Taking Steps: A Poetry Reading About Winter

As a poet laureate, I’m supposed to be spreading my love of poetry far and wide. As someone who is less than enamored with the sound of her own voice, this is a difficult charge for me. However, as I take this position seriously, today I impulsively decided to record a short poetry reading and post it on social media. I selected two poems about winter. The first is, ahem, not mine but by a poet you might recognize. The second is mine, one of my favorites that I wrote last year about this time. The video below is of the impromptu reading I conducted in my bookstore. It’s the first in my series, Poetry Readings, which will be posted on my Instagram account, michellegflye.

Coincidence or Synchronicity? Spooky ties! And an angel?

I’m currently embroiled in putting the finishing touches to the fourth issue of The Next Chapter Literary Magazine. I’ve often been bewildered (in a good way) by the way synchronicity works in my life. My bookstore for instance. Derby, my bookstore cat, for another. If I hadn’t been on Facebook at the right time, I’d never have seen his picture. And his magical purr would never have been there to help me through the hardest time of my life thus far.

Back to happier thoughts, though. This issue has had its share of confusingly coincidental happenings. I decided back in the summer to use a photo that was submitted for the last issue as the cover for this issue and use the theme of history. I invited one of the local authors to write the introduction. And everything fell together from there, from the submissions I received to the dedication.

Maybe I’ve read too much scifi and fantasy, but I’m a firm believer that there is a force that holds us all together. Some believe it’s their god. Some think the earth itself binds us. Jedi call it “The Force” (based loosely on the Chinese belief in “chi”). Maybe it’s just gravity.

I believe we are more of a hive mind than we’d like to let on, and that mind spans our history as well as our present and possibly our future. Hear me out. There might even be a scientific explanation for it.

In 2016, physicist Ronald Hanson proved Einstein’s dismissal of “spooky action at a distance” wrong by separating two entangled quantum particles to a significant distance and performing experiments on them, noting that the separated particle reacted in the same way as the one being experimented on. Or something like that. At any rate, the experiment proved spooky action was possible at a distance. So there was a tie between those two particles.

The universe is full of these ties, and I believe they can affect lives. But maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe it’s the work of angels. Back in the summer on a day when I was feeling particularly badly about my life, a lovely woman with a cheerful smile and an enthusiastic attitude walked into the store. She exclaimed over everything in the store and bemoaned that she hadn’t brought her wallet with her. She said she’d be back. As she left, she looked over her shoulder and said, “I’m Joy and I’ll be seeing you.”

I haven’t seen her since…but I believe I will.

The next Next Chapter. Coming January 2022. Copyright 2021.

Adding Color to Writing

I’m so close to being done with 100 Warm Days of Haiku! It will be my longest poetry book yet. And my most unique book of any genre. I’m excited to share it, and I hope you’ll be excited, too. It’s a book meant for looking at as much as reading. Even UnSong didn’t really manage that.

Illustration by Michelle Garren Flye. Copyright 2021.

So I guess the very reasonable question would be why am I publishing a book that’s as much to look at as to read? I’m an author, not an artist, a poet, not a painter.

Short answer? I like to challenge myself. I like to be more. Long answer? This has been a complicated year in which I came to know a lot of interesting things about myself. I mean, none of us has had an easy year, right? Pandemic, home schooling, isolation, mask-wearing…it’s all a bit much. Add any other complications into the mix and you’ve got the makings of a good, old-fashioned nervous breakdown. And who didn’t have other complications?

My answer for the complications in my life was to dig deeper to find more. I found a lot. And 100 Warm Days of Haiku is my way of sharing it with you. So stay tuned for more information.

Coming soon in full color!

UnSong Release!

Today is usually both a relief and a sad day for me because I love National Poetry Month. 🙂 In case you couldn’t tell. I enjoy challenging myself by writing a poem a day. I love reading others’ poetry, and this month I took it a step further and invited local poets to submit recordings of themselves reading one of their poems, which I then posted on my store’s social media.

It’s a been a good month.

If you’ve enjoyed my illustrated haiku, thank you. They’ve been a great deal of fun to come up with. I’m planning to continue through the summer (though not posting them online, sorry) and at the end I hope to have something I can be proud enough of to publish with the title “100 Warm Days of Haiku”. This one will be different since I’m getting more confident with my use of color. It’ll still be pretty cheap as a Kindle book, but the physical book may be a bit more expensive since I’d like to publish it in color this time.

In the meantime, please consider giving my first collection of illustrated poetry, “UnSong”, a try. It’s available online today. I don’t have physical copies in my store yet because I worked on it right up til the deadline to make sure it was something I could be proud of (and I am).

So here it goes. I’m releasing UnSong on the world. I hope it doesn’t hurt too much.

Available today! Check your favorite online retailer.

UnSong (2 days and counting): Third review

Now we come to what is probably the review/blurb I worked the hardest to get. Poet Sam Love was one of the first people I approached for feedback on UnSong. He agreed to do it. Thank God.

I’m not sure how difficult it was for Sam to be a hundred percent honest with me, but when he replied there was no hesitancy. My book was sort of a mess. It lacked focus, some of the poems just didn’t seem to belong and it wasn’t organized into anything like a book. Just a mishmash of poems.

Don’t rush it, he said. You’ve got the beginnings of a good collection here.

I’m a seasoned professional so of course I didn’t think about never speaking to Sam again.

No, really, I have been writing seriously for long enough so I was able to receive Sam’s honest opinion and be grateful for it, even if it was hard to hear. I replied a sincere thank you and let the advice percolate for a bit, deciding what to do. I could put off the publication date, or I could work really hard and fix it.

Being the seasoned professional I am, I fixed it. I worked late into the evening, I worked between customers at the bookstore. And I got more opinions from other writers. Frank Hutton, a photographer and writer I have been friends with (we met on Zoetrope.com and have worked on other projects together), gave me some invaluable advice about design, as well as well as some great feedback on the poems themselves. I have some blurbs coming up from other writers tomorrow who also gave me some awesome feedback.

So…I fixed it and went back to Sam. Would he be willing to give me a blurb? I had no idea. Maybe he didn’t want his name associated with this mess.

He replied a day later with this:

Unsong is a bit like a buffet with nuggets of wisdom you can choose to embrace until it fills your soul. Wonderful nibbles of hope that you will return to when you need a dash of light to repel the darkness.

—Sam Love, author of Awakening: Musings on Planetary Survival

I call it victory.

For more information about Sam and his poetry, check out his website. His books are also available in my store.

For more information about Frank Hutton, check out his blog: In Search of Perfect Light.

Update on UnSong (with a teaser)

I am so in love with my new project I’ve been working practically nonstop on it since last week. It’s tough when you’ve got a project like this that you can’t wait to see finished…but you’ve got to stop and do mundane things like pay the bills and get ready for taxes and, well, eat and sleep. (Though I will say I’ve sacrificed a bit of the latter.)

So I’ve been working nonstop since last week and I’ve gotten about halfway with the illustrations. But I just can’t wait to share at least one. So I chose one of my favorite haiku. Here it is with the illustration I finished just last night:

Poem and illustration by Michelle Garren Flye copyright 2021

If you’ve seen my graphic novel HourGlass, you’ll recognize where I got the idea for this one. This is half the battle, too. Though most of my poetry is pretty easy to illustrate, some of it isn’t. This one actually took me a while. If you’ve ever tried to draw rain, you’ll understand why. It’s not the easiest thing to draw. I played around with different “brushes” on my iPad and finally realized it was the hand that was the important part of the poem, not the wind and rain. And thanks to HourGlass, I already knew how to draw a ghost-like hand. Lol.

Anyway, I’m off to illustrate more poetry. Maybe write one or two as well. There’s one I’ve included in this book that I may not be able to use as I’ve also entered it into a contest. I’m at least half hoping it doesn’t win (which it probably won’t) because it’s the best one I have and could easily take up a two-page spread, and I have the illustration all planned out. Well, we shall see, right?

If it does win, maybe I can still include it and add a line to the front cover: “Contains the award-winning poem—————”

Graphic Novel Update: More Pictures!

It seems I just can’t NOT share my excitement about this ongoing project. I’m up to about eighty pictures now, and I’m still going strong. I’ve been experimenting more with drawing people as well as places and things. I think it’s working out…

“What do you do with a gift?”

Of course, my strength remains in the words, but I have had fun experimenting with drawing things like fire, too.

