For me, April was like trying to stuff sweaters into a dresser drawer. You hope for space, for future sweaters, but the current ones you own won’t have it. Your sweaters expand their chests and stretch out, refusing to let you close the drawer all the way.
I’m typically not a busy person in the sense that I have to get in the car and go do things. Weeknights are for exercising and relaxing. Weekends are for catching up on sleep, plotting stories, and the occasional outing. But not this month.
April grabbed me by the shoulders and sang loudly in my ear, declaring that my life this month would be full of adventure. When my MFA pals read their theses in a small graduation ceremony, I was there, trying not to sniffle with pride in the audience. I got autographs from voice actors and bought way too much Sailor Moon merch at a local anime convention. A new friend from work whisked me away on a Friday afternoon for Hibachi, the both of us ignoring the traffic jams and crazy drivers for the sake of good food and a show.
But probably the most epic event this month had to be going to my alma mater, Florida Southern College, as the Guest Author for their literary journal.
You might remember the post I wrote a while back about what I learned by serving as a fiction editor on two literary journals. In my undergraduate years, I climbed from being a staffer to the literary editor of Cantilevers: Journal of the Arts.
Being invited back years later as Guest Author was surreal. Something like coming full circle. My days of introducing Cantilevers’ Guest Authors and Poets are over. Being on the other side was just… amazing.
The Unveiling Ceremony took place on a night. I was in the basement of the new English building, one that I hadn’t had the pleasure of using before graduating (though, as nice as the new building is, I’m glad I took my classes in the old one. It had undeniable character, haha).
Getting to see some of my old professors was amazing. And a little tearful. Going to college was my first time being away from home, and FSC’s English Department was like a second family to me. Even though my old friends and fellow students had long since graduated, the current students were delightful. I loved the energy and excitement at the event. I can’t explain, even now, how immediately comfortable I felt when I walked up to the podium to read my published short story. It was like being at home. I guess this is what school spirit feels like, haha.
Being Guest Author meant that I got to judge best poetry and best prose in this year’s issue. It also meant submitting a story of my own to be published. I had written a new story for Cantilevers called “Elsewhere,” inspired by Victorian post-mortem photography and mermen.
You’re probably not surprised.
I was actually inspired by a particular photo of two sisters. The one standing in the photo is dead. I was curious about the dead sister, of course, but the story only came when I considered the living sister’s feelings. How did it feel to pose next to her dead sister? What did she think of her sister when she was alive? But there always has to be some magic, so you’ll find stolen pearls and a fishy vagrant thrown into the tale.
Cantilevers is only printed and distributed for FSC students at this time, but I’m sure you can see this story again. One day… or else squint really hard at the picture to see the beginning, haha.
The best part of the night was getting to talk with the students. Honestly, hearing that they loved the story, along with sharing some healthy geeking out about magical realism and Eisley, kept a smile on my face for the rest of the week.
Having studied the craft of fiction in grad school, I find myself at war with the lessons I learned in academia and what the “real world” is looking for in good (sellable, perhaps) fiction. Even as I was reading “Elsewhere,” my MFA brain was chattering and poking holes wherever it could. So when I got to talk with the students afterward, I was both in awe and thrilled by their kind words and enthusiasm for my story.
The goal is always to become a stronger writer, to tell my stories better. While my MFA program did wonderful things for me and my growth as a writer, the truth is that lessons come from everywhere.
Some lessons lead you to a better way of writing, while others are here to remind you that, yes, you’re doing it right. Relax. Fall in love again with whatever you’re writing and don’t let your inner editor rob you of that.
In other news, April’s minutes and hours have been sucked up by moving. Every evening, I’d come home from work, pack more stuff from my old room into boxes, and shuttle it over to the new house. Me and ‘rents have chosen to move into a cozier house; it’s much smaller, but has a lot of character and charm – something that the old house lacked, for all its space.
The movers finally came this week, so the past two days have been a whirlwind of shifting furniture around and finding new places for everything. Since I couldn’t rest unless all my books were shelved (or on the floor next to my bed – I’m not that neat), I tore open our boxes and ended up getting all my books shelved during the first night in the new house. And then my mom and I finished reshelving her books in the library the next day. Nothing says “finished” like books all back where they belong. Once that was done, the rest of the house came together.
When I said the house has character, I meant it. My parents are obsessed with non-colors and I had been living in a sea of eggshell-white for far too long. So my new room is my favorite shade of blue: a powdery, hazy lake-like blue. And with my white furniture, the combined effect makes me feel like I’m stepping into some enchanted space. I can’t wait to write stories here.