Calls for Submissions: Roxane Gay and The Butter

Oh, yes! Roxane Gay now has her very own editorial venture, a sister site to The Toast called The Butter. This seems appropriate, since Gay’s own writing is like buttah. (Yeah, okay, half of you Fickle Readers probably don’t know what I’m referring to. I’m old, okay? Shut up.)

Gay herself explains the project and her interests and quirks here. Of note is a long rationale about her fascination with Ina Garten. Some of you might remember that I posted a little confession a while back about how I unfollowed Gay because I couldn’t take another tweet about Ms. Garten. Well, miracle of miracles, Gay’s rapturous description on the FAQ page for The Butter actually made me understand why Ina Garten is so alluring. Seriously. Gay’s list of the battery of Ina’s rhetorical questions is a thing of beauty in and of itself.

Don’t misunderstand. I still wouldn’t give two pounds of goat butter for Ina Garten or to participate in endless discussions about her. But I get the attraction now. Thanks, Roxane!

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Things I’m Going to Hell For: Unfollowing Roxane Gay

With this post,  I’m opening myself up to a lot of Young’uns Being Outraged by my Actions or Laughing at my Innocent Folly.  I’m okay with that.  It was only last year that I had absolutely no idea how to use, post to, or even read Twitter.  I’d always thought Twitter was supposed to be some sort of rolling message board, but then I’d peek at my husband’s feed and all I could see was page after page of

MT @ RT bang bang r u sure I said #fragipani cluckfalls wp.me/4230945248% georgie RT ?? #whatthefugzlyamIdoinginRussia ..@@nekkidpinkEE 5min #frackilishuz

But I learned, consarnit!  For the sake of this web site and my own desperate need for attention, I taught myself how to navigate the Twitterverse, how to use hash tags, how to figure out what’s trending, and which accounts go with what awesome celebrity.  (Hugh Laurie’s on Twitter??  Woohoo!  It’s never lupus!!!)

So I started following a bazillion accounts.  (It’s so easy to hit that Follow button!  Just like popping Pringles!)  And I found out that there are, in fact, Things Going on in the World that are never mentioned anywhere else.  Indie readings!  Debates on gender identity!  A kajillion new literary journals I’ve never ever heard of!  (And, in case you were wondering, 1 kajillion > 1 bazillion.)  I was having the time of my life being so Connected to Things.  For the first time, I started feeling like one of the Cool Kids, which in itself is nothing short of a miracle.  (I could show you the picture some Facebook friend posted of me, from behind, during marching band practice, wearing my sock tops neatly folded and a pair of shorts that made my ass look like a hang glider.  I could show you this, but I can’t find it now.  Surely, someone took it down for the sake of everyone’s sanity.)

Then I found this Flavorwire article about 35 writers who rule social media and discovered that three of these movers and shakers–Neil Gaiman, Cheryl Strayed, and Roxane Gay–are on the list of people I follow!  Yes, thunk I to myself, I ems TOTALLY hangin’ with the IN CROWD NOW!!!  Yay me!!!

A few days later, I noticed something strange.  A post from a literary journal slipped by me, and when I followed them to their twitter feed, I found dozens and dozens of tweets that I’d never encountered before.  I went back to my own feed, only to determine that of the bazillion accounts I was following, a small percentage were taking up every single inch of real estate.  I’d have to be glued to Twitter 24/7 (which I’m not; my phone is paleolithic and my brain easily overstimulated) to remember the existence of all these cool People and Things that I’m supposedly Connected to.

How could this happen??  Twitter’s supposed to be my Virtual Fountain of Knowledge, not some overgrown garden I have to expend energy tending to.  How can a handful of accounts choke out the rest of my follow list, anyhow?

They could and did, however.  The truth was abundantly clear.  With this epiphany, my ever-so-brief flirtation with the Internet fast lane came to a close. Sadly, I realized that if I wanted to reap the benefits of staying Connected to accounts that directly impacted my life, I had to make some changes.  Even more sadly, one of those changes revoked my membership to the Cool Kids Club for all eternity: unfollowing the fabulously talented literary mega-superstar Roxane Gay.

For the record, I want to make clear that I didn’t drop Gay from my list for anything she did.  Indeed, one of the reasons I followed her in the first place was because she’s a flat-out amazing writer.  She’s original, insightful, and most of all, prolific.  Her feed is like watching a continuous experiment in documenting the human stream of consciousness.  She tweets incessantly.  While she’s shopping.  While she’s cooking.  While she’s walking down the street.  It’s mind-boggling.  Also, she must have a smartphone implanted in her wrist, because that’s the only way I can fathom how she live-tweeted herself unpacking after she moved into a new apartment.  I’m completely not kidding.  That day, my Twitter feed was replete with descriptions of boxes, moving men, unearthed books, and one accidental self-inflicted bash on the chin with her laptop.  How, how, I ask you, can a person smash her own chin and then turn around and tweet about it?  How many arms does she have?  I can barely carry a cup of water from the kitchen to the dining room without spilling it.

