I’m a Poetry Finalist!

Waking up to an e-mail saying that I’m a finalist in a poetry contest is probably my favorite way to wake up. 10/10 recommend.

But really, it’s so hard to “make it” in this space (whatever that means), to feel like your words even mean anything sometimes, so to be recognized for them means everything to me. We’re all navigating our own struggles, and I’m really glad this vulnerable poem found such a great home. It’s included in Issue 4, which you can read here.

Many thanks again to all the editors of The Lumiere Review and to the judges!

The Lumiere Review

Congratulations to the other winners, finalists, and contributors of this wonderful issue!

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Back to Iceland- Writing Residency Pt. 1

Remember when I got accepted to two international writing residencies in the middle of a pandemic?

While it is certainly not the most ideal time to be traveling at all, the news came at a perfect time during my career and personal life. I wanted both of them to work out, but I didn’t have high hopes of getting across the border of a country that I wasn’t a resident of. As everyone knows, traveling isn’t really possible right now.

Still, I had to continue accordingly. I’d planned to go to the Iceland residency first, and then to the Finland one, and then return home. However, my flight from Reykjavik to Helsinki got canceled due to Covid/border control changes. The residency in Finland ultimately fell through because there were too many unknowns. I could’ve deferred to next year, but again- too much is up in the air for me to commit to that. Yet, Iceland was still a go! I was so happy to come back here! [Read about my first visit to Iceland back in 2016 here.]

The folks here at the Gullkistan residency prepared me with a list of paperwork I would need to provide not only in order to enter the country, but to even get on the flight here. I was so nervous, I printed two copies of everything and held my breath the whole time at the airport. Everything went seamlessly, and those worries quickly were replaced with excitement for this new adventure and complete awe to be in such a beautiful place.

I was tested upon arrival and then went straight to the residency, which is in the town of Laugarvatn, a little over an hour from the capital of Reykjavik. It is mandatory to quarantine for five days and then get the second test. Everything was so streamlined and easy to track through the Rakning C-19 app. I arrived at 6 a.m. on Monday, February 1st and received my negative test results later that evening. I quarantined for longer than five days, actually, because they don’t test on the weekends in Selfoss (the town we are closest to) so I had to wait until the next Monday. Once I got my results back, I was then free to visit shops and restaurants. I was so impressed by how organized the entire process was!

For the month of February, there is only one other resident here. Her name is Kristel, and she is a visual artist from Estonia, and will stay for two months. We are great company for one another, (the only company, actually!) but it’s been so peaceful here and nice to be tucked away from everyone. We are also able to have our own spaces: she stays in the studio center while I stay in the cabin. The majority of my time is spent inside working, and since it’s cold out (very similar to back home in Pennsylvania) I didn’t mind being in quarantine. In fact, I loved it. The cabin fills with the most gorgeous light at sunrise, which is usually around 9:30-10 a.m. Kristel and I kept sane and active during quarantine by going for a walk early in the day, which is a routine we are still sticking to. There’s always so much writing to do and books to be read, and I even started a 30 day yoga challenge, which is steadily kicking my ass. I am learning to “find my breath” and realizing that I should take care of my body much more than I have been. It’s important for me to stretch, too, since I spend so much time sitting and with my head bent (thanks to typing, reading, and phone scrolling) and to work on my balance (which anyone that knows me can attest to being pitiful at best).

A typical day might look like this:

-Wake up, sometimes morning yoga
-Morning hike for sunrise with Kristel
-Return to cabin for coffee and meal
-Listen to writing podcast or craft talk while eating/doing dishes
-Check e-mails, submissions, etc.
-Reading craft book, maybe trying my hand at some prompts
-Journal writing
-Dinner
-Free writing and/or editing
-Finish the journal entry for the day
-Yoga before bed (if I didn’t do it in the morning)

I have my manuscript from my MFA program that I finished, but it needs revised and reordered. It is currently spread out on the floor of the top room of the cabin. I’ve been working on that and will submit it when I feel it is ready for publication.

I keep saying it, but to really sit with your work is such a beautiful thing.

