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

2021-09-24 Over it.. Already

It’s day 5 of going to the hospital and I’m already over it. I hate that it feels obligatory and routine. I hate that it seems to cut my day in half. I don’t use the word hate a lot but in this case it fits. What’s a girl to do? 

To balance things out and soothe my worried mind, I’m leaning on other people more than usual. I‘ve been transparent with people about my limited time and the circumstance, to level set expectations.

I posted about checking in the hospital on Facebook which is way out of character for me. I just want folks in those outer circles to know. Then, as we spiral in close to home I’ve basically reached out via text and whatnot that the surgery was happening this week. The responses I’ve gotten have been kind and encouraging and it really has made a difference so far in my mood. 

Then yesterday I indulged in two meetups with friends. I met my friend JS for a quick lunch between times visiting the ICU. I then went directly to a rooftop bar in Benson to meet MK at dinner time. We were there for several hours and it was so good. She’s an incredible person and we always have loads to chat about. 

When I returned home in the evening i found my hubby freshly home himself from a meetup with his best bro. I got to hear all about that and there was no need for me to go in detail about my mom. I just didn’t want to think or talk about it. 

Nothing to say anyway. She’s had another surgery and so now it’s just down to recovery. That’s it. 

Like I said, it was good to lean on folks and not let myself feel the pressures of all the things left undone. All those check boxes will still be there tomorrow. And they are. And here it is tomorrow and I’m beginning again. 

I’ve completed a few of my Friday house chores and am indulging in a little treadmill time. I’m all caught up on Bachelor in Paradise and not sure how I’ll get motivated to do cardio. It’s gotten to where I need something interesting to watch to distract me from how much I hate jogging. 

There’s that word again. Hate. Very curious. 

In other news I am trying to maximize the times I have at the hospital when my mom just wants to be left alone to doze off. I’ve taken my laptop and have been spending time on Submittable. The hospital room is not the right vibe for writing or revising but I can submit poems all day long from just about anywhere. Outside the required research and reading, it’s pretty much a robotic exercise at this point.

I breached my September goal of 50 active subs yesterday and the new plan is to hold steady right there. I’ve done this in the past. Get a rejection and then find a new place to sub. This time the twist is that I’m committing to only submitting to higher quality publications. It was actually one of my goals for June or July but it didn’t happen. 

This month I created an algorithm to score a publication to see how they rank based on my own criteria. The real value in that exercise was figuring out what is important to me and I don’t really need to plug in the numbers to get the score to get a sense for how they rate. The most heavily weighted criteria are the longevity of a publication, their acceptance rate, their money model, and the format and frequency in which they publish. 

Of course the recognizability of name is key, but in reality the longer running organizations are going to be the ones whose names you read in other people’s bios and covet. Those are the names I can mention off the top of my head and have rarely submitted to thus far. 

Regardless, there is very little difference to me when receiving a rejection. It doesn’t seem to matter what publisher is rejecting my writing. A rejection is just a door opening to submit somewhere else. That’s a healthy and positive attitude I think. 

Enough about that. I gotta get a move on my day. No rest for the wicked. 

Three Cheers for Friday, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-09-19 And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack…

And you may find yourself in another part of the world

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

I’m going to leave the past in the past and the future in the future today. I’m not going to let my mind wander into Tuesday or Wednesday or the end of the month. I want to focus on today and this moment and how I’m feeling, which is grateful and at peace with life. Today it’s all ok.

Today I went with my husband to take his dad to the grocery. His dad is in his 80s and doesn’t drive anymore. He’s full of vinegar and has lots of stories to tell. This morning was the one about the first time he had to be in charge of the ER in whatever rural community he served as a young physician. 

He was Twenty-five and nearing the end of that first rotation. It was the end of a long shift and a man came into the ER asking to borrow a wheelchair. As the conversation unfolded it turns out he shot his wife.

After that the story being told turns into a longer explanation of how the man came to be in that rural area with this woman, the truth of which is questionable. They had just gotten married and were driving to meet his family in Gretna Nebraska.

Whatever the full story was, it lead to the moment when he shoots the woman… to keep her from being hysterical? She’s hysterical because she’s just found out he’s already married with a family. Whoa!!

In my head I’m thinking “so he shot her on purpose??!!” But the punchline to the story was actually that the bullet hit some part of her insides that somehow saved her life. 

“An inch to the left and she’d have been dead immediately.” Is how that story ends. And that’s it.

He proceeds to ask me if I know what a store is called that only sells women’s hats. And then tells me the answer which I promptly forgot as he moved on to telling some other story about some shop in Ireland. I’m guessing it was a hat store, but I can’t be sure. 

Our trip to the market was uneventful and after returning home we saddled up the bikes and made a beeline for our favorite trail—around Lake Wehrspann. 

It was an ok ride but ohhhh the wind!! 

My Fitbit recorded that we rode for 33 minutes and I burned 171 calories with an average heart rate of 116 bpm. 

After that we drove to First Watch where I had brunch which was about 1000 calories (at least). Yeah… that’s about right. 

Stepping on the scale this morning I had gained two pounds since yesterday and the only way that makes sense is that I’m retaining water. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 😜

I might try that intermittent fasting thing again this week. I’m also going to make a serious push to reduce my caffeine this week and am going to abstain from coffee. I’m going to do it. I really am! 

In other news, I’m back up to 40 active submissions. This means that I’ve got essays and poems under consideration with 40 different publishers. My goal is to be up to 50 by the end of the month. 

A few months ago I said that I was going to begin submitting to more “reputable” places. So far I feel as if I’ve failed to do that. It’s because my confidence has waned and also because, for some reason, it’s easier to just keep doing what I have been doing. Most of the journals I come across in the Submittable platform are fledgling, just like The Good Life Review. 

I’ve already gone on too long or I’d dive head first into describing the algorithm I created to “score” a publisher with a set of weighted criteria. Perhaps that should be where I start tomorrow? But I’m not thinking about tomorrow, remember??!! 😂

In any case. It remains to be seen.

All will be revealed in time. 

Once in a lifetime, 

~Miss SugarCookie

PS. Title and opening lines by the Talking Heads. Such a great song.

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. 😜

2021-09-14 The One About (Not) Dealing With Inequitable Partnerships

I’m really very tired of writing about the same things over and over and really wish I could get out of the funk that is, for all intents and purposes, self-inflicted. 

I’m also not sure what direction this particular piece of writing will go given the Rolodex of thoughts infesting my tired mind. 

In exactly two minutes I’m supposed to have a meeting with my “partner” at the GLR yet I made the choice to step down the stairs to my treadmill anyhow, totally expecting him to dip for the hundredth time. That’s just one thing on my mind. 

It feels like an 85/15 split with the actual work that gets done between us with me taking on the lion’s share. I do it because I care. I do it because I have higher standards than he does. I do it because I have no other choice (unless I want to cause huge drama by ousting him from his position). Make no mistake though, I don’t do it because I have more time or energy or feel my priorities are any less important than what he has going on. 

Who am I trying to convince? Myself as always. Yes, he has a young family and a full time job and I’m just a housewife and stay at home mom. I struggle because I used to have a career and know what it’s like to juggle everything on top of .. we’ll.. everything else. Good grief. But it seriously takes just as much time or more for me to do here, at this house, than what I eas spending at my day job.

My issue is working with someone who does a fraction of the work and does not follow through and still basks in taking credit. 

I spent hours on a proposal for the coordinator of our MFA program—toiled over the language for two potential internships and possible lectures we could give. I did all the work and then sent the email off, with attachments I’m sure my “partner” did not even read. Then one hot second after he (the coordinator) responds, my partner replies. 

I sometimes wait for days and weeks for feedback from him and often give up. But here we have something visible and public and he’s all over responding right away. That’s just rotten. 

I’ve complained to my closest peeps about this and they all say I need to have a talk with him. But I’m a chicken shit and I hate confrontation. 

I hate the way his Twitter handle has his title for the lit mag like he earned it. I hate Twitter too but that’s just beside the point. It’s all about appearances and I have to get over it. And get over social media too. 

I daydream about a world without social media and I daydream about a world where I never entered into this stupid partnership. I would not trade the experience and what I’ve learned for anything, I just wish it was an endeavor I initiated on my own and was the sole leader of. 

This gives me so much heartburn and I don’t know what to do about it. It’s a tricky pickle. 

It’s been exactly 20 minutes since I started writing and now… Now he’s finally ready for our 1pm call. I already told him, no zoom today so I have to get myself somewhere in the house where my phone has service (which is not in the basement). BRB

***

(One 30 minute call and a round trip to Papillion to pick my son up from school later)…

It’s all going to be fine. With each interaction with said person I’m learning how to be a more patient and understanding human. I’m also well aware that if I want specific things done, I need to ask pointedly and attach deadlines. It’s a much more diplomatic and reasonable approach than the solo takeover (or murder) that was playing out in my head earlier.

I tell myself that having another person at the helm with me means I’ve got someone to take the blame if something goes horribly wrong. Let’s hope it never comes to that.

I also have to remember he’s not being paid for any of his efforts either and I really have no insight into the rest of his life which could be just as messy as I feel like mine is.

In any case, thanks for reading and for understanding that I’m just a lonely human being lost in a sea of broken humanity. Most days I’m just trying hard not to drown. Most days this blog is a good way for me to work through how I’m feeling. Some days though, nothing really helps. That’s life. 

With peace and love and a dollop of understanding,

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-09-05 Working through Control Issues

This morning I’m thinking about control. I’m thinking about how to truly let go of something I have no control over and more than that questioning why I let something I know is out of my control dig at my insides. 

My day yesterday was consumed with taking a car in for an audio upgrade, getting a bike for my daughter to use on campus from Craig’s list, and catching up on different house projects. The goal for me is always about balance and all that had to be over and done with by 4:30 ish so Jim and I could get ready for our double date. 

We planned a morning bike ride and that did not happen because Of timing and the bike search. I wanted to get some steps in the afternoon and that did not happen because my time was hijacked by the realization that a group of folks from my MFA program have just launched their own lit mag. This, folks, is the thing that set my anxiety off, for whatever reason, and then all of a sudden I felt threatened and insecure about my own endeavors. 

Yes, I realize my insecurity and anxiety were not rational, but it took root anyhow and pretty soon I could not stop thinking about all the things “we” at the GLR could be doing better. Everything we have not been able to do and all the things I’ve personally been procrastinating. I worry that people on our staff will decide to leave us and join their team instead. I worry about other things too, but I know it’s irrational and don’t even want to acknowledge these worries. 

Instead, I want to be a better person and let go of that which I can’t control. I know there are literally hundreds of online lit mags and hundreds of publishers operating out in the wide world today and one more doesn’t affect us. I want to congratulate those people I know who are finally realizing a dream they’ve had even before the GLR was a seed planted in our heads. I want to embrace this circumstance as positive because it means more success for people from our MFA program. It’s win-win and that’s the way I want to view it. 

Still, it takes me a while to sort through my feelings and the information is so new. And.. get this… since they just opened for submissions (unpaid) I happened to have already sent in a poem. 

This shows how little I’m paying attention to the places I’m submitting. I read their mission and vision but did not visit the masthead. If I had, I probably would not have sent something in since there is too much IRL connection. Or maybe that’s ok and I’m just overthinking it. I’m not sure. 

In any case, I felt compelled to reach out to each person individually and congratulate them on their launch. It takes me a while to compose exactly what I want to say and so that consumed some of my time in the afternoon. However, after that was done, I did feel better about all of it. It was good. 

I was able to enjoy my sushi double date with some new friends and, getting back home by 9, get to enjoy and early evening bedtime. Yes it was Saturday and I’m old and lame but I don’t care. I was spent. 

Here’s the rub.. I had rotten dreams all night, restless sleep, and woke up feeling anxious again. Good gravy!! What in the Universe am I supposed to do now?! 

I know it’s not all about that one thing. I’ve got a host of feelings about different things eating at me. Angst about my relationships with my parents, a new experiment my husband has asked me to partake in regarding the news, and strangely enough, the drop-deadline for materials for my book. I need (need need need) to get those things submitted and ASAP.

What I feel like I need is one or two days in isolation to get on top of all of the things that are under my control. I just want several hours of uninterrupted time. Not 30 minutes to scramble and do something half-ass. Ugh!! 

Today. unfortunately is not going to be a day for that. Today my focus is spending time with the family and then going to Lincoln to spend some time with my darling daughter and bring her some things she needs to be successful this semester (including that bike we picked up yesterday). 

That all starts now. And my treadmill time is done. 

