Sunday, December 6, 2020

melanie brannagan frederiksen : my (small press) writing day

What you see is a picture of my desk with about half its usual amount of clutter and chaos. I'm not sure when it happened, but at some point after i finished grad school, i became a person who writes in the mornings. No one is more surprised by this development than i am.

If it's sunny, my study is brightly lit, and the cat meows her way in to sleep in my chair.

Since the pandemic forced the university to limit the amount of on-campus work, my husband is working from home, so my days are not only punctuated by the cat's meow, but by the sound of video meetings (You're on mute. No! Unmute yourself.) and snatched moments of guitar practice.

My actual day starts either when i first wake up (today, at 4:03) or when Andrew brings me a cup of green tea, just after 6:30. We let the cat out and let the cat in, read the news, putter around, pet the cat.

My writing day starts, as it usually does, when i sit down at my desk with a cup of coffee at 8:40. Unusually for this year, which has mostly been spent in the weeds of escalating anxiety, it also starts with a sense of focus and purpose.

I'm editing a long poem that i hope to have ready for submission in the next couple of weeks. This morning, editing has looked like shifting the order of various sections around and then returning half of them to their original position, as well as agonizing over the word fear, which is too banal for the just grew an iceberg the size of Antarctica in my stomach/ doom thundering at my temples/ sand in my mouth feeling that floods me within seconds of tuning into our provincial health officer's daily press conference.

At 10:45, the cat interrupts me and leads me to her next chosen napping spot, where she demands that i scratch her in precisely that way. I spend 10 minutes petting her in the living room before i go back to editing.

After a surprising scramble to download and install the latest version of Zoom, i sit with my second cup of coffee to watch Adam Pottle give a short craft talk about writing violence. I still haven't found the words for my question when the talk and discussion is over, which feels like a missed opportunity.

During my walk, i listen to Robot Rights for a long-term academic collaboration. Whenever i listen either to an audio book or an album while i walk, i tell myself that this is not how poets are supposed to do it. We are not supposed to crave distraction, and yet...

After my walk, around 2:30, i answer email and do whatever administrative tasks are on my calendar. Maybe i'll spend some time on Twitter or reading the news before i curl up with a book. Today, i'm re-reading the opening few pages of Sue Goyette's Anthesis for a multi-genre speculative memoir that's in its early stages, even though i've been working on it for years.

My work day ends like this, taking notes in the margins of other people's words for an hour or two before i make dinner.

My evenings are decidedly not writerly, unless i have a deadline. I'm knitting a (long-overdue) baby blanket, so i work on that while we watch a couple of old episodes of The Great British Baking Show.




melanie brannagan frederiksen is a writer, copyeditor, and critic living in Winnipeg. Her writing has appeared in The Waggle, Prairie Fire, The Winnipeg Free Press, Prairie Books Now, CV2, and GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos for our Times. She can be found @shereadswinnipeg on Instagram or @shereadswpg on Twitter.


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