PHV Blogger Neil Aitken: June 2016 / $77.79

2016 has been a strange and rough year for me for many reasons. Despite having lived in Washington now for almost an entire year, I still feel very unsettled and in transition. My green card application is still in process. My books are still in storage in Los Angeles. And job-wise, things have not worked out as I had envisioned. Finding myself outside the academy after my PhD, it appears that I’ll be forging my own path from now on, trying to find a way to turn Have Book Will Travel (www.havebookwilltravel.com) and my writing coaching / manuscript consultation business into some sort of stable income. Worrying about money and bills takes a lot out of me - and with what has seemed like a steady stream of bad news, the unexpected death of close friend and poet Cody Todd, and illness striking other writer friends and acquaintances, I have found myself wanting to spend more time with old friends and family, treasuring what time we have. Through all this, writing has been slow and largely unsuccessful, although in the last few weeks I’ve started to write again – in fragments and ideas, but at least it’s something.  

Where have I been spending my time?  Other than working on Have Book Will Travel, I have also been busy recording interviews with writers for The Lit Fantastic, a podcast series I hope to launch later this month (July). The podcast series is comprised of a series of conversations with other writers in which we discuss each author’s particular obsession, unusual interest, or fandom.  I’ve loved these free-flowing conversations which often only touch slightly on their work and books, but instead reveals to us of unexpected and wonderful hidden sides of authors we know and a few we might not know at all. For me, these conversations are a lifeline - a way to remind myself that there’s many ways to continue to be involved in the literary community - and more than that, many ways to offer something of value.  

Despite not writing anything, I’ve had a successful two months of selling copies of my new chapbook, Leviathan, from Hyacinth Girl Press. I did have to shell out a little money for shipping, but still came out ok.  My submissions have sadly been stagnant -  I’ve had no new acceptances or rejections, but hopefully that will change as I start sending more work out again. I’ve also started booking more readings and events for this summer and fall.

At this mid-point, as I look back over my involvement with PHV, I feel like the project has made me acutely aware of how far removed I am from the stereotype of the writer who works hard at each day at early morning or late night.  And, as I read other PHV participants’ posts, I sense that I’m not alone.  Sometimes we take breaks and that’s ok. I think it’s ok to be lost. It’s ok to be distant.  It’s ok to be wordless for a season.  Silence too is ok - sometimes what we’re grappling with is too large to name, too deep a wound to probe.  I’m trying to give myself permission to breathe and to let the work of writing happen naturally.  I don’t always do well with structure and time lines, but sometimes the right task will spark the imagination and lead to something good.  So I’m still looking for this things.  Overall, between my tight budget and my belief in appropriate pay for the arts, I’ve been gravitating toward no-fee markets.  And increasingly, I find myself wondering about the value (or lack thereof) that society places on literature and the arts. I don’t have solid answers, but it’s this question that’s going to continue to occupy me and one that I hope to return to in a later post.


Date: June 2016

Venues To Which I Submitted: (0)

Rejections (0):

Acceptances (0):

Money Spent: $20.00 (cost of shipping)

Money Earned: $65.79 (gross book sales)

June TOTAL:  $45.79

Total Money Spent in 2016: $42.50

Total Money Earned in 2016: $120.29

2016 TOTAL: $77.79

Neil Aitken is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review and the curator of Have Book Will Travel, an online database of authors and reading series.  He is the author of two full-length collections of poetry: The Lost Country of Sight, winner of the 2007 Philip Levine Prize, and Babbage’s Dream, forthcoming late 2016 from Sundress Publications. His poetry chapbook, Leviathan, was recently published by Hyacinth Girl Press.  Aitken recently completed a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California and currently lives in Vancouver, WA where he works as a freelance editor, website designer, and creative writing instructor.