Showing posts with label Writer's Cannon Ball. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writer's Cannon Ball. Show all posts

Friday, 2 January 2015

Focus: Word for 2015

I really struggled with choosing this word. FOCUS kept coming back to me though, and I would reject it as not being poetic enough, pretty enough, anthem-y enough. I wanted something as powerful as SABOTAGE and something that had a Beastie Boys type song to blast with it.

But that is not what I need this year. This year my artistic heart needs discipline. I need the reminder to get up early and get to work. I need the quiet reminder when facebook lures me into the trans-dimensional time suck. I took on more teaching this semester so I will need to also keep on a schedule for completing student grading and lesson planning, scheduling time for that works for me better than any other strategy I have tried to keep up with the work load.

I need to get more work out to be considered. I need to write, edit, and revise more work to be able to send it out. This goal also needs focus and time set aside. If I sit at the table and taunt the muse, maybe she'll join me sometimes, yeah? But if i keep standing her up for our coffee dates in favour of arguing with strangers online about pig genetics, even if it is amusing as hell when the fanatics get all Harry Potter Slytherin about PURE BLOOD lines, the muse will eventually get fed up and go hang out with more dedicated artists.

And what comes of courting the muse?

 Being published.

Experiencing amazing things and making art from the experiences. Having my camera with me as much as possible so that even a moment of inspiration in a bathroom at a concert can be met and played with.

Being published some more.

Going to Prague. Going to Prague to eat the food, experience the social and religious art, and then make some art of my own. I did that.

Essay, photography, poetry......4% of my submissions being accepted which is a pretty good rate of acceptance according to the tracking application that I use.

So. Focus is what I need. Discipline. Tracking. Time.

My goals this year are to see more, take photos of it, and write. I'm going to have a go at a fiction project too. 1000 words a day is a lot, so my goal will be simply 100 words every day. Just that much.  I can do that. If I fail? I will start the next day to meet the goal and not beat myself up for missing a beat, a word count, or a day. Life happens, yeah? Sometimes we take a breather, but the journey is long and even small steps get us there eventually.

On the docket for the year so far:
Ossabaw Island Writer's Retreat. Again. I have to. It's paid for. Ha.
Take a photography class. I'm on the waiting list at our local community college (I work there so I have to wait for students to fill it and then see if I get in.....).
Write more thank you cards and mail them.
Say I love you more.
Send out 25 poems. Twice.
Take 3000 more pictures of interesting things.
Take my camera off auto and learn how to use it.
Be there.
Have a professional photo shoot of myself done. Or try my hand at some self photography that is more creative and less hand held phone head shots.
Attend a permaculture convergence.
Speak/present at a permaculture convergence on the storytelling and social media aspect of farming.
Learn to draw fairies and monsters.
Dance more.
Walk places.

Learn about:
HDR photography
mass tree planting
medicinal herbs
vintage make up and hair
jewelry making
mushroom growing
green houses
learn Yoga and make it a daily routine

What is your word for 2015? Your goal? Your dream? Have you drawn up your travel plan to get there yet?

Monday, 3 November 2014


November for me is about cleaning: instead of Spring cleaning, I do a fall purging.

An accounting for.

A turnover.

A clean slate.

Three days in and I have sorted and purged 1/2 the outgrown and damaged shoes. Filled two trash cans full of junk mail piled on my desk. Done eight loads of laundry.

I have sat down and organised what work is about to be submitted. Lined up Spring and possibly fall teaching assignments. Paid tuition for a retreat that I am very excited to attend again.

Meal planned. Chore charted. Scrubbed dishes and wiped down shelves.

Three days in and November is already looking fantastic and hopeful. 2015 is going to be an outrageously fantastic year, full of promise and new growth.

With that, I present to first published essay: In the Bareness of Winter, page 136 in the fall issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal. Not available online, to read it you will have to get the print edition. Cool, eh? This essay was really hard for me to write, to share this event on our farm. I also had a fantastic group of friends proofread and cheer me on during the process. If November is for gratitude, let me tell you all, having friends like these? Friends that fill me up instead of tearing me down, friends that cheer me on when I am scared to do the next big thing, friends that stop me from quitting by driving me to the airport, bus station, poetry reading, picking me up from said places too..... friends that love me through the darkness of my insecurity and self doubt? I am extremely grateful. More than mere words can express.

Look! They even printed the accent mark!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Day Three in Prague: In which I demonstrate that I can actually take decent architectural photos.......

Day three was so overwhelming and amazing that I can't even remember what I ate. Seriously. Ok, Actually I think I had eggs for breakfast with an amazing Czech bread for toast and then frozen cheese on a stick later.....but I know there was other food somewhere in the day and I cannot remember it at all. Why? Architecture. All of it. And the history. This first picture is the place where thousands of people gathered for the Velvet revolution, Wenceslas_Square, but it was also the site of a great many historical gatherings and protests. The sense of greatness and historical importance was dense in the air.

