It is April, which means springtime and Easter and National Poetry Month! I have already written about springtime. Easter was nice, but not too exciting since we are still taking a lot of precautions. So, let’s talk about poetry, naturally.
For the past two Aprils, I have shared a few poems with you. Now, as explained then and reexplained now, these are stragglers…poems that I don’t intend to send out for publication. (Presses frown on blog publications when considering your work. Even with your own blog, it is still considered to be “published.”) If I ever do decide to send these guys out or publish them elsewhere, I will remove them from my blog. But for now, enjoy some poems.
Oh, and should you be interested, you can always support a poet and purchase a copy of A Lovely Wreckage!
Pasted as photos, because I can’t figure out how to format a poem on WordPress.
One evening in 2011, as I was clearing the table after dinner, my mother asked me if I would ever consider going on a cruise, which I thought was a strange question. I said yes, I would try one, I had heard fun things about them. My mother then asked if I would go on a cruise to the Bahamas in 2012 in order to chaperone my sister, whose dance troupe was invited to perform. They’d cover the cost of both of us if I agreed to take her.
This was some serious left field shit from my parents, just so you know. I don’t think Bernie thought for a hot second that they would ever consider lettering her do this, never mind actually let her do it. I was flabbergasted by the invitation, too. Both my parents were wary of sea travel, and not interested in going, but I was, so they figured I could take her. So, for the next year, we raised money by selling candles and whatnot and December 4th 2012 found us on our very first plane ride. Neither of us had traveled by air before, so that was interesting. I’m not sure who calmed down whom. I do recall badly wanting a cigarette, taking a Xanax instead, and falling asleep.
When we got to the Orlando airport, I went outside for a smoke. I took three drags, then hacked my way back inside, because Florida air is simply unbreathable. I went back and we found our group, and took a cab to the dock, where we boarded the nice, air-conditioned ship. That afternoon, I fell asleep. I missed all the little “welcome to the boat” festivities. This made me sad. However, I woke up the next morning in Freeport, the first of the three places we would be visiting.
What we saw of the island on the way to the “tourist” area was dismal. Deserted houses, abandoned buildings, a hospital with only three cars in the parking lot…it was like a ghost town. There were also huge oil reserve drums everywhere with big tropical fish painted on them, like that made it better. When we got to our stop, we found an overpriced open air market. Then we wandered over to a beach, and the kids (none of whom are really kids anymore) played in the water while I got some sun and took pictures. It was…fine. If it hadn’t been the first time my toe touched ocean in 20 years I probably wouldn’t have even registered the trip.
The following day, we went to Half Moon Cay, a private island owned by Carnival cruise line, which was paradise on earth. It had a gorgeous beach. It was exactly what you think of when you think of a Caribbean island, and I wish we had gone there first, of course, that would have made Freeport a bigger let down, probably. There were three details I loved about HMC: chickens, just running around at your feet; a tiny wedding chapel; a very tiny post office. Bern and I spent a wonderful afternoon there, splashing and sunning and drinking (well, me, not her.)
The next day, we went to Nassau on New Providence Island. We spent much of the day on Paradise Island, so I didn’t see much city, but there was a beautiful beach that we visited and Bernie went on a banana boat. I wished we had simply stayed there. I know that when I come back to the Bahamas, and I will, I will stay at a resort on New Providence, so I can experience the whole island and city. Something about it struck me, the way NYC did when I went there when I was 16.
Anyway, I’m telling you about this trip because it inspired the setting for my WIP.
I didn’t know it at the time. I knew that my MC’s grew up on a small deserted island, much like Half Moon Cay, but I had no idea other events would end up taking place in Nassau. I was aiming for Colorado in the beginning, but discovered the distance could not easily be crossed, so they will soon end up on Paradise Island. I like using a setting I have a little familiarity with. I have been researching a lot, though.
First, I took to Twitter, to see if I had any friends with any info, and I talked to a couple people who gave me their impressions of the Bahamas and some much needed information on firearms. Then I thought, “gee, maybe you should ask someone who WENT ON THE TRIP WITH YOU.” Cue my sister, of course, and her friend Audrey. Audrey was only 12 at the time, and she spent most of the time off the boat with her family doing other things, so she had a lot of insight into the city and such that I did not get. I wish I could contact the “kids” I spent my time with…I suppose I could, I’m still FB friends with them, but I feel weird being like “hi I haven’t talked to you in forever but what was your favorite thing about the cruise?”
I loved taking that cruise for many reasons, not just the islands. I mean, they had 24-hour frozen yogurt. But also, it’s when my little sister went from being my little sister, to being my friend. Now, it’s 9 years later and she is one of my best friends, and my number one person (sorry, Mark. But he knows how it is.) So, when I look back on the cruise and the memories and try to relive it all, I feel a sort of peace and happiness well up inside, and I am hoping I can put that emotion on paper. I want to convey everything I experienced and felt, and use my MC’s to do it.
Anyways…I’m going to go drink some coffee and finish watching the news and try not to get mad at the stories. It’s already too late. Some idiot in my county scheduled SEVEN vaccine appointments. Bro…leave a little for the rest of us.
So, this time, I didn’t update on Monday because I was sick. It was an easy ER trip, though. The doc knew about my condition, so he did a quick exam and then gave me my meds and sent me to wait in a recliner until they kicked in and knocked me out. A nurse came and asked if I was ready to go and I said no, because I still felt nauseous and probably couldn’t walk. Then another half hour or so passed and the nurse was back, and I felt confident enough to be on my way.
I got home and went to sleep. I woke up around 430pm, and my sister brought me Gatorade. Then I went back to sleep, and woke up around 7. Then I went back to sleep at 9 and woke at 1230am. Which is why now, at 3am, I am writing my blog.
I didn’t have much to say. I was just going to write about writer’s block. I suffered a short-term case during the past few weeks, as evidenced by my lack of output. But yesterday, I reworked the ending of part one of my WIP. I introduced a character, small but important, who explains a few things that need to be known to my MC’s (main characters.) The MC’s are on a major Caribbean island after living their life on a significantly smaller one with few people, no cars or big buildings, and relative quiet. I was struggling with a scene, where I’m getting them off their rowboat and onto the island, and I obsessed over it for a week. I know I should have moved on and come back to it, but it was the final scene of part one and I just had to finish it. So, I brainstormed with Mark.
Mark is great for this, as he is not a writer, but he does have a vivid imagination. He’s not much of a reader either, so I am kind of telling him the story as I go, which is also helpful. But sometimes I get stuck and I go to him, and we spend half an hour or so going over my ideas. He likes to give suggestions of where the story should go, and sometimes they are good. A lot of times they aren’t applicable to what I’ve already got going on, in which case I say a simple “no,” and we move on. He never gets mad if I shoot down his idea. He knows this is my thing.
Anyway, we brainstormed, and out popped a character that the MC’s know as “the man with the hat,” but whom I secretly named Bernie after my sister and her youthful affinity for bucket hats. (Photo below.)
This gentleman explains to my MC’s some very basic information that they need on the island, and points them in the right direction in their quest. It’s probably a frowned upon trope, but I don’t care. I needed it to get to where I had to be. Plus…this is just a first draft.
So, I am back on the writing train, and I am working hard on my WIP and hoping more ideas come to me soon for my blog, because I can’t write about the same things all the time…sickness and writing. I mean I’m a pro at both, but I just need new topics.
But, I got past the part of my book where I was stuck. I completed part one, at over 20k words. That is certainly something to celebrate.
How am I supposed to write about anything other than my WIP right now, when it is the only thing taking up space in my brain? During NaNo19 I only updated on the writing process once a week, but here I am with blog number 2 about it, because I am consumed.
Today, I plan to write my first ever character death.
