Claire Darcy, Contributing Writer
Bonfire-roasted marshmallows, breakfast with family and blue Pop-Tart boxes illustrate a transition into adulthood in “Shuffling The Shim Sham,” a poem found in one VCUarts student’s latest anthology, which has sold online to readers around the globe.
“Puking Glitter” is a two-part anthology written and edited by Caroline Woodson, a junior theater and psychology double major. It contains themes of growing up, naivety and learning to become the leading character in one’s own life.
Woodson said the title originates from a play she wrote with the same name. While going through poems she had compiled for the book, she felt that the title was fitting for some of its central themes.
Described by Woodson as a scrapbook-like format, the book contains handwritten and typed poetry, pen drawings, watercolor paintings, digital art, collages and photographs.
Woodson started compiling poems for the book during a creative writing class in her senior year of high school. She challenged herself to write a poem everyday during her freshman year at VCU, steadily growing the foundation for “Puking Glitter.”
“I was like, ‘I could make a book out of this,’” Woodson said. “So I started picking the ones I thought were cohesive and putting them together.”
“Puking Glitter” was released on June 24, and the book’s second volume of the same name is slated for a December release. Originally written as a 250-page book, Woodson decided to split the anthology into two parts due to pricing concerns.
Woodson published the first book through Amazon, which controls pricing and wanted to charge $30 for the full collection. She said dividing the book made it cheaper — the first part is available in paperback for $18 — and easier to digest.
Poems in “Puking Glitter” are arranged in chronological order of when they were written, and the second volume experiments with contemporary writing styles.
“I think it’s the happier half, that’s really about learning to accept that you can’t be everything to everyone,” Woodson said of the second volume.
Erik Mayes, a junior theater major, created three digital drawings for “Puking Glitter.” One drawing features people at a train turnstile, and another is of a ukulele. Mayes said working on “Puking Glitter” gave him and other artists a way to show support for Woodson.
“I think an important part of a human’s personality is the people they surround themselves with,” Mayes said. “Using so many different people’s art … is a very lovely thought.”
Junior chemical engineering major Paxton O’Bryen took photographs for the anthology and offered to take additional photos to promote the books.
“I think in general the hardest thing for any situation, anything you’re trying to do, is getting yourself there. Because once you’re there, you can do it.” — Caroline Woodson
O’Bryen, who is a freelance photographer, said her favorite part of working on “Puking Glitter” was watching poems evolve from words on a page to visual components.
“My favorite part was getting to see the words, and then use those to create the visual feeling of the work,” O’Bryen said.
Woodson described her writing style as a mix of contemporary with occasional old-fashioned rhyme structures. Her writing influences include Emily Dickinson, Tyler Knott Gregson, Lang Leav and Sabrina Benaim. Woodson also drew inspiration from quoting her friends.
“I have a little note on my phone in the notes app where if someone says something I think is really cool, really intellectual, really smart, or just funny or something that people say — I write it down,” Woodson said.
One of the poems that incorporates these quotes is “Your Nails Are Pink Glitter Just Like Your Soul.” The piece’s title originated from a phrase Woodson said one day while wearing pink nail polish. A drawing by Mayes accompanies the work and depicts a hand with pink glitter nail polish holding a soda can.
With a rhyming couplet structure, the poem reads, “‘Your nails are pink glitter, just like your soul.’ Your heart makes decisions your mind can’t control.”
One of Woodson’s favorite pieces from the second volume is “Train Stations.” She wrote the six-page poem on a train ride to Richmond after visiting her hometown for winter break. The visit was her first trip home since moving for college.
She described the poem as being about “growing up and learning how time navigates itself, and learning that you have to move on at some points.”
Woodson said writing daily with a busy schedule was the most difficult part of the process.
“I think in general the hardest thing for any situation, anything you’re trying to do, is getting yourself there,” Woodson said. “Because once you’re there, you can do it.”