Tag Archives: writing

Guest Blogger: The Creativity of Not Writing

18 Jul

I’m the guest blogger for Arizona State’s Superstition Review today!  In this post, I’m talking about maintaining creativity during a dry spell, vintage cookbooks, and being okay with not writing.  See the post here!

How do you keep creative when not writing?

Inspiration Reading List

20 Mar

Ever since I got back from AWP, I’ve felt inspired.  I have even started to make headway on what I think will become my third collection of poems.  It’s been almost five years (!) since I got my MFA from Bennington College, but I still practice their motto, “read 100 books, write one.”  I love this motto and find it so constructive and, yes, inspiring.  I actually began doing this in the semester before Bennington when I was working with Claudia Rankine on my senior honors thesis in creative writing.  Claudia made me an amazing reading list and opened doors to contemporary poetry that I never knew existed.

For my inspiration reading list for my new project, I have recycled some of these same books, added new ones, as well as books I’ve always meant to read, but never got around to doing so.  Here is my “right now” Inspiration Reading List:


Inspiration Reading!


What’s on my list:


1. A God in the House: Poets Talk About Faith Edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler

2. Forth a Raven by Christina Davis

3. Voices from an Early American Convent edited by Emily Clark

4. Glean by Joshua Kryah

5. Death Tractates by Brenda Hillman

6. Bright Existence by Brenda Hillman

7. The Good Thief by Marie Howe

8. Pinwheel by Marni Ludwig

9. Two-Headed Nightingale by Shara Lessley

10. The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe

11. Burnt Offerings by Timothy Liu

12. Start by Jean Gallagher

13. Stubborn by Jean Gallagher

14. Beautiful in the Mouth by Keetje Kuipers

15. On Looking: Essays by Lia Purpura

16. Assembling the Shepherd by Tessa Rumsey

17. The Wanton Sublime by Anna Rabinowitz

18. The Descent by Sophie Cabot Black

19. Dream of the Unified Field by Jorie Graham

20. To the Place of Trumpets by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

21. Trouble in Mind by Lucie Brock-Broido

22. Old and New Testaments by Lynn Powell


A few others that are on my list that are not pictured above: The Exchange by Sophie Cabot Black, Selected Levis, ed. David St. John, Elegy by Larry Levis, Autobiography of My Hungers by Rigoberto Gonzalez, An Ethic by Christina Davis, Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder, and A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet by Eavan Boland.


This extensive list will, I’m sure, keep me busy for a while!  What are the books on your inspiration list?  What books do you turn to again and again?  I’d love to hear your comments below!

AWP 2013 Round-Up

15 Mar

AWP Boston 2013 was a wonderful experience and I came back incredibly energized to return to writing poems again after about a year hiatus!  Even though I was swamped with AWP-related activities (I was part of Bellevue Literary Review’s anniversary panel reading, read with Zone 3 Press/Univ. of Wisconsin Press –and freaking Richard Blanco! — on Friday night, and had a signing at the Perugia Press table for my second book, The Wishing Tomb) and family-friend related activities (such as meeting my gorgeous, amazing birth-cousin, Hope for the first time at my aforementioned reading), I had a marvelous time seeing everyone, going to the book fair, and enjoying the chaos that is AWP.  I can’t wait for next year — especially since Pebble Lake Review has BIG plans for AWP to celebrate its 10th-year anniversary!

AWP swag!

AWP swag!

AWP-acquired books & journals!

AWP-acquired books & journals!

I got: free copies of Poets & Writers, Looking for the Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco,  One Today by Richard Blanco (the limited-edition chapbook of Blanco’s Inaugural poem), free copies of The Southeast Review, Predatory by Glenn Shaheen, Charms for Finding by Rebecca Kinzie Bastian, Bright Power, Dark Peace by Traci Brimhall and Brynn Saito, a copy of The American Poetry Review, a cool little notebook/pen set and nylon drawstring book bag from Zone 3 Press, a diode button, two bookmarks from Boxcar Poetry Review, and two of the coolest-designed books I’ve ever seen from idiot books (a new-to-me press): After Everafter and Ten Thousand Stories.

Me & my cousin, Hope, & Boston's The Crispy Duck

Me & my cousin, Hope, & Boston’s The Crispy Duck

It was beyond wonderful to get to meet my biological cousin, Hope, in Boston!  She is my birthfather’s sister’s daughter and although we have chatted on the phone a few times and are FB friends, we never met until last week at my reading.  We had THE best time at dinner with Jeff & my friends and after getting drinks across from the Sheraton at McGreevy’s.  We also caught up the next day at Au Bon Pain, where Jeff and I were having a quick lunch in the midst of AWP craziness.  I felt so blessed the entire weekend!

If you want to see more of my AWP experience, I did a guest blog post for Superstition Review here.  A glimpse:


10. What is one bit of advice you could give to someone who’s never been to AWP and is thinking about going next year?

1. Wear comfortable shoes.  Those girls who wear stilettos at AWP?  They’re kidding themselves.  2.  Take your gummy vitamins and Emergen-C as AWP is a cesspool of flus and colds.  3.  You will not make every panel.  4.  Budget your money wisely because it runs out faster than you’d think.  5.  You will run into your frenemies.  6.  The hotel bar is overrated and expensive.  Go for the free wine and beer at the dance party instead.  7.  You will fall down at least once.  8. That famous poet really doesn’t want to read your manuscript or blurb your book.  9.  You will not have time to have meaningful conversations, unless you count a meaningful conversation as three minutes of hellos and one awkward photo taken on a camera phone.  10.  It’s the best time ever.


I also came back from AWP to discover that the Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (in which my poem, “Creole Tomatoes,” appears) is now available from Hyacinth Girl Press!

Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence

Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence

About the anthology:  Women Write Resistances: Poets Resist Gender Violence views poetry as a transformative art. By deploying techniques to challenge narratives about violence against women and making alternatives to that violence visible, the over 100 women American poets in this anthology intervene in the ways gender violence is perceived in American culture. The critical introduction frames the intellectual work behind the building of the
anthology by describing how poets break silence, disrupt narratives, and use strategic anger to resist for change. Poetry of resistance distinguishes itself by a persuasive rhetoric that asks readers to act. The anthology collects poems by Alicia Ostriker, Maureen Seaton, Judy Grahn, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Ellen Bass, Kristy Bowen, Allison Hedge Coke, Jehanne Dubrow, Leslie Adrienne Miller, Khadijah Queen, Hilda Raz, Evie Shockley, Margo Taft Stever, Judith Vollmer, Rosemary Winslow, and many, many more.

I’m thrilled to be one of the “many more” in this important collection of women poets writing on gender violence.  Get your copy here!

Countdown: AWP 2013

22 Feb

AWP is less than two weeks away and I’ve already started laying out my clothes and packing my bags (in my head, of course)!  Even though J. and I paid way too much money for our flight from Houston to Boston ($1100 United — are you kidding me?!  AND it’s not even first class!), I’m still excited for another conference, another city, and to see old friends and meet new writers!

Where you can find me at this year’s conference:

Illness as Muse: Ten Years of the Bellevue Literary Review
Room 210, Level 2
Hynes Convention Center
Friday, March 8, 2013
Boston, MA

Zone 3 Press Reading
Friday, March 8, 2013
First Church Boston
66 Marlborough St., Boston, MA

Book Signing w/ Perugia Press
Saturday, March 9, 2013
AWP Bookfair
Boston, MA

I’m so thankful to have been invited to read my work with the above presses!  I will be getting into town late afternoon on Thursday, March 7.  We’ll be staying at the convention hotel (if all goes according to plan — and it so rarely does at AWP).  If you want to meet up, let me know!  Where will you be?  Where are the good parties?  I’m thinking of trying again for Wine Party 2013 (Wine Party 2012 at Chicago’s AWP ended as soon as it began due to a certain friend spilling wine on the floor of my hotel room — lucky for us there were plenty towels and a strategically placed desk and garbage can).

We Have Something To Tell You

6 Feb

On today, my 36th birthday, I’d like to share a tiny bit of my memoir in progress, What Took You So Long.  This “essay” (I use the quotes because it’s more of a section than an essay) is titled, “We Have Something To Tell You.”


[UPDATE: Thank you for all of your comments!  As I said in my original post, this excerpt has been removed due to privacy issues.  I am still at work (however slowly) on this memoir.]


3rd birthday!

3rd birthday!

I sit down to write, I get a bake sale

10 Dec

I’m beyond excited to say that my second collection of poems, “The City That Care Forgot,” is currently a finalist for a major book prize!  I just started sending this manuscript out at the end of September and to know that it’s already a finalist straight out of the gate is such an incredible feeling!  I was very apprehensive about this manuscript because it was such a risky undertaking subject-wise, but I believe in it and know that you can’t get anywhere without taking risks.


I haven’t been writing much this fall and haven’t written anything since early October, which is actually fine with me.  I’ve been teaching 5 classes this term, which is exhausting, but that is only a small part of why I haven’t been writing.  For the most part, I need a break.  I wrote two books back to back over the past 5 years and I feel that I need time to relax–to read, to think, to enjoy life–and I feel that this (brief, most likely) hiatus will be well worth it in the end.


