Friday, July 31, 2020

Jeff Parent : Writing Process

  I don’t know if I have a daily writing process, now that I think on it. Well, no, I sort of do, but there’s not a whole lot of consistency, no schedule. At the best of time, I’m a bit all over the map and especially these days as we tangle with the plague. My partner and I made the decision to take our son – he’s five - out of daycare for the rest of the summer. My wife works from home but if she wants to get anything done, it falls to me keep The Lad fed, watered, and entertained. We’re lucky that way; I just wrapped up a two-year MA and with no immediate prospects it made sense I’d be on point until The Lad begins Kindergarten and I will spare any wild descriptions of my anxiety about that.

  But I digress. This is about my writing day. I write poems by the way. That’s probably something I should mention. If you’d told me, what? Ten, twelve years ago when I was middle-manager at mid-tier transportation outfit, and absolutely miserable at it, that I’d be a stay-home dad and some kind of poet with a Masters degree, I’d have laughed you out of the room and slammed the door but isn’t life just a funny old business. So, yes, I write poems. As to why, that’s a whole other mess of complicated words and that’s not what this is. This is about my writing process so as a long-lost friend of mine used to say, “Just @*$! get on with it.”

  Most days, pre-Covid (and doesn’t Covid sound like the name of that weird kid you remember from third grade who used to turn his eyelids inside out?), I would usually plunk myself down at my local library and start scribbling. Nothing specific, usually, just a lot of nonsense writing and every so often stopping to flip through a book or go down some Wikipedia wormhole. After a few hours of this, I’d pack up and go home satisfied but usually frustrated because writers. That was, and still is, the gist of my process save for the part where I would do this almost everyday. Right now, forty-five years old and creaky from trying to keep up the The Lad during a pandemic, I’m tired. A lot tired. Fed up, too; these are trying times where even a quick run to WalMart amplifies my anxiety to air-raid siren levels. Writing, any writing, happens every few weeks for me but certainly not daily, not now.

  And that’s okay. I can’t beat myself up. This is a wild, exhausting thing we’re going through. What gives me some solace in the down moments is a belief that even with my creative output on standby, the mad swirl of my subconscious is still taking it all in, filing things away in preparation for the days I have the time and energy to write. I also have notebooks full of random, seemingly incoherent ideas and turns-of-phrase dashed out in brief, quiet moments, most of it forgotten before the ink dries. It’ll keep, mostly- the tragedy of my penmanship means the occasional casualty- those tangled scrap-yards of material available for parts.

  Nowadays, and for the foreseeable future, I do all my writing at home. I am very lucky to have a room of my own full of books, a cluttered inventory of Hot Wheels cars, knick-knacks, mementos, and a disconnected rotary phone I bought on eBay with hope it might be haunted. My desk is a beat up but surprisingly durable Ikea thing named Matteus that;s usually topped with notebooks, papers, and beat up pencil box I’ve been using since 1988. My laptop is there too.

  I don’t begin writing poems on a screen, they always come about on paper. A weird thing I do when I’m putting down the foundations of is set up two, sometimes three, notebooks in front of me. When a reasonable first draft comes together in one notebook, I copy it over to the second notebook reworking it in the process. I go back and forth between between them until I feel the poem is working and only then do I type it out. It’s utterly inefficient but it works for me.

  That’s about it. As you can probably tell, I am hopelessly disorganized but on any given writing day, that’s generally how it all shapes up. I rarely have steadfast routine mapped out and if I’m being perfectly honest, that was true even before the pandemic. Perhaps come Autumn, between looking for work and freaking out over Covid maybe showing up at the door, eyelids inside out, I’ll get myself sorted, commit to a schedule, shed my erratic tendencies. Probably. Or not. Look, no guarantees is all I can say. The poems will happen regardless.

Jeff Parent is a proud dad, partner, and emerging poet with an MA in Creative Writing from Concordia University. He was runner-up in The Fiddlehead Magazine’s Tell It Slant poetry contest in 2016, and a finalist in the Words(on)Pages Blodwyn Memorial Prize in 2017. Most recently, Jeff was shortlisted for both the Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s Wild Poem Prize and Pulp Literature’s Magpie Award for Poetry. His poems have been published by Montréal Writes, The League of Canadian Poets, and The/tƐmz/Review amongst others. His first chapbook, This Bygone Route, will be published in Fall 2020 by 845 Press. Originally from Montréal, Jeff currently resides in Québec's Eastern Townships.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Cheryl Pappas: My (Small Press) Writing Day

I’m a morning writer. Usually, I wake at 4:30, while it’s still dark, and slip downstairs, hoping my kids and husband don’t wake from the creaking. I pour a tall glass of water and turn on my computer at the kitchen table. Freshen up while the water boils. I give myself until the coffee is brewed in my French press to check email, Submittable/Duotrope, the news, and Twitter. If I had a question in my mind overnight, like, how do you fix a clog in the bathroom sink?, I check that. I may or may not fix the clog right away, but at least I’m armed with the knowledge.
          The silence is vital. I have two boys under 10, and they sometimes need things. Distracting from writing things. Like a bowl on a too-high shelf. Or a wake-up cuddle on my lap. Or to scream “Dude, cover me!” in Fortnite. So I need the dark and the quiet to focus.
          I rarely sit to write something new. It’s always a matter of harvesting what I’ve seeded in notes left in various places; lately, they’ve been from the phone. This pandemic spring, I took morning walks in the woods near my house almost every day, and a lot of words sprouted from that wonderful rhythmic footfall and the fresh air. Lines, a word, an image would come to me while dewy leaves brushed my arm or the birds skittered from tree to tree as I came close. I tried to notice everything and not make meaning of it all. I wasn’t doing anything new—Dillard and Thoreau and Oliver were with me; I tried to welcome their presence rather than be intimidated. Even so, being surrounded by spring green in the forest was enough to fill my writing basket to overflowing.
          I start with a simple copy and paste from email and try to reconnect with where and who I was when I wrote the words. I see if there’s a pattern and try to locate the obsession. I do well with obsession in my mind, but I want to curtail it on the page so the reader feels more of it on her own. Right now, I’m piecing together an essay about my walks; about solitude and what nature is and isn’t. About how odd it is to think of ourselves as not-animal, not-nature, when, of course, we are the same as a bird skittering from tree to tree. And what the word “retreat” means when you seek out the woods. And what it means now to think these things, when it feels we’re on a precipice, a climate and health apocalypse. And yet, there’s all this silence. I remember that apocalypse simply means “revelation.”
          So while I’m sitting at the kitchen table, I’m not really here. I’m in the woods again. I see green and smell fresh dirt kicked up by a startled deer. I sift through words and try to draw what I can out of them.
          By 6, the boys trundle downstairs, and if it’s been a good writing morning, their sleepy smiles return me to the kitchen, full-bodied, ready to embrace them and ask if they had any dreams.    
          After breakfast, I go for a walk. My writing day is done. The rest of my day is filled with everything else: editing materials for a museum, making and eating food, telling the kids to do or not do things, checking Twitter a lot, doing laundry, watching Garfield with the kids and my husband, etc. I’m in bed by 9 or so, reading a book, excited to start fresh in the morning.

Cheryl Pappas is an American writer living just outside Boston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Chattahoochee Review, EcoTheo Review, Jellyfish Review, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, and more. Her website is and you can find her on Twitter at @fabulistpappas.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

john compton : writing process

the sun peeks through the curtains. with this i know it's time to feed the dogs, all eight of them, and cats, four of those – and prepare myself for bed. we sleep with four of our dogs, my husband and i, so getting the covers ready and everyone in their spots is always delightful. i'm a night owl. the night is peaceful. i enjoy the peace night brings me.

i wake a few times to check on the puppies. the fear of them being squished always looms in my head but they are never in harm's way.

between 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. i wake. i grab my phone and vape and lie there with my glasses still on the table. my husband still asleep and the dogs raise their heads like bobbers on a lake, up then down. i check my messages and social media. i reply to comments and scroll through my feed.

i linger a bit with the vape in my hand before i take my first inhale. i always contemplate what more to post on facebook, but then i tell myself that my poetry and pictures are good enough. that is me: poetry and husband and furbabies. 

the room is dark except the nightlight and phone. the air buzzes and the coolness is heavenly because my phone tells me it's already 86 degrees outside. i wait for responses from magazines daily, anticipating acceptances though i know i'll most in likely get a rejection. my biggest goal is the Copper Canyon Press email. such thrill and fear.

time continues. my head is always spinning with words. the threads are images and the needle is verse. i always say my head is an auditorium filled with the dead poets of the past. poems are being written even when i'm not conscious of them. 

when i began to write, i start in the draft area in my email on my phone. once i feel they are finished, i transfer them inside my manuscript, in a word file.

the latest poem i've written is based on an image with two lovers having cloth bags over their heads. after careful contemplation i decided that they were in a plague where touching someone kills both people. intimacy in any form is death, an execution. i am finished with the writing of the poem and now i reach into it and begin the editing process. i edit as i write but some things need percolating. an example: above i wrote "intimacy" which made me realize my word "love" in the poem was wrong and needed to be intimacy instead. why? because you can love someone from a distance but you can't be intimate in that way. and i don't mean just sex. holding your friends hand as they grieve is intimate.

as i lie in bed i hear my dog whine. this is not new. he sits at our bedroom door when he wakes and whines. he is spoiled; all our animals are spoiled but he knows this all too well. 

i write sporadically. there is never a moment when i just sit to write. i write whenever i feel the need. i write while cleaning or cooking. i once wrote while i was taking a shower. i got out, dried my hands and sat on the toilet. the shower water hitting the bottom on the tub gave me a rhythm. 

i write to be alive, to learn and to grow. i love imagery, metaphor, simile, abstract language. i love sounds. i love when one word can drift you into another direction. i love playing with words, creating texture and emotions.

during the day i read poems. single poems from poets or poems from my array of poetry books. those keep me fed when i don't write. 

john compton is a 33 year old gay poet who lives in kentucky. his poetry resides in his chest like many hearts & they bloom like vigorously infectious wild flowers. he has published 1 books and 4 chapbooks: trainride elsewhere (august 2016) from Pressed Wafer; that moan like a saxophone (december 2016); ampersand (march 2019) from Plan B Press; a child growing wild inside the mothering womb (june 2020) from ghost city press; burning his matchstick fingers his hair went up like a wick (summer) from dark heart press