“If I’m not gonna believe in my writing, who will?”

11811553_10153451238812225_8978788647082734933_nI am sitting in the University of Freiburg library, which is basically my second home at this point. I’m status post one very harrowing creative non-fiction workshop with Roxane Gay and all of my amazingly talented fellow writers. I’d really meant to blog more consistently throughout the past two weeks — reporting on our syllabus, the analysis & close reading of all the amazing texts we’ve been assigned, and all the terribly insistent SnapChatting I’ve been doing both about the retreat and the daytrip to Basel yesterday (my poor friends and lovers received dozens of snaps from me yesterday, lo siento).

But instead I’m slightly drunk and writing post cards to myself. My essay topic was about “sex that is not technically non-consensual” or the ways in which sex can be both consensual and traumatic, so I wasn’t kidding when I said it was harrowing. Gray areas. People talking critically (but so compassionately) about some of the more painful parts of my life. It’s something that I’ve been mulling over for a while, something that I hinted at, maybe, months ago in my first-ever paid and published piece for The Toast, A Personal History of Misogyny. This new piece was not an easy one to write, but it was, I think, a necessary one. [And I swear this isn’t me gloating here, but I am over the moon about it: RGay corroborated that, the necessary-ness of articulating gray areas, particularly when it comes to subjects like sexual assault and trauma.]

But I don’t want to write about that essay. With any luck, and with a bunch more work, that essay will be published. I’m an ambitious sort of lady, and I’ve already pitched it somewhere. On Monday I’m headed to Amsterdam, where I’ll hopefully get a tattoo but will definitely edit my essay. In the meantime I want to share a little bit about the reading Roxane gave for us today, and some of the advice that followed.

Continue reading “If I’m not gonna believe in my writing, who will?”

ANAPHORA//FLASH

FullSizeRender (7)Anaphora poem. “An Anaphora is “the repetition of a word or expression several times within a clause or within a paragraph”. In poetry the repetition of the phrase can be just at the beginning of each line, setting the tone as a meditation or a mantra, or it can be utilized more subtlety within the poem. The poem can be free verse or prose style.”

“The term “anaphora” comes from the Greek for ‘a carrying up or back,’ and refers to a type of parallelism created when successive phrases or lines begin with the same words, often resembling a litany.”

When I was a little girl, I had a litany. I had two. The first was, “It’s ok, Seena.” (I called myself Seena.) I would say it whenever I got a shot at the doctor’s office, or whenever I fell down a scraped a knee. It’s okay. It’ll be okay. The other was “Sí se puede.” It’s something my grandfather use to tell me in letters whenever I would write to him to tell him my improbable dreams. It means yes you can.

I’ve been looking up prompts for Saturday’s QWW: Ridgewood Edition. I’ve actually been kind of nervous about it — it’s a little difficult to find good prompts on the internet. There are a lot of silly prompts, a lot of prompts geared toward classrooms. And silliness is great! I’m frequently a silly person. But I don’t want QWW at Topos to feel like a classroom.

One of the prompts I found was to write an anaphora poem. I don’t consider myself a poet. I leave that for the true poet-souls, like my chica Crystal. You can’t help but be a poet if you’re around Crystal.

But I like the word anaphora.

So there’s a prompt for you. Anaphora. Repetition of a word. Give me free verse, or prose, or whatever your heart desires. Sí se puede. Just write it.

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I like picnics. Here’s a picnic basket full of prompts. Some of them I stole from the Internet. Some of them are somewhat silly. Things that teenagers would take and run with — what does the kitchen look like in the creepiest coffee shop in the world? What kind of superpowers would your grandmother have? What would her costume look like? I’m not asking too many big questions. Instead I want you to run with it. Crystal wants you to write on your nerve, and I do too.

I went on a date tonight. I talked to her about that peculiar combination of qualities teenagers tend to have: self-involvement and self-consciousness. I thought about my diaries from when I was a kid, a girl-woman, a being on the threshold between two worlds. I remembered the sheer amount of writing I did. Nothing was off limits. I had a dream journal, a journal for teaching myself Tarot, a journal almost entirely devoted to the sincere belief that I would one day marry Orlando Bloom. It sounds silly. I was aware, at the time, of how incredibly silly it all seemed. I did it anyway.

At some point, I stopped giving myself permission to be silly.

I recently started journaling again. I was surprised at how hard things hit me as I wrote. Things I felt, things I’d dreamed: Finally taking the time to get them out onto paper, to give them weight, to let them be real. A friend of mine said I was doing it backwards — that you should feel the things first, and then get them out there. But I think we give things power when we write them down. We make them real in a way they weren’t real before. Another friend of mine told me she’d given up on writing, “except for journaling.” I told her, girl, that’s not giving up. That’s the realest writing a writer can do.