Day Two in Prague

Day two. I slept most of it. Yes I did. I could not sleep the night before. I got up at lunch time and washed my hair, then spent about 45 minutes trying to clean the purple out of my friend's bathroom. Freaking poor planning on my part- freshly dyed hair + staying at someone else's place= frantic cleaning. I did remember to bring my own pillow case and towel though (always travel with a towel because...).  

Day two was spent studying maps, making lists of places I wanted to visit, writing, and getting grounded. Plus, Adrienne had to work and I did not yet have a key to the flat. When she returned we headed out.

Dinner was an amazing beef and gravy dumpling plate and aloe vera tea and then we headed out to a Pub Quiz! Ha. It was fun and I got to use my mad trivia skills....also humbled by my lack of pop culture knowledge in general.....though I did correctly identify Kurt Cobain as a kid.

This was the first time I started noticing the beautiful tattooed doors, but did not yet think to photograph them. Actually, this day I was still getting my artistic mind around how to photograph buildings again. My first job out of college was survey work for the State Historical Preservation Office, taking digital photos of buildings. I even had a portfolio of churches and commercial buildings, but it has been over a decade that I have mostly taken action and macro shots of flora and fauna on the farm and my children. It is a very different kind of photography and requires a different eye. I am posting these terrible shots from my second day as record of the progress I made artistically.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Day One: Prague

Waiting for take off.
In the air!
Flying was interesting. At our local airport,  there was much fuss about Swamp Fire, our signature farm seasoning, that I was bringing to my friend as a thank you gift. My joke that it is "the bomb" but not "a bomb" was not appreciated. Neither was my observation that my boarding gate was C4. Also, at each check point I was taken aside for "special" treatment and reassured that I do not fit the profile of the Panty Bomber.  Not something I was able to find online with a quick search, as the underwear bomber is not someone who looks anything like me.  Still, I made every connection, sometimes breathless and last to board.

I was relieved and travel weary when the plane landed in Prague.  Thank goodness for good friends, seriously. I was so happy to see Adrienne! All the way around the world for a hug. It took me two years to follow through on a promise, but I did it. Well worth the effort.

 And this is the neighbourhood that I spent most of my time in. This particular pub had fantastic gnocchi in spinach cream sauce, so good I hope to make it soon for the family. Mmmm, mmmmm.

Mostly, day one was just getting settled, and day two the same. 

People keep asking me why I went. I answer a couple ways:
One: it was my pig escape money goal. Every time Chad needs help with escaped livestock and swears at me, I get 50$. Ha ha. This is no longer an issue and it actually did not generate enough money for such a trip.
Two: Bucket list, true. Going to Europe was a long term goal. Living there was actually a childhood dream.
Three: In grad school, I had a nursling when I should have been taking the semester abroad in Italy that other Architecture students were required to do. I have always felt this was a gap in my education. This short trip is far from filling that gap, but I have a lifetime to do so.
Four: A vacation? I feel so guilty even allowing myself to admit this outloud. I grew up poor. Free lunch poor. Taking a trip like this is a luxury I don't deserve. It makes me one of them, the not poor. That is a hard thing to swallow, especially after our new transition to grow our farm in which we will have to use government programs for health care and the like. Confused? I don't want to admit we'll be poor or admit we were well off enough to send me on a European vacation. 
Five: Opportunity knocked. The set of circumstances that made the trip affordable all lined up.
Six: It was a personal reward, if I followed through with sending my work out into the world and it was accepted for publication, I would do this. I would have earned this.
Seven: Travel unravels us in ways that are intangible. I needed that unravelling at my seams so I could take up the pieces and reassemble with stranger threads.

Details of the trip budget, since this is the next question I get:
Ticket: I watched flight prices for more than a year, fluctuate. I could have gone to Priceline and a round trip ticket I scoped out was $600 but not refundable and lots of layovers. I opted instead to fly AirFrance/Delta and even pay an extra $75 each way to fly out of the Atlanta hub. Ticket total was around $1300 with all the fees ect.
Passport: $200 with the fees and photo and new driver's license required. That's its own story.
Food and Museum fees while there: $200 for ten days.
Train: less than $20. It was 220 crowns I think and I am too tired to do the math. 1000 crowns=48$.

Lodging was free- stayed with Adrienne the whole time. Huge savings and pretty much what made the trip doable and worth it. She was a guide and translator, and really made the trip fun and local.

The weather was perfect, warm and sunny or overcast and cool (perfect for photos). Fall was full of colour too.

Saturday, 20 September 2014


There is a children's book, Travel Light, by Naomi Mitchison, that says, "Will she stay dragonish and hoard wealth and possessions, or will she travel light?"

I am about to set sail again, this time to go halfway round this big world to give a friend a hug: Ten days in Eastern Europe.

I travel light. Early on, when day tripping and camping with Lily when she was a toddler, I over packed. In the Rockie Mountains I realised that I seriously only needed one small bag and diapers for the both of us for the week. I had packed a stroller we never once used, extra clothes we never wore, we washed the ones we did half way through the trip, and never touched the toys or books we brought. What a waste of space and extra gas to haul stuff all over. Now we pack a small cooler, diapers, and a backpack for each kid and mom. That's all we need and it is enough.

