New Year’s Resolutions 

Another year has come and gone.  2017, done.  2018 about to begin.  I could make the standard resolutions: work out more,  eat better,  get my papers graded in a more timely manner, etc. etc. But I won’t.  Not that those are not things worth doing; they are.  But in many ways,  they are destined to fail, especially if you’ve made those kind of resolutions before (as I have). No,  this year I will make only one resolution: write more.

Now I know.  That is an amorphous resolution.  What qualifies as “more”? Is this a resolution also destined to fail because of its very ambiguity.  But I don’t think so.  From an optimistic point of view, that vagueness can work in its favor. Anything can be more!

This year that’s coming to a close has had its ups and downs (as I guess all years do), but a definite up was my writing life. I did a better job of keeping at it, and as a result,  three poems were published somewhere other than this blog (or the Writer’s Digest Poem a Day blog in April). Yay! And there are quite a few pieces out for consideration.  Hopefully 2018 brings good news for those pieces.

So here’s to 2018, a year that once seemed so far away is about to begin.  May it find you healthy,  bring you peace, and inspire the writer within.  Cheers!

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Handling Procrastination as a Writer: Making Writing Time Sacred

****This popped up in my inbox today, a day on which I usually set aside the afternoon for writing, but if you follow my blog, you know I sometimes have trouble keeping that appointment–like I will today due to a change in plans with friends from Tuesday to Wednesday for which I did not correspondingly set aside Tuesday afternoon for writing.

I particularly like this line:  “Remember: Writing is never about what happens, but what it feels like when something happens.” Whether used for getting over one’s procrastination or simple (?) inspiration, it’s a good line.  Wish me luck as I try to squeeze some writing time in today. Perhaps I’ll even try his exercises. ****

In this excerpt from Fearless Writing, author William Kenower shares an exercises for making your writing time sacred—and conquering procrastination.

Source: Handling Procrastination as a Writer: Making Writing Time Sacred

#WhyIWrite

Today is #NationalDayonWriting, and it has been a whirlwind, hectic day, with paper everywhere, pens scratching, and keys clicking, which means it has been a very good writing day. I celebrated with my students, doing writing activities in all my classes, including a “Tweet” board in the alcove outside my classroom for students to post #WhyIWrite messages.

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Though many were hesitant at first about the assignments, they tried, and succeeded! The sophomores are well on their way to creating detailed descriptive paragraphs about the view from their windows. The juniors are crafting beautiful poetry about a treasured object or love (or as it seems, love gone wrong). And the seniors are are producing academic prose–a mini-research paper on Pygmalion by the Brit Lit group and an analytical essay on symbolism in “The Japanese Quince” by the AP group.

In Brit Lit, we read some critical excerpts yesterday and took notes, so today, the students were asked to bring in one article from a specific database on their chosen topics. Then I walked them through the process of taking notes from an academic article. As they continued on their own articles, I walked around the room offering help and encouragement where I could. Then one student asked me, “When are we going to write this paper?” I said, “We’re doing it now, aren’t we?” Yes, writing is a process. Yes, it’s worth it. Yes, I think they’re getting it. 🤞

The only thing I was not able to do with my students was write with them today, but I could at least talk to them about what I am writing. When one student apologized for her poem being long (maybe a dozen lines), I told her not to worry; I had written a poem this week that went on for two typed pages.

And then I had a prep period which I used to put some finishing touches on said poem and submit it. 🤞

On the way home, I tweeted about #WhyIWrite: “Fueled by coffee and imagination, I can go anywhere, be anyone, anytime, including myself, now.” But that tweet only covers a part of it. Writing rejuvenates me, frustrates me, engrosses me, and exhilarates me. I write to live. I write to communicate. I write to teach, and I write to learn. I write to understand and to be understood. I write because in the beginning was the Word. Writing is in my soul.  

Wishing you a happy National Day on Writing, and many more happy writing days to come!

Revision

Today’s task is revision. There is a personal essay I’ve written and revised which has not been able to find a home, but I still believe in the message, so I must work on the medium. It’s time to revise again before hurling that bottle back out into the ocean.

And so, with that in mind, I find myself a quiet corner and a cup of coffee and open my laptop. Logging into my Google Drive, the Quick Access panel at the top of the page displays thumbnails of four files, one of which is captioned “You edited this week.” Two others are labelled “You edited this month.” The fourth, which actually appears as the third thumbnail, is blazoned with “You edited at some point.” For some reason (and at some point), that makes me laugh.

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Is this a sign of encouragement or accusation? Should I be glad that the file was in fact edited at some vague point in the past, or should I feel guilty that I have neglected it for, well who knows how long, but at least more than a month? What is Google’s purpose here? Its motivation? Maybe it’s passive-aggressive; “you worked on this once, what happened? It’s been a while, you know, and you need to do a bit more. I mean, it’s been so long that even I, the Great Google, cannot remember when you last opened this file.” Then again, maybe it isn’t passive-aggressive; maybe Google is like, “Yeah! You did some work on this! Isn’t that great! Pat yourself on the back.” I cannot decide on the tone.

Whatever it is, I cannot help but think of my friend Gerri’s blog, Grammarian in the City, on which she makes snarky remarks about signs seen around NYC. If this comment on my revision schedule were posted on a building, I’m sure she’d have something to say about it!

In the meantime, I’ll get back to my revisions “at some point” and hope Google approves.

Binge Watching, Creativity, and Murdoch

I have to be honest: I never really understood binge watching. Don’t get me wrong–I like TV and have shows I follow faithfully. Sometimes I do watch rerun upon rerun of Castle or Bones, so I guess that might qualify as binge watching, but as they are reruns and I have probably seen them at least once before, it doesn’t feel that way to me. I feel free to move about the apartment to take care of whatever it is I need to do.  And if I miss something I had either forgotten or remembered as a particularly good moment, I can always rewind. If the story gets a little disjointed, it doesn’t matter; I have seen it before; I know what is going to happen. This is not what most people mean when they say they binge watched a show. When a friend says he binge watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or House of Cards, he means that he stayed home all weekend on the couch (or the bed) glued to the TV or computer. He didn’t open the mail, put in the laundry, or make himself lunch while the show was still running. And as much as I love a well-told tale, this feels like a hostage situation to me. I feel trapped and guilty; I should be doing something more productive with my time. No judgment here, by the way; I do not think this kind of relaxing is bad; it just has not been for me.

And then I met William Murdoch.

And I had a crochet deadline.

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Three things conspired to turn me into a binge watcher: 1. A friend’s baby shower was looming, and I needed to furiously crochet two blankets. Yes, she’s having twins. And yes, I didn’t leave myself enough time. I needed to devote my daytime hours to crochet, not just my night time, relaxing, TV watching time. 2. My husband caught a summer cold. We were supposed to go camping for three days, but the first day it rained and the second he came down with a cold. We didn’t go, but all my friends thought I was out of town, so my social calendar was quiet. Plus, it was good for him to have me home to make some soup and tea. 3. I remembered that a friend recommended Murdoch Mysteries to me.

I knew I had to buckle down to crochet these blankets, so I turned on the TV to find something to watch while I stitched. Being summer, nothing was on, so I flipped over to Netflix and started browsing. The name Murdoch Mysteries sounded familiar, though I really could not remember what my friend had said about it. “Eh,” I thought, “I trust his judgment.” And I turned it on. It is a little corny, a little predictable, and utterly charming. I was won over very quickly and started moving seamlessly from one episode to another. Murdoch, a detective in Victorian-era Toronto, turned me into a binge watcher. When the week was done, so were the blankets, and off I headed to the baby shower!

Now, vacation is over and real life has intruded. I have not quite finished the 7th season, and I think I’m going into withdrawal. And in googling Murdoch Mysteries for the picture above, I realize that while they are currently airing season 10, Netflix only has through season 7. What am I to do???

But in all seriousness, I do not think I could have finished the blankets without Murdoch. Binge watching kept my mind as busy as my hands.

Here are the two blankets: the same two colors,  reversing which is the main and which is the accent.  Though it took me nearly 45 minutes to choose the colors,  I am quite pleased with the result.  I can’t decide which one I like better! These little girls received many beautiful blankets before they have even been born. May they feel snuggled up with all the love that went into all those stitches.

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.