cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better by Maya Schenwar

My Goodreads review, cross-posted.

The first half of this book discusses how the (American) prison system sabotages all the factors known to reduce recidivism rates among ex-inmates: family connections, interpersonal relationships, community engagement, education, and employment.

The author, Maya Schenwar, illustrates with examples from her own family's experience. Her sister was incarcerated multiple times and gave birth in prison. Schenwar explains that inmates are warehoused far from home, sometimes even out of state, making family visits prohibitively expensive or impossible for working-class and poor families, which is the majority of the affected families. If family makes it to the visitor center, long lines and short hours mean some won't get in. Phone call rates are extortionate; calls are monitored and interrupted; call privileges are subject to the whims of wardens and corrections officers. Mail, also monitored and censored, routinely goes "missing." Books are heavily sanctioned and may be taken from inmates for minor infractions. And once released from prison, a person's job prospects are dismal because their skills (if any) are out of date and few employers will accept an ex-con. Thus rather than rehabilitating, the system ensures that people leave prison worse off than they entered it, and therefore more likely to re-offend or fall afoul of parole restrictions.

Meanwhile, structural conditions that predispose people toward crime, such as racism and poverty, are fortified when the prison/legal system "disappears" millions of marginalized people for years or even lifetimes. Though the author is white, she is cognizant of that privilege and readily acknowledges how much worse the odds are for minorities of all kinds. She frequently turns over the bullhorn so those minorities can speak for themselves.

Schenwar doesn't ignore the abuses that inmates suffer from guards and other inmates, but she doesn't spend much time on it, either. This makes the book less upsetting than others in the genre.

The second half of the book focuses on decarceration, what we as individuals can do to dismantle the prison system. She encourages pen-pal programs and activism opportunities, but she also asks us to reconsider our understanding of crime (versus harm, for example) and whether we really need to bring police into situations. She also spends a fair amount of time on models of community-based justice (or transformative justice), with concrete examples of how schools and communities can address harmful behavior and remedy the underlying causes of violence without throwing people away.

This is a practical, personable book that is easy to read. A list of resources gives readers ideas for immediate action, and extensive bibliographic notes pave the way for further research.

Poetry News

Feb. 8th, 2016 04:58 pm
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hannibal's couch)
In case you missed the announcements on Twitter and FB, a new poem of mine is now online: "Coffee Shop Painting" appears in Issue 16 of Devilfish Review. This poem is about painting with coffee as a magical art form. I suspect it's partially influenced by viewing my mother's sketchwork when I was a child. She used charcoal instead of coffee, but it still seemed like conjuration to me.

And since the deadline for nominating works for the Rhysling Award is coming up (February 15!), I'd like to point out that I had three poems published last year. "Levity" and "Aboard the Transport Tesoro" are eligible in the short poem category, and "glass womb" is eligible in the long poem category.

Thanks for reading!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (garcia)
I started the new year with a completely new daily routine, embarrassing in its simplicity: sleep as late as I fucking need, get up and get fully dressed (down to shoes & earrings), have a small meal, start knocking items off my week's to-do list. I'm still trying to understand how much I can reasonably expect to get done in a week, especially given the unpredictability of depression. But my recurring items every week are to revise a chapter of Border Blaster, sub a poem, and sub a short story.

I'm up-to-date on chapters, I've made 4 poetry subs, and I've subbed 3 stories. (I suppose technically, I could also count the 3 stories I contributed to an anthology project as "subs," but it's not like I'll get a rejection, since I was invited to participate.) I've got this week's story sub lined up, but I'm running out of poetry inventory.

I also resolved to focus my activism efforts on prison reform this year, with one signficant action every month. In January, I wrote letters, which was easy enough. This month I'll read and review a book, which has had a spin-off action: I ended up requesting that the local library buy some more books on the issue.

I still fret that I'm not doing enough. "I could do so much more if I just tried," I say when infected with brain weasels. But now I also have the agendas from previous weeks in my day planner, with all those neat lines run through the accomplished items. So I know I'm doing *something*.

Sometimes I think we get too focused on whether or not we did the Thing we said we'd do, rather than remembering the impulse behind the resolution. Eventually, I may run out of poems to send out, and failure to sub isn't something to feel bad about, not if my motivation was "be better about getting my work out there" or "stop self-rejecting." Likewise, I am not wearing real shoes today (opted for socks and house shoes) or earrings, but I have butt in chair and I'm working. It's a routine, not a requirement. And sometimes that's enough.

