In Which I Tell You That I (Cannot Believe I) Just Launched A Kickstarter Campaign

I’ll keep this brief because I’m basically zinging with nervous energy right now, but I just kicked off a Kickstarter campaign, which I’ve never done before, to launch my new book of poems, The Sharp Edges of Water. I am so very, very excited — and also? Maybe slightly terrified right now.

Doing this is, frankly, a huge personal and emotional risk for me, and it took quite a lot of talking me into doing it from some of my very close friends. But I believe that healthy professional risks can lead to growth, and so here I am! Wheee! Yikes! ZOMG.

Here is the link to go to my campaign, which ends in about 30 days.

Let me tell you a little about this new book of poems. It is a collection of work that I’ve written over the course of my adult life thus far. Quite a few of the poems have been published before in various places — a proper acknowledgement about this will appear in the back matter of the book — and some of them are brand-spanking-new, written just this year. When I turned in the first completed draft of the manuscript to my editor, the wonderful Sarah Cortez, she took the fifty poems I sent her and culled it down to just over three dozen, shaping them into a relatively cohesive narrative. As a storyteller and fiction writer also, I love this, and I’m truly thrilled with the way this manuscript has turned out.

cover design by Lucianna Chixaro Ramos

Now let me tell you some about the way Kickstarter works, in case you’re not yet familiar with it. I’ve launched this campaign in the hopes that people will become interested in my project and support it. There are many levels at which to give support, and all of them come with rewards, or “perks.” (I guess crowdfunding is a type of investment, as it were.) If enough people support the project to get it to my goal, then fantastic! The project funds and the book gets made! One of the risky things about Kickstarter, though, is if the project doesn’t fund all the way…

It doesn’t happen. No funds at all. Backers don’t have to pay, and the creator sees no benefit.

So yes. It’s a risk.

BUT I am hopeful that we’ll have a successful campaign here! I love this project and am really, really proud to share it with the world. I’ve got an excellent professional team behind the finished product, including Sarah Cortez (the aforementioned editor), Lucianna Chixaro Ramos (the cover artist), and Jesse Gordon (the book designer). They all do amazing work, and I’m thrilled to be able to work with them.

One thing I love about crowdfunding platforms is how they foster independent arts. Indie artists are part of a creative movement that isn’t bound by what marketing departments know are a sure thing, and while that can be scary sometimes, it’s also exciting.

Anyway, I’m at risk now of babbling, so I’ll stop. Go check out my campaign, see what you think. I’ll be grateful if you do. And thank you for supporting the arts!

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Cover Reveal for THE SHARP EDGES OF WATER

So lately I’ve made a few subtle mysterious noises about having a project to tell you about that I couldn’t quite say much about yet. I try to keep that coyness to a minimum but was just really excited. Now I can share a bit more! Continue reading “Cover Reveal for THE SHARP EDGES OF WATER”

My Grendel Essay — Now Published

I’ve had an essay published in the third issue of New Reader Magazine. On their site, you can download the entire (gorgeous) magazine for free. My essay appears starting on page 54.

The essay is called “Thoughts and Slayers: What We Do About Grendel, Our Oldest and Most Persistent Villain.” Here is a quick blurb about it which appeared in my query letter when I was trying to get it published:
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“Even though “troll” used to mean something a lot worse than “random jerk on the Internet,” Beowulf, the oldest surviving poem in the English language, can still help us make sense of current events. What does an Anglo-Saxon epic have to teach us about mass shootings, immigration, or even Congressional gridlock? Given that sometimes our most daunting monster is the one already in our midst, quite a lot. In “Thoughts and Slayers: What We Do About Grendel, Our Oldest and Most Persistent Villain,” I explore what Beowulf has to say about problems we still struggle with. Centuries after it was composed, I use a combination of social/cultural critique to suggest what we can do about the various Grendels still wreaking havoc among us.”
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This essay was shortlisted at more than one magazine but was selected by NRM first, so they got to publish it. I’m really, really proud of this work and hope you’ll enjoy it. If you’d like a teaser of it, here’s the opening…
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The oldest surviving poem in English highlights much of what we still struggle with, centuries later. It involves a monster who destroys the mead hall, the most communal of settings.

Grendel lives. Sadly, he thrives.

The Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf is a part of our language’s literary canon and cultural heritage, and the poem’s first and most infamous villain remains a threat to us. In the story, Grendel, the monster who attacks the inhabitants of modern-day Denmark, is a vaguely humanoid beast with impenetrable skin who kills and eats the Danes, gobbles them up like jelly beans right in their own mead hall, every night for twelve winters. His monstrosity, however, comes from more reasons than just wrecking shop in the Danes’ mead hall, and he’s still vitally important for what he represents within our society, far removed from Dark Ages Denmark and those who fought against him, or chose not to.

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The epic contains surprisingly little physical description of the monster. When I used to teach Beowulf to ninth graders, I would talk to them about what I called The Grendel Situation and then ask them to draw pictures of him. Mostly they came up with fangy, clawed, hairy, green creatures dripping with the blood of half-Dane corpses. What they could not yet internalize was the abstract evil Grendel presents and the practical, tangible dangers that make him relevant now. They could not yet see that we, too, are living in the mead hall.

(Read the rest of this essay at New Reader Magazine.)

 

Spontaneous Poetry: A Festival and a Challenge

Finding the August Postcard Poetry Fest was an accident. It was just one of those dozens of submission calls that overwhelm my inbox every week, but this one, I happened to read. Click here to learn more about how it works, but the concept is simple: you sign up the week of July 4th, you get put into a group with thirty-one other people who have signed up, and then you commit to Continue reading “Spontaneous Poetry: A Festival and a Challenge”

So, What’s Been Happening, And What Comes Next

I hope you all enjoyed my Poem-A-Day series this year for National Poetry Month! I loved curating it and am already working on next year’s series. (In case you missed the poems from this April, though, click here to begin with the 1st and then follow the links at the bottoms of the pages to read them all.)

And then what came after National Poetry Month? May, also known as National Stress Out About Grades Month, or the Month of AP Exams and (in Texas, at least) Finals and More Grading Than Ought To Be Allowed By The Laws Of Human Decency. (Yes, I’ve heard the adorable arguments about assigning fewer papers so I’ll have fewer papers to grade. Doesn’t seem to help. Funny that.) At any rate, May is universally stressful for teachers here, and, well, that’s where things are with my day job. But I’m getting close to the end of all of that, because summer. I have, at the time of this post, 29 essay tests, 7 screenplays, and 29 in-class writing assignments left to grade before my final exam on Friday morning.

I can do this.

I think I can do this.

At any rate, it’s a finite problem. The semester always ends.

And once it does, I’ll be back to posting here on the blog. Not every day, dear readers. But the Monday Earworms, which seem to be popular, will probably come back, and there’ll be more substantive posts here and there as well. Maybe some poetry — maybe even some of my poetry.

What else is taking up my writing time these days? Thank you for asking.

Look for a new book of poems to be out later this year. (That’s Priority One at the moment, due to my editor in probably fewer weeks than it seems like.)

I’m also shopping around a high fantasy novel that’s the first of a trilogy.

For those of you who loved Finis. — and I’m so happy and grateful to those of you who have sent me emails and tweets and letters and marvelously illustrated cards about how much you’re still enjoying it! — there’s another story set in that world, currently in revisions. (Want to know whom it’s about? Think wolves. I’m really excited about this one!) Finis. is now also available at a new venue where you can purchase it as an ebook, or even read it for free: click here for the Myth Machine experience.

And because I just don’t have enough to do, I’m developing a textbook for the AP Gothic Literature class I’ve been teaching for the last quite-a-number-of-years.

Finally, as if that weren’t enough, I’m about a third of the way into writing a brand-new standalone novel. This one doesn’t have a working title yet, but imagine a Steampunk-flavored ghost story which includes political intrigue and romance, and you might get a little idea of what’s coming. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I had that manuscript ready to send out this time next year?

Yes. Yes, it would. We shall see.

Poem-A-Day: Marie Marshall

I always want to post a poem in April by Scotland-based Marie Marshall because she does such wonderful and thought-provoking work. She also defies description — as in she literally defies it, which you may glean from her unconventional bio below. Her poetry and poetic style evolve and seek to push formal boundaries. She also writes fiction and posts it at her blog from time to time and has a few books out.

Probably the less I say the better. I think she would appreciate your having the chance to parse out her work for yourself.

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Today’s poem

 

 

“I was sevened and all
willowed-out, left and
bereft, reeling, punch-

loved; take an honest
hour to tour me; thumb
my spine, read what’s

implied by the rises &
falls, find where scars
crisscross to deviate.”

High over Spitzbergen
it moved from aurora to
real morning, the song
of dying stars, the roll
and the tumble chasing
birds – all the cries and
clattering wingbeats, a
rite of drunken daytime
– a knife in a nightside.

The poet had no spare
change for the beggar,
offered him verses in

coin stead; in reply he
refused a jingle about
grandma and her re-use

of plastic bags, made a
demand for the harder
currency, broken word.

***

Poem-A-Day: Something You Write In Response to a Friend’s Social Media Post

Okay, time for something slightly different today. We’re going to allow ourselves to be derivative for a moment — but in a good way.

Have you ever composed a poem in the style of someone else’s? Or have you ever composed a poem in response to someone else’s social media post? Have you ever done both of those at the same time because it was funny?

I have.

A while back, my friend Brian posted on Le Book of Face that he shouldn’t be allowed to buy pears anymore because they just rot in his fridge.

Even though they weren’t plums (it was February), obviously, what is that post of his going to make me think of? William Carlos Williams. OF COURSE. What else?

So I commented with the following, which made me laugh even if no one else did.

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Poem for Brian

This is just to say
I have wasted the pears
that you bought
and which you probably hoped
I would find delicious.

Forgive me.
They were so ripe,
so bulbous and charming,
and I let them rot.
I don’t deserve them.

I should eat nothing but
lima beans and kale for a week.

***

Clearly this poem is Not High Art. It’s not even really art at all. But it was quick and amusing (to a small audience) and helped my sleepy morning brain make connections that did matter.

I think sometimes we can use poetry in this way. Too often I see students feel intimidated by poetry, as if it doesn’t count if it isn’t brilliant. And poetry has become something of a niche market in our culture, at least as compared to some others. I don’t want poetry to be that way, though. The more esoteric it gets, the less it matters. In an effort to counteract that, I think everyone should try to write a poem for no particularly inspired reason now and then.

And if people do it enough, I really believe that eventually, genuinely good poetry will start coming out of them.

So right now I’m offering you a challenge. Go find a friend’s social media post, and then write a quick poem in response. Then post it here in the comments. You don’t even have to include the post which made you think of it. In fact, maybe that’s better. Don’t think too hard about it, and don’t be afraid to be derivative. (Just let us know whom you’re riffing off of when you post.)

Please proceed.