emily stoddard Posts

DeskHello friends & kindred spirits –

It’s been a full year, culminating with a very productive few months. A new adventure has been kicking around my heart for a long time and began to take its true shape this year. It’s the kind of adventure that blends my personal passions, my professional journey, and my dreams for the kind of space I’d like to hold with others in the world. And today it’s ready for some sharing.

With all of the customary butterflies, I’d like to share: I’m on the verge of launching a writing studio. It will be based in West Michigan, where I replanted after a couple years in San Francisco, and it will support people here and beyond.

It will be an open, energizing space for people who are curious about what they can discover through writing. A space for people to say yes to their voice, yes to the blank page, and yes to the possibility of what writing holds for them. A space where big creative risks will be greeted with plenty of compassionate support. This goes for both creative writing and brand/professional writing… after many years of writing for clients, I have some new ideas for writing with them to bring their stories forward.

A big step in this journey happened this September, when I became a Certified Leader of the Amherst Writers & Artists Method. After taking a number of writing workshops over the years, I’ve found the Amherst method to be one of the most joyful and supportive around, for writing devotees and newcomers alike. Participating in the training was one of those thrilling “oh yeah, these are my people!” experiences. It’s an honor to join the Amherst Writers & Artists community now and lead others in writing together.

I have so much more to share, and soon. The reveal of the name and the website are on the way, but I just couldn’t hold on to the big idea any longer. If you’d like to be one of the first to hear of the studio’s arrival, please add your name to this list — I hope you’ll consider writing with me when the studio opens later this year!

[button url=”http://eepurl.com/bE6WCH” style=”small”]Add your name to learn when the writing studio launches![/button]

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poetry publications

“In times of darkness and direness, a good question can become a safety rope between you and your own sense of selfhood: A person who asks a question is not wholly undone by events. She is there to face them, to meet them. If you’re asking a question, you still believe in a future. And in times that are placid and easy, a good question is a preventive against sleepwalking, a way to keep present the awakening question that’s under all other questions: ‘What else, what more?'”

identity inner life

So excited to get this affirmation as I journey further into fiction land… Today I learned that I received an honorable mention in the recent Glimmer Train short story contest, meaning my story ranked in the top five percent of the 1000+ submissions they received. The full list of honorable mentions is available here. Very grateful for a boost of confidence to keep sending this story out until it finds a good home.

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I’m excited to share that the week began with an acceptance. Menacing Hedge has accepted six of my poems for its summer issue, expected this July. I’m so grateful for this vote of confidence in my work… having all six poems accepted and able to appear together is a special thrill that I did not expect. It means a lot to me that people will have the option of reading the poems together, as some in this set were written around the same time and in a kind of mutual exploration of each other.

And the batch includes the badass poem that I recently mentioned. It was the poem that I most wanted to see out in the world this year, and I feel like it’s found the ideal home. Feeling grateful, and looking forward to sharing the poems when they go live!

poetry publications

It’s funny how kicks from the past can arrive at the right moment. Lynn Melnick has written an excellent, close read of Diane Wakoski’s work in the Los Angeles Review of Books. As a former student of Diane’s, much of Melnick’s essay resonates with my experience of Diane, her poetry, and her “enduring badassery.” No one could make me think twice about a “lazy image” like she could.

The essay has shown up at a time when I’m noticing that my poetry has gone surfacey, lost touch with its raw parts, started to shy from honesty. (Curiously, this has overlapped with a severe sore throat, something that tends to happen when I’m squelching my voice. The body has a way of telling the truth, even if I won’t.)

So I especially appreciate the reminder about Diane’s use of personal mythology:

“Her assertion is that poets are never writing autobiography in the strict sense…but are creating a myth of self in which to tell their most personal stories.”

I’ve been thinking about exposure and sharing lately. About how the speaker shows up in writing… mostly how that damn word “I” has become a vacuum of attention in my poems. (Who is the “I” anyway? Why is she standing in the doorway, just in front of the guts of the poem?) I’ve been attempting to write “I” out of my poetry entirely, until it feels like it’s earning its keep.

I’ve also been struggling with how our online lives are not really our art, although they are full of expression. There are days when Twitter feels like a bad networking event of people vying to leave an impression. So many “think pieces” and blog posts that are less about making something new and more about people making an artifact of themselves. I don’t say this to attempt to be judge and jury… rather, I think it makes the concept of personal mythology — and how Diane applies it — all the more pertinent today.

With personal mythology, there’s still truth in the mix. There’s still a raw voice; the presence of a speaker, an orchestration of characters. It’s an artful construction that works like story, rather than merely aiming to leave an impression or persuade the reader (like so much of our online narratives). In my view, truth-telling is not about persuasion… and maybe that’s the distinction I’m hunting for in all of this. Honest art is voice laid bare, without apology.

Despite what myth-making entails, I don’t find an artificial “I” in the doorway, especially in Diane’s approach. The truth might be dressed as George Washington, the motorcycle betrayer, or an imagined twin… but the “I” itself is not a managed impression that keeps us from seeing the characters/mythology directly.

To make this more plain: I wrote line after line about family (and still do). The “I” was (and still is) standing in the way of those poems like a nervous gatekeeper. It says: “You can see this story, but please put these sunglasses on first, and listen as I explain what you’re about to witness.”

Then I learned about Diane’s use of George Washington as a stand-in for a father. Honestly, I was a bit embarrassed that I had never attempted anything like this in my work. That same day, a poem fell out of me that was a truth I’d been rumbling over for a few years. There was no “I” in the poem. There was a trope, a mythology, and truth that I could feel — my ears grew hot when the words began to show up. It was my first taste of a badass poem.

As I try to write my way to the next one, I’m grateful to be reminded of Diane’s mythology and her exacting sense of what poetry can and should do. And I’m grateful to Lynn Melnick for her suggestion that Diane should be on more poetry reading lists… I know I’ll be revisiting her poems with fresh eyes over the coming days.

poetry reading writing

“There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

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