Poetry News

The home page of my blog used to look like this:

Not so anymore.

See that little “Poetry” tab? The place where you used to be able to click and read through some of my ramblings and rhymes – it’s gone.

Poof.

Vamoose.

Don’t worry – it still exists. All my work didn’t disappear into the black hole of the internet. I’ve simply made the page private.

At least for the time being.

At least until my book is released.

Book? Released? huh… what?

I know I haven’t published anything since 2017, but you read that right. I am releasing a book of poetry this year. In fact, this spring. It’s about five or six years in the making, and if I’m being honest, when I first started experimenting with poetry, learning my way around the beat of my own words, I never once thought any of it would become the innards of a collection. Stranger things have happened though, a fact we know all too well living under this farce of a government, but I digress…

Anyway, I’m working on it now, this collection of poetry, that has a title and a cover designer, but is still being sorted through and pored over, and hope to have it ready for publication in the next couple of months.

Until then, you can still find my words on Instagram at @madhuriwrites. And keep coming back here for updates and news, and love for my queen of queens, Rihanna.

xx, Madhuri

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A Writer’s Running Log

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4.5 miles – 10:16/mi

True to my Fall running schedule, this past thursday morning my alarm went off at 5:15. And I got up. But I didn’t get out of the house until 6:06. Because it was dark. And admittedly, I was kind of scared.

Such is life as a woman.

Or at least this woman.

The one raised by a mother who instilled a healthy fear of cops – don’t ever roll your window down far enough for them to stick their hand inside – strangers, and taking unnecessary risks. Because everything leads to rape. Indian mommies, you’ve gotta love them.

Sneakered up and ready, I stood on my porch, and sighed. Even waiting almost another hour didn’t assist in the lighting department – it was still too dark for my liking. But I sucked it up and hit the pavement anyway, my podcast turned low, and my Jason-Bourne-I-see-everything vision on high. And I’m so glad I did.

I ran a new route, from Jersey City up into Union, and felt as if my fortitude was gifted by these random bursts of cityscapes along the way. Vacant lots or parks with gorgeous shots across the Hudson. I love wandering the city streets before anyone else is up – but it’s light outside, of course – and watching the city come to life, but this was even better. It was like watching both the sky and the city greet the day.

And was wholly worth my few minutes of nerves.

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A Writer’s Running Log

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A couple of things to note: 1. the original series of posts from this running log included the day of my run in the title, such as A Writer’s Running Log, Day 4. That was 326 miles ago. Put another way, I’ve logged 73 runs since (follow me on Strava, every mile is there). Which is to say I’m a runner, we needn’t count my days anymore; and 2. the original series also included the tag line “I don’t run. I do yoga. And yet…” Obviously, a load of horse shit. I do run. I do do yoga. And so, yeah, here we are.

Which is where exactly?

The tentative, not-ready-to-commit, my-feet-already-hurt-just-thinking-about-it answer is training for the 2019 Brooklyn Half. The certain, excited, feeling-all-kinds-of-possible answer is one run into my Fall running schedule. Which is something I put together yesterday – on a whim. It looks a lot like runs on Monday afternoons, Thursday mornings, with a longer run on the weekend, and feels a lot like new beginnings.

Yesterday’s run – the Monday afternoon inaugural run – was the 4.7 mile loop from my gym to Central Park (the lower Reservoir) and back.

It. IMG_3331

Was.

Great.

I think because it was solitary and meditative, at a moment when I could use some clarity and perspective, the temperatures have dropped – this summer my runs were pure hell, no matter how early I did them – and best of all, I had two writing epiphanies along my route.

Like words came at me full force, demanded my attention, and forced me to stop in my tracks to jot them down. Something I hate to do, but I did it anyway. I tried to ignore them, ran a few paces, then stopped.

Because I had to.

Because the words.

They’re annoying like that sometimes.

And even though it sounds like I’m grumbling, I must admit – it was pretty sweet. Not like I’m going to get all Haruki Murakami out here on these streets, but hey, you never know. An essay or two might make its way onto the page. At the very least, these blog posts will…

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Again

last night
the stars focused
on the moon
the moon seemed awash
in memories of the sea
the sea growled when
I sought her solace

so I stole
a cup of sky
and a handful of aurorae
wrapped my heart
in a blanket
of soft light
and promised
to try again
tomorrow


The pieces of poetry on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. And my unending love for all things romance. And politics. And my brown and black brothers and sisters. We are the magic.

