Pro-cras-tin-a-a-a-tion

All morning I’ve been procrastinating. I should be writing. I know it. I want it. But for some reason, I don’t do it! I was crocheting, grooming the cat, making myself a smoothie, Facebooking, and watching TV. Not very productive. Well, except for the crocheting and grooming the cat, he needed it and mostly enjoyed it. Looking around the apartment, I also saw a million things that needed to be done, so I did what any self-respecting writer should do in a time like this; I ran away.

Okay, so I only walked up the block to the new Bean & Bean Coffee Roasters that opened on the corner, but it’s out of the house. I haven’t been here before, but I like the ambiance right away; not too loud, nor too quiet. I may have to rethink my seat as by the window on this sunny day may be too bright, but so far, all is good. Now I have a latte, my Chromebook, my notebook, and I’m good to go. If I get a good amount written in the next two hours, I may treat myself to a beer before I go. Who knew that Bean & Bean serves beer and wine too! (Then again, I probably won’t. I want to go to the gym later. Can you go to the gym after a beer?)

Wish me luck in working the story on the docket today. I hope you each have found yourself a good space to work as well.

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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.

Of One Accord

–With Apologies to Walt Whitman, on this,  the anniversary of his birth —

 

Out of the classroom,  endlessly grading, essays, quizzes, tests, projects,

Students querying, teachers conferring, adminstrators requesting,

My world seems harried with

Deadlines, disagreements, discernment, and classroom dissonance, but

I go forth once more into the dusk, the light of the day having passed me by, yet

The twilight is enchanting as I enter the park in search of

Leaves of grass and blooms on the trees to turn this urban jungle

Into nature’s bounty.  And the park is crowded, I am not alone, now

That the sun has been shining and the skies turned blue.

The runners in their teams,  stretching before the race,  gathering in their teal t-shirts,

The casual joggers getting their exercise glance lightly as they saunter by,

The tourists with their cameras capturing Bethesda fountain, the buskers singing

Lennon around the Imagine mosaic adorned with flowers,

The artists, masseuses, and psychics hawking their wares,

The policemen watching it all, hearing the buskers’ songs

And the people talking in English, French, Spanish, German, Hindi, Farsi, Mandarin,

And so many more, melding into one giant song,  a harmony of humanity,

One day, one moment, when the mass of man – and woman – kind

Coexists, lives side by side, enjoying the evening and

The leaves of  grass.

And these days, these moments,  quietly stack themselves

One after another in peaceful concord without

Notice,  until order is broken and dissonance

Reigns, convincing us all that strife and discord are

The Way of the World and the Solution to whatever

Problem arises.  Return, oh friends, to Strawberry Fields,

Hear the songs of peace,  feel the sun on your face,

Lie in the grass, listen to the gurgle of the fountain, hold

Hands with your neighbor and form a bond that

Knows no bounds and admits no disorder.

Creativity and Mr. Hardcastle

It’s been almost two weeks since National Poetry Month ended during which I posted quite a bit, but I haven’t posted since.  But I have been writing,  painting, and crocheting.  Pretty soon,  I will post photos of my latest painting (finished today,  but no good photo yet and it’s still at the studio) and of the blanket I’m almost done crocheting (tonight or tomorrow,  I hope).  Several writing pieces  are also in the works.  Some are good; others need work. But I’m keeping at it. I hope you are too! 

In the meantime,  here’s a picture of my Lionel Hardcastle doing what he does best,  being cute. 

PAD 15: One Time

This prompt is to write a “one time” poem.

One Tme

 

Just this one time, I wish

I wish they would listen.

But like the sound of a wife’s voice

To a husband’s ear,

The teacher’s voice floats over and around

The students in their seats,

And they cannot hear that

Which can fly them to new frontiers.

But perhaps, just perhaps,

This One Time,

Someone has heard

Someone has listened

And that someone will soar.

PAD 16: Fool-Proof Filing System

Yesterday’s prompt was “(Blank) System.” Since today I ran into a situation in which I could not find what I needed because I had “put it somewhere safe,” I decided to write about filing.

Fool-proof Filing System

 

Each cog in the machine must

Fit smoothly and cleanly into the next

Or the gear grinds to a halt.

So too the desk must be a clean space

With files neatly organized and in reach,

Or the work grinds to a halt.

Each item has its place, each file its purpose,

Neatly labeled, well thought out

To find again on a moment’s notice

A fool-proof system with one draw back:

I am no fool.

PAD 10: Cherry Blossoms

Today’s prompt is to write a travel poem, and walking through Central Park and seeing the Japanese Cherry blossoms in full bloom with New Yorkers and tourists taking pictures under it, I started thinking about living in a different country.

Cherry Blossoms

When I think how far

These seeds have traveled,

Planting themselves in foreign soil,

Germinating tiny shoots of hope,

Spreading roots and taking hold,

Making a new home,

And over time growing,  blossoming

Into pink-white petals of joy

Announcing the end of the cold, long winter

While tourists visit the park to take photos

Of this little piece of home and natives

Hold the baby up to the downy blossoms

Light and soft on the trees and her hands.

Side by side they coo and sigh, I wonder

What this world would be like if only

We transplanted as well as the trees.

PAD 5: Elemental

I missed yesterday because I was both busy and stumped. The prompt was to write an element poem, as in the periodic table. It’s been a long, long while since I’ve studied the periodic table. (Did I ever really study it, come to think?) So, granting myself a day’s grace, I pondered and googled after finally deciding to treat the table like a zodiac. What does the element with the number of the month of your birth say about you?

Elemental

March babies gravitate to threes,
But lithium is a conundrum.
The least dense of the solid elements,
It speaks of your substance
And perception,

But it is also highly reactive and flammable
Which portends a negative reception
Of this poem,
But since it usually occurs in compounds,
Perhaps you will stick with me yet.

Though lithium itself verges on instability,
It balances others’ anxiety
Just as you bring a calming presence with you.

But your bright lustre shines
Whether or not you are broken,
Nor does it corrode quickly,  and so essentially

You rise above your element.