Summer mini-writing workshop: Last call

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So, like my Writer’s Digest Wednesday poetry prompts (and WD’s Poem-a-Day challenges in April and November), I am moving on to other projects. I am retiring this seasonal blog feature and will spend more time writing for paying publications (or at least publication credits). I’ll still keep a notebook of all the things I learn and share those on occasion in regular posts, but I’m tired and frankly, a bit overwhelmed with all the free (literally) writing I do, as much as I enjoy all the comments and feedback on it. I have fans, but I’m ready for customers.

University has gotten more intense (baccalaureate writing is tough), and I don’t need any more writing deadlines than I already have. I’m ready to streamline my process and not have to keep up with so many small pieces of writing, such as these workshops. Though I enjoy sharing writing tips, I’ve realized that creative writing, more so than ever, is my true love, and I want to make more time for that, among other things completely unrelated to writing and the craft. I hope those of you who are writers found the tips and truths helpful; these features helped me backlink to old posts—to get two for the price of one and refresh those old posts by running them through the Grammarly app (which I recently discovered), darken the font (for some reason, my WordPress text is set to dark gray), delete the stock photo and use an image that exclusively belongs to me, and add new tags and delete old ones. 

These past several months, I have been slowly removing things from my plate. I don’t like being in front of a screen all the time. I want to spend more time in green and blue spaces and work with my hands rather than my fingers all the time. I want to read more deeply (which I do so much better on paper) and scribble notes all over drafts (also on paper). I’ve had this blog almost seven years, and 1000+ posts in, I feel like I’m finally ready to make something great happen with my writing, and it has nothing to do with a college degree but all I have learned while getting it. I’m ready to put myself on an hourly rather than a daily writing schedule, where I will shut the door and work, and then put it away. I want to begin my day with some contemplation on the front porch, maybe a cup of tea (oh, who am I kidding? It’ll be coffee.) I don’t want to be up all hours of the night, toiling away at the keyboard. By treating my writing as a job rather than a hobby, I can make something happen, but does that mean I have wasted my time? Absolutely not, for everything I’ve done with my writing has led me to this point.

So far, I’ve come up with this formula (see below). When I start the fall semester, I will try to adhere to the formula below, even if I can only do it four times a week and spend the other two strictly on coursework (even God took a day off). 

1.5 hours writing + 1 hour editing + 30 minutes submitting = professional writing success?

Of course, I’ll aside time once a week to go through my photographs and work on my Shutterfly books, but that’ll be a weekend thing and not more than a couple of hours a weekend, at that. 

 

 

Micropoetry Monday: Opposites

Opposites

The Shutterfly edition

Jack Went Up, Jill Went Down

He was a mountain climber,
she, a social one.
He treaded over treacherous terrain,
she, over treacherous,
sometimes lecherous,
people.
Nature was as unpredictable
as people were not,
but he would take being put-off
by the weather
to having to put-on
for anyone.

Siggy was a psychologist,
Jane, an anthropologist.
He saw people for their minds,
she, their matter.
After a bottle of chilled champagne
& two dozen oysters on ice,
some cerebral gymnastics
& bone jumping that was quite fantastic,
she looked down at him & said,
“You love me for my matter
as much as I love you for your mind.”

When American Coffee Mug met English Teacup,
it was contempt at first sip,
for Mug thought Teacup was an old bag,
much too steeped in her own snobbery,
whereas Teacup thought Mug was crude
& much too unfiltered,
but when they were bounced out of Canada
for disturbing the Justice of the Peace,
they expatriated a second time,
ending up in Australia,
only to end up getting iced.

Summer mini-writing workshop: More on nonfiction writing

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Just like query letters and synopses, writing blurbs, in this DIY world, is part of the process. https://blog.reedsy.com/write-blurb-novel/ Here is an example of a blurb for my postmodern short story, “Jordan/Jordyn,” where I used gender-neutral pronouns (it was a largely experimental project): Jordan Morrison has always felt his body was a mistake. His Catholic upbringing and gender dysphoria have started a civil war inside him, but it is his romance with Drew—a young woman with whom he’s been honest about his gender identity—that concerns him. Will she still love him when he becomes Jordyn, or does she only love what makes him a man? Will their relationship survive the transformation that will right what Jordan believes nature made wrong, or is Drew only pretending to support his decision because she knows it’s what he wants?

Part of my job used to be going through the daily obituaries. I’ve read some lovely tributes that captured the spirit of a loved one. Don’t wait until someone transitions before you record your memories of them, for what a treasure it would be to interview my grandparents and capture their stories—the ones only they could have told. In my Shutterfly account, I made memory books of my daughter where I document things—like how her dad and I used to put her duck, Quackers, on the fan blade and make him spin around till he fell off. Jot down your memories at their ripest and then freeze them at their freshest.

When I took Professional and Technical Writing, I learned how to create a beautiful and comprehensive set of instructions. If you can teach someone how to do something, great, but if you can help them teach themselves, even better. https://sarahleastories.com/2019/11/16/how-to-schedule-posts-ahead-of-time-on-your-facebook-author-business-page/

I already know what I think of myself and can only imagine what other people think of me. A great quote from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is when Mr. Toohey asks the idealistic architect, Howard Roark, “Mr. Roark, we’re alone here. Why don’t you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us,” to which Roark replies, “But I don’t think of you.” For this exercise, you must dig deep—remove yourself from your writing and step into the mind (if not the shoes) of someone else who knows you fairly well. You are not looking in the mirror, but you are looking at yourself, looking in the mirror. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/26/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-26-theme-relationship/

Press releases may not be literature, but they serve a purpose, and the more types of writing you can do, the better you’ll become at the type of writing you like to do best.

I love telling my stories above all others. Maybe that’s because I’m an introvert. I also enjoy telling other people’s stories, though I ensure theirs are the ones I want to tell.

Every family has their traditions. Mine was always opening gifts on Christmas Eve (with no explanation of why Santa came early). By becoming your family’s historian, you are preserving not just the family tree but the fruit borne from it.

A cover letter to a magazine should be simple. Here is an example:

Dear Editor (if you know their name, use it; if you must specify Poetry Editor, etc., do so),

Please consider “The Murderous Yogi” for Dog Day Mornings, which is 2020 words. I have been published on writersdigest.com, in Bella Grace magazine, and with The Saturday Evening Post. I am pursuing my B.A. in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing, at the University of West Florida, and am a Writing Expert for Grammarly.

Thank you,

Sarah Richards

*If you read and liked one of the articles they published, mention it to show you read their journal; however, this isn’t a must-do thing.

Micropoetry Monday: Opposites

Opposites

The Shutterfly edition

He was chess,
she, checkers.
He was Ivy League,
she, bowling league.
While the former appreciated her
like a museum exhibit—
a look-see into a ferly world—
the latter saw him not so much
as out of her league,
but as her way out
of the bowling league.

She spent her life writing her memoirs,
he, painting self-portraits.

They were 2 of a kind,
for she saw her readers
as wanting to be her friend
or live a life like hers,
even as he saw his viewers
as either wanting to look like him
or wanting someone who looked like him.

He was a blacksmith,
she, a wordsmith.
The objects he crafted,
people had to hold in their hands,
but the words she created
could be held in their hearts
simultaneously.

Summer mini-writing workshop

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There is a story behind every new technology. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/10/07/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-325-theme-forget-blank/

Just as Cecil B. DeMille believed you could take a page out of the Bible and make a movie, grab a medical coding book and find something to write about (other than cancer, unless it’s a memoir). The complexities of the human mind and body are vast.

https://sarahleastories.com/2016/07/21/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-359-theme-uncontrollable/

Rather than write a movie review, write a poem about it. It still requires analysis on a deeper level. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/10/27/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-328-theme-movie-inspired-poem/

“Just So” type stories (a la Rudyard Kipling) have always helped me answer questions no one ever thought to ask. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/11/05/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-4-theme-once-upon-a-blank/

Write about something that seems like a contradiction but isn’t.  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/11/03/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-theme-united-andor-divided/

The metaphor is what poetess Kim Addonizio refers to as the shimmer. Make a list of your favorite things and come up with metaphors for each. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/18/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-17-theme-swing/

Pick a line from one of your previous works. If doing this sparks a series, tie the last poem in with the first. This is a great exercise because you never begin with a blank page. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/29/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-29-theme-response-to-a-previous-poem-this-month/

Serve up a slice of Americana. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/04/08/poem-a-day-2016-writers-digest-challenge-8-theme-doodle/

Micropoetry Monday: Opposites

Opposites

The Shutterfly edition

He was always crunching numbers,
she, digesting words,
& together,
they made up a complex word problem,
describing an outlandish scenario
that would never occur in real life.

He’d sought Kodak moments,
she, Instagrammable ones.
Even though each believed
there was more merit in their medium,
they still managed to capture
the magic that was in each other—
his, in telling a story
& hers, in writing it.

When Fiddle met Violin,
they each believed they were better
than the other,
for Fiddle was preferred by the dirt poor,
Violin,
by the filthy rich,
until they realized
that they still needed their bows
to make their bodies sing.

Summer mini-writing workshop: Writing tips

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We all have something in our lives that makes living easier or better. For me, those things would be air conditioning, online bill pay, and, of course, coffee. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/23/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-23-theme-action/

Write a love letter to something you are running out of. Show your appreciation. 

https://sarahleastories.com/2020/03/19/ode-to-tp/

Think of how much the world has changed in 1000 years (or even 100 years). Now, imagine how much it will change in so many years. Don’t worry about listing everything; just pick one thing and expand on it. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/20/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-20-theme-earlier-line/

When you write from life, you become a data miner. I save emails, newsletters, photos of random things, fliers, quotes, links, obituaries/newspaper clippings, and even job descriptions. This piece, for example, was inspired by some of the event fliers I saw posted on bulletin boards around campus. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/14/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-14-theme-report/

Jot down a list of mysterious titles like The Magician’s Daughter or The Undertaker’s Wife and write their story, never using their name. It worked for the second Mrs. DeWinter in Rebecca.

Hilarity ensues when there is a miscommunication about an object’s intended purpose. https://sarahleastories.com/2017/12/21/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-419-made-sense-at-the-time/

Think of something you hate, and figure out how to repurpose it in such a way that you love it. https://sarahleastories.com/2017/11/18/writers-digest-november-poem-a-day-2017-challenge-18-theme-good-for-nothing/

Grammarly is an incredible resource. This article has some great ideas if you’re stuck. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/things-to-write-about/

Micropoetry Monday: Opposites

Opposites

The Shutterfly edition

Bubba was checkers on the front porch,
Barron, chess in the parlor.
For the former,
the kings ruled the board,
the latter,
the queens,
but for 99-year-old Smithy Norville,
anyone who could move backwards,
forwards,
or diagonally
had the all power,
for they could cut a rug
like Fred & Ginger.

He was the king of mugshots,
she, the queen of Glamour Shots.
She helped him make love to the courtroom cameras,
even as he taught her how to BOLO for Bertha,
who fancied herself as Bubba’s main squeeze.
His photos ended up on his momma’s fridge,
even as her gilt-framed portraits ended up over her father’s fireplace,
illuminated by candles on the mantle,
which explained why Lefty Shakes & Merlynne Munroe were
the way they were.

She was the Countess of Persiflage,
he, the Earl of Earnestness.
She was as funny
as he was funny-looking,
& they made a living off each other—
with her making fun of him
& he,
making her life less fun
with his habitual heckling.

Summer mini-writing workshop: Writing ideas

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Some things are American icons. Anyone who is a fan will probably read what you have to say about it. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/09/02/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-321-theme-gripe/

Write about what you know but also what you (or someone else) loves. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/17/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-15-theme-favorite/

Comparing one thing to something else can help you see old things in new ways. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/04/15/poem-a-day-april-2018-writers-digest-challenge-15-theme-metaphor/

Just as we learn history to keep from repeating it, we can take the present and predict the future. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/05/16/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-436-comprehensive/

There are many ways to play with language. Sometimes restraint helps creative juices flow in unexpected directions. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/19/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-18-theme-two-vowels-only/

There is a story behind every letter and number. Find it, or make it up. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/07/submission-for-fifth-month-scholarship/

Technology and class systems are great fodder for science-fiction writers. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/04/04/poem-a-day-2016-writers-digest-challenge-4-theme-distance/

Consider possible origins of a popular sentence or saying, and write a story of how it came to be. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/12/19/book-review-ella-minnow-pea/

For 400 words or fewer, you can get editorial feedback. That’s pretty golden. https://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/writing-challenge-close-quarters/