Stirring: Word Search Verse

Note: If you missed my reading, you can watch the replay here. Comment on the video for a chance to win a copy of Domestic Bodies

Since I'm not starting a newsletter, I want to post the occasional Word Search Verse for those who liked the idea when I mentioned it last summer. I apologize for the blurriness of the puzzle... I don't know how to fix it. Solutions for current (and future) WSV puzzles will be available on request.

I use the word search generator found here.

A poem in black text on a background with hues of blues. Text: She feels an echo, phantom heat pulsing through her body as she lies upon the permanent imprint his figure left in their marriage bed.


My First in-Person Reading

On February 25th (Sunday) at 1:30 p.m. central, I will be reading from Domestic Bodies on my YouTube channel. My husband and I tested streaming on YouTube, and everything appears to work! If it goes sideways again, I will probably swap over to my Twitch channel... but I hope it won't. Please join me if you have time!

My first in-person author event was on an icy day early last month. I had poems picked to read, but the transition comments between pieces I thought would be best off the cuff. I set my book at a discount and gave all proceeds to the library, but I forgot to bring change for people who needed smaller bills. The librarian who runs the writers' group there monthly was supposed to give the introduction, but she got busy and wasn't even in the conference room until almost the end of the event. 

I'm nervous when speaking publicly. I don't read well out loud. I was definitely out of my depth. My baby brother, husband, and sister were in attendance which helped more than I can express; I still messed up quite a bit, though.

One of the most important things I did was deciding not to read alone. When setting up the reading, I asked members of the writers' group if they wanted to read with me and two did. One author made change for one person who wanted to buy my book but only had a $20 bill. The other author let me borrow her pen until my husband could dig mine out of my backpack. Both of them read well and were extremely gracious. The three of us also drew a bigger audience than each of us could on our own.

The audience was lovely and warm. I went on a tangent between poems about ableism and inspiration porn because my book's themes include disability and cancer. I try to do everything with authenticity but worried it was a little too much for my conservative town. But people thought it was interesting. 

In total, I raised $40 for the library by selling four books (two to my sister). My husband donated $10 and keeps asking me for a signed copy because he's my biggest fan. The other author selling books also donated his money to the library, though I didn't ask anyone to do it.

It was a pleasant time, and I'm glad we didn't read to three rows of empty chairs. I'd consider doing it again in the future. 


Venn Diagram Christmas Poem

While researching poetic forms last month, I came across a Venn Diagram Poem. I've never encountered those words in that order before. The idea was intriguing since it's a type of column poem, and I love working with those. But I balked at the fact that the left and right columns don't make sense on their own... until I realized why.

In a Venn Diagram Poem, only the middle makes sense on its own. It also ends the left column's lines and begins the right. When I write them, I try to make the circles different colors to help readers understand what belongs where. For example, the first line of the left poem reads: "There was once no sight better than your eyes" and the first line of the right poem reads: Your eyes tell me stories. Their lessons".

I had to take away my original final line from the middle poem because it wouldn't make a proper "bridge" between the sides. Some poets have extra lines in the middle without extending the left and right columns to the end, but I like things more uniform when I'm working with these.

I'm absolutely enamored with the form. Writing has not come easily to me this year, and toying with a new way to do things makes picking up my pen less arduous. 


Happy holidays, lovelies!


Failure to Launch (Party)

On the 19th, I was set to have my book's virtual launch party on YouTube. I researched the key ingredients to a great event, created cute graphics, promoted it on social media, and made sure my Internet could handle the platform. I've had my channel for years and thought I tried to stream there before...

... but apparently not. I needed to verify my account. Okay. My husband frantically punched in the code while I laid out copies and swag on the table in front of me and tried not to cry as OBS Studio refused to let me go live. Then, we learned YouTube has a waiting period (24 hours) before streaming is enabled. And it was fifteen minutes after my start time.

I mentally panicked. I'm used to Twitch as a streaming service but not YouTube. I had my husband create a Twitch channel for my launch, told everyone about the change of plans, and went live ten minutes later. I knew few people would see the pivot. I knew I shot myself in the foot. I knew I didn't really have options.

The live ran smooth, and I gave it everything I had. I was approximately halfway into it before someone talked; he was the only person who did, but my statistics claimed six people stopped by (though one was a bot). It was a better turnout than I thought, but there weren't enough people to do a Q&A session or proper giveaways. 

Twitch has a stream archive feature where replays are stored for a week and creators have the choice to upload them elsewhere. I decided to do the giveaways in my YouTube comments after I uploaded the replay there, only to learn the archive option isn't on by default. I was too upset to check before starting stream. So, no archive. No opportunity for giveaways. I almost broke down entirely but laughed instead.

Now, I'm faced with a decision: Do I try for another launch party next month, or do I just hold a giveaway on my blog/YouTube? I'm not sure. I feel as though no one will bother attending a relaunch, especially in December. My in-person event will be in January, so the holidays won't be as pressing. 

And I have no idea what to do with the Twitch channel. Do any of you even want to watch me gab about random things once a month? 


The Complicated Emotions of Publishing

My debut poetry collection comes out a week from tomorrow. It's a day I never thought I'd see. It's a day my mom and older brother won't see; I ugly-cried when I received the acceptance because I couldn't share the news with them. I felt scooped out like a melon... open, wounded, and bare to the world.

I'm so grateful I ended up with the press I did. My book received extensive editing (thanks, Alex) and no changes were ever forced on me. The cover is my concept with my talented publisher's execution (appreciated, Emily). It's the book I wanted it to be.

Around the sixth time reading my manuscript, I began to hate each poem. I saw them as flawed, shambling creatures waiting to grip me with the teeth of cliche or shred me with claws coated in grammatical errors. I still think I missed something obvious.

Early reviews are trickling in due to NetGalley and my press' efforts. Each kind word and positive rating only strengthens the surreality. It doesn't feel like people are talking about my work. To me, my book is still on the island of my hard drive with the cursor blinking in secret smugness: I'm the only other thing seeing your words. 😉

I hope my book finds those who need it. My publisher told me two days ago that the collection has sold approximately 15 copies so far. Will one of those go to someone who will relate to it and feel less alone? Will it make someone evaluate a belief they hold? Will a metaphor inspire someone else to begin writing again? I hope so. I hope it changes someone (regardless of how minutely) for the better.

Poet Laureate Project

One of my unattainable dreams is to be a poet laureate. Being an ambassador of poetry sounds incredibly cool, and it's made even better when I can choose how I spend my time as said ambassador. If I could do anything with poetry, I know what it would be. 

Even before the pandemic, I always pictured an expansive, online project connecting poets. The site would be completely accessible to disabled folks. It would operate fully on even the oldest internet-enabled device or slowest connection as to let people from any economic class take part. Navigation would be easy for those not as used to technology.

The website would offer free workshops, readings, forums, and other ways to connect. Partnering with nursing homes and Community Resource Centers  across the country, poets who have no access or funds would be given the opportunity to secure a device for their participation. Poetry lovers would have the chance to attend various events or find new favorite poets. Translations for live events would also be implemented (whenever possible).

Poetry is a communal, cultural belonging... but we don't treat it as such. We parcel it out to those able to pursue higher education, live in a big enough city to attend events, or pay for workshop fees. It should be about connection, and life, for anyone who wants to join.

"Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone." — Lawrence Ferlinghetti


Let's Talk

This book doesn't seem to exist on Amazon. Truthful company already.

My publisher pays for NetGalley. I didn't expect it, but I'm glad she does. Reviews are important for authors. They spread the word about how other readers (hopefully who like the genre) feel about the book. If less than 2% of readers review, and there are fewer people who read poetry, it's going to be uphill both ways to find readers who want to take their time with my words.

Though NetGalley is the most well-known of the review sites, others (like Booksprout and BookSirens) exist. And then there's Pubby.

Facebook, the delightful spy, showed me a video ad of a book on Amazon that proclaimed "Authors are getting 200+ reviews for their books using our tool." Huh. Interesting. The background was of a memoir with a 4.5 star rating out of 208 reviews. Pretty damn impressive, assuming Pubby is responsible for most of those reviews. There's a ten-day trial... enough time to get at least one review before committing.
I started to read the comments. A few people got several reviews in the first month and were thrilled. People were posting their own books and asking other commenters to buy and review them. And then the warnings trickled along.

One month of Pubby is $30 but you can choose to pay annually for a discount. You have to review other books in order to earn enough "snaps" to get your own book reviewed which can be quite time-consuming as it's not one-to-one. A couple folks commented that Pubby can soak up so much of your life that it's a full-time job; even people who praise the company say it's a significant time investment. I'm not saying it doesn't exist elsewhere, but I've never heard of a reviews site charging you and then requiring you to do a bunch of work to get what you paid for.

The quality of reviews can take a hit in this system as some people can give you wonderful, thorough reviews while others speed read just to get their book read by others. Facebook commenters said reviewers would do things like say one character that died in the first chapter was the protagonist, make up entire plotlines, copy the description with nothing added as the review, have reviewers parrot things others have said that were inaccurate, and so on. Even though you aren't necessarily supposed to review the books of those who read yours, it happens and low-star retaliation has occurred more than once.
Since Pubby only has a review system for Amazon, those looking for coverage on other places (like Goodreads) aren't going to find it. The company claims Amazon won't take down reviews because writers aren't swapping them, but more than one client said they had all their reviews taken down because Amazon flagged them as being in a review ring. 
Personally, I think it's a great idea with terrible execution. The price is high for what it is—it can't promise quality reviews for that $30 a month or how many reviews you'll receive (no one at Pubby checks what people write). It doesn't have a long, credible history. Customer service is reportedly not great and credit card misuse has more than one (dis)honorable mention in their website complaints. I'm steering clear.