New Year’s Thoughts

It’s already 2022 in some parts of the world; here, it is still 2021 and I’ve just heard that Betty White died, after (on my part) a long day of difficult revision work on an essay that as of midnight tonight will be overdue, following a night of terrible insomnia, and on the heels of a rejection earlier today for a piece I submitted at the beginning of the year–and if that’s not pretty much a 2021 retrospective in a nutshell, I don’t know what would be. Striving, struggling, surviving, and then being kicked in the teeth by bad news after bad news. It’s really been a hell of a year, hasn’t it? And we thought we’d seen the worst of it …

We have certainly been living in interesting times.

I don’t know about y’all, but after the past few years I am tired of living in interesting times. I would like for times to be a lot more boring in 2022. Though paradoxically, even though it’s been such a beast of a year, I wouldn’t want not to have had 2021; there’s honestly been a lot of magic alongside the mayhem.

The worst of it, of course, were the deaths of friends and colleagues. I’d hear about them via text, a Facebook post, a phone call, an email. I didn’t go to the last several conferences because of the pandemic. And now they’re gone, and I’ll never see them at a conference again. People who just sent me an email about a project we were collaborating on, or hit “like” on a photo I shared on social media, and they’ll never interact with me again, they’re now mere ghosts in my inbox, on my timeline. Zoom meetings for mutual support with my mutual friends, toasting our loved and lost ones, sharing stories about them–why didn’t we just Zoom for no reason, if in-person interactions weren’t possible and I’ve missed these people so these past few years? In 2022, I plan to do so. I don’t want to receive another notification that someone I have thought of with wistful fondness has died and I didn’t tell them I was thinking of them with wistful fondness.

The best moments, by contrast, were moments shared with loved ones both together and apart, in the same space and virtually. The appreciation I’ve learned to feel for these moments and conversations, and how much I have come to treasure time spent with others. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life as an introvert and a working mother actively carving out alone time and quiet space for thinking, writing, doing, and being, with greater or lesser success, and when the success has been lesser, with no little frustration and impatience. I am finding that the intensity with which I pursue this goal has diminished, that my efforts at an iron grip on protecting “me” time have lessened, and throughout this past year I’ve begun to understand that life has rhythms I can either rail against or lean into. I’ve come to understand that railing against it is the surest way to losing my temper and becoming angry with people whose sole crime is wanting to spend time with me, and leaning into it brings many unexpectedly wonderful moments of connection. I’ve come to understand that this means that when I am feeling especially alone and disconnected, it’s on me, it’s coming from choices I’ve made, because people I love and like who love and like me back are right there, waiting for me to make time for them. And sometimes I can’t do that, sometimes the isolation and solitude are necessary, but it doesn’t mean they’re not there. I’m not alone. That’s a precious lesson that could not come at a better time as I step from 2021 into 2022 with a full slate of projects-in-progress.

My youngest daughter was able to perform her band concert and her winter dance recital in person with my husband and eldest child and myself in attendance. My eldest child has been working on their college applications. Next year will look very different for us with one kid out of the nest and the other moving into high school. I wouldn’t want to have missed the conversations, snuggles, and activities we shared throughout 2021, simply also to miss the awful bits.

And I wrote a lot of things and published some of them in really nice venues, and I drew a lot of things, and I read and watched a lot of interesting and excellent things, and I wouldn’t want not to have done all of that throughout 2021, simply also to miss the awful bits.

And I saw some amazing and heart-stoppingly, breath-catchingly beautiful things, like this late December sunset on top of the mountain where my parents-in-law live:

I wouldn’t want to not have seen this simply to miss the awful bits, either.

And we celebrated one full year of waking up every morning to this beautiful creature’s happy face, and giving her scritches and snuggles, and going on long walks, and watching her grow in confidence and skill through all her obedience classes:

I wouldn’t want not to have had last year with Korra in it simply to miss the awful bits, either.

In reality, what 2021 has taught me most is that life is precious and fragile, that human beings are capable of the greatest self-delusions and most incredible dreams, capable of being wholly thoughtful and wholly thoughtless and wholly careful and wholly careless, and plenty in-between, besides; and that there are definitely, absolutely, terrible things and terrible people in this world, but there are also definitely, absolutely wonderful things and wonderful people. And that when we dwell more on one or the other of those ends of the spectrum, we find ourselves wearing blinders that can be very dangerous to us, personally, and to those we love. So, in 2022, I plan to make it a point to celebrate the wonderful things, and to look directly without turning away at the terrible things, and hopefully to learn to arrive at some balanced place where I can handle grief and loss better for also actively acknowledging happiness and abundance at least as much as the rest. And I’d like to notice and appreciate more the everyday ordinariness of life, and not just the extreme highs and lows. I imagine I might be inching closer to understanding the happy medium of Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time. I hope so. I’d like to.

My wish for you in 2022 is that you, too, remember you are not alone, that you are able to be kind to others and receive kindness from others in return, and that you find pleasure and satisfaction in the ordinary as well as wonder at the extraordinary. I hope 2022 is easier on all of us; and that if it isn’t, we are able to manage things well enough; and that if we can’t manage things well enough, someone will be there to help us through, and we will be there for them in return. I hope we thrive; but if we can only merely survive, then let’s do that; and if we can only just barely get out of bed and make it through the day then we’ll do that, and be proud of whatever we can be proud of and avoid as much as possible coming down too hard on ourselves for things we can’t quite manage. And I wish you 365 glorious sunrises and sunsets, and 365 days filled with people and creatures and things you love, and 365 nights full of stars to wish upon.

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Microfiction “Crossing the Threshold” up at A Story in 100 Words

Hello World, and hope you’re doing well. I’m writing to you today from the confines of what professors sometimes jokingly, sometimes despairingly call “grading jail,” that period of time between the end of the academic semester and the due date for final grades to be posted during which we are assessing and grading final projects, exams, and late assignments. It’s an interesting point in each term because it seems like that wall of things to grade is never, ever going to go away no matter how much time you devote to it, and yet you also know that sometime between start of marking and 5 p.m. the Monday after finals, it always does. There is both comfort and terror in that knowing: this grading will never get done! it has to get done! I can’t do it! I have to do it! How though? Oh, wait . . . okay, got it, last one, great. All done. It’s like a once-a-semester personal psychic roller coaster for one.

I was cheered this week as I began undertaking this important but also lonely and difficult and mentally taxing work of grading a few hundred things in the space of a few days by news that my little ghost story–and I do mean “little,” as it’s a micro-story clocking in at 100 words, exactly–has found a home. If you have five minutes or so and like ghost stories, I invite you to check out “Crossing the Threshold” at A Story in 100 Words:

While you’re there, check out some of the other tiny stories, many of which surprise and delight and make you reflect on things, as good stories do. I love the tagline for the website: “Literature in tiny bursts.” I love the image of it, as when I think of “tiny bursts” it’s usually in association with a delicious bite of something tasty, or a flash of brightness as in fireworks; the idea of tiny bursts of flavor and color in word form truly appeals to me. Delightful.

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Samuel R. Delany Fellowship shortlist

Here’s a link to the Catstone Books-sponsored inaugural Samuel R. Delany Fellowship shortlist–Take a moment to check out some of their work, & take a good look at their faces. This is the future of speculative fiction & poetry, & it is BLAZING. Could not be more excited or prouder to be working with an organization making a real difference in publishing!

And, if you are still trying to decide where to send your end-of-year charitable gifts, or you haven’t considered charitable giving but it sounds good to you, please consider investing in this nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting diversity in speculative fiction. You can read more about the Catstone Books mission and various initiatives here:

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Samuel R. Delany fellowship longlist announced!

I am so excited about this! The inaugural Samuel R. Delany fellowship for diverse voices in speculative fiction has released its longlist of candidates. From this group of outstanding emerging and early career writers, a short list of 5 will be announced, one of whom will win $10,000, a laptop, and mentoring from a NYT bestselling author towards publication of their novel project. This fellowship’s sponsoring organization Catstone Books is doing wonderful things, and I couldn’t be prouder of my former student, Joshua Demarest, for this brainchild, or more honored to be an advisory board member supporting this organization’s important sponsoring and publishing initiatives.

If you would like to contribute to Catstone Books initiatives to promote greater representation and diversity in speculative literature, you can do so here:

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“Mary’s Waking Dream” now up at Reunion: Dallas Review Online

I’m so pleased to be able to share that my short story, “Mary’s Waking Dream,” was chosen as the Reunion: Dallas Review Online October selection. You can read it here:

Hope you enjoy it!

For those who are more interested in my scholarly endeavors, never fear, I also have two reviews up: the first in Journal of British Studies 60.4, where I reviewed Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan and Erich Poppe, eds. Arthur in the Celtic Languages: The Arthurian Legend in Celtic Literatures and Traditions:

The second is at The Medieval Review, where I reviewed Patrick Sims-Williams’s The Book of Llandaf as a Historical Source:

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New work in Eye to the Telescope, In Parentheses

Hello, All,

I’m delighted to share that my poem, “The Sea Shares Her Origin Story” found a home in Eye to the Telescope 42, an issue devoted entirely to the sea and edited by Akua Lezli Hope. It’s an honor to appear in pages alongside her, Christina Sng, and other brilliant modern speculative poets. You can peruse the table of contents below, and the full issue is open access and located here.

Eye to the Telescope 42 Table of Contents

I’m also fortunate to have two poems appearing this month in In Parentheses 7.2: “On Dying” and “Reverie.” I love that these poems appear together because while both are meditations, they couldn’t be wider apart in terms of tone and style; it’s like a little snapshot of my “dark and twisty with a side of hope” core. Check out the gorgeous cover art by GJ Gillsepie below, and score a copy of the issue here.

As always, I appreciate your support and hope you enjoy these poems.

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Chipping away at dreams . . .

It’s finally official–the bio has been added to the roster, and I’m thrilled to be able to share that I am a Star*Line Magazine poet! You can read “Riding Down a Dream” in issue 44.4, available now!

This was a dream market for me, as it’s the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s official publication. They published Ursula le Guin and Jane Yolen, among others!

I’ve got a couple other things in various stages of publication at some other wonderful venues, so keep an eye out here for updates if you’re interested in reading more of my speculative poetry and fiction. I appreciate your support and encouragement while I chip away at these dreams!

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Short story published on Fox Paw Literary Blog

Hello, all, and happy weekend!

If you, like us, are enjoying a cool and rainy Saturday, and you, like me, enjoy nothing more than reading something short and not too intellectually taxing or requiring too much concentration on a cool and rainy Saturday afternoon, I invite you to pop over to the Fox Paw Literary Blog, where my short story (really, a sketch story, at just over a thousand words), “Keeping Promises,” is now published alongside the other stories shortlisted for their fiction prize. It’s the seventh story in the “fiction” column at this link:

The shortlisted creative nonfiction pieces are also posted, and poetry is coming soon. Happy reading!

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My first craft essay

Hello all!

One of the first questions people ask you as a writer is “where do you get your ideas from?” or, “How do you come up with things to write?” or, “How do you write/ what’s your writing process?” To answer these questions in terms of Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems, I wrote a craft essay discussing my thinking and theoretical process toward developing the collection, and that essay is now available in The Year’s Work in Medievalism 34 (2021):

I hope you enjoy it! And if you have any other questions about where I get my ideas from or my writing process and rituals, please feel free to ask them in the comments.

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Teaching essay: “The Chaucerian Miscellany” now available at Once and Future Classroom

I’m thrilled to share that the pedagogy article describing my Chaucerian Miscellany assignment that won the 2020 Teaching Association for Medieval Studies award is now published in Once and Future Classroom 17.1 (Spring 2021)! This assignment was designed to help my students engage with Chaucer in personally meaningful ways while also developing the skills of an English major. You can read it here.

Many thanks to all of the students who took my classes, completed this assignment, and shared their thoughts about it, and to my colleagues at various colleges and universities who used it with their classes and shared how it worked for them. The best part of the job is always when you are able to help your students really engage with what you are teaching them and I’m always glad when an assignment I designed hits the mark!

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