a dark & tasty blog by kl pereira

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fun Interviews, Horror Writing, and what would Thanksgiving be Without Lecter?

The past few weeks have been filled with all sorts of wonderful insanity.

Anna Clark, creator of the fabulous, NY Times-cited blog, Isak, interviewed me about writing, teaching, art and all sorts of fun stuff. Check it out here. And while you're at it, browse through Anna's astute and compelling posts on tales and truths. This girl really knows how to celebrate both the story and social justice.

I've also been having a blast teaching a wonderful 6 week workshop called: Writing Horror, Making Monsters at Grub Street, wherein a rag-tag band of motley horror writers (captained by yours truly) sails the seas of crafting short horror (and other dark genre works). Perhaps motley isn't the best word for them--these mateys (I'm sorry I have no idea where this pirate theme has come from) are off the plank (err...hook?) with their explorations of the deepest, darkest the human psyche can muster. Rest assured, you will be hearing more from these folks.

And what would the deep, dark be without my favorite doctor? Seriously. We parsed some early Lecter scenes from Silence of the Lambs this week in the aforementioned class and I was stunned at how amazingly and lovingly crafted our Lecter is. It reminds me that there are lots of folks out there who know how important it is to recognize the dark side and go there.

Like Jung said, if you repress the monsters, they'll find a way to come out anyway. You may as well fashion them of paper and ink than of your own flesh and blood. (Ok, Jung said it much more eloquently, this is just my paraphrase).

And with that: Happy Eating!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's heeeeeeeere!

Hello comrades in darkness!

November days not grey enough for you? Need something dark and twisty and simply, the editor, Jennifer Hollie Bowles puts it: " an amazing place of sublime convergence?

Check out the brand new issue of The Medulla Review! It features some pretty kickin' work by lots of very talented writers (including yours truly)!

Be sure to keep a close eye on TMR. They are a space for beautiful and gritty speculation!

PS- I'm on Twitter now! Please stop by and say hi: @kl_pereira.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Possibilities of the Fairy Tale

What? You expected a post right after my other post explaining my begging off blogging forever?

Greedy, greedy readers!

No excuses. Just writing. My new motto. After chatting with a friend at the Boston Book Festival and attending a kick-ass session on new fairy tales called "My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me" (a line from my favorite fairy tale, The Juniper Tree), I was inspired to re-commit myself to my flash fairy tale collection. Maybe it was the inspiring words of Kate Bernheimer, an idol of mine, admonishing the literary world for turning their noses up at fairy tales (more on this later), or maybe it was the brilliant words of fairy tale scholar Maria Tatar (who makes me want to disguise myself as a Harvard student so I can take her classes), or perhaps it was the sharp and fantastical (and utterly amazing) story and banter from Kelly Link, my favorite writer. Whatever it was it opened my goggled and life-befuddled mind to the possibilities that are latent and waiting in the fairy tale.

It was no coincidence that this all took place a mere two weeks before Halloween--the ending of one year, one season of life, bespeaks the opening of another.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Two Months! Two! Two!

Has it really been that long, readers? And why did I go away as if to never return?

Basically, I moved house (yet again) and started a new job. My recoup time is long as it is and blogging became something I just couldn't handle on the ever-growing list of things that had to be done yesterday.

What's with this TMI? Just to let you know that I thought of this space often, and now that I'm back, am looking forward to being mistress of the dark-quirky words (at least in my own mind).

And just for a treat (because you're reading this, you loyal dears, and it's Friday and well...there is grading to do) I'm posting this.

It's from my friend Greg, who has one of the best podcasts out there. Seriously. Check him.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Where do you find your inspiration?

This weekend I took part in a wonderful poetry retreat with my good friend and fellow poet, Kat Good-Schiff. We'd been planning this for months--two days of focusing on and nurturing our poetic processes in and around the Boston Metro area. We visited many places in hopes of coaxing couplets out of the dark recesses of our brains but the place that proved to be a goldmine for us, in terms of both inspiration and just plain beauty was the Ware Glass Flower Exhibit at the Harvard Natural History Museum.

