Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Poem

Burning the Old Year

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

~Naomi Shihab Nye

“Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Poetry Action Plan 2010

Professionally speaking, this has been the best year of my life. As I look back on my Poetry Action Plans of the past, I can see the trajectory of measurable success in my goals as a writer. (Remember, success is relative in the world of poetry.)

First, a little history. In 2008, I created my first Poetry Action Plan (PAP) as a way to incorporate my writing goals into my daily life. Poets take pleasure in the act of doing, so your goals should inspire your creativity and spark your curiosity.

This is your starting point for creating a PAP. I encourage you to modify your goals throughout the year.

  1. Define your goals. What is most important to you as a writer? Is it practicing your craft? Do you want to read your work in public? Is this the year you finally complete your manuscript? Whatever it is, name it, claim it, and put it at the top of your list.
  2. Be realistic about what can you achieve. Having a focus is key. Pick four or five goals and stick to them.
  3. Track your progress. It’s one thing to make goals, and another to keep them. List items you can quantify so you can gain momentum as you reach your next goal (ex. submit to 25 journals, write two poems a month, etc.).
  4. Prepare for setbacks. 2009 was a year full of personal disappointments. But I forgave myself for going through the summer without writing a poem. Be open to opportunities wherever they appear. Small acts, such as jotting down a word or phrase or mailing one submission to a publication, will keep you moving forward through times of uncertainty.

Here’s how I did on 2009’s goals.

Develop a Marketing Plan for Underlife
I did a pretty good job of connecting with all sorts of local poetry communities. I reached a diverse number of poetry lovers in my region and published in several journals and online publications.

Write a Poem a Week
I did not write a weekly poem, but I finished the year with 61 poems. (Don’t think I’ll write the two year-end poems I thought I would.) The 61 poems I wrote in ’09 exceeded the number of poem written in ’08—52. So I can’t complain.

Complete a Second Manuscript
Almost there. I just need to make time to revise and reorder.

Write an article for a top-tier magazine
I was hoping for O, The Oprah Magazine, but I wound up with an article in Poets & Writers online. I can live with that.

So, here’s my 2010 PAP

Write a Poem a Week
I know I can hit this goal. Anything above and beyond is gravy.

Finish Manuscript #2
March 2010, baby!

Attend a Weeklong Workshop
I’ve always wanted to check out the weeklong sessions at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. Now that the kids are older, being away for a week will be a good thing for all of us.

Write Articles
I’ve committed to writing articles for Bread & Circus and RWP. Must make the space to stretch myself as a writer in venues besides this blog.

Support Underlife
Have venue? Will travel. While this goal seems amorphous, it takes a lot of time and energy to get out there in service of this fine art. I need to contact colleges, universities, book stores, and reading series to try to reach as many poetry loves as possible.

Complete Two Video Projects
I’ve wanted to create innovative videos for two poems. Hope to complete both of them by June. Doesn’t take long to do—I’ll complete one now and one over the summer.

Notice I put my writing goals first. No matter what, I want to keep growing as a poet and artist. And now that I’ve made my goals public, it makes me accountable for my poetic actions. (YIKES!)

Good luck in creating your Poetry Action Plan. Feel free to share your goals here, or pop over to RWP to see what others are doing for 2010. What are your creative goals for the New Year? What’s holding you back? How do you push through when uncertainty strikes?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010 Goals

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

~Mary Oliver, from The Summer Day

I have pondered this question most of 2009. It’s my life again. I don’t have to answer to anyone except my two beautiful children. And while I still feel broken in all the beautiful places, I am determined to have the best year ever.

So here are my goals.

Be Happy
Rarely do I make a flimsy goal without actionable items, but this drives everything. Not only do I want to heal, I want to love again. I want to trust again. I want to not feel hurt or divorced—does that make sense?

And I don’t just want to be happy, I want to make others happy: my kids, my loved ones, my friends. This is the year I give more than I get. This year, I will donate my time to volunteer in my community.

Have Fun
Probably the most selfish goal of all. I want Alex and Ella to have happy memories from this time. We need more laughter and spontaneity in our day-to-day existence.

As for me, this is the year I feed my mind and spirit with books, and get in the best shape of my life by learning how to swim. It’s also the year my home gets an extreme makeover (on the cheap).

Support the Hell Out of My Book
[Poetry Action Plan (PAP) in a separate post.] I’m looking forward to the opportunities that come along with having a book published. I n 2010, I want to meet and speak with as many people as possible about poetry.

Finish Manuscript #2
It’s nearly there. Just haven’t been able to devote time to it because of my schedule. But I’m going to finish it by March so I can move onto something else.

Debt Diet
This is about empowerment—it’s time to get my financial house in order. See goals 2 and 3. A few friends and I are conspiring to go the month of February without making any non-essential purchases. There may be a trial run in January. More on that later.

Don’t think I can do much more than this. There will be days when my emotions will surely tie me up in knots. But I know I can handle it. I can get through anything.

It’s time to burn 2009 and raise a glass to all that awaits us in 2010!

Tell me, what are some of your goals or resolutions for the new year?

"What Mommy Wants" by January Gill O'Neil

From the UNDERLIFE book launch party on December 16, 2009.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Confession Tuesday

It’s the last Tuesday of 2009! Are you ready to confess? Give us your best confessions, and don’t forget to wish the folks hanging out in The Confessional a happy new year.

Next to summer, this is my favorite time of the year. Time to shed the mistakes of the past and to move ahead to something new and different. And everyone is on the same page. Everyone declutters, pulls back, gets organized, works out, and reassesses—I love it!


If living well is the best revenge, then 2010 will be the best year yet for Alex, Ella, and me. We deserve it!

I am done with being connected to people who have no clue what it means to live an authentic life. I am done with those who put their own self interests before others. I am done with downdrafts. I am done with all of them. Done. Done. Done!


New Year’s Resolutions and Poetry Action Plan coming soon.


In truth, I start my resolutions early, because they seem more like habits and less like something to do at the beginning of the year. For instance, I’ve started going back to the gym regularly, which has been great release for letting out tension. Also, there is a lot of reorganizing going on in the house. Feels good to throw out or give away the stuff we don’t need.


The kids have been terrific the past few weeks, mainly because I’ve made some adjustments to how I parent. The biggest change: I’m being more patient with them, and now I’m seeing results. I’ve found that if I’m calmer, they are calmer. Dinner time, which I affectionately call the witching hour, has been less of a struggle. And I am listening more. I think my efforts reinforce the fact they can always count out me.


This week, I continue to mail out copies of Underlife for review and as thank yous. I’m always looking for new venues to read my work. I have a few readings lined up for January, which is very exciting. Also, I’m decluttering my office to make it a usable space again. Lastly, I’m determined to finish Eat Pray Love—it’s been hanging over my head for most of the year. I really love the book; I just can’t seem to finish it. Besides, Conquering Venus is calling me.


Thanks to everyone who reads the blog. I really appreciate the love and support through this roller coaster year. There are more readers now than ever before! I read every comment even though I don’t respond to them all. In particular, I’ve noticed an uptick in readership from Hartford, CT. Very cool. Keep reading—you never know what I might say or do next.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Review of Underlife

Underlife Winners

Thanks to Sandy Longhorn, Bernadette Geyer, Kristin Berkey-Abbott, and Jeannine Hall Gailey for participating in the Confession Tuesday book giveaway. E-mail your address to me at and I'll send you a copy of Underlife this week.


I have an interview up at Color Online. Check it out! (Thanks Susan.)


Special thanks to Kelli for her very kind post about Underlife. And she has a terrific explanation about the book's French flaps.


And a very special shout out to one of my favorite people, Terranace Hayes. His fourth poetry collection, Lighthead, will be published in 2010 by Penguin.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2010 Book List

I am terrible at keeping up with my book list—and I love to read! Poetry collections I read as easily as drinking water, but other genres I’m slow to finish. Yes, it’s true I had a lot going on in 2009, but that’s just an excuse for not making time for an activity that I love.

2010 is all about making time for me, and reading is a big part of that. Also, not overcommitting to too many titles is just as important. I’m also on GoodReads, so I’m hoping to finish more things than I start by becoming a part of an organized community of book lovers. Here’s my list for 2010, and I’m always looking for suggestions.

2010 Book List


1. Southern Comfort, Nin Andrews
2. News of the World: Poems, Phil Levine
3. Apologies to an Apple, Maya Ganesan
4. Arc and Hue, Tara Betts (halfway through)
5. Lucifer at the Starlite, Kim Addonizio (second read)
6. Please, Jericho Brown (second read)
7. This Clumsy Living, Bob Hicok
8. The End of the West, Michael Dickman
9. The Collected Works of Langston Hughes (classic)
10. Two and Two, Denise Duhamel

Poetry collections should wind down around AWP Denver in April when I’ll pick up lots of new titles.

11. Conquering Venus, Collin Kelley (starting January 1, CK)
12. Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert (my first Kindle for iPhone book)
13. The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, Erin Dionne (YA)
14. The Country of Loneliness, Dawn Paul (Memoir)
15. Themes for English B, J.D. Scrimgeour (nonfiction)
16. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver (nonfiction)
17. The Gift, Lewis Hyde (nonfiction)
18. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (classic fiction)
19. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (classic fiction)
20. Geek Love, Katherine Dunn (one of my favorite books)
21. Lit, Mary Karr
22. How to Be Inappropriate, Daniel Nester

So, what's on your book list for the New Year?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Day After Christmas

Santa shimmied his way down the chimney to the Poet Mom house and spread some of his patented holiday cheer. Good time had by all. I was a cooking fool yesterday, making a quiche, ham, and scalloped potatoes, while my mom made her signature green beans and an old family favorite--banana pudding. All in all, too much heavy cream!

Alex and Ella had us going from sunup to sundown. For some reason, Santa decided to bring a 890-piece Star Wars set to Alex (we're still working on it), while Ella hasn't stopped playing with her Barbie Dog Park set. While sitting around the fire with my parents and kids, Alex looked over and said, "This is the best Christmas EVER!" Couldn't have asked for a better gift.

Today, we're going back to the stores to scoop up clearance items--a tradition with my mom and me. But we're also getting a few home repairs and nagging chores taken care of this weekend. Most important, I will tackle the dreaded office!

More later.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Southern Comfort

Yesterday, I received a copy of Nin Andrew’s new book Southern Comfort (CavanKerry 2009). She also sent her chapbook, Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum? (Subito Press) Thanks Nin. Can’t wait to read both. Underlife is in the mail!


Giving a Wednesday shout-out to the Saturday morning group the Bagel Bards. This group of poets and writers has been meeting for many years on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m.–noon to talk about all things poetry. Co-hosted by Doug Holder and Harris Gardner, they are always looking for members. Visit them in Somerville at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square. The cost to attend? A cup of coffee and ability to schmooze!


My kids have not been overly impressed with Underlife. But I started reading poems about them and now they think it’s cool. In particular, Ella, my four-year old, likes to quote back lines from the poem “Tangerines.”

“Seems like yesterday you were in my dreams,
Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines.”

Also, my mom told me that she was “tickled” by my poem “Afro Puffs.” How cool is that?


Just got great news about a good friend finding a publisher for his manuscript! Congrats KC!


Must get to Starbucks today … Getting weaker … need grande hot chocolate … and me time …

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Confession Tuesday

It’s the holiday edition of Confession Tuesday! Have you been naughty or nice? (Given a choice, I choose naughty.) Feel free to share a bit of yourself with us, and don’t forget to say hello to those on the naughty list in The Confessional.

Yesterday, I was in court for my divorce proceeding. It becomes final in April, but that’s a formality. My relationship of 13 years (eight of them married) is over. It was a difficult day, but I got through it with my good friend, Colleen. She provided shopping, girl talk, a very strong shoulder. The bottle of wine didn’t hurt either. (Thanks, my dear! XOXO)

I’m just trying to stay positive for the kids. Seriously, could my life be any more of a contrast right now?


Best piece of advice I got yesterday: “Try not to punch him in the face.”

Best words of wisdom: “Your life if yours again. No one can take credit for your successes (and failures).”


Never really talked about the Underlife book launch party. It was phenomenal! With all that’s going on, I needed a reason to celebrate. It was the 40th birthday party never had. Friends and family, coworkers, and fellow writers came out to support me. I must have done something right to earn such good will. Special thanks to Erin, the emcee for the evening, and host extraordinaire Colleen. Couldn’t have pulled it off without them. Check out the photos and video from the par-tay!


Looking forward to posting year-end wrap ups for the Poet Mom blog, posting books to read list, and my goals for the new year.

Bring on 2010!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Year in Status

Yes, I do love FB. I'm not one to download all the silly apps that come through, but this is fun. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Let It Snow

My parents' flight from Virginia has been cancelled due to the storm system along the East Coast. Lots of blowing snow north of Boston but it's winding down. They've got a crazy route to travel, which brings them in tomorrow night. Yea!


Not looking forward to shoveling the white stuff.


My parents' Christmas visit is always great fun, but it means I have help to me with the kids. I've been spinning a bit trying to keep up with them, and the holidays, and the poetry. But with my mom and dad around, I should be able to eke out time to get organized, rediscover my desk, write and revise poems, and dive into the books patiently waiting for me on my nightstand.


Last night, I went to a holiday party with my (writer) friends. Lot of eggnog and Christmas carols. It was a fun sing-a-long kind-of night. Feeling that holiday spirit, we made plans to go caroling this afternoon. And this is why I love my creative community. *smile* Makes me feel less like a Grinch these days.


Check out Rethabile Masilo's writing prompt, "Repeat After Me," at Read Write Poem.

Also, check out the Poetry Society of America's list of New American Poets. Kudos to this group of talented writers.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Underlife Par-Tay Photos


This morning’s breakfast: éclairs, holiday cookies, and chicken wings. My late lunch and dinner will probably consist of the same items.


I hear there’s a major storm about to hit the East Coast. Ugh. My parents are flying in on Sunday—with any luck they’ll miss the brunt of the bad weather so we can start our weeklong Christmas celebration. Helps that this is my last at my job until 2010! Man, do I like the sound of that.


Will post video from book launch party tomorrow.


This weekend, in between the last-minute Christmas shopping, I will be mailing review copies, choosing giveaway winners, and visiting everyone I can in the blogosphere. Haven’t said hello for a while—I’m due for a visit.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Big Reveal

Here's my big confession (and it's not even Tuesday): I am one of 12 poets featured in Poets & Writers' Jan/Feb Inspiration issue!! Look for the article titled "First Things First: Our Fifth Annual Debut Poets Roundup." My thanks to Kevin Larimer for including me in this issue--it is quite an honor.

Here's the list:

William Archila
Kate Durbin
Robin Ekiss
Santee Frazier
Ish Klein
Justin Marks
Kristin Naca
January Gill O'Neil
Kiki Petrosino
Ed Skoog
Lytton Smith
Orlando White

Cover design by Chip Kidd.


Had the launch party last night. Pictures, commentary, and video to come this weekend. It surpassed my wildest dreams.

This morning, I ate crab cakes, chicken wings, and mac & cheese for breakfast. Yum!

I know some of you have not received Underlife book orders from Amazon, or are finding lengthy delays when ordering through book stores. Apparently, there is lag time between the distribution company (UPNE) and book sellers (Amazon, B&N, local bookstores). You can order directly through UPNE, but I'm guessing pre-orders will be filled in the next two to three weeks.

How to Make a Crab Cake

(Crab cakes for last night's launch par-tay!)

How to Make a Crab Cake

Start with your own body,
the small bones of the hands
moving toward the inlets of the fingers.

Wanting it too much invites haste.
You must love what is raw
and hungered for.

Think of the crab cake as the ending,
as you till away at the meat, digging for
errant shells and jagged edges.

Always, it’s a matter of guesswork
but you hold it together
by the simplest of ingredients,

for this is how the body learns to be generous,
to forgive the flaws inherited
and enjoy what lies ahead.

Yet you never quite know
when it happens,
the moment when the lumps

transcend egg and breadcrumbs,
the quiver of oil in a hot pan,
to become unworldly:

the manifold of pleasure
with the sweet ache of crab
still bright on your tongue.

By January Gill O'Neil from Underlife (CavanKerry Press 2009)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks.

I'm giving away three signed copies of Underlife, my first poetry collection. All you have to do is post a confession on my blog (make it a good one!) and you'll be entered automatically. Names will be picked at random. All entries must be posted by Thursday, December 17, 11:59 EST. International entries welcomed. Winner will be revealed over the weekend.

I confess—I have a non-confession to make. I've waited months to reveal some very cool news, but I'm putting it off another day or two. Here's a hint: Inspiration. Now, discuss among yourselves.


On Wednesday, I'm having a book launch party to celebrate Underlife! Not only is this a book launch, but I consider it the 40th birthday party I never had. It's also the holiday party I've always wanted to throw but never wanted to host at my house!

So I am in the midst last-minute party planning. Fortunately, it seems like I'm in good shape. Here's the party menu: crab cakes, fried chicken, pulled pork, mac and cheese, cornbread, cheese and fruit tray, gratuitous veggie platter, cookies, and sparkling wine. The only thing missing—sweet tea! Tuesday night, I will be making the crab cakes, pulled pork, and cornbread from scratch with friends. Probably more eating going on than anything else.

Full recap with video from the reading to come.


Did I mention I look FABULOUS is my new dress?


Over the next two weeks, I'll start revising PAD poems and revisiting my second manuscript. It's also time to look at resolutions and goals for the New Year. I love the idea of letting go of old plans and making new ones.


On the poetry front, a few items of note:


Can you believe Christmas is next week? Yikes!


Sunday, December 13, 2009


It can be boring hearing about someone else’s happiness, but I hope you’ll indulge me because I am beyond happy about Underlife.

In reality, the book changes nothing. It won’t make me rich, famous, or younger. My kids love me no more or no less. It didn’t hold my marriage together or keep my life from very nearly falling apart this year. I am a poet with or without a book. But Underlife represents the years of hard work, the late nights, the rejections and the acceptances. It represents revision after revision after revision (even now, there are poems I’d like to tweak). It heralds the end of one period in my life and reveals the beginning of another. And I’m OK with that, because it’s always been about the writing. It has always been about the journey, not the destination. I tend to think that everything I have ever done has led me to this point. And while my life is not perfect, I am happy—that’s all I can ask for.

On the Acknowledgements page in Underlife, the last dedication is a thank you to “the community of poets and writers in the blogosphere.” You, dear reader, have been my biggest support during the last few years. Without you—your posts, comments, encouragements, and critiques—this book would not be here. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Here!!!

Too many emotions right now. Suffice it to say that I am the proud author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press 2009)!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing!

I should have my first copies of Underlife on Friday! Almost there. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.


It has been a full 10 days since I last worked on a poem or read my manuscript, and I couldn't be happier. I'm catching up on my reading, making lots of poetry plans, and, oh yeah, getting into the holiday spirit.


Meant to post this last week.

This grainy photo is of a turkey standing on the railing of our back porch. There were two, and this one managed to jump on the roof! By the time I got outside, (he/she?) it was gone. Didn't know turkeys could move so fast, but I guess you have to be quick to avoid being the main course on Thanksgiving day.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Santa called. He's checking his naughty list! Share a little of yourself with us and we'll do the same. Don't forget to say hello to those hanging out in The Confessional.

I've started this Confession at 4:50 a.m. because I can't sleep—the first copies of Underlifewill arrive Wednesday!!! Just trying to wrap my head around the concept of being an author. I am over-the-moon excited about this collection of poems. Anything that happens next is gravy because this has been the dream for a very long. I'm just thankful that CavanKerry decided to take a chance on me.


I have a hard time sleeping before big events, As a child, I'd wake up hours early the week before Christmas. Now, I get into a sleepless pattern before big trips and big poetry readings.


A while back, I talked about a really great thing happening, but couldn't go into details about it. Well, I still can't—but I'll reveal my news this week! I will say that it is a wonderful complement to the release of the book. And, it's very cool.


If I had to describe this time in one word, it's bittersweet. The divorce is close to final. In a lot of ways, this book has saved me. Don't know what kind of mental state I would be in without this kind of focus. The publication of Underlife is the closing of one part of my life and the start of something new. Much like photographs capture certain moments, so do these poems. Nothing can taint them.


I'm happy to see so many writers finding success in 2009. In my last post, I talked about Maya and Colleen publishing their work. New books forthcoming from Kelli, Jim, and Olie. New chapbooks forthcoming from Jennifer and Jessie. Amazing creativity from the dynamic duo Carolee and Jill. What a year for Collin, Jericho, and Tara! And I can't tell you how proud I am of Erin Dionne, BFF and author of YA titles Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies and the forthcoming The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet. And many more writers and authors I'm sure I'm forgetting.

Look around. 2009 has been a terrific year for creativity and now we're reaching the end. In this year of recession, new projects have been started, poems accepted, books signed, books published, and more readers reading. Yippie!

Today, I celebrate you!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Calm Before the Storm

Yesterday, we had our first real snow of the season (see photos from previous post). Not too long after taking the photos, I was shoveling snow! Still, the first snow is lovely. The kids played around until Ella's hands were too cold from eating handfuls of it.


On Saturday, I caught up with the Bagel Bards, a group of Boston-area poets who meet every Saturday at a local Au Bon Pan to discuss all things poetry. I hadn't been in a few months, so it was nice to catch up with them. This time, I brought a friend, Jennifer Jean, a talented poet and teacher who is co-host of Thursday's Theatre of Words and Music, a reading series in Salem, MA.

These poets and writers not only talk poetry, they have started presses and organized reading series. And it's just fun talking about "the who's who and the what's what" with these folks.


Check out a poem by the beautiful and talented poet Colleen Michaels is Literary Mama titled "The Last Bath of the First Snow"


Also, check out Maya Ganesan's interview at Color Online. She's an amazing young talent who has published her first book, Apologies to an Apple.


Busy, busy week ahead. I just know it.


Much of my time spent recently has been in the promotion of Underlife. Whew! It's not enough to write the book, but I'm spending a lot of time building profiles on Amazon and with other booksellers, sending out press releases, and arranging blog tours. I'm enjoying the challenge, but gosh there's always something to do.


Did I mention that Underlife ships today?

The First Snow

Friday, December 04, 2009

All You Need Is Love

Happy Friday Morning!

Sitting at my desk with a hot cup of tea with lemon and, say, eight sugars. I'm listening to this great little Starbucks CD called All You Need Is Love. It's part of the Project (Red) series. Four tracks on the CD—my favorite is by the Dave Matthews Band called "You & Me." (Note: not a product endorsement. Just good music.)


Last night, I went to a screening at Babson of Mary Mazzio's film, Ten9Eight. It's the story of inner city kids—all with amazing, sometimes heartbreaking stories—who compete in a national business plan competition. These are young entrepreneurs who are under 18, creating their own destinies. Watching the film, you just wanted all of them to go far. I have a feeling they will. With a little tenacity and encouragement, these kids are on their way to better lives. At the very least, they're doing what makes them happy. Hope you get a chance to see the film, which, I believe, is in limited release.


The award letter from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund arrived yesterday. Woo hoo! Did I mention that when the original notification letter came, above the sender's address was a little note that said "Good news!" I thought, "Yea! Not another rejection. I don't care what it is because it's good." I appreciate that little note as much as the award itself. I love it when good things arrive in the mail. And it is all good—a little bit of encouragement to finish the year in style.


Here's the latest on Underlife: The book ships to me on December 7, so I'll have copies mid-week. I imagine it will take a week or two to hit Amazon, B&N, and other booksellers. Can't believe I get to finally hold this dream in my hands.


I'm on Goodreads and She Writes, still trying to figure out how to balance those sites with Twitter and FB and blogging and writing articles and second manuscripts and real life. Wherever I am, find me and friend me!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Confession Tuesday

It’s December 1, the first Tuesday of the month. I know you have a lot to confess. Share with us—you’ll be glad you did. Don’t forget to say hi to the folks doing time in The Confessional.

After a very emotional Thanksgiving week, I am happy to move back toward normalcy. The kids and I have our routine, and being away reminded me how much I like our life together. Nothing fancy, but it works for us.


“Nothing Fancy” is the title of the first poem in Underlife, which should be available by the end of next week! Will post an update when I confirm a ship date. Feel like I’ve been pregnant for two years but only dilated about a centimeter.


Just mailed out an application to read at a very large poetry festival (you know which one). Hope I’m not too late in submitting my request. I held off on submitting because I think I got nervous about the whole thing. I tend to procrastinate on the important stuff as a way of handling fear. Oh well, the app is out so keep your fingers crossed.

Now I can turn my attention to completing my Mass Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowship application. I’m hoping the fourth time is the charm.


Isn’t it amazing how writing can open you up to putting your hopes and fears in context? That’s what the PAD Challenge did for me. It allowed me to put my fears on paper and ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” For me, the worst is that I write bad poems. More specifically, that I write the same bad poem over and over again. Well, I think I wrote variations on related themes, and that’s OK. Whether they’re good or bad, that remains to be seen.

Giving myself permission to write anything, without boundaries or restrictions, is a gift in itself.


Last night, I had the kids make up stories while I typed the words. Future writers in the making—very fun. Alex made up a story about his Bakugan characters, while Ella’s story was titled “Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head.” I designed the covers while the kids drew the artwork.

I think Ella thinks of me as Mrs. Potato Head.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Poéfrika Interview with January O'Neil

Check out my interview at Poéfrika: A green Weblog of creative, African-inspired writing.

Rethabile is a wonderful poet, as well as the editor of Canopic Jar. Spending time at Poéfrika reminds me that poetry is truly universal.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

You Can Go Home Again

I'm back in Boston, baby! Spending time at Starbucks—my home away from home.


The PAD Challenge is mercifully coming to a close. I now have 21 drafts, including the Misery Island long poem, which I have not posted (and probably won't). Wish I could have written 30, but I'm OK with the amount I produced. In truth, it was crazy for me to attempt a writing challenge now, but maybe a healty dose of crazy was what I needed.

Three poems I liked, in no particular order.

One poem that will never see the light of day again.

So the big question for me involves the revision process. More important, do I incorporate the new stuff into my current manuscript, or start a new one? I need to set a new timetable for this. It's easy if you're trying to incorporate one new poem into a collection, but I have at least 14, including a long poem, that would certainly give the book an arc. Either way, I'll take December to do as much revision as possible, and see what manuscript #2 looks like at the end of 2009.


Here's a question to you, dear reader. What is your strategy for putting together a collection? I lived with the poems in Underlife for a while before theybecame a manuscript. What approach should I take with a second book? Thoughts?

Saturday, November 28, 2009


BFF is not even the right way to refer to my sister. But I have known Special K, as I like to call her, since 1986 or so when we worked at the local mall back in Norfolk, VA. She got married a month before I did. Our kids are months apart in age. We have always been there for each other in sickness and health, and she's been with me through the divorce. (If you've read her blog, then you know that this past year tested the "sickness" part of that phrase. But she and her beautiful family have made it through to the other side and are thriving.)

When her kind offer came through to spend Thanksgiving with her family, along with a free plane ticket, how could I refuse? I mean, I tried refusing. I made up my mind to spend turkey day alone while the kids spend the holiday with their dad.

The picture above is from King Spa and Sauna yesterday. Never in my life have I been to a spa like this! Too surreal to properly describe, but let me just say that if you go, GET THE MASSAGE AND BODY SCRUB. It is a life-changing event. Kristi's advice to me was, "just go with it." And sure enough, I was thoroughly scrubbed in places that rarely see the light of day. Again, too surreal to properly describe, but may make a great poem.

The day before, we did a fundraising walk through downtown Dallas—my first 5K ever! And later, Kristi's husband, Jon, made the most amazing Thanksgiving meal. I would not have been a part of any of this without Kristi's generous offer.

So, while I'm thankful for many, many things this holiday season, I'm beyond-words thankful for my BFF Kristi and her family for making me forget, for a few hours, that my life is changing—and for reminding me how wonderful it can be to say YES!

I loves me some KDB!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Trot

While most of you were at home prepping the turkey for your Thanksgiving feast, I walked my first 5K!

Up at the crack of dawn, I went with Special K to volunteer and then walk the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot. It's an 8-mile race and 5-mile "fun walk." The walk lived up to it's name. Wasn't hard at all (or maybe I'm in better shape than I think). Below are photos from the event.

Here's Kristi organizing some of the volunteers (she's on the planning committee).

Isn't it nice to get to a finish line?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PAD Challenge 20

Airport Poem III: By Way of

I am terra firma by way of earthship,
by way of mist and fog to clear blue easy.

I’m in transit; don’t know what state I’m in,
by way of upgrade, by way of centigrade.

I’m flying over the inner cities of America,
over dirt and trail, over brick and click,
over cardboard, glass, aluminum, and tin.

I am hope by way of heart.
I am conjoined twins named Progress and Excess.

I am the trees that fall in the forest
but everyone denies hearing.

I am a nation in foreclosure.

I am every cigarette butt and bottle cap
left by the side of the road.

I am pawn shops and corner shops
with sidewalks paved in scratched lottery tickets.

I am everyone named “Lucky” and “Chance.”

I am every child who won’t come home tonight.

Every three minutes, someone kills two birds
with one stone. The crime is never reported.

I am Killington, by way of Stone Mountain,
by way of Death Valley.

I am every sex shop and tittie bar
named Golden Banana and XXX.

I am every mill town and boarded up factory,
the assembly line disassembled, the layoffs,
layaways, and laid to rest.
I put the depressed in depression.
I am America reconstructed; I am a force at work.

I dig a ditch, I fill a ditch.

My collar is white, my collar is blue.

I am the missing $ .23 cents out of every $1
that a woman is supposed to earn
but doesn’t.

I am every God damn it and Lord have mercy.

I am America by way of Africa,
Mexico, Ireland, Poland, and India.

Land that I love,
I fly over you,
look down at you,
dream my American dreams about you.

Every second of every day,
I am cardboard
I am glass
I am aluminum
I am tin.

PAD Challenge 19

Airport Poem 2: First-Class Poem

The air is rarified here, and someone is always asking
if you want more. Is your heart full? Can we fill it for you?
Even the ice cubes in my cocktail are nonstop.
Please take this hot towel and wipe away your pain.
Would you like to see the cockpit? We’ve turned it
into a greenhouse. If you’re seated in an exit row,
we’ll let you fly the plane. Have a Denver omelet
over the Midwest, because in Denver
they’re just omelets. Our complements.
All noise, pollution, poverty, sickness, and death
have been cancelled. You can keep your tray table
in the unsafe and downright position at all times.
In case of emergency, the oxygen masks are filled
with nitrous oxide, but not to worry—the rescuers
are trained to save you first.

PAD Challenge 18

Airport Poem I: Transit

The ticket agent announces
that your heart has left the gate.
You are not leaving this place.
Not you. Not today. This is where
the soul makes its own accommodations
with the other sad bags
stacked like luggage
waiting to be retrieved.
Something in you rolls over
to the next gate, the next city,
the next destination,
both restricted and constricted,
neither here nor there
but always in transit.
In the dream of your next life,
you will return as an eagle
and you will soar.

Dallas Bound


  • I made it on the 8:20 a.m. flight out. And not only did I make it, I flew first class! Thanks American Airlines, and to Jon and Kristi!
  • Maybe all I needed to get out of my writing funk was to sit on an airplane, because I've written three poems! Maybe I will finish the PAD Challenge after all.
  • Was going to take a picture of my first-class meal—a Denver omelet with real silverware—but I thought it too gauche, even for me! J
  • Yes, I've flown first class before. But it's been years.
  • Can't figure out if the universe if smiling on me, or feels sorry for me.
  • Here in Dallas with Jon having a cocktail after chopping onions. Nice!


Thanks, Google, for the free Wifi and Bean bag chairs.

Uploaded by

Thanksgiving Meme

Well, I didn't make the standby cutoff for the 6 a.m. flight, but the next round of flights at 8 looks pretty good.

In the meantime, here's a Thanksgiving meme. I don't tag, so consider yourself tagged and let me know where your answers are posted.

1. Which do you like better: hosting Thanksgiving at your home, or going elsewhere?
Going elsewhere! No muss, no fuss!

2. Do you buy a fresh or frozen turkey? Organic? Free-range? Tofurkey?
Frozen for us. Not sure if I could tell the difference between frozen and fresh.

3. Do you make stuffing or dressing? What kind?
Stuffing! And I don't make, I eat it.

4. Sweet potato pie or Pumpkin pie?
I like both, but I think sweet potato pie is underrated. Have you ever tried a white potato pie? It's interesting.

5. Are leftovers a blessing or a curse?
The blessing of a bountiful feast. It's like watching the movies Bring It On and Bring It On Again. You know you don't want to go in the second time, but you do anyway! (Does that make sense? Remember, I'm stuck in an airport!)

6. What side dishes are a must-have in your family?
Sweet potatoes. Also, I like to have green veggies next to all the autumnal colors on the table, like asparagus.

7. What do you wish you had that might make Thanksgiving easier?
I wish my parents lived closer to us. I miss her home cooking.

8. If/when you go to someone else’s house for the holiday, do you usually bring a dish? If so, what is it?
I am the dish! But again, if we're talking strictly food, sweet potatoes.

9. What is your favorite after-Thanksgiving activity.
The post-Thanksgiving meal nap!

10. Share one Thanksgiving tradition.
I enjoy catching up with my neices and nephews. I don't see them very often (and I'm not seeing them this year because I'm traveling), but I love having conversations with them now that they're a little older and wiser.

11. Share one Thanksgiving memory.
We used to go to a local pub in the center of town at 8 a.m. and have a few drinks on Thanksgiving morning! Once the kids came into the picture, that all but stopped. But it's one of my favorite memories.

And then, there's the year the Norwalk virus moved through the household with lightening speed. Yeah, as far as memories go, we still talk about that Thanksgiving in astonishment. Ugh. (Remember that, Jo Jo?)

12. Name five things you’re thankful for.

1. My kids--the two most precious people to me in the world.
2. My parents and extended family
3. My coworkers (and my job!)
4. A little book called Underlife
5. Keeping my self-respect in tact, and living this life without any regrets.

And you! Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Blogging from Logan

  • It’s 5:23 a.m. and I’m waiting to fly standby from Boston to Dallas to see my BFF Kristi and her dear, dear family. This is going to be full of quick hits. Forgive the typos, folks.
  • Was psyched about arriving to Logan Airport without any difficulty.
  • Was even more thankful to Google for the free Wifi!
  • No lie—there was a woman her—a pass anger I think—using a hula hoop! Not sure why. Couldn’t tell if this was airport entertainment or something else. If she does it again, I’m going to get the nerve up to snap a picture.
  • Wonder how many airport poems I can write between here and Dallas.
  • If I can’t get on this flight, I have a good shot at getting on one of two 8 a.m. flights.
  • I’m besides myself not being around for the kids this Thanksgiving. But I think I need a break and maybe they do, too.
  • That being said, I have forgotten how much I love flying. I love airports. I love the in-betweenness of it all.

· I’I'm passenger 7 of 10 waiting on standby, but it looks like the first 5 passengers have boarded. Keep your fingers crossed@

More to come!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday before Thanksgiving! Share a confession with us and we'll do the same. Don't forget the turkeys hanging out in The Confessional -- gobble gobble!

Have you ever read the bottom of a Kleenex box? This is what was on the bottom of mine:

Say goodbye to the stiff upper lip …

Tell calm, cool and collected to take a hike. Whoop it up! Laugh, scream, cry and holler! And when tons of stuff stuffs up your nose, blow it loud and blow it proud! Show your heart and show some tears … of joy and sorrow, in awe and pride. Just let it out!

I was reading this in tears at work Monday morning thinking about being away from the kids on Thanksgiving. The kids will be with their father on Thursday. I was planning on spending it alone. But my very bestest friend, Special K, made an offer I couldn't refuse. So on Wednesday, I'm flying standby to Dallas to spend Thanksgiving with Kristi and her family.

The crying came not from leaving the kids so much as this being the first Thanksgiving not as a family. Not only does the family dynamic change with the divorce, my relationship with my in-laws changes, which is incredibly painful because Tim's family is amazing.

So, for me, this Thanksgiving is about acceptance. It's about letting go of old traditions and starting new ones. I'm giving thanks to the people in my life who support me and love me no matter what. I'm just letting it all out.

Kristi mentioned something about a 5K road race on Thanksgiving morning. That's just craziness. Unless there are mimosas on hand, I won't even consider it!


Thanks for bearing with me through the PAD Challenge. Ugh. Hate that I'm behind because now I'm thinking about catching up instead of planning my next draft. But hey, I'm going to have significant time on the airplane to catch up. Wonder how many airplane poems I can write on a five-hour flight?

Will pick up the Misery long poem while I'm away.


My mini to-do list

1. Catch up on PAD Poems
2. B&C and RWP articles
3. Video project--yeah, I have to deal with this project soon
4. Work on new Web site
5. Work out party details


As of this writing, the ship date of Underlife is December 7. I'll confirm that next week. Keep your fingers crossed that maybe the book will ship early!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

PAD Challenge 17

The Writer’s Life

Traces of peanut butter
on the computer keys signals
my daughter has been here.
I imagine her sliding herself in my chair
like a cat looking for the right spot
as she opens to a blank page,
waiting for new words
to enter her thoughts
and take over her fingers.
The imagination blooms
as she turns letters into child’s play.
I watch from the margins,
envy her great body at work
pounding out the most amazing story,
her opus at age 4, about something
that just happened or yet to happen,
like the arc of her life or her first written word.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

PAD Challenge 16

At Fault

Let every fallen leaf become a wish.
Let them swirl and overtake the yard
in a crosswind of grief as you begin
the process of letting go. Nothing left to do
but renounce the love. Feel a great wind
move though you as it attempts to appease the soul,
which feels at fault, even through no fault of its own.
Let it sit beside you on the front porch,
drape its small arm around you like that of a child’s—
maybe you’ll find some clarity in that, some peace
in the unexplainable. Maybe the best thing
is to just sit there, wait for the blood to drain back
into your body. No rush to go back into the house
and pick up where your life has left off.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday's Theatre of Words and Music

A few photos from Cornerstone Books in Salem.

Last night’s reading was terrific! We had a good turnout—maybe 35-40 folks. Many in the crowd came to hear Dawn Paul, who read from her wonderful new book of fiction, The Country of Loneliness.

Reading with a fiction writer and a local favorite gave me the opportunity to share my poems with a new audience. And we both felt that our work complemented each other's, so I hope we can do more readings together in 2010.

Cohost and poet Jennifer Jean did a nice job of setting the scene for the evening, as well as running the open mike. I just love her MJ T-shirt!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Thanks everyone for the tweets and posts about the Barbara Deming grant. I have to admit, this is a bittersweet time. But it's nice to know that my effors are not in vain.


If you are around tonight, hope you can come to Cornerstone Books for my reading with writers Dawn Paul and Synnika Lofton. They’re both very talented so I look forward to hearing their work.

Who: January Gill O'Neil, Dawn Paul, Synnika Lofton
What: Thursday's Theatre of Words & Music
Where: Cornerstone Books, 45 Lafayette St., Salem, MA
When: November 19 @ 7 p.m.


Sadly, I am four days behind in my PAD Challenge. I took tomorrow off to get caught up on a few things, so I hope to write, write, write—as well as take pictures, get together with friends, and BREATHE.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good News!

I found out today that I was awarded an Individual Artist Grant from Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund!! The grant is for the creation of my second manuscript.

The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Inc. provides grants to individual feminist women in the arts whose work in some way focuses upon women. According to the award letter, there were 90 grant applications in this round, and my proposal was one of nine projects selected. Woo hoo!

Such a strange time for me; I must be doing something right.


The next award round is for fiction:

Deadline: December 31, 2009
Entry Fee: $20
Grants of up to $1,500 are given twice yearly to feminist writers who are citizens of the United States or Canada. The current round of grants will be awarded to fiction writers. Submit three copies of a short story or novel excerpt of up to 25 pages, a project description, a budget, and a resumé with a $20 entry fee during the month of December. Send an SASE for the required entry form and complete guidelines.

Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Individual Artist Grants for Women, P.O. Box 309, Wilton, NH 03086. Susan Pliner, Executive Director.

Confession Tuesday

Forgive me, for I have sinned. It's been a week since my last confession … and boy what a week it's been! Happy Tuesday, folks.

Don't forget to say hello to my fellow sinners doin' time in The Confessional.

Later today, the e-vites for my book launch party will go out. I mean, this is all actually happening (read: this sh*t is real. Sorry, I had to go there.).

Also, I have to figure out how many books to order for the launch and send out the e-vite (Oh dear lord— TODAY!). Then I have to figure out the food, find a dress, get a babysitter… I’m just FREAKING OUT!

Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s all good, Jan. It’s all good.


I’m starting to work out in the mornings at home. Didn’t think I was out of shape until I tweaked a calf muscle doing squats. Ugh.


I don't think I look like Michelle Obama but people tell me I do, so there must be some truth to it.


While the Poetic Asides challenge is rolling along—poem 17 is due today—I have 15 written. And while it’s a little early, I can definitely see an arc in the subject matter. That’s terrific because it usually takes months for me to see how the poems “live” with each other. So the question becomes: Do I take a fresh look at manuscript #2 to add in these poems, or do I view this grouping as a separate entity? Hmmmmm.


Just occurred to me that I have my writers’ group tonight, so I can ask them about it.


The arc in my poetry mirrors the arc of my life, which is a good thing. I'm happy these poems exist.

I heard a quote over the weekend (can't remember who said it), but it really resonated for me:

"Even though there is so much darkness in the world, no one can stopping from creating as much light as we want."


Lenovo has fixed my mini-laptop free of charge! It should be back from the mother ship in a day or so.


Started Christmas shopping over the weekend—and so did most of North America, apparently. It felt good to cross a few toys and things off the list. I’m cutting back this year like everyone else. The kids have so much stuff already that I’m working hard to show them the less commercial side of the holidays.

If you’re a friend of mine, know that you are loved but probably not getting a gift from me. If you do, it will be a craft!

Monday, November 16, 2009

PAD Challenge 15

(Need a title.)

The Finest Worksong

She thinks about the young man
making hot chocolate for her
at the coffee shop as he does
every week when she craves
the impersonal sexiness of flirting.
His jet black hair dangles
into his green eyes
while he crafts her drink,
always ready before
she reaches the register.
He smiles, asks how her day is,
and while she knows
it’s his job to whip cream
into a complete and utter frenzy,
she listens intently to talk of football
or crankshafts or whatever crosses
his beautiful, vapid mind
because the surge of neurons
firing in her brain, down the arms,
through the fingertips to accept
that hot cup of wonderful
is enough to lift the wick
of a woman in need of a spark.

Senator Al Franken draws map of USA

Wow! Look at the big brain on Sen. Al Franken, who drew a map of the United States from memory. (Thanks, Dan, for the link.

Thursday's Theatre of Words & Music

Hope to see you there!


Who: January Gill O'Neil, Dawn Paul, Synnika Lofton
What: Thursday's Theatre of Words & Music
Where: Cornerstone Books, 45 Lafayette St., Salem, MA
When: November 19 @ 7 p.m.

Thursday's Theatre of Words & Music features 3-4 established and emerging writers and artists to read/display/perform their work for the public at Cornerstone Books in Salem, MA, on the fourth Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. An open mic will follow featured writers/artists--artists are chosen on a first-come-first-served basis.

January Gill O’Neil’s poems and articles have appeared or are forthcoming in The MOM Egg, Crab Creek Review, Ouroboros Review, Drunken Boat, Crab Orchard Review, Callaloo, Babel Fruit, Edible Phoenix, Literary Mama, Field, Seattle Review, Stuff Magazine, Can We Have Our Ball Back, Read Write Poem, and Cave Canem anthologies II and IV. A Cave Canem fellow, her first poetry collection, titled Underlife, will be published by CavanKerry Press in November 2009. She is a senior writer/editor at Babson College, runs a popular blog called Poet Mom, and is the new Poetry Editor of the online culture magazine Bread and Circus.

Dawn Paul’s stories of people, place and loss have been published in print and online journals including The Sun Magazine, 14 Hills, Talking River, The Redwood Coast Review, Blithe House Quarterly, and New Zealand’s Junctures. She has essays on women and wilderness in the Seal Press anthologies Steady as She Goes: Women’s Stories of the Sea and Going It Alone: Women’s Adventures in the Wild. She also runs Corvid Press, a small literary press, and has created collaborative works with actors, dancers and visual artists. Her first novel, Still River, is available from Corvid Press. Dawn’s new novel, The Country of Loneliness (Marick Press 2009), combines memoir and fiction to explore the possibility of making amends for the past. Dawn teaches at Montserrat College of Art.

Synnika Lofton is a poet/recording artist who has recorded 11 albums—including his highly praised debut album, The New Breed—and 16 CD Singles. His poems have been published in Experience Reality Magazine, Quay: A Journal of the Arts, and UpStreet: A Literary Magazine. He wrote the poem, "Sacred Drum," for the Goddard College Presidential Inauguration of President Mark Schulman. His poems, "Guerrilla Ignition" and "Love's Outlaw" appeared in the documentary, Super-Size Me, Too. Through his Global Poetry Project, his poetry has been heard in France, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Haiti, Venezuela, and Israel. He currently teaches poetry workshops to at-risk youth, high school students, college students, and adults.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

PAD Challenge 14


In a dark time
there is always chocolate.
Each bite is the perfect bite,
sweeping over the hemispheres
of the brain like a lunar eclipse.
Otherworldly in its sweetness
it awakens some hunger,
some growl in you that can’t be sated—
you feed it and it feeds you.
It lingers on the tiny alcoves
of the tongue, leading you into
some momentary depravity,
into desire and longing and sin.
No one can stop you in this place
infused with darkness,
and what you cannot explain
you accept as indulgence
long after it melts.

Weekend Wrap-Up

This has been a really nice weekend. Not only was I able to be a bit of a social butterfly around the Boston area, it has been an amazingly productive weekend (read: no kids!). The rain has finally given way to 60 degree weather and a bit of sun. Hurray!

I'm wrote this at Starbucks. Unfortunately, Wifi was down so I'm posting after the fact.


I should mention that I had a rotten night of sleep on Friday, which led to me watching the movie The Bodyguard until 3:30 a.m. I mean, how many times has The Bodyguard been on since 1992? Totally my fault for watching the movie, but that made Saturday all the better.

Decided to forgive myself for watching an-awesomely-bad-it's-sooo-good flick and enjoy what was a very wet day. I hung out with my girlfriend Suzie. We ate and shopped all day. I even bought a winter coat—very slimming, indeed!


Later, after more eating, we went to the Somerville News Writers Festival. Last year the event was held in an old V.A. hall, I believe, so the move this year to Arts at the Armory, a community space in Somerville, was a welcomed change.

Hosts Tim Gager and Doug Holder keep everyone on track with time. But it was clear than that all of the authors were happy to be there. Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish came in from another reading. Rick Moody, author of Garden State and (one of my favorite books) The Ice Storm, came in from New York to read. And Margot Livesey read her wonderful work. There were a few no-shows, most notably John Buffalo Mailer, playwright and son of Norman Mailer, who couldn't be there because he was called back to Hollywood, as the story goes, to work on the rewrites for Wall Street II.

Anyhoo … The highlight of the night for me was getting a copy of Steve Almond's new book This Won't Take but a Minute, Honey. He's written several books including Candy Freak and My Life in Heavy Metal, but the new title he has self published. And get this … no ISBN. For those not familiar with ISBNs, that's the unique code given to a book. The number makes it easy to track. In general, bookstore are reluctant to sell titles without ISBNs.

The book itself is a smaller trim size It's about 60 pages of essays and stories. In fact, the essays and stories are separate. So if you're reading stories, you have to flip the book upside down to read the essays. I like that. (Sorry for the lousy photo. Doesn't do the cover justice.)

With I had more time to chat with him because I'm completely fascinated with this approach. I'm always looking at innovative approaches writers use to get their work in front of an audience.

All in all, it was a really great day.


As for today, I have been an organizational queen, making my lists (there are three) and checking them twice. It's rare that I knock off 10 tasks in a day but I'm almost done. Woo hoo! That left plenty of time to hang with the kids. Gave us plenty of time for them to help me make the meatballs for my spaghetti sauce. Yummy!


This weekend I lived deliberately. I was in the moment and it felt great. Now, if I can only apply this sensibility to the rest of my week.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

PAD Challenge 13


Early morning,
the wind and rain clap their hands
in thunderous applause.
Droplets smash all around the house,
and for a moment, it’s as if
I’m being praised for something I did.
I think, “so much applause, I must
have done something brilliant or right.
Keep those joyous explosions coming.”

The rain is continuous, relentless
in its encores and ovations.
Certainly, making a poem
out of water is reason to cheer.
“Congratulations,” says the rain,
“because you are here,
a little damp, but still standing.”

PAD Challenge 12

Toward the End

And then there’s a moment of realization
where he knows he’s made a mistake.
Maybe it happens as he takes a drag
from the day’s first cigarette,
or while he gulps the mid-day coffee—
new habits to shed an old life.
You want to tell him you know
he knows, but don’t. Instead,
you stand there in the astonishing quiet,
in the wake of stale smoke
watching him throw away
a large Styrofoam cup full of butts.

Wet Dog

It's raining horses and cows in downtown Boston! I'm at a Starbucks after just getting my hair done (HA!). I always seem to have hair appointments on rainy days. As a friend of mine told me yesterday, "Maybe I should stop making hair appointments—then we'd have better weather." Yeah, that'll never happen. Everyone looks like a wet dog today.


Taking some Me Time today since the kids are with their father. Right now, I'm working on one of the three poems I need to complete for my PAD Challenge. Why did I start this challenge again?


I'm a little stressed out. No, I'm FREAKING OUT about all that I have to do before the book launch party. The date is December 16. Have to send out e-vites on Monday.

The location is set. Starting to plan the menu. I've been envisioning this event for two years, so I should be more prepared. But the book has been "an idea," there but not really there. It was always "out there." Now, we're weeks from publication and a month from the party. And I know this is just the beginning. In the works are videos and a Web site. Not to mention all the other cool stuff coming down the pike in 2010. Good googly moogly!


"Oh, must we dream our dreams and have them, too?"
~from Questions of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop


Tonight I'm attending the Somerville News Literary Festival. It's a well-attended neighborhood event that attracts a lot of talented writers. If the venue's not too dark, I'll post pictures on the blog.


Lastly, here's an excerpt from an article from one of my favorite sites, Zen Habits.

From the article, "How to Focus on What Truly Matters."

In my life I’ve gone through periods of intense, driven productivity – months where everything fell into place, and my goals almost seemed to accomplish themselves. At the other extreme, there have been times in my life where I was completely overwhelmed, burdened by my different projects and responsibilities – and frustrated because so many of them not only challenged me, but didn’t matter to me. There were days when I asked myself how did I end up here? How did I end up working on all these things that aren’t who I am, and that don’t represent where I am going?
The article has a lot of good advice, and so does the site.


Happy Saturday!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Somerville News Writers Festival

This is a fun event. Hope to see you there!


The Somerville News Writers Festival
Nov 14, 2009
7 p.m.

Also, visit the book fair
11a.m. to 4 p.m.

All at the Arts at the Armory 191
Highland Ave Somerville, Massachusetts.

Some of the readers include:

Rick Moody

Frank Bidart

Sam Cornish

Margot Livesey

Tam Lin Neville

Lise Haines

Steve Almond

and more.....

Tickets: Only a ten spot

The Kundiman Poetry Prize for Asian American writers

Kundiman Inc. is pleased to announce the inauguration of the Kundiman Poetry Prize in partnership with Alice James Books.

The prize is open to emerging and established Asian American poets. The award of $2,000, publication of the winning manuscript, and sponsorship of a reading make this a highly desirable prize.

Submissions are accepted from November 15, 2009 to January 15, 2010. Guidelines for submission are available on the Kundiman Web site.

Alice James Books is a cooperative poetry press with a mission is to seek out and publish the best contemporary poetry by both established and beginning poets, with particular emphasis on involving poets in the publishing process. For more info, visit Alice James Books.

Kundiman was founded in 2002 to provide opportunities for Asian American poets to perfect their skills through education and performance and to promote Asian American literature as a vital part of American letters. Its programs include a summer poetry retreat, held annually since 2004 and a reading series in New York City.

Kundiman’s partnership with Alice James Books for The Kundiman Poetry Prize is made possible through the support of Fordham University.

PAD Challenge 11

How to Love

After stepping into the world again,
there is that question of how to love,
how to bundle yourself against the frosted morning—
the crunch of icy grass underfoot, the scrape
of cold wipers along the windshield
and take what the day brings.
What song to sing down an empty road
as you trudge out on your morning commute?
And is there enough in you to see, really see,
the three wild turkeys crossing the street
with their featherless heads and stilt-like legs
in search of a morning meal? Nothing to do
but hunker down, wait for them to waddle away.
They walk slowly, as if they want to be startled
back into this world. Maybe you do, too,
waiting for all this to give way to love itself,
to look into the eyes of another and feel something,
anything, to see them safely cross despite
your idling car groaning its displeasure
in the early dawn.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good Stuff

What is it about my kids and Old Navy mannequins? Maybe it's the dog.


All caught up on my poem a day challenge ... for now. (read: vicious cycle) Feels pretty good to have 10 poems written.


Looks like Underlife will ship in early December instead of late November. *sigh* You can always pre-order the book from and get a jump on your holiday shopping!


Forgot to mention in my Confessions that I’ve written an article for Read Write Poem called, “How to Sing, or the Fine Art of Reading Poetry in Front of an Audience.” Check it out!


A few days ago, I found online one of the best made-for-TV poetry series I’ve ever seen. It’s called Voices and Visions, produced by PBS and the Annenberg/CPB Project. The one-hour bios document the life and death of the following 13 poets:

Elizabeth Bishop
Hart Crane
Emily Dickinson
T. S. Eliot
Robert Frost
Langston Hughes
Robert Lowell
Marianne Moore
Sylvia Plath
Ezra Pound
Wallace Stevens
Walt Whitman
William Carlos Williams

You can see clips of these bios, but you can also watch the full episodes on demand for free.


My Lenovo mini-laptop is back with Lenovo for repairs. I'll miss you, old friend. Be well. Come home soon.


Thinking of my dad today on Veterans Day. Hi dad!

PAD Challenge 10


Everything has a tell—the last tiger lily still in bloom, the lone green pepper growing in the left-for-dead garden. I catch glimpses of the barely visible, like the sad refusal of a season to end. Yes to the wind. Yes to my child’s hand fastened inside of mine after a long, late walk, and my almost unwillingness to go inside the house on this balmy November night as stars flood the sky with light. In this absence, there is presence. The shift in the breeze reveals its true nature: the tiny gifts we carry out of this world we take with us to the next.

PAD Challenge 9

(This is my take on Kim Addonizio's poem "Heart" from her new book Lucifer at the Starlite.)

*Made a few edits since the original post.*

First Marriage

That abandoned field.
That house in foreclosure.
That strip of highway pockmarked with potholes.
That roadside diner with gum stuck under the table.
That self-service gas station, that rest stop on the way to somewhere else.
That playground. That convenience store full of lottery tickets.
That strip mall, that Christmas shop selling happiness 365 days a year.
That emergency room. That community center.
That donut shop on every corner.
That yellow house in need of a power wash.
Those gutter pipes. That overgrown lawn.
That abandoned place that only exists in memory.
That building scorched by fire, too badly damaged to save.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks! Time to confess. Share a piece of yourself with us and I promise to do the same. Don't forget to say hello serving their time in The Confessional.

Lately, I've been feeling drained. What is it about this time of year that makes me want to hibernate? Just can't seem to check things off my to-do list or get enough sleep. After careful consideration and much market research (not really), I decided to take a drastic step ...

Drum roll, please ... To get caught up on all of my projects, *I have decided to not watch television this week.*

Anyone who knows me knows how much I *love* TV! But I'm mired in projects and commitments and not making much progress. Thought it was time to cut out the idiot box to see if it helps my productivity and improves my sleep habits.


So far, not helpful. I stayed awake way too long last night writing this post.


On Sunday, while walking back from the park, Ella tripped on the sidewalk and fell flat on her face. Ugh. She has the biggest fat lip I've ever seen. More than 24 hours later, the swelling seems to be going down but she looks as if she's been in a ring for a few rounds. Poor baby!


Starting my holiday shopping this week. Fortunately, I don't have to buy presents for anyone who's been naughty this year. You know who you are.


The PAD Challenge is kicking my a$$. I absolutely hate being a poem behind. And I've already used up the extra poem I wrote just in case I got behind so I'm officially in sad, sad shape.

I do like that I'm writing, however. The subjects are linked so I can put the poems together as a chapbook, or part of a larger piece. I'll take a look at everything in December to weed through 30 days of poems.


I've put the Misery Islands long poem on the back burner, but only temporarily. I need a solid block of time to work on it. The weekend looks like my next best shot at completion.


Reading Kim Addonizio's Lucifer at the Starlite and Jericho Brown's Please.


Last five songs played in rotation on iPhone:

1. Obsessed remix, Mariah Carey

2. Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys

3. I'm on a Boat, Incredibad (so wrong yet so funny)

4. Sexual Chocolate, Hot Chip

5. Ol' Skool Company, Prince


Twitter: I get it now. @januaryoneil


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