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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Help A Sister Out?

Oreo's sleeping nook
Ariel's  writing corner ... with Oreo sleeping. 

I have been conflicted - so consider this an invitation into my Think Tank. … Let me take you behind the scenes.

I admit that most of the poems on my poetry blogs are older ones, a developing voice. Many of the motifs are not fully formed nor apparent. I hesitate putting the bulk of the newer polished work out there.  Even though I know they need to be out there in the world.

Blogging is immediate, though uncredited, publishing. There are other more traditional ways to get my poems out there; getting them published in magazines and Journals, anthologies, online journals. And I do have a few out there (Interested? Check out sample of published links on right side of page).  If I honestly want to publish the chapbooks everyone is asking me for … I need a few more credits than I have. Well, much more. 

But I have been held back in that.

One – the most pressing – is it takes money to submit. Envelopes, stamps, paper. It adds up – and adds up to “luxury”.  With my recent thin finances the past years, budgeted money goes towards bills, pinched pennies go towards food. 

Which means entry fees for poetry contests & awards, which really increase recognition, is definitely a luxury I wasn’t able to afford most times. You see, with poetry there’s typically a fee per piece you enter. (Deep sigh!) Now I feel very confident on my poetry, but there are others just as skilled as I. I know the more pieces I enter, the more likely one will deeply resonate with a judge; it’s a matter of leveraging.  I couldn’t afford one entry, let alone two or three or ten. This year I couldn’t even afford the Oregon Poetry Association fall contest … and these are my people, my tribe!

Secondly there’s the two-prong matter of time – both to hunt out the right forums, the right audience and then the soul-grinding  … Will it be accepted or declined?

I am lucky, with the internet now, there are many tools to help find Poetry Forums. My beloved Poet’s Market (published by Writers Digest, edited by Robert Lee Brewer) is now available digitally and is downloaded on all my Kindle-friendly devices. I pay a nominal fee for Doutrope, which keeps me current with submission opportunities out there. In my social networks’ families, my poet & writing friends share submission opportunities we come across. What used to take me days of research, now at times just falls into my lap.

Yes, pre-internet submissions used to be a very frustrating experience – one I fell back into over a year ago for approximately a 10 month period. That’s when I decided internet access was now a needed utility and no longer a toy.

There is an editorial practice that most editors will accept a poem only if they have First Rights, meaning the poem must be unpublished in ANY form (even personal blogs). This means a poet needs to be careful to select the most appropriate venue; who & what is the audience, how many, when will it go to print. (I like e-zines for these, usually accessible right away.) So you’re weighing one forum against another. There are times I have sent a poem off – and then was notified of an anthology call-for-submission which would have been a better fit.  And I think to myself ‘If I had just waited one more day ….” (Luckily, I did get three pieces to find their forever-home in The Widow’s Handbook)
… And I literally have more than a thousand poems … which one to send?

But more importantly, the big hurdle has been that interminable sentence of time an editor takes to let you know if a piece is accepted or not. It is not rare to wait six months for any type of response. And my poem waits during that time, a type of suspended existence. Most editors won’t consider a poem that another may be considering.  And I can’t offer it to another until I receive a “Sorry, not the right fit”. And then it’s off for another 6 month sabbatical. So it is in only one hand at a time. Can you imagine doing that with your child? “No you can’t go out to play right now; you have to wait 6 months in this drawer until this person decides whether you are a friend.”  I find it heart-rending.  
Seldom do you find any forum that accepts simultaneous submissions. (That’s offering it to more than one venue at a time.) Can you imagine selling a product that you can offer to one & only one customer at a time, and giving them a 6-month option on it? For some reason it became the norm for marketing poetry.

Here is why most of my exposure is the Open Mics; I can perform & share my poems without them becoming that limiting “Published Piece”.  Performing a poem does not limit future opportunities.
Marketing – submitting poetry – should be a full-time job. I am a poet, here is my poems; it’s my life. But I do not have that time.

I don’t have that time because “my living”, my day job of working for the State is what pays my bills and buys the food. There’s forty plus-hours I can’t utilize. That’s just survival. Add to that the living of life: being Mom, being Sister, being Friend, or doing my other passions like acting (which is a family activity – at least for MY family). You can’t write without experiences.

There’s the Cons. Here’s the Pros to submitting traditionally.

My expenses have dropped to within my income now and finances are a little more fluid. I can afford stamps and envelopes, and soon those sundry contest fees.

As stated before, I have a greater access to submission ops.

Many poetry forums are now taking submissions online, using Submissable. Or email. There’s been a big surge to it this year!

I have better contacts. Bigger audience. Name recognition.

So I could submit & just hold off not posting a poem in Chasing Tiger or Waiting Room, or in Bits Of Cyn until after it is published.  If it gets accepted for publishing … which could take years.  Unless I die first – in which case it, and its siblings, just stay is a dusty closed box.

Oh my … back there again.

You see my dilemma?

Blogging gets my poems out there immediately – so they can find the readers they are supposed to. It lets my poems whisper to the right ears. It gets ME out there, connecting with those I can help. I’ve been through a lot; my poems are often raw with emotion and experience. Translating those into poetry, writing it down, sifting out the life lessons, sharing them has helped me to survive intact. (When my husband died, The Waiting Room emerged.) My poems helped others by being shared. I really feel being a Poet is my purpose in life, my reason for existence. I’m to be a voice for it.

And really – I don’t often have a choice. A poem will form and clamber around my head until I write down what it is shouting. (Yes, a Poet hears voices!) Except for a rare fallow season, like this year, I typically would write 3 to 10 poems a day, most of them publishable.

Add to that, a number of my poems are addressed to my “Tiger”. They will not reach their intended audience if they are not “there” to be read? (Hence the reason for  ”Chasing Tiger”.)

But blogging a previously unpublished poem will limit IF and HOW it gets published.

Published – fixed in hard copy – it may survive the ages. A blog … is a transitory thing, an unlikely legacy. I love technology, good at technology - and if there’s one thing I know, it is that Technology rages on, leaving last month technology outdated and untranslatable.

So help me out here, My Friends! Should I continue adding my poems, unpublished along with published, to my blogs?

Or trust in “the system” and wait until they are published in another form first?  This one, definitely, will push the timeline waaaaay out there.

Let me know your take on it, please. Comment, private e-mail, tweet me. Help me settle this question.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sick Day ...

Moon Imbri posing
Ariel's celtic bed

Today is Wednesday and I’ve been trying to write something today. Wednesday’s topic is “hang in there!” - a musing on how being halfway there, things are getting better, let’s be tenacious! … But I woke up sick.

Well, honestly, it’s been coming for days and I’ve ignored it. Medicated it, denied it and pushed through. And today it has insisted on pushing through me. Between huddling among the blankets in bed and camping trips in the Little Library, not much was getting done – other than lurking among Facebook & Twitter watching my friends play. Tried to sleep it off – but my dreams today insist on being gross i.e. 5year old humor gross, boogers & slime and creepy crawley wet things. *shudder*. Try writing a one-line story for #1lineWed with those images in your head! No sanctuary there.

I had planned on discussing NLP (NeuraLinguistic Programming) and retraining the mind – a subject that we touched and learned about in a Leadership program I did this year. I had found it fascinating and, as an actor, actually effective to apply to thinking in my own life. It’s retraining your own thoughts and responses to life, intentionally adding a good spin to it like a Pavlov’s dog. It’s similar to how I tie certain feelings & memories to lines in a play, crafting this character I will be wearing on stage. Rather than crafting a theatrical character, it allows me to be more the person I want to be, imagined being.

But my thoughts, and writing, kept being pulled away today by the primal reactive physical sensations of whatever this bug/virus is. Hard to say things are getting better today than yesterday – when I feel worse today. My brain feels like it has been through food processor and poured back into my skull; it’s sloshy in there. My head feels too heavy for my neck. I try to talk and my tongue feels swollen. …

However, things ARE getting better. Though it’s hard to acknowledge that right now.

Yesterday’s bus ride took forever to get home yesterday – an hour and a half – and Salem, which calls itself City of Salem, is actually just a town. A slow car ride between my office and home, opposite ends from each other, would take 25 minutes to drive. But I am a commuter now. I catch the bus across the street from work, it was late in coming and I had watched almost a full episode of Bob’s Burgers to keep myself distracted form a rumbly downstairs. When it finally appeared, the bus driver tried to get my attention as I boarded. Popping my headphones out, I turned back to her and she, a bit embarrassed told me that she would need everyone to exit at the next stop. She and the bus were running “too late” and another bus has been dispatched from the Downtown Transit Center, this bus was to be dead-ended to the terminal. Well, nothing for it; I could stay and wait there but the next stop had a bench and covered area, more comfortable albeit in a remote industrial area.

I took my now-usual seat in the back – good view through the windshield – and she drove on south, cut over to the industrial park and wove over to the next stop, conveniently in front of the bus terminal. I and the other two passenger got out. The other lady passenger, in the neon workout pants, started walking down the road. But I and the guy with the stiff leg brace walked down the gravel shoulder to the three sided stop. I figured the other bus should be here soon so I bee-lined to the posted schedule. Nope – we had a good forty minute wait. A toilet-less forty minutes; time for more Netflix’ Bob Burgers.

I informed my new companion, who looked decidedly uncomfortable (well, in pain) of the expected wait. He took the news rather dejectedly. He asked how late the buses run; we looked it up, only until about 9, and then he looked worried. Said he needed to make it to the hospital for ice and treatment. And that is when I got reminded how, as bad as things get, it may be worse for someone else.

I was silently raging that I was being inconvenienced with the loooong trip home, my time being wasted when I could do something productive. I wanted home and a bathroom, Immodium, Pepto and a good 2-3 hours on the computer.

My companion, however, had his day start with a leg broken the day before. He became homeless that morning, leaving with everything he had in his truck. Which broke down on him that afternoon. And now, here he was just trying to get to the hospital, with enough time to get to the Mission Shelter before it closed its doors tonight.

I couldn’t do much to help; I gave him my evening stash of Coca Cola; didn’t need the liquid anyway. Had no food on me to share but I gave him what change I had for the bus; he tried to give me a fiver in exchange for it, but I said no. I was in a similar situation a month ago, sans homeless, and knew what a little help could accomplish, it was my way of paying it forward. It was rare for me to have change anyway (I’m a plastic carrier, less careless spending that way). We figured out which bus for him to transfer to downtown and which he would need to catch for the Mission. We chatted until the bus came. When we got downtown, we got him situated on his next bus and I sat to wait for my connection to come.

So – yes – today I am sick. But today I am sick at home. With blankets, and my own bed, and my own clothes in my walk-in closet. I have food in my fridge, which for the last few months was usually empty but now isn’t. I have a “Little Library” which I only share with my son and my two cats. My legs, though weak & shaky today, are fine. No TV but I have my computer and Netflix and Hulu and online articles to read. For company I have my Facebook and Twitter friends who show me love and share curiosities. Tomorrow I will be better. I will climb into the bus – and the next bus – to go to my office where I work with people I consider to be my supportive friends.

Today’s not what I planned – but tomorrow may be. So I’m hanging in there.

So what are your thoughts this Wednesday?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

15 Things A Creative Wishes Their Realtor Knew

Ariel's hope
Coulda, shoulda been mine but, sadly not.

It's very frustrating going to someone for help - because you don't have time/resources to do something yourself - and the other person drops the ball. Completely.

In some ways it's because they don't listen to what you want, but to what they think you should want. Or need. 

As soon as I became widowed, people started expecting me to sell my home ... even though the mortgage is completely paid off. They thought I should get something smaller, more practical. 

Here's the thing ... I am not practical. I'm an empath; I make decisions based on emotions, on gut instinct. 

So it's five, almost six years later. Some uncomfortable changes make me think it would be wise to consider a fresh start. I've mulled it over for a month now.

Dear Realtor,

1) I couldn't decide to sell my house UNTIL I saw that house.
2) I have a FT job and then some; I didn't have time to pursue that house during business hours. Selling that house WAS your FT job.
3) You were the realtor for THAT house. You should have gone big or gone home; you knew I looked at it twice.
4) I come with accessories: hats, books, acrylics. I knew how that house would look with my things in it. I knew where everything would belong.
5) I'm looking for a home as an emotional person, not a practical one. Finding the right one is more a matter of instinct for me than one that hits a checklist.
6) If I had a checklist, THAT house would have hit all but two. I recall mentioning that to you.
7) I showed pictures of that house to everyone in my circle. Sometimes more than once.
8) I would look at those pictures to motivate me to declutter and prep my house to sell.
9) It was the first time I ever considered selling my home. It's not the house itself, it's the land I connected with. I was going to live here for the rest of my life. It's paid off.
10) Any time I waffled on selling my home, I would look at THAT house.
11) I was looking for smaller property, not smaller house. I won't sell unless I KNOW I would be happier in another house.
12) As soon as I saw THAT house has sold, motivation to sell my own-it-completely home dropped big-time.
13) Your idea to eliminate my bushes to increase curb appeal is wrong. Bushes and landscaping IS curb appeal. I paid hard-won money and fought battles for those rhodies.
14) I may still take your other suggestions, the good ones - but mainly to increase the liveability & value of my home.
15) I'm shopping for a new realtor. I probably won't sell -but, still, just in case. ...

and all that "prep" you want me to do in the next two months - let's face it - the month of NaNoWriMo/Poem-A-Day/painting starts in two weeks. Priorities!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Look what I found ...

I love writing challenges; they help me "get over myself" and just focus on writing something - anything! I seldom turn down any I come across.
November - with all the sundry writing challenges - usually finds me participating in up to seven challenges daily.  (though last year I cut back to three). I'm usually participating in NaPoWriMo (Nation Poetry Writing Month - 10 years veteran), NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - Year Three), Challenge of the Hart, November Poem-A-Day and others ... It seems the creative community likes hunkering down on the fall day & nights with a wood fire, friends and lots of typing! And if that isn't challenging enough - the past three-four years I'm usually finishing up 2 or 3 paintings for December Art shows.
October for me is the month to prepare. Signing up for the various challenges. Deciding what themes I want to use for each. Getting blank journals ready (involves a trip to Portland's Powell city of Books, FUN!). Deciding on a Storyline and Plotline for a novel. Exploring medium and "Red" ideas for painting. It's an exploratory month.
So ...  I was doing some exploring today and came across OctPoWriMo . First time I have seen an October Poetry Challenge.
Now - I'm just getting back on my feet ... and this is Day 8 already. I think I may bypass this one. But, I'm putting it here in case you want to join in the fun ...
Let me know how it goes. :)

An Introduction

Ariel hosting open mic
Poetry At The Playhouse, April 2014

Life has gotten messy.

Now, as someone used to life habitually throwing an uncomfortable curve or two during the week, and who has been described by a former professor as a person whose superpower is “attracting chaos”, you can just understand that my description of “messy” may be on a higher level than what you usually think - You may think dusty pizza boxes & basement apartments. Nope – I’m talking about unexpected financial landmines, bedrocks of suburban stability morphing into crumbling sandstone, dropping randomly in and out of timelines. Those weekly upsets have lately become at least daily, sometimes hourly experiences these past four years. And I am finding it hard to cope.

I have been “blessed” with a difficult childhood, followed by a challenging adulthood – a childhood that have given me strong tools for coping: tenacity, flexibility, determination, action, and foremost POETRY. It is through poetry that I found my way to myself and to survival. Poetry allowed me to find those hidden lessons, the human connections. Poetry gave me a voice “Ariel” when my own vocal one was denounced as “selfish”. It was my life-preserver bringing me to the far shore.

I know many poets can relate to this. And when I finally got the courage to share my poetry, I found it helped others as well to survive and make it to shore.

I finally knew WHO I was. Ariel . Of water, of air. A sylph. A servant. An elemental. Child of God. Human. Deep down to the core – just “Ariel”. Look up almost any definition or reference of Ariel and you would find aspect of me. And with words – I could breathe, think, reach out.

Still there were some things I did not have words for. My dad was a great, unknown artist; my eldest brother inherited that gift. I did not. And sometime in 2003, I realized I did not need to inherit it, I could learn it, develop it. It was however a “different voice”; signing Ariel in at the corner felt dishonest. I persisted in learning the skills of line & color & composition, gradually easing into my pseudonym of “CC Willow” .

This worked well. Between poetry & art, I weathered many storms.

Fast forward to about four years ago, when chaos took on a new urgency. Crisis were hitting hard, doubling down on their occurrences. I started having bouts of writers’ block. A week a month – intolerable quiet periods. Periods of absent poetry often were interspersed with periods of absent ability to paint. Then episodes of both words & color being silent to me. Two years ago they stretched to fallow periods of months at a time. Now, except for April 2015 and a few faint whispers, this year has been mainly devoid. And I feel … lost .

So back to basics for me. I cannot think properly without my “voice”. With no productive thinking, I cannot act, cannot plan. No wonder I got “lost”. And I got “quiet”; I withdrew and hid. This was never a productive habit for me – I don’t think it is for anyone; depression whispers and you have no one drowning it out, not even your own. I must find my voice again, use it. I must share it again. That means Writing and Painting!

And that leads to this … my steps back into the world.

This will be a journal. Or a workbook. A discussion board or a volcanic rant. I may place edited writing here or just a stream-of- consciousness. I will share the journey – my stumbling blocks and my minor victories. Hopefully a major one or three.

And this is a human experience – getting lost, finding yourself. Getting lost again, found again. Evolving into something more each time. Using new tools, working stuff out. Digging in & climbing out. Perhaps you, too, are feeling your way through each day. Wondering how you got to where you are. Wondering just who you are.

So I leave this with an invitation: If you wish to walk with me, please do. As someone wise said ”We are all walking each other home.”