Three New Treasures For Your Reading Self

I’m neck-deep in coordinating author events (maybe even a mini-tour!) and working on a new novel right now, and honestly, all I’m listening to these days is the Hamilton soundtrack, so the Monday Earworms are a little thin on the ground. Sorry about that — we’ll get back to them soon, I promise. In the meantime, what are you listening to? Tell us in the comments!

I want to take a moment to highlight three exceptionally worthy projects just made available. Give them some love, won’t you? I think they’re great.

(And stay tuned to the end of this post for a few more exciting newsy bits.)

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TWO BLOCKS FROM EMANCIPATION by Casey Fleming

This new blog project by essayist Casey Fleming bravely addresses emancipation in many forms, including on the subject of race. Casey is one of the most compelling essay writers I’ve ever read; she even did an outstanding guest post here years ago for the Fashion Friday series. Here is a brief excerpt from her site about the nature of this new project itself:

To live two blocks from something as wonderful as emancipation–as an ideal, a psychological space, a lived reality–is to live in the border between what’s possible and what’s yet to manifest, between what America aspires to be and what it is. Living on the border is always disquieting and dangerous. Some of us take up permanent residence there, and we must risk speaking from that painful proximity to liberation.

I encourage you to check out Casey’s essays and follow this new project.

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UNDER THE FLICKERING LIGHT by Russ Linton

Russ Linton hit the scene a number of years ago with his sci-fi debut Crimson Son, a book which defied typical conventions of the sci-fi/super-hero genre and gave us not just an endearing snarkster extraordinaire in its young adult protagonist Spencer, but also a series set in a compelling literary universe.  This new book stands alone but jumps far forward in time to the year 2300 in Spencer’s world, when AI overlords have made some…modifications to our human landscape. Russ has also written some really original fantasy as well. Check out his website for more about his books and his current entertaining and meaningful nomadic adventures in the real world.

I’m a big fan of Russ’ work and hope you’ll give it some attention, too.

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THE SOUL SNATCHERS by Richard Sanford

Richard Sanford is one of the fiction authors over at Odeon Press, which is how I know of him, and his new book sounds really exciting! Here’s the blurb about it:

The Soul Snatchers is a sci-fi thriller about social media addiction and cyber derangement. There’s also a love story, a secret code hidden in a mesmerizing mandala, and Svetla, the Bulgarian rideshare driver.

Tzaro Janssen, a seismologist in a next-gen lab in the San Juan Islands, sees his girlfriend Therica become … not herself. Stories like hers are lighting up media around the globe—psychotic breaks, social isolation, explosive violence. And no known cause. At the center is Therica’s obsession, the mega networking platform Wundrus.

From early reviews:

“The Soul Snatchers is an energetic and entertaining romp through Cascadia … a fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable science fiction thriller with Sixties throwback touches.”

“I thought that The Soul Snatchers by Richard Sanford was a fascinating and fast-paced read. There was no good reason to put the book down … I am usually pretty good at solving mysteries, but was blown away by this one.”

And here’s a statement about the book from Richard himself:

I wrote The Soul Snatchers to be entertaining, but it also has a point to make about something we’re seeing everywhere—isolation, among ourselves and our kids. Everybody’s hyperconnected, but nobody’s talking.

That sounds both topical and timely, doesn’t it?

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Now for the promised newsy bits:

I may be adding another reading to my slate for Houston in early March. Stay tuned for details.

I’ve just settled another event in Austin for next month. I’ll be reading at Malvern Books at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 16th. Come join us! Bring friends! Bring acquaintances and other people you want to impress! Or, you know, just bring yourself, and I’ll be thrilled with that.

I’m also looking at doing an event or two in the area of Blacksburg, Virginia. Drop me a line if you’re out that way and want to come do some booksy, writingsy things with me!

More exciting details about these events will be posted on my website as they become available.

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The First Review

I’ve just seen the first review — at least, the first review I’ve seen — of my new collection of poems, The Sharp Edges of Water. It was written by Misty Urban over at Femmeliterate, and I’m just completely undone with gratitude and happiness about it. Here’s a tidbit:

The poems trace a journey of memories built over time, a demonstration of how the mythic unconscious of our childhood maps onto the fragile desires of our bursting bodies. The poems prick open the hard shell of indifference, or endurance, that thick rind the above-world forms on us with all the wounds and cuts and losses of the sharp edges we stumble through and away from.

Click on over and read the whole review, and then browse around Femmeliterate for some other really wonderful posts about literature. And if you’d like to acquire my collection of poems for yourself, you can do so here.

 

My New Book and Upcoming Author Events!

This is going to be a quick post because, wow, it’s a busy week here in Authorland! But a good one. Let’s just get to the news right away, shall we?

The Sharp Edges of Water is out from Odeon Press! Yay!  And there was much rejoicing!

Honestly, I’m going to be so happy to be done with logistical details and get back to working on the new novel that I just can’t even. But for now, it’s all about the logistical details, such as…

Scheduling author events right and left! It’s exciting, even if it’s a lot of work. I hope you’ll come out and see me on one or more of these fun occasions.

January 25, Houston — I’ll be at the book launch for the new Mutabilis Press anthology, ENCHANTMENT OF THE ORDINARY, which contains one of my poems. We’ll be at the Jung Center, 5200 Montrose Boulevard, 77006. Doors open at 6:00, and the reading starts at 7:00. I recommend coming early to find good parking.

February 19, Houston — I’ll be one of the featured readers at the Poetry FIX Reading Series at FIX Coffee Bar, 415 Westheimer Road, 77006. The reading starts at 6:30, and the place tends to fill up. I’ve heard Fady Joudah might also be reading that night — exciting!! — and there is always an open-mic opportunity for audience members to sign up to read one poem if they wish.

February 23, Manvel (very near Houston) — I’ll be at BrazCon once again! This was one of the best events I attended last year, and I’m so excited they asked me back. BrazCon is like Teen Book Con meets Comicpalooza — so much fun, really well organized, and totally family-friendly. I’ll be selling my books there and also speaking on at least one panel (details coming soon). BrazCon is held at Manvel High School (an excellent facility) and gets bigger each year, with thousands of attendees generally geeking out to their literary fandoms. Many even come in cosplay, so don’t be shy! This event goes from 9:00-4:00; the address is 19601 Hwy 6; Manvel, TX 77578.

March 16, Austin — I’ve been asked to speak and read at the Austin Poetry Society meeting that afternoon from 1:00-2:15, at the Carver Branch Library. The address is 1161 Angelina Street, 78702. We’ll be talking about writing, Kickstarter, and some other fun things and just might even do a little poetry writing that day. This event is open to the public, so come join us!

ALSO, since I’ll be in Austin that weekend, I would love to get in another reading or signing for either Saturday night or Sunday midday. Watch this space for more details.

If YOU would like to have me talk with your book group or organization or class about writing — poetry or fiction — I’d be happy to! I’m available in person or via video chat. Contact me and let’s go over the details.

And that’s all the news that’s currently fit to print, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get back to working on that new novel I mentioned. Oh happy day!

 

Happy New Year! (Also, Have Some Turn-of-the-Year Ritual)

Happy New Year! Now that all the time zones are in, I think we can safely say ciao to 2018 and look eagerly forward to 2019.

As a creature of habit, I appreciate the measure of structure and stability that routine and ritual provide, and at this time of year, I enjoy indulging in a little bit of year-in-review. I also tend to make public my writing resolutions for the new year, as if publishing them will help hold me accountable. (I mean, sometimes that works.)

So here we go!

On Sappho’s Torque this past year, the most popular posts, hands-down, were the ones in which I shared either my or other people’s poetry. In April, to celebrate National Poetry Month here in the US, I curate a poem-a-day series. It has been going strong for several years now and remains one of the most popular features on my blog. Here are a few of the other top posts — ones which had nothing to do with poetry — this year:

My Little Free Library
What We Say, Or Don’t
The Pep Rally I Cannot Forget

Interestingly, that last one is from 2015, but it always makes a big splash again during high school football season.