I wanted to dive deeper into craft books this time, so that’s one of my goals. And always reading and discovering new work from contemporary poets, of course. I’ve had a couple Zoom meetings with my writing groups, and have attended several readings, though this also is a bit tricky with the time change. Often, they don’t start until 7 PM, so if I stay up for it, I don’t go to bed until after 2 AM my time. But I’ve also caught the northern lights this way 🙂 They came out several times my first week here and I felt so strongly that this is a sign that I am right where I belong:

Not a bad view to stay up all night writing to 🙂

Of course, it isn’t all work. We’ve done some amazing day trips so far as well. My friend Ævar who I met as a tour guide back in 2016 took us on an adventure where we visited not only Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss but two lesser known waterfalls that are right nearby: Nauthúsagil and Kvernufoss!

Fun fact about the village of Laugarvatn: if you’ve seen Down to Earth on Netflix, you probably saw the episode in Iceland where Zac Efron and Darin Olien go to where they bake bread in the ground.
That’s actually right across the street from where we are! And we got to experience that. The rye bread bakes for 24 hours. It’s delicious, like the texture of cake almost, and often paired with Icelandic butter (which is to die for), trout, or herring. Even plain, it is mouthwatering and I want it as we speak!

Laugarvatn has lovely geothermal baths, which we’re trying out this weekend, as well.

And who knows, the work that comes from these dramatic landscapes may just be pointing me into the direction of a new book.

Again— I am so happy to be here. 🇮🇸

I hope these moments of Iceland’s natural beauty bring you the same peace they have given me. Keep well, everyone. ❤

To writing on,

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Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway

I am coming off of a weekend of writing with the Murphy Writing of Stockton University Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway and it has been such a blessing to spend four intense days surrounding myself with a supportive community of writers, crafting language and navigating new stories, during a time when history is being written, and everything in our world seems bleak.

I was fortunate enough to have intimate and engaging workshops led by Peter Murphy, Dilruba Ahmed, Catherine Doty, Cynthia Dewi Oka, and Emari DiGiorgio.

We celebrated Sunday night with a delightful reading and Q&A by featured speaker Ross Gay, whose humor and gracious spirit lit up our Zoom rooms.

Murphy Writing of Stockton University - School of General Studies |  Stockton University

Every day brought on the challenge of a unique writing prompt, and I left the Getaway armed with four new solid drafts, new friends, and a notebook penned with inspiration.

I couldn’t have attended without the financial help of the Toni Brown Memorial Scholarship, so again- thank you to the entire Murphy Writing crew and committee for choosing my work so that I could have this opportunity!

And then we got to witness the incredible force that is Amanda Gorman move the world with her words on Inauguration Day?! It is a good week for poetry, indeed.

To writing on,

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Writing AND Traveling News!

Whew! Travel has (obviously) come to a halt, and as as result,  I’ve been busy with editing and submitting my creative writing. I almost forgot to update y’all, but I’m happy that some poems have been accepted into these journals.

ANDDDDDDDD…………………………………………………………………………………………

I was accepted to two international writing residencies! One in Iceland, and one in Finland, planned for 2021. A lot can change before then, but I’ve been informed that I can be granted an exemption due to business as long as I follow appropriate protocol, which I will certainly do. Here’s hoping that there will be a reliable vaccine soon, that things improve with containing the virus, and that travel can safely resume.

img_5489In Iceland back in 2016, and the answer is YES, about 47 of them.

I’ve been to Iceland before, but if anyone has any recommendations for Finland, I’m all ears! Or, any tips for a productive writing residency, books to bring, prompts, etc.?

Happy wandering & writing,

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“Smile” is Synonymous for Survival

Hi friends,

Some good news– This piece I wrote was awarded 2nd place in The Nasiona’s micro-nonfiction/poetry tournament recently:

I feel like all women (travelers or not) can unfortunately relate to this. And the emotions it brings are so complex, aren’t they? A mixture of anger, fear, shame, helplessness… Wanting to stand up for yourself but not knowing how, & being so scared it could backfire. 

Let me know what you think of the piece, or how you respond to this type of harassment, in the comments 💛

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Poet Lore

!!!!

My poem, “Crystalline” is published in Poet Lore, America’s Oldest Poetry Journal.

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They’ve been around since 1889 and published genius poets like Kim Addonizio, Carolyn Forché, Sharon Olds, Carl Phillips, and Mary Oliver.

Poet Lore

I’m still shaking to my core with excitement.

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Write Now Read Now Series

I was delighted to be a part of many readings in April— and this one was one of them!

About the Write Now Series, taken from their webpage:

Hosted with the Frostburg State University Center For Literary Arts, the Write Now Series is a collection of workshops, writing sessions, and salon-style literary discussions where student and community writers come together. Members are mentored by presses and established writers from all over the country and enjoy participating in a showcase reading at the end of each semester.

Check out the video, now available on YouTube, and find the Write Now Series on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, YouTube, and Spotify.

Image may contain: 2 people, including Kara Rose, possible text that says 'KARA KNICKERBOCKER FRIDAY| APRIL 24 Write Now Presents READ NOW AVAILABLE THROUGH RICK CAMPBELL'

My segment is a reading of a handful of poems and only about five minutes long, so what are you waiting for?! Also, be sure to check out poet Rick Campbell, who gives a reading and an excellent interview as well.

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National Poetry Month Reading

Hi y’all,

I was scheduled to give a reading for Pretty Owl Poetry at White Whale Bookstore to celebrate National Poetry Month on April 22nd with readers Malcolm Friend, Lucia LoTempio, and Charlie Lefever.

To curb the spread of COVID-19, the reading was held virtually through Zoom on April 23rd.

If you missed it, here is the full video.

                                                            Write on,

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Love in the Time of Corona

If you can move past this admittedly trite title, I’d like to invite you to stay with me a while—

Here, in my small, one bedroom apartment, in a Pittsburgh neighborhood that is all too quiet tonight. I’m sitting on the couch I got off of Craigslist five years ago, in sweatpants (although I did wash my hair today!), a silver spoon resting in a jar of edible cookie dough (obviously an essential) that I picked up on my final grocery haul beside me, and nothing but the light from this laptop screen in front of me.

I’m alone. I’m used to it. I live alone, I travel alone, I take care of myself. (Well, sort of.) But in the midst of a pandemic sweeping our nation, I feel alone.

I know that as I write this, coronavirus is carving out its place in history. The world as I know it is changing, the economy is diving headfirst into disaster, people are getting sick, some people are dying. Many people are panicked, some are rolling their eyes. But nobody knows what the fuck is going on, or what to do. How long it will last. What this mess will look like after it’s over. When they discuss 2020 in history books years and years from now, what will they say? Will we have learned anything by this?

I honestly don’t know a lot about the world. I’m a small town girl who went to a liberal arts college. I admittedly find out a lot of my news via social media. But I do know some things: like how I believe in basic human rights. And that the amount of mass shootings in the country I live in is outrageous and unacceptable. And I know that right now, due to the spreading of COVID-19 and hopes to slow it, schools are closed, gyms are closed, bars and restaurants are closed. Countless events are canceled.  Countries are on lockdown. International and domestic travel bans are in place. I’ve read the word “quarantine” more in the last week than I ever have in my life.

This is something I never could have imagined. I come from a generation that uses humor as a way to understand, to heal, and to process. (I mean, we basically communicate with memes.) I come from a generation that some people think is entitled, selfish, and stupid. I come from a generation that I think, as a whole, also genuinely cares about what’s happening to the planet, and all its people— regardless of age, race, etc. I come from a generation that realizes they aren’t experts, but still gives a shit– toilet paper in stock or not.

