Parallel Paradise

Just a few days ago I had a poem titled “Parallel Paradise” published in an online literary magazine called FishFood Magazine.  It is the first prose poem I’ve had published.

The theme of the poem is spiritual.  There’s an element of religion in the piece.  When I wrote it, I thought about dying and death and all the mystery that surrounds our existence.  Life is suffering.  Death is final.  The idea of having an infinite soul and our physical being functioning as our vessel inspired me.  I also embraced the notions that everything is connected and the universe is a perfect design we spend our lives trying to comprehend.

Fantasy

A soulless whisper beckons.
I burrow into darkness, burying
myself deep within you.

I’m no longer searching for
what was mine, what belongs
to me.  I seek shelter to suffocate
my nonexistence.  I am just an echo
of you desperate to quiet
the voices, extinguish the pain.

Obsidian eyes brim with
emotion.  They are volcanic
wells of despair.  Skin pulled
taut like white canvas, inked,
bleeding, scarred, and ruined.

I am a memory, an imprint
burned across the night of
your subconscious.  I close my
eyes as a specter of you
vibrates through my being.

I ache for you in dreams,
in wishes, in moments that
never were.  Tunnel through
the strata into my core, I fade
into the void as it siphons
the marrow out of me.  We are
phantasms carved out of time.

My heart reels inside its cage
as my gut wrenches below it.
Ghosts of me, of what could have
been, and what will be, linger
across the expanse of my mind.

I reach out for you, fingertips
touching glass.  I smother myself
within interstellar atoms of you
as we effervesce into oblivion.

I’m lost to desire, disintegrating
in a fantasy that will never be.

A Chronology of My Youth

“There was a star danced, and under that I was born.”

-William Shakespeare

 

As a baby, I climbed
out the window across the
rooftop to talk with the birds
as they chirped from the trees
letting butterflies dance about
with the changing autumn leaves.

When I was three years old,
I battled dragons in the forest
behind my house to keep them
from burning through the
vegetation that surrounded
and nourished my family.

At eight years of age, I swam
across the Caspian Sea and
let my breath bubble up in its
water alongside schools of
sturgeon after I chased ghosts
of extinct Caspian tigers.

At thirteen, I unleashed the
magic from my fingers
and lifted a collapsed skyscraper
to save the city folk trapped
beneath the concrete walls.

When I reached age fifteen,
I unearthed treasures buried
in the Reed Flute Cave past
the majestic limestone, hording the
wealth underneath my mattress.

Upon turning eighteen, I flew
into space and shifted the Earth’s
rotation around to redirect
it away from the sun saving all
life on this planet from peril.

At twenty-one, I leapt through
to another dimension, avoiding a
vortex, and found myself
suspended in another universe
preventing its collision with ours.

By the time I was twenty-four,
I ascended to another realm to rescue
the lost souls trapped in a world
of anarchy.  I released them into
the heavens, catapulting myself
to the highest plane in the cosmos.

And when I reached the ripeness
of thirty years, I settled down
with an Irishman in the Antarctic.
We lived in an igloo raising
penguins while ice fishing every day.

Writing Without Fear of Criticism and Judgment

I had a short story published this past fall season I failed to mention in my blog—but I did add a link to it on my website.  At first, I wasn’t aware the literary magazine had published it yet.  They informed me several months later that they posted it.  I was thrilled to have my first short story published within a literary magazine.  The magazine operates out of U.S. collegiate chapters from schools such as Yale University and University of North Carolina.  I would have blogged about it, but I worried a little about what others would think if they read my story.

People often say that they’ve reached a point in their lives where they just don’t care about what others think of them.  That may be true for some but not all.  Most people do care about what sort of impression they leave on others.  I’ve read about some famous writers who were a little embarrassed at first after having their work published.

When you share your writing with others, you’re exposing a part of your soul to them.  It leaves you vulnerable and open to criticism.

I prefer to write dark or disturbing material.  When I read, I typically gravitate towards stories about controversy, tragedy, and loss.  I have read and written some stories that involve loathsome characters carrying out vile misdeeds.  I write what I would want to read and I know there’s an audience for these kinds of stories.  There are people out there who seek and devour these wildly imaginative and creative works, which are thrilling reads from start to finish.  Some people pass judgment finding these writings depraved, especially if these fall within the genre of horror.

The worry about what readers might think comes from the concern that people will believe the work is a reflection of the author’s character.  This is untrue.  It is actually a peek into the writer’s imagination.  Anyone who could ever believe that an author could condone any such behavior—just because she wrote about it—is utterly obtuse.  One’s artwork expresses the depth of one’s inventiveness and originality.  It’s an expression of how one might view the world, or it’s a story that someone might have had to write as an act of catharsis because it’s too compelling not to share.

At the start of his career, Stephen King was a little embarrassed about his writing because of its subject, but he got over it quickly because it was what he wanted to write and nothing else mattered.  I also read about how Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” caused much controversy when it was widely read in The New Yorker.

When a writer taps into her queendom of imagination and bares her soul to the world by sharing her creation with others, she is doing the craft justice.  Her writing is honest.  To hold back or dilute her work out of fear of criticism or judgment would reduce the effectiveness and value of the piece, not to mention lead to bland, weak, and often forgettable material.

What a complete waste of the writer and reader’s time.

No matter what you do, as long as someone can consume your artwork—figuratively speaking, of course—there will always be a person out there who will have a problem with what you create.

Writing should be about artistic expression, putting a piece of yourself down on paper because it’s a world that exists inside your creative vision.  You’ve scoped out the artistic landscape within your mind, you’ve carved out a story to tell that’s just been rolling around repeatedly in your head shaping and reshaping itself until it’s just right, and you’ve unearthed a treasure you should share with the world because it’s the best of its kind to your credit.

Writer’s Block

This is what I dread most about writing.  It’s not all the work that goes into writing.  I love writing.  I love when it flows out of me.  I love when I have so much to write for a project.  I love rewriting multiple drafts, too.  It’s not the rejections I receive either.  The awful writer’s block fills a person with so much despair she nearly wants to give it up altogether.

I’m presently stuck in a writing rut where I am unable to make progress on any of my current writing projects.  I began working on completing the first draft of a thriller I started two years ago.  I have about 47,000 words written already, but the process of adding to this manuscript has been painfully difficult.

I have four poetry submissions I’m waiting to hear about and two short story submissions.  I have seven queries to literary agents about my first novel I’m also waiting to hear back about.  I don’t have much going on now.

I try to draw on reading current novels written in a similar genre to get my creative juices flowing.  I recently finished reading a book called Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert Ressler.  It’s true crime I found quite riveting.  Some parts were hard to get through and digest because of how grotesque they were.  I found it helpful to read something that was as exciting as the novel I’m writing.

Now I’m in the middle of reading In the Woods by Tana French.  So far, I haven’t found the story all too interesting and I can’t connect with or feeling anything for the characters.  I will still finish it though.

I’m working on finishing the final draft of three poems I want to submit to a literary magazine.  I have a short story I’ve meant to fix and submit to a lit mag.  I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  I should write more for this blog.  I haven’t published many posts since I started it.

My progress overall has been slow–almost nonexistent.  I write in my journal as often as possible to keep myself working on something all the time.

It is already November 5.  NaNoWriMo has begun.  I decided not to participate this year.  I did write for it in November of 2014.  I wrote about 52,000 words by the end of the month.  Then I reached 70,000 words for that novel, but that’s also unfinished.

I suppose I should just force myself to sit down for about four hours a day to write.  Like some famous writers have said, if you wait for inspiration to write, you’ll never write anything.  You just have to do it.  You can always rewrite it later.  Even if you don’t use what you write, it’s good practice to write constantly.  Aim for two or three thousand words to write each day.  That’s up to twelve pages in a novel.  Or at least try to write one thousand words if you’re really struggling.  It’s good writing experience to write every day.  Don’t worry about its quality when it’s only the first draft.

I need to write something–anything.  I find it easier to improve my writing skills if I’m always working on something every single day, which I haven’t been doing lately.  Another idea could come out of what I’m working on.  That’s what happened when I wrote my first novel.

Now, I must get to it.  Write.

Writing Woes

Since I began querying agents about my first novel, I’ve caught some mistakes in the query letter as well as the sample chapters.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I had made them until after I submitted to the first agent.  Careful not to repeat these errors, I took a considerable amount of time to fix my letter and my manuscript, even after having spent so much time on them already.

I put forth great effort in every detail of my writing even before I queried the first literary agent.  I reread, rewrote, edited, over and over again, printed out a piece to work with a hard copy, read it aloud, revised, reread, rewrote, proofread, lathered, rinsed, and repeated…you get the idea.

The degree of frustration and exhaustion I experience with writing sometimes discourages me.  I’ve already received eighty rejections for my work submitted over the past three years.  The few times I’ve had my work published in small literary magazines have been rewarding, but the degree of hard work to any kind of recognition I receive is disproportionate.  Such is the life of writing and the life of any artist for that matter.  I’m still waiting for the day someone pays me for something I wrote.  I don’t have to be the next J.K. Rowling, but I would like to earn a living pursuing my passion.  Most professional writers receive a modest income for their work.

My progress doesn’t always move at a steady pace forward.  I find that even though I read and write every day, I still struggle to improve.  I find some of my previous work cringeworthy to read.

In the past few years, I’ve read a hundred books.  Fifteen of them have been about the craft.  I read literary fiction, commercial fiction, and nonfiction, including creative nonfiction.  Writing (and reading) requires a lot of self-discipline.  Because of some personal struggles I deal with on a daily basis, my concentration and memory necessary to advance in this craft are, to an extent, also compromised.  Never mind others wondering what you’re doing just sitting at the computer.  It’s not easy peasy cheddar cheesy (I made that one up and I’m hoping it catches on) to be a good writer.

I received a couple of personalized rejections after querying agents again.  One said that my work showed potential but it wasn’t a good fit for the types of authors she represented.  Another said that this was a strong project but it wasn’t quite right for the editorial contacts she had.  These rejections were promising.  I must remind myself that this is common for all writers and I just need to keep at it.