Author Archives: Julie Valin

About Julie Valin

Co-founder and co-publisher of Six Ft. Swells Press. Poet, editor, book designer, writer, mom, gypsy, punk rock on the inside.

The Girl Who Left You Giveaway Contest

Book Giveaway

Book Giveaway

What’s better than an open tab on someone else’s bill? A FREE signed copy of Six Ft. Swell’s new release, The Girl Who Left You by Amber Decker!


We are looking for a short poem–10 lines or less–about The Girl/Guy Who Left You, in true after hours poetry style. The contest is open to anyone, and all entries will be considered.

You can see how the crew here at Six Ft. Swells Press defines after hours poetry on our submit page, and you can read some of our favorite Six Ft. Swells poems on our poetry page.

Click here for GUIDELINES and contest details on how to submit your entry.

The deadline to submit is Sunday October 19th at midnight.


The winner will receive one personally autographed copy of The Girl Who Left You, and the winning poem will be featured here on, and on our Six Ft. Swells Facebook page.

A Nip of Inspiration from The Girl Who Left You

excerpted from the poem, Camouflage:

… Tucked against your chest, it took hours
for me to fall asleep, so afraid
I would wake in flames
or as ash in a blue dish at your feet.

Hush, you whispered
like a shepherd to his flock
on a full-moon night.

Or the wolf, under his breath, who answers
I’m here. I’m here.

Now go write! We look forward to reading your entries!

Bottoms up,

Julie & SFS Crew

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It’s Official: “The Girl Who Left You” Has Just Arrived

Top Shelf Poetry Series #4

Top Shelf Poetry Series #4

Hello Mates!

Today, we at Six Ft. Swells are proud to announce that our newest title, The Girl Who Left You by Amber Decker, is now available!  Grab a coldie, find someone you want to know intimately, turn the lights down and open the book up to lines such as:

“Sleep never comes soon enough

to those who suffer

in the arms of the ones

they do not love.”

It is a rare book that you will devour from cover to cover in one sitting like a bag of potato chips. It is a delicious, naughty, feels-so-good affair without guilt–brought to you by Six Ft. Swells Press, who always gives it to you real good.

Our co-conspirator, Todd Cirillo, says, “Amber writes with unmasked bravery, a fierceness followed by sexy, followed by sadness and then strength. Poems of Dairy Queens, cornfields, backseats on backroads, the starting of something new and the holding onto what once was.  That sound of the first button popping off, the zipper going down, and the way the shadows hit the space all around.”

Mmmm, can’t you just taste it already? The Girl Who Left You is #4 in our “Top Shelf Poetry” series, and is available on Amazon.

Bottoms up,

-Your friends at Six Ft. Swells Press



Filed under Poetry, Publishing

New Book on the Horizon

Hello Mates!
Yes, we are sailing in the summer breeze, frosty brews in hand, smiling up at the sun. We haven’t just been kicking our feet up, though, there is work being done after hours that is causing all the smiling. We are happy as New Orleans clams (wait, there are clams in NOLA, right?) to announce that we will soon be releasing a new book of poetry!

Poet Amber Decker

Poet Amber Decker

This is exciting news in itself, but when you see this collection of poems by the amazing Amber Decker of West Virgina, titled, The Girl Who Left You, everyone will be raising their mugs to her talent and ability to knock us on our asses with one phrase. In true After Hours fashion, Amber’s poems are so visceral and rich, we can almost drink them.  And if they were whiskey, we’d drink the whole bottle, loving the way it burned all the way down.

Here is what we’re talking about:

by Amber Decker

You board a plane to Las Vegas
bound for a supporting role in a wedding
you do not believe has anything to do with love.
Earlier, we’d made love on an old mattress
on the floor of your best friend’s apartment,
the hard shell of your suitcase banging
into my knee, your mouth wet
with the harsh scrape of my name.
There was little romance in it,
only the frenzied unleashing
of the not-knowing,
the possibility of unhappy endings, cutthroat desire.
I do not love you.
Or, rather, I love you
as I would love a deck of cards
while waiting for a train or a bus.
Our goodbyes fly across a crowded room
like small white birds.
At the ticket counter,
you kiss me with lips smooth as Carey Grant.
In the car, the radio plays songs to name
every sort of love
that does not bloom
in my heart for you,
and the long white lines of the road,
like dark-haired college boys
with bodies pale as ghosts,
take me home to bed.


