Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Posts Tagged ‘creative writing

Poem “January 26, 2011” published in Birdfeast Magazine

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birdfeast

At the beginning of September I learned that my poem “January 26, 2011” was accepted for publication in issue four of Birdfeast Magazine. Birdfeast is published quarterly and features a “feast” of 10-20 poems in each issue. They publish “…your loudest pieces, and your quietest ones. Your strangest and your most gentle.” I absolutely love the way Birdfeast presents itself electronically in terms of its site design. It was one of the things that made me want to submit there. If you submit work, you probably know exactly what I mean when I say there are some online journals out there that look absolutely horrendous. I know that literary journals (including ejournals) are a labor of love, but come on now people. Birdfeast is where it’s at in terms of minimalist design & great use of color/images. It allows the work to take front stage.

Another reason I decided to submit to Birdfeast is because Duotrope (y’all know about Duotrope, right? If not, get on that!) has this nice feature where you can look up a particular journal title and then see:

  • Work submitted here was also submitted to…
  • Users accepted here also had work accepted by…

When my poem was accepted at Curio, I checked Duotrope for other places work by Curio authors was accepted. Lo and behold, Birdfeast was on the list. It’s an easy way to learn about new journals to read and places that might mesh with your particular style for submissions.

This poem is particularly meaningful to me because it’s about my friend’s mother who has since passed away. I have incredibly fond memories of growing up and playing in their house when I was younger (all the way through high school). The last time I got to see her, in winter of 2011, she still beat my ass in a game of Skip Bo! The poem is short, possibly my shortest ever. I think it’s a good parallel to the brief lives we lead.

Thanks to Jessica Poli (Founder and Editor-in-Chief) for selecting my work for inclusion in Birdfeast.

Written by Erin Dorney

November 26, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Keeping Track of Ideas

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notebook

Last March I blogged about a Computers in Libraries session on capturing, sharing, and acting on ideas (presented by Adam Shambaugh and Jill Luedke from Temple University). Since then, I’ve been thinking about the different tools I use to record my ideas:

On my phone:

  • Voice Recorder App – Mostly I use this to capture ideas while driving. Six-hour trips between Pennsylvania and New York equal lots of time for creative reflection. I try to be as safe as possible (open the app before I leave, keep the phone on my lap, one tap to record and pause, etc). On my last drive I recorded all the billboard messages I saw, transcribed them and am now working on a hybrid found/erasure poem using the messages as my text.
  • Notes App – I’ve been known to jot a line or two down in my iPhone notes. I usually do this when it’s the only available option—if I’m in the middle of attending a lecture or something. Eventually I transcribe these into one of my writing notebooks.
  • Camera – I like to take pictures of things like really great or really awful signage or businesses practices that I think might translate well to libraries.

On my computer:

  • Bookmarks – Yup, I still bookmark a TON of stuff in Firefox. And they’re not synced between my work and personal computers. I know there are more robust bookmarking tools out there, but bookmarking usually comes into play when I see something random (after clicking along from five different blogs/websites) that I’m not sure I’ll be able to find again. This results in a huge mess of unsorted bookmarks on both my work and personal machines. About once every month or two I go through them all and either organize them (if it’s a place I’ll want to visit multiple times), read the article/post and delete the bookmark, move the information somewhere else, or buy the item.

In the cloud:

  • TeuxDeux – I’ve blogged about this tool before, but can’t resist sharing it again. TeuxDeux is browser based which allows me to add “home” do-to items while at work and vice versa without syncing headaches. I also purchased the iPhone app, so my lists are available there as well. Yes, this is more of a to-do list tool than a place to capture ideas. However, in addition to a weekly calendar, there is a “someday bucket” which I use to record opportunities I want to look into at a later date. It helps me keep those opportunities fresh in my mind because I see them whenever I look at my daily to-do lists.
  • Google Docs – I recently received an email from Google notifying me that my 894 files stored in Google Docs are now in Google Drive. Eight hundred and ninety four files! I have Google Docs for everything—work projects, creative writing, papers, research projects, presentations, conference notes, lists of things to do, and more. I have a shared doc called “Fishbowl of Awesomeness” where my colleague Melissa and I put snippets of ideas we have for research and publication projects. Google Docs is also where I collect my blog ideas and outline them before drafting them in WordPress.

Tangibly:

  • Notebooks – While I do a lot of my work and writing digitally, I still love paper notebooks. I usually have a few going at once—right now there are three: a Moleskine in my purse/work bag at all times (for anything); a hand-bound journal next to my bed (mostly journaling and book notes); and a spiral bound notebook (reserved for poem crafting).

In the past I’ve collected ideas on sicky notes, large pieces of paper (mind mapping kinda stuff), Evernote on my iPad, and whiteboards. Having a great idea—the perfect line for a poem or topic for a post—and not having a way to record it is a terrible feeling. This usually seems to happen to me when I’m in the shower, just about to fall asleep, or somewhere in public where it would be awkward to pull my notebook out. I repeat the idea over and over in my head, convinced that there’s no way I could forget such a beautiful phrase or thought, but inevitably, the idea is lost if I don’t record it.

How do you keep track of your ideas? Any tips or tricks? Do you keep work ideas and personal ideas separate?

Image CC BY 2.0 courtesy of seanmcgrath on Flickr

Written by Erin Dorney

November 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Poem “Kitchen Drawer” published in Curio Poetry

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Curio screenshot

I found out early last week that my poem “Kitchen Drawer” was accepted for publication in issue 7 of Curio Poetry! Curio is a (newish) online journal that highlights “the world at a micro-level: tiny spaces, instants, individual objects, scraps of dreams and memories, et cetera.” I decided to submit to this journal after seeing three poems published in issue 2 by M.J. Iuppa. I studied under Iuppa as an undergrad at St. John Fisher College, and her instruction deeply influenced my craft development.

“Kitchen Drawer” was initially composed during an in-class writing exercise for one of my workshops with Kim Bridgford at West Chester University. The poem underwent a bunch of revisions after that, but if you’re interested, here are some similar prompts you could start from:

  • List the items in your junk drawer and write about how the items in a person’s junk drawer can tell a lot about that person.
  • Write a poem about the clutter in your emotional junk drawer.

Thanks to M.J. for introducing me to Curio, Kim for the prompt, and Joseph Harker and Tessa Racht (Curio editor and assistant editor, respectively) for giving me the opportunity to publish this poem next to all of the other amazing work in issue 7.

Written by Erin Dorney

June 11, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Reflections on my teaching research writing course.

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The lamp in my hotel room is duct-taped to the nightstand. My window reveals a sparsely filled parking lot, I hurry in and out of the building so that the truckers down the hall can’t catch my room number. Live for five days on peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, metallic tap water and oranges. Reese’s Pieces from the vending machine. I feel homeless. Rootless. A transient pulled from her bed by the impending flood. I am a nomad wandering from bed to coffee to class. Repeat.

-August 19, 2010

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What I have described here is a brief reflection on my first week-long, 3-credit summer workshop at West Chester University, where I am working on my MA in English through the creative writing program. As of today, I am 18 credits in. In order to earn these latest three credits, I gave up a week of work, my apartment, garden, kittens, friends, significant other, mail. I returned poorer, overripe tomatoes littering the yard, my boyfriend had jetted off to Florida, and I had to sort through a weeks-worth of church fliers, pizza coupons, and rip-off-scratch-off-car-dealership bullshit to find one treasured postcard from a friend. Damn you, Lancaster.

The workshop was called “Re-Learning Teaching Research Writing” and it was about how restrictive, meaningless, and intellectually stifling traditional research papers have become. I went into the class somewhat leery of my inexperience as a teacher (my “teaching moments” typically occur in library instruction sessions and in one-on-one research consultations with students) but realized that after being in school for 18 years now, I have certainly encountered these unappealing research assignments myself. Our two main texts were Bruce Ballenger’s “Beyond Note Cards: Rethinking the Freshman Research Paper” and Davis & Shadle’s “Building a Mystery: Alternative Research Writing and the Academic Act of Seeking.” In a nutshell, we have become so concerned with structure and formalities that we’re making student hate research writing, an activity that can not only be creative and fun, but helps writers negotiate authority, develop their own identity, and create new knowledge.

I have to say, I was very pleased with the classroom dynamic in this workshop. The majority of my classmates were practicing English teachers at the elementary, middle, or high school level and boy, to educators like to discuss! I think I adequately held my own in our conversations, and was able to shed some light on things from a librarian perspective. It also got me to thinking about many of the assignments I see when doing instruction for classes at Millersville… many of them seem to represent the traditional research assignment, overly concerned with conventions and number of sources. I am hoping to put some of what I learned into practice when negotiating sessions with faculty members as well as the general outlook I take when discussing research with students.

Another thing that struck me was the frequency that libraries and librarians came up in our conversations. Many of my classmates talked about how ill-equipped their school libraries are – many relied heavily on the PaLA POWER Library resources that have experienced drastic cuts. Others talked about how their schools do not have enough technology in the library for student use and their experiences with the digital divide. At least one school had fired their librarian due to budget issues and a number of other teachers told me about school librarians who made me want to apologize for my profession (librarians who were downright mean, unwilling to play nice with the teachers, etc). Many of these discussions were in the context of how access (or lack thereof) to librarians, resources and technology impacts the kinds of assignments that teachers can give their students, in turn impacting how well students can truly get to the heart of creative, fact-based writing.

Overall, while living in a hotel by myself for five days wasn’t much fun, I truly enjoyed this class. Particularly on Friday, when one of the teachers turned to me and said “Boy, I wish you could come be the librarian at my school!” ::Score:: Library scenester, challenging librarian stereotypes one day at a time…

What do you think about all of this, readers? Are there any school librarians out there who have had similar conversations? Have you ever taken a week-long intensive course? Did you love it? Hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Written by Erin Dorney

August 30, 2010 at 8:39 AM

The voice of authority.

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Photo 53-polaThis fall I’m taking a poetry workshop at West Chester University. It is the second course for my English MA degree and boy am I excited. My Cultural Studies course last semester was superb – it made me look at everything from a different angle. And after my first creative writing class last week, I’m sure this one is going to be just as good.

I briefly talked with one of my librarian colleagues at Millersville about feeling nervous regarding the transition back to creative writing. I am worried that because much of what I write (outside of this blog) is very academic-y/report-y/blah-y. I am used to writing a certain way for work – in a more professional tone, etc. and I haven’t done much personal writing since college. She recommended reading more fiction (to “get me in the mood” haha), and when I tried to complain that I don’t have much time for any reading outside of professional development she slapped me in the face with the future: downloadable audio books for the drive to and from class. Genius! The Lancaster Public Library has a wide array of books available, and I will be downloading at least one of them to my iPod for the drive on Thursday night. Hopefully that will get me back in the swing of things.

In the meantime, I am posting something I wrote during a freewriting exercise last week. I volunteered to read out loud on the first night of class to set a personal tone for myself. I want to learn from this class and become a better writer, and in a workshop setting I can’t afford to be timid. The exercise can be found here but basically it was to take a “voice of authority” from your life and write in that voice. I chose to write in my father’s voice based on some “parental guidelines” for my brothers and myself. Some of this has been fictionalized and it is by no means a finished product.

Parental Guidelines

We do not watch television during the week,
we spend summers borrowing books from the library
and if you steal from a store you will write them an apology letter
and they will hang it above the register
so that everyone knows
you’re a thief.

We do not read at the table,
we eat together every night
and I will check your math homework
but you’re on your own for writing.

We don’t go on vacations,
we do not spank people
and if  you throw a bowl of hot chicken noodle soup on your brother,
the babysitter will quit,
causing me to stay home
and watch you.

I will not yell at you,
but you will disappoint me
with your choices, words and actions.

I will teach all of you how to drive,
we will not listen to the radio while doing so
and after you fail your first driving test
we will go get ice cream together.

We don’t explode fireworks in the backyard during graduation parties,
we take bike rides together to the beach
and if you were meant to have holes punched in your earlobes,
you would have been born with them.

Written by Erin Dorney

September 7, 2009 at 8:21 PM