Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 -- Don't Let The Door Hit You On the Way Out

I'm not too sad to see 2010 go. It was a very frustrating year for me outside the garden, in the writing world. Maybe it wasn't frustrating, maybe it was organizing / storing up / mobilizing and I can't see it yet. But in this profession--and in the hopes of attaining a teaching job, fellowships, publishers, etc--there are no points for second place or nice thoughts, just feelings of "what might have been." Looking back teaches us how to look forward, and it is always something that motivates me to try harder (by making me angry) even though it seems like I'm not getting anywhere, or that moving 2 inches isn't really progress even though it might be.

1) My poetry collection Afterimage was 1 of 6 finalists for the St. Lawrence Book Award from Black Lawrence Press. There were also 6 fiction finalists, for a total of 12 finalists.

2) Also 1 of 4 finalists for the C&R Press DeNovo poetry book award. Both of the above presses publish outstanding work.

3) Several literary agents gave me complimentary long notes on my garden / family memoir, Morning Glory. For example:

"You are clearly a talented writer, there's much to be admired in these pages. I found this lyrical, moving and rich in both setting and detail. That said, after much deliberation I just can't see a way to market this successfully to a general trade publisher, nor can I see a way to revise it that won't compromise some of the elements I liked here. My instincts tell me this is something that's a better fit for a smaller/ independent publisher, and I'm afraid those circles are just lesser known to me. I'm sorry to disappoint you, and to pass on work by a writer who is clearly talented."

4) I was offered a full scholarship to attend the Ropewalk Writers Retreat in Indiana, but instead decided to stay home and completely redraft my memoir for the entire month of June. It is a much better book as a result.

5) I was offered a partial grant to attend the Vermont Studio Center for 2-4 weeks of writing time and space in 2011, but simply can't afford it (which may be ok).

6) The only works I had published this year were an article, Monarch Butterflies: The Last Migration, in a regional newspaper, Prairie Fire, and an essay on plant rights / invasive species / origin of flowers in ISLE entitled The Lion's Tooth.

6.5) I was the #6 top guest ranter on Garden Rant for my post on flag poles in the landscape, as in, do away with them.

7) On 12/31/09 I did have my second poetry chapbook, Without Such Absence, accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press, and it came out last month.

8) 2011 will see my garden featured on the Wachiska Audubon Society's Backyard Wildlife Habitat Garden Tour on Father's Day. No doubt I'll be busy this spring outside, excitedly so.

2011 -- Well, this post may be more for me now, record keeping so to speak. I have a pipe dream about writing a short / light 100 page garden book in the next week (or month, we'll see, I do have a new class to prep for by 1/10), then turning my attention back fully to the Oklahoma immigration memoir, eventually visiting Oklahoma again this summer. I've got a growing list of publishers to send Morning Glory to, but truth be told, 2011 needs to be about writing and not wasting time and money on $25 book contests and journals whose slush piles overwhelm even me. In the fall I'll apply for teaching jobs as my wife will be done with her PhD in 2012, and that will be a full time job in itself.

At least there is the garden, which in 2010 matured much more than me, and so gives me hope. It is an amazing space that fuels my writing, and vice versa. It is always a lesson in and of itself, and a constant reminder that chaos is ordered and is not chaos at all--or, that even order needs a little chaos so life is lived more fully.

Happy New Year everyone, even though in my book every day is the beginning of a new year. Oh, it's just so arbitrary, all these numbers, lists, reflections, ritual blog posts on 12/31.


Carol said...

Dear Benjamin, I am delighted to have my two copies of your chapbook arrive last week. Without Such Absence will become part of our small library that is shared with many guests from around the world. Good luck with it! You have had a great year! So true all the numbers are a bit arbitrary but I still wish you and yours the Happiest of New Years! May 2011 be your best yet.

Les said...

Yes, at least we have the garden, and yes hold the door open wide for 2011.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Carol--I wish you the best, too! I'm so thrilled to have my books available for your guests, and for you. Very neat.
Les--Well, I'll be holding the door open for you if you decide to head out west again and pass through NE.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, yes, moving that 2 inches is soooo frustrating. I admire the perseverance and hope you will continue. Can't wait to read the chapbook, which is on my list.

Esther Montgomery said...

I'm feeling a heavy weight in my chest as I read this. An accumulation of near misses must be very difficult. All I can do is wish you well and say inane things like good luck (better luck!) in 2011. And I'm sure it is a matter of luck - once you have done the work it's hit and miss what people are thinking or feeling when your pages arrive on their desk.

May 2011 be a turning point - and, whether it is or it isn't, may it be a very happy year.

Best wishes


Indoor Fountains said...

I feel your pain- 2010 was a trying year for me as well. Here is to a happy and healthy 2011!!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Sandy--2" is 2" I suppose. Do or do not, there is no try (Yoda).
Esther--Yes, it does seem to be luck. What reader you get and what day, what the competition is that day, month, year.... I know, I'm on the juding end of things, too. But it's more than luck, too. Maybe Karma, faith through acts, I don't know. Happy new year to you, too, though!
IF--Oh, don't get me started on that troubling word "happy." What is it, how does it morph and change, isn't it an alluasion that if we stoped wanting to see, would appear suddenly on its own? See, this is why I'm not happy. :)

scottweberpdx said...

Here's to a new year, full of promise with no mistakes in it...not yet ;-)

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Your 2010 sounds like a very productive year to me, in multivalent ways.

You could maybe publish sections of your memoir as essays and then "collect" them for a book?

I have similar resolutions: write more, waste less time, plant more, write more, waste less time...

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi Benjamin,
I hope 2011 treats you well.

I've been going to those tours for years, but the last couple, it didn't work out for me to see all of them. I wish they weren't on Father's Day. Since I only got to see a couple last year, I am planning on being more assertive and seeing more this year. Our daughter-in-law used to go with me, but now that she's a mom, it doesn't work out for her to go, either.

Well, I will put your place in the first couple on my list.

I like what you said about each day being the start of a new year.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Scott--You bet!
Adrian--I DO try to publish essays, of course! I get nice lovely hand written rejections on those, too.
Sue--See you in June! I'm planning my spring digging with much precision this year. Too much.