Where I’ll Be Reading Next Week

And by that title I mean “reading in public.” I’m actually hoping to be reading something all the time every place next week, but this one particular episode of that should be worth coming to observe.

(And if this announcement is a repeat for you because you graciously follow me on multiple social channels, apologies.)

On Tuesday, March 7th, I will be one of the featured readers at the Poetry Fix Reading Series at FIX Coffee Bar. It’s at 6:30 p.m.; the location is 415 Westheimer, Houston 77006 (in the Montrose area).

The other poet that night is Outspoken Bean, who is excellent. (I’m only slightly intimidated. And by “slightly” I mean utterly quaking in my fabulous high-heeled shoes.)

If you’re in Houston and interested in a poetic night out, please do stop by. It’s always wonderful to see familiar faces in the audience.

For those of you on Facebook, here’s a link to the event page.

Please do feel free to spread the word to other interested parties if you wish.

Thank you!

(P.S. — I’m obliged to let you know also that my books and poetry art cards will be available for sale at the event.)

Art Harder*

* The title for this post comes from something Chuck Wendig says sometimes. His version is NSFW.

I have no training in making cakes, in decorating cakes, or in drawing, as this birthday cake I made for Tiny Beowulf's 4th birthday should indicate.
I have no training in baking, in decorating cakes, or in drawing, as this cake I made for Tiny Beowulf’s 4th birthday will indicate.

 

I have been desperately trying to make art my whole life.

When I was a kid, I drew all over the place, including the walls. I wrote on furniture. I filled books — some of them journals — with my scribbles and illustrations. I doodled the hell out of things. And it was never really idle, but always an attempt to make something creative where there had been nothing creative before.

I had my last Art class in fifth grade. When I started sixth grade, at my school, I had to choose one elective. I could take Art, Spanish, Speech, or Continue reading “Art Harder*”

A Long Time Coming

I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for over a week, but sometimes it has felt too overwhelming to sit down and do it. I’ve made a list of things I wanted to say in it, an outline; I’ve composed fragments of it in my head while walking down the street or brushing my teeth. But I haven’t actually written it yet because there’s just too much to say.

So I’m going to try and do this a piece at a time, because I’m coming to understand that right now, a piece at a time is the best way for me to respond to life. Continue reading “A Long Time Coming”

Whom I’ve Been Reading: Katharine McGee

It might be tempting for someone over the age of maybe thirty to read the dust jacket of Katharine McGee’s The Thousandth Floor and dismiss it as a story about entitled rich kids and their #firstworldproblemz.

Don’t do that. This book is really well written.

Continue reading “Whom I’ve Been Reading: Katharine McGee”

2017 and the Concept of the Reset

Happy New Year! (Let it not suck.)

As is usually my wont at this time of year, I like to post with some fun statistics about my blog’s performance over the past year and with a discussion of my New Year’s Resolutions. I’ll get the stats out of the way first; I find them interesting and hope you will, too.

Even though I did not make nearly as many posts in 2016 as I’d hoped to, Sappho’s Torque was being read in 83 countries, with the vast majority of hits coming from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Brazil, Germany, and India.

Most of my posts this past year happened during April and December, which is no surprise since those are the two months in which I have consistent daily series: the Poem-A-Day for National Poetry Month in April and 12 Days of Christmas Music (the description changes each year) in December. Look for those two series to continue, by the way, in 2017; I’m already curating them both.

But I had plenty of other posts which did well in 2016 that weren’t part of those series. Not all of them were written in 2016, but they did get a lot of attention. Perhaps unsurprisingly, quite a few of the posts contain my critiques on society and culture, although if that’s all you looked at, you wouldn’t get a complete sense of who I am or what I do or think. Here’s a list of some of last year’s greatest hits:

A Graduation Message and the Fundamental Lies of Our Culture

This Ish Just Isn’t Fun Anymore

Observations on a Long Drive Through the Country

Our First Home

Thanksgiving 2016

Why Our Society Is Failing As A Collection Of Human Beings

Is It August Already?

Rocket Science at Bedtime

Waffle Wednesday and AP Gothic Lit.

Electric Car Diaries: The Inspection

It’s Time

A Rule-Breaking Poem for a Nail-Biting Vigil

Forbidden Cookbook: Can’t Complain Beef Stew

I also had quite a few queries from potential guest posters to my blog this year. Generally, I’m open to this, particularly in the areas of fashion, food, culture, writing, and literature, so if you want to query me to guest post, please send me an email at forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com.

Now, as to the Resolutions. I’m actually not making them anymore. Not entirely. They always fail. Instead I’ve been making Goals. That seems to be more successful, I guess because of some sort of subconscious semantic baggage? I don’t know. But recently I heard a really interesting piece on the radio with some commentary by nutritionist Roberta Anding (whose daughter I used to teach). Dr. Anding made an excellent presentation on food with regards to health and wellness at our school a few years back, and I think she generally has a lot of wisdom to share on the subject. Anyway, her basic idea was that a Reset is a better way of approaching the traditional New Year’s Resolution, because a Reset is a specific daily goal that you can evaluate every evening and then set a new one — or continue the same one — for the next day.

So what are my goals for 2017? Well, one goal for every day of 2017 is to write something. We shall see. I have several projects knocking around over here at the moment so we’ll hope for the best.

2016 was, not gonna lie, a rough year in many ways. I’m at an age where the cultural icons of my youth are at an age to be exceedingly mortal. That’s never a cheerful place to be. And anyone who knows me at all probably understands how very opposite of my values and hopes for the world the toxic results of our current political system’s brokenness is. Like many creative types, the last couple of months haven’t been super awesome for artistic output. But as other authors more famous and accomplished than I have pointed out, we must endure. We must make art. It is through art that we will retain our sanity and reflect our deeper purpose. So I’m making that my daily goal. Oh, and also to become even more politically active, which I’m doing like gangbusters, yo. That feels useful. And sometimes the results are immediate and positive, which feels good.

As rough and shocking as 2016 was, though, lots of good things happened too. Among those were a visit to see my dear friend Sarah Warburton, doing several Book Fair or other author events (with significant sales at each), and adopting my lovely kitten, Salaadin. Please to enjoy these charming cat pics.

 

Salaadin and me on September 6, 2016, the night I brought him home from the shelter. He was about two months old and weighed 2.3 pounds.
Salaadin and me on September 6, 2016, the night I brought him home from the shelter. He was about two months old and weighed 2.3 pounds.

 

And here he was this afternoon, just over six months old and weighting in at about nine pounds.
And here he was napping this afternoon, just over six months old and weighing in at about nine pounds. So much growing makes a kitty tired!

 

So what are your resolutions/goals/resets for 2017 or for today? I’d love to hear how it’s going for you.

Stressed Out About the Party You’re Throwing This Weekend? Read On.

From time to time, my blog receives queries from other writers and bloggers who’d like to guest post here. I’m open to this. (Just send me an email.) Most of the areas in which people are welcome to guest post include writing about literature or music or fashion or food, but now and then something else catches my eye that seems like it would be useful to post here. This is one of those posts.

Half of the people in my house are extreme extroverts and the other half, extreme introverts. This means, in a nutshell, entertaining at home is necessary but emotionally slightly horrifying. We’ve had to come up with coping mechanisms and compromises that allow everyone to get what they need without ruining anyone’s day or night. (Like with most things in life, it’s a work in progress.) Some things we have started doing is limiting the guest list (sometimes by more than 50%) and allowing the introverts to leave the party in the middle for a recharge break. Both of these help. We also have fewer occasions when we entertain now, though New Year’s Eve is still — most years — one of those times.

Aimee Lyons, who blogs at DIY Darlin, wants to offer us all some good advice for how to host a party without taking the fun out of it for yourself.

 

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How To Keep Holiday Entertaining Fun And Leave Out The Stress
by Aimee Lyons

 

happy-new-year-622149_1280Photo via Pixabay by PixArc

 

Entertaining during the holidays can be one of the most stressful endeavors you can undertake, but it doesn’t have to be. Many of us feel the pressure to throw a perfect party or to make our homes look like a magazine cover, but the truth is, your guests probably won’t remember that you had 10,000 string lights but only half of them twinkled.

Getting caught up in the small things will definitely make you anxious, so it’s important to learn how to prevent those feelings of anxiety and stress and cope with the matter at hand: making a fun, memorable party.

One of the keys to doing that is to plan as much as possible. If you feel prepared for any contingency, you’ll have the confidence to throw a bash that no one will forget for years to come. Here are the best tips for having fun and leaving the stress at the door.

Plan your menu

Don’t be seduced by that beautiful spread in the Pinterest photo. Choose foods that are deceptively easy to make but look like a million bucks, such as dips and finger foods. Having a variety of small items rather than a full-on ham dinner will leave you with more time to mingle with your guests and will keep it casual, plus you won’t have to worry about having nothing for the vegetarians or those with food allergies.

Set the mood

You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to make your home look beautiful for guests. Music and lighting can go a long way, so decorate with metallic items and light candles (which can be put up and out of the way for safety’s sake), which will give your home a warm, twinkling glow. Make a playlist everyone will love by mixing classic holiday songs with contemporary music.

Get comfy

A lot of people in one house — especially after a day of cooking — can mean warm temps, so crack a few windows to ensure no one overheats. In the kitchen, turn on a fan away from the food, especially if you have to leave the oven on to keep things warm.

Don’t be afraid to enlist some help

There will come a point in your party planning when you’ll convince yourself that you can only achieve “perfect party” status if you do everything yourself. But the reality is the more you can delegate the better you’ll feel and chances are the better your party atmosphere will be.

So, what are some great tasks to delegate? For one, having a pet constantly underfoot while planning and decorating can be a pain. So, you might consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter to keep them company while you prep. And there may be small party tasks you can hand over to your kids. They’ll enjoy being asked to help, and placecards written in their cute kid script, for example, will add even more charm and warmth to your party’s vibe.

Think ahead

The after-party mess is always a buzzkill, so keep a sink full of hot, soapy water to throw in used dishes as they get left behind. Better yet, use disposable plates, cups, and cutlery to cut down on the work. Ask a friend to help you keep an eye on the trash so it doesn’t get overfilled.

Don’t go overboard

It’s fine to plan a few games or gift-exchanges, but don’t plan for every single minute of the party. Let your guests mingle, talk, and have fun at a relaxed pace so you can do the same.

There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to enjoy your own party. The trick is finding ways to enjoy the planning process. When you enjoy the build up to your party, you’ll be more relaxed and less stressed for the big event, and your calm demeanor will help you and your guests enjoy the evening.

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Aimee Lyons  fancies herself a DIY goddess. She loves crafting, refurbishing furniture, remodeling rooms, and landscaping. She runs DIYDarlin.com, which provides DIY project resources and tutorials.

 

 

12 Days of Christmas Music to Improve Your Playlist (Day 12)

Some of you may know I have a spider thing.

I’m a recovering arachnophobe — and I mean, seriously arachnophobic — and the fact that I’ve moved past this is one of the triumphs of my adult life. Perhaps I’ll post here some of my writing on this subject some time. But not today.

I have decided to eschew the song I had originally planned for today and save it for next year. In the past 36 hours, so many people have tagged me in this video on Facebook that I’ve decided to make it today’s post instead. We wish you a Merry Christmas.

Also, fair warning: spiders. (But really, really cute ones.)