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Category Archives: Writing

Dry Summer

No, I’m not talking about the weather.  Have you ever felt that the well is dry and any amount of pounding will not produce water?  The well of creativity that is.  For the last month or so, I haven’t written anything new.  Sure, I’ve jotted down some lines, written some paragraphs, even madly typed three pages of what could turn into a novel.  But, I don’t feel satisfied with any of these pieces, finished or unfinished.  I’ve been flat, and my writing is flat.

In my opinion, writing is personal.  Even if the subject isn’t personal, the writing is.  Human beings have emotions, and I believe it is impossible to separate them from our work.  We may not be writing about ourselves, but pieces of us still enter into the work.  For example, I have a strong dislike of vegetables.  You’d never find one of my characters eating a plate of green beans.  My hatred is that intense.  I know that this is a silly example, but it’s true.  I don’t know that it’s vanity when writers put pieces of ourselves into our work.  I just think it’s the subconscious connection between our emotions and our work.  It’s a very personal connection.

Lately, there’s been this huge withdraw of emotion from my work.  I really can’t say why.  Maybe it’s the question of, what’s next for me?  It could be the anxiety of starting a new school in the fall.  Maybe it’s the constant on-the-go mentality of three exuberant kids under seven.  Maybe it’s any and all of these things.   Maybe it’s the pressure that I place on myself to be successful instead of writing for the sheer love of it.  I think that could be why I chose not to apply to an MFA program when I looked at graduate schools.  Sure, they have wonderful results.  The problem for me is that they focus too much on getting published, and writing what will sell.

Do I like my work published?  Absolutely!  I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t. I have two poems coming out in separate journals over the summer: “Curfew” in Yes, Poetry, and “Resurrection” in Adanna Literary Journal.  It’s thrilling to see your work in print, or online, especially when someone comments on how much they enjoyed it.  But, sometimes I wonder if some of us (I’ve been guilty of this as well) focus too much on what a journal will like or want, versus what we really want, or NEED to say.  For me, writing is a need.  I have to write, or explode with all of the thoughts, words, and ideas that run through my mind like wild horses in an open field.

So, I’ve decided to forget about what is “literary” or “correct” in my writing.  I will write what I want to say, and go from there.  I will flood the emotion back into my work, and then revise accordingly.  If I come up with something journal-worthy, I will send it out.  Otherwise, I will write for the sheer joy of expressing my ideas.  I will feel, and feel, and feel some more, until I have to pour those feelings onto the page.

If you disagree, or maybe think writers don’t put emotion into their work, I urge you to listen to Patricia Smith read her poetry sometime, or pick up a work by Tim O’Brien or Sherman Alexie, and then tell me writers don’t feel.  In order for the audience to feel any emotion, the writer must first put it there.  Keep on writing!

 

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Writing

 

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It’s the Chase

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve realized the importance of education.  From the time I entered the halls of Elk Lake School as a kindergartener to my senior year at the same school, I thought about, and dreamed of, getting a college degree.  Coming from where I do, and seeing the things that I’ve seen, only made the dream stronger until it wasn’t a dream anymore, but a burning need.

So I took a little detour.  So it took me seven years instead of four.  So I wrote research papers in the hospital after giving birth to my daughter.  So I was a lot older than the other students.  So what?  I did it!  Tomorrow’s the day!  I finally get my college degree.

Along the way, while working on my undergrad degree, I dreamed a lot of other dreams.  Some I’ve accomplished, such as publication of my poetry and fiction, getting accepted into a graduate program; while others I have yet to start work on.  I learned a lot of things during my time at Keystone College, like creative writing and literature, science, history, and public speaking, but the most valuable thing that I’ve learned is that it is worth it to dream, and dream big.  It’s worth it to try.  I’ve also learned that accomplishment is not necessarily about catching the dream, but more about what you gain from the chase.  Dream on friends!

Check out The Plume, Keystone’s literary magazine.  My poem, “Breaking Stone,” was the winner of the Cameron Poetry contest, and I’ve been invited to read it for the trustees today!  You can access it here: http://www.keystone.edu/news/publications/pdfs/theplume/ThePlume2012.pdf

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Life, Writing

 

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Out of the Dark Comes Light?

