Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Bookstore is Wounded, Not Dead

I am reading the most delightful book called The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee. Part memoir, part history of bookstores, the book confirms the existence of bibliophiles through the ages and the need to preserve extant book stores. True book lovers want more than just the book in our hands; we crave the entire experience of being surrounded by books and other book people. It’s so easy to download a book, but the aesthetic is thin and unsatisfying. Many writers were fostered by the presence of bound volumes, their heft and aroma, and the texture of words and illustrations on a page. Printed books have existed since ancient times, and these were not limited to religious texts and intellectual treatises. Even in ancient times, book buyers wanted romance and mystery. More evidence for the power of story and its place in human nature. Cave men craved story enough to carve into cave walls.

With the advent of e books and digitized media, story is not lost. The form has changed, just like we no longer carry clay tablets. Our tablets are bright, colorful and interactive, yet something feels lost. Reading on a tablet is a bit like dating a string of attractive people with whom you have little in common, but holding a book is coming back to an old lover with whom you have an enduring history.

I wonder about future generations, and how they will forge a bond with story that lingers. As much as the paperless society has been predicted, books published in paper form are tangible.

The publishing world is changing so fast even the “experts” don’t know what to expect. Independent authors are finding cheaper and easier means to get their work published and purchased. With KDP and Pubit and other e publishing venues, writers can upload text, design a cover, answer a few questions, and make their books available throughout the world. Granted, most self published writers should let their works simmer awhile and revise them before offering them up to a buying public. Do the ten thousand hours. But society is in a hurry, and the pursuit of instant fame and fortune is prevalent. Writers will never have a reality show, (though there is plenty of drama among writers). Perhaps readers want the illusion that the story writes itself and the writer and his/her life is secondary. A writer can be famous and anonymous at the same time. Other than Stephen King, can you picture your favorite author’s face?

There is room for multiple platforms, and my guess is kids reading stories on e books now will one day want to own a precious bound and illustrated volume of their favorite tale. The radio didn’t die when TV came out, and we though there is a junk food restaurant on every block, we still like a home cooked meal. Nothing feels like a book store. Other than the library, which is free, other stores will not let you hang out for hours and buy nothing. A coffee shop is close, but it’s missing books.

“When exploration and trade brought far corners of the world closer together-The Age of Exploration, The Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Rail, etc- there was a sharp rise in literacy. The ability to read was needed to keep up with the new technologies and business practices. And mandatory reading is always followed by elective reading. The more readers, the more books needed; more books, more bookstores.” (p.55, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop)

Happy holidays, everyone. Yes, it is Christmas Day, but a writer never sleeps.

Happy Writing.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Dialogue About Fictional Banter

Imagine you see a short story, or (horrors, and entire novel) that begins with:

“Shut up!” he proclaimed.
“NO!” she intoned.
“Why not?” he shouted in a fierce tone.
“Because why?”
“Because I don’t want to,” she said, sneeringly.

The above passage has a number of problems. First, it’s dull. This is the kind of conversation you are likely to hear between two kids in the back seat of a car. If you have a scene which includes sibling rivalry this might work, but don’t linger. An entire story or novel with this kind of dialogue will make the reader toss your book over a freeway overpass.

The next issue is the dialogue tags. Proclaimed and intoned are used in the wrong context here. When one says “shut up,” it’s already implied by the words shut up the speaker is angry. (The exception would be the slang use of Shut up!” in which case your speaker might slap hands or bump fists with his/her fellow character.) “Shut up!” with an exclamation point, or just “Shut up,” will suffice. (Don’t overuse exclamation points.)

Intoned is also not needed. A response to Shut up is likely to engender use a snarky retort. Trust your readers to decide that for themselves how the speakers sound. If one starts a story this way, quickly give the reader a sense of people and place.

He shouted in a fierce tone is also not needed. The reader already senses this pair is carrying on a fierce conversation. Shouting is fierce.

The adjective sneeringly is just awful. Avoid adjectives and adverbs ( and clichés) like the plague.

So how do we put tags on dialogue?

Said is one of those invisible words like and, a and the. Tags in dialogue are only needed if there is accompanying action or a vivid metaphor.

Your dialogue should 1) Provide information, 2) reveal characterization, and 3) move the story ahead.

Like any scene, there must be a reason for it. Dialogue is not the same as everyday conversation. Most of what we utter throughout the day is uninteresting weather reports and comments on the price of gas.

Beginning a tale with dialogue is risky. Here is one way to solve this scene.
“Shut up!”
No.” Ashley said, smacking her brother
“Ow!” he rubbed his arm. “Why not?”
“Because why?
“Because I don’t want to.”
Dana glanced toward the back seat, and said, “If you kids don’t shut up I’m going to duct tape your mouths closed.”
They rode the rest of the way to the mall with the sound of Tommy sniffling.

Happy Writing.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why Writers Need Chocolate

This afternoon I had a hankering for some chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but dark (Dr. Oz approved) Dove Promises. I keep a small container of them in my kitchen for my occasional dose of antioxidants. I pulled two small sqaures out the container and unwrapped the first one. After I popped it in my mouth and let the candy melt on my tongue I read the message inside the foil wrapper. It read "Take a hay ride with a friend." I looked out the window and thought, Not likely in this pouring rain. The second message read "Press your favorite leaves inside a book." Again, the rain kept me from going in search of leaves, but the light bulb clicked on over my head. These small commands could be a springboard for scenes. So if a Dove Promise asks you to "Take a walk through frosty grass and leave footprints, do it. And eat more dark chocolate. You've walked it off.

Time to write. I only have a little over 30,000 words and have less than two weeks to my 50,000 goal.

Happy (munching) and Writing.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lonely On The Radio and Other Possible Book Titles

Have you ever wondered how books get their titles?

I usually wait until AFTER something ia written before I name it, whether it is a story, poem or novel. I like titles that don't reveal too much. For example, what if I had called Parallel Lines something like Nick's Story or Nick's Senior Year? Kind of puts you to sleep, doesn't it? Parallel Lines is intentionally metaphorical, (and you have to read the book to get it.) The same goes with Chasing the Dragon. (No shameless self promotion here!;).

Many of our favorite movies have had other titles. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid was originally The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy. It was all about casting. Paul Newman was the bigger star. If Steve McQueen had done the film instead of Robert Redford, the film would have had the original title. I think Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid has a better cadence. And aren't we glad Redford graced the screen?

The novel I am working on now has a temporary title, ad the title in this blog is one of my character's possible titles for a book he is writing. I like the sound of it, but it doesn't encompass my story, so I won't be able to use it. But Gary my imaginary writer friend)can.

Here's an exercise I saw put in action in a video of poet and writer Molly Peacock: "Here's the title, now write the poem." She handed out a variety of toitles and the particpants in her workshop had to write a poem that worked with it.

Happy Writing.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shamed Into Writing This Month

My students are forcing me to write. If it were not for this group of highly motivated AP students, I would slide into my comfortable laziness and watch TV every night. I would put on my pajamas before the six o’clock news,(Well, I do still do that) and slump on my couch with a cat on my lap and exist in a half sleep until Dancing With the Stars or some other mindless show occupied my attention until ten, at which time I would go to bed.

But no, it’s November, and all but one of my AP students signed up for Nano, several of who have committed to the goal of 50,000 words. I’m completive at heart, and can’t stand the thought of some seventeen year old beating me, so again I signed on for the insanity of National Novel Writing Month.(I am counting this blog in my word count because is IS November, and I am writing this in November, and I need the word count.) Notice I am not tightening my language. I am using as many words as possible to convey my idea and being slightly repetitive because I need the word count. Because...
What I wrote between November 1 and 3rd is one big strikethrough because I had a false start on a YA novel I may someday write, but Eddie, Elsa and Gary from my 2009 Nano keep bugging me to add more scenes to their story, so Okay, today I have Eddie test driving new cars. He doesn’t plan to buy one. He just likes to test drive cars.
The idea popped into my head because I did just buy a new car and it still bears the new car smell. It takes me back to all the new cars I have test driven and bought. Since I don’t smoke, my car retains that new car smell for a long time. (I will have to remember not to eat anything with onions for awhile.) Anyway, before I add more unnecessary words just for word count word count, here is an
While you are driving, and those random thoughts pop into your head, like the new car thing leaped into mine, use that thought as a jumping off point for a scene. Maybe it’s a song on the radio. How would your character react to “Someone Like You” or “Riders in the Storm?” Or a billboard? Or a new restaurant he or she notices just opened u?. Have your character react to some sort of stimuli while he or she is driving.

Happy Writing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

If Only Words Were Planets

Last night my friend Elizabeth and I drove to Kent State to see/hear W.S. Merwin read. The trip was more than two hours way, and well worth the time. Merwin is 83 years old, yet he spoke and read non stop for 90 minutes. I am almost half his age, but I'm not sure I can talk that long. Perhaps he was energized by the hundreds of poetry lovers in the audience.

I'm trying to revise an old, possibly failed, novel and I can't get past the first page. If I'm bored, imagine how legions of strangers would react after shelling out money for the privildge of being tortured by my words. You, blog reader, at least get this drivel for free.

Elizabeth suggested I start where the main character conceives his "idea." Maybe. The problem is, the character posess few "rooting qualities, meaning the reader won't root for him to succeed. One friend described him as creepy. So maybe this sheaf of 200 plus pages is better off in the recycle bin, and I can free up space on my hard drive when I hit the delete key.

Writing is one bad decision after another. In revision either we make it worse, or the words find their own orbit.

Happy Writing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Writers live in the Shadow of the Wind

Today I took a personal day to get a new furnace, and had lunch with friends while the work was being perormed. As I waited for my companions to arrive, I noticed an article on How to Train for a Plane Crash. It inspired me to draft a poem (which I will not share because it is still too rough.) But it got me to thinking: Isn't every day training for a crash? Isn't just getting up each day an act of faith? And isn't it up to writers to explore and explain the daily act of living?

Here is an exercise for you.
If you are reading this blog, you are a reader as well as a writer. Writers read, so you'll enjoy this.

In my AP class, where I torture high school juniors with writing, writing and rewriing, I devised an exercise after beginning to read a wonderful book called Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. In the opening chapter, Daniel, whose father is a bookseller, discovers The Cemetary of Forgotten Books. While there, a book entitled The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax chooses him. Isn't that how readers become readers? Books choose us? I shared the first chapter of this novel with my class and challenged my students to either 1: write about the first time a book chose them, OR 2:write the first chapter of Julian Carax's The Shadow of the Wind.

Happy Writing.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Query Advice from a Literary Agent

As promised, I am sharing some pitching and querying advice from literary agent Michelle Andelman from Regal Literary Agency. [Some of this also applies in querying to editors.]
Understand the difference between a pitch and a synopsis. Michelle does NOT like synopses. Michelle doesn’t have time to read them. (Some agents and editors like them, some don’t.)
Synopsis- plot summary
Pitch- general story arc- in 1-3 sentences you present a story arc starting point- mid point and end point. The BROAD arc in 1-3 sentences.
In a pitch an agent wants:

1) Know how to orient where the project fits in the marketplace- similar books, or similar enough but different.
2) To be hooked. Your query should be written in a way that the agent will request more material.

DO give enough detail. Provide the emotional arc of the character, a general setting and central conflict.
What is interesting about them?
Structure- only mention it if it is important
If your YA novel is in first person don’t mention it unless it is different or interesting.

Follow Submission Guidelines! Each agency is different.
Michelle likes 10 pages with cover/query letter.

Research the market. Look at books you are now reading. How does yours compare? Does it have something MORE? Be CLEAR on the genre and the type of reader you want to attract.

Personalize the query. Do NOT address it to Dear Agent or Dear Sir or Madam. Those go to the trash. If you have met the agent personally at a conference, remind him/her in your query. Keep the tone warm- not crazy. Do NOT be too intimate.

DON’T talk about yourself. It’s about the project, not you. (Unless you met the agent at a conference.)

Don’t offer exclusives. Agencies expect you are making multiple submissions
IF an agent requests an exclusive, you can demand a time frame. Don’t be afraid to be assertive. The agent is working for you.

Don’t let requested material languish. After 6-8 weeks, jog the agent’s (editors) memory with an inquiry, otherwise your work might sit on his/her desk for 6-8 months.

Be ENCOURAGED if you get a detailed rejection. If the agent is willing to spend sometime with suggestions, that’s a good sign that the work is almost there.

Don’t Lobster (I don’t know what this means now. I did at the time she said it.) Let the project speak for itself.

Don’t pitch in your protagonist’s voice.

Give just enough detail to get a sense of who the character is, the underlying themes, and the conflict..
Given an amazing detail that will hook the agent. (One query that hooked Michele revealed the character "kept Julie’s ashes in Tupperware". A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend. )
Letter should be no more than 3 paragraphs’!!! is a free site to help match you with agents and your type of work.
Be wary of paid sites- largely a moneymaking schemes for agencies.

Publisher’ is a valid paid site
Look at print versions of Literary Market Place and Children’s/Illustrators Markets in the library.
Happy Writing.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"Don't Be Crazy," editor Martha Mihalik

[Here are my first day notes from the OCCBWW conference, but I am saving them to now because before you send out to an editor or agent, you ned to get the writing done right first. If you are a memeber of Writers Speak, this is a repeat.]
-Martha Mihalik, Greenwillow Books- editor

When she gets a mss, she asks. Do I want to keep reading or watch TV?
Do I like this?
Most importanmt considerations:
All three must be supported by strong writing
Pay attention to language, sentences, pace
SHOWing not telling

Good voice is the way to tell your story. Language, structure
Picture book voices are sincere and silly, not sing song rhyme. Subtle, not forced. A comfortable voice.

READ as much as you can in the genre for which you work!!

Voice has an opinion and a perspective for the story being told. Voice is what makes this story unique. If it can be told by anybody, the manuscript goes into the reject pile.

Character Do we see him/her? Does this person have flaws? How is “character” revealed? Through the objects around them? Actions? Opinions? If a character has a quirk it’s ok to use surprising detail to reveal this

Plot internal and external. Something must be at stake internally . Plot is driven by the character, and not predictable. Should be age appropriate- something the kid should be attracted to. Should NOT be message driven. There should BE a message, but simmering beneath the surface.

Picture books
Are under 1000 words, 32-35 pages. Should get to the conflict by or on the 3 rd page.

Novels should have conflict by the 3 rd chapter, but you want the reader to keep reading beyond the first chapter

Authenticity- stories should have a ring of authenticity.
Read it out loud!!
Does the voice sound authentic? Age level appropriate? Do not let the adult voice leak in.

MarketingWho is your audience?
What is the hook?
Is there anything else like it out there?
Why? Or why not?
Does this book fit the Greenwillow (or whatever publisher you send it to) list?
Is the writing sharp? Is this a different spin on an existing idea?

AcquisitionsAn editior she prioritizes mss, looks at profit and loss. Publishing is a business, not an art. Ms Mihalik often does not read the cover letter. Letter should be SHORT.
Don’t be crazy.

Happy Writing.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Smallest Doors Open Widest

Pamela Smith Hill (the second of my instructors who I love love love) discussed the importance of research in writing. Maybe it’s the the librarian in me, but research is close to my heart. I did extensive research in all three of my books, but (hopefully) the reader doesn’t see it. Research is essential to historical novels because if one is using actual events (ie., the Civil War or World War I) the details need to be accurate. But Hill urges writers not to let the facts hold them back. Write from the imagination to get the story down and revise the details later.
4 types of research:
Books and other printed materials- Primary and secondary sources. [She credits librarians as being a great source.]

Interviews- decide how and who you will interview. In person? Phone? Via email?

Location- Hill visits locations where she sets her tales. This also includes archival research in local libraries where she finds treasures like letters, photos and newspapers.

internet there are MANY valuable resources beyond Google and Wikipedia. Ask the reference librarians. Our local reference people are rock stars!

Happy Writing.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

writing with sole

I had the most amazing day with my young writers today. My dear friend Cindy Sterling gave me a writing exercise she used to do in the classroom and I adapted it to my workshop.

Give each participant a piece of drawing paper and either crayons,markers, or pencils. Have each person remove one shoe(you might want to spread newspapers on the desk since who knows where those shoes have been?) Draw an outline of the footwear and set the shoe aside.

Here is the fun part: this exercise can be designed to fit a specific moild. I asked my kids to write a biography of their shoe. Where did it come from? where is it going? what does it see? hear?

My young writers stunned and amazed me. Tamara's shoe was a plain white tenis shoe reluctantly bought by a young girl who later decorated it with paint and glitter, and it followed the girl throughout her life.

Jenny's flip flop was washed away on the beach and ended up in Hawaii.

Nathan's shoe was a very pristine men's business shoe that quickly learned the meaning of dirt- literally from the streets, and figuratively in business, and Mia's shoe experienced the drama of witnessing several love relationships, and ultimately being thrown against a wall.

I wrote a short piece as well, but it was not nearly as good as what the kids produced.

Happy Writing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

“We Who Write Poetry Are Doomed.” David Greenberg

Poems are crystallized language, faceted with the heat of your intelligence
Story – stories are a conundrum of a puzzle- limited language

Very few words rhyme naturally and fluently with sounding Forced rhyme
Using meter helps challenge your brain

A great poem does not announce itself as a poem- it dawns on the reader it is a poem

Every line by itself should sound like prose- not attempting strange contractions.
Any one line has the quality of prose, when combined they form a poem

A piece of poetry is like a trapeze –the more dashing and daring the lines, the more exciting the poem. The less probable yet fluent the language, the more intriguing.
Language should be unforced
Convoluted grammar
Intense economy of language
Many poems tell a story

[David entered into a discussion on rhyme in children’s books since many picture books rhyme.] A good rhyme should not be easily predictable.

2 qualities that make for a good rhyme:
1 Words share phonetic value but spellings are different
2 Multisyllabic rhymes are more difficult than monosyllabic

Exercise Try six words and create lines that rhyme

Here is my bad example:
Giant tabby cats
Grapsing flabby bats
That hang from their claws
[I need to use an aws sound at the end of this line]

Next we tried multisyllabic

Yeah, right. YOU try it! Good luck!

Happy Writing.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Get Rid of the Wrong Words

The highlight of my week was another guest speaker, Virginia Euwer Wollf. She is a lively speaker whose passion for writing radiates from her. Ms. Wollf is probably in her seventies, but moves like a much younger woman. [later I saw her vigorously walking on the beach]

The hardest part may come as a surprise: Getting rid of all the wrong words. [this reinforces why we need NOT to revise and edit our work too quickly. We need distance from the mss in order to give it a cold read, and read it the way an editor will.]

Cleverness is not a good trait for a kid’s book

If a story is in trouble the problem is in the point of view
When you get into trouble- look at how far you’ve come. Sometimes [a fix] can be as simple as one sentence.
When it stops working create a storyboard.

[She mentioned some of the obstacles we all impose on ourselves, ie texting, facebook and other distractions. There is a web site called Freedom that for a free, will lock you out of the internet so you can write.]

Ms. Wollf uses Rachmaninoff as an example on writer’s block. After receiving terrible reviews fro his first concerto he suffered three years of depression. He went to a hypnotist, and was able to create his wonderful second piano concerto.

[Most of her session was question an answer. Ms. Wollf was interested in what WE were working on. She enjoyed it when I talked about why writers need to attend workshops and conferences. I said, “Our friends and families don’t mind that we write, they just don’t want to hear about it. All of us in this room have imaginary friends who are real to us, and we get that about each other.”

Ms. Wollf mentioned Harold and The Purple Crayon as a great motivator.

Happy Writing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Deb Lund On Writing Picture Books

I don’t write picture books, nor do I intend to try, but I found Deb’s presentation informative. Picture books are generally 32 pages, but your mss may not be that long. [under 1000 words] Some of these pages will be illustrations. Written for ages 3-7.
They come in 14 double spreads- 2 sides of the page 14 times.
The pictures tell the story, too. They SHOW don’t tell
Story picture books around 400 words
Characters solve their own problems
Picture books are meant to be read aloud- they should be in a kid’s voice, but can include challenging words [ provides an opportunity for teachers and parents to teach vocabulary]
Focus on action and dialogue

Writing is a combination of memory and imagination
We each need a list of what we are interetd in
There has to be a problem- the crux of the tale
No struggle? No story.
Create a character and put them in peril. Writers are troublemakers.
Make use of your senses to convey emotions. If you NAME the emotion, ie He is bored, you are telling instead of showing. [He rolled his eyes, yawned, and looked at his watch.] *

She explained a Storysaurus [this was a line drawing of a dinosaur to demonstrate the rising and falling action of a story. Beginning, middle, (the high point of the dinosaur’s back,) and end.]

Her last words of advice
1. Write!
2. Learn the craft
3. Join SCBWI {Society of Children’s book Writers& Illustraors}

Book recommendations: Creating Characters Kids Will Love Elaine Marie Alphonse

The ABC’s of Writing for Children Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacraft, ed.

Story Sparkers- A creativity Guide For Children’s Writers Debbie Dadey

• That evening, Deb held workshops with exercises to help us show not tell. In one, she had each of us take an “emotion’ card. Each card contained nouns and adjectives, ie Grief, fear, greed, etc. She asked for volunteers to “act-out” the emotion. The rest of us were to describe the actor’s actions. For example, the woman who demonstrated Grief: “Folded into herself as if closing a shell and screamed.”
• The next exercise was similar, but this time we drew personality traits, like selfish, proud, adventurous, etc. Both of these are fun in a large group.

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

If There is an Axe in the Room There Has To Be a Reason

In my notes is a random page that likely came out of a First Pages discussion, but I like some of the quotes from it.

Stories are told in scenes- they move the story forward
Something changes- if not there is no reason for the story to occur
Each scene needs a hook to catch the reader. The book itself needs a big shepherd’s hook, [but throughout are all these small hooks to keep the reader reading.]

[There are only so many story likes out there.] Take something familiar and tweak it- take something ordinary and make it feel new. [We all know the Wizard of Oz, but Geoffrey McGuire gave us the Wicked Witch of the West’s side of the tale in Wicked.]

Don’t trick the reader. [I love this]If There is an Axe in the Room There Has To Be a Reason. It can’t be there by “accident.”

3 line rule in dialogue,[ otherwise you are writing monologues] Of course there are exceptions
[character] Flaws add validity. [Not flaws in the writing.]

Happy Writing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Writing Easy Readers

In the afternoon of the second day we had a wonderful guest speaker named Susan Blackaby who specializes in writing books for Early and low level readers. [Her talk focused on research she did about how the brain allows kids to develop language skills. Because I was an avid and early reader early I have always taken my ability for granted.]

Three components:

Connecting symbols to the sound
When the brain recognizes text there are five parts of the brain need to work in sync. If One is out of sync, reading is difficult
[she used her own daughter as an example in trying to find textx that would enable the girl to connect to written words. Most of what was extant in the Hi-lo reader selection Blackaby found inadequate, so she dtarted writing them. She terms her work as good books for bad readers.]

She discovered certain words and types of words are difficult for slow readers to process. For example, “the diver is in the river,”
“Take the water to the skater”
The skater’s daughter likes bottled water.” are confusing because the words have si,iarl sounds and spellings.
The trick is to use simple, monosyllabic words in creative ways. NOT See Dick run, See Spot Run.
In early chapter books the language needs to be simple enough the kids can set up patterns and connect with the text.

[a good exercise is to challenge yourself to write something lively using single syllable words. It’s REALLY hard to make it interesting as you will see from my dull example.:
The man on the raft is in the lake. He wears black under a hot sun as fish float by. Birds fly and sing. A cat sits on the shore. It waits for fish.]

If you want to write for this market, she recommended a book called Teaching Reading Sourcebook from the Consortium of Reading Excellence]

Happy Writing.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Scariest Moment is Just Before You Start Writing

On the second day of the OCCBWW conference, Noa Wheeler from Henry Holt presented. She was lively and funny, and thankfully did not need a microphone. (The sound system at OCCBWW was awful. It popped and scratched.)
The stuff in [brackets] are my thoughts

-Learn to Laugh at Yourself
-Don’t Panic
-The Scariest Moment is Just Before You Start Writing
-Write something-anything-to open the writing door

[I love this following piece of advice] ** Write about something you know really well, but write about it as if you have never seen it before. Approach everything as if for the first time [this forces you to focus on details] the interaction between the subject and writer makes it new.

Turn OUTWARD- listen to dialogue- note it- change one word to extrapolate- layer it
Ask questions about things around you to help you arrive at something new
“What if?” take something ordinary so it does not resemble the original at all
Research –[but not everything. Enough to get the details accurate].

Set limits
Make a date to share writing with writing buddies [Open mic, write-ins]

Do writing sprints- for an hour on writing. Just write without a plan. Do NOT reread and revise[kind of like we do for NANO]
Set word ;limits ie 1000 a day no matter what [again Nano]

If you are in the middle of a story, novel and you’re stuck- switch writing locations [go outside if you’re in or vice versa]
Change position inside your story. Better to write SOMETHING than nothing
Make a slight change to alter the story [ ex. used in Charlotte’s Web, If White had been stuck, , Instead of Where is Papa going with that axe, he could have asked where is MAMA going? [See how it changes the perspective?]
Any story is a series of questions and answers

Skip over what gives you trouble and go back to it later [I will often make notes in my own drafts like “Fix This Later”]. This helps preserve momentum.
If you write drafts in longhand, use a PC or vice versa. Helps you use a different part of your brain.

-Moving physically can get your mind moving
-Forward motion is also rhythmic- like defibrillating your writing.
-Read or watch something outside your genre
-Don’t revise right away [Cindy S.!!!!]
-Ask “What more do I need?”
-Read out loud- you can hear the verbs and nouns
-Don’t back away from the jugular
-Reverse outline- outline mss as if you haven’t written it yet
-Get out of your own head

Later in the week Ms Wheeler had some submission advice, but I will share that at the end of this series when I go through the agent and other editor’s submission suggestions. First we write, do massive revisions and editing THEN we worry about sending it somewhere.

Happy Writing.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

“Touch the brain with a finger on fire.” Heather Vogel Frederick.

Here again are some of my notes from the conference. “Notes” meaning= they may not make sense.
One of the highlights of the OCCBWW was the random quotes David Greenberg shared with participants each day.

“There are rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately nobody knows what they are.”
(I can’t read my scribble to attribute the quote. Bad chicken scratch writing.

Day 1 afternoon session Heather Vogel Frederick- middle grades-ages 8-12

How do we catch an agent or editor’s eye?
Writing is an art, publishing is a business. [Publishers may like your work, but if they don’t see a market for it, they will pass. So getting rejection does not mean the work is bad, just not for them.]
“Touch the brain with a finger on fire. If you light up like a Christmas tree[as you write] so will the manuscript.

Three elements of story are setting, character, plot

Memorable characters are what readers [and editors[ are looking for.
Characters have an inside and outside. Use exterior details to give clues of internal qualities, bring characters to life

Look at the opening line(s) of some of your favorite works. Right away c a sense of character is revealed.[again: voice]

Have an emotional investment in the work- Glow embers to stir reader’s reaction- use shards of emotional experience – no tears from the writer- no tears from the reader.

In Plot- you take a bad situation and make it worse.

“What if?” is the secret of the writer’s toolbox
Do not wait 100 pages to get moving. The hero faces obstacles. Interior vs. exterior conflict. Make the character struggle- give them something to do.
Every time a character faces a door, it sticks.
You lose energy during flashback

Writing is an emotional bungee jump.
The happiness comes when we get it right
When the hero brings home the trophy it can be an emotional trophy.

The War of Art helps in overcoming resistance [ a book recommendation for writers]

Know the market before submitting
Trade market- stands alone, get royalties 10% unless there is an illustrator, then royalty is shared. Writer owns copyright on mss.
Open format, sometimes has curricular ties
In nonfiction needs to appeal to consumer-has to entertain beyond the facts. Is competing with fiction
Focus the book on an unanswered question.

School/library market-tend to be in series-paid flat fee, no royalty or copyright. Strict formats, curriculum ties
Sometimes it’s a good way to break into publishing market.

In my next blog, I will translate my notes from the presentation by Noa Wheeler, a book editor at Henry Holt.

Happy Writing.

