New Year’s Round-Up (Part 1)

This year my New Year’s round-up really needs to be split into two posts for thematic and length reasons. So today I’m going to cover blog statistics for 2017 and some cool author stuff coming up, and tomorrow you’ll get another post about resolutions and why that concept is such a mixed miasma of obligation and glory.

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I came late to the blogosphere. Sappho’s Torque has been around since August of 2011, and like many of the authors whose blogs I read, I try to do a summary of the year’s statistics here. 2017 saw my readership expand significantly, which is a trend I rather like and which I am grateful to be able to say about every year’s blog stats. It’s a slow way to build an audience, but it’s a worthwhile one. I’m grateful for all of my readers and hope you enjoy my work here. I wasn’t sure blogging would really be right for me when I started, but a friend in the publishing industry convinced me to do it, and I’m glad she did. My hope is that I will continue to post here, in a mix of thoughtful memoir writing and commentary and all of the very popular series connected to my other interests (reading, music, food, fashion, poetry, etc.).

In 2017, I posted to the blog 88 times. That’s not bad, I think. It averages out to more than once a week, though my daily poem series for every day in April and my 12 Days of Christmas Music That Doesn’t Suck series in December do throw that timeline off a bit. (The links take you to the start of the 2017 editions of both of those.) The most I’ve ever posted here in one year is 99 times, in both 2013 and 2014, so I feel like I’m doing all right. Maybe in 2018 I’ll crack 100? Oh, watch my ambition climb!

Sappho’s Torque is being read in a lot of countries around the world, but as I write in English here, it’s no surprise that most of my readers are in English-speaking countries. The USA, the UK, and Canada have my biggest audiences, but my blog also has a healthy following in India and Germany. Welcome!

Most people find my blog through search engines, by far. This was a surprise to me. The next most common access portals are Facebook, WordPress Reader, and Twitter, with big gaps between them.

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So what else is going on in my artistic life these days? I’ve been considering resuming some of my old hobbies — in particular, making jewelry. You might remember that I am desperate to make art and have been my whole life. I can’t stop the urge. Writing is the art I’m most competent at, I think, and it’s definitely my primary vocation, but I also dance and paint and make stuff. I even have an Etsy shop, called Arts Eclectica. In this shop you can find my handmade cards, and soon you will also be able to find there journals and jewelry and my daughter’s art. She is already a much more accomplished visual artist that I am, and some of her watercolor paintings have been made into limited-edition print runs, which we’re going to make available there.

I also have an exciting author event coming up in a few weeks! I’ve been invited to speak at BrazCon, which is a combination teen book festival and comic con happening here in southeast Texas on Saturday, February 3rd. Last year it was extremely well attended for a relatively new event, and it should be even bigger this year. For those of you in the area who want to drop by, it’s going to be held at Shadow Creek High School in Pearland from 9:00 to 4:00. I’ll be speaking on a couple of author panels and also signing books. More details on my schedule closer to the event. If you’re there, drop by and say hello! More author events for 2018 are in the works, but I can’t say much about them just yet; rest assured you’ll read about them here when I have firmer details.

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Finally, because I think that a community thrives when its inhabitants are readers, and because I love the concept, this year we put up a Little Free Library in front of our house. Within a week it was full of not just my family’s contributions but also those of others who have passed by it. Our LFL has been particularly well received by the kids in the neighborhood, some of whom come by several times a week, which has been an absolute joy to witness. I even have a whole box of books in reserve to make sure I can rotate and restock as often as needed.

My husband built this charming Little Free Library. The roof was constructed and painted to look like an open book, and the doorknob is a tiny book he made on his 3D printer. One of his best anniversary gifts ever!

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Tomorrow I’ll post about my goals for 2018. Leave a note in the comments about what your resolutions are, if you have some — or whether, like many people, you’re not sure if the concept of resolutions works for you.

Thank you, every one of you, for reading my blog and making my forays in the blogosphere fun. Happy reading!

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Poem-A-Day: William Carlos Williams

Auden’s poem about Brueghel’s painting cannot make an appearance, in my mind, without also acknowledging William Carlos Williams’ poem on the same painting, on the same subject. The two poets’ styles couldn’t be much more different from each other, and Williams’ poem also relies more heavily on description than many ekphrastic poems. Yet it still highlights the most salient feature of Brueghel’s painting, titled as it was. It still conveys, through brevity, diction, and line/stanza breaks used as punctuation, a gut-punch of despair for the futility of Icarus’ sacrifice, of Daedalus’ trauma.

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Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

 

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
near

the edge of the sea
concerned
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

 

 

LANDSCAPE WITH THE FALL OF ICARUS by Pieter Breughel

Poem-A-Day: W.H. Auden (again)

Here’s another poem by Auden. It’s one of my favorites and is my first go-to when teaching ekphrastic poetry. I love that the first stanza of the poem, which comprises more than half of it, isn’t really about the painting at all, but about the theme Auden believed the painter was getting at. This, I think, is the most important aspect to an ekphrastic poem: that it doesn’t really describe the art it’s about so much as it responds to it. It continues a dialogue begun by the initial artist.

This concept might seem simple at first, but I’ve found in teaching this form for many years that it’s not as easy to put into practice. So here’s a bit of a challenge for you, should you choose to accept it: write an ekphrastic poem and either post it at your own online space and link to it here in the comments, or else email it to me at forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com. Be sure to include the original artwork you’re responding to. (I still have a spot or two open later this month, and maybe your poem will be curated into the mix here.)

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Musée des Beaux Arts

 

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

 

LANDSCAPE WITH THE FALL OF ICARUS by Pieter Brueghel

Poem-A-Day: Paula Billups (again)

This year I will sometimes feature more than one poem by a particular poet, and this weekend belongs to Paula Billups. (I posted her poem “Christmas Letter for 2016, A Hard Year” yesterday.)

Today enjoy “A Delicate Milk Floods Winter.”

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A Delicate Milk Floods Winter

 

A delicate milk floods winter
overwhelming my intentions with
early fog,
making faint the resolution to
meaning, to spin yet another
tale – for no one, for nothing.

I used to be so deft at that.

Now if such impulse rises
I stare it down blankly
as if addressing
a sudden stray cat staring
greenly back serenely
shrugging off the gathering chill
taking a long-known meeting
(or else a common standoff
to reward
the maker of the first sound.)

Neither of us can think of
a thing worth saying
that words could hold.

The mercury dives. And that idea,
hazy, deep, abandoned and
unbiddable, ignores my invitation,
winks slowly to show me who’s boss
and fluidly turns – an eddy in the year
fades back to the giving darkness
that lifted it –
a lace pattern once so crisp and
diamond-clear distilled to
icecream thoughts
all melted.

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Paula Billups is a visual artist whose work takes in the media of painting, drawing, collage, artist’s books, installation, and collaboration. She bases her studio practice in Boston and Berlin and exhibits internationally, most recently in Cuba, Toronto, Berlin, and Luxembourg. Core themes of her work include interior shamanic processes, hidden and lost knowledge, and contradiction of the human desire for omniscience. Poetry has been a running thread of her creative life since the age of ten. She writes a blog at paulabillupsart.blogspot.com and files her poetry at paulabillups.tumblr.com. You can learn more about her work at www.paulabillups.com.

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*”

VBF Giveaway Winners!

Thank you to everyone who visited my Virtual Book Fair booth this past week! As promised, here are the winners of the giveaway:

  • Jamie Rasmussen
  • amartinez87
  • Puppy Doc (Phoebe)
  • Michelle VanDaley (@scottysmom2004)

The giveaways were conducted across all my social media: this blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Winners, please get in touch with me at forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com and put “Virtual Book Fair Giveaway winner” in the subject line so your email doesn’t get lost in my inbox. Tell me your preference for prize: illustrated print edition of Finis., Finis. poster (limited quantity on that), or your choice of one of my poetry art cards (design choices here). I’ll get it out in the mail to you by Monday after Thanksgiving at the latest.

Thank you again!

Virtual Book Fair

Virtual Book Fair booth

 

I’m so excited to have been selected to participate in the Virtual Book Fair! Don’t you love my snazzy booth picture above? (It’s probably best no one lets me design my own book covers.)

