Fiction Sale! ‘The Desert, Blooming’

I’m excited to announce I’ve sold my short story ‘The Desert, Blooming’, to the Sunvault Anthology of Solarpunk and Eco-Fiction. When the project was first announced, one of the editors sent me an encouraging message on twitter inviting me to throw my hat into the slush pile — much to my excitement, I had already been working on a story concept for a larger universe that fit neatly into the idea of Eco-Fiction, and after a few false-starts, have produced a story I’m incredibly proud of. Many thanks to EP Beaumont, India Valentin, and the editors themselves, who worked with me to create a satisfying exploration of an alternate-future where modern afforestation techniques being pioneered in sub-Saharan Africa and Israel are an important part of the reclamation of an alternate-universe Sahara in North Africa.

This science fiction story is a character prequel to the first novel in the Azemur universe, a magical reimagining of the ancient cultures of the near East, and the collision of religions, cultures, and peoples of medieval al-Andalus. If you follow me on twitter, you might have heard me refer to the novel as the “time travel story” but while the story creates to the greater whole, there’s neither time travel, nor magic, in this short.

Excitingly, this will mark the second time I appear with my wife, India Valentin, whose poem about remaking Israel and keeping sacred plant traditions of Judaism alive is also part of the anthology. When the final Table of Contents and pre-order info for Sunvault are announced, you’ll hear about it here!

In other fiction news, “Backgame” now comes in e-book form as part of Myriad Lands II for only $3.99! (Amazon, or DriveThruFiction for other formats). If you’ve been holding out for a digital copy, I hope you enjoy this fascinating compilation of short stories. You’re getting almost 20 stories for $4! (UK friends can order through Guardbridge Books)

If you’d like to support my writing, please consider tipping me.

“The Lost City” out today!

I decided to participate in an interesting blind reading experiment and send a poem I found hidden away in an unusual spot to Remixt, a collaboration between 9 editors to create miniatures collections of 3 poems each, all of them drawing from the same blind submisions pool. Interestingly, this poem was chosen twice, in Issue 2, edited by Jennifer Stephan Kapral, and in Issue 7, edited by Holly Lyn Walrath, where they are presented with very different poems, images, and editorial remarks, leading to surprisingly different experiences.

Experiments in collaboration are some of the most interesting, so I was excited to see what would become of a blind reading of the pool. How would it work? How many poems would be repeats? How diverse would the collection be? As to the latter answer, the magazine’s head, Julia Rios, wrote an editorial about the diversity of poems selected and the submission pool at large. I am surprised to be the only self-identified disabled poet in the collection, as I know a lot of disabled poets, but I’m always interested in the statistics of submissions and pleased by the transparency represented here.

This is another one of my “secretly Middle-earth” poems — close readers of Tolkien’s text will see Minas Ithil(become the menacing Minas Morgul) as the spired city that fits inside one’s collarbone (there is a popular belief we carry grief inside specific places in our bodies — I chose the collarbone because mine dislocate on the regular, and the ribcage for the same reason, you could fit a very small tower between a subluxed rib); Minas Tirith, Osgiliath,  Armenelos, one of the unnamed great pre-Conquest cities of Umbar (ok  so maybe that’s headcanon that Umbar had one of the world’s greatest libraries), and the Silent Street in Minas Tirith.

I continue to write Tolkien poems that explore the shadow-side of his apocalyptic backdrop even as I find myself half at a loss as to explain why. I have now snuck Tolkien poems into FOUR editors’ hands, some poems more subtle than others, partially to prove that the legacy Tolkien has left us is deeper than the superficial films and hobbits at their teatime, and the legacy is worth reclaiming and making our own. Some parts of Tolkien’s universe have a mythic universality that can speak for itself even when readers don’t know it’s there. As a writer deeply attracted to the apocalyptic, Middle-earth is full of apocalypses and world-ending cataclysmic disasters that make for great poetry fodder. For readers of my blog, it’s a bit of an easter egg — I try to ensure my poems stand on their own well without knowing what, exactly, I’m talking about.

