Months in review: Jul-Oct 2018

It’s November and this post was intended to be a quarterly Jul-Sep check-in but then life happened… I’ve had celebrations, out of town visitors, and/or business travel every weekend for the past five weeks. Since I mostly write and blog on the weekends you can understand my absence this past month. But really, who’s keeping track?

I submitted a piece for publication. It’s been over a decade since I last tried. Back then, I was writing children’s stories. If you know me, this fact may come as a bit of a shock- but it’s true. In the early days when I was first breaking out and sharing my work, they were simple, funny stories and did not disturb the deep fibers of my soul. Fast forward to today and you can read the lyrics that erupt when I strum those fibers.

I submitted the story after a friend and someone I consider a writing mentor urged me to do so. It feels like the natural next step to my writing career, such as it is. I have been asked by others why I am not published. And the answer is easy: because I don’t try. But the natural progression of questioning leads to why I don’t try, which I don’t have a good answer for.

You can chalk it up to laziness or perfectionism, but the truth is that it’s just the constraints of a professional working life. Consider our 168 hours every week, minus 56 of sleep (if we are lucky), minus the 60 hours dedicated to weekday work prep, commute, meals, and work day. That leaves 52 hours to rest, clean, shop, exercise, socialize, read, write, etc. Now add in the random universal chaos generator and there you have it. It’s not an excuse, just reality.

There is writing and then there is writing business. Searching for appropriate markets takes time and effort I am not willing to dedicate to my poetry and short fiction. So, I blog it here dear reader. I did manage to post ten times in the last four months, as well as attend open mics around town. This blog is my own magazine, entirely constructed of my work, for free and for my true fans.

But… what are my writing goals? What is it that I want to have accomplished by the end of my days? It’s not fame and fortune. We all know that is the same dream as winning the lottery. Still you can’t win if you don’t have a ticket, right? But I really don’t want that anyway. My dream is more about making a living outside the cube farm from the fruits of my creative writing. Maybe it’s my retirement dream, I don’t know.

My mission in writing is to make my readers feel the way I feel. I want others to know that they are not alone in this world. That the feelings and longings that they are ashamed of are a natural part of this human experience. I find life to be incredibly isolating- some of that by choice and some by circumstance. The difficulty of finding kindred spirits is universal. There are so many paths through life and different kinds of people navigating them. We often face the same trials with different responses and perspectives. I can learn from your experience and maybe you can learn from mine.

But those deep fibers have not rung out yet and finding markets for such stories will require fortitude, energy, and faith that I can and will find my place. That last one… that one fails me too often. Who exactly wants to read about all this crap rattling around in my head and heart? I have no great ego around my writing that makes me think the world needs to hear me, yet I am angered by the suggestion that I am not trying hard enough. I have fantastically wild dreams about my ideal writing life even while I still punch the time card…

The question I ask myself is why publish? Why not remain safe, pouring my guts out in anonymity? Why not leave all the notebooks behind and shock whoever is tasked with putting my final affairs in order? When I was first published in the Journal of Ordinary Thought back in 2002, a publication of the now defunct Neighborhood Writing Alliance in Chicago, I simply could not believe it. Yes, this was the parent organization of my writing group and yes, we were all guaranteed publication (unpaid) once per year, but there was still nothing else like seeing my writing in print. Some unknown someone was going to read it and react to it for good or bad. And in 2003, when I finished the first draft of my first novel, it felt as great as my college graduation. I felt like I could fly to the moon and back again.

Maybe that ride is reason enough for me.

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, November 2018

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

Month in review: April 2018

It’s May and this blog post is late. That’s indicative of the sort of month April turned out to be for my writing- either late or never. April was also National Poetry Month. All my writer friends produced massive amounts of poetry to celebrate. Me… not so much.

April 29th was the 5-year anniversary of the apartment fire that consumed all the electronic copies of my writing- but not the paper ones. As an IT professional, computer screens mean databases and software and day-job. It puts me in a particular mindset that stifles my creative voice. So, it is my habit to write everything longhand first. There is something about that organic experience of paper and ink that creates a limitless plane for my mind to wander on. By some miracle, I was able to salvage all of my writing in journals and notebooks though they are smoke and water damaged.

I also have print outs of two different novels that I wrote over ten years ago. I have been working on one of them in the early morning hours before work since January. It has been a struggle for me to figure out what exactly it is that I am writing. There is such a difference in who I was when I first wrote it and who I am today but I have to write what is within me and this is what is coming out. Though the general story is the same, the way it is being written is vastly different.

In April I only worked on it for two days. Instead, I have had trouble sleeping, three separate visits to the doctor (including the ER), helped a friend move, traveled out of town for business, participated in a 4-week cooking class, and attended four different poetry events. *Whew*

Instead of my novel moving forward, I managed five different blog posts: ‘Movement’ (poem), ‘Drifting in at Night’ (poem), ‘Single, White, Professional, Female- in Kansas City, April 2018’ (essay), ‘Home assignment 1’ (food blog), and ‘Home assignment 2’ (food blog). I also was invited to read at ‘Writers Read’ at the Coffee Shop Northeast on April 12.

