Posted in Life, Poetry, Writing

Horror, Poetry, and Cats: A.K.A. The Chaos of May

May

All it takes to know the chaos in my brain right now is a quick peek at my current Goodreads list. Poetry, horror, short stories, novels, audio books, YA—it’s all there, fighting for attention. This is, without question, too many books for my brain to handle at once, and yet I can’t seem to put any of them away. They sit on my nightstand, lurk inside my purse, wink at me from my phone’s Kindle app, and say hello when I start my car. Two of them are sitting in front of me right now, staring at me.

My overly ambitious reading list is only a symptom of my general state of being at the moment. My focus is diverted, my attention torn between every aspect of my life. I want to write, revise, research, read, and reorganize my bookshelves in equal measure. I simultaneously want to clean out the garage, watch old movies on Netflix and plant flowers. I want to spend all day outdoors and never leave the house. I want to bake a cherry pie with one hand while painting a picture with the other.

Mostly, I do a lot of list-making and head-scratching.

This time of year is always like this. When I was teaching, May meant a whirlwind of grading and last minute lessons and field trips and choir concerts and yearbooks and talent shows. It meant a constant flux between wishing my students never had to leave me and counting down the seconds until they were finally gone. I got married in May (that was a month of wonderful chaos) and the following year we got our puppy in May. (I have a vivid memory of piling everything, even my shoes, on top of the dining room table and out of his reach.) May is a month of good weather and great plans. It’s a time for putting things off until summer and then, just at the last moment, realizing your summer to-do list is much too long, and cutting it off in the middle.

This May, I wasn’t teaching, and I didn’t plan any weddings, and my dog is well past his teething stage, yet here I am with a mind cluttered with impossible multitasking and an unreasonable number of books lying open around me. How did this happen?

I blame World Horror Con, the Austin Poetry Society, and cats.

WHC2015:

In addition to the books I bought and received for free in my goody bag at WHC, I also won the Horror Library Volumes 1-5 in a raffle. (Thanks Cutting Block Press!) SO. MANY. BOOKS.
In addition to the books I bought and received for free in my goody bag at WHC, I also won the Horror Library Volumes 1-5 in a raffle. (Thanks Cutting Block Press!) SO. MANY. BOOKS.

My first experience at World Horror Con was a very positive one. The schedule was packed, the panels were excellent, I had the best roomies ever (shout out to Annie Neugebauer and Ashley Davis!) and everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming. I had the opportunity to meet some amazing authors, editors, and agents, including Jonathan Maberry, Kami Garcia, Lisa Tuttle, John Dixon, Lucy A. Snyder, Alec Shane, Jennifer Barnes, Dacre Stoker, and Courtney Alameda. I also had the honor of attending the Bram Stoker Awards, where several of those authors took home trophies. (The Stokers are little haunted houses. I want one so bad!)

The whole con was so fantastic that I came home inspired to read, write, revise, submit, and of course to do it all RIGHT NOW. Hence, chaos in the brain.

Austin Poetry Society:

APS

Of course, I couldn’t exactly dive headfirst into my WHC to do list when I returned home, because as soon as I arrived, I had to prepare for the Austin Poetry Society’s Annual Awards Ceremony, which took place just a few days after I got back.

I’ve been a member of APS for a few years now, and last year I joined the board. I’m proud of be a part of this volunteer-run organization because it’s full of people who really love poetry. The society has monthly meetings with speakers on diverse topics, and they hold both monthly and annual contests with cash prizes. These contests are open to all current members who are Texas residents. (If you live in Texas and are interested in joining, check out our website.)

I find poetry wonderfully distracting. Reading short stories makes me want to write short stories, and reading novels makes me want to write novels, but reading or listening to poetry makes me want to do everything. It inspires poems and stories and novels and walks and naps and phone calls to old friends. It wakes up old hobbies I haven’t thought about in months and introduces new ones I suddenly want to try.

This year’s awards ceremony—where I was honored with two first place wins for my poems “Wildflower Season” and “Things That Could One Day Find Their Way Into a Poem (in no particular order)”—sent me home with a head full of ideas, lists, longings, and travel plans. In other words, more chaos. (Lovely chaos, but chaos nonetheless.)

Cats:

As it turns out, cats do have feelings, and my four missed me while I was gone. They all showed their excitement at having me home again in different ways, such as…

Biting me when I reach for office supplies.

She's not as sweet as she looks.
She’s not as sweet as she looks.

Begging for treats.

Don't let her fool you. She's a killer.
Don’t let her fool you. She’s a killer.

Refusing to speak to me.

Yes, that's a cat, not a giant tarantula.
Yes, that’s a cat, not a giant tarantula.

Following me everywhere I go, insisting on laying in my lap no matter what I’m doing, gazing into my eyes lovingly, and drooling on me.

Note cat #2 in the background waiting for more treats.
Me reading Jonathan Mayberry’s new middle grade novel, The Nightsiders, with cat #4 in my lap. Note cat #2 in the background waiting for more treats.

Okay, well at least one of them missed me. When one finds oneself trapped under a cat, the natural course of action is to read. And, when one is especially lazy, one reads whatever one can reach. That, primarily, explains how I came to be reading seven books at once.

The Great Purge

May is drawing to a close. Just yesterday, I looked at my summer to do list, shook my head, and started snipping it down to size. With every project I finish and every task I cross off and every book I focus on for fifteen whole minutes, I can feel the chaos in my brain diminishing. Soon it will be June, and I’ll be 100% chaos free.*

* Ha.

Posted in Life, Writing

Acting the Fool in 2015

TheFool

Last night at midnight, my husband and I got out my collection of fortune-telling paraphernalia and did a quick “What does the new year have in store for us?” assessment. We each compiled a reading based on the following items:

* One store bought fortune-on-a-stick
* One homemade fortune-on-a-stick
* One question for the Magic 8 Ball
* One question for my homemade fortune journal
* One card from the homemade Tarot deck from my cousin
* One card from the Poet Tarot (which the hubby gave me for my birthday)
* One card from the scary Labyrinth Tarot deck my dad bought for me at Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo in New Orleans
* One card from my Halloween Tarot which I love and which always tells me some version of the truth

So what does my future hold?

The first fortune stick told me I would be more charming than usual. It was pretty much downhill from there. The second stick said CHANGE EVERYTHING. The Magic 8 Ball told me I will not get paid for my writing. The journal showed me a picture of a frowny face. Cousin Kelley’s Tarot card said ANARCHY. The Poet Tarot gave me John Donne, who represents fatherhood (which I’m not interested in) and leadership (or a lack there of) and finding the balance between organization and chaos. The scary Labyrinth Tarot gave me the Nine of Wands which means “going back to the start, expectation of difficulties, deception, inactive time.” Yikes.

I saved my beloved Halloween Tarot card for last, hoping against hope that it could somehow turn my future around. Then I flipped it over and saw… The Fool.

Of course.

The description of this card begins, “The Fool, playful clown that he is, juggles merrily, not noticing he is about to step off a steep precipice!”

Great.

But the more I read, the more I understood that playing the part of the fool isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yes, it denotes naiveté and some amount of unawareness, but there’s more to it than that. The book goes on to say, “The fool lives moment by moment, facing whatever he stumbles across without judgment or preconception. He is not tainted by artifice or ego—the only ‘baggage’ he carries is the bag of tricks he keeps beside him. The skull and crossbones symbol on the bag shows that he accepts the idea of death, along with everything else, without fear… The Fool represents pure potential, and the card tells us to explore life’s possibilities, take risks, live in the moment, and shuck our rigidity.”

Now, that doesn’t sound so bad. The absence of fear and ego? Accepting without judgment? Those sound like some pretty good qualities to have, especially when starting over, changing everything, not making money, and facing anarchy.

So I embrace my role as The Fool. This year I will take risks, live in the moment, and accept the difficulties that come my way while happily juggling all aspects of my life. Here’s to pure potential in 2015!

(Although, if you see me dancing too close to the precipice, please give me a polite nudge in the other direction. Thanks.)

*     *     *

[Note: The good news is that my husband’s fortune included growth, pay raises, cleverness, success, and fun. The only things he has to watch out for are too much arrogance and being betrayed by someone wearing purple. So hopefully we’ll still be okay this year even while I’m bumbling around exploring life’s possibilities and causing charming chaos.]