What I’ve learned about life from Beat Saber

Be happy where you are. I’ve said it before. What I haven’t said is I learned at least a portion of what I now know about being happy in the moment from my VR headset.

Beat Saber. It’s a game where you have to slice up energy blocks that are flying toward you in time to music. If you’re like me, you feel like each energy block that gets past you is a potential threat to your family, your home, your entire way of life. So you have a tendency to panic.

Panicking doesn’t help. And if you dwell on the energy block that gets past you, you’ll mess up on the ones still coming at you. And if you try to anticipate the ones that you can’t see yet, you are likely to miss the ones you can see.

You get it? Live in the moment. One energy block at a time. One enemy or obstacle or opportunity at a time. Beat the hell out of those and then move on. And if one gets past you, let it go.

In other news, Far & wee is getting some attention with its first five-star review on Amazon!

5 stars! Sweet and beautiful

“Michelle Garren-Flye, novelist, childrens’ book author, and 2021 Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, has put together an entire collection of Sonnets in Far & Wee, which, strung together, tell a story of one woman’s quest. Flye is searching, as we all are, for reasons that life’s roads twist the way they do, and it is during this search that we should look for inner peace. Like the old adage, ‘It’s not the destination but the journey,’ Far & Wee invites the reader into her heart and soul as the poet takes us on her personal journey. It is obvious that this stream-of-consciousness writing can be extremely effective, and, I would imagine, incredibly cathartic for the poet. I read the book in less than an hour, though I did go back and re-read bits and pieces, some out loud. To add to the power of this little book, please know that Flye wrote the book–AND created the illustrations–in 29 days. But even if it had taken her a year to put this together, I’d be impressed!”

I want. (TMI?)

I have a feeling this is gonna be one of those weird stream-of-consciousness posts that might actually be TMI but nobody’s probably gonna read all of it anyway, so what the hell? Caution to the wind, live in the moment, seize the day…

I’ve been thinking a lot about being happy where I am. It’s hard. I don’t want to be happy here because here is prosaic. I want poetry. I want flower paths and sea breezes and to dance among the stars.

I want. And I think it’s okay to want. I think it’s okay to work toward the things you want. But it’s also essential to appreciate the things in your life that are already good. They might be prosy instead of rosy, but they’re still cool.

That’s why I’m dancing more. Even if it’s in my bookstore and not in the night sky tripping through the stars. And when I walk my dog, I stop to take pictures of flowers along the way. They might not exactly line my path, my steps may not be softened by their petals, but they’re still beautiful. And when a breeze lifts my hair and cools my neck, I close my eyes and imagine I’m standing on the deck of a sailboat in the middle of the sea. Even if I’m mowing my lawn.

None of this means I don’t still want the things I want. I’m fifty-two years old and I haven’t yet achieved my dreams. Does that mean I won’t? Nope.

Maybe I’m just taking longer to get there so I can enjoy the journey.

A flower from my walk. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Poem: Adrift (Sonnet #15)

My heart is painful today, and I feel it is shared by so many others. But there’s also an apathy out there, convincing us that others’ blood is not ours. This is a mistake.

Adrift

Sonnet #15

By Michelle Garren-Flye

Safe on my boat of Belief, I will drift,

alone still, listening for your far song;

crimson sea all around—what caused this rift?

What action could create a flood so wrong?

Blood laps at the side of my little boat—

I work hard to avoid each splash and drip.

Something made this sea on which I now float;

An event so awful it caused hardship.

Is it right I ignore what I evade—

what doesn’t hit me will not hurt me—right?

My thoughts and prayers will come to the aid

of those visited by horrors each night.

In the end we are family in Pain

adrift on an ocean of bloody rain.

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Pink Hair vs. the Universe

Yesterday I found a pink hair in my sink. No, I don’t play with Strawberry Shortcake dolls. I do dye my hair pink, though.

So what’s the big deal about finding a pink hair in my sink?

I couldn’t figure that out, either, at first. But for some reason, it thrilled me. It slowly dawned on me. It’s not a white hair because I dyed it pink. I did that. I caused a change in my life.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve come to the very difficult conclusion that I do not control the universe. Stuff I am not okay with will happen and I will most likely have to deal with it and I won’t be able to make a significant change in it. But then there’s other stuff that happens and if I don’t like it, I can change it.

Like white/silver/grey hair. No matter what you call it, if you don’t like it, you can change it. I looked at that pink hair and it thrilled me because I can’t change what the universe and other people will do to me, but I can change what I do to myself. I can curl up in a corner and cry because the universe SUCKS and is beating the crap out of me (sometimes), or I can come out swinging. And that’s what that pink hair represents.

I can’t change the universe, but I can change the color of my hair. Look out, universe.

woman with pink hair
New author picture? lol

Which Wolf Do You Choose?

Fear and hope. One can easily defeat the other. It’s a matter of which wolf we choose to feed.

I’ve fed both in the past. Fear is a scavenging beast of a wolf. His ribs always show, regardless of how much you feed him. He’s always wanting more. More of your confidence, more of your dreams, more of your self. He brings nothing but doubt.

Hope is a mighty warrior when you feed her. She’ll slay Fear before he can eat your soul. She’ll encourage you to reach for those dreams, even when it seems there’s no way you’ll ever achieve them. She brings joy and life and love.

I am almost finished with my next poetry book Hypercreativity. During the course of putting it together, I realized that although I always want to choose to fill Hope’s bowl with kibble, I often dribble it into Fear’s. Because you have to consciously make a choice to feed Hope, but Fear is always there, waiting.

I made a conscious decision to finish my book with a healthy feeding for Hope. I’m pleased with that decision because my entire writing life is built on Hope. She needs to be strong.

Illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Poem: Hypercreativity by Michelle Garren-Flye

It’s been a beat since my last update. Since then, I’ve spoken to a group of writers about my love of poetry and how it dropped me a rescue line during Covid. And I’ve had an explosion of creativity that has…

…brought me to a screeching halt.

How is that possible? When my brain is firing all its creative cylinders, how is it I can’t seem to create anything?

And it’s not totally true that I’m not creating. I am. I’m writing poetry and drawing and working on a book about my cat and gathering material for the next literary magazine. I’m entering contests and submitting poems (and getting rejected regularly). I’m working on a workshop about haiku/renga and researching poet laureates for a speech I’m giving at the end of April (National Poetry Month). I am creating.

I’m not finishing.

It’s the danger of hypercreative energy. And yet I’m still enjoying this surge because it’s been so long since I’ve felt creative at all. I’ll find a balance. Until then, I will go in as many different directions as I possibly can. All at once.

If I connect the dots and draw the lines right, maybe it’ll look like a star.

Or maybe just a jumble.

Hypercreativity

By Michelle Garren-Flye

No need to inspire

I am hypercreative

Ideas abound

Crowds of ideas

cloud my dreams each night and day

push reality

We don’t live in Dystopia…or Utopia (somebody please ban my books!)

Banned books available right now in my store. Local author books in the background. Guess which one I’m most excited about selling?

There’s a list making the rounds of social media right now of “banned books”. Yeah, it sucks that such a list has to exist. We don’t live in Utopia. But are those books going anywhere? Will you ever have a really difficult time finding a copy of The Catcher in the Rye or The Harry Potter series? Probably not. (Even though J.K. Rowling has managed to piss off just about everyone.)

Why is this?

One simple reason. We may not live in Utopia, but we don’t live in Dystopia, either. Banned books are an effective tool employed by libraries and booksellers. There is no easier way to get your book on the bestseller list than to have it publicly banned. Human nature prompts us to immediately rush out and find out why those books were banned.

There are exceptions to this rule. When six Dr. Seuss books were withdrawn due to “hurtful and wrong” imagery, I had a hard time deciding how to feel about it. The reason for this can be found in And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street: “…a Chinaman who eats with sticks…” You might think that would be harmless, but I knew. I spent a large portion of my childhood with an image of Asian people wearing weird pointy hats and eating noodles with “sticks”. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to appreciate the beauty of Asian culture. And the fun. I’m a big anime and manga fan, and I’m listening to K-Pop right now thanks to my much less culturally insensitive daughter. Someday I hope to visit Japan, South Korea, China and anywhere else that will allow a humble American.

Yes, those Seuss books are mostly off the shelf or on sale on e-Bay for hundreds of dollars. But what happened to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind when our “woke” culture wanted to cancel it? It hit number one on the Amazon bestseller list. You can still find it on Amazon, by the way. And the N-word has not been removed. Same for Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. And everybody knows about the success of another “banned” book, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. For the most part, there are no bonfires of these banned books, and even if there are, you can’t burn digital copies and more copies are printed of most of them everyday, anyway.

That’s why when I get requests to feature banned books more prominently in my store, I have to admit I don’t have very many of them. They’re sold out.

A Note to Fellow Bookstore Owners: What Writers Really Need

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my many years as a writer, it’s that I don’t always want what I need. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past two years as a bookstore owner, it’s that I can provide what indie writers need…even if it isn’t what they always want.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores are sometimes a distant dream for writers. We all wish to have our books on the shelves at a bookstore. We’d love to have that happen automatically. Publish a book, get it on the shelf. But except for virtual shelves, this is a sometimes unreachable dream. Even if you happen to have a “local” brick-and-mortar in your community, if you walk in a lot of times you’ll find the same thing you find in large chain bookstores, and, too often now, wildly discounted big box stores.

And these local bookstores often have restrictive guidelines and requirements for carrying local indie authors.

What writers need is a home for their books. A place they can be on the shelf. Surviving as a bookstore in today’s world of fruit and kindling beamed right to your phone can be difficult. Surviving as one voice shouting in a room full of other people can be even harder. Local bookstores and local authors need to work together to accomplish what they both need: more local authors willing to sell their books on consignment instead of expecting local bookstores to order them along with James Patterson’s latest—and more stores willing to give local authors a chance to see their books on the shelf.

I was in one of those “million books” type stores a few weeks ago (don’t judge me!). I took a peek at the Local Interest section. I was shocked to see “local” interests like the Blue Ridge Parkway…in Virginia! But the worst was a book about lobster fishermen in Maine! That’s what passes for local interest when the folks who order your books don’t live locally.

I’ve been in other small, local bookstores as well. They definitely try harder to maintain that local flavor. But once you start ordering new books, it’s an easy slide to devoting more space to Stephen King and Clive Cussler than the local authors who walk in off the street. Bestsellers are bestsellers for a reason. Name recognition. And a poetry book by local poet Michelle Garren Flye isn’t going to hold up very well when it’s sitting next to Amanda Gorman’s latest— Okay, there might be more reason than just name recognition for that…I love her!

But you get my point, right, authors and booksellers? Work together. A very famous “local” author (Nicholas Sparks) once told me “the cream rises to the top.” I think he meant that as encouragement. I’m taking it as heartfelt advice. My store is the churn. Readers do the churning. The local authors who end up on my “Bestselling Local Author” table are the cream.

We need more churns and authors willing to sell their ingredients for a percentage of the take.

What local bookstores need: a good local author section. What they want? A bookstore cat as great as Derby! (Photo by Michelle Garren Flye, local author and poet…and bookstore owner)

A List for Looking Back, a Poem for Looking Forward

Sometimes life just decides to take a bite out of our lives, our happiness, our capacity to feel joy. That was my 2021.

I’m trying to fight back by leaving the loss of joy behind me with the change of the year. But I can’t help looking back. Even as I know that’s not where joy is going to come from.

There are many reasons I can’t stop peeking into the rearview mirror of life. Unresolved issues. Unspoken words. A plethora of both unwarranted and earned emotions.

But as I steal glances into my recent past, I see some bright spots, too, even if they were tinged with the grey of all of the above.

  • Becoming the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate
  • Earning some much-deserved recognition for my bookstore (check out the January 2022 issue of Our State Magazine!)
  • Publishing two illustrated poetry books (UnSong and 100 Warm Days of Haiku) and two issues of The Next Chapter Litearary Magazine
  • Deepening friendships and making new ones
  • Learning (through necessity) I can do more than I ever gave myself credit for—and enjoying it!

It’s impossible to know what’s coming in 2022. If there’s one thing the past two years have taught us, it’s that. But I’m choosing to believe that whatever is in my rearview mirror, joy is still out there for me. Somewhere on the horizon ahead.

I’m calling this one Truth.

Us artsy types have a hard time owning our talents. It feels like bragging. So we wait for others to validate us with reviews or compliments. But those waits can be a long time coming because those who aren’t artsy aren’t necessarily going to notice us.

That’s why authors have such a hard time with promotion. (Nobody wants to hear me talking about my books all the time. It’ll just get on their nerves.)

That’s why artists can all too often be convinced to give away their work. (I’m just happy it’s going to a good home and will be appreciated.)

It’s not fair, you know. Nobody asks a doctor to provide free medical service because it’s what they’re good at and doctors would just laugh if they did. Because it’s a business they’ve worked hard to be a part of.

Well, so is art. So is writing. So are any number of other creative ventures. At least, we’d like them to be.

Someone once compared my style of graphic art to an adult coloring book. And I let them. Well, no more. Because it’s more than that and I’m determined to own it. To demonstrate that I’m giving you the original picture I traced onto the iPad and the final product. I’m calling this one Truth.