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.

01 June 2021

Treading Water.

It's Week 10 of spring term, and next week is Final Exam Week. I am buried in grading and general prep work for the end of the term, yet I can't believe it's been over two weeks since I posted to the blog. 

I haven't been writing, and frankly, I've wasted a lot of time while dealing with my knee injury. I'm now going to physical therapy, and I meet with an orthopod on the 8th, so I'm hopefully close to the end of my knee being an excuse. 

Just this week, though, I did move a pile of brick pavers that have been stacked against my house since I bought the place 3.5 years ago. I moved just a few bricks at a time, never overexerting myself. I used my garden cart to carry the bricks, too. I made two circular raised flower beds out of them, and I have enough left for a third bed, but I'm not sure if it's in the cards. I want to leave enough room in the back yard to add a fruit tree this fall.The great part of adding these beds is that it's where I've been able to throw all the clumps of lawn and sod that I'd dug up to add those blueberry bushes earlier this spring. Eventually this summer, I plan to move my whole compost pile into the second of those empty beds, and let it continue to decompose until next spring.

Today it's supposed to hit 99 degrees, and I don't have air conditioning. Hopefully, I'll be getting a new ductless system installed in the next few weeks, but I'm left to suffer in the meantime. Yesterday it was 90, and it was bearable, but it didn't cool off overnight like I'd hoped. 

So, I'm cooped up in the house, windows closed, and I'm trying to slog through the last two recommendation reports I need to grade for my technical writing course. 

I'm trying to take baby steps toward getting back to the home improvement chores that I had to abandon when I was hurt. I'm hoping to get the living room painted before the HVAC guys come, but I just don't know if it's going to happen yet.

12 May 2021

A Personal Day.

I decided to take a personal day today--middle of the week, end of the year, for no real reason. I am still dealing with a bum knee, so my original thought was to go out to the coast and walk on the sand or shop a bit, but I don't think my knee can go like that yet. (I ended up with bursitis in late March, from working in the garden.) 

However, I did go to the post office, and I walked through Goodwill for the first time in at least a year, and I looked at flowers at Lowe's for a short bit. My knee started aching a little, but no twisting or clicking or threatening to give out. I didn't push it, and I'm on the couch for the rest of the day. 

At Goodwill, I found a great little Mexican terracotta bird, and a small turquoise, three-bowl dish that I plan to use for holding earrings/safety pins in the bathroom. OH! And I found a really great pair of 18" tall Christmas trees made out of mother of pearl. I usually pass up holiday decor in summer, but these were 4.00 each, and really striking, and I'm always looking for more shelf-filling decor for the winter holidays.

The garden plans for this year have been hijacked by this knee injury, though--I'd planned on expanding the back yard flower beds, and planting a fruit tree, but it's not happening now. I did get one long new bed added, and I put in two blueberry bushes and transplanted some lupines there. I have a lilac bush I'd still like to plant, but it's going to have to wait until June or July, because that knee is not ready to for heavy digging or tearing up more lawn right now. This fall, I will definitely be adding a fruit tree, and hopefully a few grapevines, too.

My raised beds in the front yard are already filled with veggie starts, and I bought some sweet basil and marigolds to add there. I am still getting a few spears of asparagus every week, the strawberries are in heavy blossom, and my sugar snap peas are getting tall. Everything is growing as fast as it can, and I've already been watering for weeks now. It was a warm, dry spring.

Anyhow. I was still up early this morning, as usual, and I sent a ton of poems out into the world. I sent work to SHiFT: A Journal of Literary Oddities, to juked, and to The MacGuffin. I also sent submissions to The Ilanot Review and Poetry South. I actually had a poem published by juked while I was working on my MFA at Chatham. So, my submission total is back up to 60--sixty presses are considering either a small selection of poems or the full-length manuscript. 

According to Duotrope, I have sent out 594 poems in the last 12 months.

