In front of the John Lennon Wall in Prague.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Slice of Life Tuesday: Solitude and Sadness

Today after I drove my friend, Ruth to the airport, "Claire de Lune" came on the radio. I've always found this piece by Debussy to be sweetly melancholy, and today it was the perfect music for my mood.

Now I sit in my house alone with just my own thoughts and notebook for company. I've looked forward to this solitude. The promise of this time got me through the last hectic weeks of work before summer vacation, of tying up the loose ends of the school year. But now that I have what I wanted, I wish my friend had not left.

Just a week ago at this time I was in Sea Ranch on the Northern California coast in a funky rental house on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Two of my writer friends shared this house with me. Down the road, two other houses, both filled with other friends. Nine women who had come together for our annual writer retreat. That whole week the presence of my friends surrounded my writing with love.

I remember the first time I went to camp when I was 10. I was nervous and apprehensive the whole long drive up to the campgrounds. I didn't know anyone and wasn't sure what to expect. Then it turned out to be such a glorious experience. When my parents came to pick me up after the week was over, I cried all the way home in the car. Every time I leave Sea Ranch, I think of that long-ago car ride.

Today I don't feel quite as bereft as that 10-year-old girl.  Just a little sad.  I guess it's to be expected, coming down from the exuberance of this year's experience of what my sister calls Poetry Camp. As all of us have flown off to our private corners, I am grateful for the flurry of texting, photos and emails we've sent each other. We find it hard to let go sometimes.

I know we will stay in touch over the year, but it's not the same as sitting around the table laughing and eating, writing together, or listening to each other read new work. Nothing can replace that shared community.  I'll have to wait until next June for that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sea Ranch, June 2016: A room with a view and starting a book campaign

For the past few years, I've made an annual trek to the northern California coast to Sea Ranch. This is a rather other-worldly place. Made up of a community of cedar-sided houses perched on the edge of the Pacific, there is little to do here. In June, it's windy and chilly. The nearest town is tiny Gualala, 12 miles up the road.

So what's the draw? For me, it's the chance to be with an amazing group of women I met in 2011 at the AROHO retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Another ranch, another place where there was nothing to do except eat, read, write, talk and experience the beauty of nature.

This year at Sea Ranch my bedroom is in the library of one of the houses we've rented. As I type this, I sit surrounded by books. Out my window, the ocean roars, gulls riding the wind currents. This is a glorious, wild place to begin my summer vacation.

Every year when I come to Sea Ranch, I set myself writing goals, just as I would expect of my own students. This blog post is the beginning of my first goal for 2016: begin a book campaign.

One of the wonderful women in my mighty band of writers here is Ruth Thompson who runs Saddle Road Press out of Hilo, Hawaii. I am honored that Saddle Road will be publishing my first full-length book of poetry in December.

Creating a book of poetry can be a long, painstaking process. I published my chapbook, In the Poem an Ocean (Big Table Publishing) in December of 2010. For the last six years, I've been slowly and steadily building a new collection of poems. And now my completed manuscript is in the hands of my trusty publisher.

Well, at least the first draft is in her hands! I know I have many revisions to go through before the book is ready to go out into the world. All writers can expect that. We may not like it, but we expect it. It's what writers do.

What many people don't know is the other work that goes into getting a book into people's hands, especially a book of poetry from a small press. And that's a marketing campaign. Most of my non-writer friends are surprised when I tell them that I will be responsible for marketing my book. But it's true. Being a poet and teacher, I never thought I'd have to add PR representative to my resumé. Now I am.

So in the next six months, I'm off on a new adventure of revision, choosing a cover -- and marketing. I know I'm not alone in this. I'm lucky to have writer friends who have given me great advice already. But I'm always looking for more ideas.

I'd love to hear from others, not just writers, who have have been on the same path. I know artists, photographs or filmmakers face the same challenges. What was it like for you to get your work known? Maybe I'll add your ideas to my to-do list.