2017: The Retrospective

It seems as if this was a year most people would like to erase or do over, much like last year. There was more political turmoil, disappointment and horror caused by the U.S. government, the public outing of sexual harassers (and worse), racist/fascist awfulness, devastating hurricanes, and the crushing feeling of powerlessness. I can see why people are sharing images of literal garbage fires with text of “2017” edited over them.

Despite the ugliness of the outside world, I personally had a wonderful year. I got married to my better half and we had a beautiful celebration. The planning was stressful, but our special day was well worth it. I will do a post about it in the future that will include photos. There’s probably a lot to say.

We went to San Diego, California for our honeymoon. The weather was 70 degrees the whole time and the skies were completely blue. We walked Balboa Park, went to the Birch Aquarium, visited the San Diego Museum of Art, and dined at Hillcrest. We took naps in the middle of the afternoon. It was wonderful.

My husband formed an 80s rock band this year and they’re quite good. They recorded a demo and had their first gig. The living room has been transformed into a music studio. I love how we both have our creative outlets–his music and my writing. It allows us to have space when we need it.

We’ve continued going to concerts together. This year we saw Garbage, Blondie, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and others. We don’t have the same tastes in music, but it’s always nice being introduced to new artists and sharing the experience of a live musical performance.

Speaking of rock stars, I also met Roxane Gay this year. She was on tour for her book Hunger. The room was completely packed and hot, but filled with positive energy and a diverse group of readers. And of course, Roxane herself was a delight. I’m excited to read more of her work in the future.

This was the first year I kept track of my submissions to literary journals with a spreadsheet. I was afraid to do so previously because of how discouraging I thought it would be. Instead, it has managed to keep me organized and pressures me into sending more things out into the world. I sent out around 75 submissions this year, which were mostly rejections, but included a lot of encouraging remarks from editors. I hope to reach over 100 rejections next year, which was inspired by this essay at Lit Hub. The rejections still sting, but it’s become more like quickly ripping off a band-aid. You enter it in, make note of the comments (if any), and move on.

I had a few pieces published, including a poem at South Florida Poetry Journal, whose editors invited me to give my first ever poetry reading. I read essays about prose poetry to dispel my misconceptions of the form and published a prose poem of my own in Unbroken Journal. Most surprisingly, I was named a finalist for the Lascaux Prize for Poetry. My poem will be published in their 2018 anthology.

Aside from the anthology, I already know I am starting off 2018 with a few of my pieces forthcoming from Gone Lawn and The Fanzine. Stay tuned.

Here are my obligatory lists that helped define this year:

Books:

Our Dead Behind Us by Audre Lorde
Scald by Denise Duhamel
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
Rookery by Traci Brimhall
The New Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings by Tess Ayers
The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson
Hunger by Roxane Gay
The Field Guide to Prose Poetry, edited by Gary McDowell
The Big Book of Exit Strategies by Jamaal May
Book of Mutter by Kate Zambreno
Drawing Blood by Molly Crabapple
Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise by Gene Luen Yang
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search by Gene Luen Yang
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
The First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Dept. by Speculation by Jenny Offill
Help by Simon Amstell
Cruddy by Lynda Barry
It Devours! by Joseph Fink
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Literary journals:

The Adroit Journal
Memorious
Boulevard

Waxwing Magazine
Gulf Coast
Electric Literature
TriQuarterly

The Shallow Ends
Paper Darts
Blueshift Journal
South Florida Poetry Journal
wigleaf
Unbroken Journal

Movies:

Moonlight
Hidden Figures
Kill Your Darlings
Loving
Boy Meets Girl
Closet Monster

Get Out
Wonder Woman
Moana
Thelma & Louise

TV series:

Mom
West Wing
Bob’s Burgers
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Stranger Things
Neo Yokio

When We Rise
The Handmaid’s Tale
Sense8
Grace and Frankie
Take My Wife
Avatar: The Last Airbender (rewatch)
Legend of Korra
Atypical
Glow

Video games:

Persona 5
Pokemon Trading Card Game Online
LittleBigPlanet 3
Injustice 2
Ever Oasis
ABZU
Children of Zodiarcs
The Arcana
Earthlock: Festival of Magic
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Music albums:

Future Politics by Austra
I See You by The xx
Ibeyi by Ibeyi
Pleasure by Feist
Silver Eye by Goldfrapp
Season High by Little Dragon
Bleed Like Me by Garbage
Debut by Bjork
Something to Tell You by HAIM
It’s Immaterial by Black Marble
Melodrama by Lorde
Master of My Make-Believe by Santigold

2016: The Retrospective

This year was certainly a year. It was full of good and full of godawful, in equal measure. High peaks and deep valleys. However, I know most people want it to just end already due to all the political outrage and deaths of several cultural icons (and subsequently, many childhoods). I know there’s a lot of uncertainty in the air. Thunder rolling in, all the twitching and panic while we wait for more omens as evidence of the inevitable American apocalypse.

On a smaller level, in my little bubble, there has been a lot to celebrate. For one, this year has been full of wonderful music. Sounds and lyrics that allow you to walk on air. Music played around the house and blasted in my ears at work. I went to several concerts with my boyfriend, including seeing Florence + the Machine, Bonnie Raitt, and Rose Cousins. Almost every day I woke up with a song in my head.

This year I became a vegetarian. Well, technically, a pescatarian. It hasn’t been as challenging as people make it out to be. I don’t have cravings for anything. I still get to have chocolate and that’s all that really matters.

ripelycheetree

We tried growing a little garden in the backyard. It was a failure. Partially due to the severe summer heat, partially due to laziness. But our trees gave us plenty of fruit this year. Our lychee tree yielded hundreds and hundreds of lychees. We made a sweet sorbet. We picked lemons from our lemon tree and made lemonade.

There has been traveling and a lot of exploration. We visited California and Texas. We attended our first videogame convention, GaymerX. I fell in love with San Francisco and dream of having a second home there.

engagementrings

Oh, and I got engaged. It is still surreal and absolutely wonderful. What would teenage Joey think?

I got promoted as an editor at my real life job. I conducted interviews with journal editors at The Review Review. My poem, “Pugnacious Boy” – the only piece of writing I had published this year – was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I read some books this year, but mostly poetry and literary journals (those received to review and those received after submitting to contests). I need to read more. We all need to read more. Especially in 2017. Books improve our capacity for empathy. Empathy allows compassion for other human beings.

Empathy has been the word for some time now. But empathy should always be the word.

And now, here’s the obligatory favorite lists that helped to define my year.

Books:

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Our Lady of the Ruins by Traci Brimhall
Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros
3arabi Song by Zeina Hashem Beck
Pagan Love Songs by Gavin Geoffrey Dillard
I Felt Their Teeth in My Bones by Magen Cubed
In Their Arms by Thomas Moore
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing

Literary Journals:

Poetry
Rattle
Permafrost
River Styx
CALYX: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women
Witch Craft Magazine
Luna Luna Magazine

Glass: A Journal of Poetry
Burning House Press
Bracken Magazine
The Shallow Ends
Minor Literature[s]

Rise Up Review

Movies:

Philomena
Grandma
Poetry
Carol
Suffragette
The Lady in the Van
Spotlight
Holding the Man

Those People
C.R.A.Z.Y.
Fargo
People Places Things
Kubo and the Two Strings
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

TV Series:

Daria (1,871st rewatch)
Jane the Virgin
Sense8
Stranger Things
Black Mirror
Teachers
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
The West Wing
Mr. Robot

Video Games:

Mortal Kombat X
Uncharted 3
Lego Marvel Avengers
Neko Atsume
Pokemon Go
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth
Rune Factory 4 (again, and probably forever)
Moon Hunters
Black Desert Online
Song of the Deep
Read Only Memories

Fran Bow
Silent Hill 2
Pokemon Moon

Music Albums:

To the Faithful Departed by The Cranberries
Shepherd Moon by Enya
Mexican Moon by Concrete Blonde
Goddess by Banks
This Is Acting by Sia
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + the Machine
Cry Baby by Melanie Martinez
Stay Gold by First Aid Kit
Every Open Eye by CHVRCHES
Hopelessness by ANONHI
All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend by Aurora
Kaleidoscope Heart by Sara Bareilles
The Whole Story by Kate Bush
Strange Little Birds by Garbage

2015: The Retrospective

That picture is how I handled 2015.

