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Showing posts from 2015

Noche de Palabras, Redux!

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Last week, I read at a wonderful event, Noche de Palabras, in Brownville. I had such a fantastic time! I was honored to be the featured reader at this event. There we are, all smiles, above. All of the readers! From the bottom left -- Linda Romero, Amy Becker-Chambless, Ana Hinojosa (I think that was her name!), McAllen's new poet laureate, Priscilla Suarez, Roberto de la Tore. On top, from left -- the owner of the cafe!, little old me, Rossy Lima Padilla the event organizer extraordinaire, Julieta Corpus, and Lupita. What a wonderful night!
My dad and Bruno joined me, too, so that made it even more fun to have my family there with me. 
To be honest, it was one of the better poetry readings I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Brownsville is such a lovely town, and it seems as though the people are eager for the arts. And the readers? Fantastic. It was about 50/50 English/Spanish, and the atmosphere was really just inspiring and supportive. I even sold a few books :…

Manuscript Mania... Bleh.

Today's blogpost is going to be a rambling mess of my talking about the disarray that is my current poetry manuscript. You've been warned.

Since finishing Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots, I've been having some serious issues getting my barrings straight on the next manuscript. This isn't a new phenomenon for me. In fact, I tend to feel a sense of loss and sadness when wrapping up a book-length project, followed by anxiety to figure out what the next book is going to be about. Maybe it's because people are always asking me, at readings, at work, in workshop, "So, whatcha workin' on now?" or "When's the next book coming out, Katie?" and, well, to be honest, I'm the type of person who's hugely motivated by the idea of end goals.

So, when that end goal is nebulous? I kind of freak.

That's how it's been for me these past few months. Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots was a huge undertaking, and even after ruminating on the theme of feminis…

Workshops.

Life's been pretty darn nice lately.

It's summer and I have all the time in the world to write. Typically, what that means is I stare at my computer and get angry with myself for not having enough ideas. This summer, though, that's not happening at all. I've been writing writing writing.

I've also been participating in several different forms of online workshops, which is helping me immensely, too, to keep on track with not only developing new material, but also revising and polishing my work, which I find just as important (if not more). So the two different types of workshops I participate in are a Skype-type workshop, live with a small group of poets, and then, an online poetry forum called Eratosphere.

The first type of workshop is fairly new to me. I think it was around March that one of my Facebook friends, Terry, from Houston posted something about wanting to start an online poetry group. I'm always up for something new, so I asked him if I could join. I…

Noche de Palabras

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So, I had a pretty eventful weekend! Rossy Lima Padilla invited me to read at the first Noche De Palabras event at Hueso del Fraile in downtown Brownsville. Brownsville's about an hour and a half drive, so I'm typically pretty reluctant to make the trip out there for a short reading, but what the heck, I thought, I'm on vacation!

The event was truly bilingual -- so often, there's just one or two poets who read a piece in Spanish and the rest is in English, including the M.C's intros and words between readers. But this reading was a little different, and it was really refreshing. My Spanish is actually pretty ok believe it or not -- I'm able to understand it, but I don't grasp it well enough to write in it. So of course, my poems were in English, but the other poets were about half and half. I really appreciated the change to hear some quality poetry in Spanish.

The evening's featured reader was Chris Carmona, who is a good friend of mine. He also edite…

Beyond Arts Magazine

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Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Read the full article here ... just click on the June 2015 issue.
That's me! That's me! That's me! LOL.

It's so surreal to see my face on a magazine, to explore my work through the lens of a reader, to read about myself in someone else's words! But my goodness. I am so grateful to Alyssa for writing this article and for doing such a marvelous job with both the photos and the story itself. I especially like that she emphasized my feminism, because I think that's particularly cornerstone to my identity and my work. Such smartness.

Lately, life has been charmed, truly. I'm writing like a mad woman each day. I'm talking poetry with others. I'm reading. I'm thinking. I'm musing. I'm making crazy progress. I'm dreaming. Don't wake me.

Beautiful Scars Book Release

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A few nights back, I had the pleasure of attending Edward Vidaurre's release of his latest (and third) poetry collection, Beautiful Scars. The event itself was a wonderful time -- a cozy coffee shop setting, inspiring and warm company, and of course, just damn good poetry. It was a laid back evening of celebration for Edward's amazing accomplishment and for our little poetry community as well.
I really admired the way Edward presented himself and his poetry. His reading was essentially a conversation with the audience. It felt like (and really was) like having coffee with a good friend. He talked about his past experiences with poetry and literature, his humble beginnings, and how his journey to becoming a writer was somewhat unconventional (but is it, really?). It was so enlightening and heartening to hear him talk about his work in such an accessible, honest, and down to earth way. His message was one that poetry is meant to be enjoyed by the people, and however it touches …

Blurbing

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My last few days have been, well, let's just call them adventurous.

A cat had kittens in my attic, and said kittens fell into the wall. B took a sledge hammer to the wall, and by some miracle, I found two squeally, scared and hungry little buggers. We've trapped the mom kitty, and she's at the vet clinic right now getting spayed. The next step is finding homes for the little ones. 
Anyway, this evening I took a break from my kitten antics and sat down to get to a task I'd been looking forward to for awhile, writing my first blurb for another poet, PW Covington, for his upcoming poetry collection, soon out from Slough Press. PW and I had the briefest of conversation about his project at this year's Valley International Poetry Fest. My first collection, The Garden Uprooted, was with Slough Press, also, so I was delighted to hear he was "joining the family" so to speak. And that's us, pictured to the right. Chris Carmona, editor of Slough Press, is at th…

So It Begins -- My Summer Vacation

Ah, yes...

It's about that time of the year when my world slows to a halt, when the craziness of busy schedules, to-do lists, and responsibilities go away, and I'm left with no more excuses not to write.

It's summer.

Today was my first official day of vacation, my first full day. I'm off, for sure, from now until the middle of July, and if my classes summer classes don't make, until the end of August. It's an interesting feeling -- the pressure of work and teaching falls away, but the pressure to write, to produce, to make the most of my time of rest builds up. I can't waste a perfectly good two/three months of writing time, of me time.

Last week, I eased into my new writing routine, and it's actually been going pretty well. I'm writing in the mornings and then doing other writer-related business in the afternoons, like editing, submitting, and blogging. It's a pretty good system.

So what are my goals for this summer?

I don't think they'…

Valley International Poetry Festival 2015 Reflections

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National Poetry Month has come and gone.
The Valley International Poetry Festival has come and gone.
The spring 2015 semester has come and gone.

It's always an interesting time of the year for me, May is. There's this strange peace to it, and at first it always feels a little eerie because I'm so used to being ridiculously busy. This week, I'm finalizing my grades, and then I'll be off with absolutely no schedule, no to-do list, no obligations for at least two and a half months, maybe more if my summer classes don't make. What am I going to DO with myself? Why, write of course!

Anyway, I want to take a moment to look back at the crazy month that was April before setting goals for the next little chapter of my life. I survived, which was a pretty amazing feat come to think of it! Last month, I presented at AWP, attended the TIL awards banquet in Houston, wrote and read a poem at a friend's wedding, and of course, participated in VIPF. Not to mention working…

Napo 22 and VIPF BEGINS!

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So it begins! The Valley International Poetry Festival!

Yesterday, we kicked it off with a lovely anthology release celebration and reading at the Mission Historical Museum. It was, in one word, magical. Truly. We sat out on the lawn and had a beautiful little picnic and poetry reading as the sunset. The only way it could have been better? If there was wine.

I was honored to have three poems in the anthology this year, and I read one of them at the reading. Always, though, the best part of the event is reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Some of the highlights of the night were meeting Laura Pena, my long-distance critique buddy, chatting up Shirley Rickett and checking out her new poetry collection, Transplant, and holding the new anthology, Boundless, in my hands.

