2021-12-29 In What Universe is it OK…

… that the answer to the question “Do you like pizza?” is different than the answer to the question “Do you eat pizza?”?!

The answer to the question is that in no Universe is it OK (unless you have some health reason not to). I am surrounded by people who can’t eat things. Gluten intolerance, IBS, lactose intolerance, shellfish allergy, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, peanut allergy, and the beat goes on and on and on. What has happened to human beings?

Do you know what is arguably worse than that? I am one of the only people I know my age or older who can still eat anything I want but I don’t. We’ll I sort of do, but I really don’t.

Hold up. What?! 

I like ice cream. Scratch that… I LOVE ice cream. But I don’t eat ice cream because it makes you fat. And by you, I mean me. I love cookies, and candy, and chocolate, and pie, and Lucky Charms, and THAT beat goes on and on and on.

I’ve got a real sweet tooth and always have. When I was a kid I used to spend every dime of my dime-a-chore allowance on candy from the corner store on Harrison Avenue. Empty pockets and a satisfied tongue were just a short bike ride away. I also got in tons of trouble stuffing the empty wrappers under the cushions of our velvet blue and gold flower couch. But now every time I think about eating something sweet I have this self-loathing argument in my head about it.

Every, damn, time! But why? 

Because I’m damaged, that’s why. You don’t get to be my age without some sort of damage. Life is like that and it’s frightfully unavoidable. 

My damage was an eating disorder I developed at the uncanny age of 34. Might have started slightly earlier than that, but it was full-blown by the time I was in the midst of my divorce and trying desperately to control one of the few things in life that I could control–my weight. 

I became so obsessed with being in control that I began to take extreme measures to push my body to see how low I could go. And because my soon-to-be ex-husband had conditioned me to think that paper-clip thin was sexy, I actually thought I looked good. To be fair, people around me also supported this notion by telling me that I looked great so part of my distorted self-image came from society as a whole lifting up a slender physique as the ideal. What a load of garbage. 

I think by now everyone can guess what “extreme measures” means and that’s not really my focus now anyhow. Right now I’m mostly concerned about the mental scars I still suffer from because of what I went through. 

Once I was on the other side of the problem, which is to say, once I felt like I had overcome my obsession and was really back in control, I kept that shit inside like a dirty secret no one could know. For a long time. I felt as if I was over the worst of it but would carry those experiences with me for the rest of my life. I guess one could say, never really cured. Which is how it went. Always a little nagging magpie in the back of my brain pecking away about fat and carbs and quantity and calories and numbers on a scale. There were no more extreme measures, but there sure was (is) one hell of a body-image issue.

That, however, was small potatoes compared to other things I had going on in my life. I was a single mother of two, a full-time working woman, and a homeowner with a desire to have more of a life than just those three sides. I didn’t have time to worry about the numbers but I didn’t really need to either. 

I ate right, exercised enough, and had a pretty good metabolism. When my clothes got a little tight, I just cranked up the exercise and paid a little more attention to what I was putting in my mouth. It balanced out naturally. But it doesn’t anymore, which IS the focus now. This struggle I find myself living with day in and day out. 

In the last year, I’ve gained weight. I’m not getting any younger and my metabolism isn’t getting any faster so it has become more and more difficult to lose a few pounds. My sizes have all gone up. The clothes, the bra circumference, and yes, even my underwear drawer is in serious need of an upgrade. Everything I own is uncomfortable and I have started getting mad about it. Really mad. 

I created a “Goodwill” pile and every time something doesn’t fit, I toss it on the pile. I’m getting thicker and my wardrobe is getting considerably thinner. I hate it. 

I don’t want to give up. I want to fight harder but I also don’t want to deny myself all the food that I love. Including pizza and cheeseburgers and fried fish tacos and yes, ALL the sugar too. This daily struggle has become too much an obsession. 

I wake up thinking about it. I constantly argue with myself about whether I should eat breakfast or not, if I should have coffee with cream and sugar or try to give it up, how much I eat for lunch and if it should be simple and healthy or 

Something I want because I like the way it tastes. And the best goes on and on and on like that until the last decision of the day is upon me. Do I allow myself to have an evening snack.

I use twisted logic to convince myself of doing what I really want in the moment and then get angry thinking about how I need to go shopping for new clothes. It’s ridiculous. 

My husband says I’m sexy and beautiful and at the perfect weight right now. He wants to “deprogram” my lines of thinking and help me to see what he sees. He tells me to treat myself to some new clothes and says that I deserve to spend money on myself. 

It’s not about the money. It’s about the shame of not being able to fix something I’ve always had control over. But have I always had control? 

That’s how it started, yes. As I said, I could control my weight but in the thick of bulimia and anorexia, it’s definitely a situation that was completely out of control. 

The question I have to ask myself is am I out of control now? What can I really do to help myself and fix this? 

Therapy maybe. Set a modest goal yet allow myself to indulge and enjoy. Be reasonable. Take my husband’s advice and go shopping. Be kind to myself and try to make peace with these 10 extra pounds. Take the pile of clothes that don’t fit to the Goodwill. All I can say is that I’ll try. Keep trying actually as a lot of this is already a part of the daily conversations in my head. 

Actions speak louder than words though so I think it’s time to end the conversations and make up my damn mind so I can stop wasting so much time arguing with myself. If I like pizza, which I do, then I should just eat the damn pizza.

With that my time is up. 

Peace and love, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-12-09 Random This and That Thursday ✍🏻💊📖🤷‍♀️…

Today I’ve been working on a variety of things and it’s mostly good and I haven’t even had to leave my couch and that’s fine with me. 

It’s mostly been communications related but I did take a wee break in the middle of the day to join a creative writing session. That was nice though I’m pretty sure (like most of those sessions lately), I’m trying too hard and don’t come away with anything that’s worth anything. That could be my confidence talking (though I’m afraid it’s not). 

I think what I need is some more stimulation. Something to really fire me up enough that I want to write about it. For a while there I was inspired to write about all the lovely writing that was showing up in my inbox every morning. But that’s waning now too, as is this blog. What’s a girl to do? 

Anyway. How about that Nebraska weather? Equally as boring, right?! 😂

In other news I’ve successfully cut out the caffeine supplements in the morning. That’s a pretty big deal as I’ve been taking them for years. I mean, It was not that bad for my health but one of my goals for a long time has been to cut unnecessary supplements out of my regular routine. So it’s been buh-buy caffeine, melatonin, magnesium, motegrity, and even loratadine. That last one is for my allergies and this hiatus is a test to see how things are without them. 

As a kid and young adult I always had seasonal allergies. I think the older I get the better it gets so going off them now, at this time of year after a hard freeze, will tell me if my issues are still there or seasonal or something causing problems all year round (like dust mites or cats). Though if I was allergic to cats I would probably not have lived this long. 🤣

Anyway.. the last couple days I’ve suffered from a mild to moderate headache. I had cut out the circumin but think I’ll add that back in because the headache makes it tough to concentrate and that’s why I started taking that in the first place. Though this headache could be because of the lack of caffeine. That withdrawal is no joke. 

What else? 

What else? 

Oh hey, did I mention my book, Unsuspecting Cinderella?

It’s great. You should buy a copy. 

I’m saying that to everyone but Vis who has already taken a big bite for team SugarCookie. Thanks Vis… you’re the BEST!! 

I’ll have more of a promo results post coming soon. Gonna get prelim numbers from the publisher and we’ll see who’s hit the magic button to buy a copy. For real! 

Ok… guess that’s all I have time for today. Here’s to hoping for better weather tomorrow. 😂

Cheers,
~Miss SugarCookie

2021-12-03 Practicing Shameless Self-Promotion

Hello. My name is Shyla and I suck at self-promotion. Here’s a link to my first book: Unsuspecting Cinderella. Please buy it. 

See what I mean? I really have no idea how to get people to buy my book. Hell, I am not even comfortable telling people about it. I mean, I’ll tell you all about it if you ask but me bringing it up first is tough. Don’t even get me started on attempting to ask people to spend money on it. 

It’s a good book, I promise. But like every other book in the known Universe, it’s not for everyone. 

It’s a book of poetry. About 30 pages worth, give or take a few section breaks. Small enough to read in just one sitting. I think they are fabulous poems, but that’s just me. The author. 

My publisher sent me about five terrifying and overwhelming emails about book promotion, book sales, radio interviews, press release examples, etc. I read through them and it was all too much. I get that they are in the business of making money by publishing and selling books but it was like they drove a dump-truck up to my email inbox and just dumped. I guess I’m not going to get any help with promo during this pre-sale period, which is a couple of months. Those emails mean they have officially passed that promo baton to me until January.  

I’m just not sure how to go about doing self-promotion or where to start. I guess that’s why I’m writing this. Ha!

Outside of my most immediate family, I haven’t sent anyone the link yet to pre-order (well, besides posting it here). I’m pretty sure only 2 people have actually bought a copy so far. 

I have to sell at least 55 copies of the book or it will never be released to markets other than the original publisher (like Amazon or Barnes and Noble), so that’s my first goal. 55 people. That shouldn’t be so tough right?

Ok… I have 791 followers on this blog so maybe if each one of you buys a copy that will be super cool. Minus the people who are just bots, minus the people who follow me just because that’s what they do to get followers, minus the people who are no longer looking at the wordpress feeds, minus the random person who just stumbled across this today. By my estimate that leaves about 10 people. 

Minus you Vis because I know you are one of two people who already bought a copy. So that leaves nine. 

Hi, nine good people of Earth. Please buy my book. Here’s that link again: Unsuspecting Cinderella

I said it was good but don’t take my word for it. Check out the praise the book received from three other great humans: 

Unsuspecting Cinderella is what happens after the glass slipper slips on and the prince carries the poet off to the castle. These are pensive, incisive lines of deep hungers (I want you to want me like a fever breaking), and the Midas-like emptiness at the castle that leaves one curled into a ball and opening umbrellas on the inside. It’s the cautionary tale of compromising our truest self for a life that is both more than enough and nowhere near enough. A chapbook that reads like a novel written on a silver matchbook.

–Teri Youmans

Speaking to and for others who have risen from the commonplace into the exciting but fearsome American dream, Shyla Shehan “can’t even see myself” as she looks in the mirror, just a regular bathroom mirror. Life changes, and, in part two, the speaker of these poems is living in The Castle—watching, worrying, working to fit in and accept. Shehan’s powerful debut is honest, moving, and deeply instructive.

–Steve Langan

Shyla Shehan’s remarkable first collection, Unsuspecting Cinderella, packs a lot of punch in its thirty pages.  The poems of the first section track a female persona through the losses of love and the strangeness of life when one moves through it alone.  The second section follows that same persona into a world of new love and the oddly haunting burden of unexpected affluence.  Throughout, the poems are rich with vibrant language, surprising reversals, and insights into the difficulties of surviving emotionally in our stressful culture.  The collection is both entertaining and moving, not to mention philosophically engaging.  I look forward to seeing a lot more work by this accomplished poet.

–Jim Peterson, author of The Horse Who Bears Me Away

Does including the blurbs help? I guess that’s why they print them on the back of the book. Heh. 

I suppose outside of emailing everyone in my contact list the way my publisher suggests, social media promo is the golden ticket. I know that but I’ve been trying to resist that 💩 for years and now I’m gonna look like a hypocrite trying utilize the twitters and facebooks for this. That’s taking self promotion to the next level. It’s called shameless self-promotion. I also suck at being shameless. 

Ok… so now I’ve started. This here today is a start. Next on my list is to send out emails. I should set a goal and then reward myself with a pedicure or something if I hit my target. The Universe knows I need a little extra motivation to do what needs to be done if I want to sell some books. And I do want to sell some books. I mean, I want to share my poems with as many people as I can and this book is a big part of that. Please buy it. 😂

Cheers to Friday, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-11-24 Which Way is Up + 10 Reasons Why Tuesday was Tops Compared to Monday

I swear the Universe is conspiring to mix me around something fierce in a way that leaves me not knowing which direction is up.

Two days ago I was the hot mess I often complain about being here in this semi-anonymous space. Yesterday was like the exact opposite. I felt great and for no damn good reason. I actually finished writing yesterday knowing in my heart today’s writing was going to start with 10 reasons why Tuesday was awesome (except I just said there was no good reason). 

Then last night happened and I’m all like “what the actual hell??!!”

I was stirred awake by one of the cats banging on our bedroom door, which they normally can’t to get to because we close the doors of the room that leads to our bedroom. That was 3:45am and I never was able to go back to sleep. 

It’s now 4:30 in the afternoon and I still haven’t slept or napped or anything that would bring me some relief for my utter exhaustion. What have done instead? 

Well after trying to go back to sleep for like an hour I said fuck it and pulled out my laptop. I had a poem accepted Tuesday for publication (Reason #1 Tuesday was way better than Monday). 

When that happened I promptly realized that I had to withdraw said poem from the 35+ other places it was stull under consideration at. Yowza! 

So I used today’s time in the wee hours to do that but you know what that means. I was on the Submittable platform and looking at all my open submissions and it’s a slippery slope with that “discover” button so close to my mouse pointer. I could not help myself. I started looking and then I started submitting. And before I knew it, it was 7am. 

I got up to cook breakfast and when that was over and Jim was off to work I took my dog-dodo feeling self and matched back up to the spare bedroom, took off my pants, climbed back into bed, and went right back to it. 

On Monday I had had like 3 rejection form letters come in and on Tuesday there were none (Reason # 2). Needless to say my count had dipped and though I said I was going to let it go for the rest of November (maybe the year).. I decided to work my little fingers and get that count back up to 100. Between the withdrawals, acceptance, and rejection, that meant I had to pull the trigger on about 10 submissions. 

After withdrawing the same one poem from 36 places, I wasn’t too keen on having that happen again so I opted to send in some nonfiction. All my polished pieces are flash (under 1000 words) and that got me most of the way there. Then I got stuck. This just means that I kinda ran out of places that fit the pieces I have with deadlines coming up. 

This forced me to turn my attention to my slush pile for something new. All the stuff in that pile is either unfinished, really rough, or has been abandoned. I scrolled through and I’m sure made some terrible scrunchy faces in the process. So much garbage. And then I opened a file, read it, and decided that was the ticket! 

I probably worked for two hours reading and revising. Reading and revising. Reading and revising. You get the gist. 

I subsequently sent that to a few places. It’s my first true hybrid piece.. a personal essay with a poem at the end. Hybrid work is all the rage these days so I’m sure it will be snatched in no time. 

What a relief to feel that way. I’ve lost so much confidence these past few months with all the rejection that even the pre-release of my book this week didn’t lift me up like it should have. Instead I felt like a fraud. Like an imposter poet that is about to be called out because their book doesn’t pass muster. 

Then I read the blurbs on the website, shared the link with a few folks, and had a friend reach out to let me know they’ve already ordered their copy (thanks Vis). This is Reason #3 why my frown turned upside down on Tuesday. 

(Dropping the link here for anyone interested in this so-called book: Unsuspecting Cinderella. Don’t wait, order your scintillating copy today!!)

Anyway, I’ve got a ton of shit done today and my count is back up to 100 despite feeling terrible physically today. 

I tried to nap, but could not so here I am on the treadmill writing out the play-by-play. Which brings me back to the other 7 reasons…

#4: My son is done with school for a week so there will be no homework fights for 5 glorious days. 

#5: I was able to get to my mid-week/pre-turkey day grocery run before the stores got ridiculous. And found the wine my husband has been looking for. 

#6: On a whim I made an appointment to donate blood. Walked in, passed the test, and donated in under an hour. Plus I got a free tee-shirt. Score! 🥅 

If you know me you know this is extremely rare. I usually fail the hemoglobin check and it was 13.6.. WHHHAAAT??!!!

#7: I maximized my time waiting at the Red Cross to book an appointment for Friday at a Walgreens to get my flu shot and Covid booster. Jim too. Woot! 

#8: When I stepped on the scale first thing in the AM, I had lost a pound and a half. 

#9: Despite the low energy and no cardio, I still got 12K steps. 

And finally #10: I was able to finish the first of a long list of posts for the GLR AND posted to social media. 😱😜 I actually feel on top of all that more than I’ve felt in a long while. Like I’ve finally got my act together. Hopefully it’s not just the Universe playing tricks on me. 

Speaking of the Universe, today is as good a day as any to request that the next 4 days are smooth sailing. Thanksgiving with my sometimes dysfunctional family, quality time with my kids on Friday (since they will be with their dad and his family on the actual holiday). I’ve tried to engineer a game day and I hope we can all get along. Saturday and Sunday are pretty open but I have one coffee meet up and then meet with my Co-EIC on Sunday. 

We’ll see, we’ll see. 

Times up my frosty friends. Check you on the flip side. 

The Truest,

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-11-22 Today the Completely Organic Miss SugarCookie asks the Relentless and Unforgiving Question: What Am I Doing With My Life?

I had one job today and I failed. And no matter what I do now, no matter what happens for the rest of this day or the next or the rest of the time I live in this house.. every time I see the result of that mistake I’ll be reminded. It’s such a trivial thing in the grand scheme but c’mon people. I feel like I can’t do anything without making mistakes lately. 

I just got back from Austin. 4 days of well balanced rest and relaxation where I should have been able to get my mind right. But I feel like I failed at that too. Sure, I let go and had a nice time and got into some good conversations but for some reason now that I’m back I missed my opportunity to really get something out of it. I just swept all my angst under a proverbial rug and today it’s like I lifted the rug to toss it in the washer and was disgusted to discover all that mess is still there. 

I think I will continue to look for a therapist. I think I should continue to put effort into figuring out what is wrong with me that I can’t just be happy with what I’ve been given. 

Maybe it’s because I don’t take hand-outs and feel as if I don’t deserve the gifts I’ve been given. Why do I think if I haven’t earned it or paid some price, I don’t deserve this goodness. Worse yet, why do I think I’m on a train that’s not bound for solution town? That I’m just stuck here with no way to actually fix what is wrong with me. 

It’s mental. It’s physical. It’s emotional. It’s exhausting. 

Today of all days I should feel exhilarated. I should be over the moon that the book I worked so hard on and have waited so long for is finally.. FINALLY.. available for pre-order. But no. 

(Dropping the link here for anyone interested in this so-called book: Unsuspecting Cinderella. Don’t wait, order your scintillating copy today!!)

Instead I’m grumpy at myself and life. I don’t even want to open the 7 (yes, seven) emails I received from the publisher with all the info I need to promote my book. I mean, I’m just guessing that’s what they are all about. Maybe I’m just terrified. Which makes no sense, but sometimes humans don’t make sense. 

Last week before I left for Austin I hit the goal to end all goals with regards to my submissions. 100!! 🎉🎉🎉

And with that I told myself that was it. I headed to my home away from home and let it go. I was letting it go and truly going to try and ignore all the of that for the duration and of the week, month, and maybe even the year. 

Seven rejections later and I’m so tempted to pick it back up again. It’s like an exercise in futility. 

Last month I became obsessed with compiling not one but two more chapbooks and a full manuscript with my mountain of poems. I worked fervently for a couple of weeks and felt, wait for it.. HAPPY doing what I was doing. It made me excited and hopeful and looking forward to the next day when I would wake up and get back to work. 

When I was finished and satisfied with my work, I did some research and wrote cover letters and submitted them to a few publishers. That was also neat and made me feel like I had accomplished something, however not quite at that same level. 

So far I’ve had one publisher reject both my chapbooks and that’s kind of shitty because it happened so fast. It made me feel like they didn’t even have time to read, contemplate, and compare. They just took my money and said “thanks but no thanks.” So dumb. 

Anyway so maybe it’s the rejection that’s got me down or the fact that I haven’t been able to write anything new for a while now. All I have is the same pile of poems from my MFA that i continue to work over in different ways. 

Maybe I need to jump into some workshops or a class or something. Maybe I need to do something that gives me more of a sense of a purpose than grocery shopping, dishes, and exercise all day. What am I doing with my life??!!

Am I getting somewhere or going nowhere? I need to figure this out but right now I’m outta time. I gotta go cook dinner. Cuz, real life.

Like they say in the biz “put a pin in it”  and we’ll come back to it later. Maybe. 

Never ever my own but forever and always completely yours, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-11-08 Just Another Lustless Monday…

Welcome to Monday. This morning while my husband was eating the breakfast I cooked him, he asked what my plans were for the day. Just a casual question that might start a conversation if I had some unexpected answer or something I was planning that I’d forgotten to mention previously. I don’t.

It’s Monday so I’m grocery shopping, doing dishes, scooping litter boxes, finishing the laundry I started over the weekend, and mailing that utility bill he left for me on the counter. “The usual” I say. 

That’s it. That’s my life now and that’s part of what’s got me down. I’m not cut out to be a housewife. It’s boring and so very unfulfilling. But what can I do?

I had to quit my job because doing that and trying to manage this beast of a house was too much for me. I was failing at both. So I quit.

Then I failed at just being a housekeeper because toilets. Now we have a cleaning service that comes every two weeks. That’s glorious, I’ll admit. If my world was turned upside down tomorrow and I no longer had Jim to rely on, I’d have a hard time not having that. I’d be reworking my old budget to fit it in for sure.

Then again, I wouldn’t have this giant castle to clean. Nine toilets. Nope. I’d buy a tiny house in a quiet neighborhood with one toilet and probably go back to living very close to the way I was before I met Jim, but with more cats.

Whatever I would do, it would not include picking up a high stress job in healthcare IT. I wonder what else I could do? Something that would pay just enough. I wonder why this daydream I’m having right now feels very enticing? 

I have a wonderful life with a wonderful man and I never have to worry about finances or cleaning toilets ever again. What is wrong with me?

Continuing the breakfast conversation that we were having, while he eats and I scramble around the kitchen doing dishes and cleaning counters, he asks me to run a check over to our investment firm. 

“Sure thing,” I say. And I’m reminded of that essay I wrote about the day I had to go there to sign our 2020 taxes. I’m emotionally attached to that essay and it’s one of a very few I’ve worked on enough to feel confident enough about it to submit to a few places. It’s been rejected by everyone so far of course.

I say “of course” like it’s a foregone conclusion. Yeah, that’s what getting rejections 95% of the time does to a person. I’ve lost confidence in just about everything I’ve written in the last year, which is actually not much to start with. 

I held true to the notion that I could find the right home for all my writing IF the writing was solid. So when the rejections roll in, I jump to the conclusion that it’s the writing and not the place or the tastes of the people rejecting me. Still I keep trying different places like a glutton for punishment with an addiction to the process. 

Now that I have a maid and only have a few hours of chores every day, what else am I going to do with my time? The lit mag, meetups with people, exercise? That’s all great, but it’s just not enough some how.

Then I feel like I’m being spoiled and greedy. Then I feel like I’m a bad person for feeling like that. Good grief. 

In the good old days I might try to write a poem about the way that I’m feeling but damn I just don’t want to. Or I don’t have it in me. And that’s bothersome too. 

I used to write dozens of crappy poems and it made me feel better about whatever it was I was thinking and I didn’t care that they were crappy or I didn’t know that they were crappy so I guess that old saying is true. Ignorance is bliss.

Now I know too much, and some cockeyed notion about being a published author got cemented into my brain. Do I need that? Do I want that? Is it going to fulfill me in someway to see that book on a bookshelf somewhere, or the bookshelf in my closet? I guess I won’t know the answer to that until it happens. 

And when will that be? Five more months. That’s how long I have to wait until that book becomes a reality. Until I can hold a physical copy of it in my hot little hands. It’s already been a horribly long wait. 

Truth is, I’m done with the waiting. I’ve already turned my attention to the next thing. Getting my daily submission fix and feeding my obsession to have all my poems out in the world somewhere. And lately that’s escalated to pulling together another book (three actually). 

That’s right, I’ve re-tooled my full MFA manuscript AND compiled two additional chapbooks. I finished the shorter two books this weekend and feel satisfied enough with the result to send to publishers. The longer book will be done this week. Just in time for a few November deadlines AND my trip to Austin. 

After that, I’m going cold turkey with all of it. So help me, I swear to the Universe imma be DONE DONE. 

Then what? Who knows. The Universe only, I suppose. Maybe I’ll get a job stocking shelves at Target.

On that note, my time’s up today. The groceries aren’t going to get themselves. 😜

Peace and love, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-11-06 It has been a while… but why?

It has been a while since I held to my daily writing routine and I could say it was because I haven’t needed it but the truth is that I’m just using my time in other ways. 

What’s new? Plenty. What is blog worthy? Not sure. 

I’ve got a new elliptical machine and it’s smooth like butter and I love it. I haven’t loved it today yet because I woke up with the worst cramps (I usually don’t get bad cramps, so when I do, it’s always “the worst”). I’m currently treating myself to some couch time, but it’s hard to sit with my laptop and write because I’m so used to working on other things when I have my laptop out. 

I haven’t written any new poetry in ages and have been nurturing my creative side by organizing and compiling a few different manuscript collections that I could submit to publishers. It’s satisfying a need I have to be creative, but in truth the larger part of that exercise is logic and figuring out what works together and tells a bigger story. Why do I feel like a manuscript must tell a story or that all the poems need to be bound together by some overarching theme? Probably because that’s how things are nowadays. Especially for a random girl from the Midwest with nothing much more to offer. 

The other part of wanting to feel productive with something (anything) ACC has resulted in my submitting individual poems to publishers like crazy. I suppose it is not a bad thing that it has gotten out of hand a little bit and I now have 87 open submissions in Submittable. I’ve stopped setting a goal. My goal was 30 then 40 then 50 and …. You get the point. 

I did promise myself near the end of summer that I would start submitting to some more reputable places. Some fives and sixes and sevens instead of twos and fours. I even created an algorithm to score a place to see how they rate. It had weighted criteria and the heaviest variable was the longevity of the publisher. The other criteria was their method and regularity of publishing and if they pay or not, plus a few other stats in Duo Trope about their acceptance rate. The harder it is to get in, the higher their score was in that category. 

I paid money to use Duo Trope for a year but I think it is on it’s way out as a user tool. It’s only as good as the data that people put in it and if folks are not reporting their submissions there, then the stats will not reflect what is accurately going on. It’s a lot of work to keep track of submissions even without the extra work to report it all to another agency. Therefore it is understandable why it’s probably not going to last too much longer with the current business model. I probably wont pay for it again. 

Anyway, I let my own algorithm go too as it was too much extra work and I feel like I can just as easily eyeball a few things and decide if it’s a place that would be a good fit for my poems. For some of that, it’s turned into a matter of reading other people’s bios and seeing what places they have placed their work. In this way, I’m sort of gauging from the caliber of the writer more than the journal or publisher. This goes back to my original theory that poems that are 4 out of 10 come from poets that are 4 out of 10 which typically get published by places that are 4 out of 10. 

All of this is just a lot of left brain nonsense and I’m fooling myself into thinking I’m satisfying my creative side by spending so much time on it. Like I said, I haven’t written a poem in a long time and now to make matters worse, I haven’t even blogged in a long time either. Part of me wonders if I am going back in statis and just don’t need it like I did before. 

Yesterday I reworked my thesis manuscript as I still feel the strong desire to get some validation by having that book published. I mean, I am having a book published, but it is not the full manuscript and I dove deep to figure out how to change it in a way to both keep the essence of what it was originally and add some newer poems. I also wanted to re-do it so that I have all the current versions and update the acknowledgements page. Again, all this satisfies my left brain and after I finally got it to a place I was happy with yesterday, I felt good about it. 

What all of it does NOT do is alleviate the angst I’m currently experiencing about how much rejection I’ve gotten lately. It stands to reason that the more you submit, the more you get rejected, but with each hit it’s like a little stab at my confidence. Both my confidence in myself and my confidence in my poems. I just don’t think I have what it takes to keep doing this. And then I question myself, “what part of THIS am I talking about?” 

The submitting, the writing, the revising, the lit mag, the blog, the pursuit of that elusive dream of publishing my thesis manuscript. I’m sure I will finish out what I started with regard to these books. I say books because in the last two weeks I’ve not only reworked the full manuscript (about 77 pages) but also two other chapbook size books (30 pages each). Once I have them where I want them, I could engage an editor– someone who reviews and critiques work like this for money, and see what they think. But again, I ask myself if that’s all just a waste of time and money because my writing is not good enough. 

I originally went after my MFA for two specific reasons. The first was to satisfy a desire to learn more about something I had interest in. I’ve always written poetry, but I wanted to learn how to make it better. The second was to change my life. To do something different and get a sense of fulfillment by accomplishing something other than doing a job and collecting a paycheck. I didn’t do it for the credentials and I sure as hell did not do it because I wanted to publish a book. Those things never entered my mind until I was actually IN the program. 

In fact, there’s such a heavy emphasis on publishing during residency, I think that is part of the reason I developed such a strong desire to have that kind of validation. I won’t say I never thought about it. I entertained the idea of having a few poems published and how neat that would be, but a book??!! 

Now here I am three years later, unable to write a poem, yet working on taking the 100 (or so) I’ve written since 2018 and getting them out into the world. Part of me wonders if I shouldn’t just let it all go. 

My husband questions whether I should let GLR go too, as it takes up so much time and there is not a lot of fulfillment from it. 

And now, after having written about 1200 words here so far today, I am getting down to the heart of the matter. Which is me questioning whether or not I should let this blog go too. 

I’ve barely blogged in the last month. I went on vacation for a week and saw some great things, and had several really good cheeseburgers. None of that made it into the blog when normally it would. In years past, I would absolutely make writing about my vacation a priority. Not this time. 

I’ve also had mood swings, a gym remodel at the house, and my daughter got her brand new bike stolen off campus. Those incidents and adventures didn’t make it into the blog either. I’ve had developments happen with regard to my health and my chronic fatigue and my insomnia but just have not felt like writing about any of it. I’m in need of lamenting about my parents too, but writing about it seems either like too much of a broken record or just not worth the effort.

I’ve started and stopped several days in the last few weeks and just have not felt motivated. I start and get a few sentences in and then stop, feeling like it is a waste of time. I find myself more enthusiastic about watching a stupid TV show over writing. I wake up on Wednesday mornings happy because there will be a new episode of The Bachelorette on Hulu. Legit. Why would THAT bring me joy when this… THIS… doesn’t seem to??! 

THIS blog has, for nearly five years, been my go-to place to sort out what I am thinking and feeling. A few times in the past month instead of writing it, I’ve opted to read it instead. While it is cool, to look back on a day, a week, a month, a year in the life and how far I’ve come, it doesn’t necessarily inspire me to keep doing it. 

I dunno. Perhaps I’m just feeling down and lost and not needed or wanted lately and that has contributed to my lack of motivation. I think there are a few more unexplored corners relating to the overarching theme of this particular post, and I’m finding myself passing to think about other things. This is me saying, in a roundabout way, that I could keep going and going but I’m not sure where it is going next and am frankly out of time and (not surprising) lacking motivation to continue. 

Not sure what this weekend will bring or next week or this month. I guess as always, time will tell. 

Adios,

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-10-12 Stopping to Smell the Hibiscus 🌺

I often spend too much time worrying about not being productive enough. Always pushing myself into the next thing, and the next and next. Never stopping to savor the success of what I did yesterday or last week or last year. 

In 2020 I received my MFA in Writing from the University of Nebraska and after, there wasn’t an ounce of celebration or rest. The focus had already shifted to the next endeavors, striking while the iron was hot. 

I launched the lit mag and began submitting my own writing like a mad woman to other publications. I spent so many hours researching, revising, and strategizing. And when I had my first successes I didn’t savor or celebrate them. In most of those cases, I didn’t even tell anyone. 

Maybe I mentioned it to Jim, but the excitement of each acceptance faded almost as quick as the sting I felt with each rejection. And I sure as hell didn’t post about it on social media. The Universe knows that’s not me. 

Actually, I think I may have once or twice and to be honest, I didn’t like the way that made me feel. It felt boastful and self-congratulatory. I know it’s like standard practice, but ugh!! I just hate social media. Seriously….. don’t get me started. 

But I’ve swallowed that lump recently and am trying to embrace the power of social media in the self-promotion game. In a little over a month I have my first book coming out. It’s probably the biggest personal accomplishment of my life, aside from raising two amazing kids. I poured my heart and soul into that book and I want to celebrate it. I also want to get some recognition for my efforts. I think that’s natural. 

Anyway, I started a few weeks ago with a few posts and the intent to post with more regularity on Facebook, instagram, and Twitter. So far it’s mostly just pictures with tag lines as little glimpses into my personal life but my hope is to also begin sharing with more regularity, the successes I’m having with my writing. Like today! 

Today I have a new poem titled “Still Life at Hefflinger Park” that’s been released by The Closed Eye Open in their “Maya’s Micros” section which features several brief pieces once or twice a month. With this one, I’m totally going to pause and take time to enjoy it and treat myself (with a hot vanilla latte or perhaps a pedicure) AND post about it. Starting now! 😉

https://theclosedeyeopen.com/mayas-micros-ed-12/

In case you’re interested.. it’s a poem about a park that is near my neighborhood which used to be a landfill site. The covered the whole thing with dirt and turned it into a city park. Gross right?! 

With that… my time is up. Thanks for reading. 

Cheers to New Poetry, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-09-16 Dealing with Deadlines and a Midlife Identity Crisis Part Two ✌️

Part Two? How quaint. 

Last night I banged away at my keyboard, pulled dozens of books off my shelves, and googled “emerging author bios” seventeen different ways. My goal, of course, was to write one short, concise bio for the back of my pending book and one longer version for only the Universe (and my publisher) knows why. 

It took me exactly four years to write something akin to all the examples I’d looked at. Name, geography, credentials, and experience with just enough personality to make it seem like I’m a real human. It’s not exactly inviting. It feels dry and academic and I hate it. 

Well, hate is a strong word and I don’t exactly hate it. It’s more like I read it and it does not seem enticing. It’s also tough to come up with stuff to say in a way that somehow glosses over the fact that I’m very new at this publishing thing. Most bios I read start off by gushing about previous awards and books published and I just don’t have that. But I have to start somewhere. 

Anyway, the short bio got written and I’m mostly satisfied. Then I had a little fun writing the “alternate” version. The one that was easy and oozing with my humor and charm. Yes. I can be funny. I actually like to be funny. And so that exercise was satisfying. 

Just about then my darling husband came up the stairs and I read him both versions. He said about the first…

“It’s well written and I can tell that you thought through each sentence and carefully selected each word.” 

That’s right. 

His reaction to the second one?

“Yes! You nailed it! That’s the one!”

At that point I closed my laptop and decided I needed to go to bed. I gave up on my deadline and promised myself I would revisit it first thing in the morning. 

When the morning arrived I kept that promise. I made a few minor edits of both short bios. I collected all the other items the publisher had asked for and I finally, FINALLY, pulled the trigger in sending those emails. The only thing missing at that point was the long bio.

Which short bio did I send? The answer is both. 

I even asked my friend M what she thought. She laughed at the second one and said she’d definitely read the book of that person. What’s a girl to do? 🤷‍♀️

Some feedback from my publisher will be invaluable. I wonder if and when I will get that. I still owe them the long bio and in my opinion, it will be helpful to know if the two (short and long) will be in close quarters with each other. 

If, for example, the short one appears on the back of the book and the longer one at the end of the book on the inside, then I’d want to minimize repeating using the same language. 

If, though, one is for the book and another is for mailers or postcards or other promotional material, then I can repeat certain phrases and elements and not be troubled by it. 

Am I overthinking this? 

Yes, of course I am. That’s my Way. 

In any case, as I began to struggle with the longer bio today, what I ended up doing was combining the two, adding an element that M suggested, and then changing some of the verbiage so that it didn’t sound too similar to either, shorter version.

And there you have it folks. The finishing line of the deadline for The Finishing Line Press. How apropos.

That’s it for today. Right??

Wrong.

I realized just when I was wrapping up this post that going on and on and on about these bios without actually including them is like setting up a joke and then never getting telling the punchline. Kinda worthless. Well.. not worthless but likely very unsatisfying. So here are the bios mainstream short, humorous short, and long:

Official (95 Words)

Shyla Shehan is a writer and engineer born and blossomed in the Midwest. She holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Nebraska where she received an American Academy of Poets Prize in 2020. Shyla is Co-founder and Editor of The Good Life Review and currently lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband, children, and four cats. She enjoys digging in the dirt, road trips, and she accidentally breeds snails in her spare time. Her full bio and an account of her published work are available at shylashehan.com. This is her first book.

Alternate / Humorous (99 Words)

Shyla Ann Shehan is the New York Times bestselling author of eleven books of poetry, essays, and flash-forward fiction that have not been written yet. Her most noteworthy accomplishment to date is divorcing her (now former) career as a Healthcare IT Integration Specialist. Since then, she has pledged her undying love and fealty to Poetry but has so far refused to get matching tattoos. Shyla spends most days tending to a healthy household and accidentally breeds snails in her spare time. She is currently suffering a mini-midlife identity crisis over writing this bio for her first book, Unsuspecting Cinderella.

Long (209 Words)

Shyla Shehan is a writer and engineer born and blossomed in the Midwest. She holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Nebraska where she leveled up her poetry game and discovered that the writing life has more to offer than just a way to cope with the chaos of the Universe. 

Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Academy of American Poets, Plainsongs Summer 2021 by Corpus Callosum Press, Gyroscope Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts by Matter Press, and elsewhere. Her most noteworthy accomplishment to date is divorcing her (now former) career as a Healthcare IT Integration Specialist. Since then, she has pledged her undying love and fealty to Poetry but has so far refused to get matching tattoos. 

Shyla is Co-founder and Editor of The Good Life Review and currently lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband, children, and four cats. She spends most days tending to a healthy household and she accidentally breeds snails in her spare time. That’s a joke; she has no spare time. 

She is currently suffering a mini-midlife identity crisis over writing this bio for her first book, Unsuspecting Cinderella but is nonetheless grateful to you for reading and hopes you will visit  shylashehan.com for more. 

***

Now that’s it. I’m sure of it. And it is most certainly enough. Good gravy.

With peace and love and fluffy new kittens, 

~Miss SugarCookie

PS. If you have an opinion, I would be interested to hear it. No joke.. I really would.

2021-09-15 Dealing with Deadlines and a Midlife Identity Crisis

Today is the day. The day the materials—manuscript, bios, artwork, and blurbs—for my book are due. So far my biggest issue with this process has been the very hands-off-and-on-your-honor approach my publisher has had with regard to what they need from me. I’m great with deadlines. I manage my time well. They have made the list of requirements perfectly clear as far back as January when I was signing the contract. 

The problem (which is my problem) is the fuzzy nature of when all the artifacts are due. If I had a solid deadline of May 15th, I would have managed that. Let’s say it was August 1st. No worries. I’d hit that date. But leaving it open ended to where the materials are due at the latest roughly one month before the pre-release, means that all the self-imposed deadlines I’ve set for myself have come and gone and the pulling of the actual triggers has not gotten done. 

Yes I have the final manuscript completed with title pages, section pages, artwork, table of contents and acknowledgments.

Yes I have one to three author photos ready and waiting. 

Yes I have three blurbs by other authors singing the accolades of this magnificent collection of poetry. 

Yes I have the internal artwork and am expecting the final cover design to be delivered to my in-box today. 

So what’s the hang up? What’s still missing? What’s going to keep me from hitting my latest self-imposed deadline (in case you missed it, that’s today). 

The answer is Author bios. One short, single paragraph version and one longer, three or four paragraph version. I swear I’m getting deja vu typing this because I know I’ve written about writing my bio recently. 

How meta… Writing about writing about writing an author bio. Whoa!!

At this point in the game I’ve written dozens. Tweaked them almost every time I get the urge to submit some of my writing somewhere new, which is probably every couple of weeks. Needless to say, I should have this down. It should be easy-peasy in the bag. But it turns out it’s not. This will be on my first book and not on some random web page or anthology nobody is going to read but me and my mom. 

This is going to be the first impression many people get when they pick up the book and in time, part of the deciding factor. The decision for what you may ask. 

Take it or leave it.. or rather, buy it or don’t. My entire universe hangs in the balance with these three or four paragraphs. 

If it sounds like I’m being melodramatic it is because I am. I want to put a lot of weight on this because it means a lot to me. 

And just now my brain did a brief departure from thoughts about the bio to dip into the pure terror that resides inside thoughts I have about the prospect of initiating a social media campaign to promote my book. Good grief… did I just type the words “social media campaign??!!” 🤮 

Bring it back. Focus. This post is about writing a new, longer bio that is going to accompany the collection of poems I’m still not confident are good enough to be out in the wild world and available for public consumption. 

I’ve googled how to write my bio. I can probably list the top 7 how to’s and tips for what makes a good biography. I’ve looked at dozens of examples. 

About 90% of them start with this line… 

“First Name Last Name is the <NYT> Best Selling author of seven books including “Book Title” which won the <insert fancy award here> prize. And yadda-yadda goes on from there to say some serious things and quirky things that reveal who they are, where they live, and what makes them tick. 

Easy. I got this. Except…

This is my first book and I recently changed my life completely and am still struggling with a midlife identity crisis. Can I say that? Is that allowed or is it just too strange even for an ex IT engineer turned poet to admit to?

Five years from now when I grab a glass of red wine and pull that book off a nearby shelf and read the bio will I regret it if it’s too dry and boring or silly and impish. Will I care at all? Will I be working on my second NYT best selling book or will I have given it all up to chase some other yet undiscovered dream? 

If you’d have asked me five years ago what I thought would happen in the next five years, I could not have predicted this. None of it. 

Not the job changes and career dump. Not the Graduate degree in Poetry or meeting the man of my dreams and getting married. Most certainly not this book or the need to sum up who I am and what I’m about in three succinct paragraphs. 

What I’m saying is, there’s no way to predict where I will be or what I will be doing five years from now. Guessing is a useless exercise. 

All I can do is sit down and write something I can commit to for today. Something that’s factual but also let’s my personality shine through. That’s it. 

Writing this has given me a few ideas and there’s no time like the present. If I try hard, I can still hit my deadline….. maybe. 

(Probably not).

Yours truly,

~Miss SugarCookie

PS. Putting off writing my bio by writing this blog post instead is a a part of my master plan. 😜