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COVID Chronicle #6

It’s been since June I’ve written about the state of things here in Maryland.

The first weeks of school really had me stressed. After a short week one, my daughter’s entire grade was quarantined and learning from home as a staff member showed symptoms at school. We were not required to test her and she never showed symptoms, so we were relieved for that, but the week of at-home learning was chaotic and the teachers had little time to prepare. It showed, but it went as well as it could as not only teachers and students had to adapt.

The second week of school, the fourth grade class was quarantined, similar reason. When my daughter returned to school, the only kids at the bus stop were her grade, first, second, and third grade. Kindergarten and fourth grade were out for another week. It was an exhausting start to the year. Now, it seems everyone is doing well and only a few kids are home and quarantined at a time, and yes, my daughter had her first COVID test as one of her best friends in the neighborhood passed a viral infection to others (not COVID).

I’m simply exhausted.

My office is still not required to be back to work because of D.C.’s different restrictions, but our counterparts in Chicago are back to the office at least once per week. It seems as though things are returning to normal, even with Delta around. I’m all for normal. I crave being able to do things we normally do, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can do something for my daughter’s favorite holiday, Halloween. No word on Trick or Treating as yet, but the school is planning their annual Trunk or Treat.

BEYOND this angst and exhaustion, I do have some GOOD News to share (if we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve probably seen this already):

  • My poem, “In the Distance” published in Mom Egg Reviews premiered on The Poetry Channel as a precursor to my first in-person reading in a long time at Poetry at the Port in Silver Spring. Great little restaurant!
  • 3 of my poems were published in Bourgeon Online.
  • You can view part of the in-person reading. and this one here.
  • Forthcoming reading with This Is What America Looks Like Anthology poets at Cafe Muse on Oct. 20 over Zoom. If you’re interested, I can email you the zoom link or you can catch it on Facebook.

I hope you’ll share your good news or latest up dates. I’d love to hear from you.

Gaithersburg Book Festival 2022

It’s that time again. After two years running virtual book festival programs, the Gaithersburg Book Festival is aiming high for an in-person event on May 21, 2022.

Here are a few of my favorites:

I’m already receiving poetry books published between May 2021 and April 2022 from publishers and poets. If you’re a local poet or one willing to travel to Maryland for the book festival, you’re welcome to apply.

Information on how to apply can be found here.

Materials need to arrive by Nov. 1, 2021.

Link to the application can be found here.

Make sure you read the tips provided to help applicants with the process.

Cover Reveal: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner, author of The Jane Austen Society

I absolutely loved Natalie Jenner’s debut novel, The Jane Austen Society. Today, I’m happy to be part of the cover reveal of her new novel, Bloomsbury Girls.

“Jenner’s novel, The Jane Austen Society, pays homage to Austen in a way that many other variations don’t. She understands the Austen characters and their motivations, but in creating her characters and their motivations they are not talking to us as Austen’s characters but fans of Austen’s words, her thoughts, her dreams.”

Natalie Jenner says, ““I never intended for Evie Stone to be a major character in my debut novel, let alone inspire my second one, Bloomsbury Girls. But as time went on, I found I could not leave her behind in Chawton with the other society members. And then one day I rewatched a favourite movie, 84 Charing Cross Road, and I remember thinking, there’s a whole other story in here still to be told, of an upstairs-downstairs motley crew of booksellers, and right away the figures came to life.”

Check out the Synopsis:

“One bookshop. Fifty-one rules. Three women who break them all.”

The Internationally Bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

I’ve probably made you wait long enough for the cover, but Natalie Jenner says, “As with The Jane Austen Society, Bloomsbury Girls features multiple characters and storylines revolving around one very charming location: this time, the quintessential Dickensian-type bookshop.”

WITHOUT further ado, here’s the cover for Bloomsbury Girls:

Isn’t it just gorgeous? I cannot wait to read this novel. I loved The Jane Austen Society because it was so well done. Jenner has a way of bringing multiple characters to life — they feel like friends. Bloomsbury Girls is bound to be just as good, if not better.

