November Writing

I’ve loved many Novembers in my life, maybe because I improperly interpret it as Nova and embers and love the contradiction of newness with the dying of the light and the darkness that sets in so, so early.

I’ll be attempting to write every day again this month, as I did last month. I didn’t write every single day in October, but I did write quite a bit. I have many poems to harvest, a couple of interesting ideas for essays and stories that could be pursued further. And I wrote some things that I hope will make an immediate difference in the world: college recommendation letters for my beautiful seniors.

So, what’s happening next with Pace writing?

  • Why am I writing these days? What’s at stake? And especially – why write poetry?

    Mostly because I feel a compelling need.

I hope you continue to tell your own story and point to the map of your body and say, “brave.”

One of my favorite places to read about poetry is The Paris Review’s “Poetry RX” Column. Sarah Kay tears it up this week: “You Could Make this Place Beautiful”

I write to unravel my trauma, to make sense of the world, and just because it pokes my brain in all the right places.

  • Where is my writing going?

    I’m sending out poems and flash fiction whenever I can carve out time to actually complete the process of submitting. Right now I have 18 poems that are out there (ah, my little sterling silver babies!) to 9 publications, and my favorite flash piece is awaiting 2 responses. I don’t know if these numbers are good? I don’t know what other people do? But since submitting is a relatively new thing for me, I’m feeling brave everytime I send those little baby spoons out into the world.

  • Will I be doing NaNoWriMo?

    It’s tempting, sure, since I have two novels barely started and they could use a big pouring out of time. But it seems so brutalist to me — is it really about the numbers? I don’t really get along with numbers, and I really don’t want to fall into a pattern of being annoyed or disappointed with myself. My goal is not about volume, but about the consistent practice of this thing I love doing.

  • What’s the future of this blog?

    To anyone who’s been loyally reading, THANK YOU! Creating a blog was a way to force myself to show people my writing and put myself out there. I’ll still be talking about books and practicing the literary analysis that I teach to students, but I’d like to share more of my own impromptu writing, and every once in a while talk about the craft of writing.

    A year ago I wrote one of my favorite blog posts: Resuming. I still feel this way often, always coming back to things and starting over and renewing my energy.

If you’re writing this November for NaNoWriMo or for any other purpose, I’d love to follow your journey! Leave me a comment 🙂






Some notes on writing

  • Yesterday my students took an in-class AP Exam essay, and I wrote alongside them. I wanted to go through the process again so that I could remember my approach, and I wanted a model essay to show them and analyze together. What I didn’t expect was how thrilling it was for me. I was writing super fast, keenly analyzing the passage, and having to come up with the right words under pressure, and I genuinely found it fun. Maybe my strengths lie more in analytical writing than in creative writing? Or maybe my writing would be better if I could capture some parts of that approach– speed, motivation, exhiliration, and a little bit of competition.


  • I have a student who wants to be a writer. She’s a good one, too– her poetry is emotionally interesting and her writing voice is strong. She’s one of the students who seems to have her own style, even in high school. But she’s struggling to write at the moment, so yesterday we talked about ways to deal with the times when we just can’t write. I think I convinced her that every artist or creative person loses the will to put out work at some times. And what can we do? Either we take a break, focus on our “real lives,” jobs, school, friends. Or we push ourselves to create positive patterns in our lives so that we write daily or weekly and hope that something good comes of it.


  • All of this gothic literature has been affecting my poetry– I am writing dark story poems about bells and lying in the heather waiting for death and yearning for lost love. It doesn’t really feel like me, but I’m enjoying the experimentation, especially with meter and rhyme. Maybe I’ll write the next “Annabel Lee.” More likely my writing will change again with spring.


New Year’s Poem

New poetry– in honor of the dawn of 2018. Changes ringing already. 

New Year’s Poem

did you champagne me
because I sparkle or
because our love is not rosé?
should fireworks remind me
to be surprised by you?

is delight really a substitute
for constancy, devotion,
for roses, not petals
for choosing our bedsheets together?

I will think at clock-strike
what good I am without you
and what color I could be
if I bloomed anew this Spring.

and do I, as snowflakes christen midnight,
want to begin again with you?

or do I conceive
a newborn, pink-cheeked,
lonesome me.


Sunday Sentence

The best sentence I’ve read this week, presented without commentary and out of context. 

I was thinking something of this sort: that deep red of her lips, if it were printed on me, kissed on me, would become a burning solidified blood that would brand itself into my flesh and leave a black seared brand shaped like the lips of a woman.

Louise Erdrich

The Round House 


I haven’t written much this October, and so this November I need to come back to writing. Getting back to writing is an acknowledgement that writing will take me back. And that I have written before, I have been a writer, I AM a writer. Just one who’s drifted away.

Two nights ago the Northeast, where I live in a little city neighborhood nestled next to the water, was pummeled by a massive raging storm. All night I woke in cycles, hearing and fearing the hits of the wind against my windows. Damage, trauma, trees down, and then we slowly pick up and get back to work. Do we leave the leaves on the ground? Which branches are big enough to stop us, and which are just reminders of history?

I think often of the damage-inflicting events of our lives. Grief, war, addiction, violence, poverty, racism, abuse. Recently we’ve been talking about sexual assault (some readers may want to stop here) and the ways that it changes us and our ways of trusting and giving and living and being in our bodies. I am trying to listen to my sisters and brothers and hoping that they can pick up strings and tie themselves into their own strength. But I know it’s too much to expect for everyone to be okay.

Right now, I’m reading The Round House, by Louise Erdrich. She names her novel after the site of Geraldine’s rape, and she knows that she has to unfold the truth quickly. There’s been some criticism out there lately about authors using rape as a plot device, but that’s not the case here. The novel is about how to step back up into life after trauma. So far in my reading, Geraldine is not doing it– not resuming, that is. And that has to be okay; we have to suspend judgement. But we also have to want her and will her to get better. Erdrich’s narration forces us to do so from behind the closed door. Instead, we watch Joe, her 13-year old son, trying to go on and grow up. This is a far kinder and more beautiful way to write the book.

The Round House begins with an image of weeds creeping into the cracks of a house. An image, I think, of damage and trouble invading where they don’t belong, multiplying organically. Joe and his father, together, are a unified front against the little trees. Later in the book they carefully tend Joe’s mother’s garden when she won’t leave her room. They bring her cut flowers to show the nurturing they can do. They are gentle and yet fierce in their protection.


Outside my window right now is a prodigious tree made prostrate by the storm. It drapes like the willow it isn’t over the fence of the park next door. It is cracked into impossible angles, yet it still forms one entangled mass. It’s broken and someone will come to break it more and take it away and clean up. The neighborhood won’t be treeless; we’ll resume our ways. But I think it’s right that there’s a time to see it and let it be ruined and count its branches.

In my poetry class, my kids are making family trees. What are their branches? Which kid will hesitate before putting someone’s name down? Which kid will really kind of wish he could chop off an entire branch? Which kid will choose a symbol that’s NOT a tree? Which kid will be thinking about the ways her family could grow?

As for me, I’m letting things lie draped over and slightly broken, and I’m coming back to writing.