The Air in Our Apartment

I was thinking the other day about my journey as a writer. Something about starting my fourth novel has got me feeling nostalgic, as you might have guessed from my school bus post.  I think it’s that I’ve suddenly realized that I measure my life not in years, but in novels.

2007 was my very first book. That year was rough, depressing, and full of painful naiveté. 2008-2009 were the years I couldn’t find the time or energy to work, since my dad died and I was just desperately trying to stay afloat. 2010 was Book 2. 2011 was Book 3. And now, I am keenly aware that 2012 will become – and always will remain – Book 4.

It’s hard to put into words all of the things I have learned in the past five years as a full-time writer. It’s incredible to think about how far I’ve come. Maybe someday I’ll do a few posts where I share what I’ve learned (although I do have this category tag that houses some of the advice I’ve come up with along the way) but today I just wanted to share with you that first moment of joy.

My very first success came in the form of an email on April 6, 2010. The Wichita Literature and Art Review, a relatively new literary magazine in the north Texas region, wanted to publish two of my poems: “The Air in Our Apartment” and “Digital Implications.” I reread the email three times to make sure there wasn’t a mistake – so much blood rushing to my head that I’m actually a little surprised I didn’t pass out – screamed, and proceeding to generally scare the shit out of my cat by dancing around the house and sporadically rushing back to my computer to make sure that the email was still there.

Then I called my mom. And perhaps everyone I knew, although I can’t remember. I might have just posted the news on Facebook.

It was surreal. I always knew my work was good enough to be published. Not that I was arrogant, but I really did have faith in my talent. I still do. I can’t imagine submitting something I didn’t believe in. Not to say that this poem is the best I’ve ever written. It’s certainly not. But it holds such a sweet space in my heart for the sake of being the first one I ever had professionally published. It appeared in Volume IV of The Wichita Literature and Art Review.

The Air in Our Apartment

As I see the specks and motes
of pale dust
floating, suspended in horizontal light
sifting through the blinds,
I remember:
dust is primarily skin cells
that die and slough off,
landing on a shelf of knick-knacks,
the tops of doors,
the carpet…
or like these adventurous spirits
continue to hover in the air,
wandering in the light
of our apartment.
It is our apartment, you know.

I wonder
if the memory in each cell
of what its role was in our bodies
communes with the memory
of the cells it meets
as it bumps along.

And so maybe, then,
we should be more creative in our lovemaking—
match up more non-standard parts…
an elbow to a calf,
a nose to the back of a knee,
a navel to a toe…
so that when the cells
shed and drift,
when they make their greetings,
they can hail each other as old friends
rather than introducing themselves
for the first time
in the air of our apartment.

© Annie Neugebauer
All rights reserved.

Five days later, Dos Gatos Press accepted another poem, “Approaching June,” for publication in the 2011 Texas Poetry Calendar – an even bigger venue. My happy dance turned to a happy cry, and I knew I was going to be able to do this.

I still know that I’m able to do this. Poetry, stories, novels, all of it. The things I’ve always dreamed of are attainable. I’m just in the middle of the ride.

Now I’m off to work on novel number four, remembering that if I work hard enough, there is a pay-off. The work is worth it. Success, in any degree and at any level, is sweet.

I hope you all have a good, productive week. =)

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