31 December 2020

Starting this new year with some established habits.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I'm starting the new year with the tools I need to succeed already broken in. 

Post AWP in early March, I started trying to make room for writing--I was journaling, taking notes, planning new work, and tinkering with revisions to older poems. By July, when summer term had just begun, I was crafting new poems. I started to find time for this work once I started teaching from home--crazy thing, even though my commute is less than 15 minutes to campus. When I started taking that commute and any need for public appearance out of the equation, I found I had more time for my courses and my students, but I also was able to carve out more time for my own writing and my own life. 

When I first started realizing this, it seemed insane that 30 minutes in the car was leaching this much productivity from my day. But, the longer I thought about it, it made so much sense--it wasn't just the half hour in the car, but it was taking a shower, finding something to wear, lint-rolling and ironing my clothes, applying makeup. It was packing up my bags at home and unpacking at work. It was preparing a breakfast or planning a lunch for later. It was booting up the computer. Making copies, and a cup of coffee. It was the errands I ran on my way to or from work. 

It was the tremendous anxiety surrounding the fact that I spend four days per week on a campus where I witnessed a mass shooting. Where I lost a colleague and friend. Where I ran for my life and sheltered with my students. Where I still feel as if some people in our current administration and on our current board just do not get it--there's been so much turnover, and no one ever acknowledges the PTSD that many of us work through on a daily basis. In general, faculty is overworked and underappreciated. Members of senior leadership have been heard saying faculty are lazy on multiple occasions, despite the enormous amount of labor--unpaid--that faculty put into preparing to teach fully online, due to the pandemic. A pandemic, five years after a shooting. For some people, faculty still isn't doing enough. It's disheartening and toxic.

So there's all of that. And working from home has given me a space from which to teach that circumnavigates all of those feelings and some of those time-wasters and those unnecessary activities. I certainly don't lint-roll and iron my clothing any more, that's for sure. My anxiety and stress levels are much reduced.

And since mid-June, I've been free from the responsibilities of being department chair. That in itself has been an incredible thing. I served for nine years straight, and at the end, I felt I was actively choosing to invite that anxiety into my life. I had to stop doing that. The workload had multiplied several times over, department assistants were cut, the pay was slashed, the number of chairs was cut . . . from the outside, it's insane that I put up with it for as long as I did. I was a little worried about the dip in pay, but I find that I am doing fine without it.

I am tremendously privileged right now--I own my home, I am still working full time, I have a reliable vehicle, and I'm able to pay all of my bills. I have enough left to feed myself and my cats. I have a great deal of security, so earning a little less money at this point seems like good timing. I can't really go out and shop, and I can't travel for pleasure, so I'm afforded a transitional period to get used to the somewhat-smaller paychecks. 

I also dealt with the death of my ex-husband in late February 2020. Our divorce was final in October of 2019, so there was very little time between that divorce decree and his passing. He had contacted me in early December, wanting to talk, but it was too soon for me, and I did not reply to his email. His death left me with a lot of emotions to process, and I had to confront that I wasn't done working through all of the feelings that led to the divorce. When he died, all possibilities of reconciliation or friendship dried up permanently. All answers that I might have eventually had were lost . . . I have so many questions. When I was in the thick of it, dealing with anger and grief and lots of other muddy emotions, I was scared that it would take me years to get past it all. What I find, now that he's been gone for 10 months, is that I'm free to close that chapter of my life. I may not have all the answers, and his friends and family may never understand my side of things . . . but that doesn't matter. In reality, that whole chapter is done. I find that freeing in a lot of ways, though I often think about him. I do miss him, especially the exciting, joy-filled, early years of our relationship, when we were making the long-distance situation work. Sometimes I am reminded of good memories, but more often, I'm reminded of the rough patches--I journaled during those times, so going back to my journals always results in my remembering something nasty that I'd forgotten. 

Overall, I love my single, "lonely" life. I didn't really like living three miles from my ex-husband, hoping to avoid him in traffic or in the grocery store. It was stressful. He was stressful. I was worried that his death would define my year. In fact, it did not.

This is very disorganized. So coming full circle . . . I'm starting the new year with a real advantage. I am thriving in my current teaching-from-the-sofa situation, and I've made writing part of my daily schedule. I've reclaimed a huge chunk of my own peace and my own time, and I'm grateful for that. I am comfortable with myself, and with living on my own.

Sidenote: the cats will not know how to handle my going back to campus. Maud, the most recent addition to the family, was brought inside in late July. I've never not been home all day. The longest I've been gone is three hours or so. It's been a comfort--Maud, Tony, and Polly spend the day on the sofa with me, and Evelyn and Winnie do their own thing. Maud likes to sit right next to me as frequently as possible.

So, 2021 will hopefully find me with a first book or chapbook--or more publications, at the very least.

And 2021 will hopefully see me continue to evolve into a more present, invested instructor. I was responsive and approachable in fall term, as instruction became my primary task again, and I revised and improved my courses as the term wore on. I stayed caught up on grading, and I enjoyed teaching again. I know this will extend into 2021.

And 2021 will see me making a habit of taking my weekends for myself, and giving myself regular days off and time away from work.

I was excited to find that when fall term began, I was able to effectively balance teaching and writing and a little time off, too. As flaky as it may sound, I feel like I have begun to live a working writer's life.

So daily writing and a new dedication to teaching are what I'm hoping for, but to be honest, I've been practicing since July, and I think I'm going to own it. 

I might try to add a small daily walk to my schedule, but I've only just been thinking about it. I've never walked through my neighborhood! So, maybe I'll get brave and start walking, too.

30 December 2020

Some new poetry drafts, and a flurry of rejection letters this week.

During this dead space of time between Christmas and New Year's Day, I usually take a break from the computer and from anything to do with my job--it's one of two vacations I get per year, and it's the only one during which I actually feel comfortable turning off the work email for a while. The other vacation is the first two weeks of September, before fall term begins, and it's usually full of my working on syllabus and course updates, so it's not quite the restful break that my winter vacation offers. 

However, I decided to start writing morning pages during this break--I'm reading The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron, and she advocates for three pages of handwriting every morning. I did this for three days in a row, but I've not done so yesterday or today--I'm finding that handwriting is hurting; my arthritis in my right index finger has been acting up. I ordered some pencil grips today, to see if those might help.

Despite that minor setback, I've been busy the last two days. I'm almost at the end of one of my current Moleskine cahiers, so I spent Monday morning going through the whole thing, page by page, typing up every single scrap of poetry verse that's not yet found its way into a viable poem. It took me most of the day, but I ended up with 11 pages worth of stanzas and lines that have potential. I printed them out, cut them down into long strips (my poem verses/lines are only 2" to 4" long), and I'm using them as a set of crib sheets. I can flip through, use what works, then mark it out/indicate which poems it's been used for. It is a weird activity that I've not ever tried before, but I am finding common themes and recurring images throughout that writing that's making it a bit easier to thread together something longer, something of more substance. 

Sidenote: Part of the reason I've decided to try this is due to Robert Hass's book A Little Book on Form. In it, he explains how difficult it is to write a good line--that it's much harder to write a good line than it is to write a good poem. I often overlook a great little verse or line because I don't have anything else to say about it at that time. What I don't do is hold that verse or line with some reverence, and see its eventual value. This activity that I've undertaken is helping me to do that.

So, yesterday and today, I've spent a lot of hours poring over those pages of "loose" lines and stanzas and verses . . . and I have pulled several new poem drafts from them! As of this morning, I have seven new poems in draft form. SEVEN! For a week that's usually a vacation, I feel a real sense of personal, creative accomplishment. I haven't gotten many chores or projects completed during this winter holiday, but I feel a profound sense of satisfaction at having created something new. 

Starting from those eleven pages, I have eight and a half pages left to mine for treasure at a later point. Right now, I'm tickled to spend a bit of time this week tinkering on these new poems to get them to a point where I can send them out for publication. 

Another development in this dead week between holidays . . . editors are definitiely winnowing their slush piles and making difficult decisions. I've received several rejection letters this week. One was encouraging--the editors at SAND Journal would like to see more from me again, and when I looked, the submission I sent to them had some withdrawn work, so they were left considering only two poems, and those two were really the weaker in that set. Two other journals were dealing with the same thing--I'd sent them work as a simultaneous submission, and had to withdraw part of the submission when it was accepted elsewhere. I have been trying since October to send editors the maximum number of poems they'll consider in a single submission, so that if anything is withdrawn, they still have a fair number of poems to consider. Kenyon Review still has my work, at this point, too, which is encouraging.

Regardless, I'm trying to keep things sent out; I'm happy with the momentum that I've been able to build in 2020. I hope that new work will present new opportunities to me, too. 

I should take a shower and wash my hair--it's a rainy, cold day, and I think I might like to curl up and read. Lately, I'm much more likely to turn on the television and watch something unnecessary, so I'd like to get myself pulled together, clean and shiny and cozy, to drink some tea, and cuddle cats, and read a book or two.

24 December 2020

Crab Creek Review takes "Spoke" for publication, and more rejection letters.

Actually, it's not as bad as all of that. I've been fairly quiet on the blog front, because my Submittable dashboard hasn't been moving a whole lot. I still have several dozen submissions out in the world, but most are sitting at "in progress" or simply "received" at this point. 

I was thrilled to receive an email accepting "Spoke" for publication--it will be in the next issue of Crab Creek Review. This is a newer incarnation of a poem that I wrote while studying at Chatham in 2005 or so. I really love this poem, and I'm glad it has found its place.  

Crab Creek Review is a women-run journal out of the Seattle area; their board is comprised of all women. David J. Daniels is their new poetry editor, as of August 2020.

As for rejection letters, I assumed editors would start clearing their desks at Thanksgiving, but it didn't really happen. I did receive a few rejections, but submission activity was fairly static through November. Now that we've closed in on Christmas, I'm seeing a few more rejections. The Citron Review and Noctua Review both passed on the work I sent to them.

I've regrouped the work in those submissions, and I sent them back out this morning to new journals. I'm hearing in most emails from editors that 2020 has been a record year for submissions, so all I can do is keep those balls in the air, so to speak. 

And Kenyon Review still hasn't rejected my submission. : ) 

Crab Creek Review

"Threshold" is now published online at The Elevation Review

My short poem "Threshold" is now published and available online at The Elevation Review. I am excited to have something recent out there, online, that my name points toward, other than my likely horrendous "rate my professor" reviews and score. 

I had originally submitted in July to this journal, and while my work was declined, the editor asked me to resubmit for their fall issue. Ultimately, "Threshold" resonated with them, and I'm grateful. This poem is really new--it was written this past summer, and it was published without really going through the number of rewrites and revisons I'm used to applying to a poem. I look at it now, and some of the images are lovely, but I think it's also a bit muddy at the end. I will likely continue to tinker with it, so that when it eventually, hopefully, appears in a book, it will be in a slightly different form.

03 December 2020

A few more rejections trickle in . . .

I received a rejection letter from The Windhover yesterday . . . and somehow, that submission was not on my own spreadsheet of "work out in the world." So, as hard as I try to stay organized, I've made at least one blunder with not recording my submissions correctly. Thank goodness, frankly, it was a rejection and not the acceptance of some poem that's been accepted elsewhere. 

The Windhover is the literary journal of The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas.

As much as I appreciate that journals don't usually mind simultaneous submissions, they always cause a bit of anxiety for me. I don't have work accepted often enough to get too nervous about it, but I still do. 

I also received a rejection from Ghost Proposal. It's an independent press in Chicago with a lovely, sparse website and design. It was co-founded by the poet Naomi Washer and Patrick Thornton. 

Hopefully I'll see a few acceptance letter in the next week or two, as editors at university-affiliated presses start to put their offices to bed for a few weeks.

02 December 2020

More of the same . . . still a waiting game, mostly.

It's been two weeks since I've posted here, but not much has changed in the submissions waiting game. I expected to see a large number of rejection letters come in right after Thanksgiving, but only a few have trickled in. My work is hanging in there, "in progress," at several larger journals right now, so I'm hoping that there will be good news for at least a couple of poems before the end of the year. 

I did send some work back out--rejections from Tar River Poetry and Poetry Northwest freed up a few pieces, and I did a little shuffling and surface revision. I sent to OxMag, which is the rechristened Oxford Magazine, out of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and I sent a separate selection of poems to Salmon Creek Journal, out of Washington State University. Both publications have deadlines coming up in mid-December, so I'm hoping for some end-of-fall-term magic there. 

I have been working in my newest journal a great deal, and I think I have a few new bits of poetry to work on over winter holiday. If everything holds, I'll only have three courses in winter term, which gives me a great chance to continue this sustained momentum. 

I'm getting really excited about the prospect of having a chapbook or book accepted for publication in the next year--I'm grateful for the opportunity that working from home has given to me. 

I'm still a little stunned that I've not been dealing with depression during the pandemic/quarantine/shelter at home situation of the last 7 months. My anxiety has been up a little, but I'm not drinking, and I've not had many sad days overall. I feel like I've been gifted a lot of "me time" back to devote to writing, and both the writing and the lack of booze are having a positive impact on my mental health. 

My grading is a little behind right now, in Week 10 . . . but I've been caught up all term long, too. I'm not having to blow off work to devote time to my writing anymore. I'm learning that being chair was sucking all of my energies. My writing wasn't getting what it deserved, and neither were my students. Anyhow. These posts are sometimes repetitive, I know. 

And--Kenyon Review still has my work.

16 November 2020

Watching my submissions move from "Received" to "In Progress" at Submittable.

It's unhealthy, really, to spend too much time obsessing over who's reading what right now. That doesn't mean I don't do it--I'm always logged into Submittable to see if any of my submissions are moving forward. 

Four out of five first book awards are now reading my manuscript--the fourth just flipped to "In Progress" today. Two of the chapbook contests have started reading, too. I know that none of them are announcing winners until spring, but I'm really excited. 

I also have a submission out at Kenyon Review that just flipped to "In Progress" within the last few days. As far as I''m concerned, every day that I don't receive a rejection letter from them is a step in the right direction. Having a poem published in KR is one of my career goals--I'll never not submit there. I think the poems they're considering are representative of some of my strongest work, so hopefully something will stand out. I also had to withdraw a poem from that submission--I like to think that that might add a layer of thinking that other editors are finding something relevant in my work. I also like to over-analyze everything.

I realize this may not be the year that I publish my first book, but this is definitely the year I started taking my first book seriously.

14 November 2020

Two final book awards/contests for 2020.

I decided to throw my hat in the ring for two more first book prizes--and this will be the end of manuscript submissions for 2020. I like to think that now I'm just hoping that I have one of the five best first books of the year, not THE best book of the year. 

I submitted to BOA Editions A. Poulin, Jr. Book Prize. This contest awards publication of the book by BOA in 2022, plus $1000.00. The deadline is November 30, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the final judge for this contest. Because our subject matter is similar, I'm hoping that this may prove to be to my benefit. 

