When I was a kid, my mom made all my Halloween costumes. And they were, if I may gloat, AWESOME – and unique. For example, I was a cat (with hand-stitched furry mittens – and an awesomely painted face), a Punk Witch (complete with these fantastic green sunglasses – and an overwhelming disappointment that I wasn’t allowed to carry my black cat in my Witch’s Basket. She was a miracle cat who suffered nerve damage at birth, and she was not allowed outside, because she could not walk in a straight line. She is also proof that cats DO have nine lives, but that’s an entirely different tale.), She-Ra (with a handmade headdress and the coolest boots I’d ever seen), a cowgirl (complete, honest-to-god, with an actual PONY to ride on – that was the year of the Raisin Incident, which is epic in itself), a Fairy (I HAD PIXIE DUST. Consequently, everyone in the vicinity ended up covered in the sparkly, iridescent glitter. It was AWESOME.), and Queen Mab. Now, that is not a comprehensive list, and it’s not in order. Consider it a random sampling of Halloween joy.
But this brings us to my Batgirl costume, which my mom handmade in its entirety. This was, at the age of seven, the most amazing thing I’d EVER seen. It fit me perfectly. It looked just like Batgirl. I had a utility belt. I WAS AWESOME.
This was also my first Halloween in a new state. I didn’t know anyone. I’d just started school. And I went out trick-or-treating with my mom. Still, I was beaming. You see, in my family, Halloween isn’t just some stupid tradition where you haphazardly throw together a costume at the last minute. It usually involves a lot of time and SOMEONE burning her fingers on the hot glue gun. The end result is always worth it – and I say that being the person who doesn’t have to live with burns on her fingers for a few weeks.
At the time, my best friend times infinity (or BFTI) lived back in my home state. I was, of course, bereft that she wasn’t around to Trick-or-Treat with me. We spoke on the phone, but that wasn’t the same thing. Cell phone were not commonplace back then, although we did have one in case of emergencies, and it was the size of a BRICK. You can still see it in later episodes of Saved by the Bell.
I ventured out in my Awesome Batgirl Costume, ready to knock on doors and score a load of candy. I was filled with the kind of candy-anticipation that only a small child know. My plan was simple: knock on as many doors as possible, before it got chilly and it was time to head home. Obtain the most candy possible. Take more than once piece at each house.
Sadly, this was not to be. I knocked on a few houses, and learned that people did not have candy. I assumed that this must be some kind of fluke, that these people were crotchety curmudgeons of the worst kind. I mean, who doesn’t celebrate Halloween? This did not compute in my seven year old brain. Somewhat frantically, I walked up to another house, my mom behind me. I’m sure, at that point, she felt like she’d dropped into The Twilight Zone, wondering what kind of hellish neighborhood did not celebrate Halloween, seeing her daughter’s AWESOME costume go to waste.
There were two people playing basketball in the yard. Tentatively, I went, “Trick…or…um…treat?” I was met with a blank stare. I must’ve looked ready to burst into tears or have a tantrum, because the girl said “Hold on a minute,” and went inside.
This was it. Someone was finally going to give me candy. The evening would not be a complete waste of my time – and an exercise in humiliation. Halloween would be vindicated!
And then she came out of the house with…an apple. AN APPLE. Was she possibly out of raisins (the WORST Halloween “treat” possible)? I don’t know. I took the apple, politely, because my mother raised me not to be an ungrateful twit. And, dejected, we finally went back home, sad that no one even knew who Batgirl was – where I promptly called my BFTI and lamented, “THEY GAVE ME AN APPLE!” with as much horror as I could muster. She was also thoroughly and appropriately appalled (although, I did eat the apple).
For whatever reason, no one in that town trick-or-treated. Instead, there was a Halloween Carnival at one of the schools, and everyone flocked there like overeager lemmings. The next year, I would attend, and come home the proud owner of several goldfish – which despite their tendency to die quickly, lived for a long time. (And my mom thought I’d never win one. Mwahaha!)
So, that was the worst Halloween I’d ever had – the second runner-up being the time some cracked out lady, upon opening her door, exclaimed, “Oh my goodness! Look, dear, Little Bo Peep!” Needless to say, I was NOT Little Bo Peep and neither was my BFTI (with whom I’d been reunited with, much to my supreme joy). There was nothing to even suggest shepherdess. Neither of us were clutching sheep. We had on hoopskirts, for the love of KitKats. We had parasols, old-school dresses, and bonnets. (Scarlet O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton, thank you very much.)
If nothing else, Halloween is always an adventure.
I have always been somewhat stubborn. The quickest way to get me to do something is to tell me that I can’t do it. The minute someone implies I’m inferior or unable, I want to prove whoever it is wrong. Not just a little wrong. Very wrong. (Within reason, of course. I’m not going to attempt to fly. I am not Icarus.)
When I was around ten years old, my older brother bet me that I couldn’t read and understand Shakespeare, specifically Romeo and Juliet. I was a voracious reader and a precocious person. Of course, wanting to prove the jerk my sibling wrong, I accepted The Challenge. (Not, for those wondering, in a Barney Stinston, “Challenge accepted” way. At the time, I was more likely to quote Saturday morning cartoons or The Cookie Monster.) I’m sure if my life had a soundtrack, “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” might blared out from invisible speakers. (This was BEFORE the miracle of iPods. I had a WALKMAN.) To make a long story short, I read and comprehended the play, possibly out of sheer stubbornness, will, and a vocabulary too large for almost any lawyer. (Thanks, Mom!)
Thus began my love affair with Shakespeare, the written word, and my Geekdom. (No, not the kind that eats glass and live chickens, thank you very much. That’s gross.) That might’ve been the moment when I became rather obsessed with language. (Technically, Shakespeare’s written in a different form of English. That explains why so many people have difficulty understanding it. I did not find that out until graduate school. High school teachers really should tell their students that. It might ease Shakespeare-anxiety.)
Shakespeare was a master of many things – insults, for one. (You beef! You acorn!) Some of the best ones are given by the drunkards, like Falstaff and any so-called buffoon character. I regularly try to squeeze in a “zounds!” and a “varlet!” into conversation. I am ever-so-grateful when people don’t look at me like I’ve suddenly sprouted the ears of an ass.
The Bard had a talent, though, for the spooky. Take a look at Macbeth. The three witches are pretty scary. “When shall we three meet again…” is possibly the spookiest, most awesome opening to a play ever. Hamlet has a ghost (and lots of madness). And my favorite, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, has a somewhat enchanted forest, mischief, and one really crazy fairy named Puck. (“If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended,” is one of my favorite speeches ever.)
Of course, if you want to gross anyone out, hand them Titus Andronicus, and let them read it. Afterward, you will appreciate your own tongue – and probably stay away from all forms of meat pie (also a consequences of Sweeny Todd, but I digress.).
In honor of Halloween, the day where the veil between this world and the next is thinnest, I suggest you dig out your Shakespeare. I know I will.
There sits a girl
in a bell jar. She smiles
a wicked smile, if only
to attract your attention.
lies more than her eyes,
but her words
are what’s most dangerous. If you stare too long
the world around you will eat itself,
and you will fail to notice; she will have you then,
a solitary siren of ample means,
a witch made of riddles
that always burn, but never bless.
Do not offer her kindness, comfort,
or even a pale solace. Never
light a candle near her,
or plant azaleas where she can see;
they will only resurrect
painful memories. Some of them
will remain behind as your own.
She will uproot you, if she can.
She will make your heart
gallop and collide against itself;
you will haunt the moors
without being to outrun
the very last thing she said.
It doesn’t matter what it was,
I hate you
I love you. It will sting
and all the same.
You will regret her, and you
will curse yourself
for falling down, tripped
by the ashes of a long-dead,
Forget the girl
who sleeps inside the bell jar –
she has already
completely forgotten you.
Imagine this: you’ve finished that poem(s), short story, or essay. It’s polished and everything else you want it to be. It’s been edited and proofread within an inch of its life. It’s done. It’s as perfect as it’s going to be. The time has come to send it off in the world. All on its own.
So, now what? Where do you send it? And how do you know where to send it? Your first step is…research. (I’m sorry; it’s true.) You can’t just send out submissions willy-nilly. It won’t do you any good, and it’s not really professional.
I’d recommend going here. Poets & Writers magazine has an excellent database of literary magazines. You can narrow the search by selecting poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction. Decide whether or not you’re interested in online or print publications. Then, take a look at several magazines that might work. If possible, read a few of the works they’ve published. That will give you a feel for what they like, what the style of the magazine is. (In my opinion, it can, occasionally, be kind of a crapshoot. A lot of times, magazines claim that they’ll publish anything “good,” but that’s subjective! Unless you are one of the X-Men, I doubt you can read minds. Plus, it can be rather insulting if they reject you, because they’re basically saying, “You suck!” Or that could just be my opinion. I’m occasionally cynical.)
Once I’ve settled on a magazine (or more than one, depending on their simultaneous submission policy), here’s what I’d do.
Panic. (I kid. I just wanted to see if you were still with me.)
Start a spreadsheet. This might seem like a stupid idea, but it’s a good idea to have a document where you can keep an eye on what you sent where (and when). Otherwise, wires get crossed, things explode, and the world ENDS. Okay, not really. But you want to avoid accidentally sending the same poem to the same magazine, or something similarly horrifying.
Reassess and double-check. It’s important to know your audience, and if your piece will (potentially) find a good home at the magazine. You don’t want to send off a free verse poem to a magazine that only published formal verse.
