Camera Shy

One night, I was managing a show called The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia at a tiny bookshop in downtown Buffalo.  I could fit maybe 15 people comfortably in there at a time, but this particular evening at least 20 folks showed up, one in a wheelchair.  It was my job to handle the crowd while they were in the small space, and so I did what had to be done.  I stood on the stage area and announced we were all going to play a game of Tetris.  The crowd laughed.  I then comically rearranged all these strangers so that everyone could sit comfortably, and so the woman in the wheelchair could get a spot in the front row.  For five or ten minutes, I just riffed, no problem.  In my head I thought, what is this, if not acting?  I mean, it’s basic improv.  I’d been onstage acting for so many times in my life at that point, that it was just natural.

Now, I don’t believe I have lost this ability, but technology has altered it.  As it turns out, I have no stage-fright, but I am painfully camera-shy.

I never liked having my picture taken, and with the advent of the selfie I was very cautious.  But now, things are changing again, and it is videos that rule the world.  And I just can’t.

I’ve made a few.  The ones where I introduce myself and read a poem are best.  The one I made for the suicide walk didn’t turn out too bad, but I stumbled a little, and my palms were sweaty, and my heart was racing.  Then came the Patreon idea.

On my Patreon, I have The Vociferous Vlog, where I read a poem and then talk about the inspiration behind it.  In theory, it’s a really good idea, but as it turns out, videos are not my strong suit.  I should have realized…I’d always rather read the article, y’know?

The first one I made was ok, but E and I did it together and couldn’t quite get the angle on the camera right.  I was far away and not as clear-sounding as we had hoped.  The second one was worse, because Mark tried to hand-cam it and shook the whole time, which wasn’t even obvious until I uploaded it to the computer.  Then, it looked terrible.  I looked good, but I also kept my eyes down the entire time, which is something I will have to work on.

You would think I would be better at this.  And also, I’ve done plenty of Zoom calls during the pandemic, and never felt this way about those…perhaps because I’m talking with someone?  PLUS, my Patreon is just starting out and only has a few subscribers, so why am I bugging over people I KNOW seeing me in a video?

No really, I’m asking.  I have no answers.

I know that you could drop me in the middle of a stage and I could entertain for an hour.  I know it.  But to get me to film myself doing five minutes of poetry talk on my own?  Nope. I try to summon the theater person deep within me but I guess she’s sleeping (likely due to some SSRI’s,) and won’t be coming to my aide today, at least.

I shall try again tomorrow.

A Lonely Wreckage

I’ve been sitting at the desk for half an hour.  I wasn’t sure what to publish today because I had three topics in mind, so I did a poll on Twitter and in 5 minutes its’ going to tell me people want to read about the Twitter experiment I did yesterday…and they will.  But I’m in a contrary mood and gosh darn it, it’s National Poetry Day.  How can I not write about my favorite form of expression?

But that leaves me with more choices…share some poetry, as I have in the past-my little outliers who have no homes?  That’s what I usually do.  Alas…she is mad at me, and that is all I can think about today.

She…is my book, A Lovely Wreckage.

She’s a year and a half old and we are already in an argument.  She doesn’t think I’m doing enough…she wanted things like a signing or a store shelf to sit on, and I couldn’t get her those things, so she said I was a terrible mother and shitty writer and slammed the door in my face.  I tried to coax her out of her room with the discovery that she was now for sale on the Walmart website, but this was fruitless.  She is angry and refusing to sell.

Thing is, she knows she could do it.  She knows she’s a lovely little debut that would have been much better received were we not in the midst of a pandemic at the time and ever since, and she’s bitter about it.  And she’s not wrong…she shoulda had somthin’.

I wrote a blog called Schrodinger’s Chapbook about her and she liked that attention but then she never sent a royalty check so who knows…children are so moody.

All kidding aside…I really need to sell some books.  Everything I’m reading tells me that I need to be shoving my book down the throat of every person I meet, and honestly that is not something I’m capable of.  I wish I was, truly, so that I could give her everything she deserves.  We have worked so hard.  We are so tired.

So, today, on National Poetry Day, I will give you a poem.  One of hers.  My favorite of hers, actually (my mom’s too!)  And I hope that you love it, and I hope that you love her…lord knows I do.

Even when she calls me a hack.

Dead Nerves
I quit smoking but this poetess
needs her hit, her puff, her drag and
I can still taste nicotine on my fingertips like
the sweat on your skin but
it’s a phantom sense
like the tingling in my toes-
Dead nerves.
I put on black nail polish and an old flannel
because I feel like sixteen again when
the wind whips my hair up
into the tornado that hangs over my head.
Rain clouds are for amateurs and I build weather formations
to hide my intentions.
I dance with demons and dummies but it’s all the same
as being young and in love,
before needles prickled at my skin and
left me numb and frightened.
These little bits of a broken heart,
these sharp shards that leave
faint pink lines on my skin
keep me from second guessing my silly self.
This itching in my fingers is a reminder
of bad decisions and salty storms,
that youth betrayed me.
Dead nerves in my hands
like dead nerves in my heart.

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Pep Talk

Sometimes, I will be super hyped to do something and then my brain will be like “haha, no,” and then I end up sitting on the couch eating cereal straight out of the box and watching old episodes of Fringe.  Oh depression, you vicious mistress.

So, I drag myself into the office and check my email and socials and try to prepare myself for the day.  I open a word document to start writing and then suddenly there is a garbage truck outside my door, banging and clanging its way slowly down the street.  No hope for concentration, so I pop over to Submittable to check on my poetry submissions.  No change.  Ho-hum.

Then, to the blog!  Alas, no topic.  Nothing, because depression ate it, like a hungry teenager raiding the refrigerator in the middle of the night.

I can’t focus my thoughts.  I look at my yellow umbrella that hangs off the bookshelf to my left and think that I should have taken it to the beach with me on Saturday.  I look at the star on the wall that says “One Day at a Time,” and I think gee that’s great, now someone give me a cigarette!  I look at the ceiling.  There are cobwebs in the corner.  Perhaps I should sweep them?

Anything, anything, anything but write.

After this, whatever this is, I am going to attempt to put my chicken-scratch notes on my chappie into type,  Then, put those typed words into an email, and send it to my editor.  Real, actual, needs-to-be-done work.,,but my serotonin levels don’t give a crap.  I also want to work on new submissions since it is August now, but that seems like a faraway chore at the moment. 

Oh, and I want to clean my house, because I had my four kiddos plus G this weekend and the joint is wrecked.

First, I guess, I will drink some coffee.  I will be grateful that the street is now fairly quiet, and I can write and work in peace.  I will sit here in this office chair until all my tasks are done, because while my brain and hormone levels and all that garbage may be telling me one thing, my heart is telling me another: you can do it.

Add It or Slash It?

When I edited A Lovely Wreckage, we (my editor Mark and I) made changes, of course. Not a whole lot, because they were individual poems that could stand alone without the collection.  However, Mark made some suggestions, and looking back I’m pretty sure I took all if not most of them, because they line4d up with the idea I had in mind.

Tuesday Afternoon ain’t like that.

When Zachary (new editor) suggested format changes, I was all for it, and here is why:  I wrote the piece for performance (more on that later.)  This was rewriting the piece for reading purposes.  It’s a different ballgame, and I am all for his format suggestions.  Also, there were some other aspects he suggested changes on…some I like, some I don’t.  Anyway, I made the fatal mistake of sending it to Sahar, who reads everything I write including various correspondence and many long text messages.  As my best friend, you would think she would have glowing things to say, but no, she hated it.  My mistake was not telling her in advance about the performance vs. reading thing.  Of course, she hated it.  She heard me read it…she heard me perform it.  So did Mark.  He’s going to hate it, too.

But as Kevin said to me during one of our deep conversations that we fit in between inside jokes and YouTube videos, you’re not writing for your friends and family, you’re writing for your fans.  Your friends and family are going to love whatever you do in the end.  They’re not the real audience.

So, my cousin Erin read it.  Yes, family, but Erin has the talent of being extremely blunt when asked to be, no holds barred.  And she enjoyed it.  Likely, because she never read the original.  But really…what is an original?

When I worked in theater, every single play I ever did went though massive edits during rehearsals, from straight-up script rewrites to blocking reworks.  Everything was moved around and crossed out and added on until you got the final product, and that is what is going on with this mini-chap.  That is what has always been going on for it.

It started with a line from a poem by another woman, for chrissake.  It was a challenge…take a line from her poem, and start a new one of your own with that line.  I picked a line; I wrote a poem.  I won a prize.  I polished the poem and deleted the other poet’s line.  I added to the poem…a lot.  I edited the poem.  I sent it off to be picked, and it was.  And so…I continue to edit the poem, changing things to make it better than it was, albeit different.  Enhanced, I prefer to think of it.

Kevin also said that the only person whose opinion really matters is my own, which is definitely true.  What comes out will be what I wanted it to be, no matter what is printed on the page.  Some of the edits are big leaps for me, but some that I am willing to take to put out the best possible finished product, just like I would do if I were working a show.  Kill your darlings, and all that jazz.

Sigh.  I suppose I am off to reread.  I will sit with it a bit, then make some more edits, then send it back to Zachary who will likely throw it back to me and so on and so forth until it’s ready to roll.  All I need is patience and a clear eye.

Schrodinger’s Chapbook

Now, I know very little about science, but somehow, I know about Schrodinger’s cat.  For those who don’t, here’s the link to the Wikipedia page, and also I will try to explain the most basic principle of it in kindergarten language. 

Say you put a cat in a box with a substance that may or may not kill it, and seal the box.  Now, with the box sealed you don’t know if the cat is dead or alive.  It’s a thought experiment, like that one about the trains and whether to save one or 100 people.  It has something to do with quantum mechanics and again, I have no idea how this information got into my head.  Anyway…

Sahar was in town a couple weeks ago.  Seeing as how our favorite restaurant that we’ve been going to for 20 years just went vegan, and we are most definitely meat eaters, we have been on the hunt for a new spot.  This found us at Dog Ear Bookstore and Café.

I love that place.  I have been there many times over the years and have consumed a great many cups of chai tea with friends.  This is the place where I discovered the poetry readings that I used to go to…I do wish they would start those up again!

I ordered a delightful roast beef sandwich called the Charles Dickens and we settled into a table for some conversation.  There wasn’t much honestly because texting exists, so Sahar and I have managed to remain joined at the hip despite being a state apart.  So, we ate our sandwiches and lamented the passing of our old restaurant.

After eating, we went into the back, into the book shop, on a mission.  See, this is the shop where I dropped off a couple copies of my chapbook a few months ago.  Honestly, it’s not worth it to me monetarily to sell it in stores; I get the most cash from Amazon purchases, but it was important to me to get it into at least one shop so I could say I did it.  And of course I took it directly to Dog Ears.

We browsed.  I searched the poetry shelf; Sahar looked in local authors.  No book.

I was perplexed.  What does this mean?  One would assume, I suppose, that it sold out.  Yet, the proprietor told me he would call for more copies if that happene4d.  He has not called.  Still, I could not find the book.

So…if you put a chapbook in a bookstore, with people who could possibly purchase it or not, is the book dead or alive?

Now, had I backbone in that moment, I would have simply asked.  Flung open the lid of the box and found out if the cat was dead, so to speak.  But no, I’m chicken, so we left quietly and I wondered all day instead.  But now it’s weeks later, and I’m still thinking about it, because that’s the way my stupid brain works.

It knows very little about science, but it’s a pro at over-analyzing.

Chillin’ with Jesus

Sometimes, I’ll be sitting at my computer minding my business and Jesus will walk in and demand some of my time.

I wrote a poem about that once.

Anyway, today He comes in the door and tells me good things come to those who wait, and I tell him to get off my back already.  As Chuck Palahniuk wrote in Fight Club, “You can’t teach God anything.”

So, I go to check my email and sure enough there is word from a man named Zachary telling me to forward my manuscript to him…the MS that I have had in limbo for a year now, waiting to be put into print.  I understand the mix-up…they had staff changes and, y’know, a pandemic.  The world slowed down for us all.  I am just grateful that this morning I got a little nudge in the right direction.

Jesus looks at me and says: “Get up out of the dirt.”

I intend to accomplish several things in the coming weeks, all of which are scary and foreign to me, but which need to be done to better myself and my surroundings.  Today, I am out here working on my writing, so neglected since before my surgery, when I was at my sickest, and after, when I was at my weakest.  Now, I feel better and stronger, though tentative, but happy, also.  So, I shall take strides to improve the areas of my life that I have neglected, just like my writing.

Today I am going to my preferred bookshop/cafe with Sahar, my port in the storm.  Nothing could kick off my journey towards improvement better than lunch at one of my favorite places with one of my favorite people. 

Don’t get me wrong, my inner self still fights with Jesus.

He’s all “You can do it!  You’re so strong!”  and I’m over here incredulous.  What does Jesus know?  He’s only the Son of God.

Happy Bookday!

I didn’t update Thursday for two reasons: one, I was behind already and updated on Wednesday, and two, I have a milestone today.

Today is my chapbook’s first birthday.

I finished it over the summer of 2019, and when it was picked up in early spring of 2020, I was flabbergasted.  If you go back and read some of my old posts from that time, you will find a giddy yet terrified recount of my attempts to complete and publish it.  And then, oh the imposter syndrome!  The feeling of being a fake, that my contribution didn’t really “count” for some reason.  That took months after publication to come to terms with…not until the day I was published in The Buffalo News.  And that poem wasn’t even in the book!

I have 4.9 stars on Amazon.  I have 17 ratings, and 12 reviews.  Recently, a few copies made their way over to my favorite tiny bookshop.  I have had two book blogger reviews and a radio review, and have set up both a podcast interview and an author blog interview for the future.  Three years ago, I couldn’t get myself to even talk about a poem I write to someone.  Just a thought.

Have I sold as many copies as I would like?  No, I have not.  I don’t know what that magic number is that would satisfy me, but we aren’t there yet.  I think I would be happy if I could generate enough sales to cover my web hosting costs for the year, actually.  I want to be able to make money that I can put back into my work, somehow.  Because it takes money to make money…I only get a percentage of each book.  Less if it’s overseas.  When it’s in a shop, it’s even less than that, and I have to FRONT the money for the supply.  I also have an illustrator I need to pay for another project, and two websites I need to host.  Like any business, you need to start with a little capital in order to generate more.  I, unfortunately, started with nothing but a dream, so I am taking the long way around.  For year one, I am sadly still in the red.  So, y’know…buy my book.

Ok, that’s enough of a shameless self-plug.  Happy birthday, A Lovely Wreckage.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and the kiddos are here, so naturally there are things to do.  Like clean and reorganize their rooms, which is the big project for the weekend.  I think the Skylanders and Disney princess motifs are going out the window.  These kids are no longer as interested in these things as they once were.  Time for some teenage-style rooms.

Also, I hope to get some fishing in, of course.  Yesterday I caught a few sunnies and a baby something-or-other, and Mark caught what I think was a small catfish.  So, the skunk is out of the boat, as they say.  And L brought his skateboard and K brought her rollerblades and E promised to help me in the garden and M and I are experimenting with new computer monitors so we all have something to do today.

If I can just get Mark out of bed.

Happy Friday.

Stuck in the Mud

Three weeks post-surgery, and I am trying very hard to get back into the swing of things.  I have been out fishing with Mark, and caught my first one of the year: a very tiny trout.  Mark caught a gobi, which is an invasive species that we typically throw to the seagulls.  Tiny fish in both cases, but still…first of the year.  I have also decided to take up hiking with Kevin, and am hoping to start that next week as I am going to be able to return to mostly full activity.  I still can’t lift or bend, but I can walk as far as my legs will carry me.  And then, there’s the writing…

I’m so stuck, in every aspect.

My novel, my baby, the one that’s going to make me that Netflix money someday, is stalled.  I simply cannot envision the final scene of part one.  I almost think I am sabotaging myself, because maybe I don’t want that part of the story to end.  I keep reminding myself that I will come back to it in edits, and be able to add all sorts of details I didn’t have in the first draft.  I tell myself that once part one is done, I can move on to part two, where the action really ramps up.  This both excites and terrifies me.  I haven’t written anything like this before, with murder and gunfights and secret plots.  My last novel (well, novella,) was a simple tale about a woman with depression.  That’s my wheelhouse.  The current WIP, though…that’s a whole different ballgame.

Meanwhile I am discouraged with my poetry.  It hasn’t been coming as smoothly as it usually does, and I haven’t received an acceptance in a while.  Sales are down on my chapbook, although I am quite happy to report that you can now purchase a copy of A Lovely Wreckage at Dog Ears Bookstore on Abbott Rd. in South Buffalo, my favorite tiny bookshop.  This all happened right before I got sick, so I wasn’t able to celebrate it much.  And then there is Me and Jesus, which is stalled.  I have emailed the publisher and am waiting to hear back.   Finally, (Un)Requited, which is out at a few places and I am patiently waiting to hear back from someone.  I feel like it isn’t going to happen, though.

Of course, I felt that way with A Lovely Wreckage, too. 

I am sitting in my office and forcing myself to peck out some words because my blog is already a day late.  I am kicking myself for that, but also reminding myself that while I do feel stuck, I am writing, even if its just in here twice a week.  It’s like an exercise.  It’s going to the gym, but for your brain.

Pretty soon I can eat food again.  I miss it, I do, but not as much now as I did that first week.  In a few months, I can eat whatever I want.  In a few months, I can lift and bend again.

In the meantime, I shall drink my protein shakes and write in my blog and hope that the inspiration for a poem or chapter strikes, because I am ready, finally.  My health seems to be at a place where I can get back to work on my projects, and I am very excited about that.

Of course, I am also very, very stuck.

National Poetry Month, 2021

It is April, which means springtime and Easter and National Poetry Month!  I have already written about springtime.  Easter was nice, but not too exciting since we are still taking a lot of precautions.  So, let’s talk about poetry, naturally.

For the past two Aprils, I have shared a few poems with you.  Now, as explained then and reexplained now, these are stragglers…poems that I don’t intend to send out for publication.  (Presses frown on blog publications when considering your work.  Even with your own blog, it is still considered to be “published.”)  If I ever do decide to send these guys out or publish them elsewhere, I will remove them from my blog.  But for now, enjoy some poems.

Oh, and should you be interested, you can always support a poet and purchase a copy of A Lovely Wreckage!

Pasted as photos, because I can’t figure out how to format a poem on WordPress.

Spring Forward

I am currently sitting in my office, my favorite room in the house, which I have just cleaned and smells like roses and peonies because I got a new candle.  The door is wide open and I can feel the sunlight on my back and the fresh air billowing in as I type.  I wonder if a poem will strike.  I don’t expect it today, you see, but soon.  Soon, they will spill forth like they always do when I have shaken off the last of the winter doldrums that I carry with me.

In winter, which I do love for its coziness and holidays and snowy mornings, I find myself unfortunately depressed, as is the case with Seasonal Affect Disorder.  I mean, that’s not a diagnosis I have, I have Major Depressive Disorder which just means I’m depressed no matter the weather.  It is, however, worse in the winter, especially in January and February.  By the middle of March, I often feel as though I am hanging on by a thread, and then-miracle of miracles-we change the clocks back.  A resounding sigh of relief echoes across America. 

Listen, my global community friends, I don’t know what to tell you.  It’s a ridiculous little old rule with no current use and we all hate it.  We are living in miserable agony as we watch 4pm sunsets.  Please bear with us.

Oh, but when we change back!  When we jump forward!

It’s been a week and my sleeping scheduled has already completely changed for the better.  I feel normal again, and it’s like I didn’t even realize it wasn’t normal before.  I feel generally more positive as I soak in as much sunshine as I can.  Today, my legs hurt, but in a good way…not in the “I’ve been on the couch for three days, oh god, I gotta get up and move” way, but in a “I walked several miles this weekend, oh god, I gotta sit down” way.  Because I could.  Because there’s no move flipping snow on the ground, and I don’t mind playing in the mud so long as the sun is out. 

We spent the weekend hitting up some of our favorite fishing spots, and that was nice even though we didn’t catch anything.  It was just good to be outdoors.

And it’s good to have doors to open, like my office door which has sunshine streaming though it right now. 

I sat down to work today for the first time in a long time because I have been so ill.  I mean, yeah, sure, first I cleaned the office because it had become a sort of staging ar4ea for other stuff in the house while I was out.  But then I sat down to type, my list of tasks for the day beside me, and I started this blog. I thought, for a moment, that I caught a whiff of a poem, so I stopped and popped over to my poetry file for a moment, but nothing came. It ebbs and flows, but I feel it rising.  I have many creative pursuits planned during my recovery time, and I hope that working on some new poems falls into that plan as well.

In the meantime, the old poems: an update.

Still out here trying to sell A Lovely Wreckage.

Furthermore, still querying (Un)Requited.  I received a LOVELY rejection the other day.  The first.  Essentially, they said it was great but didn’t fit the catalogue, which I kind of figured when I looked though their offerings.  However, chapbook presses are few and far between, so you can count on that baby ending up in your inbox at some point if you are even remotely interested in publishing chapbooks.

Meanwhile, its been “in-progress” on Submittable at another place since mid-January, so finger’s crossed.

So, good weather makes me think of poems, but apparently can’t just make me create them on the spot.  Which is fine.  I will wait.  Things are only just starting to grow, anyway.