You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2012.
I haven’t been blogging much lately. Work has been busy, and the bulk of my writing life has been spent drafting Cutting Teeth (I finished the first draft on Sunday; more about that later in the week). In addition to the career-related business, we have another canine addition to the family.
Over the past few weeks, we’d noticed a stray dog running around the neighborhood. He didn’t have the sense to not run toward speeding cars, either — Jon and I nearly hit him more than once. The little guy would frequently approach us on our walks, and while Max was reticent at first, they soon became buddies. After some inquiry, we found out he’d been abandoned by a family in the street who couldn’t afford to feed him anymore. Jon and I couldn’t just let him roam around in the middle of a very hot summer. So last Tuesday, we brought him home. The neighborhood kids called him Blackie, but that wasn’t working for us. So we renamed him Simon.
We weren’t intending to get a second dog this soon. The timing isn’t exactly perfect. But we knew we had to take him in. And so far, so good. There are some minor issues, of course. He’s very territorial about the second bedroom. He and Max need to be fed in separate areas of the house (for now). He’s a howler, and Max has been imitating him. He needs to get neutered (happening tomorrow), and he didn’t come to us pre-trained. We have our work cut out for us. But he and Max wrestle and play, and Max seems way happier to have a friend around when we’re gone at work all day. We’re happy to have Simon, and I’m looking forward to many years with him.
Austin has had an unusually rainy week, which means cloudy skies and cooler temperatures. When the heat is (slightly) less intense, that means more exploring.
A few weeks ago, Jon went to lunch with a friend, and they happened upon Foundation Graffiti. A vacant lot just off of Lamar (if you’re heading southbound on Lamar, turn right on 12th street, and then take the first left that is a street rather than a parking lot). After hearing about it and seeing their photos, I had to take my camera out and see the sights.
I was floored by what I saw. Built on a vacant lot (I’m still puzzling over what it used to be back in the day), the remains of the building are embedded in Castle Hill, so there’s plenty of climbing to be done. Which is not always easy if you want to protect your camera, but well worth the effort.
I was amazed at the artwork on display. Those who do not believe that street art classifies at art will change their minds after seeing this display. Yes, there is a range in terms of the quality of work on display. However, all in all, the paintings here are the creations of experienced artists who have honed their craft.
Foundation Graffiti is free and open to the public, and you can browse for a few minutes or a couple of hours. All locals should stop by and check it out; it’s also a fun place to bring tourist friends, at least as a side trip. And from what I can tell from blocks and Flickr pages, it looks like the art gradually evolves over time, so there’s always something new to see.
If the art wasn’t enough to lure you in, it’s worth a climb to the top just to enjoy the view. You’ll get some excellent scenery of the downtown area. Get up early enough, and this would be an amazing spot to watch the sun rise.
So enjoy more photos of a spot that is quintessentially Austin. I hope they inspire you to visit.
Chuck Wendig frequently hosts flash fiction challenges over at his blog. Two weeks ago, the challenge was to tell a story in three sentences. There were just over 160 excellent entries. It’s amazing what people can do with so few words**.
I checked back in the comments section yesterday morning, and lo and behold, I was one of the winners! Meaning I get a free copy of 500 Ways to Tell a Better Story. (Which you should buy. I mean, I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve bought and read many of Chuck’s other books. His fiction is great and his writing advice is indispensable.)
This is what I did with three sentences:
The king died, and then the queen died. The estate got tied up in probate. When the revolution came, the lawyers ended up in the guillotines.
You should really go check out the rest of the entries, too. Especially the other winners. I was particularly blown away by Robert Thomas’s entry.
**I still hate Twitter, though. I felt like I was slowly developing ADD whenever I used it.
Austin attorney and poet Sheree Rabe is using her writing to raise awareness about a cause that is only getting marginal attention (at best) in American media: over 100 million female babies being fatally neglected in China, India, and other countries. (Link opens to a PDF.)
While China’s one-child policy and its effects on the female population have captured some degree of American attention, the horrors that female children are subjected to after they are born are largely glossed over. News outlets tend to report on the issue of selective abortion, ignoring the ways that female children suffer after birth. Furthermore, this issue is often portrayed as something specific to China. I had no idea, up until a few months ago, how pervasive this issue was in other countries. Nor is it merely about population control; baby girls in many countries lack value because they are considered expensive (they need a dowry to be able to marry), they are considered bad luck, or because they are simply considered less valuable overall than boys.
Sheree has started a blog entitled 100 Million Girls to help raise awareness and encourage activism. The site has links to articles, organizations, and videos that provide information and ways to help out. But the main focus of the site is activist poetry. She has a page featuring poetry from The Sky is a Nest of Swallows, a book put out by the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. She also has an open thread where blog visitors can post their own poetry; I shared my own piece “For Reference,” earlier this week. And finally, Sheree is using her own writing as a form of activism: she is currently at work on a poetry collection designed to raise awareness and propose solutions. I’ve had the privilege of giving her feedback on an early draft of the book, and I can’t wait to see the finished work.
Sheree is not the only person attempting to raise awareness and fight this issue. The Gendercide Awareness Project and Gendercide Watch are two examples of organizations seeking to address the systematic, endemic lack of basic rights and respect for baby girls.
The United States has its fair share of problems, to be sure. But that doesn’t mean we can live in willful ignorance of the abuses that go on elsewhere in the world. It doesn’t mean we can’t help. I also know that people have limited time and money, and struggle to find a way to contribute to every cause, even ones that really matter to them. If you have the time, get involved with one of these groups. If you have money, donate. And if all you can do is spread awareness**, that’s great, too. As I’ve said, this issue does not get nearly enough attention in American media; you helping to raise awareness does a lot.
**Recently, I have had discussions with people on Google+ about the issue of “slacktivism.” Some people have argued that sharing posts on social networks, etc., is ultimately lazy and you can’t consider yourself an activist. My position is that we, as humans, cannot possibly devote 100% of our energies to all the possible ways we could change the world. Do what you can. If the best you can do is help spread the word, that’s great.
This past Saturday, my friend Amanda and I ventured out to the Downtown Farmers’ Market. I’d been there a number of times already, but it was Amanda’s first visit. And though I wasn’t a first-time visitor, it had been too long since I’d been there. This particular market has expanded quite a bit since I was last there, and I enjoyed seeing all that it had to offer.
While I intended to stock up on a lot of produce, I admittedly blew well over half of my budget at Dai Due, which is one of my favorite places to obtain meats. I bought a full pound of wild boar chorizo (worth every penny), and also a tub of delicious pimento cheese.
After that, I was left with just enough money for a basket of figs. Which doesn’t sound like much, but it became part of an amazing pasta salad on Sunday night: bowtie pasta, chopped figs, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and a ton of balsamic vinegar. I wish I had photos, but unfortunately, my camera battery was dead, and we didn’t want to wait until it recharged to have dinner.
The pimento cheese went on the most perfect loaf of honey whole wheat bread I have ever made (again, dead camera battery means that this moment of culinary beauty was fleeting), and the chorizo went into an excellent chili, made with fresh peppers from one of Jon’s coworkers. So while I didn’t get much in quantity, I came away with a few quality items that made for two excellent dinners and lots of leftovers.
Just a head’s up that I’m going to be participating in a couple of local poetry events this month that I want to promote and share.
First, I’ll be guest-hosting the monthly BookWoman Poetry Open Mic on Thursday, July 14th at 7:15 p.m. Regular host Cindy Huyser is going to be out of town, and I’m honored that she asked me to fill in. This month’s featured readers will be Mike and Joyce Gullickson.
Mike and Joyce Gullickson together publish “The Enigmatist” and “Blue Hole” magazines. Mike is the founder and chairman of the Georgetown Poetry Festival, held the first weekend in October at the Georgetown Public Library. His work has appeared in the San Antonio Express, Barnwood Press, X-magazine, Di-Verse-City, and others. In 2008/9 he won the National Senior Poet Laureate prize with his poem “A Promise of Music.” Joyce Gullickson has been labeled everything from a poetry pilgrim to a poetry pariah. She believes poetry can connect all people…if only they are willing to listen…are you???
