Where, What, and When I’ll Be Teaching in June

So it’s a known fact that I no longer teach summer school. I haven’t for many, many years, because I need that time to focus more on my writing. However, I will be teaching some brief Creative Writing workshops this summer for three marvelous CW organizations, and YOU can take them! Yes, that’s right! And since I’ve had a fair number of questions about them, I’m just going to distill all the information into this post now for you. I will list them in order of when they begin. Enjoy.

CLASS #1: Creating a Zine (a.k.a. “Zines: The Ultimate Adventure in Creative Control”)
WHEN: 4 Thursday evenings, June 9-30, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Writespace — IN PERSON — in Houston

DESCRIPTION: Have you been looking for a way to share your short writings, including ones you’ve created in other Writespace workshops? The subversive, underground art form of the “zine” (short for fanzine) has been the literary world’s best-kept secret for nearly a century. From its roots in science-fiction and fantasy to its established presence in the modern world as a place for art, poetry, and politics, these informal magazines are the ultimate adventure in self-publishing. And best of all, zines are for everyone, every interest, every ability level, and every subject! You need not be a great or experienced artist. Come explore the wide and diverse world of zines through creative writing, art, and craft with award-winning published author Angélique Jamail, the creator of the popular zine Sonic Chihuahua. In this course, you will create your own zine filled with whatever your imagination will allow! This class is appropriate for all skill levels. Attendees will also have an opportunity to participate in Zine Fest Houston, a welcoming mainstay of the zine community, in November.

(Apologies to all those who really want to take this class but who live outside of Houston. If there’s enough interest in my offering a Zoom version in the future, let me know, and I’ll see about making that work. You can leave a note in the comments section of this post or contact me about it directly.)

REGISTER FOR “CREATING A ZINE” BY CLICKING HERE. (The deadline for early bird pricing is Friday, June 3rd.)

CLASS #2:  Daily Dose of Poetry
WHEN:  (one night only!) Monday, June 13th, 6:00-7:30 p.m. (central time)
WHERE:  ON ZOOM through Write About Now as part of their weekly poetry workshop series

DESCRIPTION:  In this class participants will use short poems and exercises as models for writing poetry and poetic fragments, and will practice techniques to increase observation and lyrical thinking. We’ll look at mentor texts and have a discussion on language and form. We’ll also have exercises in metaphor and imagery. Attendees will get a chance to write short form poems and use the techniques covered in class to enhance their daily writing practice.

REGISTER FOR “DAILY DOSE OF POETRY” BY CLICKING HERE.

CLASS #3:  Poetry: Grounded in Place But Not Confined
WHEN:  4 Tuesday evenings, June 14 – July 5, 6:00-9:00 p.m. (central time)
WHERE:  ON ZOOM through Grackle & Grackle

grackle painting by Kerry James Marshall

DESCRIPTION:  Michelle Brittan Rosado wrote that poetry of place “can be a way to dissolve the self into an anonymous landscape” as well as “a map to find ourselves, a space in which to reassemble the annihilated and recover the displaced.” How often has your childhood home been the setting for your dreams? How often have you returned, in your writing or art or imagination, to the site of a notable first experience? What are the landscapes, real or metaphorical, we have inhabited? What liminal spaces inspire, motivate, or even unsettle us? The places which have mattered most to us live in our subconscious mind long after they stop being physically part of our lives. In this four-week class, we will look at poetry grounded in places both real and imagined. We will dissect both what makes a poem resonate with a reader and what makes particular locations so important to us. In this generative workshop, we’ll use a variety of prompts to experiment with form and style. You can expect to write new poetry each week and have at least two of your poems workshopped in a collaborative and respectful setting.

Grackle & Grackle also offers discounts to those who need them. (The following discounts are followed by their promo code words.)
15% sun
25% squawk
35% sweat

REGISTER FOR “POETRY: GROUNDED IN PLACE BUT NOT CONFINED” BY CLICKING HERE.

SO! I hope to see you at any and/or all of these fun workshops. And please do spread the word about them to anyone you know who might be interested. Thanks!

