My life does not uphold a typical writing day. Days escape, there are work appointments, phone calls, household tasks, cooking and assorted herbal tasks (I’m a herbalist), and condo Board responsibilities; so my best time to write is at night, I’m a night owl. I free write in my journal sitting in a cushy rocker with a table of books next to me, my notebook, a good pen, and a pencil. I write. I read. I get inspired. I pause and stare out a big picture window at the darkness. I’m on the second floor in a condo that my partner and I bought in 1999. This safe space provides me with a sense of security. A base.
My computer is a MacBook Pro laptop. When I move writing from my journal into my computer, I craft and edit. My desk moves from sitting to standing; when I remodeled my office I wanted flexibility and movement range.
I live with a chronic illness; which means my life revolves around staying healthy. I’m not a coffee drinker, so if I need a lift my choice is chocolate (theobromine) or matcha to fuel my writing, but it's best for me to drink non-caffeinated teas.
When mulling over a piece, if I wake up with fresh ideas flowing I go to my journal. I’m in a monthly prose writing group that has been meeting since 2003. Their feedback motivates me to move into my work in new ways; their questions inspire me to understand deeper and expand, to explore how my writing impacts, and how I can bring across what I am trying to express.
Whether I’m working on a poem or prose, I read my work out loud. Words on a page are meant to be heard, it assists my editing to hear the song of each piece. I’ve made a few recordings, and found using a headset clarifies word flow: colloquialisms come clear, it's easier to catch mistakes or find ways to revise a poem when my voice channels my words into my ears.
Since AWP (March 2019) I'm writing a hybrid memoir titled ‘Medication Journal.’ It tracks thirty years living with HIV and my survival. This new writing is in the tradition of Audre Lorde's Cancer Journals, I studied with Audre when I did my undergraduate in Creative Writing in the 80s. My third poetry book, truth be bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS, published in 2016, was frightening because I came out as a long-term survivor (LTS). There is still a lot of stigma around HIV.
In the 90s I wrote thirty-five articles for a health column. In 2002, I studied with Tom Spanbauer and his Dangerous Writers. From his work I've written much prose about my teen years. My concept of this work has evolved, first I called it creative nonfiction, now it feels more like memoir. Tom writes “Roman-à-clef, a term that applies to a novel in which actual people or events appear with invented names.” There are many scenes in my writing, and the amount of pages and words in prose writing overwhelms me because I’m a poet, used to text on one to two pages.
A pending project is to form my next poetry manuscript, to find an arc and organize the poems I’ve written over the past several years. This needs devoted time. The past three years have been nonstop busy, dedicated to promoting truth be told; it was nominated for a Lambda, won the Bisexual Book Award, and four Human Relations Indie Book Awards. I've traveled to do feature readings, did a two-night Long Term Survivor show at Gay City, presented at a psychology conference, and led writing workshops titled “Giving Our Health Word Power.” In New York City a professor who heard me read asked if he could teach my book in his class at LIU-Brooklyn, Art Inspired by the AIDS Epidemic! Yes! What a great honor to have my words taught alongside David France’s book How to Survive a Plague. It was exciting to Skype with the class answer their questions and read a couple of poems. This summer I learned a panel I was written into was accepted for AWP2020 in San Antonio. Soon I have to figure out the logistics for that trip.
My website has a blog I call News, where I note and track my readings, workshops, events, and publications. These events add to how I spend my days. A mix of sending out, planning, writing new work or a blog, editing, jumping back and forth between poetry and prose.
Time away from daily life would be ideal for projects like organizing my next poetry book or finishing my memoir, but I find it hard to break away and competition for residencies is stiff. I've been to two, but mostly I make the best of my home space.
This spring, June 2019, a writer friend and I started a montly reading series for poets and prose writers, we also feature a musician. Held at the Café Racer in Seattle, we call it Word Chaser @ Café Racer. This has added to my tasks: organizing, inviting writers and musicians, advertising, and promoting. The cafe is a great location with a stage, a sound system, a podium and a microphone. The hope is these tasks will become easier with time and the arrangement with the cafe will continue.
Thank you for asking me to outline my illusive typical writing day.
Julene Tripp Weaver is a psychotherapist and writer in Seattle. She has three poetry books: truth be bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS, No Father Can Save Her, and a chapbook, Case Walking: An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues. Julene worked for 21 years in AIDS services. She is widely published in journals and anthologies. A few online sites where her work can be found include: Riverbabble, River & South Review, The Seattle Review of Books, HIV Here & Now, Mad Swirl, Writing in a Woman's Voice, and in the Stonewall Legacy Anthology. Find her online at www.julenetrippweaver.com, on Twitter @trippweavepoet, on Instagram @julenet.weaver.