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


2012: The Retrospective

It’s winding down and I can take a breath. Unlike the past few years, I feel like I’ve charted out some kind of evolution through what I’ve collected. I feel as though there has been more progress than paralysis. I’ve gotten better and bolder. I’ve grown more confident in my words, to the point of where I could allow myself to submit them to magazines for the first time. I learned about the process of waiting and the subsequent sting of rejection, but I didn’t let that deter me. I kept at it until I found good homes. I’ve published short fiction, reviews, essays, and poetry – both online and in print. Some bookstores in Austin have a poem of mine on the bookshelves. And I still have more writing forthcoming in other places after the new year rolls around.

I addressed my issues with crippling anxiety and sadness, which is hard if you’ve become so used to a cycle. The help I received loosened the tightness in my chest and gave me the space I needed for myself.  There was less static and it allowed me to ease into my own skin, slowly. I didn’t know things could move forward. I reached out and made new friends. I talked to more writers and people who were interested in what I was doing. I found myself stepping outside and not being as afraid to see what might happen.

Usually my New Year’s resolution is to simply not have any resolutions (in fact, you can read about last year’s retrospective here, in which I bring this exact thing up) because they are usually silly or unrealistic, but I’m going to break that tradition for this upcoming year. Instead, I’m going to try to think of it as just another one of those short-term lists in order to keep my head together. It is not so hard and not so unreasonable.

Goals:

  • Read more books than I read in 2012
  • Publish more writing than I published in 2012
  • Try out internet book trading via something like Paperbackswap, which seems fun
  • Start a new online literary magazine, inspired by places like >kill author and PANK
  • Become a Goodreads author and/or librarian
  • Maybe get a very small tattoo, if I can finally decide on something
  • Move more, before my muscles completely atrophy
  • Update this blog with a snazzy new theme
  • Find a better near-future amidst the economic uncertainty of the far-future

And now, this year’s collection.

Metropolis Night by Jacklyn Laflamme

Books:

I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
Demian by Hermann Hesse
Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim
Zazen by Vanessa Veselka
The Writing of Fiction by Edith Wharton
The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich
If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane
Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

Films:

Barton Fink
Leon: the Professional
Masculin, Feminin
Une Femme est une Femme
Mary and Max
Amarcord
8 1/2
Melancholia
Public Speaking
All About Eve
Citizen Kane
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Brave
Norwegian Wood
Grey Gardens
Shame
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
The Secret World of Arrietty
The Borrowers
The Hunger Games
Misery
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Submarine
Paradise Now
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Clueless
Moonrise Kingdom

Music:

“Oblivion” and “Genesis” by Grimes
“Every Single Night” by Fiona Apple
“Teen Idle” and “Oh No” by Marina and the Diamonds
“Soft as Chalk” by Joanna Newsom
“Catgroove” and “Booty Swing” by Parov Stelar
“Je Veux” by Zaz
“24” by Jem
“Air War” by Crystal Castles
“Strict Machine” by Goldfrapp
“Obedear” by Purity Ring
“Old Friend” by Sea Wolf
“Gallows” by CocoRosie
“These Days” by Nico
“Turn the Wolves” and “Halo” by Lotte Kestner
“Rid of Me” by PJ Harvey
“Human Behaviour” by Bjork
“Into Black” by Blouse
“Sunshine” by Little Dragon

Misc.:

750words
Duotrope and Submittable
My 8tracks, always
Going back to paper and letters and writing in little brown notebooks
90s reminiscing: point-and-click adventure games, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, Sakura Gelly Roll pens
Pumpkin pancakes
Anxiety workbooks
Nathaniel Branden’s “scandalous” relationship with Ayn Rand
Watching Divorce Court after school with my sister
Writing Spaces
Bright Wall, Dark Room
ReadLearnWrite
Underground NY Public Library
Kickstarter indie projects
Feminism, gaming culture, and Anita Sarkeesian
The Prisoner


2011: The Retrospective

I never do New Years’ resolutions anymore (setting little goals scattered throughout the year seems a bit more reasonable and attainable), but it’s nearly the end of the year already, and instead I decided to do a retrospective collection of the things that made it worthwhile.