I also decided to send to The Academy of American Poets First Book Award. I was going to pass on this contest, but since the deadline is this Monday--November 16th--and yesterday was payday, I decided that the $35.00 fee was do-able. This is a $5,000 first book prize, which is simply amazing. The winning book will be published by Graywolf Press, and this award includes an all-expenses-paid six-week residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy. Claudia Rankine is the judge this year, and while her work is SO different than my own, the monetary prize attached to this award has completely seduced me. Another check in my column is that the manuscripts submitted for this contest cannot include acknowledgments. I think that works in my favor, because a handful of my poems were published in 2007 and 2012, I worry that those old credits reflect poorly on the collection. They belong there, but I worry it reads like I can't possibly scrape together enough new work to fill the manuscript.

Having a book published by Graywolf or BOA would be a dream come true. Both will announce winners this coming spring.

12 November 2020

Another book prize--The Perugia Prize.

I decided to send my full-length manuscript out to another contest--the Perugia Press Prize. They only publish one title per year, so it's fairly exclusive, but they focus on first and second books from women writers, so I thought it was a worthwhile opportunity.

I changed the title of the manuscript to Faster than Hares and Rabbits, which is the last line of a poem in the collection. The deadline is Sunday--November 15th--so I'm hoping that a last-minute entry might grant me some attention. 

Along with publication and ten author copies of the book, the prize includes $1000, and input into the design and editing.

I'm crossing my fingers, and I'm hoping that while 2020 has been a humdinger of a year, it will prove to be the year I wrote my first published book of poetry, as well.

The Gateway Review: Volume 6, Issue 3

The Gateway Review published their newest issue on November 10th, so my poem "The Language of Sisters" is now officially published. 

The Gateway Review: Vol. 6, No. 3

I am going to wait a few more weeks before I include the poem on my blog, but I'm excited to receive the print copy within the week. 

08 November 2020

Chapbooks, calls for submissions, and rounding up additional work.

So I sent out a manuscript titled Most Likely to Drown to the two first book awards I've already mentioned this fall, but as I've also mentioned, I've been thinking about chapbook contests/calls for submissions, too.

I decided this weekend that I should take a look at some older poetry files, and at newer poems that aren't in my current manuscript. I realized I have enough work to compile a chapbook manuscript that\"s completely unique from the full-length manuscript. 

I spent Saturday morning whittling a list of about 45 poems down to the 28 strongest works, and I am pretty satisfied with the result. To be honest, I've made the short list twice in chapbook competitions with a manuscript that was not as strong as this new one. I titled the collection Kill Jars, after a poem that is included, but I'm contemplating Swallows and Hares as a better title.

I didn't debate--I sent the collection out already to three publishers: The American Poetry Journal's chapbook series, Beloit Poetry Journal's Chad Walsh Chapbook Series, and Black Lawrence Press open reading period for chapbooks. All three of these opportunities are calls for submissions, not contests. However, the Chad Walsh Chapbook Series selects only one collection--and that author receives a $2500 prize (NEW for 2020), 50 author copies (perfect bound, full-color cover), and an in-depth editorial consultation, so it seems a bit more like a contest in that I'd receive more than the publication and distribution of the resulting book.

I also received a rejection letter from the online publication Sixth Finch this week, and in that rejection letter, they mentioned submitting to their open chapbook call, so I'll likely send to them, as well. For whatever reason, they do not have their chapbook call published on Submittable, so I am hoping there might be only a small pool of manuscripts there. 

It's hard to know what editors are receiving--are they just overwhelmed with a ton of manuscripts and original work, since so many people are spending more time at home during the pandemic, or are writers preoccupied with other facets of their life right now and therefore are not sending out work like they might in a usual year? I'm not sure . . . so I just keep stacking the deck in my favor as frequently as I can. 

This week, I also sent a selection of four poems to Stonecrop Magazine, out of the College of Western Idaho.

05 November 2020

So anxious about other stuff, rejections are just a blip.

It's been a hectic, stressful week . . . the presidential election certainly has everyone on the edge of their sofas, but I'm also at the end of Week 6 in my school term. I have just so much grading to get done this week, and my nerves are shot. Student emails are out of control some mornings--they're all stressed out and overworked and on their last nerve, too. I feel like I spend the first four hours of every day just clawing my way back to where I left off the day before. It sucks! 

That being said, I have a therapy appointment in a couple of hours. I am SO grateful I scheduled it--I've been doing pretty well, and this appointment is actually four weeks out from my last appointment. I think Barb and I are on the verge of taking a break, but I'm reluctant to let go of the security of at least a monthly appointment. When I look at the last year, there's been a lot going on. I just passed the year anniversary of my divorce settlement, and he passed away in late February. I've been on COVID-19 lockdown for seven months now, and it's not looking like that's changing anytime soon. Sometimes I stop and realize everything that I've been shouldering, and I'm lucky I'm doing so well. I think it helps that I live alone, and that I live so far from family--where that would drive some people crazy, this time alone has been restorative and productive. 

I was planning on flying home to West Virginia for Christmas, but with COVID cases climbing everywhere, it seems unwise. I live in a relatively safe pocket of Oregon, and my parents are living in a fairly safe county in West Virginia. I am just too worried about what could happen as I sweep through three to four airports during holiday season on my way there. I think it's too big of a risk. My mom is disappointed, but we're hopeful that I could visit in late winter/early spring, since I'll be teaching remotely until April.

