A Little Bit About Rain, a Little Bit About Writing

It’s so rare to be enjoying a thunderstorm here in my part of Georgia (Marietta)—usually it rains for 10 minutes and then stops, and the humidity jacks up to 600%.  (To be fair, once this storm is over, the humidity will probably reach 600%, but that’s neither here nor there.)  The point is, I’m not being disturbed by neighbors working on their yards and stirring up a racket with power tools.  It’s tapering off a little now, but I don’t mind, as long as the sun doesn’t try to hack its arrogant way through the gray sky.  (Which is so rude!)

Why am I talking about the weather?  Shouldn’t I be talking about writing?  I think I am.

Writing, sometimes, is like a storm, and sometimes like a drizzle (not to be all binary in my thinking, but…).  Since I’ve returned home from Rockvale, it’s been bone dry.  I don’t say this with a “waaaahh, feel sorry for me” warble in my voice.  I have put the time to good use—supporting my writing by researching venues and submitting work to a number of places I’ve never heard of before but that look interesting.  I’ve also been working on a couple of applications for future residencies, which would be wonderful if at least one panned out. As I was telling myself the other day, publishing is a numbers game—you just gotta keep sending out work to places and hope it hits.

It takes stamina though to submit work.  I know several writers who only submit a few times a year, and then I know a guy on Twitter who bragged about having 266 active submissions in his Submittable queue.  (Not gonna lie, that’s definitely something worth bragging about.)  The highest number of active submissions in my queue ever was probably 75, but I was kind of a submitting machine in 2019, and since then I manage around 30-35.  Of course, logic says, if I believe publishing is a numbers game, I should be submitting more, and I do think that for sure, but I also know that you can’t do everything.  As much as I’d like to have 75 subs in the queue, I will be happy if I maintain a goal of 30-35, replenishing as needed as the rejections (and hopefully acceptances!) roll in.  I can do a lot of submitting over the next four months…you know, assuming those pesky job responsibilities don’t impede me too much.  😊

*****

Recently, I’ve been assisting a new-to-poetry writer.  She found me on Poets & Writers, and just cold-emailed me about helping her develop poems, talk about craft, and work on process and revision options.  It’s been so much fun.  We’ve been meeting via Zoom, and I’ve kind of based my work with her on the creative writing tutorials I’ve run for graduate students at Georgia Tech.  The difference is, she’s older, she has earned an MFA in fiction (so she’s not new to creative writing or the heavy-duty commitment it entails), and she seems really invested in poetry.  (She took poetry up during Covid; she said that coming up with long-form fiction was too difficult with the world so askew, and so she decided to try poetry instead.)  We’ve only been working together since the end of June, and I don’t know if this is a short-term gig or long-term project, but I’m really enjoying it. I bet all writers could use a coach at some point.  I’m sure I could have any number of times.  Hopefully, she’s finding our sessions productive, and the comments I make on her poems to be useful.  It’s definitely been useful to me…now, if I could just remember some of the “nuggets of wisdom” for myself that I’ve passed on to her!

In other—but somewhat related—writing news (related by coaching, that is), I recently became one of the inaugural members of the Georgia Tech Faculty Writing Fellows, a program through GT’s Office of Professional Development.  This honor comes with coaching sessions, writing retreats, and writing exchanges.  It will be a lot of work, but I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.  Of course, most of the writers in the program are tenure-track researchers—I’m probably the only creative writer—but hey, extra eyes on work are always a good thing.  And while I work on this next book I can use all the eyes I can get.  Plus, it’s nice to have a fellowship on the old CV, you know?  Even if it’s just something through work.

Ah well, the sky is getting lighter and I see sun reflections off cars and the cul-de-sac puddles.  And now a blaze of sun.  The storm was lovely while it lasted.

I hear a mourning dove somewhere outside cooing.  I think she liked the rain too.

New Poems in Hole in the Head Review

Well, sadly, I may be back in The ATL again, after my wonderful time at Rockvale, but some good things greeted me on the way back:  Jenny (of course!), and five new poems up in Hole in the Head Review.  So very grateful for their support of writers and their belief in my work!

The poems are kind of a mixed bag–they all belong to several different collections I have going on at the same time.  I was really surprised and delighted they took all of them, especially because they are basically unrelated to each other.  So anyway, if you want to see a range of new work, check out my new poems.

I hope you like them!

Daughter of the Wheel and Moon Released!

My second print chapbook, Daughter of the Wheel and Moon, has been released as part of the artisanal Red Mare Chapbook Series (#21).  I got copies in the mail yesterday!

The Red Mare Chapbook Series produces a limited print run of hand-numbered, handmade books, with fancy papers, ink-block-printed covers, and hand-stitching.  These are beautiful books that feel decadent in your hands, books that you appreciate for their ephemerality, quality, and uniqueness.  Poets who have been published in the series include Maxine Chernoff, Alfred Corn, Lorraine Caputo, and others.

The press specializes in works with an ecofeminist bent, and Daughter of the Wheel and Moon combines poetry about nature and the environment with a focus on the magickal Wheel of the Year to tell about the life of a solitary practitioner witch.  It may—or may not—be a companion piece to What Magick May Not Alter… you can decide for yourself.

Daughter of the Wheel and Moon is available for $15 + shipping. If you buy a copy, you are supporting a woman-owned, non-profit, small press.  And, of course, you’re supporting poetry—so it’s win-win!

Great Review in Midwest Book Review for What Magick May Not Alter!

MBR Bookwatch: September 2020
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575
 
 
Helen Dumont’s Bookshelf
 
What Magick May Not Alter: Poems of Tallulah & Vidalia
J. C. Reilly
Madville Publishing
9781948692304, $18.95, PB, 188pp
 
 
Synopsis: “What Magick May Not Alter: Poems of Tallulah & Vidalia” by J. C. Reilly is a layered Southern fantasy told in a series of narrative poems and is a unique literary event that includes such elements of ‘real world’ issues such as the prevalence of the KKK, sexual assault, manslaughter, alcoholism, and complex family dynamics. J. C. Reilly’s poetic narrative style deftly moves the plot into emotionally treacherous and painfully real places.
 
Twin sisters Lulah and Vi anchor this story of a magically gifted family and is set in early nineteen-hundreds Louisiana. The choice to tell this story in verse sets it apart, making it feel like a spell book or a manifesto at times. Emotion sings through it clear and strong.
 
Critique: Inherently fascinating and unique, “What Magick May Not Alter: Poems of Tallulah & Vidalia” is an extraordinary and memorable verse based novel and showcases author J. C. Reilly’s truly impressive poetic and narrative storytelling skills. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that “What Magick May Not Alter: Poems of Tallulah & Vidalia” is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
 
Helen Dumont
Reviewer
 
***Note from JC:  Thanks Helen!  I appreciate it so much!***

Catfish Moon (poem reading)

from the NY Public Library Digital Collections

from the NY Public Library Digital Collections

Since all poetry readings are canceled for the foreseeable future, I thought I would take the opportunity to read a few poems over the next several days from my new book What Magick May Not Alter.

This poem called “Catfish Moon,” named after the full moon in August (which is technically the Sturgeon Moon, but this is poetry, and we take liberties).

(Also, the picture looked backwards when I was filming it, but it’s correct when you watch the video, so forget my little “backwards” comment.)

If you like the video, or this blog, please feel free to share it near and far!

 

 

My Book Is Finally Getting Published!

madville publishing picOMGWTFBBQ!  Wonderful news, everyone!  After 45 rejections, give or take, my full-length collection of narrative poetry, What Magick May Not Alter, has found a home at Madville Publishing and will be released in 2020!

Being as you are one of my Five Loyal Readers, you might remember I wrote about the collection in a 2015 blog post, after my Mom had read it and was horrified.  I had no idea that it would be a full three-and-a-half years later before it would get accepted at a reputable press.  (Which is to admit, it got accepted at a couple of other presses, but I didn’t have a good feeling about them, not for this book, anyway, so I passed.)  Considering that I wrote the earliest poems in 2012—the book will be 8 years old when it comes out next year.  I’m so in a different head space now.  (But I can slip back into that world, don’t worry.)

It has been an excruciating process, over all, submitting and submitting and submitting some more, only to have the rejections pile up (not to mention all the money I spent on contest and submission fees).  Anyone who’s a writer is familiar with this repeated anguish of submission and rejection—I know this isn’t unique to me. A bright spot was the 2015 Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize, for which it was a finalist, but even that was a long time ago.

I really had gotten to the point of abandoning it—how many times did I hear, “It’s too long” or “No one wants to read a verse novel” or some version of  “It’s unwieldy—weird—just a tough sell.” (Like anyone “sells” poetry anyway.)

Even after the divinely generous, brilliant poet Ilya Kaminsky (basically a living patron saint of poetry) read through it and offered suggestions, I was ready to hang it up.  I just thought that nobody really understood what I was trying to do, and maybe I should try to publish a more conventional collection of poems first.  Heaven knows I have poems enough to spare to create a couple of (oddball) collections.  And, I thought, maybe in a few years, WMMNA would be of interest to someone.  After I had “proved” myself with a traditional book of poems.

But fortunately Madville came along—it’s absolutely been worth the wait.  I’m so excited to be working with Kim Davis, the publisher.  She’s been so positive and supportive and I have such a good feeling about this book coming out under her aegis.  I’m just so happy.

And I can’t wait for you to read it in April next year…in the cruelest month that will no longer ever be the cruelest month for me!

 

P.S.  I’m available for bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, and you know, just hanging-out-spontaneous-type readings… Just invite me!

P.S. #2  I still have to do a clean edit, and maybe rethink some organization, so it still needs some work, but OMG!  So Awesome!  Yay!

Solstice

Long beach postcard 1910

Image from NYPL Public Domain Digital Collection

It’s the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  Sunset tonight is technically 8:51 p.m., but of course it will still be light out closer to 10 (for a total of 14 hours and 24 minutes of sunshine).  It’s the kind of day I could imagine myself being out by the ocean for as long as possible—you know, if Atlanta was on the coast.  Which alas, it is not.

I simultaneously love and hate this day—I love it because it’s high summer and there’s something interesting about the sun being out as I’m (supposed to be) readying myself for sleep.  But I also hate it because it means the days will now get progressively shorter, creeping as they do towards the fall and a new school term.  (I’ve had this love-hate thing with the day since I was little.)

Anyway, here is a poem I wrote several years ago commemorating the summer solstice.  Initially I planned to write something New Agey and mystical—but then I defaulted to funny.  This poem has always been one of my favorites, and it always makes me laugh.

Solstice

Tonight is the shortest of the year,
not enough time to break into Mr. Next Door’s
shed and rearrange his tools,
hide the scotch he keeps on a ledge
beside the coiled snake of orange power cord,
let the air out of the tires of his ’87 Impala,
fray his collection of ropes,
steal the front wheel of his Schwinn
and replace it with a stale doughnut,
spill turpentine into his jug of marbles,
stuff his sleeping bag with twigs and old leaves,
or tangle his fishing wire into knots
not even the navy knows about.
Tomorrow, the night is two minutes longer.

 

If you like this poem, you might like the others in my collection, La Petite Mort.

Some New Things Out

fat ladies coney island

Image from NYPL Public Domain Digital Collection

It’s June, which means I’m hip deep in my annual summer doldrums, and not feeling particularly writerly—an unfortunate circumstance, because with things a little on the quieter side (not teaching summer classes, for instance), you’d think I’d be writing up a storm.

Alas, I’m too undone, wishing I was anywhere but in Atlanta (like these great ladies in this stereograph of Coney Island), and I’m so anguished about our current immigrant crisis (and general Washington, D.C. chaos) I can’t even really focus enough to write anyway.  I keep telling myself just hang on until the middle of July—which is when I’ll go away for a couple of weeks to the coast and hopefully rejuvenate my flagging spirit, but that’s still so far away.  Meanwhile, I’m melting into the pavement—and worrying about what new horror will assail us in the next hour of the news cycle.

Anyway, existential poor-me’s aside, I have a couple of poems/ nonfictions (depending on what you call them…I like to think of them as “poemeditations”) in the most recent issue (2017/2018) of Grubb Street.  (Scroll through the online journal to p. 3 and 4.)  These are more from my Venice collection, which will someday find a home, I hope.

And I’ve got five poems in the July issue of The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.  Actually, it turns out these poems were supposed to come out in last November’s issue, but somehow there was a snafu and the submission disappeared (on their end) in Submittable.  It was lucky I followed up with Dead Mule, because the editor was mystified at how the poems had gone astray, but she was great and fixed it and now the poems are there for you to read.

If you like my work, feel free to leave a comment.  If you don’t, leave a comment anyway, and give me something else to brood about.

 

 

New Poem Up at Picaroon Poetry

picaroon-poetry-issue-9“Canali” is another one of my Venice poems, and I was so happy when Picaroon Poetry took it.  (You have to scroll through to page 35 to read it.) This brings my published Venice poem total up to 13 out of 22, or a 59% published rating.

You may wonder why I offer that metric—who cares?  But I share it because collections these days seem to list so many previously published poems on their respective acknowledgments pages—and manuscripts with multiply “vetted” poems seem to have a better chance of becoming books.  I know for a fact that some book publishers say that writers shouldn’t even submit a book to them for consideration unless 25% of the poems in the collection have been published already.  So my hope is, that with a 59% (or more) published rating, my chapbook will someday find a home. (I still have the rest of the poems from the chapbook out circulating, and hope that a few more will “land.”)

Of course, my full collection is 23% published, and it’s still homeless.  Which just goes to prove publishing will always be a crapshoot. *sob*

Christmas-in-July

Christmas tree old time

Image from NYPL Public Domain Digital Collection

Right now as I look at the time, it’s 12:25 on Christmas-in-July.

When I was little, I always planned parties in my head.  We had this mostly-empty garage behind our house that seemed rife with possibilities for two little girls with lots of imagination and plenty of time, and we talked about holding parties back there—for Halloween and for Christmas, and any number of other holidays, but never for Christmas-in-July.  Oh, not that I didn’t want such a party, but anyone who’s familiar with a humid Louisiana summer, full of “waterbugs” and other creepy insects that lurk in dark spaces, knows that hanging out in a garage with no A.C. isn’t the best way to spend an afternoon.

To this day, I often think about holding a Christmas-in-July party at my apartment.  You know, drag out the 4 ft. artificial tree, hang some fairy lights, crank the Christmas carols, experiment with home-made eggnog, and invite the people I work with over for the evening.  Around the actual holidays, everyone has so many Christmas and New Year’s parties to attend, that they couldn’t possibly fit one more party in, so I never hold a party then.  But Christmas-in-July…well, people are around town, and probably not doing a whole lot other than trying to hide from the heat.

But I never remember I want to have such a party until the actual July 25th is upon me, and by then it’s too late to pull anything together.  Maybe next year…

Anyway, a few months ago, I saw a submission call for Christmas stories for a Christmas-in-July themed issue of Edify Fiction, a journal that looks for “uplifting” writing.  And it happened that last December I had written a little Christmas story in Kathy Fish’s “Fast Flash” writing workshop, and it wasn’t doing anything but gathering dust.  And lo and behold, Edify Fiction liked the story, and took it for their fourth issue.

They made some editorial changes which I personally chafe at, including putting a comma in the title, and changing the tenses, but a pub is a pub. (Or so I tell myself.)  And I can “always republish it my way in my flash collection” blah blah, if I ever make one.

Anyhow, to cool you off in this hot Atlanta sun, please enjoy my story, “Love, Tinsel.”