After the featured poets read their work, we’ll have a round-robin open mic until roughly 9 p.m., or whenever people run out of poems, whichever comes first.
On July 28th, I’ll be reading at the Twin Oaks Library from 2:30-4:30, as part of a reading series curated by local poet Ralph Hausser. Throughout the summer, Ralph is featuring poets who have won awards and honorable mentions in the Austin Poetry Society Annual Awards, the APS monthly contests, and APS special contests. I’m thrilled to have been invited to participate, and I especially look forward to being back at Twin Oaks, which was my home branch when we first moved to Austin, before we moved to the north-central part of town.
Both of these events are free and open to the public. Come beat the heat this summer with air conditioning and great poems!
Last week on Google+, someone I follow linked to the Con Anti-Harassment Project. The mission is simple, but powerful:
The Con Anti-Harassment Project is a grass-roots campaign designed to help make conventions safer for everyone. Our aims are to encourage fandom, geek community and other non-business conventions to establish, articulate and act upon anti-harassment policies, especially sexual harassment policies, and to encourage mutual respect among con-goers, guests and staff.
I’m not a regular con-goer; I’ve only had two con experiences in my life (ArmadilloCon in 2010 and 2011). Both of my experiences were overwhelmingly positive, and I look forward to attending again. However, not all cons and con experiences are created equal (hence the problem, I suppose), and I seem to be in the lucky minority of women who do not face harassment at conventions.
I should not be in this minority, and I should not consider myself “lucky” that I’ve never been subject to unwelcome encounters at a convention. I also hate to think that if I return to ArmadilloCon this year (which I probably will), I run the risk of getting harassed because my luck has run out. I hate hearing from female friends and acquaintances that their con experience was tainted because some people thought that they had the right to interfere with personal space, or refuse to take no for an answer. So I was really happy to find out that this Project exists.
The Project has a three-point plan that it encourages con committees to adopt and implement. They also have a database of cons and what their specific policies are. And if you’re concerned that your con of choice doesn’t have a comprehensive enough policy, or doesn’t think that harassment is a problem with their con, CAHP is hosting a letter-writing campaign to help raise awareness. And if you’re going to a con and want to know what to do in case a situation arises, check out the Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project and Gentlemen’s Auxiliary (comprehensive enough to warrant a post of its own).
Thank you, CAHP, for existing, and for helping to create safer, happier con experiences for everyone.
I had the day off on July 4th, which meant I got to sleep in. Jon volunteered to work, but he didn’t need to be in until noon, so we got to start the day with Jon’s world-famous (okay, house-famous) breakfast tacos.
When Jon went off to work, I got ready for a board game party at my dance partner’s apartment. Before I headed out to his place, I whipped up a bean-and-pepper salad with cilantro-lime vinaigrette.
The salad turned out to be a little too much for people with delicate palates, but those of us who favor spicy food loved it. In the future, I will probably reduce the habaneros and serranos in order to make sure this is enjoyable for all.
After indulging in various grilled foods and unhealthy sides, we spent the afternoon playing one game after another. Then, it came time for dessert: apple pie. While in the past, I have been horrified by the prospect of cheese on my pie, the fact is that I love cheese and I love pie. So I decided to give the combination a try.
The end result: I didn’t despise it. I’m glad I tried it. I’m not sure I’d do it again, but I also am open to the possibility. I can see a shaved white cheddar working quite well on a pear pie, for example.
And that is how I celebrated my independence. I hope your own holiday was just as delicious.
June was another fantastic month for reading. From spy fiction to a fantasy/sci-fi writing guide, everything was engaging and inspiring. I recommend all of the following:
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré — It took me a little while to get into this book. I honestly don’t read much spy fiction or British literature, and so this book made me realize just how American my taste has become. But by the end, I was thoroughly hooked. I’m curious to see how the film stacks up.
Lake: And Other Poems of Love in a Foreign Land by Jeff Fearnside — These are poems of place and displacement, of being traveler, teacher, and novice. These are all themes I love exploring in my own work, and it’s interesting to see Fearnside’s approach. The title poem is by far my favorite, but “The Painters” and “The Rules” come in close behind it.
Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by David Gerrold — I’m declaring this a must-read for any writer, not just those of the sci-fi and fantasy genres. I picked it up because Cutting Teeth has fantasy elements, and because I’ll be drafting a fantasy novel later this year. But I found so much that I could apply to any genre. The chapter on worldbuilding, for example, was really helpful. Yes, worldbuilding is crucial in fantasy and sci-fi, but one of the things I have often noticed is that, when setting books in the real world, authors get complacent about developing setting. This is definitely a flaw in my own writing. This chapter was a good reminder of how important one’s world is, no matter what they’re writing.
This Error is the Sign of Love by Lewis Hyde — Hyde was one of my professors at Kenyon, and I’ve had this book on my shelves for years, but only now am getting around to reading it. The middle section, “Wasp Body,” was my particular favorite, but the blend of human interaction and the natural world is strong throughout this entire collection.
Metes and Bounds by J. Kates — I read this entire chapbook in one sitting. The imagery really brought me back to my family home back up north; for a while, I felt like I was back in the land of real autumn and snow, even in the beginnings of Texas summer. But this isn’t just a treatise on nature; it gets political at times, but never heavy-handed. “Possession” is my favorite piece in this book.
The Kenyon Review 34.3 — I think this is their best issue yet. George Steiner’s “Fragments (Somewhat Charred)” was fascinating to read immediately after I finished Rose (see below), though Steiner’s use of “he” as the universal gender neutral pronoun was maddening. The fiction was especially good. In recent years, I have found myself frustrated by literary fiction, feeling as though it is more about creating mood than having anything happen. But none of the pieces in this issue reflect my frustrations. Judy Troy’s “My Buried Life” and Hugh Sheehy’s “Meat and Mouth” were my two favorites.
Rose: Love in Violent Times by Inga Muscio — This is Muscio’s third book, and by far my favorite. I bought this because I was already a fan of her other work, but this one really inspired me. Yes, the first half is a little depressing, because it she discusses every facet of both active and passive violence in American culture. I was in a pretty bleak mood for a few hours. But Muscio’s greatest talent is inspiring people to get up and take action. This book left me ready to take on the world, and made me want to be more connected to the feminist community in Austin. I’ve gotten a little complacent in my activism over the past year, and this book is what I needed to shake me up and get me back into that world.
Poets & Writers July/August 2012 — All in all a pretty good issue, with some interesting articles on technology and publishing. The special section on literary agents didn’t do much for me, but as I’ve decided not to go the agented route with my writing, I wasn’t the target audience anyway.
Waiting for Pentecost by Nancy Craig Zarzar — I admit that a lot of the religious imagery in this chapbook probably went over my head, but I still enjoyed Zarzar’s sense of rhythm, as well as her stunning word choice.
I normally like to make my publication announcements early on the day that they appear, but Tuesdays are always hectic. And now that my day is done, there’s a cute little dog blocking access to my laptop and demanding cuddles.
However, life and adorable-dog interruptions aside, I’m thrilled to announce that my poem, “Lizard,” was published at Your Daily Poem this morning. I’ve been a subscriber at YDP for a while now, and it’s exciting to be a part of a site that brings a little bit of joy to my inbox every morning.
I’ve been trying to write persona poems lately. Getting out of my own head and into the head of someone else is definitely an interesting exercise, even if it doesn’t lead to a poem that I consider a keeper. Normally, I write from the perspective of a friend, or from a person I have noticed while out and about, or sometimes even a person who is entirely fictional. “Lizard,” as you might have already guessed, is written from the perspective of the title character.
I’ve loved lizards ever since I came to Texas. They eat insects. They’re ostensibly good luck. And they’re cute. This poem in particular was inspired by the lizards I encountered at Round Top when I was there for the poetry festival. While one of them stayed still long enough to pose for a few photographs, most of them darted out of sight pretty quickly, and I could only imagine that they were slightly annoyed by the presence of all of us poets trampling on their territory. And thus, a poem was formed.
It’s free to subscribe to YDP, and I encourage you all to sign up. It’s a nice way to get a little literary inspiration and excitement as soon as you check your email in the morning.