Saturday, October 31, 2009
The Tortoise Survives the Fire by Lisa Allen Ortiz
on Verse Daily today!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Here's another question I was asked, it's quite intriguing and at the heart of it, it's asking, how do we know when to stop revising? Ah, the $100,000 question!
You said that you knew once you started to be a finalist in some contests that it was just a matter of luck/time from there. Once those finalist nods started coming in, did you stop revising? Do you think it's a bad idea to alter a "finalist manuscript"--or is there specific advice you would give about when/how to continue revisions, and still hold out hope for something that's getting that "bridesmaid" attention?
******** I think I'll break this question down into a few parts.
Part I: Once those finalist nods started coming in, did you stop revising?
Answer: Kind of, but not really. I am someone who loves to revise, revise my poems, revise my manuscript, revise my life. It can be a disease, whittling away on a piece of wood past the point where it's a flute to where it becomes a toothpick.
But, when I did start getting those finalist nods, I did feel less like the manuscript was "broken" and something I needed to fix and more with the belief that I was close and there was just a few things keeping me from being chosen.
These "few things" can drive a poet crazy though. It can make you feel like you just need the Secret Poetry Contest Decoder Ring and all will be fine.
But mostly, I stopped some. I stopped making swooping changes like with title. Mostly, if I go back to my mss from January of 2008, it's pretty much the same mss now just with a little different order and a few different poems.
But as artists, writers, poets, it's hard to stop messing with our work. Especially me, I love to mess with things.
Part II: Do you think it's a bad idea to alter a "finalist manuscript"--or is there specific advice you would give about when/how to continue revisions, and still hold out hope for something that's getting that "bridesmaid" attention?
I think if you're manuscript is getting chosen as a finalist, I think you're close and it is just a matter of the right reader (also luck and timing).
What I did when it got close was talk to two of my good poet friends who know my work very well and ask them, "What is this manuscript missing?" "Is there any poems that feel out of place or aren't as strong?"
They didn't have any major changes, but found a copy typos (ugh!) and offered some advice on order and what they thought were my strongest poems.
I would never just talk to one person or trust one person, but ask a couple or a few. It will remind you that poetry is subjective and people rarely agree, so it's up to the poet to follow his/her own vision for the book.
For me, I asked myself questions, "Why do I have this poem first? Why do I have this order? Why do I have these sections?" Etc. I needed to have an answer for everything, when I said, "I don't know," I knew there might be a problem. I think the poet should have an answer for every question, from "Why are you using this quote?" to "Why is the poem about the bird next to the poem about the miscarriage?"
Even if the reader doesn't see the whole vision, it's good for you to know why you did the things you did. For example, one of my poems end "Your psychic number is eight. Your psychic insect is the mirror beetle." While it's not important for you to know my favorite/lucky number is 8 or that the mirror beetle is this magical piece of artwork I purchased from a Seattle artist and an image that will reappear later in the book, it's important for me to know why I chose those images instead of say a dragonfly and the number 2.
Also, and this might sound bizarre, but I went through with each poem and asked each poem if it belonged in my book. Basically, this is me asking myself, "Does this poem belong in this manuscript? Should this poem be in here?"
And in the end I took the Johnny Cochran approach, "When in doubt, take it out."
Of course, we're poets, so we can always doubt our work, but I'm looking for that gut feeling that says, "This poem is not strong enough" or "This poem isn't finished" or "This poem doesn't fit in this manuscript." And I was tough on my poems, if I didn't think they were strong enough, they went back to the gym.
Other things you may want to consider--
Is the title working with the collection as a whole?
What is your first poem doing for the collection?
What is the last poem leaving your reader with?
Is there anything in here that shouldn't be?
Is there anything that is missing from the collection? (Or are their unwritten poems I need to write?)
If your manuscript is at the finalist level, these answers should be answered pretty easy and not require a lot of revision.
So yes, if you're being named a finalist, I do think it's a matter of time, so I wouldn't change too much.
If you're finding yourself the bridesmaid, I tend to think there's a wedding for you down the road. It's happened to all my poet friends, finalist, finalist, finalist, finalist, winner... (though sometimes there's many more finalist spots first). I can't think of anyone who is submitting after X number of years and still getting finalist status, at some point, you win.
* * *
Also, remember, I'm just one poet out of many, I think this is good advice, but maybe it's not, so in the end you need to trust yourself, your own voice, your own vision, and your own gut instinct.
This is what worked for me and how my story played out, yours could be a little different.
So M in St. Louis, I hope this helped. Thanks for your note.
* * *
Question: Did early submission of your mss help shape your mss? Or did you mostly revise from readers?
I wanted to respond to a question Jennifer asked:
You wrote: "Also, I think waiting until you have a good strong mss is important, not submitting too early, before your mss is done. I could have saved a lot of time and money had I not submitted in 2005, 2006, and even most of 2007. My manuscript really didn't take it's strongest form until after August of 2007." But do you think the process of submitting helped the manuscript evolve, or do you think it was primarily your revisions based on feedback from your trusted readers?
****This is a great question!
I think what's interesting here is that if you work on a manuscript for a period of time, things change. Sometimes it's the order. Other times, new poems are written and older poems are replaced, or vice versa.
I think for me, my manuscript would have come to the place it is now even if I hadn't submitted it in 2005 & 2006 because for me, the key element I feel made this manuscript work was that I was leaving out my emotionally dark or charged poems.
It took another student (not even a person I'm crazy about, to be honest) to tell me what was missing. I think we were all very good at praising each other for what we were doing well, but this one person who always kind of annoyed me in general, made the comment that stung--she was the one who said how my manuscript needed more emotionally vulnerable poems and less wit. When she said because, because my reaction was so strong to her, I knew she was right.
I always resisted what they say to do in poetry contests, which is put your strongest poems up front and at the end and fill the middle with your pretty good poems.
I have been told by many that many of my strongest poems are in the middle. Jeannine was the one who noticed that I tend to put up walls around my work-- the lighter, less deep poems in the beginning, the poems with more emotionally pull hidden in the middle (kind of like the skin and bones protecting the heart). And because my manuscript is entirely alphabetical (there's a little fact about this manuscript that I don't think I've mentioned yet). If I wanted to change order, I had to retitle the poem.
C.Dale Young made a very interesting comment to me on my post about how many poems where published when I first began sending out poems. He wrote: 60% were published when I first started sending it out. It took me 5 years. I changed practically nothing but the order of the poems.
I thought this was such a smart comment because many times we have the poems we need, we just need to figure out how they converse with each other in the best order.
But back to Jennifer's original question. I think for me, my manuscript would have evolved over those two years regardless of whether I sent it to any contests. (I am a crazy-reviser with manuscripts and with poems.) So I do think I could have save some money. What I would do differently would be just send to a few favorite key contests to see what kind of response I was getting "semi-finalist, finalist, etc." To me, that is what really lets you know that your manuscript is ready or close or just needs a little time.
Once I started being named a finalist (1 of 30, 1 of 25) and my manuscript was being given to the final judge, then I knew it was just a matter of time (and a little luck) for my manuscript to be put in the hands of someone who *got* what I was doing and saw/understood the vision I had for my book.
So my final thoughts would be--
Give yourself some time with your manuscript before you submit it, submit when it's ready, not when you're ready.
Ask a trusted reader, what's missing, then write or find those poems to include.
Listen to your gut (always most important).
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Here's the poem--
He wants me to speak without language.
What can you say in a facial expression?
Can you find contentment in chaos? Disruption?
All my life I’ve been told
to speak slowly, use manners.
He’d like me to slurp a hunk of meat
from my dinner plate, break the wine glass
and guzzle the bottle. He says I’m improving
on my spontaneity, but there’s room
to rip apart the wildflowers without feeling
guilty for what was. He says remember the time
your mother said, Young ladies don’t dress that way.
He tells me to spin naked through a continent
being only distracted with rabbits disguised
as the opposite sex. Try dressing as a tornado,
find passion in every twirl.
He tells me he knows it’s silly
to suggest I sleep on a full stomach
and destroy whatever gets in my path,
but he’s asked me to be an innocent savage,
be the person the room stops for.
- Kelli Russell Agodon
from the LA Review, Issue 6
It will also be Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room...
The guidelines to submit to issue 7 are here.
Ann, my very good friend just reminded me of something in regards to manuscript submissions that I should share... much of the reason I was able to submit to these contests was that I received two grants from Artist Trust to help with submission costs such as contest fees and postage.
I received an Artist Trust GAP grant this year for $1500. Here's my listing for this year:
Kelli Russell Agodon, Kingston, Kitsap County, ($1500) to assist in finding a publisher. Kelli is currently completing her second poetry manuscript titled “Letters from the Emily Dickenson Room.” In these poems she tries to explore how and if people can find calmness in a chaotic world. Many of the poems were created during her visit to the Sylvia Beach Hotel where she stayed during a writing retreat.
Artist Trust is the most wonderful organization created to help Washington State Artists (writers, dancers, visual artists, photographers, etc.) It's a remarkable organization and I owe them a ton of thanks for helping me have the resources to find a publisher.
If you're in Washington State, you should definitely sign up for a membership to them and apply for their grants.
If you're not in Washington State, then find out what organizations support your local artists.
I think this is another piece of the puzzle that also needs to be mentioned. Had I not had this grant and an earlier grant, I probably wouldn't have been able to submit to so many places. Also, knowing that other artists found my work valuable and validated it by supporting me, made it easier to submit when the rejections rolled in.
P.S. If I couldn't have afforded the contest fees, I would have dropped cable TV. Priorities!
Because I switched computers in 2007, I'm not sure how many of my poems were published in the first version I submitted in 2005 (I'm guessing it was about 15-20), I'll try to see if I can find that info. I think there may be a copy on our old laptop.
However, in 2007, 37 of the poems out of 42 poems had been accepted in various journals.
In the manuscript, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, that was recently accepted, there are 44 poems, of those 44 poems, 32 have been previously published in literary journals.
Reading this, it might not make sense because you'd think I'd have more poems published in journals now than in an earlier version.
I think the biggest difference is while the earlier version had a lot of previously published poems, I decided that even though they were published, they weren't necessarily my strongest poems, so I made the choice to take some of them out of my manuscript and include poems that I felt were stronger, but hadn't been published yet.
I think when I first began putting this manuscript, I was listening more to what others thought-- which poems they thought were stronger. Oh, if an editor published this, it must be good, when really there were other poems I liked better. Or they were good poems, but didn't necessarily belong in this manuscript.
I think the key to putting a manuscript is listening to your inner voice that knows what you like, what you think is good, and trying to quiet the voices of ego and others who may see other things for your collection.
* * *
In case you were worried about me after yesterday's confession... I'm fine.
I think in going over the numbers it was a little emotional because I kind of forgot how much work went into this manuscript and how long ago I began it.
But it didn't bring me to tears, so that's a good thing and I don't regret how I came to this place. (Though, I've never been big on regret, so this isn't surprising to me.)
I guess seeing the journey written out felt a little tiring, but also, important. Important to know and maybe appreciate a little.
But I know a lot of you were concerned how I was/am feeling. No worries, I may have had my drama queen crown on yesterday, but I've taken it off today.
I think there was a part of me that was surprised to see how many times and how many versions I'd submitted!
I remember the first time a very favorite poet of mine told me it took him 122 times to have his first book published. I remember thinking, "If I can get my book published under 122 submissions, I'm doing well!"
I think another thing to consider is that is seems many times the second book is harder than the first. My first book was picked up
quite quickly, too quickly, I think.
One positive with the longer route to publication is I like having 5 years between books.
Anyway, thank you all for notes, good wishes, and good thoughts. It was interesting for me to see the details and share them with you. And I love the notes that appreciated my "tenacity," I'm currently referring to myself as Tenacious K.
So two new favorite adjectives people have used to describe me lately- tenacious & quirky. I'll take it!
the quirky Tenacious K
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Note: this is not a good thing to do. Do not be afraid of what the reader will think of you.
It was a finalist (1 of 40) out of 1400 mss in the National Poetry Series. This was a first for me in this contests and a good sign I was close to being chosen. From that, I kept becoming a "finalist," this is very much the "always a bridesmaid never a bride" syndrome, or so it felt at times, but I always tried to believe my turn would be soon.
I have said this before, you need to find the best way for you. I think with poetry books, self-publishing is a very very good option if you want to go that route. I had a goal of a traditional publisher, one that had a print run and a good distributor, that was how I found White Pine Press. I loved the quality of their books and their reputation. This was how I chose the presses I was going to submit to.
But I'm human and was ready for my second book, even if my second book wasn't ready.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
While I'm definitely not the "all-knowing" poet because I had a manuscript chosen in a contest (I do believe a lot of winning is luck & timing), I wanted to offer some thoughts and questions to think about while submitting your work to save you time, money, and hopefully, your sanity. I think they are things I wished someone had mentioned to me before I started submitting--
1) Is your manuscript done? This could have saved me a lot of time and money as I realize I was submitting my manuscript before it was complete? Why? Because the manuscript was ready for publication, but I was.
It's something to think about-- is your manuscript really ready for publication or are you? If your mss isn't ready, ask yourself what you need to do to get it ready (i.e. put it in a better order, write more poems, find a title?) Have a little conversation with your manuscript and see what it needs (more on this later).
2) Submit only to presses you want to be published in. Okay, this sounds obvious, but I'm amazed at hearing how people aren't happy because they were chosen by X contest. I say, "X contest didn't just choose you, you sent them your work." "I know," they said, "but that was because I didn't think I
would win." Huh?
I think the thing here is, sometimes we lower our standards too much. We so want to be published it becomes-- you or someone like you. Then it's -- you or someone who might know you. Then it's-- you or really anyone, anyone, I'm feeling desperate here...and lonely.
Try to imagine being chosen by the press you send to, are you happy or disappointed that you weren't chosen by Press Z and now wondering if you should say yes.
- Do you like they way their books look?
- Are you proud of them out in the world?
- Do you like other poets this press has published?
- Would you be happy to tell someone this press published you?
If getting published by a certain press isn't going to make turn cartwheels, but make you feel like your settling, maybe it isn't the best press to submit to.
This is a very long way of saying what I said to begin with-- Submit only to presses you want to publish your book.
3) How do you feel about contests? There are a lot of poets who despise contests, I'm someone who doesn't for a lot of reasons. Here are some reasons I like poetry contests--
a) I think they are fun and I think winning something is fun and fun to tell people. Maybe this is my 7 year old girl-self, but it was really fantastic to win a book prize. Maybe this is the girl in me who never got the trophy (except from my good friend, Nancy as a birthday gift. It reads: Poetic Champion of the World (that always makes me smile).
b) These contests keep the press afloat! As much as some despise them, they are helping our independent presses stay alive! It's as if 300-900 people made $20 to $25 donations to the poetry presses of America. If that's how presses find the best way to get their money because people aren't buying books or making donations on their own, then so be it. It's not their job to help us out, it's their job to stay alive in a world of big publishers.
c) I like getting the winning book and (this might sound odd), but it feels more real or validating to me to have someone choose my book then for me to publish it on my own. I know that last one has to do with my insecurities, but I just thought I'd throw that out there because I bet may be a few of you who feel that way too.