I’ve been given a late October release date for my Strange Horizons poem “My Heart Is Set On Wandering” and have a short story acceptance I will announce when the contract is signed! (It’s a personal policy not to announce until contract, because shit happens.) I’ve also been told “The Lessons of the Knife” should be for sale at some point in the near future. I’m still waiting for an ebook edition of “Myriad Lands” for you ebook readers, but I promise you’ll hear all about it when the ebook is available!

Finally, my wife India and I continue to labor away to bring you our first fully-fledged romance sometime in January. The God of Small Things has reached first edit and is the story of Ganymede, Prince of Escapes, and his tumultuous time with Dionysus, learning to live up to that name. For fans of Dionysus of the Downtown, this is the prose world of the poem. We’ve commissioned our cover artist, Dorian Kelly, whose  unique visual style will fit the weird upside down world of the gods wonderfully. Go pay him money to draw things! More updates on that story as warrants.

I hope you enjoy the poems in these weird, wonderful issues as much as I do, and can’t wait to share the next thing. Happy reading!

“The Doorway” out today!

Content note: this post & the poem in it are about suicide and death.

As a part of Pedestal Magazine’s new site launch, they have included my parallel-universes/Tolkien poem “The Doorway” (tw: suicide) in the 78th issue! It’s an honor to be a part of such a long-running poetry magazine, and I’m totally thrilled, and a little lost at what to say about it.

Why do I call it a Tolkien poem? A couple of reasons. One; the poem quotes Tolkien explicitly:

“Farewell!” he [Denethor] said. “Farewell, Peregrin son of Paladin! Your service has been short, and now it is drawing to an end. I release you from the little that remains. Go now, and die in what way seems best to you.[…]” (Return of the King: Chapter Four ‘The Siege of Gondor’, p99 in the US 1995 Book-of-the-Month Club edition)

and two, because it is fundamentally about Númenor, the island sunken into the sea from which Denethor and all the Men of the West are descended. It is about saudades, the Portuguese sadness for a place that has never existed, hiraeth, the Welsh  longing for a home you can’t return to,  the sunken home under the sea that will never be a home ever again, but where the bones of your ancestors call to you like a siren’s song, that you hear every time you see your own face in a puddle and remember you are homeless, forever, in a spiritual level deeper than nationalities or countries can ever touch.

It is also a literal, historical poem about December 2009, where, during Christmas break, I had a dream that I lined my pockets with black stones and tried to drown myself, because in a lake I could see a city under the water and it seemed like a good, quiet way to die, but a fictional character I had written dove in after me. I was tremendously depressed at the time, functioning under sleep deprivation conditions used in torture (3-5 hours of sleep in every 24 hour cycle, 6 if I fell asleep doing my homework, and then I was punished with bad grades), at a school I hated, isolated, without proper pain control, having nightmares like I was in the middle of a warzone.  I had just turned 21, and I wanted to die. So. Very. Much. Just so that everything that hurt me would stop hurting me. I was trapped by my abusive family, and I couldn’t think of another way to escape.

When I woke up, I was actually slowly smothering myself with a pillow, and if I had not dreamed someone came after me and insisted I live, I might never have woken up at all. I was angry about it for days. Something finally clicked in my brain: I was angry that I was alive? Something had to change, and fast. It’s not normal to be angry you survive. I wish this is where I could say my family rallied around me and supported me in getting mental health care and better medical care — but it wasn’t like that. I fought tooth and nail to leave that school between semesters. I had the first — and last — fight with my father, where he tried to shame me into going back, and I told him if he wouldn’t support me, he could watch me fail the way his parents had watched him when he changed schools in college, waiting for him to fail. (Fact: my father never graduated college because he lacked parental support after leaving a prestigious school for a less prestigious one. You can see why he didn’t fight with me again no matter what his opinions were on my decisions.)

Is this important to understanding the poem? Maybe not. If you’re reading this, just know: there is a parallel universe where no fictional soldier dives into the water, and I slowly asphyxiate as I see the algae-crusted towers rise up to catch me (maybe it is a doorway, after all; maybe I would have traveled through somewhere kinder than here). Or maybe I wake up in time but go back to school and join the 4 students who died there by suicide in the 09-10 year.

