Author: Carie Juettner

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Carie Juettner is a teacher and writer in Austin, Texas. Her poems and short stories have appeared in various publications, including Daily Science Fiction, Nature Futures, The Texas Observer, The Texas Poetry Calendar, and Dark Moon Digest. She is currently working on a novel for the middle grade audience. Well, CURRENTLY she is drinking a cup of lukewarm coffee and petting a dog and updating her profile, but she promises to get back to the novel in just a few minutes. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Follow Carie on Wordpress, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.

Cicada Emerging and Some Poetry Updates

Greetings, friends!

Today I’d like to share a few poetry updates, and a poem.

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Poetry Updates

First, I’m proud to announce that my poem “Night Walk” was published in the most recent issue of Dreams & Nightmares. If you’re interested in obtaining your own copy, here’s how to do it, per the publisher’s blog:

Try out a pdf of any issue for $1 or a print copy for $5 (paypal to jopnquog at gmail dot com). Lifetime PDF subscription for $39 includes all back issues; $90 gets you a lifetime subscription to both print and PDF editions, including all available back issues. Search the archives of this blog for “contents” of recent issues. And right now, get pdfs of the last TWO issues for a buck. You can pay by check to David Kopaska-Merkel, 1300 Kicker Rd., Tuscaloosa, AL 35404, if you don’t use paypal.

My poem is in issue #106.

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Next, Best Austin Poetry 2015-2016 is now available at Lulu.com for only $5.32. This lovely little volume of winning verses from the Austin Poetry Society includes two poems by me: “Rooster with a Guitar” and “I Hate Those Poems.” The prizes for this year’s Austin Poetry Society Annual Awards will be announced this Saturday at the Yarborough Branch Library in Austin at 1:30 p.m. It’s free and open to the public, so if you’d like to hear some award-winning poems, come join us!

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And finally, I’m happy to share that my poem “The Morning After” will be reprinted in the 2018 Texas Poetry Calendar, which is available for pre-order from Dos Gatos Press. If you order by Monday, May 22nd, you get 20% off!

And now, as promised, a poem

This poem won third place in a National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS) contest in 2016, and was published in their anthology, Encore. It seems fitting to share at this time of year, when the school year is drawing to a close and students everywhere are shedding their old shells for new, more mature forms. I wish them the best of luck in their transformations.

Cicada Emerging

You perch atop your former self—
a crisp brown casing
with a family resemblance.
(It has your eyes and legs.)

Not yet ready to say goodbye,
the new you pauses—
glistening, green,
still holding on to your shell.

I get it. Change is hard.

For seventeen years you lived underground
putting one stiff leg in front of the other,
unaware that your future awaited
in the treetops.

Now, you’ve journeyed through the earth,
climbed into the open air,
broken free from your restraints,
emerged into a world abuzz with life.

As soon as your wings harden, you’ll fly.

But lurking within rebirth
is a memory
of shadowy spaces
and struggling steps.

Even when you take to the sky,
some part of you
will always remember
what it was like to crawl.

© Carie Juettner, 2016

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The Eagle Has Ringworm! And Other Things You Don’t Expect to Say at Work

 

Several years ago, at 4:10 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, I found myself running up some stairs, down a hallway, through a break room, and into an office, yelling, “THE EAGLE HAS RINGWORM!” Why? Because teaching is a really weird job that often makes you say words you never thought would come out of your mouth.

That afternoon’s strange vocalization was brought on by a case of Hindsight Hearing. Hindsight Hearing is when you realize, after the fact, that you heard something that concerns you, and it happens a lot when you’re a middle school teacher. For instance, maybe your students are working in groups. The classroom is loud, but it’s loud in that we’re-being-productive-and-learning sort of way, so you let it go. You’re wandering around the room, checking in on each group, but while you’re talking to one group, your super-teacher hearing is registering, on some subconscious level, what the group next door is saying. Later, during your conference period, while you’re taking ten deep breaths in a row and trying to convince yourself that the stack of grading on your desk won’t eat every minute of your personal time this week, you hear it—that snippet of conversation from three hours ago that lodged itself in your brain.

“If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll stay home tomorrow, because [Name] isn’t messing around.”

And suddenly, you realize there’s a fight planned for tomorrow after school. And you know you now have to spend the rest of your conference period talking to the counselor and the AP instead of making a dent in that pile of papers.

This is Hindsight Hearing. It’s kind of awesome and kind of just really annoying.

In the case of the eagle and the ringworm, it was actually two separate snippets of conversation that floated into my brain during the day and waited until just after the final bell rang to dislodge themselves and make sense.

Snippet #1:
Student A- “How is that kitten you rescued?”
Student B- “Ohmygod, it’s so cute! Oh, but it gave me ringworm…”

Snippet #2:
Student B- “Guess what? I get to wear the mascot costume at the football game today!”

Cut to me standing in my principal’s office, out of breath, telling her our soon-to-be-mascot has a highly contagious skin condition.

