Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On Writing Reading

While I usually use this space to talk about writing, reading is nearly as important to my identity as a writer. Many writers I admire claim the same, and I think it is something, as readers and writers alike, that we should think about more often.

I am a voracious reader. I can't tell you how many nights I've chosen a book over sleep, and that started before I turned ten years old. I blame - or, rather, credit - my mother, who always loved books and their inner-worlds, and taught me a love for them early. For me, writing and reading are inextricably linked. As I read, I often jot down notes, and as I write, if I find myself blocked, I'll take a break and read a bit.

In an attempt to keep track of my reading habits (and, selfishly, to see how much I was really reading per year), at the beginning of 2010 I started a reading diary on Tumblr. It's essentially a quickie log of all the books I've read for the year, and a brief thumbs up or down. If you take the time to scan through, you'll find my reading tastes are all over the map - lots of paranormal romance, psychological thrillers, murder mysteries, horror, poetry. Books on librarianship, education, and the craft of writing. The list is as scattered as my interests, and I often forget to list one here and there. I like to think of it as a sort of "grade deflation," if you will. In any case, it's a very interesting exercise, and I recommend it. Without keeping such a log, I wouldn't be able to tell you that I'm up to more than 111 books read in 2010. The holidays hold a bit of travel for me, so I imagine I'll make it closer to 120 before 2010 is officially nailed into its coffin. While I tend to read in clumps, particularly holidays and weekends, it averages to about one book every 3 days.

Am I afraid what I read affects my writing? Yes and no. "Afraid" isn't really the right word - I think we are influenced by everything we read, see, hear and do. I think some things - and some writers - will affect us more than others depending on our tastes and histories. I know I am influenced by my reading in terms of how I write, what I write about, and how I think about writing, sound, line breaks, and more. My forthcoming collection, The Kentucky Vein, was inspired by my reading Ray Gonzalez, Maurice Manning, and a handful of others. There's much less of an obvious influence in my previous collections, but if I look closely at those, I can see Louise Gluck, Janice Harrington, Kim Addonizio, Lucille Clifton, Richard Hugo and others peeking through at me. If you read them, you may see others.

I've heard that many writing students balk at reading because they want to be original, they don't want some echo of a former writer to show up in their work. I believe that choosing to be poorly read is the same thing as choosing ignorance; being willfully un-knowledged. I would recommend instead that writers read as broadly as possible, and be influenced by as many as possible. As a writer, become aware of which writers you like, and try to articulate why it is you prefer them. After much reading and some studying with great writers, I can tell you that while I don;t prefer his storytelling overmuch, I like the mouthfeel of Richard Hugo and the way he plays with syllables, sounds and wordshapes in his poems. I get caught easily by good wavelike rhythms, like those used by T. S. Eliot and Lucille Clifton. I like the strong female protagonists and the harsher staccato rhythms in Kim Addonizio's work, I like much of the persona work done by Ai, and I prefer the storytelling of Louise Gluck and Natasha Trethewey. I love Kipling for his wit and humor, and Whitman for his exuberance and lack of restraint. I admire the gemlike precision and clarity of Czeslaw Milosz. I could go on forever, but the point is that I don't fear the influence of these writers...I pray for it. I hope that delving into the qualities of their work that attract me so much will help me hone those qualities in my own writing. Being able to recognize excellence is a precursor to training yourself to create it yourself, or to at least recognize when you are hitting the sweet spot with your pen!

How can you decide what you like in literature and writing, or more importantly, why you like it, unless you've exposed yourself to different flavors? The lovely poet and non-fiction writer Molly Peacock gave a lecture on "Literary Aunts & Uncles" when I attended Spalding University for my MFA. Essentially, she noted that reading other writers allows us to place ourselves in a particular tradition. If you are a writer, read widely and joyfully. Discover who your literary ancestors are. Read in your genre so you can place yourself (and also appear to be not a complete self-absorbed ass if someone asks you about your craft, heh heh). Read outside your genre for fun, for the brain-break it creates,and to connect with other writers and to identify the difficulties of their craft. (For instance, I am always amazed and impressed at the stamina of writers who work in long-forms, such as fiction novels and biographies. As a poet, I can make a transition by putting a new poem on the next page, whereas they have much more work to make leaps between subjects, areas, and characters happen.)

And if you are already a reader: as a writer, I say thank you. Your willingness to explore other worlds and give my words a chance keeps me going. Keep turning those pages!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Genres Like Potato Chips: Can't Choose Just One

I've been quite taken with experimenting with genres outside my training in poetry lately, and am surprised at how well that other-writing is going. My essay "Of Blue Collars and Electrical Tape" appears in the latest issue of The Sequoya Review. An edited version of the essay is included in the last section of The Kentucky Vein, forthcoming from Punkin House Press. There are a handful of essays in that collection (forthcoming sometime in mid-2011, Punkin & I will let you know when!), and I found working in essay form to be very interesting. A little bit more sloppy than my poetry, maybe, since poems have to be far more distilled, the essays more closely resemble my stream of consciousness. They're more conversation-like, somehow. (Perhaps a bit like my blog posts.) Of course, all of my academic and craft training is in poetry, so if you find the essays terrible or insufferable, the blame is all mine.

I also just got word from Kara, the editor at Midnight Screaming, that my short-short story "A Hound That Does Not Hunt" has been accepted for the January issue. My first-ever fiction placement! It's around 1800 words, a creepy (I hope) little vignette about how close we are to our beloved pets...and how close they might still be to wild animals with the need to kill. As a lifelong Stephen King fan, and a regular consumer of the horror/terror/paranormal genre, I am absolutely *tickled* to have placed that little piece!

And so, I'm back to thinking about genre-breaking, and wondering how often we as writers take advantage of the different word-containers available to us. I know some of the writers I admire most (Molly Peacock, Robert Bly, Phil Deaver, Frederick Smock, and many others) dabble in a bit of this, a bit of that, whether they combine their poetry with creative nonfiction, fiction, translation, or some other type of writing, some other type of brain-bending around language. Occasionally I feel guilty for mucking about in not-poetry, as though I am cheating my genre of time and effort. But really, sometimes I need something different. Something to cleanse the palate. Not all stories can be told the same way...the way just because soup is food does not mean it can be eaten from the same plate or with a fork and knife like a ribeye.

I'm happy to have found editors willing to indulge my dabbling with different forms, willing to offer me a piece of their audience to try my hand on. I'm happy to have multiple arenas to toss my creative energy into, hoping something takes good shape and survives. And I hope other writers don't limit themselves to whatever original writer label they slapped onto themselves. There's a whole universe of forms out there. Test them. Test yourself.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pushcart Nomination! "When You Came Home From the War"

I woke up this morning to an email from Colin, editor of Lamplighter Review, informing me that I'm one of the authors chosen to receive a Pushcart nomination for this year for my poem "When You Came Home From the War."

When You Came Home From The War

your body was a war-torn city.
We rubbed against each other
and it sounded like violins scowling.
We loved like October maples scream
and we loved like kudzu, overtaking all things.
We were lovers because there was nothing else
we could think to do with our bodies
but burn them.

I am excited - this poem is one of my favorites, and appears in These Terrible Sacraments.

I was honored to be a nominee for the Pushcart Prize for the last round - it's heady company to be in, and given the quality of what was in the collection this year, I don't envy the judges their task. Well, I do envy their getting to read all that excellent work, but trimming it down must be quite difficult. I didn't make it past the nomination last year, but I'm crossing my fingers for this new round. Congratulations and best of luck to all the nominees for this year!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

These Terrible Sacraments is Available from Bellowing Ark!

These Terrible Sacraments is available now from Bellowing Ark Press! Please go check it out - the cover is a beautiful glossy thanks to the dedication of my editor, and (if I do say so myself), I hope you find it to be a powerful collection. The poems reflect the impact of war not only on a soldier, but on his family and loved ones, and I hope the book finds a wide, interested, and compassionate audience. If you are feeling extra generous this holiday, order a copy.

It's important to remember those who voluntary place themselves in harm's way to serve a greater good, and their families who do without them. Thank a serviceperson as you travel this holiday season, and remember - you may be grumpy due to crowds and long lines, but the reality of a soldier's life abroad is much more difficult than that...and they don't get to complain. Remember to ask yourself what you are grateful for. As I say in the dedication of the book, to my brother Patrick (USMC), I am grateful he came home safe. I hope all our other men and women serving are as blessed.

The Kentucky Vein moving right along at Punkin House Press!

The Kentucky Vein came back to me with suggested revisions by editor-goddess Cheryl, who has a keen eye for *everything*. (Dear all authors: you need an editor with hawk eyes. Trust me. And thank them.) I finally bounced it back today, and I think we're looking at a tentative Summer 2011 release from Punkin House!

Not that Punkin is resting on their laurels until then. If you visit the Authors page, you'll find that they are promoting their printed authors as well as the pending folks, which is very fun to see. In fact, they've even got my author page up, if you care to read it! They're busy attaching our Facebook profiles, creating author pages in Facebook, setting up writing blogs for each of us, and they will be posting video of readings from our manuscripts. I'm feeling very lucky to have been accepted by such an energetic team!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Genrebreaking II: Wandering Farther Into the Wood

I've dabbled in some creative nonfiction essays, and that has worked out more or less well, but rambling on about something I want to talk about is easy (if not necessarily graceful). I've gone much deeper into the genre woods this time, looking for refreshment and challenge. I've started a fantasy novel!

Now, to be fair, I started this novel ten or twelve years ago and stuck it in a drawer. Any number of reasons - I'm not fiction-trained; being a poet means I lack the stamina for a full-fledged novel length work; I wasn't sure where it would lead me and that made me nervous (because fiction, after all, needs a plot, whereas poetry doesn't, really).

In any case, it's been nagging me for awhile now. The poetry muse is quiet for now since I can't quiet my brain, but all sorts of fun snippets for this story keep colliding in my brain, creating interesting scenarios, sparking plot that actually moves it forward past the murk that stopped me from writing it years ago.

I fully expect the book to be god-awful, at least in its initial form. I don't know if a first draft of it will ever even get done. But I very much want to give it a go and see if I can make a real story live. A REAL book, for all the folks who lift up their noses suspiciously when I mention my other books are poetry.

I've looked into some things to keep my eye on (like the Snowflake method of keeping track of things - this story got unwieldy fast, and became too much to hold in my head). I'm tracking a lot of craft-of-writing blogs that focus on fiction, and some cruel/funny literary agent blogs for tips and tricks. So far I have an interesting mash - we'll see what comes of it. It's far more interesting than a personal diary would be, and I dont feel the need for it to be perfect on the first strike like I do when working with a line of poetry.

And so the book, which will likely never see the light of day, is tentatively titled Warborn: Book I of the Warmaiden Chronicles, and I'm tickled to be working on it until the poetry side of my brain reasserts itself.

Manuscripts in Progress: Slow Going

With These Terrible Sacraments and Gonesongs put to bed and coming out over the next 18 months from Bellowing Ark, and waiting on the editors at Punkin House Press to tear apart the essays in The Kentucky Vein in the next year or so, all of my completed manuscripts are out and done.

**WHOOSH** <--Sigh of relief.

Now, I have two poetry manuscripts in their infancies. Madwoman City (title subject to change, it's early yet) is a collection of narratives in different womens' voices (including characters from fiction, popular figures, goddesses from different cultural mythologies, historical characters, and some random men on their interactions with women in all out lovely, burning madness). It's not taking a great shape yet, but there's a shadow of a shape there...essentially, I have to get cracking at writing new pieces, and then I can pick and choose the ones that fit the mood of the book I want to build. I've got a second infant collection, Two Apples Too Heavy for Heaven - a few poems had actually started in Madwoman but the tone didn't seem quite right...these have more of an eye towards deities, in various forms and emotion. This one, somehow, I think will be the most difficult to write and put together well; I also think it'll be an important one for me to write.

I had actually tried to mash the two books together in the hope that would work and I'd have another near-done manuscript. (I know, I know, there's no need to rush, that's sloppy, and I've already got a ton in the pipe waiting on release. I know!) In any case, it didn't work for me, at least not as the collections stand right now, with a handful of pieces in each. And I've been so tired from being sick for the past 6 weeks that I've not had the energy to do anything but try not to fall too much farther behind at work. And so what I really need is quiet time, where I can tidy my brain and get back to writing.

Between the illness that has slowed me down (still recovering from taking out my nasty gallbladder), stressing over work, meeting other writing deadlines for librarian-related publications, and not sleeping well, I've lost a bit of my creative center. Luckily, we're coming up on a holiday weekend where I will do nothing but vegetate (and perhaps a bit of homework for that doctorate I'm working on). Perhaps this will help me kick my creative side in the pants and get it going again. Truly. It doesn't get to take a vacation until *I* do.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Kentucky Vein Finds a Home: Publishing with Punkin House

I am over the moon - in addition to waiting for the release of These Terrible Sacraments (Nov. 2010) and Gonesongs (2011) out of Bellowing Ark Press, my collection of poems and essays The Kentucky Vein (formerly titled The Green of Breakable Things in older blog posts) has been accepted for publication by Punkin House Press!

Punkin House is a new small independent publisher - they just launched their first books this summer, and are releasing in both e-book and print format (which I find exciting). They are very active in getting their authors reviewed, interviewed, and otherwise splashed around the internetspace, and I am very excited to be joining their family.

The Kentucky Vein is a very different book for me. The poetry is mostly deep-image, as opposed to my usual narrative style, which I had a lot of fun working (and occasionally wrestling) with. The collection also includes a number of essays, and because I'm not as confident in my CNF, I'm looking forward to getting comments from their editors on that section. There's no hurry on this one, as they have a number of folks they're releasing as they polish the books, so it will likely be 2011. Stay tuned!

These Terrible Sacraments Going to Print November 2010

Hooray! Just in time for the holidays, Bellowing Ark Press will have These Terrible Sacraments coming out in print. I'm excited that the book will be out in time for the holidays, and I'm hoping (hint! hint!) that folks will take advantage of it being so close to the timing and perhaps grab a copy as a gift for someone.

This book is particularly important to me (though of course to writers, they all are, I'm sure). It contains a number of stories my brother related to me about his time as a US Marine in Iraq & Afghanistan, and back home on base, but it also contains poems from the perspective of those of us left behind - mothers, sisters, and lovers. I worked very hard to neither demonize nor romanticize war and its effects - this book is simply my testament of experience, and I hope our service members and their loved ones find that it does justice to the topic.

My editor, the esteemed Robert Ward, is sending me the manuscript with some reordering later this week, and I am looking forward to seeing his vision for the manuscript (he always seems to know the shape of the book better than I do). I can't wait to share the cover image with you all, and, of course, the final printed copies!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

First Draft: Persephone

I'm liking this one a lot, though I have the feeling I'll be revising her a bit. I've heard it said often one should never love one's own work - pah, I say. You had better love your work. Sometimes that's all that gets you through rejections, revisions, and the long haul from poem to manuscript. That said, I would venture to say that you need to be able to take your lumps and critics seriously, too, or you'll never learn to improve your craft.

In any case, I offer you a first draft of "Persephone," and I'll admit to liking the last few lines quite a bit more than is proper. Here's to hoping this one grows into a keeper!


Persephone by Colleen S. Harris

There is nothing so faithless as
a girl left on her own among the other
green and growing things. Brimming

with life, carelessly killing the field’s
flowering army so she can wear
ribbons of bluebells in her hair,

she has no need of forgiveness
or prayer, no sense of life’s fraying
hem. She has no idea she’s dancing

over death’s own head, bare feet
knocking at his soil door until he rises
hungry from the pit, the field a gaping

maw, his sudden hand a vise
on her ankle as she falls. Landing
in a heap, tangled in her own long

locks, trapped between his body
and the earth, she looks up
at him and finds the need for faith.

Now she believes, and prays.
When the dark hand of a god slips
up your skirt, how is a girl to say no?

Aaaaauugh! it's the Blob Blurb!

So, my first book, God in my Throat: The Lilith Poems, was unblurbed. On the back it's just a pic of (a much thinner) me and my bio. Easy-peasy. The only thing I worried about was making sure I caught everything in the galleys, and then promoting the hell out of her.

This go-round, I asked my editor if he'd like for me to beat the bushes for some blurbs for These Terrible Sacraments. He enthusiastically replied yes, and that he could put my "About the Author" bio and pic inside the book at the end. It sounded like a grand idea at the time.

And now here I am realizing that I haven't the foggiest idea how to go about begging a blurb. Because I really think what I am asking for is for a well-known poet that i admire to read the manuscript, and *then* if they like it, if they wouldn't mind saying so in a short quote. I feel very foolish, having just sent out my first "I really admired your books X and Y, and used them in a lecture I gave on Z. I was wondering, since you are someone whose work I admire greatly, if you would have the time to read my forthcoming manuscript. I very much hope you'll enjoy it, and I would appreciate your time."

And there are poets I know well who I have workshopped or otherwise known well - should blurbs be only from folks who don't know you personally? I don't know. I do hope that if I gave my manuscript to someone that they'd be honest no matter how I knew them and just say "No, thank you, no comment" if they didn't adore the book and want their name on it. I know it's not personal - there are a lot of writers I like a lot whose writing I'm not enamored of, and your name in print is a funny thing. It's awfully permanent. I want whomever is willing to blurb me to be proud to have their name on the jacket.

I should have kept my mouth shut and just left my author info on the back of the book. Pppfffflllllbbt.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Let-tuce Buy Books!

Karen Gowen, author at Coming Down the Mountain: From Reclusive Writer to Published Author, has a great contest going on right now. Let her know about your published book, and you're in the running for her to read, review, and publicize it! A great opportunity, and very generous. All of us should be so happy to promote our sisters and brothers-in-ink!

Caveat Scriptor: PublishAmerica Scam

Ah, writers. We're like puppies. We're so accustomed to rejection and the hard road that when someone offers us praise, or that great golden ring of book publication, we're likely to leap first and look later. Today, I urge you to beware the PublishAmerica scam, with shady contact info, shady contracts, and shabby treatment of both authors and their work.

I urge you to read books by a prospective publisher, talk to their other authors about their experience with the publisher, and do your research. Not sure where to start with research? Talk to your local librarian. We're *very* friendly, and we're dying to help you find answers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Neutering “Poetess” – Why Calling Myself a “Poet” Doesn’t Fix the Problem

Recently, a generous reader (Rosemary N-W) commented on a post:

Oh yes, and there is that *shudder* word 'poetess'. Do you hafta? The old feminist in me cringes; we in my generation insisted on being given equal status, arguing that one doesn't, for instance, say 'doctoress;' or lawyeress'. You are SUCH a briliant poet, why not claim it? Self- denigration is inappropriate for your talent, believe me.

I will admit, as I replied to Rosemary, that

I hadn't considered the word "poetess" as at all denigrating - hardly anyone uses it anymore, truth be told. I don't consider it an unequal term - perhaps an antiquated one. No, we don't say "doctoress" or "lawyeress" - everything is sexless nowadays. But I had many, many years of romance language training, and I'm rather enamored of the richness of a language that allows you to gender nouns. I don't mind being gendered - I'm a woman, I'm happy to claim that, despite whatever judgment comes with it.

I understand that a large part of this is that I missed the years of struggle for the measure of equality I *do* have, which it sounds like you were engaged in. I certainly don't take it for granted, and I do know there's still a long way to go. If a woman poet is going to be considered unequal, in my opinion, it's not the word "poetess" that does that.

I’ve been chewing on this comment-conversation for awhile now. My first (admittedly ungenerous) reaction was that calling oneself “poet” is hardly setting oneself up for admiration and grandeur. It’s a (very) wobbly few steps above “homeless” when claimed as a profession, and less prestigious than any number of other professions. In fact, I’ve rather had to beat myself out of mumbling it, and I work VERY HARD, when folks ask what I write, to stop at “poetry” or “I’m a poet,” and not add “but I am also a librarian. You see that? Full time job and contributing member of society. I HAVE A REAL JOB.”

Society (and parents) may prefer the “I have a job” admission addition, but to the poet (as I imagine it might be for any artist), that job that pays the bills is, in itself, an admission of failure. “Yes, I am a poet, but I’m not a rich or famous or even middle-class poet. In fact, if I were to try to make a living with my writing, I’d get thinner than I did on the South Beach Diet and ask you if I could have the box your new computer came in so I could add a dormer to my homeless un-house.” That’s no way to impress a crowd.

And so I don’t think “poetess” is any worse off than the word “poet” itself. There’s enough baggage these days that comes with being any kind of creative sort that poeting isn’t any more prestigious or less value-laden than its sisterly form. Personally, I am enamored of the way romance languages gender their nouns, and I like the chance to get a bit frilly on occasion. I’m not particularly interested in neutering my title for form’s sake, and it has no impact on the quality of my work – you either like my work, or you don’t. I don’t take offense. There are many fine poets I can’t quite stand to read, though I appreciate their contribution to the craft. And I’m happy that they write, and consider them family of a sort, even if it’s the crazy drunk uncle kind of family.

Other poets don’t look at me sideways if I say the word “poetess.” They might think I’m a bit wonky or unnecessarily flamboyant, but, please. That’s NORMAL in the writing world if you hang around poet circles. It’s practically a competition. And to be quite frank, I didn’t like the swallowed stop of “Peripatetic Poet” – I much preferred the rhythm of “Peripatetic Poetess” as the title of the blog. In true poet form, I eschewed propriety in favor of what I considered a better mouthfeel of phrase.

It may also have been the case that "Peripatetic Poet" was taken as a name on Blogger (and hasn't been posted to since its inception in 2005), so I had to do something so as not to lose my lovely phrase as a blog title.

It’s not a matter of differential status based on womanhood. Well, perhaps it is – I have the choice of calling myself a poet or poetess as I please, whereas I imagine a man would have a harder time getting away with the feminine form. In any case, it’s a status I chose, as I named the blog, and to me, it is a source of pride. Hell, anyone can get a job. But me? I am a writer. I am a poet. I break off little pieces of myself and my truths and offer them in the hope that someone will find them interesting, useful, or songlike enough to remember.My name is in print, I am in the Library of Congress, and I have an ISBN. That's about as successful as it gets for a poet of any stripe, unless you hit the Really Awesome Jackpot of Writerly Life and get Billy Collins or Kay Ryan famous.

So feminists, fear not. I’m not reverting, I promise. Hell, if I could get away with it, I’d call myself a bard, but I’ve neither the instrumental nor the metrical talent to go that far.

In any case, I’m just very happy someone reads the blog, and gives me the opportunity to think these things out loud.

On Stretching the Poet-Brain with Other Writing

Lately I have been swamped with work-writing. As a tenure-track faculty member, and not in a creative writing or English capacity, I have a responsibility to contribute to my field (which happens to be librarianship). This means that I choose to present at conferences on the work I do, and often, I write about it, or of other areas of librarianship that interest me.

It's a wonderful opportunity to stretch my brain in different ways than my creative writing stretches it. I think more about structure, and most of the time it requires more in-depth research, since scholarly articles and research-based book chapters have a longer bibliography than my poetry does. It also requires that I grapple with reality, as opposed to what I can create with brain gymnastics. I would argue that it is not less creative, it is just very different. Given the prescriptions we tend to follow for peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and even newsletter articles, to me it is akin in poetry to writing in strict form, without the occasionally-making-words-up part.

In any case, I consider it the flip side of the coin of my writing life. You'll mostly hear about my creative writing on this blog, but I am also thrilled to report that my first-ever peer-reviewed academic journal article is forthcoming from Journal of Access Services. "Matrix Management in Practice in Access Services at the NCSU Libraries" is slated to be out in the October 2010 issue. I also have a book review for Cliff Landis's A Social Networking Primer for Librarians in the same issue. For the November Brick & Click conference, I've just sent in the write-up of my presentation "Leveraging Technology, Improving Service: Streamlining Student Billing Procedures" for the conference proceedings. And finally, I sent in " "The First Thirty Days: A Playbook for the New Library Manager" which will appear as one of the LISCareer newsletter articles in October.

And so, though I've been feeling guilty about not writing any new poems (I've just been doing some last minute fiddling with These Terrible Sacraments), I have been writing. I've also been reading - Marilyn Hacker and Joy Harjo are the poets of the week on my coffeetable, beside some reading on leadership I have to do to prep for my doctoral program that starts in August. I haven't fallen off the poetry wagon, I'm just percolating, and hoping to get back to my more creative side this weekend.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Confession" appears in New Verse News

I am thrilled to report that another piece from These Terrible Sacraments has been picked up. "Confession" appears here in New Verse News.

This morning I tinkered with the "finished" manuscript a bit more and sent it back to my editor. I need to stop looking at it at some point, just wait for Robert's suggestions and then fiddle with it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Identity Crisis!

As a librarian, I'm pretty well versed in social networking, and the possibilities for creating different persona for different pursuits. Until now, I've made the choice to essentially blur everything together - professional libraryland life, personal life, and writing life. As the newest book releases approach, however, and as I succumb to the draw of drowning in web 2.0-ness and alienating all of my audiences (though everyone is relatively good natured about seeing posts they care not much about) as well as cross-postnig to the point of ridiculousness, I've decided to try to separate things a little bit.

As ever, this is the writing - mostly creative writing, though I'm bound to mention my professional nonfiction stuff occasionally - blog. However, if you were following me as "warmaiden" on twitter but would rather just see tweets about writing, you can follow me as colleensharris there.

And because I was feeling froggy, I set up an author's page on Facebook. You can become a fan and get the latest announcements about publications, book progress, and more if you go here.

Thanks for your patience as I experiment with unraveling the threads of myself!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Read Pieces from These Terrible Sacraments, and More Publication News!

For those of you interested in a taste of what These Terrible Sacraments looks like, you can read four poems from the forthcoming collection online at Public-Republic:
"Patrick Speaks of Wealth"
"Doubting Thomas"
"This Poem Takes Liberties"
"Language Lessons"

Two more poems, "These Terrible Sacraments" and "The Postscript She Doesn't Write" will appear in Minnetonka Review. The poem "Violet Petals", a poem from the unpublished book manuscriptThe Kentucky Vein, will appear in volume 3 of Hawk & Whippoorwill.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Books Like Fields of Flowers: Manuscript News

Good news on multiple manuscript fronts! I completed These Terrible Sacraments and sent the book off to my editor earlier this week. For that book, now I just wait to see what recommendations he has for reordering or recasting some pieces, but I think it's pretty close. I'll be consulting with Peter Hammarberg, the same genius who helped create the cover for God in my Throat: The Lilith Poems. I'll be excited to hear his ideas for the cover art.

These Terrible Sacraments is a collection of poems that stems from the stories my brother has told me from his time as a US Marine in Afghanistan & Iraq. I am very, very excited about this collection coming into print, and I very much hope that it does justice to our folks in uniform, and those they leave behind as they serve.

The Gonesongs manuscript was actually completed, combed over by my editor, and re-ordered before my May move to Chattanooga, so that manuscript is already bagged. I have cover art planned for this one already, so she should prove simple, despite being the book that will come out later. The bulk of this manuscript is poems of experience - family, growing up, losing loved ones, love and love lost. It is essentially my MFA creative thesis with a great deal of work added to it to flesh it out. A lot of work went into this one, by a number of different people, and I'm proud that all of that effort will find a home in print.

Both These Terrible Sacraments and Gonesongs are forthcoming from Bellowing Ark Press. If you haven't subscribed to their mag, read any of their books, or (if you're a writer) submitted work to Robert Ward there, I highly recommend them. I am, of course, biased, since I've received a great deal of personal attention and encouragement from them.

Regular readers of my blog (or my twitter, friendfeed, or facebook streams) may remember mention of another manuscript, The Green of Breakable Things. After a bit of revision, she is now titled The Kentucky Vein. Salt Publishing in the UK asked for the whole manuscript after a query, which I was excited about, but have since been silent. Punkin House press sent a positive reply when I cut it down to a chapbook and submitted it, and we are currently discussing turning it into a poetry and CNF essay genre-mixed book. I think this would be a dynamite project, and am waiting on word back. I have high hopes - cross your fingers for me!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More genrebreaking

In fun news, I just got word from Withersin that a recent rejection was an accident, and my flash fiction horror piece is actually on the short-list. I'm crossing my fingers that it makes it to publication, but in any case, I'm chalking this off as an "I don't suck!" triumph for working in another genre *grin*

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Best Rejection

You wouldn't believe it, really - especially if you're a writer - if I told you that last night, a rejection letter made my day.

But it did.

I sent in a creative non-fiction piece to Copper Nickel. Untrained in CNF for the most part, I expected flat rejection (and perhaps some snickering), but I quite liked the piece and thought I might get lucky. Last night, the generous editors of Copper Nickel sent me this rejection:

"We think this piece has potential and that it is relevant because of the many people searching for meaning and struggling with religion as an institution. Having said that, we don't think it is fully fleshed out and complete. It could use more. We hope that you will feel encouraged by this short note and send us something else, or a rewrite."

It gives me something to hang my hat on. It's not an acceptance, but it shouldn't have been - I'm a novice at this sort of writing and the piece needs work. But the fact that the editors actually encouraged me to work on it at greater length - or to send them something else! - was a very real boost to me. It proved they read my piece. It proved that the piece was salvageable with work, editing, and redrafting. (This is where I, and most other writers I know, insert the happy "I am not a failure" dance.) It proved I wasn't wasting my time. It reminded me of something I do occasionally forget: rejection and failure are not end-points. They are rest-stops where I can pause, take a closer look at what isn't working, and rethink things a bit.

So this morning, I am pleased with thinking that I don't have to stop writing CNF, I just need to get better at it.

It's the most encouraging rejection I've ever received.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reading for 2010

Back in January, I decided to keep track of my leisure reading for the year. I know I tend to read a lot, but I've never kept a record (which becomes awkward when I accidentally buy multiple copies of something, or my loot from the public library are things I've read before.) In any case, the damage for 2010 so far is pretty impressive, and I'm pleased that I've been able to read so many poets in addition to my usual bodiceripper and vampire fare:

Damaged by Alex Kava
High Windows: poems by Philip Larkin
Sestets: poems by Charles Wright
Bells in Winter; poems Czeslaw Milosz
Here, Bullet: Poems by Brian Turner
Bethlehem In Broad Daylight: Poems by Mark Doty
Slantwise: poems by Betty Adcock
Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006 by Ellen Bryant Voigt
Broken by Karin Slaughter
Jane Kenyon’s Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon
Captive Heart by Phoebe Corr
The Uncertain Certainty: Interviews, Essays and Notes on Poetry by Charles Simic
Gravity: Stories by Michael Davis
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Life Makeovers: 52 Practical and Inspiring Ways to Improve Your Life One Week At A Time by Cheryl Richardson
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Find Your Strongest Life: What the happiest and most successful women do differently by Marcus Buckingham
I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman (poems) by Jude Nutter
Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays by Eula Bass
Push by Sapphire
Face (poems) by Sherman Alexie
Wormwood by Poppy Z. Brite
Bone Magic by Yasmine Galenorm
So Cold The River by Michael Koryata
You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier
Under the Dome by Stephen King
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Relentless by Dean Koontz
Sizzle by Julie Garwood
Cloud Watcher by Lilith Saintcrow
A Tale of Two Gardens: Poems from India 1952-1995 by Octavio Paz
The Spirit Level by Seamus Heaney
The Last White Knight by Tami Hoag
The Scripture of the Golden Eternity by Jack Kerouac
Days We Are Given: Poems by Alice D’Alessio
Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning
Hidden Fire by Jo Davis
Under Fire by Jo Davis
Trial by Fire by Jo Davis
Door into the Dark: Poems by Seamus Heaney
Blaze of Memory by Nalini Singh
Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh
Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh
The Demon's Librarian by Lilith Saintcrow
To Desire a Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt
To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt
To Seduce a Sinner by Elizabeth Hoyt
To Taste Temptation by Elizabeth Hoyt
Blinking with Fists: Poems by Billy Corgan
Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh
The Darkest Whisper by Gena Showalter
The Darkest Pleasure by Gena Showalter
The Darkest Kiss by Gena Showalter
The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter
Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh
Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh
Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh
Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
Nine Horses: Poems by Billy Collins
Must Love Hellhounds - Short stories
Storm Watcher by Lilith Saintcrow
Dark Watcher by Lilith Saintcrow

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gonesongs Reordered and Sent to Artistic Geniuses

I am happy to report that I have finished retyping the suggested reordering of Gonesongs. Peter Hammarberg and Christina D'Airo, the artistic geniuses who brought you the cover and inside art of God in my Throat, have graciously offered to read this manuscript and take a bunch of fabulous photos for me to choose from. I cannot wait to see what they come up with!

Protip: surround yourself with awesomely artistic and generous people early and often. Unless you are fabulous with visual arts in addition to words, you'll need the help. Desperately. And often, what they will bring to, or see in, the work will be vastly different - and likely more beautiful - than what you see yourself.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Considering the Power of Words and Silence

Ever since I learned to read and write, the power of words has thrilled me. It also to this day terrifies me how much power a handful of words from the right (or wrong) person at the right (or wrong) moment can hold so much power over your life. Think about it: the words you want to hear. The words you are loathe to hear.

Someone offers you a job. Someone tells you that you are fat. Someone tells you they think you are beautiful. Someone admires your work, or someone tells you to look for something in a different field. Someone reveals a secret. Someone tells a lie. Someone says I love you.

And, by extension of the power of words, the power of silence. Someone chooses to hold their tongue instead of gossip. Someone does not accuse you. Someone does not say I told you so. Someone chooses to remain silent instead of asking you to stay. You do not tell someone how important they are to you. You do not say how much you need a particular thing in order to be happy. You do not say I love you.

Even these things we do not say, they are word-forms, with as much power in the withholding as the giving of words.

And on this, we build our lives, and it is all sand and fog.

And they are, in the end, all just words. But what different directions they spin us in, what effects they have on the trajectory of our lives. How easily they can help us transcend ourselves...or crush us, as though our centers weren't made of bone at all.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On A Full Brain and a Furious Pen

Last night I reformatted and edited my MFA thesis and sent it out a peer reviewed journal (with a list of possible others if it doesnt get picked up there). I have 5 poetry projects in-progress (some farther along than others, and 6 if you count a book already contracted but not completed), and another two I want to start but have just been germinating in my brain without any ink (or pixels) spent on them yet. I also have a CNF essay collection in progress with two essays completed and sent out to various lit mags, and another twelve or fifteen ideas of additional essays. I have an idea for a collection of critical essays on a particular section of literature that I am interested in writing about.

I am co-editing two anthologies with Carol Smallwood on writing for women, Women and Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful Women Poets and Women Writing on Today's American Family, and currently sending out the book proposal to publishers for those. I also have ideas for 2 more anthologies that I haven't even started crafting proposals or calls for contributors for, and I have been considering writing a collection of critical essays on an area of literature I'm very taken with.

And all of this outside my actual job, which I like very much and is at least as time consuming as my writing projects. But I am still grinning like an idiot about it all, even with the whirring brain, the random hits of ideas or lines that I have to grab a pen and mark on a random receipt before it flies away from me.

And so, because of all of this bouncing inside my skull, whenever I am not at work, sleeping or packing, I am writing (or thinking about writing). I was just thinking that it must be incredible to be able to do this as a full time job. I love librarianship, but if I hit the Lotto tomorrow...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Call for Contributors: Women Writing on Today’s American Family

Women Writing on Today’s American Family

Submissions are being sought for an anthology about writing and publishing by women with experience in writing and publishing about family. Possible subjects: using life experience; networking; unique issues women must overcome; formal education; queries and proposals; conference participation; self-publishing; teaching tips. Tips on writing about family: creative nonfiction, poetry, short stories, nonfiction, novels.

Practical, concise, how-to articles with bullets/headings have proven the most helpful to readers. Please avoid writing too much about “me” and concentrate on what will help the reader. No previously published, co-written, or simultaneously submitted material.

Foreword by Supriya Bhatnagar, Director of Publications, Editor of The Writer’s Chronicle, Association of Writers & Writing Programs, George Mason University.

Afterword by Dr. Amy Hudock, co-founder of Literary Mama, an on-line literary magazine chosen by Writers Digest as one of the 101 Best Web Sites for Writers.

Co-Editor Colleen S. Harris is a 2010 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her book of poetry, God in My Throat: The Lilith Poems (Bellowing Ark Press, 2009), was a finalist for the Black Lawrence Book Award; These Terrible Sacraments, is forthcoming in 2011. Colleen has a MFA degree in writing and has appeared in The Louisville Review, Wisconsin Review, River Styx, and Adirondack Review, among others. She’s included in Library Journal; and Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages.

Co-Editor Carol Smallwood is a 2009 National Federation of State Poetry Societies award winner included in Who’s Who of American Women who has appeared in Michigan Feminist Studies, The Writer's Chronicle, The Detroit News. She's included in Best New Writing in Prose 2009. Her 23rd book is Writing and Publishing: The Librarian's Handbook (American Library Association, 2010). A chapter of newly published Lily’s Odyssey was short listed for the Eric Hoffer Prose Award.

Please send 3-4 possible topics you would like to contribute each described in a few sentences and a 65-75 word bio using the format like the bio’s above. Please send by May 24, 2010 using FAMILY/your last name on the subject line to smallwood@tm.net. You’ll receive a Go-Ahead and guidelines if your topics haven’t been taken. Contributors will be asked to contribute a total of 1900-2100 words. Those included in the anthology will receive a complimentary copy as compensation.

Call for Contributors: Women and Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful Women Poets

Women and Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful Women Poets

Contributors needed for articles about: time management, using life experience, women's magazines, critique groups, networking, blogs, unique issues women must overcome, lesbian and bisexual writing, formal education, queries and proposals, conference participation, judging poetry contests, feminist writing, self-publishing, teaching tips--just a few areas women poets are interested.

Practical, concise, how-to articles with bullets/headings have proven the most helpful. Please avoid writing too much about “me” and concentrate on what will most help the reader. No previously published, co-written, or simultaneously submitted material.

The Foreword is by Molly Peacock, the author of six books of poetry, including The Second Blush (W.W. Norton and Company, 2008).

Co-Editor Colleen S. Harris is a 2010 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her book of poetry, God in My Throat: The Lilith Poems (Bellowing Ark Press, 2009), was a finalist for the Black Lawrence Book Award; These Terrible Sacraments, is forthcoming in 2011. Colleen has a MFA degree in writing and has appeared in The Louisville Review, Wisconsin Review, River Styx, and Adirondack Review, among others. She has been included in Library Journal; and Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages.

Co-Editor Carol Smallwood is a 2009 National Federation of State Poetry Societies award winner included in Who’s Who of American Women who has appeared in Michigan Feminist Studies, The Writer's Chronicle, The Detroit News. She's included in Best New Writing in Prose 2009. Her 23rd book is Writing and Publishing: The Librarian's Handbook (American Library Association, 2010). The first chapter of newly published Lily’s Odyssey was short listed for the Eric Hoffer Prose Award; a chapbook by Pudding House Publications.

Please send 3-4 topics you would like to contribute each described in a few sentences and a 65-75 word bio using the format like the bio’s above. Please send by May 24, 2010 using POETS/your last name on the subject line to smallwood@tm.net. You will receive a Go-Ahead with guidelines if your topics haven’t already been taken. Contributors will be asked to contribute a total of 1900-2100 words. Those included in the anthology will receive a complimentary copy as compensation.

Friday, April 9, 2010

These Terrible Sacraments and Gonesongs to be Published!!

My current writing projects include: a book chapter on managing the multigenerational library; a full-length book manuscript on low-cost professional development for librarians; a handful of academic journal articles on librarystuffs such as patron billing, matrix management, and a few others.

On the more creative side (as opposed to the non-fiction side), I have recently started writing a collection of poems dedicated to my younger brother, who while in the Marines served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's a collection of war poems that weaves together bits and pieces of his experiences as he's shared them, pieces of my experience and that of my family as we lived through his deployments, and stories from other folks I know whose loved ones served in the military. I started it about two weeks ago, though the idea has been percolating for some time. I tentatively titled it These Terrible Sacraments.

Now, for the big news. In absolutely incredible, unbelievable, I-am-still-pinching-myself news, my poetry manuscript Gonesongs, which you may remember (if you read the blog) was also my MFA creative thesis, has been accepted for publication by Bellowing Ark Press.

In further maybe-I-should-play-the-Lotto news, I had mentioned my current project to my editor and sent the incomplete manuscript for him to see. To my complete amazement, he enjoyed These Terrible Sacraments so much that he wants to publish it as well! In fact, he'd prefer to publish it before Gonesongs, so you'll likely see it first.

I am floored for a number of reasons. First - two manuscript acceptance within less than a week of each other. For books of poetry. This does not happen in real life! Second - well, getting an incomplete manuscript picked up? never happen in a million years unless you're famous like Kay Ryan, Billy Collins or Molly Peacock. I bet they could pledge an unfinished book of poetry and someone would snatch them up. For it to happen to me - an unknown except to my friends and family - is a giant leap of faith on the part of the press. Third - that an editor would be as passionate about what I want to do with my work as I am is something that has really touched me. I intended this book as a gift for my brother - I never considered that it would be published-for-real given the political nature of writing about war. To have my publisher as committed to having people see this as I am is an incredible feeling.

The powers that be really overdid it with the generosity-stick beating over at Bellowing Ark. These will be my second and third books of poetry, and all will have come out of their press, courtesy of Robert Ward. I am so far beyond thrilled, it's like a new country. I will have to plant a flag. I will have to name it. perhaps later - right now I'm grinding on These Terrible Sacraments. I'll keep you updated with publishing schedules and artwork!

On the Importance of Ordering Your Poetry Manuscript

This is a topic I don't know that we discuss enough as poets. There are a bare handful of articles about it, but nothing truly substantial, likely because it's a personal and very dependent-on-the-content endeavor: ordering a poetry manuscript. Most fiction - and even non-fiction - that I've read moves through a sense of time in the narrative. Poets are not always so lucky, and our pieces don't always cohere to each other the way a novelist's chapters do.

It's not enough to have just written enough (and hopefully more than enough, so you can toss some) poems to fill a book (usually between 48-75 pages, for poetry books). You have to make sure they go together, that they're ordered in the most attractive fashion possible so that each poem's strengths are highlighted. Now, I'm not saying you have to write a themed collection, though those seem to be increasingly popular. I am talking about that ever-elusive, oh-so-ephemeral sense of flow.

An example. My manuscript Gonesongs has poems in it that I wrote 15 years ago (though I revised them some in light of the training in craft I've had since then), some were written shortly before turning the manuscript in as my creative thesis for my MFA. The poems range from remembrances of childhood and my parents, college days, love poems, grief poems - it runs the gamut of personal experience and family history for me. Jeanie Thompson, my last-semester mentor in the program, and I worked hard to find an ordering of the poems that suited. Because of the family and history arc through the poems, we essentially ordered it chronologically so that the poems tell the history. We wrestled over some placements that weren't obvious in the timeline, and after looking at the manuscript, some poems dropped out completely because they didn't "fit" - they were so wildly of the topics addressed in other poems, so structurally or imagistically different, or surrealist as opposed to the very realistic narrative of the bulk of the manuscript, that we dumped a few. *This* is why you have to have more poems than you need to start out with. You'll find a poem (or three, or seven) that you thought worked just doesn't once you look at the manuscript as a whole.

In any case, Jeanie and I wrestled the collection into an order, I was pleased with it, but after working so closely with a single manuscript for that long, I never really wanted to see Gonesongs again. I know some poets work on one project at a time, or even one poem at a time, for years - I need to have multiple manuscripts or series going at a time to keep me firing on all cylinders. So, after spending May through November on only that book...I was ready to put it away.

That isn't to say it's a meh manuscript - I think it's quite good, and there are a number of poems in it that have been picked up by high quality journals. My editor at Bellowing Ark seemed quite taken with it, and recently offered to publish it. He also mentioned he'd like to take some liberties with the ordering, and that he'd send his recommendations to me. And so here we are.

I just received his suggested re-ordering of the Gonesongs poems in the mail. It's like a completely different book (in a good way). I am utterly floored at how the same material in a different order can make such a huge difference! He utterly upset the chronological narrative ordering (much like, I admit, a novel would have moved) of the original, creating instead of my three part storyline a book in four parts where each part focuses on relationship and emotion instead. I don't know if it is the re-ordering or because I've been some months away from the book, but to me it seems to have more emotional depth this way. I have one or two recommendations I'll send back - minor swaps, moving a poem one or two paces to the left, not a whole 'nother re-ordering, but I am pleased.

Lesson #1: When your editor asks if he or she may take liberties with your work in the interest of making it the best it can be, let them. It's incredible what fresh eyes can bring to a piece, and remember: they want it to be the best book, too. It's in their interest to up the holy-crap-awesome factor. Remember this, don't be offended, and loosen your grip on the work. You don't have to sell out on important points or compromise your integrity, but you should take constructive criticism and recommendations from the good place they are given.

Lesson #2: Walk away a bit. hate your work? Tired of it, though you were passionate about it a week, two weeks, a month ago? Walk away. Replenish your energy. Work on something different, go to the beach and relax, read a book or seven. Come back to it later and read it anew with fresh eyes.

Lesson #3: Ordering is CRITICAL to the bang of your manuscript. Try it a few different ways. I know poetess Kathleen Driskell makes it a habit to rent a room, string twine, and actually hang the poems with clothespins as she contemplates order. If I can remove the dog from the area, I do mine strewn about the floor. Whatever works for you, but try it.

In the end, though, as much as your editor wants to help you make the work the best, it's your decision. if it's not something you'll be proud to have your name on forever and ever, you need to speak up. I will again recognize that I have been incredibly lucky that the universe matched me with a generous and sensitive editor.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

This Poem Wants to be a Sonnet. Dammit.

While I was working on my MFA at Spalding University, when workshopping it became a running not-always-funny joke that when being workshopped by jeanie Thompson and/or Debra Kang Dean, if your poem was hitting a note but not as clearly as it could have, if it was a relatively shorter piece with a punch at the end, one of the Master Poetesses would murmur (or state very baldly):

"This poem wants to be a sonnet."

Imagine the nodding heads all around. Now imagine the screaming inner voice of the poet whose work is being discussed. Imagine the thoughts: "Oh my dear sweet flying spaghetti monster, a sonnet? Are you (very talented) bishes crazy? Shakespeare was a sonnetteer. Edna St. Vincent Millay. Elizabeth Barret Browning. Hopkins, Heaney, Peacock. But yea, though I love the saints of poetry and form, I fear the dreadful, work intensive, harsh mistress sonnet." Sprinkle a few more curses in there liberally, plus a whitening of the face, some weeping and gnashing of the teeth and a wish to drop into the floor, and that's about right.

The killer of it was, Jeanie and Debra were right. It took a few semesters, quite a bit of study, and the luck of having friendly, un-scary sonnetteer Molly Peacock as a workshop leader, but eventually I got a small sense for the sonnet. I rarely turn to form, and I am a clumsy sonnetteer for the most part, but it has helped me on occasion, and I've even had a few sonnets published in Sixty Six; The Journal of Sonnet Studies, which was a great surprise.

I am thinking about this tonight as I work on revising some poems I wrote with my brother in mind. He was recently honorable discharged from the US Marine Corps after multiple tours through Iraq and Afghanistan, and occasionally he drops tidbits of information or stories that I find fascinating and want to explore. And so These Terrible Sacraments was born. I intended for it to be a chapbook, and it's about 35 pages now. However, I keep thinking of new facets I want to explore, which may well end up giving me a full length manuscript. Of war poems, which I am quite sure will die a lonely death, since I imagine no one wants to read a themed collection on that. but I'm going to write it anyway, because it's been a hell of a ride so far.

In any case, These Terrible Sacraments is my attempt to understand war from through my brother's stories as well as from the perspective of those of us left behind - sisters, brothers, mothers, wives. My hope is that it neither glorifies nor demonizes war and those who fight it, but concentrates on the immense emotional undertaking war becomes.

It is this emotional turmoil in most of the pieces that is turning me toward form. I began the collection as a series of free form free verse pieces. As I've been revising them, some that had the momentum and friendly line breaks turned into tercets. Some of the slower more contemplative pieces have become poems in couplets. I have one or two where I think I see a villanelle poking through. But there are a number of poems, particularly the shorter - say, 13 to 18 lines - poems with a definite turn near the end, or well into the second half, that have been crying "sonnet" to me. At first it was a whisper-hint. Now it's more a cowbell-clanging.

My reaction was "this is going to suck and I will be cursing a lot." For me, sonnets require complete concentration, vigorous revision, and a ruthlessness towards the original that I rarely exercise. But the emotional content and the movement within the poem seems to call for it. And so, honoring what I've learned about my craft, and quashing my fear with the memory of merry Molly expounding upon her love for the form and it's many incarnations (intextations?), I will be hammering, cajoling, and begging sonnets to come forth from the freeform chaos of some current poems. It can be done, and as I've noted in the past, the effort is always worth it.

Honestly? It's daunting. But if I'm going to make this collection the best it can be so that I can be proud to present it to my brother, it needs must be done. *rolls up sleeves* Here, sonnet sonnet...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Gonesongs is a Go! and more....

In the most recent exciting news, my poetry manuscript Gonesongs (which was also my MFA thesis) has been accepted for publication by Bellowing Ark Press. I am absolutely thrilled that the editor liked this collection so much - it's one that is very close to my heart, and much more personal than God in my Throat in some ways, since it deals with love and family without the cushion (or armor) of working in persona. There's some work left to do with the ordering of it (I never did reach a place where I was completely thrilled with the structure of it), but my editor is, as he puts it, "taking liberties," and I'll get to take a peek at them shortly. I'm looking forward to it. Never underestimate the power of an editor with a passion for their work and an affection for yours.

In any case, Gonesongs will be tentatively scheduled for publication in early 2011. Until then, if you haven't ordered your copy of God in my Throat: The Lilith Poems, you should. That way you can compare them and tell me which you liked best while also supporting a small press!

New poems coming out in River Styx, Tipton Poetry Journal, Chaffey Review, Penguin Review, Red Wheelbarrow and Lamplighter Review. I've also got a piece that will be anthologized in Knocking at the Door, a poetry anthology forthcoming from Buddhapuss Ink sometime in August 2010.

A good haul for the November/December submission batch, I think. My next submissions likely won't be until mid to late May, when I've settled in after the move to Chattanooga.

I'm up to 52 books read so far for 2010 - a mix of paranormal romance, poetry, CNF essays, and more. I'm keeping track monthly on my other blog. I've also started what I had intended to be a chapbook of war poetry reflecting some of my brother's experience, which has blossomed into a larger project. I'm hoping to polish the collection titled These Terrible Sacraments in time to submit it to the Black Lawrence Press spring chapbook competition. And The Green of Breakable Things is out at various book contests and available for interested publishing parties.

Also, the sun has finally come out to bake me, and I am sporting my first merry sunburn of the season. Let's hear it for the rebirth of growing things, and for moving on to what we are meant to do.

Happy writing, all!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Busy 2010

February is not even over yet, and already it is a busy 2010!


From my creative thesis, the poems "Challenger," "Bud Vase", "Copper in Fire","Gift Shop, Museum of Natural History", "Carving Your Name" and "Coleman Canoe" have all received acceptances for a future issue of Bellowing Ark and Penguin Review. I am particularly excited to report that out of my newest unpublished manuscript, The Green of Breakable Things, the poem "Fishing" will appear in Third Wednesday, and poems "The Ant" and "Clearing Weeds from Daddy's Grave", will appear in a future issue of Bellowing Ark. Another poem which is a favorite of mine, "Star Inside the Apple", will appear in Orange Coast College Review.

In non-fiction, my book chapters “Millenials, Gen-X, Gen-Y, and Boomers, Oh My! Managing Multiple Generations in the Library” and “Management Tips for Merging Multiple Service Points” will appear in the book Library Management Tips That Work edited by Carol Smallwood, to be published by the American Library Association in 2010. Another two book chapters, “Low- and No-Cost Development Opportunities for Librarians” and “Managing Staff Stress During Budget Crises: Lessons for Library Managers” ( the second co-written with Mary Chimato) are forthcoming in the book Surviving and Thriving in the Recession: A How-to-Do-It Manual for Librarians, also edited by Carol Smallwood and expected to be published by Neal-Schuman in 2010.

New Employment

On the job front, I've accepted a professorship at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where I will work as Head of the library's Access Services department as of May 2010. I'll be applying for the EdD program there, am hoping to take workshop classes with poets Earl Braggs ad Rick Jackson, and am hoping to be able to adjunct in the English department. (Maybe not all of that at once, though.) I'm excited to be returning to UTC, where I worked as a reference & instruction librarian from 2007-2008. There is, however, quite a bit of work left to do at NCSU (not to mention packing up the apartment), so I am trying not to get ahead of myself.


Random things: I have been feeling very tired and run-down the past few weeks. In addition to a nasty sinus infection that simply won't go away (going on 9 weeks now), I do believe I've overcommitted. Too late to do anything about it now, but I will be better about volunteering for deadlined items in the future. In fact, I may turn down the fire on nonfiction library writing a bit after the book I committed to write is complete, and for librarystuff, tell myself that 2 articles/book chapters and 2 presentations a year is a fine momentum. Given that UTC is building as new library and taking on all the challenges that come with that, if I hit even those numbers, I'll be pleased. I'm looking forward to seeing my old personal trainer and getting myself back to the gym seriously the way I did when last in TN - I need to take better care of myself. I also plan to set aside home-time and space for serious creative writing once the library book is written (September).

Another random note; I am looking forward to hanging up my gypsy gear with the move to Chattanooga. Aside from moving to college in 1997 and the two moves a year in college, I moved in: 2001 (twice: to NY and then to GA), 2002 (twice: switched apartments), 2003 (moved to Kentucky), 2004 (moved from apartment into house with roomies), 2007 (twice: to NY then to TN), 2009 (from TN to NC). I am looking forward to being in one place for quite awhile. If all goes well, my next move won't be until 2013 or 14, and that will be from an apartment into a house, but in the same locale. *crosses fingers*

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good ProfHacker Article on Writing

ProfHacker had a recent article The Writer as Athlete, and it was a good reminder to me that you don't have to do it *all* day, but you have to try to do it *every* day. Check out the part where it tells you that you have to get your gear - this is where I fall down most of the time. I sit in the corner of the couch , crouched over a laptop in a manner I know will end in back pain. Time to step it up a notch. Maybe getting my writing space refitted will encourage me to get back to the gym! (HAhahahahahaha)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Well, Hello, 2010. Is that a Poem in your Pocket?

Ooh, 2010. What a lovely, round number. A number that pretty much gives permission - nay, orders us! - to set some goals, extend our limits, and make something count. I've listed my broad personal guidelines for 2010 here at my other blog, but I've got some specific writerly/artsy/crafty goals for this year too. For instance, I would like to:

1. Not terribly daunting, but: keeping a record of the books I read throughout the year and the movies I see. It's something I've wanted to keep track of for awhile and have simply been too lazy. I've already started this one, and the list is here at "Warmaiden's Diary." Not the juicy kind of diary, just the books & movies thing.

2. Work on a poetry project a month. Aside from writing my own poetry, I do think that studying it in a structured way helps me with my creativity, and helps prevent dry spells. Now that my MFA time is over (*sob*), I've decided to make a list of poetry projects to work on throughout the year, and the list came out to 11, whcih I figure is good, considering other projects and things that'll come up through the year. I'll be able to spend about a month on each - some are exercises, like writing in form and translation, and some are actually studies (like my plans for looking into lyric and elegiac poetry). The ones that made the list for this year are:

a) to do some translation work (esp Borges, Neruda, Lorca, Alfonsina Storni)
b) read (or re-read) some national epics - Shanameh, Cid, Daredevils of Sassoun
c) study Rumi & Sappho (does that strike you as a weird combination?)
d) study Deep image poets/poetry
e) study elegies
f) study lyric poetry
g) read some Japanese poets
h) read some Russian poets
i) do a study of Surrealist poetry
j) study meter (*gulp*)
k) work in forms (sestina, ghazals, repetition forms, sonnets, etc)

3. Seriously put the last polish on The Green of Breakable Things and Gonesongs. Both have gotten a pretty warm reception from individual journals and reviews for individual pieces (and I've been thrilled with how quickly the pieces from The Green are being accepted!) - time to find them a home for their full-length selves. Both are already entered in a handful of competitions, so we'll see on that front.

4. Learn some more crochet stitches. The single crochet means my blankets are ridonkulously heavy and take forever to finish. I'd like to get out more than a half-blanket per winter.

5. Dabble in some figure drawing and oil painting. I've always wanted to, and even collected supplies...and then was daunted by the thought of marring the blank page and canvas.

That's about it, but more than enough. This isn't a list of "musts," since that would just feel overwhelming, and lead to failure. This is a list of the things I would like to do, and that I want to make room and time in my life for. This is the list of things that I can look to whenever I feel like saying, "I'm bored."