Sunday, June 23, 2019

It Isn't Writer's Block

I said I can't write lately, and someone said it's writer's block, but it's not. It's more like, well, I could sit down and write, but it feels meaningless and small. Of course, writing has always felt small to me on some level, or I wouldn't have focused on all things teeny tiny. Surely I'll return to some "small but mighty" writing and publishing projects soon (as a friend kindly described them years ago). I was grateful to be able to raise a couple hundred dollars for Immigrant Families Together with my last tiny zine. I have an idea for a new zine that will tell the story a new online friend shared with me about her work with recent immigrants in New Mexico. If I didn't believe in the power of writing, I wouldn't spend my life teaching college students how to write in clearer and more focused ways. And it's a privilege to have the time and ability to write, and the access to a computer and a printer and an internet connection.

But it's difficult to think about piecing a poem together when I keep thinking about the fact that our government is "detaining" kids in horrible conditions because they crossed a border. This is our government. This is what our taxes pay for. This is cruel and inhumane, and for me at this point, it doesn't matter who started ICE or who maintained it or who made it worse. The abuse of power simply needs to stop. What are we doing to help make it stop? Are we telling our officials every day that we want it to stop? Are we telling our neighbors? Why aren't we in the streets week in and week out until this stops?

What are our government officials doing right now instead of focusing on stopping this assault on basic human rights and dignities? One of my senators had an item on her Facebook page recently about the US women's soccer team and pay inequalities, and while I agree there are problems with pay inequity, right now I don't care to hear about anything else from my government representatives except what they're doing to release kids from detention--and adults, too. Seeking asylum isn't a crime.

The suburb where I live recently had a conflict because the city officials wanted to build a road to access the beach more easily in case of emergencies. Well, there was a huge Save Our Beach campaign from citizens who didn't want a road impacting the beach. Their campaign stopped the road from being built. People picketed and wrote letters and gathered signatures and went to the council meetings. Locally, a lot of people were really in an uproar about it. For me this proves two things. One is that it's much easier for people to get worked up and take action about "not in my backyard" things that they perceive as affecting them directly. The other is that you can, indeed, fight city hall. As Audre Lorde said (quoted by Sarah Schulman), "That you can't fight city hall is a rumor being spread by city hall."

Can we all wake up to the fact that kids are being abused in our very backyards? Maybe being a (former) foster parent and someone who has not borne a child has helped me to understand that all children are our children. Anyone can help a child. Something that might take a small amount of your time or effort or money can make a big difference to a child. We have to be the responsible adults here and reach out to help. I know people are like, but what can I do? And I think that's an ongoing question. Try to think of one thing you can do each day that goes beyond what you do on social media. Contact a legislator. Donate to a group that is providing legal help to immigrants and/or bearing witness at "detention" facilities. Have a garage sale and donate the proceeds. Make a sign that says "I Stand with Immigrants" or "End Immigrant Detention Now" or anything that feels right to you, and hold it anywhere that others will see it. If you don't want confrontations with people, stand on a pedestrian overpass above the freeway. Call a friend and hold signs together. Keep saying to everyone who will listen that you do not abide what is happening to our neighbors at the hands of our government.

But it's not for me to tell anyone what to do. I just have ideas if you want them, and I get the impression that people want to help but feel short on ideas. What we're really short on is time. We have to act now because every day that kids are away from their families is too long of a time. If you want to work on projects together, please feel free to leave me a comment here or email me or send a message on Facebook, etc. Even if you don't know what you want to do but want to do something, let's talk about it. Or talk to a friend or your partner instead of me. But let's talk about it and do something every day, and then tell other people what we're doing.

To end on a happier note, my mom invited me over the other day, and I helped her with making some stuffed toys to send to kids living at the border. We're going to mail a box of toys this week to Team Brownsville.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

New Zine Coming, and a Chapbook from a Friend

Well, I did end up raising over $200 with my Well, It's a Job zine! It was really exciting to be able to donate that much money to Immigrant Families Together. Thank you to everybody who donated. And I still have copies of the zine, so if you or someone you know would like a copy, you can still use the PayPal link that's included in the earlier blog posts to order one.

I'm working on another fundraising zine now, this one with poems based on my own experience rather than emerging from found text. I've chosen all the poems and just need to write a little intro part and do the layout. I want to get this done in time for tabling at an upcoming book fair at the Washington State History Museum on April 6. I'll post about it on the blog, too, of course! The title is Some Poems for the End of the World.

By the way, I'm not putting out a call for submissions for content for zines because I need to keep things small/manageable, but I do want to keep making these fundraising zines as an ongoing series. If you have an idea and want to talk about collaborating, I invite you to leave a comment here or reach me via email (mandypoet at hotmail.com). Or one other thing is that you could consider making your own fundraising zine or other project. I was really moved when poet and publisher Dale Wisely told me that he was inspired by me and made a limited edition chapbook to raise money for the Sexual Assault Services program of The Crisis Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

Also, through an Immigrant Families Together group on Facebook, I found out about a shelter in El Paso that has been helping a lot of families and had put out a request for support, and my mom and I put together a box of stuffed animals and other toys and games for the kids there. As a side note, it's outrageous how much it costs to ship a lightweight box bigger than 12x12". It cost us almost as much to ship the box as it cost to buy the toys. Of course, this is why it typically makes more sense to donate money or order from gift registries, etc, but in this case, we knew the folks at the shelter wanted to be able to just open a box and find a variety of small, comforting things that kids could take with them. And we were able to find affordable stuff, too, so it all worked out. It was a really nice thing for my mom and me to do together. We're going to do another box soon. We would have done it already, but I was waylaid by the end of the quarter plus back pain.

Thanks again for everyone who has encouraged me in this project so far. :)

Friday, February 22, 2019

Close to Two Hundred

Thanks to everyone who has donated and/or shared info about my zine fundraiser for Immigrant Families Together so far. I just made a donation at the IFT GoFundMe site for $110, bringing the total to $165. Maybe the zine will cross the $200 mark over the next few days. I hope so! Here's the link if you want to donate and receive a copy of Well, It's a Job for your own zine-reading pleasure. (Recommended donation amount is $2 to $10.)

I've been busy making more copies. I've also been thinking about finding an event where I can table with the zines, so please let me know if you have any ideas. I could just set up with a TV tray somewhere around town at a community event (I have a pretty cool vintage TV tray, in fact).

When I think about what's happening to people--and especially kids--at the hands of our government, I feel small. And I feel very, very angry. I was heartened when I learned about Immigrant Families Together because it is a group of individuals who are pitching in to help people get out of ICE custody and rebuild their lives. I wish we could change government policy and get rid of ICE and its "detentions" and family separations. I ask my government officials about this regularly. I protest about it, too. In the meantime, I feel like the most practical thing we can do while these policies continue to detain and hurt people is to try to help get people out of detention, one at a time. This is far better than doing nothing as we wait for policy to change. Kids in particular should not be locked away because their families crossed the border into the US. IFT is doing the practical work of getting people out from behind the bars and wire and fences of imprisonment.

It feels small to be making a tiny zine, too, but I think it's meaningful to contribute even in the smallest way. What if everyone contributed to this effort in their own way, using their own interests and talents? Could we empty out the detention centers?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Fifty Dollars in a Day

Thank you to everyone who has donated to zine fundraiser so far. Since announcing the zine just a day ago, I've been able to raise $50 to give to Immigrant Families Together. I just went to GoFundMe and made what I hope is the first in a series of donations made possible through the community of friends and artists that I feel proud to be part of.

If you'd like to share info about the zine fundraiser, please do share my Instagram or blog posts--or create your own post if you like my project and tell people about it via social media, email, etc. I received two donations today directly because of my posts being shared. In particular, I want to say thanks to the Olympia Zine Fest for sharing my post on their Facebook page.

