JusJoJan: the end

So, it’s late afternoon on January 31st and I’m just getting the chance to write my final post for Linda’s Just Jot It January.

Linda’s prompt for today is “write” and my original intent had been to write about the end of Just Jot It January, so two birds with one stone.

I had been trying for the month to prepare my posts a day ahead in order to get them out in the morning, but I didn’t manage it today. I didn’t even check my blog this morning, as I had decided to do some more work on the final layout for my chapbook manuscript, Hearts, to send to Kelsay Books, my publisher.

Of course, I got distracted and wound up sending out a submission of three ekphrastic poems for a contest, which meant writing a more-involved-than-usual cover letter. (I did get some manuscript work done, too.)

I also wound up contributing to a couple of “poetry business” email threads, one for the Grapevine Poets and one for the Boiler House Poets Collective.

I wrote a birthday card and note to a friend – longhand and everything!

And now, finally, this post.

I am happy and relieved to have managed to post every day this month for #JusJoJan. I wrote more “heavy” posts than I intended, but it’s been that kind of month.

I’m not planning to post every day in February, though.

I need to spend some time on other projects and to get ready for a trip to the UK to visit our family there.

That should generate a few posts…
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I hope you’ve enjoyed Linda’s Just Jot It January. Thanks so much, Linda, for making it possible! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2023/01/31/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-31st-2023/

role reversal

While I don’t usually use the prompts that Linda helpfully lists for Just Jot It January, I decided to use the prompt today from Sadje, reversal.

I immediately thought of role reversal in the context of family, specifically as it pertains to generational caregiving. As a child, my parents took care of me and my sisters. When I became an adult and especially a mother myself, I appreciated that my parents continued to care for us, although in a different and appropriate way than when I was a child.

As my parents aged and encountered health problems, though, our roles reversed and I became a caregiver to them. That being said, caring for an aging parent is different than caring for a child. My parents had chosen to enter a senior continuing care community, so household help and the ability to move between levels of care from independent to assisted to skilled nursing was available to them. I was able to concentrate on helping with medical needs, handling bills, chauffeuring, running errands, and emotional support.

Our roles reversed in terms of caregiving but not in personal terms. They were always my parents and I was always their daughter. Even though they have both passed away now, I’m still their daughter.

That will never change.

I’m thinking about this in a particular way right now as I’m preparing my chapbook Hearts for publication later this year by Kelsay Books. The poems center around my mother, particularly her last few years battling heart disease. There are several poems that deal with the generations of women surrounding her, her mother and me, her granddaughter, and great-granddaughter.

Earlier this week, I received a beautiful blurb that will go on the back cover. It referenced this generational element in the manuscript.

I cried.
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Join us for Just Jot It January! Details here: https://lindaghill.com/2023/01/13/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-13th-2023/

New chapbook from Jessica Dubey!


I’m pleased to share the news that Jessica Dubey’s newest chapbook, All Those Years Underwater, is now available, either from Kelsay Books or from Amazon. If you happen to order from Amazon and don’t yet have Jessica’s chapbook For Dear Life, be sure to add it to your cart, too.

Jessica is one of my local poet-friends, part of the Grapevine Poets here in Broome County, New York, as well as the Boiler House Poets Collective. It has been my privilege to see the poems in both manuscripts develop over time and come together into power-packed chapbooks.

Jessica has a special talent for writing about difficult issues in a way that is beautiful, but searing. As Marilyn McCabe notes on the back cover of All Those Years Underwater, “Danger is so delicate in these poems; it slides like a stiletto between the ribs. The poems stare you down with their lovely eyes, even as they insert the blade.”

For more information, links to previously published poems, and contact information, visit Jessica’s website. I’m sure she would love to hear from her readers!

My First Chapbook!

I am thrilled to announce that Hearts, my first chapbook, will be published by Kelsay Books in 2023! I don’t yet have an exact release date but expect it to be around September.

Kelsay Books was founded by poet Karen Kelsay in 2012 and currently has over a thousand titles listed in its bookstore. This makes it a much larger press than most of my previous submissions, some of which went to presses that only publish one or two titles a year. I took a chance submitting to Kelsay because two of my local Grapevine Poets, Jessica Dubey and Burt Myers, have books forthcoming from them. I’ll be sure to post their books here at Top of JC’s Mind when they become available.

Kelsay publishes poetry exclusively under four different imprints: Aldrich Press for free verse poetry up to 90 pages; White Violet Press for formal poetry up to 100 pages (Burt’s category); Alabaster Leaves for chapbooks under 50 pages (Jessica and my books will be under this imprint); and Daffydowndilly for rhyming poetry by adults for children.

Another welcome feature of Kelsay is that they respond very quickly, generally within fourteen days of submission. I received word of acceptance on day ten. This is blazingly fast. The typical response time for prior submissions I had done was six months, with a few taking more than a year to send out rejections.

Hearts centers around my mother, known here at TJCM as Nana, particularly in the last years of her life as she struggled with heart failure. The first incarnation of the chapbook was assembled in fall of 2017 as an entry into the QuillsEdge Press contest with the theme “Transitions.” It was named a finalist and the poem “Sixteen Hours” was included in an anthology that was published in conjunction with the winning manuscript, Skin Gin. That version also placed in the top 1% of submissions in another contest.

That early positive feedback proved to be important in the following years. As Nana’s health continued to decline, I wrote poems to help me process but couldn’t think about reworking the manuscript. After her death in May, 2019, I took some time to extend, workshop, and edit the chapbook and started sending it out in spring of 2020. That version was a semifinalist in a contest but was also getting a lot of rejections from contests and open submission periods.

I continued to do edits and added a new poem in spring, 2021. At that point, my father, known here as Paco, was entering the last few months of his life, so doing submissions faded into the background. He passed away last September and I returned to doing a few submissions before the end of the year. I was doing submissions for my full-length manuscript, as well.

Kelsay was the 34th submission for Hearts in its various forms.

There is a difference of opinion on whether that is a lot or just run-of-the-mill. Most of the people that I’ve told have noted my perseverance and commitment in the face of rejection but a few, who have decades-long experience as poets, think thirty-four isn’t that bad or unusual.

For now, I’m still feeling joy mixed with relief. In these past years, I’ve watched many of my poet-friends publish their first books and had begun to wonder if I just wasn’t good enough. Now, I’m coming to think of it more as finding the right match. Kelsay Books makes clear they are seeking manuscripts that are accessible to a general audience. I consider myself a community poet, as my experience has come through workshopping with fellow poets and community poetry sessions with the Binghamton Poetry Project and others, instead of from academic studies. I tend to write in a narrative style. While I occasionally write in Chinese/Japanese-derived forms like tanka, I have never written anything decent in traditional European forms, like sonnet or villanelle. Every once in a while, a rejection email comes with a bit of feedback, which tends to run along the lines of my work not being crafted well enough or sophisticated enough. While I do continue to work on craft and revision skills, I will never write like someone with an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree.

And that’s okay.

It’s just easier to believe now that I can say I have a book forthcoming.

I’m sure I will post more about this as I work through the process of publication and gain more skills along the way. Style guidelines. Fonts. Cover art.

One of the blessings of being in a community of poets, though, is that help is available if I need it. I also now have a publisher with a team of professionals to get my book out into the world.

It still feels strange to be able to say that.

But I think I could get used to it.

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