Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Confession Tuesday -

Dear Readers,

I just realized that it's Tuesday!  In the summer, days of the week slide off our deck and into the saltwater roses.

But what to confess in these days when I can't even remember what I've done, where I've been, what I can share with you.

I'm not sure, so let's begin....

I confess we are painting our house pretty much the same color it was.

I am confessing this because it makes me laugh given that 1) our house is 13 years overdue for its paint job and 2) we've talked for 13 years about changing the color to a "more updated blue" and yet when the time comes, we basically choose the same color it was.

This is not to say we didn't try.  Our first choice was Grey Blue, but when the painter put up a sample on the walls, my stomach became a knot and I knew this was not the right color.  And the other blues seemed so boring, they were every blue house blue.

So we bought a quart of our second choice:  Old Blue Sea by Parker Paints and put it on.  Perfect!  Exactly what we wanted!  Our house, blue with a yellow (Hawthorne Yellow to be exact) door.

It was one of those moments in life when we realized that we were actually happy with what we had.

It was kind of an amazing discovery, to have 1000 paint choices and to choose one so close to what we've lived with for 13 years made me laugh, to think there is a better color in the world and then to have the opportunity to take it and we choose "the same, please."

In a certain way, I wonder if this is life.

If we have the opportunity to choose (and we do) a new life and we stay with what we have, what does that mean?  Are we afraid of change or maybe we realize we are happier with what we have than we think.

Anyway, I love that my house is painted Old Blue Sea with a Hawthorne Yellow door.  Words matter.


I confess I was annoyed at names of paint that had negative vibes to them like Rising Smoke.  My husband is a firefighter, I am not painting my house with a paint color called Rising Smoke.  To me, that would be like painting my house "Arsonist's Fodder" or "Burns Easily."

I am weird this way.  I could never name a child Mallory because it means Unlucky, even though I know there are many lucky Mallorys in the world (and I love this name for Family Ties alone), for me, knowing the definition of this name would cause me to carry a skewed perspective.


Also, I confess I learned something that is pretty incredible.  If you have trouble sleeping, wear socks to bed.  Seriously.  Apparently (even in the summer) many of us can get cold (um, and have cold feet) and by wearing socks, it can allow you to sleep through the night and help with insomnia.

Since I was 24 I've had sleep issues where my dreams are so real and I sleep so hard, I interact with the real world as if it were part of my dream.

I will wake up (still asleep) and believe that many years ago a doctor gave me medication to take and I have never taken it and my life is being cut short.  Or that we have a pet I've neglected.  Or there is a bird living in my armoire and I've forgotten to feed it.  Or I've lost my wedding ring.  All anxiety dreams.

I realize this has been going on for 17 years now.   (I've just learned to live with it.)

But the socks help.

Little things, they make a difference.  Thank you, socks.


The Quotable Sherman Alexie

I can't believe I forgot to blog about this, but this goes way back to the Skagit River Poetry Festival.

It was a comment Sherman Alexie made that he said got him into trouble, but he stands by it. An interviewer once asked him who he wrote for and he said, "College-educated white women because they are ones who buy books."  Apparently this comment caused a bit of a brouhaha.

But at the reading in Skagit he said this is what he believes because these are the people who make up "literary audience.  If you're not appealing to them, you have no career whatsoever."  He said, "Saying that caused a controversy, but they (college-educated white women) are the ones who will cross boundaries."

I thought this was an interesting comment by him.  He believes 70% of all literary audiences are made up by this demographic.  

Sitting in the audience, I looked around and what did I see-- a group of white women who most likely had degrees.  He even pointed out our audience as well, saying there weren't as many men in attendance at the reading.

I made a point to write down that quote because I knew Jeannine Hall Gailey would love to hear that since she has been saying this since I first met her.  

So I'm curious, do you think this is true?  Do more women or men buy books?  Do more women or men buy poetry books?  Does it matter?   

Monday, June 28, 2010

Significance vs. Success - A New Way To Think about Achievement

Stop Chasing Success. Seek Significance.

The other day I posted a past blog post on success.

Today on Becoming Minimalist, a blog by Joshua Becker about the simple life and beyond ( living as a "minimalist" - a term to describe those who live on less, sometimes less than less), they had a great article about why to see significance and not success.

I had never thought of it this way.  Well, I had, but I didn't use or think of the word "significance."

I think in our culture that once had a TV show called Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, we can be bamboozled into thinking success/a lot of money, is the same thing.  But I like that word, significance.  How can you (I) be significant in the world?  How can you (I) be significant in our lives?

One of my favorite points in this post is this--

Success ends on the day you die. On the day you die, all wealth and possessions will be immediately transferred to someone else. And even if you get to pick where they go, the reality is that person is always someone other than you.

I love that.  Stuff is just stuff.  You are not your khakis.

Anyway, I've linked up the article if you want to hear Joshua's thoughts on it.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Great Documentary: Herb & Dorothy

If you're interested in the visual arts and documentaries that highlight some quirky aspect of the art world, you might really love this film.

Herb & DorothyHerb & Dorothy 

This was quite a charming documentary that focuses on Herbert & Dorothy Vogel, New York art collectors who live in a small one-bedroom apartment and have been collecting artwork since 1958.

When I think of art collectors, I don't normally think of a postal worker and his librarian wife.  But this is who they are (though now retired).

It's absolutely amazing the amount they collected.  They bought a lot of artwork by artists before they became famous and yes, stored them all in the small place along with a couple cats, and pet turtles.

I won't tell much more, but it's worth a watch.  Of course, if you like fast moving movies/documentaries, this isn't for you.

Oh and if you have Netflix, you can watch this instantly.
Runtime: About 90 minutes.


Friday, June 25, 2010

I love that this cloud...

looks like Lyle Lovett.

Crab Creek Review New Issue & Poetry Contest Update

Crab Creek Review

Somehow I think I neglected to announce-- The new issue of CRAB CREEK REVIEW is out and available!  You can order the individual issue here or sign up for a subscription (we love our subscribers-- thank you!)

If you don't know, Crab Creek Review is one of the remaining perfect-bound print journals and no, we are not planning on becoming an online journal.  We publish two issues a year and well, we think they are rather gorgeous.  

For this issue-- (Issue 1: 2010)

I did my first ever interview in this issue with David Guterson (author of Snow Falling on Cedars: A NovelOur Lady of the Forest, and other novels).  I have been told that this interview made someone cry (in a good way) and that based on what David chooses to reveal or not reveal is well, quite revealing!

It also has a poem by David Guterson, which is what sparked the idea for the interview.  Why is a novelist writing poems?

And here's the list of some highlights from the issue --  Featuring new work from David Guterson, David Wagoner, Rachel Contreni Flynn, Sharon Hashimoto, Alex Cigale, Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Kate Lebo, Diane Lockward, Peter Munro, Cati Porter, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, Molly Tenenbaum, and Wendy Wisner.

Fiction Contest Winner Robert Kostuck, Poetry Winner Victor David Sandiego and translations of Russian poets Dmitri Avaliani and Andrei Sen-Senkov, and Danish poet Niels Hav.

Cover Art: Memphis Girl, by Rowland Salley.

Oh and here's a little insider info-- the cover artist, Roly Salley, is the guitarist for Chris Isaak.  How talented is that?  Musician & fine artist.

One day I'll have to let you in on how we ended up with him as our cover artist.

Anyway, it is available and has been available for sale or subscription!  If you're in the NW, you can pick yours up directly in Seattle at Open Books, Elliott Bay Books, Bulldog News or if on the other side of the water (locals know what I mean here)-- Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge Island or Front Street Art Gallery in Poulsbo.

By the way, they've been selling fast in Bainbridge because David Guterson is a resident there and we sold out of our first batch in a week!  So call ahead if you choose Eagle Harbor Books to make sure the current issue is in.

~ ~ ~

Other Info--

We have just chosen the 15 or so poems to give to Nancy Pagh (author of No Sweeter Fat) for the Crab Creek Review poetry contest.  We received a lot of fantastic work!  We will definitely be publishing the winner plus all the finalists in Issue 1: 2011!

But even if you weren't one of the finalists, stay positive because we found many other poems in the entries we'd like to also publish.  There are even some by brand-spankin' new poets, poets we've never heard of before and we were just so impressed!

We ran out of time to choose these poems, so we'll be meeting again soon and will be sending out acceptances soon.



Thursday, June 24, 2010

Something I've Said-- The Secret to Writing Poems

You can still trust me on this one.

Originally published on the first (now deleted) Book of Kells, February 16th, 2006--

The Secret to Writing Poems--

The secret to writing poems 
is white chocolate, specifically Ghirardelli. . .

but also milk chocolate including Hershey's chocolate, but not Nestle's. For dark chocolate lovers, try non-pariels, they are also the secret as is Godiva for sonnets.

The secret can be found is some boxes of chocolate, but not in any where the filling tastes like fruit (i.e. cherry, orange, raspberry), but in the mix of caramel with milk chocolate, coconut and dark chocolate, and anything hazelnut. See's Candies: yes. Brach's: no. Swiss chocolate: yes. (even the rolls of chocolate you can buy at Ikea - Marabou chocolates, no nuts)

The secret to writing poems is not in Whoppers, Kit-Kats, orReese's Peanut butter cups, but there's magic in Junior Mints.

The secret to writing poems can also be found in Mint Tea (peppermint for a bit more spark) and Oregon Chai Tea.

On cold nights try cinnamon toast (sugar & cinnamon sprinkled over buttered toast) with hot chocolate (real not chocolate not Swiss Miss) with whipped cream (not Cool Whip).

In the summer, the secret is in a laptop, iced tea with lemon, and a bowl of fresh strawberries.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Confession Tuesday

My lovely PO Box

Dear Reader,

We are attempting to have summer here, but it's been in the 60's and overcast.  Sometimes rain.  While this part of summer sucks (there is no better way to say this), I love where I live for other reasons.  Small town life.  Beach, water, mountains in all directions.  Heron.  Kingfisher.  Eagles.  And deer & bear.   But geez, I'd love a little sun.  

But it's Confession Tuesday, Confess-sun Tuesday! so I better share my sins.

To the confessional--

Yesterday I went to the post office.  When I went in, there was this woman I've never seen dressed in a large pink hoodie (over her head) and smelling of some sort of discount perfume/powder.  She had a cane to help her walk because of her weight.  She was quite bubbly and making jokes, almost flirting with R., one of my favorite postal workers.  She said she wanted to pick up all of her mail.  She took out ID.  She laughed and said something about her father also being named R.

I finished my mailing and went to check my PO box in the next room.  A ton of cool things for Crab Creek Review and a couple things for me.  But also a note that something larger couldn't fit into my PO Box.  So I went back into the mail post office area.

The woman, the bubbly, flirty woman was now completely in tears.  She was crying and I was trying to eavesdrop to figure what happened in those three or four minutes I was away.  I heard her say something about large women in America.  She apologized for crying.  R. was kind and told her not to worry and it was okay.  She said something about sadness.

She thanked R. in Spanish (though I don't believe she wasn't Spanish, R. is though).  He said (appropriately), "De nada, senorita." And then she added, "Bonita."  Which I thought was odd.  (For those of you who never took spanish 101, bonita means pretty or beautiful.  And maybe it was her name, but I tend not to think so.

Anyway, this is a LONG way of saying, I confess I so wanted to know the inside story, how in 3 minutes she could go from giggly, flirty, jokey, to crying terribly.

I ran scenes through my mind, did she receive a package from someone who has suddenly passed away?  A letter from someone breaking up with her?  A foreclosure notice?  Did she flirt with R. and he discouraged her advances since he's married now?

There was a part of me that was bummed I missed the scene.  Yes, I am that person.  The person with enough time that I hang around to see how things play out just because I am ridiculously curious about human interaction and these small moments in post offices, grocery stores or whatnot.

I love to watch people and listen to them.  I love to see who fights with who, who flirts with who, who holds the door open for who and who lets it close in another's face.

I confess I am planning on asking R. what happened the next time I go to the post office because inquiring minds want to know.  I kind of feel like a desperate housescribe here, but what on earth happened in those 3 minutes?!  Oh and when I find out, I'll tell you too.


I confess I splurged and bought an iPad because when I tried it in the store I went to iBooks and saw that I could download all the classics for free.  Free! Anything in the Gutenberg Library is available at NO cost!   All of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Tom Sawyer, Alice in Wonderland, and the list goes on and on.  If you know me, you know that books are my security blankets.  It's hard for me to leave the house without 2 or 3 tucked in my purse.

I had a visceral reaction when I realized the amount of free books available and how many I could carry easily.  It was as if my English major heart grew three sizes that day.

I love my iPad and have downloaded one paid for book-- Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (it was $12).  But the rest of the books on my shelf are free.

There's also an app called StoryTracker that I'm exploring to track my poetry submissions (the few I have).  I know, after my post about my index card system.  No worries, the index cards are still around.  I'm just seeing if this will work (so far though, it's pretty wonderful).


I confess I'm still in my winter body (which is about 5-10 pounds heavier than my summer body).  And hopefully, I'll be downsizing soon or I will not have any clothes wear as they are about a size smaller than what I'm wearing now.  (Note:  I don't diet -um, I love dessert, I just naturally gain 5-10 pounds each winter and then lose it in the spring-summer when the weather warms up...of course this year with the cold weather, I just haven't lost it yet.  Oh well, I'll make for a curvier summer poet, which is fine with me, there are a couple pairs of capris that stretch...)


