Monday, June 29, 2015

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 feminist goddesses for the duration of my writing which was over two years, I felt that I wasn't QUITE ready to let it go. Let it go, Katie. Seriously. Let it go.

This summer, my main goal, to be completely honest, was to shape my manuscript, figure out what it was all about. For the first month (May) my poems were mostly memoirish, based off my recent experiences with pain, disability, and healing. But meh. I'm really not a very interesting person. And not only that, but I really don't want my condition to define who I am as a poet, much less as a person. So getting some space from that I think was a mental necessity.

So I moved on, began writing different kinds of poems, too, alongside those. At a loss, I went back to the whole idea of writing what you know. And what do I know? Well, revisionist myth, of course.

Enter. More Eve poems. Ugh. I thought I'd been banished from the Garden of Eden when I finished The Garden Uprooted! Apparently not. Then I wrote a small batch of fairy tale poems, which, too, is familiar ground also explored in The Garden Upooted. Meh. Same poem over and over again much?

Then, in early June, I stumbled upon a call for submission for Wild West persona poems from Dos Gatos Press. I love the work they put out, and something in me really wanted to submit to this anthology even if I'd never explored that theme before and had nada. I started looking at interesting women heroes from the wild west and wrote two persona poems I was pretty ok with. Good enough for a submission!

But as I was doing my "research" (ok, reading wikipedia articles don't judge), I read a retelling of the Pecos Bill legend, and low and behold, he had a girlfriend/wife that I'd never heard of. Her name is Slue Foot Sue, a wild child of rural West Texas who among other things rides a giant catfish up and down the Rio Grande. The really weren't many legends about her, aside from those relating to her relationship with the infamous Pecos Bill. Hmmm...

So, I figured what the hey. If there's no folklore about her, then why not write some? And so was born my next project :)

I've got about 15 or so poems about ol' Sue. They're rough, but her story (or, rather, lack of story) has been inspirational. In a sense, I'm creating her narrative, her epic, of her life before she met Bill. And you know what? In my story, she's stronger, faster, and fiercer than he'd ever hope to be. I'm writing her epic in a mixture of blank verse and sapphic meter, though I think I'm going to stick to BV to really give it that umph... maybe just a few lyric poems here and there in sapphics.

It's been fun, and it's helped me to develop a central theme to work towards on my next book. I'm thinking of something along the lines of "The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue and other legends" and sprinkling it with some of my other revisionist myth poems that didn't make it into Goddess.

So phew, ok, now I know what to tell folks when they ask me what I'm working on. Instead of blumbering out "Oh, you know, women, vagina, feminism, body, Texas, revisionist myth, more vagina" I can actually create a coherent sentence. That's probably a good thing.

:-D Onward!


Thursday, June 18, 2015

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. It turned out to just be him and one other poet, also from the Houston area. Our workshops are fairly informal. We "meet" online once every two weeks for about two hours. We each read a poem and then the other two poets discuss it, giving suggestions for improvement. It works out pretty nicely because we're all good sports, practicing poets, and open to criticism (super important!). It's been hugely beneficial for me for a couple of reasons -- first, it keeps me writing. Every two weeks, I feel the need to have SOMETHING to show for myself. Second, it helps me gauge the reception of my work. Now, Terry and Laura are super nice and never tell me something sucks, but they're more enthusiastic about some pieces than others, which is good to be aware of. Third, it gives me direction for revision and a sense as to how readers view my work. And lastly, it helps me to see and reflect on other poets' writing processes. Terry, Laura and I are all very different in terms of our poetics. I'm a formalist. Neither of them dabble in formal poetry -- Terry's work is very modernist/minimalist with swathes of philosophy woven in. Laura writes colorful imagist work with bits of regionalism mixed in. I think that's a good thing, though. We learn from one another.

The other workshop group I participate in is Eratosphere. I've been an on again, off again member there since 2011. The only reason I end up going away is just because being an integral member of this community is very time consuming, but I always find that my time there is well spent. The poets there are very serious about their craft, so they make me be serious about my craft, too, paying attention to each syllable and sound. It feels good to be back!

Anyway, workshopping makes my work better. I'm so glad that this summer, I've been able to jump in and get some feedback, talk to other poets, and ultimately, learn and grow in my craft. There's nothing better. So between writing, conversing with other poets, critiquing, revising, polishing, and writing some more, my days are pretty occupied.

I would like to add some kind of a face-to-face local aspect to my workshop regiment, but I've really honestly never had much luck in that department here. I've tried starting my own workshops, and while I'm good at drumming up a team, no one stays committed to it. I've tried joining other peoples' workshop groups, but it looks like they have a similar type of problem. So bleh. Maybe someday I'll find a group of dedicated poets to workshop with, but until then, I am doing pretty darn good with online workshops. We shall see.

Meanwhile, long distance workshops are suiting me pretty nicely :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Noche de Palabras



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 edited my first book, The Garden Uprooted! So, it was nice to hear his new work and see what he's been up to these past few months. His style is Beat, which is kind of the opposite of what I do. Come to think of it, so many of the valley poets write in that Beat style. I'm the odd formalist out. It's all good. We as poets have more in common than we do differences, and it's always good to experience and get to know work that's different from your own. It makes me consider different points of view as a poet, which adds depth and complexity to my own work. There is always something new to learn.

Anyway, I read new work. Fortunately for me, I've been writing a lot of new material these past couple of weeks, so I figured this venue, a little on the quiet and low key side, would be a great space to try out a new piece or two. In front of a big crowd, I would be too nervous to read new poems that I hadn't practiced. In fact, that Friday, I read drafts of work! Totally unlike me!

The coolest news of the evening was that Rossy, the organizer, invited me back next month to be the featured poet. What an honor! So be on the lookout for an official announcement about that, but it will be in early July (the 10th, I think?).

In other Katie news -- I ran a 10k! And you know what else? I came in 1st place in my age/gender division! Wowowowow. I am so unbelievably impressed with myself. And it wasn't some rinky dink race either; there were over 1000 participants, 44 in my age/gender division. So, that's pretty awesome. The race itself was special for a couple of reasons -- first, it was a run across the South Padre Island/Port Isabel Causeway, so the views were spectacular. Second, it's something I've always wanted to do ever since I first heard about this run, but I'd always been lazy or scared. And third, I ran the race with none other than my own Pops! He, too, kicked some serious ass. Above, that's me, crossing the finish line. B took this wonderful shot which I think pretty much sums up my current mood and state of mind. It's no exaggeration to say that I was smiling the entire run, despite the incline on the causeway, the hot, South Texas sun, and the lack of water stations. None of that mattered when I was looking out at the bay, high on endorphins.

For a while there when I first got sick, I didn't think I would be able to run again. Now, I'm more determined than ever to live life to the fullest for as long as I can. We were made to thrive!






Monday, June 1, 2015

Beyond Arts Magazine



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.