Two big firsts!

I’m very excited to announce the publication of my latest book, Vessels. One big first is that this one is published by Schiffer Press, which is well known for its beautiful art books. The other big first is that this is a collaboration with my sister, Jennifer McCurdy, who is an amazing artist.

I’m delighted with the book. Our collaborative process was very inspiring. I feel the poems we chose bring out the lyricism of Jennifer’s vessels, and her vessels bring out the beauty of my poems. The process also brought out insights for both of us about our creative processes. Schiffer did a wonderful job of taking our design and making it sparkle, and were able to produce a book of a much higher quality than I have available through my self-publishing channels.

You can buy the book from Schiffer or from Amazon. Your positive review would also be of great value to me.

New book — I Will Dance

I’m happy to announce the publication of my eighth poetry book, I Will Dance.

I Will Dance2 coverpic1I Will Dance is a tribute to the free form dance community worldwide, and especially in Seattle. This community has been of great value to me in bringing out a vital aspect of my being, and these poems reflect what I have gained from dancing. The book is illustrated with photographs of dancers in Seattle’s free form dance community. It is available from the author or on CreateSpace.com, or on Amazon.com.

New Release — my first novel!

Today I hit the approve button and published my first novel.

musecoverpicI wrote the novel in 2009, at the strong urging of my daughter Heather to join her in that year’s National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, as it’s affectionately called. Participants sign up to write 50,000 words in the month of November, which divides into 1667 words per day.

At that time I had rediscovered that I am a writer, but not yet discovered that I am a poet. (There were many signs which could have been clear to me, but which I believe I missed because “Poet” was not on the shelf of my set of societally approved occupations.) I didn’t know if I could do fiction; I felt I lacked what I now call an engine — a powerful idea that demands expression in a novel. However, I had, earlier that year, written two poems which had given me quite a bit of satisfaction. I asked Heather if she thought there might be an idea within them that could become a novel. She thought there was, and gave me some suggestions about how.

So I wrote the book, Muse, based on the ideas in Muse and Muse II, the poems. After that, I put the novel through a few revisions, which I think helped it a lot.

The book fits into the category of New Adult, which sort of means it addresses themes most relevant to people starting out their “life as adults”, however they might define that. There is another genre called Young Adult, but that is mostly read by teenagers and even pre-teens, mostly girls, and has come to be dominated by certain themes, such as the paranormal, dystopian futures, and highly sex-filled (but not too graphic) edgy contemporary stories. New Adult emerges for the reader who has outgrown such fare but still wants a good book.

I’ve written two more novels since then, in the NaNoWriMos of 2010 and 2011. The latest one I may still revise and publish; the second one, I currently think, would take more of an overhaul than I feel willing to handle, my sensibilities being, as it turns out, more of a poet than a novelist.

Anyway, if you’d like to read it, you can buy it on CreateSpace or Amazon. Or you can contact me and I’ll lend you a copy. Here’s the blurb that’s on the back:

Melissa and Aaron, geeky, innocent, and introverted, independently invoke muses to help them navigate the puzzling world of career, identity, and relationships. When they meet in an acrylics class, Melissa notices that Aaron resembles the muse she conjured writing a poem—the muse that led her to take the class. Aaron, exploring his tortured internal landscape, keeps seeing Melissa there. As they strive to follow their own muses, they wonder, more and more, what that might mean with regard to each other.

1001 Poems

cherry blossoms

The line is a little bit fuzzy, but I have crossed the threshold. Yesterday I published my 1001st post. Which adds up to a few over 1000 poems posted on my blog, since its inception in January 2011.

I feel I should have a celebration of some sort. Days fall softly like blossom petals, laying down a pale and shifting carpet. Poems fall like days, in this discipline of mine. It’s easy enough to not notice a milestone.

I do at times enjoy going back through poems I’ve written, kicking them up like fallen blossoms, finding, often, that they still delight me. And periodically I collect some of them to put into a book.

I’m thinking of having a gathering to celebrate the unnoticed accumulation of a body of work that comes with consistent creative effort — of inviting everyone to stop for a moment and notice what they’ve created, and have us celebrate together. Contact me if you think it’s a good idea . . .

