December 23, 2011

Looking Back, Ahead

I’m not someone who revels in accomplishments. I allow a moment to recognize what I’ve done, then keep moving forward. I’ve done a lot this year. Let’s start from the most important.

1. Walking away from the Broken Speech Poetry Slam

This is the most important thing I did in 2011 as a writer and as a person. I did the slam for ten years and three months. Not a lot of people can say they ran a show for ten years, or five years, or even a year but I get to say that I did this and it was needed at the time for Orlando’s literary health. There were several influencing factors for finally ending it: my divorce, the 2010 team flopping really badly after a great run to semis in 2009, attendance, poets not really pushing themselves to be great any more, going to my first AWP conference. The final Grand Slam will be a show many will speak of for years to come, including the return of my ex-wife to host and three amazing rounds where everyone pulled out all the stops because they knew this was the end of something special. Winning the final Grand Slam was a huge surprise. Being on that stage one last time to say goodbye was hard but it had to be done. It was a good ten years. There are plenty of poetry nights now and that’s great and bad at the same time because poets from one night don’t migrate over to other nights and that’s why I…

2. Started There Will Be Words

AWP gave me a lot of good ideas. There Will Be Words was one of them. I came up with the idea while heading back from the conference with my conference buddy. Burrow Press came up with some additional ideas to mine when I pitched it to them and the results have been spectacular. Eight great shows, a combined show with Quickies! in Chicago this March during AWP 2012, and Orlando has a prominent showcase for prose instead of poetry. This confirms what I always knew about Orlando: if you build a good show, people who give a shit will come. I look forward to seeing this show pass my personal record of running a show for ten years and three months.

3. Bringing Literary Death Match to Orlando

AWP helped me meet the creator of Literary Death Match, which motivated me to work with Burrow Press to bring this show to Orlando and thanks to them, they did. So far, there’s been two great LDMs with the promise of more LDMs in Orlando. This is another step in the right direction for Orlando’s literary health.

4. Going to AWP

This was my first year in the conference after going to the National Poetry Slam for several years. I like AWP so much better on many levels (more talented writers at AWP than at Nationals for one). It allowed me to meet people I’ve only dealt with through e-mail, read in front of new audiences. AWP is where I got to see my first Literary Death Match and meet some talented local grad students that also helped get There Will Be Words started. I can’t wait to go in March 2012.

5. Wrote my first novella

When I asked HOUSEFIRE to put me down for their novella challenge, I had no idea what to expect. The longest story I wrote up to that point was “Retrieval“. Bodies Made of Smoke showed me that I could write longer forms of fiction, so much so that I’ve written two other novellas this year, including the latest one going out in installments through The Squawk Back. I might have finally built the muscle to go for a full novel in 2012. We’ll see.

6. Wrote non-fiction

I finally realized that I have experienced things that are interesting and worth writing about, like how my mom taught me how to put on a condom, how my mom is a bit of a Darwinist when it came to letting me pick my clothing, how much of a slut I have been, and spending 23 hours in New York City just to see The Cure. I know I have a lot more in me and I know I’ll do more interesting/crazy shit to write about.

7. Wrote poems not addressed to a specific woman

I’ve been a bit of a slut with poems since separating from my wife and I’ve done things I said I wouldn’t do, like writing a poem for someone just as an opening gambit, perhaps even getting it published so I get laid that much better. I refrained from writing poems about the women I was in a relationship with because I noticed a pattern of poems ruining relationships. One I did a good job with. The other, not so much (as you can read here and here). After the break up with my previous girlfriend, I listened to The Afghan Whigs album Gentlemen a lot, and I realized I identified with it so much I had to write poem for song interpretations from my own perspective. I found it Ampersand Books will publish it in 2012 under their Bloody Fine Chapbooks imprint. I did another project like that for Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism, which will come out in mid-2012 from Artistically Declined Press. I’ve realized that I can’t keep writing poems as opening gambits or as romantic gestures. I’ll still write poems, just not about women I’m interested in or dating or even broken up with.

8. Made it to the Write Bloody shortlist

This was a shocker. I’ve not been a National Poetry Slam semi-finalist or finalist or champion or any kind of champion in slam so when I saw my name on the Write Bloody shortlist, I was stunned. I wasn’t one of the cool kids in slam so the fact I made it that far just based on talent was validating. This kickstarted the final edit I needed to make to We Will Live Like Our Ghosts Will Live, which though Write Bloody passed on it, YesYes Books will put it out in 2013. I am going to try again in 2012 with something. We’ll see how it goes.

Honorable Mentions

2011 has been pretty good to me. Keep your tarps on, kids. I’m still gonna make a splash in 2012.

Have a good holiday.

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Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. […] about the personal stuff because the personal intersects with the writing. A couple of posts ago, I talked about my writing accomplishments. Part of everything that has happened wouldn’t have been possible with the personal […]

    Reply

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About J. Bradley

J. Bradley's is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals including decomP, Hobart, and Prairie Schooner. He was the Interviews Editor of PANK, the Flash Fiction Editor of NAP, and the Web Editor of Monkeybicycle. He is the author of the poetry collection Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), the novella Bodies Made of Smoke (HOUSEFIRE, 2012), and the graphic poetry collection The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014), illustrated by Adam Scott Mazer. He is the curator of the Central Florida reading series There Will Be Words and lives at iheartfailure.net.

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