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Failure, A True Story

A few days back, while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across a thread by another writer – an admission really – about the pain she feels when she walks into a Barnes & Noble and realizes her novel is no longer on the shelves.

Also a few days back, I was interviewed by Noreen Sumpter for her Live Life Your Way internet radio show and for the first time, publicly discussed the pain I feel about the disaster of my Keeper Series* trilogy.

In both instances, the act of standing on the other side of a publishing failure with toes dangling over, looking that failure in the eyes, and sharing it with others was something both the author of that tweet and myself know doesn’t happen too often. Instead, we’re regaled with the stories of JK Rowling, Stephen King, John Grisham, and the like. Best-selling authors – empires built upon words – whose first novels were rejected.** They’re used as literary talismen, legends, beacons of bright light from the shore, intended to keep us writers sailing our ships into the rough and tumble waters of the publishing world.

We need those Rowling, King, and Grisham tall tales because we all love a good story, and everyone wants a hero.

But what of the not-so-famous authors, the ones who don’t wield all that power or garner all those number one spots on the NY Times Bestseller list? What about the writers who never made it? Or those who wanted it, but never found an agent or signed a deal? What about their stories?

I’m one of them. And we don’t talk so much about folks like me.

Part of it – I’m guessing – is that no one wants to seem a cry-baby, or a let’s-burn-some-bridges type. And part of it – I’m guessing again – is that no one wants to discuss the not-very-pretty sides of writing. The unfavorable deals, sluggish sales, horrible marketing. The books pushed to the back of the rack, genre mishaps, poor reviews. As much as I understand that mentality, the desire to ignore the not-so-glam and keep all eyes on the bestsellers, I also know firsthand how stuck-on-an-island-all-alone one can feel when that book deal doesn’t quite turn out as planned. As much as I understand the desire to move onto the next project and keep our disappointments to ourselves, I also don’t.

What’s wrong with admitting if you had to do it all again, you wouldn’t sign that contract? Or expressing despair over the fact you’ve lost a coveted shelf spot in Barnes & Noble? Where is the shame in an open dialogue on false hope and paralyzing insecurity?

I’ve been down the road of pretend perfection, I know its curves and valleys well, I can map all of its shortcuts for you – I did it for years in my marriage. I made sure the outside world believed all was well, while inside I was a disaster. And in the end of it all, a random counselor I crossed paths with in a room of too-harsh overhead fluorescent lights and 1970s fake wood paneling, taught me the importance of sharing my story, letting others know what’s going on in my life, what’s happening. She left me with the following words: if I don’t speak up, no one else can.

I think that lesson applies here, too.

If I don’t share my story of failure, no one else will. It’s my tale to tell. And maybe in its telling, I’ll feel better and leave someone who reads it feeling less alone. Maybe in admitting I should have never signed that book deal – the one that screamed don’t give away the rights to your words to those people –  another writer will remember reading this and will walk away from the negotiation table. Maybe another writer will entrust their book baby to the most capable and enthusiastic publisher – which might very well be themselves – instead of the only one showing some interest.

I don’t know. I certainly hope so.

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Suffice it to say, I signed an electronic-only deal for my trilogy, The Keeper Series, with a small imprint of a major publishing house. It was a complete flop, from beginning to end. Part of that is my fault – I wrote something no one but myself, and maybe five other people, like. But part of that flop lies elsewhere.***

The trilogy was marketed as women’s romance, despite the fact it’s urban fantasy. It was pushed on romance readers and bloggers who 1) wondered why it was in the romance category; 2) hated it; and 3) hated it so much, they couldn’t finish it. (The Keeper Series is the first time I received DNFs on Goodreads. And I’d published five books prior to Dutch hitting the shelves.) I believed the mere imprimatur of the publishing house would open doors otherwise closed, and my books would be surefire hits.

I was so cute and naïve once upon a time.

That, or I was too busy lawyering and meeting writing deadlines to think long and hard about the deal I signed. Looking back, it’s easy to see the Keeper Series had failure written all over it from the beginning. At the time, though, I was just too excited to know better. The summer the trilogy was published, the imprint unexpectedly released many of its authors – I remember hearing the news and crossing my fingers in hopes I was on their list. I wasn’t, and as such, they still own the rights to my words.

Circling back to my radio interview with Noreen, I came home that night cursing the fact I discussed my disappointment over Dutch, Juma, and Death so candidly. I wondered at my honesty, chided myself for venturing into that sacred territory of things-we-shall-not-discuss. I talked it through with my therapist. Twice. But tonight as I write this, I have to say I don’t regret it, or this post, as they are necessary pieces in my writing journey.

I have friends who are wildly successful, immensely talented, brilliant gifts bestowed upon us all. I feel lucky to be alive and present to experience their magic.  But I need to stop comparing myself to them, or to any of the other writers I follow on social media, and focus on me. I need to stop feeling like an imposter, a fake who has no right to call herself a writer. Because like Noreen said during our interview, I’ve licked my wounds long enough – it’s time to get over my hurts and back to my words.

I think she’s right. Sharing my failure helps. Talking about my missteps and foolishness makes it a little easier to swallow. Laughing at myself is good medicine.

And now, it’s time to write.

In his poem “So You Want to be A Writer?”, Charles Bukowski implores, “if you’re doing it for fame, or money, don’t do it” and that’s kept me going the last several months. It’s not why I write – the fame or fortune – but for a few months of my life, it did seem I had one foot down the path of tantalizing possibility.

Oh well… maybe next time.

And yes, believe me – there will be a next time.

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*just-now-discovered fact: if you search The Keeper Series on Amazon – that’s the name of my trilogy – you will pull up everything but my trilogy. And that, my friends, is the definition of a flop.

** I’m not even going to touch the iceberg of rejection-and-perseverance stories in writers of color circles. Not because it isn’t important, but because it will derail me from the point of this post. And because it demands a post all its own.

*** My purely unscientific analysis, of course.

Talk Radio NYC Interview

Interview.Noreen

This week I did something I haven’t done in a long time – I sat down with Noreen Sumpter of the Live Life Your Way radio show and talked about my writing. Noreen and I know each other from way back in late ’90s Brooklyn, when she was a real estate broker and I was moving all over Fort Greene. These days Noreen is a personal life coach, and you couldn’t pay me to move anywhere.

We bumped into each other last year by total accident. I was walking down Sixth Avenue, headed into my office, and heard her unmistakable voice. When I turned on my heel, there she was.

As we played catch up in the middle of a busy midtown street, she mentioned her show and wanting to have me on as a guest. I smiled and said sure, but lately I’m super slippery and hard to catch when it comes to talking about my words, so I knew that wouldn’t be happening any time soon. To her credit, Noreen persisted, and despite some last-second efforts to remain evasive on my part, she finally caught me.

And I’m glad she did. It was fun, I managed to shout-out Finn Calrissian, ask questions about menopause, shoot my first Instagram live video, and jabber on about my love of laughter, writing diverse characters and brown love, and my friends.

Also, don’t call me Mata Hari, it’s not my name.

Also also – kind of like p.s.s. – there’s a part in the show where I say “devote” when I really meant devout… or maybe I meant devoted. Either way – UGH.

Have a listen: Live Life Your Way interview


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Mad Revolution

“Protect your heart from those with sunlight smiles hidden behind lips of sweet poison,” he kissed into the moonshine a warning of beloved truth.

She considered his serpent tongue and skin of scales, the heavenly body that once blinded with beauty, but now reeked of false promises.

She parsed the silence between his words, caught the low hum of gnashing teeth starved for her viscera, glimpsed the bloody knuckles and the too-red eyes.

She waited.

“Trust me,” he breathed into her skin, and with each word the air of possibility knotted in her gut, the knuckles of death dragged up her spine, she choked on everything that was and could have been.

She listened.

“I love you,” he said and the moon glinted knife-like on his smile, ready to steal her tomorrows and bleed her dry.

Seconds of silence passed between them,
pure and serene,
as the hiss of eternity settled in her bones,
and a dirge of remembrance called her home.

“You might,” she held his stare and whispered, the forgotten taste of freedom such sweet salvation and mad revolution. “But I love me more,” she said with a smile, then turned on her heel, and disappeared forever.


The pieces of poetry on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. And my unending love for all things romance. And politics. And my brown and black brothers and sisters. And this time, the words of Maya Angelou.

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