All the Things I’m Not

This post has sat in my drafts for over a year while I’ve thought about whether or not to post it. It’s been rewritten and tweaked multiple times, but I think it is time.

Let’s have a discussion. (Long post ahead.)

I am not a teacher. I don’t work for education. I don’t edit a literary journal. I have no writing degree, graduate or otherwise. And yet I am a poet.

I write this because it seems like nearly all of the poet blogs, poet bios, and poet anything I see about poets mentions at least one of those things. Teaching, editing, and fancy degrees. And these are all noble things. I am thankful to teachers and editors. We need them. Degrees of higher learning can be very beneficial. But they do not define the making of a poet.

Poetry is a notoriously low (or nearly no) paying job. There is no harm or shame in keeping a day job when you are a writer of any kind. Only the lucky few get to have “making up words” as their only job. Having a day job that has nothing to do with the written word does not discredit the writer. Having a degree in something other than language or writing, or even no degree at all, does not discredit the writer. And yet, it is easy to feel like it does. Continue reading

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2017 in Review

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! 

Before charging into the next year (which better be awesome for the world in general or I might cry), I want to take a quick look back…

Books Read: 78 (goal was 87)
— for reference: I read 40 books in 2016

I read some really awesome books this year. I read poetry, picture books, fiction, and memoir mostly. I’ve especially been enjoying reading fiction novels and non-fiction comics about or set in Japan, both written by Japanese authors and authors who have visited the country. I’ve been working my way through reading fairy and folk tales from various countries as well.

I would LOVE to hear some recommendations from my readers for picture books or poetry books especially!! (My stack of to-read fiction is massive and takes longer to get through.) I am mostly restricted by what I can get through my local library for now, but please, recommend away!

Some of my favorites I read this year: Continue reading

KidLit Love: Little Red Gliding Hood

While not exactly a retelling, this book is an absolutely adorable story about not judging a person by their image or reputation and it’s filled with favorite fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters.

little red gliding hoodI’m going to admit that I picked this book up because I love figure skating. I love it now, and I especially loved it as a kid. You can keep your baseball and basketball and football… give me figure skating!

Tara Lazar wrote a very sweet story about our favorite Red. This time she’s a skating fanatic, but her skates are old and she needs new ones to keep her feet comfy and keep her safe when dancing across the ice. A competition is announced with the prize of new skates, making this the perfect opportunity for her! The problem is she needs a partner and everyone is already taken. Or are they?

little red gliding hood wolfWhile I loved the story (it didn’t feel like the author was talking down to her reader just because it was a children’s book and Red’s repeated exclamation of “Oh, slippery slush!” made me giggle more than once), I have to give a shout-out to Troy Cummings, the illustrator. All of the artwork was lovely, but the wolf! Oh my. Do you see this dapper wolf? Do you see his skating clothes? I’m in love. He reminds me of my favorite Russian skaters in the Olympics of my childhood. I can’t help it!

I recommend this one wholeheartedly. And if you speed through it the first time like I did, give it a second read and pay special note to all of the side characters, no matter how briefly mentioned. It really helps make the book.

*Is there a children’s book about poetry, books, or creativity that you want me to check out? Maybe a favorite fairy tale retelling? Make sure to leave the suggestion in the comments!

Taking a Break

This year has really beat me up. Various difficulties in my health, the health of family and friends, emotional strife with a few people, occasional real job work overload, financial headaches, and more have been rough this year. It happens and that’s called life, but man, my creative streak has suffered for it. I guess that’s also called life.

So I’m taking this month off. From everything. From trying to blog or write or submit my work. I’m going to enjoy holiday crafts, maybe write a few letters, and take it easy. It’s possible I’ll do the same with January, but I’ll reevaluate then.

This year I sent out 44 submissions, 1 application to a fellowship, 1 application to a residency, and a small handful of contest entries.

So far nothing has come back with that magical stamp ‘accept’, but I still have a few things out that I’m waiting to hear on. Worst case scenario I still tried harder this year than I have in years past. And that means next year I’ll try even harder. And more importantly, I’ll keep writing.

I’ve been suffering from some pretty thick writer’s block for the last 3 or 4 months too. But for the first time ever it’s not from distraction or lack of inspiration. It’s actually from overload. I have so much I need to say and get out that when I sit down to the page it all tries to come out at once and just clogs up the flow and gives me a panicky headache instead. Any ideas on how to get past this? I’ve done a little timed freewriting but even that can be hard to get out. Morning pages never seem to work out for me either.

I hope everyone has an amazing holiday season, whatever you celebrate. Enjoy the lights, spread some joy, and be kind to yourself and others. I do have one KidLit post scheduled for later this month, so keep an eye out for that. Otherwise I will see you all in the new year!

Here Comes NaNoWriMo…

… and all the panic that comes with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love NaNo-season, but this year it feels even more out-of-control. I’m still looking forward to giving it a try though!

I’m hoping for 50 hours of butt-in-chair time, just like last year. I fell woefully short of that last year (but was still happy with the progress I made) so hopefully I can do better!

I had a list of all the things I was going to finish before NaNo this year: my Christmas cards were going to be ready for mailing on December 1st, my house was going to be relatively cleaned/picked up, the photobook (a Christmas gift) I’m working on was going to be done and ready for printing, and hubby and I were going to have finished watching Stranger Things 2… at the minimum. (He hooked me on Stranger Things about a week before the second season released.)

I was also hoping to be caught up on letters to all of my pen pals, some of whom have been waiting for months now because, you know, life exploded. And I was hoping to have a few other side projects caught up too.

I finished absolutely none of those things as October turned in to a rough patch with me feeling frequently run down and then right about the time I started to feel better, I began nursing my best friend at the hospital. At least she is out of ICU now! Autoimmune disorders are a bitch, ya’ll. Then again if you have one or know someone who has one… you already know that.

So I’m going into this NaNoWriMo season with the goal I’d already set for myself, plus a long list of other goals to juggle in addition to a full-time day job and my own likes-to-run-down-this-time-of-year health. But is that going to stop me? NEVERRRR!!! So nothing should stop you from trying your best either.

Want to see what the rest of my writing group is up to for this November? 5 of the 6 of us are being rebels! Check us out at this post.

*Photo by user TesaPhotography at Pixabay, creative commons usage

Blackout Poetry: assassinated

I don’t normally post any of my poetry on my blog (this is why), but this summer I started trying my hand at blackout poetry just as a creative exercise. Seeing as how these are exercises I never really intend to try publishing, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorites on here from time to time. At least for now I’m only using books I’ve never read, because I don’t want knowledge of the characters and plot to influence the poems I make. Maybe someday I’ll do a project with a book I’ve read instead.

Blackout poetry is when you take something already written – a page out of a book, a magazine or newspaper article, a sale ad, anything! – and black out all but a few chosen words and phrases to create a poem. You’re limited by the words the previous author had already chosen, and the order in which they were written, but other than that it’s up to you!

Some people get really fancy with stamps, illustrations, and colors, (you can Google some pretty incredible examples) but for now I’m sticking to the simple and straightforward, armed with only a Sharpie and the page.

This page is from Hugh C. Rae’s book “The Traveling Soul”.

Submissions and a Collection: A Poetry Headache

I last mentioned where I was at in writing my first poetry collection about five months ago with this post. I’m still very much in the early stages. Where do the early stages end, anyway? I figure there will just come a point when I look around me and go, “Yeah, I’m in this one deep.” I’m not quite there yet.

(I’m laughing at the me that once said “I’ll make sure to spend at least a year on this so as not to rush it.” Oh you sweet, summer child.)

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this summer, which means not as much writing. After trying to juggle both for several years and failing at getting much read OR written I finally figured out that the best possible thing I can do is work hard on writing for a month or two, then switch to spending all that time on reading for a month or two. It keeps me from getting burned out on the blank page, it helps refill my brain when I’m starting to feel emptied of ideas, and it means that I get to more thoroughly enjoy reading and writing when not doing them together at the same rate. This is, at least, the system that works best for me. (For now.)

The time I have given to writing this summer has been productive… technically. Meaning I know it has been productive. I have the notes and pages that tell me this. But when it comes to finished content? Very, very little.

Nothing wants to wrap up for me. There’s a particular piece I’ve been working at rather hard that I finished back in July. Sort of. It reads in finished style, but the rhyme and meter is all wrong for not only what is in my head but also how the collection has begun to develop. It doesn’t fit. So I put it away for 2 months, let my mind clear some, and have been at it again this last week only to find Continue reading

KidLit Love: A Book is a Book

What is a book, why do we read them, and why are they written? “A Book is a Book” written by Jenny Bornholdt and illustrated by Sarah Wilkins is an almost pocket-sized book addressing these questions. Their answers are simple and at times humorous, but always have a lovely sense of truth to them.

The page I’ve listed below is one of my favorites. It’s a favorite for many reasons. I quite like short books when I don’t have a lot of time to read. I totally understand writing a short book because have you ever tried writing a book? Even the short ones take a lot of time to do it well! And I also like this page because as someone who deals with autoimmune fatigue with varying frequency… sometimes it’s really hard to write. Whether it’s because I can’t stay awake, I can’t fight through the brain fog to make sense of words, or because the muscles in my hands or wrists are not up to handling a keyboard or pen, sometimes writing is hard in ways that have nothing to do with creating stories.

(You can follow me on instagram now if you’d like! instagram.com/lissa.clouser)

It’s hard to describe this book in much detail since it is already so short, so I recommend instead that you find a copy at your local bookstore or at the library and give it a read! If you like books of any kind in any way, this one should be right up your alley.

*Is there a children’s book about poetry, books, or creativity that you want me to check out? Make sure to leave the suggestion in the comments!

Still Around, Still Writing, Still Figuring This Whole Thing Out

This photo has nothing to do with this post other than it makes me happy and I’m trying to stay positive in life and with goals!

Personally, politically, and being-kind-culturally this just isn’t the nicest of years. All of the insanity (both that which I’m involved in and that which the news keeps telling me about) has slowed me down, not just in writing but in keeping up with all the aspects of this crazy thing we call life. I’m learning that keeping the end goal in sight is more important than hard-and-fast deadlines (at least the self-imposed ones) and that self-forgiveness is a pretty important thing.

* No more blog schedules around here. I’ll aim to post at least once a month whenever possible, and that will usually be possible, but if I disappear for a month or two I probably won’t be posting apologies. It’s just me feeling super guilty that I’ve ‘messed up’ another self-imposed goal and those begin to eat me up more than help me when I do that.

I hope I have regular readers of this blog, but I’m the first to say I don’t really know how to market this blog to readers, especially while I don’t feel like I have much to offer yet. But here I am, floundering at the blogging thing all the same! I feel like many of my posts are probably uninteresting and I want to improve on that front. I will always keep trying to do better here so we’ll see how it all works out on the long plan, right? Continue reading

Japan 2016: Brief Visits to Other Towns

We spent most of our time in Osaka and Kyoto, but did get to explore a little bit of the surrounding areas. There’s just so much to see and experience I feel like we barely even got a start on it!

– Otsu: A very short train ride from Kyoto. I would like to return to this little town and explore some of the temples there, especially the ones up the mountain, but we went to Otsu on this trip for a particular reason: I wanted to see Lake Biwa. I had read Dr. Junichi Saga’s book Memories of Silk and Straw and Lake Biwa was a central point mentioned time and time again in the stories he recorded from residents who remembered living and working in rural Japan before modernization occurred. After reading all of these stories I really wanted to see the lake for myself and connect it all in my head, so we planned to take a daytime cruise there.

I loved it. This is the boat we took, the Michigan, and it was an absolutely lovely, relaxing, hour and a half tour across the water. There were some games and sing-alongs on board hosted by a gentleman that I felt like could have been a modern-day, very charismatic pirate (I mean this in a good way), but my Japanese wasn’t strong enough to participate and that’s okay, I mostly just wanted to see the lake anyway. Continue reading