Friday, December 30, 2016

2016, A Recap

Well there she is, my 2016 in publications.
Let me begin by saying that I KNOW 2016 sucked for so many individuals. Right now, I think the everyone is kind of collectively giving the year the finger, for various reasons, including a slough of celebrity deaths, a crazy election, and of course war.
I get that. I really do. But personally, 2016 has been a wonderful year and I am so grateful to have lived through it. I'm the same person I was in 2015, though perhaps a little wiser. Maybe turning thirty does that to a person. I actually see the value in the cumulative lessons life has taught me so far, and I feel excited, enthusiastic, and dare I say optimistic, looking forward to the new year.
Ok, enough of that. Let's talk about poetry. Above, you'll see a few publications. I started the tradition a few years back of taking a photo of my writerly accomplishments and posting them here and on facebook as a kind of chronicle of my journey. It helps me reflect on what the year has been. So often, I'm looking forward and don't take the opportunity to look back.

Let's start with the top left.
Image may contain: 18 people, people smilingFirst off, we have Boundless 2016. I had a few poems published in the anthology of the Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival this year, as I have every year since 2008. It's a wonderful anthology to be a part of, but perhaps even more significantly, it's a wonderful COMMUNITY to be a part of. This year, I didn't participate much in the festival itself. I was incredibly busy in April with a half marathon followed by a Texas Institute of Letters meeting and that weekend, I really wanted nothing more than to decompress. I made it out to the anthology release party, though, and had a wonderful time. I was even recruited to help MC, which I was honored to do. Kudos  to Daniel Garcia Ordaz as per always for making this happen. Oh, fun fact about this picture: my former student is in there! What the what?! She was published in the anthology, too. We're standing next to each other. I was so proud!

Moving to the right, we have Bearing the Mask (Dos Gatos Press), an anthology of southwestern persona poems. I was honored to have three poems included in this neat book -- a poem about Kitty Leeroy, one about Calamity Jane, and a poem about Slue Foot Sue! Another fun fact -- I wrote these poems for the anthology specifically, but in writing the Slue Foot Sue poem, I found my inspiration for my forthcoming book, The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue, due out early next year. Woot woot!

Next, we have the 2016 Texas Poetry Calendar. This another publication I've been honored to be a part of for a few years now. I think my first inclusion was 2012, and I've been in each year since. I love writing about my adopted home state, so it's a fitting place to submit my work. I have a poem coming out in the 2017 version, too, one of my Eve poems. Next year is the last year Dos Gatos will be publishing the calendar, but I've heard another press is picking it up so that's good news!

Image may contain: 1 personThen, we have Poetry South. This publication actually came in the mail just a few days go. I'm still making my way through it. I have a poem in there, "My Suegra's Molcajete." I wrote it about my suegra's battle with cancer, so it's a piece that's very near and dear to my heart. Thankfully, 2016 was the year she beat cancer and is now cancer-free. For me, that's the main reason 2016 was a good year.

On the top far right, we have Concho River Review published out of Angelo State Univeristy. They ran another one of my Eve poems, a sonnet actually! It's about contemporary women and our complicated relationship with food. In the end, though, good old Eve gives some sound advice. The publication, CRR, is one of my favorites and I'm so honored to be a part of it this year. It's edited by none other than Jerry Bradley, who is a poet I admire very much for his wit, wry humor, and craft. Oh! And I visited Angelo State University for their annual writer's conference last year. So, there's a picture of me reading.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and indoorNow to the bottom. On the left, first we have Voices de la Luna. They also ran a Slue Foot Sue poem! I was really happy to be in this journal because it's edited by another poet I admire, Carol Coffee Reposa. She is just an amazing person. I met Carol a few years ago at the first Langdon Review weekend, add I've seen her at poetry events here and there around the state. She is one of my many role models as a strong, smart, and accomplished women. It's women like Carol that have made it easy for young women like me to follow in their footsteps. There's Carol and I, along with Edward Vidaurre and Celina Villa Garcia, at the Gemini Ink conference in San Antonio last summer. We were talking about how we put together or organize a poetry manuscript. I learned so much!

Next come the two issues of Pleiades. I've been writing book reviews for them for the past few years and simply LOVE doing it. In the winter 2016 issue, I reviewed Ron Moore's If In Later Years (TCU Press) which was a marvelous and beautiful meditation on aging, and Her Texas (Wings Press), which was an anthology of poetry, fiction, nonfiction and art written by Texas women. I LOVED reviewing and thinking about Her Texas. It is such a fine, accomplished compilation of works. IF I get into a PhD program here in Texas, I want to continue this sort of important work of chronicling women's voices in the state.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people sittingAnd last but certainly not least, on the bottom far right, we have Switchgrass Review. I published a couple of more personal poems about my health issues. For me, these poem are both difficult to write and difficult to publish, so I was honored for them to find such a fitting home. The journal is run by a woman I trust and respect immensely (otherwise, I wouldn't have submitted these pieces), Robin Carstensen. I met Robin early this year at the People's Poetry Festival in Corpus Christi at the university there, a festival she, too runs. Talk about being a force of nature, huh? Here's a picture of me at the festival, just cuz I'm feeling reminiscent. Also pictured is Arturo Saldana (an amazing Chicano writer who unfortunately passed away this year), and Edward Vidaurre. Edward and I do a lot together, apparently. We're buds like that.

Here are a few other notables that happened to me this year:

1. I finished my third full poetry collection, submitted it to Publisher, and it was ACCEPTED. So, in 2017, I'm expecting a brand new baby poetry manuscript. You already knew that, didn't you? But no list of yearly notables would be complete without AT LEAST mentioning this little gem.

2. I was named the Langdon Review Writer in Residence for 2017. I'll be spending my residency in Scotland this summer. OMG.

3. I was PROLIFIC. Seriously. I don't even know exactly how many poems I wrote this year but damn it was a lot. During the summer, I just found this amazing spring of poetry. Though I slowed down considerably since then, I've been able to write this month so I'm finishing the year off strong. Nice. I should probably count how many poems I wrote, shouldn't I? I don't even know how to go about doing that. My poetry archives are such a ridiculous mess.

4. I had another AMAZING semester teaching creative writing. It really was! I learned so much from my kiddos and I hope they feel the same about me. Wait. They're not kiddos. But whatever. From my adults. That just sounds weird. Bleh. It was a good semester, ok? Let's leave it at that.

5. Publications: I had 19 individual poems accepted for publication in literary journals this year. Not bad!

6. Submissions: I did them. Obv. I opened up my submission tracker to count and got dizzy. You don't need an exact number. Just know that my acceptance/rejection ratio tends to run like 1/10, so, we can do a little math and see that I sent out a boat load of submissions.

7. I was elected the Vice President of the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers. Go me!

8. I put on a pair of big girl panties and submitted to five different PhD programs like the badass I am. In the past, this has always been something that's intimidated me. I used to figure that PhD programs weren't for people like me -- they were for the mighty, the gifted, the crazy smart or people that had like no life whatsoever. Maybe I'm one of those things, but really, I'm just an average girl who knows what it means to work hard. Maybe that's enough. If not, I am a fighter, and I'll try again next year.

9.  I turned 30. There's that.

10. I ran a f-ing marathon. N'uff said.

I need a few more days to think about my goals for 2017, what I want to focus on, what I want to improve about myself as a writer and a human being. For now, I'm looking back at 2016 and it's shown me that I am both capable and blessed. Capable because I set my mind to doing things and then power through. Blessed because the people around me, my family, B, and my mentors, never cease to support me in my wild and crazy dreams.

Today, over lunch, I told B that I feel as though I have a certain luck, a certain edge, a certain something where life seems to always deal me a winning hand. It may not always be the hand I want or in the time I want, but somehow, someway, I thrive. And for that, I think I can simply be nothing but grateful. Thank you, 2016, for being yet another amazing year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Updates from the Katie Sphere!

Oh man oh man oh man...
It's been awhile since my last update. Of course, semester busy-ness happened. Teaching. Conferences. Grading.
And uhhh... I turned 30.
And I ran a marathon.
And I applied to five different PhD programs.
And yet another health scare.
And Christmas.

And now here I am, on the other side of the madness, surviving and thriving and finally getting back into a writing routine. Fall was a good semester, I must admit. Here's a little run-down on what happened since I last left off:

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and eyeglassesSo, toward the end of August, just as the semester was firing up again, I got some wonderful news: I was awarded a writing residency! I was named the Langdon Review Writer in Residence, and I'll be completing my residency next August in SCOTLAND. That's right. SCOTLAND. I was so excited to get the news and I'm very excited to embark on this new adventure. It's right around the corner!

Then, in September, I had to head up to Granbury for their annual Langdon Review Weekend. I had such a marvelous time yet again, as per always. The organizers officially announced my residency, so that made the event all the more special. Of course, I read some poems there, too! Pictured left, Sandi Horton, the 2018 resident, and I enjoying the snazzy reception.

Later that month, I attended the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers (TACWT) conference in San Antonio. It was, indeed, another lovely event where I was able to connect and reconnect with poets and writers from around the state. I presented two panels -- one of my original poetry, and one on the importance of community in creative writing pedagogy. I was probably most honored by the fact that none other than 2012 Texas Poet Laureate Jan Seale was on my panel, and if you follow this blog, you know she's my hero :)
Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting
Then, for the next few months, I settled into (some sort of) a routine of mad crazy teaching, grading, and craziness. I was teaching four classes with three different preps, so it got a bit hectic but in a good way. I was so fortunate this semester to have numerous poets visit my class from the community, including Edward Vidaurre, Celina Suarez, and Brenda Nettles Riojas, as pictured here!

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sunglasses, hat and closeupCome November, things were getting a little prickly. The semester was in full swing, my marathon training was in full swing, and I was losing my mind trying to navigate the labyrinth that is PhD application season. Ugh. Oh, and then I turned 30. I spent my birthday in full marathon training mode, knocking out an epic twenty miler with my dad. I think it was a fitting way to celebrate the life I've been living! I want to live with no regrets, I remember thinking to myself, and there is indeed no time like the present than to relentlessly pursue your goals. So relentlessly pursue I did! That particular training run taught me that, with preparation and determination, I am capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind to. What a great lesson for a birthday, huh? Anywho, that evening, I went out for Mexican food with the family and devoured a tiramisu. Also, B bought me a cappucino machine and it's pretty much the best thing ever. So far, I like being thirty very much. I can't wait to see what this decade has in store for me!
Image may contain: 1 person
Anywho, the next big event, after my birthday, was an epic poetry reading. I called it Words and Brews, and it was organized by me and my Creative Writing I course. And no, "epic" is not an exaggeration of what happened. It was amazing. We had a full house. My students absolutely knocked it out of the park. I was so proud of them! It felt great to create this opportunity for my students and to usher them into the creative writing community here. I hope it was a night they'll always remember. I know it was for me!

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standingJust a few short days after the big event, it was marathon time. The event was on a Wednesday and the run was on a Sunday, in San Antonio. So, talk about a busy week! B and I headed up on Saturday to get settled into the hotel. I'm not going to bore you with a mile by mile description of my run, but it did change my outlook on life and it showed me the immense power of the human spirit, of MY human spirit. It was rainy, cold, and such a challenge. But never, not even once, did I contemplate giving up. It just wasn't an option. And this relentless attitude is something I hope to apply to other facets of my life, like my education, my pursuit of professional success, and my writing. Heck, if I can do this, I can do anything, no? With the right people by my side, of course. This feat wouldn't have been possible without B's support and my dad's encouragement. Which, speaking of, here's me and my pops relishing some post-marathon good vibes together. And yes, my dad ran the marathon too! I know where I get my attitude from -- him. This was his third marathon. It was my first. We've vowed to run another when he turns 60.

Image may contain: 1 person, standingAfter the run, all I really had left to do was give some final exams and then, of course, begin the professorly marathon of grading papers. Which I did. Sore. And exhausted. I posted my grades with a triumphant sigh of relief, ready to put this legendary semester in the books! Afterwards, I invited to a sort of MFA alumni reunion and end-of-semester celebration at a local bar where we read poems with some current MFA students. It was nice to reconnect with the poets who helped me cut my teeth, so to speak! I read some new-ish work, stuff I'd written over the summer.

And then, my vacation began! Which is where I'm at now. Christmas came and went with cheer and baking. I had a bit of a health-thing happen, which I also will spare you the details of, but it's put a bit of a damper on the holiday. I had my follow-up check-up yesterday and doc says I'm doing good, so I'm doing good. I'll be meeting with another specialist next month just to make double sure all is well.

Since being on vacation, I've been refocusing on writing, which is something I've terribly neglected during the semester. I wasn't able to find a way to work it into my busy schedule, which is probably just another way of saying it wasn't my priority, sadly. PhD applications and work here. And running. But now, I'm running like a normal person again and I've submitted all of my apps so with this new found spare time, I'm writing. And submitting. And playing video games. And... learning how to run a press! Yes, that's right! I've found a wonderful mentor to help me learn the ropes, so to speak, and so I've been volunteering with his press to get a handle for this sort of thing. I'm not sure where this will lead me in the future, but it's something I've always been curious about and a little intimidated by, so why not spend a few months apprenticing (or, something like it).

Which brings me here! It was a great semester, though one I'm glad, too, is over. Now I'm looking to the new year, and soon, I'll be setting new goals and thinking about how I want to spend this precious time. I know, for sure, my priorities never change -- growth, health, and love.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Back at work!

So, today was my first day back at work for the fall 2016 semester.

It was a little bittersweet. Ok, more bitter than sweet. It's going to take a bit of an adjustment to get back into the swing of things, apparently. Even though it was just for a meeting/professional development, the day felt crazy long for my body. Ugh. Maybe it's because last night I ran six miles. Maybe it's because I'm not used to getting out of bed before 10am. Maybe it's because today I had to sit for about five hours, which I'm not used to, which means my back gets achy. Anyway, whatever. I'm wiped out.

This isn't exactly an ideal start to the semester, but hopefully by the time my actual classes begin on Monday, I'll be used to it again. I figure now's as good as a time as any to set up some goals for the semester.

1. Perhaps most importantly, I want to keep up my routine of writing. I want to be able to produce something every week, to make measurable progress. I think just some general poem generation would be good at this point. I'm not entirely certain what my next "project" is going to be, and I don't want to put pressure on myself to figure that out yet, but at the same time, I do want to keep writing and working, figuring that out. It might mean making further progress on my Valley Cultura poems with Corinne. It might mean working on my "Body" poems. Maybe it means something else entirely. The important thing is to keep writing. I hope to sort through the mess I create over the Christmas holiday.

