Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Three Songs

Three songs in particular resonated with me this year.

One gave voice to many of the thoughts I had during the bad times: "Just Make It Stop" by Low

One started out sounding like a song for the bad times but had me dancing toward the better times by the end of it: "A New Life" by Jim James

One just felt good to belt out in the car: "Change" by Churchill

I hope your 2014 is filled with good music, good moments, and, as Jim James might wish, much more stardust.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Small Haul

"I don't need more library books," I said. "I already have two checked out, plus I'm almost 300 pages into A Clash of Kings," I said.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I'm telling all y'all...

Click on the link below. The title of the post explains it best:

"A bunch of middle-aged librarians recreated the "Sabotage" video, and the result is adorable"

One minor qualm: the original headline uses the word "adorable," whereas I think words like "amusing" and "wonderful" would have been better.

Librarians=superheroes. Only a small few in the world know what powers lie hidden beneath their mild-mannered disguise.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Another Tamale Hut Reading, Tomorrow, August 3 @ 7 p.m.

Two weekends in the row I'm leaving the house! Tamale Hut Cafe is located at 8300 W. Cermak Road in North Riverside, Illinois. Please join us for a reading by local poet Regina Buccola, followed by an open mic. Want more information? Click on the link below!

Tamale Hut Cafe Presents Regina Buccola

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series, Tonight, July 27

Hey, it's time for my once-a-month social excursion!

The subject line pretty well sums up what I'll be doing this fine evening, but if you're curious about the readers (plural!) that the reading series I help coordinate will be featuring tonight, you can find out more information by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Dead Robots' Society, or, What to Do When Stuck at the Computer

With the exception of the times I've been in class or, you know, at some place like the grocery store, it's been rare for me to be away from the computer this year. (You wouldn't know that by looking at how infrequently I update this blog, but anyway...) I have to confess that the times when I don't have a computer-based project hanging directly over my head, like last night/this morning, are kinda glorious. I basically just sit with my notebook and whatever books I'm reading and binge.

However, during the most recent stretch of computer work, I did make a discovery for myself that made the work go by much more pleasantly. I have to emphasize that it's a discovery only within the confines of my little world, because The Dead Robots' Society podcast is up to 280 episodes as of this writing, which makes it safe to say that other people already have found and enjoyed it. But I enjoyed it, too, enough that I wanted to write about it. The show's regular contributors are all writers who are working diligently at getting their work out there, and they speak candidly (yet warmly) about how the process is going. It's heartening to hear people talk honestly about their experiences with the writing life yet also remain encouraging.

So if you're looking for an engaging podcast that discusses writing, I recommend The Dead Robots' Society. It's good enough to make me turn on my computer when I don't have to.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Glen Ellyn School District Lifts Its Ban on 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'

From NBC Chicago: Glen Ellyn Lifts Ban on "Wallflower" Book

"No book is right for every student. Classroom libraries serve a unique and important role by offering students reading choices according to their own interests, experiences, and family values. Parents are free to supervise what their children select and request an alternative if they object to a particular book. However, removing a book restricts the rights of other students and parents who may want their children to be able to read books such as 'Perks' with the benefit of a teacher‟s guidance." -from a letter from the National Coalition Against Censorship 

This article explains how the brouhaha started and ends with what I think is a perfect quote from one of the parents of a student in the school district:

"'It was really touching to hear the kids have such passion for the book,' Blyth said. 'Personally, I think books are a pretty safe way to encounter some of life's more difficult situations.'"

Saturday, June 8, 2013

I Write Like

This is something fun to play around with, courtesy of my friend Jeanine Vaughn. Copy and paste a bit of sample text, and see which famous writer's writing your prose resembles! I pasted in two different writing samples and got Stephen King and Margaret Atwood.

Analyze your writing at I Write Like

I write like
Margaret Atwood
I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A reading with Robert Rodi, tomorrow at 7 p.m.!

Tomorrow night is May's entry in the Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series. I've got hosting duties, and the awesome Robert Rodi is our featured reader. Come join us!

Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series presents Robert Rodi, Saturday, May 25, at 7 p.m.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Black Gate Reviews 'The Book of Horrible Stories'

A confession: A few days back, I went e-stalking Michael Penkas. Kind of. He's a talented Chicago-area writer, active in various reading series throughout the city, and I wanted to see if he had a website or blog or anything where he talks more about what he's been reading and writing. (He does: michaelpenkas.blogspot.com) In doing this, I found that he wrote a really kind and fantastic review of The Book of Horrible Stories for Black Gate. So Mike, thank you.

The Book of Horrible Stories reviewed at Black Gate

Monday, April 29, 2013

More About 'The Book of Horrible Stories'

It looks like a photo that I used in other posts on this blog, but this is actually a shot of the last copy of The Book of Horrible Stories that I made with the materials I originally bought. It went out in the mail a couple of weeks ago, which left me a little sad, oddly. I imagined myself feeling a little bit like a mother watching her youngest child graduate: "You go out into the world and shine, now!" *sniffle*

I guess it's funny, in a way. When I began making the physical copies last year, I really didn't think I'd sell enough of them to use up all the materials I had selected. And that was good, because one piece of the puzzle was something I had purchased off the clearance shelf at the local craft store.

The last copy that you see above was sold through the Open Books bookstore; much to my surprise, a customer requested it. When Lizzy, the store's super-fantastic assistant manager, contacted me about getting that for her customer, she also suggested that I should make a few more copies for their "Local Authors" shelf, to which I said, "Yeah! Awesome!" or something similar.

Then I checked what materials I still had left and said, "Oops." It had been a while since last I made any, and... oops.

So below you see the second edition? printing? incarnation? of The Book of Horrible Stories.

Pretty much the same, just with a slightly different green strip on the cover. Seems like it should have been radically different, now that I've typed out that whole explanation, but there it is.

And there it is on the shelf.

They've got all four of the copies I made last week; according to Lizzy, I'm next to Gillian Flynn in the alphabetical list of local authors and on the shelf below, which is bewildering. I'm not Gillian Flynn; I'm nowhere near Gillian Flynn (except on this shelf). But I am at Open Books, which is a wonderful bookstore, no matter whose book you're buying. Hope you can see it for yourself sometime!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Observations Regarding 'I Can Almost Picture It'

I refer to I Can Almost Picture It as the online storytelling equivalent of an illustrator's sketchbook, a space that exists just to get me to write every day. That's not entirely accurate; as part of the challenge, I try to make sure that each post feels at least like a complete scene. But everything up there gets posted with minimal revision, start to finish in a day, and some of it's pretty rough as a result.

So it's always a thrill when one of the posts strikes a note with someone. I have wonderfully supportive friends who offer feedback and encourage my madness, of course. Additionally, because there's a mirror site on Tumblr, and I've gone crazy experimenting with hashtags when I post there, I've seen some of the posts get shared by some of the Tumblr accounts that specialize in curating Tumblr-based writing, and that's pretty nifty. TumblrFiction reblogged "Green River Float" and "Automated Teller Machine," and Burning Muse picked up "The Next Big Thing Is Here."

A few thoughts about that:

1) I had no idea that sites that are essentially Tumblr 'zines even existed. What a fabulous idea! (Imagine me grinning the way your ninety-year-old grandma did when she sent her first e-mail.)

2) It's inevitable that the pieces I think are weaker are the ones people will respond to (though "Automated Teller Machine" stands as an exception to that rule--I had fun with that one). I think I can live with that, although it does make me wonder if, instead of submitting to literary journals the few stories I like, I should just flood them with all the pieces I have that I view as crap.

3) Continuing from #2: Really, are you sure you all wouldn't rather read about dragons?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Bird Day"

"Bird Day" by Nisi Shawl is one of my favorite interpretations of the idea of a birthday celebration. Ms. Shawl actually posted the entire story online a few years back; if you like it, I'd recommend checking out Filter House, the story collection in which she published it. I found the whole book is amazing, with "The Water Museum" being the piece that moved me the most.

You can read "Bird Day" here (and "The Water Museum" here).

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mary Karr

Wanted to make sure that I posted this today. I had the pleasure of hearing Mary Karr read in person a couple of years back, and I highly recommend attending one of her readings if ever you have the chance. She's funny, sarcastic, and completely self-deprecating--everything a poet's not supposed to be!

In the podcast linked below, she's pretty blunt about her faith. I love her take on the Eucharist at the end of the first poem.

A Poet in Hell's Kitchen: Mary Karr on "Poetry Off the Shelf"

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I'd like to say that I found this author, but in truth, this author found me, through Tumblr.

With I Can Almost Picture It, I've been writing short, unrelated stories based on pictures I take of my surroundings. The author behind Proust-Billings is developing an entire work in short bits, with accompanying images, about two people who meet as students at a music conservatory. I'm not sure where it's going to go or how long it will keep going, but I find the idea intriguing.

Check it out!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Other Blog

I swear I'm not cheating on this one. It's an open relationship.

But I actually have been updating "I Can Almost Picture It" every day for almost a month now. As with anyone's sketchbook or journal, some bits of the material are better than others; it's just a way to make sure I think every day about writing. If you haven't seen it, and you're wondering where I go for days at a time, why not come visit?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective

I'm not familiar with Jay DeFeo's work. This article, however, described it in such a way that it made me really wish I could see this exhibit, especially "The Rose," in person. To be in the same room with a twelve-foot-high work created by layering and scraping paint for more than seven years... I'd probably end up crying. There's a slideshow accompanying the article.

Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective

Friday, February 22, 2013

Upcoming Reading Events

Damn, there are a few taking place in the coming week.

First up is the monthly Tamale Hut Cafe reading. Local author Chris DeGuire starts the evening out, and an open mic follows. 7 p.m. at 8300 W. Cermak Road in North Riverside; details can be found on this here page.

Also, Open Books has two readings on days back-to-back, and they have flyers! Dr. Judith Wright will be reading on Wednesday, February 27:

And a whole bunch of authors will be reading as part of "An Evening of Speculative Fiction" on Thursday, February 28:
And then there's another reading taking place in the afternoon on the 28th: author Roxane Gay will be reading at Roosevelt University. A few weeks back, I read her story "North Country" in The Best American Short Stories 2012. And then I re-read it because it was so freakin' good. I wish I could go to this one, but I think schedules are going to conspire against me.

But that's the list of what I've found. Chicago may be the fourth most miserable city in the country, but it's not because of its literature scene.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I Can Almost Picture It

What does a freelancer do on a Saturday night after she's met her deadlines and made a dent in the housework? Well, if she's smart, she looks for more work. If she's me (and she never got used to the sound of "if she is I"), she starts a new project.

I Can Almost Picture It: The Blogger Version

Until I can figure out which blogging platform I like better for this idea, the content will be mirrored on Tumblr. Why I'm mentioning this when you're already here on Blogger, I have no clue. But hey, we're branching out!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Something I first loved a long time ago...

It's not my favorite holiday. I prefer the day after, when all the chocolates and other goodies have been moved to the clearance shelf at the local supermarket. But earlier today, a friend posted a poem across ye olde social network that I hadn't read in a long time and was happy to see.

My freshman year of high school, a musician was invited to perform a small concert for my English class and a few others--a field trip without the field. His idea was to take the poems of e.e. cummings and use them as song lyrics, the melodies being his own creations. Hearing one poem in particular was, for better or worse, what started me reading poetry in earnest.

So today of all days, it seems appropriate to include a link to that poem, "[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]". Thanks to Sally for sharing it first (and for just being fabulous in general).

Also, in happy news, yay, Illinois.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Some of what I've been doing lately:

It's neither fiction writing nor poetry, but among the freelance jobs I've picked up this year is an opportunity to write articles for the "Science" section of the website Opposing Views. I already wish I could do even more editing on some of the articles I have up there. But it's been an interesting challenge, trying to explain (and better understand) science while working within a very specific article format.

Here are some of my articles. Go go biology degree!

The Biology of Compost
The Impact of Global Warming on Soil Moisture
How Do the Sperm Nuclei in a Pollen Grain Get to the Egg Nucleus in a Plant Ovule?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Natasha Trethewey Reading in Chicago Tomorrow

Natasha Trethewey, the current Poet Laureate of the United States, is giving a reading at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago tomorrow. And it's free! Sadly, I don't think I can go, but I wish I could. Here are the details of the event.

Also, in celebration of the event, here's a photo a friend shared with me. One day, my friends, one day....

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Helpful Resource for Freelancers

I've gotten lucky recently, having scored two freelance gigs that not only are fun and challenging but also are through respectable companies that pay. Opportunities for paid work don't present themselves regularly; with that in mind, I'd like to share a resource addressing a question that I think burns at the back of many freelancers' minds:

Should I Work for Free?

Flow charts make all matters fun to ponder.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Why Not Wings?"

While I was talking with a friend, the subject of New Year's resolutions came up, as it tends to do every year around this time.

"I don't like the word 'resolution,'" I told him. "I mean, it should be a strong word, resolve, you know, but because of how it's been used for New Year's, it's gotten all weak and lazy. Now it means that you let the calendar decide when you're going to start being a better person, which, really, just gives you some other external force to blame when you inevitably go back to being a jackass. As if half the world needed another way to avoid that responsibility.

"I like 'goals,'" I said. "I think that's a good word."

"Got any goals, then?" my friend asked.

I nodded. "I'm going to try to grow wings," I said.

My friend raised his eyebrows, shook his head. "Only you," he said. "Okay. What kind of wings you got in mind?"

"Crow," I told him. "I don't think I could grow anything else and be taken seriously. I mean, come on. Imagine someone gets called up for an open mic and they flit up to the stage on these dinky little hummingbird wings. And then imagine they go, 'I've got some poetry I want to share with you tonight.'"

"I see your point," he said.

But that wasn't what I was telling my friend at all. What I was telling him was something that already hung everywhere around us, over our heads and on top of our shoulders, as sharp as the chill in the air, which was that the previous year had been almost absolute crap for just about everybody we knew. If someone had told me at the beginning of the year, in fact, all the details of how bad it was going to be, I would have called bull. Impossible, I would have said. And yet, there it was. There it had been.

So in the face of all that impossibility, why not? Why not wings?

"I think black feathers are the way to go to show I mean business," I said.

"Got any other goals?" my friend asked. "Any that are a little more realistic?"

 "The usual," I said, shrugging. "Career goals, some publishing goals."

My friend let his cigarette hand fall to his side and squinted at me. "I think I see something sticking out of your back," he murmured.

I had no cigarette and so had been playing with my breath, wishing I could trick it into curls and loops as it spread out in front of me against the whip crack of the air. When my friend said that, though, I won't lie--I let a cloud of my breath just go. I bit back a tiny laugh and a little bit of hope, holding those in my mouth in its place. My friend reached behind me and with only his fingertips touched my shoulderblade.

He plucked.

"Just a piece of sweater fuzz," he said, showing me the offending curl of black cotton.

My laugh left me like a vapor trail in reverse. "One time," I said, "I had a piece of fuzz on my arm, right above my wrist. But it was curled up so tightly, and I had never seen it before, and I guess static was keeping it stuck to my skin--I swore I had all of a sudden developed cancer."

My friend laughed.

"See," he said, "long ago when you looked at sweater fuzz, you assumed you had a cancerous mole. Now you hear about it and hope you have wings. Already your outlook is brighter." He nodded. "I think you set a good goal, actually."

I thought about this and smiled.

"What about you?" I asked him. "Got any goals this year?"

"I have a resolution to stop smoking," he said, flicking his ashes down the driveway.

* * *

Happy New Year!