Seriously. You can’t make these things up.

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Other Things You Don’t Expect to Say at Work:

“Could you please ask the principal to come to the seventh grade hallway? One of the lockers is vibrating.”

[It turned out to be an electric toothbrush.]

“Emma, will you please cut Patrick’s heart out?”

[Well, he couldn’t cut his own heart out. He injured his hand.]

“Take that book out of your mouth.”

[When you work in an elementary school library, you will say this daily.]

“Please don’t stick paperclips in your eye anymore.”

[#TheMoreYouKnow]

“No, you may not Google pictures of bombs!”

[“But I just need to see how to draw one.” Still no. Watch more Bugs Bunny cartoons.]

“So, in this line of your poem, I think you meant to write ‘whitey tighties’ but what you actually wrote was ‘witty titties’.”

[Best spelling error ever.]

“Whose pants are these?”

[It remains a mystery.]

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*****

I love my job. I also love that the fact that summer is five short weeks away.

The Unexpected Evolution of Character

I just came across this unfinished blog post from a year and a half ago, and it made me laugh, so I decided to finish it. I no longer spend all day writing in coffee shops, and the manuscript I mention here has been collecting dust for months, but come summer, I hope to be having more awkward conversations in public and putting more words on the page.

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The Unexpected Evolution of Character

I spend a lot of time writing in coffee shops. Recently, I walked into one and saw a man standing in line with his little boy. The man looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him. I claimed a spot at my favorite little table in the corner, grabbed my wallet, and headed to the counter for my large café au lait. The man was still there. Worried that perhaps I did know him and was being weird by not speaking to him, I said, “You look familiar. Do we know each other?”

He said, “I don’t think so. I’m Jeff,” and he offered his hand to shake.

A brief conversation led us to the conclusion that we didn’t know each other but both frequent this coffee shop and had probably seen each other here before. By then it was his turn at the counter. He handed the barista a large glass jug and asked for a refill of the shop’s cold brew coffee while his toddler toddled around between us. By this time, a woman had entered and was standing in line behind me. Out of the blue, she said to me, “Do you like to heat it up?”

I stared at her. I said nothing. No appropriate responses came to mind. After standing there awkwardly for a moment, wondering if her words would make sense if I’d already had some coffee, I said, “Um… what?”

She nodded toward the man in front of me and repeated, “Do y’all like to heat it up?”

Well, this was completely inappropriate. No, I did not like to “heat it up” with this man. I didn’t even know this man. I suddenly, desperately wanted to be safe in my cozy corner table with my headphones on to block out the world, especially crazy women who asked me shockingly inappropriate questions. Seeing the confusion in my eyes, the woman said, “Oh, are you not together?”

Me and Jeff? No! We just met, barely, sort of, in line. It turns out the woman was referring to the coffee. She also likes cold brew coffee, but in the winter she likes to heat it up. Well, not Jeff. He never heats it up. In fact, he likes it better cold in winter. I stood there while they bonded over their favorite beverage until it was finally my turn to order my café au lait and scuttle back to my corner table, slightly scarred by the whole ordeal.

In a way, though, it fit perfectly with what I was struggling with in my current manuscript: I didn’t know who my main character was. I mean, I knew who he was in general. He was a kid being haunted by ghosts who were mad at him for skipping Halloween. But the specifics of the kid—his age, his family situation, his attitude—kept changing, making him feel vague and hard to pin down. I was employing the bracket method I learned in a workshop at The Writing Barn with YA author Ashely Hope Peréz. While writing my messy first draft, I placed brackets around prose that needed to be fixed or blanks that needed to be filled in or story ideas that I wanted to come back to later. It’s a great tool to keep you typing when your brain wants to second-guess or micromanage every little thing, but my brackets were getting out of control.

In one paragraph, my character (whose name kept switching from Donald to Miles) went from being a carefree, ten-year-old orphan to a surly, twelve-year-old kid who resented his parents for going on a vacation without him. At one point he even (briefly) changed gender. I was feeling discouraged about my lack of consistency.

But after my encounter at the counter, things suddenly seemed less dire. I mean, here, in real life, in less than five minutes, a man had gone from being a familiar-looking stranger, to an acquaintance, to my husband with whom I possibly liked to “heat it up,” and back to an acquaintance again.

So I dove back in to my messy manuscript, and I allowed my character to be whoever he/she wanted to be in that moment. I typed and typed and bracketed and bracketed, the only rule that I keep the momentum going forward. And after half an hour, I actually felt closer to my character, who at this point I was sure was a boy named Miles with parents who were alive. Slowly but surely, he began to reveal himself to me, and I felt more comfortable about where we were going together.

Much like Jeff. After all the confusion, I can now say with certainty that Jeff is a man who lives in Austin, has a young son, and likes cold brew coffee, even in the winter. That is all. Our story ends there. Miles’s however, is still going. I can’t wait to see where it takes me.