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
My fall has been consumed with having roofs reshingled. The 26-year old cottage has needed the job done for several years and the at-home reno called for the integrity of a whole roofing job. And in considering the roof, is the functionality not served by layering shingle after shingle; row by row; layer upon layer in order to produce a tight unit?
Writing is much the same. Word by word. Sentence after sentence. So the flow of storytelling washes over the reader like rain from peak to valley.
And colour matters. As does strength, durability, quality of the materials used. Oh, we poets do love our metaphors!
As you know, in sending out my poetry for the past year I've managed to have a roof-full of my little slates on display; shining out there in the wider world; observable even by satellite? Okay, I've stretched the metaphor about as far as I can. Fruits of my efforts are on display (online) this fall:
- at the Homestead Review: http://homesteadreview.net/Fall_2018/hunt.pdf
- in the League of Canadian Poets Anthology called Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees (below)
- at Making Monsters (Future Fire) in the U.K. (below)
- in the Mojave River Review: https://issuu.com/mojaverivermedia/docs/mrr-vol4no1-spring-summer2018_final
- in the Amsterdam Quarterly: http://www.amsterdamquarterly.org/aq_issues/aq23-genealogy/barbara-e-hunt-mending/
And coming soon to Montana Mouthful, Bunbury (U.K.), Bangor Literary Journal (Northern Ireland) and the Dysfunctional Cancer Anthology...and so I keep sending work out. Shingle by shingle, building a solid poetry roof...
Write On! Send it out!
As we watch our kiddies, grandkids or even the neighbourhood children return to school, it really does feel more like the beginning of a new year than January 1st. And as the air cools, carries the scent of fallen leafs or you're housebound as I am today by a torrential monsoon rain, it's time to evaluate.
Since last September, I've had the good fortune to have 24 poems either published or accepted for fall publication. I'm told that I've sustained a very effective hit-rate by those in the know. More importantly, I feel more like a real poet than ever before. The acceptances have also fed my writing by pushing me to produce more grist for the mill. It works backwards in the funny way. The need for more material to send has fostered more focused observations and hence more ink on the page. That's a good thing!
My focus of submission also means that I send those rejected pieces out again on a quick turnaround. And even when I can't make time to write, I still diligently send out. As I'm doing now with a major home reno in process, a dock-building project that took place last weekend and re-roofing my cottage this coming weekend.
But have no fear, I'll be stewing and composing poetry in my head, whether I'm cooking for a roofing crew or collecting discarded shingle-bits for the garbage. In many ways, these mundane tasks are totally conducive to the writing that goes on in a writer's head ALL THE TIME.
And on days such as this, between checking on the blue tarp over half my house and relocating water-catching basins to collect any breaches to the plywood, I'm allowing any fall projects to beginning simmering in the back of my brain. It's where the very best cooking happens, believe me.
Happy writing & submitting! May your own Jo Bell's tracker look as richly highlighted as mine is in the very near future...
Gosh, it's crazy how quickly this hot summer has dwindled down to its final days and we'll all too soon be sliding into Fall 2018! And it's shaping up to be a busy time.
If you're part of a larger writing community (as I am with The Writers' Community of Durham Region - just outside Toronto, Ontario, CANADA) then you'll be gathering with your cohort again. Our meetings start up on the Saturday after Labour Day weekend and change is always in the air. If you're in the area, please check out www.wcdr.ca and consider joining us!
I'll have copies of the League of Canadian Poets' anthology on hand as part of their fundraising effort. Who doesn't love trees!
On another note as part of my inclusion in Future Fire's Fall 2018 issue (in London, U.K.), I'm running a little contest (for an e-copy of the journal called Making Monsters) both below (comments) and on my FaceBook page ~ since monsters come in the classical forms or might be more along the line of speculative versions, name or describe what form your monsters take (in your lives). I'll be drawing a winner September 15th in honour of the official launch early in the month in London. Don't I wish I could attend that one! Do check out their news, games, mini-interviews: http://press.futurefire.net
In the meantime, happy writing!!!
Just a flash-note as I settle into the routine on being home (after a week spent writing in Ireland!):
- Despite a few rejection emails on submissions I'd made before my travels...
- I've had 1 exciting acceptance at the Amsterdam Quarterly (which I'm guessing makes me an 'internationally published' poet?)
- And I'm thrilled to share news of the League of Canadian Poets' anthology called Heartwood (about trees) which includes 1 of my poems as well as 300 pages worth of Canadian poets' work
... and allowing the writing to come. Whether it's based on current events - such as American news, Thai rescue missions - or from the natural location, letting the brain relax in its 'resting-bitch-face' is a powerful method of renewal.
I learned this in another lifetime when I was attending design school during the mid-80's. You have to feed the creation-factory with a rich source of nutrients (music, books, magazines, nature, food, etc, etc). Time spent with family - especially if that's observing grandkids work on projects of their own (like building rafts!) - can be a nutritive enrichment base.
And so as I send wishes for enjoyment and sustenance from this bountiful time of year to all my creative cohorts, here's a smorgasbord of the delectables from my own summer vacation (in the Great Lakes area of northern Ontario!)
Keep writing (& keep submitting!)
After about 8 months of submitting and tracking the years-worth of poetry I had stashed away, I'm now reaching toward the bottom of the barrel and needing badly to replenish the stockpile. Whether it's poetry or fiction that I'm working on, it's definitely quiet that I require.
QUIET - to read. To feed the hungry machine with outside stimulation, be that newsy, entertaining or academic in nature. It gets the ideas coalesce.
QUIET - to digest. Allowing the better part of writing to happen while tackling chores or simply staring out at the horizon. Walking is also excellent.
QUIET - to write. Committing to paper (yes, I always write best first drafts by hand, feeling the scratch of pen to paper) what spills from my swampy head (lol). Letting thoughts flow organically with all their marvellous twists, digressions and leaps.
QUIET - to be. Our souls need precious moments of rest from the chaos that is modern life. Artists in particular must catch their creative breaths.
As summer settles in, make sure to take some time for yourself. How else can the 'magic' be shared with the world? IF not created during the stolen time...
Happy writing (& sunning & supping & lapping up nature!!)
I was honoured to be invited to read a spring poem for local city council (City of Oshawa) for April which is National Poetry Month. Here's a taste!
Keep writing, keep submitting...poets all...
Nothing is as difficult as getting back into the groove after vacation, but I'm going to do my darnedest to catch up all the various threads I left hanging when I left for Germany.
First, here's evidence that my poetry collection, DEVOTIONS really made the judging pile (see that spiral bound baby at the bottom?) Always a good feeling to try, even if you don't succeed (every time)!
Then (see below) evidence of one of two scholarships that WritersPlayGround gifted to novice writers (both in Durham Region & in York Region) this spring. First time & it felt to good to pay-it-forward...happenings in April & then in May (in this case).
A break is a good thing. Acceptances (& rejections) rolling in while I was traveling, making the effort of consistent submissions the most gratifying experience. I'd love to tell you, "if I'd only known" but truthfully, I've always known that pushing work out is the only way to get pieces published. You are your greatest advocate.
So, happy writing!
Poet. Writer. Teacher. Artist.