Far & wee: The origin story

I was really shy about admitting the whole story about how Far & wee came to be. Why on earth would that be? I mean, I’ve already admitted I wrote twenty sonnets (and illustrated them) in nineteen days (okay, maybe that’s a bit of a flex…). I’ve admitted that I had no patience for getting feedback on the sonnets (this wasn’t that kind of project, honestly).

So I’m impatient and proud and may have rushed this project through (not just to be able to brag that I got it done in twenty-five days, but that doesn’t hurt). Why would I be embarrassed to admit what the spark was that put this whole thing in motion?

Well…

And here’s the shy part.

…the spark came from my persistent and somewhat consuming fandom for a K-Pop group.

There. I said it. I’m a K-Pop fan. K-Pop came along in my life when I needed a lift. And it gave me that! It started with BTS, but it quickly expanded to include groups like TXT and Enhypen…but especially the self-produced group Stray Kids.

If you come into my store, you’ll no doubt hear Stray Kids. If you surprise me in there, you might catch me dancing and sometimes singing along (you don’t need to hear that—I’m bad enough in English). I was fascinated when I found out they write and produce almost all of their songs. They help with choreography and producing the music videos. But especially the writing part. The poetry of these songs is incredible. In three different languages, no less. Mostly Korean and English, but they also write entirely Japanese songs as well as Japanese songs with some English mixed in.

It doesn’t hurt at all that they’re also handsome and charming in addition to prodigiously talented. And they adore their fans.

So how did they inspire me to write Far & wee, a book of sonnets about the balloon-man in e.e. cummings’s “[in Just-]”—when I’d been considering writing such a book for a long time?

It all came about when the leader of Stray Kids, Bang Chan, who loves to tease fans with spoilers they’re never going to figure out until it’s far too late, messaged his fans that his favorite color combination was pink and blue. And how together they made a whole new color.

Well, my first thought was that pink and blue really just makes purple. But I started thinking about pink and blue and purple and somehow it got mixed up in my head with the balloon-man (balloons come in all colors!). And there you go.

I won’t call Far & wee Stray Kids fan art, because it isn’t. But it is art that was done by one of their fans and definitely owes some of the inspiration to them. And a good bit of it was done with them playing in my AirPods or in the background.

So, thank you, Stray Kids. Because I’m really proud of this little book.

Wolf Chan and my book Far & wee.

New poetry book announcement: Far & wee (with excerpt—sort of)

Cover copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

So you’ve been with me from the beginning of this thing. May 21 doesn’t seem like that long ago, right? What is that, 19 days?

I never would have thought in a million years that I would write, illustrate and publish a book in nineteen days. But I did.

I’ve often felt that I write what is given to me from…somewhere else. I write for someone else and there’s a purpose I don’t necessarily know about for my writing. I don’t know who it is out there who needs to read this book, but it’s here now. It was my obsession, pushing everything else out of the way for 19 days. Now I need to move on to finish up some other projects. Projects that took me longer than 19 days. But I think I can do it now.

Anyway, as a little introduction/excerpt to the book, here’s the actual introduction of the book as it appeared on my computer while I was laying out the book.

Copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Cover reveal of the book I wrote, illustrated and prepared for publishing in less than three weeks

Is there a correct amount of time to spend writing a book?

If there is, I broke every rule with this one.

My previously untitled “balloon-man project” is nearing completion. I designed the cover this morning. I finished the layout last night. I’ll probably publish it tomorrow.

This book is really about obsession—especially as it applies to us creative types. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of need that an especially appealing project creates in the belly of a creative.

And there’s nothing like that feeling of knowing it’s done. Even if you broke all the rules getting there.

Copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Why Poetry is Nonfiction

Earlier this week, I finished formatting 100 Warm Days of Haiku. Ordinarily, this is where I would begin asking friends and fellow writers to look at it for me. Read and critique the poems, be sure the order makes sense. Look at the pictures and tell me if any of them need to be changed at all.

But the more I thought about what this book is, the more I realized that was not something I needed or wanted to do. This book is different. This book is true.

I have always wondered why poetry is classified as nonfiction, but after writing this book, I realize that has always been true. Poetry captures what is going on in the soul of its writer in a way that cannot be denied.

My 100 haiku were written and illustrated over the course of a four month period stretching from April 1 to July 31, 2021. To put it bluntly, this time period involvedogreat deal of change and upheaval for me personally, and that upheaval is reflected in this collection. There is anger, sorrow, beauty, love, loss and loneliness in this book. And there is also hope.

To give you an idea, here’s the description from the back of the book:

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but is it worth seventeen syllables? Poet Michelle Garren Flye explores the ancient form of Japanese poetry during three months of spring and summer. The book follows the author on a journey of change and transformation that she didn’t expect when she undertook the task, using the spare format of the haiku and her colorful illustrations to express emotions and desires that emerge from the chrysalis of her heart.

As I got closer to the end of the book, I tried to figure out how I would end it. I have never yet ended a book on a sour note. I’m not a tragic writer, and in spite of emotional upheaval, I am not a tragic person. I won’t spoil it, but I am so very proud of the final illustration, I thought I might share that with you:

Copyright 2021 Michelle Garren Flye

For more information, you can find 100 Days of Haiku on Amazon.

100 Warm Days of Haiku Cover (Work in progress)

You know that old adage about not making plans? My summer has been that adage over and over again. I’m living it. Starting on June 1, 2021, my life took a hard turn toward…something. I’m not quite certain what, but it definitely isn’t what I had planned for my summer. (Long walks on the beach, family time, maybe even a vacation for a change.)

Nevertheless, plans for my first full-color book of haiku are still progressing. I’m in the 80s now. And while my warm days have often felt cold, I’m finding plenty of inspiration in what life has chosen to throw my way.

So that’s something.

Today I started thinking about covers. I came up with this one. It seems to suit the book, which will have a definite feel of both beauty and loss. I’m hoping to end it on a positive note, however. Because I’m a positive person and it will take more than this…whatever it is…to keep me down.

Illustration by Michelle Garren Flye. Copyright 2021.

Happy May Day! with an UnSong poetry reading

Happy May Day! It’s a perfect day here in Eastern North Carolina as I sit in my bookstore, one of my favorite places in the world. The sun is shining, a breeze is blowing. If I walk outside, I can see the river a couple blocks away.

Speaking of May Day, I snapped a picture of a young cypress tree. I love cypress trees. Their green is so soft and perfect. I took this picture because she seemed so happy with her new spring dress.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye.

I’m thinking she needs to be a poem, but sometimes real things are already poems and can’t be improved on by words.

Of course, UnSong is my attempt to capture some of those things with both words and pictures. See below for a video of me reading the title poem. Then go check it out! I’ve gotten some pretty great reviews on it already!

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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 (T minus 1 DAY!): Final blurbs

I’ve saved some very special people for last on my list. I’m fortunate enough to belong to a group of local writers, every one of whom is extremely talented. If you think self-published authors just don’t make the cut for talent, you HAVE NOT read the work of these writers. Everyone’s self-published for a different reason. Sometimes you don’t want to jump through the hoops required for publishing. Sometimes you don’t want to write what the publishers want to publish. And sometimes you just want to cut the crap and publish your book already.

With that said, my group is made up of four of the most talented writers I’ve ever crossed paths with (and me), and all of them gave me feedback on UnSong. Three of them went so far as to offer a blurb for the cover. And here they are:

UnSong is a beautiful compilation with an amazing amount of breadth and variety. Ms. Flye is literally a song writer! I particularly enjoyed the themes of “staying” and “taking flight”. 

—Tracie Barton-Barrett, author of Buried Deep in Our Hearts and Finding Her Spirit

Ms. Flye’s personality shines brightly through both her poetry and her illustrations. A lovely and relevant book to behold!

—Leslie Tall Manning, award-winning author of Knock on Wood and Upside Down in a Laura Ingalls Town

Michelle Garren Flye’s poetry, art, and photography excite my senses and touch my heart. Oh, what a talent!

—Padgett Gerler, author of Invisible Girl and The Gifts of Pelican Isle

Heather W. Cobham was the one who suggested I put dragonflies on the cover, which, in my mind, rounded out the book in a fantastic way.

For more information on these fantastic ladies and their writing, check out their websites:

Tracie Barton-Barrett

Heather W. Cobham

Padgett Gerler

Leslie Tall Manning

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.

UnSong (3 days away) Second Review

My second review for UnSong comes from an extremely talented poet and musician who I’ve actually met in person. The truly incredible thing about this woman is that she works tirelessly for other authors while at the same time managing her own career and family. I count myself lucky to have been introduced to her, and you can imagine how much her feedback on UnSong means to me!

Here’s her review:

In UnSong, Michelle Garren Flye’s poems invite the reader to take a pause from the busyness and stress of modern life: “I know the wild world calls— / you want to spread your wings; / but, stay, a little longer, dear, / put off your springtime flings.” In “River Bones,” “time comes to a halt” after the wind uncovers “forgotten memories, a bucket, a plate, / a fishhook left on the line too late.” While in “Everything Grows,” Flye invokes Shakespeare’s famous line from Sonnet #15: “When I consider everything that grows / holds in perfection but a little moment,” in order to express how hard it is to make time stand still: “Everything grows, everything rushes into the night.” Other poems reveal Flye’s sharp sense of humor (“What Good is a Girl?”) and wonder of the natural world such as in “I’m a December Tree” and “Now That I Am in Mid-Fall.” … As an added treat, Flye’s oems are paired with her own illustrations. Savor this collection written by a romantic, and experience the wonder of reading joyful and optimistic poems—a true balm in these troubled times.

—Alice Osborn, author of Heroes without Capes

Alice is extremely talented and you really should look her up. To help you out, here are a few links:

Website

SoundCloud

YouTube