December 30, 2009

2010 Writing Resolutions

With 2010 almost here (thank goodness! 2009 wasn't the kindest of years and I'm ready for it to be over), I'm looking ahead to my resolutions. I've made a few for my personal life, but there are also some writing goals that I'd like to write about here.

  1. Get back into the habit of monthly goal-setting. I neglected that during the last few months of the year. Despite this, I actually kept my submission rate pretty high and wrote a lot of new pieces, but even so, I felt a little disjointed from my work when I wasn't setting consistent goals on a regular basis.
  2. Prepare a poetry chapbook manuscript, and decide whether I want to self-publish it or try to publish the old-fashioned way.
  3. Write enough erotic stories for a collection and get that collection published.

December 28, 2009

Back from Florida!

Florida was wonderful. The wedding was beautiful, the weather was great, I got to swim in the Gulf and spent four days eating way too much food. And even better, I managed to accomplish my writing goals! Four new poems (one of which I know is really good already, two of which have potential, one I don't like at all), four new pieces of erotica (two which are really good already - one of which might expand to something longer - and two with potential). Plus, I finally had the time and space to make progress on the novel. I'm really happy with myself.

Starting tomorrow, it's back to the revising table for my erotica. I have some deadlines coming up! Several anthologies I want to submit to have deadlines ending this week. It's great to feel so productive. And I already have a good buffer heading into the new year!

December 26, 2009

Florida So Far

My hotel is sub-par, but other than that, this trip has been great. Easy flight out, got to have Christmas dinner with old friends and new faces, and I spent much of today on the beach, playing in the Gulf of Mexico. I ate way too much good food, frequented some cute bookstores, and have had a productive writing time: 2 poems and 2 pieces of erotica, right on schedule! Plus I have given a lot of attention to marking up the first draft of my new novel. I plan to spend more time on that tonight, too.

Tomorrow I plan to spend more time on the beach before the wedding. I'm more relaxed than I've been in weeks, and it's really showing in my work. The story I wrote over lunch today is going to be great when I get home and revise it. I'm already really pleased with the first draft.

December 24, 2009

Vacation Goals

Tomorrow morning, I leave for Florida. I'll be attending a friend's wedding in Sarasota on the 27th, and am taking a little extra time to myself. I arrive on the 25th, get back to Austin on the 28th. I look forward to both seeing old friends and having time alone. And since I'll have plenty of free time as well as a hotel room on the beach, I imagine it will be a great place to settle down and work on my writing. So I've set some goals for the next few days.

  1. Finally start revising the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo this year. The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award deadline is February 7th, and I'd like to have a decent entry this year. I don't have much time, so I'd better get revising.
  2. Write at least one new poem and one new piece of erotica each day I'm in Florida. Maybe that doesn't seem like a lot, but usually I only get two pieces of each out a week - so even if I only meet the minimum I'll have doubled my output in a short time.
  3. Revise the novel, but do not revise anything else. Only draft erotica and poems. The point of this is simply to focus on having ideas, getting things out, letting my new surroundings take my imagination places. I'll focus on honing and sharpening my prose when I get back to Austin. In Florida, I want to focus on creating as much as possible.

December 23, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #113 is up!

The poetry component of Gloom Cupboard #113 is now up! Just in time for Christmas! Happy reading!

December 22, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I confess I cannot wait to go to Florida (I'm sure this confession is hardly surprising). My hotel is on the beach. I will have lots of time alone. I will have plenty of peace and quiet for writing. I will get to celebrate the marriage of a good friend, and see people from college I haven't seen in two years. This trip will rejuvenate me, make me fresh for the new year, and hopefully bring back the productivity that has been missing as I've been careening through a month of working retail during a huge shopping season, performing in two dance showcases, and general holiday business. I'm really burned out. I need this break. It will be wonderful. (And if anyone has recommendations for things to see/do in Sarasota, let me know!)

I confess that I leave on the 25th and am not nearly done with the massive list of things that need to be accomplished before I go.

I confess I've opened all my Christmas presents early and don't regret it.

I confess I always forget to turn on the tree lights. The ornaments are so pretty already, I don't really notice the lack of light.

I confess my husband and I forgot to light the menorah three times in the middle of Channukah.

I confess I spent less money than expected this holiday season, and I feel great about it.

I confess I feel like I'm at a turning point in my writing career, and thinking a lot about what direction I want to take my creative life, and it's a little scary. I plan to write about it sometime soon, but I'm not ready yet. Maybe after Florida.

December 15, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Working retail during the holidays is stressful, but doesn't make me feel nearly as awful as my old cubicle job. I may have to deal with customers, I may be overwhelmed sometimes, but I'm active, busy, and never bored. Even though I only make minimum wage, I'm far happier at this job than I used to be.

I'm way behind on my holiday cards - that is, I've only written and sent one. I have lots of family I need to send cards to, but I've been so busy with the two dance showcases I'm in this month that I barely have time to do the little things I need to accomplish throughout the day. If I'm lucky, I'll get them out by the 22nd . . .

My productivity has slowed down a lot this month. Between dance, the holidays, and other things, even when I have time to write, I just feel blocked. I'm hoping the few days I'll be spending in Florida will help rejuvenate me and bring back my inspiration.

December 11, 2009

Year in review

It's not quite the end of 2009, but I'm in two dance performances before the 21st, and have a wedding to attend in Florida right after Christmas, so I'm going to be getting progressively busier as the month progresses, so I'm doing my year in review a bit early.

Works written: 15 pieces of erotica; 1 first draft of a novel; 1 novella; a few dozen poems; 1 book review; 1 encyclopedia article; 1 magazine article; 1 piece of flash fiction; a few essays

Works published: 4 pieces of erotica; 4 poems; 1 piece of flash fiction; 1 book review; 2 pieces of nonfiction accepted but pending publication

Major setbacks: Deciding that the novel I wrote in 2008 was never going to be fit for publication after months of work

Major accomplishments: Self-publishing a novella and working hard to promote it; publishing the first piece of erotica I ever wrote

Overall evaluation: Considering that I basically started my entire writing career over from scratch (I didn't touch any of the work I wrote before February 2009, with the exception of the novel I drafted in November 2008), I feel like this was a pretty good first year. Maybe I didn't get as many publishing acceptances as I'd like, but overall, this year went better than expected.

December 8, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I confess it has been a very long time since I've blogged on a Tuesday.

I confess that I enjoy having so many activities that keep me away from blogging. Not that I hate blogging. If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't do it at all. But I really like that my life is so busy that I'm not in front of the computer screen nearly as often as I used to be. I could easily spend hours playing around online, but I rarely feel productive when I do. I feel like I've been accomplishing a lot lately, which is great.

I confess I haven't started to revise my novel yet. I need some distance first.

I confess that I have been lazy about making my Christmas cards; my family is almost done with their shoping and card-sending, but I've barely started. I shouldn't feel guilty; it's only the 8th. But I have so many family members on top of things that I definitely feel behind.

December 7, 2009

2009 Bests

With various publications making their "Best Of" lists for the year, I thought I'd do one of my own. I'm listing both new works that came out this year, as well as works that are older that I just discovered.

Best New Poetry Collection: All Night Lingo Tango by Barbara Hamby. I stumbled on "Who Do Mambo" online and ordered this collection 20 minutes later. The rest of the work is so excellent that I'm turning a few lines into a tattoo next month.

Best Poet I Discovered This Year: Barbara Hamby

Best New Novel: Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult. I had not actually heard of Picoult before this year; amazing, considering that she's fairly prolific, writes bestsellers, and her works discuss important social issues. But I did not know about any of her novels until I read about Handle With Care in a magazine. I was immediately drawn in by the premise of a wrongful birth lawsuit, and checked it out from the library as soon as I could get my hands on it. I finished Handle With Care n in three days! I've read close to half of Picoult's novels since then.

Best Novel I Discovered This Year: I really can't give a definitive answer; I have to list two: Affinity by Sarah Waters and American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. Sarah Waters is my favorite author I discovered this year, and Affinity is by far the best of her two books I have read so far. It was stunning; I procrastinated on so many projects to read it, and the ending blew me away. I also procrastinated a great deal to read American Wife. I loved the way Sittenfeld blended fact and fiction; I loved how authentic her character's voice sounded.

Best New Nonfiction Book: Actually, I didn't read any nonfiction that came out in 2009. Oops.

Best Nonfiction Work I Discovered This Year: Worshipping Walt: The Whitman Disciples by Michael Robertson. I happened upon this book while meandering around the public library. A lifelong Whitman fan, I checked it out and read it immediately. This book chronicles people in the United States, Canada, and Britian who viewed Whitman as a sort of religious figure, and Leaves of Grass as gospel. A fascinating read.

November 30, 2009

What if?

This year, I have started writing much more fiction than I have ever written previously. As a result, of course, my fiction has improved quite a bit over the course of the year. Even my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel is much better than my attempt for 2008, even after months of revision (although this is not to say that my 2009 novel is all that great, either; just that it's an improvement). And as I've been doing all of this writing, I've really begun to think about what makes my newer fiction so much better than my older fiction. Because even when I write a dud, it's a better dud than it would have been a year ago. So I've been thinking about what exactly has changed.

The answer is that in the past year, my imagination has improved tremendously. Not that I'm writing all fantasy or sci-fi - just that I'm finally starting to write outside the realm of my immediate experience. I've begun to ask "what if?" to get ideas. "What if Judas was actually a woman in disguise?" is just one of the questions I've turned into fiction this year. I've had to do research. I've had to write draft after draft to get dialogue to feel authentic. I've had to learn and brainstorm and outline. I've had to work to create stories because for once, I'm reaching beyond just what I know and forcing myself to learn more, to think differently.

My old stories really are just elements of my life rearranged and disguised. But you know, my life is just not that interesting. It certainly does not make for good fiction. Parts of it might make for good memoir someday, but all in all it just does not make for a great novel. There is no "What if?" there is only "What happened." No questioning, no learning, no imagining. Just life, disguised.

This is not to say that I've eliminated my own life and experiences from my fiction completely. Certainly, I am still inspired by friends and events. And pieces of my life definitely work my way into my stories. But they either serve as jumping-off points for a "What if?" or they accentuate it. They are elements, but not the whole.

Of course, there is more to good fiction than just this, but asking "What if?" has become one of the cornerstones of my own work. And to some degree, it's true of all my favorite novels. "What if there was a house that was bigger inside than it was outside, and it ate the people in it?" (House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski); "What if a man turned into a woman and aged very slowly, living 400 years but never appearing older than 32?" (Orlando by Virginia Woolf); "What if all books were banned?" (Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury). Perhaps the authors never consciously asked these questions aloud, and yet they are integral to the final story. The "What if?" is not the only element required for great fiction, but I've come to believe it's essential.

November 26, 2009

Literary gratitude

It's been quite a year for me, personally and professionally. So I want to take some time today to share what I'm grateful for in my writing life.

  1. The writing group I joined this year. I've loved working with them, and feel like my writing improves more with each session. I've also gotten a lot more motivated to write and revise so I have work to share with the group.
  2. I've managed to publish a few pieces of both poetry and erotica this year, and even earned money from one of those. I may not have published a lot of writing, but I'm still grateful for every piece I managed to place somewhere.
  3. I'm thankful that I had the courage to read twice this year, once at one of the Austin Poetry Society and once at Co-Lab with the Boho Cocos. I haven't done a reading since college (in 2006!) and I'm grateful I managed to get up my confidence to do that again.
  4. I'm grateful for all the friends who supported me in my writing endeavors this year, and all the people who have inspired me.

November 23, 2009

A NaNowriMo Excerpt

I hit 65,000 words yesterday! I haven't written yet today, but I'm going to a little writing/work party later this afternoon, so I'll get stuff done then. Anyway, I decided I was finally willing to put up an excerpt from the novel so far. Caveats: this whole thing is being written quite quickly, with no strong concern for historical accuracy (I'll fix that in the editing process), and I have not yet done ANY editing whatsoever.

In this chapter, Jesus and Mary Magdalene consummate their love for each other. It's highly erotic. So I've put it behind a cut for those who do not want to read it.

Belated Good News

I'm quite late in posting this, but I've been pretty remiss with my blogging as of late . . .

My rondeau, "Texan's Lament," was given an honorable mention (actually, "More Than Honorable Mention") in the Rondeau Roundup rondeau contest. I'm thrilled!

Rondeau Roundup has a triolet contest opening in about a week. Check out the guidelines here.

November 22, 2009

NaNoWriMo Summary

So my plan for NaNoWriMo blogging has fallen apart even more than I thought . . . I'm just too busy writing, I guess! I actually finished (that is, hit 50,000 words) on November 11th! But that doesn't mean I've stopped writing. My pace has slowed quite a bit, but I'm still working on fleshing out details and adding to my plot. I am just over 62,000 words as of yesterday morning, and planning on attending a write-in today.

I know, my blogging has been spotty lately, but there's so much to do. Off to get some Gloom Cupboard editing done, and then of course more writing!

November 16, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #111 is up!

Gloom Cupboard #111 is up! Thanks again to all the fantastic poets who shared their work!

(I know, I have been totally absent from the blogosphere, but NaNoWriMo is eating up all of my free time! Things should return to normal in December. That's just two weeks!)

November 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo Week 1: A Summary

So . . . my plan of blogging my NaNoWriMo activities each day? Yeah . . . no.
My plan of writing poetry each day that fit with the theme of my novel? Yeah . . . no.
My plan for keeping up with other creative projects? Yeah . . . no.

NaNoWriMo has totally consumed me this year. But I am progressing successfully! I hit 40,000 words this afternoon - I will probably win no later than Sunday. Which means I'm going to shoot a little higher and try to hit 100,000 words by the end of the month.

And I know I said I would post excerpts, but when you're writing at this speed, so much of it is rubbish. And if I go back searching for a good excerpt, I'm going to get stressed out and think I'm terrible and run the risk of giving up. So maybe later.

Apologies for my absences. I'll be back to my regular schedule after December! (And I do plan to check in throughout the rest of the month.)

October 29, 2009

#110

Gloom Cupboard #110 is up! Thanks to all of our wonderful contributors.

In addition, while I am saddened by the departure of founder/editor Richard Wink, I am thrilled that Lena Vanelslander has taken over and will keep Gloom Cupboard going.

October 27, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I confess that I'd rather be doing anything than writing today. Yesterday some very emotional stuff happened related to some important people in my life (yes, I am being vague), and it has really zapped my creativity. I want to play Wii Bowling. I want to sit outside and read. I want to get on my scooter and ride aimlessly around town. I don't want to revise that story I finally finished, edit poems, market my novella, or submit writing. Nothing that could be construed as productivity or work. I'm frustrated that what happened has thrown me for such a loop and has given me a case of ennui. I'm frustrated that I'm letting it bother me so much. At the same time, maybe I should just give in and be lazy. NaNoWriMo starts in less than a week. Maybe a little downtime before that adventure would be a good idea.

I'm worried that I'm less prepared for NaNo this year than I was last year. I worry that this lack of preparation will keep me from winning.

I am thrilled that I got up the nerve to self-publish my novella. I'm excited because I have a few people interested in reviewing it. I'm proud of myself for trying to market it.

I am hopeful that the week will get better.

October 26, 2009

Big news!

My first novella, A Scandal of Choice, is now available at my Lulu.com store. You can purchase it either in print or electronic format. As a bonus, if you order it before 11:59 p.m. on October 31st, you can type in the promo code "FALLREAD" at checkout and get 10% off!

A Scandal of Choice is a political novel that focuses on issues of reproductive choice. A major presidential sex scandal results in a requirement that the President of the United States must take a vow of celibacy for the duration of her or his term(s). In 2030, President Lydia Worth finds herself unintentionally pregnant, and as a result, her choices move beyond personal.

I have chosen to publish this work under my real name, largely because this piece is more in line with the nonfiction I am trying to publish (political, feminist, and focused on reproductive rights). The identity I use here is the one I prefer to use for poetry and erotica. I actually gave this decision a lot of thought, but ultimately decided that this work fits more in line with the writing persona I am cultivating with my real name rather than the one I am cultivating with my pseudonym.

October 23, 2009

Poem-A-Day in November

Robert Lee Brewer is finishing a chapbook of poems readers submitted during NaPoWriMo in April. And on top of that, he's issuing a new challenge for November. This time, readers will write throughout November, and by January will be able to submit these works as a chapbook, to be judged by Brewer and his wife. While I'll be busy with NaNoWriMo, I've been inspired to take on a side challenge. While I don't think I'll be doing the prompts, I'd like to do a poem a day in conjunction with my novel. My plan is to write a poem somehow related to the novel itself - that is, a poem somehow inspired by the gospels. They'll all revolve around the theme of the novel somehow. Because writing a novel in 30 days isn't difficult enough - now I need to create a poem a day related somehow!

I'll also be blogging my endeavors this year. Maybe not ever day, but regularly, either a poem from the day or a piece of prose. I can't wait for November to start!

October 19, 2009

"Go weird."

The post title refers to something one of my friends in my writer's group said to me on Friday night, and it's something I've been pondering quite a bit over the weekend. I got a few comments in that session about things people would like to see me try (such as writing more in third/omniscient person rather than in first person), and the encouraging me to "go weird" with a particular piece was one of those suggestions. I've been wondering about the extent to which my work might be, in a way, too safe. Which is almost weird to think about, because lately I've been writing about things that are incredibly personal, and so I feel pretty vulnerable putting them out there. But just because I feel nervous about them doesn't mean that they're perhaps too conventional, not risky enough. I may be taking risks with my emotions, but I'm not necessarily with my writing.

So I'm going to try experimenting a little more, whatever that might entail (and knowing that what might be an experiment for me might not really be an experiment for someone else). It's not always easy to know what to do, what risks to take, but that's part of the adventure. I wrote a piece of erotica this morning that's definitely outside my typical style, and I think it's pretty effective for a first draft. Now we just have to see how I work new ideas and forms and weirdness into my poetry.

October 18, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #109 is up!

Finish off your weekend with some great new poetry.

More to blog about later, but right now it is a beautiful autumn afternoon and I have a stack of library books demanding my attention.

October 13, 2009

Confession Tuesday

My writing group meets on Friday evening and I have only one piece I actually want to show people. *sigh* It's not that I haven't been productive, it's that so much of what I've produced is not ready (or at least, I've convinced myself it's not ready). I either need to write some new poems or stop being so hard on myself, STAT.

I have a novella/novelette/long story (the word count fluctuates with every round of revision so I don't have an official classification just yet) that is almost done, and I'm very excited. I'm putting the final editing/revising touches on it now (and I need to settle on a title I like). I have been working on this piece for almost a year, and look forward to submitting it. If nobody wants to take it, I think I am going to self-publish.

After giving up my novel, I feel great knowing I have a piece of writing that I really want to show the world, that I feel confident enough to self-publish if nobody wants to take it.

October 11, 2009

Readers Doing NaNoWriMo?

Just wondering if anyone following this blog will be participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. Comment and let me know! My username on the NaNoWriMo forums is OrangeTangoDoble; feel free to add me as a writing buddy.

This will be my 5th year participating in NaNoWriMo, and if all goes according to plan, my second win (I won for the first time last year). My goal for this year, in addition to meeting the 50k word count within 30 days (while balancing work, dance, and a social life) is to simply have a better novel than last year. Last year, I just proved I could do it. This year, I want to have something good.

It's always difficult for me to talk about new ideas. But I do want to sketch out what I'm doing a little bit. This year, I'll be writing a novel that's a reinterpretation of the gospel stories (so basically, blasphemy). This version will center around the character of Judas - whose story is entirely different from that told throughout history. In my version, Judas was not a man, but instead a woman in disguise (in order to more fully participate as a disciple). I really don't want to give too much of the plot away, but this story will provide a completely new motivation for Judas' portrayal of Jesus.

This might be a difficult novel to write, but I'm really looking forward to November 1st!

October 8, 2009

October 6, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Yesterday and today have been about accomplishing things that needed to get done: housecleaning, laundry, groceries, oil changes, shifts at the bookstore. I've gotten a lot of things done, and even managed to get some good writing in, but I still feel like I have not been productive enough. Even though I know tomorrow and Thursday will be very productive writing days because the rest of the boring stuff is done, I feel frustrated.

I have cut down on a lot of blogs in my Google reader and have made a commitment to spending less time online. Even though I'm being successful in that endeavor, I still feel like I could be more productive.

I confess that I'll probably never be able to be a vegan. Just about any vegan dish I try ends up with cheese on it. My favorite couscous recipe is vegan, but I always add a bunch of feta to it. Today for lunch I made a tofu stew with garlic, onions, tomatoes, olives, and capers. After a few bites, I grated some Parmesan on top. I just adore cheese too much to give it up.

While I was cooking, I burned my onions because I was focused on poetry rather than the stove.

October 5, 2009

Rachel Zucker's Museum of Accidents

I concluded my weekend reading with Rachel Zucker's newest collection, Museum of Accidents. I've been a huge fan of her work ever since I read The Bad Wife Handbook last summer, and this collection does not disappoint. I love the way she combines experimental poetry with an emphasis on the domestic aspects of life. And she has a real gift for drawing empathy from the reader. I'll never have children, but Zucker's poems make me feel like I've gleaned insight into what it means to be a parent (it also reinforces my decision that having kids is just not for me). Her writing turns the most mundane everyday things into radical and exciting ideas.

Rachel Zucker is the kind of poet who makes me feel both discouraged (I'll never be that good) and inspired (I have to keep working so I can be that good) at the same time. There are so few writers in the world who make me feel both emotions at once.

I'm going to leave you with one of my favorites in the collection.

Don't Say Anything Beautiful Kiss Me

Anyway
       if my lips were rose petals they'd taste too bitter.
If my cheeks were apples they'd crawls with apple worms.
If my eyes were stars they'd be dead by the time you saw them.
If I moved you like the moon I'd disappear once a month.
If my teeth were Chiclets you'd want to chew on them and spit them out.
If my hands were birds you couldn't hold them; they'd peck you bloody.
Is my skin alabaster? Then it's cold and hard and one day someone will skin me,
     make me into a cold hard box tinged with pink or yellow, to hold unguents, then
     how will you love me?
If my vagina is a cool, dark forest you'll certainly be lost, you have no sense of direction.
If my vagina is a cave - watch out! It's prone to seismic shifts and avalanche.
If my vagina is a river of honey: orange, lavender, fine herbs, hazelnut, all too sweet.
And if my voice is music, it is unintelligible.
Don't say anything.
I am not a flower, but a body with rules and predictable, cellular qualities.
My eyelashes and fingernails and skin and spit are organized by proteins
     designed to erode at a pre-encoded date and time, no matter what you do or do
     not do to me -
I am remakably like an animal.
More like a heifer than a sunrise, I want to bite, stroke, swallow you so stop lying
     there trying to think of something to say and trying to understand me.
I am the body next to but unlike yours.
You already know me. You already know what I'm made of.

October 4, 2009

October Goals

Unfortunately, due to having to put in extra time at the day job plus the time constraints of my teacher training program, I didn't accomplish many of my goals this month. It's amazing how fast the days can fly by without accomplishing anything. My bookstore guide still isn't done, and neither is that short story; nor did I revise any of my manuscripts. I did meet all my submission goals and attend a literary event, and applied for some freelance jobs (none of which I got, unfortunately). But still, not a great month for getting things done. Here's hoping I can be more productive this October.

October Goals:
1. Finish bookstore guide
2. Submit work to at least three literary journals
3. Attending a reading or other literary event
4. Finish neglected story
5. Finish outline for NaNoWriMo 2009
6. Do a full revision of all poetry manuscripts
7. Enter the Hayden's Ferry Review Halloween Contest
8. Finish research for NaNoWriMo 2009

September 29, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Now that the weather is cooling down, I've started to feel like cooking again. Yesterday I made my favorite couscous recipe, the one I have for lunch at least once a week. Today I'll be making carrot-potato soup, and tomorrow I'm going to try a vegan version of sloppy Joe's.


One of my friends has walking pneumonia. Two of my friends have swine flu (and one of them is my boyfriend's other girlfriend, so there is a lot of potential for germ-swapping between the three of us). Two of the students in my teacher training class were sick yesterday and my teacher was out with a virus last week. I'm a bit of a germophobe. This is a slightly stressful week as a result.


I confess that I'm irrationally excited to go see the remake of Fame tomorrow night. It probably won't be as good as the original, but I love all cheesy dance movies, regardless of overall quality.

September 28, 2009

Better late than never.

After some technological issues after our switch from Blogger to Wordpress (some of which still need to be fixed), Gloom Cupboard #107 is finally up!

I alos have a review up of Paradise, a chapbook by British poet Elise.

September 27, 2009

A fragment

Something I've been playing with as an introduction for a longer prose-poem-essay-type-thing. I'll be working on this intently over the next day and a half and then sending the longer version to my memoir group.

Untitled
Half an hour before sunrise on Monday mornings, I'd make tea and you'd let your dog run around the courtyard. We'd talk about remnants of the weekend. The success of the party. Sunday's dinner, and whether I had blended the pesto well. Deer season, hunting season, daylight savings time. Small talk to most of the world, but these half-hours would be the last minutes we would have until the weekend, and all the heavy ideas we held in our minds were too big to fit into thirty minutes. Rather, we hoarded these snippets of conversations like quarters being put away for the laundromat, saved away because we knew we'd always need them sooner or later. At some point one of us would need to reach what was 200 miles away. These little chats sustained us, provided sustenance for the days apart. Our voices were low but saturated with the fat of passion that kept our energy afloat.

September 22, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I love rainy days. I love walking in the rain and getting covered in mud. I love showering afterward. I love being able to turn off the air conditioning.

I wore a hoodie on my walk to the coffee shop these evening and it made me happier than it probably should.

I'm glad neither of our vehicles were damaged in the hail storm this morning.

Last Thursday I had a fight with a family member and in my frustration threw my cell phone. The phone did not get damaged. My shoulder did. I feel really foolish about it now - there are better ways to deal with anger (even though it was very cathartic at the time). I am not looking forward to explaining this to my acupuncturist tomorrow.

I got all the way to the coffee shop and realized I forgot my writing folder. I'm now pretty ticked off at myself. I had two poems I really wanted to revise after getting comments on them in writing group on Sunday. grrrr. I guess now I have no choice but to focus on finishing that short story I've been neglecting . . .

September 21, 2009

Book excitement!

Margaret Atwood's newest novel, The Year of the Flood, arrived in the bookstore today! I almost bought it on the spot. Unfortunately, I just bought three new books last week, so it's really not in the budget. Just another book to add to the long list of titles I want to buy. (Yes, I *could* just get it from the library, but Atwood is one of those authors whose books I feel the need to own.)

September 18, 2009

Draft 2

Here's another version of the poem I posted earlier this week. It's still not done, but I like where it's going, especially now that I have made it a prose poem.

Part of your pours out of me in these lines from time to time

When a shirt goes missing, and I wonder if it's in your closet, until I remember our closets are no longer close enough to consume each other's clothes. Absence fills me with its presence - the imprint on a mattress that never regained its original form. Memories lurk around the house like wine stains on a favorite couch. Sometimes I forget which ideas were truly mine, and which I took from you, molded and distorted until they fit with the rest of my lines.

September 15, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I confess that working in a bookstore has its advantages, while simultaneously being a disadvantage for my wallet. Yesterday, I unloaded a box of books to discover that this was the week that most of the Best American series for 2009 had arrived. I had purchased the Best American Nonrequired Reading and the before the books had even been put on the shelves. Usually the only Best American book I buy each year is the Nonrequired, but this year, Mary Oliver edited the Essays, so I simply had to get it.

I confess that the flash drive my husband got me for Valentine's Day in 2007 is starting to fail as a reliable data storage device, and I'm really bummed. Yes, I can get a better one, and even an 8-gig flash drive is not that expensive these days. But this one was a gift. It has sentimental value.

I confess that I want to buy a copy of Dirty Dancing this weekend and watch it. I never thought Swayze was that great of an actor, but he was an impeccable dancer, and the dance world is at a loss without him.

I confess that I'm glad Austin is finally getting rain, but annoyed that the storms seem to only hit when I'm riding my scooter around, and not when I'm actually inside anywhere.

September 14, 2009

Fragment of a first draft

A bit of a caveat: this is the first strophe from a longer poem I am working on. Currently the poem has three strophes, but this is the only one I like at the moment. I have several ideas for how I'm going to change the final two-thirds, but I wanted to share the bit I like so far, in hopes that it will spur me on.



Part of you pours out of me in these lines from time to time

When a shirt goes missing
and I wonder if it's
in your closet, until
I remember
our closets are no longer
close enough to consume
each other's clothes
Laundry condemned to
mere oblivion

September 13, 2009

New at Gloom Cupboard

There are two new posts at Gloom Cupboard today: poetry issue #106 and Rainbow's End #3. Enjoy some end-of-weekend reading!

September 12, 2009

A bit of excitement

I don't know why I haven't posted on this yet, but I'm a finalist in the Mattia Family 13th International Poetry Competition. I'm thrilled that one of my pieces even made it this far - it's definitely a confidence-booster, even if I don't win. The competition is open until September 15th and there is no entry fee, so consider submitting sometime over the weekend.


It's a chilly, rainy Saturday in Austin. I got positively soaked riding around on my scooter. Now in flannel pajamas, drinking tea, and looking forward to my husband making barbecue tofu for dinner. I hope you all have lovely evenings.

September 11, 2009

Poem: Balance

Inspired by this image.


Balance
Rocks with their
naturally-applied
(water) color, from
the lake where I
grew up, where
perhaps I come
from, and if not I,
then at least some
microbe with traces
of my DNA. Perhaps
there are still bits of
my original progenitor
on the moist stones
that I pull up from
the shore and
dry in the sun
before I begin
to set up the
balancing act,
to unify my mind
with the world

September 10, 2009

Poem - Observation

Observation

One day, while we
were walking you stopped
to pull your hair back -
I had never even noticed
it growing

September 8, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I confess that I have a deadline on Thursday and I'm irrationally stressed about it. The article is almost done; if I didn't have to go to the day job today, it would probably be done this afternoon. Really it just needs one more read-through, and then making sure I've met all the formatting requirements that seem to change for each publication. But I'm nervous anyway.

I confess I'm still adjusting to my teacher training schedule, and while I'm close to having everything under control, it's not quite there yet. Yesterday, the teacher training class was canceled for labor day, and while the studio was otherwise open for business, I skipped the other classes I would normally have attended in order to just get some space. Instead, I spent a quiet evening writing, and I think that did wonderful things for my stress level.

I confess I'm struggling to make time to meditate and that's only adding to my worries.

I know this will pass. These little rough patches happen all the time, and I always get through them. I know this will work itself out soon, probably within two weeks. But it's frustrating to be in the thick of things, even when you can see your way out.

In other news, I confess that I really want one of these. Nice specs, and not made by Amazon or Sony (both companies that I dislike for a variety of reasons). I kind of feel like a literary sellout wanting one, but that doesn't alter my interest. I would love to digitize all the literary journals I have lying around, put them on the Cybook, and then decrease my clutter.

And I confess that while I'm thrilled about the upcoming film version of Where the Wild Things Are, I'm less thrilled to find that Dave Eggers is writing a novelization of sorts that will serve as a tie-in to the movie. Maybe I'm being irrational, but that just feels like too many levels of remediation for me. Does the story really need to be rewritten for an adult audience? I still enjoy the book very much, and I'm probably twenty years older than the target audience. Of course, I can just not read the Eggers novel - simple as that.

September 7, 2009

Untitled Poem

Inspired by this image.

Untitled

That last night, though I
knew it was my last
chance, my eyes burned to
look at you, my skin
cracked if I touched you,
my ears bled when I
heard your voice. So we
sat back to back, just
watching the stars and
the sunrise.

September 5, 2009

Gloom Cupboard Links

Two great updates at Gloom Cupboard today: the newest poetry issue and the editors' roundtable. Enjoy the poetry, and feel free to join in the debate over at the roundtable!

September 4, 2009

On Giving Up

So after 10 months of work, and after just yesterday writing down the goal of submitting the novel to at least one publisher, I've decided it's time to let my novel go. Have I abandoned it forever? Not necessarily. There's always a possibility that I will want to pick it back up again. But there's a pretty high probability that I'm done. And you know what? I'm okay with that.

I have been giving this quite a bit of thought lately; it's not something I came to randomly. I realized that after 10 months, while the novel has improved in many ways, it has nonetheless stagnated. It got to a higher point and plateaued. After 10 months, I don't even want to show it to anyone for critique. I don't think it has any more potential. I'm beginning to feel like I'm wasting my time with it. I don't really even want to self-publish it - it's not anything I want to let loose among the general population. And the thing is, I generally don't lack confidence in my work. Okay, sometimes I do, yes. But the point is, I generally have a high opinion of the pieces I submit for publication. And I have never felt that way about the novel.

I'm starting to feel like this novel is diverting my attention away from other projects as well. There are new things I want to pursue. Such as finishing my research for my next novel, which I'll be drafting for NaNoWriMo 2009.

Am I a little frustrated that it took me 10 months to realize this novel wasn't worth saving? Maybe. But I learned something. For one thing, I learned that I can write an entire novel in a month (I wrote this for NaNoWriMo 08). I learned how much work it can take to revise. I learned more about submitting to publishers. And I also learned that giving up is okay sometimes. I'm ready to let this project go.

September 3, 2009

September Goals

Wow, August flew by! I can't believe it's time already for another round of goal-setting.

Although I was extremely productive in August, I did not accomplish all of my goals. However, I was far more productive than I was in July, achieving 6 out of 8. The only goal I did not accomplish were #2 and #6. I did not managed to get together two full revisions of my bookstore guide, and I'm disappointed in myself. I've definitely let this project slide after my initial enthusiasm. But I'm not giving up! I believe in this project and want to keep going. Also, I still have not finished that story-in-progress. But I have a feeling that this will be the month for it.

September Goals
1. Finish bookstore guide.
2. Submit work to at least three literary journals.
3. Attend a reading or other literary event.
4. Finish neglected story.
5. Do a full revision of all poetry manuscripts.
6. Apply for a freelance technical writing gig in order to boost my income a bit.
7. Pitch my novel to at least one publisher.
8. Submit work for the Robert Watson Literary Prize.

August 31, 2009

Writing group thoughts

Last night I met up with some Austin writers I met via the internet and we had a lovely time drinking wine and critiquing each others' work. I heard some absolutely fantastic work-in-progress and got some really good comments on my own stuff. There is a prose poem I have been working at for awhile that I think will really come together once I apply their suggestions. I'm already looking forward to our next meeting. I came away with two prompts, and I'm also excited to start working on another poem that I've been struggling with. I want to at least get it workshop-ready so I can get some feedback.

It's interesting to realize how hard it is to break out of writing habits. Sitting at a table with some people I'd never met in person before, I realized that some aspects of my work that I have been struggling with since college are still hanging around, albeit not quite as much. Often in my writing, my introductions have a lot of superfluous stuff in them. I have always sort of needed to work my way into a piece gradually. That in and of itself isn't the problem - the problem is that I don't do such a good job of editing the extraneous easing-in out in later drafts. I will say that my ability to cut this stuff out has gotten much better over time; it's no longer in every single piece. But sometimes, I still miss that extra stuff, because it just doesn't stand out to me. I still need to pay attention to that in my work.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to more writing group time.

August 27, 2009

Poem - We've Got the Power In Our Hands

Inspired by this image.


We've Got The Power In Our Hands

And we will
leave prints
all over the walls of the
world that
we have changed

August 25, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Two unrelated confessions today.

  1. I confess that one of my all-time biggest pet peeves is when people are chewing gum in dance class. Especially when they're not trying to hide the fact that they're chewing gum. It's a safety hazard and it's disrespectful. I wonder why teachers never say anything about it. I remember when I was a kid, we would always get reprimanded for having gum in class. Maybe it's because it's easier to make kids spit out their gum than it is to tell adults, many of whom are older than you, that they can't have gum in their class.
  2. I started drawing/coloring mandalas as a form of meditation and as a way to unblock my creativity. So far, I think they're working, and not just for my writing; I had a very productive dance session this morning. And even if they don't get my creativity going, they're a lot of fun, so I think I'll stick with them. Plus, they really are relaxing and meditative; I find them much more effective than sitting meditation. Whenever I need to sit completely still and clear my mind, I get way too fidgety. I can work on a mandala for a long time, though.

August 24, 2009

Poem

Inspired by this image.


Grandma's Depression #1

The bobbins still
lined up in
their box, kept
safe, still lustrous
though unused
for ten years,
since the
arthritis
overwhelmed her hands.

August 23, 2009

Poem - Hoc est enium Corpus meum

Inspired by this image.

Hoc est enium Corpus meum

What if?

All of those
wafers, instead
of used in ritual
were used
solely to feed
the stomachs of the
poor rather than
the souls of the righteous?

Wat if?

Feeding others
was a new sacrament?

August 22, 2009

Poem: Sanibel

Inspired by this image.


Sanibel
As they packed, she poured
the sand in her shoes into a plastic
bag, tucked into her
suitcase with her
makeup, and wrapped
the shells in toilet
paper, and put them
in her purse, hoping
their memories would be
allowed past security.

August 21, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #104 is up!

Check out Gloom Cupboard's newest poetry issue. Thanks to all the poets who shared their work and made this yet another great collection.

For anyone who sent work for #104 but didn't hear back, I have a backlog of submissions and you're first on my priority list for #105.

August 20, 2009

Poem: Sunday Reflection #1

Inspired by this image.

Sunday Reflection #1
In the depths of despair I dreamed of god and rejected her later anyway,
because it was just a dream, because I was troubled, because of course
my brain was not working properly then. Hormones and depression meds
talking, that's all it was. But since then I have wondered, a bit more each
day, whether that was intuition rather than illness/illusion/delusion talking.
Whether my subconscious was giving me hope, giving me a reason to feel
better. I wonder, chronically, what might have happened had I just believed myself.

August 17, 2009

Poem

Inspired by this image.

Garden Pittance
All that work,
all that
fertilizing weeding hoeing
caring -

all that, and
we only yielded
enough for
one salad

August 16, 2009

Poem

Based on this image.

Printer's Nostaliga

In the 19th century, doctors
attempted to cure
nostalgia by
sending patients to
the country to read
Jane Austen.

Would they cure this
(post)modern condition by
sending them to special
collections to study
the design of
her first editions?

August 14, 2009

A new poem

Inspired by this image.


Gone Fishing


Your note said, but
then, I walked into
your workshop and
saw your gear still
a mess on the floor,
never put away after
our last (our final)
vacation, and I

wondered if you'd come
back for the pile,
or if I would
have to clean up yet
another mess
and sell it all.

August 13, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #103 is up!

The newest Gloom Cupboard poetry issue is up! Thanks again to all the poets who submitted their work to make this a great issue. Check it out!

August 11, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I confess that I've spent far more money on books this month than I rightfully should have. Doing research for my bookstore guide was very bad for my spending habits. Let's hope this thing makes me a little money . . . .

My husband found a job and while I'm relieved I'm no longer our sole source of income, I'm bummed that I have to start helping with cooking and cleaning again.

I confess that I could easily spend 3+ hours in the dance studio and be totally happy.

I worry that teacher training is going to interfere with my writing and that I'm going to struggle with my life balance for awhile.

I feel guilty that I'm temporarily canceling my weekly yoga routine with my friend so that I can maintain a life balance. She totally understands, and we plan to pick it back up again once I get into a new routine, but I still have this irrational guilt.

My boyfriend and I have decided that there needs to be a category of "Midwestern guilt" to fit in along with "Jewish guilt" and "Catholic guilt."

I believe that bell hooks' All About Love is the best self-help book that is not actually a self-help book.

August 10, 2009

August Goals

I can't believe we're 10 days into August and I'm just getting around to posting my goals now! Well, it's been a busy month. I have been very active in my writing/research, plus I have had to pull extra time at the day job because other employees have been on vacation and I'm the fill-in person. This week will probably be a low-productivity writing week, but I was exceptionally productive last week, so even if I only get half as much done this week, it will all even out.

Review of July Goals
July was unfortunately not as productive as I would have liked. I did revise my poetry manuscripts, attend a reading, submit some of the work I did for my workshop, pitched my novel to a publisher, and start research for NaNoWriMo 09. However, I did not enter the three-minute fiction contest, I only submitted work to one literary journal, and I did not finish a neglected story. This was the first month since I seriously began writing that I accomplished so few goals. But August has been great so far, so I hope I'm making up for it.

August Goals
1. Submit pieces for the Hint Fiction anthology
2. Complete the first and second drafts of my guide to Austin independent bookstores
3. Submit work to at least three literary journals
4. Do full revisions of all in-progress poetry manuscripts
5. Attend a reading or other literary event
6. Finish a neglected story
7. Pitch my novel to at least one publisher
8. Get a writer's group together with another writer friend

August 6, 2009

Booker Prize Longlist Thoughts

I was quite excited to see the authors who appear on the Booker Prize Longlist. A.S. Byatt is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I recently developed an addiction to Sarah Waters, as we stock all of her novels at BookWoman. I think she's a fantastic writer and definitely deserves a place on the list.

My boss and I were discussing Waters' inclusion on the longlist, and she expressed some frustration that the first Waters book to make the list was also the first one that did not include lesbian relationships and sexuality. The Little Stranger is indeed a departure from the rest of her novels, in that lesbian love is simply not part of the plot. This is not to say that the rest of Waters' works are simply romance novels. They are all works of literary fiction, and my boss makes a point of keeping them in stock because many of our customers want to read lesbian fiction, but don't want to read generic romance. They want literary works, and they find that in Sarah Waters.

I'm not faulting Waters for writing a novel that is largely different from her previous work. The Little Stranger is a wonderful book, and of course it makes sense that she would like to branch out and try new ideas. And no matter what the book, I'm thrilled she made it to the Booker longlist. But some of her previous works are just as good as The Little Stranger - and yet they didn't have a place on the list.

Of course, I can't definitively say that her other works have been less prominent because of their lesbian themes. The publishing industry and the awards industry are both flighty and fickle, and there could be any number of reasons. That being said, it's interesting that Waters gets longlisted once she writes a book that has nothing to do with lesbianism. Certainly homophobia isn't the only thing at play here - but I wouldn't doubt it has a small presence.

