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Taking an indefinite break from music 

It seems like every time I go out these days, I run into someone who asks me when I'm going to play another gig. This is probably because I have always been in bands, always gigged a lot, especially during 2010, 2011, and most of 2012. I even booked a last minute gig this weekend. I ended up having to cancel the gig. The logical reasons were that I just had too much stuff to do this weekend--including some freelance work--and I was just overly stressed. But I think, also, it was more than that.

It felt as though I had already closed that chapter of my life: the Atlanta musician chapter. And I realized that I just couldn't play anymore shows. At least, not right now. And when I thought about the show I just played at the Drunken Unicorn, it felt kind of like me saying goodbye. Goodbye to the Atlanta music scene. Goodbye to Pocket the Moon, to Novo Luna, to Long Absent Friends, to the Cult Following, to Ruby, even to Population 2. Goodbye to Katrina, Ben, and Riley. Goodbye to "rage against the ex-boyfriend" songs and "you broke my heart" songs and unrequited love songs and the occasional "we can transcend all of this shit through art" songs. Goodbye to the empty shows I played at the Earl. Goodbye to the Atlanta music critics who wouldn't bother reviewing our album. Goodbye to the beer at band practice and the jamming out when it's storming outside and "why weren't we recording that i hope someone remembers that was so awesome!!!" and me singing songs about skeletons in the closet because I couldn't think of any other lyrics. Goodbye to the bandmates I dated and the ones I didn't date and the ones who wanted to date me but didn't and the ones I wanted to date but didn't. Goodbye to doing shots of lemon juice and cayenne pepper and carrying around a dry erase board so I wouldn't have to talk when I was trying to get my voice back before the gig. Goodbye to everyone who told me my songs sounded the same. Goodbye to the cheers from friends when I held that long note on "August" or sang "And I will not be denied and doomed..." Goodbye to looking at the ceiling, thinking of David or Brandon, before singing "Too Late" or "For Brandon." Goodbye to Smith's Olde Bar, to the Star Bar, to the Earl, to Wonderroot, to Mulligans!, to the BeAtlanta house parties, to the Drunken Unicorn. Goodbye to white girls covering Eminem. Goodbye to condescending bloggers. Goodbye to the dancing guy who always held up his arms and yelled "BA BA BA BA" every time we played "Victoria." Goodbye to drunken guitarists falling over during guitar solos and going on with it anyway at jam parties. Goodbye to the countless other musicians I played with--the ones who inspired me, the ones who made me rock out, the ones who made me ask if that song was about oral sex, the ones who gave me headaches, the ones who made me dance, the ones who made me cry, the ones who made me sing along. Goodbye to driving downtown to the show.

And on one hand, I was really sad about it. Because it felt like Atlanta wore me down. It felt like I was giving up because no one cared about all of my sad songs anymore. It felt like I was giving up on something that had always been a huge dream of mine. I felt like I had thrown in the towel, like I had been defeated.

But then I thought some more about it, and it really isn't that I gave up. Music has always been a huge part of my life, but writing is an even bigger part of my life. I have been filling journals since i was 7 or 8. (I'm on journal #90 right now, and I've only been numbering them since I was about 12 or 13.) I have been writing stories and plays and poems since a very young age, too. I used to write plays and have the neighbors perform them in our driveway when I was only 8 or 9. And even in my songwriting, I always felt that above all, I was a story teller. And now here I am having just completed my MFA in Creative Writing, having just published my play, The Snow Globe, and with my young adult novel, The Muses, completed, which is--I think--the best thing I have ever written and I feel that I'm really, really close to getting a literary agent. I have always tried to do it all--music, writing, school, work. At times, I have focused more on one or two of these things than the others, but I have always been a person who is involved in multiple projects. I feel I really need to shift my focus, though, and put everything I can into writing--into getting this novel out there for the world to see. Into getting my plays on stage again. Into getting my poems published. And this is why I've decided to take an indefinite break from music.

