In Which I Create A Halfway Decent Instagram Post In Support Of My Book Party This Weekend

I am not a good photographer. I’m not even a mediocre photographer. I have trouble taking decent pictures of inanimate objects in natural light, let alone anything more complicated than that.

But I’m trying to make the effort over on Instagram to make worthwhile posts. Tonight I made a book post that I actually think might not be too bad. It took me a while. And since I don’t share nearly enough photos here on the blog, I’m sharing it with you here.

This Saturday at 3 p.m. you should drop by Blue Willow Bookshop if you’re in Houston, because we’re having a party there and then for The Sharp Edges of Water. Expect poetry and gifts and merriment. Expect Houston and Los Angeles. Expect mermaids. Bring your questions. It should be fun.

Two Upcoming Readings and a Sneak Preview of My Next Book — For You!

Today I have a few announcements: some upcoming readings and a sneak preview opportunity for you.

This gorgeous mug will be part of the Writer’s Gift Box, one of the door prizes being given away at the BWB event.

The most exciting news here is my upcoming event at one of Houston’s most beloved independent bookstores, Blue Willow Bookshop! If you’re going to be in town, definitely mark your calendars now for Saturday, August 17th, at 3:00, when I’ll be reading from and discussing The Sharp Edges of Water. This promises to be a fun event with an author Q&A­­­­––that’s right, bring your questions for me!––and door prizes and books galore! Even if you already have a copy of my book, come and pick one up as a gift for a friend or family member who likes to read or write. You can check out Blue Willow’s site here for more details. Their address is 14532 Memorial at Dairy Ashford 77079. I don’t mind telling you that the Blue Willow event is a Very Big Deal, and it would be really helpful to make a strong showing there, so please come out for it and pick up one (or more) of my books there!

I’ll also be reading with a few other Mutabilis Press poets at River Oaks Bookstore in Houston on Saturday, August 10th, at 4:00. We’ll celebrating the new anthology, The Enchantment of the Ordinary, and while I’ll be reading my poem from that book, I’ll also be sharing a more recent poem or two, including from the Moss Wood Writing Retreat I attended back in June. The bookstore address is 3270 Westheimer Rd. 77098.

beautiful cover art and design by Lucianna Chixaro Ramos

Finally, would you like a sneak preview of my next book? I’m offering my readers the chance to get a free advance reading copy of either of my next two books––one fiction and one poetry, depending on your preference––before they’re published. You’ll even have the opportunity to give me beta-reader feedback on it if you’d like to! In order to take advantage of this offer, just post a review of The Sharp Edges of Water on Amazon. Now, if you follow the writing/publishing industry, you might have heard that Amazon has been taking down people’s reviews in an effort to remove illegitimate ones, though some genuine ones have been removed inadvertently in this process. I have not experienced this (knock on wood!) and also know that all my reviews are genuine and not planted (except for one baffling troll who posted a weird review of Finis. back in the day). Anyway, Amazon has changed the rules for how reviews get accepted. Fortunately, we know how to navigate their guidelines. You can watch a full explanation here, but I’ve summarized the basics for you:

  1. To contribute a review on Amazon, you have to have spent at least $50 there in the last year, not including promotional discounts.
  2. Amazon doesn’t allow reviews to be posted from people in the author’s household, or from more than one person connected to any same household or bank account or credit card.
  3. Amazon doesn’t allow paid reviews, so your review shouldn’t indicate that you’ve received compensation for it.
  4. Amazon deletes reviews that come in under two days after you’ve purchased a book from them because they assume you can’t possibly have read the book so quickly.
  5. Avoid sounding too chummy with the author in your review: in other words, please don’t ever refer to the author by their first name only, but by either both first and last name or just their last name or “the author”; also avoid sounding “unbiased” by not indicating in your review that you regularly see the author in person or are friends with them in real life.

Watch the video for a full explanation of how all these things––and others specific to authors and not readers––work, but these simple guidelines I’ve distilled for you will get you most of the way there. To find my book on Amazon, be sure to type in the title and my last name into the search bar. (And once I get 50 reviews, my book will actually get into their searches! So yes, reviews do matter, even if they aren’t 5-star reviews.)

Thank you again for all your love and support, and I hope to see you on August 17th at Blue Willow! Bring your friends. And if you take me up on the review/ARC opportunity, send me a screenshot of your review on Amazon, then tell me which book (fiction or poetry) you’d like to get a sneak preview of. Until then~

All the best.

Poem-A-Day: Um…Me :)

Tonight my cousin Justin and I were interviewed on KPFT’s LivingArt show — which was super fun, by the way — to talk about poetry and our respective books. If you missed hearing us live, you can click here and listen to the archive for April 25th and hear the whole show (which included several other poets, too, including Fady Joudah, who will have a poem in this series as well) for a few more weeks.

Since I have a new book of poems out, I wanted to share one of those with you as part of the series this year. This is from The Sharp Edges of Water (Odeon Press).

New Love in Dead Cornfields

Memories quicken my pulse
when I think of how we strode
through the funhouse of artists and thinkers
that year the corn didn’t grow.
They beat out rain-dances on the walls
with paintbrushes, charcoal, and empty-paged books
while we marched past each closed door
and every muffled prayer. The mirrors
were hung with towels as if death
had taken everyone by surprise, and even
the writers couldn’t figure out how to cope
with this dry spell.

I felt old and familiar when you led me
out the back door and onto the rows of plowed dirt.
The tall joys of sitting cross-legged
in those hesitant, sown fields of fecund not-yets
were our thrown-to-the-sun discoveries,
the most ineffectual revelations
on a most ineffectual harvest.
We made a gift of feeling
in this pursuit of strained giving,
begging the ground for food
and from each other, our stare-eyed patience.

The craze of collecting surprises,
one kernel in each pocket and a
love-letter in your shirt,
started to involve the very dirt and sky,
and the haunting, used principles
of withholding, withdrawing, and retreat
shrieked and screamed the wild west of our planting
until I said, No more, and it was back,
back, back to the east, and your tender verve died, too.

***

You don’t really need a biography of me, do you? If you really want one, click here.

author with journals, photo by Lauren Volness

Otherwise, let me tell you about this book. It’s a collection of stories as much as a series of poems. In it, the characters swerve between the rain-drenched, tree-lined, concrete plains of Houston and the voluptuous, dynamic terrain of Los Angeles. They face multiple realities, and though they’re earnestly grounded, they sometimes swim in the waters of magic realism. Their story is both relatable and a little bit surreal.

And here’s some advance praise for The Sharp Edges of Water:

“For Jamail, loss is the fecund territory complicated by the travails of geographic movement, emotional upheaval, and cultural dissonance and where the poetry sings its best.” — Sarah Cortez, Vanishing Points: Poems and Photographs of Texas Roadside Memorials (editor and contributor)

The Sharp Edges of Water is a collection of superbly crafted poems…poems of faith and freeways, of lies and longing. Angélique sees the details of Los Angeles and love, with a necessity of details we locals have forgotten. As the title implies, you might get wet reading them. Wear appropriate clothing.” — Rick Lupert, author of Beautiful Mistakes and God Wrestler, creator of http://www.PoetrySuperHighway.com

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.

 

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