Friday, January 18, 2013

Getting This Started

My book is supposed to be coming out this summer, so now is the time to stat setting these things up.  I do not find this work tasteful, but I see both its worth and its effectiveness, so on to the publicity.  I want to do this book release the right way.  I am finished hiding my light under a bushel.

I am looking for anyone who might be interested in having me come out to a classroom to do a reading and workshop.  I am also looking for people who might be willing to conduct interviews with me.  Primarily I am looking to make readings happen within Utah and Nevada, and interviews anywhere I can.  Why Utah and Nevada?  Because there is a much stronger possibility I can make this happen money-wise if such events are local.  So if you, or anyone you know needs a guest reader/poet for a class or two, please get in contact with me or pass along this information.

To be honest, I am more than just new to this sort of thing, I am a newborn infant in this world.  This is my second full length book, but I have never tried to schedule this sort of thing, and that's why I am asking all of you for help.  I need to get out there and get past my fear of asking for help when it comes to promoting my work and my value as an artist.

Places I can get to in Utah within a day or two:

In Utah, I can get anywhere along the Wasatch Front same or next day, guaranteed.  I can go as far as Cedar City and St. George by the next day, and I am willing to do the reading and workshop for what essentially amounts to gas money.  I have the ability to take days off from work (with over a semester's worth of sick leave) and I am willing to do so.

I must admit I fantasize about somebody wanting me to fly across the nation to participate in a reading and run a workshop.  I know that is as likely to happen as winning the lottery, but I need to put it all out on the table.  If anyone knows a guy who knows a girl who has a professor friend who is coordinating a reading series, I am interested in hearing about it.  Again, without any university affiliation of my own, I know this is not very likely.  Here then are some things about me to keep in mind.

My strengths:

Poetry of place.  Haibun and haiku.  Landscape meditation.

Where I would like to do my thing:

Anywhere, really.  I am willing to read and conduct a workshop from colleges all the way to middle schools.  Historical Societies and community workshops are right up my alley.


Ideally I would like to get things set up in the Fall, but I am willing to get going to non-academic settings in the summer as well.


How is this supposed to work?  On the contact page you will find my e-mail.  Simply pass on my information to who you know, or pass on their information to me.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rebel Rebel

Today's mini-rant is all about being a rebel.  As a high school teacher, I see kids trying to express their individuality on a daily basis, and with a very few exceptions, they are all miserable failures.  When I point this out to them I almost always immediately get a quizzical look, revealing they don't understand what it is to be a rebel.  Next, they give me that defiant look that says, "Hey!  I'm unique.  I am a rebel."  That's when I finish their sentence with: "Just like all of your friends."  It takes a few seconds, but most catch on to the strange predicament they have walked themselves into in the attempt to set themselves apart from the crowd.

The poetry community is much the same.  Yes it is.  Think for a moment.  Most of us, while many have their own voice, still fit within the confines of the cliched box.  We are terrified of that box, and many of us believe being poets sets us apart from the crowd, but we are in fact, simply trying to be different, just like all of our poet friends.  I don't excuse myself from this distinction.  I want to be perfectly clear what I am going to be talking about for the next few paragraphs in no way excuses me from the status of sheep or lemming, or mindless poetry zombie---pick your image.  I am different, just like all of my poet friends.

Thin about it.  On Facebook, how many of your so-called friends are poets?  How many of those poets talk about being published and talk about writing issues and being rejected over and over?  How many of them (us) toot our horn when we get a really good acceptance, or have a book taken by a publisher?  How many of us play the same corporate game of poetry we see everyone else playing?  More?  How many poets out there do you know of who are true rebels?  I mean the kind who truly go against the grain.  I can think of a couple.  Bill Knott comes to mind, and I am certain if I was to put a few minutes of serious thought to it I could name a hand-full more. 

Now put that in terms of how we support poetry.  How many people talk about how difficult the contest system is in the poetry world, but day after day and week after week, keep sending in their manuscripts to contests because of some secret desire they have to be able to put that in their bio?  I know I struggle with it every day, or most every day.  Hardly a day passes where I don't wonder what it would be like to be the poetry world's little darling or flavor of the month, to have my poetry accepted by some of the name journals, to have "winner of the ________________ contest for emerging poets.  I am being sincere.  I want these things and I am not certain how to feel about them or the fact I want them.