For those of you who made resolutions, what's your progress been like? What have you learned?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (drink me)
The other night I was having bad dreams, and the second time I woke, I knew I had to do something to keep from slipping back into those dreams. My usual superstition of turning over my pillow wasn't going to cut it. I was soooo drowsy, I knew I wasn't really really awake. So I lay there trying to list herbs/spices alphabetically.

But I'd just finished reading Sofia Samatar's A Stranger in Olondria, and in the midst of allspice and anise, bay leaf and basil, imaginary spices started popping into the queue. Sadly I can't remember most of them now--perhaps they are not imaginary, only the culinary secrets of my dream space!--but I know there was "eritrea." Yes, Eritrea is the name of a real country in Africa, but that's not what it meant when I thought of it. I knew it was a roasted kind of root, darker and "rockier" than chicory.

In A Stranger in Olondria, a child wakes a man who's having bad dreams, then instructs him on how to lose them. She explains you're supposed to do it outside, near a certain kind of plant, but she's not allowed to go outside at night. As she makes him stand and follow her movements, I remembered My Neighbor Totoro and the ritual the girls learn to help their plants grow. If nothing else, by the time you've hauled yourself out of bed and gone through the motions, you're actually awake. You've "rebooted" and if you do choose to go back to sleep, you've probably interrupted the dream sequence enough to feel safe. (Interrupted the "train of thought"? Or purposely missed the nightmare train?)

Lately, I have a hard time falling asleep. Sometimes I need a hard reboot. So I get up, use the bathroom even if I don't need to, check my phone, drink some water, and then return to bed to try again. I'm curious about what other folks do. If you can't sleep, what do you do for yourself? If you have a bad dream, how do you avoid falling back into it?
cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)
Poetry Notes for "Aboard the Transport Tesoro"

In November, my poem "Aboard the Transport Tesoro" appeared in Issue 7 of Uncanny Magazine. Now it's available to read for free online or listen to in a podcast.

The idea for the poem came to me on one of the many nights I lay awake in bed, in pain. I'd tried ignoring it, then meditating through it. I'd taken various medicines. I had my heating pad. I'd tried stretching out, scrunching up, lying on my back, belly, side. Nothing helped. To think of something other than hurting, I racked my brain trying to figure out what I could've done that day to trigger the pain. Nothing stood out. Eventually, I started to wonder what I had done, ever, in my life, to bring on this pain. Had emotion metastasized into physical ailment? Had I committed some sin or transgression? Was I being punished?

Pain makes me weird and illogical. (Or maybe that's my Catholic upbringing?)

These addled thoughts intersected with a conversation I'd seen on Twitter, about the difficulty of venerating elders (or ancestor worship) when your family is problematic. How do you overcome (or maybe just put aside) a history of conflict, or even abuse, for a continued relationship with the deceased? Can you ever trust them, let alone honor or respect them?

I wondered which of my ancestors might be inducing my suffering, and what they were trying to convey through the punishment. Only my grandmother seemed vindictive enough, but what had I done to piss her off this time? She held a grudge like a tick with lockjaw, so I supposed it could've been something I'd done in the past. But surely she knew my heart had changed over the years. I actually felt closer and more sympathetic to her than ever before. Maybe she was only acting out? Maybe she was hurting too?

And if I was so adrift, I wondered, how much more complicated could ancestor worship get in the future? With life-extending medicines and procedures, we might know our great-greats much more intimately, for better or worse. I imagined what it'd be like to have a wonderful, nurturing relationship with a great-great, and what I'd be willing to do for her when she finally passed.

Though I was still in excruciating pain, the poem came together very quickly after that. I got out of bed and wrote it down. I don't know how long it was before the pain subsided enough that I could sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I moved a couple of lines and typed it up, and it was done.

I don't see anything romantic about pain or suffering. If it were up to me, I'd have slept pain-free and never written the poem. But I do feel a grudging awe for the alchemy of poetry, which can take something as stupid and pointless as my pain and transfigure a bit of it. From lead to gold seems too self-congratulatory. So...shit to Shinola, maybe.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (writing)
This week I had two poems published!

The first, "Aboard the Transport Tesoro," appears in Uncanny Magazine, Issue 7, alongside work by fellow poets [livejournal.com profile] mariness and [livejournal.com profile] sovay. Also, I'm pretty tickled to share a ToC with Yoon Ha Lee, a Sirens guest of honor. By chance I was invited to join him and two other Sirens for a last, con-lagged lunch at the airport. (Hope I didn't get him sick.)

"Aboard the Transport Tesoro" grew from my sickbed thoughts about chronic illness and ancestor worship. I got up and wrote it in the middle of the night, cleaned it up, and sent it out. Quickest turnaround between composition and publication I've ever had!

The second poem, "glass womb," is online at Interfictions. This poem has perhaps my longest turnaround between first draft and publication. It took me a really long time to find the poem's final form. I can't say why exactly, why it never clicked, why I never abandoned it. I think I had to wait for tumblr to be born and show me pictures from the Mütter Museum and the specimen still lifes of Frederik Ruysch.

And that's my good news for the week!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (misunderstood)
This isn't exactly a Friday Faves installment. I wanted to do something Halloweenie, but there's no way I can list my favorite horror movies, books, stories, or anything. I love too many things. I didn't want to randomly recommend "movies to watch on Halloween," either, since everyone's tastes are different and our moods affect what we want to watch when.

I can't remember the last time a horror movie actually scared me. Revolted, yes. Saddened, yes. Lately I've been thinking, Even if a movie were to scare me, it wouldn't be enough. I want art that makes me think. With that in mind, I've paired up horror movies into double features that excite my "compare 'n' contrast" tendencies. Maybe you'll find something in this list to satisfy your itch, whatever that may be.

1. Carnival of Souls (1962) and Donnie Darko (2001 but set in the '80s) -- Carnival of Souls is a black-and-white, low-budget, minimally-cast thriller starring the absolutely luminous Candace Hilligoss. Donnie Darko is a full-color, big (enough) budget spec film, with a star-studded ensemble cast and Jake Gyllenhaal in the title role. Both movies focus on a person out of synch with the rest of the world, but in Carnival the consequences are individual, insular; in Donnie Darko, everyone is affected. Both films are spookier than they are graphic, although there are some brief moments of gore in the R-rated Donnie.

2. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975, set in 1900) and Here Comes the Devil (2013) -- In both of these films, children on a holiday outing explore a mountain and something goes wrong. The PG-rated Picnic is less forthcoming about what exactly happened, obscuring with ethereal atmospherics apropos for late-Victorian repression, whereas the unrated Here Comes the Devil graphically depicts sex and violence. And yet, neither really explains why the tragedy unfolds. Perhaps the characters offend the genius loci? Maybe some places are just bad? Either way, both films are unsettling in their ambiguity.

3. The Descent (2005) and The Babadook (2014) -- On the surface, these are very different movies. The Descent follows women on a spelunking adventure who get lost in an unexplored series of tunnels. The tunnels are inhabited by humanoid cryptids and as the women fight to get back to the surface, they die in various brutal, bloody ways. The Babadook is about a grieving woman trying to survive daily life with her acutely sensitive child, who finds a book about a bogeyman-type monster that he thereafter insists is threatening their tiny, broken family. The Descent is a hard-R, with monsters and gore, while The Babadook works up to its R rating with psychological, real-world horror. But both movies are woman-centered explorations of grief in a world where bad things happen to good people, and they keep on happening.

4. Somos Lo Que Hay (2010) and We Are What We Are (2013) -- The connection between these two flicks is clear: The latter is an American remake of the former, which is Mexican. And I'm going to have to spoil it for you, because I don't think it's fair to send you into a movie and not warn you that it depicts  cannibalism. What's interesting about this pair is how very different the movies are, despite the shared premise. Somos takes place in a city; We Are has a rural setting. The family is complicated in Somos; in We Are, it seems a pretty straight-forward, misogynist patriarchy. I think Somos is about a lot of things (economics, power dynamics, ritual and modernity, homosexuality, nature versus nurture, etc) but We Are opts for a narrower, easier to understand focus. For extra "food for thought," maybe watch Jug Face (2013), about a young woman who tries to escape her rural community when she falls afoul of its peculiar customs.

5. Pontypool (2008) and Berberian Sound Studio (2012) -- I love both these stories because they are obsessed with sound in a highly-visual medium. Former radio shock jock Grant Mazzy hates his new assignment in Pontypool, a small rural Canadian community. A mild-mannered sound engineer, Gilderoy hates his new job creating the sound effects for The Equestrian Vortex, which is not a movie about horses, as he imagined, but a gruesome giallo flick. In Pontypool, a bizarre virus infects the town and Mazzy and the other employees of the local radio station must piece together the truth from conflicting reports, incoherent witnesses, and mysterious military injunctions. In Berberian Sound Studio, Gilderoy is an innocent adrift, desperately trying to hold together his reality even as it merges with the grisly fantasy he's forced to help create. Both films interrogate the gaps between sounds and meaning, facsimiles and reality, consensus/objectivity and dissent/subjectivity.