“Why would you think all the fire in the world is yours?”

I know, of course, that my pictures will not be the works of art I see in other graphic novels. I am not truly an artist. Most of what I’m doing is photographic manipulation. My strength is really in the five poems that are in this book. And the story I’ve woven around the poems and pictures. I am hopeful that they will find a place in the hearts of readers.

Haiku quest continues…

A few more of my better ones.

#14

Wind and rain lover’s

Knuckles brushing over cheek

Gentle but solid

#15

Rain beats the leaves down

Rushes on the ground to pool

Over the tree’s roots

#16

Inspiration comes

After storm falls on our heads

Umbrella is nice

#17

Irrational want

Desire what can never be

Love has no place here

#20

This excellent trip

Will end eventually

What happens then, love?

#21

Restless sleep tonight

The moon flows full over trees

Inviting rambles

#23

Why sleep in the night?

Fight circadian rhythms—

Living time is dear.

#24

Read haiku poem

Prepare for inspiration

Bursting with longing

#27

I love the rain sounds

On the glass paneled windows

Safe in my bookstore

#29

Summer evening

Alien ratchets and song

Wish I weren’t alone

#31

Scarlet cardinal

Takes flight, leaves the rest of us

Behind, bound to earth

#32

Late blooming flower

Pure and alone on the bush

I guess you forgot

#33

Bizarre masked people

Eating at sidewalk cafes

Through open zippers

#34

Can’t really decide

If surroundings are muted

Or are you just bright

#35

Reality runs

After me, chases, leaps and

Follows my retreat

Late blooming gardenia. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: No Edges

No Edges

By Michelle Garren Flye

I decided to be edgy much too late

Soft living makes soft edges

And those are just curves

Rounded spaces don’t agree

With razor sharpness

Anyway

So I’ll just go on preserving

Circular surroundings

(Circles have no end, no beginning

They mean forever

And a day

But that’s too long for anyone sane)

And leave the sharp spears

To the young people

Those who can still afford

To poke holes

Where they don’t belong.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

The Freedom (and Responsibility) of Self Publishing

I have a new book coming out on May 28. Did I mention that? I scheduled that release date myself. I wrote the book, too. And edited it. And proofread it. Again and again and again… (I’m actually in the last round of proofreading right now.) And hired a book cover guru (Farah Evers Designs). I did all this on my own without consulting anyone (except Farah because she has a skill set I do not). No editors, no agents, no publishers.

This is my book.

Why don’t I get an agent and sell my book to a real publisher? I guess the short answer to that is I have no patience. I used to think that was the only way to publish legitimately. But over and over I kept hearing “You’re a good writer, but it’s not what we’re looking for.” Well, I heard that when I could get any response at all. And that was usually after six months to a year of anguished waiting and checking my email and wishing and hoping and praying…

Self-publishing, though. Wow, that’s freedom. You can finish a book today and put it out tomorrow. Well, almost. It does have to pass a vetting process through Amazon or Smashwords or whatever. Still, it’s really easy comparatively. When I realized this (after my first self-published book, Weeds and Flowers), it didn’t take long or many rejections to decide my next one would be self-published.

It also didn’t take me long to realize the universal truth behind Uncle Ben’s immortal words: “With great power comes great responsibility.” I have spent the past decade perfecting my skills, not only in writing, but also book designing, editing, even a little cover design (though I still prefer Farah), and everything else that is involved in creating a beautiful book for my readers. I’ve studied and read articles, trying my best to learn to craft a perfect sentence or just to learn the difference between lie and lay (that one is my kryptonite, but don’t get me started on who and whom).

Am I there yet? Hell, no. Why do you think I’ve been reading and re-reading my book? I have not the slightest doubt there are mistakes in it, but tell me, when was the last time you read a 70,000-word book (whether it was professionally or self published) that didn’t? Most 700-word magazine articles have typos. Hell, CNN makes mistakes routinely in seven-word headlines. So, yeah, in spite of my best efforts, you may find a typo. But you’ll find fewer mistakes in Magic at Sea than you’d probably find in Secrets of the Lotus (my first novel published by Kensington Press).

(It’s worth mentioning, too, that any traditional publisher would probably have put off publishing Magic at Sea indefinitely considering the bad press that the cruise industry has received recently. Is that going to stop me? Oh no. I wrote this book based on a cruise to Alaska that my family and I took that is still one of my favorite vacations ever. I would do it again in a heartbeat.)

I often wonder what I would do if a professional publisher offered to publish my books. Purchase my whole backlist, professionally edit it, and put it out in paperback. It’s no doubt a pipe dream because, as I’ve been told often enough, I don’t write what they want to publish, but what would I do if someone made that offer after the love and care I know I’ve put into every one of my books? Sign or no?

Who am I kidding? I’d sign.

In the meantime, however, here are approximately 700 of my words that I’ve pored over (yes, pored, not poured, I looked that one up a while back) to entice you to buy Magic at Sea. Hopefully with no mistakes!

As they sat to partake of the drinks and snacks he’d arranged, Galen found himself settling into the unintentional role of Frankie’s escort. Yet it felt natural when Connor and Carole sat together with Kate and Alex next to them for Galen to hold a chair for Frankie.

“So you really get to live on this ship?” Kate looked around with appreciation, then back to Frankie. She sighed. “Just imagine the amount of writing I could get done.”

Frankie smiled. “For six months, as long as I behave myself.” She batted her eyelashes at Galen. “I wasn’t everyone’s first choice for onboard entertainment, though.”

Galen felt the full force of the little group’s curious gazes. How could he not adore Frankie? How could he not be certain she would be an asset to the cruise—not just this ship but the entire line? He shook his head inwardly. Though from what he’d gathered Frankie had only met Connor once before, she was already a part of the group. Maybe it was some sort of magicians’ code. More likely it stemmed from her association with their friends. Any friend of mine…

“You don’t approve of escape magic, then?” Connor’s good humor didn’t falter. “I’ve never tried any of it myself, mainly because it’s a whole different skill set that takes years to learn, and if you don’t know what you’re doing…” He shrugged and looked back to Frankie. “But I’m looking forward to seeing your show. Lydia and Tony speak very highly of you.”

“Thank you.” Frankie took a little sip of her champagne and glanced at Galen. Her eyes sparkled. Your turn.

He accepted the unspoken challenge. “Frankie’s show marks a bit of change in our focus as far as entertainment goes. The magic shows have always been more kid-centric.”

“I can do kid magic.” Frankie spoke up.

“Can you?” He shot back.

“Of course I can. I got my start as a kid, after all. I know the rings and the scarves and the cup and ball routine. Why don’t you let me prove it?” She leaned forward. “If you think the kids will be missing the magic show because you’ve made it the ten o’clock show, let me go to the kids’ clubs.”

“What happens when they want to come to your show that evening?” He raised his eyebrows.

She shrugged. “I’m not ashamed of my show. You’re the one who decided it needed a parental guidance rating.”

“I—” He hesitated. It sounded silly now. He hadn’t even seen the whole show, after all.

Alex looked amused. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, you slap a parental warning on a show, the kids immediately want to get in even more. What’s wrong with the show?”

“It’s…” He couldn’t complete the sentence satisfactorily in spite of the polite silence that stretched uncomfortably.

Frankie appeared to take pity on him. “In his defense, it is a little edgy. And some of the effects might be a bit scary. Tense.”

“Has nothing to do with what you look like, then?” Connor’s voice had taken on an edge of its own now. He leaned forward, his eyes on Galen’s. “Because that wouldn’t exactly be the best standard to base a decision on, would it?”

Carole put a hand over her fiancé’s and he glanced at her, then returned to his original position. She gave Galen a curiously sympathetic look. “Not everyone judges women based on how they look.”

Feeling strangely as if he’d been given a rare compliment he didn’t really deserve, Galen cleared his throat. “At any rate, I did make the decision that Frankie’s show would do best in the ten o’clock slot. But if she’s popular enough, she’ll get an encore show as well.”

“And now I can do the kids’ shows, too.” She smiled happily.

“I didn’t agree to that.”

“I believe you did.” She looked around the table and the others nodded agreement.

He groaned. “Fine. But I need to see what you’re hoping to perform first.” His phone dinged and he realized he must have been there for more than an hour. The first day at sea had a lot of programs to run, and though they mostly ran themselves, he needed to make the rounds. He rose. “Sorry. Duty calls.”

And the beautiful cover designed by Farah Evers Designs