Love in the Time of February

This is coming a couple of days late, but happy Valentine’s Day!!

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day, if only for the candy and cupcakes. This Valentine’s Day was a little weird because I wrote two romance-related pieces for The Michigan Daily in the same week. The first was a “poetry playlist” for my literature column, which is pretty sweet and uplifting and contains a bunch of great love poems. The second was a music playlist full of mournful and/or angsty songs about being single. I wrote both of them on the same day, pretty much back-to-back, which made for kind of a hard gear shift. Maybe it’s official now — I don’t truly have any real opinions on anything, I’m just really indifferent, and I’ll stretch that indifference one way or another for the sake of trying to write convincing journalism.

I’m just going to fall back on my old reasoning that I truly believe many things, even contradictory things, at the same time. Like Alanis Morissette says: “I’m sad but I’m laughing, I’m brave but I’m chickenshit,” etc. I hate Valentine’s Day, but I love it!

Anyway, they were both really fun pieces that each include some good music/poetry recommendations, so I’d recommend checking them out if you have the time. 🙂

While I’m on the subject of the Daily, this isn’t Valentine’s-Day-related at all, but I also wrote my first lead for the B-Side! The B-Side is a biweekly insert that the senior arts editors put together on various subjects. This one focused on queerness in the arts, so I did some interviews and wrote a piece on queer art and social activism that you can find here if you’re so inclined. This was all in the span of the last week or so, so I’m in a journalism mood, big time.

Last but not least, bonus announcement: I might be going to AWP this year! :O Stay tuned!

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January Reading List

It’s the first day of February, yay! I read somewhere (on Twitter, I admit) that today is exactly halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. I forget what the term for that is called, but I think it’s a pretty cool fact (if it is a fact), especially coming right on the heels of such a kickass full moon.

Anyway, as promised, here is the list of all the things I read in January!

Fourth Grade Autobiography,” by Donika Kelly
Night Sky with Exit Wounds, by Ocean Vuong
Selected poems from Flowers of Hell, by Nguyen Chi Thien
This Hour and What Is Dead,” by Li-Young Lee
Three Words,” by Li-Young Lee
In the Library,” by Jean Valentine
The soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? because I just love folk music
*Bonus folk song: “Can the Circle Be Unbroken,” by The Carter Family
“My Father Is the Sea, the Field, the Stone,” by Ruth Awad
“Math Lesson,” by Eloisa Amezcua
Self-Portrait as a Constant Point of Contention,” by Cortney Lamar Charleston
Sabratha,” by Charity Young
“startle,” by Francine J. Harris
Good Bones,” by Maggie Smith
Jacaranda,” by Robin Kozak
The moon rose over the bay. I had a lot of feelings.,” by Donika Kelly
If your Nerve, deny you (292),” by Emily Dickinson
Victory Lap,” by George Saunders
The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” by W.B. Yeats
A Cradle Song,” by W.B. Yeats
Puppy,” by George Saunders
The Mechanic,” by Robert Creeley
“It’s all fun and games until somebody gains consciousness,” by Franny Choi
Pavlov was the Son of a Priest,” by Paige Lewis
There is a solitude of space,” by Emily Dickinson
“The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster,” by Richard Brautigan, and by Joanna C. Valente
Dew,” by Kay Ryan (I read this one off the wall of a subway in New York City, which feels like a really hip detail worth mentioning—and look, according to the link I used, I’m not the only one who took notice of it!)
A Small Needful Fact,” by Ross Gay
What Did You See?” by Fanny Howe (again—I loved this poem in high school and just revisited it recently)
“Blindman’s Bluff,” by Raymond McDaniel
“Cataracts,” by Raymond McDaniel
Praying,” by Mary Oliver
The Peace of Wild Things,” by Wendell Berry
Michael,” by William Wordsworth
The Price of Rain,” by Franny Choi
I Cannot Be Quiet an Hour,” by Mary Ruefle
Little Mountain Woman,” by Terese Marie Mailhot

As with December, I think there’s a running theme of the list being very poetry-heavy. Again, I’m pretty sure it’s all the Twitter. But there are a couple of short stories on there, and books (of poetry LOL).

I’m back in Ann Arbor now, and still reeling from the awesomeness that was New York City. I went to the New York Public Library, and there’s a big part of me that’s resolved to move to New York just so that I can go and write there all the time. I think in big, distinguished old buildings like that, it’s hard not to get real work done because I’d feel kind of guilty otherwise—like, hundreds of people didn’t work very hard on the design and construction of this building just so that I could sit inside of it and watch The Office with my earphones in. I get this also with the Law Library at U of M.

We also went to the MET, where they were having an exhibit on the art, music, writing, politics, whatever else of the 1960s—so that was pretty much perfect—and we went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where I got really sucked in reading quotations from immigrants arriving to the U.S. It was crazy how there were so many specific stories from people from completely different places, stories that were sometimes similar but also different in really important ways. I took pictures of a couple that really stuck out to me in particular:

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I want to go back to Ellis Island someday because I didn’t get to read every single quotation, and I kind of wanted to—I could have spent hours there.

On a different note, while I’m importing stuff onto my computer, here are a couple more photos! The first is me in Times Square, and the second is my brother and my dad on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

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Okay, I’ve got more poetry to go and read (not on Twitter, for class), so that’s all for now. Thanks for reading! 🙂

New Poetry in The Merrimack Review

I have some new poems out in The Merrimack Review!

There are three of them—”Fur,” “The Tardigrade,” and “Winter in Oz,” and you can read them here (same link LOL). Very very happy to have some new poetry out there in the universe. I want to start writing more poetry because I’ve been reading a ton of it lately (January reading list coming soon), and I often come up with little lines and emotions and ideas that I feel like would fit ideally inside poems if I could only figure out how to write them. I guess the only way I’ll learn how to do that in a way that I really like is to keep practicing, so we’ll see!

Also, shameless plug for my friend Brooke White, whose nonfiction appears in the new issue of Midwestern Gothic. Midwestern Gothic is one of my favorite publications out there and Brooke is one of my favorite people, so if you have a chance to check out the new issue, I’d definitely recommend it! It features work from tons of other awesome writers as well (including Cortney Lamar Charleston, whose amazing poetry I just started reading within the last month or so).

In other news, I’m considering posting some very amateur photography here and would appreciate some input on whether that’s a good idea or a horrible one. 🙂

Forthcoming Fiction in Blue Earth Review

There’s no real point to this post other than what the title says: I’m getting published in Blue Earth Review!!!

Yay!!!!

The fiction in question is “Paradise,” a short story I wrote last year inspired by John Prine’s song of the same name. So naturally I’m back in my recurring John Prine mood for a few days. Everyone should listen to his eponymous debut album. Also the new album Ruins by First Aid Kit. (Glowing review coming soon from The Michigan Daily.) Also, according to it seems like everybody, the new Porches album? Although I haven’t listened to that one yet, so I guess I shouldn’t say. But the First Aid Kit one is beautiful—I can’t get enough of “Postcard,” and “It’s a Shame,” what beautiful songs!

Anyway, I’m off-topic now. Writing and music always end up going together for me—like right now, for instance, I’m in my house’s dining room listening to the soundtrack from The Last Five Years coming out of the kitchen. Now I really want to watch that musical.

I’m actually seeing a musical this weekend! The Lion King. I’ll be in New York City for a concert of my dad’s. My goal is to take a bunch of pictures and to bond with my family. A+ goals!

I’ve been in such a good mood the last few days—I don’t even know if it’s the publication thing, I kind of don’t think so. Although that is great! But I think writing a lot just puts me in a good mood. The night before last, I was on my way to bed at 1:00am, but I kind of felt like writing, so I sat down to write a few paragraphs, and I ended up writing around 2500 words. I went to bed at like 2:30. And I’m not the sort of person who normally does that—I really usually just write in the morning or early afternoon, by the time night comes around I’m a lot worse at thinking. But it was really fun, very stream of consciousness. By the end I was writing all about Japanese maples. I’ve been getting really into specificity lately and I just can’t believe how beautiful they are.

And then today I woke up early-ish to work on something for my fiction tutorial, and I wasn’t really expecting to get through the whole thing because it was very last-minute and I only left myself two or three hours to do it. I was expecting to just use the Japanese maple CNF thing. But then I did get through it—I actually felt really good about it—and now it’s like my whole day is better. I love how that’s how it works, writing and feeling good, or sometimes just feeling better. It’s like this whole reciprocal thing.

Anyway, I have real things to go and do (for Midwestern Gothic! I’m officially an intern there now!), so I should sign off. It’s weird how this started out with me patting myself on my back and it sort of ended there, too. But also it started out as kind of an announcement and then it turned into more of a diary entry. I think I must be very big into stream of consciousness these days.

Original song with my friend Clarissa

I just wrote a new post the other day, but I’m back!

I’m in Portland right now, but I just got to spend a week at home in Bloomington. I love love love Bloomington and it always makes me happy to go home, and one of the best times for going home is over the holidays because old friends of mine are usually home then, too!

My friend Clarissa and I used our together-time last week to write a song together, a new experience for me which was really fun and which I hope to someday do again. Our song is called “Home Alone” but it also goes by “Theory #78,” “Laura and Clarissa’s Emo Song,” “Clarissa and Laura’s Emo Song,” or maybe just “Winter Song” (?), because we couldn’t pick.

Anyway, I just posted it on YouTube. We also videotaped ourselves shopping at Krogucci (the good Kroger) and making peppermint bark, which maybe I will get around to editing into a music video sometime soon because I’d like to try developing some video skills (LOL) (we’ll see).

But in the meantime, here is the video of us playing “Home Alone” et al.! Enjoy!

Arbwriters Fall Retreat

This is going to be a short post because it’s late at night and I have to wake up at like 6 am  tomorrow(/today) to do revisions.

(Brief aside: I honestly suck when it comes to deadlines. Like my attitude is literally “if it’s due on Thursday afternoon, why would I do it anytime before Thursday morning?” Which I know is maybe bad. I’m trying to change. (Except not really. I’m trying to do a lot of other things. I can focus on changing my bad habits later.))

ANYWAY: the Arbwriters had a fall writing weekend in Detroit!!

IMG_20171028_192053.jpgThat’s us, getting ready to eat an amazing dinner. Photo credits to Vahid, and dinner credits to Will Toms. Brooke and I had to do a lot of weird furniture maneuvering to make all of this table space possible, which I for one was very proud of.

This was personally my second time getting together with everyone for an in-person retreat thingy (I’m pretty sure I wrote about the first one here, too — it was the one back at the end of the summer, the one where I learned about ceiling tables). It was honestly so much fun. There were writing and revising times, and there were friend times. That’s about as articulate as I’m capable of being right now, I’m sorry. But it’s important that there were both — both types of times, that is.

I don’t really have a point, but I’ll try to make one up here anyway: If you’re a writer, find yourself some writer friends. It will make things so much better. If you’re lucky, they won’t just be your writer friends, they’ll be your friends friends as well. I’ve always invested a lot of time into writing in terms of class scheduling and extracurriculars and that sort of thing, so it’s often worked out for me like that anyway. And if you don’t know where to start, just hit me up! I will be your writer friend. See, now you have truly no excuse.

HALLOWEEN SONGS!

It’s been sort of a while since I’ve posted something, so I’ve got TWO SCARY SONGS here, and this is sooo writing-unrelated because I didn’t even write either of these songs myself, but anyway, they’re both scary and creepy, so here they are.

