A Postcard from my Writing Vacation

You guys have been holding out on me. No one told me how much fun it is to write a novel, especially because nothing is at stake. I spent the morning plotting a revolution at the cafe, while my poor husband had to write a teaching philosophy statement (insert Simpsons “ha ha” here). I drew a freaking map and am coming up with slang. I’ve invented a religion (or, rather, repurposed an existing one), caused a river to flow between US and Canada, and thought up a totally gratuitous myth about dragons. Poets don’t get away with this kind of shit normally. What else are you not telling me?

Catching Up

I feel as if it should be Thursday, but it actually is Friday. My friends made plans for yesterday that I thought was going to be next week. I missed garbage night and my favorite bar/restaurant is closing.

Poetry is happening, but I’m afraid that the poetry book is not. I took my poetry manuscript out to the cafe for a read. It was not so good. My first poem is a long one, and it is incoherent. It is the one of the ideas I am thrashing out in my memoir. It is stories and not a poem. The middle section is interesting but undeveloped. It’s blazingly obvious that I threw poems in because they fit the theme, not because they were interesting or good poems.

My new editing gig involves checking references in a variety of styles. I began with APA, because I know it best. But it turns out that MLA does a better job capturing the vagaries of the references. After years of despising MLA style (because they insisted on underlining book titles, which is a typewriter convention), I find I like it. My computer is overheating, but I am cold. The sun is full of ice and gives no warmth at all.

Almost every day I write 1,000 words of my schlock novel. I do not think about the 40,000 extra words I need in The Fucker. I do not plan the rest of my summer (anyway my favorite bar is closed, I might as well stay home).

Where are you?

Drawer Books

I’ve been working on a new schlock novel. My first schlock novel died at the 4/5 mark. And looking at it again, after having started my new schlock novel, I think I would have to replot the whole thing to make it work. I’m a poet, so plot is difficult. Thus it might be my drawer novel. (Note: The new schlock novel is my writing vacation and any professional or consumer issues are not being considered. If I finish it and it has a plot that holds water, then, maybe, I’ll think about something to do with it.)

I used to think my poetry manuscript was a drawer book. I had sent it out and received a good 50-some rejections. Individual poems (20+) had been published, but no one expressed any interest in the book, not even a “nice work, but not for us” scrawled at the bottom of a form rejection note. I stopped sending it out. I’ll focus on The Fucker, I thought. I’ll submit essays. And then DP got a book.

I was really beside myself pleased when his book was accepted. I liked the look of the press, and the man can write like a dream. I was the one who pushed him to start submitting. I beamed at him and bragged to my friends. But of course I’m slightly jealous. Not “I hate you and your book” jealous, but just a wee tiny bit jealous. I think this is normal.

Yesterday DP started badgering me about my poetry manuscript.

“I think you should send it to [former professor].”

“No, I’m waiting to send him my nonfiction manuscript.”

“You should keep sending it out.”

“But I’ve sent it out a zillion times.”

“What would you tell me if I were in your place?” And yesterday I was mad. How could I keep sending it out? I have had no positive feedback on the manuscript as a whole, so something must be the matter with it. Bah. But after some sleep, I reconsidered.

One of the differences between a poetry book and a novel is that although you do have to think about “arc” in a poetry book, you don’t have to worry about plot. If you can write a poem well, and then write another poem well, you have most of a poetry manuscript. So there are arguments for keeping sending it out, especially if individual poems from it have been published.

So I’m taking the Poetry Fucker out of the drawer and am sending it out today. I’m also going to chop it up and sell it for parts (i.e., a chapbook). Poetry manuscripts can take a lot of abuse.

Keep going or throw in the towel?

The Schedule

I’m dog-sitting again, and my life has become incrementally more regimented. At 5:00 there is the administering of dinner. But you can’t just feed all the animals (or livestock as we sometimes call them) dinner. Nope. You first have to bar off half the downstairs so the beleaguered old-lady kitty can have some peace. She catches on quick once I shut the door to the living room and barricade the little hall. Wet food for the kitty where the dogs can’t get to it.

Then there is food for each of the two dogs (different food). During dog feeding I sit there so the spaniel/Jack Russell/lemonhead doesn’t lose her manners and eat my dog’s food. My dog is used to eating one piece of food at a time over hours. The Lemonhead inhales. So the Lemonhead settles at my feet and sighs, staring at my dog as he eats. I sit and read until my dog sits down and just guards his food. Dinnertime is over.

(The Lemonhead is a frequent visitor and knows that if I’m sitting at the computer, it is her job to sit next to me. My dog knows this too. So I write this with the Lemonhead stretched out at my feet and the poodle-thing curled on his pillow.) After Feeding is the consumption of media.

(DP and I went to pick up our farmshare today and had our own devouring of local cheese, berries, and [nonlocal] crackers.)

I am reading “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking.” Twenty-five pages in and I adore it. “All happy food memories are alike; all unhappy food memories are unhappy after their own fashion.” The author and her mother are cooking their way through Soviet history. I hope to adore it equally the whole way through. Time will tell. As will I, soon enough.

What media and/or food are you consuming these days?

Things I have looked up online in the past 24 hours


French curves (it’s a drafting tool, people! Don’t get any ideas.)

The course catalog at the college where I work


All the Roadrunning

What kind of rock makes up white gravel (inconclusive)

The word “saltatory”

Whether nonpasteurized is a word or whether it should be unpasteurized

Icelandic cuisine

Bay of Fundy


Journals that read over the summer

And only some of this is for work. What weird things do you find yourself looking up when you are writing?


Technology 1, Indy Clause 1

When I woke up yesterday morning and discovered (while posting on Teri’s blog) that my “d” key didn’t work, I thought it was just a stray crumb. Alas, the key depressed, but no letter appeared. The key depressed, and then so did I.

But I am a somewhat resourceful clause. In a desperate gambit to expand my Adjunct Clause empire, I went to my Second Job (which is over for the summer) and used the computers there to apply to teach a class. My current editing project does not require a lot of rewriting. So back at home I mostly added hyphens, wrote out queries, and pasted the letter “d” where necessary.

However, after lunch, the “e” key went too. There are two “e”s in my first name alone. Not being able to get to my email was a low blow, computer. Mocking me on Facebook did not help, Sarah W. (although it was possibly funny). I limped through my last paper, and sent it in. Because I had to cut and paste both my “e”s and “d”s, the “Here’s my paper, thanks!” email took me fifteen minutes. Let’s not even talk about the author queries.

Such a pathetic picture: Indy Clause in her extraordinarily warm and humid apartment, cutting and pasting the most common letter in the English language. But hope was in sight! Her friend B works in IT. She has stray keyboards coming out of her ears, just about. The exchange happened in a bar. It wasn’t even subtle, as I misjudged how big a keyboard was and brought along a too-small bag. (Insert is that a keyboard? joke here.) Thank god I don’t have a drug habit. I’d be busted immediately.

And so I am reunited with the letter “e” and the letter “d” and can write again. B tells me that business computers have a 3-year lifetime. My computer is three years old. Buying a computer seems ridiculously wasteful when I now have an external keyboard. And yet, my (work)life isn’t worth living when my computer goes. And it’s good for the taxes. (Freelancing has very little overhead, which seems great at first, until April when you realize that because no one withholds taxes from your earnings that if you have no expenses you owe the government a lot of money.)

And maybe I’ll keep this one as a backup.

What can you not live without?

Summer Notes

It’s cloudy and dark out of one window and there are blue skies out of the other window. This is not unlike my emotional state.

Everyone has been all up in arms about the study that found that people would rather shock themselves then think. Although I’m just as concerned about people’s attention spans as the next book-loving, ADD copyeditor, I am not worried about the report. You know how when you tell someone not to think about pink elephants they can’t get pink elephants out of their head? Go in this room and think.

The human reaction is I don’t wanna think. Where’s my smartphone? Why didn’t I bring in the crossword? I’m hungry. Where are the windows? What’s this button, ow!

But stick a person in a car and send her out to [place redacted], and she’s going to think. I was hoping to solve my schlock novel on the four-hour drive, but my thoughts were too meandering. Who needs silly things like plots anyway? I got a couple good ideas about The Fucker on my way home. I spent some time wondering why the only books by women in the science section of my favorite used bookstore in [location redacted] were gift books and one study about rocks.

Unfortunately driving took up a lot of the narrative in my head. I invented a couple of new curse word combinations to describe left-lane bandits and various cars that pissed me off for no reason other than that they were on the road as the same time as I was. (Let’s just say I was glad to get home.)

What do you think about when you drive? How do you remember your story/book ideas without writing them down?