Wednesday, February 27, 2013

2013 Kundiman Prize

The Kundiman Prize deadline has been extended to March 15. Submit today!

The Kundiman Poetry Prize is dedicated to publishing exceptional work by Asian American poets.

Deadline: March 15, 2013
Winner receives $1,000, book publication by Alice James, and a New York City feature reading.

Alice James Books is a cooperative poetry press with a mission 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 full guidelines and to apply:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Confession Tuesday

It's the last Tuesday of February ... Where did the month go? Time for your confessions, peeps. You know the drill.

Because of this video from Kid President and President Obama, I signed up for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. I should find out on Friday if we will attend. The selection is done by lottery and, well, I'm feeling lucky.

Here's hoping the Department of Recreation selects a single mom and two great kids from Massachusetts to romp around on the White House lawn on April 1. (hint hint).

How cool would that be? Way cool, WH! Way cool.


Thanks to Lisette Espinoza for inviting me to speak yesterday at Northern Essex Community College for Black History Month. We had a good turnout. I gave my presentation, and then the audience read a variety of poems, from Countee Cullen to Gwendolyn Brooks. It was a lovely event.


AWP, Mass Poetry Fest planning, and incoming fiction papers are hitting me all at once--in a perfect storm kind of way. Fortunately, I see a light at the end of the tunnel. That light starts March 6.


Please let the light be daylight and not a train.


Rattle accepted my poem "Sunday" for their Single Parent tribute issue. Woo hoo! I *heart* Rattle so I'm thrilled they took one of my newer poems--a little lift in a month where I have put very little energy into my own poetry. *big sigh*


It is impossible for me to carve out any time to write now. I accept that--too much work for me to even pretend to write or revise poetry. So I'm left with this question: If writing is so central to who I am, why can't I make the time to write? And I've tried everything: changing my routine, getting up early, staying late, writing in between other activities like Ella's tae kwondo classes.

All I can do is hang on fingernails until I can focus on myself. With any luck, that will be next week.


I have an article due ... overdue. Drat.


As you might have guessed, I'm writing this post on the fly. Just one of those days. (You know you're in trouble when every day is one of those days.) *Sigh*

Happy Tuesday, folks.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"And the Oscar Goes To ..."

It is a rainy morning north of Boston. I thought today I would be out with the snowblower clearing the walkways, but so far we have dodged the worst of this latest storm. It’s also the last day of the kids’ winter vacation and I have declared it pajama day in the household. We will lounge around (well, I will grade student papers)—that is, until …


The Academy Awards have always been my Super Bowl. I used to go all out by making a big meal, getting all dressed up, and really celebrating the night. But I’ve been so busy with teaching and festival planning that I haven’t been able see the nominated films to make my Oscar picks. In previous years, I have created a grid for my friends so we could vote on all Oscar categories. I’ve just been too busy to get it together (and none of my friends have stepped up to take it over—you know who you are!).

But tonight, I will make a few appetizers, open a bottle of bubbly, put the kids to bed early, and watch Hollywood’s biggest, most glamorous night.

Here are my picks:

Best Picture: Argo (Ben Affleck was robbed of the director’s nom)
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis (but I really want Bradley Cooper or Hugh Jackman to win)
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain (wouldn’t be something if Quvenzhané Wallis stole the show?)
Best Supporting Actor: Robert DeNiro (or Tommy Lee Jones)
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway (go Sally Field!)

For the record, I hate having 10 best picture nominees. It’s silly.

So I’m counting down the hours, with lots of grading, writing, and kid-time to happen before the first envelope is opened. Of course, I will watch the Oscar countdown shows with the beautiful gowns, the tuxedos, the reporters making small talk with the actors. I love it all.

(Dear Seth MacFarlane. Good luck, and don't suck.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday! Share a little of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

I am recovering from my birthday celebration that I extended through the weekend. Woo hoo!

The photo is from a party thrown for me by Danielle Jones-Pruett and Colleen Michaels. It was FABU! The last party thrown for me happened when I was 30. Since then, I've thrown more kids parties than I care to remember, so it was nice being the guest of honor for a change. I like being special every once in a while.

