Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Literary Round: No BS Version

Over at Brevity Barrie Jean Borich discusses The Craft of Writing Queer.

Randall Horton reviews Remica Bingham’s What We Ask of Flesh over at The Offending Adam.

I'm not sure how I feel about this list of Top 10 Hottest Poets of the 19th Century via The Writing Source. Despite that it's "meant to be fun," it still feels disrespectful. Thoughts?

There's a new issue of Rose & Thorn available, including work by the lovely Mary Stone Dockery.

Kelli Russell Agondon provides a nice list of gifts for the world-lovers in your life.

BBC News reports on Chinese writers living in a culture that censors their work and imprisons them for writing it.

Matthew Bostick doesn't freak out about e-publishing. Good for him. We might consider the same.

Karen Lillis is collecting various writers' list of favorite small/indie press books from 2012. Here's the first installment. I plan to send mine noms soon.

Cheryl Strayed shares this dynamite quote from Adrienne Rich:

"We may feel bitterly how little our poems can do in the face of seemingly out-of-control technological power and seemingly limitless corporate greed, yet it has always been true that poetry can break isolation, show us to ourselves when we are outlawed or made invisible, remind us of beauty where no beauty seems possible, remind us of kinship where all is represented as separation."  -Adrienne Rich

Funny little poetry nugget.

And finally, the Poetry Foundation gathered a list of Hanukkah poems.

Monday, December 3, 2012

When Siblings Spawn

My brother is having a baby. Well, his wife is doing the "having" (and by having I mean pushing and screaming and laboring) while he's doing the calming and the pep-talking and the ice-chip-getting.

I'm really excited. Can you tell? In case it's not clear, below is a photo depicting my excitement.

I can't wait to go home for Christmas. I leave early on December 14th. Everyone else in my big-ass family will have had two weeks with my soon-to-be-born (possibly-already-born-by-the-time-you-read-this) nephew, so I will get to love that little monkey all to myself. At least, that's what I'm telling myself. There's a lot of family that loves him. He's a lucky kid.

babies are kyooot! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

I Wrote Ten Poems in One Day

One free verse, one prose poem, one Naani, one palindromic butterfly cinquain, one semi-found poem, one erasure poem, one cinquain, one Tanka, one Cento, and one haiku.

That's ten poems in one day folks, and I did it with very little sleep (not planned that way, just happened). Never again can I try to tell myself that I'm too tired or overworked or whatever other excuse I want to make up to put off writing.

Thanks, November.

Halfway Mark

one down, nine to go

I've written one poem draft today. For now it's called "everything" and includes a list of all the things I'm afraid of and/or ashamed to admit that I'm afraid of. Here's the first line.

"death motherhood forever pain drowning sharks in a pool sharks in a river sharks dying slowly falling"

There are things I didn't put in this because I'd be admitting something for another person too. I'd like to say it was hard to write this, but it wasn't. I liked the idea of putting all this scary shit in one place. It's like putting all my crazy into a little Tupperware container and sticking it in the fridge and saying, "I'll deal with all that stuff later." *dusts off hands*

Poem-a-Day Becomes Ten Poems-a-Day

In order to catch up for my Poem-a-Day for November, I need to write ten poems today. I plan to live blog the process, which won't begin until after my writing workshop ends around noon (left coast time). If you have any awesome poem prompts you'd like to share to save me the time of having to find some myself, I'd be super grateful.
This photo is the feedback I'm working on for tomorrow morning's workshop. I will be tired while writing these poems. Even more fun.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Upcoming Readings: 12/3 Quiet Lightning & 12/13 Why There are Words

Monday, December 3rd, 2012 @ 7:30pm
Quiet Lightning Reading Series
The Lab
2948 16th Street, San Francisco, CA
Readers: Bridgette Portman, Wes Solether, Austin Smith,  Kate Menzies, Kai Carlson-Wee, Nora Toomey, Eric Sneathen,  Casey Childers, Eliza Mimski, Siamak Vossoughi, John Panzer, Laura E. Davis, & Tomas Moniz
Curated and hosted by Meghan Thornton & SB Stokes
Cost: $5

Thursday, December 13th, 2012 @ 7:00pm
Why There Are Words Reading Series
Studio 333
333 Caledonia Street, Sausalito, CA
Readers:  Gabriel Blackwell, Laura E. Davis, Steve De Jarnatt, Valerie Fioravanti, Anne Galjour, Daniel Handler, and Arisa White.
Curated and hosted by Peg Alford Pursell
Cost: $5

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Experiences in Editing

I've been an editor (ok, Founding Editor) for Weave Magazine since a friend and I started it in 2008. We have printed seven issues featuring hundreds of contributors read by even more readers and subscribers. I've read hundreds of submissions, written thousands of emails, and yet somehow I've never been directly involved with the layout of any issue. Until now.

Issue 08 has been a long time coming. It was to be released this past summer, but was delayed six months so I could make some much-needed changes. After finding a wondrous Managing Editor and seriously amazing genre editors, I'm now completely removed from the process of selecting a majority of the work for each issue. While I still solicit work from writers and assist when a genre editor needs another opinion, the majority of my Weave time has been spent on finances, staffing, correspondence, marketing, and moving the business part of Weave legally from Pennsylvania to California. That last part took a lot of my time; California really likes making laws and someone really loves paperwork. These are the things you never think about when you say, "I'm going to start a literary magazine!" I never thought I'd be calculating our total sales tax (which varies from county to county in California) or filing paperwork with the city assessor.

With all that behind me (well, for now), I'm finally able to apply my creative talents to Weave again through the sequencing of Issue 08. This weekend I printed out all of the work for the issue and then read through a majority of the pieces again. It was thrilling to discover a number of themes and subjects emerge: death, aging, and the body; parent-child relationships; magical portraits of women; animals rooting and foraging; explorations of gender roles in a variety of relationships; and a surprising number of ekphrastic poetry (if I broaden the definition to include film and other artistic media). This issue has translations, flash fiction that's short than some of the poetry, a mixture of photography and visual art, and one piece of nonfiction written in the second person. Diversity, indeed.

