In the midst of my county burning down and threatening to suffocate us all, I’m still honored and deeply grateful to announce that former California Poet Laureate Carol Muske-Dukes has chosen my manuscript Borderline Fortune as a National Poetry Series winner, to be published by Penguin in fall 2021. Excerpts have appeared in Empty Mirror and are forthcoming in Parentheses.
It feels like winning the lottery while finishing an ultramarathon. This is the eighth time and fourth manuscript I’ve submitted since 2006. Two others were finalists, in 2009 and 2017. Sidebrow published the first one, sped, in 2013. The other, California Building, is still looking for a home.
My whole adult life I’ve had my sights on this award, knowing no amount of hard work could guarantee it. The successes along the way have been sweeter for the stretches of failure, but I’ve also battled a lot of existential angst. I had to find my own internal reasons to keep writing, and I fell in love with the diverse array of indie lit scenes and all the camaraderie and freedom they can offer when the work is solely for the art.
More kindnesses than I can name helped me achieve this longest-held dream. Many thanks to my partner in life, art, and crime, Gregory Giles, as well as my longstanding writing group, Nina LaCour, Carly Anne West, and Laura Joyce Davis. I also owe a debt of gratitude to my Mills MFA professors—particularly Elmaz Abinader, Sarah Pollock, and Stephen Ratcliffe, who all taught me to be relentless in submitting and to notch smaller wins along the way.
When my dad got killed in 2006, I had only one publication credit to my name: three poems in SHAMPOO, which he thoughtfully read and asked me to explain. I hope some manifestation of him continues and will hear this news, a personal burst of light in a terrible year.
In the week before I got the finalist notice, my main creative outlet imploded, and I thought about going on indefinite hiatus from writing. You don’t know what’s around the next bend. Persist, persist, persist. ♥
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