Author Interview–My First!

Last July my poem “Gods” appeared in [PANK], a magazine I’d been trying to get in for a long time. I was absolutely thrilled when they accepted it. Recently they interviewed me for their blog and they just posted it yesterday so I thought I would share. Click here to read it: Author Interview

Advertisements

September Update

Ahoy.

I never update this blog because I’m too busy updating the Umeboshi Babies and Red Sky blogs! However, it is nice to check in here, check in with myself, and just kind of take inventory of my life.

Poetry
My work has sort of fallen to the wayside since I graduated in May. I have work to do on my thesis. I know what that work is. I need to make time to do it. That way I can send it out to more contests. I did write one new poem this summer though and that felt really good. It was for an art show hosted by Jeremy Hight–photos and text from various writers. Called LA Exchange. It was really cool and I am glad it forced me to write something new!! I need more reasons to do that because I am bad on my own.

Doula-ing
Was slow-going at first but now I am working with clients, interviewing with more clients and the ball is rolling with my doula career. I am learning a lot and enjoying it. It’s hard but good work. I love babies.

Red Sky
Red Sky is booming. Over 100 submissions for issue 3. Lots of good stuff happening there.

Teaching
Teaching so many classes this year. Tuesdays I teach Playwriting for high school students at a really small, really awesome school. Thursdays I teach an after school class for K-2nd grade called Fairy Garden–we make fairy arts and crafts projects, learn fairy songs, fairy dances, read fairy stores. Sunday I teach progressive, secular Jewish sunday school at a place called Sholem. That’s a really cool job because I get to incorporate a lot of different artistic practices into the teaching. This week, being the sunday before Yom Kippur, I’m having the kids draw portraits of their deceased friends/relatives/pets and write name acrostic elegy poems to accompany them. I’m hoping the process will go well. I figure acrostics are a manageable form for 2nd/3rd graders. It’s also important, I think, for children to be allowed to express their feelings about death. Some time ago a friend of mine posted a wonderful video on Facebook of a teacher in Japan who teaches his class in the most loving, beautiful way. He is someone all teachers should learn from. In the video a child is upset and it is revealed that their grandparent died. Suddenly other students in the class become emotional and the teacher encourages them to share their stories of relatives passing. It is a beautiful moment for teaching, for compassion, for empathy. I don’t know if anything profound will happen in my class tomorrow, but I hope the kids feel comfortable expressing their emotions on the page or in discussion.

I hope all of these things can continue to go well and that I can ultimately make enough money doing these things that I care deeply about.

My Latest Endeavor

As you all may know, in addition to being a poet, I’m also a postpartum doula for Birthwell LA and my own company, Umeboshi Babies~Naturally-Minded Postpartum Doula Services, and the founder/editor of Red Sky: A Literary Journal. I have newly created a site for my newest endeavor: Sacred Poetics Los Angeles.

What are sacred poetics? They are the words we create to explore our lives, our dreams, and our inner journeys. They manifest on the page as a narrative, a brief image, a moment, a meditation. Many people find their way to these manifestations through journaling. However, through compassionate dialogue and sharing, we can hone and develop this work into something more formed. We gather together in the safety of a group, we make the space sacred, and we support each other in assembling a collection of words. At the end of the workshop series, we put this collection into book form. Beautiful papers and adornments hold our one-of-a-kind book of sacred poetics.

I hope you will check out the site, and if you live in LA, enroll in a workshop!

Love,

Zoe

PANK Excitement!

Very, very, very excited today because the July issue of [PANK] came out today and it includes my poem, “Gods.” I am extra excited because [PANK] is a magazine I genuinely love reading. They choose a lot of writers I respect. So it feels huge to be included among such great work. It took some time to get into [PANK] but I couldn’t be happier that it finally happened!

Here is the link to my poem: “Gods” by Zoe Etkin

Thanks for reading!

Summer Updates

Hello world,

It’s been a while since I’ve written on here. I’ve been very busy. I finished school at CalArts, did all those readings, finished up my thesis and moved to LA from Valencia. Now I’m finally working and being productive. I have a day job gig at Creative Space Summer Camp as the Acting Specialist–so I get to use my long-since-retired theatre knowledge and my writing skills to help the kids create little skits for the end of camp. The kids are ages 5-12 so they’re pretty cute and have funny ideas. I’m also about to finally have my first official client as a postpartum doula. She’s due in about a week and a half! I can’t wait. I’ve also been really lucky to find a birth company to be a part of. I now am a postpartum doula (though I have to wait to get a Birthwell client til camp ends because I won’t have time–sadly) and blogger/office intern for Birthwell Los Angeles. It’s an awesome organization run by a midwife. So far working with them has been awesome. I love hanging out up in Topanga, CA, where she lives/works. So beautiful. It’s also great because I get to use my writing skills. I finally feel like I’ve found the right profession for me. I’m also interviewing at a university to teach writing comp–which would be a great supplemental source of income between doula gigs. 

It’s late, I should sleep.

Here is a link to my Birthwell blog post: Fearless Dads, Fearless Homebirth

The Human Centipede and Other Horrors (Monstrous Texts and Publishing Multi- or Un- Genre Work)

This semester I am taking a class called Conjurations, taught by professor and writer Tisa Bryant. It’s a really interesting class because we don’t workshop, we produce work in a lab setting. I honestly wish we had this type of class each semester–as a requirement–because I’ve produced the work I needed to round out my thesis collection. The pieces I’ve written also bring my collection into different, deeper realms than before. We do in class writing, as well as take home assignments. Tisa even brought in a hypnotist/poet to do a hypnotism writing experiment that yielded a poem for me after some editing.

More recently though, we read Bhanu Kapil’s Incubation: A Space For Monsters, which is a beautiful, grotesque book that explores issues of identity, cyborgs, monstrosity, the body, hitchhiking, spectatorship and soooo much more. After reading this book, we were asked to create our own monstrous text, following a bit of Bhanu’s form, but with our own monster and our own idea of the monstrous. My first version of the exercise used snippets of her words, as per the assignment, but I now have a stripped version that is truly me. At first I had a hard time starting the piece. I mean, I certainly feel involved with my own dark side, but what would embody it? What would be my monster?

Then in class Tisa reiterated the hitchhiking aspect of Bhanu’s book. Ah! Psychic hitchhikers, I thought, and was immediately brought back to a little over a year ago when I first encountered the horror that is the film The Human Centipede. I will absolutely NOT go into any details of the film other than the centipede is comprised of three bodies sewn together. I have not seen the film, hearing and reading about it, and seeing some images, were enough to infect my brain in a terrible way. I couldn’t get their image out of my head that night and was only able to sleep when I was just too exhausted not to. I felt terrified, and thankful that my mom was coming to visit the next day so I wouldn’t have to sleep alone. I felt infested by the film, enraged by the filmmaker, and infected with a kind of lunacy I think might be similar to how psychotic people feel. I really felt like I was going crazy. After some days the images would flash less into my mind’s eye, but I’d still get fixated on them occasionally–at quiet moments: the shower, before sleep. I ended up going to my therapist in Santa Fe. He told me I had picked up a psychic hitchhiker, a mind virus. He helped me to rid myself of it and though I was still shaky for a while, I am now much much more at peace.

Back to Conjurations… so I had that moment where I put two and two together. I would write about the human centipede–write it as a character, as my monster. In writing it, I think I came to terms with it even more. What emerged is an autobiographically inspired *story.* And here’s where my publishing issues come into play. The piece is in numbered sections, like poems can be, but is in prose. Still, prose that sounds like me. But it’s not fiction exactly because it is somewhat *true* in the sense that maybe it is nonfiction. But it’s also surreal and imagined. I’d like to publish this piece. I sent it to 5 journals today. Since I am having trouble putting the piece into a genre, I looked for journals that are open to “experimental” or non-genre-defined work. I hope one of them will like the piece enough to publish it.

Genre pinning is never a problem for me these days. I write poems that look like poems. I submit them as poems. Pretty easy. I mean I still have to know what journals will like my approach to poetry, but at least I know that it goes in the poetry submission box. This time, even the more experimental journals generally (not always) had two categories or three to submit your piece as.

This submission conundrum brings me to this: my text successfully became what was intended by the assignment. It became a monster: unruly, dark. So in a way, even though I spent a really long time finding potential homes for it, I think the processes of realizing where it exists in terms of genre affirmed the monstrosity of my monstrous text.

And with that, I’ll leave you all for the evening, my many limbs trailing behind me.

Small Victories (on being persistent)

Got an email this evening from [PANK], a lit journal I’ve been submitting to for a while. I received three encouraging rejections from them, asking me to send more work in the future. I tried again recently and viola! my poem “Gods” will be featured in the July issue! When people tell you to send more work, you really should. They wouldn’t say it if they didn’t think your work was good. Also, refer to, or address your next submission to the last person who contacted you at the journal. That way they see that you are thoughtful about your resubmission process.

Anyway, just wanted to share my news! 

First Book Prizes

Ugh! Back from Spring Break and feeling very done with school… despite the 6 weeks until graduation. Basically my thesis is *done.* I mean, it just feels very done. The writing of it. I think Mady really helped me organize it. Now I can just go on revising it until the end of time. However, I would like to get it published as soon as possible. I don’t know how much of a real chance I have at this point, but I am starting the process of submitting to first book contests. 

Just submitted first to the Four Way Books first book contest.

Upcoming contests to submit to include Tupelo Press and the Agnes Lynch Sarret Prize, among many others. There are some to submit to this spring, then the rest in the fall. I truly, truly, hope one of these contests will decide to publish my book. 

So much to do before graduation. My thesis reading is coming up in May. I am moving in with Max. Lots to do. Lots to do.

On another note, I had a really great final interview with Teach For America, so hopefully they will accept me to teach in the fall. The final interview was interesting. I did it in Memphis because I happened to be visiting there already for Spring Break. It was interesting because I was one of 3 older people there. And I’m obviously not old, but by older I mean not still in undergrad. I felt like I was more qualified than the undergrad kids. Though they all did well too, I felt like I was most comfortable in my teaching demonstration. The private interview was really comfortable too. 

Just found out I didn’t get free admission to the Juniper Summer Writing Institute at UMass Amherst this summer. I am very happy with the other CalArts person they chose though because her writing is amazing. I could still go but I have to pay and I just don’t think with moving and all that I’ll have the money to go. 😦

Okay, I got to run.