This is a cover of “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. (Amanda Seyfried did a semi-popular cover of it and that was the first version I ever heard, so that ‘s why it’s labeled with her name.) I performed it at my house’s open mic a couple of weeks ago, and my friend and housemate Qianru was awesome enough to record it!

This one is a cover of “Shankill Butchers” by The Decemberists. The way I originally heard this song had some of the words changed, and it was sort of difficult for me to try to sing them here, the way they were originally written, without reverting back to that.

I have written a couple of scary songs on my own, but I’m not going to post either of them here or anywhere, at least not anytime soon. (One is about the Salem witch trials, and it’s okay but it’s definitely not finished yet; the other is a rewriting of “Pirate Jenny” from The Threepenny Opera, and like the original, it’s pretty extreme.)

So those are my Halloween songs! Two days late, but all the same, happy Halloween!!!!!

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!!

Late Summer Recap!

It’s been a long time since I last posted here! I would say it was because I’ve been really busy, but in truth that would only account for the first week or two. After that I started watching Game of Thrones, and that was sort of that.

The good news is that all of the stuff I have been busy with has been really exciting! Last weekend, I went on a writers’ retreat with the Ann Arbor Writers Workshop. We spent two days at a cabin in the woods in Lake, Michigan, reading and writing and workshopping each other’s pieces. There were also plenty of s’mores. I’ve had so much fun being a part of the workshop remotely this summer, and it was great to hang out with everybody in person and to get some writing done as well.

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While we were there, I started reading Stranger in a Strange Land, which has totally knocked me off my feet so far. There’s a brave nurse who risks her job and her life to do what’s right! There’s a journalist who gets arrested for being too heroic! There are sky taxis and Martians! And why haven’t ceiling tables been invented yet? (They hang from the ceiling and you can lower them to whatever height you want, and they never touch the floor or mess up your carpet or anything! I seriously can’t get over this.)

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While I’m on the subject of the writers’ retreat, I have some more delayed news: one of our members, Vahid Arefi, placed last month as the runner-up in Round 2 of Midwestern Gothic’s Summer Flash Fiction Contest! You can read his piece, “Unwed,” here.

On a more general note, summer is ending! This time next week, I’ll be back at school in Ann Arbor, taking classes and doing homework. Ordinarily, by this point in the summer, I’d feel a little resigned and maybe regretful that I hadn’t spent more time doing such-and-such (usually writing) during all of my free time. I do have a couple of regrets — I started writing a couple of songs that I never quite finished, and I never ended up going to the state fair — but I realized recently that I’ve done A TON of writing this summer! Granted, U of M’s summer is crazy long (four whole months!), so I’ve had a ton of time, but I still feel unusually good about this. Over the course of the summer, I’ve written two short stories, four short short stories, an essay, a couple of poems, a couple of songs, a crap ton of journalism (for my internship), and most of a novel. I don’t feel like doing the math to add up how many words that is, so I’ll just say it’s enough to leave me feeling really good about my summer.

Of course, I’m expecting school to be a different story — I’ll have homework to think about when I’m not working, not to mention various clubs and co-op-related activities. And (no point in lying here) I can already tell that until I’m all caught up on Game of Thrones, that’s going to be a bit of a time-consumer of its own. But I’m still determined to hit the ground running! I’m taking two separate creative writing classes this semester, a workshop and a tutorial, and my work can’t overlap between the two of them, which means I’ll likely be doing more fiction-writing this semester than I’ve ever done before.

So by December, depending on how I spend my time, I could either end up with quite a lot of carefully revised short stories I’m really happy with and ready to submit to publications and contests, or a handful of slipshod stories I didn’t try very hard to make awesome and don’t care to look at anymore. Either way, a lot of stories, but I know which outcome I’d prefer. Stay tuned to find out which path I choose!

And most importantly, I hope anybody who’s reading this has had a terrific summer! Happy September!

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 CafĂ© 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.