Caught in a bygone age of Victorian taxonomy, these specimens are anything but boring or stuffy. The life-sized flowers and their magnified stamens, pistils, ovaries, flowers and fruit are so delicate yet strongly sensual and evoke all sorts of responses in nearly every person who passes by their glass casings. I left with two near-complete poems (and a whole lot of ideas).

Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself: The Glass Flowers. While you're there, read Mark Doty's amazing homage to the exhibit. You can find it in his collection My Alexandria.

Where do you find your inspiration? Leave a comment!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

And the call was coming from the basement....

 If you wanted the market on scary, you should have come to my spooky story salon! I hosted a fabulous evening of creeptastic readings at my old Victorian Brothel (it actually used to be a boarding house in the late 1800s) where some of my favorite writers (and a few awesome new friends) shared their favorite scary tales.

The sultry evening kicked off with sexy Sue Williams reading an excerpt from Angela Carter's short story, "The Bloody Chamber". As many of you know, Carter is one of my very favorite writers, and I'm not exaggerating when I say the whole salon was titillated by Sue's masterful reading of this erotically charged reimagining of Bluebeard. (It's always a great treat to hear Sue read anything with that lovely British accent of hers!)

Next we heard from creepy Cam Terwilliger, who read from another classic, Lord of the Flies. I don't know about you, but this book of survival and the deepest, darkest recesses of humanity never fails to give me the shivers, and it was even more disturbing when Cam read it in his tremulous baritone (if you were at the Fantasy salon in April, you know what I mean). We were rapt.

The ghostess with the mostess (a.k.a. me) shared a fun little story, one of the best to come out of one of my favorite mags (Weird Tales) in the past few years.  It's entitled, "Working for our Salvation" and it's written by Trent Hergenrader (check him out if you haven't, he spins a pretty nasty yarn, particularly when it comes to zombies).

Strange Stephen Dorneman (see my blog favorites for more from this awesome guy) treated us to a tale by Saki, the short, yet brilliantly paced and deliciously gruesome "Sredni Vashtar". Stephen also shared a wonderfully funny and disturbing anecdote about a house fire and pants (but I'll let him tell you, since he's so good at it). 

My new friend and fellow Grub instructor, the chilling John Cotter (my apologies, John, I couldn't think of an appropriate alliterative adjective that started with "J") shared what was pretty unanimously voted to be the spookiest tale of the night, Ramsey Campbell's  "The Hands". Word to the wise, kids. Do NOT seek refuge in a British church. Ever. 

Chainsaw-wielding Chip Cheek (in spirit if not in practice, folks) preached on the horrors of hell as he gave a very dramatic reading of the hellfire-and-brimstone sermon in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. We were all roaring with laughter (sinners and heathens that we are).

The night closed with a round-the-room share of our scariest encounters with forces both human and inhuman and all left sated (if not a bit scared). 

A huge thanks to all who read and all who came. We'll be having another salon soon on sexy sci-fi tales (by request). 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Readercon 21: The conference on imaginative literature, twenty-first edition.

 [Readercon gif]
Greetings, dear readers:

I just got back from Readercon 21, the con where speculative fiction writers from the globe over get together and geek out, sharing the best (and the worst, look up the Kirk Poland Bad Prose Competition) of what's out there.

I went with a pretty chill frame of mind; no pushing to meet the greats and spread my card around, just hanging with friends and going to some pretty amazing panels and readings. I find cons (as in both conferences and conventions) can be stressful for the emerging writer. You're told you MUST make as many contacts as possible and do all that you can to get people interested in your work. I've found that this SERIOUSLY takes the fun out of things. And honestly, unless you have a collection or book to publicize, it makes more sense (from my point of view) just to chill out a bit and take in the sights.

