A Benediction for the End of 2015

I was recently invited to read at the second Grief Rites reading, for the Holiday Edition. As you may know, my father died on Thanksgiving when I was eight years old; I had originally planned to write a new poem about him to read there. But, as happens sometimes, it really wasn’t coming together. Instead, I read a selection of poems written around the holidays last year, and two new pieces written this holiday season. (You can read two of them online, one here and the other here.)

All of the poems I read explicitly address how I feel as a Black person living in America, a country — as I say in my poem “Colonize(d)” — “that would rather see me / shot in the face.” Of the poems I read, one memorializes the 16th St Baptist Church bombing, one memorializes the murder of Michael Brown, and the remaining three deal with the stress of protesting and racial justice work, and the pain of justice denied. They are heavy pieces, and I hesitated to read them.

Some readings, I leave the most radical or race-specific poems out if I am unsure of the crowd, because I have anxiety and chronic pain; baring my soul is hard enough without someone trying to argue with me, a depressingly common occurrence. This time, I read without censoring myself.

During the break, a white woman I’d never met came up to me. She began by telling me what I read really resonated with her, BUT… As it turns out, she was raised in Alabama, and the Alabama of my poem doesn’t exist any more. She insisted that everyone knew better now, that when she was growing up, no one would have done something so awful. She told me that her parents taught her that skin color doesn’t matter, that so long as a person was willing to work hard they would succeed. I pointed out the high rates of police violence against Black people, and she talked around that, reiterating that Alabama wasn’t like that any more, and then tried to say that as women, she and I face the same barriers in corporate America. I cited the racialized gender wage gap, and she said “Not in Dallas.”

She left to visit the bathroom, and then returned to assert that we shouldn’t focus on race, and that we just need to work hard; if we just work hard, we can succeed. She commended me on being strong, utterly missing the point of my poem, “Too Strong,” which is that having to bear up under the pressure of violence and discrimination is exhausting and demoralizing. When she finally went back to the bar, I hid in the bathroom for 10 minutes trying not to have a panic attack, and missed two of the other readers.

While this woman was doing her utmost to convince me I was wrong about the existence of racism, a wonderful friend of mine tried repeatedly to interrupt her, to get her to consider that I might not be open to this conversation, or that it might be painful to me. By the end of the night, I was so tense and overstimulated that I suffered severe migraine symptoms and passed out for 15 hours. When I woke up, I discovered that my contributor copies of Minerva Rising‘s latest issue, Sparrow’s Trill: Writers respond to the Charleston Shooting had arrived in the mail. Two of my poems are included in this special edition: “Placeholder for Home” and “My Black.”

Holding a copy in my hands, I feel so many feelings. This is the first time my poetry has been published outside my own press in half a dozen years, and it makes me feel validated. It reminds me that rejections are a part of the process, that my work can find a home. It reminds me that others are feeling what I’m feeling, struggling as I am struggling. It reminds me that even those who are not feeling what I am can empathize. It reminds me why I struggle. It reminds me why I sometimes feel burnt out.

When I finished work on After Ferguson, In Solidarity, one of our contributors asked me if we would do another anthology for Charleston. I said no; it took 9 months to get AFIS out, and I honestly needed a bit of a break. I started my press in order to put out AFIS, but I hadn’t reckoned with how hard it would be: soliciting submissions from folks, picking which pieces to include, chasing contributors down to get contracts signed, creating a coherent flow, getting the cover art done, fundraising, and more. I learned a lot, most of it the hard way, and I don’t regret it, but I’m also glad I didn’t try to do it again right away. Since I didn’t, I’m glad that Minerva Rising created this special issue, and I’m proud to be included in it.

I want to thank everyone who expressed to me at the Grief Rites reading that they appreciated my work. I hold onto that when I feel the urge to silence my voice, to be jaded and avoidant. The fatigue and frustration can be overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean my voice must be silenced; I have a community to hold me. I don’t have to do all the work myself.

So, for us all, I wish healing and comfort in the new year. I wish peace and joy and strength. I wish us loving community and found family. I wish us support in creative endeavors, and success in our work. I wish us a better world.

Happy holidays, everyone — I’ll see you on the other side!

