Pulitzer Remix, Week 2

Over at last week’s Pulitzer Remix roundup, Drew Myron asked me to describe more about the Remix rules and the composing process. And I’m happy to oblige!

The two big Pulitzer Remix rules are as follows:

Each poem you produce  should be created from words and phrases that appear in your Pulitzer Prize-winning source text. You can rearrange terms and make changes such as modifying verb tenses, adding plurals, inserting pronouns, etc. but should not deviate wildly from the original text to produce poems “inspired by” the novel, for example.

Poems you produce must alter the source text in some substantial way. You should apply one of the techniques suggested in the “strategies” section — or one of your own invention — to produce a poem whose language and meaning differ from that of the source text. This is in adherence to section 2 of the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry. Poets who incorporate long unaltered passages from their source texts into their poems risk being removed from the project.

The editors suggest the following strategies (though of course, we’re free to make up our own):

Select and rearrange. Choose interesting words and phrases from a section of your source text, then rearrange them into a poem.

Black / white-out.  Use a magic marker or white-out pen to erase consecutive sections of your text, leaving words and phrases behind that make up your poem.

Write a poem using only dialogue spoken by a specific character. For example, if The Great Gatsby was your source text, you could write a found poem from only the words spoken by Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Nick Carraway, etc. during the course of the novel.

Cut it up. Photocopy pages from the text, then cut the words and phrases into strips. Put them in a bag, shuffle them up, then draw them out randomly and rearrange them until you have a poem.

Get technical. Use online tools like the ones detailed below to help scramble and rearrange your text in interesting ways.

I’ve been using the black-out and “select and rearrange” (though I’ve been calling it cut-up….oops) methods so far this month.

For the black-out poems, I start by pulling a page out of a PDF. I scanned about 40 pages of text using an app on my phone, and if I want to work on some black-out poems, I pull out the document and print out the number of pages I need.  Usually, I start by blocking out the proper nouns, since I have yet been interested in writing a poem about a particular character (unless you consider the house itself a character, and then I wrote one last week). From then on, it’s a matter of reading the page over and over and over, penciling out bits at a time. I start small, with conjunctions or adverbs that strike me as irrelevant, moving from individual words to entire sentences. When the piece is done, I pull up the digital file and black everything out using Photoshop, which looks better than my pencil work. The black-out poems have been interesting because they remind me how difficult it is, still, to cut things from my poems. They also reinforce that sometimes, excision is the best route to completion.

For the cut-up poems, I have roughly 20 pages of typed-up sentences and paragraphs from Beloved that I thought might be useful in some way. When I sit down to work on a piece, I shuffle through the pages until I find something that resonates me either thematically or linguistically. I then keep rifling around and pulling lines that builds on the original idea, rearranging as I go. The final lines get taped into my notebook, and I type everything up.

So that’s the gist of it. Check out the poems below.

April 8th: “Lady of the Lake

April 9th: “Return to Form

April 10th: “Ignorance was bliss

April 11th: “Victory of the Soul

April 12th: “Empowerment

April 13th: “Pleasure, Affirming

April 14th: “Springtime Plea

30/30 Project: Wrapping Up

The January portion of the 30/30 Project ended today. Thanks to everyone who donated as a result of our efforts. Your contributions are appreciated by press and poet alike.

Final inspirations: Patti Smith albums (specifically Gung Ho and Peace and Noise), Lewis Turco’s “Paren(t)hesis” exercise in Wingbeats, Afaa Michael Weaver’s “The Bop” exercise in Wingbeats, the smell of barbecue in the middle of the afternoon, Ravi Shankar’s “A Manipulated Fourteen-Line Poem” in Wingbeats, and Catherine Bowman’s “The Bermuda Triangle” exercise in Wingbeats.

The project also generated notice from Kenyon Review blogger Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers. I wrote a long comment at the post, and because I feel like it does a great job of summarizing why I undertook this project and what I got out of it, I’m going to reproduce that comment here:

As a Tupelo 30/30 participant, this challenge was an extension of my own practice. In 2012 I committed to drafting a poem a day. And I used the term “drafting” consciously. I did not have to finish a poem in a day. I just had to get a draft of a piece down on paper.

At the end of the year, maybe a third of what I wrote ended up getting revised and completed. Most of what I wrote ended up not going very far. But the point wasn’t to produce finished drafts every day. The point was to sit down and do the words to see what arose from discipline. And what arose was more quality work than I’d produced before, when I’d waited for inspiration to happen.

With the Tupelo 30/30, the goal intensified. For an entire month, I couldn’t have a bad day. Not once so far have I been able to say “Today’s words sucked, but oh well. I’ll leave them be and do better tomorrow.” Being able to have an off-day is a luxury. If a poem utterly failed, I had to start over until I got something worthwhile.

People were going to be reading everything I put up–-I couldn’t turn in awful work. My goal for the Tupelo project was to have something I would consider worthy of taking into my critique group. I don’t take rough drafts into that group; I take in poems that have potential, that will achieve fullness.

Some of my Tupelo poems I do consider finished work. Most are still in-progress. A few have already been taken to critique group. I know that not all of my pieces will resonate with all of our audience members, but I’m proud of the work I did. I’m also humbled by the work of the eight other poets who took this challenge with me in January. I’m continually impressed with the quality of their work.

A big thanks to T.M. De Vos, Shannon Hardwick, Lindsay Penelope Illich, Mike McGeehon, Janie Miller, Nina Pick, Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, and Margaret Young. I had an amazing month writing with you.

And best wishes to the February participants. I can’t wait to read your work.

30/30, Days 6-12


How are we nearly halfway through January already? That means I’m nearly done with the 30/30 Project. This week was a little tougher than the first one, but I’m still having a great time.  And I’m definitely still enjoying the work of my fellow participants. Katerina Stoykova-Klemer read a selection of our poems on her radio show again this week; click here to listen to the archive (the first five poems are read starting at minute fourteen, and the others at minute thirty).

Inspirations this week: Hoa Nguyen’s “Mind is Shapely” exercise in Wingbeats;  the cold, rainy weather; Jenny Browne’s “Love Letter to a Stranger” exercise, also in Wingbeats; getting hit by a car in 2010; airglow, and photos of it appearing in Texas; Blas Falconer’s “Teaching Imagination” exercise, also in Wingbeats; Donato Creti’s Cleopatra (see picture).

(And no, Dos Gatos Press isn’t paying me to plug Wingbeats all the time. It’s just my go-to guide when I’m stuck and need some motivation. I’m so glad the press is at work on a second volume.)

Like the work we’re doing? Want to support Tupelo Press? You can donate here. And it doesn’t matter how much; every little bit helps.

30/30, Days 1-5

I’ve made it through the first five days of the 30/30 Project unscathed! I’m happy to say that so far, I’ve achieved my goal of sending in things I would consider ready for workshop. It’s a little stressful publishing things you know aren’t completely finished, but that’s how it goes when you’re operating with a quick turnaround time, and I’m not ashamed of any of my pieces. One of the poems has already found a place within my Curved Tongue, Forked Road manuscript.

I’m also humbled by the other poets participating. They’re all sweet, encouraging, and inspiring. Just a few months ago, I didn’t know any of them, and now I’m hoping we all stay in touch when January ends.

Inspirations for the first five days: the morning air, Kate Greenstreet, the (impending) anniversary of Reesa’s death, The Cartoon Guide to Physics, Wendy Barker’s “A Crack in the Cup” exercise (found in Wingbeats), Georgia A. Popff’s “Tales from the Bathroom” exercise (also found in Wingbeats), and memories of my first year in college.

One of the participating poets, Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, hosts a radio show called Accents, and this week, she concluded by talking about the project, and reading a poem from each of us. I was honored when she read my Day 2 poem, “Your Ghost.” That was a tough one to put out, but also one that was very important for me to write. Click here to listen to the broadcast archive (the 30/30 project is discussed in the last 15 minutes).

So far, so good! I’m looking forward to the rest of the month. And if you can afford, please donate to Tupelo Press!

Coming in 2013: Achieve your dreams with my new workshop!

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m launching a workshop series for 2013. Starting in December (to kick the new year off right), I’ll be guiding students through goal-setting, weathering setbacks, and accomplishing their creative plans.

Achieve Your Dreams 2013

What are your creative dreams for 2013? Do you want to write a book? Get a piece published? Or are you just looking to complete that first draft, taking the first step into a fulfilling artistic life?
You have the desire, and you have the drive, but setting goals and sticking to them can be a challenge. With this yearlong course, you’ll get at the heart of your goals, figure out a plan, and work through obstacles in a supportive online setting.

In this course, you will learn to:

  • Articulate not just your goals, but what they signify for your overall creative life
  • Set realistic plans for the year, month, and week
  • Manage setbacks without guilt
  • Recognize that goals change over time, and adjust accordingl
What you get:
  • One two-hour monthly seminar via Google+ Hangout (see below)
  • Weekly check-ins with me via email or video chat (your preference)
  • Exercises to do at home to help you get inspire and stay focused

Check out my Workshops and Coaching page for more details, including pricing and sign-up information.

The Artist’s Way, Weeks 4-5

The last Artist’s Way entry was illustrated with a marginally-relevant yet absolutely adorable dog photo. It would be wrong of me to favor Max and not let Simon have his internet glory.

So I survived the week of no reading. It was tougher than an entire month of unprocessed food. I need reading way more than I need artificial preservatives and white flour. It was a pretty frustrating week, because my primary method of relaxation was just gone. I realize the point of the week was to focus on trying new things and different forms of relaxation, but I basically felt on edge the entire time. It was such a relief to read again.

Week Five was a lot of fun. Most of the exercises involved visualization as a component, as well as collecting images of what we want and what inspires us. As a result, I ended up joining Pinterest, and creating a board for images I collect related to The Artist’s Way.

Halfway through Week Six, I’m noticing that I love the odd-numbered weeks, and having less fun with the even-numbered weeks. The even-numbered challenges are frustrating, or they seem harder to balance with work, writing, kung fu, and my social life. But I take it one week at a time. I’m still enjoying the overall process.

The Artist’s Way: Week 3

If you’re wondering how this is relevant to Chapter 3…it’s not, exactly. But I’ve been working on my photography more, and this is my favorite photo from last week. Plus. who doesn’t love cute dog photos?

I had a lot of fun with Week Three. Unlike Week Two, I didn’t feel flustered trying to fit the exercises into my life. They also gave me a lot to think about. There was a lot of artistic affirmation this week, including taking stock of all the people I have in my life who support my work, which felt like an extension of Week One. Between these two weeks, I’ve come to realize just how many people I have in my life who have a positive influence on my writing and other work. I’m really lucky.

My favorite exercise was #9. First, we had to list five dead people we wanted to meet. Then, we had to list five dead people (either people we’ve met or people we haven’t) who we wanted to actually spend time with in the afterlife. Most of the people on my first list were writers I wanted to talk to. But the people on my second list were all biological family members and close friends (both of my grandmothers, an aunt, an uncle, and Reesa). It was interesting to realize that, while there are definitely literary celebrities I’d love to meet, what I really want is more time with people I’ve loved and lost.

Week Four is starting, and I have my reservations about it. The tool for this week is Reading Deprivation. That’s right, no reading for a week. Uh, I can’t remember the last time I went a day without reading, much less a whole week. I’m also going to have to modify it a bit. Cameron advocates no reading of anything whatsoever. This includes reading for school/work. Unfortunately for me, this is impossible. Cameron argues that she has had jobs where she’s managed to put off writing for a week, but I think she’s lucky. My job is reading. I get paid to read. If I don’t read, I literally will not get work done. So I’m just going to have to make an exception for that, because I like my job and want to keep it. Also, there are some emails I’m going to have to read. I’m planning a bridal shower and a poetry festival. I can’t just neglect all of my responsibilities.

Still, even with making exceptions for the essentials, it’s going to be a long week. No books. No magazines or literary journals. None of the blogs in my Google Reader. No webcomics. I’ve only been awake for about three hours, and I’m itching to pick up the copy of The Haiku Handbook that I just got from the library after nearly a month waiting for it to come in. Last night, I dreamed that I read a magazine. I have a whole list of things to do today, but this is going to be tough. Sunday afternoons are so often spent on the couch with a good book, that even knowing I have a list of things to do, I want to settle in and get cozy with a cup of tea. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to Saturday.

If anyone who reads this blog has done The Artist’s Way before, any advice on navigating Week Four and the Reading Deprivation would be very much appreciated.

October Unprocessed: Week 1

I’m doing October Unprocessed again this year. Since I know what to expect, this year will be more about sharing what, exactly I ate, rather than recording my experiences and impressions.

I used The New Moosewood Cookbook a lot this week, as most of the things in it either are or can be modified to be unprocessed, and because the recipes tend to make large portions. Leftovers are key when you’re eating almost entirely at home.

Most common ingredients in week 1: avocados (no difference from daily life), garlic (we went through an entire bulb in one week), peppers (bell and jalapeno), onions, beans, olives, and Greek yogurt. This year, I’m interested in seeing the consistent ingredients week-to-week.

Jon’s amazing homemade breakfast tacos.
Arabian Squash Casserole from The New Moosewood Cookbook.
Avocado toast on homemade bread
Multi-bean salad. Adaptation from The New Moosewood Cookbook, based on ingredients I had on-hand.
Rice noodle and fried tofu salad (my own recipe).
Gypsy Soup (The New Moosewood Cookbook)
Avocado pudding made with Greek yogurt and agave nectar, topped with flax.
Couscous with olives, capers, and feta (my friend Jerry’s recipe).
Chickpea-yogurt dip, an experiment in an attempt to use up leftovers. Unfortunately, the results were mediocre.
Stuffed tomatoes and cilantro rice. Another experiment in using leftovers, this time with fantastic results.
Jon’s amazing guacamole.


There was also a delicious pesto-artichoke-olive pizza that I made for dinner on Sunday night. Unfortunately, I was so excited to eat it that I forgot to take a picture.

Stay tuned for more unprocessed photographic deliciousness next week!










The Artist’s Way: Week 2

I finished week two of The Artist’s Way on Saturday, amidst the fun of the Georgetown Poetry Festival. The whole week was busy, between general life, working on the poetry festival, and an emergency root canal (one of the teeth damaged in my car accident a few years ago decided to start dying). I ended the week feeling like I hadn’t accomplished much, because it was a struggle to fit the exercises in with everything else. But I did work every day.

I’m really enjoying doing the morning pages, even though it requires getting up even earlier. My head feels clearer throughout the day when I do a big brain dump first thing in the morning. They’re definitely paying off. I also feel like certain projects I’m bandying around are coming together, especially my next poetry book. I have a title and a basic structure for the next collection, and it feels as though I’ll actually meet my goal of a rough manuscript draft by the end of the year.

This week’s progress was small, but no less incremental. I look forward to seeing what week three will bring.


The Artist’s Way: Week One


I’ve been hearing about The Artist’s Way ever since I moved to Austin, and saw it on the shelves on a regular basis when I worked at BookWoman. I have to admit, for the past four years, I thought it looked incredibly hokey. I knew lots of people who had done it, but I couldn’t get past the apparent cheesiness. But then, this summer, a poet I admire mentioned she would be doing The Artist’s Way again, and it wouldn’t be her first time. So I finally decided to give it a shot, no matter how cheesy.

So far, I have to say that the book has surprised me. In the first week, I have already been challenged, already made to think. Writing morning pages has allowed me to resuscitate a journal writing practice that has been stagnant for several years. Writing out daily affirmations doesn’t actually feel all that hokey. In fact, it’s refreshing. I’m also surprised, as I’m working on my affirmations, all the inner resistances and criticisms I have toward realizing the full potential of my creativity. It’s been worthwhile just to realize all the little ways my inner critic comes out.

I’ve also realized, while working through these exercises, that I have far more people in my life who support my work than I have people who create negative energy. I am very lucky to have so many wonderful friends, teachers, and supporters in my life.

The artist date is also a lot of fun. For this exercise, you go and do something fun all by yourself for a few hours. This week, I went out to Mount Bonnell and took a bunch of photographs. I hadn’t been out there in over two years, and had a great time wandering. The image at the top of this post is from some graffiti I found there; I found it particularly apt.

Speaking of photography, one of the exercises this week made me realize that I want to be more serious about my photo practice. So I’ve looked into workshops and joined some Meetup groups. I’m excited to see where this particular creative journey goes.

The one thing I have done differently is a slight tweak in terminology. Cameron uses the term “The Creator” in affirmations and in essays. When writing out my affirmations, I use “the world” instead. As an agnostic, I don’t feel comfortable writing out affirmations that invoke something resembling a deity. But “the world” is something that is larger than myself, and is something my skeptical mind accepts as real.

I did the reading for Week Two this morning, and I’m already looking forward to doing the exercises, going on my artist date (possibly the Elizabeth Ney museum, but I’m still deciding), and seeing where the week takes me.