24 March 2023

Still Blocked . . . Trying Something New

I spent all of fall term and most of winter term terribly blocked, but I am working to put work back into a place that has boundaries and that allows me time to focus on my own creative work. 

My sabbatical application was not recommended to the board; for now, my plans for Europe are off. Though that wasn't part of the impetus for the sabbatical, it was going to give me the room to write as I traveled open-ended-ly on my own dime over the summer, after completing research in Philadelphia during the official sabbatical. It will happen, but not this year or next.

My tentative new plan is to live fairly austerely this summer, at home, and write. No teaching any classes this summer, for the first time in at least 10 years--but probably 15. If I can do it, I'll try to get back to the Mutter this summer, but for sure, I'm going to plan the Europe trip for Summer 2024 or 2025. 

But in the short term, I am already giddy with the idea of having three full months to myself starting in mid-June. I'm also considering buying an Amtrak rail pass and taking a meandering train trip on the cheap, but leaving the cats for three or four weeks is a hard sell. I might do a series of short trips, with the same rail option, though--it seems like a great chance to get to San Francisco or Spokane or both--without driving.

So, I'm focused on summer, I'm also working on getting to a place where less of my work weeks are 60-hour weeks, where I read in the evenings more often than I watch television, and where whatever doesn't get done on Friday will wait until Monday. No one thanks me for working on weekends, and no one probably even notices. If I'm not going to take back my own life, then I'll keep not living it.

In February, I spent a long weekend at the coast (my Christmas present to myself), and while there, I started The Artist's Way again from scratch, and I'm in my seventh week of morning pages. I feel like for a while, this blog functioned as an occasion brain dump in the same way, but right now, getting handwritten ideas on paper is more important to me than this blog that no one really reads. And I need to make it truly a sustainable, daily practice. 

In early March, I went to AWP in Seattle, and it was really productive and moving--I was able to see talks by Jericho Brown, Paul Trans, Tyehimba Jess, Naomi Shihab Nye, and more . . . I heard Joanne Gabbin, the founder of Furious Flower, speak, and I saw Gail Galloway Adams! She was speaking to a friend, and very engaged--I said hello but didn't interrupt the conversation. It was amazing to know she's doing well--she looks exactly the same, which makes me think she wasn't nearly as old as I thought she was when I had her as an instructor! LOL. I also saw Toni Jensen and got to put a hug on her on a a downtown Seattle street. I ate wonderful food and enjoyed my hotel room and saw more panels and readings than I usually do.

I'll be back when I start feeling like I have news to share. For now, idea generation, journaling, and doing other creative things--sewing, journaling, embroidery, gardening, dollhouses--are the things that feed my soul. Spending more time on the computer isn't doing me or my creative brain a lick of good. : )

11 August 2022

Trying to get back into the poetry habit. Again.

I am working to accept my own limitations in terms of my focus on poetry. I needed an effin' break, and I took most of my summer off from poetry. I have about a month left--maybe five weeks--before fall term begins, so I'm going to work over the next few weeks to get back in the habit of taking daily time for my own work, even if just 20 or 30 minutes. 

I sent a chapbook manuscript out to a contest in May--I am keeping the name and judge under wraps for now, because I don't want to jinx it. I'm hopeful that the contest judge might find something in my work that resonates with her. I greatly admire her. 

Otherwise, I only have work out at 12-15 publications right now. This is only about 25% of the submissions I've maintained over the last two years, but I'm trying to be pickier about where my work is published, versus just chasing the publication for publication's sake. I am also telling myself that as long as I have multiple submissions out in the world, I'm not really taking time off. : ) 

As for new work, I've taken a ton of notes since early spring, and I just need to buckle down and get the drafts moving. Very rough drafts of 2-4 poems are still in handwriting only--but my journals have copious notes for several more. 

In very exciting news, I am in the beginning stages of planning a trip to Europe for next spring or summer. I am going to Amsterdam to hopefully meet/get tattooed by Hanky Panky. He is probably now the world's leading authority on the era of tattoo history I'm most interested in. He used to have a museum, but I'm hopeful I can interest him in helping me with my research. 

The other reason for Amsterdam is to visit the Museum Vrolik while there. My current plan for my spring sabbatical is to build a collection of poems around some of the people who became exhibits in museums like the Mutter and the Vrolik. There is at least one museum in Paris that is also of interest to me, and while I first expected to spend two weeks in The Netherlands exclusively, I'm beginning to think that I should try to spend at least a few days in Paris, taking the train to do so.

My grand hope is that I'll be able to use this trip to research both the tattooed-lady history project AND my themed collection of poems. The poetry project is still something I'm rolling around in my brain, trying to get a grip on scope. 

AWP is in Seattle in 2023, so I'm also hoping to make that trip. It will be a year of travel expenses, but I have to get off my butt and start doing some of the things I want to do. : )

12 May 2022

I promise I'm still in the poetry game!

It's been a crazy few months, but I don't have anything in particular to attribute that to--spring term is just always a bit hectic, and I always feel a bit behind in my work. 

I have been writing, though, and I'm working on preparing for my next sabbatical, which has been approved for next spring! 

I plan to head back to Philadelphia's Mutter Museum to take notes--I have one long poem drafted about the saponified woman they have on display, but my larger idea is to write a series of poems on the real people behind medical specimens exhibited there. 

I am hopeful that I'll be able to make a trip to Amsterdam next spring or summer to visit Museum Vrolik, and perhaps also to meet/talk with Henk Schiffmacher, whose collection of vintage tattoo photographs and flash might help me to work on my tattoo book project, too. 

Anyway. I have poems out on the desk of publishers, as always, and I just received an acceptance from Coffin Bell, an online journal that publishes dark literature. They're going to publish my poem "A Strange Horse" in July, and I'm pretty excited about that. "A Strange Horse" is a weird little poem, but I kinda love it. 

Coffin Bell

25 February 2022

Continuing to catch up on submissions.

Work has been terrible this week--some student-related concerns I won't go into here, but it's taking a lot of brain space, and concentrating on anything else has been hard. I did have an appointment with my therapist yesterday, which helped. 

I did hear from one first book contest--The Jake Adam York Prize--and while I wasn't a finalist, they received almost 1000 entries this year, so it was a longer shot than I expected. I thought I'd recognize a name or two in the finalists, but I did not. 

This week, I had a FaceBook memory from three years ago that states I need to do better, spending more time on submissions and writing. It was encouraging to read that and know that I took action from that point on. I've been much more consistently dedicated to my writing over the last 2+ years. 

I sent out a few more submissions this morning, and now I'm back in that holding pattern of waiting for rejections and acceptance letters. This should give more more room to write over the next few weeks. Right now, though, I am very behind on grading, and I need to get that caught up over the weekend.

My birthday is Sunday, but I'm not sure that I'm doing anything. I've been thinking about going to Eugene to play pinball on Sunday, but I really wanted to do that today. Anyhow.

20 February 2022

New Submissions, and Some Fresh Starts.

This month is flying by . . . I have received a few rejection letters, and I've also realized that when the rejection letters come in one at a time, I don't realize how many I've let pile up. 

I try to keep my submittable submissions to at least 48 submissions, but I had less than 35 in there today. I spend most of my day today pulling together submission packets and sending my work back out. I think I put 13-15 packets out into the world today, so that's quite an accomplishment! 

I finished up two altered books from 2021--one that's of a typical size with 20+ spreads in it, and a smaller, gift book. Those smaller ones have become my favorite books to work in, to be honest.

I have the collage work done in my first book of 2022, as well. It's a bigger dimension--probably 8" by 10", but there are only 10-12 spreads in the book. This being a holiday weekend, I plan to spend some time on found poetry in the new book, but probably not until tomorrow. 

It's President's Day weekend, and I finished last week's grading and meetings by 2:00 pm on Friday, AND I told students that I wouldn't be online tomorrow on the actual bank holiday, so it's been a nice break--a break I don't always get between Weeks 7 and 8 in the school term. 

So, I'm glad to have my submissions caught up, and I've done a little housework and laundry is caught up, so a little loafing on the sofa tonight might happen. My knee is still doing well, but it gets grouchy and sore if I sleep on it wrong or leave it in the same position for too long. 

