Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Jude Marr : My (small press, undressed) Writing Day


My bed is my office. I have back trouble, or at least that’s my excuse for writing propped against a padded headboard, pillows plump in support of my lower spine, my feet up on a mattress firm enough to bounce well-balanced line off. Rather than prop my aging laptop across my ditto thighs—which are usually bare because this is Louisiana, where wearing pants is purgatory—I use a lap-desk. On a table next to the bed I keep stacks of books relating to projects I should be working on, including my dissertation. Also, my phone, and a mug that’s either full of tea, or about to be. I have never broken my British habit of drinking hot tea with cold milk as often as I can make myself get up to boil a kettle. Which is often. I love a good cup of coffee, but tea is my fuel. I can’t write without it.

Honestly, I can barely write out of bed these days. As the world spins every which way, trying, it seems, to shake off what’s left of our humanity, I cling to my keyboard and type. As the planet spins, as my old white head spins, shamefully, I try at least to find words of regret, words of well-aimed anger, words of courage. I hope for hope. My fingers can still be hooks.

The word or phrase, the inchoate notion, that begins a new poem may take me anywhere—but this is disingenuous. I have an agenda, and that agenda is always political. To stay focused, and angry, I check in with the outside world at regular intervals. Which is not to say that I actually talk to people, or leave my apartment. I’m engaged with the world, but that doesn’t alter my deep love of my own company, nor my need to avoid distraction on writing days. Sometimes, needs must, I still write in coffee shops, airports, parks—always aware of my aching back, and the chatter of unknown voices—but my best lines come to me when I’m sitting propped up on my bed, in my underwear, with no one to challenge my devotion to solitude. I don’t play music as I write, because I can’t then hear the music inside my head, the music that stops my head spinning. On a good day, the room will go dark, except for screen glow, and I will type on, oblivious.

Back to the beginning. After I’ve made tea, listened to the radio, caught up on social media, and made more tea, I convince myself that, in spite of the news—because of the news—I should do some work. I type everything, because I can no longer read my own handwriting. I taught myself to touch-type when I was eleven. I had a portable typewriter back then, and I hammered those mechanical keys, strong in my conviction that words mattered, even if I didn’t. I would be a writer, for sure. What I actually became, in the short term, was a fear-ridden teenager too caught up in getting from one day to the next to commit any part of the struggle to a sentence. The next couple of decades, ditto. I made it to middle-age, though, and finally, after flirting with prose forms, became a poet in my fiftieth year.

At sixty, I’m a fast but inaccurate typist—I type like a programmer, constantly correcting myself, but I find such toing-and-froing to be an accurate model of how my mind works. When I sit down to write something new, I either grab a phrase from my fragments file, or scrabble fo something from the oddment drawer that is my short-term memory. That drawer is always stuffed, the oddments spill out, and if I don’t write them down, they will be lost to me. I’m okay with that. I don’t feel like I’ll run out of ideas, nor do I feel that anything I write is word-for-word precious. I throw some words on the page to erase the blank, then edit as I go until I have a first draft worth contemplating. For as long as the file is open, I can undo, of course—but once the file is saved, my workings are lost. Nice irony, the poet in me feels compelled to mention. But the sixty-year-old who travels light says, good riddance.  Old notions are excess baggage.

Most usually, my writing day begins, not with a new poem, but with revision. From the drafts that seemed worth saving, including those I’ve forgotten, to the already-published work that no longer feels right, I get my biggest kicks out of rebuilding. Many of my poems turn out to be fixer uppers, but a well-designed addition, or even a slap or two with the paintbrush, is for me the best part of being a poet. A single page, not blank, but filled with possibility. Re-visioning feels hopeful. And once the changes are saved, once again, no earlier drafts exist—except those that have already been published. We are our past, but we don’t have to live there.

Would it surprise you to know that, twenty years ago, I quit my old life, walked off the lot, and did my best to disappear? Or that several years later, when it looked like I might finally get into print, I changed my name? No earlier drafts exist, except those already stuffed into the oddment drawers of other people’s memories. If I hadn’t broken up with my past, I would never have become a writer. Do I mine those years for material? Of course. Do I live underground with my memories? Not if I can help it. Writing helps. Wanting to change the world helps. At least I can try.



