25 November 2021

Thanksgiving, and taking a minute to catch up on everything.

It's been almost two months since I've written a blog post . . . the school term has been a busy one, but when I look at what I'm handling, it's not really all that much. I have four classes, but my writing classes have dropped in enrollment, and my literature class is small. I've been keeping up with the grading, for the most part--and I'm looking forward to having the next few days off, with only a couple dozen annotated biblographies to score. 

I think the biggest difference is going onto campus two mornings a week. When I'm there, I don't get quite as much done, plus the drive (about 15-20 minutes each way) and getting ready in the morning both take a small bite of the day, too. I really think it's the added task of having to be "on" for two days a week--interacting with colleagues, being out in public. Part of what was so great about working from home was that some of the distractions were removed. I wasn't worried about putting on a little makeup, or ironing my clothes. I wasn't concerned about what I was going to eat and what I needed to take to the office each day. Add to that the general anxiety I have about Covid and how some people aren't masking any more, and it's a lot. When I pile it all on top of grading and instructional design, it's a lot. On my days off, I'm simply exhausted. I don't have much energy for the yard, which continues to go wild in some corners and spiral out of control. I am trying to make more of an effort to clean different corners of the house on a rotating basis.

I haven't been writing. I need to carve out the time to do so . . . no new drafts, and no work on this summer's poems. I still have my work sitting on the desks of a few dozen editors, but I've not been sending anything new out--not since September. Lots of rejections have poured in, and just a handful of acceptance letters. I pushed to send my manuscript to 4-5 fall book contests, but I'm not sure that my work is ready. I haven't even made the honorable mentions for any of the 2020 book contests I entered. I am still waiting to hear about the Agnes Lynch Starrett prize, but I don't have my hopes up. I think I might need to table my work to get a book published, and use 2022 to write a sheaf of new work. I learned a lot this summer during the Community of Writers workshop, but I'm just not buckling down and putting it to good use yet. 

My attention span is shit anymore. I don't think anyone's going to be interested in diagnosing me with ADHD as a 50-year old, but I feel like I struggle with it more and more.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I'm not celebrating it in any special way; I'm staying home, and I'm planning on making a pasta dish for dinner. I've knocked a few small tasks off my to do list already today, and I'm hoping to spend at least part of the day curled up with a short stack of The New Yorker. 

I'm hoping to pull out my art journal and start working on some found poetry . . . since it's been a while, I'm hoping inspiration will strike if I just give it a chance. 

I'll be spending ten days in Weirton, WV with my parents in December. I haven't been to Weirton in 3-4 years, and I haven't been there on Christmas Day in at least 7 or 8 years. I am looking forward to visiting Pittsburgh a few times--I really want to get in to see the Warhol, and maybe Phipps Conservatory. The National Aviary is not far from the Warhol and Mattress Factory, either . . . so I need to find out from my parents if they've committed me to any events pre-Christmas. If not, I might just head up and spend the night in Pittsburgh one night--museums on both the day before and after. We'll see. I wouldn't mind playing some pinball, either--and Pittsburgh has several good pinball spots now. 

I have the cat sitter in place, and I'm trying not to worry about leaving the cats for so long. With travel figured in, I'll be gone more like 12 days. I haven't been away from them for that long ever. Several of them will be fine, but Maudie has some separation anxiety issues, and both Polly and Winnie like to pick on Maudie, too. I'm hoping with the house to themselves, they'll be fine. I have to be able to travel--I have missed it so much during the pandemic. I have a few smaller trips in the works for 2022, but I would also like to start doing some small, inexpensive road trips. There's so much out West that I've not seen--and there's no reason why I shouldn't just go.

What I'm hoping is that I'll be able to use the time at my parents to write some new work. I plan to pack strategically, so that I don't bring a lot of hobbies or reading along with me.

That was a big digression! My submission records are caught up, and I'm going to send a few groups of poems out today, just to keep those muscles exercised. Happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it. : )

04 October 2021

Week One of Fall Term is in the bag!

Last week was the first week of our fall term here at UCC . . . it's always a bit hectic by design, but I am also trying to balance memories from 10/1 along with the crush of new students and the unpredictable glitches they face as they start the term. I was grateful to have a fairly easy year for PTSD-related issues. I'm usually nauseated for at least a few weeks prior to the anniversary. This year, I've had a few migraines, but they've been easy to control with just Excedrin. My anxiety and depression haven't seen an uptick, so I'm grateful for that, too. 

I struggle to stay motivated, but my knee has a lot to do with that right now. I work to remind myself that it's just my depression when I start feeling frustrated. 

I have been enjoying my new role as a laundry volunteer at Saving Grace, the county animal shelter. I am able to contribute a little, and it gets me out of the house for a few hours on the weekend. So far, I'm enjoying it. 

I continued to send more of my work out last week, to the point where I don't really have much to send. I did receive a rejection from North American Review last week, so I will probably send that handful of poems back out to another press later today or tomorrow. 

