Monday, August 15, 2022

notes & things | 8/15/2022

Mondays are slow days, as are Fridays.  Most days in the mid-week, I have a scheduled batch of hours writing for House Digest in the late afternoon into evening, so other projects get put at the front of the day, but on these days, I lay in bed late and move slowly into my writing projects, today, the very last proof of a lesson devoted to Hester Prynne. Then a draft on another children's book category for the antiques site.  I will probably finish early then start working on chapbooks I've already started printing a I do other things and reading manuscripts.

Today, it happened, and early in the month at that, the day in August when you wake up and the light precludes fall.  I remember this, particularly from childhood and teen years, in those weeks right before the semester starts. When you'd probably already gone on the yearly expedition for Trapper Keepers and new notebooks and secured the clothes from lay-a-way at K-Mart or soon would. The excitement in the air when you'd go pick your school ID, the coming year filled with so much promise and wide open space. You'd probably be over it by October, but for a few weeks, that new school year glistened.

That day in August has come later or earlier in the month depending on weather. This year, we've been blessed with cooler temps the past week, so as I noted the light this morning at around 7am, I also burrowed further under the covers and went back to sleep in the coolness. I keep realizing with a start again that this is maybe the first year in my entire life that I am divorced from the academic calendar since I was 5 years old and was trotted off to kindegarten.  I always wondered how time moved for folks in non-education and non-academic fields and I guess will be finding out. If you do not measure in terms, how else do you measure?  In months?  in quarters? in years? So weird...(cues Rent song in my head.)  But yes, from grade school to junior high, from high school to college to grad school at DePaul.  Then starting at the elementary school, then Columbia (doubly when I was also getting my MFA), and every fall has been marked by the same rhythms and routines. The same starts and launches. 

I suppose I will find my own fall routines and benchmarks.  Reading manuscripts for dgp, for example.  Or embarking on new writing projects (I have one slightly underway for attention after I finish draft 1 of the Persephone poems, and another making tiny clicks in the gears of my brain.) Releasing Automagic will take some fall, more serious energy as soon as September hits. So maybe it isn't that different after all....

Friday, August 12, 2022

summertime monsters and more to come...

As we move quickly through August at breakneck speed,  fall is feeling imminent , especially since we finally hit a spat of cool for the month temps, I've been thinking of what's been happening this summer and what is coming in the next few months, including the new book in October as well as my #31DAYSOFHALLOWEEN offerings, which I am plotting already--video shorts and short fiction and poems. I'll be posting the last handful of the memoir series early in September and beginning to edit and layout the new book. There is also another possible fun little zine due for November, and of course, this year's art advent project. 

As the new book prep begins, I've been staring at this spring's release, which turned out to be better looking and more successful than I'd dreamed here in this tiny corner of self-publishing endeavors.  I'm a little shocked and delighted. Even though I now have full-time to devote to things I want to, I still get busy, and I feel like April was kind of chaotic before I settled into routines and appeased my $$$$ anxiety by taking on some more paid work. So the release of AVM felt like something that went down without much fanfare, especially since its not like you can really have a reading safely (or at least one I would enjoy and not be anxious about.) I feel calmer and less like I am crashing into things this summer, and hopefully that feeling will keep going through the fall.

I was thinking this morning about the EXTINCTION EVENT part of that book in particular since it's been a couple years exactly since I spent a couple days wandering with a notebook around the Field Museum and making notes for what would become a series of poems about climate change and museum diorama artists, about birds and dinosaurs and what we leave behind as artifacts.  In many ways that series formed the spine of AVM more than any other series within, some written earlier, some later. Late 2019 was also a weird time for me.... a financial free fall after trying to pay the rent on two expensive spaces, the decision to move from the studio, general money anxiety that carried through the new year, and then, BOOM! PANDEMIC!  I don't think walking through the evolution exhibit, I would have known how close we were approaching to our own life-changing earth-wide event in just a few months, or how disappointed I'd be when we got there about our subsequent behavior. Little did I also know that would be my last in-person reading for a while tucked amid the Hall of Birds cases there at the North end of the museum, so I am glad it was a highly enjoyable one.  

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

the great resignation and no regrets

There's been a clip going around on socials about The Great Resignation and the number of people who regretted their decision, which many pointed out only asked those who currently were still seeking jobs instead of those who just retired or found better jobs elsewhere. So the numbers were a little skewed, even as they were, but I thought about this and laughed yesterday, signing some lease paperwork,  when I realized for the first time that I have finally hit the point where my rent is the advised 1/3 of my total income. Like for the first time ever, after two decades of being at about half (a number that required a co-signer on my apartment, but that I was willing to do since I save on other expenses like not having a car / gas/insurance.) And that's even with my rent going up this year.

Last night I dreamed that I went back to my old job--why wasn't exactly clear, but I got the feeling it was because I felt guilty for leaving.  I don't anymore, not now, when things worked out so much better than I even thought they would, but maybe somewhere in my subconscious I do for more personal reasons that have to do with friends that still work there and less with the job itself.  Most of the time I am a little angry I allowed things to go on as they did for so long without doing anything about it.  Granted, I was sad the whole dream that I had went back, but it was too late to do anything about it, and this caused me to wake up in a funk I only was able to shake by diving into my morning's work and refreshing myself with the excitement I know feel working on the things that provide me an income.   Like a good income and probably at a wage I should have had years ago. 

It does not hurt that I feel so much more present in other areas in my life that aren't the freelance work--in the press, in my own writing, in just my tiny household where I actually get to be at home with the cats and cook actual meals and keep the place from being as messy/chaotic as it once was. What I struggled with in the beginning, a structure and routine, I now pretty much have got nailed down, or at least a couple variations depending on how I spend my days. I do not miss venturing into the world, and outside of a smattering of people, do not miss my coworkers or the work itself.  Nor do I miss the way my skills and abilities were taken advantage of without anything like reasonable pay (and the complicated thing is some of those people are the same people.). The jump was scary--you have no idea--my stability loving Taurean heart was in nots all through late last year, but once I made the decision, the relief never stopped flowing, even now. 

Sunday, August 07, 2022

notes & things | 8/7/2022

This week, I wrote in the afternoons about ash trees and fall gardens and longed just a little more for September, especially since we keep having these stretches of swampland temperatures--heat yes, but also humidity that makes every surface in my apartment damp, including my bedsheets.  Every paper left out begins to curl and ripple. As for the trees, I feel like all these garden assignments I've been picking will eventually start to add more flora and fauna to my poems than there already is, which is a lot.

I am making a journey downtown tomorrow to pick up some covers and am already apprehensive about the lack of masking on the CTA. Each week, it gets less and less as the numbers climb more and more, as if someone silently made us agree that if we don't talk about it, don't pretend its happening, its not happening.  Except for the dead and dying, everyone else carries on much as they did pre-2020. I texted a friend recently that had I known 2019 was the last time I would be drunk and extroverted in a bar, I might have done so more frequently that year. We hit the movie theater bar back in March, but it was deserted. Had cocktails with some people outdoors in the fall of 2020, but not too many.  It was a brisk October evening and even the fires weren't keeping us warm so we didn't linger too long.  There have been windows where it may have been safe, but I tend to stupidly think each is the beginning of the end.  Now we are looking at a fall of no-fun whatsoever, no doubt.  Once school is back in session and the already high numbers creep back up, we will be much in the same position as last winter.  I am exhausted, not with covid, which is just doing its thing, but people in general.  

I've moved into a new range of neighborhood guide assignments, back on the northern end again, with Wicker Park. one of my favorite destinations, but just so damned far on public transportation. I did discover a shot south on the Damen Bus from Foster does make the trip a little quicker, so when we are actually going places and doing things again, I am ready. I haven't been to Quimbys or Myopic in a few year. I think the last time I was even in the area was a reading at now-defunct Danny's in 2018. The neighborhood guides are indulging my love of Chicago neighborhoods and history, though, and I am excited with each new neighborhood I am assigned. Wicker Park has this 90's glory day halo, when it was still cheap to live there and all the cool kids were there in the bars and the bookstores and the coffeeshops.  It's different now, and way expensive. But I love the ghosts of it. Even in the aughts and the last decade or so, so many readings were always in Wicker or Bucktown--including my own release readings at Quimby's on occasion. The cool kids have moved on to Logan and Pilsen, where they can afford the rent. But some things still hang on through the changes.

This week, I plan on polishing up the remainder of MEMOIR IN BONE & INK pieces and figuring how I want to share the rest of them--zine? recordings? e-zine?  mix of all of them?  I am back to feeling a special kind of poet lonely of late, like no one is reading but me, so maybe it doesn't matter. I did cheat on the GRANATA poems with something new, which I really shouldn't do, but it just happened, and maybe it will happen again. I would like to have a draft of the larger, more serious project done by the end of September to have some time to let it sit before the new year when I dive back into it. So I really need to stay on task, but it's hard for me with longer things, it's amazing I've gotten as far as I have...

Saturday, August 06, 2022

film notes | monsters & money

When I was in my last semester at DePaul getting my MA, I took a class called "Writing As a Women's Profession." It was a strange, chaotic time in which I was moving back to my hometown and trying to finish my degree. I spent the last month and some change commuting into the city (driven to weekly classes by my very gracious parents) because my lease on the studio in Lincoln Park was up at the end of April and I had already moved into that terribly brief apartment near downtown Rockford and was job hunting (which did not work out so well at first.)

So, my focus was not necessarily on those last two classes, that one that met Saturday mornings and a Monday night seminar in Milton that I ended up barely passing because I missed the final due to traffic stand-still near O'Hare. I managed to get my degree nevertheless since I had, up til that point, straight A's in the Milton  but the writing professions class I did do well in, I no doubt would have benefitted from being far more present for than I really was.  We spent a lot of time taking about writing and economics for women, particularly in the 19th century, with authors like Brontes and Kate Chopin and Sarah Orne Jewett. How women traditionally made money out of words, when sometimes words were one of the only ways women of certain classes and stations could acceptably gain anything like financial freedom (and even then not always.) I was thinking of this again when I watched Mary Shelley a few weeks back, a movie that somehow had escaped my notice when it was released. 

The most interesting moment in the film is the morning after the ghost story challenge when Polidori and Shelley encounter Percy and their host, Lord Byron, at the breakfast table after a rough night in which Mary reportedly dreamed her famous monster into being (and in which the Doctor began what would eventually be the story of Dracula). The poets, of course, are hungover and mocking the only two writers who seemed to understand the assignment and produced something solid from the endeavor. Over the next few months, Shelley would expand and develop her story and then, in her initial anonymity, her husband would get credit for it until she revealed herself (but then even some still scarce believed such a masterpiece could be penned by a woman. )

The success of Frankenstein, though, of course helped them where Percy's poetry and debts had mostly not, which was something I had not thought about until this film...the success of her novel granted stability in income the couple had not seen before, and though they were at turns estranged over the course of their 8-year marriage before he drowned in a boating accident, Mary would live another three decades, writing several more books that were eclipsed by her most famous. I've also read before of her assistance to his career, both before and after his death collecting and transcribing, much like the unpaid work of many women writers on behalf of their literary husbands, even while their success in publishing was funding the coffers.  

Friday, August 05, 2022

how it started, where it's going


I'm a little bit half past the way through the MEMOIR IN BONE & INK video poems, which are turning out to be a fun (although a little bit spookier than intended ) project. If you recall, the poems themselves are the spoils of NAPOWRIMO this spring, that I actually did not finish, but did get around 20 or so pieces I liked and was looking to do something with them. Enter the video poems, which outside of a couple of trailers and art things, I hadn't really dug into since finishing SWALLOw a while back. They, like most of the things I do, are experiments, so I never quite know where they are going.,  The last couple have a decidedly darker, more horror-feel vibe, which dictated the music I chose for them, which of course only enhanced those vibes.  Nevertheless, I am pretty happy with the results so far and have a few more to tackle before mid-September., when I  hope to take what I've learned and make some killer trailers for AUTOMAGIC coming around the bend. I will also be releasing the entire project as a zine towards the end of this month if all goes well. 

You can see the whole series thus far on YouTube...

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

finding our forgotten selves

When I was in my early 20's, long before I had an actual apartment I could decorate of my own, I read magazines--lots of magazines, most handed off, like the horror novels I hoarded, by an aunt. Elle, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Cosmo, occasional chunky issues of Vogue. Because no one else wanted to read them and my mother was happy with some of the cooking and home mags, I would cut things out, making large collages in a giant spiral sketchbook.  There were two actually, one with clothing ideas and another with interior design stuff..the outfits I wanted to wear, the houses I wanted to live in. Really, it was just an early, more mono version of Pinterest, which I still use today. 

I also spent a lot of time watching my parents' satellite tv in the middle of the night once they had gone to bed and I took over the big screen in the living room.  While I did watch some shows and movies, I pretty much would turn on HGTV and let it play all night while I worked on other things--homework, poems, writing in my journals, cross-legged at the coffee table in front of the couch.  When I was in college, my mother and I would spend a lot of time and money redecorating rooms we hoped my father wouldn't notice were different (though he paid the credit card bills, so I imagine he totally knew.) Even my tiny grad school studio had a lot of thought put into posters and furniture in the two years I was there. In Rockford, I lived in a gorgeous place with a sleeping porch and dark cherry-colored floors, but had to leave when I didn't find a job quickly enough.  When I moved into my current place of the last 20 odd years, I've slowly evolved a look I like, mixing vintage and modern together.  

Today, I was working on some recent pieces for House Digest and laughing about how much I somehow absorbed from that network, from the magazines, from other decor books I loved to check out from the library. When I was younger, I was very particular about my surroundings and things I wanted and still pretty much am, even though my apartment, with its battered thrift store pieces and cat-scratched upholstery, is hardly a showplace, Its still very intentional in where I put things and how I want them to look, even if my budget is low. I remember being 15 and thinking I would love to be an interior designer but then backing away when it occurred to me you had to work with other people a lot. 

When I work on these pieces, whatever I'm writing about, today, ash trees for your backyard fall color and decorating with sage green, I feel like I'm connecting with the girl who ripped pages out of Elle Decor and watched entire marathons of Curb Appeal. (and it still amazes me someone actually wants to pay me to write about home decor every time the money hits my account.) It's also a testament to  the circuitous path that wound up with me landing this job in the first place--of leaving the library, and taking on writing more architecture lessons as the art ones ran thin (I was hired to write about both art and lit, but I liked to alternate them because the books are much denser work.) Those architecture lessons in my portfolio sent me down this particular path I may never have otherwise gone down. Only to wonder where this is where I would have loved to have been all along.