I know that a lot of us are feeling disheartened, to say the least, with the political situation in the US, and it feels overwhelming to try and do anything to meaningfully respond to it. So I went back to what I try to do when I feel overwhelmed: I do a tiny thing that is within my power to do to try and help. I hope we can all do more of these tiny things because they really add up. I would love to hear about what you are doing. Are you writing letters via Resistbot? Are you supporting organizations that are helping get people out of detention centers? We all need to speak out, even if our individual voices seem small. We have to try and get kids out of cages and into safer situations with their families and friends.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Return of Teeny Tiny

I made a new zine! The zine is called Well, It's a Job, and it's a collection of a few of the poems I've written over the last couple years using text from Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. I wrote these poems by literally cutting up a paperback copy of the book and pasting down bits and pieces from the book with a glue stick. The zine itself is, in classic Teeny Tiny Press format, made from a single sheet of paper folded into eight pages. The actual cut-and-pasted images of the poems were too big to feature in the zine, so I've typed up the poems (though I did cut down one of the poems even more to make it fit onto the last page of the zine). I'm making cardstock covers for the first run of copies of the zine, too, so hurry to order if you want the unique cover.

The best part is that I'm selling this zine by donation, with proceeds to benefit Immigrant Families Together, an organization of volunteers who are working to help immigrants who have been detained (read: imprisoned) by the US government. I'll be posting updates on this blog to let you know how much I've raised with this zine. I hope to raise at least $100. Let's see how it goes. Just click the donate button below and be sure to add a message with your name and address so that I can send you a zine. You can donate any amount that you like. Let's say that between $2 and $10 is the "recommended" range. :)

To donate, please visit my PayPal Me page.

Thanks for all your support of my zines over the years. By the way, I also post photos of zines, collages, poems, and stuff to my Instagram if you want to follow me there. Thanks again!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

With Apologies for Not Posting

I always feel apologetic when I haven't posted to this blog in a long time although I probably should just be apologizing to myself! After all, how can anybody know what I'm teaching or what I've been writing or publishing, etc, if I don't widely share that information?

It would take too long to go into everything that's kept me busy since I last posted to this blog. Let me just say that foster parenting has taken up most of my time for the last year and a half: in fact, today marks exactly 18 months since I have been helping to parent for a foster child. It has been a long process involving a lot of love and time and care--and a lot of unknowns.

What finally brings me back to the blog is that I'm teaching a workshop called "How to Self-Publish for (Almost) Free" at the 2015 Write on the Sound conference in Edmonds. If you're visiting my blog as a result of attending the workshop, thank you and welcome!

I also created an eight-page mini-zine specially for the workshop, and it's called Why Self-Publish. It's a very text-heavy zine with ideas and inspiration. Basically, if you read the zine, I hope that you'll hurriedly set it down so that you can get right to work on your own self-publishing project.

Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope to resume more regular posting again soon.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

First Exercise in My Online Collage Class

So I decided to spend some money on myself (a pretty rare thing--I usually only buy myself stuff like secondhand books and thrift store t-shirts), and I'm taking an online collage class with an artist named Randel Plowman. I first learned about his work a few years back from my friend Wendy who referred me to his blog called A Collage a Day. He has written a great collage exercise/workbook, too. And I just plain like his work, which is a good thing to look for in an instructor, I'd say.

It's funny because I teach online classes all the time (really the only time I'm not teaching online is for a week or two between quarters), but I've hardly ever taken any classes online. In fact, I can only think of one online class I've taken (which was a class about how to teach online). It's cool to see how someone else teaches an artistic class in an online format. And I've been wanting to take an art class again--it's been several years since I've taken one.

The first assignment for the collage class was to do "five minute collages," where you gather your materials and then spend just five minutes making a small collages (somewhere around three inches by five inches). I tore a sheet of watercolor paper into four pieces, and I made two little collages tonight.

The versions here are cropped a bit--the originals have some torn edges, which is a look that I like but which is hard to represent very well in photos (I don't have a scanner hooked up right now). On the second one, I'm trying to decide if I'm OK with trimming off the text or not: the text in the lower left reads "THIS GIRL IS IN TROUBLE!". Maybe one of these days I'll get a scanner set up and try some different things with uploading and editing images...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Little Poem from My Neighborhood

Well, I've been writing in my journal now and then (and writing things for work), but I haven't worked on a poem in a very long time--a few months anyway, but who's counting?

I finally did draft something. I almost called it "An Appreciation" as it's in appreciation of the man who sells Real Change outside the post office on Greenwood Avenue. But then I figured my appreciation was clear.

In Front of the Post Office

"Hello, queen," sings the man
who sells newspapers. You wouldn't think

I'd be so charmed, but who else
greets me this way? When I leave

with my paper, I never hear
another customer receive the greeting

I almost believe he keeps for me.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Great October Class

I thoroughly enjoyed the October "Short Forms" class I taught. This was the first of my independent online writing classes that I taught where the assignments were designed to work for writing poetry or prose, rather than just poetry. I think that opening up the assignments in this way was a good fit for me as an instructor and for offering greater flexibility for students in terms of being able to use the class as a springboard to write what they wanted to write.

At first I was thinking I could do another class running from mid-November to mid-December, but now I'm thinking that January would be a better time. I have an idea for the next class where it would also allow for both poetry and prose writing--and it would have a visual art component. The class would focus on exploring images. It would mostly be writing, but then we'd also do a piece where we worked with words in a visual way (like making cut-ups). And I'm mulling around a collage assignment, too.

I've mostly been doing work-related writing lately rather than creative writing, but so it goes. I've been reading Cornelius Eady's collected poems (he has a great poem about John Henry's hammer that I hope to develop an assignment around one day), and I've also been reading a nonfiction book called Rebounders which tells stories of people whose careers developed through a series of twists and turns--like the founder of Pandora, who started out as a mostly unknown musician. I always feel better to be reading!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Comparing Web Hosts

I can't remember how many years ago it was when I first bought web hosting. It was at least ten years ago, but probably closer to fifteen. Well, this makes me feel old. Anyway...! The first web hosting service I paid for was from a tiny company run by a friend of a friend. When my account expired, I switched to GoDaddy; if I remember correctly, this was because the rates went up at the tiny company, and I got a coupon for a good deal from GoDaddy.

Lately I've been researching other web hosts to see if I might switch to a smaller company, in part because I want to support indie businesses, and in part because I'm thinking about starting some different websites focused on specific topics (maybe even a specific site focused on online creative writing classes!). In looking for smaller hosting companies, I found a blog with web hosting reviews, run by a stay-at-home-dad named Jerry. These are Jerry's current top 5 picks for web hosts. I hadn't heard of any of these myself, but that doesn't mean much as I'm not too well-versed on the latest in web hosting!

Anyone have any recommendations on hosts they like and/or hosts on Jerry's list that you've used?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thanks!

Thanks to those of you who have signed up for the October online writing class and/or helped to get the word out. Six writers have already enrolled. I'm looking forward to working with both prose and poetry this time around.

Meanwhile, did you know that over the summer, I started selling t-shirts, toys, and other odds and ends on eBay? I love buying t-shirts, and in a way this has been an excuse for me to buy a bunch of t-shirts without running out of space in my dresser drawers. Here are a couple of cool shirts we've found recently.

The shirt above is vintage from David Bowie's 1990 Sound + Vision tour. The shirt below is a mash-up of Dr. Who and My Little Pony.

What did you do over the summer?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Poem about Flood Damage

I wrote a series of poems a few years back when the Chehalis River in Washington state flooded and blocked Interstate 5 for days. In reading and watching news stories about the flooding in Colorado, I've thought a lot about the people there and the damage to the landscape and roadways. We drove to Boulder last year when I went to Colorado with Trish to visit her family, and it's amazing to see how Boulder Creek has become such a raging body of water.

Tonight as I was thinking of this current flooding, I remembered the poems I wrote about the Chehalis. Here's one that borrows found text from a map of road closures.


Closures and Restrictions

Trees down. Sinkhole.
Broken levee. Debris in road.
Rising water. Mudslide.
Several lanes washed out.

Watch for mud and overflow
from ditches. One lane.
Local traffic only. Deep water
marked with cones. Rough

but passable. Bridge intact.
Highway clear. Heavy traffic.
Open to all cars. Open
to trucks with perishable loads.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Signups Open for October 2013 Online Class

I've just set up the signup page for the first "Short Forms" writing class, to run October 1-31. Like the other independently run online writing classes I've offered, this class costs just $50. Students will complete four writing assignments over the course of the month and receive constructive, encouraging feedback from me on all four pieces.

These classes have offered a lot of camaraderie and support among the writers taking the class, and I have found it a true pleasure to read the pieces as well as the comments people have shared.