So that's what I did. Here are *my* highlights of Readercon 21:

Friday, July 9:

Writing Realistic Speech (with Yves Meynard, Nalo Hopkinson, Barbara Krasnoff, Anil Menon, and Greer Gilman)

This session focused on representing diverse voices realistically in spec fic or as one panelist put it: "word building not world building". For example, representing dialect without falling into stereotype is crucial. Ways to do this? Here are just a few suggestions from the panel that I really liked:
1) The essence of the language must be upheld. To do this, try using expressions but not exact pronunciations.
2) Grammar and cadence MUST BE CORRECT (this is one I come across again and again in poetry)
3) Be very careful of idiom and metaphor (Anil Menon told a wonderful anecdote about a piece comparing the Hindu god Shiva to the sun, which while beautiful, would never happen in Hindi. The metaphors are completely different in this culture and to accurately represent that, we must be aware of these issues).
4) Really pay attention to how people ACTUALLY speak.
5) Figure out the motion of the character to figure out the motion of the language.

The great Nalo Hopkinson (who was also a guest of honor) left us with this wonderful gem:
"Fiction makes more sense than real life...know that you're gonna get things wrong and it probably won't kill you.

Next I sidled on over to The Year in Short Fiction (with Ellen Datlow, David G. Hartwell, Shira Lipkin, and Konrad Walewski) where I not only got great reading rec's (which I will share in another post) but I also found out where these folks are culling pieces for their anthologies, and what they look for when they go through the slush pile.

The New YA Golden Age  (with Paolo Bacigalupi, Judith Berman, Victoria Janssen, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Konrad Walewski) was interesting and filled me in on some interesting tidbits, like the fact that the YA market has grown 20-25% since Twilight. I'm writing my own YA novel, so some of the questions they posed, hit me right in the frontal lobe (but in a good way). And yes, this will get another, longer post where it can be hashed out nicely (and no I will NOT talk about the reviled Twilight).

The night was capped off by an ASTOUNDING reading by Elizabeth Hand (one of my favorite short story writers), who shared a lively section of her forthcoming book Darkness Awaits (a sequel to her amazing and dark, Generation Loss).

Saturday, July 10:

Fanfic As Criticism (Only More Fun) (with Cecilia Tan, Erin Kissane, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Victoria Janssen, and Ken Schneyer) was wonderfully engaging. I LOVE that these folks are taking this phenomenon seriously while looking at it critically. Some of the panelists are fic authors and they were able to connect the role of fic to the burgeoning writer, namely that fic allows you to write in community, experiment with form, and offer your own critical ideas to a text. I'm not a fic writer (though I've read a whole lot of it) but they had me hooked, particularly when they discusses Joyce's Ulysses being a fanfic of Homer's Odyssey and Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway being a fic of Ulysses.

The other highlight of the day was the 24th Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition. I can't rightly do it justice here. All I can say is: "It was a collection of dessicated eyeballs; in it's hands was a terrible battle axe, the likes of which she had never seen."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lover as Liberator

A recent post by my good friend and fellow poet, Kat Good-Schiff, discussed a Mark Doty reading that she recently attended.

Mark Doty is my second-favorite poet (right behind Ai) and I've had the wonderful fortune to have heard him read his emotionally brutal and beautiful work in person (for more on the reading, check out Kat's post here.) I've also been gifted with the opportunity to take a writing workshop with him (one of the most inspiring and rich workshops I've yet to participate in).

In Doty's recent talk, he ended with the following line:

"His body was one of the doors through which I entered my actual life."

I find the idea of "lover as liberator" a fascinating one.

It intimates (if you'll pardon the pun) all sorts of interesting and compelling ideas on the nature of both the body and emotional intimacy. What happens when you share yourself with someone on a much more than surface level? How are you changed? Is the body of another able to liberate us in ways that we are unable to access on our own, in ways in which we're unable to liberate ourselves?

What is that power that we give another person (or persons) when we give them access to us, emotionally, physically, spiritually? What is its magic?

New Work!

I am delighted to announce that my poem, "Letting Him Slither" will be published in the next issue of Jabberwocky!

I'm tickled pink that such a fine publication (featuring fabulous fantasy writers such as Jane Yolen!) will be featuring my work.

