Take Me Away

I’ve been escaping into alternate worlds. This was my favorite pastime as a child and I’ve missed doing this. Falling down the rabbit hole. I read about these fantasies, dreamt of them, explored their vast landscapes in videogames. I’d watch movies like Return to Oz and become obsessed. I grew up alongside Harry Potter. I wanted to inhabit these worlds always, so immersed myself completely and eventually wrote my own. Many of us lose this wonder as we become jaded adults ground down to a nub by the tedium and obligations of everyday life. I like to think I haven’t just yet. Or, I’m trying my hardest not to become that.

I’ve been exploring the world of Umbra in the videogame Earthlock: Festival of Magic. It’s colorful and lush, even while traversing the Burning Desert and trying to desperately avoid death from the heat. There is a central hub that you use as a homebase, called Plumpet Island. Here, you can rest and recover your health in a library. You can bargain with and go on quests for Frogboy. You have a garden and use what you grow there as ingredients for healing potions and even ammunition in battle. I always love gardens in videogames and this mechanic is my favorite. I have a soft spot for apothecaries too. Gardens are always showing up in my fiction.

Magic shows up too sometimes. I’m reading/playing a game on my phone called The Arcana. It’s a very queer-friendly visual novel where you explore an intriguing world full of magic and mystery, while also trying to romance one of the characters of your choice. There are talking snakes, magical trinkets, and ghosts. You are given dialogue options that allows you to alter the course of the story. The art is gorgeous.

Unfortunately, I’ve also had a rather lackluster revisit to a universe that used to seem much more colorful years ago. I’ve been making my way through the first part of The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. I loved the His Dark Materials series when I was younger but, despite the glowing reviews online, I’m finding this prequel to Lyra Belacqua’s adventures incredibly dull. I don’t really care so much about descriptions of carpentry, Biblical floods, and changing the Chosen One’s diapers (yes, this is a plot point).

A return to the town of Night Vale, however, is always welcome. I’ve been listening to the audiobook of It Devours! at work. The narration is what you’d expect, since it’s the same narrator we all know and love. The fantastic escape + well-earned laughs were a highlight of my week. It makes for a nice break in between all the literary podcasts.

I will someday write towards a collection of more fantastical stories. I know I have them in me, just like I have a queer coming of age novel in me and endless stories with idyllic gardens.

The Smell of Cinders and Rain

I don’t know much about road trips. What little I do know about them comes from memories of anticipation in the backseat on our way to the Magic Kingdom and the dreams of my own city of multicolored monorails. Who ever cared about the rides? Or Mickey Mouse? Only the monorails ever mattered.

This Fourth of July was the first time I ever took to the road by myself. I drove until I was nearly in Georgia. A new friend let me stay at his place. Friends are now only ever found online, or else, in books. The cicadas were very loud, a full-on orchestra of insect legs. There were Southern accents and Sonic’s to drive up to. I’d assumed that Sonic was just a drive-thru you saw in commercials, a television myth. At night, there were explosions from fireworks and burning barrels the neighbors were using to get rid of old things. Watching movies inside, we inhaled all the smoke from the fires. Heading home, the rain soon returned with a familiar earthy musk. A breath out. I wonder about wanderlust and why that was never a rhythm I could rest my temple on.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the extremely positive response to my list of journals. It somehow caught fire via social media and ended up with a mention in the Review Review newsletter. I received emails from editors asking to be included (which I was more than happy to oblige) and teachers thanking me for taking the time to put it together, that it would be useful for their classes. I hope it will continue to prove useful for some weary internet travelers.

tartaruspersona3

About a week ago, Cartridge Lit published a poem of mine. They’re a newer journal interested in publishing videogame literature and interviewing writers who play games. My poem was partially inspired by my experience playing through the videogame Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3. I am very interested in the intersections between these forms of media, especially in how they shape and influence identity. Recently, I read this post by Merritt Kopas about hypertext and the exploration of sexuality, gender, and body issues. Why shouldn’t videogames tackle these subjects? I’m happy to see how the medium is rapidly expanding to include these spaces and provide a new means of personal expression. We can’t have enough of those.

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

Small Stories, Small Spaces

I am not going to launch into a reintroduction or make excuses because I promised I wouldn’t last time. I will just say things as they are.

A few months ago, I was asked to help read submissions for Keyhole Magazine, which I happily agreed to. They now have a new online portion to the magazine and it’s worth a look. It will be updated periodically.

I’ve been reading small books and messing around with poetry. Most of my thoughts work themselves into short fiction or notebook scribblings or to-do lists. The dregs become the poems.

Vector, issue 2

Three poems of mine will appear soon in the second issue of Vector. One of these poems features a fictionalized version of my sister. If anything, that should sell you. I also noticed that this issue features a lot of writers who also happen to be editors of other literary magazines (Monkeybicycle, Word Riot, Sundog Lit, Untoward). A colorful bunch. Characters from the internet have arrived and we will haunt you.

PANK 9

I am also happy to say that my short piece of fiction, “The Geography of Squares and Circles,” will appear in the print issue of PANK 9. The piece is about a family with very different moving parts, parts separate like the seasons. They exist like islands, and unfortunately, it takes a son’s self-destruction to bring them together.

Sundog Lit, Games issue

Online, I had a fragmented piece of nonfiction appear in the Games issue of Sundog Lit. It’s about growing up, alienation, sexual identity, and video games acting as both a means of escape and a place of solace. It’s probably one of the most personally intimate pieces I’ve published yet. Admittedly, I felt like this wasn’t very different from writing fiction. The themed issue itself was large and fantastic, which the Millions selected as recommended reading.

Going smaller now: I have a short short in Ghost Ocean (in which I also do a reading for you) and a piece of Twitter-sized fiction in Nanoism. They are sad, of course, but also maybe a bit surprising.

My sister is trying to write a story about one of her boy band concert experiences and her professor wants her to show, don’t tell. Of course. So I offered her a first line: “We were hugging and sobbing.”

Mom has found an old, unfinished dollhouse in the garage that we’re going to put together. As a hobby, she used to build sets from pieces. Looking at all of the small furniture and knickknacks scattered on the table, I am anxiously waiting to see what kind of place I will call my own.

Let’s Play

It has been far too long. I promise that will be the last time I write that on here. Fortunately, I do have things to say.

Mostly, I’ve been writing for myself. When are you not, you might ask. Well, let’s be more specific: I have been writing in my notebook and none of it has been fiction or poetry. It has been purely for cathartic purposes. Not a shooting up, but a shooting out. If I don’t get a euphoric sparkle or some kind of cleansing, I don’t bother with my scribbling. I throw my pen like a dart at the window.

Book food has been taking up most of my time. Look here for a sample. There is music and movies too. My body wants to consume rather than create. The hunger will pass, and I’ll be back to throwing things up instead. Eat desperately, regurgitate. Repeat.

I got my contributor’s copy of the newest issue of Pear Noir!:

Pear Noir!, Issue 9

Pear Noir!, Issue 9 Contributors

I had a poem in it that I’m still fond of. I always wonder how long that feeling will last. It’s also a poem that my family appreciated. This is a momentous occasion. I’m no longer a teenager, but I always feel like an enigma to them. My mom reminded me of how I’ve taken to using more personal writing as fiction. It’s not real, but she knows where it comes from.

I also received these postcards from some of the writers:

Pear Noir!, Issue 9 Postcards

Over at ReadLearnWrite, I wrote about newer ways we are telling stories. It got me thinking again about how publishing is changing, how our storytelling media are changing, how we are all responding. It can be both exciting and confusing; perhaps the best time to get messy and experiment. Want to make a video game? Go for it! The tools are right there. Want to create a fictional diary through Youtube videos? What’s keeping you?

More experimentation: In just a week, I’ll be flying out of Florida to see my significant other. I’ll be vanishing off the map even more cleanly than usual. Perhaps you don’t know this already, perhaps you do, but I am somewhat of a recluse. I feel like a baby who doesn’t know anything outside the nest. This is new and exciting, but I’m not nervous. I don’t plan on turning my relationship into a character for you to read. This is not my notebook, and I don’t want it to be. My wings are still wet and lack the muscle.