Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Month of Observations, July 2016: Part 10

The last two weeks have been confusing. Human behavior is confusing. It's why we need art and meditation, poetry and stories. I'll just dive right in today and see where this goes.

  • Serrano peppers are hotter than they look. Take note.
  • Trends move so fast now that you can wait pretty much anything out without much effort.
  • Patience is not passivity.
  • Orange is the New Black is a great show (I really didn't think it would be).
  • People buy more guns when there are shootings, and more guns mean more shootings. That's math. 
  • Pokemon Go is all the craze, and a million copycat apps will be there to claim similar appeal when it fizzles (it's a good idea, and I suppose this is more of a prediction than an observation).
  • When your ceiling caves in on your couch, you can see it as a horrible thing or an opportunity to get a cuter couch (see: cute red couch).
  • Going home is unpredictable. I spent ten minutes looking around, trying to show my husband the way to a park that had been replaced with condos over a year ago.
  • Serrano peppers are burning my lips right now. Excuse me...
Check out my new essay in Black Fox Mag about community and writing. And writing communities.

Creativity Prompt: Write about an unlikely craze. It can be something as simple as gold pants or as complex as a new doctrine that has taken hold of the collective psyche.   

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Month of Observations: Part 9

As the world seems caught in a maelstrom of violence, I've been spending as much time as possible at the gym or park, listening to Thich Nhat Hanh's Peace Is Every Step and other similar books. In other words, I've been trying to find my center. Or hold on to it. This pervasive sadness and anger can seem too much to handle some days. I know that I'm not the only person who feels this way.

One way I've found that helps is by being in nature. The heat in Texas sometimes intervenes, but I get out there when the sun is taking a break. It doesn't bring full balance, but it helps. Speaking of nature, I have one new piece out entitled OUR SKY, THE OCEAN (written a while ago). It's based on a true story. Loosely. And it's categorized as YA fiction here. If you read it, let me know what you think.

So. In interest of maintaining some consistency in this blog, here are a few observations I have for the last month:
  • Violence invites more violence, which only leads to further violence. We are NOT all the stars of our own action movies, as some will have us believe. 
  • Getting "revenge" on animals is about as productive as getting revenge on the weather. 
  • Many of the people of San Antonio are gracious and compassionate, even in the face of pure hatred. 
  • Conversely, the service at TxDPS and DMV sites can be a litmus test for calm and tolerance.
  • When it comes to long-form writing, starting small is the way to reach the finish line (the paragraph-long goal beats the few-page goal and usually results in just as much writing)
  • Sushi is fun to make and so incredibly cheap. 
  • According to this article in Electric Lit, the top earners in writing can bring in more than I expected (and less than I made as a bagger at an Ohio grocer): https://electricliterature.com/what-writers-earn-money-c109bfb04d3d#.h3hwh6fq7
  • Piggybacking on that last one, it often seems that the more noble the profession, the less one is paid, but I think this will have to change because do-gooders/teachers/social workers know how to make shit happen with few resources and no time. Watch out! 
  • Varying a diet is better than eating the same thing every day. (Obvious one, but I need to remind myself.)
  • Reading YA is surprisingly gratifying as an adult. (Just finished Pigman and Made You Up - Recommend both.)
  • Taking one's own advice can seem damn-near impossible sometimes.
  • I could discuss The Lobster for days on end and get nowhere, so don't try to discuss it with me. 
  • Small acts of kindness, even as small as a smile, can stick with others. Kindness is just as contagious as violence. 
Have a peaceful week.

Prompt: Stop watching the news for a full day, then free-write. Free-write again after a day you've been following all the news (internet or TV).

xo Jen

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Reflections from Prague: 2016

At the airport on the way home:
Prague Castle

“Would you like anything else? Beer?”
“How about a beer?”
“No thanks.”
Sighs. “200 CZK.” Looks to husband. “Beer?”
So ended our trip to Prague. I’ll miss the city so much it hurts, and I don’t even drink beer. Meanwhile, I now know more than I ever thought I would about the four-ingredient intoxicant that was once made of a mere three ingredients (yeast being the late-arriver). I know that those in the Czech Republic drink more beer per capita than anywhere else in the world (though this isn’t tinkered with craft brews made for potency alone). I know that most restaurants in Prague serve beer two ways: light or dark, and in two sizes: big or bigger. Again, I don’t drink beer, but I have a new appreciation for its rich history thanks to the beer museum.
Me at the John Lennon wall, post-goulash
If you're considering going to Prague and you happened upon this blog, do it! Do it now! Do it for the following reasons: the clothes, the odd fascination with Culture Club, the thirty-year old music videos constantly playing, the Powder Tower, the Roman bathhouse style of fitness clubs in the basements of hotels, the beer, the architecture, the artisans on the Charles Bridge, the view from the Astronomical Clock, Slav Island, the history, the food (no diets allowed, unless you're like seven feet tall), the chocolate museum, the black light theaters (I only made it to intermission, but the experience is burned into my brain), the puppets, Kafka everything, the goulash, the portions, the conversion rates, the conversations, the castles, the bridges, the views, the John Lennon Wall, and the walking. I clocked about 25K steps a day (the one part of my phone that worked in Prague was my pedometer app) and I willfully ignored the rest of the world as I drank this city in. I suggest you do the same if you can, if only for a few days.
Other suggestions, more on the practical side: bring good walking shoes; have your hotel call your car; try Airbnb (I have a specific recommendation if you'd like, just drop me a note); try to get off the beaten path a little; the best words to know are: ano, ne, prosím, and and děkuji (yes, no, please/check, and thank you); your money can go far, but the redundancy of the shops increases odds of impulsive purchases (and they can add up); eat goulash (have I mentioned this one already?); enjoy the other tourists as they're part of the scene; go to the top of the Astronomical Clock - it is worth it; and the tours are fine but you can also explore the city on your own. It's very easy to get around.

As a writer, my favorite part of the whole experience was just people watching. Prague attracts tourists from all over the world. In fact, there were very few Americans (a break from American politics!). Whether you can travel or not, other lands make for great settings for fiction, so...

Creativity Prompt: Research or travel to a place you've never been. Find an outdoor place to sit and people watch. People watch for at least twenty minutes before you even pick up a pen or open a computer. Then go at it. Write/draw/create for as long as you'd like.

Till next month, folks! Let us carry on with this craziness called life. In the meantime, please check out my new fiction in Sequestrum, "The Glass City."

Monday, April 11, 2016

A [Month] of Observations, April 2016: Part 8

So here I am posting after a few extra weeks away. I realize how much I miss blogging! I miss you!!

I recently got back from Los Angeles, where I stayed with a good friend and commuted to AWP, a massive writing conference, to meet other Writers in Communities program directors as well as thirteen thousand or so writers who share my love of writing in one way or another.

I probably interacted with about sixty of those thirteen thousand, but it was enough to put my introverted brain on sensory overload. So, after a reading, a signing, and a few amazing panels, I returned to hike at Sherman Oaks then hang out with my friend and try to debrief as we ate Cheerios and listened to her pet pig snore (they can really snore).

At the Black Fox Literary Magazine Table. Thanks, Black Fox!!

Ordering sweet potato fries with my new friend
Sara Fitzpatrick Comito and my long-time (mid/long-time) friend, Isie.

It was fabulous. I enjoyed LA a lot. As such, I came back with some new observations about life. So, alas, here's Part 8:
  • Tarot card readers will not always tell you what you want to hear.
  • Food is fantastic in LA.
  • Reading can be more dramatic when you need to make a quick exit after.
  • Uber works in a pinch.
  • Writing when overwhelmed is not a good idea (journaling for personal use only is).
  • Chicago has great taste in short stories (see: recent acceptances in Chicago Tribune and Chicago Quarterly Review).
  • I am not (you are not) who I know (who you know), but it's good to know good people nonetheless.
  • I need to revisit the memory palace - I'm horrible with names. And faces. Geesh.
  • Walking is medicine.
  • Comparisons are usually destructive. Then again, they also motivate. Use with care.
  • Cheerios are really great with banana and a pinch of sugar.
  • Starbucks employees are far nicer in LA than they are in San Antonio.
  • Acting is a fabulous ambition. Odds smodds. Go for it!
  • Writing: Same!
  • If you tell someone they're not going to like a thing, there's a good chance they won't like the thing. Contrarians are rare, precious creatures.
  • This list is getting too long.

Three new story links this go-round:
"Help Wanted in the Midwest: On the Bus Line" at Cosmonauts Ave. Basically my memoir in 500 words
"War Muse" at Cheap Pop - a dystopic presidential story
"Gather the Ingredients" at Chicago Tribune's Printers Row (ask me for a link)

Monthly prompt:
Use yourself as a character. Only reverse everything. If you're shy, make your character gregarious and assertive; if you're skinny, give your character more volume; if you're afraid of spiders, give your character a pet spider. Just write like that for 20 minutes. It'll be fun.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Living Museum

I'm thrilled to debut "The Living Museum" in Cleaver Magazine. The piece is odd. Fair warning. I wrote this story as part of a compilation I'm putting together on natural and unnatural disasters. I've done a lot of research, then thrown all research out the window to delve into a totally fictional world. Fun stuff.

Image credit: amira_a on Flickr
Story link: http://www.cleavermagazine.com/the-living-museum-by-jen-knox/

If you're a writer or artist, I recommend that as a prompt. Do a lot of research on something, then write something from the center of knowledge that is 100% fiction, that breaks all the rules and blends the absurd, the fun, the crazy, with what you choose to include from what you've learned. It can be a lot of fun.

Have a beautiful week! xo Jen

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Complete creative work

One of my writing coach students sent me a note today that he got his first publication. I'm so excited for him, and I wanted to piggyback on this success by posting a lecture. Some writing coach notes.... at Fiction Southeast. Read up!

Writing Prompt: Finish that draft!

xo Jen

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New Story Link

"The Shape of Loss" is up at Change Seven Magazine. Gratitude to Sheryl Monks and Antonios Maltezos.
Click to Read