Two firsts & some distractions

In my last post, I mentioned doing a #fridayfiction post on Twitter. It didn’t actually happen until Sunday so I’m going to call it #fictionSunday. You can see my tweet about the short story I read on the STORY Magazine website. It was actually an excerpt of a longer story that will be in the print edition.

More new things! I finally signed up and participated in One Page Wednesday, an event that Literary Arts hosts. Right now they host the event on Zoom, but before the pandemic people went down to the Literary Arts space and did an in-person reading. Basically, there are featured writers each month who read at the beginning of the event, and then others sign up to read their page. One of the Literary Arts staff members emcees the event (December’s was hosted by Jessica Meza-Torres) and it kicks off from there.

This is me ready to read out loud to people other than my toddler for the first time in a couple years!

I didn’t get super nervous, probably because I was sitting on my couch in my house, I didn’t have to go first, and everyone on the Zoom call was very supportive. I loved seeing new-to-me writers and hearing what they are working on. I hope to join the call again next month.

Other items I have found of interest, amusement, or otherwise distracting:

  1. This music video by Vremya & Steklo “Troll” was the #1 song in Ukraine in December. I found while browsing Twenty-two Twenty-eight literary journal’s website.
  2. Perfecting my vegetarian chicken soup (instant pot!).
  3. Read a few articles about Omicron. Here and here. I’m sure new stuff will continue to be reported on.
  4. I learned a little about the Transgenic jellyfish from the e-news digest I get from Nature. Researchers are learning more.

“Jellyfish neurons seem to be organized in hierarchical patterns that independently control different body parts, the scientists say. Transgenic jellyfish could serve as a model for studying how brains and nervous systems evolved, they suggest.”

– Nature

What are you doing to keep distracted? Have you tried anything new lately?

Okay, that’s all for now. Hope you are staying healthy and sane.

Aiming for 100 rejections

I have finally decided to aim for 100 rejections (at this point it’s more like submissions/applications) for the year. I’ve been hearing about this idea for a long time and I always kind of liked it, but was never committed to putting it into practice. Lately, I’ve gotten some of my energy back after the depression, stress and horribleness of the past two years. I’m ready to take my commitment to my writing to the next level! First, here’s what I’ve been up to when I’m not too busy toddler wrangling:

  1. I applied to a fellowship! I’ve NEVER done this. I’m not holding my breath, but I decided that it was time I believed in myself enough to try for something like this. Next year’s goal will be to apply to more than 1.
  2. Slowly I am aiming to get back to jogging 3 miles three days a week. So far, I’ve been able to jog twice a week for a little under 2 miles. Part of that is due to time, but a BIG part is due to my lower fitness level. Running is HARD when you haven’t done it for years …
  3. Oh, um, I have a new obsession, Orchids. I am not allowed to buy anymore, but let’s just say PROJECT ORCHID REJUVENATION was a success! I’ll do a post on that in the future probably.
  4. One of my stories was accepted for publication back in December 2020 and should be published in the next couple of months. With COVID a lot has slowed down and publication timelines are no exception. If you want to get notification on when that happens, sign up for my tiny e-newsletter. I generally only send an email out 1-2 times per year.
  5. I wrote a new short story that I am really proud of. After trying to write it as a creative nonfiction piece, I turned it into a short fiction piece in one day. I revised it a couple times and had a writer friend review it before sending it out. It was based on a call for short stories from a journal I’d been pubbed with in the past.
  6. A few months ago I started writing a new novel. This one feels a bit different than my other ones. It seems to have more focus in many ways, but I’m only about halfway through writing the first draft so we will see what happens. It involves TIME TRAVEL!
  7. I signed up for a community event through Literary Arts called One Page Wednesday in December. It’s where you can listen to others read a page of their work in progress and if you want to read, you can too. I love this idea and have always wanted to go to one of these events.
  8. I also signed up for an online fiction workshop through Catapult. I’m excited about this one because it centers around time and how to utilize it in your novel. I’m very curious about this topic since my new project deals with time travel.
  9. And then I decided to see how many submissions I’d sent out this year. This includes three short stories, a novel, and the fellowship. I counted roughly 70 submissions, 10-12 of those are still pending. This led me to decide to rack up some rejections and start counting in 2022. This is where I’ve decided to aim for 100.

