Monday, August 18, 2008

Simmering least, I hope so. I feel as if I am truly "between projects" instead of actively working on one. I've spent a good deal of time this summer researching Impressionist artists in prep for a novel-in-verse I'd planned to write. Now, I'm not sure if I'm getting cold feet or simply losing my enthusiasm.

A good chunk of the novel involves my own adolescence, stuff about Dad, homelessness, mental illness. I'm not sure how I feel about writing that.

I did do a chapbook on it two years ago and I wonder if I'm done talking about it.

I truly do not want to embarrass Dad. I'm not sure how he feels about the chapbook, which he has, and which he knows I read publicly. I even got to read the final poem directly to him at a reading which featured his best friend. Not sure how he felt about that, but he said, "I came off better than in that other poem you wrote."

When I talked to the editor in NY in February, she was very interested in the fact that my dad had been homeless, though he was an educated professional. She said, "You have to write that book! I know I kept saying, 'commercial, commercial,' but you have to write that book."

The thing is, I'm not sure she's even prepared to take me on as an author. It has been many months... I'm in a bit of a holding pattern.

So now my head is full of Impressionism and I've written nearly nothing on this project.

I am reading Crank by Ellen Hopkins, and it's opening me up again to this idea. She writes poetry that stands up as poetry (not doing this is one of my pet peeves about novels-in-verse), and which speaks sensitively to a topic dangerous not only to the reader, but to her as an author. I wonder what kind of communication she had with her daughter before she published it.

How can I make it not about "Me and My Ego?" My ego is killing me off as a creator. It has its sticky fingers in everything I do. If I can't write things that move a reader through despair and towards transcendence I may as well quit writing altogether.

I've just finished, and have been discussing Gifts of the Desert by Kyriacos C. Markides. It's this book that is causing me to revisit the idea of ego as a distraction.

Markides writes about spirituality in a way that takes me somewhere. I imagine he struggles with his own ego, too.

So maybe the answer is to simply do the work -- if I can figure out what it is -- and know that the ego struggle is a given and overcoming it again and again is the path that I must walk.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

While Falling Asleep

I wrote odd poetry last night as I was falling asleep. I had been reading Mary Oliver, whose work I love, but I realized I don't love it as much as the work of Margaret D. Smith. Maybe I should have a look at these strange ramblings:

Poem While Falling Asleep

I stack six books in my lap
or two
or three
never one
lest I not be able
to devour them all.

By having my hands
on three or four
objects at once
I hope to gain
years lost in
a swift backward march.

The other day I followed stories
to their source --
the other day I followed me
and became a story.

Outside are growing things --
beetles in the dirt,
soft-spotted fawn.

How I would like
to keep them company.

As hours turn to years
I must decide:

Will I let it all be snake-stolen?

How many herons will I need
to carry the books I want to write?


Here's another one...

Dream Poem

Today as I was
falling asleep I felt
I needed a uniform
for dreams.

How else to go into
them without the dignity
of piping, pressed pockets
and a really good hat?

If you are prepared to go into a dream -- that
is to say, dressed properly --
the people will know
to offer the proper respect
reserved for dreamers
who arrive at their dreams
in some official capacity.

If you forget some of this --
especially the hat --
you may be subject to
the whims of dream people
who, while not altogether solid,
can pack a mean left hook
when you aren't expecting it.

If you remember at least the hat,
those in the dream will know
to solute,
to serenade you,
or at least to bring flowers.

These are the rules for going into a dream:
1) find a small rock that you can kick
in order to find your way out
2) talk to strangers
3) never interpret a dream while you are
in the dream -- that's cheating.

Try to find a quiet place
in the dream,
like a side lawn of a house
or an abandoned airplane hangar.

Especially, look for someplace
that is spelled correctly.
Failing that, look for a
dream-like spelling
and the muses will forgive you.

Know that dream travel
is dangerous
the way certain snakes
are dangerous --
always carry a flute and basket
and you will have
nothing to fear.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gut feeling

Writing class has gone very well for the most part. I hope I'm giving them enough balance between time to work, time to move, time to socialize. I feel that the socializing is pretty important for teen writers -- heck, it's important for adult writers.

I keep saying this is an isolating profession, but I don't know if that's true. It hasn't really been isolating for me. I've made some of my best friendships in the writing community -- and I do feel I've found my tribe after feeling just a little "odd" and "outside" most of my younger life.

I'm worried about Maverick. In a way that sick, anxious feeling in my gut only goes away when I distract myself. Writing classes were good for that. Someday maybe I'll be able to write about this, but I'm still not interested in making myself a target. I love my boy. I'm heartbroken about some of the choices he's making. I wish the world was different. But if it was different, there would be other things to worry about.

I'm ready to learn to pray again.


Monday, July 14, 2008


It feels strange to be posting here again, having finished with my "anonymous phase." But the idea of writing whatever I feel like without a real audience is appealing.

I did the AFSP suicide prevention walk last month in Seattle. It was amazing. 17 miles. Took us 8 hours. My son, Maverick, walked with me and that was the best thing of all. To be around so many who had lost loved one and who could say the word "suicide" without laughing or flinching was mind-blowing. I thought at first that I'd feel out of place because Dad survived. That I'd have no right to tell my story. And I kind of didn't want to tell it all that much. It felt good to listen. My feelings about Dad are still loaded.

I called him from the walk and thanked him for having taken the gun out of his mouth. He had been sleeping and he had no idea what I was talking about. He said, "I don't have a gun in my mouth. I have sleep. In my mouth."

I worry that he's winding down -- that he's failing. He has memory lapses. He is 80, after all. I need to clean his apartment, or hire someone to clean it. I'm not as good a daughter as I wish I were.

So having finished my last novel, I'm playing with the idea for the new one. It keep getting further and further afield from parental suicide. At the moment it contains time travel. And I still don't know if I can write it. Didn't I already write about this?

I've had 23 extra years with Dad. I haven't used them particularly well, but I've had them to come to terms with things. He's incredibly homophobic. He pretends not to know Maverick is gay. I wish this were not so, but there it is. And yes, that was a deliberately ambiguous sentence.

I can almost deal better with dad in writing than in person. But does that mean I've simply created a character called "Dad" and that's who I'm interacting with?

This is a great deal more angsty than I intended. I think I'd better get my lesson plan on humourous essays done.