RETIREMENT

I had a tough year, like so many others. Mine started in early March 2020, before the lockdown, where I ended up in Emergency with a blood pressure spike that was scary. I ended up on medication but had complications with the medication and now just had it changed again for the fourth time – it’s been a long haul.

I had planned to retire in two years but decided to put my health first and take early retirement. I have been teaching for 30 years and have loved working with students as part of a multi-disciplinary team in day-treatment facilities and as a District Teacher of a Behaviour Class, as well as building my own program (FOCUS) and then finishing my career facilitating Peace Circles with entire classes. Before retirement I can say that I taught in/supported all schools but three in the Langley School District and before that worked in Kamloops, Burnaby, San Francisco, and Calgary. I worked alongside amazing people over my career and I am thankful to so many.

I will miss this vocation – I wanted to be a teacher from about the age of four and now I am going to focus on building my writing career and connections. I have books two to complete in both a fantasy trilogy and an adventure trilogy (aimed at middle-grade to lower YA). That ought to keep me busy! And I recently completed the 2-day Poem Contest (CV2 Magazine) where I wrote a poem in 48 hours and had to include the ten words they provided. This past weekend I completed the Poetry Marathon (half) where I wrote twelve poems to twelve prompts in twelve hours. The first prompt was so fitting for my retirement, I decided to include it here:

2021 Poetry Marathon

Prompt One: Write a poem about something ending. It could be a relationship, a stage in life, or the apocalypse. The details are up to you!

The Stars are Waiting

Not a door closing but

steps further away

Not steps further away but

in a different direction

Not steps in a different 

direction but 

New steps, full of vigor

carrying thirty years

of children with me –

their laughter, joy, and sorrow

Their curiosity and 

wide-eyed wonder

Their innocence and will

to believe in things, unseen

Their ability to forgive and

care just as fully as before…

Their upside-down grins –

hanging from the monkey-bars

Their antics and giggles

when no-one is watching

Their antics and giggles

when everyone is watching

Their rush to comfort when

friends are down

and their love of everything new

Everything is no longer new

but my steps

New is what I’ll search for as I

take in my surroundings, seeing more –

New is stillness on the forest path; the 

unturned stone of the future

New is learning to hop-skip on the beach again –

the invitation of the ocean’s swell

New is sitting in a tree reading 

a book of poetry by Maya Angelou

New is building a garden big enough to house

hundreds of peace stones; gifts, accumulated

New is baking up a storm for doors

once again, flung wide

New is flinging doors open-wide

arms, too – hearts singing

Being the kite

wafting in the wind

             the stars are waiting

Almost time…

On Saturday, June 26th, I will once again participate in the Poetry Marathon. This will be my fifth year doing the half-marathon, where I receive a prompt in my inbox every hour. Participants do not have to write to the prompt, but that is the whole reason I enter the contest: to challenge myself to create something from a prompt in one hour. Of course, there are times when the clock is seconds away from becoming the next hour and I am scrambling to post my poem in time. So far, I have managed twelve poems in twelve hours to twelve prompts and earned the coveted certificate.

To prepare for the contest, I typically use the random prompt generator on the website in the days and weeks leading up to the Poetry Marathon and create practice poems. Here is a pantoum I wrote recently:

This Year

this year of virtual embraces, cold and distant touches –
invisible ripples along the flesh; blank boxes with but a name,
providing some warmth against the wracking wind
… a brief lifeline to the outside world

invisible ripples along the flesh; blank boxes with but a name,
amiable enough this hollow discourse
… a brief lifeline to the outside world
to stead us until life resumes

amiable enough this hollow discourse
this year of virtual embraces, cold and distant touches –
to stead us until life resumes
providing some warmth against the wracking wind

Finally, I have snacks on hand like granola, nuts and this year, freshly baked banana bread. I may need to pop out for a Strawberry Açai at some point during the day – maybe when I go for my scheduled for smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-the contest second vaccine!

Good luck to all the contestants and especially the brave ones doing the Full Poetry Marathon of twenty-four hours. Maybe I will be brave next year!

National Poetry Month… done!

At the close of National Poetry Month 2020, I am happy with my participation in events and writing! What did I do?

I participated in two ZOOM sessions of poetry hosted by Bill Arnott and heard participants reading from as far as Australia. A wonderful way to spend two afternoons!

I also joined the Poet’s Corner for a fabulous evening of readings! So many talented local poets!

I also learned about ‘The Art of Fresh Imagery in Poetry’ from Meghan Stirling, hosted by Jacob Jans and Authors Publish. There were over 260 people watching and they were participating from all over the world. Great inspiration for editing one of my poems! Thank you for the support.

And… I participated in the CV-2 2-Day-Poem Contest where the 10 words were: palm, embank, sheer, wrest, lacuna, whizzed, runny, mustard, balter, and nubivagant. I know, you are thinking that the stumbling blocks for creativity were nubivagant and balter. But, I am so glad I had ‘The Child’ to keep me calm while writing for 48 hours to produce a poem, as it was actually whizzed and runny that caused me grief. According to a twitter poll on the weekend of the contest, runny was considered the hardest word.