ANYHOW, amid all this other stimuli, I've received two rejection letters--one from the minnesota review, and one from decomp. I was hopeful about the minnesota review submission; I sent them a really strong set of poems, and I thought something might catch their eye. decomp did welcome me to submit again, which was nice. decomp is a journal I think of as one I know I've seen multiple times during the AWP Book Fairs . . . so in my brain's file drawers, they're an AWP Book Fair publication. the minnesota review is on the list of journals I hope to see my work in one day. It's been around forever, and it has a solid reputation. Hopefully, next time!

02 November 2020

A new poem, a few thoughts on my process, and some submissions.

It's Monday, and Mondays usually end up being a partial extension of my weekend. I am always up early to answer student emails and to make sure that the week's lessons are all prepared and assignments are all working properly across my four online classes. Monday at 8 am is always my students' weekly assignment deadline, and it's also when the next new week's assignments open up, so the morning can be hectic and full of emails. Even so, I usually switch gears to writing, revising, and submitting my own work after lunch.

(I often grade late into Fridays and Saturdays, and following those sorts of working weekends, I don't feel bad about salvaging a scrap of Monday afternoons for my own work. This past weekend, I was grading until 4:30 pm on Saturday, which was awful.)

I pulled a few newer lines from a writing journal this morning, and I think it is already shaped into a passable draft of a new poem. It's titled "That Long, Vacant Room," until something else jumps out of the poem's lines and makes a better title. 

These lines were part of a found poem that I cobbled together in October: with both hands, she slipped into his mouth, and made up a bed in that long, vacant room. I really like it--and although the poem is rough, with these lines in the mix, I think there's some potential there. 

My process includes snips of found poetry from time to time--I use found poetry in my altered book journals, and while much of that doesn't translate over to my written poetry, I do find the art and craft of found poetry to be a wonderful way to generate new ideas and to look at word choices in a very different way. A few of my favorite lines in my own poems started from a found poetry exercise; the practice rarely lets me down when I'm feeling stuck. Somehow, at least to me, when words are cut free from the context of the page, they can become more flexible or versatile. More fluid, almost. It opens my mind and stirs things up. Even if I'm feeling too blocked or stuck to write, I can usually muster enough energy to get out my "found poetry kit" and move words and phrases around on a sheet of paper for a few hours. 

Also today, I rounded up a few poems and sent some work to the Barely South Review, and I sent a poem to The Fourth River. TFR is published at Chatham University, where I earned my MFA--I've never sent them any of my work--not in the 15 years since I've graduated. The idea of it always made me a little uncomfortable. However, they have a weekly online feature called "Tributaries," and I'm hoping that the poem I submitted--titled "Grief"--might find a home there.

"Threshold" accepted for publication at The Elevation Review.

I received an email this morning from the editor of The Elevation Review, and they are going to publish my poem "Threshold" in their next issue.

"Threshold" is a part of the second sampling of poems I've sent to this publication--they rejected a submission in July or August--they're actually one of the first places I sent work to this summer. Although that first set of poems was rejected, I received an email from the editor asking me to resubmit work for their next issue. I did, and I'm delighted to see that they've found something of mine that will work with their vision. 

The Elevation Review is a fledgling online journal, and I've generally been getting a little pickier about sending to online journals, especially those that only have a few issues under their belt. However, this one already has such a polished, professional website and feel. The editor-in-chief, Thomas Kneeland, has done some fantastic work with this journal--both in design and in content. I look forward to being part of their third issue; I will update this post when the issue goes live. 

The Elevation Review

01 November 2020

Finally, submission success at Poetry Northwest.

I have been trying to submit work at Poetry Northwest for a few months--they limit their monthly poetry submissions to 300, and I continually forget to check on the first or second of the month. This morning, however, I was ready! I've had a selection of four poems at the ready--and I uploaded them this morning as soon as the dropbox opened. 

I hope to hear from a few more journals this coming week . . . October 31st was a big fall deadline, so I'm thinking a few places hold their initial choice and rejections until after the deadline passes, just in case. 

In my own writing, I've revised a few pieces this week, and I've written a few new fragments. I am actually caught up on essay grading until tomorrow morning, so I'm planning to spend a bit of my Sunday working on some new things. 

I've also started a new altered book--this year has been very good for my journaling; I usually fill one book per year, and this year, I'm on my third large book. I've also made three smaller journals. I feel like being at home has been good for my creativity, and my peace in general. 

I think I have a video of me flipping through one of this year's books--I'll look around and see if I can find it.

30 October 2020

Rejection letters, and submissions in active review.

I received two rejection letters this week, one from Outlook Springs, and the other from Pidgeonholes, an online journal. Both are looking for work that's a little different. The former is "devoted to fiction, poetry, and non-fiction tinged with the strange." Pidgeonhole's tag line is "weird bird. weird words." As I've mentioned in another post, I have trouble classifying my own work, so I'm always choosing to submit to journals that seem to have an interest in work that's a bit odd, but I often find that my brand of odd isn't exactly what they're looking for.

At Submittable, I've noticed that at least a half-dozen submissions have moved from "Received" to "In Progress" this week. I think several calls for submissions had deadlines between October 15th and October 31st, so it's likely that editors are beginning to review work now that the submission windows are shuttered. 

I hope that this will bring some good news, and some acceptance letters--I have an obnoxious number of submissions out in the world right now, and I would like to find a home for at least a few more newer poems. 

I sent out a selection of poems to Boxcar Poetry Review and to The New Southern Fugitives this week, as well. Both have deadlines in November.

26 October 2020

A third poem is selected by The Louisville Review--"The Gap to Salvation"

I received a short email from Amy Kapoor at The Louisville Review this morning, and they are going to publish a third poem, "The Gap to Salvation," though they originally passed on the work. What a wonderful bit of unexpected news!

I am thrilled to have a set of three poems in the publication at once; and, this poem is a new work--The Louisville Review was the first journal to consider it. I am feeling really confident in the quality of my new poems as a result.

22 October 2020

Steel House Review goes on hiatus, frees up poetry.

I received an email this week from the editors of Steel House Review; they are moving to an indefinite hiatus.

I ended up with a tidy packet of three poems that I could send out to a new journal, too; Ruminate Magazine has a deadline approaching, so I decided to submit there, hoping something of mine will catch an editor's eye as they make the last choices for the next issue.  

Back to SHR, though. I am surprised, frankly, that more small publishing houses and journals haven't shuttered while I've had work on their desks. It's such an uncertain time for writers and educators both--and most publications are run by one or the other . . . or both. 

Steel House Review is a nice little independent online journal--I'm sorry to see its doors shuttered, but I hope that the editors find this time to be restorative for them.

Steel House Review


20 October 2020

Another post on the same day. Rejection, revision, resubmission.

I've been spending my morning working on refining some older poems today, and I received a rejection from Bat City Review in my email. 

I was disappointed, because I feel those particular poems are a few of my stronger new poems. That being said, two of the four have been revised substantially since I sent them out to Bat City. I decided to take a quick look at the other two, then send the packet back out to another publication today.

In revising my poem "Marriage," I think I made a few small but incredibly effective revisions, and I think all four poems are significantly better than they were even a few weeks ago. 

So, I sent out a much finer set of poems to Tar River Poetry--they are running an open call for their Spring 2021 issue, and their deadline is October 31.

October: A few poems sent out, a few poems rejected, and a thought about chapbooks.

As I've mentioned already, I've been looking at my book manuscript, and while it feels cohesive, I also think I could probably glean two separate chapbook collections from the full-length manuscript.

I am thinking more about doing just that, if the manuscript does not make the finalists for either first book prize. I may enter dueling chapbooks in a few contests in spring, instead of trying for another first book prize. 

Maybe by then, I'll have some more work, too--I haven't been generating much of value since school started in late September, but I'm still revising regularly and keeping submissions sent out to journals and magazines. 

Since this summer, I've been largely using Submittable to find and explore new publication opportunities, when for many years, I've used Duotrope. I still pay for my Duotrope membership, but it is becoming a bit of a dinosaur, because Submittable offers much of the same information paired with the actual submission interface used by most journals. I check over the Duotrope weekly newsletters, and every few weeks, I'll complete a few searches, but even with that, I find I use the Submittable "discover" option more frequently.

In the last two weeks, I've submitted a selection of work to the Roanoke Review, and another selection to The Citron Review. 

I also received a standard rejection from Jet Fuel Review on three poems. I'm working on one of the poems submitted, because it really looks like a clunker now that I am appropriately shamed by its rejection. So, revisions are under way, and that is a very good thing--worth the rejection, perhaps. 

I am teaching from home until at least April, and last week I raided my campus office for a few books to help with generating new material. I miss having my "craft books" here at the house, but I have a small office and a small house, and I had to make the choice to separate my library. My collections of poetry are at home; my books on craft are at the office.

The Daily Poet, from Two Sylvias Press. I bought this book several years ago on a whim at AWP--the women who run Two Sylvias Press are lovely people, also! I've spoken to them more than once while standing at their book fair table. (I am quite awkward in social situations, but the AWP Book Fair is a must. They are a small oasis in that chaos.) The book offers one poem prompt per day--some are not right for me, but many are fantastic. It's a great "flip book" when I want to write but am feeling blocked. They also have an "advent calendar" of writing prompts for December that I'll be purchasing, too. : )

13 October 2020

The pretentious nature of scrambling to publish poetry.

I am hoping that by writing this little blog, I'm taking some of the pretentious behaviors out of the process of submitting my work for publication. 

This time of year contains the anniversary of the UCC shooting, but it also contains both wedding anniversaries and a divorce anniversary. October brings a lot of baggage with it. And in 2020, with the pandemic and an election year piled on top, I have been trying to avoid pressuring myself to do anything. 

Fortunately, stepping down from being chair combined with the current work-from-home order at UCC gave me ample time to work my writing back into daily practice. As we reach the middle of October, I'm writing and revising nearly every single day. I am proud of that, and I feel lighter as a result. I am not really writing about my ex-husband (late husband?) or the UCC shooting, but I feel like they are now topics that can be easily moved off my desk, so to speak, so that I can get busy with the business of writing poetry that focuses on other topics and other people. 

That being said, I am also just starting to write about my second husband a little bit. There's a lot to unpack there. 

In the past, most of my motivation and momentum for sending work out for publication consideration revolved around my participation in a workshop setting. In graduate school, I sent work out all the time. In the fifteen years since I graduated, I've struggled to stay committed to seeing my work published. I feel that's finally changed this year. I have five months until I turn 50; now is the time.

First, seeking publication is always something I see people keep close to the vest, myself included--writers struggle with rejection and acceptance, but I think we also struggle with the incredible vulnerability of putting ourselves out there--hanging, waiting--for some stranger to pass judgement. 

What journals are "good" journals? What small journals are "too small"? Am I selling my work short by sending to a smaller, fledgling journal, or am I wasting everyone's time by sending work to larger, established, "important" publications? Who knows--I'm not sure any of us know. 

And, I'm being honest--2020 marks eight years since my last poems were published. But, 2020 also marks several new publications that are forthcoming. This is a new start, and a new approach to the process. 

Putting myself and my poetry out there is hard work, emotionally. It's time-consuming, and it's not always a reciprocal process. Sometimes I'm still embarrassed of the mistakes I make, but sometimes I'm also proud of the progress I'm making. Sometimes I look at a poem and think, "that's REALLY good." Sometimes that poem is mine. 

So, I'm looking forward to continuing to write and revise and submit into 2021 and beyond, and I'm going to continue to record my progress and my setbacks here at this little blog. I don't think anyone really reads it, but I feel good about writing it.

07 October 2020

Fall term, a rejection letter, and first book contests

Monday started the second week of the fall term--my teaching is all online this fall, but I have about 90 students across four classes, and I am spending a lot of time answering emails and explaining assignments to students, many of whom did not want to take online classes. For the time being, what can be taught online is being taught online--because our writing and literature classes are already established online, at least I'm not trying to build entire course shells while I teach.

I received a rejection letter yesterday on a submission of three poems--just a brief form letter, with no invitations to submit again. The work is still being considered by a few other journals, so I'm not in a rush to turn the poems around and send them out again. I have a variety of work out at a few dozen different places, so I have a nice cushion while I get my fall term under control a bit. 

I started to pull together a manuscript last weekend, and of course, I've been obsessed with the task since I started. I have been revising and reading daily, and I'm feeling pretty good about what I have. The manuscript is about 60 pages long, and it has about five informal sections or suites of poems. 

I am submitting to the APR/Honickman First Book Prize is being judged by Ada Limón this year, and I hope that my submission can make it through the screening process. I admire her Limón's work a great deal, and I hope that I have a decent chance. 

I also submitted to the Persea Books/Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize--which selects a winning manuscript from women who have not yet published a first book. The prize includes an all-expenses-paid six-week residency in Umbria, Italy, so that's pretty incredible, too.

I have been waffling--do I have two chapbook manuscripts, or do I have a full-length book here? I think it could probably go either way, but I'm going to try to stick to the full-length manuscript and send it out to a total of 3-4 first book contests this winter. 

I feel good about having that sizeable body of work out in the world, though!

03 October 2020

Writing habits, 10/1, and a forthcoming publication

EDIT: I started writing this, and it went all over the place. I'm going to leave it as it is. 

I was working late into the night last night--not really, but I was working on revisions and checking my submissions in Submittable, and I'm in a weird place with my revisions and drafts. 

Everything that is in good shape is sent out in simultaneous submissions, and while I'm working a bit, here and there, on some older pieces, I'm having trouble drafting anything new in the last few weeks. 

The anniversary of the UCC shooting was this past week, on Thursday. That date always looms, and I never forget about it, but I do tend to dismiss how many things in my life are impacted by that date.

Every September, my physical health takes a bit of a dive, and I'm filled with anxiety and dread. Usually by the second week of October (once all reminders of what was lost have been packed away for another year), I am physically better. I just have a few more days to go, hopefully, until the nausea subsides. What I've noticed this year is that I miss my friend Larry a great deal--he's been on my mind a lot this summer. I would be so excited to share my new work with him, and he would have been eager to read it. I miss his presence in the world a great deal. 

I do realize that I need to extend myself some grace each year in September and October, but I have been on such a roll . . . the writing and drafting and thinking about poetry is starting to become a habit that I look foward to for the first time since my MFA.

I have been really enjoying the forward momentum of my writing, so this temporary block has been a struggle. I realize even through writing this, that I'm still a ways away from being able to write about the shooting, but I hope to one day be in that space. I would like to write about Larry, and I've taken notes to do so, but I just haven't felt right about it yet. I used to think that I'd never want to write about anything to do with the shooting, so again--I see progress.

I'm still practicing and revising almost daily, it's just that I'm not making much headway in the last week or two. It is really encouraging to log into Submittable, though, and see how many places are currently reading my work. I am glad that I've put in that labor--it take a lot of hours and detail-oriented record-keeping to stay organized and current with who-is-reading-what sometimes. 

So the reason I brought up that I was working on revisions last night. I was revising until about 8 pm, when I went to bed. I was up by 4:00 am, which is my normal--and I'd received an acceptance overnight!

The journal In Parentheses is publishing two poems of mine in their fall print issue--"For Rus" and "Driving to Portland."

I just spent some time yesterday revising "For Rus," and I re-titled it "An Overdue Elegy." Unfortunately for how much I like the new title, it's going to be "For Rus" for now. This poem is a new, revisited draft of a poem I wrote many years ago. A high school friend took his own life, and at the time I wrote this horrendous memorial poem. Revisioning that over the summer, with a 49-year-old's lens, made it a much stronger work. I am really excited that it's going to be published. 

"Driving to Portland" is a new poem, written this summer from some notes I took down in a journal a few years back. 

I will update this post when I have details about when the fall issue will be available, and when/if the poems go live online.

In Parentheses

29 September 2020

Two poems to be published by The Louisville Review

I am thrilled that two of my poems have been selected by The Louisville Review for inclusion in the Fall 2020 issue. 

The poem "Scorpions and Grasshoppers" was first drafted for a class at Chatham University, during my MFA, but it was never completed. I finished the poem this summer--about fifteen years later. The Louisville Review was the first journal to read the poem, as they do not accept simultaneous submissions.

The second poem, "Requiescat," is a short poem that has been one of my favorites for the few years I've been kicking it around, trying to make it click. I felt a real sense of accomplishment in getting it to a place where it was ready to send out to editors; I am so pleased it has found a home here.

I plan to come back to talk about craft with at least one of these poems, once they've been published and I can comfortably share parts of them here. They are both quite brief; I like the short poem as a form.

The Louisville Review 

25 September 2020

Rejections are also a fact of life.

I don't want to give anyone a false sense of what an easy, breezy time I'm having with finding publication homes for my poems. 

In case anyone needs a dose of my personal “one step forward, two steps back”—I received five rejection letters in three days this week.
All in all, I have received nineteen (19) rejection letters since July 25th of this year. I am not discouraged by them. A few have welcomed future submissions, but the bulk of them were emails that had no real detail in them at all. I learned long ago not to take rejection letters personally, and I don't. I always look for advice or encouragement (that is rarely received), and I usually re-read and often revise the poems that were rejected.

Then, they're sent out again. : )

21 September 2020

"The Language of Sisters" is selected for publication by The Gateway Review

I have to be more diligent about blogging, if I'm going to use this to record my progress with my own written work. That being said, I have good news! A new poem of mine, "The Language of Sisters," will be published in the next issue of The Gateway Review: A Journal of Magical Realism.

I am always reluctant to classify anything I write as genre work, so I am pleased that the editors in this case agreed with me that this poem has a place in a journal that focuses on magical realism and fabulism.

I feel really good about this acceptance--the poem has not been read by another editor; it was brand new when I sent it off to The Gateway Review as a single-poem submission. This was a much-needed boost of confidence regarding my newer work. I feel like what I am writing this summer is my best work yet, but it's easy for me to say that.

I will add a link to the issue when it is available, and I will add the poem once it has been published. 

The Gateway Review

14 August 2020

"Fontanel" accepted for publication at West Trade Review

I've been working diligently this summer on new drafts of new poems, and I've been renovating some older work, too. Part of the commitment to my own craft that I made at the start of the pandemic was to send my work out more regularly to small presses and journals. 

I attended AWP in San Antonio in early March, and when I arrived home, I was almost immediately in lockdown mode. Despite the forward momentum that AWP always provides, it took me a few months to get my writing life in order while coordinating a new normal with my teaching and life in general.

Anyhow, by early July, I was working on anything, just to be working on poetry at least a few days a week. The poem "Fontanel," was first drafted over a decade ago, just before I met my second husband. However, this summer's version is much sharper and better, I think. A lot of life has been lived in the last ten years, that is for sure.

I am very pleased that "Fontanel" will be published by West Trade Review, and I am grateful that there are editors out there like Ken Harmon, who take risks on writers who don't have biographical statements full of publication credits. This is my first publication credit in over five years--and my first publication since before the shooting at UCC.

When there is a link to provide, and when the issue is available, I will update. 

West Trade Review


15 July 2020

The Scar Swallower is back online.

I'm working on getting my blog running again. Over the next few weeks (or months), I'll be working to fix broken links, crossing my fingers that there aren't too many.

My primary goal here is to have a place to start writing about my writing, so that I'm not facebooking about my poetry all of the time. 

Over the last few months, I've been working to more seriously make my poetry and the practice that goes into it part of my life more regularly. I've been a department chair for almost ten years, and I finally stepped down at the end of spring term. I've been using the summer to decompress and work through several significant personal issues, but I've still been finding time to write and revise, which I'm finding encouraging. 

I'm going to be 50 in 2021. I would like to be closer to having a collection published before that birthday arrives next February.

To my tattooed lady work, I am finding that I have corrections to make and links to add, and it's all very exciting but a bit overwhelming. I'm going to leave the 2015 tattooed lady posts in place, as is, and I'll add new edits in this color to differentiate them. I'm hoping I do get back to this project before my next sabbatical.