You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2012.
I enjoyed everything I read in January, and came close to actually meeting my somewhat intense goal. Here’s a list of what found a place next to my bed (or in my bookbag):
Kelli Russell Agodon, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room
Marian Aitches, Fishing for Light
Umberto Eco, Confessions of a Young Novelist
Dave Eggers, ed. The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011
Carolyn Forche, Blue Hour
Patrick Suskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Tin House 12.4 (Started, but not finished. And yes, that is the summer reading issue from 2011. I’m a little behind in my literary journals…)
Debra L. Winegarten, There’s Jews in Texas?
I had so many things I wanted to blog about this week. Like the great time I had with Kelli Russell Agodon’s poetry class, and the five strong pieces that came from it. Or how I went out on a limb and applied for a creative writing fellowship. Or dance. I had so much to say.
But in the wake of Reesa’s death, I find that most words have left me. If they’re not necessary, they’re not in my head or my hands. And I’m not just talking about blog posts, either. Poems? Feh. That epic poem I want to finish revising? Meh. The small stones project? *shrug* Working on fiction? Blah.
It’s not that I’m afraid the words won’t come back. They will. But it’s frustrating that I can’t write. Doubly so because Reesa was a writer, and it feels like an insult to her memory that I don’t feel like I have anything to say.
But this will pass. Words will come back. I’ll find a way to honor Reesa with them.
Friends and family alike have encouraged me to compete in Houston this weekend as planned, that Reesa wouldn’t want me to sit around the house all weekend. So that’s where I am now. Dancing to honor her memory. Maybe when this weekend is said and done, I’ll have danced the blockage out, and can start writing fresh on Monday again.
I met Reesa in February of 2010. I was having a rough week, and my friends Lynn and Casey took me to the weekly poker game she hosted, thinking it would cheer me up. It did. Reesa was already sick at that point, though the cancer had not been diagnosed. Despite the fact that she was suffering, I was blown away by her brilliance, especially the way she talked about her writing projects. I admired her on the spot, and looked forward to seeing her again.
Over the next month, I got to know Reesa and her family more (as well as honing my poker skills). On March 15th, I was hit by a car. Two days later, Reesa was finally diagnosed with breast cancer. I was so frustrated to be undergoing my own convalescence, and unable to help her recover from the mastectomy. But gradually, we both recovered. It wasn’t long before poker nights resumed. A few months after that, Reesa formed a writing group, which I readily joined. She became an influence on my work, my process, and she was one of my biggest cheerleaders. And on March 15th of 2011, we both celebrated a year of surviving our respective tragedies.
In December of 2010, Reesa announced that she was pregnant. Although she’d had concerns about having a baby less than a year after having the mastectomy, her doctors told her it was perfectly fine. They were wrong. When Iliana was born on March 30, 2011, there were tumors in Reesa’s other breast, her hip, spine, lungs, and liver.
Reesa had beaten cancer before, and this time, she had an infant daughter to live for. She spent 2011 fighting, fighting, and fighting some more. There was radiation, chemo, more radiation, surgery, and then more chemo. Never once did she think she would lose this fight. And even though she was considered terminally ill, most of us thought she would win, too. It was impossible to think that she wouldn’t.
But in October of 2011, things went downhill. Blood clots, rampant infections, kidney failure. Just before Christmas, we learned that the tumors in her lungs and liver were growing again. Not good news. Still, when I visited her on New Year’s Day, the dialysis treatments were working and her doctor said she was getting stronger. I left the hospital full of hope. It was the last time I saw her.
During the New Year’s Day visit, she spent much of the time sleeping. I wrote her a note in a notebook she kept near the bed. When it was time for me to leave, she apologized for having fallen asleep. I told her it was okay. I said, “I’m grateful for any time I spend with you.”
Those were the last words I said to her.
She died yesterday afternoon. The dialysis stopped working, and her body gave up.
I wish I’d gone to see her one more time. That I’d had the chance for a proper goodbye. But I suppose that, as far as last words go, the ones I said to her on New Year’s sufficed.
As I mentioned yesterday, I settled on Writer’s Database as my method for submission tracking in 2012. Although I liked Sonar 3 well enough, I did have some issues with it, namely having to manually enter every single one of my market listings. In addition, the fact that the software was hooked only to my main computer was a bit of a drawback. Not a dealbreaker, but a bit frustrating as well. I’ve gotten way too used to being able to access my data anytime, anywhere.
Since I wasn’t entirely settled on Sonar, I gave Writer’sDB a shot. After about two weeks of using it, I’ve decided that while it’s not perfect, it’s the best possible solution for me right now.
I like Writer’sDB because it’s an online system, meaning I can access it at home, on the road, from my smartphone, or wherever. In addition, it’s to some degree communal. Users can add their own market listings and have them be read-only, or able to be edited by other people who have accounts. It’s also easier to distinguish contests and other listings with deadlines to journals with open submissions, which I definitely appreciate.
The drawbacks are minimal. I’m guilty of adding a few duplicate listings to the database, because I didn’t realize that clicking “Search Markets” did not search all shared markets; you have to go to “Browse Shared Markets” for that. The duplicate listings are a bit of an annoyance; I’m clearly not the only user who has done that. I don’t like seeing the database cluttered with three entries for the same market. And aesthetically, it’s not the most pleasing site in the world. But all in all, these complaints are minor.
Writer’sDB is elegant, useful, and doesn’t require that I redo my entire market list; many of the places I submit to are already there. I also appreciate being able to share my listings with other users. I’m really happy with it, and look forward to using this site in the coming year.
Despite all of the holiday-related fun I had in December, this was a pretty good month for my my writing. Here is what I managed to accomplish:
- Wrote 32 poems
- Submitted 14 poems
- Submitted my chapbook manuscript to two competitions
- Found a new system for keeping track of my submissions (I ended up going with Writer’s Database).
- Drafted one of my prose ideas I had bouncing around. Except it turned into an epic poem. Whoops! I’d never written an epic poem before, so I’m pretty proud of this. I’d hoped to have a draft ready to show by the new year, but revising to make sure the meter works has been a real challenge, so I’m still plowing away.
All in all, December was a great month! I produced fewer poems than I’d been writing in the past few months, but the epic took up a lot of my time.
I’ve set some pretty big goals for my writing in 2012. Here are some specifics for January that will help me accomplish that:
- Continue with my regular poetry writing and submitting practice
- Complete the River of Stones project in January (small stones do not count toward my poem-a-day goal)
- Complete Kelli Russell Agodon’s New Year’s Poetry Resolution Party
- Complete a draft of one prose piece
- Complete a draft of the epic poem that I can show beta readers for feedback