Writing round-up, 2016: Six non-horrible things that happened this year

Writing round-up, 2016: Six non-horrible things that happened this year

I’m not really sure what to say about the year 2016. “At least we didn’t all die in a nuclear blast” is one good thing I could mention, I guess.

On a personal level, it was a year of disappointments and setbacks, fears and frustrations, but also the year in which I sat in a taxi coming back to Chelsea from Broadway after a dinner with great talents whom I also simply admire as people, and the very dear friend and great talent sitting next to me turned and said, “You’re doing it right, you know.” I surprised myself by believing her. There are people in my life who burn very brightly, you see, and I’ve learned to let their light in, and for that I am grateful.

In light of that, in light of them, here are the six things I definitely did right this year: Continue reading “Writing round-up, 2016: Six non-horrible things that happened this year”

NEW: poetry and essays archive

NEW: poetry and essays archive

Dear friends, subscribers, and people who take offense at my Guns n’ Roses references,

I wanted to point out that the new poetry and essays archive is now available on this site. It doesn’t contain all of my poetry and essays. Just the stuff that I like most.

Yeah, yeah, it’s presumptuous to self-publish poetry. With rare exceptions, it’s presumptuous to force one’s poetry on the world at all.

Of course I also sometimes think that all writing, both good and bad, is presumptuous to an extent. In in the meantime, I keep hearing from you about how much you like the stuff I publish here and have made the archive with that in mind.

By the way, a long time ago, when I was still a high school student, I noticed that the Norton Anthology of Poetry we used in English classes included the work of Bob Dylan. Norton was ahead of its time with this one. His inclusion, which forced me hard to think about the definition of poetry, in a way prepared me for his Nobel Prize (a lot of the writers I know seemed very surprised when he won, which in turn surprised me).

It also made me think about how genre and mediums and methods of delivery overlap in this world that we live in. In that sense, poetry isn’t something that has to be born on the page. Sometimes, in fact, a poem has to travel a certain path in order to be recognized as such. I think that’s curious and wonderful.

The world being what it is right now, curiosity and wonder should be multiplied. I’m trying to do my part, in whatever small, confused, confusing way that is available to me. Good luck with doing yours.

From your humble (and very cold) blog author: news, announcements, CIS-related links, and a request for tips

From your humble (and very cold) blog author: news, announcements, CIS-related links, and a request for tips

Dear friends, subscribers, and people who stop by to yell at me about my unladylike use of curse words,

Hi! Happy 1st of November! Please note, my use of glitter in the above picture is ironic.

November, of course, is not a month for irony. It’s a month for doomed love affairs that need to be conducted in flannel pajama pants, because weather.

Since I currently can’t afford flannel pajama pants (more on that in a minute), I’ve started this month off by reorganizing and updating my story archive. The latest addition to the archive is The Girl Who Went for a Ride, inspired by all of those years I spent working for The Moscow News, which has been obliterated from existence both online and in the print archives, apparently.

(When I started working at TMN in 2010, first as deputy editor, it was an editorially independent newspaper that was also state funded. I guess some people would prefer to pretend it never existed. Or maybe it’s gone due to a stupid bureaucratic error. Maybe those of who worked there in the bitter days between the announcement of our parent news agency’s liquidation and the closure of the paper will never know.)

I am also working on a new archive for my poetry, essays, and some experimental pieces I have in the pipeline. Stay tuned.

A lot of my writer and editor friends have pointed out that publishing poetry and fiction on a personal site is self-marginalizing. They are mostly correct.

I spent the last decade working as a journalist, writing poems and stories spontaneously, not having much energy or time to send them to magazines. In some ways, the blog has been a cop-out. In another way, it made my style evolve in a weird, unfashionable, but personally rewarding way. And it gained me your company in the process.

So I will continue publishing here even as I also work on creative projects elsewhere. I will be excited to share them with you when the time comes.

For those of you who recently tuned in: Since losing my old job in what became known as my Third Consecutive Professional Disaster a year ago, I was forced to reassess my priorities. I had to make more room in my life for things that I loved – whether they be riffs on Yeats or flash fiction about big  bugs and rotten teeth. I had no choice.

I hope you will read, enjoy, and donate (or tip, as some of you prefer to call it) when you can. Especially if you enjoyed the latest story. And especially this month. Here is the magic button:

*poof* *magic*

Because, did I say Novembers are for pajamas and love? For me they seem to be more about things going awry/bump in the night, and cold winds biting me in uncomfortable places. Even in Greece, where we’re living a kind of la vie de bohème right now. Don’t get me wrong, Greece is the country for that kind of life, it’s not a sleek sort of place, it has a rugged and ragged heart, people here care for each other in ways I’ve never observed elsewhere, but I do wish we resembled the bohème a little less at the moment.  Continue reading “From your humble (and very cold) blog author: news, announcements, CIS-related links, and a request for tips”

Uppity lady writer wanted bodily autonomy and respect. What happened next will not surprise you!

Uppity lady writer wanted bodily autonomy and respect. What happened next will not surprise you!

Today on Facebook I reposted a powerful essay by my friend Anna Lind-Guzik – the essay deals with sexual harassment and the awful feelings that presidential candidate Donald J. Trump evokes in many of us who know what it’s like to be preyed upon by men. I then posted a picture from a happy day on a nude beach.

The reaction from one of my followers was swift. I am pasting it here in full, without editing a word (for personal and professional reasons, I am omitting this man’s name). I have also written a response, and it is posted below.