2. Successfully teach this semester. This goes without saying, but I want to be a good teacher for my students. I'm teaching creative writing, poetry appreciation, and composition, so it will be a challenge to juggle these "preps," though I am confident that I can do it. I'm going to plan a big reading at the end of the semester for my students, too, to present their works in the community. It's a big project, but it's so worth while.

3. Successfully present at two conferences. I'm already set to present at the Langdon Review Weekend in September and the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers in October, so I'm pretty well set up for this semester.

4. Submit poems to journals. I'd like to send off at least one submission a week. I wish I had more time to dedicate to this because I have a book coming out, but meh.

5. Work on career advancement

6. Train for a marathon! Yep. That's happening. In December :)

I'm turning thirty this semester. So there's that too!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Summertime Reflection

Ah, yes, it's about that time of the year...

My work email is bustling once again, the school buses wind through my cul-du-sac every morning and afternoon, and I'm digging out my syllabi with a mixture of elation and dread. Yesterday, while revamping my Rhetoric and Composition syllabus, I had some sort of a mini-panic attack as I pieced together my semester. Yikes.

Before moving onto the next phase, it's important for me to reflect on the season that's passing. As a writing teacher, I'm always stressing the importance of self-reflection. So, it's time for me to practice what I preach, although, really, this blog is like one big enormous public self-reflection on my writing self. 

This summer began a bit rocky, but in the end, I think it's been my best, most productive, most fulfilling (creatively... and let's face it, otherwise too) yet. I eased into a routine of daily writing. I learned that inspiration is a habit, a muscle. I wrote like a madwoman, spending hours everyday in my place of bliss (and sometimes frustration). I worked through the tangly poems, a tangly manuscript, a tangly mind. I've created a manuscript I'm proud of, and I can't wait for the world to see it next year. 

I also went out of my comfort zone as an artist, presenting my work at new venues, met new people/communities of writers, and tried my hand at ekphrasis. 

I put my work and my self out there, to various degrees of success, but I harbor no regrets. My skin is  (mostly) calloused with rejection, but my heart never tires of the elation of acceptance. 

I'm dipping my toes into the role of a literary critic, branching out and challenging myself to write an article. 

I'm still the same gal who went into this summer with wide eyes, though I think I'm a little more confident, sure of myself, and excited for the future. Back in May, I set the following goals:

1. Don't die. I have successfully survived. Thrived. My heath is good. I feel stronger than ever. 
2. Finish poetry manuscript -- either split it up or make it work. Either way, send to Publisher by end of August! Done. Done. Done. 3. Write two book reviews Written. Submitted. Accepted for publication. Moving on.4. Submit to residencies I submitted to one? It's not plural but it's a damn good one.5. Submit poetry packets out at least once per week -- so, let's say a goal of 15 by the end of summer. I did two yesterday, so I'm off to a good start! Yawn. Blew this one out of the water by more than doubling it. 6. Do at least one public reading a month. I've got May and July squared away, so figure something out for June and August In May, I read at my old high school as a keynote speaker. In June, I went to an open mic at The Prelude. In July, I read at Malvern Books in Austin. In August I'll be reading at the Sekula Library here in Edinburg. 7. Successfully teach summer course while keeping my writing schedule going This went surprisingly smoothly.8. Practice Spanish ::crickets chirping:: ok, this is something I slacked at. I didn't even open my Duolingo app once. Let's add this to the fall goals. 9. Exercise five times per week, keep it a priority Yes. I have transitioned in to full-blown marathon training. I'm in week 4, running 4 times a week and cross training once a week. 10. Enjoy and savor the extra rime. Bake cakes. Play video games. Snuggle the cats. Take a long, frivolous roadtrip with B. Enjoy and life life to the fullest everyday. I have baked my heart out. I've almost finished playing Final Fantasy 5 (note to self, beat final boss before the summer officially finishes). I currently have a kitty on my lap. I took two frivolous roadtrips. I have enjoyed my summer and savored the long, beautiful days as fully as I knew how. 

Life is pretty freakin' glorious. May it continue to be as I move into the next season, the fall semester. B says he has a good feeling about it. I'm staring at my calendar feeling a little nervous. But with his support, I know I can tackle just about anything. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Collaborations and Ekphrasis

This summer has been amazingly fruitful. Amazingly.

I'm not really sure how or why, but I've just been on a roll lately in terms of inspiration and a simple will to write. It's been insane. Seriously. I feel like I have a little idea generator going on inside me and I can't shut it off. Not that I'd want to, of course. It's so easy to chalk it all up to magic, some external muse that keeps me going and going, but I think it's a little more complex than that.

First of all, of course, I had a clear(ish) direction of my manuscript in the beginning of these summer months and a real desire to wrap it up. That motivation carried me through all of May, June and the second half of July. When I finally handed it off and declared it done, though, I wasn't really left with that "now what?" feeling.

I think the reason is quite serendipitous, actually. As I was finishing up my summer class, I received a curious email from an artist who was working on her catalog for an exhibit. I knew/know next to nothing about art, but she was wondering if I'd be interested in writing an introductory essay for her book. This was totally out of my comfort zone as a writer, but I'm not one to shut doors, so I agreed to meet her.

It was late July. I agreed to meet Corinne at a Starbucks to see what she had in mind. She'd brought her art and the gallery manager, Aleida, with her. I was impressed with the energy and spirit of both women, and felt an instant connection. Corinne showed me a few of her pieces and talked about her inspirations for them, mainly, the unique cultural landscapes of this regions, depicting them in order to construct and represent her own blended identity. Neato, I thought.

As I was looking at the pieces, I felt this kindred connection. I thought about my own cultural identity, its complex nuances, my own feeling of otherness while amongst other "whites," a strange feeling of both rootedness here in place and a disconnection. An existential crisis of sorts. Who the heck am I, and why am I here?

Those questions, of course, are the root of poetry.

"Your work, it really inspires me," I told her, "I want to write about it." ... but the only way I know how to put the ineffable into words is through, well, poetry.

Surprisingly, Corinne's eye lit up. "Really? You'd like to write about my work???"

And I did, I genuinely did, and well, do!

So for the past month or so, I've been steeped in Corinne's images, drafting up poems that echo Valley Cultura, the culture I've grown up in and assimilated into. It's been really inspiring. Some days, it's a challenge to get into another artist's mindscape, and others, I feel right at home. Corinne's also been sending me theoretical texts to get me up to snuff on the bones of her work. It just reminds me a lot of Anzaldua's Borderlands: La Frontera, how being "half" or "mixed" in terms of culture tends to be seen by our society as a negative thing, but instead, using this "dissonance" to create "melody" or reframing it as such. Boom.

We don't have anything formal yet, but right now I've got a nice fat handful of poems inspired by her work. I hope to write more, too, as she continues creating, perhaps even inspired by a few of my already-written poems. I hope this project continues to evolve, perhaps even into a book of ekphrasis and illustration.

It's a new source of inspiration, and I'm relishing in it. The lesson I'm learning from all of this is to keep an open mind to different ideas and approaches, to not limit yourself as an artist, and that synergy is a real thing we can work to create. It's not magic. It's going outside your comfort zone. It's conversations. It's work.

Check out Corinne's Valley Cultura collection here. She'll also be showing her artwork next month in Harlingen, and I hope to attend!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Summertime Submission Tally

Well, one of my goals this summer was to send out more submissions. I wanted to submit to at least 20 venues. Let's see how I did. Here are the venues I submitted to from May 1st through today!

