Friday, February 28, 2014

The I'm Not at AWP Blues

I've got 'em. I've got 'em bad.

All of my friends are there, posting their smiling faces at the bookfair, their smiling faces in front of their panel posters, their smiling faces with authors' faces I only know from the back of their book jackets.

And what am I doing today? Well, I spent the majority of my day in my bathrobe. I snuggled my cats. I ate an enormous bowl of ice cream. Ok, this doesn't sound so bad :-)

I remember my own stint at AWP a few years ago. My palms were sweaty nonstop. I was so nervous, awkward, and felt just plain lost in that sea of writers. It was intimating, overwhelming, and, of course, exhilarating. I'm terrible at networking, but I did my best and met a handful of editors and publishers. I saw old friends, squeed like a teenaged girl after meeting Alison Jospeh. I moderated a panel, though my heart was inside my throat. During my book signing, I remember feeling utterly desperate for some fresh air, some peace, some quiet.

But truth be told, I'm still way mad jealous of everyone at AWP. I'll get over it, maybe, someday.

On a related note:

Earlier this week, I was having an interesting conversation (ok, eavesdropped on an interesting conversation) with my office-mate and his publisher, David. David was talking about his long journey as a writer, explaining how he spent years and years working fruitlessly on a novel manuscript that no publisher would touch with a ten foot pole, and how it wasn't until he "matured" as he put it, as a writer that he was able to find any sort of success.

I turned around in my chair, my attention peaked. "What do you mean?" I asked, butting my way into the conversation.

David shrugged his shoulders. "Well, just that!" and he proceeded to tell me that he opened his mind to new possibilities, took on writing projects that were out of his comfort zone like translations, poetry, short stories, editing, publishing. He participated in the literary community locally. He got to know other writers. He put himself out there. He saw writing as a community act and stopped just seeing it as something that we do in a dark room, alone, penning masterpieces in a vacuum of our own ideas.

I nodded, agreeing. Yes, that's what it takes.

And then he said something even more curious. Like he knew me maybe better than I know myself.

"Katie, you figured that out early, didn't you? I bet you're the type of writer that likes to wall up, to write alone, but you push yourself beyond that."

Hmm.... I shrugged my shoulders. "Sure, David, whatever."

But he was right.

For me, it's so much easier to be reticent, to retreat into myself. I would love to be like Emily Dickinson, maybe having just a small circle of friends to share my writings with, but otherwise, keeping to myself. But I know that writing doesn't work that way. So instead, I review, I edit, I work on other projects, put myself out there, and ugh, even go to AWP :-P

My own publisher wants to put together another panel for next year. And of course, I'll give it a go :-)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Portrait of a Poet

Courtesy of Ileana Garcia-Spitz, December 2012

This week, I had the pleasure of attending a different sort of arts event. I went to a photography exhibit's opening lecture titled Portrait of a Poet. It's up at South Texas College's Technology campus library from now until May 9th, so if you have a chance, please do go and take a look. It's a beautiful collection of photographs that depict snapshots that chronicle the local poetry scene.

Anyway, this event was a little bit special for me. For one, I've been a member of this poetry community, have grown with it and met a number of close friends through my experiences over the past, oh, five or so years. And naturally, the woman behind the camera and I have become great friends, so seeing her there at the lecture in all her photographer glory was amazing.

So anyway, in her talk, Ileana more or less told the story as to how this series of candid photographs came about. She's always at the poetry readings, carefully recording them so that she can tell the story through pictures, what we do with words. As a poet, I LOVE seeing the photographs Ileana takes of each event -- it's almost a way to relive the event as she posts them on Facebook, usually just a few days later. Ileana joked that, after she posted her first set of photographs on Facebook of a poetry event years ago, that it was the first time she realized just how appreciated her photography was. And yes, we as poets DO love to see these artistic depictions of ourselves. I'll usually obsessively check facebook after an event waiting for Ileana's latest photo album :-P

I think what she's doing is significant, though, beyond just our own artistic vanity. Her work gives the poets an identity, visibility, a face. She said that her photographs span from 2010 to 2013, and that in these short years, our poetry scene continues to grow and change. And  grow it has!

I'm incredibly grateful to Ileana for her hard work and her contribution to our local "scene." I even came out in one of the pictures (above!). I remember that particular night vividly, and I think Ileana did a great job of capturing our sentiment. See, it was that same night as the Sandy Hook massacre, and instead of cancelling our poetry reading, we decided to get together anyway and read poems of healing.

Art is a community endeavor. It's shaped by the community it grows out of, and in turn, it enriches that community and its people. As a poet, I'm incredibly fortunate to be a part of this local group of poets that continually inspire me. I'm glad Ileana was able to capture that sentiment, that togetherness, in images. Her talent is amazing.

Anyway, rumor has it that there MIGHT be a coffee table book of photographs from Ileana's work on the local poetry scene in the works from VAO publishing. I sure hope so!

In other news, Katie the Poet has a lot of stuff going on, as per usual at this time of the year. Be on the lookout for announcements involving FESTIBA, a performance in the Vagina Monologues ::gasp:: and of course, the 2014 installment of the Valley International Poetry Festival.