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 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!