To see the announcement for my poetry book, Sparrow, selected by poet Dorianne Laux for the Kenneth and Geraldine Gell Poetry Prize at Writers & Books, go to

You can find a review by Kathleen Kirk at EIL:

Friday, December 30, 2011

What was I thinking?

After three days at my mom's house -- a doctor appointment, a visit from the MIA nephew and his family, hanging out and watching Monk reruns, eating too much candy...I'm home again. Oh, good, I thought. Finally, I'll get some writing done.

How is it that my kids are 18, 18, and 12, and I'm still telling myself that I can get a lot of writing done over school breaks? Shouldn't I have learned better by now?

This is the picture I should have sent out with my Christmas cards. My mother is standing between me and Pearlie.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ray Bradbury

(image from Lee Valley Tools)

I found these lines set as the epigraph to Louise DeSalvo's book, Writing as a Way of Healing:

So while our art cannot, as we wish it would, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all....

Writing is survival....

Not to write, for many of us, is to die.

I have learned, on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy. Two days and I am in tremor. Three and I suspect lunacy. Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow. An hour's writing is tonic. I'm on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats.

Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Monday, December 26, 2011

The American Scholar

I have been meaning to add Priscilla Long's blog, "Science Frictions," from The American Scholar to my bloglist. It's a true delight:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Losing One's Way

I was wandering around a bookstore and found this while lost in Tomas Transtromer's the great enigma: new collected poems; it's the opening sentence of his prose poem, "The Clearing." 

"Deep in the forest there's an unexpected clearing that can be reached only by someone who has lost his way."

Be lost. Keep your eyes open.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Writing Toward Home

This morning in my journal writing -- and in an email to a friend -- I have indulged in a pity-party. Why write? What's the use? Will any of this work, this writing, ever be to any point? Will my poetry book and my novels ever find publishers? Does anyone believe in me, besides me? Do I still believe? Everyone who has ever discouraged me loomed up in my imagination and stood there (a mob of them) frowning sternly: "You're wasting your time!"

Then, at the library, I came across this encouraging little book by Georgia Heard, Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way (Heinemann, 1995). Here's the opening paragraph of an exercise:

"In order to write, you must face your inner critics, steal their power. Begin by trying to identify them. The more ambiguous they are, the more power they have. Write down: Who are they? What do they look like? Where do they work? At a university? At a magazine? How did they acquire so much power? When did they enter your life? In second grade, when your teacher threw your writing in the trash? In college, when your professor wrote huge X's all over the poems he didn't like? Last week, when you received four rejections in the mail? Describe them and what they're saying to you."

Ultimately, to be an artist in this world -- where money and technology and politics compete to rule our lives -- you have to find one person to believe in and 100% support your peculiar vision. And that person is you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

September, Fallen

We sort through pictures all afternoon,
breathing the dust of chipped
and tattered corners. My young parents
sitting on the grass with their first two babies,
me and my brother,
gray light flooding around us.
Before dinner, I step out the back door
to gather a few scabby pears.
Under the skin, the fruit
will be unblemished and sweet.
Such a jolt--not a metaphor,
an electric tingle of awareness
like a bee's sting--
to brush our fingers over the faces
of so many loved dead. Near the backyard gate
a deer has left its hoofprint
mashed into one over-ripe pear.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Revising Oneself

Grades are in and I've begun work on two manuscript revisions -- the poetry (always and forever, it seems) and one more round on PEARL'S ALCHEMY (I'm reading through the whole thing while waiting on my agent for comments). Of course, sometimes it's good right away, and here's a poem that -- at least in memory -- came through pretty clearly the first time. "Then" has been published twice, once by CROSSCURRENTS, and once in the anthology from Yarroway Mountain Press, A CADENCE OF HOOVES.

"It is no sign of weakness or defeat that your manuscript ends up in need of major surgery. This is common in all writing and among the best of writers." E.B. White


When she was a girl and he was her horse,
she would lie on the grass at his feet (which she

would have been careful to call his hooves)
summer days, and he would take up the grass

in his teeth, his great yellow, beastly teeth,
even the grass mingled with her hair,

teasing her as if he would bite her hair,
though he never did. Standing at the barn door,

he would rub his long nose down her back.
Once, after a yawn (listening to her with her silly friends),

he closed his jaws around her arm
and shook it, mildly impatient as a husband.

And if you had asked her then, What is love?
she could so easily have told you.


And now that grades are in, I will also be 1) going to the gym, and 2) taking long naps.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Writer's Space

"It is a bad trick of the mind to announce to yourself that you can only write in a certain place, in certain circumstances, in a certain kind of weather, at a certain time of the day, after having a certain kind of meal, with a certain sort of pen. It is fine to have preferences but important to commit to writing anywhere. That way you can grab ideas when you're away from home; you can take a little writing trip when you feel dull at your desk; you can choose among your excellent haunts and decide which feels most congenial at the moment. By all means maintain a primary writing place; then add altenates." -Eric Maisel, A Writer's Space

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cortland Review

Here's a video of poet C.K. Williams, courtesy of the folks at Cortland Review.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I'm supposed to be grading papers...

...and I have been, but I also picked up this book via Interlibrary Loan, Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives, by Louise DeSalvo. She writes,

"What, though, if writing weren't such a luxury? What if writing were a simple, significant, yet necessary way to achieve spiritual, emotional, and psychic wholeness? To synthesize thought and feeling, to understand how feeling relates to events in our lives and vice versa? What if writing were as important and as basic a human function and as signifcant to maintaining and promoting our psychic and physical wellness as, say, exercise, healthful food, pure water, clean air, rest and repose, and some soul-satisfying practice?" (6)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Trickster Strikes

I don't know that I'm supposed to tell the world that my spirit guide -- in recent travels, anyway -- has been Coyote. If you know my poetry book (The Coyotes and My Mom) then you'll understand with what alarm, and wariness, and maybe even horror, I encountered her. (It was definitely a female coyote -- I don't know how that alters its trickster qualities. Not much, I would guess, but I can feel a difference in the energy.)

Anyway, yesterday I suffered a major setback in my writing gameplan. I reeled. Two students immediately showed up at my office door (my soccer girls, which kind of fits with this whole trickster theme) and I was so incoherent they must have wondered what was going on with me. But after a couple hours, after an evening with my friend Margaret listening to poet David Whyte (something of a trickster himself), I felt better. It could be a good thing, this huge shift in my gameplan. Don't I tell my students that when they find themselves within the unexpected, relish it?

Then, after dropping Margaret off at 10:30 p.m., I decided to drive home via Olympic View Drive, and there, standing in the middle of a bend as if waiting for me, was an exceedingly scruffy looking coyote. She stood stock still (why not a female?) and waited until my lights swept over her, then she trotted amicably away into the brush along the road.

It all adds up.

A long time ago I made two resolutions: 1) To let everything that happens draw me closer to God (this has been harder than I expected, but I keep trying), and 2) To use everything that happens as an excuse to write. Why not?

Friday, December 2, 2011

The End of Fall Quarter

Yesterday I shared this quote from Julia Cameron with my Creative Nonfiction students:

There is a persistent notion that we must "wait for the muse to strike," as though creativity were so mysterious and capricious that we can, at best, hope to snare it as we would a rare butterfly.

The reality is just the reverse. We are the ones who show up. We are the ones who disappear for long periods of time. Creative energy is a constant and we can always tap into it.

(from her book, Vein of Gold, page 141)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Staying on the Path

"Art is not just ornamental, an enhancement of life, but a path in itself, a way out of the predictable and conventional, a map to self-discovery." Gabrielle Roth