Love Toni Morrison!
Love Toni Morrison!
Take a very common thing from your kitchen and write a poem about it.
It will most likely become a poem about something else.
I think I’m going to try a spoon. (There’s actually a pretty famous poem about a spoon – by Billy Collins)
If someone says they read your work, it does not matter whether you believe them or not or whether they did or not – Don’t test them!
I work with an American Pen Award winner – he is the epitome of modest and professional. I ran into him and said, “loved the book.” He said thank you. And that is all we should say!
I had one writer begin asking me questions about their work. I felt they didn’t believe I’d read their work, so they wanted to test me.
Maybe it was they just wanted to ask my opinion or probe my analysis of certain aspects of their work. But, see, I read for pleasure.I’m unprepared to answer questions other than what I enjoyed about the novel.
There are times I’ve read to analyze someone’s work because I wanted to learn something from or when they’ve asked me too because they want my opinion on one or more aspects of their work.
So – when a writer asks some in depth question about some random detail on page 145 – I’m really sort of stopped short.
I read nightly. If I read their book or story last week, I’ve probably read another book and 50 student essays since. If I read it last month, we’re talking at least two books, possibly three, and over 124 student essays and 300 short literature responses from students.
Last, but not least, it’s just plain rude. When someone has told me they’ve read my story, I say thank you. If they want to ask me questions or say more, I’m willing to listen. But I leave it to the reader.
There’s a number of small presses and publishers looking for younger poets and writers. It’s always disappointing to me, infused with experience and wisdom, to see an age limit on a submission form of a literary journal or publisher.
I know that America, and much of the world these days, has no respect for age; however, there was once this school of thought that there was some value in life experience.
Publishers want to discover the bright new star or hang on to someone who has a long and bright future ahead of them.
Instead of what, I assume, they mistakenly believe will be a one hit wonder leading to a quick and timely death.
That is why age matters to them.
HOWEVER – age does not matter. Many great poets and writers were “discovered” well after their 29th birthday: Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, Janet Fitch, Billy Collins, among many, many more!
You are not too old to learn the craft, you’re not too old to start writing, you’re not too old to submit, you’re not too old to publish.
When vexed by the youth, I remember that I can read a mapbook, I can light a fire, I know how to address a letter for post. If all technology were lost, I’d be able to survive.
Writer’s block is the writer’s arch enemy.
And though it can be solved, one of the problems is that it takes faith to believe it can be overcome and it does take work.
Someone, recently, asked me how to get over a block and I gave him the following advice. He responded, “that’s too hard!”
If you want to get through a block – you have to push. If you are not willing to do the work, then why are you here?
One way – and it is just one idea – to get through writer’s block is to write your way out of it.
Use a separate document, handwrite it, get out of the story you’re working on and write somewhere else – but write, and keep writing – it might take you ten pages to get to where you need to be, and you might get two or three good pages out of that – but guess what, you will have written yourself out of the block.
Ten pages not enough? Still feeling blocked? Keep writing!
Think of it this way – something is in your way. If you were driving somewhere and the road was blocked, would you turn around and go home, go back to bed, and give up? Or would you use mapquest to find a different way to get there.
Something is in your writing way, get off that street (document), look at mapquest (other ideas, roads, methods, ways), and get moving.
To some people it is.
I have a friend who picks and chooses where he wants to be published so carefully that he submits maybe once or twice a year at most. He hasn’t been published in maybe 6 or 8 years.
He’s an extremely good writer. Better than I.
He says, he wants to only be published where his name will be seen, where it will matter.
I took this to mean he didn’t approve of my many publications with small presses, some of which no one has ever heard.
What do you value and why? Ask yourself.
Billy Collins, btw, began publishing in what he refers to as fly by night or small presses of which no one ever heard.