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Janaka Stucky’s “The Truth Is We Are Perfect” Book Release

In one of my favorite theatres in Cambridge, The Brattle, I was lucky enough to attend Janaka Stucky’s book release party for his first book The Truth Is We Are Perfect. I have had the pleasure of hearing Janaka read before in Brookline for the Bash Reading Series, so I was excited to attend and hear some of his recent poems. I will admit that I wasn’t able to stay the full night due to public transportation (my bus runs occasionally in the evenings). This, unfortunately, means I lack any knowledge of what happened after 10:45pm; however, I did catch some readings and interesting performances.

The night began with Janaka welcoming everyone and sharing a bit on his experiences ever since the book first came out. He shared the joys of celebrating on the spring equinox in New York City, along with the typical struggles of road-tripping on book tours. During his storytelling, he elaborated on thoughts that crossed his mind as he struggled to deal with a fever in the backseat of the car. Without faltering, he smoothly transitioned from thoughts to poetry reading.

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Tranced and emotionally locked inside the words of each phrase, he slowly shared a few poems by memory with the audience listening intently. Janaka paused after each phrase, letting it sink in and allowing everyone, including myself, to truly meditate on the words he was delivering. There were phrases that have stayed with me from the first couple of poems, though I won’t share them here, but I felt very much emotionally connected to the pictures he painted. With each pause, I mulled over his words and how they could be seen (or not) in my life and writing.

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After some by-memory poems, Janaka continued with some poems read from his new book before introducing Jennifer Hicks. Jennifer performed an improv dance using images shouted out by the audience, including one line from Janaka’s poems/stories, “move the back of your heart to the front of your heart.” This let everyone chuckle before she danced to some live instrumental music. Afterwards, a Rhode Island duo called Thunder Perfect, made up of violinist Hannah and accordion player Alec, came on stage and performed some acoustic songs with lots of Irish flavor.

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Unfortunately, this was when I had to leave. Nevertheless, before bolting for the train station. I stopped by the Harvard Book Store table in the back of the theatre to purchase Janaka’s book. As Janaka announced at the beginning of night, it was Indie Bookstore Day, so it gave me more reason to support a cherished local bookstore from Massachusetts (and, of course, because I have to support other writers too!). I was also lucky enough to snag the last of his limited edition coasters, which were given to the first 50 people to buy his book that night.

Even though I had to leave early, I was glad I had seen some of the performances that night and been able to share in celebrating one of the greatest accomplishments any writer can experience – the release of a book. Due to the recent events in Nepal and Baltimore, all the proceeds for the ticket sales went to Nepal; Janaka also promised to donate $5 for each book sold that night to the ACLU in Baltimore.

You can purchase Janaka’s book here:

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The Pros and Cons of Writing in Coffee Shops

What better way to write than with a nice cup of something? Currently, I am drinking mint tea out of my official writing cup: a Starbucks Qingdao mug my boyfriend sent me from China. It’s big enough to hold a decent amount of coffee, tea, or occasionally some Merlot. So, when I’m contemplating some difficult transition or staring at a blank screen, I can slowly sip on deliciousness to help me think. However, one can only spend so much time writing in the same place with the same things for so long. I, for one, eventually fall in a rut if things don’t change after a while. Sure, I will not switch my mug or the notebook I use to jot down ideas, but the environment could spice up my writing!

I like to blame the wanderlust aspect of my personality for causing me to have to put pants on and go outside with my laptop. One the other hand, it also could be the hipster side of me that just craves being stereotypical out in public. Whatever the cause is, I sometimes venture out to various coffee shops to sit down and do exactly what I could do at home for free.

DeathtoStock_Medium3Being a frugal individual, it seems quite the opposite to head out and pay god-knows-how-much for coffee and cookies. Yet, it seems that my little observant heart craves being out in public surrounded by a bunch of strangers who talk about the funniest things (yes, I do eavesdrop on your conversation, which you will later read in some short story). Having experienced writing in coffeehouses (that majority of which were) in Boston, Oxford, and Bath, these are the things I’ve gathered as pros and cons of typing away at these places.

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Cons:

  • Finding seating at a coffeehouse is the worst thing imaginable. This past weekend, I spent a good chunk of writing time running around to different places only to discover that there was nowhere to sit.
  • Once I do find a place with seating, it could still be a total fail if the level of noise is just insane. I’ve found myself comfortably writing and in a deep train of thought only to be scared to death by babies shrieking or the barista’s booming voice announcing that “Cindy’s soy chai latte with two espresso shots” is ready.
  • After awhile of sitting somewhere drinking large cups of whatever, chances are I am going to need to go to the bathroom. But if I am alone, which is most of the time, I have no idea whether I should leave my stuff at the table or take it all with me. I always end up leaving my jacket and having to pack up all of my things just to go come back not even five minutes later. Then I have to unpack, resettle, and begin getting comfortable knowing that in an hour’s time I am going to have to do it again.
  • This is only a minor con, but one worth mentioning. I have found that some people – actually a lot of people – don’t seem to take me seriously when I am writing at coffeehouses. Yes, I am aware that my presence with my laptop and notebook make me seem like every other typical “writer,” but I am a writer! I have heard people whispering about my “douche-y” or “stuck up” appearance just because I happen to be writing in the same vicinity as them. Thankfully, I usually forget about them once I start writing.
  • Like I’ve said before, I just hate having to spend money. I know I’ll never be able to make a Spanish latte at home like Pavement does, but it still hurts me a little when I pay for it knowing I have satisfyingly, cheap coffee at home.

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  • Coffee. And not just any coffee, but the kind prepared for you with fancy swirls and shit that you know you could never perfect in the comfort of your home. This is both a pro and a con because, while I definitely just paid $5 for that cup o’ joe knowing I am satisfied with bad coffee, sometimes I just need that little heart-shaped foam in my life.
  • I can’t stress enough how amazing the conversations are in coffee shops. When people think you’re listening to something super hipster, like Spotify’s Indie Electronica (which I do, in fact, love), they talk about the funniest things that make for great writing fodder. I’m well aware of the fact that eavesdropping is rude, but I can’t help but listen when you decide to talk about the man in a bunny costume who you saw frolicking in your backyard last night.
  • I know that some days I have to go out because if I stay home, I’ll spend it in bed watching Netflix or reading. If I am at a coffeehouse, I am dressed and ready to work! The fact that I’ve put on pants is just a little annoyance, but well worth it.
  • What I love about coffee shops is being able to meet up with friends for writing dates or meet others who don’t mind conversing. I’ve met some great readers and writers while I’ve been out writing who have graciously spent time telling me about what they write, what books they found amazing, and what they thought about on topics we both found interesting or important. These kinds of conversations are totally worth putting on pants.

What are the things you hate/love about writing in coffee shops?

Images: Seemi Pletoniemi/Unsplash; Death to the Stock Photo (3)

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The Writing Process: Writing Everyday

I may have written about this before, but finding the time to write creatively (nevermind everyday) is an issue that truly affects me. Now that it is NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month), I have been forced to confront my “laziness” or, for better word choice, “carelessness” for not writing enough. NaPoWriMo challenges poets to find the time to write a poem a day; it does not need to be the best poem that merits an award, but a poem nonetheless. NaPoWriMo challenges poets to find the time to write – that is the key.

Did I find the time to write?

No. Actually, I may still be trying to finish one of the many poems I started at the beginning of April. I am a careless, irresponsible, horrible, horrible failure of a writer. But can I defend this ridiculous behavior? Of course! I can come up with a million reasons for why I wasn’t able to sit down everyday and write a poem, or why I haven’t continued the short story I’ve been working on. There is always someone or something to blame for not being able to complete tasks; we can’t possibly take the blame for our own errors.

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But, we can. We actually can. I’m going to take the high road and admit that I just didn’t do it sometimes. I could have, but I found other things to do (like reading, Netflix, writing other articles, or sleeping). Although it’s not bad that I gave myself some me-time, which is critical for my emotional state – if I’m not emotionally stable, I can’t function properly, which means I can’t work and make money (I work full-time and part-time for Bustle) – it’s bad that I didn’t find my creative writing important enough to find the time to write.

Yes, I remember now! I wrote about this in the first blog post for this website. I explained how Pressfield’s self-help book for writing gave me a major mental check for why it’s important to write everyday and keep that spark alive.

Obviously, I’ve let it burn out. Or maybe I’ve transferred that energy to writing other things/reading (which is good). Nevertheless, I’ve placed one of my most important aspects of my life on the back-burner and now I’m here writing a post about how I’ve clearly forgotten the purpose of my existence.

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I am a writer. I cannot forget that, for some odd reason, I was given this talent and urge to write. But writers are the best procrastinators, and goddamn, I’m an expert at that shit. This lack of creative writing must end. It’s detrimental to my life. It’s probably why I’m so confused right now because I’ve managed to diminish a part of me from my everyday lifestyle.

However, it’s not the end of the world. Just like anything, you can always pick yourself up and keep going. I haven’t ruined my life as a writer (yet?). I’m going to get back into the groove and hold myself to it. I’m going to finish my poem and complete my series of prose poems. I’m going to finalize a rough draft of my short story. I’m going to write now because it’s still possible for me to dive back into things. I haven’t forgotten how to write; I just forgot that I had to.

Images: Death to the Stock Photo; David Mao/Death to the Stock Photo; Florian Klauer/Unsplash.

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Poem Published on The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society!

I’ve got some lovely news to share, it being that my poem has officially been published on RPD’s March 2015 literary magazine.

It’s always humbling when someone enjoys your writing enough to want to share it with others.

Check it out here and the rest of this month’s publications!

Image: Erin Celikovic/Unsplash.

New from Essay Press: “Women in Visual Poetry: the Bechdel Test”

Curated by Jessica Smith, this chapbook features Michelle Detorie, Gillian Devereux, K.S. Ernst, K. Lorraine Graham and Sheila Murphy & an afterword by Maureen Thorson.

These conversations on poetry between women writers is amazing! You get an intimate look at how these women think and share their thoughts with other women writers, which lets you experience their writing process. Overall, it’s real. And real to me makes me want to write.

Check it out!

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Why Picking a Book is The Worst

For someone plagued with the horrible “disease” of indecision, picking a book is basically the equivalent of pulling teeth. I’ve literally stood around bookstores – local ones, of course, because we gotta support our local bookstores – and just wandered between genres with the thought, is this what I want to read next? Almost always, the answer never comes and I usually leave with another journal to add to my collection of half full (or half empty, you choose) journals that will end up collecting dust on my personal bookshelf. Of course I do end up choosing books eventually, but the struggle to reaching that point where I finally take the plunge on a title is far too long.

I’m a Kindle user because if I were to purchase a hard copy of all the books I read throughout my short life (I am only 23) I wouldn’t have enough space to store them. So sometimes these decisions come from the comfort of my own home. Unfortunately, this does not make it any easier. The last book I chose, because it is possible for me to actually make a choice, took me 1.5 hours to finally make that decision. And to be frank, that is way too long. Can’t I just make decisions? I have no idea.

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Why is this so hard for me? I’ve literally asked myself this question a million times. There are all these places that offer recommendations of what would interest me based on my previous reads, like Goodreads, and yet this doesn’t actually help at all. Once, (the last time, if you want to know), I decided it would be smart to ask others for what they thought would be something I’d like to read. I had managed to narrow it down to some horror/thriller type of story so I sent a tweet with this message:

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 5.30.36 PMThis made it worse. Now I wasn’t plagued with having no choices to sift through, but having too many options. I had friends offering suggestions that all sounded amazing! I had gone full-circle.

What an awful way to live.

I am totally exaggerating. This is really not a horrible problem. People deal with worse shit than this; but here I am, complaining. Yeah, this is a rant of some sort, and I apologize. However, if you have to deal with indecision, you know that this problem spreads to all aspects of our lives and having to deal with it is actually the worst possible thing ever. And, picking books is so important to me! I am a literary nerd at heart. I want to be able to just indulge in some great works of fiction or non-fiction about whatever topic that sounds great. But I’m hindering myself by just not making a choice.

So, as I said, I did actually make a choice: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. I love it so far and definitely recommend it to others who love his type of writing and love The Shining. But to get to that point was horrific.

I can say that picking a book was easier once I had some suggestions to work with, but there has to be an easier way to reach that point. And this will be through lists!

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Yes, I have said it, lists. What if I make a list of each book that I will read next for the next five or ten books? I will have to suffer through the horrible experience of deciding which of the books will go on this list, but it could save me the trouble down the road. I don’t know. Maybe I could just pick a book off of my Goodreads “want to read” list by random and just read it. Maybe I could just read a goddamn book.

What a way to live, seriously. So here’s my call to all you people:
why is choosing a book so hard for you?
how do you choose books?
is it possible to overcome this issue?

Let me know! Hopefully I can update you all on my choosing next time and its improvement.

Images: Death to the Stock Photo(2); @_vanesaa/Twitter; Mikhail Pavstyuk/Unsplash

The Writing Process: Writing with Music

There’s something great about writing with music. If I’m starting a new piece and some good R&B is playing, I always feel a boost of motivation to type with the mellowness that is Luther Vandross or Maxwell. If I’ve been struggling to get through a hump and I hear TSwift’s catchy pop lyrics, I can’t help but feel some little nudge to keep writing to get over it. And, hearing Anberlin as I am erasing lines for a poem makes the atmosphere that much better and challenges me to think about what I’m really trying to say.

Currently, I’m shuffling through Taylor Swift, Amy Winehouse, Paramore, and Beyoncé. I am on a female-led, strong vocals vibe while I write this short blog post. The difference between each artist mentioned inspired me to write this post on how music influences my writing and me.

As I’ve said before, the type of music that I am listening to changes the way that I approach writing and how I feel about what I am doing. If I am feeling stuck, it wouldn’t help me much to listen to some really great, but depressing song like “Let Go” by James Bay. However, if my mind is sporadic, listening to Calvin Harris isn’t going to make it any better. Picking the right tunes for what you’re going to be doing is crucial to productivity and just, overall, happiness.

I’m not going to say that having music playing in the background is the best way to write. Actually, there are times when I think it’s distracting and I end up paying attention to the songs more than what I’m supposed to be doing. That’s when I need to turn it off and just focus on my own words and my inner voice (I tend to read out loud, which makes writing in public a little embarrassing at times).

But, music and writing just can’t be another way to write – at least to me. There are pieces that could not have come alive without the jazzy improvisations of Amy or Duke Ellington. Without London Grammar or Empire of the Sun, some stories would be boring and incomplete.

What are you listening to these days?

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Book Review: Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood

I like to believe that I am a writer. I think of it as something I do, should be doing, enjoy doing, and is a part of my life. When introducing myself, it is always one of the first few words I use to describe myself. Long story short (though I have made it long already), I think that writing and me go together like cookies and cookie monster.

It was no surprise, then, when I received Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing as a gift by a published poet for graduating from Wheelock.* Clearly, here was a book that I needed to read. A book on writing by a writer? Yes! Also: Margaret Atwood.

Atwood’s book delves into a series of topics that every writer contemplates at some point in his or her writing life. Who are we as writers? Who do we write for? How will people think about us if/when we make it big? What is the relationship between the writer, the reader, and the book? And, what role does the reader play in influencing us and/or our writing?

It is evident by the title and the numerous quotes adorning every page that previous writers and ideas play a significant role in our own identities and writing. We must listen to them and heed their advice, warnings, and stories. I mean, we are always being told that writers must read to be better writers, and Atwood definitely reinforces this fact as a way to answer the bigger questions that plague us (or help guide us to answer these questions on our own).

One particular explanation that stuck by me was her differentiation of the art of writing from other artistic forms of expression. She explains that writing is the only type that has a voice: “Other art forms can last and last – painting, sculpture, music – but they do not survive as voice” (pg. 158). Not only does that allow me to think of myself as an artist, but it also reminds me that my creative form of expression has its own identity, which means it has its own questions that are unique to its form.

After reading this book, I was left feeling much more at ease when dealing with these questions. I felt supported and had more of an understanding to how I am to proceed as a writer in today’s publishing – a world that I had only imagined as a goal before.

As a writer, I am still left with millions of unanswered questions. However, I have made progress in how I think of writing, writers, readers, and the infinite ways in which they interact with each other.

*I’ve noticed a pattern in the books that I am given; most of them are self- help or general productivity/insightful books about one aspect of my identity. I should try reviewing them more often.

First Published Poem!

I apologize again for being absent for so long from this blog. So much writing and re-writing mixed with the holidays and my birthday equaled to a neglect of this. I gotta promise to work on that.

During my absence, I was given the opportunity to submit one of my erasure poems to Delirious Hem’s Advent Calendar on rape-culture. And here it is!

I hope you enjoy it. I also hope that you read the rest of the poems in the series, as they are fantastic and insightful. Please, please, please check them out. I know this is late, but the poems won’t get old, trust me.

Gillian Devereux is a Poet: Publishing Tips and Advice

Gillian.
Gillian Devereux is a poet. That, as a fact, is not the main reason for asking her about poetry and publishing. After receiving her MFA in Poetry from Old Dominion University, she went on to publish two chapbooks and has had her poems printed in many journals. She believes in using today’s technology to share her poems and interests and runs a blog to do these things. She is an active writer, constantly working towards sharing her best work with the world. Beginning her career at the age of four when she wrote her first story about koalas, Gillian’s love for furry animals has endured, as well as her love for writing. If there is someone to ask about poetry and publishing, you can’t go wrong with Gillian.

Why poetry?
Gillian has been reading and writing since she was a child. She believes her interest in poetry began with her father reading her famous poets such as Robert Frost, Robert Burns, and e.e. cummings, to name a few. Yet, it was during her junior year as an undergraduate when she finally decided to seriously pursue writing poetry.

Both of Gillian’s parents studied English and were completely against her doing the same. So, she majored in business. Then, she changed her major to early childhood education. Then, she changed it again to nursing. She always knew she wanted to do something that would impact the world, but it wasn’t until she began taking film studies and creative writing courses that she found the perfect way for her to do that. By the time she applied for graduate school, she was set on getting an MFA in Poetry.

Publishing?
As a child, she was published in Ranger Rick Magazine, a children’s magazine run by the National Wildfire Federation. In her second year of graduate school, she was again published in a local literary magazine. But not until 2010 did she begin to actively seek publication.

In 2010, she met a publisher who asked her why she didn’t already have books published. She, of course, pondered this question and decided to send some of her finished poems to journals or publishers. That summer, the two manuscripts she had sent out were accepted. She has since had over forty poems published.

But how to choose what gets sent out?
Gillian explains that the most important step she takes to getting published is sending out her poems. Every six weeks she sends out submissions to journals or publishers. To help her decide which ones to choose, she separates her poems into two categories: finished poems that she may change in the future, and finished poems that are final and will not be changed. If the poems are accepted, she sends out a new batch of poems, and if the poems are rejected, she sends them out again. For her, having a critical eye or feedback on the poems before sending them out makes her feel certain that the poems are worthy of being published. But rejection still happens.

Rejection
Rejection is always hard. But Gillian has found ways to make it somewhat better. Her suggestion, which is something she applies to her own writing, is to separate the feelings from the work. She explains that people looking at the poems may have different reasons for why they rejected the piece. It can sometimes have nothing to do with the poem; for example, the journal could have already decided on a direction and the poem simply doesn’t fit with their concept. For her, knowing how publication works has helped understand not only why a poem may have been rejected, but also how to choose where to send her work.

How to get published!
Gillian has many ways that help her decide to where she should send her poems. Reading and becoming familiar with many journals is something she does to see the kinds of work they publish and if it is similar to her poetry. She can easily do this because a good amount of journals are online and chapbooks of contemporary writers do not cost a lot of money.

On top of reading a variety of journals and chapbooks, she also looks at who published her favorite contemporary poets or poets who write similarly to her style. Knowing this, she can send poems to publishers who are more likely to accept her poems because they have published similar writing. Gillian treats writing and getting published like a job, making sure she is constantly promoting her poems and staying active in the writing community. But getting published is not only about sending poems to publishers and being an active writer. Gillian has noticed that having an online presence, such as a blog, helps her get published because she already has an audience who reads her work.

Digital Presence.
Gillian’s blogging allows her to remain an active member in the writing community. She began one of her blogs to share her experience after winning a residency in Vermont. This was a new experience for her, and she wanted to share it with others. But now that it is over, she wants to focus on shifting the blog towards literary citizenship.

Literary citizenship is the idea that writers, readers, or everyday people who appreciate the arts engage with the literary world and share their appreciation with others. There are many ways in which people can participate in literary citizenship. People can read different works; write their own creative pieces; review works they have read; and reach out to others who have inspired, empowered, helped, or simply given them a good read. For Gillian, blogging about poetry and writing would be her way of sharing and supporting the poetry community.

However, she doesn’t want to just write for poets, but for others who may find her posts interesting. While her posts will be focused on poetry or literature, by moving away from just blogging about poetry or her poems, she can broaden her audience and maybe introduce people to poetry from a new perspective.

Advice?
After having been through the process of getting published and writing poetry, Gillian has a few tips to give to other writers hoping to get their poetry published. She believes that the steps she has taken to become and maintain and active writer in the community is something that others should do for themselves. In addition to what she has already shared, she also suggest the following:

  • Read contemporary poetry to see what is out there. It will help you know what kind of writing is being produced. It will also help you find publishers.
  • For poetry, change your process and writing style. Challenge or break your habits to get out of your comfort zone. It will help your improve your poems.

Although Gillian is a poet, her suggestions are about getting poetry published can potentially work for other types of writing. As a writer, taking writing seriously and working hard towards goals is important to establish oneself in the community. However, what must be kept in mind is the idea of being an active member in the writing community. This stems back to the idea of being a literary citizen, where it is not only about who you are as a writer, but appreciating and sharing your support for others as well. Writing can seem like an independent field, but staying connected to other writers and readers will help everyone, including you.