It’s my favorite day of the year, so I thought I’d share a poem from my back catalogue of published work. This poem is an erasure/blackout of Shirley Jackson’s book We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
In case you’re unaware of this form, erasures are a type of found poetry where you “erase” words from a found text and the words left behind form a poem.
Read the poem here . . .
I have a new poem in Apparition Lit #8 (October 2019) - Belly of the Beast. This one is kind of romantic, which I felt like fit the theme of the issue, Euphoria. What is euphoric to you? For me, it's being with the person you love in the weirdest place you can think of.
Let’s live in the belly of the beast.
You can bring a strong IPA
so smooth it’s like milk frothed.
I’ll bring Atwood and Ishiguro and Dickens.
We’ll watch Netflix in the blood vessels
and make love in the open mouth
with the krill and saltwater
pooling at our knees . . .
Read the entire poem here . . .
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November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an online community and yearly event where writers make the goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. This year, I’m encouraging you to burn the frigging thing down.
Read how here . . .
Stellar news today! My poem "The Fox and the Forest" (an erasure of Ray Bradbury) is the winner of the SFPA: Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association contest short form and my poem "The Mining Town," is the winner in the long form category! Very much bowled over by the judge's kind comments on my poems:
"Hybridity brings in endless possibilities when it comes to crafting and interpreting creative work, and these short pieces showcase the complexity of hybrid, speculative poetry."
"When the container for our work is expanded, there’s room to explore braided narratives. These longer poems convey multiple specific stories while still opening themselves up for the audience to imprint their own experiences onto the work."
The Mining Town
by Holly Lyn Walrath
is all bric-a-brac now. Tourists cram into houses-turned-stores, drink beer on the corners from the new microbrewery in the old mill, buy sweatshirts that say “I mined the deep and all I got was this stupid shirt,” but few take the walk up there, into the hills. It’s better to stay down here, safe among the ghosts of houses, to plunder their wares with big white thumbs and buy things, there are always more things to buy in a ghost town.
What happened to this town?
bell rings at dawn and dusk. The men paint the white brick black and red roof black and burn the picket fence. They stand to survey their work, cigarettes dangling from their slack jaws, hands black with pitch. At home, they do not wash the darkness away with silver soap but place those hands on the bodies of wives and backsides of children and hips of back-alley lovers and blank pieces of paper longing for ink. You must remember, this was a different time.
Why did they paint the church black?
The General Store
at first sold normal goods. Tack and seed, hay and hen egg. Slowly, strange objects appeared upon the shelves. A single deer’s antler, painted gold. Ant farms, pre-made, the little red bodies within tunneling deeper and deeper. A dozen wooden tokens carved with other Gods. Silver machines, alien in origin. Jars of body parts. Flower buds encased in glass. Japanese swords. The souls of men disguised in clock faces. Irony. Joy. Peace, if you could afford it.
Where did the objects come from?
There is no library. It sank into the ground years ago. Perhaps an industrious young man might dig his way down, find it deep beneath the sod and worms, and crawl in through a back window, left open by the librarian on a summer’s day, to bring in a bit of the fresh mountain breeze, and there he might find her still, humming a bit, rocking in her chair behind the card catalog, waiting for someone to ask for a book.
Why is there no library?
The Abandoned Mine
The most prominent feature being the stores of abandoned ore. Some piled in carts like great mounds of jewels, other still half-buried in the walls, their shiny faces masks waiting to be removed and to reveal the monster within. Once, the ore was necessary to the planet’s deepest life, and once, it was necessary to human life. Now, it’s merely lonely. It creeps out in tendrils, seeding its jeweled body through the earth, down the path, to the town. It puts out feelers in tidy bed and breakfast gardens, a blue-flame flower here, a ruddy weed there, in with the wheat in the farmer’s fields and creeping through the cracks of the brick on the cobblestone streets.
Why is the ore no longer needed?
The Trail Leading Away from the Mine
is overgrown with brush and wing, birds hopping along moss-covered logs, blooming glens of clover where bunnies forage, deep tufts of ash from the death trees, who burn each night in twilight and then like the phoenix, regrow each morning. The ash is the bodies of those long gone souls—yet a bit of their yearning still remains. The fire is the mountain’s heart rained down. And every curse it whispers is made new again, every morning it awakes forgetting what it forgot.
Why do the trees burn?
The Tenement Roofs
are where the miners went to smoke, and sometimes drink, when their wives didn’t want them around, which was often. Their feet dangled over the edges, all in a row. They said nothing to each other, nothing, except to whisper, “You see the blue light?” and one would say in response, “Aye, I seen the blue light, down in the depths, I seen it.”
