Monday, March 20, 2017

journals, adolescence, and what the hell was wrong with me?

It is not only the first day of spring break (which doesn't mean all that much except I get sprung a little earlier and a few extra evening hours in the studio, ) but also the first day of actual Spring, which is chilly and rainy but still nice compared to a week ago.  I am coming off one of my blissful retreat weekends where I do little but work on writing and art projects and plot cover designs for dgp. I also found myself paging through some old journals from both twenty years ago (which I'll talk about next entry)  and also my first semester of college fabric covered one, circa 1992-93. If anything is more embarrasing than my high school diary, it is probably that one.  I'd yet delved into anything deeper than useless crushes and roommate hating, but I suppose there are bits in there about writing--projects I set myself the goal to do, plans for stories and playscripts that I'm pretty sure rarely materialized. No actual poems, but I do know I was already typing them on my graduation gift electric typewriter and also spent some serious time in the UNCW library paging through lit mags and plotting submissions I could barely afford postage for.

I bought that journal days before I left town for that first semester, so while I don't talk about much other than insipid song lyrics in between all the boy drama and bitching (which is what happens when you convince yourself you are madly in love with a boy who is just about to come out of the closet, plus another random romance later in the semester that never got off the ground ) I can almost smell the fear coming off the pages and lingering in the things I DON'T say (the sort of fear that occurs when you're 18 and drop yourself many states away from your former life. ) Especially when you find yourself waffling on the subject you planned to study with such certainty--and in fact, realize you're actually pretty hopeless when it comes to the sort of science brain you need for such an undertaking. Especially when that subject is what landed you so far away from home.

The takeaway I suppose was a full semester of typical "college life" complete with dorm rooms and dining halls and frat parties. With rummy marathons and drinking games sprawled out on the floor of a suite. . It wasn't exactly for me (outside of my badness as math, most of my classes were easy and not challenging in the least, it was expensive for my parents and difficult to travel, I could study English anywhere, etc.) I was also lonely, though I got along with some of my roommates, I had only begun to make friends outside of that before I left.  There were highlights, mostly of the reckless kind, --drunken trips in the back of a pickup truck on Halloween.  8 people jammed into a jeep for a midnight beach jaunt.  An affinity for mixing rum in giant water bottles full of coke or pepsi.  A diet that consisted mostly of cool ranch doritos and peanut m& ms. If I occasionally doubt whether my friends are truly my friends as a grown up, imagine that in the emotional roll of adolescence. I also tended toward over exaggeration in my writing then, so everything looks rather hilariously overwrought reading it as an adult.

There were moments when I thought I should probably throw it out it was so embarrassing, but I'm hesitant to cast that 18 year old version of myself into the dumpster.  It's sort of like encountering a vain, semi shallow girl who the world has not really gotten its teeth into yet, who is still sort of sheltered, for whom everything is OMG!OMG! and who hasn't yet tempered her journals into anything but emotional venting and maybe occasionally talking about wanting to write things. By the time I returned to journaling in earnest in early 1994, at the end of my sophomore year,  in one of many black & white composition books I would continue to write in until I moved to a blog, I at least talked mostly about things I was reading in classes, what I was studying, things I was working on. I  still occasionally vented, but my temper and my tone had evened considerably. That 18 year old, though I'd throw her out, but damn, she's pretty entertaining in a car crash sort of way and I have a hard time remembering what it was like to be her...



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

dgp cover action














Much of the time, I get to dream up dgp covers from scratch and lately I’m feeling a more flat, graphic vibe…keep an eye out for these in the shop..

Tuesday, March 14, 2017



Winter has snapped its tale back around and slapped us in the ass with a whole bunch of snow and cold.  The good thing is it's probably not long for this world, and technically spring starts in just a few days nevertheless. I am trying to adjust to a second week of non-stop library shifts, so I'm waning, but still soldiering through with the usual tasks, albeit a little slower than usual and more prone to distractions.  I've been making some more creature collages (see above and below) for fun, as well as plotting out our HOAX! Conspiracies, Illusions, and Creative Hijinks Exhibit and week of programming.  Also planning our Annual Easter Egg Art Hunt as soon as I get hold of enough plastic eggs.   Otherwise, it's the usual cover and layout activities and an overflow of studio tasks. and maybe some poems in there somewhere (hopefully).

I did garner another acceptance from my Saturday submission morning submission blitz, landing some  of the Plath cento poems in an upcoming issue of interrupture. (and since it came kind fast I almost avoided it thinking it was a rejection, which it totally wasn't. )  My dreams and moods are weird lately and I find myself avoiding anything unpleasant or taxing in the way of bad news (not an easy feat--the sudden winter not helping my mood.)  I feel more brittle and breakable and I'm not sure why--especially since I was in good spirits over the weekend despite having to work the entirety of it. But I'm consoling myself with tacos and new dresses and raspberry lattes and hoping it just goes away.  I just keep telling myself in a few weeks it will be April, which I will disagree with old Tom--not cruel at all...





Sunday, March 12, 2017

a peek at a new series of collages






things I write about

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Every once in a while, people (usually non creatives, non-writers, or at least non-poets). when they learn that I am a writer, inquire as to what exactly I write about.  I used to just shrug my shoulders and try to explain that poets sort of use EVERYTHING as material, or more recently, I'll say I write about mermaids and james franco, but I was thinking a couple weeks ago about the subject natters of various projects either published or underway and what themes were at work in a deeper or just more cosmetic way.


rural adolescence
mothers & daughters
sex
discontented relationships
restlessness
victoriana
Joseph Cornell
transgression and danger
ghost stories / urban legends
fairy tales
suburban unrest
nature vs. "civilization"
movies, entertainment, pop culture
james franco
women as muse vs artist
sideshows & carnival women
illness
surreal landscapes
the apocalypse
atom bombs & science fiction
zombies
blonde jokes
salvadore dali
sylvia plath
marriage & domesticity
body image
1970's teenagers
drowned women
mermaids
alice in wonderland
childlessness
abandoned hotels
renaissance dog girls
creepy gothic families
love poems & politics

Some of the subjects closer to the end of the list are barely projects (the dog girl--Antoinetta Gonzalez is just research notes, for example and not yet actual poems).  The Alice erasure project has been underway and stalled out for a while, and a couple things are just one or two poems into what I imagine will be a longer series...I've also been thinking about the difference of approach when it comes to compilation books and project books and how the latter seem to be driven by intent from the beginning and the former take shape during the process, but that's a blog entry for another day I suppose.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

the submission wilds

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After over 20 years in this writing (business?  passion?  madness?) sometimes I forget how nice it feels to place a poem or a group of poems in a journal. a very singular and simple pleasure, one I don't experience enough of in all the crazy. .  Sadly, I don't really send out a lot of work to journals anymore--mostly due to time constraints and efforts driven elsewhere and just a general difficulty in deciding where to direct my efforts.  

Also, much of what I write lately is tied tightly into series, which sometimes makes pieces out of context not all that marketable outside the whole of the project. Sometimes the poems are finished and sent out in manuscripts before I ever get a chance to try to place them individually.  Every once in a while I get this panicked feeling that I need to publish more and will send out a couple, but if they are rejected, I don't typically volley them back out in the world like I did in the early days of sending out work. Occasionally, I get solicited, so I usually send work then (which also sometimes gets rejected as well.) In the days before the press took so much of my poetry time and when I was extra hungry for getting my work out there, I would send out poems as soon as they came back to me, and then again and again. . I've never really been able to do simsubs, since I am really bad  at record keeping and one tme unintentionally caused a slightly embarassing snafu (and then I'd only accidently sent out two identical batches.) 

In the early to mid 2000's I would fling rejected poems back out into the wild as quickly as they returned and usually, even if it took a few tries, most stuff eventually found a home somewhere.   By the time the fever almanac was published in 2006, pretty much every poem but one of two had garnered some sort of journal publication beforehand, and it was a similar situation with subsequent books (except for the shared properties..which was entirely unpublished when the book was accepted and quickly came out a few months later. 

A couple weeks ago, I got that panic feeling again and sent off a couple submissions. As I was hauling myself out of bed early today for an unhappy  weekend shift at the library, I was thrilled to see an acceptance from Hobart for some of the "How to Write a Love Poem in a Time of War" series, the first of that series to find a home,  which definitely made the morning much more satisfying and I realized how I missed that satisfaction a little--to even have work out there--even if it gets rejected--to approach opening my e-mail daily with the same excitement I used to approach my mailbox in the lobby of  my old Lincoln Park apartment building (the last place I lived where snail mail subs were a actually a thing) or crossing the grassy field to my parent's mailbox back when I was sending work out in college.)

So I've spent a bit of time when I actually got to work this morning scouring journal opportunities and compiling a list of promising possibilities. (I've found an excellent way to find kindred journals is to look at the bios of dgp authors since most likely, if I like THEIR work, there might be some possibility that the journals are of similar aesthetics tastes to my own and therefore likely to be interested in my own work--some I did not even know existed. )  The result was 8 batches of poems from a couple different projects sent off into the hinterlands, more than I've probably sent off in a year as a whole, so we'll see what happens.  I'm guessing rejections will have just the opposite reaction, but hopefully bad news will always be balanced by good. 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

