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I just got CJ Hauser’s book, The From-Aways, and I already love it!

I just got CJ Hauser's book, The From-Aways, and I already love it!

It’s my badass, literary summer beach-read and it’s so good! The first line: “I have two lobsters in my bathtub and I’m not sure I can kill them.” And it just gets better. To celebrate, I’m wearing mermaid green sparkly Stila eye-shadow and my floppy sun hat from the CWW Yoga & Writing Retreat’s trip to the Clignancourt Flea Market in Paris (which makes me think of ‘Klingon Court,’ a court for Klingons, every time). Y’all gotta read this book. Click on the pic to purchase via Amazon

Here’s this summer’s retreat link– apply by June 15th! https://cww.submittable.com/submit/26081

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A memory of an Adriatic ritual for Gabriel García Márquez

“He died of old age in solitude, without a moan, without a protest, without a single moment of betrayal, tormented by memories and by the yellow butterflies, who did not give him a moment’s peace, and ostracized as a chicken thief.” —One Hundred Years of Solitude

The great Gabriel García Márquez has died, and there is little I can say about it that would be of any use, comfort, or cleverness to anyone. But, I have a lovely memory of Márquez, and now feels like a good time to write it out.

When Len and I landed in Venice, he found a very well-loved copy of this novel, brittle, yellow, and battered from age, perched on the lid of a trashcan in the airport. “It felt like a gift,” he said, “a gift from the trash.” He had been wishing for a book, and then this book he always wanted to read appeared for him when he went to throw his coffee away. We guessed the owner recognized it was in too much disrepair to be read again, but felt too guilty throwing away a work of art. The pages were slipping out, the covers were tattered and separating from the pages, but Len meticulously and carefully read each page as we traveled on train and on foot, in cafes and rented apartments, even though many of them snapped off as he turned them. He loved the story, was in raptures over it from city to city, and hoped to leave the book somewhere for another traveler to find. But by the time he finished, we were in Rabac, Croatia, and the book was unsalvageable: a collection of loose leaves constantly threatening their order. That night, during the full moon, Len and I walked out onto a rock that jutted out into the Adriatic like a sea-altar. We took wine with us, toasted to the moon, and poured a generous sip into the sea. He placed the book on the stone where it dipped like a bath and recited his favorite lines in the moon’s general direction while we waited for the tide to rise enough to take the book away. I drank wine and listened to him. I thought, love is a lush ritual. Silver-white moonlight seemed to run slick-straight across the ocean from the horizon all the way to our rock, and I wondered how many things only look the way they do because of where we stand in space. As the water rose and lapped across the stone, pages loosened and swam out in different directions, slipping down through the clear water to the sand and white coral below. The sea eventually swelled enough to cover our ankles and wash the book away. We watched it tumble and unravel under the surface. I thought, “As above, so below.” A small, orange crab scudded across my foot and caught my toe with its claw so gently, as if it only meant to steady itself before drifting off again. A page washed back onto our rock again and touched both of our feet– one with yellow butterflies.

“Writers Of Color Flock To Social Media For A New Way To Use Language” NPR

This NPR article by Kima Jones, “Writers Of Color Flock To Social Media For A New Way To Use Language” struck a chord with me.

“The poem can’t find its audience until the poet has turned on the little hallway light of empathy and mercy and meaning. Those are the building blocks of understanding and reconciliation. That is the foundation.

For too long, writers of color have been told there is no audience for our work. That unless we write towards the universal human—which, of course, is code for white person—our work would not be understood, or read or taught. We are told that regardless of the work the poem is doing, we should codify it in a way that it is accessible and understood and praised by the universal human.”

This is why I use social media to raise awareness of Romani (“Gypsy”) culture and Romani rights. One of the most important things, I think, is spotlighting Romani writers, activists, and artists– Roma are “real” in a world where they are cast as romantic or villainous fantasies, and much of Romani arts and culture touches on the human rights crisis. It’s an issue that seems to have practically no audience, but once I started writing and publishing through social media, I found an audience. I was offered a position as a staff writer at an Quail Bell Magazine, and encouraged to write poetry, fiction, and non-fiction about Romani issues. The response has encouraged me to write a novel about a half-Romani woman who seeks retribution for her people after the Holocaust, and people seem to give some fucks about it.

That’s really what the whole #RealGypsyWarrior thing is about– I want to shine light on powerful Roma and Romani allies who are doing good work, and hopefully that kind of awareness will change the face of “Gypsies” in the media. People will think before appropriating the word “gypsy” or using it to define what have become harmful stereotypes about Roma. For instance, people often use the word “gypsy”  to describe whimsical or irresponsible nomadism, but Romani nomadism was born out of persecution, and using the word in a romantic or pejorative way erases the persecution that Roma have suffered for centuries and continue to suffer today. Also, “gypsy” with a lowercase “g” is an ethnic slur, so that’s not great either.

Social media has also made it easier for me to connect with other Romani writers, artists, and activists in what is a very scattered and (understandably) secretive community, so I’m not only finding an audience, I’m finding my own community. Social media as been great for the Romani Rights movement (Opre Roma) in general because of this beautiful combination of visibility, accessibility, and connectivity.

How do other WOC use social media to create an audience for their work and passions?

Courtney Barron’s publishing debut in Quail Bell Magazine’s “Why I do what I do” series

Courtney’s first published work is very fittingly “Blood, Ink, and Soul” in Quail Bell Magazine, a lovely essay on why she writes. I love it and I’m so proud of her. Courtney and I have been friends since we were five and six respectively, and she is one of the most creative people I know. One of the reasons I’m writing a novel is because she wrote her novel a few years before I started my MFA and encouraged me so much that I just had to believe her. Keep an eye out for her in the future– she’s in the editing phase right now and it’s a very cool dark fantasy tale set in Romania. She’s also a gorgeous and unique visual artist and just started an internship as a substance abuse counselor. This girl doesn’t mess around.

Once upon a time, Courtney visited me in Ireland and we took an awesome picture in a pub bathroom

Once upon a time, Courtney visited me in Ireland and we took an awesome picture in a pub bathroom

“Why I Do What I Do: an Eldritch Phantom,” a (gorgeous) essay by Jonathan Bellot in Quail Bell Magazine

I’m in love with Jonathan Bellot’s essay, “An Eldritch Phantom, part of Quail Bell’s “Why I Do What I Do” series. You have to read it. It’s crazy that you haven’t read it yet. Crazy.

“I write to learn the language of lost galleons, to understand the blueblack sadness of girls made of wood.”

 

I’m lucky enough to be at Florida State University with Jonathan and I can assure you that he’s as wonderful a person as he is a writer. Keep an eye out for his novel-in-progress. 

Debut issue of Blacktop Passages: Owls can get it!

Now get. in. this. car. because there are some seriously wonderful writers in this gorgeous new literary journal, including Olivia Wolfgang-Smith with “Driving Directions to the Illegal Owl Prowl”, Lauren Fusilier with A selection from Stay: a novel, Steve Lapinsky with “Potholes” and many others! Read it http://issuu.com/blacktoppassages/docs/blacktop_passages_issue_one digitally and/or order the hard copy. Either way, it’s a good thing.

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Image from http://www.blacktoppassages.com/

Founded in early 2013, Blacktop Passages is a literary review dedicated to the open road. Whether by interstate or local road, by car or by foot, we seeks to publish the finest work about kickin’ the dust up and hittin’ the trail.

Blacktop Passages wants to serve as a home for stories inspired by that feeling of speeding down a long stretch of highwaypowerful poemsbrought on by the hum of tires on pavement, and lucid meditations on everything from the U.S. Interstate System to that one little truck stop off I-10. We’re a safe-haven for the stories of transition that are often overshadowed by the destination. We’re a journal of the road, for the road–a magazine for every lonely traveler who’s ever needed a break from the reality of one mile after another, for all the quiet passengers looking for an escape from the journey, or a celebration of it.

As long as it’s a great piece and it’s about the road, Blacktop Passages is happy to have your work in our pages. All we want is thoughtful writing, full of the feelingconflict, and desire that radiates from the being on the road.

 

Check out http://www.blacktoppassages.com/ for more about the journal, editors, and the submission guidelines (because you should submit).

Robert Olen Butler, winner of F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award, talks writing

Whatever kind of writer you are, learning about writing from “the white hot center” and considering “yearning” will give you food for thought. Robert Olen Butler talks with Professor Jarvis Slacks of Montgomery College about his writing process.

Here’s an over-simplified working method for writing a la Butler:

First, kill your ego.

Second, be patient because you’ll write a lot of terrible things at first. That’s cool.

Third, meditate, trance, dreamstorm yourself out of your brain.

Fourth, write every day straight into the white hot center (where yearning lives).

Repeat

Bob Butler is my adviser at Florida State University where I’m working on my MFA and my first novel, tentatively titled Zenith, and holy hell, thank goodness for that because I have no idea what I’m doing. He has helped me tremendously in workshops and as a thesis chair. His book, edited by Janet Burroway, From Where you Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction explores these approaches in detail.

“To be an artist means never to avert your eyes.” –Akira Kurosawa