Who was the first to follow the light?
The Drummer Boy
used to play on the corner for ha’pennies, picking out a rhythm on his bone-cage banjo and tapping the beat with his foot on his man-skin drum. He made a deal with the devil before such things became unnecessary and then he got curious, and when a boy gets curious all hell breaks loose. He followed the men and picked out each one for the killing, and then ran to the bridge where the bats roosted to tell them the news. They listened, curious, and then swarmed out into the twilight on the hunt.
What were they hunting?
was afraid of the dark. He sent his men down to the caves and tunnels with only a canary and other men for company and he expected no philandering with either, but he never laid eyes on the ore in his own life time. He watched them leave his little cabin, one by one, walk up the trail and disappear into the maw, and he turned away, turned the crank on his music box, and listened to Clementine over and over again. Oh my darling, he sang, oh, oh.
Who gave the foreman his music box?
tends the local pub. But he never seemed to have any purpose except to serve another round. He was lonely, dreadfully lonely. His lover died and he kept her picture over the till and dared any man to look upon it without weeping. He once lived in a brighter place, was once a wealthy man with bigger plans. But the devil didn’t realize that once he’d won out, he’d be bored. Now he poisons the well out back with his tears, only a few each night. It’s the least he can do.
Who loves the devil?
I have a new article up at Medium today on the economics of short fiction, how commercialism is changing what writers write, & a bit of advice from Shirley Jackson.
“The very nicest thing about being a writer is that you can afford to indulge yourself endlessly with oddness, and nobody can really do anything about it, as long as you keep writing and kind of using it up, as it were.” — Shirley Jackson (“Memory and Delusion,” Published in Let Me Tell You.)
Read the entire article here . . .
What if you woke up tomorrow knowing without a doubt you could write a bestseller? Paint a picture worth a million dollars? Release an album that was guaranteed to go to #1 on the charts?
What would you do?
This is the question behind Yesterday, a charming movie that pays homage to the works of The Beatles by erasing them from the world. Yesterday is a “what if” movie — What if The Beatles never existed? Himish Patel (best known for his work on the British soap Eastenders) plays down-on-his-luck musician Jack Malik, who wants someone to like his music other than his best friend Ellie (played by Lily James).
Read the entire article at Medium . . .
I am honored to announce that my chapbook, Glimmerglass Girl, is the winner of the 2019 SFPA Elgin Award for best speculative poetry chapbook. I am grateful to the SFPA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association) voting members for supporting this little book of weird poems about womanhood.
Get your copy here . . .
I'm teaching an online workshop with Gemini Ink in October on The Writing Life. Essentially, we'll cover the four major stages of taking a project from idea to publication. There's a whole lot to cover here, but if you're a newbie this is a great class for you. It also works nicely for those who are looking to reinvent their writing life and add more structure to the chaos.
Register for the class here . . .
I have a new article up at Medium today! As a writer, it can be really hard to keep going. One way I keep myself motivated is by celebrating the small things. Sure, I was over the moon the first time I got a poetry acceptance. But I’ve learned that to keep going, you need to celebrate every little step. Every time I hit a new milestone, I try to appreciate that moment, because it validates all the hard work, long hours, and general malaise that being a writer sometimes entails. I love writing, but writing is hard.
Read the whole list here . . .
Today is the one year book anniversary of Glimmerglass Girl, my first chapbook. This little book taught me a lot about being a writer & learning to love what you do. I learned that chapbooks are just as much work to promote as full length poetry books. I learned that getting a lot of interviews doesn't necessarily mean sales. But mostly, I learned that it's really scary to promote something personal, something you love, and that the writing community is one giant group of amazing, supportive people.
Won't you consider buying it? It would make my year to sell out the remaining copies.
Today on Medium I'm continuing my series of writing articles, this one all about the different terms we use when we talk about submissions. If you've ever wanted to submit your writing, but don't know where to start with all the lingo (What's a slush pile anyway?), this article is for you.
Read the full post here!
This month I have a guest post up at the Horror Writer's Association on the theme of dark poetry called "Darkness and Light." if you're a HWA member, be sure to check it out! If you're not a member, you can read it on Curious Fictions for $1 or by subscribing to my feed.
I'm stoked to once again be paneling at Readercon in Boston July 11-14! Here is a list of the panels I'll be on and where you can find me. Oh, and this year, I managed to convince my spousal unit to come along. If you see us around at the con, please come say Hi! I love meeting new writer friends.
Writing Craft and Mentoring Programs
Friday, 12pm - Salon 4
Panelists: Jack Dann, Theodora Goss (mod), Kate Maruyama, Kenneth Schneyer, Holly Walrath
Those who want to learn the craft of writing popular genre fiction have more options then ever. MFA programs and workshops of excellent repute are popping up all over the U.S., from Stonecoast in Maine to Clarion in California, as well as in other parts of the world. With so many options, how does one choose? Panelists who have participated in these programs as mentors or mentees will discuss their experiences.
Amazon, Goodreads, NetGalley, and Edelweiss, Oh My!
Friday, 7pm - Salon B
There are a variety of valuable resources for independent authors out there, but how does one choose among them, and how can an indie book stand out among the crowd? Holly Lyn Walrath will explain how to navigate the available options for self-publishing and explore how books can reach more readers via the growing field of reviewer markets.
Rainbow Open Mic
Saturday, 6pm - Sylvanus Thayer Room
Celebrate the voices of LGBTQIA2P writers! Read your work out loud among a group of welcoming peers. Hear new work by established authors and meet new writers! If your identity is anywhere on or under the rainbow, you're welcome to read your work; allies are invited to attend and listen. Sign up at the information desk.
Hybrid poetry forms can be a powerful form of resistance. From Jerrod Schwarz’s erasure of Trump’s inaugural speech to Niina Pollari’s black outs of the N-400 citizenship form, contemporary poets are engaging with the world through text, creating new and challenging works of art. Heralded by the rise of the “Instapoet,” visual works are a way to take poetry one step further by crafting new forms and structures that often transcend the page.
In July, I'll be teaching a 4-week course online at the Poetry Barn on this very topic! We’ll study the forms of poetry that draw from outside sources and texts, learning how artists are reshaping the narrative of resistance and how to draw from news, media, canonical works, and other found texts to create our own work in conversation with the current world.
Click here to sign up for online workshop . . .
The hardest part about submitting your writing is battling imposter syndrome and self-rejection. It doesn’t matter how you track your submissions or how many submissions you make in a year. Every writer has a different process that works for them. But it does matter if you never try — and these two things can make you freeze up when it comes time to hit send on a submission. That's why I posted a new article over at Medium today on this very topic.
Read the whole post here . . .
I am beyond honored that my poem "Dead-Eye Girl" is nominated for the 2019 Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association Rhysling Award for best speculative poem of the previous year. This little poem first appeared in Liminality Magazine in 2018. Print copies are now available of the anthology on Amazon! Members of the SFPA can vote on which poem they want to win.
Buy a copy of the anthology here . . .
I have a new post today at Medium on Switching Genres: How to move from writing “realism” to “speculative” genres. I love this topic because I love fighting back against the idea that a genre has to be one thing or the other. I hope these tips are helpful to writers who are looking to break out of a writing rut and try something new!
Read the full article at Medium . . .
I'm stoked to once again be a panelist at Comicpalooza this year in Houston, Texas. Comicpalooza has grown to be a massive comic con with cosplay, celebrities, and of course literature panels! This year we host the mother of dragons, Emilia Clarke, and I for one will be waiting in line for her panel.
If you see me around at the con, come say Hi!
Panels for Comicpalooza 2019:
Art & Writing Crossovers, from Comics to Artist Collaborations
Friday May 10, 2019 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Art and literature have always inspired each other. How do visual art and writing inspire and reveal a creative process? What can emerge when one form is refracted through another? Has there been a different emergence of the combination in a reality that seems more visualized and surreal? Join us for a lively discussion of the mediums' crossover and influences.
Speculative Poetry Deathmatch!
Saturday May 11, 2019 4:30pm - 5:30pm
Join us for an entertaining and interactive panel on science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry. Learn a little about speculative poetry, hear poets read some of their works, and then participate in a lyrical death-match in which you, the audience, decide which poet walks away with a tinfoil crown and bragging rights.
No Right Way to Write: Techniques for New Writers
Sunday May 12, 2019 12:00pm - 1:00pm
There is no one correct way to write. One of the challenges of new writers is to find the way that works best for them. Some people require strict outlines. Others require just bullet points. And still others require nothing more than an idea and a few notes on a napkin. This panel is on writing techniques, from outline usage to writing organically, allowing your information to come out in a smooth fashion. Learn the way to write that is right for you!
Beyond Earthsea: Ursula K. Le Guin's Writing Legacy
Sunday May 12, 2019 3:00pm - 4:00pm
As one of the greatest science fiction writers, Ursula K. Le Guin explored politics, the environment, myth, gender, and their intersection with our reality. She was an advocate for social justice and women writers. Join us for a discussion celebrating and paying tribute to Le Guin's work and influence.
Today at Medium, I write about crafting a "mission statement" for your writing career and how it can help you meet your goals. Thinking about your writing as a brand helps to combat self-rejection and imposter syndrome. It puts a bit of distance between you and your work — and that can be a lifesaver in the future when you’re looking at hard decisions about where to publish and why.
Read the whole post here . . .
I am on the radio today reading poetry! If you're in Houston you can catch my segment in the 2019 edition of Voices and Verses on Houston Public Media. Click above to listen!
In this sound portrait, Walrath describes how she fell in love with poetry in high school, her love of the weird and her inspirations. She reads her poem, “Blue Cadillac.”
Oh, the way you sat in
the drive, taking it all up.
I climbed into your cool interior, sliding
across the widest, darkest navy seats
spread beyond me, beyond my vision.
They seemed to expand and dissolve
into a bright light on the driver’s side.
We drove, through endless lanes
of white picket fences, long green,
green lawns, the Texas sun staccato
in the trees, and it may be that I wore
an Easter Sunday dress, all laced in white,
and bows on my tights, or white slumping socks
above black buckle shoes shining with polish.
And in the heat of a Texas summer,
how you could swallow me up
in your blue dusty smell, that
sweet sweet tobacco tucked
into the glove compartment
beside a lady’s silver lighter.
For the sun merely seemed
to enclose you, a line of gold
light above the leather dash.
But the very roundness of you, round seats
and silver knobs and panels like porthole
windows into another time, but mostly
the round, stitched-leather steering wheel
which was surely made for white driving gloves.
And somehow in this memory of you,
your massive lines like some primordial
behemoth long since dead and buried in
ice, the very blueness of you, I may have
remembered myself, another classic beauty.
This poem was published in my chapbook, Glimmerglass Girl.
I have a new poem up today at Mirror Dance called Farewell Dead Men. I also talk about why fantasy is a genre I love:
While science fiction is based in science, mystery is based in the pursuit of a question, and horror is based in evoking an emotion of fear, I believe that fantasy is the only genre which is purely pulled from the author’s deepest dreams and imaginings. The ability to dream up fantastical beasts and worlds seems to me to be a peculiarity of the human condition—one that even the most mundane of minds can learn to cultivate. Where did the idea for a dragon first come from or the hero myth? They are deeply ingrained paths that we continue to walk, following our ancestors through the mists of imagination.
Read my poem "Farewell Dead Men" here . . .
I have a new update for Interstellar Flight Magazine today. As Managing Editor, I’m excited to share with you some of our news for this month. We are working on building a staff of editors, slush readers, and writers! As a new indie press, it’s a lot of work getting started.
Read my March Round-Up here . . .
I have a new post at Medium about April and NaPoWriMo! National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. It’s also NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month)— an offshoot of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). During this month, magazines, workshops, radio shows, news sources, and readings showcase poetry in all its forms. Writers participate in the challenge of writing one poem a day during the month of April.
Read my full post at Medium . . .
I have a new post up at Medium that's a comprehensive guide to submitting literary short stories! Find out how to tier your submissions, keep track of them, what multiple and simultaneous submissions are, and more!
Read the full post here . . .
I wrote a guest blog post at Dream Foundry on whisper networks and breaking into the SFF community.
Dream Foundry wanted me to write a guest post aimed at new creatives, and it got me thinking about how I got my start in the SFF world. It wasn't an easy journey. When I look back at my early years trying to find my own voice and place, sometimes I cringe. Because I'm not perfect, and the community isn't perfect, and to be honest, things could be better. There's a lot of emotion wrapped up in those memories.
I am writing from personal experience, but a lot of the experience I've had has been hurtful and hard to process. Which is to say, I am not perfect and I do not represent all experiences. Everyone has their own story about how they got into the SFF community, and those stories range in their measure of negativity/positivity.
I'd like to thank Dream Foundry for letting me talk about this important topic. Also, if you're a new writer or new SFF community member and you want advice/help/support/to chat, please know that I am here. I'm always willing to talk to new folks and help if I can.
Read the guest post at Dream Foundry . . .
Holly Lyn Walrath is a freelance editor and author of poetry, flash fiction, and short fiction. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath
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Holly Walrath's books on Goodreads
ratings: 19 (avg rating 4.21)
Our Space: Shorts & Poetry from the Houston Community
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.25)
In Medias Res: Stories from the In-Between
ratings: 2 (avg rating 4.50)
The 2017 Rhysling Anthology: The Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Poetry of 2016 Selected by the Science Fiction Poetry Association
ratings: 16 (avg rating 4.31)
ratings: 9 (avg rating 4.67)