Honk honk: 2016 wrap up edition

On the whole, 2016 was a shit year with a few bright spots. Here are some of those bright spots, specifically related to writing (though I’ll write another post about all the wonderfully bright people I had the pleasure of spending time with in 2016).

  • Permafrost, a fine literary journal that published my short story “The Time I Listened to Nothing But Warren Zevon for One Year Straight,” also nominated that story for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. This is my first Pushcart nomination, and to say I am honored is an understatement. This nomination has been a huge encouragement to me and my writing, especially at a time when everything was starting to feel pointless. Thank you, Permafrost!
  • I have been writing blog posts for The Rumpus for about a year and a half now, and recently began a new blog column called This Week in Books, where I highlight a recently published book from a small or independent press. I love writing about books (what? you already knew that?!), and love indie presses, so this is a perfect fit for me. I am so grateful to The Rumpus Managing Editor Marisa Siegel for giving me this opportunity.
  • October 2016 marked the one year anniversary of becoming the lead editor for Eleventh Stack, the blog for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where I work. (Again it’s that writing about books thing…) I’m so very proud of the work all the Eleventh Stack bloggers have done over the past year, from beta-testing the library’s new website to writing phenomenal content about everything from Beyoncè to beach reads. Leading this blog is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job, and has been a phenomenal learning experience for me as an editor and writer. Hats off to LA for trusting me with this project, and always being quick with advice and wisdom.

What good things came out of your 2016?

If Donald Trump Grabbed My Pussy: A Poem

donald trump campaign flyer about how he would defeat ISIS

Donald Trump thinks I would let him grab my pussy
because he is a “star”
because he has money
because he has gotten away with this kind of abuse before.

He would be wrong.

If you think that my political views make me weak
or out of touch with reality,
Let me assure you:

I know the threat of sexual violence against me,
against all women,
Is real. Ever-present. Insidious.

But there are defenses that don’t require brute strength
Or testosterone.

If Donald Trump grabbed my pussy,

I could grab his wrist and twist it upwards.
The pain—a shock that shoots up your entire arm—
can turn a human being, even a famous rich white man,
secure in his immunity and his privilege,
into a crying, sniveling fool.

Or I could bring my heel down on his toes,
then my knee up to his groin
and my elbow down on the back of his neck
as he doubled over, involuntarily, from the agony—
His human frailty laid bare.

Or I could jab his eyes with my fingers,
rigid and sharp against soft jelly
then grab his hair and pull down
until I can kick him in the face.

Tell me, Donald Trump—
What good will all that money be,
all that fame,
when you’re on the ground,
groaning and dripping blood from your nose?

I’m not afraid of you.
If you fuck with me, I will not back down.
You cannot buy my silence, my complacency,
the right to my body.

Anyone can learn a basic wrist lock
or how to cock her hips like a gun,
throw her fist straight like a bullet.
Sisters, friends—I can show you.

I am not Wonder Woman.
I, too, feel pain.
I can’t stop knives, or fly, or even run for very long.
I can’t force men to tell the truth.
But I am not afraid to stand my ground,
and I am not alone.

We are many.
We are furious.
We demand nothing short of revolution.
We have power and strength—
even if men like Donald Trump
want us to think we have neither.

Raise your fists, sisters, friends
and bring them down hard.

Procrastination, guilt, and dread

Procrastination is weird. The more you put something off, the guiltier you feel and the more you dread it. It turns an ant hill into a mountain, every time.

And yet I still do procrastinate. Not always on purpose—sometimes I’m tired or my head hurts and my brain is fuzzy.

But that dread builds up just the same, no matter the reason something (usually writing) gets put off.

In almost every case, the dread and anxiety are worse than the thing itself. And the anxiety-induced migraine is much, much worse. The feeling of relief that comes from writing a chapter in my novel after not writing a word for a week is immense.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

But the whole cycle of dread-anxiety-relief is avoidable if only I could just do it. And I often wonder, “Why can’t I just do it? Why put myself through this, over and over again?”

Of course, part of the problem are the incredibly high expectations I set for myself, which basically amount to: DO ALL THE THINGS ALL THE TIME. Intellectually I recognize this is not possible, and I’m getting better at not equating the quantity of things I do with the quality of things I do.

Comparing myself to what others are doing is another culprit of my procrastination. I can’t possibly live up to what Person A did, so why even bother? Sometimes it absolutely is a competition, but most of the time, it’s really not, so comparing myself to others just causes unnecessary anxiety.

When I procrastinate, I often do “productive” things like search for freelance jobs or look on Craigslist for cheap garden stuff (you don’t even know how many free bricks I need to build my new patio!) or scroll endlessly through social media to find tweets by authors I love that I can respond to (networking, am I right?). Sometimes I even clean my house!

All these things are great and even necessary, but when I start doing them too much (read: all the time), I know it’s a sign I need to close Tumblr, put away the mop, and Do The Work.

Most of the time, The Work is writing. Sometimes it’s a freelance assignment or book review, sometimes it’s homework (or will be in a few weeks). It might even be making a doctor’s appointment—I am the worst at this (seriously, I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for over a decade and only this summer did I find a primary care doctor).

I try to pay attention when I start doing any of these activities, like when I get to the fourth page of “free” stuff on Craigslist, I ask myself, “Okay, what am I avoiding right now?” The answer is almost always readily apparent.

The solution, of course, is stop looking for free bricks, take a deep breath, and start The Work.