Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekly Update: We the Animals & the P&W Calendar

72º ~ an overcast fall day, bird calls sounding through the open window drowned out by a plane, chances of rain & storms hovering to the north & west

This week, I redoubled my effort to find some time for poetry, which for me means, turning off the TV in the evening and refocusing, if I'm able.  Case in point, on Thursday night I fell asleep at 6:15 and nearly missed the first episode of the new season of The Big Bang Theory.  For this show, I will sacrifice my poetry time, but for few others.  The falling asleep should prove that the week had caught me by the heels.  Friday was a bit of a slug fest, but I did cut off the work day early and recharge.

This doubling down on my writing life resulted in two things.

1.  I read a book, yep, that's right, an entire book.  I picked up Justin Torres' We the Animals at the Arkansas Literary Festival back in April.  Having heard him read, I knew that this book would ignite in my hands when I opened the covers.  The novel follows the coming of age of an unnamed protagonist, a biracial boy discovering his sexuality in a rural town in New York.  He is the son of a Puerto Rican father and a white mother, and he understands very early that his homosexual desires will not be met with acceptance within his family, a family in which domestic violence and poverty rule.  The novel progresses from the time the boy is six until he enters his teens and is told in loosely connected, short, lyric chapters.  Still, the character developed is full and rich, the setting expertly used to support the larger themes.  It's a quick read, but one I know I will return to soon, to more fully understand just how Justin Torres pulls it all off.

2. I tried to catch up on my po-biz reading, which means reading the Sept/Oct issue of Poets & Writers.  I had started it a few weeks ago and then set it aside.  Like most people, I think, I might not read every article in P&W, but the ones that grab me tend to hold on and offer up something valuable.  In this case, the articles on VIDA, plans to create the American Writers Museum, 20th-Century American Poetry, and the in depth look at Natash Trethewey all offered up worthwhile efforts; however, it was the personal essay by Brenda Shaughnessy and Craig Morgan Teicher that kept me reading last night even as I was flagging & tired.  What a powerful account of a two-poet marriage and life as a writer with a child with special needs. 

As I read farther into the issue, I was actually happy to be able to by-pass the MFA section entirely.  While I think the idea of rankings and articles about whether or not writing can be taught are interesting, I've simply moved past them for now.  I know where I stand.  1) MFA/PhD/MA with creative emphasis...all worthy pursuits IF the students are made completely aware that those coveted wood-paneled offices & tweed jacket teaching jobs are few and far between.  2) Yes, most beginning writers can benefit from mentors. 3) No, a degree is not necessary to become a fabulous writer; it's just one way of buying time to write and perhaps gets some guidance along the way.

This led me to the DEADLINES section, and for the first time in my life, the P&W calendar saved me from missing a deadline.  I keep a rather extensive spreadsheet of book contests and reading periods; however, I nearly missed submitting The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths to a contest this year.  This contest alternates every other year and the deadline is tomorrow.  I missed it b/c I hadn't submitted last year.

Luckily, the book contest allows electronic submission, so I spent this morning creating my submission file and loading up a new fee on my credit card.  Here's a hearty bon voyage to the poems and a hoping that in the coming week I find more time for the writing life.


Shawnte Orion said...

I hate when you remember that there was a place you were planning to send a manuscript, after the deadline.

That's worse than receiving a rejection.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Exactly, Shawnte! Especially one that only reads every other year!!

Molly said...

I blow a kiss to your Prairie Myths manuscript!

I aspire to breezing right by the MFA section in P&W. I crave the time and the learning. Meanwhile, I continue on the path of my "Emily Dickinson MFA" -- at my desk. No complaints.

Good job carving out some po-time. Have a great week.

Tawnysha Greene said...

_We the Animals_ sounds like a great book! Thanks for the suggestion--I'll have to check it out.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Molly, one could do worse for a mentor than ED! Good luck to you on the carving out as well!

Tawnysha...Oh, We the Animals would be perfect for you! Hope you get your hands on it soon.