Valentines for Everyone

Valentine’s Day is not everyone’s favorite, given that it reminds us of our relationship status no matter what. And so I say to everyone: you deserve a token of love regardless. Single or coupled. Doesn’t matter. You’re important.

heart-1618199_1280I do have the good luck to celebrate with my partner Mick, but it wasn’t always like that. There were several years when I was unattached and a few when I was a single parent. I still liked Valentine’s Day because any excuse to eat little candy hearts works for me. And my parents, who were still around back then, never failed to send me a card, which I thought was sweet.

Speaking of sweet things, I found a post from 2008 at Poets.org  that pairs poem snippets with liquor, sweets, and flowers. I’m not convinced that the pairings all work, but it gave me ideas of my own. Now, if I can just figure out what verse goes with whiskey, dark chocolate, and some sort of big flame-orange flower, I’ll be all set.

And while I’m figuring that out, I’ll be making filet mignon with rich balsamic glaze and steamed broccoli. We’re staying in.

How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

cupid

All images courtesy of Pixabay.com

Promptly Speaking

Who watched the Super Bowl last night? Millions of us, including me. I’m not exactly a sports fan, but there is something about this final football game of the season that pulls me in. I used to think I was pulled in by the fun commercials that accompany the game, the spectacular half-time shows (Lady Gaga gets a lot of respect from me for last night’s performance), and the chance to hang out eating stuff that isn’t good for me. But it’s more than that. There’s that sense of so many people coming together to root for their team, of being part of something big and fun. And, last night, it was the wild comeback of the Patriots over the Falcons after they trailed by 25 points.

What does any of that have to do with writing and creative work?

It has to do with not giving up. It has to do with pushing toward your goals even when it feels like your work is getting trounced or your idea is intercepted and taken up by some other player. You never know when there will be a chance to slip your work into the perfect publication and score an acceptance.

And that’s why this Monday after the big game is the perfect time for some new prompts. Let’s wipe the potato chip crumbs from our fingers and get to work.

  1. Driving down a street in southeast Minneapolis this morning, five wild turkey crossed the road in front of me and wandered into someone’s front yard. What wild thing has crossed your path today?
  2. A school bus with its stop sign arm extended and its red light flashing, stopped to pick up kids near my house. A white car came from behind, zoomed around the stopped bus and sped off. Where was that driver going and why did they break the law?
  3. An article about wealthy survivalists was in the January 30 issue of the New Yorker. What makes you lurch into a survivalist mentality?
  4. Valentine’s Day – celebrate it or ignore it?
  5. What stops your heart?

Happy writing.

Current Calls for Submission

Gyroscope Review is accepting submissions for their general submissions category until March 15, 2017. Guidelines here.

Gyroscope Review also has a themed call for submissions open until March 15. Guidelines for that are here.

Good luck!

 

laptop writing

 

Today’s images courtesy of Pixabay.com.

 

 

 

The New Sisyphus

The past week has felt like an ongoing train wreck – news story after news story about Trump’s swift sledgehammer to everything I thought my country stood for. The smashing of the free press, health care options, trade relations, the environment, the idea of sanctuary, and more. Never have I felt so bereft after the inauguration of a new president and never have I felt so alarmed at what is happening to the United States.

This blog has not often been a place where I rant about politics, politicians or policies. It has more often been my creative space, a way to share publishing news and photos and travels and things that make life amazing. But I’m having a lot of trouble shutting off the alarms in my head and focusing on creative work.

I know I’m not alone.

Is the whole idea of Trump’s onslaught of ridiculous executive orders aimed towards just wearing his opponents out? That certainly feels like what is happening around here. It feels like the first week of his presidency is an endurance test for all of us, like a bully throwing out punch after punch without allowing his victim to get up.

And that is why I’m determined to figure out my own balance, to set goals for actions on a regular basis, to find a way to not burn out before the first quarter of 2017 has gone down in flames.

Since last week, when we were fresh from the Women’s March, I’ve signed petitions about the environment, health care, refugees, and net neutrality. I’ve donated to Senator Al Franken and to the Democratic Party. I did a volunteer shift to raise funds for local food shelves. And I know that I can’t keep going at that pace and still edit a poetry journal or create my own work. Nor can I constantly talk about this – my friends, who are as upset as I am, need to have other conversations, too.

What is the answer?

For me, it was taking a breath this weekend to work on sustenance. What does that look like? It looks like throwing yeast in warm water with some sugar, adding it to a flour mixture and kneading the resulting dough on my kitchen counter till it is smooth. It looks like baking oatmeal cookies with butterscotch chips because everyone in my family likes them. It looks like chopping onions, peppers, garlic, and celery to layer on the bottom of a big crockpot, followed by turkey thighs and diced tomatoes and hominy; the resulting turkey chili fed my family Sunday supper. It looks like going out to dinner with friends on Friday night, resolving to not discuss Trump during dinner so we could all catch our breath.  It looks like shutting off the television before the 10 p.m. news comes on so sleep is a little easier to reach. It looks like leaving the yoga mat out all the time so stretching and breathing as a daily habit is always easy to honor.

And it looks like showing up at the slush pile and the blank page in spite of all the awfulness because this is how we who are writers and editors do our work. We have to connect with the world, we have to keep our eyes open to what is happening, and we have to have the chops to reflect what we see through our art, through our words.

I feel better today from having had a weekend of quiet time with family and friends. But I’ll be back at it this week, reading the news, signing petitions, volunteering where it counts, putting my money out there for the good it can do and trying to not have my head explode.

How will you find your balance through this very unbalanced time? And will you allow your voice to be heard?

Speak up. Silence allows awful things to happen.

 

trump-1976071_1920

Images courtesy of Pixabay.com.

 

 

Live from San Diego

There are perks to having a partner who goes to conferences in lovely places. And there are perks to working online from wherever I am. Today that wherever is the Blue Sea Beach Hotel at Pacific Beach in San Diego, where a third-floor room means we can sleep with a patio door cracked open to hear the Pacific toss wave after wave against the sand. It means we can try on a very un-Minnesotan rhythm for a few days.

Not a bad thing for mid-January. A little breath before the inauguration. A great time to think about the dreams we all share.

Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach, San Diego

Back in Action for 2017

Happy New Year! Yes, even though it’s already the ninth of January, the year still has that shiny brand-new feel. I’m always sort of stunned at this time of year to realize how quickly the holidays come and go, how soon we are knee-deep in the new year’s events and tasks.

And while I was on break from One Minnesota Writer, I was knee-deep in something else: the January issue of Gyroscope Review, which you can find here. My co-editor Constance Brewer and I are really proud of this issue and are looking forward to offering print editions of our journal later this year.

Speaking of Gyroscope Review, we do have two calls for submissions out right now. One is our general call for contemporary poetry and the other is for themed submissions in response to the prompt, “planting ourselves”. For further information on either call for submissions and general guidelines, please click here. Submissions accepted from this reading period will appear in our second anniversary issue in April.

As for One Minnesota Writer, I’m not sure what this year will bring. Perhaps a little more travel writing – I have plans to visit San Diego and Dublin so far this year. Perhaps a little more introspection about the writing life. Maybe some ideas about counteracting some of the general unrest and division in our country right now (and the world, for that matter), ways to be useful and outspoken along with a refusal to sit on the couch with the drapes pulled. One of my first actions for 2017 will be to attend the Women’s March on Washington – Minnesota on January 21. If you’re in Minnesota, I’d love to see you there. If you’re going to Washington, then that’s awesome.

Let’s make 2017 a year of action, personal and political, as writers who know how to say things so that others will listen.

 

On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

Yes, my blog this week is a day late. And there is one very important reason for that.

Yesterday, we had to say goodbye to our old friend Ruby. Ruby was our 14-year-old Irish terrier who spent her life in our house, watched our kids grow into amazing adults, stood by us when we each lost our fathers, welcomed our granddaughter, took our second dog Truffles under her wing, and paced the floor around 5:30 every morning in her old age.

It was a bittersweet day, as any pet owner will know. Ruby told us she was done by refusing to eat and drink over the weekend. She was tired. She had lived long enough.

And so we did what we needed to do: took her to our vet, whom she loved, and helped her leave us.

Ruby the Irish terrier

Ruby

Even though I had to get a box of Kleenex to keep in my office yesterday, today I am thinking about how Ruby made us better people by forcing us to slow down once in a while. She had a way of backing up to us wherever we were sitting so that we could pause and pet her. She was good at being insistent. Pay attention, she seemed to say.

Dogs are good at that.

As we move on to the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the New Year, taking a moment to pay attention to whatever is there in front of us might be a really nice idea. Turn off the news, put away the screens, and pause.

Happy Holidays, everyone. One Minnesota Writer will return in January 2017.

happy holidays from one minnesota writer

Winter Visions

snow filled evergreen

It’s looking like Christmas out there. After a snowy weekend, the trees are laden with white. The air is crisp. The landscape looks clean. And thoughts turn to holidays, cozy nights, blue stars far away in the night sky. Enjoy your week.

WINTER TREES

 

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

poem courtesy of The Poetry Foundation, poetryfoundation.org
photo by KCMickelson 2016

Of Poetry and Fudge

I spent much of the weekend reading slush for Gyroscope Review and thinking about our winter issue, which will be available on January 1. Being an editor means I have to be both hard-nosed and generous. This role is where I am constantly challenged to put myself in someone else’s shoes as I try to appreciate the poems in front of me. It is a role that requires me to know what’s going on in the world, to recognize a variety of references across different perspectives, and to see when a poem just needs a little tweak to be great or when I have to say no.

In short, it’s a lot of work. It’s just as much work as the writing itself; it just happens to come on the other end of the creative process. And this is my editorial plug for anyone who is submitting work to one of the number of publications who have open calls for submissions: no editor does this work to make your life miserable. Editors do this work to offer the best possible assembly of words to readers.

And, in the spirit of offering good poetry, I am pleased to share Gyroscope Review‘s list of Pushcart Prize nominees here. My co-editor Constance Brewer and I work hard to get Gyroscope Review‘s contributing authors’ names out into the world and the Pushcart Prize nominations are an excellent opportunity to do that. Please check out the list of nominees and then swing by our Issues page to see those poems and many more.

Perhaps reading some poetry while December tightens its cold-weather grip will be just the thing to counteract this post-election funk many of us feel. But if that doesn’t help, then maybe this will….I give you the fudge recipe I use every year around this time. Fudge makes everything better, don’t you think?

I’ve used the same fudge recipe since I found it on the back of a jar of Kraft marshmallow creme when I was first learning to cook back in the early 1980s. The recipe doesn’t look quite the same on today’s jars and I never add the nuts. I always make plain, unadulterated chocolate fudge. And I use butter. Pure butter.

Here you go:

Fantasy Fudge (old school recipe)

3 C sugar

3/4 C margarine (I use butter!)

2/3 C evaporated milk (this is about equal to the little 5 oz can in the grocery store)

12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips (don’t use “chocolate flavored”!)

7 oz jar marshmallow creme

(1 C chopped nuts is part of the original recipe – I leave these out)

1 tsp vanilla (use real vanilla!)

Combine sugar, margarine (butter), and milk in heavy 2 1/2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.

Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate until melted. Add marshmallow creme, (nuts), vanilla. Beat until blended well. (I use a big old wooden spoon.) Pour into a greased (or foil-lined) 13 X 9 inch pan. Cool at room temp.

Cut into squares. Makes about 3 pounds of fudge.

Fantasy Fudge recipe card

You can see this recipe card has been well-used. And the recipe box was my mom’s.

homemade fudge

The slab left from our annual Thanksgiving Eve fudge-making.

homemade fudge pieces

Irresistible!

 

Careening into December

Where has the autumn gone? While the election season felt interminable, everything else zipped by. Between houseguests and travel, I found myself on Thanksgiving thinking, “Hey, too fast!” This is what happens with a full life, though, isn’t it?

But now life around here is going to slow down a little. And I have pictures to share from my last bit of travel which was to England for my friend Oonah’s book launch in Newcastle.

If you haven’t been to the north of England, go. On this last trip, I had the opportunity to see the landscape in November light, which is the perfect painterly light. The days are short, a full two hours shorter than here in Minnesota right now, and the air is damp. The wind can be raw. I stood on the shore of the North Sea and watched the waves make whitecaps like galloping horses, tasted the salt in the air, and thought about Oonah’s poems that offer up these very images. Oonah, her husband Noel, and I visited gardens that, in November, still held roses on the branch and leaves in red, gold, brown, and yellow. We went to bookstores and cheese shops and pubs, drank local ales and heard local musicians. Oonah and I shared our poetry on a stage with several other wonderful poets, and a few talented musicians, and were rewarded with a warm, attentive audience. My 10 days in Northumberland ended just two days before Thanksgiving here. I came home to a refrigerator already stocked by Mick with turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie, whipped cream, and other dinner fixings.

And we were grateful. Very, very grateful.

North Sea at Newbiggin

The North Sea at Newbiggin

Barter Books in Alnwick – one of the largest used bookstores in Europe

That painterly light in the gardens at Wallington and Belsay

Oonah and I reading our work at the STANZA for Oonah’s November 17 book launch in Newcastle

Oonah and Noel

And now, onward to December.