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.

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.

20 June 2021

Just a quick update, post orientation.

Yesterday afternoon was Community of Writers' orientation, so I spent several hours getting acclimated to what will happen for the rest of the week. 

We had to write a poem for this morning--to be uploaded by 8 am--so it was a difficult thing to manage this morning. We didn't really have any craft talks yesterday, so it was without a prompt. I don't think my poem is great, but I did draft something, which is a step in the right direction. 

Yesterday, as we began, poet Brenda Hillman said that earning a place in the workshop is fairly competitive. She went on to say something akin to, "if you received an invitation to attend this week, then someone read your poems and really loved them." What a wonderful way to think about the process of selection. 

This morning, our first full day of work, I am assigned to work with Sharon Olds. I wish my poem was better, but I am still really looking forward to the experience. Excitement is outweighing anxiety. Robert Hass is attending as a participant this summer, and he's in my morning session with Sharon Olds. 

I may as well get all of the nervousness out of the way by jumping right into the deep end.

19 June 2021

Today is the day! It's the start of the Summer Poetry Workshop!

I am really excited that the Community of Writers' Summer Poetry Workshop is finally here--we begin at 2:00 pm today! 

I finished up with school on Tuesday afternoon--I had to work five 12-hour days in a row, through last weekend, to get everything done, but I was able to add an auto-reply to my email and leave UCC behind until July 5th when summer school begins. (I'm only teaching one literature course, so it will take up a small fraction of my time.)

This spring term was really rough--I was so busy, I felt, all the time. I was up for my five-year evaluation this year, so during a pandemic, I was also pushing myself to return student work with grades at a break-neck pace, just so my response time was impeccable (I am sure no one checked--but it made me feel good to know I could be that responsive under the pressures of this remote work year). I had some trouble with a student this term, too, and that took up a good deal of free time. I haven't been writing, and I've not been submitting as regularly. Fortunately, I still have work out in the world, but I need to spend some time in the next week or two getting my submissions updated and sending out new work into the world. 

So, this impending workshop couldn't have fallen at a better time. I've had a few days off to sleep and relax, and starting today, I'll have craft talks and interactions with authors and participants to inspire me and motivate me. I am really looking forward to using this week-long workshop as an opportunity to recharge and generate some new work. I love that we'll be focusing on new poetry each day--I'm guaranteed to have at least seven new poems by this time next week, and I'm thrilled about that prospect. 

We did receive our schedules for the week, and each participant gets to work with each instructor once . . . but we work with one instructor two times. My "two time" instructor is Kazim Ali, which I am really excited about. I am new to reading his work, but it's beautiful, and I can't wait to learn from him. 

So, I will likely not be posting any updates this coming week, but starting on June 27th, look out. I will be done with the workshop and looking to focus my energies on my poetry.