With the Desert Split Open Mic, like all in-person literary gatherings, still on hold, I’m missing that live energy exchange. Reading from my office, alone, is not the same, but it is something. I’m interested in how video might be used to improve publicity opportunities for small-press authors. Video allows me to deliver my work in a personalized way. You see my office and hear my voice. I’ll continue to update my YouTube channel when the mood strikes. View the whole virtually yours playlist here, or click below for individual videos. Thanks so much for watching.
We couldn’t blame Samantha Bee, either. In fact, this moment made such an impression on us that we decided to gather a literary anthology in response and protest. It became Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology.
Is Maryanne Trump Barry embarrassed by these leaks? Hopefully she feels unburdened. The only shame is silence, when fellow human beings suffer.
From the Introduction:
The country was in an uproar: the air was saturated with images of crying children, torn from their mothers and fathers, kept in cages. Stunned parents were paraded for the cameras so we saw them as criminals, less than, other. Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy was a disaster. It seemed a reasonable expectation that his daughter Ivanka, an Assistant to the President who occasionally posed as an advocate for families, might help to clean the mess. But, instead, she posted a shockingly tone-deaf photo of herself with one of her kids wrapped tight in her arms. Samantha Bee called her a feckless cunt.
Suddenly, the cruelty at our border was lost among clutched pearls and shrieks of disingenuous outrage: Samantha Bee said a bad word! The worst word.
Cunt—or, as it is whispered by many otherwise mature adults, “the c-word”—is that word you keep in your back pocket. It is the one word you never, ever say…until you do. Then, the shock of cunt is a weapon. Forbidden so long, it takes on an almost holy significance.
Cunt is a complicated word because its power is held by those who benefit from gender oppression. There is a reason why the words for female genitalia make us gasp and cringe. Samantha Bee was scolded by some of the same pundits and politicians who helped lower the bar to the dirt for acceptable Presidential behavior. But it was when Donald Trump tweeted that Bee should be fired for her “horrible” language that my brain, fully engorged with rage, burst from my skull and squished down the street in search of a fight. I could not take one more day of it: the hypocrisy. The gleeful hate. The false equivalencies. The violent displays of white supremacy and misogyny. The greed. Trump’s smug, petty ignorance. We had all heard him admit to sexual assault, right? Although he said pussy, not cunt. It was not that this moment of hypocrisy and “outrage” was worse than all the others. But it was a moment of ENOUGH.
I posted a call for lean, furious, feminist responses to this moment in the resistance. I gave a tight deadline: July 4, an invitation to declare independence from the petty, patriarchal bullshit. My Inbox became a collective scream.
Hey, you know what’s better than endlessly scrolling social media? Closing your eyes while someone reads you a story that transports you to another world. Maybe—like me—you find an odd sense of comfort in a deep, dystopian dive?
The latest episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast is so good, and I’m thrilled that The Ebb Somatic, my feminist, dystopian (but funny!) podcast-within-a-podcast, is part of it.
The Ebb Somatic is set in 2050 Los Angeles—renamed The Angels after 2039’s American Language Act—in a United States that has finally, fully deteriorated into an anti-woman, anti-queer, wealth-hoarding plutocracy. What persists? Trashy true-crime podcasts, overpriced, “anti-aging” beauty devices, and, perhaps, true love. (This is the same setting as another story of mine, also produced for this podcast: From the Angels to Snakes.)
Huge thanks to Phog Masheeen for the brilliant music and sounds, including the saddest, catchiest jingle. The team producing the Simultaneous Times podcast every month does such fine work, and I hope that you will listen to this episode and then listen to many more.
I’d love to hear what you think.
The Ebb Somatic – Simultaneous Times, episode #29
From The Angels to Snakes – Simultaneous Times, episode #14
We Have Your Connie Moody – Simultaneous Times, episode #18
Once a month, here in Joshua Tree, Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library hosts an open reading on the outdoor stage behind Space Cowboy Books. Thanks to the ongoing pandemic and mandatory distancing, we’ve been unable to meet in person, but the Cholla Needles website has transformed into a virtual “salon” with an impressive (and growing) collection of poets reading their work. Some, like me, live in the high desert, while others hail from places far beyond. The videos are organized into pages and are well worth your time. I’m fascinated by this medium—how we present ourselves and what we reveal. I’ll always love listening to writers read their work aloud, although of course I desperately miss the face-to-face energy exchange of the Cholla Needles readings and the Desert Split Open Mic. This is not the same, but it is something. I hope you’ll check out my work and the rest on these pages.
Page 1: My reading is from my chapbook of tiny stories as classified ads, Swap / Meet.
(I have a few remaining copies of Swap / Meet available for $5 + USPS ship. worldsplitopenpress[at]gmail[dot]com to order.)
Happy viewing. Stay safe and sane. One day we’ll do this live and in-person again, and we’ll feel that energy exchange, even from six feet away.
With the Desert Split Open Mic, like all in-person literary gatherings, still on hold, I miss that live energy exchange, the intimacy of truths told in confidence to those who will hear. I miss watching us step up and swing and sometimes miss, but always try to listen hard to each other and ourselves. I miss my physical response to words read in halting voices that grab me and shake.