For years I have been urging people to support poetry presses by other means than entering contests.  Contests are so limiting.  It is my belief they literally stifle the creativity in poetry.  The entire poetry community is homogenous if your sample pool is wide enough, but I am not speaking of all of us fitting into a mold we can all recognize.  I am talking about expectations.  If all we do is envision the contest system as our means of book publication, we begin to move towards that which we think will win contests.  Isn't it already bad enough inside our heads as poets?  In my head I am constantly hearing my own little private radio station, passages and lines continually drifting in and out of earshot, and I ignore most of them, waiting for me to focus in on what I think poetry is.  It's my own little censor, but what if the poetry I ignore or am perhaps too fearful to write down is a new direction calling to me?  I think it's the same with poetry at large.  For the most part, too many poets are shaping their language to their perceptions of what they see going on, allowing what has come before to have too much of an imprint on their own poetry. 

I don't mean this to be a condemnation, just an acknowledgement, an idea of what I see happening.  I am continually blown away with the beautiful words from so many poets.  But if I am truthful, I see a lot of poetry that is trying to be the same thing, even if that same thing is trying to be different like all the other poems out there.  I certainly am not free from this reality.  I still write to please too many people.  That is, too much of what I write is written trying to please more than myself.  I just happen to think if more poets would go around the contest system, we would see a lot more diversity in poetry---even more than we see now. 

Of course, that diversity comes at a cost, because we poets need to support presses by buying books, and not just books written by our friends.  We need to buy books which constitute a risk.  I have bought many books I do not like.  I have purchased books by poets who write in a voice and/or style I will never write in, and I do so willingly.  I have said it before, but one of the things I admire most about Ron Silliman, even though we write nothing alike, is his willingness to read almost everything and anything.  He buys books and reads.  He rarely gives out praise and that's fine, but I respect his opinion because he reads the poetry I like, and he reads the kind of poetry I write.  he may not ever like any poem of mine, but he dares to take up the banner and march forward.

So, rock on with your poetry, but let your wallet do the heavy lifting and make a real change.  Be a rebel.  Be like me.

Friday, January 11, 2013

post-Acceptance Daze & a hot topic issue

For the past few days, I have been floating around in a little bit of a fog.  Having my manuscript taken and the contract mailed off, I feel as if I have very little I want to accomplish.  A lot of my writing, in this blog and elsewhere, seems to have tapered off.  I wrote one series of haiku, which might make an interesting chapbook project if developed, but other than that, I have been is a slight state of bliss.

I think my post title is appropriate, if for no other reason than it happens to be accurate.  I feel floaty and light headed knowing my manuscript is going to be a book.  I feel a little weak in the knees because I really believe I and my manuscript are a good fit with Aldrich Press and Kelsay Books (previously linked).  I am not empty or void of inspiration, but I cannot see myself writing right now, and I think my good mood is responsible.  I am not saying I write when I am miserable, but rather, my happiness is blocking my view.  I cannot see the things I want to write because I am content.

* * *

Lately, I have been spending my time on Facebook dealing  with conservative reactionaries, regarding gun control.  They paint all liberals as demagogues trying to take away their guns, and they use post hoc ergo propter hoc to try and frighten people into agreeing with their perspective regarding gun rights.  For the record, and I try to make this every time I respond to them, I am a President Obama lovin' liberal, a gun owner, and a supporter of the 2nd Amendment.  Do I think we as a nation need to re-think our position on gun control? Absolutely.  I think we need to have more individual registrations and criminal/psychiatric background checks.  Want to own a gun?  Then get licensed by the state, and be required to have it renewed every four years.  Make that license have classes, just like a driver's license, which states what kind of firearms a person can own.  Be required to take courses and proof of gun liability insurance.  Require gun dealers to confirm, with photo ID and background checks that they are selling guns to responsible, sane people.  Eliminate undocumented straw sales at gun shows, and make those selling at gun shows be licensed dealers or register for a special permit to sell firearms at gun shows.

What I think we don't need:

Guns in schools.  There are simply too many unanswerable questions and too many issues of liability to think having more guns in schools is the proper answer.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hobble Creek Almanac Accepted for Publication

It is with great pleasure I announce my manuscript, Hobble Creek Almanac, has been accepted for publication by Aldrich Press, and imprint of Kelsay Books.  I don't have any specific information as to when the book will be available for sale, but I can tell you I have received, reviewed, and signed the contract for publication.  HCA will be my second full length book, and the third full length manuscript I have written. 

To be sure, I was thrilled to hear the news because of all my books, this one felt the most difficult to defend as a manuscript.  Not on a poem to poem basis, as I know all of the poems from the book are what I want them to be, but on the level of manuscript, the subject matter is a hard sell.  To refresh your memory, the book begins in 1850, with the settlement of Springville, Utah.  The book's first third concerns itself with the establishment of a Mormon Community.  The second section takes as its subject the life of a real resident of Springville, who lived from 1886-1969.  In this section I create a series of persona poems.  The third section is a first person narrative of the important ideas and places within the same town.  Where my book Town for the Trees was pure elegy, this section attempts to give explanation, some sense of why Springville is important to me.  Having a press take it so early on removes a giant weight from my shoulders.

That the book was taken is also evidence of doing my leg work.  I knew this book would not, could not win any contest.  Well, unless there happened to be a poetry contest for a collection of poetry written about the settlement of the west and/or Mormon pioneer history/19th Century Utah inspired pastoral poetry.I had four places to submit this manuscript (a fifth one would not respond to any of my queries) before this book would have to be shelved.  I am not exaggerating.  I knew going into this project the chances were slim at best this manuscript would ever become a book.  In other words, I got lucky.

Some things I do know ahead of time:

1.  The book will be available on Amazon

2.  The book will be $14.

3.  If you want a copy, I would prefer you buy it from me or through Aldrich Press (though if you buy it through me you are sure to have the book signed and get some extra goodies).

4.  This is only the beginning.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Writing in 2013

I never thought I was one to write prose, but with the completion of my latest manuscript (Hobble Creek Almanac) and beginning the submission process, I really don't want to expend my energy trying to write new poetry right away.  So, instead of trying to turn off my need to write altogether, I decided to redirect my writing energy into a prose project.

I had a choice when it came to choosing something new to write, and I certainly did not want to simply try to write about poetry.  Not only is that cheating in some ways, literary criticism is exhausting work for me.  Besides, there are plenty of poets out there willing to talk about poetry, telling the world why one poem succeeds and why another fails.  So I chose the other area of competence in my professional life to write about.  I am in the beginning stages of writing a book for prospective and new teachers.

The book I have envisioned and have started to write is one of an informal, conversational tone.  Too many books in my opinion within the education community talk from a place f authority.  Sort of Listen to me because I have a doctorate in education.  Well, one of the things I never really liked about the people teaching me in my master's program was the amount of time they actually spent in a classroom (either at the elementary or secondary level) before moving on to teach college and prospective teachers.  Many of them were only classroom teachers for 4-5 years, and by the time they begin to teach new teachers, they have been out of the classroom for another 4-5 years.  Still, they act as if nothing ever changes and for the rest of their careers, they are teaching as if time has stopped.

You see, I have a few ideas about teacher ed programs.

1.  Universities should encourage their education departments to be filled with a faculty who have taught at least 15-20 years in the public school classroom.  Instead, they require only 3 years experience.  Instead, they are worried about their terminal degree percentages.  A few things:  Teachers who want to get out of the classroom after three years are the teachers you don't want teaching prospective teachers.  Teachers who have 15 years experience in the classroom are vastly more suited to teach prospective teachers, regardless of a Ph.D.  They are the teachers who will tell the next generation of teachers what to realistically expect.

2.  Universities should work with content area departments to teach the methods courses, first locating teachers with real life classroom experience.  It always amazed me the man who taught me methods of teaching social studies was a professor who was brilliant, but had never actually taught high school.  That's right.  A professor of English, or history, or biology, can actually teach the methods course without actually having any teaching experience in the public schools system.  As yourself what method do most professors use to teach.  If you answered "lecture" you are absolutely right.  The fact is while lecture has it's place, and I use it a lot, it cannot be the extent of the method a teacher uses in the classroom.

3.  The majority of focus education programs have in fostering new teachers should be in the areas of classroom management, varied instructional  methods, and effective lesson planning.  I don't know where I would have been if I had not been in the army before I became  teacher.  My university gave me one classroom management class, and I know they have a lot of ground to cover, but my course focused on seating charts, creating a syllabus, and time management.  We read a chapter or two about different theories of discipline, but it was little preparation for the vast array of issues a new teacher faces in the classroom.

4.  University Education faculty should be forced to co-teach with a classroom teacher one semester every five or so years to refresh themselves with the realities of the classroom.  And I don't mean mentor a new teacher in the classroom or supervise a teacher.  I mean co-teach.  Plan lessons, lecture, create learning activities, write and grade assignments.  Everything.

* * *

I have written just under 10,000 words so far, and I plan to write between 40-50,000 word in total.  Right now I am writing the framework of the chapters.  I am going to insert anecdotal evidence in the various chapters and do my best to reinforce the conversational tone.  I envision a short book prospective teachers can read as part of their own curiosity rather than as part of some kind of curriculum.  I want to eventually set it up as a Kindle Edition through Amazon and sell it really cheap.  I want new and prospective teachers to hear about what really happens in a high school without theory getting in the way.  I want new teachers to be able to have some advice as o what will help them to avoid many of the pitfalls which are waiting for them as they enter the schools.

That's what I am doing right now.