I thought maybe I was being silly, under-prepared even. Still, this was put to the test when I travelled by bus to Georgia in the winter. It worked out just fine.

I don't need much, I wear my bulkiest clothes to travel and pack light. Usually just one backpack though I am being encouraged to take a carry on too, empty, so I can bring things back with me. Maybe. I have not decided yet. It sounds like a good idea, but I am most comfortable with just my backpack.

I wear jeans and a sweater to travel, and my red coat (which is currently missing and I am freaked out about). Boots. Hat. Earrings and necklace.

I pack, 2 skirts, 4 shirts, one nicer dress, underwear, a bar of shampoo soap, and a pair of ballet flats. Then a book to read, phone charger, notebook. Maybe a lip gloss (though that got me in trouble at TSA last time....), maybe an eyeliner and mascara.

All of that fits, usually with my computer, in just my backpack. I travelled to Georgia just like this.

This time, here's where I am struggling......this time I am considering taking my camera (not just my phone camera) and (cue drums of doom) leaving my laptop home.



Even now, as I am sitting here, I have 4 hours to write and what did I do? I complained about the wi-fi connection, messed around on facebook, opened files, made a new station on Pandora, and now I only have 2 hours left.

This is a trip of a lifetime. I mean for it to be the first of many, but it may be the only trip I take. I am going to an ancient city with architecture and history that I have only read about in other languages, studied in graduate school. Perhaps I should be more in the moment than worrying about my laptop. Just a pen and paper and my camera.

Pen ink to paper. How this slows me down! It frustrates me to no end to think slowly, to make mistakes, to scribble. Yet, most of my good work begins as notes in ink scribbled in margins of things. Why not give homage to the ancient places I will breathe and drink by slowing down and stepping back in time, just for a moment.

Ten days. Not a lot of time. Not a lot of hours. Perhaps the break in technology could give me the recharge I yearn for. Even just thinking about leaving my computer behind gives me anxiety. I called my insurance agent to make sure it is covered if it is stolen while travelling (it is), but seriously? I am more concerned about this object than the violence happening nearby where I am going?

Yes. I need to take a break. More of a break than just logging of for a day or a weekend and perhaps putting a couple thousand miles or more between me and the machine will help break the dependency.

This is complicated by the fact that I work from the virtual world, but I am hopeful that my phone will stand in as enough and I can grade from an Internet cafe once or twice.

Thoughts? What would you do? Any tips for international travel?

If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness, and fears. -Cesare Pavese

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Calm Between Adventures

This summer has been unusually cool and the wind has been calm as well. There are very few ticks or mosquitoes, and the humidity is just about perfect.

We have not yet needed our AC turned on, a good thing since it is broken. *Note to self, remember to get a call in about that or bug Chad before winter gets here. **I'll forget anyway. Ha.

Isaac loves it. He loves sitting outside eating apples and cuddling chickens and chasing his sisters and counting, two, three, four, five.....

Holly has been taking crayons outside and today I found her masterpiece, in crayon wax, on the front porch floor. It is pretty amazing actually.

Lily, ever the farm girl, has been taking care of her chores and heading out to the woods for explores. They stay out late, until bedtime, negotiating meals (ONLY COMING IN IF SOUP IS FOR DINNER!) Soup. Huh. I can do soup.

Chad and I have been taking walks in the late afternoon and evenings and dreaming pretty big about things. Lots of things. Finding thornless honey locust on our farm is pretty cool. Snacking on mulberries is lovely too. We talked about what time I need to do my job that is with the college and what I need to keep going with my freelance work. I have a list of places to submit work about farm life that I am researching. I have ideas for travel pieces.

The air feels too cool for July though. Winter teasing us. We bought this winter's hay and had it delivered today. Next up, chop and stack firewood. Try for enough for winter. Find a better place to stack and store it.

I have been furiously scribbling in my notebooks, learning formal verse form, then trashing it and wrecking all the rules. That's kind of my signature style, rule breaking. My intentions are to study the form and then dance around the edges, tearing at the border with my heals and tempo. Wild with pulpiness and red lines and life.

When I am done, good and worn out, I sway on the porch swing, sweet tea nearby, one ear out for duckings and another on the humming of children plotting their own way, book of verse in hand, reading poems about house fires in Tennessee, marsh whores in Florida, and urban schoolteachers falling in love.

This is my summer. This is my view. This is the calm between adventures.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Writer's Reflection

This week I received three acceptance letters from publishers for my writing submissions. The first one was an essay I wrote about my experience as a new farmer dealing with pasture predation. I sent this one out to the world because this experience meant a lot to me as a person and I worked on it for months. Normally, tales like this one would end up here on the blog but this experience was so soul changing and devastating and even humiliating that I just could not bring myself to share it.

It was not poetry. At that point my record was two photography acceptances and one essay- zero on the poetry. Yet, poetry is what keeps me coming back to these endeavour, is my true literary love.

