Showing posts from 2013

A Gloomy Day at the Keyboard

Warning: I'm about to get melodramatic! But I always do that, don't I? :D Anyway, I think I'm just getting used to the fact that self-doubt never really goes away. It doesn't matter how many books I've published that nobody reads, how many useless degrees I've collected, or even how well-read I am, I'm always going to doubt my abilities as a writer. That's kind of depressing, isn't it? I had one of THOSE kind of days yesterday. See, now that I'm off of work, I expect a lot more of myself, creativity wise. The past few days I've been reading through my novel manuscript making notes for myself as to what to change and how to go about this enormous task of revising it. I took a step back from my work in the afternoon and just felt this immense lull of doubt, this urge to quit. This sucks, Katie. And, well, YEAH, it does suck. My first draft is shitty. But aren't most first drafts? Isn't that what I teach my students, that bei

How Do You "Review?"

Katie the Critic is up to no good! So a friend of mine asked me about how to write a poetry book review. Damned if I know! That's not a very good response, is it? So here's a nice blog post about my own process: I don't think I ever learned a proper way to write book reviews -- I taught myself to do it, and it's a craft I'm still trying to hone. If you're wanting to write reviews, I think a good place to start is to read a bunch of them. I like the LARB.  Of course, writing a good review isn't all about emulating another person's style, but it's a good way to kind of get a feel for the genre -- and yes, book reviews are their own genre (at least I like to think so). I start by reading the book just for the sheer enjoyment of it, cover to cover. Some people like to read poetry books a bit here and a bit there, but when you're writing a review, you're trying to get a sense of the whole, the book's argument. So you'll

End of the Semester "Now What?" Feeling

So... Yeah. I know. I've been a punk lately. I've been blogging, yes, just not here. Booo me. Today marks the beginning of my vacation state of mind. It also marks the beginning of delving back into my crazies and thinking of myself as a writer again. Gone are the burdens of wearing pants three days out of the week! I have a month off from work, and I'm determined to make headway on my novel. I know, I know, eyes are a'rollin' -- you always say you're going to work on your novel, Katie! But you know what? Since I've last blogged, I've cranked out a first draft of my first novel X-D That's right, that's right, that's right. My plans are to revise it for the next six or so months, so by the time summer rolls around, I'll have another submittable manuscript in my hands. It's an entirely new project, and I'm a little excited about it.  It feels eerily strange to have time to myself now, to not have a slough of student e

Fitting In...

Ah but of course! It's the beginning of a new semester, and I feel like I'm running around going crazy all over again :-P And you know, believe it or not, it kind of feels good. Today we had a "mentoring" meeting at my university -- my good friend Mary Ann and I put on an event for MFAers who were curious about creating their critical introduction to their creative thesis. And it got me to thinking about the process of writing my own critical intro! Remember, that was two years ago now! It's amazing how time flies. It was an incredibly challenging experience for me, but it helped me figure out who I was as a writer and who I wanted to be. I think it was the most educational part of my experience as an MFA student. My committee was awesomely helpful. But I was thinking today, how did I even get started??? Anyway, it all started in a workshop one evening at a workshop session. I think we were at that weird coffee shop/sushi bar/car wash place near the university

Writing in My Waking Hours

Hmm... I've had a glorious last few months. I know, I keep saying that, but it's true. I've let my brain become focused on poetry -- I've read poetry, thought about poetry, shared poetry, critiqued poetry, and yes, of course, wrote poetry. Last week, though, my university had a guest lecturer come by to talk to writing faculty about second language acquisition, and of course, I was there, and my brain started thinking, again, of my pedagogy. It's been a shifting of gears, so to speak, and this morning, instead being awoken by a sudden need to write, I woke up to thoughts about re-sequencing my readings to accommodate for L2 learners. Good, important and productive thoughts, yes, but as I poured myself a cup of coffee and began my "work" for the day, I couldn't help but think, ugh. And here I go again, teaching taking over my entire brainspace. I love teaching, I really, really do. I think I'm a fantastic teacher. In fact, I THINK I'm a

A Poetry Community?

Phew! What an awesome summer this is proving to be! Ok, so I'm not traveling anywhere, and no, no, I'm not doing even working, or even getting out of my pjs every day, but you know what? It's felt really, really wonderful. I've been writing, yes, writing, a boat load, I think enough to keep me revising and rewriting and editing throughout the rest of the year :-P :-P :-P I'm happy to finally breathe a sigh of relief: I've gotten my second full manuscript to a "happy place" -- and no, that doesn't mean I'm done, but it does mean that it's at least done enough. I've wrapped it up, it has a pretty bow on it, and now it's ready to start going off to publishers. This was my main goal for the summer, and it feels eerily good (while at the same time horrible) to have it, well, somewhat done. I'm going to continue working on it until I get a publisher, though, revising, adding, taking out poems, that kind of stuff. What IS my second

Why I Love the Texas Poetry Calendar

Proudly Modeling My Contributor Copy There's something awesome about this here nifty calendar. So here's the story -- each year, Dos Gatos Press puts out their poetry calendar. This is my second year being a part of the awesome project. I'm honored to be 2014's July poem! :D In 2013, I'm December (the absolute LAST poem of the collection!). Anyway, why do I like this little collection? Well, first off, poets from all around the state submit, from El Paso to Orange, from Abilene to Brownsville. The poems are loosely tied to a regionalisms, so needless to say, the collections full of "flavor." My poem this time around is an ode to Shiner-drinking women, which, maybe I fall into that category more often than I'll admit. I love Texas. I love Texas poetry. It's varied and complex and beautiful, but at the same time, there's this tough spirit to it. What else do I like about the collection? So this part's a little more pie in the sky, but

A Slight Change of Plans

Soooo... my classes were canceled. Enrollment was bleh. Today would have been my first day back at work, but instead, I have another month and a half of vacation! Ahhhhh... what am I going to DO with myself? :D But I guess it's ok. In fact, this past week, I've hit a new vein in my writing. I'm back to writing my cowgirl Ovid poems, which I needed to work on because, well, I need to finish up this series. These poems are actually my favorite ones to write, so it's been a pretty wild week so far, writing wise. Wild, hah. I spend most of my times in my bathrobe and I'm lucky to actually get off my duff and leave the house once a day :-P Ok, not so wild after all. In other news, it looks like once I get back to work, I'm hitting the ground running. I'm planning to present at the upcoming Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers Conference in Fort Worth, in addition to serving as a guest lecturer for the Writers Live series at the University of Texas a

Katie's Summer State of Mind

This summer (so far) has been pretty laid back. I've had the house to myself, and while I'm getting work done, it's not necessarily as much as I had dreamed of. I'm learning that my poetry pace is, perhaps, a little slow, and that's ok. My work is evolving, changing, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm also learning that cats can be a serious distraction :-P And that I really haven't found the occasion to blog as much as I'd hoped. Since my last blog post, I've written 8 new pieces, though they're not exactly polished just yet. I need workshop. I've also written and found a home for a new book review (yay!) which should be out shortly. I'm working on another review, too, so my goal before the fall rolls around will be to finish that, too. I've also been doing a lot of editing. I'm working as a book screener again this summer, which is always rewarding, yet time consuming. I think it's important to see what ot

Hello, Summer!

Wondering why I have a picture of me and a tiny kitten? Ok, I'll start off by explaining that bit. The neighbors' cat had kittens on my patio. After an unfortunate accident involving their dog, the mom decided to abandon the brood. Low and behold, Bruno and I have taken them in. It's summer; I need a project, aside from finishing my second full manuscript of course. So for the next four weeks or so, I'll be raising two rambunctious and ridiculously cute kittens. Hopefully, by the time they're old enough to be adopted, I'll be able to let them go. Since, like, I already have five cats and am one Bruno away from becoming THAT crazy cat lady at the end of the street... I digress. This summer, I'll be teaching the second summer session. So I'm going to be busy from mid July to the end of August. But! I do have now until mid July off, so, aside from successfully raising (and letting go of) these kittens, my plans include: 1. Finish 2nd full poetry

Valley International Poetry Festival Reflections, 2013

Another whirlwind of a year comes to a close! And I'm just catching my breath from it all. I'd venture to say this was the best VIPF yet. Sure, we had our ups and downs, and sure, I'm really, really exhausted, but this year, I had the opportunity to take an active role in organizing, editing, and participating in the festival. And wow, what a rewarding experience it was! A super big thanks to all the other organizers: Brenda Riojas, Edward Vidaurre, Ileana Garcia-Spitz, and most especially, the head honcho of the whole shebang, Daniel Garcia Ordaz. I'll detail the experience day by day, Thursday - Saturday. I skipped out on Sunday's events because, well, I'm lazy. Thursday, April  25: The Kick-off Yes, that's my name on the byline! So in real VIPF tradition, Thursday is the night we celebrate the release of our anthology, Boundless. This event was really wonderful -- I felt really honored to be a part of it this year, not as a poet, but as an edi

Poetry Pasta and Vino To Celebrate Two Year Anniversary!

PPV, Circa 2011! Reading the First April is a busy month. We've been through this already. But you know what? Right now's a good time to pause and reflect on a little something called Poetry, Pasta and Vino. Poetry Pasta and Vino began as a reading series at Carino's Italian, hosted by none other than the Barrio Poet, Edward Vidaurre. It turned into a monthly celebration to raise money for nonprofit organizations, promote the arts, and reach out to the community. All good stuff. Today, I'd define PPV as an arts movement, and it's been a big part of the local arts reniassance (as Jan Seale has described it!) that began kicking up the dust in, oh, maybe 2007. I've been honored to have been with this reading series since its not-so-humble beginnings, and have grown and stuck with it ever sense. PPV even did a fundraiser for Mouthfeel Press, back in 2012! Anyway, I think what's most signifncant is that, although the reading series has grown and change

Katie's Writerly Crush on David Rice

Katie! And Rice. Courtesy Garcia-Spitz So I'm just going to come out and admit it: I have a totally professional and writerly crush on David Rice. I had the pleasure of attending one of his readings last month as a part of UTPA's Festiba. Man-oh-man. Phew. It was awesome. Packed room. And he was so inspiring! You see, I used to teach Rice's books back when I was working with the Upward Bound program, and my students loved his work because they could relate to it. And I loved his work, too. His stories are the kind that stick with you. Anyway, I stumbled into the reading a few minutes late, and was surprised at how packed the room was.  Packed! I actually didn't know Rice was reading. I was there to support one of our department's T.As and another colleague Robert, who were also reading. I peeked my head in, then started out. A man stood up, beckoned me back, and gave up his seat to me. I reluctantly accepted and squished my way into the crowded room. I'm

The Garden Uprooted Gets a Thumbs Up!

So... the conventional writerly wisdom is to not read your reviews. I ignored this advice. Last Thursday, my local newspaper, the Monitor, ran a super review of The Garden Uprooted (alongside a review of Brenda Nettles Riojas' La Primera Voz Que Oi ). I knew the review was going to run, and I had been thinking about it since their reviewer, David Bowles, asked me for a review copy. It was a little agonizing. Come Thursday morning, I was on my way to work and of course, the review was on my mind. I was obsessing. I ended up buying a copy along the way, before my first class even began. I opened it up, scanned through the paper, and there it was, the review. I think David hits my book spot on, calling my book " a rich hybrid verse." That's exactly right, both in content and form. I love it. Truth be told, I'm a little self-conscious about The Garden Uprooted . I know, I know, I shouldn't admit that in public but here I am, admitting it. I mean, I'm

National Poetry Month and Me

A new logo! I both love and hate this month. I love it because poetry is, once again, a part of our national conversation (or at least more of one than it usually is). I love it because my facebook feed is filled with poets who are talking about their work, encouraging each other, arguing about poetry. I love it because people argue whether or not poetry is dead, when in fact, we all know it's not. I love this month because of NaPoWriMo. I love it because of the public readings. I love it because at the end of the month comes the grand-daddy event of them all, the Valley International Poetry Festival, which I always see as an opportunity to meet poets, learn something new, travel the valley, showcase my year's worth of work, get inspired. I also hate national poetry month. I always intend to do great things and end up feeling insignificant, not serious enough, stupid, uninspired, the like. Case in point, this year, I fully intended to do NaPoWriMo, but on April 1st, I

Revising Myth, Making it Girly

Not an empty seat at Hinovations last night! I'm coming off my workshop high, well, that and a slight hangover from cheap Goddess wine :) Last night went amazingly well, better than I could have dreamed of, in fact.  I guess I'll start from the very beginning, as stories oft go. It was maybe two months ago; Rachel Vela, founder of a local poetry reading series affectionately called We Need Words, sent me a message on facebook. "What do you think of leading a workshop?" she asked. I jumped on it. Of course! Yes, I was a little nervous, but it was an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, to give back to the community, and to maybe grow as a writer myself. I agreed to do it. Rachel would organize and publicize; all I had to do was lead. Fair enough. I decided to teach what I know best -- the writing of revisionist myths. It was, after all, what I wrote my thesis about, and it's how I frame a lot of what I write within poetic discourse. I wanted to e

Chicks With Words

So I promised to come back and blog on my experience presenting at NACCS Tejas Foco. I'm back to do just that. On Saturday morning, I was giddy and nervous. I had prepared some "remarks" about my poems, but as I sat in my car, sweaty palmed, I read them and rolled my eyes. Too academic. I''m too academic. That's my problem. I want to stick my nasty theory into everything. Ugh. I crumpled up said theoretical remarks and tossed them into the pile of trash that exists in my backseat. Sometimes, the best remarks come straight from ones... well, you can figure out how this goes. Our panel was in the MAGC building, pretty separate from the rest of the conference. It was on the second floor, at the end of a dark hallway. I'm feeling less enthused about this whole prospect. A toxic mixture of my ugly ego and my pessimism well up. Ugh. This is going to suck. I'm going to be reading my poems to.. myself and two other panelists. The room was empty. The li

NACCS 2013 Reflections

Ahh... I'm coming off an academic high right now. NACCS 2013 is officially in the books. It was a really great time. Lucky for me, this year, it was at my home institution, UTPA, which meant I was able to take advantage and participate without having to disrupt my teaching!  My first experience with NACCs this year was probably the best. I was in my classroom yesterday afternoon, erasing the board, cleaning up after my lecture. I'm holding a conversation with a student about her research question while straightening up. Offhanded, I mention that I'm on my way to the conference festivities, and suggest that she take a looksie at one of the panels related to her research on bilingual education. "Miss..." she says, a smile on her face, "is that the Chicana conference?" I nod, a little surprised. "I went to a panel yesterday about grad school," she continues. Grad school? Now, this kiddo of mine is pretty spectacular. This is the

El Jardin and Other Things

Ahhh... It's Friday night -- an ideal Friday night. It's about 11:30pm here, and I'm stretched out on my sofa in my bathrobe, enjoying the company of the grand ol' green fairy. So how are you doing, KatieKins? Great, thanks. :) So how goes the poeming? Pretty eh. Moreso, I'm engaged in community service lately with my poetry. Today, I read at Jardin del Arte in Edinburg. It was more of an art show than a poetry reading, but what was particularly inspiring to me was the overwhelming sense of community there. Everywhere I looked, there was someone I knew -- a hug to be had. I went alone (Bruno's been having a particularly rough time at work, so he's been MIA a bit), but I didn't FEEL alone. Gwah. I think El Valle is my home. I think it always will be. Gwah. It's a good thing. If you know me, you know I have big dreams. I tend to think of these "big dreams" happening in "big places" -- you know, outside of the valley. I'

The Struggle to Poem

This perhaps seems to be my constant litany, work vs. creative development. I never imagined it would be this difficult to maintain a writing life and teach, though it seems that many of my coworkers struggle with this, too :-/ I love teaching, I really do. It gives me purpose and joy. I think I love writing more, but I also think I'm a better teacher than I am a writer. I think this is going to be my lifelong struggle, finding balance between the two. Enough emoness. Actually, my above rant is perhaps the opposite of emoness. It's two conflicting loves. One loves me more, and one I love more. Anyway, I'm glad I have two loves in my life (wait, I have more than that, I'm a multitude of love...) I'm never going to figure this all out X-D  Ok, moving on... I've been trying to get more engaged in community lately. No, that's not true, the community's been trying to get me more engaged in service. I'm just one to leap on opportunities to share

I Fail at Rejection

How can one fail at rejection? Well, I'm apparently apt at failing at numerous things. In 2012, I declared that I would earn 100 rejection letters and celebrate every single one.How did I do? I received 95 rejection letters in 2012. 95. Gwahhhhhh! So close! I'm going to admit that I totally began losing steam when I started teaching, and my submissions trickled down to MAYBE one per week. Anyway, the real point of this mission was to put myself out there and to hopefully get more acceptances. This year, I received 11 acceptances. Not bad, not bad. That puts me at almost 12%! My stats last year? 9 acceptances/92 rejections, which is about 10%. So I think I'm going in the right direction.  Will 2013 be the year of 100 rejection letters? No. No it will not. I need to reflect a little more before I declare my writerly goals this year, but the main one is finding some sort of workable balance between creative time and teaching time. It's been to