Ok, that’s part lie. In my novella, the grandmother dies, but it is of natural causes and shown through flashback, and you kind of know she’s gone right off the bat. And in Dog’s Eye View, well…I guess you’d have to read it to decide. (See what I did there? You should read it. I’ve been advised you will need tissues, though.)
I’ve never outright killed a character, though.
My characters are always the roots of the story. They are the thing that comes to me first: a being calling out to have their story told, and I oblige. I planned out many characters for my current WIP, more than I have ever worked with before, but each serving a purpose. One came to me from nowhere a few days ago, shouting “hey! I’m a background guy, but I can do SO MUCH MORE.” And so, Samir Nammari was born. I would like to write about him to illustrate how the characters first develop in my head.
Mr. Nammari was originally named Mr. Tehan, from a name generator that told me it was an Arabic last name. Further research showed many sites saying it was an American Arabic name. This family is straight out of Palestine, so I needed something better: cue Sahar, of course, offering to me her mother’s maiden name, classic Palestinian. And she also offered some first names, and I chose Samir. I don’t usually name my characters, they name themselves, but there was no necessity for a first name in planning so he never told me his (and yes, I am well aware how crazy that sounds.). Then, Monday, he started screaming at me, so I looked though the list of names and he yelled “SAMIR!”
Turns out, Samir means “friend.” And that is what he became, friend to my main characters (MCs) and helper in their plot. But now, he must die.
It will be sad, and painful. Gunned down on a beach at dusk, in an effort to save the MCs. Leaving behind a loving wife and a dutiful daughter. I didn’t know he would die when I started telling his tale, and I was as surprised as a reader would be when I discovered it was his only exit. I wrote about the magic on Monday…that is part of it, the unexpected moments that suddenly manifest in your mind.
So, I bid you adieu, Mr. Nammari, and thank you for your assistance.
Now, I am off to write the death scene, my first. I’d like to write more about character development but I’m already trying to type without my pinky much because it hurts today and would really like to drop 1000 words in tribute to Samir at some point.
All of last year, I planned for November: NaNoWriMo. I was ready to go on Halloween, itching to start the writing process. Then, I got sick. Then, I broke my finger. Then, nothing got accomplished.
This was followed by Christmastime, which was busy even with a pandemic, and also, I had a brace on my pinky until New Year’s. So, it is only now that I am sitting down to rekindle my love affair with words.
The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that you can go on the website each time you write and update your word count. It keeps me on track very nicely…accountably is key during a first draft, in my opinion. I could still use the site for this, but I choose not to, because I write in MS Word and there’s a little tally right in the bottom left corner of how I’m doing. And the truth of the matter is that this book is NOT the little guy I wrote in 2019. I am over 11k right now, and I have only just started chapter 4 of what appears to be 20, so we’re looking at an easy 60k on the rough draft. I only easily wrote about 48k on the last book, and then pulled a couple thousand more out of the air in the second go-over. Your average literary fiction book is around 70k. I think that’s where this will fall.
Since it has no title, I refer to it either as my WIP (work in progress,) or The Ten. See, it started out in my brain in 2002 with ten characters who would band together and topple a dictatorship by staging a coup. In 2016, I started to see striking comparisons to my book and reality of the United States, so I abandoned it because I wanted to be neither plagiarizer nor prophet. Of course, last week, I was watching the news and a dark laughter bubbled out of me as I thought “Didn’t I write this before?”
Anyway, I trashed the plot, but I kept the characters. I knew them so well, as well as I know myself, and when you’re a writer and you’ve got something so well-developed, you’ve got to save it for something good.
About a year ago, I decided The Ten would be my next big project. There’s a lot of thinking involved in writing, so I spent several months contemplating new plots and situations I could put the characters I had into. Eventually, I came up with a scaled down version of the original plot, something made-up and workable and not happening in real time on CNN. Then, I started the prep work: outlines, character bios, act breakdowns, chapter breakdowns, scene breakdowns, etc. And research research research: many thanks and good wishes to the Twitter folks who have helped me out with descriptions of the Bahamas or explaining to me how long it would take to row to an island 30 miles away, and why you wouldn’t be able to see that island because of the curvature of the Earth (things I learned yesterday.) Also, I know more about guns now than I ever intended. It was a year of research and thinking and planning.