The assignments for the Short Forms class will allow for responses in the genre(s) of the students' choice. You can write nonfiction. You can write fiction. You can write poetry. You can write any or all of the above at any given moment!

Please feel free to leave a comment below and/or email me if you have any questions. And please click here for more info and to sign up via PayPal (I can also accept payment via check--just let me know.)

Thanks, as ever, for your interest and support--with special thanks to Erica Sternin for reminding me of her enthusiasm for this short forms class. Here we go!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Class in the Works

I've been mulling it over for months, the idea of offering an online writing class that expands beyond focusing on poetry writing. This morning I sat down and made some notes toward planning a new class, this one suitable for both prose and poetry writing. The idea is that the class would focus on "short forms," and the assignments could work for prose or poetry: students could choose for each assignment what form they wanted to use. So you could do all fiction writing, or all nonfiction writing, or all poetry writing, or a combo.

I'm thinking of having this run as a month-long class in October. More info to come very soon, and if you're interested in the idea of this class and have any thoughts/suggestions/etc about what you'd like to see in such a class, please do let me know!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Teeny Tiny Travel Zines

Out of nowhere (or so it seemed), I had two people I didn't know order copies of my zine, From Dinosaur to Denver, from my Etsy shop last week. Dinosaur is a tiny 8-page zine about camping with Trish at Dinosaur National Monument on our road trip in the summer of 2012 from Seattle to Denver, where her parents live. One of the people who ordered the zine ordered five copies, which was extra-cool.

This inspired me to set to work on a second Teeny Tiny Travels zine. This zine is called Seattle to Spokane to Steamboat and is about a quick trip we took in June of this year to Eastern Washington. I've finished writing and formatting the text, and now I need to print it out and do the layout for the zine. I like doing cut-and-paste layout by hand for my tiny zines. I cut out some interesting images from my piles of collage materials last night, so hopefully they'll work for the zine.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Busy, Busy, and Busy

With summer quarter starting, I've been super-busy because not only am I teaching a new theme for my Research Writing class, but I'm also teaching on Canvas instead of Blackboard. While I've been using Canvas for my indie poetry classes, this is my first time using Canvas for my college teaching, and I have a lot more material to upload, plus I need to do grading while the indie classes are ungraded. Sometimes I get frustrated because I'm so used to the Blackboard interface, but I do understand why people like Canvas because it does look more like a web page, and it's easier to embed links to different files, assignments, etc.

Normally I upload my new assignments for the poetry class on Fridays, but I need to upload the fourth and final assignment for the June 21-July 21 class on Saturday this week. The final assignment involves writing a poem which uses found text, which of course is a writing exercise that's close to my heart!

If you're kind enough to be reading this, please know that I hope you're having a nice summer! :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Class Begins

Thanks to everyone who helped me get the word out about my summer poetry class. I have 11 students, and class started yesterday. The first assignment involves writing an ode/praise song. I'm looking forward to reading the poems that the students submit!

Meanwhile, the weather here in Seattle has turned chilly, which isn't unusual for June. So in order to feel a little warmed up, I'm posting a photo I took earlier this month when we visited Dry Falls in Eastern Washington.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Four Spots Open in Online Poetry Class Starting June 21

To borrow a phrase from William Carlos Williams, "This is just to say" that I have four open spots remaining for the month-long poetry writing class which begins this Friday, June 21, the first day of summer. The class runs through July 21. It's a 100% online class, facilitated through the Canvas learning management system. It's also a totally independent class, operated by me and not through a school or any other program.

For more info, please check out this link, and feel free to comment here or email me if you have any questions!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Back on the Fisher Price Farm

This is my favorite "group photo" I've taken so far of some Fisher Price toys. We are looking into doing some resale of vintage toys and possibly making and selling some vintage-inspired items.

At first I was biased and only liked the Fisher Price I remembered from the 1970s and 1980s, but now I have to say I like some of the newer Little People stuff, too. I mean, how cute are these farm animals?

The trouble with even thinking about selling toys is that even when they aren't "yours" from your childhood, it is still hard to part with something so cute.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Real Men Drive Pink Trucks

Well, maybe not "real" men, but the coolest Fisher Price men...

Am I having too much fun photographing some of the vintage toys we've picked up at the thrift store? Yes, yes I am.