So there you have it: some brain candy to accompany your Halloween candy. I wish you a pleasant mix of tricks and treats. Happy Halloween!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (morena baccarin)
I missed an installment of Friday Faves because I was at the Sirens convention in Denver, too nervous about my presentation, then too relieved when it was over, to focus on blogging. Thus it seems logical to devote a FF to the happiest bits of my first Sirens experience.*

One-on-one whiskey-fueled chat with [livejournal.com profile] blairmacg. Although we'd met in passing at a previous WisCon and had some exchanges online, this was my first opportunity to sit down and talk at length with Blair. I'd tell you what we talked about, but then I'd have to kill you. And, thanks to Blair, I know how! Oops. I've said too much.

A slightly rebellious walk with [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume. In what may be our tradition, after two ReaderCons and now Sirens, Francesca and I had a walk-n-talk. And when the path didn't go where we wanted it to, we scuttled down an embankment and infiltrated a golf course. Given that the theme of this year's Sirens was "rebels and revolutionaries", it seemed the natural course of action.

An audience for my presentation. Seriously, I was braced for the possibility that no one would show for a paper on an obscure Mexican poet. To see more than a handful of folks take their seats and look to me expectantly was a HUGE relief. I think the presentation went well--I may have read too quickly, but my timekeeper never gave me the signal to slow down, and I was a little awkward deploying the Prezi, but I didn't feel like I fumbled my words too often or lost the emotional thread of the talk. I plan to submit my paper to the Sirens compendium. I'm also looking into Hispanic Lit journals, to see if I can get it published without much revision.

Rae Carson talking about Elisa, her fat heroine, getting skinny. After Carson's keynote speech, an audience member asked if Carson had experienced backlash for presenting a fat heroine in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Now, one of the very few complaints I saw in reviews of Carson's first book was that the thrill of seeing a fat heroine in its opening pages was vanquished when said heroine lost weight and became conventionally attractive to the more-shallow characters, something I call the weight-loss "redemption" arc. Carson explained that in her original vision, the rapid weight loss was very much Not a Good Thing and Elisa gained back the weight. In very diplomatic terms, Carson noted that publishing was in a different place just four years ago, pre-Dumplin'. I was very relieved to hear her explanation, and I admired how she refrained from casting blame or aspersions.

The wedding singer. A totally sappy moment for me. The hotel's main restaurant is beside a banquet hall where wedding receptions and other special events are held. One night I slipped away from a rousing, writerly dinner party to use the bathroom and I heard the John Legend song "All of Me" being sung next door for a wedding party. Is that not the most perfect song for a first dance? I instantly teared up, so I didn't stick around for the whole performance, lest I return to my table and have to explain my cryface.


*I missed another installment because I got so damn sick at Sirens. This seems to be my MO: Look forward to an outing for months, then get so sick before during or after that I swear I'll never travel again. Having a hard time figuring out how to organize a Friday Faves post based on that.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (silver teapots)
Friday Faves is late today but I didn't forget. I was just busy! I outlined my third story in three days, and then it was Movie Night at Tweetie's school. They were showing HOME, which I like very much, so I actually voluntarily attended a school function. Imagine that.

This week's faves are television shows. Since Hannibal ended (*ugly cries*), there hasn't been much must-see-tv for me. I watch stuff on Netflix or Hulu that's the entertainment equivalent of junk food. But sometimes junk food makes me happy, y'know? And this week, these were the highlights:

1. Sleepy Hollow -- It's back! I "missed" the first few minutes, but only in the scare-quote sense, since I saw promo tweets and then folks were live-tweeting. I was VERY happy to see our power trio--Abbie, Crane, and Jenny--were all integral to the plot and got some emotional development. That alone has me cautiously optimistic that this season will repudiate the huge mistakes of season 2, but the introduction of Betsy Ross worries me. Not that I expect colonial-era Crane to have "saved himself" for Abbie, but why do the writers keep force-'shipping Crane with (white) Women Who Are NOT Abbie? Why must they fight the obvious, ridiculously powerful chemistry of Crane and Abbie? Even if there's not a romantic relationship between the two, shouldn't their relationship--their partnership--be at the forefront of this show? (The answer is YES.)

2. Elementary -- I resisted this show for a long time, thinking I preferred the BBC Sherlock. I appreciate "sociopathic" characters like Moffat's Sherlock because they're basically me on a bad day, impatient with everyone else's bullshit, furious that they don't grok the social contract everyone else seems to intuitively operate by. But sociopath is different from asshole, and I'm really tired of assholes. JJ started watching Elementary, and I watched some with him, quickly warming up to Jonny Lee Miller's nuanced portrayal of Sherlock. This Sherlock is still socially inept, brusque, often insensitive, but his tenderness toward Joan Watson is touching. You can tell he really does value and admire her--and fuck, it's Lucy Liu so hell yeah, he'd better! But then I hit episode 16 of season 1, where he proposes in all earnestness that she become his apprentice, and it was so sweet I cried. I'll definitely be watching more.