Reading to you from my office, alone, is not the same, but it is something. I am interested in how video might share our work more widely and creatively. Why not, I suppose. Video allows me to deliver my work in autobiographical context. I made a YouTube channel. I’ll update it now and then.
I’ve followed social distancing recommendations for about 10 weeks. It feels like so much longer, doesn’t it? Maybe because it’s been 10 weeks of chaotic change and uncertainty, underlain with faint, abstracted, persistent fear. Even in the flurry of creativity I retreat into in order to cope, I feel the worry slip in. I catch it in the corner of my eye, a reminder that I might as well make the art I want to make, now.
I can be dramatic—I already knew this. 10 weeks in relative isolation isn’t making that less true! I suspect the videos I record in this strange time will become a visual diary of deconstruction or transformation. I will try to embrace my changes, for lack of another choice. We are all, already, different. Nothing is the same, but we are something.
Playlist: virtually yours
Well this is a cool thing at the right time: Our local Space Cowboy Books just asked me to compile a list of some favorite feminist titles. DREAM assignment. I had a blast and hope you’ll check it out: essays, poetry, novels, and more. Buy books online, from the safety (?) of your own home, BUT—buy them from an independent bookseller. Then go wash your hands. Yes, again.
From the moment I realized, as a little girl, that my gender was considered inferior, I’ve sought an explanation. I was heavily influenced by 2nd wave feminists, and I find myself equally drawn to, and educated by, the younger, 3rd wave feminists, who insist the conversation be intersectional. On this list, you’ll find essay collections, books of poetry, novels, even a craft book. It is not intended to be definitive. These are personal recommendations, representing ideas and solutions from a diverse group of writers and thinkers from the late 19th century to present day. I hope that this list, along with the book I edited, Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology, offer inspiration and fuel for the continued fight.
It was my honor to emcee this recent multimedia event in Joshua Tree. We celebrated poet and artist Tamara Hattis and her newly-published collection, Colors of My Pain. The topic was the lived experience of chronic pain and illness, and it was a tremendously moving afternoon. The quality of work was outstanding. How lucky we were, those of us in the audience! And how grateful, to be covered in the Hi-Desert Star:
My latest sci-fi story, We Have Your Connie Moody, can be heard on Episode #18 of the sci-fi and speculative podcast Simultaneous Times. It’s my second story for them and features multiple voice actors, sound effects, and original music by Phog Masheen. I wasn’t sure how this unconventional story would translate to an audio drama, but I think it’s perfect. What a THRILL.
The story is constructed of online posts to private social networks and is a pointed look at suburban life through alien eyes. Many thanks to Jean-Paul L. Garnier and everyone who helped bring this to life. Click below, or find it streaming on all your favorite podcast players.
If you like what you hear, have a listen to my first story to appear on this podcast (Episode #14), From The Angels to Snakes, a feminist dystopia set in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree:
I am still new to writing in this genre and I’m excited by the possibilities, especially in terms of how it might frame smart and subtle social commentary. In the last year, I’ve thought a lot about my former misunderstandings about genre fiction and in fact what genre means for both writer and reader. On September 21, as part of the NEA BIG READ Morongo Basin, I will participate in an author panel discussion of science fiction and what defines literary genres. Local friends, I hope you’ll join us! Let’s expand our minds like the universe.
At the end of 2018, as the Feckless Cunt Anthology promotional tour wound down, I thought about how much I wanted to continue that conversation—about politics, feminism, the patriarchy, race, class, gender, binaries, queerness, oppression, everyday abuses, and the moments that change everything, forever. I hoped that others in my local community of Joshua Tree, California, wanted to talk about the things we can’t ignore. The Desert Split Open Mic was born. One evening a month, we meet in a cozy, funky lounge and share words and work in progress. We keep it simple: read your own poetry or prose–or the work of a favorite writer–8 minutes max. Our first meeting was in January 2019, and we met again in February, March, April, and May. We took off June, as we helped plan Joshua Tree Pride. We love seeing some of the same faces return each month, and there are always a few new faces, too, which is thrilling. The evening is shaped by the truths each reader brings, and there always seems to be a balance.
The Desert Split Open Mic allows me to continue in the role of facilitator of other writers’ words, which I have come to realize is a role I love. It also gives me motivation to keep writing my own new work in this vein. I am grateful to those who have or soon will publish work written for this open mic:
My satirical, imagined conversation, “What’s Your Problem with Joe Biden?” recently ran at The Weeklings, just days after Joe announced his 2020 candidacy.
My furious, feminist, flash rant, “Ingrown Rage,” is set to appear in Cliterature‘s forthcoming HAIR-themed issue.
On Saturday, June 29, I will perform “ID, please,” a piece about fluidity, contradiction, and queerness, at the Art Theatre of Long Beach, for OUT LOUD: A Cultural Evolution.
These pieces exist because The Desert Split Open Mic exists.
Joshua Tree goes quiet in the summer, thank goodness–or quieter, at least. We slow down, conserve energy in the staggering heat. Should we resume The Desert Split Open Mic in July? Or wait until September? We’re still considering. But, soon or very soon, we will meet again. Please join us, if you can. Everyone is welcome. We’re listening.