Friday, October 20, 2017

Ekphrastic Poetry--A Challenge

Lady in the Mirror

One of the exercises at my online writers' group conference last spring featured Ekphrastic poetry, which is merely a poem describing a work of art. The writer takes the visual and makes it verbal. There were a number of postcard sized photos laid out on a table. We each selected one and then had ten minutes to write a poem using the photo as inspiration. 

This is the poem I wrote: 


She gazes at herself
looking so pensive,
shoulder bared,
beads falling on
snowy chemise

She ponders 
her pregnancy
just now known,
who to tell
and how.

She hates this
seed within
planted by him,
the one hired 
only to drive their car.
                   --Nancy Julien Kopp

I challenge you to write a poem using the artist's work shown below. Even if you've never written poetry before, give it a try. Free verse works well for beginning poets and those with experience, too. 

Waiting For The Stage (Richard Caton Woodville 1851)

Find other works of art to use as inspiration for an ekphrastic poem. It does not need to be a painting. Sculptures, carvings, and any other work of art can serve.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Who Can Give Good Writing Advice?

Lucy, the expert, is here to give us all some writing advice for the price of a mere nickel. Have you ever seen her on a street corner? I haven't, even though I keep an eye out for her wherever I go. Haven't seen Snoopy on top of his dog house tapping away on his typewriter either. 

But what about writing advice? Who is qualified to give it? I think there are three main groups of people who are qualified to help writers with tips and also some encouragement. 

Other Writers

Who knows better what works and what doesn't than other writers? It's why it's beneficial to read books on the craft of writing written by those who have been there, done that. Do I digest every bit of what they tell me in their book? Probably not, but many times certain parts stand out and are ones that I remember and try to incorporate into my own writing. All those little things I learn from other writers help me grow as I continue my own writing journey. 

Listen carefully to writers who present workshops at conferences. They've had some success in their field or they wouldn't have been invited to conduct the session. It's in places like this that you get some of the best tips about our craft. 

Reading the critiques from writers in my online writing group helps me learn, too. I view a sub in one light and another person sees a different perspective. It opens my eyes to new possibilities. We also learn from group discussions of writers, whether it be online or at a conference or having coffee with a writer friend. 

Those in the Publishing World

Who better to tell us what kind of writing has a chance of being published than those who work in that field? Editors and publishers have seen it all. They know how to weed out the good from the not-so-good and the perfectly awful submissions they receive. 

These people know what readers like. They are aware of the trends in the publishing world and watch for changes. They seek writers who are willing to work with them to make a good piece even better. 

Writers need to listen to editors. It's not a given that you'll always agree with them but do listen with eyes and heart open and willing to make changes. It's the writer's choice, of course, but consider being published versus a piece of writing languishing in a file and you can see the benefit. 


Yep, the readers give writers good writing advice in subtle ways. Readers love a certain genre for just so long and then, they move on to something new. Writers should pay attention to what it is that readers are purchasing, or borrowing from libraries. 

Readers sometimes write a fan letter to a writer. Glean all you can if you receive one. They may not say it exactly but a writer can read between the lines and gain a lot of understanding about how to write what readers want. 

Readers write reviews and cause ratings. Every writer should learn from watching both. 

If you can't find Lucy on a street corner, pay attention to the three groups listed here today for advice. Absorb it, then put it to use as you start new projects. The advice is yours for the taking.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Thoughts On Taking Time To Write


This poster could absolve all guilt about time taken away from other things in life so you can write. If you're a hobbyist writer or a part time writer, one who doesn't depend on writing for a full-time income, you probably do feel some guilt about stealing time to do something you love--writing. 

I like Gloria Steinem's philosophic quote. I imagine she is like many writers who shut out all the everyday parts of life when they write, as though a giant bubble surrounds them. They hear nothing nor see anything outside that protective, comfortable bubble. Not every writer can do this, however.

Think about the many times in your day that you waste time on silly little things. Something on tv catches your eye and you stop to listen. The minute or two could stretch into half an hour. You are putting laundry away when you suddenly decide to rearrange your closet. You open your junk drawer and rummage about searching for something you know is in there. Time to clean out the drawer when you cannot find it. When we're doing these little bits and pieces in life, we could be writing.

I know what you're thinking--I can't write every minute of the day. Of course, you can't but, when you do sit down to write, don't feel one bit guilty. All those other tasks are not going to go away. When you finish that first draft of a new essay, you can take up the household chores again. Believe me, they will wait for you. 

If you want to be successful in the publishing world, put writing high on your priority list. I know too many people who truly want to write but they let day after day slip by without writing a word. Other parts of their life take priority. It's why I urge writers to write something every day, even if it is nothing more than one paragraph or a 10 minute word exercise. Each day you don't write is one more day of delay. The longer you delay, the harder it is to get back in the swing of writing. 

Make writing an integral part of your day. There could be days when you spend hours tapping that keyboard and other that find you putting thoughts in print for only moments. However long, do it. Those who journal on a daily basis develop good writing habits. Most of all, feel no guilt about taking time to follow your passion. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fear Of Submitting Your Writing

I have noticed several articles lately on having the courage to submit your writing for publication. It's obvious, then, that this is a major concern for those who write. Why and what can you do about it?

No one likes to be put down. That's what writers feel like when a rejection comes flying back after a submission. I've had some come within an hour of the submission. Like an arrow soaring from the bow of an editor straight into my heart. Why put yourself in position for that kind of response? When those rejections arrive, whether immediately or months after submitting, we experience so many things--deflated, defeated, slapped in the face, punished, scolded, dumb, humiliated and more. There's no logical reason to feel those things; it seems to be human nature that we do so. 

Instead, we need to look at the reasons for the rejection. Many editors will soften the blow with some soothing words. Others will not. Just a blatant NO. Remind yourself that it is not 'you' personally that is being rejected (no matter how much it feels that way). The piece you submitted might have not been right for that publication. They may have published something similar recently. It was not on the theme. It may have been good but they accepted one that was better. 

What can you do about it?
As the quote today tells us, we need to believe in ourself before we ask someone else to do the same. It's easy to tell someone to do this but we have to practice what we preach, too. 

I have always taken the attitude that I will submit my work and take what comes as a learning experience.  I learn from both acceptances and rejections. And I do feel disappointed when a piece does not work out but I don't let it stop me from submitting again and again and again until that piece finds a home. Some never will but I can't know that unless I keep on sending it out. 

Writers sometimes dwell on the negative side instead of the positive. Work on breaking this habit if that is what you do. If you feel like what you've written is worthy of publication, keep pushing it. Steel yourself to the possibility of rejection. We know we will get more of those than acceptances. It's the nature of the game and you are most certainly not alone. You have plenty of company.

Quote about self-confidence - She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Writing and Rainbows

Rainbow, Rain, Arch, Toad River, Rainbow Colors

What is it about rainbows that bring us joy? Maybe it is because after a dark, gloomy sky and some rain, they brighten the day. We can read all about the scientific reasons for a rainbow--light refracting through water--raindrops--but that is not what speaks to our hearts when we witness the short-lived arc of glorious colors. We have heard myths about rainbows over and over, most especially the pot of gold that is said to be waiting at the end. Aaaahhh! Would that it were so! The famed song "Over The Rainbow" has helped our mental image of this glorious arc and helped create a certain love for it.

For me, the rainbow is something special that draws my attention and holds it.

You need to have a little something special in your writing, too, if you want to grasp your readers and hold them to the very last word of your story.

Think of the thousands of stories written each and every year. Only a few will be published. Many will be lost. Some will be forgotten. Which ones will be published and remembered? The ones that have a distinct difference from others.

How do you incorporate that rainbow in your writing? Try to find a twist or turn, a surprise of some kind, a lyrical way of writing the prose, or sensory details that make the reader experience each one. Do something that is totally different than what other writers produce. Not so easy but with practice you can accomplish it.

One help is to read, read, and read some more. What writers have caught your attention and kept it? Analyze the stories and learn what the writers did to capture you.

Don't write a predictable story. We've all read them. And I imagine many of us have written them. All a nice and cozy package, tied with a ribbon, waiting to be opened with no surprise inside.

I just finished reading a historical novel in which the villain turned out to be the very last person I would have suspected. Learning who it was took me by such surprise that I had to stop reading for a moment to digest it, then hurried back to learn the how and why of it.

Bring a rainbow into your writing to give your readers something special. Whether it is fiction or memoir, personal essays or poetry, make your readers want to keep reading what you write. They may not find a pot of gold at the end but they'll certainly enjoy what they read and come back for more.

Friday, October 13, 2017


Why is Friday, the 13th filled with bad omens? Fear of Friday the 13th  has its very own term-- paraskevidekatriaphobia. I dare you to try and pronounce it. 

I recently read that around 21 million people are superstitious enough to fear this occasional day in our calendar year. I have a brother born on the 13th but I don't think he's ever given it a thought. Then again, maybe he has but never voiced it. 

It is widely thought that fear of this date originates way back to Christ's crucifixion which occurred on a Friday and the night before there were 13 guests at The Last Supper. It fits, doesn't it? But who is to say the theory is right or wrong? Other cultures ignore the whole idea while a few hark it back to things of a nonreligious nature. 

What does this day have to do with writing? How about using the topic to write something that you can later submit. What can you write? 

Write About Superstitions:
  • nonfiction for children 
  • fiction for adults with superstitions highlighted
  • poetry lends itself to this topic
  • slip it into a Halloween story
  • how to give a Friday the 13th party
  • a memory piece of something that happened involving superstitions
  • a list of superstitions and how the belief in them came about
  • an article on foods/cooking for a Friday the 13th party
You may think of some others to add to what I've listed. 

Am I superstitious? My head tells me it's foolish but childhood experiences make me a wee bit wary. I do not walk under ladders. I do not open an umbrella inside. A beloved aunt admonished me often enough about either of those things that I still watch carefully. I don't mind being on the 13th floor of a building or in the 13th seat somewhere. I plan a pretty normal day on Friday the 13th. So, I guess I am not a full-fledged superstitious person. 

How about you? Believe it or laugh at it (and at those who truly are superstitious)? 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Writers Need To Read

Four people reading. What if they are also writers? What do you think they are reading? 

It makes sense to me that writers should read a lot of the same kind of writing that they do themselves. It's a learning process as well as pleasure.

A man who writes suspense thrillers could benefit from reading other authors of the same mind. 

One who writes personal essays can only learn more techniques by reading a myriad of personal essays.

Memoirists should soak up as many memoirs as possible to know what approach to take when writing their own. They should note which memoirs attracted them the most and then figure out the how and why.

Poets should immerse themselves in the poetry of others while they continue to write their own.

Writers of children's fiction should scour the library shelves in the Children's Department to see what the trend is, what made the classics so popular, how other writers reach out to children and more.

Nonfiction writers will be better writers if they also read a lot of nonfiction. Again, it's wise to see which articles attract you and then find out why. 

If you write How-To articles or books, read multiple article or books o the same nature. Which ones are the clearest in instruction; which inspire the most? Pattern your own after the winners.

No matter what type of writing you do, be sure to read a lot of the same. You'll be glad you did. I'm not advising you to neglect all other kinds of writing. Far from it. You need to take a break and read for pure enjoyment, too.