Friday, August 12, 2011


AS PROMISED, I AM SHARING MY ATROCIOUS FIRST PAGE. MY COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS TO MAKE IT EASIER TO SEEMichael Tate sat in the school library, which was quiet except for the hum of the copy machine and computers. The old battle ax librarian was old school and she demanded silence .Normally the hush didn’t bother him, but he was caught up with his assignments and would have liked a diversion to avoid thinking about what his sister Cassady had said to him last night.- HERE IS A MISSED OPPORTUNITY. INSTEAD OF THE LONG DRAWN OUT DESCRIPTION OF THE LIBRARY AND THE LIBRARIAN, WHO ARE NOT IMPORTANT TO THE ACTION, I COULD HAVE JUST STARTED WITH LAST NIGHT.Michael sauntered to the front desk and grabbed the newspaper. –I AM TAKING WAY TOO MUCH TIME HERE WITH SUPERFLUOUS DETAIL-The headline blazed: BODY FOUND IN HOME, VICTIM DEAD POSSIBLY ONE YEAR. Last night he had seen this story on TV. THE HEADLINE IS INTERESTING, BUT IT COULD BE WOVEN IN TO THE DIALOGUE.
“I can’t watch the news anymore,” his mother, said as she and Michael went to the kitchen before dinner.
“Why not? “ Michael’s father asked.
“A mother was accused of putting her daughter in a microwave. The baby was burned from the inside out,” she said.
“Gross,” Cassady said. She was helping their dad Frank fix dinner. Their mother rarely cooked. “She could burn water,” Frank liked to say.
“There was also a woman found dead in her house after a year,” Michael said.
Cassady scrunched her face. “Michael!”
Michael sat on a stool at the kitchen island. “The only reason they found her was thieves broke in and someone discovered the body while they were ripping her off.”
(I DID GET COMPLIMENTS ON MY DIALOGUE, WHICH IS NOT ABYSMAL)Michael’s sister carried four plates and silverware into the dining room. “Thanks for ruining my appetite.” She spread the plates around the table and picked up the silverware. THE PANEL ALSO LIKED MY VERBS“It wouldn’t hurt you to skip a meal,” their mother Grace said. OKAY HERE IS A TELING DETAIL, WE SEE THE CONFLICT. THE PROBLEM IS, WHOSE STORY IS IT? MICHAEL’S? HIS SISTER’S? HIS PARENTS’? DO WE EVEN CARE?

Sorry about the all caps.:)
Happy Writing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Once upon a wordy tale I told you all about what happened last night and the night before and last week and blah blah blah blah

One of the unique features of the OCCBWW was First Pages where we looked at anonymous first pages from manuscripts. Problems in manuscriopts almost always exist in the beginning. When we write something WE know what we mean, but often we leave out important detail to engage the reader.

One of my biggest faults as a writer is front loading with too much back story- in short giving away the plot in the first three pages instead of giving the reader a reason to read my book. When one of the editors at the workshop said, “Backstory is essentially plot notes for the writer,” a light bulb pinged over my head. It’s the outline I should copy and paste somewhere else for me, not my poor readers. Duh.

Engage the reader with imagery right away, not long drawn out weather reports or descriptions of the scenery.

We’re all tempted to do this, as if to slowly invite the reader into our setting. The problem is, he or she will be asleep before the tale even begins. WE know that the air was crisp with the aroma of autumn leaves, and our character wears green socks and smokes Winstons, but does the reader care?
Do these “details” move the story or just add words? (See June 28 blog entry) Are they “telling” details that reveal quirks of character? Will those green socks serve as a symbol later in the story? Are the leaves important? Does the character have a penchant for leaves? Is he or she a botanist? Will the character smoke the leaves because he or she is out of Winstons? If not, strike them. Get moving.

But don’t move too fast.

Writing is like a high wire act. Too slow, and you’ll probably fall.
Too fast, and you might not fall, but you’ll zip across so fast the audience won’t see anything.

Before the reader gets invested in the action, let him or her know the character before we see the conflict. The opening line of Fahrenheit 451 “It was a pleasure to burn,” leads us right into Guy Montag’s character. Essentially it reveals his conflict, too.
Pick a scene with your character(s) and start there. And make sure that scene leads into the next scene, and the next.
Writing is so easy (not!)

For my next blog I will post my first page and analyze specificially what went wrong. I don't recall anyone saying something goo about it. :(
Happy Writing.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The dog ate my blog

Dear blog readers,
I have been remiss about adding to my blog. Most of July I was off the map for a week long writing workshop OCCBWW
and on vacation in Oregon and Arizona. In the meantime I have been revising and editing before going back to the salt mines. (Teachers go back August 19th)

For those of you who write for children and young adults, I highly recommend the OCCBWW conference. Yes, it’s in Oregon, so the airfare will cost you, and yes, even though it’s in July, you will need a winter jacket. The weather in Oceanside, Oregon is schizophrenic: one hour it’s 40 degrees, an hour later the sun comes out and it’s 70. The constant roar of the ocean and the scenery make you forget the weather (for the most part).
This is the first workshop I have attended where the instructors worked harder than the participants. A unique feature is First pages. Participants submit the first page of a manuscript they are working on (anonymously) and these pages are projected on a screen. Each instructor, a panel of editors, agent, and writers, offers his or her expert input on what works and what doesn’t. I like the anonymity and brevity of this exercise. Most manuscript problems occur in the beginning of a work. If the start of a story has issues, an editor is not likely to read beyond page one. My own manuscript had too much back-story on the first page (this is a chronic problem for me.) One instructor likened back- story to “notes for the writer on plot.”
The anonymity enables you not to feel victimized because, unless you show someone your work, nobody else knows who wrote it.

My brother and his family live in Portland so I combined this with a family vacation by renting an ocean view beach house. Each evening a rolling roster of family members (my brother and his wife, niece Erica and her son Micah, and cousin Bob and wife Cheryl from Washington) and I sipped wine on the deck and let the ocean and sunsets entertain us.

I barely got over my jet lag when I jetted off to Tucson to visit an old friend from my overseas days. Leslie and I had been part of a quartet of friends in 7th and 8th grade much like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants girls. It’s an odd phenomena when after 40 years, one can pick up the conversation as if only a day has passed. Leslie (and her sister Barrie who was visiting for part of the time) had a blast. Tucson is a lovewly city and is on my list of places to retire.

Anywhooo, this is a very long excuse for why I have not written. The next few blogs will be discussions of things I learned at OCBWW.
On the first day, as a means of introduction, our host David Greenberg had everyone do a six word memoir:

Born there
City named after me

I know it’s 7 words, but math is not my forte.
To make up for it, I wrote a 5 word bio:

Not from
Except here.

I plan to do this with my AP class on the first day of school as an ice breaker.
My advice to them:

Listen, learn
Outside the box.

Happy Writing.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rejection is a Gift

It hurts when you open that e-mail or envelope and read, "Sorry...we don't have a place for your work."

Some rejections can be downright rude, like the one I got from an unnamed editor who returned my query letter with "NOT THIS ONE!" scrawled across the page. Really? Was that necessary? Did he not consider that I was going to doubt my ability as a writer even with a gentle, "No thank you?"

There are contemptable editors out there. (Not many, thank goodness.)Maybe this guy had just broken up with his wife, or his dog died. Perhaps he had a hernia, or a sunburn. Whatever his problem, I crossed out his publication in my Writer's Market with a giant X in Sharpie Marker. Two can play at this game, a##hole! And yes, I did feel better aftwrads.

I have framed my best rejection letter. The handwritten note reads, "Too bad we don't have enough space for all that we love. Keep trying.B." Isn't that wonderful? It was written by the late Betty Shipley, 1996-1998 Oklahoma Poet Laureate. I never met her, but when I thanked Ms. Shipley for the rejection, she sent me an autograghed copy of her chapbook "Somebody Say Amen." When I learned she died about a year later, I cried as if mourning a relative.

I used to keep rejection letters, back when they were snail mail letters. I may still have that snarky one. The letters remind me the distance I have travelled from no to yes, and I get far more acceptances now. You just have to keep writing and sending out work.

Rejection is part of writing.
One poet I know immediatly mails her poems to someone else as soon she opens her rejection notice. "If three editors say no,I reevaluate them," she told me.

It takes elephant hide and steely nerve to be a writer. You are not a real writer until you have been rejected, so get over it, send the work somewhere else, and keep writing.

Embrace the Rejection.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Don’t Forget the Moment of Truth

I was cleaning out my file cabinet the other day and came across a note I scribbled on a single page. It ended up in a “Misc. Writing Stuff” file. The note, in my hieroglyphic scrawl said, “Don’t forget the moment of truth.” I don’t remember writing this, nor do I recall the occasion under which prompted me to scribble it down. But this simple statement is good advice for all writers.

Every story or poem we write should contain a’ moment of truth’. Something is at stake, and underlying these stakes a tale’s hero, or a poem’s speaker legitimacy is based on universal fact. In popular fiction, the reality is often overtly expressed, sometimes articulated as a cliché.(To my own self be true, love conquers all, The grass is not always greener on the other side, etc..) In literary fiction and poetry, the veracity lies in the subtext, and the reader has to dig for it. Often this excavation requires a level of maturity. And the moment of truth may not be the author’s intent; Mark Twain asked his readers not to look for symbols or morals in his work. Yet writers inadvertently reveal the common human experience. The reader and his or her life knowledge is half of the equation in responding to literature.

As a writer I don’t consciously tell the truth; my characters or my poems unsheathe it on their own. I merely channel it.

Exercise: If you have a story or poem that isn’t working, perhaps it lacks a universal ‘moment of truth.’ Ask yourself what is at stake here? WHY should the reader care? Is there an important idea simmering under the surface?

Happy Writing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thinking About My Blog, I Prepare to Come Up With Some Great Advice On Why Gerunds Create Ponderous Writing.

Look at the title of this blog. I used 19 words to say "Gerunds create ponderous writing." I’m not a math teacher, but I think the revision reveals more clarity. “Thinking About My Blog” is nonessential because one would assume I am thinking about my blog as I prepare.

Just what IS a gerund? It’s the present tense “ing” form of a verb, or a noun formed from a verb. Grammatically, it is acceptable to use them. However, too many, and your sentences become clusters of passive words.
Here is an example of a sentence that needs work:

Walking into the room, he decided to watch TV so he flipped on the remote.

Okay, grammatically, this sentence is correct, but is it necessary to state "walking into the room?” Isn’t it a given that in order to be IN the room he had to walk into it? Not every direction needs to be written unless he(watch excessive pronoun use) were recovering from an accident, and he hobbled into the room. Or perhaps he dashed in because there was something hot on the news. Or he was drunk and staggered in.

Unless there a concrete verb to move the story, just leave “walking into the room” off.


Who is HE anyway? “He” could be anybody. As a writer, you need to provide the reader with enough detail he or she can make a mental picture. Don’t begin a story or novel with a series of pronouns unless there is telling detail to distinguish the person. Wordiness is not detail. Wordiness is just a string of uninteresting words in succession that don’t add vivid imagery. Is he old? young? biracial? Redheaded? A student? A bartender? Flat footed? Fat? Tall? You get the idea.

The young man staggered into the room, almost knocking over the TV.
(Yes, I used a gerund at the end of the sentence yet it added telling detail.)

If you insist on using the verb ‘to walk’, add more detail:

Jeremy walked into the room as if he were being chased by a mountain lion.
Now we get a mental movie of how our now named character walks.


Look back over the opening page of your latest manuscript. How many different verbs have you used? Do you use the same verb more than once? What other words can you use to describe the action? Have you used any pronouns? In what ways can you identify your character so that “he” and “she” are clearer?

Happy (revising) and Writing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Best Review

I have had several good reviews posted on my books, as well as face to face compliments, but the best one came recently from a 7th grade girl, who after reading Under The Veil, posted... "mom made me read an hour a day. I didn't want to do this, but after reading this book I am looking forward to more reading and more books.....I've read many books but this book is by far the best one I've read." As a writer it's the ultimate compliment on a couple of levels: 1) She liked the book, and 2) she was reluctant, yet the book changed her mind about reading. I suppose a third level would be that my words ignited a passion for more reading. Isn't that what our goal as writers is? To touch our readers in a way they view the world slightly differently? I know I like to walk away from a novel, poem, or even nonfiction and feel like I have gained new insight. We learn how to be human through narrative. The cave men knew this.

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The snow leaned into the afternoon

The title has nothing to do with today’s blog; I just liked the juxtaposition of words.
Last week I was semi homeless since I was getting my floors refinished. The stench from the polycoat was awful, so I put the cats in the basement, gave them access to the garage in case the fumes bugged them, and checked myself into a hotel for a couple of nights. How do homeless people without jobs fill their days? Especially if it’s a thousand degrees outside. I spent the days as a tourist in my own city, finding spots to occupy my time just short of loitering. Here is what I discovered about time limits that don't attract undie attention:

Restaurants 2 hours max. Any longer and they kind of hound you with “Are you sure I can’t you anything else?” It helps if you have a dining companion.

The Library One could get lost in here for an entire day. It does seem to be a hot sport for vagabonds. If the hobo has a laptop, opportunities are infinite.

Movies guaranteed two hours or more of entertainment, unless the power goes out and they throw you out of the mall.

K Mart and Wal Mart- just walking around the store could occupy a minimum of an hour

Meetings being “homeless” is sort of an incentive to go to Y City writer write ins and meetings.

The hotel pool being homeless with means is priceless, because after the maid makes up the room, I have homelike amenities.

So what does this blog entry have to do with writing? Being a "tourist" in my own city provided a unique perspective. It forced me to notice details about places I took for granted, and one of these days I will write about it. Oh wait, I just did.

Happy Writing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stripping Away the Dead Wood

I am revisiting a story I wrote several years ago with plans to submit it to the Y-City book for the Arts Festival. Revisiting, and revising. The tale has a lot going for it, yet it also contains embarrassing diction and syntax crimes that I accuse my own students of commiting: wordiness, confusing pronouns, overuse of the verb to be. Yikes. Thoughts like, “Did I really write that?” Run through my head as I edit and revise. Overall, I like this story. Short stories do not come naturally to me. I think only really GOOD writers can write them. It takes me three hundred pages to get to the point, so writing short, complete tale is a small miracle. I’d share the story on this blog, but I only have part of it. Unfortunately I do not have a complete copy saved on my hard drive. What I have is the beginning of a redo from a hard copy that is now buried in one of the million boxes stacked in my house as I get floors refinished.

Rewriting a story is a little like refinishing hard wood: stripping off the old, stained layers, filling in the chipped areas, and pulling out old nails to create an elegant sheen. I knew when I first composed the story almost a decade ago that it lacked the right furniture. I had to experience a few more years of life in order to assemble the story’s rooms. Cross your fingers I find the hard copy, otherwise I will have to lay an entirely new foundation, and that will take more time.

Happy Writing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Words Speak for Themselves

I am reading a book on my kindle called Bound to :Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Beloved books. In each chapter an author discusses his or her fondness for a particular book. Francine Prose focuses on the illustrations of a children’s book, while Ray Bradbury recounts a tale of how his adored aunt forced him to read )and love) Edgar Allen Poe. Each of the thirty authors in this book mentions the weight, texture, smell, and aesthetic of his or her favorite book. The irony that I am reading about books on an e-reader is not lost on me. Every book I read on my kindle weighs and smells the same. I can change the font size, and “book mark” electronically, but essentially every book I read on kindle looks the same. There are no slick, sexy covers, velvety pages, or color photos to grab my eye. If there are pictures in the book, on a kindle they resemble photos that survived a flood. So in order for a book to be memorable on an e-reader, the words have to matter. Books published on e-readers need to be better than those in print, so perhaps electronic publishing will raise the stakes, forcing writers to stick to telling us a really, really good story.

Here is a quote from another book I am reading (on my kindle.) "Grammar is like the air: someone higher up might try to set rules for using it, but won't necessarily follow the rules." from The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami

Happy Writing.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Nation of Nincompoops

I was having lunch with Rita, her niece Elizabeth and Cindy"Oh My Stars and Garters" Sterling, and Cindy related a grammar story to us today. yesterday Cindy went to (an unnammed bakery) and asked that a message be written on a cake for her mother. "Please have it say, 'Happy Birthday, comma, Dot'." The woman proceeded to write the greeting in icing. The first line said Happy, the second Birthday, and just as the decorator skipped to place the comma on the third line, Cindy stopped her. "It's a personal directive. You place the comma on the same line!"

Granted, most of us do not punctuate our cakes other than an ocasional exclamation point, and many of us may not have noticed the grammatical faux pas and let the woman contunue, and the cake would have read:


Which I think is funnier, but Cindy, and her years of teaching English and grammar, could not in good conscience let it go.
"We're living in a nation of noincompoops," she said at lunch.
So grammar, evn on our pastires, does count people.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's the end of the school year, I am in the middle of inventory, ready to grade AP Final projects, have not yet written this week's poem for my poetry workshop, and need to prepare for my YA writer's workshop this Saturday. I need more to do!
This morning I dreamed a complete poem to write for Diane's workshop this week, and in my half sleep it sounded fantatsic. Can I remember any of it? Nope.
I have tons of great opening lines.
By the my father and brother died
I was an expert at sudden death.

Losing weight is like excavating for dinosaur bones.

For a long time she idolized salt like it was Salt God

And these could be titles:
The orange flower of afternoon
Ordinary things worth saving
The brief history of butter
But my brain stops after a few syllbles. Maybe I need a reboot. So Diane,and my fellow poets in workshop, I apologize ahead of time for writing the crappiest poem you will see in a long, long time.
Happy Writing.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Communing with other poets

I am taking the most delightful poetry workshop with my friend Elizabeth. Diane Frank, The group comprises eight of us from all over the country, and we meet online to gather our weekly seed, share our drafts and comments with one another, and get feedback from Diane.

Worskshopping withpeers is important; other poets and writers provide a mirror for you to really see your work, often finding things you didn't realize were there. Others will bring lapses of diction, typos, and verb confusion to your attention. The biggest aid to me is when others point out where they are confused. Never Confuse Your Reader.

One does not grow without being willing to put your work out there and taking ctiticism. You may choose to agree or disagree. Good criticism is NOT a personal reflection; it is a means to make your work better. Some writers are tempted to totally rewrite your work, others offer suggestions and praise. Ultimately, it is up to you, the writer, to decide how to "solve" the writing.

If you are afraid to take a workshop, I highly suggest working with Diane. She does an online, 8 week class in the fall and one in the spring. (her summer workshop takes place in San Francsico for 4 days.) Each week she provides seeds which enable poets to stretch their writing muscles. She also gives gentle, yet accurate criticism on lines and word choices. She demonstrates where one should push the images.
Here is last week's poem: (Several particpants suggested major changes, but Diane liked it as is. I think I will sit on it for awhile and decide.)


In the airport gift shop the words death
and plane crash leap from newspaper headlines.
The opening lines of a novel I pick up announce,
“You are going to die.”

My travel companion recounts last night’s dream.
“You and I attended a poetry reading at a graveyard.
The poets perched their bodies on headstones.”

As a kid I pondered how the world could exist without me,
The infinite universe, my own private amusement park
I controlled by opening and closing my eyes.

Life is an airport hotel.
You fly to a new destination;
Someone else moves into your room.