Just saw you re-posting a long piece about sexual harasment is bad, and how Donald Trump is a scary man. Then you post a picture of yourself naked on a beach. I thought long and hard about writing a response. Simply put Natalia, I like & respected you for a long time. But when you write “don’t sexually harass me” and pos naked, I have to wonder, just what kind of a double standard you are trying to promote.. ‘Here I am, naked, but don’t grab and harass me’. Because I also follow your (very beautiful) Instagram, I know you also recently posted a picture of yourself with ample cleavage. I like that picture more, the nude beach one is not very flattering though you get bonus point for your nice tummy. I guess the question I have for both pictures is, What is your message? Trying to have it both ways? I like and respect your writing, would it be HARASMENT for me to say that your pictures make me hot and bothered making it difficult to appreciate you? Just thinking out loud and trying to add to the conversation. It seems You want people to vote for Hillary, and you want females to be respected, and then you act like one of those non-credible women that Trump is (I think, baselessly) accused of doing whatever to. It doesn’t make for a very strong message in my opinion. Because of my respect for your dignity I wanted to write this to you in private. But would appreciate your response.

Dear Man on the Internet (I’m leaving your name out of this, mostly out of respect for your family),

I made a rookie mistake. I assumed that my body is my own, and that I can do things that I like with it, and not be punished for it.

Posting about my disdain for harassment AND my love of frolicking on the nude beaches of southern Crete was hypocritical. I want “females to be respected,” after all, but how can I (or any other “female”) demand respect while simultaneously inhabiting a female body and doing what I want with it? These things are mutually exclusive, after all.

You are also absolutely right that it is “baseless” to accuse Donald J. Trump of inappropriate conduct. I mean, what’s the big deal about grabbing someone “by the pussy” and bragging about it? Those women really should have thought about it before leaving the house, pussies in tow.

Coincidentally, Trump’s wife Melania has also posed nude – but that’s OK, because she’s beautiful and, more importantly, married to a rich conman successful businessman. A rigid class hierarchy is an important function of our social order, and if you oppose that, you’re probably a dirty communist.  Continue reading “Uppity lady writer wanted bodily autonomy and respect. What happened next will not surprise you!”

Good question alert: Can you be a “serious writer” while also just being yourself?

Good question alert: Can you be a “serious writer” while also just being yourself?

The daughter of a friend is taking a summer journalism course, and one of her assignments was to interview “a journalist with international experience” about their “career choices and future goals.”

One of the questions she just sent me was so excellent that I am reprinting it, alongside my answer, below (with permission):

Q: Your byline has been seen in many internationally significant publications and you regularly comment on current events. Today I read your comments to Yahoo Sports about Russia’s doping scandal. Also today I opened your blog and read a song about “shrieking demon heads” that you wrote. Is there a contradiction between your professional persona and your artist persona? Has it affected your work? What would you say to someone who wanted to follow your example?

A: What a great question. I will be honest, I think I would have had more professional success as a journalist if I played it straight – as in not had a blog that featured songs about demon heads, nor posed for artists in my spare time, nor written plays about sunken ships and haunted bureaucrats, and so on.

My generation grew up on the mantra that you should “be yourself.” This rarely works out well. For a woman it can be especially hard to “be herself” and not experience career setbacks. And forget about being taken seriously if you’re also seen as a kind of “sex object.” Serious journalism, of the kind I’ve always been interested in, is a macho field, and if you don’t play by its rules, people are going to be weirded out by you. And when people can’t put you in a box they’d rather not deal with you at all.

On the other hand, songs about demon heads, poems about sex, and plays with ghosts in them are also part of my professional life. They’re also just an intrinsic part of who I am.

Over a decade ago, I received the shock of a lifetime when my cousin was killed in a car accident. She was a talented pianist and singer and just weeks before she passed away, she and I had an argument about me becoming “who I really am” eventually. I was leading a pretty strait-laced existence at the time and she saw right through it. She told me that I was a “crazy artist type” no matter what I did. I was not prepared to listen. We parted on an awkward note. I never saw her again, unless dreams count.

Her words stayed with me. No matter how much I tried to fight her vision of me, deep down inside, I knew it to be correct. I think I would have escaped a lot of disappointment and drama had I accepted that she was right much sooner.

Any meaningful life choice involves a degree of sacrifice. So you do what you must. And you give thanks for being disliked, because, honestly, most people in the world won’t care enough to dislike you in the first place.

I consider myself a serious writer, a serious journalist (though I barely work as a journalist anymore, tbh), and I think it shows in everything I do, because I try to do it well. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to be able to do what I love. Were they justified? I don’t know. I probably won’t ever know, since you can’t draw conclusions until your life is done. And who knows what my loved ones will eventually come to say about the choices I’ve made.

So, should you be like me? No. Be like yourself. Be clear-eyed about the consequences of being like yourself. Be clear-eyed about the consequences of not being like yourself. Whatever you do, try to do it well (and I include crap you do to pay the bills in that category too). Don’t let anyone, no matter how well-meaning, decide anything for you – because owning your screw-ups is sometimes even more important than not screwing up in the first place. Let your heart hold fast and good luck.

Q: P.S. Did you come up with phrase “tornado of shrieking demon heads” yourself?

A: Of course not. I got it off of Twitter and annoyingly enough can’t remember whose account that was.

P.S. I owe a word of thanks to WordPress Discover for featuring this post. I’m glad so many of you found it useful. This blog continues to exist due to Discover support, due to your support, due to me very much needing an outlet, and due to the occasional tip, which you can send here, if you wish:

For Natalia's stories

Owing to her young age, the author of the question that prompted this post would like to stay anonymous, but I’ve let her know that you guys have been reading, and she wants to say she’s glad that she inspired this post and this discussion ❤