Thursday, May 24, 2018

JL Jacobs : my (small press) writing day

It's been three days into a sultry hot of the Red River delta that prevent open windows that allow the outside in...owl calls, whippoorwills, coyotes, and train whistles. I've been on rest and recovery from a recent fall walking my dog, and the Rx was the farm, and my root-doctor/midwife Great-grandmother's cottage, as my house in town has three flights of stairs, and that's not advisable in recovering from new falls in spinal disorders.

I was awakened afore daylight by the mowing Reverend.  I decided at first against the rocking chair on the screened porch; I settled for the back window in the study which is amassed with books I'm organizing from my deceased father's library three blocks blocks. The good Reverend was gone before I took Fritz out to mail his morning letters. I considered icing my java, and told myself, Honey, it is only mid-May. 

I backed my ears back, closed the gate the hurrying Reverend left open, and had that coffee on the porch anyway. Read my morning devotional. Said my prayers. Responded to a text from my Mother. She informed me I'd better scoot on up to Dad's library and finish up with the books, maps, letters, and all his treasures before noon. And, it is mid-May. Okay. I did as directed.

One last look around the haunt, the wisteria prayer closet out of doors, dripping still; rifled through the trash pile once again, and salvaged a tin tea cup with a candle, an ancient mallet, and watering pitcher, so I loaded these along with my Dad's materials from two books published (one of which is a permanent installation at the nearby museum & was nominated and short-listed as a Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit), and one I'm supposed to finish on fire towers of the Southeastern Oklahoma hills. He set the bar pretty high. By the time I get back to the cottage I have not a dry thread on me, and realize I have a fresh load of sand fleas. Ayup. What to do when? Unsure, I shucked my clothes and threw them out the screen door and headed for the bathtub.

Fresh as a daisy again, I checked email. Checked the Submittable box for my magazine Responded to an anxious Pushcart Prize winner...chose a poem and art for publication on May 21st, and another set for May 23rd. Nothing like running just nearly behind. By noon thirty I'd heard from my Mother again that I needed to call the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Investigator back, that she'd just spoken to him, and I should wait two hours. I considered doing this in my fresh as a daisy nightgown after my flea freedom, but decided on a blue long sleeved collared shirt. I rang him up; he had to pull over to take notes, and I just shipped my best friend to a job in G-dforsaken Ardmore. 

I responded via email to an artist outlining what "washed out" means in old school photography, and made some suggestions, and accepted a few new pieces of art. I've been working on publishing a serial memoir by Warren Wright the brother of my mentor C.D. Wright, and he wants me to find a photograph of a railroad bridge over in Cotter, Arkansas, spanning the White River where their cousin "Splash" Collins fell off the train and into the river. I asked if he survived, but have yet to get a clear answer. It was near drip in my thatch-eaved kitchen by then, and decided I'd have to wait to find the place Splash landed later. Java on ice would be mighty nice, and I was trying real hard not to have to bathe again before sundown.

I often forget to eat. Today was no different. As usual, consume the thing in the fridge that would go bad first. In this instance an asparagus omelette built by Mom. Went to the study to organize some historical documents, filled one box and shut it, and that was aplenty for today. I'm here on rest and recovery....yes, that's what it is called...light duty. My dog Fritz had several little jaunts with me hurrying him right along, and as a Bichon Frise whose wearing a full coat, he didn't argue with me.

Mother had been to the cancer clinic in Paris, TX for a port flush with a friend today, so tonight would be burgers from Braum's; though I'm Kosher with the Kosher, I eat meat with carnivores, sometimes. Today, I did. We compared notes on our OSBI interviews, she brought me a cantaloupe and bananas from the market fifty miles away.  I moseyed back over to the cottage, and it is still dripping sultry, and I will manage with only having had to take two baths.

I wrote nary a poem, but I enjoyed the view of Steven's Creek bottom as I washed dishes. I helped a writer or two, an an artist or two, and did my job as editor on a very low key basis, as my Dad's library and how I'm going to make room for it are at the top of my list. Now, it's nearing 9 and maybe down to 80, and I'm thinking I will catch that coal train as it rolls in from Wyoming to power the lights I read by, and I will catch the owl calls, and whippoorwills, and rise early tomorrow, hopefully, and do something might near the same.

JL Jacobs, MFA, Brown University, is the author of four volumes of poetry. Work has appeared in numerous journals including Ploughshares, New American Writing, and New Orleans Review. Representative work is anthologized in American Poetry: The Next Generation, Carnegie Mellon UP. She was a 2017 nominee for Poet Laureate of Oklahoma. She studied with C.D. Wright, John Yau, and Keith Waldrop at Brown, and has continued a mixed-media artist practice from teaching Poetry&Image at Brown Learning Community to offering mixed-media workshops at OKC Literary Festivals. She has offered her work from Coffeehouse Exhibits to Deep Step Come Shining with C.D. Wright & Deborah Luster, Poet’s Theatre, NYC.

