Notes on Negotiating for a Car

Five years ago!

As I finish this post, I’m thinking about the meme that complains about the essay that inevitably comes before a recipe on a poetry blog. So I’m going to lead with John’s four key tips for negotiating a car. If you want the context for why I have car negotiation tips on a poetry blog, the essay will be at the end.

Four Tips That Served Me Well in Auto Dealership Negotiations

  1. Make sure that you have access to the full amount of money for the car you want to buy. If this is a private sale, always carry cash–even if the amount is a little unnerving. If it’s a dealership, make sure you have a check.
  2. Initially offer 30% below asking price. They will scoff, and you will remind them that you have all the money to pay 30% below asking price right now.
  3. They will come down, inevitably. Private people are persuaded by hundred dollar bills, and salespeople prefer less profit to no sale.
  4. If they resist, gesture toward leaving. This both is and isn’t a bluff. There are always other cars, and you can in fact look elsewhere. This is not your dream car. It is a mass-produced machine.
Why Have I Posted Car Negotiation Tips to a Poetry Blog?

You are probably wondering what negotiating for a car has to do with poetry, or anything else I talk about on this blog. And I’ll admit, I’m not usually one to talk about finance, or finance-related topics, in any of my writing. I have, however, written a number of poems about driving. And this morning, I realized I’ve been a happy Subaru owner for half a decade! I bought my preowned Outback in the summer of 2016, and even though the car is now 12 years old, it’s still going strong!

I’ve always been slightly ashamed to admit that I paid full sticker for the 2008 Volkswagen Beetle I had before the Subaru… that one I also bought preowned in 2011, but though it was only a year older than the car I now have, within five years, my beloved convertible Beetle was sadly proving to not be a reliable vehicle. Each year, one of the window regulators broke. In the last year I owned it, the trunk wouldn’t work, the rear window fell in, and the rear struts went out. By the summer of 2016, I was ready to cut my losses and move on.

Of course, being embarrassed over paying full sticker, I was reluctant to go car shopping again. Words cannot express how much I loathe having to negotiate for anything. The one and only time I had to negotiate for my salary, I honestly felt like I was going to die. I am not being hyperbolic. I would rather have a root canal than negotiate for anything. I was aware, however, the extent to which I’d really lost out by paying full sticker for my Beetle.

John happened to be in Morocco when this whole excursion was happening, but over Facebook message, he wrote me an excellent negotiation outline that served me well. I followed it step by step, and got a car I wanted at a shockingly low mileage, especially for Austin, where you are lucky to find a used Subaru with less than 100,000 on it already.

Over the years, friends have asked me for the method, but as I only used it once, I didn’t commit it to memory. However, it was useful. And at some point, I will have to buy another vehicle… but I only hit 100,00 miles on my Outback in December 2019, and I’m angling for 300,000 before I get a new vehicle. But between people asking for negotiation tips, and the difficulty of finding old information in the Facebook messenger interface, I’m reproducing the negotiating outline here, for anyone who wants it. May the odds be ever in your favor when it comes to a vehicle negotiation.

(Also, may you never have to wade through five years of old Facebook messages to find the one you are looking for. This might be the most time-intensive blog post I have ever written, just because of the terrible Messenger interface.)

June Poetry Contest

Photo by Michelle Leman on

“Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it.”

Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Let’s try not to miss the summer solstice this year! In honor of the official transition into summer, write a poem on the theme of daylight. Let your poem span at least one entire page.

Email your poem to by 11:59 pm on June 20th (the summer solstice!). The winner will receive a gift certificate to the independent bookstore of their choice, or I will make a donation in their honor to a nonprofit.

View past contest winners here.

May Poetry Contest Winner

My poetry contest continues to bring amazing poetry entries from an international audience! I truly never thought I’d be getting responses from other continents.

This month, the winning poem comes from Medha Goel, a poet living in India. Medha posts short poems under the instagram handle of @whyj_st.

The $25 prize will be send to Medha directly.

Medha’s poem was created using page 242 of Like a Charm by Karin Slaughter.

The Best of It: Spring Semester is Over Edition

Astrid isn’t very subtle when it comes to popcorn.
  1. The salted PB&J ice cream pie recipe by Sohla El-Waylly
  2. Getting most of my summer prep done early so I can have some actual time off
  3. Plans for small outdoor writer gatherings
  4. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
  5. Getting to FaceTime with John regularly while he’s in Denmark

Join Us on a Virtual Poetry Road Trip!

Register for the event via Eventbrite!

Even with pandemic restrictions loosening, I’m still inclined to take precautions regarding large events. Most of the poets I know are still hosting readings online, and I’m not about to be the first one to push the status quo. But now that the spring semester is over, I’m getting that usual burst of creative energy, and I wanted to host an event. It’s definitely been a while.

I also wanted to collaborate with Zoe Fay-Stindt again. We edited the 2020 Texas Poetry Calendar together, and since then she’s spent time in Europe, and then returned to the USA to pursue her MFA at Iowa State University. When the idea for a virtual poetry road trip between Texas and Iowa popped into my head, I immediately messaged her, and then, it was on!

The Virtual Poetry Road Trip takes place on Friday, May 21st from 6:00-7:30 pm CST. This event is by donation, and you can still join even if you can’t contribute financially. We’re asking all attendees to register via Eventbrite. If you are unable to make a donation and have trouble registering, please contact me directly! We will work it out!

If you want to know more about our featured poets, read on! Otherwise, head over to our Eventbrite page to attend. And bring your own road trip snacks! (I’ll have two kinds of potato chips.)

Featured Poets
Cindy Huyser’s (TX) poems have received Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations, and appear in many journals and anthologies. Her chapbook, Burning Number Five: Power Plant Poems, was co-winner of the 2014 Blue Horse Press Poetry Chapbook Contest, and her first full-length collection, Cartography, is forthcoming from 3: A Taos Press. She has edited or co-edited a number of anthologies, including Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems (Dos Gatos Press, 2016) and several editions of the Texas Poetry Calendar. Cindy has been a juried performer for the Houston Poetry Fest, Houston’s Public Poetry series, and the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, and lives in Austin, Texas, where she hosts the monthly BookWoman 2nd Thursday Poetry Reading and Open Mic series.

Ken Hada (OK) lives in rural Pottawatomie County in Oklahoma. He has published eight volumes of poetry, including his latest, Sunlight & Cedar (VACPoetry, 2020). Ken’s poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, and his work has been awarded by The Western Writers of America, The National Western Heritage Museum, SCMLA and The Oklahoma Center for the Book. Information available at

Dottie Joslyn (MO) is a writer and poet living in Southwest Missouri. She is a retired Certified Applied Poetry Facilitator in the field of Poetry Therapy, Certified Journal Facilitator, and Journal to the Self® Instructor. Her poems have appeared in: American Tanka, Buffalo Bones, Poetry from the Trail Ridge Writers, Wellness & Writing Connections Newsletter, Beginning Again: Creative Responses to Poetry of Presence, and Gyroscope Review. She also has a poetry book, Just Show Up, published in late 2018. Her website, has more information and includes an interactive blog.

Jennifer L. Knox’s (IA) sixth book of poems, Crushing It, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2020. Publisher’s Weekly’s review called Crushing It, “Darkly inventive…This is a careful, thoughtful book about the complexities of identity and the difficulty of words.” Knox’s poems have been published in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, Granta, McSweeney’s,five times in the Best American Poetry series, and the 2022 Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses anthology. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. She received an Iowa Arts Council Fellowship for her crowdsourced poetry project, Iowa Bird of Mouth. Over 750 people from around the world contributed to the project; the code is open source and free to use in noncommercial projects.

The Best of It: Last Week of the Semester Edition

First cheesecake, best cheesecake
  1. I made cheesecake for the first time, and it was a success!
  2. Buying a mattress for which I am not the second or third owner.
  3. Signing up for my comprehensive Level 1 Pilates teacher training.
  4. Booking myself a DIY writing retreat in the Texas Hill Country
  5. The end of the grading queue is in sight

Poetry Interview with Laura Van Prooyen

Laura Van Prooyen’s new collection, Frances of the Wider Field

I met Laura Van Prooyen at Poetry at Round Top when she was promoting Our House Was on Fire. I still remember seeing her cast in the warm stage lights of the Round Top concert hall, reading these poems about uncertainty, illness, and motherhood. Her new collection, Frances of the Wider Field, was released in March. While I was sad that we couldn’t celebrate her new release in person at Round Top this year, I did enjoy the online workshop I took with her in the online version of the festival. I’m excited to share this interview that we conducted via email over the past few months, while dealing with the Texas freeze, teaching duties, family responsibilities, and the work that goes into a book launch. That we wrote our questions and responses amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life reflects something that I admire about Laura’s poetry: our other work, our obligations, do not take us away from poetry. They are the stuff of which poetry is made.

[AW] My favorite lines in “Against Nostalgia” are “What defines me is constancy
of place, / and my urge against it.” Like you, I’m from the Midwest, and have made a life in Texas. I find that the longer I am away from Ohio, the more the tension of being a native of one place but choosing to live in another comes through with more intensity in my poems. Has being of a particular place but then making your life in another place influenced your poetry in a particular way? 