I confess I see blue skies out my window, so this would be a good time to end this post.  I'm thinking beach day!


Something I've Said-- "Career Poet" is an Oxymoron

From a blog post dated January 16, 2006:

Career Poet is an Oxymoron

I’ve been in and out of conversations lately, but this idea of a “career poet” seems silly to me. 

Even if you work in academia, try to win awards to boost your resume, etc. etc. I don’t think you can be a career poet. I think you can have a career with a university. I think awards and books may help your success there, but I think career poet is like saying career gardener or career hospice worker or career monk.

I don’t want confuse poetry with religion but I also believe art is a way of life, not a means to an end.

We’re such a small group of people. Sometimes I get this image of poets handing out five-year, ten and twenty-year pins. Sometimes we lose track of what’s being written and instead focus on whose been around the longest. 
Oh, we forgot Marge in accounting, she’s been around forever, better get her something at the annual awards banquet

I guess this is why I was excited to learn that 3 of the National Book Awards for poetry this year were from “new” poets. Of course, the word “new” is quote. Just like “overnight success” – is it ever really overnight? Yes, if overnight was the last fifteen years of my life.

I’m a bit all over the place, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the “extras” of poetry and lose track of the poems and why we started writing poetry. I know when I wrote my first poem I wasn’t thinking, "Next stop, Pushcart!” I hadn’t even known of this world where we line up books top to bottom trying to figure out which is best, which deserves the gold circle on the cover. It’s so subjective. It’s luck and timing. It’s an editor having a good day and picking up your poem and changing your life. But what changes? Not you. Not the poem.

I think there is no such thing as career poets, just poets who want to do well and be validated for their work. And if they teach while they write, then they are poets with full-time jobs, or academic careers. But we all started writing poetry because we couldn’t help but do it and if we could, we would have cured ourselves by it by now. 

Really, when it comes down to it, I just want to keep outdoing myself. I want my next poem to be better than my last one, I want to look down at the page and surprise myself with what was in my head.

I want the llama out the taxicab window. I want the raincoat covered in musical notes. I want sit down with myself at a fancy table on the beach and toast the ocean with a glass of water. This drink, this poem, it’s all from something bigger.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Something I've Said-- Success as an Artiste'

This is an old post of mine from my now-deleted blog, but just wanted to share this as this question of *S*U*C*C*E*S*S* always seems to be the swinging through us and occasionally I watch someone jump in front of it hoping to be struck...

But what is success?  Here were my feelings on success December 28, 2005 and they haven't really changed except I'd add, I feel successful when I write and am true to myself...

I've got the brains, you've got the looks, let's make lots of money...

So, there's been some blogging about success lately, what makes a successful poet. Some say that we need a book, others suggest it's the awards (NEA, Guggenheim, Pushcart). Others believe a certain list of journals we've been published in. And even if we have all these wonderful things, is that success? 

Most people find my blog by searching for the recipe to make a pomegranate martini. More people search for drinks and find me than in searches for poetry (and I *think* I talk about poetry more). Poets know other poets. Regular folks know Maya Angelou, sometimes Billy Collins, and sometimes Mary Oliver.

Poets are not known by most of the world. I thought about this when I felt too nervous to ask Bob Hicok to sign my book. I thought, 99.8% of the US population would *not* feel intimidated by him, yet because I write poetry, he has moved up my "important people list" and therefore making a fool of myself in front of BH as opposed to the random people I meet daily would be more painful. (I did ask him to sign my book and of course, came off socially inept as I tend to do around people I like...It's a gift.)

Anyhoo, perhaps I'm in a different camp with this success stuff because I don't think poetry can make anyone "successful." 

It's really hard for me to judge a person by their resume. Just as I wouldn't call a CEO successful, just because s/he is a CEO. I don't think credits, publications, and awards make a successful poet. I do think they're incredibly fun to achieve and feel rewarding, but I wouldn't base my life's success on what I achieve in poetry. (This doesn't mean stop I think we should stop submitting or trying to achieve certain goals as a poet, I think that keeps things interesting, I'm just saying at the end of the day, I don't think we'll look back on our lives and think, "I'm so glad I was published in ________." Okay, I *may* say that about the New Yorker, but that's because I can be shallow.)

Realize, this is coming from someone who has no problem beating little kids in Candyland...I like to win. But, I realize "success" can't be achieved through poetry because first, it's so subjective. I'm sure I've had poems accepted because someone was having a good day and I'm sure others were rejected because the someone had just received a traffic ticket. And we can't base it on awards, I mean, poor Emily D., where was her first book award, her Guggenheim?

And isn't it funny how poetry is a sort of erudite crack? I mean, you start out and you write a poem, and it feels satisfying. So you write another and you like that feeling, but it starts to be a bit dull, so you wander into a new neighborhood and try to publish them.

You take another hit and then wham! you publish your first poem--and it feels good, really good. So you submit again, another poem in another journal and the high keeps coming back. You need more time to write more poems. You’re up late at night writing and submitting. And with each acceptance, you get your high back, but it’s not as good as the first time.

The feeling begins to wear off a little or maybe things are starting to feel "too easy," so you move from Spindrift to The Bellingham Review. You have to keep raising the bar, keep moving up the ladder to get that next great high. You submit to Prairie Schooner. You submit to the New Yorker. You submit to Poetry. You look back at the accomplishments that first made you happy, first made you feel successful and they seem small.

You publish a book and realize that even with a book, you're still yourself and you keep trying for that next high... You wake up at your desk and find yourself strung out on herbal tea covered in your own SASEs-- and there’s a bill from the post office you can’t explain. You become that disco song, "More, More, More. How you do like it? How do you like it?...." Yes, you’re addicted.

I know how happy I feel with my little poetry accomplishments, with any sort of validation that comes my way. And I do think that our publications and accomplishments as poets should be celebrated. I mean, anytime I can find a reason to have a party for myself, I do. But I do try to remind myself that my success as a poet cannot be written down on a resume, it's something greater than that.

As a poet, I guess if I had to determine how success can be measured, it would be in how much we return to others. This can be through our poems or in person, over email, with a blog, on the phone, through a class/lecture, in a letter, in our books, as an editor, as for me, a poet's success is based on his or her actions as a poet. And even if one is getting paid for any of the above, it still counts. 

But I guess that's how I measure the success of any person (poet or not), not by what was achieved, but what they returned, not by what they have, but what they gave.

Maybe I'm thinking too much about this, but I know the things that I base my self-worth on or my “success” are by the number of people who see me as a friend and if I'm kinder more of the time than hurtful. 

Mostly though, I guess I base success on how the people closest to me see me. If in the end, my family can say that I did a pretty good job in their eyes, then I made it. The rest of it is bells and whistles, the rest of it is fringe on my already stylish suede skirt.

Of course, if the New Yorker calls. . .

Hang on, Baby!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Welcome Beach Time!

Request: How often do you write in your shed vs. another place?

Marty & I in my writing shed

How often do you write in your shed vs. another place?

I actually do a lot of writing inside in a room that is my office/art studio area (I just took out the couch so I could bring my paint supplies in).

I consider this room my "administrative room" where I answer emails, blog, do bills, and submit work, but many times I write in here for 15 minutes or so, or in the morning before anyone is up.

My shed usually needs a little warming up, so I tend to do in there later in the day or after I've had my heater on for a bit.

I save my larger, more focused projects for my shed.  Anything where I do *not* want to be disturbed.

If I write in the office, I will be disturbed. I know that.

The shed gives me much more quiet time and privacy.  I usually will lose myself in there for a few hours.  It's hard for me to want to leave.  There is this certain calming scent when I walk into it that tells me it's time to write hard.

Again, I'm in my shed more in the fall, winter, spring as the summer there is a lot of everything else to do that takes me away from my writing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Request: What do you think poets should know when they are starting out?

Hmmm, this will definitely be a list answer!

What do you think poets should know when they are starting out?

1) Poetry may not make you wealthy in material goods, but it will make you rich at heart.

2) You may spend an entire day on putting in a comma and taking it out and that's okay.

3) It may always feel weird to call yourself a poet.

4) The best way to learn is to read poets who are publishing today.

5) It's better to say poetry as a way to make a life than a way to make a living.

6) You will send out your work before it's finished, and that's okay too 
(I think we all did and sometimes still do!)

7) You will probably be over-confident about your skill when you begin 
and think you are pretty darn good. It's similar to a teenager learning 
how to drive, just because you are behind the wheel doesn't mean you've
earned your (poetic) license yet.

8) They don't really give out poetic licenses, that was a joke.

9) You should buy as many books as you do manuscript submissions.

10) Every poem is practice and will help you get to your next better poem.  

11) Don't be afraid to make mistakes or to write poorly.  
We can't start out at and be brilliant at something.  
Just as you wouldn't pick up a toothbrush and call yourself a dentist, 
you can't pick up a pencil and immediately be a writer.  
There is some learning and practice involved.

12) If you are being called to write, then you should write.

13) Art is important. Poetry is important. Just because something 
doesn't earn you a lot of money doesn't mean it's not valuable, it is.

14) Trust your instincts.

15) Always believe you have a greater purpose. It might be poetry.  
It might be something else, but give yourself quiet each day to listen 
and follow your own particular path.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Can You Find the Deer

Okay, I'm kind of annoyed at myself for having my camera set on black & white, but love the deer's face in this photo.  Today at 1:30 pm by my home...


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Request: Writing New Poems

Another requested topic with some good questions--

Do you often write from prompts?  

Sometimes, but usually only during National Poetry Month or if I'm trying to write a poem a day.  Also, if I'm writing with another writer or in a group.

Normally, when I want to write a poem, I sit down, pull a favorite book of poems off the shelf, read a poem or two and see what it brings out in me.

I feel that in this way I am sort of adding to the poetry conversation and not just running into the room with something to talk about, but listening first then responding.

Of course, many times I just run into the room with something to say.  

These can be my favorite days as it feels as if poems are bubbling inside and I am a champagne bottle and need to be uncorked.  These are the days I'm handing out party favors to the guests.    

If I have a day to write, normally I just start as I said by reading poems, then write something, usually a line and see where it goes.  

If I'm having trouble getting started I set the timer for 7 minutes and tell myself I have 7 minutes to write a poem. I don't judge myself on the quality, my goal is to write "a poem."  Usually just telling myself I have 7 minutes starts to get the words, lines, images out and then I have something to work with and can go from there. 

If you leave your page blank, you aren't giving yourself any energy or ideas to move forward. It's sort of like an artist trying to paint a picture without paint!  You need words to brush around the page.  You need something to move forward.  Just as if you were building a path you wouldn't start by dropping the whole path into the yard, you'd start step by step.  Each word is a step and will help you choose the direction of your path.  Without words, there is no path and no moving forward.

Always put *something* on your page to work with.  An image, a line from another poem, a line from your last poem, a subject.  From there you can begin...

Do you start with a warm up or "morning pages" or something similar?  

Sometimes my blog posts are a warm-up for me.  They get my fingers moving and get me into words and patterns.

I really dislike morning pages because as if they steal all my energy and all those sparks that I could use for poems.  Morning pages suck them out of me and then I feel I don't have anything left for my own writing. 

I did them during Artist Way, but now when I do Artist Way I refuse to do them and instead use my morning pages as a time to write a poem.  I don't like to get out all that "stuff" in my brain which is what the morning pages are supposed to do because to me, that's all material, not just stuff to get rid of.  

I think all writers have to find a way of working that is effective for them, but I'm always interested in learning how other writers write, what works for them, what helps them get into the groove of a poem.  It gives me ideas for ways to mix up my own routine when it begins to feel flat.

One thing I love to do is to write with other writers--either one-on-one or in a large group.    I find the energy of others inspires me and moves me into things I would not have written because I riff off of something they wrote, or they bring an exercise for us to try and it surprises me.

I think one thing to do when your routine (or writing) feels flat is to write in different ways.  Write just using the language of Forbes magazine and see how different your poems feel.  Write a poem and do not allow yourself to use any pronouns.    Write then tell yourself you must break your poem at the 5th word or the 9th syllable, what changes in your work?

In certain ways, these self-created rules are kind of prompts, but what I think they do is they make you have to think differently and you can't rely on your old bag of tricks.

Another idea is change where you normally write, or if you write in a notebook, try starting a poem on the computer or vice versa.

Writing should be play, the more we see it as an amusement park for the brain, the better. It should be a house of mirrors, a Tilt-o-Whirl, a rollercoaster where we can try things and know we can't get hurt.  We are risking when we write, but it is a safe risk.  We aren't rock-climbing, though it's good to be that focused, and if we are, there are lines and tethers to keep up from falling.

I definitely see writing as an enjoyable activity.  Something I need to have in my life more often than not.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Attn: Seattle Folks!

Elliott Bay Books in Seattle                                     Susan & cat

Reading this Saturday, June 19th at Elliott Bay Books (at its new location on Capitol Hill), Susan Rich will be reading from her new collection, The Alchemist's Kitchen.

Here are the details from Elliott Bay Books' website:

Start: 7:00 pm
Co-presented with HEDGEBROOK. Award-winning Seattle poet Susan Rich, who has read at Elliott Bay for each of her first two books—The Cartographer's Tongue/Poems of the World and Cures Include Travel—is here tonight with her newest collection, The Alchemist's Kitchen (White Pine Press). 

"This is art in the light of conscience, as Marina Tsvetaeva has written, voicing the sufferings of Somalia, Sarajevo, and Srbrenica, history and its black ash of question marks yet it is also an art of praise. From The Alchemist's Kitchen spills an abundance of the world's fruits, herbs and pastries, gestures of hospitality and regard, for Susan Rich is a poet who writes in the midst of things, and out of a searing awareness of loss and obliviousness to loss, desire and its absence, what it means to be spiritually awake, to behold human life in all its possibility, pathos and transience and yet say yes." - Carolyn Forché.

Susan will be there signing books afterwards.  It's a great opportunity to hear some wonderful poetry and meet Susan in person.


Confession Tuesday - Alone does not mean Lonely

I confess my confessions aren't as edgy as some would like, which leads me to confess that I am not an edgy person (surprise). In fact, I tend to like (love) routine and staying home.

I prefer intellectual exercise over physical exercise.

I like the microwave cleared and on zero and not some random number it was just left on, stopped mid-cycle.

I like cereal for breakfast always. I like BFD (breakfast for dinner) when it comes to omelets, french toast or pancakes.

I like my bed made every morning.

And I confess, I like to be alone more than I like to be with others. Or maybe I need to have just as much alone time as I do together time. Because I love seeing my friends, but I also love the space I get to myself to think or read or write.


I have been enjoying some at home time. In fact, I love time to myself and time to do nothing. I know many people freak out when they don't have anything to do or they randomly start calling people looking for activities. I confess I am not that person.

I love to spend time in my writing shed alone.

I confess there are many times I don't pick up the phone.

I confess I once hid under my desk when someone knocked at the door (you can see my desk if you were too look through our side window) because I was in the middle of writing and didn't want to be disturbed.

In this case, I think I may have taken it a little too far, though there's another part of me that thinks I got it exactly right!


Brunch with Jeannine Hall Gailey

(me, annette, jeannine)

Annette (my co-editor at Crab Creek Review) went to have lunch downtown with Jeannine Hall Gailey while she visited.

We talked of poetry, books, publication, gluten-free eating, and all the things that only a handful of people find interesting.  She gave Annette slippers and me a new fabric make-up bag, all wrapped in tissue paper in her pink grab bag of gifts.

Jeannine is looking incredible and is so very healthy, which is great news.  And will hopefully be moving back here so our group can be complete again!  It was so wonderful to see her!


Monday, June 14, 2010

From january's blog Writer's Meme

Consider yourself tagged if you're reading this.

1. What's the last thing you wrote?
An email. A blog post. A shopping list. A poem. In that order.

2. Is it any good?
My shopping list was awesome. The email was kind and the blog post was okay. The poem is too young to judge. Ask me in a month or two.

3. What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
My mum saved a poem I wrote in grade school. I also have a book of poems I wrote in 5th grade that includes a limerick about a dog from NewYork.

4. Favorite genre of writing?
To write: Poetry, creative non-fiction
To read: Poetry, memoir/creative non-fiction & non-fiction

5. How often do you get writer's block?
I also don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe there are times I don't write as well as I would like, but at anytime I can put pen to paper or finger to keyboard and write. If I can speak, I can write.

6. How do you fix it?
I read poets who I love. I am always inspired by strong well-crafted work.

7. Do you save everything you write?
Most, but not all.

8. How do you feel about revision?
I love to revise and in fact have ruined some good poems by over-revising them. I think revision can help me take my poems to a deeper level when I do it well.

9. What's your favorite thing that you've written?
The poem, How Killer Blue Irises Spread. It came out of me mishearing an NPR report (it was killer FLU viruses) and I loved that my mistake turned into a poem. Plus that poem won the Atlantic Monthly student poetry prize when I was an MFA student and was published there, which makes me happy.

I've also written 30,000 words on my week retreat to Hedgebrook and I'd like that to become something larger, maybe a book? I'm working on that and so it's currently my favorite thing.

10. What's everyone else's favorite thing that you've written?
Vacationing with Sylvia Plath or Of a Forgetful Sea

11. What writing projects are you working on right now?
Proofing Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, my manuscript about the inspiration of going on a writing retreat and my disastrous entry back into the real world (I haven't blogged in detail about this and this goes into the details), some new poems, an interview with another poet about her book, and 2 other projects with friends that are just in the fragile beginnings and not quite ready for the world yet.

12. What's one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
Romance. I'm just not romantic by nature and would probably have the woman leaving Fabio to return to school to get her degree.

13. Do you write for a living?
Or for a life? For a life I write, enjoy my family & friends and try to live simply.

For a living (I'm guessing this is polite speak for how I earn $$) -- I do editing and consulting with poets and writers as well as work one-on-one with poets and creative non-fiction writers to help them with their work (poems, essays, chapbooks, larger manuscripts). I also teach workshops and classes at writing conferences and festivals as well as sell the occasional book or two.

14. Quote something you've written, the first thing to pop into your mind.
"sometimes it's the little things that pull you under." from Vacationing with Sylvia Plath


Pray for poets as we are only a story of paper ... From Believing Anagrams

More Organizations Helping the Wildlife in the Gulf: Oil Spill Crisis

This info and more is available at Take Part and their focus on the oil spill.  Please go there for more information and especially is you live in the area.  They have info about volunteering, etc.

Here's more info on how you can help below--

Donations to this group fund various efforts:
  • The National Wildlife Federations Gulf Coast Surveillance Team, a volunteer network that will monitor the coast for impact on wildlife.
  • Restoration of nesting and breeding grounds.
  • Public Education about the impact of the spill.
  • Policy work at the national and state level.
This group has a 24-hour on-call OSHA certified staff, and is one of only two organizations in the country with the facilities to respond to a major spill.

Audubon Nature Institute (Audubontransactions.org)
Donations to this group helps to fund the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program, which in addition to saving turtles, will also aid otters, dolphins, and manatees.

Save Our Seabirds (Saveourseabirds.com)
Based in Sarasota, FL, this group has rehabilitated injured and disabled birds, and is currently providing aid and cleanup for oiled birds.

For people in the South affected by the oil spill:

  • To report oiled wildlife, please call 1-866-557-1401.
  • To report oiled shoreline or to request volunteer information, please call 1-866-448-5816. This is the BP Community Support Team Hotline, which is being used as a hub by nonprofit organizations to coordinate volunteer inquiries. Leave a message with your contact information and your questions about how to help or information on oiled shoreline.

    • The Greater New Orleans Foundation has set up the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund to help with cleanup and environmental protection efforts. To learn more about the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund, please call Josephine Everly at (504)598-4663 or josephine@gnof.org
    • Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, the largest wild bird hospital in the U.S., has 300 trained staff members on call to help with the response. They are also organizing volunteers and supply donations. They are in need of linens, kennels, towels, sheets, Dawn detergent, paper towels, bottled water and gatoraid.  Items can be dropped off at the sanctuary at 18328 Gulf Blvd., Indian Shores, Florida.  For a complete list and more information, please see www.seabirdsanctuary.com or call 727-391-6211 for more information. To volunteer, please email jessicag@seabirdsanctuary.com or call 727-392-4291.
    • Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research has been asked to oversee the wildlife rehabilitation response along the gulf coast and is working closely with many collaborating organizations. They are calling for donations to help. 
    • Louisiana Bucket Brigade has produced an Oil Spill Crisis Map that lets Gulf Coast residents report endangered wildlife, oil on shores, health impacts, and other problems from the oil spill. They are calling on citizen journalists to report any information by submitting it through the site, texting (504) 27 27 OIL, sending an email to bpspillmap@gmail.com, or through Twitterusing  the hashtag #BPspillmap.
    • Deepwater Horizon Response Unified Command is soliciting the public's help inmonitoring the 1.2 million feet of boom that have been deployed throughout the Gulf. To report an incident, call 1-866-448-5816. In addition, the group is soliciting the public's ideasfor stopping the flow of oil, containing or recovering it, or cleaning it up. Click here to submit your suggestion or call 281-366-5511.
    • Oxfam America is working to help vulnerable communities affected by the spill. A tax-deductible donation can be made here
    • Sierra Club is gathering volunteers to help with the cleanup efforts on the Gulf Coast. Sign up online to volunteer and Sierra Club will place you with an opportunity.
    Until contacted by any of these organizations, would-be volunteers should steer clear of affected areas so as not to interfere with current cleanup efforts. Again, if you find oiled wildlife, don't try to rescue the animals yourself; report them to the Wildlife Reporting Hotline at 866-557-1401.

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