Today marks the first day of summer, although we've been enjoying summer weather for days here in western Pennsylvania. Yes, we've had our fair share of thunderstorms and sticky temperatures, but for the most part, we've had comfortable days and cool nights. If we could have this kind of weather in the months ahead, I would be very happy indeed.
I am teaching an online class this summer and am learning a new program along the way. That has been keeping me fairly busy, but I have found that I am slowly drifting away from my writing goals for the summer. (Perhaps the nice weather has been too distracting?) I wanted to finish five essays that I started, and yes, two are finished (or as finished as any piece of writing can be, I suppose), but I am getting bogged down in the research for two others. As for the fifth essay -- well, I had a great start, but I'm on page five and I have discovered that I'm not sure where to go with the rest of the piece. Perhaps I should slide the draft under my pillow at night and then maybe, I will wake up with a great resolution.
For the most part, poetry has been pushed to the side this year. However, this past month, I did write two new poems and I revised two others. Not terribly productive, I know, but it's better than what I have been doing with my poetry, and I really want to take another look at my manuscript with some fresh, new poems in hand.
A final note about summer plans: Chautuaqua's season officially has officially started, and there are some wonderful workshops on the schedule. If you live in the area, you should take a look at what the Writers Center if offering. As for me, I will be taking an advance poetry workshop with poet Shara McCallum -- so looking forward to jumpstarting (hopefully!) my poetry writing!
This past month or so, I have spent considerable time reading about the history of Pennsylvania. For the most part, I have researched local history -- the natural history of western Pennsylvania along with the "manmade" history of the area's lumber and oil industries. Finding specific information about local history can be a bit tricky -- I am not from a big city and when it comes to the working-class history of Pennsylvania, the coal history and steel industry often take center stage. Most of what I know about local history I know from when I used to work at a small newspaper and had access to the newspaper archives.
I have realized how much I didn't know about the world where I grew up. When I write, I am leaving big gaps in my essays. This is slowing down the writing process quite a bit, although I realize that I may be getting a bit too caught up with the research that I am getting distracted from my own writing.
Still, I was thrilled to find a few books about local history by Dennis McGeehan. These books are comprised of old photographs and stories. Together, they tell a scattered history of my part of the world. (I strongly believe that real history is scattered -- that history should not be presented as a straight linear line of events labeled with mere dates.)
I have also recently finished Here and There: Reading Pennsylvania's Working Landscapes by Bill Conlogue. (See my review here.) Conlogue's work reminds me of the importance of research, but it also reminds me that part of a writer's job is to give a voice to a time or place that may not necessarily have a presence (at least a written presence) in history.
Rejection is part of the writer's life and I don't believe that I could write anything today about rejection that hasn't already been said. Perhaps the best quote I have ever heard about rejection is this: "Rejection is a sign of a writer at work." Yes, I put quotes around this sentence, but it's really a paraphrase because I have no idea who said it, and a quick Google search didn't help me. I did, however, find this interesting website titled Literary Rejections. Many of the quotes are familiar to me, but others were new -- with lots of advice about rejection worth thinking about.
Still, this isn't really a post celebrating rejection. Instead, it's a post celebrating the publication of my poem, "Chameleon" in The Redheaded Stepchild, a journal that specializes in finding homes for the rejected poem. In other words, this is a journal that celebrates rejection! My poem joins work by poets Carol Berg, Kimberly L. Becker, and Lauren Camp (among others!) Stop by and enjoy all the work!
It never fails. I could spend months preparing for a new course or doing major revisions to a course I have taught before, and the minute I put my final grades in for said course, I pick up a book that would have been perfect for the class. This time, it's Phillip Lopate's To Show and To Tell -- a guide that would have been excellent for my Advanced Prose class this past spring.
Still, not all is lost. Currently, I am wrapping up some of my own work through a WOW! Women on Writing workshop that focuses on flash creative nonfiction/memoir writing. The class, taught by the wonderful Melanie Faith, has really allowed me to focus on my own prose pieces. Lopate's words have echoed throughout my head as I have finished my final pieces for the workshop. His book explores the craft of creative nonfiction (or literary nonfiction) and offers a lot of insight about this fourth genre.
For me, the most intriguing chapter has been about the line between showing and telling. Show, Show, Show, is what I tell my students, when in back of my head, I know that I actually do too much showing in my own work. I tend to overload with images, so yes, my readers do get clear pictures in their heads of the story, characters, and setting -- they just don't know the purpose of these images! Between Lopate's advice and the feedback from the WOW class, I have officially been given more permission to tell, as well as show. Let's just hope that my new work isn't all about merely telling...
I am a poet and professor from rural Pennsylvania. This page is dedicated to my publishing news and events; for book reviews published online go to the Reviews tab above. For my own personal reviews, explore the Book Picks tab.