Tag Archives: Writing

This Lady:

26 Jun

Kelly Oxford. My my my.

Image

Did I mention she’s bangin’?

She’s got a lot to say and has been saying it for years and encourages others to say say say. I appreciate that. I appreciate her twitter feed, blog, etc. But mostly, today, I’ve discovered that I appreciate her drive. Read this.

Here’s a quote to get you started:

“Write.
Write and write and fucking write and when you think you’re done and you hate everything you are writing you are almost halfway there. You’d better enjoy writing a LOT because that’s all you are going to be doing for the rest of your days if you want to make a living at it.
24/7… it’s writing. 
It’s that Sunday night before a Monday when your book report is due and you haven’t begun your opening paragraph—-Every. Single. Day.”

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Thank You. Ok?

29 Nov

We have failed you, dear readers. I promised we would return to our regular postings, but we haven’t, and that makes me a gross liar. We have been busy bees this fall. School, new jobs, and puppies have filled our time. Sometimes, all I want to do is cuddle and play with this babybabe, Geoff, all day long:

Show me one person who doesn't think this is the cutest pup ever, and I'll show you a liar.

Continue reading

take #2

29 Mar

Guys,

interweb world,

It’s Elysia and I have a few things to say. (no collective sigh).

It was brought to my attention this afternoon that my earlier post could be misconstrued as offensive. So, I took it down. I am trying again. Stay with me readers. I will do my best to explain.

So, the main point of my post earlier was to teach people to think before they speak–I am trying to take a dose of my own medicine, here–and it’s time we get back to that original thought. The premise of my first post was that I had a conversation with someone I know about my choice to pursue Creative writing as my major and surprise surprise, I found myself offended. Now, keep in mind, it is important not to fly off the handle when offended. Don’t go out and publish a blog post for the whole world to sit and read and then think, hmmm I wonder who set that bitch off. Because, that is not the point. So many times, we ask questions of each other that are offensive and we don’t even realize it. My friend Natalie brought up the point, asking a writer how they plan to make money is almost the same as asking a med student how they plan to have a family and a life. Well, in both scenarios, it’s probably not appropriate to ask either questions. Really, maybe the writer doesn’t care about money and maybe the soon-to-be doctor doesn’t want a family.

That being said.

I am going to focus on the writer now.

If you are interested in finding out why a writer wants to write when, of course, there are so many more lucrative industries out there, then first things first:

1. watch your tone.

I know that I, as a writer, don’t want to be made to feel that my goals and dreams are not worth it. I don’t want to be made to feel insignificant because I don’t want to pursue business or math or science. And all it takes is some one with a poor tone asking a simple question to make me feel that way.

2. pay attention.

When people genuinely ask me a question, I will answer genuinely. But, I don’t want to repeat myself 70 different ways. If I say that I want to write flash fiction…and you don’t know what that means…ask me. I don’t want to have to continually explain that, no I will not be getting my novel published anytime soon.

3. keep in mind that money is a hard subject.

Don’t ask a writer how they plan to make a living. Please. That’s probably the most difficult thing to hear. I for one, will most likely get a 9-5 job until I finish my MFA. But, others won’t. Others will go straight to grad school. Others will be teachers. Others keep writing as a hobby. And others, they make writing their life. They blog, they copy edit, they find the ways to do what they love and have what they need. That is commendable.

Now. I’ve given a few things to avoid and I’ve tried to do it in a way that is straight-laced and up front. I want to be a writer. I don’t want to be a nurse, or a secretary, or a fast food worker. My job that is not writing, doesn’t define me. The questioners out there. The ones who don’t understand us…our passion for words, our apathy toward mainstream culture, our drive to do something that may appear meaningless…to those people, I advise not to ask anything. You don’t want our job and we will never want yours. Understand that. Accept it.

Now,

thanks folks for reading this. Feel free to ask whatever you want below. I will do my best to answer.

Catch Me, RITA DOVE, I’m Swooning.

