Becoming Poet Laureate

When I wrote the poems I ended up including in my collection Rustle, I never intended to publish them. I actually began writing poetry because I bought this really cute and insanely dainty little notebook at Versailles with Marie Antoinette on the cover. I thought, “This is a book that a lady of leisure would write her little poems in.” So I started messing around with different forms like ballads and villanelles.

Let them eat POETRY…

When the book was full, I picked my favorites and self-published on lulu. Fast forward several years, and I noticed something interesting on the city website for Mt. Vernon, my hometown. Apparently, Mount Vernon, Iowa, is the smallest city in the country to have its own Poet Laureate. And applications for the next PL were open!

I never considered myself much of a poet. I’m definitely more of a fiction writer. But on the application, I saw that as PL I would be able to host my own events and do community outreach. Now that was something I had experience with. As the faculty adviser for Lisbon’s chapter of the National Honor Society, I have found that organizing community events is extremely satisfying. Plus, I mean, I was okay at poetry. I thought, eh, I’ll go for it. Why not?

The next thing I knew I was in a zoom meeting applying for the job, and I got it! Here’s the press release.

So far I’ve had a couple of events, including a community poetry night where folks came to read us their favorite poems and explain why they chose them. I’m already getting way ahead of myself thinking of new experiences for the community. The next one I want to do is a Christmas event called “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” where people come to share “scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long long ago…”

My proudest achievement in this post has been writing and delivering a poem for our town’s Memorial Day celebration. You can read it for free here.

I’m very excited to leak some info — I’m collaborating with local photographer Bob Campagna on a poetry/photo book called “Final Elegance” that’ll be out sometime in spring of 2022.

And think, none of this would have happened without that totes adorbs little notebook!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (has infected everything I write…)

Things have picked up on the writing front. As of this writing, Christmas is at a record-high 90% SAVED rating, which as allowed me to get a few things done here and there!

First, I completed a 3,000 word short story titled “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” I am so entrenched in the Christmas cheer that I can’t stop writing about it. The story focuses on a young mother and her daughter who have been protected (unbeknownst to them) for years by the angel on their Christmas tree. Things go to hell in a handbasket when the angel is lost in the basement and not in her proper place at the top of the tree…

(Side note — I had a friend in college who was convinced he’d coined the phrase “to hell in a handbasket” and I had to gently remind him that was bulls**t).

I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of ghost stories at Christmas time, as was the tradition in Victorian England. This has inspired a series of blog posts on I Know What I Know about paranormal experiences I’ve had over the years.

I also crapped out a couple of Christmas-themed poems, one about how all of our traditions for this Christian holiday were stolen from pagans, and the other about how Christmas magic fades as you grow up, but is reborn once you have children of your own. I’ve almost filled up my poetry notebook, and when I’m done I think I’m going to self-publish it. Just to give them a home. Because I’m not much of a poet, but writing poetry has made me a much more vivid writer. My descriptions often get praise from my readers, and this is because I try to describe things poetically and say it in a new way. I don’t want my little thought-nuggets to float around in my piles of notes and old writings forever when they could have a nice tidy little book to live in.

Lastly, I’ve been thinking a lot about journaling lately. I still keep a journal, but it’s not much more than just a list of things I’ve been doing or thinking for the past few months. I don’t write in it any more often than that. Mostly, I pour my creative journaling energies into a logbook I’m keeping for my daughter of all of her milestones and developments. I don’t write in that one as often as I should…

It’s weird — I used to go back and read my journals fairly often. Maybe because now the pile of notebooks is 24-25 years long, but I don’t have that desire anymore to marinate in a sauce of myself. I’m not sure what would be gained from looking back, and with so little time, I’d rather push my writing career. Yet I can’t see myself ever not keeping a journal…

Anyway. Happy holidays to everyone, be safe, and spread the love.