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).

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

Posted in Personal, Writer Life by

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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Put This In Your Ear Holes: The Faculty of Horror

Posted in Horror, Pop Culture by
The Faculty of Horror Podcast

I have this distinct memory from around the time that I was five years old or so: I’m sitting on my living room floor watching a red-headed doll in overalls bludgeon a man with a golf club. I’ve been a horror fan for nearly my whole life, and the only reason I haven’t been one since the womb is that my mom isn’t a fan, so it’s almost impossible that she watched any while pregnant. Still, it’s been a long time, and while I’ve mostly stuck to the same old favorites–Scream, Bride of Chucky, House of 1000 Corpses–through the years, my love has grown nonetheless.

Most recently my love manifested in scouring iTunes for horror podcasts. There are a fair few narrative podcasts–Darkest Night is fab, for example–but what I really wanted was one that would discuss horror and maybe make me think about it, maybe (hopefully) introduce me to some new-to-me horror movies.

Enter the Faculty of Horror.

I was ecstatic to find this podcast not only because it sounded like exactly what I was looking for–an analytical look at the world of horror–but it turned out to be hosted by two super cool woman, Alex West and Andrea Subisatti. It’s not a strictly feminist podcast, but they do both identify as such, so I appreciate when that perspective comes up in their discussions.

This podcast is basically everything I was dreaming of. Each episode looks at anywhere from one to three films, usually revolving around a similar theme, such as summer camps, witchcraft, or eating disorders. Episodes only come out once a month, which can be a little disappointing because they’re so dang good, but it’s also completely reasonable; so much thought, research, and preparation go into each that the time between episodes is necessary and really contributes to that quality that I appreciate. It’s a completely fair trade.

A lot of the movies they discuss I either haven’t seen in a long time or haven’t seen at all, but I’ve started trying to watch either shortly before or after an episode to make listening even better–though to be honest the discussions are so interesting that it doesn’t seem necessary to watch to make listening enjoyable.Most of the time, though, it is interesting enough that if I haven’t watched ahead of time, I’m dying to see it after, which is exactly what led me to finally watch The Evil Dead for the first time and falling madly in love with both the franchise and Ash/Bruce Campbell. (I refuse to make the distinction between the two.)

Gosh, what else can I say? I adore this podcast, and I already know I’m going to be bummed when I’ve caught up. I make any excuse to listen, whether it’s while doing the dishes, driving around with Dan, or just sitting on my couch coloring (in my Beauty of Horror coloring book, of course). I’m learning so much from these ladies, and it’s really bolstered my love for horror to new heights. If you’re at all interested in critical thinking, but with personality, in the horror film genre, please, please check out this podcast!

May 15, 2017
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Grieving and Guilt: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Posted in Book Reviews, Bookish by
Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Last year, one of the only books I read in under twenty-four hours was Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King. I received it in the March OwlCrate and knew nothing about it before it arrived; I hadn’t even heard of it. Even when I read the summary, I wasn’t sure how I would like it. It just didn’t get me super stoked. I’m happy to say, though, that I fell in love with it and anything else that Zentner would write, even if he hasn’t come up with it yet. I was an instant fan.

And in March of this year, his new book, Goodbye Days, was being released and I was hyped. I was ready for it. It had been on my wishlist for months. And once again I wasn’t disappointed, although that didn’t surprise me this time around.

From the time I heard the summary, Goodbye Days had my attention as its subject is something that’s always been important to me. The book follows Carver Briggs after the simultaneous death of his three best friends in a texting-related car accident. Carver, racked with guilt at the possibility that it was his fault, embarks on a series of “goodbye days” both to remember and grieve for his friends while trying to come to terms with his own role in the incident.

This book gave me both the crying feels and the yelling feels. I’ll tell you now that, given everything we learn throughout the book, I don’t think it’s Carver’s fault. As someone who makes it a point to put my phone on silent and stash it in my bag, I have a lot of feelings about these kinds of cases. It’s not just about how everyone feels, though, either reading the novel or existing within it. Eventually, the law becomes involved in Carver’s life after the incident, and things get tense–but in an entertaining way that I wouldn’t trade.

The thing about Goodbye Days, for me, is that Carver’s struggles were so palpable. They were strong enough that when Carver was freaking out, then I was freaking out, even if not as much. Of course, like any writer worth their ilk, Zentner didn’t just tell us that Carver was distraught. There were a number of scenes in which Carver has a panic attack, and at first he doesn’t even know what’s happening to him. Even though I understood and was pretty sure that he wasn’t dying like he thought, the description of each incident was so vivid that I was still scared and heartbroken for him. I think a large portion of that can be attributed to Zentner’s empathetic way of writing, helping us to learn who his characters are and to feel for them through their struggles. He makes us root for them.

I loved reading this book, and I remain a fan of Jeff Zentner for another novel. He’s an author I’ll continue keeping an eye on with great anticipation for what’s to come.

