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Work in Progress: Salvage: Arizona

25 Jul

* poof *


My 101 Things: 5% Done, 95% to Go

24 Jul

Woohoo! There is money in the Money Pot, ladies (and gentlemen).

the Money (Tea) Pot

As part of my 101 Things in 1,001 Days challenge, I pledged to put away $5 for every Thing I completed. We’re now up to a whopping $30 USD, thank you very much, for crossing off such great challenges as:

– Getting a library card (hello, Alamitos Library!)

– Setting up an emergency fund (hello, Istanbul – I am nothing if not single-minded)

– Revising 10 poems

I’m actually super delighted by this last one. As part of my unending list of neuroses, you may remember that I freaked out on Google Docs (or Google Drive, or whatever new madness those wacky Googleites are concocting next) a month or so back, when I couldn’t print any of my poems from my account. Instead of going back to the manual typewriter, as I sometimes dream about (god, remember that beautiful click-clacking of the keys, the jingle bell satisfaction of the return lever), I settled on the next big thing: retyping all my  manuscript poems as good, old-fashioned, single-computer accessible Word documents.  Continue reading

Poetry Manuscript 2.0: Finding the Point, Again

29 Jun

At the corner of 4th and Inspiration (ahem, I mean Cooper) . . . guerilla art NY-style

As you may recall, dear and patient reader, I set out in 2010 to put together a manuscript of poems for publication. I had uprooted roots for the Nth time July the year before and found myself jobless, (mostly) friend-less and searching for purpose. My daily sifting through Netflix and the previous night’s DVR’d television shows just wasn’t cutting it in the Grand Scheme that I’d dreamed up as “My Move to the Big City.” Of course CityBoy was around, endless optimistic and supportive, but I needed vision, a goal, something outside of myself, to push through or towards.

In April 2010, I participated in NaPoWriMo (the month-long challenge to write a poem a day) and found myself really engaged, looking forward to getting down to writing each morning, fortified by a stiff cup of coffee and some peanut butter toast. I wrote something like 22 poems that month, a ridiculous spectacle of poems, many of them bad or simply atrocious, but I found something too that month–the renewed pleasure in writing, the words just coming, bad or good, across the page under my fingers, that image or idea sprouting like a long buried seedling into proverbial life.  Continue reading

Ugh. Here it comes…

5 Mar

I have been a bad blogger (although that word still makes me cringe a little; I prefer to think of this as a compendium of thoughts, not always coherent or terribly insightful, but useful to me, and I hope at least a little interesting to you). I have definitely been a bad writer.

However, I have been a good worker, moving up in the job world from a part-time position to a full-time one…WITH benefits (cue the triumphant horns). I have also been a good reader. With my new Nook, I have been reading like a fiend, trying (and failing) to keep up with both my physical hold queue and my virtual one at my local library.

Books! Books!! BOOKS!!!

And I have also been a very, very, very good buyer of books, both e-books and book-books. Here’s just a sampling of the books I’ve bought in the past eight weeks: Continue reading

Moving Thoughts

27 Jan

my little sister made these sweet cupcakes

The other day, a coworker, knowing that I moved from California to New York, asked me about my experience. He and his girlfriend are considering moving from New York to Florida, and he wanted some firsthand knowledge. This got me thinking. It’s been almost two years since my move (!!), but I haven’t really reflected too much, at least here, about how the move has gone, how it’s affected me and my relationships with others, and whether I’d do it again.

Since we’re all still thinking about the new year and what it holds for each of us (beyond the feverish, resolution-fueled exercising I see at the gym and yoga studio), I figure this deserves some attention. Here’s what I’ve learned in the past year and a half (not in any particular order):

Save up.
If you’re considering moving to a new city and you don’t already have a job lined up, wait. Stop. Save. As much as you can, but I’m recommending at least enough to cover your expenses for six to nine months. I’d never been unemployed for an extended period of time before I moved to New York, and I’d never really struggled to find work, so I naively thought that it would take me three to six months TOPS to find a new job.
Boy was I mistaken. It took me a full year, about a thousand job applications, and interviews with three companies (the only ones who responded), to find a part-time entry-level customer service job. Whose salary is not even close to what I was making at my previous job.
Of course my search was hindered by the worst national job market in decades, a failing economy, and an extremely competitive under-employed labor pool in New York City, but I wish I’d really heeded all those friends and family members who expressed serious reservations about my plans to leave a good job without having a new one in place. Especially since NYC is probably the most expensive city in the US.

You Are Here: On The Road to A Finished Collection

2 Nov


I submitted my last round of entries for first book prizes this past month, with version 3 of Harvest (as it is currently titled) and immediately began rewrites. Such is my revision process. Unless I’m totally sick of a thing or I think it’s hit the glory spot (very rare), I’m constantly revising poems. And also manuscripts.

There was one last set of contests whose deadlines were Oct. 31st or Nov. 1st and I thought I could push through and get one more revision out, but it was not to be. On deadline days, I was (and still am) up to my elbows in versions of versions, cutting poems, putting others back in, changing poem order, moving lines around. One of the things I loved about seeing Sharon Olds read recently (other than her sheer awesomeness) was her announcement that she’d just been revising the sheaf of papers in her hand…on the subway ride over. I thought, wow, that is hard-core, I need to be that hard-core.

With the holidays coming up, I’m focusing on revisions, no submissions, tooling and retooling my great sheaf of papers, so I thought now was as good a time to reflect on a year’s (plus) hard work, mental tomfoolery, and the awesomeness of CityBoy’s workhorse printer.

In the past year (starting in January 2010), I sent my manuscript, in various forms, to eight book contests:

Colorado Prize for Poetry
Kundiman Poetry Prize
Main Street Rag Annual Poetry Book Award

Barrow Street Press 2010 Book Contest
Crab Orchard 2010 First Book Award
Pearl Poetry Prize

Kinereth Gensler Awards / Alice James Books
Philip Levine Prize in Poetry

…spending just under $200 in reading fees, and probably another $50 in postage and copying charges, and churning through at least three reams of paper.

I’m still waiting to hear from Barrow Street and the last three, since I just sent those in in September. I did not win any of the others (no big surprise), or come very close, though I did get a very nice mention in my Crab Orchard rejection that I was a semifinalist. Out of how many semifinalists, I don’t know. But knowing that someone liked the poems, even just a tiny bit, was heartening.

Oh, and I did get a few subscriptions to journals and the odd book or two from some of the presses, which was quite nice and much appreciated. I always love getting a thick envelope in the mail. I think it goes back to college admissions days, when a big fat envelope meant that all your dreams were going to be answered (you can figure out what a skinny form letter did -and does- to one’s ego).

There is another batch of four to six contests I may add to my rotation next year (I missed a couple of key deadlines) but I do feel like I’m getting the hang of this part of the po’ biz. Here’s a couple of things I learned over the course of the year:

1. You’re going to need a lot of paper. A lot, a lot, a lot.

2. And a very patient partner who doesn’t mind coming home to stacks of paper spread all over his very tiny living space which he can’t move or touch or even look at, under pain of death (did I mention CityBoy and I share a 500-odd square foot studio?). CityBoy is a good man, a prince among men.

3. And a lot of patience for yourself. There will be days when you hate everything you’ve ever written and, picking up the other beautifully published and much admired works you possess in your poetry library, lament the fact that you’re even trying to do this thing. Are you really as good as Dorianne Laux? Mark Doty? Marie Howe?

4. The answer is always “yes” or “I will be.”

5. You’re also going to need friends. Good, poetry-reading friends who don’t mind being sent some weighty tome of words and hounded for their feedback. Because they will see things you can’t. Or echo that niggling bit of yourself saying, yeah, this poem doesn’t really work, even though I like this line or that image. They will ask the dreaded question:  “so what?”

6. And something else to do or see or taste or feel on those days when it’s not coming easily, the poem or the rewrite or the poem order. You’re going to need to walk your neighborhood, see movies, look at art, ride the subway, go to the grocery store, eat that big salty bowl of ramen at your favorite place with the go-go dancer waiters. Because that’s where the next poem, the next image, the next “holy shit” moment is waiting. Right there.

7. And then you’re going to have to get right back to work. Sit your ass in the chair and think and imagine and form words and dream. I know, I said it, dream. But that’s really all this is. You distilling your best self into these dreamed-up words, these lines and images that make you smile and do the fist pump dance and make you love language again and again and again. Because, in spite of what you do to pay the bills, this is who you are and this is what you do.

So, I am here…with one manuscript in progress, currently 62 pages (with some creative margining), 46 poems, 3 sections. Even now, flipping through the pages to tally them up, I’m making mental changes (That poem’s still in there? Really?) (Three sections? Hmm…), but that’s part of the joy of being in charge. You make the calls, you say what goes.

Rock on, peeps, and wish me the luck of the wolf.

– Jho

The Making of a Manuscript: The Table of Contents

8 Jan

I never thought I would get so jazzed seeing a Table of Contents. Of course, when it’s your own, things get a little more interesting.

The product of at least seven years of writing (good lord!), my manuscript has so far boiled down to 36 poems, 54 pages, and god only knows how many commas, periods and dashes. I’m particularly fond of dashes, these ones —, not these ones -.

I’m also especially enamored of verbs, as my writer friends out there know. These sprang up again and again: bristle, scuff, slough, swathe, sprout, startle. I ended up pruning where I could, swapping verbs for other, more unexpected ones.

Continue reading