Poet First, Writer Second

I decided to share some poetry today.  I have, and will always, say that I am a poet first and a writer last.  Even from a young age when the teacher would give a creative writing assignment and we got to choose the medium, I always fell back on my poetry.  In rough, emotionally draining times, it has been poetry that has raised me up and refueled the muse.  There’s just something to freeing in the poetic form.

It’s tough to leak poetry into prose since so much of poetry tends to break almost every grammar rule, but I try to sneak it in.  It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it feels like I’ve written a piece of my soul into it.

So, here it is.  My poetry.

Grass as Tall as My Waist

The grass is as tall as my waist
Unwanted.  Dancing free in the breeze.
A twisting, rippling ocean
Reclaiming the field
Wild.  Untamed.  Elegant.
I am a blemish, in my human flesh
Clothed only in a tattered, stained soul
Where grass stretches upward
Whispering to each other in doses of wind

I stand.  Step.  Close my eyes.
Tickled by their faces
Caressed, as if I am one of them
Tossed in the air
Trampled into dirt
To grow again.  New.  Green. Strong.
Unwanted.  Dancing free in the breeze.

Where little things hide.  Safe.
And animals hunt to feed little things.
The grass still whispers.  Ripples.  Sways.
Stretching into the buzzing air.
Resilient and delicate in a single curve.
Plucked or stamped down.
A post for butterflies or hummingbirds.
Always as tall as my waist.
Unwanted.  Dancing free in the breeze.

I hear their stories, feel their pain.
I see their joy, taste their strength.
Covering the field
Like a watery tide
Consuming.
I whisper with them.
Am trampled with them.
I am
Unwanted.  Dancing free in the breeze.
As tall as my waist.
Reclaiming the field
To begin anew.

The Birth of a Story

The Birth of a Story

The Birth of a Story; that sounds big and important, doesn’t it?  And in one way, it is; you need a birth to have a life.  But there are so many ways that a story can be born.  Every writer has their own methods and, really, every story has its own beginning.  I’ve written little shorts that I have just come out, in one smooth writing binge, and then there are stories like the one that I am publishing, where it took years to become anything at all.  It’s that process, the birth of Turned/Red that has been the most eye opening for me.

It began in a quiet moment when I was substitute teaching and I had a prep hour.  I usually scribbled away or doodled, but this time, I had this wacky notion of a really messed up fairy tale family tree/web.  There was no reason to do it, but that there was this little spark, the notion that someone was going to revolve around Snow White and her little known sister, Rose Red.  Thus the sprout grew branches and leaves and then became very twisted.  One day, when I dig up that old family tree, I’ll post it.

The idea was just that: an idea to pass the time away during an empty hour.  Then the question popped into my head: if Snow White got the fairytale ending, what happened to her sister?  She got the second prince, sure, but what of it?  That’s how it all began, with that simple question.  Of course, the question was simple, but the answer was far from it.

Turned/Red, an untitled project at that point, had many beginnings, but no real “birth.”  One began as a fantasy period piece but Rose Red’s voice was too modern and the fairytale mash-ups were too literal.  It never got past the third chapter.  So I transplanted it to a modern world, but kept nearly the same concept.  It fell flat before the end of the first chapter.  I tried the same concept again, got three chapters it and let it die.  All of them centered around this baby and protecting her and blah, blah, blah.  Boring.  Connectionless.

And that a scene, one scene came into my head on a drive home from work.  It was tragic and heartbreaking.  There was real emotion and motivation.  So I wrote it down, and stared at it, and stared at it.  I stared at it for a long time before it went anywhere.

Until another bolt of an idea, a quote that I heard somewhere: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”  What did that mean?  Especially now.  The political science kid in me couldn’t let that idea disappear.

I’ll credit a lot of that to a small group of writers and literary enthusiasts who got together during a lunch break at a local literary convention called ConTroll.  We all needed, wanted, the push to write our stories.  That push was the best thing to happen to this story.  I wrote a chapter a week and let it go.  It twisted and turned into a dystopian (a genre very near and dear to my heart that I’ll probably write on soon), and it ran away from the literal fairytale allusions (though they are still there just because I can’t let them go completely).

What began as an idea to write a multitude of books all centered on a fairytale heroine, became one story (two books) about a girl named Red, torn between two sides of a war that she doesn’t quite believe in, and her desperation to have her own life.

It was then and only then that Turned/Red was born.  A title found its way to me.  A character wrapped herself around my brain.  The stories of these people haunt my dreams.

When that happens, you know your story is born.  Its birth is its hook on your life and your desperate need to tell it… and have others read it.

Why do the crazy thing and self-publish?

Why do the crazy thing and self-publish?

Welcome to the inaugural post!  And rather than spending this time giving you the big Manifesto-Of-Doom post, I’m just going to jump right in if that’s okay with you.

The Backstory:  I’m an artist and I use that term because I like and do create, a wide range of art from paintings to performing on the stage (the main form of my artistic endeavors) to writing.  It was only recently, as in the last year or so, that I contemplated making my writing public.  You see, it was always a very personal hobby, but I was convinced by some good people to go for it.  So I did.  And the result is a project near and dear to my heart.

I queried this work for some time, blindly, I’ll add.  Some of the letters were horrible.  I had no idea what I was doing, and that was absolutely okay.  I learned a lot from the process.  I learned how to write a blerb (though I will admit that I will probably never been good at it), how to be bold and just hit the ‘send’ button, and how to simply join in on this crazy process that so many writers go through.

But I also learned that, given how personal this particular journey has been, that I didn’t want to turn this story over.  Which is a weird thought to have when a writer typically seeks out an agent (not unlike an actress) and that’s how they move forward to publish.  It is also a very daunting thought to possess.  But there it was: eating up my brain matter and telling me: do it, do the thing that you are scared to do and see what happens.

Thus:  self-publishing became a very real, very solid journey to embark on.

I read articles on it.  I gathered my links, and resources, and set about with a timeline, a plan, and one hell of an editor.

And I also discovered that there is a stigma against self-publishing.  Some of that stigma is earned; a great many self-published works on not edited by a paid editor, but I have found my fair share of wonderfully written stories that have been self-published through this wonderful world of technology.

I can have a print-on-demand hardcopy of my story.  I can sell it on Amazon through Kindle.  There are even options to open it to other markets.  It’s wonderful.  It’s terrifying.

There are other factors too: promotion, marketing, and everything else.  These are the daunting tasks that most writers leave to their agents, publishing houses, and their myriad of employees.  I can see why.  There’s a lot of power behind money and expertise and I won’t deny that, but I also won’t deny that it can be done.  I can start up a Facebook page.  I can create a website.  I can put out Instagram pics and other social media tools.  It isn’t easy, to say the least, and I won’t have thousands of followers right out of the gate, especially as an unknown name, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work.

I’m also fairly realistic about this endeavor though.  I don’t expect to make the NY Times Bestsellers List.  I don’t expect to sell thousands, or even hundreds, or even a hundred copies.  My expectations are reasonably low because there are thousands, millions even, of books out there.  Anyone who has used Amazon or Barnes and Noble to search for a new book to ready knows the struggle.  There are so many fascinating stories to wade through.  My wish lists alone are a daunting list that I’m picking through.  So, I know what I’m up against, and I made the decision to be okay with it.

I’m not self-publishing out of greed for money or any other reason than this: I want this story out there.  I need this story out there.  And for whatever reason, my intuition, my gut, that brain eating monster in the night, told me that this is the way I need to go with this particular story.  Will I self-publish all my works?  No.  The story currently being penned will be queried and queried and queried until something happens with it.  For me, it is just this story that needs this sort of very personal touch.

And the challenge.  This is the challenge I need to go through: from start to hardcopy-in-my-hand finish.  It may be a disaster.  It may not.  But what I have learned and will learn through this process will be worth it all in the end.

I will self-publish because that is what is right for this book, and for me.

And because it is time we start using the resources that we have available to us.

Like I said: I’m excited and terrified and giddy and nervous and ready to burst.  Maybe that’s what I’m doing it.