On Being A Writer In The Writing World

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When I go to a literary event, I first have to gather my bearings to find a familiar face. I keep to myself most days and social media is my connection to networking and “being out there.” I’m maybe 90% more introverted than extroverted in person, so seeing a familiar face in a crowd I feel comfortable with helps. After a bit of catching up with a few people, I will try to meet a couple of more folks, not just for networking, but mainly because book people and fellow readers are awesome. We share in our love books and it’s amazing that we have this world of art that many try to stamp as dead, but damn it, it’s still thriving.

Although I wonder, at most events, about the starving writers, the blocked writers, the struggling writers, the keep to themselves writers and the many other writers that we don’t really talk about. They might come to these events and they might not. They work a full day and might be too exhausted, but they still stay up and work on their manuscripts. They have been unable to put words to paper because trauma or sickness or anxiety prevents them, but sometimes a thought comes out and they journal about it hoping one day their story will be heard. They work a factory job or take care of their kids all day and feel out of place, but they still go to the open mic or the poetry slam. They write and submit, apply for grants and prizes, but don’t get their chance because the literary world is big and racism, sexism, and ageism still exists big time in it. Writing and books are just as important to the types of people I’ve mentioned because they are writers. Some of them published and some of them have not. Some of them are you and some of them are me and maybe we’re all a combination of many.

I write this because as writers we tend to glamourize or romanticize what we do and that’s most of what the world sees. The parties and launches are wonderful, but I do enjoy hearing about lives outside of writing; people’s work days and their boring commutes. I want to ask if behind it all, you’re ok. I’m very confessional by nature and I don’t expect others to be. It’s just interesting to know I’m not alone in the struggle to have a life and still be a writer, or rather to have a life and just be me.

Not all of us are professors or can afford the money or the time for an MFA (although there are struggles there too). Not all of us have the inside track in publishing and know the ins and outs of it (although there are struggles there too). Not all of us are adept at schmoozing (maybe they’ve taken a course?). Yet that’s how the media portrays writers and that’s how the writing world is seen: a bunch of people who dedicate themselves to writing and made it despite the odds. Maybe one percent of those out there have, but most of us have lives outside of that media portrayed world.

I’m a writer, but I’m a single mother of two kids. I combat daily with my own issues, but I live comfortably because of alimony and I have time to write. Although now I have a goal and ambition to be independent. It’s imperative for me as a feminist, and as an example to my daughter to show her that we can create and make a life for ourselves without depending on others financially. I freelance and am out looking for steady work, but my non-writing resume is a history of blue collar factory jobs where computers have made them obsolete, and outdated advertising desk jobs from fifteen years ago before my children were born. I have a supportive family and a close relationship with my children’s father, but I can’t lean on them anymore. I have to stand on my own eventually and it’s hard. I do recognize that I have a roof over my head and food in the pantry because of others. Aiming to change that is the difficult and overwhelming part. I fear writer’s block because of it. I fear not having time to write for myself. I fear my anxiety and cycling bouts of depression will hinder any progress I have made in my writing career.

I am fond of saying that if you work hard at something, things will manifest for you. They might be the things you were looking for, but things will happen. For many writers, they can’t get to the part of just “work” because they’re busy trying to stay afloat. Launch party? Hell, some people have to wake up at 5am for their daily commute.

I’m glad that there are spaces like Sachiko Murakami’s The Hardest Thing About Being a Writer and Daniel Zomparelli and Dina DelBuchia’s Can’t Lit. These are places where writers can be human. I don’t feel alone when I read or listen to these sites or interviews like them. I’m not a big fan of pretension, name dropping, and ego. I like emotion, substance, and am comforted by the idea that in every writer there is a fallibility and vulnerability where stories and poetries are born. Get to know the people that combat the world while still writing.

I’m just bored by the David Foster Wallace or Wonder Boys portrayals of writers.

 

I’m not saying we should end the glamorization of writing, but rather that when we’re out there doing our thing, we should consider the world we write about, the lives write about, and the topics we write about when we write about writing. Addressing personal concerns and things that hit close to home for us individually is easier for some and harder for others, but it’s good to understand we all live in a world where we have to make compromises to survive. We find our niche, we build our own moulds, and yeah, we’re writers. But writers must feed, cloth, and house ourselves.

If more people knew that we work, we struggle, they’d buy more books from authors, they’d help small presses more (for these are the places a lot of the disenfranchised authors get their chances in), and they’d be more willing to take us seriously when we say that writing is a job, so please pay us. BUY OUR BOOKS. PAY WELL FOR YOUR CREATIVE CONTENT. Pay and pay writers well. It’s work.

I love going to book launches and readings because it’s inspiring to see the amount of folk that still go out to these things. I get huge stage fright before a reading because why would anyone want to hear my poetry? It’s a privilege to be able to get up there and have an audience for it. And I’m paid to do it nowadays. That’s huge. I get paid to write AND get paid to read my poetry…to people even!

I’m a nobody like the many nobodies out there. I hope to forever be a nobody like the many nobodies out there because the only glamour I enjoy from writing is being able to read my words. The rest is work and some of it is fun, I admit, but the rest is work.

There Is No Escape Out of Time Book Launch

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Come help us celebrate our new titles and the warm weather!

Jacqueline Valencia, There Is No Escape Out of Time (poetry)
Michael Murray, A Van Full of Girls (short fiction)
Dog the Moon, Stan Rogal (fiction)

Thursday, July 7, 2016
6:30 PM
The Supermarket Restaurant and Bar (Kensington Market)
268 Augusta Ave
Toronto, ON

https://www.facebook.com/events/1033169150113367/

JACQUELINE VALENCIA is a poet and film/literary critic. She has written for The Rusty Toque, Lemon Hound, Next Projection, subTerrain magazine, and The Barnstormer, among others. Her chapbook Maybe was selected for the 2012 Arte Factum exhibit by Poetry Is Dead Magazine.

THERE IS NO ESCAPE OUT OF TIME is an ethereal cinema of a mind, jumping through wormholes in a poet’s past, present, and future, even in space.

MICHAEL MURRAY works as a creative writer, commentator, blogger, and “journalist.” He has written for The Globe and Mail, the National Post, Hazlitt magazine, CBC Radio, the Ottawa Citizen, TheToast, as well as scores of other prestigous publications that pay extraordinary amounts of money and fly him around in helicopters.

A VAN FULL OF GIRLS is a collection of short, dizzy, funny things. It’s zippy and unpredictable, like a mongoose, but it’s dead sexy.

Poet, novelist, and playwright STAN ROGAL’s work has appeared in magazines and anthologies in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. His poetry collection Love’s Not the Way To (Bookland, 2013) was shortlisted for a ReLit Award.

DOG THE MOON is a compelling novel that offers a new look at the traditional Canadian tale of a city boy in the “wilderness,” taking aim at our literary mythology with sharp, satirical darts.

On Pluto and science.

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The new image of Pluto, taken from the New Horizons probe on Monday. http://www.theguardian.com/science/video/2015/jul/14/pluto-new-horizons-science-nasa-cheers-video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvU_ir9jkG4

It was my father who introduced the night stars to us; that is the stars in the way they’re meant to be seen. My sister and I were aware of space, I mean, of course it’s all around us, but it was on a road trip that we became viscerally attuned to its magic.

Earlier that week my mother received a phone call late in the night. It was news from my great aunt that her son, my mother’s cousin (in Latin American terms that would make him my uncle), was dying of pneumonia. He had been calling out for my mother, Nelsy, on his deathbed. The two were very close once. The next day, after much family discussion, we organized a family road trip to see him. My sister and I gave notice at school and took our homework with us to do on the road. It would be a far trek from Toronto to Tucson and I didn’t even know my uncle. However at thirteen, I was glad to be out of anything to do with school and the teenage weariness that came along with being with others my own age. I loved school, I just never felt like I fit in at grade school.

I don’t remember if it was after we met my uncle (he died the day after) or if it was on our way home, but at some point my dad pulled over in the middle of the desert. He had to take a leak and there wasn’t a rest stop in sight. It was completely dark out, but for lights of towns reflected in the hills around us.. Each hill was girdled by the impossible greenery that fed off of it. Giant cacti, low bush, and alien-like flora dotted the stretch of the flat lands and valleys which reached up to the dunes and ridges. The freeway lights caught a bit of this, but my dad made his way to some bushes by the lighted path of our car’s headlights.

“Yac-ke-leen!” my dad yelled out from behind the bushes. “No mires para aca! Tell your mother to open up the sunroof.”