Jude Marr teaches, and writes poetry, as protest. They are currently a PhD candidate at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and their chapbook, Breakfast for the Birds (Finishing Line), was published in 2017. Other recent credits include Nightjar Review, 8 Poems, and Oxidant Engine.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Teresa Stenson : My Small Press Writing Day


The day begins between 7and 8am, with a hot drink, usually tea, and it’s hard to have tea first thing without toast. So it’s tea and toast, and a check of social media, and a bit of morning TV. I like to be ‘at work’ sometime between 9 and 10am, and, because I only need my MacBook Air to work from, my workplace shifts throughout the day. More on that in a moment.

There are two sides to my writing life and so two sides to my writing day: the stuff I do for love and the stuff I do for money. It’s actually not that crude; I’m incredibly lucky in that I enjoy the writing that pays the bills, too. I’m a ghostwriter, so I write books for people who have something to say but aren’t writers themselves – or haven’t got the time to be writers themselves.

For a long while (about ten years) I supported my writing with non-writing jobs: I worked in a cinema, behind a bar, as an academic note-taker, and as a mentor for university students. I often take a minute to appreciate that I now get paid to work with words, and that my job allows me a great amount of freedom to spend time on my own writing, too.

Though the main focus of the working day is to move forward with my clients’ projects, I can pretty much always carve out time to spend on something of my own in and amongst the work. Sometimes it’s an hour, sometimes an afternoon – it all depends on how busy I am.

At the moment I’m in the midst of ghosting two non-fiction books, so I’m in a Monday to Friday, nine to five kind of routine. The morning is spent with one project, the afternoon is spent with the other.

Book 1 is fairly short and will come in at about 20,000 words, taking two months to write (it’s almost there). Book 2 will be longer, more complex, and I have until early 2019 to complete it. This will be the third book I’ve written for this particular person, who lives on a different continent and with whom I’ve never actually spoken! That’s the weird and wonderful nature of ghostwriting. I pretend to be him almost every day and I will likely never meet him. He’s incredibly busy; I’m sent audio and videos of him speaking and that’s my main source material as I write the chapters of his books. Somehow it works, the books do well and sell well, and I enjoy writing in his voice and with his style. And no, it doesn’t bother me that my name isn’t on the cover of the books I write – I’m practical about this, most ghosts are, we’re paid to do what we do and it’s the nature of the job.  

So about that shifting workplace. I frequent three main writing locations, usually in this order: I start on the sofa first thing, move to a local café mid-morning, and spend afternoons on my small writing desk in the bedroom. Occasionally I use the dining table for a change of scene, or I’ll get cosy on the bed – but that only really works if I’m in the research phase of a book, or making notes by hand. I don’t have a room of my own – yet. 

The work itself is varied, and what I do day-to-day depends on what stage of a project I’m at. At the beginning of a book I do a lot of reading, listening and watching all that source material mentioned earlier, making notes and working out how best to order the book, and how to take the reader on the most logical and interesting journey. Once the initial outline is approved, I dive in – usually at Chapter 1, but for me, writing a non-fiction book is like doing a jigsaw so I’ll hop between chapters if I need to.

Once I start the writing I might need to change the initial outline, or overhaul it completely. Just last week I did that for Book 2: I’d written the first chapter but my enthusiasm to get beyond that totally waned. I went back to the beginning, absorbed myself in the source material again, and realised there was a much better way to organise the book. Once I’d worked that out, the project got the injection of energy it needed.  

As far as writing ‘as me’ goes, I mostly write short stories, and have been published steadily in lit mags and writing prize anthologies for the past ten years or so (I currently have a collection under consideration with a publisher in the UK). My attention has recently shifted towards working on something longer, and I’m having fun writing fragments and scenes of something which may well be novel-length, if not novel-shaped.  

Because most of my writing time is spent pretending to be someone else, my appreciation for the time when I’m writing as me has deepened. That’s not to say I’m immune to all the usual distractions that face writers – or anyone who works on a computer connected to the internet. To do my job well, focus is important, and extended periods of ‘being in the book’ are required. The pomodoro technique (writing in short bursts) helps on days when inertia kicks in, and the software that shuts the internet off is a life and career saver.