May 12, 2017
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Be My Friend: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, if you do not know, is a series about four girls–Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget–all born within days of each other and who as a result are something like built-in friends from the womb onward. The books specifically follow them through four summers, the first summer being their first time all apart, and just before they’re each set to leave on their own trips, they discover the magic of a thrift store pair of jeans that fits them all despite their various shapes and sizes. Obviously, these magic pants are the key to keeping them together even when they’re apart.

This is a book series I’ve been reading since about the time it started coming out in 2001, and despite my tbr plans for April, I ended up rereading them all once again–even the adult sequel, Sisterhood Everlasting. The books have always tapped into a lot of feelings for me, but this reading was different from the usual experiences throughout my teen years.

I’m a person who stays bitter and holds grudges. Maybe it’s the Aries in me or maybe it’s just a stunt in my emotional growth; either way, I’m getting too old to bother denying that anymore. So while, in the moment, many of my past friendships seemed good, they fell apart, and hindsight shows me that they weren’t what I thought at the time. I find it hard to forget that people have left me for other, better friends (or boyfriends) or that they were emotionally manipulative during our so-called friendship. Even though I should know better, even though I do have some good friends now, it still feels like it must have been my fault. It feels like there’s something wrong with me. It feels like I’m not good enough.

So when I read and reread The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, even now, ten years older than the girls were that first summer–and only a few years younger than they are in Sisterhood Everlasting–I find myself wavering between living vicariously through the story of their friendship and being envious of it. As a teenager, it was their fraught relationships with boys that made my heart ache, but now it’s their strong relationships with each other.

The bonds between the girls are so strong throughout the series as to seem almost impossible, but I can’t help believing in them despite my own experiences. I’m reaching a point when I start to think I’ll never have a best friend quite like them–which isn’t to say I don’t love the friends I do have. It’s just that, if I’m honest with all of us, they certainly don’t look like the friendship in the books and they don’t feel strong in the same way. Maybe I’m expecting too much from us, though. Maybe the books are an impossible standard. Maybe I’ll never really know.

The series is contemporary YA, which isn’t necessarily en vogue right now unless a horrific illness is involved, but far be it from me to criticize a series lauding female friendships and showing them in such an authentic, positive light just because it’s not the “it” thing to read. The books are also a little dated with the technology mentioned throughout (the newest was released in 2011 after all), but, at least for me, that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment. I don’t read them to hear about the iPhone models the girls have.

I read these books for the friendship I just never had: theirs.

May 8, 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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Rad Gal Inspiration: Amber Tamblyn

Posted in Bookish, Rad Gals by
Amber Tamblyn Poetry Collection

Amber Tamblyn is a force of nature. She is fierce and feminist, passionate and intelligent, a contemporary poet who gives me strength, inspiration, and hope.

I first fell in love with Amber Tamblyn at the age of fourteen, when I saw her portray Tibby in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants films. I adored the series in middle school, and Tibby was always my favorite character: cynical, a little angsty, but also full of love for her friends. I fell out of touch with what Amber Tamblyn was up to after the movies, only vaguely aware that she was still plenty active–but aware nonetheless. However, it wasn’t until college that she was fully on my radar again, when I discovered that she had written not one but two collections of poetry, her second having just been released. As excited as I was, though, they sat on my Amazon wishlist for years; I only just ordered my copy of Free Stallion, the first of her collections and the last to add to my shelves, last month. Still, from the moment I opened up Dark Sparkler, which I rushed to Barnes & Noble and specially asked if they had in stock shortly before I went to a reading in Boston, I was in love all over again.

Amber wasn’t just the actress to embody cool, punk-ish Tibby to me anymore. She was Amber Tamblyn, awe-inspiring poet. She was doing something that I admired and that I dreamed of doing myself. Finally encountering her work pulled me out of a writing slump of which I hadn’t realized the extent, and in the months following, I wrote and released my first chapbook. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading my way through her work once again and have since started on my second collection. You’d be hard pressed to convince me there wasn’t some correlation between the two.

Her work is intense, and her use of words is striking; she does not mince them. There may be fear there–is anyone truly fearless?–but she doesn’t let it stop her, whether it’s in telling a story of tragedy (as in a number of Dark Sparkler pieces) or making a political statement. While I believe everyone should try their hand at poetry, not everyone has the sense to use the medium quite like she does, with the perfect melding of adroitness, ferocity, and raw honesty. She tells her truth, whatever it is, and it resonates with me in a way that not all other poetry does. I can admire myriad other poets and other work, but that doesn’t mean that it hits me in the gut like hers does.

To be honest, there’s not much else for me to say. Amber Tamblyn’s work is something that makes me want to do better in my writing, to work harder and keep learning, in the hope that someday I can love my own words even a fraction as much as I do hers.

April 24, 2017
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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Posted in Book Reviews, Bookish by
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

By now I’d be more surprised if you hadn’t read a review of Angie Thomas’s debut novel than if you had. This book has been a hot topic in the book community, with innumerable readers and reviewers singing its praises–and rightly so. This might just turn into another review in a whole sea of them, but I can’t help sharing how much I loved it.