Monday Earworm: Icona Pop

My school year ends on Friday this week. There’s still a lot of administrative stuff to do before then, lots of meetings, and a little bit of grading left…but still. After three weeks of nearly nonstop grading, I’m entering a liminal phase, transitioning from the school year to the summer (in which my full-time gig switches over to writing, and teaching takes a little bit of a backseat), and times like this always give me a boost of sleep-deprived delirious energy. This is how it sounds tonight. Enjoy.

Come Write Poetry With Me For An Hour

The title of this post is not an exaggeration.

I’m going to be leading a workshop called “Daily Dose of Poetry” on Monday June 13th through WAN (Write About Now) as part of their weekly virtual workshop series, and I’d love for you to join me!

The workshop will be synchronous, live, and interactive on Zoom. It starts at 6:00 p.m. central time and actually lasts until 7:30 p.m. The workshop will be generative and also give you a chance to share the poetry you write in the workshop for feedback or just accolades.

This class is appropriate for all levels: if you are a seasoned writer and want to revive or enhance your practice; if you are newer writer and want more prompts to help you generate ideas; if you just have a lot of thoughts swirling around in your head and aren’t sure how to rein them in so you can get some sleep. There’s something for everyone in Daily Dose of Poetry.

If you want the official course description, here it is:

“In this class participants will use short poems and exercises as models for writing poetry and poetic fragments, and will practice techniques to increase observation and lyrical thinking. We’ll look at mentor texts and have a discussion on language and form. We’ll also have exercises in metaphor and imagery. Attendees will get a chance to write short form poems and use the techniques covered in class to enhance their daily writing practice.”

And if you subscribe to WAN, I think there’s even a discount on the already quite low registration fee. Here are the other workshops being offered in June:

So come join me on June 13th! Register here for the event on Eventbrite. I look forward to this relaxed and low-stress poetry party with you!

SONIC CHIHUAHUA Production News

Hello again! I’m a bit late getting this announcement out on the blog, but the first Sonic Chihuahua issue of 2022 (volume 3 issue 1) is out! And we are hard at work on volume 3 issue 2 (March/April). Here are some details for the January/February issue.

What’s in this glorious issue, you ask? Read on…

* Embracing My Inner Goth (part 4)
* monsters and how we deal with them
* NeriSiren’s Coffee Grotto
* guacamole (seriously!)
* convo with Kristen Bird
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry and art

I have copies of this and all back issues still available for sale, if anyone would like them. Just let me know!

Kristen Bird on Writing

One of my friends and colleagues, Kristen Bird, has just launched her debut novel, The Night She Went Missing, and dear reader, it is wonderful. If you like suspenseful mysteries with strong female characters and a compelling plot set in the otherworldly bubble of elite private schools, then this one is for you.

You’ll hear more from me later about this book, but for today, I’m turning the metaphorical microphone over to Kristen so she can drop some immense wisdom about the writing process. Enjoy.

***

Keep Writing
by Kristen Bird

I wrote my first full-length novel as a creative writing thesis for the final project for my master’s in literature, and I queried it in the days when some literary agents still only wanted mailed submissions. That was almost fifteen years ago. After numerous rejections, I didn’t write much. Instead, I did the kinds of things many adults do: I got a real job (teaching high-school English), I paid bills, I went grocery shopping, I endured infertility treatments, and I had three babies in three years—the last two, twins.

But after all that adulting, I found myself returning to write as a therapeutic outlet. Having an hour to myself to drink coffee and enter another world—one that didn’t ask anything of me—became my escape. From the times my twins were two until they were five, I worked on a historical novel, one that involved tedious—and thrilling, to me—research about the early 1900s in New York City. I would later fall in love with the novel The Golem & The Jinni by Helene Wecker because the setting felt so familiar.

Though it took me years to complete this novel, I wasn’t in a hurry. My kids let me sleep (sometimes), and about once every other week, I would scribble away for an hour or two. I knew I was writing that book for me, though I secretly hoped someone would someday read it. That didn’t keep me from becoming fully invested in the querying process when I finally decided I’d revised the book as much as I knew how. When I started querying this second full-length manuscript, I finally began to understand the slow pace of the publishing industry. I would do equations like this: if I send this query to an agent and that agent takes 6-8 weeks to respond before I send it to another agent who takes 3-6 months to respond, how long before I give up in despair?

