Poem a day samples

I've been starting my writing day off by writing to the Writer's Digest November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge daily prompt. I've found it's a great way to jump-start the rest of my writing for the day. As usual I don't find writing the response very hard. But I've always written my poems rather quickly. That doesn't mean I don't go back to reread and edit them. I just put down the draft quickly. I also like trying to figure out how to respond to some very quirky prompts. Another thing I do before I begin my own writing is read the Writer's Digest poetry editor, Robert Lee Brewer's, poem to his own prompt. They are definitely worth taking a look at - some of his poems are a little quirky too. With him, almost anything goes. And since you haven't joined me in the challenge , I'll bring a few prompts to you.  Although I won't publish my entire poem results from these prompts, I've share a few lines. That's in case I want to submit them elsewhere that won't consider a poem … [Read more...]

Why I Write and What I Write

I wrote the article below for the Southern Writer’s Magazine’s Blog a few months ago. It is still very relevant now. Why I Write and What I Write At this point in my life by all rights I should be retired. I’ve just turned seventy-nine, and no where does it say I need to keep sitting at my computer every day and write. But I do sit there – usually from ten in the morning until about two in the afternoon. Sometimes I’ll even go back for more later in the day. I got into this habit in the early 2000s when I started writing my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On (Dream  of Things). That expanded to writing poetry, essays for my blog and other people’s websites, and journaling. By the time my memoir was published in 2011, I was already working on my historical novel, Papa’s Shoes, which has just been released by Aberdeen Bay publishers. And that’s not the end of it. I still write poetry – I write at least one poem a week except in November and April when I write a poem a day to me … [Read more...]

My reinvention story

How I reinvented myself from a technical writer and editor to a creative writer – and at my age I fell in love with poetry and creative writing in grade school. I studied journalism in high school and college and wrote for the high school newspaper. I graduated from UCLA with a degree in English and had no idea what I would do professionally with it. I had wanted to work as a journalist and actually completed all the course work for a degree in journalism at the University of Wisconsin. But family illness caused me to transfer to UCLA for my senior year, and UCLA didn’t offer a BA degree in journalism. So I was stuck in a city I didn’t know and where I hardly knew anyone, trying valiantly and unsuccessfully early on to get a writing job. Then I gave up. It was 1962. There were not a lot of jobs for women writers in those days, especially in Los Angeles. Then someone suggested I try the growing aerospace business in southern California. With that, I called Douglas Aircr … [Read more...]

What are you reading?

I've learned over the years how important reading is to writers. I feel I can always learn something from another author - even if I don't particularly like his or her book. So I try to keep reading and competing in the Goodreads yearly book challenge helps. Last year I committed to reading twenty-five books - yes, I know that's not a very big number, but it was plenty big for me. Even so, I overshot my goal and read twenty-eight last year. This year I've committed to reading another twenty-five books, and I've already finished my first and I'm well into my second. I'll be reviewing my first book of 2019 here on January twenty-fourth when I host the author while she's on her WOW! Women On Writing virtual book tour. As you will see from that list of books I read in 2018, I'm a very eclectic reader.  I even mixed in a few politically themed books and included some poetry volumes. By far my favorite book of the whole year is Michelle Obama's Becoming. It is so … [Read more...]

Poems for the new year 2019

I have Michael Schaub of the Los Angeles Times to thank for this New Year's Day post. He's picked some wonderful words to greet the new year from five favorite poets. I'm especially taken by his choosing the words of Naomi Shihab Nye and Dorianne Laux. I've worked with both of them in poetry workshops and consider them my mentors. Five hopeful poems to usher in the new year By MICHAEL SCHAUB DEC 31, 2018 | 11:50 AM Filipino revelers watch as fireworks light up the sky to welcome the new year at the seaside Mall of Asia in suburban Pasay city south of Manila in 2017. (Bullit Marquez / Associated Press) Even if you're one of the nine or so people in the world who actually understand what "Auld Lang Syne" means, you have to admit that Robert Burns' traditional New Year's poem is getting a little old. Luckily, there are other poems you can use to pay tribute to the year that's gone by and celebrate the potential of the one to … [Read more...]

