A Quick Reminder About Two Fiction Workshops Coming Up (Just A Few Seats Still Open)

Hello! I hope you’re enjoying this very busy week. (Well, it’s busy for me, but maybe you’re just having a nice week? I hope so.)

This is a very quick note about, as the title of this post suggests, two fiction workshops I’m teaching over the next couple of weekends. Both are three-hour jaunts on a Saturday, conducted via Zoom, and both are classes I’ve taught before and which were super fun so we brought them back! These are generative workshops which include a balanced mix of instruction, writing time, sharing (which is optional), and feedback. We pack all of that into three hours (with a little break in the middle), and the workshops are appropriate for anyone interested in writing fiction. As of yesterday, there were seats available in both classes.

BUILDING A STORY WITH CHARACTER (Writespace)
Saturday, September 24th, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

WRITING FICTION: GOTHIC STORY ELEMENTS (Writespace)
Saturday, October 1st, 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Click this link to be taken to my new CLASSES page here on the blog to learn more about these workshops and to register.

Thanks!

Monday Earworm: Fiona Apple, Summer Debrief, and Newsy Bits

Hello! I hope your cultural summer has come to a delightful close and that you’re excited for fall. Tonight’s post is going to do triple duty because it’s been that kind of summer over here. I don’t know whether to be glad it’s finally over or what! I’m going to tell you all about it, but first, let me start us off with a lovely tune to get us in a very mellow September mood. Then read on…

 

So, this summer. Goodness gracious.

I never realized how much I depended on my summer holidays — the poolside barbecues, getting together with family and friends. Even during the first year of the pandemic, we still managed to have socially distanced, masked-up, teensy-tiny outdoor get-togethers with my parents and brother. It was something. And like I said, I had no idea how much I relied upon those events to set the cycles and rhythms of my year until I couldn’t have any. This year, I didn’t get to participate in Memorial Day because the day before, I came down with covid. July 4th was canceled because my oldest had it. And last week, my son came down with it, followed by Dear Husband. So no fun Labor Day weekend festivities, alas. And I find myself focusing on the loss of the traditions because, frankly, in my house we’re all vaccinated and boosted and so for us, so far, covid has not been tragic KNOCK ON WOOD. (DH isn’t well yet. Hopefully soon, though! He does seem to be slowly on the mend.)

I found myself going through a lot of feels about it all this summer, though, all this sickness. Quite the range of emotions. There were so many things that got canceled, besides just the backyard fun. Vacations, projects, even some extra-curricular activities. All of them just pre-empted. And I had to do some real internal investigation into my mindset about how I approach summer break in the first place.

I inherited a stunning, even shocking, work ethic. I won’t say it’s the healthiest thing I could have learned — in fact, it conclusively is not — but here we are. And I was thinking of summer break not as a real break, but as a chance to cram in all the work that I have to put off the other ten months of the year while I’m working sixty to seventy hours a week teaching. This was, needless to say, bonkers. I’d been coming back to school every August at a deficit already because how on earth could I ever fit in All The Things (and by “Things” I mostly mean work, usually including but not limited to writing a new book) that I told myself at the end of May I would?

I needed a reset, and I rather unwillingly got one. It took me a while to formulate a good attitude (or semblance of one) about it. I came to recognize, by the time I went back to school last month, that I need to not think of June and July as a marathon to some accomplishments finish line. I need to think of them as a break. Yes, get some stuff done: there will always be house projects I want to tackle and books to write. But also? Freakin’ relax. Do these that make me happy.

So here, in no particular order, are some things I *did* get done (yes, I’ll be working on new ways to cast that) over the summer that made me happy:

  • I made some crucial updates to my website, including adding in some newer reviews of my books. The site as a whole is still not exactly where I want it to be, but web design is not my super power, so this will have to do for now. (Feel free to send along suggestions for improvement.)
  • I made some crucial updates to the blog here, too! Most notably, I restructured the pages, and now I have dedicated pages for my zine Sonic Chihuahua, the classes I’m teaching, and my hobbies — including the jewelry I make. (If you click on the Hobbies tab above, you’ll see some other features there, too, and more will be added to this section as time goes on.)

(Side note for shameless self-promotion, because writers have to make a living, too: The poetry class I’m teaching for Grackle & Grackle this month has sold out, but you can still jump into my two one-off fiction workshops coming up in a few weeks, offered by Writespace and back by popular demand! They’ll be on Zoom, so you can join us from anywhere. The first is a three-hour generative class on building character-driven stories using a blend of literary analysis, pop culture, and narrative craft, happening on September 24th. The second is a three-hour generative class on writing Gothic fiction, happening on October 1st. Click here for more details and to register!)

  • I read lots of books. Like, lots of them. The first week I was sick with covid, I read literally ten. And while I also read the things I needed to in preparation for the school year, I also gave myself permission to read plenty of books that just flat-out made me happy. Fun books, funny books. That was crucial, especially while I was sick. (You’ll see the epic list at my Year in Reading round-up come January.)
  • I also did a fair bit of writing. In addition to getting out two new issues of Sonic Chihuahua, I did a full-scale edit of a novel which is currently out on submission, and made real progress on the novel I’m currently drafting. Did I do enough writing? I never do (Can you hear that old mindset creeping back in?), but I moved the needle forward, and that’s what matters this time around (And there’s the new mindset; I’m still breaking it in).
  • Some of my work was published this summer. I had two poems come out in A Fire To Light Our Tongues: Texas Writers on Spirituality, and my essay reviewing Kristen Bird’s The Night She Went Missing was published by Literary Mama.
  • I made two baby blankets for new babies in my life. Both new babies live far away, and so I haven’t met them yet, but I can’t wait to give them snuggles!

blanket for Valerie
blanket for Rosie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I rekindled my love for the card game Solitaire. (As in with actual cards, not on a screen.) I played it all the time when I was growing up, and I played it a lot again when I got sick at the beginning of the summer and had to isolate. I found that it brought me a sense of inner calm that worked better for me even than formal meditation. So then I kept using the game as a way to soothe myself during times of stress or fatigue, and it worked beautifully. The game requires just enough strategy to distract me from whatever might be causing me anxiety — or even eyestrain — and relies on just enough luck for me to not care too much about whether I win or lose. 

I have much to be thankful for, orneriness about my dashed summer plans aside. Not least of those is my relatively good health now KNOCK ON WOOD AGAIN. So I’ll sign off for the moment, with the intention that I’ll get back to more regular blog posts around here in the new season. Such is the plan.

Be well!

Monday Earworm — And A Reading Tomorrow Night!!

So apparently there was this show called Live From Daryl’s House, that was just Daryl Hall at his house jamming with a bunch of famous people or something? I didn’t see the show, didn’t even know about it, but I always enjoyed Hall and Oates’ music back in the day (and not gonna lie, still do), and then I came across this clip from that aforementioned series with Daryl Hall and Cee Lo Green and a band performing “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” and it’s pretty great. Very relaxed, very funky, very jammy. So here, now you can enjoy it, too!

OH, and also! Tomorrow night I’m going to be the featured poet at the Cobalt Café reading. The last time I was the featured reader at Cobalt was in the late 90s, when I was living in Los Angeles. Because that’s where Cobalt is. But I’m not in L.A. right now, and won’t be tomorrow, either, because their reading series is now online! Yay!

Wonderful poet, founder of PoetrySuperHighway, and all-around purveyor of and advocate for poetry Rick Lupert is still running the show. I’ll be reading, and there will also be an open mic. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Los Angeles time. If you’re on the west coast, great! Tune in with or after your dinner? But for those of you in the central time zone (like me), that will be 9:30 p.m. (And doing the math from there, mountain time is 8:30 pm. and eastern time is 10:30 p.m.) I hope you can tune in and enjoy the reading with us — and maybe read one of your own poems if you have some? (The reading will be over Zoom, so be sure to register with your actual name so Rick will let you in from the waiting room. Go to this event page to get the Zoom link.)

So now that the shameless promotion portion of this post is out of the way, here’s some music for you. Enjoy!

I Had A Review Published In Literary Mama!

So today the new issue of Literary Mama came out, and it includes a review I wrote for Kristen Bird’s debut novel, The Night She Went Missing.

Literary Mama is one of the oldest literary journals featuring the work of writer-mothers in existence. Every issue features poetry, reviews, profiles, fiction, and non-fiction. 

