Hooray! The title poem from my book, Unexplained Fevers, “She Has Unexplained Fevers” is featured on Verse Daily today! It’s the only poem I’ve ever written in the voice of a cranky dwarf (from the famous Seven Dwarfs, of course!) Thanks Verse Daily!
My parents are visiting from Ohio and instead of going crazy this holiday like I normally do I’m trying to stay thankful, centered, relaxed *at least some of the time. I’ve been wrapping presents and watching my fave holiday movies late into the night after my chores are done (so far: Christmas in Connecticut (the working girl holiday movie before there was Brigit Jones,) the original The Bishop’s Wife, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, etc), enjoying the constant smell of sugar cookies baking (we’ve been baking them to give as Christmas presents!) My friend and talented musician Matt Price sent me one of the best presents ever – he wrote and performed and recorded a song in the voice of the father character from my “Robot Scientist Daughter” poems, and I’m giving it to my Dad for Christmas (along with a little robot kit.) It’s such a funny song with a combination of disturbing humor and sentiment, that I laugh and get teary every time I hear it (I’ll share it when I get permission from the musician.) This is one of the many serendipities of working with other artists in unexpected ways, in this case, working with the Bushwick Book Club and Jack Straw. We’ve bought tickets to go see the Hobbit part II this weekend, which seems very much in keeping with the Hall family holiday traditions, such as they are. The lights and tree are up, our forty-degree-ish weather has returned after our cold snap, and plus, to brighten your holiday, this adorable leopard cub, courtesy of ZooBorns.com: http://www.zooborns.com/.a/6a010535647bf3970b019b025e8d30970c-popup.
I’m feeling blessed and lucky in other ways too – this last few years my immune system has been so insane (hives, spontaneous anaphylaxis, etc) that I was about to start monthly injections of an experimental drug that shuts down the IgE system, (which, though I’m against GMO food and farming, would make me a GMO person!) but yesterday my immunologist doc said I was doing so much better we could hold off! I really have had improvements in my health, I’m not just imagining it! I love hearing that kind of news around the holidays! My big brother, little brother, and nephew all got great new jobs recently, which I’m also celebrating, as it’s still a dang hard time to find a good job these days. So I’m just going to say, I’m thankful. And also feeling very warm and fuzzy, much like that leopard cub.
After months of very little in the way of good poetry news of any sort, I’ve been inundated with news, mostly good news, things I want to be able to stop and be grateful for in the middle of the holiday hustle. (We’ve rearranged furniture, broken a microwave, built cabinets in the laundry room/pantry, got together a variety of Christmas presents, and restocked the upstairs bed and bath with necessities in the last few days…) So here are a few things:
Lesley Wheeler talks a little bit about her adventures in teaching, and I do mean adventures! Lesley had her class at Washington and Lee University produce this web site, Gaileyland, which is a travel-guide-type exploration of my book Becoming the Villainess. Pretty much the most creative and cool example of teaching a book of poetry in a way that won’t put students to sleep. The whole thing is hilarious; I particularly like the restaurant reviews.
In case you are interested, here’s a link to the text and the video from my reading on a 16 degree night for the Redmond Lights Celebration and dedication of the sculpture called “The Erratic” by John Fleming: http://redmondpoetry.blogspot.com/2013/12/video-and-poem-from-redmond-lights.html. It was a fun night despite the bitter cold and a nice way to connect with the community there. I also found I really like doing ekphrastic poetry, so I hope I find a way to keep doing it!
I heard that Verse Daily will be featuring one of my poems, I think on Thursday. So keep an eye out!
After almost six months of just rejections, I’ve had four acceptances in the last week, which just reminds me that the writing life is very bipolar – months of nothing, then a week of good news! That’s the way it is, and why you have to grit your teeth and stick with it through the months of bad news. So you can be extra happy when all your good news comes in.
And I’m happy to say that the re-release in print by Two Sylvias Press of my second book, She Returns to the Floating World, should be out by the end of the month! More news on that when I get it! This version will have internal art by Michaela Eaves, so it’s worth getting just for that!
Oh, and if you’re doing any holiday shopping that includes poetry books, Kelli Agodon has a great list of her favorite poetry books of 2013 here, and I really like the list myself (not just because Unexplained Fevers is on the list, either – this resembles very closely my faves of 2013 as well!) So check that out!
My goals after the holidays include starting to be more determined in writing book reviews that pay (as opposed to the ones I do for free) and doing more freelance magazine writing queries. I used to really enjoy freelance writing, and I want to get back into the swing of that, just maybe slightly different kinds of journalism. I know quite a bit about allergy-friendly menu planning, or finding beauty products without wheat, and maybe that info will be interesting to others? I hope so! I feel better about myself when I’m contributing to the household incoming in whatever ways I can, even though, yes, I’m a poet. So that’s part of my goal-setting for 2014. What about you?
Tonight I’m reading for the art dedication of a piece called “The Erratic” on the Redmond Connector Trail, at 6:30. I think the reading is actually outside, and there’s a luminary walk and hot chocolate booths and such for kids, and I believe the part that I’ll be a part of will last from 6:30 to 7 PM. Did I mention it’ll be outside and last night it was ten degrees outside! Ten degrees in Seattle! It’s the coldest I ever remember it being out here, I have to keep thawing out the hummingbird feeders. I’ve gone up to my “old clothes closet” to dig out: heaviest long winter coat, earmuffs, gloves, and I have to try to find something “festive” to wear for the reading that I won’t freeze in underneath. (The Ugg boots aren’t necessarily festive, but possibly a necessity!) The whole schedule for the Redmond Lights events tonight is here: http://www.redmondlights.com/events/
Last night I went out to see former editor of Poetry Northwest and current critic for The Rumpus David Biespiel do a reading at Open Books. Local luminaries like Linda Bierds (winner of one of those MacArthur Genius Grant) and Martha Silano were there, so that was fun, but it was so cold last night, and someone was coughing all the way through the reading, and I came home with a sore throat, so I’m drinking hot water and honey to fix that before tonight. Sometimes I have to remember to rest the night before a reading!
Did I mention tonight is also the husband’s annual Christmas party downtown? So it’s possible I will race home from the outdoor reading, change clothes, glam up, and head downtown to help the husband do networking and see what the company sprang for this year (in early years at the company, they used to splash out on smoked salmon and champagne and 80′s cover bands, but it’s been a while. Times are lean!)
In the middle of this, I am getting ready for a holiday visit from my parents, which means I am trying to decorate and clean the house and get the upstairs ready for visitors (we have a tiny Christmas tree for the upstairs!) and running around trying to put presents together for everyone (five nieces and nephews, five brothers and brother-in-laws, friends, the parents, various others…) It seems harder to shop this year as the sales weren’t very good and the quality on everything seems a little cheaper – probably due to the recession, shops are trying to make more profit.
Let’s see, I’ve been reading Donna Tartt’s new book The Goldfinch, which I think is horribly repetitive and the voice seems very phony, like she’s never even talked to a teenage boy in her life. It got praised up and down for its wonderful “Dickens-esque” character, but Dickens was more fun than this – and based on the plot, the book should be a lot more fun – art thievery, white trash living in Vegas, snobby Manhattan families, etc. I’m disappointed because I loved The Secret History so much, but I remembered I don’t always love everything by every author I like – I’m crazy about some AS Byatt books, for instance, but only “meh” about others. (And while Margaret Atwood continues to be one of my favorite writers, her latest sci-fi dystopian trilogy didn’t thrill me, either.) Perhaps I’ve become a tougher reader as I get older? One book I’m thrilled with so far is “A Poet’s Prose” – the prose writings of Louise Bogan, which makes a wonderful read along with the correspondence of Flannery O’Connor, because they discuss some of the same problems and write to some of the same people (although Louise was born first, she outlived Flannery by decades.) Even if you don’t love her poetry, you will probably love her letters – she’s sharp, gossipy, intelligent, passionate, someone you would have wanted to be friends with. It’s the kind of book I love to “happen upon” when I go to Open Books.
Well, six months with very little in the way of good news, then I got a ton of it the day after Thanksgiving!
New Binary Press has nominated my poem from Unexplained Fevers, “Once Upon a Time,” which first appeared in American Poetry Review, for the Pushcart Prize, so cross your fingers for it!
I got an acceptance from one of my fave online fairy-tale reviews, Rose Red Review, of three poems. And an acceptance of three poems for the Drawn to Marvel anthology coming out in March from Minor Arcana Press!
Then, I have good news for those of you who are fans of my little second book, She Returns to the Floating World, which went out of print when Kitsune Books closed…Two Sylvias Press is re-releasing and re-launching a print version of the book, with some new edits AND…drumroll…with new art work inspired by the poems by Michaela Eaves inside! Cool, right? Should be out by the end of the year!
We’re decking the halls a little early this year in preparation for my parents’ visit in about a week, so we’ve put up the Christmas lights, our tree, our mantel has stockings…
But a little worry is overshadowing my holiday excitement and happiness and thankfulness for all this good news. Thailand has had some political unrest, and my little brother is living out there, so think good thoughts for he and his wife out there.
The only sane kind of shopping to do today is online shopping. Better still, online shopping for poetry! It makes a thoughtful gift, especially combined with, say, some other down-time-appropriate accessories, maybe some fancy coffee or tea and a nice throw. In that vein…
If you live near Ireland, check out my third book’s publisher, New Binary Press, and their holiday sale! My book Unexplained Fevers is available for 8 euros, which is about $10.80 American.
And, if you want signed copies of all of my books for yourselves or for friends, I’m doing a package deal of all three of my books (Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers) for $30, plus $3 for priority shipping. You’ll receive a little something extra too, like an art card or bookmark or something fun! It’s the holidays, after all.
“Click here to order – available for seriously a limited time only, and I even made a special Paypal button for it! If you want me to sign one or all of the books to you or someone special, put that request in the “Add Special Instructions to the Seller” popup comment field.
As for me, I’m going to spend “Black Friday” decorating for the holidays, organizing, and enjoying delicious leftovers, maybe doing some poetry work. And maybe even getting on my exercise machine…we have some snow in the forecast, so I guess I better for real start wearing a coat and a sweater. One good thing about living near the ocean is usually our winters are pretty mild, but we have some very chilly temperatures in the forecast (so dress accordingly if you’re planning to visit!)
So, this week of Thanksgiving, I definitely have some things to be thankful for.
After several neurologist visits and a barrage of tests, though they did find some neurological permanent damage and some other oddities, the consensus seems to be that I most likely do not have MS (though I’ll probably need another MRI down the line to make sure.) I hadn’t realized how much this news lifted a dark cloud over my head that’s been there for a few months, kind of weighing down my thoughts, trying not to think about the bad stuff ahead. I was so exhausted from the many tests that I didn’t even register the good news at first, it just kind of felt like the sun was out. Which, also, the sun was out in Seattle in November, a small miracle in itself (even if our air quality is in the tank! Ha! Can’t have everything!) I even wrote a poem the day I found out, which I hadn’t done in a while.
The other news was that I not only had a very good conversation with a lovely, kind and witty small press publisher about my fourth book manuscript The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and that the manuscript is also a finalist for this year’s Brittingham and Pollak Prize. So I am hopeful that good things are happening in that direction.
I would like to take a small moment to give you all a little bit of info and a warning about the seriousness of B12 deficiency. The first time I was tested for b12 deficiency was 2007 in Port Townsend; my symptoms then were frequent sore throats, mild intermittent buzzing in my hands and feet, and severe neck pain, which I thought was injury-related. The doctor was pretty smart for even thinking for look for a vitamin deficiency with that set of symptoms, I think, and sure enough, the blood test revealed very low b12. He started me on b12 shots monthly, which I took for years, and oral supplement drops. Unfortunately, I don’t absorb b12 through food or even through the shots very well, it turns out, and years of severely low b12 (starting probably years before 2007) have left me with some permanent neural damage, and I will always have to stay vigilant about getting tested for b12, even while getting shots or my current regimen of twice-weekly nasal spray b12. Some of the symptoms, like the neck pain, numbness and tingling in my hands and feet, clumsiness due to motor skill damage, and some memory issues – may stick around my whole life, I’ve been told. B12 deficiency, if it is severe enough, can damage your nerves’ myelin sheath in much the same way MS can. Now you know! Because I didn’t! This is why, during a few days of holiday cheer and down time, and if you have some spare time to get to a doctor, I’d encourage you to get some of your basic vitamin levels tested – including the B’s and maybe D, especially if you feel tired, or low, or especially numb, clumsy or ache-y. (My husband, by the way, who eats a fairly healthy diet and has no food allergies like I do, who had been complaining about feeling tired, and because of my insistence, got tested and turned out to be mildly deficient in Folic Acid! A surprise! So you never know until you get your B vitamins tested what you might not be getting through your diet.)
Now, I’m off to a physical therapy appointment followed by a date with my husband to see Catching Fire! It’s a glamorous life all right, and I am feeling thankful for it today. Merry Thanksgiving to All!
Yes, it’s the end of November, and we’re counting down til the end of the year. For me, this means a flurry of doctor’s appointments and tests, important to schedule them now because if I get anything done after January 1 our deductible goes back to zero, and everything is out of pocket for the first few thousand dollars. So: blood draw yesterday, neurologist today, thyroid ultrasound Saturday, and yet another couple of doctor’s appointments to schedule that I just haven’t had time to get to…Phew! I’m exhausted, or maybe that’s just the blood draw talking. I’m off to downtown for today’s appointment in a few minutes.
I checked my “gift box” and noticed that I have already done a lot of my Christmas shopping, which I did really early this year, picking up gifts I thought were thoughtful when I saw them at a good price throughout the year. This makes me a little relieved that I don’t have much left to do shopping-wise. Every year we have fewer grown-ups who want to exchange gifts but more children, thanks to my super-procreative brothers and brother-in-law. For Glenn and I, we usually do our gift exchanges after Christmas, which was a tradition in my family growing up poor – we always shopped the after-Christmas sales with my Dad’s January 1 paycheck. It’s actually a nice way to extend the season and not stress out the bank account – I recommend it! As a child it was hard to wait, as an adult it just seems logical!
It’s been freezing cold here (lower twenties at night) which means I had to unearth my box of heavy sweaters, which with the usual winters here I can leave in storage, because our winters are typically rainy, gray, but in the fifties-range during the day. Not this year! I’m also trying to locate a warm-enough coat – most of my “coats” are thin jackets, which, once again, work most years…
And what about poetry and writing, you ask? Well, it’s the end of the year for that too, so I’m taking stock of submissions still out, looking at any recent poem and short story drafts and considering which are worth keeping, thinking about where I want to send work (if anywhere) for the rest of the year. My fifth manuscript is getting into good shape, finally – it took some more personal poems to make the apocalyptic-and-pop-culture-themed collection to find some resonance, but now it’s feeling closer to complete. My fourth manuscript is still…well, let’s just say there’s some movement on it but nothing I can announce yet. It’s in a liminal space, so to speak, between the worlds of creation and production.
So what’s on your list of things to get done before the end of the year? Which boxes are you taking out and shaking?
If you’d like to know which poet I’d like to trade places with, which first books I recommend reading, and other sundry items, check out this interview with Renee Emerson at her blog:
I was just talking to another poet about how much of the poetry world is grinding our teeth, waiting to hear things, pondering whether or not we should continue to do blank and/or whether this or that is worth doing. I mean, it’s enough to put you in an existential crisis, right?
But the big thing to remember when you are going through a tough period – the loss of your job or your writing spark, the countless rejections, the disappointment of a grant not received or prize not won, is that the single most important key to success – and this is something I have heard over and over again from people who are very successful writers – is to learn to put that energy – the toothgrinding energy, let’s call it – into trying again. Writing another poem or story, sending out your work to another market, making plans to start your own magazine or publishing company.
I watched the movie Frances Ha and was reminded that sometimes when life feels like a bunch of rejections (in her case, by a boyfriend, a best friend, a job situation) that maybe it’s because life is pushing you in a different direction. Because she couldn’t stay in her in-between (jobs, partners, apartments) position comfortably, she was forced to do new things – in her case, she wanted to be a modern dancer, but instead accepted an admin job at the dance company and started doing choreography. I thought it was a charming way to talk about the artistic life – sometimes you don’t get exactly what you want, you don’t get to be the star dancer of the dance company, but you get to contribute and create in a way you didn’t expect. At 27, for a dancer an advanced age, you have to either give up or alter your goals. For writers, the age limit isn’t quite the same – many great writers started late and still ended up very successful – but at one time or another, we will all hit a wall in between our beginning lofty goals and what is realistically achievable. I am 40, and I feel I am eying that wall right now. What is it I want, and what can I achieve from here? We might not get the things we wanted, but as the Rolling Stones said, we just might get what we need.
The Last Day to Vote for Unexplained Fevers in the Goodreads Choice Semifinals and a Rough Week for Poets
It’s the very last day to vote in the Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist round for Unexplained Fevers in the Poetry category! So please, if you want to help a small press (New Binary Press) gain some exposure, and help cheer up an injured and sick poet (me!) then raise your poetry karma and vote! I do feel lucky to even be on the same page with poets like J.R.R. Tolkien, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, and my friend Victoria Chang. Here’s the link below:
I’m not going to lie, for me it’s been a rough week for poetry. (I had a somewhat grumpier post up, but decided to take it down.) Let’s just say that I lost my voice at two reading events, received some rejections (par for the course for poets, of course), sprained my ankle getting to a poetry event while nearly getting run over by a car in downtown Seattle, and generally felt a little rough around the edges. I felt a little chewed up and spit out by the poetry machine, such as it is. I can recognize the signs of needing some down time, some time reading and writing, and some quality time with friends and family, I think, at the end of this year. It’s at least partially my own fault for prioritizing doing over being, poetry events over doctor appointments, duty over fun and inspiration, results over the process. Therefore, I am resolving to do more things that remind me of what I love about writing, less of the things that lead to burnout. I will celebrate the good, I will remember my blessings. I will watch videos of an elderly man blow drying a fox.
In that vein, check out this fundraiser for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, sponsored in part by my lovely poet friend Aimee Nezhukumatathil and her ideas on how to help. Once again, instead of feeling powerless in the face of destruction, you can make a move towards good.
Well, thanks to your votes, Unexplained Fevers made it to the semifinalist round of the Goodreads Best Book of the Year Awards!
First of all, thank you! And second of all, if you get a chance, please vote in this semifinalist round to see if I can make the finals! (Much more competitive! Although I’m happy just to have made it on the same page as Tolkien, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, et al.)
Remember, voting for a small press poetry book is like hugging kittens!
On other news, still sick (achoo!) and slowly, slowly adjusting to the Mac (I hate the “transparent” windows that make you not know whether you’re in Word or an e-mail file or what at a time – and I can’t figure out how to compare old files by date (like, say, versions of my book manuscript) without Windows Explorer – Apple’s pretty lame “Finder” does not compare. See? Little things, but things that are totally stopping me from being able to work!) Maybe I should just go the Windows for Mac route?
I’m trying my best to get well, and rest – today’s dry, warmer weather should help (we’ve had forty-ish rain for a week now) because Thursday I’ll be teaching twice – once, by Skype to East Coast college students at noon, and later, at 6 PM at Ballard Library for the It’s About Time series, I’ll be talking all Writer’s Craft-y about persona poetry.
I wish I had the video for you of the Bushwick Bush Club musician’s reading and song pairing, because I read terribly but Matt Price, the musician I was paired with, created a lovely song based on my Robot Scientist Daughter persona poems with a song that began with something like “My dear, you’re a lovely child/but you’re only a robot” and had a great tonal balance between sentiment and hilarity. You’ll see when I post it. There’s brain and heart dissections, rebooting children, and portals in necks. Good times.
And, of course, it is Veteran’s Day, and I’d like to take a moment to thank all who serve – including many of my former National students, my father, both my grandfathers, my nephew, and my older brother.
And if you are a writer struggling with hard times, read Kelli’s post on the importance of supportive writer friends. The only bad thing about friends is that you can’t see them when you’re sick, lest you get them sick, and I’m usually sick most of the winter! I need a robot self!