Masochistic Love

My story, “Teaching Them Happiness,” has been published over at the Conium Review‘s Online Compendium. Have a read. It is a darkly absurd story about a teacher dealing with a suicide epidemic at her school. Is there a solution? The idea for this story most likely rose out of  my recent rewatch of Heathers. A favorite of mine.

I’ve been working on a long poem about growing up in South Florida. It is divided up by place and time, written in the form of journal entries. The feelings are not all negative, which continues to surprise me. I’m not sure which journals would be interested in a particularly long poem like this, however. I’m guessing print journals may be more open to the idea. I’m aware that online journals tend toward short and snappy. One of my writing goals this year is to submit to snail-mail only journals, so I guess this will be a good way to start.

I go back and forth on whether or not I want to start my own literary journal. I love editing and discovering new writers. I have a name picked out for the magazine already, and I know what I’d look for to publish: writing that pushes boundaries in terms of genre (prose poetry, lyrical fiction, hybrids) by a very diverse group of writers. I like what DIAGRAM and Threadcount are doing especially (I really miss <kill author and PANK too…). However, it just comes down to the huge time commitment and how I’d probably want to dedicate that time to my own writing instead. But I admire this complete labor of love, what so many tireless editors of new journals are doing now, especially when you have other old Big Name journals taking advantage of writers (see: Narrative Magazine) or hearing stories about how they don’t even read through their slush pile.  I don’t understand why these journals have such an antagonistic relationship with writers. Why run a literary magazine at all? I’ve also discussed elsewhere about how I don’t like when magazines say that no response from them means a rejection. Could they at least do us the courtesy of letting us know? Even if it’s just a simple “no thanks”?  I talked to editors of a few  journals and even they agree – it takes next to no time at all to send a form rejection. Just a few button clicks. Buh-bye.

Even though I now have file saved on my computer that is a List of Journals I Will Never Submit To Again, I’d like to help. Here are some magazines that not only read their submissions very carefully, but sometimes will offer valuable feedback:

  • Necessary Fiction
  • Bartleby Snopes
  • The Offing
  • New South Journal
  • One Throne Magazine
  • matchbook
  • Hermeneutic Chaos

Keep on keeping on, editors. You’re heroes.

Queer Bodies

The end of the year posts are coming, I assure you. There’s still the retrospective, resolutions, and uncapping the memory jar. Let’s just say that I am optimistic about the new year and that is coming from me. Where are my Daria glasses?

I almost don’t want to look back at all.

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Although it is nearly the end of the year, I just wanted to let you all know that my short story, “Dysmorphia,” is featured in the BODIES issue of Cactus Heart. You can order a copy for yourself here. It’s quite a diverse offering. You will find many writers across the LGBTQ spectrum, voices from the margins. Stories about self-image, gender, coping with illness. I’m happy to be in such good company.

Permafrost also wants to publish a poem of mine in an upcoming print issue. It’s dedicated to a long-time online friend who quietly suffered through drug addiction. I’ll post that when the issue is out.

If you’d like to follow, I now have an Instagram account: @lettersforburning. My sister made me get it. There will be no letters on fire, but you can look forward to books, book quotes, and probably food.

See you all soon.

I’ll Be as Universal as You Want Me to Be

Originally published in Metazen (now presumably defunct, RIP), my story, “Year of the Queerling,” has been included in Best Gay Stories 2015. The anthology is now available for pre-order and will be published next month by Lethe Press.

Many gay writers wonder if they identify as a “gay writer.” Taken literally, this is silly. Of course you are a gay writer. However, it’s not the literal term that brings about such conflicted feelings, but rather the label used in terms of the literary landscape, readership, and what you see on bookshelves. It’s really the same question women writers face: Is what you write “women’s fiction”?

Many writers, more so than anyone else, have a great fear of being pigeonholed or put in a box. “We are not gay writers,” they say. “We are merely writers.” In other words, they don’t want to write only for a gay audience; they want to write fiction that transcends category and can be enjoyed by anyone of any sexual persuasion or background. Many will say this proudly, even though I think most of these sentiments arise from a great fear—fear of not finding a more mainstream readership (see: the straights) and fear of not being taken as seriously because of that. You write “gay fiction,” therefore, your perspective is somehow limited or bound by certain tropes of a genre. It can’t cross boundaries. At best, it may garner a cult following with a very particular readership.

It reminds me of a question once posed to Toni Morrison: Can she just not write about race issues for once? She looks puzzled at first, then feels insulted. Can she? Of course she can! She’s Toni Morrison. But Ms. Morrison wasn’t insulted because the question inferred that her writing abilities may be limited, no—she was insulted because the question inferred that the white perspective is the only valid perspective to write from, the only perspective that can be viewed as universal and possible of transcending category.

I admit: I used to feel the same way about these labels. I was that kind of writer. I understand these fears and where they come from, but I no longer care. I’ll just let the readers and publishers decide what words they want to use to describe my writing.

The Matter of Bodies

A simple fact: we are our bodies. This fact was one I tried my hardest to escape especially in adolescence, which of course, led to complete misery. Detachment of the flesh, asceticism: these seemed worthwhile goals. Buddhism was the only world religion worthy of my time. The rest of that time was spent anguishing about bodily things that simply couldn’t be changed. All the energy of youth, so uselessly spent.

It was a process to some semblance of acceptance. It’s always a process. You learn: the mind is the body is the mind is the body.

We try to escape our blemishes too. This past month, my sister and I have been participating in a university study on skin. It’s quite an experience having someone actually count out your flaws to you. We had to be the appropriate amount of blemished in order to participate. I’m receiving blue light therapy – which consists of some kind of alien technology half-surrounding my head for about 15-20 minutes – and my sister is having some kind of electro-therapy done. So far, I haven’t felt anything except slight tingles on my face. My sister says she tastes metal. Somehow, these treatments are supposed to help in ways that topical potions cannot.

It’s for science, you see.

Our pictures have been taken for BEFORE and AFTER. My sister and I always have a good laugh at those TV advertisements where the BEFORE pictures are always of pretty faces with maybe two or three blemishes. No scarring, no boils, no cysts. My heart truly bleeds for the miserable lives they must lead.

trulyhorribleacne

But the prom’s tomorrow!

Maybe not so coincidentally, my fiction writing has been all about the body: how it’s a prison, how we may attempt to escape it, how it is perceived, how these perceived images can become so wildly distorted. It’s obviously personal. How appropriate that one of these stories found a home recently at Corium Magazine. Their tagline: “beneath the skin.”

Now, I’m working through dysmorphia, fascinated by all these monsters we see in the mirror. Maybe it will just turn into a small project of similarly themed stories, or maybe it will turn into a whole body of literature itself. The distortions can be truly endless.

Basic Space

I decorated my desk at work, which is unusual. In terms of personal living space, I prefer things simple and often unadorned. Truthfully, I am just not very cognizant of the arrangement of objects around me and how they look next to each other. I don’t like giving myself more to clean and organize. I am quick to discard anything that isn’t a book or things to write with. I wonder if this is a common trait among extreme introverts; if we’re more likely to prefer organizing what’s jumbled up inside our heads and neglect what’s obviously right in front of us in the real world.

At the end of November, I went to the Miami Book Fair again with Melissa. This year, I was there primarily for Ocean Vuong‘s poetry reading. It was very emotional and I was awestruck. People were fanning themselves, and not just because of the unrelenting heat. Poetry is alive and quite well, I am happy to report. You just need to look for it. He read this beautiful poem that was published in Poetry. You should listen to it too. I cannot wait to get my hands on his debut full-length collection. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until 2016.

I had a very short story published in this month’s issue of Maudlin House: read it here. I was determined to send them something right when I first learned their name. Oh, and there’s the writing and beautiful design, of course.

Since it’s almost the end of the year, I’ll be posting some kind of best-of collage and vague resolutions soon. I reached my Goodreads goal! Fifty books read, which is pretty good for me. Poetry, short story collections, graphic novels, essays, huge tomes. Very eclectic. I also have my first ever memory jar that I’ll be able to open and spill out and show you what I collected throughout the year. Stay tuned. In the meantime, go and read the “A Year in Reading” series over at the Millions.