Wanted: One Poetic Kumquat Tree

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I once took a college poetry class that turned out to be exactly how you envision a college poetry class. A young-ish professor with ironically cool glasses and good hair toted in a vintage trunk full of lamps every Tuesday and Thursday, and under that soft hipster glow we learned to write poetry. Kind of.

In this class was a purposefully quiet boy who listened to Bob Dylan and wrote a poem about kumquat trees. He was quirky—but, like, the kind of quirky that is intentional and understated and undeniably cool.

The work I produced was not that kind of quirky. It was off-kilter but not in the “my grandmother’s kumquat tree” kind of way. The first poem I submitted for critique was about waiting for a train.

Two of my peers—one an edgy red-head and the other a sassy blonde boy—theorized that the poem was a euphemism for suicide. It was not, but I intentionally fed that theory because I knew nobody with a poetic tree. That anyone was crafting theories about my train poem felt like the only momentum I had and I wasn’t going to let its absurdity slow me down.

Kitschy lamps and suicide theories aside, I’m not sure if a semester-long workshop made a poet of me, but it did illuminate something important: I’m not a traditionally great writer. The proficiency I’ve gained in this field has come in spite of a distinctly not cool quirky voice. This class illuminated a second thing, too, though: I have never written because I wanted to be a good writer.

A number of things compelled me to sneak into my parents’ office at six years old and staple together my first book—none of them had to do with becoming a good writer. I wanted desperately to scratch out the world as I saw it. I wanted to voice the questions I couldn’t phrase. I wanted to be heard. I wanted to use my parents’ stapler.

This is largely why I still write, and as a result my portfolio is fairly eclectic. I write young adult fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary fiction. I write poetry (poorly), short stories, and essays for Christian publications about things like school choice and sports. And yet, these genres don’t feel like opposite ends of a spectrum to me—maybe because I have always explored the world through stories. I found truth via fiction and fiction via truth, and that’s the thread that ties my writing together still.

The strange synergy between truth and fiction is what will guide this blog, and I invite you to follow along. This will be a space for essays, short stories, creative non-fiction, and bad poetry.

My first series, which I’ll launch on Saturday, will focus on autism awareness. Though most of April’s entries will have to do with autism in some way, this won’t be an autism blog.

I can’t forecast precisely how this thing will turn out because I have no idea, but I hope it will be worthwhile. And I can say with firm certainty that if I ever find that poetic kumquat tree, I will write an inspired free verse poem.