A couple of years ago, I made a commitment to read more books just for fun, and doing so has improved my quality of life exponentially. I became a writer in part because reading has been one of my absolute favorite things to do since I was very young; I loved reading stories and felt compelled to create new ones. Teaching and parenting tend to drain away one’s free time, and so reading just for fun (like other things I did for self-care) fell by the wayside.

Disregarding one’s self-care generally doesn’t end well.

So I started carving out the time to read, even if only for ten minutes before bedtime each night. It reduced my stress and improved the quality of my sleep. I incorporated free choice reading into some of my classes; that helped, too, because I did it alongside my students. And then I began keeping a list of the books I was reading for fun each year. I try to read a wide variety of things, but I will also concede that I most enjoy reading books in the genres I write or want to write, and at least half a dozen of the books on this list were for research for my writing or teaching. So here is my list for 2018; you’ll find a preponderance of fantasy and magic realism and poetry, as well as some science fiction, realistic fiction, romance, and comics. These titles are not ranked in any way but listed alphabetically by author. I strongly recommend maybe a dozen of them (starred). (A few of these books were re-reads from many years ago; I’ve also not listed books which I began reading but did not finish, for one reason or another.)

Dawn (Octavia Butler) *
Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
Close to the Edge (Zara Cox) *
Unleashed (Caitlin Crews) *
When a Scot Ties the Knot (Tessa Dare)
The Mistress of Spices (Chitra Divakaruni) *
Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquivel) *
Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
Shadow of Night (Deborah Harkness) *
The Book of Life (Deborah Harkness) *
The Midnight Queen (Sylvia Izzo Hunter)
Justice League: Volume 1, Origin (Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Scott Williams)
At the Bottom of the River (Jamaica Kincaid)
Hallow Point (Ari Marmell) *
His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik) *
Binti (Nnedi Okorafor) *
Wicked Like a Wildfire (Lana Popović) *
the magic my body becomes (Jess Rizkallah)
The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan) *
Mala of the Heart (various authors) *

This brings me to my writing resolutions for the new year. Most of my Writing Career Time has been consumed the last few months with finishing up my forthcoming book of poetry, The Sharp Edges of Water. We’re on track still for a January release date, which is awesome, but this process has really taken a long time (as it does). My goals for this year include finding some way to write at least 200 words a day (or a complete poem or blog post). What would be amazing is if I could finish the first draft of the new novel I’m working on, which has really taken a backseat to the book of poetry (as it had to).

But this week, I’ll be getting back to the WIP, and I’m super excited about that! I’m happiest when I’m writing a story I love.

I have a few other resolutions, too, such as hitting 100 rejections this year (which I came close to in 2018, I think, though I wasn’t honestly counting). The idea behind this is that if you’re submitting your work out often enough to hit 100 rejections in a year, you’re bound to get some acceptances. I’ve found this logic to be quite sound: the more I submit my work, the more publications I garner. The main obstacle for me is just making time to do it. (Don’t get me started on the millions of ways the publishing industry makes it a financial, emotional, and logistical challenge for writers to get individual pieces published. We’ll be here all day. I’m in the game and aware of it; that has to be enough for now.)

I’m also looking forward to participating again in the August Postcard Poetry Fest; last year was my first time to do it and it was awesome! And as if that weren’t enough, I have yet another collection of poems which will go into editing later this year. Watch for news on that when it manifests.

I won’t say it’s easy being both a fiction writer and a poet. I will say it’s fulfilling to do both, though, and for me, each type of writing informs the other.

So that’s all for now. I’ll write more later with some fun opportunities you might be interested in. Until then, enjoy the book you’re reading, and if you’re not reading one, find one. It will likely do you good.