With that second full-length manuscript, I had a few bites, a few partial requests, a couple full requests. Some agents told me the writing was good. I didn’t believe them because they also rejected me. Some told me that the whole process of querying is subjective. I didn’t believe that either. One night after receiving a rejection from an agent I idolized, I ended up in my bed sobbing, proclaiming that I was giving up. No more writing. No more querying. I couldn’t face rejection anymore.

That lasted a week because, as writers know, we must write.

For my third full-length manuscript, I decided I would be the person who would keep writing and keep querying until something happened. I hadn’t yet listened to writing podcasts in which published authors often talk about not getting published until their second, third, or ninth novel. I didn’t know that could be normal.

If I was going to keep writing and querying, I knew I would have to write a lot faster than one novel every four or five years. I switched to a contemporary setting and voice, the benefit being that I had a lot less to research, and I decided I would write quickly and revise quickly. My daughters were turning six and nine, which was a game-changer in so many ways. I was finally getting consistent sleep, I was eating full meals without a child throwing a tantrum on the floor, and I was getting to have actual conversations with other grown-ups. I was determined to finish this new project, a contemporary suspense novel, in a few months.

The Night She Went Missing is the book that finally landed me an agent and a publisher, and though the process may look fast to some, it’s been a rather slow but event-filled fifteen years in the making. In the middle of waiting to be published, I’ve had three daughters, taught hundreds of students, and built a life with a great guy. Publishing—along with any other dreams—doesn’t come fast or easy for most writers, including myself, so I’ve learned it’s important to enjoy the life that happens in midst of the waiting—and to keep writing, no matter what.

***

The Night She Went Missing by Kristen Bird, 2022 from Mira Books.
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0778332101
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0778332107

photo by Bess Garison

Kristen Bird lives outside of Houston, Texas with her husband and three daughters. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music and mass media before completing a master’s in literature. She teaches high school English and writes with a cup of coffee in hand. In her free time, she likes to visit parks with her three daughters, watch quirky films with her husband, and attempt to keep pace with her rescue lab-mixes. The Night She Went Missing is her debut novel.

Monday Earworm: Blondie

Fittingly, I rediscovered this song (“re” meaning in my current era, not the original era of this song) in the Before Times when I used to go to Panera very early on Saturday mornings to write with some of my writer friends. Now, the ones who usually joined me all live in other cities and I write from home, sometimes with them over Zoom or Hangouts. But the idea of dreaming, ambition-style, was deeply ensconced in what got me out of bed and out of the house that early on a weekend.

Tomorrow is the first day of a new month, a new lunar year, my year, Year of the Tiger. My dream is managing to finish the current novel WIP this calendar year. My ancillary dream is to put pages on paper for that WIP every day this coming month. Let’s see how that shakes out, shall we?

Writing Goals

Each year during The Week Between (i.e. the week between Christmas and New Year’s) I like to think about what I’ve accomplished in my writing life during the previous year and set my sights toward goals for the new year coming up. Sometimes these goals involve manuscripts, publications, things like that, but sometimes they’re administrative. Being an author is also being a small business/owner.

As such, going over my full list of yearly goals would probably not be riveting content for most of you, but I do like to mark this practice with a little reflection. In 2021, which was honestly kind of a not-fabulous year, I managed to remember that at the very least it was better than 2020, and still, even with a pandemic, it was better than approximately 2017-2019, on balance. So we’re headed in the right direction on enough things for me not to feel utter despair all the time at the state of the world. (Yes, I am fundamentally optimistic, but also realistic enough to know this magic carpet could be yanked out from under me at any time. Welcome to anxiety in the 21st Century. Gah.)

But I digress. I was going to reflect on my writing goals in 2021.

  • One of the best things I did this year for my writing was to relaunch my zine, Sonic Chihuahua, which has been quite successful and also personally fulfilling. So thank you for that!
  • I also finished editing one of my novels and started querying it.
  • I took a lot of writing workshops online for professional development.
  • And I finished the 2020 August Poetry Postcard Fest. (Yes, I was tardy on that. It happens.)
  • I also got my published books into more stores (yay!),
  • increased my blog subscribership (wheee!),
  • let go of some things that weren’t serving me well, like my Mailchimp newsletter (whew!),
  • and made progress on two new novels that I’m still drafting.
  • I also started a new collection of poetry.

Okay, when I lay it out like that, it seems like more than it felt like while I was doing it. Yeah, I’ve been keeping busy. Still, while I was going through it, I often felt like I wasn’t getting nearly enough done. On a day-to-day basis, I’m still sometimes having trouble making time for writing on school days. Last semester was a beast in terms of work load. But as it always does, the semester came to an end, and now we’re in a new term with a chance to do things over in a better way. As always. This is one reason I sometimes really appreciate the cyclical nature of teaching.

So what are my writing goals for 2022?

  • I want to keep working on my fiction and poetry and maybe finish drafting one of these books this year.
  • I’m going to continue producing Sonic Chihuahua, but with some improvements to my production schedule.
  • I’ve made a return to in-person author appearances and plan to do a few more this semester.
  • And I’d really like to get my blog readership up over 1,000 subscribers. (Feel free to share my blog posts using the buttons on this site that make it automatic when you’re inspired to do so, but as always, avoid plagiarizing my content. Thanks!)
  • There are some other administrative things going on behind-the-scenes. If any of them are outwardly noteworthy, you’ll hear about them here, of course.

So that’s where things are here in Authorland at the moment. How about you? Do you make new year’s resolutions or avoid them? Do you set goals for yourself at the turn of the year? What are you hoping to accomplish in 2022?

SONIC CHIHUAHUA at the Turn of the Year

As of today, the December issue of the SONIC CHIHUAHUA is ready to go out the door and to a mailbox (or eagerly awaiting open hand) near you!

So how are things going, eight issues in, with my little zine?

Well, frankly, WELL.

I will be the first to admit that restarting this zine after a twenty-nine-year hiatus was an impulsive lark. It was a decision that I made quickly, even if the seeds of that decision had been planted and quietly sprouting for a couple of years or so. And for the first couple of issues this spring, I was very much feeling my way (again) around the mechanics and logistics of putting a project like this together.

Every month. With paper and black pens and scissors and an adhesive roller.

The first issue ended up being almost twice as long as I’d intended, but it was a good length and is one I’ve stuck with. Figuring out the layout of the zine and the formatting of the content that was printed involved a fair bit of trial-and-error, but I got there. During our pandemically deprived social life, the Sonic Chihuahua became my new Friday night jam, and I loved it.

And even better was the reaction I enjoyed from nearly everyone I sent it to: excitement, enthusiasm, eager support, encouragement. Even, occasionally, someone giving me money for it! (Though financial contributions have always been optional.) There were even a couple of months when the income earned from the zine surpassed the royalties earned on my books!

And the zine grew. Oh wow, did it grow. The distribution, which wasn’t small to begin with, is half again larger than it was when it started, and now I have regular contributors sending me wonderful content to include. I’m loving that!

Without putting too fine a point on it, the Sonic Chihuahua has been, for me, exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. And I’ve heard from several readers that it has been what they needed, too, and this also makes me quite happy.

In November, Han and I went to Zine Fest Houston. I’d never attended before and was thrilled that Sonic Chihuahua got in. The event itself was excellent — it was a gorgeous day with perfect weather, the fest was in an open-air warehouse space that caters to arts events, the organizers were totally on the ball, and the crowds were big enough for Han and me to be busy all afternoon but not so thick that we felt unsafe. (And yes, we wore masks.) It was a delightfully good day, and we got to browse around and see dozens of other zinesters and their work. I learned a lot.

  1. For one thing, our little zine was well-received. That’s always nice.
  2. For another thing, there’s a whole bunch of incredible indie and self-publishing and artwork happening out there, and it’s well worth checking out.
  3. And finally, our production schedule is way aggressive! 