So, friends, pour yourselves a coldie, grab your nearest sweetheart, and kick your feet up (for us). The Girl Who Left You will arrive shortly, and you’ll want to receive her properly.

Be back soon…

Julie & and the SFS Crew



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Living With My Inner Pirate (While Being a Soccer Mom)

AdventureTimeSchool is in session. So I’ve been adjusting to getting up at the crack of dawn, or 7:00 a.m., to get my first-grader ready for school. I turn on Adventure Time for her, proceed to ready a frozen waffle for her breakfast, and make her measly lunch, since she eats like a bird. This is my routine. Throw in driving her 6 minutes to her school, and walking to her classroom in my pajamas (nobody notices…they just look like exercise clothes, sans upper support), and my morning is done.

And she still holds my hand, which makes the mom part of me glow like a jack-o-lantern.

She does other things, too, fulfilling things, things that give me a feeling very much like that of being in love: I’m just in awe and overwhelmed with love at every little thing she does. Like when she hears my favorite 80’s song and asks if I can put it on her iPod. Or how she skips/runs down the soccer field to dribble the ball toward the goal. Or when she makes up an imaginary world around her swingset called “Ninokooni.”

But this isn’t a blog about how awesome my daughter is, even though she is a large percentage of my daily structure. She’s my dirt and cement, my husband is the water that binds it, and my days are a bunch of unwieldy beams that I’m constantly trying to assemble into a fulfilling every day life. It’s a balancing act: the domestic me and the pirate me, and goddamn if the domestic me tends to win out, as it should, the majority of the time. (Yes, I’m still exploring the same subject of balance as found in my 2011 book of poems, The Distance Between. It’s a lifelong subject.)

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000034_00025]

I was driving around the other day, listening to Fugazi, and I thought of how obvious it was that my pirate pal–my best one–Todd Cirillo, is no longer in my same zip code, or state for that matter. He’s my one true pirate connection in this life. That’s why I ditched it all this summer—briefly, for 5 days—to hop on a plane and land on his Cajun soil to have adventures with him in New Orleans. It sure did wonders for this poet pirate’s soul. How could it not? ALL my favorite things were present: happy people, fantastic music, to-die-for food, beautiful, artful streets—all to be enjoyed with a beer in hand. All for my indulgence. And damn if I didn’t indulge.

And there were surprises, too. Todd is always full of surprises. He took me on an airboat where I screamed my head off, both of us laughing with our big headphones on, and I fell in love with a beautiful gator with long eyelashes, who I henceforth call my spirit animal. (I better not hear one more turkey vulture wisecrack, mom!)

My, those headphones are as big as our smiles!

My, those headphones are as big as our smiles!

Todd took me to the best bar ever on his birthday, a piano bar called Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, with the only light being that of candles. It was like it was MY birthday, I loved it so much. And I can’t even explain the magic of Mike, the piano guy, playing the very song Todd and I planned on requesting, “Wagon Wheel”, right as we bellied up to the piano.


And drunk on everything, endless Coronas and music and laughter, I took off alone from the nameless bar where we ended up at end of the night, and found my way back to my room through the Maps app on my iPhone, and landed in my bed at 4:10 a.m. without a blink.

Or how at 9:30 at night, Todd and stood in a line down the sidewalk to get into Felix’s Oyster Bar–a total dive of a restaurant, until we sat down and the plates of chargrilled oysters and crawfish etouffee were handed to us. Until we took a bite, and just laughed because it was the best both of us have ever tasted.

Or how we walked around on a Sunday afternoon exploring and finding treasures on the street in the Marigny. And how we walked by a small bar and decided to go in for a Bloody Mary because there was a guy inside singing the best Neil Young in a gravelly voice. And how the group of teens stood on the street corner at dusk, blowing their trumpets and trombones while people danced in the street, and the one happy drunk guy, who kept losing his shoe as he danced and had a hell of a time trying to put it back on, got arrested right then and there. For what? Dancing happily? Losing a goddamn shoe? We danced on.