August 4, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I confess that sometimes I get annoyed with being hungry, because I have too much to do to stop and eat.

I confess that I have over a month to finish a 1,500-word article for a magazine, but I'm irrationally stressed out because it isn't done yet. Nevermind that I routinely write more than 1,500 words a day . . . .

I confess that I'm very annoyed with bookstores that don't post regular hours and only seem to be open when someone feels like showing up.

I confess that I'm working on creating a guide to independent bookstores in Austin, and doing the research is incredibly fun. I can't wait for this project to come to fruition.

I confess that my checkbook is missing in the bowels of my messy room and I'm going to need to take some time today to find it.

I confess I accidentally bought buttermilk at the store instead of regular milk, and I'm sorry it has to go to waste, but I cannot drink buttermilk. I even gave it a try just to see if I could. It's not possible.

I confess that I can actually get a lot of writing done in bars.

August 3, 2009

Self-Promotion

I have two new pieces of erotica up.

"Electrical Problem" is in the August issue of Bare Back Magazine.
"Eric's First Ride" is up at Literotica.

Very excited to have work at both sites!

July 31, 2009

Tattooed Ladies of the TLA

The Texas Library Association has a new fundraising item for its Disaster Relief Fund - The Tattooed Ladies of the TLA Calendar. The 20-month calendar features the inked artwork of library professionals from all around the state.

I always have mixed feelings towards variations on the pinup calendar. On the one hand, I'm sure these will sell well, and the Disaster Relief Fund definitely needs the money right now (not to mention that a year after recent hurricanes, many parts of Texas still have not recovered). On the other hand, the idea of pinup calendars in general bothers me - I don't like that one gender is giving themselves up to the gaze of the other. And yes, I know models consent to be in these calendars, but that doesn't mean that posing for one isn't problematic. (Just for the record, I am just as uneasy about male pinup calendars as I am about female pinups). I think that if half of the models were men and half were women, it really wouldn't bother me so much. It might not even bother me at all. Especially on a calendar like this, which is designed to showcase tattoos more than specific body parts. If the buyer is really more interested in the ink, then why should the model's gender matter?

But then on yet another hand, I like that this calendar glorifies tattooed women. When I was growing up, I was taught that only certain kinds of women got tattoos, and I did not want to be one of them. Of course, I later found that wasn't true, and now have three tattoos, planning for a fourth. The point is, I'm sure I'm not the only person who grew up learning similar lessons about tattoos and femininity. I like that this calendar shows that tattoos don't mean a woman is immoral - that she can be a professional, and that she's a philanthropist as well. I definitely give this calendar credit for messing with stereotypes.

July 30, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #102 is up!

The next poetry installment of Gloom Cupboard is up online! Thanks to all the wonderful poets and artists willing to share their work for this issue.

Now reading for issue #103. If you sent in poetry before #102 and have not received a response, fear not - you're first on my reading list for the next issue.

July 28, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I think I might be starting to come out of the funk that chased me through most of July. Yesterday I had the most productive writing day all month. Hopefully I can sustain that progress.

I confess that I have developed a weakness for Jodi Picoult novels. The part of my brain that for some reason never left grad school is nagging me about it. But her work is well-researched and her plots are compelling. Except I guessed the twist of A Change of Heart about 100 pages before it was revealed.

I made it into the dance teacher training program at my studio, and I qualified for work study, so I'm saving a LOT of money. Classes start August 19th. Hooray!

July 27, 2009

Flash Memoir

The following fragment is something I sketched out while working on a prompt for the flash fiction workshop I took two weeks ago. I like the idea of writing memoir in the flash form, and it's something I've been experimenting with over the past few months. The ideas are still rough, but I like where this is going. I plan to expand it in the near future.

What I think is most important about the flash genre is that it is capable of giving us an entire story while only showing us a moment. With this in mind, I've been working on an idea that I call flash memoir, in which you give an event in your life in the flash form. Unlike traditional memoir, where you arrange a large story thematically (your abusive childhood, your struggle with cancer, the birth of your child, your journey to marriage, your spiritual awakening, your career as an activist), flash memoir is made up of disconnected moments and events told in the flash form. At the end of the flash memoir collection, the reader should be able to glean insight about the writer's life based on these small impressions. Each story gets just one moment, and then it's done; no conclusion or afterword filled with self-reflection, no attempt to tie everything together, no insistence on attempting to give life meaning. Instead, just a presentation of brief, important moments that have shaped the author. Life doesn't have neat conclusions; our personal narratives are not easy to wrap up. And flash memoir doesn't attempt reconciliation; it merely presents the brief actions and events that shaped us. Flash memoir makes even the smallest lives seem important. You don't need to have amassed a life of grand gestures or ideas; you just need to have lived. We may not all have big adventures – but even the smallest moments can have significance, and what looks to us to be a boring life may in fact have been full of quiet yet transcendental wonders.

July 24, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #101 (Poetry) is up!

The poetry section of Gloom Cupboard #101 is up. I'd like to thank all of the wonderful poets who shared their work for this issue.

July 21, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I have a meeting with the head of my dance school on Thursday to talk about enrolling in teacher training. I am very excited and very nervous. And also surprised - I'm coming back to ballroom dancing after a 3-year hiatus and surprised to be in good enough shape to be considered as a teacher. I hope it goes well; I would love to become a dance teacher. It's a dream I had as a child that I put aside, thinking it would never happen. It's thrilling to think it might actually come true.


July has been a difficult month professionally. I've had trouble meeting my freelance goals AND my creative writing goals. The past few months have been good; I had a really easy time dedicating myself to my work. But for some reason, in July, I have had numerous little things encroaching on my time, and it's been more difficult than usual to set boundaries between my writing, day job, dance, and social lives. I really need to power through this week and then revise my strategies so this doesn't happen again in August.

July 20, 2009

Out of the Cupboard/Snob Report

Check out the most recent Out of the Cupboard, a semi-regular Gloom Cupboard feature. This time around, I featured Christopher Savage, an Austin poet and co-founder of literary group the Boho Cocos. Check out Chris and his poetic compatriots at Austin New Blog, Boho Coco, and Dumbsville.


In addition, GC nonfiction editor has a new Snob Report up!


And in other GC news, I'm getting ready to organize the poetry section of issue 101. Anyone reading this who sent me stuff for 101 but didn't hear back yet - I have all the poems I need, but I haven't rejected you; you'll be first in line when I start reading work for #102.

July 19, 2009

Flash Fiction Workshop: Day 3

Okay, so the workshop finished on Thursday night, but I didn't get back to Austin until late that evening, and on Friday I had to head to work, and Saturday was a day of work/dance rehearsal, so this is the first moment I've had to sit down and blog about it.

Anyway, Thursday's session was fantastic! This was my first time doing real workshopping in probably four years, so I was a little nervous at first. But my classmates were all great, and we provided each other with fantastic feedback. Plus, it was fun to see what we had developed over the course of a few days. The experience made me realize just how helpful workshops are, and that I don't need to be nervous - everyone is there to support each other as artists, not tear each other down.

I also got a very uplifting email from my instructor this morning, encouraging to send one of my workshop pieces out once it's finished; it's nice to have that kind of follow-up.

After three days, I came away with nine new pieces. Two are almost ready to send out as-is; they need a little more adjustment, and then I'm set to send them out. There are two more that I don't plan to do anything with; they're duds that I wrote to fulfill an exercise and get my brain going so I could write something better. And there are five more that are not ready yet, but all have potential, and just need some intense revision.

All in all, I'm very glad I had the opportunity to take this workshop. I'm not sure if I'll do a Gemini Ink workshop next year, but I would definitely consider it. I say I'm not sure just because there are a couple of other summer workshops I would love to do as well, and due to both time and money I just cannot do everything. This workshop wasn't totally what I expected, but I gave some constructive criticism in my class evaluation, and all in all I enjoyed working with my classmates. Plus, I developed a lot of new work in a short span of time. Definitely a worthwhile experience.

July 17, 2009

Link Love!

I encourage you all to check out Gloom Cupboard fiction editor Stu's blog post on cover letters. It articulates all of the things that come to my mind as I read through all of the submissions that come through my inbox each week. All writers can benefit from reading Stu's perspective.

July 15, 2009

Flash Fiction Workshop: Day 2

Today was a bit more of what I was expecting; we finally got to do some writing! I had a lot of fun with that. The most interesting and challenging aspect was when our instructor dealt out 9 tarot cards and we had to compose a flash fiction piece from them. This was difficult for me largely because I know almost nothing about tarot. I don't know what each card signifies, and I don't know what it means when they are placed rightside-up or upside-down. So my story largely revolved around the images presented on the cards, rather than making up a story based on what the cards meant.