So Finis. is the book being featured at this fair, and below you’ll find a story synopsis, some advance praise, and links for it. You can also see in the image above my booth’s Scavenger Hunt number, which is part of the larger Virtual Book Fair involving Amazon giveaways and other prizes. Be sure to check out the other authors’ booths; there are numerous genres and books being featured — and all are discounted to only $2.99 or less during the Virtual Book Fair.

But I’m also doing my own giveaway — actually, more than one! For everyone who shares this blog post on their social media, or who follows Sappho’s Torque (who wasn’t already following it), or who participates in the interactive fun below, you’ll be entered into a drawing that has several prizes. The contest closes at 11:59 p.m. on November 19th. I’ll announce the winners on this blog the next day and on my Facebook pages and Twitter, and then you can contact me to let me know where to send your prizes.

Thank you for stopping by and for participating! Now on to the nitty-gritty…

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Finis.

Elsa’s family grows more unkind by the week. Her boss, a seven-foot-tall rage demon, has control of everything but his anger. And her cat wants to eat her. Things could be better.

In a world where one’s Animal Affinity is a sign of maturity and worth, Elsa’s inability to demonstrate hers is becoming more than a disappointing nuisance; it’s becoming a danger. She has no confidence she’ll ever conquer her Plainness by “blossoming.” She also fears both the wolf packs that prowl her neighborhood and being stuck in a life plummeting rapidly from lackluster to perilous. Fortunately, she has a cousin and a co-worker who know her better than she knows herself and can see through to what society won’t.

Finis. is the magic realism of our time, a story of finding one’s way to the end of things, of persevering through the dregs of life to discover something more.

Just chilling on the couch, you know, like ya do.
Just chilling on the couch, you know, like ya do.

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR FINIS.:

“It’s not often I get that viscerally emotional on behalf of a fictional character. In a setting of overt fantasy, Angélique Jamail has created some of the most real people I’ve encountered via text in a long time.” – Ari Marmell, author of Hot Lead, Cold Iron and The Widdershins Series

“A silver vein of irony runs through Angélique Jamail’s fantastic Finis. It is a witty tale of conformity, prejudice, and transformation, in a world that is disturbing as much for its familiarity as for its strangeness. In a place where everyone is different, Elsa is the wrong kind of different, and that means facing pity, discrimination, danger, and sharp teeth. Dive into this story, readers, and confront them for yourself; it may just change the way you feel about things…” – Marie Marshall, author of The Everywhen Angels and I am not a fish

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INTERACTIVE FUN

So sure, a blurb is great if you want a quick and general idea of the story set-up, but haven’t you ever wished you could ask the main character of a novel more about the story? What about supporting characters or the antagonist? Have you ever wanted to know more about what’s going on with them?

Well, Elsa is available for interviews, and so is every other character in Finis., so ask your questions in the comments section here, and I’ll make sure they answer you.

I’m also going to be available for answering questions about Finis. or writing (ask me about fiction, poetry, and non-fiction) in general. Reach me at my author page or the Finis. book page on Facebook or contact me on Twitter: @AngeliqueJamail.

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GIVEAWAYS!

Remember to share this blog post on your social media, or to follow this blog (if you aren’t already doing so), or to participate in the character and author interviews before 11:59 p.m. (Houston time) on November 19th to qualify for these prizes. Do all three and get three chances to win! So what am I giving away?

*  A paperback edition of Finis. with illustrations by Houston-based artist Lauren Taylor. Her drawings lend a whole new dimension to the story with their unique interpretation. (Note that the ebook version is not illustrated.)

*  A glossy 11×17 poster of the Finis. cover art, gorgeously designed by Lauren Volness.

Poetry Art Card #5; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016
Poetry Art Card #5; text copyright Angélique Jamail, 2016

*  Your choice of one of my handmade poetry art cards, which feature tactile art and fragments of my original poems on them. Cards are made on high quality stock and come with matching envelopes; they’re blank on the inside. They’re also great for framing. Click here to see all thirteen designs.

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WHERE TO BUY FINIS.

*  Amazon (also available in other countries)

*  Barnes and Noble

*  SmashWords

*  Apple iBooks

*  Kobo

*  Scribd