8 Feb
Has anyone perused the “Featured Presenters” list for AWP this past weekend?

LIKE WHOA. I’m seein’ the likes of Junòt Diaz, Natasha Trethaway, Rick Moody, Rita Dove, Sapphire, Amy Hempel, Bob Hicock, Kay Ryan, Joyce Carol Oates…to name just a few.

How is it that I just recently learned about this mystical amalgamation of all these classy people? I mean gosh, as a fledgling writer, one really needs someone to take them aside and whisper such glory into their ear. Naturally, this will prevent the type of obnoxious swooning I am now doing. At work. To the amusement of my ever present and alert co-workers.

Really really really. I’ve even heard rumors that an AWP attendee could encounter a writer they admire, say Rita Dove, at some little dive bar. Maybe even throw back a few beers with said demi-goddess.

YES PLEASE.

So, for those of you readers who maybe don’t know the wonders of AWP, I’m going to do what I do best: make a list.

AWP IS:

-A place where knowledge is spread through words, both spoken and written.

-A place where the scholarly congregate and maybe even get rowdy.

-The acronym for Associated Writing Programs.

-A yearly conference around either February or March.

-Taking place close to home next year (Chicago).

-The springboard to the “largest system of literary patronage the world has ever seen.”

-Also a book fair.

-Attractive to more than 8,000 attendees and over 500 publishers.

-The place where networking is no longer such a dirty word.

-Basically AWESOME.

(here: is a link to learn more).

AWP IS NOT:

-Free.

-The acronym for American Wimp Patrol, or Asinine Walleyed People (THANK GOD).

-A rull big party…at least not all the time.

-A place to waste time.

-A place to brown nose.

-Useless.

THIS IS A PICTURE OF A WIMP. Also, coincidently the average width of most male writers.

So. I am pretty sure the Chickz are gonna head on up to the windy city next year for AWP. We might even score a table and of course, we’ll ramble about it for all y’all that couldn’t make the trip.

God, Who’d Wanna Be Such An Asshole?

31 Jan

Last week, Pete Davis said something in his songwriting class I’m taking. He said: what someone accomplishes artistically is chump change if they’re not a kind human being. Not “extroverted” or “chipper” but you know, kind.

I have been thinking about this idea a lot. My sappy little heart wants it to be true.

Here, let me ramble about it.

 

I'll try not to sound like her. Nobody wants that. She doesn't even go here.

 

Part of what Pete talked about is the immunity society gives to artists when it comes to kindness. There’s an expectation that creative types will have an “artistic temperament,” – be assholes – and meanness from artists is not just excused but given a strange reverence. Asshole-ishness becomes the mark of genuine talent or intelligence, and everybody who isn’t an artist (and therefore “special”) is expected to deal with the negative consequences of such asshole-ishness, because, well, that’s the “artistic temperament.” It’s a small price to pay for experiencing the benefits of said artist’s creativity, which is what’s really important.

I’ve been mulling this idea over and what it means specifically for writers (surprise surprise). The more I’ve thought about it, the more it seems ridiculous to me that as I grow as a writer, I could become anything but kinder. Let me explain.

I think it’s unavoidable, if I want to continue strengthening my writing, that I would keep trying to improve my ability to create effective/affecting characters. Probably an obvious point, but whatever, it’s made. Friends and professors who have critiqued my writing have tackled helping me improve this ability in different ways, but from what I recall, those methods have boiled down to three things:

 

1) Awareness: being conscious of how a character will come across on the page based on traits I ascribe to them, their physical environment, what other characters (if any) surround them – really, just having a comfortable grasp on their individual identity.

2) Understanding: from this awareness of the character’s individual identity, having them act in ways that are consistent with their identity (or purposefully, well-crafted-ly inconsistent), and the ability to see instances in which I have had characters perform actions that do not fit their identities, as well as why those actions do not fit.

3) Empathy: emotional solidarity with characters, portraying them in a way that acknowledges the complexity of their identity, actions, and resulting emotions, and allows them to be imperfect without unwarranted condemnation.

 

There’ll always be room for me to work on these things. There’ll always be room for me to improve how I go about defining these things. But as I’ve become conscious that most (if not all) advice I’ve been given about characters can fall into one of these three categories, I’ve noticed my own improvement. Being able to organize those things has helped me pinpoint specific issues more efficiently and accurately. So, you know, wahoo.