Streets as Elsewhere by J.L. Jacobs
Dream Songs  by J.L. Jacobs
The Leaves in Her Shoes by J.L. Jacobs
Varieties of Inflorescence by J.L. Jacobs

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Kate Heartfield : my (small press) writing day

Like most work-at-home writers, I have all the time in the world in theory, but in practice, very little of it is protected.

The six hours between 9:15 and 3:15, Monday to Friday, are the child-free hours. I spend quite a lot of those hours writing fiction, these days, for which I'm very grateful. (When I had a very demanding day job and an infant, my "writing day" was a 2 a.m. breastfeeding session, writing story notes one-handed on my phone.) For years, my creative writing was shunted to very late nights or very early mornings. I learned that while I can write very late into the night, I will never be an early morning writer. It doesn't seem to matter how much sleep I get the night before; my brain doesn't work properly until mid-morning.

My kid is old enough now that I can write a bit while he's home, too, but if I have a thorny plot issue to work out, it's nice to have some quiet daytime hours for that.

Family appointments and errands do eat into those weekday hours quite a bit, as do my editing and teaching gigs and the occasional non-fiction piece.

Our house has a little sunroom, where I've set up a treadmill desk. I try to spend at least half an hour of each work day walking on the treadmill, while I respond to emails or check social media, or proofread for clients.

Heavy-duty fiction writing usually happens in the adjacent chaise longue.

All my non-fiction books are in that room, so my research materials are close to hand.

Sometimes, for a change of scenery and to force myself to save the housework for after the kid gets home, I'll go to one of my favourite coffee shops or the library. Writing buddies keep me accountable on a nearly hourly basis by email or in online chatrooms, and sometimes we'll write together for a few hours at the library or in one of our homes. I live in the country, though, so my typical writing day is a solitary one (if you don't count the cat). I'm such an extreme introvert that I never find myself yearning to be with people, but it's good for me to get out and talk to non-family humans every so often.

One of my major challenges these days is balancing various projects. This week, for example, I'm finishing up a big piece of interactive fiction for Choice of Games, and I'm keen to get that cleaned up and over to my editor there, but editorial feedback has also arrived for my first novel, which is coming out in a few months, so I've got to get those revisions done too. I've got a few pieces of short fiction on the go, and I'm itching to start a new novella. I've found that I can easily balance one big thing (a novel draft, a game draft) with a bunch of little things such as short stories and essays. If I have more than one big thing going at once, though, I have to separate them into chunks that are big enough to allow me to work up momentum, but discrete enough that I can set them aside for a few days to work on the other thing.

Every so often, I'll look up from an email from an editor or my agent, or the draft of one of my many projects, and stare at the snow falling on my very own woods. And I'll realize that I'm living the life I've always wanted.

Kate Heartfield’s debut novel Armed in Her Fashion (CZP) is out now. Her interactive novel The Road to Canterbury is now available from Choice of Games. Publishing will publish two time-travel novellas by Kate, beginning with Alice Payne Arrives in late 2018. Her fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies including Strange Horizons, Lackington’s, and Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World. Kate is a former opinion editor at the Ottawa Citizen and lives on the rural edge of Ottawa. Her website is and she is on Twitter as @kateheartfield.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Michael Sikkema : my (small press) writing day

I don’t have a writing day or writing routine. No office no desk no ritual no retreat no system. I’ve had time to write this because I was rained out at work.

I don’t have a writing day. I have fits and starts, 10 minutes between conferences, some time in my car before the rest of my landscaping crew shows up, late nights with a very bad movie muted and mashed up with good music, sometimes early mornings when dream still fogs everything and no one else is awake.

I compose in small notebooks and on notecards. Both push me to condense. If I’m working on a chapbook or book project, the notecards allow me to ignore ideas about order and sequence as I shuffle them each time before I re-read them.

Usually I have a stack of books on my bedstand and another on our dining room table, with a third stack in the kitchen that has to go back to the public or university library.  Reading always informs my writing whether that’s the plan or not. I like all genres but prefer texts broken up, so I can read a passage in between this or that. Sometimes while camping, I can sit and read an entire book cover to cover.

I don’t have a writing day because of kids and jobs and everything else but that’s perfect because when faced with the odd open block of hours, I can’t just sit down and turn on the poetry tap anyway. Rather than a writing day, I usually write a little everyday. It works.

Michael Sikkema is the author of 4 full length collections of poetry, around a dozen chapbooks or collaborative chapbooks, and can be found most often in West Michigan, migrating northernly in the summer.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Darren C. Demaree : My Writing Day

Without flowery language, I present to you my writing day, and since I write every single day I give this bare schedule to show other writers that even if you have a job or jobs and a family you can be incredibly productive if take every opportunity given to you to write.

6:30 am – Wake up.
6:45 – Feed dogs.
7:00 – Feed Baby Kathryn.
7:20 – Make breakfast for family.
7:45 – Take dogs out.
8:00 – Wife heads to work.
8:20 – Take Belle to 2nd grade.
8:45 – Take Thomas to Pre-K.
9:15 – Feed Kathryn and put her down for her nap.
9:30-11 – Read poetry.  Work on sequence mapping, or sketch new poem titles/ideas.
11:15 – Pick up Thomas from Pre-K.
11:30 – Make lunch for Thomas and I.
12:00pm – Feed Kathryn.
12:30 – Set Thomas up with books/toys/show.
12:45-2 – Write new poetry.
2:30 – Wake up Kathryn, feed her.
3:00 – Take dogs out.
3:30  Pick up Belle from School.
4:00 – Poetry business.  Return emails, send out poems/manuscripts, sign contracts, etc.
5:00 – Make dinner for family.  Feed dogs.
5:30 – Wife comes home.
6:00-8:00 – Editing work or teaching.
8:30 – Help put the kids to bed.
9:30 – Watch the end of a game or a movie.
11:00 – Go to sleep.

I get two and half to four hours a day where I can be lazy or I can write.  I choose writing every time.

Darren C. Demaree is the author of eight poetry collections, most recently Two Towns Over, which was selected the winner of the Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press. He is also the recipient of a 2018 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and the Nancy Dew Taylor Award from Emrys Journal. He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry.  He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Jose Hernandez Diaz : my (small press) writing day

I haven’t had a writing day in a while because I’ve been focused on editing and submitting my manuscript for the past year or so. I think I’ll be motivated to create new work after my first manuscript lands with the right press. With that said, I think of reading, editing, submitting, and writing as part of the same family. Nevertheless, I will now describe what an average writing day looked like for me as I wrote my manuscript:

I wake up at 7:30-8, check my email. Then I make coffee. I tend to drink strong coffee. I have some cereal. Shower. Then I drive to the library.

I enter the library and take the escalator to the second floor. I go to the contemporary poetry section and get books to read. Some books this library has: Dome of the Hidden Pavilion by James Tate, Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral, Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón, Shock by Shock by Dean Young, Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith, Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen. I own most of these books, too. I usually read two or three books at a time so I don’t get bored with one text.

On a good writing day, I’ll first read some poetry/prose poetry at the desk for an hour or so. Maybe I’ll read an online journal. Some favorites: Triquarterly, New Orleans Review, The Journal, Poetry Northwest.

Also, I’ll listen to some experimental music. Dave Douglas or Matthew Shipp. Chicano Batman, Las Cafeteras, or Kendrick Lamar. When I feel I’m in a good zone, I’ll start looking up lists of verbs. I’ll select a word from the list, for example, “threw.” Then I will begin, “A man threw a football toward the top of a skyscraper, in Downtown Los Angeles.” I have to be in the right mood. Then I will add another line. Then another. Etc. I usually go with whatever comes out, trying to flow with the absurdity or surrealism of the prose poem. Some days the words come out easily. Other days, I don’t feel inspired and I stick to reading or editing. Or Twitter.

If it’s a good day, I’ll have 3 drafts of prose poems. If it’s a slow day, I’ll have 1 or zero drafts. I tend to keep most of the initial writing. Maybe I’ll have some minor grammatical edits.

When it comes time to submit, I try to send to 5-10 journals. Sometimes I’ll send prematurely. Once I get the poem in a final form, I typically won’t stop sending it out until it gets picked up. If I believe in the poem, I won’t give up on it. Since my writing tends to be surreal or strange (and not what I’d call “mainstream”) I usually receive some rejections. Still, if I believe the poem is strong, I will stick with it and keep sending it out. They eventually land. It helped when I got the NEA fellowship because I feel it validated my otherwise unorthodox writing style. Before that, I’d try to legitimize this writing style by saying “Well, James Tate and Ray Gonzalez are celebrated for writing odd prose poems. I can do it, too.”

I leave the library around sunset. Maybe I’ll look at the koi fish in the fountain. In the past, I’d smoke a cigarette. Presently, I’m trying to quit.

I get home and eat. When I get a chance, I’ll look over the poems I wrote that day on my laptop. Maybe I’ll make some final edits or send out another submission. In bed, I’ll watch the news and check if the Dodgers, Lakers, or Rams won. I go to sleep around 11:30 pm.

Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and Antioch University Los Angeles. His work appears in The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Green Mountains Review, Huizache, North American Review, Pleiades, The Progressive, The Shallow Ends, Verse Daily, Witness, among others. He has served as an editor for Floricanto Press and Lunch Ticket. His manuscript was a finalist for the 2018 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. He tweets at @JoseHernandezDz.