10 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

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1. Rather than trying to submit to everything, read and study certain publications that interest you and write for them.  If you want to submit a book to a publisher, study what the publisher publishes, and that should give you a fairly good idea if your work will be a good fit for them.

2. Blog at least twice a week.  (I’ve found that posting my Writer’s Digest Wednesday prompts really helps me keep this goal.)

3. Try to submit as often as you write.

4. Seek to entertain others, rather than sell yourself.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve not followed someone back on Twitter because every tweet is about their book.

5. Write at least 500 words (committed) 700 (uncommitted) words a day.  If you can do more, great, but I found the 1667 daily words required for NaNoWriMo overwhelming.

6. If you have an unfinished novel, finish it.

7. Remember the Dictionary.com Word of the Day by using it in a well-written sentence.

8. If one of your novels isn’t picked up by an agent or publisher by (insert time frame), make a commitment to self-publish.  It can work for you:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/the-martian/andy-weir-author-interview/

9. Manage your time like you would manage your money.  Allocate not only the amount of time, but when to use it for certain activities.  (It’s always too early in the morning for social media).

10. And this is the most important:  make time for people, for other activities, so that you will have a good life—a life worth writing about.

Poem-a-Day Writer’s Digest Challenge #15. Theme: Ritual

November’s Daily Writing Ritual

I log onto Twitter,
writing my daily six-word story
while I munch on ham on toast.
I need coffee.
Hannah comes in,
bringing one of her balls.
It is playtime in the hall,
where the floor is hard,
where the balls roll better
and make a really cool noise.

I sit back down to write my daily poem
for the Writer’s Digest PAD competition,
trying not to come up with an idea,
but let it come to me.
When it comes,
Hannah comes in,
handing me the bubble vial,
a pink magic wand;
I am the fairy godmother who
blows out balls that float like
little Cinderella coaches.

I still need coffee.
I work on a scholarship essay,
a short story,
or some other small project,
trying to get the creative blood flowing.
Hannah comes in,
slamming her rotary toy telephone
in my lap.
I make a pretend call to Dada,
or Grandma,
performing really bad improv while
reciting the phone numbers
so that one day she’ll remember them.

I finally open up my NaNoWriMo novel,
no longer resisting my obsessive compulsive need to edit,
even though doing so
is like making sure each brick has been laid straight,
so I can keep driving on this road to the finish line
called “The End”.
Hannah comes in,
handing me a toy,
and we go play.
Maybe by relaxing my mind,
reading a bedtime story,
I will become unblocked.
I forgot about needing coffee.

At then, it is the end of the night
that the words come,
and I borrow time from sleep,
stealing from the day that needs it.

NaNoWriMo (in Acrostic)

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November’s disposable time thief
An old outline brought to life
No time for other projects
One thousand six hundred & sixty-seven daily words
Waging war on procrastination
Resisting the urge to edit
I need coffee
Mama needs a time-out (i.e. your naptime)
Occupational therapist needed

http://nanowrimo.org/participants/sarahleastories/novels

Boxing Day

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The shelves in the shops have been ransacked—
all but the candy,
which won’t be on clearance for another week.
There is glitter everywhere,
coating every surface like fingerprint powder—
the aftermath of consumerist crimes.

Packs of wild-eyed women grab and toss,
their carts queueing up like battering rams,
juxtaposed against a mass regurgitation of goods—
a symptom of the holiday hangover.

The joy of the season has smoked like a pipe dream,
and all that was so prettily placed
has been leveled to plastic ruins.
Broken glass,
like Kristallnacht,
has been swept under the now skeletal fake firs;
the silver has worn off the angels,
the gold off the goody tins.
None of it was real after all.
Time broke the spell.

The tableau is reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic surreality,
following the celebration of a divine birth—
ushering in the red death of retail.
Santa is hungover somewhere under the Northern Lights,
hatching his next Socialist experiment.

Few got what they wanted,
for most buy for themselves throughout the year.
The unwanted little darlings that ended up under their evergreens
are regifts for next year’s “Dirty Santa” parties.

Congealed gravy sits in the fridge,
and ham bones star in crock pot Yankee Bean Soup.
There is one last slice of pie that no one wants;
a cranberry has been crushed into the carpet.
The rubbish bins runneth over with the corpses of dead trees.

The carols have gone silent,
the bells have stopped ringing,
the lights have went out,
and the bleakness—
known as Christmas Come and Gone—
has become an oppressive presence.

Churches will be half-full (optimistically) once again,
and the snow will no longer glisten red and green.
The metallic tinsel dangles from the chandelier
like an instrument of flagellation and strangulation,
choking the life out of the year,
as it breathes its last breaths.

The lustre of Christmas is pined for,
for Christmas is a stopping place;
the New Year marks a start few of us want to make
but feel we must,
for the quest of self-improvement is a road that never dead ends,
always leaving us empty,
wanting more.

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.