On Loving Cold Weather


Yes, you can bet your sweet bottom that I’m one of those white girls who was putting Pumpkin Spice Creamer in her coffee as soon as September 1st hit. And I was so happy when the weather began to turn back down into the seventies that I was furious today that it was 85. I’m an autumn lover; lover of all things cinnamon and cold, crisp and cookie; I love wearing oversized sweaters and boots up to my knees and my collection of scarves and beanies is massive.

I’ve come to the realization that my mood tends to correspond with the way I feel about the weather. I know we’ve all heard about the winter blues and cabin fever, but I feel like I tend to have the opposite. When it’s summer I feel this immense pressure to be out doing something all the time. I get anxious if I sit down for too long (even if it’s to read or write), and I end up being really hard on myself if I don’t go out to enough social gatherings or don’t go on enough camping trips or experience enough new things. When it’s cold outside I feel like I can just be. I can type for hours with my tea in my hand, I can draft new manuscripts because it’s too cold to just go outside and hang out when all the shops have closed down. Fall and winter are my favorite seasons because I don’t feel so cramped, so sweaty and rushed. Something about the briskness in the air is just so energizing that I find myself in a better mood more often, and it’s easier for me to be productive.

Which just means that I need to get better with spacing myself out in the summer. I don’t think I’m at that point yet where I’ve shaken off the propensity to ‘prepare for fall’ the way that I had when I was still in school from kindergarten to college graduation. (By the time I do, I’ll probably be getting ready to do the same thing with my future children, so yay.) To a point, I think it’s alright that I go with this natural rhythm- to understand that I have this natural limitation in the summer that seems to run contradictory to what I think is going to be this time of boundless productivity. I need to work better with this limitation so that things don’t come to such a grinding halt (I get behind on my posts, I don’t submit manuscripts, I don’t produce new works, etc). It’s better for me to work at a slower pace for me not work at all, right?

So it might be too late this year, but next year I’ve got a plan: I’ll focus on working more efficiently during my summer time, instead of focusing to intently on working harder. The beginning to success if knowing where to start.

What’s your best weather, readers?

Stagnation


Looking at my last couple of posts, I feel like all I’ve been talking about lately is being overwhelmed and overbooked. This is, on the surface, a post that’s not entirely different. Right now I’ve come to a point in my life that is woefully stagnant. I haven’t written any new poetry in over a month, and haven’t submitted anything new in about the same amount of time. Normally that would be because I’m focused more over on the fiction-writing side of things, but progress hasn’t budged on that end either. With only ten pounds left to lose I’ve seemingly plateaued, things at work are bubbling together as the kids prepare to go back to school and their mother back to job-hunting and my financial goals are coming together, albeit slowly.

But I’m not stressed out about it. I was about a week back- I wanted all these goals met now, I wanted my editing finished now, I wanted five different manuscripts out on submission now…. And then I met up with a friend of mine who has also been a bit stressed out about timing. In his case, it’s a lot about a specific relationship that he really wants to happen. The only advice I could really give him that would be healthy for everyone was to be patient, and to pray. I realized that I had been missing that myself lately. I’d been seeing my stagnation as an obstacle to my goals, to my creativity; to my life. Instead of taking the opportunity to breathe, I was holding my breath until I was purple in the face. I wanted things done on my time, not on God’s time, and in that I had twisted myself up in pretzel-like contortions. Instead of being able to work harder, go further, I have become my own biggest obstacle.

So I start today with a new resolution. When I feel too tired to write, or to network, I will pray. I will take the hint when my body needs rest. I will be patient so that when I do write, when I do edit, I do so with a clear mind and open heart (instead of out of sheer frustration and desire to get things over with). I will welcome stagnation as a normal part of the creative process, and of life in general. It’s not going to be easy, seeing how much I hate being productive, but it’s a lesson I’ll have to learn.

How do you deal with stagnant periods, readers?

Things I Do to Stay Sane: Get Out of the House


But Amber, getting out of the house is super fun, that wouldn’t take too much work would it?

If I was a more outgoing person and naturally enjoyed being out my room, sure. I’ve always been that person who could be locked up in her own room for pretty much ever and be perfectly content to do nothing but write, sleep, and maybe play some video games. I do have to force myself to text my friends most of the time- not because I don’t love them, I truly do, but because I am perfectly content being alone (as long as I can be productive).

