Archive for September, 2013

Read This Book: The Girl Factory by Karen Dietrich

Factory Girl

I know the landscape of Karen Dietrich’s memoir, The Girl Factory.  It’s a small factory town in rural Pennsylvania.  It’s a household where parents work different shifts at the local factory — a mother who works days, while the father takes the “Hoot Owl” (A term used by my family for the night shift — also called The Graveyard Shift).  It’s a house filled with pets and superstition and complicated love.

Certainly, it was this familiar landscape that drew me into The Girl Factory, a memoir about a young girl growing up in the 80’s in Connellsville, Pennsylvania.  But it was the lyrical language that made me stay.

I knew Dietrich’s work as a poet (and because we both attended the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg as undergraduates), but even I was surprised about how she was able to find poetic prose in a dusty and rusty small factory town, especially when the subjects found in her book lead to deeper dirt than what coats the physical surface.

Dietrich starts her book in 1985, when an employer of the Anchor Glass plant (the factory where both of her parents work) goes on a shooting spree killing four supervisors and then himself.  It’s this moment, when the family finds out about the shooting, that Dietrich explains: “There are moments that separate before from after, minutes in time that freeze like a photograph, capture a flash that indicates change.  I start to realize that everything I’ve lived so far has been the before. I don’t know what the after will be.”

What follows as the “after”  is a coming-of-age story about class issues and family relationships, a book that integrates the pop culture of the 80’s and 90’s, and a work that is able to explore even the darker findings of Dietrich’s childhood without losing the lyrical grace of her poetic language.

I have followed Dietrich’s work as a poet (see my review about her chapbook Anchor Glass here), and I preordered The Girl Factory over six months ago.  It didn’t disappoint.  In an age where memoirs are seemingly everywhere — this book certainly stands out as a must read. You can read more about Dietrich and her work at her website.


CFS: Our Fragile Environment

Bellevue Literary Review has posted its latest call for submissions.  From now until February 1, 2014, the journal is accepting submissions (nonfiction, poetry, and fiction) that explore illness, health, and healing in the context of environmental issues. According to the website, editors are seeking “experiences and varied perspectives of the environment, touching upon issues of the human body, health and healing. Primarily, we are looking for fresh writing that illuminates some aspect of humanity and human experience.”  See the journal’s website for more details.

Rejection Tastes Like Chocolate

So, the leaves are starting to turn and we are under a frost warning for the night.  School is in full swing, and I have been busy with the usual activities that come with the start of the semester.

And I have also been swarmed with rejection slips.

I spent the start of September bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t heard much from editors over the summer.  Well, they all must have heard me because I have been receiving rejection notes left and right.

Writers go through these stages, I know.  They have a string of good luck and then they have a string of bad luck — at least that has been my experience.  I just have to ride out this period of bad luck.

And what should I do with all these rejection slips?

I don’t keep my rejection slips.  I never did.  Back when I received more rejection slips in the mail, I recorded the rejection (to help keep my records straight), and then threw the slip away.  Now, more rejections come via email.  I record the rejection and then delete the note from my inbox.

I agree with January’s post.  I don’t need reminders of rejections. Instead, I throw a dollar in my rejection jar.  And then I eat chocolate.  Lots and lots of chocolate. But I have been told that since it is dark chocolate, it’s okay.

Tupelo Press Booksale!

Tupelo Press is having a great sale.  From now until October 1, if you buy one book, you can receive a paperback of equal or lesser value for free!  Take a look at their homepage and then flip through their online catalog for some great choices.

Sniffling in September

So here it is, right on schedule: my yearly Autumn cold.  This past week, we suffered through a heat wave before we experienced a sudden shift to cooler…no cold…temperatures.  In other words, one moment it was very hot and then the next moment, it was not.  I don’t react well to sudden changes in temperatures, so I woke up Thursday morning absolutely exhausted, and then as day progressed, my throat got sore and my nose started to feel stuffy.  Needless to say, I have spent most the weekend curled up in bed, not getting any school work done and certainly not working on my own writing.   I haven’t even answered the pile of emails that have stacked up in my inbox in the last few days.

The good news is that I’m feeling a bit better today, so hopefully I can tackle all the grading, corresponding, and revising of my own work that is piling up around me!

Looking with Lia Purpura

Many years ago, I took a Chautauqua workshop with poet Margaret Gibson.  She told me that I needed to practice looking, and that in doing so, my poetry would be stronger.

I was a novice writer, and I didn’t understand her advice.  Looking?  Of course, I knew how to look.  Afterall, my poetry was about the working-class world.  I had grown up in that world.  I had spent my whole life Looking.

It’s been many years since that workshop and I have to admit that the process of learning how to look has been a slow one — and even now, I realize that it’s not an action that comes easily.

Essayist and Poet Lia Purpura, at yesterday’s Earth’s Eye Festival, encouraged us to practice looking.  The day was divided into two parts: field work at the lovely Presque Isle in Erie, PA and a craft talk by Purpura.  On the trail, Purpura told us that writing about nature is a tricky act to accomplish: we often enter nature wanting the unexpected or expecting great life revelations, and these two things can happen, but we have to work to make them happen.  I admit that I grew up in the rural world so I always want the unexpected to happen.  Sometimes, I get it.  I see a muskrat in the Connewango Creek right in the middle of town or a Barred owl in the middle of the day (no bad omens here — I have learned that Barred Owls are known for showing up in daylight) or a Black Bear crossing in front of me on a main highway.  Other times, Purpura is right — I have to work a bit harder.   And I also have to work at making leaps into life revelations.

All in all, it was a great day — made especially so because the rain held out until the end of the day, so we didn’t have to scamper off the trails to find shelter from any storm bursts.  Especially great?  In my journal, I have two new starts to prose pieces.  I’m not sure where they will go, but I know they will go somewhere!

CFS: Wonders of the World

Chautauqua literary journal is now accepting submissions for its 2014 theme: Wonders of the World.  Submissions of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction will be considered until November 15.  Chautauqua has now also added a new section for “Young Voices” which considers work from writers who are ages 12 – 18.  Take a look here for complete guidelines.