Happy Harvest

I am remembering all I have to be thankful for in an otherwise perfect world…which is to say, a very imperfect world & yet, & yet, here I am, in the harvest years, reading the poetry of women in their harvest years & anticipating a visit from my grown up kids, who are doing, at this time, nicely. Even last night, my daughter’s lost Corgi was found the night before Thanksgiving! Yes there have been many bumps in the road & yet & yet, I have always found this day, whose origins are also otherwise perfect, or not at all perfect (I am reminded of this watching PBS specials on how this nation came to be) I need to sit back, sip what, at this time, is good–even if that good are the gleanings.

What are your gleaning, what your small moments of yes?  Do some of those moments come in the way of words, like me, to become poems?

We are starting to see signs of life at Quillsedge–the second contest is underway–thanks to Elliott the conspirator (conspire means to love) we are up and running in Submittable–where your entries will appear by magic out of ether. This year, I won’t have to deal with the endless pile of mailed manuscripts which last winter invite dust bunnies to graze my living room floor. But beautiful bunnies. As  I am still in process of a long move, to be able to open a file to read your work is one of those thankful moments–Yes, Yes. The harvest delivered.

Our theme this year embodies what inhabits you/your poems. & because I am between homes right now it seems to suit me just fine as my body is my only real address at present–my dwelling place. So we look forward to learning about where you dwell, what inhabits.

Today I wish you all a way to find even one moment of peace & conspire with the harvest. & though I am hardly a technophile–upload it into your day, savor it with your veggies or turkey, your tangy, your tarts & your sweets & after this day of harvest–consider sharing with us the bounty of your words.

Happy day of harvest  Jane & Elliott–& our growing board & activists,  Jude & Anique!

Autumn leaves

Leaves of a book, leaves of trees, Leaves of Grass, and leaving summer into fall and although on September first it feels like summer, my dogs (Jane here) are shedding and they know the season is turning soon. And Fall for me has always seemed a time of not so much loss as renewal–when the coolness makes the grapes sweet. And sweet especially is the knowledge that Elliott, woman of huge heart and energy and talent and co-conspirator at QuillsEdge (conspire means to love you know) has been working with our printer to bring to fruition our first chapbooks–not one but two, and two beauties. And October first, our second contest opens! A lot is on the burners.

As for me, this fall may bring a change of place to live. And there will be some forthcoming changes on how we work at the press to make the things poets are least best at (that is the $ stuff!) easier for all, and also the submission process easier as well. Because of all of your entries and support, we have made through the first year and that is a particularly difficult one to get through for fledgling presses. Thank you all.

I will add one little note about my summer. I was blessed to go to The Bread Loaf Conference in Vermont and something extraordinary happened. Like many poets, I am pretty much an introvert, a book worm and am not used to being recognized. In fact, I kind like being  a gecko! Yet, women I had never met came up to me and said, “Are you Jane Seitel from QuillsEdge Press?” And so many conversations started… Now, this surprised the socks off of me– it was, for me, at once a bit awkward but also gratifying since I realized word had spread about the press and our rather unique mission. And there were many women over fifty at the conference. They were essayists, fiction writers and poets and at the student readings, I realized how much of a force of nature we women are. So on that note, let the winds of fall move you, at times wistfully, at times gusting or even blustery: Move you along your precious life and literary path.

 

 

 

Finally Finalists

Finalists for the “On the Edge” Competition Have Been Chosen

After receiving 150 manuscripts, and reading carefully through all of them, Quills Edge Press is thrilled to announce these six finalists, which have been forwarded to judge Barbara Crooker:

Kim Baker, Warwick, RI, Hardship, Art, and Other Reluctant Mothers
T. Stores, Newfane, VT, Verge
Suellen Wedmore, Rockpart, MA, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife
Sara Backer, Hollis, NH, The Fourth Nest
Lucia Galloway, Claremont, CA, The Garlic Peelers
Eve F. W. Linn, Carlisle, MA, Album of Not

Women Poets Over 50 Rock!

