Poetry Drop Day: Fireside!

Okay, so the poem technically went live in print back in April, but yesterday it dropped online for the first time, available to all.

This poem is by far the most personal thing I’ve ever written and the feelings I get seeing it in print, online, shared with the public are intense. The piece went through a couple of re-writes before I was able to hammer down what I even wanted to say…it was an instance of having too many unsorted thoughts about a topic I had never really tried to pin down before now.

I guess poetry is the therapy I get paid for going through?

I’ve gone off before on what it means to be a trans-racial adoptee and how complicated an existence it can be and how often, other people’s ignorance can make it worse. There are countless different ways to find belonging, but there are some that, without the anchor of family, history and heritage, that simply can’t be reached. I’ve had friends ask me what the big deal is: I had adoptive parents, I know more or less where I was born, I live in the age of information, can’t I just look up information about my heritage and ethnicity? What’s it really matter, anyway? I shouldn’t be bound by family history, I’m my own person, can be anyone I want.

But it’s so much more than that. There’s so much information people take for granted, so focused that they might not even think about it unless they have to. I don’t know my birth information, how big, how much I weighed. Was I premature? Late arrival? I know nothing of my medical history. What might I be at risk of? What did my mother pass down to me, my father? Is there a ticking bomb in my biology that I won’t know about until too late? What about my mental health? Would I have gone through all the issues I had if I’d known what to expect? What’s still waiting?

Not that it’s needed. I’m still a fully realised human being without any of that information, but it matters. It matters. And sometimes, I just need to acknowledge that it matters.

I’m grateful to Julia Rios, Pablo Defendini and the Fireside team for believing in this poem and their willingness to give it a space to exist in the world.

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Poetry Drop Day: Anathema!

I have a new poem out in issue 7 of Anathema: Spec From the Margins and I’m so stupid excited! Please take a minute to check out the whole issue, if for no other reason than for kiDChan’s absolutely gorgeous cover illustration. Direct link to the poem here.

This is the second time I’ve submitted poetry as a last minute “oh shit deadline what?” decision, the first being for the fantastic Apparition Lit’s Resistance issue. And…it seems like this is a thing that works for me?

I had seen that Anathema was going to be accepting poetry for future issues and was excited about potentially submitting, but I didn’t realise that they meant they were accepting right now for their upcoming issue in about a month, until I saw a follow up tweet stating that they were still seeking poetry ASAP.

WELP.

Cue a late night scrubbing and editing session. The hardest part about submitting to a publication that’s newly opened to a form is that I’ve no indication of best fit. No archives to study. I had a good idea of their taste in fiction, but I still felt like I was going in with one eye blind.

The piece they accepted is along a theme I write about often, even if I don’t always realise it at the time. I wrote it about a year ago and it’s gone through some significant changes, but at its heart, it’s always been about who and what we carry with us, what we refuse to give up, where we choose to stand or bend, speak or keep silent.

I never used to think of myself as an artist of the diaspora and it was never something I consciously incorporated into my writing. But I am and the two are impossible to separate, even if it’s not the focus of every piece. “Planting Season” was more driven by language and imagery and I am delighted by Michael Matheson’s description of “exquisitely cathartic” in his editor’s note.

Many thanks to the whole Anathema team for believing in this poem and the opportunity to be part of such a brilliant issue!

Reviews News

Okay, um. So. Confession time.

One of the first things I thought when I signed the contract with FFO was that this was one of the pubs Charles Payseur covers in Quick Sips Reviews and that meant I was finally gonna get a QSR of something I wrote and it’s a little embarrassing how excited I was for that. Look, reviews generally aren’t that important to me but understand, I’ve read and respected Charles’ work for ages and yes I was going to hold onto this for a while, okay?

And then I found out the piece was the Honourable Mention for the Sip of the Week and really I’m just full of feelings and they’re all good and I’m just very chuffed right now.

You can read his full review over at Quick Sip Reviews. While you’re there, check out his Patreon. Charles does an incredible amount of work and offers intelligent, insightful reviews of more pieces that I can fathom reading in the time he does it. He’s truly a gift to the SFF community.

Still Weird

Sooooooo this showed up in the mail the other day…

Cover illustration by Cat O’Neil

Yup, that’s my name on the TOC. Aside from (still!) being incredibly weird, I wasn’t prepared for how absolutely beautiful this thing is. And it’s a rover! I got Mars rover cover art!

