To see the announcement for my poetry book, Sparrow, selected by poet Dorianne Laux for the Kenneth and Geraldine Gell Poetry Prize at Writers & Books, go to

You can find a review by Kathleen Kirk at EIL:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Poems -- or drafts of poems

This month -- April, 2014 -- I have a goal to write one bad poem every day, all month long. To see the results, go to my A Writer's Alchemy blog.

To read my craft essay "One Bad Poem," click here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Writing Warrior

Here's Laraine Herring's book, which you can read more about at

This morning I used to time my shaking. Tomorrow I'll use it for the breathing, too.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Maybe you buy six hundred books on writing...

"The beginning always starts off easy. 'I want to write a book,' you say. So maybe you take a class or two. Maybe you buy a book on writing." -Laraine Herring

So I'm blogging about how to begin. What I tell my students is that you have to begin over and over again, sometimes more than once in each session, at a bare minimum once per day (even if only for fifteen minutes). Knowing how to begin is important. Nothing happens without beginning.

I don't think I can dictate for anyone else how to begin, though I can make suggestions. Laraine Herring suggests breathing, shaking (yes, shaking!), and writing -- each for five minutes. I like how five minutes of practice demystifies the process. Oh, five minutes, I think. I can do anything for five minutes. On day two of this practice, I found the breathing boring. (This fits with what my friend Glenda says about my not breathing.) The shaking? I almost hate to admit it, but it was fine. It was funI am all too aware that I'm not in touch with my body. I live in my head. The five minutes of writing? It turned into two journal pages, then an hour and a half on poetry, a million ideas, and now this blog entry.

The main thing wrong with saying "I want to write a book" is that it's too big. Recently a colleague told me that she and her father -- many years ago, before his unexpected death -- had planned to write a book together about their teaching. "You should write it," I said. "You can dedicate it to him." She shook her head sadly. "I'm not a writer," she said.

At the risk of sounding like the ghost-chef in Ratatouille, ANYONE CAN WRITE. Just don't set your goals so high. No, you can't write a book, not this morning.

Buying a new book about writing, by the way, is an excellent way to procrastinate on your writing.

This morning write a paragraph. Write a sentence. See if you can stay with it for five minutes.

And now, for me, breakfast.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


"The ideal expression of reading a poem is, in many respects, close to the experience of writing it: one goes through uncertainty, flashes of perception, small satisfactions, puzzlement, understanding, surprise." -Kenneth Koch, Making Your Own Days (14)

Various things (Emma and the Earache, primarily) have kept me from my writing time for a couple of days. Today, however, I was up at 6 a.m., and out in my cabin, writing my heart out. I have decided to -- finally -- take seriously Laraine Herring's book, The Writing Warrior, and the practice she suggests. You should do it, too. Today is day one.

My goal this summer is to be FEARLESS in my writing (thank you, Margaret, for helping me to articulate this).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

I have often heard it said that when someone we love dies, they are always with us -- it's the sort of old saying that I sometimes agree with, and sometimes resent. Yeah, well where is he? as one of my young nephews once said to me.

Recently, someone turned the saying around for me: When someone you love dies, a part of you goes with them, no matter where. This feels true.

Yesterday, sleep starved, trying to grade papers, waiting for Emma to come out to the car with her friends after a movie, I suddenly saw my dad, not in that idealized way that I often picture him -- the dad I knew as a child -- but as I'd last seen him. He was wearing his plaid barn coat and he looked tired, too, his face a little sunken, his blue eyes watery. Two weeks ago he visited my mother in the ER in Centralia. "How did he look?" I asked her. "Oh, about the same," she said. "He was probably wondering what was taking me so long."

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Friday, June 15, 2012


The spring before Emma was born, our unexpected baby coming six years behind her twin sisters, I bumped into an old friend. I was grading papers at a coffee shop in Edmonds. I still remember how manic and exhausted I felt. My friend walked up to me and laid her hand on my arm and told me that she had heard about the new baby. I remember looking up at her with a frantic expression, words failing me. "Whenever something brings this much chaos into my life," she said, looking directly into my eyes, "it always turns out to be good thing."
I remember coming home from night class a couple years later, and finding all the dining room chairs turned upside down or stacked on the table, and Bruce, looking weary, telling me, "She climbs, and then she jumps."

I remember the summer she turned ten when she set a goal to swim every day.

She is failing her Humanities class, and getting a D in math. Do I make her go to summer school? Or do I stand by, holding a towel, waiting to see what will happen next?