Monthly Archives: October 2012

Still emerging: the promise

These days, one receives so little real mail (as opposed to sales flyers and bills, which continue to flow, keeping the US Postal Service in bidness), that a lovely note, handwritten with a fine blue pen, draws one’s attention immediately:

“Tracy, your work shows real promise. Please keep us in mind in future.”

Which was, of course, a very nice way of saying, “Ummm, thanks, but no thanks.”  I should point out that this was the second time I’d been rejected by this particular poetry publisher–but it was also the first time I got a handwritten note out of the deal.  Count as progress?

It would be easy, as a sometime, wanna-be poet, to take the rejection personally.  Poetry is very personal, of course, both in the writing and in the reading of it–and for sure in the submitting for publication.  That’s my heart wriggling there on the page, can’t you see it?  Please be careful with it.

Please love it.

So when the rejections come–as they inevitably do–it’s not just a rejection of the words.  It’s rejection of me.

It is true that this past year, my words have seen some success in finding an audience, however small, and I recount them here partly as comfort, partly as a way of objectively gathering the evidence that I’m OK, I’m doing what I need to be doing.

(Funny how when the intensely personal gets tangled up and painful, I fall back on the objective habits I use in my working life.  Sometimes they do come in handy.)

So:

  • “To Know a River” and “Hauling Hay” published February 2012 in First Lights II, publication of the Southeast Writers Group and Friends.
  • “Hauling Hay” published simultaneously Spring 2012 in Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts and Letters.
  • A collaborative work, a book of original poem-prayers in draft form, was presented for use during the 4th annual Pilgrimage of Peace at Stillpoint Retreat Center, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
  • “Understory (Red in the Bud)” awarded 3rd Honorable Mention (Emerging Writers, poetry) in West Virginia Writers 2012 Writing Competition.
  • “Understory (Red in the Bud)” published October 2012 in Still: The Journal; and named one of two Judge’s Selections for the journal’s 2012 Annual Literary Competition.
  • “Hauling Hay” nominated by Assisi editors to Sundress Publications’ 2012 annual Best of the Net in poetry.

I have to say, I do like the idea that I am an emerging writer.  Things that emerge are fascinating to me:  blood-slick babies emerging astonished and gasping into the unexpected air; peony ruffles, their sweetness dazzling the ants, emerging fold by fold from the swollen bud into spring; the fragile, tentative antennae of snails emerging to taste and test the earth . . .

Yes.

I am an emerging writer.  At nearly 50, I confess impatience at not yet having arrived, but there is sweetness at the prospect of living into–emerging into--the “real promise” that may come.  If I work hard.  If I am as patient as the snail.  If I let myself experience the world with the unschooled eyes and fragility of an infant.  If I can trust that my real work is “to be astonished”, as Mary Oliver describes it.  If I am as consistent and insistent as the peony bloom bursting its green cage every spring.

Then, perhaps, in time–it will come.

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Plan the work, work the plan

Step by step, rep by rep, the line of exhausted candidates for the coveted Russian Kettlebell Challenge certification advanced across the gym floor. After a year or more of personal preparation, three previous days of nonstop instruction and serious work–and one final demanding day of testing–the candidates were literally within steps of their long goal: the letters ‘RKC’ after their name.

As they advanced, the shouting and cheering from their onlookers built the excitement: trainers began calling out “RKC! RKC!”–family, friends, and colleagues yelled the names of their candidates. The volume level increased in inverse proportion to the distance between the advancing wall of candidates and the bleachers where we sat; as they drew closer, we could see their exhaustion fall away, replaced by sheer surging adrenalin. Tears of joy and relief flowed and became indistinguishable from the sheen of sweat covering their faces.

As I wrote in my GiryaGirl.com blog posting about the Vienna 2012 RKC, to be present in those final moments of pain and triumph–to have shared that moment with a larger community I never knew existed before that moment–was great privilege indeed. I saw the passion each candidate brought to their pursuit of the goal–saw the root of that word made tangible: pati, or suffering. Saw it made real, and fulfilled.

In my pursuit of the Hardstyle Kettlebell certification just a a few weeks earlier, I had tasted a bit of that passion, suffering, and triumph at the end. Though their achievement eclipsed mine many times over, I understood.

I returned home this week to face final preparations for yet another new goal, representing my university and my office to a wider circle: the 2012-2013 HERS Institute at Wellesley College near Boston, a professional development network for women in higher education leadership and administration. The work volume has been daunting, to say the least: hundreds of pages of reading and note-taking; multiple interviews to conduct, write, and submit; data and reports from my institution to gather and begin to work with.

One of the pre-assignments related to my work with the institution’s mission statement and strategic planning documents: I had to prepare a personal mission statement and strategic plan, covering my personal and professional development over the next several years.

What a stretch for me! I confess I have been something less than strategic in my career development: every entry on my resume has included a generous portion of sheer serendipity (and perhaps even more pure dumb luck): from my first leap after grad school into registrar work, to my return to our alma mater, to our shift eastward to Virginia, and finally our eventual migration across the Blue Ridge to West Virginia. It has been a satisfying career, but not much has been planned, strategically or otherwise!

This particular assignment, then, has been every bit as challenging as my physical and mental preparations for the HKC; and I am hopeful that the results will be every bit as fulfilling.

Page by page, report by report–step by step–I have been building my portfolio for the first session, this upcoming weekend. I fly out Wednesday for Boston.

Where, by the way, I hope to hook up with one of the newly-minted RKCs from Philly’s certification, Sharon Shiner, and her kettlebells, of course. Gotta keep up the training . . .

More later, folks.

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