Submissions: Velvet-Tail


Just wanted to pass along that Velvet-Tail, a quarterly ‘zine, is still taking submissions for both art and poetry for their Winter Solstice issue. If you haven’t checked them out yet, you definitely should! They mesh together two creative worlds into a whole new piece of art.

How to submit
About the ‘zine

Even if you choose not to submit, you should still take a look at the amazing works that Canese Jarboe, Editor and founder, has published already.



Event: Coven Press Unnameable Books Poetry Reading

On Sunday (Oct. 25), I had the opportunity to hear six amazing poets at Unnamable Books in Brooklyn, New York. The event was hosted by Jessica Smith, founding editor of Coven Press, who managed to round up some truly inspiring women writers creating powerful, quirky, witchy, and heart-tugging poems for a basement full of eager listeners and friends. The event was curated by David Kirschenbaum, editor of Boog City, and included a live performance by Mia Theodoratus, a modern harpist who has played around the world for a variety of companies, including the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Although hearing an introduction by Kirschenbaum and music by Theodoratus, all who came were there to hear Gillian Devereux, Michalle Gould, K. Lorraine Graham, Jessica Smith, Jasmine Dreame Wagner, and Annie Won share published or newly written pieces.


I left early in the morning from Boston with Gillian, Brian, and Michalle to arrive in Brooklyn by 11:30am and in serious need of coffee and breakfast. Thankfully, we met up with the rest of the poets at a nearby restaurant for brunch before heading over to Unnameable Books and cramming ourselves into a basement lined with books of all sorts. It seemed almost surreal to be around this many books piled all over the place and I felt like I was on a set for a new hipster film. But, alas, I was not, and it was the place where so many people gathered to hear all of the poets read.

IMG_2548The event kicked off with Gillian Devereux reading some of her new erasure poems from text by Increase and Cotton Mather. All of her poems kept to a theme of witchiness and covens, which was fitting for a poetry reading for Coven Press. She read with finesse and perfect timing, so that everyone in the audience could digest their own meanings from each poem she shared. With a timely thud that came after her first poem, Gillian set the mood for the rest of the poets to follow.


Following was Michalle Gould, who, not only read in her own style, but also wrote completely different from Gillian. She decided to share poems from Resurrection Party, her full-length collection of poetry. Each piece had its own cadence, which than juxtaposed with the next poet, K. Lorraine Graham.


Lorraine’s poems were personal, heart-felt, and raw. She read them with passion and emotion that emulated from her voice to her stance. A fervent reading, she brought her audience into her words and images before taking a breath and finishing. Lorraine’s poems brought the event to its intermission, where we were lucky enough to hear Mia Theodoratus’s play a section of her performance art piece. I had never seen anyone play the harp besides in those period movies, so I felt kind of honored. Along with some music, Mia shared some history about women harp players – one of the only ways they could make money for a living without marrying into it – and how it connected to her feminist stance.


After the intermission, we started up again with Jessica Smith and some poems from her newly published book, Life-List. Because of the style of her writing, she believes that poems can be read starting from any point on the page. This idea allowed her to share a few recordings of her students reading her poems all at the same time. The results were amazing, with the words crescendoing into an (almost) white noise, to a few stragglers at the end.

IMG_2598Afterwards, Jasmine Dreame Wagner kept the experimental reading going by reading her poems with Mia playing the harp. It seemed fitting to hear her poems alongside music, as Jasmine is also a professional musician, as well as a published poet. Mia and Jasmine played off of each other for each of the poems and to keep a rhythm that was mesmerizing, while also musical.


Finally, the event ended with Annie Won. She came up to the front with her laptop and read as if she was multiple people. Annie fluctuated her voice, changing her tone and speed so that we could see how each image became something new. She also read with humor, but a connection to the work where most might find a detachment. The last poem mentioned witches, and brought the event full circle to conclude with some more music by Mia before we headed off for drinks and some good food.

My thoughts:
I don’t go to many poetry readings – I’m not sure why, and should probably change that soon – but being in attendance for one that was all women poets has set the bar high for my expectations of future poetry readings. Each one had their own style of writing that came out in their way of reading and presenting their work to us. Not only that, but all of them were accomplished poets who had put themselves out there for people to hear and (inadvertently) judge their work. It takes a lot of courage to do that, and I am so happy that I was able to be there and hear all of their work. It’s fair to say that I left the event excited to get home and make my own poems to maybe someday share with others.

Photo Oct 25, 12 31 35 PM



Have to be thankful again to The Rain, Party, and Disaster Society for publishing my bilingual haiku poem. I am always grateful to have others want to read and spread my writing.

You can read my poem “Arrastrada” here, as well as the other amazing creative work for October 2015’s issue.


The Writing Process: Coming Up With Titles

Dramatic is a great word to describe me because I’ll gladly exaggerate every feeling I have, especially when I’m frustrated. So, when I say that titles are the bane of my existence, they really aren’t, but I hate them a lot. Obviously I know why we need titles, why they are important for the reader, and how they can help the creative piece you’ve just spent hours working on. I am totally aware that titles should to be creative, but still related to what you’ve written. I know all the things.

Titles and me have a hate/hate relationship, where I despise them profoundly and they despise me just as much back. At the top of my Word docs, in all caps reads: TITLE GOES HERE. Usually, my analytical pieces end up with some boring, direct explanation of what my paper was about and would probably make any writer cringe at my lack of creativity. But I could never get by as easily with my creative writing stories. “Vanesa, you need a title” was a phrase spoken loads of times to me by my lovely professors, followed by the endless reasons they are important to have on written pieces. However, knowing why we need them never made coming up with them any easier.


I guess I should be grateful that, by the second half of my undergraduate career, I was quickly intrigued by poetry and have gravitated towards that style of writing. Erasures, haikus, and prose poems are a near and dear writing style to me and have change the way I approach my writing. I’ve also been extremely grateful that, while many poets title poetry, I can brush that task much more easily under the rug. Sure, I’ve titled some of my poems, but the majority are labeled by the first lines of the poem because I’m lazy and don’t know how to smash through the figurative door that is “Title Writer’s Block.”

I’m actually not sure if “Title Writer’s Block” is real, and I have only recently decided that I have the worst case of it or have simply been born without the ability to write titles. Maybe Titles, if I personify it and make it an evil entity that lurks in corners with that sketchy hat (the intruder), just wants to torture me and ruin my writing career by not letting me come up with the best names for my pieces. Maybe I care too much about titles. Regardless of the reason, naming my work is a constant struggle that I have yet to overcome.

I like the idea that using the first line of a poem can be the title. I wish this could be translated to prose writing, in that a particular sentence can be the title of the piece. I’ve never tried this, but feel that it may work best for those who always lack the ability to christen their lovely creative work. Knowing the importance of a title, especially for a prose piece, I don’t want to continue struggling or completely omit this action, so for the next couple pieces or prose writing I do, I will try naming it with a line from the story, then ask people what they think.

What are some ways that help you title your work? Comment and share your ways that may help me (and anyone else) struggling with titles!Death_to_stock_photography_Vibrant (9 of 10)


Book Review: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Lately I’ve been craving horror and suspense novels as if they were going out of style. Of course, nowadays it seems that everything horror related is banal and splattered with cliches. It’s safe to say that finding a good horror novel (or movie, I might add) is as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. That’s where Paul Tremblay steps in with his novel A Head Full of Ghosts.

I’m all about the paranormal and weird shit that goes bump in the night. It’s really thanks to my overactive imagination, which lets me see creatures peeking out of closets and hiding behind corners as if they were as real as you and me. Unfortunately, my imagination isn’t always a positive attribute, especially coupled with my overanalyzing personality, but it does make for easier enjoyment from even crappy horror novels and movies. The chance of being scared is more likely for those who just believe in everything (also known as gullible). Thankfully, my imagination doesn’t prevent me from realizing when I’ve stumbled upon a good horror and suspense novel that will keep one turning pages until its finished. Tremblay’s was definitely that kind of read.

A Full Head Of Ghosts photo from multimedia.

A Full Head Of Ghosts photo from multimedia.