Regardless, I am a firm believer in the idea that ‘alone’ was not the way that life was meant to be experienced. If it was, God would have made me and only me. (I may not agree with His sense of humor, giving me no desire to be with other people and yet putting me in a situation that begs me to be with other people, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.) Being as I am just one individual in this cosmic whole, it is my responsibility to connect myself to the whole, to immerse myself in the community.

Sometimes, I enjoy it. Nights when I go dancing at the Rose with my friends, or get to go to a small house party or new movie. I don’t regret leaving the house, and I feel good about it. Other times, I hate it so much I taste acid. These are the nights when we go out to sketchy bars or to a crowded party where I only know one or two people (and often there is pot around, which I really, really don’t like the smell of) or dragged to some celebration where I know there are people there who don’t like me or we had a falling out or there’s no set plan for the evening or people invite me to hang out only to zonk out in front of the television and completely ignore the fact that I’m there…. you get my drift. With my autism, I often lean towards anxiety about these sort of things- I weigh the numerous bad experiences against the ‘few’ good experiences and nearly talk myself out of leaving my safe, cozy room. Just thinking about all the ways that ‘going out’ could go very wrong, I freeze up.

What keeps me going out, time after time, is this simple realization: I would be a horrible writer if I stayed locked up in this room. I’d become one of those self-absorbed, self-righteous writers that I hated in high school, loathed in college, and still like to pretend don’t exist today. For me, a lot of writing (especially with poetry) is about taking your life experiences and condensing them into a kind of pure image for others. Those readers in turn adopt those images into their own plethora of experiences and, if the experiences together are rich enough, there occurs a broadening, brightening and deepening of one’s understanding of the human experience as a whole. I would consider this to be one of God’s greatest gifts to His creation: little collaborative glimpses into the grace of eternity.

That’s what I want to be a part of. I don’t much care for the party scene, for drinking or for being seen. But if I can see just a little bit more of the world, if I can learn a new nuance of humanity, I’m going to muscle through it.  I don’t ever know if the experience of getting out of the house will rejuvenate me, or just drain every strand of emotional energy that I have left. It’s always a toss up. But I have decided that in either case,  getting out, giving in to the cosmic mess that is being with other people, is worth the pain just as much as it is worth the potential grace.

What do you do to ‘get out of the house’?

Updates: Getting My Life Together


I’d been doing so good with my resolution to post twice a month. On the one hand, I’m proud that I made it at least five months without slipping, but on the other, I’m a tad disappointed with myself for letting that just go.

Ah, well. Life goes on. And how. I’ve moved back to Highlands Ranch fully now. Settling back in to a living rhythm with my parents, college-aged little brother and younger sister has been a bit of a struggle, but the kinks are starting to work themselves out now. I started my first full-time job nannying for two small children Monday through Friday, at the beginning of this month which is both a challenge and amazing.  Overall I’m proud of this day-job, and feel blessed to be able to make a living doing something that I’m good at, that makes me feel affirmed and valuable and every-day, and surrounds me with love and support instead of hard deadlines and constant belittlement from peers (it helps that if my boss gets cranky at me, I can just put him down for a nap!). I’m also super excited to be getting more involved with my church community, as I have committed myself to being a core team leader for a local high school youth ministry where an old youth group friend of mine was recently hired as the youth director.

In this time of settling in and setting up, I think I’ve written a grand total of one new poem. On the writing front, I’ve been itching to finish my latest full-length fiction manuscript (around 130K words), and I’ve been reading in most of my spare time to try to get rejuvenated with how I’m feeling with my poetic ability. With all of these new experiences in my future, I have a feeling that I will soon have more to write about- but after graduating and moving back, I’ve found that I’ve lost a majority of the writing community that used to keep pushing me to write a new poem a day and I’m most certainly suffering the effects of that. I’m still waiting for a couple of poems to be published before I can send off my next poetry manuscript, but I need to set a goal to get back into submitting poems.