I know that many of our readers won't sit down with the issue and read it front to back, but I still am taking the sequencing seriously. I really love the idea of each issue being a creation of its own, all the pieces taking turns in dialogue with one another. My favorite part of putting together my chapbook was the sequencing. Soon my living room floor will be covered with words. I'm happy this issue finally taking shape, and even happier that I can take part in its shaping.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lit Roundup, Gratitude-Style

Dear Outer Space,

How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was delightful and involved a dinner for two (that neither of us cooked), making egg nog, and playing a Twilight drinking game (the only way to watch those movies. And, boy does Taylor Lautner take his shirt off a lot. Not that I'm complaining).

I have a lot to be grateful for, including the fact that we finally bought our Christmas/New Year's plane tickets. Ten flights between two people, six of which are mine. Right now I'm so relieved it's finished, but come December I'll be anxious about so much holiday travel.

Without further downward-spiraling deeper into my fear of missing a plane fight, I'll get to the goods. Enjoy and thanks for reading.


In lit mag news, Brusque Magazine released it's first issue, including two poems from Alicia Hoffman. Both poems feature audio of the poet reading, which I always appreciate.

Weave Magazine released it's contributor list for the long-awaited Issue 08. I spent time this weekend printing everything in preparation for sequencing. I'm so excited!

Corium also released its eleventh issue; this online journal always publishes polished and petite poems and prose. This just in: I'm an alliteration nerd.

Also, Heron Tree, a new online lit mag, is still accepting submissions until December 1st.

First up in the "Writers on Writing" category, we have Carol Berg, author of the newly released chapbook Ophelia Unraveling (which I just got in the mail Saturday!), discussing how to draft a poem. I found this to be particularly helpful for me, since I've been in a non-writing space lately; Berg reminded me that sitting down with a blank page is rarely effective. You need soil first.

Next is an excerpt from a longer essay about ending a poem by Joy Katz. Not new, but new to me.

Poet Molly Spencer inspires me with her dedication to writing even when you think you have no time. Her recent "how to write when there's no time to write" is just what every stuck-writer needs to be unstuck.

Speaking of inspiration, Davka pours out a dose of deer girl medicine with her wickedly beautiful prose piece about bodies and beauty and death and photographic immortality.

AND two for you in the "Just For Fun" category! Discovered the documentary Lemon via Kelli Russel Agodon. An inspiration-giver, this one. (Also it's FREE to watch on PBS!) Lastly, get out your spare change and check out this book vending machine. No, I'm not kidding. How could I kid about something so awesome?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Welcome Back, Literary Roundup!

I'm excited about this roundup!
After a few month hiatus I am back to poeming and back to rounding up literary delights. I had an incredibly busy August, September, and October. Two weddings on the east coast. Writing for ModCloth 30-40 hours a week average. I started teaching in October as well as coordinating for Poetry Out Loud. Since I was so busy with other projects, plus a few personal struggles, I gave myself a vacation from writing. If a poem came out of me spontaneously, then I wrote. But it rarely did. Writing product descriptions, particularly the fun creative ones I write for MC (such as this one I'm proud of), for 6-8 hours just taps out all of my delicious creative syrup.

So I'm back on the writing wagon and kicking things off with a poem-a-day challenge for November. I'm mostly keeping up. It helps to have a group of lovely writers holding me accountable. The poems don't have a ton of focus. A lot of poets like writing projects. I've tried once. I think I'd have to be really motivated or have a lot to say on a particular topic and then give it some structure. Like persona poems for each Zodiac sign. That's kind of a cool idea....

Enough about me though. Without further ado, here's my latest gathering of literary nuggets from around the interwebs. Please help yourself!


Janice Anderson's essay "How to Move in One Direction While Flying in Another" won the Grand Prize in Hippocampus Magazine's Remember in November Contest for Creative Nonfiction. This is a powerful narrative about Janice's experience following a sexual assault. She submitted as part of Submission Bombers, despite being tentative about submitting in general. And she won. The Grand-Frakkin-Prize. Huge CONGRATS to Janice!

Sarah Leavens' gorgeous poem "Natural History" was featuring in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as their Saturday Poem feature. I love that my hometown newspaper publishes poems regularly. If you've ever been to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, you might remember the PaleoLab where you can watch museum preparators removing dirt from fossils. Here's a picture:

photo from Weird and Cool Stuff
The 56th Issue of Right Hand Pointing features a bunch of Submission Bombers! If you aren't familiar with RHP, it's an awesome journal that publishes super short poems and stories meant to be read in order. You don't even have to scroll! It's satisfying to read the whole issue at once, I promise you. Plus, D. Gilson is published in this issue and he is adorable. Don't believe me? Here is proof:

adorable D. Gilson with two FLP chapbooks
Two Eduardo Milán poems over at Asymptote beautifully translated by John Oliver Simon. Seriously you don't want to miss these lyrical, image-rich lines. Mary Stone Dockery has some creepy-meets-beautiful prosetry at Menacing Hedge. Always love her work. Beth Gilstrap's flash fiction piece "I Am Barbarella" appears in Blue Fifth Review's Blue Five Notebook Series. This story is almost prosetry and exactly what good flash should be. Finally, I have two poems at Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. Dig in.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Two Upcoming Readings! November 14th & December 13th

Just a quick update, Dear Reader, about two of my upcoming readings. Braiding the Storm will be available for purchase, as well as my signature should you want a signed copy. I've got a couple posts in the works regarding scheduling readings, post-publication promotions, and how to sign your own book (the answer may surprise you). I hope to see you soon at a reading or otherwise!

Me, reading in March 2012 @ AWP
Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 @ 7:30pm
Lyrics & Dirges: A Monthly Reading Series
Pegasus Books Downtown
2349 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA
Readers: Laura E. Davis, C.S. Giscombe, Colleen McKee, Chris Lebo Planas, and León Salvatierra
Curated and hosted by Sharon Coleman
Cost: Free

Thursday, December 13th, 2012 @ 7:00pm
Why There Are Words Reading Series
Studio 333
333 Caledonia Street, Sausalito, CA
Readers: Laura E. Davis (will update you on the other readers once I know)
Curated and hosted by Peg Alford Pursell
Cost: $5 donation

Monday, November 5, 2012

A List Post Seems Manageable

  • I decided to jump on the National Novel Writing Month bandwagon with a bunch of other poets. We're all just writing poems. I like it. Four down, including a pantoum!
  • There have been a couple reviews of Braiding the Storm: one on Amazon and another by Donna Vorreyer. I'm grateful for both of these and look forward to future critiques.
  • Since I decided to stop confusing anxiety with hunger, I've been eating much less. I've been using My Fitness Pal to help track my meals and movement. Sal is on there too, so it's the only social network he uses. So far he's lost 25 pounds in three months. I've lost six so far, five in the past week. I think that's water weight, but I'm not sure. We'll see what happens when I go to Bloated PMS Village later this week.
  • Two poems recently appeared in Issue 17 of The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. I have a lot to say about my poem Red Stone. I'm not ready to say it yet though. Also a lovely translation by Nic Wong. 
  • I start teaching a new class soon. Sixth grade. I'm not nervous, but more aware that these kids have much different needs. Anyone have tips on engaging middle school students?
  • I'm reading next week for Lyrics and Dirges along with an amazing line-up of writers. November 15th at Pegasus Books in Downtown Berkeley. You should come.
  • I'm still at a loss when it comes to making good friends here in the Bay Area. I have lots of people I like and hang with every now and then. But no besties. I need a best friend finding service. Or maybe I've maxed my quote of best friends allowed in a lifetime (so many wonderful friends! come visit me!)
  • Opened a retirement account this week. I've already lost $21! So I got that going for me.
  • I'm a bit burned out and I've fallen completely off-track with my marketing plan for Braiding the Storm. I think my next Chapbook Rookie post will be about the realities (i.e.: difficulties) with promoting a book mostly on your own.
  • I sent a Poet Who's Inspired Me a copy of Braiding the Storm. She sent me a lovely thank you post card back. I must pinch myself. Here's a picture of it. Below that is poet and friend D. Gilson holding my chapbook. He's adorable.

much love to Mr. Gilson!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Poets Have a Different Mind or What the Hell Is Wafting Anyway?

Hello out there. How've you been? I'm well, thanks.

Braiding the Storm is now listed on Amazon. So weird. My life post-chapbook-publication has been many things. Exciting, nerve-wracking, humbling, and joyful. I was a little concerned about some of the content and how it would be received.. Certain family members could be offended. I was feeling very vulnerable. I still am.

Grandma Maureen and Laura the girl, 1987
But then something unexpected happened. I got an email from my grandmother (yes, my 84-year-old grandma emails) with "your book"  as the subject line. Here's what she said:

So your grannie got to meet the women Laura, not Laura the girl. I feel as though I've seen into your soul. I haven't read it all and some I wasn't sure I understood, but I'll reread. I'm so proud to know you and know that one day you'll be a famous poet or writer. I'm grateful that I've live long enough to witness your beginnings. Love you so much, Grams

After I was done blubbering I wrote her back with a grateful heart. I am still so grateful for so many things I can't articulate yet. I debated whether or not to share this with you, but since so many stories are disheartening, I felt I should tell my heartening one. Her message made me feel so safe and accepted and grateful to her for passing down her creative gifts. I've always suspected she had a poet hidden inside. Little did I know...

The next email contained a poem written by my grandmother. She signed it "unknown" but I knew it was hers. She's a sassy one, my grams. I hope you enjoy it.

I want to write a poem to a poet
But where to start?-------I know!       from the heart!
You can't say that     heart    poets don't' do that---
Like "cat hat mat"
Poets have a different mind.
They think outside the box.
They don't do rhyming
As "The hawk chased the fox and they both ate some lox"
They'd say "the moon wafting through the sky
like the roots of a tree wafting under the ground"
Now just what in the hell is wafting anyway?
They think outside the box!!
So how can I write a poem to a poet?
Because my mind has different timing
I just know those words that are a-rhyming
For this I will not take the blame
Rhyming can't be such a shame

by Maureen Austin

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chapbook Rookie: Photo Opp!

This is happening. It's really happening. 

Rachel Bunting flaunts her copy of Braiding the Storm

Lo Williams showing off her copy of Braiding the Storm

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chapbook Rookie: Something Special, Maybe?

I have a diaries from my adolescence spanning 11 to 17 years old. A few months ago when I was rereading them I found this passage:

Yes, I did refer to my diary as "you" as though I was talking to a friend. I also trailed off partway through the sentence. But on April, 3 1994 at 12 years, 9 months, and 12 days old, I dreamed up the day when my writing might be published as a book. When I might "do something special."

Today, at 31 years, 3 months, and 19 days old, something did occur. Something I did. Something special.

Holding my chapbook in my hands is strange. They are sitting next to me on the couch in the Priority Mail box. Sal answered the doorbell when the mail carrier delivered them earlier today, but I didn't hear it due to the white noise blasting through my headphones while I worked. The next thing I knew, Sal was sliding open the pocket door to the office saying something like, "Congrats, published author!" camera in hand, ready to capture the look on my face when I saw the package and realized what was inside. Someday I'll share that picture. Let's just say I was having a bad hair day.

I was terrified to open it, but I had no reason to be. Finishing Line Press produces beautiful chapbooks and my cover artist beautifully illustrated my imaginings. They have a deep brown ribbon and a spine even. I've never seen a chapbook bound this way, but I love it. It's very book-like.

At first I didn't know what I was feeling. I didn't really feel anything except overwhelmed, perhaps worried about getting back to work. I've since slid toward a simmering excitement. This is where I am. This is my something special. This slow boil. This 18 1/2 year-old dream come true.

Literary Roundup: Shameless Promotion Edition

Fall 2012 has been good to me, publication-wise. Braiding the Storm is arriving in mailboxes across the country as I type. I'm told my copies will arrive today. I've had a bunch of poems come out online and a few print acceptances. I was interviewed by Sophie Rosenblum about the Submission Bombers over at Better Magazine. Below are excerpts from three of my poems, all of which you can continue reading with just one little click. Enjoy.

My Muse Is in Remission

She’s gone ice fishing, I guess.
Or maybe she’s taken a lover.
That’s ok. I know she’ll be back

read more at The Citron Review...

The Doll Maker

She pours their faces, porcelain
legs and arms resting on every surface:
kitchen counter, night stand, her belly.

read more at Mason's Road...

Portraits of Us Before and After Your Death


the night before you die
we’re in bed: my fingers

read more at A-Minor...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Submission Bombers Seek More Targets!

The Submission Bombers are actively seeking literary publications to bomb during the following dates:

  • Oct 1-12 
  • Oct 29-Nov 9 
  • Nov 5-16 
  • Nov 19-30 
  • Nov 26-Dec 7 
  • Dec 3-14 
  • Dec 10-21

More info about the Submission Bombers can be found here. If you're an editor who is interested, please email me with your top three choices. First come, first serve. If no dates you want are available, I will email you to reschedule. You can also leave a comment with your top three slots, but remember to include an email address where you can be reached.

Bombs away.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Kimbra, Will You Be My Best Friend?

There are so many reasons why I love Kimbra. She's smart and classy and uber-stylish without being pretentious about it. Her music is layered and operatic and pop-ish and complicated and weird, yet still you are able to sing along. Her voice has so many incarnations and she isn't afraid to sound weird sometimes. And in her latest video, she isn't afraid to have you up in her head. Her bat-shit crazy head, that is, with her latest video for "Come Into My Head." Seriously, I'm in love. If you haven't heard any of Kimbra's work before, I recommend starting with "Settle Down." Then maybe "Cameo Lover." Then CIMH. Or just jump right in with CIMH (below) if you can handle awesome smart crazy powerful talented lady singers.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Literary Roundup: Google Plus Poetry Circle

It occurs to me that these roundup titles are a bit deceiving. Someone found Dear Outer Space via the phrase "google plus poetry circle" this week. I don't know what that is exactly, but it sounds like it is both nerdy and fun. I've heard of writers using G+ hangouts to write in 45 minute blocks and then chat for 15 minutes. I'm interested in other ways to use this new social network, but I'm having trouble finding people there.

Also, a lot of folks are searching for Submission Bombers, which is cool. Word is spreading! Now, onto this week(ish)'s roundup, literary style.

I'm in love with this poem over at Linebreak (where else?) by Bill Neumire entitled "Father is the Factory". It's just a lovely and sad exploration of working class fatherhood.
He of the wink / & walnut-crushing hands. He of the night without / dreams.
Issue 2.1 of Stone Highway Review features a bunch of work from the Submission Bombers! Some of my favorites include

New (to me) journal, Holiday Cafe, is looking to showcase work by writers of the City of Champions.

A few interesting job opportunities for writers! An indie bookstore in Virginia needs a booksitter. The online lit mag Anderbo is looking for a paid parttime fiction reader. There are a few others over Erika Dreifus' blog.

Contests? Why yes! California residents can still apply for the California Writers Exchange Award, so long as you've lived in California for at least two years prior to submitting. I'll have to wait until next year. The online lit mag Mixed Fruit also has a no fee contest.

Carolee Bennett weighs in on the continued discussion over whether an MFA in poetry is worthwhile.

Finally, I'll leave you with Bill Murray reading a couple of Wallace Stevens poems, via Poets House.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

THNKR Videos: Illustrator Maira Kalman on Walking and Wandering and Books and Theater and Despair and Fruit Bowls

Seriously, watch both of these videos back to back. You'll fall in love. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Maira Kalman.
"Half the time I don't know what's going on. But I love it." 
"Allowing my brain to empty. Which usually means taking a walk....Wonderful things happen when your brain is empty." 
"It's very important not to be bored for too long. Like more than a minute."
"I'm pretty much off-kilter all the time."
"It gave me a wonderful platform to just wander around and talk about stuff that I really like, from books and theater and despair and fruit bowls. Things like that." 
"I'll get to the point at some point."
"...if you don't look at the things that catch your attention along the way...I don't think you've had any fun."

(via P&W)

Literary Roundup: Calling All Life in Outer Space

I like this week's search term that lead someone to my blog. I can imagine them typing it into Google, thinking maybe the search would reach much farther (or further) than just a server or another computer somewhere, but past our atmosphere and into the galaxy, hoping to connect with ET, or the bad guys from Independence Day, or the alien from Contact that just looked like Jodi Foster's dad.

No extra-terrestrials here, but I do feel a bit alien-like. I suppose most poets feel this way. Speaking of poets and strangeness, check out what's up first in this week's literary roundup.

Rochelle Spencer writers about poetry readings in unusual places for Poets & Writers. A highlight:

"Stacia’s events don’t have the muted atmosphere you sometimes find at an academic reading...you hear cheers when a favorite poet “blesses the mic,” and you see audience members nod their heads to a poet’s voice like they’re listening to a favorite song."

Jonterri Gadson shares a bit of advice for the budding writer trying to build a career.

Susan Slaviero has a new chapbook. It is called Selections from The Murder Book (Tree Light Books) and is "handmade, featuring unique endpapers from a mid-century medical textbook." Oh yeah. Here's a nibble:

This might have something to do with predation, a paper cocoon
in a dead girls mouth, a bloody arrow drawn on an oak leaf.

This essay over at The Rumpus pissed me off. Yeah.

Back to happy things! Patricia Caspers writes about lady-writers and finding the time to be/come a writer. This is the end of a series she wrote for the Ploughshares blog called Hearing Voices: Women Versing Life. Lots of goodies in there I must go back and read. I have a couple favorite parts:

"I grew up writing truly awful poems in my closet or under my covers late at night. I shared them, on occasion, with my family or close friends, and they’d say things like, “That’s cute,” or “That’s nice,” and I couldn’t pinpoint why those comments deflated me, but they did."

This paragraph really struck a chord with me. I had pretty much the exact same experience a bunch of times. Once a family member, after reading a rather lyrical essay I'd just written (at like, 11 years old), asked, "...but what is it for?" *sigh*

Also particularly striking was this bit:

"I realized that every single one of us is ever-in-search of a balance between inspiration, creation, and the mundanity of daily life. Like these women, I write while I empty the dishwasher, fold whites, drive to soccer practice. I write into the slender hours of the morning while the house is quiet."

I'd add motivation to my list of things-searched-for right now, but perhaps that's related to inspiration. I'm trying to embrace the fact that I have limited energy and focus. But a girl's still gotta eat. So lots of my attention goes to work, then promises I've made to other people, then making sure I've eaten, then maybe writing. I need to move these around.

Dorothea Lasky's tweet made me smile.

Roxane Gay shares some wisdom about How to Become a Contemporary Writer. Few favorites below (bold parts are mine):

1. Read diversely.

5a. If you’re a woman, writer of color or queer writer, there are probably more barriers. Know that. Be relentless anyway. Strive for excellence. Learn how to kick the shit out of those barriers. Don’t assume every failure is about your identity because such is not the case.

7. ...If you can write a good sentence you are already heads and shoulders above most of what is found in submission queues. You’re not competing against 10,000 submissions a year a magazine receives. You’re competing against more like 200. Those are still intimidating odds but they’re also far more reasonable.

The Twitter hashtag #writetip has an ever-changing stream of advice for writers. If you have any, feel free to use it. Thanks to Nancy Chen Long for this one.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Post-Workout Confessions

Life is not crazy lately. It is just life. Well, there are a few extra stressors I could do without, which is why my already Moderate-Strong levels of anxiety are reaching Richter magnitudes at the Major-Great 9.0+ end of the scale.

Anxiety is not something people talk about for some reason. True anxiety, that is. The kind that cripples people, causing them feel they are on the brink of terror, constantly irritated, fatigued, and sometimes just plain mean to the people around them. People who don't realize they are in a constant, low-level state of anxiousness might begin to think they are actually just a horrible, sad person.

Why don't we talk about it? I don't understand that. Being ashamed of how we feel just makes it worse.

So here is the truth.

I don't love San Francisco. I've lived here for a year and haven't been to Golden Gate Park. Most days I stay at home, because I work from home, but also because facing this city is exhausting. Facing a city that doesn't get me. Feeling so completely displaced. The city does have it's moments. They are usually when I leave the city and remember that the ocean is so close I could reach out and taste the saltwater.

Making friends is hard. Good ones, the kinds you can be an anxious mess in front of. I have a handful here that I am grateful for. I need more.

Writing poems is beyond hard right now. With the chapbook coming out, I keep thinking, "But these are the best poems I've ever written. How can I top these?" Plus, when a writer has a small sphere without much stimuli to stir up new connections and ideas, the poems tend to be a bit navel-gazey. That's all I write these days. So I mostly don't write.

I'm not in love with my life. I feel most ashamed of this. In theory, I *should* be. Shouldn't I? I teach poetry, I write for an awesome company (from home!), my partner is more supportive and loving than I ever thought possible, and I live in this amazing city. Yet, I'm still trembling. From the "little t" trauma of starting over completely. It's only been a year, but in this past year I've left school, my family, my friends, my hometown, moved across the country, to a state that might as well be another planet, to a city that doesn't get me, moved in with my partner, started a new career, and damn, that's not even half of it.

Lately I've been waking up way too early, averaging around 5-6 hours of sleep a night. I do not function well when I'm this sleep deprived. I wake up and begin to feel the pulse of anxiety creep into my veins telling me to wake up, get going, start working, go go go. Falling back to sleep becomes impossible.

At some point, an anxiety-ridden person gets either depressed or angry. The anxiety becomes too overwhelming to deal with, so bed is the safest place. Or the anxiety becomes so overwhelming that you run. Literally run. Run off all that stored energy that your body seems to think you need right now. Your body is telling you, "Feel threatened! Go go go!" So you do. You run or swim or climb flights of stairs, make your heart beat faster and sweat until your body surrenders. Waves that little white flag and screams, "For the love of life, please stop! You are safe now. Stop stop stop!" And you have a few moments of calm inside.

Working out is a weird term for what I'm trying to do. Yes, I want to be OUT of this shitty feeling. But it doesn't happen like that. It returns. One jog will not be the healing balm for my anxiety. It's more like a work-through, I think. Or working-through, even. A perpetual state of maintaining, care-taking, self-loving. Owning your out-of-control pulse. Telling your body that you are safe everyday, if you are lucky enough to be safe, that is. And I am. Both lucky and safe.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What I Want, Circa 2008

I found this journal entry from a few years back. Perhaps it is kismet, because lately I've been asking myself, "What do you want?" and I had no answer. This is as good a starting place as any.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Internal Muni-logue

Mine internal monologue is pretty constant, but in public it usually happens when I ride the Muni. Typically I'm sweating profusely and panting because I just ran to catch the N-Judah (somehow I'm always late) and now I'm trying to appear relaxed and cool amongst the oh-so California-cool folks.

via xkcd
My Muni-logue: How do I stand? Do I look around too much? Should I do something with my phone? There's no wireless here. Don't look at people. You are staring at that woman's purse. It's really cute. I'm sweating, gross. Don't look at your reflection in the window that's weird. Should I stand and lean or hold onto the bar? What if I have giant sweat stains on my shirt? Is this shirt stupid? Why can't I get my scarf to stay in one place like these other girls? Everyone here has awesome boots. I wish I had awesome boots. I wish I had remembered a book so I could look smart while reading. Am I in someone's way? I think I just poked that person's backpack. Oh god. Which way will the doors open? I wish there was a seat. Oh, god can people tell I'm from the suburbs? Why does everyday still feel like middle school? 

Damn, my pre-teen years were traumatizing. Thanks xkcd for illustrating my awkwardness.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Literary Roundup: come out like astronaut because mosquitos

Been a while since I rounded up a roundup. What do you think of this Google search that lead someone to my blog? Obviously Sally Ride has something to do with it, but mosquitoes? It's a cool line though. Might use it in a poem somewhere.

I'm so proud of Submission Bombers! We got a little blurb over at Superstition Review. So much positivity is coming out of that project. Sal suggested I consider incorporating it into my literary nonprofit idea that I want to start for Weave. I've been thinking about thinking about names. Haven't got one yet. But I'm thinking about it.

Speaking of bombing, did you catch this actually explosion of poetry in London?

Two Submission-Bomber-Featured issues of lit mags came out yesterday, one which features a poem of mine. Check out all the work in the latest issue of Right Hand Pointing  and Rufous City Review for more tasty literary treats.

Poems I've read recently include Wishful by Linda Umans, #11 by Carina Finn, a whole series of poem by Molly Spencer at Escape Into Life.

I really want at least half of these unique chairs for maximum comfort. Especially that last one. Can I just replace all of my furniture with giant pillows please? I would curl up and finish reading The Book of Orgasms by Nin Andrews (which is *so* good so far). Which chair would you read in?

Super awesomely cool dress with poetry on them zOMG!1!!! want.

Maisha Z. Johnson writes about being shy. Joy Ladin answers five questions for Her Kind. And this news article reminds us not to be so serious with our art all the time.

On that note, I'm going to go write a poem about a polka-dotted shark. And maybe eat some watermelon.

Friday, July 20, 2012

But, What If Everything Goes Right?

Perhaps the evil twin of Shoulding, the ever-popular What-Iffing frequently plagues many creative-minded people. A side effect of the wonderful imaginations we possess includes the ability to conjure up horrible catastrophes in mere seconds, often leading to a lack of motivation and confidence.

Sal and I had a thought this week. Since we're already What-iffing, already imagining an infinite number of worrisome and tragic scenarios for whatever it is we're avoiding, why not take the time to imagine a few awesome, or at least mildly pleasant scenarios instead? It's just as, if not more, likely to occur and can potentially change your mood.

The problem is that positive what-ifs sound ridiculous. For example, say you're worried about an upcoming presentation for which you've prepared and your silly brain starts up with a few wacky what-ifs such as, "What if I forget my notes?" or "What if I sweat and get giant pit stains in front of everyone?" or "What if my colleagues laugh me out of the room and I get fired for my inane attempt at seeming knowledgable?" Instead try, "What if the presentation goes well?" or "What if my someone compliments me on my poised public speaking skills?" or "What if my coworkers applaud my inspirational presentation and my bosses immediately give me a promotion and a raise?"

What if I read all of these books instead of imagining
them crushing me in an earthquake?
Is it just me, or do the positive "worries" sound completely absurd while the worrying worries seem plausible? Yet, in reality, the positive ponderings are actually more likely to occur. Because how many times does a presentation totally flop and result in public shame and job loss? Compare that to how many times a past professional presentation goes off without a hitch and I'm sure the latter will be in the lead.

Perhaps, if you are a worrier like me, the horrible things hold more emotional power over us, leading to more worrisome episodes. I told Sal it's like that scene from Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts responds to Richard Gere's compliments with, "the bad stuff is easier to believe." Maybe that's just because that's all we ever choose to focus our energies on. And maybe the way to tuning out those worries is simply turning them into reassurances or, by golly, even hopes-for-the-best?

In an effort to work toward rewiring my worry-center, here are my what-ifs for this weekend:

What if I make a new friend on Saturday?
What if I write a new poem?
What if I finish writing that book review?
What if I don't feel bad if I don't write a poem or that book review?
What if Sal and I go out to dinner and then go see the new Pixar movie?

Sounds like a good weekend. I hope yours is potentially as good as mine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stress, Focusing, Impostor Syndrome and Other Adventures

I haven't written much lately. Life is sort of beyond stressful. Laughably stressful. I'm working a ton and writing all day for work just drains me.

Why not write at the beginning of your day, Laura?

Excellent question. Complex answers. 

Brevity is not a strength I possess and neither is being vague. I'd rather just say, "I'm struggling with [insert weird condition here]" and be done with it. For privacies sake, I will say instead that any given day I have a limited number of hours in which I can focus, which greatly depends on how well I've slept, whether I've been eating right, and the amount of physical activity in my week. Since most days I wake up tired, even if I've slept enough, eat pasta and cheese all day, and a walk down and back up two flights of stairs to get the mail causes my heart to race, my focusable hours are really at a premium.

The other problem with my writing life is that I don't do anything. I don't go anywhere or see people. When I have the chance to go somewhere and see people, I often make myself sick with anxiety over it (that's a whole other post). Having just recently come to the realization that I am both an extrovert and an introvert (ambivert?), I have a better understanding of my needs. I need both time with people and time alone to feel balanced. I've got the time alone racked up for years. If only it worked like that. This lack of general eventfulness in my life has made whatever I do write fall into the "Pit of Despair and Obsessive Navel Gazing" - which is bad, in case that's not obvious. In terms of writing material, I'm at an all-time low. 

Whatever focusable hours my stress level and natural tendencies afford me these days, I spend it on work. I have been getting things for Weave in order, which feels wonderful. And my chapbook sales went well. But not producing any new work right now has given me a nasty case of Impostor Syndrome. My general stream of thoughts when attempting anything bordering on poetry-writing or editing consists of:

This is crap. Why try? Get a different career.
How many times have you used the word "feel" in this poem??
OMG I'm annoyed by my self. 
You call that poetry?

It's actually much worse than that, but I'll leave those lovely thoughts for me and me alone. I know I'm just in a rut and I'll eventually get out, but it's really no fun feeling like a fraud of a poet everyday. It makes it hard for me to further promote my book, write reviews, or even take joy in reading the poetry of others.

I think it just boils down to the fact that I'm profoundly lonely these days. I've been in California for a year now and while I have friends, I have no close friends in the city. The kind of friends you can be a mess with. Maybe I do have those friends here, but I feel too embarrassed to risk breaking down in front of them. Depression is clinical. Loneliness is just embarrassing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chapbook Rookie: What Happened to Preorders?!

Well, that went quickly. Turns out my pre-order period is just about finished. If you haven't bought a copy of Braiding the Storm yet, and you plan to, it'd be swell if you could grab a copy by this Friday, July 13th.

Oh yeah, that's right. My pre-orders end on a Friday the 13th. Good thing I'm not superstitious.

I have so much to say about chapbook marketing, but I won't be able to get to that until later. For now, I leave you with resources I've found useful thus far.


Kristin Berky-Abbott on the Promotion of Self and Others
Laura Madeline Wiseman's interview with Dancing Girl Press Editor Kristy Bowen
Effective Email Signatures for Book Marketing

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chapbook Rookie: Interview with poet Joshua Michael Stewart

Stewart, staring longingly into outer space
I recently had the chance to talk shop about chapbook marketing with poet Joshua Michael Stewart. After sending him a thank you on Facebook for pre-ordering Braiding the Storm, Stewart shared some advice with about his experiences promoting his two chapbooks, Vintage Gray (Pudding House Publications, 2007) and Sink Your Teeth in the Light (Finishing Line Press, 2012), and the different approaches he took with marketing the second time around.

All of Stewart's advice was helpful and encouraging, so I thought other poets might benefit from his advice. Thus began the spark for this enlightening and frank interview below. I highly recommend cozying up with his words. Not only am I a fan (see proof at the end of this interview), as an editor I've published Stewart's work in Weave. His poems have also been published by Massachusetts Review, Euphony, Rattle, Cold Mountain Review, William and Mary Review, Pedestal Magazine, Evansville Review and Blueline. You can find more of his work online here Stewart resides in Ware, Massachusetts, but you can visit him on the web at Fictionaut, Facebook, and Twitter.


Many people swear by social media and email, while others say that in-person marketing, such as book parties or readings yield the best results. What types of marketing, both before and after a chapbook’s release, have been most successful for you? Which approaches do you feel are a waste of time?

I’ve heard over and over again that readings are where it’s at, but it’s not about the readings or even (sadly) about the quality of your work. It’s about establishing relationships. In order to make any sales at readings you need to do a lot of them and become an active member of that community. The hard truth of the matter is that most people won’t buy your book because you’re a great poet, but simply because they know you.

Social media is also about establishing relationships. I’ve had more success with selling my chapbooks via the internet. I would have to say it’s because it’s easier to establish and maintain those relationships on a daily basis. Also it’s easier to get my work “Into their hands,” by posting poems, or links to poems published in E-zines. I think I can be bolder with my tactics online. With my first chapbook, Vintage Gray, I simply would post announcements on my wall, and frankly, hardly anyone took the bait. Then with my second chapbook, Sink Your Teeth into the Light, I sent emails with links and sample poems to everyone in my friends list. I pissed a few people off by doing that, a couple even un-friended me, but the bottom line is, I sold more chapbooks in one week by doing that then I did in three years by just posting announcements on my wall. Like it or not, cold calls work.

How would you rate the importance of having an online presence with regard to marketing? Do you have any particular online services that you swear by?

Facebook mostly, I do use Twitter, but my success with Twitter is limited, but that’s probably because I don’t use it as much as I should. Obviously, it is extremely important to have an online presence when it comes to marketing. Think of all the writers, musicians, and whatever else you have knowledge of thanks to the internet that you would’ve never come across otherwise. For me, one who hasn’t owned a TV in thirteen years, and except for NPR, doesn’t listen to the radio, the only way someone has a real chance to market a product to me is going the online route.

Since you have had the experience with marketing multiple chapbooks, what was the biggest thing you learned from the first that changed your promotional approaches for subsequent titles?

I learned that I needed to do more of it. Marketing is really a fulltime job. Again, if you want people to buy your product you need to put that product in your customers’ hands. This is marketing 101, but the problem with me, and I’m sure with most writers is that we’re artists, not businessmen, and you need to be especially if you’re a poet, because no one will do it for you, for the most part not even your publisher.

It’s easy to go overboard with marketing, to the point where your audience begins to tune out. How do you know when enough is enough?

I’m not sure. Again, I always think I’m not doing enough. I guess one thing you don’t want is to have everyone you market to all be swimming in the same pool. If everyone you market to is on your Facebook page, then after you’ve posted your book on your wall for the 30th time this week, you’re pretty much washed up. This is where I start taking my own advice. This is why you need to be online and do readings in as many diverse venues as possible.

Marketing is time consuming and one can really devote an endless amount of time to it. Is it difficult to promote a book while still developing new creative work? How do you strike that balance?

Well as I said, it’s a fulltime job. It’s difficult to promote—period. Since I’m a poet, which is another way of saying I can’t make a living by just writing poetry, I already have to balance many other responsibilities along with the craft of writing. So, what’s one more thing? I have sacrificed a lot to devote my life to art. I’m not married, nor do I (or ever will) have children for the simple fact there would be that much more balancing to deal with. I could be working in a job where I make far more money than I do, but that would mean more time and mental energy devoted to something other than art. Ars Longa, Vita Brevis.

What advice do you have for poets who feel timid about book promotions?

Believe in yourself and your work, but with that always strive to improve your craft. And for God’s sake always hold craft above all else. What you have to say is meaningless without caring how you say it. I admit I’m a bit too timid for my own good, and when it comes to promoting anything, especially poetry, you have to be bold and do whatever it takes to get people to read your work. Even if it means some people will delete you from their Facebook page. Those people would’ve never bought your book in the first place, so fuck ‘em.

One thing that many poet's do not think about, or think is even an option, is having their chapbooks sold at independent bookstores on consignment. I live in Western Massachusetts, and I'm lucky to have at least seven independent bookshops relatively near my home. The way it works is that you either call up to speak to the owner, or better yet, go to the store in person and tell them you'd like to sell your chapbook on consignment. This means the owner finds a spot on the shelf for your chapbook and in return, the bookstore receives a percentage once one of your chapbooks have sold. The way I have it worked out with most of the local bookstores around me is that if one of my chapbooks is sold for $10.00 the bookstore takes $3.00 and I keep $7.00. It's not a bad deal considering all I have to do is gloat about having one of my chapbooks sold at an actual bookstore.

What current projects you are working on? What are you in the process of promoting? 

I’m promoting my two chapbooks, Vintage Gray and Sink Your Teeth into the Light, which people can find both at my web pageSink Your Teeth into the Light can also be found at Amazon.

As for current projects I’m currently working on a book project with illustrator Bret HerholzIt’ll be a collection of poems that will unfold like a hard-boiled detective novel that will also include illustrations and possible elements of the graphic novel.

me, enjoying Joshua Michael Stewart's chapbook

Friday, June 22, 2012

20 Things To Do When I Have Endless Time and Energy

  1. Revise my essay about my mother breaking her arm while I was getting divorced
  2. Figure out how to really clean a cast iron bathtub
  3. Print out my newest poems and revise
  4. Read a pile of books
  5. Write daily
  6. Nap
  7. Read a pile of magazines
  8. Learn Spanish
  9. Translate Spanish poems into English
  10. Read some trashy fiction novels, just for kicks
  11. Walk the four labyrinths in San Francisco
  12. Learn how to cook yummy food that's good for me
  13. Digitally archive the love letters my grandparents wrote to one another during WW2
  14. Use said letters in some kind of writing project
  15. Read all the books I still haven't finished
  16. Read the (pile of) blogs I follow
  17. Be still
  18. Join a community choir and start singing more in general
  19. Finish the furniture projects in our apartment
  20. Blog
what my to do list feels like in my head

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Literary Roundup: Abbreviated-Style

  1. I was interviewed about Braiding the Storm by poet Laura Madeline Wiseman.
  2. Karen Benke's lovely poem "Joy Ride" is over at Rattle.
  3. Jessica Fenlon writes about the "feedback loop of non-response, acceptance, rejection" over at snowblood's parasol.
  4. Renée Albert's delightful poem "Palm Sunday" was featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Saturday Poem series.
  5. Nicolette Wong's epic series of prose poems intermingle with intensely strange and beautiful photographs over at Escape Into Life.
  6. The always amazing Aimee Nezhukumatathil spoke with the folks at Lantern Review.
  7. Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman tells us to sleep upside-down, among other things, in order to spark the flames of creativity (via the Huffington Post).
  8. Finally, less literary and more fun: this photo sparked a chain of events that lead me to climb through a window at Princeton to see Bon Jovi. Thanks, whoever you are.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chapbook Rookie: Email Marketing, Spam, and Dear God Please Spell Check

I'm back from a two week trip to the east coast, during which my chapbook's preorder status became "official" and I got my first presales update. It's been exciting to get the updates each week and I've learned more and more about which market strategies work and which don't. Today, I'd like to talk a bit about using email to market your chapbook.

Everyone I've spoken with about promoting a chap/book has said that email is the best way to market online. Finishing Line said that over 70% of sales come from email referrals. Since January I've been building a giant list in Gmail contacts of anyone who's ever emailed me. As of a few weeks ago, I had a list of over 500 addresses. Woot. Or so I thought.

The bad news about having a huge mailing list is that Gmail thinks you're spamming people. I had no idea I was setting myself to be a spammer, because I honestly *know* a lot of people through blogs and AWP and Weave and jobs and places of residence. It's easy to keep these relationships going via online connections. So I didn't think I was spamming. But once I told Sal my plan, he said Gmail would shut down my account for a few days if I sent an email to that many people.

If this was a movie, the following scenes would be played along to the Ghostbuster theme song, or some equally 80's retro song.

Sal tells Laura she can't use her big-ass Gmail list. Laura panics.

Laura frantically tries to fix the contact lists in Gmail by making them smaller.

Laura goes cross-eyed from hours in front of the laptop moving people to and from various lists. 

Laura bangs her head off the table, resigned to failure.

I was two weeks into my official preorders and had sent no email announcement. I was traveling during this time so it was difficult to find a solution. After returning home yesterday, Sal recommended a few bulk mailing list services. Enter MailChimp. From their website:

"MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results. It's like your own personal publishing platform."

Now, not every writer knows as many people as I do, so for many of you a service like MailChimp might not be necessary. Making contact lists in Gmail (or whatever email client you use) will be sufficient. However, even if you have a hundred people to email, I would recommend MailChimp. It's a little confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it you'll appreciate the flexibility and data you get. You can upload friends and family and acquaintances through many email clients' contact lists (so long as you carefully follow their guidelines regarding spamming).

I cleaned up my lists, removing people that I hadn't spoken to in over a year, and then organized the rest into groups based on how well I know the people in it. My first list, which is the largest, includes people who know me by name. They will see an email from me and know who I am. The second list included online literary friends. I also made a list of bookstores in my area to notify them of my availability to do readings and a list of AWP contacts.

What's great about MailChimp is the back end reports that show you the effectiveness of each campaign. A campaign is essentially just an email, but the content is tailored to the audience of each group. Here is the campaign email I sent to my largest list:

I wanted this to be a personal message, not an announcement from some random list that no one wanted to be on. This list includes family, friends, coworkers, former professors, and anyone else who would welcome this message in her inbox. This campaign been the most effective so far and I've received the most replies. This makes a lot of sense because these are the people who know me the best and perhaps care about my accomplishments. I've got solid rates in terms of the number of people who have opened the email (MailChimp can track this) and how many of them clicked on any link in the email. A number of people have also written back to tell me they purchased a copy. Yippee!

A word to the wise: proofread your emails. Then send them to five people to proofread. Apparently me sending this message to Sal three times and to myself five times didn't help either of us catch this headline: 

I do know how to spell available. See, I spelled it correctly just there. Oh well. Nothing to do about it now, but after spending most of the day yesterday staring at this message, I guess I blanked. So the best lesson you can learn from me is this: wait a day before you send your email. Come back to it after you've just had your coffee and showered and feel all fresh and alert. In theory, that should prevent you from embarrassing spelling and grammar errors. 

I'm interested to find out how successful these campaigns were in terms of sales. I'll get my update this Friday. So far, I've only sold 18 copies, which to be honest, is a little disappointing. But those are my pre-email marketing numbers. Also, I'm pretty sure most people wait until the last minute to buy do anything. Especially writers. We invented procrastination.