I never write beyond 6pm unless I have a deadline, and that’s a rare thing. Specialising in books means deadlines are far-away goals that I move towards at a comfortable pace. I never work weekends, and if I need a break, whatever time of day it is, I take one – recharging is important. I’ll have a walk, or cook, or read, or watch TV, or chat to my other half, or go see a film. Again, I’m grateful for the freedom I have to do this. 

I end the working day with a note to myself about what to do tomorrow, just in case future me is blurry and needs a pointer. These notes always begin “Teresa” followed by a colon. It’s like I’m saying, “Teresa: you have to pay attention to Teresa.”  I realise now that I might have created my own co-worker.



Teresa Stenson has ghostwritten over a dozen books, mostly in the arena of autobiography and self-development. She lives in York, England, with her partner and the absence of a cat. Her short stories have been published by The Bridport Prize, The Guardian, Fairlight Books, Jellyfish Review, Litro, Popshot Magazine, Matchbook, and there's a piece forthcoming at Pidgeonholes. Teresa is working on a collection of linked stories and can be found on twitter @TeresaStenson.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Jane Shi: My (small press) Writing Day—Every Day is Gay


You want a piece of my day. You want a piece of my day because you want to fill a piece of yours. I suppose I can tell you what I did today, but maybe I’ll tell you in a scrambled order, like how the eggs were this morning, and how my mind will be, if I stay up a few more hours. 

I sat on my couch thinking about how I am incredibly gay. I thought about how numb I am to myself when I deny that part of myself, that capacity to love. I don’t think it’s possible to understand a day in my writing life without understanding how love shapes days, prunes nights. 

Love is a mysterious, feline creature made from difficult feathers and scales. She’s pretty, sometimes. Bratty, others.

She helps me write. 

I’m often thinking about politics. And I often think politics aloud on big digital corporate entities that profit from my trauma. It’s hard not to contribute, I’m sure as many of our sore fingers know. Today I was a bustling pikachu burrito at home, and a uniqlo-uniformed fanny-packed millennial donning the jacket of someone else’s grandmother when I went out. I didn’t order a burrito at brunch. No matter what I’m wearing, my opinions will bore someone. I didn’t finish everything on my plate but drank a lot of coffee.

My roommate laughed at the flour in the cup. They laughed at me for holding my pee in for so long. We’ve run out of toilet paper. I steal one from downstairs. 

My friend and I watch bill wurtz’s “history of the entire world, i guess” on youtube. I mock it but must admit I learned something. 

I’m dancing to Kehlani and Calvin Harris’ “Faking It” and remember how earlier in the day my other friend shared that Kehlani is pregnant. I wonder about the songs that Kehlani would write during these next few months, or whether she wouldn’t write at all. How could anyone write with morning sickness? 

With the dishes neglected for three years I decide it’s time to hide in my room, and work on a poem my roommate will instantly call a love poem. But if it’s a love poem it’s a love poem to the sea, and I guess that’s socially acceptable but I’m not always sure who it’s socially acceptable to. 

I then start on my real love poem and it is a poet’s prose and sneaky attempt to hide even deeper inside my room. I think that is sometimes what poetry is for me—a way to escape prose (i.e. the pressures of needing to be fully present) and have a nap in another dimension.

Maybe a love poem is more like a nap in another person’s daydreams. 

And I guess words are sufficient teleportation devices. 

It’s just too bad it’s still physical labour, a kind of labour that costs physiotherapy appointments. If you’re lucky you get acupuncture and guashua to help your robot hands run better. It’s not a good idea to type until you realize you have to stretch and ice it. 

I write with extreme paranoia about whether the words will disappear. From the computer, my mind, the page. It’s a plot against time, feeding your mortality to a fading machine. It’s a little self-centred, but it’s also a survival act. I want everything I have—my thoughts, my dreams, my desires—to appear like a polaroid. 

But to survive we still have to eat, drink water, and, even if reluctantly, sleep. It’s a good idea to have regular poops. Eat multivitamins.

Today I remembered I am also a filmmaker. And I often think about my writing as film, but it’s hard. I am eating crackers and getting the little seeds in my Bluetooth keyboard. Getting saliva all over the keys is a regular part of writing. But if I were to make film and if I rented out someone’s camera… well. That would be ghastly. Maybe writing is a vocation for times we can’t help but be slobs. I know there’s probably writers who wear shiny makeup (glitter and all!) and iron their shirts before writing. I would have to delete Instagram from my phone then—just from catching them in the act.

