The kids have been playing for hours—I find myself missing them. Feels a little like a mini-break, which I desperately needed. Working on two poems tonight before month’s end (read: tomorrow).
Time for ice cream sundaes!
The kids have been playing for hours—I find myself missing them. Feels a little like a mini-break, which I desperately needed. Working on two poems tonight before month’s end (read: tomorrow).
Time for ice cream sundaes!
However, a busy week really upsets the delicate balance I have created between work and home. Last night I was working late on a project that I will go back to after this blog post. It is what it is, I guess. The imbalance also magnifies the fact that I’m a single parent. It’s not like I can call ahead to have someone start dinner, or go through the endless amounts of paperwork that the kids bring home from school, or help them with their bedtime routine. Leaves little time for creativity or “me” time. And not time for sleep.
I need to hunker down for the next few weeks, but at least I know this wave of work has an end in sight.
Check out Urban Dictionary’s definition of “It is what it is.”
On Tuesday, I received the nicest note from none other than Phil Levine! I sent him a copy of Underlife and he wrote back, which was unexpected but a welcomed surprise. Sending him a copy was a way of coming full circle for me. It’s nice to hear that my mentor likes my work. He especially loves the book's look and feel, and the title! In his letter he says, “I hope the book gets the attention it deserves.”
Tonight, I get to celebrate the work of young adult novelist and talent extraordinaire Erin Dionne. She’s having a book release party for her second title, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet! Will have pictures (maybe video) from the event.
For those of you who like to interpret dreams, I just dreamt that I asked actor Steve Carell out on a date. We were with mutual friends in New York City. The dream took place at night. Tall NY skyscrapers were in the background. In the dream, he wasn’t married. I asked him out, but I don’t know if he said yes. He got in a car and drove off. I remember being happy because I asked him. Guess the answer didn’t matter that much. After he left, I immediately texted Erin Dionne through my Twitter feed,“Hey, I just asked Steve Carell out on a date.” (I remember the actual text message.)
What does all this mean? Steve C. is not my type—but honestly I don’t know what my type is anymore. Does this mean I’m ready to date again? Am I too connected to technology and pop culture?
I rarely remember my dreams. I used to be able to recount all of my dreams in great detail, even waking myself up to write them down in the dark. That was B.C. (before children). Nowadays, my R.E.M. sleep is more broken than not.
I’m fighting a cold—maybe the dream was Theraflu-induced.
I have an article up at Read Write Poem. Check out “Poetry and the New Normal — How to Make Sure Your Work Finds an Audience”
My travel schedule is filling up! I have reading dates planned in Washington, D.C., New York City, Baltimore, and Atlanta. This is part of my new normal. Long ago, most of my jobs in publishing required some amount of travel. My current position doesn’t allow for it, so it’s nice to have the opportunity to visit other parts of the country and talk about poetry.
Have venue, will travel. Hope to find a venue out on the West Coast in 2010-2011.
I’m saying yes more than I’m saying no these days.
On tap for this week:
1. Write two poems—can’t leave the month of January without writing new poems
2. Write an article for Bread and Circus
3. Start a new book from my book list
4. Read a friend’s manuscript and write a blurb for her forthcoming chapbook
5. Spend some quality time on Goodreads and RWP
There’s a common thread in all of these stories: the old publishing model experiencing a seismic shift before our eyes.
Poets and writers need to be responsive and reactive to the changes this new economy throws at us in a way we've never been called upon to do before. Yes, traditional book publishing is moving to fill online space. Yes, publishers want authors to do the work of promotion for them. But we have this great advantage of having courageous, authentic communications with our audience through blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Goodreads, Facebook, and dozens more new technologies we haven't heard of yet. This is a new competency for writers: deepening the intimacy and immediacy with the reader. The ones who can make real connections will reach audiences beyond the traditional readership—they are the ones guaranteed to have a longer shelf life.
I never stay up for late-night TV anymore, but I stayed awake for Conan O’Brien’s last show on Friday night. I'm touched by how classy he has been through this whole mess. He told his last NBC audience not to feel sorry for him, not to be cynical. It’s been an amazing ride for him. And I love this quote, “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.”
There's truth in those words, how letting go of something you’ve been holding onto allows you to make room for something else, usually something better. That’s what 2009 was about for me, and, with any luck, 2010 is about all those new, amazing things waiting for me.