07 May 2021

Community of Writers Summer Poetry Workshop!

Well, it's been a while since I've written a blog post--it's been a bit of a busy term, and grading has taken up a good bit of my time in the last two weeks. 

The biggest, best news is that I was accepted to the Community of Writers Summer Poetry Workshop! Applicants are picked by writing sample, and I am delighted to have made the cut. I will spend a full seven days working with six incredible poets, including Susan Olds, who is one of my all-time favorite poets. I look forward to this opportunity, and while I'm a bit nervous, I'm excited, too. 

I am using professional development funding to attend--the tuition is 900.00, and it's a big help to have that taken care of.

I looked back over my recent blog posts--I can't believe that I didn't mention applying to the workshop! I was worried they would be overrun with applications because this summer's workshop is virtual. For writers on a budget, it removes a week's worth of food and lodging in Lake Tahoe, plus the airfare and pet sitting. (Really--with five cats, pet sitting is a significant expense when travelling. And right now, I'm between sitters.)

On the submission front, things have not been as rosy; holy crap--I think I've received ten rejection letters over the last week. It's like everyone is clearing their desks off. Now that I type that, I realize that schools on semesters are closing up for the summer break--so it's quite likely that my rejection slips are coming from that last minute drive to whittle down the stack of submissions before heading into the summer months. Regardless, it stings a little when they come at me in quick succession. I have, honestly, been aiming a little higher with my choices of journals, so it's also likely part of the reason.

While I'm still clawing my way to getting caught up on grading, I sent out some poetry this morning, so that I'm keeping things in rotation. I'm still trying to send to journals that are a bit more exclusive in their selections . . . I've sent to 32 Poems, Agni, and RHINO this morning. I'm hoping to get a few more packets sent out today, too. The rejections have freed up a good bit of work.

17 April 2021

My poem "Domesticity" finds a home at Plainsongs Poetry Magazine.

This past work week is ending on a bit of a grumpy note--I had a migraine for most of Thursday, and it's back today. My knee is still healing, so the house is a wreck, and every weed in the yard is growing on an accelerated schedule due to this warm, dry spell we've had. I have a half-dozen proposals to grade this weekend, but otherwise I'm grateful to be caught up. I plan to rest my eyes for a while this afternoon.

Yesterday, I received an acceptance from Plainsongs Poetry Magazine out of Hastings, Nebraska . . . they are going to publish my poem "Domesticity" in their summer issue. This is a recent overhaul of a poem I wrote while working on my MFA at Chatham University in 2005. 

At the time, I was living in Carnegie, PA, and my husband was working as a restaurant chef in Squirrel Hill. We were making it work while he commuted and spent long hours in a new restaurant kitchen, and I commuted 45 minutes in one direction to teach full time, then returned home to commute across downtown Pittsburgh to graduate school classes. (Did I mention that I teach writing? All spare time was grading--always grading--student essays.) We were both busy and exhausted, and I wrote a lot of poems about what being a wife meant, and what being in a marriage meant. Obviously, two divorces later, I am not a professional when it comes to either. 

Looking back at work that's 15 years old is shocking to the system in some ways, but I've also found that my age and experiences since that time inform my older work in new ways. In one view, "Domesticity" is a brand new poem, because the point of view has shifted and softened. The tone has evolved. I don't think my poetry is as angry in some ways as it once was. 

Ultimately, I am glad this piece resonated with the editors and found its home. It validates that the revision set the poem on the right track, after all these years.

I've also sent out work to Slipstream this morning--they have a call out for a themed issue on SEX/FOOD/DEATH. I found a few sex poems and a few death poems to pull together a submission, as I'm trying to consider themed issues more frequently. I also sent a selection of five poems to Colorado Review this morning. I am also trying "bigger name" presses mixed in with the micro-presses. It is likely a shot in the dark, but I think the submission is quite good, if I do say so myself. : )

Plainsongs Poetry Magazine