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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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Wrapping it Up!

Capstone is essentially finished.  The project is done, the essays and journal have been turned in for better or worse.  Only the hour where I present my project to my Committee is left.  When I look back over the course of this project, I can’t even begin to describe the hours: writing, revision, ordering, re-revising, re-ordering; I can’t describe the doubt, the anxiety, the fear, but I can describe the euphoria.  It’s done!  I completed a poetry manuscript!

This is really huge for me.  I’ve always been afraid to commit to a project, for fear that I’d fail. I have to admit that I’m afraid of a lot.  I’m afraid of change; I’m afraid of letting go, and I’m definitely afraid to try sometimes.  Fear does a lot of strange things to us.  It can keep us paralyzed, standing still while opportunities continue to pass us by.  Fear can keep us grounded while others are flying among the stars.

The last five years have been life-changing for me.  Certain events, like having my kids, have brought earth-shattering change in both positive and negative ways.  I’m certainly more apt to do battle over my kids; standing up for them has changed me from a passive person to an aggressive fighter. I’m more prone to emotion because of them. I’m also vulnerable to three tiny people who hold an enormous amount of power over me.  Becoming a parent was rather eye-opening.

Other events, like deciding to finally go back to school, have brought nothing but joy.  Yes, I’ve been slightly nuts, juggling the work with the kids, housework, and life, but I’ve also been working on a goal that I’ve had forever, which was to get my undergraduate degree.  I’ve also been working on a much larger issue without even realizing it: fear.  Every day, I’ve had to fight for what I wanted.  I had to sit in classrooms with peers and professors I didn’t know.  Being an adult student with younger peers was difficult at some points.  I had to adapt to the environment without sacrificing who I was, and why I was there.  I had to give speeches to earn my degree, something I’ve avoided more than spiders for the last ten years. I had to figure out what I really wanted out of my education, and commit to it with all of my drive and determination.

The whole time, I was conquering fears and I didn’t even know it.  During the whole process, I came to realize that I was so afraid of being good at something that I spent my whole life not trying anything.  I was so afraid that I really was a worth-while person that I let myself be that unlikable person my  family always made me feel like. I was so busy protecting myself that I never really let anyone in.  I will never forget the person that told me I could be anyone I wanted, that the past did not dictate my future.  Thanks, Trace, I’ll always be grateful.

When I was writing my presentation for Capstone, I couldn’t help but marvel at the changes in me, not only over the past semester, but over the course of the last few years. I’m smarter, certainly, but I’m stronger.  I’m stronger because I faced a lot of fear and shot it down.  My determination and grit got me through.  I am worth more than I ever let myself feel.

The other day, I got my cap and gown for graduation.  It felt surreal, but so damn good!  I made it.  I’m graduating. I’m headed to graduate school, even won a scholarship.  I didn’t do it alone though.  I have three kids who have sacrificed just as much as I have; the time away was just as hard on them as it was on me.  My in-laws have also given up their time, and re-arranged their schedules to coordinate with mine.  There are no words to express the gratitude I have toward them.  When I walk at graduation, I’m going to look out into that audience and meet the eyes of my family, and know that the moment is just as important to them as it is to me.  My kids will remember that day.  Hopefully, it’s something they strive for, free of fear.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Life

 

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The Scoop

I guess I should preface this by saying how sorry I am about abandoning my readers during the last couple of months.  I really enjoy getting my thoughts out there, spewing about the things that are going on in my life, jawing about the things I love like writing and music.  The past two months have been crazy and hectic, what with writing and revising every spare second for my Capstone project (it’s almost finished!), registering Whalen for Kindergarten, CC for preschool (sob), and fighting for extra help and attention for Lucas at school, normal duties like dishes and laundry, family obligations, class three days a week, and homework. Not to mention graduate school applications.  Just re-reading that exhausted me!

Seriously, I like to stay busy.  I think all of the extra things I have going on make me slightly crazy, but very well-rounded.  The juggling keeps me sharp.  And sharp I’ve been.  I’ve probably written about fifty new poems since January, and now I’m in the process of fine-tuning those, writing more, and choosing which ones fit in the poetry manuscript I’m putting together for my Capstone.  The due date is coming up!  Approximately four weeks will see it cranked out and turned in.  Let me say that I’d much rather write than put it together.  I’d never make it in the layout department.  I put together a rough copy of it though; I just couldn’t resist!  To see it, even unfinished, put together was the most incredible high.  I’ve never seen an entire project like this through right to the end.  It amazes me, and also proves to me that I can do it.  I had my doubts if you all recall.

Speaking of highs, I just got the most amazing news yesterday!  I was officially accepted by SUNY Binghamton for the fall 2012 semester.  After the crushing rejection from Penn State (due to program finances, nothing I did), this really lifted my spirits.  See, I recall a certain person who told me to look at smaller schools.  That maybe I wouldn’t hack an intensive graduate program, I might not have a good chance at getting in… I guess you don’t know it all, do you?  Anyway, I’m thrilled that I’ve been accepted to this program, and really looking forward to graduate study.  Provided I survive Biology this semester, of course.

Anyway, I’m glad I’ve pushed myself to the brink of exhaustion and madness in my quest to be the best that I can possibly be at any given moment.  People tell me I worry too much, that I’m too uptight.  Maybe I do, but look what I’ve accomplished… I’ll leave it at that!

 

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Life

 

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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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