life, poetry, publishing, teaching, Uncategorized, writers, writing

Calling All Writers: HELP

 

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Buy a book, save a life: Between now and Christmas, 100 percent of every sale of each of my books will go toward getting one of my poet-students and her mother out of the homeless shelter. You get good poems, and a family that desperately deserves a Merry Christmas is given a hand up. There are no losers here — If you don’t want to buy one of the books below, you may donate directly to the Save my Student from Homelessness fund:

https://www.gofundme.com/save-my-student-from-homelessness

If you would like to go the literary route and receive some poetry in exchange for your generosity, please consider purchasing any one of the books below (click the title):

Hard Inheritance

Middle Class American Proverb

The Boys of Men

Your purchase or donation is deeply appreciated. I can’t say enough good things about this student, and she and her mother are grateful for any help you can offer. Please join this effort to save a budding writer from the horrible conditions at the homeless shelter. THANK YOU!

life, Uncategorized

A Plea for a Deserving Student

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Dear Follower:

One of my brightest and best students is homeless. I am working as hard as I can to get her out of the homeless shelter by Christmas. She and her family are earnestly good people who have simply faced a series of unfortunate coincidences that left them without a roof over their head.

At this time of year when finances are tighter than usual, I hesitate to ask anyone for money. But this wonderful young lady is very deserving of a good home, a hot meal, and the comforts of this holy season. Please give to the GoFundMe that I have set up for this family:  https://www.gofundme.com/save-my-student-from-homelessness

I thank you in advance, and certainly, this family is deeply grateful for any generosity you can show them. These people are responsible, ethical, hard-working, and resourceful individuals who have unfortunately faced an unusually hard time in their life. Please assist — I thank you for anything you can spare.

In return for your donation, I’d like to send you a signed copy of any of my three books you’d like: Hard Inheritance, Middle Class American Proverb, The Boys of Men, or Growing Moon, Growing Soil: Poems of my Native Land. This is the least I can do in return for your much-needed assistance. Thank you again for your generosity.

poetry, Uncategorized

More VS. Different: A human quandary

Adding isn't always the answer.
Adding isn’t always the answer.

Recently, I’ve been consumed by one mistake that I’ve made throughout my writing and teaching life. In some ways, this error is stereotypically American: When I feel the need for change, instead of choosing something different, I just pile something else on. It’s a childish mindset really — I’m unhappy with the one thing, but if I had two things, I’d be happier. Fallacy, fallacy.

When I was a young man just starting out, I didn’t make much money. Oh sure, I’d been to college and done my part to begin a journalism career, but a fresh degree and limited experience meant a meager income. My solution was always working harder, not smarter. I’d take on extra jobs until my every waking moment was consumed with responsibility of one form or another. And when you’re just setting foot into “the real world,” being industrious is admirable. But I found out pretty quickly that burnout is very real, and being obligated non-stop is a great way to compromise your health.

The lesson didn’t stick, though. When I changed careers about four years after getting my bachelor’s degree, I began to repeat the same mistakes in education: “Oh, teachers don’t make much? That’s okay. I’ll just take on more duties. I’ll tutor after school and pick up some freelance gigs on the side.” By this time I was married, and the incessant lesson planning, grading, and researching were all taking their toll on the homefront.

I added titles to my own job description, becoming a technology guru, a committee and department leader, a curriculum developer, and a professional development coordinator. My writing, of course, was taking the back burner to my overwhelming career roles, all because I assumed that if I had more to do, I’d somehow be happier. And granted, the experiences I earned while tackling these titles proved valuable. I know about a wealth of fields that make me an asset in the workplace. But meanwhile, I still wasn’t content.

The truth was, I needed something different, not something more. One more graduate degree wasn’t the answer, despite my 4.0 GPA. One more assignment wasn’t the panacea to discontent.When you’re tired of digging ditches, buying more shovels isn’t the solution.  I needed to work smarter, not harder, and I needed balance.

By shouldering more and more responsibility outside my home, I’d minimized the time I had for my family life. I had become that workaholic husband and father who can’t show up to his kids’ birthday parties, and writing? What was writing? Certainly there was no time for such frivolity. Our bank account was steadily reaping the benefits of my overexertion, but the price beneath my roof was far too great. It was time to restore some sanity and clarity to every part of my life.

I began cutting back on extra teaching opportunities, and started riding my bicycle again, for starters. I took a more active part in church life. My wife and I were dating again. I flew kites and threw Frisbees with my sons on the weekends. This was different, and it was good. Our financial situation was okay, but we still weren’t rich. And for one time in my life, I didn’t care. Money, I found, was reciprocal: we received what we gave, and often, we reaped more than we sowed, to use some biblical terminology. My new quest for balance and “smarter work” was paying off. My new and more flexible schedule now included a daily writing routine during the early morning hours, and soon, I had a thick volume of work. The MFA became not “one more degree,” but a natural outcropping from my own talents and interests, which my re-balanced life had shown me.

So now, as spring break draws nearer and the end of another school year will follow not long after, I feel another mile marker approaching. Change is coming in my professional life, and this time, my hope is that I’ll remember the lessons of my personal history. Work smarter, achieve balance, and don’t mistake more for different.

 

poetry, Uncategorized

The Poet’s Black Friday Wish List

 Poets have slightly different holiday tastes than do Average Joe and Plain Jane. On my list this year, I have all sorts of things that the “normal” folks probably would not think to ask for, but then, eccentricity becomes an expectation once you’ve told people that you’re a writer. For better or worse, here’s a list of a few things I’d like to get, and probably, some of your writer friends would like also:

1. The Best American Poetry 2012: This year’s collection, compiled and edited with the help of Mark Doty, has quite a few poets I admire personally, including my own writing mentor, Erica Dawson. Reading good work often leads to writing good work.

2. The 6.5 Habits of Moderately Successful Poets. This is another book in the category of “things I’ve been meaning to read, but haven’t.”  After reading the reviews, I’m pretty convinced I should at least familiarize myself with it.

3. Cool new bookends. I have this affinity for bookends — there’s a certain stability and finality that they convey, I suppose. Antique stores and online vendors alike offer great opportunities to pick up a piece of history while keeping one’s texts ship-shape. There’s also this air of refinement that bookends offer, and I suppose that’s another draw for me. I like classy touches, and bookends fall into that category often.

4. Fine writing instruments. My all-time favorite vendor for Waterman pens has to be Levenger. I don’t usually plug businesses here, but over the years, Levenger has provided me with reliable, aesthetically pleasing fountain pens and a plethora of cool “writer toys” that remain meaningful even today. The pen I typically use to start drafts (a Waterman Phileas) came from there probably about ten years ago, and the briefcase I use for all things writing-related is also a Levenger product. If you haven’t paid them a visit yet, I highly recommend it. The writer in your life will thank you.

5. Gift card #1: Staples. If you’ve been a regular reader of mine, you probably know by now about my unhealthy obsession with office supplies. My favorite store is definitely our local Staples. From paper clips to printer cartidges, Staples allows me to feed my fetish for writerly goods.

6. Gift card #2: B&N. Sorry, other booksellers. I’m a fan of Barnes and Noble’s brick-and-mortar establishments. Somehow, they’ve managed to preserve that certain air of old-school bookstores while staying current with technology and trends. And before my writer friends get upset with me for not patronizing my local small, independent bookstore, allow me to say that here in my location, we unfortunately don’t have such an animal. To use an old football idiom, here in my town you have to “go big or go home.” It’s BAMM or B&N, and the people under the green awning have better customer service skills and actual knowledge of their wares.

7. Gift card #3:   Apple. I love my iPad. I like my apps, my games, my music, and my movies. I try not to write using my iPad, simply because it’s so recreational — there are too many distractions there. But for everything else in my life, the iPad is a wonderful tool. I use it in the classroom, at home, on vacations, and in workshops, seminars, and classes. For everything that’s NOT writing-related in my life, my iPad is the perfect companion. (No, I was not compensated for saying this — it’s just true).

8. Vinyl records: I love the sound of music on vinyl. There’s such a history and an art that goes with listening to an honest-to-goodness record. Mostly, I use my record player for classical music. I have all my other media players for more contemporary stuff — PC, iPad, etc. do a perfectly good job with modern music, but for Handel’s Messiah and Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops, I gotta have my vinyls. Call me antiquated if you will.

9. Coffee. Not the stuff in a blue can from the grocery store, the good stuff. Yes, I grind my own beans. And yes, I do have three separate coffeemakers in my house: French press, percolater (percolator?), and finally, Keurig single-serve. I typically use the big French press for company, the percolator for Sunday mornings when everyone is having coffee, and the Keurig for everyday, nothing-special single cups. That hackneyed expression about “a little blood in my caffeine stream” holds true here. Coffee is my gasoline.

10. Gift subscriptions to my favorite magazines. By keeping in touch with what’s happening on the literary front, I’m better equipped when sending out submissions and manuscripts. The great thing about getting subscriptions for Christmas is that the gift is enduring — every time a new issue arrives, I’m reminded of the person who kindly thought of me and my ambitions.

So, there you have it — one Florida poet’s guide to giving for the coming holiday season. If you’re out fighting the insane crowds today, good luck. And here’s hoping that you get everything on your wish list, as well.