Some (What For Me Constitutes) Big News For Arthurian Things

Hello All!

Things have been humming away here at Casa Chaos. The Spring academic term concluded, our eldest child is graduating from high school later this evening, our younger child is auditioning for her dance company this afternoon, Korra the Corgi is in her second round of agility classes, DH just bought a (new to us) car, I’m currently on week 3 of 4 teaching an online summer course, and then I will be turning my attention to a minor surgery and recovery and (I sincerely hope!) a good month or so of dedicated writing and research towards several projects both academic and literary in nature. A lot has been going on, and I hope to offer a more complete update, especially on All Things Writing and Some Things Scholarly, sometime soon. Meanwhile, I did want to just share a couple of recent writing good news items:

My poem “Every Light a Threshold” was published in Haven Speculative Magazine. The Magazine’s webpage is here: https://www.havenspec.com/ and you can buy the issue with my poem in it, alongside several very good stories and other poems, here: https://ko-fi.com/s/f371bb536b

I’m deeply honored to be able to share that my poem “Riding Down a Dream,” originally published in Star*Line 44.4 last Fall (https://www.sfpoetry.com/sl/issues/starline44.4.html) has been nominated for the Dwarf Star award for short speculative poetry, and will be included in the 2022 Dwarf Star Anthology. This is a Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association award for individual speculative poems of 1–10 lines in length.You can read more about the Dwarf Star awards here: https://www.sfpoetry.com/dwarfstars.html

And finally, what for me constitutes Big News: Arthurian Things, A Collection of Poems, my first full-length book of poetry, published in 2020 by Dark Myth Publications, has been nominated for a 2022 Elgin Award by the international Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association.

The Elgin Awards, named for SFPA founder Suzette Haden Elgin, are presented annually for books published in the preceding two years in two categories, Chapbook and Book. Chapbooks are collections that contain 10-39 pages of poetry and books contain 40 or more pages of poetry. E-books are eligible, as well as print. Only members can nominate books, and they may not nominate their own books. This year’s Elgin Awards Chair is Jordan Hirsch. you can read about Jordan and her work here: https://jordanrhirsch.wordpress.com/

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association was established in 1978 and has an international membership representing over 19 nations and cultures including United States, Italy, Canada, Brazil, United Kingdom, Ireland, Romania, Poland, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, Israel, South Africa, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, the Hmong, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association publishes two journals: Star*Line and Eye to the Telescope. It oversees three major literary awards for poetry: The Rhyslings, the Dwarf Stars, and the Elgin Awards.

I have to admit I am absolutely thrilled that my work has been nominated for two of the three SFPA awards this year, especially as I’ve read so many of my co-nominees in both categories, and they are extraordinary!

Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems, by Melissa Ridley Elmes, illustrations and cover design by Anna Elmes, published by Dark Myth Publications, 2020

Here, I want to take a moment to give a major (unsolicited) shout-out and plug to my publisher, David K. Montoya, and his publishing company, Dark Myth Publications. This is a small, independent press that has been doing some great work in speculative literary and genre publishing for many years “under the radar” as it were. I’ve now published both Arthurian Things and a short story, “Dr. Watson and the Werewolf,” in their Full Moon and Howlin’ werewolf anthology, and my experience as a writer working with David’s company has been excellent. The benefits to working with Dark Myth Publications are that Dave works to make YOUR vision of your book happen, you retain creative control start to finish, he doesn’t impose mandatory publishing fees, editing fees, or other extra expense on his writers, and the process from manuscript to product is streamlined and as hassle- and anxiety-inducing- free as he can make it. Unlike with the large traditional publishing houses, there’s no 2-3 year queue of products being released, resulting in a long wait between when your book is ready to go to press and when it does go to press. And he helps promote the book, although you do need to do your share of that as well.

So, for writers in speculative genres (fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, etc.) who have a strong command of editing and proofreading their own manuscripts, are comfortable promoting their own work, and are leery of or not confident in self-publishing, Dark Myth Publications is a great indie press option for a traditional publishing experience. And, if you are unsure of the quality of products released by small independent presses–well, Dark Myth Publications has now produced an Elgin-award nominated book of speculative poetry, and as the author of that book, I have to say I never imagined my first book of poetry could or would be nominated for a major award in its genre. David Montoya is in the business of making writers’ dreams come true. You can learn more about Dark Myth Publications here: https://www.darkmythpublications.com/

You can check out the other books they’ve published here: https://www.mythmart.com/

And you can purchase Arthurian Things here: https://www.mythmart.com/product-page/arthurian-things-a-collection-of-poems

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A Professional Milestone

Six years ago to the day, I became the first person in my family to earn a PhD, (alongside my Academic Wonder Twin Matt Carter, First of His Name. ❤ )

This week, I received notification that my bid for promotion-in-rank was approved, and I am now Associate Professor of English.

To put this in context for those not well-versed with academia, 1.2% of the population of the United States earns a PhD. Between 10-30% of people who earn a PhD go on to obtain a full-time faculty position. Assistant Professors are promoted to Associate at a rate of between 10-50%, and (in 2007) 22% of full-time faculty were at the Associate level. Within these levels, women make up 50% of Assistant Professors and 45% of Associate Professors (in 2020). So, to put it mildly, the odds are really never in your favor. Getting to Associate in a full-time position is a true gauntlet run.

My university doesn’t have a tenure system so it’s still annual contracts going forward, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach, research, write, and publish in a full-time faculty appointment, I’m grateful for the visible signal of respect for my professional accomplishments that comes with this title change, and especially, I’m grateful for the wonderful colleagues I get to work alongside and who wrote letters of support on my behalf. And I’m looking forward to figuring out the shape of this next stage in my career.

In the face of the huge and terrifying shifts in women’s agency and autonomy and breakdown in trust in our governing and legislating bodies that we are staring down in this nation, this event seems such a small thing in comparison. But it is, personally and professionally, a very large thing for me.

Thanks to everyone who had a hand in it. No one ever gets to this point alone.

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A Brace of (Virtual) Presentations This Week: Celtic Studies and Poetry!

Hello there! Just a quick pitch for two upcoming events this week in which I am delighted to be participating:

First, on Tuesday, April 19, from 3-4 p.m. CST, a roundtable on “Teaching Celtic Languages Without a Celtic Program” sponsored by the Celtic Studies Association of North America and featuring Georgia Henley (St Anselm College), Joey McMullen (Indiana University), Joshua Pontillo (Indiana University), Sebastian Rider-Bezerra (SUNY New Paltz) and Joshua Byron Smith (University of Arkansas), (and me).

And second, on Friday, April 22 at 6 p.m. CST, a virtual poetry reading organized by Alix Pham and sponsored by the Will and Ariel Durant Branch Library to celebrate National Poetry Month:

You can register for the event for free here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/national-poetry-month-series-i-am-america-registration-300920209447?aff=ebdsoporgprofile&fbclid=IwAR3b5K4glhM3ibMsBDynpwvchTymyb3_VHjANO-8Wu_igX3FciMgIK5LVeg

I hope you are able to join us if these events interest you!

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A few brief updates: teaching, publications, a reading, and a corgi in the snow!

Hello All! January was one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it months. We’re back in session for the spring term, and I’m teaching some of my favorite things–History of the English Language, the Medieval Literature seminar, the senior capstone in English, and a new general education seminar, “Viking lit” that features the Old Norse Icelandic sagas and eddas. Since my “Viking lit” class is a new prep, this has meant a lot of extra work (good work! The kind I got into this business for in the first place!): reading, prepping lecture notes, finding resources and developing new activities for my students to help them engage with these texts and understand something of their historical and cultural contexts. And of course while the other classes are all repeats in my course rotation, I still spend a not-inconsiderable amount of time revising and updating them. I am sure there are people out there who are faster and more efficient at course prep than I am, but I enjoy it too much to race through it (and anyhow, my anxiety won’t let me; I have to feel certain I’m doing the very best I can by my students for each class session planned, each assignment developed, which means a lot of thinking through possible intended and unintended outcomes before settling on any given approach or assessment tool). Of course, that also means I have, constantly, the “how can there only be 24-hours-in-a-day?!” problem. I’m probably spending about 25-30 hours weekly just reading and pulling together lecture and discussion notes across my four courses and putting together the assignments and discussion boards and quizzes in Canvas. That’s aside from actually teaching, meetings, and email (Reader, I’ll level with you: I don’t love email.) And that’s all before we start thinking about how much time it takes to assess and assign grades to things (let’s not start thinking about grading. I’ll do that later, so you don’t have to.) The upside of all of this is that my students are so clearly appreciative of my efforts on their behalf and really seem to be engaging on a personal level with the readings and subject matter and with one another in discussion, and that’s a delight. I want them to have a good experience–I mean, I always want my students to have a good experience, but it seems especially important they do now, after so many disruptions and difficulties in their academic trajectories throughout this pandemic. I want each of them to walk away with something they loved about their work this term.

While most of January has been filled with teaching, I do have a couple of new publications to share with you! My poem “Never Was a Princess Girl” (yes, the title’s a shout-out to Tori Amos!) appeared in Star*Line 45.1. I published a personal favorite of my poems, “Winter Thesaurus,” in Gyroscope Review 22.1. And S.T. Yoshi graciously accepted three of my poems, “Mukkelevi,” “Date Night,” and “Starfall,” for Spectral Realms 16, also published in January. Here is a link to Star*Line‘s webpage; here is a link to Gyroscope Review‘s webpage, and here is a link to Spectral Realms‘ webpage, for those who would like to visit these publications and have a look around.

Also, I’m thrilled to be participating in two Science Fiction/Fantasy Poetry Writers’ Association panels at Capricon 42. Together with some of my fellow poets I’ll be reading selected published and unpublished works in the first panel on Friday night, and then talking about the creative process and where we get our ideas from on Saturday night. Both sessions are virtual, and virtual registration is free, so if you’ve got some spare time on Friday or Saturday night this week and want to pop in to her some speculative poetry, you’re very welcome! Here is a link to the Capricon webpage, for those who are interested in learning more about this event.

Photo of a screenshot showing the Capricon schedule with the two sessions I am participating in listed.
My schedule for Capricon 42

Finally, it’s snowing here in our little corner of the world! Those who know me know I absolutely adore snow–in my view, there are few things in life better than a glorious several-hours tramp through the snow, followed by a giant cup of tea and a book. Utter bliss. However, this morning I learned two things about Korra, our corgi: 1. Korra Does Not Approve of mommy rubbing Musher’s Secret protective ointment on her paws; 2. Until we get out in snow up to her chest, at which point her disapproval transfers wholly to that white stuff. It looks like I will be taking that snowy hike as a solo venture this afternoon! Here is a photo for you of a cute but deeply disapproving corgi in the snow:

Photo of a red-coated corgi standing in snow up to her chest. She is shown from the side looking at the camera. She is wearing the look of corgi disapproval.
It’s a “no” from her: Korra disapproves of snow up to her chest

Happy Thursday to you all!

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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: http://entropy2.com/blogs/100words/2021/12/06/crossing-the-threshold/?fbclid=IwAR0nDkXkBdX4Ap_JTUsMoAce3Z9cDJ7ZOKN-UVShWvgApym8h3otku2nxAo

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 flavorful, colorful words 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! https://catstonebooks.com/2021/11/15/202

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: https://catstonebooks.com/about/?v=400b9db48e62

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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: https://catstonebooks.betterworld.org/donate

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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: https://ah.utdallas.edu/reunion/reunion-online/?fbclid=IwAR0p8omTHI16jRECgFr4UlkpT7NSaytCZSD0PDYmA0HCqHVfF_ceGfvR-ys

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: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-british-studies/article/abs/ceridwen-lloydmorgan-and-erich-poppe-eds-arthur-in-the-celtic-languages-the-arthurian-legend-in-celtic-literatures-and-traditions-arthurian-literature-in-the-middle-ages-9-cardiff-university-of-wales-press-2019-pp-432-10000-cloth/9D8CEA5D086F32F7806FE81F0BC32ED4

The second is at The Medieval Review, where I reviewed Patrick Sims-Williams’s The Book of Llandaf as a Historical Source: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/tmr/article/view/33494/37060

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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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