Now is the year of writing.
I was afraid that there would be big gaps in my writing, that I wouldn’t be able to sit down every day and do it the way I did during NaNo ‘19. Turns out, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I want to know what happens as much as a reader, and I’m only going to find out if I write it…if that makes sense. Because all the planning in the world doesn’t prepare you for the magic.
The magic is when you are writing and you are no longer in the room with yourself, as Stephen would say. It’s when you can’t believe that you wrote the words you’re reading back. It’s the little character details that you didn’t know you knew, or the tiny ways you describe the sunlight. It’s the part of the writing that surprises the writer, and it’s the best part…seriously. It’s like a drug-powerful and addictive and makes you feel like you can do anything.
So, I will finish this blog and I will go read some submissions, and rest my finger, so I can drop another thousand words into the WIP later. I don’t have the accountability mechanism that I had before, but I will of course use my blog as a vehicle to hold myself up to my standards, as I have done in the past.
The thing about chapbooks is that they are small and focused. In A Lovely Wreckage, I started out with Sick Since Sixteen, a poem about my illness that signifies the age in which my journey started. I closed it with a poem called A Good Day, which was, conveniently, about the good days I get to experience made all the better by the bad ones. It was a hopeful note to end the collection on. In between, I sorted the poems so that they were evenly dispersed-in that I made sure that not too many mental health or physical health poems were grouped together, and I also tried to make it have a rhythm and flow. Now, today, I shall be doing this for my third little baby.
My second chapbook, a mini-chap, is called Me and Jesus on a Tuesday Afternoon and will be out sometime in 2021. That one is essentially just one long poem, so I didn’t get to do the sorting phase for that. I realize now that is something I enjoy, putting my poems in the order I want the reader to experience them.
Over the summer I did a mockup on PowerPoint of my illustrated kids’ book (I’m sure there’s better software to do this on, I’m just a noob.) I am unable to work on it at the moment, but am hoping to get it off the ground sometime in the new year. However, while assembling this little presentation I realized how much I enjoy seeing creations come together. I always have…but I’ve never really applied that to my writing. When I worked in theater, I was always amazed at the magic that happened on opening night, but I have neglected it amongst my words. So today, that is what I am focused on.
I’ve had a couple of people (total strangers, mind you,) comment that they enjoyed the flow of A Lovely Wreckage, and I hope I can capture that in (Un)Requited.
Yep, that there’s the name.
I wrote the final poem yesterday. I have known which will be first, Monster, first published at Pink Plastic House, A Tiny Journal in May 2020. And last night, I penned the last, Scrapbooks. Now it is time to figure out the in-between.
Then, comes the publisher hunt. I don’t know what to do there…do I send it to my previous publisher first? What if I’d like to try someone new, or a place I think is more suited to the subject matter? What’s the plan of action here?
Stay turned for the answers to these and more questions, on an upcoming episode of Brigid’s blog.
I am still down a digit, but I persevere. Typing remains difficult, but I can’t not do it. I tried. My brain overloaded and spilled out my fingertips anyway, all nine working ones.
After about twenty minutes of typing, my hand gets tired. So, this will be short. This will also be my second and last NaNo update.
It broke my little writer-heart when I broke my little writer-pinky, just a week into the month I had been looking forward to all year. I had already spent the first week sick as a dog, and I was not pleased about the circumstances that led to a splint on my little finger for the remainder of the month.
I topped out around 5k words on NaNo, 45k short to win. I knew I wouldn’t win as soon as my doctor looked at my finger and said “ouch.” The dream died in that moment.
I was feeling very ambitious on October 31st. I was raring to go, all my prep work done and my fingers itching to begin the typing process. But sickness. Then injury. Then nothing for two weeks. Two weeks where I could barely even click a mouse because it irritated my hand, let alone type. Two weeks of no writing, in a time that was not the dreaded writer’s block. The ideas were flowing, but where to put them? Little dictated notes here and there, pecking things out on my phone with my thumbs. Fleeting thoughts trapped, yet not expanded upon.
I am almost done with chapter 2 of my novel. I started typing again the other night, and even as I write this I am a little mad I am using my strength on the blog today instead of the book. I am WAY behind schedule…so I tore up the schedule. Instead, I will hack away at this lump of rock until my sculpture appears, no matter how long it takes.
I’ll tell you a secret.
I love The Second Before, the little novel I wrote last year. I don’t know if it will go anywhere though. The outlook on my current WIP is different. If I can write it, I can sell it. I know that, deep down like I know anything. This faith pushes me to work harder on it. I already have put in more time than I did on TSB, and it’s much more epic than that little piece. It will be good, should I manage to get it out of my head.
Anyway, NaNoWriMo 2020 was a wash, which isn’t that surprising given the course of the year thus far. Maybe next year I will try again, if another idea presents itself, but it is much more likely I will just take my 2019 win and go, and write this novel that has been taking up space in my brain for so many years. I think that will be 2021’s project, and it will take more than a month, but it will be so worth it in the end.
Recently, I had some good news, but I was reluctant to share without getting my feet wet, first.
A while back, I answered an ad on Submittable. For the new reader, Submittable is a website most literary journals use to organize their submissions, so it is where I am often found sending stuff out. Anyway, the ad was for a social media management intern. They needed someone to run their socials. I, with no job and a strong desire to break into publishing in any way necessary, thought I could handle such a thing and wrote them a letter. I have no real writing resume, and no expertise as a social media manager, so I didn’t hold great hope, so when my application rolled to “in-progress,” I was surprised.
After a while, I got a reply, saying thanks but no thanks on the media manager position. But then, the second line…would I be interested in being a reader?
Another internship-style position, but a better one, in my opinion. More hands on. More into the actual reading and writing and approval of what gets published. Would I be interested? Damn straight.
And so, for the past month or so, I have been a fiction and poetry reader for Ember Chasm Review.
I remember sending my first rejection.
I was sad. It was good poetry. It just didn’t fit the brand, so it had to be rejected. And I, as newly crowned queen of the slush pile, had to do it. I sent a little silent apology to the author. I’ve received so many rejections, and honestly, I don’t care that much; I’m not the sort that keeps track. But I know some people out there do, and every time I hit the rejection button, I feel a little sad for them.
Oh, but when I get to set something as “in-progress!”
When I get a well-written, interesting piece that matches the brand, that is exciting! I cheer for the individual, and hope they make it through the next round, even though I know many do not. Still, how wonderful it is, I know, to see your submission roll over to “in-progress.” As I write this, I have several poems in this stage, and five mags looking at my short RBG piece…I know someone is going to want something.
I know it.
Next up is a Halloween contest held by Button Eye Review, an imprint of Ember Chasm that focuses on horror and the like. I will be judging it with one of the editors, and I am very excited as I love horror…it was the genre that made me fall in love with reading.
I was waiting to share this lovely news until I was on the website, which I should be in a couple days, but as I needed something to write about today and I have next week’s topics all planned out, I figured I would announce this cool development today.
I am so excited to be involved with this review. They have awesome things planned, and the issues they have put out so far are great. I invite you to check out their site HERE.
The obvious choice is the election, until I looked at my calendar and realized I will be blogging about that next Monday. Then I thought about writing about writing, of course. But I recently wrote about Preptober and my future poetry path. So, I figured I could write more specifically about NaNo, but then looked at the calendar again and realized I’m starting my weekly updates on that next Thursday, anyway.
I scrolled Twitter for a while, hoping to find an interesting question or topic. Unfortunately, today is a PitMad event. This is a complicated thing to explain but the basis is that you pitch your book via tweet to editors and agents. So, my feed is clogged up with book ideas…some are great, but there’s not a lot of varying topics.
I could write about my weekend. On Saturday, I took L fishing, and it was the first time we really hung out one-on-one. At first, he seemed bored, but once we found some fish hiding under the dock, he got into it. On the way home I mentioned an action scene in my novel that I am planning, and having some trouble with. We spent the next hour or so discussing weapons, stealth tactics, armor, etc. It was good bonding time, and it thrills me whenever the kiddos take an interest in my work.
On Sunday I woke, sick. Off to the ER. I don’t remember much…it’s all foggy. I know that the intake nurse said “Hey, I heard you are an author” and I said “Yes I am!” and then threw up. I don’t know how she knew that.
Bernie picked me up after a few hours and was told to take me home but then I found out that my people were all at my mom’s house: parents, husband, Kev, Sharon, and L. So, I demanded she take me there. She bought me a smoothie from McDonalds that I drank while everyone else ate chili, and then drove me home. I think I may have dozed off at the table.
Today I feel good. Healthy and happy and doing fine. Except for I don’t know what to write about.
They say when you are in such a predicament, that you should write about exactly the dilemma: that you are stuck, or wordless. This was my attempt to do that. I don’t know that anything really came of it. I do know that after today I am booked up on blog topics for the next couple of weeks, so that’s a satisfying feeling. This? This is just filler.
So, as you may know, earlier this year I released a chapbook of poetry regarding chronic and mental illness. I like chapbooks, because usually they revolve around a topic of some sort, and I like poetry that speaks to a certain thing. They’re smaller than your regular collection, but if you’re looking for a certain area to read about, you can find it easier. A friend asked about a month or so ago what was the next for me on the poetry front, and I said I was composing a chap of love poems. Not the usual “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” sort, mind you. I don’t write like that.
This book will actually be about love that is obsessed over, brutally mismanaged, and often unrequited.
Then the other day, I was sitting on the couch watching the news and Hubs was playing his phone game, and I thought gee…maybe your husband might not like it if you publish a book of poetry about other dudes. Maybe he will feel threatened, or jealous, or betrayed somehow. “Babe, how would you feel if I published a chapbook about other men?”
“I honestly do not care.” He didn’t even look up from his game.
After he won his round, he looked up and went on to say that he felt himself to be the winner in the situation and as such was not worried. He didn’t really need to explain though, because when he said he didn’t care, I knew he was telling the truth.
I have been writing poems since I was fifteen years old. I have been with Mark since I was 27. That is over a decade of angsty poems about various guys I encountered during that time, and my husband is not so simple that he thinks I was just waiting around for him.
Some of the poems are crap, but could be well-fixed with edits. Some are good. A couple even rhyme, something I used to do all the time but rarely do now, as a lot of mags won’t accept rhyming poems. Which I think is crap…it’s harder to write a good rhyming poem than a good free verse. But I digress…
Anyway, I’ve got all these poems about these men. Some are wonderful dudes that I am proud to have known and loved. Others are not. Now, when I edit, I try to read though once from an outsider’s perspective, as best as I can. How would I relate to this poem were I not me? Could I relate to it, even? Sometimes the answer is no, and I cut it from the project. Sometimes it’s a resounding yes. Sometimes it’s a maybe, and I edit it to make it more adaptable. I’ve done this with twenty poems so far. I may be able to scrounge up a couple more, which would be nice, but that’s a decent length for a chapbook.
My first book was about chronic and mental illness. All the poems in it were a reflection of myself at my most vulnerable. Having succeeded in overcoming my fears regarding such things, I am ready to tackle another vulnerable side of myself, the part of me that gives permission to love. And who on earth can’t relate to that, in some form?
Anyway, this is just my brain working. It’s a ways off before I send it out to folks, but I’m thinking of it today. My next chapbook out will actually hopefully be a mini-chap though Pen & Anvil Press, but I am still waiting to hear back from them regarding editing and publication dates. But this guy, this little book of love and hate and loss and lust, that’s what I’m working on next, poetry-wise.
But probably not until December. Because, you know, 10 days until NaNo.