Monthly Archives: July 2009

An Answer

Thanks to Barbara Jane Reyes for answering my question from this post: “Is It Ready?”

Exhaust yourself with writing the manuscript. Don’t just try to reach the magic number of 48 pages. Put the manuscript down, and then come back to it with a fresh mind. Read its opening and closing poems (or sections), read the manuscript for its movement between these two, and think about whether that read feels complete, whether the flow makes sense for what you are trying to communicate, for how you communicate, whether it’s personalized. That is, how could this book be written only by you?

A reassuring response for a writer who doesn’t know what she’s doing, feeling her way through the dark for this book.

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Submit to Spook Magazine!

From Rio Cortez, editor of Spook Magazine:

Spook is an arts journal that deals in possession, spirituality, apparitions & cultural & racial myths.

Spook is currently seeking submissions in Poetry, Visual Arts & Prose for their first issue.

Please send submissions to TheSpookJournal@gmail.com before September 1st, 2009.

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Is It Ready?

When do you know a poem (rather, a book of poems) is ready to submit for publication?
Yes, of course the poems need to go under rigorous revision, that delicate operation or the messy chopping block. But even in that process, how do you know if it’s ready for publication?
With some of the aswang poems I’ve written earlier this year, despite their revision, I’ve reread them since, and UGH.  Why do I feel like I like my newest work the best? Does this make a poor poet out of me?  How does a poem reach its final form?
With upcoming deadlines from Kundiman and A Room of Her Own for full-length manuscripts, how do you strike a balance between the excitement to publish and the resting period the poems should have?  When do you know it’s TIME?  How do you know when you’re holding the poems for too long?

Honestly, my impulse is to rush, hurry, finish these poems, and submit.  Perhaps this is my own anxiety in just getting the project done in general.

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More Reflections on the Final Reading

I mentioned a few notes on the MMIX Writers’ Blog about the EV Final Reading at the Hammer, but I’ll write more here.

A night to definitely bookmark in my experiences as a writer in Los Angeles.  Running 20 minutes late, I missed sound check and was immediately rushed to the Green Room.  How fancy.  It was absolutely terrifying seeing so many people in the crowd.  I hear there were 200 people — our biggest audience yet.  Mom and family were out there too!

I read four poems from the aswang project I’m writing; two from Ascela’s voice, one from Leticia and the last in the anthropologist’s persona.

I am so blessed to be writing in a safe, creative and encouraging space of writers — all of whom have supported me in my writing, and in my actual living in L.A.

I can truly say that I found home here.

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Final Reading

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If you’re in the LA area, we’d love to see you there!

Wednesday, July 22nd at the Hammer Museum. 7 PM.

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Attention

As I write this, I’m listening to Santogold, writing a curriculum for a youth workshop for 826-LA, reading Barbara Jane Reyes’ blog, searching for an affordable apartment, a decent-paying job and watching my green tea grow cold.

Always, ALWAYS, I’m thinking about writing.  No, it’s not the same thing as writing itself, but at least it’s on my mind, right?

I recently heard about this book called Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher, but haven’t read it yet.  It seems like a good idea; using your full, undivided attention to get what you want in life.

Here’s an interesting excerpt from Amazon:

“Since writing Rapt, I’ve come to believe that we now face a fundamental psychological challenge of a different sort: How to balance your need to know—for the first time in history, fed by a bottomless spring of electronic information, from e-mail to Wikipedia–with your need to be? To think your thoughts, enjoy your companions, and do your work (to say nothing of staring into a fire or gazing dreamily at the sky) without interruption from beeps, vibrations, and flashing lights? Or perhaps worse, from the nagging sense that when you’re off the grid, you’re somehow missing out?”

I find myself almost always finding out about breaking news late. My cheap Target cellphone doesn’t have a fancy touchpad that requires thumb-to-index action nor does it instantly update me through a newsfeed.  I was probably the last person to find out that Michael Jackson died (two hours later!) while visiting NYC (one of the densest cities in the world.  Why didn’t I hear people yelling it out on the street?).  However, the internet distracts me.  Maybe it’s more than distraction.  I feel as though I’m receiving the breadth of what’s going on in the world, rather than any sort of depth.

How do writers and poets and artists who constantly promote themselves, their work, the work of their artist-poet-writer friends, submit their work, WHILE doing the ACTUAL work?  AND obviously live, maintain relationships, make money, and the rest of it.

At every Author Evening we had through our fellowship, one of the EV Fellows, Marissa, always asks: what is your schedule like?  And gleaning from the responses, I know that there isn’t one way to do things, to live an artist life.

How do you do this though, when you’re broke as hell, and it’s NOT Paris or New York in the 1930s, but Los Angeles in 2009?  City of fame and poverty.  City of highrises on Wilshire Corridor and cardboard communities in Downtown.

How do you create your focus and balance in a city that embodies the complete opposite?

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New website

It’s simple and still under construction.  But check it out: http://www.rachellecruz.com.

I’m thinking of adding some poems, links to live readings and performances, and general bio and contact information.  A good way to tie in everything: this blog, “The Blood-Jet” and all the random assortment of things online.

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Writing Landscape

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“Keeping your fingers crossed makes it difficult to hold a pen, but I must say, it’s worth it.”

-Lorrie Moore

I finished Lorrie Moore’s collection of short stories Self-Help recently, which I purchased at The Strand the other week while visiting NYC.

I appreciate Moore’s sense of form, the different lenses she uses to write about memory, and her wit.  I really like how she weaves in photography as a way to flashback then return to the present.  Using the photograph as a captured, still scene to describe, comment on the current moment.  And even though much of her content is serious, she finds a way of using humor successfully in her stories to further complicate her characters, the plot.  I also love how she uses NYC as a character. The city is sometimes the character’s co-conspirator, or enemy, depending on the situation, but it is always used as a way to help tell the truth.

I’ve always loved reading books in the cities, countries they’re set.  Finishing Michael Datcher’s memoir Raising Fences, which takes place in Los Angeles, makes me feel closer to this city somehow.  Like I know it intimately through another life, character.

As I write  poems for my Aswang project, I think about landscape.  About the cities and provinces in the Philippines I visited once.  Maybe not often enough to write about?  St. Louis, where the 1904 World’s Fair took place (I’m stealing some of the imagery, politics, etc. to create my own twisted Fair.)  A city I’ve never visited.

How to make these cities real and intimate for the reader?  And for me, the writer?  This goes back to the question of creating a world and manipulating it as a character who will have a leading role.

On another note, but related to landscape, during my NYC visit, I encountered the Highline, which is a public park that stretches from 14th St. to 20th St. along 10th Avenue.  The story goes, that the old 10th Avenue subway system killed many people on its elevated track, thus earning the title of “Death Avenue.”  It closed sometime in the 1970s, and was vacant for a long time.  For years, private funders and the City of NY have been working on revitalizing the track into a public park.

In the park, on 17th St., there is an ampitheater looking out onto the street.  I have an idea to write a play with this specific ampitheater in mind, using the natural landscape, time of day, as the setting.  Hmm.

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Revisioning

As I begin to order the poems I’ve written for my tenatively titled project “Ascela at the World’s Greatest Fair,” I grow more excited about the larger form these poems will take.

For the past few months of the fellowship, I’ve been trying to “write organically,”  without an agenda for any sort of product.  Many of the poems have failed.  Most of them didn’t make sense at the time of the writing, since I wasn’t writing them chronologically, but I’ve tried to trust the character, the Aswang, and let her go where she wants, even if that meant jumping in time, country, emotional space.

As I blog right now as a writing break from the project, I’m satisfied to see where the poems will go in their sections, where the gaps are, and the poems I still need to write to finish.

Yay, it’s been a while since I’ve been enthused about this project, so I must get back to work!

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The Business Card

As the EV program winds down and I begin to write and reflect on my experience (in part by blog invitation by Barbara Jane Reyes), I am reminded tonight by how far our cohort has come.

After our rehearsal at a fellow’s apartment for our final reading at the Hammer Museum (btw, Weds. July 22nd at 7 pm), about half of us mentioned/pulled out our NEW business cards, printed for the sake of handing them out at readings, writing networking events, etc.  What a moment of OWNERSHIP.

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