Instead, I found a school where I could do what I really wanted, accommodated my disability, and because I actually had some free time, I wrote that character in a collaborative story online. My now-wife emailed me 3 months later and asked me if we wanted to write together, and shortly after she moved back into my timezone and we started spending a lot of time together. I stopped dreaming about dying — and when I did dream about it, it was something I didn’t want anymore, they were nightmares, and I woke up shaken because, suddenly, I wanted to be alive. Pain and all. Untreated mental health issues and all. I wanted to live long enough to do something: (I kept chasing short-term targets) write a research bachelors thesis, finish a storyline, escape my abusive family to go live with my now-wife, make it to that doctor who would give me adequate pain control, get into a masters program, get a diagnosis, write another thesis, get married– until I wanted to have a life of meaning and beauty with the person who loves me, until it’s neither beautiful or meaningful anymore. Then, maybe, I can find that doorway. But not tonight, and not tomorrow.

It seems important to tell this story because right now the world is cheering the eminent suicide of a child of fourteen who does not have a terminal disease and no one in her community is asking: what do we do to keep her alive? What’s wrong with her care treatments that she’d rather be dead? Why don’t her parents love her enough to treat her depression? I didn’t cross through the doorway: I live in a world where we think it’s better to be dead than disabled. Where is the soldier, diving between universes, between fiction and reality, to pound my chest until I jerk awake and throw the pillow away and cause me to choose to give living one more try? Who is diving between all these horrible publicity stunts that cheer her death to tell her: no, dammit, not yet, there is more to your life than this no matter what people say?

Not everyone gets to survive long enough to write about “the time I almost killed myself” and see it in print. I have. You can, too. Find a chatline, wherever you are in the world. I don’t promise anything. I don’t promise it gets better (the fuck is “better” anyway?) I only know it’s better to be disabled than to die because you feel trapped and stuck. Really. No matter what they tell you. God might have rigged the game against me in the genetic lottery (I don’t believe that now, but I did then), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a purpose for why you are here that you haven’t even discovered yet.

So that is The Doorway, both its roots in fantasy, and its reality. Sometimes, somebody saves you. Sometimes, that person is yourself.

Available Now: Myriad Lands 2 in print!

I have had the wonderful opportunity to be part of the first anthology from Guardbridge Books for their two-part anthology Myriad Lands. My story “Backgame” is now available in print as part of Myriad Lands Vol II: Tales From Many Lands (e-book coming soon).

“Backgame” is a very special story to me because it features multiple types of Own Voices representation I think highly under-represented in general: an asexual necromancer and a trans revenant and their platonic friendship, in a magical city that draws on the rich history of the Middle East.

“Backgame” is a love letter of admiration and solidarity to siege survivors and victims: the medieval women of my BA research; the survivors and victims of Russian sieges of WWII whose writing taught me to be a poet and helped me survive dark periods of my life. It is also for the refugees, victims, and survivors of contemporary siege violence in the Middle East, who I stand in solidarity with among their courage and suffering. It is my first short story to appear in print and I am thrilled beyond belief this story has found such a perfect home.

I share the table of contents with some incredible authors:

Phenderson Djeli Clark – “Redemption for Adanna”
Adrian Tchaikovsky – “The Language of Flowers”
Neil Williamson – “Darkday Night”
Terry Jackman – “Incense Shrine”
Tom Fletcher – “The Rounds”
Mame Bougouma Diene – “Night Child”
Kelda Critch (Deborah Walker) – “Song of the Ancient Queens”
Alter S. Reiss – “Shadowslain”
Samuel Marzioli – “The Last Great Failing of the Light”
Amy Power Jansen – “Life for Death”
Kristie Olley – “The Beauty of the Dance”
Lev Mirov – “Backgame”
Bejamin Jacobsin – “Hollow”
Meghan Hutchins – “Poet-Scholars of the Necropolis”
Emily McCosh – “Winged”
Katherine Quevedo – “Venom in the Cloud Forest”
J. W. Hall – “The Truth in Fire”
Melissa Mead – “God Daughter”

This is a very special two-part collection, and I encourage you to look at the first book in the collection, set in real places, Myriad Lands Vol I: Around The World.

