355 Poetry, Poetry, Poetry, Writing

We’re Back With a Big Announcement!

UPDATE: today’s leg of the festival has been cancelled because of the weather. See you all tomorrow!

Hello again! I know it’s been a while, but we’re officially back in business with a new, cute urban design! If you’re reading this in RSS, you should pop by and check me out.

Also! I’m here with an awesome announcement of a new venture getting kicked off this weekend.

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I tried this out during my book event for ‘Pickled Miracles’ — someone gives me any three words, $5 and five minutes of their time, and I will write a one-of-a-kind original poem. The customers who took part were very pleased with the results and I had a great time with it.

This will be available online soon, but in the meanwhile, if you’re in the Greater Pittsburgh area today or tomorrow, I am going to be at the Plum Community Festival with Rust Belt Creations selling these tailor-made pieces of writing in several unique notecards. Stop by and see me!

Plum Community Festival
Friday, June 23rd 5 to 10 pm
Saturday, June 24th 4 to 10 pp

Larry Mills Park Plum Soccer Fields, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15239

 

How to Have a Day Job

[How to Have a Day Job] On the First Monday of the Year

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This week is always rough. Every year, without fail, the Monday of the week after the last day off until MLK Day feels like…the End of the World.

In Pittsburgh, it hasn’t snowed more than a few flurries this year. This morning, my husband and I were out in twenty-some degrees, huge bunches of dandruff-y snow coming down at our car. There was traffic. It was dark. Everyone had left their warm cozy spot in the bottom of their stockings and gone back to work or school. Or both.

I know that not everyone is lucky enough to get holidays off, but I can’t help feeling like the first full week of the year is long. The winter is so very, very present – short days, long nights, cold hours. The expectation and happy buzz of the holidays comes to a screeching halt, and you’re just left trying not to think too much about how long or much or badly it’s going to snow. That last bit may be a yankee problem, but it’s definitely in my head.

So here are some tips of how to stay sane after the holidays are over and you’re facing nothing but grind ahead:

  • Stay well-stocked: I know few people who have said, sincerely, “I love grocery shopping.” It’s very tempting to just stay in bed on the weekends or order food for dinner on the sly. But you’ll actually find it much, much less stressful to have extra food and household stuff on hand during these horrible months, especially when the work day is draining.
  • Sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Even if it’s just running up and down your stairs a few times, or doing calisthenic exercises in-doors. Anything to get your blood pumping.
  • Plan ahead: take this time to really decide how you’d like the year to go. The winter will be over before you know it.
  • Take a look at your current job and decide if you want to develop certain skills or work on goals. During this time of year, my day job is really, really big on career development. Is yours? Is there anything you can do to try something different? You’re stuck there for a large portion of your time – make it happen on your terms.
  • Start new projects, especially ones that are just for you: try painting. Journal. Create collages. Take photos (B&W is so in this time of year). Expand your imagination.
  • Get really, really into things you enjoy. Recently, for me, that has been anime, movies and really good television series. I do make sure to monitor my time, though, so I know I am being productive as well as recharging.
5 Things, Five Favorites

5 Best Things from 2015

Holy crap, guys, is it seriously 2016? Oh God, I typed 2015 there originally. It’s already too much for me. But don’t get me wrong, 2015 was kind of crazy. Here are the big five awesome things that happened to yours truly this year. My Five Favorites of 2015 (in no specific order) are…

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  1. The Travel Weekend, in which I went to Bard to see Neil Gaiman and then drove to DC to see Amanda Palmer the following night. She signed my hippo. It was magical.
  2. My First Book Event, in which I read from my poetry chapbook, Pickled Miracles, at Rickert & Beagle in Pittsburgh. I also sold custom poetry.
  3. Our First House, in which my husband and I bought a house in Pittsburgh. It was one of the most stressful processes I’ve ever gone through, but now…we own a freaking house.
  4. Ask Me Another, in which I was a participant on the NPR quiz show. Such fun. I didn’t win, but it was totally worth it.
  5. Crafts, in which my visual art game became stronger. I did monthly doodles, photography, felting, papercrafts…it’s been fun to have something more tactile to balance my writing.

Honorable mentions: The Chuck Palahniuk and Rainbow Rowell events, Picklesburgh, Welcome to Night Vale, Mudderella, the Priory Hotel, the Pittsburgh Botanical Garden, NaNoWriMo

Has this year been a journey? Absolutely. But even though that was my word of the year, it’s not over yet. Is it ever?

Tomorrow: the word for this year and what I have planned.

5 Things, Writing

5 Things I Learned from Chuck Palahniuk’s Book Event

In May, a friend and I went to see Chuck Palahniuk read from his new book Make Something Up. I arrived with a pen and notebook, ready to take notes from one of the masters of modern fiction.

Then, I was given a bag. In it was a beach ball and some glow sticks. I was told to write down my name on the ball, blow it up, and put the glow sticks inside. Adult note: have you had to blow up anything bigger than a balloon since you were a kid? What the heck, man.