There were tiny lights above the window, but when my mother opened it up, it seemed like we were looking at the entire universe. My eyes seemed so small to take in the big expanse of the universe above. The sight of the milky way filled me with both fear and unexpected arousal. I woke up my sister and we both stood there enamoured by something so incredibly real that it should be impossible.

“Star Trek is real!” my sister said.

“Yeah,” I replied.

I was speechless. I’d grown up mostly in the city, living in apartment buildings, and never seeing anything like what I saw that night. It was like watching a fairy world materialize. The sky stopped being heaven to me. It was a place people could go to, went to, and the moon landing was an actual thing in my brain; before it was just textbook fodder. Clouds and flight were possible, but airplanes weren’t going to take me to space. I got hooked on hard science fiction books and alien stories right then and there. I took an astronomy course in university and made a compass to track the stars (an astrolabe). I almost failed the course, but the professor saw my enthusiasm and took some time to offer me a list of visual references that would help me for my final exam. It gave me confidence, if not for science, but to know that having a passion for something can sometimes surpass the boundaries we impose on our own brains.

Some time after having my kids, I got the harebrained idea of studying physics through the extended learning courses at the University of Waterloo. I ordered the materials and studied, but my mind couldn’t wrap itself around the abstract concepts. I gave up and the next summer I took a similar course through UofT’s continuing education programs. It was a course aimed at people who wanted to learn about astrophysics, but not necessarily get a degree in it. I loved it. If I had the money and the time, I’d go back and take more of them.

I did some research and looked into getting a mathematics or science degree on top of my English literature degree. I enrolled through UofT again and took half a semester of first year algebra. I barely passed the first test, but I was having so much fun. It was odd feeling like my brain couldn’t do anything because it was so overwhelmed with information. I’d get one concept out of the hundreds, but there was a huge satisfaction that came with figuring that one thing. I should have audited the course instead. I quit and went back to concentrate on my strengths: running and writing.

Today came with news of the New Horizon’s probe flying by Pluto, giving us a visual of a perfectly round dwarf planet. Pluto is the awkward goth of the solar system. Scientists have wars on the semantics of it, whether it should be classified as part of our turf or not. Pluto doesn’t give a shit. It’s been orbiting the sun in its weird pattern, isolated from discussions, and the meaning humans have imposed it. Lord of the underworld in mythology and romantically cursed with love for Proserpina for the benefit of Venus. It is because of that love in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, that we have seasons. There’s a reason for Pluto in some astrological charts. It helps believers discover their inner world and learn beyond the blanket of our darkness. That is, if you believe in those things.

There’s a weird thing that happens when an event in space exploration comes to the forefront of the news.  People get a little bit excited even if it has no direct impact on our personal life experiences. Every day we share an existence like celestial bodies orbiting and changing one another even if we are unaware of it. Traffic, meals, dogs, ants, the street busker, the traffic cop, teachers, et cetera, all influence our inner world peripherally. Our lives are so isolated from another though. You can’t read my brain and I can’t read yours. We can only decipher feelings and thoughts through gesticulations and words. As socially adept as you can be, we all live an individual insular existence. There are worlds within worlds beyond worlds influenced by other worlds within ourselves. We spend most of our lives trying to discover and come to terms with those spaces in our brain, so its quite a miracle that we can, and even attempt to, communicate. Connections are vital and the forces of repulsion and attraction drives our lives daily. We reproduce, make choices, build, destroy, and consume all in the name of an unspoken pull for purpose.

Our planet Earth can not exist without the other celestial bodies doing their thing around it. While we have our wars and go through the cycles of life, we are hurtled through the galaxy like a baseball being flung into the skies. Humans as space travellers continuing to make poetry about our spaceship Earth and our associations within it. But Pluto doesn’t give a fuck. It’s the honey badger of planets looking all spiffy and cool as people “oooh” and “ahhh” at its photo. It suddenly exists before our very eyes.

Looking up at the stars is an ubiquitous action.

There really is no particular point to this post, but to say I still love science. Science is like the cool kid I thought I wanted to be. Out in space with all the mathematics and scholarly language humans can muster, an astronaut is a tiny speck. The astronaut observes and studies, but to the ether it is nothing. Our probes are tiny gadgets that only mean something to us. In the mysterious universe of synchronicity, there once was a man who told his daughters to look up at the night sky to feel dreams become aspirations. Today there was a photograph taken of Pluto that told the world to look up beyond itself imploring it to continue dreaming.

