Chillin’ with Jesus

Sometimes, I’ll be sitting at my computer minding my business and Jesus will walk in and demand some of my time.

I wrote a poem about that once.

Anyway, today He comes in the door and tells me good things come to those who wait, and I tell him to get off my back already.  As Chuck Palahniuk wrote in Fight Club, “You can’t teach God anything.”

So, I go to check my email and sure enough there is word from a man named Zachary telling me to forward my manuscript to him…the MS that I have had in limbo for a year now, waiting to be put into print.  I understand the mix-up…they had staff changes and, y’know, a pandemic.  The world slowed down for us all.  I am just grateful that this morning I got a little nudge in the right direction.

Jesus looks at me and says: “Get up out of the dirt.”

I intend to accomplish several things in the coming weeks, all of which are scary and foreign to me, but which need to be done to better myself and my surroundings.  Today, I am out here working on my writing, so neglected since before my surgery, when I was at my sickest, and after, when I was at my weakest.  Now, I feel better and stronger, though tentative, but happy, also.  So, I shall take strides to improve the areas of my life that I have neglected, just like my writing.

Today I am going to my preferred bookshop/cafe with Sahar, my port in the storm.  Nothing could kick off my journey towards improvement better than lunch at one of my favorite places with one of my favorite people. 

Don’t get me wrong, my inner self still fights with Jesus.

He’s all “You can do it!  You’re so strong!”  and I’m over here incredulous.  What does Jesus know?  He’s only the Son of God.

(Un)Requited

There’s a stack of papers next to me.  I just printed them off my dad’s computer, and brought them home to my little office to be sorted.  They are poems, and they will soon be a book.

I wrote about my decision to pen another chapbook a little while ago, and I am now in the sorting and final editing stage.  Poems are good to go, in my opinion, and now I just have to check for the rouge commas and such.  I also have to decide how to order them, which is an art of its own.

The thing about chapbooks is that they are small and focused.  In A Lovely Wreckage, I started out with Sick Since Sixteen, a poem about my illness that signifies the age in which my journey started.  I closed it with a poem called A Good Day, which was, conveniently, about the good days I get to experience made all the better by the bad ones.  It was a hopeful note to end the collection on.  In between, I sorted the poems so that they were evenly dispersed-in that I made sure that not too many mental health or physical health poems were grouped together, and I also tried to make it have a rhythm and flow.  Now, today, I shall be doing this for my third little baby.

My second chapbook, a mini-chap, is called Me and Jesus on a Tuesday Afternoon and will be out sometime in 2021.  That one is essentially just one long poem, so I didn’t get to do the sorting phase for that.  I realize now that is something I enjoy, putting my poems in the order I want the reader to experience them. 

Over the summer I did a mockup on PowerPoint of my illustrated kids’ book (I’m sure there’s better software to do this on, I’m just a noob.) I am unable to work on it at the moment, but am hoping to get it off the ground sometime in the new year.  However, while assembling this little presentation I realized how much I enjoy seeing creations come together.  I always have…but I’ve never really applied that to my writing.  When I worked in theater, I was always amazed at the magic that happened on opening night, but I have neglected it amongst my words.  So today, that is what I am focused on.

I’ve had a couple of people (total strangers, mind you,) comment that they enjoyed the flow of A Lovely Wreckage, and I hope I can capture that in (Un)Requited.

Yep, that there’s the name. 

I wrote the final poem yesterday.  I have known which will be first, Monster, first published at Pink Plastic House, A Tiny Journal in May 2020.  And last night, I penned the last, Scrapbooks.  Now it is time to figure out the in-between.

Then, comes the publisher hunt.  I don’t know what to do there…do I send it to my previous publisher first?  What if I’d like to try someone new, or a place I think is more suited to the subject matter?  What’s the plan of action here?

Stay turned for the answers to these and more questions, on an upcoming episode of Brigid’s blog.

Happy Monday.

The Next Verse

So, as you may know, earlier this year I released a chapbook of poetry regarding chronic and mental illness.  I like chapbooks, because usually they revolve around a topic of some sort, and I like poetry that speaks to a certain thing.  They’re smaller than your regular collection, but if you’re looking for a certain area to read about, you can find it easier.  A friend asked about a month or so ago what was the next for me on the poetry front, and I said I was composing a chap of love poems.  Not the usual “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” sort, mind you.  I don’t write like that. 

This book will actually be about love that is obsessed over, brutally mismanaged, and often unrequited. 

Then the other day, I was sitting on the couch watching the news and Hubs was playing his phone game, and I thought gee…maybe your husband might not like it if you publish a book of poetry about other dudes.  Maybe he will feel threatened, or jealous, or betrayed somehow.  “Babe, how would you feel if I published a chapbook about other men?”

“I honestly do not care.”  He didn’t even look up from his game.

After he won his round, he looked up and went on to say that he felt himself to be the winner in the situation and as such was not worried.  He didn’t really need to explain though, because when he said he didn’t care, I knew he was telling the truth.

I have been writing poems since I was fifteen years old.  I have been with Mark since I was 27.  That is over a decade of angsty poems about various guys I encountered during that time, and my husband is not so simple that he thinks I was just waiting around for him. 

Some of the poems are crap, but could be well-fixed with edits.  Some are good.  A couple even rhyme, something I used to do all the time but rarely do now, as a lot of mags won’t accept rhyming poems.  Which I think is crap…it’s harder to write a good rhyming poem than a good free verse.  But I digress…

Anyway, I’ve got all these poems about these men.  Some are wonderful dudes that I am proud to have  known and loved.  Others are not.  Now, when I edit, I try to read though once from an outsider’s perspective, as best as I can.  How would I relate to this poem were I not me?  Could I relate to it, even?  Sometimes the answer is no, and I cut it from the project.  Sometimes it’s a resounding yes.  Sometimes it’s a maybe, and I edit it to make it more adaptable.  I’ve done this with twenty poems so far.  I may be able to scrounge up a couple more, which would be nice, but that’s a decent length for a chapbook.

My first book was about chronic and mental illness.  All the poems in it were a reflection of myself at my most vulnerable.  Having succeeded in overcoming my fears regarding such things, I am ready to tackle another vulnerable side of myself, the part of me that gives permission to love.  And who on earth can’t relate to that, in some form? 

Anyway, this is just my brain working.  It’s a ways off before I send it out to folks, but I’m thinking of it today.  My next chapbook out will actually hopefully be a mini-chap though Pen & Anvil Press, but I am still waiting to hear back from them regarding editing and publication dates.  But this guy, this little book of love and hate and loss and lust, that’s what I’m working on next, poetry-wise.

But probably not until December.  Because, you know, 10 days until NaNo. 

Me and Jesus

Listen, I know everyone’s having a crap year, but I am just killing it, writer-style.

In March, I wrote a little poem.  It was for a contest for Poesia, and you had to take a line from another poem and start your poem with that line.  The other poem was Sophie Robinson’s “Art in America.”  I chose the line “Honestly, I am sick of helping Jesus count the days…”

I won the contest.

Afterwards, I was surfing though Pinterest one day looking for pins for my development board for my next project, when I saw an old quote I have always loved.  “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”   This is how I felt about my little Jesus poem.  So, I went back.  I deleted the first line so as not to be a plagiarizer, and then started writing.  And I did not stop, for 12 pages.

But what to do with something too short to be a book and too long to be a regular submission?  Ask Twitter, of course.  Mention that you have just finished a long poem about smoking a joint with Jesus, and see who bites.  And when they do, and they did, send them the poem and wait.

Then, one day, the email.  I have an uncanny ability to know when I’m getting an acceptance.  I can tell before I even open it.  I’m a little bit psychic, which makes it very difficult to surprise me.  I will admit I knew it was an acceptance before I clicked it open, I just didn’t know for what.

Me and Jesus on a Tuesday Afternoon.

That is the title of my poem, which Pen and Anvil Press will soon be offering in their chapbook catalogue.  “Delightful” and “poignant,” she called it.  I would use those words as well.

I rarely love something I write, but I loved this guy.  I wrote it for my aunt Ka, who passed away several years ago, and I hope that if she is in her heaven, she can read it and understand me as the person I am now.  I wrote it because I am a lapsed Catholic, but Jesus is still my homeboy. 

Anyhoo, I have been added to the P&A queue and am awaiting further details.  I have no other information at the moment, just the knowledge that my not-so-little poem is going somewhere special. And plenty of joy over the fact that I LIKE what I wrote.  Genuinely 100% like it. 

So rare, I tell you.

The Ghosts in the Machine

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about poetry.  As previously mentioned, I just completed a chapbook of poems about chronic illness, and I am now awaiting feedback from my trusted sources.  In the meantime, I am looking into different publishing options and considering leaving my house to go to a poetry reading.  That might not seem like anything, but trust me when I tell you it would be a big leap for me.

I have also been reading and rereading my chapbook, and I found that I have a common theme in many of my poems, and that is ghosts.  I’d like to expand on that.

There are many kinds of ghosts in my life, ranging from those I create to those that are real.  As far as real ghosts go, I have always believed in them, likely because of my imaginary community that was a little too specific for even a child’s make-believe games.  Then there was the time K saw the faceless man in my attic, and I later learned that a guy shot himself up there.  So yes, I believe in ghosts.  You may think that’s ridiculous…whatever.

But I’m not here to write about real ghosts.  Instead I am thinking of the ghosts from my poems, the ones that nip at my heels and haunt my mind.  These ghosts are much scarier than the real thing, in my opinion.  A real ghost can’t hurt you.  The ghosts in your brain can do damage.

I have bad feelings related to certain times in my life.  Once, when my grandmother died, and I found her in her last moments, and watched as my mother desperately tried to save her.  This broke my small self, and according to my psychiatrist caused my first instance of PTSD.  Later, came high school.  I loved high school as much as I hated it.  It reminds me of smoking cigarettes.  I love smoking, but I hate my addiction to it.  While high school was by no means an addiction, it is where I was at my worst, emotionally.  I was undiagnosed and unmedicated, and I was a train wreck human being.

In my twenties, I suffered another setback.  Through a series of events, I lost faith in many things I had once believed in.  My response was to act out in small ways-drinking too much, smoking weed, staying out all night.  I wanted to forget that I was in pain.  I felt like I didn’t deserve to feel my feelings.  That I couldn’t be angry, because who was I?  In the grand scheme of things, in Gods great universe that I believed in at the time, who the hell was I?

So, there’s the ghosts.  There’s the Gram ghost, the high school ghost, and the faith ghost.  Now, the Gram thing doesn’t affect me on a day to day basis anymore, which is an absolute delight.  From her death stems my anxities, however.  For instance, if I care about you, you can guarantee I’m worried about you.  So, I suppose in that way it has affected my life, but I feel like that’s a benefit more than a burden, really.  Yes, I worry about you, but that’s how I express my love.

The high school thing likes to sneak up on me.  I’ll be minding my own business, acting like a normal 36-year-old, and then something will happen or come up in conversation and I will be hurdled back twenty years.  I particularly identify this time with my budding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  I slid into my obsessions easily and frequently-sometimes it would be so bad I would actually wish I had the hand-washing kind of OCD, just so I could focus on something outside of my fantasy world.  It took a lot of time for me to come to terms with my high school experience.  I like to focus on the good things, though, when this particular ghost comes calling.  Specifically, my friends.  They were really the only good part.  Well, and the building was nice, I suppose.

Finally, there’s the ghost of mid-20s past.  This is the tricky one.  This is the one that my therapist likes to bring up every so often to blindside me with: “So Brigid, let’s talk about the year you spent questioning everything you believed in…”  This one is still a battle.  This is the ghost that features most prominently in my chapbook, though all of them reside there.

Poetry is personal, in my opinion.  You are sharing your observations and feelings, through the lens of your own perception.  When I read poetry, I do the same thing; I look at it though my own frame of context.  Sometimes, it will touch my soul, and she will scream out “Me, too!” and I will feel like I just made a new friend between the pages of a book.

I carry these ghosts around in my head, and I know I will never let them go, but that’s okay. They make up little parts of me, the parts that feel the deepest.  They are the wellsprings from which I draw my words.  My chapbook would not exist without them.  My writing would not exist.  So, I live with this haunted mind in hopes that one day someone will read my words and say, hey…me too.

Personal Triumphs

I was sitting on the sofa and thinking about what to do with my day when it occurred to me that it was Monday, which means blog day.  At first, I panicked because I didn’t have a topic, but then I realized that yesterday I hit a milestone.  I finished my chapbook.

I started thinking about this little lady around Easter, when I realized that several of my poems have to do with living with chronic illnesses.  I often write about my depression and anxiety, and have a few poems about my diabetes and gastroparesis, too.  So, I assembled all the poems I had in regards to chronic illness, wrote a few more, edited and organized them, and now I officially have a manuscript. 

I don’t know what to do with it, of course.  I have given it to my mother, Aunt Mary, and Sahar, and am looking for others to give me feedback.  Then it’s off to find a publisher, which means it’s time to take myself to school at YouTube University and figure out how one even does that.  I did a quick Google search while waiting on Mark yesterday and found one press for which my manuscript fits all the criteria, but I just missed their reading period.  This indicates to me that finding somewhere to send it might be a little trickier than finding places to send singular poems. 

For now, though, I’m unconcerned.  I’m very excited that I even finished it, as it has been some time since I have seen a project come to fruition.  The fact that it’s about the things that have held me back from my literary career only pleases me more.  It’s triumphant.

The last piece I finished was a play I wrote that, looking back, is garbage.  Yes, I have said many times that I think everything I write is garbage, and I am my own worst critic. This is so true-I tell myself things about my writing other people would never dare.  I think about that play, and often want to rewrite it, working out the kinks and changing things both big and small.  That play was written nearly ten years ago.  When I finished it, I felt great joy and relief.  That feeling returned yesterday morning, as I put the finishing touches on my manuscript. 

It was done.  I had completed something for the first time in a really long time, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased with myself.  Proud, mostly, that I was able to take something that has affected me for so long, and put it into words.  Then put those words into something someone else could read and relate to.  That’s all I want, as a writer.  For someone to read my words and see themselves.

So today I celebrate a little, because I did something I always wanted to do.  Ever since I was a kid, I have loved poetry, reading it and especially writing it.  To have my poems ready to meet the world is a beautiful thing.  What’s more…I don’t think it’s garbage, guys.  I think it’s kind of good, actually.  Which is, in it’s own way, terrifying. 

My biggest hope is publication, of course.  Still, if it doesn’t happen that way, I am proud of myself for creating something that I can share with others.  I feel like poetry takes a certain level of bravery, and this collection certainly did.  I am openly sharing my experiences with illness, and that is scary.  We, as people, don’t like to point out our weaknesses.  What we need to do is embrace them, and learn from them.  I may be sick, but I’m still strong.

That’s all for today.  I’m off to stare at my novel for a bit, as she has just moved off the backburner and into focus.  That’s a flippin’ mess, to be honest.  It’s more a large outline than a half finished novel, and it needs tons of reworking and additions.  And I’m stuck on a section right now, so that’s fun.  Hence, the staring instead of writing.  Sigh.

Happy Monday, friend.  Go do something brave.