’m feeling better than I have in a long time and get to do exactly what I’ve dreamed of for years. Is it a little harder in some ways? Well, yeah. Of course. But I’m just thinking of it as, “I’m now as uncool as I was in high school,” because I could never afford the things that I thought would make me cool, which is kind of okay since I never really cared about that anyway–and I still don’t. (I’m rambling. Sorry.)

Ultimately, the worry and the fear are worth it because I’m kind of living my dream right now, and I realize how incredibly lucky that is. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this productive with my writing before, and it feels like my life has aligned in the perfect way, at least for the moment, to be everything I really need it to be.

Photos: A detail shot of my desk; my built-in bookcase and wedding bouquet; my corner shelves, which include some plants, mini zines, washi tape, and other miscellaneous decorations; my art + postcard collection above my desk as seen from the dining room; one of my favorite and most photographed corners, with my first couple of plants and my record player; and a wide shot of my built-ins, which were the main reason I wanted this house.


If you’re at all interested in helping me keep up this work-from-home habit, please consider buying some zines or pledging to my Patreon. You’re also welcome to just send a small donation to my paypal (sonyaeatszombies[at]gmail[dot]com), but it seems more fun to get something out of it, if you ask me. Remember that writing is work, so both emotional and monetary support are necessary to help me keep going.

March 6, 2017
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the trunk. | a flash fiction piece

Posted in Writer Life, Writing by

She didn’t know where she was when she woke to a world of blackness, no sound but her own breath. She sat up, gravity telling her she was on her back, and her skull collided with metal, a dull, ringing thud. Pressing a hand to her forehead, she heard the scrape of a chair’s legs across tile. “Are you awake?” A shock of light burst through a square above her face. A wince, a gasp, and she saw him. Bone white skin with oily black hair and gray eyes like slate in winter peered at her through the opening. “Good evening. You’ve slept long.” She thought he smiled, but the look was wolfish; she turned away. “No! Look at me!” His hand slammed against the top of the trunk. She refused. “Fine. Be that way you little bitch. Be that way!” The slat banged shut. She didn’t scream, didn’t beat against the top of the steel trunk. Instead, she let her hands wander across every surface as she listened and waited for her moment: If she didn’t leave alive, neither of them would.

 


If you enjoyed this piece, please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor, checking out my zine shop, or just buying me a cup of coffee to help support my writing. Every dollar makes a difference and allows me to keep plugging along at my work.

March 3, 2017
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