Last week was a really hard week. I’m so grateful at the moment that the weekend is here, and I can mindlessly watch television or just do anything mind-numbing to get my brain waves back in less stressful territory. I’m teaching MWF this semester, which is a big change, and is/will be sucking up a lot of my time.
Because of the above, I’m going to have to try to tweak my writing routine a bit. Last semester, I woke up an extra hour, so I could spend that whole time writing or reading. Sometimes, I edited, but not often. I did get up at that time every week this week and sit in front of my computer and read, but I just couldn’t write. Teaching, for me, really requires a different brain set, and I have a lot of trouble not thinking, “Today, when I go into the classroom, I will talk about _______.”
Marge Piercy, in her interview coming out in The Pinch in the Spring 2012 issue, says “For me, writing does not combine well with teaching.” She goes on to say that academics are too isolated in an academic community (MFA, teaching, residencies) to have enough experiences to draw from for their writing. I know for me, that while I’m not in a job where I’ll perish if I don’t publish, it is integral to my continuation and development as a writer that I find a middle ground where I’m able to write while also conveying to my students how I write.
I can understand Piercy’s comment about the academic community, but it’s not possible for many people to write without colonies or residencies, at least the way I see it. Piercy is incredibly lucky in that she lives solely off her writing.
I am also in the middle of applying to a couple of residencies. I applied to one, the Kenyon Review Fellowship, back in December which includes working for The Kenyon Review, teaching a class, and writing. Another one that has been suggested to me is this one at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This one only requires the fellow to write and teach one creative writing class, which isn’t bad. Money and location is always an issue. The Kenyon Review Fellowship pays more, and is also pretty close to Columbus, OH where I lived as a kid. I’ve never been to Wisconsin in my life, and I have these preconceived notions that the temperature is never above freezing. I also hate the cold and snow (or ice, or whatever I have to annoyingly scrape off my car).
I also applied to the Madeline P. Plonsker Prize (no entry fee!). This one includes living for two months on Lake Forest College’s campus, finishing up a larger manuscript, which will then (pending review) be published, participating in a literary festival, and doing a series of public readings. This residency is only for people that haven’t published a book yet and, this year, is also only for poetry candidates. Next year, they will take entries for prose. The deadline for this one is March 1st, but they only accept the first 200 entries, so be thinking about applying for this one soon!
I also received a nomination for a tuition scholarship for Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference from James Allen Hall, a poet I adored when I got to have breakfast and hang out with him when he came down for The Pinch‘s fall release party. Bread Loaf is a conference I’ve wanted to go to for several years now. It’s THE conference to meet people: editors, agents, other writers. It’s also one of my goals for 2012 to get accepted into it, so here’s to hoping that nomination helps make that happen!
I also met with my thesis adviser earlier this week, and he says I really have a shot at getting my manuscript, Predator’s Tongue, published. So, come March, I’ll start sending it off to contests. The first one I’ll be sending it off to is the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize Competition. I know later this year I’ll be sending it off for the Yale series of Younger Poets Competition as well. While both of the above prizes are ridiculously competitive, I’m going to try, regardless. It also helps that Carl Phillips replaced Louise Glück for the judging of the Yale Series, since Louise picked books more in the confessional style, and Carl Phillips has a different sort of aesthetic, one possibly closer to mine.
I am also trying a NEW submission process. Some people on the interweb say “Send out another submission as soon as you rejected.” I did that for a while and did get lucky with some acceptances. Some more traditional folk, like my thesis adviser, suggested that I only send out to the top 10 or 20 journals. Once I hear back from all of them, send the work out to lesser-known journals. I can understand this advice: if I want to make a career in this, I have to get published in one of the BIG journals. But, the waiting is really hard. Some of those journals, like The New Yorker or Tin House, can take 6+ months to respond to a submission, when before, I was hearing a decision from a journal at least every week. In any case, I’m going to try it out. Since I’m spending so much less time submitting my work, I can dedicate that to more writing or more lesson planning.