November was a busy writing and reading month

I started this month's blog posts writing about what was going to happen in November. So I thought I'd end November with a review of what I really did - that is, relative to my writing and reading. I just completed  poem number thirty for the Writer's Digest poem a day chapbook challenge. And it was easy to guess the prompt. Robert Lee Brewer instructed us to: "...write a the end poem. It’s the end of the first draft phase of the challenge, so there’s that. But you can also reach the end of a book, journey, or conversation. But journeys never really end, and this challenge will continue on as well. Look for next steps tomorrow." And of course that prompt was right up my alley. I'm working on a new memoir about aging and how I'm planning for the end of my life. I know the subject is a little maudlin though it's not far-fetched. In 2020 I will turn eighty so it's on my mind. Here's the poem I wrote to that prompt - remember it's just a first draft: I’m writing down thou … [Read more...]

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...]

What’s happening in November?

To begin with I joined the November poem-a-day (PAD) chapbook challenge, always led by Robert Lee Brewer, Writer’s Digest poetry editor. He does this challenge twice a year. The next one will be in July. I think it’s a wonderful exercise. He provides the prompts which are sometimes silly and not like anything I would choose to write about on my own, yet they give me the little bit of push I need to keep at my poetry writing. Today is Day 4 and the prompt is: For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Night (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles might include: “Night Hawk,” “Night Rider,” “Night and Day,” “Night Watchman,” or even “Nightmare.” I haven’t written to this prompt yet, but I will share what I wrote to the Day 1 prompt: Write a once upon a time poem. The title of the poem could be “Once Upon a Time,” or the first words could be. Or you could do what I did in my attem … [Read more...]

What’s happening?

Isn’t it funny how some of us start conversations with people these days with this question: “What’s Happening?” And then the poor person being asked the question is in the hot seat having to come up with a quick and meaningful answer. Well, my answer today is: writing is happening in my life. I feel like I’ve been at my computer these last few days since the new year and even before the holidays, almost non-stop. And that’s a good thing. I gotten myself back into writing small stones, which are a couple of lines about anything. This month I started writing one every day, concentrating on a theme that has to do with something I observe in nature. By the way, I’ve written small stones for years, but recently took a break from them. I’m glad to be back. There’s a Facebook group in case you’re interested in joining in. This month they’re called January resolutions – the name changes every month. My main project, however, is my new memoir about aging. I wrote a list of thirty topics … [Read more...]

It’s November PAD time again

As usual, I'm writing a poem a day (PAD) from Writer's Digest poetry editor, Robert Lee Brewer's, prompts. During the year he posts a prompt on Wednesdays except in April and November when the prompts come once a day. Our assignment is to put the best into a chapbook and enter it into his chapbook contest at the end of the month. So far I've written a poem a day for fourteen days. I'm not thrilled with the products yet, but plan to keep plugging along. Maybe I can edit them into something passable for the contest. And it's funny that this year I've gotten a little political in my subject matter. Really? Can you blame me? So here are three poems of the fourteen I've written so far this month. I've included the prompts so you'll know where they came from. *** Write a poem with an occupation as the title. For instance, the titles might include: “Governor,” “Teacher,” “Architect,” and “Engineer.” Or go with some of these creative job titles I found: “Director of First Impression … [Read more...]

Querying and editing again – oh my!

It's been almost two months since I declared my novel finished, and I still haven't sent out one query letter. That is not to say I haven't been working up to it, but it's been a long process. I've been googling small presses - ones that specialize in feminist books, and so far I found only one that might work. I've also been studying how to write a query letter. To that end I found a short book called, Literary Agent Secrets Revealed: Create the Perfect, Unrejectable Query Letter, and it has been quite helpful. It's main advice is that the letter should have two main sections - a two-paragraph novel synopsis and an author biography. And no matter what, the letter should be no longer than one page. Sounds simple, right? Not so simple I found out. Here's a few other hints: In the synopsis, introduce your main characters, lay out the main plot points , and make your writing exciting and engaging Create a one-paragraph author biography that only contains relevant in … [Read more...]

I’m celebrating National Poetry Month. Are you?

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture. I'm fully involved in the celebration in several ways: Writing a poem a day to Robert Lee Brewer's prompt. He's the poetry edition at Writer's Digest and has been holding poem a day challenges in April and November for years. I just wrote to his fourth day prompt a few minutes ago. Please join me. It's not too late to catch up. (Robert also gives us prompts every Wednesday the rest of the year.) Reading a book a poetry. Currently I'm reading Yevgeny Yevtushenko's little book of selected poems. I had the book in my library several years ago, but it disappeared. So I bought a new copy and am thoroughly loving rereading his poems. He writes vividly - without any flowery words or des … [Read more...]

Writing quotes to stave off writers block

I love quotes. I collect them and then use them appropriately in my writing. So I really resonated with the  Writer's Digest article in 2012, when journalist Zachary Petit shared his list of favorite quotes. He called it a good resource to use at times when the writing work doesn't automatically come. I'll share a portion of Petit's list here, and perhaps update it again from time to time. I always keep this URL handy for times of need. Please send me your favorite writing quotes too - especially from new writers who have come into our  lives since this list was compiled. I'll put them up here too. “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” —Philip Roth “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” —Stephen King “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” —Allen Ginsberg, WD “Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.” —Willi … [Read more...]

Writing poetry again

I've been writing poems to Writers Digest Poetic Asides blog editor, Robert Lee Brewer's prompts for years at least since 2009 when I first entered his poem a day challenges in November and April. As a result, I have reams of poem-a-day poems, and poems to his Wednesday prompts. Right now, my Wednesday prompt document is eight-three pages and has 27,084 words. So when I decided to declare victory on my novel at least for now, I thought: why not go back to my Brewer poem document and write poems for all the prompts I've skipped over? I missed quite a few in the last few weeks because I was working, and I'm sure there must be many throughout the document as a whole. Another thing I want to look at is: are there any good enough to submit for publishing? As far as I know there is only one the first one on the list that's been published (actually twice). Here's the prompt and poem. For this week's prompt, write a box poem. This poem is either about a box or includes a box … [Read more...]

Novel successes and woes

I've been glued to my chair working on my novel for months: writing new scenes, converting dialogue into inner monologues, changing tense from present to past, creating new chapters where three asterisks indicated breaks in the text, and generally editing as I went through it over and over again. A little bit about my new scenes* process: I marked up my manuscript to indicate where (with page number) a new scene was needed and what the scene should consist of. I highlighted that marker in yellow. I then copied the marker and pasted it in a new document called New Scenes. I created the new scenes in the New Scenes document without touching my original manuscript. When I finished creating the scenes I edited them several times to make them as mature as my original manuscript, already in its eighth draft. Then I merged the scenes into the manuscript, starting from the end of the book, so I wouldn't mess with the page numbers And as I copied and pasted the … [Read more...]

Putting together a book of poems

I've been putting a poetry manuscript together in response to a submission request from a press asking for books written by women over fifty. I figure I'm well over fifty, so why not? The requirement is to compile a book of sixty to one hundred poems. I've been gathering my poems for the book during the last month or so. I've written a lot of poems - certainly more than the requirements of this submission, but the big question is: how many of them are good enough to put in a manuscript hoping to win a $1000 prize. As of today, I think I've completed the gathering phase. The next step is to organize them. I really had no idea how to do that. I've submitted to chapbook competitions before but never a full-length book. So I went to my poetry book shelf and looked at how some of my favorite poets (Ellen Bass, Billy Collins, Maxine Kunitz, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, etc.) do it. Some just number the sections, some use the title of one of the poems in the section as the title of the sec … [Read more...]

The April PAD challenge ends today

I feel so accomplished. I finished Robert Lee Brewer's April 2016 poem-a-day (PAD) challenge 30 days of prompts from the Poetic Asides editor at Writer's Digest. Robert's prompts are a little out there but always a challenge, meant to find the quirkiness in my brain. Here are a few of my favorite ones this month, with my poem responses. 6. Write an ekphrastic poem. An ekphrastic poem is a poem inspired by art. You can pick your own favorite piece of art if you wish. Or you can use one of the examples below: Frieda Kahlo How could I not write about Frieda Kahlo? That little dark-haired woman With eyebrows that kiss at the center of her forehead Just above her nose, And a mustache hint on her upper lips. Here she lies prone on sand and shells, A vessel to promote life, The roots and leaves growing wildly From her open chest. I've also seen her with a necklace of thorns The blood seeping slowly down her neck. 16. Write a poem about (or at) a food establishment. Y … [Read more...]

Please join the November PAD Chapbook Challenge with me

For the last several years I've participated in the Writer's Digest poem a day chapbook challenge in November and April. It is managed by the WD poetry editor Robert Lee Brewer. The prompts are always very interesting. The challenge is work but a lot of fun.   So, in case you'd like to join me, here are Robert's guidelines. Please sign up and you'll receive a prompt from Robert every day from November 1 to November 30. I'll be sharing some my poems here throughout the month. Here's Robert: Here are the basics of the November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Beginning on November 1 (Atlanta, Georgia time), I will share a prompt and poem each day of November on this blog. Poets are then challenged to write a poem each day (no matter where you live on the planet) within 24 hours (or so) from when the prompt is posted. Don't worry: If you fall behind or start late, you CAN play catch up. Poets do NOT have to register anywhere to participate. In fact, poets don't even … [Read more...]

How I’m finding my muse again

I've had a tough time getting back to my writing routine since completing my recent consulting job. While consulting I did manage to write a journal entry almost everyday, but that was the extent of my writing practice. Besides the grueling proposal work I lived out-of-town in a hotel and ate bland uninteresting food for about four months. I had hardly anytime to do anything else besides work. There were no muses in that hotel room, believe me. The first thing I did when I got home was sleep. I napped several times a day for two weeks, until I finally felt like myself again. Although I worked out in the early mornings as usual, not long after breakfast I needed my first nap. Finally I started to look for something to kick-start my writing, to bring back my muse. I had put my list of poetry prompts into my Dropbox folder so I'd have it handy while I was away, but I never once opened that file. I didn't even update it with the prompts that came by email every Wednesday. So that … [Read more...]