Monday, February 8, 2016

Social Media Addict

For all of its shortcomings, I really genuinely like social media. I've come to rely on it so much more since we moved up to Kansas City; I love that I can still have glimpses into the lives of my friends and family even though I'm not around. (Although I will say that it is a double-edged sword, because I have also cried after seeing everyone hanging out without me and realizing just how much I miss them!) Here are the platforms I'm using most these days; if you're on any of them, let's connect!

Instagram is by far my favorite social media platform. I don't know what it is about those little photo squares, but I'm addicted. I'm jessica.lafferty.

I try to be as authentic as possible online, but I've often thought that Twitter is probably the most transparent me. I will warn you; there's a fairly high rate of re-tweets from British history accounts. ;) Find me at @jessicae429.

While I try to keep my personal Facebook just for friends and family, I also started a page for the blog so that readers who don't use Bloglovin or other reader services can keep up with posts without having to check in every day. I'm hoping to start featuring posts I love from other websites too--including those from readers. So feel free to follow along and promote your own blog! You can connect here. 

Not that I have a ton of time to kill, but when I do, Pinterest is my go-to. There's just something about having access to so much beauty and inspiration with just a click. You can find me by searching for Jessica Lafferty or by clicking here.

I use Bloglovin both to keep track of my favorite blogs and to find new ones. You can follow me here or the blog here.

Phhhoto is so fun! I know Instagram added a gif feature a while back, but honestly I'm a little glad it didn't seem to catch on, because I don't want Phhhoto to go the way of Vine. It's seriously addicting! I'm @jessica_lafferty

 Oh Snapchat. I feel like Snapchat had some seriously sketchy vibes when it first came out, but now that it has the story feature, it's become one of my most frequently-used forms of social media. Warning: my snaps are about 90% cats. ;)

If we aren't friends on social media, I'd love to connect! Feel free to add me or leave your accounts/handles below so I can add you!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Favorite January Posts

Happy first day of February! I've been not-so-secretly praying for a snow day tomorrow, but it's looking less and less likely. Darn the weathermen up here, getting my hopes up for a decent downpour. So it looks like I'll need to find another way to start February off on the right foot. Although, with February being the month of guitar in my 2016 Creative Resolutions, that probably won't be too hard to do. My husband (and our neighbors!) might disagree, but hey, it's a short month. ;)

Before I get too much into February, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite posts from the January blog world. I'm always looking for new reads, too, so if you have any recommendations, leave them in the comments!
Image made with Retyped app

Learn to Crochet: Chunky Blanket at Always Rooney. I have attempted knitting and crochet in the past, results (and that's being kind). This blanket might just convince me to try again, though. It's SO gorgeous and cozy-looking.

Bohemian + Scandinavian at The Room Journal. First of all, Layne is my style-spirit animal. When I read this post, it was like she was in my head. I love clean white space, naturals, and neutrals....but I also love eclecticism. I actually have a blog post cooking in the back of my brain about how I've been struggling to "find my style" so to speak, and this post was so comforting. It made me realize that I don't necessarily have to pick a side.

Honesty at Adventures in No Man's Land. Oh man. If you don't relate to this post, I don't know if you're human. I find myself so often trying to find the balance between positivity and authenticity here in this little space.

How to Keep a Travelogue at Caylee Grey. Man, if I would have only had this post ten years ago. I went to England with the best of intentions of keeping a travel journal while I was there. I was so caught up in seeing everything, though, that I collapsed into bed exhausted at the end of every day. As a result, I'm left with one page of pseudo-poetic feelings about the anticipation of being in the United Kingdom and the experience flying into Heathrow at night. The next time I go (spoiler alert: starting to make serious[!!!] plans!), this will be my memory-keeping guide.

Happy Birthday and Nonsense About Me at Skunkboy. I could not love this more. It goes back to what I talked about up there with "Honesty"--the positivity/authenticity balance. Katie navigates this so well--showcasing the beautiful parts of her life, but being unafraid to address the less-than-perfect parts head-on. So much respect for this, and her.

Binge List: Documentaries at Practically Perfect. First of all, I could not be happier that Haley is back into blogging again. Secondly, this list might start an addiction for me. We already watched "We Always Lie to Strangers" and if you're from the Springfield/Branson area, it's really a must see. Lots of my Branson stereotypes were shattered--and others were very very much confirmed. :)

Shibori Tie-Dye Cloth Napkin Tutorial at A Beautiful Mess. As if I needed another craft to add to the list....but seriously. These are so pretty, I might have to move them up to the top.

