Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Mermaid On the Moon, a bedtime story

Iris lived with her mother, father, and sister in the Sea of Tranquility, which is an ocean on the moon. Sometimes, her sister would play computer games with her, but mostly, her family all worked too much to play with her, so Iris was bored and lonely a lot of the time. One of her favorite things to do was to stare up into the sky, at the Earth, far away. She would look through a telescope, and she could see this one light, but she didn't know what it was. She imagined all sorts of things--maybe it was a giant, glowing animal or a great jewel.

One day, Iris thought of a plan. She asked her dad if she could ride to work with him in the family submarine.
"I don't know," he said. "What will you do all day?"
Iris' sister worked near where their father worked, so Iris said she'd swim over to meet up with her sister.
"I guess," Iris' father said. Actually, he was glad to be able to spend some time with her. He missed her because he had to work so much, but there wasn't anything he could do about it.

All during the trip to his office, Iris paid attention to how her dad drove the sub. When they got there, she left her door unlocked and swam in with him.

"Just wait right here for your sister," he said as he left her in the lobby.

But Iris didn't wait. She swam back to the submarine and went in through the door she'd left open. Then, she drove it! She drove it up and up to the top of the Sea of Tranquility, and as she drove it, she went faster and faster, until it shot right out of the top of the water, all the way across the sky, and straight to the Earth. It floated through the atmosphere and plunged straight into the ocean.

Iris steered the submarine toward the light, wondering what she'd find. Eventually, she came to a little house by the beach. She parked the submarine, popped the hatch open, and swam to the edge of the water. Then she crawled onto the sand and to the house.

She could see the light through a window, and when she looked inside, she saw a little girl's room, just like her room back on the moon. There were toys and there was a bed with a little girl sleeping in it--except, she wasn't sleeping. She was playing on the bed. Iris knocked on the window, and the little girl jumped up and then hid behind the bed. Iris waved when the little girl poked her head up, and the little girl came and opened the window.

"Who are you?" the little girl asked.
"I'm Iris. Who are you?"
"Jenny," the little girl said. "Do you want to come in?"
"Okay," Iris said.

At first, they kind of sat there, awkwardly, not really knowing what to say, but eventually Jenny asked why Iris was there, and Iris told the story of seeing her nightlight.

"Oh!" Jenny said. She motioned for Iris to follow and ran over to a telescope. "I like to look at the moon!" Jenny said.

Iris looked and she could see a little, faint light on the moon, in the Sea of Tranquility.

"That's my house!" Iris said. "That's MY nightlight!"

* * *
Iris and Jenny played a long time until they were both so tired they couldn't play anymore, and then Iris put the submarine on autopilot and headed back to her father's office. He came out just in time to find her sleeping in the backseat, so he drove her home. She woke up when he was carrying her inside the house.

"Did you have a good time with your sister?" he asked.

Iris was quiet for a moment because she was still sleepy, but then she realized what he was talking about. "It was great," she said, and when he put her to bed, she snuggled into the covers. She looked up into the sky and could see a tiny light, far, far away. It made her feel like she wasn't lonely anymore, and she drifted off to sleep.

-CL Bledsoe

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Myth of the Sacred Writing Space


            Someone messaged me on Facebook—one of those mass messages sent by a stranger to a bunch of other strangers—asking if I’d contribute to her blog about “Sacred Writing Spaces.” Well, I had to go be overcharged for a pre-peeled orange at Whole Foods and get my Chakras aligned (I’d had a blowout earlier on the highway and had to have one of them replaced) before I could answer. Maybe Mercury was in retrograde, but I wasn’t feeling it. I wrote her back and said I didn’t really think I had anything to say she’d want to hear, in the politest way possible, though I thanked her for asking. The truth is, after publishing a dozen books with a couple more on the way, I don’t have a Sacred Writing Space. I used to, back when I didn’t actually write or have a life. But I’m a single dad, working three jobs, living in a cramped apartment I can barely afford.  I write when I can, where I can, and with whatever time I can scrounge.

            The idea of a Sacred Writing Space reminds me of those people who drive three blocks to the gym to run on a treadmill, the kind of people who buy special pans to cook eggs. It stinks of bourgeois privilege and spiritual laziness. But wait, says you, how is a Sacred Writing Space spiritually lazy? It’s a spiritual space; it’s got the word “sacred” in it! Well I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but no, it’s not. In the same way that one doesn’t need to go to church to be religious, that church can actually get in the way of spirituality sometimes, one doesn’t need a sacred writing space to be a writer. The idea that it’s essential—she didn’t ask if I had one, she assumed it. All real writers must have one, right?—is damaging because it’s setting up a situation in which this space becomes a crutch. If I can’t get away from the world and focus on my Art, well, I can’t be a writer. It’s more of a status symbol than a tool.

            Now, I’m not saying the opposite is true, that a person who has an SWS isn’t a “real,” OG writer, though I may be implying that I can beat them at arm wrestling. But you know what? People who do, they’re doing fine in life. They’ve had some breaks. They don’t need to be coddled, so let’s set them aside. Maybe they worked hard for it, and that’s great. Go sit in it and enjoy. Have a scone. I’m talking about the implication that it’s necessary, that a person can’t write or do any kind of art as part of their normal, let’s be honest, working class, lives. I reject this idea, not just because of philosophical differences, but because I’ve had to. I don’t have time to sit for five hours while the morning light makes up its mind to flutter in through my hand-made curtains (ordered from Etsy) in my Writing Nook, as I sip coffee whose beans have passed through the digestive system of Venezuelan monkeys and been sifted out by workers paid a fair wage—though really, what would be a fair wage for that, one wonders? I write in the living room when my daughter has finally gone to sleep, while my own eyes droop, and I know I’m going to pay for it tomorrow. It means I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, go to movies, ever, or just relax. I write on my lunchbreak, a sandwich in one hand, typing with the other, ruining the keyboard, I’m sure, with the crumbs. I jot down ideas longhand in the parking lot while I wait for my shift to start and passersby look at me strangely. Sometimes I don't write because I don't have time. There’s an implied bias in the idea of an SWS, that I’m not a real writer because of this, that I’m somehow lesser. And I’m not just talking about me. I’m doing okay. I’m having a scone, as we speak. I’m talking about women throughout history who weren’t born rich, who were expected to dedicate their lives to others. The idea of an SWS might seem like a reaction to that—now, they have time and can focus on their own pursuits--but you know what? There are still plenty of women, and men, and non-gender identifying people, who haven’t achieved that kind of luxury. How many of them might be encouraged to steal some time to write if they only thought it was legitimate? I have known them. I have met them. I have loved them. I have been them, people who thought you have to go to college to be a writer, you have to have been born in a certain place, you have to have time, because those are the prevailing myths. They’re the ones I care about, and their stories, I think, are a hell of a lot more interesting than some time-travelling lycanthropy romance or Great American Novel written in a Sacred Writing Space by someone who didn’t have to fight for every second it took to write it.
          I could really go for a pre-peeled orange right now, though.
-CL Bledsoe   

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Books in Progress

I was thinking I need a list somewhere of manuscripts I've completed or have almost completed, but that haven't been published. So feel free to skip this. Most of these titles are placeholders.

Novels
Completed:

A History of the Standard Oil Company On the Moon
A Quarrel of Feathers
Ship of Fools
The Devil and Ricky Dan
Cities On the Moon
Goodbye Mr. Lonesome
A Mischief of Rats
The Saviors (was forthcoming but the press folded)
Odysseus Among the Swine
Sheriff Comes to Zombietown (sequel)
Damaged Seeking Same

In Progress:

Untitled 4th Necro-Files book (50,000+ words)
Beelzebubba
Jubal's Daughter
Flying Dog

Partial Maybe Something Draft:

Not a Princess
Hood
Whitey
Untitled Rice Farming x2
New Madrid
Frankenstein story
Music version 1
Memphis serial story http://www.troubadour21.com/category/series/river-city-blues/
The Cypher

Story Collections
Completed:

Air Is Seen through Motion Not Form
Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down
How to Buy a House
Nobody's Darlings
Naming the Animals (out of print, could use expanding/reissue)

In Progress:

Solum Stories
Weird Arkansas Stories

Poetry Collections
Completed:

The King of Loneliness (forthcoming)
Driving Around, Looking in Other People's Windows (forthcoming?)
Arkansas
You Hated Us for Our Wings, So We Never Flew

In Progress:

The Cypress Trees (sequel to Riceland)
E. Poems
Collaborative Project
Untitled Persona Poems
War Poems
Prose Poems

Other
Waiting for the Miracle (essay collection)
10 (1-act plays)

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Queen of the Moon bedtime story

Cleo was a little girl who lived with her father, the King of the Day, and her cat, Joan. Cleo didn't have a mother, but she used to. Her mother had disappeared when Cleo was a little girl. Cleo was bored because all she did was go to school and come home and do chores. She had to go to bed early and wake up early and all she wanted to do was play, but she couldn't.

One night, Cleo woke up because her room was full of light. It was coming from the window. She got out of bed and looked and saw that a moonbeam was shining right through her window. It was so bright, she touched it, and she could actually feel it. She poked it, and it felt solid. She was afraid to touch it again, but her cat, Joan, jumped right on it and started climbing up it, through the window, and up into the sky.

"Come back, Joan!" Cleo called, but her cat only looked back at her, as if to say, what are you waiting for? So Cleo, against her better judgement, climbed on the moonbeam and followed Joan up through the sky and all the way to the moon.

When they got to the moon, they found a giant castle.

"Let's go back home," Cleo said, but Joan hopped down to the moon's surface and ran inside the castle. Cleo had no choice but to follow her, unless she wanted her cat to be stuck on the moon.

The castle was huge and seemed to be empty. It was decorated with all these warm and soft colors, fuzzy blankets on couches, and things that made Cleo feel safe. She called out for Joan but couldn't find her, and went deeper and deeper into the castle looking for the cat. Room after room, the castle looked cozy and warm but totally empty.

Finally, she heard a meow. She ran into the next room, and there was Joan. But she wasn't alone. A strange woman was holding the cat. She was beautiful with dark hair and pale skin, and she was smiling.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Cleo said. "I didn't know anyone was here."

"It's just me. I'm alone, here," the woman said.

"Well, I'll take my cat and go," Cleo said. "I'm sorry to have bothered you."

"No, wait," the woman said. "Please don't go. It's lonely here. I haven't seen anyone since I came here. I had a little girl. She would be about your age."

"Why did you come here?" Cleo asked.

"I followed a moonbeam, but I couldn't go back. I stayed too long, and the moonbeam went away in the daylight."

"I don't want that to happen to me," Cleo said.

"You'll be safe as long as you don't stay until dawn," the woman said.

"Okay," Cleo said. "I guess I can stay a little while."

"Do you want to play? I used to love playing with my daughter. You must play with your mother all the time," the woman said.

"I don't know my mother," Cleo said. "She disappeared when I was a little girl."

The woman looked at Cleo. "Tell me about your father," she said.

"He's the King of the Day," she said. "He works all the time. I hardly ever see him."

The woman started crying and threw her arms around Cleo. "I'm your mother!" she said.

Cleo was so happy. She stayed with the woman and played all night, but she was sure to leave back down the moonbeam before dawn came.

"Will you come back tomorrow night?" The woman asked. "And visit me again?"

"Sure," Cleo said. And she climbed back down with Joan and curled up to sleep. In the morning, her father woke her.

"You sure look tired," he said. "Didn't you get enough sleep?"

"I have to tell you the best news! I found mother! She lives on the moon!" Cleo said. "I'm going back tomorrow night to visit her, and you can come with me!"

Her father looked very sad. "I wish I could come," he said. "But I'm a grownup. If I go to the moon, I'll get stuck there. But you can go and visit. And I'm glad your mother's all right."

So, the very next night, Cleo went to bed extra early, and she woke up when the moon was shining bright and crawled up a moonbeam to play.

To be continued?
E wants the story of her sister, Dawn... .

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Bluebird Birthday Bedtime Story (not funny, intolerably cute, etc. etc.)

**I gave Ellie a big book of stickers, and she arranged a bunch of them in a little notebook we made. Then, she asked me to tell a story based on the stickers. So everything in the story is from a sticker.**

A unicorn was running through a meadow when she bumped into a princess, and they both fell down. The princess helped the unicorn back up and said, "I'm sorry. Excuse me."
The unicorn was very upset. "It's my fault, I'm sorry." And then she burst out crying.
"What's the matter?" The princess said.
"Oh, I'm so late for my best friend's birthday party," the unicorn said. "She's a bluebird and she's my favorite person in the whole world."
"Really? It's your friend's birthday? She sounds really nice. What gift are you giving her?" The princess asked.
The unicorn suddenly became even more upset and started crying again.
"What's wrong?" The princess asked.
"I forgot to get her a present!" The unicorn said.
"Oh, well, maybe I can help you find one," the princess said. "What does your friend like?"
The unicorn calmed down enough to consider this. "Well, she likes three things a whole lot. She likes flowers. She likes jewels. And she really likes falling stars."
"I know where there's a whole field of flowers," the princess said. "I'd be glad to take you to it."
"You would?" The unicorn said. "That would be lovely."
So the princess led the unicorn to the wildflower field. But, when they got there, all the flowers were gone. They searched the entire field but found no flowers. Finally, at the very far end, they found a bunny lying on the ground with a big, round, full belly.
"Excuse me," the princess asked. "But is this the field of wildflowers?"
The bunny burped. "It used to be," she said. "But I ate them all."
The unicorn burst into tears again, and the princess did her best to calm her.
"What's her problem?" The bunny asked.
The princess explained that the unicorn was trying to find a gift for her best friend's birthday.
"Oh, I'm sorry," the bunny said. "If I'd known it was your friend's birthday, I'd have saved her some flowers. But I was very hungry, and the flowers were delicious."
"That's okay," the unicorn said.
The bunny scratched her chin. "Maybe you can find another gift for your friend. What else does she like?"
"Well," the unicorn said. "She likes flowers, but they're all gone. She likes jewels. And she likes falling stars."
"I know where there's a whole mountain full of jewels," the bunny said. "I'd be happy to take you there."
"Really?" The unicorn said.
"Sure," the bunny said, and they all set off. They had to climb a big mountain and finally got to a cave. "We have to be really quiet inside here," the bunny said. "There's a great big bear that lives in this cave, but he's asleep. We have to be really quiet so we don't wake him, or he might try to eat us."
So they all went into the cave quietly. The bunny had told them that the cave was full of jewels, but everywhere they looked, there were not jewels, just holes in the wall where there USED to be jewels. Finally, they heard a chipping sound like a pickaxe hitting a rock. They followed the sound into a tunnel, and there, they discovered a butterfly digging in the wall.
"Are you going to eat me?" the butterfly asked.
The unicorn and the others assured the butterfly they weren't going to eat her and were just looking for a jewel to give to the unicorn's friend for her birthday.
"I'm sorry," the butterfly said. "I already dug all the jewels out. An evil wizard trapped me in this cave and made me find all the jewels for him, and then he left me here and I can't find the way out."
When she heard the jewels were gone, the unicorn started crying again.
"Shh!" The butterfly said. "You'll wake up the bear."
"I can show you the way out," the rabbit said.
"Well we better go now, because I think I hear the bear," the butterfly said.
And sure enough, they could hear the bear growling, and as it got closer, its toenails clicked on the stone floor of the cave.
"Come on!" The bunny said, and they all ran back to the mouth of the cave and outside.
"Thank you so much for rescuing me," the butterfly said.
The bunny was happy to have helped, but the unicorn was inconsolable.
"Now I don't have anything to give my friend for her birthday," the unicorn said. "We tried flowers."
"But I ate them all," the bunny said.
"We tried jewels," the unicorn said.
"But I had to give them to the evil wizard," the butterfly said. "Is there anything else your friend likes?"
"The only thing she likes is shooting stars," the unicorn said.
"Oh, I know where there are some shooting stars," the butterfly said. "Come on, I'll show you!"
They all followed the butterfly around to the other side of the mountain. They climbed higher and higher until they were standing over a deep valley. They were so high up, the stars were so close they felt like they could reach out and touch them.
"How will we get one?" The unicorn asked.
"I know!" The princess said. She found a rock and threw it and knocked one of the stars out of the sky. It fell into a rainbow, and all the color stuck to its tail.
"I saw where it went," the bunny said, and they all climbed down and found the falling star with the rainbow tail. The princess wrapped it up in a piece of her dress because it was hot from falling through the atmosphere.
"I can't thank you enough for helping me," the unicorn said. "Would you like to come to the party and meet my friend?"
They all said sure, and then they went to the party. When they got there, the bluebird was a little sad because she thought maybe the unicorn wasn't coming.
"I'm sorry I'm late," the unicorn said. "But I had to get your present."
"That's okay," the bluebird said. "I'm just glad you're here now."
The unicorn introduced all her new friends to the bluebird, and they played games and had balloons. They were having such a good time that they forgot all about the present until the unicorn suddenly remembered it after they'd all finished their cake. She gave her friend the falling star with a rainbow tail.
"It's the nicest gift I've ever gotten, but even nicer than that is having such a good friend, and so many new friends," the bluebird said, and they all had another piece of cake.
-CL Bledsoe

Friday, February 05, 2016

Transcript of a Bedtime Story

Me: Once upon a time there was a princess with curly hair--
E: Nuh-nuh-no-no-no. No curly hair. Straight hair. I don't want to be in any stories. I like to hear stories, but I don't want to be in any stories.
Me. Okay, once upon a time, there was a princess with straight hair who lived in a big city--
E: A town.
Me: A town--
E: that was full of princesses.
Me: Okay. And she was very sad because--
E: And some of the princesses were named Ava, and some were named Yahweh, and some were named Guinevere, and ChiChi, and five were named Bird.
Me: Okay, so, she was sad because her parents were very mean to her and made her do chores all the time--and, wait, I mean, she didn't mind the chores, they just wouldn't let her do what she wanted to do.
E: And she would get so mad at her sister for freezing everything over, she would cross her arms and make a mean face like this.
Me: Right. So, the town was full of princesses, so she was at school one day, and she met a prince.
E: Named Phillip.
Me: Named Phillip who looked sad. She saw how sad he was and went and asked what was wrong, and he said that he was looking for his brother who had been turned into a monkey by an evil wizard.
E: Nuh-nuh-no-no-no. His brother was... (launches into the plot of a movie we watched three weeks ago)...and she stomped through the ice and went down into the world of mermaids.
Me: Prince Phillip was sad because his brother had been turned into a monkey. "Have you seen a monkey anywhere?" he asked. But the princess said no. "But," she said, "I know where there's a monkey. Do you know where there are monkeys?"
E: South America.
Me: Yes. Also, the zoo. So she went to the zoo with the prince, and they saw the zebras and the pigs.
E: Nuh-nuh-no-no-no. His brother had been trapped inside an amulet and his whole country was in the amulet.
Me; They went to the monkey cage.
E; Amulet.
Me; And they looked at all the monkeys. But they didn't see the prince's brother.
E: Because he was trapped in the amulet.
Me: Then, the prince saw a monkey poke his head out of a tire swing, and there was the prince's brother, eating a banana. The prince was so happy, and his monkey brother came over and they played and went on the merry-go-round and had cotton candy. And when they were finished, they took the monkey back to his cage because he liked being a monkey and wanted to stay there. He said, "You can come play with me, and I'll stay here and eat bananas all day."
E: Then they went to get a wizard to turn him back to a prince.
Me: Okay. Then they got a wizard.
E; But they had to pay the wizard.
Me: Yes.
E: Tell that part.
Me: Okay, they had to pay the wizard to cast the spell. He said, "It will cost you $7." But all they had was quarters, but he said that was okay.
E; Tell that part.
Me: What part?
E; Where they give him the quarters.
Me; So, they count out the quarters, and the wizard is happy because they're really shiny quarters. So, they all go to the zoo.
E: And the monkey's bored.
Me: Right, the monkey is sitting in his tire swing, and when he sees them, he runs right up and says, "I'm bored of being a monkey because I ran out of bananas. I want to be a boy again." So the wizard turns him back into a boy. Poof!
E; And the hugs the wizard, but he touches his wand, and it turns him back into a monkey.
Me: Okay.
E; And the wizard turns him back into a boy, and he hugs him again and turns back into a monkey and the wizard has to turn him back into a boy.
Me: Right. So then everyone is happy and they have cotton candy.
E: And the wizard poisons the cotton candy--
Me: No.
E: And they all get sick.
Me: Nope. They all are happy and have fun at the zoo.
E: Until...
Me: Nope. The end.
E: But the evil sister...
Me: Good night!


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Couple poems in The Potomac

http://thepotomacjournal.com/issue17/Poetry/bledsoe.html

The Night Was Moist

Someone approached me recently wanting to co-write a screenplay. I've done a bit of collaboration, so I was open to the idea. This wasn't someone I knew particularly well, and as we talked, I mentioned that I'd written a few scripts in the past but hadn't done anything with them. This seemed to astound this person. "They're just sitting on your hard drive?" He asked, as though I'd cured cancer but forgotten to tell anyone. 

My response was one I felt didn't even need to be said: basically, I've written a lot of stuff, and most of it I've never sent out or shown anyone. At this point, I've published eleven books and have two more forthcoming. After the conversation, I dug around and discovered around thirty pretty much complete manuscripts--poetry collections, short story collections, and mostly novels. I couldn't say how many unfinished ones I've got. I didn't count screenplays, but I've written maybe four or five complete ones. It's a relatively new pursuit for me. So what? I've been writing seriously for fifteen years. I would hope to have amassed a decent amount of material.

I was met with not just amazement but disdain. The guy acted like I was lazy and woefully disconnected from reality. "I would have those scripts in the mail," he said. "Are they any good?" Hard to say, but I was happy with a couple of them. "Send them out," he said. Didn't I realize that I could be signing a multimillion dollar production deal right now instead of wasting my life?

That's when I realized two things. One, I wasn't going to be working with this person. Not just because he clearly had a bad attitude, but because of reason two, which is: he's not a writer. Not really. Maybe he will be someday, maybe he's just starting out, whatever. But at the time of this conversation, this guy was not a writer. If he were, he would know that writing isn't about creating a finished project to sell, a screenplay to send out. If it were about that, well it would be a hell of a lot easier. Writing is a compulsion. I read updates on FB from writers saying things like, "I got to 40,000 words. I guess this might be a novel." I imagine a statement like that must be confounding to this person. What it means is that sometimes you write nearly two hundred pages (that's probably close to a couple months commitment) before you even know if you've written anything worth editing. Or, sometimes you write a whole novel, sometimes you write ten novels, and they're just not on the level of your other work. It doesn't mean they're bad. It can mean a lot of things. Maybe they're too personal. Maybe they're just not right. Maybe they're good, but this other manuscript is better, so you focus your energy on that one.  

I'm not saying that writing is a magical unicorn fart and we must all attune ourselves with the crystalline energies of its, like, inspiration, man, and not get bogged down in that whole money thing, ya dig? The hope is always that something really good and, hey, lucrative, emerges from the word pit. Of course. But you never really know until you...well, actually, you just never really know. I've heard writers say they regret publishing a particular novel, so even at that stage, you can still not be sure if what you've written is worthwhile, good, whatever it is we're actually striving for. 

And, to clarify again, I don't have thirty manuscripts and some screenplays (stageplays, a memoir, etc. etc.) sitting in limbo because I'm a perfectionist. That's not what I'm saying. I may well dig several of them out some day. But, to be honest, it's a hell of a process to undertake, not just revision, but sending a book out, waiting, being rejected, finally placing it, revising it ten more times, not really making enough money off it to have bothered, dealing with crappy reviews, if that happens (it's only happened to me once or twice, but that was enough), or the book just kind of being ignored, which is what happens to the vast, vast majority of books published. It's emotionally draining. To be honest, most of the books I've published survived this whole process because they either were really important to me, or, in the case of my genre novels, once I established a relationship with my publishers, it was a lot easier placing more books with them. But it was still a long and difficult process. 

Another thing to consider, not to go too deep into this: it takes me a couple months to write a draft of a book, more or less. Let's say it comes out pristine. I revise it, maybe take a couple weeks to do that because I'm in a hurry for some reason. I tend to revise as I go and mark possible trouble spots, so I can revise pretty quickly usually. But, to be really honest, I'd probably sit on the book for several months, maybe years, before I even look at it. And I'm still writing that whole time. So that's at least one more book. Then, I send it off. While it's in the mail, I keep writing. Let's say the press picks it up in three months. That's crazy-quick, but let's say it happened. Well, I actually wrote another book during that time. The press schedules the first book to come out in six months time, which is pretty quick. Two or three months go by, I've written another novel, and they send me edits. So, I revise, maybe take another couple weeks on that, send it back off, get edits back, this repeats a few times, etc. etc. So, by the time the book comes out, I've written three more books. These are just drafts, mind you. The book does okay, the press liked it a lot, and they want another. But they want something similar. So that means I write a whole new book and go through this process again. What happened to those three books, plus everything I write during the revision time for this new one? They're on my hard drive.   

What I'm saying is: Jesus, a writer fucking writes, just like Billy Crystal's character said in Throw Mama from the Train. If you don't, you're not a writer. Writing one book doesn't make you a writer. Sorry, but it doesn't. (And, hey, if you only ever write one book, you're probably not very good.) I cannot tell you the number of people I know from grad school or wherever who wrote a handful of stories or poems, maybe one complete manuscript, won some award, and never wrote anything again. Hey, guess what? Not writers. Not really. They figured that out--they were lucky enough to taste some success and realize that wasn't enough and quit. Writing isn't about awards or product. It's about process. Being a writer means you write when you can, without anyone holding your hand, without anyone caring in the slightest, and maybe some of it sees the light of day. Most probably won't. Or maybe you quit writing for six months and drink scotch and smoke cigars and then finally, finally put the razor down and get back to it only to write the best thing of your life and then never show it to anyone because you might be wrong. Or you might be right. So yeah, I have all kinds of crazy shit on my hard drive. I've got screenplays. I've got stuff in all kinds of different genres. I dabble. I practice, and I don't send every practice session out into the world. 

-CL Bledsoe  

Saturday, January 02, 2016

The 50 States Project: CT, New Jersey, MI, ME

I haven't been sending work out for a good long while because I've been trying to pay my rent. But, hey, it's paid! For now... . So here are a few more states I've cracked in my quest to be published in all 50 states. Spoiler: it will probably be a while before I post another update in this series. Right now, I'm in the mid 20s with this, but I have to send more work out.

18. Connecticut. Connecticut has been a kind of white whale for me for some time. For whatever reason, I had no luck at all from any Connecticut journals for a very long time. To be honest, I quit trying for a while because it started to seem impossible I’ve yet to crack The Connecticut Review, but I also haven't sent them anything in years. The first CT journal kind enough to include me in their pages was a little one called The Broken Bridge Review, which is published out of the Pomfret School. They took a fairly emotional piece from my upcoming collection Driving Around, Looking In Other People’s Windows, which deals with medical issues and the dissolution and collapse of my marriage. And jokes! Clowns throwing pies! Okay, maybe not a lot of clowns. Recently, I managed to place a poem with the Connecticut River Review, published by the Connecticut Poetry Society. Let me reiterate that it took me more than 10 years to break through in Connecticut. I’m not really sure why. It’s very likely that most of what I was sending out early on was too Southern. The piece CRR took is a persona poem about slavery within the prison system in the south, though, which is pretty Southern. But it’s the kind of poem just about anyone would take—except for a journal more focused on experimental writing.

19. New Jersey. Probably the most well-known journal in New Jersey is Story Quarterly, which I've never been in, though I used to buy and read it regularly as an undergrad. I don't know that I've ever sent them anything, actually. If I did, it was before I knew how to write, so that doesn't count. SQ is a beast, a massive David Foster Wallace-sized tome that, I believe, is actually published annually, despite the name. They publish the top names, and will accept longer pieces. Paterson Literary Review is another New Jersey journal I've heard of but don't actually know anything about, other than they only accept mailed submissions. Edison Literary Review showed me some love. They took a dirge I wrote a few years ago about the diminutive actor David Rappaport. It’s part of a kind of series I’ve been working on for several years about the deaths (mostly suicides) of various artists. Also, I really like Time Bandits, which he was in. Again, I think it’s a poem a lot of journals would take because it's a little unusual in subject matter while remaining easily accessible. It deals with some big issues in slightly different ways.

20. Michigan. Probably the most well-known journal in Michigan is the Michigan Quarterly Review, which I don’t believe I’ve ever assayed or even read. I've come across poems in collections that originally appeared there, and I often enjoy those poems, but I've never read an issue. I did place a surreal little poem in Temenos, a journal out of Central Michigan University. I believe I discovered this journal after finding a friend’s work within its pages. This is something I frequently do--if I see that a friend has published in a particular journal, I usually will send them something. When I was just starting out, this was kind of a competitive thing. I would seek out places friends and classmates were published. Nowadays, it just seems like these places might be a good fit. Another Michigan journal I’ve had luck with is Pank, which I’ve been fortunate enough to appear in several times, as a poet, fiction writer, and as an interviewee. Riceland was also reviewed very favorably in an issue. I don’t have a particular connection with them—it’s a damned fine journal, so I’ve sent a lot of submissions to them and gotten lucky a few times. When I first started sending work there, I don't think anybody had heard of them, but now, they've become kind of a big deal. I don't know if they'd publish me as readily if I sent them something now.

21. Maine. For me, the journal I admire the most out of Maine is probably Beloit Poetry Journal. BPJ was one of the first journals I started reading as an undergrad, and though I sent them some submissions years ago, I never sent them anything they'd probably even have considered publishing. My bad, BPJ. Sorry for wasting both our times. Needless to say, I haven't been in BPJ, and I haven't sent them anything in years and years. I should really try again. I did send something to Off the Coast, a quirky little poem from my forthcoming collection Driving Around, Looking in Other People's Windows. The poem is about my marriage woes at the time. Crosscut, out of Husson College, took a couple of emotionally charged poems from Riceland and Driving Around, both about my mother's long illness and eventual death, my relationship with her, and the process of getting tested to see if I had Huntington's Disease, as she did. So, you know, more clowns with pies.

That's it for now!
-CL Bledsoe