**Edited to add: Pluto Shits On The Universe by Fatimah Asghar

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/250212

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My friend reminded me that I’m obligated to include SCIENCE!

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/70051022″>Thomas Dolby – She Blinded Me With Science</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19454554″>Mad Hatter</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

July Update

image from pixabay
image from pixabay

There are few things on the go, but if I haven’t posted on here yet, here you go:

  • 1. My poem “The Climb” is up at The Week Shall Inherit The Verse.

http://theweekshallinherittheverse.blogspot.ca/2015/06/jacqueline-valencia.html

The poem is part of a larger lyrical project I’ve been working on whereupon I take some of my old poems and remake them via new views and methods. It’s kind of like using an evolving vocabulary (words, colours, media, my mixed culture, language), as I look for the source of what drives me to write poetry.

  • 2. My short story “Weird Girl” is up at Lynn Crosbie’s HOOD.

http://lynncrosbie.com/2015/06/18/weird-girl-by-jacqueline-valencia-in-the-hood/

Also, a tiny part of a universe in which I’m basing the novel I’m currently working on. Accompanying image selected by Lynn Crosbie for our mutual love of Malcolm McDowell in Lindsay Anderson’s If…. (I was once a wee extra in a film with McDowell called SUCK, along with many of my goth friends. I only really said hello to him.)

  • 3. I have a short story in this great anthology, Gods, Memes, And Monsters edited by Heather Wood:

http://www.stoneskinpress.com/index.php/gods-memes-and-monsters/

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  • A few other things are going on, one of which is that I’m concentrating on prose, poetry, and submitting more work. It is because of this that I’m trying to finish and tie up some of my current conceptual work.
  • I’m still doing this: http://gettinginsidejamesjoyceshead.blogspot.ca/ (Joyce can be so frustrating, but I keep coming back to it.Today’s transcription started with Bloom thinking on space exploration and somehow ended up talking about ovaries and sperm. That woke me up.)

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What I wanted to bring to you today was my closing the chapter on This Is Room 101

http://thisisroom101.blogspot.ca/

I wrote three paragraphs of 1984 and remixed them with three paragraphs from The Wall Street Journal’s headline story.

This project was inspired in part by my experiences as a dj and seeing how I could use them with just words. Olivia Rosane at The State did a piece on my project called “Living in Dystopia”: http://www.thestate.ae/live-blogging-dystopia/

I found many of the things she touched upon very interesting and her analysis blew me away. I didn’t have any big intellectual epiphany in starting it or while doing it. It just seemed like something to do while I fought off writer’s block.

It yielded this little chapbook called Text One which I wrote as part of the Found Poetry Review’s Oulipost month: http://www.lulu.com/shop/jacqueline-valencia/text-one/paperback/product-21529247.html

So in an effort to have a record that I did this project, I’ve made a free downloadable PDF available with a cover to accompany it.

PDF:  https://jacquelinevalencia.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/thisisroom1011.pdf 

Cover: https://jacquelinevalencia.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/thisisroom101cover1.pdf

I have printed up 5 paperback copies of the project. It is 411 pages.:

thisisroom101page

One copy I will keep. The other four I will be on sale from me personally for $198.40 each. Each copy will be signed, numbered, and come packaged with original artwork by me.

If you’d like one of the four, please email me at ravensee at gmail dot com.

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A reminder that the “2016 Toronto Poetry Conference 1st planning meeting” is on July 22, 2015 at 8pm Pauper’s Pub (539 Bloor Street West) in Toronto. All are welcome, not just to plan, but to hear input or share in some grub.

That’s when I’ll select and finalize a date for the conference.

I have finished retyping Orwell’s 1984 and The Wall Street Journal

You can find the last entry here with a few thoughts on the project: http://thisisroom101.blogspot.ca/

 

 

 

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George Orwell in his Burma passport photo. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Orwell

Writerly Blog Tour

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Quincy. BECAUSE WHY NOT?!

 

It’s been a very busy week and a half with the Toronto International Film Festival going on, but I did get a poetry reading in. I performed a few pieces exclusively for Lindsay Cahill’s HOMER’S ODYSSEY. It was a wonderful event where I had people yelling at a cardboard cloud I made. We’re all Abe Simpson, it’s true.

The great and all knowing AG Pasquella (an awesomely talented writer and funny guy) tagged me for this Writerly Blog Tour that’s going around. Here are my answers (written while high on Dayquil – summer colds suck).

What I’m working on.

I have a book proposal on a film I love and a poetry book manuscript making the rounds. In the meantime, I’m writing my first full novel manuscript. It’s hard for me to describe, but it’s set in various cities with a main character I’ve grown very attached to. I have no idea when it’ll be done, but out of the many manuscripts I’ve stuffed uncompleted in a drawer, this one has stubbornly wanted finishing. If I put it down, it nags and nags until I work on it again. It’s really weird, but I’ll take it.

SQUIRREL!

Look for one of my short stories in a modern bestiary anthology by Stone Skin Press coming out at the end of this year.

I’m still copying Ulysses by James Joyce by hand and almost finished remixing George Orwell’s 1984 with stories from The Wall Street Journal. I’m going insane with conceptual work like this, but it’s for me and I get an enjoyment out of it. There’s always new stuff that comes to mind and new collaborations that keep popping up because of it. I love playing with words and conceptualism is a fascinating way of doing that.

Film critiques over at Next Projection and These Girls On Film.

And poetry. As long as I live and breathe I will always write poetry.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I’m not sure! Although I’m of the camp of poets that believe that there’s nothing original that hasn’t been thought of before, I also believe in innovation and individuality. Innovation is  the birth of originality. You can only remake fire if you change the environment. So let’s birth a new way of writing stories or poems. The stars will shine at night and writers will come up with various ways of describing them, but in the end, the stars still shine at night. Let’s describe new things and come up with words or sounds or colours for the specific emotions we feel when we miss the ice cream truck. Let’s make a new alphabet.

I’m a looney tunes as it is. Knowing a lot of quirky writers like me, (hello AG and Shari!), I write down whatever comes to my head and sometimes by some freak accident a story I like comes together. I write about random things and the tiny things (real or unreal) in life that make my life interesting as a whole.

Like this keyboard. Damn I need to clean my keyboard.

Why do I write what I do?

I write whatever is in my head or what’s right in front of me. Writing, of any kind, is a release for me. When it’s work, like film or book criticism, it’s a way of expressing an opinion. I’ve got all this “useless” information on cinema gathered up since I was a kid that I try to put it to use.

I’m not a very talkative person, but I like expressing myself with words on paper (or on the screen). I can get frustrated with it, put it away, and then come back to expand upon thoughts or the worlds I’ve created. When it’s something with a deadline, it’s all I’ll think about until it’s done.

I spend most of my time observing since I often get tongue tied. If I haven’t said something in person, you can be sure that I’ll find a way to put in my stories, book, or a review. But most of all, I write because I’ve always wanted to and have.

How does my writing process work?

I wake up at 5am and go for a small run, get home and write whatever I thought about during the run. Shower, get the kids ready for school, and then sit down to write. If I have nothing to do, I’ll write until lunch time and if I’m busy, I’ll start writing at 7pm until bedtime. I also meditate three times a week. I find it gives me a clean slate.

Brainstorming is enough to get me going these days. If I get blocked (which I did once from the age of 15-30), I’ll re-write a favourite paragraph from a book I like and then go from there. It helps unblock and flush out the brain and it’s a good way of learning great narratives from the work you admire. This includes Andy Capp strips.

 

I hereby tag Richard Rosenbaum and Liz Worth. Two great writers with two wonderful books out.

 

Other writers on this tour:

Rebecca Rosenblum * Julia Zarankin * Maria Meindl * Ayelet Tsabari * Angie Abdou * Kathy Para* Theodora Armstrong * Eufemia Fanetti * Janie Chang * Lorna Suzuki * Barbara Lambert * Matilda Magtree * Alice Zorn * Anita Lahey * Pearl Pirie * Julie Paul *Sarah Mian * Steve McOrmond * Susan Gillis * Jason Heroux* Heidi Reimer* Suzanne Alyssa Andrew* Lindsay Gibb* Shari Kasman* AG Pasquella

 

Second verse, same as the first: a long run on The Ramones

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http://www.spin.com/articles/read-ramones-snarky-1975-one-sheet/ The Ramones / Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns

“Now I wanna run away from home now I wanna be all alone now”

I was playing with my toys in my parents’ living room when I learned that John Lennon had been shot. In 1994, I was putting away records at Radio Erindale with friends when Metal Mike ran in and said, “Cobain’s gone, man.” I believe it was my husband who had texted me to say Lou Reed had passed.

It’s weird the way we find out these things these days. On my way home from a pal’s dinner, I checked my phone and news trickled in my little device that Tommy Ramone had died. It wasn’t shocking. Everyone dies. When Joey Ramone died I was in stresses of being a new mom. It was another rock and roll heartache. There are bigger things in this universe to mourn and to be angry about. Tommy Ramone’s passing is a reminder that all things go and all things remain in some way.

I bought Rocket To Russia after having a huge argument with my then girlfriend about the importance of The Ramones. We agreed on The Clash and Black Flag, but for some reason, she couldn’t stand The Ramones. I was ok with her dislike, but I couldn’t listen to them without her saying something about it. It was aggravating. She found them to be too “happy.” Anyways, I skipped class the day we argued and went record shopping with the full intent of acquiring and listening to enough Ramones to make my ears bleed.

Too happy? Bullshit.

“Lobotomy, lobotomy, lobotomy, lobotomy!
DDT did a job on me
Now I am a real sickie
Guess I’ll have to break the news
That I got no mind to lose
All the girls are in love with me
I’m a teenage lobotomy”

Everywhere The Ramones went turned to punk. Their first UK tour practically legitimized punk across the spectrum and it was soon after they played Toronto, that promoters went wild promoting local punk acts here.

I have no idea where I first heard them, most likely on the radio, but as far as my subconscious goes, it feels like I was born being into the band. The quick spitfire of each of their songs: furious drums that don’t quit even long after the song is done; the skilled angry staccato of the guitar; humming drone of the bass; and Joey…oh Joey. I’ve been secretly in love with Joey since Rock n Roll High School.

All those gangly limbs, bad lip synching, striped shirt, tall obscured face, and nerdy exterior…I have a thing for it. And that voice. Joey’s voice didn’t give a fuck and neither did he. The Ramones were the most unpretentious and geekiest anti-social image to arrive on any scene and because of that they connected with some of the most disenfranchised of the kids.

I have a Ramones song for almost every memorable angry occasion in my life. Today I was running though. I’ve taken to not using music to run lately, but today it felt necessary to bring The Ramones with me. The first few kilometres were I Wanna Be Sedated (I loop songs over and over when I get a good pace, or it’s my OCD, whatever). Road To Ruin is my brain dump album. I’m crazy and my anxiety of late has been on full tilt. Gimme anything to get rid of that uncontrolled feeling.

Then I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement. Hey daddy-o I don’t want to go to the hole. The dark place that I keep running from. Their debut album is so unapologetically raw, bass driven, and full of animalistic young energy. Plus Judy is a Punk has my name in it. “Perhaps they’ll die, oh yeah!”

(plus Havana Affair is a great song when you’re running through frou-frou Yorkville)

The Tom Waits cover I Don’t Wanna Grow Up is practically my anthem at 41. Although sung with an almost happier light by Waits (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!), in the hands of The Ramones it becomes a song of lifetime defiance and sticking it to the man.

I’m Affected has that classic eighties feel combined with a CBGBs punk that was more modernly relatable to my Talking Heads and Blondie loving peers. Don’t get me wrong, I love those two bands too (particularly The Talking Heads), but having fallen for The Ramones via their short hard driving bursts of songs, Phil Spector’s production of End of The Century brought out their excellent musicianship to the forefront. And Joey is so angry on here.

I could go on. I ended off my run with my go-to album which is, as you guessed it, Rocket to Russia.1, 2, 3, 4 You better know what you want… I can’t give you anything.”

I can’t give anyone anything. How I feel that. You know how little I got. It’s true.

With Tommy Ramone going to that great gig in the sky, it gives one a moment to pause, especially if you’re getting up there yourself. Who knew we’d be aging punk rockers, aging grungers, aging anything. I thought I’d never see 30, let alone, 40, but here I am. Yet The Ramones are still there playing on my long runs, or when I’m angry, or if I feel like the only one in a crowded room. While the world mills about dancing and dinner making, I’ll be bop-bopping hopefully until I take my last breath.

Anyways, I’m on a bit of an adrenaline rush, a sweaty mess that needs a shower, and a bit melancholy in turn. I just wanted to write some thoughts down as I reminisce and subject my kids to more Ramones for the rest of the day.

Can I bring my Ramones shirt to the big gig?

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RIP Tommy: Not Fade Away by Michael Robbins http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/246998

About that gig in the sky:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/07/12/tommy_ramone_died_they_might_be_giants_john_flansburgh_pays_tribute_to_longest.html

freshly-pressed-rectangle

On the power of erotica and literal masturbation…

I have reviews in the queue to write and movies to finish watching, but it’s Saturday. I’m lazy and procrastinating and it’s what you do on day with nothing that’s pressing on you to get done. I also blame this book for my dreamy state:

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Tamara Faith Berger’s Little Cat

It’s two of her previously published works, Lie With Me (1999), The Way of The Whore (2001) put into one volume. When I read Berger’s Maidenhead, I felt so spent after I finished it. I was physically drained from being incredibly tense all over. I was stuck between the need for physical pleasure and relief. Although titillating and exciting, Berger’s prose provoked a higher sense of expectation rather than arousal per se. I had sore shoulders from keeping my back straight at attention for the next page. It’s hard work staying like that and not realizing how physically involved I was with the book until I had put it down.

I was so tense and my back so done that I could barely review it. I didn’t want to digest it. I wanted to keep it in my stomach.

Then I wanted more.

My eyes bugged out and I lunged at the book when I spotted Little Cat in the bookstore. Sure enough, I find myself in that same erect position, flipping pages, and wondering, “How the fuck do you describe it so well?”

When I mean “it,” I mean the mundane biological and mixed emotional reactions of fucking and not giving a damn. There’s a unique perspective with individual women as there is with men. Everyone has their preferences, but I guess beyond my relating to the visceral needs of the characters in here, I admire Berger’s raw honesty in her approach to writing them.

“….my body is filled to the ends with these kinds of murmurs:

I need your cock to touch my cunt.

I need us naked for only one second.

I need us forever to be here forever.

 

I have always had to feel myself like I’ve never felt myself before.” –  Berger, Tamara Faith, and Tamara Faith Berger. “Lie With Me.” Little Cat. Rev. 2nd ed. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2013. . Print.

It’s a beautiful rendering of the sensual and all-consuming wanting lists that come to mind with sexual urge/need. It’s basic above, but further along when our protagonist gets what she thinks she wants, there’s a continual woman’s sexual monologue and third party descriptor that pushes buttons, like a perineum word massage.

I’m in love with Berger’s writing. Much like the protagonist pleads for the reader to understand her needs and why she does what she does, I want to know because I want to know if she knows what I also want to know. Weird sentence, but that’s the tangent I get into in my head as I read Little Cat.

I’d write a review, but I’m barely finished the first half of the book. What prompts me to blog about it though is my delight at reading Berger’s words and the connection that I find so compelling in erotica. I don’t have much of a collection. Pitiful, really.

IMG_20140614_082853 (1)I’m a disorganized book lover and my shelves have their own weird system. I’ve somehow mixed my more erotic forms of literature with feminist texts, Freaky Fountain Press books, William S. Burroughs, Samuel R. Delany, poetry, and the Bible. The Bible can be pretty porn-y, no? Sometimes Joyce’s Ulysses finds itself up there too.

I read a lot of online erotica. I would love to read and collect more paper erotica, but I have specific things I look for and with time and age, I find there are different specifics I’d like. Life is short. Can’t waste time on duds, you know.

I think I love female erotica because it speaks to something that is rarely acknowledged: masturbation is a tool of self-empowerment. I know, as a woman, it is for me because it is my head that’s in charge of the scenario, the tools to get me there, and I do what I need. The best partners figure that out, and even then the best partners are the ones you can adapt to that or have their own ways that are natural to them to give you that pleasure.

Yet most people’s first awakening is the first touch they give themselves or the first orgasm they experience. I’ve yet to encounter anyone that has forgotten their first time coming. Most, I would think, remember it and spend most of their lives trying to recreate that first extraordinary release of tension. After that, it’s old hat and everyone creates their masturbation rituals and sexual rituals.

Porn, at its base, is ingenuous. Nothing gets hidden (except maybe in the type of porn you read or watch: fake boobs, nipped bodies, hairless encounters). At its core, there’s a universal high that is to be achieved in the making, watching, or consumption of it. For me, it’s worldly constraint that reminds us that we’re all just animals and not alone. There’s no social passive aggressiveness, no algorithms I have to navigate, there’s no angst in getting there (unless, of course, it’s a hate fuck, and that’s more for relief making the hate fuck more of a mutual masturbation session). Thus, it’s me in charge of my own pleasure.

Reading erotica doesn’t necessarily make me want to self-pleasure, but it essentially gives me the power to say, “It’s ok, other people think about this stuff too.” It’s what a good book does. You can read about dragons, spaceships, farms, tales of high adventure, stories of death and triumph, and they’re all escapes. A writer writes for all sorts of reasons, but these are dreams brought to paper. Erotica are wet fantasies brought to paper.

In BDSM erotica, a reader is given the power to dominate and submit. For women, it’s such a liberating world to play in. Growing up in a background of catholic guilt and shame for everything, part of that BDSM mental play is the guilt and the shame. It can be good and it can be bad, but reading erotica gives you the agency to manipulate it how you want and what place you want it in. Reading a good passage, entrusts the female reader to go there, where she has always been forbidden, or shamed into going. I was starved into submission by being denied what I want through guilt. Upon reading a good book, I am given a unique power with a different kind of actual submission. It feeds a starved brain and makes for a happier individual.

I don’t know. I see a tendency for people to get addicted to porn because it’s the dishonest porn. The porn that dictates what you want. It’s the kind that I saw when I saw my first ever porn magazine.

When I was a kid, I was at a friend’s house and we were playing hide and seek. I hid between the bookshelves and the bed in her big brother’s room. Underneath the bed there was a big red glossy paper. I pulled it out and saw something I’d never seen before. There were naked bodies on top of one another, tied up women smiling at me, men and women with contorted faces like they were in pain. It was a spread out of an orgy someone had taken out of a magazine. Plump rumps and hairy everything was staring back at me, creamed in many areas. It was both gross and fascinating to see, but I quickly put it back feeling a shame that felt familiar and gutting.

Many, many, many years later after sifting through different and confusing versions of porn, I realized that much of what is commercially available, isn’t targeted to me, nor is it honestly targeted. It’s a frustrating world to wade through and it’s diminishing and disturbing that it takes such a long time for some of us women to realize what we individually want. I’m sure making porn was at one point, but somehow commercial porn evolved into something that dictates rather than provides. Maybe people who heavily watch that sort of commercial porn tend to not find what they sexually need in real life? I’m just making assumptions here, but I find that what fulfills me and fulfills many is porn capacitates its viewer/reader with the means to explore and re-examine what it is they really want to sexually satisfy them.

This is why I enjoyed Matthew Pollack’s Run Run It’s Him. There’s a hint to that need for the search of that agency because the individual has a hard time finding what he wants in real life.

Recently on a tour of the Queer Outlaw Cinema exhibit at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, I was thinking about Bruce LaBruce’s work, which is featured in it. LaBruce’s films do explore the sensual body as a political and radical being. You can change the world with how you use your body and you can change the world with how you react with it. Erotica is one of those tools of activism for it gives people the liberty to be in command of their sexual agency.

When the “MRA” (“men’s rights” people) came in after the female targeted tragedy in Santa Barbara this year and said, “More people will die unless you give men sexual options,” I balked. I’m sorry, but women are not in charge of your pleasure. You, everyone should be in charge of their pleasure and if you want it to be with someone else, it must be mutual and consensual for it to be an option. Men have options. Men have porn, magazines, literature, and everything that involves sex targeted to them. All you need to do is go to your nearest television show or convenience store magazine display. Even the magazines aimed at women are heavily or subtly charged with options for how to please men, ie. Cosmopolitan.

This is why books that cerebrally acknowledge a woman’s wants and give her a plethora of options don’t get ignored. We might read them in little corners, the back of the bus, or full out on our commutes, but there is a universal want for honesty in our porn. Maybe men should ask for that too because I’m sure there’s so much more to explore on the matter. You can do on your own, like we women have to as well.

But I digress. With the popularity of the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto and the new female targeted sex shops trend around the world, I’m just glad that there exists a marriage between the written word and the female experience between the sheets.

Claim your experience. Accept your wants. Explore more. Most of all, play well and with consideration, knowing everyone is still searching through their kinks too.