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

The Rejection Quilt

Being quiet around here means I’ve been dealing with a lot of rejection and getting angrier than I should:

rejection1

rejection2

There is really no reason for this seething because: 1) This is nothing new to me, 2) I know it isn’t personal, 3) there are tons of submissions, and of course, 4) publication is largely a luck of the draw, depending on who is reading, what that person likes, the mood they’re in, the point they are in their life, and all these other variables that are well beyond my control. See? I’m being levelheaded. And yet.

Melissa and I were talking recently about how we should make quilts out of our rejections. To keep us warm at night. I sometimes think about making an Excel spreadsheet of all my rejections and acceptances, but realize that may only exacerbate my problem. This is the literary rabbit hole: We’re all mad here, Alice.

Here are some good things that actually haven’t made me feel crazy:

I’ve missed reading submissions. I like to see what people are trying to write, what kind of vibes are out there in the literary zeitgeist. You can distinguish patterns after a while. I’ve thought again and again about starting my own literary journal, but I always decide against it. It’s a huge commitment and I think I’d just rather spend more time working on my own writing instead.

I’ve been using Ello as more of an unfiltered brain collage. Like Twitter but with less people scrolling through. I told Facebook how I was enjoying it because no one is there. This was something I posted:

I don’t know how I feel about social media anymore. I used to love it (genuinely and unironically) back in the days of MySpace and Livejournal, but I have a much more bittersweet relationship to it all now. I think this is mostly because: 1. There is so much content and noise to filter through that it hardly seems worth the time, and 2. there’s not very much dialogue, despite there being plenty of words. I used to have a much better sense of community too, which is something I thought was not very important to me. How things change.

I guess I don’t really know where to put the words anymore. What goes where? Does it matter? Won’t it achieve the same result if I just scribble to myself in a notebook? I’ve never been the writer who thinks about audience or even thinks about having an audience at all. I just do it to do it. Social media isn’t about promotion for me, it’s about productive discussion and connecting to people who might make good friends someday. Not even readers, necessarily.

It’s October already. The year is disappearing. I made a new mix tape on 8tracks that’s all about witches and witchcraft:

[8tracks width=”300″ height=”250″ playops=”” url=”http://8tracks.com/mixes/4847361″]