CURRENT EVENTS: New Year’s Resolutions Past and Present

In the grand blogging tradition I’ve observed the past several years, my December post will be solely about my New Year’s Resolutions: how I did (or not) accomplish my 2021 goals, what my plans are for 2022, and reflections on what I’ve learned. Hopefully, you’ll find my experiences helpful as well!

MY 2021 RESOLUTIONS:

Finish compiling my second poetry collection.

SUCCESS. I completed this goal midway through the year, sent it out to a beta reader for feedback, then re-edited the manuscript based on feedback. It’s currently being considered by a publisher. I’ve gotten favorable indications but no definite commitments yet.

Submit my second poetry collection to a publisher.

SUCCESS. I queried several indie presses and also investigated literary agents. As I said, it’s currently being considered for publication, but I haven’t gotten a definite acceptance yet.

Regain my former schedule.

MODERATE SUCCESS: Sadly, this was not possible due to circumstances outside my control, although I did do several in-person readings. Considering the limited venues this year, I count this as a limited success.

Do things that scare me.

SUCCESS. Again, due to circumstances beyond my control, the venues I scheduled were mostly solo–which makes me more nervous than usual before a reading, as the spotlight is solely on me. I also stepped outside my comfort zone to read in costume at an unusual event, Zombiepalooza! I experimented with face paint–another new thing for me!–and went dressed as a zombie unicorn from my short story, Quietus. That and other selections are found within my short story collection An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories!

Honestly, I was extremely nervous for this one, as I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out that the audience was really too young for the zombie stories I had picked for the venue, so I count this one as a learning experience.

MY 2022 RESOLUTIONS:

I actually came up with these resolutions in September, as I was planning ahead for the next few months. I’ve come to several conclusions over the past couple years. For one thing, as I’ve grown older I’ve realized the need to pace myself. I also know that if I make resolutions that are too broad, like become more organized, I’ll keep them in the most lax way possible, so this year I thought I’d try something a little different. Also, I’ve learned in the past year how to adapt my goals to changing circumstances.

The following goals for 2022 contain self-imposed deadlines throughout the year, rather than simply saying I want to accomplish them by year’s end. By breaking them into smaller and more specific target goals, I hope to pace myself in such a way that I’m not overwhelmed by the enormity of any single project. 

With that in mind…

CLEAN OUT MY CRAFT ROOM/WORKSPACE BY JANUARY 31st

After completing my first draft of Hera Unchained in November, I want to give myself a month (or two) to let the manuscript sit before picking it up again. My craft room, once my pride and joy, has been sadly neglected and become a catch-all for things-that-have-no-official-spot in my home. So I aim to make this area a viable workspace once again–SO HELP ME, THOR.

WORK ON MY MANUSCRIPT IN TWO MONTH INTERVALS

By allowing myself two months for each pass, with a month-long break between each one, I hope to allow myself a strict enough personal deadline to keep my writing on track while also allowing myself enough breathing room to let the manuscript rest between revisions.

CLEAN OUT MY GARAGE BY APRIL 1st

During my month-long break from the manuscript, I plan to clean out my garage. By clean out my garage, I mean get rid of anything we don’t need, organize things we do by finding space for them, create a better system for storing our recyclables, sweep, and–last by not least–get rid of all the cobwebs! It’s a monumental task, and I fully expect to either be crushed beneath storage boxes, asphyxiate on dust-bunnies, or be found dangling from a giant spider web. However, if I accomplish my goal and somehow survive the experience, I fully intend to…

ORGANIZE BEDROOM JULY 1st

I like to write in bed, since it allows me to sit so that my back is supported. This way I can sit and work for longer periods without throwing my back out. As a consequence of this, as well as other things I store in this room, it tends to become cluttered. By organize my bedroom, I mean clean my closets, sort through my bedside (and other) storage–including my bookshelves. I’ll also dust. I promise.

SUBMIT HERA UNCHAINED TO PUBLISHER BY DECEMBER 31st

My overarching goal for the year. I will adhere to my schedule for multiple (content and grammar) edits, beta reads, formatting, and eventually submit a highly polished manuscript to my publisher.