Working with David Stokes, the editor, was a dream; his helpful edits were easy and painless and helped the story become what it really wanted to be, and his professionalism in keeping me in the loop made the experience painless and wonderful. As I await the e-book edition to become available for those of you who prefer e-books, you’ll see more exciting opportunities to buy this story, including buying both volumes at a discounted price.

I love this story with all my heart, I’m so happy my first fiction publication is in an anthology like this one, and I cannot wait for you to read it & the other stories. It’s exciting to be part of the future of fantasy in an anthology so focused on representing decentered authors and experiences.

A small but exciting and half-forgotten thing I forgot to announce at the time: EP Beaumont interviewed me for Muse Of Research: Food As Worldbuilding a while ago and those of you who read “Backgame” may see the influence of some of the recommended cookbooks listed in the role food plays in this story…

Essay: Why “Diversity” Is Like A Mix Tape

On Twitter some time ago I wrote a tweet thread about “diverse” characters and writing people who are different from you. I wanted to expand it into a post because several people asked me to. And then life happened: Acute health issues. My wife continues to have mobility problems that leave me the primary caretaker. Orlando. A family tragedy. The draft of this post sat unfinished. But it’s time, now, to explain why writing stories about people different from you should be like making a mixtape for a crush.

Full disclosure on why I am writing about diversity, if you’ve never seen me before: I am a queer non-cis chronically ill disabled mixed-race Filipino-American (don’t let the name throw you). My adoptive grandfather was a Mexican, my grandmother was white-passing mixed race Cherokee by way of New Mexico and Oklahoma. I am formally converting to Judaism after discovering a heritage connection, and I have Muslim family, so when it comes to Bad Representation, there’s a lot of fuckups. As a Filipino-American, there’s also a lot of, well, nothing. I have Strong Feelings about representation.

First of all, I have a few things to say about “diverse” writing. One is that it’s absolutely crucial. Western English-language writing has been dominated by cis, able, heterosexual white men for a long time. Adding cis, able, heterosexual white women did not diversify it very much. If you are any combination of those, that’s no shade — but publishing is VASTLY dominated by these voices at every level, especially when it comes to who makes decisions of what gets published. These experiences and voices are overwhelmingly “centered” in publishing, pushing everyone else to the edges of the field — commonly called “marginalizing” them or making them “minorities”, or, as I prefer, “decentering” them.

A word about why this language: marginal, marginalized, the margins, comes from the concept of a book. Every life is a page in a book. You, your life, is at the center. The things that directly impact your life are the circle around you. In circles, slowly moving outwards, are people you know, things you’ve seen, the global news, issues you care about but don’t directly impact you. If you’re a cis white heterosexual person, the Pulse shooting in Orlando isn’t center and forefront of your life experience the way it is for a gay or trans Puerto Rican living in Orlando. If you’re a white middle-class Brit, the life of an immigrant of color to Australia is going to be so far on the edge of the page as to be just a tiny blip, unless you’re very close to one. The farther from your life experience a thing is, the less centered it is to your reality, until you hit the edges, the margins of the page. The page is only so big and eventually, things don’t fit on the page at all — the average reader of my work has never been to Abkhazia, for example (and is probably going to google it right now). But flip the page. Another writer — a disabled bisexual immigrant Muslimah living in a rural US town (example is drawn from my circle of friends. This is not a theoretical person.)– is now the center. The last page, suddenly, is on the edges. Her lived experience puts the other two experiences on the edges of her life knowledge.

The need to diversify publishing at every level is hugely important, and involves involving disabled, trans, LGB+, asexual and aromantic, and non-white people of every culture, class and religion at every level of publishing. The OwnVoices hashtag coined by YA speculative writer Corinne Duyvis, took preexisting conversations and gave it a convenient hashtag: the idea that people of “marginalized” or, as I prefer, “decentered” writers can, and should, write about their experiences, and that their own voices should be supported, promoted, and generally preferred over that of people centered by publishing who are, ultimately, GUESSING what it is like to live with an oppression as part of daily life.

 

To those white & otherwise centered writers, I have two pieces of advice:

Do not try to write an Issues Story about an experience you don’t have. What do I mean? If you’re a white cis woman, don’t try to write the coming out of a black trans woman. If you aren’t a gay Latino, don’t try to write about the struggles of a gay man trying to be accepted by his immigrant Brazilian family. These pieces are often called “Identity Stories” because they focus so heavily on the struggles of the main character to reconcile their identity to the mainstream culture that alienates them, and there is really only one set of people qualified to write them: the people who live these experiences of identity. If your story totally falls apart without you explaining what it’s like to be an X, and you’re not an X, (a somewhat famous non-speculative example: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, about intersex identity and gender transitioning written by a self-identified cis man) this story is not your story to tell. You are guessing, based off things you’ve read, people you’ve known, twitter threads, sociology textbooks — if you did you research, which many authors don’t. It is possible to write an “Identity Story” that isn’t terrible (parts of Middlesex genuinely moved me as an intersex person who was wrongly assigned at birth), but “isn’t terrible” is a low bar and you should calmly, quietly, clear space for identity stories that reflect actual lived experience and do your best to root on people who have stories to tell of their own.

That said, you should, by all means, write people different from you in your stories. To do this, though, provokes incredible anxiety in many writers — often, the anxiety of doing harm. Good, you should be anxious about that if you are historically centered by publishing, your literary forebears have historically hurt us a lot with your portrayals of us as recently as yesterday (JK Rowling, ahem). Awfully, sometimes, the fear is of criticism and bad book sales if representation is wrong, rather than fear of harm. To that end, I have written a checklist to help you determine if you are ready to write a story about or featuring a marginalized person (hopefully persons, plural, we tend to travel in groups, belong to families, have friends, know people, it is weird to have The One Gay Friend or the Token Latinx in your story). If you are afraid of criticism, this post is not for you. If you are afraid of harm, keep reading.

  1. Are you friends, actual friends, or have you been actual friends, with a person from your decentered character’s background or who shares their marginalization somehow?
  2. Are you writing the book or story with the desire (whether possible/advisable or not) to give it to them with pride to say, with excitement and a little anxiety, “hey, I wrote a character for you!” with the hope of a reaction of “wow! I never see people like me in stories!”?

If the answer of either of these questions is “no”, you need to go change your book or story idea or friends circle until the answer is “yes”.

 

I know this is a controversial statement. Let me explain.

  1. If you are not actual friends (internet friends count if you actually talk to each other — one-sided following of someone you’ve never had a private convo with does not) or family with someone you want to represent on the page, you are not close enough to the subject to EVER research it enough to be true to life.
  2. If your primary imaginal audience is a person who is just like you, your representation will not center the people you are writing about — it will Other them. We will become objects of the Othering Gaze, as you explain how weird and different from your presumed audience of Normal White(/Cis/Straight/Able) People. You will not mean to do this. But it will seep into every part of your story and word choice and plot concepts and it will hurt your readers who ARE that demographic, because we will see ourselves through your eyes, and your eyes will be fixated on Difference, and we will feel alienated and objectified.

I do not write exclusively OwnVoices stories. I sometimes write characters who do not share my religion, or who are from a different part of the world than my family, or have a different disability or gender or sexuality. I often do this and give them a struggle of my own simultaneously, because writing straight up about myself is not a thing I enjoy doing (if I did, I’d write autobiography). But I write them with someone in mind: a specific reader who is from that demographic. The goal, my goal, is to theoretically give it to that reader and say “I wrote this character for you”. Not based off them or a copy of them, per se. For them to read and see someone like them — with their sexuality, their gender, their skin color, their cultural heritage, their disability — as a good person who they can identify with or who somehow reflects their reality, who exists in MY imaginal world, a place they can see they exist in. When you are decentered constantly, you want to exist, somewhere, without something Fucking Awful happening to you like a plot-contrived reason your girlfriend has to die. In reality, you do not maybe want to give your lesbian romance to your aunt who is a conservative Christian, or don’t talk to that friend anymore for one reason or another — but the idea of your character causing them emotional distress should upset you enough to be determined to do the best you can.

Your feelings, when writing a story containing someone who is decentered or marginalized, should evoke the anxiety of making a mixtape for your crush. You want them to know how you REALLY feel about them — and that feeling should be “you are wonderful and I am happy you exist”. If you want to include decentered people for any other reason– just stop. If you want to do it for money or because it’s a trend or ANY reason other than love of another SPECIFIC human, stop and write an autobiography. You should do things you think will make your specific, real, actual human reader happy; even if they NEVER READ THE STORY or you are telling a story they wouldn’t want to read anyway, you should treat your act of representation as compiling that mixtape you are going to give to your crush to show how much you like them and how well you know what they like to listen to.

If there isn’t a real actual human in your life past or present you would be anxious about reading your story and worry about causing feelings of hurt by what you wrote, you are not close enough to the subject to write it. Every act of representation should be an intentional gift to SOMEONE from that group — because if it isn’t, you will inevitably, by default, end up writing about your idea of what life is like for that group for readers Just Like You, with your prejudices, biases, and preconceived ideas about what that group is like. And you will be wrong, and we will be hurt, and sad, and wonder wtf happened. 

This “WTF” isn’t a theoretical response and isn’t limited to things like Nazi romances or anti-heroes who belong to hate groups or books that misrepresent marginalized religions, or the current trend for murdering black lesbians on TV (though all those things contribute). It happens pretty much constantly, because the decentered subjects of a story are not considered the audience.

I won’t name the story or venue, but an author who does not ID in public as disabled wrote a story about losing a limb and acquiring prosthesis. A disability story! I thought. Until I read it. The dream prosthesis functioned perfectly, replicated a lost limb perfectly, caused no pain, and was acquired in a way without trauma. As a person with severe pain issues, that sounded like a fantasy I could only hope for. Instead, this was framed by this able author as a horrible, monstrous, terrible loss and an alien pathogen on their character’s body. Prosthesis as dehumanizing. Amputation as monstrosity. My stomach sunk. How had the editors let this side? Couldn’t they see how offensive it is? I have friends with prosthesis (and use assistive devices). A prosthetic limb that works exactly indistinguishable from a real one and causes no pain is a dream come true for an amputee. But this was a horror story. The horror of amputation– a disability that in no way altered the life of the main character– that centered people afraid of becoming disabled as the primary audience. This is an Issue Story gone horribly wrong — an actual amputee would have quite different feelings about such a prosthetic, which, at the time of writing, still exists only in dreams. The whole piece was about the horror of a perfectly functioning prosthesis — not about the frustrations of bad prosthesis, not about the difficulty of life with imperfect technology, not the traumatic events of the loss: simply the premise that prosthesis is horrifying and alien even if it is perfect. I felt sick for days and couldn’t stop thinking about this story for all the wrong reasons. Why hadn’t anyone else seen how offensive it is? Why didn’t the editor stop them? But none of the editors publicly identify as disabled, either, and clearly did not think how amputees would feel reading such a story about their bodily trauma that turned it into a dehumanizing and alien experience that made them less human and alien in the text.

To take another example, a famous magazine published a horror piece about Haitian Voudou that replicated basically every old stereotype about Voudou from the 1800s, including brutal, cruel Haitians and violent dangerous “gods” who were framed as monsters. How could such a prestigious magazine have accepted such a piece? The author admitted they had never been to Haiti, did not know any Voudou practitioners and had never met a Haitian person. I can only presume none of the other editors had either — or they would have been ashamed to have any part in a story a Vodouisant or Haitian might read. Jesus Christ Vampire Blood Sucker is clearly offensive, or Murder Buddha, and if you aim to offend, well, that’s one thing — but it was clear no one had intended to publish a controversial piece. If anyone had been thinking of Haitian readers at all, that story wouldn’t have existed, period.