DD readers will note that this is the Medusa poem of earlier post notoriety. See what happens when you persevere over the poem?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reading is Sexy. Yeah, You Heard Me.

So I was on my dear friend Sue Williams' blog a few days ago, catching up on her fabulous posts when another friend commented that financial constraints make them an avid library user and I thought: Damn straight. Libraries are sexy.

What do I mean by "sexy"? Well, not only are public libraries economical, they are revolutionary (two of my favorite things). The idea on which they are based posits this: that reading is crucial to our human growth and that everyone should be able to read (and have access to knowledge) FOR FREE.

I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, reading was my saving grace, keeping me sane in a world that was more about survival than about enjoyment.

Not interested in the Clueless age of the early 90s (and being without MTV and extra money for the local Waldenbooks), the library opened up a universe of possibility for me; reading Anais Nin's diaries, Stephen King's tales of grey matter and the macabre, Neil Gaiman's dreamy and dark worlds, and Sylvia Plath's and Anne Sexton's verse kept me sane when I couldn't make sense of what was around me, showed me that there was more to EVERYTHING than what I could see on the surface.

Reading made me question, contemplate, challenge, and DREAM: important skills that have made me the person I am today. I owe all these skills (at least in part) to my library (and the kick-ass librarians who showed me the way).

So yeah. My point: Reading is a revolutionary, sexy act, one that is made possible by libraries. Go support your local library and the awesome people who work to bring you the books.

Also: if you know a young person, give them books. Take them to get their library card. Show them how cool it is to be in control of what knowledge they receive and to be contemplative of how they respond.

Comment on this and let me know which books changed your life and you're reading this summer!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Erotic, The Mythic, and The Caustic

It's been awhile since my last post, I know. I've been working on some really cool projects, some of which can be found below!

It's no secret that I love the creepy, the sensual, and the bad-ass. Well, this summer you can join me for some intense seminars that explore all my loves (and yours).

I'm offering three seminars at Grub Street (my favorite independent writing center and home to some wonderful and inspiring folks). Check them out!

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me: Writing the Erotic Poem

Monday, June 28th, 7:00-10:00pm.
From the positively carnal to the utterly debauched, the poetry of the erotic has permeated popular as well as literary writing. Whether you're looking to expand your writing palate or deepen your study of how to meaningfully access the sensual in shorter work, this one night seminar will explore how the poem (in its many forms) naturally lends itself to the expression of our hidden (and not so hidden) cravings. We'll discuss how and why certain writers are able to rouse our deepest desires (whatever they may be) and do plenty of in-class exercises that will whet your appetite for the sensual! All sexualities welcome and encouraged. Don't worry; by the end of the night, we'll find the place that makes you quiver!

The Next JK Rowling: Unleashing the Power of Fairy Tale and Myth

Saturday, August 7th, 9:00am-4:00pm.
Readers can’t get enough of the fantastical. J.K. Rowling, and most recently Stephanie Meyer, have millions of devoted readers worldwide. So too does Philip Pullman, Margaret Atwood, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and hundreds of others who employ such worlds and characters. Over the course of this one fantastic day, we will delve into the glittering Aladdin’s Cave of myths and fairytales and help you to find and develop your own fantastical kingdom. Revisiting a varied host of familiar tales from Little Red Riding Hood to The Odyssey, we will look at modern interpretations of these fairy tales and myths and see how you too can carve out your own magical world. We will do a few inspiring creative exercises and prompts designed to inspire you to start “opening the wardrobe door” and creating your own Narnia.

Crafting the Villain

Monday, August 23rd, 7:00-10:00pm.
Some of the best and most memorable characters in literature are villains, rough and tough monsters, sly and sexy femme fatales, and naughty and deceitful oligarchs. They unnerve and excite us, sending a chill down our spines, and striking fear into our hearts. Yet when creating our own villains we often fail to overtly acknowledge the complexity and moral ambiguity that compels them to cause mayhem, delegating their motivation to a need to cause evil for evil’s sake and resulting in two-dimensional baddies. In this one-day seminar we will discuss traditional and non-traditional villains, why they are an essential part of any juicy tale, and how we can develop truly sinister and captivating characters that will antagonize, needle, and provoke even the bravest reader.

