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!
When the universe hands you a free weekend...2 days in which to hunker down inside and contemplate life - including my writing life which is at the core of my contentment these days - then (feet-up) that's what I've been doing. It's always interesting to have time handed to you sequestered out-of-life. The fact that winter has popped up in the middle of what should be spring gives my head-space sort of a throw-back, whip-lash. It's all good though...
Having gone through the submission experience for more than 6 months (with poems that are up to a decade old) and garnering some real success in publishing, I (this week) upped my game by submitting poetry (at not submission fee) to such high-powered journals as Penn, Columbia, Seneca Reviews. Call me crazy, but you don't know how far your work has come if you don't test the waters, right? These are all unthemed calls for submissions (so a little different than the others I've sent in during fall/winter) but I'm used to getting rejections...these would be rejections from high calibre publications. Yay, me! So, I continue to write poetry (not as personal now that my Mom's death is fading somewhat) and more political/philosophical/historical/observational. We'll see? I'll keep you posted...
In the meantime, I crochet and knit. Anxiety-management I put in place during a gruelling fall (think heart attack symptoms!) seem to have nurtured me through a long, long, long (etc lol) winter, so carry on...
And lately, I find myself drawn to the colour pink. I know what you're thinking...I'm not exactly a pink person! But the prospect of a Master Suite addition to my 1973 house has me thinking of soft blush tones. And it feels good. I'm also watching an over-abundance of foodie programs on Netflix, baking bread at least once a week (with my maturing sourdough starter!) and experimenting with luscious herbs and spices from my fall harvest of the garden and those ordered up from California (post-San Francisco visit in October!) Wow, do the flavoured oils and vinegars as well as rubs and spices ever make a (POW) difference!
So on this (what could be miserable) captive day, I'm feeling like I'm heading in the right direction. Yes, I've retired some projects (kicked them off my plate) in the past year; now I'm revelling in the new; the rich & flavourful; the change!
Tonight I'll be reading from my latest book, DEVOTIONS at the Ontario Writers' Conference's Festival of Authors (at Creative Math & Music, Pickering, ON) in the 7-10pm time slot between cups of coffee and forkfuls of yummy cake! Do join us for author readings (mostly not poetry, if that's your thing). Brad Smith, Greg Gilhooly, Katherine Ashenburg...Blue Heron Books...Ted Barris, Wayson Choy...Story Starters Contest voting...
Then tomorrow, I'm hoping to sneak down to Bowmanville for a crafters' market (of sorts) because a purse-creator I know from FB will be showing/selling her wares among other artisans at GATHER (51 King St E, Bowmanville, ON L1C 1N1).
Followed in the afternoon by the Richmond Hill Central Library's Annual Poetry Gala (free), hosted by the amazing Barry Dempster. He always showcases 4 or 5 poets, who all read from their works (on sale at the event).
As if that's not enough, Sunday afternoon The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, ON will host The Wild Nellies, holding a benefit event for Denise House Women's Shelter. And, yes, that's as energizing as it sounds! I know several writers and artists who belong to this new group of feisty women artists and (if I've got stamina left) will certainly be there!
Happy Spring Weekend (despite fat snowflakes) ~ Happy Writing!
These winter-ish months are the perfect time to devote yourself to writing - raw, uncomfortable, out-there-on-a-limb kind of writing. If opportunities don't present themselves to you for the churning, heart-palpitating, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants creation, then you have to go looking for those experiences. Fold them into your life even if it's just 1 or 2 at a time.
As a poet, I'm a devotee of James Dewar's Poetry Sanctuary. A day of writing prompts and silent writing time combines with wonderful food, speaks to me. This past weekend, we were exposed to American poet, Ellen Bass' technique of encompassing everything (including the kitchen sink) in a 'long-armed poem'. If you're intrigued, please check her out - http://www.ellenbass.com/poems/
The other gift I've given myself to keep the energies flowing (during this endless wait for spring lol), was to join The Literary Nest's online poetry workshop out of California (a mere US$40 for 8 weeks of prompts and submission for feedback). And sure enough, I find myself stretched into filling assignments that require (dare I say) 'happy' poems this week. Okay, that's a true challenge for me (Queen of the gritty poem).
As subject matter, I was drawn to the log farmhouse that my second Ex and I built from scratch; the home that I left behind (for my Ex to live in) more than a decade ago ; the one my (now) adult sons grew up in. Happy was not possible, but nostalgic and melancholy will be apparent in the final few lines (written in the second person):
Was quitting your salvation when heartstrings
thrum recalling summer lanterns strung
from slivered porch rafters? A vacation
craft, you slicing the tops off soda bottles
then tasking your boys to finger-paint De Kooning
wild. How muggy nights still haul to mind
you pegging them in place on a crackled stringer
of old Christmas bulbs to rival fields of fireflies.
So, I encourage you to find those moments in your writing life that stretch you out of your comfort-zone. And happy writing!
Poet. Writer. Teacher. Artist.