Friday, April 16, 2021

a year of self publishing

I've been working this week on preliminary design for the next book project, which is my collection of midwest gothic awesomeness, dark country.  Over the past couple of years, I've finished an ungodly amount of full-length manuscripts (well, it's just 4, but it feels ungodly when they are sitting quietly unpublished.) I decided this year, since I don't have any book releases on the immediate horizon, and it had been a year since Black Lawrence released sex & violence, that I might as well get them out in the world.  It's been a learning curve--and something altogether different than publishing zines or chapbooks, which I am used to. A full-length book is just so much more unruly than a shorter book. More editing, more proofing, more design hits and misses.  And also, the after work of actually getting it in the hands of readers and getting any sort of blip on the promotion side. It feels hard with anything I write and put out there, but especially something like a full-length collection. 

I've spoken before on my reasons for self-publishing this series of books--mostly that my current publisher passed on a couple of them during reading periods (and obviously, they can't publish everything I write, cause yo, I write a lot.) I'm not feeling like sending to other contests and reading periods is really something I want or have resources to do.  I am also aware of the space I take up as a mid-career, already reasonably well-published author when there are so many other emerging writers out there who could have those opportunities. (I think this sometimes when I'm on the self-pity train, the why not me? train, but really sometimes, things like publishing luck seem really capricious and obviously skewed toward the privileged--whether it's age or gender or ethnicity.) We should all take up less space. Or at best, try to make room through our endeavors. But you also have to balance this with a desire to find your readers and thrive as a creative. 

Of course, there is a lot of uncertainty when you don't have someone--and editor, a publisher, backing you up.  Lots of doubts that you're not just putting more crap into the world.   Other people who probably think your work is crap.  But one thing I hope I've gained as I get older is not so much blatant overconfidence (which is totally true sometimes) , but moreso an ability to discern what is good, what is crap, what's worth launching into the world, and what should just stay safely on my computer for awhile or needs more work.  I also know how to put a book together now, more than I ever did.  Have even been able to help other authors with their through manuscript consultations.  Consultations which actually have taught me as much as I've helped the other author (hopefully I may have just muddied the waters).

So I find myself with a handful of unpublished projects, an ability to make them publishable, and a small audience that (the most awesome thing!) wants to read them.  I was hesitant before, but if covid has taught us anything, it's that certain things that used to matter, don't really all that much anymore. Or matter differently now.  The expense, which at the time was covered by some reading income, and in the future, stimulus funds wasn't all that prohibitive if you do al your own design, use POD small batches (less if you choose to sell through something like Amazon or the B&N site).  Also, that we have no idea how long we have in the world, so what the hell...

All of that is to say that dark country is coming.most likely in July if all goes well on the final edits and interior design front (margins, my friend, are a bitch when the format varies as much as mine does from section to section). feed, which was a longer time coming turned out to be a delicious little book, so I hope this one will as well. More soon...

napowrimo day no 16


You can pluck out the heart and replace it with ash.  The thrashing 

                of wings and feathers lasts only a second. Wire tongued, stiffed 

                            with news print, it almost seems like a real living bird. 

A real living girl. Or the one made of wood, poised outside the pharmacy.  

                    Her ornate box.  How she could tell your fortune for a dime, spit out

                                     between her lips.  Nothing below her hips but a deep cavern filled with coins

and paper. Nothing beneath her dress but spookiness and nesting sparrows. 

                    You can pluck the song out and replace it with static, like a radio signal coming 

                                         far across the valley and down into our mouths.  The houses

we burned to find the one with just the right amount echo. The men

                        whose hands forced open our throats and planted the seed.  

                                                You will go on a long voyage. You will find love when you least expect it.


                                                               Ask again later.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

napowrimo day no. 15


 One morning, they dragged the river for the woman whose husband 

                may have killed her. The children still in their beds come sun-up. 

                                        Come swallow song.  The small shoes they clamored into

and out onto the lawn.  The fawns that wandered through the fence.  

                and were shot summer before, blood everywhere. Even in our ears 

                            as they cried. The children clutching blankets and bears, bleary eyed 

and blinking.  The birds outside were so bright that day they could have been

                  angels, godless, flailing. Could have been shadows, spotting the retina,

                                Could have been our own hearts, thrumming in our chests.


                                                                Diving blindly toward the windows.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

napowrimo day no 14


At dawn, my husband takes out the birds.  Puts them to bed. 

                When we wed, a percussion of wings in the courtyard, but now, 

                                they sputter and rust from the damp. Clutter the tops of cabinets, 

the kitchen pantry. I find one, one morning, tangled in my hair. 

                Small, leaking oil in my palm. Crushed in the hush of sheets 

                                   and blankets we pulled back and forth between us all night. 

How to account for such broken things, this wedded life.  

                   The knife we put to love each evening, then took away.  

                                   The bride cake and it's frosting teeming with ants at the reception. 

                                                            Spoiled in all that sun.   

Not only can you peruse my conspiracy theories pieces the online version of the Library's URBAN LEGENDS:  FROM PLAYGROUND LORE TO CULTURAL NORMS exhibit here, but it's also the debut of April's zine project offering of the same name, which also includes a slew of text pieces written this year.  I read a few of these at the Pretty Owl Poetry release reading a while back, but otherwise, this is their official debut.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

birds and drafts and juvenilia

 Yesterday, I switched gears on my NAPOWRIMO exploits and started something I have a few notes for that's a bit more narrative in focus.  I was laughing all morning that, yes, here I was writing mostly about birds again, then remembered this little draft tucked away in my drawers.  Written so long ago, the paper, three ring notebook and lined, is yellowed and more brittle than it was originally.  I think I was 16 when I wrote it after waking up from a dream about a dead seagull on a beach.  I had moved on from drafting short poems in my blue diary and at that point, had taken to writing drafts on notebook paper and odd bits of pen-pal stationary. I still have most I imagine--all really, really bad, though maybe a bit better than the diary poems when I was 14. I didn't write anything like regularly in those days.  Most of my life was school and otherwise lounging on my bed listening to music or reading.  I probably would have told you I wanted to be a teacher of some sort (this was before my marine bio obsession.)  The year before, it had been an interior designer. 

"Poet" was not something anyone actually did, of course.  Writer maybe...and I loved writing for the school newspaper and the very next year, would be a section editor. Maybe a journalist or a novelist, but never a poet.  Not in my world. But still, I occasionally turned my attention that way--to verse--long after I had started writing for school assignments. This was also around the same time I made my very first artist book endeavor for our Scarlet Letter, though I really didn't know that's what it was.  As I became involved with theatre my senior year, I thought maybe I could be a playwright. (though if you'd asked me,in my dreams, I was a Broadway songstress--hilarious since i am a poor singer.)  There was a burgeoning Poetry Club that met after school with about 5 people in it, but I kept missing meetings due to rehearsals. 

By then, by virtue of a charismatic AP Bio teacher I was being pulled toward science and environmental concerns, and the pieces I wrote for the paper reflected this, as did my decision to go to school in North Carolina that year. But still, I carried the writing with me--along with my electric typewriter and a penchant for perusing lit mags in the UNCW library between classes. A roommate, having again found me cross-legged on the floor of my dorm room again, typewriter in my lap,  said as much as I seemed to write, I'd surely be a famous writer some day. I guess I  am still kind of waiting to get there...but until I returned to the midwest, it was mostly prose and plays I was trying to write. 

Sometimes, I think I should throw out all these drafts--those and the ones on wafer thin typing paper from college and my first submissions.  The ones scribbled on random student government flyers, boring lecture programs,  and class notes.  The ones written during that last year of MA where i was finally making progress--some handwritten, some typed on my little word processor. Or after, the folders organized by year up to the point where I started organizing by project electronically in the mid-aughts.This  makes it harder to determine exactly when something was written except by memory--everything lumped together in a book manuscript, largely since I write a lot of poems in a blogger file or dropbox doc and then just organize them by project, but rarely do I print out and retain individual poems. And ultimately, I suppose, once there were books, those are the final record of a span of work. Obviously those early drafts are really embarrassing and just take up drawer space, but they are also kind of endearing. They help me remember the years of trying to get where I am now, even when I have doubts it's where I belong or should be at all. 

napowrimo day no 13


Begin with screws and wires. The song is in the slide of metal gears, 

                    the whisper of friction where the song lives, deep in the belly of the beast.  

                                         Out east, we slept through winter, feeling out the dark, coldest corners 

of the house only in the middle of the night.  My sister swallowed a bird 

                    that eventually killed her. Willed her onto mountainsides and train tracks. 

                                        No one could wrest it from her throat, though we tried.  Plied her with honey 

and milk and still, she whimpered all night beneath the covers. Her lovers 

                    slipping in and out the window. If you tighten the gears, you can approximate 

                                          singing but only to the untrained ear.  After all, we were listening to the wrong 

                                                            animal, the wrong music.  By June, everything rusted over and out of tune. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

napowrimo day no 12


At first, we sat down for dinner at seven. 

                    Our own little heaven filled with tea cakes and waterfowl. 

                                The best china from the best places. My grandmother's linens 

brought over on a sunken ship and tucked beneath her coat 

                    while others drowned around her. They still smelled like the sea 

                                when the wind was right, blowing on the line.  Still harbored her fear, 

damply rowing toward a distant shore. I would lie them out on the bed 

                      and live inside them for awhile in the afternoons, while the flies 

                                 flicked at the window screens and the children played in the tub. 

Each spot, so carefully rubbed out,  but so  much death woven into the cotton, 

                       the taper of lace. At night, it would undo us, send us falling through sheets 

                                of white and and into dark water. No matter how much we washed them, 

                                              they'd get caught in our throats. The boats too far off in the distance to save us. 

(switching gears today to something else.  I may return to the Walter Potter stuff near the end of the month, but I woke today with this little bit in my head, so we'll see where she goes.)

Sunday, April 11, 2021

napwrimo day no. 11

 the fly 


No matter where you go, its all shit 

and rot. In the field, they dont find the 

dead calves for days. Fruit grows soft  


on the vine, and Im here for it--

every hole that needs filling, every mouth 

slack open and eyes glazed over 


with death. The robin fell from the nest 

and already the insects were inside its 

feathered body, breaking it down into earth. 

Hard to tell what is living, already dying.

The ticker winding down to the final hour.

Muscle grown loose around bones, skin sag. 


and broken teeth.  How to know the difference 

between the already and the almost, 

not yet. Sometimes impossible. Especially 

when god keeps lining up the bodies so lifelike. 

Yesterday, the little girl in the field 

who buried the bird, so carefully 

with her rhyme but startled at my crawl up her leg. 

Already her insides grown black with char.