New Poem in Buck Off Magazine

BuckoffMagI’m thrilled to have my poem “When You Turn Away” included in Vol. 7 of Buck Off Magazine.

Not only am I among great writers, the artwork in this issue is outstanding. Check it out!

This is the fifth poem I’ve written and the fifth one published. I’m shocked and awed. I wish I could conjure up more poems but, like with the stories, they come to me when they come to me.

I still don’t consider myself a poet. That’s just the form that the stories took when they came out. And I’m very lucky that they each found a place in the world.

Poetry: Not for the Faint of Heart

When I think about finishing a new book, I envision another book of stories or a novel. I don’t see a book of poetry.

Mused1I don’t think I could write enough poems to fill up a book. Or least, if I wrote that many, I’m not sure I’d survive the process.

The few poems that I have written feel too close to the bone. Not enough fiction in between me and what I’m writing.

With my stories, they usually – but not always – begin with a nugget from my life.

An incident. A feeling. A broken heart.

But by the time I’ve finished the story, it’s no longer really connected to me. The plot, characters, location, outcome…everything has probably changed. Except for that original nugget.

With stories, I can step away from myself and let the stories float out there on their own.

But the poems – they stick to me. As painful as it is to write them, it’s even more painful to see them in the world, knowing that’s me on the page for all to see. No fiction to hide behind.

I’m thrilled, and scared, to have my most recent poem, Love Court, included in the Spring Equinox 2015 issue of Mused Literary Review.

Heartbreak in Room 7

I am no poet. To call me one would be an insult to all poets.

What is "The Poet Jen McConnell?" Things you won't ever hear me called.

What is “The Poet Jen McConnell?” Things you won’t ever hear me called.

But I can’t control how the story comes out – usually it’s a short story, often a novel, sometimes a screenplay, and very rarely a poem.

I have such admiration for poets. How they can convey so much with such economy of words. But I haven’t always liked poetry.

In college, I hated poetry – Ode on a Grecian Urn, The Rape of the Lock, etc. – I despised those weeks of classes.  I especially hated writing papers about poems. Why write a poem if I need ten pages to explain it? Give  me 900 pages of Dickens any day.

(I do admit, however, that I have always liked The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.)

But once I was in grad school, I listened live to the poetry of my classmates. It was there that I grew to appreciate modern poetry, about real life, about experiences and emotions I could understand at face value and didn’t need another person or Wikipedia page to explain it to me.

So I opened up to the idea of poetry. Stopped crossing my arms against it. And sometimes the muse speaks to me in poetry. Not often but just enough to remind me she’s there.

A few weeks ago, I looked back at a poem I wrote about ten years ago. Fiddled with a couple of lines and sent it off.

The editors of The Olentangy Review accepted that poem, “Heartbreak in Room 7,” just before deadline for their summer 2014 issue, which is now available online.

It’s weird to see my name under the poetry section of a literary magazine, but I am thrilled just the same!

The Clockhouse Review

I’m thrilled to be involved in the re-launch of the Clockhouse Review, a literary magazine begun many years ago by my friend and fellow Goddard grad Tim Kenyon with the support of the Clockhouse Writers Conference.

The first issue was published in 2004 and included stories, poetry and non-fiction exclusively by Goddard graduates. It was a wonderful issue and we assumed we would continue to produce an issue each year.

Well, of course, life got in the way. Seven years, two kids, and a move to the Midwest later, Tim, with new managing editor Chris Mackowski, has produced a 2011 issue, again featuring Goddard grads.

Now they are working on the first open-submission issue of Clockhouse, due summer of 2012. Here are the guidelines if you are interesting in submitting your work.

You can keep up to date on CHR at both Facebook and Twitter.

For Goddard MFA grads, even if we didn’t attend the program at the same time, what binds us together is our love of writing and reading.

With Tim and Chris managing the details of CHR, other grads like me are eager to help by reading submissions and suggesting which ones to consider for publication.

Personally, reading submissions helps me keep my own writing focused.

All writers know it in theory – make the opening interesting so readers will want to keep reading – but few translate it to the page. Don’t sacrifice your story just for a good opening – but if the opening isn’t interesting, why is it there?

Most stories can be lopped off by at least a page and be much stronger for it. I know that every time I cut the beginning of one of my stories, I never put it back on. While I HATE cutting anything from my stories, they are always strong after some tough-love editing.

It’s tough rejecting stories that you know the writer poured her/his heart into. I’ve had work rejected dozens and dozens of times. But you have to get beyond the disappointment and keep going. Find somewhere else to send it. I truly believe that if a piece of writing is really good, it will find a home out there.

They’re Here & They’re Spectacular!

Received a box of books yesterday: my copies of Press 53’s 2011 Spotlight.

2011 Spotlight AnthologyIt features three of my stories along work by four other fiction writers and three poets.

I am so honored to have been chosen by Press 53 and Kevin Morgan Watson, founder of the press and Editor-in-Chief, to be included with this group of talented writers.

I am very proud of these stories – two have been published previously: “The Last Time,” in Bacopa Review, and “The Small of Her Back,” in SNReview.

“Shakespeare’s Garden,” which I’ve written about before, will be published in the July issue of r.kv.r.y.

Some of my friends and family have read these stories before, but hopefully they (and you!) will purchase a copy or two of the anthology to support me and Press53!

And if you are a writer, please consider submitting work to Press53 – they are a true champion of the written word in all its forms.