Mid-year review: Jan-Jun 2018

It’s July. About this time six months ago, I was scanning the sooty remains of one of the drafts of one of my novels through optical character recognition (OCR) software and importing it into Scrivener. If you write long works of fiction but have not heard of Scrivener before, check it out!

I spent 1.5 months (Jan-Feb) organizing that mess into chapters and scenes; character, scene, and conflict sketches; vague ideas and lists of topics to research- all to find the holes. And Lordy, there were canyons. So, I spent the next 1.5 months (Feb-Apr) ‘shoveling gravel’ into the gaps, to the order of about 25,000 words of new content. It is a pittance to all you NANOWRIMO’s out there but it is realistic progress for a full-time working schlub like me. I can’t apply the brakes on life and focus solely on my book in the way that the November National Novel Writing Month requires to reach that 50K goal.

Then came silence. No progress on the book. Apr-Jun were all about the ‘Spring Thaw’ of my social life. I took a cooking class that ate up my hours with kitchen adventure. I took a couple trips, one for business and one for pleasure, plus had out of town guests. But mostly, writing became about poetry, poetry events, poetry classes, and connecting with a wider writing community which has been wonderful and revitalizing.

But books don’t write themselves…

Time and energy are limited resources and unfortunately, my mother is in cancer treatment now. I have to get real about my stress levels and where to focus myself. Someone wise once said, “I can’t control the wind. I can only adjust my sails.” So, as I reef the mainsail, I pull back on the social side of writing, miss opportunities to read, and classes of interest. It’s just where I am at today.

Still, over the last 6 months, I produced 27 blog posts: 15 poems, 7 essays, 2 travel logs, and 3 posts about the poetry readings I had in the spring. Poetry writing will continue because I can’t help it. And my blog remains my weekly ritual as this is the only place I talk about my ‘writing career’, such as it is.

But I have already recommitted to the 5am wake up for the 5:30 writing hour before work, dedicated to my novel. I am typing up my hand-written notes and charging once again into the breech. Book writing is not glamorous. It is a long, arduous, mostly thankless journey through a writer’s personal hell.

I have books to read and write, my friends… Happy summer!

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, July 2018

Breaker

Under the surface
Under the film, foam
Is the sea washing rocks
Wearing them away, slowly

To trace a finger along the surface
Is to invite something:
Fear, resistance, or danger
Of acceptance and desire

Those of us who
Dip our hands within
To feel the temperature
Are not sure what to do

When it is fine
Mostly without desire
To disturb the water
Our own rocks weigh heavy

Disrupt, cause undercurrents
Wish to cause no harm
Only to know, be known
But the deep end, no matter

Temptation will swallow whole
Float dead or thrash
Struggle to get out
Only to beg to get back in

Water will have changed
No buoyancy left
Cast out on the rocks
Body broken heart

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, June 2018

Silent Goodbyes

Walk into your home
Your back to me
Is this really my final
Memory of you, friend?

It isn’t
First time someone got
Wrong impression
It won’t be the last

But can you not see
Past the gate?
Of course you can
I struggle to think

I float home- What is this?
It’s not what I am after
But the connection is real
If unwanted by you

Two decades
Too much a gap
You will deny it
I will accept that

But as you dig in
You fall, you long
You protect
You turn, you lash

Goodbye, would-be lover.
If the distance in time
Between were shorter
Life would be different
 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, September 2017

Travel Log: Thunder Bay, Ontario

June 8-11, 2018 ~ 840 miles

Minneapolis, MN; Duluth, MN; Two Harbors, MN; Grand Marais, MN; Thunder Bay, ON

It’s still under debate whether or not I had visited Thunder Bay, Ontario before last weekend’s trip. The confusion is about whether or not I was included in what family lore now refers to as the ‘vacation from hell’. I would have been less than one year in age, if I was alive at all, and somehow being present as an infant or a toddler with no memory of anything or anyone still counts as me having visited. For further explanation of that logic, I will refer you to my mother…

Mom has cancer, again. On May 23, 2018 she was given the diagnosis of Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) which is a group of blood cancers sometimes referred to as ‘pre-leukemia’ and requires chemotherapy. Since the effects of the chemo on her life are yet unknown, she made the decision that she wanted one more vacation before she might become unable to travel. It had been about 45 years since her last trip to Thunder Bay and since I live in Minnesota, off we went. Continue reading “Travel Log: Thunder Bay, Ontario”

Ginger

Stir fry fresh onions, garlic, ginger,
Lemon peel in a little peanut oil
Die from the fragrance that
Erupts in your kitchen

It is the smell of love to me
Of friends and family
Coming to dinner at my house
They enjoy the food

I enjoy them
I want to know how they are
I want to know their plans
Their dreams, hopes, challenges

I want to feed them spicy food
That wafts out my window
Makes the neighbors jealous
I want to fill my life

Sauces and spices
Explode my head
Grand delight of living
Fasting satisfaction

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, June 2018

Month in review: May 2018

May 2018 was a tough month for my writing. I question the logic of this ‘month in review’. Months fly by quickly enough during normal times. When the stress from work projects and family issues increase, life happens, and life gets in the way. A quarterly review might make more sense, though a monthly tally forces me to reflect on my commitment to this passion of mine. Am I taking my writing seriously?

I took it seriously enough to apply for a writer’s residency back in March for the upcoming fall. It was a long shot and I was denied. *SIGH* I produced three blog posts but not much else: ‘Soaked in Crimson‘ (poem), ‘I See You‘ (essay), ‘Usual Early Morning Stuff‘ (essay). Finding a balance has always been difficult and my writing is slotted into my ‘free time’- 5:30am before work, on my lunch hour, late in the evening, or waiting in line on whoever or whatever is next. I am journaling a lot.

I have not read my poetry publicly in a month. I have discovered that attending poetry readings in the evening is a bad idea. I sometimes cannot fall asleep for hours. Poetry writing in the morning is also a bad idea. I walk into the office a bit crazed and distracted. I want to be somewhere else writing. But there is no money to be made writing poetry.

I hesitate to call myself a poet though I have been told that if the shoe fits… It is out of respect for those I consider to be ‘real’ poets. I haven’t studied it, dedicated the time to it that others have, and it sort of has this high falutin legacy that my earthy self could never live up to. I write journals, essays, stories, and long fiction. Poetry peels off of me like the bark of the birch trees and just about as rough. It is the stuff of longing, of paper dreams not yet forgotten.

I cannot read poetry before bed anymore. It keeps me awake. It keeps tears running down my face. It keeps my heart broken in the ache of my dulled daily living, in my wish for love to return to my life.

These poems are written by people in love, people who somehow learned to make it last, to let it go, to forgive, to return again and again and again. I so envy them. I so appreciate their ability to transfer that intense desire and joy to me, years later, thousands of miles away, with my second pillow cold and the breath of my animals the only other living sound in my apartment.

But it will strum the deep fibers. It will allow me no rest.

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, May 2018

Usual Early Morning Stuff

It is 5am. I fight with the alarm. I fight with the cat. It is hard to leave the bed soft, fresh sheet, downy blanket hugging me back to slumber. He won’t let me sleep in and the 10-minute snooze won’t either. My choice. I set the alarm. I keep feeding him.

I sit up. I strap on the robe and sandals. I set about the usual early morning stuff. The cats weave around my legs as I pee. There are two cats, but she is much quieter, so I don’t complain about her in the morning. The gurgling coffee pot calls to me from the kitchen. I set about feeding us.

Shredded fish and gravy for them, OJ and coffee and ink for me. He eats, and naps curled in the chair next to me. She disappears again. The coffee has been poured into a weekday cup of average size. I put on a blanket against the chill from the degrading kitchen windows.

I begin to empty my mind of anger or poems or scene sketches for a novel I am months from completing. It is slow at first, unsure of my characters. What if I make bad choices for them? These are someone else’s kids in my care- no? They’re mine? Even worse. The white space fills with black ink, mostly legible, with circular patterns of character self-discovery and bad descriptions.

The paper and ink raw messy dirty dish reality of my kitchen conjures the best times of my life- food and wine and people I love. The space I write and create, the space of warm ovens and cold drinks, of turning spice into curry and flour into bread. It is fertile ground. It soothes my aching soul when the pen digs too deep into the flesh of all that is hidden.

Later the computer will sterilize this but not too much. Only enough to make it appear I am not completely uneducated though my reading list is long and impossible. Writing my flesh then clothing it in gauze. My living room editor life of electronic square blinking screen, cold and efficient, symbol of productivity and work.

The alarm on the stove beeps. The pen and paper are closed. Night clothes come off, day clothes come on, different. Hair different, hot and pasted into place. Breakfast, commuter bag, lunch bag, journal, calendar, coat, hat, boots, mittens… power off, locks on, out into the ally to the street to the bus to the bumper car traffic to the place I spend most of my days, not writing, in a cube farm.

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, February 2018