just call me raegen

STUPID, MEANINGLESS LIVES UNITE TO DISCUSS UNPOPULAR OPINIONS

Category: Writing

Perhaps the Lamest Lit Mag Story You’ll Ever Hear

A few months back, it came to my attention — by no actual assistance on his part, mind you — that my colleague, Mr. Fiction of at Least Two+ Years Now himself, Brandon Davis Jennings, tagged-but-not-reallied me in a blog about his latest accepted work, “Smells of Couch,” that would be appearing in Lake Effect, a terrific literary magazine that some of our mutual peeps have worked on at various points in their careers.

I had a response to this tag even back then — one far more intriguing than my actual work will be to most, sadly — but I was holding out for what seemed to be an impossible happy ending  to it.

English: A "massage parlor" in Daye ...

Not that kind, you pervs! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, my friends, that happy ending has actually arrived despite my cynicism, so I now share with you the story of my most recent publication — which incidentally happened three years ago but just last month. It’s like two of my poems starred in Back to the Future, but without Marty McFly, Doc Brown, a DeLorean, or anything else even remotely cool.

This is probably going to sound crazy — then again, it’s me talking here, so what doesn’t? — but I’m completely erratic when it comes to submitting work. As in, I will have poems all dressed up for the occasion, just hanging out, chatting around the punch bowl, glancing at all the happy poems living it up on the dance floor because they just got called to publication, and I will let my poems wonder who will ask them to dance for years on end because my lazy tuchus just won’t bother taking three consecutive days out of my life to research a serious number of lit mags, figure out their submission requirements, put stupid addresses in the top right-hand corner of only a third of the poems I plan to send out, save separate files because of this inordinately stupid rule, print pages upon pages out, run out of ink, go to the store to get a new cartridge, print annoying test pages, start printing again, remember I have super-special extra files with the darn addresses at the tops of the pages, throw half of what I printed out away, print some more, wonder where I put my envelopes to send these pages out in, remember I forgot to buy envelopes, go buy envelopes, address the envelopes, take the envelopes to the post office, and send my poems on their merry way.

Nothing matters when we're dancing

My poems are standing right in that left-hand corner behind the guy in the khaki pants and — oh, never mind. (Photo credit: Librarian Avenger)

Because sending out to, say, 20 or 30 literary magazines at one time seemed the only thing worth going to that amount of trouble for, and it would generally take me three days of doing nothing but just that to accomplish this goal, since graduating as an M.F.A. (motherf***ing a**hole), I have only sent a single batch of submissions out in the following years: 2009, 2012.

I admit this is lame, especially considering I was still working on my writing the whole time in some way, shape or form. But while I was sure there was an easier way to do this submission thing, I hadn’t found it — that is, until last year, when I discovered I was right: there is an easier way to do the whole submission thing, and it’s called the Internet. I wrapped up what used to be a three-day process in three hours, folks, thanks to online submission tools. If that’s not a plug for technology, I don’t know what is.

Plug

Well, except this, of course. (Photo credit: Samuel M. Livingston)

But I digress — mucho much. I’m still waiting to hear back on some things I sent out in 2012; fellow writers know the longer the wait, the better the news, generally, and luckily, I haven’t gotten shot down by everyone I sent out to last year (at least not yet).

But the story of my most recent publication actually has nothing to do with this. Cast your mind back to 2009, when I do one of my bulk mailings to the literary masses. I pack lunches, zip up coats, send my children off, then sit back and wait. Come February 2010, I hear from a particular publication that will go unnamed here (because, although they should be put out of business — or at the very least publicly stoned — for what they did to me and several other writers whose work they accepted not just in 2010 but in 2011 and 2012 as well, I don’t care to get into trouble over something they’re to blame for). Publication of Evil asks to print two of my poems (which I will tell you a little more about as Brandon told you about “Smells of Couch” because that’s part of the whole “being tagged” thingy), and I happily send my permission to publish in exchange for the standard two contributors’ copies we people who actually do this for the love of it receive as payment.

Spanish dictionary pages up into the air

If pages ever become our currency, I’ll be a millionaire, I tell ya! (Photo credit: Horia Varlan)

I wait a year. Heck, I wait more than a year. I even move in the meantime. I send my new address. Still, no contributors’ copies.

