That’s a wrap on AWP 2017

I am not invisible photo

Wow. AWP is over. I am exhausted, and sick (who gave me this cold?!), and heartened by the writing community I’m a part of.

This was my first AWP, and it is just as massive as it sounds. About 15,000 writers, editors, publishers, university professors, etc. attended. It’s like an entire city converging on D.C. for several days, spreading infestations of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translation, and more.

I’m so grateful that I was able to meet several editors of literary journals who have been so kind to publish me. Meeting fellow editors and writers in person is such a wonderful experience. If I missed you, know that you mean so much to me. I really enjoy broadening my writing community — especially in these times, we need each other more than ever.

I tried to attend as many panels on disability and accessibility in writing as I could — unfortunately, I could not attend them all. I had to listen to my body, pace myself, take breaks, and find some time to eat. The off-site events, too, were supportive spaces, especially the Kick Ass Women Kick Ass reading, Split This Rock’s candlelight vigil for free speech, and the Inner Loop’s joint reading with District Lit, Sakura Review, and the Boiler Journal.

Here’s my roundup:

  • It’s the End of the World as She Knows It: Apocalypse Poetry by Women
  • The Politics of Queering Characters
  • Beautiful Mysteries: Science in Fiction and Poetry (got some sweet STEM temp tats from this panel)
  • Body of Work: Exploring Disability, Creativity, and Inclusivity
  • Audio Drama and Podcasting: The Future is Now 2.0
  • Not Invisible: Editors of Literary Journals Speak Out on Disability and Building Inclusive Writing Communities
  • Page Meets Stage with Carolyn Forché, Sarah Kay, and Derrick Brown
  • Writing With and About Dis/Ability, Dis/Order, and Dis/Ease
  • Reading and Conversation with Aracelis Girmay, Tim Seibles, and Danez Smith

Read some of my thoughts on these panels on my Twitter by searching #AWP17 on my timeline.

On Friday, I had a vital and challenging conversation on my panel about disability, accessibility, and building inclusive writing communities. Listening to and talking with Jill Khoury, Mike Northen, Sheryl Rivett, and Sheila McMullin was so powerful.

Mike summed it up when he said, “As editors, we’re always walling someone off.” As gatekeepers, how do we check our privileges and biases and make sure to open the door to others, especially disabled writers, women writers, LGBTQ writers, writers of color, and more. These voices are so often overlooked and left out of publishing. We discussed some ways we try to do this. And I’m always open to hearing how to improve and keep building more inclusive (writing) communities.

Thank you to all who attended our panel and asked important questions. Thank you to VIDA for sponsoring, and to Sheila for planning and leading our panel.

Literary goals for 2017

I’m starting off January strong! This month, I’ll be participating in two online writing workshops. I’m so grateful I was included in each, and can’t wait to begin what’s going to be a challenging, writing- and reading-filled month.

The first workshop is Lit Mag Love, taught by Rachel Thompson, an online course on how to research, find, and submit to literary magazines. There’s about 50 writers across the world beta testing this course. I love extending my writing community in person and online, and these writers range in age and come from many backgrounds. I’m excited to gain more insight into the publishing world and to offer feedback on the course.

The second is Hollows Shout the Mountain Down, hosted by Monstering and Winter Tangerine magazines, which explores the spectrum of disability. Every participant identifies as disabled. There will be guest seminars from Jillian Weise and Joanna Valente. I can’t wait to delve deep into this workshop and improve my voice and craft in my disability-themed writing, and in general. It will be great to meet other disabled writers, as well, and learn from their experiences and strong writing.

Next month, I’m on a panel at AWP 2017. I’ll be discussing how to build inclusive literary communities with Sheila McMullin, Jill Khoury, Mike Northen, and Sheryl Rivett. The panel is titled “Not Invisible: Editors of Literary Journals Speak Out on Disability and Building Inclusive Writing Communities.” I’m looking forward to our discussion and to continuing this important conversation with others.

I’m hoping to keep this momentum going through the year. I’m working on another collection of poetry. So far it’s chapbook sized, and I’ve sent it out to several small presses. We’ll see what happens with it in several months.

2016 reflections

Some 2016 accomplishments I’m proud of:

  • Bottlecap Press published my book On that one-way trip to Mars.
  • More of my disability-themed poetry was published. Thanks The Deaf Poets Society, Noble/Gas Quarterly, The Fem, Wordgathering, Words Dance, and others.
  • I got to talk to so many amazing young scientists and women in STEM for stories with Society for Science & the Public. I’m so glad they’re the future.
  • Tabling with my sister Hannah Chertock at the first-ever @dcartbookfair was so much fun. We sold our art, and met amazing writers/artists.
  • I discussed poetry and diversity in literary magazines on panels at Split This Rock’s poetry festival and the Frostburg Indie Lit Fest.
  • My panel was accepted for AWP 2017. Excited to have conversations about building inclusive communities in publishing and literature.
  • I read poetry in NYC at Berl’s Poetry Shop for a Bottlecap Press featured reading. It’s great to meet poet friends in new places.
  • I got an LGBT short story published by Paper Darts. So happy it found a great home.
  • The first of my Forecast stories, detailing various eco-futures, was published by OMNI Reboot.
  • Moonsick Magazine published my short story on migrants, based on a heartbreaking episode of Story Corps.
  • In 2016, I got 13 poems and 5 stories published. I’m so grateful to each and every one of the online and print magazines that accepted my writing, and that rejected me. My writing has grown from each rejection — and I can’t wait to submit more, hopefully get more acceptances, and probably more rejections, along the way.

Here’s to 2017. To submitting more writing, supporting each other, and speaking up loudly! Happy New Year!

Three poems in Noble/Gas Quarterly

Noble/Gas Quarterly published three of my poems today in their 203.4 issue. I’m honored to be included with so many other great writers.

Application to NASA” is a retelling of my previous poem “On that one-way trip to Mars.” It’s my way of calling NASA out for its height restrictions, of blaming my bone disorder from keeping me from the stars (even though I didn’t actually major in a STEM field or take any path to flight school). These poems are my version of reckoning with the limitations my body and imperfect bones place on me.

I am rotting log of wood” uses natural imagery from forests and trees as another way to understand my body. Trees are often seen as strong, immovable — but cut inside and you’ll see rings with more information. Tree rings show times of drought, temperature, moisture in the atmosphere, and growth the tree endured. I’ve always felt a connection and respect for trees. So I used an extended metaphor of a rotting log of wood as my cartilage-deficient body in a forest full of able-bodies.

Harriet Tubman was disabled” tries to do justice to the amazing Harriet Tubman. Not only did she lead over 300 slaves to freedom, but she did so with a traumatic head injury. This is something we don’t learn when reading history books about her story. I actively work to keep disabled/chronic/invisible illness voices from being erased. This poem is one of my attempts.

Read the full 203.4 issue here.

Another scifi poem blasts into the publishing world

Today, Calamus Journal published my poem “The martian comes to me” in their second issue.

I’m always honored when my poems are accepted for publication in new journals. When a literary journal is just starting up, it’s a magical time. There’s so much possibility, so much slush pile to read through, so much that could go wrong.

When an editor (really, a person who truly believes in literature/poetry/voices/sharing writing, really, just a person) decides to start up a lit mag, it’s no small feat. I’m always impressed by new lit mags starting up and thriving, trying to make themselves heard and create a strong space for good writing, or even failing. It’s an impressive accomplishment to create a lit mag — so thank you, Eric Cline and Trevor Richardson, for sharing your new literary magic with me.

This poem was a fun reflection on transportation, and what another lifeform might think of our messy traffic and the ways we get around.

🚄 It starts on a subway in Paris.

🚌 Moves to a bus in Chile.

🚢 Sinks into depths in a German submarine.

✈️ Takes off in an American airplane.

🚀 All for the martian to find the method of commuting that reminds her most of her spaceship. To find out more about transportation and herself.

You can read the poem here.

Reading in NYC

Reading at Berl's Poetry Shop.
Reading at Berl’s Poetry Shop. Photo courtesy of Samantha Siberini.

Earlier this month I ventured up to the Big Apple for a poetry reading. I was invited to read with several other Bottlecap Press authors at Berl’s Poetry Shop in Brooklyn. It’s an adorable small bookstore filled with great collections of poetry — you should check it out!

When you’re published by a small press, you get opportunities to actually meet the other authors in their collection. It was really special to meet and read with these great writers. I hope to read with them again soon.