3. American Horror Story, Coven -- Definitely the weakest of the first three seasons storywise, but more enjoyable for the simple reason that it's all about women. Women of different eras, ages, shapes, sizes, abilities, temperament, race...hmmm, I don't recall any queer characters but I can't say for sure. The women were the plot-movers, the men were peripheral. Every episode--almost every scene, in fact--passed the Bechdel-Wallace test. I was reluctant to watch this season because I didn't think the show would handle the race aspects well. I'm still not sure it did, I have many reservations, but setting those aside, the acerbic wit of these witches made for a diverting binge-watch.

I haven't been watching Empire, but I'll definitely catch up later in the season. I want to test drive Scream Queens also (though I'm not sure how much of Emma Roberts' bitch persona I can take; it looks like the American Horror Story folks just told her "hold that pose while we shift you to this comedy."). My dalliance with Revenge is pretty much over. Any recommendations for more tv to rot my brain?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
I like to learn new words. Not from word-a-day websites or calendars, but from my own reading, where context is more likely to make the new word stick. This week, three words impressed themselves upon me, three lovely little morsels of brain candy.

1. Jerboa -- I encountered this noun while reading Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns (a somewhat misleading title, btw). The jerboa is described as a desert rodent with a long tail, and the jerboa is caught and cooked in a (much maligned) stew by folks traversing the desert. I assumed the jerboa was a mythical "smeerp" type critter that resembled a squirrel or chinchilla. Then I saw a picture of a real-life jerboa online. And was instantly, retroactively revolted at every mention of the stew. I think it's the tail. And the long skinny legs. And the skin on its bat-like ears. Considering how many of the online mentions of jerboas emphasize their cute-itude, I suspect I am in the minority with my revulsion, much like [livejournal.com profile] snowy_owlet and her feelings toward sloths.

2. Caudillismo -- I've seen (and looked up) this word many times before, from my general interest in Mexican history and the polysci copyediting I did years ago. But it never really stuck until this week, when I came across it again in Shadows of Tender Fury: The Letters and Communiques of Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. A caudillo is defined in the book's glossary as "a charismatic political leader who derives his power from his military experience, prowess, and bearing." So caudillismo is that form of leadership. Why should the term stick now, when it never did before? For one thing, you're familiar with the idea of "my TV (or book) boyfriend"? Well, Subcomandante Marcos is my Rebel Boyfriend. Any word I learn from him has instant cachet. Also, the fact that the book has a glossary means I can flip back and refresh my memory, and the memory is further solidified by the look of the formatted text.

3. Sankofa -- This is an Akan word from Ghana that I learned from reading "lifestream," Sofia Samatar's account of the Princeton symposium "Ferguson Is The Future." I see from several online sources that, roughly translated, sankofa means "reach back and get it" and is associated with a proverb along the lines of "there's no shame in going back for what you forgot." Most often sankofa is symbolized by a bird flying forward while twisting its head back to take an egg in its beak. There's a picture of the symposium poster in Sofia's post, and it includes a different sankofa symbol near the center: the twisty, twirly heart-shape. The concept of sankofa, of retrieving precious things from the past, resonates with me partly because of the research I've been doing on Sara Estela Ramirez, a nearly forgotten rebel poet of the Mexican Revolution. Much of her poetry was published in newspapers, which are so ephemeral, and even more so when they are of and for a marginalized population, as was Ramirez's writing for Mexican exiles living in South Texas around the turn of the 20th century. I can't even find a surviving photo of the woman, though I've seen several of her contemporaries. I would very much like to reach back and retrieve ALL the work of this amazing antepasada.

Have you learned any new words this week? What made them stand out for you? Maybe you made up a new word? Please share in the comments!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hola)
Trying something new here, in an effort to revive my flagging blogging powers. On Fridays, I aim to list a few things that have made me happy over the week. Today, it's treats from the cupboard. Feel free to talk up your faves in the comments!

1. Cinnamon Somersaults. I picked these bite-sized cookies up because I wanted to jumpstart Fall. They're delicious and filling. I don't think I've eaten a full serving in one sitting, because just a few satisfy me. I'm interested in the Salt and Pepper ones, too. Anyone tried those?

2. Adagio Teas, especially the fandom blends. This week I restocked my faves from the Hannibal-themed sampler I bought awhile back. And I bought some sample tins that continue my theme of "Desperate for Fall." Yesterday I melted over Halloween Caramel Apple.