We danced on into the endless magic-filled night that is New Orleans. Of course there was a full moon over the Mississippi on my last night, just as the one and only true steamboat came passing through, all lit up like a constellation.

Magic spontaneity. Unforgettable moments. Those days in New Orleans, the pirate me was a star that the whole word revolved around. Even the farther and farther I get from it, it may even shrink down into a fiery dot, but it’s still a star that won’t stop shining.

That’s what I realized driving around the other day. Todd might not be nearby anymore to encourage the pirate me to come out and play, but the pirate is there inside me, ready at the quick to partake in any indulgent adventure. It is obvious that this is why a wife and mom like me, and a free-spirited explorer like Todd, have come together as BFFs. We at once recognized that star that blazes each of our souls.

In Todd’s honor, or just because my inner pirate can’t be suppressed for long, I snuck into my favorite college musician’s show last week after a poetry reading. It did take spurring, though, from strangers, despite my excuse of it being a “school night” (the mom in me). But I didn’t have anything to lose—except who I am now, and only for 45 minutes. Once I was in, it was only me in the moment; I didn’t know a single soul around me. It made the pirate in me hold up my beer a little higher as I sang out and jumped around to the music. I hardly recognized myself, until later, in my soft bed, the whole house quiet with sleep. I came together then, all in one content person, the balance perfect on the scales. I slept like a baby under the blanket of stars.


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Dear, This Year: It’s Not Me, It’s You.

To hell with you, this year. I didn’t even like you anyway. Never did. The whole silly string beginning, out in the cold and the dark, the crap getting stuck in my hair. And where was he when it was time to kiss? He might have/should have been there. I’m sure he was. See, that’s the thing, it wasn’t memorable for me, and it was a bucketload of disappointment for my loved ones. Which could very well be me. Who can tell the difference? That’s what I’m talking about. The whole damn blurry year of one-handed standouts, and the rest is a whirl of nothing. My intention was not to talk shit about 2012 as I plunder toward the last 12 minutes of its stupid life. But I can’t help it. It’s the Jaeger talking. My friend told me once that she gets mean when she drinks Jaeger. I thought she got more friendly and grabby. But it doesn’t matter now.

Everyone in my small household is asleep because they don’t give a flying fig about the year turning a year older. They’d rather dream on soft pillows. So who’s up to face it head on, with only the sound of the ticking of the clock and the clicking keyboard, small glass to the side? That’s right, the poet. This is a night for poets–not lovers making new promises, or businessmen looking forward to another prosperous year–if that’s what they do–no, it’s a night only fit for poets. We are the brave. We are the ones who notice the small details of things, inconsequential or not, and take them to heart. Even a whole year of things. When we’re alone as the clock winds down to midnight, we feel it the most. We know exactly who’s with us, and who’s not. We raise our glasses the highest and drink the fastest. We don’t know where in the hell the next year will take us, but we’ll ride it bareback, galloping into its horizon because something beautiful may be waiting for us there.

The big turning of the clock hands came and went. A few firecrackers whistled their goodbyes on my quiet street. Dick Clark is gone, gone, gone, which I think is sad, and I don’t care what you say. Somewhere a big glittery ball dropped. I’m sure young couples in their early 20’s timed their daily screw to hit right at the big, climactic finish, because we’ve all done that at least once. And now, nada. Silence. Not even crickets. An empty glass, to mark an empty year. And here is my New Year’s resolution: I’m not making any goddammed new year’s resolutions. Que sera, sera. A poet takes what comes and turns it into something to drink about. That’s what I’ll always say.

So adios, inconsequential year. When you have something nice to say, some new secrets, interesting love affairs, and surprising bursts of passion and inspiration for me and my friends, you know where to find us. We’re the suckers staying up at all hours waiting to clutch those very moments in our grasp. Tonight is no different than any other night in that regard.

And guess what, friends? Tomorrow we get another chance to find what we seek. It doesn’t matter what dumb year it is. Poets love tomorrows more than anything. Well, we also love “nows” when they are filled with aformentioned things…. The Jaeger Talking is getting rambly. Not mean, though. No, no. Not ever that. Handsy, yes. Sloppy, maybe. But I don’t have to walk far.

My pillow is calling me….



Filed under Drinking, Poetry, The Writer's Life, Writing

Suckers, Unite!

Sucker’s Paradise. Ahhh…..

We have been raising the midnight cocktail to bring to you the long-awaited, new collection of After-Hours Poetry by the man who lives and breathes After-Hours–Todd Cirillo!

The poems in Sucker’s Paradise come hurling at you through the window, full of busted hopes and kisses to the cheek, humor and hangovers, and those tender moments that make us believe that paradise has been found…for now.

Poet Ann Menebroker calls Cirillo, “the disenfranchised poet of love,” and Bill Gainer says, “Cirillo’s poems remind us–the best bet is one we can’t afford.  In Sucker’s Paradise he bets big–always on the heart…I love this guy.”

With the release of Sucker’s Paradise, Six Ft. Swells Press continues to publish the most original and accessible poetry written today, reaffirming their commitment to make poetry fun and accessible to everyone, reaching the far corners of bowling alleys, all-night diners, and taverns.  The flags of Six Ft. Swells Press fly high indicating no quarter shall be given with this new release, and that’s just how they like it.

The book will be available October 1st on or at the official Six Ft. Swells Press release reading October 6th, at The Iron Door (downstairs of the Holbrooke Hotel) 212 W. Main St., Grass Valley, CA along with the rest of the Six Ft. Swells catalog.

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Stop. Turn Around. Do A Little Dance.

The night may be tinged with cricket song, but the driveway is muddy and my new car is streaked, and there’s blocks of clouds covering what the stars do automatically. The house is quiet, but my heart is noisy and there’s pain behind my eyes. There are no obligations to do or be anything at this hour, but I’m all out of gumption and my body has settled into a heavy inertia that feels a lot like sinking.

Maybe all this push and pull means I am on the brink of something new. Like an idea. Or a direction. Or a buried passion that I will stumble upon like a shiny penny from the year I was born. Or maybe I’m tired. Maybe Ron’s poem tonight about writer’s block hit home. Or maybe it didn’t hit anywhere near where I live. Maybe a poet doesn’t live here. Maybe I’m just a mom and wife who thinks she writes. Maybe I’m feeling sorry for myself.

One of my dearest friends is turning 70 tomorrow. I’m pretty sure she is not feeling sorry for herself. She said she is “dancing into a new decade.” This is yet another example of why I love everything about her, and how she carries herself in this world. Unlike me at this moment, she is grace and beauty, kind and deliberate in her sharing of herself and the lovely things that easily surround her. I wish I could accept her way in the world as a gift she continually gives me every time we are in touch, instead of hoping I, too, will magically have the same delicate footprints leading to myself at age 70.

The truth is, maybe this moment, here in my vacillating between love and indifference, clamor and quiet, empty and full, I have come to a fork in the road. And I’m going to take it.

Such is the way of a gypsy spirit. Without sounding distinctively familiar, we can choose to go down one path and be content with it. But we can also choose halfway down the way to turn around and go back the other way where there might be more bends, but the pathway is lined with lush green ferns.

Here is where I’m deciding to turn around. Instead of moving away from the things I love whenever I feel deflated, I need to walk uphill toward them. I’m sure that this is what my newly-70-year-old friend must do on a regular basis. She doesn’t mind stepping over all the broken branches, or that it gets damp and cool the deeper she goes in. She will come out carrying pocketfuls of gemstones she found along the way, and looking refreshed. I want to trek that path, too, because I’m pretty sure it leads to where I belong. Where friends and family and artists and music and new cars and drink and great books await me, like an audience that’s always clapping for me.

From here to 70, I, too, am now deciding to live fully engaged to all things beautiful, to build a home for myself, and toss the simple nuisances aside like that time I threw the candy wrapper over the fence at the high-school football game. I might get caught; I might have an “oh-shit” moment, but I dance on. Screw headaches and writer’s block and downtrodden mindsets and one more wrinkle around the eyes. This gypsy spirit is moving ahead. I need to keep up with my beautiful, young friend and be thankful for one more gift she just now gave me. No matter which way I go, there I am. And, yes, a poet does live here.


