Thursday, April 30, 2015

That Moment When You Realize You're Home

Back in the winter, I decided one day that it was time to make one of my random pilgrimages to the Detroit Institute of Arts. This is, without a doubt, my favorite place in all of Michigan, and it was my first trip to the museum since both my move and the very, very dark days of Detroit's bankruptcy crisis (let's not even talk about it). 

Sometime in 2013, during a vacation, I was at this same museum, in the gift shop, where the cashier asked me if I was a member. I said no; living in a different state made such an extravagance unnecessary. But I said to him--and to myself--that if and when I moved back to Michigan, I would join. On 16 January 2015, I made good on that promise. 

The man at the membership desk asked if I was a resident of Wayne County, and for the first time in ten years, I could answer in the affirmative and mean it. Yes, my permanent address is in Wayne County. Yes, my mailing address is the same as my permanent. Yes, I live in Wayne County.

Later that night, after my excursion was over and I worked on this blog, all of this occurred to me in one of those weird moments that should have been earth-shaking but wasn't. Because it was the culmination of a day of being home: I'd (stupidly) made a wrong turn on the way to the museum but recovered by looping around streets I was beginning to internalize again, I'd spent time with my (imaginary) art boyfriend Vincent van Gogh's works, I'd committed to my city/county/state in a real way, and all while wrapped in my winter coat--which no longer got in my way. 

It hasn't been a perfect transition, by any means. But I'm working on it. Even as my plans continue to stall out, I'm figuring out what it means to be a Michigander and Detroiter again, and that--in and of itself--is a great accomplishment, simply because I'm no longer quite as adrift as I was a year ago today when I was laid off and the ground caved in under me. 


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Long Live the Bookstore

You know that moment when you're in a bookstore and the world seems perfect? No? Well, go away; you're clearly reading the wrong blog.

I love bookstores more than just about anything. Think about it: an entire shop dedicated to the written word. It doesn't matter if they're big or small spaces. Chains like Barnes & Noble may have a wider variety of the popular stuff, but independent booksellers are more likely to be able to direct you to a title that suits your personality and preferences because they're invested in the written word and in their customer base. Used bookstores are awesome in their own right, because they have former bestsellers at a reduced price and tons of random things you may not find in another store, either because it's a rare book or one that's out of print.

The most devastating thing I can imagine is the disappearance of the bookstore. Because it's more than just the economics of it: cut jobs, fewer publication opportunities, and so on. It's the thought that people might turn away from the written word altogether. So if you happen to give a flying whatever, visit a bookstore soon and buy something for yourself. And your friends. And your kids. And basically anyone you know. Remind them--and yourself--of the power of books and bookstores. If nothing else, it'll make you feel like Belle when she's singing to those sheep about Prince Charming, and that's a pretty great experience, am I right?


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Year of the Two

So. Shit got real this year.

In an unexpected turn of events, a publisher I'd queried (Pink.Girl.Ink. Press) contacted me in late January to inform me that yes, they would like to publish my full-length poetry manuscript, Gods in the Wilderness. It was one of those moments where I had to read the e-mail eight or nine thousand times to fully comprehend the situation. 

This is a strange feeling for me. When I moved home, everything was crap and I kind of wanted to die a little and I was convinced that I would have to give up on the things I'd worked toward my whole life. Now, I feel so lucky to be in demand (if that's what you would call it).

With the publication of Boomerang Girl right around the corner, I wanted to share this news as well; after all, about a third of the material in Gods comes from BG. My little chapbook is wonderful and I love it more than I can say, and I would have been happy with BG alone. Now, I have twice as many opportunities to reach people with my words. I hope I can live up to the things I've been given.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Things I've Considered Studying Instead of Creative Writing

Although it was, ultimately, a foregone conclusion that I would study creative writing when I went to college, I had my doubts. If we're being completely honest, I still do. But here, presented with commentary, is the list of stuff that flitted through my mind in between frantic story-crafting sessions and which continues to keep me up at night.

1) History
Last year, my father was shocked to learn that I am a "closet historian." That's his phrase, not mine; I thought my interest in history was well-documented, but it would appear not. I have a particular interest in Am Rev and the European theater of World War II, which may seem pedestrian, but considering that I'm solidly an American lit and pop culture girl, it's not at all surprising. Besides, how cool would it be to hang around Colonial Williamsburg all day or watch Disney's wartime cartoon propaganda shorts and write about them?

2) Public Relations
Nowadays, I realize that I don't enjoy being around people. Even ordering pizza over the phone makes me so nervous that I refuse to do it. Ergo, studying public relations would have been a terrible career move. Yet the idea of shaping the perceptions of the masses continues to fascinate me. This is probably an offshoot of the storytelling impulse. 

3) Sociology
After taking a soc course in high school, I thought, "This is some interesting stuff." More broad than psychology, less demanding than social work. To this day, I wonder if I should have pursued this path. My mother has assured me that I would have been unhappy, but I think I could have done something along the lines of the sociology of popular culture and been satisfied.

4) Filmmaking
Technically, what I considered studying was screenwriting, but I was interested in the entire process. There are still days when I see something so wonderful in a movie that I almost cry over having skipped film school, but the more I learn about the industry, the more confident I am that I would have been blacklisted from the outset. This is due in large part to my attitude problem. Having a producer or studio executive hovering over me would set me off something fierce, I'm sure, and--as the saying goes--I would never work in that town again.

5) Art
I can't draw for shit, in spite of the fact that my parents paid for years of art lessons. I'm not entirely convinced my lack of talent would have mattered--hell, I can't write, yet I managed to graduate twice--but still, having a degree in art is even less useful than having a degree in creative writing. (Apologies to my art major friends, but they know it's true.)

Who knows? Maybe I'll still go down one of these avenues, albeit in a non-academic sense (the idea of going back to school literally gives me anxiety attacks). After all, the saying that you learn something new every day is both true and vital to good intellectual health. 


Friday, April 3, 2015

Special Update: Cate Is Going to Judge a Contest!

Hello All!

In the event that you or your friends are interested:

Tiger's Eye Press is now accepting submissions for its 2015 Chapbook Contest! Submit your work from 1 April - 31 August 2015.

2015 Judge: Caitlin Johnson

Send 20-25 pages of poetry with a title page, table of contents, and an acknowledgements page, all with no identifying information. Please include a second title page with your name and contact information.

Submit your entire manuscript, e-mail address or SASE, a 2-3 line bio, and a $15 reading fee to the address below.

Winner receives $100 and 25 copies of the published manuscript.

Tiger's Eye Press
P.O. Box 9723
Denver, CO

For more information, visit or e-mail Colette Jonopulos at

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Oh My God, I Can't Feel My Kneecaps," or, Surviving the Return Trip

I was lucky, in a way. Moving home in July allowed me some time to readjust to life in the North. And by "life in the North," I mostly mean the weather situation. I really did tell my BFF Kate that I couldn't feel my kneecaps one night when we were walking the two blocks from her apartment to a coffeehouse. Ten years of balmy Carolina weather didn't do me any favors. Seriously; I never even got a tan, and my blood thinned right the hell out. But there were other things, too. Cultural things.

Toward the end of my time in NC, I said to several people that the only thing I knew for sure was a decade in the South hadn't broken me of being a Northerner. Yet reentry wasn't easy. For starters, I no longer knew my hometown. The mall had changed. You could turn right on red at intersections where such a move was previously illegal. We didn't have a lady governor anymore. Only about three people I'd known in my previous life still lived in the area, and I'm lucky they're people I like. 

Being surrounded by Southerners for so long also gave me some weird verbal tics. I still say "y'all" on the reg, and my co-workers once stared at me for a full five seconds after I said to a customer, "Your change is two dollars and forty-five cent" (instead of "cents"). When people in the North say, "Bless your heart," I flinch, because I know it means the opposite in the South, and that's something you don't forget.

Having made a goodly number of trips home to MI from NC during my time away, I was at a bit of an advantage over anyone who may have just moved to the area with no prior experience. And having my parents down the hall was helpful when I had questions about which roads I was meant to take or where certain stores were located (or not, as the case sometimes is). 

Still, it's been a bit baffling to me, all of this snow and stuff. I'm honestly a little angry that most of my shoes now have salt stains on them--a consequence of cold-weather living about which I had forgotten. And nothing can replace making a run to Cook-Out, the mother of all fast-food restaurants, when I want a chicken sandwich. (I miss Cook-Out almost as much as I miss my blue bedroom, and that's saying something.) Time and space function differently in the suburbs than they do in the sticks. For example, there are days when I decide not to go somewhere because it's "too far away," even though it's only twenty miles down the road and I used to hop in the car to get dinner an hour and a half away in Fayetteville without a thought. Also, I never knew how good I had it when I was connected to our super-fast campus Internet; blogging, or even just cruising through Facebook, is now a far more fraught experience than it should be, given the spotty service in our house.

Leaving the house from time to time is a helpful way of coping. Most of our roads here go either straight east and west or straight north and south, so it's difficult to get truly lost. Eating local food unlocks a part of your brain that you maybe didn't realize was collecting dust. Tuning in to watch the nearby sports franchises brings a sense of belonging to your life, because millions of people are cheering along with you. 

Above all, taking a moment here and there to look around and realize that you're among your tribe again can make the difference between feeling lost and feeling found.