I’ve been entertaining the idea of posting more of my poems directly on my blog rather than submitting them to journals, but I’m torn down the middle on that one. I want to be able to continue to be published as I have been being published, on the one hand, but on the other it would easier and less time consuming for me to post poems directly to my blog on a regular basis (once a month, perhaps?). I might consider doing so with some of my poems which are too specifically worded for most poetry publications, and I might do so with poems that have now been published for long enough that I can re-post them without there being any conflict of interest between myself and the publishers. My question with that would be: which would you rather see, these poems in a text format, or these poems in graphic format? Or should I publish them as both? I will most likely make them as both, seeing as it is easier for some of my media outlets for me to post in graphic rather than text format…

Either way, now that I’m finishing with my latest fiction project I want to get myself back into the swing of being able to balance my poetry side with my fiction side, which means more work and more dedication to both sides of the writing art that I have committed to. I would very much appreciate any prayers or good thoughts that you could spare!

(Also, if you have any requests for a specific kind of poem that you would like me to post, or a poem you’d like me to do a video reading for, don’t hesitate to let me know!)

Getting Back on the Wagon


I just wanted to update from my last little post of despair. Since then, I have submitted to three new journals with poetry, plus a forth with a short story. I also got an invitation from a friend to go to an Open Mic the first week of September, and with the new school semester starting up, I also have a whole new semester with my university poetry club for encouragement and creative juice-stirring. So, suffice to say, I’m looking much more positive today than I was three or so days ago! Shows how quickly moods can flip, as a writer, from defeat to perseverance and hope! (Which, if I’m going to be honest, I really stay mostly in the latter state of mind, what will all of the great support I have from fans, family and friends!)

Things I Do to Stay Sane: Hang out with Children


Sometimes, it’s nice to be able to take a break from being an adult and remember what it was like when stuff like bills were ‘mommy and daddy’ problems. It’s nice to think that entirely nonsensical answers could truly be the way to deal with conflict in one’s life. It’s fun to spend the entire day reading, or playing pretend, or thinking up crafts, or baking, and consider that to be as productive as we need to be today.  Sometimes, it’s downright necessary.

kids

I’ve been getting more than my fair share of this kind of therapy this summer what with being a nanny to two girls (7 and 11) every day from breakfast to dinner time. But if I’m going to be honest, I’ve always been around kids. I have a large immediate family (five siblings, three older), and a pretty close extended family. I can’t really remember a time where there wasn’t a baby or small child under the age of ten somewhere in my family tree. As one of the ‘older’ kids, but not quite the oldest, I also can’t remember a time where I wasn’t expected to hang out with or watch other kids who were either just younger or a lot younger than me. And I’m not about to say that this was always the best of times for me, babysitting or hanging out with younger kids. Most of the time, it’s honestly a royal pain in the behind (though what isn’t, eventually).

But taking time out of your day to just hang out with children can be an awesome thing, too. It always blows me away, the things that children notice. It can be as simple as obsessing over your new hair cut or as out of the blue as pointing out the racism in a Nickelodeon movie. I think a lot of the time, when I tell people that I hang out with kids a lot, they immediately think that I’m cool with it because of the innocence of children. Honestly, I like it more because of the wisdom of children. They’re still in this age where they haven’t become so tired of the world that they don’t truly believe, down in their little bones, that they can change the world. Not someday, but today.

I love when I talk to the girls that I nanny, and one of them, ‘Star’, tells me that she wants to be a banker when she grows up, and that she wants to do a semester of school in Japan in high school.  When we talk together about what kind of work that would entail, she doesn’t get discouraged. She just kind of gets this wide-eyed, goofy grin look on her face and she says, “Well, I better get working on that then”. ‘Snail’, her younger sister, wants to be a gymnast. Not tomorrow, but today. And no statistics or comparing her to other girls is going to convince her that she can’t be. These children have an unwavering faith in themselves, and they haven’t yet learned that the rest of the world has forgotten that. I know my older niece and nephew are the same, and hope my younger nieces and nephews grow into that invincibility as well. And never grow out. So I hang out with kids to remember just how dumb I’ve become regarding my own God-given potential.

