The Business of Love

 

Today is February 14, Valentine’s Day. Fifty one percent of American consumers plan to celebrate this year, which is down from years past. However, those that do celebrate are spending more than they have in the past: $162 on average which is 13% up from last year. These statistics come from an annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics; and were reported on the National Retail Federation website.

What does that have to do with you? Nothing, unless you happen to be an artist of some sort, and you want your art to be enjoyed, and hopefully purchased. Love, all human emotion, is what makes great art (literature, poetry, music and more). Get good at expressing love and you will find an audience.

My writing focus for the last several years has been poetry, and I believe that no one can call themselves a poet if they have not written a dozen or so love poems. It’s just part of the job. Will they all be good? Of course not! It would be great hubris to think every phrase that falls from one’s fingers is quality. But keep writing anyway! Sooner or later, something something will work.

I am not celebrating Valentine’s today, but I am celebrating the publication of my poem, Where is Love? in a brand new poetry anthology! The graphic for this post is from the cover of the book: Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love, edited by Claudine Nash, published by Transcendent Zero Press, available for sale on Amazon as of yesterday!

Whatever you are doing, or not doing today, I hope you find a little love and tenderness, and poetry, in unexpected places.

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5 Random Pieces of Advice for Sensitive-Ass Poets

Greetings readers, writers, and friends. I hope February finds you well and busy with your projects. February is a short month but a busy one, with Love (coughFeb14cough) high on the list. Today, through the magical linkyness of social media, I discovered a blogger and poet by the name of Scott Woods and I might have have an unsubstantiated love-at-first-read-writer-crush. So rather than be all stalky and weird, I’m just going to share this great post – full of inspiration, motivation, and wisdom. Enjoy.

Scott Woods Makes Lists

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I’ve been running a poetry show for almost two decades. It’s an irreverent bit of nasty business, but we mean well and want the best for the poets who come through the door. That said, here are five things you can do to improve as a poet today, from one of the most sensitive hearts running one of the most insensitive rooms around.

1) Shoot for More Poems, Fewer Back Rubs
My 12 year old niece can write a poem. It will be a bad poem, but it will be earnest, and will describe the world as she sees it, which as it turns out, won’t be as unique as she thinks it is. And that’s okay because she’s 12. If she wants to write poems to get attention, then she’ll get every head pat I have to give until my arm slides out of its socket and onto the…

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A Writer’s Ration

I’m a writer, not a mathematician; and I’m definitely not good with rationing. (One bag, one service, one sitting.) But here at last, someone has laid out a formula I can get behind.

e-Quips

 

writer checklistInspiRATION- 10%

PerspiRATION-20%

ExaspeRATION-20%

IteRATION-30%

FrustRATION-10%

CulminATION-10% (When you R through)

 

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Two weeks left!

I am, as many of you know, chronically late, so let me be the last to wish you all a Happy New Year! The good news is that there’s still two weeks left in January to give up or set aside your new year resolutions!

“What?! JeanMarie, that’s not very encouraging! That’s why I read your blog!”

I understand. And thank you for reading. I do want to encourage you and support you in all of your writing and life endeavors, today.  Today, let’s just work on the everlasting moment of now and let the year take care of itself.

Don’t be afraid to start something because you are worried about the result. Everyone has a different approach to their projects, but personally, my writing happens in the editing process.  Not quite as rare as a coin landing on it’s edge, but more rare than a horoscope coming true, it is a wondrous thing to get a poem just right the first time the words hit the paper. The other 98% of the time, it takes work.

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build sand castles. ~Shannon Hale

Take a deep breath and (when you’re done with this blog) write something down. A paragraph, a page, or perhaps, just a sentence. Congratulations. You have started!

In other news:

Today, January 21, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Americans as well as people around the world, honor this man whose life and words continue to inspire us.

If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward forward. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

In addition to this important remembrance, today is also Squirrel Appreciation Day. You can read more about it here: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/squirrel-appreciation-day-january-21/

You swerve to avoid a squirrel. Unknown to you, the squirrel pledges a life debt to you. In your darkest hour, the squirrel arrives. ~Unknown

I like squirrels because they’re clever, agile, resourceful and cute. They make me happy.  Find what makes you happy in life and have more of that.

Life is gritty. Find the beauty anyway.

Holiday greetings to you and yours. As I write this post we are a mere day away from the arrival of Santa Clause. The Hanukkah candles have been lit and latkes consumed. Solstice is over. Kwanzaa is next week and then New Year’s. Whatever or however you celebrate I hope you are finding some joy and peace in this marathon season of good will.

Those gold and silver ornaments and red and green trim sure do brighten the place up. I don’t want to harsh your mellow, but you know that sooner or later, the decorations come down, the routine goes back to normal, and life is just a little bit less pretty.  The key there is “a little bit.” There’s always something beautiful to be found if one knows how to look.

Recently the online journal Politics/Letters put out a call for their annual run of car poems. It’s hard to describe this journal. They publishes essays, critical reviews, poetry, art, media, all with a liberal and intellectual bent.

Just this week, they published two poems for the car series by my dear friend Mary Elmahdy.  Please check out her beautiful work Eugene to Berkeley and Last Bus on the Last Day of 2017 Her language is rich and vivid. These poems are full of reality and grit, and depict locations and activities that I have not personally experienced, yet I feel as though I am right there in the action. I was privileged to read several early versions of them and offer suggestions and thoughts; but I am blown away by the final result. If you like her work, smash the Like button and support the arts.

By the way, one of my own poems will be published in their car series in January. Stay tuned for the link when it goes live.

Problems and Solutions

Like elbows and ears, everyone has them. Unless of course, one is born into a differently-abled body, or loses them in an accident, in which case one has a different set of problems, like where to hang the earrings. But today’s politically incorrect blog post isn’t about either of those things. It’s about the 99 problems and 69 solutions I have which leaves me with 29 unresolved issues. I’m aware that doesn’t add up correctly but I’m a writer, not a mathematician, and it’s not important anyway. Don’t worry. I will not subject you to a numbered list, or any gory details, but there will be a representative sample discussed by way of illustration of tonight’s existential inquiry into the nature of problem resolution.

There are so many problems that can be solved with the liberal application of time, money, and elbow grease, mixed up and applied with a creative hand. However, there are, unfortunately, some problems that have no solution. I am often, and currently, frustrated because I don’t always know which problems fall into that category. Countless times, I have beaten myself bloody in a futile attempt to fix, solve or change someone or something that I can’t fix, solve or change. Sometimes the logical course of action is surrender and acceptance.

Here’s the example I warned you about. Yesterday I was sitting in the same seat I am in now, writing a blog post, in my blog editor, when I noticed something weird on the screen. I took action, then, insert mysterious technological hiccup, the post was gone. I had just lost 30 minutes of work. Could I have dug around and brought it back? Maybe. Probably not. Earlier in the day I had a long computer chat with a Microsoft representative who had to take control of my computer remotely to fix a problem I had spent two hours trying to fix myself. I was tired and ready for bed, so I powered it all down and here I am, almost a full day later with a new and different post. Yeah, I wasn’t about to recreate that hot mess! I’m OK about it now, but at the time, the situation was bleak indeed.

Where is the magical spot in the road where it’s clear that we must step back and take a different route, or just abandon a pointless struggle?

It depends on the circumstances.

And don’t that just suck?!

Welcome to life. It’s not fair, or easy. But it’s all we’ve got.

This is the part where I dispense basic practical advice. It can be useful to do a post-mortem, (or a case study if you prefer a different metaphor) on problems and solutions you’ve had in order to learn from your mistakes and successes. I also recommend continuing education, formal or otherwise, to prepare for future problems.

This is the part where I remind you of what you already know, and get a little mushy. Life isn’t easy or fair, but it’s all we’ve got. Do your best. Ask for help when you need it. Trust that time and effort will take you where you need to go. I wish you safe travels through this world, few problems, and abundant solutions.

Technology is Hard, Plus Publishing

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I can’t speak for every writer, but judging by the ones I know, most writers want readers. In order to get readers you must publish. Publishing, as a concept, an industry, an idea, is vast and wide and confusing. Consider that simply printing copies of your work and handing it to people counts as rudimentary publishing, and video files are also considered publications. There’s no realistic way for me to address it all in a blog post that is meant to be short enough to read while drinking a cup of coffee (or beverage of choice). Besides, I am not an expert. So today I’m just going to tell you about a recent experience that involved both technology and publishing.

Button Poetry put out a call recently for their Short Form Poetry Contest. Button Poetry is a well-respected poetry powerhouse. They were early adopters of technology and alternative publishing, starting with performance videos of spoken work poetry on YouTube. They’ve since moved (back) into the print world. I encourage you to check them out. https://buttonpoetry.com/

For this call, they defined “short form” as 250 characters or less. Writing tweet length, or micro poetry is a fun challenge. I like the simplicity and wit of a profound bon mot and I have a file full of scraps waiting to become real poems. Unfortunately, the site guidelines specified that poets must have an Instagram account to enter because the winners will be published on Instagram.  No! I don’t do Instagram!

OK. The truth is that while I am deeply insecure and want people to like my work, I am also just as narcissistic as the next writer. I wasn’t going to let Instagram stop me, and  I forged ahead!

I chose “jmowrites” for my user name but got a message that the name wasn’t available. What?! Who is the interloper using my name?!  I came up with another one and immediately searched for jmowrites.  Turns out, I was the interloper. Oh yeah. I forgot that I set up an account a while ago because I wanted to look someone up. I never went back and it’s been there empty and abandoned. Oops.

It took an hour+ to get into jmowrites, change the password, create an actual profile, disable the new one, and figure out how to put a post on Instagram, which I did. Then I submitted to the contest. That was two days ago, and now I wait.

There’s no argument that new technology has changed the publishing world. I would say mostly for the better, but it isn’t always easy. Personally, I feel like I am on a never-ending learning curve, struggling to remain current as technology races ahead of me. On the other, non-technical, side of the submission process, writers, artists and creators of all kinds, stand in the the lonely place of uncertainty and doubt. It is emotionally stressful to sift through one’s work, attempting to evaluate it objectively the way an unseen editor might, and finally release it into the world, to perhaps find a home.

Do it anyway! You’ll be glad you did. Good luck!

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin