It’s getting to be New Year’s and the custom is to make resolutions. As writers, it’s important that we have goals. It’s also important to look back and acknowledge what we accomplished. Here are some of my goals for the upcoming year:
.to plant bulbs in my garden.
.to see more of my close friends in small combination
.to read more Japanese poetry
.to teach at least one poetry workshop.
.to write a longer narrative poem.
.to downsize and shed some clothing and books.
I may not get to all of these, and that’s ok, but it helps to have goals.
The feeling of having done everything one wanted is elusive. Accepting one’s limitations and shortcomings is part of the process.
I also look back at the year and acknowledge what I’ve done. I published a book this year about my partner’s death from Alzheimer’s Disease. I donated some of the proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association. I also volunteered and taught a poetry workshop in haiku and tanka. I find a sense of calmness and accomplishment about these things. Check out my 2021 book:
Ok, so your piece has been rejected. As writers, we all go through it. Rejection can be defined as the act of pushing something away. We submit a piece or a manuscript somewhere where we think it will be a fit, and the powers that be don’t see it that way.
One thing I find that helps is knowing that publishing is just a business. A publisher is looking for something specific and your writing may not fit the bill. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it just means it’s not what the publisher is looking for.
Most editors don’t comment on their rejections, but if you do get feedback, you may learn from it. I had an editor tell me I was using too many adjectives and adverbs. I took the advice to heart and started editing them out, and it made my writing stronger.
When a piece has been rejected several times, I try revising it. Language in its uneducated, natural form, reveals if we uncouple our own judgment and explore linguistic vehicles, the piece may be better. In poetry, it sometimes means trying a different format. If it’s a free verse poem, I’ll try something more formal, like a pantoum or sonnet. It sometimes can provide a different, more successful vehicle for the piece.
Another thing I sometimes try is reordering the piece. The last line might not be right. The last line might be found a stanza or two up. Maybe I’ve done too much explaining, and it wants cutting. Or the beginning of the piece might better serve it in the middle.
When I did my last collection, “Touch My Head Softly,” I kept rearranging the order of the poems. Then I realized nothing fit the beginning. So I wound up writing a prose poem to start off the collection.
When I’m going through rejections, I sometimes remind myself why I like to write, and this often makes me feel better. I wrote the poems in Touch My Head Softly, about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s in his sixties. It helped me to get through my grief by doing this and this became an end in itself.
You can view my collection Touch My Head Softly, at:
Have you ever had the experience of finding someone who wrote a book on a similar topic to yours? It’s not exactly déjà vu, but there is definitely resonance there. I just published a collection of poems about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s and Dementia in his 60’s (Touch My Head Softly, Flutter Press, 2021.) and this book I discovered was about caring for an elderly mother with among other things, dementia (Why Is Grandma Naked?: Caring for Your Aging Parent,Kelsay Books, 2021.) The scenarios are not the same, but many similarities about caretaking and emotions in this situation are similar.
Author Ellen Pober Rittberg, playwright, talk-show host, attorney, writer, approaches the subject of caring for the aging family member, who wants to among other things, take off clothes in inappropriate situations, with humor and grace. My book of poems talks about, when my partner accuses me falsely of infidelity, of how to survive the ordeal of a loved-one in an altered state of reality.
Rittberg describes her journey with her mother as joyous, stressful, life-altering and worth every bit of energy because “we never know how long our parents will be with us.” My poetry is more a backward look at what went on to make sense of the experience. Rittberg talks about the nursing home dilemma, especially relevant post-pandemic, that she faced with her mother and family, My poems deal with the dilemma of the death.
Feel free to take a look at either or both books at:
Everyone has an inner critic. The inner critic is there to protect you from doing dangerous things. But it can also make us too cautious.But writing isn’t dangerous and we should learn to use our inner critic to help us write.
The inner critic serves as a guardian angel to keep you safe and doing something dangerous. When it comes to life and death situations, the anxiety from your inner critic causes you not to act. But you don’t need your inner critic to write.You need to act to write. Have your inner critic give you permission to write.
I just finished a book about my experiences with my partner who died of Alzheimer’s in his sixties (Touch My Head Softly, Finishing Line Press, 2021.) It was a hard book to write and i struggled with my inner critic. But the writer in me won out in the end.
Part of the proceeds of the book will go to the Alzheimer’s Association, so it’s all positive. Take a look:
Finding your own unique voice in your writing can be a challenge, but one worth pursuing.
