New Adventures

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Over the past few weeks, I have been tending our flowerbeds. Mostly, this means I have been weeding and weeding and weeding and weeding. Yesterday, though, instead of mothering the existing plants, I decided to take the plunge and plant my jack pine seeds.

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Yep, I bought one of those mini bonsai kits. I did some research online and decided to put them in the fridge for a bit longer than the week the instructional booklet recommends. Instead, I put them in for almost 3 weeks. For now, they are on the windowsill in our bathroom. I’m not sure if that’s going to work, but we shall see. After it grows a bit, you are supposed to move it to “dappled sunlight” for a month before putting it in full sunlight. It also won’t survive if it gets below 60° F, otherwise I would already have it outside. No matter how hot it gets during the day, it is always so cold at night here.

I also started working out last week. It went a little something like this:

Day 1: I workout and everything is great.
Day 2: I workout. Family orders pizza.
Day 3: A bird poops on me while I’m working out.
Day 4: I do a lot of cleaning/work outside and skip the workout.
Day 5: We had company all day.
Day 6: Hubby’s back hurts so instead of holding my feet while I do sit-ups, he just lays on the bed and tries to keep me from getting up.
Day 7: Back on track. Whew.

At least it was an interesting week.

Also, happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans. 🙂

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Why We Never Asked For Help

I was on the other side of the world, scrolling through my Facebook feed, when I found out. A girl I had known since elementary school had committed suicide by walking in front of a train.

I was stunned, but maybe I shouldn’t have been.

We had never been close, but we were (briefly) in the same Girl Scout troop, played against each other in soccer for years, and I generally knew of her. I forget who moved into the neighborhood first, but she also lived down the street from me starting in about eighth grade. We were in separate social circles at school, and I don’t recall ever seeing her at her house, though I did see her sister from time to time.

The thing I remember most about her was how funny she was and the sound of her laugh.

I also remember hearing from a close friend during our freshman year of high school that she self-harmed. I was surprised, but never thought of doing anything with that information. I didn’t doubt its truth, so why didn’t I say anything?

In middle school, I had two encounters with the counselor. I was sent there once after my parents’ divorce and felt so overwhelmed I began crying the moment she started asking me questions. I wasn’t crying because of anything related to my home life; it was because I felt so exposed in front of a stranger.

The second time I talked to the counselor, it was on behalf of someone I had just met. A girl at my bus stop confided in me that she was starving herself to lose weight. I encouraged her to eat but I knew my words were ineffective. I talked to a friend and we decided to go to the counselor’s office together. All I knew about the girl was what she looked like and her first name. I had to flip through the pages of the yearbook to figure out who she was.

It felt like a betrayal of trust to tell the guidance counselor, but I knew she wanted help. She wouldn’t have told me in the twenty minutes I’d known her if she didn’t want someone to step in. Of course, she would never confide in me again after I spilled the beans, but that didn’t matter. I knew the adults around her were aware and trying to help, which was a lot more than I could do.

Why, then, did I not go forward about someone I knew (slightly) better cutting? At the time, there were so many reasons why I didn’t that it never even crossed my mind to do otherwise.

The obvious reasons were that it wasn’t my place and that I didn’t know with 100% certainty that my information was correct. However, those were minor reasons.

During my freshman year, most of my friends cut (or engaged in some other form of self-harm), and I knew of other people I never talked to that cut as well. It wasn’t exactly normal, but it was normal enough. Off the top of my head, I can still remember seven people who did and it’s been a little over ten years since my freshman year of high school. It was like there was an invisible network of misery that drew us all together. If you were in the club, it was an open secret who the other members were, and we wouldn’t out one of our own.

More than that, though, intervention seemed both undesirable and futile. I vividly remember a conversation where a friend told me that her problems were not the type that could be solved with therapy, though apparently I was not so far gone that it couldn’t work for me. This really bothered me as I interpreted this as a way of her saying that her problems were infinitely more complex than mine, that I was generic and my problems were so simple that anyone aside from me could figure out what I needed to do to feel better.

In short, therapy seemed like a solution for “basic” people, for people who had your typical growing pains or who had issues dealing with common problems, like the ones in every YA book about eating disorders or self-harming. Certainly I had never come across a character in a YA book that had the kind of issues I or any of my friends had.

Additionally, it seemed obvious to everyone I talked to that therapy would never work for anyone that didn’t choose to go themselves. Self-harming was a method of coping and if that’s what that person wanted to do to get by, there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. And, for the most part, it seemed that the people who were cutting were stable, not suicidal.

The glaring exception to that was my closest friend at the time. She lived with her aunt and uncle and they were well aware of her problems, but it didn’t seem to be doing any good. Every day I came to school wondering if she would be there or if she had finally done it. This went on for months. After spring break, she went to a live-in treatment center.

A few of my friends, their parents, me, my mother, and my friend’s aunt all met at a coffee shop to discuss it. I was told not to contact my friend for a while as it could hold her back, and as she transferred to another school after her treatment, I had no idea when or if it would be acceptable to talk to her. I only remember her calling once toward the end of the summer. I was scared that I would somehow set her back in her treatment and, regardless, I didn’t know how to talk to her about everything that had happened, so that was the end of it.

In the past year, I have read about two potential shootings that were prevented at my former high school. I also learned that my high school was one of the first to allow qualified teachers to carry guns to respond in case of an active shooter.

In high school, I never feared a school shooting. I was afraid that my friends would kill themselves, not other people.

While I don’t know what the solution to these issues is, it is clear that mental health is and has been a serious problem for middle and high school students. In sharing my reasons for not seeking help or helping others that needed it, I hope that we can find ways to make reaching out to counselors or adults in general a more viable and attractive option to young people.

Anniversary Adventures

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Last week, in addition to it being my 2 year “blogiversary,” hubby and I also celebrated our wedding anniversary! I don’t remember those dates being so close together, but my memory is not as reliable as I once thought it to be.

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We went to a waterfall park and took a leisurely stroll. The path was only about half a mile long, but the waterfalls were gorgeous.

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I have been experimenting with filming as well, but that has not been going so well. My camera is an entry-level DSLR and is not meant for filming. It has a max recording time of ten minutes and is very noisy if you change the zoom while filming. I also don’t really know what I’m doing and am not satisfied with any of the clips I’ve taken.

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I have been torn on what to write on here and have a few drafts waiting for my attention, but I honestly just have not had the motivation to write much lately. While I had high hopes for my poetry collection and I am proud of what it contains, I have come to the conclusion that the theme is not unified enough. It is split into three categories of poems and should be made into three separate works instead of shoved into one. I don’t have enough material for that, though.

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Even so, I am trying to get back into the groove of things. I have a couple posts I want to make that are a little political, but I don’t see myself ever becoming a political blogger. I just have a few things I want to get off my chest, so to speak.

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For now, though, I just wanted to share some pictures from this weekend.

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This is not from this weekend. It just makes me happy.

An Unpopular Opinion

Today, I want to talk about everyone’s favorite subject: money. More specifically, I want to talk about the prevalence of content creators essentially begging their audiences for money.

This practice, as far as I know, became popular in the aftermath of the YouTube “Adpocalypse.” People got used to making videos and getting that sweet, sweet ad revenue, and when it disappeared, people started asking for donations. Now it is hard to find YouTubers who don’t plug their Patreon/Hatreon/Maker Support/what have you.

This, in some instances, I can understand. For example, if you haven’t already heard of him, Tim Pool is an independent journalist who travels as much as he can to cover news stories and he uploads footage of the events to his YouTube channel. When he’s not traveling, he also discusses other news stories in a level-headed manner; he’s pretty middle of the road. He’s a true journalist, not an activist that writes for a news organization, which I appreciate.