4) Before you submit to a publisher, have someone else proof it for you and find the typos. There will be some, trust me on this!
5) Make sure to also send it to presses that don't run contests as they are cheaper and/or free. Pitt, Sarabande, Boa, are a few I immediately thought of that will take manuscripts submissions in certain months. Some require you to have already published a first book, some don't. But they are great presses and I would have been doing cartwheels to be chosen by any of these!
6) Ask yourself, "Are there any poems I need to write for this manuscript to be complete?" This is similar to #1 but a little different. I think many times we start with X number of poems then try to order them or pull out the weakest ones, but I think it's always a good idea to ask yourself what is missing?When I first showed my manuscript to peers in my MFA program, they felt it was missing emotion. It was so witty or smart and full of word play, which they liked, but overall it felt shallow. That was in 2006-2007 and I spent the next year rewriting it and adding poems that gave it more an emotional depth.
7) Know what would make you happy and follow that. Do you want to win a book prize or do you want to have a book to sell at readings? Do you want to be published by a prestigious press or do you want to published by a local press that isn't as well known? Do you just want to get your poems into the hands of readers or do you have a specific goal?
Some poets are just as happy by self-publishing their own book (they have full control, it's less money, etc) while others want to go with a press already in business, (it feels more prestigious or "real" to them, they don't have to do all the graphic work of creating a book, all the details like getting it on Amazon & the ISBN # are covered). Either way is a good way, you just have to know you.
I knew myself enough to know I wanted to go with a press already in business and I wanted my manuscript chosen by someone.
And if you go way back to my Artist Way Action Plan of May 2008 (the last one I did) it says this: Goal: Publish an Award-Winning Second Book of Poems.
I guess my final thoughts are know yourself and what you want and what would make you both happiest and the most satisfied. And find the best path for you. It's kind of both the best and worst parts of being a poet-- there's no one way. I think it's more of a good thing because there are so many roads to take to achieve whatever your goal is.
Anyway, just some thoughts to consider. Not the truth, not the facts, just maybe something to think about as you submit.
Oh and trust luck and timing, it's part of it in much of life's stories...
I'll be blogging about rejection later today.
I found this and thought it was intriguing (and a little annoying about the Disney company, but not surprising). Those dwarfs would be nowhere without Snow White (and I mean that both literally and metaphorically).
So, I have this other favorite blog I visit called Poetic Home. (Aimee, you would probably love this blog!)
The blogger at Poetic Home reminds me a lot of myself in her style and what she likes, except she is visually creative and crafty and way more stylish than I am, but I'm happy being the wannabe looking through her window pointing to what I like.
If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know I love vintage typewriters and three of them, my favorite being my old 1937 Corona. When I saw this post, I thought, "I can do this!" (Will I do this?-- that's another story), but for me, this kind of stuff is just eye candy for the soul as it connects three of my favorite things--writing, autumn, and Halloween.
BTW, the pages are strung up with fishing wire if you were curious.
Anyway, I just wanted to share this as it makes me happy. Talk about a ghostwriter!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Holy emotional rollercoaster, Batman, what a week, I'm head over heels and now it's Tuesday and time to confess!
Let's just begin! To the confessional--
I confess, I cannot keep my headshots up for much longer, so if you haven't seen them look quickly because I must delete them. They kind of freak me out and not in that good way, but in an oh-I-am-so-tired-of-looking-at-myself way. And what-a-goofball-I-am way.
Thank you all for your comments on them. It's very hard looking at your own photo and trying to make a choice about which would be best, so I really appreciate your thoughts.
* * *
I confess I am a little frazzled this morning because I had to talk to my cellphone service (Can You Hear Me Now?) people and while the customer service people are wonderful, my cellphone company seems to want to make me lose my mind. Long story short, it was cheaper for me to cancel my contract and move to another cellphone company & get an even better phone (that has an lowercase i in the title) with better rates and features than to buy a new phone from them. I am still amazed by this.
* * *
I confess I still have the basket of laundry in my bedroom unfolded from a wash I did over 4 weeks ago and am basically just pulling from it like it is a giant plastic clothes holding bin. I just push past my husband's gym clothes until I find a cute t-shirt.
I also confess I make laundry into a much bigger deal than it should be.
Confession Outing (a new segment where I confess about what someone else did!)-- I once worked with this guy in college at Eddie Bauer and when his clothes were dirty he would just throw them away and buy more with his store discount. This is such 20-something guy with no other responsibilities behavior. I remember at the time thinking that wasn't such a bad idea.
And speaking of Eddie Bauer, when I worked there I was always amused with how they would never call a shirt blue, green, red, etc, it always had to be some fancy color like seafoam or plum or mocha, but never *really* told you what color shirt you were buying.
My favorite though was when they called a green shirt "Spearmint" in their catalog, but then sent them to the store covered in label stickers with the word "spearmint" shortened to "sperm" (um, really, no one caught this?). Gee, how appealing to the customers to purchase a "sperm-colored" shirt. (To quote an SNL skit, "Who was the ad genius who came up with that one?")
* * *
I confess I'm amused how I started confessing about laundry then ended up telling you about my college job and the "sperm shirt."
I confess, I'm also really nervous what kind of google hits I'm going to get for typing that! (That may have to be deleted at a later time...)
* * *
I confess I'm still ridiculously excited about White Pine Press and I confess it still doesn't feel real. But I am now finally sleeping again.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
This morning my friend is coming over to take some headshots of me for White Pine Press. This probably won't be for the author photo (unless one turns out really well), but to send to Poets & Writers for their announcement section. It's currently pouring down rain outside so expect an umbrella to appear in one or two of those photos.
I had wanted the photos to be taken in my writing shed since that is pretty much my own Emily Dickinson room. I'm interested to see how with the weather and lighting, these will turn out. Please wish me a good hair day.
* * *
The other two things I'm working on is my bio (okay, technically I'm not "working" on it as I have a bio, many bios, I just need to send it to White Pine) and sending a copy of my final manuscript. If you know me, you know I have perfectionist tendencies, so having to send a final manuscript knots up my stomach a bit.
I am currently reading each poem aloud and asking the poem if it really belongs (deserves) to be in this manuscript. A few poems are holding their tongues. Silly poems.
* * *
In an upcoming post, I am going to give you the details in how long it took me to get to this place of publishing my manuscript, not to depress you as I didn't pull a Louise Gluck and write these poems over a ten week period and then publish them to go on to win the Pulitzer (a la Wild Iris), but just to detail that many times what seems to have been "an overnight success," has a back history.
I submitted this mss very early on when it wasn't ready (but I was ready!) These last couple years, it has felt complete to me and finished. I'm not sure I could say that when I began.
* * *
Once I get all my details out to White Pine Press, I'll go into the details of how long it took, how many contests or submissions, etc. if you're interested in hearing that. I don't want to freak anyone out, but I also don't want you to be discouraged if you send out your manuscript to three places and it's rejected, to think that's an accurate reflection on your work.
Anyway, let me know if you're interested, I'm happy to report the good, bad, and ugly.
Hope you're having a good Saturday. If I don't break the camera, I may post a few of the photos here to see if there are any good ones to use.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Okay, I'm still floating from my poetry news yesterday. A few of you may have received odd emails from me between 2-4:30 am in the morning because yes, I was awake.
Apparently, good news creates adrenalin in me causing me not to be able to sleep. I usually deal with bad stress by taking a nap as sleeping is my defensive mechanism, however it seems good news keeps me up. Who knew?
There were so many weird synchronicities about this news. Jeannine was ready to call me at 9 am yesterday to tell me she had a dream I won a book prize. My friend A, when returning my call said, "You won a book prize, didn't you?" The request to the universe thing. The odd coincidences that have been happening in my life. And what is great is that it was still a huge surprise to me.
And what has been incredible wonderful is all the emails, facebook notes, comments, phone calls of people calling to say, Congratulations. I am overwhelmed and touched at the generosity of you all and really so appreciative of all the support from both poets and not-poets!
Anyway, I don't want to turn this into a virtual Oscar speech, but I do want to make sure you know how much I appreciate the good wishes and support. It is inspiring to me as a writer and I am saving all your notes, messages, comments, voicemails, so I can return to them when the news isn't so good and I am feeling like a 1) fraud 2) loser 3) wannabe 4) funkmaster K 5) rejected poet.
But I am trying to keep this "I can't believe I won" feeling going for a bit. I'm kind of enjoying it. A lot.
* * *
I've been hating putting ziplock bags in my daughter's lunch because they just end up in the landfills, but I needed something to hold her crackers, sandwich, etc. I was tired of the reusable cheapy plastic containers and lately have just wanted to move away from plastic.
I found these on eBay and they are wonderful! What makes them so great is they are made by a mom and she also didn't want to use a plastic on the inside so she found a thicker cotton so they have no BPAs or plastic worries as they are 100% cotton.
If they get dirty, I just handwash them when I do my dishes and they dry overnight. But with crackers and dry snacks they are fantastic. Anyway, I know there are a lot of parents that read this blog, and I thought now that the school year's started, you too might be looking for something that's not plastic baggie.
Here's the link to them on eBay. They are $15 for 3 nice sized bags plus $5 shipping (she's in Canada).
Anyway, I've been doing my best to try to support individuals (artists, writers, moms, dads, freelancers, entrepreneurs, small presses, etc) with my business instead of big corporations especially during these harder economic times, so I thought I'd share this.
As the holidays come closer, I'm sure there will be more of my "favorite things" showing up this blog and many poetry related one too.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
That was Wednesday.
Today when I was at my art class making a collage the editor from White Pine Press called. It was the day I forgot my cellphone. It was the day I was ridiculous hungry and had eaten too many coconut macaroons.
When I got home, I called. Dennis the editor said, "Well, you have to change your webpage." I said, "I do?" "Yes," he said, "as you're the new White Pine Poetry Book Prize winner." Things went hazy. I was quiet. I said, "I'm overwhelmed." I said, "Thank you."
I think there was a part of me that thought it wasn't happening. I was in my first lucid dream and this is what I created.
He told me Carl Dennis (Pulitzer Prize winner, Carl Dennis!) was the judge. He said, "Headshot, bio, manuscript." I took notes.
He said, "Your book will be published in the fall of 2010."
He was kind. I was shaking. He said, "A lot of people are overwhelmed." I said, "I'm not normally this quiet." Or maybe I didn't say that. Maybe I just thought that.
Since then, a daze. A daze of Facebook messages and lovely notes from friends. A daze of support and friendship. And then Carl Dennis wrote me an email. Floating. There is no other way to say it.
My manuscript LETTERS FROM THE EMILY DICKINSON ROOM will be published in Fall 2010 by White Pine Press.
What can I say? I don't get this kind of news every day.
My thoughts to you as poets? Keep trying. I can't tell you how many contests I've entered-- many. I can't tell you how often I've been discouraged. Often. I can't tell you how many times I thought I'd always be a finalist. Always.
But yes, I'm happy. Very poetry-filled and happy.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Shared via AddThis
If you have 29 minutes to take in poems, listen or watch this.
I have Tracy's book's Duende and it's wonderful. It was even better to hear her read her poems.
* * *
I have currently made a request to the universe, I will tell you if it is granted.
* * *
In the last week I have received rejections from -
The Paris Review
The Kenyon Review
this year's Artist Trust Fellowship
* * *
As for good news, I had fresh chocolate chip cookies last night and my mum made me and my daughter a pumpkin pie.
* * *
To see what the new issue of Crab Creek Review looks like, go here. Annette & I spent the evening sending out copies to our contributor's and subscribers. You should get them in a few days (we send them out media mail.)
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009
It's that time when I tell you what I've done this last week that maybe I shouldn't have done, or maybe I shouldn't have thought, or maybe if there wasn't confession Tuesday I'd have no reason to tell you these things...
Let's begin. To the confessional--
I confess I want to find the person who came up with the idea to put the arrow on the gas gauge to tell the driver what side of the car the gas cap is on because that person has kept me sane. S/he would probably be on my list for a genius grant.
One of my favorite expressions my mum uses while driving is, "Come on, Jerko."
When I'm annoyed with someone while driving I say, "Come on, Little Man." I changed "jerko" it a bit since my daughter was younger.
Speaking of my daughter, yesterday she saw someone (a possibly-unhealthy, quite thin, waif-model-like woman) with really skinny legs and said, "She has skinny legs, not like curvy strong muscly legs like me. I bet she wishes she had my legs!" Having grown up in a family of women who spent my entire childhood complaining about their curvy bodies, always wanting to be ultra thin, never appreciating how they look or how we look, I had this glimpse that we're so close to breaking this unwanted family tradition and actually feeling good about our bodies. If we can raise one generation who doesn't wish to look like someone we're not then I feel we've succeed a bit.
After she said this I did have to have the conversation that women come in all different sizes and it's okay for a person to be super skinny if that's their body type. But I smiled all the way through it thinking, "She didn't want to be her, she doesn't want to be her!"
* * *
I don't think I'd be able to be happy without some sort of pet in the house with me. And maybe happy isn't the right word, but sane.
* * *
I believe in synchronicity and serendipity. I think coincidences are easy-to-overlook miracles. I have been trying to keep track of the synchronicities in my life.
I will quote St. Elmo's Fire to finish this confession, "I'm beginning to think there are no accidents” Ally Sheedy. I confess I have always remembered that line from St. Elmo's Fire.
* * *
I confess most of my dreams have to do with Halloween (even when it's not autumn, this is a constant theme in my dreams), being on a cruise ship or airplane, and/or buying a house. In my twenties all my dreams were about parking garages. I am so glad I am past that. I love having it be Halloween in all my dreams, though I hate the anxiety when I realize it's Halloween and I don't have a costume, haven't decorated, or forgot to take my daughter trick or treating.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Jay Bates interviewing me & Annette Spaulding-Convy
We had an incredible reading last night!
Joannie Stangeland, Ann Batchelor Hursey, Kate Lebo & Madeline DeFrees who read poems and was also interviewed by Anne McDuffie.
I'm not much for poetry contests that just involve poems, but I like this one for 2 reasons--
1) I support a River and Sound Review as one of my favorite reading series and now journal and I believe a reader/writer it's part of my responsibility to support organizations I admire
2) $500 is a great prize, plus it's a good opportunity to showcase your work and yourself as poet (you get to be featured in his show).
Anyway, if you're interested, here are the details. Good luck!
The reading period for A River & Sound Review's 2009 Poetry Contest -- The Duckabush Prize for Poetry -- is open from August 1 – October 31, 2009. First place prize will be $500, plus a featured spot on a future RSR Live Production and publication in an upcoming issue of our journal.
Final judge for this contest is Judith Kitchen (right). She writes poetry reviews for The Georgia Review and has recently edited with Ted Kooser (former U.S. Poet Laureate) an anthology of bird poems--The Poets Guide to the Birds (Anhinga Press). She has served as judge for many writing awards, including the Pushcart Prize for poetry, the Theodore Roethke Prize, the Anhinga Prize, and the AWP Nonfiction Award.
For more info on how to enter, visit http://www.riverandsoundreview.org/contests/contests.htm.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
I'll be trying out some new banners this week. I kind of like the banner I just did except for the advertisements from the place I created it on, but I guess that's fair.
I hope these changes don't bother your viewing pleasure, if they do, drop me a line. I just had to get rid of the giant smoking woman. I loved her, but she was enormous.
