The part of me that is an artist (and even though I've done plenty of art over the years I've never been comfortable calling myself that) has now separated from the writing part of me (a bit - as much as I am able).
It's taken decades to do this and it's no small thing. And while drawing and writing will always be cousins, it's writing that has carried me along --for the most part--in this pandemic. It's writing and zooming for over a year with folks I would not otherwise know but who are "regulars" to writing events, whether it's generative writing or listening to someone launch a book--whatever. And it's writing that has kept me sane (along my dear cat, Miss P). Otherwise I would truly be at my wit's end.
The part of me that is an artist and always will be what I call 'a doodler' will always be. Full stop. But I've placed that artistic web trail, including photography and drawing, at finleydesignart --where it's been for ages--and will pull out the writing side, creating a new profile; one that exists (already) and always has, but one that has not actually had its own lawn so to speak. So... this site * finleywrite launches this week and finleydesignart stays much as it has been. And sure, there will occasionally be drawings on the writing site, and yes, there will be the occasional terse thought on the drawing site, but they will have their "own-ness." And, I'm a bit terrified to admit that it's fun to see them that way.
In writing, I'm often working on stories and poems and nonfiction at the same time. It was only recently, when I heard someone say they keep their projects on different tables, that I got excited. I've started doing that too. Because when you're working on several things at once it's easy to get overwhelmed. And I am just keeping head above water as it is.
So....I'll go from desk to desk. Maybe I'll even park a hat on one table and help my person of the day slide into her persona, her profile--her way of being. And I'll continue to write and draw, but maybe I'll have more room for each thing. Hoping that is true.
A Monday is a terrible thing if you're stewing about all that you haven't done. But I was able to push out a poem. I'm not saying it's good. It's just a poem. Be gentle. Here 'tis:
I realize all I have
Is the part when I let go
And find myself staring
At the wind’s circumstance
Leaves lifted up like skirts
Or the river’s silver-white glance
I wait, I wait
Soon the weighing down will come
Reminding me of time and loss
It’s blue that cheers me
Your pale eyes remembered
Or in the evening come the moon
Blue or full or even new
In vacancy I view as grief
Could I be bear
To prowl to find that quiet place
And curl up there
Quiet that floats in evening mist
And tells me to forget the rest
Here's the first prompt for the month. I'm sharing this one, but I don't promise to share any others. DAY #1 Prompt: “I remember.”
1. Take five to ten minutes to write “I remember…” lines without stopping. Name specific scenes, moments, descriptions. You might want to try writing this by hand rather than by computer. See the sample poem below for some examples.
2. Consider copying this list and cutting it into separate lines and rearranging them, or rearrange them on your computer document. You could choose your most descriptive or striking or surprising top 10, 20, or 30… Do what you want with these lines to make a poem.
--Keep the “I remember” at the beginning of each line, or don’t. Random and optional word list: test, pleasure, stall, move, path, trace, give, unique, sturdy.
The person who mailed this prompt says this prompt idea came from the book A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry, by Gregory Orr. She sent the prompt to me and all the folks who signed up to write yesterday (for today). She said in her note, "...that way we could think about it in our subconscious," and boy, she was right. By the way, I'm hoping all the poems are not this depressing. If you'd like to get an email of my daily poem why not use my contact page to sign-up and let me know. I'll add that once I stepped into this remembering process it resulted in me remembering a bunch of things I really didn't want to - but that's the way it is with memories. You can't turn them off once loosened up. I'm posting day #1's poem here but that doesn't mean I'll post them all here. Well, anyway, just for today, here it is..a poem.
a small wading pool with triangle corners
my grandparents’ hydrangeas
the black and white movie
of driving to the hospital at night
nosebleeds that wouldn’t stop
how my teachers talked about me in 7th grade
appendicitus at eleven
how my mother dressed me like I was a paper doll
like I was her hobby
skating on new asphalt
new surfaces of survival
**LINK to my fundraising page for the Center for New Americans
I call myself writer now and it took me a long time to do it, not that I haven't written my whole life, not that I'm a bad writer, but that the permission hadn't been set in my own brain. I finally got there and that's okay, but when I began calling myself a poet it felt false because of how I had previously defined it. It was the same problem all over again. It was a definition I had constructed that didn't include me. I think we do that - define things so narrowly it's hard to shift into a different mode. And we all have a bit of imposter syndrome going on that taps us on the shoulder and makes us feel uncomfortable, unworthy.
So about this being a poet. Besides writing poetry and having a big pile of poems going back years, and besides writing every day, how can I feel more comfortable about my own definition of myself? Well, I thought of a way. I signed up for 30 Poems in November, a fundraiser for the Center For New Americans. A poem a day - and honestly I'm almost doing that anyway - but it allows me to step into poetry in a more formal way. It's like making a contract with myself to commit to being more present as a poet, to have more intention at least for 30 days. A side benefit is that I'll be connecting with other poets who are of a like mind; who whatever their motivation regarding writing is, they too want to support immigrants. I definitely do. We all struggle but those who come here with no connections are struggling to become part of a community. They're more than a little bit lost. They need connections to food, learning, health providers -- so many things, and CNA does such good work to support them. If you'd like to receive a daily poem from me in November, I invite you to use the form on my website to send me a request. And if you like, make a donation to the Center For New Americans. I'll be here writing poetry. I can do it. I'm a poet.
I had wanted (please note past perfect) to go to the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) May conference (since I have 3 children's book projects underway; one nonfiction) and I haven't gone to many of the local meet-ups. Back in January, I said to myself, I'll be ready (to meet an agent) by spring. I saw the email about the conference and then I let a couple of weeks slip by. Big mistake! It's obviously like signing up for classes in college. You have to jump on it right away or you'll be stuck with the phrenology of warts or something. By the time I finally clicked over to look at registration, every single opportunity to make a pitch, meet an agent and have someone review your first 20 pages was gone. Sigh. Double sigh. On the up side, however, I did learn my lesson. I did sign up for Willamette Writers Conference coming this August. The registration opened today at 8:00am and there I was at 8:17am looking through all the choices and getting registration done. Unlike my love life, where I make the same mistakes over and over again, my #writinglife has a better learning curve. But now the panic sets in with a vengeance!
I realize I have about a month and a half to get my writing finished, polished and ready for scrutiny (you have to send it in about a month ahead of the conference). And, while I write every day, I go through spurts of organization, calendaring, other misc. admin tasks and finding submission "homes" (for short stories and poetry) maybe once a month. God bless submittable. Now, I feel a hand on my back pushing me to get it together. It's kind of like cleaning when you know company is coming. It gives you motivation.
There's a woman I met at the #OoliganPress #w2p2018 workshop at #PSU who I need to thank for restoring my faith in publishing and publishers. It's Kathlene Postma. Her poetry, fiction and visual art has appeared in Hawaii Review, willow Springs, Zyzzyva, Los Angeles Review and more. What's delightful is that she's such a wonderfully down-to-earth person and has such a diverse creative background. As professor of creative writing at Pacific University, she shared that her students had influenced her with their entrepreneurial spirit, which in turn inspired her to delve into adult fairy tales. She spoke about how her art (doing art) had invited her to find "a childlike intuitive space."
The conversations centered for the most part on publishing. Kathlene spoke of the "nugget of the story" and how stories can be told in many ways nowadays, and in many forms, including lots of media that wasn't around before. The panel that Ms. Postma was on (with Finn J.D. John, and Matthew Simek with moderator Taylor Thompson - also valuable contributors) was called: "Under One Banner: Writing Mediums and Submitting to Literary Journals." There was a lively discussion on the best way to know where to submit something (actually, that's my personal nemesis) and some strategies were discussed that deserve mention. Besides reading the journal you are planning on submitting to (to see if your work is a good fit) Kathlene suggests looking at some of the small presses. "See what their focus is," she advises. Poetry and Fiction are tough markets now, "..there's tons of poetry," she notes. She advises writers to "..write what you care about." [always good advice] She also suggests looking into creative nonfiction as an option.
The panel was asked, "What do you wish you would have known starting out?" Kathlene advises writers to "Be yourself. Don't worry, you'll find your tribe." [I love that] and to "write for yourself," [always good advice]. She adds, "Maybe go rogue.." meaning you have other options than traditional publishing - maybe consider self-publishing. It was partly due to her remarks that I come to be in the position of re-launching myself into myself, that is to say a more leaned in "out there" version of myself. So thank you, Kathlene. Much obliged! Oh, and there is a wonderful page on the SilkRoad website with interviews with people like Dorianne Laux and Robert Boswell. Good reading!
C. D. Finley
Opinionated, wry, sometimes corny, observational humor mostly about writing, but you never know.