 

When a decentered reader picks up a story that promises representation, we hope for a couple of things. We hope to exist in a way recognizable to us. We hope not to be disappointed by stereotyping. We hope to be fully realized people and not Issue Characters. Many of us hope for happy endings, or at least, not to suffer inexplicably more than the centered characters of the text (don’t believe me this happens? Watch a horror film sometime and see how many black people make it out alive with all their family. Watch any 2016 TV show with lesbians and watch them die like fruit flies in a vinegar trap, often in cruel and sadistic ways.)

If you love the idea of your story but you don’t have a specific ideal reader in mind, someone who twists your stomach into knots at the idea of reading it and hurting, maybe put that story on the shelf. Maybe bring it closer to home and see if you can change aspects of your decentered characters to reflect the people you ACTUALLY know. And always, always, ask yourself: is this a story that someone else should write, because they live through the things in it every day, and I’m just watching from the sidelines and guessing?

 

Speculative fiction is about the possible and what we can dream of. Trans astronauts and black dragon-riders and disabled knights can be written respectfully and thoughtfully by cis and non-black and abled people. But if you really want to avoid harm, if that is truly your goal, write them in there out of love for fellow humans. Take extra steps to make sure you aren’t hurting people like asking for (and paying) sensitivity readers. Your stories are a gift to the world, and representation is a gift to the communities you represent. That should make your stomach flutter a bit in a nervous way. You would go out of your way to give your best friend a present that reflects their actual tastes and wants and desires. You wouldn’t buy them a present your annoying racist auntie would like. Don’t write about us like you’re writing for Aunt Gertrude to avoid a holiday fight. Write FOR us, the readers you are choosing to represent. Or write something else for people like you, leave us out of it, and clear some space for us tell our own stories. Honestly, we’d like to spend more time writing than we do telling other writers why they’re hurting us.

 

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Poetry Sale: ‘The Doorway’

I’m excited to announce I’ve sold the poem “The Doorway” to Pedestal Magazine, to be published early in July for their summer issue! The Doorway is an interesting poem for me to have sold at this time, because I wrote it after revisiting what I consider to be my adolescent body of work from 2007-2010, a period where my PTSD was fresh and new and I wrote hundreds of poems a year as a tactic of survival (nota bene: not a recommended way to learn how to write poetry). The original version was a scant few, angry lines about a dream I had. This version — well.

“The Doorway” is both a love song about two people in parallel universes and what it takes to go between them, and is an exploration of saudadeshiraeth, and all those other words English doesn’t have, a longing for a time and a place you can never go or return to. “The country to which there is no returning”, as it was once said to me. Exile, longing, death, and survival.

It is also another piece inspired by the works about JRR Tolkien, and is quite explicitly (for those of you who are meta-nerds like me), about the sinking of Númenor and wrestles with themes of drowning and suicide. After living through the spring I just had, in an apartment where the air was poisoning my wife and having a severe impact on my health, a poem which, ultimately, is about survival and rescues and near escapes, feels fitting at this particular moment in time as I settle into my newer, safer home and make transitions of all kinds.

Exciting big news coming soon, which some of you have probably guessed following my twitter timeline — but more on that soon!

“The First Wife” now available!

Last year, the poet Elizabeth R McClellan injured her shoulder and steadily accumulated bills for a painful health problem that still isn’t resolved. At the time, to help her pay her bills, Alexandra Erin came up with the idea of a chapbook to pay her bills. Elizabeth’s poetry had previously spoken to me, and I had no money to offer her, so I did the best I could: I donated a poem.

That poem, many more, and prose pieces by some incredible authors, is now available for purchase and immediate delivery as the anthology Angels of the Meanwhile.

“The First Wife” is a retelling of the Garden, of Eve and Lilith and the dark spaces a broken relationship leaves — and the possibilities dark spaces open. It is only available in this anthology. Buy a copy and receive work it’s an honor to be listed among, including Bryan Thao Worra, Lisa M. Bradley, Catherynne Valente, Kythrynne Aisling, Sonya Taaffe, and many many others who are probably already your favorites.