One way to begin is by finding unique voices that you like in published writers. Billy Collins suggests finding a poem that you like and writing it out to discover exactly what makes it unique. What is it that drew you to it? The language, the topic, the genre? No matter what you’re writing: creative nonfiction, a blog, a poem, read other writers who have been successful in that genre.
But in the end, there’s only one unique you who has your own story to tell. You don’t necessarily have to write memoir or autobiography, but bring your own individual experiences to your writing. Focus on what you know, what interests you. If you love food, eating it, growing it, cooking it, write about that in a nonfiction article. If you’re a birder, out mornings observing birds, bring birds into your poem or short story.
I recently published a collection of poems about Alzheimer’s Disease, which I knew through my experiences with my partner. It was published by Finishing Line Press. Take a look:
Weather can be a major factor in a story or poem. If you look out your window, you can be inspired. I live in Western Massachusetts, where they say “If you don’t like the weather, just wait.” It changes rapidly from beautiful sunny days, to mist, to rain, to snow, sometimes in the same day. I usually spend some time in Costa Rica in the winter, where I am now, where there are many ecosystems in a little country, including temperate, dry, tropical, sub-tropical. There is a dry and a rainy season, and the winds, called Papagayo, blow across the Cordillera del Talamanca.
Think of all the climates in novels. British author J. Ballard in The Wind from Nowhere, creates a dystopia in which hurricane-force winds dominate the climate. Mother of Storms by John Barnes describes a catastrophic weather change caused by a nuclear explosion. Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, where the world is divided into gated communities and pleeblands where the working class lives in unsafe, populous and polluted communities. Weather in a book an be a plot motivator or scene setter.
And where would we be without nature poems. Think of William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,”
I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
March has brought unusually beautiful weather Costa Rica, with sunny skies, and wind blowing cooling breezes through the mountains. I hear the Northeast has been engaged in “glorious spring” with temperatures largely in the 60’s Fahrenheit.
Storms really are unpredictable. They can add an interesting plot twist to a novel, or line to a poem. And they can move from dangerous, unpredictable weather, to rainbows and sunshine. How does this affect your plot?
In my latest book of poetry, Touch My Head Softly, the story involves my lover who had dementia. While I see an “unrelenting grey,” my partner, in his altered state, sees “white lilies surviving frost.”
For me, writing is both. I have been writing since I was eight years old and can’t seem to stop. But I’ve also published three books, derived income from my publishing, which in some circles would make me a professional writer. You just have to write to make it work. It doesn’t have to be brilliant or inspired, it just has to be. You keep going.
You might do many other things besides writing to support yourself, but you still write through it. Stephen King was a high school English teacher. During this time, he wrote his first novel, Tabitha. He kept going despite his busy job.
You are the only one capable of writing your story. It is unique. It belongs to you. Even if you find similarities in the work of other authors who you read, your story is still your story.
I wrote a book of poems about my experiences with my partner dying of Alzheimer’s Disease in his sixties. I even donated part of the proceeds from the book to the Alzheimer’s Association to find a cure.
As writers, we are always looking for the new thing that is going to sprint our writing forward. The inspiration, if you will.
Procrastinating , spending more time thinking about writing than actually writing. I happens to all of us. When I get a block, I just write through it. You may wind up throwing out what you’ve read, but it will get you moving to the writing that you do want to keep.
Writing is a simple process. You sit down at your desk, and you write. That’s it. Whether you feel like it, or not. Even if you’d much rather do just something else. The professional writer keeps going, no matter what.
I wrote a book of poetry about my former partner who died of Alzheimer’s. It was a painful topic for me, but eventually I did it. I’m glad I did. It was recently published by Finishing Line Press. Take a look:
I like this positive quote by Norton Juster. Possibility/Probability theory is a mathematical concept that Zadeh (1978) put forth as a possibility/probability consistency theory. I consider it more as an optimistic outlook. The Oxford dictionary defines it as a thing that may happen or be the case.
If you have possibilities, you are optimistic about the future. When my ex-partner died of Alzheimer’s Disease in his sixties, I felt pessimistic. My possibilities seemed limited. Then I wrote a book of poems about the experiences. This was recently published in a collection called, “Touch My Head Softly,” by Finishing Line Press. I opened up many possibilities for me, as well as giving me closure on much of my grieving.
Here is the link to my book at Finishing Line Press: