Monday, September 30, 2013

Poetry WIN!



I could play coy and effect a kind of sophisticated nonchalance, but we all know I do subtle about as well as our current Congress compromises. So, without further ado, I shall commence with the merriment, dances, and over-loud squees:



I won, I won, I won!


I entered a poetry contest sponsored by the Poetry Society of Colorado, and I won first place. The theme was "overcoming," so I submitted a poem about standing up to and eventually leaving an abusive partner. It's one of my very, very rare rhyming poems, and to be honest, I'm not even remotely a fan of poems that rhyme. Nonetheless, and in large part because the poem fit the theme so beautifully, I submitted it. 

Below is the winning poem. You can also read it on their website if you'd prefer. 

******************

Hatchling

My cage is in your bedroom
To keep my howls in check
But bitches might begin to bite
And chickens learn to peck



You tie my apron tighter
To keep me “safe and dry”
My waist’s too thick for them cheap tricks
Its strings unwind like lies


You bend my vision downward
With heavy crowns of lead
But I stand tall, and when they fall,
They break your foot instead


You shove me in a shoebox
Stiletto heels, size four
But my bare feet are so damn fleet
They’re running out that door


You seal me in an envelope
And try to mail me home
No stamp’s enough, cuz I’m too tough
I’ve got the world to roam

Friday, September 27, 2013

Interview with the Poet, i.e., Me

As I've mentioned somewhere or other, my poetry is featured in Fat Poets Speak: Voices of the Fat Poets' Society, a poetry anthology edited by my friend and mentor, Frannie Zellman. (And yes, I am a member of the Fat Poets' Society. Tremble with envy.) This is the only poetry book evuh devoted exclusively to exploring fatness and fat pride.  

Because one is the loneliest number, we're publishing with Pearlsong Press a followup book of fat pride poetry called  -- you guessed it -- Fat Poets Speak 2: Living and Loving Fatly. It's not available yet; you'll be the first to know when it is. 

Anyway, Frannie Zellman interviewed me about fat poetry, fatspiration (is too a word!), and cats. The interview is below. May you thoroughly, fattily enjoy. :)


**********************************


1. When did you write your first poem?  When did you write your first "fat" poem?
I wrote my first real poem at the age of thirteen. It was an anti-Vietnam War sonnet. Yeah, Shakespeare twisted a little in his grave that day. As for my first explicitly fat-themed poem, I penned a freestyle one entitled “Boogeywoman” around 2000. I used it in my fat zine (so 90s!) by the same name. 
 
 
2. Which poets/Whose poetry do you like most?
I have mad love for Sylvia Plath. Her poems evoke so much feeling through her rich descriptions and her persistent messing with interiority and exteriority.  Her work inspires me to reach deep into myself – in this bloody, painful, visceral way – for ways to express and understand issues far bigger than me. Emily Dickinson also rocks my socks. Such a dry, quiet, and brilliant wit. More contemporarily, I am always moved and inspired by the luscious, fat-positive works of Susan Stinson. And finally, I love the poetry of my friend and mentor, Frannie Zellman, who somehow manages to straddle the line between lush and sparse, interior and exterior. I have so much to learn from all these verbal artists.
 
 
3. Tell us about your muse or muses :)
My muse’s name is Shi-Shi, and she’s much more interested in playing with the cats than ensuring I remain inspired. I’m enormously fond of Shi-Shi, you understand, but I do kind of wish she would spend a little more time cramming my brain with brilliant ideas. She’d rather play hide-and-seek with the kitties’ catnip toys, though, than be bothered with such petty concerns.
 
Given my muse’s more hands-off approach, I’ve developed a bunch of strategies for inspiring myself. When it comes to poetry, I will often place my hands on the keyboard and tell them they can’t stop writing, even if the words on the screen don’t make sense or, worse, are loaded with clichés. This is a great, organic method for pushing past writer’s block and birthing poems. Heck, it’s also pretty good therapy.
 
 
4. What is the most important thing for poets, especially fat poets, to remember?
Their greatest source of inspiration can come from the very body that places its fingers on the keyboard and sits its butt in the computer chair. Our bodies are wonderlands; they’re symphonies of delight. My fat body is a garden of sensory input. What more could I ask for? Living in this body, listening to the music of my thighs rubbing together, feeling gravity tug me in a way very different than someone thinner, seeing my lush body fill a mirror, I find endless sources of inspiration. I am endless sources of inspiration.
 
From an artistic perspective, it’s also wonderful to realize fatness can serve as a new lens for many of our readers. Over seven billion people occupy this planet; we hear all the time about the impossibility of new and creative art. Yes, we are bombarded with images and words about the human body. However, only particular kinds of bodies are highlighted. Right now, we celebrate – even worship – thin bodies. Art pays homage to it, magazines glorify it, novels and poetry rhapsodize about it. As fat poets, we have the opportunity to grab those images, sounds, and words and map them onto our larger bodies.  What does a fat fairy tale look like? What does fat sex feel like? How do racism, ageism, ableism, and other forms of oppression change when we place them in fat contexts? Everything becomes new when we shift the focus from thin to fat. This is both validating for people of size and educational (and interesting) for smaller persons.
 
 
5. How do your cats influence your writing?
I nominate this for best question of the year!
 
I did write one poem about my fattest cat, Sabhu. It’s called, appropriately, “Fat Cat.” Less literally, I credit my cats with a lot of my equanimity. I’m a pretty calm, happy person who enjoys communing with my body and journeying inside my mind. I find a lot of pleasure in being me. I’m quite sure my cats are largely responsible.
 
 
6.  Tell us a little about the place in which you share your poems in South Dakota.
Last spring, a student told me about a local poetry contest. I immediately entered and ended up winning. Yay! This was my introduction to the High Plains Writers’ Group, which focuses on all things literary. They recently sponsored a poetry reading, which is pretty much my idea of heaven, since I design a lot of my poetry as performance pieces. I performed three of them, two of which were explicitly fat positive. They were a hit!
 
Thank goodness for this group and for this opportunity to share my creativity. Living in South Dakota, which isn’t exactly a haven for progressive ideas, I’d probably explode all over the state if I didn’t have some way of getting my creative groove on.
 
Next stop: Poet Laureate of South Dakota!
 
 
Is this the face of someone push aroundable? Thasright!
7. What is your favorite among poems that you wrote?
I’m definitely not opposed to hierarchizing my poems, but I honestly don’t think I can choose one. I’m super fond of “Lilith,” a poem celebrating Adam’s first wife. I did a lot of research into Lilith before writing the poem; as such, it teems with symbolism. I’m also in pretty hopeless love with “Ceres,” a poem about autumn, my favorite season. I recently wrote a poem about a humiliating medical experience and recorded myself reading it. I’m honored to know it served a very political and educational purpose for a group of nursing students. Finally, I really like “Soft,” a freestyle poem that meanders everywhere, winding throughout my experiences of a fat woman, before finally reminding everyone that the softest things are often the toughest.
 
Thanks for the interview questions, Frannie!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Poetry Corner: "Stone Memories"

Stone Memories


Within rocks lie
Memories of plants, heat,
And crushing pressure that
Coaxed stone out of flexibility.

With just a pillow between us,
their cragginess becomes a mattress,
a garden of moss and ideas.
My softness can flow like water,
Carving with loving concern
Canyons into questions,
Rubble that sprinkles and roars
Like stardust.

And maybe, when evening
Soaks up afternoon,
Rocks will sigh warmly and wetly
and
Remember the scent of green.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Last Straw: A New Novella

As promised, here's information on a new release by a new author. I have a serious soft spot in my heart for new authors who use novellas to help them dip their toes into the publishing pool. 

Here are some ways to show her some love and support while increasing your chances for loot, my faithful and beloved blog readers:

1. Go get her book (it's free for the next few days).
2. Comment on this blog post for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. 
3. Visit her website or Facebook page or follow her on Twitter.

Without further ado, here's the info on this new author's new release. May we all enjoy!





~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

BLURB:  

Ally Tobin left New York after one too many bad dates, determined to rebuild a stable life and career as a private investigator in Silicon Valley. But when the man she knew as one name walks into her office with another, will her curiosity once again lead her to risk her heart?

The last thing Special Agent Jared Green needs is "security risk" stamped on the resume of his latest undercover identity. Especially by the woman his job forced him to leave in New York without any explanation. She may threaten his cover, but it's his heart on the line. 

He's good at playing a part. She's good at catching a fake. Can they trust enough to give love another chance?




EXCERPT:  

He sauntered through the door, a white, button- down shirt tucked into belted khakis. When his dark gaze found her, he stopped. Stared. Her throat dried and a rustling motion stirred in her abdomen.

“Hi. I’m Darren Ray.”

Keep your cool, she commanded herself, standing and reaching across the desk. His hand was rough.

She yanked her hand back and waved at the chair. “Please, have a seat.” He waited for her to sit before settling in the visitor’s chair. “So, Darren, according to this, you’re being considered for a programmer position in the IT department. Tell me about your background.”

A professional mask settled over his features. “As you can see on my résumé, I have several years of consulting experience.”

“Tell me something about your experience as a mechanic.” Working on his prized old Mustang had been a favorite hobby.

The corner of his mouth twitched. “What do you mean? That’s not in my résumé.”

“You don’t have the hands of a programmer. More of a mechanic.” Oh, his hands.

“Okay, you got me.” He was going to confess. This should be good. “When I’m not programming computers I’m working on my car.”

“And what were you doing in New York City?”

He reached across her desk for a piece of paper, plucked a pen from its stand and scrawled something.  When she took the note their fingers brushed. Meet me for dinner at Pico’s at 7. I’ll explain everything. Can’t talk here.



AUTHOR INFORMATION:

Nia Simone grew up on the side of a ski slope in Squaw Valley, USA. Later, while learning the craft of story writing, she worked in nonprofit and then high-tech.

The best part of working in the computer field was meeting her husband. He took up skiing and she helped him document his computer inventions! They live in "Silicon Valley" in California where their favorite thing to do is cook together for friends. Nia’s specialties are dessert and veggies while her husband’s are entrees and sourdough bread.

Their only pet at the moment is the sourdough starter, which lives in the fridge and requires bi-weekly feeding.

Nia blogs every day about travel, food, writing, books, skiing and photography at niasimoneauthor.com (where she won the Versatile Blogger Award and Inspiring Blogger Award).​

Twitter: @niasimone4

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Promotional Stuff and Us

Oh, beloved blog readers, I adore you beyond belief. I thank you for reading this blog, for commenting, and for caring enough about my thoughts and activities to keep visiting. Special
thanks to those of you who have shared my blog and Twitter info; I'm honored every time you gimme some of that sugar.

In spite of all this, I don't labor under the delusion that I'll ever be a big-time, famous writer. I'm learning the tricks of self-promotion, and I'm doing a lot of it lately, but I have three major problems when it comes to such things: 1. I hate -- no, I mean super detest -- self-promoting; 2. With the advent of self-publishing and electronic book formats, which require almost no overhead costs, I am one in a billion writers out there. We're all flooded with self-promotions and free ebooks and such every day; we're in promotional overload in this consumerist culture; and 3. I don't think I'm writing in the right genre. I'll talk more about that later, since I'm pretty sure my next book (after The Tithe) will dramatically depart from my current genre (paranormal romance). 

I wrote all this as a rather extended and angsty prelude to a topic I wanted to introduce: I have become a blog partner, a host of other authors' promotional activities. In spite of my hand-wringing over being a cog in the consumerist machinery, I do believe these authors, like me, deserve a chance to gain exposure. I don't have a large blog following, but I do have an amazing one. These authors would benefit mightily from your readership, your comments on their blogs, your kindness and support. 

Given that, in three days, I'm going to be hosting an author of a cool-sounding book. I'll host the occasional one thereafter (about once per month on average). If you comment on blog posts containing their info, you'll be entered into drawing for loot. Loot is good. We like loot. 

This marketing thing is new to me, and it feels a little scratchy, but I like to think you and I can perhaps dish out some love and support for wee, newborn authors. We're superhero givers like that. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why *Paranormal* Romance?

Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. I want to believe aliens have visited us and perhaps still live among us. I want to believe tortured vampires who barely remember the kiss of sunlight haunt the night. I want to believe astral projection is a perfectly reasonable and viable mode of travel. I want so much to believe. Unfortunately, I’m a social scientist, and I find belief in the supernatural a little hard to come by.

I grew up Pentecostal, a devout and, ahem, pretty fundamentalist sect of Protestant Christianity. Every Sunday, I heard about the dangers of demon possession, about sublime and miraculous angels, about a supreme being who knew my every thought. While it scared the pants off me, it also filled me with wonder. How rich a world we live in, with only half of it tangible!

Of course, this faith also taught me women shouldn’t wear pants or cut their hair, dancing is forbidden, and “the homosexual agenda” is a weapon aimed at your (doubtlessly straight) marriage bed. I have much respect for all practitioners of this faith, and I would never take away folks’ rights to believe as they may, but this Protestant sect and its belief systems are no longer where I care to hang my spiritual hat.
 
All of this is part of the reason why, in my early twenties, I abandoned organized religion. I’m much happier since I left all that behind, but I admit it leaves a gap in my mind where thoughts of the fantastic used to crowd. I think this is in part why I’m so fascinated with the supernatural: vampires, aliens, time travel, psychic phenomena, and various mythological creatures. It’s not only fun but deeply satisfying to imagine, and temporarily believe in, a fantastic creature or situation that supposedly explains or complicates our common definition of reality.

Most of all, the supernatural makes us rethink our relationship to the tangible world, and that’s something a social scientist can get behind.


I don’t believe, but I often wish I did.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"It's Okay - I'm Fat, Too!": Well-Meaning Dismissals

I recently read a blog article by the amazing Ragen Chastain, she of the Dances with Fat fame. She addresses a question that often arises when people like her, Frannie Zellman, writer Lauri J Owen, or I profess oneself a “fat activist,” “fat scholar,” “fat writer,” or, heck, even just “fat.”

I won’t go into her response or the politics of reclamation (or reappropriation in general) other than to say one of the first things groups do when forming and becoming politicized is to decide how to define themselves. One of the stops they make is considering what to do with the negative words used to marginalize them (all oppressed groups are verbally derided). Some groups choose to demonize the stigmatizing words, while others feel better reclaiming them. When a group reclaims the word as theirs, as a sign of solidarity rather than shame, they’re saying no one can ever use it against them again. As Ragen says, it’s “one of the ways that I tell the bullies they can’t have my lunch anymore.”

Something else she said near the end of the blog tickled me.

Often when I go to meetings with people I haven’t met I’ll say “I’ll be the short, fat, brunette.”  Very often they’ll respond “Don’t call yourself fat!”  Nobody has ever said “Don’t call yourself brunette!” 

I’ve discussed how to identify myself when meeting peeps for the first time. Her example, though, reminded me of what happens all the time when I use the term “fat” to describe myself. In fact, it happened just two short days ago as I interacted with a coworker I quite adore. She’s a short, White, and spectacularly nerdy thin woman. It went something like this:

Elle: “A student gave me a great backhanded compliment the other day. She said when she
first met me she was like, [yes, the first sentence is a quote] ‘Who the fuck does that fat chick think she is, putting on lipstick? She doesn’t have any claim on beauty. Then, you stood in front of the classroom, with all your energy and your confidence, and you redefined all that for me.’ I was pretty hurt, but mostly I was super flattered.”

Coworker: “That was the best kind of compliment. In a way, it meant more.”

Elle: [Not quite as enthusiastic about the experience, nodding halfheartedly.]

Coworker: “And, you know, being fat.” Grabbing a handful of imaginary fat on her very thin frame. “I know what that is, having had four kids and all.”

For real, what an awesomely sweet thing for her to say. In her paradigm, she was minimizing the threat of fatness by chumming with me, by pretending it applied to her, too. It touched me. It also amused the heck out of me, since that thin woman wouldn’t know a fat cell if it texted her pictures of itself vacationing in Trinidad. Not that she doesn’t have any claim to beauty. (Oh, snap!) She just isn’t fat, no matter how much she wants to spare my feelings from the imaginary pain of this three-letter word.

I know it makes peeps feel awkward when I drop the word, when I open up the metaphorical trench coat and reveal what everyone knows but no one publicly acknowledges: I am a fat woman.* All that said, when I drop that particular f-bomb, I wish folks wouldn’t feel compelled to minimize the awkwardness they think I feel. It’s a tough word to let sit, but I kind of like the way it plunks with a splash into conversational waters, shattering the smoothness and rippling ever-outward. Really – no need to mitigate its effect; I like the productive possibilities of awkwardness.

My current Facebook profile pic. The "& FAT" part was
designed by Jeanette DePatie, AKA "The Fat Chick"
A lot of people feel too uncomfortable to let it go. I get it: they’re trying to make me feel validated, or perhaps the word is too toxic for them not to contain. Last time I met up with someone and used the f-word to describe me, she said something to the effect of, “No worries. I could stand to drop a few pounds, too.” That happens a lot, too. She may wish to drop pounds, and I really do feel touched that someone wants to commiserate with me about what they (erroneously) regard as a guilty confession. However, I’m disappointed that anyone would assume I want to diet. Given its 95% failure rate and the host of physical and psychological problems it introduces into dieters’ lives, I most assuredly do not want to diet.

After reading Ragen’s post, I started wondering what this kind of incongruous denial would look like mapped onto other identities. Yes, yes, I know identities can’t be compared and we shouldn’t engage in some kind of Oppression Olympics. I also know oppression on some groups goes unnoticed and unremarked till we use other, more familiar scenarios to show how ridiculous the rhetorics or ideas are. Given all that, I came up with another scenario.

Coworker 1: “I had a student say something kind of offensive and flattering all at once. She said when she first met me, she thought, ‘What the fuck does that lesbian think she’s doing, putting on lipstick? She has no right to that kind of heterofeminine brand of beauty. But then I saw you teach, and you’re so full of confidence and passion, it made me redefine what “beautiful” means.’”

Coworker 2: “That was the best kind of compliment. In a way, it meant more.”

Coworker 1: [nodding]

Coworker 2: “As for the gay thing, yeah, I mean, I totally know about that. I kissed a girl once. Okay, I was drunk and it was in college, but still, I have known the gay.”

Coworker 2 is being super sweet, rooting through her memory for that single thread she can wind between her experiences and Coworker 1’s. It’s very loving, very kind. It’s also not entirely, well, helpful. Dipping your toe in the waters of fatness or queerness isn’t exactly the same as living in a culture where your membership in these groups calls your morality and personhood into question. It’s the teensiest bit like a White person saying, “Yes, I know the sting of racism, for once, I got a very dark tan and was mistaken for a Latina.”

People usually mean well, and I honor that. I also think it’s important to provide a space for folks who experience discrimination to define their own experiences. So, with much kindness and respect, I told my coworker I actually identify as fat and consider myself a fat studies scholar. As for my student, I’m still ambivalent about her proclamation, but as I mentioned, I’m choosing to regard this as a win for fatkind.


* You may be fat, too, or you may not. You may even choose to define yourself using other adjectives than “fat” or “thin.” You, like me, have the right to define yourself. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Thrilling Unveiling of My New Website

Because it’s 3:30 am and I’m a tired monkey, this will be the briefest blog post I’ll ever write. Think of it as blog minimalism. Yeah, I’m artsy like that.

Anyway, I just renewed my web domain and revamped my website. I have zero web design skills, but I can click and drag. The result? An extremely basic, but still kind of cool, website. Like this blog post, it’s artsy minimalist.

If you’re free, I urge you to go take a gander. Have fun exploring!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Poetry Corner: "Diet Talk Blues"

I could be constructing PowerPoint slideshows for my Race and Ethnic Relations class... or I could be slapping together some videos of me performing my poetry. Guess which won out. 

Anyway, below is a video of me performing "Diet Talk Blues." The written version is below. I welcome all thoughts. 





The Diet Talk Blues

Come closer.
I have a secret,
A little chunk of my soul
I severed and packaged just for you:
See,
I don’t give a shit about your Weight Watchers™.
Couldn’t care less about Jenny Craig™.
Your thinspiration? Caloric restriction?
Decision not to eat biscuits
for the past seventeen years?
Your heroic escape from dieting
and rebirth into a
“lifestyle change”?
Yeah. Don’t care.
Couldn’t pay me to care less
(and that’s saying a lot,
because I’m criminally cheap).

I don’t know if anyone’s ever
sat you down
and explained this.
I’m a teacher, so I guess I’m elected.
You know, as Southern women say,
“bless your heart,”
but nobody cares about your diet,
your decision to eat, breathe, live
deprivation.
How do I put this?
We really wish you’d learn
the fine art of taciturnity,
otherwise known as
“shutting your pie hole.”
Bless your heart.

Think about it.
“I just lost twenty-seven pounds
and can get back into
those old college slacks!”
Blech.
For everyone who buys –
literally and spiritually --
into diet culture,
into remodeling bodies like ’57 Chevies,
your words chafe. They hurt.
They scrape and scour and grate.
Their body scars tear asunder,
they bleed shame and anger --
and, who knows, maybe jealousy.
You know those skinny slacks?
Yeah.
Metaphorical blood stains, too,
and you can never get that out.

Those people who hate diet culture?
Who know how this institution --
this deadly, expensive, shaming, divisive, unhealthy institution --
mows down bodies and expectations,
chews them into an astroturf mulch
that rots without fertilizing,
know it and, ahem,
write poems about
its 95% failure rate?
We’re bored.
I mean, you’re great and all,
but we’d really prefer to talk about
global warming, Dr. Who, and
the buttery softness of warm biscuits.

And fat people.
Imagine what we hear:
You’d rather deprive yourself,
starve yourself,
jog in place on expensive machinery
till your face burns
and your muscles weep,
annoy people with tales of Weight Watchers™
than look like us.
Like me.

Speaking of me, I like me.
I love this body
that rumbles through space,
that bends time like a stole –
faux fur, of course –
around this vastness,
that tramples weeds and fake grass
beneath tough, bare, fat feet.
Why would I want to change this,
my body?
Why would I want to hear about you
changing yours?
I mean, minus the Weight Watchers™ thing,
I kind of like you.

Someday, if you want,
You’re welcome to hitch a ride
on the ol’ body love bandwagon.
I thought about saying,
“Join me -- there are biscuits,”
But you know what?
Not every body love warrior
likes biscuits,
fantastic as that may sound.
The only thing we have in common
is freedom,
freedom from the body hate dictate.
But freedom is still pretty nice
and I have to say,
it tastes a lot better than
frozen, prepackaged, carefully weighed and precounted
diet food.


The Tithe: The Back Blurb

Did I mention, dear readers, that I finally finished writing The Tithe? Pause for wild rejoicing. Yep, sometime last week I finished that sucker up at like 92K words. I have to say, I miss writing this novel; I'm actually grieving its loss. It's a weird writer thing. 

Now, I need to revise it twice -- once in-text and once printed out -- before sending it to my editor. Cross your fingers about that final part, since this novel is very different than any of the others I've written. In fact, it isn't until the latter half that romance becomes a major part of the story. I'm hoping, though, that my liberal piece de resistance can find a happy home at Soul Mate Publishing, since I like them so much. 

I decided to write The Tithe's back blurb, both because my editor demands one upon submission and because marketing can never start too early (grumble, grumble). Without further ado, here's the novel's back blurb. I welcome feedback.



“Every seven years, seven persons from each of the ten towns must go into the desert, where they will enter into the realm of Elovah, their God.” 
No one knows exactly what happens to these seventy Tithes, but everyone knows who:  the “unworkables,” those with differing physical and mental capacities. Joshua Barstow, raised for twenty years among her town’s holy women, is one of these seventy Tithes. She is joined by the effervescent Lynna, the scholarly Avery, and the amoral Blue, a man who has spent most of his life in total solitude.
 
Each night, an angel swoops down to take one of their numbers. Each night, that is, except the first, when the angel touches Josh… and leaves her. What is so special about Josh? She doesn’t feel special; she feels like a woman trying to survive while learning what it means to know friendship, joy, and maybe, maybe love.
 
How funny that she had to die to find reasons to live.