Thursday, September 22, 2022

love letter to summer, who has to be going

 One thing about being home much of the time is that I feel more in tune with the rhythm of the days than I ever was in the closed cave of the library. Therefore, more noticeable of their changes. Each day I sit at my work space, which is a different spot from my writing desk, which gets less used now that writing usually happens here, where my bigger laptop and regular keyboard set up is necessary for layouts and freelance work that has me typing more than I used to. . A decade or more ago, I used to sit at the opposite end, when I didn't have a desk in the living room, but here, with my back to the dining room/studio windows, I feel far more connected with outside.and its the rumble of trucks in the alley. With the tiny courtyard that runs between my building and a set of townhomes. The rhythms of those people and the delivery men coming and going. Since I don't have an A/C, there were days in the summer when I could feel the heat encroaching at my back. Could feel and smell the rain blowing in when it stormed. Today, the shivery cold that finally made me shut them. 

The light is different now all the time.  And less of it. While in summer I could work until eight, almost nine without turning on lamp, now, it's necessary before 7. Tonight, I took some packages to drop in the blue box at the end of the street tonight and it was one of those cool fall nights where I needed a sweater. Dark, but early enough that there were still a lot of people out moving to and fro. It always surprises me, the bustle of early evening, since I saw so little of it before. Normally I would be downtown and only coming home after 11 or so. Now, by 11, I am usually winding down after making dinner and getting ready to settle in to watch something or other. 

Summer felt longer but faster, if that's possible.  I felt more of it, even if I only went out in it occasionally. But there was at the same time more variation in its texture, much less time spent under fluorescent lights amid book stacks and more time for noticing things, even just from a third floor window. Listening, as well, to unruly car alarms, distant sirens, how sometimes I can hear the train two blocks away clearly, but sometimes not at all. Every Monday, the lawn mower down below me and the scent of just cut grass. The steady bang of renovations in surrounding apartments. The creep and click of my remaining neighbor's doors. 

I really didn't go out much. only occasional walks on milder days over to the water or around the block. A few trips to pick up prints downtown. A couple trips to Rockford and movie date nights. As someone who spent most of the lockdowns in 2020 and several holiday breaks behaving much the same, none of it is new. I revel in being a homebody.  There have been a couple weeks where the farthest I went was the alley to take out trash, the lobby to collect packages, or the blue mailbox. I would occasionally long for pre-covid things like bars or more social outings, but they passed. I do want more movie outings, and maybe some thrifting, which doesn't quite have the same oomph done via ebay. We've hit a season where walks are less likely to be sunburnt and sweaty, so no doubt more enjoyable when taken. 

I love fall and these changes, but, of course the backside of it is winter, which is much less enjoyable, particularly that swift descent into dark which feels like it will need even more of an adjustment...

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

notes & things | 9/20/2022



Yesterday, I took a deep dive into this summer's submissions pool and finished reading the first month's worth of submissions, sending out my first round of rejections and parlaying the rest to the second, more in-depth reading pile.  Of about 100 mss., I would say 50 were nos and the other 50s are definitely yes or maybes, those maybes being the hardest to determine the fate of.  What makes a maybe not always discernable--it might just be a slow start, a slow burn, or a questionable title.  I try to set them aside to give them more attention to see what's there if it has potential.  I try not to demand too many changes from what I accept, but sometimes, even a less than interesting title gets replaced by the author as we get closer all on their own. Sometimes, knots will work themselves out naturally. 

Of those maybes, I will probably take less than a dozen not counting my already established yesses (at this point, I am particularly enamored of about 5 things I am definitely accepting), I usually consider work by prior authors separately, so there are a handful of those as well..  After a year where I took less mss. because of a perpetual backlog that started with 2020 and just snowballed, I will probably give myself the first few months of the year to catch up, then commence with 2023 books even with some more time to devote to the series than I used to have. Already things are looking promising in terms of subject matter and style.

Today, there was crazy rain and wind that sent a dumpster rolling past in the alley (it was empty and lighter, but still.) There is also a lake-sized puddle out there, the weather having been wetter this past couple of weeks than it was all summer, including a deluge that flooded the lobby of the building, which happens from time to time.  I've been delighting in my daily pieces on horror, and today, snagged my first Halloween decor piece at HD. (I feel like I miss the really good ones since I don't log on until later in the day.) 

Fall officially arrives on Thursday, but I've already procured some decorations, including the cutest dragon skeleton and the sign above, as well as some sparkly gold pumpkins. I'm not a fan of more countrified decor or the color orange, so I tend to opt more for the black side of things and more Victorian-era frights. I've also been plotting my #31daysofhalloween posts, which will include poems, artwork, and videos. I did manage to create the very first teaser trailer for AUTOMAGIC out next month, though I plan to spend the upcoming weekend, putting the final adjustments on that manuscript and getting it publisher ready. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

some horror nostalgia and writing about film


Today, the first tiny paycheck (tinier than what will usual because I only wrote one piece at the end of this last pay period) from Gamerant dropped into my paypal account . On a day when, despite what I hope is just an allergy sinus headache that had me dragging,  I spent some time this morning working on a piece about a new horror docuseries happy as a clam. The source for my info was an article in Fangoria and it reminded me how much I loved reading it as a kid (I would buy issues here and there, though my allowance money was limited, so often I waited til I was at my cousin who had a subscription.) With no internet, it was an easily devoured publication by both of us and the source of most of our info on horror. Subsequently, I sometimes knew what I may be looking for on our Friday night jaunts to the video store with my dad, though sometimes, the best discoveries were made blind (we found Nightmare on Elm Street this way, having no clue what it was about.) 

It was a movie that was one of the few that scared me a little more than the usual slasher, who at 11, I was already reasonably familiar with. (Sleepaway Camp having been my reigning favorite--probably a poor choice to show several classmates at my 11th B-Day slumber party, but I did it.)  But then again, it was probably no less traumatizing than making us play Bloody Mary in the bathroom with the lights out (not me, no fucking way..lol..) and a tag game, Bloody Murder, that involved running around in the pitch dark of our front/yard/field and grabbing each other.

It then reminded me of the friends I managed to fall in with later. how we would devote long sessions to ghost stories and building weirdly elaborate haunted houses in basements to scare each other (If I recall correctly it was highly organized and split into teams and usually erupted in some sort of drama or fight as did most slumber parties of adolescent girls.)   Later, when I was older, I had friends who loved to hit up the local haunts, which we continued to do through the end of high school. the sort complete with strobe lights and jump-out scares we'd trail through in giggles.  I've often thought about how, having no brothers or male friends as a child (and really into adulthood) how we were way into a genre that was unfairly written off more as a boy's pursuit, at least then anyway and maybe still. What's hilarious is I've found much more fervent horror lovers that were women as adults than men (some of whom I've dated that actually didn't like horror at all--a bad sign..)

So it feels a little full circle to be writing about horror movies, even though it's just a handful of news pieces per week for just a little money I'm hoping will cover my streaming fees and maybe some movie outings, it's really a lot of fun. I'm also learning how fast the entertainment news world moves ( compared to poetry and design writing that is usually not rolling quite so swiftly to publication. )

Thursday, September 15, 2022

5 am thoughts on work and time

 Very rarely do I see 5am's, unless of course, it is on the other side, having just stayed up til the wee hours watching or working on something or other.  Lately, I sleep like the dead, but after a late night and early start yesterday, last night I drifted off pretty early and found myself wide awake at the beginning of a still dark morning.  Normally, I would have just scrolled instagram until I fell back to sleep to wake up at a more reasonable hour, but today, I remembered a couple things I forgot to do before bed--filling the cat dish so they aren't banging it around in the morning. Pitching a couple things on upcoming horror to write later today. So here I am at my desk. I will no doubt head back to bed in about an hour, a time when my rhythms usually have me dragging. But right now, I am not sure if the day feels new or old. 

When I was struggling to find a routine that worked to best maximize my freelance time, my own writing and art, and press work, I kept stumbling across videos and articles about writers who are up before he sun and already at work to take advantage of this productive, quiet part of the day. Many, of course, had children and spouses who were still sleeping day jobs to tend to later in the morning. It reminded me how grateful I am to live alone and have no ones schedule but my own to dictate my writing hours. And now, working on my own, not even the framework of a day job to try to write around.   

I've always experienced, when left to my own devices, a tendency to stay up later and later and rise later in the day. Sometimes, this was glorious, like when I was in high school and college during those unencumbered summers. Other times, I felt like it was a bad idea..particularly in winter when so much of the daylight hours were spent sleeping, leaving only nights at a time when I am already mentally circling the drain.  Earlier this year, after I was freed from the library, I did stay up pretty late, sometimes til dawn, and then sleep into the afternoon, but I found that my best productive hours were from noon to 5 or 6. Now I try to be up at 10, or at the latest 11, giving me some free time to draft my daily poem, sort emails, and check social media before delving into whichever writing project comes first.  Though some days I just dive right into working. Lately, this is the film pieces, which are fast work usually swiftly posted during the days when the editors are on hand. I usually work on lessons or pieces for the antiques site after, then hammer away at the neighborhood guide bits or revise other things. Late afternoons and into evening, I have some scheduled hours for House Digest most days of the week and wrap up around 9pm to make dinner. I may do some more press work after dinner while catching up on Youtube videos or listening to music. 

It's actually not that different from my old schedule at the library, where I worked 2-10pm, but so much else has changed, including no lengthy commutes (which totaled about 2 hours.)  An ability to do other things like cleaning and making actual food throughout the day.  An ability to schedule in things according to importance/deadlines and prioritize creative work some days. Mostly, I just appreciate the quiet of having a limited range of things to organize and keep track of.. the press/shop, my own writing, freelance work.  No longer to I get bogged down in mind-numbingly boring paperwork and materials processing.  And then there was the self-inflicted work of exhibits/events and promotion and leading the programming committee and taking on social media duties that I did--at first voluntarily, hoping I'd one day be payed to do them, but then slowly realized that that was never going to happen.  Also, just the stress of trying to fit everything else around those 8-10 hour days and realizing I often was so focused on productivity and getting things done, I took little time to actually enjoy them.

Sometimes I feel like I've spent the last two decades at an elevated stress level and only now do I know what feeling different is like, like my baseline has changed.  Now, I notice when I feel stressed or anxious because I do not feel that way constantly, but only on occasion--like if I feel pressured by a deadline or have to rush something or things feel tight, which actually doesn't happen that often now becuase I am not crashing around chaotically and burned out. I can plan ahead and work on things in increments. Have the time to hammer away in small doses.  Even keeping a similar set of hours per day feels like an entirely different experience. I don't hit the weekend exhausted, no matter how much I've worked during the week. 

I recently saw a Twitter thread about the 5 day work week and how unrealistic it is that we spend so much of our lives working..I actually don't mind this version of long weeks, and sometimes spend Saturdays as well getting things done and sneaking in some extra income work. Sundays are usually my only free day, though I have chosen sometimes to work on poem videos or editing my own work these days since covid has limited outings and other social things to do so I might as well get things done. But I move a little more leisurely on those weekend days. and definitely with less an emphasis on being productive.   This may change as things get more comfortable pandemic-wise for me (if they ever do.)

Now, over my shoulder at my desk, the sun is coming up and I am going back to bed for a few more hours. I pitched my news bits, and faithfully fed the cats (who already have the morning zoomies but who will also go back to sleep and sleep the day away.) I also drafted this blog entry in this strange in-between time. Later, there will be coffee and muffins and a more official start to the work day at a more sane hour of 10 or 11...

Sunday, September 11, 2022

notes & things | 9/11/2022

 Today, despite what the calendar says, is the first day that feels like fall.  Not just the light and the yellow tinge to things but also the rain that poured torrentially all morning, reappeared in the afternoon, and left behind blustery cooler temps that had me closing windows and settling in to make soup with a whole chicken I'd originally intended for the crockpot (also pie for breakfast because I was uninspired by muffins the past couple of days and they were out of croissants.) Once the weather turns, the year begins this quick descent toward winter every season, but I am determined to grasp whatever of fall I can do so safely and out of doors mostly, because, yo, despite what most people --out of obliviousness, disregard, or selfishness--would have you believe, covid is still a thing killing quite a few people everyday. I made an appt. for my updated booster on my way out of town Friday, so that will help hopefully as far as the variants, but I will still be wearing a mask til those numbers go down..I cringe a little every time I see photos from crowded unmasked readings, because really, I expect better from poets. Maybe I shouldn't. 

Yesterday, I finished up the layout and posted the accompanying e-zine for the MEMOIR IN BONE & INK video series. It felt fitting to be putting both the video project and that zine to bed (well, out there in the world with a bow on it for whoever wants a little more than the videos can provide)  I wrote those poems back in April as part of NAPOWRIMO, with just a title and a general idea that I wanted to talk about writing and artmaking and how it relates to the body and experience. I sometimes think about the idea of memoirs, and how sometimes I am surprised when people say they are writing them, since I feel, even at middle age, I don't have all that much to say except maybe about very specific things. But then, I've written a number of fragmented, memoirish series like the hunger palace and exquisite damage. But then as a poet who always twists the biographical stone cold truth, I'd feel weird and exposed writing a true memoir. I am also not sure I have anything interesting enough to say in it. 

But then again, even this blog sometimes feels like a really long memoir project.  Or maybe a really long letter to someone I don't even know. A youtuber author I watch was talking about trying to set habits to journal like Virginia Woolf, who spent her afternoons journaling and letter writing, which seems nice, but my afternoons are devoted to writing other things. The blog entries, which took the place of the paper journals I once kept, happen in the in-betweens.  I've often wondered if I lost something when I transitioned to journaling in online spaces, but mostly what I see flipping through old ones is a lot of useless emoting over unimportant things.  

Otherwise its the same stuff I post here. Or maybe I am just more even-handed handed and sure of myself and my world as a forty-something than I was as a twenty-something. When I read those marble composition books, I am mostly just embarrassed by those parts, for that girl, and they will probably lead me to toss them eventually. There are also holes, either by accident (a journal stolen in 1996) or blackouts when I was too depressed even to journal (like the winter of 1998).  I've been in this space just over 17 years. Somewhere in my dropbox are the files of my previous Xanga blog before that from 2002-2005. Before that, it was analog, beginning with intermittent diary entries in high school, then more lengthier journaling in college. They feel like photographs of someone I once was which sometimes feels amusing, but sometimes just seems annoying. 


Saturday, September 10, 2022

memoir in ink & bone

 


If you've been following along on my Youtube channel to catch the video poems the past couple of months, I've since created an e-zine to offer text versions of the poems as well as the other pieces that didn't quite make it to video. You can read it here.  The final video poem went live yesterday, but never to fear, there will be lots more video content coming for the new book, AUTOMAGIC. Stay tuned...

The entire project had its roots in last year's NAPOWRIMO experiments (which failed, and that's why there is slightly under 30 pieces.) It turned out to be a great little series on writing itself and our relationship to our own work and the creative process, the body as a conduit, and the ghosts that rattle all of it. 

Monday, September 05, 2022

poetry and misery


I was having a discussion lately about sadness...how sometimes we crave it.  How you can listen to the same sad song or sad movie scene and somehow the sadness is cathartic. And maybe that idea of catharsis is what art is all about.  All I know is that there are times when I set out deliberately to cry, and I know it going in.  It's not really the passing things--a sad video about cats or animals example that I glimpse when I'm scrolling.  Or the sort of angry crying I used to do over work-related things.  Or even the sad crying I sometimes do when I think about past relationships I wish had ended differently (the Taylor Swift sads I like to call them.) 

When I was a kid, I have two Christmas memories that stand out.  One, I've talked about before.a certain sad Christmas tree song I used to make my mother play again and again.  I would stand in the middle of the living room and cry. The other was "Frosty the Snowman" on tv, something I would look forward to airing every year, but the part I was focused on was him melting and the scene in the greenhouse and I would cry and cry. I would wait for that part specifically because it was so sad.  

I joked that this meant I was going to be a poet, even then. But I usually don't see writing, or the writing process in general as sad. Or even unpleasant. I was thinking about this as I was reading this article this morning, about the tortures of writing. When I wrote FEED, it definitely felt like a catharsis, and maybe some of it was sad to write, "the hunger palace" in particular, mostly because things still felt very new and raw after my mother's death.  The rest of the book was not so much sad, nor were other things I wrote around the same time. 

In general, the difficulty comes from knowing where to start. I feel like once I am rolling on a project, the writing becomes easier, and the better it flows the easier the next part, the editing, is.  However, besides the tortuousness of proofing and slogging through line edits, the poems themselves are not unpleasant to write, nor are they particularly tortuous in emotional toll or construction. Sometimes, there's a sort of exhaustion I feel afterward but its more like I just finished swimming across a river. It's tiring, but good. 

The idea of the suffering of poets is a strange one, but then again, many turn to poetry to address other kinds of traumas and mental illnesses and this may be why. Some of the most brilliant poets I have known have also been the most in need of help, maybe not all the time, but sometimes.  I hate the idea that madness is genius, but I think certain ways the brain misfires can be terrible for living in the world, but really good for art. Ask these people and I think they would willingly give up poetry for stability in almost all cases.

Maybe for the rest of us, or at least those of us with only slightly or occasionally malfunctioning brains in terms of anxiety or depression, I'm not sure the poetry hurts, but then again, BEING a poet may be hazardous to one's mental health. Not only have you chosen to be a writer, but you've also chosen a genre that few people read outside of it, where the bottlenecking is terrible, where that bottlenecking causes lots of people to be assholes, and a field that will probably never lead to anything like an income and just more rejection than acceptance. 

Even worse, all those things aside, it's LONELY out here.  I think I often feel this most when the writing is going well and there is no reason to feel so isolated, and yet, I do. I've often said dropping a poem into the world is like dropping a dime into the ocean. I am not sure it always felt this way.  Outside of a few exceptions, I've mostly written without an in-person community. There were MFA years, others I used to read at open-mic events. Those were just brief periods. Otherwise my experience of community is based on the web and maybe that is what feels lonely--a mix of people abandoning platforms and wonky algorithms, and everything, even Instagram, seems dead lately, not just in terms of engagement, but also just content and conversation.  I feel like this is not new, maybe the past couple of years. And maybe its just that everyone is on Twitter now, which I kind of hate. 

So I guess we keep going, even if only for ourselves and maybe the one or two people who like our work and want to see more.  Or maybe just ourselves, and really maybe that's enough.