On that one-way trip to Mars reviewed in Agape Editions

My first book got some love today! Jennifer MacBain-Stephens, herself the author of three poetry collections, reviewed On that one-way trip to Mars in Agape Editions.

Jennifer explains that with the book sectioned into planets in the solar system, reader(s) “quickly realizes how the poems reflect different characteristics of not only planets but people. Each planet possesses a different appearance, has select wants and needs. Each planet holds specific gifts.”

This is something that I wanted to express in the collection. On that one-way trip to Mars didn’t start off in that solar system structure. But slowly as I was piecing the manuscript together, the poems seemed to be broken into chunks of emotion, theme, and voice.

Despite the collection’s title, alluding to an escape, most of Chertock’s words are rooted into the earth, the here and now, the real, the sensual, the fight.

Jennifer also said that “when not in space, Chertock’s poems excel at exploring what lives on the ground,” which I’m so glad to have done even a little bit right. I come from the Earth, so all of my writing is a form of tribute to my home. Even though I’m constantly looking up at the stars, at beyond, I know and love where I come from.

My first book focused on my bone disorder, but was also very ingrained in space and the universe at large. Jennifer writes, “There are doctor visits and tests and pills and pain, but also warrior-like strength and immense love.”

I’m grateful for Jennifer’s thoughtful reflection on my work. You can read the full review here.

Featured in Noble/Gas Quarterly’s Objects of Derision

Noble/Gas Quarterly chose me as their September Objects of Derision feature. They interviewed me about my inspirations for writing Crumb-sized, — being bullied as a kid and somebody actually calling me “smaller than a crumb” — and included four old and new poems.

It should be called womenstruate,” which was first published in Wicked Banshee Press’s The Devil’s Doorbell: Vagina Edition, questions the way menstruation sounds like men. The prefix makes it seem like a male activity or a male word given to such a female part of life. Through periods, women are connected. We seep together.

Unfold me gently,” which was first published in Crumb-sized, uses lyric and imagery to explore what bodies are, what disabled bodies mean.

Migration” is how I feel about borders. They’re imaginary and human-made. We must remember, we don’t really own land. We’ve been migrating and immigrating since the first people could walk. The politics of immigration, of keeping suffering people out, of denying a person’s life, are impossible to ignore and impossible not to grieve. As a poet, I hope I can help by raising awareness in some small way.

The only awkward one” is a brand new poem! I’m working on a book of poetry about my summer camp, and this is a sneak peak.

Thank you, Noble/Gas and Editor-in-Chief Emma Fissenden! And what a great issue 204.3 is!

Crumb-sized in the press 🙏📢

Crumb-sized has been out for a month! How did that happen? It’s old enough to move its arms jerkily, squeeze its non-existent hands into fists. I’m a proud book mama.

In its one-month debut, Crumb-sized has already garnered some press. I’m so grateful for the reviews it has received and interviews I have done with editors. Here is a roundup.

  • Yasmin Gunaratnam wrote a beautiful review in the Chicago Review of Books on publication day. She called me a space nerd exploring my inner cosmos — and hit it right on the head.
  • Mike Northen, the editor of Wordgathering, wrote an extensive review in September. He said I “began carving out a unique space for herself in disability poetry.”
  • Eric Cline, the editor of Calamus Journal, interviewed me about my interest in science-fiction poetry and the power of creating more diverse, representative worlds of the future.
  • Paul Semel interviewed me about my inspirations and why I choose to be radically honest in my writing.
  • Noble/Gas Quarterly chose me as their September Objects of Derision feature. They interviewed me about my inspirations for writing Crumb-sized and included a few new poems.

Coming out about my invisible disability

Last month, I had an article published in The Mighty called “Why I’m Coming Out About My Invisible Disability.”

The Mighty is an online site, an online community, that publishes stories by people with disabilities, diseases, mental illnesses, and more. Its Who We Are Page states, “Having a disability or disease doesn’t have to be isolating. That’s why The Mighty exists.”

I’m coming out about my invisible disability because now it’s less invisible. Now, it’s very much apparent to others. So, really, this is a late announcement.

My skeletal dysplasia has always been with me, has always been visible to me. It’s not something I was consciously trying to hide from others. Since I’ve been dealing with more intense chronic pain in the last few years, it’s become more visible to others.

My bone disorder was easy to hide as a kid because I had less pain and only limped at the end of a long day of shopping at the mall with friends. I’m 4’6″, so it’s pretty hard to hide that something is different about me. Most people wouldn’t assume I’m a dwarf, but my bone disorder does fall under the vast and varied dwarfism umbrella.

In my article in The Mighty, I wrote about how it’s easy to pass as normal, as someone who doesn’t have daily pain, just like it can be easy to pass as straight if you’re actually LGBT/gay/queer.