Ten Things to Tell Yourself Instead at Deer Circus. I know it's only January, but I might just go ahead and declare this my favorite post of 2016. It is literally perfect. I'm working on being a little kinder to myself.

Any favorite reads from January that you'd like to share?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Poetry Lessons

I started writing poetry when I was about 10 years old. What started out as the literary experimentations of a bookish little girl soon became one of my primary avenues of expression. Even though I've journaled most of my life, in some ways, poetry was more of an outlet. Writing poems was almost like writing in a secret code that only I could translate. If my journals were found and read by someone, all my junk, secrets, and feelings were exposed; if someone read my poetry, it might be embarrassing, but so much was metaphor. Everything was still safe and secret, even if the poetry itself was terrible (and much of it was). I think in many ways that made it the most honest expression I had. This month has really revived that mode of expression for me, and I think it will continue to carry even after January ends. I've written a lot--some pretty good, some terrible--but it's been a great month.  I've learned so much this month--and really over the years--from reading and writing poetry.

1// The profound is often in the simple. A glass of water can have more to say than the ocean, if you listen. 

2// You can't force inspiration, but you can do things that make inspiration more likely to occur. For me, this is being in nature, surrounding myself with beauty, reading (reading reading reading!), and looking through old photos or journals.

3// You have to know the rules to know how to break them. Even free verse--well, good free verse--has a degree of pattern and rhythm if you break it down and analyze it. I don't know if any poets actually do this--I think they just develop an ear for it, but either way, there is something to be said for structure.

4// Poems don't have to be meaningful to be good, and they don't have to be good to be meaningful. Billy Collins has this great poem about poetry students tying a poem to a chair and beating it with rubber hoses "to find out what it means." It's one of my very favorites.

5// You have to do the work. A friend of mine who's an author says that writing is equal parts inspiration and discipline. You have to write where the wind blows, but in order to do that, you have to show up to write to begin with. You won't be a good writer just because something happens to you every three years and you decide to write a poem about it. Practice and consistency are important.

Did you follow along with the poetry challenge? What things did you learn?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

January Playlist

Another month, another playlist! How in the world is it the end of January already? The last few months have brought lots of changes, and things are finally starting to settle (I know just saying that means that I just jinxed myself). Tyler starts a new job on Feb 8th, and I just have a feeling that next month is going to be an extra good one. Here are a few of the tunes I've been listening to over the past month in case you're looking for a happy little start to your February too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book Club: Girl on the Train


I don't even know where to start with Girl on the Train. I'm really torn. I've often heard it compared to Gillian Flynn's books, and I can definitely see some similarities in tone and topic. I love books written from multiple perspectives, so I loved the structure, and it definitely gave Girl on the Train an edge. (And lord knows I love books set in England.) I thought it was well-written, if a little slow at times,  and I got really engrossed in the plot itself. The end was so satisfying. But.


All of the female characters (and really, all but one male character) are so dysfunctional. Even the roommate, who is supposed to be the one with a handle on life, has a weirdly dependent relationship with her boyfriend. While the ending helps you understand and sympathize with the dysfunction of the protagonist eventually, I felt like I was grasping at straws trying to root for her through much of the book because of the constant drunken mishaps. We get it; you're an alcoholic. I was suffering so much secondhand embarrassment that I found myself wishing the plot forward.  On the one hand, I love a protagonist that is a screw-up, I love rooting for an underdog, and I love that nuance and realism that comes with a protagonist with real problems. I think it's incredible when we have complex, realistic people in the spotlight, who have both good and bad within them, instead of simplistic moral pillars. On the other hand, too much focus on those problems feels repetitive, and results in a character that isn't sustainably likeable--and to be honest, none of the characters in Girl on the Train were sustainably likeable.

So I'm torn. I devoured the book in a matter of days, and for the most part, really enjoyed it. At the same time, I don't see it being a re-read for me, and I'm glad I bought it on Kindle rather than shelling out $20 for it in hardback. And as a final note, if Paula Hawkins writes another book in the same genre, I'll probably pick it up.

Agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts on Girl on the Train!

Monday, January 25, 2016

5 Favorites: Poems

Of all the "favorites" lists I've made for this blog, this one was by far the hardest. To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure I've gotten it right and I'll probably think of another poem in about three hours and want to change this list entirely. So just know that at this moment in time, these were poems that meant enough to me for me to think of them as favorites--in no particular order.

1. "Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins. Billy Collins quickly became one of my favorite poets after a friend introduced me to his work. I've heard him criticized for essentially being too accessible, (which drives me utterly insane, but that's a tangent for another day); this poem helps explain why I think that is the dumbest accusation you can lay on a poet--or any kind of artist for that matter. You can read it here.

2. "If I Should Have a Daughter" by Sarah Kay.  I'm a little bit of a Ted Talk junkie, and it's how I found Sarah Kay. The first time I saw her perform "If I Should Have a Daughter," I had goosebumps, and got teary-eyed more than once. Do yourself a favor, and watch it.  (Side note: Billy Collins, above, also presents a few of his poems in a Ted Talk. I just need to do a post on all my favorite talks!).

3. "Lady Lazarus" by Sylvia Plath.  I'm not sure this poem even needs an introduction, or that I could give it an adequate one if I tried. What I love most about it is its darkness, rawness, and vulnerability. That last stanza is probably one of the most well-known in poetry. Read it here.

4. "Keeping Things Whole" by Mark Strand.  There are such giant thoughts about life, identity, and our relationship with the world around us in 17 lines. There's almost a sense of being an intruder in the world, in your own life, and that your presence causes a fracturing in the natural order of things. That makes it sound depressing, and it really isn't. Oh, just go read it. :)

5. "Illusions" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I've got such an emotional connection to this poem; it was a go-to source of comfort after my father passed away, and I revisit it frequently when life feels too heavy. Find it here.

Honorable mentions go to "Litany" by Billy Collins, "Catchlight" by Kirby Knowlton, and "Holy! Holy! Holy!" (unpublished) by Rick Stasi.

I'm grateful to the Poetry Foundation for having so many of these great works available to read & link to for free. If you're looking to explore poetry and find some favorite poems of your own, the Poetry Foundation is a great place to start.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Creative Chat: Alyssa Bennett Smith

I am so excited to share the first in a series of interviews with creatives I admire. This month's focus is on poetry, and I reached out to Alyssa Bennett Smith, a tattooed, vegan, Mennonite, feminist poet who also happens to be one of the coolest, most interesting people I know. Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Alyssa!

1// How long have you been writing poetry, and what inspired you to start?
I've been writing poetry since September 18, 2013. The precise start date is weird, I know, but I had a really specific experience that began my writing.  I had been attending an open mic in Kansas City, MO for a few months when I traveled to Kenya for a Conflict Transformation Training as a part of my seminary studies. At the training I was inundated with incredible experiences, introduced to 35 AMAZING peaceworkers, and had to work through a lot of challenges I was experiencing in my own studies.  In the past I had been a visual artist and would process these sorts of experiences in that way, but while in Kenya I didn't have the means to do so. I had the words of so many amazing poets from the open mic running through my head, so I decided to try writing as a means of processing. I wrote my first poem called "Names" while in Kenya, performed it at the open mic after I returned home, and never looked back.

2// How would you describe your writing style? I've been told by a few people that my style is sort of literary. I'm very visual in my writing--I try to paint pictures with words in hopes of creating a space in the readers mind that helps them feel what I was feeling when I wrote the poem.  I can't say that I always do this intentionally, though. I think a lot of it comes from my favorite poets who write in a similar style and create that space for me when I read or watch/listen to their work.

3// Where do you find the inspiration for your work?
At home in Kansas City I was inspired each and every time I went to an open mic or poetry performance with the incredible poets from that city. I often found myself coming home (late), crawling into bed to go to sleep, and then pulling out my phone to write down a line or stanza that was running through my head. It's probably safe to say that late night iPhone notes are where all of my first drafts happen. In addition to live performances I often fall into black holes of YouTube poetry videos. I love to read poetry off the page as well, but I find most inspiration in hearing people perform their work. Button Poetry has a great channel with tons of incredible poets, but my personal favorite (who is occasionally featured on Button, but has her own channel as well) is Sarah Kay.  Her book "No Matter the Wreckage" was published by Write Bloody last year and is one of my favorites--especially the poem "Dragons". Look it up!
Photo credit: William Peck from Metaphor Media

4// Are there other poets you look up to? Who has influenced your writing the most?
The single most influential force on my work has been the incredible group of poets at Poetic Underground (PoUnd) in Kansas City. This open mic is one of the most loving, supportive, and creative communities that I have ever had the pleasure to join. I moved to Denver recently and miss them dearly, although I still talk to many friends from that group regularly and we provide feedback on one another's work. Outside of my friends, Sarah Kay is one of my favorite poets, like I said, and she's also an incredible role model.  She and Phil Kaye (another incredible spoken word poet) founded a non-profit called Project VOICE that helps bring poetry and poetry workshops to schools across the country and across the world.  They're doing such great work and I really admire them for that. 