I just finished reading Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia this morning. It was a recommended in both an article in The New Yorker and in an NPR feature, so I expected it to be a sure bet. Reviews mentioned Jane Eyre, which sold me on the book. I think it was somewhat entertaining, but the writing at times was quite elementary, and the character development was not as complex as I'd have expected. I think there was a great deal of potential in the storyline, but several times, I found myself thinking about how much better the novel could have been. It was an original and compelling story, but elements of it were underdeveloped. I don't know if I would read another book by the author; at the very least, I won't be reading another right now. 

I'm currently getting ready to start Untwine by Edwidge Danticat--it's been on my Kindle for a while, and I read about a third of it. I'm not sure why I stopped, but I'm starting at the beginning again. I am trying to work my way through the short stack of books on the Kindle that I've not finished. 

So, I am going to go curl up to read, or I might take a nap. I keep wondering why I'm so tired, but I forgot that I had to buy a new cell phone yesterday. Those kinds of purchases sap the life out of me.

25 September 2021

Submissions, Old and New.

I'm still waiting on a lot of submissions from last spring, but I know a lot of journals slow down during summer months. I had work out at a few dozen places, but this week, I've sent out to four or five new presses. At least a couple are entirely new to me, like Bellingham Review and Cheat River Review. I've never submitted to them before. 

A poet I met this summer at Community of Writers, Carrie Nassif, has organized a virtual workshop with some of the participants, extending our ability to get feedback from this wonderful group of writers. We share our work and offer input via Google Doc; it's been a great way to stay engaged with the process of revision. I need to really channel the momentum and get back to drafting new work. 

Monday is the start of fall term. For the most part, my courses are ready to go--I put tremendous amount of time into updates last year. Today, I might try to do a bit of yard work, if my knee cooperates. I threw together a chocolate chip muffin mix, and I plan to work on my submissions a little, but I also want to relax and enjoy the next two days.

UPDATE: It's now 5:00 pm on Saturday. I've put SO. MUCH. TIME. into getting poetry submissions sent out today--I've sent out small selections of poems, chapbook manuscripts, and full-length manuscripts. I submitted to a few awards, and went through the last several Poets & Writers and Writer's Chronicle magazines, and pulled potential presses out of their classifieds. I am exhausted, but I've bolstered my submissions by a great deal today. I feel accomplished, especially after taking so much time away from the labor of submitting work. 

I also was able to edit a few poems today as I got together bundles for submission, and I've sent out several of the poems about Mr. Greene that I wrote in June. I still have a little bit of work to do before I can say that my poems are all on the maximum number of editors' desks, but I could easily finish up this coming week. 

I also finished up laundry today, and I ran the vacuum cleaner a bit. I spent about an hour in the back yard, pulling weeds and watering, and moving a few bins of dirt. I also watered everything back there a bit--still a ton to do, but if I could get out there for an hour a day for the next week or two, I might make some headway. Today, as soon as I felt a twinge or two in my knee, I came back inside, reluctant to hurt myself. Myrtle, one of the neighborhood cats who lives in my yard, has dug a burrow so that she can get into my back yard. So, now it looks like I'm going to have to line at least one side of my privacy fence with a line of  blocks, just to keep her out. Sigh.

23 September 2021

A break from the blog and from my work.

It's been a couple of months . . . I was feeling quite guilty about taking the time off, but I'm going to be honest about a few things. First, my job--my teaching--was so stressful last year. I was teaching online from home, but the administration was acting as if faculty members were somehow getting away with something . . . I always felt so much anxiety, never felt appreciated, and I was due for my five-year evaluation last year during the pandemic. All of it was HARD. Then, I participated in the Community of Writers workshop in June, and I wrote a whole string of poems about Mr. Greene and our marriage and his death. That suite of poems wiped me the fuck out. 

I taught summer school, then took three weeks off in the first part of September--no work, no writing, no home projects. I feel as if I'm starting the school year (still online) in a much more restful, peaceful place, and I think this may become my September plan every year. There is a new president at the college, who seems to be on faculty's side of things, for the first time in a long time we're feeling heard and appreciated. Our provost was removed yesterday evening--she is no longer with the college--and with her goes more stress. I'm starting the school year without anxiety for the first time since before the shooting, to be honest. I'm delighted--I feel so hopeful. 

Classes start Monday, and I'm still online this fall. I think I'll be having knee surgery in January or February, so I'll likely be online in winter term, too. Now that the provost is gone, that won't be a fight. A good friend has stepped in as our department chair, and she is a capable, excellent chair. So much feels right for the first time in a long time. 

So, today, I recorded the few rejection letters I've received since July, and updated my Duotrope records. I will be planning to send out work again starting tomorrow . . . and today, I sent my manuscript out to four first book awards:

The Black Ocean Debut Book Award

Silverfish Review's Gerald Cable Award

The Juniper Prize (University of Massachusetts Press)

Copper Nickel's Jake Adam York Prize

I did not submit to any of these contests last year . . . and in late October, the first deadlines for contests I DID submit to are coming back around again. While I'm still waiting to hear from the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize (University of Pittsburgh Press), it's the only remaining contest where my work is under consideration. I figure that it's high time to get that manuscript out there again! 

