Posts in Writing
Photo Essay One: A Creative Space
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Growing up in the 1990’s was a fascinating mix between analog and digital; between technology and a lack thereof (compared to today). I thank the universe that I grew up in a time period where the prospect of adventuring in a forest was more important to me than sitting in front of a screen.

Sticks and dead leaves crunching beneath my feet created a feeling more fulfilling than watching TV. Climbing a tree made me happier than reading, so naturally I did one more than the other (though I still love books). The forest was and always has been my favorite place to spend my time.

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I would never advocate littering, but growing up next to a forest in a suburb of Dallas, trash and random items were a normal thing to come across. I would often use them and combine them with the surrounding nature to create forts, paintball courses, and more. In a city, I see it all as being apart of the landscape. If the trash and random human-manufactured items outnumbered the trees and plants, well, then it would all be a very different place. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.

The photos included in this essay were taken recently. This place now stands in the aftermath of its former self. Metal posts are still tied to the trees I placed them on. Paths, though worn and partly covered, still show themselves like an old man showing you the “good ole days”. A screw and nail still remain where an old childhood friend embedded them.

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Most importantly this area of the forest is where as a child and teenager my creativity, in part, blossomed. I consider the forest my first love and this is where we fell for each other. I never left this place sad or emotionally hurt, but rather I ran to it when I was scared or heart broken, just as a healthy relationship functions.

When I would visit a friend’s house, they would show me their newest toy. When they visited me, I showed them my tiny, personal safe haven filled with barbed wire, recently dug holes, and other broken pieces of mother nature’s anatomy. I’ve visited many wooded areas throughout my life in Texas and in other states, but none compare to my first love: my very own creative space among the trees.

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I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.
— Jack Kerouac
Einstein to Lost Girls & Love Hotels: A Literary Journey

When I was a kid, all I read were fictional mystery stories. Between my dad being a writer and the adventure-styled books and comics I grew up on, it's no wonder I grew up writing those kinds of stories. Sadly, somewhere around 11 or 12 I stopped reading all together. Books just didn't grab my attention like they used to. This may have been because my school at the time crammed mandatory reading assignments down my throat; most were boring as hell.

It wouldn't be until I turned 19-ish when I found a book called "About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolutions" by Paul Davies at Barnes & Noble.

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Click above to learn more

On a whim, I read the first page, then the next, and the next... By the time I looked up, I had read through the entirety of the first chapter. This began my love for non-fiction and my love for science. This book was the first item on my Christmas list that year.

That moment sparked a yearning for learning (sorry, I had to.) Growing up in a Christian school, I wasn't privy to what science actually had to say about the questions our universe was begging me to ask. Real science was a Pandora's box I had to open and dwell in.

This went on and on.

Right around the age of 24-25, I spiraled out of control, in a good way, into buying every non-fiction book I could get my hands on. Half Price Books became my home away from home. I was so excited that I would often read half of a book and distract myself away to another book out of impatience.

All through the latter part of my 20's I continued to read only non-fiction, with the exception of a few fantastic Jack Kerouac novels. I was under the impression that I learned more from Non-fiction than its opposite. Entering my 30's and snarled with a new year, I've adopted a new line of thinking.

While at Half Price's clearance sale at Dallas Market Hall with my girlfriend, I found a book I generally wouldn't have glanced twice at. In that moment however, for some strange reason, this seemingly random book made its way into my hands and through the register. It was called Lost Girls & Love Hotels.  

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Click above to learn more

This was my last book to read in 2017 and coincidentally became the book that made me fall back in love with fiction. Quickly after finishing this book, I decided that 2018 would be a year of mostly fictional books. I say all of this to ask anyone who reads this post to recommend to me their favorite fictional titles so that I can add it to my reading list.

My goal is to knock out about 15-20 books this year which seems doable since I've begun using my lunches as a time for yoga and literary exploration. As a side note, I really don't like long novels and generally don't finish them, so please recommend books under 300 pages.

So far this year I've read Milk and Honey which was fantastic, but is sort of a non-fiction, autobiographical poetic book. My first fiction of the year I started this past Monday called, "The House With a Clock in Its Walls" which will be made into a movie later this year by Eli Roth.

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Click above to learn more.

Bring on the recommendations!

Publishing Two Books in Two Different Ways

I'm incredibly excited to announce that my book, The Very Strange Universe of Doctor Natalia Zeal, is finally ready for publication. I currently have two books I'm attempting to publish, but in two separate ways. The second of the two is The Life and Death of Herbert the Star, which is a children's book I wrote and then had illustrated by Joanna Winograd

 (Sneak Peak of the Inside Cover)

(Sneak Peak of the Inside Cover)

Brief Synopsis of the two:

The Life and Death of Herbert the Star - This illustrated children's story covers the birth, life, and death of a very special star and his planetary friends.

The Very Strange Universe of Doctor Natalia Zeal - The Very Strange Universe of Doctor Natalia Zeal is an experimental writing project where a collection of short stories were written and then puzzled together to create a complete time line across the cosmos. Our story begins on Earth in the near future where most diseases are curable and any human body part can be replaced. Despite predictions of Earth's population reaching a counterbalance as it has in the past, the Earth continues to become over crowded. Dr. Zeal comes up with an off-planet plan, but when things go awry, it's up to the doctor to try piece together her life and survive. This story is an ode to the creative process of developing a story and to all of the strong women that keep our society in motion.

 (Early concept art for the cover)

(Early concept art for the cover)

The above image is not the book cover, but rather a placeholder as my friend and graphic designer Holland Bangura designs the cover. I plan on putting out my Natalia book on February 14th for Valentine's Day. I will be self publishing it through Amazon in paperback and ebook form.

I decided on this publication route because I expect this book to not be a very mainstream novel. The book is, at its core, a science fiction/romance with a little bit of horror mixed in. My goal writing it was to write a few different stories and then challenge myself to piece them all together into one interwoven storyline.

While I am very satisfied with the end result, after letting a group of people read it, I found that half enjoyed it and half found it confusing. I'm completely okay with this. I got a lot of feedback. Some of it I used to twist and change the story a bit and some I disregarded.

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However, The Life and Death of Herbert the Star, I've been shopping around to book publishers and am currently awaiting decisions on a few that responded and vote biannually on what books they will publish. 

Either way, I'm hoping 2018 is a big year for writing. I appreciate everyone who has supported me so far and I hope those of you out there that still read books and care to try mine out, will enjoy them.

To learn more about my past books and future ones, check out my Books page below. 

My Recurring Childhood Dream: "The Final Visit".

I don't believe dreams mean all that much. The most they relate to life, in my opinion, is that they are stories our minds create to deal with emotions we're carrying with us or the byproducts of memory assimilation from previous days awake. Regardless of what causes them, recurring dreams have always been of an interest to me. 

I have about ten dreams that resurface from time to time and either play out exactly the same as the time before or just take place in the same scene, but with different characters or plots. Recently however, I remembered a dream that I used to get as a child once every couple months. I'll try to describe it as best as possible. I call it, 

“You are the most precious and coveted thing in my life. I’ve loved you since the beginning, and throughout our time together, you have taught me so much about myself. The moments we spent together are unforgettable.

I remember a time when you said nothing to me, and yet my love for you was as strong as ever. I recall instances when you killed your brothers and raped your sisters for small, trivial items. I turned a blind eye to it all, because I trusted that you would find your way. I’ve since lost my hope in you.

I know I wasn’t always around. I was a drifter and as such, I visited when I could. I'm not evil. In the beginning, we were always together. As time passed, we sort of drifted…”

It’s lost in thought.

“Maybe that was my fault, but I can still feel the times we bonded. That was real. I love you with all my heart. If you take one thing away from this relationship, let it be that I love you and always will. It sickens me to have to say it, but our time together has come to an end.”

A woman stood pale and crying. Her quivering hands were sweaty as she threw them above her shoulders in a fit of rage.

“Why!? What did I do to deserve this?”

Another woman stood next to her yelling over her.

“You finally speak to us after all this time, and it’s just to say good bye? You heartless asshole!”

Billions more screamed and cursed.

It turned its head, for it could bear no more. Its hands shut, crushing Earth into small fragments.

God turned its back and departed.


Meet Artist Joanna Winograd and Our Children's Book Collaboration

About 3 years ago, I wrote a short children's book about a star named Herbert. The story covers his life while explaining how a star and its orbiting planets form and die in space. After the story's completion, I went on a hunt for an illustrator.

Over the years, artists have come and gone. After a long arduous search, I posted the collaboration idea to a website called Art Connect. This website connects artists with other artists to create joint projects. After a couple days of posting, I received quite a few inquiries, but none as amazing as an artist named Joanna Winograd.

I instantly fell in love with her art. After looking through a few pages on her website, I knew she was the person I wanted to team up with for this book. In addition to our collab, I wanted to share Joanna's past work and provide a space where you, the reader, can get to know her and her amazing creations. Even though we're separated by roughly 5,200 miles, through the magic of the electronic internet machine, I sent her over some interview questions. Let's dive get to it, shall we? 

What are your earliest memories of creating art and what fueled your passion for it?

It is difficult to find a particular memory, but since I can remember painting, drawing and creating is what i like the most and the way I feel most comfortable to express myself. But I think is not exactly a passion, is the way I am, I need to create the same as I need to eat.
— JW

Are there any artists or things that inspire you or your work the most?

My inspirations come from everything around me, starting with the religious art from the Middle Ages over traditional Latin-American art to actually every comment or behavior of people around me.
I like to observe everything and to think about everything, even to develop sociological theories about our time and people’s behavior. And I like to tell some of those thoughts in my artwork.
— JW

Do you have any art pieces that you're particularly proud of creating?

I am proud of the children’s book « les monsters au plafond » that I made together with (Sevrine Loison who wrote the text) and the menus and the illustrations I made for Candelaria (a famous cocktail bar and taqueria in Paris). I think those are my favorite projects.
— JW

For my last question, I wanted to inquire about her past collaborative endeavors. I know for me, this is my first collaboration with an illustrator, so it was interesting to find out whether or not she is seasoned when it comes to teaming up on a creative project. 

Do you normally collaborate with other artists or is this your first big collaboration?

The book « le moistures au plafond » was my first collaboration, and I really like to draw the stories that someone else writes! So I hope there are many more to come. :) 
— JW

I'm incredibly blessed to have found such a talented artist to not only interview, but work with on a children's book. Joanna and I want to give everyone a small preview of an early design for the book entitled, "The Life and Death of Herbert the Star" and the art style she's illustrating it with.

 Page 7 From Our Children's Book

Page 7 From Our Children's Book

The Life and Death of Herbert the Star will be out later this year/early next year. I hope to collaborate with Joanna on a bunch of projects like this one in the future and I thank her for allowing me the time to interview her. I will keep everyone updated on our book's progression and publication as time goes on. In the meantime, explore her website and let her know how awesome her works are!

Autumn's Eyeliner Notes

I love finding out previously unknown, relatable details about friends, like when I learned that my friend, Autumn, was also a writer. Not only that, but she had a website, as well as regular contributors to the site. Even more intriguing, after reading through her posts, I realized the story-content she was creating was something completely unique and inspiring. She somehow writes in this perfectly abstract and poetic way that attracts you to each and every line of dialogue.

After reading through different posts on Autumn's site entitled "Eyeliner Notes", I felt compelled to share her talented writing with my own audience of readers. Needless to say, I sent some questions her way shortly after our discussion and now, here we are.

When did you first start writing and what sparked that interest?

I was a happy introvert as a kid. My room was full of journals, costumes, dioramas and TONS of dolls. I was involved in all things creative writing and literature-related in grade school. At that time, I didn’t see writing as a passion of mine. It was just something I spent a lot of time doing.

I’m the oldest of my siblings so my family had no idea what to do with a teenage girl. By time I reached age fifteen I spent the majority of my teenage years grounded indefinitely.

At first this was excruciating so I tried creating as much as possible to pass the time. The first time I logged on to LiveJournal I knew that I had found my escape. I was obsessed with my outlet of choice and quickly lost interest in the outside world.

This was even down to school subjects; if a class didn’t involve open ended essays then I would try my best to avoid it.

My high school AP English teacher helped me feel understood and encouraged my passion. Having her as a mentor kept that spark going into my adult life.
— AK

Are these stories fiction, non-fiction, or a mixture of both?

Definitely a mixture of both. Some are more non-fiction than I’d like to admit. I do try to provide a good mix of the two. I’ll give myself challenges on certain entries from short stories to poems etc. I slip into the habit of just writing about what I know and I try to be conscious of that and keep it in check. Some entries I create more for the readers and then other entries I’ve just got to spill my guts.
— AK
 From the post " Meetin Mr. Locheart "

From the post "Meetin Mr. Locheart"

What sparked this project?

A friend of mine enjoyed writing poems about busking. We spent all last Summer exchanging writing ideas. I was shy about what I wrote but decided to jot down an emotionally charged piece “Cloud Queen” and show it to him. As an adult I became secretive about my writing. My husband had never even read anything of mine up until this point. Our friend unfortunately passed this Winter so it made that piece more significant and it turned into the current “Cloud Queens” series on Eyeliner Notes.

With the overall website, I teamed up with two other women. The original vision was to have a shared space of free creative expression with the three of us and the occasional featured writer. Like a lot of creative endeavors, it was a fantastic idea at first but life took us in different directions and it didn’t pan out. I took the project over and now have my Cloud Queens series combined with occasional featured writers. So far I’ve been incredibly lucky to come across so many badass creative women. I can’t wait to see how they’ll help Eyeliner Notes evolve.
— AK
 From the post " Before Medication "

From the post "Before Medication"

Where did the idea of using Barbies come from? 

Okay the simple answer to this is that I absolutely love creating miniature scenes. Because of this I never grew out of making things like clay sculptures, admiring all things that have to do with creepy dolls and playing The Sims. I even had a friend that I’d play Barbies with in secret up until we were eighteen years old! The plots were a lot different than when we were kids but I have to admit it was pretty weird. So, using Barbies as the visual portion to each piece came as second nature to me.

The slightly more complex part to this is that the “Cloud Queens” series is about recognizing and celebrating the feminine human experience. It’s an attempt at providing the world with additional insight on what femininity really is and how that can contrast with what a lot of people perceive it to be.

I was raised right around the time where people were starting to finally full on question the unrealistic standards that have been placed on women. As a result, Barbies weren’t seen as fun or appropriate anymore. They were suddenly little she-devils in pink boxes that moms from the 90’s would gripe about. That made them even more appealing to me. I thought they were amazing instruments to act out the fictional characters that I created. From a young age they empowered me.

I was taught that the only positive way to be a woman was to be outgoing. Because that would send the message that I’m strong and can stand up for myself. Introverts like me, oh no. That must be a flaw. That must mean that I’m passive and weak. Feminine strength is so commonly misunderstood and it’s pretty frightening.

This series strips away all of these assumptions about what people are when they identify as feminine. For example, I don’t want to look like a Barbie. Or to compare myself to a doll. I want to create and be inspired by them. I’m not loud and outgoing but I can write my way through a lot and with all the quiet self reflection I do, I could probably think up a strategic way to kick your ass.
— AK
 From the post " An Afternoon with Monogamy "

Do you have any future plans for your work (like a book) or will this continue online for the foreseeable future?

Additional info on having the Cloud Queens series in print is in the works and in the meantime Eyeliner Notes will continue online with upcoming contributors.
— AK
 From the post " Enter the Cloud Queen "

From the post "Enter the Cloud Queen"

Do you have any other projects you're working on or any upcoming shows?

I’m working on getting prints of the visual art portion of the Cloud Queens series available for purchase on the Eyeliner Notes website by the end of the Summer. I do have additional writing projects but I’m too secretive and neurotic to talk about anything that half baked, haha.
— AK

To me, it's an amazing thing to see an artist put themselves out there as much as Autumn has with her writings. I think that's what makes her website so wonderful though. You can feel the raw emotion of the subject matter when you consume each and every one of her posts. I, for one, can't wait to keep reading and following her work.

To follow her and her contributor's works, click on the image below: