Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Everything But the Laptop...

Stepping back into my writing life...

Confession Tuesday - the Remix

Dear Reader,

I wanted to respond to an odd occurrence that happened a couple weeks ago.  You may have seen it, or missed it.  Many of you emailed me with different theories and also kind words, if you missed it, it was from my Art of the Blurb post.

Nothing big, but interesting and definitely something I want to respond to--so let's begin.

To the confessional--

I confess I didn't mean to annoy Famous Poet's wife by writing my experience with blurbs.  (Notice how I say Famous Poet and not his name so there is no Google alert sent out; if she's reading this now it's all on her own.)

And I confess I was surprised when she left a comment saying my post was "unkind."

What I have always promised myself with this blog is that I would tell/share/write my experience as a writer in the writing world.  Good, bad, and ugly.  Though I didn't feel what I shared was bad or ugly or even unkind, just my experience.

As a young poet, I remember other poets pretending life was a full dance-card and a series of acceptances.  I remember how names dropped from open mouths and how I felt there was a combination lock code into this world of wine and words and everything good.

Everything is not always good.  And there is not always wine or words served.   Sometimes there's just you--the writer, the poet--and a lot of white pages.

So, when I wrote that post about blurbs, I wanted to be honest.

Had I not mentioned that I did not receive a response from Famous Poet A and making it seem as if all my blurb requests came through wrapped in silk handkerchiefs, you might believe there is a rainbow and a pot of gold in my lap.  You might believe things are always easy and I am smart and perfect and have good skin.

Let's get to the details--

I confess while I am educated and consider myself a smart person, I do not always make the smartest decisions when it comes to following up.  Or when it comes to chocolate, I usually overindulge.

I confess I am also perfectly imperfect.  Though I do have nice eyes or arms, depending on where you are looking or what you like.  But I can be messy and controlling, too laid back or too loud, too active or too lazy depending on the day.  I also am always bruised and scratched up from mountain biking.  I say one thing, then change my mind, then change it back.  And so on...

I confess while I had a 50% chance of gorgeous French olive skin, I am part of the freckled Irish tribe, and more and more as I age.

I confess while I have chased many leprechauns and rainbows, I have never been given a pot of gold, though I know a few poets of gold.


So you can expect this if you come here:  I will do my best to share my experience on writing and trying to live a creative existence, through my perspective, to the best of my ability.

I confess, I will not always please everyone.

And to be honest, I really don't want to (read:  I have a deep belief if you are pleasing everyone you are not living authentically, but have somehow put on someone else's pants...)

But not pleasing everyone-- this life and our jobs as writers and poets and artists.  Yes, if we are pleasing everyone, we may be Wonderbread, we may wearing the wrong clothes, or clothes that do not fit us well, but we wear them because they represent who we think we should be, not who we are.

And for those who sent me emails with kind words, no worries, it surprised me, but didn't break my spirit, heart, or head.  But thank you.

Life is too short for drama and bad wine.  Especially bad wine.



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Time Waster Alert - Old Photos of Poets

If you like looking at author photos of poets as I do, we've hit the motherload here.

I found this is in the Seattle PI with a link to the American Poetry Review website and directory of poets with the old photo used in APR when the poets had a poem published there.

To look back at photos of poets throughout the years from APR, go here.

Here are a few of my favs--

Dorianne Laux:

Adrienne Rich:

Peggy Shumaker:

Jane Hirshfield:

All so beautiful and still so beautiful...


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sharing Time...

So there are a couple things I wanted to share with you today--

Today I was listening to NPR & the next thing I know is that Elizabeth Austen is introducing a poem by Susan Rich (Mohamud at the Mosque).

You can listen to it here.
Or read it here.

Speaking of Susan, her dear cat Otis passed away several days ago.  If you know her or are an animal lover, she is asking that instead of cards, for others to make a donation to Friends of the Animals Foundation, an all volunteer non-profit organization dedication to rescuing cats and finding them homes.  This is the organization through which she adopted Otis over a decade ago.

Even the smallest donation helps organizations like this, so please never think what you have to share is too little.