May should calm down as I return to my regular routine and writing practice though cycling season is just starting. I haven’t yet figure out how to do both at the same time and both take long hours of my life. Still, I can think of no better life then to bike to a lake in the warm sunlight and sit under a willow tree with pen and paper, dreaming…

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, April 2018

Month in review: March 2018

March has been an exciting month for my writing. Back in January, I decided to start waking up at 5am to write from 5:30-6:30, six days a week. Yes, Saturday too. This is of course after the cats are fed and coffee is made, but before I get ready for work. No, it hasn’t always worked out great. Sometimes, I get up late and I only get a half hour in. Sometimes, I am so groggy or overwhelmed with a head full of life and longing that I simply journal to clear the cobwebs.

But slowly, surely, I am filling a notebook with character sketches, scenes, and narrative that fill in the gaps in my book manuscript. In addition to the fiction writing and journaling, I also write poems and post to my blog every Saturday. This month’s selection includes the posts: ‘High Water’, ‘Paris With You’, and ‘Across Water’.

March has been a month of writing events. I currently participate in a poetry writing group at a local library that meets for six sessions, then concludes with a final reading of our work on April 25. More to come on that. I also attended the Rosemont Writers Festival on March 24, an annual all-day event of writing workshops, speakers, and book fair located in- you guessed it- Rosemont, MN.

But most exciting of all, was the Poets & Pints reading at Sisyphus Brewing on March 21 where I was one of four featured poets. In all the years of writers group events, open mics, and public speaking this was the first time ever that I was a featured poet. Nineteen people showed up specifically to hear me read and I was told, “You killed!”. I am very humbled by their response and grateful for the encouragement. Since that night, I have reflected on why it has taken me so long to become willing to share my work publicly with strangers. I only started seriously blogging a little over a year ago and reading at open mics in the last eight months, one of which led to the Poets & Pints reading (open mic: Poetry Happy Hour @ Troubadour Wine Bar). Continue reading “Month in review: March 2018”

High Water

When the flood comes into the house it leaves mud and mold. You try to clean up. It’s a bad day when you must throw the refrigerator and the flooring out- but what can you do? You have your life with you, the stuff of what remains- your mind, your experience, your willingness to move on or not.

Maybe that’s the real tragedy of it all. That the tragedy derails you for years. That passersby look on at the unfinished roof and are annoyed at your laziness. They don’t know that dad fell off the ladder, hit his head, and died trying to fix it.

And you can’t face it.

You can’t face the pain. Bills must still be paid and the collector doesn’t give a shit that your heart is in pieces. That you can’t think clearly enough not to pour spoiled milk on the last of the cereal in the box.

No one remembers your trauma and you are never over it fast enough for their taste. They’ve moved on to the next episode, the next season. As if life is a television series and they are sick of watching you.

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, January 2018

Small

To take small evidence
Explode it into full betrayal
This is the marker of an
Abused and bruised heart

Why did you say that?
What do you mean by that?

It confuses people
Who have never been
Conditioned to endure

Persistent disappointment
Persistent pressure
Persistent backhanded
Remarks and insults
Veiled as compliments

It germinates paranoia
You think
All people are this way
But they are not

There are kind people
There are loving people
They make innocent observations

It is your mind that translates
Words into hooks and swords
But you cannot help it
You are a patchwork of scars

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, January 2018

P.S. 2017

Dear Friends,

In 2013, I lost most of my belongings to fire that incinerated my loft apartment. Included in that was the electronic versions of most of my writing. Remarkably, all of my hand-written drafts and two 3-ring binders with printed versions of different novels survived. They have some water and smoke damage but are still legible. Fire is funny that way, random in its violence.

That year profoundly changed my life and in 2014, I made the choice to start this blog: cmmounts.com. Although I continued to write, I only got seven blog posts written that year. I just couldn’t keep it up. I had put pressure on myself to only share my new and best writing. I wasn’t writing fast enough or with enough regularity. Cycling long distance is funny that way, consuming all your time.

By 2017, I finally got tired of not sharing my writing in any kind of real way. I started to participate in open mics around the Twin Cities. I finished and published my friend Todd Park’s memoir, my first effort as a book editor. I made the choice to post any of my original work that I thought was decent, whether written recently or not. And I tried out writing a travel log for the first time- which I guess for a nomad like me is better late than never.

I view my blog as a self-published catalog of my different styles of writing, a tool to hold myself accountable to my goals, and a way for my fans (what!) to enjoy my work. And what fans I have! For many blogs, my statistics are modest but in 2017, I posted 42 times and attracted 730 visitors who made 1,178 views. I gained 56 new followers and not all of them were my mom! Actually, I do not know most of you and that blows my mind! Thank you so much for reading my poems, stories, and other ramblings… I am humbled.

In 2018, I will continue to post my work to my blog. I will continue to read at open mics and look for new opportunities to share my work. And maybe most importantly, I am working on a draft for a fiction novel for the first time in ten years. I hope you will continue on this writing journey with me. The best is yet to come!

Happy New Year!

Christine

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, January 2018