With peace and love and rainbow rolls, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-07-16 This Blog Post is Not About Toads 🐸🐸🐸

Jim and his boys brought back about 12 toads from their adventure at Two Rivers State Park and we released them in the stream behind our house. I feel a little bad for displacing them from their original natural habitat but feel confident they can thrive here too. Lots of cool places to burrow and hide in the day and bugs to snack on at night. The bugs are kind of bonkers right now with all this rain and heat. 

This would be a perfect intro to the garden update that I’ve been wanting to write about for a hot little minute lately but it’s not what’s on my mind today. Nope. 

Today I’m thinking about the grinder as a necessary tool in “sausage making.”

Sausage making (in this case) being the production of poetry which is opposed to where I first heard the term applied to developing software when I was working as an engineer for a software company. The metaphor, as it turns out, works well for both. 

I think that’s because there are a lot of similarities. There is a SDLC to poetry I don’t think people recognize.. call it a PDLC. Poetry Development Life Cycle. 

Complete with analysis to development to testing, iterations, and IF you’re good AND lucky, a little bit of implementation too. 

I’m also beginning to be a firm believer in the mathematics of it all. Proven formulas that work and methodologies that can be applied to increase the chances of success. But this is all just metaphorical until I can explain using real life examples to help solidify the thoughts. 

That’s a good disclaimer actually. These are all just my thoughts and what works or makes sense for one person might not for someone else so take that for what it’s worth. Back to “sausage making”…..

About a year ago I had just finished my last semester in an MFA program and my Master’s thesis in Poetry. It was also shortly after the “peak” months of the pandemic when folks were still on serious lockdown and waiting for news each day about what had transpired around the globe in the last 24 hours. I was working full time but had a growing desire to hang on to my MFA magic somehow and use the momentum from that to channel my creative energy into “something.” At the time, I didn’t realize that “something” was going to turn out to be publishing my poetry. 

Sure, I was also starting an online literary journal, but I needed something that would be more personally satisfying. Plus, Trish Lear lectured once that if you have a lot of balls in the air, something is bound to land successfully. You just gotta Toss ‘em up!! 

Yeah… it was near the end of July in 2020 when I started to submit my thesis poems like crazy. As it is with a lot of things you do for the first time, you learn as you go. The main platform I submitted on was Submittable and I slowly developed my own process. 

This process included things like finding and researching potential publishers, tweaking my cover letter and bio, and of course selection and revising poems I thought might be a good fit. After completing my thesis I felt as though I had about 50 poems truly worthy of letting loose on the world at large. I also had another 20 that had potential with more work and (not exaggerating) over a hundred others that will never see the light of day, so to speak. 

I had been told it’s a numbers game and so that was also part of my strategy. All this feels very much like an analysis phase tipping into development. I put the time and effort in. I created a spreadsheet to keep track of my submissions and with each submission and subsequent rejection, I made slight modifications. 

Soon, a few acceptances happened. If I revisit some of the blog posts I’ve written about being accepted and rejected in the past 12 months, I know I would find a sentiment of indifference. That’s kind of a curious phenomenon—to have a similar reaction to both. It’s like a brief shot of emotion right to the heart. An adrenaline spike when I open an email and see that a poem has been accepted and the same dose of a downer with each rejection. 

It passes so quickly, like minutes, and then I’m back to baseline. I’ve often wondered why I am so emotionally detached from the outcome—why I get so much more satisfaction out of revising and submitting than anything else? Maybe it’s the same rush as plunking your precious pennies in a slot machine and pulling the handle. The possibility of “hitting it big” is kind of a rush. 

That slot machine metaphors is also pretty accurate when it comes to getting your work accepted as a publisher, but I’ll stick with the “grinder” for now. 

I went on a serious roll, cranking that grinder daily and the last time I checked, I had amassed about 200 submissions (which equates to about 1000 poems). Being a numbers nerd, it’s an important part of the analysis. Law of averages melds with chaos theory to produce a result by which I can say now, with confidence, is about a 10% success rate. I put that statistic in my back pocket. 

Part of the PDLC is learning from mistakes and making modifications. And I’ve made a few. Some feel like big mistakes like submitting to a brand new publication with no idea about their presentation, professionalism, or vibe. I gave away one of my very best to a new place and was very disappointed in the outcome. I had to let that go, but will never do that again. 

Another mistake I made, which may or may not have been that big of a mistake, was spending too much (money and time) submitting to contests. Like Rattle, where I have very little shot of getting in. I know now that my poems don’t really fit with their vibe (or the current climate for rhetoric) and now all I have to show for that is 4 years of a subscription. That’s a lot of Rattle. I still aspire to get in there someday, but have to find the right poem for it and realize that I may never write that. 

I mention money. While this is not so much of a concern for me, it’s more about not just throwing it out the proverbial literary journal window. I’m all about support of small presses and startups but there are clearly some that have a good mission and vision and others that feel like they are just out to make some bucks. In order to ferret it all out, it takes research. And research takes time. 

It’s also a matter of observation and experience. For real! If I spent $20 on a submission and that hangs out there in “received” status the better part of a year with no communication back (even after the issue or contest it was submitted to has come and gone), that’s a serious red flag. 

Someone once told me that the longer it’s out there, the more chance it’s going to be accepted but I disagree. I think there’s a sweet spot and most of the acceptances I’ve received were at an average of 9 weeks. I think some places just don’t have a very good process for follow up on rejected pieces. 

It’s part of the reason I want to treat submitters to The Good Life Review way better and follow up on every inquiry and make sure each submission gets the care and attention it deserves. I digress. 

Anyway.. so now I have a process defined and operating like a well oiled machine. What this does for me is allow me to maintain my submission goals without a ton of effort. My current goal?.. maintain about 35 open submissions. 

This means when I get a rejection (or acceptance) the open count goes down and I engage with the process to crank another out. However, as most people in any sort of successful business know, there’s always room for improvement and ways to level up. My new aim, therefore, is not just to maintain 35 (or increase that number) but instead to make small steps forward to increasing the quality of the publications I’m getting into. Having names that are more recognizable on a CV or in a bio becomes important in the grand scheme. 

The grand scheme being what? Success. But, good gravy what is the definition of success? The true short story on that one is that I don’t know. Is it to someday get into Rattle or The Sun? Is it New York or Paris? Is it having a full manuscript published by Grey Wolf?

Maybe. I don’t know. 

If it is then I’d better get busy writing. What this post doesn’t address is that part of the process which remains shrouded in mystery. I’ve told a few folks my well of inspiration feels dry right now and what I get in return are comments like “well you are in the middle of publishing a book so I wouldn’t be too worried about it.” 

Good point. I’m not actually worried about it. I’m just a thinker and a planner so I know that if I desire to publish more, I’m going to have to write more. And prove to the world that I’m not just a one trick pony, so to speak. 

The other way one might interpret the grinder of which I speak is the way rejection can start to mush up your confidence after a while. Yes, I’m not so bothered by any individual rejection but after a while, as they start to accumulate without any acceptances to balance things out, I begin feeling like I’ve just gotten lucky and am really just an imposter posing as a poet. 

That’s ok. I fooled the world into thinking I was a rockstar engineer for about 25 years so I’ve got this. 

I know I’ve been shying away from public appearances lately and my social anxiety has thanked me, but I’m really jazzed about this topic and think I would like to give a talk or presentation on it. Barcamp? Winter Res? Nebraska Poetry Society? We’ll see. 

I think that’s it for today folks. Or should I say toad-a?!! 😜

With Peace and Love and Bacon Wrapped Dates, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-06-27 Super Solo Sunday Status

Today I’m getting a half day all to myself. My man has gone “picking” with his bro at a farm in Seward Nebraska. I hadn’t heard of picking until he Introduced me to the concept and cited the show American pickers as an example.

Jim is big into finding “treasure” at antique stores and estate sales and more specifically that which has some local significance to Omaha and Nebraska (and Iowa). 

This year we went to an event called “Junk Stock” in search of old road signs to adorn our game room walls. He found some but also met a woman who lives out in Seward Nebraska whose husband is a scrap metal worker and brings home all kinds of discarded signs, old farm equipment, and other various machines. 

So today they are taking a trip out to their farm to see what they can find. Which leaves me with about a half day to do whatever I want. 

Sure, there are 4 teenagers here but they are either going to work or sleeping in because it’s Sunday. My first order of business?…

Treating myself to an extra long session on the treadmill. Hell, I might even go for a solo bike ride too. Get ALL the exercise I want and probably still have time enough to enjoy lounging on the couch with my cats. 

Speaking of cats… we have a 5th cat this week because we’re cat sitting for my friend M, who is on vacation this week. Our new fluffy friend is Stormy and he’s a very lovey, fluffy friend. His breed is Norwegian Forrest Cat and he is big with super long fur including the most gorgeous mane which makes him look like a lion, except his fur is dark grey with a little white on his paws.

Stormy loves people but he’s a very sensitive soul who doesn’t like change. He spent most of the day yesterday under the bed in his “all inclusive” bedroom. The door is closed and we’re not introducing the other cats so he doesn’t have too much “new” to deal with. He finally came out from under the bed at about 10pm (I think to use the litter box) and this morning he came out right away to greet me and get some love. 

He’s so pretty and all the kids think he’s great. You know we are a household of crazy cat people.. it’s not just me and Jim. All 4 kids love all the cats so much. I’m pretty sure we all like the cats more than we like each other.. ha! So Stormy has a great home away from home here. 🐱💕🏰

In other news, I’m excited to report I’ve got three new poems forthcoming with three different publications. Two were originally drafted during the advanced poetry studio class I took at UNO and the third is one of my newer “response” poems. 

When I first had the epiphany of writing a series of poems that were responses to other poems, I knew I would have to write a lot of poems in order to amass a collection that works as a unified body of work. The Universe knows there are a million poems out in the wild that are available both in print and online, the trick is finding ones that really speak to me enough to spark a response. 

Thus far I think I’ve only written six and my focus lately has been revising and submitting and I haven’t been inspired to write anything new. I’ve actually gone bananas submitting these six and the one being published in July is the first to get picked up. Coincidentally, the title of that poem is “Bananas”. 😜

Two of the others I believed to be really strong but have lost a little of that confidence with the myriad of rejections I’ve received. Two others are prose poems that I feel are not as good but keep working on them and sending out. The final one is also relatively new and frankly the only viable poem I’ve written so far this year (I think) and I’m in love with it and submitted it to like 25 places. If it gets picked up, my work will be cut out for me in the way of withdrawing all those subs. 

It would be nice to write a few new things that have some merit, but what can I say.. if I’m not feeling it.. I can’t force it. Maybe today will be the day for that too. 

On that note, I suppose it’s time to read my three daily poems and see what the Universe thinks I need to think about today with my copious amounts of free time. 💚💛🧡❤️

With Peace and Love and Peanut Butter Toast, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-06-26 After the Storm there is Calm

I’ve once again navigated the sea of emotions my monthly cycle often laps over me in waves. Gritting my teeth through the frustration of the daily grind, the longing for peace and stillness, and anger when little pricks press into my skin like poorly executed acupuncture. 

My mantra? “Wait a few days and see what washes back out to sea.” 

In these moments, my mental accounting is both a blessing and a curse. Waking in the wee hours with unnecessary thoughts on repeat or awake and lacking focus, yet still surprisingly productive, flush with new ideas, and tapping into spaces in my psyche that are otherwise unreachable. 

I’m on the other side of it now and able to look back and recognize the waves that were / are nothing more than ripples in the tide pool—concentric circles created by pebbles tossed in by life. I can see them clearly now for what they are and decide what attention should be required, which is often none. I let it go and move on. 

***

I now have three poems in my daily in-box and today I’m very unimpressed and uninspired. 

I’ve tried to write a couple of poems this week—force myself to begin and just don’t have it. I’ve resorted to exercises and prompts and tricks and somehow those poems never hold the same energy for me. 

I spent a little time yesterday getting caught up with Submittable. My active submission count had fallen below my goal threshold of 30 and I wanted to hike that back up. I might have resolved to submit more to a few prestigious journals in July, but for now, my selections are mostly driven by cost and whatever journals show up at the top of the “discovery” list. 

I’m also spending time on the production of The Good Life Review’s Summer 2021 issue. It’s a fair bit of work but it’s coming together nicely. There are a few prerequisites I’m waiting on but hopeful we can get it together by mid-July. 

What else? It’s Saturday and we’re planning a family gathering, pending weather. If it looks like rain we are going to scrub it but waking up this morning the weather this afternoon looks pretty clear. I suppose that means I should get going to attend to the last minute outside things. The pool isn’t going to clean itself. 😜

Perhaps I’ll feel more like writing about the ins and outs of life again soon. I’ve kind of lost it lately. Maybe today’s party will provide sparks of thought worthy of writing about. 

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps, 

~Miss SugarCookie