Mr. Invisible Doesn't Like Rain
by Candace Fowler
I'm realizing I spend a lot of time trying to shake off the good things that come my way. I dismiss compliments to my work as exaggerations of my talent, shaking my head rather than letting the words stick. If I read the poem and the audience applauds, I try to let the sound fly off me like a dog shimmying water off its coat, instead of letting the praise sink in. And recently, upon reading a particularly glowing review of my poetry, I seriously considered the possibility that the reviewer was uncharacteristically drunk when she read my work. But I guess that's not likely.
Can anybody relate? Why do we do this? I guess I can see why people of color, or women, or queer people get used to the idea that we're not good enough, not deserving of good things, so it's easier to attribute our successes to other sources than to believe that we're really the ones who created something of value. After surviving abuse and oppression, I can understand why someone like me would have a hard time accepting that she's worthy of praise.
Today's practice is not one in humility. Today, I'm practicing saying something new - "I deserve this."
Recently, I've read my work as part of some truly magnificent events
, and poems of mine have been published in some compelling journals. It feels both humbling and empowering to share my work among such talent, and instead of asking, "What the hell am I
doing here?" I'm taking a breath and sitting with the feeling. And I'm saying, "I deserve this."
Try it out when good things come your way. Let me know how it goes.
And for one of those compelling journals in which I'm honored to have my work published, check out last December's issue of Blackberry: A Magazine.
I've written about Writing Ourselves Whole
before, but that was a while ago
, and anything that brings transformative healing into survivors' lives is worth mentioning again and again. There's no better time to mention this precious work than now, on the eve of Fierce Hunger
, Writing Ourselves Whole's 10th anniversary celebration. For the past ten years, founder and facilitator Jen Cross has been helping survivors write at the intersection of a trauma and desire. And what a liberating place to write from
from – I'd know, as I've personally spent time in some Writing Ourselves Whole workshops, and I have Jen to thank for so much of the courage I've found to write my truth. And now, I also have Jen to thank for my latest publication credit. She's included my poetry in the Fierce Hunger chapbook
, alongside the work of many of the brave and talented Writing Ourselves Whole participants from the last ten years. I'm thrilled to be included, and by association, to take part in tomorrow's Fierce Hunger celebration. The event sounds like so much fun! The night will include dancing,
a silent auction and a raffle with some fabulous items available, and readings by Carol Queen, Jacks McNamara, and more. All proceeds benefit the Writing Ourselves Whole scholarship fund, to give more survivors the gift of transformative writing workshops. You can find more details on the event, on the prizes available, and on how to donate to the fund on the Fierce Hunger tumblr
I'm glad that my words will be at Fierce Hunger, so I'll attend in spirit, since I can't be there in person. I'll be reading at the Bernal Yoga Literary Series
, which is happening the same night, in an unfortunate coincidence in scheduling. I must say, I'm a little blown away by the list of the other writers who'll be sharing the stage (studio floor?) at Bernal Yoga Studio tomorrow night. The lineup includes Joshua Mohr, Aimee Phan, and Phil Lumsden. I'm trying not to shake in my boots over here. Here are the details for that event: Bernal Yoga Literary SeriesMarch 2, 2013
, 8:00 pm
908 Cortland Ave in San Francisco
I hope to see you there, but you won't hurt my feelings if you show up at Fierce Hunger instead. I'm looking over the details for that below, and I know it's hard to miss!
I haven't been on the submission train as much as I wanted to be, but I've sent out a few pieces for publication. Most have earned rejection letters, and I'm adding those to the pile of rejections I can learn from
. But this week brought good news - an acceptance, and one I was really hoping for! Saturday Night Special, an East Bay open mic that invited me to be a featured reader last October, has put together an anthology zine with the work of some of the show's readers from the past year. That mic has heard from some spectacular writers, so I'm honored to have one of my poems
published among theirs. The poem is a piece that's important to me, so I'm glad to be able to share it with folks who are important to me, too. Tomorrow night is Saturday Night Special's anniversary reading. The anthology will be available to purchase, and I'll be there to read, along with several of the other featured writers.
I'm really looking forward to it. The event begins at 7 pm at Nick's Lounge in Berkeley. For more information on the zine, the reading, and the pre-reading potluck and generative writing workshop, visit the Saturday Night Special Facebook page
. Here's a taste of the delicious words in the anthology - one of the featured readers, Chanel Timmons, singing and reading her beautiful poetry at January's Saturday Night Special.
As I wrote in yesterday's post
about getting back on that submission train, my writing these days is less about trying to find what others want from me and more about creating a room of my own
for my own voice. At least, that's my hope and intention. But as I focus again on the intention of trying to get work published, I'm remembering why it's still important to talk about what it means to feel barriers blocking some writers. Earlier this year, VIDA released their 2011 count, comparing the numbers of male and female writers in major publications.