Here’s the thing: It seems to me I’d be morally negligent to apply increased awareness, understanding, and empathy to characters who experience no actual suffering if I did not also try to improve my relationships with other human beings, who do experience suffering, with those same improved abilities – or, even, if I did not try to be aware, understanding, and empathetic with myself. It just seems like a matter of taking responsibility for the abilities you have and using them in the best interest of yourself and/or others – like if I were a trained lifeguard and while camping by a lake saw someone drowning, there would be some increased moral impetus for me to try to save the drowning person. Obviously what I’m talking about here isn’t generally a life-and-death application of abilities, but the idea of taking responsibility for what I can do is what I’m getting at.

So, I feel for myself that rather than less obligation to be kind to others because I’m a writer (god, just the idea makes me throw up in my mouth a little), I feel I have more, as a result of increased awareness, understanding, and empathy stemming from what I’ve learned/been taught about improving my writing.

But the question whether what an artist creates doesn’t matter if they’re not a kind person still remains. Where does that leave creative people who had pretty understandable reasons why they weren’t terribly kind – like, you know, Bukowski?


I dunno, he's being pretty nice here.

 

Or, just any number of creative people a lot of people think are assholes that a lot of people also think have done cool things?

 

Ashley Ford is Kanye West in the ways that don't include being an asshole.

 

And how in the world do you go about determining who’s “a kind person,” anyway?

 

This is how my mind is starting to feel. Also, I hear "Circle of Life" any time I look at this.

 

I guess where you land in this debate depends on whether you think creative works have value wholly independent of who created them. Given that I, and I’m guessing most people, experience music, books, film, whatever, largely (if not completely) ignorant of the moral quality of the person/people that created them and have enjoyable, valuable experiences stemming from those works that make us more aware, understanding, and empathetic human beings, I think it’s true that creative works have value wholly independent of their creators.

But I’ve been speaking from individual experience. I’m guessing either of my points – that being a writer can oblige someone to be kinder, and creative works have value wholly independent of their creators – could be argued false. Maybe you know good reasons why writers or all artistic people should get some slack when it comes to being asshole-ish. Maybe you can prove that creative works don’t have value independent of their creators. Maybe with this post I am over-thinking a simple thing/biting off way more than I can chew. (Ah no, I know I am.) But the intersection of creativity and morality (okay, anything and morality) is endlessly fascinating to me, so it’d be nice to know your thoughts.

An Inventory:

25 Jan

This is what my desk is like:

And, I wanted to share it because sometimes I wonder if all the weird objects that make a home on that shiny faux wood surface ever affect my writing.

I have been thinking this for a while.

Here is an inventory of things on my desk.

Various and adorable salt and pepper shakers, including but not limited to: bananas, cows, mice with maracas, tiny wooden rolling pins, painted wooden shakers from mexico.

DVDs, mostly black and white movies or Bennie and Joon.

Books, mostly gifts, all well read. I don’t allow books I haven’t read to sit on my desk. I prefer old friends I know I love to new friends I’m unsure about (cheesy? Whatever.)

A melted record shaped to hold all my stationary.

My glasses.

An air freshener I hid on my roommate’s bed for a few weeks (she recently found it and questioned me. I kept my cool).

Sad Indian Woman. (My writing goddess/muse). I never know what she is thinking.

Coffee beans and a grinder (necessary to life).

A tape player and various mixes of jazz or swing. (It is my free write music. Makes my heart pump gory.)

Also: pinned/taped to the wall are an array of presents. This list includes but is not limited to: a drawing of myself–that doesn’t look like me–by an ex, a pin-up girl calendar, a photo of a bear with George Bilgere quote on it, pictures of my family and best friend (ie family), black and white photos of people I don’t know that I found at an antique store (I don’t like thinking that everyone who ever loved those people is probably dead.), lastly, a sign that reads, “You are right where you need to be.” (sometimes I forget and panic).

