Cheers to the new year–here’s to taking time to breathe deeply, to write, to learn.

I love receiving daily poems and blog updates in my inbox–and now I get Advice for Writers. (Thanks go to Bethany Reid for introducing me to it.) The other day, this arrived:

The Paper Should Be Dark With Nouns

If you really want your poem to work, the usage of adjectives should be minimal; but you should stuff it as much as you can with nouns—even the verbs should suffer. If you cast over a poem a certain magic veil that removes adjectives and verbs, when you remove the veil the paper still should be dark with nouns.


I thought, wait a minute. I agree about adjectives–but are you really limiting my verbs? Don’t verbs help propel the reader? Or is that my bias as a former modern dancer?

Then I remembered David Wagoner talking about the mind’s eye–how a poem needs to give the reader experiences they can see. Then the nouns began to make more sense.

What do you think? Nouns? Verbs? And the wonderful words that are both?

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This week, I read The Fault in Our Stars, which had been sitting in my stack for nearly a year and a half. I put off reading the book because I was avoiding sadness. I’d heard an NPR interview with the author, John Green, and read an article about him in The New Yorker, but I kept starting other books instead. Part of it might have been a wrenching experience with a different novel. Part of it might have been my earlier experiences working with terminally ill kids at a hospital. Or maybe having been widowed. Or maybe just being a chicken shit. Whatever the reason, now, it was time.

By the end of the first page, I was hooked. I knew it was going to be a hard story–but the voice, the characters, the writing–the way he handled exposition! Setting all that aside, the humanity. It was simultaneously a lesson in craft and a lesson in being human–joys, flaws, foibles, death. As read the last few chapters, tears streaming down my face, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared.

Over at A Writer’s Alchemy, Bethany Reid has posted about how we write to feel. If I’m avoiding feeling, that’s a hazard–my biggest creativity block and my biggest personal block. Or maybe that’s why I write poetry–to let down that guard one poem at a time.

How does feeling help your writing. Or, like me, do you tend to run from it?

Finally, Happy Friday, and as I remember from those interviews, DFTBA!
(Don’t forget to be awesome)

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Years ago, I thought that if I didn’t hear back from a publisher, my work was under serious consideration. Then I learned about the slush piles. Brrr…

I’ve noticed that certain times of year, editors are ready to clear their desks–often the week before the end of spring quarter or semester, the week before AWP, and the week before holiday break begins. I think of those letters–paper or digital–as being like the swallows returning to Capistrano.

Yesterday was quiet, but I anticipate a flurry of wings this week or next. We’ll see.

May you receive many acceptances–of all kinds.

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I was thankful to spend yesterday with family. I didn’t get to text or talk with my middle kid, but I found out later that both my daughter and my dad did. We had a kind-of surprise visit from our oldest son and his fiancée (it’s always good to have a bottle of bubbly in the fridge). Then it was dinner with my husband, daughter, parents, and my sister and sister-in-law, who hosted. All we needed to bring were wines and the homemade dinner rolls.

It’s been an eventful fall, starting with a knee injury on Labor Day. Thus, rounds of physical therapy appointments. I’m thankful for P.T. and for walking. At the same time, I was participating in a poem-a-day challenge and signed up for two classes at Hugo House.

At the end of September, it was the LiTFUSE poetry workshop–one of my favorite annual events, for which I’m deeply thankful. This year included master classes with Chad Sweeney and Ellen Bass, plus classes with Elizabeth Austen. But the afternoon before, in my last-minute packing, I caught my cat eating part of a flip-flop–the disposable kind from the nail salon. That shall be known as the most expensive pedicure ever. I confiscated the slippers and tossed them, hoping the damage hadn’t been done.

We spent October hoping that any foreign material would work its way through the cat’s GI tract on its own. Harvest came and went. Halloween came and went. By the beginning of November, it was time for kitty surgery–and six vet visits in six days. I asked if I could pay in wine, but no go.

To recoup some of the vet bills, I’ll be working at the winery on Sundays throughout the holidays. I figure that to approach breaking even, I need to sell 25-30 cases of wine (that’s a lot of wine) or 1300 copies of In Both Hands (that’s really a lot of poetry). And for the folks from Office days, I’ll have the pamphlets of prose poems about the content management system that shall not be named (for the curious, they involve wolves, vodka, and one and zero fish).

If you want to take a break from the rest of the holidays, stop by: Cloudlift Cellars, 312 S Lucile St, Seattle.

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Yesterday I had a really ambitious to-do list. I was going to make progress!

I began by working on a project that I had been avoiding (that fear thing again). Then I read the draft of my second project and planned to think about expanding it as I walked the mile to the dry cleaners. I did not. The neighborhood was all decked out for Halloween and families were putting their finishing touches on elaborate decorations. People were out walking in costume. And the wind was ferocious! In the spattering of rain, I dropped off the clothes, and stopped off at the store. More costumes! Loaded with two canvas bags of food–including the candy–I came home, put the groceries away.

Next, I put up the plastic skeleton that I found buried in the basement and the row of jack o’ lantern lights. I looked at the leaves clotting the lowest step, listened to the wind, and said Later.

Now it was time for lunch, and I heated up some leftover chicken, added garlic, spinach and blue cheese, and sat down to eat. Gilbert the cat jumped on the counter. I yelled. He did nothing. I got up to get him down. He tensed, ready to jump onto my shoulder, and in jumping managed to knock over a bottle of beer that my daughter’s BFF’s brother had made. As the cat reached my body, the bottle hit the floor and shattered into big scraps and tiny shards.

I locked the cat in the basement so that he wouldn’t cut himself on the glass, picked up the largest pieces, grabbed wads of paper towels to keep the beer from reaching the family room carpet, noticed that the beer smelled pretty good, some floral notes, and got most of it cleaned up. I finished my lunch while the rest of the beer was drying, vacuumed the floor to get any minute glass splinters up. By now, the kitchen smelled like a frat house on Sunday morning. I mopped the floor.

Time to write. I let the cat out of the basement and started on my next project. I needed to look up information on the Kindle, which was out of charge. While I was sitting on the floor next to the plug and researching, I heard the sounds that herald cat vomit. I tried to get the cat off the carpet, but my timing was terrible, and the result was a long trail of barf. Poor kitty! Back for more paper towels and cleaning.

Time to write–really, and then I heard the scritch of a neighbor’s rake and thought, yes. I grabbed my own rake from the shed and gathered up one big, heavy bag of leaves.

Back inside, rereading for my homework assignment, typing in the free write for the poem I’d started. Then it was time to feed the cat, and while washing off the lid before throwing it away, I managed to slice my thumb. I ran upstairs for a Band-Aid, ran back down, fed the cat, read a little more, and then remembered that I need to put flank steak into marinade. That’s when I realized my bandage had soaked through. I ran back upstairs, grabbed several Band-Aids (note that we used to keep a box in the kitchen), finished chopping the garlic and stripping the herbs from their stems, measured the rest of the ingredients into the plastic bags, wrestled the meat in, and now it was time to start the ratatouille for dinner, keeping one ear on the door for trick-or-treaters.

As writing days go, it was packed with a lot of not-writing, but I did get two projects to their next stage of completion and made progress on one more.

How do your writing days go?

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