3. Caramel Apple Dip + Pepperidge Farm Gingerman Cookies. Tweetie and I dunked the cookies in caramel apple dip for dessert last night. We each had 2 and a half cookies and were completely satisfied. Sooo rich, sooo good, sooo autumnal.

I'd hoped to take the family apple picking this weekend, but it's rained so much the last couple of days. I don't think J and Tweetie really want to go slopping through the soggy orchard. So these treats (and my scented candles!) will have to satisfy my autumnal yearnings for a little longer.

How do y'all scratch that seasonal itch?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (writing)
Many thanks to Alexa Piper (@ProwlingPiper) for making me dust off Ye Olde LJ by issuing this challenge:

Go to the 7th page of a work in progress, go 7 lines down, post the next 7 lines, then challenge 7 other writers to do the same.

So here goes, a little more than 7 lines (so as not to cut off mid-sentence) from Border Blaster, my current novel in revision:

At [Mettie's] words, Keegan’s boys sauntered closer, nostrils flaring, biceps flexing under their tweed coats. Their menace was slightly undermined by the odd gait of the musclehead closest to Aurelia. Maybe his fancy cowboy boots were too tight.

Behind her, Aurelia heard Davis getting out of his squad car. He donned his hat as he hurried to the gate. Their new company only unsettled Mettie for a moment.

“So you got thugs and coppers in your pocket, do you? Then I’ll talk to the papers,” she vowed, pointing at the doctor. “You know it was some hot-shot reporter at the Chicago Tribune got Doc Porter’s license revoked in Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska, don’t you?"


I was challenged via Twitter, so that's where I'll tag 7 buddies to continue the fun. But by all means, feel free to play in the comments!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (coffee wtf)
It's come to my attention that my collection of short fiction and poetry, The Haunted Girl, has been nominated for the Elgin Award, which is given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association for best book of poetry published in a preceding year. I was not informed by SFPA of the nomination. I only learned my book was on their website's list of nominees when voting members requested review copies of the book for consideration.

I am honored by the nomination and grateful to the person(s) who nominated my book. As I understand the rules, however, my book is not actually eligible for this award. The description of the Elgin Awards provided on the SFPA website states, "Books containing fiction as well as poetry are not eligible." Because The Haunted Girl comprises 21 poems and 5 short stories, it would not seem to be eligible. I have notified the Chair of this year's Elgin Awards that I am declining the nomination and I've asked them to remove my book from the list of nominees.

Again, I am very grateful that someone considered my book award-worthy. Thank you. I hope that one of my future collections will be nominated for (and maybe even win!) an Elgin Award.
cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)
While I was on vacation, I accumulated some good news.

First, the table of contents for Spelling the Hours, a poetry chapbook forthcoming from Stone Bird Press, has been announced. The chapbook (a bonus for backers of An Alphabet of Embers) focuses on previously forgotten figures in science and technology, and it includes my poem "A Personal History of the Universal History of the Things of New Spain," which is about the unknown Nahua artists of the Florentine Codex.

Second, my poem "glass womb" is slated for publication in the fall issue of Interfictions. I think I've been subbing this poem for over ten years, but it crystallized into its final form quite suddenly in January. I credit gruesome pics on tumblr.

Third, my poem "The Skin-Walker's Wife," originally published in Strange Horizons, will be reprinted in the Queers Destroy Horror! issue of Nightmare magazine, which should be out around October.

More details (possibly even poem notes!) when publication draws near.

Cheers, my friends!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (coffee wtf)
I'll be arriving in Boston on Thursday afternoon and leaving Monday morning. I'm looking to share rides to the hotel and back to Logan Airport, so email me if we're buds and you think we can coordinate our schedules.

Friday lunch with [livejournal.com profile] oracne!

Friday 8:00 PM The Fascination with Hannibal Lecter. Readers and TV/film viewers can't get enough of fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter. We'll use him as a way of examining why some evil characters are celebrated while others are loathed. Do style, vengeance, and seductiveness in otherwise repulsive characters motivate us to describe their victims as deserving, or reduce them to mere objects whose suffering serves to develop the villain-hero's personality? These characters can be deeply fascinating as a sophisticated form of evil we can imagine in our midst. What does it say about us that we love reading about and watching them so much?

Saturday breakfast with [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume!

Saturday lunch with [livejournal.com profile] gwynnega!

Saturday 3:30 PM Reading: Lisa Bradley. Lisa Bradley will read selections from her recently published collection, The Haunted Girl (Aqueduct Press), and debut new works. (I'll have copies of my book for sale, which I'd be happy to sign.)