YEAR ROUND: 

PROMOTE PINHOLES: TRAVELING THROUGH THE CURTAIN OF THE NIGHT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

I will continue to try to schedule in-person events, but barring that I will do videos, podcasts, or other venues. I’d also like to include some promotion for An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days (…), although the focus will primarily be on the newer book. 

KEEP UP MY MONTHLY POSTING SCHEDULES FOR MY WRITING BLOG AND MY PATREON

I post once a month to my writing blog at www.catrussellwriter.wordpress.com as well as a separate post (usually complementary) to my Patreon at www.patreon.com/authorcatrussell.

2021 REFLECTIONS:

This year was better than last, although 2020 did set the bar pretty low. The absence of murder-hornets alone made that an easy accomplishment! All kidding aside, I’m proud of what I’ve learned and accomplished this past year. 

Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you’ll return in January. I’ll start 2022 with a post about the books I read in 2021, so maybe you’ll find your next great read! In the meantime, stay safe and well, and Happy New Year!

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*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Licensing.

POEM: “untitled”

untitled

i remember when i thought twice,
thrice, a dozen times moreover
whether to call myself writer,
a title hallowed in my heart
throughout my childhood years,
the ones who wrote the books
i devoured with my every free hour,
my escapes into worlds of make-believe,
my gateway to learning beyond
what adults prescribed for me

i’ve known too many writers
to be intimidated by the title,
known their kindness and generosity,
heard of others’ lack
lucky enough not to experience it myself

i remember when i hesitated
to call myself poet, the title
seemed too pretentious, too artistic
to apply to just anyone, like lumping Van Gogh
in with the man who graffitis the roadside
in the dead of night. but why not?
why should a canvas command more respect
than the underside of an overpass?
why should the verse of authors long gone
hold more esteem than the coffee house clique
reciting their rhymes in the meeting place
of modern minds? the old and new both live

i’ve known too many poets
to be awed just by the word
when their humanity alone humbles me
my own attempts to grasp each
abiding image, each emotion collaged
upon these pages like flowing script,
rivers of ink and electrons
imprinted upon our collective minds

with or without title, i’ll write
these words, this verse, hope
someday they will be read, felt,
imbued with life

words change form throughout time as organic
as a climbing vine growing with each age
titles are more specific, rigid like concrete
i call myself the words
the titles themselves unknown

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*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Licensing.

POEM: “A Bee Sucking Honey”

close up photo of honey comb
Photo by Archana on Pexels.com

A Bee Sucking Honey

 

Leaving is so hard to do.

A million things call me back

from this respite from the drudgery

of my life’s day to day to day.

 

I sip honey words dripped

from fragrant tongues, flutter

from one to the other

as the dial quickly ticks on by.

 

My time is over. I’m called away

back to toil and tedium, but

my feet, stuck in viscous sweet syrup,

slow this unwelcome parting:

 

I am an insect caught in amber,

unable to tear herself away.

 

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I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately, and the above poem was inspired by my attendance at multiple poetry readings last year. Hopefully, we’ll all be able to attend them again soon. In the meantime, stay safe, stay well, and read often!

POEM: “Patriotism”

Patriotism

 

The call to act with love

against the hate that spills into our streets

Not follow the same drummer’s beat, beat, beat

while others are simply beaten



Fighting hate with hate increases

the blaze across our states

Fighting hate with love abates outbreaks

soothes the aching wounds of history

Kindness is not complacency

 

Shake this world gently

Shake this world with love

Shake this world with peaceful protest

Shake this world with words

Words have power 

 

Speak out.

 

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Happy Fourth of July weekend! 

I know this poem seems especially written for the current circumstances, but I actually wrote it June of 2018 as a response to a tweet I read on twitter about the usefulness of nonviolent protests. I was also inspired by this quote from Ghandi: “Where there is love there is life. In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” 

Another special thing I’d like to do this weekend is offer my poetry collection, Soul Picked Clean, on sale at a discounted price to celebrate both the Fourth of July (Saturday) and my birthday (Friday)! 

If you’d like a copy of my poetry collection, Soul Picked Clean, for only $10, please credit my paypal at this link, and don’t forget to include your address so I know where to mail the book! 

Stay safe, stay well, and read often!