[LVP] Thanks for this question. It is hard to be away from home, but when I visit my parents it is also hard. So, yes, that inherent paradox informs my poems. I grew up in a house my grandfather literally built. I never met him, but I have a picture of him with a crew digging the basement. My grandmother lived next door to us, and my great-grandmother next to her. My mom has never moved in her life. She’s still there now, at 81 years old and with dementia. Our roots are deep. I opted for sun, warmth, and new experiences, a choice I don’t regret but wrestle with all the same. I feel torn a lot, wishing to be in multiple locations at once. That tension fuels a lot of the poems in Frances of the Wider Field

As I read through Frances of the Wider Field, I think of my own grandmothers, one who died suddenly 30 years ago, and one who died 17 years ago from Parkinson’s. I often feel that I never really got to know them, and that is its own kind of grief. I see your poems as a way to stay in conversation with people you cannot converse with anymore, at least not in the way you once did. Do you feel there is something special about poetry as a genre that allows for these conversations to happen? 

I hadn’t really thought about it like this before, but yes. Poetry allows for all kinds of unexpected turns as opposed to, say, a mode that has some expectation of linearity. It seems to me that poems are not only a way to stay in conversation with people we can no longer access, but that writing into the unknown allows us to converse with mysteries. The Frances poems originated with that energy, of being open to conversations with people I never met, with places that existed before me, with lineage, with ghosts, with concepts of god. The energy was at first an impulse to write toward a very specific absence, but the poems turned into presence–Frances began permeating the landscape, the dailiness of past, present and maybe even future. I’m interested in the continuum of time and memory and how we move long through different planes of experience, sometimes all at once.

Speaking of lineage, I love the ways in which that theme shows up in this collection. One of my fascinations is with the idea of a writer’s lineage, and the ways in which creative lineage can be expansive. We have our family lineage, and we also have the poets/writers we read over and over. We have the teachers that have taught us about craft, or form, or topics that had nothing to do with writing, but nonetheless had a profound influence. Anne Sexton and Natalie Goldberg are part of my creative lineage; so are the Austin poets who have been both mentors and friends over the past 13 years. Finally, that list includes my 9th grade geography teacher (who taught kindness as much as she taught geography), my aunt, and my grandmothers. How do you trace your own creative lineage? What are the different threads or spokes that have come together to help make you the poet that you are today?

One pivotal moment in my life was my first semester at the university. I was a first generation college student. My first semester I took a seminar called “Creating Selves.” I have no idea if we had choices for these seminars, but somehow I lucked into this class taught by a professor who had us read Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Dag Hammarskjöld’s Markings, and Helen Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road. She required that we keep a journal, a mix of personal insights mixed with responses to the texts. I have been keeping a journal since that class, since I was 18 years old. I still have my marked up copy of Letters to a Young Poet, and I’m actually still in touch with that professor. She came to my virtual book release just last week. I hold close poems from Louise Gluck, Larry Levis, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Vievee Francis, John Donne, Adelia Prado and Olena Kalytiak Davis among many others, too. I’m also a fan of Lynda Barry. I wanted to be a visual artist before I ever thought about being a writer. I suppose there’s still time.

I love the way you depict work in these poems, specifically, the work Frances performs. “Avenue F” is the most striking example: the work of wringing and hanging laundry, of polishing the baby’s shoes. In “Lilacs Full of Bees,” Frances has cleaned gutters, polished the car, and soaked her feet after a long day. I’d love to hear more about your approach to depicting those daily tasks. Did you have a specific approach to incorporating them? I think some poets are hesitant to bring dailiness into their poems because they worry it comes across as boring. How did you incorporate Frances’ daily, domestic work in a way that made the poems come alive?

It’s wonderful to hear that for you the poems came alive. Dailiness is life. I’m interested in specificity, and if I had a particular approach, I suppose it was to write toward the specifics. I also had to make choices. I had ideas and things popping up, like polishing the car and cleaning the white walled tires with a toothbrush. Not every daily task made the final cut. When I really get into revision, I read my work aloud. What stays is what sounds right. As in, sonically. I ask myself (consciously or intuitively) how the sounds of words play off each other, how can the poem create a sonic landscape that works in relation to the details.

Finally, is there anything you never get asked about your work that you’ve always wanted to talk about?

I love your final question, but I cannot think of anything in particular that I’ve never been asked. I love talking about the creative process and hearing from other makers what they do, what they’re reading, what art they’ve seen or music they’d listened to. I like to talk to people who are curious, because staying curious feels right to me. Learning new things. Being open. That’s part of the work.

Laura Van Prooyen

Thanks to Laura for participating in this interview. I hope you enjoyed learning more about this engaging collection. You can buy Frances of the Wider Field from Laura’s website (the most direct way to help a poet get paid!), Lily Poetry Review Books,, major book retailers, or your local independent bookstore.