As yet, I've made no plans for dinners, drinks, or special events.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
Just Finished: A Rope of Thorns by Gemma Files ([livejournal.com profile] handful_ofdust). As I said in a previous entry, reading this book was 'bout the only thing making me happy, so I stalled to avoid the ending. It turned out, I needn't have worried, because the ending of this, the second book in the Hexslinger trilogy, was pretty happy-making in itself. There's such a density of detail in these books, delivered at such breakneck speed, that one might imagine Gemma writing in a mad-dash to get it all down. But this isn't (only?) a helter-skelter stream-of-consciousness adventure. There's a magnificent level of craftsmanship at work. For example, I had no idea Chess's mother would assume so much importance when she was first introduced, and being surprised like that gives me goosebumps: what other pivot points have I missed? what revelations await in the final book?

Perhaps my favorite line of the book: "Gods sleep within us all, waiting to be prayed alive. And gods can kill other gods."

Currently Reading: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Tweetie and I are almost finished with this novel in verse about a young girl whose family immigrates from war-torn South Vietnam to America. The girl has a sweet neighbor who is a retired teacher, who agrees to tutor the girl and soon becomes her champion, helping her deal with bullies and her clueless teacher, who presents a very one-sided picture of Vietnam that further alienates the poor kid. Honestly, the neighbor reminds me of my own neighbors, both of whom are retired teachers and unfailingly kind.

For my nonfiction research, I'm still plugging away at The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working-Class Music by Manuel Peña. The author gives mini bios of some key artists in the conjunto tradition, and it's interesting to see my hometown region from their point of view. In the 1930s, there were Anglo and "Mexican" schools. Like my grandparents, the musicians who Peña profiles grew up with little formal education. He shares a quote from a (white) school superintendent back then:

"Most of our Mexicans are of the lower class. They transplant onions, harvest them, etc. The less they know about everything else, the better contented they are. You have doubtless heard that ignorance is bliss; it seems that it is so when one has to transplant onions...If a man has very much sense or education either, he is not going to stick to this kind of work. So you see, it is up to the white population to keep the Mexican on his knees in an onion patch...This does not mix well with education."

I think what bothers me--I mean, aside from the paterrnalism, racism, and hypocrisy (he starts by claiming ignorance is best for the "Mexicans", then admits it's really best for the white population to keep the Mexicans in servitude)--is that this attitude comes from someone who made it his life's work to foster education and enlightenment...but only for certain people, which seems anathema to the very notion of enlightenment.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dolores del rio)
All the books in this edition are history oriented nonfic or historical fiction. Not intentional, just happened that way.

Just finished: Border Boom Town: Ciudad Juárez since 1848 by Oscar J. Martínez. I was so excited about this book when I started it. My full review is at Goodreads, but, in short, I came to feel the author minimized certain acts of violence by US "authorities" and thus I lost faith in the accuracy of his account of events.

Currently reading: My read-aloud with Tweetie is Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. As [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume suggested, I probably enjoy it more than Tweetie does. I think she could take or leave it, but she perked up some when the young Vietnamese narrator and her family arrived in the US, with all the culture shock that entails.

For my own pleasure reading, I continue with A Rope of Thorns by [livejournal.com profile] handful_ofdust. I should've finished it by now, but for a while there, Gemma's book was the only thing making me happy, so I (stupidly) stopped reading in an effort to make it last. Brain, get your shit together, yes?

My current research read is The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working Class Music by Manuel H. Peña. The topic is only slantwise related to my novel, so I won't read the whole book, but it's pretty interesting in itself. The thesis is that the conjunto musical style developed among Tejanos post WW2 because of the socioeconomic, racial, and asssimilation pressures particular to that era.

Next up: The university library books I borrowed for novel research are due June 1, so I've got to hustle through Where North Meets South: Cities, Space, and Politics on the United States-Mexico Border by Lawrence A. Herzog (the author's name is familiar to me from my days of polisci copyediting). If I finish A Rope of Thorns, I may start Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, ed. Sheree R. Thomas.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (I need coffee)
I broke up with vegetarianism a month ago and I feel better than I have in a LOOONG time. I have mixed feelings about this, but I think the results are inarguable. Just a week in to my more carnivorous lifestyle, I felt like I'd dropped 30 pounds. In truth, it was just the relief of not being bloated and in pain anymore. Remember those commercials about sinus congestion that show how pain distorts body image? Like that.

I don't think I've cut anything out of my diet entirely. I severely restrict tomatoes, beans, and dairy. I've cut back substantially on soy and gluten. And I've been pretty intense about keeping a food journal. I use a free iPhone app, My Fitness Pal, to keep track of what I'm eating and any symptoms. A side benefit is that the app shows me calorie breakdowns and provides nutritional info. It's particularly useful for helping me avoid anemia and its exacerbation of my restless leg syndrome. Unintentionally, I have lost weight, but only about 7 pounds.

The weight loss is interesting because, in addition to changing my diet, I've started taking oral contraceptives again. When I used them in the past, I gained weight. I'm not sure what to credit the difference to. I've changed, the drugs have changed, etc. But I'm relieved not to have to fight unwanted side effects. As for possible positive side effects, my skin is clearing up. As with the weight loss, superficial improvement was not my intention, but I'll take it, as it means one less thing to worry about.

Hubster says, now that I've taken care of the digestive problems, I can schedule a doctor's appointment to address my restless leg syndrome. ...I guess. I feel pretty overwhelmed lately, for no reason I can pinpoint. Maybe it's the depression? I just want to sleep all the time. 
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (accomplished)
Editor Mitchell Hart has posted the newest issue of Through the Gate, which includes my poem "Levity." A short, whimsical piece about what [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume aptly terms "inconvenient miracles," this poem was loosely inspired by old photos of spiritualists. Also included are works by [livejournal.com profile] popelizbet, [livejournal.com profile] sovay, Bogi Takács, M Sereno, Neile Graham, and Sarah Page, in an ever-changing lineup that prompts the reader to consider connections between the works. Or maybe the Table of Contents is just tricksy and having fun!

At Lightspeed, [livejournal.com profile] tithenai has reviewed three books from Aqueduct Press: [livejournal.com profile] sovay's latest collection, Ghost Signs, Jenn Brissett's novel Elysium, and my collection, The Haunted Girl. Amal is very complimentary, which is thrilling in itself, but she also clearly "gets" my book. I wanted to hug these words:

...at the collection’s core: resistance to norms, to imposition, be they of language, sexuality, or mortality. There is a sharpness, a sting to most of these poems, of the kind that makes you hiss and then seek it out again....I loved the collection’s bilingualism, both in the presence of Spanish and the musings on being between languages, on the thermodynamics of translation.

I am so grateful my work is out there, being read, being appreciated.

Now, back to work!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (coffee wtf)
Just finished: Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. Reading this book, I realized what I've loved so much about previous Sacks books I've read. I've never sensed any judgment or disgust from him regarding his patients' symptoms and behaviors, regardless of how bizarre they might have been. In this book, specifically the chapter "Altered States" but also sprinkled throughout the text, Sacks recounts the various hallucinations he himself has experienced, some of them intentionally conjured from experimentation with recreational drugs, others due to his habit of "self-prescribing" drugs as a young doctor, and still others resulting from the contingencies of life. Perhaps it's been first-hand experience that's kept Sacks humble and compassionate.

This is not my favorite of Sacks' books, but it was enlightening, especially his observations on the geometric auras associated with migraines, how they reflect the patterns built into the architecture of our brains' visual systems.

"Perhaps such experiences are at the root of our human obsession with pattern and the fact that geometrical patterns find their ways into our decorative arts....Migraine-like patterns...can be found in Islamic art, in classical and medieval motifs, in Zapotec architecture, in the bark paintings of Aboriginal arists in Australia...in virtually every culture, going back tens of thousands of years. There seems to have been, throughout human history, a need to externalize and make art from these internal experiences....There is an increasing feeliing among neuroscientists that self-organizing activity in vast populations of visual neurons is a prerequisite of visual perception....Spontaneous self-organization is not restricted to living systems; one may see it in the formation of snow crystals, in the roilings and eddies of turbulent water....[T]he geometrical hallucinations of migraine allow us to experience in ourselves not only a universal of neural functioning but a universal of nature itself."

Now reading: Border Boom Town: Ciudad Juárez since 1848 by Oscar J. Martínez. This book is a researcher's dream come true. Terms defined at the beginning of the book, photos, tables, detailed endnotes, extensive bibliography, critical analysis of sources in that bibliography, well-organized chapters, intros and conclusions. I want to make sweet, sweet love to this book. I know it will be useful for present novel and I will probably turn to it again for a future project. Big score!

Also reading: A Rope of Thorns, Book 2 of the Hexslinger series, by Gemma Files. I laughed at the book's dedication to Files' husband. I cooed over the epigraphs, and then I quick-slipped back into this 'verse I absolutely LOVE. In the wake of the Sacks book, I can't help but marvel over the hallucinogenically elaborate images spilling from the pages. So many awe-inspiring details. The gods and monsters will gobble you up while you stand in slack-jawed wonder at their terrible beauty.

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