Saturday, July 20, 2019

Constance Schultz : most days we only run once


my writing day is all about distractions and other types of avoidance...

...begins w/2 cups of coffee from a soup mug drunk slow while checking social websites which immediately suck me in

scroll,scroll

...poetry often created
between

coulee walls & various
points of the day
...words struggle to be heard between

the time I'm awake & my daughter wakes
up between the time we arrive at the park
& she finishes playing

...notebooks stand ready cameras compete w/Annie &

Steamboat Rock//Northrup Canyon//
Crown Pointe Overlook//all the wildlife in Grand Coulee

all the other coulee views are swimming in soft sand in summer in Spring Canyon

& every time I start
to write my mind//is drawn
//away to nature paths

full of badgers & marmots &
mule deer w/twins//coyotes//
the Canadian Lynx we saw recline on

a large boulder last year & powerful
storms full of canyon winds when the sky wears deeper shades

& always rocks

so many distractions

& words come out
when they want &
fight to be heard louder
than all of that

& if, heaven forbid
my inspiration falters then
we run



Constance Schultz lives near Grand Coulee in Washington State, USA. She writes w/her daughter-who-must-be-mentioned, w/ Winston-the-little-dog-who-thinks-he's-big & all the animals seen/unseen wherever they go. 

She has work in literary magazines around the world including Hidden Channel Zine, Train: a Journal of Investigation, Sobotka Literary Magazine and Empty Mirror

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Holly Pelesky : my writing day


Over the years, my writing day has atrophied and burgeoned and contorted to make way for my life. At one time, a writing day meant taking my children to a babysitter and coming back home to my desk and sitting down without any distractions but the changing song on my Pandora station. I made myself a little ritual with a blended coffee and the quiet of my usually loud place allowed me to write.  That was when I was pursuing my MFA and people saw how seriously I took writing.

There is this perception sometimes that writing isn’t a serious profession and maybe that’s because it’s largely unpaid. But it as serious a profession as one makes it, even without a paycheck. We can throw ourselves into the craft of writing as much as a person throws themselves into staying late at an office, overbooking an Outlook calendar, and catching up on emails. One is not greater than the other because of its fiscal returns. One is more reasonable, maybe, but those of us who are writers are not known for our reason.  
It is hard to describe a typical writing day because many days I don’t write at all. There are days for housework or submitting my existing work or the jobs I toil away at so I can continue to write. There are days when I go for a run and shower and contemplate what I will write next but never open a Word document. I count all that as part of the process, too. By the time I sit down to write, I have spent hours mulling through what I have to say, spinning words in my head, erasing them, writing them again without ever seeing them on a page. 

As much as I admire the people who wake up early or stay up late each day to write on a schedule, I am not one of them. My discipline is not in the time I set aside to write but the regenerating motivation to. The actual time I spend ass-in-chair is parceled out into large or small chunks as life allows.

I have learned now to write amidst distractions—which I never thought I’d be able to do before—out of sheer necessity. I know now it is my necessity to write—it is my brain’s yoga—so if the only way to write is in the chaos of two screaming, wrestling boys, that’s what I’ll do. Right now I am typing on a laptop in the back of a coffee shop. I get my writing time in where I can fit it. I have written a poem on a pumpkin patch field trip, made a story outline in the grocery store aisle, and crafted an essay on the bench next to the inflatables my children were jumping on.

I have a desk, but my writing day could be anywhere. The words get put typed into documents at my desk, largely, but they are put into my head and then notebooks wherever I am. Today I didn’t think I’d finish writing this, but after each iced vanilla latte, I returned to this computer to finish what I started. I think that is my regenerating motivation: to make something whole any way I can.



Holly Pelesky is a lover of spreadsheets, giant sandwiches, and handwritten letters. Her essays have appeared in The Nasiona, Jellyfish Review, and Homology Lit, among other places. Her poems are bound in Quiver: A Sexploration. She holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska. She cobbles together gigs to pay off loans and eke by, refusing to give up this writing life. She lives in Omaha with her two sons.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Sarah Priscus : my writing day


Every day is a writing day for me. Or at least, every day tries to be one.
I write on the bus and frequently -- usually -- spell everything wrong. I’m too stubborn to turn on my phone’s autocorrect (because “I don’t need it!”), but the bus is too bumpy and my fingers are too fumbling for me to form anything resembling coherency.
          It doesn’t really matter. Those small somethings lying behind a crack in my phone’s screen (once again, something I am too stubborn to fix) never see the light of day in their original form. Right now it’s summer, so every idea seems to be about foreign words for milk and pink flowers and baby sheep and the “static channel” on my childhood television and middle-of-the-night nosebleeds and the way water balloons sting when they burst on your bare skin.
          I am fascinated with the mundane and the ugly and the small pieces of shattered glass that still twinkle in the sand at the playground behind my school. Someone once pointed out that half my pieces involve someone vomiting, which is either reflective of my fear of public puking or of my idea that everything feels realer if it’s also a little disgusting.
Once I’m home and wearing my comfy pants, I decipher the notes titled “GOOD IDEA” and “MEH” and edit them as I copy them into my laptop. I edit them more, until they sparkle like they’re supposed to, but there’s something that remains special about those first scrambled-text, jotted-down ideas. I never delete them, but I never look at them again.
          Sometimes the process is different. Don’t tell my professors, but I can spend hours mulling over rhymes and drafting dialogue when I should be taking notes on Oscar Wilde or Nathaniel Hawthorne. It’s not a habit I’d recommend, but I urge myself to write down everything that pops into my brain out of fear it’ll disappear forever. I tell myself that if I write it down, it can’t float away. It’ll be permanent, in some semi-tangible way, and won’t slither away from existence like dripping condensation.
          I’m reminded of my obsession with permanence every time (which is often) I make some sort of self-obsessed literary breakthrough in the shower or as I’m halfway asleep. At those times, I jolt and start to scribble onto a scrap of paper. If there’s no paper to devour, and no phone to misspell words on, I repeat ideas to myself until they find familiarity in my mind.
          I hate to forget, and every time I do, I spend about an hour mourning what was certainly The Best Idea of All Time.
          Most of the time, I sit in front of my laptop and alternate between writing metaphors about ghosts and green fields and watching whatever recommended Youtube interests me first. I write about a thousand words a day, and I’m not sure how, because it feels like most of my writing time is spent curating Pinterest boards that evoke the “aesthetic mood” of whatever piece I’m currently swallowed by.
          In eleventh grade, I took a grade twelve Creative Writing course. I devoured down every prompt and produced work that presented itself with such sincerity that I’d laugh at it. I snapped at a boy who called Sylvia Plath “crazy”. I gave a forty-minute presentation on the similarities between Ulysses and Trainspotting. I was oh-so-wise and oh-so-literate and thrilling in the idea that my teacher would read the things I had written.
          I took it too seriously.
I take it all too seriously, and I care about it all too much -- every writing prompt and flickering idea and quiet moment in between conversations -- and that’s fine with me. I like myself this way. I like writing this way.



Sarah Priscus writes in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where she attends the University of Ottawa for English and Theatre. Her short fiction and poetry have been published in a number of journals, most recently Slippage Lit, Scribble Lit, and Barren Magazine. Her hobbies including working on a novel and talking about "working on a novel".

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Ellen Chang-Richardson : Word



It begins shortly past 12:15am with a small can of craft beer.
Godspeed Brewery wins Brewery of The Year: according to My Palate.

I sit at kitchen island counters, black and purple scribbles taking over iPhone-sized notebook pages as I pluck out soul-scratching lines. From memories, politics, art history, philosophy.

Then it’s time to go to sleep.

11:00am and my eyes blink open to The Beatles. Hair thrown up in a low messy ponytail, I shuttle my ass across the street to the Grapefruit Moon. They greet me like an old friend; mug of coffee and milk straight out of its carton - slapped on the hightop like sweet, cash tips - as I unwrap my writer’s pack:  computer.  notebook.     charger. pen.  phone.

The next six hours are spent right here. Shooting the shit with the bartender, owner, cook and, counter-top neighbour. Breaks between writing/editing/submission shifts. 
        
Tenor laughs mix with alto and soprano tones. Mainstream radio, idle chatter, all turned down low. Cups of coffee shift into tofu+veg+cheese scrambles, chick-pea burgers and pints of craft cider. For some reason, I’m a vegetarian when I write.

11:55pm. I kick off my three-point-nine inch heels and log on to my computer to scan my inbox with hope on my lips. I export my words all over the world, you see. Some day, I know some thing will stick.

For now, it’s double negatives and crickets. I distract myself with admin and other business. After all, a pocketbook reminder - this beats spending your life chasing someone else’s dream.

Midnight ticks.

         I hit repeat.




Ellen Chang-Richardson is an emerging Canadian poet of Taiwanese/Cambodian-Chinese descent and the founder of Little Birds, a workshop series based in Toronto & Ottawa (http://littlebirdspoetry.ca). Since writing this piece, her work has appeared in Ricepaper Magazine. Ellen holds an Hon.BFA in Fine Art History & Visual Studies from the University of Toronto and certificates from the Gemological Institute of America, and the Node Center for Curatorial Studies, Berlin. When she is not writing or chasing adventure, Ellen is the Assistant Curator at Barbara Edwards Contemporary.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Tanya Holtland: My Writing Day


This is a picture of Boulder Shelter in the Olympic Mountains of Washington state. I am the one taking the picture, standing somewhere around 5,500 ft. on a northwest facing ridge with sore legs and a runny nose, carrying a thirty-pound backpack. I spent a month preparing for this first solo-backpacking trip that spanned about twenty-five miles in four days. It took all of me to arrive here, to turn around and see a point known on the landscape, a place where I had been. My writing projects feel a lot like this sometimes.

My writing day takes different forms depending on what I am working on. There are times when I am inside of a project and I am eager to wake early to meet it. Once, on a brief vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii, my partner and I stayed in a remote rural cabin. I woke at 2:00am and wrote in the dark on the porch while Coqui frogs sang through the night. The light of my laptop being the only light around drew all kinds of insects to it. I worked through sunrise and had that not been the last day of our visit, could have repeated that for weeks to come. I tend to be a writer of pattern, too.

My daily pattern is to write or at least try to meet with the work every morning before my day job begins. This usually means that I am awake by 5:00am, earlier if there is a project gathering itself around me. Like many endeavors, we lean in when we start to see the fruit. I do this a lot with writing. It and I will be going slow, painfully slow, churning earth, even if completely disconnected, out of ritual. Then something in the fertile void flashes back at me for a moment. Things burst out of nowhere and for a month or two I am turning up words everywhere, grateful, elated for this event, this confirmation that I am alive in the world and maybe I really am a writer after all. The cyclicality of projects has taught me to not be so weary in the slow seasons, has taught me how better to garden so many other things.

I live with the poet Hailey Higdon. I more than live with her. We break bread and read poems and do the laundry and love each other too. This unexpected gift casts dimension on what it means to live as a writer. To say that we influence each other as writers is understated only by what we influence in the larger field of each other’s lives. When one of us says, “I am going to write,” the subtext is, I will be in the office or at a café for the next 2-4 hours and not available to you, we understand this as normal, in fact, a sign that as artists we are making good on the day. This is a kind of writing day. It comes also, with the magic of seeing and being seen, of sharing patterns of coming together and apart, growing everything in between. 



Tanya Holtland is author of the chapbooks Requisite (forthcoming from Platypus Press, 2019) and Inner River (Drop Leaf Press, 2016). Her poetry and nonfiction appear in The Offing, The Rupture, Mary: A Journal of New Writing, and her photography can be seen over at The Wire's Dream. A Los Angeles native, she currently lives, works, and writes in Seattle.