* * *
Keywords: Patience, Woman at Work
I came home last night to find the nicest email from a graphic design student in California named Laura Burk. She is studying graphic designer and 3-D animation and her class was given an assignment to "illustrate a poem."
With the luck of Google, she stumbled across my work and my poem Half-Moon Couple that was published on the Adirondack Review many moons ago--2002? 2003?
She felt inspired and create the above image after reading it. Personally, I'm truly amazed by it and absolutely the depth to it.
If I ever forgot what I love about poetry, this is it.
Seven years later, my Half-Moon Couple inspires another artist who creates this incredible artwork. Maybe someone reading this today will see her work and be inspired to write a poem. You never know what your poem is going to do when you send it out into the universe and you shouldn't. Poems should just be free to live without you and your worry about final outcome, what happens could just surprise you.
Here's my poem, published on Adirondack Review many moons ago that Laura created her artwork from:
after the lithograph by Marc Chagall
While I am two parts: hands
and veil, you are mostly suit.
Somehow, there is enough sage
between us, sticks of lavender, stems
of this canoe. Forget that I am drawn
out of troubles, that love
anchors itself to certain beds. I am praying
for a paler sun, a simple wedding
band without stars, longer arms to pull you
The moon holds us in its boat
again and again; I will forgive,
you will apologize and night
won't seem as bad as when we both sleep
in our own half-rooms, half-lives,
our half-joys illuminating only part of the sky.
By the way, you can visit Laura Burk's website here and see other artwork she created. Plus she's available for hire if you need any graphic designer work.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Join us at Seattle's Richard Hugo House at 7 p.m. on October 8th for the River & Sound Review Radio show / Crab Creek Review reading featuring:
Madeline DeFrees & Anne McDuffie
Ann Batchelor Hursey
Admission is free and the new issue of Crab Creek Review will available for $8.
The Hugo House Cafe will be open with drinks and snacks for your convenience.
Jay Bates will be doing an incredible radio show!
Looking forward to seeing you there!
I know change is hard, but I'd be interested in knowing if I changed anything on this blog, what would you like to see? And what do you think about the faux-Anne?
I'm open to banner suggestions. I am a basic blogger who tries to do her best with limited knowledge and resources, but I am open to learning more.
I'd love any comments or ideas for this blog and of course, topic ideas are always welcome...
Sometimes I say yes because I don't want to let the person down.
Sometimes I say yes because of ego.
Sometimes I say yes because at first thought, it sounds wonderful!
Sometimes I say yes because I really think I have the time.
Sometimes I say yes because I really think I can do it all.
Here's a great blog post from Tim Ferriss's blog (he's the author of the The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
It talks about Edmund Wilson's Decline Letter and asks the question: How much more could you get done if you eliminated even one type of request?
This is from Tim's Blog--
Edmund Wilson, recipient of both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal for Literature, was one of the most prominent social and literary critics of the 20th century.
He realized, like most uber-productive people, that, while there were many behaviors needed to guarantee high output, there was one single behavior guaranteed to prevent all output:
Trying to please everyone.
He had a low tolerance for distraction and shunned undue public acclaim. To almost all inquiries, he would respond with the following list, putting a check mark next to what had been requested…
Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him without compensation to:
contribute to books or periodicals
do editorial work
judge literary contests
make after-dinner speeches
Under any circumstances to:
contribute to or take part in symposiums
take part in chain-poems or other collective compositions
contribute manuscripts for sales
donate copies of his books to libraries
autograph books for strangers
supply personal information about himself
supply photographs of himself
allow his name to be used on letter-heads
receive unknown persons who have no apparent business with him.
I thought it was pretty interesting and a little amusing. (Though a little tough guy attitude with the no autograph books for strangers, I think that's bad manners myself.)
A long time ago I said I'd say yes to the things that have to do with poetry and family. But I've expanded that, now say yes to things that get me outside and moving, as well as good times with friends. And it's not that I wasn't seeing my friends, but my priorities were family and poetry. Now with a little more time because I'm out of grad school, I have a little (a lot) more social time.
So much of life comes down to our choices, intentional or not, we are constantly carving out the path in front of us. It's always interesting to see where we end up.
* * *
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
(maybe that can be the title for one of your writing prompts)
Again, from the roadside shrine, Union, WA
Forgive me, when I read January's confessions I thought they were mine.
I've a lot to confess, I better get started.
To the confessional--
The Future Self I Don't Want To Be--
I was annoyed with a male poet at a reading recently. I want to say more, but let's just say it brought out insecurities in myself. I don't want to be reading the same poems 10 years from now.
The Ying & the Yang
Sometimes I don't understand why a bad day always has to mess up a string of good days. And why the bad day always feels more intense than the good days ever did. Or maybe I'm forgetting how happy I was.
I rode my first organized bike ride/race. 34 miles in 3 hours (including breaks). I felt a satisfaction afterwards and I finally understood why people do such things (i.e. triathlons, marathons, etc.) It was the first time I ever put slicks on my mountain bike and did a road ride that long. I think I felt powerful in a new way.
This week I did something really petty and I thought I would remember it to tell you today. I thought, "Yes, this is definitely a confession that shows my shallowness." Of course, I forgot. Just trust me, I am flawed and shallow. And I guess you can add absent-minded as I can't remember what I did.
I learned there was a dream home for sale in my community. I couldn't afford it, but went to look at it anyway this morning because I'm a dreamer that way. When I arrived, I learned it was a friend's home. Her and her family have to sell it because of financial difficulties. They've had this dream home for over 20 years and have been raising their kids in it. I felt so terrible to learn they can no longer keep it, I have spent the whole day close to tears. There is a part of me that knows this could be any of us. There are a thousand more words I want to write here, but I'll end with these- survive, loss.
There are good people everywhere. We just don't always hear about them.
Quote of the week--
A good friend told me this recently--
"Attachment causes fatigue." Gawd, I agree to that!
I confess after 3 really good days (one that was my 16th year wedding anniversary), today wasn't my best day. Still, I am thankful for what I have.
* * *
Friday, October 02, 2009
I've been thinking about how much creativity surrounds us as kids and how much we embrace it growing up. We not only color with crayons, but we melt them in the driveway to see what happens.
But as the older us appears, these experiments become lost in the world of jobs and mortgages. We are no longer the demon girl in braids and bows with our box of crayolas, but the ice prince or princess in our four-door sedan with our pennies, dimes, and nickels sorted out in our change holder.
This summer, I did a lot of physical outside stuff-- mountain biking, camping, hiking, gardening, kayaking, flipping over while kayaking, swimming--and it's been harder to get back into writing this fall. I think this happens with our creativity as we grow up, we forget to use it. We begin to buy what's in-style to fit in. We look, speak, move like the people around us. We forgot to practice our creativity, but instead life becomes about fitting in, being liked, getting a job, paying bills. Not being ourselves, but being like everyone else.
For the last 7 years, I've been on a different path and sometimes it's hard. I don't have the standard line to tell people when they ask what I do. If you ask what I do, please be ready to spend at least 5 minutes with me to go deeper, because I don't have a one sentence summary. I'm not sure I ever will.
So in certain ways, I'm very creative, but in other ways, color me vanilla. I am thinking about how to look at the world differently to find and follow my own vision of what's right. To make my own path, not follow a path. And to make sure I'm thinking for myself and not just going along with the crowd.
And this is where my writing practice comes in, when I'm not writing, I tend to lose that creative part that I value so highly. I not only don't experiment with words, but I don't experiment with life.
Writing is Healthy Fun, the ad should say. Any time of creating. We become small gods when we bring something new into the world. So today, I'm asking myself how I fit in and how I don't and to make sure my choices are intentional and not just because I wasn't paying attention. What can you notice today that you haven't before?
While brushing my teeth, I realized Tartar control can be RatRat control if you read "tartar" backwards. It's small, but it made my morning routine slightly more interesting and fresh today.
What can you see differently in the world today?
* * *
Thursday, October 01, 2009
While reviews of books that I'm reading will still end up here, my very favorite books will also appear on Book Harvest. Also, I may have some other things over there or perhaps, a more thorough review, but you will still get my What I'm Reading at Book of Kells.
I decided to create this blog because more and more people have been asking me to review their books and I think it's important for good books to be highlighted and I didn't want them getting lost here between confessions and my writing life.
Because they are the books that I find incredible to read, you will probably see mostly memoir, creative non-fiction, non-fiction, and poetry on my Book Harvest blog. If you see a fiction book, then know that it's a fantastic book because I am most critical when it comes to fiction.
Also, not all books that I get to review will end up there, only my favorites, or as I said, "The Best of the Crop." I will post all books I read here, but only my favorites will end up there. Sometimes these books will come from the books I receive to reviews, sometimes they will be the books I find on my own. But they will only be my overall favorites, so please don't feel bad if you send me a book to review and it doesn't end up there. Know that as a writer, editor, and poet, I am a ridiculously picky reader and only have so much time, so I won't be able to include all books on Book Harvest. Also, because I've separated this blog out, I only want to put my favorite books there so you and others can trust these are good books to buy or check out from the library.
But I'm happy to mention your book on Book of Kells, so if you want to send me a copy to mention, email me at kelli (a) agodon.com and I'll send you my mailing address.
So there's the scoop on my new blog...now back to my own writing already in progress.
* * *
Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a Midlife Crisis (Seal Press)
by Amy Ferris
***I started this last night and I am loving it...
Then, Something: Poems (Tupelo Press)
by Patricia Fargnoli
Pat is a favorite poet of mine. I've already enjoyed quite a few poems as I did the casual "browse" of the collection and so far, so good! I am looking forward to reading this cover to cover. I am pretty sure this will be on my highly recommended list.
Mister Skylight (Copper Canyon Press)
by Ed Skoog
***I have to admit, I'm not familiar with Ed's work, but I know was the poet-in-residence at Richard Hugo House, so I'm curious to see what has to offer. So more on this soon!
And I was just contacted by the folks who published Freakomics (one of my favorite books) and there's a SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
(published by William Morrow) coming out on October 20th, 2009!
Nin Andrews recommended it to me this year, and it was a great read, so I'm looking forward to this new "Super" version.
* * *
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