My Last Day of One Job, Embarking on Another

May 3, 2013

Yesterday was my last official day as Teen Services Librarian for the Marshall-Lyon County Library. My heart is sort of breaking over it–I loved that job so much, but it was a two-hour commute, one way, once a week. I’m still processing all of that, and might blog about it more extensively, but for now, I’m working on a new writing “job” to help take my mind off it. I’ve started doing the weekly exercises in Sheila Bender’s A Year in the Life: Journaling for Self Discovery. Before embarking on them, she encourages you to “hire” yourself as a journal keeper. I found this exercise very empowering, because it allowed me to reflect upon how freakin’ qualified I am for the job. I definitely encourage other writers to try it. Below are some of my entries from the exercise, consisting of the Job Posting, My Application Letter, and the Interview.

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NaPoWriMo: The Home Stretch!

April 29, 2013

If I can write two more poems before midnight tomorrow, I will have completed my first successful NaPoWriMo.

In an ideal world where there is always enough time for writing, my fiction would not have had to take such a blow so I could write poetry this month. But the truth is, I haven’t worked on Rapunzel or Rumpled a bit. This would have bothered me more in the past than it does now. After all, I consider my fiction to be my “serious” writing, the writing I hope to actually do something with. But I think there’s something valuable to be learned in immersing yourself in an unfamiliar form, and hopefully that will benefit my other writing. Writing poetry has been strangely freeing simply because I take myself less seriously as a poet; I don’t plan to publish poetry, and so I am able to write it for the sake of writing it. It also helps stretch my creative mind to remember that there are many ways to capture an experience or to tell a story, and I hope focusing on poetry for a month will help me remember that it’s there if I need it in the future.

With all that said, I find that NaPoWriMo gets more difficult as the month goes on, as though I have a finite number of poems within me, and at the end I’m starting to dry up. This is probably why I’ve abandoned NaPoWriMo about halfway through the month every other time I’ve tried it. So today, I’m going to share two of my poems about how difficult it’s been to keep writing poems!

Poem #26 – Dried Up

I hesitate to go to the river tonight,
fearing it’s all dried up
like the brown grass last spring,
died early in the South Dakota sun
and we didn’t have to mow the lawn
all summer.

Perhaps prayers, long walks, feminism,
Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson
can get the water to flow.
Night falls quickly as I
wait for those first drops,
crunching too many coffee beans
and trying not to look at the dishes.


Words flow more freely from my husband’s mouth
when he is talking in his sleep
than when I pick up my pen.
He says, “Think of it like a stream,
all these words, and you’re
looking at it from above—and then,
from the side.”

I mumble, yes, yes, yes,
only longing for his silence
so I may sink back into sleep.
Now, I wait for him to come home,
hoping he remembers the way
to that incoherent stream,
all those letters rattling by
like bones.

For poem #27, I experimented with the poetic form of the triolet for the first time. It’s a poem consisting of eight lines, all of 10 syllables, with a very specific rhyme scheme. I do like the discipline that writing within a form can provide.

Poem # 27 – More Than Poetry Do I Love Sleep (Triolet)

Far more than poetry do I love sleep.
I find my blankets much warmer than words.
So this is a promise too hard to keep,
far more than poetry do I love sleep.
I silence the alarm’s insistent beep.
I am unimpressed by the songs of birds.
For more than poetry do I love sleep.
I find my blankets much warmer than words.

Live From New York City!

April 22, 2013

I’m writing this from a computer lab at my temporary residence in New York City, where I’ve landed to work on the Religious Institute‘s new “faith and sexuality” guidebook on bisexuality and faith. I’m surrounded by what has been called the “dream team” of bisexual activism — wait, not just surrounded by, but part of it. At last, I can put all those days of being picked last in gym behind me. I’m on the bisexual dream team! (As a side note, I learned while preparing for this meeting that queer-identified youth tend to dislike team sports. I wonder why …)

I’m so excited to begin work tomorrow and to better get to know the amazing people from diverse faiths who are doing this work. As part of my preparation, I studied some of the current research on bisexuality shared by the institute with participants, as well as some of their previous guidebooks. And I just have to reiterate that I am so glad people are doing this good work. One of the things that struck me as I was doing my preparatory reading was that, while 65% of queer youth report being bullied in public schools, that number jumps to 75% in religiously affiliated schools. Whoa. Something is very not right about that. And I’m so glad organizations like the Religious Institute exist to start changing hearts and minds, so that hopefully, one day there will be a different connotation when it comes to religion, sexuality, and inclusion.

As we’ve introduced ourselves to one another, my best “in-a-nutshell” explanation of how “what I do” (in addition to who I am) relates to this work is that I’m a “bisexual Catholic blogger.” A few people have asked me if I’m clergy or going for my Masters of Divinity degree (the same question I was asked last week when I bought a big pile of theology-themed books at a used book sale), and I’ve said, “Nope, just a bisexual Catholic writer with a big bookshelf.” It has me thinking once more about credentials, and how one might show that she’s serious about her work without the external “proof.” But the truth remains that I’m here today because I wrote. It’s something to hold on to when, as all writers do, I find myself doubting from time to time whether writing really “matters.”

On another note, I’m still slagging through NaPoWriMo, about two days behind schedule. But it allowed me to give a couple poems to my husband for our one-year anniversary yesterday, so already it’s born great fruit.

NaPoWriMo: Ice Storm Poetry

April 15, 2013

Poem #9: Ice and Thunder

It is a time of ice and thunder
the dog cowering in the doorway
brass tacks on the glass
and trees groaning outside.

Love is an action, not a feeling
this is what Jesus taught us
Their power will be out for days
and I crumple up inside
at the thought of opening the door
on this world of ice and thunder.

Pumpkin soup and bright electricity
keep us warm against the night
The spare bed isn’t just
for watching X-files
through these hours of ice and thunder.

And love is an action, not a feeling
Pick up your cell phone
see what they need
because the power won’t be back on for days
and we have pumpkin soup in the freezer–
enough to keep us all fed
through this night of ice and thunder.

Poem #10: Ice Storm, Day 2

Stayed in the shower too long
soaking up the warmth
didn’t wipe away the steam
to see my face in the mirror.

Cold soup in the fridge
I long to fill my belly
protein bars and canned food
and too many apocalyptic novels

Trucks thunder by in the street
ice cracks
sirens wail

Every hour
I hover over the fish tank
too scared to peek inside
I use a bicycle pump
to force life into the water

Push my feet under my dog’s body
searching for his warmth.
Without the soothing buzz of

heaters and freezers
the medicine cabinet
screeches too loud.

Can’t get myself
to wrap it all up in a box
and send it to you.
I’d rather wrap myself instead.

NaPoWriMo: Day 8

April 8, 2013

So far, I’ve been successful in writing one poem a day for the first week of April (although not all have been successful poems). Here are a few of my first drafts.

Poem #5: Dinosaur Teeth

That summer we were twelve
I didn’t know
that only bubble-gum string
held your family together.

We crossed that hot parking lot
you told me
how you cried, curled up
in a theater seat.

So for twenty years
I feared your dinosaurs
sure that their teeth
had gnashed and
torn you apart.

– April 5, 2013

I wrote the pantoum below after taking the Project Implicit test on skin tone, which revealed that I have a “slight bias” toward people with light skin. I examined that in conjunction with my work in a downtown library, which has a large Native American, immigrant, and transient population. Despite this, there is no one one staff who is not white, which seems alienating to our patrons. Also, I’m troubled by this “slight bias” in light of the fact that my best friend is of Indian descent. All of this soul searching has been undertaken on behalf of my Know Thyself course, and particularly Dr. Timothy Wilson’s work positing that we have an “adaptive unconscious” (a vast reservoir of unknowable mental processes), which is often where unacknowledged prejudice resides.

Poem #7: Implicit

From which pool of primordial sludge does this come?
Only white faces this side of the desk
I love the smell of curry in her hair
but I guess I love white skin slightly more.

Only white faces this side of the desk
with our computers and records and judgments
but I guess I love white skin slightly more
as I picture the face of my best friend.

With our computers and records and judgments,
we glance at prison release cards with impassive faces.
As I picture the face of my best friend
I wonder how any test could be more true than her.

We glance at prison release cards with impassive faces
“I don’t judge you,” “I don’t judge you,” runs through my mind.
I wonder how any test could be more true than her
and all those nights of her voice through my wall.

“I don’t judge you,” “I don’t judge you,” runs through my mind.
I love the smell of curry in her hair
and all those nights of her voice through my wall.
From which pool of primordial sludge does this come?

– April 7, 2013

Something a little cozier:

Poem #8: Storage

“Fog is gone,” you say,
and, “I should have went.”
Your bike waits in the garage,
her bag all packed,
your disregarded lover.

Forecast is for snow,
a week of soup and
hiding in bed,
winter sweaters begging
to be used
one more time
before summer storage.

I do not regret
the six a.m. caution
that allowed us
to sneak back into storage
tucked away in spring sheets
your skin
warmer than any sweater.

NaNoEdMo not quite there … NaPoWriMo has Arrived!

April 1, 2013

Last night, I came home from the Easter festivities bearing a headache from too much sugar but still determined to log my last two hours to achieve victory in NaNoEdMo … even though editing was really the last thing in the world I wanted to do.

Still, I was mostly dismayed (but, admittedly, also relieved), when a glitch in the NaNoEdMo site closed the deadline early — meaning that when I tried to log time at 9 pm CDT, I got a message that said, “NaNoEdMo is closed for 2013. Join us next year!”

There I was, 48 hours in, time set aside to finish … with no chance to get my external validation for those last two hours. My recourse? To complain to my husband, report it on the NaNoEdMo “bug” forums, whine on Twitter (brand new account! Follow me @laceylouwagie), and … not put in my final two hours of editing.

I’m not proud of it, but my reasoning went something like this:

  1. 48 hours in 31 days is STILL good progress, and my main reason for pushing those final two hours was a) curiosity to see what “winners” got; and b) the external validation and official bragging rights.
  2. Without items a & b, I was just as happy to say, “Yay me, I got 48 hours in 31 days, it’s NaNoEdMo’s Fault and Not Mine That I Didn’t Officially Win.”
  3. And, Now I can catch up on all the email I didn’t read in March!

Except, the NaNoEdMo folks have been very responsive, and hour logging is now open until 6 pm today to make up for the error. Which means, I still have two hours of editing to squeeze in at some point today. I was ready to simply pronounce my defeat to the world here on my blog this morning, but it looks like that would be premature. I’ll be doing two more hours of editing today after all. Yay?

Luckily, I’ve already written today’s poem, so that’s out of the way. Because right on the heels of NaNoEdMo is the next writing challenge of the year — NaPoWriMo! I consistently fail NaPoWriMo, I think because I don’t take myself seriously as a poet. I don’t read much poetry, and frankly, I don’t think anyone has much of a right to write in a genre they don’t read. But I continue to attempt NaPoWriMo anyway because I believe poetry is good for the soul, good for capturing the state of a life at a moment in time, and good for giving as gifts in people’s birthday cards. Usually I have intentions of posting my poetry from NaPoWriMo here, but then it always ends up being too personal. This morning’s poem was no different — but I did feel especially blessed to have a particularly evocative dream last night that I could plagiarize for poetry.

My car is equipped with poetry inspiration for the month, which includes Modern Scholar’s Understanding Poetry lectures and the She Walks in Beauty audiobook. It’s the first day of the month, I’ve written one poem, poetry drafts take less time than editing, and I’m not getting married this year — so, I’m feeling optimistic. 🙂

Now, back to untangle my way toward victory at NaNoEdMo.

Back to Writing … at Last!

May 10, 2012

After the long wedding-induced haitus, I am SO GLAD to be back to writing at last. A lot has happened in my “writing life” even though very little of it was actually writing. But hey, the writing world didn’t stop spinning because I neglected my desk. Imagine that!

  1. My favorite piece of news is that Katya Gordon’s sailing memoir, Big Waves, Small Boat, Two Kids just came out. I had the pleasure of working as an editor on this book, and it’s one of my favorite pieces that I’ve ever worked on. It’s one of those stories that I find myself thinking about, and drawing inspiration from, often. For example: when I was stressed about not having enough room in the 600-sq-foot house I now share with my husband, I thought about how Katya spent a year living in a much smaller boat with her husband and two kids, no less. And when I was in Florida for my honeymoon, I found myself wondering about the lives of the cruisers we saw docked out there. If you like memoir, or nature adventures, or stories about individuals and families figuring out just where they belong in this world, definitely consider checking out this book.
  2. The cover for Hungering and Thirsting for Justice came in. How magical it is to have stuff “just happen” on your book without you after a couple years of squeezing work on said book in at every opportunity? I like this “it’s with the publisher” business.
  3. I got an email from the editor of the anthology Unruly Catholic Women Writers, in which I have a piece, telling us that she has “good news” about the book … but, I haven’t heard what that is yet. Looking forward to it!

My attempt at doing NaPoWriMo was a bit of a failure. I kept it up diligently and doggedly, writing mostly very bad poems, until about three days before the wedding. Then after the wedding, rather than pick up where I left off … I totally forgot that I was supposed to be writing poetry at all. Well, there’s always next year!

My husband devotes his Fridays to working on his own business, and I’m thinking that I would like to try something similar — to dedicate that same time to my writing. Not tomorrow, though, because I have a big pile of freelance work to catch up on. I’ll be working from a desk (downgraded from an office) in the living room because the basement office isn’t finished yet. Ivan still works on his computer down there, but I cannot abide the cold concrete and dimness. One must have some standards!

It’s good to be back!