Monday, September 17, 2018

Yolande House : A Day in the (Small Press) Writing Life

10:30 a.m. Wake to the blaring music of the Thai holiday. I’d stayed up late sharing my recent publication on some Facebook groups and emailing it to friends and family. Re-play last night’s free Deepak Chopra & Oprah Winfrey Meditation Experience session; take some notes while I putter around the apartment.

11:15 a.m. Do my morning meditation using the Calm phone app. It tells me I’ve completed my 1,721st session, an unbroken streak for 499 days now. Today’s tarot card is the Ace of Cups, a wonderful opportunity to create something heartfelt and authentic. Sounds about right. Do the “Sculp & Tone” session of my Track Yoga phone app. Earlier this year, I started doing yoga and meditation twice daily, and it’s made a huge difference in my life since so much of my writing is about trauma. If I skip either of these too often, especially the morning meditation, I notice I get jittery and grumpy.

12 p.m. Make tea (David’s Tea from Canada, “le digestif”) and a smoothie. Putter.

12:30 p.m. Open my computer and close down tabs in Chrome as I eat. Save a link to a podcast on ethical travel writing. Watch late night comedy clips on YouTube. The phrase “tropical geek chic” pops into my mind, and I write it down to use later. That’s often how I dress here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I’ve lived since April: baggy elephant pants paired with a Superman or a Batgirl t-shirt.

1 p.m. Check email. I have a bunch of responses to my story from friends and family. Reply to a few and star the others so I remember to respond later. One is from an old critique partner who has a book coming out (!!) and asks if I’ll provide a review. I say yes, if she’ll reciprocate later. I’ve already read much of her book in draft form and I’m fascinated to see how it’s come together. Email my daily accountability partner and tell her what writing I accomplished yesterday and what I plan to do today. Commiserate about online publications not giving you an ETA for when your story will be posted.

1:45 p.m. Go through my routine with the Fabulous phone app, including visualizing my priorities (health first and then writing) and kicking entities like Anxiety and Brokenness off my “mind bus.” It really does help!

1:55 p.m. Take a cat nap. I haven’t had coffee since February due to gastrointestinal issues, so naps have become an essential part of my day.

2:10 p.m. Now to submit! The Atticus Review sent me a lovely personalized rejection last week and invited me to send more work, so I’ve been polishing a new piece all week. Open up my flash lyric essay and format it according to the journal’s guidelines. Read the essay aloud and record myself with my phone, making a few edits as I go along. Play the video back. Ugh, that’s a really bad angle! Read the text as I listen to the recording, deleting a phrase and some repetitious words I didn’t hear before. Change the ending back to the original.

2:45 p.m. Make a sandwich. Check Facebook for the first time as I eat. (Such discipline! I usually check it right after meditating.) Refill my tea. Look at my publication again and check out other stories on the Entropy site, including an open letter to anyone affected by the literary con artist Anna March. It’s reassuring and empowering, and many people need to hear this right now. Tweet it.

3:25 p.m. Back to the submission. Update my old cover letter with the line, “Thank you so much for your invitation to submit another piece of my writing” and hope that’s enough of a reminder. Remember that I’d posted this piece as an assignment in the University of Iowa’s free online writing course and log on to check for new comments. There are two! Incorporate the useful suggestions, and then submit the essay to the Atticus Review. Update Duotrope (submissions tracker) with the new info. I’m up to 34 pieces out at once now, whoop whoop! Look at the older pieces I haven’t heard back from yet and check to see if any contest longlists have been announced yet. Nope.

4:13 p.m. Oops, forgot about the tea. Put the kettle on again and eat some cherries.

4:20 p.m. On the University of Iowa course website, read the stories posted by my two new commenters and give feedback. Ten points, yeah! Check Facebook and then take another catnap.

5:35 p.m. The daily torrential rains have started. Oh no! Email myself the final copy of my essay as a backup. I realized this was an excellent practice when my external hard drive fell over and died a few months ago. At least I always email myself my creative writing.

5:40 p.m. Check email and find a new one with apartment listings. I’m moving later this month, so I send some inquiries. I also message an apartment broker on Facebook to ask what she has available.

6:15 p.m. Now, to prepare a contest submission. Search my email to find the latest draft of the essay I want to submit. Fix formatting: indent paragraphs, double space, delete spaces between paragraphs. Who did this?? Oh, right.

6:35 p.m. Realize I feel stressed and figure I must be hungry, so I take my tropical geek chic out to dinner. Afterward, I play Pokemon Go as I walk down Thapae Road but am overwhelmed by the crowds. Why are there so many people around? Oh, yeah, Sunday is market day. The area by Thapae Gate transforms into stalls selling handcrafted goods and street food. Stop and watch a poi performance, a Western man twirling ropes with the ends lit on fire. Flames trace the contours of his body as he swings in wide arcs, closer and then further away, closer, then further away. It all seems magical until one of the ropes jerks in mid-air and rockets down; he jumps out of the way, laughing as the crowd gasps. My ears start to whine. I’ve reached my limit of loud music (two minutes), so I snake through the spellbound bodies and walk home.  My phone alerts me that I’ve reached my goal of one hour of physical activity for the day. Yay!

8 p.m. Return to my summer sublet and shower to wash my blackened feet and sweaty body. This is routine by now—Thailand in summer! Relax on the couch and play my phone game. Check and respond to messages, including one from the apartment broker.

9:20 p.m. Return to the essay for the contest. Re-write clunky sections and line edit. Change one of the braided narratives to present tense. Write a note at the top for my critique partner: Can 1000 words be cut to meet the contest word count?

10:50 p.m. More email and Facebook responses to my newly published piece. North America is waking up! Some are intense, like one from a high school friend. Oh boy! I don’t want to start crying before bed. Too late.

11 p.m. Respond to more messages from apartment broker and then tell her I’m heading to bed. Sign out of Facebook. Do my evening routine with the Fabulous app, including a gratitude practice. What am I grateful for today? I’m thankful for the outpouring of responses to my first essay published online. I feel seen and understood, a big goal in my writing. I’m grateful to connect with old writing buddies and vow to better keep up with them. It’s harder when people aren’t on social media! It’s also nice to make progress with apartment hunting, practical stuff I often avoid.

11:25 p.m. A sudden flash of memory, and I grab a pen and scribble in my notebook. My high school friend has de-fogged a window into my past, a precious gift for any memoir writer.

11:40 p.m. Get ready for bed. Bedtime yoga followed by today’s Oprah & Deepak meditation. I love when these are offered! The chant is great for focus, and I appreciate the discussion at the beginning, too. I always play them back later and take notes on the nuggets of gold. There’s a journal you can fill out, too, but I rarely do that anymore.

12:30 a.m. To sleep, perchance to write for another day.  

Yolande House, originally from Fredericton, N.B., Canada, taught English in South Korea for six years and now resides in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Her creative writing has been featured in art exhibits and literary magazines such as PRISM international, Entropy, and Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, and is forthcoming in Hippocampus magazine. Currently, she’s working on a childhood memoir.