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It seems unfathomable to me that five years ago on this day, with a succinct, autogenous “Hello, World!” announcing its quiet arrival on the heavily populated, cyber literary landscape, Archetype was launched.  Conceived originally in 2009 to chronicle my academic journey through Chapman University’s dual Master of Arts in English and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and provide a forum for peer critique and camaraderie, I promptly posted passages from one of my short stories (“Windmill Ridge”) and my novel-in-progress Time of Death and invited classmates to contribute their work.  I also published original essay excerpts on Jonathan Franzen and the waning of a literary America (“Antisocial or socially isolated?”, “‘Tis the good reader that makes the good book”), mirrors and reflective imagery in world literature (“Masks, Manipulation, and Madness”), and the notion of the invoked doppelganger in fiction (“The Self We Seek”), all of which I was studying in those first few months of back-to-school bliss.

362px-Th_Richter_Dame_in_der_BibliothekLike any creative endeavor, the site evolved as I did and soon reflected my deepening involvement in and abiding commitment to literary and academic pursuits.  In addition to promoting Chapman fiction and poetry readings and publication opportunities in those first years, I mined journals and the Internet for interesting and informative local events taking place beyond the university’s borders.  Details regarding local and national writing contests and Calls for Submissions were and are still posted regularly, as well.  In 2012, I added a section for the growing number of my guest blog posts, my interviews, and other places where I’ve stumbled pleasantly upon my own work in the cybersphere.

Followers know that I most often post poems and passages that have timely personal significance.  From my occasional struggles with insomnia and feelings of isolation to my simple delight in a book or summer plum, each post, like a journal entry, suggests precisely where I am intellectually and emotionally.  Early on I rejoiced to find pictures, particularly nineteenth century oil paintings, that evoked or complemented the literary piece I was posting, and I now spend nearly as much time searching for corresponding artwork as I do on literature.

Thanks to my passionate professors and their fascinating courses on Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Movement, the life and works of Virginia Woolf, female enchantresses of modern British literature, and Gothic and fantastic fiction, Wilde, Woolf, and the works of A. S. Byatt, Katherine Mansfield, Angela Carter, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edgar Allan Poe were frequent early Archetype subjects.  Posts on Wilde culminated in November 2009 with the writing of my course thesis on The Picture of Dorian Gray (“The Act of Creation,” “Wilde Irony”), while Woolf reigned in the fall of 2010.  (Click on these links to review excerpts from “The I in the Portrait: A Bakhtinian Analysis of The Picture of Dorian Gray and “On the Wings of Angels and Butterflies: The Chaotic Journey to Woman in Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.”)

Anichkov Palace Library in St. Petersburg, 1869

Anichkov Palace Library in St. Petersburg, 1869

My penchant for Russian literature and philosophy was also soon discovered, and I immersed myself and, by extension, Archetype in Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nabokov and began to examine just about everything through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin.  Later courses exposed me to the intriguing life and works of Gertrude Stein (“Back to Bakhtin: The ‘I’ in Ida), Junot Díaz, Ralph Ellison, and many others, and every newly encountered author was explored here to some extent.

The craft of writing is another recurrent theme on Archetype; “Genetics-Based Grammarianism,” “In Celebration of Technique,” “Last Writes,” “More is More,” “Not Quite Write,” “Drafting Perfection,” and “A Sense of Style” are my personal favorites.  However, it is the angst of writing about which I tend to muse and articulate most freely; “Why Write?,” “One True Sentence,” “Bird by Bird,” “Write About Now,” “Demons and Darlings,” “The Reality of Rejection,” “In conclusion…,” “A New Summer of Writing,” and “The Write Stuff” all convey my own grapples with the creative stall and feelings of inadequacy.

