Mawkish

The first time I took a writing class where the professor instructed us to write creative nonfiction, I wrote a story about my sister. About how she would tease her hair, and as a child I would watch her in the mirror. She would tease, tease, tease, then she would ask if I wanted teased. Lots of teasing in the 80s. Lots of teasing with big sisters. I wrote my heart onto the pages for the first time ever. I made connections, pulled loose strings. I fell in love with the genre immediately. It called to me, to the little girl in the mirror, circling the big girl looking back through rose-colored glasses. I felt relieved that this sort of writing existed. I felt comforted.

I turned my essay in. My professor gave me a B. Made sure I knew he was being generous. He said my language was dramatic, yet lacking. He was a Shakespeare scholar. My subject choice, he said, was “saccharine”. Saccharine, I thumbed through my dictionary. Was that relating to sugar? Sweet, sticky? Overly sentimental. Mawkish. Why didn’t the Shakespeare scholar write mawkish on my essay? This was nearly fifteen years ago.

I’m hyperaware now of my own sentimentality.

I’m aware of what is expected, of what is tolerated in the genre.

I’m weary of bearded Shakespeare professors.

Still, I would have preferred mawkish.

M.

My Writing

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my six acceptance letters into publications and my 24 rejections. Ouch. I know, I know. Keep on keeping on. Stay positive. Don’t worry about the number of rejections, that can get up into the thousands! But every time I get a rejection, I sort of feel myself curl up a little bit. I want to stay in bed, quit sending things out. I know I am doing things wrong. I know I am. I’m not sure how to navigate this terrain, so I am learning as I go. I don’t know quite yet where my writing falls. Which publications I should be sending work to. I’m afraid to go to bat with the “big boys” as it were, so if I’m being honest with myself, I’m choosing small publications where I might have a better shot. Then I have those days where I feel like I am selling myself, and my work, short. Then I get another rejection from a “small guy” and I’m like, no you’re where you need to be. Maybe you shouldn’t even be sending out. Maybe you suck and everyone is just placating you, you pile of dog crap! I’m a nightmare. I have never been a salesperson. Especially when it comes to myself. Anyway, boohoo, Missy. Okay, we are done with that now. But if you do have advice, lay it on me. I’m always looking for that.

What I really want to do is share some of my work with you today, for those of you who have never read my “real stuff” before. So I was just gonna put some links down here for you to try out if you are interested. The first link is a creative non-fiction piece I wrote as part of my grad school thesis and it means the most to me. You can read it here: http://mudseasonreview.com/author/melissa-goodnight/ This is where it was originally published. There is also an interview with me on this link, about why I write what I do. I had a great experience with Mud Season Review. Kinda sad it was my first publication because now I know how wonderful and easy the editors can make the process. People aren’t always so nice.

Then there is flash fiction. I love writing flash fiction! I love the small slices of life you can see in them. I only have two of those published, a third is set to come out with Lunch Ticket soon, but for now you can read them at these links. This first one is the first piece of FF I ever wrote: https://deadmule.com/melissa-goodnight-the-line-fiction-may-2019/

And this next one is my favorite: http://www.jennymag.org/fall-18-issue/the-center-wont-hold

Anyway, thanks for reading my work, even if you just check in here occasionally. I see you, and I appreciate you.

M.

PS… I have a poem coming out in the fall in an anthology of Kansas City poets! I will let you guys know when it releases.

Pulling Out My Hair

All morning I have been putting my hands on my keyboard in an attempt to will myself to write something, but nothing comes out. This has been happening for about two weeks. I don’t mean with this silly, little blog. I have a million topics for this place. Climbing out of this blue spot I have been in. My recent gastro-intestinal upset. Our house-hunting trip to Atlanta. Jackson’s ongoing obsession with Harry Potter. Those are all easy topics for me to slap down here for our mutual reading pleasure. What I’m having a really hard time with is writing other things. Things I need to be writing. Short stories, and flash fiction, and creative non-fiction. Things that I write to send out for consideration. Things that, you know, a writer should care about.

A couple of weeks ago I started an essay about mental health. It’s morphed into more of a lyric essay. I talk about my penchant for weeding, then I talk about the unnerving condition I was diagnosed with shortly after the loss of my daughter. It’s called trichotillomania, which is a really long, crazy-sounding word that means at times of high stress I pull my hair out. Literally. I subconsciously run my fingers through my hair, often times when I am asleep, and I pull strands of hair out. I do it over and over again, in the same spot, until finally I have a little bald patch on my scalp and I have to part my hair to cover it. It sorta sucks. But also, I guess it sort of helps too.

It doesn’t always happen when I am asleep. Sometimes I am fully-awake, but I am distracted. When I first noticed it I was sitting on the couch with my husband. We were watching tv, toddler Jackson was asleep, and I was actually engrossed in whatever was happening in that episode of, probably, The Office. Before I knew what was happening I had taken my pony tail out and began running my fingers through my hair. At some point my husband looked over at me and asked what was wrong. I told him nothing was wrong. Because nothing was wrong. Weirdo. Then after the episode he looked at the spot next to me and asked again what was wrong. I looked over too, and there was a massive pile of my hair sitting next to me. We didn’t really know what to say. Over the next few weeks it got worse. I was waking up in the middle of the night to clumps of hair all around me, and my hand resting on my head. It was exhausting. So I finally asked the doctor and she explained this all to me. I felt relieved, but you know, not really.

So here I am, reliving all of this to write it out on the page, in hopes that I will actually finish this essay, submit it to a publication, they won’t think I’m too weird, and they will publish it, so that maybe, maybe, someone who pulls their hair out realizes, perhaps for the first time, that it is a mental health problem. Realizes they are not alone. Realizes they need to seek help. But until then, I am stuck, you see. Stuck. Unable to think. Unable to write. Unable to help. Stuck with idle hands, wanting to pull out my hair.

M.