Keep Your Nose to the Grindstone

December 26, 2021

(Spoiler Alert: It has only taken me 5 and a half weeks to put this post together!)

Though I have not been posting on the blog much, this year, that’s what I’ve been doing—keeping my nose to the grindstone, aka working hard continuously. On a lot of things, many of which are related to writing; others related to making ends meet.

In plain English, I’ve been continuing to follow my passion for writing while searching for a part-time job. Since the writing is going better than the job search, I won’t bore you with the horrors of trying to reenter the job market in a pandemic economy after being retired for 8 years. I will say this, however: good things do happen when you focus on your passion and not just on the necessities of living.

My network of fellow poets has given me two strong recommendations that I have been trying to follow: (1) read other poets’ work and (2) attend writing workshops and readings. I generally read other poets’ work by subscribing to online poetry journals. But I have also managed to purchase—and read— several books by poets I admire, despite not being able to “make ends meet.”

And, after reviewing my notes, I was delighted to discover that I have attended 5 workshops in the last 6 months! While this is certainly not a record-breaker for serious writers, it is a major accomplishment for me. Putting in the work matters! Not only does it broaden your knowledge and sharpen your skills, but it also widens your network of fellow writers and increases your opportunities to share your work, too.

Quick Recap of Workshops I Attended

ESWA: Coffee and Poets featuring Lucille Clifton – 6/13/2021

This workshop, hosted by the Eastern Shore Writers Association, was an intensive study of the poems of Lucille Clifton—Maryland’s first Poet Laureate, beloved professor at St. Mary’s College, and longtime resident of Baltimore, where she also taught at several colleges and raised her family. I gained deeper insights into Clifton’s poems and life, enhancing my personal study of her works, which was my #1 Goal for 2021.

The Poetry Salon: Submission & Support Group – 8/22/2021

The Poetry Salon, run by poet and teacher Tresha Faye Haefner, offers a wide variety of courses on the craft and business of poetry writing. In this workshop, participants learned (1) how to get your work ready for submissions, (2) how to find journals to submit your work to, and (3) how to finalize and submit your work. From this workshop I learned how vast the world of poetry is—there are so many forms and styles of poetry, not to mention the requirements of journals that publish them—so, it is important to understand where your own work is best suited to reach a receptive audience.

ESWA: The Life and Death of Edgar Allan Poe – 10/7/2021

To say that I am an E.A. Poe fan would be an understatement! We in Baltimore claim him as our own, since he lived here for a time, and he died and is buried here. But beyond that, I’ve been reading Poe’s poems and short stories since I was in elementary school. So, it was a real pleasure to participate in this
deep dive into Poe’s life and work, led by Christopher T. George, a Poe scholar and (War of) 1812 Historian who was born in Liverpool, England but lives in the U.S. As Chris was reviewing the facts—and the myths—of Poe, he also analyzed the overarching themes of the poems and encouraged us to do the same, giving us specific themes to spark our own poems. There was even a descendant of Poe in the group, who shared insights into his genetic predisposition to alcoholism and its effects not just on him, but on other family members as well.

ESWA: Poetry Reading with James Everett Jones and Lisbeth Coiman! – 10/28/2021

This “Thursdays with ESWA on Zoom” event was a huge gift! Two Los Angeles-based poets from different backgrounds and experiences (a U.S. native and a South American immigrant) reading from their works—and finding common ground in their content and themes, during the reading. As a bonus, I discovered that my own poetic style, a mix of historical and personal story telling, with a pinch of social consciousness, is not as “outsider” as I thought.

COUNTERpult: A Roots. Wounds. Words. Monthly Storyteller Showcase – 11/7/2021

This Zoom program featured writers of color who had completed a 6-week Writers Workshop exploring the transformative power of storytelling, specifically, personal stories that expose the roots and ensuing wounds of trauma, pain, undeserved guilt, fears, and betrayal that impede their hopes, dreams, and other aspects of their lives, transforming them into self-acceptance, healing, love, and growth. The lesson learned from this program is that no matter how alone, different, or scarred we may feel, we all have the same needs for self-acceptance, healing, love, and growth, and we follow similar paths to discover them for ourselves.

Hard Work Pays Off
In the last five and a half weeks, I have had two poems accepted for publication! One will be published by the end of this year; the other is slated for October 2022.

I have also begun to write reviews of poetry books. The first review will be published on this blog later this week. The second review is in progress.

Until next time,

Keep Writing—and Reading!


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