I’m not dead yet.

I have not died, my friends. I know it has been some time since I last blogged. The fact is that, like many blogging folks, there are times when I simply have no idea what to write about. Tragically, that hasn’t changed.

I have not been idle, though.

I have not been writing blog posts, but I have been writing fiction, digging into The Mora with a vengeance and tinkering with a few other budding ideas that will see light whenever I decide I need a break from Lost Knowledge.

I have been reading a lot, enjoying the freedom of choice that comes with having no more textbooks piling up on my desk.

I have also made an Instagram account, and I invite anyone interested to follow it, even though I’m not sure yet that I’ve figured out how this whole thing works. I promise I will not post photos of my lunch — unless it’s a really mind-blowing lunch.

Verso XX – a poem

The crosswalk is clear and the light is red,
but the woman on the corner stands still
and watches the clouds roll north.

Eyes close as the first drops touch her,
and she stops her music to listen
to the rain.

 

I have been working on something I can only call a poetic ethnography. Moving to the Rio Grande Valley hit me with culture shock – it is like nowhere else in Texas, and I have learned from friends that neither is it truly like anywhere in Mexico. This place is utterly unique. As an anthropologist, my first instinct on being confronted with something new is to dig in deep, notice everything, and catalogue it. As a wordsmith, my first instinct has been to catalogue it in verse. And so el Valle has inspired a series of poems that will eventually become a short book – vignettes, observations, snapshots, and occasionally a mention of my own responses. It is the expression of my gratitude for the things this place has taught me.

The Bay Laurel and the Bird – a poem

The human animal is, in truth, a vine.

It puts down roots and sends out shoots

and flourishes in the sun.

It clings to its brick and mortar,

extends runners to embrace the walls.

It knows the soil and the light and the taste of the air.

It has counted every rock in the yard.

 

“I grew up in this house. I watched my brothers

throwing baseballs in the back,

my sisters twanging on Grandmother’s piano.

I smelled Mother’s cooking each time

I sprawled out on the carpet.

I know every ink spot speckle of Father’s pen.”

 

The average human puts down roots

and never leaves the fortress of the familiar,

even at the end.

 

“Bury me between the oak and the fence,

where I can see the sunset. Tell my son,

my brother, my sister, my daughter –

tell whomever that he, that she, that they

can have the old place. Just keep it in the family.”

 

The average human molders and feeds the ants

and the grass, and soon a vine grows

up, to cling to the brick and mortar,

extends runners to embrace the walls.

 

I was a bay tree in a pot. My roots were

cramped and curled up tight. They sought

deep soil, but found only white beads

of artificial fertilizer. When I reached

for the sun, my shoulders hit glass.

 

“Plant me here! Let me taste real rain.

I have grown inside for all my life, stunted

and crabbed like a bonsai. God, please,

let me get to know the birds.”

 

In the first place, the air was dust and

ground comino. My roots scratched at

the limestone they put in my pot. I felt

shells and a rusted crucifix, and mountain

laurels dropped their burning seeds

outside my window.

 

“Can we stay? It’s spicy here, and the water

is thick with faith. I could thrust my roots

into the missions and smile at the tourists.

Here, I could be scorched, and grow, and marry,

and die.”

 

In the second place, the air was exhaust, with

traces of shrimp and petroleum. They gave

trees to the rich and guns to the poor, in case

of hurricanes. I heard ballet and buskers rapping

for the first time.

 

“Can we stay? Life is so fast, here. It smells

like reality, photographed in high contrast. Things

are so tall here, so tall and black like the forests

in my dreams. Here, I could be cut, shot, and so

living is all the sweeter while it lasts.”

 

In the third place, pines ruled the sky.

Marionberries crept up my legs and begged me

to stay,

and I wanted to,

even though it was a place where all Catholics

go to hell. I reached out, there, and felt others

reaching for me. Then they clipped my roots again

and we flew North.

 

“No! Let me stay, let me grow, let me live.

Let me twine my branches with the native vines!

There was light and shade and deep black earth!

There was water and birdsong and love.”

 

In the fourth place, the sky overwhelmed. There

was wind and dust, and I was parched. The sun

blinded, and the winter cracked; my finger-leaves

bled. But there were smiles and careful hands

and a mentor, whom I miss.

 

“I love you, but the air has sucked me dry,

there are tumbleweeds in my hair, and the heavens

are so close, they stab my eyes. I love you, but

there is dust in my teeth. Goodbye.”

 

In the fifth place, I flowered amid books and

other potted plants, a greenhouse. I was trimmed

and pruned and shaped. They clipped me into

a bird

changed my leaves for feathers

tore out my roots

taught my blood to run red.

I shall never land

again.

Dear friends, it’s done.

I disappeared for a month, and for that I apologize. I certainly didn’t mean to, but life sort of attacked me, and certain things fell by the wayside.

It’s done now, though. I have achieved a Masters of Education with specialization in reading. Two years of textbooks, and I am very much looking forward to doing a bit of leisure reading this summer. Two years of research, and I am very much looking forward to knuckling down on my own writing.

With luck (and by ‘luck,’ I mean brain-squeezing), this year will see The Mora out. With a bit more, I may be able to get The Siren out, as well. Or early next year. We’ll see. I must seize the free time I’ve got!

Look at all the joy that just arrived!

I entered a giveaway over at Triscelle Publishing and won a full set of the Morrigan’s Brood books by Christopher and Heather Poinsett Dunbar! Nothing like a slew of books on the doorstep to make my day.

Isn’t their design wonderful? Isn’t their cover art gorgeous? I’ve got good reading for months, now.

I came, I saw, I Con-quered.

Been waiting to make that pun all week!

This year’s AggieCon was pretty fabulous. I sold books, sold pointed sticks, and met some really awesome people. I also met up with old friends from the College Station area, some of whom I only ever see at AggieCon anymore, and so any chance to goof off with them is a treasure.

It was a whirlwind weekend of books and conversation. No panels – pretty much from the get-go, I was too pooped to do much but sit behind my table and smile creepily at passers-by, occasionally shouting nonsense at the authors across the aisle. (I have some vague recollection of promises of a marshmallow war for next year. I get the impression the organizers wouldn’t much appreciate that, but I suppose if we were to eat all the marshmallows before they find out… )

The really bizarre thing is that I only got two photos this year. Fortunately, they were both really fantastic.

I was harassed by a pair of Deadpools. (I won the first round, but they won the second.)

And then some Winchesters dropped by. (I think they found my merchandise amateurish, at best.)

The best part, though, was making new connections. There are some really snazzy people who frequent AggieCon, and they all deserve a look.

The List of People You Should Check Out:

Noree Cosper

Author of The Van Helsing Organization series, first book A Prescription for Delirium.

N. Sullivan

Author of the sci-fi-noir Watchmaker Series, first book Nickel City.

Triscelle Publishing

Heather and Chris Dunbar, authors of the Morrigan’s Brood dark fantasy series, first book Morrigan’s Brood.

Jeff Cranor

Co-writer of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, which I have only just started listening to. (My geek cred took a blow, this weekend.)

J. Grant & Mel Hynes

Cat comics and gun comics. Need I say more?

The “Literature” status of children’s literature.

MR Graham:

Again, I’ve had the opportunity to write an article for Reading in the Borderlands – this time addressing the quality and prestige of children’s literature.

Originally posted on Reading in the Borderlands:

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

by M.R. Graham

books-69469_640The “Literature” status of children’s literature has long been not merely the subject of debate, but often a point of feud. Many in the industry and surrounding the industry – book critics, authors, agents, and English professors across the country – seem to see children’s literature as something less: less complex, less beautiful, less intelligent. Less important. The argument seems to be that children’s literature must be inferior in some way because adults read it easily, as though quality were to be gauged not by depth or humanity, but by ability to confound. Others argue that children’s literature is “watered down” in its portrayal of the human experience, often glossing over the darker moments of death and loss – not merely an inaccurate criticism, but an unfair one…

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