Tomorrow, we're bringing in the prompts we've been working on outside of class. I'm excited to show what I've worked on. I'm a little nervous, but it should be fun. My classmates are all nice, and we're enjoying each other's company.

Of course, when researching my hotels, I failed to consider that I should pick one with a business center. So now I need to spend some time tomorrow finding a Kinko's or similar place to have enough copies of my work for the class. Ooops.

Wordless Wednesday

July 14, 2009

Flash Fiction Workshop: Day 1

Tonight was the first night of my 3-evening workshop. To my surprise, we didn't actually write anything.

First, we went around and just discussed the many forms of flash fiction (including PP/FF, microfiction, short-short fiction, etc.), our personal definitions of the genre, what distinguished flash fiction from prose poetry, and other conceptual stuff. Then, we spent the rest of the class reading examples of flash fiction and discussing them as a class. It was nice to see the varieties of flash fiction that exist: everything from classics by Borges and Carver to more experimental work. We had a really productive discussion.

However, I was a little bummed that we didn't do any writing at all. We did get prompts to take home and work on for the next sessions, but I would have liked even a 5-minute exercise. Still, I had a good time, and I look forward to the next two evenings.

Now, off to some reading and then some sleeping.

Confession Tuesday

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to write "personal" poetry. Over the weekend, someone very important to me was having a rough time, so I sent him a copy of a manuscript-in-progress. This was difficult for me because 1) I only allow certain people to see work in progress and 2) these poems were extremely personal. But seeing my writing helped him feel better.

But although I was nervous about showcasing rough, personal poetry, what I consider "personal" has changed so much from when I first started writing. It's difficult to explain how, though. But I'm trying to articulate the difference because, since I have started submitting work again, all the poems that have been accepted have been intensely personal. And yet - they're not the same "personal" poems I was writing in high school and college (and getting rejection after rejection).

When I was writing as an adolescent, my personal poems were really just me spilling out my emotions; essentially, trying to turn journal entries into poems. Now, the personal poems are not so obvious. I draw on people, conversations, important events - but there is a sort of concealment taking place. For example, my poem "Accidental Dancer" is based on a very specific person - but even my spouse did not know who it was about. These poems are highly personal to me, but at the same time, they're more abstract. It's not "this is how I feel" but instead "here is something from my life that I want to show you." And I think my most successful poems are the ones that are both highly personal, but also are somehow abstracted from the rest of my life. My most successful poems are those that evoke for me something very specific, but at the same time, even people close to me won't necessarily know that source of inspiration. My best poems are those that are personal and yet transcend my own life, and engage with the rest of the world.

What's also interesting to me is that I have become oddly more shy about sending out personal poems. In high school, I was sending out all my emotional poetry and didn't care that it might be rejected. But the way I write personal poems now - examples of my life that are somehow not specific to only my experience - I get nervous about other people seeing them. Even though no editor is going to know the specifics about what inspired a piece. Even though a rejected poem is nothing personal. Even though these personal poems are somehow depersonalized, I am somehow more protective of them than I was with any of the emotional ramblings I used to submit. The poems made exclusively of thoughts in my own head - those didn't need so much protection. But the poems made from people I care about, meaningful events, important conversations - those are ones I want to protect. I know I'm rambling, but I'm just trying to write my way to an answer. And I haven't quite found an articulate one yet.

July 13, 2009

Self-Promotion

I have a poem up at Wanderings. Very excited to see it up!


Also, tomorrow I head out for my flash fiction workshop in San Antonio. So many things to wrap up before then! And I'm also looking forward to getting out of town for a few days and getting away from my routine. I need to clear my head.

July 9, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #100 is up

Gloom Cupboard #100 is now available. It's the first issue I put together entirely on my own as poetry editor, and I'm thrilled with the way it turned out. Congratulations to everyone whose work was accepted, and thank you for sharing your poems with us!

July 7, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I've been delinquent in my writing the past few days. The holiday weekend started on Thursday evening and just wrapped up this afternoon. Lots of people to see and things to do, and side dishes to make for parties. It's hard getting back in the groove of things, and I have to pull a lot of shifts at the bookstore this week, meaning getting back on track is going to be extra difficult.

One of our degus got injured last week and she does not appear to be getting better. She has a follow-up with the vet tomorrow, and I'm very worried.

My 1902 Leaves of Grass has finally been repaired and is back with me. Huzzah! It's as good as new; you can't even tell that it was damaged. And it cost much less than I was expecting.

July 3, 2009

Hint Fiction Antholgy Submission Guidelines

Robert Swartwood has published the guidelines for his upcoming hint fiction anthology at his blog. Check them out and submit!

From the guidelines:

Tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2010, W.W. Norton will publish an anthology of Hint Fiction. What is Hint Fiction? It’s a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story. The thesis of the anthology is to prove that a story 25 words or less can have as much impact as a story 2,500 words or longer. The anthology will include between 100 and 150 stories. We want your best work.

It’s possible to write a complete story in 25 words or less — a beginning, middle, end — but that’s not Hint Fiction.

The very best Hint Fiction stories can be read many different ways.

We want stories we can read again and again and never tire of. Stories that don’t pull any punches. Stories that make us think, that evoke some kind of emotional response.

[. . .]

For formatting purposes, you must include a title (which actually works in your benefit, as the title helps give a better “hint” of the overall story).

Writers can only submit up to two stories, both embedded in the same e-mail. Don’t worry about a cover letter. We don’t care where you’ve been published or what graduate program you’ve attended — all author identification will be stripped by a third party so we will only see the stories and nothing but the stories.

[. . .]

Submissions will open August 1 and close at midnight Eastern time August 31. A submissions e-mail address will appear on this page on August 1 — DO NOT SUBMIT TO ANY OTHER ADDRESS BEFORE THEN.

Please note that due to the expected volume of submissions, we will be forced to respond with form letters.

July 2, 2009

July Goals

Review of June Goals
Yay! I accomplished everything I set out to do in June! In fact, I managed to exceed my expectations this month. And some positive things have come from that, particularly attending a flash fiction workshop later this month.

July Goals
1. Do at least one full revision of my poetry manuscripts-in-progress.
2. Enter the Three-Minute Fiction Contest.
3. Submit work to at least three literary journals.
4. Attend at least one poetry reading or other literary event.
5. Come away from my writing workshop with at least one piece worth submitting.
6. Pitch my novel to at least one publisher.
7. Finish a short story I started but have since neglected.
8. Begin to do research for my NaNoWriMo 2009 novel.

June 30, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I'm eating chevre straight from the package with a spoon. So happy . . . .

My dance teacher is encouraging me to begin the studio's teacher training course. This is a thrilling prospect for me. I've always dreamed of being a dance teacher. I love being in the studio and working with people.

My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary this weekend. Honestly, being married is a lot easier than I thought it would. I had lots of family members telling me how difficult marriage is, but I don't see it that way.

June 23, 2009

Confession Tuesday

After about 6 weeks away from my novel, I feel like I can finally begin working on it again in earnest. I started rereading it for the first time yesterday, and felt really inspired. The first three chapters are getting a major overhaul, and I think they might be done after this round of revision (although I cannot say for sure). I finally feel energetic about the novel for the first time in awhile, and think I'm making better revisions after my time away.

On a totally unrelated note, I had a really good conversation with a friend today. Someone I feel a lot closer to now that we've had this chat. It's great when a friendship reaches a new level of closeness.

June 21, 2009

Dean Young at BookWoman, 6/27

Calling all readers in the Austin area: Dean Young and Abe Louise Young (no relation) will be giving a reading at BookWoman on July 27 at 7 p.m. Admission is free, and cupcakes will be provided.

From the press release:

Dean Young's books of poems include Primitive Mentor (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008); Embryoyo (McSweeney's, 2007); Ready-Made Bouquet (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005); Elegy on Toy Piano (2005), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Skid (2002), a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize ; First Course in Turbulence (1999); Strike Anywhere (University Press of Colorado, 1995), which won the Colorado Poetry Prize; Beloved Infidel (Wesleyan, 1992); and Design with X (1988).

About Dean Young, the poet Charles Simic has said, "Although his work comes out of the poetries of Kenneth Koch , John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara and James Tate , Young has his own voice. The language, the invention, the imagination and the sheer fun of his poems is astounding. It's not all dazzle either. The poems are also moving. This man reminds us that there is nothing more serious than a joke." Dean Young is currently the William Livingston Chair of Poetry at the University of Texas, in Austin.

