In other news, Hillary Raque Dodge and I are looking at event options to celebrate Women in Horror Month (February). Together, we are working on the preliminary development of the Colorado Springs satellite of the Colorado HWA chapter. Future moves include plans to meet with core HWA members in the southern region, raise awareness of HWA membership opportunities for potential recruits, and to schedule future satellite meetings and activities at central Colorado Springs locations. Stay tuned!
It’s been a crazy and wonderful Fall, and I’m ready for the cold quiet that comes with winter. It’s always been my favorite season to write. I have projects planned and stories to finish. Time to get back to business!
Overall, October was a fun month. I received my author copy of the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. V, edited by Stephanie Wytovich. My story “Blood Works” appears in this wonderful collection featuring some of my favorite poets currently working in the speculative realm. There are some truly lovely works in this powerful and haunting journal. Among my favorites are “The Joy of Seeing” by Christina Sng, “The Temptation of the Moon to Shadow” by C. R. Langille, and the featured poem “Amalgamation” by Sara Tantlinger. The Horror Writers Association has showcased dark poetry for the last five years. It’s been such a lovely experience, I hope I’ll be able to submit again next year.
Also in October, I received my author copy of Birthing Monsters: Frankenstein’s Cabinet of Curiosities and Cruelties, a stunning grimoire collected by Firbolg Publishing. Opening this package was one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve had as an author. Not only was my story marked in the hardcover edition by a goose quill, but the box was brimming with treasures galore–all of which were unique and marvelous in their own way. The book itself is meant to be explored as an adventure; in fact, it doesn’t even have a table of contents. My essay, “Mapping the Collective Body of Frankenstein’s Bride,” can be found about halfway through and is bookended by an eerie piece of short fiction by Bruce Boston and a selection of strange images ranging from a black-and-white still from the movie Bride of Frankenstein to an excerpt from a criticism of the original publication of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (The London Literary Gazette; November 19, 1831). The line-up of authors, poets, scholars, composers, playwrights, and artists featured in this quirky compendium includes Michael Bailey, Adam Bolivar, Jason V. Brock, Cecile Grimm Cabeen, Robert Payne Cabeen, Scott Edelman, Brian Evenson, Eric J. Guignard, Anne Jackson, Thierry Jandrock, Erik T. Johnson, S. T. Joshi, Lisa Morton. Gene O’Neill, E. F. Schraeder, Darrell Schweitzer, Doktor Alex Scully, B. E. Scully, Mary Shelley, Marge Simon, and Darren Speegle. The result is a stitched narrative that celebrates one of the most influential novels ever penned. It’s an experiment unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and I hope I will have the opportunity to work with Firbolg Publishing again.
Today is #NationalPoetryDay, so it seems like the perfect time to share the news that my poem “C8 : A Tessellation of Faces, Wings, and other Obscure Things,” was nominated for Best of the Net 2018. This piece appeared in the NonBinary Review issue featuring A Wrinkle in Time. Thank you, Lise Quintana and Zoetic Press!
A month ago, I graduated with my MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. It still seems somewhat surreal, and I’m working out the kinks of adjusting to a life without the idea of school deadlines looming. In addition to my personal writing pursuits and running workshops at The Storied Imaginarium, I will also be teaching a couple of English classes at Pikes Peak Community College. And, just to stay on top of my own goals of being a life-long learner, I will be taking Advanced Creative Writing with Richard Thomas. It’s going to be a busy Fall!
Commencement Speech (Stonecoast, Popular Fiction, S’18)
Just as I expect was the case with many of you here today, I discovered the magic of books at young age and by the time I hit grade school, I realized I could not only read other people’s stories, but that I could write my own. Although the map of my life reveals haphazard progress hindered by numerous wrong turns, dead ends, and detours, my desire to write never waned. When I received my acceptance to the creative writing program at Stonecoast, I thought my path had finally straightened out. I could clearly see my destination, and I thought there was nothing that could slow me down. I was wrong.
Three weeks before my first residency, I was speeding down a hill when the front tire of my bike caught gravel. When I fully regained consciousness 18 hours later, I slowly began to process the damage. The trauma doctors had done their best to put me back together, but I was never going to look the same as I had before the accident. Worse, the traumatic brain injury meant I’d never think the same either. The first flower arrangement to show up in my hospital room was from Stonecoast, which added to my determination to be a part of this community despite my injuries. I received the offer to wait, to push my start date back, but I was terrified that if I didn’t press forward, the opportunity would slip through my fingers. I stuck to the plan, and limped onto a plane with a bag full of medications two weeks after being released from the hospital. This was not my best idea.
There’s a saying that first impressions are everything. So I knew I was in trouble when Robin and Justin staged an intervention in the middle of my first residency. I was a walking physical and emotional disaster. I tried to persevere, without the greatest success. Intervention, remember? Those of you graduating tonight are the last class to remember my disastrous first residency. You are also the ones who helped me to continue forward to this moment.
Although it has been a difficult two years, it’s been rewarding also—in ways I never would have expected. I still suffer from chronic pain and impaired cognition, but upon reflection I think the accident served to make me a better writer; it definitely made me a better person. All of my protective shields were shattered, my pride and arrogance stripped away. Without this having happened, I might not have been in the position to learn the lessons Stonecoast has to offer. For instance, I learned that you can be self-reliant, yet still be able to ask for help when you need it. I learned that you can be an outsider yet still belong to this vibrant community of writers and mentors. And above all, I learned that earning my MFA is just one of the signposts along the ever-evolving journey in becoming a writer.
I urge you all to keep moving despite the obstacles that will invariably come your way. Slow down. Take advantage of unexpected side trips. Explore the roads off the beaten path. And remember to stay connected to the Stonecoast community: if you reach out and stay involved, your time here will never come to an end. There’s a quote by E. L. Doctorow that kept me moving forward even in the darkest times, and I’d like to share it with you now: “[Writing is] like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
Even though we are all travelling in different directions, I will keep my eyes open in hopes our paths will cross again soon. I know from experience, my life will be better for it. Thank you.
I’ve had several pieces published recently, so I figured it was time to share the news. Today, my story “The Landscape of Lacrimation” came out at The Hunger. It’s a strange swirly tale written as an experimental piece. I often feel as though I don’t quite fit in, and I wanted to attempt to recreate that feeling in this story. The lyricism is over the top, and it’s written in second person. Both of these things are meant to keep the reading left feeling a little unmoored. It also contains dozens of slur words, which I’ve used outside of context, another technique meant to increase the sense of unease. As you might imagine, it’s not easy to place a story meant to make the reader uncomfortable, so I’m especially pleased that the editors at The Hunger took a chance on it.
The publication ofHath No Fury, which features my weird, futuristic mash-up of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini Daughter,” has been pushed back again. It’s now listed with a July release date. However, I have seen the epub of the anthology and it’s a thing of beauty. Worth the wait, I promise.
Another piece scheduled to come out soon is my poem “C8 : A Tessellation of Faces, Wings, and other Obscure Things,” which will be featured in Alphanumeric, the online portion of the NonBinary Review Issue 17: A Wrinkle in Time. I also have a poem, “The Savory Taste of Temptation,” in The Necro-Om-Nom-Nom-Icon, which was released in April. My contribution to this Lovecraftian-inspired collection came in the form of an amuse-bouche.
I have several other stories and poems currently out on submission, so I hope I will have more good news to share soon. In the meantime, I’m working on the final stages of my thesis, a short story collection titled The Anatomy of Melancholy. Graduation is right around the corner, and I should have my MFA in hand July 16th. Stay tuned!
I’m giving away two poetry volumes for Big Poetry Month at The Storied Imaginarium. The first book up for grabs is In the Forest of Forgetting Paperback by Theodora Goss, and the second book is Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty Hardcover by Christine Heppermann. Check out the link at The Storied Imaginarium for details.
Note: The giveaway ends on April 30th at midnight, so make sure to sign up soon.
My introduction to the work of the Australian writer Angela Slatter occurred when I stumbled across the Tor.com reprint of “St. Dymphna’s School of Poison Girls” in May 2015. The story unfolded in slow waves, and it lulled me with its seductive beauty. My initial interest in this story aligned with the title as I had been reading about St. Dymphna through an extension of my research on the origins of “Allerleirauh.” The fairy tale elements appeared in Slatter’s story, but they appeared in unfamiliar ways. Interest stoked, I obsessively sought out Slatter’s stories, and soon discovered a whole new world of fairy tales to explore. I was hooked.
In 2016, the U.S. publication of Slatter’s short story collection A Feast of Sorrows made her work more accessible; her other publications were released as limited editions in the UK. (A Feast of Sorrows includes the first three stories in The Tallow-Wife, which was recently released by FableCroft as a limited edition hardcover.) After a couple of readings, I discovered patterns that tied the characters together in a world of the author’s own making. In addition to cameo character appearances, Slatter also utilized subverted fairy tale references as a means of creating familiarity with the unfamiliar—a technique I would like to duplicate in my own work.
About halfway through my first reading of A Feast of Shadows, I noticed the repetition of a character from an earlier story. I stopped for a moment, thought about it, and then decided it must have been a mistake. Another of these moments came about two-thirds of the way through the collection. I recognized another character and sorted back through the stories to find her. That was when I realized that Slatter had deliberately seeded her stories with bits from other narratives. And, not only did her characters show up again and again, but settings made repeat appearances as well. The effect was a growing sense of familiarity even though the stories are all set in a secondary world.
Bellsholm, which “sprawls along the banks of the wide Bell River, loose-limbed as a sleeping giant,” is featured prominently in “By My Voice I Shall Be Known” and is linked to Ballantyne’s Coffin Emporium in “The Coffin-maker’s Daughter” (143). Downstream from Bellsholm is Breakwater, the location of “the Weeping Gate” and the refuge of the criminal mastermind Bethany Lawrence from “The Tallow-Wife” series. And, far off in distant Lodellan, sits the Cathedral with its ghostly guard of six wolfhounds. Slatter takes her readers on a tour of Lodellan’s quarters in “Sourdough” and then into the Cathedral’s secret passageways to the palace in “Sister, Sister” and “What Shines Brightest.”
At first glance, the mention of these places in various stories might appear to be an after-thought. However, the subtle hints strengthen the underlying network of commerce and immigration that add complexity to the stories’ common world. For instance, even though “By My Voice I Shall Be Known” takes place in Bellsholm, the protagonist is gifted with a promise in the shape of a silver thimble “all the way from Lodellan” (149). She is, however, betrayed by her lover, who returns from Breakwater with a pretty bride-to-be on a clipper named Revenant: “…it plied the seas then crept up rivers like ours, to dispatch passengers and some cargo—mostly high end, expensive and small, cargo and passengers both…” (150).
Several characters, including Mother Magnus and Emmaline make cameo appearances, but the one who first made me conscious of these repetitions was Hepsibah Ballantyne, the independent, murderous protagonist in “The Coffin-maker’s Daughter.” An older Hepsibah makes an appearance as a guest teacher in “St. Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls;” Ballantyne’s Coffin Emporium is mentioned in “By My Voice I Shall Be Known;” and a weathered headstone reveals the trace of the name ‘Hepsi…tyne’ in “The Tallow-Wife.”
Once I saw the threads, I began to wonder what other stories existed with these characters in them. In my hunt for hidden treasure, I reached out to the author through social media. According to Slatter, A Feast of Sorrows was a U.S. collection primarily cobbled together from reprints, including pieces from The Bitterwood Bible and Other Encountersand Sourdough and Other Stories. Over the last year, Slatter’s work has become more and more available to U.S. audiences. With every story I read, I search for more connections tied to the cohesive worlds Slatter builds, worlds that exist long after the reader has finished the last page. If nothing else, I’m eager to learn more about the fates of the people inhabiting the ocean harbor of Breakwater, the ruslka singing from the riverbank near Bellsholm, and the ghostly wolfhounds guarding the Cathedral in Lodellan. It doesn’t get much better than that.