Questions People Keep Asking Me (and My Answers to Them)

So people have been asking me several things about my recent Kickstarter and my upcoming book of poetry, The Sharp Edges of Water. Here is a handy guide to some answers, in case you’re wondering these things too! (And please note that it’s being posted here on my blog and on my Kickstarter page.)

I backed your awesome project. Now when will my perks show up?
First of all, thank you! I appreciate the support. Second of all, when you’ll see your rewards kind of depends on which level you backed it at. For those whose names were not hidden from me during the campaign and who backed at a level that included acknowledgement on my social media (Facebook and Twitter), I started those announcements several weeks ago. Now that the rest of the names are available to me, I’ll continue those announcements this week. Everyone who backed at those levels will also be acknowledged, by name, on my blog here pretty soon. For those who backed at the handwritten thank-you note level, expect your cards to go in the mail in the next week or two. All other perks will be coming later, once The Sharp Edges of Water is actually out in print. (More on that in a moment.)

I backed your awesome project but forgot to choose a reward level. Will I still be able to get the perks commensurate with how much I pledged?
Yes! Unless, for some reason, you don’t want any of those rewards, in which case just let me know — but I am more than happy to give them to you!

I pledged at a level that includes personal acknowledgement in the book itself. What will that look like?
Thank you again! Everyone at those levels will see their name in the Acknowledgements of the book itself. Some of you will be listed as Kickstarter backers, and some of you are also being acknowledged for other personal reasons which don’t have anything to do with Kickstarter. I’ll call you out just once, though.

I forgot to pledge before the deadline — oops! — but still want to join the community around this book. Is there a way to do this?
How sweet of you! (This is actually the question which gets asked the most, believe it or not.) Yes, there is a way, but Kickstarter has already moved into the financial administration phase, and so they recommend you handle this directly through project creators after campaign deadlines have passed. This means that you certainly can still support the project, but you’ll just do it through me directly rather than through KS, and the bonus side effect is that KS won’t take any fees out of your pledge and also won’t charge you for shipping your perks out (if you choose a level that requires that). If this is something you want to do, let me know and we’ll work out the logistics based on your individual circumstances and preferences, but I can generally handle this through a variety of ways. Again, let me know by leaving a comment on this post or by emailing me directly at forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com (with the subject line “Kickstarter Pledge”), and I’ll help you with it.

I noticed (or didn’t notice) that I was asked to answer a survey after the campaign ended. What’s that for, and do I really have to do it?
So glad you asked! That survey is just to give me your contact information so I can send you your perks once they’re ready. It takes probably under a minute or so to fill out and will really help me, so if you haven’t done it yet, please do!

I backed at a level that includes an invitation to the private launch party. Where is that going to be and when? And can I just get my rewards there?
Lovely! I hope you can join us for that. The party will be in the Houston area, but we won’t have a date until the books are actually on their way to me because sometimes publication timelines can be squishy. You will get an actual invitation to the party, though, so watch your mail for that. (And if you haven’t filled out the survey yet, be sure you do so I’ll have an address to send that invitation to!) And yes, I will have the rewards there, so if you want to get yours then rather than have me mail them, you’ll get them even sooner.

So what is the progress on the book now?
Well, last night I finished proofreading the final draft of the entire manuscript. At the moment I’m trying to obtain permission to use the epigraph in the book, which is a quote from someone else, and this coming Sunday is my new author photo shoot with the utterly amazing Lauren Volness of Lauren Volness Photography. This afternoon I’m working on the notes for the book designer, the excellent Jesse Gordon. Once all those pieces are together and sent off to Jesse, we’re in the final phases of production. That will hopefully not take terribly long, and then it’s just a matter of proofing the galleys and ordering the books. SO EXCITING!!

So, those are the questions I got asked the most often, but if you have any others, please just leave them in the comments below, and I’ll answer them as best I can. Thank you again to everyone who backed this project! You’re wonderful and have made my day over and over again.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating it this week, and Happy November to everyone else. Cheers!

Ten Hours To Go…

I was advised by my friend Jenny, when I undertook this Kickstarter campaign, that it would be “a roller coaster with a desert in the middle.” She wasn’t wrong. After a splashy opening weekend, there were stretches of several days at a time when essentially nothing would be happening, and I would worry that the project wouldn’t fund or that I had done a poor job of the whole mess.

That’s not how it turned out, though. Like most things in most artistic careers, there are ups and downs and in-betweens, and while being a writer requires a thick hide and persistence, managing a Kickstarter does, too.

I tried not to bombard people with updates while still providing meaningful and interesting content. I tried not to blast about the campaign on social media too much while still keeping it on the radar. These are hard balances to strike, and I’m not sure I got it perfectly right, but then I’m not sure there even is a “perfectly right” for every audience. I can say that I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people about the way it has been running, and the campaign has ultimately been funded, so there’s that. The whole process so far has been a positive experience.

beautiful cover art and design by Lucianna Chixaro Ramos

At this point, we’re working on stretch goals, which will allow me to take the book “on tour.” I’ve already received a few invitations for events in 2019 in three different Texas cities, so that’s a great start. I’d like to reach a wider audience. So if you were on the fence about joining the community supporting this book, you still have a few hours left to do so. Click here for the link.

Thank you, thank you, thank you so much to everyone who has already done so. Seventy amazing people so far have contributed to the realization of this book, and I’m super excited to share it with you. With any luck — and with what I hope will be a smooth production schedule and process — it will be out in time for the holidays!

 

A Poem from My New Collection and for Tonight of All Nights

Two years ago almost exactly, the day before the 2016 American election, I wrote this poem, which crystallized my nervousness about the outcome and solidified my resolve about the future, no matter what. Looking back on it, I realize that those feelings were only the start of what would come next.

Part of me wanted to write a villanelle and had been trying to write one for days, maybe weeks, but it wasn’t coming. I was trying to riff off Dylan Thomas’ famous one in honor of the anniversary of his birth. But it wasn’t working. It just wouldn’t gel. And the problem wasn’t with the form: villanelles are in my wheelhouse and have been ever since I first learned what they were. I love those old French forms, the villanelle and the sestina and their imitation of the Malaysian pantoum, how they foster an obsession while helping the poet discover more layers of what’s at the heart of the matter. I love the puzzle of it all.

The problem with the poem I was trying to write wasn’t the form or even the subject matter, but with my attempt to emulate Thomas in the first place. Not that he wasn’t worth it — far from it. But I found I was trying to speak the needs of myself and of women in culture while trying to conform to the verses of a man. I was trying to bolster a moment of “the future is female” while not being true to the voice of a female.

I tossed all that mess aside and started over. I kept what I needed from the original and from the form, and I added in a hint of Frost to keep Thomas company. Why not? And then I wrote this poem, which was published right after the election in Yellow Chair Review and which is now appearing in my forthcoming collection The Sharp Edges of Water (from Odeon Press).

Tonight is another election eve. I hope tomorrow, if you are a U.S. citizen and are eligible to do so, you will vote as if your rights depend on it (because there’s a strong chance they do). Tomorrow evening will be another vigil. I have many feelings about it, about how it could go, about how I will react in multiple scenarios. But for now, I’m just going to share this poem with you.

The Path Often Traveled, the Path Less Celebrated, the Path of Ennobled Resistance
(A Rule-Breaking Poem for a Nail-Biting Vigil)

Do not go gentle into that stifling night;
Rage, rage against the snuffing of the light.

Do not go gentle into those good old days which were truly night;
Rage, rage against the smothering of the light.

Do not go gentle into that locker room of night;
Rage, rage against the rape of the light.

Do not go gentle into that back alley of the night;
Rage, rage against the beat-down of the light.

Do not go gentle into that Burning Time of night;
Rage, rage against the murder of the light.

Do not go gentle into that murderous night;
Rage, rage against the silencing of the light.

Do not go gentle into that good old boys’ night;
Rage, rage against the extermination of the light.

Crash ungently into that glass sky, crash into the night,
and be light.

November 7, 2016