Tag Archives: Amanda Riggle

When Can You Call Yourself a Writer?

This is a concept I personally struggle with. I’ve been writing poetry for years, had my first poem published in 2013, and have had multiple piecing of writing published since. I’ve been a writer on this blog, as well as the managing editor, since its inception in 2012. I’ve been published in The Socialist before being asked to join the editorial board and becoming the managing editor for my political party’s magazine as well.

But when people ask me what I do, these are projects of passion in my mind. I don’t call myself a writer. Instead, I say I work at Cal Poly or that I’m a student. I say that poetry, writing, and editing are all hobbies.

I do them, I’m good at them, but because I’m not paid to do them, I don’t see myself as a writer first. I think part of my reluctance to call myself a writer does have to do with capitalistic ideals—you are your job, not your hobbies. When people ask what you do, after all, they want to assess your income and living.

That’s how it was when I was growing up. That’s how it was in movies. But times have changed, and I think my idea of when to call myself a writer should change too.

Story Shots: Fall

The fall is a time of leaves changing colors, weather cooling down, harvest, pumpkin festivals, people going back to school, and so much more. Story Shots, our creative nonfiction series, has taken on this theme in our latest installment. Below we have four fall-themed pieces from different writers for your pleasure.


A List: We fall…

into bed.
and asleep.

in and out
of love.
into another’s arms.
in and out
of bad habits.
apart, and
together.

into debt.
onto hard times.
into a deep depression,
and on our knees.

down the rabbit hole,
like fall leaves;
ashes, ashes,
we all fall down.

– Nicole Embrey


As a child, I mainly remember triangle sandwiches at bible camp, but I also remember believing in the God of Israel as much as I believed the sun would come up each day. I was raised by a Christian, single mother and attended those camps at my grandma’s church every summer in an old logging town pared into mountains as green and buckled as elephant apples. The fundamentalist church preached a tough no-sin doctrine, and I pled for salvation at camp the summer before I turned fourteen, old enough to engage with an ancient text about God’s chosen people and a certain Israeli.

I entered the Bush administration wild with purpose. My love affair with Israel had begun.

400 Years After Shakespeare’s Death

The Cobbe Portrait, William Shakespeare

On April 23rd, 1616, it is believed that William Shakespeare passed away. While we don’t have records of his death, we do have records of his funeral which occurred two days later on April 25th, 1616.

At the age of 52, Shakespeare left behind a body of work that has captivated pop culture and has been the favored subject of academia (think of your high school literature classes) for the past 400 years. Shakespeare’s works have lead to an unparalleled phenomenon across cultures and well past his time.

This blog has continually looked for Shakespeare from searching for Shakespeare in bookstores in Taipei, Taiwan to visiting a bookstore with his namesake in Berkeley, California. Speaking of books, we’ve reviewed the Star Wars Shakespeare-style books, have shared our own stories about Shakespeare, and have made so many freaking posts about Shakespeare loot it’s kinda ridiculous.

Poems for National Poetry Month

April is my favorite time of year. Not for the showers (although, rain’s nice), nor for the beginning of spring; rather, April is my favorite time of the year because it’s officially National Poetry Month and that means I get to spam everyone I know on Facebook with poems everyday, and sometimes twice a day, for a whole month. It’s also the month of William Shakespeare’s birth and death, so I like to pay special attention to his sonnets and poems, as well as poetry that celebrates his work, during my favorite time of the year.

It’s really an English degree holder’s dream.

I want to share poetry with everyone this time of the year, and you are not immune. Here’s a poetry month starter kit of poetry for you to share with your friends, or to just read an enjoy, during my favorite month of the year.

Politics and Poetry: John Milton

John Milton lived during the Restoration period (1600-1798), also known as the Age of Enlightenment which occurred just after the Renaissance (1485-1660), in England and was one of the most celebrated poets of the era.

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Is it weird that I really dig John Milton’s hair?

It was Milton’s goal to not just be a poet, but to be a great poet. He achieved this by hiring tutors to continue his education after his schooling had finished. In addition to studying hard to be a poet, Milton wrote and he wrote a lot. John Milton was a prolific poet, creating an extensive body of work from sonnets to a twelve book-spanning epic poem.

What Milton is probably most recognized for is that twelve book epic poem, better known as Paradise Lost. This epic poem recounts the fall of man from the Christian bible from the perspective of none other than Satan himself.

Busy? Break Your Writing Projects Into Small Chunks

I have a confession: this blog has been going strong for 3+ years and lately, because the other editor (Mel) and I have been really, really busy, we haven’t been posting nearly as often as we used to.

That’s because writing takes time, and with her new gig as a publisher (everyone say CONGRATULATIONS to her, by the way) and my 5-6 academic jobs (and I’m not exaggerating there!), we’re fairly low on time between the two of us.

Time slips though my fingers like sand falls from the hourglass and - wait, I don't have time to write poetry!
Time slips though my fingers like sand falls from the hourglass and – wait, I don’t have time to write poetry!

Today I was helping a student plot out a large paper assignment and the advice I gave him is the advice I need to follow myself and that I recommend anyone without a lot of time and a penchant for writing follow: break down your writing assignment into small, digestible chunks you can finish in about a half-hour every night.

I know that sounds pretty easy, but being able to judge your own ability to get a task done isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Here are a few tips that’ll help make the process easier.

1. Planning should be sessions 1-3, at the least. Planning takes time, and sometimes people feel that if they aren’t at a keyboard typing, they aren’t getting any work done and that simply isn’t true. You’re going to need to start planning before you can really start doing anything else.

The Two Book Rule

My friend is much wiser than me. He, you see, brings at least two books with him every place he goes.

I sometimes bring a book, or my kindle, but sometimes I forget and I’ll just leave the house with myself, my keys, my wallet, and my cellphone.

Sometimes I get really, really bored.

He, on the other hand, always has two books with him to read, so he’s generally always got something to do if conversation slows down or if there’s a wait somewhere or something of the like.

The other day I asked him, out of curiosity, “friend, why do you always have two books with you? Why not just bring one?”

He gave the simplest, most elegant answer I could imagine, “Well, what would I do if I finished the first book and didn’t have the second book? Not read?”

So now, personally, I’m implementing a new rule that I’d like to share. I call it the two book rule. The rule is as follows:

Story Shots: Equality

Story_Shots

Thanks to the Supreme Court, we now have one form of equality on the books: marriage equality. But the battle for equality doesn’t stop there. While marriage is a great start, there are many battles left to fight such as racial equality, income equality, and, of course, gender equality. With that in mind, we present our creative nonfiction stories around the theme of equality.


“Amanda! You aren’t going to be happy about this.” Lorraine cried as she stood in front of my car.

“What?” I quickly opened my door to join her.

“You got a super flat tire.”

“Oh, crap. There’s like no air in that at all. How the hell did that happen?”

We were in Costa Mesa, California, 30 miles from my friend’s house, and about 50 miles from my house. We were heading to a wine tasting. After we got off of the 55 freeway, my car drove fine. We stopped at the light on 19th street and as soon as the light changed, my car started to make an awkward thumping sound.

My tire went from fine to flat in the span of a red light.

“I have AAA.” I quickly dug through my bag to find my AAA card as I sat on the curb where my friend had located herself.

While we waited, I pulled out my spare tire. I lacked a jack and a jack stand, so I couldn’t actually change my tire myself, but I could make the job easier for the roadside assistance person. I took auto shop in high school; I at least knew the basics of how to change a tire, a headlight, a taillight, windshield wipers, and, last but not least, my own oil.

In a half-hour, a guy, no older than 20, came to change my tire.

He pulled out his massive jack and a lug wrench and started to change my tire. He stopped after testing my lug nuts.

“I can’t change your tire.” He said, nervously.

“Oh, okay. Why?” I asked.

