I can hardly believe it’s summer. That’s a strange thing to say considering I’m a stalker when it comes to warm weather. I obsess over temps and hours of daylight on the weather apps all winter, a season I loosely define as “the months I need a heavy coat.” Living in Upstate NY, this means (to me personally) early November through late April or early May. So roughly half the year I’m dismayed by the cold and lack of light — and constantly monitoring for glimmers of hope.
And yet every year, when summer is finally here, I manage to be surprised. Not by the calendar. I understand how that works. What surprises me, always, is the extent of my relief. Well, relief and belonging, which I greet with both awe and gratitude, as when you’ve found something you thought you’d lost, something you knew may not be guaranteed.
The arrival of summer this year coincides with finishing my Gertie manuscript, which means I successfully immersed myself in (and stuck to!) the revision schedule I’d created for March, April and May. That type of discipline and focus was made possible, I believe, by a habit I’d established through work (January through April) with D. Colin on what she calls a 365 Journey. I ended up bowing out of that 365 accountability group because I was so deep in the revisions that I didn’t even want to talk about the process. However, I’m grateful for the experience and energy of that approach and will absolutely tap it again in the future.
For now, I’m reading, resting, keeping up with Morning Pages (now over 230 days) and doing some generative writing prompts to shift my brain back into the world in which I write new things.
I’m also sending the “Gertie” poetry manuscript to contests and open reading periods while convincing myself to be uncharacteristically chill about the whole thing.
This is the third manuscript I’ve attempted to get published (the first was in the mid-2000s and the second was post MFA graduation 2015-2017). And I can see now what an unhealthy relationship I had with the process of sending that second one out. I white knuckled it. I felt despair and frenzy and panic. I obsessed about how long it was taking. I let rejections devastate me. I kept shaping and re-shaping it, trying to guess at what may make it pleasing to someone. To anyone, really.
I’d like to blame it on a particularly vulnerable time in my life, but who am I kidding? I’m always raw.
And anyway — I’m so glad now it didn’t get published. This new manuscript is what I want out in the world. I think Gertie is meant to be my debut collection. I’m turning 51 in July and feel very late to The Debut Poetry Collection Club, but I’m so proud of these poems and how they’re working together.
Also, this manuscript makes me want to write more. The previous one felt like a period at the end of something, but this one feels like an opening. It’s written from a place of strength vs. desperation. The 2015-2017 attempt (and its poems) burbled up out of the thick mud of all my wounds. It was a byproduct of lots of flailing. But this new book has a wisdom to it, and that’s the energy I want to be associated with. As I wrote it, I learned to accept care from others and plan my own self care. I decided to trust others. I decided to trust myself.
If you want to be a writer, absolutely surround yourself with people who admire and support what you’re doing. But understand it starts with you. You have to care. You have to take care. You have to be there for the work and for yourself.
Spring Win #1 / As already shared (but deserves a shout-out here, as well), I completed revisions on my Gertie manuscript and have started to send it out to presses.
Spring Win #2 / In early May, I went to the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem and felt like a real writer in the world — attending workshops and readings, saw old poetry pals, perused a book fair, etc.
My partner-in-crime for the weekend (but not *just* for the weekend, of course), was Jill Crammond, and we successfully balanced Very Serious Poet Things with sunny patios and late-night karaoke.
Spring Win #3 / Sarah Freligh (pal, poet, fiction writer and teacher) has included links to some of my published work on her “brag page.”