Poetry, process, progress.

Category: Po’ Biz

Back from AWP and the Work Begins

Back from AWP and the Work Begins

I’m in the two-day gap between AWP and the CCCC today, so after some laundry and picking up the cat, I’m trying to sort through the AWP swag. I tried to get bookmarks, postcards, or other reminders from as many new -to-me journals as I could.The goal was to target my poetry well. I want to send to journals that look like a good fit, and AWP’s Bookfair is the best possible way to see literally hundreds of journals and presses in one enormous exhibit hall. Who doesn’t want to do that?

Luckily, I was there representing Moon City Press, so I got to see the process from both sides, editor and writer. From the editor side, it was wonderful seeing so many writers (especially poets) dedicated to their craft . Several sent their manuscripts to the Moon City Poetry Prize while still at AWP, and I look forward to reading them. The contest’s deadline is May 1, but the reading begins now due to the number of submissions. It was also great having the offsite reading for Moon City Press authors Keri French, Kim Magowan, Travis Mossotti and Michelle Ross. Dinner afterwards at The Hall was so much fun, andI can’t remember ever being with better or more interesting people. Of course, that is what AWP is like.

I haven’t been to AWP for several years, so being at the Bookfair was a real treat for me. As a poet, the chance to see so many of the presses I know and people I know was so much fun.There are no better  or more generous people in the world than writers. My colleagues Mike Czyzniejewski and Joel Coltharp flew out with me, knowing that my knees make me a dicey traveler. This trip was for easier for me than past trispthough. Losing 95 pounds makes walking easier whether you have arthritis damage or not. However, I did have to pace myself. I still made it to every row, visiting many, many tables and booths.  The  photo shows the pile of contacts that I’m sifting through today, hoping that new publications will be the result.

And now, on to the CCCC, which I also love, but in a different way.I will be doing a roundtable with colleagues Margaret Weaver, Jennifer Murvin, and grad students Brandon Henry and Dane Lale on crossover pedagogy between creative wiring and composition..

The Year of Hunkering Down

The Year of Hunkering Down

So, my shameless self-promotion moves for 30/30 on Twitter and Facebook that have filled my morning reminded me of how little I have done in the past year, at least on the surface. My main blog and this one are dusty. My Twitterstream was tweetless. Spammers even lost interest and no longer note what a great post and what software are you using? then urge me to visit their Michael Kors or sunglasses site. Nope, this is an empty room now because I stepped back for a year to get healthy. [Note: This is a background post that connects somewhat to my 30/30 month. Know me IRL? Like the poems? Consider donating to Tupelo Press through my donation page. I’m starting to get embarrassed.]

So here I am a year later and 90 pounds lighter, a familiar transformation story in American culture because what really could be worse that being heavy in this society? But that was not the point. No, I just wanted to be able to walk again, maybe never as well as others, but at least enough to be able to go to conferences or maybe shop in the mall like other people and not have to plan and measure steps. What made me do everything that I’ve done this past year was not about weight, but it was about the osteoarthritis diagnosis and how freeing that was to finally know that I did not do this to myself through falls or being too heavy.

So, that sounds like a big choice, but my decision a year ago was really a lot of small choices that were individually doable. One thing I did know–I could not go on as I was. Normal day-to-day actions were painful, every single day. Some days I would get partway through the walk from my parking lot to my campus office, about three blocks, and yearn, absolutely yearn for a wheelchair. This could not go on. So, my first small choice was to go to MRC (Metabolic Research Center) as recommended by my orthopedic surgeon who wanted me at 41 BMI or lower in order to do the surgery on both my knees. I did the metabolism and DNA tests and resolved to stick to the food plan. At first, I had very little hope. I have washed out of Weight Watchers several times, usually because of a plateau that had to be overcome by exercise. This however, actually worked. Here are the small changes I made this year, not all of them weight-loss related.

  • Followed the MRC program selected for me (they have several based on metabolic needs).
  • Kept a food and supplements journal.
  • Used my Apple Watch to track steps in order to know how many steps I had before pain onset. That raised from 200 to 450 calories expended daily.
  • Cooked multiple meals on weekends to plan ahead for the harder days.
  • Vowed to take at least a year off from conference attendance. No AWP, CCCC, or CW for me in 2017.
  • Vowed to save enough to get hearing aids in 2017 (did it too). This was a $4500 investment for both ears.
  • Vowed to be positive about my life and act instead of react.
  • Gave myself permission to do things for me.
  • Made a list of things I wanted to do and vowed to find a way make each of them real
  • Updated my wardrobe and makeup as my weight changed. Waiting until “goal weight” to do that is counterproductive. The weight is not the goal. Health is, and that is not something that happens only at a goal weight.

In effect, I hunkered down and approached my quality of life in the same way I approached a writing project: full on and in it to the end. Valuing myself in the same way I valued a scholarly or creative project made a difference. So, now I can go to AWP and the Cs and participate rather than doing one thing and spend the rest of the day with my legs elevated taking painkillers. Advil will certainly still be my friend, but I can get around better. I can also hear better. Conference rooms and exhibit halls have the worst acoustics and the last few times I attended conferences, I could not hear the panels well enough to fully benefit from them. I can hear now and have settings I can use via an iPhone app for challenging situations like meetings or crowded restaurants.

Sure, I’m still going to resort to a wheelchair in airports. Damage is damage and my knees can’t heal. However, I find I can face the idea of air travel again and maybe once I’ve done it, I will return to being the person who loves to travel.

This was a long post, but a necessary one I think. I hope that my year of hunkering down is over, replaced by the Year That’s Something Special.

 

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About the 30/30 Project

About the 30/30 Project

I will be one of the poets for Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Project for next month, February 2018. Follow along with me here as I write and be sure to read the 30/30 drafts on the Tupelo site. I will use this space to write about process  for  my students and other interested readers. Also, if you wish to donate to Tupelo Press in my name in honor of my efforts for the 30/30 Project and for a press that publishes some of the best poetry today, go to my Tupelo Press donation page and donate to the press in my name. Thanks!

About prepwork

About prepwork

It has been a long time since I’ve posted here. Sometimes as writers we spend time doing the prepwork, work that is not that evident on the outside, but inside, there are shells upon spinning wheel. At the end of February last year, I took very active steps towards ensuring that I have a longer and healthier life (I’ll post more about this in a later post). Ten months later, I am 90 pounds lighter and surer in step. My BMI is almost down to normal range and well below the dividing line of 41 that may orthopedic surgeon set for getting knee replacements. I am no longer in constant pain from arthritis damage, but that damage remains. Funny thing though, when one is no longer in constant pain, much more becomes possible. I am adding back some of the things that I dropped during this year of recovery. I will be at AWP this year at the Moon City Press table, so be sure to stop and say hi. I will also be presenting at the CCCC (Conference on College Composition and Communication) this March and will link the roundtable’s details once  the schedule is online.

One more thing that I am doing is consciously returning to daily or near-daily drafting. I will do the April NaBloPoMo PAD challenge this year and will also see if Tupelo is interested in letting me be one of their 30/30 poets this year.

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The words leak out my ears

The words leak out my ears

I see that it has been a very long time since I posted here and believe me, it is not because I went into dry-storage. I taught poetry over the summer then went straight to a busy fall semester with three writing-intensive courses and of course, the onset of creative writing submission season. It has been a good year for me so far, with half of my goals met–I have placed more than twenty poems this year and my poem Things Found Along Boyer Road Between El Dorado, KS and the Dump from TAB was nominated for Best of the Net. The rest of my goals are still to happen. I don’t have an accepted book manuscript, but I have two manuscripts outs there, and one has been chugging its way up more than one press’s ladder. I do not have any Pushcart Prize nominations, my other goal, but the cutoff isn’t until December 1.

These may seem like strange goals in that all of them involve just plain luck. After all, there are lots and lots of good poetry out there and not all of it gets published. I set the goals anyway so that I do my part, the part that has little to do with luck: working every day on writing, revising, and sending out poems. If I don’t do it, the words may literally leak out my ears never to return, and that would be a shame. (more…)

April Foolery

April Foolery

Each National Poetry Month (April!) I take on the PAD (Poem a Day) Challenge using the prompts supplied by Robert Lee Brewer of Writers Digest’s Poetic Asides. If you want to read my posted poems, contact me via Facebook (ensures I know you) and I’ll give you the password. I will not post my drafts “live” here since that leads to prior publication troubles with journals. Over all, the process has been successful for me. Later versions of drafts written by me for the PAD Challenge have appeared in Menacing Hedge, Weave, NEAT, and TAB: The Journal of Poetry and Poetics. (more…)

When good lit journals die

When good lit journals die

I just sent an email pretty much like this: “Is unnamed literary journal that’s small yet enticing now a closed project? If not, you should know that Duotrope has noted it as ‘believed defunct.’ If it is true, I regret it since you have a good concept that others are not doing. You still have poems from me with no decision made and I believe you may have others as well. If the mag is indeed defunct, it would take just a moment to craft a goodbye page for your site and send a generic email to all submitters. It’s sad when a project ends, but things happen.Please let people know one way or another. Best wishes…”

I am all but positive that Duotrope is right and this journal gave up the ghost. However, as an editor, I can’t understand how one can decide to close down a journal yet not let that journal’s readers know. That is a wasted opportunity for future goodwill since people who start journals tend to do it again, but it is also a good opportunity to be a nice literary community member and use that goodbye notice on the site to note a list of where you would send now that your very special journal is gone. Typing a textbox and making that last announcement on the site takes less than a minute. Especially if the site is on a free-hosted site like WordPress.com or Blogger.com, that dead journal could be up for another year or more before WordPress or Blogger notices the tumbleweeds rolling through and takes it down. A final notice is needed.

Most if not all editors who start literary journals are also writers themselves. That is why I am especially disappointed that an email was not sent to all current submitters. That would take one group email (bcc). If they did not have a database for the submissions, there must have at least been a submissions folder in email so that pasting the email addresses would not take a lot of time.

It may be that I’ll get an email saying they are alive and kicking much like the one I got from them this summer when I sent a status request two months past when they said responses would be made. I do that more now since the time when I had poems accepted and a journal neglected to tell me. Mistakes happen. My record for time span is for a journal that took my poems, sent a contract (always good), then did not put out an issue. That was in 2013 and they are certain that it will be out this month. Gosh, I hope so. I have reasons to be forgiving in this case, but that is not always true. Reputations are easy to make and to lose. I hope things turn out well for this journal, either way–live or die.