Characters, editors, poems, and perversity of spirit.

In my spare (and stolen) time, I’ve been absorbed by the characters in my novel- how they developed unpredictably, as if they ran away from me and took on a life of their own. Sometimes, I am the ungrateful parent who wishes they’d behave more like obedient children- fit the expectations I have of them. Other times, I am grateful for the way they float outside my grasp, defying my notions of goodness, my expectations of what a character should be.

Julia Alvarez says you should write about something you haven’t figured out–write your way through to an answer. Embrace and pursue discomfort. Take surprise as a boon. That is the mind-bendingly awesome part.

Then you prepare to present your baby to the the editors. Much like opinionated parents, most editors have a specific philosophy- a bias towards sleep training or attachment parenting or metered verse. The rejection letters come with the profusion of fall foliage, and I take comfort knowing that every editor feels passionately about their choices, every “no” makes every “yes” all the sweeter.

There’s nothing like the way the heart swells an octave when an editor says “yes”. Nothing.

Still, the writer wonders- am I fooling myself? Do these poems, stories, or books deserve to be read? Do they add anything to the world?

In comes Ruthi Thorpe to rescue me from misgivings and self-pity. In an essay for Poets and Writers, she says the only two things a writer needs is “a love of books” and “perversity of spirit,” or the ability to remain unfazed by valid criticism and keep on chooglin’.

Ruthi, thank you for reminding me not to take the darkness personally- not to be sad when editors or fellow mothers see things differently. Life is richer for these differences.

On the surprising side of things, I have three poems in Brickplight this month.

“Letter to An Unknowing Pissant” was inspired by a conversation I overheard at the playground- a conversation between a father-in-law and a wide-eyed, worried young mother. He was so cruel to her- and his cruelty made him look small.

“Soddy Daisy, TN” was written on the car ride back from a trip to the Smoky Mountains with my one and only beautiful sister- and our families to boot. I imagine all sorts of things on long drives. All sorts, all flavors.

“Stag Hunt” was inspired by my fascination with game theory and a game theoretic experiment that Ed Lopez finished for his economics dissertion in Virginia way back when. I learned so much from participating. Like economics in general, the economics of love is reductive. We make decisions based on assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling- then we pretend our assumptions are actually truths. Such is the social construction of reality.

Take a gander over to Brickplight and see the exquisite compilation of poems selected by Jason Barber for Issue 5, including poetry by Arthur Plotnik, Fassbinder-aficionado Drew Pisarra, flophouse dandy Harley Lethalm,Tim Kahl whose “oh” stops traffic, and the tender voice of John Grey.

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