Félix Emile-Jean Vallotton, 1904

Félix Emile-Jean Vallotton, 1904

With the MA in English attained two years ago, a few modest writing awards under my belt (“Praise for Time of Death,” “On the Write Track”), and conferral of the MFA degree scheduled for November, I’ve been in the process of considering what’s next these past few months – for me academically and literarily and for this site (“A Silent Abyss,” “A Beginning and an Ending,” “Writing in the Afterlife”).  As I’ve mentioned recently on Archetype (“Это правда?”) and in an interview on TreeHouse, I’m planning to apply to various Ph.D. programs in English, Comparative Literature, and/or Rhetoric; however, with applicant admission rates of approximately four to five percent at local universities, I’m keeping the likelihood of acceptance in perspective.  Nonetheless, the pursuit of admittance will be next year’s undertaking and will, of course, be recounted here.  For the immediate time being, my focus will remain on completing and defending my MFA thesis, a 150-page excerpt of Time of Death (twenty-six pages to write as of this post’s publication!); submitting my short fiction and nonfiction work to various conferences and journals; and preparing for both the General and Literature in English Graduate Record Examinations.  And there is still the full novel to finish and market (“This is the Year,” “This is That Summer”).

During the last sixty months, I have published 593 posts about literature, critical theory and writing technique, literary figures and events, submission opportunities, favorite poems and passages, articles of interest, books I’m reading, papers I’m writing, other literary blogs I’m following, conferences I’m attending, and demons I’m wrestling.  Archetype celebrates holidays, welcomes new seasons, and even gives the occasional nod to lunar activity.  Finally, personal aspects of my affective life and literary journey are memorialized and shared (“Write of Passage,” “Cartwheels Under the Arch,” “Pathetic Fallacy,” “Beyond Words”), even when the discovery and healing are mine alone.  The site maintains a small but seemingly loyal band of subscribers and blogroll partners, to whom I feel completely accountable and utterly grateful.  I hope you will all follow me as this final chapter at Chapman closes and a new narrative begins.

 

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Mark your calendar now for the prestigious Narrative Fall 2014 Story Contest, which is open to all fiction and nonfiction writers.  For this award, the journal is seeking short shorts, short stories, essays, memoirs, photo essays, graphic stories, all forms of literary nonfiction, and excerpts from longer works of both fiction and nonfiction.  Entries must be unpublished, not exceed 15,000 words, and not have been chosen previously as a winner, finalist, or honorable mention in another contest.  The online submission link will open on September 1, and the deadline for entries is November 30.

A prize of $2,500 will be awarded to the winner, with prizes of $1,000 and $500 awarded to the second and third place winners, respectively.  An additional ten finalists will receive $100 each, and all entries will be considered for publication.  All entries are also eligible for the $4,000 Narrative Prize for 2015 and acceptance as a Story of the Week.

Prior winners and finalists in Narrative contests have gone on to be recognized in prize collections, including The Pushcart Prize – Best of the Small Presses series, The Best American Short Stories anthologies, the Atlantic Book Awards, and others.

For more information and to submit online, visit the website at http://www.narrativemagazine.com.

 

Fall14_258

Heavy Summer Rain

The grasses in the field have toppled,

and in places it seems that a large, now

absent, animal must have passed the night.

The hay will right itself if the day

 

turns dry.  I miss you steadily, painfully.

None of your blustering entrances

or exits, door swinging wildly

on their hinges, or your huge unconscious

sighs when you read something sad,

like Henry Adams’s letters from Japan,

where he traveled after Clover died.

 

Everything blooming bows down in the rain:

white irises, red peonies; and the poppies

with their black and secret centers

lie shattered on the lawn.

 

           ~ Jane Kenyon

 

"A Bed of Poppies" by Maria Oakey Dewing, 1909

“A Bed of Poppies” by Maria Oakey Dewing, 1909

Mid-August

Now the ridge

brooks

are

flue-dry, the rocks

parching hot &

where sluice

used

to clear roots &

break weeds down brambly,

light finds a luminous

sand-scar,

vertical: it will

go to a hundred

today: even the

zucchini vine has

rolled over

on its

side.

 

                                       ~ A. R. Ammons

 

"Sweet Repose" by Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838-1904)

“Sweet Repose” by Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838-1904)

Girl in a Library

I want to find my way back to her,

to help her, to grab her hand, pull her

up from the wooden floor of the stacks

where she’s reading accounts of the hatchet

murders of Lizzie Borden’s harsh parents

as if she could learn something about

life if she knew all the cuts and slashes;

 

her essay on Wordsworth or Keats

only a knot in her belly, a faint pressure

at her temples.  She’s pale, it’s five years

before the first migraine, but the dreamy

flush has already drained from her face.

