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My writing origins are murky at best. As an early elementary-schooler, I remember writing things like “Happy Easter, [heartsign] Loria” with my name going off the edges of the Bunny-shaped construction paper gift meant for Mom and Dad. As is many times the case, my writing history begins with my reading history, which begins in second grade. I was a slow reader, mainly because I couldn’t hear. They make you read aloud in second grade, you know. Scarring from years of ear infections and tubes, I had a real problem connecting the words that I heard in stories (which were muddy to begin with) with the words I tried to read in class. And they interrupt you EVERY time you mispronounce a word. I never comprehended what I was reading. Is there essay writing in 2nd grade? If there was, I was probably in the low writing group as well. They probably didn’t bother with the three of us in that group since we were hopeless anyway.
The good news is that something clicked in me in third grade. I became a good reader—promoted from the low group to the middle group and, finally, to the high group—and it occurred to me that I could create a world of my own. By fourth grade, I had won fame and glory with my honorable mention of the essay, “What Reading Means to Me,” in a county-wide contest. I received 20 bucks and that was no joke in the mid-80’s. A writer’s work is never done, however. I decided to embark on a serious project that would require all the skill I had developed in the past two years: the writing of a suspense series called “Mystery of the Masons.” I don’t remember much about the series except it involved a protagonist named Lori, haunted houses, and copious amounts of plagiarism. It remains a shining achievement, though the actual pages of the novel did not survive my mother.
From fourth grade to my first year in college, I wrote stuff. It was important stuff at the time. Poetry, English essays, letters to Oprah. During my second year of college, I transferred to Arkansas State University to become a journalist. I loved the form of the writing and still do but hated the material I had to work with. I knew I couldn’t be a reporter when I was forced to write an article about food sales for Super Bowl Sunday. That article did make it into the school newspaper, which was a feat for a first-year journalism student. Then there was the time a vice chancellor came to see me after class about a story I wrote, which was true but unflattering. I didn’t need the stress. So I decided to become a psychology major and dabble in creative writing. I wrote heartfelt poems about hard-core depression, which I only now understand. I wrote poems about vampires and George Michael. I managed to get published in the school literary magazine, the Foliate Oak.
After receiving my B.S. in Psychology, I went to graduate school for School Psychology and for the next two years, I perfected the art of research writing. Research papers gave me an excuse to get in touch with my third-person self and use some of those journalism techniques. During this period of time, I learned a lot about writing organization and pace.
Since 2003, I’ve been writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for publication. I embarked on this journey to obtain a Master’s in Professional and Technical Writing for the sole purpose my own pleasure. My classes have pushed me to write differently than I have in the past. My essays in Nature Writing weren’t particularly good but I learned a lot about avoiding clichés and muddy water. One professor I had, Dr. H., said she liked my writing but she had no idea how she would teach anyone to write like me. I think that might have been a compliment. I wrote an essay called “Civil War” in Charles Anderson’s Healing Narrative class at UALR circa the mid-2000s. His class encouraged my inner decay to leap forward into the bright lights of criticism (no one actually criticized, by the way). I finally wrote the depression story of my life and it was dreary enough for Dr. Anderson to publish it in an academic journal he edits, Literature & Medicine. One of the reviewers of this essay insisted Dr. Anderson not publish it because it didn’t have a happy ending. I smile with pride when I think of that. I don’t write happy. I write forlorn and melodramatic.
Which leads in nicely to my current crowning achievement, the publication of my first book of poetry called sob. Sob’s content is literally about 3 years of ugly wailing in my life and chronicles my breakups, makeups, grief, death, and depression along with an ode to my favorite Greek heroine, Antigone, and a commentary about Pop-eye’s dating life. And this is my epiphany: On August 6th, I had a book launch shindig in which I read from the book. My past haunted me—I bombed at the reading. Still, the writing stands for itself and my epitaph when I die will say, “Buy my book on Amazon.” How’s that for a happy ending?
A word, self-righteous angel
If you write the Anthology of You
There are consequences
It’s time to drink down the medicine:
If you play with Ouija
Don’t complain about the smell of dead people
“you know what comes next,”
I say to him with a sad smile
it’s a smile I think he’ll come to know well
on my lips
a song from yesterday
words not quite audible
not quite decipherable
the melody doing the work
working the doing
working the words
on my lips
A good date is always a bad date for a writer. I get a rush of delight when I realize things have gone horribly awry and I’m stuck in a situation that I will be forced to endure for another 53 minutes. It’s sweet, the taste of the meat of him, the reassuring thought that I own this story now. I can twist and spin and create a reality of terror and delight for myself and, hopefully, my readers.
