Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sabbaticalling: Weekly Roundup #5

That darn snow cost me another poetry reading plus a planned trip to Poets House. However, that darn snow caused me to stay home and not head towards that terrible crane accident at which the subway I would have taken was not stopping. Scary accident. Prefer shoveling.

Books read: I finished the Hemingway book, a collection of poetry, and a Y/A novel. I scattershot-struggle-read something else that was so odd that I don't know what to call it other than it was Not For Me. (FYI: If you ever click the link to see my Bookshelf page about the books I've read, it's mostly in reverse chronological order except for when I read a book by an author I've already read. Then I move those previous books up to group them together. Because I'm a Virgo and I can't not do it that way). Anyway, the Y/A novel, We Were Liars, floored me. It's one of the best pieces of contemporary writing I've read in a long time.

Journals and mags read: The Rumpus, back issues of Fence and This, and McSweeney’s. I also jumped around to some new journals and mags, taking in the variety that's out there. I'm not sure why people still start new journals when so many already exist. Maybe we should start really supporting the ones that already exist. (I think the Virgo in me is really acting up these days--I'm now trying to consolidate the entire literary world into a well-organized bookshelf. Someone save me from myself please).

Listened to: The Catapult Podcast. I love listening to this podcast of hyper-contemporary writers reading their works. Each episode is about half an hour to forty minutes. Usually, it's what I'd listen to during a commute, as is how I listen to all my podcasts, but since I have no commute, I went for a few walks this week so that I could listen. I also listened while cooking. I'm behind about five episodes, but I think I'll catch up soon.

On Writing: I did not have my weekly workshop this week, so I guess it's no longer weekly. We will meet up again this coming week. The break actually proved beneficial as I was able to send feedback to my online poetry workshop, a group of five of us poets who have been sending work to each other monthly for...okay, I'm not sure how long but I think it's been two years. Wow. That amazes me. Poets who stick to something for more than a few weeks.

I also blogged a poem on my Tumblr, which I rarely do. I wrote it this past week and thought, hey this belongs on my Tumblr asap. So that happened.

I blogged some more right here and I'm blogging right this very second.

In keeping with blogs, I wrote my first tally post for Poetry Has Value. I spent more than I earned concerning poetry in January because I bought and used stamps. However, I made money with some prose writing, which tips the scales in my favor. Paid for writing. Huh. What a concept. The posts on PHV should go live soon.

Additionally, I wrote and revised more of my own poems, and I got giddy with it because I think I'm actually making some headway with the creature/critter collection. I revised the other current collection-in-progress some more, but not too much. I have to stop looking at it for a while and then revisit to see if it's final or not.

Finally, I started a list for McSweeney's. Because McSweeney's haunts my dreams.

Submitting: I submitted poems to twelve journals, three of which were via snail mail. I also submitted my collection to one press.
This is how I track submissions to paying venues. Because I'm a Virgo.

I received one rejection balanced out by one acceptance. Yeay for acceptance! More on that soon. With acceptance comes the task of withdrawing from other places, which has begun but has not been completed yet.

Last but not least, I GOT A HAIRCUT! Back in, like, November or October, I told my officemate SD how I was looking forward to sabbatical mostly so I could get a haircut because she had just gotten one and I was jealous. I finally got one. It's so short and I love it. Of course, "short" here means not down to my waist and only past my shoulders. It's all relative.
That's 3 1/2 inches GONE!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Morgan, Hemingway, and Me

The Morgan Library stands in midtown in NYC, a few blocks from Penn Station, which makes it one of the easiest museums to visit. Why I've never been there before remains a mystery wrapped in stupidity tinged with laziness. Hemingway's A Moveable Feast had me mesmerized as much as McLain's The Paris Wife had, only this time, it was Hemingway's own voice, and it was non-fiction. Then I came across the current exhibit at the Morgan Library -- Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars.



Serendipitous! I had to go! Of course, I found out about it two days before it was to close. I was free on a Friday. The Morgan has free admission on Friday nights from 7 to 9. Serendipitous again! I love free! I love libraries! I love Hemingway!

The Morgan Library's midtown location means a lovely evening walk to Madison. In my head, I repeated 1, 2, 3, Little Piggies Make 5 to make sure I knew how many more blocks to go.

Sidenote: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Lexington, Park, Madison, 5th. Mind blown? I thought so.

No stranger to overheating after a brisk walk in a winter coat, I arrived at the Morgan quite warm. The winter evening was not a typical NYC winter evening. The temperature sat around a balmy 39 at sunset. Inside the museum, you have to check your coat or wear it. I opted to check it because the building generated its own balminess at what felt like a mild 807. I stripped off my scarf, gloves, and coat and stood on line to wait. Then a museum official person came over to me and two people behind me to take us up the stairs and around a corner to a second coat check. So there's your tip of the day--go to the second coat check.

Fancy room across from the second coat check
Of course, once I found the exhibit, there were people walking around holding their coats. The coat check is free. Follow the instructions! Some were following instructions, wearing their coats. These people also generated a quite unpleasant stench. Again, the thermometer read, I'm estimating, 807, so they dealt with that while wearing winter coats.

I found myself sweating at first, too, because, well, I'm prone to sweating, but also because my feet were all cozy in new winter boots that are probably the warmest boots I've ever owned.

Flashback to like two weeks ago, I'm meeting S in the city to see Sisters (incredibly funny movie!). As I'm walking to the theatre, I hear behind me some guy say, Eskimo boots! Eskimo boots! He didn't so much say it as exclaim it. I looked around. Then I looked down. Oh. I was Eskimo Boots. It was the first time I was wearing them, so it was the first time I noticed how brightly white they were. The woman he was with agreed with him: Eskimo boots! Yes, Eskimo boots! Sometimes I acknowledge this kind of thing. This time, I did not because they weren't actually talking to me. They were talking to each other, and then they were off ahead of me, crossing against the light, and then hollering things about other people they clearly did not know. Anyway, I suppose what also made them Eskimo boots that our lovely couple could not know was that they were really super warm, and I'd arrived at the theatre practically doing a strip tease.

So while oohing and ahhing at the first set of journals and letters of Hemingway and his friends, I focused on not passing out. Lots of crowding and bunching happened at first, but then people found their own groove of looking and reading, so it thinned out, and finally cooled down.

We were not allowed to take pictures. I took pictures. I did not get caught taking pictures. I'm guessing two reasons we could not take pictures. Either everything was copyrighted or they wanted everyone to buy the $35 book from the museum shop. Thank you no thank you. I'll take my on the sly blurry pics any day over that. I also spent much time scribbling down interesting tidbits from the letters, the pictures, and the explanations. Because I'm not an asshole, I'm not going to post pics from inside the exhibit here. In fact, I feel so bad about it that I'm deleting them right now. (No, I'm not).

I had about fifteen minutes left after seeing the exhibit before the museum closed, so I went to see some of the permanent rooms. The rotunda, the study, and the huge rooms of books are pretty and awesome and pretty awesome.
Gutenberg Bible


Phyllis Wheatley, the first published African-American poet
I checked out the museum store to see what Hemingway books they had. They seemed to have them all plus the aforementioned exhibit book of extraordinary cost. They also had this:
Because Hemingway lived in Paris and he drank a lot
Then it was time to go.  I allowed myself one corny moment on my way out.
The next time I go to the Morgan Library, Andy Warhol will be there. Can't friggin wait!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sabbaticalling: Weekly Roundup #4

This week was more prosey than poetic, but writing is writing, and sabbaticalling is sabbaticalling. Amirite?

The amount of reading I’ve completed so far in this few weeks’ time measures about, oh, I don’t know, triple what I’ve read in the past few years. Seriously. This week, I finished reading one poetry collection andread another full one, one of collected works, I might add (which means, pretty long). Granted I didn’t read every single thing in the collected works, but I read most of it. I also continued to read the book I bought (it’s Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast).

In between these books, I scanned through the fairy encyclopedia, taking notes on different kinds of fairies and other magical creatures I might find poetically pleasing. I’m not sure who might publish an entire collection of poetry devoted to gnomes and crones, but it sure is fun to jump into a world of magic.

Speaking of magic, I watched Labyrinth for the first time this past week, encouraged by my workshop partner to do so. It is fantastic in that unrealistic corny sort of way.

Additionally, I began to plan a soon-in-the-future visit to Poets House by researching their holdings for all the contemporary collections I want to read. They have most of them. I’m going to have to visit a few times to cover all the books I want to read.

Also reading-related, I checked out The Rumpus, Booth, back issues of Fence and This, and of course McSweeney’s. I could spend days at a time reading through McSweeney’s. It’s really dangerous. This is why I’m happy I don’t quite get Reddit. If I really understood what exactly I was supposed to do on Reddit, I think I’d live on it.

Oh, wait a minute. Hold everything. Reddit. Read it? Is it called Reddit because after you visit the site, you’ve read it? Have I uncovered something miraculously punned-in, or am I the last one to realize it?

Lots more online work—cleared out all my saved links on Facebook that related to writing and readings, and then did the same with the bookmarks on my computer.

Still online, I corresponded with Jessica Piazza over at Poetry Has Value, and just like that, I became a guest blogger on her Tumblr. I wrote my introduction post and then submitted it. Poetry Has Value is her project that reveals the world of publishing for free versus publishing for a fee versus getting paid by writing and submitting poetry that journals accept. She cataloged a year of activity, and now a bunch of poets are doing the same this year. I’m included!

Keeping with the prose, and back to McSweeney’s because it is ubiquitous, I tidied up three pieces and submitted them.

The weekly workshop with my artist friend once again opened poetic doors. Getting a second opinion on a poem proves to be invaluable (that means so great you can’t put a price on it, right? I’m too lazy to look it up. More on my writing laziness here).

Flying high on the motivation of workshopping, I started two poems, revised a bunch of poems in their third drafts, and then revised my current full manuscript, replacing poems that make me go meh with poems that make me go yowza.

I didn’t submit individual poems this week because I focused on submitting my collection. Sure, I keep changing it around, but I still think it’s strong enough to be published. I submitted it to seven presses. Received on rejection already. What speed!

As a counter to that, I got a piece of prose accepted by YourTango. Here’s where the prose comes in once again. I pitched a personal essay about drinking in college versus not drinking as a fully-formed adult. Then I learned to navigate their platform for publishing. I plan to pitch more in the future.

I finished off the week by blogging right now, listening to a new episode of PoemTalk, and then heading out to the Morgan Library to see the Hemingway exhibit that I just learned about the day before. Since it closes on 1/31, I simply picked myself up, put myself on a train, and went to see it, all the while carrying A Moveable Feast in my bag. Seeing this exhibit worked in lieu of attending a reading. The one I wanted to attend at the beginning of the week had been canceled, and after continuing to plan a few readings, I kind of got reading-ed out this week.

Anyway, back to Hemingway. Poppa was so dead on about the whole moveable feast business. I kinda feel like that’s why I’m tracking my sabbatical like this. It is, indeed, a kind of moveable feast. For those who have an academia-inclined palate.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sabbaticalling: Weekly Roundup #3

I almost didn't write this post because of the snow. When a blizzard arrives, we get to blame everything on the snow. Many writers curled up with pens and computers and wrote during the storm. I did not. I watched movies and played games with Eddie, and then we shoveled, and then we watched more movies, unable to move after shoveling. Today the sun has arrived but the snow is still there. Whatever we shoveled yesterday is covered again, but the layer is significantly lower than the new snow around it. Another achy round later today, but first, here's what I did this past week (or, actually, last week, considering today is Sunday of the new week).

I read and finished one longer novel, and then began both a poetry collection and a non-fiction book. This last book is the book I bought last week. Exciting! I also reorganized some of the shelves in my closet/library in my office with all the new books I got for Christmas. Somehow, this counts as working on my sabbatical.

I caught up on almost all the back issues of The Writer's Chronicle that have been in a stack on my side table in the living room for the past year. I have one left and saved it for next week because I want to read almost every article in it, and the articles are long and can be quite the undertaking.

I read some online journals, but not all the ones on my list because I finished the January issue of some of the ones I frequent. So I hopped around online, reading more of the journals I've been finding or have been wanting to read.

I blogged a bit and I'm blogging now because blogging is fun. I also updated my Readings page because I'll be reading soon at different places.

I continued to plan two major upcoming readings, one at the Cradle of Aviation Museum on February 11 (516 572 4066 Call now to reserve your seat!) where I'm reading with a few other poets and one that I'm hosting at Turn of the Corkscrew in Rockville Centre for March. Poets In Nassau is hosting one there in February, too, but I think I'm done planning that one.

The second workshop with my artist friend proved to be really helpful. We workshopped a bunch of my poems, and then we workshopped one of her stories. I came away with revisions in mind and a borrowed copy of Labyrinth on DVD.

On the high of the workshop, I revised a bunch of poems, and then I wrote something new. It's not a poem yet. I found an article about the artist Louise Bourgeouis's house, and I wrote a half poem half page of notes about it. It will be a fabulous poem. It doesn't fit into anything I'm doing by way of collections, but it will still be a fabulous poem.

I also revised the two creative non-fiction pieces that I wrote over the past two weeks, and then I wrote a new one. Clearly, these are short pieces. These are not extensive woven essays. Sabbatical is treating me well, but it has not made me a mega-writer.

I submitted to ten journals, most of which were paper submissions, and one of which does not allow simultaneous submissions. Those require a lot more work.

I received two rejections. One of them stated they really liked one of the poems, though, so there's that.

On the brighter side, three of my poems were accepted to one journal, and I'll be the featured poet in February. More on that when it appears. This acceptance lead me to the fun activity of withdrawing these poems from the recent submissions I've made, and since I've been a submitting machine, it took quite a bit of time. Apparently, I submit the same poems to everyone when I do a lot of submissions at once. Note to some journals: if you accept simultaneous submissions, please make withdrawing easy on everyone.

I'd planned to attend one reading per week, so my reading this week was going to be at a Starbucks in Long Beach on Friday night. It was canceled. Because of the impending snow. See? Blame it on the blizzard.

Omigod, you guys! Copyright! As a followup to Milli Vanilli's 1989 Top 100 Billboard hit "Blame It On The Rain," I'm totally putting out a song called "Blame It On The Blizzard." Stardom? I'm on my way.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Freelancing And That Time I Got Schooled By Scott Baio's Wife

This past week, someone tagged me in a FB post because it was a call for a writer who could write 150-200 words to recap the best moment on The Bachelor every week. I don't watch that show. I've never watched that show except for a few minutes here and there during the very first season at the end of the season to see if the ending was actually some sort of wedding. It wasn't. I did watch that show about the guy who was a construction worker and the women who wanted to date him because they thought he was rich. Because, you know, lying and dating are fun to watch.

Anyway, the reason I was tagged wasn't because I'm a fan of The Bachelor (as aforementioned and to be clear, I don't watch it). It was because I used to watch all reality TV all the time (except for The Bachelor). My online platform for weekly opinionated rants about these shows was RealityShack.com. Not only did I write for the site, but I also participated on the Message Boards. That's where I learned how to play some whodunnit murder game. I'm still not sure how to play, but it was lots of fun. I was able to geek out and have a reason to watch reality tv. This place was heaven. I have Carrie Grosvenor to thank for it. We all do.

Because of RealityShack, I watched shows that I never thought I would have watched. I'm not saying all the shows I watched were because of this website, but I am saying I watched more than what I would have. I watched a show called The Gastineau Girls. Did you even know that was a show? Probably not. There were so many shows on channels like VH1, E!, and Bravo that I stopped recapping one particular show and started writing a column called And THIS Is Why I Love Reality TV that selected a show a week to uncover.

Some of the writing I did was over-the-top snarky. At that time, I figured, if you put yourself on television and act like an ass, then you are giving everyone permission to talk bad about you. I made fun of a lot of people. The more yoga I've done over the years has mellowed me out to be a lot less snarky and a lot more compassionate. Like now when I watch Bad Girls Club, I wish I could swoop in and mediate their differences rather than ranting online about who wore what. As a side note, I don't think I ever wrote anything snarky or otherwise about any of the girls on BGC. I was not looking to get my ass kicked.

I did receive an email from a very enraged wife of Scott Baio once. I know it was her because someone else on the site had interviewed her, and the emails matched. I'd written a column about his ever-evolving show about getting married and having a baby (I think that's what it was about--it may have been about him getting married and playing golf). I wrote something flippant about how he would probably have a show in the future called Scott Baio Is Now Divorced. Right now, that doesn't seem witty at all. It was much wittier at the time and in the context. I mean, Scott Baio had risen in the reality tv ranks quite a bit back then. I didn't think much about the column until I got this raving email that defended Scott Baio and told me, in an actually very nice way, that I knew nothing.

And I did know nothing. I knew nothing about anything. I really didn't get why the column struck such a chord until I remembered that line about the future show about his divorce. Then it clicked that I was writing about real people, and sometimes those people would be hurt by things I wrote that I thought were silly and meant nothing.

I didn't really apologize apologize. I did write a follow-up column about her email to me. It was completely self-deprecating. It was also a reminder that I never did research and knew nothing. That was kind of my writing-personality back then. I constantly called myself a lazy writer. And I was. I never looked up how to spell names or to check on specific places or dates. When I received messages about incorrect items I'd written, my response would be: Let's all remember that I'm a lazy writer.

This new thing about The Bachelor has me excited. I don't know if I'll get the gig, but in my email to apply for it, I dug through miles of cyberdirt to uncover a trove of reality treasure. I found the archives for RealityShack.com. In those archives are some of the best and worst columns about reality television I've ever written. I don't know if I've uncovered all the articles--there were hundreds, I think, and I wish I could find them all!--but a large smattering of throw-back reality programming still lies in the depths of the interweb. I sent along one of my recaps of Jersey Shore. It's laden with drunken Italian nights and a little bit of judgement. Writing recaps of that show took hours. I remember sitting on the floor of my living room, laptop literally on top of my lap, my ass falling into a coma as I watched, paused, typed, watched, paused, typed, watched, paused, typed. It was exhausting, but the overall end-product, for me, was always worth it, not because I loved this show or any particular show for that matter, but because I was writing and people were reading and I was making people react, and that's what writing is all about.

As for the archives: here you go. Go ahead and click on it. You know you want to.