Thoughts on Karma, Verbal Abuse, and the Cancellation of a Magnum Opus

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There’s a sort of cosmic satisfaction in seeing a foe go down. We’re hardwired to appreciate karma.

I haven’t decided yet, in the 24 hours since I started getting texts and emails from friends who know about my experience in Blake Bailey’s graduate workshop at Old Dominion University, if this is fair or right. I think, perhaps, it just is.

It’s simply a fact, a corollary to the truism that says when someone shows you who they are, believe them.

The Blake Bailey I knew was cocky and…


Assume your work is good

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As a writer, I lose my confidence about as often as my phone which is to say, approximately every 10- 15 minutes.

Not that the industry — any creative industry — doesn’t make it easy. Rejection is the most likely outcome of almost every creative endeavor we offer up. Face it: creative output is seldom received into the larger world with open, eager arms. And that constant indifference can easily become a breeding ground for self-doubt.

I have the paperwork to prove my chops as a writer — an MFA and a few mid-grade successes…


One has the power to improve your mental health in four days

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Have you been journaling your pandemic experience? No? It’s not too late to start. Even if you think we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Even if you chalk the past six weeks up as one ginormous yawn. Even — perhaps especially (more on that later) — if lockdown has put your anxiety on overdrive. Here are three reasons why.

You won’t remember this

I mean, you will, factually. You’ll remember that it happened. It will be impossible, really to forget. But you won’t always remember…


How a classroom game became a go-to editing strategy I still use today

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The game was called “Adverbs” and it I remember it as a class favorite, right up there with 7-Up, I Spy and Black Magic.

Like the other games in the late afternoon rotation in Mrs. Lake’s fifth grade classroom, Adverbs required a volunteer. When it was time to play, hands shot toward the industrial ceiling tiles. Everyone wanted to be selected to go to the front of the room and have Mrs. Lake whisper an adverb into their ear. It wasn’t just for the social currency, either…


It was going to be my travel year. Today I cancelled another adventure.

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I was going to be a globetrotter in 2020. Travel — something I already loved — was going to be my thing. The year began on a promising note. By the first week of March, I’d been on three notable excursions and had plans, so many plans. Spain…the Appalachian Trail…random Jack Kerouacing and Airbnb hopping. Now, Summer trips have been put on indefinite hold. And plans beyond the summer? They’re crumbling, too.

There was time, not so many weeks ago when today was going to be something…


Here’s what I told them as we head into the unknown

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Yesterday was the last day of (online) class. At the end of a typical semester, the last day is a bittersweet session. We’re all worn down, burnt out, and excited to finish finals and head into our summers, our adventures, to hit play on the parts of our lives that have been sitting on pause. But we’re sad, for a moment, about the community we’ll lose when we out the door because we know we won’t ever meet quite in the same way again. Inside jokes will be cracked…


For best results, learn this math formula first

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If you’ve ever taken a photography class, you’ve heard of the Rule of Thirds — a guiding principal shutterbugs use to frame a subject so it can be optimally experienced.

I teach creative writing workshops for an independent writing center that uses a fractional framing device of the same name to give our students an organizing structure for processing the feedback they receive from peers.

As quarantine has driven a lot of new and aspiring writers to their keyboards, I’m seeing a lot of interest in online critique groups. Peer review can be an invaluable source of help and inspiration…


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve never felt it more

By J.L. de Diego — Madripedia. Watermark (signature) in original picture removed by cropping and/or digital edition., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2437714

Adjunct professors understand that, by definition, we are expendable.

We lug our books from building to building, do our grading and prep in our cars or the university coffee place — if there’s a seat near a power outlet.

Some of us toil at the same institution for a decade or more without ever being invited to…anything. …


Photo by the Author

Friday March 6, San Antonio, Texas.

I’m in an eerily empty convention center and I am comprehending, in increments, that life might be about to change — but I don’t believe it, not really, not yet. Mostly, back then, I was shocked that the nation’s largest Writer’s Conference had become a Ghost Town I’d been circling for four days.

Despite quizzing my Uber drivers, baristas and a chatty flight attendant and discovering that, to a person, no one considered COVID-19 to be a notable threat, the stretch of empty tables and cancelled panels prompted me to make the following note…

Cynthia Vacca Davis

Long time writer, part time professor, sometime photographer, full time adventurer. MFA in Creative Nonfiction

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