What Notions Are Afoot

I have embarked on an interesting journey as of late. My mother was here for some time during the winter. She is a painter. Her name is Maria Trapani. She taught art. She infused art into our everyday lives, whether it was visiting the Detroit Institute of the paprikaArts on a fairly regular basis or making a stop on a summer vacation out east to see a Wyeth family exhibit. Each moment is pooled in my memory and hovers in all the best ways. It is because of her that I love art, and my happy place is in an art museum or gallery. Maybe it’s because it’s where she is happiest, too.

With all that, it has taken me this long to perhaps embrace what was inevitable. I have always been creating in some way shape or form. Each little project my mother gave me as a kid, needle point, latch hook, paint-by-numbers, I finished and was pleased with myself for doing so. I sketched a lot as a kid, too. It was something she had us do. There were no tablets back then, and there was no cable TV, but there was always a sketchpad, pencils and something to draw.

At some point, I let it all go. I had taken art classes in my second time around college, butbutch painting there were other things I had to focus on. I still created, but in words rather than in images. I write poetry, a kind of art where I paint with words. Somehow, I always danced around the inevitable, though. It was easier to dance around it than embrace it.

Oddly enough, all these years I had kept supplies. Even when my partner and I purged all of our stuff and embraced a mostly minimalist lifestyle, I kept supplies. I had nearly forgotten I had kept them until my painter mother came to visit and asked what I might have so she wouldn’t have to drag all her supplies on a plane. I found I had everything, oil paints, brushes, canvases, paper, everything, and so it began.

I started tentatively with a small painting of a can of paprika that I still have not finished, but I called it my learning painting. They are all learning paintings, but this was the first step learning paint. I was playing with color and perspective and realized I knew nothing of either and painted over the image until it felt like it was what I wanted it to me, though I haven’t attempted the small details yet. Then I painted the neighbor’s dog and my dog and now I am working through an atelier book, though I know I can’t really learn that way from a book, but it’s better than nothing. And, here I am now. diving into it finally. It’s a start, a journey, like writing has been. It’s for writing because I feel painting is helping me to see in new ways, to understand the world in a different way that gets me away from the computer for a time. In many ways, I have been studying paintings all my life, so it really comes as no surprise that I would begin doing it at some point. I have a lot to learn, but I leave this post with a quote from Keith Haring because it sums it all up pretty well. “The best reason to paint is that there is no reason to paint.” landscape

 

Writing space, not a group, is what I need

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“I believe in empty spaces; they’re the most wonderful thing.” –Anselm Kiefer

This week I said goodbye to my writing group. I have trouble adjusting to groups. This group was a good group, however. It was hard to say goodbye. While I feel like sometimes I need accountability, I realize I just need to write and I need to write on my own terms. The truth is, since leaving my MFA program nine years ago, it’s been hard to find solid ground. It’s been difficult to grasp who I am as a writer and to find the routine and find solid footing. I thought I needed to force myself into a literary community or something. I guess I created a picture in my mind of how the post-MFA me should be and I was not finding my post-MFA life living up to that.

Leaving the group is not about the group members. It’s about casting off the expectations. It’s about finding myself as a writer again. Admittedly, I felt lost. My novel manuscript I left the program with seemed on its way and then it floundered. It had gotten beaten up by some of the communities I thought I needed, and I stowed it away for another day. I made fits and starts on other projects. I cut those off at the knees with other communities I thought I needed.

To be fair, my kids were growing up while I was trying to find myself as a post-MFA writer and they needed me. I worked a full-time job as a writer and then as a teacher of writing. It left little time and energy to find myself. I had a nurturing community in MFA program and then I didn’t. I was doing the nurturing and trying to find a rhythm again. It has been difficult, but the other day I realized that I just needed time to write. I needed to create a routine. I needed space. I needed to breathe life back into this thing that I love to do so much. That routine meant I didn’t want to fit into any kind of shape that the group formed for me. I wanted to be free to work on the projects that I wanted to work on. You see, I write literary stuff, but sometimes there is magic in it or ghosts or whatever supernatural thing that pops up, but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, it’s just literary. I just want to write what I want to write.

It turns out, I don’t really need a group right now. I could use a good reader or two, but not a group. I do have a group of sorts, the kind of group that I figure works best for me to stay on task, a goal setting group, a kind of support group for writers. I meet once a month with them, talk about what’s frustrating me about writing and what’s going well, and that’s good enough, but the critique group always seems to stop the writing in its tracks rather than feed it.

Today, I embrace the space, the space I finally realize I have needed more than the community. This space has helped me look back at that manuscript I shelved with fresh eyes and with a fresh approach. I can see those characters again. I see them in a new way, and I am excited. I need to sit with this excitement for a while, be happy that it’s back. I’ve missed this.

2017, Year of Change

As the year ends, I am dusting off the blog and reflecting on the past year. As with any year, 2017 has been a mix of highs and lows, but mostly it has been about change. I guess every year is about change, but we have made some big ones in the past couple of years.

In 2016, we moved from Michigan, where I was born and raised and never left, to Colorado. I moved quite a bit throughout my life but always throughout Southeast Michigan, so this was a huge transition. My husband and I tend to make leaps of faith. With this one, we said goodbye to jobs and longtime friends, sold our little house in Ypsilanti, did a massive purge of stuff, and packed up what was left along with two dogs and one kid and headed west.

For a bit more than a year we lived with my in-laws and most of our belongings sat in storage in boxes. While that was difficult at times, mostly because of my fears, we could not have done the move without the help and support of my in-laws. In many ways it was a special year that allowed us to hang out together in a unique and wonderful way. We are glad we moved. We love our new home state. We love the mountains. We love the sunshine. We love the rivers. We will be launching a new blog in 2018 that will focus on our big move and our new life here.

Still, all this happened in 2016. In 2017, we made another leap of faith and moved again. This time, just a few miles away, well a little more than a few, but we moved into our own place in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, exactly where we’d hoped to be at some point. As with most things in our lives, it wasn’t a planned move. It was sort off a

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Bohn Park View

sudden thing. An opportunity arose. We weighed the pros and cons, and we jumped at the chance to live where we could step out our back door and walk to the river. As a bonus, the community we have moved into has welcomed us in such a warm way. We feel quite at home in our new place.

 

This year also saw the release of my first book, a chapbook of poetry, and 2018 will begin with an official book release event in February at the local library. Kiki began taking college classes. That helped her meet some people here. That was the hardest part of the move for my social butterfly. All of her friends are in Michigan. Now, she has some good friends here in Colorado, and that is helping her adjust a bit more, that and the fact that she now has her driver’s license. Jay got to do a lot more fishing. It helps that he can walk into the park behind are house and make casts. We did a bit of hiking, not as much as we would have liked, but the hikes we went on were wonderfully cleansing. We saw some of our dear friends from Michigan in June when they came to see Dead and Company with us in Boulder, and Kiki welcomed lots of new and old friends when she attended her first Little People of America National Conference, which was held in Denver this year. We also took a trip to Gunnison, where we fished and hiked.

It has all been good, but life is life and that means with the good comes the not so good.

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Maynard was always a bit of a hotdog.

This year ends with the loss of one of our beloved dogs. Maynard the Wonder dog left us just before Christmas. He wasn’t feeling well starting a couple weeks before Christmas, and then everything progressed pretty quickly from there and he was gone. He was a good dog. A bit of a mischief maker, he had penchant counter surfing and for chatting early in the morning if he sensed Jay or I making even the slightest move toward waking up. He loved splashing in rivers, got excited for a good long walk, and relished a good belly scratch. We miss him so much. He definitely made deep imprints on our hearts.

 

As sad as it all was, 2018 will be here in a handful of hours and we will move on. There is a lot to look forward to. We have been so blessed to be able to spend more time with family, which is what we missed in Michigan. It’s extra special to have the opportunity to see our nieces grow up and to get to spend more time with our parents. We’ll do a lot more of that in 2018. Happy New Year to everyone who finds their way to this little blog! My hope is that you all make steps toward fulfilling whatever dreams and goals you make.

 

Tuesday Review: Landscape of The Wait by Jami Macarty

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I have not blogged in a long while, but I am getting back to it. I am going to start a new Tuesday Review series, where I review books of poems that I come across. I couldn’t think of a better way to launch the series than to start with poet Jami Macarty’s new chapbook book of poems Landscape of The Wait, published this year by Finishing Line Press.

With hauntingly beautiful images, Macarty maps a territory no parent wants to step foot in, let alone chart. She not only maps it, she paints it with painstaking precision and beauty, such that we can’t help but follow her into a space we would prefer never to go. In the collection, the poems traverse the heartbreaking landscape that a parent inhabits as she sits vigil over her adult child who lies in coma following a car accident.

The title poem, “Landscape of The Wait” lays it out there in lines that look and feel in some way like the lines of a map, the roads that start and end with words and brief thoughts that must, in those moments when it’s hard to know when or if to grieve or when or if to celebrate any small victory, feel disconnected.

wait

                           monitor                        when or ever

our want

                                                                  his eyes to open

doubt large now

                             breath or gravel

each instinct’s 

                            trance

 

Still, it’s the poem “Fracture” that opens the door, points the way in, both literally as the opening poem in the collection and figuratively as a map of how to cross from what was into the “wait.”

where I pull over                            to listen to

                                                       the desolate

cellular voice

 

a hummingbird                               needles weeds

invading                                          the clear felling

 

 

where pell-mell insterstate             his body

                                                       through the car window

happens happens happens      

Each moment in that moment of sudden awareness is fractured and we begin to see as Macarty does that the moments will never come together in the same way again. It’s not simply they way she carefully unfurls the images, however, it’s the way she uses the page that gives us the full impact of those vast extended moments.

son                                                          a shadowed Now

where days of no change                  extend beyond

days                                                       of change

Even in those poems where the images come at you with no break, there is a feel of floating, being suspended, in a space where there is no way to know where the roads end or begin or if they are even grounded in anyway. The poem “At the Time of Accident” shows this in a visceral way as we are given the son’s image of the accident as the poet imagines it in a montage of images that give us a sense of slow-motion suspension. We being to clearly feel the surreal nature of the wait.

airborne, he thought. hang-

ing on time’s lost line

suffer suspension,

he thought. near-sighted

horizon. no or-

dinary flying

In the end, there is no destination that this map can take the reader that is outside the wait. It doesn’t end. It suspends us in the landscape of waiting.  All there is is the wait, the continued space that Macarty calls to with heartbreaking longing in the poem “If Only What If.”

If only you took the back way

what if, approaching the toll booth, you pull over to search for change

if only your radio operative

what if the iPod had yet to be invented

if only the semi driver called in sick

what if he stopped for gas

~

If only no caveats with extended footnotes

if only attentive to randomness, exception

if no matter the unlocking, day can become road scarring

if no one deserves this, certainly not you

Macarty teaches contemporary poetry and creative writing at Simon Fraser University. She also advises and edits the online poetry journal The Maynard. Her chapbook collection Landscape of The Wait can be purchased at Finishing Line Press, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

Will Ferrell is Will Ferrell: Making a Case for Shelving the Fallback Plan

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Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure. –Paulo Coelho

This thing, this calling, chose me. That’s how it feels, anyway. I have tried other things, other somewhat more lucrative things, other somewhat less risky things, but none have really given me more stability, per se. None have been lucrative enough or stable enough (or even stimulating enough) for me to say, “Hey, it’s been so worth it to spend my entire life working on a fallback plan,” but that’s what I have done.

I went to college on a fallback plan. I went to college again on a fallback plan. I finally went to college to focus on that thing, but have used the degree more to build the fallback plan than the actual thing. I even went to college one more time, trying yet again at a fallback plan. The point is, I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find a good fallback plan. In fact, I have spent the better part of the last 26 years trying to find a fallback plan instead of giving that thing the time it deserved, the time it wanted, because in that 26 years, when fallback plan after fallback plan fell apart, that thing was always there. That thing was building and growing and building and growing, because it chose me. It nags and won’t let go, and yet I am happy that it does so. While fallback plan after fallback plan has fallen apart, I have found minutes, scraped together minutes to give to that thing because I had to, because I wanted to so much that I had to. In those scraps of minutes, seeds were planted and gardens have grown. That’s not to say there aren’t moments when no matter how much I think that thing chose me, I doubt it and feel like an imposter. Still, that thing nags at me and won’t let me go.

Sometimes, I wish when it first began to nag me that someone would have said, this may be your thing. Listen to it, but I was told it’s best to have a fallback plan. I am a mom now. My kids have their things, and their things, like my thing, are not things that people readily tell them they should bet their futures on. In fact, I remember sitting in one my daughter’s IEP meetings where her teachers and counselors encouraged her thing, but also told her she should have a fallback plan and she should spend more time thinking about that fallback plan. I get what they meant, but I still should have said no. I didn’t say no. Back then, I was in the midst of trying yet another fallback plan that I didn’t know was destined to fail. That’s not to say I don’t say no now. I know better, I guess. I hear my daughter daily through the vent, in her room playing ukulele, singing, and composing original songs. I have seen my son spend hours reading waves, getting back on his surfboard after a fall, trying again and again because it is his thing. Maybe they will find something else. Maybe the thing will be the thing in some way. I don’t know. It’s really not my business to tell them they need to do it any other way. That I do know for sure.

I recently watched Will Ferrell’s 2017 USC commencement ceremony speech. Say what you will about Will Ferrell (I personally find him funny as hell), through his humor he delivered a profound message, at least that’s the way I heard it. He spoke of darts and in the face of his risky, frightening, “I may never make it” calling he kept throwing darts at the target hoping that one or two might stick. I get that. Only, unlike Will Ferrell, I threw them secretly or stole moments to throw them and really only gave myself the chance to throw relatively few darts. Still, some have stuck, like the one I threw at Finishing Line Press in May 2016, and now I am weeks away from the publication of my first book of poems. I am not going to imagine where I would be now if I just spent the time throwing darts instead of trying and failing to find a good fallback plan. I am just going to start throwing fists full of darts now.

Ultimately, though, we spend a lot of time telling dreamers they need a fallback plan, and they need to spend more time figuring that out that plan than doing that thing. We usually give reasons like “It’s hard to make it doing that” or “Not everyone can be Will Ferrell.” Yes, it’s hard to make it doing a lot of things. I know. Yes, not everyone can be Will Ferrell, but then Will Ferrell was once just an unknown guy who kept throwing dart after dart.

Emerging From the Divide

 

I see a lot of mountains. I love mountains. I feel at home near the mountains. Some people feel at home near water. I like water, too, but I love the mountains. They represent so much. They are vast here. They are hard and beautiful. Here it is easy to leave the business of life and hit a trail for a while where there is no chatter. It’s easier to see there are bigger things than us.

There is no good segue from that to this, to discussing the way I have begun to let go and let myself dive into writing again. Maybe the mountains just represent the letting go for me. Maybe this picture of a great divide represents my own divide, or the process of dividing in half the way things were and the way things are now with something new emerging from all of it.

The way things were were tense and serious and hard, not that things shouldn’t be hard. I lived by a book that someone else had written. I learned from that book. Yes, I am talking about writing. I was serious about it. I wrote serious stories about life. My first book, which is in a drawer, is a serious story about a life I once knew, a life I needed to release in some way, maybe that way.

There is no good way to say this, but I the floundered. I floundered after grad school as I tried to figure out what to do with all of that. I jumped from writing group to writing group trying to find a good fit. I tried to find beta readers for stuff that had grown stale a long time ago.

Here, by the mountains, I found a little writing book, Benjamin Percy’s book Thrill Me. I hadn’t read a craft book in a while. I was pretty down on craft, confused about it. Percy gave me permission, permission to go where I wanted to go, to take my serious writing learning and find the holes in reality I was always looking for. That’s what I am doing now with the very real, very big mountains in view.

I’m in the midst of marketing my first book of poems, but already my focus is shifting from poems to time and divides and mountains and things that as I write I can’t really explain, and it feels good. It feels right.

Exciting Publishing News

Trapani-Scott_Cristina_COV.jpgThis is the cover of my forthcoming chapbook of poems The Persistence of a Bathing Suit. The getting here has all been kind of crazy. The short of it is in Spring of last year I submitted my manuscript to Finishing Line Press for their New Women’s Voice competition last spring. At the same time my husband and I were in the process of selling our house and moving to Colorado. Flash forward a bunch of months and, on a whim, I happened to look at my submission manager site and noticed the manuscript was accepted, but I had not heard anything. I went to publisher’s website and also didn’t see anything.

As it turns out, I inadvertently opened two Submittable sites, one through the email I always use and one through the “login with Facebook” feature that is connected to my old email I rarely look at. All info on this had gone to my old email. The short of it is that the manuscript was a semi-finalist for the award, and I was offered a contract. Now, I am here looking at a tentative May 2017 release of my first book of poems. Here is the most amazing cover with photo taken by my talented pro photographer brother Paul Trapani and featuring his beautiful wife, my sister-in-law Leeann Berry.

I dig that the publisher has given me the freedom to make my family a part of this project. My family is a huge inspiration for this project. The poems explore what I call the “the in-between space” that for me emerged between surviving breast cancer (being a young survivor) and coming to terms with how to survive breast cancer. Most people think, “Yay, you survived and that’s awesome. Now you can move on.” It is awesome, but it also creates a starkly different space that for me meant a long period of adjustment. The journey is different for everyone. This is my journey and these poems examine the different perspectives of my journey throughout that space.

I am excited that these poems will be out in the world in some small way. Right now, the book can be preordered. The preorder period is key to the book’s release. I do have to sell a minimum of 55 books in presales for the initial press run. If you would like to order the book, you can order it here or by clicking the title of the book above or the link attached to the publisher.

This is the start of an exciting and incredible journey all its own. I’ve been working toward this goal amid all kinds of distractions for the better part of my adult life. I couldn’t have done it without my family and my mentors.

Postcards, Poems, and Peace

I’ve neglected my blog. The stress of adjusting to life in a new place, the stress of holidays, the stress of new jobs, and the stress of what’s going on politically has made it hard to put thoughts into words. For some, that kind of pressure opens something up and they can cleverly put what they are feeling and seeing into words. For me, all this just stops me up, and I can’t seem to see through the fog it all creates.

I want to resist. I want to stand up. I want to do or say something, but I don’t know where to begin. This month, I decided to start at a small place. For the month of February, I am sending poems to people I don’t know, people across America and a few in other counties as well. I figure, if nothing else, it’s a small act of peace, a small act that maybe no one but the person who receives my poem will benefit from, but at least I can start there, start with something I know, and begin to try to sift through the fog, begin to try to gather strength and put everything together in a way that is familiar to me. So, I will put at least three poems in the mail today, three meditations, and move on to the next and the next and see what comes after that. It’s one way. It’s a beginning. It’s all I’ve got right now.IMG_6253[1].JPG

Back to the Blog (but New and Not Necessarily Improved)

img_5649I’m blogging again. I’m blogging out of want and kind of out of necessity. I’m blogging because this is the real me and the other Cristina Trapani-Scott blog is not the real me, so no I don’t write about the benefits of Acai or whatever. I write about writing and about change. Yes, I said change. I have been through some lately, like changing from lifelong Michigan resident to Colorado resident. I could say change is scary, but change is always happening. Nothing is static and that is for the most part good. Yes, there has been change, like changing from being a steady working chick to dropping everything and having no job. That’s change. That’s scary change. I’m getting used to it, sort of. I’m not planning on making that permanent. Still, right now I’m using the free time to hang out here in San Francisco where I am visiting family and riding buses and running on the beach, or in the ocean as Map My Run likes to show. Really I’m here to find myself as a writer. I guess I lost that part of myself for a while. It has been hard to find in some ways, or maybe like everything else that part of me has changed and grown a bit as well. I am not the writing child anymore. I am the brooding writing teenager, growing pains and all. Well, I have said all I have to say for today. I will be heading to North Beach tomorrow, the Italian section of San Francisco. I am sure I’ll find inspiration there. Maybe the ghosts will speak. I will be listening. img_5672