Happy Valentine’s During an Apocalypse! And More Disturbing Things: AWP Disability, Politics, V-Day Bronchitis, and Fighting For the Right Mindset
Hey kids! Does it feel like the apocalypse yet? How do I wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day today? How about a poem, “Post-Apocalypse Postcard (with Love Note,)” from Field Guide to the End of the World?
My playlist today? “We Found Love (in a Hopeless Place)” by Rihanna. “Love Love Love” by Avalanche City. “Wish That You Were Here” by Florence & the Machine. I recommend you play all three while reading this post!
Struggling with Mindset, Mid-February
I’m feeling a little down lately. Partly because I am really sick again, this time with pretty bad bronchitis and a sinus thing, and it’s hard to be cheerful when you’re sick. Partly because 1. I missed AWP (by the way, if you picked up either Field Guide to the End of the World or The Robot Scientist’s Daughter at AWP and post a picture for me, I’d be really grateful and mail you some swag if you want!) and 2. I heard from so many friends with disabilities that this AWP did a terrible job with accessibility (a disability caucus that required stairs? Non-accessible Accessibility Desk? Power doors that didn’t work? A lukewarm response to these problems from those in charge?) and that makes me very nervous about attending in the future, as I am mildly disabled due to those pesky neural lesions I sometimes talk about. (Sandra Beasley has a more encompassing post about this issue here.) It’s just a reminder that some things should change, but don’t. Speaking of that…
Then, you know, politics has invaded my dreams. I have actual nightmares about it almost every night. A person in charge of national security stepped down today because of possible treasonous dealings with Russia,and Trump blithely does his nuclear strategy talks in front of tourists at Mar-a-Lago. This President and his dirty team are sure unfun to watch, and I am ashamed of the Congressional Republicans unwilling to do anything about it. I used to be proud of my country. Now I feel less so, and this does not make me happy. Meanwhile, a dam actually burst in northern CA yesterday, a literal symbol of our country’s crumbling infrastructure (don’t worry, I’m sure a ton of stuff built in the sixties and seventies is in great shape! But a lot maybe isn’t! Including a lot of important stuff, like nuclear waste storage. Concrete fails after a certain amount of time…)
I also lost a beloved Uncle this week, and won’t be able to travel for the funeral – it’s on the East Coast and I’ve been given strict orders for some bedrest til I’m better so this bronchitis doesn’t turn to pneumonia again, as it did last September. He was really a lovely guy and his wife, my Aunt Charlotte, is one of my favorite people. I’m very sorry not to be there for them right now.
So I’m struggling to keep up a cheerful mindset on today, this pink-tinged holiday. I’m also attempting to write two articles, working on the edits of PR for Poets book draft that’s going way more slowly than I was hoping, and worrying that Field Guide to the End of the World isn’t selling well enough or I’m not doing enough for it because I’ve been sick pretty much the entire winter or that it hasn’t gotten enough reviews. (By the way, if you’re interested in reviewing, even just on Amazon, please let me know! PDFs are available!)
As far as writing, I’ve been writing up a storm, it seems – that day of the superbowl, I put together a first draft of my sixth poetry manuscript, and was surprised to find 50 pages there. The poems are pretty stark – cancer, of course, and death are pretty consistent themes, since those are pretty much what I was thinking about for the last year. I remember, too, it was last February around this time Glenn took me to the ER for what turned out to be food poisoning but could have been appendicitis, and then the scans turned up the liver tumors that were diagnosed then and there as terminal metastasized cancer. I got an MRA (a kind of specialized MRI) for my brain lesions last week and am awaiting more blood work for cancer markers this week (or whenever I’m up to a trip to the lab!) This kind of thing does not, just FYI, make you feel better or more cheerful. Spending a lot of time in medical offices lately – always a recipe for less cheerfulness. I tell people that having chronic health issues is a full-time job, and I am not kidding – it literally takes all the energy, time, planning, intellectual and social skills that a job does.
Meanwhile, Glenn is making a fancy Valentine’s dinner for us tonight (despite the fact that I can only sort of taste food right now) and my kitten Sylvia is snuggling fluffy by my side in bed. When I get better I’ll get to planting some blueberries and roses now that the snow (!) has melted and the weather has gotten back to somewhat normal temperatures for this time of year. I have things to be thankful for. But I’ll admit to struggling a bit with mindset and keeping a mind that isn’t filled with catastrophe. I try not to watch the news – I literally absorb too much of it without even trying, on Facebook and Twitter, and when I glance at BBC’s site each morning. “I can’t fix everything, I can’t even fix myself” says my internal voice. I try to do things that feel like they might have a positive effect on the world, on the people around me. Maybe right now that’s the best I can do: rest, restore, do what I can. So here’s wishing you Love in a Hopeless Place this Valentine’s Day. (Thanks Rihanna!)
Snow Days, AWP madness – tips for surviving AWP and surviving NOT going to AWP, TAB literary journal. and More
I’m writing to you from snowy – yes, snowy Seattle!
It’s AWP week and that means madness for many writers! I’m missing this year’s conference, but since this is the first AWP appearance for my latest book…here’s where to find it!
Field Guide to the End of the World at Moon City Press at AWP – 125-T
And my previous book from Mayapple Press:
The Robot Scientist’s Daughter will be at the SPD/CLMP table at 616/618
Tips for Surviving and Thriving at AWP:
DC is an amazing beautiful city, so I hope you guys will enjoy the city and enjoy hanging out with each other in the scramble. My tips include: leaving the conference at least once to check out DC’s amazing museums (most of them free!), shops, and restaurants. Also, drink more water than you think you need to. Pack for emergencies (extra medications, cold/stomach meds, maybe one of those instant ice packs) and leave space for packing books (unless you plan to ship them home – if you carry USPS priority boxes with you, with the printed out labels of your home/office, you can ship books straight back from the hotel instead of lugging them.) Extra lip balm. Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous – if you get invited out with great writers, go! Go to the party you happen to be invited to. Take a break if you need to (and I know a lot of us introvert/extrovert writer types need breaks to stay sane!) Don’t schedule out too much stuff, so you can have room for the surprises. Remember you have a responsibility to tell all of us who weren’t able to go all the best anecdotes when you get back!
Sandra Beasley has some good tips for you if you’re attending the DC AWP here.
I received the beautiful, design-intensive contributor’s copy of the literary journal TAB, edited by Dr. Anna Leahy (which you can also pick up at AWP!) I have two poems in one of the smaller booklets – and there are multiple booklets in this issue. Here’s what a sample page looks like, to give you an idea of the intense design elements of this journal:
Tips for Surviving NOT Going to AWP
I always like to have tips for people not attending AWP so they don’t feel like they’re entirely missing out. Of course you can follow #awp17 on Twitter or your friends on Facebook who are attending. But don’t sit around wistfully following social media. Here are some ways to build up your literary, community, wherever you are:
–Subscribe to a literary journal that’s new to you and read Poets & Writers or The Writer’s Chronicle all the way through.
–Go to your local bookstore with a decent poetry section and pick up a book just because you like the cover. Bonus points if it’s from a publisher you haven’t heard of yet. I’m planning a visit to our local poetry-only bookstore, Open Books, to get my new book fix.
–Go to a reading. Call a literary friend on the phone or arrange to get coffee. Actual physical interaction for writers can be a wonderful thing! (I was lucky enough to get together with a couple of writer friends over the last week or so, and it was immeasurably cheering!)
–Be a little bit more of a literary activist than usual. It’s easy to get stuck in our routines, but dedicate some extra time this week. Write, submit, research, write a review on Amazon or Goodreads or for a literary magazine, and network. Write an enthusiastic e-mail to a writer you admire but have never met. Many of us could be WAY more active in our literary worlds than we are, and make a difference.
And just remember: you can practice eating too little, drinking too much and getting sleep deprived right in the comfort of your own home. and see how it affects your writing 😉 Seriously though, keep up your writing and submitting while you’re missing the big conference. You will feel more accomplished at the end of three days!
Thanks to Diode for publishing three of my poems in their excellent and apocalypse-tinged 10th Anniversary Issue. You’ll find great poets in the issue, including lots of my friends, so be sure to check out the whole thing!
Many items in the news today made me think about how we survive. How we humans have survived genocide, wars, mass shootings, nuclear accidents, dictators, plagues, and we will also survive the Ugly Man and his reign of idiocy and bigotry. America will survive. But it made me think that this thing, America, is partly made of us, so we must all do what we can do make it the best place possible, to not wipe out hopes for immigrants, or the downtrodden, or the poor. That we must reach out to others as much as possible. That we must participate in the political system, or the political system will make short work of us. It’s a grim time, I think, one that will go down in history as dark and hostile, adding the Ugly Man to the list of Presidents who committed terrible atrocities – like how FDR turned away the Jewish refugees during the Holocaust – including Anne Frank and family, who were denied refugee status – because of the claim that Jewish people were spies for the Germans, or how he also locked up innocent Japanese citizens in camps. or how Andrew Jackson mass murdered the original occupants of America. But when bad things happen in America – when a bad, stupid man runs the country without anyone stopping him – it takes ordinary human beings, like us, standing up and demanding justice. It’s hard to stay involved. I mean, protests are great, but writing and calling your Senators is great too, maybe more important, donating money to good charitable causes – environmental and women’s causes spring to mind, but there are many more that the Ugly Man will make important – and being sure to vote when you can vote. These are difficult times. But we can still make a difference, so don’t give up.
And here are some nature photos from this last bleak week of January in the Seattle area – a sunrise and a creek with a windmill.
With that in mind, here’s a little poem for the day from Field Guide to the End of the World, “Lessons in Emergency,” which first appeared in The Atticus Review.
Thanks to Fiction Southeast who published my flash fiction piece, “Post-Apocalypse Postcard from an Appalachian Chalet.”
AWP is coming! I’m not able to attend in DC this year, but if you are, keep an eye out for Moon City Press/Moon City Review’s table (they will have copies of Field Guide to the End of the World for sale) and for Mayapple Press who will be carrying copies of The Robot Scientist’s Daughter. I’ll be with you all in spirit! It’s a weird time for a trip to DC in some ways, isn’t it? This is the first time in some years I’ve called Senators offices and spoke to people in the different departments of my own government. Which is something important to remember – this is still OUR government. We still have a voice, and we have to insist on making it heard. We can still vote people in and out in two years. Are you going to AWP this year? If so, what are you looking forward to? Are you going to do anything political while you’re there? Besides politics, DC has lovely museums (many of which are free!) and parks, great restaurants, although the mood these days may be gloomier than it was when I lived nearby in Northern VA in the old Clinton days. Try to get away from the conference for a bit. There are waterfalls and horse-friendly mountains not that far from the city, and Georgetown and Dupont Circle are (I hope) still fun to browse around and check out. Busboys & Poets is a famous DC hangout for the literary-minded.
I just read an interesting book on writers and money called Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, with essays from Jonathon Franzen, Cheryl Strayed, Roxane Gay, and a bunch of others. Not many poets in the collection, of course (what would we talk about in terms of money, I wonder?) It’s interesting to learn how people put together a living, or conversely, blow through 100K advances. (Those essays sort of made me grind my teeth.) Unsurprisingly, the most inspiring essay was by Roxane Gay, but they all had something to learn from.
I’m still not completely well, and the weather’s been colder than usual, which I’m sure has affected my outlook. Or maybe it’s just all the apocalyptic news we’ve had so far this year. January in the NW can have its own beauties – the sudden brief sunshine, the deer and rabbits (nibbling at my carefully planted tulips!), the flashes of bird wings, but mostly it’s a grey and gloomy time. I hope you guys will bring me all the good news from AWP when you get back!
A Political Poem for the Day up at Nice Cage, Field Guide on the Bram Stoker Preliminary Ballot, Alternative Viewing Suggestions, and Gratuitous Kitten Pictures
It’s a rough day for a lot of us, so I’m starting out with gratuitous pictures of cute kittens and a family of deer, both courtesy of my “cheering myself up while I’m home sick” photography yesterday. Notice the kitten cheerfully ensconced on my pillow with my box of tissues at her feet; the mother deer was giving her two babies a bath in the rain when I took this picture.
A Little Good News and a Political Poem :
I mentioned in a previous post that I rarely write political poetry. But this is the day for it if there ever was. The Future/Tense issue of Nice Cage went up today, and with it three of my poems, including “Failure, 2016,” which specifically calls out a few ways 2016 really sucked, mentions the election, and kind of ends on a hopeful note.
In positive news, the Horror Writers Association Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards went live today, and Field Guide to the End of the World was on the list for poetry books. If you’re an HWA member and want to read Field Guide to the End of the World (and possibly vote for it,) contact me at jeannine dot gailey at live dot com.
Alternative Viewing Suggestions for a Few Laughs on Inauguration Day:
For at least a little laugh today, you may want to watch the very prescient episode of 90’s animated The Critic, in which the main character is hired to be a speechwriter for a Trump-esque Southern Billionaire named Duke. (Here it is on YouTube.)
Another recommendation is the Futurama episode, “A Head in the Polls,” in which an evil robotic Nixon runs for President of Earth. Available on Netflix.
On another, more serious note: Thank you to those who are doing things to make the world better, who are reaching out to help the less fortunate, who are buying poetry books and art. Who are creating messages of hope. Thank you to those who refuse the ugly man’s messages of bigotry, sexism, and hate. We will be safe as long as we all stand together. I hope.