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

2021-02-05 This One Time at Band Camp…

JK.. I never went to band camp. 

I did go to cheer camp like 4 times though. Sadly there are zero juicy stories from that. All I have to show for my four years of cheerleading in high school are a bunch of pictures of all my bad hair days, nightmares about perpetually being excluded by the other girls, and a couple of trophies for being the “most improved.” 

In a world where popularity and good looks were everything, getting the “good effort” award was like a serious gut punch. I did work my ass off to be a good cheerleader however and I suppose in the long run learning how to work hard to achieve something has served me better than any fragile friendships or being noticed for my looks. Though, damn, those would have been nice. 

These days, getting acknowledgement for my efforts from people I respect is so affirming. A few days ago we had a team meeting for the lit mag and one of our teammates threw some compliments my way and suggested introducing me to The Local Girls Gang which is a group of bad-ass women bosses and entrepreneurs. I was soooo flattered. Kind of speechless. One of my other team members spoke up and piled on. My oh my. 

Sometimes I’m just so unsure how I’m doing and what people’s perceptions are. And often I don’t know how to react to compliments. Some people deflect compliments or minimize them thereby coming across as very modest. The approach I typically take when I’m overwhelmed or dont know what else to say is just to respond with “thank you.” But I honestly don’t remember how I reacted or what I said. 

The zoom meeting was recorded and I’m still waiting on that being sent to the group so I could eventually play it back to find out. 

In other similar news, I recently contacted a professor of mine from a class I took at UNO in 2019 with a request to help spread the word about the lit mag and among the kind words he sent me in response was a comment about me being such a “hard charging dynamo.” Again I’m filled with pride. Sometimes it pays off to be the “most improved.” 

It reminds me that it’s ok to not know how to do something or to maybe not have a natural affinity for something and just work hard to be better.. I mean.. nobody knows how to do a thing until they try it. But if you work hard, you can get better and eventually people will notice. 

Statistically speaking, by this time in a blog post 99% of people have stopped reading. And sometimes that is the same amount of time it takes to get to my REAL topic. 

I suppose this might seem like a bad thing. I’ve lost all readers before I get to the point, but in this case (with this particular blog) it actually works to my advantage. I want to write about something I’m unsure of or worried what people might think. Why today’s REAL topic falls into this category is a mystery to me but it does. 

The same night as that team meeting I mentioned (which was incidentally also the day/night I was empty of energy and having concerns about my relationship) I found a message in my inbox just before I went to bed. It was a notification that a chapbook I submitted last year was accepted for publication. 

I’ve had individual poems published online, among a sea of other poets. I’ve had individual poems published in print anthologies with other poets/poems but this is new! This is an entire 30 page chapbook of poetry, just MY poetry that will be published in 2021!! 

Holy efffing shit people. This is such fantastic news I don’t quite even believe it. And I was so wrecked when I read that email that I don’t think i had the mental capacity to process the news. 

It was one of the things that kept me from sleeping that night however and was partially responsible for my getting up at 4am. I read it a few times to make sure I was sure about what it said. I subsequently updated my personal website with the news which isn’t much. I only know the publisher and since it had been a while since I researched them I mined their website again for more info. Publishing full length manuscripts and poetry chapbooks is their main thing. And they gave some recognizable names in their list of authors which makes me feel great. 

I have great respect for Terrance Hayes’s work and he has a book with them. Wowza!! 

So that was Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Now it’s Friday night and I have yet to tell another soul, save this blog. What the hell?? Why is that?? 

Now we’re getting to the REAL REAL topic. All thoughts converge on this question. 

As questions often do, it multiplies before it can be answered sufficiently -or- so it CAN be answered. 

Do I feel I don’t deserve this or that my poetry is not actually good enough? 

Am I just not sure how to react to this “success?”

Or am I worried about the other consequences if the poems being in print? That could be it. The focus/theme of the book is about relationships which is mostly benign however there’s a heavy emphasis in the second half on my new life at “the castle.” 

Besides the two mentors I had in the last two semesters of my MFA program, an friend who helped me edit, and my mom.. no one else has read most of these poems. 

I’ve not shared with workshop peeps, friends, or Jim. Especially not Jim. 

My 3rd semester mentor encouraged me to “give in to the destructiveness of a subject.”  I’m not sure I quite understood his point, until now. 

My moms reaction after reading was to be worried I’m not happy with my new life. I assured her things were fine. Still, I have elected not to share with my husband, who is my biggest fan and always wants me to read my poems to him, especially now the ones being published. 

It could be that I’m worried what he will think. That he will also take to heart the sentiments and that will throw a wrench into our relationship. 

To be fair, three years ago when we met I told him my passion was writing and that I was pursuing an MFA in poetry. His response was frankly that he never wanted me to alter my art or have our relationship cause me to change what I was writing about or how I was writing. I interpret that as “keep writing what is in your heart no matter what.” 

At that time I never dreamed we would get married or that I would be living this life of a doctors wife. I never dreamed that I would be compelled to write so much about my current circumstance. However, I could have predicted that whatever I would write about, it would not be the rainbows and butterflies. That’s just not my style. 

And thank the universe as rainbows and butterflies are not in fashion this century. “Today” poetry is all about free-verse with lots of tension and surprise. This pending chapbook (submitted under the working title “Unsuspecting Cinderella”) is all about tension and surprise and suggests that the house I live is inhabited by a dark force that gets into the heads of anyone living there and changes them (and not in a good way).

I do worry living the charmed life that’s virtually worry free financially will change me (and my children). The poems in no way implicate the owner of the house, but it’s not a large leap to get there. 

There’s actually very little mention of Jim. And maybe there’s something about that which is also concerning. Or maybe I just don’t know how to write a love poem. I have written a love poem about Jim and even took that to the MFA workshop. “Lack of tension” was one persons comment. Another said they didn’t quite believe the speaker and thought the poem was actually about the speaker missing being single. If that’s not proof I can’t write a love poem, then I don’t know what is. Good gravy!! 😜

I digress. Sorry bout that. 

“Girl, Stop Apologizing” 

So yeah, I’ve officially got a book coming out. That’s what’s up!!

Bringing this full circle.. I did work my ass off on those poems, revising relentlessly and arranging and rearranging tirelessly until the order in the book was “perfect” and working diligently to get the individual poems placed (which is key in the process/decision for a publisher in selection, I think). I might not get the extra-most-bestest award, but I certainly feel like I deserve an “A” for effort.

In this case, I’m pleased as punch with the result.

Now I just have to figure out how to navigate telling people. I suppose posting this blog is the first step. Haha! 

Statistically speaking, Friday nights are the lowest traffic time for this blog so it’s perfect!! 😜

Staying Frosty, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-01-22 Good News in My Inbox is Bad News for the Litter Box

It was a short night for me but the sleep I had was good. Yesterday ended ok and I felt ok about what I was able to accomplish. No surprise though that some unfinished business is stacking up. I’m really going to have to bust my booty today to get it all done. 

Not that anyone needs to know, but the litter box situation has become dire. My cats are starting to give me serious questionable looks. Two of the four of them have followed me here to the gym and are patiently waiting for me to finish. 

I dare say I won’t be walking long.. as it’s 6:40am and I’ll have to shuffle myself into the morning routine about 7, chef and chauffeur hats waiting for me.

I often feel like the jack of all trades here at the castle. A sentiment expressed in the first stanza of a poem I wrote about a year and a half ago. One of the longer castle poems I’ve written. One that I learned (when I checked my email at 5:30am) will be published in an online lit mag in February. Hooray for that.

This one was the fastest turnaround I’ve had on an acceptance yet. Less than a week but they publish an issue a month so I suppose they have to have quick turnaround. Either that or it was a matter of good timing.

In any case, it’s great news and frankly not something I can fall back asleep after reading. Shame on me for checking email at 5:30am. But I was already wide awake so it doesn’t matter. 

It also means I have to spend some time this morning withdrawing those poems (oh yeah, they accepted more than just that one) from other places I’ve submitteed. Sorry kittens, your litter boxes will just have to wait a little longer. 

On that note… I gotta head back upstairs and find my chef hat. 👩‍🍳 

Later gaters, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-01-02 Flip the Day… 🤸

If you flip the script on this day.. this date… the palindrome enthusiasts find a different day just over 10 years ago. 2010-12-02. 

Where was I early in December in the year 2010? 

I know this was shortly after I met a person who would change the trajectory of my life. By that time I was past my divorce and any necessary reconciliation required for moving on with my life and was open to entertaining thoughts about future relationships. The person I had just met was the first person I trusted with this possibility. I picked him, but he didn’t pick me.

For all intents and purposes, the door closed on those thoughts before it was given a chance to open fully. What snuck inside, however, while that door was briefly ajar was a spark of desire. 

I already had one spark, an unrefined flame, my desire to write. But this sneaky circumstance was something different, something new. I’m talking about the thrill I found in sharing my words. 

Thrill feels like the wrong word choice though. It was more of a sense of satisfaction, strangely even a sense of accomplishment though I wasn’t really accomplishing anything outside of perhaps becoming less adverse to risk and more open and ok with being “seen.” And everything that comes with posting my thoughts and poems on a public forum. 

The fear in it is not so much that I was opening up to the whole world, because let’s face it, there’s so much out here and very few people care enough to pay attention. The fear is in the building of an image, and perception from those who do care and also those who happen to randomly stumble across a poem or post. The fear is in people judging you and also in the potential of failure. 

But if you don’t have a concrete goal, if you don’t define the parameters of what qualifies as success and what measures to collect to determine success or failure, then you really can’t fail. That’s how I saw it.

Ten years ago when I started my first WordPress blog I did not have a goal. No measures, no expectations. Hence no failure. No stakes, no real skin in the game. Save my reputation as a writer, which I suppose I never thought about much. Because the person I was always writing for was myself. And I think I’m great! 😜

And I continued on like that for quite a while. About six years, before something more began to develop. This time it wasn’t another spark. It was more of a smoldering. Some low burning that might ignite given the right fuel. 

Turns out that getting an MFA was the right fuel for my fire. 

Flipping that date back over and it’s now 2021-01-02. Today I’m completing the last of the predetermined tasks to satisfy the requirements I need in order to graduate. At this point it’s more a matter of follow through as I’ve already officially received my degree and diploma. Even so, it feels like this is the final step, save maybe the graduation ceremony but I do t really have to “do” anything g for that. 

Today for the reading the focus will be on me for about 20 minutes. 20 minutes of just my voice and my words. I’ll be reading poems I’ve put my heart and soul into for the last 3 years. I’ll be sharing mostly from my thesis manuscript. And a few new-ish poems. 

Here I feel like “thrill” is the right word, I’m excited to read, share, and also to have it over and done with. 

Before that, there’s a fulll day of lecture, workshop, and other readings. I’m the last event on the agenda today. 

Time is short now.. time to get on with the day.

Cheers to a full, and satisfying day. Thanks for reading. Especially you, you-know-who, still supporting me from the other side of that door after all these years.

~Miss SugarCookie