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

2021-11-06 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

2021-07-16 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

2021-05-18 Music as Inspiration and Other Rando Crafty Thoughts…

I’ve had my new phone for over a week and finally.. FINALLY.. got my music library loaded. So now I’m officially down to using one device daily. 💃💃💃

This morning, instead of picking a playlist, I’m listening to the ultimate shuffle—all the songs that are in my library. Another advantage of my new phone is that it has space to hold all the music I’ve loaded onto iTunes on my laptop, which is a fraction of the songs I’ve acquired in my lifetime. I only load artists, albums, and songs that I want to hear so as to avoid spending time skipping a whole lot of garbage that I’m not into.

In any case, listening to the ultimate shuffle today began with Mrs. Potters Lullaby by Counting Crows. That’s a song I once got inspired to write a poem about. One of the few instances (besides my Fall Out Boy poem) where I remember the exact circumstance—where I was and when.

I was at the Panera Bread in Papillion on 72nd street and it was just after a meetup with my ex, Matt. I sat in a corner chair—one of the bigger lounge chairs that’s not at a cafe table. I had my laptop out and was writing when the song came up. I was immediately immersed in the song and stopped writing. I couldn’t remember hearing that one before and I’ve listened to a LOT of Counting Crows. 

After the song was over, I hit the back button to listen again. And then again as I began to compose a poem. I let the song influence the poem, both in meter and rhyme. Each time I listened I pulled a line or two out to mingle with my own thoughts and I repeated the song until I was satisfied that the first draft was complete.

I then closed my laptop and drove home. 

Months later I found it again, perusing my personal slush pile and worked on revising, with the limited knowledge I had at that point (still early in my MFA). I didn’t spend too much time on it though, dismissing it because of the heavy rhyme and all the lyrics I’d hijacked and twisted to suit my needs. I wondered if the poem was too much of the song. Would that be considered plagiarism? 

Fast forward about two years and I’m revisiting my slush pile again, hunting for something to submit to workshop for my final MFA residency. I had a lack of new material and really wanted to push the envelope with something I felt was good and worthy of workshop, but would spark conversation about rhyme and “stealing” lines. 

It did exactly that and I was pleased with the outcome, yet, I have not submitted that one for publication and as I write this, I’m questioning why not. 

Perhaps that should be one of the next poems on the agenda for revision and research. Research because sometimes it takes a little effort to find a place that the poem would be a good fit for. Many publications I research actually say that rhyming poems are a tough sell and honestly, the poem itself is lacking tension and that’s probably a problem.

But tension can come in many forms. The subject itself can be edgy, the writing can be such that it surprises, or the tension can be more subtle—hidden in the play between the fundamental elements of the poem. Interruptions in established meter or form, changes in diction, or juxtaposing simple colloquial speech with complex rhetoric can all be effective means to create tension. I just have to decide what my poem wants—what would work with what’s already there. 

But… it could be that this is just a learning experience and the poem isn’t meant to be out in the world. Many aren’t. 

Maybe the experience I can learn from happened years ago when I first composed the poem, leaning into a song for inspiration. Maybe the daily reading of poems for inspiration can be expanded to include whatever song I feel moves me the most. 

Right now I’m listening to a song by Justin Bieber and that’s NOT inspiring me to write anything. I like some of his songs but listening to the ultimate shuffle, I’m still left skipping through a lot of garbage. Ugh!

Times up now anyhow. The taco Tuesday train is about to leave the station. All aboard! 🚂 

Peace, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-05-17 Back in the Game… ✍🏻💕✍🏻✍🏻

Last year I went on a submission spree, submitting my poetry to all levels and types of publishers, from the very brand new organizations to the big-name long shots—print, online, anthology, full manuscript, chapbook, daily, monthly, quarterly journals and reviews. I think I maxed out at 80-something open submissions sometime in November or December. Oh, and I spent some coin too as most of those journals operate much like my Good Life Review in that they rely on the submission fee to cover the cost of operations. 

In January I started fresh but vowed to only submit to free places that month. Then I sort of lost my motivation and promised myself I would wait out for what was currently open to be declined (or accepted).. until my open number dwindled to around 50. I told myself I would pick it back up then and maintain that 50, as a goal. 

50 came and went, I don’t know when, and then 40, then 35, and 30. About that time I decided I would try to maintain 25, when I got there. With the last decline  I received I think the open count was down around 22 so I was clearly lying to myself. Among all the declines have been a few acceptances, of which only one is set for future release—summer 2021. 

Of course I still have that chapbook that’s going to be published later this year. Sort of anti-climactic to have that come through and literally wait almost a whole year to announce anything about it. Though I’ve thought about making it public anyhow, just to boost my writer spirits. 

Anyhow.. not sure what my lack of motivation was from. I tried to look early last week for potential places to submit but quickly lost interest. Maybe it has something to do with my lack of new material. 

I read my standard two poems a day and that’s been uninspiring. I’m reading all the poetry submissions for my lit mag’s contest and am also uninspired by most of it. I think I’m just not in the mood to write anything new. I ask myself if that is ok or if it’s a problem to be solved.

Hmmm. 🤔 

***

Recently I wrote about how my mood has taken a turn for the better lately and that I think the lack of obligations has something to do with that. I wondered briefly if setting an expectation that I continue to press hard on the publishing thing wasn’t a contributing factor in the grand equation of expectations and a feeling of self-worth, or purpose. 

Last Friday I dipped my toe into submittable and confirmed what I thought to be true. Sure enough I was sitting at 22 open. I resolved myself to bringing that number up to 25. But oh my, am I sick of looking at the same poems (especially the ones that have been rejected over and over). So I opened some fresher material and got to work on revising and polishing them. 

And wouldn’t you know what happened next is like magic. I got lost in it. I was putting these newer poems through a series of tests—syntax, form, vocabulary choices, passive voice, cutting unnecessary words, lines, rewriting others conpletely, etc., etc. It felt glorious. With each pass, I felt better and better about each poem and, in general, I felt better too. 

I continued to edit and felt good enough about a couple to submit. Then I thoughtfully toggled between research, more revision, and submitting again until my count was up to 25. That was only 3 new submissions, but it was 3 more than I had had that morning and hitting my goal was satisfying. 

Wouldn’t you know, I woke up Saturday to a new decline in my email and I shrugged an got out my laptop to work some more. This time, exceeding my goal. Now I’m up to about 27. Maybe my new goal should be 30? 

This is how it starts. 😉

I suppose the point of all of this is that I had to force myself to do something I enjoy, but once I did, it was extremely satisfying and now I’m back in the game. 

Now… maybe THAT has more to do with my improved mood than anything. It could be that the spell of depression and unmotivated mood I had been going through had to do with BOTH external obligations and the lack of nourishment of my soul. The part of me that needs poetry and that thrill of producing art that I feel is beautiful and full of love. 

Love IS the right word. 

Today is Monday and I’m steadily making my way through my house chores—dishes, cleaning the kitchen (after a weekend with a houseful of teenagers), litter boxes, grocery shopping, and laundry. So far so good. And I’m not even bent about it. I feel great about it actually. What a flip!! 

My mom is coming over this afternoon and bringing her dog. We are actively trying to find a new home for her as my mom can’t handle her with her current health issues. It’s just not feasible. I’m hoping today’s meet-up will yield a positive outcome. It would be one less thing she has to worry about (and by proxy, one less thing I have to worry about). 

I think that’s it for today. 

Cheers to Being Back in the Game, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-05-11 All of This Is True.. Or Is It? 😉

This morning I was listening to my “Gear Shifter” playlist—the one I curated with songs that are sure to pump me into a cardio machine mood. One of the songs that came up in the shuffle was Hoodie Allen’s “The Real Thing.” 

The end of the song is a clip I have to believe is an authentic message left in his voicemail. It’s some girl, presumably his girl friend telling him she knows he’s working hard on a new album but he needs to get his priorities straight and pay more attention to her. For real! 

When she left that message she probably had no idea that it would make its way into one of his songs that would eventually be distributed to thousands of adoring fans. What do I think when I hear her sharp tone and biting words? What a bitch. 

I was given advice once to always be careful what you say and write, always, lest some unsavory nugget make it out into the wide world. It’s a conundrum. We spend so much energy making our public profiles look exactly how we want people to perceive us. For better or worse, I suppose.

The flip side of this is the freedom of letting your freak flag fly and not giving two turtles what other people think. In my head it’s a balancing act. My hatred of social media helps tip the scales in favor of not posting anything, ever. However, Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are obviously not the only places I’m putting myself out there.

My biggest public facing platforms are my blogs—in various levels and colors of “findability.” My newest website which is less of a blog and more of space for self promotion is the place I’m thinking (hoping) people find me if/when they are looking. I was told that all writers should have a website to promote themself and their work. That it makes publishing their work more appealing to potential publishers.

That blog isn’t really a replacement for my original shyspark blog which I still post on a few times a year. That blog is home to first drafts of poetry and is also the archive of poems and musings from all the way back to the beginning of my poetry writing (which incidentally was when I was about 12 years old). In any case, it still serves a purpose.

Here’s me finally getting to my point…

A few weeks ago I posted to that original shyspark.com blog, which is connected to my Twitter account and posts automagically to Twitter. I had written a first draft of a prose poem. It was more of a musing than a poem, but I’m gonna call it a hybrid piece.

In the poem I had embellished some details of the situation I was writing about, letting the imagination in my fingers do the talking. I had an argument with myself about whether or not to post it, worried what people might think. I ended up posting it. 

Fast forward a few hours and whatever part of me won the argument about posting it waffled and I edited the post, rewriting the details of the lines to smooth over any content that might cause someone to question my character. Doing that made me feel so much better about the poem. 

Fast forward to the next day when it was brought to my attention that my husbands ex-wife had read the post AND brought it up with her son AND had him look at the post. 

They didn’t find the original lines. As timing had it, by the time she was pulling him in to read what I had written, the post had already been changed. I chalked it up to a lesson learned. But what was the lesson?

This question is one I’ve been struggling with since then. Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Given the timing, it’s clear my husband’s ex-wife (who I’m thoughtfully calling whore number 1) is somewhat stalking me. To have seen that post in the short time it was in its original state, she is either following my blog, following me on Twitter, or just looking at all my shit on a regular basis. Any way you slice it, it’s creepy. If you are reading this, Jill, get a life!
  2. I still, after all these years, struggle with the thought of people actually reading what I write, worried about their perceptions of me. I’m a good person, but obviously have flaws and problems and make questionable decisions at times, that are not so pure of heart. Can I let that go and should I?
  3. Does the poem have to be true or are embellishments ok? If I twist the truth to shine a light on the deeper meaning I’m trying to come to terms with, is that being dishonest? I think most seasoned and learned writers would say it’s ok. Still, I write so much that’s nonfic, it’s tough to spin anything else when writing poems.

In the end, I felt like I wanted to write about this incident because it upset me but suppressed the urge, in favor of trying to just let it go. Clearly I haven’t let it go because as I began to write about that voicemail clip in the Hoodie song, it’s exactly the incident my mind zeroed in on. I didn’t plan this.. it just happened. 

If I was more brazen, I would tell you what kind of person is semi-stalking me. I would tell you that I call her whore number 1 because in an email to my husband she called me whore number 3. She wrote it and sent it and she’s never even met me.

Yes, I am my husbands third wife, but if I’m whore number 3, that makes her whore number 1. Good gravy!! 

(Oops.. I guess I’m more brazen than I thought!) 

If I was bolder than that I would tell you all kinds of other horrible things this woman has said and done and written. But not today. I’ve already satisfied my need to vent about this situation and her and it would really serve no purpose. I guess that means I’m done. 

And it’s about time.. I’ve definitely gone way beyond my allotted time for walking today. 

Cheers to Getting Shit off Your Chest(Finally), 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-03-02 In Like a Lamb?!… 🐑🔜🦁

March.. I think the saying is supposed to be “In like a lion and out like a lamb.” 

***

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the weather folklore stems from ancestral beliefs in balance, meaning if the weather at the start of the month was bad (like a roaring lion), the month should end with good weather (gentle, like a lamb).

***

But what happens when March marches onto the scene like a gentle lamb? It’s Nebraska round here people and let me just tell you, when there’s not a lot going on (and there is often not) we get giddy talking about the weather. The buzz around town right now is about the potential for the temperature to break into the 60s and I’m just as excited as the next person. The 10 day extended forecast looks balls-out amazing and it fills me with joy thinking about the opportunities to get outside. 

But Again I ask, what happens after that? If the old farmers almanac saying is about balance, does that mean we’re in for trouble toward the end of the month? And should we forget so quickly that our beloved (and sometimes hated) furry friend Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on February 2nd securing the prediction of six more weeks of winter? 

Incidentally when I decided to get married on February 2nd. And mark my words… I am the one who decided and didn’t entertain much discussion about it. When I came up with that date, the fact that it was Groundhog Day (or the Super Bowl) didn’t even enter my mind. Now it’s a pretty good joke. I’m still happy with my decision even if that means I have to share my special day with a woodchuck with an over-inflated ego. I digress.

The change in the weather has the distinct ability to change people’s moods. I know I’m not alone in this. The drone of life through winter in the Midwest is long and boring. Endless strings of cold and overcast days can cause even the most positive and energetic human to feel as though hibernation is a good option. Though this might be good for Netflix and Hulu and Sling (Disney Plus, Apple TV, and Amazon.. good grief!).. it is NOT good for the human psyche and soul. 

The bright sunshine and it’s warmth are essential for fulfillment. I mean, obvi a person can survive without it, but it becomes tough to get to a place of positive energy and enlightenment. Seasonal depression is a real thing and there’s a reason Seattle, as hip as it is, is also kind of a depressing. 

I’ve visited Seattle twice and both times felt very “meh” about the town. And that’s after going to some really cool places! It just feels so monotone. Perhaps I was just there on grey days, but I think they have a lot of those.

***

I’m looking forward to today despite another 4:30am wake up. I said to Jim at the breakfast table this morning, “i don’t know what’s different between yesterday and today, but today just feels like it’s going to be good.” Can it really be the weather? 

As of right now everyone else is either at school or work and I have the house to myself. I’m finally catching up with myself in regards to the to-do list and don’t feel too pressed about deadlines. I received more feedback late yesterday from the publisher who will be publishing my debut chapbook. It wasn’t from my assigned editor so I think I must have submitted with the option to request feedback. 

Strange to get feedback after they’ve already accepted it. It was written as if the person wasn’t aware it had been accepted. Maybe this is just a larger publishing company and my manuscript is just being pushed around different channels based on how I submitted it. Who knows what happens behind the scenes?? 🤷‍♀️

I now also have the official contract in my hot little inbox just waiting for me to have the time to really read it thoroughly. I would like to give myself an hour where I will be completely free of distraction. Today would probably be the perfect day for that. It will also help me keep the positive mood going as thinking about this book is starting to really sink in and I’m over my anxiety and getting excited about it.

I still haven’t told too many folks about it. A handful really but I think after the contract goes through and it’s “official” I’ll begin being more public about it. Not that the money matters beans to me but the presale numbers dictate the percentage I’ll collect on the deal. I mean to say, money matters, but I never expected to make anything from “selling” poems or books. 

Thus far in my poetry career I’ve collected exactly $110 and that’s a fraction of what I’ve spent on submissions. If this poetry game we’re offered at a casino, the odds are so bad nobody would play. 😜

When I quit my job I had a few friends comment “now I could give my life to poetry.” How true.

I’m giving poetry my time, money, and effort (measured in brain cycles). Not to mention my heart and soul through the words on the page. When I said “take all of me poetry” it seems as though poetry was listening and decided to take me up on the offer. 

Ok. That’s enough of that. One more comment and then I have to git. 

I’m working with a new set of metrics this week to measure how I’m doing with certain health goals. Sunday I busted my ass to get 30 minutes of cardio in on the bike and apparently my heart rate never reached the “cardio” threshold. I clocked a ton of time in the “fat burn” zone according to FitBit. What the hell??!! Thanks FitBit. 

So now I’m spending cycles figuring out what activities get me into that cardio zone (above 121 bpm). Yesterday it was walking really fast on the treadmill, which is slightly less like hell than jogging. I think Jazzercise would do it, but I’m not doing that yet. I’ve thought about classes at the gym. That would essentially be something I could do without shelling out loads of cash because classes are free with my membership, 

Anyhow. We’ll see how this week goes. 

Cheers to the anti-taco Tuesday,

~Miss SugarCookie