My world and words

Janine Pickett
Things Emerging - Janine Pickett

For me, writing has always held an emotional sense of things emerging.  An image shimmering below the surface of a breakthrough. A revelation of an experience lived, now understood in a new way. A healing, or a discovery, after a grueling trip through depression, sickness, or bouts of madness. A message to our peers, our world, a cultural change brewing on the world stage as poets and writers unite.

As a child, I loved writing poems. I created poetry booklets and birthday cards. I held readings for family members until after the first few poems, I could tell they were no longer interested. Did they realize poetry desires itself to be shared? Or was I not good enough?  A question that plagues all poets at one time or another.

Growing up in rural Indiana surrounded by farms, critters, fields, forests, and creeks was like heaven to me. A sanctuary. I had nature, or at least a few acres of it, at my disposal. I also had a rich literary library containing the works of authors like Anton Chekov and Flannery O’Conner. One of my favorite short stories was "The Yellow Wallpaper" written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I enjoyed poetry collections written by James Whitcomb Riley, Longfellow, Frost, Edgar Allan Poe. I read, I studied, and I developed an appetite for the macabre and for rhyme.

A Welcoming, in the Cemetery

broken-hearted graves
hum a soft, sad tune
white flowers bloom
in the light of the moon
apparitions emerge
from the earth’s cold womb
and a funeral will be held
in the morning

hushed voices arise
at the gathering
as families kneel
beneath an angel’s wing
prayers are uttered
at the lowering
and the buried will rise
in the evening

During high school, I signed up for creative writing courses. I already had two majors in English, I knew I could graduate mid-term, and decided writing was the way to go. With the help of my English teacher, Miss Hissy, I ended up becoming an editor for Echoes, the high school literary magazine. I loved reading submissions, writing poetry, and getting to know other people interested in writing and editing. I loved the community. Writing was no longer a solitary thing. Working on the magazine planted a little dream in my heart that someday I would publish one of my own. After high school, I took a few college courses, signed up for a couple of Writer’s Digest classes, and finally, earned a diploma in Journalism. 

It was during this time that I submitted and sold my first nonfiction piece. The rejection slips were piling up as well. I still have my first one, handwritten by the editor because of a broken typewriter, and mailed to my home. It broke my heart. It read in part: “There is very little art in this short story. You overuse semicolons…” I knew from everything I read and learned, that writers need to develop thick skin, rejections are a normal part of the writing life. I didn’t quit. I sent out a second fiction story and it was accepted, published, and nominated for the Year’s Best Horror and Fantasy #17 by Thema Literary Journal. I wondered about other writers, and the dream arose again in my heart. I was going to start my own magazine. But was I qualified? I took a long hike through the fields that day and pondered the question. I sat on a log until the evening light shifted, the quiet brought a presence, and my mind turned back towards home. I had my answer, although others may disagree: Spirit qualifies.

A Portrait of Home
-then and now

A squirrel eating a nut from the palm of my hand
A guardian hawk circling the roof of a crumbling barn
A doe feeding in the cornfield with two wobbly fawns in tow
A song from the coyotes as they pack around the pond for a dip and a drink
A blanket of fireflies lighting the fog lines hanging low over the soybean fields
A raccoon stealing marshmallows hanging in the tree outside my bedroom window
A granddaughter burying seeds in the same garden my grandmother, mother and I tilled
A lesson with laughter, as I teach a city woman how to shimmy over a barbed wire fence
A porcelain portrait embedded in a tombstone in the cemetery at the end of our graveled lane
A suitcase full of poems written by my great-grandmother and thrown into the trash, recovered
My heart bursting with love, as the seasons weave my footprints, and those of my grandchildren, into the stories my ancestors lived

In August of 2014, I put out the first tiny issue of Indiana Voice Journal. My invitation to submit aimed at new or under-published writers alongside more experienced ones: "We want to hear YOUR voice.  We seek work that breathes and moves and is alive. We believe that "good art" comes forth from the Spirit to reveal, to comfort, to heal, to bring joy, to surprise!"

I wasn’t sure if anyone would submit, but I hoped to give everyone that did a chance at publication. I didn’t know if other, already established, editors would welcome or communicate with me. I didn’t know if I could get listed at Duotrope, Poets & Writers, etc., so I prepared to use IVJ as my own blogging platform. By late August, I was reading submissions, and getting ready to publish the September issue.

Today, I edit two magazines. After reading thousands of stories, essays, and poems, I still look for the epiphany. The poem or story that will stun me into silence, or impart in me a new revelation, or a familiar, shared experience. I still believe that spirit and heart qualify. Inner vision and a way with words qualify. A sense of things hiding and emerging qualify.


If you pin my sin to memory forever
and let your skewed perspective reign
if your aim is to chain my soul into hell
I will forever burn in your brain

But sadly, you will never taste
of the beauty or freedom I found
the moment I slipped from your iron grip
and the angels lit trails on the ground

pray, my dear one
it wasn’t I who broke the chains

Janine Pickett
Bio Note:
Janine's nonfiction work has appeared in print magazines and anthologies, including Country Woman, and Chicken Soup For The Soul Series. Her fiction was nominated by Thema Literary Journal for The Year's Best Horror and Fantasy #17. Current poetry appears in print anthologies, and various online journals. She recently co-edited a poetry anthology: The Poets of Madison County. Janine is the founding editor and publisher of Indiana Voice Journal and Spirit Fire Review.