About half way…

August is the month of the annual Poetry Postcard Fest,

brainchild of Seattle poet Paul Nelson.

postcard 2

In 2007, I was lucky enough to give Paul an assist on getting the first project started.

Back then, about 100 people from all over the country participated.

11 years hence, there are several hundred participants from all over the world.

world of hands

But it’s been a long while since I participated.

I joined in this time because my current poetry project has been a bust so far.

I’ve written nothing I’m satisfied with. At all.

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I wanted the challenge of having to write a single draft of a poem quickly, then send it off right away.

There’s pressure in knowing you only get one shot–but freedom from perfectionism too.

one chance

I bought a pack of random postcards.

I pull out a card, turn it over, and begin to write.

random

My only constraint (aside from the poem needing to fit in the small space)

is that the poem must have something to do with the concept of time. 

time

It’s been quite crazy having to figure out how to work time into a poem about a giraffe or a monkey.

Even though it feels like I am writing in a vacuum, the poem is a missive to my audience of one.

Audience-of-one

Some of the poems came swiftly, without setting my pen down once.

Some of the poems have taken a bit more time.

But nearly all are silly, in some way.

silly face

Rarely, if ever, do I allow myself to just be silly.

And you know what, I can’t figure out why. It’s actually a lot of fun.

It’s okay not to take every endeavor so seriously.

seriously

Participating in the August Poetry Postcard Fest is reminding me that it’s okay to write mediocre poems.

It’s even okay to write bad poems.

dark and stormy

As long as the postcard poems make the recipient smile, that’s good enough.

And good enough is sometimes good enough.

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And I think there is a larger lesson in this postcard experience for me–

just write!

No matter what happens on the page, just write.

Perfection

And don’t aim for perfection.

Just aim to put words on paper.

It seems like I knew all of this before, but I keep forgetting, and keep needing to remind myself.

edit

I can fix the words later.

Or let the words go and write some more.

And some more.

writing postcard 2

And eventually, I might even write something I like enough to hold onto.

life

 

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The Best Laid Plans…

My sweet husband decided that the publication of my very first novel deserved to be celebrated.

In grand style!

entrance to golf course

So my husband rented a small function room at our local golf course.

And we invited our neighbors and friends here in Tillamook to come share a delicious salmon dinner.

salmon

My hubby even had this nearly life-sized blow up of my book cover made up to decorate the room for the celebration.

Andy with sign smaller

It was going to be a wonderful celebration.

And for once, I wasn’t even nervous about having to be the center of attention–like I always am when I have to stand up in front of a room full of people.

nervous

When my first poetry collection came out, I seriously considered hiring a stunt double to give the readings for me.

look alikes

(okay, I don’l look like Bowie or Tilda, but you get the idea)

But this time, I was genuinely excited and wanted to celebrate, even if I was going to read a snippet from the book.

snippet

I picked out a polka dot dress to wear because it seemed fun for the occasion without being too formal.

And a purple lace bolero to wear over it.

polka dot dresspurple

But you read the title of this post, so you know something went awry.

The party went off without a hitch. People had a lovely time. So what went wrong?

party goers

Well, only the fact that I couldn’t attend my own party!

Nope.

My body decided to betray me in the wee hours of the morning the day of my party

with excruciating pain.

I ended up in the hospital.

emergency room

I’m doing better now, after a couple of days in the hospital getting test after test after test.

Diagnosed with an intestinal blockage, I’m recovering slowly.

I may need exploratory surgery if things don’t completely resolve on their own. Hope not.

no surgery

But for now, I’m okay.

Except I’m completely, totally, thoroughly bummed

that I missed my own book celebration party.

sad baby

My first thought was I didn’t deserve a celebration, anyway.

My second thought, too.

mothers voice

That’s my mother’s voice in my head talking. It’s nearly impossible to shut her up.

My next thought was The universe hates me.

universe hates me

The universe isn’t out to get me. That’s just silly.

I am just an insignificant speck in the scheme of things.

the-universe-you-are-here

The Universe doesn’t care a whit about me.

So, here I am feeling pretty sorry for myself.

pity party

How lame is that?

What I should really be feeling is grateful.

grateful

Grateful to have people in my life who wanted to celebrate with me.

Grateful to be alive.

At all.

be alive

And I am.

I am grateful to be here, for however much more time I am granted.

run down

Guess, I am just going to have to do something else worth celebrating.

Maybe write another book?

Or another half-dozen books?

desk

I better get started, huh?

Wish me luck!

prep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friendship Across the Ether

Over a decade ago through the magic of the internet and the wonder of email, I “met” a poet who lived far away in the southwest named Lisha Adela Garcia. We never met in person, though.

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Lisha was putting together her very first full-length poetry collection and thought I might be of assistance. I’ve worked as a poetry manuscript organizer and editor for many years, and I was delighted to take a look at her poems.

stack of pages

The poems were amazing of course! And they turned into her wonderful, acclaimed collection, Blood Rivers, published in 2009.

blood rivers

Through the magic of web ether, Lisha and I have stayed in touch.

But despite never meeting in person, I always felt we had a deep connection.

The connection of our mutual love of poetry, certainly.

poetry books

But it felt like so much more, too.

with some

A soul connection, if you will. Maybe you’ve felt that too?

As if our life experiences sent us along similar paths.

similar paths

I’ve always wanted to meet Lisha, hear her voice in person, look into her eyes.

And last week, I finally got the chance as she passed through my town on the way to a reading for her newly published book,  A Rope of Luna.

rope of luna

This book is filled with poems of rich culture, family, and spirituality.

Here’s one of my many favorite poems in Lisha’s new collection:

 

Lisha-Poem-100

We only had a couple of hours together, and shared a delicious meal. I felt the soul connection even more powerfully in her presence.

lisha and lana

And now, we have vowed to get together again.

So, though some may think the ether an unlikely place to form friendships,

with a little bit of poetry,

Poetry-Books

these ethereal friendships can be deep and meaningful and lasting.

For that, I am very grateful.

soul-friendships

Lisha Adela Garcia’s books on Amazon.

 

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A Guest Post from Stacy W. Dixon!

Hello lovely blog readers, I’m being visited by the wonderful poet Stacy W. Dixon this week.

Stacy W. Dixon’s work has appeared in The Mid-America Poetry Review, Tiger’s Eye, Pirene’s Fountain, Sweet Tree Review, Word Fountain, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

stacy dixon

She’s writing about her new poetry collection, Visiting Ghosts and Ground.    buy on Amazon

stacy book

Stacy wowed me with her clear-eyed and powerful poems of grief.

Take it away, Stacy:

“I think we naturally write about how we experience life. My work is often intimate and personal, though not always autobiographical.  I am inspired by many things; art, nature, memories, dreams, and family. 

water lily

The poems in Visiting Ghosts and Ground begin in adulthood and then turn back to childhood memories.  My mother and grandmother, and the effects of their loss upon my life, inspired some of these poems.  A few of them are influenced by my ancestors, such as Kindred Incantations, Shelf Life, and From a Stolen Child

hands

I feel this collection is largely about connections to the land and the ghosts of the past.  It’s a journey of love and loss, and the desire to keep that love alive.

love and loss

 My hope is always that my work will resonate with others, as so many poets and writers have touched and inspired my own life.”

blue light

Thank you, Stacy, for your poems and your post. As in your lovely lines, “Long days/on end/in the bluish hue,” your collection will resonate with anyone who carries loss in their heart. 

Visit some of Stacy’s inspiring work online here:

Inheritance

& here:

Superimposed

& here:

Night Muse

As always, thanks for stopping by.

thank you

 

 

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“Do you really want to write a beach book?”

“Do you really want to write a beach book?”

was the question posed to me by an international best-selling crime fiction novelist in her writing workshop where participants read a few pages of their works in progress.

Her tone was accusatory.

slap cheek

Honestly, I felt like I’d just been slapped.

Hard. On both cheeks.

I’ve no doubt my face colored.

I was crestfallen. Every writer hopes for approval from authors they admire. Or at least, constructive criticism.

judged c

I felt judged as lacking.

I felt publicly shamed.

I don’t even know if I answered her.

I was just doing everything in my power to keep from bursting into tears.

meaningful

I tried very hard to hear what she was saying as meaningful feedback.

But she wasn’t critiquing my writing, but the content of my writing.

What I hadn’t realized at the time, was I was running into the great divide, previously unknown to me–

Literary versus Genre Fiction.

lit vs genre

And genre fiction, like my romantic time travel adventure novel, according to her was not worthy of wasting time writing.

(And isn’t crime fiction, genre fiction too? Well, not hers I guess.)

I’ve been writing poetry since I could hold a crayon. But that was okay, because poetry is considered literary?

poetry b

Call me naive, but I didn’t realize there was such animosity between literary writers and genre writers.

To me, good writing is good writing.

And I’ve always read both literary and genre fiction without placing any value judgment on the worthiness of either.

I like what I like. And I like a good story.

once upon

I like books that transport me to other worlds, other lives, other experiences than my own.

bradbury

Books that make me think, and feel, and understand something new.

kindred

Books that take me out of my own mental anguish and bring joy.

p and p

Both literary and genre fiction can do those things.

handmaid

So why decide one type of writing is better or more worthy than the other?

Why is only “literary” worthy or merit

and

who defines what is literary and what isn’t?

better

I wish I had stood up to that author.

I wish I had said, “All writing matters.”

proper lit

I wish I could go back in time, and say to that author who shamed me,

“Yes, I really want to write a beach book.”

And now I have.

I wrote the book I needed and wanted to write.

And I’m glad I did. Hopefully, some readers will be too.

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Why I Love Time Travel

Growing up, we were a one TV household.

And believe it or not, until 1980 or so, that TV only had a black & white picture.

tv

When my parents weren’t home or weren’t watching, my older brother was in charge of the TV.

He loved science fiction. So I learned to love it too.

 

Saturday mornings meant 

Godzilla movies

godzilla

and space adventures like

Forbidden Planet

forbidden-planet

But of all the movies my brother and I watched,

this one fully captivated my imagination–

time machine movie

The 1960 film version of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine.

 

From that moment on, I was hooked on Time Travel.

I borrowed the book from the library and devoured it.

time mach

And of course, my brother and I watched science fiction TV shows too!

Like 

time tunnel

&

baker

&

star trek orig

And you can probably guess my favorite episode–

city on edge

City on the Edge of Forever —

a time travel episode where Kirk must chose between love and saving history.

 

So why do I love time travel so much?

love tt

Because time travel is an opportunity to

learn from the past

and 

maybe even to right wrongs, 

as in my favorite time travel movie so far

back 2 future

Back to the Future!

Marty makes life better for his entire family–

after almost screwing it up that is.

future

Time Travel lets you see possible futures

and 

visit history. 

Colliers Illustrated Weekly 28/06/1952, pp. 20-21

And time travel can help a person learn to become his or her best self,

as in my new favorite time travel book,

11/22/63 by Stephen King

11 22 63

(and the book is way, way better than the show–give it a read!)

 

Time travel, for me though, is mostly about regret. 

rewind

The choices we regret making

and the chances we didn’t take.

regret

That’s why in my time travel novel, Time Flash: Another Me

FrontCover159BoxFlat

Sara Rodríguez Bloom García gets lots more chances to make things right. 

Second Chance Just Ahead Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

But like most heroines, she’ll make things lots worse before they get better.

worse

Hopefully readers will enjoy the adventure of it all.

enjoy reading

And feel happy when they read how the story ends.

Concept of choice directions. Made in 3D.

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Poem

We Are the Germans     (part II)

America 2018

 

The SS man.

The ICE man and Border guard.

 

What is ordered,

however immoral, is performed.

 

The German people,

with proper blood keep quiet.

 

The American people,

the privileged ones stay quiet.

 

Not one uniformed person says,

No, I will not do this. This is wrong.

 

Orders are carried out.

Leaders are pleased.

 

Jews die.

Children cry.

 

Injustice is a disgrace

with distinctly human face.

 

A distinctly American face.

Look in the mirror.

 

shelter

 

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Family Poems Are Hard–part 3–final part

I left off part 2 of Family Poems Are Hard saying I thought I was done writing family poems after my first full-length collection, Dance Inside My Bones.

DanceBonesFrontCover

In the book, I have lots of poems about growing up in a difficult family situation.

Like most of us, I suspect.

There is no such thing as a perfect family.

And maybe, not even a normal one. What’s normal, anyway?

normal

There are poems about my mother, my father, my brother, grandparents, uncle, friends, and boyfriends in Dance From Inside My Bones.

There are poems about the state of my heart and mind, from childhood to young adulthood.

So what else was there to say?

no words

Mostly, all my relatives were alive when I wrote and published the collection. They didn’t read it.

Then, over the years, loved ones started dying off.

Some, of awful lingering illnesses.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 02: The shadow of a cemetery worker is cast on reclaimed gravestones in London City Cemetery on March 2, 2009 in London, EnglandThe cemetery is piloting a scheme whereby graves over 75 years old become eligible for reclamation. New bodies will be placed into the existing graves, the headstones turned around re used carving the names of the newly deceased. Once a grave has been earmarked by English heritage the cemetery must wait one year to see if family members claim the existing grave. By conserving as many memorials as possible the City of London hopes to maintain the historic cemetery landscape and sustain buriel provisions for the future. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Grief  is always hard. Grief over difficult relationships ending, is especially complicated.

Complex & powerful.

My brother, who had helped with rescue endeavors on 9/11, was diagnosed with a rare, likely incurable leukemia.

 

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My brother and I had never been able to be close growing up because my mother pitted us against one another. She was a master of hateful mind-games. And she forced my brother to to inflict physical punishments on me, as well.

This did not inspire a deep, loving relationship between us, as you can well imagine.

But with my brother’s fatal diagnosis, I realized time was short. If I was ever going to have any meaningful dialogue with my brother, it had to happen soon.

time out

In what turned out to be the last eighteen months of my brother’s life, we talked–

really talked–a few times.

We said things, I never knew were possible.

That brief time was such a gift. A tremendous gift for which I will always be grateful.

heart gift

And then, my brother died, after living his last days with a grace I never imagined possible.

A hero in life, and in death.

There was so much I never got to ask him. Or to say.

So much about our relationship I still needed to process.

So I took up my pen.

write left

I took up my pen because writing is how I process my emotions.

Writing is how I sort what I am feeling and thinking.

I wrote “dead boy” poems because my brother died too young.

Because all my memories became entangled with his too-early death.

headstone

I never intended to publish these poems.

But I did share a few at readings.

Listeners asked me about where they could find these poems in print.

(nowhere)

Still, I didn’t really plan on a book.

And then, a year later, my mother died.

dead mother

My mother died in her sleep. Peacefully.

Unlike my dear father who suffered a horrible lung cancer death.

Unlike my aunt who suffered a terrible, ongoing battle with cancer.

Unlike my dearest friend who died too young–bled to death on the operating table during a procedure meant to extend his life.

Unlike my best friend, who had a bad headache that turned out to be an inoperable brain tumor.

Unlike my brother, who fought the illness as hard as he could, for as long as he could.

death unfair

I was relieved my mother hadn’t suffered.

But angry all over again that other people I loved had.

To be honest, I was glad to be free of my mother. At least this side of the earth.

But her hurtful words live on inside me–make me doubt myself and my self-worth.

So why the bejeezus was I crying so much?

cry

Because fresh grief re-opens old wounds.

Shreds them, actually.

I kept going over family and over family stuff in my head, like a dog scratching at fleas.

scratch

And more poems came.

Because there was more to say about family.

And I was willing to speak my truth because it was mine.

truth

If people would judge me harshly over that truth, it no longer mattered.

Because deep inside, I knew from reading my first book of family poems in public, that sharing my family situation could make another person feel less alone. Feel they could get through the worst of it.

less alone

And so, I went ahead and published the new family poems in journals.

I read the poems at readings.

And eventually, I let the book enter the world.

dead boy

I have no regrets.

The Dead Boy Sings In Heaven is for my brother.

And for anyone else who comes from a difficult family.

I believe if my brother could see the book, he’d give me a hug.

And he’d tell me that the Godzilla poems were his favorite.

(Mine too.)

godzilla and friends

Though family poems are hard…

family poems are healing.

healing

Thank you for reading this far, and listening to my heart.

May you always find healing whenever your heart hurts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Family Poems Are Hard–part 2

I left off part 1 of this topic saying that publishing my first book of family poems, Dance From Inside My Bones, was truly overwhelming.

For a number of reasons.

DanceBonesFrontCover

First, let me say, my experience with Snake Nation Press, where my manuscript won the Violet Reed Haas Award, was not one of those reasons.

The strong women editors at Snake Nation, Roberta George and Jean Arambula, were truly stellar to work with.

They lauded the honesty of my work, and had me attend the AWP conference in Atlanta for the book release.

Not for one minute, did I forget how fortunate I was to have my poetry manuscript published.

Getting a poem published is hard. Getting a book published is harder. I was one of the lucky ones.

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Yet, a part of me believed it was some sort of mistake.

That they announced the wrong winner and would take it back.

Removing word with pencil's eraser, Erasing mistake

A voice in my head (my mother’s) told me I didn’t deserve it.

Nonetheless, I was overjoyed, and deer-in-the-headlights scared.

deer in

At the AWP Snake Nation booth, I stood behind copies of my books, as thousands of people streamed by.

I am a terrible introvert. It took every ounce of bravado I had not to go to my hotel room and hide.

hiding

I smiled. I nodded I answered questions.

Mostly, the same one over and over–

what

My book is about family and growing up into a young woman. 

And the response was largely–

Oh, childhood nostalgia.

happy child

No, not that at all.

Actually, it was more like this–

crying

The problem was when I wrote the poems, I wasn’t thinking of some future point when I would have to physically stand in front of people and justify my work.

I wasn’t thinking about being there, in person with the book, putting a face to the autobiographical poems.

hiding-behind-book

When I was writing the poems, I was trying to put my experiences into words that might connect with others on the other side of the page.

Being in front of people with my book felt like one of those dreams where you are suddenly naked in public.

naked in public

I was more than uncomfortable. I was worried about being judged, or blamed.

I had written my truth, but I guess, I hadn’t yet claimed it. Not live and in-person, anyway.

I hadn’t accepted I had a right to that truth.

I hadn’t thought ahead to having to stand in front of folks and give readings.

I was really up there

But, I would give readings. And at Seattle’s Open Books, no less.

And I feared I would be hated for not saying Hallmark things about my mother. In this culture, and many others, the word mother is synonymous with sainthood.

But I didn’t have a Hallmark mother, nor a Brady Bunch family.

bbunch

And I had been in abusive situations with family members, but never told anyone, other than my therapist.

Now that the book was out, it felt like I was shouting it from the rooftops, telling the world.

shout

Well, anyone in the world who wanted to read Dance From Inside My Bones.

Then, there was the fact that all but one of those abusive family members were still alive.

What would they say, if they read my book?

account

Fortunately none of them wanted to read my book.

Which was a relief.

My mother said she knew it was “garbage” since I had written it.

I expected that. But it still hurt. Even now she’s dead, it’s still impossible to shut out my mother’s derisive voice in my head.

dead mother

So what really happened at each reading I gave?

People were polite, applauded.

polite

Several people bought my book.

Sometimes one or two folks asked me to sign it.

But one person came up and confided in me that my work spoke to them about what they’d been through.

That person thanked me.

And I cried tears of joy as we hugged.

connected

I realized I’d come full circle.

Poetry saved my life as child in harrowing circumstances. Poems reached across time, distance, gender, culture, and spoke to me of survival. Poems taught me I wasn’t alone in my suffering. And if others could survive, so could I.

bridge

Finally, my poems provided that message and reached out as well.

My words only connected with one other living soul. And that was more than I could ever hope for.

I may not have changed the world.

bridge 3

I may not have bettered that person’s life.

But for one brief moment in time, that person knew they were not alone.

And it was enough. For both of us.

poetry matters

But still, I thought, I would publish no more autobiographical poems. I had said all there was to say.

Little did I know…

[Next time, Family Poems Are Hard–part 3]

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