Writing memoir helped me deal with grief

As I am inching toward December 31, which would be my son Paul’s forty-seventh birthday, I think it makes sense to revisit some of the tools I used in dealing with the grief I felt after his death and still feel now. Memoir writing and writing in general were/are a huge help. Maybe that’s why I’ve turned to memoir again. I’m almost twenty thousand words along on a new one; however it’s not about Paul, as my memoir, published in 2011, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, is. Here’s a piece I wrote early on about how writing memoir, journal entries, and poetry all worked for me. In fact, everything I wrote in the piece below still applies today. How Memoir Writing Helped Me Deal with Grief I signed up for a writing class three months after my son Paul’s death. We sat in the instructor’s living room on couches and big easy chairs in a comfortable and forgiving atmosphere. Each week the instructor told us t … [Read more...]

Poetry writing in Santa Cruz

I just spent five days in Santa Cruz, CA at a poetry workshop held at 1440 Multiversity. The instructors were one of favorite poets, Sharon Olds, and a poet I wasn't familiar with before, Naomi Shihab Nye.  The entire experience was great. Last year four of us - Linda, Stacy, Maria and myself - worked together at a poetry workshop led by Ellen Bass at Esalen in Big Sur, CA. So we decided to meet up last week at 1440.  Although twenty-six other poets were with us lapping up the wisdom of Sharon and Naomi, we four  spent some wonderful time together. Here are some pictures. And no, I won't be sharing any of the seven poems I wrote while I was there yet. I want to see if I can get any of them published first. … [Read more...]

Welcome! Mary Maurice, author of the Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe

Choices is very pleased to have Mary Maurice visit while she's on her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour of The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe. She has also given us her thoughts about the failing use of the word, Please - a word that has always been well-used in my family - along with its companions, Thank You. At least Ms. Maurice has a sense of humor about it. Here are her thoughts! PLEASE, WHERE ARE YOU? by Mary Maurice Has anyone seen, Please? You know, to please or not to please, that is the question. Whether it is pleasurable to please, or polite to say please, is becoming a mystery to people, at least that what it seems to me as I pace through this unconscious society. Just another word that’s lost its meaning and status in our vocabulary. I can still hear Mom saying. “What’s the magic word?” Or maybe it’s what the techno world is turning humans into. Rude, insensitive, self-indulged individuals, who think because they have the world at their fingertips, as they thumb … [Read more...]

My thoughts about the film The Wife (spoiler alert!)

The new film, The Wife, with Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, brought up a lot of memories of my writing career. Early on in her studies, Joan Castleman, the character Glenn Close plays in the film, was told she could get nowhere as a female author. It was the year 1958 – the same year I started college as a journalism major. Castleman, already recognized for her writing skills, says she couldn’t live without writing. I too was hell-bent on having a career in writing though I was discouraged as well. My father made it clear I should study to be a teacher – after all that’s what girls in my generation did – or skip college altogether and become a secretary. Of course, the Castleman character in the movie and I were on totally different paths in our writing. My forte was journalism; hers was fiction. I persisted and got a job right after graduating from college at a fashion trade magazine, which I quit after three weeks because my male boss verbally abused and harassed me. A f … [Read more...]

What’s next to write?

Now that my novel is going through a final professional edit and hopefully getting ready to shop around. I’ve been thinking about what’s next for my writing life. For a long time, I’ve thought that there isn’t another book in me, but now I’m not so sure. Could I write another memoir? I’m at that stage in my life when I have almost all of it to look back on, so I could write a memoir from an old wise woman’s approach to turning eighty. I could write about the secrets of staying married to the same man for over forty-eight years and living in the same house for thirty-nine years. Really where have all those years gone? And really that brings up another big question – how much time do my husband and I have left anyway, and what are we doing to prepare for our last years? Or better yet, how we’re handling our lives right now as we age – at different paces. Yes, another memoir or even two are a real possibility. The options are endless: how we're still working at surviving the loss of … [Read more...]

Got poem?

It's been a while since I've shared some of my poetry with you. The following pieces have been published in the Story Circle Network's True Words section of their quarterly journal. I've had a wonderful response to my poems from Story Circle, certainly motivating me to keep submitting. And, as I've said before, I'll only post  poems here that have been already published so as not to lose an opportunity to get any unpublished ones accepted. So many contests and journals won't accept poems if they have been published elsewhere - even on a personal blog like this. I hope you enjoy these four: Nadia We sat across the table covered with a crisp white cloth. Her face glowed in the light, her radiant smile punctuated by deep, long dimples in each cheek. Simply dressed in black slacks and a white sweater she looked comfortable in her own skin. She spoke confidently in English. And, when speaking her native Italian, she spoke slowly so we could understand her words. At … [Read more...]

What’s next in my writing life

Since I’ve finished – at least in my estimation– revision ten of my novel, it’s on hold. I want to hire a professional editor it go through it, but I haven’t made that happen yet. I’ve asked a young woman who worked with me on my memoir, but her life is so busy with children, she hasn’t given me a yes or no yet. I’ll wait another week or two and then go on to Plan B. In the meantime, I’ve gone back to writing small stones – I’ll post a couple that I’ve written this month below And I’m working on my poetry. I completed the April poem a day challenge put out by Robert Lee Brewer over at Writer’s Digest. I also write to his weekly Wednesday prompts. And this not usual for me – I’m editing some of my existing poems, getting them ready for submittal. (I’ve heard somewhere that if we haven’t received at least 100 rejections in a year, we haven’t submitted enough. That I’m editing poems is the unusual part for me. I usually write them, and then only with quick word or two changes … [Read more...]

Can grief be contagious?

I met Martha Clark Scala at one of the first Esalen Institute workshops I took after our son died by suicide. And it was in that workshop where I found my voice in poetry. "Aftermath," the simple poem I wrote resonated such with Martha, that she wrote the following piece about her brother's death. The poem and the article both appeared first in the Summer 2001 issue of "We Need Not Walk Alone," published by The Compassionate Friends, an organization that provides friendship, understanding, and hope to those going through the natural grieving process. Martha and I have been friends ever since. I’m Not Contagious By Martha Clark Scala​ In the two or three weeks immediately following my brother Nick’s death, I received numerous calls, cards, plants, flowers, and offers of help. My loss sat on the front burner of many wonderful people’s stoves for about 21 days. I was in their thoughts, prayers, and blessings. Unfortunately, many issues and events vie for front-burner status … [Read more...]

Now, there’s a poem

If you've been here a time or two, you know I’ve always believed there is a poem out there everywhere. So many of my ideas for poems come from people I see and places I go that I’m really never at a loss for something to write about. I’m constantly saying, “Now, there’s a poem.” Still I like to work with prompts. I keep a list of them that I get from the Writer’s Digest’s poetry editor, Robert Lee Brewer and his Poetic Asides blog. He posts a prompt every Wednesday. Sometimes he’ll combine it with a request that we write in a specific poetry form, e.g., Haiku, Nonet, Luc Bat, Tanka, Ekphrastic, Quatern, Tritina. So I get a prompt, but a poetry lesson as well. Robert writes about things he knows and loves. The words are simple, homey, about his wife and children. I relate to that. He also conducts two poem-a-day challenges a year in April and November. I’ve participated for the last several years. At the end of the month he asks us to submit a chapbook of our best few poems … [Read more...]

A well worthwhile workshop on metaphor

Now that the Women’s March is over, it was time to get back to my writing life. And I didn’t waste a minute to do that. I went to a metaphor workshop yesterday morning – the very next day after the march. And it was well worth it. It helped me look at the metaphors we use every day, and it gave me exercises to use for finding metaphors in my writing – especially my poems. Here I’d like to share a few quotes about metaphors and a poem that we read during the workshop. Sorry, the three short poems I wrote while trying my hand in metaphor are nowhere near ready for public eyes. Quotes: “One of the deepest pleasures of metaphor is that it says both things at once. It runs two tracks simultaneously.” ~Lia Purpura “Similes are stronger than adjectives and metaphors are stronger than similes.” ~Kaveh Akbar “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others; and it is also a sign of genius.” ~Aristotle … [Read more...]

Fellow poet, Jennifer Payne, welcome to Choices today!