I will be trying to write blog posts more regularly again, now that I'm starting the school year, it's easier to keep a schedule for submitting and blogging.

02 July 2021

Phantom Drift takes "This Daughter."

The non-profit publication Phantom Drift: A Journal of New Fabulism has accepted my poem "This Daughter" for inclusion in the next issue. 

I am really thrilled--"This Daughter" is a new poem, and this is one of the first places I sent this piece. Several of my 2020 and 2021 poems contain bits of magic or fairy tale imagery, but fabulism is generally new to me as a writer. It's encouraging that several of these weird poems have found a home quite quickly. 

I am still recuperating from Community of Writers--I tried to work on some found poetry this week, to get my mind focused on combinations of words, at the very least. However, my brain is just not ready to start thinking about poetry again. 

I did catch up on my submissions records, and I sent a selection of poems out to both Smartish Pace and Sugar House Review this week. 

Phantom Drift: A Journal of New Fabulism

01 July 2021

Looking back at my week with Community of Writers.

Now that I've had a few days to recuperate from that seven-day intensive online poetry program, I've spent a bit of time this morning updating my submissions to journals, and my records. I'm planning to get busy pulling together new submissions, as quite a few selections were rejected in the last week or two of spring term. 

After only three days off, I launched into the intensive Community of Writers schedule, so I'm taking this week off, for the most part--I've slept in until almost 6 am a few days, I've loafed around, spent too much time on my phone, and put a bit of time into straightening up my hell-hole of a house. I'm still dealing with my knee injury, and the weather has been excessively hot, so my yard and garden are a mess. This year's veggie garden is likely going to be mostly a loss, though I think I'll be able to get the tomatoes on track with some pruning this week. Summer classes start on Monday or Tuesday, but it's just one literature section, online, so I'm not too stressed about it. I'll probably spend some time getting the course shell together on Sunday--leaving me a few more days of decompression. 

So, the workshop last week! It's an interesting concept--we workshop every morning, after submitting a brand new poem we've written in the 24 hours since the last workshop. All comments are focused on what's working--not on suggestions or constructive criticism. We meet in the afternoons for an hour-long craft talk. Everyone, in theory, leaves the week with seven brand-new works. I was able to do that--though it felt really impossible on a few mornings, as I was writing at 4:00 am to make deadline. 

I wrote seven new works, and all of them are narrative/confessional, which certainly tinges much of my work, but I think of narrative poems as what I wrote when I was younger. This week, though, I wasn't really able to wait for a better topic or a better avenue into a new draft. Five of the seven poems are about my second marriage, and one is about my first marriage, and one is about marriage in general.: )

I realized, as a key takeaway, that I made a habit of not openly talking about the awful aspects of that second marriage. I didn't talk about it, because if I didn't cross that threshold, my ex wouldn't do so, either. While there were a lot of hard feelings on both sides of the divorce, it was kept off Facebook and our mutual friends weren't asked to pick sides. I felt good about that, and I still do. What I'm finding, though, is that much of my feelings from that time have been entirely unexplored in my writing. So, I think that topic was something I grabbed out of desperation on the first morning of the workshop, and that first poem just opened the floodgates. It was cathartic, and it was therapeutic, too. I feel lighter as a result. I really don't know if those poems will go any further, but a few of them have some promise. I'm grateful for having written them. 

As for the rest of the week, the craft talks were insightful, and I met some truly wonderful poets in my fellow participants. I am hopeful that a few of us might start writing together via Zoom on occasion, or at the very least, workshop each other's drafts. The poets leading this week were gracious and brilliant and encouraging and very human. All writers have a public persona, so my impressions of them, even the poets who I've seen read before, are richer because of this experience. They each had something valuable to impart to us. 

I had a few instances of feeling less than worthy of the experience, because the work I was generating is not indicative of my practiced, revised work--but I worked hard to quash these feelings and not get caught up in worrying about who was better than me and who acted as though they thought they were better than me. That competitive edge to workshop is a bad habit I picked up in graduate school. I feel I focus much more now on what is working in another poet's writing, and I am working on asking questions versus making suggestions for revision. This week was great practice, and honestly--my fellow participants had a lot to offer. They pointed out choices in repetition I'd not really been aware of, and on point of view, and I took lots of notes in order to apply "what's working" to other poems. I am so glad I applied, and I will apply again in two years when I'm permitted to try again.

One of the participants whose work I really liked has entered at least a few of the first book awards that I've entered this year--I only know so because he made the list of finalists for one of them. His work is incredible, and I don't think it will be long before he's offered a contract. I look forward to reading his work in print.

Well, that entry is all over the place. I'll be back to writing with a bit more frequency now that finals are over and the poetry week has concluded.