#Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

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From the fast-paced world of journalism
to the more dead than alive contributors
of the literary one,
she was constantly changing gears,
trying to balance these 2 different animals;
the latter she could put her whole self in,
the former, she had to learn to leave herself out.

Creative writing was in her blood,
journalism was in his bones.
When she donated a pint
& he donated some marrow,
they had gone beyond just
writing about life
to giving it back.

Her office was her day job’s breakroom,
her car,
her conference room.
Lunch hour was still an hour,
her lunch,
5 minutes.
With her portable phone & computer,
she freelanced her way to another byline
which,
for this junior reporter,
was a natural high.

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#Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

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Subject & Verb had a disagreement,
for Dynamic Verb believed it was superior
to Static Subject,
until Verb realized that without a vessel,
his work could not be done,
& Subject realized that without some action,
no one would care.
It was then they decided that the real enemy
was the Adverb—
an extremely, incredibly, annoyingly extraneous
part of speech.

Through her typewriter,
the introvert known as Elizabeth von Baron
became known as Dear Libby,
so that as she became established in the spirit,
her shyness,
in the flesh,
disintegrated.

She scribbled on the walls,
a pre-literate graffiti,
a magenta crayon being her tool of choice.
She drew her stories on the carbon paper
her mother brought home,
each picture numbering 1000 words.
She wrote her stories in black-&-white
composition notebooks—
stories that rewrote her history—
so that she became the worst sort
of unreliable narrator,
for she plagiarized from no one’s life,
not even her own.

Writer’s Digest November Poem-a-Day 2017 Challenge #20. Theme: What I Learned

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What I’ve Learned (so far)

What I learned from Creative Writing is that you don’t take it with the notion of learning how to get published–you take it to learn how to become a better writer so that you will have a better chance of getting published.

What I learned from Computer Concepts… Well, that would be nothing. Nothing at all.

What I learned from Ethics was “The Silver Rule” (or what I call the passive rule, as it concerns not doing something), and that I can Kant.  (I also learned that I love philosophy.)

What I learned from Poetry was that rhyme is limiting (take that, Robert Frost–I play dangerously without a net!), and that a person who wears a “Make America Great Again” hat wants to discuss more than mere poetry. I also learned that with workshopping, it’s wise to abide by the admonition of Cinderella, which is “to have courage and be kind.”

What I learned from English Composition II was how to write a research paper on a subject I knew nothing about (i.e. horses) and that Shakespeare is more fun to discuss than read. (I also learned that ratemyprofessors.com is pretty accurate.)

What I learned from Intermediate College Algebra was that I was not necessarily brilliant, but persistent enough to not allow the fear of algebra keep me from finishing college a second time.

What I learned from Security Awareness (besides finding a cure for insomnia) was that I could go viral (if not bacterial) on YouTube and make lots of money producing cat videos.

What I learned from Contemporary Literature is that a playful syllabus is indicative of a chill professor. (And a chill professor won’t take it personally if you kill him off in one of your stories. He just might laugh!)

What I learned from College Publications, Reporting, and working on the student newspaper is that I can make 24-hour deadlines. I learned that being a humor columnist would be my dream job (as I will never have a passion for reporting “ticker-tape news,” but for what comes after).

What I learned from medical coding classes what that I hate medical coding, but in learning that, I also learned that no education is ever wasted, for it took a wrong turn to get to the right one.

And what’s more, I learned that with a career and a family, it will take me longer to finish my education, but that’s okay, for as my college newspaper adviser says, “No one has ever asked me how long it took to get my Ph.D.”

There is time.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-20

 

Creative Writing Prompt: The Object of the Story (or the story behind the object)

One thing I wanted to do on this blog (at least for the month of January) was to share some of the creative writing prompts I participated in last semester’s creative writing course.

That said, the following prompt was inspired by a scholarship essay contest.  I had to write about scanners (of all things), and I thought, as I wrote, one could take any object and write a story about that object.  I could write about the remote control (and how my husband always manages to be in charge of it; I finally had to say something about him skipping over all the contestant interviews on “Wheel of Fortune”).  I could write about my car, and all the freedom it affords me .  I could write about my Michelle, the red-headed Cabbage Patch of my childhood, who I would drag around by the hair (my parents said I liked to “cuff around” all my dolls and stuffed animals, lining them up and yelling at them).  The possibilities are endless, for an object has little meaning, except for the meanings we attach to it.

So, when I had to write about scanners, I got creative, and ended up telling a true story about a childhood memory.

I would also like to hear from you–what objects (maybe in 140 characters or less) you would write a story about, and why.  (Looking at old photos can help with this.)

Scanners:  Reality in Real Time

The sometimes staticky crackle of police scanners brings back memories.  When I was a little girl, I spent every summer with my Grandpa and Grandma Booker in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.  Every night, my grandfather, who slept downstairs in the basement, would have the police scanner on—
what I like to call “blue noise”.

Poplar Bluff was a relatively small town back then (it still has only one high school).  I would sometimes open the door at the top of the stairs and listen to the sounds that made me think of walkie-talkies.  Sometimes, his snoring that was loud enough to wake undead would drown out the dialogue, or the cuckoo clock would pop out like an angry bird, scrambling my ability to decipher what was going on in the wee hours in P.B.  Listening to the scanner was like trying to see past the snow that clouded the premium channels.  It was a small source of fascination for me.

Turning the scanner on before bedtime was Grandpa’s nighttime ritual, like boxing and St. Louis Cardinal games were his entertainment during the waking hours; like watching the lightning bugs with their greenish-yellow glow in the evening, and noting the goings-on at the Slinkard house across the street in the afternoons.

Scanners are like an inconspicuous way of snooping one one’s neighbors—a gift for the lazy Gladys Kravitzes of the world; for ambulance chasers, and for those who like true reality, rather than the manufactured fluff, the alternate realities, made up for television.  What we hear on scanners is gritty, raw—like listening to a 911 tape.

My dad still remembers some of the stuff he heard.  There was a woman in Poplar Bluff who always spoke in a monotone and said, “Won’t start”, whenever a car had to be towed.  She would recite the address and that would be the end of it.  Sometimes there would be a weather alert.  There was also woman named Miss Wiley who was known at the time for always contacting the police about a prowler, the cops saying sarcastically, “Someone’s out there.”

Dad and Grandpa would listen to the Missouri Highway Patrol give license tags, always saying “B-as-in-boy” (I guess B-as-in-badass wasn’t acceptable), and, once in awhile, they’d hear the paramedics in ambulances give blood pressure readings (which seems like an invasion of privacy now).  Most of the time, scanners were a comforting background noise that didn’t distract like a television, flickering red and green instead of black and white.

Sometimes Dad would be lying in bed and the scanner would be completely silent, and then suddenly a BOLO alert would jolt them, startling them out of sleep or hurtling them out of semi-consciousness.

I remember when I came upon my grandpa’s old scanner with the silver antennae, and how I could make it go quiet when I pinched it between my fingers—that eerie sound of silence, like a blackout.  Scanners were as much a part of my childhood as Nick-at-Nite block party summers and the Hits Countdown with Casey Kasem.  Maybe someday, in my advanced age, they will become my white noise, lulling me to sleep.

Me and Michelle

Me and Michelle

 

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #329, Theme: You Should

For once, I was able to craft a poem the same day the prompt was issued.  This will be the last Wednesday prompt until December.  In November, there will be a Poem-A-Day (PAD) challenge that is dedicated to collecting material for a chapbook manuscript, and I am all in.  My goal will be to write shorter poems (which will definitely be a challenge for me).

The definition of the word “chapbook” has always eluded me, and so I looked it up and found this out:  Stephen King wrote a few parts of an early draft of The Plant and sent them out as chapbooks to his friends, instead of Christmas cards, in 1982, 1983, and 1985. Philtrum Press produced just three installments before the story was shelved, and the original editions have been hotly sought-after collector’s items.

I think that was a pretty neat idea, but since I’ve already planned all my holiday gifts this year, I am going to do this next year.  My family and I always do Christmas photo cards, so a poetry chapbook will simply be a fun addition to that.  I wrote a nursery rhyme (and framed it) for a friend of mine who’d had her sixth child, and her delighted response really gave me confidence that even friends who aren’t writers can appreciate your work.  Her reaction honestly meant more to me than winning a writing contest, because that is what writing is about to me–sharing and adding to one’s life in a positive way through words.

The PAD challenge is totally free (even though you win exposure, not cash), so that is HUGE when it comes to Writer’s Digest, who charges exorbitant fees to enter most of their contests.  Considering NaNoWriMo is also in November (and my Creative Writing prof wants us to participate), it’s going to be an even larger challenge, but if I have time to watch movies with my husband, I have time to do this.

Here’s the link if you’re interested in participating in the challenge:  http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2015-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-guidelines

And here is my poem that is not meant to be controversial in any way.

You Should…You Should Not

You should make the bacon,
not burn it.

You should bring home the bread,
not eat too much of it.

You should never put ketchup on a hot dog,
or a relish on a burger.

You should not put all your Easter eggs in one basket,
or eat a regifted fruitcake.

One should and should not do a lot of things,
and the wisdom is knowing the difference.

Creative Writing Prompt: Make Something Interesting

So I’ve been taking “Creative Writing 101” at the college for about a month now, and I’m learning new things as much as my imagination is being stretched in new ways.  One of our “journal entries” this week was to make something we do every day more interesting, or turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary day.  I chose to “keep it real”, as the Millennials would say (though I may be using that phraseology wrong, and I say this as “one of them”).

I chose to talk about my daughter, who is a great source of inspiration, and came up with a sort of how-to article.  Motherhood isn’t always fun (there’s just no way to put a bow on a poopy diaper and call it a present), but there are many ways to make bath time, feeding time, etc., more fun.  I chose feeding time because it’s my favorite time of the day.

~

Feeding your child can become very routine, but there are seven ways I’ve found to make feeding my daughter more of an experience for the both of us.  (By the way, it’s often easier to throw them into the bath afterward than try to keep them clean while eating.)

1. Feed your child new things (experiment with different kinds of fruits and vegetables) on a regular basis.  However, don’t be a picky eater yourself, because if she doesn’t like that four-dollar wad of goat cheese wrapped with cranberries and apricots that the Publix employee described as “tangy”, then you are stuck with it.  If you are always experimenting with new foods, you’re always teaching them new words (I clap out the syllables for long words, like avocado), colors, tastes, textures, and shapes, making feeding time more interesting for the both of you.

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2. Make up a silly song for each food they eat—it helps them remember.  Every time I feed her a peanut butter sandwich, I sing a little ditty I made up, extolling the virtues of plain PB&B (peanut butter and bread; we never have jelly).

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3. Let them get as messy as they want before a bath.  (Mine loves avocadoes, and they’re great for the skin, too.)  It actually is easier to just throw them in the bath to play than try to wipe them down.

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4. If you’re feeding your child dry cereal, put a piece on each one of your eyes and then pitch forward, so it looks like your eyes are falling out.  It just might make them laugh!

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5. Let them help you prepare (or watch you prepare) the food.  It may take a little longer, but everything takes longer with kids.  Do a little dance and clap or turn on the radio.  Let them rock out with a whisk and a pot or pan.

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6. Eat together.  Eating isn’t just a nutritional function, but a social one.  Let them experiment by tasting your food, as well.

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7. Learn sign language.  It’s a fun and great way to stretch your memory muscles, gain added dexterity in your hands, and teach your child objects, emotions, etc.

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12 Ways to Build Your Writer’s Platform

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Being a writer is a full-time job (though most of us only work at it part-time because we have paying jobs).  It’s been said that we should spend 80% of the time (normally spent writing) engaging others, and the other 20% creating content.  I confess I am backwards in this, because I never feel like I get enough writing done as it is; it is also quite easy to spend hours online, posting, tweeting, retweeting, commenting, reviewing, etc., and feeling like I get very little response back, besides a “follow” or a “like”.  (Retweets are what I am after.)  And often, I have discovered that one only follows me because they want a follow back, so never follow someone back unless their page interests you.  (“Ain’t nobody got time for that!”)

So I was searching for sample “killer” query letters because I’ve had a novel I tailor-wrote for Harlequin romance (never heard back, even though I’ve heard they read every submission).  I believe in the project, so I went to http://agentquery.com/ to pitch it to other publishers.  Though I already had a query letter prepared, I wanted to make sure it was the best it could be; I started doing my research, and found two great posts that helped me with that:

The Complete Guide to Query Letters That Get Manuscript Requests

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries

However, I realized that I needed to reevaluate my writer’s platform.  What inspired me to start a blog in the first place was an article I read in “The Writer’s Digest” more than two years ago about this very thing.  Only within the last several months have I stepped it up by joining Twitter, which I think is a must for any writer.  I’ve started promoting myself on there by having every WordPress blog post immediately publish to my Twitter page (in addition to my Facebook account, and once in a blood moon, LinkedIn); I strive to make all my tweets entertaining, rather than just self-promoting, which gets boring (author Amanda Patterson tweets great stuff).  I will never spam people by private messaging them on Twitter, asking for them to download my e-book, etc.–that is what your newsfeed is for, and yes, sometimes things get lost in the virtual shuffle, and so I believe it is perfectly acceptable to retweet such a request no more than twice a week (the minimum number of times we should blog to be considered a serious blogger, according to most).

When I first started Twitter, I was tweeting snippets of poems, usually a screenshot, but didn’t add any hashtags (don’t do that; I add hashtags in the reply box).  I’d also read that every blog post should have an image (we’re such visual people), but I rarely use any stock photography.  I think most of it looks bad, cheap, and unoriginal (and the high-quality kind, like Shutterstock, is pricey).  Try to take your own pictures.  I, personally, do not believe we need images to make a post come to life.  That is what the headline is for.

I got a lot of great ideas on how to promote myself/build my writer’s platform, some of which I’m already using.  I revitalized my LinkedIn account by posting my college essays and publishing some of the scholarship essays I wrote (not the Zombie Apocalypse one, though; LinkedIn is supposed to be a professional site).

So I’m doing the social media blitz, even publishing the novelette (about an apostate Mormon missionary) that inspired my novel, “Because of Mindy Wiley” on goodreads.com (see:  https://www.goodreads.com/story/confirm_explicit/405523?chapter=0).

Here are some of the 12 ways of author promotion I found the most useful.

  1. Monetize.  I had never thought of repackaging old blog posts and selling them as an ebook, and I’m not sure why someone would buy something they can get for free, but it’s a thought.  If you’ve published a lot of poetry on your blog, this might be for you.
  2. Create a resource page.  Share your list of resources on social media and with your email list.  I do this on my Websites for Writers page:  https://sarahleastories.wordpress.com/websites-for-writers/
  3. Learn and use appropriate Twitter hashtags.  Here’s a great resource by Caitlin Muir at Author Media: http://www.authormedia.com/44-essential-twitter-hashtags-every-author-should-know/
  4. Set up your YouTube channel.  According to Robert Lee Brewer, the “poet laureate of Writer’s Digest”, poetry is almost always better when read aloud.  My brother wrote a melody to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee”, and I could just imagine adding some desolate beach scenes to the audio.
  5. Invest in yourself.  Find courses, books, conferences, and people that can aid in your learning and success.  I am taking a Creative Writing class at the college right now, and will be investing a little money into getting a short story critiqued through Writer’s Digest before self-publishing it on amazon.com.
  6. Pitch a guest post.  I’ve already pitched a motherhood/lifestyle article to the Huffington Post (no pay, but great exposure), and there are a few others I am considering.  The main thing for me is posting at least twice a week on my own blog.  If you do get published on a guest blog, you will want your reader to have something worthwhile to link to.
  7. Create some link love.  People love being mentioned or quoted online.   Take the time to email the author or blog owner and let them know they were mentioned in your article.   They might possibly share a link to your article with their followers.
  8. Be everywhere.  Or at least be wherever your ideal readers are. Consider incorporating one or more of these social media networks into your platform building strategy:  Goodreads, Wattpad, Amazon Author Central, Pinterest, and Google+.
  9. Set up a social media schedule. Schedule time for activity on the social media platforms you are active on.  I have found that just checking my notifications is enough Facebooking for the day (still working on making this an everyday reality); as for Twitter, set up a special list, just for writing, so you don’t miss valuable tweets (like calls for submissions) because someone else you follow loves to tweet (and retweet) a lot.
  10. Start commenting.  If you already have a blog, you know how difficult–and how rewarding–it is to get comments on your posts.  Take the time to add insights, ask questions, or provide feedback on other author blogs.  A reblog is always nice, too.
  11. Create your Facebook Author page.  I don’t believe I am quite ready for this.  I feel I need to wait till I get something published to justify an author page (I could be wrong), and that means getting paid cash for my work, not just getting published.
  12. Setup your professional website.  Having a .blogspot, .WordPress, or .Typepad in your domain name denotes amateur status.  Before the end of the year, this is my goal.  It doesn’t cost very much ($18/yr.), and if I can’t design it so it looks more professional, I will hire someone.  I am quite frugal, so it has been hard for me to come to the point of paying for something I can get for free.

Source:  http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/actions-to-build-writer-platform/