#Micropoetry Monday: Things We Set On Fire

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She blurred him from every record,
burned every photograph,
the ink dripping off the page,
mixing with the ashes at her feet,
but it wasn’t till he returned to the earth
in a pile of dust,
that she was able to breathe it all back in.

One man discusses climate change,
the other, pro-life policies.
Two futures—imminent & distant—
the former, having affected his ancestors,
the latter, his descendants.

It was a book of drunken incest,
& admonitions for slaves
to obey their cruel taskmasters.
There was the genocide of children–
rainbow promises that never again
would God destroy the earth with a flood,
but rather,
with every other thing.
It was the story of a jealous God,
a God who played favorites,
but a God who sent His Son–
a better version of Himself.

For here lies the Morgan family memorial–
the Morgans,
who lived together by choice,
who died together from having that choice
taken away,
& whose ashes,
in the same vessel,
were scattered–
death imitating itself.

When they lost their wealth,
they softened their conservative values,
for to accept help long enough
was more important than making
what was already hard,
harder than it had to be.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

Maxwell Manor was where we had spent our holidays.
Our house on Harrington Court, our everydays.
Soon, every day would be a holiday.

David said my eyes were imperial topaz,
my hair, woven by butterflies from corn silk dried in the sun,
my lips, rose petals, my tongue, the dew.

Once upon a time in Green Haven,
a man called David came,
saving my mother from single motherhood,
my sister & me from fatherless childhood.

Mother’s mourning dresses were black with long sleeves,
her dinner dresses little black sleeveless ones.
She wore her widowhood well.

Patrick had given her pearls,
however uncultured.
David had given her diamonds like herself—
flawless and cutting.

My 500th Blog Post: Why Blogging Rocks

When I look back at my earliest blog posts, I found myself editing some, deleting others (including reblogs–don’t waste your time on those, unless your blog or name is mentioned).  I wanted my 500th to be my true 500th.  It was quite a task going through all the old stuff.  I’ve learned so much about copy editing since then, and my writing has improved tremendously.

My blog used to be something I only posted on when inspired.  Now, it’s Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, without fail–the other days, when I feel like it.  This self-imposed discipline has helped me become better at meeting deadlines.

I had written this piece about blogging, and why blogging is awesome, for a scholarship contest. I’ve won hundreds of dollars writing scholarship essays, and even when I don’t win, I have a nice piece to post on here or LinkedIn, or submit elsewhere.  Who doesn’t love recycling?

Blogging, for me, hasn’t just been about the product, but the process.  It’s given me great writing practice, and given me an additional creative outlet, because sharing what I write is part of the fun of writing.

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Virtually Living the Good Life,
in the Blogosphere

A blog, unlike a painting, is a multi-layered work of art
that cannot be seen all at once.
A blog, unlike a book, is ever-evolving and has no end.

With the advent of the Internet, words have more power today than they ever have before, for they can transmit in a matter of seconds to billions of people simultaneously. The Internet is a virtual pond, where the thoughts of anyone with an Internet connection can ripple forever. Like blood scrubbed with bleach, even when something has been deleted by the administrator, there are still traces of it. Once you’ve spilled your guts into a computer, it is never completely gone.

So be careful with your words—they might come back to haunt you someday.

Since I was a third-grader in Ms. Yvonne Cahoon’s class, I’ve been a writer. “I just love reading your journals,” she would say, and the spark was ignited. Those journals weren’t just logbooks, but how I felt about what I saw and heard. (I didn’t learn how important it was to include sensory details, like touch, taste, and smell, until much later). Those journals were my first taste of writing creative nonfiction. I started with what I knew, and then, as Mark Twain would say, “distorted the facts as I pleased.”

My blog, besides my child(ren) and the few whose lives I hope I touch, are part of the legacy I will leave when I depart from this world. I like to think that my descendants, a hundred years from now, will know so much more about me than I know about mine. Many of my words I will take with me, but the ones I’ve written and will write for the enjoyment, and, hopefully, the enlightenment of others, are the ones I will leave for my great-great-great granddaughter to read. I like to think even if my words don’t become famous in this life, perhaps they will posthumously (à la Emily Dickinson). I suppose that’s why I chose creative writing over journalism, for how many newspaper articles about local politics or blog posts about parenting endure like a poem or a piece of literature?

That said, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out, for with the ease of sharing, there is oversharing, as there are over 74 million blogs on WordPress alone. Though I cannot control how many people choose to follow, share, reblog (also known as the Holy Grail of blogging), or comment on my posts, I do have control over the quality of the content. I’ve found that the shorter the post (400-600 words is recommended), the more likely it is that someone will read the whole thing. (I suspect that’s why haikus are so popular.) We like our information bite-sized now. Think about it: We’ve gone from the cake slice, to the cupcake, and now the cake pop.

You will (usually) get more mileage out of a tercet (a 3-line poem) than a 500-word blog post; in short (pardon the pun), you will be able to make more with less (i.e. generate more readership).

Wednesdays are the only days in which I have to create new content, which frees up time for me to spend on writing pieces that may get published for pay. (Every April and November, I post my Writer’s Digest PAD, or Poem-a-Day, Prompt. This is when I get a bulk of my followers, but you will stretch yourself too thin if you try to post 365 days a year. Once a week is the minimum you should post.

My blogging journey started in October 2014, after I picked up a copy of The Writer’s Market.  I read that blogging should be a part of every author’s platform, and Sarah Lea Stories: A Flurry of Creativity, was born (which I’ve since renamed). I blogged about everyday life: marriage, motherhood, food, and many other things (none of which I am an expert, but rather just have an interest in), though a part of me felt why should I give it all away for free? Did followers really translate into sales, even though I had nothing tangible to sell, but would someday? (The only time I’ve ever bought a book from someone I knew was if they were a member of my local writers’ group. Other than that, my way of book shopping was browsing the bookshelves at one of the local bookstores, reading Amazon.com reviews, or listening to my friends about the books they’ve read, simply because anyone can publish a book now.)

So no, not for me, at least not right now.

That said, it got to a point where I struggled to find things to write about—not that I was running out of ideas, but I liked to save the really good stuff for professional (i.e. paying) publication, as once something is published online, even on your own blog (and even if you have only 100 followers), it’s considered published and you will likely never be able to submit it anywhere else. So, never publish anything online that you may find an adopted home for someday. I’ve written volumes of work I will never publish on my blog.

My advice: Never blog your book—you’ve worked too hard to give it away, and I have found that a book I haven’t paid for, but downloaded for free, is actually less likely to get read because I have so many books I paid for competing for my attention. Professionally self-publish before you ever blog your book. At least that way, you might have a chance at making a little money off of it.

Notwithstanding, you should still always post your best (but not necessarily your most ambitious) on your blog, and it should never be a dump site. When I write something (whether specifically or not) for my blog, it represents me, and it’s going to be polished to a fine patina.

Moreover, writing short on a daily basis has helped me add richness to my longer works, for what is a Great American Novel without great lines? With a blog, you see the results immediately, mostly via likes and maybe a follower or two (comments, apparently, take a great deal of effort because it requires you to actually read the article). With a novel, it might be months or years before you get feedback (much less published), besides the form letter that says it was great, but just wasn’t for them (which are the most maddening kind.)

Nevertheless, don’t let blog writing take too much time away from the writing that might make you money someday, unless you plan on making money from your blog. (I prefer the term “online column”.) Give your audience just enough to get to know you and your work (don’t just sell, but tell), because your blog will be one of your greatest assets when you publish that breakout novel.

~

Don’t think of blogging as giving away your hard work for free, but as investing a little time in yourself and your brand. There are fifteen great reasons to start blogging now!

1. It helps people get to know you better. If you are at present unknown, people are more likely to take a chance on buying your book if they feel they have a personal connection with you. Blogging is also a great way to advertise your product, but make the ad entertaining. Everyone loves a story, so use a story; you’re a writer, after all. Even Jesus got people to “buy” what He said using parables.

2. It gives you a voice, an outlet. Blogging isn’t a diary, but a narrative. No one sees the world quite like you do. As Edmund Wilson says, “No two persons ever read the same book.”

3. It satisfies our temptation for instant gratification. That’s one of the many reasons why we write—to connect with others.

4. It gives you writing practice.

5. It instills discipline with self-imposed deadlines.

6. It enhances your creativity. I’m not sure I ever would’ve stuck with the Writer’s Digest prompts if it hadn’t been for needing regular content. (I always include the link to the prompt, as it helps with search engine optimization.)

7. It’s free. (You don’t even have to pay for images.)

8. It can make you money. Attract enough followers, and this can happen to you.

9. It can get you speaking engagements. This is where many writers make a lot of their money.

10. It sharpens your observation, makes you become more aware. Everything, and everyone, has a story.

11. It helps you learn. You can learn as much by researching as you would by being taught.

12. Depending on the job description, it looks great on a resume.

13. It leaves a legacy. Like any distant star, there is a chance someone might land on it.

14. It replaces the dreaded Christmas letter. (This is if you post personal stuff on your blog, and some do, for friends and family.)

15. You get to know yourself better. Though writers often live inside their heads, they don’t always self-reflect, especially if they’re used to making things up. I’ve learned how to capture the ordinary, and make it extraordinary.

I’m still learning everyday how to become a better blogger, website designer, photo editor, and someday photographer.

Blogging, if done right, will not take a great deal of your time. What’s great about it is that you have complete control over your content and can even write ahead for it if you know you’re going to be short on time. (I did this during my summer medical internship, with months’ worth of Monday and Friday blog posts “in the can.”)

Blogging is a great way to unload some pent-up creativity—a way of shedding the excess, so you can focus on writing down the bones.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #400: Event

Years ago, I remember watching the music video of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” It’s a great song (even though Sean Hannity uses it for his radio show/talking points monologue).

As a girl, I thought the song was simply about the Fourth of July, just as I thought “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver was about a high school.

Ah, the innocence of children.

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Independence Day

She leaned on him,
but when he fell,
she found that she was
still standing—
sure of herself in every way
except her decision
to pick the right one
a second time.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-400

 

 

#Micropoetry Monday: Love Comes Darkly

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She was a goddess of the Domestic Arts,
a knitter of broken hearts,
a cooker of comfort foods,
a cleaner of sacred spaces,
a maker of beds—a woman who had chosen that path
because it was the only one her husband showed her.

She quit her family, choosing her lover & his children,
but found herself haunted by the husband & daughter she’d left behind.
When her lover died & she returned years later,
she saw she’d built her happiness on their unhappiness.

She ended a marriage to begin a relationship
that would never end in wedlock,
hoping her new love would make
her husband’s same mistake.

She married the man of her recurring dreams,
the man of one woman’s single nightmare,
only to find when she slept,
he became more real.

She went to rehab to overcome her alcoholism,
only to find the man addicted to pornography
who became addicted to her.

Saturday Evening Post: Honorable Mention

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So I just entered The Saturday Evening Post’s “Great American Short Story” contest, and read on their site that as long as a story was only published on a personal blog, it would qualify for submission.  That led me to inquire if it would be permissible for me to post my story that placed as an Honorable Mention in their contest two years ago (and published in their digital anthology); they said that was fine (and also appreciated the mention).

My short story was based on a cold case (literally and figuratively) of a grave-robber who haunted Pensacola, Florida, in the Fifties.  It’s a mystery that spans generations and ends up answering the question, “Whodunit?”

I just posted the first several lines, and included the story in its entirety as a PDF for those interested in reading the whole thing.

The Ghoul of Whitmire Cemetery

“Grandma,” Ellie Dolan said, holding the birdlike, bluish-white hand of the woman who had raised her after her mother’s passing.  “I have wonderful news.  Mr. Trune loved the stories I sent him, and he’s going to give me my own space.  He really dug the idea of a cold case column.”

She had expected her grandmother to look pleased, but she only looked troubled.

The Ghoul of Whitmire Cemetery

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

Like clusters of starlings or
synchronized swimmers,
the dark suits expanded & contracted—
floating in the humid,
airless atmosphere.

I found myself wanting not what I wanted,
but what I was supposed to want right then,
& wanting what, at that time,
was wrong for me to have.

We were here to do great work,
inspire someone else to,
or birth one who would.
Rarely, did one accomplish all 3,
but if we completed but one,
our life had purpose.

Mother had the dark beauty of Odile,
yet the pure heart of Odette.
She was like Irena in Cat People–
all the way till the dark overcame her.

As children,
Caitlin had always wanted to be the hider,
I, the seeker;
yet now, grown, I sought to hide from God,
even as she sought Him out.