Over the Winter break from school, I wrote a lot.  Mostly poetry, a few sentences of what could become a short story, a few letters.  Some graduate application essays, and very few blogs.  I’ve been told I’m a very serious person.  I also put myself down for that.  I tend to dwell on the darker times, record the black images for further exploration at a later date.  Is there anything wrong with being obsessed with the dark?

Lately, my thoughts are telling me no.  “Write what you know;” that’s common advice from established authors and novices alike.  I know darkness, I’ve lived with it for a very long time.  I also think that writing about the dark brings light.  I’ve been turning that theme over and over in my head.  Light/Dark.  Sun/Shade. Two halves of the whole.  This is no new theme; authors, artists, and musicians have been exploring this for centuries.

It’s interesting to me that my darkest writing is also my best writing.  I fight with myself a lot over this issue. Don’t worry, no one wins these arguments, in case anyone thinks I’m nuts!  I’m constantly trying to force myself to write something happy.  Guess what?  Anything I write that has a remotely happy theme also sucks in a big way.  My best stuff comes from the dark, the shadows that I filter through to reveal slivers of light.   So what, right?

Over break, I also read a lot.  I mean, a lot.  I finished several books I had in progress, and started several more.  Currently, I’m reading a biography of Kurt Cobain. There’s a happy story! (Snort)  Seriously, the man was a genius with music, and he was one dark person.  Tortured genius? I don’t quite go that far, but it comforts me that I’m not alone with my obsession with the dark.  I think I needed to be reminded that many people have gone over to the dark and produced light.

I also finished The Shadow of Sirius, by W.S. Merwin.  Wow, what a collection of poems!  Dark, melancholy, but enlightening as any that I’ve read.  I’ve got a total of seventeen pages marked in this collection, which in my opinion is huge for a collection of poetry.  Normally, I’ll find one or two in a manuscript that I mark for future reference, or just because they struck me in some way.  This book spoke to me in such a positive way, even though it has a dark tone.  Again, out of the darkness comes light.

I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s OK to be dark. I need to stop being so picky with my writing, and my subjects.  So what if I want to write a hundred poems about death?  Dylan Thomas probably wrote at least that many about it, maybe more.  Why should I care if  I’m inspired to write yet another poem about people breaking up? It happens.  Life happens, and it’s not always nice, or easy.  Why not write about it?  Why drive myself nuts writing happy things?  That is the question of the day. If I find an answer, I’ll be sure to share!

A final thought before I hang it up for the day.  The New Visions Showcase was extremely awesome, shame on anyone that missed it!  There were many incredible stories and readers.  My work was well received.  Dark it is, but it is also filled with a tangible emotion, and I think that’s what counts. I read Donnie’s poem, “Faded,” and it never fails to make me choke up.  Maybe people noticed, and if they did, it’s OK.   If it affects me that way, maybe it will affect someone else. I think I forget that.  Thanks to Brian and Jason for having me!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Writing

 

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New Visions Reading

So I’m really excited to be reading again next weekend, at New Visions Gallery in Scranton. I was really happy to be asked, and truthfully, it’s been a while.  I was kicking around the idea of reading some fiction, but the trouble is, I haven’t been writing any.  I still love fiction, and I will continue to write it, but lately I’ve been so focused on my Capstone project, which is a chapbook of poetry.  I’ve written quite a few new poems over the break, and I will continue to do so throughout the semester.  Why not read poetry?

Well, I’m going to.  But, let me tell you all, I’m scared to death.  It’s always a little jarring to share a new piece, but to do so in front of a crowd, terrifying.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve got a good mix of published poetry thrown in, (so I know at least SOME of it is good), but I’ve also got about five or six un-critiqued pieces. Now these pieces are strong, they’ve got imagery and emotion, they’ve got hours of drafting and revision, but they are still lacking the criticism I’ve become used to in my writing.  I’m half excited to share them, and half shaking in my boots.

See, this is really stepping out of the box for me.  Not only am I writing and revising on my own, I’m also going to share this work.  While I strongly believe in outside criticism, (workshops are essential!) I also believe that I tend to rely too much on outside opinion.  I tend to bash my own work until other writers that I respect tell me it’s good.  At the end of last semester, I had to present a portfolio and my proposal for my Capstone project to a committee. The only criticism I received in the entire presentation was that I need to believe in myself and my own work.  So, I’m taking the committee’s excellent advice, and I’m going to jump off the ledge with these new pieces that I believe are good.

Normally, I hate public speaking, but sharing my work is a little bit different.  I still get nervous, but it’s not the same, “Oh my god, I’m going to forget everything I have to say, and look really stupid” nervous.  Mostly, I have little flutters about standing up in front of people, and I get the whole, “What if I look really stupid in front of these authors or what if my work sucks?”  I mean, I consider myself a writer, and I have a smattering of publication credits.  Do I consider myself the next Kim Addonizio or Gary Jackson?  No way!  It’s humbling to read the work of great poets, both new and old.  But I keep trying 🙂

So, if you’re in the area, looking for something to do, why not come to the reading?  New Visions Gallery, 201 Vine Street in Scranton, January 14th, 7:00 p.m.

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Writing

 

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No Fear Cavalier

Is there anything better than laughing about how silly you were as a kid?  I recently bought the greatest hits album released by R.E.M. and while I was listening to “It’s The End of the World as We Know it (and I Feel Fine),” I started thinking about the times we listened to that song as teenagers.  I even wrote a new poem about it, complete with the No Fear Cavalier.  Anyway, it got me curious about how the change in my listening habits affects my writing…

We all know I’m a metal-head, a fan of the hardest rock out there.  Ripping riffs and clashing chords, chilling melodies and harsh male voices dominate my playlists on my computer and IPod.  I guess this makes sense, since I’m generally a serious person.  I haven’t had the easiest life, and I’ve felt alienated from my family, friends, and the world for a really long time.  However, I have also had a lot of really good times, and good friends.

For my senior project, I’ll be completing a book of poetry about loss.  Is there any greater-felt loss than the loss of childhood?  It’s a universal theme, even though it can be good or bad.  I have to admit, I love being older.  If I had a chance to go back, I’d never take it.  I can’t accomplish anything back there.  I can only accept it, and move on in the now.  I’ve learned a lot, and I’m such a different person now, but it’s still fun to remember.  I’m looking forward to the poems about growing up.

I’m also looking forward to hearing a lot of great tunes that I’m embarrassed to admit I know every word to.  I’ve recently bought a lot of albums I used to own before my mom went on a religious spree and burned all of my music and books.  (That’s for a different blog, else I sit here all day accomplishing nothing!)  See the weird quirk about me is I have to have music to write.  I can’t come up with an idea to save my life without it.  When I start to write about something, I have to have the perfect music to accompany it.  I just made a new playlist especially for these poems about childhood/adolescence, and honestly, I can’t believe how eclectic my tastes were then.  I mean, I know a lot of songs, and bands, and genres, and listen to a lot of different stuff, but this playlist is just incredible to me.

Picture it:  I’ve got Tupac Shakur after Meatloaf but before Nirvana…Collective Soul next to Van Halen and Mariah Carey…and Alanis Morissette with Nine Inch Nails before Cypress Hill.  My God, how crazy is this?  Each of these songs/bands/artists have some memory, some significance to me, and I love it!  I love remembering how I felt, and how far I’ve come. I wouldn’t go back for anything, but I don’t think I’ll forget to remember how much fun I had either.  Maybe there were a lot of bad times, but I always had some pretty cool tunes to see me through. I’m really excited to see where this project takes me, and how different my views of life now are from those back then.

How far have your listening habits come?  Have you broadened your horizons or are you stuck in a rut?

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Music, Writing

 

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Confessions of a Small Town Girl

I’m not the confessional type.  Normally, I’m bold and brash.  I’ll tell you what I think in a flat-out truthful way.  Sometimes I can come across as hard; I’m a survivor and it shows in my attitude and demeanor.  However, I have a secret, and the secret is this:

Sometimes, I feel small in this world.  There’s not one day that I feel the confidence that I display. There are things I want so bad, but inside, I can’t ever get over the feeling that I’ll never be good enough.   Most of the time, I gut through with pure grit and stubbornness.   My work ethic saves me, every time.  There’s this fire inside of me, this burning need to prove that the girl from the sticks, the one who grew up in a two bedroom trailer and wore hand-me-downs can make a difference in the world.  In my world.  The world of blue-collar jobs, and Friday night drinking.  The world where education for the sake of knowing something more, and not to get a job, is looked upon as weird.  Where I live, and honestly, the world that I love.