All registration and contact info can be found at: www.grubstreet.org
or tel: 617.695.0075. email: info@grubstreet.org.

Questions for me? Shoot me an email (contact info in my bio).

Hope to see you at Grub!!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"There is no one who is not a storyteller"

So says Melissa Marr, author of the Wicked Lovely series. I was fortunate enough to work an event for her newest book, Radiant Shadows (drop what you are doing and get thee to an indie bookstore to buy this posthaste!).

I've worked a whole lot of book events in my day (as you all know, a writer must wear many hats to make ends meet) and I say without reservation that Melissa Marr is the nicest writer with which I have had the pleasure to work an event. She brought us swag (you'll see me strutting around Boston sporting some hot bracelets marking me a faerie both solitary AND with the dark court, both of which match my new temporary tatt, which is just as pretty as the real one I'm getting in June) and treated us to a chill evening of real conversation about the series (!!!!), identity, and life as a writer.

I had prepped some questions before the event (being the huge lit/fantasy geek that I am). The first, the obligatory (because I'm always obsessed with what people are reading) "What are your influences" question was met with some interesting answers. Of course, we are all influenced by Neil Gaiman (because, hello!?) but when names like Faulkner and Browning were brought up, I immediately felt that I could see how and why the use of multiple-perspective, close-third works so well in the Wicked Lovely novels.

The second question, the one that I was hoping like the rub on the magic lamp, the key opening the door of the secret garden would help me figure out how to fix the pitfalls in my own work, was: "When you are working with adolescence and topics that are quite real, like rape and abuse and addiction, how do you negotiate what you write against cliche?" Marr said that what appears in her writing springs from real conversations and that she doesn't sugar-coat anything. Life is real and as a writer you have to do the honest thing.

A beautiful and real answer. I just wish it wasn't so hard.

(The pic is a shot of the Australian cover! So hot!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Fire-Breathing-Well-Endowed-Geek-With-A-Birthmark, Wings, And A Penchant For Picking Poppies In An Insane Asylum!

Whew! That's not just a clever title, it's a saucy synopsis of the amazing salon I organized this past Saturday featuring some of Boston's best fantasy writers.

It was a wonderful evening that would make any mead-hall dweller proud. Our little gathering took place in an old brownstone in Back Bay (I even built a fire to add ambiance!). There was delightful company, too-many kinds of grog to count (though I chose to take the Lambic because raspberry beer is the thing!) and tales that covered many delightful corners of the fantasy realm.

The lovely Chip Cheek shared an excerpt of his tale "Potency", a yarn about a well-endowed dragon. Chip had us roaring with delight and no wonder--"Potency" has been nominated for a Pushcart! Congrats, Chip!

Always engaging Ethan Gilsdorf treated us to a reading from his fabulous book, "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks". Ethan's writing on the ins-and-outs of D&D play had the whole audience nostalgic for our own bygone days of teen geekdom (though one person pointed out that he'd declined a D&D game to attend the reading, proving that the geek lives on in all of us).

The ever-ethereal Sophie Powell spun a story set in the tumulus in Wales, complete with the Poppy Queen herself and of course, yummy Welsh-cakes. This excerpt is from Sophie's novel-in-progress, The Poppy Queen (which we are all anticipating with glee!).

The beautifully dark and twisty Sue Williams gave a morsel of her novella "The Winged Hendersons from Welton-on-Sea". This cheeky story about a winged boy had everyone aching in understanding for the trials of winged adolescence. (This piece has also won prizes and honorable mentions...see Sue's blog for the details!)

Frighteningly fabulous Cam Terwilliger relayed his curiously creepy tale "Aminadab" (published in Sycamore Review!). He had us cringing and laughing and fondly remembering our love for Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Finally, I shared a bit of dark fairy tale with a piece called "Hansel and Gretel"...though it was by no means your average Grimmsian meditation.

