Monday, May 31, 2010

Tips on Proofing Your Manuscript

(Above image is part of T.S. Eliot's poem "The Wasteland" with edits/suggestions from his friend Erza Pound.)

I've spent the last month doing the first major proof of my manuscript for the publisher.  And since I know many of you who read this blog also write, publish, and submit, below are a few tips I realized over the past month.

If you skip through this entire list, please read #7 if you are currently submitting your manuscript.  Had I done #7, I would have saved myself a lot of headache!

Advice for proofing your manuscript--

1) Point to each word and read each word out loud.

***Because we know our own work so well, it's very easy to actually be *reciting* our poems from memory rather than reading them.  I find putting my pencil down on every word so I say it helps me most.  It takes longer and I feel foolish doing it, but this has been the way I've caught most of my mistakes.

Note:  I do this when no one is home because I feel so ridiculous, but I tell you, it works.

2)  Have a friend (or friends) proof your manuscript as well.

***What is interesting about this is that each person has a different strength.  One person will catch spacing issues, another is very tuned into hyphenated words and misspellings.   One friend notices size of font and consistencies.  Each person tends to find something that someone (including myself!) may have missed.

3)  Find a friend and give him the Table of Contents and you hold your manuscript and read off EACH title to make sure they are consistent.  Then switch roles--you read the Table of Contents and have him read off the titles in your manuscript.

***It's amazing how capitalization and words change in the Table of Contents.  Make sure all your titles are consistent.

4)  Do this same thing for your acknowledgment page!

***This was a surprise for me as I found there were poems listed in my acknowledgments page that were no longer in the manuscript!  Oops.

5)  Keep a notebook and pen by your side as you proof of things you want to research or possible corrections you aren't sure of.

***For example, as I proofed I wrote in my notebook, "Does eighty-million have a hyphen in it?"  "Shoe boot - one or two words?"  "Etch-a-Sketch - hyphens or not?"

I didn't want to stop proofing to check on all these possible errors as they appeared, but I also didn't want to forget them.

6)  Break your manuscript up into 3, 4, or 5 sections depending on your ability to focus and proof them separately.  Don't attempt to proof your mss all in one sitting.

***I say this because I found that by the time I got to the end, I was tired and  just wanting this task to end.  When I broke it up into smaller sections, it was so much easier to stay focused.

7)  Use SPACES instead of TAB STOPS when formatting your work in MS Word before you submit it to a publisher.

***This is advice for BEFORE you submit your manuscript, but it was so huge learning this I thought I would share it--

I just learned this and WISH I had done to my manuscript because the biggest issue in my manuscript proof right now are problems with the form of the poems.

I learned from a friend this weekend that when you move a poem (or mss) from MS Word to InDesign or other publishing applications, many times it DOES NOT read TABS correctly.  But if you use spaces instead of tabs, it will usually read those exactly correct.


Final thoughts:

I'm amazed that I sent this manuscript out for a couple years with errors in it.  It kind of sickens me to know that, but I am human and (as well as a poet), and it's hard to proof our own work.

If you can find all your errors BEFORE it falls into the hands of your publisher, it is better.  You'll have much less to worry about when the actual proofing for your book happens.

Happy Memorial Day

In Memory of my Father, Gale A. Russell, Navy, WWII
and my step-father
Bert Baker, Air Force, WWII, POW


I love this photo of my dad as a young man in the Navy, his blue eyes and dark auburn hair.  I always wonder what he was thinking about then.  I will never know, but I love that he looks happy.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gratitude Journal

1)  Jelly Bellies (artwork by Jelly Bellies above)

2)  The black mama bear with her cubs in our community

3)  My betta fish

4)  Jasmine rice with raisins, curry, and cumin

5)  New books of poems I haven't read yet

6)  To do lists (so I don't forget what I need to do)

7)  Three day weekends!

8)  Lazy days

9)  Almost being done with the first proof of my manuscript

10)  Kindness, compassion

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Food Reading: Skagit River Poetry Festival

Tim McNulty, Lorna Crozier, Matthew Dickman, & Susan Rich 

This was one of my favorite readings at Skagit.  The theme was food (it was called Oranges and Cabbages, Celery and Beets).

The reading started well with Matthew Dickman saying something about when he heard the title of this reading, he assumed it was a metaphor for sex.  He was very engaging as a reader and I appreciated his poems ever more after hearing them read.

Lorna Crozier read some of her poems from The Sex Lives of Vegetables, which had the audience laughing intensely!

When it was Susan Rich's turn to read she said, "Some poets have fruits & vegetables and go to sex, I have fruits and vegetables and go to war."  She read one of my favorite poems, a ghazal, which talks about the tomato being called "Paradise" (Paradajz) in Bosnian.

The audience really responded to these 4 poets and I liked how they read.  They each read for about 15 minutes each, then each came up to do one more "encore" poem.  

Afterwards, I asked Matthew Dickman to sign my copy of his book.  He was the poet that was so kind and attentive when I asked.  

Many times you ask a poet to sign your book and they are looking for someone else in the room--another famous poet, the cute girl in the black boots, someone more important than yourself.  But Matthew didn't do this and I noticed it just wasn't for me.  With whoever he was speaking with, he was fully present and gracious.  

Susan and I walked back to the main hall and on our way back met a friendly cat and I photographed an old man in his garden, though the photo didn't come out.

I walked with Susan feeling inspired to create and wanting to write.  This is how you know it was a good reading, when the poets inspire you to write.  And they did.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Some Favorite Poet Portraits from the 2010 Skagit River Poetry Festival

Here are some of my favorite (iPhone) portraits from the festival.  I included at least one book by each poet in case you were interested in what they've written.

Terrance Hayes, Author of Lighthead  & Hip Logic

Peter Pereira, Author of Saying the World

Thursday, May 27, 2010

People in Our Neighborhood Blog Links...

I have been trying to clean up my blog little by little and my next project is the "People in my Neighborhood" Links section (which is in the left column and down a bit).  I have a lot of out-of-date, non-working blog links, missing bloggers and whatnot, so I plan on cleaning that up in the next week or so.

Right now, it's very mishmash.  I realize a lot of the blogs I read regularly aren't even listed (sorry about that!) and there are blog links that lead to nothing (again, sorry).

If you have a blog and want it listed in my links, please leave me a comment in this post with your name (your real name, pls.), your blog's name, & the blog link and I'll link you up.    Or if your blog is there, but my link is incorrect, please let me know that as well.

Hope to have this blog happy and clean soon.  Okay, it is happy, but I'd like to continue tidying it up so it's also happy on the eyes and clicks.

What TO DO When Giving a Poetry Reading--

So here's some notes I took at the Skagit Poetry Festival on what TO DO when giving a poetry reading--

What To Do When Giving a Poetry Reading

1)  Leave the audience wanting more!

(If someone comes up to you after the reading and says, "Oh, I wish you would have read 1 or 2 more poems" then congratulations! you were a success!)

2)  Read a variety of poems that you feel the audience would connect with.

3)  Allow for that space/quiet after reading your poem or while reading.  There is no need to fill every moment with your voice.  Let the audience absorb what you've just said before you go on.

4)  DO check your watch and rely on yourself (not others) for how much time you have left.

5)  Stay within or under your time limit.

6)  Do remember that your job is too keep the audience interested and with you, not just to read your work.

7)  Do choose work that people understand by listening and do not need to have in front of them to understand.  And if they do need to have the poem in front of them to understand, make copies for them.

8)  Do be self-aware.

Listen and watch for cues from your audience-- are they shifting in their seats, are they muttering to their neighbor?  --or-- Are they breathing with you, acknowledging stronger poems with body language and/or voice/applause?

9)  Give them something to take away  - this does not need to be a physical gift, but ask yourself, What am I giving my audience to think about during this reading?   What will they take away from this?

10)  Do stay on theme or topic, and if there is no theme or topic, maybe create one for yourself.  It's much more interesting for the audience when things tie together and the reading feels thoughtful and planned.

11)  Do be yourself and don't feel you need to create a persona of what you think a poet is.  A poet is you.  You can wear Gap clothes or dress in vintage.  You can be highly articulate or more slangy.  There is no wrong way to be a poet, but present your best self (as Oprah would say) to the audience.

12)  Be honest and open.  If you're nervous, say so.  If you're happy, sad, if there's something you want them to get out of your reading or listen for, tell them.  Connect with your audience.

13)  Do remember the audience is there because they want to support you (not scare you or bring you down).  You are one side, they are the other and the poems are the bridge.  Allow them to meet you in the middle and it will be a good reading.

14)  Afterwards, if someone wants you to sign your book for them.  Look them directly in the eye and sincerely say thank you.  Give them your time for that moment, make them feel as if they are the most important person in the world.

At the Skagit festival, I had 5 poets sign my book-- Two of the poets I knew and were friends with, but 3 I didn't.  Of those three, one made me feel this way.  The other two were truly polite and wonderful, but only one poet completely directed his attention to me (and I saw him do this to other audience members when they had them sign his book) and it was truly something I appreciated and will remember.

(More on who that was in a later post...)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fresh air :: Terry Gross
Bodyguard :: Whitney Houston
Wedding :: Date
Remind :: Me
Wicked :: Musical
Crawling :: babies
Gasoline :: Can
Anyone :: Everyone
Dancing :: In the dark
Wall :: Pink Floyd

Location:Word Associations

Breaking News! Congrats January & Pat!

Foreward Poetry Book of the Year

Gold: I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman by Jude Nutter
Silver: Then, Something by Patricia Fargnoli
Bronze: Underlife by January Gill O'Neil

What Not To Do When Giving A Reading--

Here is a list of things I wrote down to remind myself what not to do when giving a poetry reading.

(Tomorrow I'll post my What To Do at Poetry Readings list)

What NOT to do at Poetry Readings--

1)  Don't read too much or go over your time.

2)  Don't laugh at your own jokes.

3)  Don't try to be too cute even if you are too cute.

4)  Don't assume this is your only chance to read and you'll never have an opportunity like this again as you will end up squeezing way too much into your time and/or refuse to leave the stage.

5) If there's a theme or subject to reading (i.e.  Poems About the War), don't read poems about penguins, unless those penguins are in the war.

6)  Don't read too many poems about your kids (even as a parent/mother, I started to find this a little annoying)

7)  Don't have nervous laughter, even if you're nervous. Nervous crying is better than nervous laughter.

8)  Don't believe that your job is just to read your poems, it's not-- it's to connect with your audience and let them leave with something that's more than how wonderful you are (or I am).

9)  Don't believe you're all that and a book of poems.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

People in Our Neighborhood

Here are some interesting things happening in the blogworld--

Here are some notes from Midge Raymond's blog about Day 1 of the Richard Hugo House's first ever writer's conference called "Finding Your Readers."

It was a two day conference, I hear she will also be posting Day 2 as well.


If you love quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah"), here is a recipe incredible Southwestern Quinoa Salad on Maya Made


January O'Neil has some interesting visuals on how we read when we read on the internet.  This seems as if it would be quite useful to anyone who is trying to create a website.  She also has some good suggestions on how to write when writing online.


Rowdy Kittens has some good ideas on How To Achieve Your Dreams.  I also create a yearly vision map (a few friends and I have do this every January and have since 2000-- Of course, until these past couple years, we didn't really have the lingo of "vision map/board" --, we've called it "Poster night" since I can remember).

Three main things she suggests to achieve your dreams:

  • Believing in yourself.
  • Mapping your dreams.
  • And taking small action steps everyday.
I'd like to also add-- be persistent, trust yourself, and follow your own path (and don't freak out if you one of those kids who is doing her own thing).


Martha Silano has some fantastic thoughts on how to have the best poetry reading, which is more of everything else and less reading!


Video of Jeannine Hall Gailey reading her poems at the 14 Hills reading.

Confession Tuesday - Sunrise Edition

Dear Reader, it's been one full week and many poets since my last confession.

My mind feels empty, but I'm sure there are things to confess.  Where to begin, where to begin?

To the confessional--

No matter what I'm doing, there's this heavy feel in my gut that says to me every day, "Millions of gallons of oil is being dumped into the sea and there is nothing you can do about it."


Every day I try to find a bit of hope in the herons that line our shoreline knowing their safety, health, and lifespan is just a matter of geography.


I confess my favorite things in life all have heartbeats.


I confess every day go from believing I have it all together to believing I have no idea what I'm doing.  I tend to think I'm somewhere in the middle, but on the worst days it feels as if I'm balancing a little over the edge or on the best days--there is no edge.


I confess that more and more I'm reminded that we need just enough money to be comfortable, warm & well fed because as the proverb says, "If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can't buy."

It's easy to forget this in a culture that makes you believe you are less of a person because of what material goods you don't have.  You are not.  We are not.


I laugh when people say, "We're killing the earth" because the earth can get allow just fine (probably better) without all us humans screwing things up.  We're not killing the earth, we're killing ourselves.


I confess when I was at the bookstore and saw this quote I wrote it down:

"The Universe is friendly and life is on your side."

If this wasn't so long, I'd get it as a tattoo on my arm for a gentle reminder.


I confess I don't have any tattoos, but have thought about getting a wedding ring tattoo because I dislike wearing jewelry.

Of course, my friend who watches one of those Housewives of New Jersey/Orange County shows told me whenever someone gets a wedding ring tattoo, the marriage usually ends a few episodes later.  I try to remind myself I am not a reality TV star (though I play one in real life).


I confess I took a photo of the sunrise this morning because it was one of those perfect "God Exists" sunrises that is straight from the illustrated Bible books I used to have as a child.  I know how hilarious it is to believe I can capture the incredibleness of a sunrise or a moment in a photo, but I tried.  Or maybe I tried to capture God and the belief in this oil-spilled world that there is something good out there for us.


Skagit Poetry Festival

What a weekend!

I'm back from the Skagit Poetry Festival in La Conner, Washington.

The town of La Conner is ridiculously idyllic with its waterfront, small town feel, antique shops, wild turkeys roaming the streets (no, not the poets, but actual wild turkeys).  You walk from one event to another, passing one poet and other.

If you've never gone to the festival, I can only describe it as magical.

From what I hear, it's not at all as big as the Dodge Festival in New Jersey, but I think it's smaller size helps create that magical feeling.  Throughout the event, the poets are approachable and available to talk with.  I never felt overwhelmed (a feeling I've gotten at other larger events such as the AWP, etc.) and because of the size, the festival has an intimacy to it that we rarely get to experience as readers, poets, and poetry lovers.

I am someone who believes there are certain things that need to be documented.  For me, this festival is one of them.  Look at the list of some of the poets who were there--Sherman Alexie, Ted Kooser, Terrance Hayes, Alicia Ostriker, the Dickman Brothers--along with our own wonderful selection of Northwest poets-- Susan Rich, Nancy Pagh, Elizabeth Austen, Jim Bertolino, Sam Green.

With my trusty iPhone, I snapped moments I wanted to remember--  Lorna Crozier reading about the sex lives of vegetables, Ted Kooser "backstage" before his big reading, Terrance Hayes at the workshop he taught, Susan Rich with a random friendly cat that approached us after a poetry reading.

I know poetry is overlooked in much of our culture and community, and honestly, that's okay.  I know many of us live busy lives, but for me, these moments to see and speak to the poets who I admire bring me something satisfying that I don't always get in my every day life.

Though truth be told, when I really like a poet, I become ridiculously shy (um, I didn't speak for 90 minutes in the Terrance Hayes workshop then stood up and knocked the dried palm leaves off the crucifix. Smooth.)  But occasionally, I do approach a poet to sign a book or say hello.  And these brief moments matter to me.

So for this next week, I'll be blogging about my notes and some photos I took so you too can experience a little bit what I did.

I am so thankful I live in the region where this takes place.  

Monday, May 24, 2010

More Skagit Poetry Festival Highlights...

Check out this blog by Alexander Kramer for some insight to what one of the high school sessions (featuring Ted Kooser, Terrance Hayes, Matthew Dickman and Valzhyna Mort).

Some notes from his blog, but there are more on all the poets that read if you're interested--

Terrance Hayes:
He explained that lying is fun, especially in fiction like poetry. Even though most people think poems are autobiographical, he said poets just make stuff up. "If you're boring you gotta make stuff up."

His poem Shakur was about this story he heard from one of his friends in Nebraska, "probably the only black man in Nebraska. I don't remember his name, but you probably know who I'm talking about," he said to Kooser. The story behind the poem was about these kids that got high on meth, drove out during a snowstorm, and died from exposure when they decided to take a nap in the car.

"I heard this story, and I was wondering what music they were listening to as they froze to death out there," said Terrance. "Turns out, they were listening to Tupac Shakur; thus the name." In the poem, there's a line about "the drugs that made them think they were warm enough to chill."


Anyway, great notes on Alexander's blog about a session that many of us (since we're not high schoolers) couldn't attend.

Skagit Poetry Festival - 5/22/10: Elizabeth Austen Interviews Robert Wrigley & Terrance Hayes...

Below are my notes from interview of poets Terrance Hayes & Robert Wrigley by Elizabeth Austen (author of The Girl Who Goes Alone).  If something is in quotes, it is a direct quote from the poet or Elizabeth.  If you see anything in brackets [ ], it's just to help you know what something is in reference to and/or to complete the sentence so it's in context.

I think that is about all you need to know.

Here are the details--

I arrived at 9:20 am to the NW Museum of Art where Elizabeth Austen was interviewing 2 very well-known poets, Robert Wrigley and Terrance Hayes.  I like Robert Wrigley, but I am there to see Terrance Hayes as I love his book Hip Logic and he's one of my favorite poets.

Elizabeth begins by saying she has never interviewed 2 poets at the same time before, but afterwards, we discuss that it worked out quite well.

While I know there was a lot going on at the festival, I felt a little bad for anyone who missed this session as it was one of my favorites.  Elizabeth did a great job of engaging both poets, connecting their work, and still allowing time for a poem or two to open up the discussion.

Terrance began by reading "Lighthead's Guide to the Galaxy," (from his new book Lighthead) which he called a "proem" (a pre-poem that comes before the section and all the poems in the book.  The poem was fantastic and made an incredible "proem" as it Elizabeth pointed out that it "prepares your ear for all the themes you'll hear later throughout the book."  Terrance said a lot of his book is about "getting older and still being a poet."  He also pointed out that his books get "stranger and stranger."

Elizabeth brought Robert Wrigley into the conversation who said he has been working on making "more complex books."   And in regards to his new book he said, "I do not care what any of the critics have to say, I'm also militarily uninterested."

He said that while he was in Italy (and I think it was the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy) in a place with many other artists from around the world that he realized, "the rest of the world was looking at us as Americans and wondering how our country had gone so insane...."   He said he set out to make a book that "captured our country."

Regarding writing, Terrance said, "I haven't finished a poem in a month, but this is a good time because I'm writing."

He said that he doesn't write poems to propel people into action but that they are an "investigation of one's [my] own poems are trying to move me into action."

In writing a poem, Terrance said that, "For me, the poem is always in charge."  He talked about changing facts, details, etc. to get to the "Truth" of a poem.  He said, "I think it's completely fine [to do that], but I know others don't..."

He also spoke about how much he loves music in his poems.  He said, "The real challenge for is not trying to sing all the time [in my poems]."  His advice to his students?  "There are as many ways to succeed [when writing a poem] as there are to fail."  I took this as meaning not to feel stuck into believing there is only one way to write a poem, there are many.

Wrigley quoted Richard Hugo about remembering your readers are smarter than you (the poet) and "you need to leave a certain amount of connecting to the reader."

I also loved what Wrigley said about what to do when you're stuck in a poem--

"I always tell my students that writing a poem is like making a quilt.  When you don't know what comes next, you go up to the beginning of the poem and pull something down, you make a stitch. . ."

I can't remember why he said this, but I wrote it down because I thought it was lovely--

"You look back at your own innocence and it's beautiful and pathetic."  I think it had to do with our lives growing up, but I can't quite remember.

Another quote in regards to how he writes:

"If I have a sound that I'm particularly fond of in the first line, I try to pick up that sound in the 3rd or 4th lines...sometimes that [a new word with that same sound] will surprise or challenge me."

He said, "You don't write poems because it's easy."

He also said, "We have to use the same language that memos are written in, that sale flyers are written in...we need to move towards music to reclaim it [our language]."

When Wrigley reads poems he says that you "take something from every poet you read that is useful to you."

Sometimes he plays his guitar if he's stuck on a poem because he "needs to have some other way to think about what I'm going to do."

In regards to what is wonderful about poetry (and not prose) he said, "we get to shape language; we get the right margin."

Other things I learned--

Terrance Hayes is also a visual artist and the images on all of his books were done by him.

He also said that he loves these "early moments" of his book because published and talking about them because it's exciting for him because these conversations help him learn more about his own work. He says he's always curious what readers get out of his poems and it allows him to see his own work in a new way.

Robert Wrigley's poem "Exxon" was originally taken by a smaller journal until his wife told him to send it to Paul Muldoon at the New Yorker where it was eventually published.  He also read the poem "Exxon," which is an incredible poem.

I think Elizabeth did an excellent job as an interviewer and her questions really opened up the conversation between these two.

She said that there were many common themes between their two books (Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems by Robert Wrigley & Terrance Hayes' Lighthead ), but both explore the question of "what does it mean to be a man?" along with other political and familial themes.

I left that discussion wishing it had been taped as I would listen to it again.  And again.

Crab Creek Review's Annual Poetry Contest (Deadline: May 31) Guest Judge: Nancy Pagh

It's not too late to late to get your entries in for our Crab Creek Review Poetry Contest.

A few things you may not know--

1)  We consider all poems submitted for our contest for publication.  Last year, we published about 10-12 poems from finalists and those poems are also considered for yearly Editors' Prize and Pushcart nominations.

2)  This contest helps keep our press afloat.  I hadn't realized that about contests, but as well as being a way to help promote poets, it's also helps us stay alive in the literary arts.

3)  The judge this year is Nancy Pagh (author of No Sweeter Fat) and she's awesome.

So thank you for your support of Crab Creek Review.  We so appreciate the support of poets and we hope we can help promote your work as well.

Here are the details--

Guidelines for Crab Creek Review's 2010 Poetry Contest

Entry Dates: Postmark deadline May 31, 2010 (actually, that is Memorial Day, so we will accept entries with a June 1st postmark...)

Submit up to 5 previously unpublished poems

Entry fee: $10, check payable to Crab Creek Review

Please include name, address, phone number, email, and a short bio in your cover letter

Simultaneous submissions acceptable when noted in cover letter, as long as we are notified immediately if the work is accepted elsewhere

Include a SASE for notification of results

Name and contact info should not appear on poems

No electronic submissions

Deadline for all submissions: May 31, 2010  (June 1st, 2010 postmark)

The winning poet will receive $200 and publication in CCR 2010 Vol. II

All entries will be considered for publication

Please mail all submissions to: Crab Creek Review Poetry Contest, c/o 7315 34th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98117

The winner will be determined by our guest judge, Nancy Pagh
(we ask that friends, associates, and students of the judge not submit to this contest)


Saturday, May 22, 2010

organization of a Creative Life... Part 2: Finding Your Way

I came across this great photo and quote in Real Simple magazine.  It reads, "One person's mess is merely another person's filing system."  (said my Margo Kaufman).

I cannot say how true that is and something I need to remind myself about, especially while having a smaller person in the house with me.  What I see as a mess, she sees as a creative project.

I think we all have our own creative projects that others see as "messes."  And in our own lives, we need to create our own filing systems and our own way of keeping track of things that we can keep up on.

For example, I used to track poetry submissions with an Excel spreadsheet and I hated the process of it.  Yes, it was accurate.   Yes, I could see sort it if needed, but oh, after spending a day on the computer, the last thing I wanted to do was type in poems I submitted!

I came up with another system for myself.  It's a little redundant, but for me, it's easy and doesn't require a computer.

I keep the titles of each of my finished poems on index cards.  I keep those in the back of an index file box on my desk.  When I want to submit poems, I browse through the stack of poems and set aside 3-5 of my favorite poems, ones I think the journal I'm submitting to will like.

Beneath the title of the poem on the index card, I write the journal I'm submitting to and the date.  Many of these poems have been submitted before so there are other journals above it with X's by them (it means they've been rejected) and dates (so I know not to submit the same poem to a journal that already rejected it).

Now before I file these index cards back in the box, I record the date & name of the magazine I submitted with the 3-5 poem titles below it in a journal I keep on my desk (this is the redundant part).  I do this so I can browse through my journal to see what magazines have my poems and what is in each batch.

Here's what my file box looks like.  I currently do not have many poems out, but promised a friend to have 4 submissions out by the end of the month (which I will do).

I know this is ridiculously old school, but I love it and it works for me.  Sometimes I'll even write the date of when I finished the poem in the upper right corner of the index file as it's interesting for me to see when it was written vs. how long until it gets published.

Duotrope has an online submission tracker that many poets us.  You have to be signed up with Duotrope to use it, but it's free.

I think the key to organizing the creative mind is to find what works for you, fine tune it, then follow through with it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Have a Read-In...

Snacks include:  Deviled eggs, sugarless gum, Jelly Bellies, red vines, yogurt with granola, apples with peanut butter

My daughter and I do this every so often and it's become one of my favorite (and hers!) thing to do and a great way to spend time with her.

We stole this idea from her school.  Basically, once or twice a year they have a "Read-In" where kids are asked to bring a book they want to bring along with a blanket, a stuffed toy and or/pillow along with a snack and they spend the morning reading together.  That's it.  There's no talking or drawing, no math, no work, just each class (from 1st grade through 5th) all reading.

I think it's the most wonderful idea.  To make reading fun (imagine!) and a reward for doing a good job at school.

The kids love it and so we've taken the idea into our home and will plan an after-school Read-in.  My daughter will usually say, "Let's have a Read-in tomorrow" and I'll say, "What would you like for your special treats?"  From there, it's just a quick shopping trip and a little prep before she gets home and Read-in begins.

Here are our traditions--

1) We get into our PJs or comfortable sweats or yoga pants.
2)  The snacks are placed on my favorite (and largest) tray and brought up to my bedroom.
3) The window is opened to hear the birds, blankets and pillows are added to the cozy bed

and we begin.

That's it.  We usually read together for about 2 hours until dinner (not that we're hungry after all our snacks.)

Her favorite special snack today is salt-water taffy and Jelly Bellies.
My favorite is Jelly Bellies and yogurt with granola.

This was from our last Read-in, but I mention this because we're having another tonight.

It's truly become one of my favorite things to do with my daughter.  Seeing her read (and taking on more challenging books) warms my heart in a way I never expected.

By the way, I wrote this post thinking about parents, but you could easily have a Read-In with your spouse, partner, friend, pets.  I think reading together is one of the sweetest things to do.  Yes, I do get all sugary-sweet about reading.  I'll try to be a little more hard-edged in a couple other posts to balance this out.

Happy Reading.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Organization of a Creative Life... Part 1: The Basics

I have heard that many people think that artist and writers are very disorganized and maybe some are, but I fall on the other end of that in many different ways. I'm a very Capricorn writer, which to me means organized and dedicated.

If you're not someone who loves organization, this blog post may bore you to tears, so please feel free to move along to something more interesting.  But as someone who actually enjoys being organized, I like to know how others do it, so below (besides some other Capricorn writers to prove I'm not alone) are some of the ways I stay organized.

Here are a few other Capricorns who are writers:

Bly, Robert (23 December)
Duffy, Carol Ann (23 December)
Kipling, Rudyard (30 December)
Lee, Stan (28 December)
London, Jack (12 January)
Miller, Henry (26 December)
Milne, A.A. (18 January)
Poe, Edgar Allan (19 January)
Salinger, J.D. (1 January)
Sandburg, Carl (6 January)
Stafford, William (17 January)
Tolkien, J.R.R. (3 January)

I also share a birthday with Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Kranz, and Dave Matthews.

For my personality, I dislike clutter and mess. I like lists, order, and plans.  Sometimes I rebel against this, but ultimately, I know, this is who I am.  It took me quite awhile to realize I could be an artistic person AND be organized. I always thought disorder and artistic/creative had to go hand-in-hand, but they don't.

My organization may not sound like a "normal" artist or writer, but for me to have that space to create, I need order.  And I believe in discipline, routine and habits (good habits, I should add).

Here are a few of the tools that allow me to keep order in my life so my creative life can flourish.

1) Google Calendar - I honestly would not be able to live without this. It keeps all my dates, appts, readings, schedule, writing times, in order so I don't have to worry about what I'm forgetting. It sends me reminders, puts my husband's and daughter's schedules in different colors so I know where everyone is. It is probably the best calendar I've used, plus it syncs with my Mac/iPhone.

2) AMPAD "The Organizer" - I've been using these since my first job in 1993 and I love these for keeping a main To-Do list.   Everything that comes to mind goes on this list.  I have each page organized into sections:  Home / Writing/ Crab Creek Review / Blog/ Creative/ My Book

This is my master To-Do list. I write everything on here so I don't forget (Have I mentioned I have a not-so-great memory, so this helps me live my life without feeling as if I've forgotten to something major).

I keep this list on my desk and about 3 times a week use it to fill out the daily book, which I use below...

3) The BusyBodyBook: While this book was designed for families so you could mark where everyone has planned each day, I used mine as a way to focus my Main To-Do list into 3-5 small tasks a day.

This book is great because I don't feel overwhelmed if for my daily To-Do I have "submit some poems," "Proof first section of book," and "Read fiction submissions."  That is doable.  My major to-do list can get a little large.  It was Tatyana Mishel who first clued me into do this.  She said, "Choose 1-3 things you can do each day and get done," that way I don't feel overwhelmed by the long list of chores.

I found this book online and love it. But you don't have to buy the book, the site provides free downloads of the pages to help organize your day.


These 3 items pretty much organize my daily/normal life so my creative life can thrive.  They allow me not to feel overwhelmed by the rest of the "stuff" that comes with life and to keep things in order so I can create.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Confession Tuesday -late night edition

It's confession time, that Tuesday where we share what's on our minds...

Here's what I'm thinking about this Tuesday evening. To the confessional--

I confess I'm feeling much better after that bump to the head. Emotionally, I lost it for a few days. I'm not one who likes to lose it. I hate crying in front of people as much I know holding it in is not good for your internal organs. Still, I've never liked to cry in front of anyone.

When I look back at why I was so emotional, I think I scared myself a bit. I had one of those "what if" moments about 3 hours later.

I confess that after the fall when I felt as if I was getting worse, I asked my friend to google Natasha Richardson. I wanted to see how long it was from when she hit her head until she was rushed to the hospital.

I confess I never really worried about bumps to the head until the Natasha Richardson story. And I confess a lot of other people told me they felt the same way after she died.

But the emotional aspect of the fall, that's what surprised me. But it's been 5 days and while my arm is still roughed up, I'm good. Very good.


I keep referring to the movie "Iron Man 2" as "Tron."


I have romanticized living in Seattle in a loft. I don't live in downtown, but occasionally think it would be a good time-- What I forgot was the part about worrying about your purse.

Things that people said to me last night--

From a man wearing "mom-jeans": Can I show you my pleasure? So how is your pleasure? (this comment made me feel yucky about the word pleasure. Thanks, mom-jeans man.)

From a homeless guy- Here comes a big beautiful woman. (note: when you compliment someone, try not to use the adjective "big")

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ira Glass talking about Creating with Good Taste

Here's a 5 minute video of a favorite guy of mine, Ira Glass, talking about how you have to create a lot of bad or mediocre stuff before you get good at anything and if you're passionate about what you're doing, keep going, don't give up.

That's the summary, but he says it in his cute way with the big glasses and examples.

It's about making podcasts or videocasts, but what he says can be applied to all genres.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Favorite TV Show... (in real time!)

The Eagles of Hornby Island

So Not Poetry in Motion...

I've been a little out of sorts recently.

Not Poetry in Motion--

On Thursday, I crashed after 15 miles of mountain biking, I rode out of the trails onto the main road and up to our truck.  My biking buddy had brought her dog (who we always bike with) and when he ran over to some other mt. bikers, I turned my head to make sure the dog was okay and that there wasn't any traffic. As I turned my head my bike's knobby tires grabbed the groove between concrete & gravel and I went down.

I had always imagined that if I ever feel while biking, I would have that moment of knowing where I could make sure I didn't hit my head, maybe even prevent it.  Nope.  It happened so fast, it was the sound of gravel, pavement on skin, head hitting the pavement.


I have photos of my injuries but I won't post them.

My friend called my husband's work (he's a firefighter).  My husband was out on a call so she talked with one of the medics about what to look for in a concussion.  Even while trying to get my balance back, I was amused when I heard her arguing with the medic.

The rest of Thursday is much of a blur for me.  Friday I woke up with a headache and a very sore neck/shoulder.  My left side is roadrash, bruises and bumps, but no broken bones.  Yesterday I felt much better and more like myself, but my left arm/elbow still aches.


1)  I am ridiculously thankful for my helmet which did its job perfectly!  I will *never* ride without a helmet, even in our small cul-de-sac because it's why they call it an "accident" because it isn't planned.

2)  I will definitely return to mountain biking (and hopefully soon), but that Craig's List road bike I was going to get is now on hold because pavement is hard, dirt is soft.

3)  You cannot lose focus when you are riding your bike even for a second.

4)  I'll be fine.  Maybe I'll confess on Tuesday more on how this hit me emotionally, but I'm good and feeling better-- a little scraped and bumped, but not broken.

5)  My husband ordered me a bike ID bracelet after my accident (because I couldn't remember anyone's phone number, my friend had to go onto my cellphone to call him).  The saying on it reads:  Ride Hard.  Write Hard.

Here's me before the accident-- happy and so unknowing:

It's a larger lesson for me about life-- pay attention, do what you love, but stay focused and in the moment.  

Coming to La Conner Washington: Skagit River Poetry Festival! May 20-22

If you're anywhere near Washington State this next weekend, you need to attend the Skagit Poetry Festival! It's incredible!

What: Skagit River Poetry Festival.
When: May 20 through May 22 in La Conner.
Public hours: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. May 20, 2 to 9:30 p.m. May 21, and 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. May 22.
Details: For a schedule of events and ticket information, go to Some events sell out early.

Read more:

Here's a summary from the Seattle Times -

The Skagit River Poetry Festival, located in the heart of the Skagit Valley (one of the world's most scenic spots, in my humble opinion), takes place the weekend of May 20-22 in La Conner. Now in its sixth year, this festival features some especially estimable poets, including two-time U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Ted Kooser; Washington state poet laureate Samuel Green; Portland poets, twins and brothers Michael Dickman and Matthew Dickman; and Seattle's Sherman Alexie. On May 20 there's a Poet's Table dinner (already sold out), followed by an evening entitled "Sherman Alexie Unplugged" ("This evening with Sherman may contain adult materials and not suitable for children," cautions the website. Tickets are $25 for this single event). For a complete schedule of workshops and readings, locations and ticket prices go to or call 360-422-6033.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I will be here reading one poem if you'd like to join the festivities in welcoming back Poetry Northwest to the Seattle area!

Del Rey
2332 - 1st Avenue
8 pm
Monday, May 17th, 2010

See you then!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Just the Fact, Ma'am: The Statistics of a Manuscript

So I have spent the last week proofing my manuscript.

While proofing I noticed a few things I thought I'd share here.

There are 46 poems in this collection.  Of those 46 poems, 34 of them have been previously published in literary journals (73.9 %).

The manuscript is alphabetized and organized into 3 sections:

Section 1 has 16 poems (titles that begins A-K)
Section 2 has 14 poems (titles from L-Q)
Section 3 has 16 poems (titles from R-Z)

Thanks to WordCounter, I learned the top three words in my manuscript are:


(which is kind of poem itself and pretty much the core of the collection).

Other words that are used quite a bit--


***I was amused to find I used the word "love" so much because it's one of those words they "teach" you not to use in poetry workshops.  I love to use the word love.

I was surprised I used the word "body" so much.  Same with "white."  But "white" is so Emily Dickinson, I was happy with that find.  "Find," another word I was surprised I used.

There's a lot about universe in here, even nebulas, so I wasn't surprised with "star" or "sky."  "Ask" surprised me, how did I work that word in so many times?


Other notes--

When the book is published in October (10-10-10), it looks as if it will be about 97 or 98 pages.

The collection is not dedicated to one specific person.

The first poem mentions crumb cake and the penultimate poem mentions crumb cake.  I cannot tell you the last lines in the collection as that will hopefully be a gift to you when/if you read it, but I can tell you the first and last poems mention "passion" (not the Mel Gibson movie) and have references to Alice in Wonderland in a couple ways along with Emily Dickinson if you're paying attention.  ;-)

I do hope if any of you get this book, you enjoy it.

Letters From the Emily Dickinson Room (White Pine Press Poetry Prize)

Today's 10 Second Task

Go to C. Dale Young's blog and take a poll on what you are looking for in a blog....

It's linked up above.  

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Who Does She Think She Is - Released on DVD!

Who Does She Think She Is? House Party KitWho Does She Think She Is? House Party Kit

If you haven't heard of this documentary, here's the preview--

I just learned this out and available on DVD and a perfect price for the public to buy.  I am buying mine today as a late mother's day gift for myself and plan on having the party for other women (who are also my friends) who also struggle with balancing their art and raising a family.

This is a subject that comes back to me a lot.

I was never a girl who wanted to grow up to have a family, that was never in my list of dreams.  When I was marrying my husband a few months before my 25th birthday I told him straight out that if he wanted to have kids, I wasn't the one to marry because I couldn't guarantee I would want them.  I told him I would probably change my mind as I got older, but if he knew that children were a *must* for his future, I was not the girl for him because at 25 I honestly didn't know if I would one day want kids.

I remember him being annoyed and upset with me for my statement, but I never wanted to lead him on or have him think that kids were in our future when at the time, I knew I was way to self-centered to focus on anyone but us.

Eventually (oddly enough) at age 30, actually after a kayaking trip in Canada where I kayaked with orcas, four months before the new millennium, I knew I wanted to have a child.

From that moment on my life has been incredible different, but fulfilling in ways I had no idea about.  But as a writer and a creative person, it's been challenging to find my own space, to walk (read: make) my own path.

Anyway, I cannot wait to watch this.  (Though I promise to wait until the party.  No pre-viewing for me.)  I am interested to see how others women do it.

If you're also interested in this project, you can go to the Who Does She Think She Is website or  their blog.

Does Poetry Matter

It's funny because this question has been asked for years. David Biespiel just wrote an essay in POETRY about how poets aren't political enough, which made me laugh because in 2002, poets were being called "too political" as they began to write response to the war and Bush's America (as England loved to call us for those 8 years).

I had a poem published in Sam Hamill's Poets Against the War anthology and remember one review that called us, "A plague of poets..." (which is always good for one's ego.) At that time there was Poets for Peace and other anti-war, pro-peace groups made of poets. If I'm remembering right, I am pretty sure the response was, "What can poetry do? Go back to writing about lilacs and egrets, your emo poems."

I guess for me, the question is why ask the question? Does the question "Does poetry matter?" matter?

I recommend reading both articles if you are interested in this discussion:

There's an interesting blog post in the NY Times Book Section called "Does Poetry Matter?" (There are some great lines in this about poetry such as: I think American poetry has gotten what it’s deserved. And, uh, it’ll come awake again when poets start speaking to people who have to pay the rent.

This Land Is Our Land by David Biespiel : Poetry Magazine [article/magazine] (David Biespiel's concern that poets aren't political active enough.)

Here's the response I wrote on the NY Times Book blog--

I think the issue is that the question, "Does poetry matter?" has never mattered.

It's kind of like asking, "Does the blue sky matter?" because to the people who are gazing up into the sky and saying, "This is the most remarkable day," it does matter. And to the people who are rushing to work & lost in their iPhones, it doesn't.

Two different focuses, two different passions.

Would we ask, "Does the ballet matter?" "Does the opera matter?" "Does the indie play matter?". It all matters. It all matters to some.

Does the blue sky matter? To me it does, as does poetry.

~ ~ ~ ~

And actually, people's comments to the blog post are just as interesting as the post itself. I forgot how many cynical folks (and just plain downers) there were out there who believe "Poetry died after Wordsworth..." and "there's no good writing out there..." but there is also the hopeful who see poetry as their bread and water of life.

I think it's good to hear the cynics and the downers, but not invite them to your parties.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bruce Springsteen & Robert Pinsky team up at New Jersey Festival

If I could have crashed this event, I would have--

Robert Pinsky and Bruce Springsteen apparently have more in common than just a way with words. They can trace the beginnings of their glory days all the way back to the same hospital at the New Jersey shore.

The former U.S. poet laureate and the unofficial poet laureate of rock 'n' roll appeared on stage Thursday at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where they discussed their work, influences and careers and joked about the fact both were born at Monmouth Memorial Hospital, albeit nine years apart(Pinsky is older).

The occasion was the university's WAMFEST Words and Music Festival, an event sponsored by its creative writing department. Recording artist John Wesley Harding, nee Wesley Stace, an artist in residence at the school, moderated the two-hour performance and discussion in front of a packed auditorium of 400 students, faculty and whoever else could wrangle a way in the door. 

Springsteen and Pinsky had met for the first time on Thursday, Harding said, but their affinity for each other's work was obvious.

"What I've been trying to write about for 40 years, Robert gets into a single poem," Springsteen said.

Both spoke fondly of their home state, though in different ways. Pinsky, who grew up in "not the greatest part of Long Branch" and now lives in western Massachusetts, realized after he moved to California that he missed the Garden State's speech patterns and sarcasm; Springsteen dreamed of getting out of New Jersey as a youth but later came to find meaning in "a certain plot of ground, a certain place" after his work became more introspective. 

You can read the whole article here.

I think I want to be Robert Pinsky when I grow up.  Though I would have hyperventilated on stage when I saw Bruce (though I would have tried to play it cool, I'm not sure it would have worked out for me). 

Let's see-- Pinsky & the Colbert report, Pinsky on the Simpsons, now Bruce?  He seriously has the best connections ever.

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