My husband said, to my family’s horror, the poet has gone into the cave this week.
I didn’t grade or check my work email. I let the most essential part of myself, the author, fly free. I love teaching, but so much of myself has to be constrained. It goes with the professional atmosphere, and I try to keep the artistic side of myself bundled up in a parka in my classroom or anywhere near work. I don’t think it has to be that way anymore because I’m finally in a place where I’m away from the fear of being unable to support my family.
The year, 2015, was the last time I had something creative published by a press or online lit mag. I had a co-authored academic publication about educational technology and equal access published last January.
Most of my publications have been journalism, freelance, short fiction, essay, and one poem connected to my novel, Sons of the Edisto. I don’t talk about writing much in person to people I work with or I’m friends with because I never want to appear egotistical. In fact, there is nothing — besides the faces of my children — of which I’m more proud than my writing.
I reached my goal to be published by the time I turned thirty. I was first published as a journalist when I was twenty-two. My first creative publication happened when I was twenty-six. They are small publications, but they matter to writers like me because they give you a platform. I’ve never been much for self-publishing beyond what I’ve posted here on my blog. I was grateful, but also fortunate that my different styles of writing were published.
The most natural form of writing for me is fiction. I can manipulate conversation, character depth, and plot. I had classes at the University of South Carolina and the University of Kent at Canterbury in the UK. I was grateful to Alfie Dog Fiction in the UK for publishing three of my Adventures of Elliot McSwean stories from Summer 2014-August 2017 for purchase. Before the company downsized, it was one of the few places that would publish middle grades stories.
The essay that was published twice, “We Never Said Hello,” and it’s follow up “The Write Mother” were both published in collections. KY Story out of Kentucky published “The Write Mother” in its collection Motherlode. “We Never Said Hello” was published in Impact and in paniK as “Grass from the Grave.”
The reaction to my essay inspired me to do something with creative nonfiction because I had so much to tell: journalism, mascara-running-down-your-face kind of relationships, autism, losing my home, battling to represent my son’s needs over a teacher program, and being forced to change a grade at a previous school for a child who plagiarized because of influence and the good old boy system.
I tried doing stories based on them. I wrote the first set of poems about Ben and I, but they were too abstract at the time I wrote them. I was grateful to feedback from one magazine that almost published my poem “Bad Economics.” There were issues with random rhyme scheme.
I had to figure out how to do poetry in a way that fit my writing style. I am not a Shakespeare. I loved what Carl Sanburg did in his poetry. The way he opens “Mag” makes your heart sink to the bottom of your stomach, because there is nothing elaborate about it.
I wish to God I never saw you, Mag.
I wish you never quit your job and came along with me.
Sandburg just told the story of a broken relationship. He told a story of broken, messed up, and destroyed without pretty floral rhymes. Until I read his work, I never knew poetry could be that way.
I began changing poems like “Bad Economics,” and stripped them of rhymes. I reconstructed what was a collection called Fractured Snowflakes to Never Saw Jesus in the Mirror. I started fresh with reconstructed poems and new material. I was inspired by the title from a poem I wrote because I faced a lot of judgement when I stood up and spoke loud or made mistakes. Can there be forgiveness in depression, anxiety, and anger?
I met so many people in the last twenty years of my life, yes going back to twelve, that changed my perspective on people and forming close friendships. You have to be so careful. People will easily judge you, but what I love about writing is it doesn’t judge me. I can judge it, and I am free.
To be an author or poet, it’s not enough to bleed on paper. You have to take what you’ve written and form the pieces. The one exception, for me, after all these years is “We Never Said Hello”/ “Grass from the Grave.” I blasted out that essay in ten minutes. The only thing that changed about it was the fact one publication wanted to change the title. I said, “Okay.”
“We Never Said Hello” is about the choice to have my son and my husband’s family choosing to never speak to him or their brother and his mother’s death. It inspired me to take a storytelling, creative essay style and mold it into prose poetry.