Saturday, December 31, 2011

My New Year's Eve

You know when you take on a project like cleaning out a closet that was kind of disorganized, but now you have stuff all over the room and it appears that you are actually making things worse rather than better?

Well sometime in November I was searching job posts and feeling discouraged because nothing resonated. Then I went to a local publisher's website and I saw a posting for a poetry contest. A contest for people living in a limited number of states (one of which is mine), for a full-length poetry manuscript (which I have) and it was free to enter. I sent out my manuscript once (maybe twice?) to contests but I had to pay, I hadn't looked at it for a few years and now I was getting excited. I pulled out my poems with a fresh perspective and realized most of them still held meaning. "There is still something here," I thought. I went through them again pulling some poems out, adding a few and realizing it needed some serious work on sequencing.

I don't know how to sequence poems. Poems are written separately, complete in themselves. How do they go together? There are poems written around my mother's death that clearly belong together, but beyond that?

A couple years ago I decided to branch out in my writing and try a fiction class called - Writing Fairy Tales, Folk Tales and Legends. Fiction scares me, but in this case our first assignment would be to rewrite a traditional tale (changing the setting for example) so it seemed more accessible. Anyway one of the main gifts from the class was completely unexpected. When I shared my fairy tale rewrite (that was okay but nothing I thought had any future potential) the other students made comments on it. As is typical there were probably a few encouraging comments. Then there was the guy who either suggested I add a bunch of commas, or remove a bunch of commas, (I can't remember which I just remember thinking), "I am sharing a draft of a story and you want me to address the commas?!" However, there was one woman who took this story I really didn't even like and made insightful comments about it. She made me look at my own writing again with fresh eyes.

The second (and last) story we wrote in class was our original fairy tale. I was really bummed because I liked this story much better and the woman with the insightful comments was not in class that week. Just today (2 1/2 years later) I realized how this was a gift. I sought her out the next week in class, gave her my story with an envelope and asked if she would be willing to read it and mail it back with her comments. She said yes.

I also really enjoy her writing so we briefly did some editorial exchanges through the mail. I haven't been in contact with her for over a year, but she immediately came to mind as someone to help look over my manuscript. Besides she writes more novel length pieces which require sequencing of events, specifically what I most need help with.

Anyway, she has had it for the past month and emailed yesterday to say it was coming back in the mail. I did not have any plans for New Year's Eve so it is the perfect time to sit and work/play with my poetry. However, as I mentioned starting this out, right now it looks more like the closet whose contents are strewn all over the room. I thought it was pretty close to ready, but now I can see what a mess it still all is!

Anyway my editor (as I will call her because she obviously is one) says she knows nothing about poetry but has made more insightful/helpful comments than anyone else who has seen my writing. She actually spelled out what the themes of my manuscript were: "how to enjoy your life in a meaningful way, how to simplify and get back to nature (possible this is an answer to questions #1), how to go through a relationship, how to be/accept yourself, how to continue on after a mother's death." (I didn't even know my manuscript had themes beyond the mother's death one!)

Also it is tricky - there are a couple poems she suggests cutting that I know are each favorites of other friends of mine. If I felt strongly either way about these poems it would be easy, but I don't. So I have her voice saying, "No," and other voices saying, "Yes," and I have to search for my voice in between.

She also suggested I end with a different poem to sum up the whole thing. The thought of writing something new, some big pinnacle, sounded exhausting. One short poem came to mind as a possibility though that I had cut out of the manuscript. I didn't know if it was what she meant, but it was worth a try so I emailed it to her. I just checked my email and she said,

"Yes! I really like that poem and it really plays into your themes. I think that would be a good poem to end with."

Thank God.

Anyway, I am grateful to be working on this project, that it arrived back today, and that I met someone who I hardly know who is willing to help me for free!

And I'm grateful to the Onion once again - from the Dec 29th, 2011 issue -

Friday, December 23, 2011


#1 - I noticed I a stain on the front of my sweater (I had been clearing out the fridge, some of the moldy jelly I tried to pour out I guess.) I put some water over the spot and it came right out.

#2 - I'm going to the co-op later this afternoon to buy groceries. I expect it to be crazy/busy because that particular co-op is always crazy busy and it is Christmas weekend. However, I feel peaceful/calm enough about my weekend that I am ready to be the calm in the storm (or so I think :).

#3 - I printed out the chords for some Indigo Girls songs this week and it has recharged my guitar playing. I just pulled up a few more that I look forward to trying today.

#4 - Noticing the light in the sky change out the window as a cloud passes over the sun.

#5 - Two books I will be picking up this afternoon from the library - one of Jon Krakauer's new ones and Zeitoun. Books are kind of like dating - they might sound or look good but you never really know if they are - until you spend some time with them. Anyway from the description on World Book Night Zeitoun sounds really interesting,

"The true story of one family, caught between America's two biggest policy disasters: the war on terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina. Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun run a house-painting business in New Orleans. In August of 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approaches, Kathy evacuates with their four young children, leaving Zeitoun to watch over the business. In the days following the storm he travels the city by canoe, feeding abandoned animals and helping elderly neighbors. Then, on September 6th, police officers armed with M-16s arrest Zeitoun in his home. Told with eloquence and compassion, Zeitoun is a riveting account of one family's unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Solstice

*One of the first things I did this morning (and the past 21 days) is to pull a slip from the advent "calendar," and when I did I noticed I only had four slips left, one was missing! I quickly counted all the slips again. What should I do? Should I skip today? But I wanted to pull one today. But then I wouldn't have one on the 25th. I really wanted another slip.

Well, I turned on my computer to email my friend who initiated this activity. I wanted to let her know I was short, not to complain, but rather to let her know how much I was obviously enjoying this activity because I really wanted my last slip.

I never wrote that email though because I had one message in my inbox. It was from a woman named Elizabeth Harper. She asked people to send her inspirational messages last week which she would seperate into 21 different messages for the solstice. Then she'd label them 1-21 and we'd "intuit" a number to get the messages meant for us.

So instead of emailing my friend, I opened my message (which became my advent slip for the day). It filled me with positive energy and enthusiasm.
Here are a couple of my favorite

**Dear Past: Thank you for your lessons.
Dear Future: I'm READY.
Dear God (or life or whatever you want to call it): Thank you for another chance.

***"At the center of your being, you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want"

Lao Tzu

****I called someone for work today who was angry and frustrated. It wasn't my fault and his frustration was totally understandable, but I still absorbed his energy and no longer felt Ms. Happy Go Lucky Solstice Woman when I got off the phone. So I clicked on a new Jason Mraz video and listened to him sing. One part of me thought, "I should be working right now," another part of me thought, "No, I am clearing my energy so I don't pass this on." And it did. It took two songs and then I felt better and then I looked up

*****and there were beautiful light snowflakes falling from the sky. The first day of Winter snowflakes. (It's MN, but we don't have any snow). It only lasted a moment, within minutes they were gone, but I looked up, so I saw them.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I love to read.

  • I'm thinking about making the previous link my 2012 book list. It would get me to try some new things, like Ender's Game. Just the cover in itself is enough to make it completely unappealing. However I've already enjoyed five on this list (and tried two more but didn't get into them.) So that would leave two a month for 2012. My goal would not be to read them all, the goal would be to try all the books on the list and hopefully find some unexpected enjoyment.
  • El Mas Hermoso - I was pleasantly surprised by this children's book today. All the animals in the jungle are deciding who will be the next king. The tortoise suggests doing something different and picking the most beautiful. Everyone agrees and goes to make themselves beautiful. The deer thinks he would look great with the lion's mane so he exchanges his antlers for them, and other animals do similar things. But no one wants anything from the camel, the camel knows he is ugly...In the end the camel is chosen as the most beautiful because while everyone else was stressed out trying to look good, a little bird helped the camel see how beautiful his own eyes were and this made him very happy. And the happy animal was the most beautiful! Amen.
  • Well, I've already got three related to books so I will just keep going. I am reading Jesus: What He Really Said and Did by Stephen Mitchell. These are two favorites from today's reading. Jesus said, "How can you say, 'I have kept all the commandments'? Isn't it written in the Torah, You should love your neighbor as yourself? Yet many of your countrymen are dressed in rags and dying of hunger, while your house is filled with abundance, and none of it goes out to them. (81)"
  • A man says to Jesus, "'But if it is possible for you to do anything take pity on us and help us.'
    Jesus said to him, ''If it is possible!' Anything is possible when you believe it is' (66)."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Discover Inner Peace with Shaun the Sheep

1 - On Sunday I was at a library in a different part of town, a multi-lingual part of town. I figured they would have a good Spanish section there so I browsed. This jumped out at me - El mejor lugar del mundo es aqui mismo. Oh this title in itself brings me such joy. I wasn't even sure I would check out the book, I figured the title in itself was enough. However, I did and it is a delicious read that I have been savoring. I often find myself stopping to absorb, so I am only on page 50 (the pages are very short). Anyway, this book has been a gratitude the last three days so to be specific I will say page 49 which was so delightful I had to stop after reading it. (I don't know that I've ever found a book to be delightful before.)

2 - I just looked it up to see if the library had other titles by the authors. One of the subheadings related to this book is "Peace of Mind -- Fiction."

3 - Well that was a really cool subheading. I clicked on it to see what other books are in the category. I am afraid it is the only one :). However there is also a "Peace of Mind -- Humor" category (it also only has one title). I clicked on that and it was
Feng Shaun : discover inner peace with Shaun the sheep. This is an adult non-fiction book (click on my link and see the cover). I requested it.

4 - It is pretty rare for me to get excited about a guy simply based on looks - maybe because he was good looking AND doing yoga or good looking AND at the Celtic service. Voices, on the other hand, are another matter! I had a completely simple and non-exciting phone call with a man for work today and his voice in itself energized me,

5 - not quite as much as coming across Shaun the sheep though.
El mejor lugar del mundo es aqui mismo
The best place in the world is right here.