The Hate U Give is about Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old girl living two lives: one in her poor neighborhood and one at her prep school. When Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of a childhood friend at the hands of a cop, she comes face to face with the reactions of both communities and her own feelings of guilt, fear, and responsibility.

Undoubtedly this novel is timely; the story it tells and the way Thomas tells it are poignant, heartbreaking, and necessary. She explores the stark contrasts and surprising similarities between Starr’s two worlds and the way they collide right alongside her own frustration and confusion between the two, never quite feeling accepted and never quite knowing where she fits in. One of the most striking–if not surprising–differences is in the reactions of Starr’s two communities to the tragedy she witnesses and how those around her affect her decision whether or not to speak out as a witness.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel was Starr’s family and her relationship with them. I fell in love with every member of her family and their own love for each other, even if she doubted it herself at times. They’re not  perfect and they’re far from the nuclear model, but Thomas uses those things to craft some amazing depth to her characters, examining why they choose to do the things that don’t seem like the best choice, but in actuality feel like their only choice. She also created great variety in the characters she presents to readers, from a willfully ignorant girl who refuses to see her own prejudice to a boy who says dumb things to Starr but acknowledges and learns from his mistakes to a woman who isn’t quite the mother we’re made to think she is, for better or worse.

Honestly, I don’t know how this is her first novel. Angie Thomas shows incredible skill in storytelling. I can only look forward to more beautiful, heartwrenching books like this one from her. If you haven’t read this one yet, I can’t recommend it enough and hope you get the chance and make the choice to do so. The Hate U Give is an important story that the world needed right now, and I think Thomas was an amazing person to share it with us.

April 14, 2017
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The Betty & Barney Hill Incident, Rte. 3, New Hampshire

Posted in Horror, Personal, Pop Culture by

On a cold, sunny day the weekend before the March 2017 Snowpocalypse, I trekked my way north with Dan and some friends to achieve a life goal that took me far longer than it should have to reach. Taking Interstate 93 north through Ashland, Plymouth, Woodstock, up to exit 33 to Lincoln. We pulled off onto Route 3 and drove for maybe five minutes, keeping our eyes peeled against the bright white of the snow–a stark contrast to all the brown we’d had at home up until the following Tuesday–for the Indian Head Resort.

Twice Dan almost stopped too early because there were two large signs for the resort (one mile ahead, half a mile ahead…), but we finally came to it and spotted the opening to the parking lot at the last minute. We pulled in, and my head whipped left and right as I looked for the green sign with white lettering marking the event my home state for over twenty years deemed historical: The Betty & Barney Hill Incident.

The short story is that Betty and Barney Hill, a New Hampshire couple, were driving home from a vacation to Canada when they spotted a bright light in the sky. Maybe it was a plane. Maybe it was a star. Jupiter was out that night, too. They continued driving for a while before finally pulling off the road and watching the bright light, which moved erratically, in ways a plane or any other known aircraft should move, before realizing it was coming down to meet them.

The first part of story was that they watched it for a while before growing scared, jumping back into their car, and driving away, continuing their journey home. But as they drove, they realized they suddenly couldn’t account for  about thirty-five miles of travel distance. They’d experienced missing time. The second part of the story only came later, after connecting with several members of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) and were put under hypnosis by a doctor to whom they were referred.

The second part of the story says they were abducted, tested, and returned to their car after, having their memories scrubbed to avoid the news getting out.

(That worked out well.)

Along with the official marker on Route 3, there’s a little gas station and convenience store that serves as something of a makeshift memorial. it features a plastic-covered painting on the outer wall at the front of the store. Inside, among the candy, chips, and beer, are newspaper clippings, summaries of incidents in other states and countries, photos, and a bulletin board devoted purely to the Hills’ experience.

Despite everything being so small and looking underwhelming, the entire experience was thrilling for me. When I was a little girl, I got a book from Borders that had a blurb about the Hills in it and I was floored to find out that they were from New Hampshire–that’s where I lived! It was unbelievable to me at the time that something so exciting could have occurred so close by little ol’ me.

I would often spend evenings outside, sometimes alone and sometimes with my dad, watching the skies for a hint of something strange. Usually it was just an airplane or a blimp or even a hot air balloon once, but my faith in what’s out there has never once wavered. On long drives home late at night, it’s not uncommon for my head to snap up and my body to move with the sky to keep the best view on something I’ve seen. I almost always end up seeing the blinking lights of a plane or checking the sky map on my phone to determine it’s a planet, but once or twice I lost sight of a bright light in the sky before I could be quite sure.

Visiting this little monument to the strange and unusual has fanned the tiny flame that was already in me to do some investigating this year, even if it just means camping up in the mountains or visiting other strange places in New England. Maybe I’ll never have the chance to see something obvious in the sky, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop looking.

the simpsons keep watching the skies

April 10, 2017
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