**image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Licensing.

FOUND POEM: “Spider Flight”

Spider Flight

 

Spiders have no wings, 

but take to the air 

nonetheless.     climb, 

raise abdomens to sky, 

extrude strands of silk, 

and float    away.  

ballooning.  away         

from predators 

     competitors

toward new lands 

       abundant resources. 

 

two-and-a-half miles up, 

1,000 out to sea.

 

sense the Earth’s electric field, 

use it to launch   into air     

thunderstorms crackle 

around the world, 

Earth’s atmosphere a circuit. 

The upper reaches 

           a positive charge, 

the planet’s surface 

           a negative. 

 

operate within increase 

those forces   climb 

twigs, leaves,  blades of grass. 

 

Plants, being earthed, 

protrude into the positively charged 

 

electric fields between the air around 

and tips of leaves and branches

spiders detect 

 

ruffle tiny sensory hairs on feet, 

like when you rub a balloon 

and hold it to your hair



a set of movements     Tiptoeing—

help gauge wind    speed    direction. 

 

prepare for flight 




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*Found poem based on text found in article, Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity, by Ed Yong published in the Atlantic on July 5, 2018.

**image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Licensing.

POEM: “Playing Inspires”

 

Playing Inspires”       

 

Doctors said 

/he would never talk 

/he would be/ quadrilegic/ for life

 

/cerebral palsy /diagnosed at 6

/two brain surgeries/ physical therapy

/he worked/ tried/ beat the odds

 

“Don’t use the word ‘can’t’”/ beat the odds

Shawn did his best/ took time to get better

/excelled at sports/ never needed a wheelchair

 

/when frustrated/ came back/ always

/listened/ tried/ pulled it together

/practiced every day to hone his skills

 

/every day came and worked/ beat the odds

/a good bowler/ a good teammate/ he’d high-five

/he listened/ tried/ beat the odds

 

/every day did his best/ to get better

/every day/ he took time/ excelled

/doctors said he would never talk/ he speaks well

 

Shawn Nolan’s doctors said

/he would never/          

/bike/ basketball/ horseback/ 

/karate/ bowl/ weightlift/ swim

/patrol the neighborhood on his bike

 

 /make sure everyone is safe

 

 /inspire kids with disabilities

/to beat the odds

               /kids with disabilities

 

/Shawn makes sure

/other kids with disabilities/ never forget

“Don’t use the word ‘can’t.”

 

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I composed the above found poem by taking bits from an online article, rearranging, adding and subtracting words and phrases, to make something new. The article by Roger Gordon was an inspirational sports story about a young bowler, Shawn Nolan, born with cerebral palsy, who is a competitive athlete. 

 

*image courtesy of www.publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons License.

**original article written by Roger Gordon

POEM: “An Apology to My Reader”

funny-face-graffiti-1563152470TTN

An Apology to My Reader

 

Let me first say

an apology is not warranted

 

although I am sorry

you didn’t like my work,

I am sorry my words offend

or cause you pain, open wide

that hole in your heart

–yet isn’t that a part

of art’s ultimate calling?

–to make us feel something,

not always some things

we want but to unearth

what’s buried deep inside. It’s

the horror of the disgorged grave

as well as the exhilaration

of a ballerina’s pirouette,

the dispepsia of an undigested

bit of tainted beef versus

the ecstacy of a lover’s embrace,

the shoulders shrugged against

the enigma of an ignorant world

and the melancholic mind’s eye

turned inward despite willing

ourselves blind, so while

I wish you every happiness,

I also admit I want praise,

adulation even as I question

why anyone would spend

their hard earned cash, tender

payment to buy a book of mine.

 

I am sorry you are unhappy

with my words, with time

I tendered writing, recording,

with the hours, days, weeks

of creating stories, drawing imagery,

imagining metaphors, birthing similes,

reworking prose and poetries, so although

 

an apology is not warranted,

I will extend you this one exception:

 

I’m sorry, but I don’t give refunds.

 

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Thank you for visiting my blog! I hope you enjoyed that little bit of snarky humor. I actually do have some more pandemic-themed poems, but I wanted to do something different this week. This particular poem was inspired by a prompt from Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Read + Write: 30 Days of Poetry. Wherever you are, stay safe, stay well, and read often!

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*Image courtesy of www.publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons License.

 

POEM: “The Great Pause”

dog on concrete road
Photo by Daniel Frank on Pexels.com

 

The Great Pause

 

our world holds its breath

as Mother Nature exhales

 

sighs of relief recede

clouds of carbon dioxide

from towering cityscapes

over brilliant barren avenues

satellite images clear like

a slate wiped suddenly clean

wildlife boldly ventures out

exploring storefront windows

from sunlit asphalt lanes

goats nibble untamed hedges

wolves play in lush backyards

occupy empty park benches

pink flamingos stroll across

pristine snow-white beaches

stags sport oak and maple racks

high and wide as their forest homes

mounting marble cathedral steps

beneath brilliant sun stained glass

as grey-skinned dolphins swim

unmolested in blue-green waters

 

while for once we are the ones

trapped behind translucent glass

looking out at the world

from inside

 

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Since we are midway through National Poetry Month, I thought I’d take a moment to review. As you know, all in-person poetry events have been cancelled or postponed due to the current pandemic, but the poetry community has come together in other ways. I was honored to have my poem, “Poet,” featured on April 5th for Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Read + Write: 30 Days of Poetry!

April 23rd is Shakespeare’s birthday, so be sure to honor the Bard by reading a book, watching a play (online), or sharing poetry! I’ve linked a few free resources, in case you don’t know where to start, and many libraries offer free online materials as well through their own websites, as well as apps like Hoopla and Overdrive. Local theatres are struggling now (for obvious reasons), so you could make a donation to your local playhouse or attend a local online event (like Ohio Shakespeare Festival). You could also do some silly celebrations, such as Talk-Like-Shakespeare Day!

Also, since this blog is mostly poetry, you may not be aware that I’ve written quite a bit of prose over the years, mostly flash fiction. Lately I have been featuring a weekly free flash fiction post and podcast on my Patreon. This is my way of providing some free reading material for people currently stuck at home, as well as generating excitement for my upcoming book, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories!

I hope you enjoyed my poem! Remember, if you are quarantined at home, you are helping to save lives. If you need to venture out to work to keep everyone else going during these difficult times, thank you. Your efforts are appreciated, and my heart goes out to you all.

Take solace in the good things, and try to get through the bad. Stay safe, stay well, and read often!

 

CURRENT EVENTS: New Year’s and the New (and Past) Decade!

reaching-new-year-2020

In honor of the decade’s end, as well as the new year, I’m posting my reflections on the past ten years as well as my resolutions for the next year. I’m obviously thankful for a loving family that I’m proud of, so this post is going to concentrate on professional accomplishments and goals.

2010-2019 REFLECTIONS:

I started submitting short fiction ten years ago, and my first publication credit appeared in Flash Me online magazine July of 2010, followed by my first print credit, the anthology The Best of Friday Flash: Volume One, and later The Best of Friday Flash: Volume Two. Over the years, I improved as a writer by participating weekly in Friday Flash and other online challenges like 52/250 A Year of Flash.

I’ve also blogged consistently and completed several rough draft novels via Nanowrimo. One of the novels, Pinholes, I edited over the course of a year into a serial, then revised into a single document and began subbing to different publishers. About four years ago, I began concentrating on poetry more than short fiction and sold a few poems to online publications. In 2017, I was honored to be invited as a guest author and speaker at the Massillon Library’s Local Author Fair; I was surprised, because I didn’t actually have a book, but they asked me as a blogger. That was my first scheduled public reading.

A couple years ago, I was finally able to attend writing events on a regular basis, so I’ve gone to writing cons and workshops ever since. Every month I go to Latitudes Poetry Night and The Write Stuff Writers’ Group. At Latitudes, I started participating in their open mic, because I planned to self-publish and hoped it would help me get over my stage fright.

A friend convinced me to try submitting to a press before I self-published. As a result, in March 2019, my first book, Soul Picked Clean, was published by Crisis Chronicles Press! At my book launch on March 30th, I gave my first scheduled reading as a published author. I spent the rest of the year promoting my book, scheduling reading events, and working on my next two books as well as my blog. I also began my Patreon page, renewed my podcast, My Writing Niche, and starting volunteering more of my time to help the writing community in general.

