Friday, July 19, 2019

Interview with Su Zi (Poet, Artist, and Editor)

Description:  A woman with long, purple hair sits on a blue power scooter with crossed legs. She is wearing sunglasses, a gold jacket, and matching headwear.  She is holding a cigarette in her right hand.  There is a bunch of greenery on her left.
1. What does eco-feminism mean to you, and how does it influence your writing?

Eco-feminism is an academic term for what is also called Gaia Theory (a term elaborated on to book-length by a number of people, including a nice SciComm book by Lovelock): to wit, the planet, our beloved planet, is a living entity of herself. Thus, our behavior is in relationship with the Earth.

Eco-feminism describes our intellectual activities as part of our relationship with Gaia/Mother Earth.

Since I edit and create artist books of poetry by different authors, I look to their writing to see if it acknowledges, at least, or speaks to (or of) that relationship.

In my own work, it always has been about that relationship—overtly, or as an intrinsic underlying aspect of the thesis.

2. Why did you start the Red Mare Chapbook series? Why choose Etsy as a way to distribute the books?

I began Red Mare when Marie C. Jones sent me a manuscript to read that had been rejected—but it was dynamic and beautiful. I told her I would publish it: this turned out to be Red Mare one, but I didn’t begin numbering them until the second book. I had been making little books for years, and still do.

I am no marketing sensation, and since Red Mare is very much handmade (the bindings are handsewn, each one at a time), and since I make other art as well, it seemed logical to include Red Mare in my Etsy shop. Still now, it’s the only online purchase point for Red Mare. It’s not feasible to consign them—although I tried a few times— because the books are a tactile experience, they are really works of art—block prints sewn to poems—and don’t bear up well to the casual, multiple handlings some bookstores felt was okay... judging by the ruined copies that were blithely flung back at me when I stopped back in to inquire. I get that bookstores are businesses first, but...

So, as I am able (a big conundrum there) I have tried to attend small press events, so people can see the books in person. It’s surprising how uniform small press books have become, and what an accepted norm that had become.

3. What are all the types of art you create and which do you enjoy most?

I am a poet, painter, book creator, fiber artist, pottery-making, gardening, bird-watching writer [and] literature devotee.

It’s difficult losing spoons over time, because it keeps you from doing what you love.

4. On the subject of losing spoons: Do you have any tips for writers/artists with limited energy or chronic pain who still want to create?

Yes. You can: Find shorter forms you like, for when you cannot push your endurance. Use writing prompts you like. Keep parts of your week planner unscheduled, in case you are able to read or write. Try changing your writing stylus and tabla—a crayon on big paper is useful for everyone to play with, or big markers for when it’s a day of just a word or fragment. I have done all, at one time or another. Perhaps this will help.

5. Who are your literary influences?

Well, that’s a tough question, because I read as much as my damaged eyes will allow, and there’s the joy of a phrase previously unheard that stays in the mind, and teaches and influences. However, I ought to give credit to my Mother reading me Poe for bedtime stories when I was too young to read. Also, her own wide-ranging reading habits when presenting literature to me as a child. By the time I was a teen, I read voraciously and there was no household censorship: I read Genet at 16, Woolfe and Wolfe and a wide array of modern literature. I suspect that such early exposure was influential—later in life, I was first surprised that other people hadn’t done the same... until I became saddened to realize that it was odd or unusual.

6. Why do some people consider you a "controversial artist"? How do you feel about the label?

I had to think about this one awhile. On one hand, my experiences being called/treated as controversial/taboo were very painful emotionally. On the other hand, it’s stultifying to try to please people—and I have erred there too often. Of late, it dawns on me that my very existence is controversial—an educated female with no discernible cultural/ethnic group (not obviously Caucasian, not obvious of any other group), obviously physically impaired but not discernibly how, not young (anymore), and so forth. I have so many intersections that I was confused by the term intersectionality. Anyway, these aspects of myself filter into my art, my writing... However, I cannot say it enhances any sense of freedom; in our times, it can be terrifying to find oneself endlessly marginalized.

7. How did you realize you were trying to please people and not being true to yourself as an artist? How did your work change when you started creating what you wanted?

I had gotten in some trouble over a painting—a portrait of filmmaker Renvik—and my only exhibition possibilities were craft shows. It’s a lot of time-expense work to exhibit at farm markets and craft shows. After I heard "family friendly" enough times, it began to constrain my work. It’s still a struggle to break free. It’s becoming more and more crucial to me as my illness steals my available energy—to pour it in without censorship.

8. What (do you think) is the biggest barrier to your career as a writer/artist? How do you work around it?

That’s an ironic question, considering we are communicating via DM, instead of whatever; therefore, it seems obvious that my non-urban endless data access in our times doesn’t help. My isolated existence is not conducive to inclusion in an arts community that might emphasize group dynamics. Being disabled/impaired makes people uncomfortable. I am not so great at hustling the game—my work sells, but it would sell better if it was sold by a seller, a pro.

