Readings, more readings, and how much I love readings

All right. I’m bubbling down from my I SAW LORDE AND MITSKI LIVE LAST NIGHT euphoria to write a sort of March update—although first, really quick—

I SAW LORDE AND MITSKI LIVE LAST NIGHT!!!!!!

Mitski is one of my absolute role models in so many ways, and I basically fainted when she played “Townie”. She is a rock star in every sense of those two words. And Lorde was so genuinely amazing and talented and kind, and the fact that she talked about writing and played “Writer in the Dark” is enough to power me through at least a thousand words today.

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That photo is of Mitski, rocking her own heart out and mine.

Anyway—that soul-enlivening, fulfilling, overwhelming concert was only the most recent in a long string of cool events I’ve gone to this month! Luckily for this writing-related blog, most of them have been readings.

The first event I went to was with TOMI ADEYEMI!!! (And yeah, I was basically as excited to see her as I was to see Lorde and Mitski.)

A couple of Saturdays ago, my friend and I spent the entire day in Barnes & Noble, reading Children of Blood and Bone (which has now reached its third—I think?—consecutive week at the top of the NYT Bestseller List). I’d never done this before, and it was weirdly a lot of fun. If you have anyone you can do that with, I’d definitely recommend it—you can pick out a book you’re both excited about and sit in the Starbucks for hours, drinking hot chocolate and stopping every once in a while to freak out when something exciting has happened.

Then we drove to Detroit, where we got to hear Tomi speak a little and read an excerpt from the book. We also got to meet her briefly, and she signed our books and even took a picture with us!!! Here it is:

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I don’t think a day will ever come when I won’t smile when I look at this picture. Tomi Adeyemi is such an inspiration—she makes me want to keep writing all of the time and to dedicate myself to my ideas, even though seeing them through is a lot of hard work. I would highly recommend checking out her website because she posts a ton of helpful writing advice. (Plus, she was seriously just so nice.) I wrote an article about the event here for the Daily in case you’d like to hear me geek out about her a little more.

More recently, I went to an event that was a lot smaller but still very exciting: the annual Caldwell Poetry Competition performance through U of M’s Lloyd Hall Scholars Program. I think I’ve said before here that LHSP played a big part in helping me find a community and a lot of avenues for writing and the arts when I first got to college, and this was my third year participating in Caldwell. There’s a written category and a performance category; written poetry is definitely where I feel more comfortable, but I entered the performance contest too, because why not, right? Performing scares me a little, and I think doing things that scare you is good.

Last year, I did an interpretation of “Pretty,” by Katie Makkai, which is a poem I’ve loved deeply since high school. This year I did “B (If I Should Have a Daughter),” by the wonderful Sarah Kay. I won’t lie—my performance last year was a lot better, I think because I was a lot more passionate about that poem. But even though I didn’t do very well personally this year, I’m still so glad I got to go, because it gave me the chance to hear so many talented people performing both original and interpreted work. This year was definitely the all-around strongest Caldwell competition I’ve ever attended (even though we had a surprise evacuation in the middle after a fire alarm was pulled). It went on for about two hours and I wasn’t bored for any of it.

This year, I’d like to try writing a little spoken word poetry. Just as an experiment—I know it’s not my forte, but I wrote a little of my own in high school, and I remember it giving me this great feeling of release. I wasn’t just sharing my words with the world, I was showing the world what they meant with my voice, with my body. That’s not an opportunity I give myself very often. Poetry in general is difficult for me, let alone a type of poetry that’s meant to be performed—but I’d still like to try it, for the sense of ownership and confidence that I know it offers when you can pull it off successfully. Plus, I think poetry is just a fun community to engage with in general. I love the exchange of ideas and the bold sharing that happens at events like this.

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Finally, last Sunday, I attended the annual reading of the Prison Creative Arts Project’s literary journal, The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing. This is my third year involved with the lit review, and my first working as one of the assistant editors, so I got to help out a lot with organizing the event. To be involved with this was such a privilege, and I was glad for the chance to hear so many great pieces read aloud. This is the lit review’s 10-year anniversary, so we published a “Greatest Hits” compilation, and we also had a bunch of signs and flyers individually designed and handmade by Sierra Brown, like the beautiful poster above.

All right, I think that’s pretty much all of the amazing things I’ve had the opportunity to attend lately. Engage with the arts! Attend local readings!!! They’re basically always free, and they offer such a great chance to meet other writers and readers and to get a look at what other people are working on and experimenting with.

(And listen to Mitski!!)

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LHSP Release Party

This post will be short because I’m trying to get to bed before midnight, which is 8 minutes away so I’m really racing the clock. But tonight was the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program’s literary magazine release party, which I thought was worth mentioning!! (Shout out to the title of the magazine, which is literally “Things Worth Mentioning”.) My Caldwell-winning poems, “How Was Your Trip?” and “Winter in Oz,” were published in this year’s anthology, alongside a ton of awesome work from other current and former LHSP students. I took a picture so you can see what the cover looks like (along with a random corner of my bedroom):

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I flipped through the anthology as much as I could before people started reading, and there’s some really awesome work in it, some of it written by people I know and have studied with! I also got to read “Winter in Oz” tonight, and to hear some of the other published work read aloud. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned LHSP here a lot before, but at any rate I’ll say again that I’m so glad to be a part of such a creative and supportive community.

In unrelated news, I got three things today: two of them were rejections (holla @ my haterz) and one of them was my copy of New American Stories edited by Ben Marcus!!!!

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(A moment of appreciation for the line “You have to stare down a story until it wobbles, yields, then catapults into your face.”)

I took that photo with my bed as the background, so you can tell I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel here. I guess I’m just so proud of myself for knowing how to embed images in a post that I want to show off that skill as much as possible. Anyway, this collection looks great, I’ve already read two of the stories for my fiction class and I can’t wait to check out more.

Okay and it’s midnight, so that’s all my content for tonight! Peace out!!

Caldwell Results!

Today was LHSP’s End-of-Year Festival, which meant performances by all of the clubs, free dessert food, and the announcement of this year’s Caldwell Poetry Competition winners!

The Caldwell winners were announced first. Caldwell is split up into written and performance categories, as well as into an alumni category and a category for current students. As an alumna, I submitted to both categories, written and performance, and I found out today that I won first place in both! This was surprising and exciting, and it was a huge honor to be recognized alongside so many talented poets. In particular, my friend Rhea Cheeti got first place for performance in the current students category (which was no surprise, because I saw her performance and it was amazing).

The event was so much fun in general because I love getting to do anything that helps me reconnect with friends and professors from LHSP. Not to mention the dessert food was spot-on (brownies, cake, and little cheesecake cups), and it was great to see the performances by all of the clubs. Creative Writing Club wrote a Mad Libs and had the audience work together to fill it out, so they were my favorite, although I may have been a little biased. (It is Creative Writing, after all.)

All in all, this made for a really great end of the day. I also got an email earlier today letting me know that the hard copies of the Café Shapiro Anthology have arrived, which is another exciting thing to look forward to this week. I’m not sure which of the poems I submitted to Caldwell won the written category (I sent in five), but I’ll probably post again here whenever I find out.

[art]seen Review for Café Shapiro!

I was able to read my fiction last night at Café Shapiro, a University of Michigan event held every year by the English department. Creative writing professors nominate students to participate, and those students’ works are then published in an annual spring anthology. I was lucky to be able to participate last year as well (with poetry that time), and it was great to come back — especially because there’s always free coffee and dessert food to enjoy while people are reading, and one sure way to get me to do anything is to incorporate free dessert food. (They even had those flat little chocolate/caramel crisp things!!)

Anyway, I read an excerpt from my short story, “Paradise,” which was one-half of the submission that won me a Hopwood Underclassmen Fiction Award last month. My friend Kate Bishop came and did a great job reviewing the event for Arts at Michigan’s blog, [art]seen — if you’re interested, you can check it out using the link below! Everyone’s pieces were really intriguing, and it was cool to be a part of an event with so much variety in genre and subject matter.

http://artsatmichigan.umich.edu/seen/2017/02/08/review-cafe-shapiro-2/