Hello friends and family!
We are going through a time. I believe we will come out stronger and more aware on the other side. It's been hard to think or even concentrate on small, day-to-day or feel grateful as we watch these terrible growing pains wrack our country. If you can donate or you're interested in books, articles, and art you can engage with on the subject, feel free to leave a comment or message me. A lot of writers have been posting resources and getting involved in ways besides just sending money or protesting.
When the coronavirus hit, I already knew it was about to happen from watching the news about China and talking to students there. Staying at home more often underlined how limited my life can be as a freelancer with a variable schedule. However, I was able to be productive. I worked a ton in April and May since my students became more available, forced to quarantine, work from home, or cease activities that gave meaning to their lives. The last week+ has been very difficult for me. Sometimes, all I want to do is cry when I see the news. I've felt deep rage in my bones, deep sadness in my gut. Sometimes, I've been on the verge of cancelling commitments or getting a migraine.
I'm trying to help in any way I can and practice self care. I hope that you are too. That's why I'm writing this post: to give some good news (and hopefully entertainment) in these dark times.
Last night, I had an informal interview/call with the editor-in-chief of a literary magazine. She wants me to be their art editor, taking point on visual submissions, giving some direction to the magazine, and contributing to reading all regular submissions and deciding which pieces to publish. I'm thrilled to do this exciting work for them and I hope that it will help me learn and grow a lot along with them. Right now, I need to send a bio and photo for their masthead and then choose the right time to announce everything on social media. One big perk for me is that they have weekly video meetings to discuss submissions and other stuff. I'm looking forward to being part of a small community and making friends.
Last month, I also began volunteering as a fiction reader for Longleaf. You can see me on the masthead here. They are a bigger group and they have four submission windows each year. My task is to read and assign scores to about twenty submissions per week! I've already read some fantastic stories that I hope we will publish.
As far as my own writing and publications, there has been a lot since the quarantine. I went from a place where I was barely publishing at all to a place where I can't fit all my 2020 publications on my one-page CVs. I have new publications forthcoming in Serotonin, Moonchild Magazine, Ayaskala, Cypress, Ligeia, *82, and the Mark Literary Review (along with some older acceptances I'm still waiting on)! I have new work that I'm proud of that I hope will be picked up quickly.
If you missed it, Vox Viola published three of my poems in their spring issue. I'm especially proud of 'To my cat, who loves pens' and 'What Is, Enough.' You can read them here.
Good news on the 'Maria is taking classes' front: I've received several scholarships and awards to attend workshops this summer. I'm taking a one-day translation workshop from GrubStreet Programs that I'm very excited for, a lot of one- and two-hour craft seminars at Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and even a workshop for free through my literary magazine, Longleaf (a great perk for the staff and current contributors to the magazine). I also received bigger grants to attend two poetry workshops through the Speakeasy Project. In one, we will generate about twenty-five pages of work. In the other, we will hone about eight poems and make them as strong as possible. I expect to emerge from the summer with more confidence, knowledge, and work (and probably exhausted and weeping haha). The last workshop (I promise) is a four-week hybrid and multimedia workshop to learn to create visual art, poetry, and writing projects. I will finally be able to achieve my ultimate goal, wrapping cat text around an image of Minwu!
If you've ever been a 'hey I've always wanted to learn to write' kind of person, a lot of venues are offering free or very cheap workshops and events at the moment that you can participate in remotely. I'd be happy to recommend some options to you if you ask and tell me what it is you want to write. A lot of courses are geared towards beginners, so no worries if you are new-ish. I've even met a lot of people who are writing in their second language! Finally, I would, of course, be thrilled to help you with any writing- or editing-based projects you are working on.
In Minwu news: the other day, I was eating lunch and I had to work. I ate the outside part (around the crust) of a salami sandwich and put it on my desk next to my mouse, figuring I'd finish it after the class ended forty minutes later. I began class as normal. Minwu had left to go in the other room (I assumed to watch the bird or be with Cody). Twenty minutes later, a piece of bread hit me in the chest and bounced onto the floor behind me. I said some not-so-safe-for-work words and picked up the bread. The other part of my sandwich was gone and Minwu was half-cowering under the bed. I told my student I needed a minute, muted myself (thank God), got up and started pursuing him. He went to Cat Jail for a long time!
He had dragged the other half of the sandwich, salami, mustard, and all, under the bed to eat. I hadn't even noticed that he had come back! But yes, he is still alive and doing well. I don't think he ate any of the sandwich because he was too busy hunting the other half. Usually he's not very aggressive when it comes to food and he is also not very good at stealth. So it was a huge surprise when he hunted that sandwich! He does love popcorn, chips of any kind (we caught him once with his entire body in a Doritos bag), dairy products (I think something about the milk drives him nuts) and noodles. He is the curator of noodles when I make spicy noodles, with thin spaghetti/angel hair being his second favorite.