Then there’s another problem that happens when a writer, even a brilliant one, records all the witty observations that flow through her mind.  Once again, this has nothing to do with her and everything to do with me, or rather my relationship to her as a reader.  Namely, the things on which our respective conscious minds ruminate are not the slightest bit compatible.  For me, this became painfully obvious when Gay was watching TV.  When I was still one of her followers, I always seemed to catch Gay watching Ina Garten.  Now, I love cooking and eating and foodie stuff.  My husband, Inspector Spacetime, and I watch Top Chef and various Food Network programs, although we’re mainly into the hard-nosed competitive programs, especially the ones featuring Anthony Bourdain and Tom Collicchio.  Ina Garten, though, has never been a fave of mine.  Too sedate, too esoteric.  Not loud and crabby enough.  In a word, dull.  And yet however much I was bored to tears by Ina Garten and her latest culinary escapades, my Twitter feed was swimming with descriptions, from Gay and her followers, about Ina’s every move.  Granted, they were funny descriptions.  Gay always writes as a viewer transfixed.  Ina creates her own salad spinner.  Ina pronounces hummus “hoomus” and talks about the “artisan bread movement.”  Ina has an “I’m with a friend” laugh.  Ina Ina Ina Ina Ina Ina Ina Ina Ina Ina Ina Ina Ina…oh, sweet mother of God, make it stop!

The day Gay announced that Ina would be holding a butter tasting, I knew it was the end.  I could not, for the life of me, even for my very soul teetering on the brink of perdition, face a live-tweeted Ina Garten butter tasting.

So, tragically, I’m now both Uncool and Going to Hell.  And I think I’m about to be damned twice over, as Neil Gaiman is hanging from my follower list by a thread.  Seriously, Neil, I love and respect you and your work.  You are a storyteller supreme and a class act all the way.  I realize, too, that your flood of tweets represents an actual desire to communicate with your huge fanbase of lovestruck followers.  Still, if I see one more fan’s picture of promo material for Ocean at the End of the Lane, which I read over a year ago, I think my fragile emotional state will finally shatter.  I’m not certain what will happen after that.

Good Writing Break: Post-Summer Solstice Edition

Hey, fickle readers!   I’ve been involved with end-of-the-school-year festivities. (Yeah, they kept Little Fickle in school till Friday.  This is what happens when it snows the entire month of February.  Friggin’ winter.) But now I’m back to cheer about great writing and whine and gnash my teeth about everything else.  (Okay, sometimes good writing makes me do that, too.  But never mind.)  So let’s get things started…

Hey, didya know it’s summer?

Woo-hoo!  Sweat and socklessness for at least two months!  All hail the Goddess of Skin and Warm Weather!!!!

First, a new poetry venue: Tinderbox Poetry Journal, which not only has an attractive site (layout counts–right, Editors of the World?), it also has an impressive lineup of work in its debut issue.  For me, standouts are “In the Cottonwoods,” a contemporary twist on Romantic naturalism from Ray Gonzalez (note a hint of “Ode to a Nightingale” in the second stanza); “The Schooner,” Ed Bok Lee’s brutal, visionary “meta-translation” so brilliant it makes me want to put my head through a wall (seriously, I took a look at the poem “The Schooner” is based on and found it so beyond my skill level I couldn’t even bring myself to bury my self-pity in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s); “News,” Emily Yoon’s gorgeous elegy for the South Korean ferry that sunk on April 16, 2014; and “After the Death of a Friend, I Feel Enlightened for Approximately Three Days,” yet another amazing piece from the thoroughly wonderful Kelli Russell Agodon.  (That title alone should earn her a standing ovation.)  There’s quite a bit more to explore at this site, and I must say (in a very high-Edwardian manner) that if this first issue is indicative of the future of Tinderbox, then I shall surely be following the publication’s further endeavors with great anticipation.  Bravo, editors!

Next, an old favorite of mine, inkscrawl, has just brought out its seventh issue.  This particular journal focuses on short speculative poems (10 lines or less) and is like a breath of fresh air, especially when you’re writing long, involved prose or just generally find your brain engorged with the usual crap the world tends to wallow in.  Try Sonya Taafe’s “Facilior,” Jonel Abellanosa’s “Nonfiction,” Kendall Evans’s “Down the Black Sky,” and Noel Sloboda’s “My To Undo List.”  To describe each poem in detail would have me typing a week’s worth of posts (and my posts ain’t short), but all of these pieces manage to take their respective corners of the speculative–myth, magic, space and time–and nudge those boundaries outward with elegance and wit.  If you crave a mental dip in the pool or a short getaway to someplace totally unfamiliar, inkscrawl is a great place to find those much-needed exit doors.

And one last bonus site!  Roxane Gay’s Tumblr blog is a little piece of writing heaven.  There are few writers out there these days who can so effortlessly chronicle the meanderings of the human psyche.  At least one recent post contains material from an article of hers that got bumped, which is reason enough to follow her blog, but she’s also something of a multimedia artist, posting pics of what she discovered during the day and what she’s cooking for dinner.  Everything coalesces like some transcendent mosaic of the mind, and it’s all right there, for everyone, on the Internet.  Let me tell ya, there’s a reason why random strangers that follow Gay on Twitter want to cook her pancakes the second she asks.  She’s beyond amazing.  I want more.

A Much-Needed Good Writing Break

You know what’s a great way to cleanse your psyche after close-reading a rampage killer’s words?  A Good Writing break!

This is an older piece from Roxane Gay, first published in Brevity.  (I know, I know.  I link to Brevity a lot.  I swear I’m not on their payroll, though.  They’re just damn good.)

“There Are Distances Between Us”

I know I say “words fail me” a lot, but here, the words have left the building.  So much complexity in such a tiny space.  I’m guessing this is an essay you can read over and over and each time get something new out of it.  This is what literature strives to be.

Thanks, Roxane.

P.S.  Gay’s essay is also a story about roads.  Right now, Sundog Lit is looking for submissions for a themed issue on roads.  Deadline July 1.  Read an interview with guest editor Jill Talbot here.