Then, one evening, late, my email beeped. An acceptance and commentary of a POEM. The email sender was not a name I recognised, scrolling through quick....there was the name of the journal!! I was so excited. This one, (I'm being a stinker and not telling until it is published and released) is a journal that I have long read and admired. For those of you who have read my drafts, the poem is Poppy's Daughters.

The next morning a second one came in. My poem about Daphne in our own Iowa woods,  Daughter of the Osmanthus River, was accepted.

Those of you who have followed my struggles here know that my 15 year hiatus has left me doubting my own worth and skills, left me wondering and regretting. The thing is? Both poems and the essays are all new work- not the old work from the draft drawer of doom! New words, new lyrical twists, new stories. The work from long ago keeps coming back to me rejected. This sits with me like pregnancy heartburn, painful but productive. Realising this was really good for me too: again, I remind myself that I need the decade of silence to live life, to really birth my own new voice. The child that wrote poetry with only blue pens and gave up on performance when Slam took over the stage is not the poet I am now. I have even written a slam piece and planned a performance. Totally and completely out of my comfort zone.

Tally from 2014 thus far:

Portland Review: Photography
Flyway Journal: Photography
Yet to be announced: Essay fall of 2014
Yet to be announced: Poem August 2014
Yet to be announced: Poem  March 2015

AND.....November 2014 I will be reading at the Art on the Prairie even in Perry, Iowa.

Not a bad tally, actually. Tonight I am regrouping and looking at the work that just came back to me to figure out what goes where now. I am struggling to match journal to poems, I have exhausted almost all of the journals I read on my own and that is what I know to go to. 

This is where knowing and talking to other poets would really come in handy.

Where do you find poems that you love? What journals do you read?

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Daring to Dream.....Again.

Sabotage. That is my word for the year. So much of the last decade has been me sabotaging any efforts of the creative part of myself. I was recently lent a copy of a book called Mamaphonic, a collection of essays about how motherhood changes the creative force in an artist/mother.  Three essays in I was in tears. I am not the only one, these roadblocks? They are the standard toolbox of motherhood induced writer's block.

The common thread so far, the rope to climb out of the hole, is to just start again. Write/dance/draw/paint/play through the self pity, through the negative self talk, through the distractions, through the insomnia, lack of time, and crappy artistic output. It is harder to pick back up the deeper in the hole you fall, so doodle through it. Keep that pen to paper and the ink flowing. Blogging did that for me. It isn't brilliant writing by any stretch, but it kept that part of my brain going, keeps it lit. Blogging tripe every day is better than long silences.

Pulling snail shells from a farm pond and always regretting that they are not seashells on the beach, sometimes you have to just look at the beauty and poetry of these small treasures, these little tokens of the wild mind and collect them just the same. It's still getting and keeping your feet wet, it's still communing with mermaids and goblins, still treading water. Holding that space for yourself for when the cycle returns and you can make more time for whatever that passion is.

What else? I finally shared with my family and friends what I was going through, instead of hiding it like a dirty secret. THIS was the real key to climbing out. Every time, every single time, I fall back....someone sends me a link to a submission, a suggestion, an inspirational meme, asks to read my work, or in some other small way lets me know that they support this effort, this vocation of mine. From my father in law sending and resending the link to the Ossabaw Island writer's retreat and following up with asking me if I got his link to it and then really helping Chad with kids when I actually went to Chad making space and time for me to have time to friends leaving me comments and small cards in the mail cheering me on.......all of these things make a huge difference in someone like me struggling to value my own work.

I realised today, that Chad has also found a vocation: Regenerative Farming is the name for it, Permaculture by design. I have never seen him so lit up inside and excited about something. Sometimes we come to our true calling later in life, and Chad has certainly found his. He is not as forthcoming asking for emotional support and encouragement though (is this a guy thing or a Chad thing?) I am trying to also hold his space for him. Making sure his goals and dreams can fruit without drift killing the branches. I have never seen him so happy. We can make this work, we can move this passion of his to the next level. I'm not sure what that will look like, right now we are in the dreaming phase. Still, those of you all who know us, know that when we dare to dream we do.

The cycle continues, but the more positive we put in, the more we can share with others. What are your dreams and goals and what do you need to move them forward?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Dreaming in Black and White: Re-release

My happy place. 15 feet from a too cold to care alligator, this picture was taken and sent to my Instagram account with GPS data so that if that gator ate me, it might help find my bones.

I know. Dramatic. The point is though, at this moment, I wasn't just on a forbidden walk alone in the wilderness, I was sharp witted, funny, and practical. I felt awake. I was dreaming too.

This place, this particular path I took that overcast day, hold a special memory for me now. I shall haunt it in my dreams.

Back in Iowa:
I came to this place, the one I occupy now, by my own choices. Let's not forget that. I chose regret. I chose inaction. Then I stopped being silly and got my stuff together and went, out of the ashes of my own mess. You know what though, this mess of mine is beautiful.

It is snowing when I wrote this post, with a thunderstorm on the southern horizon too. The wind on the prairie was angry this night and I hope we don't have any ewes lambing in this. Everyone is taking shelter.  We have market tomorrow and have to move some product because feed is running low and we have a season ahead of us that needs funding. Ah, farm life. Tomorrow will be a flurry of activity and we'll plow through, especially if there is actually 3 inches of snow out there.

But tonight....tonight I dream of Ossabaw. Tonight I dream in black and white, where things are simple, yet dangerous. Easy, yet incredibly complicated. Good night, fellow dreamers.

I put this blog post and picture back in drafts once I had sent it out for publication. This photograph is being featured in the 2014 Spring edition of the Portland Review Literary Journal. You can buy the book on Amazon here.  Thank you!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Goals for this year?

This is my personal goal list from 2011, though it includes some farm stuff too.

1)Expand the apiary
2)Learn to play fiddle
3)Grow tomatoes
4)Bring strawberries to market
5)Harvest wild fruit and can it (I did get some this year but the major bounty of the farm has yet been untouched. We have gooseberries, black raspberries, morels, wild plum, rose hips, nettle, juniper, mulberries, elderberries, blackberries, crab apple, boysenberries, and who knows what else.)
6) plant 15 more trees, find cherries that I like
7) create a wall poster with the tree varieties we have planted for reference
8) mail the envelope back to NY (I've been saying this for 12 years now and really, it is too late, but the principle of the thing is bugging me.)
9) write the last chapter
10)sell the DM house
11) say thank you more often with both words and actions
12) take the kids (and grandpa) to ride the train in Boone
13) bake pie more often
14) read more books.

I did all of these except # 7. Well, and number 2 is still being worked on. :/ 

Why goals like this, lists like this, are important? The reflection back is hopeful. I got these things accomplished, though not all in 2011. In fact, many of them were checked off the list in 2013 and 2014.  Progress is still progress, in inches or in miles. I had to travel cross country on a bus and suffer severe sleep deprivation have dinner with the ghost of a drag queen in Savannah, Georgia, and track pigs on a wilderness island to get number 8 done.

Sometimes it takes a bunch of Jennifers to get me on the bus to begin with. Ha!

Completing these goals led me to new ones, new adventures, new connections, deeper connections with friends and family, all good things. It helps when you look back, to know what you were looking at, like an aerial landscape, you can see the watershed, the rivers, a clearer view of the options ahead. There are always variables, storms that happen, rerouting, delays, but adventure is still to be had. You can hide in a corner and wish for death or you can make a ridiculous video and make friends.

I have been thinking about what my new goals are. How my New Years goals are going, am I remembering not to Sabotage myself? No, but I have folks holding me accountable for that and it is often.

1) Finish my self designed/paced poetry course. I have about 7 unites left, stalled at writing a ghazal, not yet to Haiku.
2) Travel to Prague, hug my friend Adrienne, who needs a hug. Take a ton of pictures of buildings a sheep.
3) Finish the short story about Alice.
4) Finish the short story about the cat lady.
5) Write more poems. Revise twice as many.
6) Send all of them out and stop fretting about them being done enough.
7) Take Isaac to ride the trains in Boone, now that he is old enough to love trains and pay attention to it.
8) Submit more work to Literary Mama. Start writing essays.
9) Work on cookbook.
10) Take a photography class of some sort. I never have, y'all. Not one.
11) Send out all the thank you letters. Even ones that are long over due. My gratitude has not expired.
12) Be more patient.
13) Visit my aunt.
14) Get a self portrait done. One that is good for bio blurb. One that is sexy and cool.
15) Paint things. All the things. Except not the perfectly finished, pristine antique wooden things, that is a crime against history and humanity. Painting cheap crappy things is ok though. ;)
16) Host a dinner party and use the good dishes.
17) Recover the dining room chairs. 
18) Master baking cookies and making caramels.
19) Clean out my closet.
20) Feel pretty more often.

What are your goals? How do you stay on track?

Saturday, 14 June 2014

I Don't Always Want To Be In Charge

I admin eight groups on facebook. I started five of those. If there is something I want that does not exist, I usually start it up myself.

Park Day was fading away? Sure I'll take that over. Playgroup for toddler? Sure. Over and over. Sometimes I just don't want to be the one in charge. I want to be the one who goes, takes part, without the added stress of being the organiser.

I am finding writing to be like this. So many people keep pushing me to self publish. No. I just want to write. I just want to make. I want to create. I don't want to start up a poetry journal just to have my own work published. I don't want to e-book a monthly zine. I don't want to market, design, and publicity. I do that already for the farm.

But sending out writing and art only to get rejection after rejection is wearing me down. Vanity press is sitting the corner like a glittering pimp, saying, "Hey baby.....I got what you need...."

No. Just no.

I want to travel. I want to write. I want to speak my work out loud. I want to drink tea in strange places and see the world through the eyes of local artists and minstrels. I want to see the world through my own eyes and then spiral the ink down on paper, click the shutter, and share with the world what I see.

I don't want to be in charge of another project. I am fighting against this current, the tidal pool that brings me back to it every single time. If you want something, make it happen. If you wait for others to find you, you'll die waiting with cold coffee. Maybe it really is the Iowa in me, saying build it and they will come. I have the nails. I have the hammer. I have the dream. I am just so very tired of building always so others can play or learn or rest.