Okay. So there’s lots and lots of barriers—more than that, cuz it’s Always Juggling Energy (spoons).

How do I get around these? I don’t know that I do. I just persist. What I do is born of passion. The intersections of what I make and the work in the world is a constant conundrum.  I made a decision—had a moment of realization, actually, at the Heartland Cafe where I was giving a poetry performance—that it’s the work.

I realized, while I was waiting to go onstage, and watching a performer who was a real hustler, who hustled up a brief few years of arts fame—in so much as no one alive is household famous in most of the arts—but her work was sooo similar to other plots and performances done then. Yes, I saw her hustle, what is called "game" now, and realized that you can game/promote/hustle your work, or you can focus on the quality of the work. I chose the latter, but it comes at a cost.

9. What accomplishment in your artistic/writing career has meant the most to you and why? Did it change your career's trajectory?

My life’s trajectory was formed in fourth grade when I wrote my first poem. I have tried to stay committed to poetry ever since. Along the way, there were incidents that felt supportive of my commitment to my writing; these include, but are not limited to: my first paid poetry reading as a featured reader, opening a number of times for Lydia Lunch, certain publications, certain inclusions... the last is more problematic the more obvious my impairments (disability being a legal term that’s still in decision) are.

The literary and arts communities are usually not warm and welcoming these days—ours are not arts-supporting times.

Nonetheless, I persist. Coping with the deleterious effects of chronic illness is quite the challenge, and it doesn’t leave much room for arts politics, or marketing (submission) and book promotion. The choice is always that if I can create something on a day, I will always choose to keep working.

10. What are your plans for the future? Where do you hope your career is a decade from now?

I am a poet and will be all my days remaining. There are art forms that often require more strength than I have, so I work more slowly. I have whole books buried in obsolete computers and I hope to lazurus those somehow—I have problems with these devices—true story: I once sat down at a computer, not touching it, merely presenting myself in the chair, and it crashed. It did. I don’t know if I have internal electrical divergence too, myself. Amusing thought.

Anyway, I will continue to produce, as I am able. The question is:

Who will find me? Some people really get what I am doing. How will the works find their way to such people? That’s what another ten years will decide.
Biography:  Su Zi is equal parts writer, artist, and badass eco-feminist.  She holds an MA in English and has published in such places as Driving DigestExquisite Corpse, and Blue Heron Review (where she was nominated for The Pushcart Prize).  She resides in Florida with her horses, dogs, cats, and turtles where she runs The Red Mare Chapbook Series.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Branching Birds by Hugh Cook

I stare at shifting light
Bleeding through the curt branches
Tapping shadows and sunburnt clouds.
I feel like the wind-caught leaves
Finding themselves walked in delicate circles.

Chestnut and dark cinnamon feathers
Land above,
Looking at me,
From endless black eyes that say
“Beauty remains.”

A teary breeze took the bird off
Leaving me for what
Next drives into my mind’s wild circles.
Biography:  Hugh Cook attends University of California, Santa Barbara, studying Writing and Literature. He has authored a collection titled The Day it Became a Circle (Afterworld Books). His poetry has been published in Tipton Poetry Journal, Ariel Chart and Muddy River Poetry Review.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Three Inches from the Wall

I go out for six hours.  The sun warms my neck like a lover's breath.  Shelves of books greet me when I enter my church:  The local library.  I meet friends, we talk, we go to lunch, and shadows stretch long before we say farewell.

I go home.  I run fever as my skin burns and freezes like a microwaved dinner.  My entire body aches.  I dread moving.  I sleep for nine hours then nap for three more the next day.  My brain fogs over.  This is the price I pay for leaving my apartment.  This is my body's fee.

My writing suffers for days afterwards.  Everyone needs lived experience of some kind to be a better writer.  Research renders me unable to record it.  The well I fill with life poisons my body.

Three days of agony and mismatched thoughts.  Seventy-two hours of not writing, editing, or submitting.  If I go out twice, the rest of the week is useless.  I'm useless.

Do I live or do I write?  I can't always choose both.
I can never pinpoint when it started... not exactly.  All I know is that I didn't used to be like this—my current state, the "where" I am now.

I fill my days with as much as possible, but a wall looms in front of me.  If I stretch out my tongue, I can almost feel the chilled, rough exterior scraping against my taste buds.  It's there and I'll hit it.  It's there... and that's the finish line.

The entirety of my future accomplishments are stuffed within the three inches of space between my body and my stopping point.  How much can I fit in there?  How much can conceivably be left?  Will I ever put a full-length poetry collection into the world?  Are there enough spoons to start a writers' group?
The future is a thief shuffling out my front door with the present in an opaque trash bag.  I try to focus on the poem I might write today instead of a theoretical collection.  I manage a blog post now, and put the ones I'll be too weak or ill to finish out of my mind.  I don't always succeed.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Market Updates

Magazines, Websites, Etc. (for Us) 


Disability Arts Online

Inclusive Mainstream Publications


Please See Me
Bleached Butterfly
Uncanny Magazine


Scryptic (Defunct)

Friday, June 14, 2019

Writing: An "Elitist" Profession

In the UK, a report suggests writing will soon become a profession where only the wealthy (or people whose income is subsidized by an employed spouse) can truly participate.  It isn't much different in America.  Few people can write full-time.  There are writers who have jobs while writing on the side, but their output can suffer.

