Today’s adventure in book promotion for my new poetry chapbook, Hearts, available from Kelsay Books or Amazon, is to send queries for possible book reviews. As a poetry chapbook, it will probably not be chosen for an actual review, but I’m hoping to make a listing or two of Newly Received Books, which will broaden my reach beyond my personal contacts.
Speaking of reviews, I have my first customer review up at Amazon! Five stars! If you do read Hearts and are so moved, I’d be honored to have you submit your own rating/review.
I’m excited to announce that my first chapbook, Hearts, is now available from my publisher, Kelsay Books, here or from Amazon here.
For local folks, I will also be selling copies myself after my shipment arrives in 2-3 weeks.
For those who might be wondering, a chapbook is a short book, usually centered on a single topic. Hearts is a chapbook of poems that revolve around my mother, including her last years living with heart disease. Long-time readers of Top of JC’s Mind may remember reading posts about my mother, known here as Nana.
I completed the first draft of Hearts in December, 2017, in response to a chapbook contest prompt from QuillsEdge Press. The prompt was “In Transition” and my mother interpretation of that prompt to write about my mother, who was under hospice care. (We didn’t know at the time that her decline would be more prolonged than expected, as she was with us until May, 2019.) Although I didn’t win the contest, I was among the finalists and my poem, “Sixteen Hours,” was included in an anthology of the finalists’ work along with the winning chapbook, Skin Gin, by Rose Maria Woodson.
Given how busy and emotional those next two years were, I didn’t have the wherewithal to send out a new version of the chapbook until spring of 2020. I had continued to write poems during Nana’s continuing struggles and expanded the manuscript with those poems in the months after her death. I benefited from a manuscript review with some of the Grapevine Poets, local poets who meet every other week to workshop individual poems and as needed for manuscript reviews. They were able to offer guidance on ordering the poems and they identified a couple of places where new poems would be helpful to flesh out my mother’s story.
I continued to send Hearts to publishers and contests over the next two years. During that time, I did more revisions, incorporating comments from poet-friends as I went along. In August of 2022, encouraged by Grapevine Poets Jessica Dubey and Burt Myers who had had books accepted by Kelsay Books, I submitted there and received a publication offer from them on September 2nd.
Karen Kelsay and the whole team at Kelsay Books have been amazing! They made the publication process, which was a mystery to me, straightforward. They also were able to move up the publication date, which I had originally thought would be in late summer/early fall.
When I went to the first Tupelo Press/MASS MoCA workshop-in-residence in November of 2015, I had thought that I might be able to put together a chapbook of poem about the North Adams area and my family’s connections there. I set a goal of age 60 to have that book published.
Of course, life events intervened.
That original chapbook idea is now a full-length collection that is being submitted to publishers, unsuccessfully so far.
Now, at age 62, I’m grateful that Hearts is my first published book because it is about my mother, who made my life possible and loving. She was always a strong support for me, whatever the endeavor. It feels right that my first book has her as its heart.
So, here goes one of those dangerous Stream of Consciousness Saturday endeavors…
When I read Linda’s prompt yesterday, which is to use sink/sank/sunk in some way, I did not really have a thought in my head about it and assumed I would not participate this week.
This morning, I was reading this article in Highly Sensitive Refuge on imposter syndrome among the highly sensitive population and it really resonated. Not that every point feels true to my experience, but most do.
I have a tendency to sink into imposter syndrome from time to time. Maybe frequently? Maybe less now than in my younger years? It’s really hard to say.
The point is, with my book Hearts soon to be available from Kelsay Books, I have been consciously trying to fight off the feeling that I’m “just” a community poet who doesn’t really deserve to be considered just, well, a poet in her own right.
Part of the issue is that I was brought up with a deep respect for academic achievement. I truly respect all the years of study that go into degree programs in English or writing. Most of the poets I know and the vast majority of poets I read have these credentials and are much more able to bring that knowledge base into their work than I could ever hope to be. I am grateful for all that I’ve learned from the Binghamton Poetry Project and all the other workshops that I’ve been blessed to be a part of, but, for example, our leaders in Binghamton Poetry Project are all graduate students from Binghamton University, so you get the point…
It’s also not that I don’t get loads of support from other poets, both those with academic credentials and those, like me, without them. The vast majority of poets I interact with are encouraging and wonderful in their support of my work and of me personally. I truly appreciate that and use their voices when I’m in an imposter state of doubt, but one of the things about being an HSP is that you notice and take seriously all reactions around you. When I get into my imposter mode, those negative voices are amplified in my head and feed into my own doubts. Even though the voices that are supportive are more numerous, it takes a huge effort of will to beat back the negative.
I am having some success in breaking away from the imposter thoughts as I do my final preparations for my book launch. Instead of sinking into doubts, I’m reminding myself of what I am actually accomplishing. It’s been a bit easier to do after the very successful reading that Merrill and I did earlier this month. It’s easier when I hold the proof copy of Hearts in my hands. It’s easier when I’m dealing with the wonderful team at Kelsay by email as they finish the final steps in the publication process. I’ve learned so much going through all of this and I’m trying to bring that sense to the next new thing I’ll be doing, which is trying to market and sell my book.
Yikes! That is scary!
You need to be able to center yourself and put yourself out there as being a worthy recipient of someone’s money.
Today is the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death.
As often happens with these dates, sometimes it seems that it couldn’t have been that long and other times it seems longer ago. This warping of time is even more prominent because of the pandemic. I remain grateful that my mother died before we were all faced with the impossible prospect of not being able to visit her in the nursing home where she spent her final months. That would have been a particularly heavy burden for my father, with whom she had celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary a few weeks before she died.
This year feels especially poignant for me as I await the publication of my first chapbook of poetry, Hearts, from Kelsay Books, most likely in June or July. The poems center on my mother with a particular emphasis on her last years dealing with heart failure. She appreciated my writing and I think she would be pleased to know she is the focus of my first book.
She didn’t enjoy having her picture taken, so I will share a photo, taken four years ago in her final days, of one of her favorite flowers, lily-of-the-valley, which was also her birth flower.
Love you, Mom. Miss you. Still cry every once in a while…
Yesterday, Merrill Oliver Douglas and I did our first ever appearance as featured readers at the Tioga Arts Council In Owego, NY.
We were excited to have a full house! I also like that in this photo you can see how beautiful the gallery space at the Tioga Arts Council is. At the moment, they are exhibiting artwork from high school students in Tioga county.
The person at the podium is poet Dante Di Stefano, who was serving as our host. His spouse Christina Di Stefano is the executive director of TAC.
I read first. This was the first time I’ve ever done a twenty minute set. I chose to structure my reading in three segments. The first group was four poems that centered around my mother, two from my chapbooks Hearts, forthcoming from Kelsay Books, one from my unpublished collection Small Constellation, and one that was written for the 2022 Women of Words reading at the Broome County Arts Council. Next came four poems that were reactions to happenings in the world or my world, including “The Banned Bookmobile” which was published by Rat’s Ass Reviewhere. I concluded with four poems that center on the North Adams, Massachusetts area, all of which are included in Small Constellation and one of which, “Sprague Suite” (published by Wilderness House Literary Review here) is also in my new chapbook manuscript of ekphrastic poems based on artwork from MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art).
I was very happy that the audience connected with my poems. Besides applause, there were nods, smiles, and even a few chuckles at appropriate points. I tried very hard to choose a few poems that had lighter elements, like “Liz Truss or Lettuce.” I think that helped to balance out some of the heavier topics, like the pandemic poem I had included.
What I hadn’t quite expected was that Dante would offer some brief comments on my reading before introducing Merrill. Dante holds a PhD and is widely published, so it was special to hear him praise elements of my work. I have a bit of a complex about my lack of academic credentials in writing, so it meant a lot to me that he recognized the heart of my work.
I was happy to be able to sit back and enjoy Merrill’s reading. She read a few poems from her chapbook Parking Meters Into Mermaids and some of her more recent work, including selections from her collection that is currently looking for a publishing home. Because Merrill and I are both part of the Grapevine Poets, I knew many of the poems from our workshopping sessions, but I love hearing how Merrill chose to edit her poems after we discussed them. As always, I was impressed with Merrill’s ability to choose just the right details to enable us to find our way into the depths of the poem. I am particularly moved by the way she writes about her mother, who is now facing a number of health issues in her elder years.
After Merrill’s reading and Dante’s glowing comments, we had a question and answer period. I had been nervous about this part, fearing that someone would ask something that I was ill-equipped to answer, but, of course, everything was fine. With the reading officially completed, there was time for informal conversation and viewing of the art exhibit. The TAC gift shop had copies of Merrill’s book for sale and she was busy signing copies, in addition to having conversations. We were both happy but tired when we left. Spouse B and Daughter T had both been at the reading and treated me to a celebratory (early) dinner out.
Many thanks to the Tioga Arts Council and Dante and Christina Di Stefano for making my first big reading so memorable. Its success is helping me to feel like more of a poet in my own right, although I will forever think of myself as a poet grounded in community, whether the Binghamton Poetry Project, the Grapevine Poets, the Boiler House Poets Collective, or other groups who have claimed me as a member.
Thanks to Gerri Wiley and Burt Myers who sent me photos of the reading. Only the photo of the sign outdoors was mine.
Very special thanks to Merrill Douglas for her support, friendship, advice, and example. I’m sure I would have been much more nervous were it not for her steadiness and companionship. I admire her work and like to think that we have some elements in common, so that my reading set the stage for hers.
Maybe, we will have the opportunity to do it again sometime…
For folks in shouting distance of Owego, NY, please join me and Merrill Douglas for a poetry reading (in-person only) at the Tioga Arts Council, 179 Front St, on Saturday, May 13th, at 1:30 PM. ***** This shameless self-promotion is brought to you by Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2023/05/03/one-liner-wednesday-washi-person/