The literary world is not insulated from the world outside. Recently, #metoo was used on Sherman Alexie, an author many of us at The Poetics Project are familiar with; in fact, Melanie Nichole Figueroa once met him at a conference when she was attending publishing school. Conversations around #metoo, Alexie, and harassment in general are difficult – especially for women …
A new year means a new us, right? Except that, well, even we can’t help but miss a deadline every now and again. But don’t worry – we didn’t forget you, our readers. While we didn’t get you anything in December, we did get write three Story Shots for your enjoyment around the theme of presents. It’s really our belated …
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 …
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 shorts below were written by some of our contributors for the month of June, which, as we know, is typically a month associated with gloom. But rather than focus on April showers and May flowers—the weather and nature that springs up this time of year—our contributors focused on the way gloom has seeped into their own lives. The story …
J.K. Rowling said, over a Twitter interview, that Harry Potter was rejected “loads” before it was accepted by a publisher. And, after that story was published, J.K. Rowling not only became one of the most popular authors of her time, but one of the wealthiest as well. What’s the moral of this story? We all get rejected, but it’s what we do with our rejections that makes us who we are.
No one likes rejection letters.
You know the ones: “Your work was one among many excellent submissions, unfortunately…”
However, have you ever been on the other side of the editing table? If you have, you know the task of an editor is arduous and exhausting. And maybe somewhere along the hundredth rejection you decide on, you start to forget that these are writers your dealing with behind the blind submission numbers.
My mistake during this process was using my position as an editor for a literary journal to my own advantage: getting to listen in on the discussion process about my piece. I submitted my own work, which I knew would not be sent to me or my group of editors, but would be sent to another group I worked with for consideration.
Once blinded and given a number, it was handed out. I decided to find my submission’s number and locate the group it was assigned to.
I sat close to them as I eavesdropped on their deliberation, but this did not last long.
“So what did we think?”
“Mediocre at best.”
Suddenly, the passive rejection letter didn’t sound so bad.
– Nicole Neitzke
“Everybody gets rejected straight out of their bachelor’s degree,” Professor Powers, soon to be Dr. Powers, said.
I got the first rejection January 31st, 2015. It was from USC – the school I had been able to visit and speak with professors at. I didn’t take that as a great sign.
I was applying for my Ph.D. in Early Modern English, with an emphasis in critical theory, namely performance theory, and digital humanities.
I was applying so I could one day teach and share my enthusiasm for Shakespeare.
“If you want to teach Shakespeare,” my friend and former professor yet again continued offering much needed insight and advice, “you’re going to have to do lit. If you do rhetoric they won’t ever let you teach literature, especially not Shakespeare.”
Other rejections soon followed. On February 6th, 2015, UCLA rejected my graduate application. Ten days later, Cornell sent a rejection. Three days after that, UC Santa Barbra rejected me as well. UC Santa Barbara had a professor there that had, kindly, sent her regrets at my rejection.
“In my graduate program at the University of Iowa, only one student of the thirty was straight out of their undergraduate degree. Only myself and one other student of the thirty were two years out. It’s really competitive. They want to know you’re a serious student. They don’t want to waste their time on English majors who are just continuing school because they don’t know what else to do,” Professor Powers continued.
UC Santa Cruz rejected me February 27th and the University of Pennsylvania rejected me March 10th. I was getting numb to the rejections by now. My last hope was UC Davis.
Love is an interesting concept. I’m not sure I quiet grasp it – especially romantic love. All of a sudden, we stop being a “me” and we start being a “we.” What’s one is the other’s. Thoughts and feelings and decisions and plans start becoming a topic of discussion rather than a choice you just make. Love is about union. About sharing. About belonging to one another. But is it ever really possibly to posses another person? Little chalky candy hearts proclaim it is – “BE MINE!” they shout as loud as any candy has ever shouted. “Be Mine” is the theme of the holiday, and the theme of our stories.
Dollar store chocolates. On sale dollar store chocolates. We put on a movie.
“Raspberry. Eww. Do you want it?”
“No. Want my coconut?”
“I guess. What’s this one?” She points at a dark round one.
“I don’t know, I haven’t tried it yet.” I take a bite. “It’s gross too.”
“If I ever get a boyfriend, he’s going to buy me expensive chocolates. And teddy bears. I want roses, too. He’s going to be so romantic.”
“Okay.” She has this idealized version of a man that doesn’t exist. She always spouts off this long fictional list of what her one-day, long-awaited boyfriend will have.
He’ll be emo.
He’ll be rich.
He’ll hate his parents, like she does.
He’ll give creamy kisses.
He’ll want to marry her right away.
He’ll take care of her.
He’ll be a little nutty.
He’ll teach her how to drive.
He’ll wear eyeliner.
He’ll listen to Green Day.
No, now he’ll listen to Fall Out Boy.
He’ll be sweet.
He’ll be romantic.
He’ll take charge.
He’ll be dark.
He’ll always text her back.
He’ll visit her at work with surprise lunches.
He’ll get her flowers to brighten her day.
He’ll pick her up from school when she gets out of class early and won’t make her wait.
He’ll want 2.5 kids.
He’ll worship capitalism.
He’ll be milky and smooth.
He’ll spoil her.
He’ll love her.
He’ll understand her every need.
He’ll be a little crunchy.
He’ll melt in her hand.
He’ll watch all of her reality T.V. shows.
He’ll tell her she’s perfect.
She wants all of these things in one person. She is unforgiving. She is unrelenting. She insists he will be hers. This mythical creature is both beautiful and horrible. No man can live up to this image. But what do I know? Whenever I doubt her monstrosity of man, this is the question I’m greeted with.
Her list grows every year. She’s 20. She’s my sister. Right now she doesn’t have him, she only has me. So we get dollar store chocolates and we watch movies and I listen and I don’t agree. I just nod my head and try another chocolate.
“This one is toffee. It’s crunchy. It’s good.”
– Amanda Riggle
She kneaded my abdomen. “How long have you been experiencing pain?” I was clay.
“A few weeks.”
She peeled off her gloves like fruit rinds, all elbows and moles.
“How often? After meals? After exercising?”
“Most mornings. I usually feel nauseous riding the bus to campus.”
Her face changed, as if she recognized the word in Hangman, gaps in its teeth. “Is there a possibility you’re pregnant?”
The exam room leaped to life, pulsing and yellow. “That I’m what?” But I didn’t want her to say it again. “No.”
“Are you sexually active?”
“Well, yes.” My heart sprinted. “But we practice safe sex.” Dirty and safe.
“Let’s do a pregnancy test. I’ll put in a lab order.” She sat in front of the computer.
I was levitating, suspended in midair.
I have a very negative view of resolutions. I see them as promises we make ourselves that never work out. We make these promises because of cultural pressures to be better, or different, or new, but really, we are what we are, aren’t we? And if we want to change, a resolution isn’t going to be the motivating factor that does it. This is just my personal perspective, though. Our writer’s have other opinions.
It was the end of a particular nasty year, crammed with failure, transition, and plain bad luck. If I ever needed a year of salvation, this shiny 2011 was it. Farewell procrastination and debt—welcome gym and flossing! Tonight was my conversion to the real new Missy. I celebrated by buying another goldfish.
I have an affection for goldfish despite their lidless eyes, floating strings, and general refusal to stay alive. My room was never complete without that shimmering drop of gold. Each unlucky fish, however, became the next white belly tossed about by the bubbles from my air filter within two weeks. The day I flounced home with Ivan floating grumpily in his bag, I was resolute: This one was staying alive, damnit.
When two weeks came and went, my future with Ivan seemed promising. Although he wobbled his fat body away from my every friendly gesture and seemed bored as hell, Ivan was healthy. I fed him, cleaned his tank, and infused his water with oxygen and the best of intentions. Then one day before the three-week mark, my fish was suddenly a chunk of orange floating upside down, his magnificent fantail wilted.
I accepted defeat. I sanitized my one-fish-tank for good, zip-locked the purple rocks, bid all my wasted fish names goodbye, and locked the mess in the attic, weary. I had wanted to check each goal from my list; I had wanted to enjoy a happy life with Ivan; I had wanted to be a proud, accomplished, content version of myself. Trust a goldfish to put you in your place.
I don’t know why I saved that fish gear. Maybe I’m just secretly afraid I will never try again and this time succeed.
– Missy Lacock
She was just a girl in my class in summer school. I guess we were friends. I didn’t really like her all that much, but she was dating one of my friends from school so I had always been nice to her.
She was at my house. We didn’t have any plans. It was a slumber party with just two people. It was December 31st, 1999. Y2K was the great fear of the day, and we spent the night listening to rock music on KROQ and DJ’s crack jokes about the end of the digital world.
We were 16 years old and in my parent’s house, so there was no alcohol to speak of. We were eating chips and drinking Coke. My house had always been a Coke house, despite my personal like of Sprite and Pepsi. I wasn’t in command or control, so Coke it was.
“Sean isn’t very big,” she started to comment. Sean was my friend. I really didn’t want to hear about his dick size.
“Did you want to watch a movie or something?” I awkwardly tried to change the subject.
“And he’s about this thick,” she continued, holding up two of her small fingers.
Part 3 of The Hobbit trilogy has finally come and practically gone, and I have to admit, I didn’t go and see it.
I’m a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, I’ve read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, his translation of Beowulf, and some of his criticisms, but I just didn’t have a strong desire to watch The Hobbit‘s final installment.
While I’m not one that hates movie adaptations if they aren’t 100% true to the book, I feel that The Hobbit films suffered from overindulgence, or, that is to say, the movies really became more about Peter Jackson’s vision than the story itself.
I did see Part 1 and Part 2 of the trilogy, and I was underwhelmed. While the visual effects were fun, the story relied far too heavily on them and, at times, felt extremely long and drawn out for no other reason than to add more digital effects.
Missy Lacock, fellow writer in this blog, is more forgiving than I am of the adaptation of The Hobbit into three movies:
Choosing is never an easy task. For this month’s Story Shots, our short nonfiction series, we asked our writers to think about choice.
Choice isn’t picking the better option, for all options in a choice have equal value to the chooser at the time the decision is being made. Choice is a struggle. Choice is regret. Choice is convincing yourself that you didn’t make a mistake or accepting that you have. Choice is about telling yourself, after you have chosen, that there really wasn’t an option to begin with. Choice is a fork in the road where both roads ahead have equal wear, but as time passes we convince ourselves and others that one road was more unique or special or different than it really was.
Here are the stories our writers told about their choices.
A spectacular demonstration of comedy and codependency:
“Are you sure?” Him.
“But you hate Taco Del Sol.” Him.
“No, I don’t.” Me.
A close call with war buddies and lovers:
My personal crisis.
His personal crisis.
A lost election.
A won election.
Two years of long distance.
The same choice every day.
A looming, breathing thing:
Friends, parading through weddings and babies and china cabinets and Easter egg hunts.
Him, brilliant and sweet and coveting the American dream.
Me, happy and alone in my tiny apartment.
– Missy Lacock
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I should stop. Netflix, you fiend, you temptress. I have three papers due this week. Three!
But I’m a good student. I deserve a break, don’t I? I work and go to school for over nine hours a day. I have graduate applications I work on when I get home. For the month of October, two of my Saturdays were dedicated to graduate testing. The rest of my Saturdays were spent studying, along with my Sundays.
On the other hand, I have to keep working. I can’t let my grades slack or I might not get into a good graduate program. I have to work hard. I don’t have a choice.
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