Tuesday, June 25, 2013 | By: Brianna

What Can I Do?!

Today I'm trying to clean my room and bring the rest of my things down into the dungeon, and I found this list folded up in one of my desk drawers.  This is the exact order of this list, and I haven't changed anything past the title.  I may have been on to something here...

What can I do?!
- actor
- writer
- librarian
- stage manager
- set designer (scale...)
- lighting designer (possibly science...)
- director (stage/screen)
- historical consultant
- dramaturg (I don't know what this is...)
- mime
- French translator
- teacher (eh?)
- playwright/screenplay writer
- pirate/sailor
- something GS related
- Creative Writing Teacher
- professor
- speech writer
- waitress
- book shop owner
- Disney worker (imagineer?)
- worker at the Renaissance Fair
- governess
- nanny (like Mary Poppins!)
- professional turtle tosser/letter writer/ (galactic) hitchhiker
- journalist (or not...)
- zoo keeper
Sunday, June 16, 2013 | By: Brianna

You're Such a Doll

Last night I went to the Dollhouse Reading Series in Chicago because when I saw the name Matt Guenette on the list of people who would be reading, I geeked out.  Like a lot.  Because this is the type of person I am.  I love poetry.  I also really love this community that I've stumbled into, the community that gathers in an apartment and settles onto hardwood floor to listen to some fantastic poets read their work.  When my friend tells me, "You've tapped into the Chicago artistic community," I can no longer deny that that's probably true. Plus I now own an autographed copy of American Busboy.

Also last night, I realized that I'm getting a little behind in Poem-A-Day poems.  Again.  So...I tweeted about the poetry reading and received a challenge for a poem.

And I never really can back down from a challenge.  So here is a draft of a poem about a poetry reading for Polly Yukevich.

June 15, 2013

The dolls come to the dollhouse
where they gather in clusters
on the dusty hardwood.
All facing the same direction,
toward the empty picture frame
clinging to the plaster
with a determination rivaled
only by the doll in front of it.
Her painted on mouth smiles
at the gathered collectibles
as she clutches at her paper
with the left-aligned text
and no stanza breaks.
She speaks
into the silence,
a glassy-eyed attention trained
upon her.
The dolls are supportive,
welcoming of the new
with porcelain fingers snapping.
She exhales a sigh
after it's read
and settles down
with the teddy bears.

And tonight I'm going to the Poetry Made of Diamonds reading series, which I'm also really excited about.  I'm particularly interested to see how many people overlap between readings during this poetry packed weekend.

I think this just might be heaven.

"Dolls with no little girls around to mind them were sort of creepy under any conditions."
- Stephen King
Friday, June 14, 2013 | By: Brianna

Things I've Learned and Some Things I'm Grateful for...

There's a lot that's been going on in my life right now, which would be a pretty good reason why I haven't written a blog post in about a week.  I'd say that it was because I got a job, but unfortunately that would be a falsehood.  But really, lots of good things and lots of just things have been going on, and so it feels about time for another list.  I have a list of things I've learned at home...but I'm thinking I'll post that after I've been here for six months.  One more month to go.  Well, half a month.

Anyway.  Here's a list of things that I've learned recently, and a couple of things that I'm grateful for.

1.  Everyone in the Chicago artists community knows one another.  I'm convinced that if I mention the name of somebody artistic and based in Chicago, my boss at Here's the Story will know them.  (See: Robbie Q. Telfer)
2.  You really should drink that super tall glass of water and swallow some sort of painkiller after a night of drinking, and then your hangover will magically either not exist or be manageable.
3.  Superior is the name of an ambulance company and they like putting their name on the backs of their EMTs.
4.  You shouldn't be surprised if you make someone feel/look awkward if you ask them if you can write a poem about them.  This is not a normal question!
5.  The most actively energetic booth at a street festival will be the one that performs literary related things rather than the people selling books.  Go figure.
6.  "Where are all the college aged people?"  Oh wait.  It's summer.
7.  Knowing that someone (for example, your boss) appreciates your writing abilities is really awesome.
8.  Apparently Tuesday evening is a popular time for traveling by train.
9.  It doesn't matter what it's for, being asked for an autograph will always make me feel like a rock star.
10.  Oh, you want me to read the poem I wrote aloud?  Why yes, I will do that for you.
11.  Poetry dispensed from a gumball/vending machine will be the most popular poetry.
12.  "I read your poem yesterday, and it was the most beautiful thing I've ever read.  And I'm a librarian!"
13.  You will get hugs when your poetry is deemed good.
14.  The most terrifying experience is watching someone read your poem while you're standing right there.  ("Do I watch their face for a reaction?  Do I pretend I'm not here?  Do I ask them about it when they're done?")
15.  There are some people that you make friends with and you just want to punch your fist into the air over your head in triumph when you succeed.
16.  Third party outsiders are usually the best for relationship advice.  Even better when the asking for this advice or the venting doesn't make them feel awkward.
17.  Spontaneity.
18.  You have no idea how many different interpretations can result from the instructions of "eat lunch with a stranger."
19.  I am not hitting on you if I ask how old you are.
20.  When you manage to pack three days worth of clothes in your purse that can apparently eat the world...this will be a gigantic accomplishment, and you have full rights to gloat.

So Saturday and Sunday I participated in the Printers Row Lit Fest where I stood at the Here's the Story table and sold poems from my Poem-A-Day Project out of this gumball/vending machine that I'll have pictures of soon.  It was a really neat experience because so many people walked by and commented about how cute the idea was, and a TON of people stopped to buy poems.  Some of them asked me to read them aloud, so the performer in my obliged, and some asked me to sign them in case I ever get famous.  I was overwhelmed by the people who told me they were good or beautiful or fun or funny because, well, for some reason I didn't expect to get much except a couple quarters.  I set my expectations low so I don't get disappointed.  Another thing that came out of Lit Fest was the experience of hanging out with other people from Here's the Story, and talking to them really made me feel more a part of the Here's the Story family.  Strange how hours under the sun out on the street can bring you closer to people.  Shared experiences for the win.

One thing that disappointed me was a father tugging on his son's hand at Lit Fest and telling the little boy, "No, those aren't candy, they're poems.  You don't want those."  I'm not saying that because I wanted to sell a poem to a small child, I mean to say that I was disappointed because to me, being at a lit fest means exploring new literature, new ways of reading, or creating written work.  If an 8-year old kid wants to buy a poem out of a gumball machine, he should.  If he wants to read a poem at all, he should.  It's stuff like that comment, that tugging arm, that make me sad.  I was surrounded all weekend by people who love the written word and who love writing or reading, and so to stop someone from reading something feels like one of the worst and most violent actions you can take towards a person.  We're not really talking literally, so we're ignoring maim and torture.  I just kept thinking that if that kid had bought a poem, what would have happened?  Maybe he would have thrown it out at the next trash can (though I would hope he would recycle).  Maybe he would tear it up and use it as confetti.  But maybe he would have read it and it would have inspired him to write something, whether it be a poem, an essay, a story, or a grocery list.  Maybe, just maybe, that little kid was a writer in the making but he had a father telling him that he "doesn't want those" poems.

"My hour for tea is half-past five, and my buttered toast waits for nobody."
- Wilkie Collins
Thursday, June 6, 2013 | By: Brianna

The Poem-A-Day Project

The Poem-A-Day Project started on a whim in September of 2011.

(BRIANNA and KATIE are two college students, walking back to their residence hall on September 1, 2011.  It's a beautiful day, and they're crossing a parking lot.)

KATIE:  Hey, you know that challenge where you write a poem every day for a month?

BRIANNA:  Yeah, that's crazy.  I don't know if I could do something like that, I'd probably give up the first week.

KATIE:  Yeah...


BRIANNA:  Wait a minute...it's September 1st!  Wanna give it a try?

KATIE:  Yeah, okay!

On that day, it began.  Every day I put a poem in Katie's mailbox, and she became September's "Poem Keeper."

It didn't stop after September.

Each month I had a different Poem Keeper who I gave the month's poems to in order to keep myself from reading the poems and judging them in their rough and initially unpolished forms.  Poem Keepers could read the poems, but they couldn't talk to me about them until the end of the month when they returned the entire month's worth of poems and I read them from the perspective of never having read them before.

I thought I might stop after six months.  And then I thought maybe I would stop after I graduated from university.  Then I figured I might as well finish up the calendar year of 2012, but it didn't stop there either.

At this point, I've been writing one poem every day for almost two years, documenting my life and writing some really weird or fun things in a poetic form, and I have no idea if there's ever going to be a point at which I say that I'm done with this project.

What's in store for the Poem-A-Day Project now?  I'm looking for a way to bring my poems to the world.  At Printer's Row Lit Fest, I'll be at the table for Here's the Story with a gumball machine that'll dispense poems in little capsules.  And I'm working on putting together a manuscript of my favorite poems from the project.

Thanks for reading!  I'm always looking for tips, guidance, advice, or shouts of encouragement, so feel free to leave a comment, I will read them all!

"That night when you kissed me, I left a poem in your mouth, and you can hear some of the lines every time you breathe out."
- Andrea Gibson
Monday, June 3, 2013 | By: Brianna

Free Books!

Parts of this are true.  Can you spot the fictional parts?


Just the other day I got a text message from a stranger: free books at my house.  As I was typing out my response, it occurred to me that clearly this person knew me...because this was the most perfect way to kidnap me.  But when I sent my response, it was: where do you live?

I hopped into the rickety gray mini van that my brother and I share, and I cruised around the block as I waited for an address.  It wasn't long before I got a response that sent me a couple blocks south of my home, and around the block to a garage sale.  It was the garage on the corner, and I figured I would just drive past and look to see if the books were any good because I didn't need to get out of the car and talk to the creeper who texted me.

When I drove past in the wheezing gray mini van, I took a good look at the garage, and at the people who were running the joint.

The garage was full of books.  I kid you not, I'm fairly certain that every inch of the shelving in that garage was covered in books.  And the people who were running the garage sale were this cute old couple, neither of whom were bent over a cell phone and texting like mad.  In fact, from that distance I could tell that this couple's thumbs were probably not quite nimble enough to text with the speed required to have gotten me here so soon.  I figured I was safe, so I parked the mini van around the corner and strolled up to the garage sale.

"Hi," I said, smiling timidly.  "I heard there were free books here?"

The man looked a little grumpy about this announcement, but the lady was cheerful as she smiled at me and gestured at the shelves stuffed with books.

"Of course, take as many as you'd like!" she said, the very picture of a grandmother presenting her grandchildren with a bowl full of fresh Halloween candy.

"Take 'em all," the man growled, crossing his arms over his chest like a toddler in time out.

"Just ignore him, he doesn't understand the romance of a good book," the lady said, waving her hand at her husband.  I nodded sagely and plunged into the garage in search of a good book.  Or five.

Now keep in mind that I had just gotten home from the library where I picked up three books that were on my list and one book because the title Alien Tango intrigued me in an absurd sort of way.  So I had plenty to read.  There was no reason for me to pick up a new couple of books.  But I kept finding books.  I had my arms full of books within fifteen minutes because I decided that my best tactic was to be picky.  I could probably have fit a garage full of books in the mini van, but the problem would be when I got all those books home.

Smirking that I hadn't fallen for the free books trap just to get kidnapped, I thanked the couple profusely and made my way back to the car where I examined my finds.  I was halfway through my stack when I found a book that I don't remember picking up.

"That's weird..." I mumbled, slumping in the backseat of the mini van and paging through the unrecognized book.  As I flipped through the pages, it felt like the pages were starting to stick to my fingers with a velcro kind of urgency.  By the time I got to the end of the book, I felt my fingers sticking to the pages, the very tips of my fingers disappearing into the paper.  "What the hell..."

And with a gigantic slurp, the book swallowed me whole.  It was in that moment that I realized that I had been kidnapped after all.

"Be awesome!  Be a book nut!"
- Dr. Seuss