An Essay and Two Poems!

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One of the Barbies in question (which actually is a Mrs. Heart doll, not a Barbie) (I think?)

Happy Halloween, people of the Interwebs! While you’re putting the final touches on your fabulous Hilary Clinton pantsuits, Ghost Busters power back-packs, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg robes (I hope), I’ve got an essay and two poems that would serve as perfect reading material during a chocolate candy binge.

  • I’ve got two poems, “Because the Body Is a Place Strange Unmapped” and “House Is a Hoard,” in the latest issue of Compose. I’m really proud to be part of this spectacular issue, which also includes work by Laura McCullough, Emari DiGiorgio,  D.A. Powell, and a lot of remarkable writers.
  • The Shalt Nots,” an essay of mine, is up in the latest issue of the Longridge Review. It’s an essay about the often-super-confusing experience of growing up — well, in general, and how, as children, we try to figure things out through play. It’s also an essay about the often-super-seriously-confusing experience of growing up Catholic in the tightest part of the Bible Belt in the Deep South. That’s an idea that’s always present in my writing, though I haven’t really approached it directly until I wrote this essay. This definitely wasn’t the first time a friend or family member tried to convert me, but it’s the one I remember most, possibly because it happened in the middle of a pretty epic game of Barbies. This is one of those essays that gave me a lot of trouble: I wrote the first parts of what later became this essay in 2010, and by 2011, it had expanded into a 35 page whopper of an essay. It definitely didn’t need to be 35 pages long, but it took me a long time to figure out how to thin it down because I couldn’t find the real focus of the piece. That’s when one of the greatest miracles of sending out submissions happened: one journal offered some feedback along with the rejection that helped me figure out what threads were running through the piece — and which threads were actually working.
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Short Short Saturday!

Dear friends in the Internet, I’ve got two short-short stories for you this weekend! I’ve been working on repairing my relationship with fiction for a while, and though things are still sort of awkward, it feels good to be doing the work. Fiction and I separated after high school and for the same kinds of reasons that so often come between partners in relationships: insecurity, fear, and a feeling of inferiority. I wrote a lot of fiction, but I never felt very confident about it. When I started college, I already felt not-very-confident about so many things that I never took a fiction workshop: I just couldn’t gather the courage I needed to get past my lack of confidence and to remember that the important thing wasn’t to write perfect stories but to learn from — and learn to love — the imperfections. I regret that now. I’m also grateful to have arrived at a moment in my life where I’m able to push (a little bit at least) past the fear to the work.

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My flash pieces often begin the same way my poems do: with an image. That was the case with “On the Margin of the River,” which appears in the latest issue of Cloudbank and received The Cloudbank Poetry Prize for Issue 10 (you can order the print issue here — and Cloudbank is always gorgeous in print!). I was staying at my parents’ house and nodding off while my parents watched television. I started thinking about that far-off, undersea quality that other people’s conversations take on when you’re slipping into sleep. I was still thinking about that when I actually went to sleep, and I had a dream about talking to mermaids (which was, by the way, awesome). The story started as a way to work through that image. It outgrew the image pretty quickly and became, for me, more about tone. I’m still trying to find a place for the mermaids, since mermaids are, of course, awesome. 

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I’ve also got a short-short up at Monkeybicycle, which is tremendously exciting. I started reading Monkeybicycle in 2005, mostly because the title is every bit as awesome as mermaids. I’ve submitted to them a few times over the years, but never really got anywhere (and for good reason — the stories weren’t very well developed and in all honesty were probably totally poems), so I’m incredibly happy to have a piece in the journal now. This one’s called “The Honor Code” and started from a conversation about — you guessed it — honor codes, about how they’re a very honorable concept that can be disastrous if it’s not followed through. I started journaling about how easy it is to make justifications that twist the concept of honor around to one’s own interests, and this teenager’s monologue just kind of appeared. Also, any time I can write about someone’s hair being on fire, I’m happy.

Floating with the Sinking City

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I’m really excited to say I’ve got a poem in the inaugural issue of Sinking City. It’s a new journal from the University of Miami‘s MFA program in Creative Writing — and the incomparably amazing Chantel Acevedo is their faculty sponsor. The poem’s called “Under Threat of Eden,” and it’s the break-through poem I mentioned a few entries back. It’s in the good company of poems by Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams, Caroline Barr, M.M. Devoe, Daniel Ruiz, Shara McCallum, and Maureen Seaton — and prose by Nora Bonner, Beverly Tan Murrary, and Ernest White II.

In other words, you should totally go read it all right now, and then consider sending them work for the second issue!

Give Yourself Room To Wait (And Other Stories)

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A different waiting room, but very much the same feeling.

I’m proud to say that I’ve got a short essay — “To Mourn Excessively; To Lost, Forfeit, Or Misplace” — in the first issue of Windmill, a journal of art and literature out of Hofstra University. The title and quotes come from Melancholia, a gorgeous book by the incomparable Kristina Marie Darling, which is one of those books that came to me at the perfect time. This essay itself was one of those gifts — it came pretty smoothly and wholly, which happens very rarely to me, after I got home from the doctor’s offce. The writing of the essay might have been smooth, but sending it out was incredibly difficult, as it meant sending an essay out into the world that talked about the very darkest moments of something I could barely talk about in my own life: my hysterectomy.

After over twenty years of struggling with pretty much every “lady problem” on the books, I had a radical hysterectomy in 2013. It was the right thing to do because, by that point, it was the only thing to do: my entire life was controlled by an uncontrollable case of endometriosis, and I was quickly losing the last vestiges of control I had. It was the right option for me because it was the only option I had left.

That didn’t make it easy.

I talked about it as little as possible. I told as few people as possible: I told the people I loved and trusted most, and I told the people who had to know, and then I did my best to keep it quiet. No matter how terribly, strangely lonely I felt, I felt like keeping things as quiet as possible was the only thing I could do. I don’t really know why, and, to be honest, that’s not really a question I asked myself at the time. It’s something I’m only now asking and trying to answer, as I’m moving through revisions of a draft of a book about all of this. Perhaps I was afraid. Perhaps I didn’t want to be judged, or made fun of, or asked why, or challenged, or blamed. Perhaps I didn’t want to talk about it, to answer questions about it, because I didn’t want to think about it. Because I didn’t want it to be real.

Eventually, though, I realized that I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I couldn’t stop people from judging me, but I was preventing myself from developing strong, open relationships with other people. The silence that had protected me also hurt me. And when I went back to those notebooks and found what I’d been writing — including this — I realized that I was doing exactly what I feared people would do to me: passing judgment without knowing their story, without considering who they were, without realizing they may be passing through a moment every bit as terribly, strangely lonely as the moment I was passing through.

Also, some bonus good news: the good people at Panoply nominated my flash piece, “Good Girl,” for the Pushcart Prize. I’m incredibly grateful and honored to be in the company of their other amazing nominees, whose beautiful work you can read here.