And we have pre-order!

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That’s right! We’re Smaller Than We Think We Are is now available for pre-order. Finishing Line Press is offering a shipping discount for anyone who reserves a copy between now and February 27th.

I’ve spent today pretty much just bouncing off the walls. If I’m this excited now, I can only imagine how hyper I’ll be when the book is actually published in April.

The cover photograph is my own, taken in the Santa Elena canyon in Big Bend about two years ago. I knew for a long time that this would be my first choice for the cover, and I’m glad the good folks at Finishing Line agreed.

I have a lot of people to thank for their help. Abe Louise Young for being my mentor. My friend Savanni for taking the author photograph used on the website and on the back cover (you can check out some other photos from the shoot here). Kelli Russell Agodon for writing such an informative blog post on how to take good author photos back in 2010. Cindy Huyser, Drew Myron, and Scott Wiggerman for writing blurbs. The Austin Writergrrls for being the best cheerleaders ever.

I’m a very lucky poet.

First Project of 2013: Supporting Tupelo Press

Tupelo_Press_TrajanPro

I love Tupelo Press. I love their chapbooks. I love their broadsides. They’re an all-around excellent small press, and like most small presses, they’re struggling to stay viable in a weak economy, where poetry is not the top priority for most people. When they began the 30/30 Project in December 2012, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I already write regularly. What better way to support a press I love than by contributing poems to their fundraising efforts? So I was thrilled to get an email from Tupelo that I would be one of a cadre of poets contributing to this effort in January.

So instead of writing my poem a day and not worrying whether it’s great or rough, I’ll be honing a piece throughout the day. The poets participating in 30/30 don’t have to put finished poems up on the site, but my intent is to put up what I’d consider solid drafts. That is, the poems might not be finished, but they’d be strong enough that they’d be ready to take to my critique group or test out at an open mic.

So here’s how it works: to support the press (and support me in my literary marathon), go here to donate to Tupelo Press. You can donate whatever you want — any little bit helps. And, if you would be so kind, please put my name in the “Honor” field at the bottom of the page to indicate you’re donating on behalf of my marathon.

Plus, all donations are tax-deductible, meaning you’re already getting a head start on your tax write-offs for 2013!

Thanks so much in advance for supporting my work and for Tupelo Press.

 

Time for a victory dance

The screencap above is the Scrivener corkboard view for my next poetry manuscript! I finished the very first full draft about an hour ago. The working title is Curved Tongue, Forked Road, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay that way for the rest of the revision process, though I’m open to the possibility that it might change.

The process so far

These are poems I’ve been writing since I made the final selections for inclusion in my chapbook. Once that was done and I started sending out We’re Smaller Than We Think We Are, every poem I wrote was considered for possible inclusion in the next book. The writing process thus began in late August/early September 2011. Since I have the practice of writing a poem a day, I began to generate possible poems pretty quickly. That’s not to say that every poem I have written per day has been worth considering. I think only about 10-15% of the poems I write I consider worth revising, submitting, or including in a book, and not all of those even end up going places. Still, if you’re drafting one poem a day, you get to the potential good poems faster than you would otherwise. The small percentage of poems that made the cut got put into a separate “for collection” folder.

After that, it was a process of writing and waiting. Not just to accumulate enough poems, but for a structure or theme to emerge. Several concepts bounced around in my head. First, I thought I’d be writing mostly about math and physics. Then, I thought I was going to write about physics and travel, and title it Everything in Transit (a title shamelessly stolen from a Jack’s Mannequin album.) Then, this past October, just after a year of writing and waiting, I developed the idea for a three-part structure, encompassing a few different things I’d been working on. This would allow me to have a unifying concept without feeling tied down to one single thing. 

As it stands, the book now has three parts. “Heartways” consists of poems I’ve written on the various incarnations that love takes (aka ways of looking at love). “Wordways” consists of the twenty-six abecedarian sonnets I’ve been working on since September, which are thematically organized around various locations within Texas (not just ways of looking at Texas, but ways of looking at words in the confines of this particular poetry form). And finally, I have “Roadways,” a section focused on travel poems. These are somewhat Texas-based, but less explicitly so than the abecedarian sonnets, and are more concerned with ways of looking at the road than looking at a particular place. The collection title Curved Tongue, Forked Road came to me almost out of the blue, and I like the way it invokes dialogue, exploration, and discovery.

Compared to getting my chapbook together, the rough draft of this collection was, in fact, easier. I didn’t develop my daily poetry practice until a month or two before I finally started getting the chapbook together. I didn’t know as much about revision as I do now. I didn’t have a critique group to help me out. And I certainly didn’t have any idea how to organize a book. Now, I am more disciplined, I have a critique group, and I have some sense of how the poems in a book should work together. While I still have a lot of work to do, having that knowledge made the first draft so much easier.

What happens next?

I have a long road of revision ahead. While a lot of the poems in “Roadways” are actually pretty near complete, the first two sections are much rougher. I’m going to work these poems by myself for a while, and then sometime in the spring of 2013, I want to work with a mentor to help me get the book in final shape for submission. I learned a lot working with a mentor for my chapbook, but I certainly don’t know everything. Plus, a full collection is a different beast from a chapbook.

Ideally, I’d like to have this ready to submit by June of 2013, but I also know I can’t rush the revision process. So I’m setting that as my ideal goal, but I’m also not going to get too attached to it. It will be done when it’s done. As long as I’m giving it the attention it deserves, as long as I’m performing due diligence, that’s what matters.

I know that when all is said and done, the final draft will not look like the current one. Some of the abecedarian sonnets will be rewritten from scratch. Some pieces that are in the first and third sections might get deleted. Poems I haven’t written yet, haven’t even thought of yet, might get slotted in. It will be an interesting journey, and I can’t wait to see what this book looks like when it’s finally done.

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 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.

Notes on form: Haiku

Lately, I’ve been perusing Jane Reichold‘s essays, insights, and wisdom about haiku. I’ve especially been inspired by “Some Thoughts for Rethinking Haiku,” which posits a series of questions about the form. Since haiku often result as part of my small stones practice, I decided it would be a fun exercise to respond to these questions on my blog. So without further ado…

Should there be a better term for poetry written in English that is the result of admiration and emulation of haiku?

Not one that I can think of.

Is the so-called “haiku moment” any different from the seconds of inspiration that occur with other works of art?

For me, it is. The haiku moment seizes me very suddenly when it happens. It’s a moment of clarity that forces me to stop and write. Even if what I put on paper isn’t a haiku in the proper form, it’s the impulse, the words themselves, that matter. With a standard poem, there is less of a triggering moment. Other poems come to me gradually, over time. They’re less sudden. (I would love to hear from other writers as to their answer to this question.)

It is traditional that a break occurs between the two phrases of a haiku; either after the first line or after the second. Do you miss this in haiku that read as a run-on sentence?

I do. I find myself very attached to line breaks, and less engaged when a haiku is written as a run-on sentence.

And haiku one-liners; how do you feel when you read them?

It’s harder for me to focus when the haiku is just one line. I like the tiny build of three lines. I like the way my brain responds to line breaks.

What about those where a break happens at the end of each line? Or the phrase breaks are mid-line?

This is the way I prefer to read haiku, probably because I have spent so many years reading poetry with line breaks, so my brain expects things to be a certain way.

Do you feel haiku need punctuation? If so, where and how much?

Sometimes a comma, semicolon, or em-dash might be necessary, but it depends on the poem. I definitely think haiku should have as little punctuation as possible for the poem to make sense.

While reading haiku can you see a link between the images in each one? Are there two “poles”, pulling your mind in opposite directions before the “snap” of the spark that joins dissimilar things?

In a well-written haiku, yes. This is something I actually try to achieve in all of my poems, not just haiku. (I often say that I’m primarily inspired by haiku even though I don’t write in the form all the time; I like the compression, and the way connections are expressed in such a small space.)

What makes a haiku different from other three-line short poems?

Honestly, I think the syllabic requirements, and not much else. I call many of my small stones haiku even though they don’t meet form requirements, though often change that designation when submitting work, because editors don’t always agree with me.

Do you miss a reference to nature or is that less important than the way the linkage works?

I think the linkage is most important. Nature is part of traditional haiku, and still has a place in contemporary haiku, but from my personal aesthetic, I find the linkage more compelling. The expanse of nature is not the only thing that can be expressed in a confined space.

Do days go by when you are too busy to write haiku until a pressing deadline forces you to look! and there they are haiku all around you?

At this point in my life, I’m glad to say that I’m never too busy for haiku (or small stone, depending on your definition). No matter how busy my day is, I am able to carve out a few minutes to reflect and write one of these brief poems. Haiku are all around me, no matter how busy I am, though they seem to be more easily observed before noon.

How often have you thought of a good haiku and neglected to write it down?

Probably fairly often in the past, but since I neglected the moment, I’ve forgotten about it entirely. These days, I don’t care what I’m doing. I whip out my notebook and jot it down. If for some reason I don’ t have paper and pen available, I type it into an Evernote document on my phone. I no longer make excuses for missing a moment.

Do you miss the time you are not open, searching for the crack in the reality of this world where you can slip in to find haiku?

I’ve become adept at taking time no matter what, though on busy days, when I can spare at most ten minutes, I feel frustrated that I don’t have longer.

What activities bring you into a state of awareness where haiku occur?

Seated meditation. Walking outside. Dancing, or watching people dance. Watching my dogs run around and play.

Would you like to spend more of your day in that consciousness?

Most definitely yes. The 40-hour workweek is not conducive to it, though.

What can be changed to accomplish this?

Setting up a meditation ritual, and sticking to it.