Poems in Daughter Literary Magazine

I’m so excited to have two poems in Daughter’s inaugural issueDaughter, a new literary magazine focusing on sharing the voices of women or female-identifying people, calls itself a lit mag for all women.

The poems included are “This isn’t a poem about motherhood” and “Recipe to reduce pain.”

“This isn’t a poem about motherhood” (pg. 22-23) is about pregnancy when you have chronic pain. “Recipe to reduce pain” (pg. 32-33) lists rituals of self-care, like taking a long, hot epsom salt bath.

Read them here.

Giving back to the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House

Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House banner by Jenna Brager
Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House banner by Jenna Brager.

This year I served as the initial judge/reader in poetry for the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House Literary Prize contest. Thank you, Johnna Schmidt, for the opportunity.

Litfest is an annual literary contest and celebration. At the spring ceremony, awards are given out for the top three poems and short stories, honorable mentions, and the Writers’ House seniors graduate and receive certificates. I remember my Litfest fondly.

Four years ago I was graduating from the Writers’ House. And when Johnna announced the winners of that year’s competition, I was so surprised that my poem “An invisible middle” had won first place!

I’m thrilled to pass on some of that excitement to the next Writers’ House generation. It was very special to read almost 100 undergraduate poems as an alumna. Choosing 10 to pass along to the final judge (Ocean Vuong!) was an honor.

It was difficult to decide on the top 10 because many of the poems had great potential, voice, and imagery. I definitely saw a lot of my early writing in some of them.

The results of the 2017 Litfest are being announced this week. And I hope that even if I didn’t choose your poem in the top 10, and even if Ocean Vuong didn’t pick yours for the top winners, you’ll still continue to write. We need emerging poets and short story writers. We need champions of the freedom of expression. I’m getting all sappy because I truly believe in this vital community of writers. The Writers’ House matters — your writing and voice matter. I’m so glad to soon call you my fellow Writers’ House alumni.

This year’s Litfest is Thursday, May 4 at 8 p.m. in St. Mary’s Hall at the University of Maryland. Writers will read from the honorable mentions and top winning poems and stories. And the 2017 Stylus will be unveiled. I’ll see you there.

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.

Interview in Crack the Spine

I was recently interviewed in Crack the Spine’s Wordsmith series! They asked me how long I’ve been writing, what my greatest challenge as a writer is, and the best piece of advice on how to stay sane as a writer.

Read on to find out more about the main message in my short story in Crack the Spine, as well as important issues like my favorite word and the pressing question of chocolate or vanilla?

Read the interview.

AWP is next week!

I am not invisible photo

I’m so excited for AWP. It’ll be my first time at the enormous conference that brings writers and editors of literary magazines together. The week will be packed with panels, readings, difficult and necessary discussions, and more.

I’m looking forward to widening my writing community, making new friends, and meeting writers and editors from all over the country. I’m planning to attend panels led by disabled writers, LGBTQ writers, and writers of color — especially because these voices are so often overlooked or left out of the publishing world (and the world at large). So to see diverse voices and people speak on panels and attend this conference is really heartening.

Also, I’m overjoyed to be speaking on my panel with some amazing editors. We’ll be talking about how to build inclusive writing communities. The panel, “Not Invisible: Editors of Literary Journals Speak Out on Disability and Building Inclusive Writing Communities,” is Friday the 10th at 3 p.m.

Hope to see you there or at the other events!

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!

Upcoming panel for #AWP2017

Not Invisible: Editors of Literary Journals Speak Out on Disability and Building Inclusive Writing Communities

The Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) hosts a huge writing conference in a different location every year. AWP 2017 is coming to Washington, D.C. next year. So I knew I’d be attending for the first time since it’s my city. But I didn’t know that I’d also be a part of the lineup of amazing events.

I’m thrilled and humbled to have my panel accepted for AWP 2017. The selection process is incredibly selective — and I don’t take the acceptance of this panel lightly. My panel is titled “Not Invisible: Editors of Literary Journals Speak Out on Disability and Building Inclusive Writing Communities.”

I think we’re experiencing a new passion and increased support for the ADA movement and disability rights. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to get to discuss this and more at AWP in February 8-11, 2017. I’ll keep you posted about what day and time this panel will be held.

Here’s the full list of accepted events.

Our panel will focus on how disabled writers are often viewed as invisible. Chronic pain can be unseen from the outside. Disabled writers have typically had fewer publishing opportunities than their able-bodied peers. But we’re not invisible — we’re taking up space, writing our experiences, and submitting our work. Literary journals are featuring calls for disabled, neurodivergent, and underrepresented communities. Recently, the Deaf Poets Society was founded to feature disabled writers. Many editors of literary journals are seeking work from diverse and disabled writers. We want to showcase them and their stories. We want to see more of ourselves.

The fabulous Sheila McMullin will moderate the panel. The panelists include: Jill Khoury, Mike NorthenSheryl Rivett, and me. Sheila is the managing editor at VIDA–Women in Literary Arts; Jill is the editor of Rogue Agent; Mike is the editor-in-chief of Wordgathering; and Sheryl is the editor at ROAR Magazine.

I hope to see you at my panel and many others! Early-bird registration is open now.

awp2017panel

Upcoming panel for Western Maryland Independent Lit Festival

If you’ve ever sat in a creative writing class, you’ve probably heard the old adage: “Write what you know.” While this may or may not be good advice, what about writing where you know?

This fall, I’ll be moderating “The Geography of Writing: Writing Where We Know” panel at the 10th annual Western Maryland Independent Lit Festival. The festival occurs on October 14-16, 2016. I’ll keep you updated about what day and time this panel will be held.

Our panel will focus on how place invades our writing. The panelists and I live in the DMV area, and the city of D.C. and suburbs of Maryland and northern Virginia shape our words.

My session features the incredible Diana Bolton, the editor and founder of District Lit, Meg Eden, an incessant writer and lit mag submitter, and Kelly Ann Jacobson, an author of many books and editor of anthologies. These amazing ladies will share the importance of place in their work.

The Western Maryland Independent Lit Festival occurs every year in Frostburg, Maryland — a small town in my state I’ve never been to. I can’t wait to explore and be surrounded by other writers.

I hope you can attend the 2016 festival and our panel. See you there!

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Male White Poet

Electric Literature published an advice column in early June where a white male poet addressed his privilege head-on and asked if the time for white writers has come to an end.

“I am a white, male poet—a white, male poet who is aware of his privilege and sensitive to inequalities facing women, POC, and LGBTQ individuals. But despite this awareness and sensitivity, I am still white and still male. Sometimes I feel like the time to write from my experience has passed, that the need for poems from a white, male perspective just isn’t there anymore…”

“Sometimes I write from other perspectives via persona poems in order to understand and empathize with the so-called ‘other’; but I fear that this could be construed as yet another example of my privilege—that I am appropriating another person’s experience. Write what you know and risk denying voices whose stories are more urgent; write to learn what you don’t know and risk colonizing someone else’s story. I genuinely am troubled by this.”

The column received lots of response from the literary community, including a lengthy article in The Atlantic.