Sunday, December 26, 2010

What does this mean about the writing life? 33 events in 7 months

Taking my cue from January O'Neil and Collin Kelley, I decided to add up what the last few months of my life have looked like in terms of my book launch of The Alchemist's Kitchen.

Now I know why I've been so exhausted this holiday, happy to stay home and re-organize closets.

The thing that I can't get my head around is this: if writers need solitude in order to create work - and perhaps even thrive on or love solitude (not isolation) as I do, then how do we cope with this idea of continually being on the road?

Please understand, I adored meeting new friends in San Diego and Miami - people I never would have met if I'd stayed in West Seattle. And actually, I can be social, happily so, on occasion. But 33 presentations in half a year? Two months of that I was also teaching full time. And yet, it is what so many of us learn to do. In fact, I know I would miss the excitement of festivals, the energy from teaching intimate workshops, and the meeting up with old friends if I was not able to take my poems on the road. It actually feels like a privilege to be living this writing life.

But what I wonder is: will it change what I write? Will it zap poems before they're even thought of? I have to confess that I believe the answer is yes. Yes, just the way the printing press changed how books were made, or how television changed the position of going to the movies in the cultural life of the 1940's and 1950's, just like the internet has changed how we live today. In fact, I know that the internt on our laptops has changed how many of us write. What does it mean, for example, to write a poem of interesting facts if you just found the facts on wikipedia (which does have great lists). What does it mean to write word play poems when the word play can be configured on a website? I use facts and I use word play so this is not a diss, it's just the reality that our poems are now internet enhanced.

And yet. I believe there are more venues for poetry today - both on-line and off-line than any time previously. Poetry is no longer exclusively in the hands of the New York publishing houses and elite journals. Because we have the internet -- and frequent flyer cards -- we can communicate in a far more democratic way then has been possible before. And part of that means going on the road.

Tonight  I was just talking with an old friend about how much fun it would be to teach in Alaska next June - to do a few readings and see a part of the country I have been infatuated with but never had a chance to visit. I know there is a famous writers conference in Homer, Alaska that I would love to be part of and then visit my friend's new home - the Ionia community. And yes, that is time away from writing -- but it is also a chance to be nourished by a new landscape and perhaps write a new kind of poem.

So it's the ying and yang of the writer's life in the year 2010. And I guess I wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, for 2011, I already have speaking engagements through August. Maybe being a more social person is just something I'll have to get used to. I can think of worse things.

Resolution #1 for 2011 --- embrace the social world of poetry -- be thankful for readers and hosts.

Conferences / Festivals/Teaching – 5 festivals, 11 events

Miami Book Festival, Miami, Florida, Reading with January O’Neil, Nov. 21, 2010
Centrum Writers Conference, Port Townsend, WA July 2010, Invited Faculty (2)
Skagit River Poetry Festival, La Connor, WA, May 2010 Invited Faculty (5)
Get Lit! – Writers Festival, Spokane, WA, April, 2010, Invited Faculty (2)
Edge Program for Writers, Artists Trust, March 2010, Invited Faculty

Colleges and Universities – 4 schools, 6 events

San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, November 2010 (3)
Lower Columbia College, WA, May 28th, 2010
Pacific Northwest American Studies Association Conference, April 16th, 2010
Highline Community College, Writing Teachers Actually Write! April 5, 2010

Community Programs – 14 locations, 16 events

Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA, Reading with January O’ Neil, Nov. 17, 2010
The Ink Spot, San Diego, CA Reading with Ilya Kaminsky, November 14, 2010 (2)
Taboo on the Word Beauty, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Nov. 8th with Kelli Agodon
Literary Fires, with Elizabeth Austen and Harold Taw, November 10th, 2010
Humanities Washington, Seattle WA October 1, 2010
New Poets of the American West, Elliott Bay Book Company, September 2010
Hugo House, LitFuse Kickoff Event. September 2010
Pilot Books, Seattle, WA September 2010
Hedgebrook Open House, August, 2010
Elliott Bay Book Company, June 19, 2010
Seattle Library, It’s About Time Series, May 13, 2010
She Said: Women’s Lives Through Poetry and Prose, Hugo House, Seattle, May 5th, 2010
Village Books, Bellingham, WA April 30th, 2010
Open Books, Seattle, WA April 25th, 2010


  1. You should be so happy and proud to have the opportunity to share your book on the road, although I know it must be tiring. Congratulations on the success of the book.

  2. Thank you so much. I am proud. It is an honor. I'm just a little perplexed as well.

  3. I don't know, Susan. It was great to meet you (however, brief the encounter), but I know if I hadn't met you, I probably wouldn't be following your on my side, and perhaps, for your other readers, keep on trucking!

  4. Wow, that is a lot of events! But it is what we have to do get the work out. As the above commandos said, keep on truckin'