writing

New fiction in The Conium Review

In December, I had my fiction printed in The Conium Review (volume 6) right around the time I had my nonfiction printed in the Hawai’i Review. Like I’ve said before, even though I prefer having my short pieces published online because then they’re (usually) free to read and easier to share, it still feels really cool to be in print! There’s just an added level of legitimacy to it. It also feels one step closer to putting out a book.

My story in this issue of Conium is called “Holy Water,” and it’s completely surreal. I had a lot of fun writing it. The character has my birth name, and the story begins in my high school as it’s filling up with water. She’s on a journey of sorts, and meets many interesting men along the way. If you want to get a copy of the issue, head over to The Conium Review‘s website and buy it for $12.

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writing

First published poem

jay vera summer alien mouthAlien Mouth published my poem “Schiller Woods Head” last October. PLEASE READ THE POEM BEFORE READING THIS POST.

All of my publications are exciting, but this is especially exciting because poetry isn’t my primary genre, and I feel less confident in my poetry than my prose. But, the acceptance wasn’t an accident, and I’ve had a second poetry acceptance since then. Yay!

I wrote this poem while taking the one poetry class I took as a (fiction) MFA student. As part of a class exercise in which we had to pick a place on the map and write about it, I imagined myself walking in the Schiller Woods forest preserve in Illinois and wrote based on that. I zoomed in via Google maps, then closed my eyes. I’ve never actually been to the Schiller Woods forest preserve, but I hope to one day. The map labeled an entrance “Schiller Woods Head,” and I liked the idea that only some readers would figure that out. I think most would take “head” literally, as a human head, so the title has a double meaning.

My purpose was to focus on colors and images and to play with that it’s-okay-if-people-don’t-know-exactly-what-you’re-talking-about-as-long-as-you-convey-a-feeling aspect of poetry that isn’t really there in (non-experimental) fiction and creative nonfiction. There is a literal translation to the poem, however. As someone who has migraine and fibromyalgia, I have very sensitive eyes and can be extremely photosensitive to the point where on a sunny day without sunglasses I can hardly make things out and there are just blobs of color everywhere. I imagined myself entering Schiller Woods on one of those extremely sunny days, being unable to make out everything around me but still enjoying the beauty of it, and I thought that made a nice metaphor for how I’m going through life, sort of stunned and overwhelmed but also in awe of the vastness and never-ending feeling of it.

PS, I think “real” poets don’t explain their poems, or something? But whatever, I do, and I’m a real poet now, so deal with it. :)

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creative nonfiction, writing

New essay in the Hawai’i Review

hawaii review jay vera summerMy essay, “Fibromyalgia, Me, and Doris Lee” is in the Hawai’i Review ’87. I’m excited to be getting some print publications, since most of my publications thus far have been online. I kind of like online pubs better because then I can share the link with my friends, but print publications seem to still be viewed as more prestigious, and it’s fun to hold something that feels like a book and see my work in it. Seeing my work in print gives me confidence that some day I’ll have an entire book of my own. :)

hawaii review jay vera summerYou can order a copy of the Hawai’i Review ’87 by sending a check for $10 along with an address to:

Hawai’i Review 
Hemenway 107
2445 Campus Road
Honolulu, HI 96822

For more info on the Hawai’i Review, click here.

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mfa, writing

New fiction in animal: a beast of a literary magazine

Okay, so this publication isn’t that new, but check out “The Grooming Salon,” a story I had published in animal: a beast of a literary magazine last November.

The story is fiction, but the setting details draw a lot from my past work experience as a dog groomer. An earlier (but longer and not as good) version of this story is what I used when applying to MFA programs.

I really enjoy this story and am so pleased that it found a home.

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Florida, places

Bok Tower Gardens

bok tower gardens

The only purpose of this post is plugging Bok Tower Gardens.

bok tower gardens

I forget where I heard of them, but after doing so, drove out to Lake Wales on a whim.

bok tower gardens

I also spent my actual birthday at Bok Tower Gardens last year. Alone. I was feeling like I didn’t really want to be around people, but I still wanted to do something. I sat on a bench, meditated, wrote in a notebook, and then walked around and looked at flowers. It was lovely.

bok tower gardens

Bok Tower itself is a sight to behold. The pond around it has koi fish that you can feed, too. I like feeding them, but I also worry if they can self-regulate, or if it’s possible for them to be overfed.

bok tower gardens

The tower itself houses an instrument called a carillon, which is made up a bells. You can read more about it here. It produces a lovely sound.

bok tower gardens

I overheard someone say that Bok Tower Gardens contain the most elevated spot in Florida, which I believe is the spot pictured above, where you can overlook orange orchards. Until I stood in that spot, I hadn’t realized that I hadn’t been able to “overlook” anything since moving to Florida. It is really, really flat.

bok tower gardens

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food, vegan

Introducing Bare Bones Baker!

bare bones baker

Last summer, my lovely friend Annalise threw a barbecue and made a bunch of vegan food. I was so excited, I took photos and planned to blog about it. Well, it might actually be a good thing that I procrastinated on posting about her food for months, because now she’s launched a cooking blog called Bare Bones Baker, which makes this the perfect time to hype her up!

bare bones baker

In addition to the vegan bruschetta shown in the first photo, she made a delicious vegan mac ‘n’ cheese for her barbecue last summer. I was suspicious because I hadn’t eaten much vegan “cheese” before that, but it was delicious!

bare bones baker

Finally, she made a very rich chocolate dessert that I ate too much of because I was blown away by how good it tasted. I’m really looking forward to trying out the gluten-free and dairy-free recipes Annalise comes up with for Bare Bones Baker and I hope you check it out. :)

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Florida, places, political action, society

2017 A Day Without a Woman

I participated in A Day Without A Woman earlier this year on March 8th, International Women’s Day. I initially learned about it from the Women’s March group, then read a Facebook post arguing they were co-opting it, and the International Women’s Strike organization was the real originator of the event.

As with the Women’s March itself, there were criticisms that A Day Without A Woman was an action only women with privilege could take. The concept behind the event was to show how much women do through our absence. This excludes women without jobs, and women with jobs that would fire them if they took the day off.

Although I agreed with some of the criticisms, I decided to still participate. I believe imperfect action is usually better than no action at all. I believe it’s better to try to live in line with my beliefs and attempt to change things than to accept the status quo simply because I’m too afraid to make mistakes or be criticized.

I was on an email list from the St. Petersburg, Florida Women’s March, and from that, found out about an A Day Without A Woman event on the beach. I drove out to St. Pete and stopped at a raw vegan restaurant to have dinner alone before continuing on to the beach.

day without a woman crowd

The day felt very peaceful. I switched my hours around at work that week, which means I didn’t technically “strike,” so I know my participation in A Day Without A Woman was more for me than for any external effect. Still, I’m glad I took part in it. Like other political activities I’ve participated in, it was rejuvenating and helped me feel more optimistic that the world isn’t as dire as it can feel when I’m viewing the news from behind a screen.

The crowd was joyful. I learned that a Quaker activist group organized the event. A large group of mostly women gathered in groups to spell out “RESIST” with our bodies. It surprised me that, near my letter, at least (“T”), men were organizing by telling women where to sit or stand. I’m sure they are kind, wonderful people, but isn’t that a little ironic?

day without a woman beach

I chatted with a couple people, and everyone was so happy. As with other events, it seemed different people were there for different reasons–some to protest Trump, some because of the threat to healthcare, some for immigrants’ rights, etc. I think the common thread was a desire to feel community, kindness, goodness, and caring.

If you want to read more about this event, here’s an article in Creative Loafing that I found while writing this blog post.

As I reflect on 2017 and look to 2018, I hope to participate in more events. I realize that I often feel disconnected, like I’m not part of a community. It’s time to change that.

(All photos by me except for the drone photo, which I found on the Quaker Huddle Facebook page.)

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art, Florida, places

I met Peter Max

peter max One of my highlights of 2017 was meeting pop artist Peter Max. I went on twitter one Friday night and saw that he was going to be at a gallery in Sarasota the next day, so I went for it and drove out there.

peter max

The gallery was small, and there was no cost to get in. Peter sat in a chair and had a line of about five people waiting to speak to him.

I have a large Peter Max tattoo on my upper arm, and was equal parts excited to show him and nervous that he wouldn’t like it. He’s in his 80s and a super famous artist, so I didn’t know if he’d consider a tattoo of his work a compliment or distortion.

I walked around the gallery admiring the art for a while. I couldn’t afford any of it. A guy gave out free champagne in the back of the room. I had a couple glasses.

peter max artThe other people walking around browsing the art were very friendly. A few of them noticed my tattoo and stopped me to talk about it. I was the youngest person there, save the guy giving out champagne. There were definitely hippies in the crowd, including a man with a braided beard. I overheard another person say, “He taught my yoga class this morning.” A woman came up to me, took her backpack off, then took her sweatshirt off to reveal another sweatshirt with Peter Max art on it. “This was made in the 80s!” she said.

It was a fun scene.

Before I got up my courage to stand in line to talk to Peter Max, his assistant spotted my tattoo and called me over. She was also the one who took the photos of us–I was nervous about being rude and hadn’t planned on asking for photos.

Peter said he loved my tattoo. He couldn’t stop staring at it. He asked who the tattoo artist was, and marveled at what a good job the artist had done. (Note: the tattoo artist was my high school friend Chris, who works at Maximum Tattoo in Wheeling, Illinois.)

I stuck around while Peter Max talked to a few other people. It was clear he has memory problems, but he maintained a happy, kind attitude the entire time. I kept thinking I’d like to age that way. Each new person who approached him had some sort of story of how they’d met him years ago, or how his art affected their life. My favorite was the couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. They brought in a gigantic painting, asking if he could write a note on the back. The husband teared up when he explained the painting was a wedding gift they’d bought for themselves with money they’d received at the wedding.

 

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