Filed under Poetry, The Writer's Life, Writer's Block, Writing

Wait for it….

Six Ft. Swells Press has been working below decks and now with the onset of Spring we are ready to surface and raise our flag to our new release–THE COAST IS CLEAR by our own Matt Amott.

Matt’s collection of poems is all about recognizing the signs, and knowing when the time is right to take action–when to pack the car and go, when to steal the girl on the barstool next to you, when to jump the train, or when to stay in on a Saturday night spinning old Blues records with a pitcher of margaritas. This book is our own compass to carry along as we traverse life’s windy roads, and Matt is the best guide we could ask for.

The Six Ft. Swells crew will be hitting the road to celebrate The Coast is Clear in Chico, California at Cafe Coda, featuring Matt Amott, Julie Valin (and her newish book, “The Distance Between”), and Todd Cirillo. FRIDAY APRIL 27th at 8:00 p.m.

SATURDAY APRIL 28th in Grass Valley is our Six Ft. Swells Book Release Party, details to come soon….

We are looking forward to celebrating with you, in true After Hours style.

Bottoms up!

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After Hours….in daylight?

It seems that mostly my After Hours life starts at 9:00am three days a week when my daughter is in preschool. This is just how it has to work for a mom like me. But I can still make it cool. I can still make it selfish time. Sure I might have to replace hefeweisen with a vanilla chai, when I’m feeling really adventurous. And I might partake in an hour of hot yoga, which is the equivalent of being stuffed in a crowded bar on Friday Karaoke nights, only with a little more flexibility. And instead of a barstool perhaps I’m mostly sitting on my designated Ikea writing chair where I edit risqué romance/suspense novels for a client, or I write my own stuff that involves sex and Carnies–often mutually exclusive. And instead of being spotlighted by the flashing neon bar sign, I am situated at the window where I look at the sunrays slashing through the large Sugar Pine in the front yard.

Sometimes my week is filled with bandit lunches with Todd Cirillo, where I abandon my domestic duties of grocery shopping and laundry. Little does Todd know that these lunches are the pinnacle of my After Hours existence. This is when we can freely chart our next entertaining undertaking, and brainstorm about all matters of the seven deadly sins. This is the underbelly of my creativity, to tell you the truth. Todd has the uncanny ability to convince me I belong here, doing this very thing. I can be a stable, happily-married mom all I want, in Todd’s presence, or not, and still I come up smelling like last night’s beer with cigarette smoke in my hair.

And the cool thing? My husband lets me live in that world. As long as I devote my attention and love to my family during non-After Hours times. We eat dinner at the dinner table—a dinner that consists of only one of three items out of a box that I cook myself. I tuck my daughter into bed every night after reading one or two books. My After-Hours twist: her bedtime music every single night is the Rock-A-Bye Baby CDs of The Cure, Radiohead and The Pixies.

Even now, on a Tuesday, my little girl is watching Alvin and the Chipmunks and playing with her Little Pet Shop car. I am in the next room with the chatter of the little chipmunks that amazingly never annoys me, busily typing this and my daughter is content, making car noises, knowing that I am doing something that makes me happy. And now we will be off on our own adventure together, buying a Christmas present for dadda. What more could I want? I have everything I want. At this hour—all hours.


Filed under Drinking, Poetry, The Writer's Life, Writing

Six Ft. Swells Press now sailing the world-wide web!

The crew here at Six Ft. Swells has always been barstool visionaries, spreading their poetic musings to the after-hour masses. But we feel now is the time for the passion of three friends, poets, pirates and publishers–Matt Amott, Todd Cirillo, and Julie Valin–to tread deeper and more vast seas.

The goal with our new gypsy home is to spread our brand of poetry to the widest audience. Even if you never thought you liked poetry before, Six Ft. Swells will make a fan out of you–put you in front of the crowd waving your pirate flag and burning your lighter. We will have you convinced that After Hours Poetry is a fun party that plays the best music and serves the strongest cocktails.

So jump on board–it’s only a party if all our friends are here! This is going to be a rowdy, inspired, good old-fashioned rock and roll time!

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