I continued to expect a standard book event. I just figured this would be some sort of intellectual experiment. No problem. Moving on.

Then, Chuck showed up wearing a red silk bathrobe. When he started his talk, he said that he figured out he was the only one who got the memo about bedroom attire. Insert secret envy of how much more comfortable he was than me.

He continued on to say that if anyone in the audience wasn’t paying attention or was looking at that their phones while he was reading, he was “going to throw candy at their fucking heads.” He then proceeded to take out several Halloween-size bags of fun-size candies and hurled them through the auditorium. And I’m just going to tell you now that there are few things as terrifying as having the mind behind Fight Club chucking Reese’s cups at your cranium.

One of those other few terrifying things, however, was said literary mastermind explaining that the beach balls were going to be used to create a sort of real-life, human-scale lottery machine in which all the balls would be thrown into the center (where I was sitting) and a random one would be picked for prizes. He would play music (mostly 80s and some Abba as I recall) and we just had to…keep them going. In the dark.

This occurred at least 4 times during the night.

I never found that pen again.

So the five things I learned about readings?

1. Create an atmosphere of excitement and fun. People will be engaged not only with you but with each other.

2. Bring prizes. Guests will kill for them. It will be awesome.

3. Have something to break up reading pieces. You can be the best writer in the world, but after a while, words become words become words. Sound loses meaning. Have an event to wake people up and get their minds moving again.

4. Wear what you want. The more memorable, the better.

5. Defy expectation. With candy.

Personal, Self Dare, Uncategorized

Hello!

gardenI’ve been struggling with how to go about starting this.

Like, should I go dramatic? “I have always been a person of substantial girth.” Mehh. Too heavy. Ooh, pun!

Bubbly and optimistic? “I’m Katie! I’m awesome and you can be, too!” Pretty good, but if I try to keep up that energy I’m going to fizzle.

Jump in the deep end? “Here are 10 ways you can love yourself more in the next 10 minutes! Aaaaand GO!” A little intense.

So. I’m going to go back to one of my beloved standards: the fictional FAQ!

1. Who are you?

I’m Katie Pugh. I’m an author living and working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I live with my husband and three rats, and I love having adventures. You can read more about my writing on my second home on the ‘net, bohemian.on.rye. There, I focus on creativity, inspiration, and dealing with those things and having a day job.

2. Why is this site called “Self Dare”?

A few years ago, I realized I had a very bad problem: I could not relax. If I was not working or getting something done or trying to focus on a piece of writing, I was stewing in anxiety. It made me constantly tense, and the thought of doing anything that was just for myself seemed arrogant, a waste of time, and just plain selfish. It brought a degree of stress to my marriage, and I was just generally in a constant funk.

Slowly, I started giving myself permission to unwind. It wasn’t something that came naturally. Nope, I had to say to myself, “Okay, Katie. You’re going to go to the mall and buy some chocolate and you’re going to have a good time. Because you will feel awesome afterward.” Little by little, I found the things that I loved and that worked for me so that I could soothe my constantly irritated self. It has made all the difference.

Self care is great. But sometimes, it has to be a challenge to overcome. It takes courage to say that you are worth a half hour of quiet, a spa day, or just a lunch outside. Dare to do it.

3. So are you on the happy end? And you’re going to be talking from the awesome afterlife?

Nope. The inspiration for this website came from my coming back to tackling my personal wellness. I wanted to improve myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. I also wanted a degree of accountability, and I realized that I had a lot to share on this topic. So while you may just be getting started, I am also at a jumping off point. It’s just a different rock.

Ready to go swimming?

Poetry

May Haikus: 16-20

16:
Only Pittsburgh can
Make a walk in the rain seem
So damn idyllic.

17:
Old friends and bookends.
Then, some ultraviolence,
A side of strong girls.

18:
Thunderclaps o’erhead
More sweet than the to do list
Growing longer still.

19:
My body is this:
Spurned girlfriend at the window,
Hurling items down.

20:
The changes sneak up,
Suddenly making you think
Time is a mirage.

How to Have a Day Job

How Chris Rickert Has a Day Job

howtohaveadayjob chrisrickert copy
In the southern area of Pittsburgh, amongst rolling hills and long streets, tucked near the winding T rails, you will find a bookstore. But not just any bookstore. This is no Barnes and Noble, no big-box-little-people establishment. This is Rickert & Beagle Books. And it is a magical place. It’s the type of bookstore like in movies where kids find books that transport them to other worlds. It’s the type of bookstore where you get this huge smile on your face from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave.

And obviously, running such an amazing literary wonderland takes hard work. Enter Chris Rickert, who started working at the establishment when it was Eljay’s Used Books. In 2013, after the owners retired, Chris took the reigns at the Dormont shop and paired up with a certain awesome author to reopen as Rickert & Beagle Books!

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That’s right. Chris is also a close confidante and social media guru for Peter S. Beagle. You know, the author who wrote The Last freaking Unicorn! And if that wasn’t enough to knock your socks off, many of the books from R&B were featured in the 2014 tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars. And she sells awesome B’nnthulhus!

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Okay. Before I gush so much my blog starts oozing, let’s get to the questions and hear about how this amazing lady owns her day job.

What is your current career? This what you love doing that, if asked, you would say, “Oh, I am a ____.” Do you have a day job that supports your career?

I have two “careers”: Bookseller and handcrafter. As a handcrafter I work mainly in fiber arts: tatting & crochet are my main focus but I study all kinds of needle-lacemaking, embroidery/ stitchcraft. The day job that supports my careers is marketing/ customer service. I work as a freelancer in these fields, but most of my work is for Peter S Beagle and his publishing house, Conlan Press.

What is the worst job you ever had? How did you get through it?

Telefundraising was a nightmare. Lots of people yelling at me, old people crying on the phone because they couldn’t donate more to gun control or animal rescue, and cutthroat managers. I was so anxious before shifts I started throwing up on work days. That was an easy fix, I quit. I think I lasted about two weeks doing that. That’s how I found out that doing a job I didn’t enjoy, or at least, feel morally comfortable with, was never going to work for me.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you first started working, what would it be?

“Don’t be afraid to stand up to your bosses when they are wrong” It took me a few times around to understand that my ability to feel comfortable in my working environment was more important than being approved of by my boss.

What would you say has been your master tool for getting through difficult times when working? Is there something that is your go-to tactic for dealing with best-of-times-worst-of-times scenarios?

I have tried to remind myself that I’m there to do a job, and no matter how bad the setting is, I’m getting money in exchange for my best work. If I had a bad day and my bosses yelled at me or I had a problem with a co-worker, I could still say I did the best work I could. But in all honesty, my go-to strategy is to not work in places with a toxic culture. I’ve left high-paying management jobs and gone to work in kitchens just to get myself into a healthier environment, and while my bank account reflects this, I know I’ve saved myself a lot of stress and misery by placing my emotional health above financial well-being. (I also have to point out that my lack of children, a car or a house payment has allowed me to [do this])

With where you are now and what you are doing with your life presently, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from working day jobs? Is there a skill that you’ve picked up from a work environment that you would not have otherwise?

HAH! I come from an arts background, so pretty much every single skill I use in my daily work is from the jobs I worked after music school. The most valuable of those are the understanding of running a business from scrubbing toilets to high-level administration, and marketing a product or business. Some of that came from the used record store job I held for a while, but most of it came from running a large indie bookstore. The head of the company made all the General Managers build our own budgets, manage our P&Ls, run big meetings and so on. Basically, we got to try on his job and then get feedback from each other and from him. That’s the kind of experience you normally don’t get until you actually own a company, and being able to do those high-level tasks is often the difference between a failing company and a successful one. It definitely gave me the confidence to start my own businesses.

Are you interested in being interviewed for How to Have a Day Job? Comment below or shoot me an email with a brief description of what you love to do and what you do in the off hours!

Poetry

Dreaming in Fahrenheit

I dream in Fahrenheit
Between the great northern hours of
January through March
From beneath the heavy heat of stews
And layers
And the shapeless form of pants and pants and socks and
In the quivering, shivering sleep I make out
The swirls of reds and orange and purple
And blues that are not of dead
But of the back of the bay
And I taste on my tongue sweet creams
That only the sliver of summer can afford
And I am waist-deep in the soft decadence of sand
The lover I take is San Diego
The coast
The wavelets
We talk for hours and when we’re not talking
We’re on each other
Like burning.

Poetry

Beastly Be (A Poem)

balrog

Last night, I got to attend a delightful event put on by Hyacinth Girl Press for their release of “Free Monster Poems About Monsters.” It was very awesome and featured a number of extremely talented writers and performers. During the open mic section, I read the following poem that I wrote for the occasion.

Beastly Be

I see you there. I’m not afraid.
Your thick skin, the webbing between your fingers and toes.
The soft moon pale of your teeth, the shimmer of your scales,
And I count five tentacles and the remains of one more, only a stump
Your eyes, bright crimson lava when I come to bed
And the almost gray cracks of gold coals when I awaken
You were there, so full of mirth and bemused age, when I would drag my mother to stay with me until I fell asleep,
You were there, silent guardian of the underbelly of night, when I cried alone when she was gone
You were there, trying to decipher this curiosity, when I woke up thighs thick with first blood
You were there when I was on top, crowing yes
You were there when I was on my back, saying no
And that was when I hated you
I couldn’t get away from the stink of you, the wretched ragged in-out of breath,
Ugly dog that followed me to school, from apartment to condo to house
I left my hand over the edge, waiting for you to grab it, pull me to hell with you
But you didn’t
I found you redeemed the day that a man I had in my home one too many times
Who always used his words like a bat, the drink for his brazen fists,
Then, only then, there you were
All balrog, all manticore, all demon, dark and furious
The blood on my hands was hot enough for both of us
We had our fill
Now, I invite you out freely
You’re too good for the cobwebbed bed
You are my personal monster
The clack of my heels compliments your claws
My eyes shine now in the dark as well
We slither through this darkness as one
And we feast on this world together.