“I can call the tow truck in and have it taken to a shop for you. You need new lug nuts.” That’s all the explanation I got. “Don’t worry ladies; I’ll take care of this for you.”

The tow truck came and the first auto shop the AAA roadside assistant sent us to said they couldn’t do the work that day. I asked what work, and they simply replied that they didn’t have the parts.

The tow truck driver then took us to a tire shop, which was the first place to explain what was wrong with my car.

“It’s not your lug nuts dude; it’s the lug nut studs. The lug nuts are stripped, and that means,” he paused and I picked up his line of thought.

“That means they’ll break and I’ll have to get new ones.” I finished.

“Yeah. And we’re not an auto shop,” the tire guy continued, “so I can’t replace those parts. I don’t have the tools. I just do tires.”

It started to rain as my car was pushed towards the new tow truck. I ran out to help.

“No ma’am,” the new tow truck driver commanded, “you don’t push. I don’t want you to get wet in the rain; not in your dress.”

I didn’t listen and I continued to push my car. The rain was mild and it was, after all, my car. I wanted to get things done as soon as possible.

I was tired of polite sexism. I don’t like being told I couldn’t do something because I was a woman, or when people assumed I didn’t know something because I have tits and a vagina. I was tired of these men not telling me what was going on because I was wearing a dress. I was just tired, period.

I know the excuse is that these men were just being polite and doing their jobs, but no one should spend five hours and three tow truck rides trying to fix a flat tire, especially when no one will actually say what’s wrong with the tire, other than being flat.

I could push my car in the rain. I could push my car in the rain in a dress. If I had high heels on, I’d push my car in the rain in high heels. What I wore was not limiting; what was limiting was the way I was treated, talked down to, and ignored by men who felt I was in need of rescue.

– Amanda Riggle


So we have all heard of this fake geek girl thing, right? A girl enters a comic shop or attends a Star Wars convention or plays D&D, and immediately gets challenged by those “gatekeepers of geekdom.” The question always starts, “do you even?” I’ve been lucky enough (or perhaps intimidating enough) that I haven’t been challenged often about my geek cred. But I have run into other problems.

Three Tips to Beat Writer’s Block

It happens to us all – we’re in the middle of a piece of work and it is just inspired. Everything flows. The words fit perfectly. The idea is seamless and flows like the Nile forming an oasis in a desert of blank pages.

And then the phone rights. Or you get an email alert that snaps you out of the zone. Maybe someone knocks on the door. Whatever happens and then the zone is gone.

Writing all of a sudden becomes like pulling teeth – painful and extraordinarily uninspired. Things on the page that were once beautiful now turn to pure dung and nothing you do seems to redeem the words on the page or match the perfection of what came before.

Pictured: What it feels like to write after you’ve lost the flow.

I do advocate having a set time to write and minimizing interruptions during these writing periods, but that doesn’t mean that an inspired state of mind doesn’t help with the workflow, and when that streak is gone, it can seem impossible to begin to write again.

These three tips help me get back into the flow of writing once I’ve lost it, and hopefully they’ll help you too.

What’s in a Name?

While Juliet from Romeo and Juliet felt that names weren’t as important as character, when it comes a story, names give away a lot about the characters. While Juliet asks the following question:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

The playwright, Shakespeare, has fair Verona divided between two feuding households—making name loyalty and the power behind influential names a theme within the play itself. Indeed, it is the young lover’s last names that keep them apart and their struggle to overcome their names to be together which leads to the character’s deaths. So, Juliet, a name is a very important thing.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, named her characters carefully so that the character names reflected the personalities of the characters themselves. This may be more obvious with her characters that have Latin and Greek-based names, like Severus, Latin for stern or Sirius—a Greek name associated with the Sirius dog star Alpha Canis Major. Even the more simple names in the series, like Harry, have carefully selected meanings. Harry is an English name that means army ruler and is a diminutive form of Harold or Henry, former kings of England.

The power of names can stretch across series and authors as well. A good example of this is the name Sam. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, as well as Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels, characters named Sam share many characteristics.