This salon was fun, festive and a wonderful opportunity to get out of the box and see what fellow writers have been up to. I highly recommend coming to the next salon (featuring spooky stories!) or starting one of your own!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hitting the Muse in the Face

Sometimes, I feel like I'm hitting the Muse right in the kisser.

I sleep late, I take too long getting my morning chai, I decide it's time to de-cat the guest room, to do the laundry, to practice the piano that I can't even rightly play.

It's procrastination to another level. It's no longer procrastination: it's total slag-slack.

I need to find what is missing in these two poems. The key, the lock, the secret ingredient. I need to pull it apart so I can find you what it's made of, so I can re-make it into what it's supposed to be.

But how to do this? The conundrum of the writer/artist. I keep learning how. And then I forget.

So I have to re-learn.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In art and dream may you proceed with abandon

This is how I love Patti Smith:

I sit on my stoop at 11pm on a Saturday night, watching not much of the world go by (most in my hood are tucked in houses, in crooks of arms) and I smoke a clove and a half, feeling high from the heady mix of herb, fiberglass, and eugenol and read this:

An artist wears his work in place of wounds.

I'm giving you the good-bye
firing you tonight
I can make my own light shine
and darkness too is equally fine...
you died for somebody's sins
but not mine

Freedom is...the right to write the wrong words.

Leaving you tonight with thoughts of living and dreaming with abandon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Remember the words.

I've been silent for a week.

Last weekend, my favorite and arguably one of the fiercest voices in poetry passed away.

The world hardly stopped. This was barely news to most folks it seemed.

But for me, I found I couldn't speak about it. It's ironic really, the kind of irony that makes you realize that you're not as far along as you thought (in whatever terms you want to live or try to live your life as an artist who speaks). I couldn't find words that fit together, words that expressed anything, really. I couldn't even think about how this really made a difference in my life, in all our lives. I guess I worried that it wouldn't.

Yet she's haunted me all week. All week I've lingered over her, wondered how I could measure a voice, its impact, its power. And I've found that it's impossible, at least for me. I can't begin to quantify it and I suspect that I never will.

Last week, Ai passed away at the age of 62. If you Google her, "Artificial Intelligence" still pops up until the very bottom of the page. The New York Times only posted an obit yesterday (and then in the Books section) and only a handful of folks (among them one of my favorite poets, Mark Doty) have lamented or acknowledged her death and her life.

It astounds me. How can a person who has had (and I'm sure will continue to have) such a huge impact on me as both an artist and a person, be forgotten before she is even remembered? My good friend and lit blog maven, Anna Clark posted on Ai's death and then days later posted again, lamenting the fact that the world did not take notice. Death didn't stop for her and we didn't either.

Why? And why do I care? Ai, it seems, certainly didn't care what anyone thought of her. By all accounts (I never had the good fortune to meet her), she was a force of individuality that lived her own way. She didn't seem to need us to remember her, and yet, I am devastated that we didn't. That we don't. Her poems, (she wrote exclusively in dramatic monologue)the words she put into the world are something else. I don't think I want to live in a world where we don't remember the words. Even when the person has faded from memory and we barely recall their lives on this plane of existence, the words, the words are the thing that can never fade.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Deadly Departed Dear

My friend and fellow poet, Kat Good-Schiff and I have a tradition. Every year around Spring we visit the graves of our favorite poets together. We bring food and drink and read poems to the dead.

This tradition started three years ago when Kat visited me and I brought her to my favorite place in the whole world: Forest Hills Cemetery. Besides being the most serene landscape I've ever seen, it is also the resting place of the body of Anne Sexton, a poet whose has been crucial to my development as an artist and a woman. Each year, we visit Anne and read her amazing poems full of passion and hope. Along the ledges of her gravestone are piles of lime and pudding stones, acorns and scraps of weathered parchment. Offerings to a woman who could not have known what impact she had (or would have) on the world before she departed it.

We've also visited Emily Dickinson. At Emily's grave there is a small, wind-splintered box where visitors drop notes, poems, and wishes to the "grandmother" of American poetry.

These visits make me remember: who I am and why I do what I do. To live on that edge and to speak to what needs to be seen and spoken. To hold dear what will never die.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One word makes all the difference.

I've been trying to crack the slippery carapace of what I knew were going to be some bright jewels of poems.

Almost all of them, save two, have gone through at least 10 drafts (which is actually quite a low number--I'm normally in the 20s or 30s). There were two particularly hard stones that shined in some places and were cloudy and dull in others. I had the concept, the rhythm, the music. But something CRUCIAL was missing. I wrote around it, I expanded and expounded. I fretted and worried at my keyboard. It didn't help.

I decided that I needed another set of eyes that would maybe, hopefully spark on something that I had overlooked, some speck of black that was really a diamond inside (or a split and dripping fig, or a pat of melted butter).

I handed over one of the stones and was given a word. That word was what I was missing. It unfastened the belt, pulled down the zipper, exposed the gleaming belly of my poem.

There's no better feeling in my world that to know you've got it and you've got it good.

If you're interested in hearing the poem I'm referring to, come to Grub Gone...Blue on Friday night or stay tuned...it just might appear on the Interwebs sometime soon.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sin on Skin

So I'm getting a new tattoo.

Body art is something that I've long been obsessed with and the meanings that we put into our own skin (through ink or something deeper and more subconscious) is hard to shake.

I know what I want for a design (and I promise to post once I've got it) but I'm struggling with the words I want to put to it.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings."

"A gift, a love gift, utterly unasked for by the sky"

"Elbows, knees, dreams, goodnight"

"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead. I lift my eyes and all is born again"

"I am I am I am"

Any thoughts? Suggestions? I'd love to hear them.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Snake Face

I'm trying to write an erotic Medusa poem.

Medusa is a figure that I find ridiculously sexy.

She was powerful, supernatural, and terribly threatening. The earliest accounts speak of her as unbearably ugly, a monster of the sea whose serpent locks where so terrifying that anyone who looked at them would be so scared they'd turn to stone (note the difference between this version and the more recent: her looks turned men to stone.) In the newer versions of her tale, Medusa is more actively evil and also "light of cheek"... and she has a lover, Poseidon, the God of the Sea.

I LOVE the idea of a tumultuous, hot tryst happening at the bottom of the ocean. This is the setting of my poem and while it is inspiring, I'm having a hard time with the sexual dynamic of the piece (particularly between M & P).

Any ideas out there?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why I Love Edgar Allan Poe

This about sums it up:


From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

Edgar Allan Poe

I have a difficult time expressing the solitude I often feel as someone who is compelled by the dark matter of the universe. Poe was a man who seemed to lack human connection severely, a loneliness that drove him mad through the morgues and pits and catacombs of his mind. And yet through this disconnect with the "normal world" he was able to create some of the most astoundingly eerie and marrow-curdling lines, sharp tools of language that have come together and spearheaded those of us who, like him, so acutely feel the sinister embrace of the night and welcome it.

It seems somehow fitting that someone so true to the darkness inside himself, someone who surrendered to it above all else, can speak in such visceral words to so many to whom the outside world is but pale compared to the inner worlds of the mind.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More Great News!

My friend and fellow writer-in-darkness, Sue Williams, received an Honorable Mention in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open (Dec '09) for her novella, "The Winged Hendersons of Welton-on-Sea"!

This is wonderful, Sue. Congrats and keep painting it black. You know we love it.

Here's what I imagine her winged beings to look like (props to Taro1999 for creating this):

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Coolest thing ever.

One of my fabulous students has gotten herself published!

Carrie Kei Heim Binas, a student in the Monster & Mayhem class I teach with Sue Williams, published her first ever piece, a drabble entitled: "Walking on Eggshells" in Boston Literary Magazine!

What are you waiting for? Go check it out! And while you're at it, check out Carrie's awesome blog. She gives a run-down of our class, if you're interested!

