A Detailed Absence

It’s been a while since I’ve been here–nearly two months. A lot has happened since I last posted.  I hope that as my health returns, I will be able to blog more consistently. I would like to post weekly, but we will have to wait and see what happens.

brother and sister
By Laura Makabresku, “Lovers”

Let’s start with the good news. My poem “Brother and Sister” came out on June 26 at Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. I’m pleased this piece found a home as I’ve always found the fairy tale compelling. Terri Windling once wrote a “Brother and Sister Duet” on the same fairy tale, which was published at the Journal of Mythic Arts. It was one of those poems I was drawn to read over and over again. So imagine my glee, when Terri shared my version with her Facebook followers. It was quite the thrill!

I am currently getting geared up for my first residency at Stonecoast. I will be in Maine from July 8-18 and will be working with David Anthony Durham as well as Theodora Goss and Elizabeth Hand during workshops and I have a whole line-up of seminars and graduate presentations I plan on attending. it should be an incredible experience and I can’t wait to be there. In addition to having been one of five candidates chosen to enter the Popular Fiction track this semester, I have also been awarded a graduate scholarship from The University of Maine for this semester’s 6 credits. It was a wonderful surprise and I feel blessed to have been chosen for this honor. It’s not something I take lightly. The last bit of news on my MFA program is that I was also chosen to be one of ten students awarded the opportunity to attend Stonecoast in Ireland for my January residency. It’s all very exciting.

Now a bit about the bad:

On June 11, I had a terrible bicycle accident. I was going downhill on a road, looked over my left shoulder to ask my companion which way to turn. I have only been riding for a little over a year, so I still have a tendency to turn my handlebars in the direction I am looking. I don’t remember anything after looking over my shoulder, but apparently I had a run in with a big patch of gravel in the street. It stopped my bike abruptly and I was thrown face down into the street and all of the loose gravel that had collected at the bottom of the hill tore me to pieces.

Luckily, my sister Nikki Couch was in her truck following us and was able to stabilize me until the ambulance arrived. I was unconscious for most of this time, although I do remember being loaded into the ambulance and seeing her arms gloved in blood. The next 12 hours were a blur. I was in and out of consciousness. I remember my sister’s voice, my boyfriend holding my hand, the techs cutting off the shredded remains of my clothes, the anesthesia. In the end, I was in surgery for four hours.

There was extensive road rash on the tops of my hands and feet and knees. My left knee was cut to bone and required 12 staples. My chest was abraded to the point where there was no skin left, which required it being treated as a severe burn case, as they have been trying to regrow skin from the bottom up. The worst damage was my face. My helmet saved my life and my glasses saved my eyes, but there was extensive damage to my mouth and right cheek. I had stitches inside my lower lip and from my upper lip to my nose. I also had stitches on a long cut across the cheekbone near my lower eyelid. Unfortunately the stitches under my eye did not hold as the skin died and I will be having reconstructive surgery on July 19, the day after I return from my residency.

I have been posting photos of my recovery on Facebook, but I’ve been asked to put them altogether in a sort of album. So here they are, so far. I’m not done healing yet. I have work to do!

Me Before the Accident
A photo of me before the accident.
Just out of Surgery June 12
The accident happened around 4:30 pm on June 11. This is a photo of me after 12 hours being treated in the trauma unit.
Evening June 12
This is in the evening of June 12 after my sister cleaned me up and washed most of the blood out of my hair.
June 13
A wonderful tech named Danisha washed and braided my hair and made me feel human again. This is from June 13.
June 14
June 14. Things are looking up, but I’m having difficulty transitioning to oral pain medications.
June 15
June 15. Notice the blue gown. My bed is no longer booby trapped. Time to go home even though they wanted to keep me another day.
June 16
June 16. Finally home and being treated like a queen by my guy and his son. I want for nothing.
June 17
June 17. Venturing outside.

 

June 18
June 18. Full body shot. Still pretty banged up.
June 19
June 19. Does the wavy hair detract from my poor beat up face?
June 21
June 21. Stitches came out yesterday. I thought everything would keep getting better. At the time, I did not know that the skin under my eye had died and that the stitches didn’t take.
June 23
June 23. I am about to discover that the surgery under my eye failed and that I have a long journey of facial reconstruction ahead of me.
June 24
The wound under my eye has completely separated and my lower lid has begun to droop. Big problems. But the makeup and eye patch helped a little. June 24.
June 27
July 27. The verdict is in. I need a skin graft on the skin under my lower right eyelid. The surgeon will be taking the skin from the upper lid, but he won’t do the the lid lift on the left eye in case the graft doesn’t take and he needs another source of skin. I am scheduled for surgery July 19, the day I return from Stonecoast. Once it has healed, I will be able to get the other eyelid done so my eyes will look symmetrical. The second surgery will be done in 3-6 months and the cost will have to come out of pocket. I am looking at needing some serious change to look somewhat normal. Scary stuff.