Groundhog Day 2015 Resolutions: December Check-In & Year-In-Review

Wow! Here we are, at year’s end (well, nearly). I think I may try this again next year, because it’s been a good reminder to focus in on fewer things, and to think regularly about how I can work on what I want to get done. I sprung for the 2016 Passion Planner as well, for looking at larger, over-arching goals, on a 1-5 year timeline. Between those two things, I think I can really ramp it up by next summer. I’m feeling hopeful about my future right now. (Touch wood.)

Finals were a hot mess: I stayed up two nights in a row working on my final for Science Fiction and Fantasy Costumes in Film. It was my first time sewing an entire garment from scratch, and I learned a lot and got rather thoroughly frustrated and worked myself into a frenzy, and came out the other end with a decently passable Hogwarts student robe, which I wore to school. I also made a delicious mac and cheese for the potluck and presentations session of my bell hooks class. (No pictures; my mac and cheese doesn’t usually stick around long enough, if I don’t get a shot of it right out of the oven.)

The last 2015 Groundhog Day Resolution Review is below the cut:

Continue reading “Groundhog Day 2015 Resolutions: December Check-In & Year-In-Review”

Groundhog Day 2015 Resolutions: November Check-In

This post is so very late! This term has gone so fast, and as we head into finals (one more week) I’m trying not to get too frazzled. Thankfully my classes remain brilliant and engaging, my teachers continue to be a bunch of cool cats, and my study binder is still saving my butt in a pretty big way. (Bless the study binder, and whoever gave me the idea, because this thing is seriously the major reason I’m not failing right now. It’s magical.)

I’m finally moving forward on some things that I’d stalled on, and I’m really excited for everything happening between now and the next review. I can hardly wait to share it all with you!

(This month’s resolution review below the cut:)

Continue reading “Groundhog Day 2015 Resolutions: November Check-In”

On Asking for Help (and, Hopefully, Not Starving)

Asking is hard. Particularly for those of us who are femme, who were socialised to be women, or who do caretaking work, it can be so easy to put the needs and desires of others above our own; we grow very used to advocating for others, at our own expense. And for those of us from marginalised communities, whom society disregards or punishes for existing, it’s almost impossible to feel like our wants and needs matter.

But they do matter, and we have to believe that, because we are sometimes the only advocates we have. Others cannot know what we want and need if we never share it with them. That’s a shame, because we often find folks ready and willing to help us. We just need to give them the chance.

Still, it’s really scary. So many questions come up to block our path: what if no one helps? What if they call us selfish? What if, what if, what if? We want the help, but we wish that others could intuit and “opt in”, rather than us risk rejection from those who aren’t interested. Putting ourselves out there makes us vulnerable.

Okay, deep breath.

This isn’t abstract. I need to ask for your help right now.

This past week, I had a medical emergency. My blood sugar got dangerously high, so high that I grew dehydrated and had to go to the emergency room. I spent 5 hours on a saline drip, and was given a shot of insulin. I was really scared, and in the aftermath, I started thinking about my life.

Currently, I attend classes at Portland State University. I’m about a year from graduating. I also work at the Queer Resource Center on campus, a job I may not have once summer starts, since the positions open up at the end of each school year. I don’t know how I’ll pay my bills or eat this summer. I don’t know how I’ll find a job after I graduate, one that will be understanding about my chronic illnesses and disability. I feel like my best bet is to really focus on my small press. Hopefully, in a year, I’ll be able to get by on that and my income from freelancing.

Last week, I launched an Indiegogo to raise funds. I’m asking for $10,000 to buy things like ISBNs, a P.O. Box for business correspondence, a storage unit for books waiting to be sold, and other physical things, as well as give the press the ability to contract artists to design book covers, offer small (likely tiny, actually) advances to authors we’ll publish in the next year, and stuff like that. If we reach the goal, I might be able to start actually paying myself from sales of my book. If we overshoot the goal, I may even be able to hire a part-time assistant to help me out. (Which would be great, because I am disabled, so there are some things I may need help with.)

I’m really dedicated to making Mourning Glory Publishing a successful business, not just so I don’t starve, but because I believe that the voices MGP will publish are vital ones, that need to be heard. I believe in the power of stories to change the world. Telling stories saves lives, transforms them. The voices of the most marginalized members of our society need to be heard, to be recognized and lifted up, to be celebrated. It’s this work I want to do, and why MGP is so important to me. (Not starving would be a nice bonus, though.)

So, the ask: please visit the link, and share with your friends, family, followers. If you have Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or GooglePlus, please share on those platforms. Let folks know you support the press. And if you can give, please do. I really am grateful for everyone’s support, and I still have a long way to go to reach the goal.

Thank you.

Groundhog Day 2015 Resolutions: May Check-In

Another month gone… Things have been hard, busy, and intense this past month. I’m really looking forward to the summer, in terms of not having to worry about classes. On the downside, I will be unemployed, and that’s an added worry, in terms of my stress level. Not sure how I’m gonna eat, let alone pay my rent over the summer, but I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

(Shameless plug: if you want to help reduce the chances I’ll be homeless/starve this summer, I’d love any form of support you can offer. Seriously.)

Anyway, onto the Groundhog Day Goals May check-in! Continue reading “Groundhog Day 2015 Resolutions: May Check-In”

Groundhog Day 2015 Resolutions: March Check-In

Whoa! I’m a couple days late for my Groundhog Day Resolutions check-in, but only because I’m so busy. So, let me recap the goals here, and then I’ll get into where I’m at with each one.

Goals:

  1. Make regular money from writing
  2. Schedule self-care and practice self-love
  3. Solidify my graduate degree path, and apply to grad school

Month in Review:

What worked?
1) I am getting everything together to sell Mourning Glory Publishing‘s first book! It’s been proofed, and approved, and it’s all ready to go. I’m nearly done on another, with a third queued up, and so we’ll be basically launching with more than one book. Might be risky, but I think it’s a good range of stuff, and I’m excited to share these books with the world!
2)I have been letting my body call the shots, and while that’s been inconvenient sometimes, it’s also pretty clear that’s what needs to be happening. Also, eating way too many Girl Scout cookies, with no regrets.
3) I have decided that I’m going to try to go into PSU’s MA in Publishing after I graduate next year, because it seems most urgent to me, and I think it’ll be great experience for my own press.

What didn’t?
1) I wanted to set up an e-commerce portal through WordPress, but it looks like I can’t, since my site isn’t self-hosted. I’m looking at other options, and in the meanwhile, I’ll be using Etsy to sell books.
2) I haven’t been scheduling much self-care time. I still think this is needed, so I’ll work on it…
3) No issues.

Planning the Next Month:

What am I working on going forward?
1) Book promotion! I will be reading in the Unchaste Readers Series this month (March 17th), and I’ll be selling books there. I’ve got a modest list of folks to sell to, and of course I’ll be looking at other ways to promote our books going forward. I’m going to work on getting the books up on Etsy, so people can purchase them there.
2) I plan to pick 1-2 days in the next month to just focus on my self-care. This will probably wait until my last assignment is turned in on the 18th, but I’ll have 5 days to relax, and then I’ll be in Chicago for 6 days, and I’ll definitely have the chance to have me-time in there. I’m super excited for that!
3) I need to go in and figure out the application deadlines for the program, and plan accordingly. It’s probably a while yet, so I can look that up and make a plan for getting all the necessary work done with plenty of time.

I definitely have a lot to keep me busy, and it’s coming up on finals at school, so that self-care’s going to be important! But I’m mostly excited to be moving on some stuff I’ve been working on for a while now. (Especially since Mercury moved direct—retrograde was harsh.)

For updates on the books, be sure to follow Mourning Glory Publishing’s site. I’ll be sending a newsletter once the first book launches, and you can sign up for those here. Until next time, friends!

See all of the Groundhog Day Resolutions posts here.

And There’s an End: Reviewing 2014, Setting Goals for 2015

So strange to think that this is my last post for the year! It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, with my health, my activism, and my work. I’m actually kind of glad the year is ending, and I look forward to being more organised next year, and hopefully preventing another major health problem by taking care of myself.

I’m taking this time to set some intentional goals for the year. I’ve done a lot this year, but I have big plans for the next couple years, and setting goals now means I’m more likely to achieve some of my plans. Continue reading “And There’s an End: Reviewing 2014, Setting Goals for 2015”