Yeah, I love coming from this kind of area, this kind of life-style, and this kind of background.  It’s where I’m comfortable, even though this life has its issues.  Even though I love my blue-collar world, and the people in it, I’m at odds with it constantly.  The reason?  Education.  I’m that weird girl, the good-looking redhead with the rockin’ body that spends her Friday nights at school instead of at the bar.  I’m the odd girl that talks about authors like Sherman Alexie and Tim O’Brien instead of Sandra Brown and Nicholas Sparks.  I’m the strange one who reads poetry for God’s sake!  So it’s always been, and truthfully, unless someone changes it, it’s the way that it will always be. 

Honestly, I’m still not the most educated person.  There’s a lot of things I don’t know, and there’s a lot of ways to make me feel stupid.  And, I’ve experienced every one of those ways at the hands of so-called educators who don’t realize there’s another world out there.  The one where education is actually frowned upon.  The one where opportunities for learning don’t exactly grow on trees.  I hang in there because I feel this responsibility to my world and to my talent for writing.  In a way, my talent saves me.  It gives me  a shield for the times when I don’t fit in, the times that my social graces may be lacking, and it drives me to share it with my world.

Here’s where I come to the whole point of this confession.  The other day, a friend of mine was awed by my blog post, Courage in Them Boots.  He told me, “Trish, I honestly never read, but I was amazed. You made it real.  You made it hit me.” That touched me deeply.  All of the comments, and the shares of this blog post have touched me.  Why? Am I on a narcissistic trip?  Nope… I am so touched because I am making it happen.  I am bringing my experiences to my world, and I am touching other people.  People who wouldn’t normally pick up a book are reading my stuff, and are being touched by it!  That is my dream, that is my goal, and that is my reality. 

I always said, “I want my work to MATTER to someone, the way that others’ work has mattered to me.”  My reasons are my own, but I want to matter.  Music and literature have saved my life more times than I can count, and since I’m not musically talented, I choose literature as my way to matter.  Maybe I’ll never be as famous as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, and others, but I have touched a life with my words.  I can’t explain what that means to me…

I still feel small in the world, but that’s ok.  I’ll keep the thoughts of you all with me, and that will be enough.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Life, Writing

 

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Graduation Project Underway

I finally made a decision.  A big decision.  I’ve decided on a project for Capstone! Remember my fear of commitment? Well, two weeks ago, I had no choice.  I had to choose a project, and get going on it.  Being the raging Type-A that I am, I decided on poetry.  From my past musings, you all know that poetry is a pretty tough genre for me.  I write good poems, but the final product doesn’t show my blood on the page,  the struggle to find the right words to find out what I don’t know, and the rampant revision that accompanies each draft. 

So why did I pick poetry?  Well, for one, I can’t stand not being good at something.  I always want to be better than I am.  If I’m not good at it (name said activity) right away, I grit my teeth, and dig my boots in until I force myself to become accomplished and proficient.  I freely admit that I’m stubborn.  Secondly, I love to learn.  If I had picked a project that would be second-nature to me, I don’t think I would learn as much.  I’m one of those “learn-by-doing” people.   I’m excited about putting this project together.  I’m sure at some point, it will become overwhelming, and I’ll ask myself why the hell I love to torture myself.  Until that point in time, it’s an exciting rush!

This semester, I’ll be preparing a 20 page proposal for approval to begin the project next semester.  I’ll be presenting a portfolio and the proposal to the amazing committee I’ve chosen, and hopefully they’ll be wowed!  🙂  Again, that damn public speaking invades my life!  In all seriousness, I’m looking forward to it.  I love the work, and thrive on the pressure.  I feel alive!  This is where the bi-polar creative euphoria comes in handy… More about that in a future blog.

I apologize in advance to anyone I might ignore this semester, and next.  I don’t have time to breathe right now, and I’m only five weeks in.  In addition to my course load, and responsibilities as a parent, I’ll also be taking the GRE’s next month (can you believe October begins tomorrow?), and applying to Penn State University, SUNY Binghamton, Wilkes, and maybe Rutgers.  Wish me luck! 

Stay tuned for future updates as I move through this exciting process.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Life, Writing

 

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New Poem for Review

Just a poem I’ve been working on, in its un-revised state.  I would appreciate any comments, suggestions, and/or criticism.  By the way, I’ve figured out how to single-space in WordPress!  You have to hit shift+enter between lines. 🙂

Birthday Bottles

This year, the candles snuffed out,
the empty iced tea pitcher tipped
by the breath of the coming storm,
and the remains of of a homemade cake
were left in the center of the warped picnic
table.  I sat alone under wizened maples
with growling thunderheads
blacking the moon and stars.
Other birthdays came to mind
when the first lightning crashed
from ground to sky, thrashed
through thick  clouds and beyond.

Your present’s in here, he’d say with a wink
then head off toward the garage,
a slight limp in his left stride.
When I’d follow, there’d be a bottle
of amber sitting on a workbench,
sporting a multi-colored bow
on black label with pride.
I used to crack the seal, lift the glass
to silent lips, swig a large swallow,
then slide the bottle to his side.
While family noises sounded outside,
we’d celebrate with fiery shots,
that misted and distanced us
from the burning on our minds.

This year, the lightning flashed as I
played our ritual in my mind, then
thought of the broken people
he’d left behind.  I glanced at the Coke
in my hand, raised it rueful
to the sky and whispered, Thanks, buddy
as I headed inside.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Writing

 

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All I Need is Just a Little Patience

I’m one of those people that needs to be kept busy, else she tends to over-analyze, over-think, and generally drive herself nuts.  I’ve been on summer break for close to a month, and I have been going insane!  I feel like I should be doing more.  More writing, more reading, more running than I’m already doing.  I’ve been literally driving myself crazy.  I find myself thinking about the fall semester, impatient to get started on my Capstone project, (whatever it may be!) and to try my luck at the GRE’s.  I want senior semester to be over at Keystone, so I can start applying to graduate programs that specialize in Creative Writing, which is my first love.  I’m eager to start my life. 

But wait… Didn’t I do that already?  I’m twenty-nine, I’ve got three kids, will be celebrating a tenth wedding anniversary this year, and I’ve been published a couple of times.  Hasn’t my life already started?  I guess it did, somewhere between Great Themes in Literature, “Wonderful Tonight,” and ten thousand dirty diapers.  I was just too busy to notice it.  Isn’t that an ass-kicker?

I need to slow down.  Guns N’ Roses had it right.  “Sad woman take it slow, things will be just fine.  All we need is just a little patience.”  I love this song for so many reasons, but now I have one more.  It reminded me to slow down, and enjoy things.  It reminded me to stop driving myself nuts.  Thanks, Axyl, Slash, Izzy, Duff, and Steven for writing and performing such a great song!

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2011 in Life, Music, Writing

 

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I Never Said Thanks

I’ve talked about this poem before.  It’s the one that won the Cameron Poetry Award, sponsored by the American Academy of Poets.  I’d like to post it here.  It was published in the print version of The Plume, Keystone College’s literary magazine.  Before anyone says, “Oh, she just can’t wait to get more praise,” rest assured, this is not the case. 

I want to post this poem, not only because it is a tribute to Donnie, whom I miss ever so much, but also because this poem is an example of what I wrote in a community workshop.  It was sponsored by poet Brian Fanelli, and he’s going to be running the workshop again here shortly.  It’s listed in his blog, All the Right Notes, which you can access by clicking the link on the side of my blog.  I would urge anyone that is local to try to sign up for this workshop.  I learned so much from him, and he’s a really good person. 

Workshops are SO important for writers!  Feedback is essential to the process, and sometimes, workshops can provide that little push to complete a project if, like me, you procrastinate on a daily basis.  I am finding myself pushing writing to the side, as I am between writing groups at the moment.  Without a set deadline, I find myself saying, “I’ll do it tomorrow,”  This ties into the poem, “I Never Said Thanks,” because I’m always putting off today what I can do tomorrow.  But, sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come.  I urge you to find a group, take the feedback gracefully, and provide feedback of your own.  It’s essential to the writer’s life!

(A note about spacing:  The couplets should be single spaced, but since WordPress is retarded in its spacing, it is what it is.  Enjoy!)

I Never Said Thanks

when he buried my horse on the last day of summer,

dug the hole with the tractor,

told me not to look

when he hooked on with a chain,

leaned an elbow on my shoulder, said,

Let’s get a beer when it was over.

Five years later, on the day of his funeral,

I carried yellow mums in the first stages of bloom,

walnuts crunched under my feet,

and still I remembered

the buzz of flies, the sweat on his brow,

and the taste of light lager.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Writing

 

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