A couple of weeks ago, I escaped from the routines of my everyday life and disappeared into the woods for four days. As the video above explains, the intention of the trip was to shape a small writing retreat for myself. I packed up some pens, notebooks, my laptop, and printouts of a poetry project (along with some books and art and mediation supplies).
The goals of the retreat were low-key:
Disconnect from social media, the internet, and other distractions that fill my time with mental clutter.
Rest, relax, and rejuvenate through reading, walking among the trees, and meditation.
Out of the many writing focused podcasts out there, Writing Excuses has long been one of my favorites. Hosted by published authors working in a variety of genres and with years of experience in the industry, Writing Excuses provides solid and insightful writing, craft, and business advice with a splash of humor — all in bite-sized 15-20 minute episodes.
In 2021, the podcast is focused on presenting a series of master classes covering a wide range of subjects. Most recently, the show wrapped up an eight-episode series on poetry, which was led by Amal El-Mohtar along with regular hosts Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor.
My poem “The Third Sister,” which appears in Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale (Interstellar Flight Press), has been nominated for a Rhysling Award by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. It’s such an honor to be included among the ranks of such amazing poets. You can view a complete list of the nominated poems as well as order a copy of the Rhysling anthology containing all of the works here.
I’m also grateful to the editors of Yes, Poetry, who have named me the Poet of the Month and published two of my poems “Little Ghost” and “The Zenith.”
I mean . . ., okay, technically, it’s been out in the world since September. I just haven’t got around to saying it until now.
You may as well as me, Why? Aren’t you excited?
And the answer is yes, I’m very excited. Yet, somehow I’m having a hard time sharing that excitement with people.
Maybe it’s just the general 2020 vibes and all the anxiety and weirdness that comes with it. I’m sure that’s at least a part of it — however, another part is some strange block I have about promoting and celebrating my own work.
Example One. Sitting around a campfire with my aunt, cousins, and sister, we were taking turns saying the things we felt most proud off this year. When it was my turn, I rattled off a few things (of which I don’t remember). When I finished, my sister was flabbergasted. “I thought you were going talk about your book coming out. How could you not talk about your book coming out?”
“Oh, yeaaaah,” I said. “Yes, yeah, of course, I’m super proud of that, too.”
Rebecca Hart Olander’s poetry has appeared recently in Crab Creek Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. Collaborative work made with Elizabeth Paul has been published in multiple venues online and in They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press). Rebecca is a Women’s National Book Association poetry contest winner and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her chapbook, Dressing the Wounds, was published by dancing girl press in 2019, and her debut full-length collection, Uncertain Acrobats, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press in 2021. Rebecca teaches writing at Westfield State University and is editor/director of Perugia Press. Find her at rebeccahartolander.com and @rholanderpoet.
Your new collection of poetry is Dressing the Wounds. Tell us about the project and how it came into being.
The new collection is also my first collection, and it came into being in kind of an unusual way, at least for me. In sum, I created it with a specific press in mind, and I didn’t get feedback on the manuscript as a whole before submitting it for consideration. To explain further, in the summer of 2018, I was feeling pretty discouraged by the lack of success I was having placing my full-length manuscript. I had finished my MFA program three years prior, and each year I was having a steady incline in individual subs being accepted, but lots of rejections (and a nice bunch of semi-finalist/finalist nods) for the book. I felt like it was high time I had a book in the world, and it began to seem silly that I hadn’t even had a chapbook out yet. Even students of mine were publishing chaps, and I was feeling like I’d skipped a step trying to go from individual publications to placing a full-length manuscript.