Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Rundown

I am terrible at keeping records, but this seems to be the thing to do, letting all three or four of you know how my year went.  So here is the unofficial tally of how 2011 went down for me in the realm of writing and publishing.

Other than spending quite a bit of the year mired in a writer's block, I would have to say 2011 was quite good to me and for me. You hear a lot of negativity from me n this front, but I still managed to end this year in the plus column.

a)  As far as I can reckon, I had about 30 rejections.  That means I had to send my work out to at least 30 places, which for me is a Herculean feat.

b)  I had 4 poems accepted to a single journal.  Not only was this a record for me, the poems mark a starting point for my latest manuscript project .  Another success.

c)  I had an essay accepted and published, as well as a few photographs.  Having non-poetry work accepted is always something to make me happy.

d)  I had a chapbook of poems accepted for publication---Friday in the Republic of Me will be my entry into the socio-political  realm of poetry, and I expect you all to fall in line and buy a copy.

e)  I have written at least 10 poems for my new book in the past two months---probably more, but 10 is a safe estimate.

* * *

Today I have been writing a letter to my friend and mentor, Dave Lee, thanking him for some really great notes on a few poems I sent him from my latest manuscript.  I also got to drone on about other writing stories he doesn't read here (because he doesn't do the Internet), and that has been good because letter writing is something we all should do more of these days.

* * *

Some good news:  Kelly Russell Agodon's e-anthology, Fire On Her Tongue, is the number one seller over at Amazon's Hot 100 Poetry titles.  She co-edited the anthology with Annette Spaulding-Convey, and I know a lot of the names mentioned.  I don't have an e-reader, so I will be looking into the possibility of getting a pdf and buying it with Paypal, but you all should hop on the bandwagon and buy a copy.  Kelly has always done a wonderful job for the cause of poetry, and I am certain this anthology is no exception.

* * *

My sister gave me a book, which is no real surprise, but what is of great interest is which book she gave me.  She gave me The Utah Photographs of G.E. Anderson.  He was a photographer based in Springville, Utah from the late 19th century through the first quarter of the 20the century.  The book, written and compiled by Rell G. Francis, highlights some of the best photographs taken during this era of U.S. history and provides a lot of stories related to the photographs, which is far more than most books of this kind.  From it I can expect to have a much broader and deeper understanding of Springville history, from which all my new poems are coming.  Thank you, Corey.

* * *

In a few days, Tuesday to be specific, I will be going back to school to finish up the first semester.  I expect to have a lot of fun with my English classes finishing up Hamlet and discussing the French Revolution with my sophomores.

Here we go, new year, here we go.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

I am awake way too early this morning, but my oldest son decided to have a sneezing jag while watching some television and I am up---for at least a little while.  I will be able to take a nap later if I feel like it (and I will) but for now I am up and about.

I have not written a single poem or even a part of a poem during this entire week off from school.  It has been a strange break so far, and I really don't know how else to put it.  I have felt more run down these past five days than I ever have, and it feels much more than simply getting old.  I am not well, but I cannot put my finger on anything specific.

Still, the family is doing okay.  I made my world famous chocolate chip cookies yesterday.  The secret is in how long you creme the wet ingredients.  I blend the mix for at least an extra 4-5 minutes before adding the flour, baking soda and salt.  This time around I used two different kinds of chocolate chips (milk chocolate and semi-sweet) and two kinds of nuts (crushed hazel and almond slivers) which has created a nice texture and a good chocolate experience overall.  I also got to use our homemade vanilla for the first time.  Becky has been able to use it a couple of times, but yesterday was my first.  For those of you who don't know, we bought some vanilla bean pods and some artisan vodka to make our own vanilla.  It just takes about six weeks of patience.  Next time we are going to make it with bourbon to see which we prefer.

So, presents are wrapped and ready for delivery.  Becky did all of the major work last night instead of tonight, which will make things easier for sure when trying to get our youngest off to bed tonight.  It can be an early night for everyone.  After, we are off for the Land of Mo once again for a few days so we can spread our own version of Christmas cheer to our relatives.  And then, it's back to school and back to Hamlet.  Back to students and back to more writing.

Be well this season, and all the best.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Break: Update & Random thoughts

A lot of thinking is going on with me right now, though I can say not too much action.  I am in vacation bliss mode.  There is a rumor going around these parts cookies will be baked later this evening (which includes my patented chocolate chip cookies) but it's too early in the evening for conjecture like that.  In the mean time, I am satisfies to be watching movies, listening to The Grateful Dead, writing a post on my blog, editing my poems ---really anything that isn't school related.

To paraphrase something I read a few fays ago:

"I woke up this morning feeling awesome because I didn't have to be at school.  True story."

* * *

In a few minutes, the oldest boy will be sent to the grocery store to purchase some quick-to-fix food and I will put in another movie into the dvd player.  Of course it will make the evening even more awesome that this afternoon was, and certainly better than early morning was.  I haven't really written a new poem for the new book in a couple of days, but that's okay, as I am under no contract I know of, as my position in the poetry world is more advisory than anything else.

What I am thinking about is the recording session I completed.  You know the one, where I read all of the poems from Town for the Trees.  I am wondering how much work my friend is really going to have to do to make my voice and the recording in general sound good enough to make into a book.  I am thinking of setting up a paypal account in order to facilitate sales (what sales may come) in an easy format.  My friend is going to  be giving me a few "master" recordings so I can put them on cd's and install as a set of downloadable mp3's.  I am going to be able to host the files through Hobble Creek Review, which should be a great deal---anything to be able to get more of my poetry out into the world.

* * *

I am re-reading my Springville History books trying to find the stories within I can translate to my book.  The more I think about it, the more I think what I am trying to write is really two different books.  I keep coming across sentiments and ideas for poems and I have barely moved past the fourth chapter in the first book.  It feels like one really big book, or two smaller books.  I need to remember my own advice and over-write so I can make the choices the book needs as opposed to trying to satisfy my own ego.

* * *

My god, The Kinks are amazing!

* * *

I am ready for this year to be over.  I am ready for 2011 to be a memory.  I have learned a lot about so many things and I have gone through quite a bit, but for most of the year I did not write a single poem and I can do without that feeling for the rest of my life, if you know what I mean.  This is the year I got old, and I would rather forget that, if it's okay with all of you.

* * *

Time to go.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I received a letter from my friend, Dave Lee, yesterday.  It's a strange thing, having one of his letters show up from time to time because whenever one does, my entire world comes to a halt and also immediately spreads out into the infinite.  This paradox is a simple one.  I love hearing from him no matter what.  Letters of the sort he writes are so rare these days that within them is contained an entire universe which has become anachronistic in nature---a time gone by, when people actually conversed in full sentences and complete thoughts.  It's like opening a window into a world the both of us can look into and almost, if we stretch up high enough, see each other over the horizon.

Over the years I have come to treasure his letters which come, packed to the brim with an exuberance no e-mail or text could carry.   I don't know how he feels about my letters, but I do know there are fewer of us who are writing like this than t here have ever been, and we aren't getting any younger.  I seem to be in the middle.  I am at a point where I have embraced e-mail and the technology of the blog.  I enjoy Facebook well enough, but I do not tweet, and I don't think I will easily make the transition to the next thing or the thing after that.  Well, Dave is stuck in the world of snail mail, hand-written letters, and telephones. 

Well, that is until now.  As it turns out Dave's letter was to tell me he has just signed contracts for nine (9) of his book to be transformed into ibooks, which will be a wonderful thing for him to experience.  It's a move certain to make Collin Kelley proud, to see a confirmed book-dust bibliophile allow his literary children hit the digital frontier.  I know there are a few people out there wondering why I am even mentioning this, but anyone who knows David Lee would tell you that even a year ago, this sort of thing would not even be a thing he might consider.  It's a really big step for him, and it's a really great advancement for all of us because when I get a reader I will be able to carry one more of my favorite poets with me wherever I go.

* * *

There is no new word on my chapbook, but then I really didn't think there would be anything to report until the new year.  Not for at least a few months yet.  I will say I now have several more poems for the new book.  The ideas just keep on coming and so do the poems.  I am taking deliberate steps to try and keep everything in perspective, but I have quite a few pages already and I feel like I am barely scratching the surface of what this project is supposed to be.  If everything goes according to plan I will be finished with the drafting in a year and I will have at least 100 pages from which to craft a book.  I have started to show my new poems to a few people, but I really want to just enjoy how the poems are coming to me.

Time to go.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Back from the Land of Mo, or, Why I no longer teach middle school/Junior high aged kids

You know what's awesome?  Going halfway through your first lecture on day one day as a guest in your friend's classroom before discovering you did in fact catch the flu from your six year old son and being forced to locate the nearest bathroom in order to expel everything you've eaten in the past 18 hours.

Yes.  I became physically ill in first hour of a full day of talking poetry with 7th and 8th grade students.  Now, for those of you who do not know, I am not quiet while in the act of being physically ill.  The sound I make when in the act of 'regurgitation' is akin to the African Lion's roar.  To be honest, I was genuinely surprised nobody from the school came in the to the boys room like villagers carrying torches and pitchforks looking for the monster which was obviously transforming behind the second stall.

After rinsing my mouth, I returned to the school where I had the joy of talking poetry with these kids almost non-stop for the next six and a half hours. Some highlights include the following:

Being asked what my favorite color is EVERY hour of the day.  Sometimes, more than once.

Being asked why I wasn't wearing a shirt which happened to be my favorite color.

Being asked what my favorite animal is.

Being asked my opinion on Wikipedia.

Being asked my opinion on Justin Bieber.

Now, there were plenty of students who asked plenty of great questions about poetry.  Some of the better questions about poetry led to discussions about my ideas of the hidden narrative, the creation of a narrator, and the importance of lying in poetry---so the fact is the first day went quite well, all things considered.

Part Two: Things turn weird

Day two was a lot better.  I was able to get the kids to write a haibun for their workshop.  It's a pleasant twist on the familiar "I see" poem, using that poem to inform the prose paragraph of the haibun and then writing a haiku inspired by the paragraph.  Needless to say, things went a lot smoother on day two.

I also received a phone call right in the middle of one of my workshops from my school back here in Nevada, asking me about the eligibility of a student.  Now these were the first 'days off' I have had in a few years, and to receive this phone call on top of everything else going really put the zap on me.

I will say this, before you think I am just complaining.  I had a lovely time both talking poetry and spending time with my friend, Scott.  I can see doing this on a semi-regular basis, as long as I have time to rest between  stints.  And it would definitely be a plus if I didn't get sick next time.

Part Three:  Good News

On Friday, I paid my friend to record me reading my book.  We hunkered down in my grandmother's basement with his $5,000 portable recording studio and we knocked out the entirety of Town for the Trees.  I know I made a few mistakes, but my friend is a genius and I know he is going to make me sound incredible and the entire project as professional as is humanly and technologically possible.  That means in the near future you will be able to purchase the audio book version of TFtT and quite possibly hear my voice reading my poems for the first time.  How awesome for you!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Submissions & Ramblings

I don't know about you, but I really have grown weary of snail-mail submissions.  So far, I have decided against submitting to three different presses in the past two months because they require me to print up pages and trot down to the post office and mail by hand a fat envelope to them, complete with poetry and SASE---which no doubt would come back with fodder for subscription and contests, and book release notifications.  It's not the money, either.  It's the useless stuff I get with my rejections that keeps me from snail mail submissions.  As evil as it sounds, I cannot submit to every journal to which I submit, and I think most of these journals could stretch their budget a lot further if they didn't spend so much money sending me requests for subscription with every submission I make.  Well, used to make.  It's the zero amount of anxiety I get trying to figure out ahead of time when I can expect one of my own envelopes back in my p.o. box, and if I will have to wait until Monday or Tuesday because I wasn't able to get to the post office over the weekend.  The money is nothing when compared to all of the other stuff which accompanies the postal submission process, and I am glad to know other people do not submit by mail these days, too.  Fewer submissions all the way around.  So I don't get to submit to Poetry (Have they gone over to an on-line manager yet?)  It's not like the editors were lining up to see if my poetry would go better before or after Richard Howard or Mark Strand.

Speaking of Poetry, how is it they have the gall to try and charge me full price when they ask for subscriptions?  With all of the money they have in their pockets, they should be selling subscriptions at cost.  I mean that.  You can quote me on that because it's exactly what I would do if I was in charge.    Cost + 0.

* * *

I keep seeing lists of books which were the best of 2011, so here's my list:

Collin Kelley's Slow to Burn

Dean Young's Fall Higher

Got it? I bought more books than that, but I have to tell you I did not buy any books in 2011 better than these.  That isn't to say no other books were well written, or I wasn't pleased to read other books, but those were the best.  Those are the ones I went back to time and again, and those are the books I will remember past the new year.

By the way, Collin has a new book of poetry coming out from Sibling Rivalry Press.  It's going to be called Render, and I am really looking forward to it. 

* * *

I think I am looking forward to a few other books coming out, but I am never good with these sorts of things, so I had better just let it go at that.  I will be talking about books as they come my way. 

* * *

My own writing is coming along slowly but most certainly.  I have had four poems from my new Springville book accepted for publication.  I will keep you all informed as to that.  Having written about 15 poems for the book, mostly the ones centered around the covenant of settling and work,  I am trying to contextualize a few 'stories' into poems.  In addition to finding my own voice for telling these narratives, I have to find a way to tell the best story, and that can mean me changing what really happened---essentially leaving the facts behind.  Because there are people (my grandmother included) who prize their heritage and lineage through the town of Springville. this will certainly make some people upset.  The fiction I have to create needs to be good enough for me AND my imagined critics.

* * *

I have been pouring myself over my new chapbook manuscript since it was accepted for publication.  I am looking for the words which stick in my side.  I am looking for all of the sharp edges I don't want.  I am looking at the ordering if the manuscript.  What gets me is there are changes on all levels I suddenly want to make, and I don't know if that's good judgment or the jitters.

* * *

Time to go, I guess.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Little Freestyle & Some Big News

Today is a pretty good "School" day for me.  I get to talk about Hamlet with my English students and my history students are taking a test.  It really is the kind of day I like to have.  I really don't look forward to grading the tests, but even that is always easier than I admit to myself once I get started.  Besides, I am going to be giving tests today and on Monday, and I really don't have to grade anything until Tuesday, because almost half my students today are gone for one reason or another and I will be seeing them to take their tests on Monday or Tuesday after school.  I never grade tests or essay until I have all (or a vast majority thereof) because I enter all the grades in at once and I really hate to sit down to grade more than once if I can help it.

This time next week I will be in Utah again.  I am going to be conducting a reading/workshop in my friend's English classes.  He teaches 7th grade English in a charter school and has his students all worked up over poetry.  I will be taking two days and going there to talk poetry and also talk to his public speaking classes about the reading of a poem. I'm getting more excited every day thinking about what I am actually going to say to them.  I have decided to talk to them about the importance of the lie in poetry.  I know a lot of people, especially Collin Kelley, emphasize the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in their poems, but I can't go along with that.  And just to be clear, I do make a distinction between the fiction of a poem and the lie I find so essential.

* * *

News Flash

I just learned, this very moment, Foothills Publishing has accepted my manuscript, Friday in the Republic of Me, for publication.  No word yet as to when it will be coming out, but I am thrilled because this book will be my little addition to the political arena of the day.  I can only hope it will be out in time for the 2012 Presidential Election.

This is the picture I want to use for the cover, though I have other pictures chosen as back-up images. 


Poems you can look forward to, include:

 Lost in Wikiburbia
 After the Photograph of the Lynching of Tom Shipp and Abe Smith
 Contemplating Diego Rivera’s Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park
 Ode to Neruda (Esparanza)
 Friday in the Republic of Me
 In My Dreams I am Always Running with the Dead
 What I Remember about Desert Storm

* * *

I  will be sending a lot of people e-mails about this book, so if you are interested in keeping tabs on this book but you don't hear from me, be sure to let me know.  I will add you to the loop, so to speak.