It seems the past few years have included a lot of firsts for me and this year was no exception. I’m grateful for this trend in my life. Looking forward to beginnings is a good way to go about it. It seems the late twenties are a fruitful time for journeys with tangible goals, versus the early twenties when there are vast stretches of wasteland and nothing in sight. Just a few of these firsts: yet another new job (one that I’m leaving soon to return to my previous job in a different role), my first long-term relationship that isn’t long-distance, a group of new friends (which led to my first “Friendsgiving”), a new car, my first smart phone (I know), a new living arrangement, a coming out to my father, and my first (and hopefully final) masquerade of extroversion.

There has been a lot of literary magazine scandals (the best kind!), more racial injustice, more misogyny, more evidence that the apocalypse is nigh. South Florida will become the most populated state in the U.S. and then will be swallowed by the sea.

I didn’t read or write nearly enough this year, but I watched a ton of LGBTQ movies. I played some long RPGs that people my age complain they don’t have enough time for. I watched a few TV series, as opposed to never watching TV at all. I ate out more. I did not go to my ten-year high school reunion at some trashy club. Goaded by my sister, I started taking pointless pictures on my new phone and applying filters to them.

One of my stories was anthologized in Best Gay Stories 2015. I realized I need to submit more to magazines. Even if it is a lottery, I still have a better chance than not submitting at all. I published some stories about bodies and how they’re horrifying. I underwent skin therapy in a study that didn’t do anything. I realized how much I’ve used the first-person. I realized how a lot of editors seem to be very picky about point of view (second-person especially), whereas I am much more open to exploration in terms of perspective.

And here we come to everyone’s favorite part. Lists!

Books:

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx
The Burning Library by Edmund White
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild by Catherynne Valente
Closer by Dennis Cooper
War of the Foxes by Richard Siken
Hum by Jamaal May
Flood Bloom by Caroline Cabrera
Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso
Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones
Goddessmode, edited by Cool Skull Press
On the Edges of Vision by Helen McClory
There Will Be No More Good Nights Without Good Nights by Laura van den Berg
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
Frequencies, edited by Two Dollar Radio
A Field Guide to Surreal Botany, edited by Janet Choi

Literary Journals:

Indiana Review
Sugar House Review
Quaint Magazine
The Offing
DIAGRAM
Threadcount

PANK Magazine (RIP)

Movies and TV Series:

Shelter
Redwoods
Ma Vie en Rose
Brokeback Mountain
Latter Days
Girls
Bob’s Burgers
The Muppets
Scream Queens
American Horror Story: Coven
Grace and Frankie
Please Like Me
Inside Out
Edge of Seventeen
The Hundred-Foot Journey
Pride
Long-Term Relationship
East Side Story
I Can’t Think Straight
XXY
Pariah
The Way He Looks
The Normal Heart
The Devil’s Backbone
The Babadook

Video Games:

Papers, Please
The Last of Us
Starbound
Hand of Fate
Mortal Kombat (9)
Legend of Legaia
Broken Age, Act 2
Windward
Viridi
Rune Factory 4
Emperor’s New Groove

Music Albums:

Nabuma Rubberband by Little Dragon
I Am a Bird Now by Antony and the Johnsons
The Hissing of Summer Lawns by Joni Mitchell
Froot by Marina and the Diamonds
Bloodletting by Concrete Blonde
Garbage by Garbage
Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + the Machine
Love Stuff by Elle King
Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morrisette
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by Sarah McLachlan
Hormonally Yours by Shakespears Sister
Piece by Piece, The House, Ketevan, pretty much everything by Katie Melua
Finally Woken by Jem
Bigger, Better, Faster, More! by 4 Non Blondes
The Burdens of Being Upright by Tracy Bonham
Art Angels by Grimes

Resolutions:

  1. Do some writing collaborations
  2. Read more, write more, edit more, submit more
  3. Submit paper submissions to paper-only journals
  4. Go to the gym more (of course)
  5. Learn to cook more

2014: The Retrospective

Let’s take a look. It’s (mostly) in a book. This past year, that is.