Special thanks to all who came, and, of course, to Danielle and Colleen!


Earlier in the day, my friends Suzie and Tom took me out for an extravagant day of eating, shopping, and looking for Oprah, who was (reportedly) staying at the Four Seasons. No sign of Oprah. *sigh* Afternoon tea, anyone?


I am 44. If I add those two numbers together, 4+4 = 8, my favorite number and the symbol for infinity turned on its side (Thanks, Schoolhouse Rock!). Feeling lucky and blessed these days.


I have an amazing amount of stuff going on right now. None of which I can talk about yet, all of which is exciting.


Unfortunately I've pushed off a lot of writing lately, including this blog. Why is it that I push off writing--maybe the most central part of who I am? Writing poetry is at the core of my being, yet I am constantly denying that part of myself to take care of everything and everyone else.

I understand that life is like a game of Whack-a-Mole. Most days I'm standing over a plastic mole with a big-ass mallet ready to beat down whatever has sprung out of the ground. Something else pops up and derails my day, I am bringing the hammer down. Very reactionary. And even when I procrastinate, put off, and delegate work, I am still trying to kill the moles ... something like that.


Part of me likes the mallet, I must admit. It's very empowering.


Not sure what any of this means, other than tomorrow is a new day. And I can change its trajectory just by stepping into my day rather than running from it.

Happy Tuesday, peeps!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

44, baby!

Happy Valentines Day, and happy birthday to me! Feeling very grateful and loved today.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday! Share a little of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

I have been thinking about writing this blog post since 4 a.m. but wasn't ready to write it until I walked through the door and saw the very large birthday posters my kids made for me.

My son wrote Gwendolyn Brook's "We Real Cool" on his poster. Alex and Ella have the poem memorized. If you ever run into them, ask them to recite it for you.

For some reason, Alex put a sticker of a nail next to the poem. Not sure why ... but OK.


I will be 44 on Thursday, in case you're wondering.


The beautiful and talented Colleen Michaels was interviewed by the Boston Globe today, Yahoo! The article spotlights the latest latest Improbable Places Poetry Tour, which was AWESOME. (I'm quoted in the piece. Check it out!)


Classes are in full swing, Massachusetts Poetry Festival planning is picking up speed, and AWP is just around the corner. Unlike last year, however, I feel like I have things under control. Now if I can just find time to start my latest poetry project. I've written and revised one poem this week but it's not enough. I have to make time to do more.

Of course, we did just make it through a blizzard, so I'm giving myself a break on the writing.


Last week, I had lunch with the beautiful and talented Erin Dionne. We were both lamenting over our busy lives and the so-called work-life balance (again). In the conversation, I was reminded how much we all focus on "What's next?" instead of "What's Now?" So instead of making a To-Do List, Erin made a Did-Do List, made up of all the people and things she's met and accomplished since she began writing. This type of list instantly put things in perspective.

So tonight, after the kids are in bed and my work is done, I will be making a Did-Do List. Whenever I need an "atta girl," or just a reminder that I am making progress on my goals, I can look back on this list with pride. It's a list FMBM (for me, by me).

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Finding Nemo

Well, Nemo found us.

Between shoveling and snow blowing over two days, I'm pooped. Neighbors pitched in to help one another, but I think most of us put in a solid four hours yesterday. There's just so much snow and nowhere to put it.


I wish I could look at all this white stuff and see the earth covered in a magical white blanket. What I see are an infinite number of icy particles conspiring against me. And this is how I know I am a full-fledged adult: when snow inspires dread instead of joy.


We've had a pretty low-key weekend, getting out today for a bit just as cabin fever began to set in. I read a few poetry collections, wrote a bit, ate too much, slept a lot, revised one poem. The kids watched too much tv and played too many video games. Who am I kidding? We all did. Oh well.


Tomorrow, area schools are closed again. Is this what's known as overwintering?

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Improbable Places Poetry Tour: Color, Baby!

Thursday night, the Improbable poets were not thinking about the snowstorm. We were not standing in line at the grocery store or gassing up our cars or hunting down supplies for the impending blizzard. We were thinking about color.

Ahead of the storm, we were at Waters & Brown paint store listening to poetry at the Improbable Places Poetry Tour. Colleen Michaels, a.k.a. Czarina of Poetry Fun, once again brought us together for a fantastic evening of poetry.

Va Va Va VOOM!

She even put our bios on color swatches.

The crowd for the Improbable readings are a mix of businesses, students, poets, and community members coming together for poetry and art. Colleen, with the support of Montserrat College of Art, really have created a comfortable atmosphere where words matter. More than 20 people read their poems--all color and paint related--to an audience of at least 70 people. And we still needed more chairs!

Colleen also played music created by Sherman Williams, spoken word put to music in the late 60s/early 70s as (corporate) expressions of color.

I'm always surprised by the new faces that take the mic for the first time, first-time readers as well as emerging writers. Part of the fun is creating a new poem around a theme and hearding how people interpret that te. The Improbable has become quite the social gathering around on the North Shore, with enough time for people to chat before and after the event. Who cares about snow when there's poetry to feed the soul!

You should make every effort to attend one of these events because they are pure magic, the cure for the traditional--dare I say probable--poetry reading

Don't believe me? See for yourself. Here's video from the last Improbable Places Poetry Tour reading, at Wayne's World of Automotive Services. Check out poems by Michael Ansara and Jill McDonough.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Tom Perrotta

On Tuesday, novelist Tom Perrotta came to Salem State University. His book, The Leftovers, was chosen for our First Year Reading Experience and in September he came to campus to speak at convocation. This visit was a follow up of sorts. Tom spoke to my Craft of Fiction class, and then spoke to students and faculty about the The Leftovers later in the afternoon.

Tom gave a terrific Q & A session. And, for someone so accomplished, he was just as generous and gracious as he could be. I jotted down a few words of wisdom that he shared with my class. Here are a few insights.

  • "Writers get less funny as we get older. We're more aware of loss and the shortness of time." (Tom said this in response to the idea that his newer fiction is less funny than his earlier works.)
  • On starting a new piece of fiction, Tom said, "I don't know what I'm getting into, but I try to reminds myself that's a good thing."
  • On writer's block: "Try to follow your story through even if you think it's a boring story. ... And if you get stuck, think about your childhood--it's the one unique thing you own."
  • On writer's block: "I listen for the judicious silence. I don't force the writing--I let it come." 
  • "Question every word, every gesture. Do you need everything you've written?"

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

The Blizzard of 2013, a.k.a Snowmageddon, is in full effect. Here’s a picture from outside my window around 4:30 p.m.

Since I have time on my hands, I’m catching up on my blog posts.


Spent the morning at the home of the beautiful and talented Danielle Jones-Pruett. Also in attendance was Jennifer Jean and Dawn Paul—and our families. Our kids came with us. So while it was hectic and noisy at times, they played well together while the grown-ups talked poetry. We even workshopped a few. Thanks, Danielle, for a great afternoon.

BONUS: when we came home, the kids took a nap! That never happens. NEVER.


So I’m all set: plenty of food, hot tea, firewood, batteries and flashlights, Prosecco … All electronic devices are charged. Tonight I will settle in and watch the last three episodes of House of Cards on Neflix. As I said on Twitter, Kevin Spacey is terrific. It’s like Keyser Söze went to Capitol Hill.


Yesterday, I was quoted in the Boston Globe’s North Section in an article by Tala Strauss. The article was about slavery in my town of Beverly, Massachusetts. In it, I discuss how the Beverly Historical Society’s research will be the basis for my next project: a series of poems about a enslaved woman named Juno Larcom.

It is one of those projects I have neither the time or energy to pursue—but I’m doing it anyway.


Happy Friday, folks. For my fellow Massachusetts residents, stay safe and stay off the roads.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. You know the drill.

Tom Perrotta is visiting my class today. I hope my students ask good questions. Gosh, I just hope they ask questions.

If you're local, there will also be a reading and conversation with Tom, today at 2 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Room, Ellison Campus Center at Salem State University.

Join us!


I have new poems up at Connotation Press. Thanks to John Hoppenthaler for selecting my work. It’s a very cool online journal.


Have you ever spent too much time revising a poem? I feel like I’ve spent a week working on a poem for the Improbable Places Poetry Tour reading. The theme this week is color, and the poem was harder to write than I expected. Revision was torture. I have to say, the theme-based poems for the Improbable readings usually turn out to be keepers. This one? I'm not so sure. Good enough to read, but probably won’t get sent out to publish. And, that's OK.

I feel like I’m punishing my child before he’s done anything wrong.

Details on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour:

Thursday, February 7
7-9 p.m.
Waters & Brown paint store
13 Elliot Street, Beverly, MA

Be there or be absent.


Thanks for the feedback on my rejections post. Here’s something that will pique your interest: a Wiki that maintains the sincerity of rejections by publishers. The last rejection that you received, was it a standard  tiered, or personal NO? Find out here. Fascinating.


Keeping this one short and sweet because I’m still prepping for class.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Big "R"

Since reading Susan’s post, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of rejection. It can get under your skin like a splinter, one you only notice when someone else touts their acceptance to the journal that just rejected you.

Right now I have submissions out to eight publications (would have been nine but received a rejection yesterday). After this post I will send out to three more publications, two of which I’ll submit online. The online subs seem to respond faster (sometimes), but I like the ritual of printing poems, finding stamps, envelopes—the full Monty.


Was speaking with a friend about her unlucky string of submissions when she told me of another friend who had sent out more than 70 submissions WITHOUT an acceptance. Nothing like someone else’s sad story to make you feel better about your own life and work.


There are no substitutions for tenacity and luck.


I emailed a few poets about their views on rejection. Here are a few excerpts.

>>> Pet Peeves? Those rejections that say something like "we really enjoyed your work but it wasn't right for XYZ magazine." Hmmm ...  so they can't publish what they enjoy? Also, magazines that take forever (one year) and then when you write to inquire on the status they reject you. It's like you prompted them to reject you by asking ... So I've become very superstitious about even asking - I'd rather just forget about that submission than ask.

But despite my pet peeves and frustrations with the process and the regular avalanches of rejections I subject myself to I do think that it is pretty special that we can send our poems out into the world and they will be read and considered for publication by even the most prestigious magazines.

>>> I really hate "we love this piece, but we don't have space at this time." Yes, you do. I've been an editor and I know that when you love a piece you make space. Or you hold until the next journal. If you're an online journal, this comment is even more ridiculous.

I hate journals that take longer to get back to you. Even worse: when a journal accepts and never seems to print the work!

Recently I worked with a magazine that was so freaking professional every step of the way, I can't stop telling my friends about the experience. I've also been very excited by the way good journals my (and others) work and tried to get it out there by submitting to Verse Daily, Pushcart, etc. I guess my point is, yes, big-name journals are ones you should submit to because they're prestigious, but thank Gouda there are smaller journals out there that make you feel good about the whole poetic process. Not just like a piece of poetry meat.

My main strategy is to have out to tons of places because I handle rejection better if I know there's still hope pending. Also, when I get a rejection I try to think "Wow, look at me, I'm a real writer now." 

>>> Speaking of writerly rejection...a fellowship I applied for said "NOPE" to me today (though my work passed muster enough to sign up for their regular services--so I guess that's like being a finalist?). In response, I went mad and readied work for new submissions! I sent my manuscript to two presses and individual poems to three journals.

>>> Sometimes I'll get the flattering rejection: "While we found your work engaging and your form meticulous, and I'm sure some other journal will scoop it up..." At first I get very cranky about it, but then I remember the time I took this risk and asked this guy in my class, Michael Silk, out on a date. I got the same response: "While I think you are awesome at calculus and I'm sure you'll have no problem getting a date for the dance...." Mostly I've forgotten the rejection part and remember how gutsy I was to ask out Mr. Silky Silk. 


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