Also, specifically as a writer, I love some of the questions kids ask. When I’m writing a poem, I often get stuck in this kind of rut, asking myself (and the world), the same kinds of questions over and over. Appreciating the same things that are within my comfort zone or within my immediate realm of existence. The kids I know are always challenging that. They ask questions that make no sense, are rude, or improper, or ‘common sense’. They never stop questioning. They appreciate the wonder of hairless cats and guinea pig medicine and bubbles and eating pizza with their aunt at the cool kids table.  They remind me not to doubt the importance of what I’m writing. They teach me not to be ashamed of wanting to immortalize a feeling in verse, whether it be appreciation, frustration, loathing or doubt, because to them all feelings and questions and loves are valid and sacred.

So if you’re feeling like you’ve lost your magic, go ahead and take your niece or nephew or little cousin, little sibling to a picnic in the park (or the zoo, or aquarium). Don’t ask them to entertain you with their antics. Don’t expect them to come up to your level. Simply be with them, listen, and absorb all of the wonder that they have had the grace to retain. Remember the grace you were born with, but have forgotten. Recharge, and heal.

Then, write.

What I’ve Been Up To


With my personal laptop being down for the count, to me it seems like lately I’ve had to fight to get enough time to work on my writing. It’s funny to recognize how much writing has become work to me- I’ve become nearly addicted to networking, graphic designing, editing and compiling. Every waking moment is dedicated more to figuring out how to improve my next work, or bringing back-burner projects to the public in fresh, new ways. On the one hand, it’s stressful- being a writer in a day and age where publishing can be had with a fistful of cash, fighting to remain relevant and yet still true to oneself, doing promotion writing and work that were never even dreamed of when I decided I wanted to be a writer… it’s hard. On the other, it’s stress relieving- I wake up every morning with a strong sense of purpose, a list of tasks to be done, and firm goals in mind. A lot of my peers have expressed horror and depression at not having the same drive, especially as we are currently in the thick of graduation season. If I could have a nickel for every ‘what now?’ status I’ve read in the past month, I could quit my day-job and write full time. So for that, at least, I am very grateful. Without my writing, I literally would not know what do so with myself besides surviving.

That being said, it is nice every once and awhile to acknowledge the other things that I’ve been doing. You know, the whole having-a-life-outside-of-writing thing that even I forget ninety percent of the time? Like going to movies with old friends (The new Star Trek was alright, I felt like the humor kept hitting at the wrong times) and shopping with my housemate once a week.

Tanning has been coming along smoothly, which is good news.Fun fact: I’m allergic to sunscreen. Last summer, I didn’t get the opportunity to build up a base tan before June because I started working in an office mid-may every day, and ended up essentially confined to my house for the rest of the summer (or to wait to go to the pool until late nights, brrr) because I would burn so badly. What with starting my nannying job in June this year, I don’t really have the option of not going outside- it would be unfair to the girls I’m watching to make them stay in the shade ninety percent of the time for my sake- so with this tan I’m hoping to go back to my old cycle of protecting myself from the sun with slightly pre-baked skin.

Since I’m back at my parents’ house for the entirety of May (so that my younger siblings can have at least a month of being able to use the little Civic we share liberally), I’m also closer to where my boyfriend lives. I’ve been trying to spend as much time with him as humanly possible, since during the rest of our eight-month relationship we’ve only been able to see each other one day a week, if that. So far, that’s been awesome.  I really do enjoy his company, and the opportunity to hang out more with his family has been great as well. Together we’ve been going to a couple big events with our friends, too, like the first couple of summer BBQs that have been happening (I love those, by the way), as well as his school’s awesome rendition of Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Denver Performing Arts production of Sense & Sensibility:  The Musical (Love Austen!). Today, we’re gonna kick back and play Injustice: Gods Among Us, which I’ve wanted to try out since the first concept art was even released.

Other than that, I’ve just been soaking up this time that I have with my family. When I’m not out, I’m usually watching soap operas with my mom or visiting my grandmother or bugging my little siblings endlessly. It has been wonderful being able to go to Mass with my family again- I love working as a Sacristan up at my school, but it’s also nice to sit down in the pews and receive the experience of church without all the anxiety of having to make sure that it goes as planned, as well as being able to sit surrounded by those I love most (instead of by myself, in the back, ready to spring up if anything goes wrong or someone needs help).

So until I get a replacement for my old computer and have the capability to really grind down to work again, I’m going to be focusing on that. Once I do get the replacement, however, the first thing I’m going to be doing is getting all of my posts for the June Book Blog Tour set up and ready to go! Remember, if you’re interested in being a blog tour host for the month of June, e-mail me at amberkoneval@gmail.com. So far, I’m slated to be writing a couple of great blog posts on what poetry means for me to express my faith, my impressions of Paradise Lost, a couple of exclusive never-before-published poems, and maybe even some new video/audio readings (and don’t forget, at least one giveaway!) Definitely stay tuned for that.

Things I Do To Stay Sane: Working Out


For awhile now, I’ve had a series of posts called ‘Why Do I Write’. I haven’t updated those posts in awhile, even when I promised to post one after the publication of ‘Word Sexual’, but I haven’t yet had the time or the emotional stamina to do so. However, the other day when i was at the gym I got the brilliant idea of posting some of the routines and physical things that I do in order to become a better poet and person. Unlike with my ‘Why Do I Write’ series, however, these posts do not have the purpose of better explaining me or my writing. Instead, it is my hope that sharing my own processes for writing, from the mundane to the bizarre, will jump start other writers and readers who are stuck in their own ruts, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, by showing different ways of getting through things.

So why not start with the incident that made me think of this series?

My work outs don’t seem all that intensive. Because of issues that my body has, I cannot do much that is high impact or requires major lung capacity or stamina. So I walk for an hour around the track at the recreation center near my home. Sometimes, if I’m feeling a little adventurous, I will do so outside in a four mile loop around my neighborhood (usually because I need to get the sun). During these work outs, I play the same songs over and over again, taking care to select songs that are different in genre, tempo and type. Then, while I’m walking, I will mouth each song. I take care to ensure that, if I were speaking, I am mouthing the words so clearly that enunciation would be nearly perfect. Heck, when I meet someone I know while I’m working out, ninety-eight percent of the time they can tell what song I’m listening to because they can see the words on my mouth. Most of the time, this elicits some pretty weird looks from people who do not know me. Doesn’t matter though- I’m doing it for my poetry.

Mouthing the words to songs as I walk aimlessly around the track in front of a bunch of strangers helps me prepare for readings. Weird, I know, but man is it effective. You see, I don’t need to work on the volume of my voice or my projection- I’m a naturally loud person. What I do need to work on, constantly, is my speed and my enunciation. Mouthing the words of songs that I love helps me to internalize their rhythms. I focus on the tone of the song- is it angry? is it a love song?- and I begin to associate that song’s speed with it’s feeling. I become aware of how much I need to breathe in order to make each word heard. I take on a less robotic feel in my reading because, in my head, I’m ‘singing’ at a speaking tone. And seeing people staring at me as I mouth the words, I become more confident. I’m not actually speaking to them, and their attention is usually fleeting, but it gets me acclimated to having eyes on me while my mouth is moving. It may seem like a mighty stretch, but honestly it works.

Sometimes the key to prepping yourself for the most daunting parts of your writing career (which for me is definitely readings) is by fitting in your preparation into things you already do. By using this method of mouthing along to songs while I’m working out, I’m essentially giving myself something to do while I work out so I don’t want to quit my work out early. I’m also tricking myself into working on my stage presence and reading ability without psyching myself out by saying straight out to myself that I’m preparing for a reading. It’s something I’ve forced myself to do habitually, rather than last-minute.

It works, too. When I was starting out, people clapped politely when I read and then friends told me later that they could barely understand me. Now, I get complimented more often on the way I speak than on what I’m even saying. I honestly think its a testament to finding ways to improve yourself that are complimentary to things you already have to do (or already enjoy doing), instead of stacking stress upon stress on yourself.

That being said, it’s about time for me to go do my walk for the day. Why don’t you comment and let us know one way that you deal with a stressful obligation in a complimentary way?

Blog Re-Designing


So, for the past couple of months I’ve been working on my websites through a Multimedia Writing class that I was taking. I’ve decided that it might be about time that I updated the look for my blogs as well. I want to make them easier to go through, as well as making them more readable and attractive (and less dark and angsty, at it seems almost all of my sites were prior to this). I would love to have people’s input into whether or not this change is good- or if I need to go even further with the re-arranging of the blog. What would you all like to see on this blog that hasn’t been seen before? If you’re a new follower, I would love input on what you would like to see from a newer poet- what would give you better insight into who I am, what I’m trying to do; whether that be a suggestion for content or for the way the blog is laid out?

Looking forward to your comments!

Things You Notice, The More You Write


Tonight, I finished my last two paper finals for this semester. All I have to do is compile and polish off a thirty-five page short story portfolio for my fiction class and I have officially finished the first half of my senior year of college. What a ride! I wrote a poem about it, which I hope will be fit for public viewing eventually, but I figured I might as well post about it as well.

I’m getting ready to go to sleep and I decided it might be a good time to just look through some of my more recent posts. For sure, there’s been a pick up in activity since I released my novel in February. Most of that’s been my feeble attempts to keep myself from thinking about how the novel is doing, to be honest. Writing has become this constant cycle of needing to get it all on paper, then being proud of it, then being absolutely terrified about how people are going to like it, and then just not caring, and then being tickled pink when someone likes it (or mortified if someone finds mistakes with it), and then we’re off to repeat the cycle again. Keeping busy has gotten me one step closer to keeping sane, it seems.

Not that I don’t still enjoy it. I do, I really do. I don’t know how I could ever survive without writing, really. It keeps me grounded when I’m at my lowest points by helping me to admit to myself what I’m really going through. It forces me to remember just how good I’ve got it most of the time, by making me stop and write down those little moments of grace and blessing that happen every day.

When something that I write gets published, it keeps me from feeling like I’m alone or hopeless in anything that I do. At least someone, somewhere, believed enough in my skill and in what I had to say that they decided to take the risk and put their own names behind it. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I didn’t go to my shelves of journals and look through them just to see my name in them when I’m having a horrible week. Considering the fact that this is never was ‘part of the plan’, it’s a huge thing for me.

It’s really weird to be sitting here, winding down on my second-to-last semesters of college, talking about writing as a career. To begin with, many doctors and teachers told my mother that, because of my obvious mental disability, I would not be able to survive even middle school. Much less high school. Much less a double major at a private university. While working twenty-hours a week. While writing poetry daily. While writing the third book of a seven-novel installment.

At this time last year, I didn’t even know where I would be living. My roomate’s parents had just told her that she couldn’t live off campus, and I couldn’t afford living on. I was scrambling to figure out what I would be doing for the summer. I had just got a new job at a real-estate and lending company. I’d been published here and there in my high school lit mag and parish newsletters before, but it was that semester where I was finally published in a ‘real’ journal that would be internationally distributed.

It’s funny to note that I had started this post planning on apologizing for all of the things that I haven’t accomplished yet. You see, I sat down to write this post when I read an ‘update’ from a couple of months ago where I was enthusiastically going on and on about my plans for manuscripts that I thought I was going to get to compiling that week (that I still have not touched).

But, now that I think about it, I’m proud of where I am. I’m grateful for the people who have put me here- my editors, Jesse and Chris, who are absolute darlings that I could not imagine moving forward as a poet without; my sisters and brothers who are always enthusiastically asking me about what I’m writing next; the friends who are willing to bounce ideas back and forth with me late into the night because I have a plot bunny stuck in my head; the boyfriend who keeps reminding me to allow myself to be proud sometimes; the mother who tells everyone about me; the God who gave me everything that I have to give. I didn’t mean for this to turn into a post of thanksgiving, but that’s really the only way this can go. I can’t even begin to talk about what I wish I could have done by now without acknowledging the miracle that is being able to complain about it, when at this time last year I would have had no clue that all of this could be coming for me.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to keep pushing. I can be a better poet, and I will be. I want to be the best poet that I can be. I want to be the best writer that I can be, period, and that’s going to take a lot of work. I guess I’m trying to say that I’m just so grateful to be able to do that.

And now, my night is about to end on a completely different note than it started. I was prepared to go to bed feeling stressed and worried about what new things I could do tomorrow to be better, to do better. But now… I feel peaceful. It’s always good to remember to count one’s blessings.

Gratitude, people. The gift that just keeps on giving.