In case you’d like to check it out — and I so hope that you will — here is the link to my review of Bird’s excellent novel. Please feel free to share it widely.

And while you’re over at Literary Mama’s site, be sure to read the whole issue. It’s filled with excellent work, as always!

 

A FIRE TO LIGHT OUR TONGUES

Hello! I have some very exciting news! Two of my poems, “Magdalen” and “Epiphany,” have just been published in A Fire to Light Our Tongues: Texas Writers on Spirituality. This anthology had a long road to publication.

It began before covid times and one of the women fiercely behind the project actually passed away before she could see the book in print. But it is out now, and filled with poetry on the ever-shifting nature of spirituality and how we interact with it, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Other poets featured in this book include Naomi Shihab Nye, Rich Levy, Robin Davidson, Robert Okaji, and Kevin Prufer, just to name a few. The anthology contains two parts, “Pandemic Time” and “Contraries,” and within “Contraries” are the following themed sections:
Belief and Doubt
Good and Evil
Love and Hope
Known and Unknown
Truth and Beauty
Joy and Gratitude

This is a beautiful book, and I hope you’ll give it a look. You can even get it, at least for a time, at a 20% discount with the code “TCU20” at this link to TAMU Press. (Don’t use the quotation marks when you put the code in.)

I’m seriously excited about this. We’ve waited a few years for this book to finally come out, and it has definitely been worth the wait!

SONIC CHIHUAHUA Volume 3, Issue 3 Has Arrived! (And So Has A New Page Here In Honor Of It.)

The new issue of Sonic Chihuahua is here! Subscribers should see it hit their mailboxes this week. If you want to be on the distribution list, let me know.

There are all sorts of goodies in this issue, including poetry, art by Han and Megan Martin and Aeryk Pierson, the thrilling conclusion to the “Embracing My Inner Goth” essay series, an interview with author Tanya Aydelott, and her recipe for a delicious one-pot pasta dinner. Plus more! So much more!

ALSO…

I have created a new page here at Sappho’s Torque just for the Sonic Chihuahua. You can find it here. It will contain a listing of all issues: their colorful puppy-pile pictures and official tables of contents. Check it out if you have a moment and let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

 

Poetry in September

Why do we write poetry, anyway? It’s not like it’s a lucrative literary market (at least not here in the U.S.). It’s not like the general reading public is clamoring for midnight poetry book release parties. How many contemporary poets can the average person name? How many books of poetry does the average reader have on the shelf?

It’s not about any of that, of course, though all kinds of people read poetry. All kinds of people write poetry, too — not just Fancy Published Authors or “academic types.” And there are so many different kinds of poetry out there, with an extraordinarily wide range of accessibility from light verse to down-to-earth, relatable narrative to completely esoteric, and everything in between.

Poetry allows us to make sense of whatever is swirling inside our minds and our hearts. (Just ask any young person with a diary and a penchant for rhyme.) It’s a gift of language and creativity. Edward Hirsch once said to me that poetry was the intersection of experience and vocabulary, and I thought, among all the different ways people can choose to define poetry, that one idea resonated as a baseline.

Many types of writers can benefit from experimenting with poetry.  Even though I’m primarily a fiction writer now (professionally), my Creative Writing degree is actually in Poetry. I began my university work as a Fiction student but switched my junior year, and after writing nothing but poetry for a few years, when I came back to writing fiction I realized that everything I’d learned about language and syntax from writing poems had made my prose exponentially better.

And now, I still write poetry because it feels like a more comfortable form of meditation in the midst of my uncomfortably busy life. It helps me process my experiences and my reactions to them in a slightly less frenetic way. And — not gonna lie — most poems take a lot less time to write and revise and polish than the average short story or novel, and there’s something akin to instant gratification from being able to do that. It doesn’t entirely feed my obsession with productivity, but it does feel pretty good.

From time to time, I teach Creative Writing classes outside of my day job. (A significant portion of which job, to be clear, is to teach Creative Writing.) These classes, which are geared toward a wider audience than my school-year courses, are often taught on Zoom outside of typical business hours, so working adults can take them no matter where they’re located. I’ve had attendees from other cities, other states, and even other countries come together in these workshops. It’s wonderful! (I should also note that there isn’t a specific age requirement to attend.)

So here is one of the upcoming classes I’ll be teaching this fall, for Grackle & Grackle, and I hope to see you in it! Click on the link to learn more and/or to register. (I recommend registering early to secure a spot. We keep these groups kind of small-ish so everyone gets personal attention and workshop time.)

Poetry: Grounded in Place But Not Confined
4 weeks — Tuesday evenings in September

grackle painting by Kerry James Marshall

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.

***

So, a few typical questions:

Q:  What if I can’t be there every week?
A:  This workshop is four sessions, but if you’re unable to make all of them, you can still participate, and I’ll catch you up on the course materials you miss.

Q:  Is this class for beginners or more advanced poets?
A:  Both emerging writers and published poets will find this course productive and useful. Because my workshops are generative (i.e. we will generate new writing in each session), I use open-ended prompts that will be useful at multiple skill levels. And as a teacher, I strive to meet each student where they are.

Q:  What format will each session follow?
A:  I try to keep things flexible, but generally you can expect some discussion of already published work to explore technique and substance, at least one writing prompt and time to work on it, and a discussion of attendees’ own work in a respectful and supportive atmosphere. Content topics will vary from week to week, centered around a particular theme.

Q:  Okay, but why should I be trying to take a poetry class in these bonkers times?
A:  What better way to reflect on your experiences and reactions to them than through a guided, focused lens that allows you to compartmentalize and process them in a specific, finite block of time?

Here again is the link to learn more about and to sign up for this course. I hope you will join us!

Two Poetry Workshops Happening This Month (A FEW SPOTS STILL OPEN)

There are still some spots open in the two poetry workshops I’m teaching this month, in case you were interested in signing up for them but haven’t yet. Both will be taught on Zoom, so covid surges and geographical distances are not a problem here.  😉

Daily Dose of Poetry is a one-night-only experience through Write About Now as part of their Monday night poetry class series. You can do just mine — happening TOMORROW, June 13th — or get a bundle of weeks at a discount. In this generative workshop, we’ll try our hand at several different poetry prompts designed to kickstart your writing or refresh your writing practice if you’ve been away from it for a while. Each exercise is also translatable, to duplicate or adapt on your own after the workshop ends. You will also get a chance to share and/or workshop what you write during class. Click here for more details and to get the link to register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wan-academy-daily-dose-of-poetry-w-angelique-jamail-tickets-254249686657?aff=ang

 

grackle painting by Kerry James Marshall

Poetry: Grounded in Place But Not Confined is a four-week workshop through Grackle & Grackle. We’ll be meeting on Tuesday evenings starting this week, June 14th. In this generative and feedback-oriented workshop, we will look at ways poetry inhabits landscapes both literal and figurative and create poems along that theme. You can expect to write new poetry each week and to have at least two of your poems workshopped in a respectful and supportive environment over the course of the four weeks. (And if you’re able to attend most but not all of the sessions, don’t let that stop you from signing up, as I’m happy to share materials with you if you’re absent.) G&G is also great about offering discounts on their classes, too, so if you need one, try these: 15% sun; 25% squawk; 35% sweat. Click here for more information and to register:  https://grackleandgrackle.com/product/ajsu22poetry/

I hope to see you in either or both of these workshops! Feel free to share with others who might also be interested.

Monday Earworm: Lana Del Rey

It is most emphatically summertime here in my fair city. School is out, at least for many of us. Temps in the mid-90s with a real-feel of over 100, and hurricane season is underway, even if the Texas Gulf Coast won’t likely see a ton of action for a while yet.

So here’s a sultry little swing for early June, courtesy of Lana Del Rey.

And in case you’re looking for some fun workshops to indulge in this month, I’m still teaching a few. My zine workshop (in-person) through Writespace starts Thursday. My one-night-only Daily Dose of Poetry kickstart is online Monday evening next week via Write About Now. And I’m doing a four-week poetry workshop online through Grackle & Grackle starting next Tuesday evening. (Let me know if you want some great discounts on the registration for that one.) All workshops will be generative in nature and will include feedback on your work. Click on those links to register for any and all!

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!