I cannot wait to see what everyone thinks of the book.

About the Author:

Natalie Jenner is the author of two books, the instant international bestseller THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY and BLOOMSBURY GIRLS. A Goodreads Choice Award finalist for best debut novel and historical fiction, THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, a career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and GoodReads pages.

Thursday Time Out: Podcasts

There are times when you need a distraction, something pleasant to take your mind off the worries in your life and the divisiveness of the world. It’s been a year of that for me.

Fiction, sadly, is no longer the haven I thought, and I can barely concentrate enough to finish a chapter. Long form prose takes too much energy lately, and I don’t have it.

Poetry has been a balm for my soul over the last year (not writing it as much as reading or listening to it). I found a podcast that I really enjoy, though I’ve run out of new episodes as the producer takes a break to spend time with his new child and wife.

I found The Poet’s Voice quite by accident. I watched a Hallmark movie (yes, I know, but sometimes you just need something happy and fairy-tale like), Her Pen Pal, in which a wedding planner reconnects with her high school pen pal and first love. The male lead, Joshua Sasse, was unknown to me (though he was in Galavant, which was popular). I looked him up and found out that he had a love for poetry and had a podcast. I’m always amazed how innocuous moments in your life lead to great things.

If you’d love to hear Sasse and others talk about the poetry they love from W.H. Auden to Mary Oliver and Maggie Smith, you won’t be disappointed — Sasse and his compatriots breathe new life into these poems. They are performed as an actor would with enormous feeling and expression, making them come alive. Sasse even shares some of his late father’s poetry and some of his own. I highly recommend you take a listen.

Second, I’ve really enjoyed a podcast about the history and current goings on at the Boston Celtics. I’ve been a huge basketball fan for most of my life from the days of Larry Bird, Danny Ainge, Robert Parish, and others. View from the Rafters is an insider’s look at the team, how players are recruited, locker room antics and player camaraderie. There are interviews with current and past players, the backstory behind Doc Rivers’ Ubuntu call for teamwork and connection at all times, and so much more. If you love the team, this is a must listen.

You can listen to these on Spotify, Apple, and other places if you’re interested.

What podcasts have you listened to?

Day Away…

I’ll be out of the office (off the blog).

I hope to get some reading done and maybe get some reviews written ahead of time, but if I don’t, I’ll be ok with that.

I would love to sneak in some writing to, and I think that will be a priority, rather than the reviews, honestly.

I hope everyone has a good day! Now, where is that wine?

Quintessential Listening: Poetry Online Radio with Dr. Michael Anthony Ingram

Dr. Michael Anthony Ingram is the host of Quintessential Listening: Poetry Online Radio, and he hosts poets on his show to talk about writing poetry, the role of poetry in society, poetic influences, and more.

I was definitely nervous as always reading before “the people” (yes, even when I can’t see you, I get nervous). However, Dr. Ingram has a great style and helps put you at ease about 10 minutes before the start of the show.

I was told to have 10-12 poems ready to read, and I think I had a hard time narrowing them down because I had poems out I didn’t even read. I had a great time talking about some of my favorite poets and providing other writers with advice on the submissions process (thanks, John Sibley Williams).

If you haven’t listened to the July 7 episode, here’s your chance. Click the photo below:

Let me know what you think? Have a favorite poem? Who are your favorite poets?

COVID Chronicle #5

Reopening Hesitation?

The vaccination rates in my county and state are rising, which should signal that we are ready to return to normal. Everything in the state will reopen on July 1, the Maryland state of emergency will end, and masks will no longer be required. But why do I feel like we should still be wearing masks? Is it the contagiousness of the variants that worries me? No.

This is what worries me. My daughter is not of the age where she can receive a vaccine safely. Her age group is the most vulnerable to the virus right now, as more adults and teens get their vaccines. I feel as though the state is abandoning its youngest residents, allowing others to be maskless and social distancing going right out the window. It’s mostly the indoor situations I worry about.

Personally, I’m not ready to take public transit yet, but if I had to, I would. Thankfully, I can still work from home and I don’t see a push for that to change anytime soon.

I’m ready to get out and about, but hesitant at the same time — if that makes any sense at all.

This may be the last post on this topic, but I wanted to see how everyone was feeling and coping with the reopening processes where they are.

Memorial Day — Remember the Sacrifices for Freedom

Memorial Day is a time to honor our fallen soldiers. Wars have stretched so far back to the founding of our own nation, and freedom is hard won.

The problem is the war is not over for many segments of this nation. I think it is time to honor all who have fought for freedom and to do that by providing everyone the freedom to pursue life, love, liberty, and happiness.

You can take the time today to celebrate your fallen loved ones or even strangers by placing flags at the cemetery. You could read poems to the fallen. Or you could read books about the wars fought all over the world.

In Flanders Fields
by Lt. John McCrae

 In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

Final Thoughts: National Poetry Month 2021

Each poetry month, I tend to take up the write a poem a day challenge, but I didn’t. I knew that I would be super busy with work and with the Gaithersburg Book Festival, which starts May 1 online at the YouTube channel.

But I sorely missed writing every day this month. I don’t write every day normally, but I missed it in April because I do try to do it every year. I have written a few things and revised a couple things, but I have one giant revision/reworking that I’ve been avoiding. I really need to talk it out with Anna since she knows how the poem germinated in the first place.

Poem in Your Pocket day (April 29) saw Alan Squire Publishing get creative with their own 7 Upbeat Poems from their authors. Printable and shareable.

I saw this poem on Button Poetry; I just love their posts — (be prepared this has some harsh language and triggering moments for bisexuals and others) — they are always powerful readings:

How did your National Poetry Month go? Did you read any great poems? Poets? Find any collections you loved? Share in the comments.

Literary Hill BookFest 2021

The idea for the Literary Hill BookFest began in late 2010, spinning it off of the Hill Rag column about books, authors, and literary events that Karen Lyon had been writing since 2001 and take it “live.” The first BookFest was held in 2011 in the North Hall of Eastern Market. The mission of the BookFest is to celebrate books and authors on Capitol Hill and to make Capitol Hill a respected center for literacy and the humanities in the metropolitan D.C. area.

The annual Literary Hill BookFest 2021 is on May 2, 2021, with lively discussions at 11 a.m. The kickoff features authors Melanie Choukas-Bradley, JoAnn Hill, Ethelbert Miller, Elizabeth Purcell, Garrett Peck, Kim Roberts, and Cindy Vasko. Moderated by Tim Krepp, author of The Ghosts of Georgetown.

Don’t miss out on the Children’s panel at noon or the writing workshops.

My favorite part will be Poets on the Patio! There are some pre-recorded videos from poets, fiction authors, and others, and you may even find one from me.

The festival focuses on our Capitol Hill literary community. Visit the festival on Instagram. Use the hashtag #LHBF2021 to follow the events and reshare the posts.

There’s also a call for a Crowd-Sourced poem, with submissions due April 28.

Virtual Poetry Circle: Liz Brownlee

With the return of the Virtual Poetry Circle, I hope that you’ll read the poem. Today’s poem is really an image or shape poem because today is World Penguin Day, which coincides with the annual northern migration of Adelie penguins.

Feel free to share poems you are reminded of, favorite lines, and whatever comes to mind when reading this poem.

This image was getting fuzzier and fuzzier as I enlarged it, so please click on the link and head on over to Poetry Roundabout to read the poem.

What animal shapes do you think would be fun to use to create a poem?

Acrostic

As you can see Acrostic poems are poems in which the first letter of each line spells out a word, message, or the alphabet. When I was a kid, these were one of the first poetry forms I learned, and I still write them from time to time as a way to clear out the cobwebs.

I hope you will check out the Acrostic poem generator.

Here’s what the generator came up with for me:

Sea

Seas saw.
Expanses seep.
American sailors slink.

I can’t wait to see yours. Hope you have a great weekend.