I’m not asking you to journal. I don’t think I could sit in a coffee shop full of people and journal in a way that feels real and right to me. I just started writing in a new journal, and I’ve promised myself that it’ll never leave my room. I won’t even take it into the kitchen, which is where I do most of my work during the day, and kitchens are frequently the places I am most myself, and most comfortable. But for the Ridgewood section of Queens Writes Weekend, I am asking you to be silly. Give yourself that permission. The thing I love about flash fiction is that it doesn’t give you enough time to second guess yourself. You just go.

FullSizeRender (6)So I’ve filled my picnic basket full of prompts that remind me of that point in my life when I had done the most writing. I dreamed of pirates and elves, of witches and goddesses, of superhero chicks who save the world a lot.

In my picnic basket on Saturday you’ll find Tarot cards, and a deck of unfortunately named playing cards; you’ll find a feather, and pearls, and storytelling dice. We’ll break up the two hours into sections — two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, etc., and you’ll pick a prompt and just go. Anne Lamott calls them shitty first drafts, and I like that, but we don’t even have to get that far. Just pick a prompt and go.

Sí se puede. #QUEENSWRITES

My “Leaving New York” essay (sort of)

A friend of mine expressed concern yesterday that my going part-time might be a Bad Idea, life-wise. Either way, it’s in the works starting next week, so Good Idea or Bad, it’s happening. I’ve made arrangements for when my lease is up so that I’ll be in a place where my rent (amazingly) will be only $500/month. In order to do this, I’ll be living on Long Island, which is perhaps not ideal, but honestly it’s better than sleeping on the couch in my parents’ apartment. (No offense to my parents at all! They’re super supportive of my writing — they’re actually my first readers for my novel — but for whatever reason, it is almost impossible for me to write at home.)

The friend who I’ll be staying with once my lease is up has deemed the move I’m making “downsizing,” because she is an accountant and also the most grown up person I know. This makes the move seem much more official and much less frivolous. My friend who is concerned for my future/my choices, is concerned because:

  • I’ll be far away from the city, from the people I want to be around and the things I want to do,
  • By being at work only half as much as I am now, I will not be “engaging with the world” as much,
  • No one can write for hours and hours,
  • I will have less pasta/dinero/moo-la/cash/$$$.

Oddly, though, these things (with the exception of the money bullet) are precisely why I’m excited to make this move.

Continue reading My “Leaving New York” essay (sort of)

CHECK IN: WriMo Week 1

Hello, WriMos! How has everyone’s first week been?

I’m still about 4000 words behind — it’s been a rough week — but I’m not worried! I wrote close to six thousand words today in an attempt to catch up, and I may still have another thousand or so in me. We’ll see. I’m holding fast to Hemingway’s “write drunk, edit sober” rule and I’ve had about half a bottle of red wine, which I’ll probably regret in the morning. Oh well.

Today I’ve written about:

  • two girls in Brooklyn intent on doing a horrible spell on their friend (partial draft)
  • the beginnings of a personal essay about the summer my grandmother passed away (shittiest of shitty first drafts)
  • the first draft of a fairy tale about an asexual princess (first draft; flash fiction)

I usually try to commit to a single NaNoWriMo project, but this year I’ve decided instead to go with short stories and essays and try to generate as many first drafts as possible.

What’s everyone else working on?

Rules for WriMos

Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine. Margaret Atwood

So here we are, Day One of NaNoWriMo 2014. It’s 2pm and I haven’t yet started, and I’m fighting the urge to take a nap. But if any day is a good writing day, it is this day. I’m sitting in the solarium. I like using that word, it makes me feel fancy. Really, though, it’s my living room that used to be a garage until the landlord replaced one and a half walls and also the ceiling with glass. I’m listening to the rain and to my brother pick out scales on his guitar. I’m wearing a fleece onesie, the way adults do.

Treat writing as a job. Be disciplined. Sarah Waters

In two weeks I’ll be going part time at work. My lease is up in March, and I’ve managed to save up enough over the past few years to do this relatively comfortably for the next three months. Lucky, lucky me. Then I’ll likely be moving to cheaper accommodations — a room of my own in friend’s house on Long Island — so that I can continue this writing thing. Or, so that I can finally begin to the devote the time to writing that I’ve always wanted to, that I’ve always been meaning to, but that practicality, back up plans, Being A Grown Up, and generally just being a little bit of a chicken, got in the way of. I’m nervous. Part of me isn’t sure if this is the right thing. It’s the part of me that is bitterly full of self-doubt, who thinks this is a vain and foolish move, who can’t believe that I’d have the audacity to try to take myself seriously.

Well, she’s gonna have to shut the hell up for once.

All that matters is what you leave on the page. Zadie Smith

Welcome to NaNoWriMo 2014, everyone! Good luck!