Sunday, July 03, 2022

freelance life | 6 month update

It occurred to me over the weekend that it has been exactly 6 months ago that I set sail on this crazy little adventure working on my own after over twenty years at the library. Sometimes it still does not seem real.  It feels like I snapped my fingers and several months passed. It feels like there's a part of my soul that still gets angry and sullen over the things I let pass as acceptable those last few years, especially near the end.  I left, citing my desire to spend more time on my own pursuits, but there was so much yuck underneath that still occasionally prompts me to utter a WTF? outloud. Money and treatment of non-MLA-degreed staff. The way my talents were taken advantage of, but never quite rewarded. A place, that as whole, took more and more til there was nothing left. I was totally complicit in all of it, which means perhaps most of the anger is self-directed rather than any one person or institution.

Nevertheless, it doesn't matter.  6 months ago, I walked out into a snowy, cold February evening with the last of my stuff and left the place I spent most of my days behind.  Sometimes my old job feels like an ex I want to spy on.  Sometimes, I am so happy to be out of it, I don't even want to think about it.  This is not to say it's been all roses.  There were moments where I was really worried about money. Trying to strike a balance between taking on freelance work that I may not be all that interested in just to get a feeling of stability.  The goal, initially,  was of course to perhaps eventually grow things like critiques and workshops, design jobs, my Patreon,  my shop business, to be able to eek out a living with the extra bolster of some freelance work.  But I also worried I was putting a little too much pressure on the shop (just because you make things, of course, does not mean they are going to thrive in sales (esp. in a shitty economy.)  With things just costing more--toner, paper, outsourcing printing, postage, I worried that the chapbook series would stay out of the red this year (so far, so good, raising the list price $1 helped) But yes, money made me anxious, esp. with the spectre of a rent increase on the horizon and new building management. Would I fail and end up not being able to tie two ends together firmly. Growth in terms of new shop offerings and art work takes a little time as well, as well as money for supplies.  

There was also the struggle of determining what a day looked like now that I had so many options.  At first I wrote lessons like a madwoman (which I started writing in November as I eyed the door), sometimes for several hours a day.  Since this was more academic, research-laden work it felt best to just dive in first thing in the day.  I'd spend the latter half working on press stuff, and then later at night, with a block of creative time. I tried different configurations and weekly plans and finally found one that works pretty well.  I was also able to add, over the course of a few months, some other new writing-related work to supplement the lessons.  I actually feel like I now have an embarrassment of riches that has me feeling so much less anxiety about money going into July. I also seem to have collected a slate of jobs I am really excited about--writing about all sorts of things like antiques and home decor and Chicago neighborhood history.  

There was a lot of applying, querying, and trial jobs involved, but things worked out far better than I imagined. I now am able to switch back and forth between various projects and levels of intensity during the hours I work on freelance stuff each day. Longer and shorter assignments help.  I also feel good not having all my eggs in one basket. I will also be able to save up my safety cushion rather than dip into it and still have extra funds for occasional treats (I've been so careful these past few months in terms of not spending on anything I did not absolutely need. To be able to buy a fancy bath gel or new dress or takeout will be nice again. ) Even the hours dedicated to writing work allows me so much more flexibility and hours per day for creative work and press work than I ever had before.  You figure even if I work a standard day, I've gained two extra hours that used to be commuting and so much more energy by not having fifty percent of brain space eaten by library work I was not even close to being compensated for. That means the hours devoted to creative things are so much more productive than they used to be. and my brain is infinitely quieter and more organized.. And even though I still have two dozen tabs open,  my inbox is even occasionally zero. If I have to do work on the weekends, its more a choice than a necessity.

You worry a lot when you do something like this. Especially when you have very little net to catch you. City living is expensive, especially alone. Especially in this economy. Would I fail and have to find another full-time job eventually?  Was this just an experiment that may or may not take?  But ultimately, the thing, outside of money, that I feared turned out actually not that scary at all.  I worried a little over the past year, that should I make money by doing other kinds of non-creative writing, would I have nothing left for the poems. If I spent so much time inside words, would they fail me where I needed them most.  I've actually found not only is this not true, since they use very different parts of my brain, but that sometimes they, too, feed each other quite nicely. I'm present in my own creative work in a way i never was able to be before. I've also learned so many new things peripherally--random trivia and subject matter (who knew I would ever know this much about architecture?), but also video script writing, SEO optimizing. I think I've discovered that this monster in the woods was perhaps not even a monster at all, and maybe its just the wind after all. 