The fun continued today at UTPA, where Mary Ann Escamilla and I hosted a poetry reading with PW Covington and Shirley Rickett for the campus community. It was relaxed, laid back, and a little low key. Toni…

Photo Shoot! and Napo 21

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So, I had a new experience recently!
A photoshoot!
Whaat?
My thoughts exactly.
But it actually was pretty fun. There I am, soaking it all in and getting my goddess on! Here's how it all went down:

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of getting interviewed for Beyond Arts Magazine. They cover all the arts events and happenings in the RGV, San Antonio, and Austin. It's actually a pretty nifty little magazine. Anyway, they wanted to do a little story on me and my award/book. Coolness, I say, and agree, not really sure what I was all getting into.
The interview goes well enough. I meet with Alyssa, the writer, at a local coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon, and she asks me smart questions about my book, my influences, and feminism. We have a great little chat, and then, as we're about to say our goodbyes, she asks me, "Oh, are you down for a photo shoot a little later in the week? We'll need some pictures for the magazine."
In my mind, I'm thinking it's just …

Napo 20

Today truly was just a freewrite. I'm beyond busy, which maybe comes across in this poem :-P

The prompt was to write a pastoral. I went for a quick walk in my horribly overgrown backyard. I got bit by a few desperate mosquitoes. I saw some hummingbirds battle over the last drops of nectar in the feeder. I destroyed a few spiderwebs with my forehead. Meh.

Napo 20

The weeds take over if you let them, Drown out everything you’ve planted Carefully, in a moment when your life Was something less chaotic. No, This isn’t the clean, neat garden You’d planted, complete with herbs, Chocolate mint, tarragon, and sage Growing in their tiny garden boxes, Gardenias, lavender, phlox, blooming In their flower boxes, the fruit trees trimmed to maximize efficiency.
No, it’s absolutely overgrown – the rain Kept coming and you were too busy To tend to it, to clip, mow, or weed, And now the garden is beyond repair – Overrun by whatever took root. But somehow, beauty finds a way to thrive, in the swoo…

Napo 19

Today's prompt was to write an erasure poem. I've never done that before, so this was, well, interesting? That's a good word.

I took a women's health article about weight loss, and chiseled this nonsense from it:

There may be no magic pill for weight loss, but dietician Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite for Health stays on top of the science behind taming your appetite naturally. Here, she deciphers recent research and shares six foods that will keep your appetite in check.
Feel like you need some help with hunger management? You're not alone. Most of my clients who struggle with weight loss or maintenance also struggle with hunger. Of course, it's no coincidence — it's hard to walk around feeling famished, particularly when you're faced with the temptation of high-calorie treats everywhere you turn. No wonder willpower wilts!
The good news is that several new studies have identified compounds in certain foods that trigger the release of hormones in the s…

Napo 18

Today's Napo is about my grandmother. I inherited a lot from her -- my name, my chubby feet, my stubbornness. Probably most marked, at least recently, has been my spinal condition, though. My mom and my grandma never got along, so I never really got to know her very well before she passed away. 
So this poem is a little bit about that. I'd like to write more about my grandma Grace, about our relationship that really isn't one, and yet, how she shapes the way I move in this world still. 
Today's prompt was to write a poem about things I know for certain. When it comes to my grandma, that list is pretty short, but hmm...
Napo 18
Things I Know About Her
I know you had to be beautiful once, We all were in a moment in time When the sun danced on the tip Of your nose, when your skin Smelled of raspberries, your hair Like gardenias, when you wore spring Across your shoulders like a shawl.
I know your life must have been marked With beauty, five daughters, each one A heavy bl…

Napo 16 and 17

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So, yesterday was pretty special. I was honored to read a poem at the wedding of my friends Rodney Gomez and Sara Herrera. Being invited to do this was just so humbling. When Rodney told me about his plans for this evening, my heart melted. I eagerly agreed.

