Watch This Space

This blog has existed for a little over a year now, and I’ve had so much fun with it — more than I ever imagined I would. I have “met” some truly great people, and I have been energized by the exchange of opinions, ideas, and support from people who love poetry — both writing it and (rarer still) reading it. As one year turns into the next, I thought I’d share with you my blogging plans for the next year:

  1. It has become painfully clear that I need a new theme. I say “painfully” because I love the aesthetic of this current one: the colors, the faint grid, the ’80s retro look, everything. But there are certain things that I can’t do with this theme, and now I would like to be able to do those things. Bonus points for any theme that will allow me to post poems with lines that are longer than usual. A month or so ago, I got really into poems with long lines, and the results were not pretty.
  2. Widgets. Facebook buttons. A blog roll. All that “stuff” that other bloggers have and that I can’t seem to figure out, so that this blog will be as connected and social as many others are, and so it will look nicer, too — not just a big text hole surrounded by broken things.
  3. Hey, did you know I’m an editor who is looking for freelance projects? And who has edited a few creative manuscripts (both poetry and prose), and would like to work on more of them — and is willing to do so at a very affordable rate? Well, how would you know? I have not done a great job of getting the word out — which was my primary purpose for this blog, before I discovered how much fun it is to just post poems. In the new year, I plan to make that information much easier to find. But I’ll make sure that art and commerce are separate enough that you don’t come for the poems and end up with a sales pitch (like a “free” visit to a time share community).

I am in over my head with a lot of this stuff, which is why I’ve hired an expert: Dan Kittay of Kittay New Media. (Some of you know that Dan works for me as a freelancer at my “actual job” — so I will hasten to say that he is charging me the same rate that he would any other client of my type, and that I cleared it with our general counsel first.) Yes, I know there’s a handy WordPress tutorial. It’s just that … sigh. Anyway, Dan says he can get things all straightened out and more functional for me and then show me how to maintain it.

Thank you so much for a great year, and please watch this space!

 

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Another Big Month

Last month was mostly about editing, and about entering two chapbook contests. Honestly, I didn’t write any new poems other than the ones I posted here and linked to for Open Link Night at dVerse. (And thank goodness for that weekly project — it really helps keep me from entirely checking out of the writing process during relatively fallow periods … or times when editing and submitting have moved to the center of the plate.)

When I made that deal with myself — that I didn’t have to push too hard and write a lot of poems in June — it was with the understanding that I would “really turn it on” again in July. This, I remembered on the night of June 30 — and immediately had a brief, silent freakout over it.

But guess what? I’m happily back to work, writing three poems a day. Not all of those have given me the feeling that is always my signal that things have clicked and that a poem bears follow-up attention, but some of them have. I have played around with different daily assignments for myself in the past during heavy writing phases, and I think it takes three poems a day to ensure that I get one really good one.

It is always so reassuring when I come back from almost a full stop and find that I do, indeed, feel like I still know how to do this. Isn’t this any artist’s greatest fear — that you’ll stop and never be able to get started again?

What about you? Does your process have wildly different phases like mine does (now, I’m editing — boom, a wall comes down — now I’m writing), or do you steadily produce new work no matter what else you’re doing? 

And what’s your greatest writing fear? Have you found ways to challenge it, or does it still keep you up at night? 

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Two Chapbooks out the Door, Please Don’t Let Me Enter More

I just hit send on my entry for the Dream Horse Press Poetry Chapbook Prize. It wasn’t due until June 30, but it was not good for me to have it hanging around any longer. I needed to clear my plate, and now it’s sparkling clear (of my own work, anyway), and it’s going to stay that way for a while so I can focus on some editing projects.

The other one I entered, just a few days ago, was a chapbook contest from Blue Light Press. If you want to do that one, hurry! The deadline is June 15. I wondered whether my work is their cup of tea, but nothing ventured, nothing gained — and a poem in that manuscript references San Francisco, where they’re based. Meant to be, right?

Good luck if you enter these, or any other chapbook contests … wishing beautiful, tiny books for all!

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In Which the Poet Takes a Zumba Class

In recent months, as I added freelance editing work to an already crowded roster of daily activities, I realized that much of what I do is very, very sedentary.

I have two children, no car, and a garden — all of which provides a nice base level of everyday activity. But what’s more of a challenge is incorporating regular bouts of high-intensity, intentional physical activity. There’s a free gym at work, but given that I work part-time and have a family and other commitments to get home to, it’s very hard for me to convince myself it’s a good idea to interrupt my very focused workday and then stay late to make up for it.

One neat solution I’ve found has been a weekly Zumba class. Let me be clear: I am a back row dweller. I am rhythm-challenged (you will not typically see me at poetry readings or hear recordings of my poems — sound and rhythm are just not the aspects of poetry that come most naturally to me) and also seem to have trouble telling my left from my right. I feel totally ridiculous while in class, and I also tend to sneer at myself that Zumba is just like Jazzercise, only mas picante — for the ladies who want to believe they are all Latin hotsy-totsy as they work out.

But … It’s good for my heart. I can tell. It wakes up my muscles and gets the blood flowing. Most of the work I’m doing and the things I am pursuing for “fun” (serious poets might identify with the air quotes here) involve my mind. But here’s the thing: My mind is also my brain, which is a physical organ, which needs me to keep those arteries nice and clear. There may be some great poetry written as a result of stroke-induced aphasia, but I’d rather not contribute to that body of work.

I think my neighborhood is just about the best place to take a class like Zumba. We are very near the University of Chicago, and the class is actually in a building belonging to a big Lutheran seminary. While there are indeed some very fit people in the class, I get the sense that many are also quite brainy — and all are compassionate. These are not bouncing hard bodies who sneer if and when you make a misstep.

Fellow poets, what do you do to get yourself up and moving? How do you feel about it? Do you find it to be a challenge, as I do? How do you keep the life of the mind from being an utterly sedentary life?

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Cover Me

I’ve chosen the poems to send to one of the publications I had in mind, and now I *just* have to write the cover letter. Well … that, and do a little more editing, print the poems again, stare at them for a while longer, and carry them around with me until I’m sick of them and myself. This will involve reading poetry on public transit — my own poetry, no less — which always makes me feel a bit effete, and as if I’m hoping someone will notice. Which I’m not. Really.

But I digress … What I was going to say is that I find cover letters really difficult to write. I know they won’t make or break anything, but I fear sounding like a total jackass, and then this really might jaundice the editors’ view of my work. Will my attempt to sound humble and normal instead come across as false modesty and tweeness? Now that I have some publishing credits, how many of them can I armor myself with to make the point that other people think I’m good — or at least, have thought so in the past (butmaybemybestworkisbehindmeandI’llneverpublishanotherthing)? Past a certain point, a long string of credits must look pretty desperate, as if you believe your work can’t stand on its own. <Cough> And I don’t feel that way at all.

Writers, do you find cover letters difficult, too? Editors, what makes a good one?

And what better way to end a post on cover letters than with a list of credits? Thank you very much to the following publications, which will always hold a special place in my heart (evenifIcan’taffordtosubscribetothem AND eveniftheyhavesubsequentlyrejectedme — what’supwiththat?):

Nibble

Literary Mama

Alimentum:The Literature of Food

the Aurorean

The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review

Cider Press Review (upcoming)

Exit 13 (upcoming)

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December’s Projects … Aside from Making Christmas Magic, of Course

First of all, now I know how to post a photo or text here at WordPress — but not both. Please bear with me as I learn my way around …

What I meant to tell you about the two rosemary-themed kitchen decor items in my previous post is that they hung for years in my mom’s kitchen. Her name was Rosemary, so I put these up and to the right of the desk where I always write (in the dining room, where we also do a considerable amount of living). It’s like she’s watching over me, and possibly reading/critiquing over my shoulder. She would not like that I said she was critical — but she was at least as much of an editor as I am. When we finally got our wireless set up, I pictured myself making the most of my newfound freedom by writing from, gosh, another room within our two-bedroom condo. Nope. Almost without exception, here I sit, typing in the dining room. Creature of habit.

This month, my main creative task is to put together a small chapbook from 10 to 20 of the poems I wrote last month for the Writer’s Digest Poem-A-Day Challenge. Chapbooks are something I’ve considered to be a logical next step for me, but they’ve proved to be a tough nut to crack. I have yet to succeed in getting one published — but I’ve found that putting them together is a good exercise, at least. I’ve now pulled together 21 poems that I like pretty well. The last cut is always the hardest.

As for writing, I’m trying to stick to my new rule of writing one poem per day. This can be tough, in both directions. I don’t always feel like writing a poem (in fact, I’m pretty tired right now, and look what I’m doing instead). There are also times when I want to write one after another after another, in hopes that if I rub enough sticks together, something will catch fire. But I learned last month that if I do one — and only one — then I focus my writing energy on it rather than on a handful of lesser attempts. It’s also more manageable once I’m in another revising phase. Trust me, you don’t want to pick through a pile of 80 to 90 poems you barely remember, a few of which *might* be worth something. For December, anyway, this seems like the way to go.

I’m still awaiting word from one more publication and one more contest entry. I have decently high hopes for the former and near-zero hopes for the latter — but it’s still fun to imagine winning it. After that, all my wandering strays from 2011 will have come home, and it’ll be time to look ahead to a new year … whatever that will bring. 

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