Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Making Mistakes?

By this point, I've had quite a bit of time to think about my life and what I've done with it--the kind of soul-searching that comes with losing your job, apartment, and insurance all at once, or maybe just the kind that comes with living in your childhood bedroom against your will. (But thanks, Mom and Dad, for not turning it into a gym or some such nonsense. I appreciate having a place to crash.)

There's good news and there's bad news. First, the bad. Because I have an anxiety disorder, it's very easy for me to fall into a spiral of shame and despair: what if the things I've done in the past have completely negated my chances for future success why am I such a horrible human who is ever going to accept me now, et cetera and so on.

BUT! There are hours, and sometimes entire days, when I think, "Fuck it. I know what I did, I know why I did it, and I stand by (almost) all of it."

I'm not trying to get all self-righteous here and claim that I'm infallible. Clearly that's a crap notion. Should I have slacked off the way I did sometimes? Absolutely not. Should I have yelled at that table full of undergrads about their racial insensitivity? No; I should have taken a more rational approach.

On the other hand, should I have committed myself to publishing an anthology with my own money when my bosses refused to discuss the project with me? Shit yeah. Four very deserving young women saw their work in print as a result, and I couldn't be happier. And should I have written that letter telling administrators that what they were doing was detrimental to the well-being of our institution? You bet your ass. 

This is the ultimate thing I've concluded: it's okay. I won't say that I'm happy about the way things turned out, because being underemployed sucks. But I can't spend my time thinking that I made mistakes any bigger than anyone else in their 20s. I certainly didn't do anything I regret so much that I want to die or alter my memory Eternal Sunshine-style.

Besides, sometimes boxes of Pop-Tarts magically appear in the kitchen now, and that NEVER happened when I lived alone.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Adventures in Rejection: Cate Hates Her Eyebrows

I am obsessed with my eyebrows.

If this is an exaggeration, it’s only a small one. I’m forever checking to see if I’ve grown a unibrow overnight; those little hairs above the bridge of my nose are such a pain to pull out, and they sprout as if from nowhere at any time they feel ready--which could be the middle of the night or the middle of the day. They’re hair; they have no sense of the spinning of the Earth or the passage of minutes and hours.

To draw an unlikely parallel, this is sometimes how it feels to wait for responses to submissions. I get the same sense of discomfort when no word whatsoever arrives from editors, and then suddenly I am ambushed by a rejection letter while I’m checking my e-mail during my lunch break. Hearing “no” for the thousandth time is like finding a dark, coarse hair smack in between your brows when you freshen your makeup mid-afternoon: it’s embarrassing, discouraging, and frustrating.

Yet we must remain vigilant about sending our work in for consideration. Even if you don’t care that your eyebrows meet in the middle, creating a swarthy bridge above your eyes, you’re going to care if your words never see the light of day. Because we’re writers, and half the point is to share our art with others, whether they have beautiful eyebrows or not.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Boomerang Girl Playlist

This may or may not turn out to be the year of the listicle for Cate Is Miles Away. I'm on a solid roll already, what with three of them in January and now this piece. But I'd like to think this one serves an actual purpose: spreading the word about my upcoming chapbook, Boomerang Girl

As of yet, we haven't started typesetting or designing because the publisher, Tiger's Eye Press, must first edit and release the latest issue of Tiger's Eye Journal, which I personally can't wait to read. But in the interest of looking toward the future, I wanted to share something with you that I made for my cover artist so he could get a feeling for what influences my work.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Boomerang Girl playlist.

There are days when I think I could live with listening to nothing but The Ghost Who Walks for the rest of my life. While "Pretty Babies" would fit into this list as well, I chose to include "Dirt" instead for the absolutely epic lines, "Here she comes; it's killing time. / Flames are burning behind her eyes." It's my go-to listen when I really want to be a badass.

2) "Lady Picture Show," Stone Temple Pilots
For many years now, STP has been my favorite band. Not a traditional choice, perhaps, but Scott Weiland's voice and Robert DeLeo's bass make me feel better when I'm down. "Lady Picture Show" fits in pretty well with some of the themes I explore in my poetry, and particularly with the Boomerang Girl pieces.

3) "Let It Will Be," Madonna
"Just watch me burn," she sings. And I want you to watch me, too.

4) "Alright," The Lucy Nation
Who among us has never felt the need to reassure ourselves, saying, "It's going to be all right?" The Lucy Nation has embodied that in this song of self-assertion and strength. Sometimes I wonder if it really is all right now, and this song helps me work through that.

5) "Bite Hard," Franz Ferdinand
I love this song so much that I decided to pull a line or two from it as an epigraph to the chapbook. Feel free to speculate about which section I chose. (The whole thing is quotable from top to bottom, so good luck.)

6) "Hot Knife," Fiona Apple
Apple knows her way around songs about relationships. From her first album to now, she's been exploring the different aspects of love, and I adore how this shows two different approaches to it: on one hand, the girl who's melting, and on the other, the one who's burning.

7) "Soul Love," David Bowie
Even if this is a slightly incomprehensible song, it's so spot-on that it doesn't matter. Bowie's voice and music transcend the sometimes wacky lyrics and makes me feel like he's singing directly to me. (How cool would it be if he was actually doing that, though?)

8) "Original Sin," Elton John
We all grew up listening to--and occasionally loving--Elton John. I'm no exception to this. For me, though, the moment I grew really attached to him was when I first listened to Songs from the West Coast start to finish. "Original Sin," in particular, crept into my brain and set up camp. It's a gorgeous love song that hearkens back to John's earlier work in the best way.

9) "In the Cold, Cold Night," White Stripes
Meg White may not be the greatest singer (or drummer) in the world, but when she does sing, I feel deeply connected to her because of the vulnerability in her voice. On an album full of standout tracks, this one is especially great and important, at least for me.

10) "Gardenia," Mandy Moore
I know people overuse this phrase, but Mandy Moore is--and always has been--criminally underrated. The whole of Wild Hope is a great album that showcases her range of musical interests and helps her shed the teen singer image with which she started. In a perfect world, everyone would know at least this track of hers, which is a little bit haunting and so relatable for women of a certain age.

11) "Simple Things Part 2," DirtyVegas
Who would have thought a Pink Floyd sample could be put to such use in a techno-acoustic hybrid tune? This is one of my all-time favorite songs, and I think that I've referenced it many times in my own work, either consciously or not.

12) "Fast As You," Dwight Yoakam
Dwight Yoakam is incredible, and he--like any good country artist--really gets the intertwined ideas of heartbreak and revenge. In this song, he says everything I'm trying to say in the final poem of Boomerang Girl, which y'all will just have to wait and read someday soon.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

All Booked Up

Living with my parents again is, occasionally, a hilarious thing. For example, several months ago, Mom wanted to rearrange their bedroom furniture so she could have easier access to the large window in the room. In the course of this turnaround, she got a little frustrated by stuff (you know--the objects you accumulate over the years). I happened to be present when she delivered a stern warning to Dad: "From this point on, you are only allowed to have one book in the bedroom at a time."

Well, this is more or less the most shocking thing you can say to a person in this house.

Given my current circumstances, two bookcases are in my bedroom, with the majority of my books packed away in cardboard boxes in the basement, which pains me greatly. In an ideal world, I would have a separate room to use as a library; alas. And because I have no night stand, books are just piled up next to the bed. As I write, there are no fewer than four volumes and two magazines that have been partly read.

Surrounding myself with books is one of the things that makes me feel better. Just being near them--their spines declaring titles proudly, their covers all colors imaginable--brings a sense of order to my life. I figure that as long as I don't veer into hoarder territory and make a book maze through which I must struggle in order to sleep, I'm in decent shape.

When I asked Mom about the one book edict before I wrote this post, she sighed and said that neither she nor Dad could stick to it. Apparently I'm not the only one in this house who enjoys the proximity.