Okay, that’s my update for now. I can’t promise that I will update this blog more than a couple times a year, but we’ll see. What about you? How are you doing and have you set any goals for yourself?

The day I lost my sister

Grief is a hard road to walk, but memories hold peace and warmth.

To the Salt of the Sea

I burned vividly the sight of the rain as it fell like a singular sheet beyond the window of the taxi I took to the hospital that last time.

My heart was settled in place, surprisingly, as I rushed through the layers of doors towards my sister’s room in the ICU. Mom had just panicked, I thought; she’d exaggerated how bad the meltdown my sister had that morning. She’ll be fine, I know my sister’s going to be fine.

It’s a strange thing what hope does to you. When I looked past the shutters I saw her unconscious, with wires all over her body. She’ll be okay, I thought again. I’d seen all of these wires before, the only new thing is a massive oxygen mask obstructing her pretty little face. I’d seen it before, the bags of platelets by the twos, never seeming to stay in her body, and…

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The Matchbook Room

My piece was published on the Eunoia Review website! Check it out.

Eunoia Review

First performed by an actor as part of the Liars’ League Portland (now defunct)

What I wanted to tell you about was Grin. How she collected matchbooks and how it’s a dying art form. Her full name was Grinalda. She’d inherited her father’s modest collection when she was 25. At first, she didn’t like me, thought I was a know-it-all. Most people would agree with her, but I learned to soften my delivery, how to stop being didactic after a couple of shots of Four Roses whiskey. I liked it on the rocks and without flourish, but you don’t care about that. At first, Grin kept me around because of some familiarity or softness in my dark eyes. Later, I helped her make more money and became indispensable.

Tall, lanky, awkward. Grin muddled through the streets as if she were lost in a corn maze. We met when I found…

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Uncertainty

“In your diary, you quoted old Jiko saying something about not-knowing, how not-knowing is the most intimate way or did I just dream that?
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I think maybe it’s true, even though I don’t really like uncertainty. I’d much rather ‘know’, but then again, not-knowing keeps all the possibilities open. It keeps all the worlds alive.” – Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

Oftentimes when uncertainty comes rushing in and it is the only thing I see, the wave crashes into me, it can’t go through me like I want. The question marks pile up until there is no more than a curved line and a dot in everything I see, touch, or feel. That’s when I know it is time to breathe, to catch my breath, maybe cry a little, get the pent up and pushing away, out.

I like the idea that uncertainty keeps ALL possibilities open. That means, even the good ones. Oftentimes, I think of uncertainty as bad and anything that is uncertain is sure to result in some horrible consequence or catastrophe. Throughout this pandemic, I’ve seen so much good. People coming together to problem solve, to appreciate each other and to help one another out. Many of us didn’t see this coming, some of us may have been a little more prepared, but none of us knew how we would handle something like this until we were staring it down. Many were faced with job loss and others an opportunity to step-up without protective equipment to confront a serious virus. No one “asked” for this but we have ways to make our situation better.

We just watched Fellowship of the Rings and we knew that Gandalf was wise, but his words come in very handy right now…

And also, I’m so grateful for this time. My son is at an age where he doesn’t know what a global pandemic is, he isn’t talking in full sentences and he is simply happy to be home with his Mama and Dada and dog. He tells me he is happy after a glass of milk or when we cuddle tight. He gives me kisses on the cheek and big smiles that demand that I stay present and focused. I demand that I smile and share in his joy because these moments are small, fleeting things and we will be dealing with the fallout from all of this for a long time to come.

Wash your hands, support local businesses as much as possible, do what you can for others, and thank all of our essential workers.

Note: I did not mention that I haven’t blogged in a while. I’m not sure how often I’ll be blogging in the coming months, but I’ll let you know when I post!

 

Writing tips from other writers #authortoolbox post

For the next couple of #authortoolbox posts I decided to reach out to my writing friends both authors I know in real life and those I know virtually. Please learn more about their writing as well. They have a lot of insight into their own process and you never know what will work for you.

I love finding new nuggets of wisdom (I’m not talking about fool’s gold here!) or a twist on an old tip that helps me get inspired, write better, or grow as a writer.

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For every question you have about writing, read lots of blogs/articles/chapters on the topic, because there are so many opinions out there!

– Raimey Gallant: http://www.raimeygallant.com

This is particularly meta since anyone reading this post is reading a blog to gain some knowledge and help with their writing. I love that! Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly with this writing tip. Read as much as you can until something truly resonates with you. If you need help with plotting, read about it many places. I’ve tried a few different ways to plot out my novel, either ahead of time or while writing, and I often modify my approach based on a couple of different techniques. In the end, that felt right and I read enough to feel confident that I would, at the very least, move my story forward.

Find the joy in writing. Don’t be afraid to genre jump, write bad drafts or fail, it’s all part of the journey.
–Author/Freelance Writer Melissa Uhles  http://www.melissauhles.com/
This particular writing tip is one that I have dabbled with, but haven’t fully embraced. I tend to write literary and add twists of speculative elements. I’ve yet to write a full-on romance or horror story. I love the idea though. I’d love to hear from others who do this and how it informs the way you move forward in your writing.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet and let you all think about these tips. I’ll have a couple more next month from various writer friends! And if you are feeling like a longer post, check out my interview with poet, Carolyn Martin, her newest poetry collection launches March 13.
I feel like I should apologize for my bad humor, the whole “fool’s gold” thing. It’s just how my brain works.

Author Q & A: Carolyn Martin (poet!)

This interview is an exciting one for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve never interviewed a poet before! I decided to open my interviews up to published and unpublished authors, but I want to keep a healthy mix of all different types of writers who are in various stages of their writing careers. Another reason this post is exciting is that I met Carolyn through my time as a fiction editor for VoiceCatcher journal where I was later on the board and managed their social media accounts. I love this connection because it really introduced me to a wonderful and giving community of women writers. Anyway, I’m happy to have Carolyn on my blog so let’s hear more about her.

 

Version 5From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has contributed poems and book reviews to publications throughout North America and the UK. Her fourth collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was released in 2019 by Unsolicited Press. She is currently the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation.


You’ve published four poetry collections so far. What makes the fourth different from the first three?

A Penchant for Masquerades is different for two reasons:

First, rather than having a manuscript in search of a title like I had in Finding Compass, The Way a Woman Knows, and Thin Places, I found a title for this fourth collection first and it challenged me to write the book.

A few years ago, I read this quotation by Isak Dineson:  “Truth is for tailors and shoemakers … . I, on the contrary, have always held that the Lord has a penchant for masquerades.”

I knew immediately this was my title – although I wasn’t sure what it meant. The poems are attempts to find that meaning.

The second difference is that I had discovered new forms to write in. For example, several poems contain not one word of my own except for the title  (i.e.,“Ten Variations on the Fifty Most Quoted Lines of Poetry” and “90+ Titles Appropriated from Poetry 180 Hosted by Billy Collins”). What fun to cut-and-paste and arrange and rearrange words into something new!

Then there are paratactic poems: poems that are a series of aphorisms that can be read in any order (i.e., “Prologue,” “Spoiler Alerts).

Both forms were new to me and added a broader and deeper dimension to my work.

Is there a difference between writing prose or poetry? If so, what do you think it is?

I spent most of my 40-year working life writing prose: business books, magazine articles, keynote speeches, workshop materials. Today, I occasionally write in prose via book reviews and a blog. And, while all these prose writing experiences are valuable, I’ve discovered that poetry is the way my mind interacts with the world – in images, rhythms, sounds, and intensities of language. So I’ve settled into the joyful challenge of translating experience into as few words as possible. My aesthetic is found.

In a comment by Sting, “All my life I have tried to find the truth and make it beautiful,” and in Galway Kinnell’s statement, “To me, poetry is somebody standing up … and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.” My poems attempt to find beautiful truths as I grapple with the complexity of being on earth right now. Being me, I couldn’t do that in prose.

Everyone wants to know about a writer’s practice or discipline as if there were some silver bullet that would prompt their own success. What’s your “silver bullet”?

Here’s my secret: there is no “silver bullet.” At least, I don’t have one. Perhaps, it’s my age – going on 74 — and the fact that I don’t write to make a living, but I’ve taken the pressure to produce off. If there’s another poem published somewhere or another manuscript trying to be born, that’s fine. If not, I’ve had a good run. My mantra in my blissful retirement years comes from a Spanish proverb: “It is beautiful to do nothing and rest afterwards.”

Anyway, after years of discipline, it is very freeing to create days in the shape I’d like them to be or, perhaps, to let days shape me. I live a charmed life!

Where do you find inspiration? Or who inspires you?

In the first stanza of my poem “A Few Words on Inspiration,” I write:

It happens this way: the day collects stuff:

a squirrel in rigor on a cottage stone,

chem trails staining summer’s sky,

a white spider on the TV screen.

Every day is filled with sights, sounds, smells, perceptions, feelings that are grist for poems. If I can stay away from the computer long enough and stop the noise inside and out, I collect stuff.

Among famous poets, I’ve been influenced by Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats, William Carlos Williams and Elizabeth Bishop and have written poems that reference their work. Among contemporaries, I love Billy Collins, Natasha Trethewey, James Wright, Kay Ryan, and Wislawa Szymborska. Likewise, a number of my poems arise directly from their work. Also, they help me in my search for new approaches and forms that keep my work engaging and fresh. 

Finally, this goes without saying: Local teachers like John Brehm, Sage Cohen, Cindy Williams Guitiérrez, Kathleen Halme, Annie Lighthart, Andrea Hollander, and Paulann Peterson have inspired so many poems throughout my four collections that I’ve lost count. There’s nothing like being in a workshop with a brilliant teacher and dedicated students who inspire one another

The bottom line? There are possibilities for poetry everywhere if you’re attentive to  them. They’re waiting and wanting that attention. If you don’t grab them, someone else will!

Do you have any advice for someone who may be going through a hard time in their writing (might be due to personal issues not related to writing, but still effects writing)? What keeps you going through tough times?

Be gentle with yourself. There are weeks – and sometimes months – that I don’t write. These are my fallow periods and I’ve learned to respect their rhythms. When writing dries up and I feel like I’ll never write a poem again, I find other creative things to do: gardening, painting, creating greeting cards and jewelry, whatever. Anything to be creative.

See, I believe we create or we die, and one type of creativity leads to another to another to another. Of course, when you’re not writing, you’re reading and observing. You’re keeping files of new words, quotations, snippets of conversation you’ve overhead: all gems that may sparkle when the time and energy to write returns – and they will.

Is there anything else you would like to share with me/ the world?

This may sound counter-intuitive, but writers should spend some time writing about what they do not know. Science, art, music, cosmology, world religions, etc. offer images and ideas that will enrich anyone’s work. I remember reading articles that claim the sun rings like a bell, that North America moves closer to Japan by three inches each year, and that there’s a species of frog that listens with its mouth. Each of those images delighted me and worked their way into poems. I couldn’t make them up!


Find more about Carolyn here: www.carolynmartinpoet.com

Letting go

Recently, a friend (Rebecca) posted an old “note” I’d written on FaceBook. It was called 16 things about me. The #11 thing was:

I think letting go is one of the most important things a person can do… and one of the most difficult things a person must do.

 

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Image from pixabay

 

There were other really insightful nuggets on the list (like the horrid snake tattoo that had the word Truth coming out of its mouth I wanted to get in high school), but that one stood out to me. I still believe this and it got me thinking about how certain lessons or trials come up over and over again and you must continue to choose how to react to situations. When I think about letting go of something today, most of the scenarios involve giving up control. It’s something that I don’t have anyway, but think I have. The other side of it is that I only have control of myself and my reactions to whatever it is I need to let go.

I like talking in the hypothetical about this idea. It’s easier to grasp and feels less intimate, though it probably leaves the reader a bit baffled. So, I’ll give a couple of examples…

Have you ever encountered a person who decides they are more important than you, and everyone around them? You know they don’t act in this specific way just around you, but it still gets under your skin. They are arrogant, unyielding, and rude. You have a choice. Let it get to you when they treat you this way and allow it to taint your day, or move on and let go. You’ll have to keep letting go any number of times with this same person until they no longer exist in your sphere or you have to face the conflict in a respectful manner (who wants to do that?). It won’t go away, but your reaction to it can help you cope.

Another example is when you have no choice but to let go. When it’s the hardest thing to do, but the only thing that will allow you to get through the day. It could be when someone dies or when a friend moves away. It’s something you can’t change so you have to find ways to figure out how to cope. You are in control of the way you move forward, but not in the act of moving forward. Does that make any sense?

Right now I’m struggling with a few things in relation to letting go. I feel conflicted most of the time and it’s not a mind space I like being in. I know I’ll figure it out.

I still my brain, breathe.

It will come when it’s time.

The only control I have is coping and striving little by little.

The only control I have is the way in which I allow for space for that which I struggle with.