Tag Archives: poetry

Capture the Moment with Poetry

Writing during these strange and scary times is challenging, to say the least. In the current state of the world, it seems a little selfish to be concentrating on writing essays, (and its ultimate goal, my memoir). At the same time, taking a deeper look at my personal experiences as refracted by what’s going on in the world gives my work both perspective and depth. It becomes more meaningful.

The long-form personal essay is rewarding to write, but it’s also exhausting. Fortunately, I’m balancing this work with other projects, such as planning my upcoming Flash Fiction Workshop for the Pittsboro Writers’ Morning Out via Zoom on Saturday, July 18, planning an online Humor Writing workshop for Central Carolina Community College, and, one of my favorite activities, writing poetry.

What I love about writing poetry is that it allows you to take a step back and capture a single moment in your life. There’s no pressure to overthink things or write for pages and pages. You simply jot down the words as they come to you — my little “field notes” are all over the house — and later arrange them in poetic form.

For the month of July, O. Henry magazine kindly published Buster Gets a Bath, which represents one of my more recent poems. Please note that if you were expecting a loftier thought, I apologize. 🙂 Sometimes, like Buster, in the post-bath whirl captured above, you just have to give yourself over to the delicious moment. In his case, he’s just grateful to have survived the bath.

As you continue in your own writing journey, I hope you remember to capture those little moments, reflect briefly on them, and write about them. Yes, it’s a quick fix, it’s instant gratification, but you may find that you’ve just seized a piece of eternity. As they say, the days are long, but the years are short.

So go ahead. Revel in the clover!

Clacking Away in the COVID-19 Quarantine….

Typos? No problem! Just keep writing…..(Pictured: A 1957 Smith-Corona Electric Portable typewriter)

How are you spending your time these days? If you’re like me, you’re alternating between enjoying brief moments in the sun and trying to write your way through this pandemic.

Today, a terrific advocacy group dedicated to redefining narratives around disability, mental health, and chronic illness kindly published “How a Writer with Multiple Sclerosis Finds Unexpected Gratitude with an Antique Typewriter,” which is my story of how I’m using the extra time to find new ways to think, and hopefully improve my writing.

I’ve set a goal of writing two new poems each day on an old typewriter, and I have to say, it’s very refreshing to just clack away and not worry about typos or grammatical lapses. The kind of things best left to my inner critic, who takes an extended coffee break during these times.

In other news, I was recently honored to be asked to write a monthly marketing column for Women on Writing, my favorite writing community. This column is focused on writing inspiration and market listings for writers of all genres, from poetry to fiction to memoir. The newsletter is free, and if you’d like to start receiving it, you can easily subscribe by entering your email address into the box on the right at the top of the website.

Additionally, I’m taking a training course on the technicalities of teaching online classes, something I’d like to try in the future. As much as I adore leading in-person classes at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, these times cry out for a new way for people to learn from the safety of their homes. And I’m all for that. It might be a stretch for me, but as I’ve learned by experimenting with my typewriters, it’s always good to branch out in some way.

Please stay safe (and sane), and of course, keep telling your story!

Celebrating National Poetry Month!

If we must be home bound during any month of the year, I’m grateful that it’s April. Not just because the dogwoods are in bloom, not just because our baby spinach is unfurling, and not just because our new bees are settling in and falling more in love with their queen every day….

I’m also grateful to be home for National Poetry Month. A friend is sending me a new poem to read every day, and even in this time of COVID-19 inspiration abounds along Whale Tail Road.

Today I’m honored to be Poet of the Day for Gyroscope Review. Fitting, the subject is beauty (orchids) and gratitude.

A Writer’s Guide to Managing COVID-19

At Whale Tail, the dogwoods tremble with nascent blooms on the cusp of unfurling. For me, especially now, in the face of coronavirus news that has gone from sobering to frightening, these trees symbolize hope and faith. Even as the Black Plague devastated Europe in the 14th century, the “whipple-trees” (as dogwoods were known back then) continued to bloom, reminding us that there is a greater power at work in the world.

As we struggle to cope with what this pandemic means for our daily lives and future, it’s more important than ever that we writers dive deep into our souls and pull out insights that can help ourselves and others cope and heal.

1.  Keep writing! We are so fortunate that the nature of our work – which requires its own form of self-isolation – means we can do it without worrying about making others sick. In fact, you could argue that it is nothing less than our job as writers to do our very best to lift each other up. And we don’t need computers. A pen and paper are just fine.

2. Send your words out into the world. There are so many ways to do this. There are countless markets advertised through the N.C. Writer’s Network, Submittable and Freedom with Writing (three of my favorite sources) seeking your work right now. And they need your words more than ever. Even if you don’t formally submit, you can still update your blog, text a poem, or mail a letter to a friend, just as I did today.

3. Read, read, read. I’m currently reading (and re-reading!) my favorite essays from America’s Best Essays series and online essays posted through Memoir Monday). I’m also savoring poetry – Jane Kenyon, Mary Oliver and the lighter work of Billy Collins are currently helping me cope. Reading is sustenance, every bit as powerful as food and water.

4. Stay connected with each other. Being solitary by nature, we writers naturally limit social events, but this crisis makes our few gatherings all the more precious. I have a number of traditional workshops listed on my Events page that are on hold right now, out of necessity. But this doesn’t mean we can’t convene through phone, postal mail, email and other online connections such as social media. By the way, I’m investigating the possibility of offering online classes in the future. As a student, I’m a big fan of these classes myself, so it makes sense to explore this option.

5. Try this writing prompt. Having trouble finding something to write about? Choose the smallest thing in your life that brings you joy right now. Is it the ladybug you saw this morning climbing up the deck chair? Is it last summer’s Gerbera daisies that somehow survived the winter and are now emerging from the pot? Maybe it’s the sight of your dog sunning himself on the porch…. in short, write about whatever it is that makes you happy right now! You might have more blessings than you know. 🙂

You’re Invited to Fall in Love with Poetry on Valentine’s Day!

literature-3060241_1920I love poetry for many reasons, but what I love most is how poetry can elevate the “ordinary” into something quite sublime. In fact, the most profound poems often come from everyday life—hearing the wood thrush, growing apples, or just the act of slipping on your favorite old shoes.

If you agree, and would like to learn more, please join us on Friday, February 14, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. until noon for a special workshop at the Joyful Jewel in downtown Pittsboro. What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day!

We’ll study poems by Ted Kooser, Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall, beloved local favorite Ruth Moose and more. Then, using wild new prompts, including our surroundings in the stimulating atmosphere of the Joyful Jewel, you’ll have a chance to pen at least three new poems of your own. You’re also guaranteed to leave with an inventory of ideas for many more!

So bring your favorite writing gear and get ready to fall in love (again and again!) with poetry.

Where: The Joyful Jewel in Pittsboro, N.C., at 44-A Hillsboro Street, Pittsboro, NC 27312.

Cost: $35. To register, visit The Joyful Jewel in person or call (919) 883-2775.

I hope to see you soon!

Biscuits Help Each Other Rise!

biscuit1On Saturday, I had the pleasure of spending my morning with an enthusiastic and especially curious group of women writers at Charlotte Lit. What a vibrant organization! I can’t say enough about the leadership and students at Charlotte Lit. They have built an enviable powerhouse of writing, and are truly dedicated to helping each other succeed.

The topic of our discussion was how to share your writing with the world. While self-publishing continues to be a vital force in the writing world, no question, I believe it’s still worthwhile to submit your writing for publication by others–whether to contests, commercial or literary magazines.

Why? First, you’ll get to know so many other wonderful people, whether at public readings or just by getting to know them by reading their work. You’ll also meet talented editors, who will happily help your shape your work and promote your writing. And among all your new writing friends (at Charlotte Lit and beyond), you can help each other. As Martha Stewart once said, quoting another baker whose name escapes me, the reason we put biscuits together in a pan is because they help each other rise.

Second, and equally important, is that when you write for publications and contests, you also grow as a writer. Yes, you have to be brave enough to stand the occasional rejection, but you can learn so much about yourself and the wider world of writing, that it’s well worth it. The motivation to improve will invariably result in acceptances, I promise, and by sharing your words and experiences with the world, you’ll expand your community that much more. And, ahem, at the risk of repeating myself too much, we know that biscuits help each other rise, right? 🙂

Have you submitted yet? If you haven’t, give yourself a New Year’s goal of submitting one piece of writing at least once every month in 2020. And remember, in the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe: “Never give up. Because that is just the place and time where the tide will turn.”

In the meantime, I encourage you to lean on each other for help and accountability. Choose a “submission buddy” and check in with that person regularly just to make sure you’re meeting your goals, if nothing else. Share your writing with each other and ask for suggestions on where you might submit your work. Most importantly, celebrate each other’s successes.

And if you missed Saturday’s workshop, no fear, I’ll be offering an extended version of the same one (with even more writing time and new markets for publications!) at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro on April 25.

Remember, I am rooting for you. Because, okay, last time, I promise. Biscuits help each other rise. 😊

 

Write What Should Not Be Forgotten…

expoThe words of the great Chilean writer Isabel Allende served as our theme last night at the first-ever Creative Writing Expo at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro. And it was indeed a night to remember!

Even with chilly temperatures and icy rain, nearly 30 brave souls gathered for a mini-class on flash essays. I didn’t have a chance to talk personally with every student, but I spoke with many who actually penned something last night worthy of publication and more, even the makings of a memoir. In fact, at least three students brought something with them! Incredible. I never fail to be delighted and astounded by the courage of writers to find the words to tell their stories.

After the class, our champion, CCCC Associate Dean Felicia Crittenden, took center stage to recognize our additional instructors, including Tom Dow, Judith Stanton, June Guralnick, Dolly Sickles, Mary Barnard, and Steve Underwood, all of whom are also offering classes in Spring 2020. And then we were delighted to hear Kim Overcash, CCCC English Instructor and member of the Committee for the Creative Writing Program unveil a scholarship program, which will allow eligible students to attend a class for free once each semester!

cake

Door prizes followed, and then we spent another half hour enjoying fellowship and this luscious cake baked and decorated by Cakes by Elizabeth.