I want to lead her out of the library,

to sit with her on a bench under a still

 

living elm tree, be one who understands,

but even today I don’t understand,

I want to shake her and want to assure her,

to hold her – but love’s not safe for her,

although she craves what she knows

of it, love’s a snare, a closed door,

a dank cell.  Maybe she should just leave

 

the campus, take a train to Fall River,

inspect Lizzie’s room, the rigid corsets

and buttoned shoes, the horsehair sofas,

the kitchen’s rank stew.  Hell.  Bleak

loyal judgmental journals of a next-door

neighbor – not a friend, Lizzie had no friend.

If only she could follow one trajectory

 

of thought, a plan, invent a journey

out of this place, a vocation –

but without me to guide her, where

would she go?

 

~ From “Girl in a Library” by Gail Mazur (University of Chicago Press, 2005)

 

Frederic Leighton, 1877

Frederic Leighton, 1877

 

 

The tri-annual literary journal Minerva Rising is currently reading for its upcoming Issue 7 and is looking for fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and interviews that focus on the topic of wilderness.  For this issue, the magazine is interested in how “the wilderness holds answers to questions [we have] not yet learned to ask.”  All entries should address the theme of the current issue and not exceed seven thousand words.  The online submission deadline is September 1.

Minerva Rising publishes original essays, interviews, short stories, short shorts, memoirs, poetry, photography, and artwork by women writers and artists.  The journal also supports women’s independence by donating to charities like Women for Women International, an amazing organization with which I have been involved personally for the last four years.  For more information about Minerva Rising and to submit online, visit the website at http://minervarising.com.

 

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Last month I had the pleasure and honor of being interviewed about the genesis, maintenance, and future of Archetype by the online journal TreeHouse: An Exhibition of the Arts.  With the fifth anniversary of Archetype occurring this month and the six hundredth post targeted for early September, I thought I would publish the interview in its entirety here.

Enjoy!

 

TreeHouse: Is Archetype your first attempt at blogging? If not, what came before? 

Michelle Arch: Yes, Archetype is my first and only blog.  I didn’t think about the logistics of it much when I created it.  I simply chose a WordPress template, and, within an hour, I had written my first post to the world.  Then I sort of panicked.  I had just committed myself to something I had no idea how to maintain.  I posted a lot about Oscar Wilde back then.

TH: What initially drove you to create Archetype? 

MA: When I originated the site in 2009, I had recently begun the dual English and Creative Writing graduate program at Chapman University and wanted to establish a virtual writing workshop or MAB (multi-author blog) for artistic experimentation.  At the time, I was immersed in the process of literary coursework, reveling in each newly discovered or rediscovered text and learning to conduct scholarly research and master’s level composition.  And, most importantly, I was writing fiction again and risking what seemed the ultimate rejection and ridicule by (gads!) sharing my work with peers and professors.  I was a first-year MA/MFA student, and I was terrified and exhilarated and self-conscious and buoyed.  It was glorious, and I had this inexplicable desire to share what I was experiencing.

TH: From where do you derive inspiration for content? 

MA: I’m inspired primarily by literature and fear.  I’m constantly reading classic fiction and poetry and stumbling across passages that seem impossibly resonant.  I sometimes find myself actually holding my breath as the passage unfolds.  I get so awestruck and emotional about such beautifully written validation that I have to post what I’ve unearthed.  Most of the poems and prose I publish have timely personal significance.  From my occasional struggles with insomnia and feelings of isolation to my simple delight in a book or summer peach, each post, like a journal entry, reveals some hidden aspect of my life, whatever that’s worth.  My ever-present inadequacy demon is also a common Archetype theme.

TH: How much time do you devote to creation and maintenance of the site? 