The results showed that the men were published way more frequently than the women. It's not much of a change since VIDA began the count in 2009, after the Publishers' Weekly list of the year's best books appeared without any books by women. Read more
about how the VIDA count is changing the conversation about publishing, and about how important
this conversation is. As Roxane Gay writes
, "I have to believe we continue having these conversations so someday there is nothing left to talk about but the joy and complexity of the stories we write and read. I want that joy to be the only thing that matters.
Can you just imagine?"I've been following along with one adventure in diversifying the faces of published authors - poet Laura E. Davis has started a group called Submission Bombers. The idea behind Submission Bombers is to
take "action" to increase visibility for writers who often feel silenced. Participants "bomb" a publication with their submissions over a two-week period, and since only consenting publications are selected for bombings, it's like a matchmaking service between writers seeking to be heard and editors looking for writers who don't fit the usual mold of who's being published these days. Read Laura's call for editors and writers to participate, and her blog post on what it means to be a "marginalized" writer. What do you think? Would you participate in a submission bomb? Do you have other ideas for taking action?
I’m getting back on that submission train. It’s been a little while since I’ve submitted creative work for publication. I guess there are a few reasons for that, but I’m glad to say that fear of rejection isn’t one of them.
No, rejection and I are old friends. It might even be nice to reunite. I’ve gotten so many rejection letters now that I’ve come to appreciate what I can learn from them. I’ve learned the logistical things, of course, about formatting and guidelines and making sure the piece is a good fit for the publication.
But here’s the most valuable thing I’ve learned from rejection: I have to stay true to my own voice, regardless of where it’s accepted. Somewhere in me is a fear
that my work won’t be read, especially when I read about the exclusion
of women, people of color and queer folks from many mainstream literary spaces
. Then again, as I’ve pursued my true intentions for writing, I’ve found that many of the spaces that find me irrelevant are irrelevant to me, too. I have my own story to tell, in my own way, and when it comes to an audience, what matters most is reaching those who find it meaningful.
I was searching for an old post
I wrote, which led me to my old blog. I noticed my old blog used to be more fun than this one. A little less professional, maybe, but that’s because I used to write about whatever the hell I wanted, no matter how wacky
it was, so I came across as my authentic self. The voice of that weirdo loner writer rang true.
I think I’ve grown in my writing since then, which is a good thing, sure. I’m more focused, more mindful. I’m trying to make this blog less like my personal diary and more of something that can be useful for other people to read. I just hope I’m not censoring myself. After all, today’s rejection could make room in my life for tomorrow’s most meaningful connection, a connection between my authentic self and someone who feels that my voice matters to them.
1938 Disney rejection letter
I really can’t believe 2011 has arrived already. But I guess I should get used to it. So, like everyone else I’m spending my day reflecting on the past year, thinking about the next one. For me, 2010 was full of highlights, and I hate to reduce it to a silly top-ten list, but if I didn’t I might ramble on forever about my year. So here they are, my Top 10 Highlights of 2010:
CUAV’S 2010 Safetyfest
was a spectacular highlight of the year. It was great to be a part of the planning process as a member of CUAV (Community United Against Violence
), to help launch, in April, a festival of events designed to build safety in queer and trans communities. Events included everything from self-defense workshops to opening and closing celebration parties, and it was all thanks to the combined energies of community members giving time and money and resources to help empower each other. I was so thankful for the chance to lead a writing workshop and an open mic, where folks astounded me with their presence and words. Planning for Safetyfest 2011 is now underway, which is very exciting. Watch this look back at Safetyfest 2010 here
Continuing my membership at CUAV has been a highlight of 2010 in general. Opportunities have ranged from being a part of transformative Safety Labs
to reading poetry at rallies
in support of social justice. Not to mention building community, and growing as a person in all that I’ve learned along the way.
Another great part of 2010 was volunteering with the inspirational people of POWER
(People Organized to Win Employment Rights) in various capacities. They do really great work
that helps a lot of folks, and empowers folks with the tools to help themselves, and the time I’ve spent with them has taught me a great deal about organizing in ways that can really enact change
· U.S. Social Forum
This was one of the great opportunities that came with being an active member of CUAV – the staff invited me to be a part of the delegation that attended the U.S. Social Forum
in Detroit. The USSF was a conference of activists and organizers who brought knowledge and open minds to share with each other tools for making change. For example, a workshop with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration
(BAJI) featured a panel of folks speaking on immigration and shared BAJI’s findings
on black communities’ involvement in immigration rights movements. There were so many workshops at the USSF that it was hard to choose which to attend, but being me, I tried to pop into as many of the arts-related workshops as possible. Workshops like “Art is Change”
with Anasa Troutman were enlightening, and I was inspired not only in my own writing
, but also by the power of words
to move others, as I saw people like Anasa making a difference in folks who would carry her words across the country and to the rest of the world. I’m grateful still for that time spent in Detroit, especially because now we continue to share what we learned and what we shared with others while we were there.
In an exciting milestone for my writing, in 2010 I got a short story published for the first time. Transfer Magazine
published my short story “The Single Woman’s Guide to Surviving a Miscarriage” in Transfer 99, and gave it the Leo Litwak Award for Fiction. Whoo!
· Quiet Lightning/sPARKLE & bLINK
Some of my most thrilling moments this year were all thanks to Quiet Lightning
, a local reading series that’s given a great range of writers a place for their words. They gave me a place during Litquake
in October, and again in November
, and I’m so thankful for those unforgettable experiences. Hell, I’m thankful just for Quiet Lightning, whether it includes me or not, because Rajshree Chauhan
and Evan Karp
are doing something wonderful for the San Francisco literary community
. And with Quiet Lightning, of course, I’m also grateful for sPARKLE & bLINK
, the publication featuring each month’s readers (which they also generously offer for free on Scribd
· San Francisco Lit Community
I’m thankful that this year has introduced me to the thriving literary community
that’s such a lively part
of the Bay Area right now
. I’ve had such a great time at events like Quiet Lightning, Literary Death Match
, the Living Room Reading Series
, 14 Hills
events… I could go on, and there are plenty more I’ve yet to see as well. To say that it’s exciting to witness and participate in such a vibrant scene
hardly captures how thrilling it all is, and I can only hope for what the next year will bring as we walk through the doors that are opening for writers in and around San Francisco.
· HIV prevention
I feel like I can’t not mention my so-called “day job.” If my writing is the side of me that is the wild, unstable artist, then I guess my stable side is what has me walking the streets of the city at odd times of the night in an effort to prevent HIV. Working as a study recruiter for the AIDS Office
of the San Francisco Department of Public Health has been challenging in some ways, but it’s been a highlight of 2010 in that I’ve been a part of an extensive effort to reduce HIV infections, and for some, substance abuse, and along the way I’ve had the chance to learn about other people by connecting directly with them.
· Writing Ourselves Whole
Another that can’t go unsaid – I’ve participated in several of the incredibly transformative workshops of Writing Ourselves Whole
, and recently I’ve had the pleasure of working with the workshops’ facilitator, Jen Cross, with some of the duties that help her efforts to reach others move forward. This is another of 2010’s gifts for which I’m immensely thankful, and I look forward to connecting more with Writing Ourselves Whole in 2011.
· Graduation / Grad school
And I can’t leave out, of course, my graduation in May from the Creative Writing department of San Francisco State University
. I feel like I’ve taken a long journey
through school, so I had a whole lot to be thankful for upon reaching graduation. And now I’m looking forward to the next step, as I apply to MFA programs. Maybe I shouldn’t count this as a highlight until I actually get into grad school, but deciding to move forward with the process has been a highlight of the year for me.
Okay, so if you’re counting you’ll know that this is actually highlight #11. But I couldn’t resist adding it, because I wouldn’t have the platform to go on this rant of reflection and gratitude without this blog. I would definitely call Inkblot a highlight of 2010 because it’s been a part of my growth as a writer, it’s helped me connect with people I admire
, and it’s been one way I can share all that I’ve learned from the thrilling and critical moments of the year.
Thanks for being a part of it all with me. Have a safe night. Happy New Year!
I know I keep mentioning it and sounding like an amateur in the process, but I’m still settling into
how it feels to share my creative work. In some ways it feels remarkably different to write for the possibility of an audience larger than myself. And in other ways, it’s not so different at all.
I’ve found a few reminders lately that people are listening – Thalia Gigerenze
r took note of my poem “Island Home” during her Litcrawl adventures in October, for example. And check this out
– Michael Berger from The Rumpus shared some of my thoughts on danger in poetry!
Before I become convinced that the whole word is hearing my words, though, I’m stopping to wonder who really listens to a voice like mine. Can my work really be a part of what most people think of as literature, or do I belong in an Other category?
In this piece on The Rumpus
, LaToya Jordan
points out an idea that mainstream best-of literature lists often perpetuate – that stories about white people are regarded as universal, while stories about people of color are believed to be for people of color. Jordan is responding to this brilliant piece
by Roxane Gay
about the lack of diversity in Best American Short Stories 2010.
Gay’s assertion that “segregation is alive and well when it comes to what we read” is unsettling. Am I just being naïve in thinking that I can set out as a queer writer of color to speak to universal truths? Should I simply set about marketing my work to “my people” and accept that it will never be read in mainstream circles?
Being that my poems are my own, it’s impossible for me to read my work as someone else would. So I have no idea if it speaks to people universally or not. I know that I hope my work can speak to folks like me, say a young queer girl of color who feels misunderstood. I’d also hope, though, that I could reach some of the folks who misunderstand her, say a man of a different age who can’t see what it’s like to be her until he recognizes those universal truths the two of them can both hold. Ultimately, I aim for what Gay describes as great writing:
“I believe great writing can and should transcend things like race and gender and class. Great writing should be writing that is so powerful it elevates us beyond the things that characterize us in our daily lives. And yet, I also believe that writing should tell us things we don’t already know and give us insights into the lives of people who are completely different from us or anyone we know. Great writing should challenge us and make us uncomfortable and push our boundaries.”
I’d never get a chance to challenge readers in this way, though, if my work was kept on those shelves designated Other. So, not just for my sake but for all those talented writers of Other whose work you may tragically never know, I hope we can all open our literary leanings to reach beyond what feels familiar.
I’m waiting for election results to settle in before I share my reactions. Right now, my reaction to results like the passage of Prop L is limited to inarticulate frustration, so I’ll wait.
But in good news, I have a reading today! Tonight is the November edition of Quiet Lightning
. I wrote about it here
when I found out I’d be reading, and you can also find the details on my events page
Here’s another exciting update – if you’re outside of the Bay Area or can’t make it out to Booksmith, you can watch the event LIVE from home online! Just go to this website: http://www.livestream.com/booksmith
. Tune in by 7 pm (West Coast time) or soon afterwards if you want to watch me, because I’m reading first. I can assure you that the people who follow me, though, will be well worth watching.
I’m really nervous. The rumors floating about don’t help…like that one saying that someone from the New York Times will be there.
Last plug: if you don’t get a chance to make it to the reading or watch it online (so many options here!), you can still read the work that’s read by buying the latest copy of sParkle and bLink
, or read it online for free
! Still, there’s only one option that includes an in-person reading, wine and the New York Times. Just sayin’.
Damn you, Prop L. If I need to take a moment to sit on the sidewalk and calm my nerves today, I don’t care what uptight voters have to say about it. Expect the next few days to include some poetry written from a rebellious sit/lie position on the sidewalk. Also, somebody get the bail money ready.
Woohoo! I got another one of those non-rejection letters
. Apparently the good people
in charge of the Quiet Lightning
reading series didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when they had me read at their Litquake event
. I got the bug, of course, wanted to do it again right away, so I submitted again and my work was accepted!
I am, once again, floored. I’ll be reading in excellent company, including Hk Rainey, Chris Cole, and, I’m proud to say, my friend and fellow writing group member Matthew James DeCoster, in his debut as a published writer.
All of the readers’ work will be in the latest issue of sPARKLE and bLINK
. Right now, I’m still left pretty speechless by the honor, so I’ll have more reflections later. But here are the show details (also check out links on my events page
1644 Haight St
November 3, 2010
$3, free wine
I've been working hard to earn the title of a "real" writer
. That is, I've been working to master the art of writing, and also the unavoidable art of rejection. I'd blogged before about how I've been learning to live with rejection. By now, I've learned to happily expect it. This is a good thing -- it means my hopes and dreams have been crushed so much that there's no longer anything to crush. When I start reading that letter that begins with "we're sorry your submission was not accepted..." I can't be too disappointed. I'm grateful for the experience, and I take a deep breath and move on to the next one. That's why I was surprised last week, when I opened my inbox to find that the expected rejection letter didn't seem to be a rejection letter at all. I read it over and over again, thinking maybe it was a typo,
and they accidentally spelled “rejected” like “accepted,” or if perhaps it was a joke, my submission being so bad that instead of sending me the typical rejection letter they teased me with a mock acceptance one. I looked for the part that said “just kidding!” and instead I found words like “congratulations.” I was confused.
But it turns out it wasn’t a typo, I think. It turns out they actually want me to read a poem at Quiet Lightning
, which is happening during Litcrawl
, the last night of Litquake
. And they’re publishing said poem in this zine
. It turns out not everything I submit will necessarily be rejected, which gives me a glimmer of hope I thought might never return.
This is an exciting time of year for San Franciscans. The sun’s coming out in some parts of the city, there are festivals every weekend, and book nerds everywhere can salivate over their favorite writers during Litquake. I’m incredibly thrilled to be reading, and incredibly honored, both because it takes place during Litquake and because I know Quiet Lightning features talented writers, after attending
their events before.
I’m not sure if they know what they’re getting themselves into, including me as a part of this event. But I’m really glad to be a part of it, to lend my voice where folks like me might not ordinarily be heard. That’s an important part of the process, if I want to write to make change – not just to write but to be heard.
The reading is next Saturday, October 9 (details here
, under “Litquake Lightning”). There will be a whole lot of other exciting events happening at the same time, but if you can, come see me read. I’ll be the one trembling on the stage. But then again, I suppose the whole city will be quaking.