There are still tomatoes ripening in the garden, flowers blooming, crows calling across the back yard. Windows open, I feel that pull to be outside, camera in hand (or garden shears if there are fruits and vegetables to be harvested). But there is a whole cadre of poems waiting for my co-editor Constance and me to decide upon for Gyroscope Review. There is a mountain of flash fiction also awaiting publication decisions over at Fine Linen Literary Journal. And there is One Minnesota Writer, which spends the end of every summer languishing while I take a break to figure out what’s next.
For my whole life, I have been unable to shake off the rhythm of the academic calendar. Summer is down time, travel time, outside time. I do a lot of thinking over the summer, especially when I’m pulling weeds or watering plants or walking my dogs in that early morning summer light that always feels holy. Schedules are something to be shunned during June, July, and August; the older I get, the more clear I am about that in my own life. These months are mine for rejuvenation. Even when I had jobs that did not allow three months of summer vacation, that rhythm was present, that sense that summer is slow-down time, take-it-easy time, be-in-the-moment time. This is a rhythm I have been incredibly lucky to live by and it is not something I would ever willingly give up.
But here it is September, time for new projects, regrouping, and anticipation. A year ago, I had just had a conversation with Dave Morehouse about helping bring his flash fiction dream, Fine Linen Literary Journal, into print. I was also finalizing plans with Constance Brewer for our digital poetry quarterly, Gyroscope Review. And I was trying to figure out what to do with One Minnesota Writer that might be a little different. On top of that, I signed up as a member of AWP and made plans to attend their huge annual spring writing conference in Minneapolis. There was a big void to fill after Every Day Poets, where I spent five years on staff, suspended publication in June of 2014. In some ways, I moved too quickly to fill that void.
Since last September, I’ve had a few project timeline collisions. I’ve found myself busier than I wanted or anticipated. My annual summer hiatus gave me room to think about all this and ask myself important questions: Am I a writer first or an editor first? Where is my balance between the writing work and other parts of my life such as family obligations, volunteer work, and a broad range of other interests? What about the writing projects I’ve started and have yet to finish?
It might be expected that these kinds of questions get easier to answer as one matures. They don’t. Families grow, opportunities multiply, and the awareness of life as a finite amount of time sharpens. Every year, I expect my summer to be slower but, in spite of suspending some of my work, it isn’t. As I watched the birth and maturation of my little urban garden, canned tomatoes, moved my daughter into her first real apartment, spent time with my granddaughter, and travelled to Germany, I knew that being selective on what I say yes to is more necessary now than ever. I cannot say yes to everything if I wish to be good at anything.
I’m not 21 anymore; the world does not lay open at my feet. Rather, it is a complex map that I study for openings that fit. Sometimes I choose wrong. Opportunities that look wonderful before I start them sometimes become onerous within weeks for all kinds of reasons. And it’s hard to find the right time to exit and go in a different direction if there isn’t time to step back and think.
So, I’m very grateful for my summer hiatus. And One Minnesota Writer will be changing as one of the results.
After several years of running writing prompts on my First Five Fragments for Friday feature, it’s time to give up all that alliteration and those prompts. I learned that people generally like prompts, especially picture prompts, so feel free to follow me on Instagram (kcmickelson) where I post a lot of photos, or on Twitter (@kcmickelson) where I occasionally comment on some random thing, all of which make decent writing prompts. And, I am tweeting a series of prompts over the next few weeks for the Fine Linen Twitter feed (@finelinenmag). There are many, many writing prompts available on other blogs and all of mine will remain in the archives here, so there is certainly no shortage. But, as a writer, I know it’s time to move beyond the prompt and talk about other things.
What I want to do here is share essays that are connected to what I’m working on, what’s in the news, and what catches a writer’s interest. Well, okay, this writer’s interest. Writers have a responsibility to be part of a broader conversation, be threads in the community fabric. Like any other artist, a writer offers a specific vision that just might shift the conversation.
That’s exactly what I want to do. Shift the conversation. Let me know what you think. I’ll be posting regularly on Mondays from here on.
So long, Summer.