Dear 2014: Sayonara to a So-So Year

Dear Life in 2014:

I’d like to say you were 100% fantastic to me. That you brought me untold successes  and fortunes. That no scourge of trials touched me or harmed me or anyone close to me.

Fact is, 2014, you kind of sucked. For me, anyway.

The path you placed in front of me for the past 359 days looked a lot like this:

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Image from Pixabay.

Yeah, this is the rocky path that I’ve traversed all year—constantly stumbling and falling—never knowing if what was ahead of me in the foggy future was a precipice or a smoother path leading to better ground. Mostly it was just more rocks to trip over. I never went off the deep edge, but I did slide down a hill or two.

Whatever doesn’t kill me…better run like hell when I get stronger!

I’m looking at you, 2015.

There were accomplishments this year, don’t get me wrong. Academia continues to treat me well, I’m excelling in my classes.

But economically and creatively it’s been a tough damn year.

I’m really glad that the beginning of my career as a writer has seen a few of my short stories and poetry get published early on. Getting some of those groovy little tales re-printed has not been an easy task. This year, I decided to try and get some of my previously published stories republished. I was met with rejection after rejection at every turn.

I submitted new stuff, too. I have a literary short story that won an academic award. It’s titled “Parker’s Pygmalion” and it explores the world of artistic patronage. It’s gritty, somewhat reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor’s Southern Gothic stuff, where the protagonist anti-hero is completely unapologetic about his actions. I haven’t been able to get anyone to nibble on it. I have it waiting right now at my university’s Tampa literary journal, we’ll see if it finally finds a home there.

I did have one poem, a haiku called “still life, with plums” that was published earlier in the year. That little poem has been the stand alone publication for me in 2014.

2015 will hopefully see some improvement here.

I’ve been working on getting some new stuff written. I’ve currently got 3 or 4 new stories that I’m working on and hoping to complete soon. I really like the ideas that spawned them and I hope my words can do their characters justice.

Another bit of change in 2015 may come about in my persona in publishing. Over the last couple of years there has been another author with a name very close to mine who writes erotica. I don’t have anything against that genre, but I am having a bit of a problem with people confusing me with her and I’m getting a little depressed over it. I have used a pseudonym in the past for posting stories to Friday Flash, but never permanently and I never got any stories published with it (not counting one or two stories I put up on The Were-Traveler). I’m thinking about publishing under a another pen name now. I’ve thought about it and came up with C. X. Drake. Not sure how soon I’m going to be using that name, though.

Anyway, 2014, I’m glad to see your backside heading away from me.

Dear 2015, please be kinder to me. I need a 2nd part-time job to keep my head above water while I attend university. I need patience, perseverance, and better time management skills to make it through 4 English and Literature classes in the Spring, still manage to kindly serve other students as a tutor, AND still keep working on my own writing.

I don’t mind the occasional bumps and rocky paths; I’m pretty damn tough and stubborn.

And I’m aware that difficult paths can lead to some pretty outstanding views.

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Image from Pixabay.

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Thanksgiving 2014: What I’m Thankful For

Photo by Maria Kelly

Photo by Maria Kelly

WHAT I AM THANKFUL FOR:

  1. I am alive. After all I’ve been through. Still breathing. I am so broke I can’t afford to pay attention, and have days of extremely utter despair, when I think everything I’m doing is in vain. But I am intensely stubborn and refuse to give up…and despite it all, I am in love with Life.
  2. I have wonderful friends/amigos/nakama. I don’t have a lot of close family, but my friends more than make up for it. I don’t know what I’d do without you, so, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You All.
  3. I have my educational goals ahead. I have a strong 3.79 G.P.A. and only 3-to-4 semesters left before I get my B.A. from USFSP. I’ll be making a decision where to go to attend grad school but it’s likely I won’t be moving out of Florida unless someone offers me a free ride somewhere else. So, exciting adventures await me in the future. My coursework keeps me challenged and keeps me learning new things. I’ve begun to get more involved in the clubs I’m in (I’ll be officially inducted into the English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta, on December 3rd) and having fun interacting with my club mates.
  4. I have my Muse. My creative outlet which flows outward from me in inky lines of prose, verse, or occasionally art and photography/design. My Muse is my release valve. When things get too much, when the Universe takes a crap on my soul, I write or draw something. Poetry and storytelling have been my gift and palliative since I first stood on two legs.

I hope that you have some great things to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Writing Prompt #58: Eating Crow, Pick Your Version

If you’re still struggling for something to write for Halloween, I’ve got another pic for you. This was a photo I took at a bus stop bench a couple of months ago. This gutsy beauty was not phased at all when I sat down beside him; he just kept eating out of that white napkin. What was in the napkin? I have no idea. Perhaps you’ll figure it out in your story or poem as you write it.

I was able to get several good snaps of him, but this one turned out the best. As with the dilapidated apartment building, I’ve run several filters on this birdie so you can choose the one you like the best. If you use the image(s) on your site, I ask that you credit me, the photographer. Also, send me a link of your creation so I can read and comment on your work!

Happy Halloween Writing!

Eating Crow 1 @ Maria Kelly

Eating Crow 1 @ Maria Kelly

Eating Crow 2 @ Maria Kelly

Eating Crow 2 @ Maria Kelly

Eating Crow 3 @ Maria Kelly

Eating Crow 3 @ Maria Kelly

Eating Crow 4 @ Maria Kelly

Eating Crow 4 @ Maria Kelly

Eating Crow 5 @ Maria Kelly

Eating Crow 5 @ Maria Kelly

Writing Prompt #57: Behind the Haunted House, Pick Your Version

Been a long while since I blogged (University studies are killer for a lit major–but I love reading so I don’t mind the overload too much) and this post is WAY OVERDUE.

I wanted to restart things off with a special Halloween Writing Prompt.

There’a a dilapidated, boarded up building that I have to pass when I leave my apartment. I have to journey through a path that runs along the back of it to get to the street. That’s what happens when you live in an isolated area with the interstate entrance next door to you.

These images are the back of the house, which is a pale yellow. I haven’t snapped a pic of the front of the house yet, but it has an equally creepy ambience. I ran the original photo through some artistic filters to make it more creepy. I couldn’t decide which one would be the best to post for this prompt, so I’m letting you, the writers, choose which you like best. The original follows the filtered versions. You can post your creative wonder on your site with the pic you choose, I just ask that you credit the photographer…me. And ping the link so I can read your masterpieces! Thank you, and …

HAPPY HALLOWEEN WRITING!

Image @ Maria Kelly

Image @ Maria Kelly: Haunted #1

Image @ Maria Kelly: Haunted #2

Image @ Maria Kelly: Haunted #2

Image @ Maria Kelly: Haunted #3

Image @ Maria Kelly: Haunted #3

Image @ Maria Kelly: Haunted Original

Image @ Maria Kelly: Haunted Original

Books and Reading: My Best Reads of 2013

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Being an English  Literature major means that I’ve begun to read some very interesting novels.

My World Lit professor this past term was very fond of European avant-garde works. We read a lot of banned books and fiction written by authors who went against convention, and in some cases, the party line, to tell their stories. I want to share a few of my favorites with you.

  1. The Master and Margarita. Mikhail Bulgakov.
    • This novel features the devil in Moscow. A thinly-veiled satirical critique of the arts society in Marxist Russia due to Lenin’s rule of “creation for support of the Communist Party” which discouraged anything that wasn’t pro-Communist. This novel is a hoot: it features not only the Devil, but his comrades are a shady jester, a human- sized smart-mouthed cat, and one of the creepiest and weirdest thugs (Azazello, the fanged man in the bowler hat) that I’ve ever encountered in fiction. True to much modernist fiction, there are subplots a-plenty, including one of the writer’s account of Pontius Pilate, a black magic theater which goes awry, and a love story between a married woman (the Margarita) and an author placed in a mental asylum for “going against the grain” (the Master). Margarita will do anything to return to her lover’s side, including making a deal with the devil. A funny and insightful novel full of hidden symbols that expose the hard life for artists in Soviet Russia.
  2. We. Yevgeny Zamyatin. 
    • Thought by many scholars of European literature to be one of the precursors to dystopian fiction, and inspired other books in the genre, such as 1984 by George Orwell. I read this book for my research essay in World Lit on the advice of my instructor, one of the professors I came to admire my first term and who came to know me well enough to know that I would like this bizarre, futuristic science fiction story. We is such a critical expose of Soviet Russia that the book would not be published there until the 1960s. The story takes place in the One State, ruled by a totalitarian figure known as the Benefactor, and aided by a KGB-type secret police called Guardians. The citizens are known ciphers and given a combination of letter and numbers for names. Imagination and dreams are considered mental illness and individuality is punishable by forced lobotomization or death. The protagonist, spaceship engineer D-503, finds himself in turmoil after meeting the revolutionary woman cipher I-330, whom he is sexually obsessed with, despite her rebellious ways. I have to say this is now one of my favorite science fiction books of all time.
  3. All Quiet on the Western Front. Erich Maria Remarque.
    • One soldiers intimate account of the horrors of World War 1, this novel was one of the first books targeted in Adolf Hitler’s book-burning campaign after he came to power. It was banned in Germany and elsewhere throughout its history of publication, sometimes for the rough interpretation of war and for language that today we would consider mild. Still, you won’t view war the same way again after reading this novel.
  4. Steppenwolf. Herman Hesse
    • A truly bizarre novel that serves as a critique of the bourgeois society. One of the many novels I read that focused on individuality and freedom of expression. Reading this novel is a treat that has to be experienced. Harry Haller calls himself The Steppenwolf, a wolf of the Steppes, a self-styled gloomy loner who is uncomfortable in society, yet suffers from intense loneliness. He believes that if he can’t find an end to his suffering before he reaches middle-age, he will commit suicide. Then he meets an oddball assortment of characters that put on a Magic Theater just for him (with the warning “Not for everybody. For madmen only”), to show him how to not take himself so seriously. Does it work? Read the novel.
  5. The Street of Crocodiles. Bruno Schulz. 
    • A  beautifully surreal, magical, and bizarrely painted portrait of childhood and memory. The ugliness of industrialization is the underlying message in this Polish masterpiece. This is not a long book, a little over one hundred pages, and if you needed to teach a lesson on what an unreliable narrator is, this is your book. Told through the eyes of a little boy, this story follows his life with his merchant father, who is dead at the end of every chapter yet alive again at the beginning of the next one. It is a tale of trauma and grief seen through the memory of a child. It is a weird, and wonderful little book.
  6. Ragtime. E.L. Doctorow. 
    • Doctorow gives us an unabashed glimpse of life in 1920s America. Early labor movements and American socialism are covered, as is the topic of race relations and the mistreatment of African Americans. Unfortunately, the film is not as good. It focuses on the racial story, but sidesteps the struggles for worker’s rights and the early feminism of characters like Emma Goldman. Nothing wrong with telling the racial story, but the other elements of the book make for a much more complete account of the complexity of the era and its subcultures, early activism and immigrant flavor in a burgeoning melting pot.
  7. Ferdydurke. Witold Gombrowicz. 
    • By far one of the strangest books I have ever read, and I’ve read a lot of strange books this past year. This is also a rare book, you might be able to get a used copy from Amazon, but you’d spend less for a new one. The plot of Ferdydurke (Polish literal translation: Thirty Door Key) is the main character’s denial of adult responsibility and the return to the devil-may-care individuality and irresponsibility of youth. The story begins when 30-year-old Joey is “abducted” by his former schoolmaster and sent back to school. He boards with a socialite family and becomes obsessed with the wealthy daughter. He has various absurd and fantastical adventures with one of his classmates. All in an attempt to deny responsibility. This book is full of funny weird prose, and plots, subplots and insanity. Two seemingly unrelated stories are tucked in, chapters 4 and 5, about  A Child in Filidor, but looking beneath the surface of them, they definitely are part of the whole. This  book wants to kick you in the ‘pupa.’ What does that mean? Read it.
  8. Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies. ed Mark C. Carnes. 
    • When you watch a Hollywood film that is “supposed” to be about an actual historical event such as Patton, Bonnie and Clyde, or Glory, how do you know if what’s on the screen is what really went down? This book of essays by historians, which was sort of a textbook used in my Film and American History class, explains the importance of knowing the difference between historical fact and creative license. Each essay breaks apart a historical film and tells you what really happened and what the producers added for “entertainment value.”

I recommend these books to any reader’s “to-read” list.

What good books have you read this past year?

2014: The Year of Getting Serious Again

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First, to Everyone who reads this, Happy Holidays! I wish that all of your wishes come true during the next year and that you live life to its maximum capacity. Always.

This past year has been rewarding and challenging. I graduated with my associates degree, lost one job and got another with the same employer (lost student assistant job at St. Petersburg College when I graduated and got hired back on a few months later as an OPS writing tutor), started new university to go for the bachelors degree, moved into a new apartment  in the downtown area, and gave up my car (it was a piece of shit anyway) for the benefit of walking for exercise.

I was busy writing many essays for my junior year at the University of South Florida, so my creative writing efforts suffered a little. But those essays helped me improve my writing, and I hope all future academic witting will do the same.

For my resolutions in 2014, I don’t have many. I’m keeping it simple and doable.

  1. Continue to improve my health by walking. School and grocery is within walking distance from me now, as well as many other activities and entertainments that the downtown St. Pete area has to offer.
  2. Write new stories. Turn on my creative juices and get them flowing whenever possible. Write for fun, but also write for publications. Poems, too. I want to write some more poetry in 2014.
  3. Submit stories and poetry to major publications and journals. I’ve already started on this one. I’ve submitted my previously unpublished award-winning short story Parker’s Pygmalion to Glimmer Train literary magazine and three unpublished poems to Northwestern U’s Tri-Quarterly journal. I’ve started some fantasy and sci-fi stories that are pretty good so far, I just need to finish them and get them out into some slush piles. I will also continue to try and get some previously published stories reprinted.
  4. Keep my magazine going. My side-project as publisher and editor of the spec-fic ezine The Were-Traveler has taken a toll on my sanity this year. Finding time to read and respond to stories while reading 2-3 books a week for lit classes has been very challenging, but I have no desire to stop doing it now. In fact, I’m even more determined to make it work. I may ask for help along the way, but I’m definitely keeping it going. I nominated 3 stories to Critter’s P&E Readers Poll and wish I could have showered other writers with that kind of love and recognition. I’m still trying to find all those yearly award venues out there, where I can give my authors the cred they deserve. If any of my readers have recommendations, please let me know.
  5. Keep my sanity at school, work, writing, editing, publishing. This is a given. I must maintain a sensible balance to this crazy happening that is my life. Need to breathe a little in between and enjoy other things, too. Relax, take deep breaths, meditate.

That’s it. I’ll probably add goals as I go along through the first part of the year, but this is enough to start with.

I hope all of your goals for the coming year lead to success and happiness.