What’s Going On–February 2014

Things here have been exciting and hectic! Two weeks ago, an anthology I co-edited was published on Amazon in e-book format. Published by CQT Media and Publishing/Land of Gazillion Adoptees, Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption From a Place of Empowerment and Peace features essays and poems by the adopted women contributors of the Lost Daughters blog, edited by Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston, Julie Stromberg, Jennifer Anastasi, and myself. Two pieces of mine are included–a poem from my master’s thesis and an essay I wrote specifically for the anthology.

This was a passion project from beginning to end; our proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to an adoptee-centric charity, which we’ll announce soon. My co-editors and I are very grateful to everyone who purchased the e-book during the first few days following its release, helping it make the Amazon best sellers list in the Adoption category! The book will be out shortly in paperback as well, and we’re hopeful that a reading will take place in the D.C. area in June. More on that as soon I have the details.

Also last month, I was thrilled to have one of my poems accepted by Conte, an online journal of narrative writing. The poem, along with a recording of me reading it, will appear in their next issue, which is due to be published in late February/early March.

I am honored also to have been asked to serve as judge of the Literary E-Zine category for the Southern Literary Festival, which will be held at the University of Mississippi in March. I’ve already chosen the winning entry; I’ll post a link here after the festival concludes to share the awesomeness.

March, come quickly, please!

What’s Going On – July 2013

2013-06-09 12.00.53 editedI’ve been on a summer hiatus of sorts since my graduation and the end of my children’s school year. I’ve done the family vacation thing and the hanging-at-the-pool-with-the-kids thing and not a whole lot of anything else until this month.

Now I’m honored to be editing submissions for The Lost Daughters Anthology, which is due to be published this fall. The essays and poems in this collection speak to the complicated lives we navigate as adopted women. Though many of the pieces have appeared previously on Lost Daughters and other blogs, they somehow read differently when combined in this format with each other and the as-yet-unpublished pieces. The oneness of our journey reaches through our individual tales, connecting us to each other and to every other adopted person. I can’t wait for everyone to read this book! Continue reading “What’s Going On – July 2013”

So You’re Graduating, Now What?

2013-05-05 16.57.50What are your plans after graduation?

I’ve been asked this a few times now. It’s a valid question, yet I’ve felt defensive trying to come up with a good answer. I think the problem stems from the fact that I’m not a typical graduate.

I didn’t return to school eighteen years after earning my bachelor’s degree so that I could get another piece of paper that would lead to a job. Sure, I’d like to make money just as much as the next person, but a paycheck wasn’t the primary motivation for my enrolling in graduate school.

The first time around, I sort of drifted into college from high school because I was an honor student, and that’s what smart kids were supposed to do. I was interested in computers and I did well in math, so I majored in computer science. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t into my classes the way some of the other students were. By the time I did my internship, I knew I’d chosen the wrong major, however I decided to stick it out so as not to waste the time or money I’d already put into getting a degree. I graduated at the top of my class, then settled into an IT job for nine years, suffering a near breakdown before I finally called it quits when my son was born.

Looking back at the disaster that was my twenties, I’ve realized I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. I had spent too many years worrying about fitting in, trying to please others as if my survival depended on it. In my mind, it did, because I had been rejected once by my birth mother and likely rejected again by whomever took care of me during the three months before I was adopted, and I wasn’t going to let anyone reject me again if I could help it. These weren’t conscious thoughts, mind you. These were feelings deeply embedded in my psyche.

I never thought I’d go back to school. I was absolutely thrilled to be done with it all when I graduated the first time. When I determined that I really wanted to write as a vocation, I did enough research to know that I didn’t need a degree to do it. What I did need, though, was validation that I was, indeed, on the right track. After nearly destroying my own life via poor decisions in my early adulthood, I didn’t want to waste even more time heading down another wrong path.

This time around, I very quickly realized I was doing exactly the right thing. I loved my creative writing classes and, maybe even more importantly, I “got” them in a way I never got those Comp Sci courses two decades earlier. I was exactly where I needed to be. And, I met other creative, ambitious people just like me, which is something I know I would have struggled doing on my own outside of a formal program because of the lack of self-confidence I initially felt.

I am ecstatic that I’m about to receive a Master of Arts; that word, “arts,” is so very meaningful to me, validation that I’ve finally gotten myself on the track I was meant to follow. I know whatever comes next will be the right thing, so long as I continue to be true to myself.

What’s Going On – April/May 2013

My big news is that I have completed every page, class, defense, and reading required to earn my Master of Arts on May 15. It’s been three years of hard work while trying to maintain balance at home, but it’s been worth every difficult moment. I’m a better writer and, even more importantly, I’ve met some kindred spirits along the way.

I finally made it over to Marietta to read at the Play Pen Open Mic, a tradition for students in my program. I also read at the open mic during the American Adoption Congress National Conference in my hometown of Cleveland earlier this month–and, my birth father was in the audience! I’m so glad I had the chance to read a poem I wrote about our meeting for the first time.

Karen Pickell and Natasha Trethewey
Karen Pickell and Natasha Trethewey

Recently, a poem of mine called “Green” won second place in a free verse contest held by the Georgia Poetry Society and judged by Alabama poet Irene Latham. I had the opportunity to read the poem last week at a joint meeting of the Georgia and Alabama poetry societies. Later that day, U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey read selections from her books and talked about her role in cultivating an appreciation of poetry throughout the country.

May will be a month of transition, now that I’m no longer a graduate student. I have a couple of book reviews coming up at Lost Daughters, and will also be into the nitty gritty of editing our forthcoming anthology. I’m proud to have accepted the position of Associate Editor at Flycatcher, which comes with a new set of responsibilities. And, it’s time to get cracking on putting the work I’ve completed for my degree out into the world.

Excuse me while I break out my shades–the future’s looking bright!

What’s Going On – March, 2013

These first three months of 2013 have just whizzed by for me.

Priority number one has been finishing my Capstone thesis, which I’m thrilled to say has been signed off on by both of my advisors. Only the oral defense remains. I’m set to graduate with a Master of Arts in Professional Writing on May 15. Now I’ll be turning my attention to submitting individual pieces from my thesis for publication, as well as preparing the full manuscript.

This Saturday, I’ll be reading three poems from my thesis for the Johns Creek Poetry Group. The poems express various aspects of adoptee experience. This group is a local chapter of the Georgia Poetry Society, which publishes an annual anthology of members’ poems for which I’ve recently agreed to serve as assistant editor.

The second issue of Flycatcher went live on January 31, and received a nice write up from New Pages. I had the pleasure of reviewing Ada Limón’s poetry collection, Sharks in the Rivers, for this issue. We are also celebrating the inclusion of three pieces from our first issue in the 2012 Best of the Net Anthology.

Over the next couple of months, I’ll be co-editing an anthology of essays by the contributors of Lost Daughters, which will be released by CQT Media and Publishing in conjunction with the APRC Conference in November.

In April, I’ll be attending the American Adoption Congress International Adoption Conference in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. The push is on in Ohio to pass legislation that would grant all adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates, and I’m proud to be supporting this cause.

It’s good to be busy!