Of course, there have been things that have made it not so worthwhile as well. There have been issues dealing with post-college unemployment, despite trying to apply for some small odd jobs here and there, as well as a few writing/editing jobs for small presses that could’ve been really interesting and exciting. There has been literary loneliness and reclusiveness, and confusing periods not dissimilar to adolescent identity crises in which I really wanted to go back to school just to discuss books with people again. There have been periods where I didn’t know what to do at all anymore (and still do), which have brought on severe panic episodes and moments where I suddenly found myself bolting out of bed. There was a lot of yearning for the nineties, to go back to the way things were, back before high school, to regress and exist when things “used to be good, you know?” And alongside these periods throughout the year were some illnesses and serious surgeries for other family members as well.

But there have been many really nice moments too, which is always worth sharing to keep your balance: such as making new friends online (some that I even got to meet this year in real life) and going to my very first concert in Miami with a band I fell in love with. I spent a lot more time getting to know my sister: helping her with Physics homework, giving her ideas for her artwork, playing Harry Potter video games, listening to the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack in the car, reading Ethan Frome aloud together so she wouldn’t fall asleep. I spent some time cooking with Mom and writing stories for Nana. I spent some time with friends, which is always a nice excuse to leave the house, even though I wish there was more of it. Mostly, there are just friends scattered everywhere: I’ve kept up with my really good friend Melissa in Orlando (watching Jeopardy! on Skype together and helping to keep ourselves sane), I wrote letters to my friend Thea in Wisconsin, I helped my friend Genie from New Zealand procrastinate on her thesis (and she’s helped me procrastinate in other ways), I started a secret blog with my friend Zying that is just between the two of us.





I made some new pen pals and talked to fellow writers. I managed to get myself motivated in times of dejection and insecurity, and sometimes inadvertently inspired others as well (reading through some old things online, I always find that kind of surprising—to look over some of these messages I’ve gotten). I pushed myself to finish writing projects (Letters for Burning, my collective effort ended up being over 100,000 words long). I learned a bit more about the publishing industry and the art of editing, I found new book blogs and literary journals to possibly submit to, and of course, I discovered great new books and music and films.







Sharing is caring—this is not everything obviously, but here are some things that defined 2011 for me, and maybe they’ll interest you too.

Books:
Black Hole by Charles Burns
The Scott Pilgrim graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Not Simple by Natsume Ono
Blood Music by Greg Bear
The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor by Flannery O’Connor
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Films:
Heathers
Son of Rambow
Exit through the Gift Shop
Run Lola Run (AKA Lola Rennt)
Moonstruck
In the Mood for Love
Frida
The Dreamers
American Splendor
Rabbit Hole
Marwencol
La Vie en Rose
Ghost in the Shell
Au Revoir, Les Enfants
Super
Paprika
An Education

Songs:
“After the Rain” & “Constant Surprises” by Little Dragon
“Boy Lilikoi” by Jónsi
“Down by the Water” by PJ Harvey
“Black Sheep” by Metric
“Sadness is a Blessing” by Lykke Li
“What Else is There?” & “Circuit Breaker” by Röyksopp
“Pavlov’s Daughter” by Regina Spektor
“Lions!” & “Quiet” by Lights
“A Cause Des Garcons” remix by Yelle
“Comme des Enfants” & “Berceuse” by Coeur de Pirate
“Belle à en Crever” by Olivia Ruiz
“Je suis un Homme” by Zazie
“Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
“Soldier of Love” by Sade
“Parting Gift” by Fiona Apple
“Basic Space” & “Islands” by The XX
“Video Games” by Lana del Rey

Misc.:
My 8tracks mixes
This American Life
The complete Daria DVDs
Jónsi and Alex
Pogo’s remixes of the real world
Simon Amstell’s standup
American McGee’s Alice games
Myers-Briggs personality tests
Baby chameleons
Kate Beaton
Other People