Monday, December 26, 2011

Inside the Gray

Today I woke up at noon. Christmas was exhausting yesterday and I didn't get much sleep the night before. I think I'm a pretend extrovert. I had to go hide in my old room in my parents' house after I helped clean up dinner. I just needed a break from noise.

At work I wear noise canceling headphones and I play gray noise. It's not as high pitched as white noise. It's awesome. I'm using it right now. The TV is on playing some kind of reality show drama, but I can only hear the calming sound of water falling.

Sal is in New York with his family. I leave to see him on Wednesday. This will be the last Christmas we spend apart. It's been my least favorite holiday. My family is wonderful. I got lovely gifts. I just wish Sal could have been here for it.

I have only five submissions outstanding right now and zero desire to submit new work. I'm just not excited about it at all. I want to start fresh. I didn't meet my goal of 100 submissions this year; I stopped at 64. I'm finishing with pretty great numbers for the year though.

Acceptances: 8 journals/10 poems
Overall Acceptance: 12.5%

Last year I had a higher acceptance rate, but I also submitted to much more difficult markets this year. That acceptance also includes the contest I won. It doesn't include my chapbook though. I don't know how to think about that. It was a total shock to me. Still is.

I have written a lot during this second half of the year, the darkening half. Now that the planet has begun it's slow turn back toward the sun, I'm hoping to discover my poems again. This is what I have to say to gray.

Gray, is that a poem inside? I will unwrap the spine of it. Swindle and spring. I will ravish every shade.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Liebster Love and Other Good News

Hello friends and fellow bloggers. How's your Sunday night going? I've had a somewhat bumpy weekend, as I've not been feeling like myself lately, or perhaps too much like an old self I'd rather soon let go of, but luckily I've also received good news this week and I'd like to share it.

First up, the lovely Carol Berg has nominated me for a Liebster Blog Award! Here it is in PNG form:

Don't know what a Liebster Award is? Don't worry, neither did I until about an hour ago. In short, it's a way for up-and-coming bloggers to share some link love (Liebster is German for 'dearest' or 'beloved') with other up-and-coming bloggers. Once you've been nominated, the rules (created by some unknown force in the universe??) state you must thank your nominator and link to her blog (Thanks again, Carol!).

Next you must link to five other bloggers with less than 200 followers. How does one discover this information? It's not actually available, as far as I know. Technically you can find partial data if you use Google Reader and check their RSS feed stats, but that's only the number of subscribers also using Google Reader. Close enough.

Anyway, I digress and I will say that this isn't a real award - I didn't do anything like save children from a burning building or write the next Great American Novel. I just had a cool enough blog to get someone as awesome as Carol to read it regularly. But it is a nice way to expose your small blog's readers to other blogs you like. So, I'll share five blogs that I read regularly and these lovely people can nominate others if they like, but I'm letting them off the hook. You may accept your responsibility-free Liebster Award in whatever way you see fit.

Rachel Bunting, poet-friend and general awesome person.
Thom Dawkins, poet-friend and Chatham buddy along with Weave Event Assistant.
Aubrey Hirsch, fiction-friend, former-Chatham professor and my first younger-than-me instructor.
Bridgette Shade, fiction-friend and new-blogger.
Molly Spencer, poet-friend, workshop buddy, and fellow new Californian.

To my 40 subscribers I apparently have that also use Google Reader, I hope you will add these folks to your content streams. They's good.

My second piece of good news is something I worked really hard on. On Wednesday I got an email from Finishing Line Press stating they want to publish my chapbook, Braiding the Storm. I submitted it to their New Women's Voices competition in February, but when the results were posted this summer and I wasn't mentioned, I assumed the manuscript was no longer under consideration. However, they were still considering, they did consider, and they said yes.

I don't know what to say or feel about it yet, probably because it still doesn't feel real. I'm mostly just proud of myself, but it is hard for me to say that, especially in a public space. Pride is not a familiar feeling for me, since I tend to be hard on myself to the point where I develop eye-twitches and panic disorders. I never feel like I've worked hard enough. But I feel good about this. Better than good, but again, not sure, more new feelings. I really love Finishing Line though, and I'm so happy these poems will be out in the world. No release info yet, but I'll keep you posted.

To celebrate I am going to re-watch Beyonce's 2011 VMA performance of Love On Top while drinking some peppermint tea. She's so joyful in this performance and I want to try to be more joyful in my daily life. Plus, as far as pop music goes, I think this is one of the best live TV performances I've seen in years. You should watch it with me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Literary Roundup, Quarantined-Style

I'm at home sick today. It's the kind of sick where you don't want to be far from the couch or a bathroom, but you can't quite sleep. Thankful for my laptop and peppermint tea. Forgive my typos.

I've got lots of literary goodies, old and new, print and online, so I'm just going to dive right in.

Freedom of Expression Wall, Sampsonia Way Magazine
First up, if you haven't already posted your picture for the Freedom of Expression Wall over at Sampsonia Way, you should stop reading this and go do that. I did. I'll wait.

Did you post your post it? Good. Where was I?

Let's talk about print baby! I love when my worlds intersect, such as when the latest issue of Bitch featured a profile on one of my favorite indie publishers, Dancing Girl Press.  "These slim, beautifully curated, and lovingly handmade editions by emerging women poets reflect a cross-section of the newest talent..." says Alison Barker. I couldn't agree more, Alison!