I am seriously considering taking a workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. I’m a little nervous about being away from the kids for a week so I’m still on the fence about it, but it may be just what I need to nurture my soul. If I go away for a bit, I always seem to come back stronger.
What workshops look interesting to you?
Oh, what the heck.
Well, Tim’s mom sent Mrs. Ryan a copy of Underlife, and I received the nicest note back from her. She’s very proud and has taken the book to school to show off (yes, she still teaches there). In her note, she writes: “See, all those years of diagramming sentences paid off!” Love it.
Again, I’ m in this terrible pattern of waking up at 4:23 a.m. exactly. Wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t staying up late to get things done. Ugh. My goal this weekend: in bed by 10:30 p.m.
I’m submitting my Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowships application today. Can’t believe I’ve dragged it out this long. I’ll feel much better when it’s in the mail. It’s due on Monday. Yikes!
Hoping to write two poems over the weekend. I’d hate to see January go by without penning something.
What are you doing this weekend?
Hmmm ... James Franco as Allen Ginsberg. Howl, the film, premieres at Sundance next week and stars Franco with Jon Hamm, David Strathairn, Treat Williams, Mary Louise Parker, Aaron Tveit, and Jeff Daniels. There are four scenes in this one clip.
The film will focus on Ginsberg's early career, as James Franco will play the young poet as he pens "Howl"--the epic poem that landed him in a famous courtroom battle over obscenity.
Not once in the four readings I participated in last week did I share one of her poems. Not once. A lost opportunity to bring her presence into the room—and for that I am kicking myself. So please indulge me as I speak her name now and share with you the title poem from her manuscript.
After I buried my mother, I would see her often,
standing at the foot of my bed
in a handmade nightgown she trimmed with lace
whenever I was restless with fever or menstrual cramps.
I was not afraid, and if her appearance was a delusion,
it only confirmed my heritage.
Haitians always have relationships with the dead.
Each Sabbath, I lit a candle that burned for seven days.
I created an altar on the top shelf of an old television cart.
It was decorated with her Bible, a copy of The Three Musketeers,
freesia, delphinium or lilies if they were in season.
My offering of her favorite things didn’t conjure
conversations with her spirit as I had hoped.
But there was a dream or two where she was happy,
garnets dangling from her ears,
and one night she shuffled some papers,
which could have been history of my difficult luck
because she said, “We have to do something about this.”
She hasn’t visited me for months.
I worry that my life is an insult to her memory,
that she looks in and turns away
because I didn’t remain a virgin until I married,
because my debts will remain unforgiven.
Lightning tattoos the elms as florists make
corsages to honor living mothers.
I think of going to mass at St. Anne, where she was startled
by the fire of wine when she received her first communion.
But I remember that first Mother’s Day without her,
how it pissed me off to watch a seventy year-old daughter
escort her mom to sip from the chalice.
Yesterday, as the rain fell warm on the azaleas,
I planted creeping phlox on my mother’s grace,
urging the miniature flowers to bloom larger next year
like the velvet petals of bougainvillea that covered our neighbor’s gate.
I crave a yard to plant lemon and mango trees as she did.
Tonight I mold dumplings for pumpkin stew,
add a dash of vinegar for spice as she taught me,
sprinkle my palms with flour before rolling the dough between them.
I will thread my needle and embroider a coconut tree on a place mat,
keep stitching her presence in my life.
Had lunch yesterday with the beautiful and talented Erin Dionne. I thought I was busy! Her new book, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, is out now. Twelve years ago, we were sitting in cubicles at Houghton Mifflin trying to decide what to do with our lives. Now, we’re trying to balance the writing life with family and work and cleaning the house and sleeping.
It's funny how we shake things off and keep moving. Sore throat? Not today. Dirty house? I'll clean tomorrow. No sleep? I'll sleep when I'm dead!
The work-life balance is a big, fat myth.
As I was spouting off about how little time I have, Erin indulged me in a conversation about hiring a personal assistant. It was strictly hypothetical, but she asked, “What would this person do for me?” Well, he or she would help me get my office organized, answer e-mail, schedule readings, mail books for review, and keep up with the things I lose track of regularly.
How many of us have just felt overburdened by life at any given time? What I need is more time in the week to free me up to do other things. I really like doing those things listed above. So I could hire a student to come over a few hours a week to help me get organized, or have a sitter watch the kids a few hours every week at a consistent time so I can do office work.
It was a good conversation to have. Thanks E! For now, I’ll settle for getting up in the dark and organizing my desk, but, oh, a girl can dream!
Let’s not forget the ever-popular This Is Why You’re Fat.
Listening to the song “Rocksteady” by Marc Broussard.
Yesterday, I spent more than three hours total shoveling heavy, wet snow. In fact, I bribed the kids with a pizza to enlist their help me. (Pizza works every time!) They did their best, my little troopers!
Every time I lifted the shovel, I thought my ribs would crack. Usually, my neighbors are good about offering to help dig me out, but not yesterday. Everybody was in their own little world. Can’t blame them at all, really. I know, I know—time to buy a snow blower. I’m hoping I can make it through the winter without making such an expensive purchase.
I confess that was a gripe and not a confession.
Professionally, I’m busier than ever—January has been an amazing month. I’m coming off a week where I had four readings scheduled. Each had its own unique audience; I learned a little something from all of them. It’s rare but nice when the stars align themselves for me, and for that I’m eternally grateful.
Had a brief conversation last night with Collin Kelley! We’re working on scheduling dates for an Atlanta reading. I confess that his Georgia accent made me homesick for the South.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about moving back to Virginia.
My kids recently discovered Beyonce’s song, “Single Ladies,” via the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie trailer running on television. We watched her video and since then, they have been singing and dancing to it all weekend.
Kids have a unique way of interpreting lyrics. My daughter likes to sing, “I’m a single lady, I’m a single lady!” Then my son chimes in,” I’m a single man, I’m a single man!” It’s really too cute for me to correct them.
Happy Tuesday, and thanks for reading this blog! *smile*
A 50-degree day in January
Blueberry bread, and hot tea with lemon and six sugars
Good, no, great health
Starbucks’ hot chocolate
A good night’s sleep
Being a poet
My Subaru Outback with 210,000 miles on it
Finding fresh strawberries and corn on the cob in winter
Puppies that don’t make me itch and sneeze
Being open to whatever comes my way
When friends become your family and family become your friends
That mine is the last face my kids see at night and the first one they see when they wake up
Before 2009, I don’t think I earned more than $100 in writers’ expenses. Now, I expect to earn $200 (Okay, maybe slightly more. You get the point!). The answers from the original post were so helpful that I thought it best to highlight them in hopes of sharing best practices.
Most everyone agrees that keeping track of all writing-related expenses and using an accountant are good rules of thumb. Are there other methods out there that we’re overlooking? What’s the most interesting writer expense that you’ve claimed on your taxes?
Feel free to add to this post. These are the conversations we don’t have with each other—the business of being a writer.
Bernadette Geyer said...
I use Quicken to track everything. I deduct postage, office supplies, membership fees, contest entry fees, and the cost of attending writer's conferences (when I do attend). You could even deduct the cost of traveling to give readings.
Sandy Longhorn said...
I try to keep everything in Quicken, but I also go old school with two file folders: one for writing expenses (all those B. listed) and one for income (honorarium, payment for poems, contest awards, etc.). Between the two methods, I think I catch just about everything. Plus, you need to keep hard receipts of everything you are claiming (I think for 5 years...but I'm not sure on that one).
I keep my finances for poetry separate, but also do this very easily. Here are the key steps, all you need is 2 folders...
a) Keep a folder somewhere we you other documents (bills, poems, etc.) marked Writing Receipts 2010
b) Money Received 2010 - Writing Folder- This is where you put notes or receipts from all the money you have earned (in book sales, honorariums, etc.) over the year
c) Inside that folder have a piece of paper that says "Mileage" with dates/where/what etc. to keep track of all reading/writing events.
d) After 12/31, take both folders are add up your mileage, how much you made, how much you spent. That is what you use on your taxes.
Hope that helps... and oh, I also agree with Bernadette, keep track of everything! I do that as well.
As for finances, I have a separate checking account through which I try to do the vast majority of my writing-related expenses. I've also signed up for mint.com to help me manage things better.
And I keep a small plastic expandable file which I stuff with receipts to help come tax time!
Writer Bug said...
As for taxes, I, like Bernadette, treat creative writing like I do freelance writing and write off many expenses. I write off: all books (as I understand it, they count as research materials), writing conference attendance/travel expenses, postage, computers and software, and printing expenses.
Like Kells, I just have a folder that I throw receipts into throughout the year, and then I tally it up in January and February.
One of my two day jobs is as a tax accountant. OK, not strictly as a tax accountant as I am not officially qualified, however I do most of the work and my boss signs it off. I do think it is a good idea to get an accountant to do your tax if you are not sure. Find one who deals in small businesses, they are way cheaper than the big accounting firms. To get the best from your accountant, keeping your records tidy will save him/her time and you money. A separate bank account for business is a good idea, as otherwise the accountant will need extra time to separate business from non business expenses. Rather than stuffing all the receipts in a big envelope, filing them in date order can be helpful. You can record the details of expenses on a spreadsheet like Excel, or in a paper cash book, or write alongside each item on the bank statement - however you do it, just make sure the item is well described so your accountant can decide whether it qualifies.
There are also things like depreciation on your fixed assets which I am guessing would mainly be your computer. Cost of your internet access, home phone, office space - find out what the rules are in the US, in New Zealand you can claim 50% of your phone rental if you are working from home (plus the total cost of work related toll calls) and for use of a home office, if you have a separate room that you use for writing, you can claim a percent of power, mortgage interest or rent, insurance, etc based on the floor area of your home office space (but working on the dining room table doesn't qualify!)
I don't know what the rules are in the US but you can see why an accountant can be helpful if you are not sure - get an accommodating accountant and they will show you to help you keep the costs down by supplying them with well prepared information.
I don't bring Alex and Ella to many readings but I brought them last night. They had a good time (well, Ella fell asleep around 8 p.m.--a little past her bedtime). Makes it all the more special for me when I can include them. And, I want them to understand a little about what I do when I have to spend time away from them.
The Frost Foundation now has a blog. It showcases the 2009 Frost Award winners and entries, but there's lots of video posted, including a talk by poetry and Cave Canem fellow Jarita Davis.
Why am I up so early? Ella is in this sleep pattern where she wakes up at 4 a.m. so I have a hard time going back to sleep. This morning, I'm catching up with the news. Sad to see what's going on in Haiti. God bless that country as the sun rises. It is probably the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The country will need an incredible amount of support to rebuild. The images are shocking.
I support Team Conan. :)
Recently, I took a genetic test to see if I carry the breast cancer gene. I tested negative for mutations in the genes that cause hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. To be clear, this is more than just the annual mammogram and breast exam. It was a blood test that took all of five minutes in my dr’s office, and three weeks to get the results.
Given that breast cancer runs in my family (my mother became a breast cancer survivor in 2009—woo hoo!), it is a great relief that my risk is substantially low. Yet, I remain vigilant checking for lumps monthly and changes in my appearance.
*If you think you might be at a greater risk because of your family history, speak with your health care provider to determine the most appropriate next steps for you.*
Life is sweet.
My apologies to New England Patriots fans. At the beginning of football season, I put a curse on the Pats. What can I say? I was going through a bad patch. I’m better now. Promise to use my powers (mostly) for good. Go Celts! Go Sox!
At my last poetry event, I changed the order of my poems based on the audience (more children than I expected). I was always too nervous to rearrange what I read on the spot because I’d get flustered. Once, I misplaced the second sheet of a two-page poem. Talk about embarrassing! Ugh. But I’m learning a lot about myself every time I read.
Join me tonight at Café Azteca with the Robert Frost Foundation as we lead off the new Hoot season. Also featured are Gray Court poet Eric Braude and writers from from Cambridge College. Open mike to follow.
Thanks for your comments from my last post about literary wills and finances for writers. The answers are substantial. I hope to use some your comments and turn it into a blog post over the next few days.
On tap this week:
1. Writing two poems
2. Finish MCC grant application
3. Diving into my reading list, which seems to be growing.
Keeping my to-do list short because I have three readings this week.
Is there such a thing as a reader’s retreat? I need to take a week and catch up on my books.
I hope to resolve this in my own life in 2010.
Question 2: Writers, how do you handle your finances? I’m thinking about keeping my poetry-related expenses separate for tracking purposes, but I’m not sure what that will look like for me.
Do you have a separate account for your earnings and expenses? Do you use a tracking software or Excel spreadsheet? What do you consider a write-off? Any recommendations are helpful.
But it wasn’t just the reading that put me in this good mood. It was visiting the Bagel Bards yesterday morning and the great conversation on the ride to and from with a friend. It was mentally preparing myself to read as the lone reader, not part of an ensemble. It was the people who came out, including a friend who drove two hours to hear me read. It was the lunch before, the drinks after, and the after drinks after. It was the new blouse. It was coming home to the quiet house and waking up in a quiet house. It was staying in bed until noon. Feeling very grateful today.
Haven’t felt this good in a while. I feel like my old self again—only better!
Working on a grant application, supposedly.
Doug Holder of The Somerville News included my poem “Nothing Fancy” in his column. (Scroll down past the fold.) Thanks Doug.
Despite the depressing news about printed books, there has never been a better time to be a reader. From CBS Sunday Morning: How E-books Are Changing the Printed Word.
Thanks to all those who came to the Cornerstone Books reading. What a great bookstore! Special thanks to Michael, Bill, and Beth for their help during the past month helping with the book launch and yesterday's event.
Had one of those “Sweet Sassy Molassey” days (name that reference) today. Best piece of advice I got from a friend: Be Brilliant and Bulletproof. That’s almost as good as Keep Calm and Carry On.
Dana Guthrie Martin has a terrific reading challenge for 2010. Read one poetry collection a month—that’s it. Each month has a theme. For January: Read a poetry collection published the year you were born. Nice.
Stacey Lynn Brown and Oliver de la Paz are looking for submissions for A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry. Seeking poems that work within the literary tradition of persona poetry: poems written as dramatic monologues, whose speakers employ masks, or whose character and voice are different from the poet's own.
Alex: “Mom, you’re famous, right?”
Me: “No. What are you talking about?”
Alex: “ You were in the newspaper. That means you’re famous. That means I’m famous because I’m your son.”
Me: “Well, not really.”
Alex: “Our family’s famous.”
Me: “People might know who we are in town, but not beyond our town. And next week, someone else will be in the newspaper. It will be someone else’s turn to be famous.”
Alex: “We’re popular.”
Me: “Alex, the book doesn’t change anything. I still make your lunch, take you to school, read stories to you, and tuck you in at night. We don’t have any more money than we did before. I’ll have a few more opportunities to read in front of people. Maybe I’ll get to take you and Ella on a trip to one of my readings, but that’s it.”
Alex: “OK. I get it. But we’re a little famous, right?”
Me: “Maybe a little.”
I have to admit, this conversation made my day. It also reminded me of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “The Art of Disappearing.”
" ... if you think that once you get one book published, everything is easy and the words float from your fingertips in perfect paragraphs, you are so wrong. The only thing finishing one book does is teach you that you can finish another."
So, so true!
Hasn’t happened in a while, but Ella woke up at 1:30 a.m. and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I’m a bit foggy this morning. I’m trying to be better about climbing into bed at 10 p.m. and reading a few pages of a book until I fall asleep, which I did last night. I'm exhausted today. Didn’t think I would be this tired after my first day back to work.
I’ve decided not to watch television in the evenings this week so I can catch up on my reading. I love TV, which makes this exercise quite difficult. But the books on my nightstand are calling to me.
Despite all of that, I'm in a great mood.
Congrats to Nin Andrews and the excellent review of Southern Comfort by Ken Tucker in Entertainment Weekly. And kudos for EW for reviewing poetry. She's also a CavanKerry author, and I have the privilege of reading with her in March at Brookline Booksmith.
I started reading Southern Comfort last night, and for some reason I started reading back to front. Started with the Acknowledgements section and move my way into about six poems. I don't often read back to front but I'm enjoying how the book unfolds from this perspective. It is a wonderful read--I highly recommend it.
You never really know how someone will read a poetry collection: front to back, back to front, pick poems from the table of contents, select by title, or completely random.
Check out RWP's editorial lineup for 2010. Yep, I'm in there.
On tap this week/weekend:
1. Write two articles
2. Read two books
3. Write one poem
4. Finish artist grant application for Massachusetts Cultural Council
5. Organize/post reading dates
2010 is off to a terrific start. Haven't spent a ton of money in the last few days. I have organized my office (a constant process), thrown out or donated clothes and miscellaneous items, and, in general, I feel a certain lightness entering the new year.
Hope 2010 brings you much happiness and poetry.
Also did 10 push-ups this morning. Woo hoo!
First day back at work. Yea! I’m ready for what’s next. Whatever comes my way, I’m ready.
A friend of mine received a negative book review from a major publication two weeks ago. It was a bit of a crushing blow for her memoir. The book was on an upward trajectory. She has been doing all the right things—interviews, blog tours, lots of visibility in all the places you might expect. But this was a bit of a literary buzz kill. The reviewer said the book didn’t live up to the hype. Ugh. It’s really eye-opening to see a life’s work crushed by a critic.
So my question to you: as a reader, is there value in a negative review?