That I love poetry should be no surprise to my readers here, so it pleases me to no end to host the author of the book of poetry, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, today during her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. Jen has also provided us with her thoughts about meditation, something I've dabbled in over the years and always feel guilty about when I don't do it. I thank Jen for her guest post below.  Exploring Mindfulness by Jen Payne 1. A Meditation on Bugs I hadn't walked five minutes up the trail before they ambushed me. A swarm of gnats dropped down in front of my face like a thin, black veil. Two flies laid claim to my ears bzzzzzzzzzzzzzing in stereo. Their siege left me breathless afraid to inhale. My swatting swat, buzz, swat, buzz, swat, buzz, buzz! was moot. By coincidence, I had recently watched that scene in the movie Eat Pray Love in which the Julia Roberts character successfully sits in meditation for a full hour despite an enthusiastic swarm of … [Read more...]

Poetry lessons learned at Esalen, Big Sur, Part 1

I just spent five days at The Life of Poetry workshop with Ellen Bass and Roxan McDonald at Esalen, in Big Sur California. The workshop structure is to hear a craft talk in the morning and then have about three hours of writing time, before we meet in the afternoons in smaller groups to share and discuss our new poems. Throughout the week I wrote four poems* in keeping with the four craft talks Ellen presented. I'll discuss the first two craft talks today, and continue on with the other two later in the week - so as not to bore you too much. Metaphor: Defined as similarity between things that are otherwise very different. Use of fresh vital images to jar us, to heighten the emotion and achieve intimacy. Through quality of the metaphors, the poet can grab the reader. Try to find metaphors in your junk drawer, your garage, your closet, your throw rug (look at the fibers in the rug rather than whole). Here is an example of a poem with great metaphors: My Father's Tie … [Read more...]

Meet Susan Day – grand-parenting expert

I fell in love with poetry as a child. I loved reading it and having it read to me. And as I got older I loved learning what the poems meant. Now I am a published poet. My guest today, Susan Day, an expert on grand-parenting and author of the soon to be released book, The Top 10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing!, writes about how important it is to teach children to memorize, read aloud, and write poetry. Please  welcome Susan Day to Choices. The Importance of Teaching Children Poetry by Susan Day By studying poetry, memorizing and learning how to create poems, children can increase their language skills immensely. When studying poetry children are required to remember the words, and the rhythm or meter, in which the poem is meant to be said. This skill actually plays a powerful part on a child's ability to learn and recall information from a wide range of subject areas. Sadly, many classrooms underestimated what an important learning tool poetry is. A poem might be … [Read more...]

April is National Poetry Month

I started reading poetry in grade school although I didn't start writing poems until much later. Once in a while I'd write a poem or two when I was upset emotionally or feeling lonely, but not regularly until after my son's suicide. It was the only way I could deal with my grief. It still is. Reading poetry regularly is a given. During April, National Poetry Month, Knopf sends me a poem a day, and the website Poem-A-Day sends me a poem every day all year round. Sometimes over a dozen poems are in my reading queue. I also write poems regularly - this month especially since I'm participating in a poem a day challenge. Poetry is my favorite writing genre. It's hard to know if my poems live up to Lori Anne Ferrell's criteria as discussed in her LA Times Op Ed piece below, but many have been published, so they must resonate somewhere. A book of poetry that's worth $100,000, and so much more by Lori Anne Ferrell "A few months ago, I was talking to a former student about how sh … [Read more...]

Author Rebecca Fitton finds writing is healing

I'm pleased to introduce Rebecca Fitton and her new book of poetry, Wave Rider, as she embarks on her WOW! Women on Writing book tour.   Wave Rider is a poetic reflection of author Rebecca Fitton's long journey to heal from sexual abuse, abandonment, and neglect, building a new world based on wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Her journey has taken a lifetime. To use the metaphor of waves, sometimes the undertow nearly drowned her but she survived. Now her beautiful and profound book offers inspiration to others who have also suffered greatly from abuse. Here's my Review Rebecca Fitton's Wave Rider, a book of poetry, shares her beginnings as an abused child and her rebirth later in her adulthood. She divides her book of poems into three sections: Darkness: her poems of her life with a mother who doesn't want her and an uncle who abuses her. She lived in this frozen, silent darkness until she was forty years old. In a poem early in the book, she writes, I learn … [Read more...]