women's day, women's work

There's been a bit of contentious discussion over the National Womens Day strike on the FB and whether or not the privilege of being able to strike (to take time off work or time off from obligations) is, in fact it's own kind of privilege which most women cannot enjoy.  And perhaps the best thing is not to strike to show your dissatisfaction (and there is so much to be dissatisfied with) but to SHOW Up and kick some ass.  I am taking the latter route, having no real extra vacation days to be able to take and no one else to close the library, but the rest of my day has been devoted to press work--laying out chaps, assembling chaps, and designing covers for upcoming books--all of which is good feminist centered work. I am not one for hashtag activism in general, or a joiner of much of anything, even causes I support,  so I just try to concentrate on what I can do as a feminist everyday to make things better on a micro level and hope it filters out into the macro, or that the sort of work I do with women's voices makes some difference in the literary world, which of course, is only a tiny corner of the world at large.  And not just the press, but my own writing and art (it's themes and subjects and obsessions) and even  the art-related programming, displays, and exhibits in the library, which are always female heavy and intersectional.

Tonight, working on some covers (for amazeballs upcoming books by Leila Ortiz and Andrea Spofford) I was musing on some of the arguments I've had over the years with male authors over running a press that publishes only women--the butthurtness, the snideness, the claims of the "quality" work by men we'd be ignoring.  Really, they are arguments I got tied of having a decade ago, and kind of refuse to even respond to now in the interest of not fighting with people on the internets (itself SO 10 years ago.)  My aim when I started the press was actually less of a politically driven one and more so one of personal interest.  My education, heavy in women's writing and feminism theory paved the way toward wanting to examine women's work and voices, in much an anthropological way.  Later, the more I became increasingly aware of certain inequalities and bullshit, the more the mission of the press took on a more activist bent.  What started as a focus and interest of my own became a cause of sorts--a call to arms.   A call that seems more important than ever now, when there seems to be a war on women, or maybe there was always a war, but the world we thought we lived in before that was getting better was, in fact very much not. I cannot forget the Stanford rape case verdict, or DT's pussy-grabbing, or a thousand other things that shake me as a woman and as a feminist. That while we hoped that we'd be alive to see a female president, we should have known better--that there is perhaps nothing more threatening to stupid (or maybe even intelligent)  men than a smart powerful woman.

We know this, and yet we wish we could forget...


Monday, March 06, 2017

doubt




Sometimes,  I think the most uncertain I ever feel about my own writing follows not ordinary rejections and setbacks, but after reading the amazing work I get to publish with dgp --projects that sometimes are so freakishly good sometimes I get that scared panic feeling that I shouldn't even TRY to do this whole poetry thing, you know, because  obviously other people have it so much more on lock than I do. It comes and goes, as uncertainty does, but this weekend, as I was re-reading some upcoming manuscripts and plotting cover ideas, I felt it.  Which was both disconcerting and kind of exhilarating.  I guess if I can't write the things I want to write how I want to write them, I guess there is enormous comfort in helping bring those books into the world regardless.

It's Monday, so I'm feeling extra gratey and overwhelmed with what I have to do this week on so many fronts. I do have a shiny new printer in the studio, and a couple new vintage bag impulse purchases on their way (as well as less exciting things like regular paper and cardstock)  My little retreat weekends are heavenly, but re-entry is a bitch sometimes.  I get spoiled by working on the things I want to work on and then have to put those on hold for other less fun things, like, you know, going to work and all.   I also had a moment of panic this weekend about the rather large queue of writing projects I've been plotting over the years, some of which I have only dipped a tiny toe into--the ridiculous feeling that I am getting older (well I guess I'm  only 42 probably at the halfway point of my life if I'm lucky.)  How I'm feeling the pressure to get things out and onto the page lest they never get them (which is ridiculous since I obviously have plenty of time.  but then what if I don't?  What if I get some terminal disease--or hit by a bus--or rendered blind or unable to type (and this is probably just the anxiety hamster talking--I've found the negative of time with my thoughts, is you know, sometimes well,  my thoughts)

The clouds in my head the past couple of days are commensurate with the clouds outside, though it's been a little warmer than last week.  It's March, so the forecast is promising, even though I do have to pull a double header in the library this weekend and therefore will be surrendering up my blissful weekend, but I'm hoping to get some serious, more concentration intensive work done, because it's certainly not happening today.




Saturday, March 04, 2017

editorial karma

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I was going initially to write a long rambling, semi-ranty about editorial karma, about how late  last week I had an author, someone I do not really know, withdraw her manuscript from dgp's March line-up due to what she perceived as a lack of "enthusiasm" for the chapbook on my part.  I wasn't quite sure how to respond, mostly since I really had nothing but enthusiasm for the project--enough to plan on investing future hours and dollars into making it happen, but apparently that was not enough  I am not usually the type to fluff or over effuse--if I like something enough to want to publish it..I 'll say it straight out, but maybe I wasn't praise-worthy enough or too succint in my answers to her e-mails (we had already been talking a little bit about cover art a few days before, but weren't yet in the layout process.)

 I also got the feeling she expected something else--maybe a bit more of hand-holding or critiquing and editing pre-pub . I don't really do this, being more of a curatorial sort of editor and not a critiquer/workshopper type..if I take it, I pretty much like it as/is, so barring maybe some spacial considerations and formatting or consistency as we get it print ready, I don't really seek to change the work I publish. Otherwise, I wouldn't accept it in the first place if it was in need of revisions.  It's not my editorial style, nor I imagine what most of my author, who are pretty confident in their abilities, want at this stage in the process.  Maybe she was expecting something else and in that case, she really should go somewhere else who does approach editing in that way.

Luckily, she backed out before I actually had begun the layout process (but in my stories of snafus, that too has happened in a couple cases where the author decided they weren't happy with the poems anymore and wanted to scrap them (and in at least one case, sent me another project to consider that I loved.) I also once had an author balk that our covers were cardstock and not glossy and perfectbound, which apparently she did not realize until she actually ordered one of our books. Sso there was no winning that one.   I tend to be very flexible and informal with publication agreement, so no formal contracts, only written e-mail agreements (mostly since all rights go back to the author upon publication.)  I also wouldn't want anyone beholden to publishing their book with the press if they really didn't want to be there. Why would I?

Ideally, if someone needs to bow out--they do so early on as possible.  I've occasionally had situations where we've mutually decided not to go forward if a chapbook was accepted and due out as a full-length or there was a simsub snafu and it won a contest or something after the fact. Sometimes, projects get rolled into other projects.  Usually, if I like the authors work, I'll try to find a way to either work something out or take on something else they have available that I also love.

I spent most of Friday afternoon mostly just being hurt and cranky and wondering how anyone could imagine that I am not enthusiastic about the books I work on (you know, despite 6 million other obligations in the way of my day job and my own creative work that I am working around to make those books happen hell or highwater)    It was sort of that feeling that you are doing so much, far beyond what could be reasonable expected of you if you weren't quite so crazy, far beyond what you should do for your health and general sanity, and somehow, even that is not enough for some people.

That is, I felt that way until I opened up my facebook messages that afternoon  to find another amazing author (whose work had very recently appeared in wicked alice and to very enthusiastic response from not just me, but other readers.) querying whether or not I might like to see a manuscript.  And I was a little OMGOMGOMG! YES! (but I tried to play it cool..lol) So rather than a long, ranty-post, you get a short mini ramt and then I will instead direct you to the work of the amazing writer who will likely be filling the empty slot.  So even when interactions are kind of hurtful and far from ideal, 99.9% of authors are absolutely amazing and lovely. And this makes the rest of it worth it....

Friday, March 03, 2017

friday frivolity | spring wardrobe switercheroo

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Okay, technically it's not yet spring.  And technically I'm a little early with my spring wardrobe switchout (I usually aim for St Patties Day) but it's been so mild off and on the past few weeks, I thought I would get a jump on my closet and put away those dreary winter duds for another year (when they will once again seem cozy and interesting).

Spring is hard to dress for. It's still chilly in most of March and April, so winter coats stay out for awhile and only mid-April to jackets begin to happen.  While I have put away things like flannel dresses and sweater dresses, I will no doubt be wearing sweaters with the brighter, lighter spring patterned frocks for awhile, and probably even tights for a bit longer.   Most of my spring clothes are those which are a little lighter and in the pastel ranges, plus a lot of my 4 season wears that can pass all of them depending on what I wear with them. Some things are definitely moving toward summer and I probably won't be able to wear them properly until April.

Some of my favorite spring things are filmy watercolor-inspired florals, an abundance of stripes, wrap dresses lots of soft greys and maybe some greens, pinks, and lavenders.  I picked up the cutest black halter dress with chrysanthemums last week on Poshmark that will either be for my New Orleans trip in late April or our fancy Library Award shindig around the same time. I also went on a bit of a shoe binge the week before last..I had been going to replace some boots that I'd worn out completely, but in lieu of those (I am done with winter anyway), I picked up several pairs of ballet flats and mary janes that should fill all my warmer footware needs.

I also did a little purging--though not as much as I anticipated..some older pieces that were either worn or two big, something I'd intended to mend but realized it was far too complicated a job.  Switching things out does have the the effect of streamlning a little each time it happens, which keeps me from holding on to things I either am not all that excited about or are well past their wearing days. A lot of it might be a certain amount of scarcity thinking.  I used to be about 2 sizes larger, so cute plus clothes were hard to come by and nothing really fit. I have a few more options now and things just fit better in general, but I'm still stuck occasionally in the attitude that there are so few things I like that I should hold onto everything (even if it's seen much better days.)