For those of you in the Northwest area, here's an interesting even that mixes art with nature and poetry--

Environmental Art Exhibition and Event
Exploring our relationship with Nature

It's on September 11th, 2010.  And at 3 pm, wonderful poet Nancy Pagh (author of No Sweeter Fat) will be reading.

So if you're looking for something inspiring to do, you might want to consider this day-long event on Camano Island, WA that starts at noon. Visit this link to find out directions and the details on what's going on.


For the Writers--

I just learned poet Anjie Kokan has a new blog with Creative Writing Prompts.
You can visit that here!

Haibun anyone?

Haibun (俳文 haikai writings) is a literary composition that combines prose and haiku. The range of haibun is broad and includes, but is not limited to, the following forms of prose: autobiography, biography, diary, essay, historiography, prose poem, short story and travel literature.

For anyone interested in learning more about haibun, you can go to Cindy Bell's website as she's giving away a free 8 week course to one lucky writer.  I believe this is normally a $250 course.  You can go here for all the details.  Leave her a comment by September 15th to be entered.



And now for something completely different...

Did you know they sold these?

Periodic Table Shower Curtain - EVA vinyl

Periodic Table Shower Curtain - EVA vinyl

As the English major who loved science, I think this is awesome!


Friday, August 27, 2010

September New Year

I've been thinking about this next year (um, my years tend to begin in September not January) and things I want to add into my routine and things I want to take out.

Here's my list--


- More writing time in my shed (still without a proper name)

- Yoga (I've been doing yoga for 9 years now, but this last year left a lot to be desired in regards to my yoga practice)

- More considerate decision making (meaning - not just to say yes without considering how it will affect my time or me emotionally - be the crystallized ginger)

- More work done in less time.

- 2 side projects  (which I'll be sharing more about at later date).

- To do more with my Book Harvest Blog. (Many of you may not even know I have this blog, but I do.)

I read a TON of books and I'd like to document them and share good books with others.  It's a way I can give back to the literary community.  So, this year I hope to offer more reviews and suggestions for the reading audience.


-  Social time wasters:  Anything that requires me to talk about the weather or make small talk.  I want to talk about things that matter, not how goofy our weather system is.

-  Wasteful time users - Internet. Email. MSN. Spinning of wheels (not literally, I'll still be mountain biking).

-  Saying yes to something my heart is not into.

-  Sweets.  Not completely as I do have a sweet tooth, but not in place in meals and not so many.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

End of August Check-In

Summer is ending early for us as school begins *before* Labor Day this year.  And while a part of me feels I should feel bad about this, I don't.

I've been looking forward to fall and less to do--from yardwork to socializing, from summer activity to the next summer activity.

My calendar is quite empty for September.

There is a note on my desk that says:  Keep September open - Be the crystallized ginger.

(The crystallized ginger part is reference to a saying another writer friend and I made up to remind ourselves to be sweet but strong in our beliefs and with our time.)

So I'm careful what I will add to it.

This next week I'll be getting my shed ready to write.  I'll be organizing and cleaning the house.  I'll be cleaning out and giving away.  I'll be buying non-pariels, crystallized ginger and cutting flowers for my desk.

The Tuesday after Labor Day I will play Everything But the Girl and wear corduroys.  I will eat blackberries off the vine and shut the door...


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Confession Tuesday - The Critical Edition with a Positive Follow-up

Dear Reader,

I am here on Tuesday -not Wednesday or Thursday- but the planned day and ready to confess.

To the confessional--

I took my daughter and Japanese exchange student to the American Idol Tour concert (our exchange student was visiting for a few days and it was the one thing she wanted to do).  I confess I have only watched one American Idol show so much of it was lost on me.  But I am now skilled in contestants and if I had to pick two favorites they would be Crystal and Andrew.

I confess that show went on *way* too long (3 hours) and I spent quite a bit of it reading emails and posting on Facebook to pass the time.


I confess I also saw Eat, Pray, Love and highly recommend that you do not see it.  It was terrible and dull.  We called it Watch, Sleep, Leave.  My Facebook status was -- there's 2 hours of my life I'll never get back.

I confess am not a Julia Roberts fan and that is an understatement.  I can't stand her--I used to love her and her movies--now it feels as if she has one character she does again and again.   This movie contained all the classic Julia scenes-- the scene in the dressing room trying on clothes, the ugly/vein in her forehead cry, the classic laugh.  It was Julia being Julia, not being Liz (the main character/author of the book).


I confess I was reading Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert and while I was liking the book, I found myself becoing annoyed because he overused the word "indeed."  Indeed.


 Okay, since I've pretty much complained about 3 things, let's balance that with 3 lovely wonderful things--

I confess I just read a poem by Dorothy Barresi on Poetry Daily and am thrilled to learn she has a new book out-- American Fanatics (Pitt Poetry Series).  I will be ordering it soon.  January has been talking about under-rated poets and Dorothy is a poet who I feel deserves a lot more attention.  I also recommend her book Rouge Pulp (Pitt Poetry Series).  She is incredible!


I confess I found a new poet (who isn't new), but who sent her book to Crab Creek Review for review and I happened to read it and love it.  Her name is Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz and her book is Everything Is Everything. It will be included in our Editors' Choice, a section of Crab Creek Review where we give mini-reviews of the favorite books we've read.  It's funny, edgy, surprising, and one of my most favorite books we received in our mailbox.

I also just finished this book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath about why certain things catch on and others don't.  It's a very simple premise when it's explained, but is quite interesting as you look at how we remember certain things as humans (stories, images), but forget other things (statistics, too many points not made clear).

One main point is the K.I.S.S. theory (though they don't call it that).  Keep it simple, Stupid.

Anyway, an interesting book if you're a reader who likes books like The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceFreakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.)SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance and those non-fiction books that look at the world, trends, and our minds.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cool Journal Giveaway on Drew's blog!

Check out these fantastic journals being giveaway on Drew Myron's blog!

And if I read it correctly, there will be 6 (SIX) journals mailed out to readers.

If you want to enter, go to Drew's blog & leave your name & email in the comment section of this post.  I've already entered!

Love these journals!  Good luck everyone!


Confession Tuesday on Wednesday...

Dear Readers, forgive me for not knowing what day of the week it is.  Summer wipes the calendar down and I am left with sunrises, sunsets, and a lack of dates or weekdays.

Since I'm late, let's just begin--

I confess I overscheduled August.  And this over-scheduling makes me yearn for September when there is less going on.

I confess I don't like wishing away 2 weeks so I can have a less scheduled calendar.

I confess I've been so busy I have no idea what's going on in the news and well, I think I'm happier that way.  (I am also messier that way.)

I confess I wrote more for my blog this summer than I thought I would.  Blame (or thank) foggy mornings.

I confess I have not seen Eat, Pray, Love - but want to, despite my dislike of Julia Roberts.

I confess after a fantastic clean/organized house for my relatives, my home is trashed after a slumber party of six 10-year old girls (I think I am trashed after this too! )

I confess a part of me knows I need to clean up & organize to get ready to write in September.  Oliver told me he does this too.  This makes me feel more normal.

I confess I'm on the last details of my book- today I proof my cover and well, it's done! It will be going off to the printer soon.

Thanks for listening.


File this under "Who Knew?"

Diller Performs At The Poetry Center

American commedienne and actress Phyllis Diller impersonates poet Emily Dickinson during a performance at the Poetry Center, San Francisco, California, March 1957.

While many of the younger folks may have no idea who Phyllis Diller is, I remember her as a crazy comedian I watched on TV in the 70's with wild hair and a loud voice.

Anyway, I had no idea she played Emily Dickinson in 1957 in San Fran.
Though this photo makes her look a little like an angry Dickinson, but good enough!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Art of the Blurb - The Asking

One of the odd things that comes with getting a book published is getting blurbs.

I will be honest here, asking for blurbs is probably my least favorite part of publishing a book.  For me, asking for blurbs feels like a special, personal way to open the door for rejection.  Not just the rejection of a poem or manuscript, but the rejection of support.

I know I should not look at this way, but because it's always been hard for me to ask favors of others or ask for help, getting a blurb feels a little like mailing my metaphorical heart to someone and seeing if they hold it in their hands gently, ignore it completely, or mail it back to me with a note, "Return to Sender."

Yes, I am over-dramatic about the blurb request because it makes me feel 
a) vulnerable
b) needy
c) bothersome

I was HUGELY thankful that White Pine Press got me a blurb from Carl Dennis as he chose my manuscript and is a poet I deeply admire and respect as well as whose poems I enjoy as a reader myself.  And his blurb still makes me happy when I read it.

But getting other blurbs, yes, I had to ask poets for them and again it brought up deep insecurities of me-- Would they say yes?  Would I be rejected?

Sometimes the idea of emotional pain is worse than the actual pain itself.  Still, I try to protect myself.

For me, I only ask poets I know on a personal level for blurbs.  While I would LOVE a blurb from Bob Hicok, I do not know him except for my awkward neanderthal meeting where I said something like, "Me have your book. You sign?"  And because of that, I only asked poets I know on a personal level, poets whose work I love, and poets I feel I have a decent relationship with.

So who did I ask?

Peggy Shumaker (author of Gnawed BonesUnderground Rivers & Blaze as well as the memoir, Just Breathe Normally)  - I asked Peggy because she is probably one of my favorite all time people.  She is someone I admire, respect and feel incredible safe with.  I was not afraid to ask Peggy because she is a poet who will hold your heart in her hands and not drop it.  Ever.  Yes, she is that wonderful.

Jeannine Hall Gailey (author of Becoming the Villainess)  - In a funny way, asking J9 for a blurb was like asking a favorite smart rich aunt for a blurb as I knew that 1)  she would always come through for me  2)  she knows me & my work better than most and sees insights that others miss  3)  she is extremely generous and would write a blurb I would love.

Jeannine is one of the best readers of poetry I've encountered.  She catches the themes and nuances in work that others miss (Annette Spaulding-Convy, my co-editor at Crab Creek Review) is the other incredible poetry reader in my life.  Anyway, I felt good asking J9 because she always comes through for me.  I knew she would & she did!

Carolyn Forche' (author of The Country Between Us & Blue Hour) - Carolyn has always been one of my favorite poets.  Having worked with her at a Centrum class & finding her incredible kind & inspiring, I spent a week with her (as well as poets Susan Rich & Jennifer Lawrence) at Hedgebrook. Carolyn is incredible in so many ways.  She is both smart and beautiful, inside and out.

I was nervous asking Carolyn because if she said no, I knew I'd feel hurt, but I risked it and she in her generosity, came through for me with wonderful words about my book.  I feel quite honored and thrilled to have her support of my work.

Albert Goldbarth - (author of The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems, 1972-2007 & Budget Travel through Space and Time: Poems)  This is where the lovefest, happy-ending ends.  Of the 4 poets I asked, this was no, my non-response.  I worked with Albert for a year in my MFA program and is someone who I both admire as a poet and honestly like as a person.  I know a lot of people are annoyed by him and his wit/sharpness/humor/insensitivity.  But I have never found him to be anything but kind.

Asking Albert though is never easy as he lives in a world that exists in about the year 1987.  There are cellphones in his life, but not computers or emails.  He types his letters and writes only through snailmail.

I have Albert's phone number and could have called him to ask for a blurb, but was too nervous about being rejected over the phone and mailed him letter.  That was 4-5 months ago.  This was the heart that was not returned, but ignored.  I know Albert is ridiculously busy, but normally, he responds to letters, so this is my blurb rejection.  This is the one that by not saying no, said no.

So it's a 75% yes rate, with extra credit points for the Carl Dennis blurb I didn't have to ask for.

4 blurbs, which is great.  Enough to feel as if I have some hands holding me as I enter into into the big poetry world, the sea of books floating around.  The ones who said yes are my life rafts, something I can hold onto if the waters feel choppy.

If I could give you my advice when asking for blurbs, it would be:

1)  Ask poets you know and whose work you love & admire, don't just ask "the big names"

2)  Ask with the hope of yes, but not with all the emotional drama that I carry, that if the poet says no, do not take it personal -- (Yes, this is a do as I say, not as I do advice.  Honestly, I do not recommend viewing asking a blurb as giving someone your heart, that's just not healthy to do-- you can trust me here).

