Saturday, December 09, 2006

Surprised I Remembered My Password

Sigh. It has been ridiculously long. So I'll be feeling even more than usual like I'm just talking to myself here.

But I'm out of options. Because I'm stuck under a sleeping kitten. And it's a sin in my cosmos to disturb a sleeping cat. Well, until at least 2:00 AM, which it will be in seven minutes. It's just that I'm addicted ... to the purring and the tiny confiding paws on my neck. His name is Samwise.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Music has charms?

From a May 2006 Slate article by Dr. Sydney Spiesel: "The ideal analgesic would diminish pain perception without increasing the risk of harm to patients. How about … music? A recent study, led by Dr. M.S. Cepeda of Javieriana University in Bogota, Colombia, and Tufts-New England Medical Center, put together the results of 51 different papers (involving more than 3,500 patients) that evaluated the value of music for pain relief. The studies examined the effect of music on chronic or cancer pain, acute pain following surgery, labor pain, and the pain produced by medical or experimental procedures. The amelioration of pain was measured in two ways, one subjective and the other objective. Did patients hearing music report a substantial decrease in the pain they felt? And did they require less opiate medication than similar patients who didn't hear music? The results Cepeda found were positive but not powerful. In most of the studies, listening to music modestly decreased patients' reported perception of pain (no matter what its cause) or was associated with somewhat less need for opiate medication. But the differences weren't strong enough to make clear whether music is clinically useful. Perhaps the most interesting results came from the studies in which patients were allowed pick the music they wanted to listen to. Contrary to what one might expect, freedom to choose pretty much killed the benefit for pain relief. Which leaves another question crying out to be answered: Would people feel more relief if they were made to listen to music they hate? We could try this out by playing, say, Metallica for a classicist in a dental chair, or a late Beethoven quartet for a biker about to get a tattoo."

I find the last part of this, in particular, fascinating. Why the counterintuitive, *better* result with music not of the patients' choosing? Did it function as a counterirritant? Or is there some some of "novelty effect" at work? I have noticed that listening to unfamiliar songs on the car radio often seems to kick-start my creative process where listening to a favorite CD will not. As Dr. Spiesel implies, it would be interesting to know if the selections played in the study were entirely unfamiliar to the patients, as opposed to known but not preferred.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Transitory Wing

Ephemeroptera -- Mayflies -- an order of insects so short-lived, they are named for that characteristic. At the risk of anthropomorphizing ... that would be somewhat disheartening.

From Wikipedia: "The primary function of the adult is reproduction; the mouthparts are vestigial, and the digestive system is filled with air ... The majority of the life of the adult is spent in mating swarms."


Monday, August 07, 2006

What would you say?

What do you say, internally (or externally, I suppose) when everything just becomes overwhelming? I'm not talking about the usual four-letter suspects here .... any phrase that presents itself as a last ditch alternative to screaming.

My recurring plaint is, "I want to go home."

I don't even know where that is. It seems to want to be an island, but it's all very nebulous.

I want to go home .....

Monday, February 20, 2006

R.I.P. Hobbes 1994-2006

For having consider'd God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.

--Cristopher Smart

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Publishing Workshop Synopsis

I went with Jeannine and Lana to Hugo House on Saturday, for a Cranky-sponsored publishing workshop with Jeffrey Levine of Tupelo Press. It was informative, although I think a lot of the advice was definitely from his personal perspective as a publisher, being actually in direct contradiction to what I've heard others say. Which I suppose should serve to remind me that there is in fact a live human being on the other end of the envelope, and not an evil (or beneficent) publishing machine. Anyhow ... highlights of what he had to say.

For journals:

Send early in the submission cycle. In part, this is because an emerging issue will often develop a theme all of its own volition ... late arrivals may be undeservedly out, unless they happen to have matched the theme.

If you got ink of any description on a rejection slip, refer to it in your cover letter when submitting again.

(this seemed self-evident, but anyhow) Try to submit to journals that either fit your own aesthetic or publish a wide range of styles.

Don't hesitate to submit to good web-based journals. (Hey, Steve! He said, "There are some wonderful journals out there ...." and then mentioned Three Candles, along with a few others I don't recall.)

He's very much in favor of simultaneous submissions under all circumstances, from a pragmatic point of view. Do the math on 5 poems held by just one journal for 9 months to a year, considered against your production and projected lifespan ... (this is very depressing...) I do agree ... although I just can't seem to bring myself to transgress the rules with the places that absolutely forbid it. Yet. Even though the chances of two journals both deciding they want the same poem at the same time are infinitesimally small...

For book/chapbook manuscripts:

On contests: In his opinion (mine too, I think), running an ethical contest requires that the manuscripts be read anonymously. In theory anyhow, this levels the playing field by avoiding any nepotism and the name-recognition factor. When choosing what contests to enter, try to find out who the final judge is, do your research and (again) try to match aesthetics.

This struck me as a personal preference, but he said that he develops a fondness for a manuscript after he's considered it multiple times as a submission. I guess the moral is, don't hesitate to submit to Tupelo over and over; grin.

Another personal preference thing (because I'm sure there are some editors who would actually *bristle* at this) ... he likes some indication in a cover letter that the author does understand all the hard work that goes into promoting a book, and intends to pull their weight.

And one more PP: He likes a very brief synopsis in the cover letter addressing what the collection is actually *about*; this tells him that the author has actually given some thought to and understands her own work.

On length: Books -- 58 to 66 pages/Chapbooks: 16-32 pages

Make sure your poems are selected and ordered in such a way that they cohere into a *book*, not merely a collection. There should be some unifying element ... theme, style, imagery. Does each poem communicate in some way with the next? (This is my Achilles heel, I fear ... between my rate of production and scattershot subject matter, I may be 50 by the time I have even a chapbook together...)

Don't make the mistake of headlining poems in your manuscript just because they were accepted by a reputable journal. Placement (as above) must make sense in the broader context. Make your own assessment of what your strongest work is.

That about covers it, as far as my notes go anyhow. Oh, he also talked about the financial nuts and bolts of the distribution and sale of books, which was educational, but sort of a downer. I can't imagine small literary presses are in it for the money. He also encouraged learning the industry, so to speak ... reading the trade mags, going to conferences, meeting the people behind the mastheads. Same as any other discipline.

I am inspired to start sending out again, after having been in quite the rut. Great idea, Jeannine!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Bling by any other name...

A very small part of me says, "cool" ... but the other three billion parts are rolling their eyes in disgust. Check it out: Glow-In-The-Dark Roses.

How short-sighted of me not to realize that this was a product just *begging* for fresh ideas and innovation ....