Choosing only a handful of finalists was not easy. Every manuscript was read by at least two members of Quills Edge, and the final decision was made over a LONG lunch.

When we first announced our plans for Quills Edge, we of course had detractors who assumed a press that was not ONLY only women but ONLY only women over 50 would:

1. turn up very few good poets
2. produce manuscripts so alike they were monotonous

Wrong on both counts, of course. The range of voices and styles was enormous, and the lives informing the work were utterly diverse – the only commonality was that the poets had lived through decades of life changes.

All three of us – Jane Seitel, Elliott batTzedek, and Jude-Laure Denis, are happy that an external judge will be making the final decision, for we couldn’t choose. With more funding we’d be publishing all six, and hope to in the future.

So excited to have come this far!
Jane and Elliott
QuillsEdge Press: Indispensable Poetry by Women Over 50

oh winter….

Women of the Quill,

I appreciate everyone’s patience. Had we known winter would be so challenging, we would perhaps have made this a spring to summer contest. However…the final judging is in sight…because everyone’s schedule has been skeltered, Barbara has set aside time to judge beginning the second week in March. If you would like me to send along you manuscript reviews before the final judging just let me (Jane) know. Most are done and I would be happy to share your’s with you. If I do not hear from you, they will all go out after the final judging.

For me, this has been a winter of challenges. Ice and falls, floods that came indoors from burst pipes. I am sure we all have experienced these, especially as the years wind by. And it is probably too long since I have written, although I am not sure how many read this form of communication. To those who do, I thank you for your patience and understanding…and pledge Elliott’s and my good intentions in a season of adversity.

May you all be warm and savor your favorite comfort food and soup of the season.

Beauty is on the Inside

Women of the Quill,

It is six in the morning and I have read all the manuscripts and handed them off to Elliott, the significant other of the press. Now it is her colossal job to read your unique work with her unique vision and insight. We are working with due diligence but with care. Then we together will select the final manuscripts to send to our esteemed judge Barbara Crooker, who has a new book of her own! Her collected works are now available from FutureCycle Press, and you can order one to read with great enjoyment. (info@barbaracrooker.com)

Because we have been blessed and because of the added month of extended submissions, the press, thanks to you all, is on more solid ground. We have the money for the chapbook winner, to file for nonprofit status, and maybe even pay an accountant to do our taxes. (We are poets after all!) And we hope to announce a New Year’s surprise soon, which will give you the opportunity to preview more of the extraordinary poems we have read and have astonished us. In the meantime, sit tight–stay warm, meditate if you are into that or ice fish.  And do consider writing your next poem, as a moving forward.

The work for me also continues. For all of you who asked for manuscript evaluations, this is my morning’s work, and has been for a week now. Each of you get who asked for this get my undivided attention for an hour to an hour and a half.(Not bad for fifteen bucks, a grand opening special!) When I write to you (or you receive a call) I will try to notice both the beauty and strengths of your poetry, and possible directions and ways to explore and revise at the same time. Going deeper is one of my focuses. Using every tool of the craft which may enhance your individual poems, is the other.  Often the best places to look carefully at exemplary poems are to go back to those favorite poets each of you shared with us, and notice how they do what they do. In fact, just yesterday I read again, considered again, Elizabeth Bishop and her poem, “One Art.” The poem took her years to write, and went through dozens of revisions. Now there’s perseverance!

My best to you all. Jane

Reading time….

It is time to hunker down with some steamy coffee and a thick stack of manuscripts. It is great to hear new voices in a New Year. And so many fine poems–so many heart to voice poems; so many poems of life & vision. In this process, the poems go from Jane’s home, where you sent your manuscripts, to Elliott’s & then we discuss the manuscripts together to come up with a list of finalists to send to Barbara Crooker. While we are doing this, we encourage you all to read your favorite writers & a someone new, to listen to your favorite music & discover or redicover music; to open up to 2015 in renewal and possibility!

The fabulous four weeks…

It’s the countdown to everyone’s holidays and I want to wish you the fullest and most life loving of seasons. My own Thanksgiving, in the company of friends and family and my terrific grown up children put the worries and challenges of living in a world of heartache and frailty aside and when I choose to breath, I felt to air from my lips to the souls of my feet and I remembered that “It could be worse”does not have be part of every Thanksgiving gratitude.Sometimes no qualifier is needed.

As many of you know the contest has been extended to December 31. As a first contest, this is not unusual since it takes some time for folks to discover us. That said, we have 75 entries now, which is small as such things go but perhaps good for those who have entered. And I have, since I need to take my time, started reading the manuscripts. The minimum for my first run through has averaged an hour and often I take longer. I make notes as I go. I need to allow myself time to clear my mind between readings. In my mind, I try not to compare any manuscript to any other poet’s writing, but to clear my mind of comparisons I make notes on every manuscript, noticing especially strong poems, and work that strives and asks questions and goes beyond them. At my best, I read as though this is the only chapbook in the universe, and my delight or my questions rise from that. At my worst, I put down a chapbook and let it sit till later because I know when I am not at my most clear eyed and receptive. So far, I have been touched by my first readings (yes I will do second ones in the next month and a half because I have lived a life of second chances) and this is by no means going to be a simple process to prune down the final group.

To those who have asked for feedback, that will come after the final selection and I will read each manuscript I am tasked with yet again, and notice if you wanted anything in particular in the way of commentary. To those of you who did not ask for feedback, that opportunity is still open and you can always write me saying you would like this.

Today there has been good and bad news, but fortunately the bad is only that my vacuum cleaner Bessie has died after eight years of faithful service, struggling with the dog hair and my tendency to be Clara Klutz. The good news came in from Israel, where they said I am honorable mention (it is good to be mentioned in an honorable way!) in The Reuben Rose, Voices Israel poetry competition. So it was expensive bad luck my vacuum died, but priceless news that somebody actually read a poem I wrote. So pick a moment. Take a satisfaction break Notice not only did you write one poem but many and further you had the courage to send them off into the four winds to land at Wildflower Lane, where each poem is a tangible wonder, where each poet has her name spoken. Yes, I feel there is something magical in reading first lines and second and third….

Peace…Jane

More than Meets the Eye

Eye_of_Horus_by_monikapedersen

Today I light a fire, for the first time this year, as the temperatures plummet, as the reds and oranges of autumn give way to the grays and browns, and I think to myself, it is good to read some poetry to heat me up from the inside out. So I pick up a few of the manuscripts which pile up in my living room (which is also my dining room, kitchen and writing room) and allow the flames to surge and snap and glow.

I am thankful so many have sent in their precious work–it seems I have many treasures in my hands–that I am entrusted with–to honor and give my entire attention. We are approaching sixty-five manuscripts now–which has been the result of so much outreach, so much creative spreading of the word not only by Elliott and myself, but by the women I have spoken to in acknowledgement of their manuscripts. I thank everyone who has told a friend, mentioned it in a poetry group or MFA program. If QuillsEdge is to make it, artistically and financially (ah yes, nothing grows without green–even the Goddess Udjat, the Goddess of the Eye’s name means green) we need to spread our fields wide, as the psalms say.

I am a person for whom poetry is like slow food, a person who needs lots of time to appreciate flavors, textures, visions– hence I start leisurely contemplating the manuscripts. And it occurs to me that when in the past I have sent out my work, the process of how it has been evaluated has remained a mystery. And rarely does a rejection slip or an acceptance, for that matter, lend any transparency as to what it was about the poetry that made it special or resigned it to recycling.(No not even a hint or a shred of what it had or lacked for my readers.) So I have decided to say a little here, and say more in other posts, about my adventures in reading and my process reading your work.