Professionally, I started a new full-time job that came out of the blue. I applied online and thought nothing of it. Maybe because it happened alongside a very serious city job that had a very involved hiring process and horribly impersonal interview format. However, when I got to the interview for my current job, I felt very confident. I mentioned my writing and editing, I even showed them this blog. I’d never really mentioned my writing at an interview before because I felt it was mostly irrelevant. In fact, my previous supervisor completely forgot I even had a degree in English. But I have my own business cards now and that’s all that matters. Welcome to the real world, Joseph.

I got published in a few more journals, although not as much as I wanted. I entered poetry contests and made it to the final round several times. I got angry at some rejections. I was nominated for the Best of the Net anthology. I started reading for the online literary journal Pithead Chapel, which publishes monthly issues of both fiction and nonfiction. I’m now an assistant fiction editor.

I thought this would be the year of poetry, but it became much more eclectic. Short story collections, graphic novels, essays. Last year I mentioned how I read a lot of women writers and I continued with this trend, albeit unconsciously. I just happened to pick up more books by women. They definitely aren’t scarce. They’re still not winning enough awards though. Speaking of underrepresented voices, one of my posts about literary magazines publishing those who often get overlooked somehow went viral. At least, “viral” in terms of the online literary community. I received kind messages of support from readers and editors, and it continues to get passed around every once in a while. If anything, I hope it helps connect writers with publishers and maybe encourage editors to be more aware of the imbalance and strive to become more inclusive.

I went to Miami to meet Amy Tan at my alma mater. I went to a very intense poetry reading at the Miami Book Fair, featuring Ocean Vuong. I visited coffee houses, local used bookstores, and cozy places to read. I wrote more letters than I ever have before, I’m pretty sure.

There was also a lot of tragedy this year that is impossible to gloss over. There was a lot of public grieving, which you often don’t see. Suicides and shootings. Protests and anger. We can always do better. We should always do better.

Soon enough, I’ll be posting photos of my memory jar from this year too. I’ll spill the contents I’ve collected. This project was fun and I hope to make it a tradition. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here are a bunch of things that helped to define the year 2014 for me.

Books:

The Isle of Youth and What the World Will Look Like When the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den Berg
The Diaries of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1 by Anaïs Nin
This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila
Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
Crush by Richard Siken
Burnings by Ocean Vuong
The Lions by Peter Campion
Poetry and Commitment and Tonight No Poetry Will Do by Adrienne Rich
An Untamed State and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Every Kiss a War by Leesa Cross-Smith
Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
The Penguin Book of Witches by Katherine Howe
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Fleshtrap by Magen Cubed
The Self Unstable by Elisa Gabbert

Literary journals:

NANO Fiction
Hobart
Provocateur
Rattle
Atlas Review
Black Warrior Review
The Pinch

Movies and TV series:

Cowboys and Angels
Heathers
(again)
The Big Lebowski
Girls (again)
Dallas Buyers Club
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present
Portlandia
Bob’s Burgers
Ergo Proxy
Return to Oz

The Wind Rises
The Fifth Element

Video games:

Broken Age
Gone Home

Dark Cloud
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3
Child of Light
Bravely Default: Flying Fairy
Sims 3
Costume Quest 2
Puppeteer

Music:

“The Gypsy King” and “Tristan” by Patrick Wolf
“Floating City” by Tori Amos/Y Kant Tori Read
“Spellwork” by Austra
“Black Cat” by Ladytron
“Magic Rabbit” by My Brightest Diamond
“Experiment IV” by Kate Bush
“Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
“Chandelier” by Sia
“Completely Not Me” by Jenny Lewis
“Words as Weapons” by Birdy
“Tous Les Memes” by Stromae
“On Ira” and “Comme ci, Comme ça”  by Zaz
Everything by Lorde (again)
Everything by PJ Harvey
Everything by FKA twigs

And now, onto the 2015 resolutions:

  • Find some kind of physical activity that I don’t hate completely and follow a routine
  • Eat healthier
  • Find a place of my own to settle and build a nest
  • Learn some French?
  • I could always read more
  • Submit to lit magazines more often

2013: The Retrospective

I might say 2013 was the first year I felt my age, even though I didn’t feel that way in the beginning. High school drama has faded. College was a blur, a TV channel blinking scenes in and out. Coming of age might just be a cough. The throat is cleared, the page can close.

Maybe it is also because more people in my life call me Joseph now, instead of Joey.

There were firsts, coming late: first nosebleed, first time travelling alone, first full-time job, first Pushcart Prize nomination, first romantic interest.

I read mostly women writers to level the playing field. By now, you all know it’s still a problem that half the human population is being overlooked in publishing. It’s surprising. What wasn’t surprising was how easy it was for me to take it to task, a simple lesson in being more mindful of what we consume. And I still have plenty left over sitting on my shelves for the upcoming year.

A few:

bookhaul1

I got more into podcasts because my job allows plugging in as long as we are plugging away. There is Other People, as usual, but also Literary Disco. Books can, and should be, funny. Books can be a party. And of course, there’s Welcome to Nightvale.

I started thinking more about how video games and writing are both important to me, how integral to my formative years. How I grew up with both, alongside each other; how they informed my imagination and creative endeavors. I thought about how they can intersect, how they can both be very important to identity. There are games being made like dys4ia and Depression Quest and Gone Home. I wrote an essay for Sundog, which is maybe the most intimate thing I have published. I am still getting used to this nakedness.

For the new year, Melissa gave me the idea of keeping a memory jar. I don’t think anyone who knows me would consider me a very sentimental person, but I like this idea very much. Getting a big jar and collecting bits and pieces throughout the year to remember it by. Ticket stubs, seashells, pictures, buttons, quotes. It’s like keeping another kind of journal. Maybe it would also force me to be more of observant and aware of what is happening around me, kicking me out of any bubble I am prone to curl up in.

I wrote down resolutions too, which is not something I believe too strongly in. But, as I mention, I’ve already begun working on them. I’ve set myself a Goodreads goal.

I need to make a new mixtape. Maybe my throat has cleared of those days of advanced placement classes and aggressive acne, but the music stays.

Books:

Quiet by Susan Cain
Rise of the Videogame Zinesters by Anna Anthropy
Summer by Edith Wharton
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Heroines by Kate Zambreno
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Stigmata: Escaping Texts by Hélène Cixous
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Mother Ghost by Casey Hannan
Light Boxes by Shane Jones
Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell
We the Animals by Justin Torres
The Marbled Swarm by Dennis Cooper
My Vocabulary Did This to Me by Jack Spicer

Films/TV:

Downton Abbey
Upstairs, Downstairs
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (again)
Ghost World (again)
My Mad Fat Diary
Girls
Black Books
Parks and Recreation
The Royal Tenenbaums
North Sea, Texas
Bridegroom
Battle Royale

Music:

“Hot Knife” and “Daredevil” by Fiona Apple
“My IQ” by Ani DiFranco
“Closer” by The Tiny
“Royals” and “Tennis Court” by Lorde
“Don’t You Touch Me” and “I’ve Been Alone Too Long” by Soko
“Mother, Mother” by Tracy Bonham
“Lights” by Ellie Goulding
“Lungs” by Chvrches
“All Your Gold” and “Lilies” by Bat for Lashes

Misc.:

Lady knights
Boy witches
Haunted doll houses
Praya dubia and deep-sea creatures
Satin bowerbirds, salamanders
Confessional and fantastical poetry
First-person point of view
Self-destruction as renewal
Memoir-criticism and essay-reviews