You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2012.
A long weekend is perfect for exploring. This past Friday, I celebrated four whole years of living in Austin. On Sunday, I realized that, despite having lived here for four years, I have not once spent time at McKinney Falls, which is a lovely hiking/camping/swimming destination just a few miles away from the airport. So armed with a camera, a traveling companion, and a bottle of water, the adventure commenced!
Most of the trip was spent on a hiking trail, trying to avoid poison ivy (I was not 100% successful in this endeavor). I also fell in the river, which was nice for the heat, but not so nice because I reeked of algae all afternoon. Also, thank goodness for waterproof camera bags!
After dealing with the chronic dryness of last summer, it was refreshing just to sit and listen to the water. We’ve had some decent rain in Austin this spring, and I wouldn’t mind a little more before summer hits us hard, but the chances for that are quickly passing us by. Let’s just hope this summer isn’t quite as intense as the last one. As much as I adore living in hot, dry climates, I do have an affection for water.
Many awesome writing things happened to me over the course of last week. So here is a post chock-full of good news!
First, I have a piece of flash fiction, entitled “Eulogy,” up at the San Antonio Current. Meaning I’m making progress on my fiction list! I love this feature, and I’m excited to have work there for the second time. (Side note: Editor Lyle Rosdahl is always looking for new work to include in this section, so if you have some work you want to share, definitely feel free to submit.)
Second, I’m poet of the week over at Poet on Poetry, a blog run by Austin writer Sheree Rabe. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share some of my favorite poems and discuss my work. Go over and check it out!
And finally, the Austin Poetry Society held its annual award ceremony this past Saturday. I was unable to attend because it conflicted with my sister’s graduation ceremony, but I’m thrilled to announce that I garnered two first place awards and one honorable mention for my poems.
- “Enter Here” won the Mary Oliver Award, sponsored by APS president Elzy Cogswell
- “Seeing in Longhorn Caverns” won the Salt of the Earth Award, sponsored by Nancy Taylor Day
- “Season Pass to Barton Springs” took an honorable mention for the President’s Award, also sponsored by Elzy Cogswell
Plus, two of my poems that didn’t win, but came close, got some feedback from the judges, which is always appreciated.
“Enter Here” and “Seeing in Longhorn Caverns” will be published in Best Austin Poetry 2011-2012, a chapbook featuring the winners of all the APS contests. I’m thrilled to be featured in it, and can’t wait until it comes out.
I hope your own writing weeks are full of productivity, success, and fun discoveries.
Via Kelli Russell Agodon, the Tin House blog has a post about the habits of highly effective writers (Kelli also did a similar post of her own). It’s pretty interesting to see how different people work. I’m currently not writing full-time. But even though writing doesn’t happen at all hours of the day for me, I’m still very aware of the habits of my writing life:
- I write every day.
- Except when I don’t. Sometimes, you really do need to let your brain just rest a bit. I didn’t write for about for days after I came back from Round Top. I spent so much time getting inspired and being around brilliant people, my brain needed a couple of days to settle. But then I drafted three new pieces yesterday, after things had coalesced. So, in general, write every day. Just learn how to tell when you need a break.
- During the weekdays, writing happens on my lunch break. This is pretty much just enough time to get down the first draft of a poem, sometimes two.
- On Saturdays, Jon works, and unless I’m traveling, I have the whole day to myself. This is pretty much when my revision happens. I like to read poems aloud, but I prefer to do that in isolation. It’s kind of nerve-wracking to attempt to read an unfinished poem to hear where the problems are, and know that someone is listening. No, I don’t spend the entire eight-hour day revising, but usually 3-4 hours of my Saturday are spent honing poems.
- When I revise, I usually have a cup of tea or glass of water, but otherwise, I don’t need anything else. Sometimes, I want silence. Sometimes, I want music, and that music is almost always Patti Smith, Dessa, or The Mountain Goats. Other than that, I pretty much just need my chair, my laptop, and electricity.
- On Sundays, I usually draft a poem or two early in the morning, but in general, that’s my worst day of the week for getting work done. Sunday is almost always a day for getting outside, or going to movies, or generally anything other than sitting and working.
That’s about it. I feel pretty lucky. As far as writing habits go, I feel like I have it pretty easy. Even at my busiest, I can usually find 30 minutes, a notebook, and a pen.
After six years, IndieInk has decided to cease operations. I regret that I didn’t find out about the awesome site and community until near the end, but when I was participating, I got some really challenging prompts and met some really fun writers. So while I only had a short run there, I’m glad I got to have one at all.
The one thing that does bother me is that the website has been taken down. I understand the editor’s not wanting to pay for hosting when they’re no longer running the site. However, it would have been nice to go leave a goodbye message on the message boards, or make sure I had up-to-date contact info for the friends I made on the site. The editor’s email went out yesterday morning, and ten minutes later, when I went to the forum, the site was already completely gone. I was bummed that I couldn’t say farewell. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.
Thanks, IndieInk, for helping me get some writing done, and for helping me meet some cool new writers. I wish we could have known each other longer.
This Saturday, a friend and I headed out on 290-W for a sojourn to Enchanted Rock. The last time I went out there was in August of 2010, and I ended up with heat exhaustion, so it was nice to be able to get out in cooler weather and see more of the park. We climbed the rock, wandered through a gully, got lost, and then found ourselves again. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon, and I got some great pictures.
Last week, I came upon Becky Tuch’s “On Quitting Writing,” which is actually a series of statements by authors and editors about why they don’t quit writing, or why they came back after a long hiatus. Which, of course, got me thinking about what keeps me going, especially because my focus is on poetry, and there isn’t even lousy pay in that — there’s no pay (okay, there’s a little pay once in a while, but not really). I don’t have the hope of an increasingly-elusive six-figure advance to keep me going when times get tough.
So what is it that drives me when I’ve gotten way too many rejection letters in a given week? Or when a journal sends me two rejection letters because for some reason their system didn’t think the first rejection went through? What brought me back to poetry when I hadn’t given it any substantial attention in roughly six years?
All I know is that when I was twelve, during spring break in sixth grade, I decided that I was going to write poetry. I had never written a poem before (outside of creative writing exercises in school). But I was going to learn.
All I know is that during the six years I wasn’t writing poetry, I was still compelled to try every once in a while.
All I know is that now, if I go a day without writing even the roughest draft of a poem, I feel twitchy and restless, and as though the entire day has been a waste.
All I know is that I love words. I think I love words more than I love avocados and semicolons. And if you know me, you know that’s a pretty big deal.
All I know is that, at the end of the day, even if no editor takes a particular poem, at least I can say I’ve created something I love.
That’s all writing is about, really. Making something you believe in. Something that gives you meaning. I want people to read and enjoy my poems, but really, all I need is a space to play with words and make something outside the constraints of my day job. Outside the constraints of what other people want from me.
My birthday was in April, but I got to enjoy the last of my gifts this past weekend. My gift from Jon this year was a trip to Poetry at Round Top, spending three days in rural Texas with people who are in love with poetry.
I left work on Friday afternoon, and thankfully, it was a beautiful afternoon. I drove with the top down on my car, while playing All Hail West Texas on repeat. (Yes, I was actually traveling east, but I still find it essential listening whenever I’m spending a considerable amount of time on 290, no matter what direction.) I arrived with some time to spare before the evening readings, so I took half an hour to wander around the campus and take pictures.
When I walked into the concert hall for the readings, I was blown away by the presence of Pattiann Rogers and Ed Madden, who were featured that night. From that point on, I spent the weekend constantly in awe of the amazing writers attending the festival with me. And because nothing inspires me more than attending readings, I was drafting new pieces whenever I got a spare moment. As soon as the Friday night readings let out, I dashed to my room and jotted down a rough draft before heading out to the late night Round Top Scholars reading. The whole weekend cycled between listening and writing; it was non-stop creativity.
All of the readings were amazing. All of the presentations were enlightening. It’s hard to pick a favorite moment. Cyrus Cassells’s reading brought me to tears. Reginald Gibbons gave me a lot to think about during the poet-to-poet interview. Naomi Shihab Nye stole the show with the amazing musical accompaniment to her piece. There wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t being inspired.
One of my favorite moments was crossing paths with Joseph Campana, who taught in the English department at Kenyon College when I was a student there (he’s now at Rice University in Houston). I never had a class with him, but being a small school, Kenyon students and faculty had plenty of occasions to interact outside of the classroom, and we remembered each other. His new collection, Natural Selections, is based on his experiences in Gambier, and as I flip through it, I’m filled with memories.
On Sunday morning, Walt Whitman interpreter Bruce Noll hosted the Remembrance & Celebration for writers who have died in the last year. It was very moving for all involved to come together as a community to share our love for those of us who have passed on.
When the Sunday open mic ended in the early afternoon, I was loathe to leave. I’d made new friends (both from Austin and other cities), I was brimming with new ideas and constantly drafting lines in my notebook and in my brain, and didn’t want to leave such a beautiful place with so many wonderful people. But I have photographs, new books, new poems, and new friends. Plus, I have next year to look forward to, and I can’t wait until 2013. I’ll definitely be there. And with the event falling so close to my birthday, Jon is lucky, because he never has to come up with an original birthday gift for me again.
I didn’t quite meet my reading goals for April — fiction was not a feature on my reading list. But I still read some amazing books.
Audre Lorde, The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde (I only read two poetry collections in April, but since this one is over 500 pages long and encompasses Lorde’s entire career, I don’t really think I fell down on my goal of reading a poetry collection a week.)
Poetry, April 2012 (A delightful mix of poets old and new. Congratulations to the journal for a century of great poems!)
ire’ne lara silva, furia (silva is an incredible local poet, and I couldn’t resist this collection when I saw it at BookWoman)
Dean Young, The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction (Perhaps the best treatise on poetry I have ever read. It shook me when I read it, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it.)
At the beginning of April, I didn’t quite realize just how busy I was going to be, and how much I’d struggle to take time for my writing. But I still managed to accomplish quite a bit
Here’s what I did in April:
- Wrote 32 poems
- Submitted 18 poems
- Submitted my chapbook manuscript
- Wrote and submitted a nonfiction piece
- Researched my NaNoWriMo 2012 project, albeit sporadically.
- Made substantial progress on my epic poem. It’s not finished yet. There is so much revision I need to do. But I’m headed in the right direction.
I did not
- Finish my poetry table
So while I wrote fewer poems this month than I did elsewhere this year, I’d say that, overall, April has been my most productive month to date. Especially since one of my goals (writing and submitting nonfiction) was not even on my list!
My plans for May are as follows:
- Continue with my write/revise/submit practice for poetry
- Finish and submit one fiction piece from my in-progress list (which I took a break from in April)
- Continue to research my NaNoWriMo project
- Finish my poetry table
- Perform a substantial revision of my epic poem
I’m looking forward to this next month, and the work that emerges.
With the help of this random number generator, I’ve selected the winners for my Big Poetry Giveaway 2012. Congratulations to Shawnte, who won the copy of Susan Wheeler’s Ledger, and Ronald Lewis, who won the copy of Allison Benis White’s Self-Portrait with Crayon. I’ll have the books out on Monday, after I get back from Poetry at Round Top.