At this time of year, most of us are so starved for colour in our lives - writers as well as ordinary folks - that we bemoan any hint of further snowfall. The grass is yellowy-brown. The trees are bare. Too often rain and clouds block the sun. If the sun appears, it's watery and weak. Winds prevail. And we're just done with being patient!
Such is the writing life as well. I've been encouraging you for over a year to submit, submit, submit (your work). And with submissions come the wait. It helps if you're tracking your overloaded roster of submissions because (mostly) you'll forget that 6 months have passed; or that you never heard back (& can axe that notation, sending the work out again); or can send it out anyway, doubling-tripling up of the possibilities for that piece you're so proud of.
I expect rejections. It's how I ward off the disappointments. Then should an acceptance arrive to my inbox, oh joy! For the first time ever (several weeks ago), I had such an acceptance - a contest winner. There was joy, but also the mad scramble to inform a Lit Journal that I was pulling that poem and the replacement of the poem with another publication (since the deadline hadn't passed yet). First time angst due to simultaneous submissions...and I survived. Know that you can easily sort out any issues if your work should win something. It'll be the least of your concerns. In my case, my poem (written on the tour bus in Ireland last summer) called Rowing Across the North Atlantic has won the Calgary Poetry Contest and all the relevant paperwork has been signed for publication. These small victories are too few and far between for poets - for writers in general. But know they can be managed.
And they do add a hit of colour to this barren time of year! That and the high-octane saturation of my knitting and crochet projects...
Write on, fellow wordsmiths!
You know that feeling when you've just written a huge chunk and you're proud of yourself. Your words are like golden droplets of genius; like they've fallen from the heavens onto your page; writing the world is just waiting for...? Nah.
If you leave it for a month; a week; sometimes just a day, you'll be able to take a more clear-eyed look at your work. And so often, you'll want to overreact and toss it. Resist that impulse. Your words are seldom the genius you thought they were but they are also not 'dreck'.
This past weekend I tackled a project that reminded me of the ruthless, surgical editing work that is usually required to buff and polish our writing. I tackled a beautiful sofa that I've owned since the mid-80s (well-bought and sturdy of construction); that I last re-upholstered about 17 or 18 years ago; tore it right down to the frame and foam. What a satisfying feeling to freshen something that was 'okay'. By smoothing and arranging, I turned it into something quite 'yummy'!
I devoted the time (3 1/2 days) and the patience (prying staples and unbolting components) to create what I imagined in my mind's eye. Behold!
And you too can fill your life with this kind of colour...every day!
Not only did I miss much of the coldest weather; the heaps of snow and the polar vortex excitement, I also got a break from the characters that routinely stomp around in my head. It's true, I've written more poetry than anything else in the past year (to fairly regular pub success due to submitting, submitting, submitting!) but writers hear voices...don't cha know?
So, the lull of the surf-sounds (and the buckets of rain we had in south-Florida), the rhythmic movements of my hands (while knitting and crocheting that scarf for my grand-daughter) and the scratch-scratch of my pen for the odd poem is all I needed to get a fresh start of what remains of the month of February in the wintry North.
Needless to say, we should all be so lucky as to take a break from our everyday lives as writers...to cleanse the palate (so to speak).
Happy Home and write on...
Sure, don't we all carry the perfect image of what we're creating in our mind's eye - rich and wrought from pure magic? And when we go to make that inspiration real in the here-and-now, hard-as-nails, brutal world, doesn't it too often not measure up?
Me too. My imagination holds (say) that blood-red moon and my craft can only accomplish what is comparable to the snapshot my iPhone feebly captures. But do I pout? Do I fret? Do I simply shove it into the nearest drawer and forget it every happened? No! Say it with me, no...
I edit and polish to the best of my capabilities. I enlist the aid of other writers/poets. I share my raw work with the groups I have access to. And what happens is that others see/hear something much more akin to that blood-red moon than I'm able to conjure.
This is what gives me the guts to send it out. To submit. And then (although I anticipate only rejection) I receive emails of acceptance. The best affirmation that any writer could hope for. So during this cold and silent time of year...write...share...submit...
You owe it to the world!
In 2018, I was fortunate to have 27 poems accepted for publication (all over the world - except Australia I'm still striving to crack)...and just got my first acceptance of 2019...with an American Journal that published one of last May...so...does this finally make it a trend? I'm going to hazard a YES! And although not every submission is a perfect fit for every opportunity, if you don't ever send anything out...risking the possibility of no...then your stellar record of zero publications will hold (sheesh). And there's no fun in that.
I cheer the rejections as much as I do the acceptances because I can then plug that particular piece back into my roster of (say) 400 poems (that I very regularly) send out and it may hit somewhere else. Hope springs eternal, they say. Not only that, but I've found to some of my older poems have been picked up during the past year, so I want to encourage you to pull those older writings out of the bottom drawer, blow off the dust and give them a vigorous polish (meaning edit). Be brave. Send them out into the world. PROOF: That acceptance of the past week was scribbled into my little notebook in 2010.
So, hold tight to any tiny scrap of spring that you can fill your life with; don your reading socks to stay warm during the winter months; crack open that little notebook and dedicate yourself to sharing your magic with the world!
It's never too late, writers.
Be brave and thrive (like this quirky being)!
So as a writer, I find that I'm always relating the rest of my life experiences to what goes on the page. Maybe because I'm mostly a poet? Writers of other genres can confirm that for me. And those who've been following along know that other than roofing and renos, I've falling into my (former) crafting life by playing with textile creation again.
Remember, this little experiment from December? Well, I tired of it and the uninspiring colours that I started the knitting off with so I frogged it - that's ripping it all back to yarn that can be utilized in something else. Sometimes we need to tear apart, cannabalize or just toss our written work (much as it horrifies us) inorder to turn it into what it was always intended to be.
Having survived the holidays (so far), I can say on this New Year's Eve that life/work/craft/just-plain-breathing is good. It will be a quiet transition, but I find that the most fruitful poetry comes in the quietest, introspective moments. So, relish what nourishes you; revel in the company of those human beings around you in all of their diverse glory; take pause and smell the roses and above all, learn to love yourself (yes, with all your flaws and nitty-gritty crazy!)
Make 2019 the year of YOU! Everyone wants more you...
It's been a storm here lately...of last minute reno details...of crafty insights as I plow my way through KnitStars tutorials...of writing submission...and yes, lots of rejections. I take heart in the rejections because it means that I've found my diligent groove in sending my writing out. That's a good thing!
Not to say that I'm not busy in my writing-related activities. Saturday morning, December 8th I'll be participating in a Pro Panel (my 2 cents = pro?) at The Writers' Community of Durham Region's Monthly Networking Meeting (Durham College Whitby Campus) along with Jackie Brown, Kevin Craig and Rich Helms. Here's hoping that the audience finds value in whatever I share. And you know I'll talk about submitting your work, right?
On the evening of December 18th, I'm part of a group of poets reading their work at Corks & Beans, Oshawa. You guessed it...previous published work (from this past year) will be my holiday offering. Come check us out!
So, I case I don't make it back here before the chaos takes hold have a wonderful holiday season. Eat lots! Share a drink (wine or coffee/tea) with someone you care about. Hug...everyone! And pick up something tactile to work with your hands...knitting, cooking, baking, painting, glueing, silly-putty...
Happy writing & Happy New Year!
As my reno nears completion (that's paint, carpet, tile, furnishings), it's easy to struggle to manage the tiny details all spinning in my brain. As a creative/design person, I'm looking to create a layered experience in all my spaces (including my head & the writing that pours out of it lol).
That leads me to the debate of whether to buy or build an upholstered headboard (building is winning!); how to mount two reclaimed bevelled mirrors for my master bathroom (see rope-trimmed canvas in process); what furniture to bring into my bedroom from the rest of the house and where to buy new? For me it's always been about texture...
As a gift to my dormant-fiction-writing-self, I attended a workshop this past weekend with the fabulous Canadian author, Donna Morrissey (who's also a hilarious Newfoundlander!) She put us through exercises for character-development, scene-building and how to weave in research. All multi-layering techniques for seamlessly integrating information into our creative writing. All valuable lessons (thanks to the WCDR for organizing)!
Next week I'll be augmenting my crocheting (no, that shift-dress isn't finished) with a mind-blowing knitting experience. I've signed up for KnitStars 3.0 (online education out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA) - a learning experience sure to evolve my skills because this video series will focus on colour work in the Scandi-style (North Stars Rising!) I've done some intarsia-knitting based on the amazing Kaffe Fassett's work out of the UK, but this new/scary/exciting adventure is sure to take my skillset to a whole new level. As I immerse myself in the social media threads discussing projects and yarns, my sensory-overload-alarm is going off daily!
How does all this matter? It seems that I've entered a season where layering-lessons are being thrust upon me. I find that the universe often needs to hit me over the head with the same point from many various angles. All I can say is: I'm listening...I'm willing and listening...
So, listen to what is being sent your way...happy writing!
Years ago I was struck by the profound saying of my friend and writing mentor, Susan Lynn Reynolds, "Don't compare the inside of yourself with the outside of others." And now I've heard writing guru, Anne Lamott say the same thing. Ah, writers! We're famous for under-estimating ourselves.
Those of you who've been following along are aware that I've been challenged by a home reno since late August and I'm happy to report that the messiness that drove the OCD inside of me crazy during the past few months has subsided somewhat because the home's exterior now looks as if nothing is going on. The inside is still driving me 'round the bend. Stuff piled everywhere. Clutter as room overflow with pieces from other areas of the house. Doesn't this remind you of writing a novel or other large manuscript? Scary, thinking that it can never be put right? In order?
This is exactly the time when you have to breathe; have faith in dealing with one detail at a time; take your progress in baby-steps. Utilize a reliable feedback group (such as a WIP - works in progress group), beta-readers or the help of a trusted editor much as you'd call on a decorator to grapple with everything from the drywall out. I'm hunting for everything from paint colours to ceiling fans to bed frames to textiles for my new space. And I'm feeling pink! In the same way you, as writer, must arrange you written materials just as furnishings are arranged within rooms.
Have faith in your taste; your sense of style; your innate ability to create order from the seeming chaos. Think of me, vacuuming up drywall schmutz and insulation fluffs, dreaming of my perfect vision. Believe that you'll get there too.
And write on!
Last fall not long after I started my concerted push to have poetry published (check out 13/3/2018 blogpost on the Jo Bell method of tracking submissions), I sent a handful of cancer-related poetry answering a call for cancer poems organized/edited/published by who-knows-who (at the time). Did I have cancer poems! Writing had been part of my healing journey after my mother succumb 7 months earlier. And my brilliant good fortune was to have a poem accepted (yay), but also to hear back from one of the co-editors - the wonderful and insightful Priscila Uppal (who I found out was splitting duties with Meaghan Strimas). The contact with Priscila was (almost) the most exciting part. I'd known her for many years in that loose poetry community in the GTA - first giving her a ride back to the GO train after her WCDR guest-speaker gig on a sunny Saturday morning; then corralling her as lead poet for several Pickering Library Poetry Month readings; lastly, booking her to teach workshops at the Ontario Writers' Conference (over the years), a much-loved annual event for writers of all kinds. I don't (unfortunately) know Meaghan yet, but hope to remedy that fact at the anthology's launch event on November 8th.
As many of you know, the poetry/writing community in Canada lost the amazing powerhouse that was Priscila to cancer in September. Before that time, she, in her generosity not only reached out via email to accept one of the most meaningful poems I wrote about my mother's cancer death, but she also advised that I lose the last two lines! And she was right in her observations. The work was stronger. I was merely telling. To pretty bows are necessary to wrap up a strong cancer poem.
I look forward to attending the launch of the anthology as well as the launch of Priscila's last poetry book, On Second Thought. I will probably cry. But the work of powerful Canadian poets (in this anthology by Mansfield Press) with whom I'm so honoured to be included will stand as a stalwart testament to the voice and courage of Priscila Uppal.
Celebrating the Life and Work of Priscila Uppal
Thursday, November 8th 7-9pm
Center for Social Innovation (Annex), 720 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON
Open to the Public
Poet. Writer. Teacher. Artist.