ski tracks on the trailWhen what I wanted for Christmas, I said a ski trip the day before my birthday–something I’ve wanted to do for years. Yesterday, my son and his fiancĂ©e took my daughter and I cross-country skiing, and it was glorious. I’d pulled my old skis and poles out of the shed and found my boots, then ransacked the drawers for warm clothing (it turns out that wool sweater from the ’80s is too small). They brought over lattes and breakfast sandwiches, and then we drove up to the summit.

The day was warm–above freezing–and not raining. The snow flocked the trees and mounded up over the edge of the trail. (In Seattle, we often get no lowland snow.) The lake was partly frozen. When we got past all the bustle at the sledding hill and play area (various stages of funny-looking snow people), and onto the groomed trail, I fit my skis into the track and got into a rhythm. It felt good–sore, tiring, but really good.

Find your groove

Looking at the tracks, I thought about writing–about staying on track with writing. Sure, when we think about creativity, we think about going outside the lines (the same way I needed to go outside to get out of the way of the trail grooming machine or to pass tiny little kids helped by their parents–so cute!). But in terms of practice, in terms of showing up and getting into a rhythm. It’s good for me to find a groove and stay in it, or get back as soon as I can. And in writing, it’s often much less like a groomed trail and more like the back country, where I need to make my own tracks.

A little break is beneficial

I was skiing with athletes, and I grew tired fairly quickly. But after a quick water break, I felt renewed, gliding between the trees. That reminded me of how important is in writing to take a break–to see new things, do new things, give my mind a chance to hit upon that perfect answer that I wouldn’t be able to see straight-on. A little break, deep breaths, and back on track with the poem, the story, the essay.

Later, family dinner prepared by Tom, who stayed home and cooked all day–crab cake on salad greens, then chicken parmesan and homemade pasta–and the cake and homemade ice cream that my daughter made. All in all, a great way to begin this next year.

In gratitude for snow, for family and family dinners, and life’s helpful reminders…

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This morning, this gem from Advice to Writers:

Poetry is about listening

When we were young, we were told that poetry is about voice, about finding a voice and speaking with this voice, but the older I get I think it’s not about voice, it’s about listening and the art of listening, listening with attention. I don’t just mean with the ear; bringing the quality of attention to the world. The writers I like best are those who attend.


The older I get, the more I think that it’s all about listening–crucial and sometimes difficult when we all want to be heard, yet always rewarding.

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Floating Bridge Press is accepting manuscript submissions for its 20th annual Chapbook Award. All poems in the submitted manuscripts are considered for publication in Pontoon.

Plus, this year the press will select an additional 1-3 chapbooks from the submissions pile.

The deadline is March 1. Check out the guidelines, and start pulling together those poems.

And congratulations to FBP for their 20 years!

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A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I dropped off friend on our way home. After a quick U-turn on Jackson, I turned north onto 19th–only to discover that it doesn’t go through and instead looped us back in our original direction. Okay. My daughter thought 23rd was open, so we continued east, only to find that street barricaded as part of a months-long construction project. Fine, we’ll just continue east to MLK way. We turned north there, west again on Union, and on any other night, we’d turn north again on 19th. Not this time–another construction project. We continued west and then turned north on 14th. Not the most direct route home, but we made it the rest of the way without blockages, and pulled up in front of the house only to see the city No Parking Between These Hours signs. We both cracked up, sat for a moment in the dark car laughing.

I realized that this is how my manuscript has been going–first it was a chapbook, then it was a full-length collection, then it was a mash-up of two projects, and now it’s back to being a chapbook. Three name changes. Ten of the poems are brand-new. Two are major revisions. More than 25 poems are out, including several that have been published in journals (that was hard). I feel good about this now–but I don’t consider it parked. Some of those abandoned poems could come back (with more major revisions). Or not. It is a journey.

Bethany Reid’s post about the hero’s journey–knowing what we want–reminded me of this. Even in writing, as in life, I might not know where I’m going to go, or how I’m going to get there, but I need to know what I want, to ask for it, work for it, and stay open to possibilities.

Happy Monday!

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A few weeks ago, I posted about goals , habits, and resolutions, and I shared my calendar approach. What isn’t on my calendar: 10,000 steps a day. I have a FitBit to track that.

Promptly, I knocked my goal down to 8,000 steps a day, so that I could spend more time writing (or thinking about writing, which is not writing). Yesterday, I had to face the fact that I have developed tendonitis–and the online site I found said to stop walking. It is really hard to meet an 8K-step goal if you aren’t walking. Insert sad face here.

I was thinking about my other goals–those lofty achievements I’ve kept on my list for years: get poems on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, win a Pushcart Prize or have a poem in Best American Poetry, read at the 92nd Street Y (it’s kind of embarrassing, but I said they were lofty). The problem is that none of those goals are in my control. I can keep trying to write the best poems I can write, I can keep trying to protect my writing time and use it more wisely, I can keep reading and learning as much as I can, but I can’t make any of those goals happen. Really, they aren’t goals; they’re wishes.

Stepping back a little further, I thought about what those wishes represent–acknowledgement of my work, recognition for the poems I write. Stepping back further, they are deep-down about wanting to be liked. And if my goal is at its heart about wanting to be liked, is writing a poem the best way forward? What about being kind, focusing on kindness instead of achievement?

Sure, I would be thrilled if any of those things happened (the list included getting my current manuscript published)–but I have erased those goals as things that I need to accomplish. I am still working on and playing with poems. I’m still in class and going back to school this summer. But I’m taking this time to refocus on who I want to be in this world.

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