Trying to Organize my Poetry = Blech

real simpleI cyclically go through phases where I have a desperate need to clear away clutter and simplify my life.  Unfortunately, these tendencies rarely extend in all directions.  That means while I’m cleaning out the clutter in the kitchen junk drawer, the hall linen closet gets stuffed with unfolded sheets.  Martha Stewart I am NOT.

I’m not sure about other writers, but over the years, I’ve accumulated a great deal of POEMS.  Trying to organize these various documents and files has become a little overwhelming.  Why aren’t they just in alphabetical order, you ask? Because that would be too freaking simple!

No, seriously, they aren’t in alphabetical order because pieces are in various stages of editing and revision.  Sometimes they are bunched up as I consider themes and collections.  Sometimes they are leftovers from writing assignments in classes.  Frankly, I even have multiple copies of the SAME poem in ten different places (which makes things doubly confusing when I edit/revise in one location and then forget exactly WHERE that location Is).

One of the nice things about Nanowrimo is that the organization would send out weekly reminders to back up your novel.  I LOVE this because I would take time, right then, to save the document to the cloud.  It’s not like I don’t know to “save” my work, but how many of us do this with regularity? (Shut IT if you are one of those a-holes who is always on top of this)  By the same token, I’d like to get my work uploaded somewhere safe and in a cohesive manner that’s easily navigable.

This is one of those occasions when I would LOVE to hear from others about their suggestions.  Feel free to comment below, via twitter, or on my facebook page.  Right now, I’ve decided to put poems under “theme” headings, like “School/Teacher” poems.  Then if a poem gets published somewhere, I’m going to change the name the document is saved under to include the publication’s name and date.

I suppose I’m inspired to do this in part because I try to organize and simplify my life EVERY new year.  Even though I know some of my efforts fall apart over the course of the year, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to realize that I am NOT quite the same flitterbegibbit that I was at twenty-one.  Gosh, it’s been at least a month since I lost my keys!

Now where the hell are my sunglasses?

My Nano ALL Finished–Woot Woot

Participant-180x180-2Yep. I actually did it. I wrote a 50,000 word CHUNK during November. I am actually impressed with myself. Was it any good? Heh. Would I have been able to accomplish that if I was teaching during Nanowrimo? We’ll find out next year, as I fully intend to try again. I’m also planning on wearing the cheesy tee-shirt every chance I get.

While I don’t care for it, I am at least a little familiar with the work required to edit. I thought I’d spend a little time, here and there, posting excerpts in an effort to motivate myself to make the novel into something actually workable. Here’s a scene, just for funsies…

a little background to help us all with context: Serena, our first-person narrator, has just left an unwanted therapy session with her high school counselor. Unfortunately, her life has gotten a little complicated: 1. Her power is out of control, so she’s trying to stay away from Travis. 2. Travis’ ex waterhasn’t quite figured out that she’s an ‘ex’ and takes great delight in harassing Serena. 3. Therapy isn’t really her thing. 4. She’s the new kid in her high school—is there really anything more to be said?

I suppose it was proof that the Fates have an evil sense of humor, because when I got back to my locker after my session with Ms. Nelson, Travis was waiting for me. The halls were busy as people headed out to lunch, some kids rushing out to the parking lot, others down to the cafeteria. At first I didn’t even see him, too lost in my own thoughts. But then I noticed the boots and looked up.

Oh God, I thought, he is so cute. He stood there, leaning back against my locker, his dark green shirt bringing out his eyes. He was staring at me, his head tilted down, his expression intense, and I felt my insides curling with warmth. Then I felt my gift shifting, moving beyond my body, and I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that things weren’t under control and that Travis Rue apparently had a girlfriend, one supremo preppy bitch of a girlfriend named Amy Duncan.

“Here,” Travis said, pushing something he was holding at me. I looked down, realizing he held my books, the books I had dropped with Amy’s help earlier.

“You been trying to avoid me, Serena,” he said with raised eyebrow. Sadly, now I had the perfect excuse.

“I see your girlfriend gave you my books.”

“My girlfriend?”

“You know, that blonde girl with the great attitude? I mean, what did she do, run straight to you?” I grabbed my stuff from him, trying to shoulder past him to get to my locker where I could just shove things away.

“Are you talking about Amy?” And I tried not to let myself be reassured by what sounded like his genuine perplexity. “Amy is not my girlfriend, hasn’t been for months.”

“Oh yeah? You might want to explain that a little better to her,” I mumbled. He had crowded in behind me and I could feel the warmth of his chest on my shoulders. He reached up past my head and put his hand on my locker door. Now his body was partially wrapped around mine and I could smell his cologne. I just wanted to turn around and bury my nose in his neck, just breathe him in. I tried to inch away.

“Is that what you think of me?” He asked, his voice now deepening by his distress, his mouth near my ear. “Is that the kind of guy you think I am? That I would just forget my girl and chase after some new tail?” He slammed my locker closed and I flinched.

No, I wanted to tell him, No, I don’t think you’re that kind of guy, but I didn’t. It was better this way. Then I didn’t have to explain anything else to him, didn’t have to make up some elaborate lie that would backfire on me later. But this hurt.

“You’re not who I thought you were either.” His disgust was plain. Abruptly I was cold as he backed up. I whirled, watching him as he walked away, biting my lip to keep from calling out to him.

“Wow. You really screwed that up,” said a voice near me. I turned to see Kimber looking at me like I was the lowest scum. “Find your key yet?” She asked even as she walked away.

NANOWRIMO or try to write 50,000 words with little-to-no planning, all while continuing to live the rest of your life

Ever start on a project and then lose some enthusiasm?  Look, I’m a great ‘ideas’ gal, but sometimes I’m not so great on the ‘follow through’ portion of the task.

The irony behind that statement is that I DO tend to finish most things I start… it just may take me a little longer than normal.  Take for example, my college ‘career’ (side note: I think we call it a career so that we can pretend longer that we are actually doing more than just learning how to brew beer).  Yes, I was in college, mostly full-time, from 1996 until 2006.  I even started college with about fifteen hours of credit. I was a “decader” and I certainly was not the only one around.  I did manage to graduate and get several degrees and certificates; I also changed my mind—and rather than finish what I had started, I changed horses mid-race.

I’m discussing all of this because two years ago, I got this idea.  My first group of middle-schoolers were entering their senior years of high school.  Like with many first-year teachers, that class remains special in my heart.  A number of them sent me graduation invitations and continue to keep in touch.  While that year was rigorous and full of many first-year mistakes, I treasure the thought of those students.  Since I had begun writing again, I decided maybe I would try writing a novel, one set right here in Wichita with a young adult audience in mind.

    What the hell was I thinking?  Upon reflection, I do have to cut myself some slack.  After all, I did complete a short story collection and have been writing fiction for a decade.  How hard could a novel be?

I never got passed the first 4,000 words.  I DID join an organization full of great novelists and I HAVE been listening to them and learning from them.  I’ve learned about outlines and plot; I’ve listened to special speakers discuss characterization and revision.  I even wrote an ‘elevator pitch’ for the novel that I NEVER ACTUALLY WROTE.  I even submitted the first chapter (the only part I ever finished) to a Kansas Writers Association contest.

In my defense, I did write a ton of poetry, did some local poetry readings, began to negotiate a contract for my first chapbook, gave birth to my second child, received a Good Apple teaching award, and helped hammer out a pacing guide for my district, AND I learned how to befuddle my way through WordPress [badly].  It’s not like I wasn’t ‘doing’ anything.

But a few months ago, I decided that I should finish that story and maybe NANOWRIMO was the way to do it.  For those of you uninitiated, this is the crazy time when thousands of idiots around the country attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.  Did I say idiot?  Huh.  Where do I sign up??

So I spent several weeks really hammering out a plan, an actual outline (more on this later) and am giving it a real ‘go.’  I also let myself really rethink what I had originally imagined, acknowledging that perhaps I had lost enthusiasm for the project because it was boring even to me. I’ve given it a new title and even created a book cover–just for giggles.  I feel a little insane for taking this on, but I also know that I am in good company with a lot of great people and at least by the end of the month, I can say… DONE.  I actually FINISHED that project.

I’ll try to keep things posted here, updates and such, but the truth is that it’s going to be hard enough slinging out the material for the book.  Blogging won’t be the high priority.  If you are attempting NANOWRIMO too, feel free to look me up and be a ‘buddy.’  So on this eve for daylight savings… Happy writing all!


Announcing Mara Jade

With great pleasure, I announce the arrival of my second daughter, Mara Jade Cash.  She arrived at 7:22 a.m. on October 8th, 2012, weighed 8lbs 3 ou, and was 20 inches in length.

Yes, you Star Wars aficionados, that name should sound familiar, especially if you follow the continuing saga after episode VI.  And since my husband got an “Elvis” when he named our first daughter Leia Presley, I insisted on a subtle homage to Johnny Cash.

What’s even more impressive is that Disney has apparently purchased Lucasfilm Ltd and plans on actually producing Episode VII to be released in 2015.  Hopefully, they do Mara Jade’s character justice!

We are adjusting to the lack of sleep at my house, although every pregnant lady knows that no one sleeps the last month of pregnancy anyway due to discomfort and that overfull bladder! I’ve always considered that a kind of training for enduring the first few months with a newborn.

That means my hands are especially full these days and writing takes even more effort.  On the other hand, I am on a break from my usual day-gig as a middle school teacher.  I’ll be trying my hand at NANOWRIMO this year, although I may not be following the traditional “pantster” way.  I have about 4,000 words on a draft for a Young Adult novella that I haven’t worked on in a year.  I can’t leave a project unfinished—it’s just not in my nature.  I’ll try to keep some items posted for interest and update on my progress.  I’ve never tackled anything like NANOWRIMO, so we’ll see how that goes.  I figure this may be the only time in my life where I can do this (since I’m not teaching this month).  Want to learn more about National Novel Writing Month?  Click here.

A Thousand Words a Day May Keep the Therapist Away

I had the pleasure and joy of joining my friends and alum from the South Central Kansas Writing Project (affiliated with the National Writing Project).  We were invited to present our creative work during the Friday luncheon of the Kansas Association for Teachers of English.  It was an honor to share my poetry among such prestigious company.  Pictures will be up soon.

 November is going to be a stellar month!  My poem, “Teachering Manifesto,” appears in the November installment of Poetry for the Masses.  This excellent little art project partners submissions from around the country into a quarterly broadside.  Poets then receive 25 copies to be distributed around their own neighborhoods and burgs.  My work may find its way to a happy little coffee shop in Ohio or a subway pillar in New York—awesome!  To see a PDF version of the broadside, click:

 I’ve already mention that I’ll be reading at NakedCity Gallery as the featured poet on November 17th, and I’m absolutely thrilled about this!  I’ve been trying to get my talented husband to make a flyer for me, so when I have one available, I’ll also post that.

 After making a slew of October submissions, I’ve decided it’s time to concentrate on the writing.  It’s funny how much time can be taken up in reviewing journals, becoming familiar with publications, formatting material into submission requirements (vastly different from venue to venue—even if submitting what is ultimately the exact same chapbook).

 While I had initially decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month, I realized that writing a memoir really doesn’t really fit into the NANOWrimo philosophy.  I also feel incredibly intimidated about finding enough time to write each day on a project I haven’t given any foresight or planning toward. The idea of 50,000 words by the end of the month gives me an anxiety brick in my chest.  So I’ve decided to create my own NANO requirements.

 1000 words a day toward any of the projects I’ve been working on.  This might mean 1000 words toward the memoir, or 1000 words on the young adult novella that’s only half-way complete.  This may also mean 1000 words toward the scary story set I’ve decided to create.  Each project is currently occupying brain space right now, so it seems fitting to give myself some lee-way.  I hope to periodically share work through the blog, but am NOT counting BLOGGING toward my totals, so I’ll probably leave it for excerpts on Sunday. 

There is definitely something therapeutic about writing, whether I’m working on Fiction or Poetry.  By the same token, however, when I have a list of a gazillion things to do, and I feel added guilt and inadequacy by all that I CAN’T accomplish, sometimes keeping the goal small and manageable really is the ticket.