January 24, 2012

ADVICE: “Are text messages fair game for poetry?”


“The Fallback Plan” is a weekly column at The Faster Times written by Leigh Stein (author of the novel The Fallback Plan), that offers advice to those undergoing a second adolescence. For an illustrated fallback plan of your own, write to [email protected]. Anyone whose question is answered by Leigh will receive a free copy of her novel.

fastertimes leigh illus text The Fallback Plan for When Youre Not Charles Dickens

Dear writer,

What’s the best etiquette for found poems? That is, if said found poem includes text messages from someone who you were hooking up with and remain on friendly terms with, but don’t see often?



Dear Poet,

My etiquette for found poems is “If we are hooking up and you are texting me, know that I am putting it in a poem. I am a poet.” I have this tattooed across my clavicle, and I always wear camisoles to bars.

Best of luck,

fastertimes leigh illus cat The Fallback Plan for When Youre Not Charles DickensDear Leigh


How can I, having three little children (aged 4 and 2 years old and 3 months) and a fulltime job, find time for projects of my own?

I’m looking forward to your solution(s)!

Annelies (from Ghent, Belgium)

Dear Annelies,

As someone who owns a cat who was born without a tail and a boyfriend, I sympathize with your concern. The cat is always crawling all over me, begging for attention, and the boyfriend constantly needs to be fed. It’s hard to make me time but here are some ideas:

1. Insomnia. Over-commit yourself until anxiety shakes you awake at 3am, and then drag yourself out of bed to write sad stories about your ex-boyfriends. Sure, you’ll feel like a zombie the next day, but oh how sweet those dark silent hours can be.fastertimes leigh illus alarm The Fallback Plan for When Youre Not Charles Dickens

2. Put your kids to work. Will your boss notice? Probably not.

3. Make your kids your project. See also: Sally Mann, Marla Olmstead, Kate Gosselin.

And remember: Charles Dickens had ten children and still managed to do a lot. So if all else fails, maybe you just need what he had: a wife.

My best,

Illustrations by Krysten Brown