My Words are Wandering

It’s official, I have been paid for my words! My poem ‘After Betty Davis’ (which has been doing its rounds; first published in From Glasgow to Saturn then Transatlantic Literary Woman and my go-to poem to read aloud at poetry gigs) is one of 5 poems featured in the Lies, Dreaming podcast. My real, actual voice can be found at about 5:50 (but the whole podcast is worth a listen!).

FYI — This poem is about Betty Davis (not Bette Davis!)

Unlike most indie literary outlets, Lies, Dreaming pays its contributors, so if I needed any validation that I was a real writer, well, I have it now.

In other news:

A poem about Ireland and my mom has been published in qmunicate magazine.

A wee story of mine — a bloody little retelling of the Little Mermaid was published in Letters to Barnacle Zine.

Two poems about joy and sadness and the fear of falling in love is coming soon in the University of York’s Eborakon.

And, finally, a poem about fields and lochs and moths — and, yeah, love — was published as part of York St John’s Pollination Project.

My words are getting around.

Thanks for reading!

A.

A Writer, Developer and Poet Walk Into a Bar…

I don’t know who I am. More precisely, I know that I am (or want to be) a bunch of different things at once — and this is giving me a bit of a crisis of confidence.

Here’s what I know:

I’m a fantasy writer.

I’m a poet.

I’m interested in technology, software and design.

Here’s what I don’t know:

I’m a fantasy writer. Well, sort of, maybe. I’m really into surrealism right now, and the novel I’m writing doesn’t employ any of the ‘traditional’ fantasy tropes — it’s kind of Steampunk but there’s electricity and it’s really a soap opera set in a stately Scottish home (think: Downtown Abbey with magic).

I’m a poet. I think. I mean, I write poems every once in a while. I publish poetry more than I publish my short fiction. Does that make me a poet? Probably.

I’m interested in technology, software and design. I worked as a project manager installing medical software for three years, but I have no formal training in computer science. I’ve never taken a design course. I took an introduction to Python course and made a little choose-your-own-adventure story out of it, but that’s about it.

Here’s the situation:

I love stories.

I’m interested in building a career in either: front end web development, digital design or video games.

BUT

I have no formal education is computer science.

I have no formal education in design.

The Conflict

For a long time, these two ‘buts’ have been holding me back from pursuing a career as a developer. I felt (and still do often feel!) that without a formal education in coding and design, there is no way I can break into a career in programming. Isn’t tech for early 20-somethings who have been coding for years? Shouldn’t professional designers have taken more than one Introduction to Art class in university?

I don’t know.

But right now is the time for me to find out. As a PhD student, I have access to university resources, and as a volunteer with a digital social enterprise I have a good platform for exploration. If not now, when?

http://laurasalaberry.com/

Here’s my plan for how I’m going to break into tech without years of relevant education under my belt.

Goals

Learn What’s Out there

Learn to Code

Showcase What I’ve Already Done

Learn What’s Out There

laurasalaberry.com/migas/

Let’s start right here, right now. I’ve subscribed to relevant tags (Art, Creativity, Design, Gaming) on Medium, sending inspiring, interesting and education articles to my inbox every morning. Even when I don’t know exactly what the article is about (I’m such a noob), I always learn something. I’ve already learned about digital product design, style guides and FreeCode Camp.

I’ve also subscribed to Code Pen’s Podcast (Code Pen Radio). Code Pen is a social development environment for front-end designers and developers.’ …

Learn to Code

laurasalaberry.com/migas/

… and since I’ve started FreeCodeCamp, I’m starting to better understand how things are made on Code Pen, using HTML and CSS. (Java Script is still a mystery to me). I’ve been squeezing in the odd hour before work to practice coding on FreeCodeCamp — not as much as I’d like (my coding practice has to compete with my novel) but it’s been really gratifying.

Showcase What I’ve Already Done

laurasalaberry.com/migas/

I already have a personal writer’s website that’ll do for now and I’ve redesigned the online shop for the social enterprise Uncovered Artistry (they sell the artisan work of domestic and sexual abuse survivors).

Hopefully one of my first coding projects will be to develop a portfolio website.

I’ve got to remember that I have years of professional and educational experience under my belt. A Masters in Creative Writing might seem useless compared to a degree in computer science, but I’ve been honing my storytelling skills for years now; without a doubt I’ll bring a unique perspective to whatever I create.

laurasalaberry.com/migas/

Okay, so here I go!

Please share your advice and suggestions 🙂

Note: The GIFs I use in this post are from Laura Salaberry. Check her out here.

Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet. Writers who inspire her include Angela Carter, Leonora Carrington, and Ursua Le Guin. Her most recent endeavours include a lyrical essay about her Italian family, a horror fairy tale, and a novel about grief.

Keep Panicking

America has a new president, and I keep writing out it. Not in a direct way, but in the way that I’ve pretty much always written about my fears. Take a look at 2016. That was the year where much of my writing involved either slugs or self-mutilation (of the eyes in particular). Slugs (or, more accurately, soft amorphous bodies) and objects inserted into the eye are two pretty major fears of mine. And without even knowing it, I wrote about them and more than once. They cropped up in my surrealist prose and my poetry and in my horror fiction. Sometimes I wrote about them with affection. Sometimes with fairly obvious disgust. Always with fear.

This past week, I attended Edinburgh’s Fantasy & Folklore conference whose theme was fear. The attendees and participants comprised perhaps the largest group of self-proclaimed fantasy nerds I’ve ever had the honour of being a member of. Everyone I spoke to was passionate, genuine, kind. I’m not going to make some wild sweeping statement that all fantasy lovers are wonderful people, but… The presentations, on everything from Harry Potter to the Lord of the Rings to pirates and witches and vampires, were thought-provoking. I was inspired.

I also presented my first-ever conference paper. It was a brilliant experience. I got to read a little-known surrealist woman writer’s (Gisele Prassinos) horror fairy story to a captive audience. There was a worm, and brains were eaten. I think it went over well.

For the final hours of the conference, I attended back-to-back creative writing workshops hosted by Harriet MacMillan (@harrietta3), one of the conference organisers, and Kirsty Logan (@kirstylogan), a local horror/fairy tale writer who I greatly admire. We talked about our fears. We wrote about them. I’ve never done this before — putting my fears onto paper and reading them aloud to a kind group of strangers and then actively writing about them. I was surprised by what I uncovered.

This year, buoyed by a fantastic writing group and Pret’s 99p filter coffees (goodbye, Starbucks! A new cheap coffee alternative is in town, and it won’t cauterise my intestines, ha!), I’m still writing my fears. I’ve written about Trump’s ‘alternative facts’, his bullying tactics, his gaslighting. Yes, I’ve written about slugs (again), but this time, as a thick slug-like rain threatens to immobilise a town, the townspeople strap shovels onto their backs, tighten the laces of their spiked boots, and get ready for the resistance.

A.

Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet. Writers who inspire her include Angela Carter, Leonora Carrington, and Ursua Le Guin. Her most recent endeavours include a lyrical essay about her Italian family, a horror fairy tale, and a supernatural crime novel.

How did it get so late so soon?

December in Scotland is beautiful and terrible. The sun sets at 4 PM, the rain is freezing, the sun is a pipe dream. But walking my dog at 7 AM means I can see the sunrise, pink  and purple with the University’s tower a dark silhouette against the colour. And the city is all decked out for Chrismas. I bought a tiny sparkly Christmas tree from Waitrose and was filled with so much joy, I nearly forgot to pick up my free coffee. There’s a word for Scotland in December: sublime.

A lot has happened and a lot is going on.

Firstly, please please attend a charity fundraising gig at Stereo on 7 December, 7 – 11 PM. We’ve got four awesome local musical acts, and Stereo is a cool place, complete with bar and vegan cafe. Support Uncovered Artistry, which sells the artisan work of domestic and sexual abuse survivors. RSVP via Facebook.

ONLINE UA Event Poster W 4 BANDS.jpg

Secondly, Crooked Holster published a horror story of mine in their crime anthology. Can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

crooked-holster

From Glasgow to Saturn will also be publishing a few things of mine, including poetry.

And like a real serious academic, I’m presenting a paper on surrealism, fairy tales, and horror at the Edinburgh Fantasy and Folklore Conference.

I’m pretty — what’s the word? – chuffed.

A.

Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet. Writers who inspire her include Angela Carter, Leonora Carrington, and Ursua Le Guin. Her most recent endeavours include a lyrical essay about her Italian family, a horror fairy tale, and a supernatural crime novel.

Welcome to the October Country

Well, that’s it, folks. Summer’s gone. So we might as well dive straight into that metaphorical pile of leaves and immerse ourselves in this crisp October country (ala Ray Bradbury). I’m no longer able to afford PSLs, but thanks to a recent trip to the USA, I’ve got a hearty little stockpile of CheeseIts and hazelnut coffee that should get me through to spring (just kidding, I ate all the CheeseIts already).

What have I been up to?

Was honored to read a poem of mine at Meadowpark Picture‘s event One Pint to Line, celebrating their writing-to-video project. Honored, also, to have a story of mine (‘Stonecutting’) in the project. The event was held in Glasgow’s Old Hairdressers. The Old Hairdressers is a cool hipster bar, accessible via a dark, wet alley (or maybe it was just a regular street; I had just arrived from Chicago that morning and existed in a jetlagged haze). After nearly crashing (what I think was) a vegan potluck, I made my way up to their event space. Met some cool people. Heard some cool stories, poems, and music. Great night.

one-pint-to-line

Yeah, I also started my PhD. I’ve got three years to write a novel (or short story collection) and some critical work to accompany it. As a creative writer, the critical stuff ought to freak me out the most, but it’s the creative work that I’m most anxious about. In case you weren’t aware, writing is hard. Creative writing is especially hard because you’ve got this little vague idea or feeling in your mind’s eye and somehow need to extract that from your brain and drag it onto a blank page and then pulverize and percolate it and cut it to pieces and then DO something with it. Like publish it or something.

autum-uofg

Welcome to my castle.

But instead of trying to meditate away my anxiety, I’m diving into it (like that metaphorical pile of leaves). I’m going to write through it. Let’s see what happens.

Okay, actually, something already happened. I started writing a story about a French girl who walks underground into a mirror version of her life, where everyone has fun and loves her, and she has to decide if she wants to stay in this alternate reality or go back to her unhappy life above. I haven’t finished it. Don’t assume reality is better than fiction.

I’ve also signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — the month of November where several thousand crazy people write 50,000-word novels in 30 days. Ala Steven King, here’s my ‘situation’:

What if an American woman, recently unemployed, moves to Glasgow to live with a cousin she’s never met, and after accidentally gaining the ability to recognize Faeries finds herself attempting to catch a Faerie serial killer that’s ravenging the Glasgow magical underground?

This novel is my ‘side hustle’. The fun thing I write on the side while I’m working on the PhD. I’ve never written a crime novel before. I expect this to be a sobering experience.

NaNoWriMo_2016_WebBanner_Participant.png

If you, too, are writing a novel this November, let’s connect.

A.

Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet. She holds a dual-Bachelors degree in creative writing and business management from Lake Forest College and is completing a doctoral degree in creative writing at the University of Glasgow. She has lived in Austria, the Netherlands, and now lives in the UK.

A Writing Life Update

It’s been a busy summer. The first half was devoted to the production of my literary magazine, Shetland Create, and our little launch up on the Shetland Islands. Suffice to say, it all turned out beautifully! I met some warm and welcoming northerly writers and saw myself a good share of puffins. What more could I ask for?

issue one with succulant

I made a book. It feels awesome. (P.S. Everything looks better with a succulent.)

Then I threw myself into finishing my Masters dissertation, what I’ve (perhaps ineloquently) dubbed a ‘poetic memoir.’ But it’s not really about me, to be honest. It’s the story of my family, who immigrated from Sicily over 100 years ago and how our faith has shifted from Catholicism to cars. Yes, we’re obsessed with cars. I wrote a whole book about it.

Girls with GoKart.jpg

My sisters and I just casually hanging with our Go-Kart (which I now realize my parents somehow lugged to a photo studio…). Short hair, et al.

But now the Masters dissertation is behind me, and it’s time to get back into the swing of ‘writing for fun.’ In the intensity of writing my dissertation, I nearly forgot why I write to begin with. I write because it’s fun, and I just feel unfinished when I don’t.

With impeccable timing, I attended a poetry workshop hosted by Jeanette Lynes, a Canadia poet, at Glasgow Uni (where, by the way, I start my PhD this September). Her workshop focused on ‘jaggedness.’ That is: spontaneity, quirkiness, fun. She allowed us to set aside aestheticism and formality and write with an eye toward the unexpected. The workshop was exactly what I needed to get back into the groove of writing. I wrote three poems that day (and they didn’t suck!). So now I’m jazzed, sending my work off to competitions, and dredging up old work and injecting some much-needed jaggedness into them.

Oh, and a poem of mine called ‘After Betty Davis’ will be published in SWAMP, a magazine by and for postgrads. I’m honored they saw something in my quirky, weird words.

davis.jpg

You haven’t heard of Betty Davis? Go look her up. Now!

Okay, I’m off to go ruminate about my next writing project. Probably a crime novel. With faeries.

A.

Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet. She holds a dual-Bachelors degree in creative writing and business management from Lake Forest College and is completing a doctoral degree in creative writing at the University of Glasgow. She has lived in Austria, the Netherlands, and now lives in the UK.