5// Do you find yourself drawn to particular themes when writing?

My writing seems to move in phases (although I only have two years under my belt, so it's hard to say with certainty!) During my first six months of writing I wrote about 5 or 6 poems that a friend of mine dubbed my "High Fidelity" phase because they were all attempts to make sense of past relationships and the ways in which they impact me now.  Some of my favorite poems are from this phase. In the last year my work has taken a more political turn, mostly about feminism and my experience in the world as a woman. Not everything I write falls into these categories, though. I've written several poems about specific people--my husband, my grandmother, my sister.  Those are often the result of an isolated experience with that person, rather than a theme that I'm experimenting with.

6// Tell me a little bit about your writing process. 
I feel most compelled to write when I'm dealing with really strong emotion. This can be anger, anxiety, fear, joy--anything. Usually an image will pop into my head after a particular experience or something I'm feeling will bring up a memory from the past when I experienced a similar emotion. I'll write down that image and expand on it or try and make a story out of it. Often I will write a stanza or two and hit a dead end. I'll leave those stanzas for a bit and then come back and read the segments that I've collected over a period of time. More often than not I'll find that in these bits and pieces there will be a few that have a similar tone or similar imagery, and I'll work them into one another to make a longer more complete poem.  I don't know how much of a "process" this is, but it's the way my brain works :)

7// Do you have anything you're currently working on?

I just finished a first draft of a piece that I've called "Lost Dimension". It's about how my experience as a woman has been to view myself in two dimensions--in relation to men and in relation to women. A third dimension was lost to me for a long time and this piece was a way for me to explore how I can see myself without having to measure against someone else. It's one of those pieces that was cobbled together from bits I collected over a couple of months, so it still needs some work, but I like how it's coming together!

8// You've also done spoken word poetry, right? How does it feel to perform your work in public?

Spoken word is how I got into writing, so in some ways it feels really normal to me. I don't think I've ever written a poem that I haven't read on stage (though some work better than others as spoken word pieces). The first time I performed I was a WRECK. My hands and voice where shaking. My voice still shakes sometimes when I perform, even in a room full of my friends. Performing a piece that I've just finished is probably one of my favorite things to do. At PoUnd in Kansas City the open mic crowd is mostly poets. And by mostly I mean, in a room of 50 people there might be 5 that don't consider themselves poets.  It's a pretty incredible audience to bounce new work off of and get feedback. There's a freedom in performing work that everyone knows is "in progress" because no one expects it to be super finished or perfect (including me). I love sharing with my friends and getting suggestions for ways to improve.

9// What are you most proud of in your creative journey?

Oh man! That's a tough one... For about a year I helped run PoUnd Slam, the competitive poetry slam team from Poetic Underground.  As co-slammaster (cool title, right?) I got to perform with the team at a number of venues including Folk Alliance International, a huge showcase of folk music, dance, poetry, visual art, and all kinds of other awesome stuff. Performing at the Folk Alliance was a thrill for the whole team and for me, as a VERY new poet, it was incredible. I don't know that I can be "proud" of this necessarily, since I definitely didn't *earn* it, but it's a huge highlight. Another would probably be performing at an annual event in Kansas City called "Poetry's a Drag". This is a fundraiser held every April (National Poetry Month) where female poets dress as men, and male poets dress as women, and we read poems with content that is more stereo-typically masculine or feminine. I've performed in this show for the last two years and it's always a blast.  It's hosted by a drag queen and the poems are usually hilarious and/or filthy. It's a hoot! I hope to be able to be a part of it for many years to come.

10// What advice would you give to those just beginning to explore poetry as a creative outlet?

Find an open mic! Even if you don't plan on performing, watching open mic poetry is a great way to hear tons of diverse poets with all sorts of levels of experience. If you can't find an open mic YouTube is a decent substitute ;) Aside from that, take time for yourself, read, and write. That sounds silly but you would be surprised how many people have had to say it to me when I get writer's block. The most important thing for me has been to making time to clear my mind and let it wander. If my head is full of day-to-day nonsense it's hard for me to be creative because I'm so focused on functioning as an adult in society (I don't know if you've realized this, but it's super hard). I think this is why so many of my poems have their beginnings in late-night notes on my phone after a night with friends at an open mic. When you surround yourself with creativity and leave space to be creative yourself, some really cool things can happen.

You can find Alyssa on Instagram at @alyssa_bennett_smith