Rogue Homilies by Deidre Price

a study of life that smacks of the divine

Tag: writing (page 1 of 2)

Call for Submissions

rogue homilieslife that smacks of the divine

Rogue Homilies originally started as a blog featuring vignettes about life and love and God–you know, pulpit things I’d say if I were a preacher. I’m not, hence the ‘rogue’ part of it.

It turns out, there are many of me among you: would-be Pulpit People with Christ in your life and art in your bones. This publication creates a space for you: authentic voices telling stories (in whatever genre or medium) about life that smacks of the divine.

Submissions are currently open for poetry, songs, stories, creative nonfiction, personal essays, art, and multimedia. I invite you to submit your work for the premier fall issue.

The theme of the 2016 fall issue is RESTORATION.


Writers, artists, and filmmakers can submit their work for consideration by July 31 to  

Acceptances and rejections will be sent within 6-8 weeks. If you do not hear back within two months of sending your work, kindly follow up with us to ensure we’ve received it.


Writers, please include your work as a Microsoft Word attachment (.doc or .docx) or as a Rich Text Format (.rtf) file. Please use Times New Roman 12 pt font and single space your submission. Include only the title of the piece within the document, not your name. Type the genre in your subject line (Poem Submission, Story Submission, Creative Nonfiction Submission, Personal Essay Submission, etc.), and include a cover letter and 50-word biographical note within the body of your email. Submit your work to by July 31.

Artists, musicians, and filmmakers, please attach or link to your work. Type either Art Submission, Music Submission, or Film Submission in your subject line. Include cover letter and 50-word biographical note within the body of your email. Closed-captioning will be required to supplement film and lyric submissions. Please include a transcript for any lyrics or audio submitted as a Microsoft Word attachment or a Rich Text Format (.rtf) file. Both the title of the piece and your name should appear within the file. Submit your work to by July 31 for consideration.

Multiple and simultaneous submissions in all categories are accepted. Please let us know as soon as your work is accepted elsewhere. There is not currently a limit on lengths of pieces or numbers of submissions. In the poetry category in particular, writers are encouraged to submit between 3-5 pieces for consideration.

Writing should be previously unpublished, including being circulated online in public forums, but art, music, and film will be considered even if previously published or circulated.

Rights revert to the authors and creators of the work.


Have happy lives–and write/create/sing/breathe/love in the meantime!

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“The Method to My Madness, or How to Write a Poem” by Deidre Price // 2016 Poem-a-Day Challenge

The Method to My Madness, or How to Write a Poem


For Billy Collins


When a poem starts, I start with I.

I follow I with a certain verb–

steady sureness like I know and I am,

abandon my perhapses,

leave breadcrumb maybes in my margins.


When a poem starts, the speaker finds me,

tries on my every word, losing lipstick to heavily starched syntax

cast off to the dressing room floor of my page.

She leans into the light until it flatters for me,

the best friend standing by, opinions clenched in fists.


I want to see what happens.


I quiet as the show begins and silence my phone.

Language takes the stage–adolescent, unruly

with packed pocketfuls of bribes for candy rhymes.

The I arrives and says this music has to die, then Tybalt

stabs the adverbs like Mark Twain told him to.


I keep my Descartes close because he tells me what I like:

People cannot tell the difference between the dream and the world,

so we can stop pretending in the distance between them–

and the distance between us.


A miniature Anne Sexton descends like Tinkerbell might.

I can see her wires but do not care.

I clap and amen because I believe.


A chorus boos my jokes as critics censor from too many front rows.

I hear them backed by half a dozen echoes of dying fathers.

These voices linger, ruthless, proud, like Lost Boys’.


Suddenly, I become everybody’s mother.


I threaten to turn the poem around so fast their heads spin.

The back seats quiet.

I remember I know all the lines.


Sylvia commiserates

then bakes us pies.



April 2

An idiom is a phrase or a fixed expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning. An idiom’s figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning. 

The meaning gets lost over time and what was once a new and interesting expression becomes “old hat.” 

You’ve heard them, “A penny for your thoughts, back to the drawing board, devil’s advocate, just to name a few.”

For today’s prompt, take a popular idiom ( or more than one if you can manage it), and recreate its meaning. Make it fresh again.

Share your idiom poem in the comments, and join us tomorrow for another! 

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Dear Garage Carpenters and Fine Woodsmen Who Follow My Husband’s Blog

Welcome, new friends of the woodworking community. I appreciate your patronage on my blog despite the divide between our interests, the gap between lumber and lyrics.

As of late, I’ve engaged in some shameless self-promotion. I say words like “my agent” and “my book” and “”—See? I did it again. I’ve spent hours learning how to do this website thing—to make it look and walk and talk all Deidre things—to make it sing me. I am one big barbaric yawp on the rooftop of the internet. If you haven’t read Walt Whitman, you really must. You guys would be bottoms-up in love with each other. Is he not the first lumbersexual? He so is.

My husband has taken the opposite approach: default white background and Arial-ish font, direct approach (hey, wanna see my workbench?), and a narrative formula (wood + tools = this … and repeat). The man doesn’t even edit his photos or add a filter before posting. It’s almost as if he doesn’t care.

And he’s a hit. It totally figures. But in his defense, he was due.

You see, we both chase dreams in the evenings, I move in digital spaces to the sound of syllables formed into sentences, using my eyes as a veritable level, almost seeing that little greenish yellow bobbling bubble center itself in moving water.

He moves in materiality, and when I leave my space to visit his, I feel spiraled wood shavings crunch underfoot like fresh snow. I’ll track them indoors later, littering the living room with reminders that our very life is happening.

I see we’re not that different: We are both red-penciled people, X-ing out extra, marking where to cut and how much.

We see possibility in next to nothing.

We make the rough smooth and finish the raw.

We wait. We watch.

We listen. We learn.

And we’re glad you’re here, letting us know we’re not alone in the chasing and the doing. Yes, we’re one big, dovetailed pack of people in love with right angles and minding the grain as we go.



Big Fat Addendum (since this evening): It has come to my attention that my husband has some creative tagging practices on his blog. As a result, I’d like to also welcome here lovers of peanut butter, kittens, He-Man, and of course, underwear.


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Why Mom Blogs Matter: Me, the Moonshine of Virginia Woolfs

Lining her pockets with river rocks, Virginia Woolf walked into the water in a woolen coat, wandering and waiting on death to come rushing over her, as if to her aid.

I replay deaths that preceded my life over and over again, like I’m watching for quarterback mistakes. I live in Monday mornings. I am louder than a referee.


Names and dates ebb, barely touching the shore where the reasons lie dry and futile in the sun. Plath in ‘63.  Sexton in ’74. Details cling to me and bloom like barnacles, waiting for Virginia Woolf, in some form or another, to pass by.
We’re all trying for her in our digital streams of consciousness, struggling to traverse the distance separating wine from moonshine.
We are a million Mrs. Dalloways, deciding to buy the flowers ourselves.
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. ”

                                                                        —A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
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Some Days I Make Soup: A Writer in Progress

Lesson One about being a writer is that you should be able to admit in public over coffee that you’re writing a book.

The funny thing is I can’t say it above a whisper or while looking anyone in the eye. It’s as if the volume and eye contact is a verbal contract that I’ll finish it someday. Someone, eventually, would know that it happened and then, it would be in print forever, as if to suggest I’d be eternally bound to those opinions and that I’d have to defend them in even more public spaces in front of family and childhood friends who will always believe they knew you best and lament that you’ve “changed.”
The second funny thing is that I whisper confessions of writing among friends, too. This morning over coffee I admitted that I’m working on, not one, but two books and that one of them is a book of poems.
And why is this so hard to say? Why is it that the thing that every kid brags about and posts on refrigerator doors is something that grown, passable adults somehow must attribute to French blood or mental illness? It’s all fine and dandy to have it done and published, but to be working on a book? It somehow feels sadder than it should.
So I give myself a hard time. I’m used to having writing in progress, but I’ve suddenly come down with a bad case of being a writer in progress.
I think of awfully vain questions some days like when I will need a dot com and how many books it will take until I matter. When my mind wanders in these ridiculous ways, I bring everything to a grinding halt and thrust myself back into an actual moment with actual people.
I find someone small to celebrate.
I find someone who needs loving on.
I make soup.
On days when we’re still in our pajamas until noon, my three-year-old son invariably asks if we can make soup. So, we do. And I savor the details.
I start with swirls of olive oil to shine and pop in the silvered pot bottom. I dice onions that haven’t sprouted anything yet (the others, I count as freestyle gardening; I leave them boasting in the windowsill). We sweep them in to the pot to shine until they look like wet glass.
I mash garlic like potatoes and toss them in for a short chat with the shallots, and I splash chicken bouillon in for nothing more than the sound of the sizzle.
I add money-carrots, we call them. I cut them in coins and, because of this, we must wish on them as they fall into the pretend broth fountain. Celery follows and swims around like small green rafts for shredded chicken moving like minnows closely behind.
We hold hands over the can opener to turn and count and turn and count until the top opens, leaving us with a rinsing job that is best likened to dismantling a bomb. And the defused can of beans goes in with three hard shakes best done by my son, followed by more shakes of dried herbs as though he is overfeeding fish without the risk of anything but glory.
It simmers while we tell stories.
He asks between stories a string of questions and answers as the world’s smallest sous chef: “Is it hot? No, it’s not hot. Is it warm? It’s not warm. It’s perfect? It’s perfect.”

Yes, it’s perfect.
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Words from the Wastebasket: Outtakes from a Work in Progress

At the goading of many friends, I have written the beginnings of a book manuscript and am in the process of making deep editorial cuts to recenter the work. The book is called Status: Finding Grace and Meaning in a Life Online, and it delves into the subject of how we struggle to find self-worth and purpose in digital spaces, offering up online artifacts from my own Facebook page as cases in point and talking, ultimately, about what an authentic, messy, attempt at Christian life looks like when lived out online.
I am a fast, unrepentant writer and an editor who relies on the kindness of strangers for input and direction. I must borrow phrases from dear friends to explain what this post is. My friend Jill calls struggling works in progress “drafty drafts.” If I had her red stamp to note the fledgling status of this interlude, I’d use it here. 

I love the truth of the following passage, but the idea of “killing the darlings,” those which you love but must be sacrificed for the betterment of the work as a whole, a phrase I borrowed from Amy and Vickie, both dear colleges and dearer friends, had to apply here.
So here is a bit about me, straight from the wastebasket. 

Introductions are in order. In the spirit of all things alive online, let me begin with me.
I am a thirty-two-year-old wife and mother of three children with a Ph.D. in literature and new media studies, a homeowner, pet owner, literary magazine editor, and professor. I am a Christ-follower. I am a white American who stands five six and carries the accumulated and neglected baby weight from three pregnancies, as well as the aftermath scar tissue from three, count ‘em, threecesarean sections and more stretch marks than stars in the sky. I have twin penchants for writing and coffee, especially free verse poetry and equally especially grande Americanos with cream. I live very much online, partly because of my job as a professor who teaches hybrid and distance learning courses but also, maybe even more honestly, because I like living online. It suits me painfully well.
Let me explain, as I have several confessions. We’ll start with bad habits. I have a shoe pile—just my shoes—that forms in the foyer of our house throughout the week. This isn’t to preserve carpeting or prevent germs or dirt from being tracked in, like a cultural or germaphobe practice that I’m copying. The shoes go there simply because it was all I could manage to wear them out and about, and once I’m in, I’m in.

The tame father-son shoe section. My pile (not pictured).

Actual sign my daughter posted after we broke glass in the kitchen.

Jewelry is the same. It all comes off in various phases, starting with the key hook by the front door, which will double as a necklace holder, the rack holding my husband’s guitar pedals, which houses bracelets nicely, and my wedding rings that I leave in a tiny porcelain bowl beside my sink. I simply cannot keep any of it on. I have babies to hold, dishes to wash, clothes to fold, all of which require flexibility in my fingers—and apparently my wrists and neck, too.
Pants and the ponytail are last. My husband has begun laughing at me because he has, in recent years, picked up on the pattern of my saying, more regularly than I realized, “I’m going to go change my pants first.” And what this means is that I’m switching over from whatever is not yoga pants to whatever is yoga pants.
I’ve nearly stopped announcing it because it garners such negative attention for my affinity for pants with stretch and a fortunate, blessed wide waistband, but occasionally it slips out, and I become the subject of a Someecard where a twentysomething is sitting on her bed being lazy while talking on a corded phone, supposedly to another female friend. Hello, Someecards, no one talks on a corded phone anymore. Also, we don’t all look like the seventies’ version of Suzanne Somers although athletic knee-high socks coming back into fashion would cut my shaving time in half in those hygiene-heavy summer months.
Speaking of hair, when the pants are on, the ponytail goes up. It’s really non-negotiable.
I have three of these four ‘undoing’ rituals at work and friends’ homes. The exception of the four is that I wear the same pants once I’m in the door. Every other ritual remains the same; wherever I am, it’s home.
As a mother, my car is my home, too. Much like the shoes by the door, objects accumulate in my car from week to week. Multiple sizes of diapers, swim diapers, spare sets of clothes for one who is potty training and the other who still spits up sometimes. Before I know it, straw wrappers are littering the floorboards with sippy cups and bottles, papers from work, stray books and folders, and Goldfish crackers who either swam away from my son or whom he, benevolently, threw back.

It’s not all their fault. People have necessary accoutrements. Again, not their fault. But we drive through drive-thrus more than I’d like to admit, and the “evidence,” I’ve begun calling it, routinely gets stuffed under car seats and into backseat floorboards to temporarily hide these shameful outings when an unexpected person enters the car. This is something I have not yet grown out of, this ‘trash in the car’ thing. I’ve tried the trash bag system—yes, I count it as a system because it didn’t work for me, and I need to justify that by chalking it up to a complexity in the mechanism, so system. Also, I’ve practically pushed the children to blood-brothers’ style swearing that we’ll never let it get this bad again. Nothing has worked, so I file it under confessions you need to know before we begin.

I want you to see me nice and authentic, not just a dusting of cake flour on my nose while I’m in the kitchen of a chapter, lips perfectly lined and pouty, while I whirl around on 1950s’ laminate flooring in an apron that might as well double as a tutu. Cake flour on a girl’s nose? Child’s play.

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For E.E. Cummings and Adrienne Rich

I found these gems lying dormant in a crowded folder marked “Poetry,” as every folder should be. I wrote them in an attempt to catch up from April 5 to April 11 just before giving up to charge head first at the two book manuscripts I’m working on–you know, because if you can’t pick your pony, you’d better just ride them both at once and hope for the best. This is the bumper sticker that brands and advertises my universe. 
So, here they are. Enjoy. 
E.E. Cummings

April 5: E.E. Cummings
A Writerly Mama’s Wish
for my children’s honorary literary godfather E.E. Cummings
When my children’s lives
stop like clocks ticked out from the time
they marked with their small hands.
I will hold these hopes in mine—
that they trade in toys for words,
playing for keeps with sentences
lined up like army men on laundry baskets,
that they mark new time with stanzas
syntax set for high tea with Easter hat hyperbole,
fine lace beneath each cup to counter the cacophonic world.
As they pick up desk phones,
let them feel tin cans in their fingers,
the vibration on the string.
Let them see staff paper in place
of watermarks on legal papers,
suspect invisible ink between the lines.
Let them hold everything
up to the light.
Adrienne Rich
April 6: Adrienne Rich
Speech Class
for Adrienne Rich
Behind her polite voice,
marking territory
like a thigh-high
chainlink fence
I heard barbs surface belly up,
spun into spiral metal at the top,
occasional razors around each bend,
each word
the perfect marriage:
an honest promise,

a clear threat.
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Education and the Cost of Being Weird

             So the word on the street is that the Prices are a little weird. Perhaps folks have always thought that about us—certainly, they’ve always thought it about me, and they should; I am a little weird. But when they started saying it about my family, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel.

            I field a lot of questions from people about how I get my daughter to read as much as she does. She can inhale novels like my mother can inhale a box of hot Krispy Kreme donuts; both occur as if by magic, my Daina nearly wiping sloughed words like dry glaze from her lips when each jacketed cover closes.
            I answer the questions that come although I’m not sure I should be credited as the reason. She was born reading the same way that my elementary school friend Octavia was born to run. I would invariably get a side cramp ten yards in, so sure I must be dying; meanwhile, she ran with a gait as wide as her height, nearly flying through the air and would lap everyone again just because she enjoyed the wind on her arms. This is Daina.
Once she got over the phonics hump of letter blends in kindergarten, she began lapping all of us, finishing her “required thirty minutes of reading” for all five days of the week by bedtime on Monday—and why they do this mandatory scheduled reading still baffles me. This is not how you teach someone to love. This is not how you get them to negotiate with the librarian to let them take “just one more” home. You’ll never catch them smuggling flashlights in their pillowcases by treating books this way. I digress, as I tend to do on this subject.
I answer the questions about her reading because I know how much joy, empathy, and character she gets from books, and if there is something to teach to this regard, I want them to have it. I want them desperately to have it like she has it.
But the conversation doesn’t always go well. You see, we have a mild book-hoarding situation in our house. Her closet is filled with paper-ream boxes packed with hand-me-down books for Atticus and Evangeline who will grow up in her good-enough library. Her rooms have utility shelves that are lined and piled with paperbacks, adorned with towering stacks of treasured hardcovers and box sets. She never leaves the house without at least three books, a book light, and a set of backup batteries, which she says are “in case of an emergency.” She reads in the car, under restaurant tables, in waiting rooms, and anytime her mind and her hands aren’t occupied otherwise.

Yet even from those who shove their children into books hoping that they fall in love despite the arranged marriage, I’ve been told “That’s not normal” when it comes to my daughter’s reading habits as though she’s gone off some deep end, expressing more concern for her being lost in Emma than the others who text their brains out from the earbud-wearing people they sit across from because, and I quote, “It’s just easier.”
Yes, we are the sort of family who runs out for books like others go for milk and bread. We’re also the sort of family who volleys jokes to one another in ordinary situations as though in lit culture code. Sometimes my jokes are just for me, and that’s okay. I’ve said “War Eagle,” “Roll Tide,” “Go Noles,” and “Go Gators” to end plenty of awkward football conversations I couldn’t follow. It may be okay if I, too, talk freely about the games I care about.
Some of these fans tear their clothes off and paint their bodies. I have never done either at the public library.* And you’re welcome for that.
I show my enthusiasm in other ways, ways like Daina does, noting book releases as though they were big game days and being loyal to a favorite writer and believing they’ll pull through this slump because you saw what they did last season and you know what they’re made of.
But someone recently called Jonathan and me the “educated ones,” and I’m not sure it was meant to be a compliment at the time. I might have even heard it as “freaks,” or worse than that, “you freaks.”
I understand more than I want to the cost and distance that accompany the decision to pursue higher education and lots of it. Degrees come prepackaged with assumptions other people will make about you because they believe those degrees come with assumptions you will make about them.
I know stories and have some of my own about family who encouraged college until they realized what it cost. And this cost has nothing to do with money. What the family wanted was the paper on the wall. They didn’t want the discomfort of awareness and the burden that comes with it, the responsibility to act on what you now know, to say uncomfortable things at the dinner table. It’s when they say “educated” but mean “uppity” and substitute generic “college boy” in place of your name that you know you can’t go back. College isn’t the only place this happens, but it’s the closest comparison I have to convey the cost of being bookish, the cost of being weird.
A short while after I finished my doctorate and noticed that some people started treating me differently, and not in good ways, I had dreams where I would try to give it back. At the risk of sounding like a complete Princeton princess**, I’ll admit the moment is most aptly compared to Eddie Murphy’s scene in Coming to America when he says to the girl who does not want to marry a rich prince, “I renounce my throne!” because he wants to be with her more than he wants to be king. And it’s just not that simple. It’s nothing you should wish away, and it’s nothing you can wish away.
The trouble is that we cannot unknow a thing, and a degree is supposed to be an outward sign that you know some things. But once we hear those things and they stick, they are ours. The whole thing has to fade and wear off, fleck by fleck, like a cheap and temporary tattoo, and some just won’t wear.
So, too, is the love of books. This love becomes an imprint, an identity. It’s the mark of the weird. And books didn’t make us this way. We were weird before they got here.
And maybe that identity is the cost of it all, the necessary othering from those who don’t buy into the hype that books make you better.
And they don’t make you better than anyone, but they do make you feel better—I know they make us Prices feel better—especially when it comes to being weird.
*I would tailgate at a library if invited. Friends, make a note.

**I did not go to Princeton. I just liked the alliteration. I went to FSU. Go Noles.
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What You Do When Everything Is Fine

I have wondered more than once whether, if a bank teller drew on my hands with one of those counterfeit bill detector markers and forced them under the light for examination, I’d have tells like those of a fake twenty.

The word fraudcrosses my mind sometimes as I work stage right and stage left in the classroom talking big about reading and how the best way to become a good writer is to read lots and often.


It crosses my mind as students will ask, as they often do, whether I’ve read fill in the blank off the bestseller list, and I say something about not preferring contemporary lit or something about having been too busy with student essays. A good mood will get you a “That sounds great! I’ll put it on my list for between semesters,” and that may, now that I think about it, register as the emptiest promise I make, very nearly a borderline lie. I just don’t have the heart to break yours.
I cannot tell you the jaws I’ve dropped because I haven’t read any Stephanie Meyer, have gotten only halfway through the first book in The Hunger Games series, and finished exactly one Nicholas Sparks book before throwing it as hard as I could across the room. It was The Notebook, and I’m still not sorry.
I manage still, believe it or not, to classify myself as a literate person despite this. I have read books before. Yes, complete books, start to finish. I have marked them up. I have passed them along. I have bought multiple copies because I wasn’t sure (multiple times) whether I still had my own. To illustrate, note that I can locate four copies of Eat, Pray, Love by moving my head left to right without even trying hard to spot them, and Liz Gilbert, although she is grand, is not counted among my favorites. Let’s just say I felt convicted while watching Mel Gibson’s character in Conspiracy Theory as he compulsively bought copies of The Catcher in the Rye although he’d never read it.
What gets me is when people ask what I’m reading these days. I want to make something up. I do. I want to say I’ve just read Salman Rushdie’s latest and tell them an anecdote from a Sherman Alexie book. I want to go all gaga about Anne Lamott’s newest one, which I know I’ll love if I ever have a moment to myself. I want more on my tongue and my mind than article snippets about the demise of public schools and higher ed and Julianna Baggott’s brilliant Facebook status updates I peruse while rocking the smallest lovenugget in the house—or maybe her and her brother at the same time if he’s jealous or recovering from a tantrum.

People see me in Barnes and Noble wearing a baby, carrying another nearly upside down under my armpit, juggling a stack of books, and calling the first child to come along with her own tallish stack. They probably think I read. I’m sure the family friend who brings our Amazon Prime packages with super-rushed delivery because I need those unread books now believes I read, too, and read fast because she’ll be back tomorrow as well. My homeschooling friends I bump into at the public library during weekday story hours probably think I read. I’m in all the right places that one should be if one were to read someday.

Babywearer Jr.
Even online I look like a reader. Every social media photograph has a mess of books behind a baby. These pictures aren’t strategically taken; it’s just that the books are everywhere, much like the laundry, so it is rather impossible to take a baby picture without White Noise, White Teeth, or White Oleander in the background. I’ve given up trying to be private about what we’re reading (or planning on reading) nearly as much as I’ve given up trying to hide my son’s Toy Story underwear.
I want to tell them that this literature professor is reading. The truth is I’m not—not entire books, not in long sittings, not for pleasure. And what does that even mean to someone in my season of life? Reading for pleasure. As opposed to what? Reading for torture? Reading for edification? Reading, to me, means your eyes are awake enough to be open and your situation is relaxed enough where your eyes aren’t already committed to watching someone jump off a couch arm or scale a stove.
Reading means you must be holding a book, which means you haven’t lost complete feeling in the arm that’s holding the baby you cannot put down because she has a runny nose and can’t breathe while lying horizontally. Reading means there must be clean forks in the drawer and cups in the cabinet. It means the dog isn’t whining to be let out or let in. It means you’re not hungry, you’re not cold, and you don’t have to pee or work or yell at someone to do either of these things.
You cannot read for pleasure when the act itself is pleasure. To correct the redundancy, I would say it’s just reading, but I cannot leave that alone on the page. Nothing is just reading, and if it is, you’re doing it wrong.
After a full day in the kitchen trying to bake, puree, and freeze some semblance of stay-at-home motherhood while I am not Dr. Price for a few more days until the semester starts, I crawled under the covers, ignoring the piles of work on the floor, a veritable obstacle course of envelopes, grade sheets, receipts, binders, and oversized books that don’t fit onto shelves. I broke the spine of Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and read fifty pages, my eyes not yet burning from the day, the kitchen cleaned and hallway cleared of Lego traps, tiny plastic horses, and things with wheels, and all the Price babies in bed. And words of comfort I’ve offered to students over the past eleven years circled back around and came to me this time.
This is what we do when everything is fine.
I’ve said that line to students going through divorces, hospitalizations, miscarriages, deaths in the family, job losses and changes—the things that wear us into different people, that make us want to mess with time, to speed it up or slow it down, and make us want to mess with space, to get more of it or less of it—to be at any other pace or place than that which we are.
This is what we do when everything is fine.
I say this to illuminate the comparative lightness of academics when looked at alongside the stuff of life. They hear me preaching, preaching, preaching about syntax and style. They hear plagiarism warnings that conjure eschatological imagery. It matters, but it doesn’t matter. “There is no such thing as an English emergency,” I tell them.
This is what we do when everything is fine.
I spent the better part of thirty years reading what others gave to me, bought for me, or assigned to me. I recall a small window in my late teens where I camped out on bookstore floors and stayed out late in coffee shops reading everything in sight. I recall switching books with my best friend Kim, having marked up key passages we loved with circles and stars everywhere, playing poems on repeat in the car from Fort Walton Beach to Pensacola to memorize tracks on audiobooks. I remember moments of resurgence between semesters in grad school #1 and grad school #2 after my daughter had entered school where reading happened.
Good reading like that doesn’t happen often anymore. I used to have a series of lengthy, monogamous and semi-monogamous relationships with authors. Whitman was mine all of from 1996-1998. I rebounded with Bukowski all of 1999, then Anne Sexton moved in and brought all her friends. They camped out until…hmm. Okay, so maybe they’re still here, hiding in the walls and under the floorboards.
Now my desk, bedside table, and the backseat of my car are overflowing with student work and lit anthologies. I pick up the same toys twelve times a day, probably more, and put them with the Where’s Waldo? and I Spy books we use as a hard surface for coloring and Play-Doh molds. I reach blindly into backseats to toss my son a book from the floorboard because he sees my older daughter reading. Half the time, I don’t know what I’ve thrown him. It’s entirely possible that he’s held David Sedaris, The Vagina Monologues, or a Chuck Palahniuk. I’m not even supposed to text and drive; how on earth can I be responsible for monitoring a miniature book club in the backseat during the ballet carpool?
And a breath here.
As I ended the day with a book in my hands and quiet in the space between me and midnight, the most beautiful thought occurred to hint that I might be emerging from the dark tunnel to at least a sliver of light on the other side.
How am I doing this? How is it possible that I am in a room alone, holding my own book in my hands, with no one sitting on either of my legs? I am reading this sentence, and I can hear myself in my own head. 
There is only one way I could be doing this. I know exactly what this means.

Everything is fine.
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Open Mouths and Open Mics

All that business about April being the cruelest month is true. (Eliot was right. Go figure.) I will add, however, that October and November can be incredibly hard on writers, too. Fall brings promises I cannot keep: a poem a day in October and a whole novel in November (visit for information about other crazies like me). If my day-to-day world didn’t look like it does, I might manage meeting an occasional high bar. Under the year’s circumstances, however, it looks like any influx of writing or reading is cause to celebrate.

I’m reminded this month of my brother and how I must have been an absolutely horrible big sister. I don’t recall ever losing a board game to him. It wasn’t because I was better at the games than he was. It was simply because I could read, and that made him believe I was telling the truth when I’d consult the instructions and “read” a new part we’d overlooked the first time, always an addendum to shift the game in my favor. Again, I was a horrible big sister. 
Elements of this sisterdom, no doubt, influence each semester’s syllabus redux, as I find it impossible to believe every grade issued is fair (whether high enough or low enough) and end up trying to rethink my methods so that students get exactly the grades they deserve, nothing more, nothing less. 
More elements of this sisterdom have also translated into my being exceedingly kind with my own deadlines and writing goals. Although NaNoWriMo has been a complete bust for me this year (only 4k so far), I have, in the process of procrastinating on this novel, ended up writing the starts of proposals for several CFPs, a few thank you cards to check off the never-ending list of people who feed and water me daily, a grocery list (which is hugely unlike me), and several buried emails and comments on late papers. Most days I’m lucky if I can get to a Facebook post–and even then, they’re usually the post equivalents of found poems, just words I hear in my house with my quarter-dozen children and Wayne Szalinski husband. Yes, that’s a hula hoop behind him. 
So, I keep moving the mark. Mothers, certainly, and writerly mothers, especially, must move that mark sometimes to keep from giving up entirely. Far more important than perfection is persistence. 
My twelve year old and I have recently parted reading ways. She has fallen in love with Dr. Who, Jericho, Heroes, and Supernatural; her shelves are filled with John Green, Veronica Roth, Rick Riordan, Christopher Paolini, and Suzanne Collins. I can’t keep up and, in some ways, don’t want to. She has reading worlds that are worlds apart from my own, worlds of apocalypses and made-up creatures, worlds of unlikely flirtations I don’t need anymore. 
I still crave the conversation, though. I still look for silent spaces so that I can peek into her world for a little while. Even if my own familiar narratives are not the same as her own, the love of a story translates, and I recognize the glow that happens upon her face when she emerges from the first chapter of a new book and has fallen in love, again. 
Until we meet back up on other aisles, I stay busy fueling her addiction by bringing home extra books, ordering surprise Amazon deliveries on Fridays, and taking the long way home from ballet to make impromptu stops at the bookstore when the babies are at home. When I see articles online, like one a friend posted about the Native American response to the celebration of Thanksgiving, I toss Daina an iPad and ask her opinion. Every day she is alive, she opens her eyes wider than she did the day before. But I want her to open her mouth, too–not only to relate, but to connect, to communicate, to do something with what she sees and what she knows. 
Tonight we went to an open mic night. I served as a judge, and she came to watch. Several of the pieces performed were poems, and so that gave us a chance to talk literature after the event. I asked her about the performance where the poet used two voices, yelling at himself to create tension through the dialogue. She said, “It was good but kind of scary. I told him I liked his hat last time I met him.” She moved right into telling me about an interaction with another writer in the crowd: “She asked me for a tampon one time, which means she must have been desperate. And it made me think she wasn’t afraid of anything.” 
I would have said something, but she kept talking: “That poem about the brother who died? That was a good poem, but I wouldn’t like it as much if it weren’t true. Do you think it was true? I’ll have to ask her sometime.” And then she said she wished another poet had been there, the one who writes about packing up things in her mother’s house. “She’s one of my favorites, and her daughter’s really nice,” she said. 
When I asked who her favorite tonight was, and her answer was “the flute player” who filled the gap when we were tallying up scores during intermission, I laughed and immediately realized that she gets it in ways I don’t. Far too often I worry about what she’s getting or not getting from the world. Is she reading the right things? Is she being challenged? Is she gleaning goodness from the people who surround us? When I told her the flute player wasn’t in the competition, she told me it didn’t matter: “I’ve never seen anyone play a flute that close to me before. It was great.” 
And so art finds her–music, beauty, books, the whole shebang. The conversations about hats and tampons and daughters are all creating the poem that she’s becoming. 
Life is happening whether I’m there during intermission or not. 
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