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Month: April 2019

My Poem, “Bad Omens,” Was a Winner in the Vocal Poets’ 2019 Contest!

Hi everyone and Happy Tuesday! I hope you’re having a wonderful week. For today, I have a fun announcement!

Vocal Poets announced their 2019 “Poetry-in-Motion” contest back at the end of March, in honor of National Poetry Month. My poem, “Bad Omens,” was one entry of nearly 1,000 entries to Vocal Poets’ 2019 “Poetry-in-Motion” Poetry Contest. One winner and three runners-up were selected for this contest.

(You may remember my poem, “Bad Omens,” which I shared here, as an example of creating a writing prompt, and writing a poem from it.)

I’m pleased to share today that “Bad Omens” was one of the three runners-up poems selected, which included a small royalty, publication, and an absolutely beautiful visual representation of an excerpt of the poem.

You can view the entire poem, “Bad Omens,” here.

You can see the video created by the very talented, Julianne Waber, of an excerpt of my poem, here.

And last, but certainly not least, here is the list of winners, their poems, and the visualizations of their work, here.

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This is now listed under my publications, as well. If you’re interested in seeing other poems I’ve recently had published, or work that is forthcoming, you can see all of that here. (And my full portfolio, of all of my published writings, is here!)

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Yours Truly is Going To Be a Judge!

Hey everyone! A fun announcement for today: I’m going to be one of three judges in the Speculative Fiction category for INSPY’s 2019 Book Awards.

(above via GIPHY)

The Longlist of titles has already been released for each category (link below), and the Shortlist will be announced on April 30th. The Shortlist will consist of three titles per category.

At that time, the other two judges and I will read the three titles up for consideration, and we will decide on a winner for the Speculative Fiction category.

I won’t be able to share my thoughts on each book until the winner has been selected, but I at least wanted to share that I’ll be a part of this, and I’m excited for the opportunity! After the winner has been announced, I plan to share my thoughts about all three titles, and the process of being a judge, so stay tuned!

Until I Can Share More!, All Best ~ from me.

https://inspys.com/?p=4055
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Chapter One

Minutes turned into days, not hours, as we awaited the arrival. After lying in the dark with labor pains for more than 72 hours, my cervix was ready to open and release my son into the world.

I panted as my muscles pushed and shuddered to do one of the very things they were designed for. Hours passed as the heat in the room rose and rested against the ceiling. Sounds came from me that were more mule and otherworldly than woman.

“I can see the head now,” the doctor’s voice encouraged from the end of the bed.

But as I continued my efforts, there were gasps. Encouraged as I was to continue pushing, to push harder, there now appeared to be a reluctance in the room to see what was coming.

Then I saw a child’s hand point to the ceiling. The blink of a knee before dropping back down.

Another gasp, perhaps from me, and I heard a heavy splat against the cold, gray, linoleum of the delivery room. I realized the doctor had dropped my son to the floor. I watched as the doctor peered from child to vagina as if questioning how one had come from another.

With little use yet of my legs, I leaned and peered around my knee. I braced myself on the cold, metal rail as I first saw him, and I realized it was not a matter of how one had come from another, but how one had fit inside the other. Because he was, in fact, a small child. A frail, thin body with pale, translucent skin—I could practically see his spinal column through the shuddering back that was facing me. A full head of darkest brown hair, wet and spiked and smeared across his head. One of the hands I had seen lift into the air earlier upon arrival was wrapped around his pale side.

Then he began to cry. Not the high wail of babies entering the world, but a soft, shuddering cry that chilled the room.

The doctor rolled the child onto his back, whispered apologies, touched his hair. I saw his face for the first time—perfectly red, pouting lips under a cute button of a nose and large, soulful, brownest of brown eyes.

He was beautiful.

Later, the nurses wouldn’t be able to remember what happened and could not properly fill out the delivery papers. The doctor, too, could not remember the child’s delivery and how his frame had appeared to expand from the narrow channel of my uterus as he entered the atmosphere. He would only remember a child on the floor, crying and covered in what appeared to be blood and cervical mucus—though that certainly couldn’t be right.

It only makes sense to me now that perhaps we were not meant to see something as fantastic as his birth head-on. I, too, can only recall the hand lifting into the air, the quick flash of a knee, despite anything else I may have seen—but what I remember most are the faces in that room as they witnessed the arrival of my son. The curiosity. The fear.

One nurse in a baby blue uniform approached me with a chart and asked, “Have you thought of a name for him yet?”

I looked to the far side of the room where a nurse was running water in the sink and soaping a sponge and towel. My son was on a doctor’s stool, wobbly at first, but steady once he cupped his hands over his knees. The nurse began to lather his hair and massage his neck. A million possibilities had come into the room with me. But now, as I watched his eyelids droop toward sleep on the high stool, I thought of his father who was gone.

“His name is Sam,” I whispered.

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FAQ: What is a Book Strategist?

