Saturday, April 28, 2012

saturday morning, as the wind finally settles

When I used to write letters, I would stop at six full pages of script, fearing I might overwhelm the person to whom I was writing, and of course I was right to fear. I go long, often, when I describe. When friends wrote me back, I would carry letters around in my pocket, reading and rereading, feeling the companionship of that particular friend, that hand, writing on that page, to me. I miss those days. No post online is the equal. But I try anyway.

In effort not to exhaust you, let me sketch a catch-up list:
  • Google my full name and you should find my new website.
  • Moved to a rental house on The Great Marsh in Ipswich, last year. Unless something marvelous comes along, we will live here for the next five years.
  • Surprisingly at home at Christ Church. I am done teaching church school—done for a long time, though I do think The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd might have saved my life in my time at our beloved St. Mary’s.  
  • Kids: I love parenting teenagers. They still love us so openly, which is a gift. However, I’m posting less public writing about them, as their need for privacy grows.
  • Scott is well and busy, enjoying sixteen years of teaching junior high students. Happily distracted by baseball season. He is also writing for the alumni magazine of his school, and he’s good!  
  •  Money is an ongoing question, while parenting, teaching part-time, and writing. While this question gnaws at me, this seems like this is the moment in which we live. So many people are wrestling with mortgages, income, student debt. I hope I can write into this, in a way that other people can embrace. 
  • I love teaching my two sections of incoming students each fall semester. I felt I was at my best, as an educator, last fall.
  • Temped full-time in the editing department at a gorgeous corporate publishing headquarters in January, February and March—great company, but the work itself was so dispiriting. (For the last three weeks, I inched away at a 500,000 item spreadsheet of date formats that needed corrected. Hell. Just hell.) We were glad for the money.
I am writing, revising, working on stuff for publication, thinking about the future and thinking about loving this place where we live. I need to put in a garden, soon. I need to unpack from last week’s trip. I need to be a more disciplined lover of God, but God is very patient, very present with me. In six weeks, kids will be out of school for the summer. I am applying for a summer school teaching job, and they are applying to be volunteers at a day camp for four weeks.

This is the point in the letter when I would become bored with the natter of talking about myself. Will it surprise you if I say I’m taking a notebook outside to write by hand, now? Saturday morning, and the wind has kept me awake for two nights, whistling through windows, shaking the walls. Kids are sleeping late, because they need to. Coffee and sunlight and a notebook, my friends. And maybe a novel, too? So much good in the world.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the clothesline over my desk

8:20 a.m. 

For my 50th birthday, I asked for the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing. Now I am home and back at my writing desk, distracted by the thank you notes I hope to write, blissfully interrupted by memories of good conversations with people who love books, people who write books.   

I return freshly determined to submit my stories for publication in literary journals. One of the challenges to story submission: it’s important to know the publication, to see a sense of “fit” between the story and the journal. And the differences between journals are subtle. I invested a few hours at the festival visiting booths sponsored by literary journals, leafing through pages, trying to get a sense of each publication. 

I could aim my work to smaller publications with more likelihood of success. Or I could aim for exquisite journals, where my story will be added to the slush-pile of unsolicited work, where the submission guidelines say I should not expect to hear from the magazine for six months or longer.

I need a visual record of what I’m doing, where I’m sending stories. I could easily spend a day crafting a lovely bulletin board, the dream board in my imagination. But the need to get started is far more urgent. I rush through the morning house, ignoring the mess and disorganization. (Why are the pliers in the pencil jar by the phone? Is there an unpaid bill hidden in this stash of old mail? Don’t look in the frig, don’t look in the frig, don’t.) 

I return to my writing desk with a length of yarn and two pushpins I wrenched from the wall. I make a clothesline across my window. I write the name of a story on a 3 x 5 card, along with the name of a journal, and secure it with a clothespin—the clothespin still bearing the crayon marks from some long ago rainy day project. Two cards pinned. Now I must riffle through more story files for two more stories that are ready for final edits. My goal is to submit four stories by Friday morning, though some submissions require hard copies, envelopes, post office visits, and I am not good with the US Mail.

11 a.m. 

Now eating my forgotten breakfast of rice with golden raisins and cinnamon, now wishing for another cup of coffee. I have a clothesline. Cards are pinned to it.

Story 1 I will send the hard copy without looking at it, because I remember it as perfect.

Story 2, Smoke Rings, begins with two boring sentences. Printing a hard copy so I can do some final edits. Still wondering which publication.

Leafing through files for stories 3 and 4, and I found a gem! Already published on Catapult magazine’s site, An Un-Quiet Existence. If you go look at it, look at the current edition of Catapult, as well. 

Now I’m off to look for more unpublished stories in my files.