I’d like to think the NSA or whoever watches me through my webcam is bored, unless they’re also looking at the words I’m writing. I’m just saying, looking cute and writing are totally different professions. Sometimes, though, all the parallels between the fashion and writing industries come out and want to play a silly yarn game together.

I didn’t schedule time to be sad today, but the writing life is unpredictable like that. I haven’t cleaned my room since I moved in and I guess it’s just like how I haven’t organized any of my writing folders on my desktop or any of my notebooks. Many of them also double as sketchbooks, where I draw strange faces. I imagine the faces know what the exact order and folds and curves of my days are. They are watching me from afar, taking it all in.

Remembering all of it.

I hope I don’t forget to vote.
I hope I don’t forget to sleep.
I hope that I don’t forget to save and send this document.

But maybe not the part where I am gushing and gushing. Because they don’t know how to process this happiness. This happiness of being able to write, and write, and write, and write, and maybe it all comes out a little funny, but it’s like going on a long run after your knees have finally healed from the last injury. And that is also what being in love is like, even if it is in fact a third or fourth language that you just don’t have the time to learn.

I am convinced these strange faces are waiting for me to fall asleep before they come out and talk to one another like on The Toy Castle. They wait for me and wait for me, while I also wait.

Every day I am writing, I am happy.
Every day when I am writing, I am in love.
I am not anybody else’s ghost but my own.



Jane Shi is a queer Chinese settler living on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish peoples. Her work can be found at Poetry is Dead, LooseLeaf Magazine, GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine, Ricepaper Magazine, ditch poetry, Tributaries, and the forthcoming issue of SAD mag. She currently organizes Chinese seniors storytelling and art workshops with WePress Vancouver. She is also a student at The Writer’s Studio Online, and is writing a lot about the ocean and the moon. You can follow her work at Pipagao Poetry.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

My Writing Day: J.B. Stone

First Things First

I believe in routines, but I’m also a strong believer in not keeping the same exact routine every week. Instead, I’d rather keep certain elements than following an exact schedule with my writing, let alone the rest of my schedule. Right now I currently drive for Uber.

With that being said, at this point of my life, I have a bit more freedom for a sporadic schedule without my world crumbling like the walls of Babylon.

Early Mornings

There are common elements that are still pretty much a part of my schedule. Waking up early is always something synonymous with me. I never got the whole 3 AM - 5AM sweet spot all of my friends in the literary arts community talk about. I don’t know about my fellow artists, but I’m lame, I’m asleep at this time. The time isn’t always consistent, but the range is, usually falling anywhere between 5:15 AM & 6:30 AM.

I always will be working on hundred things at once. For example, yesterday, I was writing a diesel-punk rendition of Sleeping Beauty, a working collection of poetry based on different musical genres, a late fifties revivalist Noir mystery, a full length stage playscript, two horror flash fictions, a poem about Asmodeus, and two short sci-fi pieces. Needless to say, when I write I write like a madman, planning a thousand evil schemes at once. However, I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t love it and would have it any other way.

Methods to Keep Going


For the other times of my day I write, sometimes I will get back from ubering customers at around 12pm for about a few hours of downtime. Again in this time my rhythm is a chaotic moshpit of multitasking. On top of that, I have ADHD and depression so I do need a boost in energy, and coffee isn’t my choice have few ways to keep myself on track instead swerving off the rails.

Running - Whether it’s running, or jogging, or hell, even walking, if one does enough, it can be rejuvenating. At first, when my roommate suggested it was good way to get the day started, I kind of thought of it to be silly. Wouldn’t I be too tired to write, let alone work later on? However, like so many have said in the cheesiest of tones, it’s an adrenaline rush. It is a great way to get the blood flowing, and pumping and even after a run, napping isn’t on my mind, writing is. 

Watching Television - It always depends on the timing, or what I feel like watching, but I want to make something clear… MY EYES AREN’T GLUED TO THE SET! Television has been proven to be stimulating and has always been a way to put my mind at some sort of ease, while I write. For me my go-to show is The Twilight Zone on Hulu.

My Dog - Having a dog, in general can make a world of difference in energy, I love mine way too much for him not to be my little furry walking alarm clock. He is always a little waker-upper and I love him everyday for it. Simple, basic acts, such as feeding, cleaning his floppy ears, bathing, walking, and sometimes taking him with me for a run, all are activities that keep me motivated for throughout the day.

Overall

I have been published or have work forthcoming in nearly 30 journals/anthologies within only a span of two and half years. People ask me how I am able to submit this much? Because I am always making time to write my work and submit, submit, submit!

My best writing days aren’t conjured by random spouts of epiphany, conquering writer’s block. My best writing days are spent doing what I can to get myself self pump up and turn my brain into a jumping bean.

My methods aren’t meant as words of advice (because I don’t speak for writers and artists everywhere). They are written as daily notes for what I do to get through each day, in attempts to break away from the inactivity that comes with depression, and write, write, write!


 


J.B. Stone is the author of the micro chapbook, A Place Between Expired Dreams And Renewed Nightmares (Ghost City Press 2018). He also has work featured and/or forthcoming in BlazeVOX, Ghost City Review, Breadcrumbs Magazine, Crack the Spine among several other publications. You can check out more of his work at jaredbenjaminstone.com and/or via twitter @JB_StoneTruth

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sonia Di Placido : My Writing Day


October 10, 2018



Does writing in your head count? Do poems that, as I lay down to rest, come to me by inspiration from what I might be reading or what sends me to drift off to sleep, qualify? Do times of meditative grace where words and thoughts inspired in a resting state as one looks dreamily out a window or off into space that isn’t space—a staple poet’s image for centuries. I like to believe that these all qualify for a writing day, but I’m inclined to say No. Alas, the writing day involves writing and trying to put together sentences and record some semblance of prose, verse, words. Most importantly, revise and revisit.

My usual writing day, which isn’t every single day, though it happens more than twice a week, whether I’m journaling, writing down an inspiration, revising something or starting a poem off the cuff—the major aspect of my writing day has to do with revising and revisiting my work in a tiresome, never-ending, exasperating way.

My writing days are not exciting. They are my days, where a tiny, intimate and specific peaks of movement in word and thought reverberate with excitement as I touch upon a new phrase or a feeling of unique patterns of words put together by a sub-conscious to conscious self.  I often find I obsess over detail. Periods, commas, enjambments. Ultimately revising is the most rewarding and the most difficult as I sift through details; music starts as my words flow out and those moments are exciting.  I take at 5-minute breaks every 30 minutes here and after 2 hours a stretch of 15-20 where I grab a snack or need to go outdoors for some air if the weather permits.

Coffee or Tea is always involved, sometimes a glass of wine in the evening and I’m feeling particularly celebratory over my work. Eventually, I start to sift through books if I’ve got long enough to write. A five-hour writing day is the best for me. Though, I rarely have those these days right now with teaching so, I settle for maximum 2 hours on weekend days. I find it’s difficult to go into The Zone as I call it. It’s a space of no-time and being with myself in that requires an effort to move toward and needs it’s pre-writing. If it’s a new poem, I often time myself by 1-2 hour stretches. That time-point for me is a good one. 30 minutes to settle and move into the Zone, which allows me to forget somewhat about time as I delve into it for 1 hour fully in with limits set on interruptions by social media or other daily ‘life’ stuff.

Sometimes I’ll jump into something if the mood is high and I’m feeling particularly free of responsibilities. It’s more rare and often I am in the park or away from home when this happens. 

I find writing days in many ways to consist of many things other than just typing or penciling words on paper. It involves reading, thinking, analyzing, making choices, feeling emotional, at times overwhelmed and relieved. Having conversations with the pages that ultimately are conversations with self and/or ‘I’.




Sonia Di Placido is currently completing an MFA in Creative Writing at UBC. She is a member of The League of Canadian Poets, The Writer’s Union of Canada, Canadian Women in The Literary Arts and The Association of Italian-Canadian Writers. An Associate Editor of Juniper Poetry Magazine, she has had poems published by Carousel, The Puritan, The White Wall Review, Jacket2, Canthius, The California Journal of Women Writers, and Juniper Poetry MagazineIn September 2016, she was invited to be part of The China Writers' Association International Writer’s Residency for the cities of Tianjin, Binhai and Beijing. Sonia teaches English for Academic Purposes at George Brown College. Her first book Exaltation in Cadmium Red was published with Guernica Editions in 2012. Flesh is her second full-length book of poetry. For more information and works: diplacido.wordpress.com