Incident Reports from the Vanishing

My second chapbook, Incident Reports from the Vanishing is forthcoming sometime this summer. I do not exactly know when as there has been some art delays, but there has also been some elements of the work progressing ahead of schedule. I want to be as realistic as possible about expectations and preparations but I am also properly excited.

My publisher is Hyacinth Girl Press which is a wonderful Pittsburgh based press edited by Margaret Bashaar.  They have published many of my favorite chapbooks in recent years including Zoonosis by Kelly Boyker and First Wife by Laura Madeline Wiseman.

This chapbook Incident Reports from the Vanishing is entirely made up of poems about a possible apocalypse. If you are at all curious about the tone or content of the chapbook you can read the title poem in Reprint Magazine.

The chapbook is a part of my much longer 75% complete manuscript tentatively titled Counted Among the Dead (although for a long time it was called Seven Golden Lampstands). It is strange because when my first chapbook Victims of Ted Bundy: Washington State (which you can buy here) came out, I was also 75% complete with that manuscript at the time. But the Victims chapbook was accepted before any of the poems in it were published. Thankfully the turn around time on Victims was slow enough that by the time it came out a number of the poems had found homes in literary journals.

This time well over half of the poems were published before the chapbook came into being and found a home. Which was a very different process. Also some of these poems I have been working on a long time, one of them I even wrote over a decade ago, when I was still an undergraduate majoring in history and classics. All of the Victims poems were written in the same year.

This chapbook is very important to me because I believe that the poems it contains are ideally intended to be read together, in the order they are placed in these chapbooks. While all of these poems do hopefully stand on there own, I have always thought of them as one part of bigger picture. I have always thought of the apocalypse poems I wrote as an anthology. Each one written by a different person at a different time, to reflect how they felt about the changes occurring around them.

I should be posting more on the site as the chapbook approaches publication and I will be announcing readings and such, so stay tuned.

 

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Fall News Update

I have written three entries to this blog in the last couple of months, none of which I have posted. The editors in my head have been working over time lately. When my husband first met me, he thought I was aloof and overly formal. Perhaps that’s how I still am, but not to him, just to new people and the internet. So I am forcing myself to include personal information in this post as well as poet centric thoughts.

I was nominated for a Pushcart for the first time. I don’t know anyone who works at the press that nominated me, which made it extra exciting. I had written a poem as part of a 24 hour marathon of poems, and the editors of A Narrow Fellow had chosen to nominate it.

Within five minutes of being nominated, I received news that overshadowed it. Now the Pushcart news and the bad news I received afterwards are linked in my head in a very permanent ways.

I have been writing a great deal this fall. Instead of going to the gym at 11 every day  (I am that person), I have been climbing up the hill several times. The hill I am referring to is a clear cut. The house we are living in right now is 1/3rd of the way up the clearcut and I can climb for about a mile above the house.

It is a nice steep road carved up the hill, there are views the whole way up, and a wonderful view from the top of the property. I have found that hiking this path a couple times a day has aided my poetry more than zoning out on an elliptical.

I have had a number of recent publications, including the Crimean Tartar anthology Metric Conversions, and the literary journal Bellow.

Kathleen Flenniken the Washington State Poet Laureate re-published Fond Farewell on her Washington State poetry blog Far Field. Two poems Preoccuption, San Andreas were published by Compose in October and an essay about Preocculation is forthcoming. Our Sincerest Condolences was published by Alliterati in September.

I am still teaching at Seattle Pacific University. I am teaching composition this quarter and next. However it has been fun to teach because the theme I have chosen for the class this time was The New Yorker. This spring I will be teaching an introductory creative writing course which will be a nice change of pace.

A lot of the essays I used to write for this site, about submitting and such, I am now being paid to write elsewhere. So it has been strange for me to get into the swing about writing other things on this blog again.

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Poetry, Popularity, and Image

Ever since I realized poetry was a niche market, I have wanted to make it less of one.  Of course I cannot change that on my own, but if I can do anything to make poetry a little more accessible and appealing I will.

When I was in graduate school many of my fellow poets told me that they wrote for other poets, that their work was meant for people who knew all the terms that go along with poetry, for readers that recognize that the third stanza contains a reference to a beat poet that died last year.

My writing is not like that most of the time, although I have my moments. Most of my poetry is straight forward, it has a narrative line, strong images, and clear ideas. Still it is the kind of work that doesn’t seem out of place in journals or at readings.

In the past few years things have started to change. Poets have started to talk more and more about making poetry accessible, not always by changing the poems themselves but by altering the context in which people encounter poetry.

I think a lot of people have one or two poems that they love or cherish, even if they do not consider themselves poetry readers.  So even though they say they don’t like poems they treasure the ones they know, the ones they value. Those poems hold an opportunity, an invitation really, to explore other poems.

One of the ideas I have been experimenting with lately is putting words to visuals. There are a lot of author’s quotes out there that are presented as such, but not a lot of poems. So I am linking to the ones I find. I am also creating image-poems of some of favorite lines, which is harder then it looks if you want to remain faithful to line breaks.

Because our current culture is so visual I believe that by makings words parts of images it is easier to get people to read a poem. Part of my goal is to mix beloved school established pop culture embedded poems with the work of new or less established writers. So that people will come for the words they know, and leave with new ones.

If you want to visit my little visual poem experiment site you can do so here: http://poemandimage.tumblr.com/

Feel free to email me or leave a comment with a suggested poem or line to add an image to.  I have attached a couple of example images below.

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Blog Hop: Jennifer Faylor

Jennifer Faylor is a very gifted poet. She wrote the most memorable poem about supermarkets, that I have ever read. Her poetry is thoughtful and mysterious.

She has her first chapbook coming out and I am very excited about this. She talks about it here.

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Blog Hop: Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick

 

 

 

 

 

 

I heard Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick read at Sarah Lawrence College before I met her, and her poems, strange and yet sensical, impressed me. We did a few workshops together in Graduate school where she managed to consistently impress me with her words and deeds. We have been part of the same writing group for almost five years now, a wonderful fact. So you should definitely read her post about her next big thing.

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Blog Hop: The Next Big Thing

I want to thank the lovely and very talented Jennifer Bullis for ‘tagging’ me into this blog hop, and negotiating me into talking about “The Next Big Thing” I’m working on in my writing. At the time I thought I would be talking about the Victims of Ted Bundy manuscript, but sometime between the middle of January and now, I managed to finish a working manuscript for my chapbook and find a publisher, which is all very exciting.

Below I will respond to a standard set of interview questions about my writing projects.

1. What is the title of your book? Is it a working title?

My chapbook is titled Incident Reports: The Vanishing. I do not think I will change the title, but it will be released by Hyacinth Girl Press in early 2014 which gives me plenty of time for decisions and indecision’s.  It was previously called Seven Golden Lampstands, which is a phrase found in the book of Revelations.

2. Where did the idea for your book come from? 

In 2007, when I was living alone in Seattle, I started to write a poem every day. I have never been the kind of poet that is capable of writing about their own life in any depth, so instead I wrote about an impossible life, one without a moon or birds, one dependent on nature. I did not think of these poems as Apocalypse poems at the time, but when I arrived at Sarah Lawrence the following year to attend grad school, I found myself writing more and more of them. I also started to investigate the origin of the word Apocalypse. I discovered that it did not necessarily refer to the end of the world, but rather ‘a tearing of the veil’, an irreversible change from one way of life to another. In my poems the world changes, but it does not necessarily end, life keeps on going, it is just a different kind of life, one without cars and computers. One where some people accept these facts and others refuse.

3. Who and/or what inspired you to write your book?

I was raised in a busy city. You could always see people around – out your window, down the street, sitting on benches. I became so used to seeing people in the city, that when they were not there (read more about this here) the world seemed like an entirely different place. So you could say I started thinking about the Apocalypse from a very young age, but for me it always seemed like it must be a gradual event. Most apocalyptic movies disappoint me because everyone is running from fire, or earthquakes, or aliens, for me the apocalypse is an inherently gradual thing.

The tone, theme, and narrative structure of my book was inspired by any number of things. Seeing photographs of my father’s family living a rural life in the 70’s, in northern British Columbia, set the visual tone for the second half of the book. The novel World War Z by Max Brooks which takes such a detailed oriented approach to destruction and survival, and tells these stories as an ‘oral history.’ The Book of Revelations, The World With Out Us, and Julia Scheeres heartbreaking book on Jonestown, A Thousand Lives, also affected the tone of the chapbook.This list could go on and one, but you can read more about it here and here.

4. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I have been writing these poems since early 2007 so that would make it about six years. By this point I have more than a chapbook worth of these poems, but less than a fully formed and edited manuscript.

5. What genre does your book fall under?

Magic realism, I believe, although I never had much faith in genres. Also the poems are from many diverse perspectives so I have always considered it to be a fictional poetry anthology collected from the time after society disintegrated. It is not a story told from one perspective, but from many.

6. What books would you compare yours to in your chosen genre?

I find it hard to compare books under the best of circumstances.  You could draw some parallels to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s A Hundred Years of Solitude, perhaps, because both have an uneasy relationship with time and identity. I certainly have been very inspired by W.H. Auden and his perspective on nature and evil. Of course, I don’t write in rhyme.

7. What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Birds leave, people vanish, houses self destruct, yet people remain and have to figure out what to do next, with an engorged sun, and untrustworthy walls.

8. Do you have a publisher, or will you self-publish your book or seek representation?

The awesome Margaret Bashaar who runs Hyacinth Girl Press, which is based in Pennsylvania, is going to publish my book. I am very excited.

10. What else about your book might pique readers’ interest?

There are more numbers in my book then I know what to do with, but no math skills are required.

9. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie or to read your work for a recording?

This questions intimidates me so much that I will just ignore it. Although I will say that if I was ever in charge of casting any movie, about anything, Mireille Enos would be in it.

And now, I’m very pleased to tell you about the two (wonderful) writers I’m “tagging” to respond the interview questions next:

Jennifer Faylor is a poet from New York City. She is also a chocolatier and proud owner of two goldfish: Edison and Marguerite. She received her MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and her work has appeared online and in print in places such as Bat City Review, Redivider and Opium Magazine. Her first chapbook “The Case of the Missing Lover”, a choose your own adventure style book, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press in Spring of 2013.

She blogs at jenniferfaylor.blogspot.com and will post on March 25.

Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in 2010. She recently completed her first full-length manuscript of essays and poetry and has a chapbook in print and one forthcoming with Mouthfeel Press. She is the resident poet for Port Yonder Press’ online magazine Beyondaries and her work has been featured or is upcoming in Four Way Review, Night Train, Versal, Sugar House Review, among others. She writes in the deserts of West Texas.

She blogs at shannonhardwickpoetry.wordpress.com/ and will post on the 13th of March.

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Assorted News

I have not updated my blog since last year, a much larger break then usual. However it has been an eventful year so far. I have had more dental work then I care to recount.

More importantly I am teaching again, a composition class, at Seattle Pacific University. The student population of the school is very different then Berkeley, where I taught in New York. Most of my students currently live on campus and Berkeley did not even have dorms. Next quarter I am going to be teaching an advanced fiction writing class for juniors and seniors which should be fun. I often feel like fiction and poetry are two children, both insisting on my attention and deeply unhappy when I ignore one in favor of the other, even for an hour so.

Because fiction is about to demand a large chunk of my writerly time and attention again, I am going to appease the poet in me by going to Hedgebrook for a week in March between quarters. Hedgebrook is a non profit female only writers retreat on Whidby Island. When I am there I will attend a week long workshop with Carolyn Forché, which is an incredible opportunity. There will only be five of us in the workshop. We will get to stay in our own cabins with our own wood burning stoves which sounds very nice. I plan to get a great deal of writing done.

In other poetry related news my second chapbook, Incident Reports: The Vanishing, was just accepted for publication in 2014 . I don’t know if I am able to say the name of the publisher yet, so I will withhold that information for now, I will say that I am very excited about it.

The last point is somewhat unrelated to writing, but Jacob and I have decided to give up TV shows and movies for Lent. Neither of us are Catholic, but I really like participating in aspects of Lent. Jacob actually came up with the idea,  because he really likes a challenge and he thought we would benefit from a little less TV in our lives. It has given us a lot more time to do things like read, write, and pastel, which is nice.

Next week I will be participating in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, because I was tagged by the wonderful Jennifer Bullis and by then I should be able to share lots of details about my upcoming chapbook.

 

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Writing Group

I have been a member of a variety of writing groups for the last ten years. I was a member of an university associated writing group with a semi open door policy, a ‘secret writing group’, groups with a strong sense of hierarchy, groups that sprouted naturally out of per-existing classes, and formal structured groups. Also for the last four years, I have been part of a writing group that I am incredibly proud of.

This group is composed of only four people. Although we are very open to other occasional members, the core has remained the same. All four of us went to graduate school together. We are all women. We are all primarily poets. We all admire and look forward to reading each others writing.

After trying so many different groups over so many different years I was impressed and surprised to find a group that really worked. When I was a part of other groups, I always felt like they were not really for me. I would get good feed back, and have interesting discussions, but there was nothing deeper. Even though we read each others work week after week, I did not feel like our feedback to each other deepened over time. With my current group I feel like over the years we have learned each others strengths and weaknesses, and give feedback accordingly.

When I left New York I worried about the group ending, but even though I live in Washington, another member lives in Texas, and two still live in New York, we are stronger then ever. Now our group just meets through Skype. I think the reason our group has survived geography shifts and full time job related obstacles is because the combination of people really works. Through this group, I truly believe my writing has improved, and I have also been blessed with the opportunity to read many splendid poems.

 

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Omnivorous Reader

I have been accused of being an indiscriminate reader. While in graduate school, friends teased me about reading the Twilight books years earlier. I had read them because I wanted to see what my younger cousins were addicted to. I wanted to have a personal opinion about Twilight. They were quick reads. The same year I read Twilight I read War and Peace, Lolita, Generation X, Ulysses, and a hundred other books. This year, in all likely hood, I will have read 200 books.

I enjoy reading. I read while I walk. I read at the gym. I read at home. I read quickly. When I first met Jacob, he accused me of skipping pages, I read so fast. He would test me on the contents of each page, until he realized I was indeed reading that fast.

Reading to me is a necessity. The books I read vary on the situation. Sometimes I read a popular book out of curiosity and sometimes I finish a book I despise out of the hope that something in the last few pages will redeem it. Often at the library I will check out a book I know nothing about. Sometimes these books will be excellent, such as Surfacing by Margret Atwood or A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres. Some are flawed but entertaining, like Carry The One by Carol Anshaw. Some are so terrible, I hardly want to write there names here. But I will say that many of the terrible books got the best reviews from established critics. Some were even endorsed by authors I very much admire. The interesting thing about terrible books, is that sometimes they teach you an important lesson about what not to write about.

I like my reading to be varied, in part because you never know what will end up effecting you work. When I reluctantly read World War Z, I never expected it to change my poetry, but it did. Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin helped give me the energy and focus to continue writing at a critical moment. I had never even seen Steve Martin in a movie at that point. Because of my indiscriminate reading I have encountered many ideas I would never have had if left to my own devices. I feel like it also keeps my writing fresh. I don’t just read Auden, I read Susan Collins, David Grann, Raymond Chandler, and Greg Rucka.

Even though I am an indiscriminate reader, I am a critical one. When reading a book, even one that I am enjoying immensely, I always have an eye out for the weak chapters, the poorly constructed sentences, or the cliched scenes. The weak portions can teach you a great deal about writing. Also I will read books in there entirety that I do not enjoy, just so I will understand what went wrong. I enjoy doing this particularly when I have previously admired the author, also when I have the opportunity to vent the gory details of my frustration with. I think that the key to being an effective reading omnivore is to be a critical one.

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NaNoWriMo: The Foresters

All through October I found myself thinking about NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is a yearly challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I don’t know why they chose November, because in the States it is a particularly chaotic month. I had participated in one NaNoWriMo before, in 2008. I was living in Seattle and studying for the GRE. I wrote a novel about smuggling during a theoretical third world war. It was not very hard, but about half way through I decided I did not like the novel. I finished writing it out of sheer stubbornness. I never looked at it again.

This September I started really thinking about writing a novel called The Foresters. The novel is about a couple, preoccupied with finding out the truth about an accident at the Denver Art Museum that changed their lives. Every time I considered writing the novel I reminded myself how time consuming novel writing can be. How many details one has to sort out. How many edits one has to go through after the first draft. Still on the 31st of October I found myself signing up for NaNoWriMo, and on 1st of November I wrote over 3,000 words. I set the goal for myself early on, to hit the 50000 mark before I went to Bend, Oregon, where Jacob’s family lives, for Thanksgiving. Because we were leaving on the 19th of November that did not give me a lot of time. Still I focused on writing while applying for jobs, grants, and writing poems, and all the many things I manage to occupy my time with. I did indeed reach the 50,000 word point before leaving for Bend, but more importantly then that, I was fairly happy with the story that I had written. I was excited to keep writing, and at 50,000 words i definitely wasn’t done.

I actually finished my novel a half hour ago. It is 59,001 words long. I took almost a week off in Bend and still I managed to complete it. This time what I completed is not a file on my computer that I will never open again but it is the first draft of a novel that I am proud of. It is something I will edit and work on. I could not be more excited about this.

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