Tag Archives: The Book Haven

Yearly Book Acquisition

Last week, I ordered books from the local independent bookstore. It was my yearly book-buying gig. Each Octoberish, I get the latest edition of Best American Short Stories, and Best American Essays. This time, I also ordered Best American Poetry and Best Spiritual Writing. They arrived Monday, (Two days before the DVD order I placed at Amazon, on the same day, arrived. Go Independents!), and I picked them up yesterday. (Actually, Best Spiritual Writing was from last year. Seems there’s not to be one, this year. Grrr…)

I’ve been getting Best American Short Stories every year for two decades. Some years ago, I managed to get copies of previous years’ editions. I now have each year’s edition beginning with 1978. Best American Essays, I’ve only been getting each year for the last five years or so. During my last visit to Telluride, I bought Best American Poetry for 2011 and 2012, at the Independent Bookseller there. I liked them so much, I’ve added it to the yearly list. I planned to include Best Spiritual Writing, but now… I used to get them each year, but fell outta that habit. Bums me that when I’ve gotten “back” into the habit, it’s looking like I’ll not be able to continue it.

I began my writing life wanting to be a short story writer, then I branched out into essays. Most recently, I’ve had more luck with essays than shorts; and poetry is wide-opening itself. I think my writing, and especially my essays, tends toward the spiritual. It’s because these are where I see and want my writing to go/be is why I’m seeing what’s the best of what’s out there, each year.

So, now, I’ve got some reading work ahead of me. There’s far worse work to have.

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The Age Thing, Part II

Now that I’ve had time to think about it, this “Age Thing” I wrote about last time is pretty much “full of prunes,” as my mom would say. We each come to our callings, our tuggings, at differing stages of our lives. Yeah, maybe I am getting a late start, writing-wise, (which I’m making increasingly later by my whiney and mopey procrastination, by the way), but so what? By all systems of measure, writing is what I want, and am called, to do. So why aren’t I? Because I just turned 50? Sheesh, whatta load of horse-hooey!

Earlier this week, a nearby newly-published writer came to town: Andrea M Jones. In the December issue of Colorado Central, I reviewed her, Between Urban and Wild. So strongly did her writing impress me, I urged the local bookstore to include her in one of their upcoming monthly book readings/signings. On one hand, I wanted Andrea to receive the recognition and expansion of her audience for which her writing was due. (I also figured it’d be a good thing for the bookstore, having her. This same bookstore that’s supported me in all the ten years it’s been open.) On the other hand, I wanted to meet this woman, this writer whom in my review I compared to Annie Dillard, and also Susan J Tweit and Laura Pritchett.

Guess what. Turns out Ms Jones just might be a wee bit older than I. And I don’t think she’s given any notion to her age being an excuse for not writing, for not sending her writings out into the world. So what’s my excuse, now?

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Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, Staying With the Writing

Why Bother

I was brought up to not bother anybody. During the passing years, this has been transformed into a quiet, behind-the-scenes modus operandi. This is okay and good for dealing with people, especially at work, but it’s not such a good tendency for someone wishing to be a writer, to get their stuff “out there.” Case in point: Susan Tweit had to urge me repeatedly to check with High Country News regarding my essay they’d accepted eight or nine months before, to see where it was in their queue. When I did finally ask, after more than a month of Susan’s persistence, a whirlwind of activity ensued around my essay, which led to it being published not long after my query.

Further, when the local land trust organization recently held a reading at the local independent bookstore, I put off contacting anyone to find out whether I could be added, reading that same HCN essay. Once again, when I finally did ask, just one day before the reading, I was quickly added and included. As it turned out, I was last to read, and was told that my reading gave the event a proper ending.

It’s such a short distance between being brought up not to bother others and seeing yourself as being not worth the bother. In my last blogpost, I showed how this spilled into my perceptions of myself as a writer, and especially with seeing myself as a poet. In both of the mentioned circumstances regarding my High Country News essay, it was only after “bothering” somebody that my writing was finally able to fulfill its intent: to inform and serve.

Of course, this question of, Why bother, also applies at the beginning stages of writing, when envisioning and crafting each piece—even and especially the pieces of writing that never get beyond being just parts and pieces, never becoming wholly completed works. We bother doing the writing, and bother others about our writing, because in each case it turns out to be no bother at all.

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Re:Vision

I had written so poorly for so long, that when I wrote [the short story], “Where the Sea Used to Be,” I didn’t immediately recognize it as being that much better. But later, I remembered thinking that good writing was as much a way of looking at the world as it was a process or technique of writing.  –Rick Bass, interview with Kevin Breen, Poets & Writers, May/June 1993, p21.

I’m still working through quirks and issues with considering myself a poet. While I’ve been something of a writer for over two decades, it’s just recently I’ve included poetry possibly in the mix. My problem has mostly been due to holding poetry and poets above myself and my abilities. Such high regard I’ve held for both, there was no way a schlub like me could reach that high. Sure, I’d dabbled once or twice, but I immediately remanded myself, returning my hands back inside the vehicle.

And then Western Slope poets came to town, one February evening this year. Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, a Facebook friend whose workshop I’d taken last July, emailed me after she’d gotten home, expressing surprise that I’d not read anything at the evening’s open mic. When I explained that I didn’t see myself as a poet, although poets had been quite welcoming to me, Rosemerry’s reply was sharply elegant:

Dear Poet,

You are a poet.

Signed,

another poet.

When April arrived, it was because of Rosemerry that I was included in a FB poetry group whose members posted daily poems due to it being National Poetry Month. With the exception of the first two days, I posted something new each day in April; and I was looking through some of them, last night. The local independent bookstore will be having its second annual Rapid Fire Salute to the Written Word, this evening, which I’ve been invited (once again) to participate in, so I was searching for something of mine to read that’s short. But with the distance and perspective brought by time, I was cringing hard at most of my April Poem submissions. See, not so much a poet, I said to myself.

Yet, here’s the thing. While the crafting of those poems may indeed have been cringe-worthy, they each had a perspective, a way of viewing and seeing the world that distinguished them.

Can writing be taught? Well, the techniques and crafting might be teachable; but you’ve either have the eye for what’s worth writing about or you don’t. Without being able to detect and discern that “heaven in a grain of sand,” you’re left with what Salman Rushdie has called, “humorless, bloodless competence.”

So, yeah, no surprise so many of my poems still need so much work. After all, one: I was cranking them out, one per day; and two, even though I’ve a couple decades of writing under my pen, I’m still new to writing poetry. So, never mind the structural work that’s still needed—that’s the easy part. Any house builder will tell you, it’s the foundation that’s the hardest and most important to get right.

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