I got a whole new set of reactions than in D.C. when I read from “On that one-way trip to Mars.” I asked who would go to space if they could, and everyone in the audience raised their hands. They listened attentively and laughed during humorous poems.

Thanks Berl’s Poetry founders, Jared White and Farrah Field, and Bottlecap Press for making the event happen! It’s always great to hear poetry aloud after reading it on my own — poems can really take on a new life when it’s spoken and performed among others.

My book is on sale for the holiday weekend

Bottlecapsule 2015-2016 Anthology
Bottlecapsule 2015-2016 Anthology

Bottlecap Press, the publisher of my book “On that one-way trip to Mars,” has a 2015-2016 anthology available for a limited time only (through Monday)!

The anthology features new and old work from several Bottlecap Press authors, plus letters from all of us to the readers. It’s a great way to sample tons of Bottlecap Press authors at once!

I’m honored to be included with these great writers. Make sure to get your copy this weekend before this amazing anthology goes away.

Bottlecap Press is also having a holiday sale through Monday. All books are 20% offincluding mine for $9.60! Books make a great gift, so consider buying some for the readers in your life.

‘On that one-way trip to Mars’ reviewed in Vagabond City Lit!

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I’m heading to Mars right now. I’ve left orbit. This amazing review from Bethany Mary has blasted me off the planet!

Bethany reviewed “On that one-way trip to Mars” in Vagabond City Lit, calling it warm and chilling, covering human emotion and the expanse of the solar system.

She gets the pain I was trying so hard to express somehow, some way.

Neck braces constrict like halos just a little too low. Spines curve so much it is hard to balance.

She is spot on in her assessment that my poems suggest “it is self-centered to believe that we are not sometimes alien.”

That can make being different, being born with skeletal dysplasia, having chronic pain easier to swallow, sometimes. To know that we’re probably not the only ones in this universe, our pain isn’t the only thing going on in the world, there are others beside ourselves.

Haven’t we learned already that we are not the center of the universe? This little poetry book reminds us of that.

Thank you for your beautiful, thoughtful review, Bethany. It means the world and Mars and all of the stars to me.

Read the full review here.

‘Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in’: Reading at Berl’s Poetry Shop

berls
Song title lyrics always make good headlines, right? Well, on November 5 I’ll be asking Brooklyn and New Yorkers to take me in at a poetry reading at Berl’s Poetry Shop!

The reading starts at 3 p.m. and features several Bottlecap Press authors, including yours truly.

The other readers include: Zachary Cosby, a bookseller in Portland, Oregon with work in the Los Angeles Review of Books, tNY, and The Portland Review; William Keller, a poet and musician who works as a life drawing model at Rhode Island School of Design; Ian Macks has a chapbook, A Loss and Gain of Comfort, available from Bottlecap Press; Elijah Pearson, co-founder/editor of Spy Kids Review and 2 Fast 2 House; Patrick Trotti, founder/editor of (Short) Fiction Collective, founder/editor of Peanut Gallery Press, co-founder/co-editor of Thousand Shades of Gray, editorial assistant for Tiny Hardcore Press; Stephanie Valente, founder and chief editor at Alt Bride, associate editor at Yes, Poetry, and social media manager and columnist at Luna Luna Magazine; and Alexandra Wuest, editor at HOLOGRAM zine. Amanda Dissinger is the host and her chapbook This is How I Will Tell You I Love You is available from Bottlecap Press.

Hope to see you there!

‘How to feel beautiful’ in The Deaf Poets Society

howtofeelbeautiful_deafpoetssociety

My poem “How to feel beautiful” was published today in The Deaf Poets Society. It’s a reflection on chronic pain.

This poem rejects the notion that we have to be pretty above all else. Beauty is a feeling. When you’re in constant pain, sometimes it’s hard to smile, get out of bed, go to work, deal with other people. But this is something those with chronic pain and disabled people do every single day.

Tell yourself you’re beautiful
so you start feeling it.

That is why the poem ends in space, outside the world. It ends in our blood and the stars. Because even with chronic pain, even if you are blind or deaf, even if you are an amputee, even if you are neurodivergent, even if you feel like all your spoons are full and spent, even then

your blood is still
made up of iron from ancient stars.

Thanks for reading.