Monday Earworm: Psychostick

This weekend my family went to California for our niece’s wedding. It was an absolutely marvelous whirlwind of a weekend, and we’re so happy we went! The wedding was beautiful, our kids got to hang out with cousins they haven’t seen in years, I’m delighted by how grown-up and capable our niece has become, and her new husband is really great. It’s been way too many years since we were out there, but we won’t let so much time pass before we go out there again.

Anyway, my earworm tonight comes from the trip, wherein my husband and Han found this Psychostick video after reminiscing about Tiny Beowulf’s spontaneous death metal version of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” when he was four. (And no, he hadn’t seen it before then, he just came up with it on his own because he thought his voice was funny when he sang it that way.)

So finding this little Muppet parody happened on Friday afternoon. I kid you not, coming back through the airport in Houston at 2:00 this morning, they were still singing this song.

Allow my earworm to become your earworm. You’re welcome.

And also, I’m sorry. But it has to go somewhere. I cannot keep holding onto it by myself.

Enjoy. (Try. It makes it easier.)

Why Essays Are So Much More Than They Appear

On Tuesday evenings this April and May I will be teaching a personal writing class through Grackle & Grackle that examines and encourages essay writing in the least stodgy way imaginable. These are not your boring five-paragraph essays you hated from 9th grade or college freshman English. These are forays into yourself as you engage with the world, creative documents that turn both inward and outward.

Here below is the official title and description. Click on any of the links to register. I hope to see you there!


Attempts, Journeys, and Epiphanies: The Expanse of Possibility Within the Personal Essay

The word essay means “to attempt or try,” and we often use the essay form as a path toward understanding. Writing an essay is therefore a journey in itself. And when we share our essays, they can, as Phillip Lopate suggested, make “the reader feel less lonely in their confusion and darkness.” But one doesn’t have to flounder in despair to engage in this complex and lovely form.

In this course, we will use mentor texts on a variety of subjects and employ multiple forms in our writing. We will dive wholeheartedly into our curiosity. If you find the ordinary five-paragraph essay from your school days tedious, don’t worry. We’ll be experimenting with more exciting structures here.

Bring your past experiences, bring your nascent ideas about concepts outside of yourself, bring your willingness to try new things. And definitely bring something to write with, because this course will be generative, each week. You’ll also have the opportunity in workshop to get feedback on your writing in a collaborative and respectful atmosphere.

This workshop will meet via Zoom on eight Tuesdays evenings from 6:00-9:00 central time, April 4th through May 23rd.

The G&G discounts for their spring classes are as follows:
35% bloom
20% puddle
15% ivy
Use them when you register for my class if you need to.

Click here to learn more and to register. But don’t wait too long, as these classes sometimes fill quickly.

Monday Earworm: KISS

Even though I haven’t heard this song in literal decades, it has been on the radio several times in the last week. Maybe because KISS is touring? At least, YouTube seems to think they are. I don’t know.

Look, KISS is, in some ways, a pretty entertaining band. They always have been. But the thing that really hits home right now is just how shocking they were during their heyday.

I mean, look at them. All that make-up. All that bravado. All that shock value. And underneath it all, arguably some well-made music that was fun to listen to. And people lost their minds over it — but not always in a good way. (If you saw the most recent season of Stranger Things, you have some idea of what inane nonsense I’m talking about.)

I look at this video now and think, *gigglesnort* that’s kind of goofy to look at but fun to dance to. But I remember when this was new and a lot of the grown-ups in my life were so unbelievably freaked out by this display that they thought it would literally destroy the fabric of society.

Now that’s something to laugh at.

On my most optimistic days, I envision a time when people can just be as different as they want without fear of narrow-mindedness bringing the hammer down on them. I choose to imagine a time when people can be as off-the-wall or as authentic (and sometimes those are the same thing) as they want to be without fear of dinosaurs staring at an asteroid persecuting them.

We are so not there yet, at least not where I live. But today I had an otherwise ordinary phone call with a complete stranger in a mundane bureaucracy who demonstrated the most excellent qualities that people are capable of, and wow, it was refreshing. It kind of made me want to dance. I will be paying that goodness forward.


Monday Earworm: Trombone Shorty

The very best opening act at a concert I’ve ever seen, hands down, is Trombone Shorty. He and his band Orleans Avenue opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers here in Houston in January 2017, and that remains among the very best concerts I’ve ever attended. (And OMG there’s some significant competition for that honor. Seriously.)

I would highly recommend seeing Trombone Shorty whenever and wherever you get the opportunity to do so; they put on a tremendously high-energy live show. This track, which I’ve chosen because I’m currently experiencing a long weekend, is really quite mellow compared to my experience of them.

Do enjoy!


…and I’m sorry it’s late. It has been quite a season thus far, and Han and I both needed some time to hunker down for a bit over the holidays and in January.

BUT the new zine is out now! Subscribers and regular readers, it’s on your way to you (if you don’t already have it!).

You’ll note an article in here informing you about all the exciting changes coming to the zine this year, like a new production schedule, themed issues, submissions guidelines, new subscription rates, and ad space. Plus, this issue has all kinds of goodies like fiction, poetry, art, and a recipe for The Best Soup That Has Ever Been Created. (That’s my unofficial title. It’s Han’s lasagna soup, and it really is extraordinarily delicious. Way better, in fact, than actual lasagna. Try to change my mind.)

If you want a copy, drop me a line in the comments! (If you’re already accustomed to getting the zine, it’s probably on its way to you now, but feel free to double-check with me if you want to.)

Teaching Creative Writing to Middle Schoolers

Early in my career I spent several years teaching Creative Writing at the middle school level, and I loved it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love teaching Creative Writing at all levels from elementary school to published adults — and yes, I have and do teach it to all those age categories — because teaching Creative Writing is my jam almost as much as writing books is. (And some days, more so.)

Look, middle school is a rough time of life for pretty much everyone, even the kids who don’t show it. (Sometimes, especially them.) At that stage of development, a lot of us feel things really deeply. We absorb things readily, sometimes indiscriminately. We process the world around us through an intensified lens and at varying, different speeds. Life can be lived in the polar extremes.

This makes us, at that stage of life, primed for creative expression. Our minds and personalities have not yet grown out of the world of emotional metaphor, even if cognitively we struggle with abstractions.

Honestly, what better time to begin Creative Writing classes?

I’m thrilled to report there are still a few spots open in Writespace’s Up and Coming Writers of the World series, which begins on Sunday, February 5th and goes through April. This low-stress, ungraded, three-month series is geared toward middle school students and will be conducted on Zoom, so as long as you have an internet connection, you can take it from anywhere!

Here’s the format: on a Sunday afternoon at the start of each month, an author and teacher will guide students through an introductory class on a given genre (listed below), and then over the next four weeks, the students will work one-on-one with a mentor from the Creative Writing program at Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts on their writing. There will be a reading at the end of the series.

Behold the schedule:
* February 5th — Introduction to Fiction, taught by Angélique Jamail (That’s me!!)
* March 5th — Introduction to Playwriting, taught by Kathryn Peterson (She’s great!!)
* April 2nd — Introduction to Poetry, taught by Angélique Jamail (Yay for National Poetry Month!!)

If you know any middle school-aged kids who have an interest in writing, consider signing them up for this program. It makes a great gift, and it’s also a way to tell those kids, in this very difficult landscape we call the world, I see you. You and your art and your ideas have value. Writespace’s classes are among the most affordable of any high-level instruction you can get, and they offer scholarships.

Click this link to register, but do it soon! We’ll see you there.