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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.

Fan Letter: EJ Koh

Dear EJ Koh,

You made me appreciate the use of a turn in a poem. Usually, poetic turns can either succeed in creating abrupt twists or fail in conjuring such emotions.

You have most definitely succeeded.

Inspired by yours, I have now tried to use them in my own writing – both poetry and short story. I want to keep my readers on their toes just as you have done with me.

Also, thank you for my yearly service check.

Best Regards,
Vanesa