Chad doesn't understand my hesitation either. I have been working for others in one way or another for my whole life, sneaking in time to write or create when I could but less and less and less until ten years had slipped by and I had done nothing but blog about what the people around me were/are doing. I just need the wide open sky right now. I want to see the landscape for a while and just be in it.

I'm not sure what is next.

I'm not sure what I want to be next.

That's the beauty of life though, right? Sometimes you plant the trees and sometimes you harvest the fruit. Sometimes you get your face and hands sticky and purple from berry juice and sometimes you carefully harvest and freeze for later.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

How I Have Been Writing

Words that split open the landscape that is my heart, crack the bone, and tear at flesh.

What I am doing is dangerous. The final advise that freed me though was this: not all poetry has to be memoir. When you mix it up, even the stuff that is can get lost with what isn't and that mystery is all you need. So with that, I have been playing with mythology, memoir, and outright fiction. It is so freeing. So delicious. So crack it all open and feast on words.

Love it.

So that is how I have been writing.

At home, the children are full on into summer and getting wet and muddy and feisty.

My freezer is running low so I am less creative on the food blogging. Perhaps I need to forage the woods and start making berry things.

Our plan for a stay at home summer has been both a gift and a burden. It seems that more time at home shifts more farm errands to me and we're in the car the same as we would be. I'll try harder to slow that down.

The house is getting more and more organised, that's a good thing. 

We've been walking the woods more too. I have a lot of thoughts on the world right now, a lot of gut reactions to the news. I want to blog about it but then writing these things churns my gut and I feel sick. Like I am plugging into a collective disease and dying with the rest of the world. Unplug, focus on the now, and I feel brighter and better.

So back to the woods I go, small hands in each of mine, a picnic, and the wide blue Iowa sky.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

In The Silent Gap

I have a lot of work out for consideration, so much in fact that I have nothing right now to submit. I have 4 poems in progress, 4 in revision, about 20 I have deemed the rantings of an unreasonable teenager and shall be left behind (retired) unless I get bored and want to transform them.

So while waiting for rejections or lovely notes of revisions suggestions, there is a silence. Many literary journals are Sept- May term considerations too, so the summer is also a down time.

I plan on filling the gap of radio silence with:
  • Reading books, all the ones on my bedside table. 
  • Taking a kayaking class. Seriously. Fear of boats will be kicked in the rear. Maybe.
  • Take a short nature photography class.
  • Travel to Wisconsin to see the driftless valley.
  • Watch all the new Orange in the New Black, Sherlock, and Luther. Because.
  • Camp outside.
  • Taking photos.
  • Paint something.
  • Write letters on paper with pen and send them USPS. 
  • Cook some new things and remember to blog about them.
  • Oh yeah, I have a blog. Get back to daily posts. 
So, what do you do when patiently waiting?

Monday, 2 June 2014


This year I pledged to empty my draft drawer of doom, to not sabotage myself, to get the work I created out there. No more regrets.

Why is this year any different than the last 20? I have no idea. These last three years have been hard, but they have also been filled with hope and joy and love and friendship so amazing that I am still in shock at the depth of kindness and honesty in our lives.

I traveled to Georgia in February to a writer's retreat. I started writing poetry again because of this retreat and the insistence of my friends. The next step was to submit the work. Let me tell you, this is way easier now than it was 20 years ago! Everything is online and really easy. Easy to track too.

I was still terrified though. As disorganized as I am I am also meticulous when it comes to paperwork. I came up with a strategy to overcome my anxiety over it. I would pick my two favourite journals, the ones I always reach for at the library, and submit a couple photos first, then poetry later.

What felt like right away, they both contacted me about the artwork. I never even considered that possibility, though I do love the photos that I took.

I present to you, Flyway. (The second publication is mentioned on the Flyway page, but will be in print later this month!) Flyway is an online journal of art and literature, so follow the link and you can see all three photos if you go there.

So go there! Take a look! Share the link. Iowa has more than just sweet corn this summer, but what a perfect pair. Pour some sweet tea, grill up some Iowa food, and then delve into this Iowa grown literary treasure. It's free too.

Bonus? By this summer's end, I will have the prints available on Etsy. Just these three to start, but it is a start and I am ready. Spices and spaces, it will be awesome!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Going Back to the Start

I have written about 12 new poems since I returned from Georgia. It was as if I picked up the pen and 15 years had not passed. Some things though are drastically different this time around. For one, sometimes I don't remember writing the poems, as often I work on them really late at night. I work in a three phase system, sometimes four, I start with a notebook and sketch out the images and word play that go with them, then I transfer to a computer file called draft, when I think that it is completed I move it to a file called revise later, and when that is done it goes to a needs to be submitted file.

Now that the warm weather is here, my hands no longer ache from the constant cold and I am writing more. On the other hand, I am also feeling more emotions (another warm weather occurrence) and sometimes all these feelings leave me exhausted.

In addition to that, the incredible poor timing of the work I have submitted coming back rejected just as this season starts has been harder than I thought. I have to remind myself of my plan which was this:
1) submit to the top 25 literary giants. These top markets are the hardest and most respected.
2) Once those are rejected, submit to the next. There are 5,000 journals on this list. Eventually I will find what tier I rank at and work from there.
3) Continue to submit there and keep writing.

That's the plan. That's what I am working at. I have to remind myself that these are the top 25 and rejection from these giants is not the end of the journey. Still, a little part of me was hoping for gold, you know? It is humbling to be told no......but one of these actually sent back a personal note with feedback, (two if you count the one from 15 years ago), and two accepted my photography.

The fact that I have work out there means that I am about 20 leagues out to sea from the landlocked prairie that I started in just six months ago.  I have to self talk myself through this. I have to keep writing, keep submitting, and find which view is mine. Much of the despair I am feeling, the rejection, is self sabotage. Ah, my old friend, we meet again.

I am going to keep working at this.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014


This week, I found myself in the parking lot of our local grocery store, stars twinkling, the air warm and humid, heading home.

I realised, for the first time, I no longer felt like a stranger here. I felt at home, like this is my town now. I suppose it is hard to explain, since we have lived on the farm just south of town for almost five years. I have always felt like a stranger here though, often folks ask me if I am visiting. Since I started going into town to grade papers and make an effort to shop local for almost everything (still use Amazon since we have no bookstore!!!!), slowly I started to let people know me and making a painful effort to recognise and remember names. Painful? I don't recognise faces, sometimes to a scary degree, I don't recognise the faces of my own family. This makes trying to remember my neighbours and even friends a difficult task that requires other compensations and memory tricks. An effort worth it though. Facebook actually helps with this a lot, more so since it is on my phone, and then not so much when people use generic pictures of animals for their profile pictures. Still, I am working on it.

I am a strange bird. This is not a secret, but it took me a while to feel at home enough to go back to purple hair and dressing like me. For too long I toned it down, trended towards normcore even. I felt like a fake me. So now, I can relax into the creative being.

Not that this doesn't have its downside. I am sill regarded by some folks as too extreme and this makes arranging playdates and even girl scouts complicated. 4H was a big fat fail this year to the point that Lily gave it up, or rather refused to go back, even though it was her favourite activity. It seems strange to me that people view us as dangerous. I don't drink. I don't have crazy facial piercings (yet), not a single tattoo (yet), and I'm not an extremist to either end religiously. Sure, we homeschool, ok, radical unschool is closer to the truth, but I'm not recruiting for our school. I have plenty enough students. Ha!

It was pointed out to me that our entire lifestyle, unschooling/natural health/permaculture farming, is basically seen as an insult to pretty much everyone in town. Why? The three major employers in town are Hyvee grocery, the school district, and the medical centre. Oh and then everyone else is connected to conventional farming. While I see the point in that observation, I don't think that it is entirely true. I think there is a place for us here. I hope there is.

Church helps. I mean, praying for people to be kind to my children as we navigate life is one thing, but actually going to a church that shares a message that lines up with our own values, accepts us for who we are without disdain, and allows people to get to know us to more of a degree than just seeing us shop at the local grocer, this helps. This helps so much.

And the longer we root here, the more people we meet that do what we do and some folks have been doing it for decades. It is exciting to build community! A relief too.

I think that this is the unspoken of hardest part of moving from a city to a small town that we have no familial connections to. Finding community. Part of my issue was that I had found community in the city and the Internet allowed me to stay connected. I had no immediate need to fill by finding friends locally for myself or my kids. Plus, we would go to the city regularly.

Well, gas prices are sabotaging that in a big way. I realised that my kids are also craving more playdates, more adventures in the woods, more things to do. Driving 4 hours total to do these things is expensive and exhausting for me. I need that time back.

Brewing all of this in my heart and mind, I decided to open invitation folks to drive to the farm, but cancel all of our summer camps (which seems like the opposite of what the kids need, right?) Instead we are going to save and squirrel and work on exploring free activities close to home. Use the local pool, visit museums in town, make regulars of ourselves at the local library, and ride bikes on the trails here. Take the boat out more too. Invite folks into our lives and adventures. Invest time into relationships here, nurture the ones that need it that are far from here. Pen pal with dear friends.

It isn't easy for me. If I had my way, I'd be holed up alone at a remote unplugged cabin with my notebooks and a CD player ALONE, did I mention alone? I have just been feeling this need to be in my own head for a bit. Even my husband and kids are intruding on the goings on in my internal narrative and I know they are annoyed at my spacing out, not hearing them, daydreaming. I will try to be more present for all of them while carving out time.

I digress, I started out meaning to write about that feeling I had, just after a lovely rain, the heat of the asphalt still radiating and humid, and feeling at home. Not like a tourist anymore, but a part of this community. Even if I am the strange square on the edge that is a private joke of the quilter, I am still part of the larger picture, important to it even.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Question Asked and Answered

This came up: Do I feel like I missed an entire lifetime and potential by abandoning writing, by not moving to Savannah, GA in 1999, by not revising and returning the one thing I submitted in 1998, by having kids, working as an adjunct instead of pursuing an academic career, ect? 


The thing is? The answer is yes. Yes, of course I missed out and there are a million could a have beens.  Of course I wonder.

I also really love my life, the life I have right now. I really don't think I was ready for anything more in 1999. I have PSTD and in 1999 and a stranger knocking on my door after dark sent me into a full blown panic attack, hiding in a closet, for example. I was 19! Geesh. I am much better now.

When I graduated, my adviser said to me, something along these lines, Don't write for your job. Lay bricks for a living. Do something else. Learn about things. Live. Then you can write from your heart and keep it an art.

Sage advice. I followed it. Graduate school was history, architecture, and non-fiction. I went to work in the field of historic preservation. I was so busy and deep into the movement of saving houses that I forgot about people. Then I had children and they became my focus which evolved into teaching them and farming and teaching online classes. Always learning things. Living.

I wasn't ready before now to write again. Now that I am back in the habit, it feels good! It isn't a chore, it is artful, and I am turning more time to it but balancing it well with family and farm. I know things about life that I could not have at 19 and I am grateful for that.

Now, too, I am venturing along with Chad into the study of permaculture and regenerative farming. It is interesting and I plan to write more through the year as I learn.

In January, I chose the word Sabotage as my word for the year. Met with well meaning critics concerned about the negativity of the word, I waffled a bit about using it. Still, I did. It has proven to be a fantastic choice. Seriously fantastic. Every time I  start dragging my feet or second guessing myself, a friend will simply type Sabotage and then I do the thing that moves this all forward. Usually the friend's name is Jen. Ha.

Questions like these can sabotage my writing effort. Sure, I think them, but there are also no conclusive proofs that I wouldn't have died in a car crash driving out East or that anything I wrote then would have been published. I could very well have ended up doing what I am doing now, no matter what.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Artistic Junk and Kudzu

Since I have been there and back again (to Ossabaw), I have written 10 new poems, edited 60, retired 10 or so. I have submitted 32 of those poems, had 5 rejected and awaiting response on the others.

To get myself started with the submission process, I decided to practise submitting photographs to just two journals that I love and respect. Once I got the process down, I then began submitting poetry, non-fiction, entering contests, sending to journals, applying for festivals.

Wait, festivals? Yes. Back in the day, when I studied performance poetry seriously, I performed regularly at coffee shops and literature festivals. One night I became so overcome with stage fright and anxiety....I never again stepped up to the mic. Not once. It was around that same time that I stopped writing poetry too.

So. The time has come. Many things I have been fearful of, I have slain. I can get on a boat now without a panic attack. I can even take our boat out on the pond, alone. I can let others read my work without completely freaking out. The only way to become an artist is to make art and share it?

So, yesterday I got in the mail the acceptance to perform at the local art festival. It is a pretty special event and I am honoured. In the last week I also received two acceptance letters for work I submitted.....those photos I submitted! Hilarious. Also, eye opening. I think I will nurture this part of my art and see what happens.

I plan on going back to Georgia next year and I recommend the retreat to anyone else who might be struggling to find their voice. Magic happens there. It must. My fears were very, very rooted and thorny. Kudzu.

So, the photographs that are getting the most attention? I have this habit of taking pictures of abandoned things and junk. I love the colours and lines of corrosion and decay. I just had no idea that others might find beauty in it too.

Saturday, 15 March 2014


One of my goals has been to blog everyday. I mean, of course I miss some days and prioritise tasks, but I have been averaging 25/30 days and I think that's pretty darn good! It has also served as  a reminder of how amazing the life we live is, searching out happy to photograph and share everyday has been glorious and lovely. It adds a bit of sunshine and gratitude to the mundane. So I don't see missing three days in a row to be a failure to my goal. It isn't a pass/fail kind of life we lead.

Another of my goals has been to empty the draft drawer, the one that has been growling at me for almost twenty years. Oh that's a long time! I did it though. Every last poem in that drawer has been either retired, revised and sent out, or formatted into a collection and sent out. It was a lot of work. Almost 40 hours of intense revision, another three formatting, and 2 hours entering data into duotrope. This has taken a lot of time over the last three weeks, but well worth it. I sent the whole collection to a book prize with one of my favourite poetry journals, photographs to Flyway, and followed through with that 15 year old revision request. Yes I did. Finally. It is done. Now, it isn't a regret that I get to carry with me and it doesn't get to push me around. I did it.

New goals:
  • Continue to send work out. At least a submission a week, researched and carefully selected. I can do this.
  • Create a work space at home. A just for me space, with my computer and my books. A corner of a sunny room. 
  • Blog food at least once a week. 
  • Clean up the porch and hang my swing. 
  • Make iced tea every day.  
  • Clean the baseboards and windows.
  • Take the kids camping and fishing as soon as it is warm enough.
  • Walk a mile outside everyday that the sun is shining, ride five miles on the bike inside if it isn't.
That's it. That's the list for the next three months. What are your goals? What are you doing to move towards your dreams?