CUAV's Spiderweb of Self-Love
Throughout my quest to get to know my feelings
as part of my healing process, I've managed to get quite cozy with some emotions that seemed terrifying before. I've invited anger
to sit beside me as a partner in my social change work. I've cuddled up with sadness
over a bowl of callaloo soup. But one emotion still beyond my grasp is somewhat surprising to me. I’m having a hard time with pride.
I know this because I've had a few reasons to be proud of myself lately. After graduating from my MFA program
in June, I've written a chapbook
, won a lit slam
, and had my work published in a few journals. And even listing those accomplishments, I cringe a little, not wanting to seem too full of myself.
See, I know that pride has an ugly side, and if I found myself on that side, I might see my accomplishments as all my own, instead of acknowledging the mentors, community members, and historical heroes who have made all of my achievements possible. I don't want to do that, and I know that's part of why I find it so difficult to sit with pride.
I also know that, as a survivor of violence, pride isn't something I'm used to. I'm more accustomed to shame and self-doubt. I'm used to dismissing my achievements as not good enough, or as simple strokes of luck.
And so, with this in mind, I see that a necessary step in my healing journey is to practice letting pride in. I'm going to practice looking at what I've done and saying, Damn. I did good,
and sitting with the discomfort of how that feels to me, until it gets more comfortable. I'm grateful for everyone who has helped me get to where I am, which must also mean that I'm grateful for myself.
For me, it's all about the practice of self-love. This year at CUAV, we're closing the year with three months focusing on self-love, and last week's awe-inspiring performance event, Color of My Spirit
, was the perfect way to kick it off. Together, our members and the event's attendees created a Spiderweb of Self-Love, with messages of love to ourselves and our communities. My message said, "We are strong." "We." I guess that means me, too.
So, here I am being proud of myself – I’m published in Eleven Eleven Journal! Eleven Eleven is a highly-respected literary journal, and the latest issue includes my work alongside heroes including badass poet LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, my professor from San Francisco State Toni Mirosevich, members of my community including Portuguese Artists Colony's Caitlin Myer, and Evan Karp, who edits the journal that accepted my first published poem. In other words, this is big for me, and the perfect opportunity to practice feeling proud. You can celebrate with me at the Eleven Eleven Issue 15 Reading/Release Party, happening at 7:30 pm tomorrow, October 9, at the CCA MFA Writing Studio in San Francisco. Check out the details of that and other upcoming events on my events page. I also have a new page here, just in time to remind me of my reasons to be proud. On my new publications page, you'll find some of the places where my work has appeared, in print and online. You'll also find a link to purchase my new chapbook, Split Ears. You can get it for a low price, because really I just want to share it with you, and by purchasing it, you'll be encouraging me to practice self-love, so I'll owe you one.
What do you have to be proud of? I know you've got something. Sit with that feeling today, and show yourself some well-deserved love.
It's almost eerie, the way I can revisit Audre Lorde's work again and again, and always find that she seems to be speaking directly to the questions I'm grappling with at the moment. It's one of the reasons I count her as one of my mentors, in spite of the fact that this mentorship began long after she passed away.
Have you ever had a mentor like that? Here's a passage I came across while
rereading her work for school. From her essay "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power:"For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering and self-negation, and with the numbness which so often seems like their only alternative in our society. Our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered from within.
These are meaningful words, and timely, for everything I've been exploring lately about getting in touch with my feelings
and creating change from within
. Thanks for the affirmation, Audre.
So. On with the newness. Here's one change that's happening for me: I'm no longer part of the Matrices Press anthology I was helping put together to gather voices that challenge oppression and silencing. Since I'm feeling open to change, it feels right to move on. Hopefully soon I'll be able to focus on my own project in support of my vision for lifting silenced voices. Big thanks to all of the talented writers who submitted their work! If you'd like to keep up on what's next for Matrices, visit the website
And something new that I'm trying: tonight I'm going to try participating in a special show called The Lit Slam. The Lit Slam is a monthly performance poetry event based on competition for a shot at publication in an annual print journal.
I've never competed in a poetry slam before, and I'm a little nervous about going up against some seasoned pros, but I am on the lookout for submission opportunities
, and since I'm trying new things, I thought I might as well. The last time I participated in a writers' competition, Portuguese Artists Colony, it turned out pretty well for me
. And if nothing else, I know that tonight I'll have fun, which is really my main goal.
This month's feature is slam champion Danez Smith
. I've just spent way too much time on Youtube falling in love with his poetry. I'll never get that time back, but it was so worth it. Here's one of his pieces. If you want to hear him read live, come out to Viracocha
tonight at 8 pm, and for more about The Lit Slam, see their website
Here's some of that fun I was talking about
. Nicole McFeely of Litseen presents video footage of last month's Portuguese Artists Colony
, complete with the live music, the live writing, and the completed version of the ridiculous story
that led me to victory on Easter Sunday. Check it all out here
. And for more fun, including food, live music, dance and more, I hope you'll join me tomorrow night at the First Friday Performance Salon, from 6-9 pm at the Joyce Gordon Gallery in Oakland.
"Hope will never be silent."
Happy Harvey Milk Day!How are you celebrating? The day's full of events to join. Or, you can recognize Harvey's message of hope and equality in your own way. This afternoon, I'll
be at the launch
of the Trevor Project's
Harvey Milk Call Center, at the historic site of Harvey Milk's camera store. And later, I'll be reading the developed version of my winning story "The Nun's Daughter" at Portuguese Artists Colony.
Join me for a fun evening of more live writing, and musical guest Quinn Deveaux.
The show starts at 5 pm, at Fivepoints Arthouse
in San Francisco. Also not to be missed in the city tonight: Bitchez Brew
, featuring performances by such powerhouses as Jezebel Delilah X
and songbird Brooke Dabalos
. 8 pm, Viracocha. What a day. Happy birthday, Harvey!
Jesus Angel Garcia, David Corbett,
Evelyn Pine and myself
live writing to some
damn good live music
by Erma Kyriakos
Well, that was fun!It was Easter Sunday, and perhaps I should have been
spending time with my family instead of writing sexy stories. But there I was at the Portuguese Artists Colony reading
, heart pounding, typing away for ten minutes as I put together a story based on the first thing that came to my mind upon hearing the prompt "she listened for breath."Stripper nuns. What? Am I the only one? Well, I guess I shouldn't be
ashamed of the way my mind works, because the story was a success, in the sense that it earned me just enough audience votes to win the crown. My competitors could've easily taken it -- Jesus Angel Garcia
, Evelyn Pine
and David Corbett
each were fabulous, and I was glad just to be writing alongside them. Not to mention how lovely (and distracting!) it was to write to the beautiful live music of Erma Kyriakos
. So this win means that I'll be developing my story to read at the next Portuguese Artists Colony on May 22nd. The good news, for me, is that I'll get to return for another fun evening of music and words, and this time I won't have to be nervous as hell about the live writing part.
The bad news is that now, of course, I have to figure out what in the world to do with stripper nuns in a fully developed story. We'll see how this turns out. But until then, here's part one of my winning story. Edited only to add a title and correct typos. Big thanks to the Portuguese Arists Colony writers and to everyone who was present, in body or in spirit!
Today I'm feeling antsy, because tomorrow I'll be reading, and writing. That, of course, doesn't sound any different from any ordinary day, so I should specify that I'll be doing it in front of a live audience. Scandalous, I know.Each month, the Portuguese Artists Colony
hosts a reading featuring live music, local writers, and the part that's fun for you as an audience member, and terrifying for me as a participant -- live writing. That's right, that means I'll be writing on a topic I don't yet know, to then read in competition with my fellow writers as the audience determines a winner. Fun, yes? Terrifying? ...Yes. But mostly, I'm really excited, because I know it'll be a good time. My competition will be fierce -- Jesus Angel Garcia, David Corbett and Evelyn Pine.
I'm calling myself the underdog, because while they can say "refer to my book(s) and multiple awards for proof of my writing skills," I'll be using the line "refer to my blog, where I regularly demonstrate my live writing skills by posting the first words
that pour out of my head in the morning." There will also be featured readings from writers who are not to be missed, including Shideh Etaat
and Matthew Siegel
. Plus, music by Erma Kyriakos
. It will be quite a night! At least if I'm terrified for part of the evening, I'll be entertained for the rest. And I'd love your support, if you're around the Bay Area and can make it out to the reading.
Here are the details
Sunday, April 24
Doors open at 4:30 pm
Show at 5:00 pm
As for tonight, I'll be getting cozy with some creative inspiration at one of my favorite reading series, the Living Room Reading Series
. Read this post
to learn why I love it so much, and if you're interested in attending check out the details on Facebook
. I hope to see you at some point during this lively weekend of literary life!