Of course, it’s mighty hard to be sent contributors’ copies when actual copies haven’t even been printed yet — as was the case in 2010, 2011, and, yes, even 2012.

If you know anything about me IRL, you’ll know that this is something I was not about to take lying down. I raised hell with the editor. It went nowhere. Publication of Evil actually had a website this whole time, on which hapless contributors like myself were posting comments expressing their mutual dissatisfaction with the literary magazine. I took screen shots of said comments and sent them to the editor’s boss. Still, it went nowhere. I contacted AWP. I didn’t even know if that would work, and presumably, it didn’t, since I never heard anything from them. But hey, you gotta give a girl kudos for trying.

I’d considered pulling my permission to publish; it wasn’t looking like they were going to bother printing anyway, and I wanted the work to see the light of day. I’d considered submitting the poems elsewhere without revoking permission and letting the chips fall where they may, but I didn’t want to make Publication of Evil’s problem anyone else’s in the event they actually did go to print sometime this century.

Printing Press

Tell me, what is this thing you call “printing press”? (Photo credit: chrissam42)

Admittedly, though, I’d lost hope. Progress seemed impossible. And so, every once in awhile, just to remind myself I needed to figure out some way to exact revenge on behalf of myself and the other writers who were screwed by Publication of Evil, I would visit their website. That’s when I discovered some interesting information.

God, that was a good movie.

Don’t cross them off that hit list just yet, Buscemi!

This January, all the bad press was removed from the site; the irate comments were nowhere to be found, and all contributors were assured in an extra-special online letter that back issues were being published.

I felt like leaving a new comment saying, “Yeah, I’ve heard that one before — exactly 8 times; see attached emails,” but I decided against it.

Instead, I checked Amazon. Yup, just as I thought: a big donut.

But, still dwelling on the great injustice that had been done, I knew I had to keep checking. Someone had to hold these shysters accountable for their nonsense in some way (though I hadn’t figured out how yet) — especially since they’d scrubbed their site of all the warnings writers were giving others about this publication.

I continued to check the site — still scrubbed. I continued to check Amazon — still a donut.

Launch Donuts @ FlickrHQ

And not even the delicious kind. Sadface. (Photo credit: pkingDesign)

That is, until a few weeks ago. And what to my wondering eyes did appear on this magical day? Yes, my friends: the 2010 volume of Publication of Evil. Believe it or not, more than three frickin’ years later, they finally published it.

But since I’m guessing it might take at least another three years to get my contributors’ copies, I ordered one from Amazon straightaway. And here it sits, right next to me now, with my two poems in it.

And sure, they messed up the formatting on one of them, but did you really not see that coming?

Dual Purpose Plunger

Bam! Gotcha! (Photo credit: swirlspice)

What you may not have guessed, though, is what was in the editor’s letter. In a pathetic last-ditch attempt to make himself look even remotely professional, Publication of Evil’s editor wrote a brilliant note detailing the steps it takes to put a lit mag together. It seems he must have forgotten that, oh, 90% of us have actually worked on lit mags ourselves, know all these steps, and still got our publications out in a timely fashion when we worked on them. But thanks for playing. Your consolation prize is waiting for you backstage; it’s the one that’s ticking.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. It was ridic, but it happened, and may it never happen to you.

SPRAY

Spray this liberally on every submission you send out to prevent idiocy. (Photo credit: Matthew Burpee)

Now let’s get on with answering these questions, shall we?

What are the titles of your poems, and where will they appear?

Um, pass.

Where did the idea for these poems come from?

Well, quite literally my past. I wrote one after a visit to the neighborhood I grew up in, and it’s about that and what’s happened in my life since. It sets the stage for the other, which is what I like to call a Frankenpoem. This particular Frankenpoem features three completely separate and previously unrelated drafts from the past edited and stitched together via some new material.

Frankenstein

Errrgghh… Me no read poems… (Photo credit: twm1340)

What genre do your poems fall under?

We M.F.A.s hate the word “genre.” That being said, my work is feminist and what I consider to be confessional, though I’m not quite sure how much of the “official” confessional tradition (e.g., Plath, Sexton, etc.) it follows.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

If my entire poetry manuscript, once finished, were to become a movie, Jennifer Jason Leigh could play me; Single White Female proves she’s got what it takes to instill the appropriate amount of terror. Barbra Streisand could play my mom (because my mom loves her anyway). Robert Duvall could play my dad, since Space Ghost — who most resembles my father, at least in the chin — is animated. Ray Wise could play my former stepdad because they resemble each other. Plus, Ray Wise always plays villains, so that helps.

Skeet Ulrich has to play at least one of my ex-boyfriends, but it might actually be cool to get him to just play them all, except with different hair colors and disguises; it’d be an artistic statement that way.

From left to right; Stu Macher (Matthew Lillar...

We’d like that! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your poems?

Well, considering one poem was actually parts of four poems, quite a few years. I’d say just shy of a decade for that one, if I go back and date the earliest draft of one part.

What books would you compare these poems to?

Probably Satan Says by Sharon Olds, if you think about those opening poems in particular. Maybe Marie Howe’s What the Living Do, though I’m more indirect than Howe. And a bit of Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, if you take the mythological element into consideration.

What else about your poems might pique the reader’s interest?

The Frankenpoem is one of the poems I feel I was meant to write — as in, there are certain things I feel a deep need to say as a writer because if I don’t, I’m not sure there’s any point to my writing at all. I believe writing should be about risk in some way, shape or form; otherwise, it’s just something that’s been done before. I want to see the world in a new way when I read literature, so that’s what I aim to achieve in my own work.

DSCN9674_1_72 - Abstract Art

Real-life portrayal of I don’t know what. (Photo credit: bterrycompton)

The Frankenpoem is the first in what will hopefully be many poems to get picked up for publication that give voice to subjects the women in my family and women everywhere, including me, have kept their silence on for so many years. This is my reason for continuing to work on the manuscript that this poem will go into, and I can only hope that one day, the whole book will reach you.

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My Recent Aha Moment

So, at a farewell dinner a couple weeks ago for a former creative writing friend (all the way back from my undergrad days, so he got to read the supremely crappy stuff as opposed to just mildly crappy), the subject of this blog came up.

He said, “I’ve been reading your blog…”

(Someone actually reads this thing? Score!)

“…and it’s hilarious…”

(Someone actually thinks it’s funny? Score!)

“…but…”

(This was too good to be true. I just knew there had to be a “but.”)

Go, go, go, shorty!

Come on, you knew this was coming… (Photo credit: kandyjaxx)

“…I just feel like there’s something more you can do with it or get out of it for yourself career-wise.”

Hmm.

Well…that didn’t go exactly where I thought it was going, but that’s probably for the best.

FIRE!

Because I thought it was going here. (Photo credit: Gregory Jordan)

As it turns out, this was nothing I hadn’t already been thinking of; I’ve been torn between the personal and professional for a while now. In fact, I’ve been asking Jesus for the answers. Unfortunately — or fortunately — Jesus has more balls than me and, were he in my shoes, he would’ve already connected this blog in some way to his resume and/or professional website. Hence, why he is one of my heroes.

But alas, that’s just not me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve pretty much always been a private person. Maybe it’s the fact that I think there should be some standards to which people (myself included) are held to somewhere nowadays. Or maybe it’s just the fact that, from time to time, I need to be able to vent to my peeps about douchebags who suck — some of whom are part of my professional life.

Anyway, point is, I’ve come to the conclusion that it would likely not serve me well to connect this blog with my professional endeavors.

Yet I still longed for a way to demonstrate my full capacities and versatility as a writer, because there’s just not that much of a place for it in my professional writing. I’m not writing for The New York Times, where they encourage that sort of thing (well, sort of). I’m writing for trade publications that want informational pieces. That’s just the reality.

And I’m not complaining. I’m happy to have the job. But it is what it is, you know?

Tiger

You can’t change a tiger’s spots, moron, because tigers have stripes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In all honesty, that’s part of why I started this blog in the first place. I needed to feel like I was doing some real writing — beyond what my current position limits me to as well as beyond even poetry (which I obviously can’t publish here if I ever want it picked up by literary journals, as my creative writing cohort is similarly familiar with). I needed to feel like I was doing some writing where I really just got to say what I wanted to in the ways I wanted to say them.

And as with any writing practice, it does improve with time and, er, practice. I’m seeing some interesting stuff develop through my blogging, and the more I like it, the more I think about somehow connecting this type of writing — definitely more me and what I’d like to be doing in the long term — to the other things I’ve got going on professionally (e.g., social media accounts, networking events, etc.).

So when my friend who knew nothing about these thoughts I’d been, er, thinking said what he, er, said to me, I knew it was really time for me to find a solution to this problem.

That doesn't seem right...

That doesn’t seem right…

So I brooded again.

Then I played some computer games. (Because I am seriously addicted to Bubble Mania, Bubble Seasons, and Bubble Blitz Mania — no joke.)

Then I worked on some poetry.

Then I did some cooking and laundry.

Then I went back to work for the week.

Then I brooded some more.

Then I repeated.

About two weeks later, in that magical — and when I say “magical,” I mean frickin’ insanely magical — space between wake and sleep that Larissa used to talk about and from which I’ve gotten so many ideas throughout the years, it came to me.

Light bulb

Bing! (Photo credit: plastAnka)

The answer is a new blog.

But not by me.

(But still by me, technically speaking.)

See, I need to be able to say things on the real, but I also need to have full indemnification.

And so, much like my poetry thesis, I will once again use a persona to accomplish my goals — which, now that I think about it, you’d think I would’ve considered as a promising solution much sooner, since it’s sort of a trick I’ve used before. But hey, I can’t be focused on the obvious when I’m too busy posting turd pics and/or talking smack, now, can I?

Flies on turd

The rankest one yet, kiddies! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plus, there’s the other goal of blogging that I was taking into consideration: a specific focus. While I need a space where I can literally talk about whatever the eff I want (which would be here), I also wanted to help people — kind of like Dear Abby, but with the Judge Judy attitude like I mentioned in this blog (because I have plenty of that to go around, with extra helpings prepared for the stupid).

Hence, the new blog, which will be “ask the mystery writer anything” (so, advice, opinions, etc.) in nature and will launch as soon as my mom sends me the final rendition of said “writer.”

I will say nothing more about it here — because you have no idea the insanely inordinate amount of time I’ve spent this week learning how to clear Google’s caches, then submitting those requests — though I’ve probably already said too much. Meh. I’ve password-protected certain blogs and done all I could just in case people try to get crafty, so if something’s meant to come back and bite me in the rear at this point, so be it. I knew what I was getting into when I made this blog public, so it’s time to put my big-girl pants on.

Peasant skirt

That’s a little feminist humor for you. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyhoo, I will still be writing on this blog as well, though perhaps not as often. All of my Facebook preciouses will be able to easily find this new venture through links I will post there, and I hope you’ll check it out; you can also request passwords to the protected blogs here through Facebook as well. If you’re not on my Facebook but follow this blog and would like to see what I’m up to, just shoot me an email at justcallmeraegen@gmail.com.

Thanks again to old creative writing pal for forcing me to find an answer to my personal/professional dilemma. I hope I can do your feedback justice.

What Makes a “Real” Writer?

You probably didn’t know this, but Jesus was once a poet.

3rd quarter of 16th century

To eat, or not to eat: that is the ques — Oh, sure, Billy S., I’ll let you have that one. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not that Jesus, silly! My Jesus.

But when he was really young, thankfully. Or else he probably would’ve ended up turning into one of my douchebag exes, who also happened to be a poet.

I tend not to trust many male poets over 30.

English: Poet Billy Collins at the Union Squar...

Does this look like the face of a man you can trust? Because I don’t; I know a dirty little secret about him. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But that’s just a me thing.

Anyway…

This was a huge revelation to me; I can’t believe he’d never mentioned it before in the 2+ years we’ve been together now. But in all honesty, I wasn’t surprised.

“You do have a writer’s mind,” I said.

“I’m not crazy like you, though, so what do you mean?” he replied.

Actually, that’s not what he said. But that’s probably what he meant.

Crazy Face

This girl cray-cray! (Photo credit: StarMama)

Anyway…

“There’s a quality about a writer’s mind, I think,” said I (because I’ve always wanted to said I). “You may not use it to write stuff, but it’s still there. It’s in the way you see the world.”

Fast-forward to a conversation I had last weekend with one of my best friends from high school. She’s got the writer’s mind as well — in fact, she may not remember this, but she used to share poems she wrote back then with me, along with some drawings that looked like what I imagine the world probably does after a lot of ‘shrooms. And in spite of technological advances like email, she’s insisted that we correspond via written letter over the years instead as well.

Nitrous Oxide on LSD

Trippy, dude… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, she’s writing again — creatively, that is — though she’s accumulated all the fun stuff the rest of us creative and professional writers have as well: fear of failure, a sense of inadequacy, feeling like a fraud, anxiety with respect to the act of writing, etc. What’s worse is that, due to the nature of the political work she does, she’s surrounded in part by some pretty ignorant people who dump their reverse-racist BS on her, as if it was her fault she was born a white person and she should feel guilty about it.

Well, maybe it was, if you consider it from a cosmic, karmic sense. But if that’s true, then it’s also true that those people who are harassing her were born into their current lives due to some karmic reason as well.

But I don’t think anyone wants to go too far down that line of argument, do they?

Path

No, this path doesn’t lead to impending doom. I swear… (Photo credit: Guerito)

Anyway…

So, I’ve read some of her recent work. Not surprisingly, it’s very good. Like, better than most of the stuff I wrote in grad school. Like, better than some of the stuff I read in grad school. Like, better than a lot of what I read in literary journals.

And no, I’m not biased because she’s my friend; as most of the friends who’ve tolerated me up to this point know, if I think what you’re up to sucks, at the very least, I just won’t say anything to you, and at the very most, I’ll give you a verbal smackdown.

Anyway…

It’s not just a matter of having a great command of the language — though that’s certainly essential, and she’s gained it from reading a lot and writing a lot (also both essential).

No, what makes a real writer (at least according to this writer, and you’re certainly free to disagree with me) is something in the mind — something you either have or you don’t, my sales colleagues would say: the “it” factor.

Wow! (Bananarama album)

She’s got it! Yeah, baby, she’s got it! (“Wow!” indeed.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The “it” factor in salespeople is something I actually don’t have a word for, though I sense it in people like my sister. She has that salesperson “it” factor, and if you know her, you know what I’m referring to, and you know I’m speaking the truth here.

But I do have a word for the “it” factor in writers, and here it is:

Depth.

You’re not just in the world; you’re seeing the world. And sure, you’re seeing it with subjective eyes, perhaps even extremely imaginative eyes, but you’re still seeing things those other people who are just in the world don’t. You’re like what’s-his-name in The Sixth Sense, except less creepy.

English: Mug shot of Haley Joel Osment.

Because come on — this is hard to beat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, unless you’re my creepy poet ex. Then you’re more creepy (or creepier, as it were).

Anyway…

The good news for some “writers” is that this really is just my observation and opinion. As it turns out, depth is not actually required to gain entry to a graduate creative writing program; nor is it required to get published in a literary journal; nor is it required to get a job teaching writing, in journalism, or in some other writing field.

So perhaps what I’m really saying is, depth is the essential quality that defines a good writer — at least in my book. If I don’t experience some way of seeing the world that I’m familiar with differently, or see a world I’ve never seen or imagined before, I lose interest like

English: Store bought cupcakes.

Hey, these look yummy! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It boggles my mind sometimes when I think about some of the “writers” I’ve known along this unusual journey that’s been my life thus far. And when I think of them, I think mostly of missed opportunities, great stories never told, even youth wasted away not writing — doing everything one can, in fact, to avoid writing. And I’m not talking the general anxiety most of us experience as perhaps temporary “writer’s block.” No, I’m talking the real, full-on shirking of writing tasks — and then the nerve to demand to still be called a writer.

Get a clue. Real writers want to write. Even when they know what’s about to come out will suck. Even when it takes work — and real writing does take work; it’s not just about having your name or byline on a piece of crap just to be able say, “Look at me! Look what I did!” Even when all their buddies are out partying and doing a million other things more entertaining than grueling through the creative process.

Everything else is just a degree you got in college, kid. And no, for the record, I don’t think that makes you a real writer. You’re probably destined for another career path, and the sooner you accept that, the better off we’ll all be.

English: Jonathon Porritt, English environment...

You mean I still have to, like, do stuff after I finish this speech? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the other hand, I know these amazing people who see something strange about the world — and I’ve had the pleasure of working with a great deal of them. Other members of this same group, however, write quietly in the seclusion of their rooms, stuffing their journals into boxes, then hiding them from the world in the back of their closets under lock and key.

And to these people, I say, you’re as real a writer as the people sharing their magnificent creations with the world. To these people, I say, you were given the gift of depth for a reason. To these people, I say, it is your responsibility to the world to overcome your fears, centered in the self, and share your gift with others for the greater good.

Why? Because without your creative vision, there can be no challenge to the status quo — which is why the world is strange and why, in a lot of ways, it sucks. And without the challenge, there can be no change in the world, no hope for anything different, better.

It doesn’t get more politically driven than that.

So embrace your depth. Pick up your WMD — I mean, pen — and do like Kate Winslet did in Titanic.

I'll never let go, Jack. Do you know what they do with these kinds of pictures on the Internet? Oh, wait -- wrong scene.

I’ll never let go, Jack. Do you know what they do with these kinds of pictures on the Internet nowadays? Oh, wait — wrong scene.

Writing — for Love or Money? (My Takeaways From NMX 2013)

Last Sunday, I made my way over to the Rio for New Media Expo (NMX) 2013. While most of the time, I attend trade shows for my job, I did this of my own volition — on a weekend, even. So yes, I do want a cookie.

English: Plateful of Christmas Cookies

Not that that’s different from any other time. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unable to afford a trip to Boston in March for AWP, this was the closest (and most inexpensive) way to get my personal educational conference fix, and I was not disappointed. Perhaps because this whole “new media” thing is so, well, new to me (from a business perspective, anyway), I feel like I learned a lot.

Two sessions in particular, though, really got me thinking, probably because they were contradictory, at least in their in spiritual tone. I’ll start with David Risley’s session about how to monetize blogs, which had tons of great information that has already been summed up by others (such as this blogger here) if you’d like to know more about that.

For me, the following part was the most interesting tidbit of all he said (and I recorded) during his NMX session:

“Most bloggers do not treat their blog as a business whatsoever. … In the regular world, you don’t think about going and setting up an office somewhere, then try to figure out what to do with it. … A lot of people, they don’t put a lot of thought into whether it (their blog) really is considered to be exchangeable or valuable to other people; they just kind of do it because they think it’s interesting. This is where the ‘blogging about your passion’ thing often misguides people, because they don’t really verify if it’s valuable or exchangeable.”

English: Image of a pet rock

Flaw in that logic, as evidenced by Pet Rock. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to admit, my immediate response to this was to cringe on the inside. It’s the poet in me who’s doing so — the one who knows very much how, when it comes to creative writing, that’s actually exactly what you do to create a product (be it fiction, nonfiction, poetry, whatever) you will eventually, with any luck, publish and sell: You set up an office somewhere (aka start writing), then figure out what to do with it (aka find the vision, the project, or simply what point you’re trying to make through the act of writing, more writing, examination, and revision of what you’d created). Sometimes you have a general idea — “I want to write about Ireland” — but you don’t know what that really means or how it will flesh itself out until you write a bunch.

The Brady Bunch opening grid, season one

What cringing on the inside looks like. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then there’s the theme of “passion doesn’t count” that I will argue against until my big yappin’ mouth has been silenced by the Grim Reaper himself. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, albeit mostly in workshops: Passionless writing is dead writing. And yes, it probably is the majority of what gets published anywhere — even in lit mags (and I hope I’m not speaking for my work that’s been picked up by such publications) — but it still sucks. Writing without passion, without risk, is simply a waste of words.

That being said, I will admit that there is a certain amount of passion and creativity that usually must be squelched in the service of being informative, and this is the kind of writing most publications require of their staff writers, journalists, and editors like myself. I still try to keep it engaging, of course, but there’s a reality to it, and devices can’t be distracting. I do this kind of writing (that is, professional) too, but only because I get paid to. It wouldn’t be sustainable otherwise, because I’m simply not passionate about certain subjects.

English: Shoes in a shop

As Shania Twain would say, “That don’t impress me much.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which brings me to this blog, Just Call Me Raegen. I don’t make money with it yet, and I may never; that was never my goal, though it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world that could ever happen. But this blog sustains itself because I write about things I’m passionate about (and when others care about those topics too, it’s very much appreciated, of course). If I was writing about something I could give two s***s about, it wouldn’t last very long, and this is why I think most blogs fail; it’s generally accepted as fact that a blog has to grow and carry on in order for it to start and continue to make money. Now, maybe that’s just me — perhaps others can write about inane things they care nothing for without the promise of money first — but if I’m writing something I’m not getting paid for upfront, it’s because I care about it, and for no other reason.

But Risley’s talking about making money off a personal blog, and perhaps I’m talking about something else. Perhaps.

Let me tell you about the other presenter of note: Bill Belew. Very different perspective coming from Mr. Bill (I just wanted to say that; he doesn’t actually go by that moniker). His points are covered more in depth at the link I posted above as well (looks like me and Eleanor Prior have a lot in common as far as what we think is relevant), but here’s the summation of what he had to say about how to get a million visitors to a blog:

  1. Write a lot (quantity)
  2. Write good stuff (quality)
  3. Be consistent
  4. Write frequently
Kenny vs. Mr. Bill (109/365)

Oh, no! (Photo credit: JD Hancock)

It’s pretty simple. And while Mr. Bill’s subject wasn’t monetizing blogging, I think it’s important to note that Mr. Bill does in fact financially support himself and his family entirely off his blogs.

And again, while the main points of his session were good, the more interesting message to me was the following, which I also recorded:

“Do not let people tell you what you cannot do. Don’t go there. The bumblebee doesn’t know what he can’t do, and he does it. … If you think you can do it, do it. It works if you work it. It’s that simple. … Write until your idea catches on. … The No. 1 reason for failure is … because people give up.”

Mr. Bill was all about passion. Hard work, yes — his eight different blogs have more than a thousand posts on them total — but passion too. He later gave an example of another successful blogger who followed his passion as well: “The guy writes about Chinese idioms. Who cares?” Mr. Bill said. Yet he went on to say that this blogger eventually found his audience and became a hit.

Chinesetexttest

Ah, who could forget this one? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The blogging world — just like any other — is competitive. Perhaps if one is looking for instant money, one should ignore passion and pursue whatever it is one believes will sell or win a contest. But Mr. Bill’s story is proof that anything will sell, if given the proper amount of time, effort, and attention. And perhaps I’m simply inferring it from everything he said, but I believe I agree with him that there’s room for everyone and every passion in this space (and many others).

I suppose in an ideal world, every writer would be paid to write about the subjects he or she is passionate about, because everyone is passionate about something (which I do think is key to maintaining long-term interest in writing about that subject) and there is an audience for every subject — at least one more person out there in the world who finds wonder in those topics the writer is fascinated by.

And what of Just Call Me Raegen? If I can say anything about this blog — which I deliberately began nearly a year ago without a set subject, fully intending to write my way toward finding it — it’s that my personal passions are very much present in it. If Judge Judy wrote a blog, it would probably look a lot like this, because she doesn’t have time for nonsense, and she loves justice. I also hate stupid, and I too love justice — especially poetic justice, because it’s poetic, of course.

2Pac & Janet Jackson

But not the movie, because that really sucked. (Photo credit: AndreLucian)

I find myself examining life, exploring my opinions (no matter how many words it takes), arguing (mostly in my head), and trying to help others who are or one day might be in my shoes with a little advice to get through the dark times. If it doesn’t “sell,” so be it. Herein, what’s left of my humanity — of infinite value — resides.

Manifesto

The title of this lovely blog design is called “Manifest,” but it seemed to me, given my personality (or multiple personalities, depending on whom you ask), that the word was missing the O. For those of you who know me — especially as a writer — you know I can rarely leave well enough alone with things as they appear the first go-round. For those of you who don’t, welcome to the insanity.

This brings me to the purpose of this blog. Why, after several years of blogging on Myspace, then several years of not blogging at all, have I returned to it? You people won’t stop nagging me about it. And by “you people,” I’m of course referring to my wonderful friends who — masochists that they are — actually tolerate me saying such things about them. The most recent request, made in a freezing car when I was back visiting my hometown, Chicago, was direct and to the point: “Y-y-you should start w-w-writing those b-b-blogs again. They m-m-made me laugh.”

So Goal 1: Make people laugh.

This then brings us to the mechanics of how laughter occurs. I’m not talking about the actual physical responses of the body, but what it takes to make people laugh from a communications perspective. It’s crazy, really, when you think about how little, oddly shaped symbols can actually invoke bodily reactions.

… … …

Of course, most often, we think of how words can in fact hurt us — sometimes more than sticks and stones. And perhaps somewhere down the line in my rantings, you may find that I have accomplished that too. This is not my goal, however, and if it does happen, it will most likely be a result of my bringing to your attention a simple disagreement we may have about how to live life.

This brings me to the subhead of this blog: “Stupid, meaningless lives unite to discuss unpopular opinions.” The first part I stole from one of my friend’s old Myspace page because it’s genius and she’s not a writer, so she won’t sue me for it. Do I really think your life is stupid and meaningless? No more so than my own or anyone else’s; you can decide for yourself what that means. Which brings us to why we will be discussing unpopular opinions. In the age of reality TV, where anyone — regardless of talent and IQ — can be a star, I’m here to remind us there once was a time in which people had to at least do something, however minimal, to earn the fortune and fame they later enjoyed.

This brings me to what my blog will not be: A constant and shameless self-promotion of my work. It doesn’t nourish me, and it doesn’t entertain you. Yes, I am a published poet with a first full-length manuscript in the works, and I may occasionally drop a line about an acceptance here or there — likely because I’ve tended to be so private about it, a few of you have actually wondered aloud to me and/or the Internet world what this alleged poetry of mine might be like, if it really exists, and if it will continue to be produced. Yes, I am an associate editor and staff writer for both a monthly and quarterly publication, and I may show links to that work if it seems relevant to what I’m ranting about at the time. Yes, I read books that I love and will mention — but it will not be for the purposes of getting that author to follow my blog, like me on Facebook, etc., etc., to promote that career. If I like your work, great; if I don’t, whatever; but you’ll never see a review of someone or something on this site that I’m not passionate about just because someone has a big name in the creative writing world and I think they might somehow do something for me (which, if you’re in the creative writing world, should’ve made you chuckle, because seriously, “big name” in creative writing? Really? REALLY?)

Ideally, this blog will be an outlet for me and entertainment for you, then an outlet for you and entertainment for me. Ideally, it will be a discussion among us, because I happen to believe my friends are among the most intelligent, opinionated, and hilarious radicals on the planet right now — even if they wouldn’t categorize themselves as radicals (note I left out intelligent, opinionated, and hilarious — wink, wink). In my opinion, if you use your brain these days, you qualify as both a minority and a radical, and that’s all I have to say about that for the time being.

If you actually take the time to read something that’s longer than 500 words, this also qualifies you as a minority and a radical, and I salute you for being interested in doing so. Few things upset me more than the instant-gratification/attention-span-of-a-goldfish mentality so many seem to have these days… but you’ll find out about all those wonderful things down the line.

I always said if I could just find a way to get paid to think all the bizarre thoughts I was already thinking anyway, I’d have it made. Well, I’ve found that in writing. My only hope is that, down the line, this blog will continue to engage you. I’m shooting for at least one post a week because I still have to make time for my beloved oetry-pay. If you have topics you’d like to discuss — either through your own blog or through mine — you have an audience in me, so tell me about it! I hope to create a place that nurtures you souls in the world who still dare to read, think, and speak your mind.

Gift to self — done. Happy birthday to me!