I’ve been lucky enough to live in northeast Ohio, a place blessed with two of the best library systems in the country–Cuyahoga County Library and Cleveland Library. And last, but certainly not least, I’ve been fortunate enough to know many lovely and creative people who inspire me both professionally and personally. This decade, and especially this past year, have been incredible. I’ll never forget it.

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Next, I’ll share my New Year’s Resolutions with you; the point of this is twofold. One reason is to set them down so I’ll see them as something solid to work toward, and the second is to publicly declare them so I’ll pressure myself to complete them. If I make a big deal about them online, I’ll be too embarrassed to not do them (or at least work heavily towards them)!

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS:

  1. Submit my short story collection to a publisher.
  2. Submit another poetry collection to a publisher.
  3. Publish my short story collection.
  4. Publish my poetry collection.
  5. Market and promote my work.
  6. Volunteer more.
  7. Do things that frighten me.

This may seem like a long list–most people have one or two resolutions, but they are mostly variations of the same thing. Namely, I want to continue to get my work out there, put myself out there, and not let fear keep me from opportunities. Maybe admitting to that fear isn’t a good idea, maybe articulating it gives it power, but I don’t think so. I know I’m not the only person who gets scared of new things and new experiences, but if the past year–no, the past decade has taught me anything, it’s that facing my fears has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I want to continue to grow, both as a person and a writer.

If you’ve read this far, I know this is much different than my usual poetry posts. I don’t know if sharing this helps you at all, but I hope it does. I know it helps me to read about other people’s experiences. If you would like to share your resolutions or have any polite feedback, I’d love to hear it! Thank you for visiting my blog, and I wish you the very best for the next year–and decade!

Happy New Year!

 

 
*image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons License

POEM: “Ode for a Dog” *AND* Upcoming Events

Ode for a Dog

You became a cosmonaut,

the Moscow stray taken away

from those frozen city streets–

your unlooked-for honor: to make history,

           to reach the heavens.

.

I wondered if they gave you a view,

one last look at the world you left behind,

or was that denied you    along with escape,

buried in darkness   before you ran out of breath

            among those distant lonely stars?

.

A window might have stopped your heart:

Earth’s cobalt blue oceans, pale frosted poles,

rust-colored deserts receding    framed in fire as you hurtled

hurled into that azure vault, afraid and alone.

            You survived that long.

.

Where is your constellation? My heart breaks

for you, dear sweet dog, your three short years

had not prepared you for such betrayal.

A statue honors you as hero, Laika.

             You made history,

.

yet I can’t help these thoughts

creeping unwanted into my dreams:

you would have rather shivered on Earth,

lived on scraps, unnoticed and unknown,

           than burned through the heavens alone.

.

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*Since this month marks the 50th Anniversary of a man walking on the moon, I wanted to share a poem I wrote in honor of another astronaut. I wrote the poem after reading of Laika’s flight, and yes, she did have a view. The video is available, if you don’t mind crying.

*

Upcoming Events

Saturday, July 27th

Literary Cleveland’s INKubator Writers’ Conference:

This all day conference is FREE and takes place at the Cleveland Main Library. It’s an incredible opportunity to take workshops, support local writers, and take part in Cleveland’s vibrant literary community!

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Saturday, August 3rd @ 1pm

Author Talk and Poetry Reading at Snowball Bookshop in Barberton. I will be giving a short talk about my journey to becoming a published writer, followed by a poetry reading from my book, Soul Picked Clean.

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Friday, August 9th @ 7pm – 9pm

Writing Knights sWord Fight: This time I will be competing against motivational speaker and all-time awesome poet Adam Spells!

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Saturday, August 10th @ 10am – 1pm

Local Author’s Fair at Dorrie’s Booktique in Canton. I will be there with copies of my book, along with several other local authors from the North Canton The Write Stuff writing group.

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Saturday, August 10th @730pm

Poetry Reading at Visible Voice bookstore! I’m thrilled to be reading alongside the fantastic Sara Minges and Juliet Cook. It’s going to be a great poetry event!

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Wednesday, August 21st @7pm – 9pm

Latitudes Poetry Night at Compass Coffee in Akron. There is a featured reader, followed by an Open Mic.

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I’ll post again in two weeks, but, in the meantime, I hope you have a lovely time enjoying books and poetry!

*Image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons Universal License.