A Foolish Act?

Scaramucci, Scaramucci, can you do the fandango?

A lively three-step, him then you then him again,

The castanets tweet out the rhythm.

Will this couples dance take the spice

Out of the daily press briefings?

Only time will tell, but for now

Money talks.

 

I just read the article about Sean Spicer resigning as White House Press Secretary and Anthony Scaramucci, a financier, being named his replacement. (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/sean_spicer_resigns_as_white_house_press_secretary_20170721) The first thought that popped into my head was the first line of this poem. Then, there is that wonderful word fandango which means both a Spanish dance in triple metre, and a foolish or useless act or thing. Unfortunately, both apply to the position these days. I couldn’t resist the rest. Enjoy.

Damn! I’ve Gotta Rip It!

According to my husband, my mother-in-law used to say, “Damn, I’ve gotta rip it” when she made a mistake in her crocheting or knitting. First of all, let me say that she was such a good crafter that I can hardly imagine her making a mistake. On the other hand, I know how easy it is to drop a stitch. And it is frustrating. How frustrating depends on how quickly you realize it. Tonight, for example, I realized I had dropped a stitch in a very easy pattern about 12 rows back. Boy was I annoyed! “Damn, I’ve gotta rip it!”

20170715_232938Just as I thought I was making headway and  nearing last third of the project, I sent myself back to less than halfway. (The picture was taken after I had already rewound much of the yarn.) I am frustrated now. Yet, also strangely inspired. (Hence this late night blog)

Creativity does that to us doesn’t it? We are inspired by something and we forge ahead trying to get what is in our heads out in whatever form we are working in at the moment. We struggle with the words on the screen (or paper) or with drawing that picture that is so clear in the mind’s eye or in crocheting a perfect blanket. What is in our heads is so beautiful, so inspiring, so communicative. But what comes out at the end of the pencil, the brush, the hook, the needle, is often so knotted and gnarled that we go back again and again to smooth it out, leaving instead a muddied, crinkly wake in our trail.

But it does smooth out. The tough part is believing in the process again and again. Not letting the defeat of ripping out a dozen rows of a blanket get in the way of completing it nonetheless. Not letting the umpteenth rejection letter stop you from writing or submitting. Not letting the misshapened hand or disporportionate body lead you to putting down the charcoal or the brush. The mistakes we make show us what not to do in the future. They lead us to the another path and another perception. And sometimes, they lead us to an altogether new inspiration that we had missed in our single-minded pursuit of the original vision.

To Fee or Not to Fee?

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Yesterday, I spent the day researching markets for my writing and sending out some pieces. (Wish me luck!) It is an arduous process, the least favorite of my writing career–well, let’s say second-least favorite. Receiving rejection notices is my least favorite.

First, let’s talk about submission guidelines. Some are very specific: “All manuscripts should be in 12-point type, with at least one-inch margins, and sequentially numbered pages. Fiction and nonfiction should be double-spaced. Poetry should be single-spaced. The author’s name, address, telephone number, and email address should be typed at the top of the first page.” (Narrative Magazine) or “Upcoming premises (target themes) and deadlines for submission [postmarked]: Dancing in the Wind [November 1, 2017]” (Thema) Others are rather vague: “There is no set theme and no entry fee.” (Pockets) Some magazines only accept electronic submissions, others only postal mail. Very few want emails, but still there are a couple. Submission guidelines run the gambit, and writers do themselves a disservice if they do not read them carefully (and follow them).

Simultaneous submissions is another area of differentiation. Some magazines do not accept simultaneous submissions; others do. There are some, too, that say they do, but in a way that makes you think that they do not really mean it. Take, for example, The Gettysburg Review‘s stance on simultaneous submissions: “Should you decide to engage in this practice, indicate in your cover letter that your manuscript is under concurrent consideration, and notify us immediately if said work is accepted elsewhere.” What the site says is the standard line about letting the magazine know that the work is being considered elsewhere and the reminder to let them know if it is accepted elsewhere. These are standard industry practices. However, the “should you decide to engage in this practice” leads this writer to believe that they discourage such action. The onus is on you, the writer, who makes the decision to do such a thing. On the other hand, the Colorado Review states, “Simultaneous submissions are accepted; writers must notify us immediately if the work is accepted elsewhere.” Notice the difference. Here the emphasis is on what the review does–accept simultaneous submissions–rather than what the writer does–submit simultaneously. And then there are the magazines that do not say one way or the other, leaving the writer in a quandry: submit simultaneously or not? My favorite notice on the topic though comes from Narrative: “Simultaneous Submissions: We accept multiple submissions, since we feel that it’s unreasonable to expect writers to give a magazine an exclusive look at a work unless the magazine can respond within two to three weeks. We want writers to have every possible opportunity for success, so we’re willing to risk losing a story we want when someone at another magazine may have done their reading before we have, and in that case we’ll be sorry to lose the piece but happy for the writer.” They are right! It is “unreasonable to expect writers to give a magazine an exclusive look at a work” for three, six, nine months. They do understand the hard work of finding a market and the difficulty of waiting for months and months before hearing back and being able to send the story out again.

Then there’s the BIG QUESTION: Do you pay a submission fee or not? As you writers out there know, some magazines charge a nominal fee to submit. Years ago, these were called reading fees and highly frowned upon. In fact, writers were often advised to avoid markets that charged a reading fee, saying that such markets were perhaps not reputable. But those days have changed. In the age of electronic submission and and the advent of electronic submission sites like Submittable or Submissions Manager, many highly regarded, reputable sites are charging, not reading fees, but submission fees. And I get it. The magazine has to pay for the use of the submission sites, and need the organization and computer safety that they offer. And these literary magazines are run on shoe-string budgets. However, so am I. While most of these fees are small, usually $3.00, they add up. It is not unusual to send a good story to ten different markets before finding a home for it. That’s $30 spent finding a home for one story. What if you are sending out poetry? You might send out four or five poems at a time, but if it takes ten tries and the market takes one of the five and pays you $20 for it, you’ve lost $10.  Is it worth it to have been published? to have been published in that particular market? I don’t know. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this practice.

One final thought on submission guidelines and the like: How much does the market pay? Frequently, the websites and guidelines do not say. Perhaps you will get paid; perhaps you will get contributor copies. And yes, many markets indicate the latter, but just as many indicate nothing. And some of those that do not say, charge the submissions fee. Should I pay a fee with no guarantee that I will be paid for my work should it be accepted? Should I submit to markets that are clear that they do not pay at all? These are burning questions. I hope some of you will engage in a dialogue here about submitting your work.

A friend of mine writing his memoir once said to me, “I expect to publish and I expect to get paid for it.” Why shouldn’t we?

Trying to Write

Today, I have set up at a table in Bryant Park, logged on to the free wi-fi, plugged my Chromebook into the charging station, gotten myself a raspberry lemonade, taken out my notebook, set my fingers on the keyboard, and…

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I am just too distracted by the gorgeous day and the constant flow of humanity all around me, including a juggling class on the other end of the lawn.

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And my story is stuck. I know where I want to go with it, but at the moment don’t know how to get there. So, instead, I’m sitting and watching the fountain, the people, the jugglers. Soon, I’ll have to leave to get something to eat, but for now, I’ll just absorb the images.

Staircase of Love

 

Today’s prompt is “______ to Love.”  I could tell you what inspired it, but I think today, I’ll let the poem speak for itself.

Staircase to Love

As I climb the stairs, heading up to our room,

I’m huffing and puffing;

I wish I had taken the elevator.

But I know, that this is better, healthier.

My heart races, and my quads burn.

Sometimes I think, “This is no fun.”

But in the end, I am better because of it.

My heart is healthy and full

When I reach our space and

Rest with you.

PAD 1: She Majored in Music

It’s that time of year again, folks–National Poetry Month! As in previous year, Writer’s Digest sponsors the Poem-A-Day (PAD) challenge on it’s “Poetic Asides” blog. I’ll do my best to keep up. At the very least, I’m starting on time! I read the prompt this morning and ruminated all day, and then when I finally went into my “office” to write, I came across a spam-ish email from a former student which sparked some lovely memories of teaching the young woman how to play the flute during after school sessions. Since today’s prompt is to write a reminiscing poem, this random email struck just the right chord.

She Majored in Music

 

A clear, soft tone

Of a silver flute.

Crisp and clean.

We’d meet after school

And practice and learn.

Sweet music almost as melodious

As her laughter.

Her joy was contagious,

Even after a long day,

Especially then.

I think that I, the teacher,

Learned more from her

Than she ever did from me.

She’s like a lily,

So clean and defined,

That knows what it is, and

Is proud of it.

The flowers stand tall;

The scent is unmistakable.

The purity and goodness

It symbolizes.

She shared with me:

Her joy, her music, and her faith.

Simple and profound

And topped with a hat.

 

Crochet and Mishaps 2

Last week I started a post about my crocheting mishap and published it accidentally, which is really apropos actually. If you read my last post, you know that I made some big mistakes in crocheting a baby blanket. And, I posted about it on the Instagram (and Facebook) page for our Etsy store (AlyCatCreations1) too. Here’s the thing: This series of posts garnered 90% more likes than our other posts.

Now, I am not one to quibble about likes. I’m happy to have traffic to our site. Please, come browse. Like it. Buy something! We’d love to have you. The thing that struck me though, is that while we do get likes and comments about our finished products, the posts that garnered the most attention were the ones about my mistakes. I began to wonder about that. There are so many “feel good” memes and the like on Facebook and Instagram about building each other up and saying nice things. Which are great. Which are the right sentiment. Which we should do. But then, the likes poor in when I fail.

I wasn’t sure how to feel about that at first. Well, actually I guess I should say that I was feeling many emotions at once. I did laugh. It struck me as funny that posting about a product that would never be on our site brought more traffic to the site than the pieces available for purchase. I was happy the posts were getting likes. I also found it funny that Facebook kept wanting me to boost the post. But I would be lying if I said there wasn’t also a twinge of something else-some hurt or embarrassment.

This led to some pondering of the phenomenon of social media. We post all these lovely catch phrases about being good to others, you never know what they are going through. feel-good-meme

And we should. We should think of other people’s feelings. That has been lost on social media. Too frequently, perhaps in an effort to be brief (140 characters only please) or because we’re posting on the go from our phones and not really crafting prose, posts can be too blunt or even hurtful, so we do need to be attentive to tone and diction, now more than ever. But then, when I admitted I failed at a crochet project, the abundance of likes seemed out of proportion to the post. This is where things get a bit tricky. I posted the photos and the story, so I wanted it out there. I wanted to draw traffic to our site, which it did. I feel good about all of this. I am not really hurt or embarrassed. There was just a twinge, no real regret. My main reaction to the failure of the project is frustration. I did begin to wonder, however, what this says about people in general. Do we really like to see others fail?

What I’ve come up with is yes and no. On the one hand, some like to see others fail because it makes them feel better about themselves, but I think that is the minority, and I’ve come to the conclusion that, that is not what was going on with my crooked blanket posts. I think, rather, that the likes on the failure posts were commiseration. Too often we try to make our lives seem perfect on social media. I’m sure you have all seen the memes and videos of Facebook versus real life. (This one is pretty powerful about how destructive this fake life can be.) Perhaps when a post comes up in which someone admits to making a mistake, and does so without whining, we empathize. “Oh I hate when that happens.” “I understand the frustration.” There is no emoticon for that, so we “like.”

So, let’s continue to like each other’s posts, and let’s comment too. I have to admit that I did receive some encouraging and empathetic comments on the blanket debacle posts. I really liked those; they let me know that others understood my frustration. Sometimes that understanding is what we need most to pick hooks up and begin to stitch life back together. So, let’s like; let’s continue to build each other up and support each other when we were down.

As for that blanket, I rewound all the yarn.

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And I’ve started again. This time, I’m crocheting my tried and true pattern and so far, it’s lovely. I’ll let you know when it’s done. Wish me luck!

“Home” by Warsan Shire

An important poem for our time.

You’ve probably already seen this on your Facebook feed, a poem about displacement and the refugee experience, but I  post it here for you nonetheless, a reminder that these refugees are people: mothers, children, brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives. And that home is something we have taken for granted but no longer can. Read it here: “Home” and then add your voice to that of creation, not destruction.

Clinging to Tomorrow

via Daily Prompt: Cling

You don’t eat an orange by shoving the
Whole thing in your mouth.
You eat it section by section,
Savoring the juicy orange-ness
Of each bite, letting the snap and dribble
Transport you
To a sunny Florida grove,
Away from the cold, gray, slushy winter
While the heat whistles and pops,
Fogging up the windows
Of your tiny New York apartment
Creating a drawing board for palm trees
And sunny beaches.
And you wait, and dream, for tomorrow
When you’ll finally take a bite out of life
And try to swallow it whole
Instead of enjoying this moment, this slice,
Of crystalline snow flakes bejewelling the window
Calling you outside now to catch
Them, one by one, on your tongue.