Really, I have been wanting to do this post for a long time. My desk is all my tangible inspiration. I sit and stare at those objects when I come up with some of my best ideas, and some of my worst. I wonder what other people’s desks look like. For example, I have a friend who is a minimalist. His desk is literally a coffee mug of pens and his computer and a plant. Where he is trim and tidy, I am whirlwind of ornaments and useless nostalgic junk. I am clean, but cluttered. Others are dirty but bare. What do your desks look like, Chickz? Readers?

Do you write at your desks, or just put off writing? Are your desks useful or ornamental?

Describe with words if y’all want OR send me pictures…that’d be tight. And, I’ll share them with my next post!

(My email is elsmith2@bsu.edu)

Can I twirl my mustache?

21 Dec

There comes a time where we all have had to own up. We’ve all had to say, “fuck yeah, I’m a writer.” or “yeah, I kinda write things, you know, from time to time.” But, in a world where identity is ever-evolving and people shout HIPSTER to references of Cher or Snow Caps (candy duh.), should we be clutching this label? Should we be clutching any label?

I suppose I’m not being clear.

Sometimes, I meet these people that try try try to abandon society. They jump from a ship they think is going down fast. They jump knowingly into a pool of words so convoluted it looks like milk after all the fruity pebbles are gone. And then, they are Jack Dawson: holding onto a door that could be shared, freezing, drowning. And people think they’ve turned up their noses. Not been smothered in their own creative indecision.

So, I’m a vegetarian, I’m a Hoosier, I’m a student, I’m a performer, I’m a lover, I’m a woman, I’m a writer.

But each of these words, when broken down, carry a plethora of weighty connotations. Duh. Right? But are we always so aware? I say I’m a female writer, I take the risk of becoming several different people. In a few eyes, I’m trapped in a loveless marriage and write romance novels in the laundry room to the sound of my crying triplets who all conveniently have the flu. Or, I’m suffering from a complex where men don’t love me so I write all my fantasies into award winning erotic fiction. Or, I’m superior to men and a snob and I write books about suffrage and real struggles and the pain of having a VAGINA. I could go on and on. But, the point is, this scenario applies to every label out there. Especially “writer.”

I know writers who are published, generally well-known, successful and yet still don’t call themselves a “writer.” Could this be for the reasons I’ve outlined? Maybe. Could it stem from other things. Certainly. But I don’t think that gives my point any less validity. (Ha. Of course I don’t… or I just wanted to waste a fuck-ton of time.)

Basically. The questions I want answers to, are these: when we take on the title of female writer,or writer, or any label, are we measuring all the fall out accurately? Could we simply not say anything…and get away with it? I’m not suggesting we continue this blog anonymously. LAWDY, I love this blog. I love writing. I want to shout it in elevators. I want to throw candy at small children and scream, “I WRITE GODDAMNIT!” from the top of wailing fire engines.

And, I’m not afraid. I’m just wondering…

I don’t want to be one of “those.” DUM DUM DUM: A snob.

BITCHES LOVE STORIES

16 Dec

Lora’s right.
Ball State is full of women. I mean, it’s stuffed to the frills.

Figure 1.0
In my English 250, there are 22 students, dramatically split: 17 women. 5 men.

That’s pretty typical here in the English Department, and I’m not complaining. Rah Rah, shish-cum-bah! We’re the future! Gettin’ educated! Wymin power yeah!

Ohold up.
Look closer. Go to a poetry reading, where the shit ain’t too hot for the ladies.
Men. Reading. Aloud. All men.
I mean seriously, is this a joke? Sometimes there’s a woman, and she looks weird, even to me.

Maybe I’m about to make a leap and maybe I lack empirical data (I don’t), but I’m going to guess that this means FEMALE and RECOGNITION aren’t going to the same ugly sweater party this year. AMIRIGHT?

You know that. I mean, yeah yeah, we all kind of know that. It happens. It’s happening. I want to say here: It isn’t Ball State’s fault. (They weren’t making fun of Andy Griffith. This cannot be stressed enough.)
I’ve never felt like my gender held me back in the classroom; my professors treat me equally, and with respect. (thank you)

But, I’ve read once. At a reading. And yeah, I was the only girl. and maybe surprisingly, I was treated well (read: normally), and with respect. No one said NO GURLZ ALLOWED or pulled my pigtails. I read well; I had fun.

SO WHAT THE FUCK AM I BITCHING ABOUT?

I am a senior. The first time I was invited to read (ALOUD) was the second semester of my freshman year. Clearly, I didn’t. And clearly, I refused other invitations.
Why?
I don’t know.

But I think it’s important. I think this is where sexism is raging. You guys, it’s in me.
No one ever said I’d suck at reading because I was a giiiiiiiirl.
Seriously, no one ever said it. But I thought it. Why? I don’t even have bad self-esteem. So seriously, why? What was my problem?

I guess I thought I couldn’t. Or shouldn’t. It was just this thing that I felt. From somewhere. Like, middle school dances kind of somewhere. Like, good grief. I mean, boo-hoo.
And I want to say it like that. Like it’s no big deal, and suck it up, kid.
But, I can’t.
There’s something that happens to women growing up, that sounds like shhhh, and feels like FUCK YOU, and leaves us thinking we shouldn’t. Not that we can’t, not that we aren’t allowed, but that it just really isn’t us. It’s not what we do.

Go find your own tree.

So we end up writing books about family and Jesus and hand-holding and giving head behind a dumpster, but everyone hears it like Lifetime, singing Disney songs. And why not? Sometimes that’s what I hear from my own voice. Because I hear woman and I hear inferior, so I’m just as guilty as anyone. Maybe more. You guys, I think more.

BUT ALSO I AM A WOMAN OF LUST

Meaning, I wanna write goddamnit. And publish things. And read those things, aloud.
I want to win all the prizes SLASH glory SLASH recognition.
I want small, bookish freak children to read my name in anthologies from now until Norton stops being a thing and human life slips under a rock and just. Stops. Being.

I don’t know why I want that, and I don’t much care. I’m petite, and gay, and crazy, and already so much other that WOMAN is just one more thing on top of the pile of things. Most days I hardly feel it.

Or maybe that’s bullshit like me kidding myself, and maybe I feel it every day. Maybe a lot of women do. We feel woman and feel weighed down, and I’m sorry. It blows. I don’t know what to say other than IT BLOWS.
Maybe this: Write more. Speak up. Tell your stories. Aloud. I mean, bitches love stories.
And if a handful of us do that, then other women will be like, yeahok. Maybe.
and then later, maybe they’ll be like, fuck yeah.
And I know I sound like hope and that hope’s woman-hope, and everyone’s thinking ‘gag me’. And I’m even thinking gag-me. Because. Because. I mean, can you see it?

So what I’m trying to say is: MYGOD, I’m sick of feeling small.

Lora Takes the Handle, and Then Promptly Flies Off It

15 Dec

pic from Privilege Denying Dude

When I was just a wee Lora in junior high school, I joined the co-ed golf team.  For the 13 years of my life leading up to that, my father had been grooming me to become a professional golfer.  It wasn’t something he forced me to do.  I truly loved smacking those freckled white balls around, watching them fall to earth with a gentle bounce on springy fairway grass, hearing a happy “clink” when they fell into the metal cup on the green.  Golf was my identity, my life, outside of church and school (I was a decidedly boring preteen).

My dad would drive me to golf practice at Knob Hill, the local yokel course.  The first hole literally bordered a cow pasture.  There were maybe 12 to 14 boys and four girls on the team.  The coach was a squat old man with hair the color of a gently used golf ball.  He was also a RAGING MISOGYNIST.

I went to every practice, dragging my chubby, insecure, anxious butt to the course and pitting myself against a lot of rich, popular boys.  I WAS DEDICATED, DAMMIT.  And yet, the coach ignored us girls at practice.  He never told us when the games were.  I remember just one match I actually attended.  I wore my hideous emerald green team polo all day long.  My dad drove me 45 minutes from Floyds Knobs to Seymour, Indiana.  I ate a homemade sandwich and did my geography homework in the car on the way.  When we got there, just one other girl had shown up.  We hung around the coach, anxious to meet the young ladies from the opposing team.  They never came.