To live on the edge

Artists are a notoriously edgy bunch. We are drifters, addicts, eccentrics. We can never quite keep ourselves in the light, in the place where others set up house and have families and babies and jobs and a four-door and retirement plans.

We have a hard time with the banal because, I think, it is so outside of our experience. We feel everything not only in our bodies but deep in our brains and most often we think entirely too much. We get bogged down in the recesses of the darkest deep wells of our minds and then we block out the sun with a stone and stay down there. And then we create.

All too often we forget how to live normal lives, if we ever knew how. We can't climb back out of the well and we have to live with all the messy, dark, and truthful things that live inside us. It's enough to make one mad. It's enough to make one cope any way one can.

I'm thinking of this all because a dear friend and amazing writer Sue Williams posted a link on her blog, Wet Ink to Life Magazine's photo essay "Famous Literary Drunks and Addicts". My first thought was of exploitation and my second thought was of sadness and the lengths that artists go to to cope with this crazy lifestyle.

Check it out for yourself and see what you think.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


The only time I am truly is when I am inside the story.
All the pieces lock and become what they were always going to be.

When I'm in the story, I'm so inside myself that I can't see
speak sing. I'm in the fog, in the dark, in the deep

and it's hard to climb out, to creep back
to be human again, it's the only place that feels

like me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Close Your Eyes

I'm co-teaching a course called Monsters and Mayhem this Winter with the amazing Sue Williams (check her blog in the sidebar). Last night, Sue led us on a wonderful visualization that helped me discover who one of the newest (and most fragile) characters in my fantastical short story collection is. (Yes, I am working on a short-story collection AND a novella. It's crazy but somehow it works for me)

So I thought, I'd post a shortened version of a visualization (for the real Sue Williams treatment, you'll have to come to our class) that could help transform a character from page to reality.

Close your eyes.
Imagine you are in a barren field. There is no one around but you and your character.
It is deepest, darkest night and the only way you can know anything about the physicality of your character is to touch it.
Move closer to your character.
How does it react to being closed in upon?
Does its breathing change?
What changes manifest in its body that you can sense without seeing?
Move even closer.
Reach out and feel your character's skin.
Is it warm? Cool? On fire? Caked with dust?
What's going on beneath the surface of the skin--what changes can you physically feel happening as you run your hands along the character's body?
What happens when you touch your character?
Do they try to move away? Push you away? Cover themselves?
Or do they move toward you?
What do you hear? Does your character's breath change? Speed up? Slow down? Purr? Huff?
What does your character say to you?
How does your character WANT to be touched?

Soon everything disappears but you and the character.

Open your eyes. Free-write about the experience you just had with your character.

What did you discover?

Anytime you feel like there's something missing, something about your character that is unknown or simply not working, try closing your eyes and going somewhere else with you them.

They'll tell you everything you need to know.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Greatest Fears

I think my greatest fear as a writer isn't to be misunderstood but to be cliche. It's actually quite a vain fear if you think about it. Considering the case in a purely logical, mathematical way, there are no combination of words that haven't already been crafted and cobbled together, so really, everything that can be said is in essence somewhat cliche. As a writer I have this egotistical need for my words to be hailed as unique. I want to speak to those who have not spoken.

I've been thinking about this because I'm working on (struggling through) writing a novella that I felt was unique...until I re-read it after letting it sit for a few months. Let's just say there were more than a few cringes and moans. My protagonist could not have sounded more like a whiny teenage girl than well...a stereotypical teenage girl. I resolved to make her more sophisticated, less self-aware. Yet as I went over a re-write with my writing partner that I thought had stepped up the character and the language, she countered that now the draft felt flat, pedestrian, that it had lost it's voice, its interiority, its flavor. It stopped sounding like a teenage girl. And wasn't that the point, she countered, to be completely inside that experience?

I find that I'm afraid of that voice. The sticky, self-loathing, awkward 15 year-old that still lives somewhere inside me. So I decided to change it, make it into someone else, someone whom I was more comfortable with.

But really, it's just not right.