This doesn't mean that I won't ever write songs if I feel inspired or that I won't ever pick up a guitar at parties or jam with friends. This doesn't even mean I won't play open mic night at MacCrackens every now and then when I feel like bumming out the bar. (I mean, it is right down the streeet from me...) This doesn't mean that I won't post covers on YouTube sometimes if I feel like it. And you know, someday, I really want to be in another band, make another album, play more shows. I really, really do. And I'm certain that I will do these things again someday. But now is not the time for that, and it's not where my energy is. And I've been fighting that, but I think it's just time to accept it and not feel guilty about it anymore.

It's ironic, though, because a large percentage of The Muses is about music. Would I have been able to write this novel if I weren't obsessed with music--listening to it 24/7, always scouring the internet trying to hear the latest releases from new bands or going back to old records I'll always be in love with? Would I have been able to write this novel if I hadn't had all of those experiences as a musician in Atlanta? In all of those bands, as a solo performer? No, I definitely wouldn't have been able to write this novel, at least not the way that it turned out. And I think one of the reasons that it will (hopefully) speak to people is because my passion for music is coursing through the novel on every single page. At least... that's what I hope.

But as I am pressing the pause button on this aspect of my life, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you to all of those people who have played music with me over the last 10 years. Thank you to everyone who has come to see any of my shows, to anyone who ever listened to my albums, to anyone who ever watched my videos on YouTube or listened to my music on iTunes or Spotify or Last FM, to anyone who ever played my CD in a bar or a coffee shop, to anyone who ever put my music in a film, to anyone who ever booked me at a gig, to anyone who ever invited me to a jam party, to other musicians who played shows with me and inspired me with their music, to the bloggers who were nice and the bloggers who weren't, to the critics, to the pretentious indie snobs, to the hipsters, to the real music lovers, to the people who just learned how to play guitar to get laid, to the techno geeks, to the rock n' rollers, to the angry metalheads, to the really nice metalheads, to the Christian rockers, to the country folk songwriters, to the experimental noisemakers, to the college and internet radio stations, to all of you. 

My artistic process - the 30 Day Poetry Challenge 


I’ve been in a bit of a “waiting for something to happen” phase lately, mainly because of my novel. I just finished another round of revisions, and I am waiting for responses from literary agents--some of which are actually reading my full manuscript. I wanted to wait until I got feedback from them/the second round of beta readers before I started on more revisions so I'm not actively working on a larger writing project at the moment. 

I’ve also learned that I think I really need to be involved in two projects at once: one writing project, and one artistic project that is collaborative in some way, like a band or a play. This is really how it’s always been, but I’ve realized how anti-social I get when I am just writing, and I don’t think that’s healthy. I need the inspiration from being around other artists. I need inspiration from just being around other people in general. Everyone is beautiful and everyone inspires me in some way.

I think this is one of the big reasons I did Godspell. I was really burnt out on the Atlanta music scene so I didn’t want to be in a band, and then my church just happened to be doing this musical that I loved. I had an amazing experience, and it has inspired me to do more theatre. I’ve actually even been going on auditions again. (Well, just one so far, but we’ll see how it goes.) Theatre is the perfect thing to do while I am in limbo with my novel. It gives me the opportunity to be artistic, creative, and collaborative, but it doesn’t take quite as much out of me as writing all of my “rage against the ex-boyfriend songs.” (And anyway, I’m really in a pretty positive place which means I haven’t even been writing many songs lately -- I guess I only write songs when I’m upset about something.)

Luckily, while I'm sort of in limbo with other artistic projects, the 30 Day Poetry Challenge on Facebook has started back up. It was started by a few of my fellow grad students from the University of New Orleans (all poetry majors), and this is the third year. To celebrate National Poetry Month (which is of course April), the idea is to write a poem every day based on prompts posted on the Facebook page. Poets are encouraged to post their poems on their own Facebook pages or the 30 Day Poetry Challenge page, but it’s not required. I have participated in this the past two years, but I never got through all 30 days. (A poem I wrote is actually even appearing in an Anthology of the first two years of poems.) So far, we’re on day 9, and I have written a poem every single day. I’m hoping I actually get to Day 30 this year. (And I'll be sure to post the favorite poems I've written in the challenge this year here on the website when the month is over so stay tuned for that.)

Not every poem every day is going to be golden, but that’s not really the point. I love exercises and challenges like this. It reminds me a little of the writing marathons I used to do. In those, you get prompts and you HAVE to write for 5, 10, 20, or even 30 minute intervals. The point is just to write. You might not get anything usable out of the whole day, but you will exercise your writing muscles. And sometimes you have to write 18 pages to get to one really great sentence. But it’s all worth it, because in the end it’s not really even about the sentence. It’s about the process. And that’s how I feel about the 30 Day Poetry Challenge. It’s a challenge in the truest sense of the word. It is forcing me to step outside of my normal writing habits by making me do things I wouldn’t normally do. 

The most important part of writing (or any art form really) is just to do it. If you want to be a writer, write every day, even if it’s just two pages in your journal about how you stubbed your toe. Who knows? The emotion from that might lead to a poem or a short story. You never know where you will end up if you don’t start somewhere. Put the pen to the paper. Type on your keyboard. Write anything. Don’t care if it’s good or if people will enjoy it. Write for yourself. You can always edit and revise later if you want to make something more structured. Just get it down on the page. That is the best writing advice I’ve ever been given, and I think that is what sets those who want to write apart from those people who have writing inside of their blood.

Click here to purchase Ready For Consumption: An Anthology of Poems from the 30 Day Poetry Challenge

Confession: I respect Stephenie Meyer 

This is a picture of me holding an apple in front of the Forks sign when my friend Lauryn and I stopped in this town on our way to the Hoh Rainforest. I thought it was appropriate for this post.

I've been completely engrossed in the world of young adult fiction lately, working on my novel. I started describing my novel as Twilight meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it occured to me that that was actually pretty accurate. I felt like making a blog post about Twilight.

Confession time. I like Twilight, and I respect Stephenie Meyer.

Okay. Before you start disowning me (I'm looking at you literary snob friends), let me explain. First of all, when a close friend of mine gave me the first Twilight book to read, I knew nothing about it. It so happened that I was going through a really depressing and challenging breakup, and when I started reading, I was so wrapped up in the novel that I didn't think about my personal life. It was a complete escape for me. Being a huge fan of the Pacific Northwest, I could easily lose myself in a fantasy that had the magical forests of Washington as its backdrop. I felt this way as I read the rest of the series, too. I wanted to know what happened. I was engrossed in the plot. This is one reason I love stories. They can provide a complete escape from reality.

Alright, I'll admit that the whole series does have serious problems from a feminist point of view. Bella is not a very strong female character. She has no aspirations of her own, really, and her entire world revolves around these men, etc. etc. And yes, it is also true that the series has issues from a literary standpoint, especially if you break down the actual structure of the book or if you start dissecting it. And sure, the whole "Jacob imprinting on the baby" thing still creeps me out, and I have issues with some of the religious messages that come across. Yes, I also think these novels may send a negative message to young girls about co-dependency. These are all true things and why most people dislike the series. 

The reason I respect Stephenie Meyer is that she created a story that she loved, a story she was passionate about, characters she obviously loved, and an entire world that millions of others wanted to escape into. Any true literary fan has to respect that much at least. There are a lot of younger people (mostly girls) who may have gotten into reading in general because of Twilight, and that is an amazing thing. And I don't think she consciously set out to be overly religious or anti-feminist or anything else. I think she just wrote a story that she fell in love with, and all of those other things subconsciously came through because of who she is and the things that she believes. And that is why I respect her. 

Spending two and a half years in classes with some pretentious students who were ALWAYS trying to impress everyone else with how witty or intelligent they could be in their writing, it was so refreshing to go back and re-read Twilight. Here is a book that a woman wrote simply for the sheer joy of storytelling, and that is definitely evident when you read it. She didn't care what people thought about it. She didn't care about all of these "literary rules." She just wanted to write a story about these characters she had a dream about and thought were interesting. 

Also, I am sick of negativity and criticism in general. Just let people like what they like. If Twilight makes someone happy, why is that a bad thing? And I think Twilight fans get more hate than usual because it is mostly females in the fandom. Other books/movies/TV shows that are predominately enjoyed by males are not criticized nearly as much, though they may be just as "low brow." 

So I was trying to capture everything I loved about the experiece of first reading Twilight--before I analyzed it from a literary standpoint and was simply engrossed in the plot--when I wrote my novel. I just wanted to write a story that was important to me. I just wanted to write a story about characters I had grown to fall in love with. And hopefully, other people will enjoy it the way I have. And maybe someday it will give someone else a much-needed escape from a bad breakup. And that's all I ever really want with my art anyway. 

Finishing my MFA, rehearsing for Godspell, finishing my young adult novel 

I thought I'd update a little blog to tell you guys what's going on with my artistic projects! 

As most of you know, I graduated with my MFA in Creative Writing in December. (Yay!) My thesis play was The Snow Globe, a children's fantasy play about a boy who's inside of a snow globe. I also have a (very different!) romantic comedy one act called Two Lesbians Stuck Inside of a Closet. It's funny. I spent all of this time in grad school working on these plays, and yet, I haven't done much to get them on stage this whole time. Now that grad school is over, I'm going to make more of an effort to get my plays out there. I'm hoping to self-produce Two Lesbians Stuck Inside of a Closet at some point this year. We'll see!

Also, I'm doing a MUSICAL! I haven't done a traditional musical like this in probably 9 years. (I don't think Hedwig counts--that's more of a rock show!) I'm going to be in Godspell at Unity North Atlanta March 28-30, and I'm really excited about it. I did Godspell ten years ago (wow, I feel old) with Cobb Childrens Theatre my senior year in high school, and I really love this show. It's also great to be involved with a production at Unity in particular, which is one of my favorite places to be. Speaking of, I'm finally becoming a member of Unity North on February 24th. I've been going there off and on for like 7 years and I'm just now becoming a member! I love Unity though because I feel like they really honor everyone's idividual spiritual path, and I'm excited to "make it official." Haha

I haven't been very active with music lately at all. The last show I played was in August. I have a show on the horizon, though, at Drunken Unicorn in April. So I will keep you posted about that. I'm also hoping to start recording YouTube covers again soon. I have a bunch of "happy songs that I've made depressing." Haha. I call it Morrissey-izing a song. 

Some of my songs have been added to the EAV roster, though, so that's exciting! EAV is East Atlanta Village radio, the new online radio station from some of the Dave FM people. Check it out here!

The reason I haven't been very active with music is because I have been working on a young adult novel called The Muses. I just finished the first complete draft, and I've bene revising. The novel is basically a spin-off of my play, Painted, featuring Vincent and Izabella, the Muses from Painted. Here's the summary:

16-year-old musician, Sylvia Baker, has always been able to see Muses—mysterious beings who give artists inspiration—though they seem to be invisible to everyone else. After a near suicide attempt, Sylvia manages to climb out of the darkness of her mind by exploring her own musical abilities with the help of Travis, inspirational guitarist and classmate, and Vincent, the alluring British Muse who becomes Sylvia’s obsession. As she travels further into the world of these immortal beings that influence art, she finds herself in the middle of an epic battle between the modern Earthly Muses and the Original Greek Muses—some of which want her life.  

I've been sending out queries to literary agents as I revise, and I'm hopeful. Even if I don't get it published in the traditional way, I will definitely be self-publishing. So either way, it will be out there for people to read soon enough. :)

On top of everything else, I've been moving to a little apartment off of the Marietta Square. Because I apparently wasn't hanging out at Cool Beans or MacCrackens enough. Haha.