How thoughts about murder and mayhem in the garden led me to question my intake of caffeine – another random train of thought that stopped at an unexpected station.
by Julie Carpenter
This particular thought train to nowhere was triggered by squirrels. Squirrels seem to be taking up an inordinate amount of real estate in my mental landscape lately, but that’s another story.
I looked out my kitchen window yesterday and I saw a squirrel looking back at me. He was stuffing his cheeks with almost, nearly, barely ripe blueberries. The ones I was going to pick today. I pounded on the window and he shrugged. Whatever. I could see it in his eyes.
Pride month is almost over, and before it ends Jarad wanted to share some of his favorite LGBTQ+ books! There are many more he could spend pages and pages rambling about (and more still that he wants to read)!
Dancer From the Dance - Andrew Holleran
Often referred to as one of the most important gay books ever written, Dancer From the Dance was one of the first gay themed books I ever read. It showcases New York's emerging gay scene in 1978. This was a time after Stonewall and before the Aids Epidemic ravaged the gay community.
Tell the Wolves I'm Home- Carol Rifka Brunt
One of the sweetest and saddest stories you'll ever read, Tell the Wolves I'm Home is the story of a young girl watching her uncle deteriorate after a long battle with Aids. It explores how we treat people with Aids, and the overall stigma surrounding the gay community. Telling the story from the perspective of a young person removes a lot of that stigma. This is one of the few books to make me cry, and one of fewer still that made me cry in public. It's heartbreaking in a very human way.
by Julie Carpenter
Friday Garden Post: Hats off to Tom!
(Is this Friday? No it is not. Pity poor Jarad trying to establish a publishing schedule with me in tow. Anyhoo...here is the post that was perfectly ready yesterday but just didn't get put up.)
Tom is the gardener who lived in my new place before me. He was an elderly man who apparently died of dementia. I never met him, but the neighbors have some lovely stories about how helpful he was, finding treasures for the kids and helping them with their gardens. But even though we were never introduced, Tom gave me some gifts as well. He planted my garden full of perennials, shrubs, and small trees, and now I don’t have to start from scratch.
Politics and literature are undeniably intertwined, and always will be. Today, Jarad is sharing his thoughts on their connection, and their role in protest. He asks the question, "If you don’t like or agree with a particular piece of literature, you don’t have to read it, and ideas that challenge your beliefs and ideologies are in fact a good thing. If your truth can’t handle any dissent, is it true?"
Since January of 2016, we seem to be in a constant state of political uproar. It has been exhausting but necessary. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last. Resistance to ideologies that you find abhorrent is always a part of politics, and arguably everyday life, but I can’t remember a time quite like this. Granted, I’m young, but it’s still jarring to see such events occurring in 2019, and to lose friends over politics. People are polarized, and some lament this fact and worry about a society that cannot abide differing opinions. On the other hand, sometimes there’s good reason for that. For example, in the case of the recent resurgence of Neo-Nazism, there’s no in between on that issue. You either abide them or you don’t. There are times when choices become stark.
Here are some of our favorite LGBTQ+ authors! Who are some of yours?
Roxanne Gay – Instead of following on Twitter because I like her books, I started following her on twitter because I enjoyed her wise and acerbic take on the crazy world of politics, gender and feminism. Then I realized that this wrote articles for the New York Times, where she covers the intersection of identity and culture and I starting reading through her archives. As a queer woman of color, her articles help the reader think through complicated issues that are still somehow universal. Then I realized she wrote books! Better and better. I’ve recently started Difficult Women. It’s definitely on the review list.
Matthew Vines – As a former evangelical, I often find myself drawn to questions about the theology that shaped me. Matthew Vines is a gay Christian who grew up in an evangelical church and studied philosophy at Harvard for several years. Instead of rejecting his religion, Vines took up an extensive study of what the Bible actually said about homosexuality, finding no evidence that committed gay relationships were prohibited by God. His book is God and the Gay Christian, a thoughtful, well-researched book that carefully considers language, theology and context. Whether you are religious or not, this careful consideration of the theology that has underpinned patriarchy and homophobia for centuries is illuminating.
The Magic Continues for The Writers Hotel
The Writers Hotel marked its 6-year anniversary this year, hosting the largest group yet. More than 80 writers convened in Midtown, New York City, eager to read and eager to write. On the first night at Kinokuniya Bookstore, hearing the faculty read, I kept thinking over and over: It was so good to be back.
I attended in 2017, and it was transcendent for me, astounding in its magic. Being in Shanna McNair’s workshop became the best workshop experience of my life, and I’d been to other writing conferences and held an MFA. Being in Shanna’s workshop, I felt not only that I was seen but that my work was seen. My fellow workshoppers didn’t press what they felt the work should be, but instead saw where I wanted the work to go. They helped me get there. I felt nurtured; My work felt nurtured. To this day, we still stay in touch. They’ve brought me back when I felt low about my writing. From all over the world, they nurture me. They are my family, all of them.
This year had its own sparkling, crackling magic. It was an absolute honor to TA for Elizabeth Hand, who brought us close and held us together. This workshop group was deeply imaginative, warm, and so freaking talented. A different magic from 2017, but magic all the same. We were expansive, from all walks of life. From ages 30 to 70, hailing from Edinburgh, Portugal, Ireland, Hawaii, Chicago, the list goes on. We talked excitedly over each piece, as if each of our books were already out in the world, eager and hungry at its potential. My piece was blown wide open, and the day after the conference ended, I went back to the story, writing and editing more than 2,000 words. Fevered writing, and that is often the best kind. One of my fellow workshoppers dubbed us the Kindly Oval as opposed to the Viscious Circle that met in the Algonquin Hotel (where we workshopped) many years ago. It is an apt name. It is a perfect name. We’ve already written dozens of emails to each other. We plan to meet again soon. They, too, have become my family.
The Writers Hotel is one of the younger writing conferences out there, but it has already left a lasting imprint on hundreds of lives, launching writing careers and placing others at the ready for success. The directors, Shanna McNair and Scott Wolven, are writers themselves. They are dreamers, warriors, and protectors of the craft. They see all the work, they see all the writers, and in turn urge them all onward. Pure authenticity: That is what The Writers Hotel is.
And so the magic goes on...
Lyndsie Manusos' (Fiction) fiction has appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Apex Magazine, PANK, A Cappella Zoo and other notable publications. Her work of flash fiction, "Clean Team" won 2017 Write to Publish Contest by Ooligan Press in partnership with The Masters Review. She was a shortlist finalist for the 2014 Ploughshares Emerging Writers contest and a finalist in the 2017 River Styx Schlafly Beer Micro-Brew Micro-Fiction contest. Lyndsie holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her present work in progress is a collection short stories titled Encyclopedia of the Unexplained. Lyndsie lives and works in Chicago and serves as web producer for The Poetry Foundation.
This is a short post, but I wanted to pop on here and share a little story about a gardener I’ve been observing for a while now.
A couple of weeks ago, the street I live on had four tornadoes come through in one day (my house was shaking, and in between worrying that my roof was going to fly off, I did idly wonder if this was finally my chance to meet the wicked witch of the west). Luckily, there wasn’t that much damage, except to one house. It was a house I never paid much attention to, given the fact that it’s almost entirely concealed by trees. It’s a nice house; as I understand it, it was built over 50 years ago, and during the storms, it seemed that all those trees were thrown on the house at once, putting two holes in the roof and a crack down the side. The trees were almost immediately removed, and this was how I discovered that a gardener had been hiding in plain sight. The woman who lives there has a small greenhouse attached to the side of her house, and an area just outside the trees is planted with a bunch of annuals. I don’t know what else she has planted around the property (I have no doubt that she planted all those trees), but I’ve been observing her on my walks for the last couple of weeks. Every day, she’s out there working in her yard. I’ve been told that she’s at least 83, and every day I walk by her house she’s been outside, raking leaves and clearing away branches (on the bright side, she has plenty of room to plant now that the sun can reach her front yard!). I can tell that this will be me when I’m that old, because there is always something to do in the garden (it’s one of the many good things about the hobby). Our work is never done; there’s always something to be planted, pruned or harvested. I look forward to seeing what she plants in the new space!
Jarad is the co-administrator and writer for Sacred Chickens, attends college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He recently developed an interest (some might say obsession) with gardening. Jarad is an English major with a concentration in literature. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!
Today Jarad is sharing his thoughts on the literary canon. Let us know your thoughts as well!
I went through a phase in 8th or 9th grade, where it was my mission to read all the “classic” books, something I later came to know as the literary canon. I got through quite a few- Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, Salinger, Harper Lee, Mark Twain, I read them all. Was this a good or bad thing for me to do? I enjoyed some of them. I learned something. I was free to read other things while my classmates slogged through their assignments, at least when one of the ones I’d read showed up on the syllabus. But sometimes now I question why I did it.
Johannes Cabal, the Detective
Written by Jonathan L. Howard
Review by Jarad Johnson
I reviewed and loved the first book in this series – check it out here. The protagonist, for whom these books are named is a man named Johannes Cabal, a necromancer and antihero. He’s diabolical in an endearing way, he’s sarcastic, and has a general dislike of people (I wonder why I like him so much?). He describes himself as a scientist on a mission to abolish death.
Meet two poets,collectively known as Saint Flashlight, who are dedicated to releasing poetry to run free among us, . Molly Gross and Drew Pisarra, longtime friends, bring people on the street face to face with poetry. Before they even know what's happened to them...they are suddenly confronted with free poems. And people love it. Even some people who didn't know they liked poetry. Read our interview with these partners in verse. (And then call to listen to a lost poem. Trust me.)