On the other hand, there are a lot of YouTube channels out there that beg for money to make videos that are total fluff. The first one that comes to my mind is a channel that makes videos on the lore of Undertale. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the content and don’t really mind that the user made a Patreon; people are free to spend their money as they wish. What I do mind is that the creator puts really long plugs to their Patreon in every video and essentially threatens his audience; donate or I’ll take away the content you love. I don’t want to assume that the audience is mostly children (I mean, I watched it for a while and I’m not a child), but how many adults who work long hours at their job would pay someone else to examine the details in a video game?

Quality entertainment is worth paying for. I think we can all agree on that. However, there is a difference in creating something original and leeching off of an existing fandom for as long as you can to avoid becoming a truly productive member of society. It’s not that I don’t find analysis valuable or that I don’t think this creator should make money on his videos; it’s the fact that when it stopped being a viable option, instead of finding new work, the creator started begging aggressively.

Similarly, it’s great to diversify your income by offering bonus content or merchandise on your Patreon. However, if you’re milking existing content, like a video game, your merchandise is probably not going to be very original and your bonus content is going to be content you would have already made, but behind a paywall. On the one hand, yay capitalism and good on you for making your hustle work.

On the other hand, though, I’m also concerned about this growing trend of online content creators surviving on donations. The most obvious example of this is the “Twitch THOT” (young women who show a lot of skin for the camera in order to get donations). Of course, porn and sex work have been around for a long time, but this takes it to another level. While many people would balk at the thought of working in porn or being on a cam site, Twitch doesn’t have the same negative connotation. Plus, if you “play video games,” you can always lie to yourself and say that the viewers love your game play. And, of course, it’s much better to put on your resume that you were an internet personality on Twitch than to put down a porn site. With Twitch, you can always hope to get into social media later on.

Begging for shares, likes, comments, and money has infected the blogging world as well. While a lot of blogs are traditional in their approach to making money – using affiliate codes and typical ads, now there are so many blogs that just beg for money.

Again, there are pros and cons. On the one hand, maybe your content is good and deserves more attention than it gets. On the other hand, maybe your blog is crap and you need to get over it and stop trying to live off mediocrity.

The normalization of begging is just driving me insane. If you’re fortunate enough that your online hustle works out for you, that’s great. But let’s be frank: becoming popular enough to be a successful beggar isn’t a job. Yes, making online content takes time and a little bit of self-discipline, but you are not entitled to get paid for your efforts.

In other words, yes, I understand that Ko-Fi is like getting tips for your work and your patrons on Patreon will get something extra from you. And, of course, blogs are great.

But isn’t there something better you could be doing?

Tidal vs. Spotify: First Impressions

I’m about a week into my Tidal trial and wanted to share my first impressions of how it compares with Spotify and a few gaps I’ve noticed in Tidal’s music catalog as I rebuild my music library. If I discover a significant amount of music that Tidal has that Spotify does not, I will make a separate post on that toward the end of my trial period. Tidal has a lot of video content, including music videos, movies, and shows that Spotify does not have, but I have yet to find anything that really interests me.

I also want to issue a correction from my last post: Tidal does have Last.fm integration, which is a major plus in my book!

The Most Important Differences:

  • If I want to add a full album to my library in Spotify, it takes one click (desktop version). Then all of those songs are added to my saved tracks. If I add an album with one click in Tidal, it adds that album to the list of albums I have saved, but if I am browsing all of the tracks I have saved, the tracks from the album won’t show up there. This is really annoying if you want to listen to the entire discography from an artist except for those few songs you don’t like.
  • Tidal lets you sort the tracks in your library however you wish from the app while the Spotify app forces you to listen to them in the order you added them to your favorites.
  • Spotify makes Daily Mixes for you, which are usually spot on. Tidal doesn’t do that.
  • The desktop version of Tidal runs really slowly. It takes 2-3 seconds for it to process you’ve added music to your library. I’ve also noticed it saying I’ve lost my internet connection and reconnecting when nothing else is having problems.

Desktop Comparison:

  • Tidal does not re-proportion itself if you change the size of the window like Spotify does. This means if you want to have Tidal take up a third of your computer screen, some of the controls might disappear (like adding tracks to a playlist or starring a song).
  • There is no friend feed in Tidal, which is perfectly fine with me! I am forever clicking on the wrong scrollbar in Spotify because of the friend column (which I never use), so I’m glad that Tidal doesn’t have it.
  • Spotify’s tabs don’t have icons and is much cleaner looking than Tidal’s sidebar. You also can’t change the size of Tidal’s sidebar while you can drag and drop Spotify’s.
  • The list of the tracks in your library is a simple list in Spotify that you can sort by when you added it, by artist, etc. When viewing your overall music library, Tidal includes the album artwork. You have to make the track listing full screen if you want to sort your music.
  • Tidal has a social media tab for every artist where you can see their Tweets and Facebook feed if you’re into that sort of thing. Spotify does not.
  • Many artists create playlists on Spotify which don’t necessarily include their own music. Additionally, playlists where the artist’s music is included show up on the artist’s page. These features are present on Tidal but it doesn’t seem that as many artists take advantage of them (at least, based on my music library).
  • Spotify shows local files from your computer. Tidal does not.

App Comparison:

  • While the Tidal app isn’t as slow as the desktop version, it is still annoying. Whenever you add something to your library, there is a delay and then a banner comes across the bottom of the screen to let you know the music was added.

What’s On Spotify But Not On Tidal

Podcasts! Also, these albums:

  • AAA (entire discography)
  • Aimer (entire discography)
  • Akiko Shikata (entire discography)
  • Akira Senju (entire discography)
  • Aqualung – Memory Man
  • Au Revoir Simone – Still Night, Still Light
  • Au Revoir Simone – Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation
  • Aural Method – When I Drifted I Heard A Faint Melody
  • Bess Rogers – Travel Back EP
  • Billie Holiday – God Bless the Child
  • Brian Deer – Black Cloud Talk
  • Daoko – 拝啓グッバイさようなら
  • EXILE THE SECOND – BORN TO BE WILD
  • Ingrid Michaelson – Girls & Boys
  • Ingrid Michaelson – Human Again
  • Ingrid Michaelson – San Francisco (Single)
  • Jaymay – Long Walk To Never
  • Jessica Andrews – Now
  • Joseph – Native Dreamer Kin
  • Kina Grannis – Elements
  • Kina Grannis – Stairwells (Deluxe Version)
  • Kina Grannis – The Living Room Sessions Vol. 3
  • Kina Grannis, Gardiner Sisters – I Was Made For Loving You / Please Don’t Say You Love Me (Single)
  • Lucy Schwartz – Winter In June
  • Metallica (entire discography)
  • Vienna Teng – Dreaming Through the Noise

I have pretty varied taste, but most of the music that wasn’t in the Tidal catalog was either indie pop/folk or foreign music.

What is Spotify Thinking?

Over the past few days, Spotify has unrolled quite a few changes, and I honestly don’t like any of them. Let’s start with the least offensive.

1. Last.fm integration is becoming less user friendly.

Does anyone else remember the good old days when Spotify’s radio feature was powered by Last.fm recommendations? That didn’t last long. I was a bit disappointed when they took that away (and Spotify’s radio service is still horrible, though their daily mixes are usually alright for me), but at least they still had the option to easily scrobble your music. You’d just go to settings and type in your login and it’s done.

Not anymore. I got an email from Last.fm yesterday saying, “We’ve recently added the ability to scrobble from any Spotify device by connecting your accounts from within your Last.fm settings. Soon this will be the only way that you can scrobble from Spotify to Last.fm.”

Thanks, Last.fm, for trying to put on a brave face and saying you added a feature when you know you’re dying and Spotify just threw you under the bus.

2. The app UI changes are ghastly.

Instead of saving a song to your library, now you have a list of “Favorite Songs.” Your “Favorite Songs” list no longer looks like a typical list of songs but now has little hearts beside every song, which makes it easier to accidentally remove something from your list. Plus, now the album artwork for every song you save shows there. Why? Why would you add that when it’s just going to make everything take longer to load?

A better change would have been to include options to sort your saved songs by artist, genre, mood, tag, whatever, instead of this “Favorite Songs” nonsense they’ve added.

3. Spotify has decided to start semi-policing its content.

This would not bother me so much if they were being upfront about what they’re doing. However, in this article from Billboard, they flip-flop horribly on what they intend to do. First, they focus on R. Kelly.

‘We are removing R. Kelly’s music from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly,’ Spotify told Billboard in a statement. ‘His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it. We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values. When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.’

This doesn’t sound so bad. They’re not deleting the music, just not giving someone they object to free promotion. But wait. That’s not the end of the story.

‘Hate content is content that expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability,’ the policy reads. ‘When we are alerted to content that violates our policy, we may remove it (in consultation with rights holders) or refrain from promoting or manually programming it on our service.’

You’re either for censorship or you’re not. You either just aren’t going out of your way to promote things, or you’re removing it from your platform. You can’t have it both ways. This becomes more concerning because Spotify says they are partnering with a long list of organizations and will also rely on user comments and reports to decide which content needs to be policed.

It’s also interesting that they have this definition of hate content but they aren’t disciplining R. Kelly because of his content. As far as I know, his music doesn’t support anything terrible (I’m not exactly a fan). To be fair, Aaliyah’s “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number” was written by R. Kelly and recorded when Aaliyah was 14, and that song is unbelievably creepy. That song isn’t on Spotify, though. Is that because of this policy or just a coincidence?

Regardless, Spotify seems to be punishing R. Kelly for his personal conduct, which is not outlined in their policy.

While the fact that Spotify has a solid definition of what constitutes hate content is slightly reassuring, in my ever so humble opinion, they have opened a giant can of worms simply to appease Twitter activists. #MuteRKelly was a thing and now Spotify announces this policy.

Honestly, I’m not sure how much this is going to impact Spotify. Most of the reactions I’ve seen have fallen into one of two categories: wait and see or what about this particular artist (usually Michael Jackson, though Chris Brown also came to mind for me). Their audience is generally young; they do offer a 50% discount for college students. The top 50 on Spotify is thus wildly different from the top 50 on Amazon music, which has an older demographic. Young people are more likely to be involved in these hashtag movements, so maybe Spotify is playing to their audience.

As for me, Spotify has done three things in the past couple days that leave a bad taste in my mouth. Up until now, I have been very vocal about my love for Spotify and converted several of my friends into paid users, but now the company is doing things that I don’t think most of their users want. I’m starting a trial with Tidal and waiting to see what unfolds with Spotify in the next few weeks. Artists earn more money with Tidal than Spotify, anyway, since there is no free tier that relies on ads with Tidal. I just wish Spotify hadn’t changed a good product for no good reason.

Thoughts On Spring 2018 Anime

We’re a few weeks into this season so I thought I’d share my thoughts on how the series I’m watching are developing so far.

Tokyo Ghoul:re

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying this season. But. While I was watching the second season, I believed that if I thought about it long enough, I’d be able to fill in the blanks of the plot and the unanswered questions were not super important. With this season, I’ve just accepted it’s not going to make sense unless I read the manga (and I’d love to, but I don’t have the funds for that at the moment). Also, I’m not attached to any of the new characters whatsoever – I don’t even have their names down yet. However, I still enjoy the universe the story is set in and want to know what happens with the old favorites.

Piano no Mori

A lot of the comments I’ve read on this show say to just watch the movie, and I can see their point. The animation in this show goes from being decent to looking like a bad mobile game. However, I enjoy the characters and the music. I do wish they had branched out a little more with their song selections, though. Chopin has long been one of my favorite composers, so I already know a lot of the songs they’ve chosen and I was hoping for something new.

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Why am I still watching this? The first episode was terrible – trying way too hard to be edgy. It has dialed it back a lot since then, but it’s still a very lackluster show.

Dorei-ku The Animation

While I anticipated this show being either wonderful or atrocious, it’s actually just kind of… meh. I’m hoping the characters will be fleshed out more since the show still has a lot of potential.

Kuroneko Monroe & Tomie

While I have seen that Tomie has aired in Japan and there just isn’t a sub yet, I cannot find any mention of Kuroneko Monroe anywhere. 😦


Hubby and I are making our way through Black Mirror on Netflix, which I want to write about, and then I believe we are going to get back to Noragami. We’re on episode 3. I’ve seen people saying it’s their favorite anime of all time, so I’m pretty stoked to see what happens.

Additionally, while I was planning to write some final thoughts on The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Violet Evergarden, and Children of the Whales… finishing Children of the Whales was much less enjoyable than I anticipated; I just finished it a couple days ago. If you are interested in reading more about The Ancient Magus’ Bride and Violet Evergarden, let me know in the comments. 🙂

 

Eleanor Rigby, Revisited

I love poetry! I really, really do. So you might wonder why I don’t follow any poetry blogs.

Short answer: because the poems are not edited, or not edited enough.

Long answer: because (usually) there are still basic grammar mistakes, formatting errors, and the language needs to be condensed. Many of them also lack substance and read too much like a diary. (A good example of this is Courtney Peppernell’s Pillow Thoughts, which I did not care for – it seems to be popular because it has the Tumblr aesthetic.) Poems should, generally, have strong images that convey ideas for you. Your poems should show, not tell.

Today, I want to share an assignment from the creative writing course I took several years ago. It helped me refine my writing process and should help you identify what the strongest points of your writing are.

For this exercise, we need to start off with a song, preferably one with strong imagery. In my class, we used “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles. I have pasted the lyrics below, removing all the repeats.

Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie, writing the words
Of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks
In the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care

Eleanor Rigby died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt
From his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

Now, let’s cut out everything unnecessary or that we don’t want to work with.

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door

Father McKenzie, writing the words
Of a sermon that no one will hear

Eleanor Rigby died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt
From his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

From this, we can finally put pen to paper for our rough draft. We need to capture this in our own words. If I remember correctly, this took about half an hour to churn out:

The happy faces have all gone away
and Eleanor’s is stuck to the window.
She stoops to pick up the rice while
Father McKenzie pens a sermon for
no one.

The lonely are on display.

The dirt falls from the Father’s hands
when he leaves Eleanor’s grave.
Even God stayed away.

This is the step where, IMHO, most poetry bloggers would stop and hit the publish button. It’s grammatically correct and the formatting is fine. But it’s still pretty rough, right?

At this stage, here’s what we need to read for: hackneyed or dead language, unnecessary words, rhythm, flow (do your line breaks make sense?), and originality. Also, is the situation of your poem clear?

It might take a few days before you can see the flaws in your own writing. It’s been several years since I wrote this, so it seems pretty awful to me now, haha. Let’s go through it together.

The happy faces have all gone away
Happy faces is too generic and doesn’t bring a wedding to mind.
and Eleanor’s is stuck to the window.
I use the word “stuck” too much, though I do like it here.
She stoops to pick up the rice while
Father McKenzie pens a sermon for
no one.
This is condensed but still borrowed language.

The lonely are on display.

The dirt falls from the Father’s hands
when he leaves Eleanor’s grave.
This is okay, but we could do something a bit more with this image.
Even God stayed away.

This is the difficult part. We’ve had our initial word vomit come out on the page, and now we have to fix it. This is one possible revision:

With fists full of rice, Eleanor sticks her face
to the window. Her masks rest in the jar.
Father McKenzie stares at his sermon for
no one.

The lonely are on display.

The Father brushes the last trace of her
from his hands.
Even God stayed away.

It’s still not perfect, but it’s getting there.

If you struggle with editing your poems, I hope this helped you. I loved this assignment because it really takes the pressure off when you start with something that’s already great. Plus, I think a lot of writers talk about their writing process but it’s rare that you actually get to see why they make the choices that they did, so I wanted to share what little wisdom I have with you.

I’d love to read your rewrites of “Eleanor Rigby” or another song!

-Odette

Is Poetry Dead?

When you’re 5, people ask you what you want to be when you grow up, and no matter what your answer is, they will encourage you.

I learned the hard way that that is not the case when you’re 17.

I was on my first college visit, facing death by firing squad white knuckling a folder full of paperwork and answering questions during my panel interview. I knew the question was coming and I didn’t know how to answer it:

“What career do you plan to pursue?”

I hesitated but my voice was clear. “I want to be a poet.” The entire room erupted in laughter. My face flushed, but I wasn’t surprised by their response. It was a naive goal and I knew it.

But that was the honest answer.

When they finally stopped giggling, they said that of course I could pursue poetry, but I would definitely need to be more adaptable and learn to write more than just poetry. I didn’t need to be told that, but I forced a smile and nodded, praying the blush would fade from my cheeks quickly.

Three years later, at a different school, I enrolled in a poetry workshop. Every week, the 6 of us shared our poems and gave each other honest feedback. In that class, I wasn’t the painfully shy and timid girl I was everywhere else. I could talk for hours about what was working and not working in my classmates’ poems.

The following year, I graduated, having double-majored in economics and English, with a creative writing concentration to boot. I had my practical degree and my degree that would help me follow my dreams.

And a month later, I got my $100 check for winning a poetry competition.

Since then, I’ve bounced from one dead-end job to the next. I scribbled a few poems here and there, but the bills come first. You have to fulfill your obligations before your dreams. And the longer I waited, the more impossible it seemed. Even my “practical degree” wasn’t delivering.

My reserves were depleted.

Then, a couple weeks ago, I went to a poetry workshop at the library that was led by a local poet. It was more nerve-wracking than the panel interview. I had to read my poem twice because they couldn’t hear me the first time. My hands were shaking and I was almost crying, but they all said they loved it.

Last week, I went back to the library for a one-on-one with a different poet. It was supposed to be a critique of one poem. She ended up reading about 5 and instead of circling things to change, she just underlined the things she loved and told me to get to work on getting published.

I went through every resource she gave me. I bookmarked every writing contest, checked out every writing group, and researched the publishing history of my favorite poets. Then, like a good student, I went back to the library.

There were the latest issues of Writer’s Market and The Writer – all of those things that tell you where you could get your poetry published. But where was Poetry magazine, where was any journal or magazine at all that would publish poetry? I went to the main branch. Same story.

In desperation, I went to the closest bookstore, and I have never felt so grateful to a Barnes & Noble in my life. They had an entire wall of poetry and I left the store with a list of ten magazines to research.

So, no, poetry isn’t dead.

I probably won’t be the next Billy Collins, but I have to believe I will be somebody. I can still be a poet.

via Daily Prompt: Deplete

Our Kind of Cruelty – Book Review

I received my ARC of “Our Kind of Cruelty” in the mail yesterday and could not put it down until I finished it this afternoon.

From the blurb on the back cover, I expected it to be creepy or a Dean Koontz type horror book, but I didn’t find it frightening at all. It was just fascinating.

If you have ever wondered what goes on in the mind of a stalker, this book is for you.

Our unreliable narrator, Mike, writes the story of his relationship with Verity from his jail cell. V left him after he confessed to having a one night stand in America, and Mike is convinced that her engagement is a sham. V obviously wants to make him pay for what he did to her. This is their ultimate “Crave” – a twisted foreplay where V is approached by other men and leads them on. Then, when she decides she’s had enough, she signals to Mike to chase the guy off. He just has to watch and wait for her signal.

Spoiler-Free Review:

You need to read this book. While there were a few minor problems with pacing and, to a lesser degree, the development of the plot in the second half, spending time in Mike’s head and guessing V’s true feelings made this a compelling read.

*Spoiler Warning*

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