Beware the Ides of March. Pay attention to whether or not the Magazine has a reading period. If something is sent outside of that period, the Jabberwocky eats it – which gives it indigestion – and no one reads your work. In that scenario, no one wins.
Format your submission according to their guidelines. (This means you MUST read them. Carefully.) Don’t use a crazy font, font color, or font size. You want the work to speak for itself, not look like the literary version of jazz hands.
Determine method of delivery. Each magazine has a preferred method (some only have one) for submitting your work. Some prefer snail mail, while others favor email. Some only accept email, while others shy away from technology (Skynet = bad). However, a lot of literary magazines have online submission forms now, which is (in my opinion) awesome. Not quite legendary, but we can’t all be Barney Stinston.) Comply with whatever method they prefer/want. (Note: if the magazine wants you to mail in a submission, do NOT send them your only copy of a work. And if the say to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE), DO IT. Otherwise, you will get a response the very same day Godot shows up.)
Do a last minute body count. Or, in other words, give your work one last read through. Make sure you didn’t accidentally delete a whole stanza/paragraph, drip coffee on the pages, leave out a comma, or selected the wrong version of your work.
Click submit, send, or put it in the mailbox. That’s it. You’re done. The rest is up to Fate, the Universe, the Powers the Be, or the Literary Faeries. Take comfort in the fact you’ve done what you could. What you did was kind of brave, too—putting yourself out there like that. It takes courage.
And as always, drink lots of coffee, play in rain puddles, and try not to poke yourself in the eye with a pencil.
(Author’s note: This is a revised version of a post I wrote about a year ago.)
There are some questions that shouldn’t be asked – and there are some statements that should never be made. They perpetuate a culture of derogatory, derisive bullying. Unfortunately, our culture (the American culture) is founded on a fast-food, take-no-prisoners, shock-jock method of thinking. Don’t believe me? Just take a gander at reality tv, a so-called guilty pleasure.
As a society, it seems we’ve lost the idea of quality over quantity. We’ve also given up on the idea of right and wrong – and focus on what sells. Sex sells. Sarcasm sells. And being offensive sells. (If it didn’t, Howard Stern wouldn’t have a career.)
Which brings us to Marie Claire. As a teenager, I used to love that magazine. I read it religiously. It had substance. It talked about makeup. There were tips about boys. It usually featured someone I liked on the cover. I was an easy sell.
On the Magazine’s front page, there’s an article that makes me angry. I don’t get angry very often – and when I do, I don’t turn green. Most of the time. But this? This is beyond unacceptable. The article reads, “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV?).” Take a moment. Absorb that. (Yes, the first part of title implies that overweight people aren’t deserving of relationships. The second part focuses the particular medium in question.)
The article centers on the tv show Mike and Molly, who are a couple that met at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. It’s a comedy. (I haven’t watched it, but not because it offends me – there’s other programming on that I watch.) The basic premise of the piece is that the show promotes obesity and is offensive to persons watching it, because seeing “two characters with rolls and rolls of fat” in a relationship (doing anything as banal as kissing) is gross. She then qualifies this as an “aesthetic” problem, likening it to the uncomfortable feeling that one might have watching a drunk person stumbling around. (Hello, apples – meet oranges. You two are nothing alike.)
Wait, there’s more. At one point, this statement is made, “Yes, anorexia is sick, but at least some slim models are simply naturally skinny.” What does an eating disorder have to do with this discussion? And unless I’m totally crazy (that has been said before) that almost seems like a justification for super skinny models on the runaway. (Let me ask you this: can the opposite be true? Aren’t some people just naturally heavy? And can’t eating disorders occupy both ends of the spectrum: those who eat too much and those who eat too little?)
An entire aside is filled with tips on how to be a better, slimmer you (had this been a post directed solely at health, and not the fact that heavy people are offensive and gross, this might not have been so horrifying). This is preceded by the claim “I am not a size-ist jerk.” (If you have to say that, chances are you are. Shakespeare said it best: methinks the lady doth protest too much.)
An apology has been added to the end of the post. By the time I got to it, though, I was already seething with total rage. As I person, I find the entire diatribe unproductive, largely full of acrimonious points that only serve to belittle, mock, and condemn. Blatant insensitivity never helps a situation – and neither does a vitriol-filled attack. Having an opinion is one thing. Everyone is entitled to that. But this goes beyond an opinion. It’s not simply a statement made between friends. This article in Marie Claire is a very public, very shameful occurrence.
I, for one, will never buy an issue of Marie Claire, again. I don’t care if Johnny Depp somehow lands on the cover. If an entity saw fit to publish that tirade, I question their standards. More over, I worry for teenage girls who read that magazine and suffer for it. If the author didn’t know better, then the editors certainly should have.