___

Emerging poet Abe Louise Young was born in New Orleans, LA, and received an M.F.A. from the James Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin in 2005. She teaches writing workshops for teenagers and adults, and trains public school teachers to incorporate creative writing across the curriculum. She's been a visiting poet-in-residence at schools from Alaska to Massachusetts. She edited a classroom anthology, Hip Deep: Opinion, Essays, and Vision from American Teenagers, and is author of one collection of poems, Little Big Bang, which is a currently a finalist for the Miller Williams Prize.



BookWoman is located at 5501 N. Lamar, 78701.

June 20, 2009

Self-Promotion/Announcement

I have two poems up over at Gloom Cupboard #98. You may remember the first one from NaPoWriMo.

I'm also thrilled to announce that I'm signed on to become the poetry editor of Gloom Cupboard. I've already begun reading submissions!

It's been a productive week. I'm quite happy.

June 19, 2009

Stolen from Mary Oliver

This poem is ripped off from Mary Oliver's "When Death Comes." Her poem has always inspired me, and someone close to me will be leaving my life in a few months, and so I used her work as a template to explore my own feelings about the loss of someone important.

When November Comes

When November comes
like the slowing of a pulse
when November comes and lands the plane

to take you away, and roars the engines so I cannot hear goodbye
when November comes
like romance gone stale;

when November comes
like forgotten memories

I want to step through the door full of certainty, knowing:
that neither of us will forget what happened here.


And therefore I think of each second
as something worth preservings
and I catalogue even the silent sips of tea
and I take notes on each facial expression,

and I think of each conversation of a poem, as intricate
as a villanelle, and as mesmerizing,

and each kiss a journey into amazement,
tending, as each kiss does, toward breathlessness
,

and each touch an explosion of joy, something
worth tattooing on my skin.

When it's over, I want to say: in our time together
I was a student of all possibilities
I was the teacher, guiding myself onto a higher plane of knowing.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of our time something significant, and tangible.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply dissolving from your world.

June 18, 2009

CORA Diversity Roll Call #8

This week's CORA Diversity Roll Call asks us to post a poem unique to a particular country. I've decided to post about an ancient Persian form called a ghazal.

The ghazal originated in the 6th century C.E. and is often considered to be a romantic or erotic form. This form has taken on popularity among American, Canadian, and English writers, spurred on by Canadian poet John Thompson. However, the English-language versions are considered to be a far cry from the original Persian-language form.

The ghazal consists of a set of at least five couplets. In the traditional Persian form, it follows a strict rhyme scheme, maintain consistent meter, and also a stringent use of refrain. The refrain is the last word in the first couplet, and must used as the last word in all subsequent couplets. In addition, the poet should name hirself in the final couplet. English versions are not quite so strict about rhyme, meter, and and refrain.

I admit that I cannot read Arabic, and am only familiar with this form in English. However, I love it nonetheless. I'd like to post a ghazal written by Janet McAdams, a poetry professor at Kenyon College (my alma mater). The poem can be found at Story South.

Ghazal of Body

for Wendy Singer

Teach me the story of the sleepless body.
Even the past is ugly, living as it does in the thick cells of my body.

I was lonely, all the long winter. Skin
the poorest fence between the cold world and my body.

The fisherman with his sharp hook, his taut line, a rod he is proud of.
Come to shore, I call, I have a handful of bread that might be your body.

Lace, you breathed against the window, and the ice let go,
ran down the glass into the house’s quiet body.

She said: When I gave him up, when I gave back the baby,
there was an empty space in front of my body.

No writ, no photograph, no stone with rules. Only memory,
running like a current of blood, through the creek of my body.


More information about the ghazal at Wikipedia and Poets.org.

June 16, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Since I started my writing efforts seriously again, I have had poems accepted at electronic publications based in Scotland, Canada, and Britain. I have yet to get an acceptance in the United States. Not that I think this is a problem. I'm not upset by it. I'm just amused and intrigued. I'm not sure there's anything to it, it's just interesting to realize.

I'm surprised that I've had three poetry acceptances so far since I seriously began this venture earlier this year. In the early years of my writing, I struggled like crazy to get three acceptances in a year, much less in the span of a few months. After three years of barely writing and not attempting to publish, I suddenly have a pretty good success rate, at least compared to my old track record. What makes it even more amazing to me is that right now, I'm submitting almost entirely new work that I have written since 2009. I made a conscious decision that everything I write before my long hiatus was now off-limits; everything old needed to be retired. I just decided I needed to start fresh with my writing and not be stuck submitting old work that didn't necessarily represent my artistic vision anymore. (I did break this promise once, when I felt that an old poem really did fit with the publication; I'm still waiting to hear back on it.) So it's almost as if, during this long period when I did very little creative work, I somehow improved as a poet even though I was not actively practicing. It's as if my mind needed that time to not work, and to just exist without trying to be an artist/writer/poet/whatever. There are times when I have regretting the years I did not write, but now I think they might have been good for me.

June 15, 2009

Solitude

Below is the first piece I wrote for the memoir-writing group I joined recently. We had a number of prompts from which to pick, and I chose the one about solitude.

When my husband had his wisdom teeth removed, he had the surgery as part of a clinical trial for a new pain medication so he could get the procedure done for free. As a result, he was kept overnight at a research center. So I had twenty-eight hours of time entirely to myself without the needs of another person to consider, and no plans to share it with anyone. The daylight hours proceeded as normal; I spent them writing and doing research, with a break for yoga. During the day, when most of the world is at a day job, communicating, meeting, taking lunch, that is when I need to be in my bedroom, curtains open and natural light coming in, nobody else within shouting distance, and just creating poems or stories, doing research, or writing and editing articles. I probably won't answer my phone unless I have reason to believe it's urgent.


In the evenings, I tend to focus on the non-creative aspects of my work, such as writing cover letters, preparing manuscripts for submission, scheduling interviews and meetings. The things that make up the business of writing; that don't demand 100% of my mental energy; that I can do while I eat dinner or talk on the phone; that don't have to be done every single day; that don't demand daylight to fuel my inspiration. I have a space for these in the evening, just as I have space for people in the evening. When the sun is gone and my creative energy wanes, I am done being alone. Even if I plan to continue some of the administrative aspects of my writing life, I crave companionship. I need to recharge from the hours spent inside my own head; I need to experience other people; I need to remember that my mind is not the only one in the world. So I go out and spend the night having fun, or I spend time chatting with my husband, half-noticing television, and working on whatever else I need to get done. If my husband is away at night, I miss him, and often try to fill in the hours with friends. I prefer my solitude during the daylight, but when the moon is out I want companionship.


As the sun began to set on the day of my husband's surgery, I started to feel lonely. Although tempted to call friends in the evening to fill the void, I decided to stay up late and finally finish a story I had been working on for months. It was one of those pieces that became longer than I planned, my attention had waned, but I picked it up time after time because I knew it had potential and I didn't want to let that great idea go to waste. But my loneliness mad it difficult to concentrate. I did not want to be an artist at that moment; I wanted to be a friend or a spouse. It was dark out, so my brain was telling me it was time to be around people, or at least to switch gears to something less mentally taxing. But I wanted to make good use of the free time, and knew that when my husband was recovering from home, his presence would interfere with his work. When I felt desperate for companionship, I took breaks to chat with people on instant messenger. When nobody was online, I turned on the news in the background just so I could hear human voices. Finally, at 1 a.m., I had a complete draft. While I was please with my progress, glad I had finally reached that goal, I was still lonely.


I am always thrilled to see my husband when he comes home at night and I am ready to share someone's company, but if he's around during the day, I need to go somewhere else to work. When he came home the day after his wisdom tooth extraction, all of my work habits were immediately thrown off track. My creative energy is at its zenith when the sun is out, and I both need and want to work uninterrupted. But he always provides a source of distraction by wanting to go to lunch, to show me a new YouTube video, or just to chat. This was certainly true after his surgery, because although he was sore the drug he was taking was both effective and non-narcotic, so he was up and about rather than sleeping off the pain. Just having the presence of a companion in the apartment made my work difficult, and his coherence made it impossible. The only solution was to take solitude among strangers.


Public place can be solitary if you know how to make them so. The library, of course, is almost too easy, as it's designed to be a quiet space. Coffee shops are more of a challenge, but they will work, as long as you go alone. Just carve out your own space at your own table. Yes, these places can often be noisy. But noise is not incompatible with solitude. After all, when I have the apartment to myself during the day, I'm often blaring loud music in order to get my energy up. While I like to be alone, my mind wanders if it's too quiet. It needs to work against a source of distraction in order to function most effectively. Even the hum of the air conditioner can provide enough stimulation to set my concentration in line. So the one-sided cell phone calls and the ongoing chatter works well for me. Just as long as nobody tries to share my table.