Be Bold, Girl

262614_4831803000283_1468953425_nHappy almost New Year, everyone. I’ve missed this space, but needed a breather with all the chaos of ending the semester, followed by horrific national tragedy (about which I cannot yet write or reflect) and then the prosaic craziness of the holidays, which are still upon us. The kids are home, the snow is here and welcome, and the adults are trying to find just a little space in which to stretch their tension-coiled creative muscles. I sent Paul off on a walk in the marsh today with his camera, and I am stealing just two short hours at the over-bright Barnes & Noble in our town because the cute little coffee shop I prefer is closed until after New Years. We take what we can get.

“Stretch” is a good word for my frame of mind right now. I feel stretched thin domestically, the way I’m betting most parents do. I’m anticipating the mental stretching I’ll need to do to prepare for another semester of teaching. My 42 year old bod quite literally needs more stretching, as evidenced by the muscle fatigue I’ve got this morning after shoveling the driveway yesterday. And then there’s my writing life, which feels  like it’s made of a million strands of different length and tensile strength, all stretched in various directions.

This is not a bad thing, maybe.

But I remind myself here that stretching is supposed to be a gentle act, a pause between or before or after great exertion. So, here at year’s end, just four days shy of the new one, let me stretch and pause and reflect a moment on what has been and what could be in front of me in my writing life.

Dead Dad Day: A Memoir of Food and My Father

2012 saw the completion of my memoir chronicling my relationship to my father and his death, our life together made of meals. Since July, I’ve been actively seeking a publisher for the book, and have so far had a handful of “close but not quites” from reputable presses and a whole bunch of “no thank yous” from others. I’ve learned that the agent route is likely not the way for this project, and I’m learning that the book lives in a weird hinterland between “too edgy” for some presses and “not edgy enough” for others. Okay then! Of course the rejections sting, but oddly not as much as they do with my poetry projects. I have faith in this memoir and am as yet undaunted. It will find a home.

One Sparrow in a Flock of Sparrows

Speaking of sting. Here is my full-length poetry collection, so far unhomed. I did the maybe dumb thing of counting up rejections for this collection and was gobsmacked to find they total something like 35 in two years. But I don’t want to give up on it, either. Most of the poems inside of it have been published by good places, and readers have assured me it’s a solid manuscript. The full-length poetry book world is just almost impenetrable, I’ve learned. (and learned and learned) So we’ll see. It’s still out at a handful of places, but if it doesn’t hit next year, it may be time to put it into a drawer and move on.

Women Who Pawn Their Jewelry

My chapbook of “sad relationship poems” was published this year by Finishing Line Press. I have nothing but good feelings about this. People who have read it have said kind things, which is nice, but even if they had not, I’d be okay. These poems are part of another time of my life–a time so far removed from who I am today that the “me” in them is almost unrecognizable to me. Maybe this is the best circumstance under which to publish.

And I Ran

My Tumblr project celebrating the stories of women runners was one of my favorite initiatives of last year, partly because it was born from my own accomplishments in getting serious about running, but mostly because it felt like a gift back to the women who have inspired me along the way. The blog is still active and my hope is to reach a wider audience and increase submissions in 2013. And to keep running, of course.

Food You Don’t Know What to Do With

This cooking/essaying project was a lot of fun, but I admit that I burned out much more quickly on it than I imagined I would. I think I (pun alert!) bit off more than I could chew with too much posting early on  and then didn’t feel like I could let up once it got overwhelming. Before it got overwhelming, though, I created something like 40 recipe-essays over two months. That’s a good bit of writing (and cooking! and eating!), and I enjoyed feeling connected to everyone who participated. I learned a bunch of things, too. First and foremost, I don’t think I am a (notice the capitals here) Food Blogger. What I mean to say is that while I do write about food (and I imagine I always will), I don’t ONLY write about food and that’s the way I like it. I’m glad I didn’t reconfigure this blog into a home for just that project, as I was considering doing in the first place. I need a bigger space for my other interests, and what I lose in focus, I gain in inclusiveness.  I’m okay with that.

So, what will I write in the coming year? I have ideas, some more inchoate than others at the moment. Another cooking/writing project maybe. A research-based ekphrastic poetry project. Whatever I head into, though, I want to follow the advice of the birthday card our babysitter gave to my daughter this year. It said, simply,

Be bold every day of your life.

This is what I want for myself in the new writing year: to be a bold writer. There are things I want to say, things I need to say. Some of them may be uncomfortable (to me, to others) and some may be terrifying (to me, to others). Some may be humbling or humiliating, but some may even uplift.

I have spent a lot of my life–writing and otherwise–cloaked in timidity, carefuling around painful subjects, polishing rough edges and playing diplomat on the page and elsewhere. I’m not saying I’m moving against beauty or harmony, against healing through language. I believe in those things, maybe more now than I ever have before.

But I’ve got more in me. I’ve got a Bold Girl in me. And it’s time to let that girl out.

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