Thursday, December 31, 2009
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
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.
- 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.
- Be realistic about what can you achieve. Having a focus is key. Pick four or five goals and stick to them.
- 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.).
- 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.
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.
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
“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.
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.
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.
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?
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
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.
Monday, December 28, 2009
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 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
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!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
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.”
Also, my mom told me that she was “tickled” by my poem “Afro Puffs.” How cool is that?
“Seems like yesterday you were in my dreams,
Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines.”
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
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 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.
Also, check out the Poetry Society of America's list of New American Poets. Kudos to this group of talented writers.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
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
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:
January Gill O'Neil
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.
(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
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:
- The Poetry Foundation has revealed their list of Poetry Best Sellers for 2009.
- Here's a sneak peak of Oliver de la Paz's forthcoming book, Requiem for an Orchard.
- Massachusetts residents: The 2010 Artist Fellowships guidelines and application are now available.
- Kundiman teams with Fordham to support Asian American poets.
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
Thursday, December 10, 2009
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
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
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?
Friday, December 04, 2009
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
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.