I was skeptical that I would get bombarded with the typical paranormal shit that is a part of every exorcist tale, and I was definitely right. However, Tremblay takes all those details and makes them new. It wasn’t the usual “girl is possessed, so some priest comes and does some weird shit to her” read that I was expecting. Instead, from the perspective of a child, Tremblay lets the reader live through the horrors (heh) that engulf a family as they deal with child meltdowns and economic troubles. We are Merry, outside in New England November, kicking a soccer ball. And if a writer can make me think I am living with the characters, than that’s some good storytelling.

Unfortunately, with these great chunks of texts that made me stay up at night turning pages came some weird, out of nowhere blog-style writing that I wasn’t thrilled about. Although they aren’t a huge part of the reading, they would take you out of the bubble the rest of the story kept you in, and I found it hard to stay connected with what was happening. Maybe it just isn’t my cup of tea, but if I wanted to read blog-style writing (which wasn’t really that great, to be honest), I would go to my old Xanga page or LiveJournal posts I did when I was thirteen.


With that said, I do believe this is a novel that should be read by those looking for some new take on paranormal and/or exorcist stories. Even with its bit of faults, the story could sweep you back into the fold quickly. Then, you can continue to cringe at the images Tremblay made for you, while also realizing how crazy people can really get.

And the ending? You’ll have to let me know what you think!

You can purchase A Head Full of Ghosts here or here.


What to Read on a 15 Hour Flight?!

This summer, I headed to China and Thailand to visit my boyfriend and work as an English Camp teacher. My time in China was extremely eye-opening (for a variety of reasons) and I loved every minute of it. However, the traveling to and from Asia was brutal to say the least. For those of you that may not know, I live in Boston, MA. That makes me approximately 6,000 miles from my destination of Qingdao, China. I am twelve hours behind and basically living a day before them. If you have ever traveled across the world, then you know the pain and sleep-deprivation one is exposed to on such epic journeys.

Time is weird and I don’t fully understand it (if I can admit that without seeming uneducated or stupid), but you never really notice its importance until you’re suspended in some time vortex flying across over the world. I remember booking my flight and seeing the daunting number that indicated how long I was going to be on a plane – sitting with a barely reclinable seat, no internet , and stuck in a row with limited bathroom access. I was flying straight from Boston to Hong Kong: no stops.


I’m the kind of person who can barely sleep on planes. Instead, I slowly zombify and half watch whatever selection of movies are available, fidgeting endlessly and wasting the hours away. But for my longest flight yet – over 15 hours straight – I didn’t want to spend it uncomfortably shifting around and unintentionally annoying my neighbors. Cue: reading.

You’d think that I would have picked this choice ages ago, having traveled a good chunk in these last few years. But, nothing has ever been as intimidating as my flight to China. Sure, I’ve read books on planes and written some basic poems/stories. Yet, the flights only lasted up to 7 hours (and I have managed to binge watch series for longer periods than that – thank you, Netflix). Nevertheless, I just could not imagine myself watching whatever was available for that long, so I knew I had to find something else to do to stay occupied.

What I Considered When Choosing a Book

I’m a thinker by nature, so there was a lot of things I had to consider about the book that would sustain me for 15 hours. There are tons and tons of books out there, so this wasn’t an easy task. As I’ve shared before, choosing a book is a struggle for me; it takes me hours just to narrow down my search. But I knew there were a few things I had to consider that would make my search a bit easier:


1. I needed a book that would last me the entire flight.
Page length was a major issue in choosing a book. I’m a rather slow reader, so my options were pretty wide for book selections, but even I can get through a 300-page book in the time allotted. I needed something long enough to get me to Hong Kong. Although the chance of me reading for 15 hours straight wasn’t quite high, I didn’t want to take any chances. What if my TV screen didn’t work? What is my headphones broke? What if there wasn’t anything good to watch? What if, what if, what if…

2. I did not want a book extremely complex.
Because I would be confined to my seat for most of the flight (I was sitting by the window, which is both a good and bad thing), trying to focus on complex plots, deep analogies, and big words didn’t seem like the best route. Sure, it would keep me focused on something, but once that restlessness kicked in and I slowly drowned in insomnia, I knew I would regret my decision. Just imagine trying to read and understand philosophical concepts when you can barely move and running on “e.”alejandroescamilla-book3. I needed a book that wasn’t too simple.
From one end of the spectrum to the other, a book too simple would be a huge failure. A plot that required little to no thinking would lose my interest and I would be back to square one. I would also probably finish it quickly and have nothing else to do (if the TV didn’t work, headphone broke, etc.). Or, even worse for my frugal lifestyle, I would have to buy multiple books, which would be so bad if I wasn’t always tight on money.

4. I wanted a book that steered clear of anxiety-inducing issues.
I sometimes struggle with anxiety, and I knew that having an anxiety attack on a place would be the worst thing ever. Trying to stay in control of your emotions while they decide they have a mind of their own is hard enough, nevermind while you are in the middle of the air, cut off from the world, and trapped by the window seat. I’m not a nervous flyer, but taking precautionary measures is never a bad thing, so a book with a plot too intense, scary, or jarring was not the route I wanted to go.


5. I wanted a book that I would enjoy.
Of course everyone wants a book they will enjoy. But the scary part is choosing a book and not knowing if it will be enjoyable. I asked people to give me suggestions and I browed my Goodreads account to see if there was something I was willing to take a risk on. We are encouraged to not judge books by their covers, but I like to judge them by their cliff-hanging summaries on their backs. That’s the closest thing I can get to knowing if I will become engulfed in the plot and attached to the characters.

So, What Did I Choose?

Using these five points, I managed to narrow it down to two books that seemed long enough to keep me occupied on a direct flight from Boston to Hong Kong:

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2) by Deborah Harkness
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo.

Harkness’s book is what I consider a “guilty pleasure” that I knew would keep me entertained. For me, it is the equivalent of a catchy pop-song (think Taylor Swift, whom I love). I knew I was going to enjoy it because I had enjoyed the first book, even though most of my friends thought me silly for wanting to read it in the first place. On the other hand, Choo’s book was a bit different. Suggested to me by Jessica and Gillian (lovely poets whom I’ve written about here and here), this one I knew would be right up my alley. Choo uses fantastical elements, a pinch of suspense, and a “love” story, all while a young girl tries to save her soul – literally. It wasn’t too insane or horror (though I love this genre), but still included ghosts and demons; I had to give it a shot.


I read both of these books during my flights to and from China, and I am pleased to say they were great choices for me.

What are some things you consider when choosing a book for a flight? Or, what are some books that you have read when traveling? Let me know!

Images: Danist Soh (2), Arnold Lee/Unsplash; Ryan McGuire/gratisography; Alejandro Escamilla, James Tarbotton/Unsplash.

Dustin Lee

When Should You Read and When Should You Write?

This question seems simple to answer – “you should read when you want to and write when you want to.” Great! Problem solved.


As writers, it is constantly reiterated the importance of nourishing our creativity with books written by other successful writers. It keeps our imagination from rotting and inspires us for our own writing. However, we are also encouraged to write every single day to keep the juices flowing and make it a habit to write (it’s so easy to avoid writing and get rusty). Obviously, it’s expected that both reading and writing be done on a daily basis, but as a busy bee that works two jobs and also tries to stay healthy with exercise, the chance of me finding time to do both in a single day seems iffy. On top of that, when you’re in the zone on either of these tasks, stopping simply because “you have to *insert read/write*” is just not cool.

I’m all about spontaneity to keep me from getting boring (to an extent, of course). I am also a lover of finishing tasks before beginning another because perfectionists just can’t move on until something is absolutely right. However, I tend to take things too far and easily forget that I must read or write depending on which one I’ve thrown myself into. I am a black hole, really. Or maybe I am like a kid alone in an amusement park with no self-control to know when to stop riding the rollercoaster.

When should you write?

Green Chameleon : Unsplash

I’ve come to figure out that I use reading as a form of procrastination. Sure, there is nothing wrong with not being able to put a book down (see Elena Ferrante’s book review). But there is something wrong when you can’t put the book down because you have self-doubt. I’ve written about this topic before, but it is something that doesn’t just goes away once you’ve dealt with it. Self-doubt lingers like the stench of burnt bread.

If you find yourself reading and reading with no end in sight, maybe you should stop and admit to yourself that you can also write great things. Practice makes perfect (sometimes) or at least lets you learn who you are as a writer.

There are also these rare moments when a piece of literature just sparks inspiration. You are reading furiously, intensely… intimately and you begin to wonder how you could use a similar voice for a short story or pick apart a scene for a poem. These moments are amazing, but sometimes they are fleeting that by the time you put your book down, they’ve vanished and you just don’t know what you were thinking.

If you find yourself with these magical thoughts, stop! If you’re anything like me, jotting down the ideas won’t cut it and you have to actually submerge yourself in your own creativity. Write like there’s no tomorrow. Write, write, write – don’t lose inspiration.

When should you read?

DeathtoStock_Creative Community6As I’ve said before, I’m a perfectionist who has a hard time stopping things without some form of closure i.e. finishing the task. I’ve tried to write through the dreaded Writer’s Block countless times until my eyelids drooped and my words were incoherent. I’ve struggled – like many of you – to really come up with something to write, but have failed repeatedly. It is the unfortunate journey of the writer: not everything you write is great.

If you find yourself in these situations repeatedly or that you’re actually struggling to finish something because every which way you phrase it, rearrange it, or describe it isn’t melding right, stop and read. They really don’t encourage reading as a key aspect to a writer’s life if it actually wasn’t useful. Maybe you haven’t given yourself enough reading time or material to nourish your creativity. Maybe you need to seek out different reading material and simply spend time in another writer’s world before you can complete your task. Reading is wonderful and a powerful tool to writers.

Reading is also something that should be done if you are trying to write about new topics. This may seem obvious, but I don’t know how many times I’ve met other writers who simply began a topic without actual knowledge of what they were trying to write. Find writers who have written on what you are interested in. Read other stories that are similar to your writing style, so that you get a general idea on how those writers have successfully written stories. These are our “Bibles,” our instruction manuals for how things get done. I’m not saying every published book is great, but if you really dig around, you’re bound to find a story that speaks to you and can help you out.

Cliff Johnson

Ideally, as writers, we should be doing both as much as possible. Unfortunately, life demands that our attentions stay on other tasks (working and working because cash rules everything around me), so finding the time to do both is more difficult. Play around with a schedule to see what works best for your creative style. Read one day and write another. Take turns on a task (read a book, write a story).

Nevertheless, don’t let it stop you from reading/writing, if that’s what you need.

What are your thoughts for when you should read or write?

Images: Dustin Lee/Unsplash; Death to the Stock Photo; Green Chameleon, Cliff Johnson/Unsplash.


Book Review: The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

I’ll cut the bullshit and quickly say that Ferrante’s novel, The Days of Abandonment, was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. A previous professor – one who has read through a ton of my short stories and poems to know that I love description and things most people wouldn’t find beautiful – thought that a book about a woman’s emotional turmoil after her husband leaves her was a perfect fit for me. And it definitely was.

Ferrante begins the story just as Olga’s husband, Mario, leaves her for another woman. Using a first-person perspective, Ferrante drags the reader along Olga’s mental state of mind and carefully, yet vividly describes the back-and-forth questions and problems that plague her as she scrambles to keep her life together. Through each short chapter, we are able to see the repercussions of decisions and the deep impact betrayal and loss has on someone fragile.

Roberto Tumini : Unsplash

The novel itself – rather short – is very diaryesque without the actual cheesy, diary entry format. Instead, it is almost as if we are Olga and we are experiencing these painful and quite depressing situations ourselves. There were times, while I was reading, when I had to give myself moments to breathe and to simply take in what I was feeling. Ferrante’s intensity and portrayal of emotional breakdown is raw, honest, and something that can ring a bell with anyone whose been hurt before.

I’ll be honest and say that it wasn’t easy. I’m quite an emotional person to begin with and I tend to truly find myself within the pages of the books I read, so I was very much attached to Olga’s life. But Ferrante’s beautiful, elaborate descriptions and imitation of real-life mental thinking is something all writers should appreciate. She was able to capture moments that sometimes seem as if they have no words and recreate them on the page for us to watch.

Volkan Olmez : Unsplash

Like most books that focus on topics that aren’t pleasant, I say to prepare yourself before you begin. But, please, please, please begin because this novel is worth a read.

You can find an indie bookstore carrying Ferrante’s book here. To learn more about Elena Ferrante, check out her website here.

Images: Mikael Kristenson, Roberto Tumini, Volkan Olmez/Unsplash.