Putting an issue out there once a month, turns out, is rather more frequent than most zinesters are doing. (In fact, we encountered maybe none who were, besides us.) Add to that the increasing costs to produce the paper zine, and the fact that a few of my readers have told me they don’t always finish reading it before the next issue comes (there’s a LOT in each one, y0), and the other fact that I would really like to finish at least one of the novels I’m currently writing… 

You can see where this is going, can’t you? I’ve decided that in 2022, volume 3 of the Sonic Chihuahua will come out every other month instead of every month. I’ve also standardized subscription rates — for those who wish to pay for it — and even added a limited digital option (by subscription only). All of this feels like the right direction to go in, for various reasons which are boring but which I’m happy to expound upon if people want me to. (Leave your questions in the comments, if you have them.)

You’ll see the same awesome content as before. You’ll just have more time to enjoy it before the next issue comes out. Also look for more art in the zine, starting with December’s issue this week.

So on balance, I would say the zine has been a highly worthwhile project for me personally and highly appreciated by those who read it, and therefore I will keep making it. Woot! Thank you to everyone who has subscribed and/or read and/or shared photos of the zine on their social media. I appreciate all of this more than you know!

Do You Know What Doesn’t Suffer From Supply-Chain Problems?

Happy Small Business Saturday!

I hope you’ve had a lovely Thanksgiving (for those of you celebrating it) or else just a very nice week. Here in the US we have launched ourselves full-force into the holiday season, and the day after Black Friday is Small Business Saturday, a day designated to encourage and buy from small businesses in an effort to shop local and indie. And something useful to remember is that authoring is a business, and therefore every author is a small business owner. (That includes me!)

I have several items that might be of interest to you and yours:

  • My books include Finis. and Homecoming in the Animal Affinities series (urban fantasy), and The Sharp Edges of Water (poetry). I also currently have the international anthology The Milk of Female Kindness–An Anthology of Honest Motherhood available; I was one of the lead contributors on that project, which includes fiction, poetry, essays, interviews, and art.
FINIS. (Book 1) – $5.99
HOMECOMING (Book 2) – $5.99
THE SHARP EDGES OF WATER – $13.00
(not pictured: THE MILK OF FEMALE KINDNESS – $15.00)

 

  • I have my zine, Sonic Chihuahua, issues 1-7 in stock. (Click on this link to see what’s in each issue.) These are $3 each and include poetry, essays, fiction, art, recipes, interviews, and fun-and-games. Rejoice in the 90stalgia that is this fabulous and popular zine!
Click on the link above to see the Table of Contents for each issue!

 

  • Poetry art cards, which include my handmade designs and often my poetry on them, are blank on the inside and — with your thoughtful note written in — make lovely gifts in themselves, suitable for framing. Click here to see all 19 designs in more detail. Cards are $8 each.
Click on the link in the description to see the individual cards.

 

You can order all of these items from me directly. You can also see all of these, plus my handmade jewelry and decorated blank journals, at the Sawyer Yards Market on December 11th.

Although you can buy my books Finis., Homecoming, and The Sharp Edges of Water in bookstores — and I hope you will! — you can also buy them directly from me. Just leave a note in the comments about it, and I’ll be in touch with you, or else email me (forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com), and I’ll put your items in the mail to you right away. (I recommend you order from me before December 12th for the best chance of receiving your package in time for Christmas, if that’s what you’re aiming for.) Shipping costs will be as low as I can make them.

Of course you can also get my books from Amazon and Bookshop and other big online retailers. If you’d like to get them from local and indie bookstores — and I encourage you to do so! — I know they’re currently on the shelves at Blue Willow Bookshop (Houston) and The Twig Bookshop (San Antonio). And any bookstore can order it from Ingram if they don’t currently have any copies left in stock. (Interesting note about Amazon: they currently have Finis. and Homecoming on sale, though I don’t know how long that promotion will go for.)

So that’s it! I hope you’ll support your local and indie shops and authors and makers, not just now at the holiday season but all year round. Happy holidays to you! And thank you for your support.