Also in print - and I'm a little late the game on this one - is an essay by Sugar, of Dear Sugar online advice column fame, about how she became so sugary in the summer 2011 issue of Creative Nonfiction #42.  I was also excited to get the latest issue of Worn Journal, which always has thoughtful pieces about clothing and fashion. You don't want to miss this one, which includes articles about clothes and gender identity, different ways of dying fabrics, and a lovely essay about heartache and a vintage beaded dress.

Ok, now on to some online delicacies. Certainly not new, but worth the read, is Julie Dearborn's essay "Unsolicited" at The Summerset Review. Lauren Becker has some short fiction at Wigleaf. Lots to read in the latest Anti- issue, including some former Weave contributors. Finally, check out Lori Jakiela's piece, "The World and Everything in It Stops and Waits and Considers Whether or Not to Go On," in the most recent New Yinzer.

A couple of cool interviews include poet Nicelle Davis interviewing herself for The Nervous Breakdown and poet Stacey Waite interviewed over at Pilot Light.

The holidays are here and for those of you who wait until the last minute like me, I've included this handy literary shopping section of the Roundup this week. Jeannine Hall Gailey lists her top picks for poetry book gifts on her blog. These agate earrings my friend made are just really pretty, just like all of her handmade jewelry. Consider buying subscriptions to any of the print publications I mention above. I personally think that donations make great gifts, so consider Poetry Inside Out and support the continued art of poetic translation.

In Pittsburgh news, I was so happy to hear that Fleeting Pages won for Best Pop-up Store in the City Paper's Best of Pittsburgh. "With no advertising budget, founder and Braddock resident Jodi Morrison and a volunteer staff kept Fleeting Pages running seven days a week." The more I think about how incredible this project was, the more humbled I am to have been a part of it.

I've been compiling this post very slowly all morning. I think it's time to lie down in bed. With a book of course.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Contents Fragile: Please Handle With Care


That word is my new mantra. I've been working on having self-compassion since I realized that my daily anxiety is totally normal, considering the combined stress-level of experiences I've jammed into the last six months. Cross country move. Starting a new career. Moving in with my partner. It's amazing I'm not curled in my bed trembling right now.

One of the things I love to make myself feel horrible about is writing. Not writing. Writing crap. Writing the wrong thing. Not devoting my life to writing. Sure I've been writing here, using this as a salve for the fact that I can't access my poem-room at the moment. But this here, it's not real writing, I said, it's just promotion. This is not being devoted. Because I can't be. I have to devote myself to teaching and paperwork and paying bills and travel and buying gifts and being present with friends and family. I can't just hole up and write some immaculately perfect poem. But when do I do it? Why aren't poems coming to me like they used to?

Compassion, Laura.

While flying back to San Francisco, I caught up on journal reading. In particular, I read some pieces from the latest Los Angeles Review (which I highly recommend), including Jeremiah O'Hagan's essay about writing essays entitled, "Essaying." Normally I am not drawn to meta-writing, but this piece pulled me in with the balance of research and reflection, personal and universal. O'Hagan recalls his discovery of the essay in high school, while also reflecting on the history of nonfiction writing and the process of writing as exploration, beginning without an end in mind, allowing ideas to emerge organically.

At some point while reading his words, I realized that while I've not been writing poetry, I've been writing nonfiction, right here in my letters to you, Outer Space. O'Hagan reminded me that the essay is a form that can sing like the villanelle or spiral and return like a sestina. It can meander like free verse. It can say something in full sentences, without metaphor. Fragmentation, exploration, discovery. Why had I not realized that my prose was rising to the surface and my only outlet was this virtual space? Why was I not giving it the attention it deserved? But before I judged myself, I whispered compassion. compassion. compassion.

I'm not sure why I didn't hear my essays. Perhaps they've been whispering oh-so softly amidst the loud, overlapping thoughts and lists that my brain loves to recount each night, keeping me awake. It hasn't gotten any louder, but by giving myself a break from my constant ambition through compassionate reminders, I managed to quiet the noise just long enough to hear the stories rising up to the surface as prose.

It's possible I've been experiencing the effects of a small trauma. I imagine myself as a swinging church bell that's reverberating from an especially forceful hammer strike. How could I expect myself to hear much of anything with that loud humming in my ears for the last few months? I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but I like to think I can trudge forward constantly, unaffected by changing environmental conditions or physical needs. Sleeping and eating? That stuff's for wimps! My move across the country is like the winter I believed I could drive in a blizzard. I just pressed harder on the gas and wondered why I wasn't moving as fast as before. Or when I've deprived myself of sleep and I can't figure out (or refused to acknowledge) why I'm so tired. Go go go. Do more more more.

Seriously, Laura. Compassion.

I did write a poem on the flight back to San Francisco. I wrote a poem using phrases from 20 of my finished (i.e., abandoned) poems. It was a good starting place, a place of compassion. I gave myself familiar words, safe words, used words, my words. Because no matter what I'm writing, it's still writing, trailing the words behind me and in front of me as I cross this creek, stepping on word-stones, reaching the trail that I hope will be there waiting for me on the bank. Each word, phrase, line, sentence helping me arrive at a new word, phrase, line... Stopping for rest when I need it. Listening, observing. Breath. Picking up my stones and moving again. Waiting for a rainstorm to pass. Letting myself realize the rain. Handle with care. Breath. Listen, observe, rest...

Say it with me.