As of March 2019, I’m building an FAQ page that answers questions relating to all the facets of my website. I’m accepting questions related to my services, the writing life, what to read for various situations, and how I’m juggling it all, among other things—so give me your best shot! Send me your questions via the Connect page.

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What is a Book Strategist?

One of my favorite questions I’ve been getting lately, particularly from new acquaintances and those new to my business, is, “What is a ‘Book Strategist’?” They say it with a certain lilt to their voice, unsure as to whether the term they’ve just used is made up or simply an occupation they were previously unaware of. In a way, I think it’s a little of both. See below for my occupational story, my definition for a Book Strategist, what I do, and how I can assist all writers, from aspiring hobbyists to widely-published, best-selling authors.

Where did the term come from?

Since 2010, I’ve worked in publishing. I’m a writer myself, and I’ve assisted other writers in the creation (outlining, writing, ghostwriting, etc.) of their books. I’ve edited books in every way (from developmental work to line-editing to formatting). I’ve fully prepared books for publication, published them, or coached the writer on where to submit them for consideration. I’ve reviewed books, interviewed authors, and helped writers establish their online presence (social media, websites, press releases, etc.). And I loved every task in their own way.

So, because I wanted to do it all, I needed a job title that could reflect doing it all. I couldn’t “just” be an Editor or Manager or Writer or Marketer.

And so the title of “Book Strategist” was born.

Book Strategist: a definition.

Book Strategy can, when fully realized, begin with the initial idea of a book and end with the full realization (publication) of the book, as well as establishment of the author. The Book Strategist (me!) can assist the writer in completing their book (through outlining, ghostwriting, and editing), preparing the book for publication, and even publishing it, and finally marketing the book and the author. I can assist in every facet of the realization of a book.

What can a Book Strategist do for you?

Because I, the Book Strategist, can assist with every aspect of realizing, publishing, and establishing a book and author, you can also pick and choose, as the author, what all you need assistance with. For some authors, this will mean assistance throughout the entire process. For others, it will mean assistance less with the completion of the book, and more with the marketing of it. I am entirely adaptable and personalized in my service offerings to each author I assist.

Connect with your Book Strategist today.

I tremendously enjoy working with authors, no matter where they are in the process, what questions they may have or mistakes they may have made, or how well-established they are (or are not). Feel free to Connect with me and share a little about your project, and we can see what the best plan would be to serve you—the author and the book!

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A reminder and invitation! I’m accepting questions related to my services, the writing life, what to read for various situations, and how I’m juggling it all, among other things—so give me your best shot! Send me your questions via the Connect page.

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Getting Back to the Poems!

Hi everyone! Happy Wednesday! I want to apologize first, before jumping back into anything, for the break in posts. I really love National Poetry Month and am incredibly disappointed that I don’t get to post every day this month to celebrate. This past week, I had a family emergency and had to travel back and forth between home and my family, twice—and if you have a kid or kiddos, you understand what a feat that can be. I’ve been home since Monday, but I’m finding it really difficult to get emotionally settled, catch up on sleep, and get back into the swing of work—not to mention writing my own stuff and doing laundry.

All that aside, though, I’m excited to get back into poetry. Even when I’m exploring a new poet or form, and I’m doing the work of parsing it, reading it is incredibly relaxing. I’m grateful to have poetry with me in the midst of all this.

I’m not sure if I’ll have my first post ready for you with a book recommendation, new poem, and prompt tonight, but for certain tomorrow! In the meantime, for today’s poem, I’m sharing something recent of mine that I’m proud of. It was hard to write, and will perhaps be hard to read for some (CW: loss of a child, accidental death); but it’s a dream I kept having on repeat (thank you, PPD) that I needed to write out (and haven’t had again since I confronted it). I hope someone enjoys it or even finds solidarity in it.

BAD OMENS

Months ago, I realized my son
would die, & the certainty left me weak

for days. A pit
in the lower-right of my abdomen, like a hole

where all truths must be born.
Whenever I have felt such certainty from this place, I have never

been wrong. The first time this part
of my body awoke, I was eight & aware

my barn cat had died. All morning I searched
the different air, & I found him mewling

at the bottom of a rusted barrel where he had
hidden himself away. I carried him home, offered

him water & blankets, only for him to die
a few hours later. Several other instances have

come & gone, & I am always right. This time
the truth comes to me in a repeated dream, where

the beginning is always different. Sometimes
my son appears as the toddler form of the baby

I now hold, knowing the world on two wobbly
legs. Sometimes he appears as a beautiful, gangly

young man with the thinnest veil of hair
on his chest, too dark for his pale skin. Then come

the series of causes: leaning in too close, running,
a fall, pure drunkenness—and finally, the part

that always comes: the deep, foggy dive
into the pit of a pool, never deep enough to resemble

the pit I now carry like a red-hot appendix. His body
like a ball in the foggy water & the certainty

that waves high like the moon I wish would fall. I awake
& hold onto my son like it will undo all the things

I’ve seen. I pray into his neck to go to quieter places—
places not quiet with the loss of my little boy,

where I leave him flowers & toys & visit
his room, surrounded by those I love who are also

colored with grief. I hide in his warmth, here & now, & pray
the rest will be washed away with the bedsheets.

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Poem of the Day: Meg Day

HYMN TO A LANDLOCKED GOD

Perhaps as a child
you, too, saw
these stallion clouds
& knew a sky
with no blue
was a sky too
reverent to be
overlooked
or understood.
Perhaps heaven
is the moon flag,
not the moon,
& you came
to know praise
as vertical only
because the earth
refused your reach.
Look up.
There’s a tear
in the sky tonight
like the shriek
of a frightened mare
or the long wail
a saxophone makes
on a corner at dawn
& this is how I know
you are a woman:
we are both broken
in two by our own
creations. I have
looked to the west
in search of water
& the sheer faces
of so many boulders
stare back, their bodies
bent in genuflection
at the altar of the sky.
Why have you made me
know the sea?
Make me a bird, Lord;
make me a man.
Make me a barn
with a spine so swayed
it pulls back my neck
to crane toward the sky.

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—poem from Meg Day’s Last Psalm at Sea Level, here

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Interested in having your poem featured with the Poem of the Day Series? See the How to Submit page for details.

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Happy National Poetry Month! How Am I Celebrating?

Happy Monday, reading and writing friends! Happy April 1st! And Happy National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month was first thought up by the Academy of American Poets (or, as many readers think of them, Poets.org, or Poem-A-Day). The idea caught fire, and now it seems every writer worth their salt celebrates in some small way in April each year. Me, I go a little crazy and try to do something poetry-special every single day of April, including writing a new poem, and in the last few years, I’ve taken to sharing that adventure with my blogging community, in case what I’m doing is of use to anyone else on their writing journey.

So, what am I doing for April 2019?

Well, here’s my mini-announcement on Twitter earlier today:

#NationalPoetryMonth is my favorite season! This year, you’ll find my Poem of the Day series on my blog—plus poetry book recs, a new poem daily by me & the prompt behind it. And for #PoemInYourPocketDay (April 18), I’m going to leave poems around #Chicago for y’all to find.👀❤️— McKenzie Lynn Tozan (@mcklynntozan) April 1, 2019

But there’s going to be A LOT MORE going on than I can fold neatly into a tweet; the tweet was a preview of sorts.

I’ll continue the Poem of the Day Series.

Yes, each day you’ll be able to come here and see a poem by a poet I admire! I’ll post these each day in the morning, with the National Poetry Month post going up in the afternoon.

I’ll have a cool, poetry-focused preview image each day.

This may sound silly, but many of these images relate back to important poetry-focused writers, organizations, and schools that are worth knowing about. Each day, I’ll be sure to source the image, and then tell you what I can about the image / organization / etc.

I’ll write a new poem every day, and share the prompt that inspired it.

I love writing from prompts and restrictions. I don’t do it as much as I did as a younger writer, but I love returning to prompts, erasures, found work, etc. So each day this month, I’ll dig up an original prompt that I love and create a poem from it. I’ll also share the prompt with you, below the poem, in case you want to try it out!

Finally, I’ll recommend something new to read.

There are more poets and poetry collections than any of us could ever hope to read or know about, which is exactly why I enjoy recommending books to other people. Each day this month, I’ll share a collection, new or old, that I don’t think any poet should live without.

Also: Be on the lookout for me: I’ll be wandering Chicago on April 18th.

You may be wondering, Why? Part of National Poetry Month is “Poem in Your Pocket Day” on April 18th, so I’ll be wandering Chicago and leaving folded, pocket-sized poems for others to find!

Also-also: Want to be included this month?

Much of what I write for my blog is off-the-cuff, so I haven’t planned out what all I will share this month yet! If you’d like to have a poem featured for my Poem of the Day Series, would like to chat over a Saturday Spotlight, or have your book recommended in one of my National Poetry Month posts, you’re more than welcome to contact me via email to see if we’re a match.

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Update: How to Connect

Happy Monday, everyone!

I hope you each had a beautiful weekend doing things you love.

It has come to my attention that the contact form I’ve been using is not working. I received a message through one of my social media channels from a writer who tried to use it, and I never received a copy.

I’m worried I may have missed quite a few people at this point, due to this problem, because my Connect page has quite a few views per day, but with no resulting emails in my Inbox. It’s suspicious, to say the least!

If you have contacted me, using my contact form, I have not received it.

I’m interested in hearing from anyone who wants to reach out, so please, if you have the time, reach out to me again, using my email this time. You can reach me here. I reply to all emails within 24 to 48 hours.

Thank you, all, for the understanding while I get this sorted out! Until Later, All Best ~ from me.

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