Sunday, August 30, 2009

The price of strategy

Who knew?

I had three poems that were medical in nature, and I wanted to send them to the Bellevue Literary Review. Their website indicated that although they read year-round, they began reading in earnest in September. So I thought I'd wait until September, or almost then.

Not such a good move. Today, their website indicates that they now have a huge backlog of submissions and are closed to new submissions until further notice.

Dang it!

Every submission is a long-shot, sure. But this is where my good thinking got me. Back to the drawing board, or the Poet's Market. (I already have work under consideration or pending at the other three medicine-related venues I know of, so why am I complaining?)

A few days ago, while watching a rerun of Deadwood, I heard Al Swearengen say, "Whenever we announce our intentions, God begins to laugh." Or something close to that.Knowing the show, I'm betting it's a quotation from somewhere (Shakespeare? the Bible?). Either way, it's been a good reminder for me to stay loose. Plan, but don't count on anything.

How do you strategize? (Or do you?)

How do you adapt when plans have to change?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Query fever

Not a lot of queries. Just one.

I want to pitch an essay idea to Writer's Market/Poet's Market (yes, I'm feeling a little ambitious). This means I have to write a pitch, a query letter.

I looked up pitch letters on the Internet. I received many results about pitching in baseball. I am still traumatized by my experiences trying to play softball in fourth grade (I was told to play catcher, and I couldn't get that mitt to work). The only time I pitched, playing with friends in the park, a line drive hit me in the leg (my bad-knee leg). So my personal pitching experience is not great.

Could this be where my anxiety comes from? Or is it just wanting to be good and feeling like I don't know enough about what I'm doing? I've already written up a bunch of notes for the essay, but it's just the pitch that's puzzling me, worrying me.

And the deadline is coming up.

Have you written pitch letters? Query letters? Any tips?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Food for thought

Recently, I entered's Food for Thought competition. The task was to write, in 500 words or less, about a food memory. And the winning entry was a poem! That's pretty cool.

Branching out in my writing genres, I submitted my entry as an essay. Without further adieu:

A good family dinner means we must plan ahead to avoid running out of dishes, and at some point during that meal I'll laugh so hard I'll start to weep. That Saturday in February was my birthday dinner—two weeks late, but finally the whole family could come.

Because I'm not an Italian mother, but want to cook like one, pasta was a must. I started by peeling butternut squash for ravioli. The bright orange flesh stuck to my hands, but I persevered with a sharp knife, chopped the squash, tossed it with olive oil, salt, and herbs de Provence. That pan went into the oven, and I toasted fennel seeds and coriander for the rub.

For birthdays, dessert is key. I heated half-and-half, cream, sugar, and honey. Then I tossed in dried lavender to steep (and a splash of vanilla). I grated lemon and orange rind for the cake, mixed up the batter, put those pans into the oven, and crossed my fingers.

People drifted in and out of the kitchen. I made the pasta dough, rolled out the long sheets and draped them over the ravioli pans. This was the risk, because raviolis take some time to make, and any rips can stretch the process out for hours. When all the small pillows were chilling on a platter, I made a meringue frosting.

I kept prepping: a flurry of root vegetables, hazelnuts, garlic, and shallots. I baked prosciutto slices until they were crunchy. I crisped pancetta, added balsamic and molasses to make a sauce.

I set out a plate of cheeses to soften, added crackers and a bowl of olives. I washed the greens and sliced the soft pears thinly. I then turned my attention to the pork tenderloin, slathering it with the fennel rub.

Guests arrived. Flutes were filled with Champagne while I seared the meat and slid it into the oven.

Finally, we sat down to bowls of carrot and beet soup with chives and sour cream. The greens were tossed in a fig-balsamic vinaigrette and served with the pears, the prosciutto, and chevre. The ravioli were nestled in melted butter with sage, hazelnuts, crumbled amoretti cookies, and Parmesan cheese.

Before I knew it, I was jumping up to serve the next course. Wine was poured. Stories were told. I placed wilted spinach on the plates, topped it with slices of pork and the pancetta sauce, ringed by potatoes and carrots roasted with thyme. I remember my mother saying the servings were too large. I remember laughter—and I'm sure at some point I had to dry my eyes with my napkin.

We took a breath before the cake and homemade lavender ice cream.

We've been fortunate to gather for many dinners like this one, our family around the table, course after course, even if we aren't Italian. But I remember this one especially for the luxury of waking in the morning with a whole day to cook for the people I love.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How cool is that?

How wonderful? How unexpected? I'm still a bit dizzy, giddy.

This evening, I read at the It's About Time series in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. It was a festive evening, with a lot of open mike readers and a writer's craft talk. And the other featured reader was Joan Swift, with whom I read in 1995. So that was a kind of reunion.


Before the reading began, I saw a really familiar woman arrive. She sat in front of me. I heard her first name. I wondered about her last name. When she stood up for open mike and introduced herself, I knew.

We hadn't seen each other in more than 25 years, and she was here. I met Pat Hurshell the first night of my first Nelson Bentley poetry workshop. It was my first venture into a poetry class since the workshop disaster of the previous fall. She was working on her doctorate. A few months later, she brought a poem to class that enchanted me. I used it as the inspiration to choreograph my modern dance senior project, and she came to a performance.

Over the years, I often thought about Pat and about the dance, and I wondered what she was doing.

But I had moved to New York for a few years, and I lost contact with a lot of people, including Pat.

Until tonight. It was about time. And I got to hear her read a poem.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Health care is so about poetry

And art. And music, dance, any kind of self-employment.

Where would you work, what would you do, how would you contribute if you didn't need to worry about getting health care through your employer? Or your partner getting health insurance? What would he or she do?

And if you don't have health care through a job or otherwise, feel free to chime in, speak up, speak out now.

Health care benefits make a mighty big case for the day job, but is that the best scenario?

Lately, when hearing all of the scaretic, I keep coming back to three questions:

  1. What about all the people who don't have health insurance?

  2. Do you really think that private, for-profit insurance companies don't come between you and your doctor?

  3. Have you tried to get individual health insurance through a private provider recently? (Maybe it's better now, but my last two experiences were, well, not good.)
Much is buzzing around the Internet. If you haven't seen them, here are two links.

Yeah, I might be preaching to the choir, but it's a mighty big choir. How can we make ourselves heard?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Manzanita, Oregon

This past weekend, we drove down to Manzanita to spend time with Tom's brothers and their families. I love the long beaches and the pounding surf, although I got wet only up to my ankles. Here are pictures from a little trip we took up the highway to Oswald West park.

Family, with Max the dog. Those aren't sharks in the water. They're surfers. In wet suits. Promise.

Tom found a good place to sit and watch the surfers wipe out.

Many creatures.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Just don't break the glass

A recent post on Zen Habits talked about seeing the glass as already broken. I have a hard time with this, because to me it promotes abandoning responsibility. I immediately envision it as license to hurl glasses willy-nilly, even the really nice glasses that we brought home from Venice. Sure, I know it's a metaphor—and I know that at some point they will very likely shatter, but there's no need to hasten the process.

Yeah, that's me.

The same post explains the same concept as viewing everything as an adventure. Accept the fact that you don't know the answer, that you'll take the wrong train, or the train won't come on time, or that it will stop in the middle of nowhere (or France) and you'll need to get on a bus.

This, I can get behind. And if I needed a reminder, I accidentally gave myself one last week.

Before leaving for Lummi Island, I carefully packed the books I wanted to read and my writing notebooks. Also, my gym/walking shoes, my hairbrush, and my phone charger.

After driving for a couple of hours, having lunch, taking a ferry, and settling in, I realized that I never brought that bag! No books, no notebooks, and none of that other stuff! On the one hand, this is a reading and writing vacation for me. On the other hand, I immediately recognized an opportunity for adventure. (And I'm sure I owe part of that optimistic attitude to Zen Habits, all broken glass aside.)

I found a new notebook at the local store, and I spent the weekend reading old Copper Canyon catalogs and finding some amazing and helpful work in them—partly because I had so much time to immerse myself in them.

It was a fabulous weekend. It was an adventure. I didn't break any glasses. And I wrote and wrote and wrote.

Weekend on Lummi Island