Friday, December 26, 2014

Year End Post: Vol. 1

So, five months is a long time to go between blogs, but it's been a crazy five months. This semester kind of kicked my butt, and not in the good way. Like, when you're at the gym and the perky blonde lady isn't sweating at all and she's got a perfect pony tail and her eye makeup is still pristine and she's like "this teacher kicks my butt!" I'm the one in the corner, red-faced, grunting and farting and trying not to vomit. This year was difficult.

But that's not to say that this year was without merit. I did a lot this year, and I thought I'd do a year-end wrap up post to say that yes, some good things did happen this year, and I need to be thankful for those things instead of dwelling on everything that went awry.

1. I got 75 rejections.

I have a goal of getting 100 rejections each year, because if I'm getting 100 rejections, it means I'm sending out work. Lots of work. I didn't reach that goal. I didn't reach that goal partly because things got a little hectic here at the end of the year. But I'd also like to think I didn't reach it due partly to:

2. I got 21 acceptances.

Twenty-one journals said yes to me! I might do a whole post on the whole process of acceptances & rejections & sending work out, because it's a weird process. It's like playing the lottery, and it's very tedious to send your work out, and I have to make it a game in as many ways as possible (the 100 rejections thing is one of those ways), but putting the work in is totally worth it. I got into a couple of my favorite magazines this year and I need to think about that on the bad days.

3. I completed yoga teacher training.

I am now a certified yoga teacher. I've only taught one class, but I've been thinking about trying to teach more. I really love teaching (both English and yoga), and there is something really nice about teaching a yoga class as opposed to an English class: mostly everyone who shows up to a yoga class is there by choice. I don't have to teach to the back-row sitters who are just snapchatting their buddies. Though, I guess, you'd be surprised about how many people I see texting in yoga.

4. On that note, I practiced yoga 160 times.

Hopefully a handful more by the end of the year. This is short of my goal for the year by 40 practices, but I celebrated my two-year yogaversary in November and I can't believe it. This is the longest I've ever stuck with any physical practice. I've started and quit so many sports in my life: volleyball, track, basketball, soccer, softball, cheerleading, running. I guess I was in cheerleading for three years, which is a little embarrassing to admit. Anyway, all this to say that I think I'll be happy about the number 160 instead of sad about the 40 I didn't do.

5. I did a buttaload of poetry readings.

I had a goal for this year in terms of poetry readings. That number was four, and I did way more than that. At least double. I love doing poetry readings more than I love doing just about any other thing, so this is definitely a goal I'm going to keep going into the new year.

6. I wrote approximately 110 poems.

Some of the poems I wrote and gave away to people at the Magers & Quinn 20th anniversary party, and some of the poems I wrote for Revolver's Write Fight, but I have most of the poems sitting on my desktop. I wanted to write 200 poems this year and I didn't do that, but I did write more than half that. And that's nothing to sneeze at.

7. I traveled. A lot.

I started the year in Ohio/Indiana for a little expedition related to a project I'm working on. I went on a writing retreat on the way back home in Wisconsin, where I almost got stuck because the weather on the day I left was about -30 degrees. IT WAS INSANE. But obviously I made it home.

I went to Alaska! This has been on my list of "yeah right" things I've wanted to do for such a long time, and for my husband's graduation present, his parents got us tickets to go to Juneau to visit his brother and their little family. It was such a blast.

I went to Vermont for the Bennington Writing Seminars anniversary thing, which was basically just a mini reunion for my grad school class, which was amazing.

I flew to Ohio right before fall semester started so I could go to my sister's baby shower, which was such a crazy time. I may never get to see her pregnant again, so there's no way in hell I was going to miss that one. It's so insane that humans can grow other humans inside of them.

I also got to go to Florida in May, where I got a ridiculous sunburn. I mean, a sunburn so bad I couldn't sleep on my back for a week. But I also got to see my mom and hang out with my family for a week, so no complaints.

8. I became an aunt.

Will's brother and his wife had a baby girl in May, and MY sister had a baby boy in November! I have never been much of a baby person, but it's totally different when it's a baby in your family. These kids are going to be so spoiled. I love it.

There are so many other things I did this year, too, and I may post about some more specific events in the coming days before the new year, but writing out these things I have to be thankful for was something I've been meaning to do for a long time. It's so easy to get caught up in the little stuff and forget the good things.

I hope you all had a fantastic year. Go and be good to each other.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Update: 101 in 1001, Part 1

Hey guys. I know I only first posted about my 101/1001 challenge about a month and a half ago, but I thought it could be fun to update a little bit about it already. Thinking about things I'd like to do over the course of the next couple of years definitely has me actively seeking opportunities to try new things and take necessary steps in accomplishing my goals.

I'm not going to share the whole list again, but I'll just comment on some of the things I've been up to in the last month or two!

The first and most important thing I crossed off my list was "Finish list of 101 things," which I completed on June 4th. I think it's fun to put things on lists that I know I'm going to do, like putting "eat lunch" on my daily to-do list. It was also nice to be able to cross out a thing right away. I did think for a few days about what I ultimately wanted on this list, but I like to dive into things head-first and knew that if I waited much longer, I probably wouldn't get around to finishing the list.

One of my other crossed-off goals was to do a bike ride/picnic with Will. I'm happy to say we've done this a couple of times this summer, but at the tail end of June, we biked with a couple of Subway sandwiches (all the veggies!!) down to Minnehaha Falls and ate them while people watching and listening to the almost-overflowing river rage on.

Another one I'm really excited about is the goal of going to at least four live concerts per year. Since making this list, we've gone to three live concerts, and have plans to see Jenny Lewis in August. I almost pee my pants every time I think about that. Jenny Lewis has been one of my favorite singers since my early college days, both as the frontwoman for the band Rilo Kiley and as a solo artist. I can't wait. The other three concerts we were able to see were the Zombie Pit String Band, my brother-in-law's awesome bluegrass band, Old Crow Medicine Show, which we were able to see for free at the 40th anniversary party for A Prairie Home Companion, and lastly, a local Reggae band called Dred I Dread.  I had never seen a Reggae concert before, and I was not disappointed. It was actually really great.

A few yoga-related goals I was able to cross off in the first week of this list were to hold crow pose for five breaths--I held it for six and only fell out because I started laughing--and to teach a yoga class, which was terrifying and amazing.

Under the category of "Travel & Adventure," I got to cross off "Take a cross-country road trip." In June, I drove from Minnesota to Vermont and back to attend the 20th anniversary of the Bennington Writing Seminars, where I graduated with my MFA in 2010. I love road trips. I think traveling in general can teach us a lot about who we are, especially when taking long trips. This trip in particular was a difficult one for a couple of reasons, but I made it there and back without speeding tickets, and I only cried in one Burger King parking lot.

The other item under "Travel & Adventure" I completed was "Do something that scares me," which is a pretty general task. However, I've done a number of things that scared me over the past few weeks: I participated in (and won!) a live writing competition--Write Fight--that was hosted by Revolver. Teaching the yoga class was also a rush for me, and just the other day I stepped very close the the ledge of a two-story high balcony.

This post has become unwieldy! And I'm only halfway through my list, so I'll continue this sucker later like an episode of a bad TV sitcom.

To be continued...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Crying in Public: It's Really, Really Cool

On Tuesday of this week, I was given the opportunity to participate in just one part of SHORE, Emily Johnson's multi-day performance. The part of SHORE I got to take part in was a curated reading. I gave a short reading along with seven other talented writers at the Loft in Minneapolis. A new and exciting thing for me! The rest of SHORE features volunteerism, dance, and feasting (probably my favorite of all four things). I saw the call for submissions on the Loft website. Emily curated this reading and asked that we send in pieces that were strongly tied to the idea of home, place, and land.

The town where I grew up is called Oak Harbor, and it's very small. When I say very small, I mean very small. The 2010 census clocked in around 2,500 people. I have friends who went to high schools bigger than that. I thought I really hated growing up in such a small town where everybody knew everybody's business, but then a few years ago, I pretty much barfed and all these poems about Oak Harbor just started coming out of me. I read four of them at the reading

The last poem I read was called "The House Does Not Look Burnt." It was published in an earlier version in Issue 27 of Neon Magazine in 2011. Three stanzas from the end of the poem, I just burst into tears. I made it to the end but kept apologizing and, thank God, there's even a video of this.

I was so embarrassed. I had never read the poem aloud at a reading before and had no idea that was going to happen. But after the reading, a lot of people came up to me and said "Hey, that's happened to me. Don't worry about it."

I'm not really sure what to do with this information. I did watch the video, like a scary movie: with a see-through scarf in front of my face, as if it would shield me from the embarrassment I felt. But it wasn't as bad as I remembered. I didn't have red snotty cry face, like I do when I cry at home. I just figure, when else am I going to get the chance to cry in front of a big group of strangers? So I'm posting the video here, because this is the true meaning of yolo.

If you want to see me read all the poems, I'm near the end of the reading. I get introduced around 1:03:48. If you have time, you should watch the whole thing--especially because at one point, Paula Cisewski reads three dazzling poems. If you just want to see the public crying, skip to 1:08:14. Also, if you've cried in public you now owe me a story.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Writing About Writing: Everyone's Favorite Least Favorite Thing

First of all, thanks to Kathleen Kirk for tagging me in this blog tour thing, and an apology to Molly Sutton Kiefer, who asked me to do this several months ago and I said I would and then didn't. Oops! I'm not a bad person, I just get distracted by TV shows. The two writers I'm tagging to do posts about this next are Joe Stracci and Erica Anderson-Senter, two fantastic writers and fantastic friends. Joe recently published a novel, Whitney, which you should definitely check out. At his book launch, I fell over a table and got a massive bruise which I nicknamed "Shame Bruise." It was there for many weeks as a reminder of how dumb I am. Erica is going into her second term in Bennington's MFA program (!!) and her poems drink diesel and scratch wherever they want, even if they're in public.

Erica hasn't actually agreed to do this yet, but you should check out her blog either way. I know if I waited for her permission I would get distracted by TV again and this post wouldn't transpire for another 3 months, my eyes glazed over with 3 seasons of Luther and a front to back rewatch of The West Wing.

Anyway, there are four questions here that I'm going to answer, and which Kathleen also answered, and which in theory, Joe and Erica will answer as well. Let's get to it then?

What are you working on?

That's always an interesting question for me, because I feel that the answer could likely be "nothing." I'm not really a planner when it comes to my writing. I do try to sit down and write at least a few times a week, but I don't have plans to finish anything in particular. I have a list of projects I flit between and work on whenever I feel called to. I'm trying to write poems named after each episode of The X-Files (I'm about halfway through season 1, writing-wise). I'm also writing a batch of poems based loosely on French New Wave films. The other thing I'm working on is a series of poems about the weird little town where I grew up. I assume it will be many years before any of these projects comes to a close.

How does your work differ from other writers in your genre?

It's hard to say. When I write poems I'm often inspired by other poets and the work of my friends and the members of my writing group, so I think that my poems are essentially tied to the work of many other writers. But then, I'm super weird (just check out the list of new things I did every day for five months in high school if you don't believe me), and so I think that on a fundamental level my poems are going to reflect my personality: weird. I like to try wacky stuff and write poems about the things that I find myself obsessing over, like stigmata and ghosts. 

Why do you write?

I've always been a writer. In second grade I wrote a poem called "FAT TURKY" [sic] in which I plot and execute a Thanksgiving murder (it was a turky, obviously), then eat the victim. In the end of the poem I get sad about having killed it but realize the turky is still alive in my "stumack" and we cut it out with a butcher knife. The details are murky but I don't hold grudges and now I like most birds. Anyway, I'm still writing.

What is your writing process?

My process isn't fancy. I just sit down and write. I pretty much only write poetry. I spend a lot of time thinking about poems and I have a lot of books full of ideas and words that I like. When I have thought about an idea for long enough, I sit down to write a poem about whatever that thing is. Sometimes I spend a long time procrastinating, and sometimes I give up right away. When I don't give up right away, I write a poem. It's either good or terrible. I hardly ever revise poems, because I'd rather just write a whole new poem than spend time making bad poems okay. That's probably the reason I've written about 700 poems since 2007. Because most of them are total crap.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

101 in 1001

I realize this is going to be my second list post in two days, but I was inspired yesterday by my friend Jaime's post about her progress on something called "101 in 1001." I was intrigued and looked into it a little more. The idea is simple: make a list of 101 things to accomplish in 1001 days. If there's anything I love, it's making a good list, and the mother of all lists is obviously the to-do list. What I liked about this project is that it gives you a time limit for the accomplishments, and it's also a great way to aggregate long- and short-term goals into one big list. So I made a list of my own.

I just finished the first thing on the list, which was to finish the list. And scarily enough, I'll be completing a second task on the list tonight: teach yoga. I'm going to be teaching my first yoga class this evening at Ambiente Gallerie in northeast Minneapolis. I'm both nervous and excited. I'll definitely keep you posted on how it goes!

Below is my list. What would be on yours?

