Water’s Edge: Excerpt from Chap 1

A Little Context

For Serena, moving to a new town and a new school is only half the problem.  Left behind by her father to live with near-strangers, Serena must learn to live quietly and suppress her powerful gift.  If she can’t figure out how to do that, members of The Order might notice that things around Serena aren’t as “Normal” as they should be.  Making new friends and attracting the attention of an artistic young man with his own disturbing gifts only complicates matters.

Excerpt from Chapter 1

Once in the hallway, I leaned against the row of lockers, taking deep breaths, trying to blink away the tears.  I hated my life right now.

I saw the girls’ restroom and escaped inside.

I checked each stall to make sure I was alone.  I turned back to the door and locked it.  Just a few minutes of privacy.

And the lovely things about bathrooms?  Always plenty of water.  I have a thing about water, did I mention that?  It’s kind of important.

Inhaling deeply, I tried to channel the power weighing like a brick in my chest, tried to shift the filter, imaging the breath flowing all the way to the bottoms of my feet, I felt the water pulling toward my call, answering, and grief swirled through my heart unexpectedly.

There were ten porcelain sinks in this restroom.  With a little flick of the power seated in my chest, I let the water pour.

Each of the ten faucets twisted on and water gushed, thundering.  I exhaled, pushed the air out, willing the negative feelings and hurt to flow down the drain with all the water.

Steam began to rise, the heat fogging the mirrors.

I breathed in and the air was heavier, damp, and soothed my heart some.

It took me a few minutes, but as I began to feel calmer, the water’s fury eased.  I breathed out and let the water’s power go until each faucet was only tinkling.

I swiped at a mirror, looking at my reflection.  Green eyes stared back, my dead mother’s mouth, my missing father’s straight nose.

But at least I didn’t look like I had cried.  Never let ‘em see you cry, I thought.

I walked down to each sink, turning the knobs manually with my hand, cutting off the flow of water.

I gathered up my bag from the floor where it had dropped.

BlazeVOX wasn’t really Satan after all

Several months ago, I submitted my chapbook manuscript to BlazeVOX Press, among others.  Just before Labor Day, I received a response.  The email offered me an opportunity to publish my book… for a nominal donation, which would be made in the name of ‘cooperation.’  I was not alone in receiving such an offer and much better writers than me responded.

In fact, after one blogger wrote about how betrayed he felt [http://thebarking.com/2011/09/the-half-hearted-acceptance-letter/], other readers posted and reposted his post.  The one-time legitimate publishing company with an excellent reputation was going bankrupt [who knew?!].  In an effort to raise some capital, they decided to get some [not all] of their new authors to help pay for publishing costs.  Over the course of the Labor Day holiday, this caused a pretty big scandal in the small-press world.  Without rehashing old news, some felt that this was too close to self-publishing or a vanity press.  Others thought this was a practical response to a struggling market, if only the managing editor had been up front about this in the submissions page on his web site.

Before many days had gone by, BlazeVOX had rescinded all such offers to those new authors, me included.  They plan on doing some significant fundraising in New York and plan on only continuing publication as sufficient funds allow.

What stood out to me, over and over again in all those online discussions, was the general acceptance that poetry is a dying market; people just didn’t read/appreciate this art form anymore.  Small presses across the country struggle to keep doors open, a truth I can attest to as I search and search [and continue to search] for a home for my writing.

Sadly missing was any explanation as to why this is occurring.  When some explanation WAS offered, the writer seemed to imply it was because people just didn’t have the wherewithal to appreciate the complexity of this expression [I interpreted that to mean the writer didn’t think folks were smart enough to ‘get it.’]

This makes me furious.  Without dragging this out forever, I find that attitude both elitist and ridiculous.  If high-brow poetry put out by academic presses seems to be struggling to find an audience, perhaps that’s because it’s become a little irrelevant.

There’s a reason Katy Perry is popular.

She speaks to people using metaphors and language easily relatable.  If she seems shallow, it’s because we’ve lost an appreciation for the banal.

Poetry has become distanced from its audience, so far removed by esoteric modes of expression and frankly judgmental tones, that people, everyday-normal-9-5ers like me, find it tortuous to be forced to experience it.

And yet I’m a poet.  “Publish or perish” is not a mantra I have to live by.  If I wanted to donate to BlazeVOX in order to have a lovely book produced that I could distribute in my community, how was that any less legitimate as an art form, as poetry?

What I would hope is that some person from my community, some man or woman who buys groceries from the same Dillon’s as me,  might find a line or two that speaks of their own life, their own song.

Rejection Sucks

Rejection sucks.  No matter how many times someone tells me, with the best of intentions, that rejection is part of the ‘business,’ it still sucks.

I’m a big girl.  I understand that not every journal needs work like mine.  I’ve even been the editor sending out the letters.  Perhaps that’s why I cringe and wilt some every time I get one; I know that “this writing is terrible; don’t they know it’s awful?” may have actually crossed the mind of the poor editor experiencing my submission.  I realize that we’d all like to believe that the editor is some kind-hearted tooth-fairy-type, but that’s because no one, me included, wants to confront the reality.

Editors are beasts.  They are protecting the design and poetic aesthetic of their publications.  They are working against deadlines, juggling full-time employment, and often facing bankruptcy.  Any writer’s work that doesn’t fit in with the view or vision of that press gets rejected.  On rare occasions, the work actually fits the aesthetic, but the caliber of the work doesn’t reach the level of other submissions. 

Frankly, maybe I used too many ‘to be’ verbs.  Maybe the editor didn’t appreciate my line breaks.  Maybe that profound moment which was authentic and true for me feels sentimental and overblown to the editor.    On some higher, cerebral level, I respect that.

It still sucks.

I even have a system for dealing with this situation.  I almost always have something out for review.  That way when the rejection letter comes from one press, there’s still the chance that something else will be picked up elsewhere.  It’s the eternal cycle.

Unfortunately when I receive one of these letters, inevitably I stop writing, even if it’s only for a few days.  I just get the wind knocked out for a bit and need to regroup before I can keep writing.  Every so often, I actually get a letter which show time and effort because the editor actually addresses me personally.  But mostly I wait six months, only to be told “We regret to inform you that we did not accept your work for publication at this time.  Feel free to submit again.”