My goals for March are already being put in place . . . I received some bloodwork that shows my cholesterol is out of control, and I am sure that I've just replaced booze with refined sugar in my diet over the last 18 months. I'm going to work really hard on getting more activity into my life and on cutting sugar and cholesterol. I joined Noom a few days ago, and I'm hoping it will also help me to get my health prioritized. Their app says that I could easily get to 175 lbs by October, so I'm really hoping I can put the effort into it this spring and summer. It's so beautiful here in the warmer months, and I need to get myself motivated to take advantage of that. I figure if I see March 1 as my start date, I can work to have better grocery choices and a new pair of hiking shoes in place by then . . . I'd like to also start walking the neighborhood a few days a week, or the campus. Giving myself until after my birthday on the 27th, and the anniversary of Turtles's death on the 26th, seems more like kindness than procrastination to me. 

I've also made a big step by cutting smoking concentrate and flower out of my life. So, I haven't smoked anything but a vape pen since mid-December. I still use it daily, but I think it's less frequently, and I'm certain it's healthier than a pipe. I feel that I've lost some brain fog--and really, it feels to me that it was a similar brain fog to what I experienced while drinking. I'm hopeful that those steps will help me foundationally as I start to tackle my diet.

What I need to also start doing is drafting more new poems, but man. That's eluding me lately. My attention span is not letting me get much done. I know it's still a pandemic, but I've got to find a way to force an hour a day, maybe? I need rules--like, for example, working on submissions doesn't count. 

I'm hoping I'll already have a good start on better eating habits by the time I leave for Philly in late March. I would love to be able to stay in a hotel without a suitcase full of junk food to pass the time. I think I made a good call by picking an old-school hotel, because there are no fridges in the rooms.

Anyhow. As usual, this entry is all over the place. : ) But--two blog posts in February! After taking a few months off, that's an improvement.

04 February 2022

Holidays, Knee Surgery, Writing.

It's already early February, and submissions are slow AF. I have 41 submission sets out in the world, including six copies of my full-length manuscript. Everything is a waiting game. I'm going to try to send a few more things out this weekend; I try to keep my submissions around 48 or 50.

A few pieces have been picked up by smaller publications . . . but I'm going to try to start being a bit choosier about presses in 2022.

I had an arthroscopy on my left knee three weeks ago, and it's healing nicely. I feel like I am finally able to start worrying about my knee, after almost a year since I hurt it. I did have a torn meniscus, and some scar tissue from the injury, and the scar tissue was sanded out, and the tear was fixed. Within a few days of the surgery, I could already tell my knee was better. It still gives me some discomfort when I'm trying to get comfortable to sleep, but that's lessening almost daily. 

I spent two weeks over Christmas with my family in Weirton . . . it was such a pleasant visit. I spent a lot of time just hanging out with my parents, watching TV and talking. I didn't spend much time in my room, which is usually a big part of my visits, though I did get a good number of submissions sent out. No arguments, which was great, and I made minimal excursions into public, due to covid. I did get to the Warhol museum and to the Carnegie Museum of Art, but both were quick trips with no side stops. It had been nine years since I was in Weirton for Christmas, and four years since I've been to Weirton. My trip was extended by two days due to snow in Oregon, but I fortunately was able to be at my parents' house instead of stuck in a Chicago hotel, halfway home.

I haven't been doing much of anything creative. Still. I feel like except for the poems I wrote last June in workshop, I haven't really done anything spectacular in 2021. In 2020, I filled four altered books, and wrote a ton of new poems. 2021 was a lot harder. I am sure being at home is finally starting to wear on me; I was in a funk most of the year, and I watched a lot of television. I am trying now to be more conscious of getting things done, making sure each day has something that offers me a sense of accomplishment. I am putting final touches on last year's altered books--only two, and one of them is a small, thin book. Both have new found poetry in them, and I'm hoping that if I give it a few weeks, they might be springboards into new work. I am eager to begin this year's first altered book, and to spend more time writing. 

Classes for me are still all online, because of the knee surgery, and it's my three-course term, so my load is light . . . in spring term, I'll be back on campus for one class that meets four times a week while the other three will still be online. I think it will be really good . . . last term I struggled with those on-campus days, but I have grown to enjoy them. I've been going to campus on Thursdays for four or five hours, and I'm finding that I really miss being there, in my office, interacting with colleagues.