Laura Moe ©2011

Happy Writing.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Going Postal

Intially I thought my compalint with the post office today had nothing to do with writing, but it does. I was attempting to mail a couple copies of one of my books and a poetry book to a contest winner today, a Saturday, and since it was after 12:00 (I don't move quickly in the mornings unless I have to) I figured I could use the branch at the mall that is open until 1 pm. I arrived around ten minutes after twelve to be be told that the computer was down, and the postal woman couldn't serve me. "Don't you have an old fashioned postal scale? You can weigh the packages, and I can pau you cash."
The woman said she did not usually work there and had no idea where anything was.
My complaint is not with HER, per se, but the postal manager who scheduled someone unfamiliar with the branch, the ONLY branch in town open on Saturday, that was essentially the Titanic. Saturday is the only day I have TIME to stand in line and mail packages, as I imagine did the angry line of people standing behind me.
So yes, I can see why people go postal.
I tried sending the books UPS at Staples, but I could have bought a tank of gas cheaper. So those of you expecting a book frm me, it's going to take a few more days. There IS a postal branch in a flower shop near where I work. I will try them Monday.

Happy Writing.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

painting as zen

I repainted my living room over the weekend, which is labor intensive. The prep work is the hardest part: packing stuff up and moving it into other room so these two rooms looked like an episode of Hoarders, making several trips to Home Depot, or as my friend Cindy calls it, Home Despot, and assembling my supplies. The task of moving the large furniture to the center of the room and covering it with plastic sheeting so it looked like visiting ghosts was also necessary. But saturday we FINALLY had dry weather and it was warm enough to open windows and doors.

the Zen happens during actual painting when brush and paint roller make contact with paint. There is a lovely sentient experience to stirring paint. I love the viscosity of paint, and applying it to a wall. The gradual change to the environment, and how three quarters of the way you feel a new energy being born by the vibrant, friendly color. It's now a mellow coral color. (Behr color Caramal sundae. I stole the color from some friends dining room on Easter Sunday. I felt enveloped in friendly energy and bought a gallon the next day.)
Paint is a cheap and quick way to transform a room. I am sure it will help me create new poems.

Happy Writing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

so what?

Yesterday I bought Billy Collins's newest book. He is one of my favorite contemporary poets, but I cannot recommend horoscopes for the dead. Only two of the poems, "Grave," and "Memento Mori" are worth mentioning. Most of the poems read like rough drafts or random journal entries. Many of the lines are wordy, unspecific, and just dull. Where is Collins's zest for the word? I found myself asking "so what?" as I read through them. For example, in the poem "Straightener," Collins writes about his penchant for straightening objects. He takes us through a list of things he likes to straighten, and the order in which he uses them. As he describes his parents' photogragh the reader hopes Collins will give us the kind of snapshot he did in his earlier masterpiece "The Lanyard, but this poem just continues listing more objects. If you or I had offered this selection up for publication, the rejection letters would paper a wall. But like his other books, this one will sell, too because of WHO he is. I just hope in a hundred years if aliens visit our planet and find only this from Collins's collection they don't scratch their antennae and and mutter to one another," THIS guy was a poet laureate?"

I COULD put this book in my giveaway contest, but I think the recipient would be disappointed.

Exercise: Imagine you are a strnger coming upon a colection of your poems. Read them, and see if you can answer the "so what?" question. How will a reader be moved after reading your work? Yes, poems are about seemingly small things, yet what underlies them is a universal truth. That BIG TRUTH reminds us we are alive.

Happy Writing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

“Stay Drunk on Writing" Ray Bradbury

I’m baaack! Here is my blackout log.

Day one of the blackout. Since I am still using my phone I see numbers in red next to my Facebook app icon that tell me I HAVE ALERTS. It’s a bit like having Christmas presents under the tree. I want to know what’s in them, but I have to wait a week.

Okay, there are no more dispatches because I didn’t write any. I found I didn’t really get much more writing done during my enforced blackout. Various reasons: work, grading papers, social life, and overall, other things I let distract me. What did my partial blackout teach me? I can’t blame my unproductiveness on Facebook. It’s MY fault.
Here it is National Poetry Month and I have yet to write a poem. Lots of lines that might be found in poems, or possible titles, but no poems.
But I digress.
Is it possible for someone who is ADD to write? Yes, but it takes discipline and motivation, and, hey, that cloud looks like a giant blue fish.
Oh yeah, writing.
I am re reading Ray Bradbury’s Zen in The Art of Writing because I may use it as summer reading text for my AP class. I had been having my kids read On Writing by Stephen King, but I like to mix things up. When one teaches a long time it’s best to change things so as not to get bored. Anyway, I have been writing down some lovely tidbits. He asks,” What does writing teach us?”
“… it reminds us we are alive ….and writing is survival.” He reminds us “while art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.” What Bradbury confirms is that writing reminds us we are alive, and as humans each story has importance because it IS the human story. YOUR (seemingly) benign life is a magnificent tale, and if you have the gift of storytelling or word crafting, it is your responsibility to do so because “not to write, for many of us, is to die.”
Find an old picture of yourself and write an ode about the event surrounding the picture, the people in the picture with you, or what happened right after the photo was taken.

Here is the beginning of an ode I am working on:
Ode to Other People’s Clothes

When I see her wearing my castoff clothing
I feel momentary giver’s remorse.
The black leather jacket that once hugged
My body two sizes and several years ago.

Happy Writing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I plan to go semi screen free beginning tomorrow. I can't go totally blank since my day job requires use of several computers and e-mail, but I can make my house go dark for a week. In The Winter of Our Disconnect the author and her three teenagers went dark for SIX MONTHS. A good read. One of my students is reading it at my recommdnation.
so I will hand write my blog next week, and post the best of it next week.

Happy Writing.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Kingdom of Silver Doubt

What was I thinking when I decided to write a blog? I don’t write every day, much less blog. I COULD post everyday and tell you I ate oatmeal with nuts for breakfast and describe the cute funny things my cats did last night, but that’s what Facebook is for. So, yes, I know I SAID I was going to blog every day, but poets aren’t all that reliable. (They keep changing Poem in Your Pocket Day. I thought it was the 28th. It was LAST year!) so there will be gaps.

Poems, like stories, have an apparent level and an underlying, simmering one. Take for example the draft of a poem my friend Elizabeth wrote, a brave and lovely poem seemingly about her belly(which I will NOT be sharing with you. Drafts are like Vegas. And I want to still be friends with her,) yet what shimmers under the surface of the poem is an ineffable link to her mother.

A poem works when we can pull back the layers and think, ahhh, yes. For example, Billy Collins’s poem The Lanyard. What kid over fifty doesn’t remember making lanyards at summer day camp? On one level, the poem presents itself as a simple childhood memory with its gentle humour, yet we walk away realizing NONE of us has lived up to the valiant act of our mother’s giving birth to us and facing the daily grind of raising our self centered selves. The poem asks, Do we ever repay that?

So if a poem is to be successful, most of which mine aren’t, the reader will walk away with a universal question, and that question could be what sparks your own poem.

Here are the first few, very crappy lines of my response to Elizabeth's poem:

I have become my mother.
wide hips, bruise to the touch
“I can think about food and gain weight.”

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happy National Bookmobile Day

I love the bookmobile: the ice cream man for nerds.

Yesterday afternoon (well into evening) my friend Elizabeth met for coffee and poetry. Neither of us has managed to write a poem a day, and Elizabeth devised a good reason why. During nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month,) where crazy people write 50,000 words during the month of November, one is working toward a large, unfinished product. Yet the container for that project is large. It’s 50,000 words, (or more) most of which are lousy words. In all of the nanos I have done, I delete tons of text.
Poetry, however, requires exact, specific words, and the containers for them are small. So they require focused attention to detail. Poems need to be written slowly. Even the drafts. Poems are deceptive. Because they are usually short, poems seem "easier" to write, yet a poem can take years to write.

I responded to a poet friend of mine’s Facebook posting about trying to write a poem a day. I have been writing lines of poetry, but not actual poems. Perhaps these lines will accumulate and become a poem,. Maybe not. But they rest like seeds in a packet, waiting to be planted in a more temperate climate.

So today’s exercise is: don’t try to write a poem today . Feel free to write lines that could become poems, but NOT make a poem.

Happy Writing.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Breakfast of Champions

I started thinking about my advice from yesterday to REAd Every Day. As a kid, I used to read the cereal boxes my mother set on the table the night before. She was night owl, and did most of her housework and breakfast prep after we kids and my dad were in bed and out of her way. She always played music on the hi fi (stereo for those of you under forty), and I think that enabled my early interest in jazz. Each morning, as she slept late, my brothers and I were greeted with a table full of cereal boxes, a child's version of the morning paper. There were often interesting science facts on the backs of the "healthier" cereals like Cheerios and Wheaties. Captain Crunch, crack for elementary aged kids, had nothing but useless text.
Sometimes there were offers for "free" stuff for sending in box tops, and the three of us siblings would fight over who got the box tops. My middle brother Paul usually won. I think he just wanted the stuff more.
Yet we read every day. Now when I read a cereal box it's for calorie, carb and sodiumcounts.
The assignment today is to read the cereal box, and use text from it to create a poem. The box itself may evoke memories of childhood. Perhaps you imagine yourself on the cover of the Breakfast of Champions.

Happy Birthday Cindy!
Happy Writing.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Throw a Mouse Into a Poem and Read Billy Collins

I was the guest writer at a workshop for young dult writers, and I thought I would share some of my notes with you.
Read Every Day- books, eBooks, magazines, newspapers. Interact with some sort of text that engages you.

Carry a Journal and pen(s) OR get an app for a smart phone that helps you record ideas. I use Moe’s Notes. No, I didn’t invent it, I bought it because of the name, but have found it useful.

Learn a foreign language- this helps you develop verbal flexibility AND gets you inside a new voice. Our local library has Mango Languages for free access with a valid card.

Read Every Day

Read outside your comfort zone. If you read only romances, try a thriller. Better yet, Poetry.

