What I have been up to lately

Some of the things in this post will have already appeared here in some form, but, for my own sake, I figure it is worth making note of recent activities and accomplishments in one place. I have a tendency to underestimate myself, and that is something I am trying to correct. So…

Despite the financial difficulties I have faced these last few months (and still face), I have continued to write daily, and attend open-mic readings on a regular basis. In the course of a typical month, I figure I attend (and participate in) six or seven open mics in the Seattle area. A couple of writing groups, too. That would have been unthinkable a year ago.

Even though I published Quiet on the Outside… in July, my continuing accumulation of material meant that it was only a matter of weeks before I had enough material for a new volume. To ensure I was not rushing into publishing a new volume simply because I had nothing else going on, I took several weeks for the proofing/revision process. The result was Refusal to Remain Invisible, which became available September 26th.

This summer, I began looking into grants and competitions. That’s when I learned that the Pulitzer Prize is a competition that people can actually enter, as opposed to the Nobel Prizes, which rely upon committees to nominate people and award prizes. Even though I figure that my chances of even being nominated are minuscule, I went ahead and entered Refusal to Remain Invisible for consideration. I received official notification from the Pulitzer Prize office on September 22nd that my entry materials (four copies of the book, in addition to the online application and $50 entry fee) had been received. So, however small my chances may be, I have a chance. And why not let myself have that chance?

In the meantime, I have applied for the 2016/17 Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship. (Since there is no age limit, and one does not have to be a student to apply, I think of it as more of a grant. But that’s just nit-picking, innit?) The scholarship is awarded annually; recipients agree to spend one year outside the continent of North America. Despite the anxiety that has kept me from flying since 1992, the matter of what to do with all of my stuff, who would take care of my cats, and what I would do upon coming back, this opportunity was just too good to pass up. It would be an excellent chance to travel somewhere I have never been (Ireland, New Zealand, and Finland immediately come to mind)—or I could go back to Japan for a year, this time under far less stressful circumstances.

As part of the application process, I put together a curriculum vitae. It was optional, but I thought it would be a good thing to have. Following the recommended writer’s CV format recommended by Scottish Book Trust, I asked three people who have copies of all of my books to write testimonials for me. I was gratified to see that my approach to writing poetry appealed to these folks (even though they are all friends of mine). All three of them used the word accessible in their testimonials; accessibility is very important to me, as I do not have much patience with poetry that is unnecessarily decorative or overly cerebral.

Other stuff this summer: Writing a poem for the now-late Lament for the Dead web site, which commemorated folks who died in encounters involving police (whether they were officers, suspects, or bystanders) during this past summer (June 1–August 31). Contributing two poems to photographer Tom Wright’s Photo Tales series on his blog, Captioned.

Whatever these things come to, I still have to eat, sleep, and pay bills and rent. So, I have continued the renewed job search I began in April. Not much luck, so far. One really frustrating miss was the copy-editing job at Costco that I learned about through one of the creative agencies; because I had applied to Costco within the last twelve months (even though it was for a completely unrelated position), they could not present me as a candidate. Unfortunately, because Costco did not list the position on their web site, and I did not otherwise have the necessary connections, I could not apply for the job directly. And the search continues…

Today’s adventure was taking my car in for an oil change. Probably not advisable during Mercury retrograde, but my mom graciously sent me a couple hundred bucks to help out, so I figured I had better get it done while I had the chance. (Plus, it was due—tomorrow was literally the date on the reminder sticker they put on the inside of the windshield after each service.) Of course, what should have been a simple oil change resulted in a couple of repairs. In the grand scheme of things, they were really minor—but they were not so minor as far as my wallet was concerned. Given that my car is twelve years old, I can’t complain too much, and I have always been of the opinion that it is better to spend a little bit now to fix something than to have to spend a lot more later on when something breaks. Still, the timing was not so good. On the bright side, my car now has a clean bill of health, so I should not have to worry about something going horribly wrong in the middle of winter.

As for more mundane stuff, the number of folks following my blog passed 500 this summer. Not bad for a blog that I barely knew what to do with four years ago, and have found a real purpose for only within the last couple of years. Though I write for myself, it is gratifying (there’s that word again) that other folks like what I do enough to sign up to be notified when I post something new.

Although I am not a fan of this feast-and-famine phase of my life, I know that I have it very good in a lot of ways. This is me reminding myself of that fact.

(1 October 2015)