Call for Submissions: Last Day to Submit for The Best of the Net!

Hey, Fickle Readers! Do we have any writers among us out there? And do we have anyone who edits an online journal, or who self-publishes their creative work? (I’m looking at you, Ms. Blake!) If so, then you–yes, YOU–can submit material to the next Best of the Net anthology from Sundress Publications!

The submission guidelines are here. Basically, the rules are 1) all submissions have to have been published first online between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, 2) if you’re the editor of an online journal you can nominate up to six poems, two stories, and two works of creative nonfiction, 3) if you’re a self-published author you can only nominate two pieces regardless of genre (and you can’t submit your work that was published in a journal; the journal’s editor has to do that), and 4) you have to get your submission in by the end of today, September 30, 2014.

Sorry to pass along this tidbit of news at the very last minute, but I originally didn’t realize self-published authors could submit their own work. Also, I was too busy bemoaning the fact that no one had nominated any of my excellent, ground-breaking work from 2014. (Wait, did I even get anything published in 2014? Did I even submit anything anywhere? Oh, that’s right. I didn’t. Well, then, carry on.)

Eternal Security Is Fickle: Christian Edition

In a sense, eternal security only gives comfort to those who are already secure in their faith and are following Jesus (although even those of us secure in our faith can certainly use some comfort now and again). Perhaps it gives some comfort to those on the fringes of faith, but it is fickle comfort because what happens if you fall off the fringes? Your comfort is gone (or so would say the writers of Scripture), regardless your belief in eternal security.

–Austin, “The Fickle Security of Eternal Security,”

Call for Submissions: RATTLE Magazine [UPDATED]

Hey, Fickle Readers! I’ve been stricken with yet another mystery ailment, requiring me to lie down at regular intervals. (Cue the Annoyed, Self-Pitying Violin Music. If there is such a thing.) BUT I wanted to pass along some submission news about RATTLE, an excellent poetry journal that seeks out accessible work over more scholarly or obscure pieces.

The 2015 issue of RATTLE is going to be devoted to Japanese forms, such as haiku, senryu, tanka, renga, and haibun. These forms can follow traditional rules (syllable counts and so forth) or be, as the guidelines page calls them, “adapted.” You can submit up to four pages of poetry (!) by October 15th for consideration. Here’s what Timothy Green, the intrepid and outspoken editor of RATTLE, has to say (via Twitter) about reading for the spring issue:

Haiku submissions are the hardest to read. But I have plenty of aspirin, so keep them coming until October 15th!

(At least, I think Timothy Green is the voice of the RATTLE Twitter feed. If not, you should follow it anyway. RATTLE posts lots of great poetry and links on a regular basis, and whoever does the tweeting is often tremendously entertaining.)

Okay, off to lie around in an achy haze. Remember the ides of October, all you Fickle Readers out there who also write haiku! I’m definitely going to submit. (And anxiously await my rejection!)

UPDATE: We have confirmation that the Voice of the RATTLE Twitter feed is indeed Timothy Green, Intrepid Editor of the magazine. Follow him and the exploits of RATTLE at @RATTLEmag on Twitter!

Wherein I Learn There’s Such a Thing as Stock Photos

Oh, this is a dangerous, dangerous thing. I sense I’m going to be really annoying about grabbing photos from off of the Internets.

I found this charming image of the Bard. Think it looks grumpy enough to be Mighty Tiny Bill?

“Forsooth! I shape all corners of thine existence. I demand worship!”

UPDATE: Mighty Tiny Bill says, “What infidel printed nonsense words atop my face?”

Shameless Plug for a Favorite Band!

Hey, Fickle Readers! Those of you who may have caught my recent post on Wonder Woman, take note: the Doubleclicks, who wrote the amazing song “Wonder,” are going on tour and coming to a venue near you! Here’s their official tour schedule:

Tour Schedule for the Doubleclicks. Yes, that is a cello case Cartoon Aubrey has beside her!

And for anyone who needs any more proof of this duo’s awesomeness, here’s a sampling of songs from their YouTubeChannel:

“Thank God It’s Over!” (About graduating from college/grad school/what have you. To which professional academics say: hah! It’s never over!! Yaaaaaaargh!!!!!! [Followed by maniacal giggling])

Their cover of “Free Bird,” which is a work of art. Listen for accompaniment on the Meow Keys!

And, ooh, ooh! This amazing cello cover of the Doctor Who theme. Cellos are cool!

Things I’m Going to Hell For: Writing This Poem About Adam Mansbach

Wow, look at that! My 1ooth post, and it’s devoted to the output of my hardened, bitter soul. What a stunner!

But I digress: you may not know the name Adam Mansbach, but you surely will recall the sensation he created with his “kids” book, Go the Fuck to Sleep (listed here on Amazon, where you can see the cover design’s clever concealment of a naughty, naughty word in the title).

Now, you may think that I might object to this book because of the fact that a) I didn’t write it, and b) it went on to sell a gajillion copies and has probably now been translated into 117 different languages, including Danish, Tamil, and ancient Etruscan. Of course, you’d be right on both counts. You may also guess that I’m especially put out by the fact that this book was written in verse (in other words, poetry) by a well-known, hip-as-can-be fiction writer, who has earned more money and publicity from this single poem than most of the world’s poets will see in several millennia. Right again, Fickle Readers! I’m sour-grapesing this puppy all the way to the bank (or Tin Pan Alley, as it were).


these are not my primary concerns about Mansbach’s book.

No, the thing that really, really, REALLY cheeses me off about this quaint little frustration ballad is that Mansbach DOESN’T WRITE THE FRIGGIN’ THING IN METER.


It’s like he sat at his kitchen table one night, bleary-eyed after getting a mere three hours’ sleep in the last week, and vented his frustration on a scrap of a playfully shredded Trader Joe’s bag. Then, in the morning, he realized he had this Monumental Piece of Literature on his hands, called up his publisher, and shot what he’d written directly into the printer somehow (don’t ask me how; Famous Fiction Writers clearly have some sort of magic publishing mojo going for them) without so much a second glance at the crumpled brown kraft paper he’d scrawled it on.

Here’s one of the more egregious examples of Mansbach’s unmetered meter:

All the nursery kids are in dreamland.
The froggie has made his last leap.
Hell no, you can’t go to the bathroom.
You know where you can go? The fuck to sleep.

But wait (you might say): isn’t that the whole point of the book? That the dad is getting so frustrated he can’t hold it together anymore? Isn’t the breakdown of the meter in the book (that is, the fact that the number of syllables and the pattern of stresses don’t match from line to line) evocative of his mental disintegration at the hands of his innocent-yet-unknowingly-sadistic toddler?

To that I would respond: nope. Sorry. Novelists don’t get to write sloppy poetry and call it an aesthetic choice. Not when impoverished poets spend years and years slaving away in their squalid hovels so that they can lay down a sweet villanelle while they’re slurping up their beef jerky ramen.

As an Unknown Writer who’s devoted large chunks of her life to writing non-bestselling poetry, I still managed to write the poem below in about half an hour. It is an example of a little something called Regular Meter. Does it scan? You bet your ass it does. That’s because I didn’t devote my youth writing award-winning prose. I lived my iambic pentameter, goddammit.

For the record, my evil-hearted poem was written when Mansbach’s (how do I abbreviate the title? Fuck?) when Mansbach’s Fuck was published in 2011. Tonight, I just learned that the author has a new book forthcoming, a sequel called You Have to Fucking Eat. So we’ll see what Mansbach has learned about formal versifying in the past three years. My guess: not much.

You know how to write in meter, Mr. Mansbach? Prove it.

(Also, my kid is six and voluntarily eats broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, and three different colors of bell pepper. In your face, Famous Rock-Star Writer!)


To Adam Mansbach


So, your new book is pretty neat.

You know what would be neater?

If well-established novelists

Would learn to write in meter.


We poets are a surly bunch

And nothing makes us teeter

Upon the brink of madness more

Than lines of hacked-up meter.


Exhaustion likely made you want

To find a muse and greet her

With words that shriek your pain.  Too bad

She can’t hear crappy meter.


Of course, there are rules you can break—

God knows we’ve all been cheaters.

But first, you really ought to learn

The rules of rhyme and meter.


So please, for all us underpaid

Poetic scribes and readers,

Next time you write a cute kids’ book,

DO write the fuck in meter.



Aw, Shucks! My Old College Friend Made Me a Meme!

Hey, Fickle Readers! I’m tooting my own horn a bit today: I got not one, but TWO poems accepted to the inaugural issue of Helen: A Literary Magazine. Helen is a theme-based journal, with changing themes for each issue, but it’s also based in Las Vegas and seeks to showcase work “capturing the spirit of Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.” Anyone who knows my unabashed, undying love of Sin City will appreciate how much this fact is a bonus for me. (I’ve been to Vegas five times and counting. Would I rather be in Vegas right now, sipping a cheap margarita and losing myself in crowds of drunken conventioneers around the dancing fountains? Yes. Shut up.)

But all of this patting myself on the back isn’t really what I wanted to blog about today. Surprise! Even I’m not so attention-seeking as all that. Instead, I’d like to give a shout-out to my good friend from college–let’s call him Gryffin–who created this nifty picture-meme-thing and posted it to my Facebook feed:

Turns out, this is a reference to the Kids in the Hall that I’d never heard of before. But still, Helen!

(Also, my grandmother was a Helen, and she used to write poetry, which apparently my dad and uncle mocked her for when they were kids. Ah, the bullshit we put up with from our children!)

Anyway, thanks Gryffin for gifting me an Internet meme. I’m humbled.

And I hope it goes VIRAL, baby!!!!