In what feels like a bizarre parent-child role play, I’m now pleading with my mother to stay in. I’m thinking of who is going to take care of my grandmother, now that my parents aren’t only a mile down the road to help her. I’m thinking of the students I support who can’t see their families, or have the great commencement they were expecting, especially those who are first generation international students. I’m thinking of my friend who just had a newborn baby, and the one who is currently six months pregnant. I’m thinking of my fellow writer friends who had upcoming readings scheduled and book launches they wanted to celebrate. I’m thinking of the artists and performers that prepared endlessly, who had to cancel shows, and the heartbroken fans who worked extra to save up for tickets and counted down the days to the event. I’m thinking of my fellow travelers who are stranded in airports, or out hundreds of dollars, trying to figure out what to do next in the chaos of a foreign place. I’m thinking of my friend who is knee-deep in training for a marathon that now may or may not happen- all the miles running into a question mark. I’m thinking of my friend who has an upcoming wedding, and all the planning that went into what was supposed to be the perfect day. I’m thinking of the kind, bright-eyed woman that bags my groceries, how she tells me she’s afraid for her family. How she doesn’t have a choice. I’m thinking of the parents who are worried they will lose their jobs, and for the ones who already have. The schools that close their doors, the children that need meals. The families scrambling to find arrangements and answers for what to do next. I’m thinking of the teachers who are navigating a new world of online classes and a now jumbled course plan. The janitor I usually see every day at 2 p.m. in my office wing, who always tells me to have a nice day. I’m thinking of the elderly, who matter. I’m thinking of the immunocompromised, who matter. And I’m thinking of those closest to them, who are terrified for them, trying to be careful and cautious with every action. I’m thinking of those struggling with mental health who soldier on, their battles intensified by this crisis, but still invisible to most. I’m thinking of the small businesses who are on the brink of collapse, trying to crunch numbers, just trying to stay afloat. Employers who cut corners to ensure they don’t have to cut the wages of their employees. I’m thinking of those who have already lost their lives to this, all around the world, of their families and friends still reeling in the wake of a sudden absence. I’m thinking of those who are currently experiencing symptoms and scared, suffering. I’m thinking of those who don’t have health insurance. Those that don’t have the ability to work from home. Those that don’t have someone to help them. Those that don’t have the money or resources. And I’m thinking of, and especially grateful for, those in the health care industry that are putting tireless and thankless hours in, risking their own health, separating from their own families, and more— working to help fight this.

So yes, right now, I am just a girl in sweatpants, sitting on my couch. It’s the least I can do to not put myself and others at risk. I am embracing self-isolation fully, freely, and openly. Before all of this, I was desperately needing time to myself. Now that I have some, I feel the pull to be productive…to write, to work on new projects, etc. With that, I am also feeling the heavy guilt that comes with not constantly doing or accomplishing something. But fuck that.

We aren’t machines. I need to remember that I am human, and especially as someone who struggles with her mental health, I am learning to just be. Not cross off every to-do list or bucket list item, just for one moment! Breathe in, and just be here. That’s absolutely enough, especially right now.

Since Monday, I’ve been working from home and will be for the next unknown amount of time. It’s both strange and wonderful. Today, I hopped on a video conference call with two of my dearest friends/colleagues, Holly and Chloë, and almost cried because I missed seeing them in the hallways of the university we work at, or taking our regular lunch break walks together.

Tonight, I FaceTimed with my family- who are all together at my brother’s house in Florida. Him, his wife, their two daughters, and my parents. While I’m so grateful for the technology that makes these 963 miles between us feel closer, and although I will say that this is one time in my life I am so glad to not be traveling… damn. I miss them. Those candy-sticky hands and full hearts, my dad’s quiet presence, my sister-in-law’s radiant smile, my brother’s contagious laugh, my mother’s undeniable warmth.

Earlier this evening, I read a book cover to cover. I can’t tell you how long it has been  since I’ve done that. I’m going through old notebooks of poetry. I’m retracing steps in my travel photos. I’m letting myself binge a little Netflix. I’m resting.

I know I said I’ve been feeling alone, but I’ve also never felt so connected. I say it every time, so I don’t know why I’m still surprised that when some form of tragedy happens, it always seems to bring people together. This continues to amaze me. The people volunteering their time, those offering online services free of charge, those raising money, those stepping up and showing up in all corners of the universe. And the connections from my circle- love that flows through telephone wires with a long distance friend, the FaceTime with family, e-mail chains with my Madwomen writing group, “meeting” new people on Instagram and Twitter. What’s more, I’m connecting to myself again, using the time I’ve been given to get back to the thing that always has nurtured me most: the written word.

So, hang in there, friends. We will rise together.

Sending you love and light,

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