Where does all of this leave disabled and/or neurodivergent writers?  Are we poised to fill the gaps?  Are we going to be worse off than before?
If more novelists (able-bodied and not) have to maintain full-time jobs, we will probably see competition increase for literary magazine spots.  Novelists are unlikely to abandon long projects altogether, but will try to compensate with slower production by getting their names out there in more ways*.  So, disabled and neurodivergent short-form writers won't benefit** from the shift of writing becoming "elitist"".

Unemployed disabled and neurodivergent novelists could fill the gaps left behind by novelists who write slower (or quit entirely) because of their jobs.  But, they must be in a position where income doesn't impact medical insurance or other necessary coverage (unless they give their work away for free***).  Their health and living situations must also be stable enough to let them capitalize on the opportunity.  People who have all aspects align will become a new subset of elite writer:  The Paramount Writer-Cripple.

At the very least, there could be fewer able-bodied/neurotypical writers creating harmful portrayals of us in the future.****

* A lot of novelists are also short-form writers.  I am only suggesting their output of shorter pieces may increase, or novelists who haven't crossed genres will do so out of necessity.

** Content mills might need more writers in the future.  So, there's that.

*** Many of us already undervalue our writing because we fear losing our benefits or we lack faith in ourselves.

**** The writers who are "elite" will still write about us.  Let's hope they hire competent sensitivity readers.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Guidelines for Poetry and Flash Fiction

We are open to poetry and flash fiction year-round.

We only consider pieces from disabled and/or neurodivergent writers.  All creative writing sent to us must have disabled/neurodivergent characters or themes.

We do not accept anything racist, transphobic, fatphobic, etc.
Appropriate trigger warnings must be included.  Vulgar language permitted if essential to the piece.  No excessive violence or explicit sex.

Genre work (not just literary) is welcome here.  We aren't snobs.

We consider simultaneous submissions if clearly marked as such.  If accepted elsewhere, inform us immediately.

  • Story length:  750 words maximum (soft limit) with no true minimum.
  • You may submit two stories at a time in separate emails.
  • Your piece must be in the body of the email with double-spacing between paragraphs (not between every line).  If your story requires odd formatting, query before sending an attachment.
  • Subject line should read:  "Fiction Submission".
  • A cover letter section is optional.
  • Send submissions to:  handyuncappedpen[at]gmail[dot]com

  • Poem length:  100 lines maximum (hard limit) with no minimum.  Stanza breaks don't count as lines for us.
  • Submit up to three poems at a time in one email.
  • All poems must be sent in the body of the email unless they require special formatting.  Query before sending an attachment.
  • Subject line should read:  "Poetry Submission".
  • A cover letter section is optional.
  • Send submissions to:  handyuncappedpen[at]gmail[dot]com

Rights, Payment, and Miscellaneous:

We request first electronic rights for new work, reprint rights for previously published work, and archival rights.  We will also excerpt pieces on our social media account.  Work appearing on your personal blog or elsewhere in its entirety counts as previously published.  

Payment for previously unpublished work is $3 per poem or flash fiction piece via Paypal.  We can't mail checks.  We don't pay for reprints.  

Response time is between two and four weeks.  Feel free to email if a month goes by!

If your piece is accepted, we'll ask for a third-person biography of 100 words maximum.  Photographs are nice... but optional.

Plagiarism will not be tolerated, and we will take every accusation of plagiarism seriously.  
If you write something that could get you sued, please don't send it here.  

Friday, May 17, 2019

Changes (Feedback Appreciated)

My erratic brain can't cling to a topic that's important or meaningful enough to post about.  Instead, I'm thinking about changes.  Feel free to make suggestions or comment on anything.  Some things aren't decided quite yet.

Mentor Program 2019:

Mentees who aren't picked will receive rejection emails before the announcement post goes live.

Chosen mentees will have a picture up with their announcement.  (Kind of like the post the mentors have.)  If they're comfortable...

Mentor Program 2020:

A mentor will (hopefully) exist for teen writers.

People with advanced degrees might be able to apply as mentees, provided they received their degree at least ten (or fifteen) years prior.

On the Blog 2019:

We will open to flash fiction and poetry year-round.  When we do, it will be under similar guidelines and pay as reviews and essays.  Warning:  I'm picky.

The occasional giveaway will occur.  (Our first is expected to be in September with Keah Brown's The Pretty One.)

Our Next Step 2020:  

A Youtube channel for readings and vlogs?  Free, on-demand writing classes taught by other crips (I'd pay the instructors... not sure how much)?  I don't know.  What do you folks need as disabled and/or neurodivergent writers?