Read the full article.

Crumb-sized reviewed in the Chicago Review of Books

It’s pub day for Crumb-sized and I’m over the moon!

Already, Yasmin Gunaratnam has written a beautiful review in the Chicago Review of Books. She calls me a space nerd exploring my inner cosmos — and hits it right on the head.

Marlena Chertock, a self-confessed “space nerd” based in Washington, D.C. “I don’t need you/landing your probes or rovers/or feet on me. I exist without/being catalogued”, declares Chertock from the perspective of the feisty, fiery HD 189733b. Having lived with disability and chronic pain throughout her twenty-five years, Chertock knows about the intrusions of being categorized, probed, and investigated.

Voyaging between her daily life and science, bridging and entangling elements of both, Crumb-sized subverts—or ‘crips’ in the terminology of disability theorists—the putting in place of people with disabilities. Chertock’s particular gift is to play with scale, trying by turns to nudge and push at and ultimately to scatter perspective. You come away enchanted, unsettled, and a little dizzy.

You can read the full review here.

Interview in Rogue Agent

I was recently interviewed in Rogue Agent’s August issue!

Editor Jill Khoury posed important questions about my journey toward writing poetry that describes the experience of living in a body, the structure of On that one-way trip to Mars, and advice for others who want to explore embodied writing and art.

Read the full interview here.

And when you’re done, make sure to read all the great work in the August issue!

Good things come in Crumb-sized packages

Crumb-sized: Poems cover

I’m so excited to share my second collection of poetry with you. Crumb-sized is being published by Unnamed Press in August — my birthday month!

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to share another collection of poems with you, and so soon after my first was published.

Crumb-sized is tired of being called short. These poems explore life with a rare bone disorder. They use natural imagery to quantify pain better than the 1 to 10 scale. This is a book about overcoming the challenges you are born with.

Please pre-order Crumb-sizedsince each order ensures the book will be successful. And review it on Goodreads or Amazon. Read it on the beach or a road trip. Tell all your friends!

Come out on August 23 for a book launch party at East City Bookshop! And look out for other readings in Washington, D.C. and other cities.

Thank you for supporting my writing, my dreams. You all have Jupiter-sized hearts to me.

 

Worthy bodies: Highlighting disabled writers in District Lit

District Lit, the journal I’m the Poetry Editor for, recently published our Disability Issue. These writers and artists share their raw truths about living with disabilities, chronic pain, invisible illness, and medical treatments. They share intimate medical histories, fears, hopes, pain, and scars.

These are important voices, and I’m so excited and honored to share them. I’ve been wanting to highlight the voices of people with disabilities and chronic illness for a while, and District Lit offered a great home for these important stories and experiences.

These writers and artists share their raw truths. These are vital voices at a time when the Affordable Care Act, healthcare, Medicaid/Medicare, and disability rights are threatened.

These contributors show the disabled and chronically ill body unflinchingly. They show their bodies are valid bodies.

You can also read my and Guest Editor Jen Stein Hauptmann’s Editors’ Note for more background on the issue.

The issue includes artwork by Christine Stoddard and Paul Flippen; nonfiction by: Emma Bolden, Shari Eberts, Kaleb Estes, Jenn A. Garvin, Heather Taylor Johnson, and Amy Wang Manning; and poetry by: D. Allen, Judith Arcana, Roxanna Bennett, J V Birch, Kristene Brown, Aubrie Cox Warner, Katherine Edgren, Robbie Gamble, Jane Ellen Glasser, Joey Gould, Carrie Purcell Kahler, Jen Karetnick, Christoph Keller, Adrian Kresnak, Travis Chi Wing Lau, Sarah Lilius, Jennifer Met, Daniel Edward Moore, David Olsen, Jeff Pearson, Maria Ramos-Chertok, Andrea Rogers, Ruby Stephens, Denise Thompson-Slaughter, and Jessica Tower.

Poet Kaveh Akbar even tweeted that everyone should take time with this important issue. Thanks for your support, Kaveh!

Please take some time with our Disability Issue.

Earth’s future is uninhabitable

I feel like I’ve just come back from a long trip to the future, and returned, and I’m stricken. I finished reading “The Uninhabitable Earth: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think” by David Wallace-Wells in the New York Magazine.

This long-form essay on potential futures of climate change is a must-read. It’s difficult, not because of the language or length, but the scenarios Wallace-Wells describes in such vivid detail.

Readers, society: take note. This is our future.

If we don’t act now. Today.

“Several of the scientists I spoke with proposed global warming as the solution to Fermi’s famous paradox, which asks, ‘If the universe is so big, then why haven’t we encountered any other intelligent life in it?'”

Earth’s future

Wallace-Wells helps visualize potential futures where climate change devastate the Earth, our environment, our food, and our lives.

He doesn’t shy away from the terrifying scenarios, drilling into specific details and facts. He often compares future numbers to current ones, which helps me understand hard-to-relate to abstracts.

Here are some terrifying tidbits from the article.

  • “Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws and is released, that carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide when judged on the timescale of a century; when judged on the timescale of two decades, it is 86 times as powerful.”
  • “The albedo effect (less ice means less reflected and more absorbed sunlight, hence more warming); more cloud cover (which traps heat); or the dieback of forests and other flora (which extract carbon from the atmosphere). Each of these promises to accelerate warming, and the history of the planet shows that temperature can shift as much as five degrees Celsius within thirteen years.”
  • “At 11 or 12 degrees of warming, more than half the world’s population, as distributed today, would die of direct heat. Since 1980, the planet has experienced a 50-fold increase in the number of places experiencing dangerous or extreme heat.”
  • “The basic rule for staple cereal crops grown at optimal temperature is that for every degree of warming, yields decline by 10 percent. Which means that if the planet is five degrees warmer at the end of the century, we may have as many as 50 percent more people to feed and 50 percent less grain to give them. And proteins are worse.”
  • “The fraction of carbon dioxide in the air is growing: It just crossed 400 parts per million, and high-end estimates extrapolating from current trends suggest it will hit 1,000 ppm by 2100. At that concentration, compared to the air we breathe now, human cognitive ability declines by 21 percent.”
  • “For every half-degree of warming, they say, societies will see between a 10 and 20 percent increase in the likelihood of armed conflict.”
  • “We will see at least four feet of sea-level rise and possibly ten by the end of the century. At present, more than a third of the world’s carbon is sucked up by the oceans — but the result is what’s called ‘ocean acidification,’ which, on its own, may add a half a degree to warming this century.”

Climate fiction

We need more literature about climate change. More short stories, poems, novels. We need to use our incredible imaginations to show what we are dragging ourselves into, what we are leaving our children and grandchildren with.

This is what Emmalie Dropkin argues for in an article in Electric Lit, “We Need Stories of Dystopia Without Apocalypse: Climate change and the human imagination.” The abstract futures and numbers can confuse people and lull them into not caring. Stories, literature, have been inspiring humans for centuries. This is a tool we should use more to shock ourselves into action.

“In a six-degree-warmer world, the Earth’s ecosystem will boil with so many natural disasters that we will just start calling them ‘weather.'”

Already, genres are emerging from climate change and natural disaster events. I’m increasingly seeing climate fiction, solarpunk, eco-literature, eco-speculation. These relate to science fiction, technology, cyberpunk, and more.

Some books in these genres include:

  • Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction by ASU Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative
  • Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • Last Hundred Years trilogy by Jane Smiley
  • Barkskins by Annie Proulx
  • Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • TreeVolution by Tara Campbell
  • The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh
  • Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken
  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein
  • After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene by Jedediah Purdy
  • Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Browse Goodreads for climate fiction

“More than half of the carbon humanity has exhaled into the atmosphere in its entire history has been emitted in just the past three decades … In the length of a single generation, global warming has brought us to the brink of planetary catastrophe.”

We have to visualize these potential futures, because we are ensuring they become reality with each passing day. With each pound of beef we eat, each flight we take.

If we continue down our current path, we’re dooming ourselves to devastating effects of climate change. We’re fueling its fire.

“Every round-trip ticket on flights from New York to London, keep in mind, costs the Arctic three more square meters of ice.”

Articles like Wallace-Wells’ and Dropkin’s, and books that explore climate change, are necessary, now more than ever. Keep reading our future. Keep ignoring it, and welcome to your uninhabitable Earth.

Reporting on green energy

Through the years, I’ve been carving out my beat of green energy. It’s what I’m interested in, not only for the implications on the economy, the electric grid, and technology, but also because I’m a science fiction nerd and believe green tech and renewable energy can help us realize better, cleaner futures.

I’ve been blogging mostly about my creative writing, but I also produce freelance articles as a journalist. Years ago, I interned at Electrical Contractor Magazine, and I’ve been freelancing for them ever since.

EC Mag, published by the National Electrical Contractors Association, covers the latest news about the electrical construction industry. It’s a niche publication, and I learned a lot about magazine writing and design as an intern.

Some of my recent articles cover the nearly 30 cities that have committed to renewable power, how to harness solar power during an eclipse, and the benefits of green energy for rural America.

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The renewable energy industry in America, and worldwide, is growing. And it’s been great to follow it.

Check out EC Mag for all news about the electrical construction industry, especially features on the evolving role of the electrical contractor, safetycodes and standards, green building, and more.