You Could Just Tell Me, Really


Listening to so many podcasts featuring writers of every known genre that have traditionally published in the past fifty years, one would think it possible to encounter a writer willing to share the real horrors of querying agents. Oh sure, they all give some hint that it was time consuming or tough. Except for those who knew someone who knew someone and have some ridiculously giddy story of happenstance that led to a whirlwind publication. But I don’t want to hear from those people.

I want to hear genuine details. I want to hear how the people who didn’t know anyone at all managed to include a bio, a pitch, why they chose that particular agent, why they chose to write that particular story, the pertinent details of genre, word count, proof of a writer’s platform, comp titles, and don’t forget the target audience for the novel, all conveyed in less than 400 charming, attention-catching words. And I want to hear how those writers chose a significant list of agents who represent … say, 200-page, cross-genre novels, then how much time it took to send all those emails and the response time from email to offer of representation.

I also want to hear the the step-by-step process they followed to complete a 1-2 page synopsis of said 200-page novel and how in wide sky and bloody wonder they kept themselves sane and dry-eyed throughout. Is the process perhaps like childbirth? So truly shattering, terrifying, and painful, that the human mind simply can’t recall the details a year or so later? So now they just smile wanly and say in a thin, daft tone, oh, it was all perfectly natural. Because if that’s the case I’ll have a snog of rum, watch Lamaze videos or something and just get on with it.

What I have found during this process of searching podcasts, online interviews, and so on, is that so many agents confess to merely glancing at the query. Glancing. If it’s more than 500 words or so, there are a great percentage of agents that stop right there. No. If the introduction doesn’t read well, no. If in the first couple of paragraphs word count and genre aren’t mentioned, no. If the word count doesn’t seem to fit the genre, no. The entire query hasn’t been read yet, mind you. No. Therefore the synopsis and sample pages don’t even get a glance.

Now that sounds quite snide. Of course when you give it a bit of thought writers hoping to publish outnumber working agents by approximately a Gogillion to one. Very well. Huge work load recognized. But not even getting past the query? That’s stunning. Paralyzing, actually. Not one smidge confidence boosting to any writer ever. And yet, look how many people get published every year. Why are they not sharing the vital information? Tossers. What’s the possible harm?

Of course there are writing teachers who are willing to give advice on how a synopsis should look, how a query should look. But the information I’ve found isn’t a great deal different than what the agents say they’re looking for: Tell me everything quickly and beautifully or else.

Years from now I hope to look back on this rant and laugh and laugh. Silly old me, I’ll say. Freaking out about nothing. Lalalala.

First Week of July Writing, Reading, Joining, Quitting


While having a peek at Instagram today I spotted a meme shared by writer_tips. It’s an image of a guy with veins popping out on his forehead, captioned: When you’re a writer and haven’t told anyone for 5 minutes. I immediately wondered if that’s what I look like most days. Ha ha.

Since Monday last I’ve been very active in the writerly arena. I’ve joined The Author’s Guild as an emerging writer and have just barely scratched the surface of all the resources there.  It’s all very exciting! Then I linked my Goodreads site to my Amazon author page. I think. Anyway, that’s a cool feature that I had no idea existed when I first e-published my two poetry collections.

If I remember correctly, I set up a reader profile on Goodreads in 2016 then promptly forgot about it. And recently I learned that just glancing at ratings on the site is a very poor way to choose a book to read. (Ratings tell you nothing! Read the reviews at least. But most people probably already know that. Hi. My name is Kathy and I am a late bloomer.) I’ll give it a go, see how I like it. 

Next, I finally FINALLY, purchased my site domain. Making that purchase opened another basket of goodies—more resources I haven’t quite delved into. Meanwhile I am all .com and conflicted about not taking the time to make generationkathy look more profesh. Truth is though, I’ve learned the longer I spend planning something the worse it’ll turn out. Or more likely it won’t happen at all. I kept backing off making the actual purchase to make organizational changes and see how that turned out. Four years later …

Also as of Monday last a new project idea caught my attention. In fact, I am officially ankle deep in the new project as of today. I don’t know much about it yet except I like the protagonist, love her name, and I know she’s in quite a bit of trouble. 12k words in and I can only guess at this point her story will be novel length.

Jumping into a project in such a way would probably drive most people crazy but I get a glimpse of a character and start hacking away until the story reveals itself.  This is an exciting way to work. About as exciting as allowing someone to lead you blindfolded to a seat on the freakiest roller coaster in the freakiest fun park ever. Outline schmoutline. That’s for the middle of the project along with research and inventing a title.

In all this writerly wonderland of productivity that naysayer in the back of my head keeps shouting impossible questions at me. What if it takes as long to write this book as it did to write Only the Living? Why do you keep making all these writing goals when you have a day job? Are you certain you want to write a novel that contains erotica? Copy edits aren’t complete on your last project, remember copy edits? Synopsis! Where is the synopsis? Are you ever going to clean the guest room or dust anything ever again? DID YOU PAY THE DOCTOR BILLS YET?

My question to the naysayer: Is this why so many writers drink?

Meanwhile, I finished Shell Shaker, by Leanne Howe  and hope to write a review on it as well as a few (unrelated) podcasts and essays I’ve enjoyed in the past week. I’m still working on I Sing the Body Electric, by Ray Bradbury. Something about … maybe the compilation of the book … maybe. Anyway, I’m not head over heels with it as a collection. Which is inexplicable because it’s Bradbury for God’s sake. I should be having the time of my life.

This has been a week of chasing whims and making only a handful of real decisions. I’ve decided that I don’t want to do Twitter anymore. Thinking about all the social media obligations that writers are sucked into just makes me kind of tired and Twitter, while it does offer contact with writers and writerly-related folks, it’s more conducive to keeping up with who wants to share their version of political/public awareness than discovering whose book I might want to read next.

I’d rather be discovering whose book I might want to read next.

Good Cardio and Intuition


Yesterday as I went out to my car thunder rumbled in the distance. Just after steering onto the main road, about fifty yards or so away, what I saw coming toward me didn’t look like a wall of rain but a shiny curtain of silver pebbles falling from an almost sunny sky. Falling in such a number with such force that they bounced and scattered. In that moment between dry road and a flash flood the sky went from almost sunny to navy blue. In that moment, I wanted a good camera in my hand, to keep the inch or two of space separate for just another moment. A clean dry line of just before …

The space closed quick, the sky went black then solid white foam. Within a mile I was no longer a perfectly capable driver in a perfectly safe car, but a first time kayaker on wild white water rapids with great waves splashing and pushing and trying to pull me under. The easy going twenty minute commute became thirty-two minutes of heart-hammering guess work, too blinded by white foam to pull over to the side of the road—was the side of the road still there? Flashers on, I made it to the day job as rumbling thunder closed in all around and a parking lot tidal wave soaked me from the knees down.

Was this in the weather forecast? Of course not. But the worst that happened from all of it was soaked jeans and sandals and a few minutes docked on the time clock. I’ll count the heart-hammering as a day’s worth of cardio.

Yesterday I also started The Witch Elm, by Tana French , and found the DIY MFA podcast , featuring Gabriela Pereira and some good interviews with published writers. I haven’t yet purchased any of the offered goodies, but I have enjoyed insights from some of the visiting authors. Good advice always inspires me to take notes and get started with new vigor on a project. Yesterday’s listen, along with comments from a current reader of my recently completed novel, gave me much needed confirmation that I made good choices.

Those choices were intuitive. The intuition was borne of years of reading, of writing practice, of listening to the characters that live in my feverish writer brain. I really love being a writer, loved it before I realized the thing had indeed happened—it all came together by hard work and tenacity and by some gorgeous magic that I reached out for without knowing what exactly it was. Still don’t know what it is, but I’m comfortable with the mystery.

Now if only that intuitive magic could kick in as I continue to ride the rough waters of querying and writing a decent synopsis. If only. Four of six agents have passed. I hope the other two are reading, getting to know Holly, right now.

Summit


Four writing projects—that’s all I’ve ever finished. Self-imposed major projects with self-imposed deadlines for the sake of the right to call myself A WRITER.  The fourth being my first attempt at a novel. I finished.

In all honesty, I finished the major points of the story necessary to build the novel I had in mind. There are still line edits, plot polishing, and lord only knows what else to be done to actually make it THE NOVEL (it’s away with first readers right now). But the point in all this is to say, I finished what I set out to do. I am done with a lowercase d in a satisfactory amount of time. Not by the first self-imposed deadline, but within a time frame that I can live with.

If it sounds like I’m giving myself a lot of leeway here, it’s because I am. This is my eleventh draft of a story whose main character whispered her name to me 9 1/2 years ago. My first earnest attempt to turn a three-segment short story into a book started four years ago almost to this day. But frustrations pushed it back in a drawer. If I were to list those frustrations in a single post, I’d sound like a crazy person. So, I’ll spare us all that for now.

The image of that mountain with all the blue mist and mystery was taken by Stuart Bennett and shared on Unsplash. I nabbed it about two years ago and put it in a collection of images to stare at when thinking about the novel I was going to write … someday. If I ever figured out a title, and if I figured out what the main character really wanted, and if I was ever able to articulate what the story is about.

 … a story of grief, friendship, horror, love, home, and badassery, all told in Holly’s southern voice.

That’s a sentence I came up with yesterday. YESTERDAY. In an attempt to make a one-line pitch if ever asked what my story is about. People have asked—when I make mention that I’m writing a NOVEL, hey what’s it about—then I go on and embarrass myself by talking and waving my hands until those unfortunate people’s eyes glaze over.

In my collection of images I have one of an old mountain cabin that looks like it emerged from the land covered in age and ivy rather than being man made. There is also a big white Jeep Rubicon with fog lights and a wench and a lift kit. There is a man with broody brows, and the photograph of a Memphis office building with a mile-long view of the river.

There are maps of narrowing roads stretching across the state of Tennessee, of mountain passes in Afghanistan, and enough gun searches on Google to put me  on the ATF’s watch list. Not to mention a copper tipped brass cased forty-caliber S&W bullet in  my makeup bag—I’ve been carrying that around for a year now. Tangibles are important.

Writing a novel that contains people you adore is difficult. Like, spine crushingly heart wrenching, cold sweating difficult. And guess what I’ve discovered?

That’s not even the hard part.

 

Up To Date Updates


Monday, January 22nd I made a trip to the ER that resulted in being admitted and kept in the hospital until the following Thursday. Being the impatient idiot that I’m famous for, I then rushed back to work on the 30th and ended up with a complication that left me on the couch until this past Saturday. I’m better now, but taking one more day at home before tiptoeing back to work tomorrow and hoping for the best. (I’ve only got one more vacation day left. Cross your fingers for me.)

Since being clear of the pain meds for a few days, I’ve been able to concentrate long enough to write an essay about what Dr. King’s movement means to me. You’ll find it here, along with a link to the unabridged version of the beautiful Letter from a Birmingham Jail. This is the first piece in a series I hope to write in honor of Black History Month, which will include an impressive list of women authors and activists I didn’t learn about during Black History Month in public school.

My work toward submitting individual pieces of Ramshackle Houses & Southern Parables, and No Voice of Her Own to lit mags has been delayed for obvious reasons, but I intend to pick that back up today. There are still some mid-February deadlines I can make.

Anyway, those are the updates. I’m alive and writing. Hope you’re the same. Go read my essay.

Completion of a Chapbook in a Mad Messy Dash: It’s Cold Outside, but I Have Coffee, a Lap Blanket, Fuzzy Socks, and Internet


By 5 a.m. it was confirmed that outdoor activities, such as driving to work, were out of the question for me. I sulked for about five minutes, then poured coffee and got on with completing the latest editing of Ramshackle Houses & Southern Parables to send back into the world.

Since embracing the fact that I want to be a writer (a poet, an essayist, a novelist …) I’ve devoured everything at hand written by writers about writing. And still, deliberately organized process fascinates me. Eludes me. Stumps me. While editing my pet project (again) this morning, and indulging in way too much coffee, I got distracted by the realization that I’m a mess. I approach writing the same way I approach everything else—swinging on the latest mood swing.

Elizabeth Gilbert and Natalie Goldberg, to name two of my favorites, aren’t really as strict as some others concerning the methods followed in completing a project. However, they both describe a certain dedication, a recognition of the necessity for daily work. Butt in the seat, regularly. That’s how they both say insight, inspiration, and good work finds them—when their butts are in the seat, and pens are in their hands. Many other writers go into great detail about putting together the project with the help of outlines, plotting out the format long before sitting down to tackle actually filling in the pages.

Their dedication to work structure and method are astounding. I can’t get a handle on it. I’m jealous. Similarly, I have several relatives and friends who insist on cleaning their kitchens immediately after dinner, and making their beds every single morning before leaving for work. They do it automatically years after embracing it’s the thing to do, the thing that makes the rest of their day go smoothly. I remain puzzled by the faithful frequency of these accomplishments. I’ve tried, promise. I’ve even written out schedules and set reminders on my phone. Pfft.

Truth is, I crave structure. I recognize that it would greatly improve my life. But.

Ramshackle  was my very first finished project. I decided I wanted to be a writer in 2009, the original version of this poetry collection was submitted to a contest in 2015. Total honesty? The only reason that collection got completed and submitted was because I got laid off from work and new I’d be unemployed for several months, so I had a talk with myself and said get over yourself, set a schedule, get it done in thirty days. And I did. The collection was shortlisted for a book award two months later.

It was a desperate situation. I got the work done, then rested on my laurels for two years before trying to send it out again. Another desperate situation arose. This time, a panic attack after realizing I’m an idiot. Back in 2015, with at least eight hours a day free to work on nothing but the poetry, was the first and last glint of structure I’ve experienced. I showered, walked the dog, ate breakfast, and put my butt in the seat every day by 8 a.m. Three weeks in, I looked like a demented hoarder half buried in printer paper and cigarette ashes. The structure kind of got set fire to by the last days of that month, and I was nutcase.

That version was fifty pages. The second, forty-eight, with a new title. The third is down to thirty pages. Between the 2017 and 2018 versions, I’ve spent seven months just THINKING about the changes. Refusing to allow myself to pen anything to paper. When not thinking it out, I would read pieces aloud to see which flowed into the next, and would mentally cut what didn’t work. I set myself a deadline for January 15th, and HEY! one of the mags I had in mind sent out notice their deadline was extended until the 16th. (I’m thinking that snow day turned out to be just for me.)

Anyway. Once I sat down with my coffee this morning, first thing apparent was two bad decisions during my thinking time. Over the weekend I’d typed out the table of contents and sipping my first cup of coffee I could clearly see three pieces were all wrong. I made the changes, polished up the title page, and OMG I almost forgot to edit the table of contents! Imagine if I hadn’t noticed that before submitting. How embarrassing!

Five cups in, I had the chapbook completed, read through two more times, then raced over to Submittable. An hour later, I had three individual pieces in another document to send to another lit mag. All in all, I did about six hours work between Saturday and today. Maybe a record for me, if you don’t count the seven months of thinking.

Is that the worst process you’ve ever heard of or what?

Will I ever get better? More productive? Drink less coffee? I don’t know. Despite this being my quickest and possibly finest finished project (the single project that is my total life’s work thus far), it was stressful. Messy.

I have another chapbook in the works, fifteen poems that need to be twenty-five poems. Cento, actually. And I know I’m in trouble because I keep getting distracted from finishing it. The idea for this particular project has been stewing around my life for three years now. THREE YEARS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Exploration of Richard Wilbur’s Work And How Poetry Is An Inevitable Expression Of Religious Assertions, Part One


We have lost a lot of greats since 2016. The most recent great who touched my poet’s soul and was among my list of favorite writers left us on October 14th. Upon hearing the news, I reached for the one book of his I own. Later on, I remembered this—a piece written for a poetry assignment back in 2014. Apparently Part Two is still in a notebook somewhere. If you haven’t yet read the poem referenced below, I encourage you to do so.

 

In a 1968 interview, Richard Wilbur said:

 … that poetry is essentially religious in its direction. I know a lot of people, poets, who are not consciously religious, but find themselves forever compromised by their habit of asserting the relevance of all things to each other. A poetry being a kind of truth-telling (it’s pretty hard to lie in poetry), I think that these people must be making, whether they like it or not, what are ultimately religious assertions.

Being a student of poetry, and still an overenthusiastic one if not wholly adequate, this is first what struck home for me. Early on, I developed the expectation of poetry to reveal sacred secrets—I believe poetry’s purpose is to demonstrate, celebrate, and even to evoke individual spiritual awakening. There is no need for a poet to sit down with that expectation from his/her work … it will happen.

As Wilbur touches on in this brief talk, poetry is a truth telling. A writer sits down with words and delves into their center … the writer mines a multitude of meanings and sensual impact and emotive qualities of each word, then combinations of those words in phrases, then the metaphorical weight of those phrases in relation to what is going on in that writer’s life, or memory, or some intellectual or emotional preoccupation.

Human beings simply cannot help “their habit of asserting the relevance of all things to each other”, and creative humans do this with their art. We categorize, define and redefine, poke and prod until the investigation of self becomes spiritual epiphany—the pursuit of language becomes the pursuit of truth, and the pursuit of truth always leads to the revelation of a universe so much greater than ourselves, then somehow, that vast universe turns back on itself to acknowledge the sovereignty of “I”, “me”, “we” .

We simultaneously categorize ourselves as mere human and a Creator’s holy vessels of inspired messages. We are dust and we are ALL. We are immortal and mortal. We are the very language that Earth and Heaven speak and, therefore, both will listen. Of course not every poem will move every reader to the ultimate awakening. Readers are as individual as the writers they read. Real beauty is discovered when one individual stumbles upon the other.

I found Mr. Wilbur quite by accident, running the opposite direction of anything that remotely resembled formalism; I tripped over him and all his billowing, breathless colors confined in the blank verse “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”. The narrator of this poem, I believe, is caught for a while in that half-dream state we have all experienced—that airy, floating, borderless place where we can observe in quiet astonishment as Heaven flutters among the most mundane Earthly things.

In these precious few moments the narrator saw souls (rather, representations of the human spirit) celebrating the freedom of being loosed from the weight of sinful desire, responsibility of labor, and that all-too human thing, worry. Those precious few moments end with the man who, irreparably human, yawning and waking, makes his Earthly preoccupations clear with a demand for order according to those preoccupations, and so “the soul descends once more in bitter love”.

My own definitions of the words “soul” (the very essence of our humanness that does indeed embody desire, intellect, and will; the very thing that tethers us to this world) and “spirit” (that bit of sovereignty imparted by God that may very well long to be free of the body and soul to reunite with the Creator) defy Mr. Wilbur’s usage. Nonetheless, his depiction of the “soul” does not hinder my enjoyment and understanding of this outstanding poem. In fact, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” does it all for my poet soul, and was the first to reveal that spiritual epiphany I had so long desired from poetry.

It is in Mr. Wilbur’s works that I am finally free to admire the simultaneous expression of ecstasy and discipline, of humanity and sovereignty.

 

 

RIP, Mr. Wilbur. Thank you for your words.

Just Write


My favorite recurring fantasy involves a strict schedule. Yes, that is weird. Whatever. In this fantasy, I am a workaholic down at the desk by 7 a.m sharp, Monday-Friday, come hell or high water. Nose to the grindstone, slaving away on research and words, words, words. I would finish those four projects languishing away in boxes and drawers and tattered notebooks for the better part of five years. I’d rescue them, complete them, then move on with fiery diligence to THE NEXT GREAT THING. My only breaks from writing writing writing, would be to mine for gold in stacks of submission possibilities. I would flood lit mags and presses. They, the hundreds of thousands of possibilities, would never escape my fiery diligence, my flood of work. I would astonish them all with my doggedness.

Family and friends would beg me to visit, just get out of the house once in awhile. Sure, I walk the dog and venture out occasionally for food, but come on. A person can’t type ninety hours a week and remain a healthy, normal human. But I can! I would swear this in a passionate voice! I am happy, in fact, I’ll work longer hours. I walk my dog, and carve out a few minutes each week for the grocery store and bills, and maybe talk to people I love most, read to them.

Maybe, after a year or so, I’ll go see the world. Hang out. Follow a story, sniff out ideas and hang out. Observe. Listen. Involve myself in the story until it becomes multi-dimensional. Until it becomes so goddamned irresistible, I have to drive miles up into the mountains to one of those legendary writer’s cabins, nice and rustic in early spring, and there I’ll work ninety hours a week until I have a manuscript that proves once and for all I am the writer I always thought I would be. This will, of course, inspire celebration. A nice break from writing long enough to shop the manuscript, get a terrific book deal — one that will make other writers wistful and teary eyed.

Until then, I’ll be sitting down to sketch out my plan of attack, to map out my schedule. The map will not include by-ways of procrastination. No guilt over a messy abode. No worries for not having a “real job”, no panic attacks, no sense of failure. The road will be clear, wide-open, as endless as my dark little heart desires. On day one, in those wee hours when the birds haven’t yet gathered their voices, I will walk my dog, do a few chores wearing earbuds from which the wisdom of memoir and literary journalism themed audibles will enter my brain and trickle down to build muscle memory. Once satisfied that dawn will break any moment, I’ll put away the earbuds, turn on some music, shower then dress, and take breakfast to my desk.

For eight hours I will rip away lines from old poets, paste them to the titles and endings of younger lesser-knowns, weed out genius word by word by line from dreamy-eyed dead folk and weave it all between the lines of contemporary feminists. With one hand I’ll keep an ink and white stack of citations, with the other, I will type and type, compile new work from the old and famous. Eight hours a day, for forty days will make a masterpiece that outshines my first attempts at a cento collection the same way the sun outshines a 40 watt bulb. But that’s just the first eight hours of the first in a forty-day stint.

An hour will be spent stretching the stiffness from unused muscles, feeding my dog, giving the hubby a loving phone call. Then, with a dinner plate next to the laptop. I’ll stand at that cute little pub table in the dining room, surrounded by Van Gogh reproductions, facing a window looking out toward a wink of the river. There, I will have dinner and get to that essay a small paying publication is anxiously awaiting. This will pay the rent and there might be some left over for the best doggy treats on the market. I will hit the send button and yawn. That’s a good day right there.

Day one will be so impressive that years later I will chronicle it an anthology piece, the opening to a brief synopsis of my success story. Just imagine what could be accomplished on day two, three, ten! I’ll need a bit of help, of course. A professional editor for the poetry collections. And once I’ve dug out those old pieces of speculative fiction and essays, saved them from languishing away in the dark, I’ll be keeping that editor so busy she will have to quit her day job. The essays will sell quickest. Let’s face it, readers are absolutely inundated with speculative fiction these days. And poetry, well, most people grimace when the P-Word is mentioned. Nevertheless, after the three collections are out in the wind and a dozen or so lit mags pick up individual pieces, who knows? The P-Word might be pronounced without a grimace by a few less readers. A few. But I won’t concern myself with that now. What’s important is the work. Do the work.

That’s what one of my favorite professors used to say. Be loyal to the work. She also said that I should send off Emancipation and I Am Not an Evangelist right away — that was four years ago. I never sent them anywhere. It’s as if when that class ended, when I no longer had reason to receive or send emails to that professor, I no longer had reason to consider what life those words would have outside the confines of my files. These messy files that have been packed and repacked, hauled from one end of the country to the other, digitized then lost, transcribed in the middle of the night, then shoved into the corner.

Why? Lots of things kept getting in the way. Mostly, basic survival. The last four years showed me something contrary to what that professor declared to be the ultimate truth, the ultimate goal of every creative. Sure, be loyal to the work … when it’s actually paying the rent. Or, if some benevolent deep pocket is paying the rent. For those of us who don’t have deep pockets dishing out the basic necessities, there’s forty hour weeks to be put in elsewhere. And to get through those, of course, there must be distractions. Distractions become as necessary paying the rent when a creative is punching a time clock, and spending distraction hours on poetry seems to make poetry less somehow. A shot of good whiskey and an hour of TV can save a life. Don’t waste breath in argument. It’s fact.

Before the next random person can spout a tired old platitude or start jabbering on about first world problems, four years have blinked by and here I sit with boxes of old notebooks and no real body of work. Before I can fully recall just what I took away from that brief university lecture about the importance of avoiding sentimentality in art, I realize that I can no longer introduce myself as a writer, or a student. I don’t write, I don’t study. I’ve got a job that affords me the opportunity to do neither. But the lights are on. The rent is paid. I’ve run Netflix out of good distractions. The whiskey bottle hasn’t been touched in months, and I’m sick of being a non-writer.

Lately I’ve filled free moments with fantasizing about putting in a 30-day notice and driving home to sit at my desk and start a new chapter, so to speak. It’s past 10:30 p.m., and tomorrow is coming at me way too fast. But I won’t concern myself with all that now. The work is priority.

So, let’s get to mapping out that schedule.

7 a.m. Monday: DAY ONE.

Another Brief Project?


The ten days of letter writing did something for my writer soul. I started with no idea of how long it would last, no goals or list of names at hand. For now, it feels complete. And, I’m pleased to say, a complete tiny body of work I look forward to reading over and over again.

I hesitate to deliberately begin another project … my favorites are always those ideas that come out of nowhere. It was reading Ann Patchett’s Truth & Beauty that helped along the idea to write letters. It was reading Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary that inspired me to begin my own. And it was recalling a lighthearted old middle school assignment that inspired me to write cento and found poetry. I still indulge in the latter two quite often. Sometimes, reading a news article will inspire me to do research on particular topic. Or just start ranting.

For now, this very moment, I’ll concentrate on getting Ramshackle Houses out into the world (or at least a few literary contests). The month of June is already slotted for finishing up my first honest-to-goodness chapbook (of cento poetry) … maybe the next will be all love letter poems?

On Studying And Writing


Have y’all discovered Coursera? FREE college courses! Unless you’d like to earn an official certificate of completion, then the prices vary. I’ve participated in ModPo once — which was beyond terrific — and I’d love to do it again. Meanwhile, I have signed up for two other classes: Sharpened Visions (A Poetry Workshop), and The American South (It’s Stories, Music, and Art). I’m so excited.

When I’m studying poetry, I’m writing poetry. Why this has become my truth, I don’t know, but it’s a fact. Typically, after completing a course or a new book, I will produce poems (and a large slush pile) for about a month. Then pfft. Studying other genres doesn’t result in the same. When immersed in fiction or essay I gather ideas like a mad bee after pollen, but I don’t typically write profusely until weeks or months later.

Is that odd? Do y’all find that studying helps you produce?