Reading Michelle Obama’s memoir

Since she became a public figure during the first presidential campaign of her husband, I have felt an affinity with Michelle Robinson Obama. While on the surface it would seem that an African-American woman from the South Side of Chicago couldn’t have much in common with a European-American from a tiny New England town, there are a number of similarities. We are close in age, having been born in the last few years of the Baby Boom. I have long felt that we youngest of the Boomers, who were young adults during the Reagan recession when unemployment was high and mortgage rates even higher, are fundamentally different from the elder members of our cohort. Michelle and I are both mothers of two daughters and women who have been blessed with a close and long relationship with our own mothers. We have close women friends and mentors. We are both community-minded, and also recognize the importance of educational opportunity for ourselves and others. We each have a long, loving, and intact marriage. And we are both women of our time, which means we have experienced sexism and the challenge of tending to both our private and public lives.

Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir published late last year, reinforces my sense of her on all these points. She writes honestly and beautifully; I was especially impressed with the way she wrote about her feelings about what was happening and not just the events themselves. She also frequently gives context of what happens either before or later with a particular place or event, such as the changes over time in her South Side neighborhood.

I particularly enjoyed reading about Michelle’s childhood, teen, and college years, as the stories from that time before she was a public figure were mostly new to me. I also appreciated knowing how she felt about many events and causes during the campaigns and her eight years in the White House, as well as her take on the current president.

What was most enlightening to me was hearing how being a black female impacted her life at every stage and added to the pressure to excel and to be an exemplary person at all times. As the first African-American first family, it seemed that every move the Obamas made was scrutinized. I admire that Michelle and her mom, who was also in residence at the White House, were able to protect First Daughters Malia and Sasha from most of the intrusiveness of the press corps so that they could grow up (mostly) out of the public eye.

Many people share my admiration for Michelle Obama and her accomplishments. Her book tour includes venues that seat thousands of people and her book has sold over three million copies, making it the bestseller of 2018.

She can definitely add best-selling author to her already impressive resume.

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first-time finalist

In December, I submitted to the QuillsEdge Press chapbook contest and I am pleased to announce that I was named a finalist. Though I didn’t win publication of my chapbook, I am thrilled to have made it into the final round.

Moreover, QuillsEdge does a really cool thing! They choose a poem from each finalist and assemble a mini-anthology to accompany the winning chapbook. Given that few of my poems are available in print, I am excited to be included in an actual physical book.

While I assembled the chapbook for the QuillsEdge contest, I have submitted a slightly revised version to four other contests. Two rejections came in prior to the news from QuillsEdge. The remaining two are big contests which will draw lots of entries.

Yesterday, I received another rejection, but it was a very hopeful one. Although I did not make finalist – their top ten – I was in the top 1%. I so appreciated their encouragement, knowing that my chapbook was noticed in a field of 1000+ entries.

When things calm down a bit, I need to research more places to submit, but at least I know that there are editors – plural! – who think I am on the right track. A poet friend told me that a chapbook should be submitted to at least ten presses. Halfway there…

A Wrinkle in Time

T and I finally got to see the new movie version of A Wrinkle in Time this week. Bonus: we were the only two in the theater for a Tuesday morning showing.

I appreciated the way the film updated the Madeleine L’Engle classic, setting it in the present day. I also appreciated the diversity of the casting among the leading roles and the smaller roles/extras. Many of the themes in L’Engle’s book – bullying, the role of science, love of family and friends, the strength of community in overcoming evil – feel fresh and pertinent in contemporary America. Though the story had to be condensed to fit into a movie-length timeframe, the core of L’Engle’s message remained strong.

I loved the vibrancy of the film and the richness of the color palette, especially when visiting other worlds. I also enjoyed the performances, bringing to life L’Engle’s sometimes enigmatic characters. I especially enjoyed Storm Reid’s portrayal of Meg.

I hope that the film will inspire a new generation of young people to read L’Engle’s novel and the rest of the Time Quintet.

chapbook draft

I have mentioned before that I am putting together a chapbook for the QuillsEdge Press contest for women poets over fifty.

At least I have the woman over fifty part nailed…

When the contest information was sent to me by one of the thoughtful male members of Grapevine Group, I already had a small group of poems written that related to this year’s theme, “In Transition.” Over the last couple of months, I have been writing and revising more poems to fill in gaps and to have enough poems to meet the page count requirement.

I have mentioned several times that I have been working assiduously on one poem in particular. After workshopping it with three different groups of poets, trying it out at a couple of readings, and revising again at the recommendation of a trusted poet-friend, I have now decided to use it as the final poem of the chapbook. Poets are advised to end with a strong poem and I am hoping that this at-least-for-now final version will fill the bill.

I had been playing with the order of the poems as I continued to add new ones and today, with all the poems finally available, I did another round of changes. When I finished the re-shuffle on the computer, I printed out a copy so that I can hold it in my hands and read it through as if it were a real publication.

I am trying to restrain myself from begging for readers to give me more advice. Though the deadline isn’t until January first, I really would like to submit next week. December is such a busy month that I would like to have it sent off and out of my head so I can move on to the rest of my to-do list. I also realize that all my poet-friends are similarly busy this time of year and don’t want to bug them more than I already have.

I am also trying to see this as a self-trust exercise. Given my lack of formal training, it’s easy for me to doubt my technical ability as a poet. People write books about how to order poems – and I haven’t read any of them, even though I do own one of them.

I will read it eventually…

For now, my plan is to read the chapbook aloud several times over several days, tweak anything that bothers me, and send it off through Submittable sometime next week.

And then wait a few months for news…

 

SoCS: pens, pencils, and pixels

I don’t use ink very much anymore.

Although I always carry pens with me and use them for obvious things like signing checks, but most of my writing by hand is related to poetry, which I tend to do in pencil, usually a 0.7 mm mechanical.

Most of my writing these days is via computer. No ink or graphite required.

I do, however, read a lot of ink. I still prefer print magazines and books over electronic. I find it much easier to leaf through a physical book or magazine than to scroll or jump to a page.

I hope to have a physical book of my own published someday, either a chapbook or poetry collection. Or both!

Ink will be necessary.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “ink.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/11/24/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-nov-25-17/

 

Good-bye, MoCA

I want to assure everyone that I did not get lost on my way home from North Adams. I did, however, arrive home later than expected Thursday and, unfortunately, yesterday involved a couple of family members being under the weather, so I didn’t get to post. I’m happy to report that people are feeling better today, so I will try to sneak this post in.

After the excitement of the reading and our discussion afterward, I wasn’t ready to sleep, so I stayed up late writing this blog post. When I did finally get to sleep, I didn’t stay that way, waking to write a concept/poem for my collection and the beginning of an unrelated poem. These may or may not turn out to be useful. Some middle-of-the-night ideas work; others, not so much.

We all spent a good chunk of Thursday morning packing and moving out of our apartments. We met back at our studios, where we were allowed to stay into the afternoon, and enjoyed our last lunch together in the cafe.

Then, the good-byes started, as three of our members needed to head for home.

Fortunately, five of us were able to stay until mid-afternoon, so we decided to do one last workshop session. The others graciously offered to review the beginning of my collection with me. They gave me lots of great feedback, some specific and some general, that I will use as I continue to work on the manuscript, which may also be changing its title.

One of the necessary skills that I am still developing is the ability to balance the diverse comments from other poets with my own sense of my work.  I am much, much better with it than I was when I first started, but looking at issues specific to manuscripts as opposed to each poem in isolation adds another layer to the enterprise.

At the moment, I am thinking about developing a new order for the poems after the Boiler House Poets finish weighing in before sending it out to some of my other poet friends for further comment.

Of course, there is also the issue of finding time and brain power to devote to revision back in the face of day-to-day life, which is… let’s just say, complicated. Still, I want very much to have the manuscript ready to submit to presses and/or contests before the Boiler House Poets next reunion, which we hope will be in early fall of 2018.

Can I do it?

Time will tell.

The Magician’s Curse – Now Available for Pre-Order!

Linda G. Hill, of the Life in Progress blog, through which she leads One-Liner Wednesdays, Stream of Consciousness Saturdays, Just Jot It January, and other general awesomeness, has a novel that is about to be published. The Magician’s Curse is now available for pre-order. Check it out!

When Herman Anderson leaves home to make a better life for herself, she doesn’t expect to meet a tall, dark stranger with whom she’ll fall hopelessly in love.

Charming and mysterious, Stephen Dagmar is a stage magician seeking an assistant. The moment he sets eyes on Herman, he knows she’s the one. He brings her home to his Victorian mansion where they embark upon an extravagant romance. Yet a shadow hangs over their love. Will the curse on his family end Stephen and Herman’s happily ever after, before it really begins?

Amidst lace and leather, innocence and debauchery, The Magician’s Curse begins the Gothic tale of The Great Dagmaru. Magic and romance await.

Official release date: June 27, 2017! Pre-order your Kindle copy today here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0721ZH2KN
Available soon on Kobo, and on June 27th in paperback on Amazon.

An excerpt from Chapter 2:
The moment Stephen stepped out the door…

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