1. Cimarron Review (Rejected)
2. Codex (pending)
3. Switchgrass Review (Accepted!)
4. FRiGG (Rejected)
5. Hermeneutric (Rejected)
6. Southwestern Review (pending)
7. Rattle (pending)
8. Summerset (Pending)
9. Blue Earth Review (pending)
10. Bat City (rejected)
11. Panoply (rejected)
12. Lunch Ticket (pending)
13. Collagist (Pending)
14. Autumn Sky (rejected)
15. Adriot (rejected)
16. TAB (pending)
17. Waccamaw (pending)
18. Alyss (Accepted!)
19. Poetry South (pending)
20. New Yorker (dreaming)
21. Poetry (dreaming)
22. Concho River Review (Accepted)
23. Rust Moth (rejected)
24. Indianola (Accepted!)
25. Barcopa (Rejected)
26. The Journal (rejected)
27. Redactions (pending)
28. Swamp Ape (pending)
29. Account (pending)
30. Qu (pending)
31. Southern Poetry Review (pending)
32. Thrush (reject)
33. Mezzo Cammin (accept!)
34. Black Warrior Review (pending)

Not bad! I'm kinda sorta proud of myself!

Acceptances: 5
Rejections: 11
Pending: 18

As you can see, I've got a lot of balls still up in the air, which should give me enough suspense to carry me through the next few months, until Christmas rolls around and I'll throw a bunch more poems out to the universe once again.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Edward's Book Release Party

Photo by Christopher Rocha

What a blast of an evening!

Last Wednesday, August 3rd, I had the pleasure of throwing my good friend, Edward Vidaurre, a book release party. We'd been planning this sucker for a little over a month now, and it was so wonderful to see it all come to fruition. Numerous special guests took the stage, including PW Covington, Brian Allen Carr, Odilia Galvan Rodriguez, Julieta Corpus, Cesar De Leon and Daniel Garcia Ordaz. We had about fifty or so people in attendance.

Edward, of course, gave an amazing reading as per always.

We also had a wonderful musical guest, Mr. Jose Sanchez, perform for us. 

I was the M.C! Or the G.C -- I hate the word "mistress" of ceremonies, so I'm changing it to Goddess of ceremonies.

Anyway, I don't think there was a better way to spend a summer evening than on the patio, drinking good beer, in the best company imaginable. Was it a lot of work? You betcha it was. Will I do it again? Of course. My next event is already in the works! Likely until late November/early December I'll be throwing a big ol' celebration for the semester's close and ushering the students who survived my creative writing course into the literary community.

Community. How amazingly blessed am I to have such writer friends? 

Monday, August 1, 2016

FORTHCOMING: The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue

So it's official(ish!) 

My next manuscript, The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue, has been accepted for publication by Lamar University Literary Press and is slated for release in early 2017. 

Commence the happy dancing!

I'm incredibly proud of of this manuscript. Truly. 

The book revisions tales from Texas folklore from a contemporary feminist perspective and provides some much needed context to the women of legend in the state. I know I've been yapping on and on about the book over here on the blog as it's gone from little idea to full fledged manuscript and all spaces in between, but it really has been an incredible, educational, and downright enjoyable journey for me. I'm confident in this book, and I'm excited to see what the world thinks of it.

I last left off at the point of restructuring the order of my poems, which I spent a couple of days doing. The result was a four chapter piece, each chapter concentrating on a separate legend. The new structure, I think, is easier to follow. Instead of readers having to navigate these numerous different threads, we follow one to completion then begin another. Narrative. It's all about the narrative, creating that narrative of women. 

A few weeks ago, I was finally happy with how it looked and felt. I sent it off to Publisher and held my breath, momentarily doubting myself my writing. What if I just got lucky with Goddess? What if Publisher thinks this manuscript is too feminist? What if he hates it, and by proxy, me? I'm learning that as a writer, this voice, this fear, never really goes away.

But of course, those fears were unfounded. Actually, within TWO FREAKIN' HOURS, Publisher writes back saying that he loves it, he wants it, and that he doesn't often get poems as good as these. Yes. He said that. I read the email five times, then showed it to B and asked him, "does it really say what I think it says?" 

We celebrated with a few beers that night. I was (and still am) on cloud 9. 

Now comes the arduous task of waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Good thing I have plenty of projects to occupy my time, like planning my friend's book release party, a collaborative writing project with a local artist (more deets later!), and of course, getting ready for the upcoming semester (I was assigned a last minute creative writing class! Whoopie!). 

Anyway, it's been a lovely summer so far. I still have a few weeks left of it, so let's see what I can make of it! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gemini Ink, Malvern Books, and Other Adventures

Let me just begin this post by saying how incredibly blessed I am to 1. have such amazing writer friends and 2. have the ability to travel and see said friends. How fortunate am I to have found a home here in the Texas literary community? Very.

The past week was a testament to that. I've been on the road reading, learning, and exploring, and it's been so refreshing. Let me give you a quick rundown of my literary excursion with some pictures.

Last Thursday, Bruno and I left our humble little abode for the wide and open road. I had a few things on my "to do" list, and some spare time for, well, let's call it inspired travel. We spent Thursday on the road, heading up to San Antonio from Edinburg. On Friday morning, I was scheduled to speak on a panel at the Gemini Ink writer's conference, so I was a little nervous.

Friday morning comes around and I arrive at the Tropicana Hotel on the San Antonio Riverwalk. The first thing on my agenda is to get settled in and check out the keynote address, given by the publisher of Trinity Press. His talk opens up the conference on an exciting note, framing the recent changes in the publishing industry as not apocalyptic as many might call them, but instead as groundbreaking and exciting. Being an eternal optimist, I'm intrigued.

I was fortunate enough to speak on a panel about Suffering and Sentimentality from an editor's perspective with Robin Carstensen and Odilia Galvan Rodriguez. The panel ended up being a conversation, which I love, love, love. I added that I think a lot of editors/publishers tend to see sentimentality as a negative thing rather than a positive, but also, perhaps it's a way of excluding voices that don't fit the "norm" -- the voices of women, minorities, LGBT individuals, and differently abled peoples. We heard a lot of different ideas and thoughts, and the ending sentiment (hah) was really inspiring -- as writers, we should be open to exploring that line between passion and sentimentality. Carol Coffee Reposa, who was in the audience, approached me afterwards and noted that all the "Great" poems flirt with that line -- come right up close to it. So maybe that's the key to writing great rather than good work -- to risk sentimentality?

Anyway, I ended up learning a lot from our conversations.

Afterwards, I attended a panel on book marketing, which, as a writer, isn't something I think about all that often. I know I should, but it's tough, you know? Bryce Milligan of Wings Press added that, for poets, the most important way to market your work is through giving readings and hand selling, which I'm much more apt at (I think...).

Anywho, after the panel I needed some space to empty my brain, so I called up B and we headed over to the riverwalk for some lunch. We went to one of our favorite places, The Guenther House, and spent a bit of time exploring the old flour mill. Good times. That's me, pictured at the left, on the balcony of said restaurant. I really love their ambiance! It was a perfect place for a little peaceful lunch.

I had another panel scheduled for later that afternoon, so I head back to the conference at around 3. I attend another panel on writing trauma with Wendy Barker (wow!), but ended up ducking out early to prep for my own discussion.

Our afternoon panel was on the process of how to develop and put together a poetry manuscript. Since this is something I've recently struggled with, I felt particularly apt to talk about my own process. It was really enlightening, too, to learn about the processes of my fellow panelists, Carol Coffee Reposa, Edward Vidaurre, and Celina Villagarcia. My main advice was that every book has to have some sort of an argument, a central message to it. And I talked about how I had to narrow that down for my forthcoming book, The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue. There we are, pictured below. Don't we look smart? That's because we are.

That evening, although there was an amazing reading planned, I decided I needed to skip it and take it easy. B and I went out for some sushi at this really neat place and I had, err, maybe a little more sake than I'm used to. It was delightful :)

The next morning I was scheduled to attend a workshop with Tim Seibles. How fortunate am I??? I learned so much from the workshop. Even though a lot of it was advice I had already heard, it was really great to hear about the process of another writer. The workshop focused on incorporating specific details into your poetry. I ended up leaving with TWO poem drafts and a super useful process for revision. I really liked how "real" Tim was about how difficult and time consuming the craft of poetry can be, but also he was just so inspiring and encouraging. There were poets of all levels in the workshop -- from Bryce Milligan and Liliana Valenzuela to brand new baby poet undergrads, but I feel it was relevant to all. I also just read today that Seibles was named the Virginia Poet Laureate, and to be honest, I'm not surprised. I feel incredibly blessed to have spent the morning learning from him. There's a picture from the workshop. I'm on the left, soaking up Tim's amazingness.

Afterwards, I had a book signing at the conference author's table where I had the chance to chat with some young college students about the writer's career, meet San Antonio writers and even a few publishers and editors. I also sold a few books! There I am, left, hanging out with two buddies, ire'ne lara silva and of course, Edward Vidaurre. Didn't I tell ya I had cool friends?

I would have loved to have stayed longer, but I was on a bit of a time constraint. Later that evening, I had a reading and book signing in Austin, so after a quick and delicious lunch at The Cove, B and I headed up there. We checked into our hotel before making our way to the bookstore. I'd visited the bookstore last spring when I was in town for the Texas Institute of Letters meeting, so I was already at least a little familiar.

Don't we look happy? I was more nervous than anything else in that picture since it was just before we were about to get started. The reading was a book launch for my friend Nathan Brown's new collection of poetry, My Salvaged Heart (Mezcalita Press, 2016).  He was kind enough to invite me to join him and share a few poems in celebration. Allyson Whipple also shared a few poems, too, from her chapbooks. It was a nice, intimate event. Attendance was a little, let's say light, though, but it might have been due to the fact that the US Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, was reading but two blocks down the street. Competition much? Oh well. I had a nice time regardless and met a few wonderful Austin poetry fans. You can view my reading here:

After that, B and I were both pretty exhausted, so we headed back to the hotel for some much deserved rest. The next morning, we went to a few places in Austin, including the Texas State Cemetery and a cat cafe (we're odd tourists, ok?), before deciding to get the hell out of dodge and head for our favorite place, New Orleans. For the next two days, we existed in a bliss of beignets, live music, and good Louisiana beer. My favorite places on this visit were a trip through the Ursuline convent, which had some surprisingly interesting takes on women's history, and a tour of Frances Keyes' home. And of course the FOOD, which kinda sorta still has my stomach in a tizzy.

Today I'm recovering, trying to come down from the marvelous cloud that comes with travel, writing, and community. Hopefully I'll be able to settle back into my routine before the semester and reality hits again in a few weeks. I have so much to look forward to in the fall, but right now, I'm still relishing summer.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Manuscript Update

There's my manuscript. There she is in all her neat and pretty glory. Oh, oh, oh, she is a deceptive little turd. I made this image using word cloud, a neat little website that makes a design out of a word or pdf file. I decided, what the heck, I'll pop my manuscript in there, maybe it'll take my mind off the craziness it's become. And it spits out this pretty little neat thing that looks so simple.

Chaos. That's what she is. Chaos!

I spent today futzing with the book again, the order and the structure, and, well, I think I broke it.

And I'm having this crisis as I'm gathering my notes for a talk I'm giving in San Antonio on how to put together a manuscript. I'm going to walk into the conference room and be all like, hey everyone, I have no idea what I'm doing, but here's some advice


Actually, this is a perfect opportunity for me to reflect on the process of putting together a book. This latest collection has posed a few challenges for me, and I feel like it's close to being in good shape. It's original state was like a two-faced book with two separate themes -- personal poems about my recent illness(es), and then more of the whole revisionist mythmaking thing but with Texas legends.  I was going to slap the title of Slue Foot Sue on it and call it a day, hoping the reader would take that leap with me across the chasm that having two separate tones/voices/messages created. It was going to reflect the pastiche of identity, the chaos of being a woman, I told myself, trying to make it sound good.

But really, that was a bunch of bull. I was being lazy and didn't want to admit that all along, I'd been working on two separate books, and that in order to make it work, I was going to have to scrap half and write a shit load more.

I eventually came to my senses after chatting with my mentor, Jan. She pretty much told me as such and, though it took me awhile to accept the truth, I agreed and split the manuscript in two, telling myself the other half could wait until my next book.

And so I got to work on my Slue Foot Sue book, because it felt a little fatter and more developed. Yay. That's what I'd been doing this summer, adding to it. I ended up writing two whole new "Texas legend series" poems to accompany Sue in her book -- Lobo Girl, a feral child case, and Sirena, a Native American Legend of a mermaid in the Guadalupe River. Sue was going to be the anchor story, her poems sprinkled throughout the manuscript, the chapter titles adhering to major events in her narrative. Lobo Girl's was kinda sorta gonna follow suit. Sirena was a little different -- her poems were too connected and needed to be together, uninterrupted, so I placed them in a chapter, but they felt like they didn't quite fit there.

Now I had three controlling narratives, and the manuscript felt, well, a little confusing and out of control. Today, I sat down with B and we chatted about it over lunch. B is not a poet. Quite the opposite, in fact, he's a computer geek. But, I trust his judgement on things in general, and he's always up for some straight talk. I asked him, do you think I should have three chapters, one for each narrative, rather than sprinkling all the poems throughout the book?

That makes so much more sense, he told me.

I groaned. This was going to mean a major overhaul. Ok. Ok. Ok...

So today I tried doing that. Now I've got a Slue Foot Sue chapter that focuses on her narrative, yes, but also imperfect love poems, a Sirena chapter that interrogates the male gaze and the objectification of women, and a Lobo Girl chapter about wilderness and rebellion. And a fourth, tiny chapter about the moon. Because the moon is what all these women have in common, but of course.

So some poems no longer fit -- cut them out. I looked through my "other" manuscript and found a few of the ones I'd originally discarded now could go back in, so I did a little swapping there too.

This manuscript keeps evolving and changing and it's hard to keep up with what's going where and why :-/ Good thing I save versions of stuff.  This weekend, I'm going to follow that old advice, to print out all of my poems and arrange them on my office floor. Would you believe I'm actually excited about it? :)

It's almost there. It's almost there. It's almost there. I have a feeling this book is going to be really good, once I finally figure out the chaos. I don't think I've ever struggled so much with ordering a manuscript -- the other two were much easier, a straight up narrative sequence. This one resists that. Fortunately, the poems themselves have been fairly easy to write because I've just been feeling so inspired and energized. I keep having ideas and I can't shut the faucet off. Not that I'd want to, of course.

Anyway, long story short, I think I'm getting somewhere with this, and I know that in the end, this book will be much stronger through all the struggling it's put me through.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

In the Works! A Book Release Party!

I'm excited (And a little nervous) to announce that I'll be putting together a book release party for my good friend, Edward Vidaurre, in early August at Schneider's Gasthaus. My neighbors recently purchased the restaurant from the previous owner (who also allowed me to host readings there from time to time), and have been asking me to put together an event with the local poets since day one. Being a little preoccupied with life, I'd been putting it off, until a couple of weeks ago, while sitting on the Gasthaus patio enjoying a beer, the owner approached me again with a frown on his face. "You ever going to bring your poet friends, Katie?"


Ok, ok, ok, you twisted my arm, not that it really needed much twisting.

Depending on how this reading and release party goes, I'm toying with the idea of making this a semi-regular thing. Maybe a Books and Beer quarterly reading, celebrating new books released by local authors. Dunno. I get super busy and during the summer, I always have a little free time and dream up new work for myself to do. But whatever. This is kind of important, especially the part about supporting other writers and helping to create a cohesive literary community. And there's nothing like a little alcohol to do that, am I right?

The last time I hosted a reading at Schneiders, it was a resounding success (IMHO of course). I was celebrating my students' accomplishments that semester, and the local poetry community came out to essentially usher them into our circle. It was well-attended by writers, students, and even my colleagues from the university. I hope to replicate that atmosphere in this coming release party; we shall see how it goes. 

Anyway, I've let Edward chose the special guest readers, because it is HIS party. And we're going to also have an open mic to allow everyone an opportunity to share their ideas and works. I'm really excited to see how this pans out, and hopefully, it will be the first of many events I organize at Schneider's Gasthaus.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Laughs with Friends

From Light, 2015

On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to attend a little gathering with two poet friends, Julieta Corpus and Rodney Gomez, to write and chat about humorous verse. These are two poets whose work I admire greatly, and it was a wonderful opportunity to just chat, write, and maybe most importantly, laugh together.

Our discussions got me thinking a little bit on the idea of humorous verse, so I'll share some thoughts here just for the sake of recording them. First of all, Julieta, who organized the little get together, said that, in her little research for our workshop, she'd found that there was really a dearth of humorous poetry written for adults. A lot of the silly poetry was written for a younger audience. Secondly, humorous poetry tended to be more formal in that it adhered to conventions of rhyme and meter more strictly than more serious poetry, in general of course.

Julieta was left wondering -- why don't more poets write silly poetry, get in touch with their silly side? It's a good question. I think there's a bit of a stigma to "light" verse as being frivolous, and I think we as poets tend to stick to heavier issues. But who doesn't like to laugh? I think, especially when it comes to public readings, lighter poems tend to go over well with audiences, particularly audiences with nonpoets.

So, I think it's worthwhile for poets to get in touch with their silly side. That's the sentiment I was left with after our fun little workshop. Julieta guided us to write a few poems or to generate some seeds for poems (for me, it's more about just getting ideas... I'm really bad at writing on the spot). I left inspired to write more, and to be open to the silliness.

For the past few days, I've been mulling over our conversation, which is of course a good sign. It was thought provoking. I thought about some of the different "light" poems I'd read in the past and what it was about light poetry that made it stand out and be successful. And how can I incorporate these elements in my own work to make it more accessible. I think "light" poetry, too, can add texture to an otherwise heavy manuscript of poems... that's where my mind is lately as I'm wrapping up Chronicles.

I think the best "light" poetry, or really, the best poetry period, plays with the mixture of light and darkness, of shadow and light. So, when writing light poetry, maybe the key is to make it easy and breezy on the surface, but still have some heft, some purpose to your work. I think a good example of a poet who's able to achieve this is Julie Kane. I like how her work deals with gender issues, but does so with a sheen of light that makes these difficult and sometimes taboo topics of female sexuality easier to talk about.

There's a really great discussion of her work here at Light, a journal of light verse.

Anyway, over the past few days, I've written a couple of light-hearted poems, though they're really more exercises than anything else. I don't think I'd include them in my manuscript, not yet anyway, until I get a better hang at this whole balancing act thing. That's not to say that my work doesn't incorporate any humor -- I think I've been doing that all along, I have a certain playful strain, too, in much of my work -- but I'm just not comfortable with the label "light" I guess. Maybe I just need to get over myself :) Maybe I just need to "light"en up.

Anyway, those are just a few thoughts about humor and poetry. I think this is a great example of the power of conversation, of meeting with other poets, and ultimately, of community. That seems to be a common theme -- we learn and grow by our interactions with one another. No one writes alone. I'm no exception.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Open Mics... Keepin' it Real

Image taken by Edward Vidaurre

A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of attending an open mic poetry event in Harlingen at The Prelude. This venue was totally new to me, and in the end, I'm really glad I took the plunge and headed out.

I typically don't do open mics -- they often are an odd assortment of readers, and you never know what kind of tone or environment you're stepping into as a poet. The opposite of an open mic, I suppose, is a curated poetry reading with poets invited by a specific host who sets the tone, theme, and mood. Open mics are a mixed bag, a chance, but the result can be really wonderful (or really shitty for that matter).

This event, though, was far more on the wonderful side of the scale. It was hosted by Julieta Corpus, who is a good friend of mine from back in my MFA days. I was feeling pretty lousy that day -- I know this is becoming a constant on my blog, but I'd been struggling with some health issues again this week. Harlingen is also about an hour drive from where I live, but at the last moment, I was lying on my sofa, I looked over at B and asked, well, should we get out of the house tonight? He nodded his head, said, sure, if you want, and of course the spirit was willing. I packed up my tablet and we headed out the door. 

We arrived a little late, and there was standing room only, though an employee brought B and I a table and some chairs, I guess because I was limping around, coughing, and looking utterly pathetic. I got cozy and listened in to the poetry to get a feel for the event before deciding if I'd chime in with a poem or two of my own. There were a few brand new baby poets who'd never read before, poets who were new to me, and of course, some old friends like Edward Vidaurre, Linda Romero, and Jim Griswald. The topics ranged from body image issues, cancer, and love. A good range of a slice of life, indeed. Feeling inspired, I tapped on Julieta's shoulder and asked to be added to the list.

I looked through my tablet, deciding what to read, and settled on a single poem I'd been working on lately, one I felt I'd finally finished but I wasn't quite sure. This reading would give me a clear idea, I figured. And it seemed lighthearted enough to read in front of strangers. Then, I ordered some coffee for B and I, and sat back to enjoy the evening.

When it was my turn, I hobbled up to the stage, read my poem a little nervously, but the audience seemed to like it, so that helped me feel more confident in it. I now feel like the poem is "done" and I'd be comfortable reading it in front of any crowd. In fact, I think I'll read it at my upcoming reading in Austin :)

I left a little before the night was over -- my back was achy, my cough out of control, and I had work the next morning. B and I slunk out into the night and made the drive home, debriefing and discussing the works, settling on our high points of the night, and determining that it was, indeed, a success! I'll be back for more events at The Prelude in the future.

So here's why I think poets, at any points in their careers, should attend open mics:

1. They keep us grounded. There's something totally democratic about being #12 on a list to read, of following a complete poetry virgin and having the opportunity to congratulate them for a job well done.
2. You never know who you're going to meet -- at this event, I didn't meet anyone new, but I did see some good friends from a side of the valley I don't often venture into. So, for me, it was more of a reconnecting.
3. Open mics are PERFECT for trying out new material. There's no expectation there -- if you bomb, people probably aren't even going to remember your name. 
4. You'll get to hear a hodge-podge of different poetry styles, maybe even listen to types of poetry you typically shy away from. And that's a good thing. It opens the mind.
5. They're fun. I had fun :)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Journals that Pay for Poetry Book Reviews

Aside from being a poet, I also write book reviews. I think reviewing poetry collections has helped me to see how they work, how they come together, what makes them gel and maybe not gel. So it makes me better at what I do.

In the past, I've written reviews for Inside Higher Ed, and it was a paying gig. That's kind of dried up, but I've continued writing book reviews for free, mostly to just finish up any commitments I'd made to review certain books. And plus, I read a lot anyway, so this practice of reviewing helps me to not only plow through books, but also reflect on them. It slows me down.

And plus, it's good literary citizenship. And maybe I get karma points?

Anyway, aside from all of this, it's time consuming. To think about what a book DOES and how it works doesn't just happen. I'm not that smart, people (I know, I know, big shock right?). To write a decent review, I typically have to read a book at least twice, and I have to mull it over, agonize a bit, and then of course write, revise, edit, submit...

It'd be nice to get paid, ya know?

So, over the past couple of weeks, I've been scouring for literary journals that will pay reviewers. Because it's a labor of love, sure, but it'd be nice to justify this work with, say, a budget to buy more book :)

Here's my list!

1. 32 Poems -- $25
2. Agni -- $20 per page for prose
3. Antigonish Review -- $50 (Canadian books only)
4. Bear Deluxe – negotiated
5. Blunderbuss – modest 
6. Capilano Review -$50 per page
7. Cascadia Subduction Zone -- $10
8. Cincinnati Review -- $25 per page
9. Flapperhouse – $0.01 per word
10. Georgia Review -- $50 per page
11. Grasslimb -- $10-25
12. Gulf Coast -- $50 
13. Impressment Mag -- $25
14. LARB 
15. Kenyon Review
16. New Letters -- $35 and up
17. New Myth -- $30
18. Room -- $50-$120
19. Shenandoah
20. Southern Indiana Review -- $50
21. Sycamore Review -- $50
22. Three Penny Review -- $400
23. Virginia Quarterly Review -- $500 
24. West Branch -- $200

A big shout out to Jessica Piazza's Poetry Has Value, which I used to help narrow my search.

Do you know of any other journals that also pay for book reviews? Please let me know in the comments, or email me at kghoerth at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Manuscript Musings

I have to say, I've been enjoying my summer vacation so far. 

I know, I know, I'm only about a week in, but so far, so good! I've been writing everyday. Every. single. day. I get up, make coffee, write. And everyday that writing has been fruitful. What an amazing feeling! Most of what I've been doing is sifting through and cleaning up my Napowrimo poems from last month, but also generating some new material along the way. For the past two days, I've been working on a new mini series of poems about Lobo Girl, the feral child legend of southwest Texas. I think her narrative will fit nicely into my Slue Foot Sue narrative, braided together so to speak. They're both feminist reimaginings of masculinized folklore, that celebrate "wild" women who defy the rules. 

Speaking of my book... this week I've also taken a critical look at it, reorganized it, and trimmed it back a bit. I like its new shape. I decided to take out the "body" themed poems from the mss. and save them for the next book entirely. That way, when I finish "Lost Chronicles" I'll already have a little head start on my next book, "Love Poems to Desdemona". So, I've rationalized this move to myself, and I'm fairly satisfied with the results. This sets me back a bit on the "Chronicles" project, but I still expect to be done by the end of the summer, and, well, I think it will make for a more cohesive, stronger narrative arc to both books.

So the state of the manuscript? Pretty darn good.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Summer Starts... Today!

Oh summer vacation, you couldn't come soon enough :)

Today was my first "official" day of summer vacation. Yesterday, I spent the entire day (literally) finishing up grades and posting them. I went to bed so exhausted, so spent and grouchy that when I awoke this morning, I didn't quite realize what that all meant -- that I'm now totally obligation free for the next month.


It really hasn't sunk in. Maybe on Monday morning I'll wake up and feel free...

So what do I have going on this summer?

A few things.

Actually, tomorrow I'm really excited to visit my old high school and serve as their "keynote" poet for their poetry night. It's kinda special to me, actually, because, like so many youngsters, I did my very first poetry reading at this same poetry night in 2003... that's... too many years ago to count. Lately, I've actually begun really ENJOYING school visits. In the past, I really hadn't and only did them because it's something I should do, but now, they're growing on me. I see them as purposeful, and perhaps the most significant thing is that I always leave inspired by the kiddos. So I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

I'm also teaching Summer I session. I'm teaching two reduced seat time 1302 rhetoric courses. This will keep me busy for the month of June and shouldn't be too terribly painful.

And then, I'll be doing a reading in Austin in July. Woohoo! I don't have a specific date yet, but hopefully soon.

Of course, with every scrap of time in between, I'll be writing. My main goal for the summer is, by the end of August, to have a draft of my next manuscript in Publisher's hands. I've got about 90 poems in good shape right now (not great shape, but good shape) but the main problem with them is that it feels like there's two manuscripts in them. I've got Body poems (tentatively titled Self Portrait as a Ghost Town) and Relationship poems (tentatively titled The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue). Bleh. The good thing is that I've seemed to recently have hit a vein, so to speak, in my writing, so I've been generating new material -- on both subjects -_- Wouldn't it be awesome to have BOTH manuscripts done by the end of the summer? Uh... keep dreamin' Katie. I keep telling myself, pick one and run with it, girl! But then I get a new idea for a poem and away I go. I have a few months to figure this mess out.

I think what's REALLY keeping me from feeling all summery and free is this health b.s that's dangling over my head. Thanks to my epic grading marathon yesterday, I spent wayyyy too much time in a chair and hurt my back. So that's depressing. And then, even heavier on my mind, is my weird brain issue. My wonderful neurologist is on vacation, leaving me in suspense about the results of my recent scans. She returns in two weeks. So for two weeks, here I am, biting my nails, pulling out my hair, and just in general obsessing about this whole mortality thing. Which, believe it or not, is a pretty good obsession for a writer to have.

So, goals for summer 2016:
1. Don't die.
2. Finish poetry manuscript -- either split it up or make it work. Either way, send to Publisher by end of August!
3. Write two book reviews
4. Submit to residencies
5. Submit poetry packets out at least once per week -- so, let's say a goal of 15 by the end of summer. I did two yesterday, so I'm off to a good start!
6. Do at least one public reading a month. I've got May and July squared away, so figure something out for June and August
7. Successfully teach summer course while keeping my writing schedule going
8. Practice Spanish
9. Exercise five times per week, keep it a priority
10. Enjoy and savor the extra rime. Bake cakes. Play video games. Snuggle the cats. Take a long, frivolous roadtrip with B. Enjoy and life life to the fullest everyday.

On number 10, to be completely honest, I actually find great joy in being productive, in writing, in teaching, and in doing what I do. But, I need chill time too. I'll work on that this summer B-)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Napowrimo 30

I think this is the first time I've ever successfully completed NAPOWRIMO! Woot woot!

The Goddess Washes Dishes

She washes them by hand – she wants to feel
This quintessential part of life, this scrubbing away
Of assemblages of coal, garlic, potato skin,
the peeling of of gossamers of grease,
this unraveling of everything
that baked inside the bottom of the pan,
refused to let go. She scrapes it all away,
she lets it soak, she hums along with the tintinnabulation
of water meeting water, pooling redolent, scented
with the dulcet smell of pomegranate soap.

She breathes it in, finds peace in this dance
Of hands and sponge and dinner plate,
And salad bowl. She sighs with satisfaction
As the flip on the garbage disposal
swallowing everything that ever ailed her

Down its hatch with a mellifluous groan.

I can't say I'm incredibly proud of any of my poems, but some do show promise. Let May be the month of picking up the pieces, of finding something beautiful in these shards. 

Napowrimo 29

Today's task, the day 30 prompt, was to translate a poem. I've always been afraid of translating, but I took a swing at it today.

The Rainy Day

At least that was the story, shit.
The headlights and fender were torn off –
Clean. The adjuster came, two hours
Later – the
Arrived. What shit, what money, these things of life create --
The deductible, the rain and the train,
when I would go to yoga with serene karma, a Tibetan monk

The rain, days of rain-soaked plumage,
What is it going to create? A café, three readings, receptions,
Concentrating on the money coming and going between buses that stops

Books, breath

Rain of grammatical indulgence,
Words that fall closer
To the adjuster that faces the headlights

What a defense 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Napowrimo 28

This is in response to the backwards story. Whenever I'm at a loss for words, I write about Eve. She never fails to inspire me. Here's her story, backwards. It might be interesting to play with this further.

Returning to Eden

She never looked back.
She regretted nothing,
knew it had to end this way
as her bare feet stepped from carpet grass
to brambles. She felt pleasure blossom
in her heart as it fluttered.
Her lips stained with mauve,
She licked them clean.
Juice dribbled from mouth to chin,
Down her chest, marking her beautiful
To herself. She brought the fruit
To her lips, a plum, a pomegranate,
An apple, a pear, the details
Depend on who’s doing the telling,
But always it was juicy, always
It was sweet, always it was red
Red, the color of fire and flame,
Desire. She plucked it from the tree
In a single tug. It fit perfectly
In her palm, designed for her.
The color red flashed against the green,
So much green, so little of anything else.
She could smell the ripened flesh,
About to fester underneath
All that perfect sunshine.
She felt a slithering across her feet,
A whisper in her ear, a hiss
In her heart. She didn’t know
Her own face from his, her own name
From his, her own body from his.
She was the darkness to his light,
The silence to his noise,
The night to his day.
She was made to be small,
To obey, to nod her head,
Her lips made to be sealed
Like an envelope, addressed
To him. She was born into a world,
Forged from a rib of someone else,
Determined to define herself
In terms of her own body,
Her own flesh, her own mind.

At first, she was an afterthought. 

Napowrimo 27

Will I get caught up?! Maybe! My weekend looks pretty free :)

Today's prompt was to write a poem about something you remember.
I remember as a kid my dad always had cut fruit ready for snacking on the kitchen counters. Always. Without fail. I'm a fruitaholic, though I'm also a very lazy person. This typically results in me wanting fruit but not wanting to go through the work of washing, slicing, and storing. I know, how ridiculous, right? So I thought of that this afternoon while prepping a melon.

Slicing a Melon One Spring Afternoon

I remember eating melon as a child,
How miraculous the slices appeared
On the kitchen table, the color of sunset,
The color of meadow, the color of blush.

Always fruit on the table. How did it get there?
My father, standing at the kitchen counter,
Always chopping. How blissful to live
In this land of plenty. I remember this today,

As I stand at my kitchen counter,
Halving the world of a musk melon
Along its meridian.

There is a part of me that longs
For that simplicity, the savoring of sweetness
By itself, no separating flesh from rind,
No sharp edges, no blades, no counter top
To wipe clean, no chunks to pack away.
A part of me that wants to return
Back into the garden of plenty
Where everything was provided,
To cling back to the vine.

As I split the melon open, the seeds
Glisten in a slant of sunshine
Streaming in through my kitchen window
That could really use a wash.
I spoon them out with the membrane,
Gobs of ginger flesh, soft like the feathers
Of a baby bird about to leap into sky.

I wriggle the seeds free;
a few resist the loosening
as I spoon out the membrane,
cube the flesh into chunks
that will fit snugly inside

my watering mouth. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Napowrimo 25 and an update

Life. It's got me again.

I've had some health issues again this week that have got me sidetracked, more mentally than anything else.

On Sunday evening, I had the strangest experience. For about fifteen minutes, I lost my ability to speak in full sentences, my ability to see out of one eye, and then the feeling on the same side of my face and arm. It was incredibly scary. The feeling passed and I was ok (I'm still ok) but it scared the crap out of me.

If you know me, you know I hate going to the doctor, so I went home and hoped I'd feel normal in the morning. And I did, only, I was really worried and scared, and I couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong with me. I put off going to the doctor until Tuesday morning and went to my family doctor, who scared the bejeezus out of me by telling me I'd had a stroke. A mini-stroke. He didn't want to alarm me, he said, but it is very serious. He said if anything, anything like that ever happens again, it's immediate ER. That's not something you go home and go to sleep with, apparently (who knew?? ok I did...).

I got set up with a neurologist appointment, and MRI, and some blood work. Today, I had my neurologist appointment, and she actually was quite reassuring to me and took my freak-out mode from 9 to about a 2. She thinks it wasn't a mini-stroke and cleared me to return to normal activity. Her best guess is severe migraine headaches (my super power is a tolerance for pain, so this makes sense that I'd have ignored that), but I'm scheduled in for a bunch more tests and scans to check out my brain to rule out the TIA stroke and brain aneurysms, which run in my family. Fun. Guess what I'll be doing this summer?!?!

So, because of this brush with mortality, the idea of being vulnerable comes to my mind again. Today as I was at work, I thought to myself, what if I died? Would I be happy with how my life's played out? Would I have any regrets? What would I be most proud of? Most ashamed of? Time is precious, and this is a reminder to make time for what really matters. To write poetry that matters. To teach like it matters because damn it, it does.

I think Hell for me would be a life without words. I can't imagine that life. Words are how I find meaning, they're my resonant source of power, my strength. What if I didn't have that anymore? What a gift it is to have them, still, today.

I'm thinking about a lot of different things today, trying to make sense of this experience and put it into words. Words.


As a child, I feared him –
The heavy clanking of his walker,
His heavy breathing, his heaving,
The way he carried himself across the living room,
A globe filled with frailty on his back,
The way his eyes narrowed on me,
Hinted that he saw me, really saw me,
his mouth, an open lacuna,
that only silence and spittle stumbled from,
no words, no, never any words.

This was my uncle, a man who once
Ran marathons, delivered babies
Into this great wide world, laughed
A vivacious laugh, played guitar, sang
With my father around a campfire,
Could make the most delicious s’mores
Before he’d had a stroke.

And today I fear him still
Even though he’s miles away,
Tucked safe in some nursing home.
He’s what I fear more than anything
Else in this great wide world.

I sit in the doctor’s office,
Cold and looking for something
To do with my fumbling hands
As the doctor’s worried eyes
Settle on my face, as he delivers
The news – a mini-stroke,
A warning stroke. Does it run
In your family? My body goes limp,
A heavy stone, the weight of mortality
Heavy on my back. I’m not even thirty
Fucking years old.  I run marathons.
I’m a vegetarian.  I laugh. I sing,
recite poems, create worlds
with words, but now I imagine them,
Piles and piles of words,
every one I’ve ever written or spoken,
One by one, dripping like honey
back into my mouth, an open lacuna 
swallowing everything past my lips, 
over my limp tongue, down my throat 
and into the fire of my belly in silence.