Two days ago, we had a huge bee scare. I had to teach and I came out into the sunroom for just a minute. One thing he is good at is finding bugs (usually small ones like silverfish). He will chirp at a silverfish on the ceiling until I notice and we Do Something about it. This time, he was very interested in something next to the window, so I came to expect. Now, this is a cat who jumps at birds and bees flying outside our windows, so I didn't have high expectations until I noticed that yes, there was an actual freaking bee on this side of the glass, and he was swatting at it with his paw. Visions of My Girl danced in my head and I had to run for a glass and trap the bee in between my water glass and a video game case that was sitting nearby. I didn't have time to do anything else so I rushed him into the bedroom and inspected him. He seemed fine, a bit curious as to why I was so crazy. I shut the door and taught my class since I didn't have time to deal with the bee.
Thankfully, Cody came home and dealt with the bee. He said Minwu had basically beat it up and it couldn't fly too well when he put it outside. Minwu was fine, too. If anything, he wanted to see where his new toy had gotten off to! I fear for this cat's life sometimes.
Okay, I don't think I can follow that one up with anything nearly as good. Just know that I'm thinking about you, wondering how you are, and hoping that we will come out of this moment stronger and wiser (and healthy!)
I'll be posting more in general as the days go on. If you'd like to support me, you can sign up on Patreon for just $1 a month. Today I'm spending quality time with Cody and Minwu and making art! I hope you have a good day, too.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
October 21, 2016. That's the day I drafted the last blog post I wrote on this site - indeed, it's the last time I looked at the site for a long time. I had just posted about making the second issue of my lit mag, Hapax, a labor of love. I had also been in the process of submitting works and publishing. If I look at my current CV, there is a long gap between then and now, gracefully punctuated by a few small activities.
As you may know, my relationship ended in 2017 and I had to change everything. I got a new job, moved twice, started a new relationship, and adopted a new cat. Between the end of 2016 and the end of 2017, I became depressed and unmotivated. I finished my degree in December and continued writing a novel, continued sustaining the guild and my online relationships, and that was about it. I lacked the confidence to do almost anything. There were bright spots in that time, accomplishments and celebrations, highs in my relationship, but also a lot of lows.
After settling into my new job and new living situation, I became obsessed with working. I wanted to make up for all the time when I hadn't been productive, particularly in that lost year. Finally, in October 2018, I began to take language lessons. It proved to me that I could make time for other things besides work (even though I use language skills at work). To be honest, I went a little crazy, but I learned a lot.
The biggest lesson was how to harness my previous experience and education. Everything I had studied in the past, from business ideas to freelance development, to being creative and setting goals, became relevant. I feel blessed because I use some facet of what I learned every single day - from Latin verbs to reading and understanding statistics to web design and more.
Finally, I decided I wanted to write again. I've developed a daily practice of writing and being creative, squeezing time from my carefully-managed schedule in order to write. I'm happier now and I have a lot of works in progress as well as some publications past and future to look forward to. The last part of getting back to writing was restoring a public face to the world. That means resurrecting and polishing my website, my Twitter, and, of course, this blog.
It hasn't been easy or perfect, but I think I'm ready to continue creating. I hope to update this blog at least once a week. I'm planning to do Campnanowrimo next month to generate work. And I want to continue engaging with all of you. Thank you for supporting me for the past few years and being patient with me. I hope to talk soon.
Remembering Tango: +1 Year
Once, I was asked how many years it took for grief to go by, and I responded that it had been six years between Elizabeth, my first cat, running away and adopting Timmy, our new family cat. Timmy is alive and well, but Tango, the Bengal rescue cat we loved so much, passed away a bit over a year ago. Although he was old when we adopted him, he deserved the best life we could give him, and more of it in my opinion.
Pets are a strange subject to write about because they are both an eminent commonality and very proprietary. You risk adhering to the familiar and sentimental or boring your audience. I wanted to publish work about Tango; I wanted to prove that I could memorialize him in that way.
A while back, I wrote a blog post about list poems. I was experimenting with new forms, and that's how I won an honorable mention in the Binnacle's Ultra Short Contest this year for cat: a google search. Although I marketed it for the contest as poetry, it is nonfiction: a list of terms in my search history, curated over a year of owning a wonderful Bengal cat.
Why did this idea stand out? Well, after Tango's death it was hard for me to browse the web on my computer or ipad because I had spent a year googling cat terms including a lot of items towards the end of his life. Thanks to Google's autocomplete feature, which says, "Hey, you're searching for something that starts with 'ca'--let me suggest some things!" I couldn't look up anything, and I didn't want to clear my search history either. That, right there, is what grief is.