Year in Writing, 2018

A quick look at what I wrote in 2018.

Poetry

I can say without a doubt I composed the best poem I have ever written in 2018. Called “Retractable Ball Point Pen” it was dedicated to a friend. At nearly 1,000 words, it is the longest I have ever written, and yet despite the length I still put a lot of work into every word, phrase, line ending. It took months to finish editing, and I had read it so much at that point I nearly had it memorized.

I read it aloud at Scares That Care Weekend, and it was well received. I’m not sure what the future is for this piece.

The interesting thing is that it inspired me to try longer poems more often. My form has always been the short lyric, inspired by Catullus. The longer form has some interesting things I like to play with more. I’ve started one about Odysseus and Aeneas, hopefully it will be worth showing off.

April was poetry month and I did my April Poems as I usually do. This year, based on my obsession with Japanese poetry, I decided to try writing tanka for the month. April Poems, 2018 has 30 tanka, or at least tanka style poems. I am not quite sure if I am getting some of the nuance of the form. That collection I released at Scares That Care Weekend as well.

Fiction

I started off the year with a great accomplishment. The draft of My Brother’s Mountain is finished in January, and I put it together and sent it to a friend to read. She loved it. Oh, I got notes, and edits to do, but the question of “is this something worth reading?” was answered.

Unfortunately I did not finish those edits. But that is top of the list for this coming year.

I wrote a story, “Here there be Dragons, Shopping,” submitted and rejected for a great anthology. It was sadly the only submission of the year.

Blogging

I started off with good intentions, as we all do. I started writing a post on haiku, and plan to write follow on about tanka and renga as well.

I did write about How Reading Wuthering Heights is as Close To Writing a Zombie Novel I’ve Ever Gotten. My goals for 2019 include more nerdy posts about what computer stuff I use for book writing and making.

Writing Software

On the software side, I make a slight change and purchased iA Writer. It has some features, such as tags, which make it better for organization that ByWord. That said, it is only a slight change, as I still use ByWord as well. (like now for this post!)

I’ve recently been going back to Scrivener. When I first got it, I started immediately changing the settings to customize things. I’ve since reset almost everything, thinking some of my issues with the software have been self-created. I do still think that it focuses too much on formatting when it should be focusing on writing.

Year of Books, 2018

I saw several posts about how many books had been read in 2018, and I started to put my list together… only to realize it was very, very short. It was only after I moved a stack of books that I had read a lot this year, just not novels. Most of my reading was poetry (or about poetry).

Novels

I can say this, though I only read five novels this year, they are all fantastic, and I recommend them all.

  • Mere wife – Maria Dahvana Headley
  • Dread nation – Justina Ireland
  • Lost Time (Tales of the Lost Book 1) – C.A. Higgins
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N.K. Jemisin
  • The Last Firefly of Summer – Robert Ford

Poetry

I’ll start off and say if you aren’t reading Tracy K. Smith, you are missing out. Life on Mars is fantastic. I got The Body’s Question for my birthday from a great friend.

This list also made me realize I bought quite a few poetry books haven’t read them yet…

Poetry

  • The Body’s Question – Tracy K Smith
  • Difficult Fruit – Lauren K. Alleyne
  • Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems – Danez Smith
  • WHEREAS: Poems – Layli Long Soldier
  • Nectar – Upile Chisala
  • New Poets of Native Nations – Heid E. Erdrich
  • Bastards of the Reagan Era – Reginald Dwayne Betts

Japanese Poetry

I started this obsession with The Japanese Haiku Its Essential Nature and History by Kenneth Yasuda. From there, I picked up the Kokinshu, which is one of the first Imperial anthologies of Japanese Poetry. Things may have spiraled out from there…

Yes, I got everything I could that Ueda had written. He had a collection of Basho poems that had translations and commentary which I read last year. Ueda’s Modern Japanese Tanka inspired me to try and write some myself. Far Beyond the Field is haiku by Japanese Women, and Light Verse from the Floating World is full of senryu, a form similar to haiku in shape, but different in tone and purpose.

  • Modern Japanese Tanka – Makoto Ueda
  • Far Beyond the Field – Makoto Ueda
  • Modern Japanese Haiku: An Anthology – Makoto Ueda
  • Light Verse from the Floating World – Makoto Ueda
  • Kokinshu – Rodd and Henkenius (translators)
  • Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology – Steven D. Carter
  • The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse: From the Earliest Times to the Present
  • 1000 Poems from the Manyoshu
  • From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry -Hiroaki Sato
  • Women Poets of Japan – Ikuko Atsumi
  • A Girl with Tangled Hair by Akiko Yosano – Jane Reichhold (Translator)
  • Pepper-pod: A Haiku Sampler – Yasuda, Kenneth
  • Poet to Poet: Contemporary Women Poets from Japan – Rina Kikuchi
  • Modern Senryu in English (English and Japanese Edition) – Shuho Ohno
  • Akane Immigrant Poet: English & Japanese Edition: The Tanka of Mitsuko Kasuga, a Japanese Immigrant in Mexico – Aiko Chikaba

African Poetry

The Amazonian algorithms offered up Fuchsia by Mahtem Shiferraw as something I may like, and after reading the whole preview, I had to agree. Turns out it is part of a seres of African Poetry published by University of Nebraska press, which means there will be even more joining my collection.

  • The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry: Fifth Edition (Penguin Classics)
  • Fuchsia (African Poetry Book) – Mahtem Shiferraw
  • The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (African Poetry Book) – Ladan Osman
  • The January Children (African Poetry Book) – Safia Elhillo

Poetic Non-Fiction

I didn’t finish most of these books, because most of these books are huge. An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry is referenced over and over again in other texts as the primer on this subject.

The second Waka Anthology was my Christmas gift, and I’ve only made it a little way in. It is a college text book on the subject, and the good news is there are going to be several more volumes to follow

  • An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry – Earl Miner.
  • Japanese Poetic Diaries – Earl Miner
  • A Waka Anthology – Volume One: The Gem-Glistening Cup – Edwin A. Cranston
  • A Waka Anthology – Volume Two: Grasses of Remembrance – Edwin A. Cranston

LampLight Submissions

I would be remiss to not call out LampLight submissions as a very large part of my readings. We got about 2,000 submissions this year. There were more great stories than I could publish, and such a wide variety of styles, subjects and points of view.

Here’s to reading more of the ‘to be read pile’ in 2019!

How Reading Wuthering Heights is as Close To Writing a Zombie Novel I’ve Ever Gotten

One of the things you get while working at a bookstore is a wide variety of interesting conversations.

It was Christmas time in 2008 which meant the store was busy all day. To keep ourselves sane during the stressful season, we would often start store-wide (and sometimes even cross shift) discussions. One conversation in particular interested me: of all the characters in the books we read in English class, who would survive the zombi apocalypse?

Names such as Irene Adler, Natty Bumppo, even Tom Sawyer were thrown out there. It was decided early that Mr Darcy wouldn’t make it through the opening scene.

My input was a single person: Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. If anyone was getting through that, it would be him–the bastard.

From here my mind wandered and naturally a story started forming.

You know that second half of that book, the part about the kids… what if it is actually about ZOMBIES…

So, in the midst of holiday bustle I grabbed a copy of Wuthering Heights, a book I had read as a high school senior–a book I had complained about for years after–and, much to the shock and horror of 18 year old me, began to read it again.

First off, it turns out this book isn’t as bad as I remember. There were some things that I noticed, now older. Like, for one, Heathcliff is no where NEAR the bad guy in this thing. Easily that role is Kathy, though Hindley plays his part as well.

Heathcliff, the totally not white kid Kathy’s dad brings home from London, basically just wants to be happy, live like everyone else. Oh, and is completely in love with Kathy, who strings him along all their youth until they are old enough to do something about it, and then she pulls the marrying for station non-sense, which is a not-subtle, not-polite way of saying she can’t marry the brown kid.

Heathcliff, heartbroken after a lifetime of abuse by her family, decides, fuck this, and leaves. We don’t know where, but it is speculated by everyone else that it is off to war.

Comes back years later with a small fortune and nothing but revenge on his mind. Tells them in a very Shakespearean manner that he intends to ruin them all, and the rest of the book is him doing that.

And somehow remaining the best person of the lot.

Like, Hindley at one point, sloppy English drunk, barks at Heathcliff for some non-sense, SHOOTS at him, like with a gun, in the house, BAM, misses, because sloppy English drunk, and Heathcliff is like: there there, drunk man, it is ok, let me take you back up to bed.

I mean, it is because he wants Hindley to suffer, but still.

Anyway, zombies.

So, the book, which was to be called Wuthering Nights if you must know, and you must know, because that title is rad, was going to pick up in the next-gen era, when Heathcliff is forcing the children to marry because then at least someone will be happy in all this mess… which is not what happens, of course.

So instead of awkward family drama, we drop in zombies. They attack the Heights, and Heathcliff realizes that Kathy 2 is all he has left of Kathy, and by God she’s going to survive this.

I’d even figured out how to get the zombies into the mix.

Of course, I suspect you know where this is going. Shortly there after a certain book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was released. There are differences, naturally. PPZ is more light hearted, and intermixed the story inside the original text. I had planned to write a sorta stand-alone retelling of the end of the book. I had also thought to keep it serious and more in the style of the original.

But, as these stories go, as PPZ was announced, my desire to write Wuthering Nights had left. I do not know if the original conversation that sparked the idea came from the ether, or if one of the booksellers had heard about PPZ’s upcoming release.

I do know that Heathcliff would have survived a zombie outbreak.