Category Archives: Writing Talk

New News and an Anniversary Present

Don’t miss my interview yesterday with poet Millicent Borges Accardi: https://writersite.org/2023/02/06/from-mrs-virtue-to-the-covid-19-pandemic-an-interview-of-millicent-borges-accardi/ Millicent talks about the teacher who instilled her love of poetry as a kid. It so happened that the teacher was the daughter of a famous poet. She talks about her Portguguese heritage, both generally and the literature as well.

In January, I had another ekphrastic piece, this time a poem, taken at Visual-Verse. I neglected to mention last time that we only get one hour to write these to the art prompts. It’s a very intense process. https://visualverse.org/submissions/the-tournament/

Are you interested in a Giveaway for Rooted and Winged? LibraryThing is running one right now. https://www.librarything.com/ner/detail/46725/Rooted-and-Winged

Main Street Rag has published my review of Justin Hamm’s Drinking Guinness with the Dead. While I can’t post a copy of the review as it’s a print issue, I can tell you I give it two thumbs up. Hamm’s work is really tied to the Midwest and its vast once-farmland, so while anyone would love it (I think), Midwesterners would especially cherish it.

My daughter’s wedding was a year ago this coming Sunday. So look what I made for daughter and son-in-law. A wedding junk journal.

I had to find this nifty little suitcase after I realized that with the fragility of the book (cuz junk) and their lifestyle the book wouldn’t last long without protection. I was able to add in their wooden ring boxes, little place cards, extra photos, and the napkins from their previous courthouse wedding where we drank blue prosecco and ate cookies. Last year’s wedding was the whole shebang because that’s what they like.

See inside on the left? That’s a little clutch I made out of plastic grocery bags to store the cassettes of their wedding music.

That project was loads of fun, but now I’m about hearted and laced and sweetthinged out.

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Irony, Heartbreak, Depression

I’ve become obsessed with a 1966 hit by The Statler Brothers: “Flowers on the Wall.” A bluegrassy-sounding song, it won a Grammy that year, and yet it’s weird and chockful of irony. I can’t stop listening to it. See if you think it’s one of the most ironic and sad songs you’ve ever heard:

(Take a look at those Mad Men outfits!)

Anyway, do you know the song or did you just listen? Here are the lyrics:

I keep hearin’ you’re concerned about my happiness
But all that thought you’re givin’ me is conscience I guess
If I were walkin’ in your shoes, I wouldn’t worry none
While you and your friends are worried about me, I’m havin’ lots of fun

Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me, I’ve nothin’ to do

Last night I dressed in tails, pretended I was on the town
As long as I can dream it’s hard to slow this swinger down
So please don’t give a thought to me, I’m really doin’ fine
You can always find me here, I’m havin’ quite a time

Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me, I’ve nothin’ to do

It’s good to see you, I must go, I know I look a fright
Anyway my eyes are not accustomed to this light
And my shoes are not accustomed to this hard concrete
So I must go back to my room and make my day complete

Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me, I’ve nothin’ to do

Don’t tell me, I’ve nothin’ to do

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Lewis Dewitt

Flowers On the Wall lyrics © Unichappell Music Inc.

The song was written by Statler Brothers tenor Lew DeWitt. The lyrics are astonishing with irony (and the sound of a ripping heart) just dripping out of every line. What an amazing description of deep depression.

Do you think the irony makes the story even more tragic?

Can you think of other songs that are equally ironic and yet heartbreaking?

Irony works the same way in poetry (of course). My top choice of an ironic poem is probably Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art,” a villanelle that is one of my favorites.

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
playing card deck
Photo by Israel Garcia on Pexels.com

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Why I’m Not Writing, Probably

2021 is a weird writing period for me. I am awaiting presales of my new poetry book in May (release is scheduled for September 2022). I have sent out my memoir to see what happens to it. That will probably take a long time. Then I have 3 essays that are taking forever to be published–in fact, one of them, I don’t know if it will be published or not as I’ve lost contact with the journal’s editor. Maybe I should send the piece out again. I’ve been waiting on a few poem publications. And I stopped writing. That doesn’t usually happen to me.

I think it has to do with waiting on these books. I feel disoriented and unfocused.

Luckily, my creativity group is working on two books by Eric Maisel that I think will help. We are reading Unleashing the Artist and doing exercises in The Creative Workbook for Coaches and Creatives. For the first exercise, we listed all the creative projects that we have going on–either in process or imagined. Then we had to assign values as to how important they were. That was eye-opening. Give it a try!

I wrote a book review of a new poetry book this weekend and sent it off to a journal. And I have one more review I committed to for December. Then I have to say NO for awhile.  I do not know how anybody can tackle NaNoWriMo in November because of the holidays. That blows my mind to even think about it! If you are doing it, you are probably not reading this right now.

Make it a good week, everyone!

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Giving Back to Poetry

I’ve been reading more than usual lately. For one thing, all my Ann Cleeves (Vera, Shetland, 2 Rivers) books on the wait list at the library have been coming available. Then I’ve got a few fiction and nonfiction books I’m rarin’ to read. Additionally, I’m reading a couple of brand new poetry books that I plan to review for journals or this blog. The best way to  understand a poetry collection, for me, is to prepare for writing a review. So reviewing is actually a benefit to me, not just to the poet who wrote the collection.

Something new that I am starting to do is to read the new issues of journals that are emailed to me. It’s not that I didn’t read any of them before, but sometimes I would hit delete if I felt like I had too much going on and plenty to read. But I’ve decided that that is not good because without all these wonderful lit journals a lot of writers, including myself, would be screwed. Then I am choosing one of my favorite pieces from the journal and sharing it on social media.

I have a belief that underlies these endeavors. Too many poets (I can’t speak for creative nonfiction and fiction writers because I know a lot more poets) are so involved with their own writing or maybe the writing of their “big star” inspirations that they do not put enough back into the poetry community. Of course, I include myself in this number.  There are certainly plenty of exceptions to this phenomenon, including the work that lit mag editors and small press editors and owners do, especially those that continue long past the “it will help my career” period. Two special names that immediately spring to mind when I think of helping the poetry community are Trish Hopkinson  whose website is a treasure for poets and Neil Silberblatt who runs the Facebook group Voices of Poetry. I’ve talked about Diane Lockward’s craft books on here several times. Her books, monthly newsletter, and press (Terrapin) are all important to the poetry community. In fact, she has a new craft book coming out soon. It’s called The Strategic Poet. I’m super blessed to have a poem in the tome (that rhyme is how you can tell I’m a poet hahahaha). The poem is called “After the Call from the Animal Welfare Office: A Triple Triolet,” and it’s a response to a horrific cat hoarding situation in Phoenix last year.

There are many more poetry helpers, too. The work that I am doing for the community is miniscule compared to that of others, but I am trying to keep #poetrycommunity at the forefront of my decisions as much as possible.

Let’s make it a great week ahead!

 

 

 

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Interview on the Making of the Poem “Scrap”

You might remember my poem “Scrap” that was published last month at Anti-Heroin Chic. Poet and blogger Chris Rice Cooper has published an interview where I discuss the making of the poem–the backstory–on her blog over at blogspot.

Come join the fun!

INTERVIEW

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Look for the Beauty


This is day 36. I am hanging in there, gaining a bit of endurance, and trying to pay attention when my body needs rest. I’m also trying to pay attention to the beauty that I encounter.

It’s the time of year when we put the winter flowers in. I didn’t participate this time, but watched a bit of the work. The gardener had daughter and her fiance, as well as our pet sitter and her boyfriend to help. It took them a few hours to plant all the flowers. The nursery ran out of white snapdragons, rust and variegated marigolds, and many other flowers. The gardener suspects it is because the summer was so darn hot.

An hour and a half after everyone finished and left, look who showed up in our backyard.

That’s right: a gorgeous Arizona bobcat. If you enlarge the photo, you can see his beautiful black and white ears. The area where he is trudging is actually a steep section above a pony wall. Below the ponywall is a sidewalk and then our house.  This long and narrow space is a bit dangerous as we could get trapped back there by the bobcat. They tend not to attack humans unless they have rabies, but who knows? And, yes, they eat house cats (and small dogs). This is one of several reasons my cats are kept indoors all the time.

Since I haven’t been able to write, but would like to prep a bit for writing in the future, I decided to study a subject I have long been interested in: archetypes. I first encountered them years ago in a class taught by an English professor who was very into Jung and Jungian theory. Archetypes really resonate with me–being a poet I find myself exhuming them frequently. Later, I studied Freud for my work with literary theory, but I never felt in sync with Freud the way I did with Jung. In fact, to me, Freud’s thinking is kind of creepy, whereas Jung’s is more expansive and important.

An archetype can be described many ways, but a short definition might be something like this: a recurrent motif in psychology and art and the culture at large. Many say they can be found throughout all cultures. I worked quite a bit with The Mother archetype in grad school, but this time I wanted to get more in depth with more archetypes. So as a “sorry you’re sick” gift to myself 😉 I purchased this beautiful box containing a tarot deck of 78 archetypes.

After reading the book that comes with the deck and meditating a bit on the whole situation, I pulled one “random” card from the deck with the intention of working very thoroughly with it. And what did I select?

Why, the card that makes the most sense in this year of 2020, the year where so much of life as I have known it has been toppled and erased. I pulled out the card of THE DESTROYER. I kid you not. I don’t want to write now about what I am learning as I explore this archetype because I don’t want to short-circuit my work.

I hope that this exploration will lead to poetry writing when I am up to it.

By the way, this is Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Although I did not grow up with this tradition, I find in it much to admire. Taking a day to remember and pray for loved ones who have passed seems like a very good way to harness our feelings of grief. It prevents us from tamping down our feelings and thoughts about those we have lost, but gives us one day where we can really focus on loved ones. If we celebrate, we serve food that they loved. We create an altar and put their photos on it. Next year, I think I will prepare ahead for Dia De Los Muertos. Yesterday I cried remembering my maternal grandmother, so I think she is waiting to be recognized in this way.

Stay safe and remember you are loved.

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Where Do I Send My Story or Poem?

The other day, Ellie from Crossed Eyes and Dotted Tees asked me how I find magazines/journals where I can submit my writing. On the chance that maybe what I do might help someone else, I thought I’d share my haphazard method for finding good places to submit short stories (both fiction and nonfiction) and poetry.

First, though, Kana says hi.

My list items are effective by themselves, but I also think that there is a synergy that develops from doing them all or a large portion. Kind of a 2 + 2 = 5 result. Some journals show up repeatedly, and I’ve learned more about them in this way. Then a new name springs up, and I check it and wow! a wonderful new mag for writers and readers to discover.

  • Let’s start with social media. I have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, my blogs, and a website. For the purposes of finding journals and magazines, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are arguably the most important.
  • On Facebook I joined writers’ groups and engage at least occasionally. I also “like” the pages of journals that are mentioned. When Facebook gives me suggestions to like journal pages, I either “like” and check out later or check out before I decide to “like.”
  • On Twitter, I follow lots and lots of literary magazines and journals, as well as writers. The more you follow, the more suggestions for journals you discover and, hence, the more you follow.
  • On Instagram, I follow “suggestions” for journals to follow.
  • I’ve taken writing workshops in the past where I met writers. I stay in touch with many of them.
  • When I find journals and have a chance to read and check them out, I keep track of them. I used to bookmark them on my computer. But the other day I deleted most of them because this method had become unwieldy. I also found that I have reached the point where I didn’t need it as much any longer.

What else do I do?

  • Search Twitter and Facebook for submission calls. Sometimes that search can produce a request for submissions from a journal you have never heard of before. Or maybe a themed issue that fits well with something you are working on.
  • Use the Poets & Writers literary magazine list as a guide.
  • Check out Clifford Garstang’s Pushcart ratings lists. They are invaluable for seeing which journals have published Pushcart-selected pieces (doesn’t predict the future, but looks at the past). Here is the 2020 list for Fiction. You can look around for nonfiction and poetry once you’re on the site.
  • Search for submissions through my Duotrope membership.
  • Read Allison Joseph’s site. She used to run CWROPPS, a valuable Yahoo group. When they shut the groups down, she started posting on her blog: Creative Writers Opps.
  • Read Trish Hopkinson‘s site for poets only.
  • Read collections of stories or poems. Then I check out the acknowledgements and see where the writing was first published. That gives me a solid list of journals.
  • Every time I encounter a journal new to me that looks promising, I read at least a good portion of an issue. Try it. See the bios of the writers published in that issue? They often give names of other magazines that have published their writing. Go check those out!

You can see that this process is extensive and symbiotic, but not exhaustive. I certainly don’t do this all perfectly. But I’ve done it for a long time, and I don’t stop going through the process: the literary journal world is ever-changing. It’s important to keep up. Many journals have closed up shop in the last year or two, but many more are publishing their first or second issue.

If you have other ideas for finding places to which you can submit your work, please share!

This cactus flower was a little slower to bloom than the others. It’s nice to have one open now while it’s so stinken hot.

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Artist’s Way in the Time of Coronavirus

I didn’t really think I’d still be writing about Covid-19 or coronavirus this week. Trying not to think ahead to next week.

Have you been hearing about/seeing the best and worst in people this past week? So many stories about TP being stolen out of grocery carts, etc. But on NextDoor app, there are so many kind people offering to pick up meds and groceries for seniors and people with health issues–or even just for people afraid to go into the stores.

I picked up stuff for my kids and a friend. Then on a family chat when I joked about only have one bag of BBQ Lays and not much Tito’s in the bottle, my daughter and her fiance delivered those as a gift to me (they were at the grocery store where they found no potatoes, no onions, no eggs, and almost no meat).

My friend knew we couldn’t get eggs, so she bought eggs for me and for my daughter at Costco. When we picked it up, she had a bag of lemons from her tree for us, but wouldn’t come out the door to get the egg money, so I had to put it in the doormat. LOL

Times have not gotten bad yet. Just annoying.

I’ll move on to other topics, but it’s kind of hard to keep the Virus from intruding.

Remember when I started The Artist’s Way program? I read the book, worked Morning Pages, and Artist Dates. I also joined an in-person group. By the way, I found a little interview with Julia Cameron (the book author and creator of the program) on her blog. An Interview with Julia Cameron

Without going into the whole story of what has gone on for me with the program, I’d like to mention a few points that arise from where I’m “at” right now.

  • Morning pages are being used for what food we are eating for dinner based on what we have in the house and so that we don’t use up all the good stuff first.
  • Artist Dates are the things I can do from home: movies, books, crafts, etc.
  • I just gave my regrets for the in-person meeting this month.
  • How great to have more time to write and craft. Yes, my head is spinning in every direction. My focus is awful. BUT, if I can’t pull it together to write something, how could I withstand an ACTUAL problem? I have written two poems so far.

I am lucky in that I have six cats at home. But it does mean I’ve had to make sure I have enough cat food and litter to last two weeks. The kitties don’t know why Mom and Dad are home more, but they sure do like it–especially after we left them for so long while we were in Costa Rica.

Stay safe everyone. If you are lucky enough to work from home as I am, I hope you can squeeze in more of what you want to do in place of your commute time!

HUGS AND STAY SAFE

P.S. The photo was taken by the gardener (hence, the finger in the left side of the image LOL) at a festival we drove through in a small town in Costa Rica. Needless to say, festivals are now off-limits to all of us.

 

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A Little Bit Like Grandpa

On one of my family history blogs, The Family Kalamazoo, I was chatting with family history blogger and blog friend Amy Cohen (check out her amazing work at Brotmanblog: A Family Journey) and I was trying to give her an idea of my grandfather’s personality. I directed her to the first poem in my chapbook Kin Types, “Advice from My Forebears.” I reminded her about two lines in it: “If they come to your door, feed them. Then send / them on their way.” This particular advice sounds exactly like my grandfather’s philosophy.

Amy said, “There’s something both soft and tough in it, probably like your Grandpa.” Amy was right. That was Grandpa.

What does it mean to be both soft and tough? In some ways I am both those things. I am uber-soft about animals, as you know, and a well-directed commercial about almost anything can leave me in tears. I am the same way about children’s issues that I am about animals–especially foster children and adoptees.

But I do have a little bit of a pull yourself up by your bootstraps iron somewhere inside, too. I lose my patience with people who I view as too soft on themselves. I don’t mean people with problems like mental illness, addictions, anything like that. I mean people who give in to their emotions excessively (IMO), but always when it is about themselves.

I didn’t intend this to turn into a vent, but I guess when you follow a thread into yourself, you find out what you don’t like, as well as what you do like.

I don’t necessarily like this aspect of myself. But I’m not sure that I don’t value it in some respect, also, because it means that I keep myself going, no matter what, I never give up trying to be a helper where truly needed, and I’m a hard worker like Grandpa.

That said, it isn’t up to me to decide when someone is being excessively about themselves. I can extricate myself from the relationship completely, or at least distance myself. But I need to stop judging or labeling and just do what I need to do. In other words, I need to send myself on my way ;).

I have a few writing goals this year. I hope I can accomplish even a quarter of what I plan haha. My submission acceptance goal remains the same as for 2019, and I already have three, so I have hopes that I will meet it once again. This year also will be a year of helping a bit with the wedding planning (for daughter and her fiance).

 

Perry and Sloopy Anne have been lying together on the bed for hours every day. So I can’t make the bed. Not a bad reason not to make a bed, huh? Sorry the lighting is so poor in there, but aren’t they cute?

Let’s make this week one that really counts!!! XO

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Go. Read. Hunting the Devil by Suanne Schafer

I could not put down Suanne Schafer’s new novel Hunting the Devil until I ran out of pages to read. You might recall that I wrote about her first novel, A Different Kind of Fire, and loved it. The new story is entirely different from the first one, but another literary success. Furthermore, Hunting the Devil seems a very important book.

Here is my review, which is also posted on Goodreads and Amazon.

Suanne Schafer demonstrates once again that she knows how to write novels that defy genre boundaries and engage on many levels. Hunting the Devil, her most recent publication, is a historical war story that takes place in Rwanda, but also holds elements of a medical thriller and an unconventional romance complete with love triangle. The cinematic experience of reading this important book is still with me weeks after reading the last page.

Dr. Jessica Hemings, an American medical doctor, is in Rwanda to establish a clinic to treat poor Rwandans when civil war breaks out. With her biracial American features, Hutu paramilitary identify her with the Tutsi population they are committing atrocities upon, so her life is in danger. After her twin babies are killed, Jessica escapes across the country while planning revenge upon the murderer of her children.

The short chapters with initial place names and dates make a complex book easy to follow. Schafer’s descriptions are apt and illuminating, but never drag down the pace of the story. An ex-physician, she knows how to write about medical issues in a way that is believable and comprehensible to the layperson.  The interpersonal relationships and inner landscapes of the main characters are well drawn. Unlike a lot of writers, Schafer even writes sex scenes well.

I knew so little of the Rwandan Civil War when I began this book. Since finishing it, I’ve done some more reading. Schafer has cast this devastating and enthralling story upon a well-researched setting. In doing so, she introduces her readers to an event in history that needs a prominent place in our understanding of world history. She does this through an action-packed can’t-put-it-down storytelling style. I have been recommending the book to family and friends. When anyone asks me how I could read about the atrocities, I explain that as a reader one becomes so caught up in Jessica’s experience that one is compelled to keep going. There is no going back. And for that I am so grateful. The book changed me forever.

Suanne Schafer

You can find the book at these links:

 

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