Saturday, July 02, 2022

memoir in bone & ink | video poem series

 Over the past month, I've been working on a short video series of poems from MEMOIR IN BONE & INK (which will also eventually be zine coming in August with additional poems that didn't quite make it to video.. You can follow along on my Youtube channel for full size versions of the videos, or on instagram, where I will be posting mobile formatted versions as well.


Thursday, June 30, 2022

the land of gods and monsters


I've been knee-deep the past few weeks in the GRANATA manuscript and the poems are looking pretty good, though there is still a bit of a ways to go in this female-driven epic. This has included making the final decision on the title, which not only references pomegranates, but the Italian word for grenade. after discovering that little fact, there really was nothing else the book could be called. 

It's not of course the first time I've written about Greek mythology, of course, the beginning perhaps all those mythology poems in my very first chapbook, THE ARCHAEOLOGIST'S DAUGHTER. Then of course, there was TAURUS, a modern retelling of the minotaur myth that took place in the midwest. This is perhaps the first with a classical setting, though that may not exclusively be the case.  Or more, maybe that takes place in the realm of gods and men and monsters. While my minotaur story is about a boy who thinks he's a monster, there are literal monsters, spells, and all sorts of spookies in my Persephone story. 

Obviously, there are lots of Persephone poems out there in the world, and this almost made me pause and write about someone else.  Io maybe, or Iphigenia. Daphne seemed too obvious, as did Leda. All adventures and epics must have a sense of journey and quest. Of movement.  Persephone seemed rife for this sort of epic adventure.  

Meanwhile, I've been consulting sources and reading other takes on her story (Rachel Zucker's Eating in the Underworld has always been a fave, as is dgp-er Shannon Ratliff's chapbook from a couple years back, Arch. It's too early to have sussed out all the themes that will be important in the book, but some are the idea of captivity and desire, mothers and daughters, death and sex.  It's a little smutty so far, and I think this may be lingerings of my prose erotica experiments back in the spring when I wasn't sure what to do with my new expanses of creative time. (Idle hands and the devil's work and

I would like to complete a first draft by the end of the summer, so we shall see how it goes...

You can see a little inspo real on instagram  I posted a couple days ago...

Saturday, June 25, 2022

for the love of research

Lady Mary Wroth

My first official (non-trial) assignment for the antique site I am writing dictionary entries for was devoted to collectible children's girl scout books, mostly handbooks, but other scouting-related publications. The history and evolution of the girl scout manual are interesting, going all the way back to when Juliette Gordon Low started the organization and penned the very first, a slender 16-page pamphlet. I followed it up with children's biographies, and while a little more complex and less sourced a topic, I managed to cobble together enough to make a go at it. It occurred to me as I backtracked info on things available in places like eBay, Ruby Lane, and Etsy, different books, and publishing imprints, how much I enjoy that sort of research and always have. I always joke that it makes ample use of my web stalking skills, which I've used in many ways, nefarious and less so, over the years. Not only was I excellent at seeing what old flames might be up to for my own curiosity, but also found a dress I may have seen on the street but had no details on.  Or a cool vintage dish or lamp I spotted in a decor magazine. I am usually pretty successful in my hunts. Some of it is surely my librarian-ish heart and past jobs, my experiences in graduate school, and just being a poet who uses research as a huge part of her process. 

This week's writing jobs were a mix, from the antique site to finishing up text and video script for the Chicago neighborhood guides I'm contributing to. My lessons were a mixed bag--Egyptian ruins, Macbeth and Othello, Sustainable Architecture, Demons. Sometimes it's things I know a lot about, but sometimes, it's entirely new.  I took a lesson this week on Lady Mary Wroth's "Pamphilia and Amphilantus," which I was completely unfamiliar with, strange considering she was one of the first women to write a sonnet sequence during the Renaissance and the first to write it from a female character p-o-v.  While admittedly my working knowledge of Renaissance lit is pretty much just Shakespeare and Milton, I was surprised to discover her work and spent an afternoon researching her and reading the sonnet sequence, which was published as an addendum to a novel, The Countess of Montgomery's Urania.

One of the pleasures of the work I am doing is such discoveries. To spend this time researching and writing almost exclusively some days. The writing itself is more arduous sometimes depending on my mood, and I put in long days so I can devote other days to creative things during the week,  but it is an enjoyable sort of work and one I am very good at. I've learned so much, be it architectural styles, artist biographies, girl scout memorabilia facts, or the delicious and intriguing existence of a garlicky plantain-based Puerto Rican sandwich you can find in Humboldt Park I am going to have to go in search of ASAP. 


Friday, June 24, 2022

let's not do the time warp again

I am always a little shocked each time I remember this fact that it wasn't until the year I was born--1974--that women could own their own credit cards.  That women actually could be distinct financial beings independent of men. I grew up in what felt like a feminist world--maybe not one that was as progressive as I'd like--and still moribund in so many 3rd Generation issues like media portrayals, slut shaming, unequal pay & opportunities, diet culture, marriage and family expectations--but one that at the very least guaranteed women fundamental rights to their own bodies, and to like vote. Numerous times, we were promised that the ERA was just over the horizon, but it never really was, and today cements that firmly.  

This morning, I saw my boyfriend off, climbed back into bed and opened Instagram to suddenly discover we had regressed nearly 50 years in not only feminism but human rights. I used to have a lot more compassion for conservatives. Or at least the pro-life conservatives.  Since Roe v. Wade was in the books, and in my understanding of it mostly gleaned from fashion magazines as a youth, I was certain was that those rights should be assured and I would definitely feel safer, as a woman, as someone who would eventually have sex, would eventually be making those sort of possible choices that they would exist. I would occasionally glimpse pro-life propaganda in the 80s--a billboard somewhere, a bunch of people with signs on the corner of a catholic church we passed frequently.  As a woman in my 20's and 30's I would have been more tolerant of the abortion issue as an issue--convinced that the while my own bodily autonomy was important to me, I could see why people would be concerned about fetuses if they were really into preserving something that was (they believed anyway) alive. You could say I could see both sides of the issue.

Except they weren't.--these people were usually also pro-death penalty and pro-guns. These same people would balk at restrictive measures when things like school shootings happened. Were it about the children, about babies, they surely would not make it so easy for people to just randomly pick them off one by one once they were out of the uterus.  It took me longer than most to realize it was about CONTROL--over women, their lives, their bodies.  We've all heard the story of the mythical woman pricking holes in condoms with a needle, and maybe these women exist, but a friend told me about at least two men she knew talked about rogue impregnation of women in order to secure their relationships or at the very least, link themselves to a woman, via a child to fuck up her life and ensure the trauma they wanted to inflict would last. (see this movie for an excellent example of this.)

The supreme court, the government --at least the government under Trumpf (and probably even still the government now in many ways) wants that control. Women who have reproductive freedoms revoked can be controlled and manipulated much easier than those free to choose.. I am thankful that I live in a blue state, and am probably long out of childbearing age anyway, Thankful that I never had a daughter of my own who would have to live under these conditions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

notes & things | 6/21/2022

This is that point in summer where the day is the longest, and somehow the past few mornings, I've woken early no matter how late I went to bed, most likely driven by that earlier sun (or sun at all since the spring / early summer was kind of gray and cloudy most days.)  The birds begin making a ruckus around 2 am, and I can see the light coming at around 4 when I finally fall asleep. The days that I am up exam up early allowing allow for a productive burst, but I usually need a nap mid-afternoon, especially the days that are godawful hot.  But its summer, and there are time for afternoon naps and still a good amount of day left afterward. This is the stretch of days I love and miss so much in the winter months. That 5pm-8pm time that spends a good part of the year in darkness, but during the summer lingers a bit longer. 

It seems fitting to be working on poems about Persephone right now. The series is going very well, and there seems enough there and within to go the whole mile and be an entire book.  I am notorious for thinking something may be a longer project, intending it to be so, and then reigning in.  Either there just isn't enough momentum or ideas or I get bored with it. The highway is littered with shorter projects once meant to be long ones. Many wind up in this strange space hovering around 40 pages. A little long for a chapbook and too short for a full-length. I've marked off June and July to keep at it. Possibly August. There are bits of things I intend to turn to after, plus a few things on the horizon for release.  Soon, I will start thinking about automagic, which is well-ordered and sound, but needs proofing and a cover design. I hope to release it in October in time for Halloween since it's a spooky little victorian feel book. 

Meanwhile, I've been stuffing myself with raspberries and spacing out my days with more freelance work, with edits and chapbook designs, with some painting over the weekend. So many good things are happening that it's good to feel excited again. I mean for real. Which seems like it would have been impossible even just a year ago. It was surely a case of convincing myself I was fine without actually being so.  I wrote it off to depression, to anxiety, to approaching middle age, to the general malaise we all feel, to covid, to the world just being incredibly stupid. All of those things are mostly still true and yet I feel different. I am not plagued by slow-burn anger and resentment that has been the general tone the past few years. It is not just more of the same, and the same old shit, but new things to look forward to. It's a lot of work, going it on my own, but I don't feel taken advantage of anymore and at the same time, have more focus where I need it to be. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

all work and maybe more work

One thing I've been thinking about quite a bit the past few months working on my own is the concept of leisure. What is it? Is it important? What legally constitutes leisure activities and what does not? Do hobbies count? Maybe, but what if you're hobbies are in some way like a job? It's especially wrought and all wound up if you are an artist, since so much of your way of being in the world is a kind of are never NOT being an artist, even if it's just thinking like one? 

I remember as a child longing for the sort of job that would be very different from my parents. Both worked long days (sometimes nights for Dad) and would arrive home exhausted, dragging through whatever obligations of the night (cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn) and then watching tv in the evenings, then going to bed.  My father was, and still is, a reader, so he would augment his watching with reading (  I have not quite been able to double task like this.)  My mom, when she worked in the home babysitting neighborhood kids and relatives, painted endless bisque objects (small figurines but also large pieces like lamps.) Later when she worked as a phone operator/mail person, she was too exhausted to paint and mostly would watch tv. Weekends meant housework and yard work but also things like long drives and camping trips on occasion. 

Granted my own schedules were different from my parents working evenings, but so much of my non-working time over the past 20 years has been devoted to creative work. It guided what I did around my job...either in my mornings at the studio or my late nights and all my weekends. If it wasn't the press and the shop, it was my own creative work. It pretty much guided even what I might have considered leisure...trips to conferences and university visits, readings, and outings with writers.  I had occasional dates, but not frequent enough to feel like something taking a lot of time outside my normal routines. My relationships were guided by stolen time, literally and just in a general sense of  long lunches and midnight movies. Ditto friendships, .most of my friend group were people I worked with in the library or met in the writing community. My relationship of the past few years is someone also trying to balance the same things with multiple gigs and pursuits. (though admittedly as an actor, his are occasionally paid quite a bit more.) 

One of the goals of leaving the library was of course to free up time to work on those creative things, or at least, work on creative things  (the content writing work is not the same as poems obviously, but still a kind of writing.) The first few weeks, as I figured out how to structure my days, I was careful to leave time in the evenings after 9pm or so for "liesure" and to block off my weekends. Nights would find me making dinner and maybe doing a little housework, but really, I wasn't quite sure how to spend this new unharried time. I wasn't ready to settle in with a movie or something on streaming.  It was too early for bed.  Shouldn't I be using this time for something productive?  Working on more poems, or maybe working on fiction? Planning social media content? Should actually be trying to squeeze in another paid assignment for extra money?  I did all of these things, but then would chide myself for not taking my new, freer, more leisurely life seriously.  Wasn't I supposed to be having some other kind of workj existence that I always wanted before but couldn't have working a full-time job?

I'm not saying I've figured it out by any means.  Lately, I work later on days devoted to freelancing, so usually finish up well after 10pm depending on when I get up and how quick I progress through assignments.  I'll be starting a new gig with a defined shift, which will give me a bit more structure in terms of needing to be online in 4-5 hour spans a couple times a week. . On press days, I may work a little shorter a shift but I rarely finish before 8 or 9. I give myself permission to keep going if I need to. I spend weekends if I can working on solely writing-related business, editing, and art things, making videos, and polishing the week's daily poems that I write over breakfast usually, though sometimes later if I get swept up in e-mails. . Somehow this feels okay, but then I worry that I traded one kind of overworking for another. But then again, some things that are work feel like leisure. Writing poems, making art. Even book assembly days technically feel liesurely, mostly cause I watch youtube videos while dong it. It also  doesn't quite feel as mentally taxing as layouts or design projects that demand detail-focused energy.

Weekends, though I am painting and making video poems, editing poems and making videos or reels still feels like leisure vs things done directly for money like freelance assignments. (The press and shop falls somewhere in the middle) In so many way, artmaking still feels like leisure except when it doesn't.  This is particularly true, not necessarily in writing or even editing, but more in the writing business side--the submitting and manuscript assembly and answering e-mails portion of it. Otherwise, it's more like play.  Perhaps this sort of quandary is also a necessary one when you make your hobbies side hustles, which I am notorious for on all fronts..(says the girl who once turned even thrifting into selling vintage on

Part of me wonders too, if everyone feels a bit like this during the pandemic, because even had I a huge going out places social life (I did not) any of that would be seriously curtailed now. So much of the complaints I hear of working at home is that it feels like you are always working because very little else naturally breaks it up unless you are super intentional about logging off and tuning out.