I love cooking and baking and the fall/holidays are the perfect time to find yourself elbow-deep in flour.  Last night, I made homemade butterscotch slice cookies for both Jeff as well as little neighbor holidays treat bags.  The recipe is from Paula Deen.  Since this recipe was quite different than I initially expected gauging the ingredients list and also because  I haven’t done a recipe review in a while, I figured that I would share the recipe, method photos, and final results:




Image courtesy Paula Deen



1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
3 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt




In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time.  Add flour mixture one cup at a time and mix well.  Stir in chopped nuts. 



Place dough on wax paper and form into 2-inch rolls.  Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 375º F. Slice into 1/8 inch slices and bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 5 to 6 minutes.


Allow to cool slightly before removing from baking sheet.



Outcome: These are easy to make, delicious cookies.  When I first read through the ingredients, I wondered how on earth these were going to taste like butterscotch when there were no butterscotch morsels in the recipe.  However, the butter and brown sugar work together to make the dough taste EXACTLY like butterscotch.  Sadly, though, when baked, these little cookies lose their butterscotch flavor and taste more like sugar-pecan biscotti (which is not a terrible thing, but just not what I ultimately wanted).  I think I’m going to rename these cookies (as is) Butter-Pecan Cookies because that’s what they really taste like and then whenever I make these again, I might try adding butterscotch morsels and see if that works any better.  Also, it’s important to note that baking times do vary.  I found that if you slice the dough on the thinner side (which I started out doing, but quickly realized this made for a rather dinky cookie), that I needed to bake them for 5 minutes exactly.  When I began slicing them a little thicker, say, 1/4 inch, they need to be baked for around 7 minutes.  Ultimately, these are yummy cookies that, I know, don’t scream “holiday cookie,” but do make for a nice little tea biscuit or afternoon cold-day snack.  My husband likes them with a glass of 2% Horizon Organic Milk.  I prefer them with a hot cup of Nutcracker Sweet tea.  


Santa likes them!


Notes from the Paula Deen Test Kitchen: Makes a great cookie to be served with tea or coffee.  Dough freezes well.  Dough is easier to cut when frozen.  If using this method, allow cookies to sit 3-4 minutes on a cool baking sheet before baking.

A Community of Writers, A Community of Books

2 Jul

Taken in my room at Bennington, Jan. 2007



I am almost finished with the writing of my second manuscript (the first, The Glass Crib, is due out from Zone 3 Press in September).  I’ve been working on it steadily since January 2010 and have about 41 pages that I feel good about.  I’ve been keeping this second manuscript — the actual focus of it — a secret for a multitude of reasons, but if you’ve read some of the poems from it in journals, I think you might have a inkling of what it’s about.


I’m both excited and dreading hopping back on the merry-go-round of book contests.  For those of you who have done it, it’s such an arduous, albeit hopeful, process.  My first book was a finalist/semi-finalist for 6 contests, which was both rewarding and frustrating (insert the “always the bride” cliche here).  It took me almost 2 years to write it and about 1 1/2 years of sending it out to find a suitable home (a home which I absolutely adore).  I have no idea what to expect this time, because each manuscript/reader/judge is so different.  Of course, we all want to our manuscripts to be selected straight out the gate, but that so rarely happens.  If this manuscript gets picked up in the same amount of time as my first, I’ll throw a party.  No joke.


After grad school, it has felt a times like I’m writing in a vacuum.  I’m out of the “bubble” of grad school (and for me, even undergrad — I had such an amazing time there and feel very lucky to have been able to get both a BA and MFA in Creative Writing & Literature and work with wonderful teachers at both).  The first year out of Bennington’s MFA program, I had no idea what to do with myself, especially as my writing community dwindled and dwindled as the people I knew and loved here in Houston graduated from Houston’s MFA/PhD program and moved away.


However, little by little, I’ve made the transition and now when I look around, I have my own community created not by being thrown together in classes and such, but out of true friendships and love of language and books and everything in between.  I like coming out of my little nest of books and paper and tea to talk to other writers and share new work, ideas, or new books we’ve just read.  I can’t think of anything worse than living like Emily Dickinson and if that means I’ll never be Emily Dickinson, than so be it.


Recently, I have swapped manuscripts with a poet-friend of mine and also have a handful of other writer-friends that have agreed to read over my manuscript for me.  I am in awe of how gracious they all are and that I do have such a community to turn to again and again.





I think that in addition to a “people” community, we as writers (and readers in general) also build a community of books.  At last count (last year, when my husband conceived the plans for building our built-in bookcases), there are over 800 books in this house.  I’m reading a hodgepodge of books right now: books for research for the manuscript, others for fun, others for cooking, others I’m re-reading for the zillionth time.  Here are a few I’m reading:


Trouble in Mind by Lucie Brock Broido

Nothing In Nature Is Private by Claudia Rankine

Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen

My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow