My Poem in Rat’s Ass Review

Many of my poems have led to short stories, but recently one made the leap to novel, which has been keeping me busy and offline. The poem that sparked this, “Contemplating Gravity on 180 Greenwich Street,” has just been published in the Winter Issue of Rat’s Ass Review, which I’m very excited about. A big thank you to Editor, Rick Bates. The day I discovered Rat’s Ass Review, I spent hours admiring and reading all the poems published there. I am very honored to be included.

There are a few interesting stories surrounding the poem. The first time I submitted to Rat’s Ass Review it was rejected. But it was rejected with an invitation to submit again, and the editor provided a great link to a post by Kelli Russell Agodon, about shortening your timetable on resubmitting, ie Submit Like a Man, which I highly suggest reading if you haven’t already. I took the advice and submitted different poems a week later, only Mr. Bates came back to “Contemplating Gravity on 180 Greenwich Street.” However, he questioned a word, which embarrassingly happened to be a typo. From now on I’m having someone read my poems before submitting. We tend to gloss over our own mistakes.

The poem itself was written after I visited the 9-11 Memorial (as pictured below). Some poems are like splinters. Those are the ones to pay attention to and explore.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and prolific writing in the new year!

 

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Writing Pearls from a Half-Shucked Oyster

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When writing fiction, you take yourself out of the equation, only to insert yourself into every variable. Writers aren’t happy about getting to live one life. We want walk around in everyone’s shoes, and be good and bad, complicated and nuts, heroes and demons. And let’s face it — we want to get away with murder.

I just returned from the Writer’s Digest Conference in NY, where I met a lot of amazing writers and people, and wanted to share some pearls of wisdom I picked up. You never know how starved you are for people who get what it is writers really do and the struggles we face until you get thrown into a room with hundreds of them. It feels like hitting a buffet with an impenetrable sneeze guard, serving only artisan breads and Belgium chocolates.

It’s crazy to be in a profession where there are no set rules, no office buildings, no daily affirmations. Everything must come from yourself. You are boss, worker, cheerleader, shoulder for tears, punching bag for frustration, water cooler to babble on about how Jon Snow is a gorgeous bastard and the one true king.

That’s a whole lot of alone time. And being by yourself, with all your demons and insecurities, with no one to blame, or share the burden of not producing, can feel like the most intimidating feat in the world. Writers must be brave and get out of our own way. But most importantly, writers must become experts in perseverance. We must be curious enough to learn the craft, to learn the rules before we break them, to hone and revise, and hit delete on the most beautiful words that don’t advance the story, to walk away when something isn’t working, to read other people’s work with prose we drool over because more often than not, great readers already know the tricks of the trade. We see the tension, the twists, the escalation, the fleshing out of characters, the descriptive settings. We see the flaws, the places where a writer lacks brevity or polish. And all of this requires time and patience in a world where people only seem to have time for TV, Twitter and political outrage (holds hand up), while harboring a vast misconception about what it takes to be an actual writer.

I guess my earth-shattering advice is to stop wasting time waiting to be told you’re great, for inspiration to hit, or be given a magic bullet for success (guilty of all three), and spend that time getting better. If it sounds like hard work — it is — and it means you’re finally doing it right. Happy writing!

Wild Flower

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Beauty just is
unvarnished
moving with wind
colored with sun.

I walked for miles
with no destination
noting the frequency of
the wild flower

the pillars of stems
thorny or delicate
upholding the grace of
a small existence.

Many line the road
leaning with flare
But petals that unfold in
the wild find their way

where we’ll never walk.
I think, perhaps, that
is what it means to be
truly wild.

My Poem in Panoply

 

I’m happy to announce my poem, The Position of Sun, is included in the Spring Issue of Panoply. I’ve been enjoying all the poetry and prose on “Daylight” — the theme of Issue 6. Many thanks to the editors, Andrea, Jeff and Ryn, for including my work!

Losing March

Northern Mockingbird

At 17, I discovered leaves on trees,
carved veins of light fanning into
a kaleidoscope of green, sawed edges
sharpened into points, bird feathers
descending into arched clouds.

Looking out the window,
lens perched upon my nose, told
to examine the drip of eucalyptus
weighted in sky, held in a metallic grip,
with flaky fingers and root sprawl.

Is this how it’s supposed to be,
a spectacle of finely crafted edges,
when life had been pools of blue rooted
in waves of mountains, palo verdes
a smear of pollen yellow, cacti coated
and licked like well-groomed cats?

The day the world came into focus,
childhood became the soft underbelly,
a tangible abstract of cotton figurines,
until a glut of detail revealed
sticks no longer whittled into animal
shapes but sharpened into spears.

And here I am, in the wake of morning,
no lens to correct my vision, closing the
eyes of my 10-year-old self, only to hear
mockingbirds sing stolen trills, knowing they
don’t sing for joy, but rather to defend all the
imaginary lines drawn for self-preservation.

______________________________________________________________________

 

The Distance Between

Do you ever envision an accident happening and then when it does, wonder if your vision made it come true, or if it was just inevitable and you were really only predicting or fearing a commonplace occurrence in the grand scheme of life?

Yesterday I was at my computer, like most mornings, having my cup of coffee while writing, and I thought, Boy, it’d really suck if I spilled this coffee all over my computer. I should back up all my work. Then lo and behold — commence spill, queue scream laced with profanity, then fill the air with the rich smell of bastardized coffee and self pity… Yep. After six years together, I killed Precious. Say hello to Precious 2.0.

Good news is I have a piece of flash fiction (about 500 words) over at Spelk today if you have time to read. Thank you to Gary Duncan for publishing The Distance Between Neighbors. I’m honored to be there!

Have a great week, and be sure to back up your work and maintain a healthy distance between coffee and computer!

Fast Food Warfare

Fast Food Warfare. Thanks to the editors at The Drabble.

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By S. S. Hicks

He stood in line, weighing his choices: double burger and fries, or the six-piece chicken combo.

Behind the pre-lit menu above him, he tries not to notice the dead bulb between Combo #3 and Combo #4, tries not to remember the drones he flew two hours prior, bombing a village he hadn’t heard of, checking off a list of marked buildings, turning off his screen of options, grabbing his jacket, hitting the sidewalk, opening the door to this chain restaurant where he hears the woman in front of him say to her little girl, “What would you like, my sweetheart?”

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Sonoran Storytellers

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Weave me into painted desert
where sun snakes light
through creosote and sage,
where mountains torn from sky
beg clouds for rain.

In an amphitheater
of mighty saguaros,
a still audience absorbs
sacred secrets to nourish the
blooms of a hot spring.

 

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Roadside Barns

We drove in a downward slope,
cats tonguing our winter coat with one long
lick around snowy roads.

Threaded between bramble, barns house the secret
narratives of animals setting forth on missions —
the tale of mice and mavericks.

These chalky, sedated skies spill like medicine,
when I lay hot with fever and mystery, to
when seasons held their breath,

releasing night into howl, curling lines
to show icy exhales, the strummed
language of plucked fruit and wild birds.

I viewed the dilapidated wood, crooked hinges,
birds nesting into high corners in a warm refuge
of twigs, my mind fighting off the hollow and chill,

holding onto the echo of turned pages from
children’s books, knowing country barns are
better viewed roadside.

Great? Not Today.

upsidedown

 

 

January 20, 2017

My high school English teacher was big on avoiding what she called bland adjectives — amazing, fantastic, wonderful. Great she especially loathed. Even telling her to have a great day could result in a death stare, but perhaps I’m taking too much creative liberty.

She was very old then so chances are she is no longer with us. Maybe it’s better she doesn’t live in an age of Twitter and Trump, who with his limited vocabulary, is very fond of bland adjectives, especially great. He built an entire platform on great. If she isn’t already dead, it would kill her. Bigly.

Great, she argued, is also relative. A great day for a serial killer is someone else’s bad day. Can’t argue with that. Just like you can’t seriously argue that fifty years ago was a greater time for women or people of color. I’m going to go on a limb here and say civil rights violations and crotch grabbing seemed more likely fifty years ago, even with our new Groper-in-Chief. Some might find that scary; others just call it progress.

That said — it’s not a great day.

I had a professor who professed if you say something often enough, you start to believe it. At the time she used O.J. Simpson as an example. She was certain O.J. didn’t believe he was lying because he had told himself the lie until it became his truth.

“He actually believes what he’s saying,” she said.

Seems more like a sign of a psychopath, but she blamed his ego. With a big enough appetite, ego doesn’t care for truth. It’s an insatiable monster always looking to be fed. Ego will blind you, which explains Trump, and his hair — truth lying behind a carefully combed secret.

I’m quite certain she’s not having a great day either.

I’m trying not to be fearful here when fear is what got us into this mess. So I’ll just settle on today being a Not So Great, Very Bad Day for America. Today marks a day when everything that is unjust has been validated. Set aside party politics, we now have a man in charge who ran a campaign on fear, disrespect, and intolerance while courting racists. Sure, party loyalists can forget that bitter little pill. But he should have been crushed. CRUSHED. Period. Seat at the table – pulled away. Otherwise a disease spreads, as we have seen since (and before) the election, and I’m not even going to mention his views on climate change or yanking away health care for millions. America, you’ve been conned by a douchebag.

No, today I won’t be telling anyone to have a great day. Not when it is clear our country has a disease.

Today, I will say, is a day we must start looking for a cure.