Capoeira Lessons

February 15, 2018

On Tuesday I had got up for an early meeting with lots of energy. The meeting –for a non-industry job — was really interesting, and set my mind to spinning –thinking of some interesting things I could write about…

But as the day wore on, my energy dwindled as I began to feel daunted by everyday practicalities.

And then I got a letter saying that I would not be receiving a publication award I’d been on the shortlist for …

And by evening I was feeling pretty depleted and defeated.

But Paul had just begun a month of Capoeira classes at a studio close to us, and was going to a class that night. On a whim, I said, “Should I go, too?” capoeira

And an hour later I was in a brightly lit studio with new people learning new movements to the rhythm of instruments with unfamiliar names.

And I felt energized and happier again.

I’m Shortlisted for a Chapbook Competition!

February 7, 2019

After a close-but-no-cigar a semi-finalist finish in the Black River Chapbook Competition last week (which was still lovely and encouraging). Today I received this letter from The Sonder Press.

Dear Barrington

Congratulations! Your chapbook, After The Storms: A Tryptych has been shortlisted for our 2018 competition. You will be notified by February 8th if your manuscript has won, and been selected for publication. Runners-up may also be selected for publication independent of the prize. We do ask that at this time, if your work is simultaneously submitted elsewhere, you withdraw it from any outstanding competitions/presses. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We look forward to speaking again soon.

Fingers crossed for this! When I find out tomorrow I’ll update this post with the verdict!

In the meantime, you might want to check out Sonder Press / Review’s cool-looking website.

Update, February 9: They wrote to say they need a few more days to decide.

Update, February 15: I’ve waited a couple days to post so they could do their press release and site update — but here’s the verdict.

Dear Barrington Smith-Seetachitt,

After an extremely difficult deliberation, we regret to inform you that your chapbook After The Storms: A Triptych has not been selected for our 2018 prize. It has, however, been awarded an Honorable Mention as one of the top five manuscripts under consideration. Our official press release announcing the winner, runners-up, and honorable mentions will be released Thursday and our website will be updated accordingly. We were very impressed with your work and encourage you to submit again in the future, to both our press and review, we would love an opportunity to read your work again.

I’ll post a link to the winners when it goes up, with a congrats to them. I’m sure I’m in very good company!

Another “100 Rejections” Post

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January 29, 2019.

I have a new short story that I feel like has got some legs, despite it receiving its third rejection today. It’s a story with a sci-fi twist so I’m trying sci-fi mags first, but have a feeling it’s not really sci-fi enough. The sci-fi doesn’t become apparent ’til near the end, whereas all the sample story excerpts on the magazine websites seem to start out with people floating around in space-pods. I have been gratified by how fast the genre magazines turn around though. I started submitting at the beginning of January, and although none of them accept simultaneous submissions, they have all responded within a week. By comparison, in the same batch of morning emails, I also got a rejection for a different story that I submitted to a literary journal back in August, which for overwhelmed, underpaid lit journals is about standard.

I’ve just decided, after seeing a few articles on the topic of “100 rejections per year” like this one and this one, that I, too, will aim for 100 rejections this year. I generally have in mind that rejections reflect attempts, and thus it’s good to collect a few, but 100 is a nice round number, and I will need to up my  game to achieve it. The end of January is almost upon us, and I am only four rejections in. I need an average of nine per month to hit 100. Because of the afore-mentioned long turn-around times, I am disadvantaged by my low submission numbers in the last half of last year, and for the same reason, anything I submit after summer of this year might not get rejected until next year!

I also need to change up the types of things I get rejected for. Last year, I invested a lot of time in submissions for screenwriting fellowships and labs. These often have high entry fees. I wish I could say it is the last vestiges of self-respect, but it’s probably just my extreme lack of funds that require me to take those out of the mix this year. No $100 Humanitas Prize entry for me. No $45-$65 dollar lab submissions or $45-$95 screenwriting contests. (I’m glad that my contributions over the last decade have helped all the worthy programs who sponsor these opportunities, and am sure my deficit will be covered by plenty of new aspirants.) A friend recently offered to show me how to look for article work — so that might be an option for rejection collection!

I also need to set some parameters. Like if I pitch a show and they pass… can that count? I think yes, because of the preparation involved, and the fact that I can write the company names and project names on my tracking chart. But things like requests for fee-waivers do not count–even though I can chart them and they still pack some dream-denying emotional punch, they are not actually rejecting my ideas or work or presentation of self.

2019. Bring. It. On.

 

2018 Year End Letter

The day before New Year’s Eve I suffered a case of food-poisoning, with all the fun that entails. Appropriately, I ended 2018 feeling a little beaten up and drained! But the first day of 2019 is the sigh after the storm. The sun came out this morning, and — for today at least — nothing could taste more delicious than sparkling water and saltines! I think if there were a theme for 2018, it would be “perspective.”

(The theme for 2019, I have decided in advance, will be “pictures” since I am looking through my photos from this year and realizing I don’t have a single one with both Paul and me in the frame. We’ll use this as a stand-in:)

couple holding hands

Paul and I still live in the top half of a Spanish duplex in Los Angeles. In the spring, we were sad (though happy for her) when our awesome housemate, Julie, moved to Brooklyn with her boyfriend.  We lucked out when another friend, Sue, was in the market for a place. She’s a photographer, a former stand-up comic and has similar standards for cleanliness to ours so we’re getting along great!

In 2017, Paul  helped out his friend from film school, Iman, with her first feature, a comedy about three young Muslim women balancing love, career ambitions and culture in the Big Apple. In 2018 he became an official producer, logging many hours on the phone and in the editing room (i.e. the editor’s bedroom … it’s an independent film!)

For me, 2018 was a “leap-of-faith” year.

leaping from cliff

I purposefully took no steady teaching or admin-ing in order to push forward my screenwriting career ambition. I developed several projects and a couple came close to the finish line of being sold — but despite hopes and promises,  and many people claiming to be “excited,” it was not meant to be… in 2018 at least!

On the bright side, because I can write while traveling, I was able to take a longer-than-usual trip back to Indiana and New York where it was lovely to see family and old friends. On the flight to New York I also read a novel by friend and talented writer, Eric Sasson, called Admissions, and couldn’t put it down. I asked Eric if I could option the rights and he said yes! This was my first time optioning another writer’s work – it felt good to find and validate, even in a small way, another writer’s talents and efforts!

I took a video editing class and used my new, rudimentary skills to complete a three-minute film!  (It stars my niece and nephew and had a very exclusive “cast and crew” screening at my sister’s home on Christmas Day.)

Day-to-day, the freedom /obligation to wake up and write into the afternoon was really satisfying. So was making it to the gym more often. I always wondered, if my schedule were more flexible, I would really make more time for the gym? I was happy to find the answer is yes! exericise-stick-figure.jpg

I saw some great plays, and Paul and I both saw many movies. For a few golden months our MoviePass subscriptions provided a non-stop film festival at the nearby Landmark theatre.

Almost-free movies, classes at the gym, extra hours at my laptop – as well as sunny days, rainy days, and days when you just wake up feeling good – more and more, I am aware of how these are gifts. Maybe because 2018 has been so full of perspective-giving moments. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a year when so many friends posted about losing their beloved pets. I’m regularly brought to tears by friends grieving the loss of a parent or dealing with  grave illnesses of spouses and children with a bravery, perseverance and poetry that stuns me.

In December, my mom and I traveled through San Francisco to Eureka, California, seeing old friends, family and Redwood trees along the way. The trip was over my birthday weekend, near the year’s end, and we had several hours to drive while looking at fields and listening to the Dirty John podcast. Basically the perfect conditions for woolgathering and taking stock– and, if one isn’t careful, lapsing into wondering why the universe hasn’t rewarded ones efforts in a way that’s “fair.”

This sense of why unfairness? might have been lingering in the back of my mind the morning we left Eureka. Mom and I were eating our free continental breakfast in the motel lobby when a mother came in with her four children under the age of ten. We tried not to laugh too obviously as one of the kids over-filled his cereal with milk and then carefully shuffled to the table trying (unsuccessfully) to transport the bowl without it spilling.

My mom, making conversation, asked the kids if they were “on vacation,” the six-year old girl replied, in the softest little voice, “No, we’re here because our house burnt down in Paradise.”

BAM.

Perspective.

The mother told us that she and the kids had been at the motel for weeks while their father was on the road, looking for work and a place to rebuild their lives.

(Whoa, I didn’t mean to write myself into such a serious corner here at the end. I’ll try to wrap it up. Thank goodness this wasn’t a Christmas letter!)

Any year can be a year where our life plans—our life assumptions—get thrown off track, in big ways and small. If there’s a value in it, it’s probably that it makes us grateful for whatever remains—for me, there was a lot to be grateful for this year: health, the well-being of those close to me, people who remain resolutely kind and thoughtful in the face of the growing pressures in the world to be otherwise, friends, laughter, generosity, Skype, clean air, saltine crackers and sparkling water. And if you are reading this, you!

stock-vector-cartoon-stick-man-drawing-conceptual-illustration-of-businessman-climbing-mountain-concept-of-784718656Here’s to whatever you are grateful for, and whatever mountains you have to climb in 2019!

Love,

Barrington and Paul

Submitting

I’m in the process of submitting a short story to various journals.  It occurs to me that this is an act that requires “submitting” in both senses of the word: 1) “Presenting ones work for consideration or judgement,” and 2) “yielding to or acceptance of a greater authority” (whether that greater authority is whomever has the power to judge, or the way things work, or the mysteriousness of the universe and its unknowable will).

My personal submissions process generally leads to some rabbit-holing. Each journal’s website encourages me to consider whether I am a fit by reading other work they have published. I generally try to do this, and I will also occasionally search for interviews with or works by the editor.

In this way, Dogwood (a journal) led me to an essay by Carole Ann Davis, which led me to this poem by Miklos Radnoti, a poet I had never heard of.

The quote from the essay by Carol Ann Davis that caught my eye:

Before getting to my desk this morning I read a beautiful poem by the Hungarian Miklós Radnóti, who died in a ditch while performing forced labor during World War II but whose notebook of poems was found upon his exhumation in the raincoat that covered his body, a poem that contains lines about the end of summer “bath[ing] in the sun,” and a “pain that wanders around / but you start again as if you had wings.” The notebook nestled in consolation next to his dead body for over a year before it was found.

The poem by Miklos Radnoti that I subsequently found (a different translation from the link above):

Letter to my wife

Soundless worlds are listening somewhere deep
In the earth; the silence roars in my ears and I keep
On crying for help but from Serbia stunned by war
No one can give me an answer and you are far
Away. The sound of your voice becomes entwined
With my dreams and, when I awake next day, I find
Your words in my heart; I listen and meanwhile the sound
Of tall, proud ferns, cool to the touch, murmurs all round.

When I’ll see you again, I can no longer promise – you
Who once were as grave as the psalms, and as palpably true,
As lovely as light and shade and to whom I could find
My way back without eyes or ears – but now in my mind
You stray through a troubled land and from somewhere deep
Within it your flickering image is all I can keep
A hold of. Once you were real, but now you’re a dream,
I tumble back into memory’s depths till it seems

I’m a boy once more, wondering jealously whether
You love me and if, at the height of youth, you’ll ever
Become my wife – I begin to hope once more
And, tumbling back, my wakeful state is restored
And I know you are – my wife, my friend, yet how
Far off. Beyond three savage frontiers. Now
Autumn’s coming. Will it forget me here?
The vivid memory of our kisses still endures.

I believed in miracles once, but now they’ve fled
And squadrons of bombers slowly drone by overhead;
In the sky I saw with amazement the blue of your eyes;
But then it grew dark and the bombs in the aeroplane high
Above were longing to fall. All the same, I came through
And now I’m a prisoner. And though I’ve measured the true
Scale of my hopes, I’m certain I’ll reach my goal;
For you I’ve already travelled the length of the soul,

The roads that seek distant lands; if I must, I’ll contrive
To conjure myself over red-hot coals and survive
Among showers of flames – yet still I will return
To be with you one day; if I have to, I’ll learn
To be tough like the bark on a tree – and now I’m soothed
By the calm of men who, achieving power, move
Through endless trials – and the knowledge that I’ll pull through
Descends, like a wave, with the coolness of 2 x 2.

Camp Heidenau, in the hills above Zagubica, 1944. August-September.

Things like this, I guess, are the rewards of submitting oneself to the process.