I had a date yesterday. It was very awkward until we started making out. He had squinty eyes and was a bad kisser. He wore a pimp ring on his finger. I admit to liking it.
a sharpened pencil
literally to the point
the one I have becomes dull after the first stroke
I bear down too hard
my point is more unfocused than I mean for it to be
I’ve been inspired by many of my fellow bloggers and my precious Bunny-Love (who considers me Mother and Poetic Grin his Other Mother, for he is the logical love child of the unnatural union of Bryan and me) has generously answered my probing questions with grace and good humor.
1. There was a skit on SNL once where Will Farrell was playing Harry Carry and said, “If you were a hotdog and you were stranded on an island, would you eat yourself?” Well, would you?
It depends on the type of hotdog I would be; if I were to be any sort of alternative hotdog–turkey, soy, etc–no. Just no. However; if I happened to become, in my hotdog island isolation, a chilli dog, there would be nothing for rescuers to find. If I were to be transformed into a corndog, that would be ideal, because I can only ever eat about half of one. The taste is great, but I get sick of it easily. And really, that sounds like me.
2. Where you do get your inspiration for writing? (Also, please tell our esteemed readers where your name comes from.)
I get my inspirations from a variety of sources. The major provider is just observations I make while wandering around, watching people or animals or plants or documentaries. The second source would have to be love. Friendly, lustful, insatiable, painful, distraught, miserable, wonderful, joyful, manic, light, and especially dark, love. I get little echoes of writings from my friends, but my best work derived from love comes from relationships. There are a lot of gay themes, and gay romances explored in my writing.
In regards to my name, B.R. Belletryst, I should say that the first part was given to me by someone who will always mean a lot to me. B.R. stands for Bunny Rabbit. The name came about during a particularly verbal sexual scene in which he told me to sit and hop on his cock, and called me his cock-rabbit. It developed into a pet name, Bunny, and has since become a name I regularly associate with. The second part, Belletryst, is my own invention. It is a portmanteau, sort of. A belletrist is a writer who writes centered around aesthetics, which is something I’d like to believe I do. The latter half of this word was changed though, because of my influence from love. A tryst, as defined by The Free Dictionary, is an agreement between lovers, especially in regards to a location to meet at. This word making up so much of who I am, romantically, as well as quite a few of my dreams, seemed a natural alteration to the word belletrist.
And so with the poem “in which he wakes,” B.R. Belletryst was born. I had been operating my website before that, but it was really with that poem, and that series of events that inspired it that I became the person and poet that my dear friend MedicatedLady is interviewing today.
3. Can you tell me why I’m so obsessed with my dog poo-ing?
No; but I can offer you this–cat poop is the worst thing in the world. The worst thing in the world. Ever.
4. How did you know writing was going to be a major part of your life?
I never know that it will be. It’s just part of me. I can’t explain to you why I write, why I write what I write, and I can’t tell you, or others, to write, or how enriching it is, if it is. To give you an example of what I’m talking about, I just recently started work outside of writing, and haven’t written anything since September 28th, journaling aside. Writing is a biological function to me, natural. It is a bodily excretion, as someone once said to me. It oozes. It flows. It is important, and it is nothing. Writing is drool, is shit, is cum, is piss, is blood, is menstrual blood, is bile, is tears, is snot, is earwax. It’s slow, it’s explosive, it’s orgasmic, it’s release, it’s scary, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it is salty, it is gross, and it is beautiful and delicious. Writing is alchemy; primordial fluids coming together.
I don’t control when I’ll write, what I’ll write, or if I will feel like it at all. My idea about writing is that writers are and constantly become. Every day you write something, you become a writer, or tap into it, and it takes something from you, and gives you something else.
5. Ohio seems like a nice enough place. Can you give me the high points and low points of life there? Also, do people from Ohio support cows?
Ohio. There are decent theme parks and some kind of history involved, but it’s very boring. I live in Lancaster, Ohio–a small city that gets its kicks out of preserving American Civil War history. I’ve heard so much about General Sherman (even went to the middle school!) that I’ve lost a bit of respect for history. I’ve been in all the historical buildings, seen all those meticulously preserved outfits, rooms, and cannons, and the only thing I have to say about it is that it’s like keeping your dead grandfather’s toenails; creepy, unnecessary, and obsessive. But that’s just my opinion. I fully acknowledge that the Civil War and all involved were important to history, and the development of our country, but the extent to which my city revolves around it is ridiculous. In all honesty, my favorite part about Ohio is the people, and getting out of my city to go to Columbus. There’s a bit more culture, the people are more exciting, and there is always something to do.
That was a bit of a rant. Oh well, I’m planning on immigrating to Canada in years to come.
Cows, cows, cows. Nope. No support for cows whatsoever. I think that’s sort of an American thing. Or a human thing, considering Kobe Beef and cows everywhere else in the world, excluding India.
All around me, carnivorous people ripping them apart, screaming, chanting “BEEF! STEAK! JERKY! PRIME RIB! BURGER! RIBS! BARBECUE! TONGUE!”
And I hear their teeth, just gnashing,
gnashing, and holy fuck, it’s like trains
crashing, brains just like potatoes mashing,
something disturbing, but can’t look away,
teeth sinking in, tongue chewed on,
trying not to betray my senses
as I fight off winces, hunger growing,
growing, thoughts start slowing,
racing to realization, serenity or actualization
–Beef. Beef. It’s what I want. Juicy, rip it apart, consume, consume, oh gods it has consumed me, that fucking cow head, that fucking taste, give me more! MORE! I demand it!
MORE! Suddenly, meal finished,
I’m back, I abhor;
I can’t believe it was me, those actions, those … poor cows. Thoughts of meat hooks, slaughter houses, mooing, mooing, chopping, sawing, hooves flying and butchers laughing… Am I repulsed? Am I horrified? I’ll have chicken tomorrow. Or maybe… beef.
Visit Bunny’s website at http://brbelletryst.wordpress.com/
So, I asked and she said yes. And so it is a pleasure to unveil our Val, our rightly nightly warrior. The one who speaks with truth beyond the Fucking Bullshit. I love her and this interview. Which makes sense as Val is perfectly loveable, as you well know, dear readers. Please give it up for our chosen one.
1. Val (dearest of all Vals). You’ve broken this down for me before. Tell me again. How does one endure the Bullshit of Life?
I’m happy you started us off on a topic I consider of utmost importance to a both a writer and a woman. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, being immersed in it, shooting it and philosophising about it.
First, one must identify the different types of Bullshit and their specific function in society/relationships before it can be endured.
Work Bullshit: This can be seen in the embellishment and padding of resumés, outrageous claims made around the coffee pot or water cooler (usually detailing some sort of extraordinary sexual conquest that is obviously false but everyone collectively pretends to believe), stories of active social lives outside the office/workplace that don’t exist ie.; yachting expeditions, cocktail parties with people in upper management, hanging out with famous people like rock stars, actors and writers.
In addition, we have those accessories that are what I term, Physical Bullshit: fake shoes for short men, fake breasts for flat women, botox for anyone wrinkled and makeup applied by a bricklayer.
All acceptable Bullshit, but should be left at work, because it’s not applicable to anything else.
Friend Bullshit: Oh I wish I was more like you, I’m so jealous of you, You look great in that dress/suit/relationship. This is cowardly saving face and not wanting to be alone Bullshit. Anyone worth their salt is well aware the friendship can’t be real without lack of bullshit.
Dating Bullshit: Sure I loooooove bungee jumping/sky diving/rock climbing…this is of course related to: Sure, I can play guitar/was once in a film/loved the movie Titanic. All designed to get in someone’s pants/car/apartment/house/family/life. NOT conducive to anything longterm but fun as a time waster and exercising your inner thespian.
Universal Bullshit: This is a giant umbrella term used to cover a wide range of social illness creating bullshit: Anything said by a politician/clergy/health organization/scientific think tank funded by a government/drug company etc…All lies I tell ya.
Now, how does one endure it.Take control of it, never believe it, treat it like an explosive and only use when you need to move a large metaphorical rockface and NEVER…EVER…ignore it!
2. For that matter, Val (dearest of all Vals), how do writers endure? Tell us your secrets.
Writers endure by getting the crazy out of them and committing it to paper. If we didn’t have paper or laptops, we would see a whole lotta crazy people chipping away at granite boulders with a hammer and chisel a la Fred Flintstone. What is in must come out…it’s therapy really and same people call it art. Hehehe
3. You’re quite the scandalous Canadian. And by scandalous, I do not really know what I mean other than you’re Canadian and because I’m American, that seems scandalous. I know you understand what I mean and do not take offense. Do you (heart) Obama? Did you ever watch Alf? Don’t you think Obama and Alf would make a cute couple?
Yes, I fully embrace my hockey lovin’, snow shovellin’, prime minister electin’, maple leaf adornin’ gay marryin’ weed legalizin’ scandalous canuck self. :0
Do I heart Obama? NO. I don’t heart him. I only heart people I feel I know to be real. I’ve yet to see that person. When he emerges…oh say halfway through his term, ask me again. I think Obama would make a cute couple with Rahm. I’m just sayin’. Hmm, Rahm does look a bit like Alf…especially the eyebrows. hehehe
4. How did you celebrate your birthday? I need to know specifics. Val (dearest of all Vals), I feel as though I might take to stalking you. I have a great affection for you. Tell me about your birthday, dammit! I will not be ignored.
I opened presents: A painting of a medieval door, an ornate pie plate I’ve been coveting for eons, an African Violet, a journal for…wait for it…writing, a large lovely Swiss Chalet dinner and one more day of breathing, living and winding up anal people.
If you stalk me, you should be warned that I’m NOT a boring stalkee. Peculiar things seem to happen to me on a regular basis, so be forewarned. I won’t ignore you medicatedlady because I don’t want that sharp scathing weapon of wit turned in my direction. I’m wise about these things, I’m old now and I know stuff.
5. Such a clichéd question but where do you get your inspiration? And also, when did you know you would be/were a writer?
Bullshit of course. Well, that and pain. The agony in pain that causes a person to give up or emerge stronger. The humour in pain…oh yes, it’s a veritable flourishing field of hilarity on the frontline of suffering. I’ve met the funniest people on the street. True comic geniuses with nothing to lose.
I knew I was a writer when I was three and I told a lie and someone believed it. I then told it the next day with more details and they still believed it. Oh god I knew I was on to something then and when I learned to make letters into sentences I wrote those lies down so they would be permanent. Now, it’s called fiction HA! Of course as I grew older, the truth started creeping in and now it’s called ART…Remember? Therapy for crazy writers.
I enjoyed your probing questions my dedicatedmedicatedlady and I’m flattered as fuck that you chose me. Many are called to this blog, but few are chosen. HUGS
Please be sure to check out Val’s blog! http://valbrussell.wordpress.com/
This Medicated Lady is thinking irrationally again.
I’ve been considering a diet consisting only of those flavored ice pops
especially the blue ones
the ones I like the least
No one but me looks forward to a psychotic break
It occurred to me that I’m tired of being medicated
tired of being in need of medication
tired of being in need
tired of being
Right is what’s right
right as opposed to wrong
right as opposed to left
right as opposed to write
write as opposed to rite
It makes sense.
In my continuing James Lipton-channeling interviews with fellow bloggers, I’ve had the pleasure of picking 1writegirl’s mind in typical ML seriousness/silliness. Be prepared to laugh and think, dear reader. Enjoy…and I know you will.
1. I’ve heard people say that they can’t write because they haven’t had anything terrible happen to them…or at least nothing interesting in comparison to what others deal with. (For example, someone might say that it’s silly to write a poem about split ends when there are people who could recount their death camp survival stories.) Do you find yourself needing to justify or validate the importance of your writing?
Not really. I mean I compare my work to that of other writers, I can’t help doing so, but everyone has their own story to tell, and not everyone can be a death camp survivor (Alas? Fortunately?). Granted, if all you ever wrote about was split ends, people would quickly tire of reading your stuff, but the trick is to take whatever you have to say and say it in such a way that other people find it intriguing. I think it’s true that much of the great writing in the world comes from either great despair or great joy, these are the times we are most inspired to write and as a result, produce deeper and more reflective pieces. But it can be done at any time, it just takes a bit more digging and more imagination when you aren’t being bombarded with some catastrophe or ecstasy. Look at Jane Austen. She wrote detailed novel after novel about complicated and intricate relationships between men and women, while in reality, she never experienced anything like that. Ditto with the Bronté sisters. It was strictly their imaginations that created those works that, amazingly enough, at least half the world could relate to, generation after generation. The other thing that keeps me from feeling a strong need to justify my writing is that I write first and foremost for myself, and secondarily, for others to read. Most writers I think are like this, at least those of us who don’t make a living from our writing – compelled to write, not sitting at a computer generating words because that’s our livelihood. We find time to write in spite of all else that’s going on in our lives, so naturally, what we write about is going to be important (to us, anyway.)
2. Let’s just say you are on a deserted island and there is little hope of rescue. There is, however, a broken CD player that constantly plays one song over and over and over again. Let’s also say you cannot access the CD player. It is in a tree and being guarded by a tropical raven-hawk beast, but you can choose the song. What would it be?
Ha! Okay, well, I guess I could rack my brain to come up with a song that I wouldn’t mind hearing over and over again for the rest of my life, but truth be told, there probably isn’t one. So I think I’d pick Beethoven’s Für Elise, that way I’d know the tune by heart but wouldn’t have the lyrics scrambling around in my brain interfering with all the great writing I’d be doing while stranded on this desert island.
3. How do you think blogging has influenced (your) writing?
First and foremost, it’s encouraged me to be more disciplined, writing almost daily. And secondly, it’s allowed me to experiment with other genres (like poetry) besides creative non-fiction and lengthy fiction, which is where the majority of my energies went previously. Prior to starting my blog, I wrote very little poetry. In addition, having an audience, one that gives you feedback, is conducive to improving qualities like clarity and subtle meaning you want the work to reflect. It’s harder to get these things when your work doesn’t see the light of day.
4. If you were sitting in a bar with your brain and you had a conversation, what would it be like?
Me: So, I’ve noticed you light up every time you’re in the presence of this guy, or even just thinking about him. Are you crazy-in-love with him, or what?
Brain: Most people would refer to it as being crazy-in-love. Apparently, however, I’m chemically addicted to him.
Me: I see. Is he chemically addicted to you?
Brain: I think so, but to a lesser degree.
Me: What will you do now?
Brain: I could really go for a cappuccino. Or, I could go jogging, and then get a cappuccino… I made it all the way down to Orcutt Street yesterday without stopping.
Me: Very funny. You know what I mean.
Brain: Damn, I just can’t fool you, can I? Okay, what will I do… just accept my feelings; accept his feelings. Stay unlocked (that’s brain slang for “keep an open mind.”)
Me: What’s your latest unexpected and/or random thought?
Brain: Hmmm…Well, I’ve been toying with the idea lately of joining a convent. Patience is a virtue, you know. I hear the nuns are all over it.
Me: I thought you didn’t believe in God?
Brain: Is that going to be a problem?
Me: Besides, what would you do with your son?
Brain: What, Catholics don’t like kids? That’s not what I’ve heard. But maybe you’re right. Maybe the convent isn’t the best place for someone like me. I mean, do they even serve cappuccino? And what if I want a smoke with my cappuccino? No, probably not a good fit…
Me: So, what are your plans?
Brain: What is it with plans, anyway? Does there always have to be a plan? Okay, okay…For now, work, make money… Learn to play the guitar. Learn to speak Spanish.
Me: What about long term?
Brain: Write. Travel when I can. Find joy in little pockets here and there. Live simply. And try to grasp some sort of comprehension, if possible, with regard to our existence, or lack thereof, in this universe. Then, of course, the grand finale: Die.
5. Seriously, what is your stance on black being neutral and “going with everything”?
ML, you’ll never catch me saying that black is over-rated, though neutral probably isn’t a word I’d use to describe it. Going with everything? Come now, a white cotton strappy sundress with clunky black heels? A navy blue suit with black pumps? I think not. I do love it, however; it’s the predominant color in my wardrobe. Not everyone looks good in black either. I happen to wear it well because it contrasts nicely with my blonde hair and fair skin. Or so I’ve been told. And I choose to believe it. Please don’t burst my bubble.
Check out 1writegirl’s blog at http://1writegirl.wordpress.com/.