Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Have Too Many Books

(Does this count as Confession Tuesday?)

One of the effects of reading a lot of blogs is buying a lot of books. The cool part is that I've read a lot of good books lately, but the not so cool part is that my "To Be Read" shelf is really getting out of control. This is especially bad because books that I really want to read I'm just not getting to, because there's just so darn many of them. I really need to be disciplined and say not one more book is coming into the house until I've read, say, 10 books from my TBR shelf. But I know that if I make that rule, probably I'll just start leaving books in the car or stacking them on my desk at work. Wait--I do have books to be read stacked on my desk at work. Too late! They've been there about a year, because they are related to the class I finished up last May.

If I could at all justify buying a truckload of stuff that would be interesting to read, I would be really tempted by the 2011 Hugo Voters Packet, which SF writer John Scalzi points his readers to in his blog. For $50, you get e-copies of 5 novels, plus a bunch of short stories, novelas, fanzines, graphic novels, and more. It's a great deal for a great selection of some of the best SF of the year. The only thing that keeps me from going for it is knowing I have a ton of science fiction and fantasy that's sitting on my shelf right now that I want to read. Unfortunately, it's easier to buy a book than find time to read it, and the mere act of buying it doesn't mean I've read it and gained anything from it.

On the poetry front, I've bought a lot of new books that have just come out in either 2010 or 2011. Some I've delightedly zoomed through. I seem to have encountered a slow spot with Marilyn Hacker's Names. I love her work, but something about it forces me to slow down and take it in smaller pieces. Still, I hope to finish it today or tomorrow and then move on to one of the other six or ten books I'm working through. One thing I love about not being in school is being able to read whatever I want.

What are you reading these days? Is your TBR shelf as out of control as mine?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Confession Thursday: Organizing Poetry

Even though Tuesday is popular on blogs for confessions, I have a Thursday Confession: I am terrible at organizing my poetry and submission process. I realized last night that I am currently sending around a poem that I had published in 2004. That's just bad record-keeping. Once again, my little index box system has failed me.

Also, I have a lot of poems scattered on different PCs and back-up sites, no full copy of anything anywhere. This makes it really tough to figure out what I have and where things are. Things are complicated by a PC crash I had back in January 2007 and lost all electronic copies of everything I had written prior to that. At the time, I had hard copies of my thesis and dissertation, but I lost pretty much everything I only had e-copies of. So you would really think I would know better, but I've never put together a good system of how to put full copies of originals and backups in places I can work with them.

This has also made it tough to try to organize a book. Although I put together my dissertation as a book, I'm not totally happy with it at this point, and I'm looking to re-imagine a project. Maybe I even want to reimagine what poems I am submitting to magazines. I look at some that have been seen at a whole lot of magazines over the years, and I think maybe they aren't that good, they aren't going to find a home, they don't belong in a book. It's a tough thing to say, but maybe the best thing is to be honest about what I'm working with and be smarter and where I'm spending my energies. I'm trying to look at it like a farmer burning a field before replanting. I'm not planning on starting from scratch, but I do want to start with things worth spending time on.

Having said this, I think my first step is to put together 2 hard copies of what I've written so far, one for home and one for work. Maybe I will even throw drafts in there. Basically, it will be anything worth saving.

My second step will be to figure out how I am going to keep e-copies of things. It's not difficult to email myself a few files or upload them onto Google Docs, but an email isn't exactly editable, and I can't access Google Docs (or any other file storage site) from work. My biggest problem is that I have no way to work on something at the office (the place where I'm most likely to write, given a few spare moments), save it, then work on it at home. Not without saving it as separate files, anyway, and then I'm juggling multiple versions. I end up saving most of my working copies of things at work, which is definitely not smart. Then I have pages of handwritten stuff at home, where it seldom gets finished. If only I could use a flash drive (not allowed at work) or bring my netbook in (also not allowed).

I'm going to have to think about what I should do about that. To those of you who work on multiple computers: how do you keep your files and versions straight? And what's your favorite way of making regular backups?

Also, while I'm confessing, I will say it was me who turned the anti-phishing poster by the bathroom sideways. I got tired of it slouching over on itself because it was too big for the holder. How long is it gonna be before someone notices and changes it, huh?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Throw Another One on the Pile

Honestly, this was supposed to be a quiet week because my boss is out of the office, but it turns out that the pressure of my deadlines is still there. I'm actually kind of looking forward to my class next week (despite thinking that a "business management for government" topic isn't all that relevant to me) since it'll get me out of the office.

National Poetry Month didn't lead me to write as much as I wanted, unfortunately, but I did read a lot, including Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gailey. A great book, each poem with a voice interesting in its own right, and a good learning opportunity for me on how a book is put together. It has such cohesion as a group of poems, even though there doesn't seem to be a direct relationship between any as individuals. It's still difficult for me to think about which of my poems would go together into a book, or if I'm putting something together from scratch, what direction to go. It is useful for me to think about writing a book that I would enjoy reading. I feel like all the poems I've written are a haystack of disorganization, though, so it's tough to find any direction at all in them.

I did finish my book for the 2011 TBR Pile Challenge, The Best American Poetry 2003, edited by Yusef Komunyakaa. Yes, that book was sitting on my to-be-read shelf since 2003, and I'm glad it's off. I can't say it was the best poetry collection I'd ever read, mostly because I don't think I care for Komunyakaa's taste. There were a few poems I enjoyed, though some of them I had read before (the problem with reading a collection of poems that were new in 2003). I have the BAP collections for 2009 and 2010, and I do have the goal for myself of reading them in less than 6 years.

For the Poetry x 12 challenge, the requirement for April was to read a favorite poetry collection from childhood. I had intended to reread some Blake, but it didn't get done, and right now I think I'd rather go on to new books that I'm more excited about. The challenge for May is to read a poetry collection from another country. I do have a book on my shelf that fits that requirement, so I think that will be easier to accomplish than last month's goal.

I have been thinking a lot about how much I would like to go on a writer's residency. There seem to be a lot on the coasts and not many in the Midwest, though, which makes it tougher financially to plan on paying the residency fee on top of airfare. I'm thinking of using AWP as a residency of sorts, though. It'll help me justify paying for the hotel, and AWP is such a crazy, intense experience, I think I would appreciate hiding out in my room for an hour or two, without making me feel guilty that I'm missing stuff.