“Oh, yeah.  They don’t actually have any girls on their team.  But you two can play each other,” coach said.  So my dad drove us around in a cart and we played the most depressing round of golf ever.

At the end of the year, we got our yearbooks.  I had never been called on to take a picture with the team, so imagine my surprise when I flipped to the sports section and saw a picture of that very same golf team.  Or, rather, a picture of the male members of the golf team, with that fat, white-haired sadist grinning behind them.

I quit golf just two years later, after a humbling stint on the Mountain Dew Amateur Tour (which sounds way more awesome and prestigious than it actually was).  But, in many ways, my life as a writer has mirrored that one year on the golf team.  Sometimes it feels like a party that I’m not invited to.  A Penis Party.  Only penises allowed. Continue reading

Yo, This is Elysia On the Mike

14 Dec

I figured I’d take my first post here to introduce myself a bit.

Lately, I have been spending mass amounts of time with my fellow Chicklitz and while I knew two of the girls—Layne and Ashley—from Writer’s Community, I am still getting to know the rest. Really, I’m not like following a trend or anything, but these girls simply blow up my world with their awesome creativity and genius and things like wisdom. I am stunned that they haven’t been snatched up and offered to the Gods as proof that beauty can coexist with smarts. And, I am sad that I am only now befriending these babes. But, life turns onward and we have created this social media “empire”, thanks to the talented Ashley Ford, which we intend to be our platform for not only the encouragement of brilliant female writers but the promotion of friendship.

So, I guess I’ll get to that “ME-ME-ME” business of introduction. Let’s be fair, we’re writers—on the inside, we’re all tiny, mustachioed narcissists.

Things I should probably talk about in this post: what I read, what I write, how I write, etc.

Things I would have talked about had I not made a list of priorities (see above list of priorities): my affinity for cats and New Orleans, and how I sometimes do the running man in public places.

Once, when I was little, my dad had to buy a suit for a job interview. He took me with him to Sears where I wandered off. They found me in front of a three-way mirror pretending to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. I was talking to the Scarecrow, Tin-man, and Lion—each a panel of the mirror. This is an example of why I should not be left alone. Just kidding. This is an example of why I started writing. I used to explain it to people by saying this: “So, I have a lot of voices in my head…like the ‘not-creepy ones’, and I have to write them down or I go nuts.” That is still true, only the voices have become more like full on day dreams. I can spend an afternoon imagining a story and until I write it down, I am basically a non-functioning member of society.

While, I used to believe that I would only ever write fiction, or only ever be good at writing fiction, I learned from Sean Lovelace and Michael Meyerhofer not to limit myself. In fact, these Chicklitz have also helped me to expand my writing. Last school year, I took a class with Sean Lovelace where I discovered flash fiction. From there I began writing prose poems and from there, lineated poems. My first publication (here) was a flash piece and my second publication (here) was a prose poem/flash piece.

I have learned this year, that one of the key ingredients in good writing is good friends to read, edit, and reread your pieces. Without people like the Chicklitz, Tyler Gobble (his blog is here), my best friend: Natalie White, and my roommate when I can trap her long enough, I would never have progressed this far. Also, those same people have broadened my reading horizon.

In high school, or maybe I should say in public, I read things like For Whom the Bell Tolls, Anna Karenina and Huck Finn. While in private, I read books by Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Piccoult and even Norah Roberts (insert shame here). I never experimented with reading contemporary short fiction or poetry. In fact I was sure I wouldn’t like either.

When I came to college, I began attending Writer’s Community and was introduced to various wonderful writers. Now, my list of favorites includes but is not limited to: Jack Kerouac, Arthur Rimbaud, Amy Hempel, Dorothy Parker, George Bilgere, Tony Hoagland, Rita Dove, Toni Morrison, Marie Howe, Sylvia Plath, Vladimir Nabokov, etc.

Of course, I am always looking for new reading material so feel free to post suggestions in the comment box below. And, that sums up this post for today, now it’s back to studying for an Astronomy final. Boo.