“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

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.

What places do you write about?

Persistence and the Writing Process

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.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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.

Check out the collection at:

#https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Two Books on Loved Ones With Dementia

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:

http://www.ellenrittberg.com

#https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

A 21st Century Place: Poetry from a Pandemic Reading 8pm EST Wed.,June 30

University Professors Press is proud to announce the release of A 21st Century Plague: Poetry from a Pandemic edited by Elayne Clift. This book is a powerful collection of poems about the Covid-19 pandemic. We will be hosting a book release celebration with a poetry reading on Facebook Live on Wednesday, June 30 at 5:00 PM PST/6:00 PM MST/ 7:00 PM CST/8:00 PM EST. Like the University Professors Press Facebook page to receive a notification when the event starts. Use coupon code “21cp_nr2021” at the University Professors Press website to receive a 10% discount on A 21st Century Plague. The coupon is also good for the Poetry, Healing, and Growth Book Bundle (12 books), including A 21st Century Plague.Read more at https://universityprofessorspress.com/new-release-a-21st…/#poetry#poetrylovers#poetryisnotdead#poetrycommunity#poems#COVID19#covid#pandemic#pandemicpoetry

Check out University Professors Press Facebook Page for link:

Photo by Oliver Mussiett on Pexels.com

https://universityprofessorspress.com/21cp10

Go to their Facebook Page for the link

Rejection is Inevitable for the Writer

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

From everyone but you – we have got

The Exalted Society regrets to inform

Your poem was rejected by the Writers Reform.

                                    Published in The Road Not Taken, Fall 2013

Photo by Diana Akhmetianova on Pexels.com

Using Your Inner Critic

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.

Photo by Marta Wave on Pexels.com

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:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Your Unique Voice

Photo by Barbara Olsen on Pexels.com

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:

Finishing Line Press: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55776971-touch-my-head-softly?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=8ZpBlRznY3&rank=1

How Does Weather Affect Your Writing?

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.

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

March 2021

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.”

Check out my book at:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Or view it on Goodreads at:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3609820860https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Esterillos Este Sunset. Photo by Eileen P. Kennedy