Rsearch- (This tip was met with a groan.) Research gives you information to flesh out details, and makes your details credible. The poiet Rita Dove once talked about a poem she wrote that invoked a childhood memeory. She researched the weather of the day in question to make sure her description of the day was accurate.
Experience Life- writers don’t just sit at their keyboards all day “creating”. Creation of stories and poems happens as a result of a life lived.

Share your writing with trusted critics. “Criticism” does not mean finding errors. It encompasses praise along with suggestions for improvement.

Read Every Day

Follow your instincts- write in your authentic voice, ye be willing to experiment in order to find your voice.
And finally
Read every day.
I did not tell them to write every day because I would be a hypocrite. I don’t write every day. Life gets in the way, but reading is part of th writing process. It keeps my writing muscles ready.

Happy Writing.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Drunk, And In Charge of A Bicycle

I wish I could take credit for the title of today's blog, but I owe those honors to Ray Bradbury. In Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, and he writes as a step for preparing to b a writer: “Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, you’re your tongue, your hand. And, above all poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors , like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes, ideas lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I heard short story teachers recommend them for browsing.”

Today's exercise: read a poem and respond to the poem with a poem.

Happy Writing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Stretching Your Writing Muscles

This question was posed by one of my followers. (Sounds like I am leading a writing cult.)
“If a writer is writing every kind of genre, how do you know what genre your writing falls under and how do you perfect that? …I wrote a novel, [and] what I have always written and truly loved poetry. I have met writers who write sci-fi, mysteries, poetry, children's books, plays, songs, short stories, romances, etc. I want to get published and write great works, so can this happen if I am a Jack-of-all-writers?”

That's a huge, and timeless question. I’d like to open this up to YOU, and get YOUR feedback. Here is MY response.
First, write what you love. If you don't read sci-fi, or even like sci-fi, don't write it. It will never feel like it comes from a "real" place inside you. Most likely your writing will be formulaic, which might be marketable, but not satisfying to write.
The way to find your genre, or writing niche, is to write. Try writing something "out of your comfort zone." I used to regard myself strictly as a fiction writer, and I only wrote poetry for language practice. But then a funny thing happened; people liked my poetry, and I started getting a lot of it published.
I think of writing in a variety of genres is like cross training for a sport.
I never recommend writing just for market unless you write nonfiction

This was the complex answer. Of course the simple answer is: Read and Write. Then write some more, then read in the genre for which you write.


Happy Writing.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

“The word was born in the blood and flew through the lips and the mouth…” Pablo Neruda, The Word.

Words are the basic tools for writers and poets, and the more skillfully we use them, the better our writing. In novels and books, writers can get away with occasional lapses of language, but in poems, every word counts. What doesn’t play a role shouldn’t exist, and passive diction should be annihilated. One misconception about poetry is that, since they are usually short, poems don’t take long to create. Sometimes it takes months and years for that draft to simmer. The real writing begins on revision. Think about the word itself re-vision- a means to see your work all over again. Sometimes the best thing you csn do for a poem is stuff it in a drawer for awhile and not look at it for several days or weeks. You will look at it with a fresh set of eyes.

Today’s prompt will show my age. Take an old record album (you can find these at Goodwill, yard sales, library shops), preferably a double album, and randomly select the titles(about 10-12) that jump out at you. Then use these titles inside lines of your poem.
Here is my example.

Henry Mancini’s Greatest Hits:

A happy barefoot boy hums
The love theme from Romeo and Juliet
As Nicholas and Alexandra leap
Across the continental bridge
Over troubled water. “El condor pasa,”
Says Mrs. Robinson, interrupting
The sound of silence at Scarborough Fair,
Thinking her own life would make a great love story.

A shaft of magnificent seven stars
Glow misty as a Hawaiian wedding song. A baby elephant
walks under a sweetheart tree with a midnight cowboy
as Peter guns the engine toward Moon River.

Michelle, the girl from Ipanema, doesn’t buy into the charade.
Dear heart flies like a shot in the dark out of Norwegian Wood
With all my loving, and I love her like a hard day’s night,
Even as raindrops keep falling on my head.

By the time I get to Phoenix the entertainer
Has played the Pink Panther theme on seventy six trombones.
It was good, bad, and ugly. Mr Mancini, how soon you left,
At high noon, during the days of wine and roses,
Leaving behind the windmills of your mind.
Laura Moe ©2006

Happy Writing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Poetry Contests and the Punctuation Olympics

I recently sponsored a poetry contest at my middle/high school, and this year my judges were vocal about the punctuation, or lack thereof. Many beginning poets have this misconception that poetry is free, and the rules of grammar don’t apply to it. Guess what? You STILL GOTTA USE COMMAS AND PERIODS IN POEMS. Yes, enjambed lines do not need to be stopped, but if you write a line that in prose would use a comma, PUT A COMMA IN YOUR POEM. Otherwise you risk confusing the reader. A line like : This poem reminded me of running into an old friend years later the conversation picked up where it dangled thirty years before. is a run-on sentence

For clarity, I punctuated (and tightened)it ;

This poem reminds me of running into an old friend,
the conversation picks up where it dangled thirty years ago.

Today's Exercise, visit :
link to chomp (Grammar Bytes) and do some interactive grammar practice.

If you live in Ohio, you may be intereted in the follwoing poetry festival:
Please mark your calendars for April 15 and 16 for the 10th anniversary weekend of Power of Poetry. After last year’s remarkable event, we are once again bringing great poets, music and surprises to the scenic Hocking Hills.

Please visit our updated website at

All donations are tax-deductible. Please make checks to:


26488 Starr Rt.

Logan, OH 43138

We would appreciate your sending us names of anyone you know who would enjoy getting these newsletters. Please send to like his newsletter, so I recommend signing up for it even if you miss the conference.)

Happy Writing.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Metaphors Can Reduce the Distance." A line from Kafka On The Shore.

Former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser designs with writing exercises on metaphor. Here is one of his favorites. Following these steps will build bridges between dissimilar things.
1: Brainstorm a list of totally dissimilar things (This can be objects or concepts)
2: Pick the TWO things from your list that are the most dissimilar and try to figure out if there are ANY relationships between them at all. Make a list of similarities.
3: Draft a short poem that shows the relationship between your two disparate subjects. Make sure each detail works logically on both sides of the metaphor.

When I did this exercise the first time I happened to be sitting in a library where I saw a book entitled How to Remodel a Man, and here is the poem I created:

How to Remodel a Man
I find a library book
called How to Remodel a Man,
an instruction model for love, as if a man is constructed
of hollow rooms, rooms only we can fill
with our desires and dusty knick knacks,
as if he is a prefabricated bookcase made of flimsy wood,
filled with used paperback novels, as if a man
is a weekend cabin, and we are the new addition,
as if he is a mobile home and we are the newly laid foundation,
and he is a stinky old refrigerator in the garage full of Budweiser,
or the one car garage and we are the crimson red Porsche;
he is stained concrete and messy metal shelves and we are the mop and bucket, as if his cabinets are missing the hardware and we are the brass,
and he is a sink full of dishes caked in dried food, as if a man
is a stove with a broken timer or a water heater on the fritz,
the lumpy futon with mismatched pillows and cat piss stains,
as if he is a bathroom with leaky pipes and moldy fittings,
a washing machine that catches fire and you are the extinguisher,
as if a man is a set of rickety steps that lead to a spider filed attic,
and he is the doorknob that keeps falling off when you enter his rooms,
as if he is a bedroom window painted shut and you are here to scrape
the edges of his frame, as if his frame is nailed shut and you are the only one who can extract those nails with the claw end of a hammer, and he is the door that dangles on its hinges, screeches in protest each time you
open it another inch.

Laura Moe ©2009

Happy Writing.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Even Poets Need a Plan For Marketing Their Work

I feared the Marketing Your Writing workshop I attended today might be a dry MBA talk, or worse, an infomercial for the writing career coach, Tiffany Colter. ( The workshop was engaging, practical, and at times, funny. Tiffany provided us with interactive workbooks where each participant identified what he or she wanted and the steps needed to achieve those goals. She discussed business plans and reasons why writers need this as much as any small business, particularly “Indie” authors who don’t have the benefit of an agent or large publishing house. Yet even writers who publish with mainstream publishers need to manage their time and money while promoting their books. She helped me identify my own roadblocks to getting writing done: TV, housework, my job, and most of all, not having specific goals. Now that I have it on paper, I have a reference point to check up on myself. Writing the stuff is easy, it’s marketing that hangs me up, but now I have some tools to help me increase my readership. “Dream big, but have small goals.” What Tiffany means is to have a large goal, divide it into manageable chunks.
This can apply to writing as well. Sure we’d all like to publish a book, but start by getting poems or articles published in journals. You won’t get rich, bur you will have an audience.

Exercise of the day: rewrite an existing poem(possibly failed or one that are on the fence about) using a different point of view. If the poem is in third person, redo in first or vice versa. Take it up a notch and write it someone else's voice.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Poem a Day Keeps You ... Writing a Poem a Day

I started to do the 2011 thirty days of poetry exercises from

Given the odds, if I write thirty poems, chances are at least one will be submittable. (Word is telling me that’s not a word.) But maybe not. I won’t jump off a bridge if they’re all lousy. That’s the nature of writing. You write some, you massacre some.

Here are my eleven words. (Yes, I’m an overachiever.) The closest book to me on my desk is my novel in progress Chasing The Dragon since I am adding last minute edits. Sophomore, Day, Ace, Bitch, Heart, Jam, Long, Bus, Meeting, Excuse, Woods.
Here is the crazy thing I came up with:

My Ten words from page 29 poem

A long meeting on a sunny day merges
into Sophomore jams in the woods, escaping behind the school bus
with Dawn Boles, forging our excuses
in well practiced replicas of our father’s signatures.
I was good at forgery. I should have become
a forger. They don’t hold meetings do they?
Where they bitch about the price of ink?

Laura Moe©2011
Okay, it's no masterpiece, but we've only just begun. I seem to be full of cliches today. full of something anyway.
Here is the prompt of the day:
The Following exercise comes from Stephen Lloyd Weber:
Fill-in-the-Blank Poem
Below, I provide some words to use in a five-stanza poem. Build text around the words using a variety of phrase structures.

Example stanza:
keep So keeping some of the pearls
hoarse for yourself, hoarse-lunged with heavy breath,
whole devour the pink swine whole.

Stanza 1
Stanza 2
Stanza 3
pledge allegiance
Stanza 4
Stanza 5

to sign up for his online exercises:

Happy Writing

Poetry Will Save Your Life

It is National Poetry Month, and I can’t think of a better way to begin than a PABLO NERUDA poem.


To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to whoever is cooped up
In house or office, factory or woman
Or street or mine or harsh prison cell:
To him I come, and without speaking or looking,
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
And a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
A great fragment of thunder sets in motion
The rumble of the planet sets in foam,
The raucous rivers of the ocean flood,
The star vibrates swiftly in its course,
And the sea is beating, dying and continuing.

So, drawn on by my destiny
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
The sea’s lamenting in my awareness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
And gather it up in a perpetual cup
So that, wherever those in prison may be,
Wherever they suffer the autumn’s castigation,
I may be there with an errant wave.
I may move, passing through windows,
And hearing me, eyes will glance upward
Saying, “How can I reach the sea?”
And I shall broadcast, saying nothing,
The story echoes of the wave,
A breaking up of foam and of quicksand,
A rustling of salt withdrawing,
The great cry of sea-birds on the coast.

So through me, freedom and the sea
Will make their answer to the shattered heart.

From Neruda: Selected Poems (1970), translated by Alistair Reid

Poetry exercise: Take an old failed poem, cut it into pieces, word by word, and rearrange the words in a new order. Eliminate words that don’t belong. Cutting the excess baggage may help you find the heart of the poem. Or it may end up being another failed poem.

Happy Writing.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

This Blog Was Written by Me and Other Crimes of Passive Voice

We still have one more day before National Poetry Month begins, so I will sneak in some prose advice by request. (Thank you, Amanda.)

Imagine you are lounging in the back yard on a glorious Spring day, a book lies on your lap and a tall glass of ice tea is within reach. You are reading a mystery, and it begins like this:

It was night, and he should have known not to venture out on a night so dark it reeked of danger. Menace hung in the air like soot, but Edgar needed to see Seville. He sped his gait and thought of her waiting for him in her candlelit grace, no doubt wearing red. Yes, she’d be clad in red with her blonde hair hanging loosely across her shoulders. Edgar’s pace quickened. He heard a click, like a lighter. A figure stepped from the shadow. A gun was being held in his hand and was being pointed at Edgar. WAIT A MINUTE! What happened here? THIS WRITER COMMITTED A HORRIBLE CRIME. She robbed the paragraph of its tension by using (horror!) PASSIVE VOICE.
Up until we see the gun, the passage has drama and tension. Yet the moment when we should see the most tension, that gun falls flat and the reader has either tossed the book in outdoor fireplace or he is asleep.

There are three problems with this sentence:
1. Overuse of the verb to be.
2. Passive construction makes the GUN the direct object of the sentence rather than Edgar.
3. An overly long sentence dissolves the tension.
Also, using the pronoun "his hand" might be confusing. Whose hand? Edgar’s, or the shadowy figure’s?

Here is a way to solve the sentence:
A figure stepped from the shadows and pointed gun at Edgar.

NOW we see Edgar is in danger and we want to know what happens next...

Tip: If you want to decrease the distance between you and your readers, keep your sentences active. Passive voice is like a passive person; you really NEVER KNOW WHAT THEY ARE THINKING.

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 Big Poetry Give Away

I will be giving way two books of poetry. One will be a Pablo Neruda (don't know whuich one yet. I love them all.) And the other will be A Longman Anthology of Poetry.

Follow this blog and others for a chance to receive a free book of poems.
For more information follow Kelli Russel Agodon's blog at

A Poem a Day for all you April Fools.

Here is a fun way to kick off National Poetry Month. These are by Kelli Russell Agodon
Her blog is


<>1. Write a really ugly poem.
2. Quickly pick out 12 words from the titles of books on a nearby bookshelf. Use them in a poem.
3. Write a poem with an invented biography for yourself.
4. Take a 1-2 page poem from a book and re-type it backwards—from the very last word in the poem all the way to the very first, keeping the lines the same lengths as they are in the book. Use this as the starting point of a poem, picking out the word formations that are particularly interesting to you.
5. Write from the number six.
6. Write to your pain: "Dear Pad of My Thumb, Will you kindly stop hurting? It is very hard for me to stir a pot or write a poem when you hurt like this..."
7. Let your pain write back to you: "Dear Liesl, if you would lay off the text messaging and playing minesweeper it would help me a lot, then you can write your poem or stir a pot..."
8. Write to your hurting country, city or community, as a variation on the theme. Take the dialogue as far as it goes, then distill the essence. See if you can arrive at a fresh insight about what ails you and yours.
9. Wow! You’ve been at this over a week straight! Let your hand draw an abstract shape. Write about it.
10. Speaking as a fortune teller, tell a fortune. The first line is: You will take a strange journey ...... Finish the prediction/forecast by describing the journey and giving instructions or advice or even warnings for the journey.
11. Write a poem of at least 40 lines that is a single sentence.
12. Take fairy tale and rewrite it from the viewpoint of another character. For example, use the wolf to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood.
13. Write about a family secret.
14. Write an apostrophe to some abstraction (e.g., "To the End of the World" or "To My Birth").
15. Write about someone waiting for something.
16. Write about a color without naming the color—or its kin, e.g., no fair using “crimson” “scarlet” or “ruddy” instead of red.
17. Take any object out of your bag or pocket or purse. Speaking in first person AS THE OBJECT answer the following questions (in any order): What is your favorite thing? What are you scared of? What is your secret? What is your wish for the future?
18. Take someone else's poem and select one word per line, writing them out in a list. Then write your own poem using these words in the same sequence, one per line.
19. Write 100 words (any kind of words) about your kitchen table.
20. Write a poem in which the form contradicts the content.
21. Write a piece at least 50 words long using only one-syllable words.
22. Take a common object, such as a flowerpot, boot or paperclip, and write about it as if you’ve never seen such a thing before (e.g., you’re from the future and have just excavated it, or are from another planet).
23. Take the name of a favorite poet and anagram it. Use this to begin a poem.
24. Pick a word from today’s headlines and write a definition poem for it.
25. Write the poem you cannot write.
26. What Work is For You: Write about a job you have had, whether you loathed it or loved it. Write from your own experience but go beyond the literal! Keep the poem in the present tense, and BE SURE THERE IS A PHYSICAL ACTION INVOLVED such as scrubbing floors, dissecting chickens, helping someone use the toilet. Keep your poem in couplets, tercets, quatrains, or sestets—your choice.
27. Write a poem in a received form in such a way that the form is concealed.
28. Imagine a drink or food dish that would bring you fully alive. Write the recipe.
29. Begin with, “This is not the last poem I will write…”
30. Elide the Junk: Take a piece of junk mail and black out most of the words so that what remains is a poem.

Monday, March 28, 2011

who is this battle axe English teacher and what makes HER such an authority?

After I posted my first blog yesterday it occurred to me that I didn’t provide any introduction. Who am I, and what makes me think I know anything about writing? I have more degrees than a thermometer, one of which is a MFA in Creative nonfiction, and I have been writing since the days when families had black and white TVs. Most of what I write is terrible, but some of it has been published. I have had poems, stories and essays published in anthologies and journals, most notably Mischief, Caprice and Other Poetic Devices, Women’s Words and The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Two of my novels Under The Veil, and Parallel Lines are available at and Both Under the Veil and Parallel Lines are available on kindle and Nook. As we approach April, National Poetry Month, my blog will focus largely on poetry. If you want to WRITE poetry you must READ poetry. Here are some Places to read poems This particular Random prompts: And here's another: This last one is an an online workshop that my friend Elizabeth and I have done several times, and made some lifelong poetry friends among my classmates: Diane is a great teacher. Blue Light Press On-line Poetry Workshop Each week you will receive an inspiring seed idea designed to trigger the creation of a poem, share ideas about the process of writing poetry, workshop one of your poems, and receive feedback from the workshop group. Then, at the end of the week, I will give you a detailed response to your poem – with praise for the places where your poem is lovely and powerful, along with suggestions for revision where the poem has not reached its full potential. My goal is to give you a deeper understanding of poetry, a deeper love of language, and a stronger mastery of the techniques which make a modern poem work. I love being a catalyst to help you take the next step in your writing. The workshop begins with an introduction called "Writing Poetry - A Life-Affirming Approach." This introduction covers artistic and spiritual ideas about how to write a poem, gives you inspiring quotes from famous poets and writers, and gives you ten practical ideas about how to write poetry that expresses who you are as a human soul. Along with this, you will get an E-mail about a gentle way to workshop poems, a template to offer feedback to other workshop members, and a seed idea to inspire the first poem. The E-workshop includes two E-mails per week - one with the seed idea for the week, and a second to respond in detail to your poem. You will also receive feedback from the members of your workshop group. The cost of the workshop is sliding scale: $150 to $200 for the eight-week session. For more information or any questions, send an E-mail to Diane Frank's website: