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.

Thanksgiving Traditions and Change

I like Thanksgiving as a holiday of gratitude and food. Cooking for people has always been something I love to do, even though I’m no gourmet chef. I simply love the warmth of gathering around a table and sharing traditional foods: turkey, potatoes, cranberries, pie. I love the smells, the full refrigerator, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on T.V. I love having my kids around.

But things do change. Our family takes turns with our kids’ partners’ families for holidays; every other year we celebrate together. This year, it’s not our turn. Rather than be sad about having to share our kids, Mick and I are looking beyond our own table. We decided to do something for the larger community, and that’s why we signed up to participate in the Walk to End Hunger on Thanksgiving morning. The Walk to End Hunger is organized by a group of Twin Cities hunger relief organizations who work together to end hunger in both the Twin Cities and across the State of Minnesota. We’ll walk at the Mall of America on Thursday morning, hope that we make a difference.

We are excited about this change that will get us out into a crowd of people who all want to help those whose refrigerators are not stuffed full of food, who may not have the luxury of a Thanksgiving dinner of any sort. We will work to feed others not just for the holiday, but beyond.

If you want to help, you can donate to my personal page here: http://www.walktoendhunger.org/site/TR/Events/General?px=1066163&pg=personal&fr_id=1080

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Walk to End Hunger graphic

Live from Northumberland!

This week, I’m excited to be traveling in Northumberland, visiting my friend and colleague Oonah Joslin and her husband Noel. I’m in Northumberland to support Oonah at her Newcastle book launch of her new poetry book, Three Pounds of Cells, published by The Linnet’s Wings Press. The book event will be at The STANZA, a Third Thursday Poetry and Spoken Word Event at Beldons at The Exchange on Howard Street in North Shields, on the evening of Thursday, November 17. Several poets, me included, will be reading along with Oonah and it promises to be a fun evening. The STANZA’s  Facebook event page has more information.

Besides the book launch, Oonah has promised a visit to Alnwick Train Station to see Barter Books, one of the largest second-hand book stores in the U.K. And she’s promised to make haggis. Apparently, there’s whiskey involved and she thought of me! And she has some other things up her sleeve, but that’s all for another blog.

This week, I’m just going to enjoy the journey and be grateful for friends in faraway places.

delta plane image by skeeze from pixabay.com

image courtesy of pixabay.com

 

 

Campaign Season Fatigue: Ready to Vote!

Like everyone I know, I cannot wait until this presidential election is over. The nastiness, the lack of depth and intelligent analysis, the social media overload – all of it needs to go. Away. Now.

I’m very much looking forward to voting tomorrow, along with my husband and our daughter, whom we’ll pick up from her student apartment after her last class of the day. We’ll walk into our precinct voting place together and cast our ballots, hope for the best. Later, my son and daughter-in-law are coming to our house to watch the results roll in. A few friends are joining us.

Am I going to try to sell you on my choice? Not today. But I am going to echo the general call to get out and vote, exercise your hard-won right as an adult citizen of this country, and be respectful of everyone else who is doing the same. Do not predict the end of the world as we know it if you come up against someone who is voting for your candidate’s opponent. We’ve had enough childish doomsday forecasts to push people into making a choice based on fear, incomplete truths, or flat-out lies. Think about the bigger picture, why experience matters, how the checks and balances inherent in our system really work, and what candidate promises are realistically impossible to fulfill.

For that matter, think about what you learned as a child about being fair and doing a good job.

When I was a kid, my dad was adamant about voting in every single election. This is what good Americans did. I went along every time my parents voted, listened to them from the back seat of the car while they discussed the election. I remember during the 1972 Nixon vs. McGovern election I was just becoming aware of how candidates tried to make themselves look good and was beginning to understand that there was a lot of disagreement about Vietnam and women and racial differences. Our local parish priest admonished all of us that voting for a candidate who supported abortion rights was not what a good Catholic did. For my parents, this meant that McGovern was not a good Catholic choice, but he was the Democrat and this caused a great deal of anguish. My mom was very clear that she could not vote for McGovern, but my dad did not like Nixon. I asked my dad if he was going to vote for Nixon or McGovern after learning about them both in school, and my dad informed me that we never had to tell anyone who we voted for. He might not even tell my mom who he chose and she might not tell him. It was a sacred, private thing. Of course, I know now it might have been in my dad’s best interest to keep mum.

When I was old enough to vote, I talked to my dad about the candidates. I didn’t keep my choices a secret from him. Now, Mick and I talk a lot about who we support and we have not had an election over which we’ve disagreed much. Our differences in choice of candidates come early on, before the party endorsements happen. But our philosophies are similar. We are lucky that way. I cannot imagine being married to someone who has a completely different political sensibility, especially in this election season.

Is this election season any more divisive than that long-ago 1972 season when there was so much strife in this country? Or the 1968 election, which I cannot remember? I don’t know. It seems like it is more divisive today, but I believe my parents were every bit as worried about the future in 1972 as I am now. I worry about what we are creating for our kids with all this fighting and arguing and inability to come to a consensus on things like health care, immigration, education, and foreign policy. What gives me hope is that we still have the right to choose our representatives, still have a process that prevents change on a whim, and that many people are going to the polls already through the early voting option. It gives me hope that many are speaking out about this campaign season’s bad behavior with the suggestion that this is not how adults should behave.

Come Wednesday, we’ll know who our next president is. Let’s honor the democratic process. Vote.

voting-box-by-animatedheaven

images courtesy of Pixabay.com

Light the Jack o’Lanterns!

one-mn-writer-witchHalloween is one of my favorite nights of the year. It’s a night when I remember what it’s like to be a kid, excited about doing something that cannot be done at any other time. It’s also a night when I think about ancient traditions, about honoring the dead and the changing seasons. I love the magical feel of Halloween, how all things spooky get celebrated.

This year,  I’m longing for the simplicity of homemade costumes and children who dance through their neighborhood to collect candy. I’m ready for a night that we give over to kids, when adults stay in their corners and be adults. And that’s what I’m going to do – be the grown-up who oohs and aahs at little kids when they yell, “Trick or Treat,” give them candy, wait for the next costumed little person to walk past my newly-carved pumpkins with real candles inside.

I know a lot of adults love Halloween and have fun with costume parties of their own, decorate their yards with abandon, invent drinks that turn blood red or black, let themselves play “pretend” one more time. I’ve done that myself. But this year, it feels just right to let this night be for kids alone. I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot over the past week, how Halloween is the perfect antidote to the nastiness of this election season and how sitting around with a bowl full of miniature candy bars is far less stressful than watching the news. Or discussing which direction our country should take. Or opening the mail. Or scheduling the next appointment, whatever it may be. Or having to reject someone’s poetry. Or submitting my own. Or any number of other grown-up things that must be done. I want to turn my attention elsewhere. And where better to turn it than to kids and the magic they still believe in?

So, at dusk, I’ll light the candles in the pumpkins, put the candy in my special cauldron, and be happy to be the one who gives treats. I’ll be the grown-up who honors Halloween as a time for kids to be kids and for adults to keep the veil over that other world that all those kids will be part of soon enough. Good, simple unplugged fun in an increasingly complicated plugged-in world.

Happy Halloween!

omw-happy-halloween

 

Celebrate Your Writer Friends

I am celebrating my friend Oonah Joslin’s recent book launch for her new book of poetry, Three Pounds of Cells. The Morpeth launch happened last week and the link to buy Oonah’s book is now available. Click on the image below to get your copy. Curling up with a good book of poetry can’t be beat as we slip into the cold weather season.

Three Pounds of Cells front cover

Celebrating my writer friends who find success and have work to share is one of the joys of being part of the writing community. If you have a recent publication, please feel free to put a link in the comments below.

Happy Monday, everyone.