Although I could have had my surgery done on July 12, I refused the chance to miss my first residency, so I delayed the surgery until July 19. It has been an emotional time, but now I need to write. I need deadlines. I need reinforcement. And I need support.

I have a Patreon account that is set up for people who want to support my work. You can help with as little as $1 a month. There are levels with goodies such as poems and stories and other fun rewards. My gig with Bootprints went belly-up, so I am back where I started. Any little bit will help.

Carina

Selkies, Sirens, and Shark Boys

selkieI have a thing about selkies, those maidens of the sea who shed their seal coats to dance on land. Don’t get me wrong. Mermaids and sirens have their own appeal, but it’s the selkies that I feel the most connected to. That connection evolved into my poem “Swimming with the Shark Boys,” which came out this month at Mythic Delirium.

Found predominantly in Irish and Scottish folklore, selkies live as seals in the sea. However, when they come ashore, they shed their seal skins and reveal themselves in their human form. According to folklore, these  beautiful women can be trapped on land if their seal skins are discovered and hidden. In this way, they become fairy brides, who can be beguiled into a marriage with the mortal who holds their coats and their freedom at bay. These selkies are said to make good wives, but as soon as one of these fairy brides finds her hidden seal coat, she returns to the ocean without once looking back.

mermaid-vertical_2445977k“In Swimming with the Shark Boys,” I took a different approach. In high school, I always felt awkward and ungainly, especially around the divas and cheerleaders who scored with early beauty. Mine took a while, so I watched the courtships and drama from the sidelines. After a while, I found that I was much more interested in the bad boys than the guys who feathered their hair and dressed in pastel polo shirts. That fascination got me into trouble over the years, but I always found it more exciting to swim with the sharks than the schools. What can I say?

“Swimming with the Shark Boys” is a cautionary tale. Whether it’s for the selkie girls or for the shark boys is something I’ll leave up to the reader.

patreon_navigation_logo_mini_orangeOn a side note, I’ve created a Patreon account. For as little as $1 a month, you can support the work I’m doing in poetry and fiction. And with just $5 a month, you’ll be given access to new stories and poems created for my benefactors. Every little bit helps. Thanks!

Images: Selkie by zirofax at DeviantArt; Hannah Mermaid Swimming with Whale Sharks by Shawn Heinrichs.

Jumping Into Spring

John_William_Waterhouse_-_I_am_half-sick_of_shadows,_said_the_lady_of_shalottIt’s been a busy couple of months and it’s time to play catch up.

March was full of fabulous news, which I’d hoped to share. Unfortunately, I’ve been shut down as I transferred my content to a new server. As I am far from being a pro in matters of technology, I stumbled through the process over the course of several weeks. In the end, I axed all of my blogs prior to January this year, but I’ve finally got everything else back up and running.

This Spring, I was notified that I made the cut for the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing. I’m thrilled with the opportunity and have been gearing up for what promises to be a challenging and productive two years studying and writing in the field of Popular Fiction. My first residency will be held in Portland, Maine this July with workshops by David Anthony Durham, Theodora Goss, and Elizabeth Hand. I can’t wait!

Bootprints-logo-com-blackIn other news, I’ve picked up a freelance gig writing about travel along the Front Range for Bootprints. In the past two months, I’ve written about dinosaur hikes, the quirky town of Carbondale, snowkiting in Dillon, biking Denver’s urban trails, glamping, breweries by bike in Boulder, spring wildflower hikes, and a few other fun escapes in this state I love so. If you have any suggestions for story ideas, please send them my way.

800px-The_Lady_of_Shallot_Looking_at_LancelotAs to my writing schedule, I’m getting into a good routine and I’m planning to get back into a more regular pattern publishing posts. My blogs will be coming out once a week and will include a wide variety of material including book and  film reviews, musings on my current works-in-progress, fairy tales and folklore, commentary on the mythic arts, travel and leisure, and new projects. It’s going to be a busy summer.

See you in May!

Images: I am half-sick of shadows, 1916 and The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot, 1894 by John William Waterhouse.

 

 

 

Poetry Publications

NBR Grimms Fairy TalesSo far, 2016 has been all about poetry. NonBinary Review has released all of the content for Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Issue #1), which includes my poem Wild Girl. This piece was nominated for Sundress Publications Best of the Net Award and the Pushcart Prize. It also marked the beginning of a wonderful relationship with the editors and publisher of NonBinary Review, a relationship that has resulted in the inspiration for of some of my favorite creative work of all-time.

womaninwhite_nonbinary6MEDNonBinary Review is a digital magazine with each issue publishing a well-known work in the public domain. The platform then provides a unique way of reading the content, which has been expanded with new works relating to the theme.

The current issue at NonBinary Review is The Woman in White (Issue #7), one of the first “sensation” or mystery novels, which was written by Wilkie Collins in 1859. My poem Tabula Rasa is included in this issue, which was released earlier this month.

Horror Zine 2016I am also pleased to announce that The Horror ‘Zine has published three of my poems – Figura Serpentinata, Paper Shadows, and Tinder— in The Horror Zine Magazine Summer 2016, which was released on January 29 at Amazon. Figura Serpentinata is a piece about the 13th hour, a creepy little wonder tale influenced by Edgar Allan Poe. Paper Shadows walks the edge of anorexia with expectations of cardboard cut-out women. And Tinder is a rendition of the fairy tale The Steadfast Tin Soldier, which I’ve imbued with elements of romantic obsession. These pieces will also be available to read online in the future.

Mythic DeliriumMy last bit of news is the release of the Table of Contents in the upcoming release of Mythic Delirium Issue 2.4. I’m exceptionally pleased that my poem Swimming with the Shark Boys will be in this issue along with work by some of my favorite authors including the fabulous Theodora Goss.

Stay tuned for the release date of Mythic Delirium Issue 2.4 in April. Happy reading!

Women Writing the Weird

twilight talesMy preference for weird and dark fiction is something that is often reflected in my writing. This wasn’t always the case.

When I was growing up, I tended towards fantasy. I would occasionally dip into murkier water, but the books in the horror section were most often written by men and that flavor of the macabre didn’t suit my tastes. The fantasy I penned often examined the dark places in the soul and I wished there were other women writing in the same vein.

armless maidenOver the years, I’ve been pleased to see more and more weird and dark fiction being produced and published by women. However, we are still a minority among writers working in a male-dominated genre.

There have been efforts in increasing the visibility of women writers of horror. In fact, the whole month of February (the shortest month of the year) is dedicated to spreading the word about women writing weird and dark fiction. During Women in Horror Month, lists of fabulous female horror writers are bandied about. The Horror Writers Association has even taken a stab at cultivating women writers in the field with the $2,500 Mary Shelley Scholarship (the first scholarships were awarded in 2014).

Erasures by Catherine Chauloux

 

It’s wonderful that the efforts are bringing women horror writers new readers, but what happens when February comes to an end? What happens to the visibility of the fabulous female writers working in the field the rest of the year? For the most part, we disappear.

armless maiden 2“Do we vanish from your minds the rest of the year?” writes Damien Angelica Walters. “I understand compiling lists and such, but is this the only time you pay attention to the women writing horror? If that’s the case, I’d ask you to ask yourself why. If your current reading lists or end of the year lists contain little or no work written by women or you typically don’t read horror by women, why? Yes, please read our work and talk about it in February, but please also read our work and talk about it the other eleven months of the year.”

These are questions that need to be broached. It’s a complicated business, but I have hope that women who are writing horror will continue to make their presence known. And that presence will grow.

Here are a few suggested reads (ranging from horror to dark fantasy) to whet your appetite:

Palingenesis by Megan Arkenberg
All the World When It Is Thin by Kristi DeMeester
The Maiden Thief by Melissa Marr
eyes I dare not meet in dreams by Sunny Moraine
It Feels Better Biting Down by Livia Llewellyn
Stopping by Woods by Lise Quintana
Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma
Armless Maidens of the American West by Genevieve Valentine
Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters
Even In This Skin by A.C. Wise
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong
Secondhand Bodies by JY Yang

Manuel Bujados (1889–1954), Illustration for 'La Esfera' magazine, April 1927

Images: The Mystic Wood by John William Waterhouse; Handless Maiden Series by Jeanie Tomanek; Erasures by Catherine Chauloux; illustration for La Esfera (1927) by Manuel Bujados

Textile Dreams and Velveteen Allies

finch5Today at Myth and Moor, an incredible blog on the mythic arts, Terri Windling-Gayton posted musings by C.S. Lewis accompanied with images of textile sculptures by artist Mister Finch. I’ve been fascinated with Mister Finch’s textile creations since first being introduced to his work in 2014. The combination of quotes and images struck a chord of inspiration with me this morning, so I started the day by composing a little tribute to all of my friends working in the mythic arts. Without your words and your creations, my life would be lacking.

finch9Velveteen Allies
by Carina Bissett

Weave me a web of friendship and love,
secrets summoned through a needle’s eye,
stitches threaded from cobweb wishes,
and I will return with new designs
to complement your patterns and style
binding the network of common myths,
elegant strings of human desire.

Despite what you’ve heard about spindles,
the hidden ways wind through warp and weft,
finch6inspiration shuttled between frames
bound by hand, an interactive stage
piled with the textured intensity
of tapestries woven from silk shared,
landscapes braided with tales of wonder.

Weave me a web of new beginnings.
finch4Sit at your loom with your wit and words.
Tell me satin stories on the wing,
colorful tales writ in every shade,
and I will gather the castoff threads
in my basket filled with odds and ends,
fibers ready to be pinned again.

“Velveteen Allies” © 2016 by Carina Bissett. The poem may be not be reproduced in any form without the author’s express written permission.

finch1Visit Mister Finch’s website and blog to see more of his incredible work. All rights to the art above reserved by Mister Finch.

 

A Great Start to a New Year

6a00e54fcf7385883401a3fc18bb0e970b-800wiWinter is my favorite season of the year. There is something about dark days and long nights that nourishes my soul. The cold and quiet that comes with deep winter allows me the time to contemplate the direction of my creative work.

In An Unspoken Hunger, Terry Tempest Williams writes about these connections between place and creative healing. “Writing becomes an act of compassion toward life, the life we often refuse to see because if we look too closely or feel too deeply, there may be no end to our suffering. But words empower us, move us beyond our suffering, and set us free. This is the sorcery of literature. We are healed by our stories. By undressing, exposing, and embracing the bear, we undress, expose, and embrace our authentic selves. Stripped free from society’s oughts and shoulds, we emerge as emancipated beings. The bear is free to roam.”

6a00e54fcf73858834019b047d4108970d-800wi“We are creatures of paradox, women and bears, two animals that are enormously unpredictable, hence our mystery,” Williams continues. “Perhaps the fear of bears and the fear of women lies in our refusal to be tamed, the impulses we arouse and the forces we represent….As women connected to the earth, we are nurturing and we are fierce, we are wicked and we are sublime. The full range is ours. We hold the moon in our bellies and fire in our hearts. We bleed. We give milk. We are the mothers of first words. These words grow. They are our children. They are our stories and our poems.”

indexThe duality represented by bears presents a balanced cycle that mirrors my own journey through each year. Summer and autumn months offer prime opportunities to explore my surroundings. I collect material, capture color, and walk through the world gathering material for my own personal hibernation. When winter comes, I travel inwards through collected dreams and senses. This is my chosen time for creative work.

6a00e54fcf7385883401a51093139b970c-320wi“If we choose to follow the bear,” Williams writes, “we will be saved from a distracted and domesticated life. The bear becomes our mentor. We must journey out, so that we might journey in. The bear mother enters the earth before snowfall and dreams herself through winter, emerging with young by her side. She not only survives the barren months, she gives birth. She is the caretaker of the unseen world. As a writer and a woman with obligations to both family and community, I have tried to adopt this ritual of balancing public and private life. We are at home in the deserts and mountains, as well as in our dens. Above ground in the abundance of spring and summer, I am available. Below ground in the deepening of autumn and winter, I am not. I need hibernation in order to create.”

6a00e54fcf7385883401a510c7aab2970c-800wiThere is a rich history of mythic traditions relating women to bears. According to J. C. Cooper in An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols, bears represent resurrection. In Women Who Run With the Wolves, psychologist and storyteller Clarissa Pinkola Estés links their transformative and regenerative power to many goddesses around the world.

6a00e54fcf73858834019b046fee95970d-320wi“The bear is associated with many huntress Goddesses: Artemis and Diana in Greece and Rome, and Muerte and Hecoteptl, mud women deities in the Latina cultures. These Goddesses bestowed upon women the power of tracking, knowing, ‘digging out’ the psychic aspects of all things. To the Japanese the bear is the symbol of loyalty, wisdom, and strength. In northern Japan where the Ainu tribe lives, the bear is one who can talk to God directly and bring messages back for humans. The crescent moon bear is considered a sacred being, one who was given the white mark on his throat by the Buddhist Goddess Kwan-Yin, whose emblem is the crescent moon. Kwan-Yin is the Goddess of Deep Compassion and the bear is her emissary.”

6a00e54fcf7385883401a510962d6f970c-800wi“In the psyche, the bear can be understood as the ability to regulate one’s life, especially one’s feeling life. Bearish power is the ability to move in cycles, be fully alert, or quiet down into a hibernative sleep that renews one’s energy for the next cycle,” she continues. “The bear image teaches that it is possible to maintain a kind of pressure gauge for one’s emotional life, and most especially that one can be fierce and generous at the same time. One can be reticent and valuable. One can protect one’s territory, make one’s boundaries clear, shake the sky if need be, yet be available, accessible, engendering all the same.”

It’s going to be a wonderful year, indeed.

6a00e54fcf7385883401b7c7354494970b-800wiImages: “Playing With the North Wind” by Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), photography by Katerina Plotnikova, “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” by Kay Nielsen (1886-1957),  “Hibernation” by Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), “The Snow Princess” by Ruth Sanderson, “Bear Woman” by Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), “The White Bear King” by Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914), and “Pink Moon” by Jackie Morris.