Wishing you all much joy in your creative endeavors —

—Wendy

East West Bookshop!

Today I went into East West Bookshop to see if they would carry my books. And yes! Their book buyer, a very personable man named Pete, sat with me and looked at my collection of books. He agreed to start out with two of them, Capture Rapture and Cuddle Your Curmudgeons, because he was drawn to their artwork and their themes. The one drawback they have is that they’re not thick enough to have names on the spines, which makes them harder to display. However, Pete said he might do something with them at first to display them more visibly, especially since they could be good to feature for Valentine’s Day (my suggestion). If he sells some, he’ll get more. This will be a wonderful thing for everyone — sales for me and for the bookshop, the book and the clear conscience of buying local for you who buy. So please, my friends and supporters, go in and ask to see my books. And buy them! Thank you very much.

 

A Valentine

When I published Capture Rapture on December 30, 2012, I thought it could be a good Valentine’s gift, but I didn’t do anything to promote it as such — too involved with the learning curve around my early efforts to promote my first book, Infinite Permission, which came out in October that year.

But Valentine’s Day is coming up again, and look what a perfect gift it would be:

It’s pink. It’s about love. It’s not fattening but it is satisfying. It’s colorful and it won’t wilt. It is a good present for yourself, or for anyone who might want encouragement in their quest for romance. It could even be a good Valentine’s gift for a sweetheart, but look at it before you get it for that purpose. These are not sappy love poems. They’re poems about all aspects of the romance experience. Including rapturous union, but also including the soothing and regrouping necessary when romance is confusing. (Clicking the picture at left will take you to Amazon, where you can look at some of the poems and illustrations.)

I hope you will take a look, and let me know what you think!

 

 

Notes on illustrating

I noticed that almost a year ago I said I would write something about the process I was involved in — illustrating my third book, Revolution.

Having successfully illustrated Capture Rapture (my second book), I was eager to take a break and find a collaborator for the next one. I approached Shannon Noel, a painter who also does faux walls — wonderful scenes that draw you into landscapes of the imagination. While she ended up not having time to do the illustrations for me, she sold me on the idea of giving the illustrations a story arc of their own, which would illustrate the progression of the poems more than each poem itself. This was very useful because of the nature of the poems in Revolution, many of which didn’t lend themselves to literal illustration. Also, in our talks, she keyed me in to some concepts that are basic to artists but weren’t to me — the idea of making thumbnail sketches for all the pictures, the selection of a palette of colors, the composition of a piece based on light and dark, how to create luminescence in a picture, how to study pictures to learn how to do all these things.

For Revolution, I chose the metaphor of how living things overcome manufactured structures. My set was a wall and a corner of pavement below it, and the sky above it. My characters were the things that grew up in the space over time. My medium was watercolor, cut, torn, and collaged. Here are some of the pictures:

So far in each of my three illustrating projects, I have started out feeling very daunted. Then I’ve gotten some hope and made some progress, then lurched to a stop, then overcome the hurdles and forged onward. In the end I’m satisfied with my work.

Approaching Prolific

On December 18 of 2013, I published my fourth and fifth poetry books. I don’t really recommend publishing two books on the same day; it’s a little like having your birthday on Christmas. The two books threaten to eclipse each other. It happened that way because I was trying to get them both out before Christmas. and they took paths of differing speeds through the proofing process.

Journeying is my first unillustrated book. I was excited about it because it has four times as many poems as my illustrated books, and it’s thick enough for my name and the title to appear on the spine. It had different proofing issues because the black and white printing process called for a different font for the poems, which I had to test out.

 

Cuddle Your Curmudgeons is my fourth illustrated book. I had been hoping to find a collaborator to do the artwork — thought I had one lined up, early summer. But when that didn’t work out I was back to considering illustrating it on my own, a prospect that turned out to have substantial procrastinative forces lined up against it. I did thumbnails for the poems that I could, but I was having trouble getting the vision for how I would execute the pictures. The publication of Journeying was, in a way, a very constructive form of procrastination from those illustrations.

I think I got a boost from talking to a new acquaintance, an artist, about possible collaboration on another project. (Funny how far just a little encouragement can go.) I used the added impetus of the month of November, in which many writers engage in National Novel Writing Month (something I’ve done three times) to get busy on the illustrations. And I pretty much got them finished by the end of November. Then there was the process of creating the print-ready pdfs, and the proofing. So the two books ended up gliding to press at the same time.

The other way in which I begin to approach prolific is that I now have over 900 poems on my blog. I expect to roll past the 1000 mark in the next three months or so. Meanwhile, my goal for the year is to do everything I can to increase the audience for my poems. To that end, I’m working on pulling together this website, doing more speaking engagements, and trying to get the word out about my books. Any help towards any of that is greatly appreciated!

 

Publishing your work

For many years, the notion of getting published was lofty and mysterious for me — deeply desired and too daunting for me to even quite set as a goal. Now I have two poetry books published, and more on the way. Granted, I’m publishing them independently as opposed to through a publishing house. But many things in the field have changed so as to make independent publishing feasible, and also more desirable in several ways to traditional publishing.

In traditional publishing, the first hurdle to overcome was that you had to sell your work to a publishing house, or to an agent who would then sell it to a publishing house. And agents and publishing houses want work that they think will sell. But their formulas for what makes things salable seem to be as follows: People who are already well in the public eye sell. Compelling concepts may sell. Concepts that fit stuff that is already selling well may sell.

Concepts. An interesting term. They don’t even want to look at your work, don’t want to step into the flavor of the first sentence, if you can’t summarize your whole book up mainly in one sentence and then polish off the experience in the rest of a short paragraph. (This is for the ditty that is called a “query”. Much is written about how to make a good one.) If your story is something that sneaks up on the reader, is not easily characterized but may captivate and move them, you don’t stand a chance, unless you can condense that same experience into one short paragraph.

But my experience with this was in the attempts to publish my novels. Poetry is a whole other story. Basically, the conventional wisdom is that poetry doesn’t sell. Most people who are considered successful poets, and have published several books, also have day jobs.

In traditional publishing, there seem to be two routes to getting a poetry book published. One is to become a professor associated with a university that has a press. The other is to submit many poems to various literary magazines and get them published, thus developing enough of a name that you might be considered for the publication of a book. Of course, those magazines have to agree to publish your poems, and from what I’ve seen in many of them, their criteria for what makes a publishable poem are different from mine.

So the fact that I can publish these poems myself is extremely liberating to me. In publishing my first book, I have had great help and support from my artist collaborator, Mellissae Lucia. In publishing my second one, I’ve had great support from many friends, who encouraged me to follow my muse and the call to develop myself as an artist. My third book, in production now, has support from still another source. I will talk more about this in my next post, as well as sharing my experience with independent publishing.

Putting it out there

My main blog is Earth Whispering, in which I practice the discipline of writing a poem a day. You can reach it with the tab Earth Whispering Poems, above. This blog, the one you’re reading now, I don’t expect to be as prolific, but I want a place to post my thoughts about the process — writing, publishing, illustrating, presenting my work to the world. I hope it will encourage others who yearn to bring forth their unique gifts.

Before I started writing and publishing a poem a day, the poems that I did write would pace about my head from time to time. Some of them had tunes, and I would sing them. Others just had rhythms that would lend themselves well to the steady pedaling of my bicycle, and they would play themselves as I rode along. Behind each one of them would surface the plea, “let me out.” They would say, “listen to me, I’m good, am I not? Isn’t that image great, isn’t the juxtaposition of my words inspired?”

“I don’t know,” I’d tell them. “I like you, but who am I? I don’t know anything about poetry and how it is judged.”

So the poems would play themselves and go away, and come back again with a certain wistfulness. They gave me both joy and sadness, in the cloister of my mind.

Now that I write and publish a poem a day, they no longer haunt me. I haunt them sometimes, looking at the stats from my blog to see if anyone has looked, hoping for comments. But I don’t memorize them – there are too many of them for that, and each day demands its insights to be chronicled. They now bring me joy, with no sadness.

So if you are a closet poet — if you, also, have poems and songs that pace in your head and plead for you to release them, I deeply encourage you to let them go!

2012 marked, in addition to my blog, the print publication of two collections of poetry. This has been a remarkable experience, with much to share. I’ll talk about that in my next post.