Not writing scares me….

ghostly.pngWrite what scares you…..

This is a poetry prompt given to me in one of my graduate level classes.

I don’t think it has to be just for poetry.

Experts tell us we should do something that scares us every day. I don’t know. I’ve done quite a lot of things that scare me – crossing the highest bridge in North America, swimming with sharks, – but those are kinds of scary that gives you a rush. Still valid to write about.

But in that assignment and poem, I wrote about a missing girl. Because those are the types of things that do scare me – when children go missing.

I wrote:

Have you seen her pass this way?

Shoe found, white.

Blood on the laces….

 

Write about what scares you….

 

Feel free to share!

 

Old School Inspiration

Yuself Komunyakaa is one of my favorite poets. He writes about love and passion, loss and war – all kinds of war, including the Vietnam war in which he served many years ago. Although he’ll write about, he won’t talk about it.

One of the many mysteries of poets. Sometimes purging our pains in poetry is so much easier than clearing our mind with conversation.

I love reading poetry because it inspires me. Does it inspire you?

 

The Soul’s Soundtrack

When they call him Old School
he clears his throat, squares
his shoulders, & looks straight
into their lit eyes, saying,
“I was born by the damn river
& I’ve been running ever since.”
An echo of Sam Cooke hangs
in bruised air, & for a minute

the silence of fate reigns over
day & night, a tilt of the earth
body & soul caught in a sway
going back to reed & goatskin,

back to trade winds locked
inside an “Amazing Grace”
that will never again sound
the same after Charleston,

South Carolina, & yes, words
follow the river through pine
& oak, muscadine & redbud,
& the extinct Lord God bird
found in an inventory of green
shadows longing for the scent
of woe & beatitude, taking root
in the mossy air of some bayou.

Now Old School can’t stop
going from a sad yes to gold,

into a season’s bloomy creed,
& soon he only hears Martha
& the Vandellas, their dancing
in the streets, through a before
& after. Mississippi John Hurt,
Ma Rainey, Sleepy John Estes,

Son House, Skip James, Joe
Turner, & Sweet Emma,
& he goes till what he feels
wears out his work boots
along the sidewalks, his life
a fist of coins in a coat pocket
to give to the recent homeless
up & down these city blocks.

He knows “We Shall Overcome”

& anthems of the flower children
which came after Sister Rosetta,
Big Mama Thornton, & Bo Diddley.
Now the years add up to a sharp
pain in his left side on Broadway,
but the Five Blind Boys of Alabama
call down an evening mist to soothe.

He believes to harmonize is
to reach, to ascend, to query
ego & hold a note till there’s
only a quiver of blue feather
sat dawn, & a voice goes out
to return as a litany of mock
orange & sweat, as we are sewn
into what we came crying out of,

& when Old School declares,
“You can’t doo-wop a cappella
& let your tongue touch an evil
while fingering a slothful doubt
beside the Church of Coltrane,”
he has traversed the lion’s den
as Eric Dolphy plays a fluted
solo of birds in the pepper trees.

 

Notebook or Computer?

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Dan Brown, Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume, and a number of other authors talk about writing in notebooks.

Blume says she fills it up from start to finish. I have to admit, a have a number of half empty notebooks. I keep them in various places, the car, the bedroom, dining room table, my desk. Then, I move them around, put them elsewhere and begin a new one before I rediscover the one I previously used.

I used to use big composition notebooks. These days I use smaller journal types.

Studies show that writing by long hand in a notebook uses a different part of the brain.

I wrote Grandma’s Last Secret by long hand in a notebook.  I wrote the whole of West End in a notebook before I ever thought of touching the laptop. I feel like there’s a difference for me. And sometimes, the notebook is easier on the eyes, easier on the brain. I don’t feel as much pressure from a pen and paper that I do when I sit in front of the computer.

But I do write on the computer sometimes too. I sit down and I’ll write a story, sometimes, from start to finish on the computer without considering a notebook.

Do you use notebooks? Or computers? or Both?  Feel free to share in our facebook group.

Are you a rule follower?

rules.jpgJudy Blume recounts a story in which she took a writing for children class and they set out the rules involved in writing for young children, then she went and broke all of them.

Rules have purpose, have value. They give us the basics.

Hear me out on this – I believe we need to know the rules. We don’t need to necessarily continue to follow the rules.

Picasso followed the rules. But when he was comfortable and confident, he broke them in order to develop his own style.

Every writer should know the rules of writing. Even if they choose not to follow them.

Found Poems

This being poetry month, I thought I’d talk about poetry and share some poems with you.

When I was first introduced to the “found poem,” it seemed like plagiarism. My mentor suggested, I cite the original author or write “after….” and the name of the author the original text came from.

The Found Poem is just that – found. Take another’s work, words, phrases, or other, and rephrase or reframe forming it into your own fresh and original poem.

My found poem, “The Friendly Isle,” was originally published in DayBreak many years ago.

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While I don’t have any books of poetry out – yet – I do have a number of poems published. Check out my list of publications, and check out the books I do have on Amazon.

Try one of your own and feel free to share here in our facebook group!

The Secret to Successful Short Stories

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I spent much of my time in grad school trying to please a certain teacher and understand the secret formula for a short story.

Up until that time, I’d only written novels (or novellas), longer pieces of work in which I developed the characters and followed a plot. These felt full and complete.

Writing one small selection vexed me.

So I read and read and researched and attempted one time after another to create a successful short piece.

I suppose there is no formula and  no one right answer, which is what I was looking for – the correct answer.

Of the things written in grad school, the one instructor I attempted to satisfy deemed them mostly unworthy.

It wasn’t until near the end of graduation that an instructor said “half of that story was the best he’d ever read.”

He didn’t tell me which half.

However, almost all those stories have been pulled out, dusted off, and accepted with few edits. Hence – dear teachers – they were good! I had learned something; I had accomplished something.  (I must be doing something right, over 30 published in the last few years!)

There may not be one right answer, and there’s no secret, nor is there a hidden formula. Short stories need to get to a point, need to have conflict, need to show a budding of growth – perhaps.