“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” ― William Faulkner
I find this so true. I spend much more time reading than writing. I’m always marveling at the innovative way a writer has handled a particular passage or verse.
I have a new book of poetry coming out from Finishing Line Press. Check it out:
Storytelling, an ancient art form, allows writers to make sense of the world and derive deeper meaning from their lives since the beginning of human history.
Storytelling takes practice and there are things you can do to improve your technique. You want to have clarity when you tell a story. It should have a central theme and you should keep your eye on that theme as you go along. If you want to tell an engaging story, keep the tension up to the end. Be clear about the plot point that builds the story.
Great literature is crafted around characters that have great obstacles in their way, and eventually overcome them. You must embrace conflict if you want to engage your readers.
A good story has a beginning, middle and ending. A successful story might start with an inciting incident, lead into accelerated action, build to a climax and resolve. A good path to becoming a good storyteller is to read good storytellers. A good writer reads a lot. There’s a reason The Illiad and the Odyssey are still read after centuries of being told and written.
Observe good storytellers. See how they engage their audiences. This can be a family member who weaves tales of ancestors or a politician who engages the public
While reading other writer’s stories is essential, it’s also important to draw on your own experiences. This way your stories will ring true. Be an observer and use those observations. If you can’t use your recall for details, go research and re-experience. I recently revisited three locales I’m writing a story about: New York City, the Nevada desert, and the mountains of Costa Rica.
They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. I often think of the writing process when I hear that old adage. Writing can seem laborious when we proofread, edit, revise. These are the mundane parts of the process. The joy, for me, is in the creation, but that’s only one stage of the writing process.
So try to enjoy the journey, and not just the final, published product. Writing groups can help as you can share your writing with others and self-edit along the way. Writing is an isolating activity and a group of writers can help with the isolation. You can also get good suggestions from fellow writers.
Readings can help also. Reading a work in progress can help to get feedback and it also helps to hear your work aloud. Samuel Butler says “I feel weak places at once when I read aloud where I thought, as long as I read to myself only, that the passage was alright…” The act of reading, line for line, can help the writer focus in a way that just rereading again can’t.
It took me ten years to write my most recent collection of poems, Touch My Head Softly (Finishing Line Press, 2021.) I kept starting and stopping, but reading the poems aloud in writing groups helped to keep me going. The members of my group also encouraged me to publish, which I eventually did.
The four elements: earth, wind, fire, water in your writing can be exhilarating. They can be used to make your plots more interesting, your poetry more vivid.
The four elements can be nurturing, but they can also destroy. There is much possibility in these primitive forces. Fire, for instance, can be cleansing or destructive at the same time. The four elements can also be nurturing and life affirming. Seeds in the earth, when it meets water, can grow plants. There is a cycle of renewal.
Nature’s climate is disconnected from the political climate. Birds sing, regardless of the presidential elections. It’s grounding to go out and take a walk in nature and think about the universality of life, and you’re writing,
I recently began a narrative poem about what would happen if the earth started drowning, as they’re predicting it will. What if nature really went wild and the water flooded the earth?
My most recent collection of poems touched on the world of illness and alternate states of reality. Check it out:
I am delighted to be included with more than 40 wonderful artists and writers in the new Forbes Library/Hosmer Gallery Exhibit: In This Together: A Virtual Exhibit on Planetary and Human Health running from July 5 to September 5, 2021.
Check out these wonderfully talented artists and writers:
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:
If you are a writer, and you want to publish, you have to submit your work to a publisher, a journal, a magazine, a website….If you submit, you will be rejected. No one who submits goes without this inevitable experience.
I recall reading Thor Heyerdahl’s account of his myriad rejections of Kon-Tiki. He said one editor wrote that no one would buy into an account of a crazy person sailing 5,000 miles across the Pacific in a hand-made raft and another who said no one was interested in Oceana or sailing anymore.
Rejection can be valuable. It can cause us to re-examine, refine and re-edit. Maybe it will make our work better. You can learn things about the market from rejection. How can you make it more universally appealing? Remember, rejection is not personal. It’s about the work, not you. The publisher doesn’t even know you.
Sometimes rejections are worthless. Just because a person is an editor does not mean they’re qualified to pass literary judgments. But if you keep getting the same criticism of a piece, a repetition, then maybe it is a valid criticism that you could heed and use to rewrite.
I once got so frustrated with rejections, I wrote a poem about it:
Villanelle for the Rejected Poet
The Exalted Society regrets to inform
That despite your verse’s abstruse plot
Your poem was rejected by the Writers Reform.
We do not understand your sonata-like form
Your work has no rhyme nor school of thought
The Exalted Society regrets to inform.
We do not like to discourage or misinform
Please with some other place find a spot
Your poem has been rejected by the Writers Reform.
Do not whine, criticize, or fill out a claim form
Your work left us confused and distraught
The Exalted Society regrets to inform.
Do send a check or cash with this subscription form
With your handiwork contact us not
Your poem has been rejected by the Writers Reform.
We publish all races, creeds, genders and artists’ forms
There are many types of blogs out there, from buying a car to reading graphic novels. Read some of those blogs and you will get a sense of your competition. Try focussing on a theme for your blog. If you have a sense of what you want your theme to be, look for similar blogs and read them.
Standing out and finding readers for your blog is a challenge. Finding a theme for you blog can help to brand your blog for the right audience. What are you passionate about? What do you want to write about? What is your expertise? All these things should guide and focus your content.
I have a literary blog. I am most interested in writing, the writing process, books, publishing, readings. This is what my blog is about. I blog announcements of new books and events on Tuesdays and I blog about the literary life, writing and blogging on Thursdays. Consistency is important.
My most recent collection of poetry, Touch My Head Softly, was published recently by Finishing Line Press. It’s about my experiences with my partner, who died of Alzheimer’s in his sixties. Check it out:
Practice makes perfect. The more you write, the better you become at it. It’s just like an athlete working out to keep in shape. With practice, over time, you are able to write faster, more clearly, in less time. New writers have trouble getting started, but experienced writers sit down and write everyday. Even if you don’t use what you wrote today, it will lead to something better tomorrow.
Another misconception is that you have to be “inspired” to write. Writing is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. You have to put it the work. If you waited for inspiration to come, you’d be waiting forever to begin writing. Start writing and inspiration will follow.
My latest book is a collection of poems about my experiences with my partner who died in his sixties of Alzheimer’s Disease. It was ten years following his death that I finally got the collection together, but I persisted and here it is: