Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sabbaticalling: Weekly Roundup #8

Sometimes I feel like I’m getting nothing done and then I look back and see that I did get stuff done, and that’s what happened this week and last. I did stuff. Lookit.

I’m almost finished reading a novel, and I’ve got two poetry collections I’vestarted reading because I suddenly like to read more than one book at once. I never used to do this, but I like it now.  

As far as online reading: The Rumpus, McSweeneys, Electric Literature, Fence, Booth, Blunderbuss, This, The Toast, and Paris Review.

I submitted to seven journals, some of which required paper snail mail submissions. I also received one acceptance (yeay!) and was asked to record some audio for it (double yeay!). That meant withdrawing the piece from several other journals. It’s an off-beat poem, so I hadn’t submitted it to many other places.

I also had to withdraw some poems from some journals that don’t accept simultaneous submissions and I’d either inadvertently submitted simultaneously or I submitted pieces that I thought had been rejected elsewhere but weren’t. For one particular journal, I explained this dilemma, all apologetic, and they were like, Next time read the guidelines. Um, I did read them. I made an error. Maybe YOU should read the guidelines next time.

I realize this mockery is not going to get me published.

I received a very nice manuscript rejection. The publisher actually discussed some of my other writing he’d found online that he found entertaining, and indicated that the collection wasn’t for their press but it had elements he really liked. So that’s not so bad.

Oh, I also received a record-time rejection. In under five minutes, I submitted and was rejected. Talk about amazing turnaround!

I wrote some notes for poems. I wrote some poems. I workshopped and then revised some poems. Poetry writing: it’s what I do.

Also, blogging. Clearly.

I’m almost caught up on all the episodes of The Catapult, the podcast.

I planned a bunch of readings and publicized a bunch of readings, both my own and ones for Poets In Nassau. Then I researched some places I might be able to read, so I can take this poetry show on the road. I sent out a bunch of query emails. So far, I got one auto-reply and one reply that had grammatical errors. Even when I’m not teaching, I can't escape them.

In addition to readings, I had a few people contact me about holding workshops and being on a panel, so I started looking into those endeavors, too. (Email me if you want to take a workshop on contemporary poetry. See? I'm efficient).

I also enrolled in a free online class through Coursera about website building. I don’t know if I’ll actually take the class, but I did want to take a look at their course materials.

Oh, I found out that Book/Mark Review ran a review of WakeBreatheMove, so I’m ordering a copy of the journal today. Let’s see if it’s a good review. Let’s assume it is (or so I’ve been told).

And rounding out the week of sabbaticalling, I went to work. Like, campus. Like I was in my office and everything. No, I’m not a maniac who can’t help myself from working. I mean, sabbatical itself is work, so I’ve been working. I had to go to campus to sign my promotion binder. I didn’t seek out committees to serve on. I didn’t pop into a classroom to teach a lesson. I went to my office. I chatted with my officemates. I went to the main English office. I went through my binder. I signed it. I put it back. I chatted with the admin assistants. I went back to my office, chatting with a few people along the way. It was all very non-teachery.

If you want to feel good about your-work-self, go on sabbatical and then go back to work when you’re on sabbatical. Everyone I saw smiled at me, surprised to see me, and without saying “hi,” said, “You’re not supposed to be here,” but they said it in a way that was all cozy and warm and happy for me.

Also, seeing that many people and being out in the world spun me for a loop, so, of course, as I walked to my car, I rejoiced in the way I usually do.

Ooh! This is a good opportunity for a quick quiz.

Upon walking to my car, did I:



A. Do summersalts across the football field covered in goose poop



B. Sing "Climb Every Mountain," asking those around me to join in



C. Sweat uncontrollably for no apparent reason other than I’m me

If you chose C., you know me well. If you did not choose C., for shame!

Anyway, sweat and all, it was fun to see everyone. I really miss the people I work with. However, if I were teaching this semester (and doing all the work that comes with it), there’s no way I’d be getting all this other stuff done that’s necessary for being a writer. And that’s the whole point of sabbatical.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Creatures and The Wind

A few weeks ago, at the base of the gigantic tree near the driveway, I saw a piece of an animal. It was an inside piece of an animal. It was like bones and organs, or something like that. It was gross. I did what any normal adult would do. I took a picture of it, ran away, and texted the photo to Eddie so that he could see how gross it was, too.

I left it there for two days. I am not proud.

The conversation of which one of us was going to clean it up never came. On day three, it was gone. This is getting Biblical, isn't it?

We have a squirrel issue. The squirrels use our three large trees, one smaller tree, and village-owned-encroaching-on-our-property-dead-end shrubbery and trees as their playground. They use our lawn as a hide-n-go-seek-nut-burial-ground. The holes are growing in number and frequency. The number of squirrels skipping and hopping about is also increasing.

Sometimes one of them will sit on the highest branch possible and make a noise that at first you think is a bird but then you look up and see it's a squirrel and the squirrel does not look happy. I don't know exactly what a happy squirrel looks like, but when they make this noise, it is clear that they are not happy.

Basically, I'm scared of the squirrels.

I'm pretty sure they took the bones and organs. I don't know if they killed whatever it was, but they certainly took care of whatever was left.

If they didn't kill the animal, then it was the raccoons. They appear out of the sewer drain at our curb. One night, they appeared early, while people were walking their dogs. There was an animal stand-off right in front of our house. It ended with the dog walkers waving at us and shouting, Nice raccoons! Because they are apparently our raccoons.

So the other day after the snow started melting, I saw something on the lawn as I drove away. I thought it was maybe a newspaper. I forgot to check on it when I came home. Then again, the next day, it was still there. Again, I forgot to check when I returned from wherever I went.

On the third day, it was still there. No so Biblical anymore. Also, it was not a newspaper. It was pieces of a bird. Not a whole bird, but wings and feathers attached in some way. I didn't take a picture this time. This time, I simply ran away.

The next time I went outside, it wasn't there. "There" means on the front lawn. Nope, instead, it was at the foot of the gigantic tree near our driveway. And on the tree trunk, head towards the bottom and the bird pieces, there was a squirrel. This squirrel, either on its own or with some squirrel friends, had dragged the bird thingie over to the tree. Clearly, it was now trying to figure out how the hell to get it up the tree.

Usually, the squirrels run when they are on the ground or trunk. This squirrel just kept looking at me and then the bird and then me and then the bird. It thought I was going to take the bird pieces. How do I know this? Well, what else would it be thinking if it wasn't running away? So I did what any normal adult would do.

I ran to my car and drove away.

When I got back, the bird pieces were no longer at the bottom of the tree. The squirrel, either on its own or with some squirrel friends, had taken the bird pieces somewhere. It was not a raccoon because it was still midday.

Side note: We did see a raccoon the other night when the wind was whipping all the garbage and recycling bins down the street. We found that shining a bright light at them makes them go back into the sewer.

But back to the squirrels and the trees. During the same wind storm, the trees were shaking violently. Branches and leaves were raining down. These are the only trees I've ever seen that keep their stupid leaves in the winter, so that not only do I have to shovel, but I have to keep raking.

I hate these trees. I hate these three trees in the same way I hated the tree in the front yard that gummed up our sewer main. These trees are massive. One of them doesn't have only branches falling from it, but full-on logs. I shit you not, a log fell out of it once and if we'd been under it or a car had been under it, we and the car would have suffered some serious damage.

I mean, this tree has a tree growing out of it.


So here's the deal. The trees need to go away. If the trees go away, the squirrels go away. As for the raccoons, I can just pretend they don't exist if I stay inside after dark. That's the most adult decision to date.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sabbaticalling: Weekly Roundup #7

This past week was Presidents’ Week, a week I traditionally have off from teaching for no apparent reason other than to screw up the rhythm we just created after coming back from intercession. Who knew that even though I’m not teaching, I’d feel the break upon me? I didn’t do as much this week as I have been able to complete. Part of it might be because of this break. Most of it, however, is because I was slogging through a book that started out mediocre and developed into a chore. I can’t not finish a book. The books I don’t like I at least still skim through, which I started doing too late. Which brings me to…

The books I read are not many. The one non-fiction book that I began last week. That’s it. I finally got through it by Wednesday. Then I read a poetry collection that I’d won last year (and when I opened it to finally begin reading, I saw that it was personally inscribed to me, or someone like me).

Who's Christina Rao?  I'M Christina Rao. Apparently.


 After that, I started reading another novel. Okay, so I didn’t fall behind in book-reading as much as I thought. I didn’t read as many journals as usual, though. I went through some of McSweeney’s, a back issue of This, and some poems in Booth and Okey-Panky.

As I cooked and took some walks and did some driving, I caught an episode of PoemTalk that was brilliant and moving, and then listened to two more episodes of The Catapult. I’m almost caught up. When I catch up, I’ll actually have to wait two weeks for another episode (which is fine because I can fill in the blanks with Serial and The Dear Mattie Show, again, neither of which have any relevance to sabbaticalling).

I wrote less but revised more. After workshopping (yeay!), I toyed around with a few newer poems. Then I pulled apart and put back together part of my almost-complete manuscript. I drafted a few poems for the brand new collection, and some that were random.  I also pitched some non-fiction pieces that got rejected immediately. This is why I stick to poetry. They take so much longer to be rejected. I received two poetry rejections this week, but one was more of a withdraw—I submitted to a journal that doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions, and the poems were simultaneously submitted, so I told them and they sent them back and we all went our separate ways.

Side note: Why not accept simultaneous submissions?

Rounding out the writing, I sent feedback to my online poetry group, finishing up the last of the month’s work.

The week ended with my hosting a Poets In Nassau reading at Turn of the Corkscrew Books and Wine in Rockville Centre. It’s a bookstore. It’s a wine bar. It’s a café. It’s a happening. Be there next time (March 14 at 7 PM—I’m holding you to this). I spent some of the week planning the final pieces of this reading and also planning two other events.

Oh, and one of my poems appeared in a journal that I was accepted to two weeks ago. Yeay.

I didn’t submit to journals this week. I didn’t submit my manuscript this week. It was nice to take a break from it.

Aside from blogging right now and doing some social media blasts for upcoming readings and events, this week is done and done.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sabbaticalling: Weekly Roundup #6



I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day, just having come home from the Waffle House. I have traveled to my breakfast mecca and life is good.

Books read: One full novel that was a challenging read, and then started a non-fiction book.

Journals and mags read: The Rumpus, back issues of Fence and This, and McSweeney’s. Read through The Paris Review for poetry and interesting tidbits about the world—these tidbits usually lead to poems. I added Blunderbuss and Flapperhouse to the list this week.

Listened to: The Catapult Podcast and I’m still not caught up. Getting there. I tried out Literary Disco but couldn’t get past the introductory episode, maybe because it was just people talking about how they knew each other in college and not about literature. I also listened to Serial because I’m incredibly into it, though it has nothing to do with sabbatical.

On Writing: The Workshop was back this week! We revised poetry and discussed stories and did all kinds of artsy things. By the time I got home, I was a big ball of revising energy. Then I wrote poems, some about critters and creatures, others about outer space.

I followed up on last week’s Poetry Has Value posting by crossposting on this blog and then re-Tumbling and re-Tweeting all I could find that was relative.

I sent some pitches to some non-poetry places. Those were rejected. I love not waiting and wondering. I also received some poetry rejections, one in snail mail form. It was a week of “we don’t want your stuff,” which means it was a typical week for writing.

Submitting: I submitted poems to six journals. I’ve found that in January, I submitted to most of the journals on my list that have reading periods through February. March should see an uptick in submitting again.

Reading: The Poets in Nassau reading I coordinated at TheCradle of Aviation happened, and it was an amazing night. I’m already planning another one. 
This is the exhibit that sparked our reading.
Most photos courtesy of John Brennan


Crazy poet face!




Photo courtesy of Marie Ilardi at the museum. I'm with a new colleague.
Business-y stuff: My email events list saw an update as I added new people who signed up for it at the Cradle reading.

And now it’s back to my love to spend the rest of the day indoors because this Valentine’s Day is arctic.
That temperature is in Farenheit.

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!