101 in 1001: June 4, 2014 – March 1, 2017

1. Finish list of 101 things

2. Read a book together
3. Spend nothing for two weeks
4. Create list of life goals
5. Go canoeing
6. Go to a scotch tasting
7. See the orchestra
8. Bike ride & picnic
9. See a live sporting event
10. Go to 4 concerts
11. Go camping
12. Go sailing
13. Visit a museum
14. Get a pet
15. See a meteor shower
16. Ride a tandem bicycle

17 Practice yoga at least 12 times per month
18 Take 30 yoga classes in 30 days
19 Hold crow pose for at least 5 breaths
20 Teach yoga
21 Participate in a race of some kind
22 Bike or walk to work when possible instead of driving
23 Work toward full splits on both sides
24 Try a new kind of exercise or class

25 Go to my 10 year high school reunion
26 Get a passport
27 Go to France
28 Visit 3 new states (Maine, Alaska, TBD)
29 Go backpacking
30 Take a cross-country road trip
31 Visit a famous landmark I've never been to
32 See something that claims it's the “world's largest” of whatever that thing is
33 Do something that scares me
34 Go snowshoeing
35 Go skydiving
36 Visit the Boundary Waters
37 Go to the zoo
38 Meet somebody famous
39 Ride in a hot air balloon
40 Go to an amusement park
41 Visit the Mall of America
42 Swim with a dolphin
43 Visit a national park I've never been to
44 Go somewhere haunted

45 Participate in at least 4 poetry readings per year
46 Read at least 4 books per month
47 Write down all books read & movies watched for the duration
48 Get into at least 1 top-tier journal
49 Write at least 15 poems per month
50 Put together a solid full-length manuscript
51 Get 100 rejections per year (magazines, contests, etc.)
52 Get head shots taken by a real person instead of selfie-ing
53 Go on a writing retreat
54 Enter & win a writing contest
55 Take a class at the Loft
56 Publish another chapbook
57 Apply for a PhD program in creative writing
58 Write a short story
59 Attend at least 30 readings

60 Try to buy mainly used clothing
61 Try 10 new board games
62 Do a new thing every day for 1 month
63 Go through my clothes & donate what I don't wear
64 Host a dinner party
65 Take a photo every day for a month
66 Get my weird tattoo covered up
67 See the Northern Lights
68 Go back to vegetarianism for at least a month
69 Sing Men In Black at karaoke
70 Throw something into a wood chipper
71 Milk a cow
72 Say yes more

73 Give up all social media for a week
74 Keep blog updated
75 See all movies on AFI top 100
76 Go to the drive-in
77 Watch all the movies we own that I haven't seen
78 Give up internet games for a year

79 Cook 20 new recipes
80 Try being vegan for 1 month
81 Try 5 new foods
82 Eat something I grew myself
83 Be diligent about composting and recycling
84 Cook all my own meals for a month (no dining out)

85 Tackle the books
86 Organize the kitchen
87 Plant something
88 Get a huge bookshelf
89 Wall art
90 Get a new computer
91 Get real bedroom furniture (dressers)
92 Decorate the bedroom so it doesn't look like a prison cell

93 Try 10 new restaurants
94 Go on a brewery tour
95 Go to the Minnesota State Fair
96 Minneapolis movies in the park or music in the park
97 Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight showing
98 Go to the farmer's market
99 Go to 4 different summer festivals
100 Explore Minneapolis & St. Paul on my bike
101 Have dinner on a rooftop patio

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Doing New Things

I recently made a pact with a friend to try and do a new thing every day and see how long I could run with it. The conversation came up while we were at Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge in Minneapolis, because we ordered a huge drink that was on fire; something I'd never done before. I remembered having done a similar challenge when I was in high school as a new year's resolution and I've been thinking about that list ever since. Today, I found it, and I'm typing it up: all the weird stuff I did in 2004. I only made it to May, and the list is incomplete. Many days are missing, but this is truly too weird not to put up on the internet.

I'm not changing the way that I wrote anything down because it's just living proof I've always been super weird. Also, a lot of these things seem pretty unsafe, or they are just gross. Some of them I have no idea what they mean.

1. Ate paste
2. Gauged ears
3. Drank Dr. Pepper Red Fusion
4. Called the last person listed in the phonebook & told him he won six dollars
5. Made a collage
6. Walked on tables during College Composition class
7. Gave a dog a barnacle
8. Threw a full pop at the side of a moving train
9. Bought CD of a band I've never heard of
10. Drove home from work with my knees
11. Smashed an egg in my fist
12. Cut my eyelashes
13. Screamed "FOOD FIGHT!" in the cafeteria
14. Wore 21 shirts at the same time
15. Danced in the street
16. Ate a post-it note
17. Rode in the trunk of a car
18. Tipped Denny's waitress $50
19. Wrote all over my body with Sharpies
20. Punched somebody
21. Got a professional massage
22. Ate a spoonful of cocoa powder
23. Did our own Mystery Science Theater 3k @ Brad's house
24. Sat in cemetery @ night & watched stars
25. Busted a gallon of milk
26. Wrote my name in blood
27. Wrote a threatening message on the mirror
28. Danced about my my unda-wears
29. Wore a lampshade on my head
30. Naked snow angel
31. Went poo in a bag

1. Yelled YAHOO! real loud in a New York Walmart, danced with parking cone on my head
2. Snowboarded
3. Farted in a jar
4. Wiped dry-erase board clean with face
5. Got a swirlie
6. Took No-Doz
7. Won a cake, smashed Sam's face in cake
8. Pierced fingernail
9. Shoved a friend into a door
10. Read book backwards
11. Asked strangers for food
12. Played flute in hotel lobby
13. Went inside a Krispy Kreme truck
14. Dyed hair black/brown
15. Serenaded Melissa at her window at night
16. Drank toilet water
17. Won a pageant for Miss East Oak Harbor. I hate you Laura.
18. Took a sleeping pill
19. Received anonymous gift
20. Two hour Mad Libs
21. Lied & got away with it
22. Watched Aqua Teen Hunger Force
23. Wrote on Grant's forehead with marker
24. Told customer to have a bad day
26. Depansted Alana
27. Took part in a successful surprise party
28. Witnessed a man leg waxing
29. Broke into abandoned insane asylum

1. Stood under a helicopter as it took off
2. Sang Josh Groban song @ lunch while standing on chair
3. Wore nametag at work that said "Funk Master B"
4. Hardcore papercut
5. Saw MeWithoutYou, signed up for PETA
6. Scootered all over town
7. Knocked over toothpick container @ Denny's
9. Dressed up like a secret agent
12. Sent mass amounts of letters
17. Box fort
21. Freezer crisis
22. Got trophy
24. Handcuffed to somebody while driving
25. Wore makeup that made it look like I was beat up
26. Acted in a play
27. Went to a bar
28. Told somebody exactly what I thought of them
29. Started a fight with a kid I didn't know
30. Got a tattoo
31. Read a comic book

1. Ran down the street in the rain screaming
2. 50-person game of Mad Libs
3. Drove through gigantic puddle
4. House sat
5. Threw up orange soda
6. Made soup for a sick friend
7. Chased somebody like a zombie
8. Recorded a song I helped write
9. Shot a music video
10. Sat on the roof
11. Put candle out with fingers
12. Got accused of breaking into the high school (I did)
13. Took all the labels off a friend's canned food and taped them to the wall
14. Made 20-foot chain out of coat hangers
15. Interviewed kindergarteners, ate part of a crayon
16. Shook hands with John for five minutes
17. Pillow fight with myself
20. Franklin Park boobs
22. Brushed teeth w/ grape soda
26. Yelled at boss
27. Witnessed an explosion, filed police report
28. Changed pants in car
29. Showered with clothes on

1. Played hide & seek in cars
2. Dance Dance Revolution
6. Went to Chicago
7. Saw Blue Man Group
8. Ate at Medieval Times
11. Bandage arms!!!
12. Walked around with zipper down on purpose

That's where it ends. The new things I'm trying this year, ten years later, are a little less weird. Maybe.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Month With All the Stuff In It

I feel like I'm always telling somebody that I'm about to become "less busy," but then it never happens. I just stay busy. I only finished grading all the essays from my spring semester kids a little over a week ago, and Tuesday I began teaching my summer term course. Honestly, it's just as well that I have a little structure to my summer. I go absolutely bananas without a normal routine. There's crying and lots of eating involved, and a good measure of comatose staring-off-into-the-distance, all of this paired with ceaseless streaming of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This summer I'll be teaching just one Tuesday/Thursday morning course with only ten students in it--just enough to offer me some semblance of routine. I also plan to stay as busy as possible throughout the summer, and if this week is any indication of how that's going to pan out, I figure I won't have any problem at all.

Monday I had a meeting at St. Thomas for an exciting new class I get to teach there next semester. To clarify: the course isn't new to St. Thomas, just new to me. I get to teach the book Things That Are by Amy Leach, which is a beautiful and wonderfully neologistic lyric essay put out by Milkweed Editions. If you can get your hands on a copy, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday I taught the first class of summer semester and forgot everyone's name as soon as they all left. Then I had lunch in Minneapolis with some people from the Loft and Daniel Jones, the "Modern Love" columnist for the New York Times. How surreal, considering I basically only got to do this because I won a raffle.

Yesterday evening I went to the Master's Essay Presentation event at St. Thomas with my husband, who will be graduating on Saturday with a Master's in English. Somebody referred to him as "the man, the myth, the legend" so I'm wondering if he has special abilities I don't know about aside from being ridiculously brilliant. We went out for a celebratory drink and had to rush home by 9 so that I could participate in Write Fight--an online writing competition hosted by Revolver. My poem is up all day and is facing off against Meghan Pipe's piece, so if you have a few minutes before 9:00 PM (CST), go here and read and vote for your favorite one!

I just got home from guest-hosting a Spongebob-themed episode of What Did You Look Up On Wikipedia, which will probably be available for public consumption in the coming weeks. Spoiler alert: I dress up like Patrick and we drink Pina Coladas. We talk a lot about the implausibility and esoteric nature of the Spongebob Universe, and ask some really probing questions. I'll let you know when you can watch it!

For now I have to go and eat something that's not a french fry. (I love you, french fries. I hope you don't read this blog. If so, I'm not serious.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Update: I'm Not Dead

Another semester is coming to a close, and I'm putting off the last of my grading by writing a blog post, listening to hip hop, and drinking the hell out of some coffee. The only good thing about grading as one of the biggest proportions of my job is that much of my job, in turn, can be performed in my pajamas.

I thought I'd give an update on my new year's resolutions, seeing as it's about a third of the way into the year already (oh crap oh crap oh crap). It's so funny how one of the longest, hardest winters of my life also seemed to fly by the quickest. From mid-February to mid-April, I was chest-deep in yoga teacher training, which is probably one of the crazier things I've ever done. Teaching two writing intensive courses and taking an eight week, 200-hour certification class? And teaching a class at the Loft? And meeting a five-day-a-week yoga practice requirement? And meeting deadlines for some serious grant proposals? And keeping my cool/not flipping my lid? That's definitely something I didn't live up to. My lid was constantly on the verge of being flipped or in total up-in-the-air MEGA FLIP mode. And my planner looked like a novel-in-progress.

But now I feel my life quietly coming back to me. Eight weeks of total chaos abruptly ended, and I'm no longer in yoga seminar ten hours a week. Then I met Garrison Keillor and he read my poem (I plan to make a real post about this later). Then the semester ended, and all I have left is to face some serious freshman paper grading. If I could beat the winter, I can definitely beat some freshman research essays. Though this semester I had the sense to put the kibosh on essays about legalizing marijuana or changing the legal drinking age to 18. 

Anyway, back to the resolutions, one of which was to complete a yoga teacher training program and become a certified yoga teacher. Checkmark! Done. My other goals are ongoing, and mostly writing related:

* Do four poetry readings (I've done three this year, actually!)
* Read at least 52 books (I'm standing at 27, though they're mostly poetry books, admittedly, and I read the majority of them during January)
* Write 200 poems (I've written 60)
* Work on a manuscript (I haven't done this at all--thanks for such an ambiguous goal with no tangible steps to tackle it)
* Get 100 rejections (33 so far--right on target!)
* Practice yoga 200 times (I have a sticker chart for this, and it is as motivational to me now as it was in 2nd grade. I've tracked 78 since January 1st)

Those are my big goals and I feel good about sticking to them. In addition to the 33 poetry rejections, I've gotten ten acceptances, too, including one from the Potomac Review this morning! I am definitely digging this acceptance-to-rejection ratio, but honestly it's really mostly luck, I feel like. If I've learned anything from being a poetry editor, it really depends on my mood when I'm reading through submissions. But here's to another eight-ish months of writing and reading and doing more things I really love. Life is pretty cool sometimes. Like, being alive is nice.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lit Readings and Candy

I feel like I have so much news to report!! As the first order of business, I have definitely used up my quota of exclamation points for the year, and it's only February. That means it's gonna be a good year.

Aside from the fact that I just scarfed down four "fun sized" candy bars (they are so scarfable), I have been a busy little beaver (are there busy big beavers?). It seems that the more I read and write, the more interested I am in participating in the wider community of literature. One of my goals at the current moment is to continue to actively use my planner, which is great, because I enjoy writing things down (and crossing things off!), and because I'm less likely to forget about appointments or events I'd like to attend if I have written them down. While I sometimes use the calendar feature on my phone, I prefer writing my life down. It feels more satisfying to me that way. All this to say, I checked back on the past few weeks of my life and saw that I attended three poetry readings.

Will and I went to a reading at the Triple Rock Social Club called Irregular Readings, and got to see John Jodzio and Matt Rasmussen read. It was a relatively small gathering. John read a hilarious story about a kid with a job at a drug testing facility (there were lots of stories and poems about drugs).

I just ate three more candy bars.

Here is Mark being a badass poet guy.
The second reading was Mark Wunderlich's book launch at The Loft with Graywolf Press. His new book, The Earth Avails, is gorgeous and haunting. My favorite poem he read was a long, dreamy elegy for a home that no longer exists, and which is aptly titled "Driftless Elegy." I had Mark sign a copy of the book, and the rumors are true: his penmanship is almost literally to die for.

The last reading I went to was at a little place called Maeve's Cafe. I guess there are readings there every other month or so. From what I can gather, they seem to showcase a wide variety of local talents. It was so wonderful to see Kristin Fitzsimmons of Our Flow Is Hard read her poems.

Oops I just spent 45 minutes watching videos on What Did You Look Up On Wikipedia?, the website that Kristin co-owns with somebody else named Sally.

I have other things to report, but I will save said other things for another time. Right now I have some more candy/videos to attend to. And I should probably do some actual work, too, but we'll see how much of this candy work I get accomplished first.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

January Wrap-Up

January's gone, so I thought I might do a January wrap-up post where I talk about some of the books/movies I've consumed this month. I read 18 books:

Jack Gilbert Collected (technically one book, technically six books)
- Views of Jeopardy
- Monolithos
- The Great Fires
- Refusing Heaven
- The Dance Most of All
- Uncollected

If you haven't read Jack Gilbert, you're seriously missing out. There's this way he has, of making small observations about humans, and making them really count. Or he will paint a small scene and put you in it. He can write a poem about cooking fish with lemons and it's perfect. It also makes me want to eat fish with lemons.

I traveled throughout the first week or so of January, and I got to see Russ Woods and Jeannette Gomes. We played a lot of Mad Libs and drank a lot of tea, and Russ gave me a few books to read:

NODS - Carrie Lorig
Root Poems - Carrie Lorig & Russ Woods

These are worth reading. In Russ's words, he said, "I feel like we're almost daring editors to like us."

You can probably tell that I read a lot of poetry.

More Books I Read in January

Among Women - Jason Shinder
Rare Earth - Bradford Tice
Sleeping With the Dictionary - Harryette Mullen
Ghost Fargo - Paula Cisewski
The Pajamaist - Matthew Zapruder
Last Night Was Worth Talking About - Gregory Sherl
Chapbook - Zach Haber
Thin Kimono - Michael Earl Craig
Bird Eating Bird - Kristen Naca
The Vital System - CM Burroughs

Of these books, the ones I loved most intensely were Among Women, Sleeping With the Dictionary, Ghost Fargo, and The Vital System. I wrote a whole post about Sleeping With the Dictionary a week or two ago, so I won't say any more about that aside from READ IT. I will say about the Shinder book that it broke my heart, and I just finished The Vital System a few days ago and I'm still thinking about it. Ghost Fargo is exactly the kind of book I needed to read this month--it's about love and loss of a physical place as home, as a place for memories. It made me so sad, wistful, made me ache for the place where I grew up, which is great because I'm trying to write about that now anyway.

I saw Bradford Tice read from his book in November at the New Rivers Press event where my friend Joe Stracci's book, Whitney, was also released, and I had to buy Rare Earth. He uses such a rich vocabulary, which can sometimes be distracting for me in poetry, especially if I don't know what certain words mean (I have to look up a lot of things all the time), but the richness of Tice's vocabulary isn't at all distracting. It beefs up the flavor of the poems, to use a phrase I hate ("beef up").

In addition to noting the books I read this month, I also wrote down all the ways I wasted my time watching a screen. Here are the movies/TV shows I watched in January:

Inside Llewyn Davis
Fargo (rewatch)
The Story of Film (we're ten episodes in, five to go)
Veronica Mars (Season 1)
Return of the Jedi
But I'm a Cheerleader
The Graduate
Kissing Jessica Stein
High Fidelity (rewatch)
I also watched a few stray episodes of X-files, Supernatural, and Undeclared.

I could rewatch High Fidelity a million times. It's definitely on my top five desert island list of movies. Fargo is pretty good, too, but not on my top five. Maybe top twenty.

Watching The Story of Film is very interesting. At first, we turned it off because the narrator's voice is so grating. Everything he says sounds like a question, and sometimes he'll go into bouts of metaphor spewing (he really likes calling Hollywood a "bauble") that are somewhat obnoxious. But his critique of films is spot on, and he knows his stuff. I've put a number of movies on my list to watch based on his analysis of the films and why they're important. This is a big reason we watched Pickpocket, which Will described as a cross between The Stranger and Crime and Punishment. Very good.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Read Things! Or, Listen to Me Go On and On About Sleeping With the Dictionary

I'm coming strong into my fourth week of quitting internet games cold turkey. No Candy Crush. No Bubble Safari. I blocked all games and game request features on Facebook and I am too dumb to figure out how to unblock them, which is definitely for the best. I told Will that if I say something about internet games, he has to come and forcibly remove my computer from in front of me. I say this because the past four weeks have been productive in ways that I wasn't productive last year. I'm sick of wasting my time doing things that don't serve me.

Since the first of the year, I've already read thirteen books--which, shamefully, is just under the total number I finished last year. I don't want to jinx myself, but jinxing yourself is a chance you've got to take sometimes--high jinx!

Of the ones I've read so far this month, I'm still inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) flipping my lid over one of them: Sleeping With the Dictionary by Harryette Mullen.

The way I came into this book is magical in itself. I was on the phone yesterday with Erica, who's at her very first residency out at Bennington's MFA program (!!), and she told me that one of their workshop prompts was to write a poem in the style of Harryette Mullen. I said to her, "I don't know who Harryette Mullen is." As she was saying these words: "Harryette Mullen wrote a book called Sleeping With the Dictionary," Will came scooting into the bedroom and tossed Sleeping With the Dictionary into my hands. It took me a second to realize what was going on; it was one of those strange moments that is simultaneously mundane and mysterious. Will had checked the book out of the library while I was away a few weeks ago. I took it as a sign.

I spent all day with the book, and it took me a few poems to catch on to what was happening there. The way that Mullen uses language made me literally scream a few times. I read most of the poems aloud, and I didn't want it to end. I'm not surprised at all that Sleeping With the Dictionary was nominated for the National Book Award when it came out in 2002. And about that: how did you, my friends, let me go so long without reading this? Shame on you all! Shame! (I have used up all of my exclamation points for the year in this one blog post.)

The poem I liked most is called Kirstenography, which I assume is written for Mullen's sister. The whole poem is written like the game Mad Gab, or like a child who is imitating language she hasn't quite picked up yet, or like a secret language between the sisters:

When her smoother and farther wrought her chrome from the hose spittle, her cistern fought the piddle ably was a girly heeded bawl. 

It's a story of a family, of two girls. The prose poem goes on like this for a page and a half. I can't even tell you how many times I read it. Over and over.

You should definitely read the book for yourself. Mullen uses language in so many surprising, inventive ways, I felt as if I were being let into somebody's secret world, which is probably just one aim of Sleeping With the Dictionary.

Anyway, I'm done rambling about this book, though I could say much more. Find it in your library or buy it from a bookstore. I'll probably end up purchasing it for myself sometime in the near future.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Some Thoughts on Plagiarism

Somebody even typed & scanned this bad boy.
Many of you probably know that I wrote a very short poem in graduate school that was co-opted by a group of who I assume to be teenage girls. It was reblogged all over Tumblr, and I didn't know until one afternoon when Will yelled "Holy crap, come look at this!"

I was super flattered, of course, and still am. But I guess all these people have been plagiarizing that poem. The sentiment of the poem is basic. I'm sure other people have had the same thought, but the ripoffs are blatant. And terrible, at that.

I never thought that this would be a problem I have. I call it a problem, but it's not really a problem. It's more of a nuisance. My mom used to tell me and my sister (and told me again on the phone the other day) that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. But I can think of flattering things to do that are way better than plagiarizing my poem.

For instance, send me a dollar. Or a muffin.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Being Rejected

Here I am, almost two weeks into this new year we have. I am drinking a Coke Zero and neglecting to water my cactus. What are you doing?

I have the idea that if I blog more this year, I will be more likely to stick with my other goals, like writing more (at least 200 poems this year, I hope), reading more (at least 52 books this year, I hope), and submitting more poems for publication.

Over the past few months (okay, let's be realistic--years) I've let myself get lazy. I looked at my Submittable account and realized that I had ZERO outstanding magazine submissions. A few years ago I undertook a project with my friend Tanya to try and garner 100 rejections throughout the "submission year," which meant starting September 1 and ending August 31 of the following year. This year, it's my goal to get 100 rejections again, but during the calendar year.

It's tough hearing people say no to you. It reminds me of when I was a kid and wanted so badly to have friends sleep over, and would get very excited but was told no. How sad, right? I just wanted to paint nails and braid hair and talk about boys. Okay, I never did those things. My friends and I recorded fart noises on my Talkboy and played them back in slow motion while strangers walked by.

Either way, good thoughts for this year of being told no a lot. I've already sent out around twenty submissions this year, and have been told no three times so far. Here's to rejection!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thoughts on New Beginnings

Every time I write, I find myself writing about the passage of time. It's this day, it's this month, it's this new year. Arbitrary, maybe. But that's what happens. I go to the fridge and I look at the expiration dates. Most of the things are past the expiration dates. I eat the things anyway. I get sick.

I was on the road for so long, I forgot how it felt to be in my own bed. I can't believe the people I know. And I really can't believe they put up with me.

It's the new year, and so I'm making promises to myself I likely won't keep. I think it's good to have goals. And sometimes, I think it's just as well we give up on them.