Weekend Sightseeing (Is Exhausting)

Portobello Beach

This weekend was a busy one for me—I packed a lot of living into two days.  On Saturday, I took a bus out to the seaside, specifically the Portobello Beach Promenade.  It was cold and blustery, but there were plenty of people (and dogs!) playing in the sand and several people had their feet in the water.  There was even a couple of lunatics up to their waists in the North Sea.  The temperature wasn’t quite 60, so I can only imagine how cold the water was.  They didn’t stay in the sea long.  (Not surprising).

The truest ambrosia

While I was there, I stopped at the Shrimpwreck for lunch, and tried a fish finger sandwich, made of battered fish, French fries (on the sandwich!), tartar sauce, and mushy peas (also on the sandwich!).  It was good.  And those of you who know me IRL will understand how thrilled I was to drink a Lemon Fanta, the drink I fell in love with when I went to Italy several years ago (and one that is not available Stateside).  It was a perfect lunch, accompanied by entertainment: the Portobello volunteer clean-up crew dancing to the B-52’s “Rock Lobster.”  One of them wore a crawfish “fancy dress” costume, with a placard that read “No Fear! Be queer!” on the back.  Another one of them wore striped pants, and had a red-painted face and dreadlocks.  Not exactly the colorful characters of a Venice Beach scene, but they definitely had a boardwalk vibe going on.

Altar at St. Mary’s Cathedral

Afterwards, I came back to the apartment for a few hours and rested.  (I don’t know about you, but every time I go to the beach—in any capacity—I get tired.  I wonder if it has something to do with the sea air.)  Then I took another bus ride to the vigil Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral (since I knew I would be out all day Sunday, and I didn’t want to miss church). It is lovely inside, but not what I think of when I think of a cathedral—it was certainly more elaborately decorated than St. Columba’s from last week, but it isn’t stately in the way cathedrals usually are.  It’s like, if a typical cathedral is a thoroughbred, then St. Mary’s is a workhorse.  It gets the job done, but isn’t magnificent to look at.  It’s just a nice, big church.

The Kelpies, by artist Andy Scott

Sunday I walked down to Waterloo Place (just over the bridge from the Royal Mile) to take a sightseeing tour outside of the city.  The first—and best—thing we saw was The Kelpies monument, outside of Falkirk.  You can’t imagine the scale of these horse heads—they are massive, about 100 feet high, and made from steel.  I would have liked to have longer than 25 minutes to visit them, though, because that was hardly enough time to go to the bathroom, see The Kelpies and then duck into the gift shop.  I loved them at first sight.  Of course, folktale kelpies are horrible creatures who lure unsuspecting people to get on their backs and ride them into the ocean where the horses drown them and feast on their bones.  But these kelpies were certainly wonderful to look at.

Loch Lomond marina

The next thing we did was visit Loch Lomond, of the eponymous famous folksong, and the surrounding farmland was green and lush and dotted with white sheep like confetti.  I could have wished that the tour drove around the perimeter of Loch Lomond, but we were confined to a little bit of shore where the boats were tied up.  There was a path around the marina, which I walked some. Mostly I watched the ducks who were sunning themselves on the banks.  The loch was as picturesque as you can imagine—the beginnings of the Highlands in the background, the sun glinting off the water in golden waves, the boats floating gently around their anchors.  And the air was so fresh!

A mama sheep. Very ewe-nique.

Our next stop was for lunch in a little hamlet called Aberfoyle. At the café I ordered a cheese toastie (kind of like a grilled cheese but not exactly) and a bowl of carrot and lentil soup, heavy on the carrots. I chose to sit outside and people watch, although the people weren’t all that interesting. Their dogs were, though.

There was a sweet shop next door, and I bought a package of homemade butter shortbread that literally, deliciously disintegrated on your tongue.  And then I headed over to the big wool shop, and figured there would be too many things I’d want to buy inside (like yarn, which I have no room in my suitcase to take home), so I skipped it, and went around back where they kept some sheep. Their pens stank (as you might expect), but the sheep themselves looked so cute.  They got into a bleating contest—it reminded me of a sheep opera (because you know, that’s a thing) (it’s not really) (but it should be), as they each tried to outdo the other in their “singing.”  I really wanted to put my hand out to pet them—which we were allowed to do—but the caveat that “These animals bite” kept my hands firmly on my side of the fence.

Stirling Castle

The awful Stirling Heads

Stirling Head art close up (yuck)

After lunch we headed to Stirling to visit Stirling Castle, the birthplace and home of King James VI.  I didn’t actually get to see the palace itself—I couldn’t figure out where it was—but I walked around the castle battlements, the dungeon, the chapel, the Great Hall, and the hall of the Stirling Heads, which are these large, wooden, medallion bust images of various people James wanted to commemorate.  And they were just horrible, creepy, weird pieces of décor, probably about 2-2.5 feet in diameter, and several inches thick. I know they served a purpose, but I really couldn’t get over how ugly they were.  I am probably revealing myself to be a philistine, but they were nothing like I was expecting. (They had really been talked up by a tour guide.) In my head I was imagining something magnificent; the reality was quite something else. But the castle itself was impressive with amazing views of the countryside from its sheer drops.  What was coolest about the castle was that Mary Queen of Scots was crowned there.  And, I think no matter who you are, Mary’s tragic life resonates.  At least, I always found her life story to be compelling, if sad. (I might actually have read her biography at some point, because I seem to remember a whole lot about her.)  Still, I didn’t need two hours at the castle, and wandered back to the garden to wait until it was time to get back on the bus and return to Edinburgh.

Castle gardens

I finally got home around 7 and I was exhausted.  The tour was longer than I was expecting.  I thought we’d be back by 5, but it was closer to 6:30; I should have taken a little nap on the bus (I usually take naps on Sunday), but I didn’t want to miss seeing any of the countryside. Just in case there was something amazing.  (I did get to see a glimpse of The Kelpies on the way back, so I count that as a win.)

I enjoyed the tour over all, but I was the only single traveler.  Everyone else had family or friends to visit things with, so I was kind of lonely.

Actually, if I were to complain about visiting Edinburgh at all, it would be because of how lonely I am.  Maybe I should pretend I am Mary Queen of Scotts in her prison cell; perhaps that would make the loneliness a little more bearable.  But even Mary had her little terrier dog for company.  I have no one.  (Weep, weep, sob, sob.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed all the pictures.

A view from Stirling Castle

Another view from the Castle

A Visit to the National Gallery

View of Old Town, with the National Gallery on the right.

Today after class I went to the National Gallery of Scotland.  It’s undergoing big-time renovation, so only a small amount of the collection was available for visitors to see.  Initially I was a little disappointed, because I was expecting to be blown away with breadth and volume, but then it occurred to me that it was kind of nice in its coziness.

This was my favorite picture, John Duncan’s Saint Bride (1913)

There were maybe 14 or so individual galleries to peruse, starting with Medieval religious icons, some Titians and Canallettos and other Italians, a great Vermeer of Martha, Mary, and Jesus (I should have taken a photo—apparently, it’s the only religious picture in his 36 surviving works), some Dutch masters including a very small Rembrandt, Scottish pieces (portraits and landscapes), and then upstairs were the Impressionists and a few early 1900s works.

Because the space was so confined, big walls bore a picture high up as well as eye-level and that was a little annoying, because it seemed a little cluttered, but of course they want to showcase as much art as possible in the few rooms they had to show it.  I went through the exhibits twice, although I lingered on the Impressionists out of habit more than any other reason.

Walter Scott Memorial close up (see human for scale)

Afterwards I walked to the Walter Scott Memorial, which is huge—200 feet tall at least.  It wasn’t open for visiting, but you couldn’t miss it.  It sits right at the edge of a park on Princes Street.  I’m amazed that I missed seeing it when I rode in on the tram from the airport last week—although I was so zonked out from traveling that I guess I wasn’t paying attention.

I’m not sure where I’ll head to next.  Maybe Edinburgh Castle.  Maybe Holyrood Castle.  Looking forward to the weekend to get in more sightseeing.  (Where do you think I should go next?)

Walter Scott Memorial from a distance

My First Week in Edinburgh

I was reminded yesterday that when you’re in a new country, everything is interesting. Based on my experiences so far, I don’t know about that.  For me, I have mainly spent the first week in Edinburgh adjusting to the crazy amounts of daylight (4:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.) and the daily wind and rain.  (I’m so happy I brought a lined raincoat, and I Amazoned a new umbrella since I forgot to bring one.)  I have spent a good amount of time locked up in my flat, preparing for my class, but I’ve also taken some long walks, trying to get the lay of the land.  And I have drunk a metric butt ton of Scottish Breakfast Tea.  Which is like English Breakfast Tea, only it uses a really complicated dialect. 😊

Friday, I did a cursory visit to the National Museum of Scotland, which is a fantastic natural history museum with a huge atrium and tons of natural light.  I will go back and do a “deeper dive” in the exhibits, but I mainly looked at the science/technology hall, the hall of design, and the world cultures hall.  I visited the museum with the coordinator of the Scotland Study Abroad program, and we didn’t have a lot of time there because he also wanted to go to Clarinda’s Tea Room, on the Royal Mile, which was fussy and frilly (in the best way) and full of tea-related décor.  I had a scone with butter and preserves.  I was expecting more of a biscuit, but this scone was sweeter than that, but very crumbly.  Afterwards, we walked back past some bagpipers and drummers and Richard went his way, and I went mine…right into a freak storm.  Imagine a day where it’s bright and windy and gorgeous.  And then come the clouds like a galloping herd of gazelles.  That storm soaked me to the core, and of course I wasn’t wearing my raincoat.

In the rain, a man with a large backpack bumped into me (don’t worry, he wasn’t a pickpocket), and then as I passed the Museum again, he put his hand out for me to shake it and asked who I was.  I was so shocked, I told him.  He said his name was Sam and he was looking for a Tesco (a grocery store).  There was one right around the corner, and I thought he was going to go toward it but he went the opposite way.  It was a little strange.

Saturday, I tried doing laundry and found the washer to be beyond my intellect level.  Then I went for a walk in Holyrood Park.  There’s an entrance close bywhere I’m staying, so I walked over to it, and it turned out the entrance was a steep set of stairs down to the street (Queen’s Drive), and about 10 steps down it, I said to myself, “Self, if you go down these stairs you’ll have to come back up,” and while I was debating this shaggy sheep dog came out of nowhere.  He looked pretty good so I wasn’t worried he was lost, and then as if from mist, his owner appeared.

“Rolo,” he said, “quit botherin’ th’ lass.”

“Oh, he’s not bothering me,” I said, putting my hand out to pet Rolo.

“In tha’ case, quit botherin’ me dog.”

With that, the man and Rolo passed me going down the stairs, and after being flummoxed for a little bit at the surprising turn of events, I followed at a discreet distance.  I walked up the hill a ways (not the big hill, the one that puts you on top of Arthur’s Seat), and then down a grassy knoll.  I tried taking some selfies, but it was so windy my face was all scrunched up and my hair had its own postal code.  I sat on a convenient rock until I was ready to face the 400 steps back up to the park entrance.  I’ll have you know I died about 6 times on the hike back up the stairs.

Yesterday, I spent the day reading for class, but all day I wanted to go to church.  I just couldn’t get motivated for the 9:30 Mass.  Fortunately, St. Columba’s church had a service at 6:30, so I walked south till I got there.  It was definitely a no-frills service… no music and a homily that contrasted our relationship with God and the Trinity to this kid at his grammar school selling stick insects (don’t ask). It was a tenuous connection at best.  I was glad I went—it let me see a different part of town.  Next week I think I’ll try St. Patrick’s.

So, that kind of catches you up on my visit so far.  Not overly exciting, but I’ll have more exciting plans in my future I’m sure.

April’s None So Cruel

Earlier in the month, my Mom asked me if I had ever heard the expression “April is the cruellest month” and of course I had to laugh.  Any poet (or student of poetry) worth her salt recognizes that is the first line of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, and it’s the first thing I think of when it turns April.

I’ve also been thinking it every day, since this is the first Poetry Month that I’ve chosen to participate in National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo).  I’ve been struggling to write a new poem every day—some days it’s been easier, and I’ve even written one or two poems that I think are pretty good.  The majority of them though are, at best, exercises in the practice of writing poetry.  Which is to say, they are poems, but not very good ones!

Still, having the discipline to write every day (or nearly every day…I missed a few days which I swear I went back and made them up!) has been illuminating.  For one thing, even if the quality of the output has not impressed me much, the habit of writing has been a kind of comfort to me.  It’s as if I can’t say I’ve forgotten how to write a poem (which sometimes I think when it’s been a while between poems), because this time I know I wrote a poem the day before.  For another thing, I’ll have 30 poems on the 30th that I can maybe go back to and work on revising.  That feels like an accomplishment.  Whether some of them are worth going back to is debatable, but the opportunity is there, should I choose to take it.

A few times I have stared at the computer and written “I have nothing I want to say.”  Then I write something down anyway, and remove that line.  It’s been liberating, especially the last few days which have been hard for me to come up with something new.  A few people on Twitter suggested I write poems about not knowing what to write, and so I sort of amended that idea to admit on the page that I didn’t have anything to say—then forced myself to write something anyway.  Again, not great art for sure, but I satisfied the NaPoWriMo requirement of a written poem.

You would think with all that’s going on right now—the continuation of Covid, the horrible and escalating war in Ukraine, the worsening climate change, I’d have a lot to write about.  But it’s hard to write good political poetry.  I can’t do it well, because such writing should be subtle so it remains art.  When I write on such things it comes out screed-like and dismal—too tell-y and not show-y enough.  It’s something I’d like to get better at though—and I suppose to get better at it, you have to practice.  And you need to read political poets.  I should do an investigation and find some contemporary political poets to read.

For the time being though, I will continue writing poems for April, just so I can say I did it. And at some point I’ll have fresh eyes to look at the work and see if some of these “exercises” are better than I remember.  Revising can be a fun part of writing, although as we all know, it’s hard work.

Anyway, all this is by way of saying April isn’t that cruel at all—at least not in my little corner of it.  I’m writing poems, looking forward to the end of the semester, and maybe even have a trip to Scotland in the offing.

And I still have plenty of copies of Amo e Canto which I’d love to sell you and donate the proceeds to the Ukraine war effort.  CashApp:  $Aishatonu or PayPal:  paypal.me/aishatonu.

Help Ukraine–And Get My Book for Free!

As I mentioned several days ago, my new chapbook Amo e Canto was released. I posted about it on Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In, thinking that I could encourage some sales and share this book I’m so proud of with friends and peers.  (And I was going to pay the postage for anyone who purchased a copy.)  And like the last two “pandemic books” I published (What Magick May Not Alter and Daughter of the Wheel and Moon), nothing but crickets.  (That was my little pity party moment.)

Then I thought, I know what I’ll do:  I will give the proceeds from book sales to Ukrainian charities to help citizens fight the Russian invasion.  Surely that will drum up sales. (It didn’t.) Still when the world is burning, that’s when we need poetry the most—because it offers solace and empathy, and the world is sadly missing those things.

Right now Ukraine needs our empathy, and it needs our help.

So if you don’t want to buy my book, that’s fine!  I know there are more important things going on than my chapbook release at this moment.  But  please give all you can to these legitimate charities which you can read about on the USA Today website (along with several more charities than are listed here):

Please help.  And you know what?  If you give at least $20 to any of these charities and email a copy of your receipt and your address to aishatonu[at]gmail[dot]com, I’ll even send you a copy of Amo e Canto for free!

Amo e Canto is Out in the World!

Nearly two years after the announcement that it had won the 2020 Sow’s Ear Poetry Chapbook Prize, my collection Amo e Canto (Italian for I Love and I Sing) has been released.  Because it came out as Issue 30.1 of the Sow’s Ear Poetry Review (and was sent to all subscribers of the Review), it’s not conventionally available for purchase.  However, I am selling extra copies, postage paid, for $13.50 via my CashApp, $Aishatonu.  Hit me up if you would like to buy a copy.  (Put your address in the “For” line so I’ll know where to send your book!)

Amo e Canto is a collection of “poemoirs”—half poems, half memoirs about a trip I took to Venice in 2014. The poemoirs focus on typical Venetian sights, like churches, canals, pigeons, and art, and tangentially examine a relationship with a missing love.  It’s a really different kind of writing from what I normally do (which tends to be mostly narrative, women-centered writing), so if you’re interested in Italy and hybrid forms (or you just love me), this collection is for you.

I’m really proud of this work, and it’s a beautiful collection.  The cover includes an absolutely lovely painting by Alex Ghizea-Ciobanu called I Will Take Venice with Me that as soon as I saw it, I wanted it for the cover.  (Actually, I’d love to own the actual painting!)  The ecru paper is smooth and silky and not insubstantial.

It may have taken longer than I hoped for Amo e Canto to manifest, but it’s wonderful that it exists now. (Patience is a virtue, and all of that.)  I’m so grateful to Sarah Kohrs and Kristen Zimet at Sow’s Ear Poetry Review for all they’ve done to bring this collection into being, and I’m grateful to Sam Rasnake for choosing it as the winner.  I’m also thankful to the journals who originally published some of these poems, especially Rowan Glassworks, which nominated five of them for Pushcart Prize in 2015.

I have many to sell and would love to get one into your hands!

The Submission Game

from NYPL Digital Collections

I’ve been getting many rejections lately.  Last week alone I had 8.  This week it’s a “measly” 2.  And 2 of those 10 weren’t even at the journals I sent them to for longer than a day.

Rejections don’t get me down, per se (well, not usually), but they do always make me question if I’m still a good writer, or if I was ever a good writer (were all those other acceptances over the years flukes?).  We shouldn’t estimate our worth based on the capricious nature of the Submission Game—that goes without saying.  And yet. It’s hard not to equate acceptances (either to journals or residencies) with JC = GOOD, and rejections with JC = BAD.  As writers, we all probably think that to some extent some of the time.

I belong to a Facebook (pardon me, Meta) group that advocates trying to get 100 rejections in a year.  On the plus side, if you get 100 rejections, it means you spent the time to send out at least 100 submissions—which is a laudable pursuit, because it demonstrates that you take your writing seriously enough to inflict it share it with 100 journals.

But I wonder if that scattershot goal isn’t a bit misguided. If you just send work to lot of places, that doesn’t mean you’re actually reading the journals you’re sending work to, and so you might be wasting your time.  I know Poetry will never, ever, ever (EVER) accept anything I send them.  So if I send them work again, well, great, I can make a notch on my rejection list, but perhaps my time is better spent researching journals that are more inclined to like the kind of work that I write.

On the other hand, gamifying rejections does remove some of the sting.  After 100 rejections you’ll probably anesthetize yourself almost completely from the disappointment.  And, the rationale goes, statistically there’s no way all of your submissions are going to be rejections.  So, the more you send work out, the more you increase your chances of someone liking and wanting to publish it.  It does make sense, totally.

For me, it’s really hard to send out 100 submissions in a year.  A few years ago, I think I got to 70, and believe me, I was impressed with myself.  So far this year, I’ve sent out 21 subs.  You may say, “Hey, that’s pretty good for it only being February!”  But one always has enthusiasm for a project at the beginning of the year.  I doubt I’ll be sending out 10 a month by the time we hit July.  I mean, it could happen.  I could be a submitting machine this year.  I just know myself a little better than that.

***

A friend called me on Wednesday, just to check up on me because she thought the number of rejections I’ve received lately was getting me down (based on the fact that every time I get one I announce it on Twitter—it’s like a weird and obsessive confession thing).  She wanted to assure me that my writing is “special” because it’s woman-centered a lot of the time, and many publishers who are men are easily turned off by that.  She has a point—I really don’t write typically lyric work at all and narrative is not many people’s favorite mode.  I do appreciate her support—she has been amazing to me (and in an aside, she’s one of the best letter-writers I know) and her words certainly buoyed my spirits.

But worse than people of any persuasion not understanding (and publishing) my work is just my constant inner critic who secretly can’t help worrying that the reason I’m not getting published is because I’m a lousy poet. Or I don’t “have it” like I used to. (Whatever “it” is.)  What would it be like, if I could bind, gag, and toss that inner critic bitch right over the cliff?  What would it be like not to constantly doubt myself?  For all of us, what would that be like?  What could we do if we didn’t have an inner voice sabotaging us all the damn time?

***

Do you play the Submission Game, or some version of it with your writing and submission process?  If you (my five dear readers) do, let me know.  I’m curious about your approach.

Writing the Red Flags

from dreamstime.com

This past weekend at Tybee Island was the first time I’ve set foot on the beach since I was caught in the rip current in Southampton, NY in 2018.  I thought I would feel fear, but when my sister and I went out last Friday night, it was low tide, the water warm, and the waves almost gentle.  In other words, the ocean felt safe to me.  It was a different story the following morning—the wind was crazy, the waves at high tide so rough that I just couldn’t make myself go in.  There was also a red flag warning—and can you get any more obvious than a red flag literally warning you there’s danger?  Three years ago I ignored the warning, and we all know how that turned out. I learned my lesson.

I think writing is the same way—there are times when writing feels easy and safe (and of course we love those times!), but there’s also those red flags that tell us that maybe we need to reconsider, or even back away.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t “write what we’re afraid to write”—we should, absolutely, write our lives, our stories, our poems that challenge us to be our most authentic selves.  Sometimes that means we write about difficult or painful memories.  Sometimes that means we share what we’re afraid will make us look ridiculous, or damaged, or imperfect.  Some danger is good.  Too much danger and we risk losing ourselves.

What do I mean?  I think there’s a chance that we can give too much of ourselves away when we write.  After all, we are “baring our souls” in one way or another—and when we write about unprocessed trauma that’s when the red flags go up.  We can unintentionally re-traumatize ourselves when we really mean to heal.  Of course, writing about the things that have shaped us is necessary, but I wonder how much good we accomplish if writing about an experience that was painful, terrifying, or devastating makes us revisit those dark places?

What boundaries do we have in place that will protect us?  Have we gone through counseling to process our trauma?  How do we know that what we write won’t revisit trauma on someone else?  If we don’t have boundaries, and we haven’t had the benefit of therapy, we are putting ourselves in danger of revealing too much and re-opening old wounds.

That’s always a danger with writing, I suppose, because to write and share something means you risk exposure—you invite the audience in, and once an audience is involved, you’re not entirely in charge of your work or the interpretation of experience anymore. There’s danger to the writer in the act of audience consumption of work.  How will the audience react?  Will they judge the person you were when you experienced what you experienced?  Will they discount your interpretation of events?  Will they harass you?  Will they reject you?

I think about my own experience trying to publish poems about past trauma in my life.  It never goes well.  I’m not afraid so much about sharing my life—I’ve had plenty of therapy, so I’m well and truly “processed.”  I just think I’m really bad at it.  (And honestly, does the world need more poems or a memoir about child abuse?  I doubt it.)

Not every experience that’s happened to us (or we were involved in) needs to be written about and shared.  Maybe that’s the difference.  Maybe, now that I think about it, we should always write the red flags—what scares us, what seems dangerous.  That’s what journaling is for—it’s a controlled environment:  we are both writer and audience, and there’s little chance of discovery and judgment.

But sharing traumatic experiences in published writing can be as dangerous as a rip current, where even the strongest swimmers can drown.  Are we prepared for the fall-out, to ourselves and to others?  If we’re not ready, then the work should probably stay private.  At least for now.  When the waves are less rough, we can always venture back out.

Upcoming Reading at Switzer Public Library

from the NYPL Digital Collections

I will of course be announcing this again closer to the time, but I have been invited as a Featured Reader at the Switzer Public Library The Poets Read series on Tuesday, Sept. 14th, 6:00-7:30.  The library is located at 266 Roswell Street, Marietta, GA  30060, which is a little bit behind Marietta Square, so not too far from here at all.

How did they find me?  I didn’t think to ask, but it’s certainly exciting to be asked out of the blue. (Maybe they found my Poets & Writers page, where I do mention I’m open to readings.)  I’m going to hope that Covid won’t ruin this for me…this will be my first in person reading in I’ve forgotten how long.

Anyway, I hope you’ll come—it’s free!  I’ll read some old favorites, but I’ll definitely be reading some new stuff too.  (Just don’t know what yet!)

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.