The April issue is currently available on their website, so while any time is a good time to subscribe, now would be extra special to me 🙂

Story Drop Day!

Yesterday, my story “From Her Mouth, the Ashes” went live over at Flash Fiction Online. It’s a queer speculative story about birds and relationships and transitions and I’ve gotta say I’m pretty damn happy with how it came out. It’s also my first pro-rate fiction sale, so there’s that.

This was the second piece I’ve written that started as a poem, but eventually morphed into prose. It’s a pretty short jump between poetry and flash fiction (though the last poem cum prose piece I wrote ended up being 6k words, sooo…) and one of the very few times that I felt I needed more words, more story, more structure to make it better.

Thanks to the team at FFO for believing in this piece enough to request a re-write (another first) and giving me the chance to share it with the world.

Failure and the Silver Lining

Earlier this year, I came to the conclusion that I need more rejection in my life. And while I’m sure my therapist would have a lot to say on that, I refer specifically to the writing world.

I’m not one of the people who believes that rejection breeds success. But, one certainty about rejections is that they mean you’re putting yourself out there, doing the work, submitting. And that’s where my issue lies. It’s not that I don’t want to do the work, it’s that I have a hard time weighing risk over reward.

My very first foray into the publishing world (if we don’t include about that time I applied for a assistant editor position with a queer magazine in Colorado back when I was a high school junior in Maine…which we are not going to) was back in 2005ish. I found the poetry publication Chiaroscuro: Treatments of Light and Shade in Words, which I don’t even think exists anymore. I read some back issues, I wrote a poem about a lake, emailed it in, promptly forgot about it and maybe two weeks later had made my first poetry sale (alongside poet Bruce Boston, which is something I will never forget).

It wasn’t until about four publications later that I got my first full on rejection. That’s not a boast– those pubs were spread over something like three years, because I was surgical in my submissions process. I would work my pieces to death and then wait until I found the closest thing possible to a perfect fit, which meant months between submissions. I remember a writer friend telling me she had over a hundred pieces out of submission at that moment around the same time another said they had just received their hundredth rejection. At that point, I had subbed maybe a dozen pieces, total. In my life. It was a telling moment and what it boiled down to was I refused to take risks.

Then last year, after the Year of No Writing, I got a couple poetry rejections back to back, on all pieces I felt really good about. Aaaaand they didn’t hurt? Sure, they set me back a bit, but I didn’t feel like I was going to slide into the pit of writing depression like in the before times (I used to deal with major depression issues and sometimes, it’s still a struggle not to fall into a depressive state as “the easy option”).

That’s when I really understood that I wasn’t afraid of the rejection, I was afraid of the risk. The hardest part is still the few minutes leading up to a submission, the moment of pushing the Send button. The rejections themselves are easy.

I have stories I want to tell. Ways I see the world. It’s true that literally no one else can tell the same story in the same way that you can and there are things I have to say. So, I need to take more risks. Submit more things, maybe before I think they’re ready. Aim high. Fall flat. Try again.

The start of the year has been a good one, enough to get me through the worst of the Impostor Syndrome moments. Now I’m on a mission to collect rejections. I mean, collecting acceptances is clearly better and I would prefer to do that, but both require me to do the work and take the risk and neither are going to happen without it.

On that note, stats since January:

  • Pieces subbed: 7
  • Rejections: 4
  • Held for consideration: 1

January Recap

It’s been an eventful month. Saw one poem published at Apparition Lit, which received a nice writeup from specpotpourri, calling it “a darkly triumphant tale,” among other things. It’s my first poetry review and I’ll admit to being rather chuffed.

Signed the contract for a poem with Fireside Fiction…FIRESIDE! Not gonna lie, this was one of my top publications to crack and it still seems so surreal. I track through The Submission Grinder and watching everything go to red around my little section of purple as each day passed was…honestly it was weird. It hasn’t stopped being weird, through the acceptance notice, the contract and finally seeing it in proof. I imagine it’s going to be weird all the way up to when it appears in April’s issue. My favourite thing, though? Reading through the proofs and getting a sneak peek at the amazing work that’s going to be in this issue. It’s so good.

Finally, right at the end of the month, I signed the contract for my first pro fiction sale. More details to come, but I’m incredibly happy with this piece and incredibly excited to share it.

Total stats for the month:

  • 1 publication
  • 2 poetry submissions
  • 1 poetry acceptance
  • 1 poetry rejection
  • 1 short fiction acceptance (from prior month submission)

Poetry Drop Day!

Yesterday, my poem Taking, Keeping went live over at Apparition Lit! I suppose technically it went live to subscribers back on the 15th, but I’m terrible at updates and anyway it’s now available to all online.

I talk a bit about the process in the author spotlight section after the poem (it’s funny, I can usually read my own work without a problem once it’s published, but reading over interview questions and my own opinions? Maximum cringing), but a few brief notes:

This poem was written on very short notice. I first saw the call the day before it closed and tweeted about not having enough time to write something for it, but then I realised I had read the calendar wrong and had an extra day. Two days to create a new piece for a themed submission call, but fortunately one that was near and dear to my heart. I knew the basis of what I wanted to write– how stories and art are such an integral part of our cultures and identities. How powerful censorship is as a tool of colonialism and erasure. It took a few tries to get the shape of it right, but when it did, the writing became easy. It became a story I was eager, excited to tell, like I couldn’t wait to get the next word down. That’s how I knew I had hit the right vein. Those are the moments worth writing for.

I’m not entirely happy with it, of course. I never am. But instead of going into that, let me tell you about the absolutely fantastic team over at Apparition. From the very start, I’ve always felt that they were 100% behind me, supporting me and all the other writers in this issue with as much enthusiasm and excitement as I could ask for. Sometimes, I honestly felt like they believed in my piece more than I did. A good editor can make a story shine. A team of genuine, caring and enthusiastic editors can make an author positively glow.

So a thousand thanks to Clarke, Amy, Tacoma and Rebecca for all your hard work and everything you did to help Taking, Keeping see the light of day. It was an absolute pleasure working with y’all!

Start Again

I stopped writing back in 2017.

The beginning of 2017, really, though I had one final piece accepted towards the end of the year. My life had shifted to other hobbies that required an obscene amount of time. I wanted to fence more, to travel to out of area events, to see if I was Good Enough for the bar I had set for myself. I also was finally getting my feet with metalwork and enameling and lot of hours were being poured into the kiln. I started a new relationship that subsequently ended earlier this year, both happenings taking up a huge portion of my time. My day job had gotten crazy and I was working too much and trying to figure out if I wanted to set off down the path of Management (reader, I did not).

Looking back, it was one helluva couple of years. And at the end of the day, I just didn’t have the mental or emotional capacity left to focus on something as demanding on the brain as writing. For me, writing is joyous. It is fulfilling and remarkable and addicting and life-giving. It is also exhausting. It was easier when I was younger, had more energy, had fewer demands on me during the day. In all my current wisdom, however, I can look back at Past Me and also realise that I was young and undisciplined and, quite frankly, kind of an idiot. But I do miss the boundless energy and creativity I seemed to have way back when.

But earlier this autumn, I decided I wanted to get back into it. I started reading again, voraciously. Short fiction, mostly, some novels. I finally got around to reading Naomi Novak’s Uprooted (which gave me the longest book hangover I’ve had in my life) and Terry Prachett’s final Tiffany Aching book The Shepherd’s Crown (and that one just straight up hurt). I dusted off my Twitter account, looked up the password for this blog. I opened my my WIP folder. I started writing again.

At some point in the last two years, there was a shift. Maybe just in my sphere, but suddenly, the bar was much, much higher. People I knew who had just been starting out were now producing consistently phenomenal work. There was a strong, sustained push for #ownvoices, for diverse stories. Em dashes were still a point of contention. It was inspiring. It was terrifying. And more than anything, I was afraid I was no longer good enough, that I would never be able to catch up and I missed my chance in the last two years and I’d never get that time back. And…I won’t. Cuz that’s how time works.

I started writing again, anyway. It was a rocky start with some disheartening rejection, but it’s smoothed out. I’ve found a stride again. I’m starting to form my space. I just signed a contract on a poem that tells a very important story to me. I have pieces being held for consideration and a couple revision requests. I’m creating work I’m proud of, that’s far above what I thought I could do a year ago. It’s a taxing and exhausting and consuming as I remember it and maybe hopefully, I’ll remember not to let it go, this time.