(Yeah, I know. So much for easing up on my desperate attention-seeking behavior…)


Good Writing Break: Help, I’m Trapped in an MFA Workshop Story!

I’ve seen some pretty good stuff in The Toast, but Sarah Marshall’s “How to Tell If You’re in an MFA Workshop Story” so far takes the cake. Highlights include:

Bullies ruined your Halloween costume.

The world is baroque in its cruelty.


Her laugh was like the jangle of a charm bracelet, or like the wind whispering in the branches of an aspen, or like waves crashing on the beach, or like something else that doesn’t really sound at all like laughter, or even any sound a human can make, to be honest.


There is an ethnic person nearby, but they are dispensing with excellent advice.

The “ethnic person” passage is an especially nice bit of satire. You can completely see a host of white, upper-middle-class MFA students patting themselves on the back for including a Person of Non-Caucasian Descent in their stories about how white, upper-middle-class protagonists have Epiphanies about Life, courtesy of the Wise Brown Guru speaking in bastardized dialect.

Also, I had no idea so many things in my life are metaphors.

This piece is one in a series of stories where one can test if one is in a certain type of artistic genre. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta find out if my whole life is actually a scene from lesbian pulp fiction…

(Oh, yeah, and for the record? I’ve totally written crappy, overly flowery descriptions of the sky. And many other things I’d rather forget about.)

Shakespeare Writing Contest!

I’m not a big fan of contests, but this one is priced right and mixes the two things I blather on about ad nauseum! Oh yeah, baby! I’m so there!!!

From The Bard Brawl:

Take the following quote and give us your best poem, story, non-fiction essay or artwork inspired by it.

Make it brilliant, make it bardy, make it brawly.

KING LEAR: Make no noise, draw the curtains. So, so; we’ll go to supper i’ th’ morning.

FOOL: And I’ll go to bed at noon.

The fee for this contest is $5, and submissions are due by October 25th. (More submission info at the link.) A winner and two runners-up will win moola plus publication in Bard Brawl.

As I never win contests, and am sure not to win this one if I manage to enter, I’ll write a follow-up post on where you might like to submit non-winning entries. Because that’s the fun of rejection and losing in the writing world: you always get to send your work off somewhere else!

Also, Mighty Tiny Bill says he’s going to etch the word “bardy” into the plastic of his Original Packaging.

A Few Words for a (Current) Academic

Oh, but academia. You turned this achievement-oriented boy into an anxious wreck of a man.

These are words from Dr. Eric Anthony Grollman, from his recent post about how he’s trying to break away from what he calls “academic stardom,” or that mindset that turns you into a calculating, status-seeking, career-absorbed quasi-lunatic even when the normals outside of your chosen profession consistently look at you like, “What is it you do again? Work for the alumni association?”

My dear, dear friend in sociology, you are so not alone in your sentiments. This quote at the top of my post? Never have truer words been spoken about life in the Land of Perpetual Schooling and Theoretical Betterment. In my experience, you can’t exit a degree-granting program above the Bachelor’s level without becoming a twitchy lump of PTSD and self-loathing. It’s the kind of neurosis caged parrots get when they start pulling all their feathers out. At least, that’s what I felt when I finally gave up the struggle and quit my PhD in English literature. Suddenly, I found myself wandering the streets muttering, “I’m still a pretty parrot, right? Right??”

No, that didn’t really happen. (It would have been much cooler and less pathetic than what did take place, which involved shivering, scattered moments of false hope, and antidepressants.) And anyway, it’s beside the point, since it’s you I wanted to talk about. And what I wanted to talk about was the “trying” part of the “trying to break away from academic stardom” that I mention above. See, I’m not convinced that you’ve fully stopped your ears against the siren call of Academic Perfection, possibly because everything that you mention about yourself in your blog post suggests that you’re Dr. Sociology Adonis. I’m being completely serious here. I know a lot of people with PhDs, and almost none have even come close to racking up the accomplishments you have. I mean, jeez. I wished for academic stardom, and I got my ass handed to me on a platter. Don’t knock what you have, friend!

I totally get the fact that academia insists on gnashing on you like chewing gum, such that your health, personal life, and any other concerns about the outside world tend to slip away. And you should absolutely 100% not let that happen. But remember there are those of us out here in the academic afterlife whose spirits got broken well before mid-chew. You might have progressed further if you had a homemaker for a helpmeet. But hey, you could also have been born the gender expected to be that homemaker. Then you could have had kids and a crippling chronic illness that leaves your psyche twisted in knots. (Anxiety disorder? Oh, yeah, we’ve got that in common, too, my friend!)

I guess what I’m trying to say is, only your own strength could have carried you to where you are today, so don’t undermine that achievement. Please, for those of us who got left behind on the battlefield, celebrate it. Don’t let the dictates of some idealized vision of an Important Scholarly Life drive you insane. We have more than enough insanity in this world as it is. Go have a margarita on a warm beach somewhere and just be.