But it doesn’t stop here! If you caught the fever for creative writing, I do hope you’ll register for a Spring 2020 class AND join us on December 5 for the winter open mic night on Thursday, December 5, 2019 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.  The readings will be held at The Joyful Jewel in lovely downtown Pittsboro, NC. Light refreshments will be served!

See you soon!

 

Get Ready for the Creative Writing Expo!

cccc1Are you as excited as we are? I hope so! The First-Ever Creative Writing Expo sponsored by the Central Carolina Community College Creative Writing Program is just three days away!

WHEN: Thursday, November 14 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: Central Carolina Community College, Pittsboro campus, Building 42, Multipurpose Room, First Floor.

RSVP: Pre-registration is not required, but we encourage you to RSVP by calling the Continuing Education Office at 919-545-8044 during business hours.

WHAT: As part of this FREE special event, you’ll get to experience first hand an abbreviated workshop on the flash essay. We’ll review a few of the best essays being published today, and I’ll give away a secret that every aspiring essayist must know!

post it notesFUN STUFF: In addition to inspiration, food, and fellowship, we’ll also be giving away some very exciting door prizes….including a year’s supply of Post-It Notes! That’s right. Sticky notes are perfect for jotting down those little nuggets of inspiration in a writer’s life. Images, bits of conversation, universal truths, and more–all those little details that add zest to your writing. Check out the ZESTY colors!

EXTRA: This little workshop is just a sample of the dynamic and inspirational courses that we offer at Central Carolina Community College. Each semester, you’ll find a smorgasbord of courses meant to cultivate the writer in you, from poetry to short stories and memoir, and so much more. At the Expo, you’ll also be able to meet several of our dynamic instructors and fellow students for yourself. Check out the Spring 2020 Course Offerings here.

We hope to see you on Thursday!

 

 

Braving the Slush Pile in Pittsboro!

Slush PileOur mission was brutal. The email from Al Manning, the head of Pittsboro Writers’ Morning Out went something like this:

Pretend you’re an editor of a prestigious publishing house. It’s Friday afternoon. You’ve had a busy week and you’re still staring at a stack of unsolicited manuscripts–the dreaded Slush Pile. You’re tired and you want to go home. You’ll raise your hand as soon as you hear something that would cause you to reject the manuscript in front of you.

Yesterday I had the honor of serving as a panelist (along with writers Ron Voigts and Judith Stanton) at the 3rd Annual Slush Pile event at the Pittsboro Writers’ Morning Out meeting. As we listened to the 300 words submitted anonymously by the brave ten writers who participated, we agreed, disagreed, and agreed to disagree on the elements that would cause a busy editor to move to the next manuscript in the pile.

And that’s what editors do. What I liked most about a manuscript didn’t necessarily appeal to the other panelists and vice versa. It goes without saying that writing submitted to an editor shouldn’t contain typos or grammatical errors; these are easily caught by a diligent proofreader. We truly didn’t see many of these–the majority of the manuscripts we reviewed were quite polished and free from pesky errors of this nature.

To help, I’ll share what resonated the most with our panel in terms of style. The manuscripts we “rescued” from the slush pile shared four basic elements:

  • Strong opening–and this includes the title!
  • Engaging and unique characters. What’s your character’s point of view?
  • A good blend of exposition and action. And by action, I also mean dialogue.
  • Conflict and tension. What’s at stake for your character? Why should we care?

Above all else, if you’re writing, submitting, and braving a very real slush pile, it’s most important that you NEVER despair. Don’t give up. Editors are, after all, human and have their own peculiarities as far as taste and style. So, if you find yourself drifting in a slush pile, pull out that manuscript days (or weeks!) later, and view it with fresh eyes.

And as you revise your work and prepare to share it with the world, please consider joining me for your choice of two separate workshops in 2020 on the subject of submission. We’ll talk about revisions, cover letters, markets, and much, much more.

Check out my Events page for more information and how to register.

 

The Wood Thrush Makes a Landing at McIntyre’s in Fearrington!

mcintyresIt was the perfect day for poetry….wonderfully cool with a hint of sunshine, and the easy conversation among both old friends and new!

At today’s monthly reading of N.C. Poetry Society members, I shared the podium with poets Bill Griffin (and former Poet in Residence at the N.C. Zoo!) and Robin Greene, a professor of English at Methodist University in Fayetteville. I ended up with a lot of hugs, fresh flowers, and of course, two new books: Griffin’s evocative Riverstory: Treestory and Greene’s riveting Lateral Drift.

I read a handful of poems from my first poetry collection, Waiting for the Wood Thrush, which is available through Finishing Line Press. I also received some very friendly and helpful advice that I’ll try out at my next poetry reading. Speak slower, and let your audience appreciate your beautiful words. I was very touched, and to the kind lady who offered this wisdom, I promise to try and take it slower next time.