The only problem? I don't really write love poetry. I'm a feminist poet, and, well, us feminists have a pretty conflicted relationship with love poetry, because so often it comes across as objectifiying -- written by a male subject to an unmoving female object. Bleh. Or it comes across as cliched, overly sentimental, gushing and bleh. So, in short, although I love the idea of love and love poetry, it's just something I find difficult to do well. Or maybe it's just that love is such a powerful force in our lives as human beings that it's so difficult to find words that give it justice.

Anyway, this event was a perfect opportunity for me to try my hand at writing some love poems, but hopefully, in my own voice. …

Napo 15

Today's prompt was to write a poem about urgency. I didn't have too many ideas, so I kind of pulled this one out of nowhere. I'm going to revise this one and work it out some more, but I want to write a poem about a little girl hearing the ice cream man's song, and it proclaims spring's resurrection, kind of comparing the little girl to Mary Magdalene and the ice cream man to the resurrection. Meh. This draft doesn't include all of that, so... I'll work at it :)

Reawakening

The world was dead, quiet, not a single bird Or cricket sang. The nights were long, endless, winter hadn’t loosened her grip yet. The season was for mourning, coming to terms With the reality of a lifetime of slate skies, The cold and lifeless ground, crocuses Forever sealed inside their bud like closed fists. So when, early in the morning, I stepped out Barefoot onto the cement outside,
I had to suspend my disbelief at the warmth Of spring’s fingers on my face, the smell Of life, the s…

Napo 14

A tiny anecdote about my day before I share this poem:
I often blog about trying to write fiction. I am trying. My best. But it's hard, you know?
I've written a handful of stories over the past two years, and now, I'm just getting to the point of submitting them. In fact, one of them was just published in The Thing Itself! I am so incredibly proud of that, because it means that my efforts aren't futile, but to be completely honest, it's amazing how fiction comes so, UNnaturally to me, compared to poetry anyway.
Or maybe I struggled this much with poetry, too, only it's been so long ago that I don't remember?
Anyway, today was kind of funny.
I got a rejection letter from a literary journal from a fiction editor. It's a nice rejection with a few suggestions for revision, an encouraging note to try them again. But the curious thing? At the end of the email, it says, "Oh, and by the way, congrats on your big Texas Institute of Letters win..."
:-D

Napo 11, 12, and 13! And an Announcement!

I spent the morning writing. Is there any better way to spend the morning? No. There is not.

Yesterday, I left off with my AWP recap. Today, I want to tell you about what happened the next day, on Saturday, April 11th, which was probably one of the most memorable of my life so far.

I was awarded the 2014 Helen C. Smith Prize for the Best Book of Poetry by the Texas Institute of Letters for my latest collection, Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots.

!!!

Yes, you read that correctly! I had received word about a month ago, but was told not to say anything until it was officially announced at the awards banquet and annual meeting. So, I had to sit on this bit of wonderful news.

Anyway, that's why I had to leave AWP a day earlier than expected. I needed to be in Houston to receive my award. Unfortunately, the reception for the award happened a day early this year, on Friday, so though I missed that, I was at least able to attend the banquet.

So, Friday morning, I wake up at the ungodly hour of 3a…

Napo 10

Alrighty! Let's recap some more. 
My AWP 2015 experience.
After our panel, Celina and I decided to hang out together. We headed to a panel featuring (gasp) Ana Castillo! The panel was put together by Feminist Press and featured her and one other author. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately?) we were late because our own panel's conversation went on a little long, and so by the time we found the place and walked in, Ana had already read. But we did catch the conversation afterwards, which was just as enlightening. The main thing I took away from this panel was that a lot of women really don't feel like they have permission to write. One woman asked Ana who gave her that permission, and Ana said, quite frankly, she gave it to herself.
How can we do that as women? Give ourselves permission to be this outspoken, out there writer? I think supporting one another is hugely important, encouraging other women to be brave and bold, but my goodness, at the end of the day, I think it&…