I also applied for a position to edit a poetry anthology. No word on that one, yet. But I am ever hopeful! I also am a participant in a Facebook group called the Quarter Crazy Marathon set up by folks who participate in the Poetry Marathon so we can prepare for the gruelling event in June! This month, I learned about a new form from them called the NONET. Even though National Poetry Month is over, I have plenty of ideas to work with in the coming months, including trying my hand at this new form!

It’s National Poetry Month

Warning – these poetic undertakings are not for the faint of heart!

During April, I typically sign-up for the CV2 -2-Day Poem Contest and prior to the dates of writing, I check out the previous winning poems from 2003-2020. Like me, you will find great reads and tons of inspiration! In April, I also typically begin watching for news and updates for the June POETRY MARATHON. You may enter the Half-Marathon, like me, and write 12 poems in 12 hours, or if you have the poetic stamina, why not push yourself and go for the full marathon: 24 poems in 24 hours. Maybe you would like to just peruse the poems on the site or try your hand at a new form? On the right-hand side of the Poetry Marathon main page, you will find a RANDOM PROMPT generator – a wonderful way to challenge yourself and find new forms.

Here is a list of some of the form poems the POETRY MARATHON contest has challenged poets with over the past several years:

A GOLDEN SHOVEL – Where the poet chooses a title or favourite line of a poem/piece of prose and uses each word in the lines of the poem as the end word (keeping the original order). It is important to credit the original author. Here is a great example from the League of Canadian Poets.

THE SEVENLING- a full description and example can be found here: SEVENLING.

THE BOP – again a fun, but challenging form. For more information check this poetic form out here: BOP.

EKPHRASTIC POETRY – In short – a vivid description of a work of art. Check out the Poetry Foundation for a full description of this form and poetic example.

THE PANTOUM – The pantoum is a form of poetry similar to a villanelle in that there are repeating lines throughout the poem. It is composed of a series of quatrains; the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next. For more on this form check out this brilliant poem featured on the League of Canadian Poets site.

I am off to try one or two poems as practice for the BIG EVENTS! Happy NATIONAL POETRY MONTH to all!

Book Birthdays!

It is a new thing to celebrate book birthdays – throwing a party to welcome your novel into the world. I guess if we do that as a new tradition it follows that books will have successive birthdays, just like us!

As with any birthday party, it is a good idea to have the whole family join in! Sadly, LOCKED UP and ROOM 555 weren’t around for the photo op!

So, today I celebrate two book birthdays. BENCHED just turned TEN! Since BENCHED was my first ‘baby’ I was nervous about how it would be received by the world and of course, how I would nurture it so it could grow. I was a novice, and like any new parent, spent many nights awake, wishing and hoping for it to thrive. I guess I shouldn’t have worried. After ten years, this middle-grade novel still brings me a little pocket change in royalties. I often get messages from teachers and youth in different parts of the world – recently, I was contacted by a teacher in New York asking if I had accompanying lesson plans. Orca Book Publishers creates lesson plans for most of their books and to access the one for BENCHED, click here: http://www.orcabook.com/Assets/PDFs/Guides/benched.pdf I still receive notes from young people saying it is the first novel they were able to complete – the reason I wrote this book. As this novel falls into the hi-lo category, or as I like to call them, accessible books, it is a quick read for avid book lovers and one that all readers can manage. A bit more about hi-lo fiction can be found here: https://blog.orcabook.com/author-feature-cristy-watson/

It is also a book birthday for CUTTER BOY. Originally titled, EDGE OF GREY, this book just turned FIVE! Interestingly, it was also a first for me as an author. It was the first book published with Lorimer and I now have three more books with their SIDESTREETS series, also a hi-lo category for YA: http://www.lorimer.ca/childrens/Contributor/3474/Cristy-Watson.html I have had many young people connect with me over this book – how it clicked with them, how it spoke to them, and how it helped them understand themselves and others. It covers a tough topic, and all of my books with Lorimer look at realistic issues facing teens today. If you read this book, be aware that it can trigger folks who are struggling with mental health issues and do remember to reach out for help and support: https://cmha.ca/documents/talking-to-teens-about-mental-health

BENCHED and CUTTER BOY thank you for celebrating their book birthdays this January. Authors – do your books have an upcoming birthday? Feel free to share with me in the comments section!

Words to Describe “Locked Up”

This book came out in January 2019 and time has flown since then. I was able to donate copies of all my books to a juvenile prison in the United States thanks to the brilliant Isaiah Roby, who cares deeply for the youth in these situations. I heard back from the prison librarian that the books were getting youth talking: a debate ensued about the back story for the mom in Cutter Boy, and one youth realized he needed to reach out to his dad after reading Dead to Me. Hearing this compels me to write more novels!

Today, while checking the internet, this popped up on my feed. It’s from the Delaware County District Library. I appreciate their choice of words for the book’s appeal:

ON WHY I ENTER CONTESTS

I entered my first writing contest when I was in Grade 10 and won third prize for my short story, HOW THE SKUNK GOT ITS SMELL, a story I wrote after reading Rudyard Kipling’s, JUST SO STORIES. I revisited that practice after my cancer diagnosis, rekindling my desire to be ‘a writer’, with submissions to, ‘the rag’ which was a local magazine printed in Mission, BC. That endeavor proved fruitful, with a win and several poems being published over a two year period.

When presenting writing workshops, I always encourage participants to seek out contests as a place to submit their stories and poetry. It is often an easier way to learn one of the harder parts of getting published: rejection. In a contest, if you don’t win, it could still mean you received fourth place! I have gone by that motto for the latter part of my writing journey!

So, this year I took up the challenge and it helped stead me through this pandemic. It also provided some unique and wonderful opportunities.

In February, I was accepted into the First Five Pages Workshop, where after several weeks of working and re-working the first five pages of my newest book, I ‘won’, and had an agent from New York ask to see my full manuscript. While I didn’t succeed in earning myself an agent, I did come close, and for me, that is enough! I also gained a few writers with whom I now continue to workshop the novel. The first five pages of your work must stand out if you hope to be published.

http://www.1st5pageswritingworkshop.com/

To gear up for April’s Poetry Month, I entered a Facebook contest and wrote four poems in four hours to a prompt. Then from April 24-25, 2020 I participated in two days of feverish poetic creativity using ten designated words which included: bootlegging, lethargy, eggplant, bin, carapace, octothorpe and peristeronic. This contest always tests my ability to work within deadlines, a necessary skill for any author who wishes to be published.

http://www.contemporaryverse2.ca/en/contests/2-day-poem-contest

Then in May, for six weeks, I participated in a grueling contest that honed my short story telling skills, from a focus on narrative, tropes, description and voice, to writing children’s stories and world-building. This contest not only helped one with skill-building, but also supported the writer with immediate and supportive feedback.

https://www.writersworkout.net/games

A week after that contest ended, I was back at it with twelve hours of prompts and twelve hours of creating poetry in the Poetry Marathon! This year I learned about a new poetic form… the BOP: https://poets.org/glossary/bop and last year I learned about the SEVENLING: https://poetscollective.org/poetryforms/sevenling/ I once again enjoyed connecting with an international writing community and will have a poem published in their anthology in the fall. This day produced poetry from the great prompts that I can edit and submit elsewhere.

https://thepoetrymarathon.com/blog/

So, if you want inspiration, wish to connect with a writing community, need to hone your skills, or would just like to drive yourself a little crazy on the way to publication try one of these contests or find a new one that is a good fit for you!

Gearing Up!

It is almost time for this year’s Contemporary Verse 2 Two-Day Poem contest. I have been entering now for almost a decade and it is the highlight of National Poetry Month for me. I was originally turned on to the contest while taking a poetry workshop from local poet, Heidi Greco. In her class, I experimented with poetry and found my voice. I had been writing since the age of eight but this was the first time I began to feel like a poet.

Past CV2 Magazines

There was a sense of camaraderie as we dove into the CV 2 Contest that year and in 2013, I was fortunate enough to win Editor’s Choice and a copy of the book, with my entry: Vegas, Baby. Since then, I have continued to enter contests, like the Coffee Shop Author Contest put together by Susan Toy, where I won Honorable Mention. I have also participated in the Poetry Marathon for a few years now and love the connections I have made there, as well.

Book with my entry from last year’s contest

I have created four chapbooks of poetry I share with friends and family and I have had the unique pleasure of hosting a literary Open Mic in my local community for many years, where usually we have only poetry shared in the April session. This year we missed our time together and it seems we may be out of luck for gathering to celebrate poetry and other writing endeavors for some time to come.

Chapbook created during the Coffee Shop Author Contest.

Let’s hope that while we are quarantined the words flow and poetic musings abound. Or, at least that I have some luck with tonight’s ten words as I venture off into 48 hours of poetry madness.

Christmas Treats and 2020!

I was so excited to find a note from my publisher just before Christmas, informing me that both BENCHED and LIVING ROUGH had gone to reprint. Even more wonderful, was seeing BENCHED sporting a new cover!

One of my resolutions this year is to be better at the social media part of my job as author. So, I posted a new blog on Goodreads and decided to link to it from here. Sort of cheating, I know! But it may also help me to get new followers on both sites. As an author, it is on my contracts that I do my part to promote my books. So… here goes!

https://www.goodreads.com/cristywatson

Poetry Marathon 2019

This past July, I wrote a poem an hour for twelve hours as part of the half-marathon participants in the 2019 Poetry Marathon hosted by Caitlin and Jacob Jans. At the top of each hour, a prompt was posted and the poet had the hour to write to the message. It tested my poetic prowess and I had great fun! I couldn’t imagine having the staying power for 24 hours!

The sevenling was new to me and I enjoyed my ‘fun’ take on that poem. Friday my books arrived and I am thrilled to say that I have a poem alongside other international contestants, on page 134. The poem of mine that editor Jennifer Faylor chose was to a picture prompt – one showing the night sky uninhibited by city lights, so the stars were dancing!

Thank you Jennifer Faylor for editing this anthology and to Caitlin and Jacob Jans for this wonderful contest that brings folks together from all over the globe.

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