Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Catching up with co-editor Stacia Fleegal

My co-editor and writing bestie Teneice is super busy. You can’t keep this woman from making books. She makes books all the livelong day. We also edit them now, so check that out.

We decided to write these “what are we up to now that we aren’t publishing authors on BL every other week” posts. You know what Teneice is up to, so it’s my turn, I guess.

In the past year, I’ve done two things I never thought I would do: I switched genres and I began teaching.


I never thought I would seriously write anything except poetry. Maybe “switched genres” is inaccurate. I have always been, and remain, completely enamored with poems. But over the past few years, I started blogging for various places and realized how refreshing it is to write informally, topically, and in praise of the books and writers I like best. Maybe essays are a natural progression from there, or maybe my head got big after some encouragement from prose writers I revere (don’t worry, it has since shrunk—did you know essays are big right now, and everyone is writing them, and nearly everyone is better at writing them than me? I have newbie rejection stings again. The skin will grow thicker. It must.). No matter the why. I write essays now. I live and breathe them. I want to make everything into one. Run, little stories in my head, if you thought you would be born as poems!

I will not abandon poems. I wrote one the other day. I had one published at Connotation Press this week. But essays? Obsessed. I write one a month (first Monday) for a very cool publication called Revolution John—and in fact, the most recent one is a reflection on editorial responsibility and closing BL to submissions.

And this teaching thing…Teneice, remember that I was the one who was supposed to make books and you were the one who was supposed to teach? (Oh wait, you teach, too. Where are you finding all these hours, mama?)

So I had a really crappy couple of years, and I uprooted and moved and did all that starting over stuff that people do, and at the very moment when despair was the only thing putting roots down inside and around me, when the money I’d saved was about to be gone, when my belief that I would do anything relevant to writing for a living ever again was depleting rapidly, I saw an ad in Poets & Writers for a virtual teaching position with the Elizabeth Ayres Center for Creative Writing. Elizabeth was asking for not a CV, not a resume listing all the places I’ve ever taught for (or, um, have not taught for), but for applicants to review her site and teaching philosophy and write her a letter.

Remember letter writing?

I browsed her site and believe me when I tell you that I felt like I already belonged to this organization. I already fit. Elizabeth believes the creative process is sacred, that making art is spiritual, a means toward realizing and actualizing our potential in an effort to make connections with others—connections that make us learn, no, remember, that we’re all one, all in this together. Her online writing courses are built upon fundamentals and exercises she’s perfected over 25 years as an educator and writer, and executed with a mind toward supporting each writer’s intent and vision. If you’ve ever been in an academic workshop, you know it, um…doesn’t always go that way. Elizabeth wants writers to write, not be discouraged and give up. I wrote her a letter the very night I saw the ad, and she answered it the next day, and I’ve been teaching for her since August.

I love teaching. I love love LOVE when people share their writing with me and ask me how they can make it better, and I’m able to find a place to dig in, to say things like, here, this part is so strong. What if you did something like this in the beginning, in this part you aren’t crazy about… I love reading revisions and being able to see the work the writer did to get from point A draft to point F for FINISHED. It’s like a word problem in math, when you write out all the steps, except it’s not icky like math and the steps are hidden but I can still see them, and so can the students, and it’s just the happiest thing.

Then I had the opportunity to develop my own course, on writing about trauma, and that whole process has been so fulfilling, and the first session of that course so successful, that I can’t even contain my enthusiasm.

I blog and do social media for the Center, too. I’m kind of nuts about this work.

So what am I up to? Changing everything about my life. Trying new stuff. Letting go of some things and grabbing onto others.

I wish the same for anyone reading. For anyone, ever.

Finally, in what is turning out to be an incredibly enjoyable but laborious and difficult task, I am, with Teneice, starting to select work for inclusion in our 10-year anthology. It's like visiting old friends. I can't tell you all how excited I am to make a book of some of our favorite and most memorable BL poems and stories. I can't wait to contact these authors again. I can't wait to hold this thing we're going to make.

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