My co-conspirator Elliot, wild of red hair and sprit, says when she reads excellence, extraordinary-ness, she always exclaims “I wish I had written that!” It is the quintessential Eureka and she has, I think, hit the ultimate gold nail on the head. Yet because I tend to complicate things to infinity (just saying–obsession is a priceless pathology for a poet) I write down pages and pages just noticing what I need to notice in every manuscript. Of course this is about as likely as me memorizing the all of the Holy Sonnets or the Books of Moses (or the Books of Mrs. Moses or Grandma Moses) but still, it is something that is my process. Nonetheless, realizing it will only get in the way–I give it up immediately after I displace the yellow dog (gently, with a milk bone) off her (my) chair to read in the living room decorated by pictures of Navaho women weaving. First, I read the title. (How linear–but a title is important) I usually feel and smell the manuscript (I grow to maturity in the touchy feely days) and I pop on my seriously electric blue reading glasses. I sit down for the time it takes, minus pacing and pee breaks I keep reminding myself–Jane look, see (See Jane, see Jane read) now deeper and now again. So I read in and then aloud since that is the heritage of our craft. I had some learning differences, still do, as a child. This is allowed me to feel fine about taking twice the time and doing half of what normal people do. It allows me to look at the craft deeply and delight in it, to recognize “ah, a Sestina or a Petrarchan Sonnet, an Ode or an Elegy . It gives me permission to consider content and complexity–individual,historic, common and uncommon, earthy and ethereal.It allows me to take journeys into exotic places. And incredibly important for me, it opens up the music of the poetry–that music that propels and pulses the words.

Because comparing manuscripts is impossible–so much greater than simply comparing apples to oranges–we are talking not merely planets here, but solar systems, galaxies,nebulas and black holes, quasars and pulsars–I know I am in for the ride of lifetimes. Not only your’s or mine…

Yet the evaluation itself is truly subjective in its least definable. It is individual and cellular–our reckoning of poetry. And if I don’t get chosen or choose one manuscript that does not mean it should be discounted in any way. Each work has a validity, a reason and right to be–it has its own beauty,courage and expression. To quote Sweet Honey and the Rock, “It is the sons and daughters of life (your life) longing for itself.” It is bread. It is meat. It is fruit. It is.

So as I head towards Thanksgiving, I say a blessing for each dear poets, in a conspiracy (conspire means to love) of abundance and creation. After the turkey flies off your table– before the maids come a milking, I write again. Until then and always,savor your own unique and juicy possibilities. In common measure, Jane

50 & Counting!

50 FABULOUS MANUSCRIPTS have arrived! There are days when one shows up at 76 Wildflower like a single rose. And days when the mailbox becomes a bouquet, and the mail person knocks on my door and one day wonders what a QuillsEdge is? I tell her, a QuillsEdge is a poet, a Carol or a Kay or a Krista or a Jean or a June. A QuillsEdge comes in any variety of envelopes with secret surprises in the wrappers, and it is harder and harder not keep from jumping in and reading every single one. Yet for that I must wait a while longer, until both Elliott and I can sit down with some good java and take our time with them and compare our notes. But before even that I am coming up with a template which notices all those wonderful poetic things which makes the poetry–the heart, the soul, the craft.

One of the wonderful bonuses of this labor of love is that I decided, early on, to do things a bit differently, (and as time goes on you will see how different a press we are inventing or re-inventing) and so I try to call each contributor, to say thank you and got it, to ask how you heard about us, and for those whose manuscripts we will be reading for review, what would be helpful for us to notice about your poetry that would nurture you as a writer? Each call has been a blessing for me–my goodness, I’ve never spoken to anyone in Spokane before! And I am thrilled at the diversity of voices from different regions. This is a banquet –a genuine banquet. Thank you all for this thanksgiving

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