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By Jade Lynch-Greenberg, of Shadows in the Attic
I sign up for things. It’s what I do. It’s how I run away from life.
When I was 18 years old, I thought I was going to run away from my life as an under-motivated, overly emotional college freshman because there was—of course, what else at that age and in that mindset—a charismatic young man (who lived many, many miles away) promising me the world. It didn’t take me long for me to realize the relationship wouldn’t actually work for more reasons than there is paper on this planet on which to write them, and I stayed in the same Midwestern town I’d been stranded in.
My response, then, was to join five student organizations immediately. It worked. With no time to think, I couldn’t be too upset that all my planning had fallen apart. This became the template for my life—when I was unhappy, I signed up for extracurricular activities, additional jobs, and/or more classes until I had no time to think. I started entire student organizations. I took up theater. At one point, I spent at least four hours every Friday bowling, despite not even being on a league.
It’s not the same with writing. I cannot hide in my writing. My writing—my personal writing, anyway—is real and raw and holds up a mirror for the truth, even when I don’t want to see it. I run from my “real” writing by way of academic projects. I can crank out papers about topics dripping with my passion for equality, language, popular culture, and neurodiversity without allowing my “feeling brain” even the slightest glimpse in my pocket powder compact.
I love to write short stories, but it became a pursuit I could not chase whilst being a scholar and educator. Every short story is a knife thrust into my chest, skin pierced with a jagged slice made by my shaking hand. Words pour out like blood splattering the pages as I faded a bit, disconnected, shivering with shock from the loss of secrets in the form of warm, thick blood. I cannot write to entertain you—it must be real.
A creative writing professor—nearly a decade ago, now, long before I began typing up my thesis and signing away my imagination one paragraph at a time—once declared a main character so unsympathetic the audience wouldn’t care if she died. Of course, in the story, that was exactly what was happening, she was spinning a yarn of redemption from the near-miss of a bad death. And—how could it have happened any other way—the story was based on one of my own tales I’d lived to tell, just barely, two semesters prior. I didn’t tell him that. I’m not sure if he knew, I couldn’t be sure if I’d broached the subject in class with the professor in listening distance. I rewrote the story. I gave the character “depth” by pouring on fictional details and the ending for which I’d hoped in vain (and, because life is not fiction, had never actually experienced).
I’ve written since. There’ve been sprawling poems to a suitor who shared my passion for language, and floor plans for multimedia projects never built. For awhile, in tiny slices rather than swooping slashes, I started but couldn’t finish ever-so-slightly fictionalized tales of bad nights, worse mornings, and time spent waiting for the bus that never came. And, once, I gave birth to a micro-play that handcuffed together an entire theatre group resulting in my sincere promise never to deliver another such project despite its successful on-stage delivery.
A friend recently told me that every genre fiction writer’s worst nightmare is realizing he or she is actually Garth Marenghi. However, for me, my fear is much darker—it is that my days of sliding that long, pointy pen into my soul and bleeding truth onto soft, white paper are (nearly) over … that, instead, I’ll keep running toward committees, classes, and programs. I worry the memory of feeling that soft, slow release has become so glamorized and sensual the reality will never compare—or, even worse, that the chance (neigh, fear) of that is enough to keep my special pen sheathed for evermore.
By Julie Larson
Writing is about the road you take every day, not the spectacle you wish you were a part of. These ordinary moments are what you make of them and they can become a part of something bigger. It’s like fitting pieces of a puzzle together (cliché). If I can find the serious, the real, and the humor while driving through the flat, dead terrain of Indiana, then it is not inconceivable to find detail in the ordinary. Writers observe. Writers construct place with the details they compile. Places that are real, even if they are reassembled in other worlds.
Sometimes we forget why it is we live in the places we do.
It is because there are untold stories there.
By Tim Murray
Your responsibility as a human being is to clear your property of any potential poetry breeding sites in order to prevent any poetry problem areas from reoccurring.
Poets are an all too familiar nuisance. They are not only annoying, but they can be transmitters of encephalitis, malaria, and yellow fever to humans, and heartworm to pets.
You can take simple, positive steps to reduce the poetry menace right at home, since many generations of poets can breed right in your yard.
A living room full of poets lounging around in their underwear means you are be aiding the malignant spread of poetry.
Adult poets often rest all day on their asses and scour the kitchen for food items that do not take any real ability or effort to prepare and quickly devour.
Some poets lay their eggs while standing on their heads in the hall closet. Poetry eggs laid in closets hatch in just a day or two. Other poets may lay their eggs in old tires, tin cans, or such boredom-inducing objects as chapbooks and online poetry journals. These types of poetry eggs may remain unhatched for weeks or even months until they are covered with form rejection letters from unpaid poetry editors.
Together we can eliminate potential poetry breeding grounds and increase our enjoyment of life on this planet!
By Sirenna Blas
Know that Modest Mouse song “People as Places as People”? It goes: “I hardly have people that I needed to know / ‘Cause you’re the people that I wanted to know / All this scrambling around / Hunting high and then low / Looking for the face love / Or somewhere to go / I hardly have places that I need to go / ‘Cause you’re the places that I wanted to go.”
One thing that this song is about is our tendency to search everywhere else for happiness but realizing that it’s right there with/in the people we love. People are where we want to be. And it even offers this sense of permanence―with people, there is death, there is leaving, but while places do indeed change, they appear rather steadfast.
Okay, flip it. Think of places as people. Now, places come and go. They leave us and break our hearts. They’re moody, bitchy, insolent. Kind, giving, aloof. They’re peaceful lovers and loud, passionate lovers. They’re always changing, multi-dimensional, inconsistent, contradictory, but they’re ours and we belong to them, as well. And often, we can turn our backs on them just as well by going and searching for other places instead of understanding and getting to know where we are presently.
As writers, we need to get to know our places. Setting isn’t just some ornamental add-in. And the hell it’s not just an afterthought we throw into the story or poem to “spruce things up” or break up dialogue or whatever. Fuck no, please no. It’s just as important as your characters and should be treated as such.
You’re trying to tell a story and setting contributes to it. That wind that you have blowing on page three can suggest a tension or an impending event without you ever needing to outright state it. The crumbling, much-too-narrow alleyway can be representative of something your characters are facing. That old supermarket with the yellow glow inside and dirty price tags up on the shelf can incite nostalgia in both characters and readers. Essentially: details, details, for fuck’s sake, details. And not generic ones, either.
Think about what really gives the place personality. Just like writing “the girl had brown hair” is so amazingly boring and generic, stating that the buildings were tall or the weather was hot is also ineffective and gives no actual sense of the place. What’s something new you can say about the beach? Yeah, we all know there’s water and sand. How unoriginal. Locating and describing the specific will help give readers a new perspective on a familiar place, which will enhance your overall message.
But, while setting can be symbolic, it’s much more than that. Like a character, it interacts with and/or affects those around it.
Place causes characters to react in certain ways, forces them to notice certain things over others. For example, I was writing this hot mess of a road-trip story several months ago and different sections were from the points of view of four different characters. Most of the story detailed their trip to their destination, but much of the route was simply cornfields and road. I challenged myself to see the corn, the cows, the interstate laid out ahead, from each of their perspectives. How would a young woman graduating with a BA in literature see these things from her friend who dropped out of art school versus how would a young poet who worked in the steel mills feel about the scenery compared to a fellow poet?
If you’re stuck, think about what you notice, feel, think and reflect upon why? What is it about your frame of reference that permits you to have these experiences with your surroundings? What would even a slight change of perspective change the way someone views or reacts to things? All of this can allow more character development than explicitly writing something like, say, he valued the beauty of nature whereas she found it dull and would prefer to be holed up in a bar somewhere.
Furthermore, as aforementioned, place can actually interact with the characters. It can propel them forward, hold them back, ruin plans, change plans, create plans, hurt their bodies, and mend their spirits. How can the environment aid in the progression of your story? By having it “participate” or be a force in the plot, you give breath to the setting, rather than keep it static, merely scenic, which can be boring and sometimes unnecessary.
Submissions for Issue 1 of Blotterature are now closed.
Check back soon for more information. Good luck to everyone who has submitted!
–The Blot Lit team