3)  Give the poet PLENTY of time, at least 2 months.  That gives one month to procrastinate and one month to get it done.

4)  Make it easy on them, get them what they need  - mail them the mss if they prefer to read off of paper instead of a computer, ask them if there is anything they need from you to make it easier.

5)  Say thank you sincerely when it's written.  Send a handwritten note (and not an email) and maybe even a little token of your thanks (a bookmark, etc.) and definitely mail them a copy of the book when it's done.

I've written blurbs for people and it can be difficult and timely.  Make sure you acknowledge what they did for you and your appreciation for it.

Also, if you don't like the blurb, I honestly feel that is your problem and it shouldn't be rewritten to fit your needs.  The correct answer is always-- thank you for your time.  Not a critique of the blurb.  Be grateful, not judgmental.


I'm kind of amused at myself for writing this post given how terrible I am at asking (but I do ask) and have definitely mastered the "thank you."  But I thought maybe you'd like to hear the behind-the-scenes crazy emotions I feel in regards to asking as well as knowing that it doesn't always work out perfectly or at all.

As my book moves closer to publication, sometimes I still have hope Albert will respond too (no, I have not written again, I suck at being pushy or assertive sometimes).  And it gives me a reason to check my mailbox.  But even with his no, or his no response, I'm over the stars about the blurbs I did get.  As hard as it was to ask, I'm glad I did.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Submit Like a Man - Follow up

This post-- Submit Like a Man--on the difference between my experience on how men and women resubmit to journals who ask to see more, created some conversation, so I wanted to return to it to follow up on some of the comments & share a little more about my thoughts and beliefs behind my post.

Some of my favorite comments from that post were this--

from Michael:   ...the commotion I hear must be writers running to their therapists. 

from David:  Damn. Guess I won't be sending my "Frog Story: an Epic of Boyhood in 36 Cantos" to you now. . . .

From Ronda:  Must be in touch with my inner male. . .

From Shawnte:  You've got me questioning my own masculinity, now...


Most commenters agreed with my belief and verified that they too take a while to submit.

One told me my conclusion was "and well non-sensical 'political correctness'"  - Though I'm not sure what that means.   But I understood he *didn't* agree with me.

Jessie brought up the point that it probably varies with each editor and I completely agree with that.

I do think a few editors may be turned off by too soon, but I would lean toward "too soon" than "too late."  Especially if they read all year long and also realizing that sometimes you submit in January and by the time your submission gets to me or our Poetry Editor personally, 6 weeks may have already gone by since you sent it in.

With certain journals (Paris Review, Poetry, The New Yorker, any of the *big* guys), it might mean to resubmit during the next reading period because some of them have certain rules such as you can only submit once a year, etc.   

Yes, a big YES to following literary journal guidelines.

But with journals that do not have these "submit only once during a year" rules, again, I lean towards sooner than later.  


I think I bring this up because I have disappointed myself one too many times by not resubmitting soon enough after being asked to resubmit.  I am the classic case of how not to submit to literary journals.  I submit randomly and more infrequently than I think I should (or encourage others to do).

Also, as an editor I have seen how many of the male poets immediately send work back to us when we ask and a good majority of those submissions have been accepted.


Obviously, we each have to make our own decision on when and what to resubmit.  

I guess I'm thinking about something I heard a well-known writer say once -- If you're worried about being "too forward" or "self-promoting," you're probably not; it's the writers who don't think or care about how they are being perceived that usually have the issues of being the "shameless self-promoters."


Here are some tips for the poet who is new to submitting his/her work from the Academy of American Poets.  They are very basic, but they answer some questions some newer poets may have to submissions.  


Also, realize, we are all in this together-- poets and editors, new poets and experienced poets.  Rejection is part of the game, as is making mistakes.  

In the end, my best advice to any poet is to send your best work to your favorite journals.  

And if they write you a note to see more of your work and it's a journal you want to be part of, send again.  

Good luck and good writing!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Where I Am Tonight- hello Chris Isaak!

Taken with my iPhone at the Chris Isaak Concert at the St. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, Washington.

The reason I'm so close is that I ran up to the stage when he yelled "Jailbreak." And I broke.

Great show!

Request - Low Residency Programs Pros & Cons

Some thoughts on the low-residency MFA and pros & cons (you can decide what is a pro and what is a con yourself)--

1)  If you are someone who needs structure, such as daily classes and a lot of one-on-one involvement from your professors, a low-res MFA may not be for you.

2)  You get exactly as much as you put into your low-residency program.  Meaning-- I'm sure some people get a lot more out of their program because they really put forth an effort where others may try to do the least amount possible.  

3)  For me, it wasn't about getting an MFA (the actually diploma), but I went back to school to become a stronger writer.  I think low-res programs are good for this because they teach you to write on your own and without a community of writers you see every day in class.

4)  Low-residencies are a lot of fun & you do meet great people.  At least mine were fun and I'm still close friends with the people I met there.  I am even a bit nostalgic for that time.  

5)  Low-res programs are great for adults with jobs and/or kids.

6)  I believe I got more going back to school in my 30's as opposed to my 20's.  I think returning when I was older allowed me to get more out of it and to have had more life experience.

7)  They can be pricey (anywhere from $22K-$26K), but I've always just said that using the money for tuition was just one less mid-sized sedan I could have in my life.

I think opportunities to learn and improve oneself and one's writing in life are important and should be taken.  I think both full-time programs and low-residency MFA programs do the same thing-- they try to create better writers.

If someone asks me if I think they should get their MFA, my answer is a question back to them.  Do you want to get your MFA?

If you do, then apply to a program that is right for you and go back to school.
If you don't, then don't.

I am not someone who believe people need an MFA to be a good writer.  

Naomi Shihab Nye, Bob Hicok, and Li-Young Lee all do not have have MFAs.   I have heard Naomi say, "Life is the program."  And I agree.

But if you have a desire to get your MFA, then go for it.

Again, there is no wrong way or right answer here, just individual writers making individual choices that are best for him or her.

But if you would have asked if I would do it again after knowing what I know about low-res MFA programs, my answer is:  Definitely!

Hope this helps!  Let me know if you have any follow up questions...


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Confession Tuesday - the THURSDAY edition

(Buddy Holly, my camping dog after a 3 mile hike and ocean swim)

Forgive me Reader, I have not only sinned but have shown up 2 days late for Confession Tuesday.  It has been 9 days since my last confession.

For the last week my life has been a mix of drama and family, though wonderfully enough, the two aren't combined.  The drama happened on its own and the family came later.

There's too many stories.  This confession could be continued next week, so let's just begin.  

To the confessional--

I confess last week my girlfriend and I took our daughters camping and suggested we go "on a little bike ride."  If you know me, I am an avid mountain biker and what begin as a nice jaunt through the park ended up as a 2 1/2 hr., ten mile bike ride over incredible (both in beauty and difficult) trails.  

Our daughters were ready to kill us, but oddly enough did not complain until it was over and then refused to go biking with us again until we "knew the trails better..."  I confess I was very proud of those two 10 year old girls and I think a little hard work never hurts anyone.


I confess that when I woke up at 3 am because I heard animals on our campsite, that I actually left our tent with my flashlight and actually looked up in the sky because it had that feel of clouds, and actually thought, "I think it might rain tonight."  

And at that moment, with all our towels and gear out, our wood not placed safely undercover away from the rain, with all the things that could and would get wet if it rained, I saw a bag of our ground coffee for the morning exposed to the elements and took my daughter's friend's sweatshirt and threw it over it and went back to bed.  

And in the morning it had rained, everything was soaked, a few things ruined, but our coffee was dry.  Priorities.


I confess I saved the hardest part of this confession for now.  My husband was in his first triathlon on Saturday and what began as an incredible amount of training and excitement, ended in an ambulance trip to the ER and an overnight stay.

He was kicked in the face during the swim portion, aspirated water into his lungs and began coughing up blood.  

My daughter and I did not see this though because he was too far out and we saw how well he was doing so we ran to the where the athletes exit the water.  One after another each swimmer left the water and my husband didn't.  My daughter kept asking me where her dad was.  When I could see the last swimmer and it wasn't my husband, I knew something bad had happened.  But my mind went to tragic as I thought he had drowned.  

I spent 3 days on an emotional rollercoaster just from the fear of what had happened and seeing him in the hospital hooked up to oxygen.  (Note:  he is okay now & is back up to full oxygen and it looks as if he will be fine-- the blood was caused from the water irritating his lungs.)  

Thankfully, my cousin from New Jersey arrived on Monday with his family and took away all my emotional hiccups I kept having.  I had been crying for days. 

My family & I have spent the last 3 days completely in a cloud with this wonderful group.  I am reminded life consists of heartbeats and moments of connection, I am trying to do my best to make sure I am filled with them.


Request - The Low-Residency MFA Program for Creative Writers.

Here's the second question that came by request mail recently...

Why did you decide to get an MFA, what do you think the pros/cons of your MFA experience were, and how did you like the low-residency option?  Also, what factors influenced you to choose a low-res program vs. a traditional, on-site program?

This is a long story, but I'll try to make it concise as possible (and probably will not succeed). 

Here's my MFA story--

I applied to the MFA program at the UW when I was 28 or 29 and was rejected.  

I was truly disappointed.  I hadn't applied to any other programs as I don't think I had even considered moving or going somewhere else and 2), I kind of thought I'd get in.

I had moved out of the city to live a "writer's life" and was, but I really wanted to return to school to continue my learning and studying of other writers.  

I also wanted to have a child.  

At age 30, I became pregnant with my daughter.  

For me, there was no way I could have been a full-time grad student.  I was completely overwhelmed as a new mother and the UW was a 2 hour commute (one way) from my home.  I knew I still wanted to go back to school, but this was not the time for me to start graduate school, at least, not one where I needed to be on campus every day.


When my daughter was 2 or 3, I started looking into over options to get my MFA. There weren't as many low-residency programs as there are today, but there were some good ones.  

Here were my top picks-- Bennington, Warren Wilson, Vermont, and Goddard.  (I still sometimes get that giddy feeling when I see the word Bennington, as for some reason, I was really connected with that school.)  T

Problem was, all of these schools were on the East Coast and I was on the West Coast.  9-11 was still in a knot in my stomach and the idea of leaving on a plane to leave my 2-3 year old for 2 weeks a year seemed awful.

I told my husband -- what I wanted was a low-residency MFA program that I could drive through, with a strong faculty, that was connected with a well-known and well-respected college.  

Within a year or so of saying that, a brand-spankin' new low-res program was created at Pacific Lutheran University that was only about 90 minutes away from my house.  The program lasted 3 years and I would only have to go to the residency once a year for 10 days.   And the faculty?   Awesome!  Marvin Bell, Sharon Bryan, Albert Goldbarth, Peggy Shumaker, David Huddle, Guest poets Linda Bierds, Natasha Trethewey...   

It was perfect for my situation.

I applied, was accepted (my writing had definitely become stronger at 33 than at 28) and I began my first residency, August 2004.  (I cannot believe that was 6 years ago.)  I graduated in 2007.


For me, a low-residency MFA worked because I did not want to be on campus every day and have a 4 hour commute time.  To me, a new mom at the time, it was just too much time away from my  daughter and I wasn't going  to miss out on her early years to get this degree. 

So I found something that worked for my life.  

Honestly, it was probably one of the best things I have ever done.  It ranks up there with getting married, traveling to Europe, adopting a greyhound, kayaking with Orcas, and having a child (not in this order, mind you.)


One of the things I liked about the low-res option was that I thought it would teach me how to write when I wasn't in class all day or a "full-time student."  

I had to find time to do all my work, reading, etc. in the middle of regular life--one that included a daughter just starting preschool, P/T time, a working husband, a home/mortgage, bills, etc--there was no dorm or "taking time off to go back to school."  My life was moving forward and if I wanted to return to school, I had do it as my life was going on with or without me.  I needed to add school to my life, not take myself out of my life to go back to school.    

So I found a low-res program that worked for me and began...

(con't - Tomorrow:  The Pros & Cons)


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Submit Like a Man - Part 2 of Yesterday's Request Question

Rejection Letter:  Dear Mr. Warhol...

FLASHBACK to YESTERDAY:  I know you didn't ask this, but tomorrow (before I answer your second question), I'm going to write about what I see as the difference in men and women in resubmitting.  This is something I've noticed as an editor and with my women writer friends...

So it's tomorrow and yesterday I mentioned the above--how as an editor, I've noticed that in resubmitting to press, men and women do it differently.

Here is what I've noticed (and I would *love* to be proved wrong on this, btw) --

If an editor of our press rejects work from a male writer, but writes something like, "This came close.  We'd like to see more of your work in the future, please resubmit" - we will usually receive another submission from the male writer within a month (though sometimes two) after he receives his rejection.

When we send this same note to a woman writer, she will resubmit maybe in 3-6 months (if that) but more likely it will be later than 6 months and sometimes a year (or the next submission season later).  Sometimes she will not resubmit at all.

I do not know why this is, but as a woman writer who grew up in the age of not imposing on people or being a bother, here is my guess to why--

When we ask a man to resubmit, he thinks, "They like my work and they want more; I better get them more soon before they don't want it anymore."  And the submission is sent.  (Right now, there's that cliche' line about men "wanting to spread their seed" going through my head. )

When we ask a woman to resubmit she thinks, "When would be the best time to resubmit?  I don't want to seem pushy, but I do want to get them my work.  Maybe I should wait a few months so I don't seem desperate or so I don't irritate them by submitting so fast.  Do they really want to see more work, or were they just being nice?  I'm sure they want to see more work, but I should probably wait a couple months, I wouldn't want to be an imposition and it would be better manners and more respectful to wait a bit.  Or should I?  Yes, I'll play it cool and wait a few months. I wouldn't want to impose."

And then the woman writer waits and either forgets or send her submission out a few months to a year later.  (The generalization of women over-thinking things is going through my head right now.)

I hope this post is a big generalization, but so far as being an editor (and a woman writer) it's been my experience.

I have even done this myself.  Once to the point where I was so happy with the handwritten rejection from the New Yorker when Alice Quinn was there that said to "send more," I didn't resubmit for years because an almost from the New Yorker was good enough for me.  And in fact, by resubmitting, I might actually fail, get back a blank rejection as opposed to this feel-good-rejection-note I had just received.  Why trade mediocrity for possible rejection? I must have been thinking.

I have also received a note saying, "We'd like to see more of your work.  We liked what we say, please resubmit."  And my response was to wait until the next year to send again because I didn't want to send too soon.

I no longer do that.  If someone likes my work and wants to see more (and it's a journal I want to get published in), I send them more within a month of receiving their note.


So Ladies, Women Writers, Sisters of Poetry and Prose--

When an editor tells you they like your work and asks you to resubmit, do so and do so soon after.

The men have it right-- the editors do want to see your work and you want to submit before they forget about you and your work.  You want your name to be on the tip of their tongues and not hiding in the back of their mind.

This is where many of our "have good manners and think about other's feelings" good-girl childhoods do not serve us well.

I know when we say at Crab Creek Review that we want to see more of your work, we do.  We're not just saying it to be nice.  And we don't say it to everyone.  If we did, we'd be creating a lot of unneeded work for ourselves.

So let's say it together-- If an editor says they want to see more of your work, they want to see more of your work--they are not just saying it to be nice.  So send them more work and within the next two months of receiving the note.  No later.  I mean it.  You have permission to respond quickly and professionally.  And no one thinks anything bad of you.  Promise.

You are not being pushy or rude, you are taking care of your writing life.


And to the Gentlemen who are reading--

Men, Good Chaps, Brothers of Poetry & Prose ---

Keep doing what you're doing.  But less poems about killing frogs when you were a boy.  And less epic work, we like your shorter poems best.

~ ~ ~ 

P.S.  To anyone who got to this blog because they googled "submit like a man" - you are probably very disappointed right now...

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