MA: Most people would probably be a little quizzical if they knew how much time I spent each week preparing posts, mining for corresponding images, maintaining the site’s appearance, and keeping the contest deadlines, calls for submission, literary events, bedside table books, and other site features updated.  With a relatively small audience of subscribers and Facebook and LinkedIn connections, one could argue that my time could be more appropriately allocated.  I can’t explain it; some innate force propels me to post at least every three or four days.  And I have consistently done so for nearly five years.  Those close to me know how distressed I become if I’m unable to post by the fourth day.  It really has become a journal (and a journey) for me.

TH: You are a busy lady and a prolific writer, to say the least. How important is it to you to devote the time and energy to keeping Archetype going? 

MA: First, I’m not sure how prolific I am as a writer, but thank you for saying so.  I’m certainly trying.  Part of that objective requires building a platform and establishing a readership, so my website has become a large component of that.  Further, I like to think that every post resonates with at least one person besides me.  If it does, then it connects me to that person.  I’ve also realized through my blog how much I admire nineteenth century oil paintings and to which poets I’m drawn – like Christina Rossetti and Sara Teasdale.  As I’ve shaped and defined Archetype, it has shaped and defined me as a writer.  I simply can’t imagine ending it after all this time and effort.  It’s truly a labor of love.

TH: Where do you see your blog headed? 

MA: Now that I’ve completed the MA and will defend my MFA thesis in the fall, I’m thinking a lot about the next thematic basis and future of my blog.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t harbor a Carrie Bradshawesque fantasy of having all my “Best of” posts (personal commentary) published in a book someday (not to mention my picture on a bus and a closet full of designer shoes).  When I first launched Archetype, I couldn’t foresee beyond perhaps a year of posting.  I didn’t have a long range plan for the site or even a vision of an audience; I simply wanted a space in which to articulate the moments of joy and angst and Aha! I was experiencing and share the poems, passages, and images that have moved me in some grand way, a probable void accessible to everyone and accessed by no one.  And here I am, nearly five years and six hundred posts later, both trapped and liberated by “an unseizable force” that impels some of us to observe and question and reflect and write in a silent abyss with no end in sight.  I have many ideas and additional features I want to incorporate when the time allows.  I plan to pursue a PhD in English or Comparative Literature, so that endeavor will provide a lot of content.  (I currently have my GRE study list posted if anyone is interested.)  For now, I’m actually pretty content just having it as a forum for my own random discoveries and thoughts and knowing that its quiet appeal is appreciated by a few others.

TH: Who are your readers? Do they comment/interact with you often? 

MA: I only know about half of my subscribers personally.  That group is comprised of former Chapman peers, authors I’ve met at conferences and other venues, colleagues, and my mother, who, incidentally, was an English professor and department chair until just a few years ago and wishes I would post more Shakespeare and Milton.  I think the others are teachers and writers who have stumbled onto the site inadvertently and liked it.  I really appreciate that small band of strangers and its ongoing support.  I do get a fair share of comments and interaction, which I enjoy.  I will say that most Archetype subscribers are loyal.  Once they subscribe, they tend to stay subscribed.  Either that or they’ve relegated my posts to their Junk mail file.

TH: What are the pros and cons of blogging?

MA: For a perfectionist like me, it can be maddening when the site changes my intended font or doesn’t post an image exactly where I want it.  I’ll invest hours wrestling with a template limitation and ultimately losing.  And I spend a lot of time proofing and editing to ensure every post is as flawless as possible.  At first I was terrified to write anything that was personal or overly provocative; the permanence of the Internet can be inhibiting.  But Archetype is about literature and writing and art and all the feelings those creative forms evoke; it’s not likely to offend.  I did think long and hard before posting a painting of a nude woman reading in bed a few years ago.  Knowing it would probably garner more views than my posts normally attract, I wanted to be certain that my reasons for posting it were purely artistic.  But the image is so hauntingly beautiful, and it complemented the poem I was posting perfectly (“The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm,” reposted in 2013).  It resonated with me, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it.  Once I posted it, I realized that, as long as what I write and post are consistent with my core values, I don’t worry about what people will think.

TH: What blogs do you follow?

MA: I follow quite a few and have a growing list of additional sites to check out.  The first blog I found and immediately followed was Irvine Valley College English and creative writing professor Lisa Alvarez’s The Mark on the Wall.  Like I was on Archetype, Lisa was also promoting Orange County events and posting poems and images, as well as her own thoughts.  Since we were both local, I reached out to her, and we have promoted each other’s blog ever since.  I also follow my good friend Ian Prichard’s site At the Wellhead, my Chapman pal Ruben Guzman’s blog Literophanes, Orange County author DeAnna Cameron’s Et Cetera, etc., Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s Pen on Fire, TreeHouse, of course, and several others.

TH: You often post about calls for submissions and writing contests on other sites. How important is it to you to assist other writers with submitting their work? 

MA: I want Archetype to be a literary resource for aspiring writers.  But, again, I only promote calls, conferences, and contests that appeal to me and seem like valuable opportunities, so the lists certainly aren’t comprehensive.  I review a lot of websites, online journals, calls for submissions, seminars, and workshops before deciding which to promote.  I push Glimmer Train and Tin House calls a lot, because many of their stories end up in Best American anthologies.  I also advertise fiction and poetry readings and other local happenings, as well as prominent national literary events.

TH: An excerpt from your novel, Time of Death, won First Prize in the Fiction Writing Contest sponsored by The Editorial Department, Second Prize in the WestBow Press Writing Contest, and Third Prize in the Beverly Bush Smith Aspiring Writer Award competition at the 2012 Orange County Christian Writers Conference in Newport Beach. At this point, where in the creative and publishing process is Time of Death

MA: It’s not that much further along than it was at that conference, I’m afraid.  I was so shocked and excited about its reception that my motivation to finish the book soared after that event.  The award from The Editorial Department was a lengthy review and critique, which was incredibly helpful.  And I had detailed conversations with WestBow about self-publishing, which I decided isn’t for me at this time.  But a few months after the conference, the momentum waned.  Between my MA and MFA course work and my career, it was extremely difficult to find time and energy to write.  At one point, I dashed off about forty pages and thought I was well on my way to finishing, but then the story got stuck.  And that’s where I am today, trying to unstick the story.  At least 150 pages of it comprise my MFA thesis, which is due in October, so that’s what I’m working on now.

TH: What initially inspired you to write the novel? How does the novel figure in with Archetype? 

MA: The blog and the novel are pretty separate projects, but I do write about the challenges and anguish of novel writing on Archetype.  I’ve also promoted Time of Death’s occasional successes on the site.  For me, the process of writing a novel is the essential premise for Archetype.  I think the fact that I can bemoan about the trials of writing (and my inadequacy demon) give it some credibility.

TH: Do you feel your blog posts have helped you craft your other writings?

MA: Absolutely.  I’m a guest columnist for the Orange County Register, and many of my columns are derivatives of blog posts.  Still, each article needs to be adapted to the specific audience of that medium, so they often end up looking nothing like their earlier versions.  I met the editor of Orange Coast Magazine a couple of years ago and was invited to send him some pieces, which, of course, I wanted desperately to do, but I didn’t have the time I needed to tailor an article for his magazine.  With so little available writing time, I try to get as much mileage as I can from a piece.  Archetype has also helped me develop my personal commentary voice, so my posts, columns, and essays have a consistent tone.

TH: How did you make the progression from blogging for yourself to writing articles/posts for other websites and blogs?

MA: Honestly, that has been a combination of networking and sheer luck.  I am so appreciative of the opportunities I’ve had to write for other websites and publications.  Among TreeHouse, American Christian Fiction Writers, the Orange County Register, and other random forums, it seems I always have an upcoming deadline.  In fact, I have more invitations to submit than I currently have time to accept.  I’m hoping that, very soon, I can finish my thesis and organize my writing time so that I’m taking advantage of every possible opportunity – they’re definitely out there!  Although, I’ll soon be busy studying for that pesky GRE, too…

 

"Reading Woman" by Albert Edelfelt, 1885

“Reading Woman” by Albert Edelfelt, 1885

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