The Upside’s Downsides

Pensacola mural.jpg

For a few seasons after that dark, tans-free summer
after the British Petroleum oil spill,
Pensacolians still found purple-black shells & tar balls
washed ashore like some Biblical plague.
They pumped gas like some people pumped iron,
pulled mullets out of their gullets
like some people pulled muscles & tendons.
Browned while smoking hash,
they luxuriated in the erupting boil
that was the sun,
pickling their organs
while drinking in
the bay’s briny scent,
puckering up,
wrinkling like worried grapes,
fermenting,
preserving,
& dehydrating their bodies
with mixers & elixirs.
Even a BLT sandwich seemed too hot to eat.

Sweet Little Nothings

Dance it out chocolate

To save their rubber chicken wedding,
the bride,
Mrs. Kentucky Fried
also known as an angel with wings
with the breasts & thighs to match
showed a little leg
as she danced back & forth
across the yellowing, crumbling brick road,
having the guests try to figure out why
she was up to such chicken shit.
But the bride found herself in a real sour pickle
when the egg came
before her groom did.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

Mother was with David,
on a walk with God,
Caitlin was asleep,
surely running,
but I was as still as the silence,
waiting for something
to happen.

When it came to our figures,
Caitlin was the Audrey
& I, the Marilyn.
She had the figure
that could do justice
to the dance,
whereas I had the figure
that some feminists insisted
did an injustice to me.

The Church had stripped Mother of her formality,
redressing her in a tennis-style dress & mules.
She kept her hair pulled behind her,
making her look 10 years younger—
like an older sister
with whom I felt I’d been competing with
all my life.
She had taken her place in the sun,
even I had sought my space in the shade,
for her limelight had become too bright.

I had thought Bethany House
a haven for battered women,
but while the women were being looked after,
the men to whom they were married
were going through LDS counseling
with a male therapist,
in conjunction with
more spiritually-based counseling
from their bishop.
It wasn’t an escape
but a holding place—
the women there like foster children,
waiting for their husbands to reclaim them.

With Elder Roberts,
I had always felt compelled to be
someone better than what I thought I was.
Though I’d always believed
that the right person would bring out
the best in me,
so much of the good
that had been brought out
hadn’t been in me at all
but had been manufactured.
I was like a robot
who had allowed itself
to be reprogrammed
into something I did not recognize.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

7 Reasons Why I Won’t Be Going to Graduate School

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It’s extremely expensive and not necessarily a guarantee for the type of employment I would be suited for (writing, editing, and tutoring). I can’t afford it, so I would have to work a full-time job outside the home and study and conduct research on top of that. I’m ready to move on from the world of academia as a student. I’ve had a fine time of it—a great run.  

I want to take art classes instead. I want to learn how to illustrate my children’s nursery rhymes and create images (and take better photographs) for my blog posts. I also want to learn how to design my book covers; I’d rather spend $300 for an art class and DIY it than pay someone $300 to design a single cover.

I do not wish to pursue academic writing. I’m tired of writing papers I have to cite sources for, and I find the idea of writing a thesis or dissertation unappealing. The only type of nonfiction I want to write is creative nonfiction or journalism puff pieces (like humor columns, where I don’t have to transcribe any audio, which is a ginormous pain in the ass). I may be educated and a lifelong learner, but I am not an intellectual and never will be.

I want more time with family and friends. I want more tacos downtown and drinks uptown. I want more field trips with my daughter and quiet nights at home with my husband. I want to learn how to make sushi and macarons. I want to find an exercise routine I will stick with. I want to binge-watch Big Love.  I want to read every story that ever made it in The Saturday Evening Post. I want to decode the formula for writing a Harlequin Heartwarming novel. I want to teach my daughter how to read Green Eggs and Ham. I want date nights with my husband that includes more than just going out to dinner without the munchkin. 

I don’t need it to be a successful writer. If I spend another six or eight years in school, those are years I’m not focusing exclusively on my writing (or attending writers’ conferences or taking writing classes for fun). I want to get that novel published, sell my short stories, and explore other writing opportunities. If I’m working and studying all the time, I won’t have the time (or the cognitive energy) for anything else.

I am not grad school material. I am smart enough to admit that. I realized this while taking an American Literature class this spring (it’s midterm time, and I’m aiming for a B but praying for a C) because I don’t want to analyze texts that do not interest me. If I find a 4000 level class this hard, how much more demanding will a higher level class be? Besides, I just know that the whole time I’d be doing graduate school work, I’d be longing to write my words that were not based on anyone else’s. (I know there’s a lot of research involved in grad school.) 

I just don’t have the cognitive energy for the rigors of grad school. Also, by the time I get my bachelor’s, I will have been in school for seven or eight years (including a gap semester), what with working multiple jobs and being a wife and mom (and making the time to read and write in the midst of it all). I’m tired and ready to realize the fullness of my writing dreams. 

Fiction Friday: Poetry from the Book

mormoni

In times of frost,
everything seemed rushed—
rushing to finish holiday shopping
& rushing to get in out of the cold
or home before darkness fell;
in times of fever,
everything moved as if in slow motion—
the trees swaying rather than shimmying,
the birds languid & low-key,
& the people,
even more so.
Perhaps this was because every holiday
had happened one year ago,
but in Green Haven,
summers bled
one into the other
like crayons that had been left
in the car too long.
Even after the town had turned its back on the sun,
the earth rolling over in its cosmic bed,
there was no respite from the heat.
Given the choice between being hot in stale air,
or hot in fresh air,
we’d chosen the latter.
We let the cold water cascade
over our heads & shoulders,
our hot bodies silhouetted in the frosted light
that shone through our bathroom windows,
drying with still-damp towels.
We had become as lethargic as wilted lettuce,
smelling not like bacon grease but of misery.

It was the season of the hurricane—
of parties on downtown patios
& beach condo balconies,
of people grilling their meat before it went bad,
to prevent the sourness & waste
that would pervade their homes,
for sometimes one had to consume something
a little too fast,
lest it be left out & seen for what it was.

The town of Green Haven was lit up that night of the storm.
There were no flickering televisions,
only flames,
no sounds of canned laughter,
only radio reports,
& the scent of burning paraffin that wafted like sooty, curling specters.
Books & board games that had gathered dust were dug out of closets,
while those who had imagination told stories like Andy had told Opie;
people had conversations on porches with those they could not see,
their voices floating like soap bubbles that popped in the trees.
We prayed for clouds like a rain dance—
to shield us from the demonic sun that was like a dictator,
oppressing us with its brutality.
But this was not the storm that frightened me,
for I was the meteorologist who could see
the change of climate that had come into our home—
a home which had once been warm,
yet frozen in his warmth,
even as it would become fluid
in its rapidly cooling state.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

From Writer’s Digest to Harlequin Romance: Finding my online writing community

Damask rose

“If you want to make money as a writer, write romance novels,” my Creative Writing teacher said, even suggesting we could write under a pen name.  As for me, if I’m going through all the trouble of writing a novel, my name is going to be on the thing.

So, why doesn’t romance get any respect?  Is it because some of it can be labeled as purple prose, the genre is predominantly written by women, or both?  I’ll just pull a Nicholas Sparks and call mine love stories.

As much as I enjoy the poetic form, it is more something I publish on my blog for fun to build name recognition.  Though there is a huge market for poetry, I’ve found that the kind of poetry I like to write (and read) often isn’t the kind being published, which is far too abstract for my taste.  This is what I like:  Saturday Evening Post Limerick Contest.

In all the poetry I’ve submitted, I’ve sold one poem: (Seven Wonders in Every Wonder), and it was published in a magazine (Bella Grace) that I enjoy reading from cover to cover.  Too often, I’ve read poetry journals, wondering what the hell some of it even meant.  I have much better luck with short stories and creative nonfiction (which take me a lot more time to write). 

That’s not to say I’m eschewing writing poetry to submit for publication altogether—I’m just reassessing what I spend my time writing for publications other than my own.

~

Now, I’ve gone and joined the Harlequin Writing Community Facebook page.  What’s great about this group is how supportive they are (men are welcome, too!).  They have  flash-type (400-word) writing challenges every couple of weeks or so, with some pretty stiff stipulations (which only makes it more challenging); moreover, they only give you a couple of days to write them.  The only two I’ve written so far have been historical (maybe they’re looking for a historical fiction writer?), for which I set my scenes in Ancient Greece and in South Carolina during the Civil War.  The best thing is that you get feedback on what you wrote—and not just comments from other writers but actual feedback from editors—like the type I get from my Creative Writing teacher.  I never got this with Writer’s Digest, so if you’re interested in writing romance, check it out:  So You Think You Can Write.

As for the Facebook page, I feel that I’m a better fit for that community.  I’m not just writing for a hobby—I want to make it my career.  Many of us are in the process of writing a book to submit to Harlequin.  I’m not there yet because I don’t have time for a large project (70K words), though I am in the stages of outlining it. 

~

Though I miss writing book reviews, I don’t have time to write a full-length one anymore, especially with as much as I read; I also quit the university newspaper, as half the articles I wrote never got published.  Though I respect the editor’s decision not to print (or rather, post them), I spent too much time conducting interviews and transcribing audio for them not to get published.  I was graciously invited by the adviser to submit an opinion piece, so that is something I may consider after I finish this American Lit class that’s kicking my keister. 

Rather, I’m making the push to write more short stories (I’ve been reading everything Shirley Jackson has written and rewatching most of The Twilight Zone series—the legit one with Rod Serling; however, if the episode is about Nazis, boxing, or set in the Wild West, I skip it).  I got too hung up on writing novels (with short stories, you get paid once; with novels, you get royalties), but some stories just aren’t novel length.  This realization has opened up a whole world of possibilities for many of my ideas, which have remained dormant for years.  I’d been writing poetry and working on my novel (Because of Mindy Wiley) for so long that I’d forgotten how great short fiction (and creative nonfiction) can be. 

For now, I do expository writing for the Medium publishing platform: Medium/Sarah Richards, in addition to reposting my best blog posts.  I still have a couple of other accounts where I post short works that will eventually end up on my blog (I am planning an ebook on the writing craft, but I need to become more published to have credibility; I am also planning a book of short poetry for people who don’t like poetry), so it’s a two for the price of one deal.  I feel like I’ve finally found my writing niche, as well as future homes for my writing. 

Taking a college-level Creative Writing class, joining the Harlequin community, and letting go of some other things that were no longer paying off (but were, nevertheless, part of the process), has helped me reach this point.